Andy Richardson: 'The blame game has begun'
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been the Government’s Covid-19 star.
The Treasury has dug deep to safeguard jobs and today he is providing billions more. So far so hunky dory. While Sunak’s star has risen, he now faces a triple threat.
Firstly, he has to find ways to pay for all of the borrowed money. The national debt is greater than the size of the economy and Boris has made it clear it won’t be repaid through a new era of austerity.
Secondly, Sunak will have to contend with the worst set of unemployment figures in his life as levels rise above those of the 1980s. While the economy might bounce back, jobs will be lost.
Thirdly, the Brexit storm clouds are gathering, though remarkably a story that had been the biggest in decades has slipped off the agenda. Businesses could suffer if red tape, delays and tariffs become commonplace. Our economy will have to withstand two of the biggest shocks in history: the effect of the pandemic and our exit from the European Union.
So while Rishi has covered himself in glory by protecting nine millions jobs with furlough and propping up entire sectors with grants, his work has only just begun. Greater challenges lie in store.
His boss, Boris, can’t be said to have had a good Covid-19 and he has enraged carers by saying care homes didn’t really follow the procedures. The blame game has begun. It has long been established that elderly residents were discharged from hospitals without tests to make space for new arrivals, thereby becoming superspreaders. It is one of the greatest failings – though, let’s face it, there have been many – of the Government’s response. How quickly the narrative changes. One minute, the Government is pulling out all the stops and praising everyday care home heroes, the next it is passing the buck.
The storm clouds are gathering over relations with the world’s emerging superpower, China. Amid recriminations over Hong Kong, a deal with Huawei is on the brink with both sides ratcheting up the tension with threats. Still, after floods, a pandemic, mass unemployment, statue toppling and a row with one of the world’s most powerful countries, at least we’re not facing the bubonic plague. Oh, hang on. Like Frank Sinatra, the black death has made a comeback – it’s been found in Inner Mongolia and may be heading our way.
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