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Scale of government's Covid-19 negligence is worse than ‘Hillsborough 400 times over’

Film director Ken Loach slams the Tories' litany of failures during a People's Assembly webinar

KEN LOACH has described the litany of failures by the government in its response to the Covid-19 crisis as “Hillsborough 400 times over.” 

Speaking on a People’s Assembly webinar on Thursday evening, Mr Loach highlighted the government’s slow response to the crisis and its failure to roll out testing and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to key workers. 

This has contributed to Britain’s huge death toll, with some estimates putting the number as high as 41,000 — double the official figures — according to the Financial Times, he said. 

Mr Loach, whose award-winning films have exposed the cruelty of Tory austerity, said that the scale of the crisis was like “Hillsborough 400 times over.” 

He added that the failures are not just down to government “incompetence” but an “ideology that the market will solve all our problems.” 

This ideology over the past 10 years had implemented sweeping privatisation, austerity and the expansion of the gig economy, he explained, setting the stage for a society in which poorer communities were now disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The evening webinar, which also heard from NEU vice-president Daniel Kebede, activist and actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and former Labour MP Laura Pidcock, aimed to contest the idea peddled by the Tories that the crisis is “indiscriminate.” 

“What we are experiencing is a political as well as a health crisis,” Ms Pidcock said. “Of course the virus itself is indiscriminate, but there are pre-existing inequalities that affect how you experience that virus.” 

The speakers laid out the stark contrast in how those from different classes, ethnicities and wealth are experiencing the crisis, made worse by the “devastation already wreaked on communities” by austerity and precarious work. 

“To say that the Covid crisis experience for a migrant living in overcrowded housing …  is having the same experience as Prince Charles or Boris Johnson who gets sick and then recovers at their country estates is a complete and utter myth,” Mr Kebede said. 

Ms Hesmondhalgh described the dire situation of some of her elderly and vulnerable friends, who have been left stranded with “absolutely no support in isolation.”

The life-long activist and former Coronation Street star gave a searing rebuke to accusations that critics of the government’s response were trying to “politicise” the crisis. 

“This insidious culture of being brainwashed into thinking that poverty and hardship can be overcome by a bit of blitz spirit, a bit of neighbourly kindness, a bit of community fundraising for our favourite charity of the day — the NHS,” she charged. 

“But some people, their eyes have been opened to the hypocrisy of a government that cheers the capping of nurses’ pay one week, and then cheer at the windows for our glorious NHS the next.”

The speakers ended the virtual rally by urging people not to forget how the government has handled the crisis.

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