Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Boris’s Speech: Much Ado About Nothing

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

It was trailed and trumpeted. It was well delivered in the heroic barnstorming style. He likened himself to FDR and his 1930s New Deal. Sadly Boris did not impress many, if any. There was grand rhetoric but next to no money. £5 billion for repairs and stuff and a lot of talk about building. But nothing concrete, forgive the pun. To re-engineer the wrecked British economy and to set it on a completely different path of fully funded public services, higher productivity and earnings, increasing self sufficiency in food and industrial production and all the levelling up promised, will require government investment over not many years of approaching £2trillion.

It is possible that Boris understands this in principle, but is shot to ribbons over his grasp of detail, especially the figures. More importantly, he shoots off his mouth thinking himself a great figure of history, unaware that he is fast on the way to becoming a figure of fun. Critically there is now wide public disbelief in his ability to deliver what he promises and mounting anxiety about his government’s performance. Shocking world beating C-virus death ratios, the continued malfunctioning of test and trace, with the current muddle and confusion surrounding the new local lockdown in Leicester, are but three of a long list of missteps and failures.

Put simply, people no long trust him. If he is to win back their trust, he has to do a lot better. And soon.

Sunday Blog 22: Boris Has To Do More Than Make Speeches

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

He has to deliver. Next Tuesday he is booked to make a widely trailed speech themed that, post lockdown, there will be no return to austerity. Instead the government will pour huge sums into  infrastructure projects, in the hope that it can invest its way out of the unfolding economic crisis. There will be no return to austerity. The economy will be expanded and renewed to provide real jobs that pay better money to replace those breadline service jobs eclipsed by lockdown, many never to return. This is all good. But it has to happen.

Unfortunately Boris has proved a disappointing leader since the Covid crisis broke. His lack of attention to detail, with a style of bumbling, bluster and boasting leading to a string of promises and predictions, which in reality are not delivered or fall way short of his rhetoric, have eroded public trust. Now is the time to make the speech certainly. But it must be followed by delivery of all it promises. The public may forgive a mishandling of the Covid crisis, particularly at the start. But there will be no forgiveness if he blows the recovery as well.

More from me when we have heard the speech.

Sunday Blog 21. June 21 2020: Labour’s Soul Searching

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

A new Report sets out out in pretty forensic detail the many reasons why Labour lost in the general Election of 2019. A central theme is that, starting from the early Blair Government years, the bedrock working class base in the crumbling former industrial heartlands, was drifting away, often towards a sullen refusal to come out and vote. These communities, without which Labour cannot again govern at a national level, felt Labour had lost its connection with them and was no longer their champion. I have been arguing this for years and the evidence is that the Corbyn leadership understood it. The huge increase in the Labour vote in 2015 underscored that.

Since then the party became ambiguous and quarrelsome. The leadership was isolated and weak. Anti-Semitism appeared beyond solution. The 2019 manifesto was just too good to be true and few believed it could be delivered. Corbyn, once the darling of the young, seemed to them to have become scratchy, old and out of touch. On Brexit the position was impossible to explain, such were its many faces, so that it became derision on the doorstep.

Now we find ourselves in the Covid 19 crisis, with the reform potential of the post pandemic new world. This should be Labour’s golden moment. We will have to see if it can grasp it.

 

 

More on Schools: A Test for Boris’s Leadership

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Following through on the vexed education issue, including a briefing from a front line teacher, it is clear to me that the present directives from the government are unrealistic except in the very short term.

At the beginning of the pandemic the government was cavalier in its attitude to the risks and over confident in its ability to lead the country though the coming crisis with minimal cost and disruption. It bought into herd immunity and let the rest go. Testing and lockdowns were not for clever us in the UK. When it became clear that the government was on course to preside over a biblical scale catastrophe though not paying attention and listening to the wrong advice, it underwent a skidding U-Turn experience in which we all took part. Sadly the mess is acknowledged to have cost thousands of lives.

