Part 1 of When the going gets tough … can be read here


This handwritten notice was posted in one shop window on the last day of trading, several months ago and it says it all to anyone who bothers to take a look.  I say ‘bothers’ as within a close vicinity of this store 10 others have closed and will not re-open, along with local pubs, clubs, and other businesses.

The notice reads:

Our Store is now closed. We would like to thank all of our wonderful customers for your loyalty and support over the years and what has been a very tough few weeks going through the closing down procedure.  We wish you all the very best for the future.

Love from the team Liz, Lorna & Michelle.

I’ve since heard that one of the ladies working there had actually been at that shop for more than 20 years.  No doubt like many of the tens of thousands of people who in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries along with their suppliers have, through no fault of their own, found themselves unemployed due to the lockdown restrictions and face a very uncertain future, and who now find that public sector unions are agitating for a pay rise.

After all they say, have MPs not been generously treated and given a pay rise and as we all know they are poorly-paid public sector workers, are they not?  Anyone who thinks that is a good idea and vote winning strategy – particularly in the ‘red wall’ constituencies – needs to refrain from drinking, as the Americans say, the ‘cool aid’.

The Prime Minister, hiding away in self-imposed lockdown, prattles on about ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ and bullying, thanks public sector workers for their heroic contribution during the crisis, and never mentions, not once, the low paid or the self-employed who have not experienced his warm embrace or that of Dishi Rishi.  Tens of thousands have received no assistance at all.

Only Rishi, announcing what amounts to a pay freeze for public sector staff, has actually said that it would not be ‘fair’ on private sector employees if the public sector enjoyed a pay rise.

Odd how that this divide has not been talked about by the chatterati who seemingly have an opinion on everything else. Not talked about, out of sight out of mind, until the next time we are ‘all in it together’.  Rhetoric that is at last wearing thin with people who have lost their jobs, businesses and in many cases their futures. Still at least he will be able to ‘tell it to the marines’ as we used once to say, now that Boris has announced another few billion pounds to stop the retreat from funding the national armed services.

The mainstream media, presumably ‘guided’ by government subsidies – sorry, advertising revenue – refuses to cover what is actually going on in a town or city near you, or, for that matter, the problems faced by countries in Europe and beyond.   Listening to ministers, and if you can bear it, the talking heads on most of the mainstream media, you soon realise that these people have no idea or interest in how much of the country actually lives, or the worries of the average person who doesn’t live in in the world of advertising, marketing, the media, and  doesn’t have a well-paid public sector job or in finance but actually has to get up each day and go and do something which keeps the rest of us comfortable.  It strikes me that the real working people now need to see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

People not working in the rarefied areas – politics and public employment – need to be motivated or given some hope that the future may actually be ‘built back better’, which is an insult to anyone who ever did build something or make a difference before the world went mad.

The media in the UK must take responsibility for much of the hysteria, fear and panic evident over the last few months.  Click bait headlines, panicking ministers and civil servants imposing restrictions on daily life that not only caused panic and economic devastation, but has had a lasting effect on the mental and physical wellbeing of thousands.   It’s not surprising that cases of depression and suicide are soaring, with this daily diet of death and doom for months on end which has made the population lose its collective confidence, not only in themselves but in trusted institutions and government ministers, trust that once lost will be hard to rebuild.

One friend called me from abroad this week to say that they had just seen mainstream headlines on one British news outlet laden with stories of doom, death and destruction, Christmas being cancelled and if government granted people a four-day relaxation it would have to be paid for with some sort of lockdown imposed in January for the whole country, or as one ‘expert’ suggested, visit parents at Christmas and you can bury them in January.  That’s supposing of course that funerals would be allowed to take place!

There seems to be a total acceptance by many that this is the much talked about ‘new normal’. Well if that is what the much of the public wants, so be it.

Many others are just wondering how these same people will feel when unemployment levels increase, when inflation takes place or, due to the international situation, some sort of cold or hot war becomes inevitable – with whom you may ask – well, take your pick, China, Asia, the Middle East.

At the present time another ‘black swan’ event could easily take place.  You remember black swan events, when all the experts and think tanks failed to predict the financial crisis of 2008 when ‘Gordon’ saved the world apparently, or the Covid crisis we now find ourselves in, that we, and generations to come, will be paying for.  The ‘experts’ in disciplines that, until this year, virtually nobody had ever heard of, including Dr. Neil Ferguson whose work was again accepted by officials and ministers and seen in some quarters a ‘gold standard’.

This may explain some government thinking, but why they have ignored the views of other eminent scientists and medical people with expertise in virology remains a mystery, particularly now that we are told that some of the data used for their ‘modelling’ came from sources on Wikipedia.

Not surprising then as Michael Gove remarked during 2016 and during the referendum period – also marred by the opinions of experts – that ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’.

Well it seems that quote was as relevant then as it is now and many of us would add political nonentities and yesterday’s men to that comment too.  What is for sure is that confidence in government and the media is now running at a very low ebb.   The country is crying out for clear leadership and no-nonsense reporting from the media.   Confidence needs rebuilding and seeing the Prime Minister reacting to media storms from his spare room is not an edifying spectacle, neither are reports that his fiancée is prompting the Prime Minister during discussions and using ‘what’s app’ for the purpose, which sounds fanciful to me, but given the communication shambles and ‘u’ turns we have all seen recently anything is possible.

As we wait for the latest ministerial broadcast, or decree, older people, aware of how Churchill conducted his war and motivated the nation, may well be forgiven for thinking that instead of the man they may have thought they elected exuding confidence and leadership, they are witnessing a prime minister who has more in common with Chamberlain or Halifax.  Something which is sadly lacking now is the fighting spirit needed to be a leader; the public is fast losing self-confidence and patience, is disillusioned with the government and our institutions, and a tipping point is approaching on several fronts.  We could all be forgiven for asking if our leaders are ‘up to it’ or as was once thought, ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’.  How long are we expected to wait?

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