The British government too joined India’s many international friends and allies in supplying help.
When the Indian embassy in London appeals for oxygen and Remdesivir, the urgency of India’s situation is tangible. The British Indian diaspora immediately mobilised to fund-raise in support of their motherland, with temples, charities, NGOs and individuals running urgent appeals and the High Commission in Aldwych directing folks to the PM Cares fund.
The British government joined India’s many international friends and allies in supplying help. Nine airline container loads of supplies, including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators from UK arrived in India on Tuesday and Thursday; but apparently UK have no vaccinations to spare.
During the crises in Italy and UK last year the grisly western media were fixed on people gasping in hospitals, but in India they are fixated on India’s crematoria. All of India’s exemplary work on sharing their vaccine production with the rest of the world went by the by.
Recent efforts to improve UK-India bilaterals appear to have fallen on stony ground; there seems to be an anti-UK vibe going on, with the relationship described as “strange” on television.
Boris Johnson is grappling with allegations about the proper allocation of costs in redecorating the Prime Minister’s private apartment in Downing Street; the Electoral Commission are now formally investigating how the Conservative Party paid for this refurbishment. This week Johnson appointed a new Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, a post that has been empty for five months. The PM is also troubled about alleged comments he denies making in 2020 about opposing further lockdowns; and an alleged suggestion about cancelling an enquiry into the Halloween leaks to the press regarding the second lockdown allegedly leaked by Henry Newman, a senior advisor at No10.
There is also an issue left over from March 2020 about some texts between the PM and inventor/manufacturer Sir James Dyson, regarding the government’s ventilator procurement programme. Tax exemptions were sought for Dyson employees who might have been brought in from Singapore, the PM defended the possible change in tax law in an effort to move mountains to supply ventilators; in typical Boris Johnson language he declared “I am first Lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need”, in any event the plan was shelved. But the nation wants to know who knew: did Rishi Sunak or HMRC support this?
All the above in the wake of Dominic Cumming’s recent confessional that ended “It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.” One can only speculate what went wrong between these buddies, nobody seems in any doubt that without Cummings’ input Johnson would not have been elected leader or Prime Minister or have realised Brexit.
It all leaves a bitter aftertaste about respecting the ministerial code and it smacks of obfuscation, which is not a good look for a government just before the mayoral elections and the Scottish Parliament election, both on 6 May. For the moment the PM is the victim of trial by media but Boris Johnson is a maverick and his 80-seat majority makes him resilient; the vaccine drive is his armour as 34 million people are vaccinated with a first dose and close to 14 million with a second dose, and he is still loved by Tories who fear the alternatives.