Mention has been made of it before on this organ but my subject today is the irony of some of the ‘interest group’ reactions, justified or not, to the Covid-19 crisis.
Few would argue that the actions taken by the Government have been exemplary, timely or uniformly correct, despite its attempts to pretend the opposite.
The underlying trend highlights the timeworn adage that – in such situations, to some degree – it’s often going to be a case of “whatever you do is wrong” which, to an old cynic like me, logically leads to the lunatic conclusion that in fact it actually doesn’t matter what you do.
Maybe that has been the theory by which Boris and Dominic Cummings have been operating.
Much of the problem seems to boil down to the fundamental conflict between “saving the health of the nation” and “keeping the economy going”.
At the outset of the crisis nobody was suggesting that the health of the nation wasn’t the priority – even the rabid wing of the business fraternity to this day still pays lip service to the principle before then demonstrating that it doesn’t give a fig about it by going on to demand that every business in the land should not only be showered with money to keep it going but then be “let out of lockdown” at the earliest opportunity so that it can return to action, take back responsibility for its furloughed staff and indeed begin employing people, almost without any regard at all as to how many people might die directly or indirectly as a result.
Quite early on, when the furlough scheme began, the airwaves became jammed with complaints from those who – because they hadn’t begun their current employment by the qualifying date, or were changing jobs, or – if self-employed – couldn’t provide evidence of the qualifying eighteen months’ worth of accounts for whatever reason, including the fact that they hadn’t begun their businesses that long ago.
What was the Government going to do to help them?
When, presumably responding to concerns that, for many children living in poor or deprived circumstances, not being at school was going to materially affect their education and life chances, the Government tried to go down the route of getting them to school, there were howls of protest from parents and/or teachers who felt that – whatever measures were out in place – this was an unsafe thing to do.
This was at a time when the social distancing rules were being relaxed and the first shops and businesses were already “going back to work”, which (to this contributor) looked inconsistent and a sign that some people were happier remaining in lockdown than “coming out of it”, even if this meant their children’s lives would be permanently blighted.
Yesterday – listening to the radio – I caught the news that, after much lobbying and complaining from the arts community, the Government had announced out of the blue that it was lobbing £1.5 billion at the sector, which by any yardstick is a staggering amount.
But even that wasn’t enough.
A representative of one ‘high art’ institution came on the air to complain that it was all too late – it had needed their stash at least a month ago and would be facing annihilation anyway.
Others came on to welcome the move – but then say that the cash must not all go to the ‘high art’ establishment institutions.
At least as much – it was argued – should filter down to our community theatres (“the lifeblood of our culture”) and/or to every freelance musician, singer, conjuror, mono-cyclist, mime artiste, stand-up comedian and dramatic artist in every far-flung corner of the land.
Presumably, this definition encompasses both those who are completely devoid of talent/success and the 90%-plus of those who call themselves actors who – legend has it – are out of work at any given time in history.
My overriding impression is that – whenever Governmental largesse becomes available to a specific interest group – everyone connected with it, however remotely, suddenly emerges from the shadows with a begging bowl.
I understand and accept both that it’s never quite that simple and there are two sides to every story, but it’s all rather weird and to a degree unworthy of those industries or groups [let’s cut to the chase and in this instance call them “the luvvies”] – who for the most part espouse a trendy medium hard “left wing/anti-Tory” political stance – to suddenly forget all that in a trice when the supposedly heinous Government makes cash available to them and immediately form an orderly (or perhaps not so orderly) queue in line for a handout.