Politics

Shameful statistics and a failure of government

Johnson says he is “deeply sorry” that the UK-wide COVID-19 death count has reached 100,000. So he should be. In fact he should be deeply ashamed that his government has overseen this tragic loss of life. Yet he has the temerity to claim that his government has “done everything it can”.

But they haven’t.

He could have locked down earlier last March, he didn’t. He could have closed borders last spring, he didn’t. He could have been cautious coming out of lockdown, he wasn’t. He could have required home-working throughout the pandemic, he didn’t. He could have made test and trace work properly, he didn’t. He could have increased self-isolation compliance by providing proper financial help, he didn’t. He could have agreed to a “circuit breaker”, in the autumn, he didn’t. He could have banned Christmas mixing, he didn’t.

Nor is this just hindsight. Because he could have learned from other countries; and he could have listened more closely to the science. He didn’t. Indeed, he could have sought to eliminate the virus altogether, but he didn’t.

Yet the prime minister appears largely unmoved; and his party are still ahead in national opinion polls. Conveniently, the list of failures, u-turns, poor messaging and contracts for tory party donors is quietly forgotten in the face of weak political opposition, and a broadcast media that rarely holds the government to account

For further evidence look how comfortably they used their over-representation in Westminster to squash an attempt to protect the NHS (a service they claim to support) in future trade deals.

Even the current pressure on our health service is blamed, not on government, but on of those who aren’t following the rules. Few people it seems, have any influence over government policy; and as a result, tory ministers are so confident of their own position and rhetoric, that they can blame the high death rate on an overweight and ageing British public.

I should add that previous UK governments must take some of the blame too. We have underlying problems in our society, resulting from successive government policies, which have contributed to inequalities in health, hitting vulnerable people the hardest. The lack of pandemic preparedness, the steady privatisation of health care, the under-funding of social care, the derisory amount of statutory sick pay provided in the UK, and of course the huge disparities in wealth.

Somewhat surprisingly, Johnson says he accepts responsibility for it all, but what does this really mean? There is no proper scrutiny; and surely nothing will actually change.

The focus has already moved onto the vaccines; and the media is happy to follow. Fortunately for all of us, including Johnson, the vaccines rollout is hopefully a game changer; and for once the UK is ahead of the curve. But vaccination has come too late for the lives already lost.

Meanwhile, as I write, Johnson is visiting Scotland to “save the union”. He is doing so in breach of COVID rules on non-essential travel. He isn’t welcome here, and he’s not impressing anyone. But he is certainly demonstrating his continued arrogance.

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