Like everything else in the current era, CoVid is thought of differently on the left and right. The left have, oddly in a way, become lock down passionate, sure this is the right way to go. I say strange since it means giving a Tory government they swear are fascists ever more power. On the right, CoVid skepticism abounds. We don’t need masks, we don’t want more lockdowns, let’s get the economy up and going again as quickly as possible. Increasingly, there is very little in the way of a middle position through all of this.
I hated writing about CoVid or almost any aspect of the crisis for the longest time. I really wasn’t sure how to judge the government’s handling of it, particularly given the novel nature of the whole thing. Was Boris really mishandling it all as badly as most of the left were asserting? Part of me wanted to pull away from such a judgement since I knew I was inclined against Boris to start with; part of me wanted a different answer since we were in the midst of a national crisis and I wished for the government to handle it well, any partisanship be damned. I have now concluded that at the very least, the government have mishandled the comms side of it all; they really have managed to land in no man’s land, annoying larger parts of the right each day as restrictions are either introduced or re-introduced, all while the left have more than enough circumstantial evidence for things having gone badly simply by the ramshackle way things are announced. We have designated safe countries to travel to, only for that to change at the last moment. New measures, when they are introduced, are done so in the most incompetent looking way possible. Again, it may be that any government would have struggled with this crisis in roughly the same way; yet it is Boris Johnson in the hot seat when it happened and that’s all we can try and judge.
The problems run much deeper than all of that, though. We could replace the government in a general election if it came to it. What is uncertain still is how exactly do we navigate the rest of the CoVid crisis from here regardless of who is in charge of the country. All along, since the crisis began, the basic assumption is that it won’t last; there will be a vaccine, or there we be some form of herd immunity, or the virus will somehow quietly disappear from our lives. Any of those things may still happen. Yet it looks much more likely now that we’ll have to live with CoVid for a while, perhaps even years. If that really is the case, some horrible choices will start to have to be made.
I understand the urge to keep everything as safe as possible; lockdown when necessary and all of that. The problem is, if we have to live with CoVid for two, three, four years more, this really isn’t going to be possible. We are eventually going to have to start really worrying about the economy. And for those who think this is some bourgeois concern, it isn’t; the people who will suffer from an economic depression most of all will be those economically worse off to start with. The rich may become less rich and upper middle-class lifestyles may take a knock, but everyone in either bracket will ultimately be all right. What happens when there is mass unemployment and we no longer have the means of realistically maintaining a welfare system that can keep living standards even where they were in say, 2018? These are important questions that no one wants to answer. The left will say that there is always a way to provide a welfare state as required by need; just tax the rich more. The right will say that the way round this is to end all lockdown and get people back to work immediately, spending their money in shops or online; let’s prioritise the economy and if a few more people die of CoVid, so be it.
I’m coming to the end of this article and I am fully aware that it is extremely short on answers. All I can say is that the left has a point when it says that we need to contain the virus somehow in order to not overwhelm the health service, not to mention save lives. The right has a point when it says that if we have to live with this virus for several years more, we can’t keep the economy where it is without massive repercussions. With all that in mind, how we get through this, I still don’t know. But I know that at some point we are going to have to start talking realistically about the hard choices ahead. Whatever I can or can’t say about the government’s handling of it all, I can say one thing safely: I’m glad it’s not my call.
I have a book out now called “Politics is Murder”. It follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. There is also a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters thrown into the mix while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!