Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Pre-pandemic, only someone inculcated against hearing accurate news about the NHS would not know how just parlous a state is it in. Never-events are now commonplace, often leading to deaths. A & E waiting times are the highest on record. Children are left on hospital floors, yet Boris wouldn’t look at the proof. Staff morale is at its nadir. Short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors, it is little wonder that the NHS is unfit to face its greatest challenge.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

When in March 2015, after studying the Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates cogently explained why a pandemic was so likely and would be so harmful to health and to the world economy, the powers that be in the UK – the Tories – ignored it.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

When coronavirus – precisely the type of virus which Gates had foreseen – surfaced in December 2019, the Tory Government did next to nothing. Only when the best Italian hospitals, in the wealthiest region of the country, became mortuaries, did the Government click into gear.

Now into the middle of March, I will not forget receiving this letter, which was forwarded to me by Harrogate Borough Council. What is unforgiveable about this letter is the date that it was circulated. Only in mid-March did the Government deem it a good idea to purchase more ventilators – ventilators which hadn’t been designed or manufactured yet, and designed and manufactured during a pandemic. Matt Hancock tells us that “If you make them, we will buy them.”

If we are short of ventilators, and this scarcity kills people, the Tories ought to be toast.


Thank goodness that Johnson beat Corbyn

(For context, I type this blog just minutes after Johnson and Hancock have tested positive for COVID-19.)

When the electorate cast their vote in December 2019, multiple factors influenced each decision. Chief amongst those reasons was a question of party leadership. When placing the X, most people’s decision comes boils down to this: in a time of impending doom – such as a war – who would you trust most to steer us through?

Above all else, people demand a competent – if not brilliant – leader.

Going into the election, Corbyn’s poll ratings were the worst for any leader of the opposition, ever. Only a person of extreme arrogance and/or incompetence would have led their party when they were fully au fait with the polling. It was the incompetence and intransigence of Corbyn, aided by the follow-the-leader-at-all-costs mentality of the Corbynistas, and abetted by the spineless Labour MPs who wouldn’t derail such an obvious loser, which gave Johnson his commanding majority. Brexit didn’t lose Labour the election, it was toxic Corbyn.

Though Boris must be the least moral of the Prime Ministers in my lifetime (my kids love to ask Alexa how many children the PM has – given that there are a few different answers), as much as it pains me to write it, given our parlous predicament, I’m glad that he beat Corbyn. It isn’t that Johnson is competent – he isn’t – it is that he is more competent than Corbyn. The same can be said for the Cabinet versus the Shadow Cabinet. Bizarrely, faltering Diane Abbot was front and centre of the Labour campaign, whereas Jacob Rees-Mogg was forced by Cummins to self-isolate, given his penchant to put his foot in it.

Now imagine Corbyn, in a national broadcast, asking those who despise him – including 90% of the media – to stay at home. Imagine Corbyn, flanked by McDonnel, introducing what is a Universal Basic Income and nationalising the railways. I don’t believe that most people, even if Corbyn had won the election, would have listened. The Daily Mail and Express would have taken a Trumpian – it’s just the flu – line. We would, therefore, be in a worst position.

But just imagine just how much better a situation we would be in now, particularly in terms of the funding for our beloved NHS, had we not gone through such unnecessary, cruel austerity since 2010. The mad dash to create 10,000 ventilators wouldn’t be a story. The calibre of the leader usually swings an election, but the calibre of the policies makes for a prepared, caring country.


Lock Them Up?

It’s a criminal offence to speed, because when you speed, you are a danger to others. It is a criminal offence to have unprotected sex, as a HIV carrier, if you haven’t warned your partner of the likely transmission. The libertarian logic underpinning these laws is sound: your actions are causing harm to others and must therefore be stopped.

For caring and intelligent people, their moral compass has been speedily reconfigured to now include the calculation that their actions might lead to the reckless transmission of COVID-19. The news is filled with knackered, mask-wearing medics, carrying signs, imploring people to stay at home, whilst they bravely save lives. If you won’t obey the Prime Minister, at least listen to these hero medics.

