Conservative apologists are out in force today. The government has published a five point rebuttal of the Sunday Times article. It was produced and published with a remarkable aclarity. We can only wish that the British government had responded to the looming epidemic in the same way.
The British government is incompetent, slow to respond, and lacking in energy and enthusiasm. Or at least it is when it comes to public protection, when it comes to the protection of their arses and their own careers, there is nothing to beat the British government in its speed, energy, and enthusiasm. Ever since the Sunday Times published its damning report into the many and manifest failures of the British government’s handing of the coronavirus crisis we’ve been subjected to a veritable torrent of UK government ministers robustly defending themselves. It’s just a shame that they don’t show one tenth of the energy defending the public good. What was that about taking it on the chin? It doesn’t seem to apply to criticisms of this government.
The rebuttal itself read like the product of a university debating club. Never mind how repugnant the argument, it’s how you defend it that counts. It’s an exercise in style not substace and has Michael Gove’s slime all over it. Michael Gove has built an entire career on insulting people’s intelligence.
The rebuttal is full of specious arguments, straw men, and deflections. We’re told that it’s outrageous to suggest that the virus only arrived on our shores simply because the Prime Minister didn’t attend some Cobra meetings and let Matt Hancock chair them instead. And that indeed would be an outrageous thing to claim if anyone had claimed it. It fails to address the real point – that everyone knew that the virus was going to result in a global crisis, the worst since WW2, and if that doesn’t count as a national emergency then what the hell does. If the Prime Minister couldn’t be arsed to attend Cobra meetings about it, it shows that the British government was not taking the threat seriously. That lack of understanding of the serious nature of the threat was confirmed by the public speeches that Boris Johnson was making at the same time.
Yesterday we had Michael Gove sliming all over the accusations, and Iain Duncan Smith angrily shouting over a reporter who dared to point out that Iain was – yet again – talking what could only politely be described as a considerable quantity of urine. Today we got Liam Fox demanding higher standards in public debate. Or to give him his full title, Disgraced Former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox. Liam demanding higher standards and more truth in public life is like Harold Shipman demanding better standards of protection for elderly patients. We can only assume that he ought to know.
You know, I can cope with lockdown. I have come to terms with the worry of losing loved ones. I can deal with the loss of income. But what really sticks in the throat is the likes of Liam Fox or Michael Gove or Iain Duncan Smith pontificating on our TV screens as though they represented some sort of moral authority. They’re a greater infection in our public life than any virus.
Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan, who like Liam is a qualified doctor, responded to the coronavirus crisis by going back to work at her local hospital. Liam’s contribution is to take to the airwaves to blame NHS staff for the failures of the government that he’s a part of. Liam is a man who has zero credibility. After a career littered with lies, dubious claims and a resignation under a cloud of disgrace, he’s still popping up as a voice of authority on our TV screens as though he had an ounce of credibility. If we lived in a society where there were those higher standards that Liam is demanding, Liam would have been removed from office a long time ago and we’d never have to listen to his specious self-serving finger pointing ever again.
Liam decided that this is the ideal time to tell us that after this crisis is over the management of the NHS is going to have a lot of questions to answer. Because everything’s just peachy with how the British government has been operating. Austerity didn’t happen. Underfunding didn’t happen. There was no ideologically driven running down of public services. There was no abandoning of the UK’s pandemic response plans. Boris Johnson hasn’t been missing in action. The Prime Minister didn’t give that speech at the start of February when he likened the UK to a superhero that would stand alone as a beacon of free trade holding out against lockdowns. The only problems with PPE are due to the NHS management. There’s unicorns, rainbows, and magic lanterns with genies in them for everyone. The fault is everyone else, not the Conservatives, never the Conservatives.
We have seen all this before. After Orgreave, they blamed the miners. After Hillsborough, they blamed the fans. After Grenfell, they blamed the fire brigade. After coronavirus, well you can see where this is going. According to the British government, “We have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided at all times by the best scientific advice.” So there’s not one error, not one misstep or mistake, not a single failure, despite the death rate in the UK being so much higher than in other European countries even though Britain had a headstart, there are no issues with PPE or ventilators, there’s no problem with supplies to care homes. There are no issues around testing. Move along now, nothing to see here. So when the organisations representing hospital trusts in England directly attacked the government yesterday over failures in deliveries of promised PPE and spoke of their intense frustration and exasperation, according to the Tories they’re making it all up. See : https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/19/hospital-leaders-hit-out-government-ppe-shortage-row-escalates-nhs
The questions remain. Why does the UK have such a high death rate? Why was the pandemic response run down after 2010? Why was the UK so lamentably unprepared? Who stripped public services of funding? Why has testing been so slow? Why are there no health checks or mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving in the UK from abroad? We’re not interested in the Tory attempts to take the high ground. Do your job with a fraction of the energy that you put into saving your own sorry skins and we might, just might, listen to what you’ve got to say. But we’re still going to hold you to account.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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