LECTERN VICISSITUDES.

I have been sat in front of our TV as 24 hour coverage of this pandemic unfolds for weeks now. I am over 72 years old, I am not supposed to go out unless it’s absolutely crucial. At first I watched all the bulletins as the prime minister and a variety of high faluting experts stood at lecterns flanked by carefully folded Union Jack flags with the white background and red cross of St George clearly and deliberately to the fore. The early strategy where herd immunity was considered to be the way forward, where every bulletin encouraged everyone to wash their hands every time they touched something but otherwise everything carried on as normal, the roads were full, the trains were full, the airports were full, sports venues, bars, gigs, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, pubs, political meetings, all functioned as ever. This laissez-faire approach was allowed to continue for weeks despite the fact that the government knew in advance that the country could not handle a pandemic such as this because it had participated in an emergency planning exercise, Operation Cygnus, which spelled out exactly what would happen in the event of a virulent respiratory virus running rampant through the world. One question sticks in my mind, if the government knew that the exercise showed that the NHS was under staffed, under equipped and under resourced, why did they not address these issues? What is the point of spending millions of pounds on full blown civil and war emergency planning exercises if you’re not going to take any notice whatsoever of the advice given from the plethora of front line experts, strategists, and senior civil servants involved? And yet, despite all the delay, as the daily death figures rise exponentially, as the economy falls into a slough of despond, as draconian measures curtail freedom of movement, somehow large numbers of people put their faith in the newly elected prime minister, one Boris Johnson. This man who eventually encouraged us to adopt social distancing, made us aware of the dangers of shaking hands with anyone outside of your in house family, and then promptly ignored his own advice, shook hands with all and sundry including a wardful of Covid 19 sufferers and finished up in ICU narrowly avoiding his own demise, some people believe that he is some kind of hero of the people. How can this be the case? He had been infectious for some considerable time and yet continued to bustle around in Westminster and elsewhere, in all kinds of meetings where he will have put untold numbers of staff, colleagues, acquaintances and contacts into harms way. A monumental case of don’t do what I do, do as I say. It’s unacceptable behaviour of anyone, let alone the Prime Minister. The daily broadcast with the Trump style flag frame moved further backwards, where substitutes run through the same sets of statistics that are designed to show how well the country has carried out the government strategy continue unabated. Ministers come and go and continuously state the obvious, the roads are empty, the people, on the whole, obey the rules, all is hunky dory as long as we remain in lockdown. And yet, and yet, PPE levels are disastrously low in hospitals and care facilities, meanwhile health ministers say the government response is phenomenal. Health workers are told not to use equipment unnecessarily. Economic forecasts say that the crisis we are heading into is massive. The number of unemployed in Britain is set to head North of three and a half million. The current universal credit system that penalises those people who have fallen into poverty is not going to be accepted as sufficient by people who have done nothing except lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Current levels of benefit will not meet family commitments. Only a government prepared to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion by the richest could address this future catastrophe. The country currently is being run in a totally undemocratic way without adequate parliamentary scrutiny. These are scary times and we now appear to be trapped in the middle of a classic Catch 22 conundrum. Stay locked down, save lives and crash the economy, or ease the lockdown, save the economy and bury a lot more people. Either way it’s a grand disaster. At first I wasn’t sure whether this was just a straight folk devils and moral panics scenario with the government and the media cooking up a false flag emergency to get the ruling class in a position to carry on austerity led business as usual. Now that the death levels here are not falling it is clear that the reality of the situation is that we have an incompetent government, unable to act in favour of saving lives because the economy and their pals in the City of London come first, above human lives. The Prime Minister is possibly going to stand down due to viral fatigue, he will likely be replaced by Raab or Gove, either of which, in my view, are strictly second division when it comes to leadership. It’s a giant deprression filled mess which only ends in tears whatever the outcome, and whenever the end of lockdown occurs. Many people won’t be here to see it, for some of those death might be a blessing in disguise. The aftermath to this ain’t going to be pretty. I’m getting older by the day, there ain’t much I can do about this shitshow. I would like to be able to drive my partner Jenny down to Llangrannog Beach for a pub lunch and a walk by the sea this summer, but the chance of such a simple pleasure looks ever more remote.

Harry Rogers, West Wales, 20th April, 2020

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