By John Wight
Throughout this crisis the UK government led by Boris Johnson has been dissembling, deflecting, and actually lying about their handling of the crisis, about the nature of the problem and about the number of deaths in care homes. With very few exceptions British journalists have failed to ask the pressing questions to get at the truth, and the daily press briefings that this government has been holding to update the country on coronavirus has been an exercise in theater. The theater of the absurd and where we do have journalists who are willing to be more aggressive and demand the truth, then those journalists will find that their programs are boycotted by British cabinet ministers.
Obviously lockdown brings with it its own issues, including mental health issues. People who live alone and who are of old age and don't have any support from friends and family and are basically cut off from their communities and their neighborhoods then obviously they are going to suffer grievously. There have been attempts to forge community response units, volunteer groups to try to reach out to these isolated people, but there will be people who fall through the cracks. As a result so many people will have died as a consequence of the lockdown itself. A lot of people will have died because of other illnesses and diseases, including those who have had their treatments for cancer canceled.
But the truth will eventually emerge. I don't need to remind you that we have the highest death rate per population in the entire world. This is one league table that no self-respecting country or government would like to lead. They [the British government] will do their best to sweep their handling of the crisis under the carpet but the truth will eventually prevail.
On March 11 the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. During those vital three weeks the government did absolutely nothing thus allowing the virus to run riot through the country. They didn't stop flights coming in from all corners of the world, and they didn't stop or even impede movement. They didn't stop mass gatherings and the result is thousands of avoidable and unnecessary deaths. That is because this government doesn't care about public health. It only cares about public wealth. That's a metric by which we judge the success of the society and Britain, I have to tell you, is not a pleasant society to be in. That is after 40 years of Tory party ideology dominating every facet and sector of the country, including its culture and economy, notably how it invests in public health and and the public sector in general.
In conclusion, I don't think there's any going back to the pre-coronavirus or COVID-19 Normal. I think people will be expecting something different. There'll be a worry about who will be made to pay for the economic damage wrought by this virus and the resulting crisis. If people in this country are still suffering the consequences of austerity, which was the government's response to the 2008 financial crash and ensuing global recession, then that gives you an indication of the eventual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Britain. Who is going to pay for this economic damage wrought by the virus? It has to be the rich. During the last financial crisis the government bailed out the banks to the tune of over 1 trillion pounds. If they can find money for bankers, they can find money for the real economy, for the working men and women.
And if things don't change? I think then you will see people on the streets, because I don't think many people are going to tolerate getting bludgeoned all in the name of the free market.
John Wight is a writer and political commentator. His Edinburgh Trilogy of novels is available from Amazon. He has also written a memoir of his experience of Hollywood and participation in the US antiwar movement in the runup to the war in Iraq. It is titled Dreams That Die, and is published by Zero Books.