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When “equality for all” hits the iceberg

It may be fundamentally inappropriate and/or facile to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic in quasi-wartime terms so I apologise in advance to any Ruster who may be offended by me doing so today.

However, it seems to me that with the benefit of hindsight – amidst the snowstorm of incoming competing advice, wisdom, analysis and modelling-based predictions from (1) members of the official Government SAGE Committee and/or members of the (unofficial) independent non-SAGE Committee; (2) other scientists, doctors and pharmacists who are either dragged reluctantly – and/or pester media organisations relentlessly to be allowed – onto our televisions and radios to give us the benefit of their “informed” insights; and/or (3) the umpteen members of the public who at one time or another have either rung radio phone-in programmes and/or indeed stood at the traffic light junction at the end of my road in order to tell me personally their “uninformed” opinions – there are already some valuable conclusions to draw and hopefully in future act upon.

The truth is that, facing a potentially global pandemic, approaching it as if it is a war is probably a plus – if not a necessity – if the goal is to deal with it as swiftly and effectively as possible.

Close your borders, lockdown everything and everybody immediately, keep it locked down and ignore all protests about the impositions it causes – until it has passed.

And then, if there’s a later flare up – do the same again. And again.

Trying to “contain the virus” (which presumably is what the UK Government attempted)  – and “ride it out” until herd immunity (or something else?) allows you to return to how things were before – i.e. by doing your best to keep the vulnerable safe, but in the meantime mollifying the business community, and every other interest group that begins bleating about its normality being tipped upside down, by (under rules however strict) permitting them to “carry on” and/or “reopen” just doesn’t work. As the Government duly proved to itself.

You have to win the war first. Until you have, every other consideration comes second … or indeed nowhere.

That said, when at some point in the future I’m up before the Royal Commission Into The 2020/2021 Pandemic, answering the question “What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?” (or should that be “Grandad”?), I shall have to admit that I didn’t do a great deal.

Basically, generally speaking, I mostly did as I was told including wear a mask anywhere I went indoors that wasn’t my home.

Alternatively, at other times I weighed up what I regarded as “the risk to both myself and/or others” of any activity I felt like doing – and then just carried on with life as best I could.

I’d guess that 75-plus years ago I’d have been just another 69 year-old member of the public who “got by” during WW2 – and then probably went on to regale anyone younger who would listen with tales of how British stoicism and wartime “Blitz” camaraderie saw us through.

Yesterday – after literally hundreds of interest groups have hit the media bemoaning their pandemic-caused disadvantages and/or sense of “being left behind” by the Government in terms of support and/or assistance since January 2020 – yet another one launched its list of complaints.

According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics (“ONS”), disabled people – who accounted for only 17.2% of those participating in a new study – have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

The shock headline was that almost 60% who have died of Covid-19 so far have been disabled.

On the back of this news yesterday I listened yesterday to a stream of disabled activists and charitable organisers complaining that (as a group) the disabled have been left behind and they’re now demanding their rights and indeed equality, dismissing their treatment so far as a disgrace etc.

Now, I have no problem with any group campaigning to publicise its issues and advance/improve its cause, but I do have a gripe with the notion that every sub-group that ever existed (or ever wanted to) has the right to “equality”, even if this requires that everything in the world must be fundamentally altered in order to achieve it.

Here’s a “for instance”.

The most recent data from the ONS, published in September 2020, showed that in 2017 life expectancy at birth in the UK was 79.4 years for men and 83.1 for women.

Given the way the disabled lobby was banging on yesterday – and applying similar logic – long before now UK men should have been storming the barricades with banners demanding that (at the British taxpayer’s expense) they receive whatever specialist medical/scientific treatment is necessary to guarantee them another 3.5 years of life … otherwise, of course, they wouldn’t be “equal” with women. Which of course is their inalienable right.

My point is that – of course – inevitably the Covid-19 virus has tended to affect different groups differently.

We’ve already learned that the BAME community are disproportionately affected by it – and there is already work going on to establish the causes and how these might be ameliorated.

No doubt those defined as being in “at risk” groups have had similar issues …

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if more of those with underlying respiratory/asthmatic/breathing problems have had more serious issues if and when they’ve come into contact with the Covid-19 virus than those who don’t have such underlying conditions.

The trouble is that you cannot make every group or sub-group a special case, nor (in my view) can any Government assume – still less be given – responsibility to create “equality” for them, however anyone defines that term.

I finish today with what might be viewed by some as a weird example.

Take the Men’s 100 metres event at the Summer Olympics. They call it the “Blue Riband” event.

There was a time when amputee athletes, fitted with latest prosthetic leg or legs, were content to participate in the Paralympic Games, which normally take place every four years at the same city/stadium as the Olympics, but a week or so later.

There are various categories of disability and generally Paralympic events are designed, indeed sometimes sub-divided, so that – in practice – every participant is roughly on an equal footing (so to speak).

But that became not enough for some Paralympian sprinters. They began demanding the right to compete against their able-bodied counterparts in the (real) Olympics. Why? Presumably because success in the real Olympics would bring greater glory and indeed greater cash prize-money and (later) more lucrative sponsorship and advertising deals.

On the face of it, not an unreasonable proposition.

At least until one sports science study or another proved that an amputee athlete wearing one or more of the very latest, carbon-fibre, prosthetic legs – with their inbuilt “coiled-spring” effect – would actually have a potential speed advantage over their able-bodied opponents.

So what to do? Let the amputees participate with their “super” coiled-spring legs and win medals?

Or perhaps also let able-bodied athletes uses similar aids … in which case, we’d probably be watching the great athletes of the 21st Century bouncing round our athletic tracks in what look like bionic “seven league” bounds … and with the official 100 metres world record gradually dipping under 5.0 seconds and below!







About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts