You don’t need me to tell you that Boris Johnson lied when he said the UK government had done everything possible to minimise the COVID-19 death toll.
There is a reason we have a death toll exceeding 100,000 while New Zealand has 25, Vietnam 35 and Taiwan 7. As Devi Shridhar writes in the Guardian, we didn’t close our borders, we abandoned community testing, we didn’t lock down quickly enough, we didn’t have enough PPE for key workers and our government messaging has been incoherent and incompetent. So many of the UK’s deaths were completely preventable.
But this is not just about the Government’s incompetence and corruption. It’s also about a media that’s consistently failed in its most basic function, which is to hold power to account. For more than a year, too much of the press has been more interested in parroting the government line, platforming cranks and giving airtime to dubiously funded pressure groups than holding our failing government to account.
Every newspaper front page that heralded ‘Independence Day’ last summer when the first lockdown was eased, every headline that passed on the government’s message that people should get back to offices, every report that passed on demands from bloviating backbenchers and astroturfing groups of suddenly ‘militant’ mums contributed in its own way to reaching that number that is so abstracted in today’s newspapers — 100,000 people have died.
Every puff piece about Boris Johnson and his cute little family, every shot of his future mother-in-law coming to Downing Street, every photo spread about their dog, every column that made excuses for Dominic Cummings, sneered at ‘hipster analysis’ in the early days of this avoidable disaster, or told us about ‘Dishy’ Rishi and how much he cares, contributed to 100,000 people dead.
Every jingoistic throwback pun to a war that none of us fought and to a history that most people misremember contributed to 100,000 people dead, ever ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ promo plastered on a tabloid front-page, every syllable uttered by political hyena Matt Chorley played its part, every Rod Liddle column, every Fraser Nelson quote, every Sarah Vine column oscillating between bafflement at government policy and insidery snideness, every story that poured more shame on celebrities and influencers than the government that got us here shares a piece of the blame.
None of these people will be held to account.