Archive for December, 2020

Brexit Anger

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

Since the Brexit referendum in 2016 we have had to put up with the angry rhetoric of nationalist Brexiteers lying their heads off in their quest for the UK’s  ‘freedom and independence’. They wanted something they, wrongly, asserted they did not have.

Every misfortune in their lives was blamed upon the EU, and , much worse, they stoked a belief among those who were suffering real hardship, that somehow all that would end if we left the shackles of our membership of the greatest political union since the fall of the Roman Empire.

The horrors of our nation flooded with Turkish refugees, the notion that a trade deal with our former partners would be the easiest negotiation in history and that Boris had ready, oven ready, a deal which would propel us to sunlit uplands, were all tacky catch phrases in a morally bankrupt political adventure.

We now find ourselves on the brink of catastrophe, in which not a single one of these promises will be kept. This will trigger anger among the deceived. But it was also trigger a new anger. One much more menacing. It will come from the great silent majority who will discover, not just that something promised has not arrived, but that something, many things,  dear and treasured, have been taken away.

 

Brexit is Rubbish

Sunday, December 6th, 2020

As I write this the drama of Brexit is being milked for the last drop of uncertainty by media and politicians on both sides of the Channel and on both sides of the argument. One thing is not in doubt.

The whole Brexit project is a disaster from beginning to end. A self inflicted wound without cause, to satisfy a fetish for sovereignty by people with no grasp of its meaning, promoted by unscrupulous nationalist politicians who have repeatedly lied to persuade voters to back them, making promises which cannot be kept for an end not worth having.

So I am not on the edge of my seat today. No deal or bad deal makes very little difference. The whole idea is rubbish.

Saving Lives: Two Questions

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

When this pandemic emergency recedes and life returns to what will be a new normal, the questions will have to be answered. This will lead to another infamous inquiry led by a judge, which will take so long to gather evidence, write a report, with the conclusions then watered down by those criticised, who receive advance copies and the right to reply, that when copies are finally made public, they will be all but ignored. Because the world has by then moved on. That is, of course, the whole idea. Witness Bloody Sunday, Scott, Leveson, Chilcot and currently Grenfell. Or a whitewash like the utterly scandalous Hutton. There is a better way to do these things, but that is not the subject of this blog today.

What is are the questions. Or some of them. Here are two. The first is why was the decision taken to save Covid life, while endangering all other conditions requiring elective and routine treatment? The build up of this accumulation of waiting times and deferrals, is costing lives even as I write this and threatens countless others in the queue. The anxiety of the victims and the anguish of their loves ones should tear at even the hardiest heart.

Why was the decision taken to centralise testing and cut out local health departments? Although attempts are now being made to roll this back, the strategy has lead to a systemic failure of test and trace, leaving testing as an end in itself, a second wave and, were it not for the vaccine cavalry coming over the hill, even a third.

The overall point emerging is this. I have made it before. Although the world class scientific community of the UK has shone in its response, the public institutions have failed at almost every level because they have been run down and cash starved and were utterly unprepared for the crisis which swamped them. That in turn was because of the uncivilised nostrum that the state is the enemy, to be beaten and starved. In truth, of course, without a strong state, fully funded and prepared for every contingency, providing the framework within which civilisation functions and prospers, civilisation itself dies.

Maybe  Covid 19 was sent to teach us that lesson. But at a very heavy price.

 

The Covid Crisis.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Johnson talks about sunlit uplands. No doubt his enthusiastic supporters egg him on. Yet looked at from a more critical point of view, Boris is on the edge of becoming one of the most remembered prime ministers in history, but for entirely the wrong reasons. He led the Brexit campaign, which was a false prospectus for what is about to become another disaster, which will deal a heavy blow to an economy already in trouble. His government has mishandled Covid, causing one of the worst death rates in the world, at the greatest cost and with the biggest economic impact. And he has threatened the Union of the UK to the point where Scotland is on course to leave it. He could yet come good but if he does not and the pattern of misstep and failure of analysis continues, he will be remembered as the worst and most damaging of all our many and varied prime ministers.

At the heart of all this lies the ghost of Thatcherism taken literally. Among the many false and simplistic nostrums she toted around and which fools and wise alike embraced, was that running a country was akin to shopping in a supermarket. The resultant cuts in the funding of all public institutions, the mutilation by break-up and sell off of all the public utilities, coupled with the founding of the quango state, destroyed the UK as an industrial power and weakened every aspect of public life, because the state became an enemy to be dismantled, not the foundation upon which freedom and prosperity is built.

The biggest casualty of all was the NHS. It struggled with funding per capita and as a % of GDP, well below other leading democracies, trying to make sense of the mathematical impossibility of providing an infinite service on a finite budget. In other words more patients did not mean more money, as customers would to a business, which the Tories pretended the NHS was. It simply meant of a fixed amount there was less to go round. So we lived in the world of waiting times, shortages of doctors, nurses and new hospitals, winter ‘flu overload, and people in A&E waiting hours for treatment which in the past, pre-Thatcher, had been available in minutes. Then along came Covid.

Suddenly the Tory government of Boris, with its new working class supporters awaiting the fulfillment of all his leveling up promises and the riches of oven ready Brexit, saw an unimaginable political calamity ahead. The collapse of the NHS, the political jewel in the crown. On their watch, after ten years of their cuts. So the priority became protect the NHS. That has informed every step and every decision. Yet the priorities should have been to protect the economy and to save lives. That would have led us on a very different path to a much better place. But it was blocked because the NHS was on its knees even before the crisis hit.

The story is not over yet. It may not have a good ending. For Boris especially.