Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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18 Apr 2020 : We Were Doomed by Our Incompetence, Hubris and Austerity

It is really not the most optimistic of mornings. Having been very good for weeks, the toll of being stuck at home finally gets to the little one, with many melt downs. She wants to go out and see her friends. It is strange to balance these things at the moment, but she remains blissfully unaware of global events.

Last night was full of news feeds from around the world detailing the new epicentres emerging with spikes and increasing mortality. It does not seem to be going well for many of the strong-men leaders. In Turkey, which looks as if it is heading into serious trouble, there are 80,000 confirmed infections. Iran is just a black hole for information apart from social media and citizen journalists being extremely bleak as to what has unfolded. It is clear that the continuance of sanctions is just inhumane. Spain now has over 20,000 deaths and the UK is following closely.

A star-studded celebrity COVID event is conducted on both sides of the Atlantic with well over 100 performers. All are at home. Paul Macartney gives a strong statement on the need for governments to invest in health systems. I hate it, but also remember elation at watching LiveAid in 1985, a signal moment in time and arguably one of the key catalysts for the Millennium Development Goals, or the movement on debt that was their precursor. Whatever the merits of leaving it to musicians to raise money for the WHO, at least they are doing it, and with music. But this celebrity philanthropy is also sickening at the same time, that it comes to Lady Gaga to get money to the WHO and highlight its weak financial position.

The Sunday Times carries a rip snorter piece on Boris Johnson and the government. It is a smoking gun report, much of it drafted from an insider to the Number 10 team on COVID. The attitudes are predictably reckless. In the second week of February, when I started this diary, everyone was being urged to be confident and calm, with Boris Johnson heading to one of his ‘working weekends’ at Chevening. Members of the advisory group openly joke about his disaster management ‘if we get a pandemic’. As one source states, their action was to just watch Wuhan. The sentence of the year rips the administration to tatters, as well as its hapless response: “we were doomed by our incompetence, hubris and austerity.” The unholy trinity for the ship of fools who have done little but cost lives.

The Sunday Times piece is also about warnings and advice ignored. Gove is just wilting on this describing it as ‘off beam’. There is a response offered, with claims rebutted, but it reads like a very flat attempt to give the dog ate my homework and it wasn’t us excuses. Ian Duncan Smith interviews with Sky News and blames WHO, and the journalist actually does not take it. The scandal of protective gear snowballs at the same time. There is clear evidence that suppliers offering to make protective PPE have had their offers ignored. After a press briefing question on this, Hugh Pym (the BBC Health reporter) is contacted by 5 different firms who had mad such offers, with none getting any reply. Also the medical advisors and government are still claiming, in post-truth fashion, that the NHS is and was prepared. This is completely out of kilter with reports from hospitals and health boards, and the BMA is still furious.

The Atlantic, which has really been very good on this crisis, carries another coruscating piece on ‘frontline’ and ‘essential workers’; the truck drivers, cashiers, shelf stackers – it states that calling them heroes is glib and empty, and just sugar coats their continued and ultimate exploitation. Many of them will contract the virus and die, because they have no alternative but to work on. 41,000 dead in the USA now.


Have a very good three way conversation with Jake in Norwich and Bob Ostergard in Reno. All concerned with the increasing presence of armed men amongst many of the anti-lockdown protests in the USA, brandishing holstered pistols or at ease automatic weapons. The message is clear, they are ready to fight, for what is unclear. Sunday was a day of widespread protests and Bob’s home state Nevada will be up soon. Trump is actively egging on these groups, and it is really precipitous times there. The governor of Washington state states: ‘To have an American President to encourage people to violate the law, I can’t remember any time in America we have seen such a thing.’ Denver, Annapolis, Austin all with mobs carrying MAGA and other libertarian nonsense.

Ecuador is sinking under the weight of events. There are terrible pictures of people living with the corpses of family members wrapped in sheets. All in Guayaquil. Police have so far removed 771 bodies from homes. It must be just so traumatic for all involved In Brazil, many of the deaths are not being recorded as COVID-related, either by sheer numbers or as part of cover up. There is news footage of Bolsonaro coughing repeatedly over a rally asking for a military coup. He might be one of a number of governors and state officials falling ill with the virus he has branded just a flu.

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