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Don’t get excited about the antibody test being available for everyone too soon – it doesn’t fit with the Government’s fag-packet plan

March 26, 2020 Leave a comment

It is inevitable – even whilst we are still going through the period of good will in response to the Government Shutdown – that rumours and stories about this or that which is going to make things ‘normal’ again is about to arrive and go off like a bomb.

Sadly, we are likely to go through this process many times, especially with media of variable quality and provenance coming at us each and every way.

The great hurdle-race of teases began yesterday with stories that a Coronavirus antibody test is being mass produced and would go on sale and be distributed by Amazon and Boots next week.

‘Game changer’ was a headline on papers and many Tweets alike, and it was very clear in the minds of isolation-weary people that less than 48 hours after the Prime Minister announced the shutdown, this could all be only days from its end.

Within what seemed like no time at all, the whole idea was shut down during the afternoon Downing Street press conference. It was made clear that the test wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be available to the general public in the first instance, even if it was.

The response to this brief period of untamed excitement and hysteria, from the Government and it’s advisers certainly raises questions about how long they really think this shutdown will be sustainable.

How exactly would the Government propose to manage a situation where let’s say half of the population has not had COVID-19 and is confined to their homes, and the other half has not?

Is the Coronavirus Crisis going to be over when everyone has lived through catching COVID-19 – whether they had symptoms or not? Will it be over when everyone is either immune via exposure or vaccinated with a vaccine yet to be discovered, tested and made. Or will the Crisis be over when the NHS can cope with the treating the critical proportion of everyone who has not been exposed – all at once?

What might be worth consideration is that the information concerning who has immunity and who hasn’t is going to be the most dangerous fuel that could be added to the fire that the Government choosing these measures and in particular this form of shutdown is destined to create.

Yes, we need health professionals tested and cleared as quickly as possible and as often as necessary so that they can either continue or return to their work.

But if everyone has access to this information at once and too quickly, there is a real danger that it will create a massive societal divide. A definable difference where the way this Crisis has been mismanaged could see those who can demonstrate they have immunity demanding a return to normality, whilst those who haven’t will experience nothing better than home imprisonment with the accompanying social blight.

How does the Government restore balance within the UK Community and its People then? A National Coronavirus Party like pox parties for kids? Throwing everyone into a room together and infecting them deliberately like the way they dealt with Smallpox here in the Eighteenth Century?

It would be ridiculous to think that life can resume for those who have had Coronavirus, whilst the shutdown continues for those who have not.

And herein lies the problem. Because the Government’s plan to manage this now has an indefinite timeline – if it is to succeed and get through to the stage where normal life can resume across the board – without civil unrest or even worse at first being involved.

The big problem with the approach the Government is taking – which sounds like an effective way to manage the spread and impact of the virus – is that at the same time it is creating an untold number of other problems.

None of the measures the Government is taking go far enough. They don’t consider or take care of the real impact of the physical shutdown for the wider population which by its nature demands that life should also be put on hold for them financially without cost thereafter, for the whole period of time that this specific plan the Government has enacted demands that people have no life outside and remain at home.

Sooner, rather than later, the inadequacies of the Government Strategy are going to be shown as it unravels. The pain for so many people that it will cause will be made all the worse because it was something that the Government chose not to avoid.

The reality is that no matter how much pain and personal tragedy we see paraded on the TV in front of us each and every day, the fallout from the poor decisions and inadequate action on the part of our Politicians right now is going to be far worse in the impact it will have through debt, the loss of income, the permanent closure of businesses and shops, bankruptcies, mental health issues and yes, the loss of lives through suicide and other forms of early death. The impact won’t only be visible just now in the days, weeks and months the shutdown might take. It will hide itself like every other injustice without a name, continuing to reap a terrible, unseen, but unnecessary harvest thereafter and for a very long time.

Whilst the academics, commentators and opinionati are busy dismissing the suggestion that such outcomes are possible because there’s no credible evidence in their view to suggest it could be right, the fact is that people in this Country are and have already been suffering for a very long time because we have had and still have the wrong politicians who have a completely shutdown, blinkered and self-serving idea of what is right.

