vlcsnap-2023-03-07-16h53m33s534In a way, it would’ve been a breath of fresh air to have been proven wrong, to have had all suspicions and scepticism exposed as ill-founded and to realise our elected leaders were acting out of genuine concern for the people after all. Alas, so engrained now is mistrust of the political class – and not without good reason, lest we forget – that it seems we were destined to have our worst fears confirmed once the private exchanges between those who implemented pandemic policies began seeping out into a mainstream media that slavishly toed the party line at the time. Two or three years later, the MSM has changed direction with the wind and is belatedly engaged in a sequence of double-takes, as though any of these so-called revelations are remotely surprising. In a way, it’s an amusing measure of just how remarkably dim Matt Hancock really is that he entrusted his WhatsApp messages to a Fleet Street snake like Isabel Oakeshott when she was co-authoring his pandemic diaries; true to her nature, Ms Oakeshott proceeded to pass them on to the Daily Telegraph, and now the former Health Secretary’s true thoughts during the period in which he and the Government adopted an approach to civil liberties that Oliver Cromwell would have regarded as a bit extreme are laid bare for all to see. And what an unedifying example of the contempt in which Hancock and his cohorts hold the proles they truly are. And we all thought they cared, didn’t we.

‘Hilarious! I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first-class and into a premier inn shoe box.’ That was the reaction of Whitehall mandarin Simon Case to Matt Hancock when the sudden branding of certain countries as ‘red list’ meant any Brit returning from them would have to be quarantined in hotels at the princely sum of £1,750 per person; the notion that these would all be jet-setters returning from skiing holidays is a crude generalisation that distorts the fact that not-so affluent individuals often have to travel abroad to visit family and may well have saved for years to do so. Hilarious indeed. Just how detached Ministers are from the economic realities the vast majority are governed by was further demonstrated in Boris Johnson’s reaction to the news that police crackdowns on ‘lockdown breakers’ had resulted in one specific case of £10,000 fines for two people; Hancock sent the PM the good news, to which Boris replied ‘Superb!’ The fines Boris & Co eventually received for their own spot of lockdown breaking reminded me of similar punishments dished out to Premier League footballers who bring the game into disrepute in that they were hardly likely to plunge those fined into poverty; what of the unfortunate plebs forced to fork out £10,000, though?

As for the instigation of Project Fear itself, whilst TV ad breaks and billboards were flooded with images of masked patients in hospital beds and shops were rationing customers as every available space was plastered with orders posing as advice, Hancock was busily reviewing the success of the campaign on WhatsApp, reminding his media adviser that ‘(We need) to frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain’ before asking ‘When do we deploy the new variant?’ Cabinet Secretary Simon Case evidently knew what worked, stressing ‘the fear/guilt factor (is) vital’. Needless to say, scaring the population into submission wasn’t entirely unprecedented; Project Fear tapped into the global catastrophe narrative in which the end of the world is always nigh; everything from Remainer predictions on the ramifications of Brexit to the elevation of an obnoxious schoolgirl into a secular prophet for the most nihilistic crusade of the age had helped generate widespread insecurities primed to play straight into Government hands. Indeed, one could argue the only competence Boris’s administration showed was in enlisting the obedient compliance of the populace, for in this particular instance the end of the world could be averted if you did as you were told.

Those who expressed grave doubts as to what was being done were criticised at best, demonised at worst, and some were effectively no-platformed, their dissenting voices dismissed as Covid-denying, anti-vax, right-wing extremism; even the respected academics who were the prime signatories to the Great Barrington Declaration – which offered a more humane approach to dealing with Covid that made ring-fencing care homes a top priority – had their reputations blackened and besmirched. The MSM and social media, as well as their Big Tech paymasters, clamped down on any deviancy from the official narrative to the point where few were prepared to air their concerns; and the few that dared to were rapidly silenced, anyway. YouTube and Twitter were censoring freedom of speech like cyberspace Covid Marshals, goose-stepping across hard-fought civil rights that had been one of the achievements of Western civilisation for centuries and grinding them to dust.

Meanwhile, out in the real world the STASI-like encouragement to grass-up one’s neighbours was complemented by drones tracking dog-walkers, and coppers threatening to fine householders sat in their own front gardens if they didn’t go back inside. The employment of virtual curfews, the cavalier destruction of industry and the economy, ruthless pharmaceutical gambling with the lives of the perfectly healthy, the interruption of education and the polluting of infant minds, the outlawing of religious services, the house arrest and solitary confinement of the elderly and mentally ill, the suspension of travelling, the closing-down of sports, hospitality and entertainment venues, and the untold psychological effects of informing people that every step outdoors would kill another granny – all played their part in a period so unnervingly nightmarish that it’s almost hard to believe it actually happened now. But it did, and those that enforced it with their edicts were pissing themselves at the rest of us as they and their pals made a fast buck out of the crisis, snogged their aides, and stopped-off at the off-licence en route to Downing Street.

It’s no wonder so many entombed indoors concluded this was the ultimate conspiracy theory, the culmination of every Great Reset rumour that had been gathering pace for years. One friend of mine bought heavily into the conspiracy theory angle during lockdown and was severely impacted by the concurrent insecurity about where it would lead us; most who know him are convinced it contributed to his subsequent breakdown and radical change of personality. But the irony is, as much as it’s strangely reassuring to believe events beyond our control are being orchestrated by a malevolent global coterie of governments, corporations and so on, the Matt Hancock WhatsApp leaks simply confirm the fact that those pulling the pandemic strings were mainly making it up as they went along; yes, most of them were callous, avaricious individuals who were utterly indifferent when it came to the damage they were doing to the lives of the masses, but they weren’t agents of some SMERSH-like syndicate; they were merely mediocrities who had suddenly been handed the kind of powers they’d never dreamt would ever fall into their hands – not unlike the underachieving nonentities the SS often made commandants of concentration camps; few powers corrupt quite like those given to little men and women who would otherwise amount to nothing.

We also shouldn’t neglect to remember – as we edge towards an inevitable change of government – that opposition parties were even more rabid lockdown fanatics than the heartless implementers of policies whose private personas have finally been made public. Rather than offer a counterbalance to the increasingly draconian legislation the Tories were rushing through Parliament as they became thoroughly sozzled on unlimited power, Labour and the Lib Dems instead offered an alternative that was even more draconian, even more extreme, even more undemocratic, and even more doom-mongering. I suppose they were simply building on the example set before them on the other side of the House. After all, as Matt Hancock said on WhatsApp, fear was ‘vital’.

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MoppAs we currently reside in a winter wonderland, the NHS is naturally on the brink of collapse. This annual event – one that usually dominates the headlines of news outlets less than sympathetic towards the Conservative Party every January without fail – is making its yearly appearance at the moment, counteracted by evidence from the other side of Fleet Street concerning how many millions our most beloved of institutions squanders on the likes of ‘diversity coordinators’ and so on, thus depriving frontline nurses of wage increases they’d otherwise not have to strike for. But the narrative that traditionally opens a New Year tends not to recognise this strand of the storyline; it’s far easier to pin the blame on ‘evil Tories’ because black & white heroes and villains translate the myriad intricacies of the morbidly obese and unmanageable behemoth of bureaucracy the NHS has become into a more digestible bite-sized tabloid snack. Of course, there are always a few dependable Blimp-like Tories who will gladly provide sufficient fodder for the Mirror and the BBC by coming out with a reliably stupid quote to uphold the narrative, though these tend to be detached backbenchers who are all with Bupa anyway.

Unless one’s health takes a dramatic turn for the worst, most of us are mercifully spared from placing our lives in A&E hands; if we find ourselves afflicted by a seasonal sniffle that simply won’t go away, the nearest GP’s surgery tends to be the sole port of call – or at least used to be. Anyone who’s attempted to secure a doctor’s appointment during the past three years will probably have found sweating it out or self-medication is a preferable option. Sob stories from GPs have become commonplace in recent times, though most patients find it difficult to express sympathy after being placed on hold for hours when forced to book an appointment over the phone from the crack of dawn onwards, with an ailment hardly eased by exposure to some tortuous Auto-tune earworm or an ad on a loop demanding the listener purchases an app that will no doubt deliver a diagnosis in a Stephen Hawking accent.

