‘Downing Street strategy has finally turned from individual to collective needs’
The lights are going out all over the Palace of Westminster.
Restaurants, bars, banqueting suites and offices went dark even before the lockdown as MPs packed bags and files for isolation in their constituencies.
It is, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a sparsely attended and carefully well-spaced Commons, “unprecedented in peacetime”.
Not a war. But very much at war against the coronavirus enemy, with everybody on the frontline and the Army poised for action, like cavalry over the hill.
As in wartime, political hostilities have been suspended.
Labour is attempting to present a united front.
It’s proven difficult, given the Government’s slow reaction, confusing messages and Boris’s pretence at being in control when he so evidently wasn’t.
“We’ll do whatever it takes” became a daily moveable feast. Then came the most gargantuan state intervention in the economy and the way we live in the history of the UK.
The recent Budget – lauded as the blueprint for a new politics under Boris – has been consigned to a very short chapter in the history books.
In its place came a form of collectivism that goes beyond what even the old Soviet Russia dared attempt.
Spending and borrowing way beyond that promised by Labour at the last election.
Not because Boris and his “nerves of steel” Chancellor Rishi Sunak wanted to, but because they had no choice.
At a time when trust in the Government is paramount, all the confusion had to stop and they had to act – in the most dramatic way since the wartime 1940s.
Until then, Britain had been lagging behind every other affected nation bar the US. Now we are all in this together Downing Street’s strategy has finally turned from the promotion of individualism to the collective needs of all.
Labour leaders are anxious not to “play politics” during such a dire crisis.
The reckoning has been suspended until another day.
Boris’s managerial competence – never his strong point – is being tested.
The lockdown and economic bail-out must, we hope, see us through the crisis.
As the Chancellor himself says, it will be over one day.
Then judgement will come. The country will be on the long, long climb out of economic carnage and the avoidance of either recession or depression.
Fundamental questions will be asked about the political and economic principles underpinning the governing regime.
A government that caused more deaths from the virus by waiting too long to act will pay a political price.
Boris is fond of comparisons with Winston Churchill, but while his hero won the war, he lost the next election.
By the time the reckoning comes for this conflict with nature, Labour will have a different leader and politics will be back to a new, but reconstructed, normal.
Anyone who claims to know how this will turn out, how the political wheel of fortune or the economy will turn, is either deluded or dishonest.
One thing’s for sure – it won’t all be over by Christmas.
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