We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

The government's secretive Covid contracts are heaping misery on Britain

13 613 14861
21.10.2020

If you are not incandescent with rage, you haven’t grasped the scale of what has been done to us. The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.

Their failure was baked in, caused by the government’s ideological commitment to the private sector. This commitment had three impacts: money that could have saved lives has been diverted into corporate profits; inexperienced consultants and executives have been appointed over the heads of qualified public servants; instead of responsive local systems, the government has created a centralised monster.

This centralisation is perhaps the hardest aspect to understand. All experience here and abroad shows that local test and trace works better. While, according to the latest government figures, the centralised system currently reaches just 62.6% of contacts, local authorities are reaching 97%. This is despite the fact that they have been denied access to government data, and were given just £300m, in contrast with the £12bn for national test and trace. Centralisation may be a catastrophe, but it does enable huge contracts for multinational corporations.

The Conservative mantra, repeated for 40 years like a stuck record, is that the public sector is wasteful and inefficient while the private sector is lean and competitive. Yet the waste and inefficiency caused by privatising essential public health functions is off the scale. This isn’t like rail or water privatisation, where failure has caused dysfunction within a single public service. This is about the escalating collapse of national life.

The government’s irrational obsession with the private sector is symbolised by its appointment of Dido Harding to run NHS test and trace. She worked at McKinsey, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and as chief executive of TalkTalk. After a disastrous hack of the TalkTalk database, exposing both the details of 4 million customers and Harding’s ignorance of the technology, she acquired the moniker Dido, queen of carnage, a nice pun on Christopher Marlowe’s play. In 2014 David Cameron, an old friend, made her a baroness; she sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer.

It would be wrong to claim she had no experience relevant to the pandemic. She sits on the board of the Jockey Club, which runs some of the biggest and most lucrative horse racing events in the UK. Among them is the Cheltenham Festival. By 10 March, it was........

© The Guardian


Get it on Google Play