The last time I managed to gain an in-person audience with a GP around a year or so ago, I recall being the sole person in a waiting room about as active as a Nightingale Hospital until a guy walked in and approached the counter to make an appointment; he was informed he needed to do so over the phone and proceeded to produce his mobile and ring the receptionist in front of him; observing this farce, I felt as though I’d walked into a Python sketch. Despite the absence of patient competition, I still had to sit for the best part of fifteen minutes before a doctor deigned to appear; this was one of those multi-GP surgeries where one rarely sees the same doctor two visits running, so I did wonder what the multiple medical men and women employed there were busying themselves with whilst I twiddled my thumbs in the deserted waiting room. Playing a round of poker, perhaps?

Ever since every illness – both life-threatening and merely annoying – was deemed by the likes of SAGE to be secondary to Covid, the majority of hospitals, clinics and GP’s surgeries seem to have obediently followed the Government-recommended lead, albeit without readjusting their priorities now we’re through the worst of it. And what thanks do they receive for their obedience? They get Chris ‘Mekon’ Whitty predicting mass deaths courtesy of all those undiagnosed fatal illnesses that were placed on ice because the medical profession did as it was told. Indeed, how many vital members of NHS staff were faced with the threat of losing their jobs barely a couple of years ago because they were resistant to the vaccine and exercised their rights as citizens of a supposedly-free country to opt out? Remember the smear campaign aimed at discrediting this perfectly democratic decision, one spearheaded by Government propaganda and supported by numerous sections of the MSM? Yes, like any institution of such an unwieldy size, the NHS has its dutiful servants and it has its avaricious freeloaders; I suspect the latter would have remained in place, continuing to draw their sumptuous salaries as middle-management parasites, and wouldn’t have shed a tear over the loss of those further down the food-chain whose presence can actually make more of a difference to a patient than a course in diversity training. But in this infantile narrative, we were made very aware as to who the heroes were and who the villains were.

I think, for a lot of people, some of the more extreme attitudes that the pandemic exposed were quite an eye-opener; it certainly served to show a few true colours that had been previously clad in the colourless brand of sheep’s clothing bearing a ‘tolerance’ label, i.e. the whole #BeKind brigade who anyone with half-a-brain can now belatedly recognise as the charlatans they always were – the allegedly liberal who are actually acutely illiberal, just like the so-called anti-racists or anti-fascists are amongst some of the most bigoted, intolerant, narrow-minded and downright nasty haters out there. And, as undemocratic and draconian as some of the legislation rushed through Parliament by a Conservative Government was, don’t forget it was supported all the way along by Labour and the Lib Dems – and if it was criticised at all, the basis of the criticism was that it wasn’t severe enough in curbing civil liberties. After all, we saw for ourselves just how severe it could’ve been in England via those constituent countries of the UK with administrations supposedly of the Left.

In a way, though, the unpleasant side of human nature that either surfaced through genuine fear or simply exploited the fear of others in the most unseemly manner was a symptom of more than a mere freak occurrence like the pandemic. I recently viewed an archive interview with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Marty Feldman and Dennis Norden – all of whom were sharing a dinner whilst discussing comedy writing; as the get-together was staged at Christmas, the festive subject cropped-up and Feldman made a potent point as to the way strangers react to one another for just a handful of days out of the 365 the year offers us. He noted that people have to be ‘artificially stimulated to behave like human beings’, going on to say that ‘We have to be aware that this is the day when we behave like civilised people’. Whenever some TV telethon in a ‘Children in Need’ vein raises a whopping amount, there’s always tangible surprise expressed at just how selflessly generous people can be towards the less fortunate, yet should it really be a surprise? Sadly, the fact that it is greeted as a surprise speaks volumes. To be wished a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year on the street by a stranger for one week in December isn’t an uncommon event; to be bid good morning on the street by a stranger any other time of the year certainly is.

Every public demonstration of ‘community’ and ‘we’re all in this together’ during the pandemic, such as standing on a street corner to applaud the NHS, came across as staged-managed, like an organised ‘fun’ event for kids at Butlin’s; none of it appeared organic or spontaneous; one almost got the feeling it had been hatched by Dominic Cummings as a means of getting the people on side, a less negative approach than the divide & rule tactic of shaming those who opposed pandemic policies like lockdown or mandatory masks. The pitifully small resistance to so much of what was imposed upon us during this period – and how that resistance was demonised by those who played right into Government hands – is something it’s hard to forgive or forget. Whether or not the NHS is actually in a genuine crisis again or whether this is just another strand of propaganda designed to oust one political party in favour of another cut from the same rancid cloth is something we’ll probably find out in a year or two. Mind you, as Jonathan Meades shrewdly pointed out in his study on jargon, politicians of every colour have more in common with each other than they have with normal people; and the truth we believe is the truth we receive.

© The Editor

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7 SamuraiIt tends to be a given that most works of fiction which imagine the future usually offer an exaggerated vision of the times in which they were written, reflecting the hopes and – more often than not – the fears of the here and now. Numerous elements of a book such as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ become more worryingly prescient the further we travel from the Cold War nursery that inspired it, though its source material is still unmistakably 1940s Europe. Equally, whilst Anthony Burgess ingeniously kept ‘A Clockwork Orange’ relevant for each generation of teenage hoodlums by inventing slang for his gang of Droogs, their actual genesis was in the moral panic that accompanied Britain’s original adolescent bogeyman, the Teddy Boy. Trying to second-guess what will happen next involves observing the most concerning present day developments and projecting them forwards, imagining how their progress will continue along a similar path, morphing into even more horrific manifestations of their contemporary incarnation. I guess today there are several schools of thought that maintain this tradition, depending upon where one stands on the pressing issues.

For example, by now we’re accustomed to the relentless Doomsday prophesies of the more extreme wings of the climate change lobby, and their forecast rarely varies from the worst case scenario; then there’s the Covid branch of the soothsayer’s union, who only ever seem to see the virus in terms of how many bodies their fevered imaginations can picture; and, of course, there are those who envisage the control of the individual by the State moving closer to the Chinese model as our civil liberties are eroded by successive legislation cloaked in the guise of benign intervention. It goes without saying that images emerging last week of people unable to leave Guangzhou due to the Chinese authorities remotely switching their Covid digital QR passport from yellow to red ought to serve as a warning of what can happen when the individual surrenders the majority of their autonomy to the State; and it’s easy to foresee the leaders of the West pushing for the same powers in the not-too distant future. Then again, every gallows has its humour; after all, it’s hard not to laugh at the utter absence of self-awareness in a risible figure such as Justin Trudeau, declaring his solidarity with protestors in China whilst failing to discern parallels with the way he took back control from Canada’s truckers by first demonising them and then freezing their bank accounts.

If, rather than looking forward, one were to momentarily look back perhaps seven years to December 2015, the pattern of events that brought us to where we are now is easier to discern than predicting the pattern that will take us to December 2029 – even though we instinctively know the direction of that pattern will be a progressively darker one; the feeling is all-but irresistible, yet who can blame us after what we’ve been through over the past seven years? Can anyone seriously argue the world is a better place in 2022 than it was in 2015? One might even come to the conclusion that things have only got worse every year from 2015 onwards. Mind you, what’s interesting is that anticipating the next seven years as something even more awful than the last is far from being the pessimistic prognosis of a wannabe Nostradamus in the wilderness; it’s pretty much become the consensus. The future is now only sold to us as a negative, with a daily roll-call of crises-to-come that hardly make getting up in the morning something worth waiting for; it’s no great surprise so many children are terrified that the Earth will be reduced to a barren wasteland by the time they come of age. Optimism in the future no longer sells.

