This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind
Wednesday, 1 April 2020
Michael Gove - Pants On Fire
The words of warning given by Gordon Brown to Damian McBride more than a decade ago, at the suggestion that something beyond creative might be applied to the usual diet of daily spin, should have been taken on board by politicians across the UK political spectrum: “Don’t. It’s the lie that gets you”. One politician who may be regretting not taking on board the words of his fellow Scot this morning is Michael “Oiky” Gove.
It was Gove who fronted yesterday’s daily briefing on the Coronavirus pandemic. And it was Gove who excused the shortage of Covid-19 tests on an alleged shortage of relevant “chemical reagents”. Ah, a nice new word to add to the modern political excuse lexicon. But Gove made his claim in the presence of journalists who are becoming restless.
And to his credit, it was ITV political editor Robert Peston whose restlessness exposed the tell-tale smoke from Gove’s trousers. “I've just talked to the Chemical Industries Association, which represents the UK's very substantial chemicals industry. It has contacted its members, and they've said there is no shortage of the relevant reagents. So the Association has now been in touch with [Michael Gove]’s office to find out what he means, because it is stumped”. And it got worse for the Government.
“The Association also points out there was an industry chat with a business minister today, who made no attempt to find out if there was a supply problem for the vital ingredients of Covid19 testing kits. So this question of why there aren't enough tests for the virus is an even bigger mystery. Also, if it turns out there is a shortage these manufacturers are more than happy to increase their production. But they need to be asked”. They haven’t been.
Sam Coates of Sky News later added “The Chemical Industry Association has just put out this statement putting a question mark over Michael Gove’s statement that a lack of chemical reagant is behind the lack of tests. They say reagant still being delivered to the NHS and the industry can scale up”. So why not nail the Government over this?
Ah well. There appears to be a, shall we say, reluctance to do this, as BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis alluded to later. “See what has happened here ? Hugh Pym asks a simple question of why not enough testing for NHS staff and he gets a long winded reply from Health chief about why testing is important. Which ends with the words ‘ramp up’. Hugh knows all this. We all know all this”. So why not call them out on it?
It would appear to be Journalism 101: as Rachael Clarke, who you can tell as she’s a doctor, put it bluntly, “Tonight [Michael Gove] told the public our inadequate #COVID19 testing is due to a lack of chemical reagents. The UK Chemical Industries Association says there's no shortage at all. Nor has [10 Downing Street] even asked manufacturers to increase production. This is indefensible”. Got it in one.
The Government is effectively admitting that testing, which is claimed to have still not broken through the 9,000 a day mark, is proceeding too slowly, by feeding the Murdoch Times its front page lead today: “PM takes control of drive for virus tests … Frustration as Government admits it’s too slow”. Brave Bozo to the rescue in the retelling!
You caught Gove with his pants alight, media people. So bloody well say so.
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