I don’t know why, but I haven’t felt inspired to write a blog entry since the middle of November last year. Perhaps it was the dark nights or the deadening effects of lockdown illustrated by the fact that on New Year’s Eve, on the stroke of midnight, there was no-one out on our street ‘toasting in’ the new year. Or perhaps it is my fault in that I have been so angry over the past two months as the constant torrent of stories have emerged that show our government’s contempt for the suffering that people endured during lockdown. Our political leaders have partied on regardless as they locked the rest of the population down and then have tried to ‘media manage’ their way out of trouble by turning the news agenda in any possible direction to deflect attention away from their behaviour. Migrants crossing the Channel, Prince Andrew’s latest revelations, ‘unreasonable’ Brussels negotiators trying to wreck the Northern Ireland agreement – anything to move the public’s gaze away from what the government has been doing.
Last week we reached the absolute pinnacle of diversionary stories as Downing Street tried to move the headlines away from the various drinks parties, or ‘work events with wine’ that have been taking place under the Prime Minister’s nose . There was a major announcement that the Transport Secretary is going to introduce legislation to limit the number of announcements that can me made on commuter trains! Wow! Thank God we have a Transport Secretary with a vision for the future of Britain!
Senior Conservative politicians are constantly coming on the radio and TV to tell us that we shouldn’t worry about illegal drinks parties taking place around Whitehall when ordinary people couldn’t visit their dying relatives in hospital. We shouldn’t worry about whether our Prime Minister has lied to Parliament or has tried to pull the wool over the eyes of every TV and radio journalist in the country. We should look at the Government’s achievements. The two ‘achievements’ that are always quoted are Brexit and how well the government has dealt with the Covid crisis. So let’s look at these.
Well, we are still waiting to see the benefits of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic has been a god-send to Brexiteers in allowing our politicians to say that it was not their fault that Brexit has achieved absolutely nothing except a shortage of labour in manufacturing and farming, a desperate shortage of staff in care homes, huge queues on the roads into Dover and a worrying deterioration in relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It’s all the fault of the pandemic.
On the coronavirus situation, we are treated every night to an update in the news bulletins which records the number of people who have contracted Covid, how many have died in the last 28 days and how many vaccinations have been carried out. Tory politicians are constantly telling us that our vaccine programme is a ‘world-beater’ and far in advance of any other country. We are also given the figures for the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic, (currently around 160,000 people). But we have a world-beating vaccination rollout, our government proudly stresses, so we needn’t worry.
What is never mentioned are the international comparisons on deaths from Covid, because, as we know, ‘comparisons are odious’.
If we look at the number of deaths per 100,000 across Europe, we night see Britain’s performance in a different light. For example: according to John Hopkins University last week, the ‘league table’ for the total number of deaths per 100,000 people in Western Europe looks like this:
Netherlands : 122 per 100,000
United Kingdom: 227*
Perhaps we shouldn’t shout quite so loudly about how ‘world-beating’ our response to the coronavirus pandemic has been.
Is it any wonder that I haven’t felt much like writing an essentially light-hearted blog recently?
*(recent figures from Oxford University almost completely mirror the John Hopkins totals.)