‘The British government has failed on so many levels’ - damning indictment by Lib Dem leader during St Albans visit
- Credit: Archant
Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey offered his thoughts on the government’s response to the pandemic during a visit to St Albans this week.
In an exclusive interview with the Herts Ad, he gave his full backing for our #ShopLocal campaign, but also highlighted areas of concern surrounding Whitehall’s public health and economic strategy.
He said: “I just think this government hasn’t got a grip. There seems to be no plan. On the health side we seem to lurch from crisis to crisis and it’s become so complex and confusing people just don’t know what the plans are, and of course they lost public confidence after the shocking Dominic Cummins scandal, when Boris Johnson just let his chief advisor break the rules, which really undermined public confidence.
“On the economy side because they’ve chopped and changed so much I think people have been laid off who wouldn’t have been laid off if the government had had a clearer strategy earlier on. We supported the furlough scheme and praised the government at the time, but they closed it at a time when they thought infections were going down, but just as a second wave is coming forwards, and local shops prepare for a critical Christmas.
“If you compare us to the other countries who have been more generous early-on with schemes that are going to last until the end of next year, they’ve given businesses and their employees confidence, so people know they can invest as their jobs are going to be there, and that’s changed the whole nature of the debate.”
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He also singled out the lack of support for freelancers, including many in the creative arts: “There are still about a million people who operate through limited companies who’ve just been forgotten and excluded, and that’s just not good enough. This pandemic is so random you can’t know who it’s going to hit, which business, which family, which organisation, and it’s hitting people who couldn’t prepare, and I think as a society and democracy we should help everybody.
“Just because someone’s been so unlucky to be hit by this, those of us who have managed to escape with our health and our jobs, we should be there to help those other people because that’s what society is all about. The fact that the government has excluded so many people I think is unforgiveable.”
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He praised St Albans MP Daisy Cooper for leading the national campaign against the 10pm curfew for the hospitality industry: “We’ve very proud of its success. I think she’s got more pubs in St Albans than any other MP, and she responded brilliantly to her constituents’ interests and local businesses.
“The reality is the 10pm curfew just doesn’t make sense in public health terms or economic terms.
“My real fear is that in places like Hertfordshire we will be forced into Tier 2 status when local councils like St Albans are saying that’s not right, it’s not what the numbers are saying, you should be investing in our local public health officials, who people locally have much more confidence in than Public Health England and what’s happening in Whitehall, and give them the support and resources to prevent the second wave from happening.
“What people have missed in this whole dialogue is let’s prevent something first, and if something raises its ugly head then let’s go and get it straight away. You go around the world, not just in Europe but in Asia, and other countries have managed this pandemic far more effectively by reacting more quickly than the British government did, by being more thorough on testing and tracking, by working with local authorities and public health officials, and they’ve shown what can be done.
“The British government has failed on so many levels - they’ve done things wrong time after time - and I’m afraid they’ve been incompetent and hopeless, and the reason why we’ve seen so many more deaths than other countries, and the reason why our economy has performed much worse, is because of their poor handling of the pandemic.”