As thousands lay passing away of Covid- 19, plenty of war metaphors were being rather grotesquely pinged around by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and his infantryman in the Cabinet.
Coronavirus was “the invisible opponent”, a war in which we were all” directly gotten “to” combat”. Now, as the UK Government (acting practically exclusively for England in this context) relaxes lockdown (too dramatically for some and with a sense of gung-ho machismo missing in Wales and Scotland), it seems time to assess the “victors” in the “fight” against Covid-19
Usually, I ‘d eschew what is inevitably a simple and subjective analysis of how politicians have actually carried out under such special scenarios. The method we see politicians is imbued with bias, generalisations and media bias.
Yet Covid has actually been intentionally personalised as a battle, with political generals combating on our behalves.
What follows is viewpoint of course, but I ‘d suggest that it is, in part, their background or hinterland, their education and childhood that offer the very best clues as to how our politicians have actually performed under the most extreme pressure of a global pandemic.
I left Bridgend for London School of Economics in the late 1980 s when there was only a cigarette paper in between the status of LSE and Oxbridge. I rocked approximately discover myself among only a handful of state-educated students studying for LSE’s iconic BSc (Econ.) in Government. Of our likewise extremely white and male betters’ friend, I ‘d approximate that at least three-quarters had already mapped out their futures as politicians.
It’s often declared that dreams expose a lot about our inmost anxieties. Well, I have two repeating dreams– one about being late for a Wales worldwide match in which I’m playing and not having the ability to get my shin pads on rapidly adequate to go out on the pitch for the anthem. In the 2nd dream, I’m being in a seminar space off the Hair listening to plummy-voiced 18 years of age holding court about British politics and trying to time my intervention so I don’t have to hear my Welsh accent played out to the space in stereo.
Yet, regardless of the deep impressions clearly sculpted on my mind, I don’t wish to offer the wrong impression here. I had a good time at LSE. I listened more than I spoke in the beginning, but I quickly understood that the single greatest possession the chic kids had was their indomitable confidence and unshakeable self-belief. They ‘d currently internalised a natural, practically unthinking certainty about their status and their location in society. They knew it was inevitable that they ‘d become our future leaders.
Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab, Robert Jenrick and co are cut from the very same cloth. Insecurity must have crossed their minds during this horrible affair but, if it did, they’ve ended up being accustomed to not showing it. No, that’s for the rest people simple mortals, less with confidence anchored to certainty.
On The Other Hand, in Wales we’ve been led into “battle” by previous probation officer and teacher of social policy Mark Drakeford, the political antithesis of Johnson. Although, like the PM, Drakeford has been criticised for scruffiness, however this has somewhat different ramifications to the criticisms rather fondly levelled at Johnson.
Drakeford yielded throughout his management election project that being First Minister wasn’t even something he had “a burning desire” to do. Altogether less showy, mainly shying away from the limelight in his 19 months at the helm, Drakeford’s academic profession has stood him in good stead during this crisis, particularly with handling several sources of proof.
He’s been implicated of being charisma-lite (as if the Weberian design of charming, heroic authority is the just one in the area), but heck, he’s done a decent task in my viewpoint.
That’s not to say that errors have not made in line, with the rest of the UK and most of the world (test and trace, PPE, care houses and so on). However this article is less about policy and political options, more about the politicians themselves and Drakeford has had a good “war”.
Importantly, Covid– especially the management of lockdown and its alleviating– has provided the most considerable exposure ever to devolved federal government. From Mr Invisible, Drakeford is on our screens more than Huw Edwards and Derek the Weatherman these days. Exposure does not always bring trustworthiness however, fortunately for Drakeford, so far we mainly like what we see.
Sure, the FM’s signature is steady as we go and he definitely hasn’t brought up trees, however last December, he was only slightly much better recognized than Plaid Cymru’s Adam Rate. Six months on, and Drakeford has the exact same levels of recognition as UK Labour leader, Keir Starmer, and has actually overtaken Rate in appeal.
Surveys tell us that even Conservative citizens state (when triggered, at least) that they choose Welsh Government lockdown determines to those in England (whatever Andrew RT Davies noisily claims).
There’s a lot of dispute about the economy versus public health, as if this were a binary option. However Drakeford has kept his head and his nerve, and calmly discussed his choices to us, the public, as well as to belligerent network reporters relatively perplexed about devolution, as if the UK constitution changed the very same day as lockdown rather than two decades before.
Envision if Drakeford had blundered his method through the Commons Liaison Committee like the prime minister did? I enjoyed that and it took me back to LSE workshops where, simply sometimes, the swank young boys got captured with their trousers down, exposed for arrogance or absence of preparation.
So, what about Boris Johnson? Last weekend’s display screen of Putin-style, undersized press-ups aside, can there have been a leader less geared up to be in charge at a time of a national crisis? A cool head, a steely willpower, along with a clear focus and quiet authority make up the capability required sometimes like this.
Let’s keep in mind that, on paper at least, the UK must have remained in a strong position to handle Covid. Late to get its first case so able to bring into play evidence from somewhere else, a G7 member, a sensible– if under-funded– NHS, a geographical island. I guess that’s where the grand claims of being “world-beating” came from. Championing a goal without a technique or any capability to achieve it is a dereliction of responsibility. And anyhow, by now, most of us would go for being someplace half-competent.
