In his speech to the nation outside Downing Street on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled that he was back at the helm following his brush with coronavirus. Good for him. Pleased for him.
He also demonstrated his penchant for disingenuity during the speech. Boris Johnson's career and his rise to the pinnacle of political power in the UK has been served in no small way by misinformation and outright lies.
And he was at it again when he talked about the "progress" that was being made and the "success" (of the government) in the fight against the pandemic.
It is a curious choice of words to describe what the government is doing about coronavirus as "progress" and "success" when there have been more than 21,000 hospital deaths. This figure excludes deaths from the disease in care homes and in the community.
An analysis by the Financial Times using data collated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the actual number of UK deaths is more than double the figures used by government ministers. This makes the UK the worst-performing country in Europe and possibly second only to the US in the world in the number of Covid-19 deaths.
It was a deliberate decision by the government from the outset to exclude any deaths outside a hospital setting. Was this designed to massage UK figures and give a false impression of the real situation? If people are not going to be given the full facts, then it raises questions about the value of daily government briefings.
The truth is that any progress in tackling the virus is in spite of the incompetence of Boris Johnson and his government. They were too slow to react to the pandemic and allowed people to continue entering the country from virus hotspots. There were inadequate testing and a devastating failure to provide front line staff with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Furthermore, there still is no clear strategy about how the country will come out of lockdown. This is not about a timetable and dates, but a detailed explanation of what needs be done to get the country to a position where coming out of lockdown becomes possible. This should include a detailed explanation of how the economy will be phased back into action.
Boris Johnson rightly observed in his speech, that the pandemic is the greatest challenge facing the UK since World War 2. But his vain attempts to appear Churchillian is not what the country needs right now.
The country needs transparency and honesty in how the government engages with the public at every stage of this war on the virus.
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