The partial lock-down announced on Monday will, hopefully, help in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Boris Johnson, who is clearly unfit to hold high office, has finally heeded the advice of the medical community to adopt the sort of emergency measures that the rest of Europe implemented weeks ago. But they still fall well short of the action taken by the Chinese government that has successfully halted the spread of the virus in recent weeks.
Meanwhile the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a whole tranche of reforms to maintain social peace, including a wage support programme for those suspended or on short-time, as well restoring direct control over the rail network and preparing to buy controlling shares in British Airways and other airlines to stave off their complete collapse.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "This is the package of measures that trade unions like Unite have been pressing for as the most effective way to stave off mass hardship and the conditions for a depression.”
The leader of the biggest union in the country said: “The Chancellor has done the right thing and we look forward to working further with him in the coming days to get this money into the hands of those most in need.”
Well, we wouldn’t go that far. State intervention in the transport industry is being dubbed “renationalisation” but it is, in reality, bail-out economics much like the hiring of the entire English private health sector by the NHS for the duration of the crisis.
In the corridors of power in Westminster moves are afoot to clip Johnson’s wings. He’s already been forced to abandon the crackpot “herd immunity” ideas of his Rasputin, Dominic Cummings, which would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable pensioners who are the mainstay of the Tory vote in the Home Counties these days. Some are now demanding Cummings’ resignation whilst others are calling for a “national unity government” to deal with the health crisis.
At the moment cross-party co-operation is going on through Privy Council procedures that, by their very nature, remain confidential. A ‘grand coalition’ would operate in the public arena and share the burden and, indeed, any blame if the crisis management falters or fails. It would also open the door for the extension of the UK’s European Union (EU) transition period into 2021 on the grounds that, at the moment, existing trade agreements should not be jeopardised. And it would give the Remainers, who haven’t given up the fight, a breathing space to plan their next move to keep Britain inside the EU.
Boosting the health service and saving jobs in the rail and aviation industries is all very well. But is it enough to halt the advance of the deadly virus and stave off mass unemployment? Only time will tell.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said: “The Prime Minister is right to call for people to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. This is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for.
“There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close – and the Government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders.
“We welcome these moves and will be working to ensure everybody has the protection and security they need.”