Don’t expect change after coronavirus while Boris Johnson is in charge
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Readers are sceptical that there will be any change from the Tory government after the coronavirus outbreak.
For the past few years, politics has been dominated by matters of principle and personality: the principles of Brexit (pure sovereignty versus shared sovereignty); the personalities of Johnson, Corbyn and Farage. Now, all governments, will be judged on how effective they have been in the twin battles to save lives and livelihoods, even if in the short term, nations rally to their leaders. And slogans will not be enough. Thereafter, the principled divisions will resurface. No doubt after the Plague Year and the Fire of London that quickly followed, the nation and capital rallied with the need to rebuild. But the unresolved issues quickly resurfaced, a contemporary noting in 1681, 'instead of Cavalier and Roundhead, now they are called Torys and Wiggs'. In 2020, how we survive and recover from Covid – as sovereign competing nations, or sharing resources, vaccines, support, trade – will help shape the long-term resolution of Brexit and other populisms: so will it be as isolationist nations or international allies?
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We do need some optimism right now, and in your 'Life After The Virus' special issue (TNE #190), John Kampfner, Frances Coppola, Catherine Rowett, Mike Galsworthy, even James Ball all have high hopes of changes for the better. I wish I could share their confidence.
Positive change is possible at grassroots and middle levels – businesses, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, philanthropists – but the problem is at national level. The chances of any moves in the right direction on the economy, social problems, green issues, pollution, climate change and greater financial equality are extremely unlikely while we continue to have this Brexit-loving, arrogant government in power.
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Boris Johnson has hollowed out the Tory Party. Those with intelligence or experience have been pushed out. We have an incompetent prime minister presiding over a government of equal incompetents.
What hope is there that they could actually plan long-term for a new type of society?
I am puzzled by the remarks of your columnists, who seem to believe that a change in Tory politics will take place after the virus disappears from our lives.
I am sure that there will be some additional money for the NHS, but that scenario also has the benefit of portraying Johnson as the PM who saved the nation.
Soon we will get back to the 'normal' of Tory government – MPs hope for ministerial positions and opt for association with lobbyists as an alternative, ministers look forward to a nice collection of non-executive directorships to supplement their pensions, earning more in a year than my father did in a lifetime
Will the Tory party really be willing to change track? Pigs might fly more easily!
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