If I see another smug, self satisfied, preening, gym going, bearded, tatted twat saying this virus wont change his life, I will scream. And if I hear another wrinkly old fart invoking ‘the blitz spirit.....we Brits always muddle through’,crap I will subject myself to playing a continuous loop of the Ann Widdecombe and Bill Cash Christmas medley of their greatest speeches. Well, at least its not very long.
The sad reality about this national crisis is that it brings out the very best and the very worst of the Brits. As individuals the overwhelming majority of us are kind, compassionate and caring. It’s good that the press report tales of heroism and selflessness. But as a pack we are no better than wolves, arrogant, predatory, selfish and utterly self centred. I was in my local Tesco in Saffron Walden this morning and asked a member of staff how she was coping. Her face was grey with stress, her eyes blood shot. ‘Not well. Customers have been fighting. They don’t like us trying to enforce the buying restrictions and they shout and swear at us’. And that is before the virus lets rip in a couple of weeks. These people are on the front line too. They are up close to angry, spittle flecked, customers. It is as distressing as it is obscene. These people are doing their best to help us live normal lives. It would be nice if we collectively made them feel appreciated.
We have only a few more days before Corbyn, Abbott, McDonell and that whole ghastly crew of dangerous fantasists are ventilated from the Labour leadership. I am no fan of Johnson and I cringe every time he opens his mouth at a press conference or at the despatch box. You feel that he has just flicked through a couple of sides of A4 and has visible inner turmoil not to make a joke. But he is playing it right. Leaving it to the experts. Following the science. It is not his fault when sometimes the science is unclear. This is the time when we thank our lucky stars that he has no ideology to propel the decision making process and has no shame in stealing Labour’s clothes. If he genuinely believes that it is his destiny to win this war I really don’t care. As long as he does. And he needs to be supported by all of us.
Now what of Rishi Sunak? Without wishing to sound patronising this is a man who has only been in Parliament for a very short period of time and is just a little bit older than my children. I distrusted him as a Johnson puppet. I thought that the concept of having a combined Treasury and Number 10 team was a mistake. I was wrong on both counts. Can you imagine if there were the usual arguments and tensions right now? Decision making would take twice as long. For one so young and inexperienced Sunak comes over as a man you can trust, who knows what he is doing, who actually cares about people. The contrast with the boss is palpable. And eventually that will at first rankle, then feared and the very first negative briefings will emerge. But that is a long, long way down the track. Sunak also passes the taxi driver test. I was in his constituency recently and was picked up by a Romanian driver. He asked me if I knew Sunak, which I don’t. And then he told me a story. He had driven him and his people since he was elected. Always polite, always kind. And one day said to the driver, ‘you realise although you drive me you are more of a friend’. Mmmm.
To a sociable person like me the closing of pubs, restaurants cafes and clubs is a living hell. I will hate every moment of it. But it had to be done. However, I suspect within a few weeks there will be the beginnings of a Speakeasy culture. Dodgy gatherings in dodgy places drinking expensive drink. It will be haunted by journalists, lawyers and those who want to while away an afternoon in good company, licking their wounds. I used to frequent these joints in Fleet Street in the 1970s when you couldn’t get a drink after 2pm. Yet I won’t frequent these. In the old days a visit to the Prescarla or the Golf Club could result in monumental hangovers. But it wouldn’t kill me. And I couldn’t infect others.