Coronavirus and political spinning

This is Mr Michael Gove, UK Minister for the Cabinet Office, trying to spin that the government is doing some kind of marvellous job sourcing ventilators for the NHS:

Throughout our history British manufacturing has always stepped up in times of national need… Ventilators are one of the most complex medical devices and the speed and scale that design and production is ramping up is awe-inspiring.  We will do whatever it takes to ensure the NHS and social care sector has the support and equipment it needs to save lives. [1]

If only it were true. But the truth is, as the editor of The Lancet makes clear, that the British government squandered weeks in February – doing nothing to prepare for the epidemic – for reasons which as he says remain “opaque” but which may have something to do with the lunatic and unscientific plan for “herd immunity”.  While negotiations may have been going on beforehand behind the scenes the mass media only reported UK gov’s order of 10,000 ventilators (from unproven British supplier Dyson) on 26 March.  [2] The WHO announced a global health emergency on 31 January. [3]

And here is another one. This is Housing Minister Robert Jenrick spinning his way out of the UK’s dismal lack of testing for covid-19. To put this in context remember that the WHO has repeatedly said that the way out of this epidemic is to “test, test, test”. [4] The UK has such limited testing capacity (currently less than 10,000 per day [5]) that they cannot even test health workers – let alone the general public. Contrast with e,g Germany, which carries out 70,000 tests every day. Or South Korea where the government’s extensive testing programme has been credited with their relative early success in controlling the virus. [6] This is Mr Jenrick:

We’ve said that we hope to be in that position by mid-April. We think within days we’ll be able to go from our present capacity, as I say, of 12,750, to 15,000. So that’s a significant increase but still not as far as we’d like it to be….

And then mid-April is when we expect to be at 25,000. But we now do have enough tests, and this is an important point I was trying to make, to test not just those patients in critical care but to begin to test NHS staff which is obviously absolutely essential. [7]

Actually, for those who are interested in a kind of ‘school of spin’ this is a good example. One tactic that these people use is to heartily acknowledge the truth of whatever it is they are being accused of not doing – this way casual listeners will get the impression that they are doing it. E.g. here “it is obviously absolutely essential”. Thus he glosses over and tries to hide that nothing was done for weeks.

Again, recall the observations of Richard Horton, editor of leading medical journal The Lancet: 

The NHS has been wholly unprepared for this pandemic. It’s impossible to understand why. … February should have been used to expand coronavirus testing capacity, ensure the distribution of WHO-approved PPE, and establish training programmes and guidelines to protect NHS staff. They didn’t take any of those actions.

Well; it says something for the resilience of the British political class that even in this time of dire national emergency their skills at spinning an avoidable catastrophe as a success have not departed them.




Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer