Saturday 9 January 2021

A Lockdown in Name Only

Waking up early on Wednesday morning, the traffic passing by on the main road sounded as busy as normal times. Certainly not what one might expect from a third national lockdown. Because Boris Johnson had belatedly, again, decided to close schools for all but the children of essential workers and those at risk, it was reasonable to expect we might see something like March - June instead of the brief farce of a lockdown we had in November. And yet schools are reporting a large increase in the number of children who are turning up. Traffic flows in Covid-blasted London are about two-thirds of normal, and too many workplaces and businesses - self-designating as "essential" - are open.

Contrast the shambles with the messaging the government are concentrating on. At the end of last week we had Priti Patel touring the studios promising "tough crackdowns" on people "flouting" Covid restrictions. Apparently they are worried about "compliance". Some want to see the two-metre social distancing measure reintroduced and a re-emphasis on stay-at-home messaging, as per the new Chris Whitty-fronted TV campaign. To back this up, our friends in Derbyshire plod are getting twitchy again and have absurdly fined two women who drove five miles for a walk in the country. Meanwhile, infections are soaring out of control, hospitals are swamped and, reportedly, the police are now ferrying emergency cases to hospital thanks to the inundation of the Ambulance Service.

This is a lockdown in name only, and it stands to reason the number of cases and the numbers of deaths are not acts of God. They are the victims of social murder caused by the Tories privileging the health of class relations above the health of the public, and this simply is not acceptable. If the government were serious they would be taking homeless people off the streets, like they did last Spring. They would properly pay businesses bar the most essential to close, and this would include nearly all food outlets and construction, the latter of which was allowed to continue last time (nothing to do with property interests at all).

This isn't just about paying people to stay home. The government should be straightforward with the instructions it issues. First, if this was a coherent and joined-up strategy guided by driving down infections in the first instance, it wouldn't call the rules "guidance", they would be called rules. Second, there would be no wriggle room for interpretation. What is and isn't essential should be clearly specified. The rules should also be blunt about who can and can't be seen. Truth of the matter is, the bubble system is a complete joke. A couple of elderly people might be in a bubble with their daughter or son, but same daughter or son is still at work with dozens of others, similarly in "bubbles" with aged loved ones. And last of all, if the government doesn't want people travelling far for a daily constitutional they need to say so instead of letting overzealous coppers free rein to interpret the rules, thereby making the lockdown measures a laughing stock.

If the lockdown is to work, these holes in the system need filling. And if they're not, more people will die out of toxic mix of Tory incompetence and malfeasance. The measures we have to see are authoritarian, but there is nothing more authoritarian than having one's life cut short.

Therefore, it is good to see the left and the unions making the case for what needs to be done, but it can't end there. The other axis of the government's response, the prattling on about the "tough measures" aren't really about policing the lockdown, they are all about apportioning blame. The Tories have proven quite adept at convincing people to blame other people for rising Covid cases. Yes, it might be stupid to have a house party and thoughtless to walk around with a nose poking from a mask. Then again, the government spent the Summer and early Autumn encouraging people back to work, to go out, offered middle class people a bung to patronise their favourite eateries, and kept schools, colleges, universities, and most workplaces open up until Christmas, the blame doesn't lie with the public making the wrong choices. It rests with an appalling government whose idiocy has gifted us the new, infectious Covid variant - and would repeat all the same mistakes unless they are pressured and held to account. In other words, there's no use shying away from the politics as has been the approach of the Labour leadership so far. It is really a matter of life and death.

Image Credit


Richard said...

The rules are rules. Haven't you seen them? There is Guidance as well. Unfortunately the Guidance has never been 100% aligned with the Regulations. The Regulations lay down rules of criminal law. They are not advice or guidance. See Part 3.

It's clear that the Derbyshire Police haven't seen this document, especially Schedule 3A 2(1)(iii) and Schedule 3A 2(4)(iii) and Paragraph 2(1)in the Regulations for the definition of 'public outdoor space'.

BCFG said...

Unfortunately in a market based system locking down is next to impossible and instead of spontaneous order we get spontaneous catastrophe.

If we had a communist system where exchange was abolished and production would be based on rational, conscious integrated planning then a lock down would be relatively straightforward.

Policing would also be down at the neighbourhood level and, as in China, ensuring everyone followed the rules would be easier.

In this system of competition, stand and fall in the marketplace and the war of all against all, you see all sorts of hideous arguments being made in a desperate attempt to stave off ruin, keep cushy rich lifestyle etc. You can’t really blame those 5 million business owners and their families and dumb fuck Boffy for coming up with any old shit in a desperate attempt to keep business as usual. What an indictment of a system that during a deadly pandemic all the economists can offer us please get out shopping!

Unfortunately in the UK we have a government whose main support base are these business owners so they are under great pressure to keep the rules as relaxed as they dare, which is what is happening.

The bigger problem is the opposition, Starmer was calling for an exit strategy during the first wave even as 1000 people a day were dying. He should have called for a lockdown strategy and asked the question how can we keep essential production going while attempting an elimination strategy. Unfortunately Starmer, being pretty much a Tory himself, simply viewed events through the same lens as his fellow travellers in the Tory party.

And please don’t get me started on that opportunistic piece of shit Andy Burnham.

Martin Davis said...

If we had a communist system (oh, you mean one which allows capitalism, then) like China we could do all kinds of things. Like ensure workers could not strike,. Have a passport system to restricts movement of the population. And national minorities could be displaced and swamped by Han immigration (sic). Absolute control, and no political opposition: the solution to everything! Problems solved!

BCFG said...

"If we had a communist system (oh, you mean one which allows capitalism, then) like China"

I didn't say like China numbnuts.

"Like ensure workers could not strike,. "

We could just as easily have a law where they could strike!

Of course workers in China do strike and have won up to 50% pay rises in recent years.

Meanwhile in 'free' Britannia 'workers' don't strike and see the wage share fall year in year out.

Though even someone unemployed in the UK is higher up the global scale than say a Bangladeshi factory worker.

That's the world market for you!