Fiscal Clear

Leicester, it seems, has drawn the short straw for ‘second wave’ lockdown regression, but is it all that clear-cut?

You might argue that the UK never really went into lockdown in the first place. Of course, the Government issued its guidance and its regulations, and it shut businesses. Yet many pubs remained open, parties continued, and we’ve witnessed – for the last month at least – mass gatherings in the street and at the beach. Furthermore, self-employed businessmen have continued to ply their trades, as have all manner of the underground economies, and there has been a fundamental loosening of social distancing protocols.

All the hair stylists who have been religiously observing regulations must have felt just marginally peeved at the coiffed barnets of our top Premier League stars following the restart. You don’t get those results from a pair of clippers and a hand-mirror. Once this is all over, at least they’ll have a moderately interesting line of chat to foist upon their punters.

The majority who swerved the lockdown lunacy did so because they knew it was fiscal foolery. What we have certainly learned about this COVID farce is that when people en masse refuse to be controlled, there precious diddly that the authorities can muster, other than pick off a few soft targets to bolster a psychological hold. If the public get their collective head around the illusion, the fallback for our masters is to trot off to the marketing department to magic up some politically correct froth-and-bubble face-saver that can be posted to social media. Or to spout off about accelerated harsh justice that they have no lawful mandate to deliver. One of the two at least – and on occasions, it has been both.

Contrast Leicester Police this week on the streets buoyantly banging out fixed penalties with the Met Police running away down the Mall from BLM schoolkids. Or with Bristol Police passively watching a statue being pulled down and rolled through the streets. If the masses descended on the streets of Leicester in full-on refusenik mode, they would be met by only hot air.

An alternative result might be that Leicester would subsequently be wiped out by the coronagerm, but COVID has likely already been doing the rounds just as it would have without any shutdowns. It is just that, due to a convergence of fortuitous variables, Leicester has been the one that has floated to the surface. Naturally, those who have been shielded will come out of the national lockdown better, but everybody else? We were all destined to get it, and most of us will already have had it.

If the Cheltenham Races or the Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid match precipitated the UK infection rate in March, then BLM protests and the Bournemouth beach outing must surely have provided the vectors for a further (tidal) wave. But, apparently not. Just Leicester, which we will control with a microcosm of the initial lockdown.

You see, the Leicester action now is necessary. Not to halt the spread of COVID, but to maintain the semblance of an effective strategy to date. Yes, it will be another post-fact snippet of a subtly planned historical re-write. Such local reversals had always been predicted so were always part of the plan. In many ways, the Government will be delighted because it is all within their narrative. Not one that is backed by data, but one that will fly.

Dovetailing splendidly into the same script are these one-off ‘news’ stories about outbreaks being confined to single places like the sandwich business (Leicester) or a hospital (Weston-Super-Mare) manage to squeak into the press. Even the Germans are falling back on the same ruse with their Gütersloh abattoir. Just enough scientific knowledge to perform. Just enough positioning to frame to explain away anything that floats up while maintaining the narrative that the plan worked.

In truth, the real plan has been back-pedalling from the initial cock-up and the clangertastic economic auto-asphyxiation. That, and keeping it wonderfully camouflaged. Which brings us to the public frustration at wafer-thin data.

Where is all the data? Surely that was always the forté of Downing Street’s super-forecaster oddballs? Have no fear – we are going to roll out Track-and-Trace to offer us detail and specifics.

Well, not quite. It has transpired that the Government has ditched its software in favour of the Google-Apple model. If Apple were pleased by this, it didn’t show. They apparently knew nothing about it. So not only was it shabbily late, it was also unfit for purpose with no back up plan.

I think we all knew that track-and-trace was pie, or pi, in the sky. Yes, the concept might have been savvy. Yes, the technology might have been sound. But a reliance on Bluetooth and questionable customer adoption screamed cockamamie. A lot of folk don’t even have smartphones. When all is said and done, whatever gets churned out will be half-baked, and in all honestly, a complete picture is the last thing that the Government wants. Nobody wants Leicesters popping up all over the UK (strictly COVIDly speaking, of course), and that is why no comprehensive data is forthcoming on anything.

There are heaps of data alright, and also many gaps. But closing those gaps and bringing it all together into a piece of cohesive analysis will bring us to a story that nobody in Government wants to hear. So, anything we do get is released piecemeal, late, mostly incomprehensible, and with just enough commentary to prop up the central narrative. I think they used to call it the Downing Street Briefing.

The strategy was botched from the start and what they fear more than the virus is clarity. We tanked the economy for nothing. Unless of course, it was for the gargantuan profits that financial speculators who bet on recession will shovel up.

The moment that we achieve that clarity, the balloon will go up. The second wave had already started some time ago, but it has not been one of viral infection. It has been the process of realisation as consequences have started to sink in.

However it now develops, it is not going to be pleasant.

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