MISTAKES…I’VE MADE A FEW.
As we pass the tragic figure of 100,000 pandemic deaths in the UK, there has been a lot of finger pointing. It is understandable. The national mood is febrile. People have been locked down for so long, frustration is at a high level.
Boris Johnson has been in charge throughout and accepts that he is ultimately responsible for all decisions. He has got much wrong, but would any government have done better? So little was known about the virus in the beginning and as we shall see Ministers have been caught between the public who have generally supported stricter measures and a press demanding controls be lifted.
The list of things that have gone wrong is a long one. We were unprepared for this sort of respiratory pandemic and the lack of protective clothing was woeful. The lockdown was too late and foreign arrivals have never been managed properly. Private sector firms were brought in whilst local expertise was ignored. The elderly and those that care for them have borne a tragically heavy burden. Tracing and testing have not been effective enough.
Many of these things would probably have occurred if Keir Starmer had been in No 10. The SARS respiratory epidemic took place when Tony Blair was PM. Far East countries learnt the lessons, we didn’t. The issue of elderly care has been around for twenty years. Neither party has had the guts to decide on a solution.
The government must be given credit for doing all they could to back the drugs companies in their successful search for vaccines. Their vast support for workers and business is contrary to many of the basic instincts of Tory MPs. That said Johnson has been the wrong Prime Minister for this crisis. His desire to be liked and be optimistic has played a big part in the stop/ start way in which the pandemic has been handled. It has led to huge frustration for business and schools. At last, he seems to have learnt his lesson. His grave demeanour this week has led to speculation that little will change before Easter.
It seems as if the government intends to go ahead with the wide range of local elections this May, so people will have a chance to decide whether to condemn the Tories or conclude that they have done their best in the most difficult of circumstances.
FAILED STATE OR FAILED REGIONS ?
The prospect of an independent Scotland and united Ireland has led the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to call for a comprehensive review of the way in which our nations and regions are governed.
For me, the latter is as important as the former. The way England is administered has been a shambles for a long time. Plans for an accountable regional structure with unitary local government was swept away in 2010 by the Coalition Government in favour of a mix of elected mayors, combined authorities, and local enterprise partnerships.
The elected mayor model has had its critics and may be falling apart in Liverpool at least. The Labour Council has surprisingly conceded to Lib Dem demands to hold a referendum on the issue in 2023.
Elected mayors have given a distinctive voice in places where they have one, but councillors have been marginalised along with councils outside the big cities.