People have criticised the mainstream media in recent days for largely failing to hold Boris Johnson to account over his controversial response to the coronavirus crisis. And with his government now changing tactics following widespread scientific criticism, this media fail is all the more apparent.
Ordinary people were right. Media hacks were wrong.
Government: "We should pursue a course of action that could result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people."
Labour: "We could reduce some of the deaths and help people who are trying to self isolate."
Media: "Wow, how very dare you politicise this situation." https://t.co/aOXbx1cIig
— Jon (@hailbarkeep) March 16, 2020
Friday – "Where's the opposition to the Tories? Labour are useless"
Monday – "HOW DARE LABOUR POLITICISE THIS CRISIS"
Business as bloody usual then.
By calling criticism of government strategy politicisation, you're further politicising the issue unnecessarily. 👍
— Chris Henry #EmergencyUniversalBasicIncomeNOW (@Socialist_Chris) March 16, 2020
That didn’t stop critics from holding the government to account, though, even while establishment UK journalists failed to do so:
If Corbyn had been PM and said that the government was going to let lots of your loved ones die you and all the rest of the media would have crucified him https://t.co/yWsxuSGf0s
— Noel Douglas (@signsofrevolt) March 14, 2020
— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) March 14, 2020
But following a “change in pace and policy” from the government, many felt that they’d been right to challenge its very dodgy response. And while some tried to defend the mainstream media, others slammed its dangerously timid approach:
Today we found out if we’d followed the initial plan there could have been 250,000 unnecessary deaths.
Thank god for all those people who shouted against them.
Not so much for the bootlickers in the Press who jumped in front of the government and attacked members of the public.
— Liam Young (@liamyoung) March 16, 2020
The facts have not changed. The science has not changed. WHO, and most scientists, are still saying the same thing. The government has only changed its apparent attitude to hundreds of thousands of deaths it predicted. Our journalistic class is a complete failure. https://t.co/SQ3A2zkcl6
— Richard Seymour (@leninology) March 17, 2020
People are dying and more will die. The most financially vulnerable in society will suffer.
Life IS political.
Death IS political.
— Gayle Letherby 🌹 #Richard4Deputy (@gletherby) March 16, 2020
Shoutout to all the "journalists" who spent last week raging at the left for pointing out logical flaws in the Tory government's "herd immunity" plan which would've caused 250,000 UK deaths.
You utter dickheads. 👏👏👏
— RD Hale 🌹 (@SkyeCity_) March 17, 2020
Meanwhile, some journalists did hold the government to account:
"We have wasted 7 weeks. This crisis was entirely preventable" – Editor of The Lancet
The govt MUST release data/models/everything now. We need total transparency. Science is not science unless it's open to scrutiny. It is STILL not following @who advice. It is not testing. WHY? https://t.co/pEBS4prIuL
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) March 17, 2020
Stories of NHS staff fighting this epidemic without the proper protective gear are a *national scandal.*
We've known since January that a major crisis was coming – why was the manufacture of essential equipment left to the private sector?
— Ronan Burtenshaw (@ronanburtenshaw) March 17, 2020
Opposition politicians doing their jobs
With one poll showing that only 36% of people trusted the government’s approach, its official opposition had a responsibility to hold it to account. And it did. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for example, openly criticised the government’s response while calling for further action to support people affected by coronavirus:
There's no statutory sick pay for part-time, low-paid or zero-hours contract workers.
And the rate of sick pay isn't enough to live on.
Wrong at any time – but dangerous while people who might be ill are asked to stay home.
The system is broken and now is the time to fix it.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 14, 2020
He also wrote to party members asking them to ‘support vulnerable people in their communities’. And many thought it was highly appropriate for him to criticise Johnson’s approach:
Jeremy Corbyn accuses government of complacency & strange behaviour on Coronavirus. Good. It’s crucial that the UK Opposition ends the bipartisan approach to this crisis. There’s nothing statesmanlike about aiding & abetting increased death. pic.twitter.com/oZPE6VykVL
— Tory Fibs (@ToryFibs) March 15, 2020
Labour politicians also called for coronavirus tests and proper protection for NHS staff, while highlighting the impact of severe underfunding of the NHS by successive Tory governments. And amid numerous concerns that Johnson’s government might try to exploit the coronavirus crisis to further elite interests, they criticised government plans to spend millions of pounds renting private-sector hospital beds (where other countries took steps to nationalise such resources in the public interest):
The government’s first duty is to make sure everyone is heathy, fed and can pay their bills.
It’s not to hand-out millions to big business exploiting this emergency.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) March 15, 2020
They also called for transparency to see why the government was “taking such a different path” to other countries. And they asked Johnson to “show some international leadership” while undertaking “a big intervention” at home to protect ordinary people:
I have just released the following statement calling on the Chancellor to use his announcement tonight to introduce measures that will actually help people in our country during this time of crisis. #COVID2019 pic.twitter.com/uj5Mc0NvKD
— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) March 17, 2020
Coronavirus is one of the biggest crises we have faced. The threat to our health, the strain on the NHS, and the effects on our workplaces and our economy, all require immediate action now.
— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) March 17, 2020
‘Life is political’
Holding the government to account and advocating for better approaches is the right thing to do. People’s lives are literally at stake – so there’s no excuse for not debating what to do. It’s not about scoring cheap political points, though. It’s about challenging the behaviour of unscrupulous actors while trying to ensure everyone’s wellbeing as much as possible. This is a battle that’s already raging – and it’s highly political:
Price gouging on hand sanitisers, mass layoffs, workers forced to come in unless they have a doctor’s note.
That’s what leaving things to the market looks like during a crisis. And the vulnerable will pay the price.
We need a planned approach to the economy. Not tomorrow, today
— Ronan Burtenshaw (@ronanburtenshaw) March 14, 2020
In 2008, they told us not to 'politicise' the crash. We ended up with a decade of austerity.
The coronavirus crisis will reshape the economy in profound ways – now is the time to make socialist arguments about how to respond, argues Grace Blakeley. https://t.co/vVC7ogjc64
— Tribune (@tribunemagazine) March 17, 2020
Billionaires have dominated the UK’s media environment for too long. They’ve consistently fought to stop progress for ordinary people and protect the interests of the rich and powerful. And now, in the middle of a major crisis, they’d love for us to just shut up and give their government allies a green light to prioritise elite interests while putting ordinary people’s lives at risk. Fortunately, we don’t have to listen to them or do what they say. Together, we have power – and when we all fight for what’s right, no government can ignore us.
Featured image via YouTube
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