I think I tried to convey that in a recent post titled ‘Heart and Soul’; this was inspired by watching an old ‘day in the life’ primary coloured-portrait of London from the early 60s called ‘All That Mighty Heart’; it’s the kind of film short that sticks rose-tinted spectacles on the viewer without the viewer’s consent, yet if one can manage to avoid being seduced by the naive nostalgia the film radiates, there’s still no getting away from the fact that it oozes a wonderfully refreshing self-confident optimism in the future – optimism in better homes, better living and working conditions, better roads, better transport, better public amenities, better leisure facilities, and a better life. I suppose the era in which it was produced, long before the ambitious Utopian visions of town-planners collapsed into the rubble of Ronan Point, give it that joyous energy; a generation who had fought the War and a generation that had grown up in the shadow of it took a quick glance over their shoulders and then understandably saw the future as a better place than the past. And they believed it was within their powers to make it so. Maybe that’s why this kind of film can seem such a breath of fresh air when looked at today, a time when we’re so worn down by the MSM generating nothing but negativity when it comes to the day after tomorrow.

Okay, so we overcome one crisis; give it 24 hours and there’ll be another to keep us in a state of agitated anxiety, perennially worrying if it’ll be the next virus that kills us or if hypothermia will beat the virus to it or if the planet will burst into flames and incinerate us before we even get to cannibalism. The cost-of-living crisis is currently being marketed as though it’s the first suffered by a wide cross-section of the British public since the 1970s, though whether we are going through boom or bust there will always be people who are struggling to make ends meet, just as there are always those who are doing alright, Jack – like the landlord of Matt Hancock’s local. Yes, some did indeed have a ‘good pandemic’. Fair enough, he might have had to settle for a knighthood rather than a PPE contract in a brown paper bag, but Chris Whitty is now warning us that this winter’s annual ‘NHS in crisis’ story will consist of multiple deaths arising from all the life-saving diagnoses for cancer and other fun diseases that were sidelined by diverting resources into the likes of empty aircraft hangars called Nightingale hospitals; whose fault was that, Professor Mekon?

Ditto the alarming deaths of children from Strep A; the reintroduction of social interaction in the school environment is being blamed by ‘experts’, yet perhaps if the kids hadn’t been unnecessarily kept away from each other and clad in masks by paranoid parents in thrall to Project Fear, maybe their immune systems would have been sufficiently developed to resist the bacterial infection. Yes, all of these upbeat headlines skimmed from a cursory glance at our beloved news outlets at least bear a relevance to the general tone of this post; but to get back to where we were a few paragraphs ago, what’s all this about December 2015? Well, I didn’t select December 2015 as a random date; the eagle-eyed and long-term amongst you may have realised the Winegum debuted seven years ago this month as of Tuesday just gone (incidentally, this post was ready and waiting to be posted on the actual anniversary, but ongoing ‘internet issues’ prevented me from fulfilling the bloody deadline). Anyway, I struck gold beginning this enterprise when I did; from a purely writing perspective, I couldn’t have wished for a more turbulent time to be documenting and commenting on; it has certainly been a remarkably eventful period of our recent history, and I recognise good fortune when I see it.

Had the last seven years been materially comfortable, culturally static, politically stable and free from drama on both the home front and the global stage, they might not have added up to much in the way of either writing or reading. I suppose if I can put often-unpleasant personal experiences during that timespan to one side and reflect on 2015-2022 solely in terms of ‘art’, I have absolutely no complaints. Duran Duran once infamously claimed they wanted to be the band the people were dancing to when the bomb drops; well, if you’re still up for reading the Winegum Telegram in your cave as you shelter from your plague-infected friends & family, shivering in the perma-winter or sweating in the perma-summer of tomorrow’s killer climate, I’ll keep buggering on.

© The Editor

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Jungle CockAnyone looking for proof of Peter Capaldi’s gifts as an actor need not only recall the fact he continued to exude the necessary charisma and gravitas as Doctor Who despite the diminishing quality of the scripts and the Doctor’s impending exile on Planet Woke, but that he also gave us the memorably visceral Whitehall spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in ‘The Thick of It’. There were dozens of scenes from the series in which Tucker’s hyperactive potty mouth scaled heights of genius linguistic obscenity, but Capaldi’s character was much more than just a viciously funny caricature of Alastair Campbell at his worst. I remember one episode in which Tucker had been toppled from his position of power and, suddenly deprived of his raison d’être, cut a lost, pathetic figure, realising he had little else to occupy his time; contacted by the producers of a reality TV show of the kind that seeks out has-beens and down-at-heel celebrities, Tucker swallows his pride and meets the producers. As the format of the programme is explained to him, Tucker’s despair at how low he’s sunk is writ large on his despondent countenance, and sympathy for a character who had previously elicited anything but is brilliantly coaxed out of the viewer. In the end, Malcolm Tucker walks out of the interview and shows his true grit by staging a successful comeback without recourse to reality television; perhaps Matt Hancock should have been taking notes.

The former Health Secretary, who presided over one of the most disastrous policy decisions in the history of the post, was fortunate to escape the post-Covid fallout with just the loss of his job; but at least the public received some consolation via the humiliating nature of his exit – caught on camera breaking social distancing rules in the most toe-curling manner by snogging and groping a female aide in a corridor like some geeky adolescent indulging in his first kiss at the High School Prom. Once exposed as a ‘love rat’ (as the tabloids used to say), Hancock left his wife and family for said aide and then embarked upon a fittingly embarrassing online ‘comeback’, responsible for soaring sales of sick buckets as he declared his love for his former bit on the side. Perhaps it’s therefore no surprise that Hancock has now succumbed to the lure of reality TV, recently announced as a contestant in the upcoming series of the show that seems destined to run until the bomb drops, ‘Help! I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here’. The reported fee of £400,000 probably helped too – that’s if he could read the cheque on account of his ‘dyslexia’, the convenient cause he claims his appearance on the programme will highlight.

When the subject of Hancock’s participation in the annual kangaroo-knackers banquet cropped-up on this weekend’s ‘The Week in Westminster’, columnist and broadcaster Matthew Parris attempted to defend Hancock, deflecting criticism of Hancock’s decision by dismissing it as snobbishness, citing past appearances by the likes of Nadine Dorries on reality TV whilst a serving MP. However, Parris eventually declared an interest by admitting ‘Cockers’ was a friend of his. Lest we forget, Matthew Parris first sprang to national prominence when, as a Conservative MP himself, he took part in a 1984 edition of ‘World in Action’. This famous experiment, which Mrs Thatcher advised him not to do, was a test to see if the promising young MP could live on the weekly social security benefit his Government said was perfectly adequate. Dispatched to a neighbourhood of Newcastle with a high rate of unemployment, Parris struggled to make it through the week on the dole and ended up running out of money for the meter before the seven days was over.

Parris stood down as an MP a couple of years after his first foray into television and took over from Brian Walden as host of ITV’s Sunday lunchtime institution, ‘Weekend World’; but he has often hinted his experience on ‘World in Action’ opened his eyes to not simply the world of broadcasting – he also received first-hand knowledge of how the other half live. Parris returned to Newcastle twenty years after his sobering education on the dole for a follow-up programme and discovered little improvement in the lives of the residents there; he found the legacy of the early 80s economic decimation of the city was that many in the community were now dependent on antidepressants. Both programmes validated Parris’s appearance in them, but particularly the first one; it was a serious, worthy attempt to test an advocate of Government policy by inviting him to try living under it himself – something that should actually be a compulsory course for anyone attempting to stand for Parliament. There’s a huge difference between the motivation behind ‘World in Action’ and the Ant & Dec circus, so I don’t really think Matt Hancock signing-up for that is any way comparable to Matthew Parris’s 80s venture into the North East.

Regardless of Hancock’s unconvincing attempts to justify his participation in the programme, the now-backbencher has had the whip suspended as a result, and though still a member of the Conservative Party, he now sits as an independent in the Commons. The fact Hancock chose to take part in the show with Parliament in session understandably didn’t go down well with his West Suffolk constituents either; I often think gaining an audience with a member of the Cabinet at their constituency surgery must be considerably harder than it would be with any ‘normal’ MP, but when that MP is no longer running a department there should be no excuses for their non-appearance. Not that the loss of power seems to make much difference to their accessibility within their constituencies, mind; after all, imagine if your local MP was Boris Johnson, needing to discuss a pressing problem with him in that capacity, yet being told he’s sunning his considerable bulk on some distant exotic shore. And now there’s the disgraced ex-Health Secretary to be found Down Under, hanging out with the usual leftovers from all the other reality shows when his constituents might actually require his assistance for the job he’s being paid to do on their behalf.

Ah, but he’s got estranged children to support as well as financing his love-nest with Gina Coladangelo, and the wages of a backbencher don’t quite match up to the ministerial salary. Overly-optimistic rumours of a return to Government under Rishi Sunak came to nothing, so Hancock has clearly chosen an option he seems to imagine will somehow rehabilitate his trashed reputation amongst the general public. And a man referred to as a ‘showbiz guru’ by the name of Jonathan Shalit reckons Hancock has a profitable celebrity career ahead of him, claiming ‘Cockers’ could earn up to £1 million a year if he plays his cards right. ‘I’m A Celebrity provides an opportunity to go on a new journey,’ says Shalit, foreseeing an increase in Hancock’s income if he performs well on the programme. ‘Someone like Matt can probably make about £1 million a year, quite often on weekends. For example, he could probably do three or four appearances for £10-15,000 each, minimum, if not up to £60-70,000.’ Yes, these guys do like to talk in numbers, but showbiz types share that with greedy Honourable Members, and someone did once say that politics is showbiz for ugly people, so there you go.

Matt Hancock’s deserved political downfall was a consequence of the double standards at play in Boris’s administration during the pandemic; this is the man who threatened to outlaw outdoor exercise if the plebs didn’t adhere to the social distancing rules he himself evidently regarded as unnecessary when indulging in a spot of buttock-clutching, who was photographed sans-mask when he told the rest of us to wear them at all times, and who handed out PPE contracts to his buddies – typical corruption of the kind we expect from our MPs, I guess. But the buck stopped with him when Covid-infected pensioners were returned from hospital to care home; if anyone killed granny, it was Matt Hancock. And no amount of Barrymore-esque efforts to court forgiveness via light entertainment will change that.

© The Editor

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DroneA lockdown legacy one suspects those spellbound by the Chinese model didn’t anticipate was the fact many workers whose school-university-workplace conveyor belt hadn’t prepared them for an unscheduled interlude became converted to the unexpected absence of orders. After a lifetime of being told what to do and what to think by parents, teachers, lecturers and bosses, the drones were abruptly left to their own devices and abandoned by the authority figures they’d been meticulously taught to be subservient to from day one; they were initially as dazed and confused as North Koreans would be if deprived of the image of their glorious leader beaming down at them from every skyscraper. Big Brother was dead – or at the very least had been reincarnated as a scaremongering presence on TV and online informing us that any deviation from lockdown regulations would mean the blood of a thousand dying grannies would be on everyone’s hands. We now took our orders from medical experts on the Government payroll. Yet, at the same time, there were still all those scarily empty hours stretching ahead without edicts from Boris, Chris Whitty or…ahem…Neil Ferguson.

Bewildered wonderment at the familiar soundtrack of traffic congestion being replaced by birdsong overnight was routinely remarked upon, though this was swiftly usurped by a discernible panic on social media. Endless Facebook groups sprang up as those who had never experienced a sustained break from the norm were confronted by the sudden shock of having time on their hands that didn’t involve a foreign holiday or airport delays; they’d been taught a break from the 9-to-5 grind was restricted to the well-trodden path of the annual migration to overseas destinations for a fortnight; actual unlimited time in the home environment wasn’t in the script, so what to do? The wake-up call this imposed exile from the traditional workplace routine provoked was longer-lasting than that anticipated by those who masterminded it; when they gradually got a grip on the pandemic and the powers-that-be encouraged everyone to resume commuting, the reluctant embrace of this return to the previous pattern left the overlords in a state of panic, resorting to threatening fines and promises of an economic apocalypse if advice were spurned.

Of course, transferring responsibility from employers to employees was a good buck-passing tactic that was endorsed by our incumbent PM when in his role as Chancellor, but the arrogant assumption that the workforce would simply revert to type following an unplanned taster of an alternative to the preordained programme was naive and short-sighted. Sure, the plebs on the bottom rung of the social ladder were expected to carry on regardless – those who had kept the economy functioning as ‘key workers’; but Amazon delivery-men and NHS staff dependent upon weekly rounds of applause as recognition of their service were not necessarily guaranteed to switch to default mode once the official tributes had been paid by those whose virtue had been signalled. The expectation that such a cataclysmic interruption to working lives upon which so much of society’s structure and functioning is reliant would prove to be a mere blip and all would magically resume once it was safe to step back outdoors was as short-sighted as expressing surprise that the cost of food – especially dairy produce and pasta – has risen astronomically post-lockdown. The disruption to the social ecosystem was bound to leave ruptures in the foundations, and they’re everywhere.

It’s noticeable at the moment there are numerous employers bemoaning the lack of a ready workforce to fill gaping vacancies in the hospitality industry; if they happen to be in possession of a particular political viewpoint – and many are – the blame is invariably apportioned to Brexit. A fair few of those in media circles promoting and supporting this theory were amongst the most vocally rabid advocates of constant lockdowns whenever infections rose above a certain level in the wake of restriction easing. Such figures whose jobs were easily adapted to the Zoom model didn’t give a flying f*** about the destruction of the hospitality industry or the effect of lockdown on the workforce back then; and now the wider ramifications of cafés, restaurants and hotels being mothballed for months on end are becoming evident, they’re bleating on about bloody Brexit again. Yes, the reason why there are 200,000 jobs waiting to be filled in hospitality is all because we can no longer depend on cheap migrant labour due to our departure from the EU. Simple. However, the hospitality industries of Spain, France and Germany are curiously experiencing similar staffing shortages at the moment, yet as far as I’m aware all three remain signed-up to the great European project; even the US is facing the same problems, and Brexit as a cause has even less relevance there than here.

Coincidentally, the one thing all four nations mentioned shared with the UK was the enforced closure of industry during lockdown – especially hospitality. In Blightly, the furlough scheme covered some (albeit not all) of the wages hospitality workers were earning pre-lockdown, and the time on their hands the workforce received courtesy of the Covid master-plan enabled many members of it to wonder whether the pittances they were working long, exhausting hours for were worth returning to once it was all over. Unsurprisingly, a huge number of them came to the conclusion that they weren’t. But they came to that conclusion when they had time to catch their breaths for the first time since beginning their working lives, the moment their bosses closed the doors of their workplace; and that was a factor of lockdown, not Brexit. Whilst Brexit remains the ultimate blame-game bogeyman for all of Britain’s ills, lockdown is almost given a royal pardon, particularly by those who were its loyalist cheerleaders. Indeed, some are even belatedly admitting it went too far – even Rishi Sunak.

The stigmatising of anyone who questioned or queried the wisdom of lockdown regulations as a pariah-cum-traitor during the bleakest periods of the pandemic has now been quietly glossed over by many of those who were doing the stigmatising. There has even been talk of a ‘pandemic amnesty’ by some, and that naturally means we skip over the necessary public inquiry into the damage done and everyone with genuine blood on their hands is first in the queue for the hand sanitizer, the brand known as ‘whitewash’. The over-zealous enforcement of social distancing we all saw at the time, which was a gift to society’s plentiful supply of Jobsworths and straightforward sadistic bastards, was nothing short of a disgrace at its most extreme and unnecessary – from police dispatching drones to name and shame dog-walkers in the wide open spaces of the Peak District to the insensitive officiousness of preventing distressed mourners embracing at funerals to the ‘Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition’ gate-crashing of religious services to the utterly unforgivable barring of family members from the deathbeds of loved ones. None of these outrages should be swept under the collective carpet as the guilty seek to cover their backs with the get-out-of-jail card of an amnesty, anymore than the seismic impact of lockdown on both industry and the workforce can be seamlessly transferred to Brexit.

