Paying the price


Molly Pollock looks at who will pay the price for Johnson’s nonsense government. We the people … or will he eventually be called to account?

So after a turgid and damaging few weeks for the Tories the LibDems have won the North Shropshire by-election, a seat held by Tories since the 1832 Reform Act, overturning a Tory majority of almost 23,000 at the last general election to win by 5,925 votes. The people of North Shropshire reacted to the sleaze and corruption embedded in the Tory party and voted in droves for the alternative, any alternative to get the Tories out.

A number of tweets pointed out that this was another example of Johnson’s crass political misjudgement. If he hadn’t chosen to back Owen Paterson, and determined to change the lobbying rules in his favour, then there would have been no by-election in North Shropshire and no humiliating defeat.

Johnson says he takes responsibility for the defeat but insists some things have been going well. He in effect blames the media for feeding the public a diet of sleaze and rule breaking allegations instead of the messages he and his fellow Tories want to get across. That it might also be the message the voters dislike doesn’t appear to dawn on him.

Many hoped that a defeat in the by-election would see Johnson go, that this would be the final straw that sent in the men in grey suits and the removal vans to the back door of Number 10. But not according to some media pundits who think Johnson still has support within his party, although Conservative MPs are now actively pondering candidates to be next PM, and although an imminent leadership challenge doesn’t appear on the cards, Paul Brand, UK Editor at ITV News, reminds us that “a leader’s authority quickly drains when minds are already turning to who’s next… “

Lewis Goodall, Policy Editor at BBC Newsnight, tweets that “sooner or later, the political rules or otherwise do apply to Boris Johnson. Perhaps the most immediate consequence is that his bandwidth to implement new Covid restrictions should they be required (already limited) has just become narrower still.”

And there’s the rub – that Johnson’s ability to bring in further covid restrictions, as all medical experts are crying out for, will be restricted, even prohibited, by his back benchers.

A managed response is required

In Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been warning of the truly frightening infection rate of the Omicron variant and urging people to get vaccinated, limit contacts and stay at home as much as possible. She realises the impact this will have on businesses, especially at this time of year on hospitality and tourism businesses, but the Omicron variant of covid 19 takes no heed of this, indeed takes advantage of all the places where people can congregate.

Going as far as the Scottish Government can, £200 million has been scrounged from other budgets to help alleviate the problems faced by businesses and those having to self isolate. She has written to Johnson making the case for money to help businesses and for furlough money, and requested meetings, but all have been turned down.

Further regulations backed by public

The public, not only in Scotland but throughout the UK, is in favour of more regulations to fight the spread of covid. A ComrRes poll three days ago, before infection rates started soaring, showed support for closing pubs, nightclubs, mass events and even stopping indoor mixing.

Backbench support comes before care for peoples’ health

Yet, Johnson is refusing to bring in more than the totally inadequate regulations that he has already agreed to, much to the chagrin of his back benchers who would rather see the virus run amok and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands die. Meanwhile Chancellor Rishi Sunak is in California (where incidentally he owns a home) though he is now said to be taking an early flight back in view of the Omicron crisis. Although the feeling is that he needs to return with a plan and the financial allocation to stop hospitality and other business sectors going into a tailspin, the chances of this helping people and the economy aren’t great as he has already warned that the costs of vaccine schemes will need to be funded by cuts elsewhere – no doubt to the services those most in need rely on.

Dr David Nabarro from the World Health Organisation issued a strong warning about the Omicron variant, saying ‘This is just the beginning of an extraordinary acceleration. It’s vital we reduce its spread as it’s likely to get extremely serious in the next two weeks.

Nicola Sturgeon has made it abundantly clear that the Scottish Government is limited by its fixed budget and lack of borrowing powers to help it address the situation. With independence there is no laggard Westminster. Then we have the powers and financial control to take action when it is needed.

A Tweet from Yes West Lothian summed up what many in Scotland feel:
“Watched the FM & then @SamCoatesSky interview with the PM. On cutting down contacts, the FM emphasises collective responsibility, the PM emphasises making the choice that is best for you. Think of others vs think only of yourself…Tory mindset writ large.”

Who will pay the price?

Alan McNally, Professor in Microbial Genomics at the University of Birmingham tweeted:
“The next two weeks are going to be almost surreal. Any interventions now are too late to affect those numbers. Stay safe folks.”

A reminder of Lewis Goodall’s comment that Johnson’s “bandwidth to implement new Covid restrictions should they be required (already limited) has just become narrower still.”

So although our First Minister and her government have taken early action to try and stem the huge increase of infections, with the Omicrom variant now dominant in Scotland after only a few days, the UK government, hidebound by the dinosaurs in their back benches refuses to take the action needed. What will be the dire result of this lack of action? Who will pay the price? Well, we in Scotand will, condemned to illness and lingering ill health because of inaction by a UK government we did not vote for.

If there is a powerful argument for independence then surely this is it.

With independence the Scottish Government would have cared about and protected as far as possible the health and wellbeing of all who live in Scotland. As it is…

PS (from Paul Brand)

“The civil servant charged with investigating Christmas parties is… accused of having hosted them.

The internal investigation led by the Cabinet Secretary looks less and less credible by the day.”

Ione Wells, Political Correspondent at BBC News, has just added to this information : “As per Times/Guido, I understand invites were sent out for a ‘Christmas Party!’ on 17 Dec 2020 at the private office of Simon Case. He didn’t take part in quiz, but was present. The BBC understands his position as chair of the inquiry into Downing St parties now being considered.”

The Guardian is reporting that Simon Case, the country’s leading civil servant investigating claims of lockdown-breaking parties inside Downing Street last year, held a party himself, in his office, on 17th December (the day prior to the party he was charged with investigating was held) with the “event described as “a piss-up”, also allegedly featured snacks and Christmas decorations.” Johnson has publicly insisted the Case investigation would be an “independent, fact finding mission”. Who believes that now?

Life under the Tories is just brimful of surprises…most of them extremely unpleasant.

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