State of the Union 2020: Covid Chaos & Internal Political Upheaval

Garrett Byrne, Political Editor

State of the Union: Boris Johnson remotely delivers the Government’s blueprint for the ‘Covid Christmas’, with Oxford Vaccine Group member, Prof. Andrew Pollard, Monday 23/11/2020. Reuters

Theatrics at Westminster overshadow record COVID mortality rate & the dismal ‘right & left’ state of UK Politics

As UK Coronavirus deaths surpass the 50,000 mark, the No.10 drama shockingly remains at the fore of the Nation’s front pages – and not these emboldened five digit figures. Sadly, editorial judgements from Britain’s national newspapers prioritized a No.10 bureaucratic row. This comes as the British public faced a great deal of statistical sobriety last week, as Government data revealed UK COVID-19 deaths had reached 50,000. As Britain was bestowed the unenviable accolade as one of Europe’s most COVID ravaged states, discord brewed in SW1.

Mass Testing in English cities is due to commence in England. The military are assisting in these UK-wide testing programmes on the cusp of Christmas. Liverpool was the first city to receive the first trial of ‘whole city testing.’ PA

The abrupt departure from Cummings and Cain followed, the former however insisting he had already intended to resign. Cain had been tipped to become Prime Minister Johnson’s Chief of Staff, only to be subsequently observed hours later sauntering around London as a jobless man. Press coverage surrounding the stand-off initially appeared vague and arguably unpersuasive. Yet a media consensus later emerged that Johnson’s new clique of female advisers harboured mutual antipathy against the abrasive Northern Eurosceptics.

The opposing female faction, consisting of Carrie Symonds (PM’s fiancee) Allegra Stratton (newly appointed No10 Press secretary) and Director of Policy Unit Munira Mirza shared reservations concerning Cain’s suitability as Johnson’s de facto right hand man.

A former Daily Mirror Journalist, Cain once garnered brief notoriety for goading Tory MPs on the 2010 General Election campaign trail sporting a chicken outfit. He has been pigeonholed an outlier by No.10 employee standards. Hailing from Lancashire and attending state grammar school, his background doesn’t quite fit the Whitehall rubric. Downing Street staffers of whom almost invariably enjoy the public school-Oxbridge trajectory to SW1, are reputed to have disapproved of his overbearing strategic direction.

As Cain sought to consolidate the ‘anti-commentariat/ Brexiteer Johnson’ image at the heart of UK Government, he was met with a pool of resistance from Backbench MPs and a rival advisory faction. He is widely attributed to have ordered the Government’s senseless boycott on flagship broadcasters during the pandemic. Critics have noted how this has contributed to the persistent mixed messaging that has plagued Government communications from the onset of this fiendish public health crisis.

Pack Up Your Troubles: The end of the Cummings reign. Dominic Cummings departs from a highly controversial and contentious Whitehall career, Friday 13/11/2020 Yui Mok/PA

This is a dire look for the Tory Government. Particularly when Tory-Press relations should be at the fore, with a view to educating the populace on the evolving threat of COVID. Equally, the press ban comes amid pressing questions of press freedom in the UK.

Significantly, the UK Government continues to harbour war crimes whistleblower Julian Assange in HMP Belmarsh prison. Interventions from across the political spectrum including that of ultra-conservative critic Peter Hitchens have raised grave concern for the detrimental precedents and consequences an Assange extradition could pose to the health of global journalism Provided extradition proceedings are successful, Assange could face the death penalty depending on the US espionage court’s judgement.

A concerted effort appears to be underway within the beleaguered Tory party to restore the former metro-liberal, vibrant identity synonymous with Johnson’s tenure as mayor of London, in a bid to reverse recent political misfortunes.

Julian Assange’s critical public purpose journalism leaks remain the subject of a multinational witch-hunt, currently being spearheaded by the world’s two leading democracies. That digression aside, a concerted effort appears to be underway within the beleaguered Tory party to restore the former metro-liberal, vibrant identity synonymous with Johnson’s tenure as mayor of London, in a bid to reverse recent political misfortunes.

The orthodox averse strategies masterminded by Cummings and Cain may have served as a shrewd election tool. Regardless, these ideas could no longer be reconciled in the context of a growing disconnect between Johnson and the parliamentary Conservative party, left jaded and alienated by the unprecedented influence exercised by the aforementioned aides.

Johnson’s inner circle has captured the public imagination unlike any other Downing Street project in UK political history. His atypically Washington style of governance mirroring a west wing adviser-centric model has drawn excoriating criticism, internally within his party and the general public.

The muted levels of public discontent that surfaced in the wake of Cummings contentious trip to Durham in May for many exposed insensitivities in the administrations response to COVID-19.

Of course, the recent events have inevitably raised questions as regards to why Cummings was not ousted earlier as his departure now represents something of a menial internal fall-out by contrast to the national scandal in May of this year. Ultimately, it cannot be painted as anything other but a damning indictment of vacuous Westminster maneuvering, whilst a vulnerable looking Britain falls deeper into its largest peacetime crisis.

