Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Ten things we've learned as a result of the Corona virus epidemic

I've been writing this blog for twelve years now. As I lay in bed, slurping tea and reading the papers (I get the Guardian and Daily Express for some sort of dystopian balance), I idly tried to visualise how we might look back on these times in twelve years time. It is interesting to note that in 2008, when I started, the credit crunch hit. That seemed at the time like the big thing that would happen in my middle aged years. Little did I know that it would be as nothing, compared to what we are seeing now. We are learning some harsh lessons. I do hope that if this blog is still going in twelve years, I remember to revisit this and see how things work out. Will Boris call off the lockdown and we'll all simply pick up where we were on the 18th of March (remember those heady days when we could go for a curry, watch a band and go for a pint?). Will we forget the lessons? I sat down and thought what are the lessons?

1. The homelessness crisis in London is fixable.
2. The knife crime epidemic is fixable
3. The climate crisis and greenhouse effect is fixable
4. There is a magic money tree when we need one
5. Countries with a plan do better than ones that don't in times of crisis
6. When you say people are expendable, that person may just be you
7. The NHS is worth its weight in gold
8. Key workers are people who do jobs that matter
9. People die when politicians dither in the face of a crisis
10. We need our friends and family

We don't want to live under lockdown for a moment longer than necessary, but this has shown that we can cope without the daily hustle and bustle. It seems to me likely that the earthquake that will hit the economy when the tab needs to be picked up will change the shape of the next decade in a far more significant way than the credit crunch changed the teenies. Then, the bankers who caused the crisis were bailed out. The rest of us had a decade of stagnant pay and rising prices. This crisis, we've in effect bailed ourselves out. We have mortgaged the present to pay for the future. Boris has learned a harsh truth that having an NHS is the best way to mitigate such a crisis. If we had a private health system in the UK, I doubt we'd have the organisational capacity, the goodwill and the ex-staff prepared to step straight up. People will do it in a socialised system of medicine, but would they do it, if it meant corporations were making a killing? I suspect that the NHS will be the one institution that comes out of this whole sorry mess in better shape.

As for the falling rates of violent crime. Will this persist when we are allowed back on the streets? Or will the robbers, muggers and gangs feel they have lost time to make up? I hope that the break has given a few young people in despair a time for reflection. I hope the Mayor of London is trying t figure out a way to flatten that curve as well.

The big plans for Boris were for better infrastructure. The two big projects were HS2 and Heathrow expansion. I suspect that these two schemes will have vastly different trajectories. I suspect that Boris will see HS2 as a way to provide employment for tradesmen as the country seeks to get back to work. I suspect that many building schemes will simply not happen, as the finance needed won't be there. HS2 will provide something to keep people in work. Heathrow is a very different matter. The airlines have been dealt a massive blow. Without huge a huge financial injection, many will struggle to survive. There will be less ready cash for holidays, so I can foresee a situation where it might take decades to just get back to where we were.

And then there are changes to society. Many people are working from home. Firms will recognise that this is cheaper and more efficient for many. Why pay for expensive offices, when people do more at home? I can see a sea change in the UK's working culture. I can see a situation where many offices are re-purposed as flats for workers. Many firms (mine is just one) will be in survival mode for the next few months or even years. We are running up debts with no income at all. The leisure sector  is always the first to be hit in a recession. I have no idea what will happen when we reopen our doors. Will people come flocking back or will they have got used to staying in, eating takeaways and drinking beer? Of course I am hoping that they will be sick to death of confinement and will be keen to get playing music again. But the big tours and the other projects we make the real money on? This will be a different matter. The lesson I need to learn will not be clear until the doors reopen.

There is one other lesson, an eleventh, that for me is perhaps the most upsetting. That is that without football, Saturday is just another day. Of all the things I miss, the fact that the week has ceased to exist is perhaps the most disorientating. My weekend has for many years been dominitated by live music and football. Thursday night - Five a side at Powerleague, Friday live music and/or drinks out, Saturday is football, Sunday is hangover day. That has all gone out of the window. Even the radio presenters have forgotten what day it is.

No comments: