This pandemic is political, stop pretending it isn’t

So, on day #38.5 of the quarantine, a lot of our only recourse for having fun is now arguing with people on social media. This has been particularly difficult, however, as the mass consensus outside of the Leftist bubble seems to think that tragedies, like the one currently occurring, are muddied or cheapened when talked about politically. There has been a spate of calls across the partisan line to avoid “political points-scoring”. At best this is a perspective that belies a beaten and bloodied gratitude to our anemic caste of rulers, or at worst this is a decided attempt by that cabal – or their acolytes – to discourage scrutiny through guilt.

The politics of global disasters are tricky to discuss, as they can be very open to emotionally manipulative rhetoric. However, the global right-wing within liberal democracy seek any opportunity they can to manipulate social outrage for their own ends, and will continue to do so despite their calls for cooperation. They historically accuse other political entities of bigotry that they themselves are guilty of, they twist and distort narratives to their own insidious whim. An apparatus of the most popular media corporations surrounds them and pushes forward their agenda, and the highest earners of the population keep them running through mishandled private donations far above the maximum sum permitted.

Criticism of the government and their handling of this crisis has rapidly become socially taboo, as if Boris Johnson will take his ball and go home if we don’t clap for him from our windows above the local fish and chip shop. While that would undoubtedly be a good thing, it shows the attitude that being a leader during a difficult time qualifies you for a heroic status amongst the populace, despite any lack of effort or sincere affection for the populace being given. BoJo might finally feel like his hero, Winston Churchill, delivering vaguely inspirational diatribes between prolonged bouts of lethargy and skiving off.

You have probably seen too many posts on social media news-feeds talking about how Boris has “worked tirelessly every day to defend us”, how he is doing a “great job”, and how he’s a “hero”. You might have rolled your eyes and kept scrolling, fatigued from a person who has been given unearned accolades his entire career receiving more of the same.

But it’s through this trend that leaders have largely managed to maintain a good lead in the polls, the trend is continuing across the globe. Macron, Merkel, Johnson, and to a lesser extent Trump. Only Bolsonaro is coming out with a reduction in popularity, likely related to his pig-headed refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of Covid-19. In times of catastrophe, it seems a reassuring prospect to believe that our leaders are competent and acting to the extent of their power to protect us. However, we must acknowledge that the majority of our high-ranking politicos do not solely make their money from their office, and that the problem of this divergent income had an impact on the severity of this pandemic.

According to a study published on Channel 4 News in 2017, 28% of Tory MPs were found to be landlords. The majority of these made above £10,000 from the property a year. This makes any votes on tenancy rights within this Parliament a facile joke with no fair outcome. This has led to a housing crisis in the making as tenants who have been furloughed – or even dismissed – cannot pay their rents and are facing eviction. With a more robust array of rights and policy to point to, tenants would be in a far less precarious position. If landlords were not given such lax regulation, it might be easier for those sharing housing to practice social distancing from one another.

Taking into account private assets and capital, a reasonable proportion of our parliamentary democracy are also coincidentally millionaires in some form or another. Many elected representatives, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Geoffrey Cox – both millionaires – have repeatedly voted against any penalties for the use of tax havens. The estimated loss of UK revenue to tax evasion in 2018 was 70 billion pounds. 

It seems a strange system, where individuals are given decision-making power over whether to directly reduce their own profits for the public good. It’s a stranger system when anyone is at all surprised that they prefer to stuff their own pockets.The front-bench of this government continually claim they have increased NHS funds more than any previous iteration, but the increase is vastly disproportionate to both population and the rising costs of medicines. 

Our NHS’ problem with funding can be traced back to not only this issue, but also a rerouting of public funds to the wage packets for MPs, a lack of punitive action taken against tax evasion, endless corporate bail-outs, and an increasingly lower corporation tax. 

And that’s where it all comes back to, isn’t it. Tax avoidance/evasion by the ultra rich, and a divestment of government funds for corporate interest, which numerous MPs (or their donors) hugely benefit from. 

This money could have been spent on our health-care systems. The NHS has been overstretched and underfunded, and this is principally – as mentioned before – due to the rising cost of medicines, which annually has tended to increase more rapidly than the funding allotted to the NHS. Parliament has allowed this stranglehold on our medicine to continue with no scrutiny whatsoever, a monopoly unchallenged. 

When you look at the private interests of many of our elected representatives, you will find an ongoing trend of donations and speaking arrangements organised by private healthcare firms. Little wonder then, that more and more of our national health service has been sold to private companies.

The Conservatives have been allowed to push forward their own financial gains at the expense of public services for the last ten years. Now we find ourselves here, a global pandemic with a current UK death toll of 26,097 at the time I am writing this, and the undisclosed sum is projected to be 41% higher. If our health services were properly funded, and properly defended from corporate gerrymandering, it’s hard to argue that we would not be in a better position. If our workers in social care were provided proper PPE from the outset, or if there were a better system to quickly acquire PPE, then maybe our healthcare workers wouldn’t be risking their lives so greatly every day.

Returning to the idea of politics within the context of global pandemic, it comes down to the fact that our entire democracy is rotten from the inside out. The government is now facing the very harsh outcome of their continual decision to benefit their donors, as opposed to our amenities. You can imagine the beads of sweat on their faces as they see our country’s vulnerable dying in their beds. You can imagine the internal cacophony of blame-shifting, trying to find any way that they are not responsible for such untold misery. They can see a crisis that is resting firmly on their door-step, and they are desperately throwing their hands about trying to divert our blame to each-other, the filth who violate lockdown. Or, attempting to justify their initial strategy through virtual guerrilla warfare.

On 20/04/2020, an activist called John O’Connell began to publicly identify fake NHS twitter accounts which were tweeting in support of herd immunity. While the claims have not been confirmed by DHSC (the Department of Health & Social Care), the information found is incredibly disturbing. The total number confirmed on the day was 128 fake accounts, some of which unlawfully used pictures of actual NHS staff (some who confirmed the data had been used without their consent), and some of which used pictures of international healthcare workers. O’Connell seems to have found a connection between DHSC and a private marketing agency that was set up a few months ago with DHSC as their sole client. The 128 accounts were alleged to have been created and were posted via Hootsuite, a mass-posting company used for marketing purposes. When the artificial nature of these accounts were beginning to be investigated, the majority of the accounts were deleted simultaneously, implying one central orchestrator, who deleted them with “(…)the click of a button”, to quote O’Connell.

If these claims are true, which given the government’s track-record of misinformation does seem like a distinct possibility, we now have a direct example of the government attempting to take control of this narrative and excuse itself of any institutional wrongdoing. The only counterpoint I have heard was put forward by FullFactUK, and I’m not in the habit of believing any organisation founded by a Tory party donor is at all impartial.

That is the very fucking definition of “political point-scoring”, the very notion the government and their rabble of fake accounts and rabid supporters are apparently so opposed to. This was solely an attempt to mislead and deceive the general populace, to make them sympathetic with the government’s intent. An ongoing campaign of hypnosis given no scrutiny by the majority of media is a very political issue. When that exact thing is used to recant the sins of the past, i.e. the delay of any meaningful strategy in place of reassuring cooing about herd immunity, it shows the government’s chief concern is avoiding their comeuppance. 

We all know the idea of herd immunity came from Downing Street’s own Iago, Dominic Cummings. Described by the Times – a Murdoch-ran newspaper – as having said to defend the economy, and “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”, Cummings is also a close follower and compadre of Richard Epstein – famed dark magician of the libertarian gaggle – who “boasted of 40 years knowledge of ‘evolutionary theory’ suggesting some kind of co-evolutionary ‘adaptation’ was happening between humans and SARS-CoV-2 which would solve the problem without much intervention”. A convenient scientific musing, as it defers any responsibility away from the state to invest in infrastructure. It is perfectly within reason to assume that Cummings was pushing this idea forward in COBRA meetings. Here we have an unelected paid adviser essentially guiding policy, all while Boris Johnson missed five COBRA meetings while working on his little book, in a critical two weeks where we might have cut the death toll significantly. Here we are now knowing that Cummings has also been an active participant in meetings held by SAGE – a supposedly unbiased and non-partisan group dedicated to scientific strategising and theory. The fact we have a government sanctioned hypnotist guiding the discourse of these meetings is patently absurd, and yet another way in which this crisis has been attacked from a political angle by the very same people calling for a political cease-fire. This is the equivalent of waving the white-flag with a knife hidden behind your back.

Political point-scoring is the foundation this democracy rests precariously on top of. You need only watch the 22/04 PMQs, in which Dominic Raab oozed out that he is “paying tribute” towards any essential worker that was tacitly mentioned. A clear and deliberate exercise in running down the clock on providing any cohesive answers, as well as convincing us that for one second they might even give a whiff of a fuck. You need only hear the misrepresented figures in the daily briefings, the complexity and inefficiency of the economic measures given to small businesses. If we do not think critically and challenge the government during this time, the untold amounts of mistruths, deceptions and massaging of figures will be swept under the rug by the time an inquiry is in full-swing. 

The reality of this crisis is that at the very top levels of liberal democracy is a caste of apathetic and incompetent aristocrats, mobilising to defer blame away from their leeching of the country’s wealth towards their friend’s pockets. My principal hope, beyond of course the lowest possible amount of deaths, is that the carnival might finally end, and the public might see the deranged jamboree at the heart of Westminster. 

But the longer we give the government to concoct their rebuttal strategy, the more likely it is they will never fully be held to account.

Marc Magill


Sources:
https://www.patrickcannon.net/insights/uk-tax-evasion-statistics/
MORE coronavirus propaganda: hundreds of fake NHS social media accounts set up – by Health Dept
The Coronavirus Crisis: Herd Immunity has Infected UK Policy – But Who Was Patient Zero for this Toxic Transatlantic Idea?
https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/almost-one-in-five-mps-are-landlords
https://www.thenational.scot/news/18255016.revealed-links-tory-mps-private-healthcare/