Trust in government is gradually ebbing away
Comment

Trust in government is gradually ebbing away

THE elected politicians of this country rule by the consent of the people.

Never has this been more obvious than during the time of the present pandemic.

The people have in the main done everything asked of them.

First, it was to stay at home and protect the NHS.

Next, it was stay alert, social distance and wash your hands.

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Wearing masks and isolating on returning from holidays to countries with high Covid-19 rates was added.

When lockdown was lifted, people were told to go back to work, eat out to help out and go back to school - they dutifully did all of these things.

The problem has been that this has proved a one-sided bargain. The people have fulfilled their side, the government has not.

The deal has always been that people will do what they are told, just so long as the people doing the telling know what they are doing and stand by their own rules.

The confidence in the government has been palpably breaking down.

First, there was the failure to provide personal protective equipment for staff in hospitals, care homes and elsewhere.

Then the sending of people with the virus into care homes was an appallingly negligent act.

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The next great failure was testing. We were promised a fully operating test and trace system. To date, this has still not materialised.

The government has stubbornly stuck to a centrally controlled system, run by private sector companies, with little experience in the area.

What they should have done was devolve this role to local authority and NHS networks, who have the knowledge to make it work.

Instead of addressing the basic logistical problems, the government has blundered on, seeking to cover one error, with further outlandish ideas - the latest being Boris Johnson's so called Moonshot plan for 10 million tests a day.

To date, the government struggles to reach 200,000 tests a day - a target promised to be reached many months ago.

Testing has always been vital because it tells administrators what is happening with the virus, where and why there are outbreaks.

A comprehensive set of data allows for local solutions to be applied, without resorting to the blunt instrument of lockdowns.

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Lockdowns should be the act of final resort, only enacted when the health service is threatened with being overrun.

They cause incredible damage to the economy and other health issues - particularly mental health.

Government has tried to deflect from its own ineptitude by treating the people like naughty children.

They are warned - disobey and there will be even tougher sanctions.

Obey, and there will be sweeties from the jar in terms of a return of basic freedoms.

The untruth of people disobeying the rules has been spun up really as a cover for the government's own failings.

The people have obeyed the rules, done as they are told - from staying at home to eating out to help out. It is those in government who haven't.

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Most notably, there was special advisor to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, who palpably broke the rules, yet remained in office.

He bluffed it out, backed by the PM.

That action created a dangerous precedent, establishing that we are not all in it together, there is one rule for us and one rule for them.

And making matters worse, this individual continues to have a big say in how the crisis is handled.

Then, whilst telling people they can only gather in groups of six, the government makes an exception for grouse shooters – again, us and them.

The trust and confidence in government has been ebbing away, ever since the Cummings debacle.

The blundering over sending children back to school, students to University and the exam results fiasco have not helped instil confidence.

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Government has much to do if it is to restore confidence and trust.

It could start by devolving test and trace to local level, through local authority and health networks.

It must also resource this work properly, not promise funding then renege on the deal.

It is no good trusting systems to people who see every crisis as a profit opportunity, rather than a call to act for the common good.

The rhetoric could also be toned down, less talk of lockdowns, waves, cancelling Christmas etc.

There has been too much use of fear to control people in this crisis.

In many ways, people need to be helped to live with this virus around because that is the way it will be until a vaccine is found.

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People also need to have security going forward, with maybe a Universal Basic Income applied across society, so that no one is left behind.

The government has done well in supporting people with systems like furlough, but these need extending and unifying in one basic form of payment for all.

There also needs to be a focus on the collateral damage being done as a result of the often narrow focus on Covid.

The cancer and heart disease not being treated. The dementia cases. The mental health time bomb being created. The rises in domestic violence and other forms of abuse.

The effects of the damage being done to the economy.

It is not an easy path to tread and there are bound to be blips along the way.

However, trust and confidence in those making the decisions is vital - without it government will lose all authority and cannot operate.

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