This tweet by Daniel Hannan was sent out at lunchtime yesterday and he is clearly a bit out of touch with the current view of his political party based Government and the actual theme of the article in the Financial Times that he claims to be responding to. It seems clear from both the main headline and also the sub headline that this article by George Parker, Helen Warrell and Laura Pitel is not about how pressing the ventilators are for our NHS, but rather about the failure of our Government to purchase ventilators as part of a wider procurement opportunity through the EU which we are still members of until the end of 2020. The story may well include some of the facts that refer to how our Government, perhaps even with the assistance of Daniel Hannan on his last day at work, attended a meeting with the EU on 31st January to discuss the procurement of such devices and maybe even PPE too. Sadly it appears that our Government chose not to follow up the outcome of this meeting in a meaningful way which was a major challenge. The story may also have included the claims that the relevant email addresses that our public sector had previously submitted to the EU were apparently then changed but that the new addresses were communicated with the EU. The subsequent claim by the Government is that the EU sent their own follow up correspondence to the wrong addresses and as a consequence we missed the chance to take part in the tender arrangements. What is very clear is that when public sector organisations change email addresses two elements occur on almost every occasion. The first is that the old address is maintained for quite some time beyond the change over so that any late items still get collected and the second is that reply emails are sent from the old address once the new address is set out, explaining that the address is no longer correct and informing the receiver of which address to use instead. So it seems highly unlikely that the email problem occured as the Cabinet Office is currently claiming.
However just to clarify that the other element of Daniel’s tweet is also mistaken as covered in the comment: “Just as we learn that ventilators are not nearly as important as was first assumed”. On the day before Mr Hannan wrote his tweet, one of his party colleagues, Edward Argar MP who is the Minister of State in the Department of Health and Social Care responded to a couple of questions from Peter Kyle MP from Hove who had asked about ventilators. The response from Edward was as follows:
Work preparing the National Health Service for the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing and we have already nearly doubled ventilator capacity. New and existing suppliers are being asked to build as many as they can. The Prime Minister has issued a call to United Kingdom industry to produce additional ventilators and the Department asked appropriate potential manufacturers on 13 March to come forward with proposals for new ventilation machines. Around a dozen potential prototypes have now been presented to the Department which we are currently pursuing.
Perhaps Mr Hannan was enjoying his lunch and sent out the tweet without thinking in a sober manner. On the other hand, about four hours later he did tweet “One more point – and I don’t blame the media for this one, they are authentically representing public opinion. We are conflicted about political responsibility. We demand that public bodies and the NHS be free from political control, but we blame ministers when things go wrong.” The challenge with this Daniel is first of all, that your political colleagues are generally unwilling to free the NHS or indeed the Police, Education or indeed many other public sector bodies from the Government for any length of time. The second aspect is much more of a challenge in that overseeing a nation on behalf of the public, even if you are seriously willing to develop leaner Government structures, still means that you must remain accountable for the overall approach and results that take place while you are the Government. If people like Daniel would like to reduce the size of the State and simultaneously reduce the liability of the Government for what takes place within the State (or due to its lack of State) then in effect he and his colleagues will be planning to destroy the State and so perhaps they would like to explain this to our nation as a matter of some priority before we next vote for them!