Sensible and Not-So-Sensible People

A brief update since I woke up today intending to write something long and thoughtful about politics only to find I’m suffering my usual bout of post-podcast exhaustion. I think I finished editing it at 10pm last night and even a good night’s sleep didn’t help. I still blame the hayfever tablets. I’ve definitely lost my edge since I went on them, but it’s only the last couple of days my eyes have been feeling better.

Not that I have much to write about. We seem to be one of those lulls between breaking news. Johnson looks like he might finally come around to doing something about masks but it’s all slower than punting piffle up the Isis or, if you prefer, dragging inverted pyramids of jelly across the Eton quad… I heard from somebody this morning who had just got back from their local Tesco where they and one militant grandma were the only two people wearing masks. This is what annoys me. Michael Gove spoke yesterday about relying on people being sensible. I wonder what world he lives in because it’s as sure as hell not this one. Plus he’s the guy who it’s rumoured once tried to unblock a toilet with a vacuum cleaner…

Masks really are a “no brainer”. That Johnson takes this long (and counting) to get it right is surely a measure of how slowly this government operates. Brexit is going to be a clusterduck.

Reading the awful stories of the treatment of workers in Leicester, I’m struck by two things. Firstly, how the government react with shock to something that’s always been part of our economy. The treatment of workers, especially at the bottom of the pay scale, has rarely been good and often unconscionable in a modern developed nation. Yet it’s also significantly better than other countries. In one of the few places where I agree with Trump, the industrialisation of authoritarianism in China should have been dealt with decades ago, rather than leave ourselves economically, morally, and militarily exposed to the world’s last great dictatorship. Second, the Leicester story is a reminder that you can’t trust people to act morally. COVID-19 really is the ‘selfish flu’ because it relies on people looking out for others, which most are simply incapable of doing.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is retweeting nonsense from a TV quiz show host who claims that the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the media, and Democrats are lying about COVID-19. The entire pandemic is apparently a hoax designed to prevent Donald Trump from being re-elected in November. It gets to the point where you can’t even make sensible comments about this kind of rubbish beyond saying that America have the president they deserve. America’s Constitution has holes in it, and it needs fixing. Yet such a cult has grown around the words of the Founding Fathers that nobody will be willing to tighten it up. There certainly doesn’t appear to be any reasonable move to prevent the mistake of again electing a TV celebrity.

Not many column inches have been given to the Kayne West story and for good reason. The man has a new album coming out and/or is having some kind of psychotic episode. Irrespective of that, however, should be the realisation that America’s experiment with populism is hardly going to end with Trump. He’s only made it unfashionable for the moment. There are other power-hungry egomaniacs waiting in the wings.

Speaking of power-hungry egomaniacs: what do I plan on doing today? I really want to find the enthusiasm to draw but it’s not there and I don’t quite know why. Well, I probably do know why but I don’t want to repeat my sad story of rejection.

8 thoughts on “Sensible and Not-So-Sensible People”

  1. You are so right about the speed (or lack thereof) of action by this government. I’ve said it before but I cant help but wish this had happened a year earlier. I’m not sure if May had the right instincts to deal with this but I an sure she didnt have all of the wrong ones. It’s the libertarianism that’s the major problem. As for Brexit it’s always been a cluster’duck’.

    1. I suppose it’s the difference between the old “boring” politics and the new populism. You’re absolutely right. Had this been May, I have no doubt we’d be in a better place. Did you see her intervention the other week in parliament over the civil service? Head properly screwed on, as they say, but I’d say the same about every PM in living memory. Not one of them would have been so sloppy as Johnson. Everything he does feels like a man fuddling his way through life. His government is beginning to resemble him as a person. A shambolic mess who always manages to do just enough not to get into serious trouble.

      As for libertarianism: personal freedom sounds like a good idea until you think about it for more than two minutes. It’s the logic of selfishness, again, taking us into Randian philosophy which has infected Silicon Valley with such greedy instincts.

  2. I wrote to my MP at the weekend to tell him that if Bozo the Clown continued to lead his party then he wouldn’t be having my vote at the next election. I’ve never written to an MP in my life prior to that. The call for people to “get back to their desks” really was the limit, especially as it is not what most large employers actually want. I know of several big companies who are looking to scale back to lower physical presences in head office, mostly between 25-50% of previous capacity on any given day. Remote working has perhaps surprisingly worked very well during lockdown for both workers and businesses alike. It now presents huge opportunities to cut congestion and pollution as well as re-distribute higher paid jobs throughout the nation. It could be 10 times more beneficial to the North of England than HS2. Fuck that though, let’s get back onto packed trains into London where you can’t socially distance and return to business as usual as that was working so very well for us wasn’t it. Johnson the luddite.

