My, how the Left in general, and Sir Keir Starmer QC in particular, love a euphemism. They knew that the public had little appetite for a second referendum on our EU membership, at least until the result of the first one had been honoured and delivered, so they came up with the brilliant wheeze of calling it a “People’s Vote”.
And now, instead of proposing a second national lockdown on the lines of the one we all endured from March, they have decided to campaign for a short, sharp “circuit breaker” that will apparently achieve miraculous results with minimal pain.
For some reason I am reminded of the nurse who approached me in childhood, carrying a syringe with a needle the size of a drainpipe, promising that I would feel “just a little prick”.
Or of Mrs Doyle doing her best to persuade Father Ted to consume what she billed as a “micro cake”.
While it is hard for even a Conservative party member and supporter to describe the Government’s recent handling of its coronavirus response as displaying anything other than blithering incompetence, I regret to say that I have no appetite for yet more of the old medicine.
What, exactly, are we trying to achieve?
If the official death figures can be believed – which I very much doubt, given that you can be run down by a bus but still counted as a coronavirus death if you previously tested positive for it – some 43,000 people have so far died from Covid-19 in the UK. According to the University of Oxford, the average age of those who have died is 82.4.
To put that in context, average life expectancy in the UK is just over 81. Indeed, that same Oxford study found that the average age of those who have died of everything other than Covid since the start of the pandemic was 81.5.
So we closed the whole country down for months, curtailed the liberty of every citizen, chucked millions out of work (though they might not have grasped that yet, thanks to the furlough scheme), bankrupted God knows how many businesses, allowed sky-rocketing incidence of other untreated conditions, and ran up trillions in Government debt to try to reduce the number of people facing a slightly premature death. People who were, on the whole, highly likely to die of something pretty soon.
The whole concept of “saving lives” as the be-all and end-all of Government policy has always struck me as being deeply flawed. Because you can never actually “save a life”, merely postpone its inevitable conclusion.
I am a naturally law-abiding type and I obeyed both the letter and the spirit of the March lockdown throughout, despite having in my possession a “key worker” letter from my employer that entitled me to travel anywhere that took my fancy. Being lucky enough to have a secure job, a comfortable home with a garden (set in the countryside as a bonus), and being notoriously anti-social by nature, none of it imposed any real hardship.
At the same time I was well aware of the very real impact on friends working in the arts and hospitality, in particular, who found their working lives coming to a dead stop. Of others unable to see a doctor for months, or obtain treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions. And indeed of those bravely attempting to work from home but confined to inner city flats, trying to find somewhere to balance a laptop for Teams calls while their young children screamed for attention.
Being a profound sceptic, and knowing that the virus had not gone away, I wondered more than a little at the sanity of not only reopening pubs and restaurants in the summer, but actually bribing people to go out to them, and simultaneously badgering them to get back onto public transport and into their offices.
What, exactly, did those in authority think was going to happen next?
And yes, I can see that the resulting “yeah but, no but” U-turns and the now baffling range of tiered local lockdown restrictions are a recipe for confusion and non-compliance.
But what, pray, do those seeking to impose a “circuit breaker” think is going to happen when that ends?
This virus is not going to fold its tents and steal away. We may never have an effective vaccine or cure, and we are all going to have to learn to live with it.
And sadly, in some cases, die from it.
As an over-65 myself, I could not consider my death massively premature if I caught a fatal dose of Covid tomorrow. I will take steps to protect myself from that as far as I can, mainly because I am in the fairly unusual position for an OAP of having young children. But I cannot and do not expect others to sacrifice their physical and mental health, freedom, incomes, culture and sex lives on my behalf.
As for the mantra of “protecting the NHS” that has once again come to the fore (causing me to scream repeated obscenities at last night’s radio news), the NHS is here to protect us: not vice-versa. If it can’t do the job it exists for it clearly needs reforming or abolishing, and replacing with a healthcare system that is fit for purpose.
I have absolutely no sympathy with those in my social media feeds who think that Covid-19 is a hoax, designed to promote the destruction of society as we know it and the creation of a New World Order.
But it will result in the destruction of society as we know it if we go into a series of ultimately pointless lockdowns, pushing businesses and individuals over the edge into bankruptcy and despair.
Chuck it, Sir Keir.Don’t even think about it, Prime Minister – sorry, Mr Cummings.
Please leave us all free to live our lives and take our chances.