by Martin Odoni

Foreword

I am still laid up with the CoVid-19 fever, and while I am improving gradually, I still have some way to go until I have properly recovered. Therefore, my apologies if this article is not quite up to my usual standard for coherence or flow, but concentration is not easy when running a high temperature.

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If there is one Law of Thermodynamics that Sir Isaac Newton missed, it is the following; –

At the height of Tory-induced social entropy, the chances of a Tory accepting the blame for the detereoration are zero.

Now, no one should suggest that the current CoVid-19 pandemic is an easy crisis to control and resolve. There is no guarantee that any technique deployed against a contagion as easily-spread as this one can stop, or even slow, its proliferation. So long as a Government in any corner of the world is genuinely doing its best, and employing as many sensible measures as it can to combat the virus, it will have my sympathy if it finds its efforts fail.

But really, I am sick to the pit of my stomach of Conservative-supporting sycophants (many of them, I have no doubt, are just bots) on social media insisting that Boris Johnson has been doing a ‘good job’, and trying to emotionally-blackmail his critics into silence.

Zac Goldsmith insults legitimate critics

Zac Goldmsith, a man who used blatant racist scaremongering to win a London seat in a General Election, has a moral issue with conspiracy theories.

Johnson has turned a crisis into a disaster

Give it a rest, bootlickers! Johnson has made an utter pig’s ear of combating the virus. Sure, even if he had taken all the correct decisions since this started up, it is entirely possible that we could still have wound up in much-the-same situation. But equally, we might now have been in a significantly better position, whereas the path of confused, semi-interested, self-contradictory bumbling that Johnson has followed has simply guaranteed that the UK is in about as bad a position moving forward as it could be.

BoJob assed up the CoVid pandemic response

You really thought THIS man would make a better Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn? WAKE UP!

I read a lot of simpleton Tories on social media, including the ever-obnoxious Sarah Vine (the only woman on Earth so sightless that she could actually find Michael Gove attractive), now lashing out at the criticism with the teenager-mentality this breed of over-entitled rich people have never grown out of.

Viine insults Government critics

And right wing blowhards like Vine complain about the left being abusive? Also interesting, and disturbing, that Vine seems to think people coming up with solutions to this life-threatening crisis would be LESS desirable than their just staying quiet. Any more evidence needed that, for the right, silencing opponents is more important than saving people?

https://twitter.com/WestminsterWAG/status/124107215322891059/

EDIT: The link no longer works. Looks like Vine has taken the Tweet down, in the naive belief that if she deletes it, she will not get into trouble over it.

Ah, so apparently, when the Government gets it wrong, everyone else has to come up with an answer, even though finding such answers is what we elect Governments for in the first place? Is that it, Vine?

Well okay, Vine, let me play your little game of offloaded responsibility.

What Johnson did wrong at the start of the pandemic

Firstly, let us itemise the embarrassing succession of obvious mistakes Johnson and his administration have made, what should have happened instead, and finally what needs to be done now that they did not happen.

Johnson’s first blunder was as far back as 24th January. A report from Chinese doctors and scientists was published in the Lancet, warning of the malignant potency of CoVid-19, especially against the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. The Chinese Government went to some pains to draw attention to the report, especially its warning that it was time for countries all around the world to invest in large amounts of protective equipment and clothing for medical personnel (PPE), who, without it, were certain to become carriers themselves when they tried to treat the virus’ victims.

Johnson did nothing.

For well over a month.

He.

Did.

Nothing.

Imagine how many healthcare workers could at least have been provided with protection if that time had been used correctly. As ever with Tories though, rather than invest money in order to prevent a crisis, they will happily keep taxes down one more month, let the crisis break out, and then be forced to spend a mind-twisting fortune trying to repair the damage afterwards. Such false economies can now be seen annually, with the Tories’ myopic insistence on keeping funding for flood defences threadbare, and then having to pay a fortune repairing the consequent damage every winter when rivers all over the country burst their banks.

What Johnson did wrong after the virus landed

When it was clear that the Coronavirus had arrived in the UK, BoJob decided to pursue a course of, firstly, empty, soothing platitudes to calm people down, and then, frankly, Nazism.

Initially, he made some incredibly stupid and irresponsible remarks, including merrily boasting in a live TV press conference on 5th March that he had happily shaken hands with a number of probable CoVid-19 carriers. This of course immediately implied to people who knew nothing about the virus that it must be fairly harmless and not particular catching, so, no worries if they went out and mixed freely with anyone they happened to meet. Johnson followed this up by advancing the now-notorious and wholly-debunked ‘strategy’ of ‘herd-immunity’ (which I battered to death in a previous post). He apparently got the idea by consulting two epidemiologists. Not a terrible choice in itself, but I for one would have made sure to consult, oh, for argument’s sake let us suggest, maybe a virologist or two as well, so that the properties of the virus itself were also taken into account at some stage? Am I being obtuse to suggest that that might have been an obvious step? William Hanage, another epidemiologist, wrote in the Guardian why herd-immunity is a ludicrous approach without a vaccine, which leads to serious questions about the qualifications of the ‘experts’ Johnson consulted.