Anyway, an amnesty won’t return us to where we were before; we’re already well on the road to the next fun-packed episode, currently being bombarded with promises of a new Age of Austerity, one that will make the Austerity ushered in by the Con-Dem Coalition a decade ago resemble the Bacchanalian excess of a Freddie Mercury birthday party from the 80s. The kamikaze rush for ‘growth’ attempted by Liz Truss, the woman Private Eye has referred to as ‘the Lady Jane Grey of Prime Ministers’, perhaps demonstrated just how devoid of solutions those who created this absolute bloody mess in the first place truly are. And even if we spurn the industries they destroyed, our lives are still in their hands.

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LamplighterIt could be worse, I guess – we could be Germany; no, this isn’t anything to do with the War, not the 1939-’45 one, anyway. Events in Ukraine that have been in full swing for six months now have undoubtedly impacted on life in Western Europe, especially when it comes to the import & export trade, though Tsar Vlad’s invasion does provide politicians with a convenient get-out-of-jail card, one that serves to obscure their own failings over the past two or three years. Don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, don’t blame it on the good times – blame it on Ukraine. Don’t blame it on the lockdown, don’t blame it on Covid, don’t blame it on Net Zero – blame it on Ukraine. Considering Germany’s somewhat…er…problematic history with Russia, perhaps Frau Merkel reckoned it was a nice reconciliatory gesture to entrust the old enemy with providing the majority of Germany’s gas imports. She obviously (not to say inexplicably) didn’t foresee a time when Comrade Putin might use this to his advantage; after all, it’s not as if he hasn’t sought to extend his nation’s current borders via military means in the past, is it?

Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Mrs Merkel eagerly embraced the ‘renewable energy’ agenda and announced all of Germany’s nuclear power plants would be gone by…well…this year. Eight of the country’s 17 were permanently closed in the immediate aftermath of Japan’s very own Chernobyl, yet the alternative to the system being phased-out overnight wasn’t necessarily very ‘Green’, reliant as it is on coal-fired electricity production; since 2011, this has led to an increase in deaths caused by fossil fuel pollution. Is the idea to save the planet by killing its inhabitants? Like many a political leader, Merkel seized upon renewable energy as a move to boost her short-term popularity, yet the swift winding-down of the nuclear power industry in Germany continued apace throughout her lengthy tenure in office; as things stand, there are a mere three remaining plants still operational today. Reliance on Russia for natural gas was underlined by the controversial Nord 2 pipeline project, which has yet to open for business; largely financed by Russian-owned energy giant Gazprom, final construction on the pipeline was suspended when Russia invaded Ukraine; Russia responded by slashing supplies of gas to Germany down to 20% of its capacity.

Despite pleas by the German nuclear power industry to extend the life of the three plants left when confronted by the prospect of an energy emergency following Russia’s response to sanctions, the German Government is refusing to budge and waver from its rigid Green commitments. Instead, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration has announced severe restrictions on the use of electricity that will come into effect this winter. Anyone who either lived through – or has experienced second-hand via numerous TV documentaries – the power-cuts imposed upon the UK during the 1972 Miners’ Strike and the 1974 Three-Day Week will recognise some of the measures. To the no-doubt relief of muggers and cat burglars, street lighting will be one of the first casualties; this blackout will also be extended to the illumination of monuments, buildings and shop-fronts; moreover, heating of public buildings will be reduced with the exception of hospitals. Anyone wondering what these measures will make the German capital look like at night need only track down the footage of Piccadilly Circus deprived of its gaudy light-show 50 years ago. But it’s hoped the restrictions will save upwards of €10.8bn, so that’s alright.

Prior to the closure of three further plants at the end of last year, nuclear power was responsible for 13.3% of Germany’s electricity, whilst up until the fallout from the Ukraine situation, Russia was providing Germany with as much as 55% of its gas supplies; yes, it doesn’t exactly sound like economic sense to be dependent on such a notoriously untrustworthy foreign power for your fuel, but that’s the position Germany finds itself in. And it’s not alone. Russia was supplying the best part of 40% of gas across the EU before sanctions provoked a hasty reduction, and despite Monsieur Macron’s much-publicised freezing of gas prices and a cap on energy increases, neither measure will see out the winter, when gas and electricity will naturally be far more in demand that they are at the moment. The French are already switching off street lighting every night for around three-and-a-half hours in parts of Paris, but most are more concerned with the impact of restrictions in the workplace, and especially the home. Mind you, the Germans are way ahead in their Project Fear preparations, for the country is also looking forward to a fresh wave of Covid infections come the autumn, giving the population something else to look forward to before the fun-packed winter arrives.

According to the German Government, lockdowns will not constitute their strategy this time round. They’ve left such a damaging legacy in every country that imposed them that even Rishi Sunak, desperately seeking an 89th minute winner against ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ Thatcher Ms Liz, has publicly declared he thought they were a mistake. Any further school closures have also been frowned upon by German Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach; let’s be honest, the disastrous interrupting of children’s education all over again would hardly be a vote-winner. Instead, Germany has opted for the safe option of reintroducing and reinforcing mask-wearing on public transport as well as Covid tests being a requisite for entering any institution housing the vulnerable, such as hospitals or care homes. The World Health Organisation has also got its scaremongering hat on once more re the coronavirus; perhaps disappointed that Monkey-pox has been such an anticlimactic sequel to 2020’s blockbuster, the WHO has this week been issuing melodramatic predictions all over again.

‘It is now abundantly clear we’re in a similar situation to last summer,’ read the WHO statement, ‘only, this time the ongoing Covid-19 wave is being propelled by sub-lineages of the omicron variant…with rising cases, we’re also seeing a rise in hospitalisations, which are only set to increase further in the autumn and winter months as schools reopen, people return from holidays and social mixing moves indoors with the onset of colder weather.’ Yeah, move indoors to escape that colder weather, only to find it’s colder in than out due to power-cuts. At least the persistent lobbying of the pharmaceutical industry will be rewarded with the announcement that a new booster jab for the over-50s will be available in Blighty as of September, though cases here have fallen anyway, without the aid of yet another booster; stats show infections have declined nationwide across all age groups, with children unsurprisingly boasting the lowest levels – just as they always have done.

Alas, Covid can’t be blamed on Ukraine, even if the ill-thought-out policies to combat it that we endured in 2020 and ’21 are more responsible for the state we’re in (and the state we’ll be in this winter) than what’s currently going on in Eastern Europe. Still, entrusting Russia with the contract to supply Western Europe with so much of its gas was an arrangement that was hardly guaranteed to progress along a smooth, uneventful course with a man like Vlad at the helm, and the whole Ukraine situation is clearly playing no small part in the gloomy narrative of the moment. But the futile pursuit of the Green dream that has taken possession of so many Western Governments is one that can also take its fair share of the blame; our own Net Zero fantasy threatens to condemn more to fuel poverty than anything Russia can use as a bargaining chip, whereas Germany’s determination to exclude nuclear power as a viable option when its suicidal reliance on Russia for energy was destined to end in tears is an extreme example of what can happen when just the one basket contains all your eggs.

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Boris and RishiAlas, poor Rishi! Remember that period, not so long ago, when the Chancellor would stand beside the PM and the pair together would look like a ‘before and after’ photo from one of those diet ads you often see on the backside of buses? Shagged-out, shabby, flabby Boris struggling to compete with the glowing picture of slim-line, male-model health that was Mr Sunak in his popular prime – the time when Rishi was dishing out the reddies to the furloughed workforce and soaring up the popularity polls as the heir apparent; seems like an aeon ago now, doesn’t it. Rarely can a contender have been so downgraded in so short a space of time as Rishi Sunak. From his badly-received budget to revelations of his wife’s tax avoidance to his fine for breaking lockdown restrictions, the Chancellor has had a terrible few weeks that appear to have left his alleged leadership ambitions in tatters. Obviously, the PM won’t be complaining; even though he himself is carrying the can for Partygate and has also been fined, the electorate expects nothing less from Boris after two and-a-half years. Rishi, on the other hand, offered hope (for some, at least) and is now fighting for Premier League survival in the relegation zone.