The blindspot for some people is that they haven’t grasped that even if they do not display symptoms, then they might still be carriers. Our actions have always had consequences, but now more so than ever.

It’s now time that the law caught up with morality. There have always been, and will always be, people who outsource their moral compass to the low bar set by the law, so we need to raise the legal bar. Some of these people may be super-spreaders – the unmasked mass murderers of this time.

It’s the first obligation of the Government to keep its people safe. Therefore, time-limited emergency legislation is urgently needed to prevent the morally bankrupt from spreading this virus. Chunky £1,000 fines should do the trick, for prison is the last place we would want to place such fools.


The Return of the State, and The State Strikes Back

All hail the State! All hail the State.

Those of you who claimed that the only way to recover from the International Banking Crisis of 2008 was to cut, cut and then cut some more, have now been exposed as the phoniest of phoneys – all thanks to this Tory – yes, Tory! – Government’s recent double budget. Theresa May’s Magic Money Tree has been found! And it isn’t just one, miserable tree – oh, no, no – rather it’s a whole forest of Magic Money Trees, prepared to bail us out.

Austerity, meted-out by the Tories for a decade, was a political choice, cloaked in a dishonest narrative, regurgitated by our right-wing press and lapped up by far too many of our citizens. Throughout the last decade, George Osbourne’s project to rewire the country, to penalise those who relied on the State, was proved intellectually and morally bankrupt by all key life indices, yet still too few people took the time – nor had the curiosity – to appraise themselves of the facts. In light of recent events, I dare you to argue with me that austerity wasn’t a choice.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending bonanza – “to do whatever it takes” – to get us through the Corona Depression has killed, once and for all, the Tory lie that the principle which should guide a family’s finances (that you shouldn’t spend more than you have, with some tucked away for rainy day) is the same principle by which a country’s finances should be managed. It isn’t, and never has been. Name a family that can print money, nationalise a bank, create a bond, build HS2. Managed correctly, the State can create confidence, stimulating demand, increasing the tax-take.

Out of the ashes of World War Two came the NHS, Legal Aid and the modern welfare state, even though the world’s economy was on its knees. But what will arise from this Corona Depression? Like World War Two, this virus is no respecter of class. At rapid speed, more people realise that we are all interdependent; that we all rely upon the other. If one of us is destitute, we are collectively all worse for it.

For example (should an example be required), if someone is too impoverished to isolate then spreads the virus, we are all impacted. If someone doesn’t wash their hands, then we all suffer. If one business lays off staff, we all pay to support those unfortunate people.

For those who previously doubted it, know now that we rely on most of our public sector services, as well as our key private sector employees, such as delivery drivers and supermarket personnel. We must all do our bit. Private sector no longer trumps public sector: we need both. And now, surely, we can all accept that if we don’t adequately fund our NHS – just as people have chosen not to do this last decade – we will all catch the cold?


The gutsiest of decisions

As Premier League football is cancelled today – as well nearly every other large gathering – the Government has surprised us all by not electing to instruct the populace to self-isolate. With every other country implementing social distancing, it begs the question: do the Brits know best? Is this another example of supposed British exceptionalism?

I hope so.

But I doubt it.

My analysis of the state of play is that the Chief Medial Advisors et al have advised the government that:

  • COV-19 has spread far and wide already;
  • The NHS and social care will not be able to cope (after years of under-funding);
  • That social modelling prepared over the years reveals that Brits, with a penchant for anti- authoritarianism – will not take instruction, unlike the Chinese (though I am sure that not all
    Chinese people did as they were commanded to do). I.e. Brits couldn’t tolerate being
    forcefully housebound for more than two weeks.
  • That so many businesses will fail, with pre-COV-19 so many people surviving with little
    financial buffer, that economic collapse is inevitable, exacerbating an already parlous

Nobody can envy the Prime Minister. Whichever way he decides – to social distance now or not to – people will die. And die in the thousands (present estimate is half a million).

Understandably, anger is mounting that the draconian – and probable – successful methods employed by the Chinese and other countries have not been employed here.

