It’s strange how much things can change in a year.
After winning a handsome majority in the December 2019 election, even those who voted for the Conservative Party were losing their patience with the government in the latter stages of 2020. The initial leeway given by the public on mistakes made at the start of this pandemic, especially around the time Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in intensive care, was well and truly gone – and with good reason.
Quite simply, the government was too slow to react at many critical times, the initial resources we had to cope with a health crisis of this magnitude were not sufficient and people have suffered as a result. The action taken just a few days ago to shut the UK travel corridor is a case in point – why was this action not taken earlier? It’s baffling.
For a country that wanted better control over its borders, we sure took our time in getting a grip on this – especially ironic when the one steering the ship is a Brexiteer. If this is a sign of things to come, the PM will make a right hash of this new points-based immigration system – and he can wave goodbye to a lot of his previous supporters if so.
Bringing this piece back from the tandem of ironic border policy to the original subject of COVID-19, those who have blatantly not complied with the rules have to bear some responsibility too for the situation we are in, especially those in tier four who had the world and his wife round on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
We as individuals must look in the mirror and judge whether some of our actions over the previous ten months have been wise – because some people have complied with the rules more than others as we look to destroy this virus together. This does not take away from some of the poor decisions made though – and they have been very costly.
There is one possible route of escape for the Tories, and it will be the country’s escape route in turn. The new vaccines.
Credit to the UK, we seem to be motoring on the vaccination programme along with Israel – and look to be a nation leading the way on this when we have lagged behind our European neighbours on many other things during the pandemic. This has helped to get many high-profile figures, including the Queen, vaccinated as soon as possible to stifle the spread of misinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories surrounding the inoculation.
Unfortunately, we live in a post-truth age with the existence of social media and a US president who has told fibs on multiple occasions, so the sheer speed in which the government moved to secure the vaccines has to be commended – as well as the regulator who approved the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs as safe and effective very quickly.
There might be bumps along the road with a reported disruption in Pfizer’s production process in late-January and February – and we will have to wait and see how much the government can ramp up inoculations over the coming weeks and months as we look to continue leading the way. But will this be the Tories’ saving grace as it looks to recover from a bruising year?
In the coming months, our fast start on vaccines could allow the UK to get back to some form of ‘normality’ before other parts of the world, boosting the nation’s crippled economy and enabling us to finally get on the road to recovery. If I could put it in simple terms, it feels like we are on a slip road right now waiting to get on the motorway – but we are not there yet. There is just too much traffic right now to pull in and too many barriers to relax lockdown rules just yet.
Tough economic decisions will need to be made to cope with our national debt of over £2 trillion. This is one of the reasons why the hardship for many families up and down the country is likely continue for the foreseeable future, and partly why there may only be short-term jubilation when things do finally return to normal.
Tens of thousands of lives have been tragically lost and too many mistakes have been made for people to automatically forget about the catastrophic mistakes from the government when this crisis finally ends – and many will bear that in mind as they go to the ballot box in future local and national elections.
Looking at it in a very political way, this vaccination programme must be the springboard for a more successful period of government from the Tories. Some people who previously trusted Boris Johnson no longer have faith in him – it’s now his job to win that trust back. He has the majority needed to implement policies that will improve the lives of our citizens and now Brexit has been ‘done’, the prime minister needs to prove he’s not just a one-trick pony who took the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
As I said earlier, the economy will be a main source of concern when the crisis is over, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will have a massive role to play in getting the economic policies just right as we attempt to escape a deep recession. Get it wrong and this could be not only be a disaster for not only the Tory Party – who would be in grave danger of being kicked out of Downing Street in 2024 – but the whole country who would feel the effects of bad decisions made.
One of the reasons why the Conservatives won such a big majority was because they comprehensively knocked down the red wall and there’s no reason why Labour cannot build this base back up again if the north is hit hardest by harsh economic policies. The PM must be wary of this.
One more thing that should be vying for Boris Johnson’s attention is social reform. David Cameron’s proposal to legalise gay marriage in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition was a great step for the Conservative PM to take, something which was unpopular with his party and a group of their supporters but received credit from many others.
In the 21st century, we must continue to provide social justice and advocate equality as an act of simple human decency – and although some Tories may be against more socially liberal policies – the government needs to take steps to implement them when it is clear peoples’ lives would improve from it. Johnson himself has made several offensive comments in the past – so this could benefit him in turn.
And let’s be clear, the Tories cannot afford to make any more major mistakes. They have already used up most, if not all their lifelines already – and 2024 could be a punishing year for the Conservative Party at this rate if Labour can somehow get it together.