Twelve weeks into lockdown, and our through-the-looking-glass ‘new normal’ becomes ever more bizarre. While everyone’s lives seem identical from one week to the next, like some never-ending Groundhog Day, other things appear to change dramatically on a day-to-day basis. UK government policy, for example, carries on being made up ‘on the hoof’.
One minute, free school meals will not be extended into the summer holidays, only for them to be rolled-out UK-wide, because of the intervention by Marcus Rashford, saying it was essential to provide the service.
Johnson must have thought that the return of live football would take the public’s mind off the crisis. Instead, the opposite has occurred. As the Premier League has been suspended for three months, and Euro 2020 postponed for a year, it has given the England football team time to become a thinktank, coming up with a better policy ideas than the Cabinet.
By the time, you read this, I fully expect Harry Kane to issue a press statement about facemasks on public transport, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to urge a relaxation of the two-week quarantine.
The only certainty in that we live in strange times. Who would ever have predicted that Boris Johnson would acknowledge fatherhood of a child. I reckon he thought it would get him more time off after he taken two weeks’ sick leave pretending he had Covid-19. He does appear to be doing the job part-time. Perhaps, he thinks that he is on furlough.
Every day, an endless succession of new faces steps up to give the government coronavirus press briefing. I genuinely think some of them will be new faces to Boris, whom he can’t remember appointing.
The only consistent thinking in Johnson’s clique is its unwavering support for Dominic Cummings. Remarkably, Johnson appears to have weathered this for the time being, although he probably wishes he’d waited a while before playing his ‘I’ve got the virus’ card, as he could have done taking a week off in hospital when the shit hit the fan over Cummings.
There is something worrying about a Prime Minister who publicly backs a man who said he drove thirty miles to see if his eyesight was okay. Anyone who would make that claim is either a liar or homicidal psychopath. Or Michael Gove. It all goes to show how standards have slipped in politics in the last twenty years. David Blunkett would never have got behind the steering wheel to check if he could see okay.
The press office at Number Ten must have heaved a massive sigh of relief when Vera Lynn’s death was announced, knowing that for the next few days the headlines on BBC News would not be about the bumbling incompetence of Johnson or whatever random member of his third-rate cabinet had volunteered to ‘take one for the team’ at the daily briefings.
Of course, one does not need to be overly paranoid or prone to buy into conspiracy theories to think that Dame Vera may have actually snuffed it several years ago. Successive governments may have been keeping her death under wraps waiting until they were totally up shit creek before announcing her demise, but never felt they had dug themselves into such a hole that they had to play their ‘Forces Sweetheart Is Dead’ card. Finally, some bright young spin-doctor must have realised that the only way of averting the public’s attention away from whatever shambolic shitstorm was likely to happen next was to get on the phone to Broadcasting House and tell them to play ‘We’ll Meet Again’ on continuous loop for the next five days, to give them time to work out what the hell to do about the total disaster that had taken place under their watch.
Prime Ministers quite frequently can be characterised by one single event, quote, story or photo opportunity, as with Theresa May in the driverless car which proved the metaphor for her utter lack of vision or control. For Tony Blair, it was the ridiculous interview where he came out with a whole load of nonsense about being a Newcastle United fan since childhood, and his claim to having watched games that had actually happened before he was born, which was a reflection of his disengagement from reality. For David Cameron, it was the photographs of him fucking a pig’s head during his student days at Oxford, which can be seen as a metaphor for… erm… him having fucked a pig’s head when he was a student.
Johnson’s premiership may well be summed by the incident in June when his ministerial car was involved in a crash outside Parliament with his own security out-riders, leaving his limo with a huge dent in its rear end. It spoke of a leader blustering on regardless of what direction of travel everyone else is taking and when his government was left with its arse hanging on by a thread. Or, maybe it was its elbow. He and his Cabinet seem unable to tell the difference between the two.