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Party politics is paused but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold the Government to account

April 13, 2020 12:00 PM
By Andrew Haycock
Andrew close up

Andrew Haycock

On Saturday we saw Conservative MPs take to social media to criticise the new Labour leader for questioning Health Secretary Matt Hancock's comments that our NHS workers are wasting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). During their Twitter 'pile on' Conservative MP after Conservative MP - including our own Rachel McLean - used the same line of attack - we should be 'coming together' at a time of national emergency, not 'playing politics'. This is a tactic we have seen all too often, nationally and locally, where the Conservatives seek to block scrutiny of their actions by accusing others of 'playing politics'.

We absolutely agree that party politics should be paused at this difficult time - on the 17th March we reached out to the Conservatives and Labour locally suggesting that we work together. Our members have been part of the community response to the pandemic - delivering leaflets, being a community editor of the Support Redditch website and signing up as volunteers. Co-operation is what Liberal Democrats do.

Pausing party politics however does not give our government or councils a free reign to do what they want without scrutiny. The government have already used the crisis as a basis to shut down parliament and local authority meetings are also on hold while the council works out how to keep its meetings public.

It is absolutely right that we continue to hold the Government to account on their handling of this crisis. We must be free to ask questions without the Government, our MP or local Councillors seeking to shut them down by invoking the 'party politics' defence.

It is not 'playing politics' to demand that the government is accountable for its actions. It is playing politics to try to shut down scrutiny by questioning people's motives for holding their Government to account.

As this crisis develops there will be many questions our Government should answer. Right now, these are the most pressing:

  1. Did the Government make the right decision in pursuing the 'herd immunity' policy and if not, how many unnecessary deaths has it led to?
  2. Why do our hospital and care staff not have the PPE they require to do their jobs safely despite the government having weeks to start addressing this issue as we watched the pandemic unfold in other countries around the world? How many more doctors, nurses, porters and other health professional will needlessly die because they were not given the equipment, they needed to keep themselves safe?
  1. Why has it taken the Government so long to increase testing when the World Health Organisation stated weeks ago that the only way to beat this virus is to 'test, test, test'? How many unnecessary deaths has their inaction led to?

These are, without doubt, unprecedented times and mistakes will inevitably happen. Whoever was in power would have to make some big decisions, but they should not get a free pass just because these are unprecedented times. It is not playing politics to hold our Government to account; as citizens, it is our political duty to do exactly that.