There was a short window a week or so ago when it seemed that Britain might have started the healing process after the Brexit nightmare. We all seemed ready for a new tomorrow together. Well that didn’t last. In its place has a new proxy has taken over – the handling of the Coronavirus by the Boris Johnson government.
Then one side will suggest that the Johnson Government has gone too far and we must instead relax and release the creative power of the British economy to get us back on our feet.
The other side however, take the view that we are in this mess because of the negligence of the Johnson government. If only he and they had done x or y earlier then things would have been a lot better and we wouldn’t have had such shameful death toll.
As with everything that has come before I suspect most people are not really convinced by either argument: Yes the economy needs to be saved for all our benefits but not at the cost of a mounting death toll or just to maintain the wealth of the rich; Yes the government has made mistakes but no matter what colour the government might be mistakes would have been made because no one really knows the best way forward because no one has had to deal with a crisis on this scale before. (This is not a defence for people like Donald Trump who has demonstrated a total lack of real concern for their people). I suspect most people are just a little scared that it might be them or someone very close to them who dies and so are very cautious at the moment.
In truth the attacks on the government’s handling of the pandemic from whichever angle are examples of people fighting the last battle as we are entering ‘the new normal’. As to what shape ‘the new normal’ will take I have no real idea (a bit of a pattern there). However, I think that there are certain themes that appear to have taken hold during the lockdown that might be a lot harder to undue as we go forwards:
The coronavirus is no respecter of class. Yes there are clear differences between the death rates between socio economic groups but when the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland nearly dies as a result of the virus then everyone knows it could be them. This, I suspect, has lead to the wholehearted embracing of the lockdown;
The Island’s of Ireland is different to the Island’s of Britain. It would seem that the Northern Ireland Executive and the Republic of Ireland’s government have an awful lot more in common than not. Even the most fervent Unionist might take pause when thinking about that;
Social Distancing is here to stay. Of course overtime things will slowly relax but the social distancing behaviour is likely to change things going forward. One area where this is likely to feel this more than anywhere else is air travel. We may look back and see that 2019 was peak air and perhaps we don’t need an expanded heathrow after all;
Much of the English media still hasn’t woken up to the fact that the United Kingdom is made up of 4 separate governments not just the one in London. Whilst it might be interesting to hear what Matt Hancock has to say he only has power within England. Heath is a devolved area of responsibility and perhaps when this is all over the English might start to understand this a bit better;
The future of the NHS will break future governments. There was a time when governments, usually Tories, talked a good game on the NHS but then failed to deliver he money needed. That will no longer be the case as we have now spent the best part of two months being indoctrinated to save the NHS. If it wasn’t before the NHS is the now the third rail of British politics that if not supported to the up most will destroy any government;
Social Care is a Disaster Area. No government can hide away from this any longer because as a result of the neglect of the past many people have died and it doesn’t matter that they were towards the end of their life;
Whatever advantages that Brexit gives Britain they will have to be embraced. I’m not sure whether many people have really woken up to the fact that we are no longer part of the European Union. I didn’t want to leave but we have and so we should be ruthless in trying to make the whole crazy adventure work as best we can. Of course I suspect this may well be helped by a serious breakdown of European spirit amongst the remaining 27 as they come to realise that the EU wasn’t able to help them as much as they might have thought. However, an unstable EU isn’t in Britain’s short nor long term interest anymore than it is in the member states. Perhaps after the pandemic has settled down we both might come to realise that having a pissing contest isn’t the best way to negotiate and come up with some sensible solutions to our problems.
Or then again we might just throw caution to the wind and live life as if there is no tomorrow – remember the roaring twenties came after the first world war and the Spanish flu pandemic so perhaps that is model for the way forward? I have my doubts but never say never when it comes to people and their behaviour.