Considering some of the plebs who broke the restrictions suffered fines totalling £10,000, the fact Boris, Rishi and the rest of the Downing Street rabble have been punished with a £50 penalty is a bit like me and three receiving a fine of half-a-sixpence if Covid penalties were flexible enough to reflect salaries. Adding to Rishi’s woes (according to some reports, anyway), the Chancellor’s presence at the PM’s No.10 birthday bash in June 2020 was entirely accidental; the unfortunate Sunak was apparently en route to a Covid strategy summit in the Cabinet Room when he stumbled upon the cake being cut – or perhaps Boris deliberately (and craftily) invited him to sample a slice in anticipation of it all eventually coming out, thus ensuring his rival would be beside him on the deck of the sinking ship once the iceberg appeared.

Some say Sunak considered resigning as a result of being fined for breaking rules that a Cabinet he was a prominent member of had formulated without actually following – and there have been the inevitable calls to walk the plank from point-scoring Honourable Members on the Opposition benches. To quit over this might win back a semblance of respect from those outside the Party (the Conservative one, that is), but whether or not it could curtail Rishi’s hopes of one day moving next-door remains debatable. One ‘insider’ has claimed such a move on Sunak’s part would be received as ‘an act of regicide against Johnson’ that wouldn’t go down well with the Party faithful, yet the kind of honour-among-thieves mentality that enables the Tories to project a united front means little behind the scenes; after all, Boris himself was actively building his challenger fan-base when both David Cameron and Theresa May were in peril. Then again, that’s Boris; when it comes to a moral code, he’s perhaps the most shamelessly immoral Prime Minister we’ve had for the best part of 200 years.

The latest apology from the PM walks a familiar path when those caught-out are forced to own up to something they’d have otherwise kept quiet about – unconvincing and trite. It didn’t occur to him at the time that he was breaking the rules the rest of us had no choice but to abide by; well, he was only the head of the Government that introduced them, after all. He also denies lying to the Commons about the Downing Street ‘bring your own booze’ work events, which is a brazen denial in the face of overwhelming evidence; yet this is an age whereby 2+2=5 in so many areas, and we shouldn’t be surprised that a natural born liar should be as adept at contradicting fact as any online male activist who thinks merely self-identifying as the opposite sex means the rest of the world has to regard them as a woman. ‘There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting or less than ten minutes,’ said Boris of his 56th birthday party. According to the PM, ‘people I work with passed on their good wishes. And I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules. I now humbly accept that it was.’ Oh, well – job done, then.

Whereas the dependable toadies have sprung to the PM’s defence – Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, to name but two – it’s telling that some of the PM’s biggest internal critics have toed the Party line in the face of the latest crisis. Critics like Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who has previously called for Boris to go. Yes, he even played the Ukraine card. ‘I understand why they (the public) are angry and I share their fury,’ he said. ‘The behaviour was unacceptable. The Prime Minister needs to respond to these fines being issued. However, as I’ve made very clear, in the middle of a war in Europe, when Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes and the UK is Ukraine’s biggest ally, as President Zelensky said at the weekend, it wouldn’t be right to remove the Prime Minister at this time. It would destabilise the UK Government at a time when we need to be united in the face of Russian aggression and the murdering of innocent Ukrainians.’

Of course, it goes without saying that events in Ukraine are a tad more serious; but to evoke them in a statement on this particular subject seems especially reprehensible; it doesn’t excuse one single drop of plonk from No.10’s wine cellar being spilled at the very moment when police drones were encircling innocent dog-walkers or Her Majesty was burying her husband. Boris and his pissed-up posse were mooning the general public at a time when rules devised by them were making the lives of the general public a misery; and it’s only right this needs to be addressed, regardless of whatever is currently happening in Eastern Europe. Over 50 fixed penalty notices have been issued by the Met as a delayed reaction to shindigs in Whitehall at the height of Covid restrictions, and the investigation isn’t over yet. A serving Prime Minister – and his missus – being charged with breaking the law by the police and having to pay a fine is pretty unprecedented territory in recent history, yet the thick skin of the PM remains intact for the moment as the power of his suspected challenger suddenly seems rather diminished.

The Chancellor has been as apologetic as Boris in the light of the fines being issued. ‘I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence,’ he said. ‘I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine. I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the anger and frustration caused and I am sorry.’ Whether the electorate will show any sympathy for Sunak when they clearly have little left for Boris remains to be seen. The findings of a snap YouGov poll asking whether or not the PM should resign revealed 57% of those asked responded in the affirmative, as did the same numbers when asked if the Chancellor should follow suit. 75% also agreed the Prime Minister knowingly lied to Parliament about breaking the restrictions.

The usual suspects have lined-up to exploit the situation, including the ever-reliable Keir Starmer and Nicola Sturgeon. But so entrenched is the public’s cynicism towards the utterance of every politician – a state of affairs the politicians themselves are wholly responsible for – that the predictable calls for Boris to quit from the Labour and SNP leaders just feels like further desperate point-scoring. We don’t need them seeking to boost their popularity by saying out loud something we all already know. We’re not as stupid as they think we are.

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Kid in MaskNostalgia can be a curious beast; after a suitable distance, even the most ghastly fashions or hairstyles or pop groups can be reclaimed following decades of mockery from those who were there and resurrected as ironic, post-modern icons of kitsch hailing from a more ‘innocent’ era that suddenly seems refreshing to a generation too young to remember it. We’ve come to anticipate this trend in the absence of contemporary cultural earthquakes that would render an ongoing fascination with such fluff irrelevant; in a way, it’s perhaps a comment on the creative vacuum of this uninspiring century that the unceasing recycling of the recent past, no matter how awful, shows no sign of slowing down. Ten years is usually the shortest gap between ridicule and reappraisal, though sometimes it can be a little less; two years seems a bit extreme, however – even taking into account the gradual reduction of attention spans that is another present day trend.

I stumbled into what amounted to a lockdown theme-park a few days ago when visiting my local branch of Specsavers. Even after two years, customers can still no longer stroll into the shop at will, forced to stand at the fenced-off entrance and wait for a masked member of staff to attend to them on the doorstep. The queues are a strange throwback to how it once was outside every shop, supermarket and post office in 2020; but maybe the fact it already seems like a surreal lifetime ago that shopping was akin to lining-up to enter an exclusive nightclub has generated this reluctance in some to relinquish the restrictions. It’s as though Specsavers is trapped in a lockdown loop, clinging to a pandemic policy when a Government whose Ministers didn’t even adhere to it at the time has deemed it to no longer be a necessity. NHS posters in the windows of the shop seem like an attempt to forge a tenuous link between the business and the state religion, as though the presence of healthcare literature somehow justifies nostalgia for the days when Boris told us to stay at home. Mind you, I have noticed Specsavers isn’t an isolated example of this overcautious continuation of something that many now regard as a disastrous experiment that had little bearing on the diminishing of Covid as a universally lethal virus.

During the time when the pandemic restrictions were being enforced with ruthless efficiency – at least outside of 10 Downing Street, anyway – mandatory mask-wearing was one of the most visually notable elements of the day-to-day Covid experience when venturing outdoors. It was normalised with remarkable rapidity and has remained the hallmark of the paranoid and terrified even though government guidelines have stated the wearing of them is now optional again. Whilst those members of the public who didn’t buy into Project Fear were being held hostage by the neuroses of those who did, spreading that fear into a generation unable to oppose it has been one of the most disturbing aftershocks of the whole pandemic.

A report published over the weekend stated that some babies and toddlers are showing signs of difficulties when it comes to the kind of social interacting so crucial to their development – a direct consequence of being sealed in the parental panic room for the duration; a demographic no more likely to be afflicted by Covid than by Alzheimer’s are apparently also struggling with facial recognition of their nearest and dearest now that the masks have been removed, so great has their embryonic view of the world been warped by the fanatical submission to the restrictions by their parents. It’s an appalling situation that will probably spawn a lifetime of repercussions for the unfortunate infants, one that could and should have been avoided.

