World beating

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Molly Pollock finds one area where Johnson’s government is actually World beating

Throughout this pandemic the UK Tory government has used ‘world beating’ as one of its most dragged out mantras, now worn thin by repetition. Everything it has done has been world beating. We’ll yesterday, that is proved appropriate as daily cases of Covid 19 have for the first time topped 100,000 – 106,122 cases to be exact (95,795 of them in England), exclipsing the previous record of 93,045 just a few days ago on 17 December.

Throughout this pandemic it is the devolved governments that have moved quickly, or as quickly as possible given the financial and borrowing constraints imposed on them by Westminster. This has been very apparent in the last few days when both the Scottish and Welsh governments have repeatedly called for COBRA meetings (the two eventually held not attended by Boris Johnson) and furlough funding to help contain the spread of Delta and the new fast infecting Omicron variant. They have also asked, begged, for funding to bring in the measures considered necessary by their experts; in the main money to furlough staff of many businesses.

Westminster, like a hobbled centipede, has consistently dragged its feet. Not enough information to take further action, will wait for the data, an hourly watch will be kept on the number of infections…though they won’t want to harm business by taking any action that will make trading more difficult for them. This whilst denying it is mainly Brexit that is making life difficult for businesses, although increasing illness levels due to the virus are now also having an impact.

Opening the Treasury purse

Even the messages from the government are wishy-washy and confusing despite the Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty advising that it was necessary to limit public socialising to help contain infection spread. Advice costs nothing, but bringing in regulations to close down businesses including the hard hit hospitality sector, means Chancellor Rishi Sunak would have to open his Treasury purse to finance a further furlough scheme. Sunak, despite the fact this would be the most economically sensible response to the crisis, is not a man in favour of spending when it can be avoded. Sunak favours a tight limit on public spending. Austerity is much more his choice.

As Bloomerg commented in mid October: “The chancellor faces a prime minister who has kept his party ahead in the polls and who is no orthodox economic conservative – Johnson’s natural instinct is to buy his way out of political trouble. Sunak, however, is a small-state Thatcherite forced to preside over a vast expansion of state spending.”

However since then Johnson has been battered by a by-election defeat in a hugely safe Tory seat, and a rebellion by 100 or so of his back benchers against his Plan B measures, measure which most experts have claimed don’t go nearly far enough. His party is sliding in the polls, with Labour ahead in most, and his own personal ratings have plummeted.

Sunak has also suffered a demotion form his pedestal as the Conservative activists’ favorite cabinet minister because he raised taxes in his recent budget. He has apparently been replaced by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as the toast of the party grassroots, though Sunak remains the favourite of the electorate. Both Sunak and Truss are said to have been against any further restrictions when these were discussed at the recent Cabinet meeting. Both are also said to be jockeying for pole position to replace Johnson, supported by Steve Baker and the ERG who, given their determination to privatise the NHS, would have no qualms abourt the NHS being overwhelmed by Covid and brought to its knees. Remember, Sunak’s recent trip to Caliafornia was said to be to hold discussions with American healthcare companies.

Private money over public health

Apart from David Frost, who cited his opposition to Plan B as his reason for resigning, but who most believe stepped down as further damaging regulations on trade with the EU are due to come in at the beginning of January, more resignations have apparently been threatened if a lockdown or further restrictions are introduced. So much concern for private money, so little concern for public health.

At the Cabinet meeting Johnson was caged in by those who wanted to act on Whitty’s advice of further restrictions, those who side with Sunak and Truss wanting to curb public spending, and those who, with the recent rebellion in mind, were terrified further restrictions would only pass in the House of Commons with support from the Labour Party. Not a good look for any Tory government.

So Johnson’s cowardly way out, with party unity and personal position more important than the health and wellbeing of the UK, was to say he’ll think about further measures after Christmas, consider them once more is known. A light lockdown some are calling it, without actually uttering the word ‘lockdown’ in public, all so the Tory government and party can be kept glued together in one authoritarian force. But by Christmas, of course, the situation could have become so bad that any action will be far too little too late.

Yesterday, Wednesday 22nd December, daily cases of covid 19 in the UK have for the first time topped 100,000 to reach 106,122 cases. When does bad become worse? How many people infected and dead will this UK Tory government accept?

Have another drink and relax

Their disregard for others has been amply shown by their, total lack of feeling and empathy and of exceptionalism and superiority. Whether against the rules and regulations or not, whatever the type of gathering, the image dispays an insensitivity for those they rule over. and the physical and mental traumas many were experiencing. No contrition is shown for the 160,000 dead on their watch. They are not like the rest of us, don’t have to abide by the same laws, rules and regulations the rest of the population have to adhere to. This photo widely circulated in the media and social media a few days ago made this abundantly clear. It’s one of the many Tory party parties that are said to have taken place during lockdowns or other restrictions.

So many people vividly remember that day for harrowing reasons – people unable to be with parents or relatives in their final hours, people unable to attend funerals or comfort the bereaved, doctors and nurses exhausted and drained by long hours and numbing sights. When others were locked down people in Number 10 were partying. Maybe they had finished a difficult day (though hardly as difficult as our NHS staff), maybe they did feel the need to let their hair down with a few drinks (numerous bottles are in evidence) after tedious meetings, but the rest of us weren’t allowed that. Party or outdoor business meeting – it shoud not have been held, especially with booze widely available.

From within his authoritarain cabal, the Prime Minister insisted: “Those were people at work, talking about work.” Aye, right, Boris! Pull the other one – it’s got bells on it.

One of the many stories in response to the Number 10 gathering.

Who cares?

Shunted out to do the TV rounds, Dominic Raab, questioned about Carrie Symons being in attendance at a business meeting, said she popped in to check on the Prime Minister. How many partners do that? That prompted questions on social media about her security clearance. The two weren’t married until a year later. Business meeting, after work drinks, or party, the sight of these people enjoying themselves in the late afternoon/early evening sun did not play well with the public, and will undoubtedly make fewer people abide by any regulations this government has already agreed or wants to introduce after Christmas. Letting people enjoy a normal Christmas was paramount, despite many get-togethers playing pass-the-covid-infection over the festive season.

106,122 cases and rising. Who cares?