While the Covid restriction regime is for the bin, some of its most visible aspects remain very much on display. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, we’re all stuck in the same pincer movement as Boris Johnson.
So much for the long-awaited Freedom Day. Summed up in one of Albert Einstein’s better lines:
‘In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.’
Yeah but everything’s back to normal now. Chuck away those horrid masks and chill.
Yeah but no but it isn’t. Stick ’em on and keep ’em on enclosed spaces, and don’t chill.
It feels like the new world disorder, as the old laws give way to new, locally imposed restrictions.
The government insists if we don’t move on now we’ll be in perpetual lockdown.
And, whisper it softly, herd immunity is the way forward after all, thanks to mass vaccination.
Against that, well over a thousand scientists have backed a letter to the medical journal the Lancet warning against it.
They say Britain’s position as a global transport hub would mean any new variant here would rapidly spread around the world.
Nonsense, Johnson says. People will still be ‘expected and recommended’ to take most of the old precautions.
So much for Admiral Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar flagship signal: ‘England expects.’
As one waggish commentator put it last week, he’s wrestling us into a sort of half-Nelson.
Certainly, his rhetoric’s shifted from do it because I’m the Prime Minister and you aren’t – to do me a favour, pretty please.
His thinking, however, remains that the NHS can handle a surge in cases at this time of year, but not in the winter flu season.
Besides, a wide slice of Tory backbenchers is snarling at his heels to get on with it.
However, another chunk of his powerbase is business. And the Delta-fuelled upswing is causing chaos in many sectors.
The figures are already as high as in January. And that’s before the freedom not freedom thing even kicks in.
To adapt Tony Blair’s 1997 election campaign theme, things can only get worse.
Then there’s the so-called ‘pingdemic’ the papers have been so full of.
Seems the NHS app designed to halt the spread of Covid is a bit too good for its own good.
More than a million and a half people in England have been told to isolate in a single week, according to analysis by the Guardian.
And the Telegraph talks of people being forced to self-isolate despite never having come face-to-face with a positive case.
This, apparently, because the thing’s so powerful its signal goes through walls.
Ministers accept the app needs to be less sensitive, but changes could be weeks away.
Meantime, there are real fears that swathes of the economy are set to be halted through lack of available staff.
Small wonder, perhaps, that a fifth of those asked admitted deleting the app. The number rising to a third among youngsters.
Oh and btw, The Balearic Islands have been placed back on the amber list only a fortnight after going green.
Cue loads of extremely unhappy holidaymakers, plus howls of anguish from the travel industry. And many Tory MP’s.
Two schools of thought here.
One, Boris Johnson has the brains of a woodlouse and hanging’s too good for him.
Two, nature’s a formidable force and we humans just have to go with the flow.
In Germany and Belgium last week, shockingly, that should read not go but gone.
The number of fatalities after two months’ rainfall descended in two days is now well into three figures.
And European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated the obvious.
‘It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change.
‘This is something that really, really shows the urgency to act.’
It comes just days after flash flooding in London that mercifully did not claim lives but did lead to transport chaos.
At the same time the American west is caught in a cycle of heat, drought and fire.
Experts say what could be the highest temperature ever reached on Earth was recorded in a place called Death Valley.
Last Saturday it reached fifty-four-point-four degrees centigrade in the appropriately named Furnace Creek.
Of course Donald Trump, claiming climate change was a hoax, rolled back key Obama-era limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Intriguingly, documents have emerged appearing to show Vladimir Putin told his spies to help The Donald in 2016.
Seems it served Soviet interests to back a president who was an: ‘Impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual.’
Tut tut. Naughty Ruskies.
But tentative steps are being taken to redress the climate change imbalance.
Formula One racing could power ahead to hydrogen-powered cars, according to its managing director.
Electric vroom-vroom machines don’t cut it, apparently, as they’re not noisy enough.
But the gas-powered motors would be, and the sport is now committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Everybody happy then.
Farmers too will be on the case, if the government can persuade them.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has commissioned research into how to stop cows damaging the world.
Believe it or not, UK farms are responsible for about a tenth of all our emissions.
But dear Angus and Buttercup have had an unfairly bad press in the past.
Far from plodding around doing the silent but deadly thing, they do nearly all the harm to the planet by burping.
No idea why. Suppose that’s what the boffins will be trying to find out.
A lot to be said for working with, rather than against, nature.
Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain in the sixteenth century for their meat, fur and scent glands.
But now, for the first time since those days, one’s been born on Exmoor, after a couple were reintroduced by the National Trust.
Since arriving at the Holnicote estate they’ve transformed the unmanaged woodland into a more open wetland.
‘The transformation of the habitat has been remarkable,’ said the trust’s project manager.
‘The beavers are doing a lot of what we want to see in terms of conservation and land management.’
Handy, but they’re just doing their beaver thing. Unlike dogs, who, boffins have discovered, actually are in tune with humans.
Shame about dog whistle politics, of which the Home Secretary’s been accused for sneering at footballers taking the knee.
Former Conservative co-chair Sayeeda Warsi said that paved the way for racial abuse suffered by black England team members.
‘If we ‘whistle’ & the ‘dog’ reacts, we can’t be shocked if it barks & bites,’ she damningly tweeted.
‘It’s time to stop the culture wars that are feeding division. Dog whistles win votes but destroy nations.’
Coming from a Tory peer, a barb not to be ducked. But the dog whistle thing does have its upside too.
Researchers from Duke Uni in North Carolina looked at the difference in behaviour between wolf puppies and infant dogs.
And their findings confirm our best friends empathise with our emotions better than any other species. From birth.
The scientists deliberately lavished attention on young wolves but kept away from the same number of infant dogs.
Yet, when they hid a treat in one of two bowls and gave a clue which, it was the pooches that took the hint, not the wolves.
Their findings back the so-called ‘domestication hypothesis,’ concerning hunter-gathering men thousands of years ago.
The theory is they shared some of their food with the most docile and human-friendly wolves.
Hence the emergence of a bloodline tuned into human behaviour, that knows exactly how to get us to hand over the sweeties.
To misquote the commons speaker: ‘The eyes have it.’
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.
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