I suppose it had to happen, the bloke in the supermarket queue, who used to be the bloke down the pub and before that the one the Clapham omnibus, is starting to get a just a wee bit frustrated and irritated by all the little restrictions so meekly accepted just two and a half months ago. Any sort of consensus has long since come and gone as bored, often on full pay, remotely working middle classes in the professions have found more pressing things to promote on social media, video blogs and the comments sections of their favourite online news outlet.

No longer do we hear stories of how difficult and hard it is self-isolating.

“Well actually I had a bit of a cough and some catarrh when we came back from Tuscany following our usual break in early March which sets us up for the summer. It seemed to get worse on the flight back home, so we thought it best to self-isolate for a fortnight or so. I did have a phone conversation with the ‘quack’ and he said given the circumstances it was probably the best thing to do. It was alright for a couple odd days, then the kids started to get on our nerves then we couldn’t get our delivery from Waitrose, and then the enormity of what we had decided to do ‘hit us’ just like that bloke on Channel Four said it would. Ayaan who hadn’t gone on holiday with us this year and had decided to stay at his uni ‘digs’ called to say when he and the Instructor got to the test centre his driving test had been cancelled, because one of the examiners had a cough or something and the other examiners had then decided that they needed to self-isolate. It was a bit woe is me, well you know how self-centred teenagers can be, but I said, well you have to think that examiners will have families and they won’t want to put them in the firing line so as to speak. His instructor was a bit worried as sitting next to 3 or 4 different pupils in a car for two hours at a time isn’t the option anyone would choose, but, as the instructor told him, it’s alright, examiners going off at a moment’s notice, they get paid whatever”.

Anyway, the DVSA eventually cancelled all tests throughout the UK and apparently stopped issuing provisional driving licenses too. How many driving schools will be put out of business during the emergency is anyone’s guess, of course.

Hardly worth even broaching the subject of the NHS, no consensus there, with the press and much of the nation totally for the ‘clapathon’ and ready to forget that a few months ago the media was full of headlines of poor performance, patients waiting for hours in ambulances before being seen by A/E staff, left on trolleys, ambulances queueing up outside departments and so on. Endless examples of what was reported as poor or indifferent service by management and staff, and so on, arguments for or against the privatisation of services that could or possibly might be done better and cheaper by private sector organisations – which is another minefield of public opinion, either for or against, voiced by people with little knowledge or experience of the NHS, its professional health care staff, its management – which appears to be top heavy, bureaucratic and expensive. Very little acknowledgement by either side to accept that many of the financial problems have been caused in the first place by the crippling costs of PFI, or that billions have just been ‘written off’ by this government so that ‘trusts’ do not have to worry about costs during this crisis. Poor staff retention – there are thousands of vacancies – no consensus here, with many treating the organisation as some sort of deity, while others are most assuredly of the other opinion.

The lockdown has created as many problems as it has allegedly solved. Many people locking themselves away until all the nastiness has gone. Easier to do if you are being cared for by the government, with its full pay. No wonder they have a false sense of security and have given little thought to the fact that if their particular quango, third sector, civil or local government departments suffer budget cuts their particular job could disappear overnight, as some in what’s left of our manufacturing sector and who have been furloughed will find when economic reality hits them. The service sector is in the same boat. How long before employers decide that nice-to-have jobs that do not actually add anything of consequence to the product or service are not necessary, or that if the work can be done remotely, it can be just as easily done in another country and cheaper. How many ‘services’ provided by government, central or local, are in fact not providing anything of consequence to the nation or the community?

Many small and large business operations will shed staff. Garden centres, fashion retailers, car showrooms, hair dressers, cafes, restaurants, B&B’s and many many others have seen their prospects and profitability ruined by this shut down and some will, or already have, gone out of business or made staff redundant. How happy will they be to support central or local government when, as will surely happen, they seek ways to replace their finances by, for example, local taxes, increases in carparking charges, green refuse collection, leisure services and so on. So, no consensus there, when they find on one hand many of the people crying out for more lockdown are the very people who have suffered the least from its economic effects. There are millions of self-employed suffering as their sources of income dried up overnight while having to wait weeks or months for any assistance, some of which is in the form of loans – how are they going to pay it back? There are also countless thousands for whom no financial help is available from the government – that government who said we are all in this together and we are behind you!

To be continued tomorrow in Part II.

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