Thursday 23 March 2023

Lockdown three years on - A few thoughts

 What were you doing three years ago today? I was sitting in Mill Hill Services club having a pint of beer, as lockdown was declared. It was expected and I thought I'd get a pint of draught bitter as I know it may take some time before I could have another one. We supped up when Boris made the announcement and all went home. I re-read the blog I wrote the day after, before writing this  - Why lockdown is the opportunity of a lifetimewhen I was reading it, I was quite surprised to see how positive I was feeling about the whole thing. For me, the period of lockdown was an opportunity to reset many things. At the start of Lockdown, I imagined that I'd spend the period composing music. I didn't. All I did was lie in the sun and drink beer and write the odd blog. For the first time in my life I was willfully and deliberately lazy. I couldn't really be bothered to do anything and I felt far better for it. When lockdown was lifted, I found that the break had allowed me to recharge my batteries. For me as a musician, it made me realise I love making music and the band is just about finished making the resulting album of new material, which I think is the best of my career.

Whereas the day after lockdown, I wrote a blog, drank beer and lay in the Sun, three years later, tomorrow, the False Dots will play a gig at The Dublin Castle, a venue that is becoming our second home. This wouldn't have happened without the space of lockdown.

But no retrospective look at lockdown can be done without looking at the way our Prime Minister managed the crisis. I took a decision as lockdown was declared that I would not sit and snipe at Boris Johnson or his government. I felt it was important for the nation to come together. A virus does not discriminate. My father once told me that the second world war had taught him that sometimes the worst people in the world are the people who shine in a crisis. I genuinely believed that Boris Johnson would step up and carve himself out a place in history. 

At first, we did all come together. We'd step out and clap for the NHS. No one really argued. When Boris went down with covid, I prayed for him. I was horrified, as it showed that if it could nearly kill the Prime Minister, no one was safe. I didn't agree with every step the government took, but realised we were in uncharted waters. I am not quite sure exactly when the penny dropped, but it may well have been when Dominc Cummings went to Barnard Castle. Bit by bit, our eyes were opened. The government, who we had assumed were on our side and going through the same privations (I was unable to attend my aunt's funeral due to lockdown), were seemingly on an unending binge. The rules that applied to me and my business, did not apply at No 10 Downing Street. I think I watched every Boris Johnson nightly press conference during lockdown. Night after night we were implored to follow the rules. What we didn't know was that when he went behind those doors, it was party time. 

There seem to be a legion of Boris Johnson accolytes, claiming we need to move on and that he didn't 'knowingly' mislead us. Did I imagine all of those press conferences? Johnson's claim that he had to organise booze ups to keep up the morale of staff in No 10 Downing Street is sickening. If he wanted to thank staff, he could have sent them a case of beer and a card. Did nurses working like Trojans get a booze up and a cake with their mates? Of course they didn't and I know a couple who were completely burned out by the experience. 

I personally believe Boris Johnson should be in the dock, charged with criminal neglegence and corporate manslaughter for the way his administration managed the pandemic. Whilst his reckless non observance was repulsive, they were al grown ups putting themselves at risk. I think we can now see why so many caught the disease. What is the real issue is how vulnerable people were thrown to the wolves. Sending elederly people who were infected with covid back into care homes, with no mitigations, caused tens of thousands of needless deaths, deaths where the family couldn't say goodbye (unlike Johnson's staff who got a booze up and a cake). 

Should we find ourselves in pandemic conditions again, Boris Johnson has blown all trust that the British public had for our ruling class. What no one seems to keen to mention is that his Chancellor was living next door and must have known all about it. Why was he not before the committee, after all, he got a fixed penalty notice as well.

For me, one of the most disturbing aspects of Johnson's behaviour was that he has poured petrol on the bonfire of anti lockdown, covid denying anti vaxxers. They can claim, and it is hard to refute, that the people who ran the country and knew all the facts, were not following the lockdown rules, so they must have not really been too bothered about covid. I don't subscribe to this view, but Johnson has given them a very plausable argument.

One of the things that did interest me about the anti lockdown argument is that "Sweden didn't lock down and they did far better than we did". Unlike most covid deniers, I have lived in Sweden. When I was living there, several things struck me. Firstly, people followed rules. People put litter in the bins. If the government suggested observing basic hygene rules, people would do it. The second thing is that there are far fewer people in there cities. I recall going to the large department store in T-Centralen and being amazed at how much empty space there was. The rush hour public transport was nowhere nearly as busy as London. In short, the culture is very different and they did not have a government that sent infectious people back into the community. Lockdowns are very blunt instruments. My belief is that Boris was a week late in implementing it. If we'd have locked down when it was clear that it was needed, I believe we'd have seen far fewer deaths. 

Over the nine months before a vaccine was deployed, the NHS learned a lot of lessons in how to treat covid sufferers. The lockdown bought us time to learn those lessons and develop a vaccine. I believe that the Eat Out to Help Out policy was responsible for bringing the virus back. Rishi Sunal should have waited until the vaccine was available. 

Personally, distasteful as it was, I'd have forgiven Boris his beer and cake if he'd done his day job properly. As he didn't and tens of thousands died needlessly, I'd like to see him behind bars. AS he will get away with that Scott Free, if he gets booted out of Parliament for his antics, all I can really say is that's the least he deserved. 

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