Will it End in Tiers?

The move from local lockdowns in parts of the north of the country and the Midlands came fast, the move from tier 1 to tier 2 in London, York and other areas came even faster, as if the Government had miscategorised certain areas in the first place which of course they had. The people, needing clear, simple, effective guidance in the face of rising case numbers and hospital admissions didn’t get it. The rules, no longer guidance and now enforceable by law, were complex and it was difficult to understand how they would work. The balance of protecting the nation’s health against protecting the economy weighed heavily in favour of the latter. Confidence and compliance were low.

As families and communities considered the impact of the new rules on their lives and how they might bend or break them, open rebellion in the Westminster-governed political sphere was seen for the first time, echoing the previous divergence of the devolved administrations. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, declared that he would resist a move from tier 2 to tier 3 unless the Chancellor found some money to support those affected. You can’t instruct people to stay at home, he argued, if to do so deprives them of an income. Correct, of course, but falling on deaf ears, or tin ears as Kier Starmer like to refer to them as during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Sir Kier, leader of the workers’ party and knight of the realm, was not in favour of the tiered approach and argued instead for a short total shutdown, the “circuit breaker” approach, which would at least hurt the economy as much as it would the people. It was an argument that had previously been put forward by the Government’s own scientific advisors, the SAGE group, who were also ignored.

In Liverpool, the first area to enter tier 3, we discovered that there were two mayors, a Conservative mayor for the Liverpool city region with whom the Government maintained a dialogue and a Labour mayor for the city of Liverpool with whom they did not.

Britain was a nation fractured and exhausted. The arts had been written off as unviable, the hospitality industry dealt yet another blow by the tier 2 restrictions which didn’t shut them down but discouraged customers from going out and thus killed their trade without compensation, and football failed to emerge from behind closed doors.

The twin saviours of mass testing and comprehensive contact tracing still seemed a distant dream. Both were in the purview of Tory darling, corporate and political failure and baroness, Dido Harding.

Earlier in the crisis, Prime Minister Johnson and his sidekick, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, were at pains to demonstrate how they’d “ramped up” the testing regime, setting their own targets and celebrating when they achieved them but under Harding’s regime the swabs were all tested at centralised, privatised “lighthouse” laboratories, standing down the previous NHS and university collaborative effort and when laboratory capacity looked close to being exceeded the system started to restrict access to tests, sending symptomatic people hundreds of miles to testing centres and cancelling walk-in appointments. The Government issued a stern message that you should only apply for a test if you really needed one.

Hapless Harding, abetted by an equally hapless Hancock, took a cue from their boss and spaffed £12 billion on a test and trace system that didn’t work, including an app that failed and a centralised contact tracing system that couldn’t find any work for full-time private sector contact tracers. Although comparisons with spending in the Republic of Ireland were misleading, the rumours that some consultants earned in the region of £7000 per day proved true.

Populist Prime Minister Johnson had got it wrong at every turn, from herd immunity to world beating test and trace. Even the appointment of a vaccine tsar and the promise of a jab by September had come to little, but at least the news from China was more encouraging.

Facemasks at Half Mast

It’s facemasks at half mast
For the coffee guy at the station
For better facial aeration
For poorer droplet filtration
For rules half followed out of frustration
And Stanley Johnson ain’t wearing his at all

It’s facemasks at half mast
For the woman on the morning train
In a sippy cup coffee kinda vein
She’s looking at her make-up again
Over a blue chin protection membrane
And Stanley Johnson ain’t wearing his at all

It’s facemasks at half mast
Baby, let’s go exponential
It’s facemasks at half mast
Baby, let’s get existential

My mask protects you, your mask protects me
Round here, it’s what we call solidarity
It’s how we show love and respect for one another
Sisters and brothers

It’s facemasks at half mast
For the fella on the train home
Slipped down while he was on the phone
Glanced around the carriage and he’s not alone
With important communications home
And Stanley Johnson ain’t wearing his at all

It’s facemasks at half mast
Baby, let’s go exponential
It’s facemasks at half mast
Baby, let’s get existential

