I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper. A couple of friends still have a broadsheet delivered seven days a week, which is evident in conversations, but I put that down to lockdown and not being able to get out much these days. Another friend still buys the one that self-describes as a ‘middle market newspaper’, whatever that is supposed to mean, as well as an evening paper. Retired and living alone without the benefit of modern technology with the exception of satellite TV, those are his only sources of news, although even he now ignores the main news channels because as he tell me he’s heartily sick of all the Covid doom and gloom and has had more than enough of the two doctors of death and Hancock, and as far as Boris is concerned his views would be unprintable in a platform such as this.
Speaking to another friend this week, he had the same opinion, that this government is useless, achieved very little and made a complete mess of managing the Covid outbreak, both think the way the country has been divided into ‘them and us’, with the public sector being looked after because ‘we’ are all in this together, is a disgrace, although to be fair, both live in areas and have relations that are or were employed in small businesses and they are fortunate – or not – depending on your view, not to live in Audi Avenue. Far from it in fact, but it seems for some unfathomable reason the Conservative Party seems intent on following the views of pundits in the media rather than actually looking and listening to the views of the electorate, particularly in the so called ‘red wall’.
Not that this seems to interest the mainstream media, who these days seem to be in a race to the bottom of integrity standards and investigation. Make no mistake, the popularity of the alternative media is growing exponentially as we are all supposed to say these days, although I’m not sure if most users of the term actually understand what it means.
Don’t think I’m knocking these upstarts. The thing about alternative media, in theory at least, is that it’s one of the last bastions of ‘free speech’, although just how long that will last is anyone’s guess, as governments seek to impose their ideas of what is acceptable or appropriate to be talked about, never mind written about, in our new version of normal and not-so-free.
Fall foul of the algorithms, controlling what is acceptable to the media giants controlling the popular on-line platforms, and it’s hard not to see where we are going. Some sort of global utopia where thought and speech can be controlled by closing down discussion that is deemed either not appropriate or acceptable (two weasel words, often used these days by figures in most publicly-funded organisations). I’m sure you get the picture and it’s not 1984; it’s something far worse than that, and the United Kingdom is leading the world.
What started as CCTV surveillance of football crowds during the 1970s in an effort to stem violence, and in public places because of the real threat of terrorism grew, thanks to local and central government politicians, to nation-wide surveillance systems. As police were withdrawn from traditional policing (in the UK at least), CCTV was seen as a win-win solution for politicians looking to be seen to be doing something to combat all forms of crime, that worked well then did it not.
Surveillance has now spread to all aspects of life in the UK. It is no longer a case of you can do anything you want if it’s not against the law. It is now the much more authoritarian European system of you can do something only if the law says you can, which is something quite different but is apparently lost on most people.
It surprised many at the start of the Covid panic how easily this government, on what now seems the most spurious and unreliable advice from ‘experts’, legislated to bring in ‘laws, restrictions and guidelines’, along with draconian penalties without any great pushback by the public. In fact, the opposite was quite often true. These pronouncements by people often working for previously unknown government departments or quangos with absolutely no risk to themselves financially or otherwise and without any consultation took decisions (for our own good of course), spending taxpayers’ money as if it were going out of fashion, with virtually no comment by locally accountable politicians who preferred to hide behind the ‘professional opinion’ of paid officers.
We can now see how that is playing out with the hi-viz 21st century equivalent of Mr. Hodges from ‘Dads Army’ enjoying their clipboard-given authority, backed by a curtain twitching army of people encouraged by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, no less, happy to maintain a ‘snitch line’ for the reporting of mostly minor infringements of the Covid regulations – again a modern equivalent of Mr. Hodges and “put that light out”.
One could be forgiven for thinking that all this has got out of hand. Thousands still locked in their homes terrified to go out into the big dangerous wide world, hanging on each announcement from the BBC in particular and the mainstream media in general, which pretends that ‘the science’ is set in stone, which it is certainly not, and that anyone who questions the statistical relevance of figures issued by government sources, the relevance of often confusing ‘guidelines’, tiers and lockdowns, the cost and effectiveness of our 20-something million mass testing and track and trace shambles, or the safety of the miracle cure ‘vaccines’ is reported again in the mainstream broadcast and print media as tin foil hat, conspiracy theory nutters, pilloried as ‘deniers’ or ‘anti vaxxers’, oddly often by people who think parading around in the open air or driving alone in their own vehicle wearing a flimsy face covering mask is going to save them from catching or passing on (according to a latest NHS cartoon) ‘Covid particles’. You could not, as they say, make this up.
We now have artificial borders being created between the nations of the United Kingdom and assembly members acting for all the world as if the United Kingdom has turned overnight into a ‘federal state’, while the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland pontificates about green issues and climate change. (Nero and Rome burning comes to mind.)
Somebody should tell the Prime Minister that his ‘hi-viz’ jacket and hard hat does nothing for his standing in areas away from his particular bubble and in any case hi-viz, particularly yellow as worn by police forces, is now thanks to their actions during peaceful protests in the last few months very passé and so last year. One would have thought that he would have noticed but perhaps he’s not been able to get out as much as usual even when the ‘new normal’ yellow jacketed police are selectively policing citizens protesting peacefully their rights to assembly, protest and movement which have been arbitrarily constrained by cabinet decisions of which he is the leader.
One would have thought that, given the seriousness of the situation, he would have donned hard hat and prime ministerial yellow hi-viz and emulated his predecessor Winston Churchill at the siege of Sydney Street and put in an appearance with the troops in Whitehall.
He would then have seen for himself the amount of feeling against his legislation. No wonder the latest opinion polls put his ratings at an all-time low, and this is just one year since the last election when he was given a clear mandate and the good wishes of much of the electorate.
From boom to bust in one year that must be some sort of record. Perhaps his new media communications guru could come up with a new slogan; how about ‘disappointment and U turns are us’.
In this world of instant experts and communication professionals, does not anyone in the mass ranks of the cabinet office look at the world in which we find ourselves, where style mostly trumps substance? Don’t they learn anything from the Sunday glossies or TV advertisements?
Nightmare on Downing Street – part 2 will be published here tomorrow