Johnson says he takes "full responsibility" for the "record" 100,000+ Covid deaths. Really? Yet a day later, in PMQs he (yet again!) claims he and his government have been putting "our arms around the people of this country"!
What a lethal embrace! Like the "protective ring"around care homes, killing 20,000 people in the first wave. Nothing has been learnt: it's happening again.
Yes, this government did "everything it could have done to minimise loss of life and suffering": it lied, ignored science, lavished millions on the bosses, gave lucrative contracts to chums and left the rest of us on SSP, UC+£20, reliant on charity, or if we are "lucky", exposed to the virus in "key worker" jobs, or those we "cannot do from home".
At least a third of these deaths occurred since December - not because the public ignored the rules, but because the rules were rubbish! November's lock-down didn't close schools. Factories, sorting offices and construction sites remain open up to today! Nobody mentions these as infection hubs! Who is counting the mounting death toll of workers? And now the early re-opening of schools is being mooted - again?!
We're told to look on the bright side: the vaccine programme! True, more have been vaccinated (so far) than in other EU countries. But separating 2 vaccine doses by 12 weeks to make supply stretch further is playing with fire. Vaccine-resistant virus mutations appear more easily if hosts have partial immunity.
As for the hogging of large vaccine supplies (by depriving others), it's obvious that AstraZeneca and Pfizer were quick to cash in on Britain's go-it alone policy. But when it comes to setting up production lines, they're in no rush: scarcity of vaccines raises the price. Indeed, Britain can only boast of 7 million vaccinated, compared to 2 million in Germany and fewer in France, because it jumped in first - taking the risk of early approval and paying more - in its belated, futile, attempt to stop mounting deaths.
There should be better news: over 230 vaccines are still in development; 10 have received approval and 78 are in trials. Companies - like Merck - whose candidates proved ineffective, could turn their resources to making proven vaccines, so that there really could be enough to vaccinate everyone. However, this system of private property, patents and profit, prevents that obvious solution!
Indian farmers use their tractors to break down government barricades!
On 26 January, thousands of farmers stormed the Red Fort, in the heart of Delhi, to demand the repeal of three new farm laws imposed by the Modi government. The march began as a "tractor parade" of hundreds of thousands, starting from the outskirts of Delhi, where they have been camping for the last two months. They defied designated routes to get to the centre of the capital, breaking barricades and overpowering the police and paramilitary with their numbers, their tractors, and courage, amidst high-security Republic Day celebrations. This was what was written on one of their banners: "We announce this is a war and it will go on until workers and peasants have won..."
In fact there were simultaneous protests in 20 other states. No wonder: over half the population is involved in agriculture, yet 1 in 5 in areas like Punjab are living in poverty; 10,000 Indian farmers commit suicide every year. Modi's new laws are likely to destroy their already precarious livelihoods by allowing large multinational agribusinesses to dominate the market. The serious unemployment crisis in the cities means that leaving the countryside is not an option. So they say: "we will win or die".
Workers in the industrial belts, surrounding the farmers’ sit-ins, had been watching the protests intensely, to see how far they would go and how the government would react. Those trade union activists who aligned themselves with the farmers and who have led recent demonstrations over unpaid workers' wages, were arrested and beaten by the police in the days before the march. And while no large trade union confederation or political party called, nor organised, for workers to join the tractor rally, many workers joined in individually, or in groups. Some assembled and marched with the farmers from their own villages. Others stayed at the sit-ins overnight to help with preparations for the rally. They too, were part of the demonstration.
Today, these workers are happy that the state paramilitary forces and police, which just last year had beaten them when they walked home during the lock-down, were pushed back. They are happy that Modi and his ministers, who were surveying the army’s tanks and airplanes that morning, giving flowery speeches about "national unity", were pushed back. We can only hope that India’s peasants and workers will now continue to push forward.