My mask protects you, your mask protects me
Round here, it’s what we call solidarity
It’s how we show love and respect for one another
Sisters and brothers

Spaffer doesn’t understand the rules
What rules?
Whose rules?
His rules
For home and work and schools
While Stanley Johnson ain’t wearing his at all

It’s facemasks at half mast
Baby, let’s go exponential
It’s facemasks at half mast
Baby, let’s get existential

My mask protects you, your mask protects me
Round here, it’s what we call solidarity
It’s how we show love and respect for one another
Sisters and brothers

Operation Moonshot

Is Operation Moonshot
The best that you’ve got?
Chucking in our lot
With a punt on a long shot?

Astronaut Spaffer, it has to be said
Is comfortable speaking out the back of his head
But a 20-minute test when you get out of bed
Sounds like he’s just bet it all on red

Is Operation Moonshot
The best that you’ve got?
Chucking in our lot
With a punt on a long shot?

Cosmonaut Spaffer of the rule of six
Reckons he’s got a long-term fix
A quick test between toothpaste and lacing up your kicks
Trouble is it doesn’t yet exist

Is Operation Moonshot
The best that you’ve got?
Chucking in our lot
With a punt on a long shot?

Starfleet Spaffer’s new COVID marshal
Badge and gun, pledge to be impartial
Breaking up a seven-plus party in your local
Doing it for free, there’s no money on the table

Is Operation Moonshot
The best that you’ve got?
Chucking in our lot
With a punt on a long shot?

Spaceman Spaffer’s shooting for the moon
Spit in the pot, you’ll know pretty soon
If you’re going back to work or back to your room
Are we watching a PM or a cartoon?

Is Operation Moonshot
The best that you’ve got?
Chucking in our lot
With a punt on a long shot?

The Under 21s

You’ve relaxed too much says Van Tam
Relax, go back to work says that Johnson man
Is it any wonder you’re confused?
Does anyone understand all the rules?
Stick to your guns
Blame the under 21’s

A harder, faster lockdown in Bolton
Let’s hope the locals don’t get their revolt on
Don’t let the subject pass their eyes
That the response is still too centralised
Stick to your guns
Blame the under 21’s

It’s the uni crowd the way they carry on and party
You know that term ain’t actually started
But the numbers from the test and trace don’t lie
Who do you think’s in the service industry front line?
Stick to your guns
Blame the under 21’s

They’re better than us without even trying
They know when politicians are lying
The mess of the world, they understand it
Just as we’re about to underhand it
So when election time comes
Remember who you blamed: the under 21’s

Last Night of the Proms

“Patriotic songs matter” said the petition.
It’s this morning’s All Lives Matter edition.
Even if you don’t know all the words
And are der-der-der-ing by the second verse
Your life will be somehow diminished
If the Beeb change the way that The Proms are finished.

“They’re simply rousing British songs”
Not a catalogue of colonialism’s wrongs
Which are many, and the foundation
Of much of the wealth of this nation.
But we don’t want to talk about that
While we’re waving our plastic union jack.

Don’t Cough Over Your Cat

No ads for Maccy D’s before bedtime
No BOGOF on Pringles or Mars Bars or any of that
But that’s not even this evening’s headline
Whatever you do, don’t cough over your cat

Spaffer’s a stone down and fat shaming the nation
Clamping down on promotion of food high in sugar and fat
Obligatory labels for cafes in new legislation
And whatever you do, don’t cough over your cat

He says we owe it to the NHS to keep our weight healthy
I suspect he owes them a bit more than that
Start with 350 million a week, maybe
And please don’t cough over your cat

There are complex ethnic and socioeconomic factors
At play here, but despite all of that
The fight against the virus starts a new chapter
With advice to not cough over your cat