The resultant loss of confidence at the centre, the nervousness of Boris, and the binge on endless reviews of issues for which the answers are already known, is symptomatic of an unwillingness to take any risk at all. There was a time when that was right, but not now. It is not possible to be safe. But it is possible to manage risk. The government is trying to eliminate risk. That cannot be done without a universal vaccine. Not only is this paralysing decision making and threatening economic recovery with unworkable restrictions, but it is also frightening very many people.

Time is running out. By July 4th the government must relax social distancing to one metre and from the beginning of September, eliminate social distancing altogether inside school gates in all schools, all year groups. It must have in place all the measures necessary to trace, track and isolate any spikes and outbreaks, which will for sure occur and end the bumbling confusion in pandemic infrastructure delivery which has been its trademark since March. If it cannot do this the Tory party must find new leadership which can measure up to the challenge. Dumping leaders is what it does best.

Get Children Back To School: Labour and the Unions are Wrong

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Sir Keir Starmer is wrong not to come out firmly with a statement encouraging parents who can, to get their children back to school. Widespread anxiety among parents, made worse by the posturing of the teaching unions, which the Labour leadership is doing far too little to dispel, is handing useful political capital and scoring points back to the beleaguered government in general and Boris in particular.

Of course it is not absolutely safe for children and teachers to return to school, even with the current limitations on year groups and class sizes, but it is safe enough. We are in a pandemic certainly, but it is under far better control than it was, and we have to take responsibility for getting our economy up and running and normal life restored through managing risk, not eliminating it. Only a universal vaccine can do that.

Yes there will be spikes and frights. Yes there may be renewed local restrictions and lockdowns. But priority has to be given to restoring and beefing up the education of our children, because each day they grow older and those idle days cannot be relived. The chance of children and young people becoming ill with the virus is tiny statically and for teachers no different to any other occupation.

The education of the rising generation comes first and above pubs, shops and football.

Sunday Blog 20: One Metre Or Two?

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

One metre is essential and soon.

We are losing sight of what we are trying to do. We cannot give absolute priority to saving life until we have the power to do so. It is right to lock everybody up and shut everything down for a short period when, in an unforeseen emergency, that gives the state space to take remedial action to deal with the threat. We did not spend the whole of WWII in air raid shelters, only when the threat was extreme with bombs and missiles overhead. We all took considerable risks going about our daily business. 67,000 civilians died, many in or near their homes.

Locking down for Covid 19 was necessary because the state had failed to prepare, taken wrong decisions and had lost control. It was necessary when the risk was extreme. But it cannot last until the danger is over. The state now has a  pretty impressive arsenal of remedial measures which enable risk management at an acceptable level and provide for special restrictions  to suppress regional or local spikes. There will certainly be many more cases and sadly more deaths but, until there is a vaccine, that cannot be stopped. We have to take precautions and accept risk, but understand that life cannot be lived six feet apart in all circumstances and the economy itself will essentially collapse if it continues to be imposed, as will vital services which define the difference between civilisation and mayhem.

The government  has no option but to lift the two metre rule and reduce to one quite soon.  Hygiene measures and cleansing of public spaces and facilities will have to be ramped up, track and trace and all the other faltering pieces of pandemic infrastructure and planning must run like clockwork, masks should be worn in public. There is quite a list of unfamiliar behaviours and disciplines which will become the norm, until a vaccine either zaps the virus altogether, or reduces the risk to everyday levels. We have to face the facts that not only has the economy got to be restarted pronto, but we there follows the daunting task of rebuilding a new one.

Because the old model with its greedy and selfish values is entirely shot to ribbons.

 

Sunday Blog 18: A Fumbling Government?

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

It is now clear that this government is a disappointment even to its enthusiastic supporters. It is not an ideology issue, nor even one of party. It is not actually about politics. It is about competence.

