Andy Richardson: 'While Boris has created an Eatin’ mess, Britain has stepped up to the plate'

The row over free school meals is far from done.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears on The Andrew Marr Show
Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears on The Andrew Marr Show

It’s been characterised as part of the nation’s tedious culture war, where the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the plight of malnourished children; or, to put it another way: Eton versus not eaten. Still, while Boris has created an Eatin’ mess, Britain has stepped up to the plate. Good job there’s no election coming.

Boris is determined not to perform another U-turn on the issue and, given the way he handled Dominic Cummings’ eyesight testing drive to Barnard Castle, he’ll probably stick to his guns. The hospitality sector, an industry on its knees, is filling the gap.

Labour has tended to be quiet on the issue, though it’s tended to be quiet since Sir Keir Starmer became the party leader. With the Government’s difficulties on exams, Covid and Brexit, perhaps that’s the best strategy. Perhaps they’d be more vocal if our elected leaders had a stronger grip on proceedings, like track and trace.

At present, the system reaches 46 per cent of close contacts but only delivers test results within 24 hours for 15 per cent. It gets worse. There were 16,000 tests lost in one go and the whole thing has cost £12 billion. The impact on virus control has been low. The conclusion of the Government, however, is that it’s all going really well. Let’s not consider how things might look if track and trace were operating badly.

Boris seems to face greater scrutiny from within his own ranks, after 50 northern Conservatives wrote to him telling him the Covid pandemic had exposed the deep structural and systemic disadvantage faced by their communities. Wait until they find out about Brexit. Their warning of economic hardship dispels the myth of levelling up. Though their efforts demolished Labour’s Red Wall, they can already see it being rebuilt.

It might not have been the wisest thing for Victoria Derbyshire to give an interview in which she declared her intention to break the Covid rules. Christmas won’t be the same for her family of seven, after she said she’d break the rule of six. Still, with one fewer at the table, perhaps those who gather will avoid the row over who gets the turkey leg. It’s tough for the Government to provide clarity, however, given the unpredictable nature of Covid. A new study suggests immunity lasts for only a few months, which means we may need to take the vaccine twice a year.

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