Lockdown – Reflections at the end of week 30

As readers of this progression of pieces may recall, the genesis of each week’s article takes place whilst I tramp the countryside with the dog at 6 o’clock in the morning. Six o’clock in the morning is now dark and increasingly cold but, aside of the walk prolonging the dog’s feelings of goodwill towards me which are always flattering, there are compensations. One such occurred on Wednesday of this week when the sky was clear, and as I left the house, I was faced with the beautiful sight of the early light of dawn just starting to creep into a clear night sky at the centre of which sat a perfect crescent moon accompanied by a brightly shining Venus. It was a striking sight, and one that served as a reminder that there is a great deal more out there than what’s happened in the United Kingdom this week.

Wednesday morning’s philosophical interlude was particularly welcome given what has happened in the United Kingdom this week. It is a peculiar thing that the often quoted numbers about positive Covid tests, hospital admissions and infection rates have been relegated to the inside pages and the second half of news bulletins, given how large the positive tests figure is and the significant rising trend in all of those numbers. So what is it that has brought this change in emphasis?

The answer seems straightforward. The political gloves are off as strident conflict has broken out amongst our elected representatives at a number of levels. It won’t be an easy one to resolve, either. On the one side, we have the government which, notwithstanding a recommendation from SAGE scientists which has recently been published that the second wave would best be dealt with by a short circuit breaker full lockdown, has opted to introduce its three tier system of local restrictions. In taking that choice, the government appears to have been substantially motivated by concern at the economic impact of a lockdown as the summer economic bounceback slowed considerably in August. On the other side of the debate sit a number of protagonists expressing a variety of concerns. One element is the opposition front bench which appears to have taken a view that a national lockdown is inevitable which gives an opportunity to stake an early claim to it as party policy, giving a chance to bathe in vindication when a national lockdown arrives. Another is the Mayor of Manchester who appears to be combining mainstream opposition policy with economic concerns for those who live in the area that he represents. The third is an unlikely coalition of MP’s from both sides of the House who represent northern English constituencies and whose professed concern is a growth in the North/South divide to the detriment of the people of Northern England.

In the meantime, as we watch and wait for at least a truce, there is an inescapable thought that lives are being risked and lost. It will be no comfort to grieving relatives that battles are being waged in pursuit of a greater good. There is mounting evidence that the public are losing faith in it all as well, not helped by the imposition of fines on people who won’t be able to pay them and a number of reported instances of politicians committing breaches of lockdown rules of various degrees of seriousness and doing so with apparent impunity. All of this makes it imperative for there to be at least a truce amongst the warring political factions as soon as possible.

Another story to have caught the eye this week is the reported state sponsored undermining of the Oxford vaccine across the globe. The state involved is Russia, and it would appear that the motivation is to deter governments and health organisations from choosing the Oxford vaccine and use the Russian developed Sputnik V vaccine instead. The use of a humanitarian crisis to pursue geopolitical aims is not new, but it doesn’t get any more palatable.

On a gentler note, a story has also emerged of a householder suggesting that bees belonging to his neighbour are committing burglary on a daily basis because they are taking pollen from his garden without permission. If you ignore the Scrooge element, for an enlightened examiner, this could turn into a splendid multi-facteted law exam question, since, for example, the complaining neighbour is likely to benefit from pollination brought about by the larcenist bees. I just hope the story’s not serious.

At the end of a week in which one’s sense of bewilderment can only have continued, let’s go back to the night sky which can also create a sense of bewilderment by its magnitude, but, unless it catches you at a moment of existential angst, surely a more healthy bewilderment. I would have suggested looking out for a supermoon tonight, but since it’s a new moon, you won’t be able to see it, but there is at least the certainty of knowing that it’s there.

Ian Waine
Senior Partner