Corbyn’s Finishing Off

Now onto the so-called “Labour Party” Yes, Britain’s ostensible anti-austerity force newly fronted by ex-CPS chief Keir Starmer neither should be absolved from Britain’s profoundly defective response to COVID-19 From the outset of Corbyn’s leadership and his subsequent suspension, competing factions within the party have engaged in a sustained mud-slinging war over responsibility for its electoral under-performance and unclear policy direction. In the December 2019 General election, Starmer and the London based Labour bureaucracy championed the 2nd referendum policy platform, now cited retrospectively as the principal factor as to why they lost their Northern heartlands.

Although it was Northerners who ultimately experienced their livelihoods deteriorate in the post-2008 financial crash years following the advancement of the EU globalist project, Starmer allowed metropolitan economic interests to take primacy over grass root community level politics.

Throughout the pandemic, Starmer’s opposition have obsequiously sponsored the Government’s quarantine measures whilst eschewing attention away from the ongoing economic decline occurring in the North of England (a region they desperately need to swing at the next General election in order justify continued political relevance) Further, the fall-out over Anti-Semitism has descended into a contemptible party chasm diverting its scrutiny focus away from the impact of the 2nd COVID Wave. ‘

‘Unmasked’: Jeremy Corbyn’s return to the Labour Party shows the internal chaos of the Party. Jewish News

The incredibly damaging assessment of anti-semitism within Labour detailed in the October EHRC identified ‘serious failings in the way the Labour party has handled anti-semitism.’ In light of these findings and an exponentially rising COVID death toll, Sir Keir made it his mission to put the already besmirched Jeremy Corbyn into the headlines (who bears considerable yet not total) accountability for the enduring blight of anti-Semitism now associated with the party. In yet another display of political miscalculation, Starmer appears to have gravely underestimated the ramifications that will come with chucking Corbyn into the political dustbin.

Irrespective of his pronounced leadership defects, Corbyn galvanized the largest socialist movement seen in post-cold war Europe, came within 3000 votes of winning the 2017 general election and party membership skyrocketed under his watch. As Sir Keir persists in his defiant censuring of Corbyn, one could argue he appears moderately ignorant of the implications this could have on the party’s already fragile support base.

‘Corbynistas’ under Keir will be tempted to make swift departures or otherwise realign with the Green party’s Caroline Lucas. Ultimately, the establishment parties have made an utter self-mockery of themselves in terms of how they have addressed peacetime’s greatest crisis.

Instead of acting as reliable public servants against the backdrop of a national crisis, they have squandered precious time waging in on internal party warfare. How can one of the globe’s most developed nations boasting a 2 trillion pound economy possibly justify this record death toll? That is the question. How many lives can be saved? Not whether Cummings or Corbyn have overstayed their welcome……


Peter Donnelly, Editor

Garrett’s latest contribution further supports political commentary which despairs at the direction of travel the UK and the World is taking at the present time.

The Covid Christmas

As if there wasn’t enough to grapple with the past two weeks in UK politics will be a defining point in how the handling of the Coronavirus public health crisis will be judged in the history books. With regret the assessment, as the contemporary record stands, will not be favourable to the politicians – left ot right. On the cusp of Christmas, wide-ranging, UK-wide measures of lockdown have been imposed. The economy’s survival dangles precariously on a thread, reducing its hold at every word uttered by a Government minister.

Cummings & Cain: We Won’t See Again

The rather unexpected departures of two driving forces in the 16 ‘Vote Leave’ campaign – Cain and Cummings – presents Boris Johnson with an opportunity to finally seal the deal which will come at the end of this year. Cain and Cummings were stumbling blocks on the British side, to any form of compromise. The Transition period’s conclusion looms large, however, this latest development should allow things to take a different course – all providing the EU side and its intransigence mellows

A Very ‘Labour’ Meltdown

The Labour Party’s internal meltdown (or civil war) does not come as a suprise to many. From Jeremy Corbyn’s contentious tenure, it has committed repeated, concerted acts of self-destruction; not least as a result of the Party’s wholly embarrasing performance in December 2019’s General Election – yes that’s 12 months ago. Corbyn irrevocably damaged the Labour Party’s traditional image as the party of the worldly working-classes in both Northern and Southern regions of England. Not only did he sound the death knell for life-long Labour voters, who gritted their teeth and voted Conservative in 2019’s Election (as the only show in town), his closest clique of supporters managed to alienate Jewish Labour representatives and the Jewish public with their disgraceful anti-Semetic attitudes -which the recent Human Rights Commission report emphasises. Sir Keir Starmer is standing on shaky ground himself as last year he weighed in behind Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous campaign to take the keys of Number 10. However, he has managed to retrieve a semblance of credibility and integrity to demonstrate that he will not tolerate any sort of racist or secterian behaviour.

The State of the Union is far from pretty or perfect. However, with a renewed sense of hope in the form of successful clinical vaccination trials, fom Pfzier and Oxford University, we can see beyond the dread of 2020 and look forward to a new decade, starting from 2021.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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