I think it’s best I start this article with the clear fact that I am dissatisfied by the government’s handling of the pandemic, but the question I will be dealing with in this article is should we be allowed to openly criticize the government during national emergencies?
Before we get into that, I think it’s important to highlight some of the current criticisms facing the government. The first I shall mention, arguably one of the most serious, is the failure to secure proper testing kits and PPE for essential workers. After missing several key meetings to secure PPE equipment for NHS frontline workers, 100 of which have sadly died from Coronavirus, and boasting about “shaking hands continuously” before betraying his position as a role model and contracting Coronavirus himself, Boris spread unclear messages about lockdown, like asking entertainment venues to close without making it compulsory. This meant that the government would not be liable to compensate these venues for the revenue they would have missed out on. Of course, this did not happen, and they ordered all entertainment venues to close after there was a public outcry and a 38 degrees petition calling for it with over 90,000 signatures. Full lockdown measures were delayed until weeks after other European cities, despite warnings that such a blasé approach would result in disaster. Using a natural experiment that tested whether “herd immunity” would have an impact on recovery rate, the government took unnecessary chances as a substitute for proper funding, sacrificing the health of the public they are sworn to protect in favour of cutting costs.
As well as criticism identifying leaking holes in poor management to be plugged up, it also makes public knowledge more accurate, both for the public in the present and for when this pandemic becomes a topic in a history textbook. In light of previously mentioned failures, Johnson still claims that “many will be looking at our apparent success.” Without criticism, this evidently false statement would have no objection. You may argue that we should wait until after the pandemic to hold individuals responsible, but if we do not hold them accountable now, we will not be able to at all. Richard Horton, an editor of the Lancet Medical Journal, says the UK government is “deliberately rewriting history in its ongoing Covid-19 disinformation campaign.” Criticism also ensures that government decisions aren’t only being viewed through a single lens. The Guardian, the newspaper most consistently critical of the Conservatives, has been judged by the public as doing the best job of reporting the pandemic according to the latest Reuters polling report published on 28 April. In the same report, consistently Conservative supporting newspapers like the Mail, the Mirror, The Telegraph and the Sun are among those doing the worst jobs. Why criticism is so important, now more than ever, is that it demands that the government take action that benefits the public. Although it might not spread the social positivity that we all desire during isolation, it has had hugely positive effects on what the government has not been allowed to get away with and puts pressure on the government to do more for the public.