When I started Between the Lines, I vowed to make it as bipartisan as possible. I have my own political stance (lefty-leaning but not socialist, basically Third Way centrist dad), but I honestly wanted to do my best to be both critical of and complimentary to all parties across the spectrum.
For Labour, this has been relatively straightforward – I have complimented Keir Starmer’s dogged determination to bring the party back from the brink of madness, and I thoroughly criticised Labour’s inability to tackle the fact that it was full of anti-Jewish racists. Yin and yang, potato/potahtoe, easy peasy.
The Tories, on the other hand, have made finding balance rather more difficult.
From endless braying about the EU from absolute nutjobs in the ERG, to Jacob Rees-Mogg calling the victims of Grenfell thick, to Theresa May’s soulless “Brexit means Brexit” gibberish creating a vacuum at the heart of government, to Johnson illegally proroguing parliament, to the trip to Barnard Castle, to Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, to…
I mean, the list goes on. And on. And on.
And I’m not against conservatism. When I was younger, I even voted conservative (admittedly mostly because of background, demographic, family etc). But I am distinctly against uselessness, profoundly against snobbery, and deeply, deeply against corruption. Unfortunately, over the last few years, successive Tory governments have been guilty of at least one of these malaises, and usually all of them.
Something has changed. Whether or not they meant it, I’m not entirely sure. But at long, long, looooooooooong last, I have something to write about that is complimentary of the Tories.
The mass rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is going extremely well. Better than the government itself predicted. And credit should absolutely be given where it’s due.
And so, at long last, an article that is complimentary of the Tories.
NADHIM Z, KNOWING YOU, ZAHAAAA… WI.
Anyway, given the absolute chaos of the last twelve months, when the vaccine was announced I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one to think, “That’s great, but it’ll just be yet another thing for Joris Bohnson and Cock Hattman to screw up.”
I don’t feel guilty about it. The government’s overall handling of the coronavirus crisis has been abysmal – waiting too late to instigate lockdowns, allowing foreigners to enter the country without tests for a year, failing to fully clarify rules that affect everyone in the country… It’s been rough.
I do, of course, have huge sympathy. No government wants to be in charge during a once-in-a-generation event like a global pandemic. We’re not the only ones to have suffered, either. European countries have been ravaged like crazy, and the less said about the United States, the better.
But the brazen politicking of the pandemic has been toe-curlingly infuriating. Watching opposition MPs make salient points about schools returning, PPE provisions and other important issues only to be rebuffed by Johnson spouting out some incomprehensible shite about being unpatriotic makes me want to set myself on fire.
But there is no other way around it – the vaccination rollout has been excellent. It was announced at the weekend that 4x as many people are being vaccinated compared to becoming infected, and around 140 vaccines were taking place every minute.
That is an astonishing piece of logistics. Which is ironic, because if Scottish fishermen and the lorry park formerly known as Kent are anything to go by, this government seems to have the logistical nous of a goat trying to organise its tax return. Brexit was always going to have “teething problems,” as they’ve been referred, but potentially hundreds of independent businesses closing down is probably better-described as a gum disease.
We shall see.
But anyway, credit must go to Nadhim Zahawi, the former Education Minister who was put in charge of the vaccination rollout. He was probably appointed to be a scapegoat “in case” it all went wrong, but also possibly because if Hatt Mancock has anything else to worry about he will literally melt. I have to say that I never thought much of Zahawi, but he is clearly doing a relatively good job.
Because he’s letting NHS Trusts handle most of it. Which they could also have done from the start of the pandemic, had Johnson’s dick-swinging contest not got in the way.
SORRY. Sorry. Positive. We’re being positive in this article.
It feels weird.
Either way, we now have a light at the end of the tunnel. So what next?
I know. I am desperate for things to go back to “normal.”
I want to see my girlfriend. I want to go back to the pub. I want to go for a walk and not be constantly worrying about inhaling other peoples’ horrible, disease-ridden breath. I want to go to gigs and festivals. I want to go into the city. I even want to go clubbing, and I hate clubbing.
But we’re not there yet. The infection and death rates are absolutely catastrophic after Christmas, with yesterday’s tally of over 1,600 the highest since the start of the pandemic.
But we are so close. This week, over 70s will start being asked to receive the vaccine. Roughly one in ten of those aged 75+ who catch coronavirus will die, whereas almost no-one under the age of 50 will. Yes, there are exceptions – long covid is horrific, and those with underlying health conditions are at risk – but once the elderly are vaccinated, the death rates will start to plummet.
That alone is still not quite enough, however. If the virus spreads through younger people at a high rate, then it could mutate again. If this happens, it could mean that the vaccines we have produced so far are rendered less effective, and we go back to not-quite square one, but square two or three.
So even when death rates plummet, even when no-one seems to be dying from COVID-19 anymore, we will still need to be wary. Masks will continue to be a part of our lives, as will social distancing.
But the first doors will start to open. High streets will start to have people in them again.
We might even be able to sit in a pub garden, if we can somehow manage to book a table.
We’re still in it for a good while yet. But this summer is going to be an absolute banger, mark my words. And, better yet, if the aftermath of the Spanish flu of 1918 is anything to go by, we’re going to have one hell of a decade.
No more quarantinis. All of the margaritas.