The challenge we are all facing in trying to understand the impact of Coronaviris or COVID-19 is made much more difficult by the lack of credible and consistent political leadership in a range of contexts (This piece was written on Friday for todays Argus so some details are now out of date). The reality is that our Government and the American President and other nations in the world have all acted in an Independent and diverse manner. Whilst such an approach is not new, given that C-19 is not restricted to one or two nations, and that our ability to know what is happening across the world thanks to the media, the incoherence is very evident. It is understandable that we sometimes get exasperated when evil actions take place and the news sources seem to ignore them. Indeed as C-19 is currently the most dominant source of news stories, there will be a great deal of violence and fraud taking place away from the news, whether it is in places of regular violence or closer to home and whether the fraud is big cases or taking place on the internet in the sale of toilet rolls. However for the moment the C-19 news from the UK and elsewhere is raising the need for a meaningful way of such matters being dealt with across the world. As someone who regrets our departure from the EU, I am disappointed that I have not heard a strong EU type response although no doubt this would simply add to the tension amongst some people right now. We have a United Nations and a G20 and a number of other Groups of nations of various sizes. That the President of the USA who is dealing with many ill people in his nation has blocked people from Europe apart from our nation from travelling to America, is clearly a catastrophic decision. Equally I have a friend whose son left Italy just before their border was closed, and such matters are very hard to grasp. When Schools are being closed in Southern Ireland, but presumably not in Northern Ireland this is equally hard to understand. The fact that our Government is not closing down public events, but a friend who works on live event technology in the UK is now out of work there is a clear lack of clarity even within our nation. In the past when there have been major challenges such as over the Iraq war the Prime Minister of the day has brought the opposition leaders and Parliament as a whole to support their decisions. Whilst C-19 is of course not warfare related, it would make a lot more sense if the Government worked together with the rest of Parliament and the other world nations to have a consistent approach in as many areas as possible.
Two examples appeared in Parliament in the last few days to demonstrate how incompetent our Government and indeed our local authorities are at working together. The one that seemed the most disturbing followed a question by Dawn Butler last Wednesday during a debate on the theme of women and equalities. The question began with “Can the Minister confirm that the disproportionate impact on women was specifically considered at the recent Cobra meeting dealing with the effects of coronavirus?” It did then go on to refer to the economy, a matter which the answer also touched on, but it appeared as if Truss had not heard the beginning of the question. “We have shown that we have delivered for women. We have a record number of women in work. I suggest to the hon. Lady that her party should show a bit of leadership by enacting a female Labour leader.”
The second one related to the need for consistency at both a national and also at a local level. The question came from Baroness Whitaker “Is the Minister aware that in the city of Brighton, there are notices in almost all the public places advising people to cough only into a tissue and then to bin it? When I went into my local Boots in London, there was no such notice, and I saw four people coughing without any shielding. Can Her Majesty’s Government not do as well as the government of Brighton?” The answer came from Lord Bethell “The Government are working hard to drive these messages home…. A substantial public awareness campaign was launched 10 days ago…. we will be launching a further campaign to ensure that everyone is aware of the hygiene protocols the noble Baroness describes.” Perhaps along with the campaign for sneezing the Government will begin to try to resolve the International issues, persuade Donald and Boris to both be tested for C-19 and persuade the Government Ministers to stay at home for 7 days when one of their team is diagnosed with C-19 as they want us to do!