The other week I watched an episode of ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ where the man himself was plagued by a cold he milked to extremes of melodramatic hypochondria; nevertheless, his sidekick Sid James was wary enough to join Anthony Aloysius at the dining table wearing a surgical mask and attempted to slip morsels of his meal into his mouth without removing the cloth. The studio audience laughed at this ludicrous spectacle, safely shielded by sixty years from an unimaginable scenario when such behaviour would be regarded as perfectly acceptable and unworthy of laughter – by some, anyway. A sitcom from as far away as the turn-of-the-60s is inevitably peppered with antiquated cultural references, yet many of the situations that form the basis of the comedy remain commonplace, and it now appears even something that wouldn’t have been the norm at the time has given this particular episode a poignant relevance. Indeed, it’s impossible to hear the laughter without experiencing that knowing, after-the-event feeling and thinking ‘Ah, if only they knew…’

When shoppers had no choice but to hinder their ability to breathe during their retail expeditions, I don’t recall seeing any signs in shop doorways that informed customers it was okay to not wear a mask if they felt like it. Everyone from shopkeeper to shopper did as they were told. And many shops or businesses that did approach the restrictions with a more casual attitude were often vulnerable to punitive fines brought upon them by the widespread encouragement of restriction-watchers to grass them up. Nobody dared go against Government rules and regulations. However, now that mask-wearing is no longer mandatory, I’ve noticed some shops have signs in the doorways informing customers they must still wear a mask, even though the Government has once more placed the right to choose in the hands of the individual. If we had to do as we were told when restrictions were in place, why are some businesses now imposing them when Boris says it’s okay to go mask-free? It’s as if they’ve been so affected by the past couple of years that they’re scared to return to where we were before.

Even Scotland – yes, even Scotland – is now tentatively lifting restrictions. From the 18th of this month, face coverings indoors and on public transport will no longer be mandatory; the rules regarding the compulsory wearing of masks at weddings and funerals, as well as any places of worship, are also being lifted; as of May, those with symptoms won’t be required to test anymore and physical test sites will be closed along with the end of contact tracing. The People’s Republic of Wales will continue with contact tracing and free lateral flow tests until the end of June, whilst Northern Ireland now only recommends the wearing of masks in certain enclosed public spaces rather than demanding it everywhere. In England, you now don’t have to legally self-isolate if testing positive and lateral flow tests are only free for the over-75s. Amidst all this, nine further symptoms of Covid have just been added to the official list of three, most of which are ones anybody would associate with an especially unpleasant cold or bout of flu.

The advice now dispensed to those who imagine they might have contracted Covid or have tested positive encompasses what one would like to think of as basic common sense. After all, who wouldn’t stay at home and isolate if full of cold when going out and socialising is the last thing you feel like doing? The latest stats for the UK state that around one in every 13 people in the country has the coronavirus, though the Government’s ‘living with Covid’ policy, which sounds like the original plan for herd immunity in all-but name, seems to be working, as the number of those hospitalised for the more severe Covid infections in intensive care are low. It looks like we’re finally learning to live with a virus that we couldn’t kill, which many suspected we’d have to end up doing all along. Vaccines have undoubtedly played their part, but lockdown as a tool of containing the uncontainable was something to which we must never be submitted again – and that includes extending some of its elements way beyond the time when it was still imagined they’d be effective.

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Old WomanIt wasn’t so long ago – barely a year – that the British people were barred from allowing more than six people into their abodes. They couldn’t visit ailing family members in hospitals or care homes; they could only attend funerals in small, specified numbers – and heavy-handed Jobsworths were on hand to gleefully ensure there was no physical contact between the grievers; they couldn’t gather in the open to mark Remembrance Sunday; they couldn’t celebrate Christmas together; they couldn’t hold a vigil for a murdered woman in an outdoor environment without the police treating them like violent protestors; they couldn’t stage a demonstration unless their cause was one approved by the authorities – climate change or BLM, yes/anti-lockdown or anti-vax, no; they couldn’t even worship in churches whose doors were bolted. Small businesses went to the wall, crippled by both enforced closure and then uneconomic restrictions when tentatively reopening (if they’d managed to survive).

The damaging legacy of the past couple of years remains blatantly evident in the rising unemployment figures and the breathtaking level of national debt, not to mention the amount of folk continuing to wear masks in safe environments such as on the street or in the privacy of their own bloody cars, their brains fried by the pandemic propaganda of Project Fear. One wonders if they mask-up on the loo, in the bath or in bed. Probably. Yet, while it would be natural to imagine the unsurprising and hypocritical revelations of what those lying bastards who imposed such rules on the populace were getting up to behind closed doors at the height of the pandemic had served as a wake-up call on how conned the people were, so deep is the psychological damage done by lockdown and its affiliated curbs on civil liberties that the illogical neurosis of millions remains something that will probably take years to heal.

So, how strange that the same people who had to conduct conversations with family and friends from ridiculous distances – and out of doors, at that – are now being battered anew with fresh emotional blackmail that encourages them to open their previously hermetically-sealed homes to complete strangers, as though 2020 and ’21 never happened. Memories of the Syrian ‘children’ with their remarkably advanced examples of male grooming have been smoothly erased as the request for impromptu landlords goes out again. Of course, the awful humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine naturally stirs deep feelings in anyone who has a heart; for some, this provokes a desire to tackle the forces of oppression head-on by signing-up for an International Brigades-like foreign legion of fighters to repel the Russian invasion; for others, it’s marked via a boycott of Russian goods or cultural exports; and for others again, it manifests itself as a craving to offer a safe roof over the heads of those faced with no option but to flee their own homes thousands of miles away. Yesterday, the British Government announced it would offer UK homeowners £350 a month to take in Ukrainian refugees, with Housing Secretary Michael Gove unveiling the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

After so many recent exposés of precisely how untrustworthy and slippery our elected leaders are, people can be forgiven for greeting this announcement with cynicism and discerning something more than motives emanating from the goodness of politicians’ hearts; one now finds it difficult to take any such move at face value and not detect an ulterior motive. In the case of the current administration – and, it has to be said, its predecessors over the last couple of decades – this kind of response to an appalling situation cannot entirely eradicate the lax attitude towards the dirty money fuelling the Russian war machine which has been a hallmark of British governments for a long time. The amount of desirable British properties in the hands of offshore shell companies engaged in money laundering both in the UK and its more luxurious overseas territories has been mirrored in the close ties forged between British politicians and institutions and those Russians who have taken advantage of the so-called ‘golden visa’ scheme. Perish the thought, but could certain members of the Government and the Conservative Party be covering their own corrupt backs by utilising the same emotional blackmail tactics employed during Covid to persuade the people to open hearts and doors to Ukrainian refugees as they themselves gloss over their cosiness with representatives of the regime responsible for the crisis?

Just how deeply governing bodies with pound signs for pupils have allowed countries with dubious reputations to become embedded in the fabric of British life was highlighted when Chelsea played Newcastle Utd at Stamford Bridge on Sunday; the home fans chanted the name of the now-toxic Putin bitch Roman Abramovich, whereas the away fans cheered their own suddenly-wealthy club’s Saudi owners, emanating as they do from a regime that executed a staggering 81 individuals the day before the match in a ruthless display of despotic inhumanity. What a glorious advert for the beautiful game, one that no token knee-taking will ease the grubby stain of. Football fans desperate for success will seemingly overlook the source of the financial fuel filling their trophy cabinets, though they’ve hardly been set a good example by their social ‘betters’. The filthy lucre floating around the national sport at the highest level is one more noticeable consequence of the golden visa rule introduced by a Labour Government in the wake of Peter Mandelson quaffing champers on the yacht of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, one that has allowed Russia to get its feet under the establishment table with very little in the way of opposition.

