John Stuart Mill, one of the founding fathers of modern liberalism, famously identified the Conservative Party was the ‘stupid party’, If that was true of the nineteenth century Tories than the the Johnson Tory party, dominated by the arch-Brexiteers, is surely the stupid party in spades.
Before the coronavirus crisis dominated the news channels sharp observers noted the following:*
- the government has decided not to participate in the Unified Patent Court, which is not even an EU body;
- nor the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) , a web-based platform linking the European Commission, ECDC and public health authorities in EU/EEA countries responsible for measures to control serious cross-border threats to health, including communicable diseases;
- nor the European Arrest Warren system , even though it already has several non EU members, as some Brexiteer campaigners pointed out, giving the impression that we should continue to participate in it;
- and not to remain members of the European Aviation Safety Agency, (EASA) but to develop our own national system at a cost of between £30m and £40m. Our contribution to EASA has been £3m add £4m per year;
- and to leave REACH , the European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of chemicals;
- and to leave the European Medicine Agency. Not only that, the EMA has already left us. Its headquarters were in London and provided jobs and thousands of poftitable bed-nights in London hotels;
- and we're leaving EURATOM,which, among other things, supplies the stuff that makes our X-ray machines in our hospitals work;
- along with, probably, the Erasmus system which provides students and apprentices with support if they take the opportunity of studying an an EU country other than their own. (Full disclosure: as a mature (indeed post-mature) student I benefited greatly from this scheme);
It seems that, if the word European appears in the title, we are out. Shooting yourself in the foot and cutting off your nose to spite your face just don't describe the half of the stupidity involved.
The implications of some of the above will not become evident until the long run, when maybe we''ll all of us be dead.
But there is one idotic omission which may very easily affect the very soon to be dead.
That is the decision, or rather non-decision, not to participate in the European initiative for the procurement of ventilators and protective equipment to counteract the effects of the coronavirus.
The EU has made it clear hat the UK, still in the transition period, was perfectly entitled to be part of it. Our govermnet's astonishing excuse is that it either didn't know, through a "communications problem," or didn't notice the date.
A letter in yesterday 's Guardian from Martin McKee and two other scientists sates clearly that the initiative had been well publicised, that they themselves had written an article about it in the British Medial Journal on the 31st January, and that the EU Commission had announced it at a press conference on the 17th March, which was widely reported in the continental press.
As the scientists aptly point out, this is an example o placing "Brexit over Breathing."
"Stupid" doesn't describe it
Criminal negligence is more apt.
As fellow humans we must be sypmpathestic to Mr Johnson, Mr Hancock and any other member of the government who may be suffering fom the virus, but this piece of ideological obstinancy occurred when they were all fully functioning.
This appalling piece of ideological obstinacy over their duty of care to wards the people for whom hey are responsible should not be forgotten or buried under a tsunami of other detail.
They must be held to account.
* I am indebted to my friend John Cole, another former economics teacher, and also for for 16 years a highly respected Liberal Democrat on Bradford City Council, for compiling much of the following.