Sunday 22 March 2020

Finding Coronavirus Scapegoats

Of the government's Coronavirus strategy, Dominic Cummings never said their priority was "herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad." But you didn't have to be in the room following the back and forth between scientists, bureaucrats, and Tory politicians to know this. Just watching Boris Johnson on the telly this last week has demonstrated the government's growing realisation they haven't taken the outbreak seriously enough. There's no point beating about the bush. People have died and are going to die unnecessarily because of the tardy approach taken and the mixed messages put out.

What to do in these circumstances? Confronted with a fuck up of this magnitude, there are three options. Johnson can apologise for his incompetence, the government can try and muddle through, or they can search for scapegoats. We're not about to see a mea culpa sally forth from Johnson's lips, let alone a resignation. What we instead see is a multi-part slow burn budget that has moved to protect capital first, then adding the workers as something of an afterthought. And, apparently, something is promised for the self-employed, freelancers, and people on short time working and zero hours contracts. The pressure's on for more mandated closures that will come too late for some. Nevertheless, staggering measures gives the appearance of doing something, of getting to grip with things and assuring those watching that things are in hand. Even though they haven't been.

And yes, scapegoating. When the news broke about Cummings's initial attitude to the outbreak with the "Shippers" scoop, centrist Twitter raised its collective voice to demand our Dom's sacking. Professional pearl clutcher, Dan Hodges, said "It will be impossible for No.10 to retain public confidence if people believe Dom Cummings has any role in the Government's Coronavirus strategy ...". That's it then. The dithering and delaying, the "we're following the science" claims are the fault of Johnson's irascible Rasputin, not the Prime Minister himself. Though, interestingly, this is not an attack of Churchillian ruthlessness hanging Cummings out to dry but rather an effort by the chief Tory organ to shield Johnson from blame. Displacing criticisms to whom a political leader surrounds themselves with is an old trick, and our centrist chums would do well remembering the old adage: advisors advise, ministers decide.

Handily, there's more scapegoating fodder than the noted oddball among Johnson's retinue. Just as the media spent their time pre-election holding the opposition to account, so now while they swoon over Rishi Sunak and fantasise about a national unity love-in with him and Keir Starmer at the helm, they prefer to scrutinise the public instead of the government. You've seen the images of packed flower markets, pubs, parks, queuing outside supermarkets, and thousands swamping Snowdonia and the Lake District in defiance of social distancing and self-isolation advice. Here's a group they can really get on our high horses about, those irresponsibly sabotaging our great national effort in getting Coronavirus licked within 12 weeks. Well, perhaps if the government had taken this crisis seriously from the start, had a consistent comms strategy with public messaging on television, and stopped the game of insider info leaking to select court stenographers trading as political correspondents, perhaps the message might have got through. Perhaps taking the step of ordering non-essential workplaces and shops to shut might underline the gravity of the situation. In the absence of information, people will do what they think best or carry on as normal. What we're seeing is a failure of the politics of population management, but the government's media allies are determined to draw the sting from this miserable mess by depoliticising it.

When the dust settles and the crisis passes, there will be a political reckoning. Whatever happens and whoever gets singled out, Boris Johnson and friends are determined to ensure the buck won't stop with him.

Image Credit


Anonymous said...

Cuba's medical brigade arrived Sunday afternoon at Italy's Malpensa Airport- streams of medics to support efforts to contain and treat COVID 19. No scapegoats please. Leadership within and between countries.

Anonymous said...

Fact: My brother can't get a inhaler for asthma for his seven year old kid. Seemingly due to demand. They are waiting for this hopefully not long. Contingency planning?

Anonymous said...

Until recently I worked in local government. Over 10 years of severe cuts in social care and in real terms over many years in the NHS. Priority one for government: look after the health of your people. Now and Always. Basic.

Anonymous said...

The approach of blaming the public for not following the rapidly changing "advice" has a whiff of Hillsborough about it.

Anonymous said...

Crises of this magnitude always bring out the best and worst in people. It would have been much better if the chief medical officer had been the main spokesman telling people what they need to do to mitigate the pandemic, as he is non-political and no one has any previous reason to despise anything he says. But of course BoJo wants to be Churchill so he has to be the figurehead rather than someone more credible. The actual Churchill of course convened a National Government, and I'm sure Corbyn would have been up for that, same as Attlee was. Would be interesting to hear what the civil service scientists are telling BoJo in private, I suspect they've been advising the recent moves long before they were implemented.

Christopher Gutteridge said...

My first instinct is usually to distrust what this government does. However a case could be made that the weekend of people ignoring the rules was needed to help the wider public tolerate, and take seriously, the measures that will be needed to slow this thing down, and that will allow a lockdown to be effective for longer.

But it's possible they've just been in as much denial as the rest of us... the government PDF document describing which businesses had to shut and which could remain open had a couple of obvious typos which implies it was not prepared weeks ago but was done in a rush. It's since been revised with less typos.

Conspiracy theories are a comfort right now, it's nice to pretend someone actually has a plan and knows what they are doing.

Boffy said...