According to stats in the most recent issue of Private Eye, since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, 406 wealthy Russians have bought their way into Britain via the required £2 million, with a mere 20 refusals; following the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, 92 golden visas have been issued, with just six refusals; eight were even issued at the back end of last year, a time when Vlad’s intentions re Ukraine were well-known. At times, the Russian infiltration of British politics and all its interconnected entrails are reminiscent of the way in which Nigel Kneale’s 1950s TV series ‘Quatermass’ featured collaborators with the alien invaders in the upper echelons of British society as a knowing nod to the pre-war ruling class’s flirtation with fascism. The abrupt about-turn on oligarchs by this government as everyone with Russian skeletons in their closet seeks to distance themselves from Uncle Vlad’s activities is something that understandably provokes cynicism, though being offered cash incentives to house those who have suffered most from these activities seems another cynical move by an administration that inspires little else but cynicism.

Local councils who have spent the past two years pleading poverty, cutting public services to the bone and yet simultaneously feathering their own personal nests are also having a tempting carrot dangled in their direction re refugees. One cannot help but wonder if they will spend the money wisely. Considering how well GPs’ surgeries have managed to avoid doing their jobs and yet have continued to bleat about being overwhelmed during the coronavirus, how will a sudden influx of immigrants with obvious ailments affect the dereliction of duties the medical profession has achieved since Lockdown Mk I? It goes without saying that those whose needs are attended to on Harley Street won’t be affected, though the calamitous disappearance of the cheap household labour that Brexit brought about may at least be solved.

Materially comfortable individuals with the spare rooms to welcome refugees should be in a position to carry out their intentions without their kindness necessitating a financial reward, and those whose sadness with the situation in Ukraine doesn’t stretch that far shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for choosing not to do so, despite the lure of being paid in a scheme that will undoubtedly be open to abuse. One can’t blame many for being reluctant to invite strangers into their homes when they were faced with heavy fines and possible prison sentences for extending a similar invitation to people they actually know not so long ago. Funny old world innit.

© The Editor

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TrudeauDoctor Johnson may have had a hell of a task on his hands in attempting to chronicle the multitude of words comprising the English language over 200 years ago, but even he would’ve baulked at the task of defining words in the dictionaries of the 21st century. After all, the lexicon has been so twisted and skewered by (amongst others) politicians providing their own unique, upside-down interpretations to cover their corrupt backs that nobody is quite sure what certain words officially mean anymore. The dictionary entry for the word woman may well now provide the 4+4=5 description of a chick with a dick, whereas an actual woman might be found under ‘birthing person’, ‘chest-feeder’, ‘person who bleeds’ and so on. Likewise, the word racist has become obligatory to describe anybody who challenges the consensus, almost ceasing to have anything to do with someone who can’t see beyond the colour of another’s skin – and, of course, the inability to do so has now been reinstated as the legitimate mainstream policy on race, anyway.

Similarly, the old-school trend of nicknames that describe the opposite of a person’s most distinctive characteristics would seem to be in the doldrums today bar one notable exception. In the grand tradition of an outlaw built like a brick shithouse being known as Little John, the word ‘liberal’ has been so subverted over the past decade that it’s now attached to the most illiberal, intolerant and authoritarian people one could ever wish to avoid. Unfortunately, many ‘liberals’ are hard to avoid because the worst of them tend to be in positions of power. Abusing the meaning of a word that used to embody an ideology today’s so-called liberals are sorely lacking, the wolves who wrap themselves in liberal clothing have had their true colours and their true intentions exposed like never before during the pandemic; and what’s been especially interesting is that they’ve not made any attempt to hide their illiberal natures once laid bare before the global glare because they’ve simply shifted the goalposts. Sure, the justification has been that each fresh curb of civil liberties is being done for the public’s own good, yet they’ve overstretched their authority with the kind of enthusiastic relish that would shame the most dictatorial despot whose regime is of the sort Western powers were once fond of changing.

At the height of the coronavirus panic in the UK, it was the ‘liberal’ Labour Party that was screaming for far more draconian laws and restrictions on the public than even the less-than liberal Tory Government was prepared to introduce; and over in the colonies, the incursion of the state into the private sphere via the sham of ‘saving lives’ has highlighted the illiberal reality of two world leaders who were once celebrated in liberal circles for their anti-Trump, touchy-feely brand of politics – New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. The hideous Ardern has been discussed on here many times before, but the smarmy creep who seems to use the American Psycho of Brett Easton Ellis’s controversial 80s novel dealing with a yuppie serial killer as his style model has exceeded his sinister smiling soulmate of late by taking the North Korean form of governance imposed with such glee during the pandemic and extending it into crushing any opposition to his rule – particularly if it emerges from the proles.

The hypocrisy at the heart of the metropolitan political class in its ‘liberal’ guise is never better exposed than when challenged; name-calling via the same old lazy insults is the default response for an elite that have no capacity for debate because they are ideologically bankrupt. They’ll just stick their fingers in their ears and scream ‘racist’. Trudeau himself fell back on precisely that kind of dangerous rhetoric in the Canadian Parliament this week. Confronted by enraged MPs appalled at his state-of-emergency response to the ongoing truckers’ protests, Trudeau had nothing in his arsenal but the usual tired weapons. ‘Conservative Party members can stand with people who wear swastikas,’ he whined. ‘They can stand with people who wave the Confederate flag.’ In other words, if you disagree with the actions of your government and oppose the policies of the Prime Minister in suppressing dissent, you are not entitled to that opinion unless you’re prepared to accept that such an opinion means you’re a fifth columnist.

Like the truckers, Extinction Rebellion can prevent people from getting to their jobs, yet the SJWs masquerading as police will dance with the latter on the pavement rather than batter them; BLM/Antifa can torch a city centre and inflict anarchy and mayhem on the lives of law-abiding citizens, only to have the MSM portray the carnage as a ‘mostly peaceful protest’ as they take the knee in solidarity; and 17 million people can vote in a democratic referendum against the advice of their political overlords and they are denounced as bigoted white supremacists, twisting the actual meaning of those words and making it impossible to distinguish between the genuine article and the simple protestor because the descriptions have been rendered meaningless. Basically, if you have the right opinions you have carte-blanche to do as you please; if you have the wrong ones and – importantly – if you don’t obey the middle-class ruling class, then you’re the scum of the earth and it’s utterly legit to silence you with whatever undemocratic means the ruling class see fit to use.

Justin Trudeau has taken this approach into disturbing new areas this past week by proposing that anyone donating to the fund supporting the protesting truckers will have their bank accounts frozen; yes, you heard right. The kind of sanctions once reserved for Al-Qaeda terrorists – and usually with great reluctance at that – have been applied to those supporting a grass-roots opposition to Trudeau’s increasingly totalitarian attempts to keep pandemic policies going. This is a significant (and worrying) development because – however OTT and inhumane some of the restrictions introduced during the pandemic were – there are no sound grounds to use such powers in order to simply silence opposing voices once out of the Covid woods. This is an almighty abuse of authority entrusted by democratic means.

Any genuine liberal who might have voted for Trudeau because he wasn’t a Conservative should be able to see through this shit, realise what’s being done in their name, and be rightly outraged. But so relentless has the propaganda campaign been in demonising opposition and reinforcing power by smearing said opposition as ‘enemies of the people’ that the gut instinct in the genuine liberal now is to see all opposition as every racist, right-wing ‘phobe’ in the contemporary dictionary. How long before Trudeau’s desperate attempts to cling on are manifested as denying supporters of the protests access to supermarkets or healthcare or education or employment? Even Mrs Thatcher would’ve hesitated at introducing such legislation at the height of the Miners’ Strike, however much she might have fancied it.

I dunno. Maybe the word liberal and all the admirable aspects it is supposed to encompass was only ever a convenient smokescreen to hide the fact that many elements of the Left have always been as censorious, pious and zealous as the worst of the Right; it’s just when the Right is in the ascendency and has the power to exercise its most extreme tendencies, genuine liberals are in sore need of an opposition and the Left is understandably painted as the humane alternative. However, turn the tables by handing power to the Left and one sees the identical tendencies eventually emerge. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. One only has to look at what an unprecedented worldwide crisis lifted the lid on where liberal leaders are concerned. But perhaps power just does that to everyone who grabs it, whatever archaic label they see fit to claim.

© The Editor

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