The herd and the unheard!

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There is a current running through this government. It is one of confusion. But, despite my best efforts to not impune motives, I am coming to the view that the current running through this government is one of callousness. Not always intentional, but incredible, too.

Sometimes the callousness is because of the confusion.The one caused by the other. So we have loss of life due to Covid-19 in the highest numbers per head of population in the world, caused by lack of testing, tracing, PPE, etc. But that is only a part of it. Confusion here is in the delivery, but what I am more worried about is callousness in the decision making.

It was very welcome to see a centre-right chancellor acting like a centre-left one. It is very surprising to see a centre right PM think he is a New Deal President. But this is only a part of it.

What is the reality now is that we have a government in denial. It cannot see that it is all well and good having support packages, in part through pressure from other parties, but what’s the use, if they are stopped? It is fine to have schemes to rebuild, but what is the point if we tear down the support for people!

Liberalism, say what you like, social democracy, call it that too, but the view of any of us who care about anything, can surely be to see that to reinstate benefit sanctions, and evictions, during a pandemic is an iniquitous scandal and a disgrace.

The lack of class politics, of group-think, in my philosophy has always been part of it. But to see millionaires in mansions, and their minions, cut the benefits, kick out the tenants, ruin situations that are precarious – affecting people who are vulnerable – appals me.

This government started with pushing for herd immunity. It continues with trampling on the unheard. Those who are unemployed, or in housing difficulty through no fault of their own, are the unheard. They must be heard by any of us who care.

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Jul '20 - 2:06pm

    Lorenzo, thank you. Hear hear! We need compassion, not callousness, and the plan for a new Social Contract through which the government’s duty to amend the serious and continuing social ills of our time can be made crystal clear should be our party’s answer.

  • Barry Lofty 3rd Jul '20 - 2:16pm

    Lorenzo, well said, everything that I am thinking and saying about this abysmal government is in your post today, many thanks.

  • It’s not just callous, the Johnson Government (like its Leader (?)) is shambolic. “Shambolic” …… not my word, it’s the word used this morning by the First Minister of Wales and the First Minister of Scotland.

    Given I’m currently having to shield, and (thankfully) live in Scotland, my wife and I always watch the 12.30 am Scottish Government daily press Conference given by the First Minister and the impressive Professor Jason Leitch.

    Whatever political differences I may or may not have with her, every weekday since lock down Nicola Sturgeon has faced up to this and to the best of my knowledge always told it straight. At the same time where has Johnson been for the last several weeks ? The UK Press Conferences have disappeared and we always seem to end up with the second raters such as Shapps, Jenrick and Williamson. Johnson is nowhere to be seen. What sort of leadership is that ? At PMQ’s, when he does have to turn up, Keir Starmer runs rings round his bluster.

    England voted for Johnson and England has now got him… so I wish Lorenzo Cherin the very best of luck and a message to stay safe.

  • Absolutely agree and the worst is yet to come. The problem for a political party is what to do about it.
    We also urgently need to talk about when the next crisis comes – perhaps when the growth in diseases which are immune to our antibiotics cause a situation where hospitals cannot function.
    If we want to have a policy on ensuring evidence based planning, we should start by showing how it can be done in our own party.

  • John Marriott 3rd Jul '20 - 4:12pm

    Lorenzo, the modus operandi of this government is “make it up as you go along”. Let’s take the so called ‘New Deal’. In terms of expenditure it barely qualifies for the Football League, compared with the Premier League stuff from FDR. The ‘build, build, build’ reminds me of an old East German communist song, whose chorus ran “Bau auf, bau auf!”. Remember what happened to East Germany?

    As for the furlough scheme, I don’t know who thought of it first; but it certainly came as a welcome surprise to many when little Rishi announced it to the media. Quite a bold move really; but one that could be compared with trying to keep your house warm by burning tissue paper. You would need a great deal of it and fine as long as it doesn’t run out. Perhaps it should have been applied to some government employees as well. Judging by the apparent inactivity of many teachers during the lockdown, some people reckon that they could have avoided some of the opprobrium coming their way by accepting a 20% pay cut themselves, and here speaks an ex teacher and union official in his day.

