“... pour encourager les autres.”
By Mark Wooding
In May 1756 Admiral John Byng failed to win the 'Battle of Minorca'. An ailing and failing Government needed a scapegoat for the defeat and Byng was ultimately executed by Firing Squad. The incident, famously, caused Voltaire to write satirically "il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres" - for the non-francophones "it is good to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others".
An ailing and failing Government. Sound familiar?
Weeks after both its own advisors, and leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Labour, called for a 'short sharp' circuit break lockdown to halt the surge in COVID-19 the Tory Government have been forced into a U-turn, and instituted a longer and more economically damaging lockdown. One that by the admission of senior Tory and Cabinet Member, Michael Gove, may not end (as promised) on 2nd December.
By all measures the Tory Government's handling of the pandemic has been woeful: and most woeful has been its implementation of 'track, trace, isolate'. Even its own supporters are reluctantly agreeing its part of the problem not the solution.
So we ask the question. Is it time for Prime Minister Johnson to call for a firing squad 'pour encourager les autres'? Clearly not a literal firing squad, but is it time the likes of Baroness Dido Harding and Matt Hancock were fired? It's a difficult situation but their performance, especially that of the Baroness, has been dreadful.
A firm hand from the Prime Minister might restore some of his credibility, but above all it's likely to encourage his other Ministers to try just that little bit harder. We certainly need them to 'up their game'.
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