I know I label this my daily rant but must admit that it is developing into more of a weekly exercise for which I apologise. My excuse is that I am currently engaged in writing a vaguely autobiographical tome on life in the bush and I find wallowing in my memories infinitely preferable to trawling the British and South African newspapers of a morning, particularly with the chaos and confusion prevailing in the world at the moment.
But it is Sunday, there are still blue patches of sky over Dartmoor and I have enjoyed – probably not the correct verb – virtually all that the British press has hurled at us this week, so let me talk about one or two aspects of the news.
No belay that. I am going to talk about two of the main characters making the news at present.
‘Where is Boris?’ the Spectator asked this week. If you remember, the worthy Bunter J was once the editor of this magazine and he might have expected a better press from his former colleagues, but then the Coronabug came along and even his old chums are taking him apart.
With a front cover image featuring a distant blonde dot on a tiny boat bobbing rudderless and oarless on a stormy sea, the message of chaos and drift from the title was emphatic – a criticism of the prime minister’s leadership in the battle against the pandemic that is being enthusiastically echoed across an increasingly sceptical right wing media.
‘The question now is whether he can become a proper leader with a sense of direction and purpose,’ said the magazine’s editor, Fraser Nelson, effectively arguing that Johnson’s premiership was at a crossroads, which of course it is.
After a week in which Britain’s test-and-trace system – once claimed by our hapless prime minister to be ‘world-beating’ – was at the point of collapse, Nelson asked ‘whether the pattern we have seen in recent months – of disorder, debacle, rebellion, U-turn and confusion – is what we should henceforth expect.’
I fear that it is. The freedom-loving, twinkly eyed, Rabelaisian character that I and many others voted for has become a bumbling, burbling version of Oliver Cromwell, forcing his views and the views of a small coterie of his ‘friends’ down our collective throat without any thought as to the probable consequences.
We were warned by the very same magazine of a ‘looming test crisis’ five long months ago yet the situation seems to be deteriorating by the day and nobody – certainly not the prime minister – will shoulder any blame for the shambles.
It is only a week or so since Bunter J spoke optimistically about a ‘moonshot’ plan to test ten million people a day by 2021. What a load of guffle that boast proved to be! At the moment, there are nowhere near enough tests for worried parents at a level of around two hundred and thirty thousand a day.
‘Too often the government has over-promised and under-delivered,’ concluded The Times on Friday morning. ‘Policies have had to be swiftly abandoned after the exposure of entirely predictable problems,’ the broadsheet continued, adding the A-level fiasco and the problems with the contact-tracing app for good measure.
The paper – perhaps with one eye on a promotion for the former Times journalist Michael Gove – argued that Johnson needed to appoint ‘competent deputies’ before ‘the public come to a settled and unflattering view about his ability to do the job.’
I take their point but I am afraid that my view of Bunter J’s ability to do the job is already settled and entirely unflattering!
And then there is his Health Secretary, the asinine Mathew Hancock. He does not have quite the bluster of his boss but nor does he appear to have any idea as to what his job entails, yet this man is a Cabinet Minister with real power over all our lives.
He can smash up businesses, confine us to our homes, break apart families and keep people from their nearest and dearest at the end of their lives. He can destroy wedding plans, wreck education, ruin holidays, take away jobs and set the Cops on any of us for refusing to wear a muzzle, even though expert opinion on the efficacy of facemasks is to say the least, very divided.
He also seems to feel that he can lie through his teeth or at least twist the figures to suit his own views and we must all accept it like docile sheep going into a dip.
On Friday, Hancock told us that the number of hospitalisations for Covid is doubling every seven to eight days.
Really? I am not sure I can accept that at all.
Let’s face it, ‘hospitalisations for Covid’ is a somewhat tricky figure that has to be affected by the government’s endless, futile and utterly frantic hunt for signs of a bug which is now twenty fourth in line among diseases causing death in this country.
Deaths, which would be a difficult figure to ‘massage’ are low and remain low after a long fall from their peak on April 8th. Hancock – I have heard him described as Tigger but that is a serious slight on the much-loved A.A. Milne character – obviously feels that people must at all costs be distracted from this fact.
I have to wonder about the hospital admission figures too, given the slipperiness of the Government throughout this long and apparently unending fiasco. Many experts and senior physicians are now telling us that people who have tested positive for Covid in one of Hancock’s testing trawls, but who go into hospital for other reasons, get added to this total. They also tell us that if one ever tests positive for the Coronabug, then dies because of a heart attack, cancer or other causes – including road accidents,believe it or not – is automatically added on to the Coronabug statistics.
I am being overly cynical perhaps but I can’t help wondering whether hospitals are being encouraged to admit mild cases for observation, which they would previously have sent home? I am sorry but my faith in the government line on this nonsense has entirely evaporated.
And let us look at the hospitalisation figures. Yes, they have edged up a bit since mid-August, but bear in mind that in March they were regularly more than two and a half thousand a day.
On August 1st, the total of Coronabug hospital admissions in England was fifty. On August 8th it was seventy eight. On August 15th it was thirty eight. On August 22nd it was twenty five. On August 29th it was fifty two. On September 5th it was ninety four. On the twelfth it was one hundred and forty three – hardly an established pattern damnit!
In my humble opinion, this is unscrupulous panic-mongering, which would shame a banana republic. Quite what lies behind it, I am not sure but when I watch the Health Secretary being interviewed and trotting out his gloom and doom, I wish I was back in my own country Zimbabwe – which really is a banana republic but seems to be coping far better than Britain in its attempts to fight the Coronabug.