 

 

The tolerance of the public is already wafer thin. Failure of politicians to recognise how their decisions will have unseen consequences may quickly push the good will of the People over a very steep edge

March 23, 2020 Leave a comment

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Social distancing markers taped out on the shop floor of Pets at Home, Gallagher Retail Park, Cheltenham. 23rd March 2020

Up until the last week, people looked upon the world around them without a thought, suggestion or the merest hint that things could ever change.

Yet in the space of a week, we have seen the shelves of supermarkets stripped so they resemble the pictures we used to see coming from Communist Russia in the 1980’s. Pubs and Restaurants have closed. Mcdonalds has voluntarily decided to shut down over 1000 of its sites. Stores like Pets at Home have marked out social distancing guidelines for customers on their shop floors, and we may only be hours away from any nonessential retail shops being closed and all of us being legally forced to stay within our homes.

This is already a level of change to our normal lives that is unprecedented in peacetime. Nothing like this has been seen as a result of wartime either for around 70 years at the very least.

If only the Government was doing all the right things and calling it all just right.

If they were, I would feel less inclined to write this and the content of all of the blogs I have published about Coronavirus and how the impact of the Crisis is being mishandled over the past week. That is had I not spent so much time as a frontline politician and business owner, and had instead had genuine confidence in what these politicians and the people advising them are doing, and what together their approach to tackling the Coronavirus Crisis – for them – is all about.

I don’t. And here’s part of my reasoning why:

Back in 2007 and in the months following my election to Tewkesbury Borough Council as a Councillor for my first term (2007-11), Gloucestershire experienced one of the worst flooding events in the middle of July, that the County has ever known.

To be fair to those who have suffered in floods historically and in other areas since, it may well be the case that the impact of floodwater damage has itself been experienced in some ways directly as being worse.

What defined the 2007 event as being so bad for Gloucestershire and the area around it, was that a key water treatment plant on the River Severn was flooded and the water supply for many thousands of people simply dried up overnight.

One Sunday afternoon, calls from worried parents about water for their young children quickly put me to work. I found myself delivering and coordinating drinking water supplies around my Ward to supply and support the people who had elected me for the following 18 days.

In the days that followed the return to normality, I came to learn that the lack of effort and sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach taken in other areas had meant that others had experienced much worse. A local estate agent told me that people in our area didn’t realise just how good they had it. In other areas he had witnessed people fighting over the supplies that were being made available because people because nobody was taking a visible or tangible lead on the ground, and residents were not confident of further supply. They simply assumed that each supply was all they could get.

Unless you had lived through the experience, you wouldn’t have believed it had happened in this Country and certainly not as recently as 2007. And its just another tragedy in a long list of others that the real issues exposed by that Crisis have never since been addressed, just like the ones from Coronavirus are being created as quickly as they are being missed.

But what my own experience taught me about the behaviour of people who are being considered and supported in a crisis as opposed to those who are not and are left feeling like they are alone, is that the feeling of being in it together promotes a unity of purpose where privation and personal disadvantage are overlooked, often with a joke and a smile, whereas those who feel on the arse end of it and as if they are being treated differently or as if they have less value than others will quickly allow that feeling to come out in their interactions with others whenever they have even the slightest feeling that things aren’t going their way.

Yes, we can pour scorn on the people who do this, but this behaviour is often involuntary and is not something people who are dealing with extreme emotions will often exhibit by making any conscious choice.

My experience becomes the basis of my concerns over what we are now facing in the coming days and weeks. Not just because of the Coronavirus and how that is and will affect people, because the harsh reality is that it will effect people in whatever way it is going to effect them without anyone having any choice.

No, it is the decisions that Politicians and the people who advise them are taking and pushing upon us all that are worrying me the most. Because they are not applying an even hand in the way that they are focusing assistance to people who have lost or are likely to lose their income, their businesses or way of living, or have been affected in a very long list of other ways.

Then there is the shutdown itself which is responsible for all of this in so many ways, and is on the way to shutting down what was days ago a free society – simply because its the only way Politicians think they can tackle keeping just the NHS functioning and able to fulfil its role for the duration of the Crisis – for a period that they nor anyone else can guarantee how long it will actually be.

