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GLIMMERS OF HOPE? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT !!

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Large chunks of north-west England. Now including Preston. France could be next. The pesky virus is like an infestation of flies. You think you’ve swatted the lot, only to find stragglers straying back. Endlessly. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, thanks to – or often in spite of – the authorities’ best efforts, the war is gradually being won. Make no mistake, if you get it you may be in real trouble. Millions face financial and emotional privation and heartache. And there is no end in sight. Witness the consequences of the easing of blanket lockdown restrictions. Resurgences cropping up all over the place. Remember the old song? You certainly will if you’re a Hammers’ fan. ‘Fortune’s always hiding, I’ve looked everywhere, I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.’ Covid-19 may be airborne, but it sure ain’t pretty. And yet, and yet … it can be comforting to allow what actually is to collide with what we think, er, is. A poll last week showed that British people believe seven per cent of the population had died from coronavirus. That’s a hundred times the real figure. Yes, the Office for National Statistics tells us England has had the highest rate of excess deaths in Europe. But not all this is down to coronavirus. Cancer patients have gone untreated and people have died at home from heart attacks rather than going to hospital. Worst of all, there’ve been more children so traumatised by being cooped up to protect them from the disease that they’ve committed suicide than have died from it. Unintended consequences of doubtless benign intentions. To take this same law to extremes, many New York restauranteurs have taken to putting tables just beyond the kerb outside their premises, so they can eat at lower risk of catching the virus. Oddly enough, in the six weeks since the policy was introduced a significant number of punters have got run over instead. Durrr … But the news stateside never ceases to baffle and amaze. Their revered president, whose poll ratings have been hit hard by his handling of the pandemic, has finessed a new attack line against his Democratic rival in the November election. Joe Biden’s response to the all too regular massacres of innocent people in the US is to call for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Which only goes to prove, according to Mr Trump, that the man has: ‘No religion, no anything’. It seems he wants to: ‘Hurt the Bible, hurt God. In a nutshell: ‘He’s against God’. Mr Biden, who happens to be a practising Roman Catholic, is not impressed. Back here, a lot of civil servants are also unimpressed by the government’s attempts to herd them into to their offices. The more so after two new Covid-19 outbreaks in Whitehall. The grumble is, essentially, that they’re being used as guinea pigs to boost Bojo’s drive to wean everyone off home-working. As it turns out, senior officials have quietly let it be known that no one will be forced in, and there won’t be a wholesale return any time soon anyway. As one Whitehall source put it: ‘There will be a small increase in numbers — hopefully that will see off ministers, and by the time we get further down the track it may be that they’re back working from home again.’ Yes, Prime Minister? Yes but no but, rather. Sir Humphrey rools ok. And, so often, the Hapless Hacker had it coming to him. And there are compelling arguments to suggest Boris Johnson has got this one all wrong. Of course he’s worried about city centre eateries and newsagents heading to the rocks thanks to rock-bottom footfall while people work from home. But if the current trend becomes a new norm, there’s likely to be a compensating revival in businesses closer to where people live. After all, folk are not all going to suddenly stop reading things or go on a nil-by-mouth diet. The new anti-obesity drive is all very well, but you can take a joke too far. And the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has confirmed the change could be right up local high streets’ street. When it asked its members specialising in commercial property their plans for the next couple of years, practically all of them said they were going to scale back office space. And a separate survey, headed by the Chartered Governance Institute, revealed a similar picture. Of the ninety-four of Britain’s biggest employers who were polled, half said they’d be keeping staff working remotely for the next few months. Only a fifth said they’d bring them back full time. So never mind the bollocks, think Sex Pistols. Anarchy in the UK. The hell with what the government wants, British workers are much less keen on trudging back to the office than their counterparts in Germany, Italy, Spain and France, according to research carried out by the investment bank Morgan Stanley. They also discovered fewer than one in five of people working from home actually want to go back to full-time office work. Conclusion? ‘We suspect offices as part-time ‘hotels’ rather than ‘homes’ for employees will increasingly become the new normal.’ Oh, really? Odd to discover how many people are happy to put in the hours putting bread on the table, but would sooner spend what’s left of the day with their families. Time they could otherwise enjoy in overcrowded buses and trains or on clogged up roads. Nowt as queer as folk, eh? And it happens that just two days after Boris Johnson announced an end to his ‘Work from home’ guidance his own chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, begged to differ. He told MP’s he saw ‘absolutely no reason’ for the change, adding: ‘People who can work from home should continue to do so.’ Right, glad we’ve got that sorted then. No prime minister ever got where he or she is by not being wrong. Or right? Discuss. One or two other popular misconceptions also merit a mention. Remember those scary messages forwarded on WhatsApp at the start of the pandemic? One in March showed grainy pictures of military convoys trundling around, with captions like ‘On the M25! Tanks expected in Newcastle tomorrow’. This was still circulating weeks later. Turns out the vehicles photographed were on the wrong side of the road and had foreign number plates. So much for the military crackdown. Crackpot suggestion, more like. Then there was the doom-laden prediction that hundreds of healthy children would die every day, and bodies would be sent to ice-skating rinks as mortuaries filled up. There was also the stuff that went viral on Facebook as well as WhatsApp warning disinfectant would be sprayed down at night from helicopters. Meaning everyone had to stay inside and close all doors and windows. Strangely enough, there was no sign of choppers chuntering around. That, or any other night. Finally, there was a warning that the government was using Wembley Stadium as a gigantic oven to make monumental quantities of lasagne. The announcer claimed to have heard about the top secret plan from his sister’s boyfriend’s brother, who worked for the Ministry of Defence. Ok, that one was a joke. But it says it all about preposterous notions that anyone can make up anytime they like. Worth engaging the brain sometimes? Just a thought. Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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