    I don’t think the idiocy is planned to be honest, the left hand doesn’t doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and any proclamation could be subject to a u-turn at a moments notice. I’ve heard that business leaders are hearing one thing from the government during a morning briefing just to see it contradicted in an afternoon press conference.

    1. This 100%. Couldn’t have put that better myself. It’s astonishing seeing supposedly pro-innovation politicians blind to the opportunities before them. Even more shocking when out-of-the-box thinking is meant to be Cummings’ one and only trick? I’ve had too many jobs in my life (admittedly, that’s not many) doing work I could have just as easily done at home, saving a huge %age of my daily wage and even more time. It’s sheer madness not to embrace it and, like you say, help us work towards a greener economy and spend less on overloaded infrastructure. It also begins to change wage dynamics, since people will (and should) be paid a premium to be in the office, whilst people working from home will often save themselves a considerable amount and would therefore be getting a raise. I used to work a good couple of hours each day just paying for my ticket into work (yes, it was a truly shit job and my wages were abysmal).

      The Gove/Johnson contradictions around masks would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. That said: this feels very much like the kind of government I expected when Johnson ran. It’s why I hoped they’d see the sense in Hunt, who I’d never taken seriously until I saw him standing next to Johnson.

  3. Luddite is a very good point Rob. As you both say there are opportunities here that not only aren’t being taken, but dont seem to even have occured to people (allegedly) in power. Good point about hunt and also kind of what I meant about May. Shes looking like a better and better PM every second. I incidentally have you seen the latest polls? I was astonished!

    1. Since you asked, I took a quick peek at the new Survation. Surprising given Johnson isn’t doing well but not surprising given limited exposure of Starmer but also residual distrust of Labour. Takes time for a party as bad as Labour were under Corbyn to look electable. Need to get competent people on TV, saying things that electors like. Still lots of toxin in the political groundwater. Plus, of course, we’re always stuck with the permanent splitting of the left and the relative stability of the right. Not really a place for a dissatisfied Tory vote to go, whereas voters on the Left are constantly falling out with their parties and jumping between ships.

      Finally some sensible news about masks. Feels like an unfortunate delay but I guess people will need time to buy them etc.

  4. I think when we talked about the Tory leadership race at the time I said that Hunt was the objectively better candidate but what the Conservative’s needed was someone to win them an election and that that was Johnson. The funny thing is I never doubted Johnson would win the leadership race and I never doubted he would subsequently win a fair majority when an election was called. Why?, because May should have won a fair majority, only a terrible meltdown on the stump during possibly the worst election campaign in British history denied her that. I think we can forget May’s flaws a bit too easily in the current situation, the tendency to go to pieces under pressure plus the obsessive secrecy and world beating obtuseness would not have been great assets in the current climate. What do think Corbyn’s response would have been out of interest?.

    There is no doubt Johnson has diminished, he was a decent mayor, despite what Labour supporters will tell you, decent enough to get re-elected in a city like London. He was good in the referendum campaign. He was a piss poor foreign secretary and was lacklustre during his election campaign I thought.

    Labour have a mountain to climb to overturn an 80 seat majority, especially when we get boundary changes at some point which will remove the inbuilt advantage they have enjoyed for the past couple of decades. In-fighting and identity politics is still going to be a problem and I doubt they will be facing Johnson by the next election. Having said all that we are going to have an unprecedented depression and that could give an unprecedented swing in votes if they can avoid scoring own goals.

    1. Boris is a better entertainer than he is a politician (though, having been rereading some of his journalism, I’m been surprised at how lazy he is at writing prose). Don’t know enough about London to comment about his time as mayor. All that comes to mind are the gaffs.

      I agree we tend to forget May’s flaws but, irrespective, she was a far more serious politician than Johnson. Hugh Hewitt wrote a piece for the Washington Post arguing that Biden is the wrong man to lead the world through the next few years and even I agreed with him. Trouble is: he seemed to forget who the alternative is. I think the same is true of nearly any PM placed next to Johnson. He’d have been a half-decent PM during a time of relative peace and prosperity. As a rejoinder to austerity, he’d have been perfect. This crisis also probably came too early in his premiership and with Brexit lingering over us, the lack of serious player at the top is worrying.

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