When Barriers are going UP, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as Corona…Virus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation…. that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage…THEN (tap hand on table) at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere….”Boris Johnson– February 2020
Did I really need to even mention his name, because it is the exact sort of thing which he would say isn’t it? Though it does quite nicely demonstrate our government’s ideology, doesn’t it? A fear of economic loss, a fear of government intervention and the desire for stability which ironically translates into reams of waffle- which basically boils down to sheer incomitance. Hopefully this post will be able to scramble this apart and with a bit of luck, it will provide some understanding as to why the government have handled the coronavirus crisis the way they have done so.. Oh and apologies because I do try to write my posts from a fairly neutral point of view, however I would find it incredibly difficult to stay neutral on this topic, though I am sure that I am not alone.
So before I go into the ideas which influence the “dark ideas” which influence the philosophy of the conservative party and this government really, lets recap on what it is that the government has/hasn’t done, to make this into such a catastrophe. I am aware that there are always going to be some people who are going to stick up for the government for one reason or another, while others, quite thoughtfully, take a good look at the situation and think to themselves why be so harsh on the government when they certainly could anywhere near as good a job, let alone a better one. However not only did the UK a higher covid death toll than any other country in Europe, but it is speculated that the UK has suffered the worst economic damage compared to any other European country. Therefore if the government was trying to reduce the economic damage by maybe accepting a higher death toll, then their incentive clearly has not worked. So what else can you blame the situation on? Ministers are supposed to have knowledge and experience not to mention the expertise that their advisors have (good old Dom…), so really they should still have had a better grip on it than the rest of the country. Meanwhile other factors which could have played a role were the high population density of the UK (partly true), the “behavior” of the British public (oh shut up!), or now we are seeing a divide.
Back to this later on, however for now lets think of a few examples where this government, have really…well;, messed up…
To start with you may or may not remember the fiasco concerning PPE, and the EU. Basically the European Union had offered to give the UK a certain amount of PPE including masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, testing kits and ventilators. But the UK declined. Initially it was simply “confusion” which had led to this decision, yet a government senior diplomat explains this slightly better saying it had been a “political decision”. We later find out that this would have been part of the EU joint procedure program which Britain had signed up to back in 2014, however a downing Street spokesman claimed that we are no longer in this as we are simply “not in the EU” (guardian). Yet it looks as if the UK had the option of being part of this, as it had been said that “the UK had only received an invitation to sit on the EU’s joint procedural program on the 19th of March.” Therefore the UK government had made a clear cut decision to not be involved with help from the EU. This hasn’t been the only time where the behavior of the UK toward the EU hasn’t exactly benefitted the UK in recent times!
A late lockdown was a perfect example of the government drooling behind. Before covid really hit the UK, Italy and Spain had already been affected, giving the UK a chance to catch into what worked and didn’t work in these places. It is suggested that the UK didn’t sooner call for a lockdown was because of Boris Johnson’s beliefs against a “nanny state” and “disdained the political instincts of those who use the state to tell the public what to do”. Another example was in 2004 when Johnson stated that “We should have the common sense to listen to others before we presume to act in their interests”, relating to a smoking ban.
Furthermore the UK had a painfully poor performance on testing. On the 12th May for example, Germany had “rolled out a widespread test-trace-isolate program” while in contrast the UK “abandoned community testing and contact tracing”. Later health chiefs admitted “they did not have the “capacity” to carry out widespread checks” and it wasn’t until the 2nd oof April when Matt Hancock announced plans for mass testing.
Further life costing “mistakes” included the failure to test those going into a care home, confused messaging, the embarrassment of the test and trace system and the delay in closing the boarders/enforcing tests or quarantine on those entering.
Other possible factors…
So like I have already mentioned, there are other factors which have explained why the UK has experienced covid so badly. In the UK the average population density is “275 people per square kilometer” though we need to bear in mind some areas are going to be far more densely populated than others, while in Germany thee average population density is 237.3 per square km of land. Therefore we can expect higher numbers in areas with high population densities. However this cannot account for the UK having experienced nearly 4 times as many deaths…
Core Beliefs of the Party
This following part may repeat some comments made by recent conservative party leaders, however I also aim to depict how these reasonings are shaped. Well basically the conservative party are based on an ideology called conservatism, which is basically the want to “conserve” the society which we have, rather than calling for radical change. This and a strong emphasis on tradition may have been why the government was reluctant to implement too much of a drastic change when we were confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, as their aim would have been to continue with the way society is as much, and for as long as possible. For me this explains why the party were slow in reacting to the pandemic, because they will have wanted to keep things as normal as possible, for as long as possible. It was only when they really realised that the only attempt of really preserving society would be to call a lockdown, was when they started to do something about it all. This is a good example of pragmatism, another backbone to the conservative. Though if the government was serious about being pragmatic, then you would think that they would have responded in a similar way to how European countries with lower death rates had done, but sooner rather than later to ensure that the UK has as few deaths as possible. Furthermore more commonly known is that the conservative party generally promote ownership of property and minimal state intervention, which may have been why the government was reluctant to take such an interventionist approach too soon, being a threat to “personal freedoms”.
So let’s return to the EU. So at the beginning of the year just when the message about the threat of coronavirus was coming through, Boris Johnson and the government were pre occupied, and still are now, with getting some kind of Brexit deal (or no deal…) done. But on the third of February, Boris Johnson was put in a position where he needed to speak of “dealing with coronavirus and keeping the public safe” before he returned to his original theme of the EU stating; “Now let’s get back to work!” This way, although we cannot see behind the scenes, it seems as if the government may have been too distracted to deal with the situation effectively… Yet again this is pragmatism in action, with a government keen to get “something done”, without letting any complexity stop them.
No, I am not referring to the virus itself here, as it doesn’t just meticulously choose to breed more in the UK than in most other places, but I am talking about the issues already prevailing in the UK which are going to enhance the spread in certain areas. As we have seen, the north generally has experienced the affects of covid far worse than the south. This is due to higher levels of deprivation, therefore people are likely to be less healthy as well as there being poorer healthcare in these areas. This is as well as often more crowded working and living conditions. This way we could say that it is due to this and previous conservative governments for not being as willing to tackle these problems…
So from this it can be seen that the government could certainly have performed better in the handling of covid, and even knowing some of the traditional ideologies of the party, it is hard to put a finger on the idea behind every action. While it is likely in my eyes that some of the mistakes may have been broadly down to incomitance rather than for any other reason, it is also true that the political ideology of the conservative party has contributed to influencing these decisions.