Whatever the case on that point, at a time when Johnson should have been pursuing urgent containment measures, he instead wasted more precious days looking for ways to encourage the virus to spread faster among certain groups of the population! (When the number of reported cases began to exceed the NHS’ capacity to process, rather than assigning more resources, Johnson actually stopped automatic testing for the virus of suspected cases, meaning we have no idea of the true number of people who are infected, and cannot track where many of them are, which could cause further problems down the line with allocation of treatment.) With the NHS today already overwhelmed by the numbers of patients with severe symptoms, we may well ask why it has reached that tipping-point so quickly. Well, look no further than that key moment of complete idiocy by a Prime Minister, looking too closely to his ideology manual to include the real world in his calculations. He wanted to pursue a near-eugenicist policy that allowed more and more people to become exposed to the virus, instead of seeking to stop its spread. How many of these extra patients will die because of this buffoonery, I shudder to imagine. But let us not shrink from saying this; –

Boris Johnson is personally responsible for those deaths.

Having finally realised that this approach was not going to work, Johnson u-turned early last week, and started pushing for social distancing. This was dressed up by the ever-too-compliant BBC as happening because, “The Science has changed“. It had done no such thing. The science was saying the same thing it had been saying all along, hence the very different approach taken by literally every other world leader. It was just Johnson had not really been paying enough attention to practice, and paying too much attention to the hypothesis of a couple of individual epidemiologists, to understand the real facts, and had now only just started to grasp what the science had been saying.

But having changed direction so completely, Johnson should have loudly and explicitly withdrawn the tendency of his previous statements. Herd-immunity was a mistake, and he should have said so. He did not. Implying there is no issue with shaking hands with people infected with the virus was a mistake, and he should have said so. He did not.

Puns while people die unable to breathe

Still perhaps unaware of the sheer enormity of the shockwave hitting the country, Boris Johnson put on another display of buffoonish showboating on a conference call with a wide range of business leaders last week. He boasted about a plan to increase the number of medical ventilators at the disposal of the NHS – again why was this plan not implemented at least a month earlier? – and signed off by giving the proposal the incredibly-cheesy and insensitive tag, Operation: Last Gasp. In any circumstances, the bare-minimum criticism must be applied that that is simply a terrible pun. In current circumstances, when tens of thousands of people across Europe literally have drawn their ‘last gasp’ as a result of this pandemic, it seems utterly infantile and cruel, like a young child who knows no better laughing at a man in a wheelchair.

That Johnson has been slow to take the pandemic seriously, perhaps slow to understand it, is underlined by how, as recently as the 9th of March, he was muttering to journalists that he felt the media were over-reacting.

Self-isolation by cajolery

During all this, Johnson was half-heartedly calling for anyone who suspected they had the illness to self-isolate. But he and his Government were much too slow, once again, to put any guarantees in place for those who did so, many of whom were bound to be put in great financial trouble through taking time off work.

Many of the support-guarantees finally included in last week’s Coronavirus Bill tabled by Rishi Sunak are genuinely a welcome step in the right direction (or rather, a left direction, as it is Keynesian social democracy in action), but there are still some gigantic loopholes in it. And as Chancellor of the Exchequer, this is more Sunak’s work than BoJob’s anyway.

Johnson was saying before the weekend that he expected that the country would “turn the tide” against CoVid-19 in twelve weeks. Within twenty-four hours, Government advisers said pretty much the opposite, indicating that Johnson had been making promises off the top of his head, something to be avoided at any time, but especially in a global crisis.

BoJob makes up targets and is contradicted by experts a day later

When Johnson talks off the top of his head like this, he gives people false hope, while also dangerously confusing the general public.

At the time of writing, Johnson has still failed to order a full lockdown, meaning self-isolation is only haphazard and sporadically effective. Now I myself am always unhappy at restrictions on people’s personal liberties, especially free movement, in any circumstances, not least because the power this gives the authorities is very easily abused. But given the nature of this virus and the speed at which it is spreading, the Government really has little alternative. But Johnson keeps blustering about it rather than issuing the order. Why? It is curious that he is prepared to use this Bill to give himself extraordinary and worrisome powers for some two years, over a disease that should be contained in less than one year, but has been reluctant to issue other ‘draconian’ orders that would actually play a role in fighting the virus.

If the virus spreads communally, close the schools!

Mistifying, and again confusing to the public, has been Johnson’s both-extremes-back-to-back attitude to whether to close schools. I understand the rationale against doing so i.e. children tend to be more resistant to this virus than other age groups, and if the children are sent home, their parents will have to stay home too to look after them – including many medical staff, increasing overstretch in the hospitals.

But it was soon clear that it was too late for picking-and-choosing, and so Johnson, within a couple of days of saying it was completely unnecessary to shut schools, gave the order to close the schools, once again sending an entirely mixed message to the public.

Completely overlooking the airlines?

Italy, China and Iran are probably the three most-heavily-affected countries by the Coronavirus. Stopping its spread surely demands that none but the most-carefully-regulated air traffic can be allowed in from these countries. And yet, Johnson has still not ordered a stop to aircraft coming in from any of them.

