‘The Government response is an epic failure of political management’ says Bedford & Kempston’s Mohammad Yasin MP

Mohammad Yasin MP in Parliament
Mohammad Yasin MP

I want the government to succeed in fighting the biggest crisis in peacetime history, to save lives and protect livelihoods.

As an Opposition MP, it felt important to provide constructive support to the Government, only challenging when we think serious mistakes are being made or something is not happening that needs to happen.

The Sunday Times report last weekend changed things.

The news that Boris Johnson skipped five emergency Cobra meetings on Coronavirus, ignored early calls to order protective gear and was dismissive of scientists’ warnings of the severity the threat posed to the security of the UK, confirmed an extraordinary complacency from a Prime Minister renowned for his disregard for detail.

We now know that the Prime Minister’s long weekend holidays, even during the winter floods, his requests to keep briefings short – otherwise he wouldn’t read them, and his two week holiday with his fiancée at a countryside retreat in Chevening were the backdrop to a sequence of failings in February that has undoubtedly cost thousands of lives.

NHS England had already declared the virus outbreak as a “level 4 critical incident” at the end of January, the first ever of this severity.

Lack of provision for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our health and social care workers is the story that has been simmering since the beginning of the crisis.

I’ve been written to by local doctors, care home providers and dentists, all raising concerns about PPE and testing.

Months on, and the deaths of at least a hundred frontline, health and social care workers later (according to a nursing website Nursing Notes), the cries from the frontline about PPE shortages are now deafening.

But the Government seem no nearer to securing a stable supply line to keep workers who are risking their lives to help us, safe.

And local authorities are bearing the brunt.

Last week, Bedford Borough Council contacted me to express “real concerns about the delivery of PPE”.

Although equipment is filtering through in fits and starts, deliveries have been late, incomplete or incorrect.

Bedford’s Local Resilience Forum and Bedfordshire Police are working flat out to ensure we do not reach a position of rationing, but the reality is that there is a big gap between what the Government is telling us and what is happening on the frontline.

The public policy void in the UK – where there should be a coordinated central direction – is now grossly irresponsible.

Nobody underestimates the difficulty in setting up supplies of PPE and ventilators when there is a worldwide shortage, or establishing testing and contract regimes, but the Government has had weeks to get to grips with this.

UK companies, from ventilator and textile manufacturers, to science labs up and down the country are complaining that their requests to assist the war effort have been ignored.

The Government is wedded to their old way of doing things, relying on the same established supply chains which the pressures of Covid 19 have already broken, when a novel, multi-pronged approach was what was needed, and still is not being implemented.

Yet every night, at the Government’s daily briefing, despite news stories of delayed shipments, we hear about how many more million bits of PPE the Government have sourced, or we hear how many more people will be tested in the future. When instead they should tell us what the frontline demand for PPE and testing really is.

It increasingly looks like the Government’s whole strategy and guidance is manipulated around promoting the limited safety equipment and access to testing that is available to us, rather than widening the scope to put in place a genuine strategy to provide the safest resources , and the level of testing which will be necessary to get us to a point where we can safely end the lockdown.

The Government response is an epic failure of political management and the buck has to stop with the Prime Minister who has spent a lifetime evading responsibility for his actions and relying on PR spin to get himself out of a hole.

This time, he must take it on the chin.

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