Deputising Prime Minister Dominic Raab (née Foreign Secretary) has come out and asserted that relations with China will not be back to normal even once the global pandemic has ended. Raab justified his remarks stating that, after the fact there needs to be a “deep dive review of the lessons – including of the outbreak of the virus.” Raab in this sense is right, any event which has caused such devastation on a global scale requires an in depth after the fact inquiry, whether that be to find and apportion blame or merely to note warning signs wherein preventative steps can be taken in the future. Indeed, there have been extremely questionable acts on behalf of the Chinese government, particularly in the earlier events, which require review and accountability. Afterall, inquiries and deep dive reviews as Raab calls them, are essential and central within the world of accountable politics.
So, it is at this point I ask, shall I get a large mirror to hold to you Mr. Raab? Perhaps it should be held extra close while you spew vitriol at the inaction of other governments? Perhaps it should be close so as your breath steams the glass while you call for a review of China’s policies vis á vis Covid-19? On the 31st of January it was reported the UK was partner to discussions of 4 different EU schemes for the procurement of PPE, the Guardian reported that the UK opted out and chose not to involve itself with any of the schemes. Where are we now Raab? Could it be proposed that the foreign secretary failed to acquire PPE on the basis of anti-EU Brexit foundations? February, the government rolled out its archaic stance of herd immunity, essentially mass immunisation via the natural development of immunising antibodies by those exposed to the disease served alongside the slightly less palatable side dish of mass death amongst those immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable loved ones. A fatal strategy which wasn’t adopted so frivolously elsewhere, but Rule Brittania, Britannia knows best. And hey, because Raab and Brittania know best, they reserve the right to call for an international inquiry into the Chinese while simultaneously perpetrating deplorable inaction regarding the same subject of inquiry.
March, our Primus Inter Pares, Boris Johnson, made numerous comments regarding the readiness of the UK and the NHS for any spike in the virus. These comments were echoed amongst the echelons of Tory ministry, including by Mr. Raab. Displaying so vividly the ignorance of the U.K government for the sake of keeping up appearances rather than admitting weakness or scope for improvement. Furthermore, how they made these comments having knowingly underfunded the NHS for the past decade is completely beyond me. Concurrently, the government also took no step to cancel the Cheltenham racing festival, you know where thousands of boisterous punters rub shoulder to shoulder, loudly spitting words of encouragement whilst exchanging money via book makers. By the time the UK government implemented school and non-essential business closures (20th March) it was the last European country to do so (with the exception of Belarus.)
Raab referred more recently to the pandemic as a “national test.” That it certainly is Mr. Raab. But I’ve sat many exams and tests, and I have never walked into an exam as underprepared as your government has the nation. Raab is a hypocrite, he will never consider the failure of the U.K on kilter with the failures of China so much so that it invokes an investigation. But he should. The U.K should. For the first four months of this year, the U.K government has made nothing but constant directives constitutive of travesty. A travesty guised under the cocksureness of Raab and cast within the rubric of strategy, where it is now abundantly clear in retrospect that there existed no strategy. It was an ill managed governmental debacle, handled on a day by day basis.
One could delve further into the government discourse which zig zagged its way through these opening months of 2020 and shaped the car crash of delayed policy action. I imagine there will be a fair amount of intrigue amongst scholars, investigative journalists and other independent sources of accountability, into the Tory governments abysmal early handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And there should be. But I fear there will be a lack of meaningful interrogation from the institutions that are supposed to represent the highest level of public accountability and insight, the House of Commons. The failures of the Chinese government will not be let slip by the international community nor by Dominic Raab, no doubt, and rightfully so. On the other hand, will the domestic U.K be able to confer the same level of rigorous scrutiny? Will there be a reflexive critique from Raab and the Tories themselves to hold their hands up? I doubt it. The failures of the Tory government which have cost so many lives cannot be whitewashed on a Widgerian scale. Fair and due criticism cannot be denounced as political point scoring. Sir Keir has some task up ahead, but if the Institutions of the U.K function fairly and properly, it should be an open goal for Labour as opposition to expose the irresponsibility of the current Tory government.