4th July 2020
Boris Johnson – another day, another blag
Unlocked, unleashed and out on the lash. If the government was still holding its daily coronavirus propaganda briefings this could be the new slogan, as the shackles come off bars, cafes and restaurants from today. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, could shuffle up to a lectern emblazoned with the slogan, flanked by nervous scientists, Patrick Valance and Chris Whitty, hoping for at least a place in the House of Lords out of this but knowing they are more likely to take the rap in any future public inquiry, almost certainly designed to incinerate their reputations.
The government has faced a lot of criticism for its dithering, delay and general tardiness in implementing the necessary measures to stem the tide of deaths arising from the pandemic, now inching towards 45,000 on official figures and counting.
In one respect though the government has been perfectly consistent. That is in its overarching policy objective of putting private wealth ahead of public health. Governments over the past forty years have progressively shifted the UK economy away from production and towards consumption.
The UK is over reliant upon the financial services in the City of London, being a corporate tax haven and international money laundering operation. It is over reliant on capital hungry but socially useless investment in weapons of mass destruction. It is over reliant on the low paid service sector and tourism economy to bring in foreign spending.
Donning a hard hat and dashing off to Dudley in the West Midlands, in order to proclaim a ‘new deal’ in infrastructure investment, Boris Johnson once again this week used a compliant media to spin his message that Britain will ‘build back better’ and that, in spite of still having the highest death rate in Europe, he could proclaim a form of victory in defeating the virus.
Quite why the BBC continues to go along with this nonsense, when the Tories will rip up the Charter and abolish the licence fee anyway is anyone’s guess, but like Johnson’s delusions of taking up the mantra of Churchill and Roosevelt, the BBC appears to be deluded enough to think that its state broadcaster status gives it a form of immunity from prosecution.
Life in the real world is, as ever, a little different to that in the Downing Street rose garden or in the cloistered corridors of Broadcasting House. People continue to struggle with what may be life and death decisions about whether they can go to the supermarket, visit family or venture to a beach.
Listening to UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, this weekend, anyone could be forgiven for getting the impression that it is the patriotic duty of the nation to indulge in these activities. Corporate profits need to be protected after all, even at a social distance, and that will not happen if people simply choose to stay at home and stay safe when they now have so many more opportunities to spend their money.
Of course, the proverbial pound in the pocket has diminished somewhat for much of the population. Those on furlough face increasing uncertainty, as the scheme changes and employers have to contribute more. Many others have already had to join the swelling dole queues with redundancies across a range of sectors from airlines to retail being announced daily.
As with many aspects of capitalism, the government’s strategy is about gambling. Just as the bankers gambled incorrectly that the sub prime housing market would not collapse prior to the 2008 crash, a roll of the dice we are still paying for, so Johnson and his cohorts are hoping that a second wave of the virus will not kill off any hope of economic recovery. Johnson is gambling that those who still have money to spend will do so in sufficient numbers to be enable him to talk up the economy and justify his policy choices.
Unfortunately for Johnson, he may be able to blag some of the people some of the time but he will not blag the virus, ever. The government has presided over far more deaths than necessary already. It seems set to preside over many more because of pressure from the banks, the corporate sector and the hospitality industry to unlock too many sectors of the economy too soon.
Public buildings are going to be lit blue and another round of applause is planned this weekend to mark the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, which the Tories opposed setting up in 1948 and have clobbered with austerity cuts over the past decade. It will look good on TV, no doubt.
However, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals and workers in the care sector generally, both in care homes and local government, will need more than a token round of applause to get them through. There is undoubtedly more work to be done.
The media, the Parliamentary opposition and, most importantly, the people out on the streets need to be galvanised to expose the ineptitude of this government and put forward an alternative which puts public health first; argues the case for properly structured planned public investment, not phoney rhetoric; exposes the lunacy of buying Trident nuclear weapons, when hospitals are underfunded and people are dying; and gives local Councils the powers to build houses for the homeless and modernise ailing public housing stock.
Most importantly, none of this should be couched in the language of reviving capitalism. Capitalism would be one coronavirus fatality no-one would mourn. It needs to be argued as the first steps on the journey towards socialism, a journey which puts the people first and, ultimately, takes obscene levels of private wealth entirely out of the equation.