“Britain has done brilliantly on the vaccination front — much better than the rest of Europe.” Matthew Parris in The Times today.
Matthew Parris has a a good article in The Times today with much of which I agree. But I must challenge first his implication in it that Brexit was just about trade, and then the delusional bombast in the above quote. Yes we are cobbling together some sub-optimum trading arrangements , not least with our major trading partners the countries of the EU. But, as Liz Truss predicted during the Referendum campaign, none of these new deals is as good as we had as an EU member. Even the supply of Percy Pigs is affected (see article today in the same newspaper).
The act of self-harm that is walking away from Europe on trade is matched by a host of other damaging consequences of Brexit. Everything that those of us who understood this would happen said is coming true. Project Fear was Project Reality. We were conned, and some.
I did care about how the nation of which I am a citizen is perceived in the world but frankly no longer. Our reputation may not be irreparably shattered but it’s going to take a while to restore it. We are the sick man of Europe in more ways than one. Which brings me to COVID and vaccination.
The figures on the mishandling of the pandemic are too shocking to be glossed over. Britain has done the opposite of “brilliantly” on everything – we are the killing fields of Europe. We went from denial to action slowly at the beginning and then our leaders soon caved in to pressure from the hard deniers of the Right. We had a bad first phase, everything was too little and too late. Boris Johnson paid more attention to John Redwood and Julia Hartley-Brewer and Toby Young than he did to the Chief Medical Officer and the professors of immunology. If the second phase was bad the third phase is disastrous. The U-turns have been dizzying.
Europe pooled its resources to some extent on vaccination – certainly on procurement. This is delivering logistical and cost benefits to which we are not party. But the devil of the vaccination programme is in the detail of which approval and procurement are just initial parts. Getting the vaccines to the people who need them is the key – and if comparisons between countries are to be made it’s the efficiency of the complete process that counts not just the initial pre-vaccination stage.
The “we’re doing it better” meme is everywhere – a sure sign that we’re not. It’s pseudo-patriotic bombast. If in doubt put another flag behind the podium. I agree with Matthew that at some point we will need to lighten up and be more optimistic. But for me those times are nowhere near.