It is rumoured in the Sunday papers that Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak don’t see eye to eye over lockdown – with Hancock favouring a prolonged lockdown and Sunak wanting to get it over with.
I’ve no idea if this is right but it certainly looks plausible; I’m not a Hancock fan – not only did he consider that now is not the time to discuss a pay-rise for nurses (perhaps not discuss it but a straight increase would be nice) he also commented that if people don’t obey the law all exercise outside the home could be banned. This amounts to ‘if you don’t obey this criminal law, I can give you more and different criminal law to flout instead’. Perhaps he’s looking enviously to the continent where you are not allowed out in France unless you fill in a form to give reasons why – the so-called ‘declaration d’honneur’. This weekend (4-5 April) the French have outlined a confinement plan enforced by no less than 160 000 police which is almost 40,000 more than all the police in Britain. Hancock has no idea, first, that, in Britain, policing is by consent and second, what it must be like to be couped up in a small flat especially with children. Time to reinstate those park-keepers the Conservatives didn’t like to pay for – and institute the revolutionary one way systems of one in – one out.
But I am rather more a Hancock fan that a Rishi Sunak fan. Getting people to stay at home and wash their hands at least has a clear purpose and one that if current European death rates are anything to go by, seems to be lessening the chances of other killer viruses and not just Covid-19. That can be only a good thing. We have to find a way to persevere – all the more so because it seems that the medical and caring professions are highly vulnerable – presumably because they are both repeatedly exposed and scandalously, without proper protection. (1)
But I have a feeling that Sunak is worried about the economy. I suspect he doesn’t like that the majority of it is on government subsidy on his watch. I say is – I mean will be. Because the inordinate delays to economic help, risk not only endangering any recovery at all but risk endangering the whole economy full stop. Sunak is married to an Indian billionaire’s daughter so he doesn’t seem to realise that time is of the essence. Both the French – and also the Germans – our biggest local co-operators, and now presumably competitors, do realise and are much more timely and efficient than him.
It is about time Sunak put the British economy in the recovery position. As a quick fix he could do worse than follow the idea of the New Economics Foundation [NEF]:
Strengthening the social security system so it can do its job as a sufficient and comprehensive safety net should have been the first economic priority of government.
…Given where we are today, the immediate priority for government should be to put in place a comprehensive, sufficient, non-conditional, non-means tested at the point of access, minimum income floor to catch everyone who is currently missed out by the job retention scheme and the self-employed income support scheme.
Although the NEF plan – quite inexplicably to me – still goes along the borrowing and tax raising route, at least by building on and improving the social security system it has the advantage of easy implementation.
Meanwhile, Sunak might just consider that in order that the Health Secretary doesn’t make stupid comments about the criminal law, he could provide some ‘small change’ government money for a Park Keeper or two. With both warm weather and the lockdown likely to remain for some time they may well prove essential for all of our mental and physical well-being.
(1) We shouldn’t have to, but you can contribute to an innovative campaign to crowdfund domestically 3d printed face shields for hospital staff here.