The decisions made by governments in the UK over the past few months have been made on more than just science. They have been set out on the basis of political priorities too. Thus with different governments of different political complexions in all four parts of the UK, the decisions taken have inevitably been different and this is an entirely natural course of action. Yet with the ability to decide there is of course the right of others to scrutinise and sometimes criticise. No government has been wholly right in its actions, and no government has been wholly wrong. If you drew a Venn diagram of the administrations, then the portion at the centre would be way larger than the policies on which the governments of different nations have diverged. Yet similarity does not make news and frankly it does not make politics either.
We all entered lockdown together: that was the easy bit. It may also have been the bit that was most wrong, since the spread of the Covid disease was pretty far advanced before we all found ourselves locked away for our own good. But, as everyone seems now to accept, the relaxation of the Covid restrictions is much more tricky than their imposition. The speed and nature of those relaxations is the matter in hand now and – in examining the differences of approach between Wales and England – there has undeniably been a much more cautious approach here. How you feel about that is undeniably a personal opinion, though opinion polling has concluded that the people in Wales have broadly welcomed caution. They have seemed to agree with a policy of safety first, economy second.
The truth of decision making is that different factors have been weighed up before parties take stances. It is about striking a balance between public health, economic recovery, financial security and personal freedom. These metrics will continue to play a part in determining public policy for months – and probably years – to come, with science only part of the set of guiding values and principles that shape the way in which decisions are made. Until now, for Welsh Labour, public health has massively outweighed the other factors in underpinning those decisions, and quite clearly over the last month Wales has been working to a different pace compared to the rest of the UK in easing lockdown.
As the entire UK moves into the next phase of the Covid crisis, it appears that the economy will emerge as the central issue. The thousands of job losses announced already this week in Wales demonstrate that there is not a huge amount of difference in terms of the number of people who have died from Covid in Wales (1524 as of 2nd July) and the 1435 job losses announced just for Airbus in Broughton, Flintshire. This isn’t to equate a job loss with a death, but rather to make the point that Covid figures aren’t the only ones which count. Indeed, expect the economic figures to play as big a role in our lives over the coming months.