UK government inaction and ideology is costing us our lives and Getintothis’ Jon Podmore is angry.
As the death toll from Coronavirus soars and the daily farce of the government press briefings reaches the realms of the surreal, it’s time to resist the calls to rally round the flag and to clap out of the window.
We should replace gestures of solidarity with gestures of burning anger.
The Tory government is directly responsible for thousands of deaths in this outbreak.
The numbers will be massaged and hidden but as the weeks go by it will become glaringly obvious what they have done to us.
There are thousands of conspiracy theories circulating which don’t even bear the slightest of investigation.
Drivel about 5G networks, the Chinese government, killer vaccines, or the New World Order pales in comparison next to the actual, real disaster exacerbated by the conspiracy of self-interest that drives our current government.
There is no need to look for another, hidden narrative.
The one that is there in our living rooms, on our empty streets and in our hospitals is dramatic enough.
The Tory responsibility is both current and historical, they have been in power since 2010 and in those 10 years, they have tirelessly sought to undermine the NHS.
In September last year, little more than six months ago, the Labour Party revealed that the health secretary Matt Hancock was proceeding “full steam ahead with NHS privatisation”.
21 contracts worth £127m were out to tender at that point.
In 2017/18, £8.8bn of the health service budget went to independent sector providers, while the government were deliberately underfunding NHS assets to make them cheaper for the private sector to snap up.
In October 2016 “Exercise Cygnus” took place – a test to see how well our infrastructure, particularly the NHS and local authorities, could cope with a pandemic.
It revealed that the NHS would “fall over” due to a shortage of ventilators and intensive care beds.
Morgues would overflow, and there was not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for the nation’s doctors and nurses.
It showed gaping holes in Britain’s Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) plan.
The report was presented to the government, which at the time was cutting NHS bed numbers rather than adding capacity.
Jeremy Hunt was Health Secretary and the cuts were being delivered under what is known as austerity measures, now we can call those cuts what they truly were: manslaughter.
Not only did the government conceal the report, they didn’t act on it either, leaving us all vulnerable to the catastrophe we are now living and dying through.
In June 2017, the Labour Party brought forward an amendment to the Queen’s speech that would end the cuts to emergency services and lift the pay cap on public sector workers – including nurses.
At that point, nurses real pay had fallen by 14% since 2009. The Tories, including all the members of the current cabinet, voted against the amendment – here’s a YouTube clip of them celebrating:
Despite their mawkish virtue signalling, the Tories despise the NHS.
It horrifies them that such a big potential market is not available for their power base of privateers and hedge funds. If their worldview can in any way be considered principled, the existence of the NHS is firmly against those principles.
Despite the electorate firmly putting Johnson and his band of neoliberal vandals back in power in December 2019, the NHS remains a holy entity in the British psyche, and so the Tories’ mendacity engine has to work overtime to cover their true intentions for its future.
Boris Johnson‘s letter to UK households, immortalised on the Conservative Party website, shouts:
STAY AT HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES
This is from the very people who are seeking to destroy the NHS and have blood on their hands.
The sheer nerve to issue such filthy lies should see the UK government behind bars.
The NHS was created by the Labour Party under the leadership of Nye Bevan, who insisted that the central function of the NHS would be “Freedom from fear”.
Now those fears have returned.
Fear that when you have to dial 999 with shortness of breath, you’ll get to a hospital without enough oxygen to treat you, or that the nurse at your bedside will faint from hunger, fatigue or disease, or that someone else will be ahead of you in the queue for the ventilator that has been loaned from Germany because your government didn’t provide enough.
But the Tories’ responsibility does not only lie in their past crimes against the NHS.
Why is the UK about to become, according to Sir Jeremy Farrar (director of the Wellcome Trust and advisor on epidemics to other European governments), the worst affected nation in Europe?
A quick look at other comparable countries will help bring the UK government’s callous incompetence into perspective.
Germany had its first case on January 27 and has now suffered 3,022 deaths.
China (population 1,393 billion) had literally no time to prepare has only had 3,341 deaths.
South Korea’s first case was January 20, they began testing and tracing immediately resulting in 10,500 cases and just 214 deaths.
The UK’s first case was 31st January and nothing was done.
“The first mistake was not convening Cobra at the beginning of February when it looked like there was something serious going on and everything else follows on from that, like not getting a grip of our testing capacity and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)… Not getting a grip in the early days all flowed from the Prime Minister not taking it seriously enough and the advice he was getting depending on a narrow group of chums, the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientist.”
The above is a quote from Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health 2013 – 2016 and an advisor to the WHO. Ashton was vilified as “a lefty health expert” in the right-wing press for pointing out the inadequacy of the government response in an appearance on Question Time on 12th March.
All his fears and predictions are the reality of where we are now:
“When the inquiry takes place and history is written the failing to do large-scale testing in this country will be a real indictment.”
The UK death toll is now 11,329 deaths (more by the time you read this piece), three times that of China and Germany despite our much smaller population.
The period from infection to death is about four weeks.
The 900 or so people that will die today contracted the virus when there was no restriction of their movement; the pubs and restaurants were open, major sporting events were still taking place, like the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 19th, and you could travel to work on a crowded train with someone breathing in your face every morning.
The only reason people will die today of Coronavirus is that the government valued shareholders dividends more highly than the lives of the population.
And still the PPE, the ventilators and the testing are inadequate.
So on Thursday night, I will clap out of my window in support of the NHS, but every time my hands come together it will not be with gratitude but with rage, and the pain in my hands will serve as a reminder.
Please join me.