Sunday, 12 April 2020

Coronavirus policy-making

On Friday, 10 April 2020, at the Coronavirus Daily Update press briefing, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, made a startling admission. He was asked how many people would die due to the economic harm resulting from the government's response to the coronavirus. Hancock admitted that the government did not know, or even have a ball park figure. However, he was quick to reassure us that "as an economist" he took this very seriously, and he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would (future tense) be looking into this. In other words, the government decided on a policy that could potentially cause hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths without weighing those lost life years against the potentially saved life years of the adopted policy. This is the very definition of irrational policy-making. However, the situation is even worse than Matt Hancock's admission implies.

In an earlier interview with LBC radio, Jeremy Hunt explained that in 2016 the government had conducted an exercise on an infectious pandemic. The exercise showed that the NHS was likely to be overwhelmed by a pandemic. Hunt explained that as a result of the exercise the government drafted emergency legislation. What Jeremy Hunt, who had been the Health Secretary at the time, conspicuously did not say was that the government had sought to increase the NHS's capacity. He also did not say, but it was implicit, that the drafted legislation became the three hundred and twenty page Coronavirus Bill that parliament passed without scrutiny or division before voting to recess indefinitely. That Act of parliament, as my previous post explains, gave the government the power to do anything, for ever.

In these few facts we clearly see the government's priorities. The government's concern, notwithstanding the spin, is not saving lives. It is providing the government with unlimited power. The government knew, from the 2016 exercise, that the NHS had insufficient capacity to deal with a pandemic, but made no attempt to increase that capacity, until the leadership contest that brought Boris Johnson to power. Furthermore, we know from the experience of the government's post financial crisis austerity measures just how lethal economic harm can be, and it was obvious when the government announced its coronavirus measures that the harm to the economy would be substantial. Yet, as Hancock's admission reveals, the government adopted those measures without any thought as to the deaths they would cause: something no rational politician or administrator would do, as there is no point in adopting a policy that would save a few thousand lives if it would also kill hundreds of thousands of people. The only conclusion I can draw is that the ruling elite have gone collectively mad.

1 comment:

  1. Collectively Mad. Staggeringly Incompetent. Criminally Negligent.