The establishment media is turning on Boris Johnson for one sickening reason

Daily Telegraph front page
Emily Apple

The establishment media is finally turning against Boris Johnson. On 2 April, longstanding friend and former Johnson employer the Telegraph published this scathing front page about his government’s handling of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis:

Telegraph front page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This front page is also reflected in the Daily Mail‘s coverage, with a comment piece entitled:

Testing is the only way to end this purgatory. The Prime Minister MUST now get a grip

Meanwhile, Piers Morgan also wrote in the Mail:

Britain’s heroic NHS lions are being led by dismal government donkeys – it’s time Boris Johnson overruled his woefully wrong ‘experts’ and used some common bloody sense to GET TESTING DONE!

And on BBC Newsnight, presenter Emily Maitlis was brutal about the UK’s approach to the pandemic on 1 April:

But in truth we’re still trying to understand what policy the UK is following.

While it’s good to see some robust challenges to government policy finally happening in the media, it’s a long way from the sycophantic election coverage that took place only a few months ago. And there’s one sickening reason why the establishment media has turned on Johnson: self-interest. This pandemic, and the government’s response to it, affects establishment figures. It affects their families and loved ones. And it’s why they’re finally demanding answers from the government that they should have demanded months ago.

So what is UK policy?

As Maitlis and the Telegraph both allude to, UK policy and what the government is actually doing is as clear as mud. First, Johnson downplayed the virus; then there was herd immunity; now, there’s lockdown. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long been clear that testing is key. And honestly, you don’t need to be an expert to work out that, given the infection rate and the length of time when you can be asymptomatic, testing and contact tracing of those infected is the most logical response.

But NHS staff are still struggling to get tested with only around 2,000 able to access tests up to 1 April. The government has lied time and again. Johnson promised 10,000 tests a day, then stated he was aiming for 25,000. But these tests aren’t materialising. And many people blame the lost months when the government either failed to take action or was promoting herd immunity. One in four NHS staff, meanwhile, are off work and self-isolating. And frontline staff are dying.

NHS crisis

The NHS was already in crisis before the pandemic hit. Almost a decade of Conservative-led government cuts left the NHS barely able to cope with a normal winter influenza outbreak, let alone a pandemic. Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, responsible for many of the brutal cuts the NHS is currently coping with, is now doing media rounds bemoaning the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). But Hunt is failing to mention his role in previous government advice on PPE, including watering down the list of what should be stockpiled following an “economic assessment”.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget the Tories cheering after they blocked a pay rise for nurses in 2017. And let’s not forget that nursing was already in crisis following cuts to bursaries and an 85% cut in the number of EU nurses wanting to work in the UK since 2016.

These were all things happening before coronavirus – things that can be laid directly at the feet of the Conservative Party. And these were all things the establishment media was happy to ignore to get Johnson elected – something all of us must remember every single time one of these people praises or claps the NHS.

Oh, but now it matters

But suddenly these things matter. And suddenly mainstream journalists care about paltry matters such as Universal Credit being a nightmare or statutory sick pay not being enough to live on. Because now, even if it’s not affecting them, it’s affecting their friends and their families. It doesn’t appear to matter that austerity was linked to 130,000 preventable deaths long before this crisis broke. Equally, it’s the people most impacted by this crisis – vulnerable people, elderly people, and working-class people risking their lives keeping shops and deliveries going – that are still being ignored by the establishment.

On 1 April, the Guardian reported that:

The coronavirus pandemic in Spain is taking a disproportionate toll on the poor, the elderly, the marginalised and those working in low-paid but vital jobs

So far, there’s no evidence to believe that things will be any different in the UK.

While it’s great to see some elements of the media finally standing up to Johnson and his government, it shouldn’t take a pandemic and naked self-interest for this to happen. Because if the mainstream media had looked past their own bank balances and billionaire owners a while ago, we could be facing this pandemic with a better equipped NHS and a government already prioritising people over profit. And this is something we must never forget and we must never forgive.

