Boris Johnson: What the PM says goes? – Labour Article
As lockdown loosens further, many of us have become accustomed to our late afternoon pauses to listen to the government briefings. It was through these briefings that we were told by Boris Johnson that the country would be locked down. It is also where we have found out about easing regulations and greater liberty.
In recent weeks, we have time and time again had our lives changed by what a government official has said on television. These statements are not vetted, they are not approved, nor are they required to be. The lockdown itself was mandated by Parliament through the Coronavirus Act. Why then, is the easing of lockdown not held to the same standard? Why is this decision not like the others?
I’ll tell you why. This decision is not widely agreed upon. In fact, quite the opposite. The science does not concur that now is the right time to be lifting lockdown, nor that the measures that will be in place from July will be safe.
The government is no longer saying they are “led by the science” as if Chris Whitty is holding the leash. They are now merely “guided” by the science as if the Chief Medical Officer is some kind of over-qualified SatNav, which Boris can choose to ignore if he thinks he knows a better route.
The government has repeatedly thrown out policy statements on television with no right to reply, inquiry, scrutiny, oversight nor follow-up questioning. Then, the Conservatives have the audacity to act surprised when the country scrambles to keep up, often making life-threatening mistakes in the process.
Even the issues on which we could hold the government to account are going unscrutinised. For example, the 100,000 tests per day target. This number was thrown out on TV without “any basis” according to the President of the Institute of Biomedical Science. It should be noted that they then missed the deadline to hit their own baseless figure.
Much like moving the UK into lockdown, this is a positive act. That is to say, the Prime Minister is not letting lockdown legislation expire through the ‘sunset’ clauses which are built into the Coronavirus Act. These sunset clauses have been approved by parliament, and by extension, by us. Instead, Boris Johnson is going out of his way to change the way we live our lives, for whatever motive he sees fit. He does not have to gain the consent of anyone to do so.
Obviously, decisions need to be made, and quickly. However, there are methods that include oversight through which this can be achieved. A digital parliament, for example, as was seen for the first few months of the COVID crisis, enabled MPs to vote on important matters in record time. This is only possible, however, when matters are put in front of them, instead of being locked out of the decision-making process by being on the other side of the TV screen.
How exactly scrutiny should be maintained is not the thrust of this article though; I am no expert in that field. My argument is simply that it must be, one way or another.
Take away the party politics for a minute, this should be an alarming development in democracy for any person. No Prime Minister should have the power to pursue any course of action unchecked. Lifting lockdown in an attempt to save the economy is an important consideration – people’s livelihoods are at stake. However, to do so at the expense of scientific expertise, and at a time when citizens are continuing to die at an alarming rate, can only be seen as unacceptable.
These are critical measures for which there has been no course for review. This is not how we run a democracy. This is wrong.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Jacob Myers
Point of Information
An elected government taking control is not undemocratic – a Conservative response
Jacob writes an interesting piece here, criticising the Prime Minister under the pretence that what he is doing is undemocratic. This is not the case. These are unprecedented times in which it falls to the elected government to guide us through.
At an election, you vote in the knowledge that whoever wins may have to face a crisis and that it is that government that will be in charge. This article appears to forget that Johnson won an overwhelming majority in December, in a free and fair vote. Whilst I believe in the opposition’s ability to hold the government to account, it is wrong to infer that a Prime Minister taking control is undemocratic.
This article also forgets about the time-sensitive aspects of these decisions. Of course, citizens health is paramount, but going forward the economy is still key to our recovery. Every day that a decision is held up due to party politics is another huge cost to small businesses. This is simply not the time. There are certain times when decisions must be made quickly, and this is one of them. Getting every decision passed in Parliament would only significantly slow the recovery process.
Far too often do we see the UK political process act slowly in a game of political point-scoring; this time, we cannot afford for this to be the case. It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to take control when necessary and in the 21st Century, I can’t see there being a better time for this to be used.
Written by Chief Conservative Editor, Fletcher Kipps
It is almost as if this is how our system works? – a Liberal response
I firstly want to welcome Jacob to POI. It always makes me smile to read an article as impassioned as this, especially for a new writer. However, I think when Jacob puts aside ‘party politics’, he does everything but this.
Firstly, to criticise the government for their COVID-19 response is 100% warranted. It has been confusing, incompetent and lacked controlled. This is has led to Kier Starmer overtaking Boris Johnson in the polls and is why a September reshuffle is just around the corner.
However, to be upset over the fact that ‘what Boris says goes’ is completely off base. The UK political system doesn’t have a separation of power. It is designed to give the PM almost complete totalitarian power. This is particularly key for times of crisis. Whether it is Thatcher facing the miners, Blair with the terrorist act, Brown with 2008 market crash or Johnson with Coronavirus.
If you want to take shots at the system, saying we need a separation of powers like America, I would understand that. I would disagree as I want to avoid government shutdowns and prevent slow responses to a crisis (case and point America). However, you don’t do this.
You attack Boris Johnson personally saying he is overstepping his mark and that his actions are not within the PM’s remit. They are and have been for years! You can’t criticise him for this, criticise the system. Attack his poor response to Coronavirus, I will support you. However to criticise him for using powers which have been present to the PM since Thatcher, is the definition of not putting parties to one side.
Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson
I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.
I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.