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Labour party politician David Blunkett spoke out about the UK Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a digital session hosted by Big Tent Digital on Monday night, criticising its mixed messages and how it has impacted the outfall of policies.  

“In England we’re waiting and waiting and waiting for the evening press conferences. God forbid we’ll have to put up with this for much longer.”

“The communication has been shocking,” he said. “You can have your nanny back, and your cleaner, but you can’t have your granny back. These messages erode people’s trust.”

He went on to explain how mixed messages from the Government has impacted people’s reaction to school’s reopening in England this week:

“People don’t know what to believe. They’re getting completely contrary advice.

“We can’t guarantee there’s no risk, and we shouldn’t even pretend that we can, but we’re balancing the risk of children not being educated and being at risk socially versus the possibility they or their teachers might catch the virus.

“All past education secretaries who are now alive, as far as I’m aware, are in favour of getting children back in schools.”

Blunkett also cautioned the crisis response has led to a shift in institutional power: 

“The balance of power has shifted massively to the executive. Parliament is trying to fulfil a role, but if there’s nothing put before you there’s only so much you can do.”

The need for international cooperation in the response to the crisis was also something Blunkett brought up as a failure:

“How do we help the people who are going to be devastated by COVID-19? That’s where international politics come in. We have acted so poorly as an international community but it is getting better.”

On the subject of the future of the NHS, the former Home Secretary went against certain of his Labour party peers when asked about how to reform it after the crisis: “My solution would be much more decentralised,” he said, “We need to give local authorities much more authority and responsibility to combine health and social care.”

He also expressed worry about how the media is shaping public mood during the pandemic: 

“We are now the most fearful nation about COVID-19 in the world which worries be hugely. I’d like not just LBC and TalkRadio but the BBC to get up a little more upbeat.”

The Big Tent Ideas Festival is grateful to our partners FINN Partners and Covid-19 Check for supporting this event.

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