Don’t worry this isn’t a rehash of the hissy-fit that the Prime Minister’s former right-hand man Dominic Cummings threw while giving evidence to a joint select committee of MP looking at the lies and deceit in Downing Street during the first and second waves of the coronavirus.
Rather it is a time-machine taking us back to how many of us felt in March last year as we watched in horror as the nightmare in Downing Street unfolded with probably the most unsuitable and least qualified prime minister of modern times leading the country into battle against the coronavirus.
As the MPs on the joint select health and science select committees met on 26 May 2021 to try to find out what really happened during last year’s pandemic and why the United Kingdom had one of the highest death tolls from COVID-19 in the world last year, it is timely to recall that many of us wanted to use the experience of Wuhan in China and Northern Italy to avoid the National Health Service being engulfed by the pandemic.
So, why didn’t the UK lock down earlier before being swamped by the first wave of virus cases in March and April and why were elderly patients with Covid-19 transferred from hospitals to care homes without being tested?
Why did we repeat almost the same mistakes in the autumn and suffer even more official Covid deaths than during the first wave?
And will our leaders do any better when the next life-threatening disaster hits our shores?
Some light on chaos
While the select committee probing of Dominic Cummings shed some light on the chaos at the heart of government, with the prime minister’s former chief advisor telling us “tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die” because of the UK government’s mishandling of the crisis and that Boris Johnson was “unfit for the job” – didn’t most people who cared know this already.
I am no fortune teller, but even my humble blogs on this website from March last year were expressing amazement at how newly Brexit-minted Boris Johnson was faffing around as the virus swept in from the East.
In my blog from 19 March 2020, I highlighted the confusion in the UK government’s response to Covid, by writing: “On a Friday, it seemed to be “Keep cool and carry on” with normal life, unless you are over 70 and planning a cruise. But by Monday, it led to London’s famous theatre-land being “advised” to abandon the wartime spirit that the show must go on and bars and restaurants confused about whether to shut on the eve of St Patrick’s Day celebrations on 17 March”.
Remember this was when Italians had been locked in their homes for weeks and we could see the damage the virus was doing to their health service on nightly news bulletins and even European universities had switched everything online.
Like many back then, I wanted “timely and trustworthy information from scientists and other experts to policy-makers” and stressed “the need for effective communications to the public at large.”
Confirming our worst fears
It wasn’t rocket science! It was just basic common-sense!
But that was lacking in our government until it was almost too late; and perhaps Dominic Cummings has served some purpose in confirming our worst fears about the calibre of key characters in government, especially the prime minister and also himself! Remember this is the same Dominic Cummings who broke the lockdown he claims to have recommended when he hit the “panic button” – the guy who drove from Covid-hit London to Durham and Barnard Castle when he caught the virus.
But getting back to March last year, and when it became inevitable that even baffled Boris would have to follow the rest of the world in locking down, I wrote another blog, which offered some tips and advice from my year spent in self-isolation while fighting cancer in 2015, to help others prepare for tighter controls on movement and socialising due to the coronavirus.
I suggested people listen to the experts and take what others say with a pinch of salt and warned that a tight lockdown meant we would regard a trip to the hospital, chemist or food shops as “something of a big adventure”.
I suggested it was actually often easier to work from home and recommended that we all become masters of Skype. I should, of course, have said Zoom!
One step ahead of government
I also pointed out: “Like many people, I have been one step ahead of official government advice and have avoided going anywhere but the shops and nearby green belt for some weeks.”
So, if we could see what was on the horizon, why couldn’t Boris Johnson and cronies in Downing Street?
It is no use just heaping the blame on one or two individuals, like the hapless Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, who Cummings accused of compulsive lying during the pandemic.
There was a lack of honesty and proper leadership in throughout the top levels of government throughout the COVID-19 crisis and the buck should stop at the top, with Prime. Minister.
Boris Johnson has a lot of form when it comes to bending the truth, as the lawyer, trade unionist and journalist Peter Stefanovic has exposed time and again via his twitter handle @peterstefanovi2
Main image shows Dominic Cummings giving evidence to the Select Committee meeting on 26 May 2021