The Government had claimed to be paying attention to SAGE for some time and passing that information onto us via their evening presentations. Unfortunately this all went badly wrong a few days ago when the catastrophic story of one of the Governments Special Advisers emerged and some of the SAGE members appeared to take a different approach to the Government. We are now facing the impact of nearly a week since that all emerged and in the meantime some people have claimed that their behaviour has changed as a consequence and they are refusing to return to Lockdown. How much of that has occurred and has been genuinely caused cannot be easily determined but if things go badly wrong now, a much more radical change will need to be introduced to protect our nation. However for the moment Johnson and Cummings are carrying on ignoring the wider picture and the comments from within Parliament and within Johnsons Party. As each day passes however we get closer to the first of June when Johnson was calling for Schools to begin to reopen, when his promise of the 200,000 daily tests were due to be happening and when Contact Tracing or Test and Tracing is due to be taking place. We also get closer to the second of June when Rees-Mogg called for Parliament to reopen with all 650 MP working at Westminster, away from home which is clearly at odds with the demand by Johnson back on the 10th May that anyone who can work from home, must do so. The irony is that apart from voting which Parliament had arranged to take place electronically from anywhere in the world, only 3 weeks ago, that there is nothing else which can be achieved in Westminster by 92% of the 650 MPs due to the social distancing. If the digital voting was to continue, the health risk and environmental impact would remain much lower for our MPs who are now forced to walk through a passage of Aye or Noe so that Rees-Mogg and the Party Whips can pressurise them to vote in a particular way. The watching of any debate will take place via the same screen image that they could see at home and a small number of them each day will be able to participate in a debate, but that is something that could be planned in advance for most of them so that their travel to Westminster was only when necessary.
So as these various deadlines are fast approaching, of course there are others that impact our nation such as businesses that are planning to reopen in retail and other settings, but if any of these things happen without a clear indication of what is safest for our nation, the risk of us having to return to a lockdown setting is very clear. As SAGE is making clear, their view about Schools varies from the view expressed by the Government. Another piece of information emerged in the last few hours which came as a result of the Education Select Committee asking the Government a question. The person who asked the question was the MP from Riverside in Liverpool where I went to technical college in 1976. Kim Johnson asked why the Department for Educations re-opening plan had not been one of the 9 scenarios that had been proposed for the reopening of Schools. The Director General for Early Years and Schools in the Department for Education is Andrew McCully and he explained to Kim and her colleagues in the Select Committee that “There are policy decisions that come on top of science and transmission evidence”. It would appear that we are about to face a dilemma, and if we are, then so is our Parliament.
Do we go to School, go to work, go to Parliament simply because science is being ignored, or do we pay attention to SAGE and other credible agencies and place our hands in the air and demand that Rees-Mogg and Johnson send different messages out and behave differently (which includes saying goodbye to Cummings) or prepare to step down and allow other people to make the decisions. Our nation is already the most deadly COVID-19 nation in the world based on the numbers per population, we clearly need to avoid things getting any worse.
I would like to thank Gill Ditch for the tweets I have seen in the last couple of hours that have acted as the source material for this blog.