The best part of two months into lock down and the media, in all its guises, is full of stories about heroes working at full stretch (or not) in the NHS and in the emergency services, how well (or not) the Boris government is managing the crisis, along with cries from all and sundry that we should all demand that lockdown continues or is extended (or not). This is now creating more arguments about civil liberties, freedom of the individual and speech, and the latest red herring that we should all (or not) agree to sign up to have the NHS tracing and contact app on our smartphones. Who knows what else government spokespersons will ‘float’ – presumably just to see what will happen. Some of it has worked and very successfully, they have certainly nudged the population into agreeing – or at least not making much fuss one way or another – to most of the restrictions and policies that have been enacted. Could this be a ‘divide and rule’ strategy? Whatever it is, it seems to be working for the moment, although I suppose that the old adage ‘you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time’ comes to mind.
Although cracks do seem to be starting to appear, as the ‘I don’t believe this’ calls grow louder and louder, not only here but in countries right across the world, which in itself is interesting, as the same or very similar lockdown policies seem to have been used in many countries often supported by media hysteria and attacks against regional or national government. Although the U.K. seems alone in its quest to turn a health service into some sort of deity, was it all coordinated one wonders, some would say it certainly looks like it.
Two things which are starting to engage the population in the U.K. are the astonishing proposals to lock down fit and healthy 70-year-olds for some as yet undecided period of time. All for their own good of course and to be honest I can’t see that going down very well with the majority. For good measure ministers are mooting compulsory vaccination, well, not compulsory or mandatory you understand, at this point that won’t be necessary because when people see how good it would be, they will just accept it. I’ve no idea who is advising these ministers but if they think people will accept the vaccine on the advice of a government minister or some media celebrity they could be in for a bit of a shock. It’s all about the little matter of trust really and the political class, the professional experts and the media have squandered any right to trust. Since this present crisis started, whenever that was, it now appears that what many people said in the U.K. may have been correct when they reported to doctors, professional health experts and the media that they thought that they may have had the virus or something very much like it as early as December. This, as it happens, was when foreign media reported that a virus had been discovered and was spreading in China. Here the virus went mostly unacknowledged and when several people of my acquaintance, with what are now known as ‘the symptoms,’ visited their doctor, they were told that it’s just some sort of seasonal virus. Quite a coincidence.
What we now know of course is that the lockdown has had unprecedented effects on the whole economy, particularly manufacturing, the service sector, education, tourism and leisure. Airlines have seen their business decimated overnight, aircraft being put into storage and mothballed along with many cruise liners – the real job losses are only now beginning to become apparent.
In the Midlands, the home of the ‘Bard’, the traditional Birthday Celebrations were cancelled. The Royal Shakespeare Company, which employs hundreds of people in ways as diverse as education and world class costume making, published an income for the last financial year (2018/19) of £86.44m. Mostly from ticket sales and donations. Its theatres are now closed as are all the local places of interest. ‘So what’? you may say, ‘I’m more a Hollywood movie person, Shakespeare is just for the posh people and not for the likes of us, I’d sooner watch the new Bond Movie or Star Wars or something. Who cares if the luvvies get a hard time, I don’t have the luxury of thinking about them, you try living on universal credit of £100 a week, when I finally get it that is’.
Good point. Probably wasted on the 6.3 million people on full pay schemes or furlough payments, and who, unless they are now wondering just how safe their safe job is in local government or some quango or a smaller private company who won’t have noticed much change in their lifestyle. Yet. Let’s hope the sun keeps shining for them, but the clouds are already on the horizon. Rishi Sunak has now made it clear that such a rate of support is unsustainable, the amount of companies applying for furlough payments exceeded expectations and this could cost more than the £11 billion a month the NHS is currently costing.
Something is certainly going on, though, as more and more people are trying to arrange payment holidays, overdraft facilities and so on. Try getting through to a bank call centre, it’s like finding and booking a delivery slot from a supermarket. You will be, I’m afraid, in for a long wait.
[To be continued tomorrow in Part II]