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You Turn if You Want to?

You Turn if You Want to?

Girl in airport looking through a window at a British airways plane

Margaret Thatcher’s famous phrase from nearly half a century ago has come back to haunt Boris Johnson. Jetting to the sun was going to be tricksier than ever, then it wasn’t. The dreaded NHS app ping system was going to stay as was, then it wasn’t. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, easing out of Covid restrictions is an ongoing headache for the government. And the rest of us.

Seems we’re winning for now at least, what with the clear fall in Covid cases and top boffins saying we’re unlikely to need any more lockdowns.

Fingers crossed for the future.

Meantime, the Transport Secretary,Grant Shapps, boasted about his new form of holiday hell, termed an ‘amber watchlist’.

It meant people could head off somewhere lovely with the government’s blessing, only to lose it at a moment’s notice.

But days later he told everyone it was a rubbish idea and had been binned.

Good-ish news for millions of us, as fave destinations like Spain are no longer in that bind.

And the fully vaccinated among us can come back from France without having to quarantine.

All this at the time of writing. God alone knows how things might change.

Certainly the so-called ‘pingdemic’ was going to rage on unchecked, with absolutely no tweaking of the app that caused the problem.

Then, hey presto, it was announced it’s going to be toned down, checking back just two days rather than five in locating close contacts.

And it’s worth remembering that the requirement in England for double-jabbed pingees to self isolate will go anyway in a week or so.

The time lag between that relaxation and what was heralded as ‘Freedom Day’ was intended to allow for more people to get vaccinated.

But it wreaked havoc in many sectors, unsurprisingly, as at one point getting on for three-quarters of a million people were sent home.

And now the government’s got its work cut out trying get sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to get inoculated.

The toing and froing about whether it’s safe and wise to extend the programme to youngsters is over. They’re going for it.

And droves of vaccinators are being hired to do the job in schools from next month, plus free rides and food are being offered as incentives.

Sussex uni’s going one step further, entering double-jabbed students in a draw – with five-grand in it for the lucky winners.

There’s also a big drive to get all under-thirties on board, with ads on social media and music radio stations.

The thinly veiled threat is to get the jab or: ‘Miss out on the good times.’

What ministers are up against is the different information sources more fashionable among the young than their older peers.

Move away from tightly regulated television and radio towards free-for-all feeds from Twitter et al and all manner of crazy notions creep in.

Covid’s only here to control the population. It’s completely fake. Oh and btw, those blue disposable masks have asbestos in them.

Er, durrr. But a moment’s sympathy here for ministers, trying to trample on mountains of misinformation.

Only a moment, mind, and a cautionary word about the fallacy that youngsters are silly and grownups are sensible.

To adapt Margaret Thatcher’s memorable U-turn quote: ‘Home work? You homework if you want to.’

The Chancellor is trying to get people back into their offices, claiming failure to do so will damage their career prospects.

Of course he’s worried about all those inner city Pret a Mangers (or Prets a Manger, or maybe even Prêt à Mangers?) going under.

But two inconvenient truths heave into view.

One, the move towards staying away doesn’t stem from feckless youngsters suffering from ceebs syndrome. I.e. can’t be bothered.

Rather, it’s the suits seduced by the thought of huge savings on running city centre offices. Lots and lots of them, both bosses and costs.

Two, there’s what government departments themselves are doing. Nearly all Whitehall civil servants aren’t coming back full-time.

Plans are already being drawn up for flexible working on a permanent basis, with huge swathes of staff spending most of their time at home.

Leading by example? Not.

And the Climate Minister Alok Sharma’s in the dock facing the same charge.

He’s travelled by air to thirty countries in seven months ahead of the COP26 climate change summit the UK’s hosting later this year.

Which strikes opposition parties as hypocritical, given the gig’s all about getting everyone to cut carbon emissions. And planes do loads of it.

Sharma’s also getting stick for not self-isolating like every else has to when he got back from red list countries.

Technically he doesn’t have to, because there’s an exemption for ministers and diplomats on government business.

But to the Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy it still feels horribly wrong:

‘It is one rule for them and another rule for us. Whether it is Dominic Cummings, whether it is Matt Hancock, whether it is Alok Sharma.’

Bojo’s a bit on the naughty step too, for not self-isolating even though one of his staffers tested positive last week.

It’s claimed they were ‘side by side’ several times, though Downing Street denies they were in close contact.

Be good to report sport at least is politics and complications free. If only.

All Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya did was grumble about her country’s coaches, and she was in real trouble.

Accused of being recruited by foreign spies, she had to dodge a bunch of heavies who tried to drag her home to face god knows what music.

She finally made it to Warsaw, travelling there under Polish diplomatic protection. But the future remains uncertain.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukanshenko’s got very nasty with anyone he thinks is against him since his disputed re-election last year.

Such a thing could never happen in the west, you might think.

But a report from a House of Representatives committee sheds a chilling light on Donald Trump’s manoeuvrings to cling on to office.

It’s emerged he rang then acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen late last December with a blunt message.

‘Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. congressmen.’

Doubtless The Donald’s diehards would say this is yet another stitch-up. And anyway, the bloke said no.

But others question what would have happened if he’d said yes? A coup d’état? That’s what it looked like.

Still, there is happier news on the Olympic front.

Sky Brown’s been crowned Great Britain’s youngest Olympic medallist, after her triumph in the women’s skateboard park event.

Everyone says she’s ever so nice, hence her success on the American reality TV circuit and social media. And she’s a published author.

Little wonder this young lady, who’s only thirteen, for god’s sake, has her own specially customised Barbie doll.

Mattel’s Lisa McKnight said the aim is to: ‘Ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes.’

Which is why the company’s also made a special doll in honour of Prof Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab’s co-creator.

A very different contribution to world well-being from Sky’s. But both have their place.

After all, as the song goes: ‘Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.’

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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