Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak during the covid pandemic. Photo: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street/CC
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak during the covid pandemic. Photo: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street/CC

Richard Gingell, Black Country Socialist Party

As a child, I often found myself captivated by the BBC evening news, filled with images of important, suit-clad figures who appeared both official and competent. In those moments, I harboured a comforting belief that these individuals were the true adults entrusted with safeguarding our society from impending waves of destitution for my family and others.

Now I see it as more of a circus than a well-oiled machine. Clowns, figuratively speaking, seemed to be steering our nation through global turmoil, narrowly avoiding disasters by sheer luck. And when things did go wrong, it was ordinary working-class people who paid the price.

The Covid inquiry has brought to light a series of issues within the Johnson government’s response to the pandemic. Important decisions were delayed, investment into the health service neglected for years, and a sense of ‘business as usual’ prevailed, even as the storm approached.

“I think we are absolutely fucked . . . I think this country is heading for a disaster. I think we are going to kill thousands of people”

Then deputy cabinet secretary, Helen MacNamara, ten days before the first lockdown

Profits over health

The Tory government’s stark prioritisation of profits over the wellbeing of the population led to thousands of unnecessary deaths. Instead of swift action to protect the public’s health, the government put protecting the interests of their big-business backers first.

The inquiry has heard tales of decision makers, including prime minister Boris Johnson, going on holiday and being unreachable as the virus started to spread. Undemocratic and bureaucratic hurdles to take necessary action emerged and a ‘toxic’ and ‘macho’ culture within the government crippled its ability to act.

While senior officials began by ‘laughing’ at other countries as they tried to get a handle on the situation, this callous disregard for life became the centrepiece of the UK government’s response. Many marginalised and vulnerable groups were left to fend for themselves. It was workers themselves taking action for their safety that got workplaces closed, including teachers at the start of 2021.

The pandemic brought the Tories’ callousness and hypocrisy to the fore for millions of working-class people, as they put the interests of the bosses and their profits before the lives of the majority. The same approach, telling us that we shouldn’t fight for pay rises during the cost-of-living crisis, is echoed by all the main parties in Westminster. Working-class people need a mass party of our own.