Bring back Theresa May, Tony Blair and ex-PMs to aid Boris Johnson: Tom Richmond

IT spoke volumes about the scale of the coronavirus pandemic – and Boris Johnson’s indisposition with Covid-19 – that Tony Blair resisted the temptation to make too much political capital out of the crisis during a TV interview.

Should former prime ministers like Theresa May make a return to frontline politics to assist the coronavirus crisis?

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‘Get Brexit un-done’ as Boris Johnson faces up to coronavirus – Tom Richmond

Even the former Labour leader accepted that this is a tragedy where the current Downing Street incumbent is at the mercy of events. Yet he did make one very valid point – the lack of international co-operation over the development of a vaccine and the virus’s effects on poorer countries.

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And coming after Blair’s successor Gordon Brown reminded everyone how he built a global consensus to alleviate the worst consequences of the banking crash in 2008, it did prompt this thought – is there not a way by which Mr Johnson can put former premiers to better use?

Tony Blair has bemoaned the lack of international co-operation over coronavirus.

Is politics really so tribal – and so toxic – that he cannot pick up the phone to Blair and Brown, or his Tory predecessors Sir John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May, and use their expertise, and contacts with foreign governments and bodies?

Or is the annual gathering of the elder statesmen, on the steps of the Cenotaph every Remembrance Sunday, just for show? I don’t believe it is – I think they are all sincere individuals who would put duty, and country, first if given the opportunity.

If nothing else, their perspective – and, yes, the benefit of hindsight – could assist the Prime Minister with prioritising key issues so, for example, the urgent testing of NHS staff and patients for Covid-19, and supply of PPE equipment, was not left so late.

It’s just an idle thought – but it is even more pertinent when it comes to Mrs May who was Home Secretary for six years before enduring three turbulent years in 10 Downing Street that was dominated by Brexit and all the arguments that now look futile when set in the context of current events.

Boris Johnson during a conference call with world leaders before he was struck down with Covid-19.

She is still a serving MP – she’s not been afraid to intervene from the backbenches – and could, at the very least, be overseeing the Home Office operation in some capacity.

After all, Priti Patel – the current Home Secretary – has been nowhere to be seen. Deeply damaged by bullying allegations, she’s not even been entrusted with one of Downing Street’s daily press conferences or early morning media duties. Indeed, no female Minister has been put up for scrutiny in three weeks.

Yet there are critical questions about the role of police over the enforcement of social distancing restrictions. There are grave concerns that the lockdown is exacerbating domestic violence. And she had to be forced to extend the visas of overseas doctors and nurses so not to compound NHS staff shortages.

Key issues, they can’t be left to chance – or the state of staff relations at the Home Office. They require far greater urgency, hence why there could, still, be merit to bringing back Theresa May, and the four other former prime ministers, in some way to assist the national effort and counsel Boris Johnson on how to deal with an unprecedented social, health and economic crisis.

MUCH of the BBC’s coverage of USA politics was – for decades – shaped by Alistair Cooke and his weekly Letter From America which became required listening. Now it is headed by North American editor Jon Sopel whose excitable reports fail to mask his personal – and political – disdain for President Donald Trump.

Do not get me wrong. I am not a fan of Trump. But there was no excuse for Sopel sounding almost gleeful about the growing coronavirus-related death toll in New York because, he assumes, it will compromise the President’s re-election chances in November. Sorry – but there’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to Covid-19’s unfolding humanitarian catastrophe. Or American politics for that matter.

MOST people were respectful of last week’s suggestion that Boris Johnson defers Brexit negotiations with the EU over trade arrangements for a year to take account of the coronavirus crisis.

All apart from one who took umbrage at the notion of ‘Get Brexit Undone’ by emailing this message: “I would suggest you print a retraction to your story. Failure to do so is likely to impact your career, because people have long memories. Your move creep.” What a heightened level of intellectual debate. There’s only one place for such messages – the bin file.

DO you remember all those Tories who criticised Danny Boyle’s moving tribute to the NHS in the opening ceremony to the 2012 London Olympics?

They said it was party political and the producer came under pressure to drop the sequence after the 2010 election when Jeremy Hunt replaced the late Tessa Jowell as Culture Secretary. Yet Boyle is looking incredibly far-sighted in light of the ‘Clap for NHS’ crusade that is so lifting the nation’s spirits at this time.

PETER Beaumont, who died on Monday, will be remembered by many as the last trainer from this county to saddle the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner after Jodami triumphed for the Yorkshire Wolds in 1993.

A great trainer steeped in farming and point-to-point racing, he was an even greater gentleman who thought the best in everyone. I shall never forget the times I spent reminiscing with him, and his daughter Anthea and grandson Henry, about his life in racing. A sad loss.

I CAN’T take the credit for this but some levity is needed. According to a friend’s Facebook post, God was walking around Yorkshire when he was stopped by the police and asked what he was doing. He replied: “Working from home.”
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