How is the UK government faring during a ‘dangerous time’?
I try not to be too politically biased in my blog posts. However, like a lot of British citizens, I’m at the end of my tether with our present government.
The failings of our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, perhaps reflect a general political malaise in the UK. Just before Mr Johnson was elected to the premiership in July 2019, the Irish Times published an assessment of him. I quote: “Only a dysfunctional political culture could conclude that a showman, a proven liar, a proven fraudster with such limited ability with such disqualifying flaws and such a meagre track record is the one to lead a government at such a dangerous time.” This was before the coronavirus pandemic, of course. By ‘dangerous time’, the author was referring to Brexit. Regrettably, the assessment has been borne out in the government’s achievements to date. Mr Johnson has:
- Failed to attend five COBRA meetings during February 2020, preferring to relax in one of his official countryside residences;
- Decided on 12th March to abandon community Covid-19 testing;
- Attended a hospital in Kettering during March, where he shook hands with everyone, although he knew some patients were infected with coronavirus;
- Failed to arrange quarantine measures for people entering the UK from overseas;
- Made his government the last in Europe (Poland and Hungary excepted – along with Sweden, which decided against a lockdown policy) to implement a lockdown;
- Mismanaged the tragic death toll in UK care homes;
- Made confusing and ambiguous announcements about his government’s change in lockdown and social distance measures during May;
- Contrived through these assorted instances of political blundering to ensure that the UK has suffered the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe;
- Introduced inconsistent and often bewildering attempts to provide financial help for the UK’s public transport providers and other workers;
- Planned an immigration surcharge on overseas NHS workers despite our dependence on them, and in contradiction of his experience of and alleged gratitude towards overseas nurses during his own illness (he’s been forced to back-track on this surcharge);
- Responded in a confused, dilatory and incomplete manner to questions about the Northern Ireland protocol, sacking Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith, who had worked to restore the devolved Stormont Assembly.
- Failed (or refused) to publish a report into allegations of Russian meddling in UK elections;
- Set out an unrealistic timescale for a UK-EU trade deal to be operational from 1 January 2021, leading many of us to suspect that he intends to settle for a ruinous No Deal Brexit;
- Allowed his aide, Dominic Cummings, to get away with not following the social distancing and stay-at-home rules laid down for everyone in the country during the pandemic – and then expecting us all to accept Mr Cummings’s far-fetched explanation of his disgraceful behaviour, and refusing to sack the aide despite the demands of his own MPs.
One matter on which Mr Johnson can be congratulated, indeed applauded, is the courage he showed while he was seriously ill with his Covid-19 infection and during his recovery. That was admirable by any measure. Sadly, however, the list of failings I’ve given here (and I fear my list might not be complete) outweighs this shining example of personal quality. The opinion expressed by author of the Irish Times article has been corroborated.
People wonder whether an alternative government would have managed better during this ‘dangerous time’. Let me invert the question: can anyone imagine an alternative government that would have managed worse?
As a writer, I’m supposed to have a good imagination. But it doesn’t stretch that far.