+We could do with some boy scouts—and girl guides—in the government. ‘Be prepared’ has a ring about it. It is time we had a cabinet minister with a permanent remit simply for preparedness. This person might perhaps be the deputy prime minister, or at least somebody with some clout. They should be backed up by a department with the skills and knowledge to question what other departments are doing, and make binding recommendations about improvement. At the present time, much of the knowledge that is generated about how government is performing, e.g. through the National Audit Office, the Office for Budget Responsibility or the Committee on Climate Change for that matter can be quietly disregarded if it suits the government. Such bodies supposedly hold the government to account, and regularly publish meaningful reports, but of course none are represented in the Cabinet. Every government department should be asked what are the top 10 shit bombs (how coarse!) they think could occur in the field of their responsibilities and what their level of preparedness is to meet them. There should be (at least) a quarterly Cabinet meeting devoted to the Secretary of State for Preparedness’s report on which departments are falling short (could be a long meeting). All the reports should be made available immediately to the public—let’s have no more of this SAGE ‘keep it under the counter’ routine. If there’s one lesson we should learn from this pandemic, it is that the current nudge nudge wink wink Whitehall routine is no longer fit for purpose, if it ever was. I am sure my suggestion would have the full support of Lord Beaverbrook if he were alive today. Perhaps even the other Chamberlain could help shed some light on getting things done. Not to mention dear old Clem and Nye too.
+Johnson’s well-rehearsed address to the nation this evening—for the first time he seems to have used a comb—didn’t add a great deal to ending our state of uncertainty. The broadcast came from a well appointed suite of rooms at No.10 (with a chandelier accentuating the idea that for some the lock down isn’t such a sacrifice). Now it seems we are moving to the ‘next phase,’ as if the whole thing is well understood and under control. There is, I think only one message to take from it, which is that relying on the public’s evident impatience with isolation and social distancing, the ‘herd immunity’ approach will find greater favour. Apparently in Sweden this is known as ‘flock immunity.’ A few well-chosen words could change everything. Johnson made no mention of giving people decent masks. That might have been one positive step to give substance to the ‘stay alert’ message.
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