Sunday 4 July 2021

Sajid Javid's Covid Psychopathy

Consider this tension between what the government has said and what it has done. Since March 2020, the Tories have said their first priority is the health of the nation. Their decisions, we were told, are driven by "the science". Choices made about the imposition and lifting of lockdown measures, and the packages of support extracted from the Treasury responded to the needs of a country facing an unprecedented health crisis. And from there, let's evaluate the practice. The highest number of Covid-related deaths in Europe. Delaying stay-at-home rules on three occasions. Letting Covid rip through Britain's care homes. Eat Out to Help Out. The studied refusal to order bosses to close their workplaces. This litany of bad decisions, entirely conscious, purposeful decisions would damn them were it not for the Tories' skillful handling of the politics of the pandemic.

Enter stage right Sajid Javid. Penning a piece for the Mail on Sunday, he dispenses with the caveats of his calamitous but more cautious predecessor and now regards the postponed "freedom day" of 19th July as sacrosanct. After saying we cannot eliminate Covid, he writes,

We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable. But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view. We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.

Here we have it, in black and white, that the government aren't even bothering with the pretence any more. Published on the day the UK reported the second highest number of Covid infections in the world after India, Javid commits the Tories to turning Britain into a petri dish for new variants with a simple "get your jabs". What matters now are the health arguments against restrictions. He cites the terrible rise in domestic violence and the damage done to people's mental well being, a discovery that never bothered him in pre-pandemic times when it was his government's cuts making people's lives a misery and trapping women with abusive partners. Where was the concern then?

If Javid's new found preoccupation with mental health is genuine, how about he addresses the worries out there about returning to "normal life". Has he given any thoughts to workers anxious about employers wanting to cram workers back into poorly ventilated workplaces without distancing and masks? Or those facing the daunting task of a daily commute on buses and trains sure to fill up in short order? Has Javid reflected on the debilitating consequences and costs of long Covid? As of June, some 376,000 people - almost eight per cent of everyone infected - have experienced symptoms lasting a year or more. Letting the virus rip, which is what "learning to live with" actually means is going to bring more misery to tens, if not hundreds of thousands more people. We don't know what efficacy the vaccine has on long Covid, and it seems reasonable to assume it would lessen its impact or impede its development, but with millions still unvaccinated, including virtually all children of school age, Javid is unconcerned about how a debilitating illness might affect their mental health. And this is before considering the great unknowns of Covid: how it might manifest years down the line thanks to unseen damage done to internal organs. Every new infection now is a stroke or dementia risk in future years.

Javid is nothing if not consistent, as he was trotting out pretty much the same line this time last year - before the disease went on to kill a further 80,000 people. He has all the facts at his disposal. He knows the projections and the consequences, and presses ahead regardless. If this was just one minister, it could be put down to foibles. But we know it isn't. There is Boris "let the bodies pile high" Johnson, a fringe movement of anti-lockdown fools shading into Covid denial, and a pretty active sceptic movement on the Tory benches of which Javid is an example. Looking at their arguments it's always dressed up in arguments about individual sovereignty, a faux anti-establishment feint queered by the fact it comes from the ruling section of the establishment. This discourse, this fake ass libertarianism, isn't a simple matter of ideology. It's not Tories simply pursuing the wrong ideas. It's much more involved than that.

Talk of taking back our freedoms congeals a host of Tory assumptions and fears. As noted here plenty of times, the incoherence, stupidity, and short-termism of their practical management of the pandemic is thanks to balancing the competing interests of their voter coalition, the sectional interests comprising it, and the bottom line of keeping the balance of forces firmly tilted toward business. What we find in Javid's determination to undo Covid restrictions is going back to the old ways. The Tories are turning on the spending taps for capital projects and favoured industries, but are even keener to scotch the notion the state is going to help the hoi polloi out. If the state isn't asking anything of you, goes the thinking, then you're not in a position to ask anything of it. Invocations of freedom always big up the independence of the individual from the state so as to delegitimise notions of being dependent on it, a point the Tories and hard right Randists like Javid know too well. In this case of Coronavirus, it's not about wearing masks in public or obeying social distancing rules that irks the government, it's the continuance of the furlough scheme that Rishi Sunak is working feverishly to shut down. And the extra £20 on Universal Credit, a lifeline for millions of people, that's going too. If the public accept the removal of restrictions, which the Tories like to talk about, then it's a comparatively easy task to remove extra support and condemn more to unemployment and destitution. Et voila, a pool of people desperate to work for pittance wages in those areas of the economy currently suffering labour shortages.

It's neat, but Javid's psychopathy proves itself to be another example of Tory overreach. For one, people will notice soaring illness if he persists in doing nothing to mitigate its spread. If the hospitals start filling up with unvaccinated cases or, as is entirely likely, an even more infectious variant emerges with significant vaccine escape the "irreversible" relaxation is going to have to be reversed with all the political damage that entails. And second, the most Covid-cautious section of the populace are older people, the Tories' core support. If large numbers of them start getting ill, despite vaccinations, Javid's insistence on 19th July regardless of the circumstances could shake their hitherto solid block of support. Hubris, that old friend of the Tory party, is waiting in the wings with Javid eagerly beckoning for it to come on stage. And as it emerges into the light, it steps over bodies wracked with more illness, more long-term sickness, and a growing toll of death.

Image credit


Anonymous said...

It will never be the right time for some experts, while other experts, like the head of clinical public health at Newcastle University, says it is the right thing to do, according to the Guardian.

Most of the infections are among the very young, who do not suffer serious consequences. Those at risk who want to be vaccinated, have been so, and just one shot provides far more protection than was considered a baseline for the efficacy of a viable vaccine at the outset of Covid.