The point was brought home to me rather starkly this morning when I spoke to the manager of a coffee shop who smiled as she told me the Government was doing a great job because she’d be alright. The irony wasn’t lost on me that she was then able to regale a list of people she knew who have or had small businesses that were either about to go bang or would soon be in the process of accumulating debt that they would never be able or equipped to afford.

If the shutdown is only temporary and lasts for just a matter of days or a couple of weeks at most, then all well and good.

People will be pissed off. But the inconvenience will be soon forgotten and the financial impact will not have gone on for so long that the gap has become impossible to cover. Although it will likely be hard, the resourceful nature of the British People will mean they suck it and find a way to cover the shortage as many will have done so before once more.

However, civil order in this Country is actually wafer thin – as the 2007 water shortages illustrated only too well. And with the figures and timelines that the politicians and media are now discussing that could reach into many months or even two years before any sense of normality is restored, the reality is that many of the businesses that have closed this past week will not reopen. People who have not and will not be catered for by this Governments inequitable thinking will be thrown into an abyss of unpalatable and accumulating debt – all so that they can survive the fallout from an economic downturn which the Government had the choice to handle differently, but the people themselves had no option to avoid.

People simply aren’t going to wear being shut up, not allowed to function and to be condemned to what might become a permanent position of being in debt, just so fearful politicians who are scared of their own shadow can implement draconian rules to address one problem without any regard for the ones they are creating as they do.

This is very much a case of the solution being far more painful and many times more damaging to the lives and livelihoods of the many, than Coronavirus will be for the few who will regrettably experience what the media and Politicians will tell us is the cause of the problems now and to come.

The complacency of normal, everyday people about the world that surrounds them that I talked briefly about above, is the same as the one in the rearview mirror of our politicians, where consideration anything other than the focus of their attention is simply never involved.

The good will that today gives people the will cooperate with the measures currently being put in place will soon evaporate if the Politicians don’t wake up and nothing in their responses should change.

Whilst I sincerely hope that I am wrong about even the possibility of this, a breakdown of civil order that will eclipse that which took place across our cities over just one man dying from being shot by Police in London in the summer of 2011 will quickly come to exist.

It’s a good guess that if things continue on the current trajectory in terms of inadequate leadership, by May people who you would never expect to see there will take to the streets.

The people who are in charge of this Country have no imagination, concept of real life, or an appreciation of the painful truth and reality that there are always consequences for every decision they make.

When we reach the stage when all the reasoned options and choices for the politicians who lead us have been bypassed by going up blind alleys, have evaporated and are gone, they will have been found out, found wanting and found to be fake.

What then will happen next?

 

 

Neither the Public or Business can service debt without income. The Chancellor’s Coronavirus ‘help’ is yo-yo politics that flashes in the face but simply doesn’t go that far

March 18, 2020 Leave a comment

img_5330The ineptitude of our politicians is stunning.

The problem that millions of people and businesses right across our country are facing is that their income has already stopped, soon will do, or at best is going to be severely reduced.

So what does the Chancellor do?

He sets them up with a loan.

And that’s for the specific people he has actually identified – certainly a long way from being them all.

We don’t know how long the Coronavirus Crisis will take to complete its course. We don’t know when ‘business as usual’ for any industry or occupation will be able to resume. We certainly don’t know if trading levels for any company will then have even the remotest possibility of returning overnight.

So when faced with losing either your wage or your business losing at least some, if not all of its trade, the last thing you need is a loan – even without interest – that is open ended in its value because you don’t know how long you will need it for; loans that will already be unaffordable to pretty much everyone because it’s not something that you have either made allowance in your monthly domestic outgoings or business income vs expenditure budgeting for.

img_5329For a Chancellor of the Exchequer – and a Conservative one at that – to not understand the implications of what would be no more than a cynical headline-grabbing plan in normal times would itself be very profound. For him to do it at a time of National Crisis, when people and business need genuine help to survive, whatever the duration, and then be able to return to their own normality at some point in the future whenever that might be is profoundly ridiculous at very best.

