How’s this going to play at the general election?
Whenever the pandemic is over and we return to normal life the politics of what has happened over these last few months are going to dominate the political agenda perhaps until the next general election.
A big question is whether Johnson’s government was too slow to act. The main story on Guardian this morning under the headline “Enforcing UK lockdown one week earlier ‘could have saved 20,000 lives’ sets out an argument from one of the leading scientists involved that doesn’t look as though it will go away. It reports
The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK could have been halved if the government had introduced the lockdown a week earlier, according to damning testimony from one of the scientists who was advising the government at the time. The stark claim by Prof Neil Ferguson that thousands of lives could have been saved intensified the pressure on the government over its handling of the outbreak, leaving Boris Johnson facing repeated questions at the daily Downing Street press conference. The prime minister insisted it was “premature” to make judgments about the government’s approach, and said he had taken the steps “that we thought were right for this country”, on the basis of scientific advice.
It might seem an eternity ago but this was the big political argument that was going on in March. A view was being put forward was that being later than other similar countries in bringing in the lockdown the government was ensuring that the peak would happen at a time when there was less pressure on the NHS.
Other scientists who have been involved have made similar points and no doubt what was said during that critical period will be examined closely if there is an inquiry as would seem likely. This is what former CON leadership contender, Rory Stewart was saying in early March
The effect was the UK was seen as the outlier. When death rates and other data are compared with those similar countries that acted earlier this approach might look questionable.
An issue, of course, was that in January when the Covid19 threat was emerging the main objective of Johnson’s government was to get through to the January 31st EU exit deadline and one of the big parts of that story was the effort to get Big Ben to bong.
One thing is for sure – this isn’t going to go away and Johnson is facing an opposition that is far more politically effective than the Corbyn’-led LAB of yesteryear.