It’s probably a sign of undeniably strange times that the murder of a British police officer can provoke less public outrage on home soil than the murder of a career criminal on the other side of the Atlantic. Then again, there may be wider reasons why the reaction to the fatal shooting of Sgt Matiu Ratana in Croydon has been fairly muted. After all, the police force seems to go out of its way to alienate itself from the people it allegedly polices with consent, preferring instead to pander to political causes and ideological fads that matter to the few rather than the many. Moreover, the performance of some forces and individual officers during the lockdown – from dispatching drones to shame isolated dog-walkers in the Peak District to informing householders they were breaking the law by sitting in their gardens – did them no favours; and the blatant contrast between their approach to those promoting issues they approve of and those they don’t further detaches them from the public.
When an anti-lockdown protest marched through the centre of London on Saturday, the boys in blue arrived in full riot gear and let rip, reminiscent of the way in which the Gilets jaunes crowds were dealt with in Paris. The protest was breaking the latest hasty regulations regarding gatherings and social distancing – fair enough; but the BLM ones that took place at the height of the actual nationwide lockdown in the summer were flaunting the rules when everybody was supposed to stay indoors. The police responded to those by taking the knee; yesterday, they opted for batons. The difference was striking. ‘This is not acceptable,’ shrieked Sadiq Khan on Twitter. ‘Large gatherings are banned for a reason – you are putting the safety of our city at risk.’ So were BLM, Mr Mayor; but I guess God (or the Met) must be on their side. Oh, well – just write Saturday’s event off as a ‘far-right’ demo and all will be justified.
At the moment, the police are challenging politicians as the public servants most mistrusted by the public, and if the former can no longer be depended upon, then it really is every man for himself. Mind you, put the entire country under house arrest and it’s only fair to expect a few manifestations of madness after a few months. Pubs were already an endangered species before anyone had even heard of Covid-19; forcing them to call time at 10.00pm – clearly the coronavirus only springs into life at that hour – is the latest kiss of death that could well herald the towels staying on the pumps permanently. Pubs are at the forefront of a hospitality industry dying on its arse, yet any opposition to whichever Cromwellian brainwave this useless administration comes up with next – cancel Christmas, anyone? – naturally means the blood of the NHS is on the hands of every traitor to question the wisdom of those without wisdom. Boris blames the public, of course; far be it from the Government to take any responsibility for their catastrophic strategy.
And don’t forget young people – the least vulnerable appear to be more responsible for the mess we’re in than anyone else, going by the way they’re currently incarcerated. In Scotland and some English cities, university campuses have become virtual prisons, with students paying extortionate fees for the privilege of being locked-up 24/7; Wales, meanwhile, has effectively sealed itself off from the rest of the UK. Never mind, though – we’ve got Covid Marshals to keep us safe. Yes, Captain Mainwaring strikes again! As the call goes out for the nation’s officious little Hitler’s to don a silly uniform and goosestep outside your local Asda for the foreseeable, all those sad men with chips on their shoulders because they couldn’t even pass the audition to become Community Support Officers have now found reading ‘Bravo Two Zero’ over and over again has finally paid off. England expects every nonentity to do his duty, so who needs the police, anyway?
And amidst this insanity that one can often only view through a glass darkly, there are human stories of tragic sadness that inflict unnecessary cruelty on those affected. I read one last week, one of many I receive that is already a fully-formed petition requesting my signature. It concerned the mother of a sick child born at the beginning of the lockdown. When the baby was admitted to hospital, coronavirus visiting rules meant only the child’s mother could sit with him, excluding his father from the picture. The mother had no relief from her bedside vigil because no one was allowed to take her place, meaning she was denied a break from the unimaginable strain of being there on her own with a critically ill child who spent part of that time on a ventilator in intensive care. Whilst there, she met other mothers going through the same nightmare – one of whom had spent eight weeks sat beside a ventilator alone, with no partner allowed in to share the dreadful burden.
According to this heartfelt account, the parents present were tested on a weekly basis, meaning the same could be applied to any other visiting family member whose in-person emotional support would undoubtedly be an invaluable alleviator of stress for the lone parent. As she points out, some of those mothers spending the majority of their time in hospital are managing to go home too, where they will obviously be around other people. The risk, therefore, is fairly minimal. Whereas the rules are ridiculously flexible to suit some – and who doesn’t round-up their chums for a good old stag-hunt or grouse-shoot every once in a while? – what most of us would regard as a humane necessity is not being considered. If this business is scheduled to be as long-term as it would appear, surely priorities are in desperate need of re-evaluating. The mother in question’s petition is aimed at Matt Hancock in the hope he and all NHS trusts can change this policy so two people can sit with a sick child at neonatal units and children’s hospitals. Doesn’t sound like such an unreasonable request, does it?
We’ve already heard stories about people with curable illnesses putting themselves in danger because they’re too scared to enter a hospital as well as the postponement of life-saving operations to accommodate the nonexistent Covid avalanche; but this is another consequence of the panic that needs to be addressed – one more symptom of this slapdash make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach that is causing so much avoidable grief. As with some of the more bizarre rules regulating social gatherings, it sometimes feels as if the old British sense of fair play is conspicuously absent, whether how parents confronted by a worst case scenario are being deprived of sensibly decent treatment at one end or how the police and authorities respond to public demonstrations depending on their political stance at the other. Perhaps one should always wear a BLM T-shirt and a rainbow badge for good measure. They seem to have become today’s equivalent of the old ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch in which an American Express card was seen to open all doors. At a time when so many doors appear to have closed, it would be nice to think they won’t stay that way forever – for everyone.
© The Editor