At the centre is the pandemic with it horrific death toll of over 50,000 if you include all deaths where Covid 19 is mentioned on the death certificate, or 40,465 if you include only those who tested positive. Either way is the worst in Europe and the second worst in the world. Until an inquiry unravels the sequence, advice and decisions we will not know upon whose shoulders blame may fall, but Boris is the prime suspect.

All along we have listened to the refrain  ‘led by the science’. We know this not to be true, because we all have access to science which demonstrates an avalanche of government missteps. These may be due to choosing to follow bad advice, or choosing to ignore good advice.

There is a sense of knee jerk decisions being made on the hoof when problems predicted by everyone else, suddenly manifest themselves to a blind administration. Everywhere there are issues with programmes not working properly or failing to meet demand. Real anxiety now permeates society about the risks of easing the lockdown, while elsewhere the risk to the economy is beginning to give rise to real fears of mass bankruptcies and unemployment.

At the centre of it all is the calamitous misfit of the hour, the prime minister himself. That broad brush, big picture motivator, hater of detail, spontaneous and wayward, Boris Johnson. It is now clear that this is the very last person you need to cope with the interwoven detail and conflicting priorities of the crises now engulfing him and threatening all of us.

Sunday Blog 17: May 31 2020: America’s Faultline

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

Everything seemed  well in Trump land. There were political arguments about impeachment, Russian interference and Chinese trade. There was also the wall on the border with Mexico. But the economy boomed, stocks soared, employment was at record levels. Foreign policy was all over the place, but mainly Americans bought into America First and were not fussed about snubs to foreign leaders they had barely heard of and cared less about. Risks were run with the trade war, but Trump was certain he was winning. Then came the pandemic. That was and remains bad enough.

But now we have the riots. Once again. The whole world is stunned to watch a video of four policeman apprehending a man alleged to have passed counterfeit dollars into the till of a nearby store in exchange for a few goods. He is on the ground. He pleads for air. He pleads for life. Before our eyes he dies, murdered by the police. The now deceased man is black. The police are white.

From the beginnings of the founding of America, first as a collection of colonies and later as an independent union of sovereign states, there has been a thread of acceptance of legitimacy for the notion of white supremacy. Indeed the original signatories of the hallowed U S Constitution included a number of slave owners. In spite of all the upheavals, protests and violence including the Civil War, this cancer remains. America led the world in the establishment of true and complete democracy, but the prospectus it offers remains one diminished by the existence of this faultline in its structure, which even after 400 years has proved impossible ever fully to repair.

One of the many tragedies of Trump is that he has made it worse.

Cummings Crisis: Is It Over?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Depends what you mean by over. If you think over means that’s it we move on and forget about it, no. If you think over means there has been no damage to the government’s standing and credibility in the Covid 19 emergency, very no.

The gullible may have been impressed by the Cummings performance in the garden of No 10 yesterday. Personally I saw an elaborate reworking of the circumstances driving a decision, to fit both the chain of actual events and the political demand. But the fact of the decision remains clear and stark. In defiance of the universal understanding of rules for the lock-down Cummings and his wife decided to jump in their car and undertake a journey of over 250 miles to change the location of their compulsory isolation, when at least one of them had Covid symptoms.

Their child was with them and the excuse offered was that his welfare empowered them to this breech of lockdown,  which would have involved a £1000 fine for anyone else under emergency rules, of which Cummings himself was a lead author. Without bothering to expose the obvious bullshit at the heart of this stuff, as it is well rehearsed everywhere, that will not make this issue go away. As for the assertion that a sixty mile round car trip to test Cumming’s eyesight was within these rules, or even within the Highway Code, is so ridiculous as to be literally beyond belief.

What is important is this. The Boris/Cummings team of political campaign  management has become a legend of invincibility. The Brexit referendum, the Tory leadership election and the 2019 general election victories, all proved they appeared to be unbeatable. What this episode has revealed is that once in government their combination is a weakness which, if not ended soon, will in time bring the whole government down. People have rumbled a flaky brand.

