Friday, 12 February 2021

Keeping government in work


It’s probably a sign of increasing age, but there are times when events bring back memories from long ago. This week, it was a song from the 1960s by Flanders and Swann, “The Gas Man Cometh”, which floated into my mind. For those too young to remember it (or for those who are old enough but would just like to be reminded), it’s available here. It was a satirical take on the great British workman, as a series of different workmen do a fine job of fixing the problem that they have been called in to fix, only to damage something else in the process, needing a call to a different workman the following day, in a circular pattern which eventually leads to the process repeating itself.

It’s funny, or at least it appeals to my sense of humour. It was never intended as an instruction manual for governments in the event of a pandemic, but it appears as though Boris Johnson and his crew of what could only very loosely be described as ‘great British workmen’ have taken it that way.

·        Inadequate hospital capacity was ‘fixed’ by sending patients with Covid to care homes which had no PPE or guidance.

·        The lack of PPE for care homes and hospitals was ‘fixed’ by ordering vast quantities from companies with no experience in the field, many of which failed to supply anything or else supplied equipment which was unusable.

·        The problems of the hospitality sector were ‘fixed’ by paying people to go out and spread the virus in restaurants and bars.

·        The problem of people bringing in new strains of the virus is being ‘fixed’ by charging those travellers who own up to being in only some of the affected countries £1750 to stay in a hotel for 11 nights.

·        The problem of people being unwilling to pay £1750 and thus falsifying their travel documentation is being ‘fixed’ by threatening them with 10 years in jail, increasing the incentive to be convincing in the lies they tell.

There were, at every stage, other options which could have been taken by a government able to take a wider view, but they’ve preferred to take a short view and find a quick fix, which has invariably led to further problems. Still, as Flanders and Swann nearly said, “It all makes work for the government to do”.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

Quick fixes are the usual response in a crisis when events are running away from you.
Inadequate hospital capacity was a result of the NHS Winter Contingence Plan failing – again and the usual panic set in.
The lack of PPE was because the strategic stock was found to be run down over the years and out of date. There are real questions to be asked here as whoever took that decision cost us billions.
The hospitality sector quote that on 4% was related to them – they would say that.
HMG in England announced a shake- up in the control of the NHS and I suspect ‘the devil will be in the detail’ -lessons learnt and all that. I guess they will invent a new ‘National Emergency Plan’ covering fire, floods, and pandemic, that when actioned those working in the sector will have their employment terms ‘suspended’ for the duration and this will give them the ability to maximise equipment and human resources, as you have when deploying the Army.
I have seen such plans in a few countries, and they avoid dealing with an emergency which stretches the normal parameters to breaking point over time.