    Johnson is a showman, who has surrounded himself with third raters and zealots. For him, bluster is his go to weapon in any argument. However, that appears to go down well with large sections of the population. “Good old Boris”, we often hear. He’s a bit like Trump, but with a bit of Latin thrown in and appears to be getting away with the kinds of things that Trump might get up to. However, he has an 80 seat majority – and whose fault is that? I was thinking of saying the great British public; but only around 36% of those eligible to vote put him and his party where they are. No, the blame lies with the opposition parties and their inability to get their act together at the end of last year to allow themselves to be pulled onto the sucker punch of a General Election. Johnson played them “like a fiddle”.

    Yes, Katharine, of course the current crisis needs compassion; but getting over it needs nous in spades and a realisation that by far the biggest enemy is still out there and we can only see it under a very powerful microscope. You only kill the vampire if you drive a steak through his heart or you have a silver bullet, neither of which has happened yet and won’t unless we concentrate harder on winning the war. Well, he might look as if he’s fading away but he’s only resting, waiting for the night of recrimination to fall to strike again.

  • Good stuff from Lorenzo. Actually confusion and callousness do go together. They are both about not caring and thinking “we have other stuff to worry about”. If ever there was a time for seeing very clearly that careless confusion costs lives ….

  • John Marriott 3rd Jul '20 - 5:22pm

    Just one fact check. I thought that Belgium had the highest death figures currently running at 842 per 1m population. Ours currently stand at 647, with Spain not that far behind on 607.There are one or two countries on the COVID league tables, whose death figures we might want to query, for example Russia and India. Of course ours look bad; but let’s get it right, shall we?

  • Apparently some large hospitals in the States are “going broke”. A twin effect of the need to concentrate on Covid cases taking up huge resources reducing the number of patients that can be taken, plus people not attending hospital for fear of the virus and income levels being further aggravated. Staff being furloughed! Meanwhile in Canada they appear to have coped much, much better. Visitors from the US are isolated for 14 days! Wonder if this will impact at all on the US private Insurance based scheme with all its present problems.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 3rd Jul '20 - 5:50pm

    Lorenzo, you are absolutely right. It is completely unacceptable for benefit sanctions to resume. Actually, sanctions are always unacceptable, but especially now.
    Sanctions can be imposed if it is considered that someone has made insufficient efforts to look for a job. At the moment, many people will feel unable to apply for certain jobs, if they feel that these jobs would put them at risk of the virus. This will apply especially to people who feel themselves to be at high risk from the virus. Others will be unable to work because their children cannot go to school, and there is no alternative childcare available. Universal credit should be made available to everyone who needs it, and while the pandemic continues, there should be no requirement for people in receipt of it to be actively seeking work.

  • @theakes – yes, Canada has coped really well and has strict border control with USA in spite of its enormous length. They do have the advantage of being very spread out with long distances between towns, so they can operate local restrictions and lockdowns when necessary.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jul '20 - 7:00pm

    Terrific comments that are supportive and constructive. These are very much appreciated, I see several veterans of our party here , making valuable points.

    Catherine goes into the detail of what spurred me to think about this, not as a policy or political critique, rather or especially, from a perspective of personal experience.

    I have at different points been either side of the unemployment, benefits divide, claimant after a car accident that took years professionally from both me, and particularly, my wife after injuries, motivator helping unemployed and vulnerable with confidence, after. I have lost my house, which my wife and I relocated to buy, leaving two great cities, she from New York, me, from london, to take up a job in nottingham. We lost work, home.

    This government has not got a single notion of how things turn out for many, it has few who even care.

    As a party we need an alliance with any who do.

  • The word I would use is neither confusion, nor callousness. What this government has done through ‘lock-down’ is terrifying. Destroying the country for a virus where the average age of death is roughly that of life expectancy, where the infection fatality rate is coming to be on a par with a bad influenza epidemic, where total deaths are running alongside the 1999/2000 figures (I can’t remember what the Lib Dem response for that was…), and where scientific recording of deaths has been abandoned (in accordance with WHO guidance) for a system where “COVID-19 should be recorded on the medical certificate of cause of death for ALL decedents where the disease caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to death.”!
    Instead of urging a proportionate, sensible response Lib Dems have cheerily gone along with ‘lock-down’ while nit-picking on its implementation or even calling for more severe ‘lock-down’ with all the harms it brings. (And for anyone praising Canada I suggest you search for the ‘military report’ on care-home deaths in Ontario – I couldn’t finish it, it was so repellent; I do hope nothing like that has been happening here.) As the party of mental health advocacy at the last election I would have hoped for more awareness of the impact ‘lock-down’ has had on lives, young and old, but I see little awareness. As the party of internationalism there seems to have been no concern for the lives and livelihoods that will be lost in developing countries through our trashing our economy. I find it all quite terrifying.