When this pandemic passes, and it will, Brits will compare how we did against other countries. If more people have suffered here than elsewhere, the Prime Minister will be toast, and so will the Tories be for a generation, even if they have followed the scientific advice.


The end of party politics?

Possibly. Today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Chancellor announced so many billions – or was it was trillions – of pounds of infrastructure projects that one would have that it was John McDonnell who was delivering the budget. The world has turned on its axis.

Non-Tories haven’t grasped what is going on here. In the pursuit of his legacy, Boris Johnson is gobbling-up the centre of British politics. Such policies are straight out of the Labour textbook. The former Red Wall constituencies are going to love it. Nobody is asking: where is the money tree?

How will the other parties react? Slowly, I imagine.

For non-Tory parties, their potential areas for policy/brand differentiation are:

  1. Brexit – it will rear its head when the inevitable shock happens of our true departure. It will be an omnishambles, so any party which was anti-Brexit will be regarded as Mystic Meg.
  2. Social care – which needs fundamental rethink. My view is that families will start to live closer together, with more families sharing large properties. Just watch this develop.
  3. Constitutional reform – few people – on all sides of the Brexit debacle – believe that our unwritten constitution has worked well over the last few years, and therefore crave voting reform. With their stonking majority, the Tories won’t want to change anything, but they will be on their own.
  4. Prison – we all know that it rarely works as a deterrent, and mainly serves as a school to produce ever-hardened criminals. A liberal, progressive party can steal a march here. Thanks to the Tories, the justice system is on life support. We are all impacted from high crime levels.
  5. Public ownership of utilities – still popular most of the electorate, though an anathema to the Tories, even though the Tories have now taken a rail franchise back under public control.
  6. Environment – as the climate gets crazier, and climate change-deniers dwindle, the climate crisis will become of an election issue. The Tories haven’t taken it seriously: it simply isn’t in their DNA. As we approach the key date of 2030, the environment will come to the fore.

Justifiably, non-Tories will crow that the spending bonanza announced by our school prefect-like Chancellor is akin to Tony Blair’s decimation of Clause Four in the mid-90s – i.e. the true Tory colours will come through in due course, as they did when Corbyn re-took Labour. Let’s not forget that it took two decades for Labour to revert to type. How long will it take the Tories to revert to type? And will they? Will the Tories govern as One Nation Tories?

And what will opposition parties do to differentiate themselves? If the Tory strategy on COV-19 leads to more deaths than in other countries, party politics will not be dead as the Tories will be out of power for a generation.


The politics of coronavirus: are right-wingers coronavirus sceptics?

(For context, I’m writing on the day that the international stock markets collapsed, at a similar level to the 2008 decimation, all because of COVID-19. Italy has just quarantined the whole country.)

Like most, I have taken a keen interest in the spread of COVID-19, for countless reasons: I’m a parent; I have elderly parents; my firm looks after hundreds of clients, many of whom may pass; and as a business owner, 1/5 of my colleagues are likely to be off sick. It would, therefore, be grossly negligent not to be appraised of the facts.

Quite simply, the spread of COVID-19 has the potential to be as dramatic, as impactful, as a world war. It could be our generation’s worst hour. To write that – that which is clear to me and many – is likely to get me lampooned as some sort of fool; someone who has drunk the COVID-19 hysteria kool aid. I haven’t.

What has become clear to me – from the news, from social media and from my social circles – is that, generally, people with right-wing politics tend to take a different position on what precautions to take, than someone who would describe themselves as not right-wing. I’m careful not to describe this second group as “left-wing” – they are just not right-wing. It’s fascinating! And I don’t think that right-wingers are purposely being objectionable.

Some common right-wingery responses:

1. COVID-19 is no worse than flu – something with Trump has today tweeted, even though the death rate from flu was previously unknown to him.
2. I’m not washing my hands: how dare you tell me what to do.
3. It’s all fake news.
4. Experts – what do they know?

But why? Why do right-wingers – though not all – take such views? And is it deliberate – i.e. are right-wingers asking themselves – “I am right-wing, so this is my position?”


