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activism Corbyn economics Politics

Politics: the viral divide

I begin to think the virus blame-game is even more misleading than the rest of the political hot potatoes put together.

Sham lockdown

When the whole masks and lockdown thing started, many of us thought it impossible to ‘stop’ a virus in a crowded country where many people still had to go to work. Many more realised it was impossible to do so with late lockdowns and kids being sent back to school. Anyone who was really paying attention knew from the start that it was impossible when there never was any reduction in the international travel of ‘business class’ people.

List of Johnson's extensive travels during times of virus
Johnson’s travels

So why get angry with ordinary people who did or didn’t observe lockdown properly for whatever reasons?

What we were trying to do

Most of us however, threw ourselves into dealing with life in lockdown with the aim not of ‘stopping the virus’ but of ‘flattening the curve’ – of preventing the inevitable wave of hospital admissions happening all at once, when the NHS was already near the danger-level of overwhelm.

Well, the NHS is up against it now, and it’s not because you or I didn’t do virus precautions properly, it’s because the government didn’t attempt to refund the NHS to cover shortfalls – was that most obvious of options even discussed? Nor did government deal with any of the serious gaps in lockdown compliance. We just had a few police forces harassing people who stretched the rules whilst walking on the prom whilst, as we now clearly see, government ministers led the tide of non-compliance.

‘Anti-vaxers’

At no stage in history did a vaccination campaign ever reach 100% uptake. They do not need to. Depending on the nature of the virus, most vaccination campaigns aim at reaching between 80 and 90% of the people. There is room for those who are allergic, or who have phobias, and those who just won’t be persuaded so, as the vast majority of people did take up the vaccination offer, there’s no need to have rows over who did or didn’t.

That terrifying calm

At first, many middle class professionals, especially those who thought they could maintain their income from home, were filling social media with the joys of lockdown calm. I enjoyed the calm, despite watching my business going down the tubes – but that enjoyment of a reduced traffic, reduced commerce world scared the pants off most government ministers. In lower and middle income professional areas, they saw people beginning to learn that they quite liked it when the wheels stopped. We were heading for a nationwide Reggie Perrin attack.

What I did while my business fell apart

Worse yet for the government, we began to realise who ran the country – who really were ‘essential’ workers.

Stencil on a street in Manchester: Unskilled jobs are a classist myth used by the rich to justify poverty wages

In ‘lower class’ areas (yes, ‘lower class’ is how people like our government ministers describe families that produce and maintain our keyworkers) in those areas, they first saw the truth that lockdown was ‘the middle class staying at home while working class people bring them things’. They saw the immediate suffering caused by reduced access to foodbanks. They saw the extent to which schools and other community facilities had been left to take over where social services and community health projects had long ago been cut to pieces.

poster: our key workers support everone. Pay them. Protect them. Respect them.

There, we see the true reason why the government was reluctant, late and incomplete with every lockdown or virus limitation plan. Like it or not, they gave us ‘herd immunity’ by stealth. They could not even get enthusiastically behind the ‘flatten the curve’ argument, because that laid them open to more people realising how badly they, along with previous governments, had underfunded and fragmented the NHS.

Natural immunity

We rejected the idea of ‘herd immunity’, or ‘letting things take their course’ for very good reasons but the government did not provide us with effective alternatives, so now we have to rely on it – but…

A few days ago, a study came out suggesting that having a case of the common cold is quite a good defence against catching a bad case of Omicron. I said well, [unprintable] I should have been getting on with my life, riding trains amongst the coughing sneezing winter crowds, and spent half the winter with a cold, like I always used to.

And according to todays papers, health authorities are concerned that there is another virus threatening, and that this year children will have “much lower immunity” at a time when the NHS is already under extreme pressure.

Who is to blame?

In normal times, babies would be born with a fair amount of natural immunity from ‘the bugs of the year’, and would take in more protection from their mothers’ milk, because it would contain immunity from any bugs their mums had had in the year or two before they were born. In many cases, our reductions in activity and partial lockdowns have stopped that happening.

