It’s not political to demand good leadership in a crisis

I had a good laugh at the eye test memes and stuff over the weekend following Mr Cummings’ awful press conference. Because sometimes if you don’t laugh you will cry. But to be honest, it is no laughing matter, and I am pretty angry.

I don’t have kids, so don’t have to worry about childcare, and have been fortunate not to be ill, nor to lose any family or friends to the virus in this crisis, let alone be required to miss last moments, funerals and mourn alone. Although we have been worried sick about whether covid-19 would enter the supported living environment where my mother in-law (in her 90’s) is based, so far we have been lucky.

But, despite my relatively easy ride, I am still angry.

My father lives a coincident 265 miles away from me. And I have no idea when I will be able to see him again. It’s too far to drive there and back in a day. Being over 70 and a man, already puts you at greater risk, but he also has a low grade lymphoma and associated loss of immune system. I could never countenance the idea of staying with him at the moment, regardless of the rules and legal position.

Hotels probably won’t open for at least another six weeks or two months. Even if they did, I am not sure what I would feel about going to stay in one right now. Maybe the perception of the risk is higher than it really is. But the government is still officially identifying over a thousand more cases of covid-19 every day (in fact 1,625 on the 25th May), and around 300 people (allowing for the weekend effect) are still dying every day. We also know both these official Public Health England numbers are significant underestimates for various well documented reasons, and ONS excess death data has much higher numbers (by at least 60%). Meanwhile, the COVID Symptoms study suggest there are actually 9,900 new cases daily across England alone. Meanwhile their estimate for the number of symptomatic cases, having initial dropped steeply during April, has actually levelled off (at around a quarter of a million cases) and then starting rising again in May (current levels around 270,000).

How few new infections a day or symptomatic cases would make me happy to stay in a hotel and visit my father? I am not sure. But I would be much happier if I had any belief in the competence of the government to implement the required testing, tracing, and isolating system that should replace lockdown. First this requires a lot of testing (and actual useful numbers of people tested, not swaths of double counting in a bid to meet targets). Second, it requires trust – people to admit they are symptomatic, to divulge where they have been either by an app (do you trust this “vote leave” government with your data?) or by traditional means. And then it requires people to act responsibly and actually isolate as they are told to do. On the last two points, following the Durham debacle, the government now has absolutely zero authority or credibility. That is the real issue with ministers and the PM currently doubling and tripling down on irresponsible behaviour of an advisor at the heart of government – the increased public health risks that may result from this poor example being set.

But more than that, if the government had arranged to have more tests carried out sooner, had continued tracing longer, had locked down sooner, then we would have had far fewer cases, tens of thousands fewer deaths, and getting out of lockdown and seeing our friends and family again would be far easier and with less risk to ourselves, our communities and our society. And this is before you start to think of the human and economic impact any second waves of infection may have.

Taking these two points together, it is therefore hard to see the current situation through a lens that isn’t about lack of competence, and lack of leadership. The current crisis is not about politics per se. It’s about trust, competence, credibility and accountability, and the anger that arises when they are absent and things go wrong as a result.

So yeah, I am angry. I just don’t see how we are going to get out of this mess swiftly and smoothly with incompetent, arrogant, elitist, hypocritical, uncaring and frankly dangerous individuals running the country. It’s not political to demand good leadership in a crisis.

If you are reading this and you are angry too, please (i) tell your MP, and (ii) remember that anger next time you are faced with a ballot box.

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