We are told that there have been over 91,000 people admitted to hospital with flu like symptoms who have been tested for COVID19. Of these, only just over 8,000 have tested positive for Coronavirus. That means that the vast majority of people admitted to hospital with severe respiratory problems due to flu-like symptoms do not have COVID19, but either flu, or some other flu like virus. So, the real reason that hospitals are being over run is a bad year for the flu.

So, the question that needs to be asked is, how many people admitted to hospital are actually suffering from flu or some other flu like virus rather than COVID19, and also, given that the number of deaths attributable to COVID19 is still only just over 400, how many deaths currently are attributable to flu, or other flu like viruses.

When provided with this information, we might have a better understanding of what is actually going on. Because as I wrote earlier today, given that the number of confirmed COVID19 cases in Stoke amounts to just 4, its hard to see why this should be causing the NHS to be overwhelmed, or if it is it is an indication of just how unfit for purpose it has become following ten years of Tory austerity.

DFTM said...

I suspect one problem for the self employed is having the HMRC pouring over their affairs. They will probably be claiming they earn £100 a week, as their fiddle jobs won't be factored in.

So not only are they potentially infecting NHS staff as they merrily continue as if nothing has happened but their tax avoidance is one reason we don't have a decent health care system!

Some of course have been pushed into this position to reduce costs and as this pandemic has amply demonstrated there is a great cost to lowering costs and great inefficiencies in efficiency.

Time for a planned economy, time to end the madness of the market.

Anonymous said...

Germany has boosted its coronavirus test rate to 500,000 a week, with early detection helping to keep the countries death rate relatively low.

Concerned Citizen said...

Boffy has always struck me as someone who bases his outlook on the madness of 'economic' reason. Or put another way on the ideas of the ruling class and their servile lackeys.

Now I would never imagine for a second that Marx would repeat the drivel that spews like diarrhea from Boffy's lips but Marx was prone to economism. For example Adam Smith had a class based analysis of productive Labour, in other words the footman of the Lord was unproductive and the factory worker who made money for the capitalist was productive. Now Marx should have defined productive in class terms, i.e. productive equals useful to the well being of humanity and not what makes money for the capitalist. If this virus has taught us anything, other than what a dumb fuck Boffy is, it is to focus on what is essential and what isn't, and guess what a lot of what capitalism does isn't essential and is totally unproductive.

When people say Mcdonalds generate money for the UK economy, this is not true, they are an out and out cost to us all. Not only do they make us unhealthy, but they take resources away from where it is needed. Every building that Mcdonalds use could be used as a care home, every person who works for McDonald could work in the health care system etc etc etc

Boffy, as usual, wants to ignore scientific advice based on scientific evidence.

Boffy wants to rely on his crass and cretinous assumptions. His idiotic spin based on half understood (I am being generous here) information.

If Boffy has a God, it isn't the scientific method but rather Trump like charisma and gut feelings.

What a dumb fuck this armchair immunologist is.

Boffy said...

There is a rather good, rational account of my recent posts on COVID19 over at the Musings From The Carpathians blog.

Concerned Citizen said...

The latest scientifically produced data estimates that if it had been left unchecked (Boffy style) COVID-19 would have killed 40 million people worldwide. They estimate that if every nation implements proper lockdown then that should not exceed 1.5 million. They currently estimate that 9 million may die.

On top of this it is estimated that deaths resulting from poor air quality due to production will decrease by millions given current reductions in production.

Global emissions that are literally destroying the living environment are also reducing.

The fact that sports direct can't open isn't going to impact too much on the wellbeing of humanity and if it is that is the fault of this crazy neo liberalism so championed by dumb fuck.

The lesson here is obvious, its communism or barbarism.

DFTM said...

This pandemic also shows the foolishness of those who would have us believe that under capitalism there is more planning than there was under the Soviet Union.

We can see clearly that capitalism cannot go into effective lockdown because of the anarchic distribution mechanisms of a capitalist system, based on the anarchic madness that is the market and the fragility of long arm contracts.

If this lockdown does present problems it is because we have too much capitalism still left over. In order to plan effectively the entire capitalist system and all its ideological underpinnings are being thrown to the side.

The Soviet Planning system clearly had its problems, but it did not have the benefit of advanced databases, where a planning system could utilise database technology to deliver, for example, home deliveries.

Concerned Citizen said...

Nick Cohen warns us that our freedoms are under attack and that we must be careful not to hype up this virus as it will only kill a small % (actually that would be 55 million people if the virus was left unchecked, which is approx 49 million more than Hitler managed and a lot more than Saddam managed and even a lot more than Nick’s Iraq war managed).

Contrast this blasé approach to a worldwide pandemic with Nick’s reaction to a possible and pretty unlikely gas attack on the London underground (from an article arguing the case for locking up whistleblowers!):

“The latest warnings about poison gas on attacks on the London Underground should at least have made it clear that if the 'war' against terrorism is a war, then it has to be an intelligence war. Even Lefties, such as myself, who used to think that inept secret policemen were infinitely preferable to competent secret policemen, must admit that Britain needs the best security services it can get.”

So here it is, erect a secret service state to deal with a possible gas attack on the London underground but let a deadly virus sweep the world in order to protect civil liberties and kills tens of millions to boot!

Nick Cohen showing slippery duplicity worthy of the sensibles!