The issue with Johnson is he’s a politician who needs to feel our love. He’s the man in the bar (if he ever went to bars) who’s first to the bar to buy the popular folks a pint simply to be permitted to socialize with them.
Johnson has been able to ride the reasonable wave of public compassion for him following his horrendous brush with death after contracting Covid in March. We’ll never ever know whether public persistence may have vaporized sooner as the truth is, that utilizing any information and against any measurement, under his stewardship, there have been more “excess deaths” in England than anywhere else in Europe. As a general, the PM has actually been shown to be light on information and heavy on shallow bluster. Combined with an attention span of a goldfish we’re told, this makes him a liability in “fight”.
Marina Hyde summed it up: “The important things about Johnson is that he desperately wanted to become prime minister, and he frantically wanted to have been prime minister. It’s simply the bit in between he battles with.”
Or as Tacitus notoriously said of Emperor Galba (the Prime Minister would appreciate the Latin): “capax imperii nisi imperasset”, loosely equated as “thought to have the qualities to lead had he not become leader”.
Neither have the PM’s partners covered themselves with magnificence. Never mind the knowledge of lockdown announcements, listen to the accent in which they’re delivered.
One can clearly get away with more with the best accent. The ministerial young boys in the Downing Street press conferences– and they’ve been almost solely boys– would have been fortunate to get a low 2:2, or a bare pass in degree parlance for their performances, however no concern, these people understand that their status and natural authority will be their salvation.
On the other hand, back in Wales, other hitherto unknown politicians have actually emerged blinking into the public spotlight.
The Health Minister, Vaughan Gething has actually had lots of exposure but a more mixed reception than his boss. I think this is less from swearing on mike in the Senedd plenary or ” Chipgate”, and more from the lack of a genuine common touch and a more prickly, lecturing style.
Still, Gething is a strong communicator and is worthy of real credit for appropriately acknowledging and elevating the out of proportion effect of covid on black and ethnic minorities (unlike at UK Government level).
On The Other Hand, has there been a more available political leader anywhere (aside from in New Zealand) than Education Minister, Kirsty Williams? She’s tossed herself into engaging with the public, appearing on radio phone-ins, using social networks savvily and doing every interview she can. She deserves praise for that a minimum of.
Less so for not having the ability to secure reliable liaison with the teaching unions and regional authorities which has actually suggested somewhat shambolic interactions around mapping a return to school for our pupils. Surprisingly, education appears to be the area where the FM has actually departed from his accurate, least-risk route and one believes Williams has actually been left handling the fall-out. Still, even then, she has been out there appealing and explaining, unlike lots of others.
Where then does this leave us?
Unsurprisingly, the 2021 Senedd elections feel less significant than a potential 2nd wave of coronavirus. It promises to be one of the most unforeseeable elections given that devolution.
Plaid leader Adam Cost hasn’t done much incorrect throughout this period (aside from the ” reparations” mistake), but the platform for any sort of statesperson-like pitch from the opposition has been successfully crowded out by more practical concerns.
Plaid has actually had a half-decent go at scrutinising the federal government, making some clear contact PPE and screening contracts particularly. Rather strangely, a lot of focus has been trained on England’s record, less so on nations like Slovakia– with a population not much bigger than Wales at 5 million– where deaths number just 28, only four more than in the town of Maesteg.
Yet Rate has disappeared from view given that and can rarely be stated to have actually made a genuine mark, demonstrated in the recent Welsh Barometer survey where Cost’s recognition is the same considering that the December 2019 General Election (and remember, TV dispute direct exposure then still left over half of Welsh voters not able to use a view on him). A thought-leader who presents as a credible alternative FM may well show the right pitch.
Cost’s own individuality provides him some advantage too, particularly his working-class background mixed with a touch of Harvard-style brainy-ness. I question does Wales require a pitch from the left in the vein of Bernie Sanders or Mary-Lou MacDonald? Or is it time to job uncomplicated competence allied with friendly smoothness à la Leo Varadkar? The two things are not mutually special of course, but if Plaid means to run a presidential-style election project, it’ll discover itself up against a harder political incumbent than may have been imagined 6 months earlier.
What of the Welsh Conservatives?
Maintaining Paul Davies’ anonymity might have been an unexpected method however anyhow it’s a dangerous one, specifically whilst Drakeford acquires more acknowledgment.
Naturally, we can’t presume that the Senedd election will not be dominated by UK-wide politics, however Johnson’s popularity is waning somewhat and there’s still Brexit, so who knows where we’ll be by next Might? The bandwidth is limited anyway but it’s getting a bit late for a distinct profile to emerge for Davies.
Shouting that Wales ought to do the like England appears evidentially odd, and the current more ruthless slights on the “Cardiff Bay bubble” are created to neutralise the Abolish gang, but the Tories could be missing out on a chance to reach out to moderate and centre-ground citizens, specifically if there is a strong Welsh flavour to the election.
Whether there’s a governmental pitch, or the very first genuine conversation of a transformation program based on a coalition of intellect and concepts, leaders and management will be critical next May. The world might well look extremely different by then, however it seems like Mark Drakeford has actually handled to acquire some advantage, just by being skilled and playing to his strengths. Those who sneer at his appearance and steadiness will not alter their minds however others might, and that may simply show Welsh Labour’s salvation.