Friday, 15 May 2020

Is Boris an organizing genius?

If there’s one thing for which the English Prime Minister cannot be blamed it is the fact that there has been an outbreak of coronavirus in the UK. It is becoming increasingly clear that the virus was already circulating well outside China much earlier than people thought, and the UK isn’t the only country where community transmission was already happening before the need to take any measures was identified. However, turning a drama into a crisis (as an insurance company once said) only happened as a direct result of government action (or rather inaction). With the advantage of having seen what was happening in places like Italy, and the luxury of having a week or two to avoid a repetition, it took a special kind of skill to ensure that not only could the UK repeat the experience of Italy, it could go one better and show that the UK doesn’t have to be bound to any mortality limits set by a member of the EU. And having the highest mortality rate (on a population basis) of any country in the world just goes to show how brilliant the UK can be under the right leadership, and once freed of the shackles of the Brussels bureaucracy.
Avoiding the economic impact of a minor outbreak would have been hard to avoid as well. Obviously, allowing the outbreak to get out of control before taking any action made that impact worse, but it took further government action to make it as bad as it has become, and only a world-leading government could have responded to the economic impact in such a way as to make it even worse than it needed to be.
Having presided over a health crisis, and then compounding that with an economic crisis, it took real effort to add a constitutional crisis into the mix by conflating England and the UK and ignoring the devolved administrations in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. There was nothing inevitable about things like accidentally outlawing driving from England to Wales, and whilst the health crisis might have mandated an economic crisis of sorts, there was nothing about either the health crisis or the economic crisis which mandated a constitutional crisis as well. That is entirely down to the actions of government.
Now some might feel that all this just highlights the incompetence and cluelessness of Johnson and his team, but I am reminded of the words of Aneurin Bevan. He once said that “This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organizing genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.” Could the apparent bumbling and stumbling of Johnson all be a cunning way of disguising the man’s secret genius for organization?

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