Sunday 3 May 2020

Reckless or Psychopathic?

The phrase summing up developments in mainstream politics these last five years is collective derangement. We've seen it in the Labour Party with the decomposition of the Labour right, and that remains the case despite Keir Starmer's occupation of the leader's office. Liberalism/centrism, thrown out of sorts by the double whammy of Jeremy Corbyn's victory in 2015, the Brexit referendum, and then the fall out from the 2017 election; they disappeared up their own backsides with hard remain and Change UK, and many a public meltdown. And the Tories? Ah, the Tories. Where do we begin.

At the risk of evoking nostalgic feels, how about last summer? You might recall a bit of polling that revealed the Tory party membership were prepared to blow up the economy, the Act of Union, and the Conservative Party itself if it meant Brexit got done. Guess it meant a lot to them. Nevertheless, someone who read the room correctly was one Boris Johnson. He was always going to win the leadership contest off the back of his legend, and going hard on Brexit ensured he cleaned up. There was absolutely no ground for his hapless opponents to occupy. Come the Autumn we had crisis, shuttle diplomacy, and that horrendous general election. At every step, the short term interest of Johnson's career were put before the party he leads and the country he affects to love. That he wasn't stopped was less a measure of his luck or the alleged genius of Dominic Cummings, and more the perennial Tory friend: division among the party's opponents. Johnson's battle scars and recklessness made him Brexit's biggest booster (and best defender). We know what happened next.

What's this got to do with now? The bullishness, short-termism, and devil may care attitude is what. From Johnson's tasteless gags (Operation Last Gasp), condemning thousands to needless deaths out of sheer complacency, their initial herd immunity "strategy", and lying about the number of tests and massaging the PPE statistics, the pandemic has seen the government pass from feet dragging to arse covering without an interlude of competency. And now they are talking about easing quarantine measures, you can be forgiven for feeling a frisson of concern.

According to Saturday's Sun, Johnson has set 26th May as the target for relaxing controls. There will be new track and trace measures in place following their success in keeping the rate of infection low in South Korea, but conceding public anxieties and fears of a return to work. "We will need to do a massive confidence-building job as everyone is still terrified. We have to persuade people it’s safe to go back", said one anonymous (as ever) cabinet source. Yeah, but it's not safe is it? The Sun goes on to quote Matt Hancock in saying schools will only be reopened once it's okay to do so, and workplaces will absolutely be super safe as distancing measures, etc. are put into place. But if deaths and infections are still too high, the government are committed to following the science. Of course they are.

Repeat until you're blue in the face: the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. This last week we've had an unseemly scramble by the government to meet its own target of 100,000 Coronavirus tests a day. In the most shameless fudging of the figures, the Tories proclaimed victory, but when you drill down into the actual figures these are tests provided. I.e. Some 40k have been mailed out have been lumped in too. And so, without regard to the facts the Tories have bulldozed on and trumpeted a success that isn't really there.

The fear is we're going to see exactly the same when it comes to easing the lockdown. Johnson has named the date and so the pressure is on. Will the government "forget" deaths outside of hospital, like it did earlier in the crisis? Is Johnson going to point at graphs showing dips in infection rates and claim these are acceptable to the pointy heads, and therefore good enough for him? Are pictures of office desks surrounded by fibre glass going to fill the papers so to cultivate a pressure among the old on the young to return to work? And what then is acceptable as a second bump in infections? As we've seen virtually everywhere with the easing of restrictions, transmission has gone up again. Is there going to be a ceiling at which point the shutters come down? And as it's businesses pushing for a semblance of normality, is the government inclined to cleave to them over keeping them in stasis when it's virtually cost-free but, danger of dangers, keeps the work force idle?

My worry is the government will barrel toward its target and not take warning signs about resurgent infection seriously, despite protestations to the contrary. At every juncture during Boris Johnson's premiership inconvenient evidence has been cast aside as if misplaced optimism can see us through. And there is nothing, nothing the government have said or done suggesting they're about to operate any differently. Are they psychopathic or reckless? Whatever the case, it won't be them paying the highest price.

Image Credit


Anonymous said...

There you're wrong - BJ almost did pay the highest price, and I'm sure he knows it.

No doubt about it - the gov got it wrong, and are continuing to play catch up.

The problem they face along with all other developed nations is the economic precipice they exist upon, a kind of global just in time.

In order to maintain the (actually) massively inflated standards of living of the minority West, they will have to sacrifice some of their most vulnerable - a kind of quiet blood price to pay. All politicians know this. You are right that the UK got it wrong, but their calculations now are very consistent with every other artificially inflated economy.

We live in psychopathic times. We have always lived in psychopathic times.

Are you surprised?

Dipper said...

"You might recall a bit of polling that revealed the Tory party membership were prepared to blow up the economy"

This is nonsense. The poll was ridiculous as Leavers duo not think the choice of Brexit v GDP is a choice and we can be better off out. But if you want to go round constructing a case for your failed views despite consistent evidence of their overwhelming popularity then go ahead.

You will get nowhere until you stop building artificial worlds for you to rail against, and until you stop repeatedly falling victim to confirmation bias.

Will Pickering said...

For sure, many Leave voters do, or at least did, believe the UK can thrive better outside the EU than in it. But that wasn't the question asked: whenever they were specifically presented with a hypothetical choice between EU membership and pain, martyr psychology kicked in and they chose pain because it was "worth it".

You can dismiss that as an artificial scenario, but pollsters use those to reveal attitudes.

Cake or death? No, not your favourite cake, just a slightly disappointing plain sponge that's not quite stale yet. That or death? Hm, death you say? You're quite sure? Interesting. Thanks for your participation.