Tuesday, 14 April 2020


If there was one aspect of the UK Government’s handling of the pandemic which they got totally right – up until last Saturday at least – it was keeping the Home Secretary off the airwaves.  The extent to which that was the right decision only became fully clear when they finally let her loose. Perhaps their objective in changing the policy was to make the rest of them look half-competent by comparison, but I suspect it failed even in that limited aim. Incompetence comes in many forms – and one of those is allowing someone even less competent to take a lead role.
I can’t imagine that the government’s media advisers didn’t anticipate the demand for an apology for the lack of PPE for front-line staff but if they did anticipate it and briefed her on how to answer, she either forgot or ignored the advice she was given and ended up using the forbidden ‘s’ word to apologise for the stupidity of the public at large in choosing to believe the people working without PPE rather than the government’s spin doctors who insist that there is plenty.  It’s not far short of Trump’s claim that doctors are only complaining about lack of PPE so that they can get on tv. It didn’t work too well for him either.
That said, I’m not a big fan of the ‘demand an apology’ style of journalism. It sometimes seems that some journalists are playing some sort of game of ‘Gotcha’ rather than trying to get at the truth.  It’s true that getting ministers to admit that any mistakes at all have been made is hard (for some reason they seem to need us to believe that they’re as infallible as they believe themselves to be – always a dangerous position from anyone in authority), and a forced apology is an admission of failure, of sorts; but apologies don’t really move things forward.  There’s even a danger that, once an apology has been given, lines will be drawn under events and the important analysis of how and why it happened and what we do to get out of the problem and/or avoid it in future goes undone.
Perhaps, though, for reporters who have failed to get straight answers to straight questions for weeks on end and have instead been subjected to a torrent of demonstrable untruths, ‘Gotcha’ is all that they have left in their armoury.


dafis said...

Most of the dialogue between politicians and MSM journos is a disgrace. Politicians fudging around with facts, making bland statements confronted by journos most of whom appear to be mainly concerned about "when can we go out to play ?" Neither groups seem to have much of a clue about what it takes to organise the logistic effort of resolving the PPE "crisis" while the farces surrounding testing will go on for a while as noone seems to be able to get to the heart of the matter. Typical of a society raised on "instant gratification".

Spirit of BME said...

I think your penultimate paragraph is right on the money- excellent!
Minister who foolishly answer the call to apologise (unless they are personally culpable) are on a hiding to nothing and only sometimes it draws the line under things, but could give the story legs by creating a call for their resignation or even an election.
The PPE issues are very plain to see and while ministers set the political objectives, they have to use the Civil Service (historically the second nationalised industry after the Church of England) to deliver objective and when this service fails, they have no power to fire those responsible or even name them.
In the business world, that kind of structure would have a very short life indeed.