I think there is always a tendency for governments to be quick to impose restrictions to rights and slow to remove them, and it is understandable for experts, asked their opinion, to err on the side of caution - that is what politicians exist for, to make the difficult choices.

Citizens have suffered spirit and mental-health crushing restrictions for over a year and when there is no clinical reason to continue them they should not be. Sadly, Covid is with us, people will get sick and die, although not in the numbers we have seen.

The psychological damage this has done to the children is perhaps the worst - god knows what conditions this has stored up for the future.

It is nonsense to talk of the UK as a 'Petri dish' when the situations elsewhere in the world are far more extreme. What with Brexit, too, the UK needs to get itself going again asap.

David said...

Well said Phil. First thing I see when I turn to The Guardian is Mental Health beds down by 25% since 2010

BCFG said...

We see the cynical use of woke concerns being used to get rid of lockdown measures.

Sajid Javid, of all ‘people’, said he was concerned by the staggering levels of ‘domestic abuse’ currently taking place in the UK. I presume he has been listening to some SNP spokeswoman pontificating about the horrors of patriarchy.

And of course, what better way to deal with domestic abuse than remove vital public health measures and send thousands to the grave.

This shows how the most despicable characters will use woke for their own despicable ends.

They also use faux liberal language to justify the removing of these public health measure, apparently it will be a personal choice whether to abide by social distancing. Of course in reality this means its tough shit if anyone wants to continue social distancing because if others decide not to then you are forced not to either. If you workplace gets rid of all measures then you have no choice. If you are the only person wearing a mask then you might as well not wear one etc etc.

So liberal language, personal choice, is used to force everyone into ending public health measures and everyone is forced into the choice of having no social distancing. So a measure that is imposed upon us is dressed up as being our personal choice.

Incidentally, this is how all these faux liberal notions work.

DFTM said...

“Citizens have suffered spirit and mental-health crushing restrictions for over a year and when there is no clinical reason to continue them they should not be.”

Imagine the levels of mental health issues and “spirit crushing” problems that would have resulted from no lockdown, forcing people into the teeth of a deadly, highly infectious virus, all while trying to juggle the stresses of daily life! Incidentally the issue of mental health had reached crisis levels long before this virus came along. Mental health was a high profile issue for the last 20 years, getting more high profile every year.

If anything the virus actually came as a respite to the real cause of these mental health issues, rampant individualism and neo liberalism. What could be more spirit crushing than a bunch of sociopathic, bottom line humans putting profit before human life? Haven’t the scenes of people clapping for the NHS and following rules to protect people been spirit lifting? When someone wears a mask shouldn’t our hearts be lifted that people are willing to make little sacrifices for other people?

Is there anything more spirit crushing than anti maskers and those who break lockdown rules because they couldn’t give a shit about anyone else?

“Sadly, Covid is with us, people will get sick and die, although not in the numbers we have seen.”

And how do you know that? This virus is still mutating. I am willing to bet a lot of money that anonymous was calling for lockdown to be lifted 18 months ago! It is people like anonymous, whose utterly reckless and idiotic attitude to this virus, has meant so many people have died and likely so many people will continue to die. It is a real danger that people like them will mean we have to live with this virus forever and it mutates into something that means vaccines are not effective against it.

Incidentally, when there is a very real possibility of a deadly virus mutating into something even more deadly, caution is the only option on the table.

If this virus does mutate to the point where it makes the vaccine useless and starts to affect more young people adversely (we are already seeing this in Russia in India incidentally) then I hope the anonymous’s of this world can be banned from peddling their moronic and ignorant thoughts.

Chris D said...

"god knows what conditions this has stored up for the future."

probably none if my kids are anything to go by. In fact they seem more cheery than usual! I suspect all this concern over kids masks another agenda, call me an old cynic.

If you look at the opinion polls throughout this pandemic the overwhelming majority of people in Britain have supported the measures, in fact the overwhelming majority have supported a more stringent lockdown than this government have ever introduced.

I think the measures need to stay in place, and if anything should be tightened.

Jenny said...

I think that Rand would have included Javid, as well as most of the current government, among her moocher category. While there is a strong libertarian message in Atlas Shrugged, she also values integrity very highly, not something seen in abundance in UK government recently. And while Javid might think he's a Randian, I see a man with little integrity. To take an analogy form the book, Javid is the senior rail exec insisting that the train go through the tunnel, even though the only loco available is steam - thus leading to a trusting despatcher sending a steam loco, which asphyxiates everyone on the train while they are in the tunnel. She describes how many of those on the train have a sort of moral responsibility for their own deaths - somewhat like Tory voters have a responsibility for this psychopathic government...

Blissex said...

«Imagine the levels of mental health issues and “spirit crushing” problems that would have resulted from no lockdown»

But as usual the vaccine/antivaccine mask/antimask has the main effect (and often purpose) of distracting public opinion fro:

* The enormous success of test-trace-isolate in Thailand, China-Taiwan, Japan, Korea-south, NZ, etc, where the government has funded and organized a public health approach to a public health issue.

* That the main thatcherite parties (Con, NuLab, Libs) have all supported the thatcherite approach of making dealing with the epidemic a personal responsibility or a triumph for big pharma even if it is a public health issue.

thatcherites: «stay home, protect the NHS, save lives»

thatcherites: «The UK’s successful vaccine rollout was thanks to “greed” and “capitalism”, Boris Johnson has told Conservative MPs during a private call.»

Dr Zoltan Jorovic said...

Javid's greatest achievement is to make us look back to the corrupt and inept Hancock with nostalgia. At least he pretended to care if people lived or died. Javid seems entirely without empathy or a trace of genuine emotion, and happy for us to see it.