Johnson and Sunak are yet to wake up to the economic magnitude of coronavirus. So far they’ve brought a knife to a gunfight
It’s in times of national crisis that we learn who we are as a community, country and people. And in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic we’ve learned that we are burdened with a government for whom the priority thus far has not not been the security and safety of the British people but instead the security and interests of British capitalism.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the package of measures he recently unveiled to steer the country an economic path through this crisis as ‘unprecedented’, and he was right — unprecedented in their astonishing denial of the scope and scale of the worst crisis to engulf Britain since 1940 and in the failure of his economic strategy to come close to meeting it. Government-backed zero are still loans, and only the most delusional could possibly believe that businesses will be minded to take on debt at a time when the economy, whether Johnson and Sunak like it or not, is entering a recession that on current trajectory will at least be as bad as the one that engulfed the world in 2007–08.
When in the sixth richest economy in the world we have a government that still refuses to fund testing on the scale required to get a handle on the actual size of the crisis, as called for by the World Health Organisation, we have a crisis within a crisis. When there are no steps being taken to requisition resources — such as private hospital beds, such as empty properties for the homeless, such as hotels to accommodate NHS staff — we have a government talking the language of war while acting in the interests of defeat.
Moreover, when individual gestures of largesse by rich celebrities and entrepreneurs such as Roman Abramovich and Gary Neville have been more impactful than any government measure so far enacted in providing extra resources for an NHS whose staff are on the front line of this crisis without adequate protective suits, masks and equipment, and in hospitals that lack the ventilators required to deal with demand, we have reason for serious concern.
Universal basic income is now an idea whose time has come in order to maintain demand in the economy, as is a crisis committee that includes Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. The trade unions must also be given a key role in helping in this fight, while all across the country at the level of devolved and local government all decisions taken in response to the crisis must be taken with public health rather than the economy in mind. In short, collectivism should now be back on the table as it hasn’t been since the Second World War.
Clearly, though, we still have some way to go before getting there.
Prime Miniser Boris Johnson announced the closer of all schools without proposing any serious measures to support working families when it comes to childcare. Are we now looking at gangs of kids roaming the streets with nothing to do? This after he advised people to stay away from pubs, clubs, restaurants and other social spaces without again offering any support to the thousands businesses and workers impacted.
An airline industry that’s already on its knees due to coronavirus needs substantial funds to keep it alive, though in this regard many would be jusitfiably aggrieved at bailing out Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic in light of the court action he brought against the NHS in 2016. However his workers are a different matter entirely, and it is they and workers in general who must be at the heart of the government’s priorities at this point. For it is working people who will defeat this virus, and working people who play the main role in the Britain’s economic recovery afterwards.
In the last analysis there are no market solutions to the coronavirus crisis, only socialist ones — and at this juncture Boris Johnson’s government has a simple choice. He and his cabinet can either act in the interests of their class or in the interests of the country.
So far they they have chosen the former rather than the latter. Until this dynamic changes they are part of the problem.
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