It has been quite a week and although the coronabug vaccine is giving us a little hope for the immediate future, the general tone of life in 2021 is becoming more than a wee bit troubling.
I won’t go into the general uncertainty, the flames of which are being fanned by an ever more inept and bungling government, but let’s take the death of Captain Tom Moore for a start.
Yes, it was sad as any death is sad. He was clearly a lovely man, who captured the heart of the nation at a very difficult time. But his death is not as so many hand-wringing commentators have claimed, in any way a tragedy. He died at a great age, surrounded by his family, having lived a rich and adventurous life. Surely, that is something to celebrate.
At the same time, a trendy Church of England clergyman. managed to tie himself up in knots on the dreaded Twitter. The Church of England seems to specialise nowadays in sermons seen through the prism of the sanctimonious Left.
But the Reverend Jarel Robinson-Brown outdid himself. ‘The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism,’ he declared on twitter. ‘I will offer prayers for the repose of this kind and generous soul, but I will not be joining in the National Clap for him.’
Needless to say, the Rev Robinson Brown is black and so another large portion of the Church of England’s flock will have turned their eyes to Heaven, and declared they’d had enough.
If there is one thing the C of E really does not need when it is haemorrhaging churchgoers – down by up to twenty per cent in the past decade – it is clergymen like this buffoon attacking the values everyone else hold dear.
Where does the Church find these people? This man had already made his views clear repeatedly – he had attacked Prime Minister Johnson, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel and other Government ministers as ‘Oppressors.’
Yet he was still given the coveted position of curate in the oldest church in the City of London, All Hallows by the Tower. Ok, I am all in favour of him expressing opinions when appropriate, but his declaration on Tom Moore was so loaded with hate-filled anger, it makes a mockery of the Christian doctrine of love.
Clergymen are at the heart of this country’s history. They are figures of tradition and pillars of the community – a bit like Captain Tom in his way. Posturing curates such as Robinson-Brown ignore this at their peril.
The Diocese of London accepts the comments were ‘unacceptable, insensitive and ill judged.’ They say a review is under way, and that the Rev Robinson-Brown has deleted his tweet. Oh goody but the damage is done. A few more congregants will bid their farewells and another nail has been hammered into the C of E coffin.
And for the record, I did not join in the six o’clock clapping either. Too much of this past twelve months has depended on treating the entire nation like children. Maybe it’s just me but standing in the street and clapping into thin air feels oddly childish and infantilising. At a time when many people feel they are being bullied by an inept government who are unwilling to share an objective exit strategy, I prefer to stop and question any collective demonstrations of emotion. They are rarely completely benign.
Surely I am not the only person blinded by the glare of irony as Boris Johnson clapped on the steps of Number 10 in appreciation of Sir Tom’s huge (£33 million) charity fund when his own incompetence blew an eye-watering £22 billion on a useless Test & Trace system.
There are few things that I find more stomach-churning than politicians basking in someone else’s reflected glory. Sir Tom Moore went to his grave knowing that he was loved and respected as a symbol of social altruism and as a soldier he fought fascism so that we could live in a ‘free’ country – free to choose how to remember, free to celebrate or commemorate in our own ways.
So no, unlike our leaders, Bunter and Carrie, the charmer Starmers and many others in both public life and as private citizens, I did not take to the streets to applaud.
There is something about these orchestrated shows of public support that is beginning to chafe. It is no longer enough to care about anything — you have to be seen to be caring.
And again for the record, I will not be signing the petition to give him a state funeral a rare honour given only to senior members of the Royal Family and occasionally politicians who have actually achieved something – like successfully leading the nation through a war for example..
The last one given to a non-royal was for Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 so can everyone please just calm down and get a grip.
Meanwhile, we are told that government policy over the coronabug has been to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed. The frontline staff are certainly beyond praise but the NHS is a public service which exists to protect our lives, not an established church for God’s sake. To treat its limitations as a reason for suspending our national life is a perversion of its purpose.
