The British Medical Journal (BMJ) writes a damning assessment of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It talks of mistakes, delays, incorrect downgrading of health risks and PPE, how care homes were abandoned, a lack of appropriate experts on the Government’s SAGE medical advice committee, of political influence of SAGE, and the impact of the Government’s chaotic 2012 Health & Social Care Act, £1billion of cuts in public health, and cuts to local authorities. It says the Government’s 2012 Act lost us the very people who would have been most needed in this pandemic.
Over the years and more recently, I have written about all of these very things, and the fact the BMJ with the authority of the medical profession behind it now says the same, offers me no comfort. Nor should it you.
Officially, over 30,000 people are dead. Unofficially, the FT state the real death toll according to ONS figures is over 60,000. We should all be deeply scarred by this. We have lost many in Wyre Forest too. Over 80 official dead. This is a tragedy for the District, for their family and friends, and I offer my sincere condolences to every one of them.
The Government would like to pretend that we are all in this together. That we should all be pulling in the same direction. Right now, we have devolved nations remaining on lockdown as the English Government, which is effectively what it has become, doing its own thing. This English Government is saying schools should go back in June just as our infections rates again increase. Teaching unions and the British Medical Association say no to that idea, it’s not safe. The media label them as trouble making looney lefties. Unions and the BMA exist to protect their members, and in doing so, in turn, they are looking after the public on this one. I know who I’d trust over a Government that has been shambolic and not followed the right medical advice. It’s why many parents seem set to ignore the Government. It’s why many English councils are set to do the same. The posh schools like Eton are not going back until September. What do they know that the Government don’t? After all, most of them went to Eton. Have they asked their former teachers why?
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham wrote in yesterday’s Guardian that he and other regional Mayors held a conference call two weeks ago with Boris Johnson. In that call they stressed to him a collegiate way forward, to save lives, so efforts can be coordinated, working together. Boris Johnson ignored that message and last Sunday made his pre-recorded announcement. Now, chaos rules, our nations are divided on the approach to take, and English regions look set to rebel too. Why? Because the Tories and Johnson don’t do ‘all in it together’. What they do is what’s right for them, their donors, and big business. Big business which incidentally have secretly been given £millions of Bank Of England cash to see them through – even the tax dodgers. That is who this Government represents – not you. That is why they are in a rush to end this lockdown.
Labour has a duty to call the Government out for its handling of this crisis, and indeed its disastrous historic and current policy approach. I will continue to do that on behalf of Wyre Forest Labour.
The Government needs to be serious about saving lives, testing tracing and isolating those infected, and putting public health infrastructure in place – in order to reduce infections and deaths. That’s what we all want surely? At the moment it seems more determined to do its own thing, avoid scrutiny and blame teaching unions and doctors. The easing of the lockdown is about shifting responsibility on to you for their mistakes. It’s a continuation of the illiterate and disastrous ‘herd immunity’ approach they’ve had from day one.
I’d go further, the Government needs to invest in our NHS, revoke the 2012 Health & Social Care Act, restore the regional Health Boards and public health specialisms, stop charging our overseas doctors and nurses this ludicrous health immigration tax whilst they look after us, step up support for mental health services, scrap student nurse tuition fees, keep our homeless safe and not throw them back on the streets next week like they plan to, fund councils properly to help them finance the costs of COVID 19, extend the furlough scheme (which only trade union pressure made happen), extend the self employed scheme and close the gaps in it (newly self employed, £50k cap, maternity losses), and look at ways we can all go forward in a new post COVID-19 world with better public services, better rights at work, and with better support for the poorest and most vulnerable, and a properly funded education system we can be proud of, with sufficient affordable housing for everyone. I’ll continue to champion those things until we get them, as will my colleagues in the Labour Party.
Only by working together can we achieve these things. Sadly, right now what the Government say and what they do in this regard are two different things.
Stephen Brown – Wyre Forest Labour
You can read the BMJ Report here: https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1932