The fact that top government scientific and health advisors have appeared on our TV screens by themselves to warn about the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, is undoubtedly because fewer and fewer people trust the Johnson regime.
With professional civil servants and procedures pushed aside in favour of corporations like Deloitte and Serco plus assorted top business types, there is patent disarray. Add in rule breaking by Dominic Cummings, the bypassing of Parliament and the cabinet, and you can see why official pronouncements are increasingly met with scepticism.
At a time of deep national crisis, the charge sheet against the government gets longer each day. Here is a draft indictment which might come in handy for a future prosecution:
Sunk without trace. The abject failure of the test and trace system is undoubtedly a factor driving the second wave of the virus and the Tories are directly responsible. Baroness Dido Harding astonished MPs when she said that the rise in demand for testing was “unexpected”. She is a friend of Matt Hancock and was in charge at Talk Talk when a major data breach occurred. The NHS scheme is dominated by ex-executives as revealed by the Health Service Journal. Only one member of the scheme’s executive committee has a background in public health.
Unlawful rule. The long-established principle of the rule of law is only applicable when it suits the government it seems. Dispensing with independent legal advice, compelling a senior civil servant to quit over plans to repudiate parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, shows a government rapidly moving to outright authoritarian rule.
Rushing through new Covid-19 laws without Parliamentary scrutiny is an attack on the constitution, as former Supreme Court judge Baroness Hale has pointed out. Announcing major policies and regulations through the media instead of in Parliament has drawn reprimands from the Speaker.
Giving police the power to impose £10,000 fines on quarantine breakers and ravers is another example of arbitrary rule that bypasses the courts. Given the plans to opt out from sections of the Human Rights Act in order to throw out migrants as soon as they land from a perilous Channel crossing and you can see the direction of travel.
AWOL. In Boris Johnson, the UK has a prime minister who is clearly out of his depth and incapable of clear leadership during a national emergency. He is truly the emperor without clothes, manipulated by Cummings and other advisors and unable to grasp any kind of detail in a fast-moving situation. Johnson is absent without leave.
Deadly consequences. The government’s failure to act in a coherent way has contributed to the dreaded second wave that is well under way in the UK. Easing the lockdown without a proper track and trace system in place, for example, contributed to a growing disregard for social distancing and quarantine regulations. Trust in official messages has declined, as surveys have shown. A mushrooming of conspiracy theories has partly filled the vacuum. Social tension is sharpening in many areas of the country and much of the population seems to be at the end of its tether.
As the economy teeters on a knife edge, with a tsunami of job losses lengthening the dole queue, social tension can quickly turn to social anger and then to social unrest. A reckless, no-deal Brexit in the middle of a pandemic will add heat to already tinder-dry communities.
Let’s be clear, the emergency powers assumed by the government under Covid can quite quickly be redirected to deal with social resistance. Building a movement that can challenge the power of the Tories, their corporate clients and an emerging authoritarian state suddenly becomes a practical necessity. Time to quarantine Johnson’s regime.