Corbyn, Trump and the Cult

Politically, Corbyn and Trump are of course diametrically opposite. (I backed Corbyn in the leadership election of 2015: I was swayed by his political history and the inevitable avalanche of support which would make the Labour Party a social movement again, financially strong, with hundreds of thousand of leaflet-deliverers and Facebook warriors.) But there is an unfortunate similarity between the two groups of followers, which requires discussion.

Until this recent leadership election, no labour leadership campaign in my lifetime was so personality-driven, so…. cultish. Like the relationship between Trump and his cult, who refuse to see his many flaws, for Corbyn’s arch-followers, he can do no wrong.

Sure, there are many Labour Party members who run logical arguments as to why Corbyn is the right person to lead the Labour Party – and I respect that, though I forcefully disagree. Alarmingly, however, there is a cohort of Corbyn followers who will support him like disciples – many of whom are new to politics, hanging onto to his every word. “If Jeremy loses the leadership, I shall leave the party”, they say. No great loss there. Corbyn has politicised these (misguided) people – and they will climb over broken glass to attend his rallies. These people will decide the fate of this country, and it makes me sad/mad.

Not only are there newbies to the Labour Party – who have never knocked on a door(but please do stay for the long-haul, if this is you) – who follow Corbyn in a lemmings-like way, but there are the armchair Ches, politically educated/brainwashed by radical communists, who spell the deepest trouble. I have evidence that many of these members would rather the Labour Party was pure in its pursuit of a socialist/communist utopia and lose the next general election, than have more moderate (and electable!) Labour Party and win the next general election because, they say, it is all part of a greater plan to convert the Labour Party into a revolution-leading vehicle. Ergo, some members would rather have the Tories in power than Labour. This is intellectually, morally and politically bankrupt thinking. Please leave. Now. You know who you are.

And what many of the Corbyn cult have missed is that Corbyn has won, even if Corybn loses to Smith. As compelling evidence, to woo the Labour electorate, Smith is trying to out-Corbyn, Corbyn. The Labour Party has, therefore, irrevocably changed for the better, in terms of its political direction and its membership: all Labour Party policy for the next decade will have a socialist tint for the first time in a generation.

The only question for the Labour Party membership is this: which potential leader is most likely to be the next Labour PM. The answer is not JC.

My money – if I gambled – is on Corbyn, because of his cult. As one member quipped: “The only hundreds and thousands at a Smith rally are on the ice creams.”

Andrew Gray is the owner of and and is writing in his personal capacity.


The Genius that is Capitalism

Like it or not, capitalism is genius. And all geniuses are flawed. In my favourite – though rarely-referenced – tranche of Marxism, Marx declares that, “Crime produces locks, jails, police, locksmiths, judges, lawyers, and jail keepers.” And, he goes on to say, crime produces the teachers to train the jailors, and the police, locksmiths, judges, and lawyers and so on. And, he says, crime creates those who produce the books for the jailors, police, locksmiths judges and lawyers. And so on.

Of course, KM’s point is that capitalism is always developing; and that even crime – the scourge of all societies – has value in a capitalist society.

To prove his point, in each disaster, in each war, people find a way to profit. Because, I think, the urge to compete with our neighbour is deep-rooted, forever part of our collective DNA.

Brash Boris Johnson put it succinctly in his Thatcher lecture in 2013 when he said: “I stress – I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”

I hate this sentence to my core, and crave significant income redistribution, but I fear that Boris is right.

I am reminded of the current San Francisco thinking: To be successful we should surround ourselves with people more successful than we are; but to be happy, we should surround ourselves with people who are less successful.

In some ways, I marvel at humankind’s uncontrollable pursuit of money. It seems, well, human. But so is humankind’s lust for violence, and we can – and must – be better than that.


The Lords Resistance Army

Let me entertain you with an alcohol-caused, name-dropping anecdote. A few months ago, at the Labour Regional Conference in Leeds, at an hour well past Anne Widdecombe’s bedtime, I was at the bar next to Paul Routledge.

‘Mr Routledge,’ I said, ‘You should write an article about my CLP.’

‘Where’s that then?’ he said, curmudgeonly.

