Sunday 14 February 2021

Playing Politics with Coronavirus

The Sunday Times splashed with the leak/briefing of Johnson's coming announcement of a return to school from 8th March. So much for the epidemiological-led review scheduled for next week. The piece goes on to say the government wants children back, while most restrictions are staying in place for adults. I.e. we'll be allowed to meet people outside for a natter. This would be followed at the end of March by allowing for outdoor sports, albeit for two people only, and the rest is to be kept under review. But we're not left in the dark about the government's ambition. It wants everything to open by early May, the date by which most over 50s (the Tories' core support, coincidentally) shall bask in the relative safety of both vaccine shots.

The misnamed Common Sense Group of Tory MPs have demanded the end of all restrictions by the end of April. Basically, their "plan" was half-inched by the government, the timetable wound on by a month, and then leaked - probably by Johnson himself. Shops and hospitality should be open by Easter weekend according to the CSG, while officially we're looking at May.

Let's cut the crap. Neither Johnson nor the rebadged European Research Group are driven by "the science". From the very moment Coronavirus posed a threat to this country, the Prime Minister ducked and veered away from taking the necessary action. When he has each lockdown was inconsistently applied. The government merrily, and without being brought to book, allowed Covid to rip through the country's care homes. Not once has the government been challenged over the Do Not Resuscitate orders slapped on the disabled and people with learning difficulties. And, like a junta ran by and for the benefit of disaster capitalists, the long dark year of Covid has proven a spring time for some as printed money was shovelled into the gaping maw of private pockets. Many of whom, you'll recall, are Tory donors. Each step of the way the wage relationship, the rentier relationships, the punitive character of social security, and the Tories' own petty vendettas were prioritised before public health and their economic security.

Every time Johnson gets up at Prime Minister's Questions to accuse the Leader of the Opposition of playing politics, despite his pained (and painful) avoidance of point scoring and political criticism, this is precisely what the Tories have done from the beginning. They have taken the necropolitics of Covid-19, defined what success looks like, determined the criteria by which they should be judged, and used the full weight of policy and the media to depoliticise the crisis. Despite the late lockdowns, the premature relaxation of controls, refusal to mandate workplace closure, and encouraging 2.5 million students to circulate around the country, catching Covid, suffering with Covid, living with long Covid, or dying with Covid is a case of rotten luck or irresponsible behaviour. It's not the government's fault if you disregard their advice and head into work because the boss will sack you over Zoom otherwise.

This we all know. It should be ABC not just on the left, but common currency everywhere. What then of Johnson's plan? Again, this is driven by the politics. While the CSG want everywhere back to normal, Johnson at least has the wit to realise opening up can't happen unless most children are in school. Spare me the ritualistic paens to children's education and the damage done to them by being stuck at home. Where was this concern for wellness and mental health when the Tories stripped back schools' budgets and condemned hundreds of thousands of pupils to drafty, leaking classrooms? No, this is very much about making sure a sizeable section of the adult population are available to go back to work. Just as it was in September.

As of today, 15 million people have had one vaccine shot with only 500,000 fully vaccinated. It doesn't take a genius to realise the virus is still out there, circulating away, and will do so freely if either the CSG or government plan is followed. As the Kent variant reminds us, all it takes is one infection to spark a mutation that can lead to a more infectious and therefore more deadly disease. The more it spreads, the greater the chance - and why, thanks to the government's appalling, complacent strategy of letting it circulate last Summer, the now dominant version of the virus should carry their names. Anyone up for the Boris variant? The Sunak strain? Because it's more infectious, getting schools back and opening up businesses in the Spring means more people contract it, more suffer, and more die. Worst of all, it increases the likelihood of the infectious variant developing a vaccine resistant mutation. We've already seen these types emerge, but not with the same level of transmission. Are a few more months of restrictions with proper government support more preferable to further quanranting, vaccine resistant strains, and another wait for a new pharmacological bullet?

Once again, just like last summer, we stand on a precipice. Johnson cannot pretend no one told him a second spike would be made worse by relaxing restrictions well into the Autumn. And now, as he prepares to chance his luck in the hope vaccines will usher Covid to the margins, he isn't be listening to the science or the people putting themselves in harm's way. He knows thousands more could die, but is buoyed by the likelihood it won't be him or his.

Image Credit


Jenny said...

It’s like deja vu all over again

Blissex said...

As usual (and not just here), our blogger's discussion is entirely within the thatcherite frame of national lock-downs, arguing only whether the lock-down should be or should have been stricter rather than looser.

All this disregarding the vast evidence from non-thatcherite countries that test-trace-isolate would have allowed containment of the epidemic without significant restrictions and without much damage to work and production, And that should be Labour's main point, but New New Labour cannot be seen as supporting "deviancy" from thatcherism.

Dipper said...

@ Blissex. Test and Trace?

The whole of this pandemic has consisted of groups of experts and politicians pointing at other groups ad going "it's them. They have the magic solution. And they are failing to implement it."

But there is no magic solution.

Anonymous said...

There is no formal data gathering by parliament of what age votes for what party.

Polls like YouGov are politically biased.

All ages votes for all parties the same.

The ageism from the Left means you are sabotaging your own election chances.

Phil said...

This is a load of bollocks from someone demonstrating they know nothing about polling. No wonder they hide themselves as 'Unknown' - imagine embarrassing yourself publicly like this.

It's not YouGov that says this. All polling companies who ask questions about voting intention find the same. They also find similar patterns across most other developed countries too.