It wasn’t long ago that the Government instructed us to ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’. Now Local Government Minister Simon Clarke is saying “… from 4 July it is pretty much your patriotic duty to go out and enjoy yourself.” It would seem that the economy is now more important than people’s lives to this Government.
Whilst it might seem that Clarke was trying to be glib (the awkwardness with which he pretends to be ‘one of the lads’ in his interactions with the electorate is always rather cringey) it is perfectly in keeping with the Conservative Party’s latest strategy of getting ready to land the blame at the public’s door in the event of a second spike.
It only takes a brief glance around the world to see that the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis has been truly abysmal. Whilst some countries have prioritised people’s lives, others have prioritised the economy. But the Tories, having failed on the first, seem to be determined to fail on the second.
Their catalogue of errors includes:
being slow to lockdown;
not prioritising testing and tracing;
inadequate PPE stocks; and
discharging hospital patients with COVID-19 into our care homes.
They are guilty of shutting our borders long after the horse had bolted as well as constant mixed messaging about safe social distancing (1 or 2 metres?) and the usefulness of face coverings. All of which has not only resulted in one of the highest death rates in the world but also, according the OECD, predictions that our economy could be the worst hit of leading nations.
It’s this predicted economic impact that has caused Johnson’s Government to start easing lockdown in a haphazard manner and for Government Ministers like Clarke to encourage us to go to the pubs despite the recent scenes at Bournemouth beach. Don’t get me wrong – following 9 months of pregnancy and then having a baby during lockdown – I’m as eager to go to the pub as anyone else. I also think it’s important to support our local businesses – we’ve been getting takeaway Sunday dinners from one of my locals for the past 6 weeks for that very reason. But we should not be packing out our pubs at the expense of our neighbours’ lives.
If the Conservatives really wanted to be patriotic they should have adequately funded the NHS rather than just clapping it. They should have provided free school meals over summer without having to be embarrassed into doing so by an appeal from a Premiership Footballer. And they should provide adequate financial support for our pubs as they reopen safely, with stringent social-distancing measures in place.
As I mentioned in my last blog post before my maternity hiatus – “when looking at where to lay the blame for the effect that this crisis has had on our NHS, on our economy and on our way of life – let’s not turn on each other.” Johnson’s Conservative Government is solely to blame for their handling of the crisis – let’s not let them deflect our attention away from holding them to account with pints and football matches. Let’s all enjoy the easing of lockdown and support our local businesses, but let’s do so whilst being mindful of the health of ourselves and of those in our communities.