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Boris Johnson promised strong leadership over Covid-19 but delivered an omnishambles

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
Boris Johnson promised strong leadership over Covid-19 but delivered an omnishambles
The British PM’s mantra used to be “follow the science.” Now it's more like “follow the last person I spoke to.” Wherever you look, from schools to care homes to having Europe’s highest death toll, it’s a total balls-up.

As the Covid-19 lockdown is eased again this week, one thing has become abundantly clear: the UK government’s handling of the pandemic is an omnishambles of world-class proportions.

And now that the politicians are apparently taking over again, after hiding for so long behind the claim that they were “following the science,” it seems that far from the public obedience campaign we all happily signed up to on March 24 at lockdown launch, it is now pretty much do as you please, there will be no consequences… unless, of course, you catch the coronavirus.

But the utter chaos has not escaped notice. Former UK chief scientific adviser David King said of the death toll: “I think it’s nothing short of a disgrace, and a dereliction of duty.”

Where to start with Boris’s long crime sheet of hopelessness?

Charge 1. Employing one rule for you and your chums, and another for the masses.

We’ve had a string of VIPs caught out ignoring the rules they themselves put in place, among them Bojo’s adviser Dominic Cummings and former SAGE member Neil Ferguson, happily hooking up with lovers and family while the rest of us huddled indoors during the sunniest May on record.

Not so much Stay Alert, as the government’s health slogans had it, but Stay Elite. This sent a very clear and destructive message to all those playing by the book: you’re all mugs!

Charge 2: Creating complete confusion, with people not knowing what rules apply where, to whom, or when.

The devolved governments of Wales and Scotland decided to break ranks with the prime minister on how to deal with the pandemic and announced they were taking control of the lockdown across their borders. English people living on the wrong side of the Welsh or Scottish border were supposedly banned from crossing over it, and vice-versa. Or was that just on Wednesdays? 

Not that it meant all that much, in the end. Nothing more miraculous occurred, other than the fact the lockdown measures were seemingly reinforced and lengthened.

Charge 3: Not content with imposing a pointless lockdown, compounding it by spouting nonsense about 14-day quarantines and “air bridges” for anyone flying in or out of the country.

While airlines and travel companies desperate to get back to any sort of normal keep announcing a resumption of flights sometime soon, Cabinet ministers have been issuing conflicting statements that sway more often than the windswept sands on a Spanish beach.

All summer holidays are off. Oops, that’s not what we meant. All summer holidays are on.

Just that you can’t go anywhere because your flight has been cancelled and the hotel you booked for a fortnight’s stay has been shut down.

Oh, and then there’s the small point of Spain, Portugal and Greece excluding Brits from their countries because enough of us are still dying to make international tourism a risk that outweighs any benefit from our holiday spending.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has spoken of “air bridges” which is exactly what this idea is made of. Hot air. As one expert pointed out today, no country is going to welcome tourists from another nation which is experiencing a worse rate of infection than the host. 

Then there is the matter of quarantine. Two weeks stuck in a hotel in London while the sun shines brightly over Hyde Park is not how our guests would choose to spend their vacation.

Also on rt.com 'Professor Lockdown' Ferguson, UK's Covid-19 czar, admits crippling restrictions MADE NO DIFFERENCE – where’s the outrage?

Charge 4: That you were criminally under-prepared for all of this.

The lack of preparedness and the speed of the infection caught the government flat footed. There was not enough protective equipment for the frontline and medical staff who needed it. We had to ask the man who makes vacuum cleaners to invent a new ventilator, then when he did, he was told they were no longer needed.

Laboratories offering to help with testing for the coronavirus were ignored, kits were bought that turned out to be useless and a shedload of PPE gear we had ordered from Turkey, and hilariously, always seemed to be “on its way,” turned out to be unusable.

Charge 5: That while pretending to be protecting the elderly from Covid-19, you were actively engaged in killing them with it.

Looking at the victims who have fallen to this invisible killer there are even more difficult and embarrassing questions that need to be answered.

How is it that this virus ripped through our care homes with such ferocity, exacting a toll of Biblical proportions among the frail, the elderly and the vulnerable, without any real strategy in place to fight back?

Many of those who died in care homes had actually been sent there from hospitals so that beds could be freed up for the anticipated surge of new patients. What sort of thinking is that?

Charge 6: You did nothing to help protect another vulnerable group, ethnic minorities.

Then we have the disproportionate deaths of those from the BAME communities which is now the focus of a second enquiry after the first found that, yes, they were dying in greater numbers than their fellow white citizens. 

Nothing has been done and no recommendations have yet been made but let’s have another inquiry.

Charge 7: Your handling of education in a time of coronavirus was and continues to be a shambles.

And of course there are the schools. Are they open or are they shut? It is impossible to tell. The unions wanted them kept shut, and some head teachers defied this advice while various local authorities agreed. Some kids are at school, others are meant to be at school but kept at home by their parents, while more are sitting at home driving their parents slowly insane with no prospect of ever going back.

I could go on, but, frankly, it’s utterly exhausting...

The family holiday has been scrapped, nothing is open, not even most shops and even if you go out, the queues are enough to make you hop straight back in the car and drive home.

It is these small, everyday things in which people are looking for certainty. 

We’re asked to stick with social distancing every night from the Downing Street podium, and the police hand out fines as if they’re sweets, but then thousands of protesters turn out for a Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park, in clear contravention of the rules, and no-one in authority dare says a word.

When the government stopped listening to the advice from scientists and the experts on human behaviour that it relied on for credibility at the outset of the lockdown, the road ahead suddenly became far trickier to navigate.

So now we have the highest death toll in all of Europe, victims of our government’s arrogance and refusal to listen to experts at the outset of this catastrophe while ministers try to sell us a horribly undercooked track-and-trace system as the way out of trouble.

If only you could believe them. I’m afraid that trust in our leaders is the latest victim of this pandemic, and as a result, many people are simply just not listening anymore.

You might finally however, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, want to listen to this: the prophetic words of our glorious leader himself, after he was sacked from the Conservative front bench in 2004 over his torrid love life: “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.”

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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