Featured image via screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. The fact that any new leader of the Labour Party is going to toe the neoliberal line now that Jeremy Corbyn is no longer there may have something to do with it too – the establishment can’t lose now they have both parties 🙁

      1. ‘Herd immunity’ first considered in the UK has considerable science going for it. That is – if one regards homo sapiens as ‘animals’. Past epidemics and pandemics during, say, the early emergence of hominids (Homo erectus, Neanderthals, etc.) likely suffered uncontrolled epidemics and pandemics that would have knocked back populations until immunity allowed surviving hominids, with intermixing migrating tribes, to share immunity or the passing on of, yet again, compromising pathogens. This was seen when Europeans first travelled to the Americas in the 1500s whereupon indigenous communities were devastated by diseases the Europeans brought with them from which the Americas had no immunity. The present Coronavirus Covid-19 was probably wholly avoidable but for lack of oversight of quaint cuisine in certain cultures that facilitates zoonotic transference of pathogens [animal to human]. There were ready warnings years before with Sars, Mers and Ebola epidemics. Free movement in our globalised world enables pathogens easy transference rapidly across the globe. If ‘globalism’ is to be continued ‘quaint cultural cuisine habits’ in isolated and unmonitored parts of the globe have to be urgently assessed for their pathogenic threat to wider communities. Safer wholesale hominid herd vegetarianism now calls – doesn’t it?

    2. I would imagine also that the tedious and tiring queues for shops have caused newspaper sales to plummet, especially among the kind of people who were buying them, so there is corporate self-interest too. Plus, the media acting as a pressure valve in case the public mood turns ugly.

    3. This really is nonsense. Blatant self interest of ”establishment media types” might be something of an issue, but not in the way described.
      The egos of those people are more the problem, they feel that their job is to hold the government to account by putting a contrary view to government decisions and direction because they know better.. When, in situations like this, what they need to do is take a leaf out of the books of people on the front line, the doctors, nurses, delivery drivers and shop workers. Those people realise that it isn’t an ideal situation, that they would rather not be in the positions that they find themselves in, but that, right now, we all really need them. We are all taking some hits personally, but we need to put aside self-interest and make the best of it.
      Any government in this situation will make mistakes, all of us are doing that (I can’t stop touching my face, I didn’t even realise before all of this that I did it so often) but we are all trying our best and I think (judging by the polls) that most people think the government is also doing their best.
      The media’s role should be to communicate the governments policy, ask the genuine questions that people need the answers to but not to lay elephant traps and attempt to bring down the people at the sharp end of decision making and Hobson’s Choice-ism. Which is what their current line would indicate. The fact that it’s the political correspondents and not the health or scientific correspondents that are at the briefings and asking the questions, says it all about the intent of the media.

      1. Here, Here. The arrogance of the media – particularly as patronisingly portrayed by highflown up-their-own-derrière newspaper reporters knows no bounds in their self-aggrandising pursed-lipped utterances. We all know who these rag reporters are that persuasively bully readership and listenership into accepting them as knowing best in all things don’t we?

    4. What really lies behind the attacks is a will to see the Tories succeed. The Tory media are panicking because everyone can see public services are vital. It’s doctors and nurses who are saving lives not Richard Branson and Alan Sugar. There should be a new tv show called The Nurse. The nation’s capitalists should be made to prove they know how to respond to an epidemic. If (when) they don’t: Your fired. The Tory media know the public is making the connection between Corbyn’s call for major investment in public services and Corvid. They are terrified that the scales will fall from people’s eyes and they will see that co-operation, not capitalism, serves our well-being. Further, they fear mass deaths. If the toll goes up to say 30,000 and it may, there will be very serious questions. A tiny stand of RNA wrapped in a bit of protein coated in a bit of fat could be about to scupper a Tory government with a comfortable majority. And even that government could be forced, for the rest of its tenure, to borrow and spend to rebuild public services. Then what was leaving the EU and electing Johnson for? Their dream of Britain as Europe’s Singapore is turning into the nightmare of a Tory government forced to carry through socialist policies. That is why they’re so worried. The NHS is now the nation’s saviour. The ghost of Nye Bevan hovers at the shoulder of every Tory minister. “It will survive as long as their are folk willing to fight for it…..” Now, everyone is willing to fight for it. No one is coming to their front door to applaud the City of London. We are all in favour of public services now. And the NHS is the greatest achievement of democratic socialism on the planet. If you were a Tory, you’d be worried.

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