Boris Johnson, with other MPs, poses for photographers in the parliament building in London. Reuters
Jess Phillips, The Independent
I’m going to send a Hail Mary email to Matt Hancock, but I know what the answer is.” This was a message from one of my staff to our office WhatsApp group the day before our office closed for Christmas Day.
That morning he’d heard the desperate voice of a critical care nurse asking us if, as she was working on Christmas Day, there was any way she could postpone her Christmas Day and the visitors she had arranged to 27 December. The question had broken our hearts because we knew the answer.
It could and should have been different. This woman didn’t have to have her plans lying in tatters, this woman when she agreed to do the Christmas shift should have known what she was agreeing to. This was a woman who had for the past nine months put herself and her family out in order to save the lives of my constituents. This was a woman who worked long shifts, seeing a rotation of patients with Covid-19. Having to act as their friends and family as well as their clinician.
This woman supported family members as they said their final goodbyes to their parents, partners and — in the worst cases — their children. For some she was the only one there to say goodbye. This woman is the masked face of 2020, she represents the only hope this year has offered. Sadly, her Christmas plight pretty much sums up the way the government have handled the crisis throughout this dismal year — too little, too late.
Here’s to a government that has overseen the worst coronavirus and excess death toll in Europe. A government that, rather than wanting to plan meticulously, act on and prepare for the possible worst-case scenarios for each possible wave of the virus, has instead wanted to trumpet a constant false hope for the sake of having a chipper story to tell. Here’s to the home secretary, Priti Patel, who this week appeared on the left-hand-side of my television screen saying: “The government has always been ahead of the curve with regards to proactive measures with coronavirus” while on the right of the screen a video rolled of hundreds and hundreds of lorries queued along the motorway. The video rolling for minutes covering miles and miles of chaos at our borders the week before Christmas. A situation that clearly hadn’t been managed proactively and wasn’t prepared for.
Or if it had, the person preparing it is clearly an idiot. I tell you who else doesn’t feel prepared for what is currently happening — all of the hospitality industry. Who instead of time-limited schemes that allowed Rishi Sunak to role-play as a waiter, needed a government to have been considerably better prepared and more proactive. Certainly in creating a working test and trace scheme that would have allowed them to open for more than a matter of days before — all of a sudden — being told that at midnight their doors would shut. Nothing says detailed preparations have gone into a task quite like giving businesses six hours’ notice to shut their doors and stop trading the week before Christmas. Of course, there are going to be last-minute, rushed things that have to happen in a global pandemic, but it has simply felt in the last few weeks that the government didn’t want to face the inevitable over the Christmas period.
Keir Starmer tried to warn them, various scientists took to the airwaves and said a Christmas relaxation will lead to further lockdowns. How can it be that the government ignored it all — and then comes out of the blocks bragging about how prepared it was? We can take the difficult reality; it is the faffing about that happened for the weeks leading up to it that made this more painful.
The government failed to be honest with the public, it failed to prepare for what a Christmas shutdown would do to businesses and jobs, it failed to allow people like my constituent the choice to see her family on Christmas Day after she spent a year as a frontline soldier in what the government labelled a war.
The former London mayor took office on Wednesday and swept out more than half the ministers who served Theresa May in the difficult closing months of her premiership.
Johnson, who officially took over from Theresa May on Wednesday and swiftly sacked most of her ministerial team, held the first meeting of his new cabinet of ministers on Thursday.
The two leaders spoke on Thursday, and Macron’s talks with Johnson would be in regard to the demands of the European Union about Brexit, the official added.
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