Whilst the Tory troops are lauding the whole effort and shouting plaudits suggesting that this is the best Chancellor we’ve ever seen, the reality is dawning on many people that the measures he has announced is little more than yo-yo politics, where what appears to be given to those in need at speed will just as quickly return to the hand of the giver on what is a deliberately transparent, yet firmly fixed string.

Regrettably, the approach that the Johnson government is employing in the handling of the Coronavirus crisis is akin to something that would fit right into the conspiracy theorists playbook.

Talk of confining the public to their homes for many months on end; the shutting down of public events, gatherings, and pubs and now a series of financial measures dressed in the rhetoric of being there to help and support us, whilst in its cold and hard reality does anything but.

At best, it all points to a disproportionate level of control being levied upon the public at large by an inept Government living in fear of its own responsibilities and driven by the interests of a very close cadre of financial and business interests that it feels unceasingly obliged to prioritise and serve.

God help us all in a few weeks if the Public become tired of what may well quickly prove be a misdirected overkill and people then take to the streets. Because all of this ineptitude on the part of a Government that thinks that with an 80 seat majority it can do no wrong, really will give currency to the words and actions of those who will prove themselves to be far more dangerous than fruitcakes and loons.

The Government has a level of power and the responsibility to use it at a time of National Crisis like this that it never has before.

We may not be at War. But the circumstances are potentially as severe nonetheless.

This means that the Government and in particular both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have an incredible opportunity to step beyond the restrictions and shibboleths of so-called peacetime protocols and carry out the real functions of the Offices of State that they are there for.

But to do this they must lead and not be led.

No civil servant, no adviser, no specialist, no expert has the knowledge, training or experience to come up with the comprehensive solutions that will factor in everything that needs to be considered.

They certainly have no way to know if what they do suggest, advise or contribute will turn out being right.

That means listening to ALL of the advisors, specialists and representatives whilst keeping in mind that all of them will have their own bias and self interest in the solutions that they offer. But that even when the solution they offer might appear to work, it wont work for the many if it prioritises financial or other benefits to the few.

In the first instance, to be equitable and to be fair to EVERYONE and not just the usual suspects and same old few, our Leaders MUST instruct the Civil Service, Industry and the Financial Sector what the solution will be and not make it voluntary for them to support or options that they can choose on the basis of it being like advice.

Breaking completely new ground it might be, but if Boris wants to go down in history as the PM who saw this thing through the right way and got the job done, this talk of £300 Billion in the underwriting of loans and grants needs to be scrapped immediately and replaced with radical Standstill Legislation with key points like these addressed fully in clear and unhindered view:

What the Country needs:-

  • People and businesses don’t need debt relief or loans for the duration of the crisis. They need the payments to completely STOP.
  • We ALL need payments for non-essential services and items to STOP.
  • People who have been laid off need surety that their jobs will continue to exist.
  • Interest payments of any kind need to STOP.
  • People who are self-employed or working in the gig economy need the same basic income as everyone else affected too.
  • HMRC needs to go on holiday and open the VAT window for collections to at least 6 months from 3 or even more – WITHOUT levelling interest.
  • People who have been laid off or have had their wages reduced need the surety of a basic income just to pay for food.
  • We need the Government to step in takeover every service that was formally in public hands so that essential utilities and services can be provided to EVERYONE who cannot work, trade or keep going as normal for the duration of the crisis FOR FREE – Not paying the retail bill for every household and business, but by taking over and underwriting the whole supply chain so that there is no profit taking at any level remaining involved.

What we don’t need:-

  • A Government unable to look beyond the restrictions of what advisors advisors tell it is possible, what it has done, or what history tells us that it can do.
  • The same pockets being lined with profit now during this crisis as they are in normal times

Above all, the solution that will work now and for the future must be applied on a blanket basis.

By taking over and underwriting essential services and ensuring that EVERYONE has at least a basic income that will cover the cost of a weeks food, the Country and everyone not working within it will be in the best place during the crisis to financially survive and then thrive once this terrible chapter has ended and is over.

The benefit for those who continue working in roles like the emergency services and in our hospitals, the benefit in kind will be that they receive a payment holiday whilst they are working. That’s a sensible and fair bonus for doing their bit for community whilst we all do our bit for each other to ensure to survive.

 

images thanks to dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

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