So we are now at the stage where we do depend on natural immunity, but we really haven’t got much, because so many people have kept aloof, and have not had the normal winter viruses.

Public transport face mask image

And the blame rests with the government.

So next time you’re tempted to sneer at someone who happens to have a different opinion to yours on virus measures, do please remember where the blame actually lies. Diligent keepers of distance and washers of hands, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, the efficient keepers of lockdown and the indignant flouters of it, were all reacting to a situation in which the government was working against the people, and everyone just tried to sift an opinion out of a mass of PR and lies. No-one but the government and the stingy, irresponsible employers they serve should be shouted at over this situation.

Wuhan

It’s notable that since the Downing Street parties story has brought many people’s attention back to government culpability, the Wuhan lab theory is getting media attention again, with remarkably little emphasis on the international aspect of that lab, of the American and Australian scientists there, because if all else fails, blame the Chinese. And what of the opposition? Oh, but it’s been a difficult week in Westminster and by coincidence, Keir Starmer is self-isolating again.

Happy news

The good thing in all this is that the admirable response to a difficult situation that we saw in the NHS, in community volunteer groups and in the trade unions revived the taste for collective action inspired by the Corbyn movement.

Keep listening, Keep thinking, Keep talking

‘Government’ or ‘opposition’, Westminster is not your friend. Your best protection is always to get along with the people around you. Discuss these things, beyond knee-jerk differences, and plan some collective action. It will make you happier and it does far more good for you and others than a whole partyful of career politicians ever will.

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economics Politics Uncategorized

Is this the worst idea yet?

Curfews are not good

It’s just being talked about at the moment but we need to make sure the reasons why curfew is not a good idea are spread far and wide. We know what works. Back in March, we shut down everything we could, got into the habit of checking on the vulnerable and stayed home as long as it was possible to do so.

The R number went down. Infections went down and, most importantly, deaths went down. It wasn’t all good. Many, many people had a hard time because we have a government that does not see looking after people as its job. It didn’t work as well as it would have done if they’d kept a check on airport arrivals, but we did get control of virus spread and prevent overwhelm of our struggling NHS.

What are they expecting?

Other than limits on civil liberties that have set off a whole range of fears and fight-backs and paranoias, what have the government done in the last six months? The main thing I’ve heard is that they’ve increased the capacity of morgues. Is that enough, in their eyes? Prepare for the dead, and leave your corporate friends to make a fortune running warehouse ‘hospitals’?

If so, it would be obvious they didn’t value human life beyond their own, and that looks bad, so they’d also need to do something relatively cheap that *looked* good. Is that why curfew is on the option-cards now?

Curfew is not a good plan

Tory governments have a consistent history of choosing the option that’s cheap in the short term, and creates an illusion of order. I can see why they’d be tempted by the idea of a curfew.

Curfews are dangerous

They’re a gross infringement of civil liberties, so will create more fightback and more paranoia but they are also directly dangerous.

Curfews create empty streets.

Empty streets are dangerous for those who have to go out – remember those key workers we were going to value above all from now on? Those who’d have to go down those empty streets to get to work, and those who’d have the job of trying to police those empty streets?

People who are attacked or get into difficulty on empty streets find no help at hand.

Buildings and infrastructure on empty streets get damaged or broken into.

Cars on empty streets get vandalised or stolen.

Please don’t let them get away with presenting curfew as sensible or necessary.

Curfews are dangerous, and if you’re under curfew in the evenings but going to work and school all day in crowded conditions, curfews will not control virus spread.

poster: our key workers support everone. Pay them. Protect them. Respect them.

Categories
activism economics Hastings NHS Politics Uncategorized

Who puts the skill in key jobs?

There isn’t *quite* a poem called sweeping the street by George Herbert, but you don’t have to be religious to grasp the wonderful truth of his idea that you can sweep the street ‘for god’.

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activism economics Hastings Housing Labour media NHS Politics Privatisation Uncategorized

If…

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