Bad examples and other stories

Well, well! Brexit diary number three. It’s April not March because the great ennui has taken hold of me and the insanity has been evolving at such a pace that my scrambled thoughts have only just found a moment to rest on a park bench, and I’m expecting a police loud hailer to move me on any second now.


So, what’s changed in Brexit land? Bugger all Brexit wise, in fact we’ve pretty much forgotten that word and refilled our lexicons with Covid synonyms and herd immunity, flattened peaks and N95 facemasks, social distancing, blah, blah…


Of course, our glorious leaders have Brexit in the back of their minds even as they plot to cull the weakest from UK society. They’ve shunned the EU’s generous central procurement offer, directing the email succinctly to junk, because we’re not in the EU now. No, we’re in a global pandemic ffs! It looks very much like cutting off our runny noses to spite their patriotic faces to me. Sure, we can manage DIY ventilators by recommissioning vacuum cleaners made by the ‘way-hay Brexit is a great thing!’ Mr Dyson, so great I’ll move my business to Singapore. Please note that I’m not for a second knocking the fantastic ingenuity of engineers, anaesthetists and surgeons from Kings College and Oxford Uni. and other inventors that have responded to  our Health Secretary’s rather embarrassing tweet, and have devised the rapidly deployable ventilator and other natty gadgets to keep very unwell people breathing long enough to get better. I think they’re absolutely brilliant. Shame Matt Hancock doesn’t seem to share my enthusiasm.


Comments that Hancock seems quite competent are a reflection of how far the goalposts have been pushed towards total ineptitude by his colleagues. Bloody good job they called in reinforcements in the form of Isaac Levido because the Aussie spin doctor has saved the shit show, re-choreographing the headless chickens. A trick illustrated by Mr Hancock’s care fully scripted speech of contrition (3rdJuly) and their now ad nauseum repeated buzz words: Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. Levido has altered the whole daily presser thing and it now presents as coherent; coherent vacuous lies.


Because the promised PPE isn’t clothing the frontline medics or the care workers whether within the health service or social care, The best, most caring people in the world are being asked to put themselves at risk, and this is not a hypothetical risk; they are dying. The obvious parallels have been drawn with the military going into battle without the equipment needed and this is not a false parallel, this is corporate manslaughter.


Where was our PM in January when he should have been convening COBRA. Okay it’s easy to see that in hindsight and I wasn’t bleating about that then either, but I am not the PM, a senior civil servant or in the cabinet. Surely someone could have seen this coming and upped the order on PPE. Is that really too much to ask of government?


And where is our PM now? Well, as of last night he’s in intensive care. On a strictly human level I utterly feel for him as I do everyone who is suffering right now and I can say that I sincerely hope he gets better and that he has a huge epiphany because, when he and Cummings were hatching their herd immunity strategy and Cummings reportedly dismissed the death of pensionersas ‘too bad’ (although this has been denied) they both clearly thought they were part of a different herd, and this is the root of most of the problems of neoliberal governance.


We are not different herds. The people who press buttons and order drone strikes and drive policy that reduces life expectancy and increases infant mortality have normalised the idea of collateral damage and those very same people are right now normalising the idea that clearing out the deadwood from society would be a good thing. Who, I would like to know, is driving the DNR (do not resuscitate) wave that is pressing those with comorbidities, or are just old or have complex physical disabilities to sign away their right to the same medical care as he next patient? My personal view is that any society must face up to difficult decisions, but that they should be clinical decisions based on the likelihood of an intervention being a lifesaver rather than just a more protracted way to die. However, I have seen suggestions that people with learning difficulties might be DNRed out of appropriate treatment and worldwide there are examples of otherwise fit people losing out in competition for equipment. There is an assumption that it will come to this in the UK and against a backdrop of ten years of deliberately starving the NHS of funds, these are not the difficult decisions of society, they are the results of criminal acts.


Shame those that govern us are setting such poor examples. Not only are they out and about boasting about shaking hands and picking their noses on camera, but with the PM laid up, Dominic Raab as First Secretary of State, becomes his de facto stand in. Presently most of the cabinet are on drop-in terms at 55 Tufton Street cheerfully denying climate change and promoting the most extreme neoliberalism behind its closed doors, but Raab is actually a co-author of a book advocating the dismantling of the NHS, although Raab has vehemently denied penning the offending opinion. Safe hands, we wonder? UCL’s Prof Anthony Costello concludes that the UK government is still pursuing herd immunity because of their feeble excuses and prolonged inaction regarding testing and isolating cases, although Michael Gove says this is not so. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the destructive piece of RNA will have a harder time in a population with some immunity, but there is no scientific consensus that any kind of workable herd immunity will be achievable without a vaccine, especially with this coronavirus (it’s relatives cause the common cold) as it easily mutates and jumps species, .


So each night we watch the short straw drawing secretary of state reading their controlled script of carefully collated numbers and making fatuous promises about PPE and testing and do their rabbit in the headlights impression when asked about exit strategy and the economy, and every day our hospitals expand their Covid care wards and terrified medics don what PPE they have and go, like lambs to the slaughter, to save as many lives as possible and for me, every day seems like Sunday. I’m okay with that though, I can’t be much use in the pandemic, but I can do my utmost not to become a statistic.


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