Opinion: ‘Patchwork solutions to real problems

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Sunday, 10th October 2021, 3:15 pm
'Out of Use' signage is pictured on the petrol pumps of a closed fuel filling station. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Our Armed Forces are the best in the world: every time I meet someone from the Army or any other branch, I am impressed by their dedication and professionalism. We owe our freedom to their sacrifices.

Given this, it’s a bit weird that their capabilities are now being seconded to deliver petrol.

While we need their assistance to get the job done, it should not be anywhere near their primary mission.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

If a government resorts to using the military, an emergency is truly dire. The military did an amazing job last year building Nightingale hospitals to help us cope with the pandemic; there is no doubt that Covid presented us with a truly terrifying calamity. But now we are asking them to unstick problems in our logistics. Clearly, this signifies there is an issue; but how did we get to this point? Why are we asking the military to patch up holes in our distribution system?

The rationale of Brexit was supposedly that we would become a more open nation, that we would reach out and attract talent from across the globe. Hence the slogan, “Global Britain”.

Yet, we have a shortage of labour in a lot of key sectors, including logistics. In addition to deploying the Army, the government is issuing emergency visas to attract drivers. There has been talk of using prison labour in certain sectors.

Then there is the confusion that arises from what some members of the 
government have to say about this situation: wages are going up due to the labour shortage. The government says that is good. It’s not so good, however, if that is felt in higher prices. Then the wage rises are pointless; in response, wages must go up again to maintain the same standard of living. Then prices go up again. And so on.

We have reached the natural end of Johnsonism, if the grab-bag of measures the government is deploying can be called that. Chasing headlines leads to short-term fixes which exacerbate problems, which require more short-term fixes.

Patches are applied on top of patches even though the underlying clothing has fallen to pieces.

We are not a happier, nor more stable, nor more prosperous country after 11 years of Conservative-led government. When a genuine crisis comes, we rely heavily on our military and the NHS to prop up the crumbling edifice of the state. The state relies on typical British reticence to protest and on the public’s natural tendency to stand in queues and wait their turn.

But we are emerging from the pandemic; we are not in a time of war. We are in a state of breakdown because the government failed to plan and was more interested in avoiding the wrath of certain editorial writers rather than acting competently.

If the opinion polls are to be believed, the government has defied political gravity for some time.

However, there will come a point when people grow weary: the act will become tedious, and people will want it ushered off the stage.

Labour has and is developing a set of policies for when the Johnson and Co show comes to an end. Things pass; the fashion for patchwork solutions should long have departed.