This week we have entered a second national lockdown, which has forced the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to U-turn on extending the furlough scheme.
Both these outcomes the chancellor didn’t want and doggedly opposed for weeks.
He led the group of ministers in the cabinet who fought the circuit breaker when Labour supported it last month and he opposed Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, over the compensation package for those impacted by tighter coronavirus constraints.
The chancellor’s U-turns are not an issue in themselves – ministers should change their minds when their findings are shown to be incorrect.
The concern is the time it took for him to reach the right decision.
The lockdown delay has invariably cost lives that could have been saved and it will now require harsher constraints, and for longer, which will worsen the economic damage Rishi Sunak was endeavouring to sidestep.
During the first wave of the pandemic, the chancellor was widely lauded for acting decisively to protect livelihoods – intervening to ensure that Britain’s economic response was in step with the outbreak.
However, in this second wave, his response seems to be two steps behind the pace and behind his miscalculation is a false choice that Rishi Sunak has set up, between the health of the country and the economy.
No one denies that lockdowns are damaging to the economy. The numbers speak for themselves – a 20 per cent slump in output in the first month of the last lockdown – a projected 12 per cent contraction of the economy this year and an estimated 3 million unemployed by Christmas.
However, the alternative of soldiering on through the pandemic with no restrictive measures and the unavoidable increase in infections, hospitalisations and deaths is equally damaging economically, if not more so.
The loss of lives, the hysteria as people watch our health system collapse, the decline in confidence and the changes in behaviour as a cautious population restricts its social interactions, will have their own costs.
And this is the point, the dichotomy between our wellbeing and the economy is a totally false one.
A sound economy is one that works to protect people’s wellbeing, but while our lives and our health are under threat, the economy will never fully function.
The Government is supposed to represent the people and the press is supposed to research and document the truth, both are doing the opposite and this is one example of thousands whereupon the ruling Tory’s create misery and suffering amongst millions of people, then offer less than mediocre solutions to the myriads of problems they’ve made for themselves, and then claim hero status in doing so.
We are all living on borrowed time and money, this includes the Government – they won’t live forever, so why not live in comfort during this devastating time and print money and worry about the national debt later on – after all, it’s just money made out of paper.