Dominic Cummings, the former right-hand man of Boris Johnson, gave evidence to a select committee of MPs on Wednesday around the government’s handling of the early stages of the pandemic in the UK. In doing so, he has shone a light on the carelessness and the callous disregard for people’s lives that has defined Boris Johnson’s government for the past 18 months. In this personal crusade against his old allies, Cummings has blown the lid on a Tory cabinet wracked by internal chaos, but also a stubborn refusal to deal with the reality of a rapidly worsening situation, as the then new coronavirus ran rampant through the country.
This was demonstrated last year in the government’s approach of aiming for “herd immunity” – a strategy that was predicted to lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, and one which government ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have repeatedly denied supporting. Cummings’ confirmation of this approach, only confirms what many of us already knew, but it also serves as a reminder that after 150,000+ deaths in this country as a result of the pandemic, the blame falls squarely at the government’s feet for the disastrous spread of Covid. The Tories have blood on their hands.
Profit vs health and lives
What Cummings fails to mention is the driving force behind the Tories’ failure to deal with the pandemic. Over the last year, the Tories have consistently taken every opportunity to ensure big business can make a profit. This included outsourcing the NHS track and trace system to infamous corporations such as Serco, with disastrous results, and a reckless premature reopening of the economy. As a result, for all the government’s apparent discussion about avoiding a ‘worse’ second wave in the Winter by allowing a wave of infections in the spring, they totally failed.
This is also one of the core reasons for the deadly delay to the initial lockdown, as well as the second lockdown toward the end of 2020. Cummings makes the point that Johnson had to be pushed into announcing the first lockdown due to the potential economic damage it would do. But he made the mistake not once but twice, delaying the announcement of a second lockdown as Covid rates soared again. As socialists, we understand that the pro-capitalist Tory government is at the whim of the short-sighted interests of capitalist profits. The government only stepped in and introduced the lockdown, as well as state support for businesses, as a last resort to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed to the point of collapse and stave off economic catastrophe.
Shockingly, at the same time as the virus surged, Cummings has revealed that Johnson’s cabinet was preoccupied with plans to join the US in a potential war in the Middle East, putting their imperialist interests ahead of the lives of thousands of working class people in Britain and in Iraq.
It was not just incompetence or ignorance that led to the catastrophe of the last year, although these certainly played a part. But far more crucial was the government prioritising the profits of the capitalist class over the lives of the rest of society. Their drive to maintain, and then to return to, “business as usual”, all the while undercutting the NHS with deals to dodgy corporations, is a fundamental reason for the mishandling of the virus’s spread.
We need a mass, working-class opposition
Cummings’ evidence is a damning indictment of this government, but it would be a mistake to see Cummings as any sort of champion of the working class. Despite his apologies in recent weeks, the central role Cummings played in creating this situation, and his own disregard for his government’s own rules as illustrated in the now-infamous ‘Barnard Castle’ incident will not be lost on ordinary people for whom the effects of the Tories’ long list of failures have been all too real.
It is clear this government has to go – lives depend on it. But we can’t rely on people like Cummings to change things. We need to get organised to build a real fight back and to build a new, mass party of struggle which can offer a real alternative. If you agree with us, get involved!
- For a fully independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic – led by trade unions, health workers and bereaved families
- Save our health service. Fight for a fully funded, publicly owned, democratically run NHS. Kick the privateers out. Nationalise all aspects of health and social care currently in private hands, including track and trace and the pharmaceutical giants, under the democratic control and management of workers
- Courageous health workers deserve a pay rise. Reject the government’s 1% insult. Unions must organise a fight for 15%
- Make solidarity the new normal. The government’s covid failings stem from their prioritising private greed over human need. Fight for a socialist society – based on public ownership of the big monopolies and an economy planned democratically to meet the needs of people and planet