Prime Minister can offer stability as country's problems mount - Bernard Ingham

After the sunny Easter break, we all need to brace ourselves for what is to follow. In truth, the only good news is that summer is at hand and, with a bit of luck, will ease the cost of heat and light for the hard pressed.

I do not regard myself as a professional pessimist. Instead, I consider myself to be a hard-bitten realist. And I cannot remember a time since the outbreak of the Second World War when we were as much up against it.

Wherever you look there is a problem – problems rendered all the more difficult because there is no national unity of purpose. Obsessions rule.

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Zealotry exhibits its hypocrisy at the very mention of fossil fuel, racism, colonialism and gender. It seems a collective madness has taken over.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA / Daniel Leal

You might reasonably have thought that an educated society would be able to identify priorities. The two overriding requirements today are to restore the economy and modernise and stiffen our defences.

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Instead, some offshoot of that disorderly rabble called Extinction Rebellion generally glues itself to some offending energy installation or motorway to hinder economic recovery and people who want to do their bit by going to work.

It is all underlined by the news that the offices of state are still largely unmanned as most civil servants continue to work from home, whatever that means. Do my former colleagues realise what damage they are doing to the Civil Service and Britain’s governance?

Next month the local elections are expected to give Boris Johnson a bloody nose, always assuming that he and some of his Cabinet have not by then been hounded out of office by a bunch of empty-headed politicians who seem to regard an office drink during the pandemic as the ultimate sin.

I fully accept that those who make the rules should live by them. I have the greatest sympathy for those who were prevented by those rules from visiting elderly relatives or attending their burial.

But here were civil servants, risking a lot in going to the office, working together in a crisis and enjoying a tipple in a break. I would not begrudge them a socially distanced snifter or two.

We shall know better when the dust settles after the PM’s Commons statement yesterday how the land lies for the Government.

But, if doubt remains over its future, we shall know that the Mother of Parliaments has lost its marbles. In the state the country finds itself we need some stability.

That simply cannot be provided by Labour which is an unhappy bunch who do not know what they stand for – or, if they think they do, are bound to fall foul of one wing or t’other.

As for the rest – Liberal Democrats, Greens and Nationalists – their only aim is to make trouble as distinct from offering constructive criticism and advice.

Let us be clear: the Tory Government – as others of different hues would have been – was hit amidships by the Covid pandemic. No one can argue that it was impeccably handled but it did win the international race to inoculate and protect the population.

And I never heard anyone criticising the massive spending to protect jobs, although some fun was made of subsidising meals to help the hospitality industry.

Similarly, the Government did not cause Vladimir Putin brutally to invade Ukraine as part of a campaign to restore what he sees as the Russian empire. Indeed, Mr Johnson has done more than most world leaders to help the gallant Ukrainians.

The result of the pandemic and Ukraine is the biggest rescue job we have seen in Government for 75 years. We are so deeply in debt that interest on the loans costs about twice as much a year as we spend on defence.

Yet if we are to preserve Western democracy we need to be armed for all eventualities. All this – and a host of long-standing social problems such as the NHS – emphasises the need for stability and continuity if the interests of the people, and especially the frail, and elderly, are to be served.

One of the most sobering realities in these circumstances is that 10 years of supposed responsible Tory government did not eliminate the £153bn budget deficit left by Gordon Brown.

In short, we were still relatively weak when Covid hit us. If that frightening thought does not induce a sense of responsibility and a recognition of priorities for the long haul before us, heaven help us.