 

Sunday Blog 16: May 24 2020:What A Difference A Week Makes

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

A week ago the government was rather pleased with itself, in spite of the many missteps littering its progress. But now. Oh dear. It is perhaps inevitable that if you place a box of fireworks like Cummings at the heart of government, sooner or later it will explode.  And it has.

But first let us look at the general picture. Covid 19 remains the driver of everything. Then we will look at Cummings.

Covid 19

The last national emergency which disrupted life on the scale of Covid 19 was WWII. There have been minor, by comparison, upsets. The three day week of 1974, the drought of 1976 and the Winter of Discontent of 1979 were tricky times, but nothing on a scale comparable to what is happening now.

Reflecting back to the war, the beginning was a disaster. An appeasement government had failed to re-arm early enough and was playing catch up. First came defeat in Norway, then France. That brought down Chamberlain, but Churchill could not stem the tide in the ground war. Tobruk, Greece, Crete, Malaya, Burma, Singapore, Hong Kong and that list is not exhaustive, followed, when British forces evacuated, retreated or surrendered. But we won, on our own, the Battle of Britain and with American help, the Battle of the Atlantic. This did not make GB victorious, but it made it too tough a nut for either Germany or Japan, or the two combined, to crack. In the beginning the war was run from Whitehall, but in the end it was a war won by mobilising everybody into a gigantic national effort augmented by support from allies and Empire.

At the start of Covid 19 the government and Whitehall ran the response, working with out of date modelling, selective science to suit the political narrative and a failure to appreciate the strength of the enemy, in this case a new misunderstood virus. The instruments of state management, the public institutions and services, were truncated by nearly a decade of economies and cuts.  Downing Street was dominated by people unqualified and unprepared for the tests to come.

The consequence was failure and confusion at almost every level bar one. The expansion of the NHS to a specialist virus health facility, always having capacity ahead of demand, was by any standard a triumph of planning and execution. But  that victory distracted the government from its critical duties elsewhere. There has thus been a cost in thousands, even tens of thousands, of lives. Because the critical issue was not in reality the capacity of the NHS. It was the ability to test, track and trace.

Fast forward to now and we see a very different picture, involving a national mobilisation of human endeavour, medical science, academic research, pharmaceutical industries, distribution systems, national, regional and local government and personal self-discipline without precedent in peacetime. The government’s aim is to end the pandemic emergency as the world beater in testing and vaccines and their universal delivery, which not only brings Covid 19 under control, but shuts down its destructive and disruptive powers.

So for the Boris Government, itself like no other, the stakes are high. If it fails, it will fall. Meanwhile suddenly a new cloud darkens the political sky. Cummings.

Cummings

There are two clear issues here. The first is the lockdown rules. These were clearly breeched unless you apply  an elastic interpretation riddled with caveats to suit your actions. The second is about lies. The Cummings family claim it was to safeguard their four year old child. Yet if you go into the Today archives and listen to Mary Wakefield’s slot in late April, she describes with a mum’s pride  how her little boy helped her when she threw up on the bathroom floor and later dressed up in a doctor’s toy kit and fed his father Ribena as he lay in bed panting. So it appears the child was with them throughout, not isolated from the illness. Indeed he was at the epicentre. So why drive 250 miles? Anyway a friend, neighbour or nanny (this is not a destitute family) could easily have taken care of the boy if needed.

Yesterday’s Downing Street Briefing was reduced more or less to farce because every, bar one, press question was about Cummings. He has become the story. Worse, he is now the sensation. It is almost the only story in the Sunday papers. What is so outrageous is that everybody else has to stick to the rules, some in terrible hardship and heart rending situations. Yet the Cummings family are special. I don’t think so. The only questions  are whether he goes voluntarily or is sacked. Or whether Boris bottles out of sacking him. In which case he will go down with Cummings. Not at the same time, but not long after. As I said before, once the shine goes off the Boris brand it will be done for.