ONE DAY after our freedoms were recently curtailed to control the spread of the coronavirus, a nagging question arises. How much can we trust the government in its management of the country?
Tuesday, September 15, 2020, 5:45 a.m.
This is usually a question asked of exhausted administrations battered by years in power and breathless, rather than one that has been in power for less than 12 months.
But in the year since Boris Johnson first entered Yorkshire as Prime Minister with a visit last September, the question of confidence in his approach to governing the country became more and more urgent.
It’s not just about managing the pandemic, even if that doesn’t inspire enough confidence. It is also the willingness of governments to violate international law by renouncing a freely signed treaty with the EU on Brexit.
And this is what appears to be a cynical enthusiasm in making officials scapegoats for government failures by sacking them or making their posts so untenable they resign, rather than the responsibility of stopping at ministers who should lose their jobs when politics crumbles as it did. on level A results.
All of this is undermining confidence at a time when public confidence in our politics is already at an all-time low due to the protracted agonies surrounding Brexit. And worryingly, the Prime Minister shows no sign of being the least bit disturbed by the sense of lack of confidence he conveys. Throughout his career Mr Johnson has been dogged by accusations that he is sneaky, says what he thinks is right at the moment and lacks understanding the details.
These characteristics are at the heart of what is becoming a serious trust issue for his government. The movement is there in the negotiations with the EU. Disbelief, and even outrage, over a plan to tear up an agreement on border arrangements for Northern Ireland is not contrived.
The violation of international law simply should not be accepted by a British government, let alone a government from the party that has traditionally defended its defense. It should give any prime minister a break when heavyweight predecessors like Sir John Major and Tony Blair condemn the move as shameful, their criticisms echoing those of Theresa May and Michael Howard.
The tendency to say what is opportune to deflect criticism rather than take action that results in results is written all over Mr Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
At first it seemed like he had a hold. Inevitably, given that this was an unprecedented crisis in modern times, mistakes were made, but the Prime Minister largely took the country with him. But errors in judgment have turned into a pattern of indecision and leadership changes that undermine confidence.
Last week’s announcement of a lunar mass testing policy came to light hours after Mr Johnsons’ announcement, when it emerged that the technology it is based on did not yet exist.
The testing regime in its current form is not fit for purpose, with consistently missed targets, issues processing results and the absurdity of directing people to testing centers hundreds of miles from their homes. .
The announcement of the Covid marshals to monitor gatherings of people also turned to dust when it became apparent that no money was being given to councils to pay them and that they would have no power to execution.
The country does not need catchy ads, but measures to ensure that a system that just doesn’t work does what it is supposed to do.
But it’s almost as if the statement matters more than the reality, that if there are enough display cases, no one will notice that the store has empty shelves.
The public notices it, however. Why, families rightly ask, are they forbidden to gather in groups of more than six, even if none shows the slightest sign of being sick when a much larger number are on the scene at work, on public transport or in pubs and restaurants?
People are well aware that other countries are doing much better than Britain in bringing the virus under control, notably Sweden, which has almost returned to normal.
The runaway and incompetent performances in the Commons further undermine Mr Johnson’s credibility. Does he realize it? Or, more precisely, does he care? A large majority in the Commons and long before a new election shields him from any immediate concern about the consequences of a loss of public confidence in his own performance and that of the government.
But he should care. Trust is at the heart of honest government and Britain’s relations with other countries, especially in a post-Brexit world. Mr Johnson wastes it at his own risk and that of the country.
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