It also diverts attention from where responsibility lies. If hospitals are overwhelmed, it is not our fault for getting ill and needing them. The responsibility lies with successive governments which have mismanaged and underfunded the NHS for years. The number of NHS beds has fallen continuously since 2000. Despite years of pandemic planning, the UK has by far the lowest intensive care capacity in Europe. In a bad winter, the NHS is overwhelmed even without the Coronabug.
Meanwhile, the response of Ministers is: ‘We are guided at every step by the science.’
However, scientists are interested only in science. The duty of politicians is much wider. It is to weigh the public health risks of the disease against the economic and social damage done by the countermeasures. Hiding behind scientists is a dereliction of that duty.
A large part of the problem is the personality of Bunter Johnson. The man is a public relations artist, not a policy-maker. He is guided by what he thinks public opinion will want. He is a follower, not a leader.
We have witnessed constant U-turns and lurchings from pillar to post. Eat Out to Help Out was followed by the enforced closure of pubs and restaurants. Schools continued but were then shut. There was the absurdity of tiers being relaxed for Christmas Day, only to be reimposed three days later.
So where are we heading now?
The vaccine is an impressive achievement of science, but, as with the lockdown, it will not eradicate the virus. It took nearly two centuries after the discovery of a vaccine for smallpox to disappear. Coronabug is here to stay I am afraid and we must learn to live with it. Even Government’s scientific advisers are beginning to admit this. Viruses spontaneously mutate all the time, whatever governments do. Some will inevitably evade our defences.
We now have the spectacle of Ministers and their advisers saying that people who have had the jab should not regard it as a reason for mixing with others, just in case they can still spread the disease. We are also being told that those who have already had the disease may not be immune, although the evidence suggests this is nonsense.
Foreign travel is being prohibited, turning us into a hermit island on the basis we cannot know what mutations may be lurking out there. The logic of these policies is that we must be locked down for ever simply because the world is a dangerous place.
This will go on until either Johnson and his team of hand-picked Yes-men pluck up some moral courage or enough people realise the folly and destructiveness of our present course and rebel against government folly. When that happens, we will be astonished we ever tried to suppress risks that are inseparable from life itself. We will look back in shame on the damage wantonly inflicted on our society and our children.
Then, hopefully, we can rebuild a country in which limits are placed on the power of an irresponsible state to direct people’s lives.
And why on earth does Britain so often seek to reform other people’s countries, while making such a mess of our own? Is it because we don’t think very hard about either?
Ten years ago I watched in despair the applause for the Arab Spring, especially in Cairo, where the ‘freedom demonstrators’ were often nasty anti-semites, and the outcome was bound to be an Islamist regime. This duly followed, as did a savage and gory military coup which in the general hysteria, it is no longer polite to mention.
Now the West likes to despise Russia’s sinister tyrant Vladimir Putin. But who do they think will replace him? Before him, we had Boris Yeltsin, who (everyone now forgets) called up tanks to shell his own ruddy parliament.
Yeltsin, having come to power on a pretence of hating corruption, was so corrupt it shocked even Russians, who are no strangers to corruption. And now we are supposed to admire the unofficial ‘opposition leader’ Alexei Navalny. Yet the very people who promote Navalny would shy away from any Western figure who had his record of militant nationalism and bigotry.
He has appeared at rallies next to militant and rebellious skinheads. He once took part in a video where he compared people from the Caucasian regions, often unpopular with ethnic Russians, to cockroaches.
While cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, he said, for humans he recommended a pistol. His defenders dismiss this a joke. Yeah – perhaps so!
He has also spoken in favour of Russia’s repossession of the Crimea, saying ‘the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia… Crimea is ours’ – a view that is possibly reasonable, but which is usually condemned by the BBC and the fawning liberal types who currently laud him to the skies.
I have my own view on Russia’s miseries, which is that you cannot immediately recover from nearly seventy five years of Marxist terror and stupidity, and that the West did little to help when Communism fell.
But I also think that we rage against poor, weak Russia mainly because we are scared to take on rich, strong China. If President Putin is overthrown by Navalny or someone like him, we may come to wish for the devil we knew.