Please, stop telling me this is part of Johnson doing a ‘good job’. This is just plain stupid. And it was entirely predictable stupidity, because Johnson is a man with a low boredom threshhold, and notoriously poor attention-to-detail. Like all psychopaths, when it comes to manipulating people, he can be very clever. But in any other environment, he is every bit the idiot that he likes people to imagine.

Having adopted so many mutually-exclusive positions, and having given out so many contradictory pieces of advice, Johnson and his Ministers now berate the public for not following instructions. But how can the public follow instructions when the next one contradicts the previous one? I agree, some people have indeed behaved selfishly e.g. hoarding at supermarkets, or going out pubbing when advised against it, and I do not defend them in any way. But really, Johnson’s Government is not helping itself with so many moments of needless stupidity and contradiction.

Cries for socialism from those who destroyed it

The stupidity does not just apply to BoJob of course. It applies to so many on the right wing, and their reactions when they see the upshot of the harm they have done over the last forty years.

Thatcherism, and even more so ‘Cameronism’ in the 2010s, dismantled most of the British state and sold off the remnants to self-interested parts of the private sector, in the belief that the economy would work better without the ‘burdens’ of Goverment regulation and safeguards. There may even be an echo of truth in that (although in my experience, the real difference is that the private sector just has a much easier task covering up its failings than the public sector), but it is to overlook the human condition altogether when putting the smoothness of the economy above every other consideration.

Here is where we as a country face a reckoning we were always going to confront sooner or later; what happens when you finally sell something you were sure to need one day? It is noticeable that some of those who were happy to sacrifice many a human being for the good of the wider economy (so long as they themselves were not the ones being sacrificed) are suddenly outraged and appalled at how ill-equipped the country is to cope with the impact of this pandemic, which can infect rich people as much as it can infect the poor. They bitterly, and with unprecedented dirt and deceit, fought a General Election campaign just before Christmas against a Labour leader offering to restore exactly what the UK needed if it was to fight CoVid-19 effectively. They treated his ideas as ‘mad’ and ‘unaffordable’, and yet now they scream and cry, because, having rejected what Jeremy Corbyn was offering, they realise it is not there now that they need it.

Look do you want socialism or do you not?

A fully-equipped free-to-use healthcare service is an essential feature of socialism, right-wingers. If you want an effective national response to a pandemic, you need to start treating a lot of socialist ideas with a bit more respect.

I suppose one could raise this in Johnson’s defence. Thanks to years of completely needless and toxic Austerity, in which even public healthcare was meanly and cynically starved of funds and staffing, by the time Johnson became Prime Minister last year, he inherited a Health Service already stripped to the bone in the name of making rich people richer. He has not had much time, it is true, to repair the damage.

But then Johnson is himself a Conservative, has offered little in the way of objections to Austerity, has not made any substantive moves to reverse Austerity until the last few days, and, thanks to his support for Brexit, has upped the xenophobia in the UK’s atmosphere, scaring many NHS employees born overseas into leaving the country. So no, that is not much of a defence really.

What next?

Well, I did promise I would offer my own thoughts on what to do from the position BoJob has needlessly allowed us to get jammed in. So here they are; –

  • Abandon Johnson’s brainless and completely needless project for a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. If it gets built and the virus is still dominant, it will only allow an extra channel to transmit the disease.
  • Order a short-term social lockdown in the towns and cities, subject to monthly oversight by Parliament.
  • Close airports to all but supply-traffic.
  • Ration petrol and food, to prevent hoarding, and to prevent people from taking long car journeys meant to ‘escape’ the virus, but which might lead them to bring the virus to communities in remote parts of the countryside.
  • Fast-track a new Wealth Tax through Parliament, designed in particular to target Off-Shore accounts, and allocate the funding equivalent of the amount accrued to the NHS so it can afford emergency supplies of PPE and other necessary equipment. It cannot possibly arrive in time to prevent some kind of disaster happening by now, of course, but even the few lives it can save will, as far as I am concerned, make it better-late-than-never. Hey, the rich and the right wing claim they are the ‘patriotic’ wing of the country. Now they have a chance to prove it, by making a small financial sacrifice to prop up their fellow countrymen. What are they going to do? Threaten to leave the country? How can they do that with the borders closed?

There, Sarah Vine, just as you demanded, I have done the job of the people in the Government, who are paid to do this, and pointed out better policies to pursue in the struggle against CoVid-19.

Now, Vine et al, it is your turn to shut up. Whether you like it or not, we shall resume condemning Boris Johnson. Spare us your ‘Queensferry Rules’ nonsense about how the whole country has to unite in silent acquiescence at a time of crisis. That idea is obsolete and absurd. At a time of crisis, the need for close cross-examination of the Government is greater than ever, because these are the times when a Government’s mistakes are likeliest to take lives. It is not ‘cheap political point-scoring’ to highlight such deficiencies, especially when they have been so obvious.

On the contrary, it is the whole reason our political system includes an Opposition.

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