The government had a chance to do things differently. The chance is being squandered by ministers who do not know what to do
Parliament is breaking for the summer recess with the Conservatives in a shambles over some of the most fundamental issues facing the country. Government tactics for getting into the recess without allowing MPs a proper chance to examine big issues like Covid controls, social care reform, public sector pay and public spending have been reminiscent of football time-wasting ploys at their worst. The absences from the frontline of the prime minister, the chancellor and the health secretary, all self-isolating, are simply irritants of the larger problem, not the cause.
The issue is that ministers do not know what to do. The reason is that all these issues are connected. For days, there was Westminster talk of a strategic pre-recess announcement on social care reform. Decisions on NHS and other public sector pay rates were much trailed too. In the event, there has been no social care statement – while a set of pay decisions was shuffled out at the last minute in a ministerial written statement. Government evasions, delays and disagreements have cloaked every turn and every issue – and still do. The explanation is simple and glum: the government cannot make up its mind because it knows much of what it has to say will be unpopular.