IT WAS the surprise, more than anything else. Of all the disputable elements in the UK’s relationships with the rest of the world, there was one argument that was thought to be won, one topic that did not need revisiting. Nuclear weapons are evil. Their huge, indiscriminate, destructive power is at odds with the particular, targeted threat from terrorist organisations, and all responsible nations are working to reduce and, finally, to remove the nuclear threat from the world. To discover that the Government — or elements within it — have so little regard for such an obvious, accepted, moral position is a shock. As a measure of the outrageousness of the announcement on Tuesday, one need look only at the speed, unanimity, and clarity of the church leaders’ statement: it is “immoral” and “wrong”.
It was well that the church leaders should express concern about the shape being given to “Global Britain”. Brexit was, of course, a worrying signal of intent, but at the time, at least, it was presented as desire to be freer to collaborate and cooperate with the rest of the world, as well as with Europe on a different footing. Since then, we have seen a bombastic, materialistic, isolationist approach to global problems emerging from government circles, together with moves towards an unregulated free market, curiously at odds with the reality of global trade. It appears that militarism is now being added to the mix. There are a few governments around the world who believe that becoming more dangerous is the route to attracting greater regard among nations. Does the Government really want to join their company?
IN CONTRAST, a day to reflect on what the pandemic has taught us, to mourn those who have died, to express thanks to those who have helped to pull the country through the crisis, and to make a commitment to building back better — a phrase that must not be allowed to acquire a hollow ring — would be a good thing. Next Tuesday, 23 March, is not it. Too much is known now about the unconscionable delay in announcing a nationwide lockdown to see this anniversary of the Prime Minister’s national address in 2020 as other than a reminder of how poorly the pandemic has been handled in the UK. In this respect, a day of reflection and mourning is appropriate, even if it is undermined by the repeated insistence that the time is not yet right for a formal inquiry into government decision-making. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, looking at legal action to compel the Government to hold an inquiry, calls one “essential if we are to learn lessons and save lives now and in the future”.