Robert Jenrick’s official portrait from 2017. Photo Wikimedia/Chris McAndrew Robert Jenrick’s official portrait from 2017. Photo Wikimedia/Chris McAndrew

Another day and another suit delivering the same excuses as the fear and anxiety mounts for the rest of us, writes Chrissy Brand

Sunday saw the turn of Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to bluster to the nation while trying to gloss over the Tory government’s fundamental errors in their handling of Covid-19.

Making a mockery of the message of “Protect the NHS” on the lectern he stood behind, (Really? Which governments exactly was it then who cut vital public services over the past decade and has been privatising the NHS in their politically driven-austerity measures?), Jenrick stated that “we have a clear plan” for PPE to be delivered to the frontline workers in the health and social care services.

This is a line that seems to have been repeated at every briefing so far. If he is to be believed, then 170 million of face masks, 42.8 million gloves and other personal protective equipment have been ordered and are in their way. Delivery methods for these include use of the military.

While the supplying of the life-protecting equipment is a good thing, of course, it should have happened much sooner. How many lives of patients and NHS staff have been lost and endangered by the negligence of this government?

Had a previous Tory government taken heed of the results of the pandemic flu exercise undertaken in October 2016, then it would have been better prepared. The report of the findings of that three-day exercise (Exercise Cygnus) made it clear the UK was not equipped to deal with the number of excess bodies that could result.


A fundamental flaw was the lack of enough ventilators in the UK. In what surely now seems like an act of criminal negligence, there was no move to rectify this and to buy in the ventilators required, should a pandemic occur. Just over three years later, thousands of the British public are paying for the consequences of an inept government, with their lives.

Two other headlines that leapt out at me in Sunday’s briefing were equally of concern. The first, in my view, being an unnecessary and frightening step towards military intervention and influence in peacetime Britain. This is coming in the form of regional coordination centres around the UK, to be led by emergency service-appointed “gold commanders”. These will be supported by military in order to plan local responses to coronavirus.   

Oh how the powers-that-be and the military like their code names and grandiose titles. It smacks of the days of the 1970s and 1980s when the UK government wasted billions in its preparations for nuclear war, with the government designating eleven home defence regions.


While Jenrick stated that “the UK has the finest military in the world”, many of us baulk at such a ludicrous and pointless boast, words that you might have expected (although would have disagreed with) in the dying days of the British Empire one hundred years ago. to use such words today surely fills people with heightened fear, rather than hope.  

Secondly, the bleak assertion of Deputy Chief Medical OfficerDr Jenny Harries OBE, that we could still be under lockdown in six months’ time was a wearying thought. If lockdown had been undertaken and testing begun weeks earlier, if we had governments who had been properly funding the equipping the NHS instead of stripping it bare for the past ten years, if we had a Prime Minister who wasn’t bragging at the start of the month about shaking hands with coronavirus patients and talking about the population as “maybe taking it on the chin” and “herd immunity”, we might be facing week two of the UK lockdown in a more optimistic manner.

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