Boris Johnson’s political trajectory from bumbling chat show host to prime minister has always been based on lofty headline-friendly promises; promises that he never seems to face consequences for breaking.
But providing the country with a series of broken pledges is more damaging than just keeping quiet. It means countless U-turns, causing peak chaos in the lives of millions. And it doesn’t just add to the longed-out stress; it also means people have lost faith in the rules simply because of the floppy-haired lying appliance in charge.
So with that in mind, to look back on a year of British lockdown and have a great big “celebration”, here’s a big list of promises that Johnson and the Conservatives have broken across the pandemic so far, noted in chronological order for maximum brain-twisting over how the last 12 months have gone.
THE 3.5M ANTIBODY TESTS THAT DIDN’T WORK (MARCH 2020)
What was said: “[The tests] will allow people to see whether they have had the virus and are immune to it and can go back to work.” – Matt Hancock
What really happened: Professor John Newton, who was appointed to oversee testing admitted the tests were insufficient and “not good enough to be worth rolling out”. According to The New York Times, these tests cost $20 million.
THE GOVERNMENT FAILING TO PROVIDE PPE, FOLLOWED BY THEM LYING ABOUT IT (APRIL 2020)
What was said: “We are working round the clock with industry, the NHS, social care providers and the army to ensure the supply of PPE over the coming weeks and months and will give our NHS and the social care sector everything they need to tackle this pandemic.” - the Department of Health and Social Care
What really happened: The UK refused three opportunities to bulk-buy PPE, which can only be down to an exceptionalism complex. This needlessly cost dozens of health-care workers their lives. The government was then accused by Panorama of inflating numbers by counting each glove as a piece of PPE as opposed to counting a pair as a piece of PPE.
100,000 TESTS PER DAY BY THE 1ST OF MAY (May 2020)
What was said: "We will reach 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by 1st May." - Matt Hancock
What really happened: Not only did this not happen, but, they claimed it did. On the 1st of May, the government said 122,347 tests had been carried out. Then it was revealed that only 73,191 individuals were tested, and that the government figure was boosted by counting nose and throat swabs as separate tests, much like the one glove trick previously mentioned. It also included 27,497 home testing kits that had been shipped but not processed.
THE GOVERNMENT ORDERED 400,000 UNUSABLE PROTECTIVE GOWNS (MAY 2020)
What was said: “People on the front line can rest assured that we're doing absolutely everything we can and straining everything we can to get the equipment they need.” - Rishi Sunak
What really happened: On the 18 of April, the NHS was days away from running out of water-resistant gowns essential to safe working. So ministers panic bought 400,000 gowns. The shipment was inspected by British officials in Istanbul, and yet when it arrived it was discovered the gowns didn’t meet safety standards. Trusts and charities had to step in to quickly secure alternative supplies.
TRACK AND TRACE (JUNE 2020)
What was said: “I have great confidence that by 1st June we will have a system that will enable us, help us, very greatly to defeat this disease and move the country forward.” – Boris Johnson
What really happened: 12 billion, or 0.6 per cent of the UKs entire income was handed to the private sector and failed to do basically anything. The only accuracy is that it started (barely) on the 1st of June. Sky recently broke the news that the slither of data it actually gathered was barely used anyway.
BORIS SAYING HE’D DO WHAT HE COULD DO PREVENT FURTHER LOCKDOWNS (SEPTEMBER 2020)
What was said: "I don't want a second national lockdown - I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.” - Boris Johnson
What really happened: Schools stayed open, and a confusing three-tier system was put in place. A huge spike in cases led to a second lockdown anyway.
BORIS PROMISES A ‘NORMAL CHRISTMAS’ IF PEOPLE FOLLOW LOCKDOWN RULES (NOVEMBER 2020)
What was said: “If we follow this package of measures in the way that we can and as we have done before, I have no doubt that people will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible and we’ll be able to get things open before Christmas as well.” - Boris Johnson
What really happened: We did not have a normal Christmas at all. It came within a lockdown, where people had to choose which family members to see, or whether seeing anybody was too risky. Many spent Christmas alone. There’s an argument that people didn’t follow lockdown rules, sure, but it’s yet another example of diverting blame from Conservative fuck-ups throughout the year onto the public.
SCHOOL MEAL PROMISES NOT BEING MET (JANUARY 2021)
What was said: “We’re going to make sure that we have no children, no kids, no pupils in our country who go hungry this winter, certainly not as a result of any government inattention.” - Boris Johnson
What really happened: It took two rounds of campaigning led by Marcus Rashford to finally get the Tories on board with not letting kids starve, though the majority of them voted to not extend free school meals despite claiming thousands in expenses themselves. However, after promising to provide free school meal equivalents, they delivered what looked like a slither of the local Tesco Metro’s reduced section on a Sunday evening. Gavin Williamson tried to place blame solely on the suppliers – who do deserve a lot of blame, given how they managed to spend £30 on just over £5 of food – but it doesn’t disguise from the fact that government inattention resulted in children going hungry.
PROVIDING CHILDREN WITH EDUCATION (JANUARY 2021)
What was said: “It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible." - Michael Gove
What really happened: Gove said this in December 2020, which means the promise was broken before he’d even stopped speaking, given the numerous things they could have done to curb the virus sooner. Within a week of Gove’s words, a third national lockdown was put in place, with schools closed until early March.
NHS PAY RISE DROPPED FROM 2.1 TO 1 PERCENT (MARCH 2021)
What was said: Alright, I don’t have a name to shame – but the 2019 NHS Long Term Plan (p. 37), lists an assumptive pay rise of 2.1 percent for NHS workers. Chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly committed to meeting it.
What really happened: This was brought down to a 1 percent pay rise in Sunak’s budget in March. Slashing a pay rise by more than half is pretty cold, but these are NHS workers we’re talking about – people who’ve been saving lives for over a year.
PLANNED CUTS OF £30 BILLION IN SPENDING AT THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE (MARCH 2021)
What was said: “Once we have settled our accounts [after Brexit], we will take back control of roughly £350m per week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.” - Boris Johnson
What really happened: Taking it way back to 2016, fact-checking organisation Full Fact called bullshit (“a clear misuse of official statistics”) on the £350 million figure that Johnson plastered on his Leave campaign bus. That’s one thing, but now there’s plans to cut £30bn of day-to-day NHS spending, as spotted by the New European in the 2021 budget. There’s broken promises, and then there’s suggesting the NHS will be £350m a week better off and then slashing it by roughly £57 million a week. What a malicious shambles. Happy one-year lockdown anniversary!