It is rather depressing how relentlessly tribal issues have become. I don’t mean party political tribal. Just generally. It started with global warming. Then Scottish independence. Then Brexit. And now coronavirus. Both sides are unrelenting. The mad left scream that the Tories want to kill people and destroy the NHS. No ludicrous conspiracy theory is enough for them. On the other side it is almost a common denominator that extreme commentators on the right who take no prisoners on Brexit and are climate change sceptics now want to blow caution to the wind and end lockdown. Yesterday. Their new mantra is, ‘don’t treat the public like children......let’s set out the plans to end lockdown’. This is great for the Telegraph and the Mail, and will send quivers of joyous patriotism for the sort of people who dress up as crusader knights on St George day. Don’t get me wrong I’m very proud to be British. But I try not to be a complete uncompromising twat.
There is absolutely no evidence that the government is treating us like children nor refusing to tell us the hard truths. Clearly the message is that lockdown can be gradually relaxed if the five tests are met. Just a reminder of what they are:
- That the NHS has capacity to provide critical care right across the UK.
- That there is a sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths from Coronavirus.
- That the rate of infection decreases to manageable levels across the board.
- That the government is confident that any adjustments to to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections.
I suspect that most people will feel that these are sensible and clear. But the lockdown deniers don’t. I won’t name the columnists but their voices are becoming increasingly shrill. They have warned that ‘we need to take more risks......that ventilators are harmful.....that the virus is not much more than influenza which kills thousands every year.....the old are going to die anyway....the public won’t take much more of this and there will be public dissent.......most people will obey the rules without police enforcement....that Johnson is no longer the risk taker and will be too cautious to take the tough decisions.....that we are mythologising about the NHS to a dangerous degree’. This is not fair comment. This is dangerous bollocks which if heeded will cost lives. So far as I am aware nobody has yet written a piece about the nanny state. Perhaps this will be the preserve of Mogg.
I have absolutely no doubt that Boris Johnson has had, for the first time in his life, the shit scared out of him. He has the advantage of being able to look the public in the eye and honestly say that he knows the trauma and loneliness that the virus brings. Even when the good times roll again he will never forget those black hours before daybreak when the night terrors whispered that he may die. And die alone. Covid 19 will be for the rest of his life his Auriga, the slave that whispered in the Roman emperor’s ear, ‘Momenti Mori’, remember thou art mortal.
I suspect Johnson will consume the briefings on his options. No more bluster. No more flying by the seat of his pants. His job is no longer to cheer the nation up. It is to save us from death and poverty.
Isn’t it strange? A few weeks ago my view of Johnson was of a venal, selfish, self absorbed, charlatan with a delusional and inflated sense of his destiny. But maybe his destiny was for just this moment. And to look the Tory money men, his dissenters in Cabinet, the Toby Youngs, the Alison Pearsons the Ian Duncan Smiths in the eye and tell them that he wouldn’t want his worst enemy to go through what he has. And then show them the door. They, of course, will turn on him. Subtly at first. Whispering that he is merely the husk of the man he once was. And then they will start attacking the scientists. It has begun already. He must face them down.
These people asked for robust leadership from him. And that is what they will get. They won’t like it.