  • Richard Easter 4th Jul '20 - 9:37am

    Benefit sanctions have never worked. It is bullying, plain and simple. The whole DWP is riddled with a culture of bullying and thuggery – from Atos through to sanctions. It was that bad that at one time they were even considering sanctioning people in work claiming in work benefits, if their pay was too low.

    It is even more ludicrous given the amount of job losses now to re-impose sanctions. Absolutely insane.

    I have no problem with investigators rooting out benefit fraud. But this is a completely different issue to bullying of claimants and the disabled.

    Housing benefit should NEVER EVER be sanctioned. Doing so is utterly immoral and will risk homelessness. Anyone supporting sanctioning housing benefit is a disgrace quite frankly. (Again this is different to evicting people for anti-social or disruptive behaviour. We are not talking about that).

    Personally I am getting sicker and sicker of attempts by government to pick on benefit claimants, small business and trade unions – whilst banging on about personal liberty and freedom for everyone else.

  • John Marriott 4th Jul '20 - 9:48am

    No wonder you aren’t prepared to reveal your true identity. “Destroying the country for a virus where the average age of death is roughly that of life expectancy”. Try telling that to the relatives and friends of those, who have often died alone, where or not they had had their ‘three score years and ten’, where funerals have been delayed or bodies just buried without a funeral at all. I think your comment just about sums up for me at least what ‘callousness’ actually means.

    Is the debate about the lockdown going to became another version of ‘Coalition, yes or no?’, another bone that some LDV contributors refuse to let go of? I sincerely hope not. You and ‘Glenn’, who has been rather quiet lately, are entitled to your opinion. I happen to think you are wrong. Health IS for me more important than wealth.

  • Well said, John.

    You’ve highlighted the worst sort of cold blinkered utilitarian Benthamite heartless Darwinian stuff that marred the mid 19th century Liberal Party……. and survives today in the folk that want to reduce the GDP ratio to 35%.

  • Barry Lofty 4th Jul '20 - 10:46am

    Yes I can only endorse John Marriotts’ comments on “Geoffreys” post. It makes me angry and rather sad that such thoughts and beliefs exist in this country but not naive enough to believe they are not prevalent and all around us.

  • Nonconformistradical 4th Jul '20 - 11:45am

    “I can only endorse John Marriotts’ comments on “Geoffreys” post”


  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jul '20 - 12:37pm

    The comments from Geoffrey are ott, John, thanks, as with David, Barry!

  • Sue Sutherland 4th Jul '20 - 2:27pm

    Stirring stuff Lorenzo! The Tories and many reasonably well off people who vote a different way have a culture of approving tax avoidance for those who can afford an accountant. Alongside this is the culture of bullying benefit recipients and sanctioning them if they put a foot wrong. Woe betide anyone living in poverty who tries to get a penny they’re not entitled to.
    Looking at this in purely economic terms haven’t we got this the wrong way round? Looking at this from a Lib Dem perspective, as one who wants our national community to thrive, the rights of the wealthy to keep their wealth are impinging on those who need help just to survive. It’s time to adjust the balance. All humans are diminished if they have no compassion, unequal societies experience fear, hatred and unrest. As well as trying to ensure no individual should be held back by poverty, it is vital for the kind of nurturing community we wish to establish, that poverty should be eliminated and that everyone should get an equal chance at becoming the best they can be.

  • Peter Kenny 4th Jul '20 - 11:33pm

    The current benefit sanctions regime was introduced in 2012.

    You were in power as part of the coalition at the time.

    Callous, terrible heartless Tories? Enabled by you.

  • Richard Easter 5th Jul '20 - 6:09am

    So benefit sanctions are being used to bully those in work as well. The DWP is a rotten cartel of far right thuggery.

    The Lib Dems must commit to reforming this toxic swamp of a department.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Jul '20 - 1:28pm

    When facts especially about the future are scarce, politicians tend to rely on their political instincts. With the Conservatives this will be protecting their voters. With Green politicians it will be protecting the planet. We should fall back on preserving our freedoms, building communities and fairness to the planet, the youth and those with whom we share this planet.

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