I am a member of a football forum. I used to post quite regularly, but I am far more sporadic these days. One of the reasons I went cool on it is that (like so many walks of life these days) the contributors have divided themselves up into two groups, they have given each other names too. The first group is: the 'eternal optimists’. the club can do no wrong in their eyes and they are strong believers in 'give it time and it will all work out' trust the management. The other side call these the happy clappers.
On the flip side of the coin is a group of fans who fret about every decision, the slightest of set backs cause them to don the sackcloth and ashes, tear their clothes and cry a lament. Ok, perhaps not that far but they are very untrusting of management and see nothing but problems and doom around every corner.They call these the pantwetters it’s not a nice name at all.
My problem is I don’t fit in with either tribe. I am sort of stuck somewhere in the middle.
I say this because I have exactly the same feeling now regarding the government handling of the corona crisis. The thing is I can also see the same tribal fractions appearing. On one hand are the happy clappers. I was called unhelpful on Twitter yesterday for daring to question wether the government could deliver the reassurances that the teachers need to feel safe enough to return back to work. I was told to support Boris and the government. Similarly on Facebook a close friend told me to support the elected government.
I understand this sentiment but I don’t agree with it. Firstly his name is Mr Johnson not Boris. I don’t know him, he is not a friend, he is the Prime Minister of the country. But therein lies part of the problem; we have elected a leader on cult of personality, not necessarily capacity to do the job. I am not saying he has or hasn’t got the capacity, I am just saying there was a concerted effort in the election to sell ‘Boris’. Difficult interviews and debates were sidestepped and we were fed a diet of pro Boris propaganda. Boris drinking Yorkshire tea, Boris making British sausages (sorry bangers), Boris bashing through a get Brexit done wall in a very British JCB digger. It was all very cleverly orchestrated but failed to explore the capacity of the man to lead the country.
Of course the media plays its part in this, as I said in a previous blog it’s hard to know what came first the obstructive politician or the weak Media. Throw into that the newspaper barons and off shore opportunists and you have a very toxic mix.
But we need to back Boris, the happy clappers tell us, we see pictures of poor Boris with his head in his hands shared on Facebook with the message look at the effect that this is having on the poor fellow. Of course its all baloney the picture in question was taken several years ago around the time he had messed up and upset half his party. But that doesn’t matter to the happy clappers.
Then of course you have the pantwetters. The government in their eyes can do no right. There is of course still a hangover from losing the Brexit argument. They still feel the decision was foolish, unjust and possibly crooked. They are like a jilted John who just cannot move on and accept that Norman is not a moron. (Obscure 80’s song reference - look it up). They will never accept that the Government could do anything right, actually it's worse than that, they can never accept that the government has any altruistic motivation whatsoever. They distrust and look for the angle every time.
The problem is I fall somewhere in between. Some of the work the government has done has been good, the furlough scheme was exceptional and saved a lot of people a lot of hardship. Overall the stay at home message was clear and good. The idea of following the science was a good one overall.
There has also been a lot that has not been so good. Some of it we can see in hindsight, some of it we should have seen before. Mistakes have been made and in a sense you can forgive some mistakes as we are very much in uncharted territory with this virus. What I find harder to accept is the lies, the lies about the ring of protection around care homes, the lie of PPE, the lie when they stopped test track and isolate. Unfortunately as we have seen previously, there is a tendency in Government (that goes back to New Labour and Alistair Campbell) to cover up the truth. Boris Johnson and his team of SPOCs are masters of this deception. There is a whiff of EdwardBerneys in the air (again look it up if you are unfamiliar you won’t be disappointed).
So, we are now asking the teachers and parents to trust the government in sending their kids back to school, it’s a tough one this. I have noticed a risk aversion developing, the truth is we take risks every day, it can’t be avoided. I have been traveling to work, going shopping all through the lockdown. It’s a risk I have to take. I have had friends who have died from COVID-19, I think if you are directly effected it changes your outlook.
What the Government need to do is to somehow mitigate the risk as much as possible, to put support and steps in place to ensure teachers and pupils can be as safe as possible. I have highlighted on other blogs the need for extensive test, trace and isolate. We need PPE for our teachers and kids (face masks, proper cleaning and sanitation stations etc.) We needhonesty from both the ministers and the unions. We also need the press to butt out. Trying to shame teachers to go to work is dreadful and please, please stop playing the WW2 card. We are not in the blitz now.
Teachers and schools have done a sterling job so far, not only teaching kids of key workers but finding innovative ways to keep kids at home engaged and educated. Some schools have set about providing PPE for medical staff thatneed it as well as food parcels for some of the very vulnerable in our society. What we do not need is to vilify them or try to divide and conquer. What we need to do is support them, listen and address their concerns. Only then might we build the trust up to get us through this. It’s a question of trust.