No past PM would have handled pandemic as well as Boris Johnson – Bill Carmichael

BORIS Johnson has come in for a lot of criticism – much of it justified – for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson is facing growing pressure over his handling of Covid.

There have undoubtedly been many mistakes that could have been avoided – but these are usually identified only after the event by Captain Hindsight, backed up by those pop-up epidemiology experts on social media, Privates Coulda, Woulda and Shoulda.

But there has been no doubt that there was a lack of clarity in the Government’s messaging and confusion in the implementation of the Covid regulations.

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As for the substance, for some the Prime Minister has been far too ready to impose extreme restrictions on our liberties in an effort to defeat the virus threat, and yet for others he has been far too lax. He must feel that whatever he does he will come in for a shed-load of abuse regardless.

How would Huddersfield-born Harold Wilson have handled Covid?

And it has me thinking that given the unprecedented nature of the current crisis, could anybody else have handled it better?

Certainly in the UK there is little evidence of that. Sir Keir Starmer’s claim that he would have done things differently is undermined by the chaos in Labour-run Wales, and SNP-run Scotland is no better.

Across Europe, from lockdown-lite Sweden to lockdown-heavy Italy, Covid remains a threat and governments don’t seem to know what to do for the best.

So, in the absence of current political figures to put things right, I’ve been wondering if my political heroes of the past might have handled things more adroitly.

How would Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have responded to the Covid crisis?

My earliest political idol was Huddersfield-born Harold Wilson, who in addition to being my local MP was Labour Prime Minister twice in the 1960s and 70s.

Wilson never had to face a crisis like Covid, but he was Prime Minister when the Northern Irish troubles began, and he skilfully kept the UK out of the Vietnam War, while maintaining friendly relations with the US.

Along with his one-time Chancellor, Leeds MP and former Bradford Grammar School pupil Denis Healey – possibly the finest Prime Minister we never had – they would have formed a formidable duo combining brilliant minds with the ability to get things done. Perhaps they would have given Covid a run for its money?

Sticking with Labour, but of a more recent vintage, surely the ace communicator and three-time general election winner Tony Blair would have done a better job of explaining the science to the general public?

Bill Carmichael questions whether Margaret Thatcher would have handled Covid any better than Boris Johnson.

His successor, Gordon Brown, meanwhile, can lay claim to past experience of handling crises, as he was instrumental in co-ordinating international efforts to deal with the economic collapse of 2007. Perhaps the old Blair-Brown partnership might have battled the pandemic more effectively?

On the Conservative side it is difficult to look beyond the giant that is Winston Churchill, the only Prime Minister in the last 100 years to face a crisis even worse than Covid.

Churchill’s clear-sighted identification of the existential dangers posed to Christian civilisation by the Nazis, and his laser-like focus on defeating that threat, would undoubtedly have proved an asset during our current troubled times. Oh how we could do with something like his famous “finest hour” message today!

And we should mention, of course, Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first woman Prime Minister, who showed immense courage and plenty of sheer determination in standing up to and defeating the insurrectionary threat of Arthur Scargill and the rest of the extreme Left.

A molten drop of the Iron Lady’s famous steel would 
surely be invaluable in our current battle against an implacable foe?

As for the Liberals, one name stands out – William Ewart Gladstone – the Liverpool-born great social reformer who massively extended the franchise and who tried with decency to solve the intractable Irish issue.

But the more I think about the terrible problems we face today, the more I realise that perhaps none of my political heroes would be up to the task of finding a solution.

The truth is that Covid is like nothing we have ever encountered before and governments both in the UK and around the world are struggling to cope.

As we approach 2021 I can only pray that God gives our current crop of political leaders the wisdom to learn from our mistakes and find a path forward.

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