Thursday, October 22, 2020

Health by stealth

By now over half of the UK population is covered by Tier 2 or 3 restrictions, so the local approach might actually be called a national lockdown by stealth.  

There’s already talk of finding a new name for the so-called ‘circuit breaker’ so that it could be implemented with minimal government embarrassment. 

Meanwhile, the so-far more stringent approach in the north is not only undermining recent Tory advances up there, it is allowing regional/municipal Labour leaders to argue that the Westminster government is sacrificing northern jobs in order to protect the economy of the south, handily raising the dread spectre of Maggie Thatcher. 

In general polls indicate that the majority of British people support tough restrictions to keep the NHS afloat, but this is a bit like asking an evangelical protestant of hypocritical bent if they believe in the literal truth of the bible. The NHS is a virtual religion in Britain, so of course people will pay lip service to the need to preserve its integrity whilst barely adjusting their own selfish behaviours. 

Boris came to power by opportunistically allying himself with the populist streams of political thought in the country, yet the pandemic has rather rudely detached him from them (the same people who supported Brexit are predictably now into mask-free, herd immunity and so on) as well as well as upsetting the unlikely gains he had made for his party in the north last year. 

The situation is also exacerbating fault lines between the constituent nations of the Union quite alarmingly. 

Localised lockdowns seemed like a more nuanced approach to the pandemic but they have inevitably thrown up the kind of entirely expected dilemmas politicians tend to refer to as unexpected. In some ways, Westminster gets the worst of all worlds out of this new patchwork, politically, economically and in terms of public health outcomes.

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