Sad but true: Cynicism is now so entrenched as the default response to each public utterance by a politician that we naturally expect them to go back on virtually every statement they make. If one week a Minister says ‘We will not be doing this’, we express little surprise when, come the following week, they do precisely what they’d told us they wouldn’t be doing the week before. This acceptance of how language is so casually abused inevitably enables those who abuse it to carry on abusing it as though to do so is perfectly normal and nothing to feel any shame about. Even when confronted by evidence of their current claim contradicting their previous one, the politician will simply abuse the language further by pretending what was said before actually equates with what is being said now. I don’t really want to quote Orwell yet again, because it’s almost become a pointless exercise on a par with highlighting the religious affiliation of the Pope or the toilet habits of bears in their natural habitat. It’s long been a given that politicians lie, but it’s now also a given that it’s perfectly acceptable and nobody gives a flying f**k anymore anyway. We anticipate nothing less from the political class.
It’s like emphasising to a child the wrongness of eating a chocolate biscuit on the eve of a meal, then standing back and watching as the child scoffs a Twix five minutes before dinner is served; we video the incident, play it back to the child, the child denies it ate the Twix and then repeats the action again before mealtime the following day. And we say nothing. We say nothing because we don’t believe saying something makes a difference. How many marched to stop the invasion of Iraq all those years ago? Opposition was recorded, yes; and the invasion went ahead anyway. I’ve a feeling the unprecedented scale of that protest may have galvanised a generation into direct action whilst simultaneously killing the belief that direct action achieves anything. In its own way, the 2003 Iraq march was as historically significant as the Aldermaston walkabout in 1958 – and just as ultimately futile.
We now have a tenant of No.10 who has made a career of contradicting himself, a Prime Minister surrounded by a cabal of contradictors similarly schooled in such linguistic bullshit. If one were to play devil’s advocate, one could attempt to place the unique circumstances confronting them in the context of a pretty freak scenario for which there are few post-war precedents, therefore justifying the shifting sands upon which they stand; however, at the same time, one could equally argue the pandemic has provided them with the excuse to say one thing one day and the contrary thing the next, free from forensic examination. Their inconsistencies can be bracketed alongside the constantly mutating virus itself, never standing still and presenting the public with an ever-changing position that mirrors the unstable nature of our times. That is somewhat letting them off lightly, though, just as it lets off Sir Keir Starmer as he unpicks a fresh set of splinters from his backside after a year of sitting on the fence.
The Leader of the Opposition – and Opposition is up there with the most abused words in the political lexicon of late – has recently stirred from his pusillanimous slumber to indicate there might actually be a Government policy he dares to disagree with. Let’s face it – it must be something bad for the plastic man to show something resembling a human spine; and it is. After months of repeatedly denying so-called ‘vaccine passports’ will play a part in the lifting of lockdown restrictions, the ruling party has obviously gone back on this and is now advocating presenting one’s papers not merely to actual passport officials at airports and seaports, but when seeking to be served in a pub or restaurant or gain access to a sporting or musical event once they resume. It goes without saying that additional instruments of Project Fear propaganda posing as opinion polls have already given a tacit thumbs-up to this latest U-turn, and I’ve no doubt a vast majority of the masses have greeted the news in the same way they greeted the imposition of masks as a mandatory measure – mildly annoying, but we’re all in this together, so let’s sacrifice personal civil liberties for the greater good, eh?
Scare a population half to death by exaggerating the dangers of a virus to which a minority of them are especially vulnerable, then subject them to a year of house arrest, and finally inform them their confinement can end on the condition they submit to the kind of permanent tracking and tracing that the Chinese Communist Party would wholeheartedly endorse. How do you think a weary populace desperate to return to a semblance of normality will respond to the enticing carrot on the end of Boris’s stick? Reports of blood clots as a particularly severe reaction to a vaccine that – lest we forget – didn’t even exist this time last year has now prompted the temporary withdrawal of it and the offer of an alternative to the under-30s; but one can’t help but wonder if under-30s really require a vaccine of any persuasion for actual health reasons or if it’s being administered in order that they’ll be able to function as members of the society that will eventually arise from the post-Covid ashes. Is this to be a two-tier society of ‘the clean’ and ‘the unclean’, a society of the voluntary and the involuntary?
It’s probably just as well that first-hand memories of life under Nazi occupation are rapidly fading, and even the generations raised on the second-hand TV and film reinterpretations are ageing; the old joke German accent demanding to see one’s papers is one largely unfamiliar to those preparing to inherit the Earth, so the prospect of having to show one’s papers in order to procure a pint or simply enter a tavern in the town won’t be accompanied by an impression of Freddie Starr’s impression of Adolph. Those who emigrated to Western democratic societies at a time when the Eastern Bloc was under the Bolshevik boot are also getting on and their offspring have inherited such reminiscences as nothing more than oral heritage for which there is no personal experience. Therefore, any opposition to vaccine passports based upon it being an illiberal, totalitarian abuse of liberties that should be a given in a democracy is, to put it bluntly, the pissing in the wind of a minority with an awareness of a history that is being wilfully erased a little more with every day that passes.
‘Covid status certification’ is the official name for the proposed vaccine passport, and – of course – this will only be a temporary measure, just as social distancing was, just as masks were, just as the lockdown was. Anyway, it’s no big deal, is it? Certainly not if it saves the NHS and keeps granny alive, something ‘Cockers’ would no doubt endorse. I refer there to our beloved Health Secretary. This nickname was reported to me via an old friend whose spouse has spent the past couple of years working in Whitehall; some of her meetings now reduced to Zoom calls have included ‘Cockers’ on the multi-wanker screen. Apparently, one of his chums addressed him as such during a conference, implying a degree of familiarity that reeks of prepubescent hair being spontaneously washed in public school lavatories as an impromptu jape. No doubt the spiffing chap who called Hancock ‘Cockers’ was awarded a million-pound contract to produce packaging for f***ing syringes or something vaguely Covid-related on the strength of this familiarity.
We’re the lucky ones, though. We can remember a time of what now seems increasingly like genuine freedom, not the paper-showing, mask-wearing, social-distancing, tracking-and-tracing, perma-vaccine brand of freedom that ‘Cockers’ proclaimed the Government would cry as soon as the vulnerable had endured their stint as guinea pigs for the jab. As we edge closer to that carrot, formative memories are being forged in nurseries and primary schools, memories deprived of the luxuries we took for granted. And we think we’ve got it bad.
© The Editor