It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this country is a mess – or parts of it. Some things still seem to work. An electricity cable break the night before last, which cut off the houses opposite, had a digger out within hours and a repair crew outside my front door until 4 am. They restored the supply, but left the street looking like an outtake from the battle of the Somme.
And that’s the odd thing. Services such as Amazon – whatever you might think of them – work superbly. I still cannot get used to the idea of clicking a button on the computer and having all manner of goods arrive on the doorstep the next day. Although right now, they’d have to navigate our personal trench system to make a delivery.
But many of the things to do with government or public services, it seems, are a train wreck, especially the NHS. By next year, it is estimated that there will be 10 million people on the waiting list, needing treatment.
It doesn’t help that I’m one of them, waiting for a small operation that’s normally day surgery, to relieve the constant pain of an uncooperative part of my anatomy. And that’s not a cry for sympathy – I can deal with it, not least with the help of industrial quantities of pain killers, and it improves my writing no end.
But it is a daily reminder that a shit system has become a whole lot shittier, and isn’t set to get better any time soon. And we’re being enjoined by the Department of Health to give this organisation a clap on its 72nd birthday in July, despite the fact that so many people will not live to see their 72nd birthdays because of it.
But this is the least of some people’s problems. For those facing a mountain of debt, or struggling to keep their businesses going, or wondering whether they’ll even have a job after the summer, life must be a nightmare. Even the ongoing task of childcare is made all the more uncertain by the extraordinary mess the government has made of the lockdown.
Of all the problems in this benighted nation, therefore, one of the lowest on many people’s list is the continued presence in public places of statues deemed “offensive” to the woke community.
For this to become a front-line issue, with an extraordinary amount of time and effort being devoted to it, strikes me as narcissistic self-obsession amongst people who have lost sight of what hardship really is – if they ever knew. Seriously, there really are more important things going on in the world right now.
Amongst those of immediate concern is the plight of our small but important fishing industry, which is waiting on the pleasure of her majesty’s government to settle a deal with the EU which will keep the fleet operational after the end of December.
As it stands, it looks as if the government, with the incompetence for which it is becoming famed, it is about to fudge the chance of any agreement. This has the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, Barrie Deas, gloomily predicting that “July looks like a goner for a deal”.
It would seem, however, that fishermen are not the only ones on the slab. We are being told that the European Parliament is considering vetoing – as it is entitled to do – any EU-UK trade deal that lacks “robust” level playing field provisions.
But it is a measure of the total unreality of this government that, faced with impending disaster, the prattling prime minister yesterday stood in front of the television cameras to announce a further relaxation of the lockdown, telling us that single parents and people living alone will be allowed to combine with another household to form a “support bubble”.
Needless to say, this particular piece of stupidity applies only to England, with the prime minister declaring that single adults living alone will be “allowed” to go inside one other household and even stay overnight without maintaining physical distancing. But once a “bubble” is chosen, no switching is permitted.
There is obviously no feedback mechanism in Downing Street, because Johnson was obviously not listening to himself. Under his baleful eye, the mighty arm of the State is now awarding itself the power to decide whether certain consenting adults can sleep with each other, and under what circumstances.
It also means, apparently, that children can now hug their grandparents again – but not all of them. Children living with a single parent can see one set of grandparents who are living together. Children living with both parents, though, can only visit one grandparent who is living alone.
All this, incidentally, is from a government which is unable to prevent 10,000 or so morons assembling in Bristol, some of them to witness the dumping of a statue in the harbour, or a toe-rag attempting to set fire to a flag on the Cenotaph. If that one had had more than two brain cells, he might have known that EU-regulations on use of fire retardants make flags almost impossible to burn.
The point about the new “cohabitation” law, of course, is that it is completely unenforceable. What’s more, after so many people have watched in dismay televised scenes of demonstrators breaking the lockdown rules by the tens of thousands, they are not so much inclined to “take the knee” as give a finger.
Yet, if that represents the mood of the “silent majority”, there are papers such as the Guardian who still don’t “get it”, and probably never will. Entirely at ease with vandals trashing statues, the paper is now wetting itself over the prospect of “far-right” groups mobilising to defend them.
It gives space to Joe Mulhall, from Hope Not Hate, who gibbers that the police “need to take the danger seriously”, warning of “the potential for conflict on the streets” if “BLM protesters or other anti-facist groups turned up to launch a counter-demonstration”.
The sub-text here is that the statue-trashers must be allowed freedom to roam the streets, while the police look on with approval. Anyone who disagrees is immediately branded “far right”, and a danger to all personkind.
Tim Newburn, described as a “professor of criminology at the London School of Economics”, is then wheeled on to tell us that people who stand in to protect public property because the police have ceased to do their job, “could become extremely problematic”.
What happens, says our Tim, is that “the police start to look like they are protecting the smaller of the two groups, which is likely to be the far right”. No wonder things are going to rack and ruin when a “professor of criminology” no longer seems to know what a criminal is.
The Guardian, by the way, tells us that it stands “in solidarity with the struggle for truth, humanity and justice”, but obviously not for self-appointed statue guards. When these are not “football hooligans”, they are “far right” dross who need to be expunged from the face of the earth.
The Daily Mail, of course, is having a field day, the online version leading on a story recounting: “Shocking scenes as passers-by attack policeman and pose for selfies next to him as he wrestles with suspect in London street”.
Widely shared on Twitter, the video footage hosted on the site shows a police officer being punched in the head as he wrestles a suspect to the ground in Hackney. As a crowd gathered around one of the officers, a second man could be seen arriving with a baseball bat. Footage shows one officer being punched in the head, while another officer was kicked by a group as she comes to her colleague’s aid.
The paper discreetly avoids mentioning that the assailants and most of the “passers-by” are black – or dark-brown BAMEs if you prefer – as is the suspect to which the police are devoting their energies. The hordes of unreconstructed “wascists” who patronise the Mail site will draw their own conclusions: black lives matter.
One, however, loses the will to live when the police spokesthing tells us, “We are engaging with our community partners to discuss what happened and I hope that anyone who witnessed what happened comes forward and speaks with us”. Don’t they realise that, every time they open their mouths, a fairy dies?
And so it is that it is increasingly difficult to make any sense of this increasingly mad world. But at least I now have a hole outside my front door into which I can retreat. The electricity company might have stopped digging – for now. But that doesn’t mean I have to.
Also published on Turbulent Times.