The Covid Crisis.

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.

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