Lockdown - Reflections at the end of week 28

It’s not been a great week for politicians.

Schadenfreude is an ignoble emotion, but I suspect that there would have been more than a hint of it flying around as the world woke up to the news, tweeted of course, that the President of the United States, whose approach to management of Covid on a federal level has been at the less rigorous end of the global scale, has contracted the virus. This is not the greatest surprise given recent televised events from the lawns of the White House in which neither masks nor social distancing were evident. It will be intriguing to know whether his treatment will involve UV lamps or the injection of disinfectant.

Elsewhere, the First Minister of Scotland, who does not seem to have been averse to playing Covid based politics in the separatist cause, has also been embarrassed by the one woman campaign of one of the SNP’s MP’s to close the Mother of Parliaments by travelling hundreds of miles on public transport with a positive diagnosis of Covid to make a speech in the House of Commons. She appeaars to have done a thorough job, not only in interrupting the workings of the debating chamber itself but also in threatening the tearoom with closure - a low and significant blow.

Rumours are surfacing of an ongoing row between the Foreign Office and the Home Office which it is being suggested, is the reason for the emergence this week of peculiar stories, that the Home Secretary has been considering plans to open holding centres for asylum seekers in remote places whose common features are that they’re a long way from mainland Britain and surrounded by water. Ascension Island and North Sea oil and gas rigs have been mentioned. This may be the moment for the island of Rockall to come back into the news 50 plus years after it first hit the headlines - it seems an ideal candidate if the territorial claim to it can be resolved. 

Then there’s the Prime Minister. He clearly has a lot on his plate, but if you’re asking people to make sacrifices and behave in a particular way to serve the national interest and you head up a government which is threatening all of us with increasingly swingeing fines for non-compliance, it doesn’t seem too much to ask that the Prime Minister is familiar enough with his brief to be able to answer an entirely foresseable question. He is looking tired and bewildered and is creating a problem for Spitting Image’s scriptwriters as he edges towards putting himself beyond satire.

And we’re being sued by the EU.

It’s easy to write knockabout stuff and let off steam, but the real issue is that in a society where Covid is already causing divisions, there is a need for clarity of thought and decisive but compassionate leadership. The Mayor of Middlesbrough has spoken this week about wellbeing concerns arising out of the tighter lockdown restrictions prevalent in the North of England, and the finger is being pointed at a variety of groups within our society, including students and people leaving pubs at 10 o’clock, as selfish and irresponsible. In those circumstances, whilst we accept that politicians are human beings too, an approach from them which smacks of “do as I say not do as I do” doesn’t work. Nor do damaging internecine scraps between government departments getting into the news or our leaders being unable to explain the rules that they’re asking us to observe.

On a more upbeat note, the legal action by the EU seems to be a procedural step to protect its negotiating position amongst growing rumblings that a trade deal is likely to be concluded within the available timeframe. It was also interesting to see this week the discounter B&M is planning to open 45 more stores, that Aldi is boosting its online shopping offer and that the governor of the Bank of England seems to be taking a more positive view of things than the government at the moment.

Storm Alex seems destined to make this weekend one for lighting the fire and comfort food. Do enjoy it, and try not to think about the rest for a couple of days.

Ian Waine
Senior Partner