Who are the *Tories* to be self-righteous about politicising a disaster?

April 21, 2020

by Martin Odoni

The mechanical rejoinder currently fashionable online among Tory supporters is, “Now is not the time for political point-scoring!” or “Stop manipulating a crisis for political gain!” whenever they see anybody giving the Government a well-earned kicking.

As I have already made clear before, ‘point-scoring’ is not what critics of the Government are doing when they point out the British mishandling of the CoVid-19 Coronavirus. The cross-analysis of Government conduct is desperately needed at a time of crisis, as every mis-step the Government can take in this climate will cost lives. The eleven-day mis-step of not imposing a lockdown is responsible, by some calculations, for around two-thirds of the Coronavirus deaths the UK has suffered to date. And it was only because of growing public anger at Government stupidity and complacency that Boris Johnson relented and changed policy.

So cross-analysis is important, not least because it generally works.

But for the sake of argument, let us assume for the moment that the real incentive for criticism really is point-scoring. One question I must ask in these circumstances: So what if it is?

Who, after all, are the Conservatives, of all parties, to cry ‘foul!’ over politicising a disaster? When the Credit Crunch bit and started the Global Financial Crisis twelve-to-thirteen years ago, did David Cameron, the then-Tory-leader, just sit back and make soft, supportive noises as Gordon Brown desperately bailed water from the UK economy?

Far from it. Not only were the Tories unsympathetic during that crisis, they took the most deceitful and malicious advantage of it imaginable. They told the absolutely flagrant lie that the disaster was caused by ‘reckless Government spending’, when in truth the public sector had not crashed at all, while the crisis had begun in the US Derivatives Market, not anywhere under British jurisdiction at all.

Tory emotional blackmail rebuttal

If “now is not the time to criticise the Government,” when will be? And how would it be any different to the way they behaved when in Opposition?

This utterly malicious smear of the last Labour Government – a Government I have little sympathy for in most respects and I seldom feel much wish to defend – continues to the present day, with the right wing media often leaping on the bandwagon. It was used as the entire rationalisation for years of completely harmful and unhelpful Austerity, imposed entirely for ideological reasons.

More even than that, however, who has been playing politics with the pandemic more than the Tories? Certainly not Keir Starmer, who by and large has been much too gentle with the Government since taking over as Labour leader. Whether point-scoring or not, Opposition parties are in any event not lying about what is happening.

No, the Tories are the ones who have consistently spun and lied, who have released death statistics heavily-distorted by exclusion of all who died outside of hospital. The Tories are the ones who keep boasting about how much PPE they are providing, rather than openly comparing what they have with the amount NHS frontline staff actually need, and while ignoring native sources of PPE in favour of preferred ‘Big Business’ firms from overseas who are taking far longer to deliver – all an attempt to cast a needless shortfall as a mighty logistical triumph. The Tories keep claiming they have delivered resources that have not really arrived and have only just been placed on order. The Tories continue mobilising armies of bots on social media to give the false impression that their policies are more popular than they really are, and even misuse Department of Health resources in order to deploy them. The Tories keep making insinuating noises that shift blame onto others for how weak the pandemic response has been, and for the shortness of supplies.

The Tories, in short, are not interested in doing the job of handling the pandemic efficiently, or in saving lives. They are only interested in controlling the public narrative of the crisis, and evading accountability for mishandling it.

That is pretty much the definition of politicising a tragedy.

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