Been a bit tedious the last three months hasn’t it? The uncertainty of what was about to happen, added to the gloom and doom thoughtfully provided by writers with their degrees in media studies and journalism – presumably at the behest of the government’s behaviour team – as the asinine drivel promoted by them in so called expert opinion pieces must have originated from somewhere, certainly not in the fertile brain of someone still behaving and writing as if for the uni or college rag of the 1990s.
Goodness knows who these people were writing for. These nudgers, opinion-formers and influencers were everywhere; one can only assume because most trained experienced and intelligent print and broadcast journalists had long since been moved sideways, told to take their evidence, investigative skills elsewhere or retired.
The new breed were mostly kidding themselves that they, like many of their readers, are ‘middle class’ left-leaning socialist voters, happily residing in well-paid public quangos and the so called third sector and totally ignoring the result of the last election, carried on with project of presenting opinion as fact and news. Readers and viewers started to get an increase in anti-Boris propaganda. It was almost as if the last election had not taken place as this world class media of ours followed the same pattern as the left wing dominated media in the United States, just substitute Trump for Boris and you get the idea.
Then along came the ‘black swan’ event that the media was talking about until quite recently, a description that seems to have been quietly dropped by them as other events have taken precedence. I can’t remember who started or had the ‘scoop’ of the century, following for want of a better word the onset of ‘the virus’ but rumours of a Wuhan flu were circulating in the quality press well before last December but were of ‘the authorities in China are dealing with an outbreak of a virus which is giving some concern’ variety, a sort of ‘well, watch out there’s a virus about, but no need for concern at the moment and in any case China is a long way away.’
As it turned out not that far away in this free-moving global village that apparently we all are so enthusiastically living in (without ever being asked of course), the downside of all that is that the Wuhan flu arrived here ‘allegedly’ soon after, a fact that members of my family and friends would agree with, all having suffered from a debilitating flu, bearing all the same hallmarks and effects but dismissed at the time as some virus or other by ours and their doctors. At the time we gave it no real thought but we all knew people who had had the same thing and lived in various parts of the UK. Little did we know.
Christmas came and went. Most of us had a reasonably good Christmas, mainly because if you were a Conservative voter, Boris was in and Corbyn and all the rest of the remainers banished. Spreadsheet Phil was no longer in his counting house counting all your money and that nice Mr. Javid was presumably working to consolidate his power-base, so all, on the surface at least, was like the swan on the river, serene on the surface but paddling like the devil under the surface.
Then it started to go wrong. The great British public, for some reason, after years of telling all their friends that they never watched the BBC – particularly the news, and had long ago stopped reading and buying the ‘gutter press’, started to take it all in, lock stock and virus it seems. At coffee machines at offices across the land the hot topic was not climate change, Brexit, or some celeb’s latest twitterings, but the ‘virus’.
The press and the broadcast media, seeing the chance to boost their ratings and short term survival, went into it’s usual ‘we know better’ mode and as we know, started the rush to hysteria that only some of the older generation had seen or remembered when fuel supplies suddenly became erratic in the 1970s resulting in media pressure at the time for ‘ration coupons’ to be issued just as they had been during the Suez crisis in the 1950s. Again, in the late 70s when bread supplies became erratic, and again in 2000 when there was another shortage of fuel supplies, all resulted in ‘panic buying’ when supermarket shelves were cleared, sometimes in minutes, of essential supplies. The national hysteria whipped up following the death of Princess Di, never before witnessed here in the UK, hardly fitted the image of plucky unemotional stiff-upper-lipped British folk able to cope stoically in trying circumstances.
Johnson seemed uninterested and carried on doing whatever Prime Ministers do on a daily basis, and to be fair he’d just won an election, had the task of getting Brexit done, a divorce, an engagement and the impending birth of a baby together with the pressure of the various climate change demands demonstrations and the little matter of a firm decision on HS2. Either way his advisers, analysts and media experts seemed not to notice developments in the media and the spread of the virus, perhaps asleep at the wheel or just complacent, who knows? Either way they are not telling.
When they did sit up and take notice the damage had been done. Although there was, and still is, much goodwill for the government and its shaky response to the emergency, which looked amateurish, weak, badly driven and poorly managed, with ministers often looking ill at ease and not on top of their brief. Blinded by the glare of the spotlight for the only time in their lives, ‘experts’ in this and that seemed to be making decisions that would affect the lives of millions and without any accountability.
The end result was a shambles. Billions spent on this or that, much of it only to promoting new public fear and hysteria in the media. Scare stories abounded. Hundreds of new ambulances were purchased, private hospitals requisitioned, appeals for equipment, scandals about personal protective equipment not being available, legislation giving dubious authority under public health measure to basically put people under house arrest, close down business, restrict personal liberty, and confusing, poor quality instructions to the public of what they could or not do to stay safe or not. What you may call a very British emergency.
Alarmed by the stories on the BBC and Sky news channels, Joe Public demonstrated, in many cases, not the stiff controlled upper lip of their grandparents, but out and out panic, this time not shelves cleared in a matter of minutes but whole supermarkets. There were even cases of people fighting over the last pack of loo roles.
Then Lockdown. An atmosphere of distrust and fear pervaded the streets, things that the Prime Minister had said only days before were suddenly reversed and new guidelines enacted, and then the whole country found out to its surprise that we were no longer a country under one government, with ministers in charge of various departments, but four different countries operating under different rules and guidance in each one. Not a happy picture, helpfully painted by leaders in the devolved assemblies, who seizing their moment in the sun, flexed their assumed muscles and decided to go their own way.
Part 2 of Blowing more bubbles will be published here tomorrow.