The government is in the dock over the Covid catastrophe – Diane Abbott exclusive

“It is a monumental scandal that the government has allowed so many of our citizens to die needlessly. We would only compound that scandal if we did not oppose them.”

Diane Abbott MP

By Diane Abbott MP

The indictment of government pandemic policy contained in the recent joint select committee’s report is completely damning.  Contrary to advice the government was given, they delayed taking timely and decisive lockdown measures, which led directly to tens of thousands of people needlessly dying.

In most prior eras they key ministers responsible would have been forced to resign following such a scandal. Remember that this was a unanimous report of two cross-party select committees. All the Tory MPs endorsed the findings, along with other parties.

As the minister with prime responsibility for this enormous catastrophe, Boris Johnson should have been the first to resign. We are told Churchill is his hero. He will know then that that the disastrous Norway campaign which brought to down the Chamberlain government involved the loss of around 6,600 Allied lives. But Boris Johnson’s government has presided over the loss of 160,000 British lives, which is more than British civilian losses in World War Two.  This indicates the scale of the disaster that has occurred on his watch.

Of course, it is true that this is a global pandemic, and has affected almost every country. But it remains the case that this country has one of the worst per capita death tolls in the world. This is despite being an early adopter of vaccines, which have proved an indispensable tool in reducing the death toll and the rate of infections and hospitalisations.

It is also the case that the current situation is very far from under control.  The recent trend on new cases, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 are all upwards. They are also considerably higher than they were this time last year, when vaccines were still in development and had not yet been administered.

This highlights a key failing of this government. It was reluctant to lockdown in a timely way. It was completely unwilling to learn from the early successes of other countries in suppressing the virus, especially those in the Asian Pacific. It has never once in all this time established an effective test and trace system, despite the tens of billions of pounds of public money wasted on a private system which ministers insist on wrongly calling the ‘NHS test and trace system’. There was also no provision of a proper financial support for those who were asked to self-isolate, leaving many workers with the choice of continuing to work while infected or facing destitution.

It is well-known, but barely discussed in mainstream media that it is poor people, ethnic minorities and above all the elderly and disabled people who have suffered most in this crisis. They have borne the brunt of illness and death, as well as the effects of job losses and pay cuts that have been a hallmark of the attacks on ordinary people.

There have been major winners, though. Tory party donors, fraudsters who provide no or faulty equipment, friends and cronies of ministers have all had a pandemic bonanza. The unbearable pressures they have placed on the NHS, which at different times and places has stopped functioning except to deal with Covid, have some licking their lips about the prospect of further privatisations.

 It was reportedly recently that the majority of hip and knee replacement operations (which are both relatively expensive but mainly uncomplicated) have been siphoned off by the private sector. And there is a huge tabloid campaign against GPs, which began as soon as chains of them began to be bought up by US healthcare corporations just a few months ago.  The NHS is certainly not safe in Tory hands and the new Health and Care Bill aims to accelerate and widen that process.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the discussion of the joint committee’s damning report was how frequently this was cast in terms of learning historical lessons. We can categorically state that no lessons are being learnt, as the same policies are still being implemented with the same dreadful results. At the time of writing over a quarter of a million people a week are contracting the virus, and over five hundred people a week are being admitted to hospital. These data alone will place enormous pressures on the NHS. The government’s ineffective and reckless vaccine-only policy risks turning the NHS into a Covid-only health service.

Where do we go from here? The government is utterly determined to maintain this course, refusing even the simplest mitigation measures such as masks and ventilation which have seen cases nosedive in our neighbouring countries. But there is resistance.

The Labour government in Wales is clearly distancing itself from government policy, and clearly believes now is the time to oppose these lethal policies. In Scotland there are mitigation measures in place which the Tories in Westminster block in England. Many unions are increasingly concerned about the direct safety implications of the current crisis on their members, and on the wider communities they serve. And many of the brave and principled medics and scientists who have spoken up against the government continue to do so.

It is a monumental scandal that the government has allowed so many of our citizens to die needlessly. We would only compound that scandal if we did not oppose them.

We will continue this fight.

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