Britain is paying the price for a foolish ideology that sees government as an obstacle – our lives depend on doing better

The botched response to the coronavirus pandemic is a collective failure of Britain’s governing class. From complacency in the early days and confusing public health messages throughout the crisis to its shambolic testing system, the government has struggled to get a grip. It has revealed the fundamental weakness of the state after a decade of Tory misrule.

Seasoned Whitehall watchers often remark: “It wouldn’t have been like this if Jeremy Heywood were still around.” The late former cabinet secretary was a truly formidable mandarin – with a first-class mind and an unfathomable capacity for hard work. But the lament of his passing also reveals the lack of resilience of the British state. How could it be that the effectiveness of the once-revered civil service had become reliant on a single man?

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