Well there’s a headline I had never thought I would write but as I have looked at the recent press and public relations work undertaken by both of them I not only think this but feel that we should all get behind them and leave party politics behind as we square up to the lethal virus which is currently invading our communities.
Last night, I watched the Prime Minister’s press conferences and for the first time ever my immediate impression of him was that he was both saying and doing the right things. He was laying out calmly and clearly what actions the Government was taking and was doing so based on the clear professional advice of the Government’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientist.
Two weeks ago, I was in attendance at the very public meeting of the Liverpool Heath & Wellbeing Board when Mayor Anderson did exactly the same laying out clearly and calmly the facts, as known, and indicating what our Council and its partners were doing to prepare us and our communities for the inevitable troubles ahead. Both these sets of actions were clearly scientifically informed and were being taken based on the best advice that was available to the political decision makers.
Since then I have seen a lot of political attacks on both these individuals which I believe are unfair. It may be, as some have suggested, that the decisions that they are making are wrong. However, I would be very concerned if politicians were making partisan and political decisions now and not doing almost precisely what our doctors, scientists and other professionals are suggesting.
Perhaps I have more confidence than many other people because I know what preparations are made on every day of every year by public agencies to prepare for the worst but hope for the best in situations such as these. The NHS and all its partners have in hand a regular series of exercises to prepare for pandemic situations. Those plans have to be varied as each pandemic or major emergency carries its own requirements but the basis is always laid in which the whole of the public sector gets together to maximise its joint working to take us through periods of stress.
The Government is absolutely right to move us to a delay phase which is exactly what other major democracies are also doing. Countries that spend more than we do on the public health services are taking the same steps because no matter how money we put into the health service it would be stressed by major events such as these. We need to delay the peak of infections until the summer to reduce the seriousness of infections and illness and to allow the maximum freedom for our physicians to be in place with appropriate intensive care services.
Some Countries are taking different decisions about issues like sporting events and school closures than the UK government is doing. That does not mean that those decisions are better than ours. Our epidemiologists have looked carefully at all the information they have about the dangers and have concluded that now is not the time to do things like this. They point out correctly that we may simply be moving people into more dangerous situations if, for example, children were sent to be looked after by grandparents if their parents are stopped from working. That’s putting the risk at a higher level in to the most vulnerable members of our community – the elderly.
It is also important that we consider how all of us behave in practice rather than theory. If too many restrictions on work and travel are put in place too early then people will either not respond at all or will initially respond but then their willingness to keep to a strict regime will diminish quickly. We will all start out with the best of intentions on these matters but many will quickly regress to behaviour as normal.
So, provided that our national and local political leaders continue to present scientific facts cogently and on the best scientific advice I believe that we should all work together with them to maximise our response to the virus. I don’t believe that this is a Tory or (in the case of America) Republican plot to get rid of nuisance people in our society such as the sick, elderly and vulnerable. I believe that some good may come out of this as society as a whole realises just how many elderly, sick and vulnerable people there are in our midst and resolves to do something about them on a long term and permanent basis.
In the meantime, there are things that we can all do. My Lib Dem colleagues and I are writing to all organisations in our Wards seeing what they are doing to help our needy citizens and if there is any help we can provide to them in carrying out that work. Are you checking that the elderly people that live near you are getting their medicines and basic supplies of foods? Have you checked the situation with your elderly relatives and just given an extra check so that needs and concerns can be resolved?
In Liverpool, in particular, these are things that I am sure is happening. We are one of the most community and family minded cities in the World. Liverpool can and will come through this. So, let’s all put crude party politics and Party based attacks on one side for now on this issue. If I think that Mayor Anderson is not doing the right things, I will tell him so first privately and then, if necessary, publicly. Until such time as that happens, he and our great Council and NHS staff are getting my full support for what they are trying to do to limit problems in the City. I hope that he has your support as well.