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The Covid-19 fightback is beginning to take shape

WE are reaching a crisis point in the management of the coronavirus pandemic that sharply reveals the inadequacies of government and the personal shortcomings of the premier.

The facts create a compelling picture of incompetence. A comparison of the infection and death rates of different countries shows a marked difference.

Of course, many factors account for such variations but the fact that two developed capitalist countries, Britain and the US, are saddled with political administrations that fail to meet basic criteria of efficiency and coherence and are failing to tackle the crisis as effectively as other states is a spotlight on the systemic crisis that grips capitalism in its imperial centres.

We are at the point at which the hint of a downward curve in the levels of infection and deaths is — for millions of people being driven back to work — the most dangerous.

This newspaper has made clear its reservations about the way in which the Labour opposition in parliament has tackled the government.

This is not to discount everything that has been done, and done well, or the way in which Keir Starmer has begun to demolish Boris Johnson’s pretensions. This must meet with unqualified approval.

Rather it is to suggest ways in which the whole weight of the Labour movement can be mobilised.

Johnson is notoriously negligent of detail and — deprived of his clique of baying backbenchers — the contradictions, evasions and downright lies that make up his repertoire of debating devices is no protection from detailed cross-examination.

The Conservative government is being caught in a crossfire. Today health workers’ unions are pushing for a plan for the safe return to a fully functional NHS, while RMT is insisting that services should not run without safe social distancing.

There is a rising drumbeat of anxiety that is finding a voice.

The Scottish parliament is being urged to back measures which include a rent freeze. If this idea catches on it will present a real challenge to the value system that leaves tenants at a deep disadvantage.

The crisis is throwing up practical proposals that challenge the sacred rights accorded to ownership in capitalist society. A rent freeze underpins the idea of housing as a human right and an essential element in social provision rather than a necessity with its price fixed by market forces rather than human need.

The Covid-19 crisis in care homes has focussed extra attention on the daft decision to leave social care to the market. Even before the coronavirus pandemic care homes, which rely overwhelmingly on public funding, were closing as uneconomic.

As if the care of our elderly and infirm has a price that can be fixed by the market.

Teachers are absolutely right to be on guard against the threats to the health of everyone in schools which are the daily focus of a massive intergenerational mixing. But when parents are under pressure to return to work it is particularly important that everyone understands the risks entailed in schools.

How then to evaluate the intemperate intervention of the Lord Blunkett, which has poisoned this discussion?

His attempted sabotage of the education workers’ campaign — with an absurd bid to rationalise the pressure for schools to go back on the grounds that upper-class children are unfairly given education opportunities that working-class lack in the present situation — would have more credibility if he hadn’t been so manifestly at home with Establishment values for so long.

The very last thing that working people and the Labour movement needs is the revival of New Labour either in the form of discredited policies or relics who so richly deserve the scarlet robes the Establishment awards to those who please it.


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