Send Boris Johnson to an old folks home until he delivers promised social care plan: Tom Richmond

MY New Year wish for politics is a simple one – to pack Boris Johnson off to an old folks home for a couple of days or longer.

Boris Johnson pledged social care reform on the day he became Prime Minister in July 2019.

He should know the drill – “hands, face, space” – because he’s been reciting it for long enough during the Covid pandemic.

And, to those who say it will be cruel to inflict a pantomime prime minister on the elderly, I say that the country has no choice.

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Why? It is 18 months since Johnson announced on the steps of 10 Downing Street on the day he became PM that he had a social care plan ready to deliver.

Boris Johnson is being urged to prioritise social care in 2021.

Since then, there’s been no plan and the Department of Health and Social Care were totally unconvincing this week when a spokesman said reform proposals will be brought forward “as soon as possible”.

That – for the record – is Whitehall-speak for “sorry, I haven’t a clue” and even Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary who failed to advance this issue between 2012 and 2018, seems embarrassed by his own inaction.

He’s even suggested tax rises for the middle-aged, akin to systems in Germany and Japan, to help plug the funding shortfall after claiming that the Treasury is terrified by the financial implications of any reforms.

But sticking plaster solutions – like using Budgets and spending reviews to allow local authorities to raise a bit more money via council tax – are unsustainable.

This was the day Boris Johnson entered 10 Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister after promising to reform social care.

And it is why Johnson now needs to delegate Brexit and Covid to his Cabinet colleagues, switch off the mobile phone and head off to a care home.

He already has a standing invitation from Mike Padgham, chair of North Yorkshire’s Independent Care Group, to visit one of its homes and the PM, just like so many Ministers and MPs, has not even had the courtesy to reply.

But it’s only by watching staff look after the elderly – and seeing all the challenges that they were encountering before Covid made their task even more daunting – that Johnson will see the human dimension to this issue and the need to uphold his solemn promise of July 2019.

And, while it would be presumptuous to propose reforms until the PM has escaped his Downing Street bunker and had some “real world” experience, I do know that this care conundrum becomes even harder to resolve and reconcile with each month that passes.

That’s why 2021 must be the year of social care reform and renewal.

BORIS Johnson’s boast is a familiar one when it comes to Brexit. “We have taken back control of laws and our destiny,” declares the Prime Minister.

Yes, sovereignty was a crucial factor for many in June 2016 when Britain made the momentous decision to leave the European Union.

But they didn’t expect Downing Street to sideline Parliament to the extent that Johnson’s government has on a range of issues from Covid lockdowns to “levelling up” plans and scrutiny of the trade deal struck with EU.

And it is why I agree with Haltemprice & Howden MP David Davis when the former Brexit Secretary said MPs needed more than a day to study the new treaty.

After all, Parliamentary sovereignty will equate to Westminster “taking back control” in name only if there’s no scrutiny of new laws.

ANOTHER festive period dominated by floods, the Defra press office were recently in touch to offer a comment piece from Rebecca Pow, the Environment Minister, to “discuss the progress the UK has made on the domestic environment throughout 2020 to demonstrate how the UK is leading at home on environmental policies”.

It would also cover 800,000 trees set to be planted as part of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. I agreed, subject to the Minister – whose brief includes flooding – discussing how she intends trees, and nature, to play a role in flood prevention. Not a peep since then. I wonder why.

GOOD to see recipients of the Covid vaccine are coming forward to express their thanks – and confidence in the scientists – in a bid to silence the vitriol of the anti-vaxxers.

First Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker, issued a message of defiance, describing the vaccine as the “ammunition in the war against this illness”.

And now Sir Geoffrey Boycott has gone in to bat after receiving his jab on Christmas Eve. “Had my first Covid-19 vaccine today in Wetherby. It was all superbly organised and the NHS staff were excellent,” he tweeted.

Well said.

I’M glad I found time to belatedly catch up with the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special. Pure escapism in the knowledge it would be a Covid and Brexit-free zone. More of the same in 2021 please.

THERE would have been more justification to Labour awarding a peerage to Leeds Council leader Judith Blake if Sir Keir Starmer had said it was part of a concerted effort to tackle the North’s under-representation in the House of Lords.

He did not, leaving many to conclude that this appointment, and others, were simply part of a wider numbers game and a poor reflection on the talent at Labour’s disposal.

FINALLY I couldn’t be more pleased that Bob Champion, one of my childhood heroes, is now the recipient of a CBE. The North Yorkshire jockey beat cancer to win a tear-filled Grand National in 1981 on the gallant Aldaniti, and countless people now owe their lives to the Bob Champion Cancer Trust that he’s devoted his life to. A champion effort.

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