Boris Johnson was back in Downing street on Monday, “raring to go”, after 3 weeks away. Presumably, “paternity leave” won’t stop him from resuming his job, even if it did prevent him taking his first back-to-work PMQs!
But if he was changed by his close encounter with Covid-19, as he claims - and now considers that “the health, or welfare, of the people should be the supreme law” (a quote from Cicero, the ancient Roman politician), then his fellow Tory ministers might do well to keep him away for as long as possible!
After all, on leaving St Thomas Hospital didn’t Johnson tell reporters that he’d discovered (believe it or not!) that the NHS was “powered by love”?
Well, it certainly hasn’t been powered by high staffing levels and plentiful resources, given the ruthless cuts/privatisation it’s been subjected to by him and his friends - which left it in a state of hopeless inadequacy at the start of this pandemic. And it remains inadequate, as is proven by the cancellation - up to this week - of all routine procedures and cancer care, while every resource was thrown at Covid-19.
We won’t forget what he did
Perhaps now Johnson hopes that the public will be transformed too, as he apparently is? And that sympathy for him will make everyone forget that he, and no-one else, is to blame for the multiple-seeding of this lethal virus into the population?
Yes, we remember who, during the critical first phase of the pandemic, gave the go-ahead for 150,000 people to attend the Cheltenham horse races and thousands to go to a Liverpool football match on the weekend of 13-14 March. And Johnson’s delay in instituting a lockdown and its very loose implementation thereafter, means that Britain now has the highest Covid-19 death rate among the rich countries of Europe, if not the world. It’s now estimated at over 41,000, if all Covid-related deaths are included.
Of course, it was not only the refusal to follow the (real) science, already tested in China, Korea, Taiwan, etc., but this lame duck government’s utter inability to organise anything properly, which aggravated the situation. Whether it be the procurement of PPE, getting the right kind of ventilator, the correct viral tests, or implementing systematic testing and tracing.
But what was downright criminal, was their decision to leave the social care sector - and therefore its already-identified most vulnerable elderly population - to its fate.
In fact Johnson’s first speech on the steps of Downing Street may have emphasised that he would not want to risk a second peak of Covid-19 deaths, by ending the lockdown too soon. But the truth is, that a second peak of deaths is already in the process of developing among the elderly in social care!
Only protecting the bosses
However, there is a reason for Johnson to have made this point about a premature end to the lockdown. Because this is exactly what the government, egged on by the bosses, has in store. And the “new”, Covid-baptised, Johnson wants to distance himself from the inevitable dire consequences of ending social restrictions too early, and thus from further blame.
But an end to the lockdown as soon as possible is all that ministers, backbenchers, and big business can think about. No matter how irresponsible. They want everything back to “normal”, squeezing profits out of our labour, once more!
Not that the official lockdown even prevented this! As Ford wrote in its “return-to-work” letter last week, “manufacturing and engineering [had] not been requested to close”. Yes, despite being non-essential to life, the government never instructed them to shut up shop. If they did, it was primarily for lack of parts, materials and a high sickness rate among the workforce.
Neither were construction sites or other non-essential works instructed to close. Never mind that there was no possible justification for them to remain open! All this added to virus transmission, especially on public transport, so that to date 34 London transport workers including 15 bus drivers are dead from the virus. And while the “2m social distancing” has no published evidence to back it up, even if it makes sense, masks are still not compulsory in England, on the grounds that evidence is only “slight”! Despite all of this, the biggest companies are now preparing dozens of large plants and building sites to restart work as soon as possible!
Johnson pretends to be cautious, so that when he is seen to “yield” to the pressure of the bosses to ease the lockdown, he will be shielded from blame. But it won’t work. The evidence of his irresponsible, and yes, criminal, policies cannot be hidden. His government’s aim is to protect the profit system, not the NHS, nor our lives. And we know it.