There are some things in life that should be obvious:

  1. Governments don't spend their money, they spend yours
  2. There is a large gap between saying and doing
  3. Governments are strategic, not tactical
Governments are slow, they are supposed to be. Imagine knee-jerk laws being implemented in weeks or months that should take much longer to consider and debate. People need time to hear about a change, think about it, make representations, possibly help re-draft some of it and this all takes months and sometimes years.  Christopher Chope, MP, got in hot water for allegedly blocking a law specifically prohibiting up-skirting. Unfortunately, with an issue so personal and in an age where everything is ultra-public, he didn't stand a chance of avoiding being taken to the cleaners but what he said was important: We mustn't rush a law which either increased complexity for no benefit (i.e. the issue is already covered by existing laws) or otherwise you risk accidentally criminalising someone if you don't carefully consider the law (imagine, for example, a "glamour" photographer getting arrested for doing their job).

So slow and steady wins the race.

This also dictates the kind of people you want to be MPs. Their job does not require them to actually implement anything (or than paperwork) but only to think up strategy, to instruct civil servants and to prioritise where money gets spent. In other words, you want big thinkers, people who can see problems in others ideas, people who can balance many competing priorities and come up with some happy medium.

So what about Corona Virus?

It needs dealing with fast and it requires tactical input. The two things that MPs are not employed for and have consistently shown to be lacking. Most of the time that MPs made grandiose claims about things in the news, the best outcome is usually a headline but very often they cannot force change and, again, this is good. The police, the media etc. should have freedom to work outside of political pressure.

We've probably all met strategic people who think they know how to get their hands dirty and "get stuff done" and often it is embarrassing. What do we need sorting at this time? Supply chains, virus research, keeping the economy in check, protecting people from each other etc. Some of these are not guaranteed to work so you do your best. Others can and should be sorted whatever happens. What do we actually get?

  1. Poor supply chains and excuses rather than just fixing it.
  2. A crippled economy because no-one wants to say at what point we can relax restrictions
  3. A regulatory system that means that agility is crushed before it starts since it takes time to get things signed-off
  4. A fairly blanket restriction on people movement even though people are allowed to go shopping, which probably undermines all of the other restrictions put in place - social distancing in itself would have been largely as effective
  5. A lack of confident instruction over things like face masks - there is a reason they are not recommended: a non-airborne contagious vector and they don't stop people catching the virus by contact.
So what should happen?

In most large companies,  the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery processes are not managed by the Board or the Management Team but by a much smaller specific team of highly trained and qualified people who are empowered to act in the best interests of the company and who have probably already largely considered the various potential problems and a process to work around them.

Corona virus might be new but the concept of a highly pathological danger has been a possibility for many years, whether naturally like Sars and others or possibly as a biological attack. So why was there not already a Response Team who had already asked the question about supply chains, emergency manufacturing agreements with British Companies, mechanisms to protect workers or even an automatic tax deferment mechanism. They could already have the metrics that state at what point a virus should require a lockdown and when large events should be banned.

Then you just have to click the switch. No-one has a crystal ball but isn't risk assessment what we have been doing for the past 30 years, why were left on the back-foot expecting a strategic management to deal with it?