Johnson’s hypocritical tiers - designed to cover his back

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20 October 2020

Is the dispute between Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the government all about money? Certainly not. But local MPs, both Labour and Conservative, were indeed demanding further financial support for those who might be laid off as a result of the government's Tier 3 restrictions. And there is no question that the support offered - and only to some workers - isn’t enough. In fact everywhere - not just in the North West - the bosses have opened the redundancy floodgates, using Covid as their excuse, pushing workers into destitution.

    It's also clear that Johnson's local restrictions won't halt a 2nd wave. No town or region is an island, "entire unto itself". There are millions of connections between them. And right from the start, unlike in China, the most important connections between places were never severed, i.e., trains and buses, which transport humans who carry the virus, close together, in poorly ventilated, closed spaces! 

    In fact, the government's, 3-Tier policy is as close to a policy of “do nothing” as it feels it can get away with. Even its tame SAGE committee recommended a national lock-down. But of course, a national lock-down now would go against the interests of "business" and especially big companies like Ford or BMW (not affected under Tier 3!), which are currently pushing production in order to stockpile, in case of Johnson's no-deal Brexit-imposed tariffs.

    Ministers hypocritically pointed to the 80% occupancy of Manchester's intensive care beds as evidence that their Tier 3 measures were "needed". But this occupancy is no greater than last year at this time: the NHS works close to capacity every winter, which in itself is a serious problem!

    Anyway, the government still doesn't have an accurate picture of the rate of spread of the virus. Its Test&Trace, a prerequisite for its control, is still broken. While it reports 18,000 cases/day (since 1 October), the latest ONS figures estimate 27,000. Due to the time lag, the number of cases could be even greater. But Test&Trace is incapable of saying where those cases are. It currently reaches only 63% of contacts - the lowest number since its launch. And this, despite costing £12bn and paying consultants £7,000/day!

    To cover up this Test&Trace scandal, the government is now calling in the cops: they're asked to issue fines of £1,000 - £10,000 to those who haven't isolated properly! Yes, Johnson's latest approach is to try to shift the blame for his policy failures onto others - whether it be the population at large, or local councils like Manchester.

No deal: now you see it, now you don't...

Yet again, Johnson let it be known that a "no-deal" (err... sorry, "Australian terms") Brexit is looming. And Gove, his Brexit minister-in-chief, told Theresa May on Monday that he agreed with her that "no deal was better than a bad deal". Not that May agreed with him: quite the contrary. She stood up in the House to put his glib assertions on the "readiness" of the country for "no-deal", into question.

    But of course as Gove himself said, the door is still "ajar". This Tuesday, Johnson sat down with company bosses behind closed doors, to reassure them that they wouldn't lose out either way, if only because he'd "liberate" them from all onerous EU (and British) regulations which might prevent them from turning the screw further on their workers. And never mind any increased no-deal tariffs, because cuts in workforce numbers, wages and conditions, could more than make up for that... Johnson's easy solution: make workers pay! Yes, those same workers around whom he and Sunak claim to put their “protective” arms!

    In fact despite his anti-EU prejudice, Sunak doesn't hesitate to summon EU countries as examples when he needs them. He boasted that his Job Support Scheme is "highly competitive", paying "the same" percentage of wages as "other EU countries". But the minimum wage, which in Britain is £8.72/hr, (only for over 25s!), is higher in France at £9.13/hr and in Germany, where it is £9.35/hr, without age limits!

    Anyway, everyone knows by now why the talks with the EU broke down: fish, which carry no passports, but are claimed as "British"... And, irony of all ironies, Johnson's sudden love for state aid to "level-up" the voters "up North" who helped anoint him last December. Who believes in that, will also believe in King Boris's "Moonshot".

    It was entirely predictable that at this stage of his wheeling and dealing, Johnson would tell EU negotiators that he no longer wanted to play ball - and that it was all their fault, because they were cheating. Obviously, if and when a deal is back on, he can claim that the EU has made a huge compromise in his favour, whether or not it is true. And it won't be, of course.