When Greenwich and Islington councils advised their schools to close early for the Xmas holidays earlier this week, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson issued formal legal threats against them. Never mind that Greenwich currently has its highest rate of Covid infection since March.
But for some government spokespersons, schools remain “among the safest places to be during this pandemic”! Yes, when according to the government’s own data, cases are rising fastest among secondary-school children aged 12 to 19.
In fact the government never did anything to make schools safe. Each school was left to come up with its own “plan” for dealing with Covid, without any provision for extra staff, without the possibility of getting students in on a rota basis and without rules for mask-wearing at all times.
Instead, Gavin Williamson continuously harps on about how schools need to be open, so that children’s education is not affected. Yet hasn't the quality of education been falling for years, as cut followed cut over the past decade?
Indeed, in this final week before Xmas, most lesson time is occupied with watching videos and having Xmas parties. So while Williamson sheds crocodile tears over children missing out on face to face teaching, the government's only worry is that bosses might miss out on their workers, stuck at home looking after their kids, and therefore miss out on their profits.
Just as the government has helped the virus spread among schoolchildren, it’s helped it to spread amongst their parents. It has retained statutory sick pay at a pittance of £95.85/week; it never forced bosses to pay all self-isolating workers, nor banned bosses from sacking workers. And of course, Tier 3 does not close shops nor manual workplaces!
So no wonder cases have been rising again and a third Covid wave is on its way! However, for Heath Secretary Matt Hancock, the current increasing rate of infections has nothing to do with inept or inappropriate government policies. Instead he blamed it on a “new strain” of the virus “detected in the South-East”. Even though this strain has not yet been proven as a cause of the increase. In fact, since September, just 1,108 cases of this mutation have been identified.
Of course, only a small sample of virus specimens are actually tested for mutations, which are in fact very frequent. But even so, this is just another example of Hancock’s inability to take any responsibility for the inept - and indeed lethal - policy he and his government have followed since the beginning of this pandemic.
Preparing a working class “rally” in 2021
Boris Johnson can’t seem to help himself from repeating the same pompous nonsense over and over when it comes to Brexit: that “Britain” will “prosper mightily”, whether there is a Brexit trade deal with the EU or not. When even his own experts have spelt out how the economy will shrink: more, if there is “no deal” and less, if there is a deal. But shrink, it certainly will!
The ups and downs of the value of the pound say it all. As soon as EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there was a path (albeit “narrow”) to a deal, the pound began to rally. But over the past 4½ years it has sunk many times, almost down to equity with the euro.
So now, both the pound and the politicians are on standby, just in case a deal is struck before the 31st December. For MPs it would mean reconvening in parliament to vote, unless there is an extraordinary extension beyond the end of the year. And for the pound it would mean speculation unleashed and many fortunes made or lost on the financial markets.
But what about the fortunes of the working class? Deal or no deal, Brexit from 1 January means price rises, job cuts, the erosion of rights and of course, the loss of freedom of movement. There is no question about it, this is a step backwards. But much of that can be reversed, if the working class rallies together to fight!
The pathetic uselessness of this system, the bosses who control it and the politicians who take care of them, have been exposed by their incapacity to deal with this global pandemic. And now, four and a half years after his lying “Leave” campaign, Johnson’s Brexit irresponsibility has come to a head.
So it is the irony of all ironies that he should tell the population that to keep the Covid virus at bay over Xmas, he is relying on our “sense of responsibility” - a sense of which he has no sense at all! It would be only right therefore, for us workers to show our own sense of responsibility by gathering our forces in the new year, in order to send Johnson&co packing. Just for a start...