The independent London newspaper

Stuck on old, failed ways instead of seeking a new path

14 January, 2021

Dame Joan Bakewell 

WHAT lies behind the sudden confusion among certain government ministers and high medical officials that a second jab can be postponed for a longer timeline than planned?

Dame Joan Bakewell is quite right to threaten to pursue a judicial review of any delay, (‘Is delay to second dose of virus vaccine lawful?’, January 14).

Advocates of a postponement have failed to explain the need for a change of policy. Even hospital doctors and nursing staff – front-line workers – have been told a second jab could be postponed.

Cynics may argue that the more that can be initially vaccinated the better looking the statistics in the political knockabout. Once again, policies face being distorted as part of failure to look the problem in the face – and then do something about it.

The fact is that the pandemic, accompanied by an economy shaken by growing debt and inequality, is asking questions of an economy that has been mishandled in the past few decades – with state provision of health, education and the National Health Service woefully underfunded.

To make up for all that requires a transformation of the economy – not more tinkering.

A vaccination programme is essential but all indications are that immunity is short-lived, and every year the nation will have to face a fresh need for yet another round of vaccination.

What will happen? All the signs are that high politicians, of all the main parties, only seem capable of muddling along with the existing political and economic infrastructure. That could provide solutions but it’s a form of short-termism – and won’t work.

The fact is that a new virus has been identified that will require constant attention for many years ahead – and that should mean greater state investment in schools, medicine and transport, and, of course, all forms of “green” development.

The Johnson administration appears to want to muddle along – and so does Sir Keir Starmer’s new Labour.

This week, his shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, announced the abandonment of Jeremy Corbyn’s “hard left” economic policy in what will be another U-turn.

That means yet another attempt to reform bits and pieces, tweak here and there, avoid any policy of tax and spend for fear of upsetting wings of the electorate, avoid any attempt to reduce the growing inequality in society – and hope for the best.

Critics in medical circles and academia can see through this – and today’s crisis won’t go away.

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