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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?

 

 

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