Whilst the Conservative Party has enjoyed solid public approval during the Coronavirus pandemic; it is towards the tail end of the crisis that it may all come crashing down. From March until May uncertainty was rife – and this was to be expected. Guesstimates, predictions, and speculation were the best one could hope for. To that end, Boris’ bumbling attitude essentially aligned with the mood of the nation and no one particularly judged him for it – much to the chagrin of the allegedly ‘forensic’ new leader of the Labour party.
Of course, there were problems. Barnard Castle took on a newfound fame and people struggled to know what ‘stay alert’ meant in practice. At times it felt as though the nation had moved ‘through the peak of the virus’ a dozen times. All in, however, the performance seemed respectable – at the time.
However, as Britons take their first tentative steps out of their homes, we now see glaring fault lines in the Government’s response to the pandemic. I am going to remain on the topic of the pandemic – we can move to its broader fall out later.
Let us start with the big one: Deaths. I would be willing to bet that most Britons would agree that, with hindsight, the Government’s messaging on the fatality of the virus has been hysterical since the beginning. Some likened Boris’ tone to that of Shrek’s Lord Farquaad as the warning that ‘many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time’ reverberated around the nation. Soon most news outlets accused the Government of massively understating the death toll and begun to publish their own morbid tallies. When the dust settled, however, the opposite was true. Earlier this month the Government was forced to remove more than 5,000 people from the official death toll. It was found that there was a cut-off point for a Covid death. One could catch it, recover, carry on as ‘normal’, die of an unrelated cause and be chalked up as a victim of the virus. This is doubly detrimental given this is a virus that usually only seriously sickens the already frail and more likely to die. Much the same treatment was given to hospitalisations where, once again, no cut off time was put in place.
Blinded by the issue at hand, the authorities completely neglected to apply any common sense to the figures force-fed to the public every single day. Consequently, decisions were taken by the Government and individuals based on overly pessimistic data. There is no doubt that this has had grave social and economic ramifications.
To be fair to the Government, we were in an extraordinary situation that was – in all honesty – well beyond the experiences of just about all politicians. The broader fallout from the pandemic, however, is firmly within their territory. Government’s response thus far has been lamentable. A-Level results were a fiasco. Blind to the fact that ‘predicted grades’ most often reflect first choice University offers and not reality, the Government was, ironically given this relates to schools, peer-pressured by the other nations of the UK into engaging in mass grade debasement. The ‘robust’ algorithm was ditched and deemed ‘mutant’ as part of Boris’ schoolboy-esque crusade to be liked.
It is, in fact, by taking an unpopular line that the Conservatives will reclaim such high polling. Boris’ denunciation of the ‘cringing embarrassment’ of Britain’s past will have likely played well with both his core and the voters whose support he famously ‘borrowed’ in 2019. What is needed going forward is consistent progress towards reopening society and the economy. Further lockdowns must be avoided – even if that involves speaking firmly with the public about the realities of continued hysteria. It may not be popular, but it is necessary. If this Government is ‘for turning’, it will also be for leaving come the next election.
By E Carter