Thursday, 14 January 2021

Why it is nearly time for a national government

This post first appeared on the blog of Radix UK...

Keir Starmer may just be a small phenomenon. I suppose that second guessing the current UK government is not actually terribly onerous. Starmer just has to stay a couple of days ahead of the government, as it twists and turns through the covid crisis, so perhaps it isn’t very hard to appear perspicatious.


But it does mean a difficulty for Boris Johnson and his government. It looks almost as if it is Starmer who is taking all the decisions.

Every time, the government does another U-turn, whether it is about locking down or closing schools, there is the opposition leader demanding it days before. Always rather magnanimously. Irritatingly so, in fact.

There will come a point when this becomes intolerable to the Conservatives. After all, why should not Starmer share some of the odium for the decisions he is apparently making?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter, they will tell themselves, if we are really in the dying days of the crisis because of the looming vaccine. But one of the lessons of covid is that there will be alarums and twists still to come.

The government is discussing the idea of tightening controls even more, after all.

In previous crises in 1915, 1931 and 1940, UK prime ministers have voluntarily shared power in these circumstances – whenever, in fact, they are forced to take such tough decisions about people’s lives that they need to share the blame.

So what I want to suggest – and I feel sure this is a scenario they have quietly discussed in corners of 10 Downing Street – is that, if anything gets unexpectedly worse again, the government should organise power-sharing and involving all parties.

The idea of locking us all in, enforced by the police, is so unBritish that governments simply can’t enforce changes like that by themselves. That means it maybe time for a national government.
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6 comments:

Blissex said...

«But it does mean a difficulty for Boris Johnson and his government. It looks almost as if it is Starmer who is taking all the decisions.»

Just the same with Brexit: all that Johnson has done has been to obediently follow arch-brexiter Starmer's official brexit policy:

“Labour wants to get Brexit done. We want the government to succeed in securing a deal in the national interest and to protect the Good Friday Agreement. Like the rest of the country, we want to move on from Brexit and see the UK making future trade deals across the world.”

Blissex said...

«The idea of locking us all in, enforced by the police, is so unBritish that governments simply can’t enforce changes like that by themselves. That means it maybe time for a national government.»

Yet that lock-in was done last March, no problems. On COVID there is a pretty solid multiparty consensus, and in particular Keir Starmer is very keen to demonstrate to tory voters that he supports the Conservative's thatcherite, "methodological individualism" approach.

The bigger issue is that whether hard or soft the lock-downs are not the only or best options: the experience of other countries is that test-trace-isolate is a much cheaper, much more effective approach (it does require though a brief period of initial hard lock-down while it is b being ramped up). The downside of test-trace-isolate is that it is incompatible with thatcherism:

* It requires the state to raise taxes to fund in advance spare stocks and spare capacity in the health system.
* It success demonstrates that state funded and prepared public solutions are appropriate at solving public issues.

The ideology of Conservatives, New Labour, LibDems is that public solutions to public issues are unacceptable, and only individual responses are acceptable. Therefore the central slogan on which all thatcherites agree: “Stay home, protect the NHS", which makes it clear that in a thatcherite political system:

* It must not be the NHS that protects individuals by testing-tracing-isolating the sick.
* It is not the responsibility of the state to fund and organize the NHS to cope with the epidemic.
* It is purely up to individuals to take personal responsibility for supporting the NHS and avoid getting infected.

Around this ideology we already have a government of "national unity": look at the votes in the Commons about COVID policy, who is voting against the government because it is using the wrong approach?

David Boyle said...

thanks Blissex - I very much agree!

Penny Shares said...

This would not be a real national government. People don't want Boris or alook alike Boris Keir Starmer and certainly not tighter controls . Such a government would be a kind of dictatorship. People want a real opposition to Boris in whom they are so much disappointed. Ok we've got a sort of Brexit but not eg the border controls which many voted for and neither Boris nor Starmer will produce. No honour had been given to Nigel Farage, the true deliverer of Brexit and he is startimg a new party, which is also opposed to lock downs etc. The people have surprised you all before and they could do again. Your national government would be without the support of half the country .

David Boyle said...

dEar Penny Shares

i rather agree. Im not sure why you said it was 'my' national government. i dont think i would e a supporter!

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