• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

As a result of late decisions and U-turns, people are reaching their limit of tolerance with the government

Jan 6, 2021

Lets face it, we saw this coming. Whats incredible is, Boris Johnson claims he didnt.
Theres a pattern here. Back in mid-December, our prime minister ridiculed the idea of cancelling Christmas. Then he went ahead and cancelled it anyway a few days later.
And in the run-up to Christmas, with the stats showing the virus out of control again, and the understandable alarm over the new strain, I called on the prime minister to level with the nation about the inevitability of a third national lockdown so people could prepare. Once again, Johnson didnt act. Until a fortnight later.
Now I didnt have any kind of special foresight it just seemed almost everybody I spoke to, felt a lockdown was inevitable. Even before SAGEs worrying report on 22 December. People just wanted the truth and some leadership from the prime minister.
But we didnt get it. And new infections rose to record levels, hospitals became overwhelmed, exhausted NHS and care staff were stretched further and businesses tried to cling on.
And the numbers of people dying soared.
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Then there were the schools. On New Years Eve, parents of children in my constituency were left confused and alarmed. If their children went to school in Kingston, they were told by the secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, it would be safe for them to return. Even though parents and schools in our neighbouring London Boroughs like Merton, Richmond and Sutton children were told, its not safe. I snapped at this latest nonsense: after a year of his serious blunders, I called on Johnson to sack Williamson.
But instead, the prime minister weighed in, on BBCs Andrew Marr programme, to back Williamson and instruct parents to take their children to all open schools the next day.
The next day came. By evening, Johnson wanted all schools shut for seven weeks. They were no longer safe.
Perhaps the prime minister thinks waiting to the last minute is a good public health strategy in a pandemic. Perhaps he thinks waiting for public opinion is needed, before he takes action. Perhaps he thinks this is a smart political move so he can pose as some sort of saviour.
Whatever his reasoning, its worth pausing for a moment to reflect what impact this sort of thing is having on people.
The anxiety of not knowing what next week brings. Not knowing when you will see loved ones again. The stress of making childcare and homeschooling arrangements at the very final moment. Not being able to plan your work. Your business.
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I dont really want to bring Brexit in, but lets face it, this prime minister thinks its OK to give tens of thousands of businesses just a few days notice of the biggest change in the UKs trading arrangements in 40 years.
The British people and British businesses have made enormous sacrifices during this pandemic. Its taken a toll on their spirit, their mental health and their prosperity. And despite that, we all get the fact that this is difficult and many of us have been willing to cut the government a lot of slack as they try to manage the virus. But I increasingly believe people are reaching the limit of their tolerance. This prime minister must be held to account for his serial failures.
At the start of this, when other countries were affected first and showed us the way, the prime minister instead ducked the difficult decision, and he locked down too late. In September, when the experts of SAGE recommended a second lockdown, Johnson ignored their advice and only ordered a lockdown weeks later. And now hes done it again. Waiting until the death rate rockets, before acting.
And now he hides behind brilliant scientists and the NHS. Hoping that their new vaccines can come and save his skin.
Dont get me wrong. Its great we do at last have some hope. Everyone needs to get behind the vaccine rollout. Roll up our sleeves to work and to be vaccinated, when our turn comes. Let the whole country come together to save lives.
But as we all do that, lets remember that our prime minister must be held to account for his disastrous failure of leadership during this pandemic. That has led to the United Kingdom suffering more deaths from Covid proportionally than even president Donald Trumps America.
The independent inquiry into the governments handling of this pandemic he promised me back in July in the House of Commons cant come soon enough.
Ed Davey is leader of the Liberal Democrats