‘Harrogate and Knaresborough,’ I said, much too happily.

Mr Routledge sank his pint, wiped his mouth and said: ‘That shouldn’t take too long.’

Very funny. Not true, though. Let me return to this.

The other day, like every other Labour Party member, I received an email from a Lord: I hope that this never happens again. The Lord was, of course, Mandelson. That same day, I found that most of the billboards in my town of Harrogate had been bought by the Tories. To compound my misery, over the last few weeks, my wife and I have received innumerable Tory leaflets, all printed in Peterborough. My poor wife has even received direct mailings from the Queen’s relative, Cameron, and, what made her really cringe, was a letter from Mandelson’s holiday chum, Osbourne.

What is now clear is that, with the Tories chucking so much money at the election in my town, it’s highly likely that another Lord – Ashcroft – is bankrolling it. And if conclusive evidence was needed, last week, Ashcroft’s sponsor, 14-pint Hague, was up here, too. We’re becoming like a 19th Century rotten borough.

For those unfamiliar with my town, Harrogate is the home of the other BNP MEP and former leader of the National Front, Andrew Brons. Ours is a prosperous North Yorkshire spa town – with a spring so good that Marx came here in 1873 to ‘take the waters’; had he decided to make Harrogate home, Das Kapital would never have been written, but his kids wouldn’t have died so young.

Since 1997, our MP has been the begrudgingly popular Lib Dem, Phil Willis, who is standing down this time bequeathing a 7,000 majority to his aide. But why is Ashcroft targeting what looks like a safe Lib Dem seat? Because Harrogate is a bellwether: when we go blue – because we never go red – the country goes blue. Norman ‘high-unemployment-is-a-price-worth-paying’ Lamont, now-Lord, tried standing here. Lord Lamont lost in 1997, never to be seen again. This time’s Tory challenger is, like Cameron, a marketing executive, and leader of the mean Tory-run council.

But how can Ashcroft buy an election? Because Labour has its sponsors, too. Ever since Ecklestone’s cheque wasn’t cashed, New Labour has been obsessed with the super-rich. And with New Labour’s deliberate destruction of our base, we’ve had no choice but to hire ourselves out, with another Lord – Levy – charged with raising the dosh.

In the same way that, after 18 Tory years, the country reflected their malicious design, so, too, today, to a lesser degree, does this country reflect the New Labour project. After thirteen years of parliamentary carte blanche, we could have sorted out party funding to make sure that rich men can never buy an election for the Tories again; and it’s for this reason that my wrath is not directed at Ashcroft, but at New Labour. We could have stopped Ashcroft buying my town’s seat.

Somehow, those in the higher echelons of our party must have swallowed the Lib Dem’s manifesto lie that the trade union funding of Labour is comparable with that of Ashcroft. It isn’t. We should be proud that so many trade unionists choose to support Labour. The unions are our foundations; we become unstuck when we forget the origins of our movement.

Come on, we should have had a Labour Government bent on democratic reform. Let’s face it, Labour’s main expenses culprits and those recently ensnared by Channel 4 – Hewitt, Hoon and Byers – are all Blairites. And, lately, with safe seats up for grabs, the democratic mechanisms in our party have been trampled on by the top to ensure a shoe-in for a minister’s buddy – like Mandelson’s mate in Stoke. My party card states that we are ‘a democratic socialist party’. Not anymore.

What’s more, Labour’s high priest – Maddelson – an undeniably intelligent strategist, who once understood the media, hasn’t grasped that elections are popularity contests, and he isn’t popular in our party, let alone with the electorate. For political anoraks of the left, our bedroom walls should be plastered with posters of our political heroes of the day: they are not.

So, Mr Routledge, what is worth knowing about my CLP, is that our members have good politics, good judgement and we are resisting Lords, whatever their political affiliations.

I close with this, the Burmese people, who I am particularly fond of, have an apt expression for a time like this: Only your real friends tell you when your face is a dirty. Britain isn’t broken, but the Labour Party certainly is.

Andrew Gray is the Chair of Harrogate and Knaresborough CLP, and the views expressed here are his own.