A Masked Man Walks Into a Bar

A masked man walks into a bar
Just another day in the New Rose & Crown
It’s the pub of the damned, he orders a beer and sits down
He contemplates life and the new rules
Where everybody’s encouraged to go back to work and go back to school
Where one metre plus means you have to cover your face
That’s how he’s ended up coming in masked to this place
He looks from his beer to his mask and from his mask to his beer
As it all becomes frustratingly clear
That the logic of this thing just doesn’t make any sense at all

A masked man walks into a bar
It’s neat, neat, neat from all that pre-opening cleaning
It’s the pub of the damned, just with better housekeeping
He orders a pint of beer and sits down
While he ponders the end of the lockdown
And he asks himself what is a pub if it’s not a shop that sells live booze
And if you’re gonna have to wear a mask in a supermarket what’s boozer got to lose?
He looks from his beer to his mask and his mask to his beer
As Johnson’s muddied message fails to become clear
And the logic of this thing doesn’t make any sense at all

A masked man walks into a bar
Orders a large whiskey while he’s waiting for the blackout
There’s plenty of room inside not that many people out
It’s the pub of the damned and he just can’t be happy today
And they wouldn’t even take his cash when he tried to pay
He picks up his paper and reads in the comments
That your mask does nothing except to give you confidence
He looks from his whiskey to his mask and his mask to his whiskey
And there’s a world of handshakes that he still can’t see
And the logic of this thing doesn’t make any sense at all

A masked man walks into a bar….

Super Spreader Saturday

Spaffer fired the starting pistol
On Super Spreader Saturday
Get out and spend your money folks
The pubs are opening today
We don’t know what the R-rate is
But we’ll tell you later
Cos our mates at Deloitte
Own all the data

The landlord with bunting his pub festoons
And Super Spreader Saturday balloons
For the brave, the reckless, the immunes
So Derek is heading off to ‘Spoons

Spaffer cried schools out for summer
On Super Spreader Saturday
A haircut, a haircut, my kingdom for a haircut
The barbershop is open today
We don’t know what the R-rate is
But we’ll let the pub open its door
‘Cos we don’t know what the rules are either
Or even what the rules are for

The landlord with Perspex his pub festoons
And Super Saturday disinfectant fumes
For the illusion that normality resumes
And Derek is heading off to ‘Spoons

If you think they’re stupid, look what the polls now say
About the likelihood of a second wave
The numbers don’t lie and they’ll make you shudder
We’re now more likely to blame each other

The landlord with Perspex his pub festoons
And Super Saturday disinfectant fumes
For the illusion that normality resumes
And Derek is heading off to ‘Spoons

 

The Lockdown, Part Four

 

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Just like that it seemed that it was over.

People flocked to beaches and beauty spots, drank, danced and defecated under the shadow of over a hundred new deaths and a thousand new cases a day. The police were called to break up raves and street parties, sparking violence inevitable after months of fear and frustration while the blame was clearly directed at a feckless and disobedient public.

In truth the scene had been set some weeks earlier when prime ministerial adviser Dominic Cummings broke the lockdown rules, first to travel to his family home in County Durham and again with the ill-fated “eye-test” trip to Barnard Castle. Follow that with a laissez-faire PM relaxing the rules in such a complex way that even the most diligent commentators struggled with them and casually dismissing the daily press briefing as no longer required inevitably led to the public sense that the rules no longer either applied or mattered.

The two metre rule became one metre plus and you were deemed safe to be within virtual touching distance of another person so long as you took one of thirty-nine mitigating steps, one of which was to wash your hands more frequently. Barring gyms, swimming pools, beauty treatments and tattoo parlours, workplaces could re-open so long as they followed the governments occasionally specific, often vague “COVID Secure” advice. The pub trade was in chaos, publicans divided between those with open space for their customers and those without, those with apps and table service and those struggling for solutions, and those relieved of the burden of their rent by their brewery and those with their livelihood held to ransom by a pubco.

The rules had been downgraded to guidance.

Belligerent libertarians, although it’s doubtful that they would have described themselves as such, rang radio phone-ins demanding to know what had become of the second wave of infections predicted after the VE Day celebrations as their hosts lambasted the teaching unions and demanded a return to school for all.

It wasn’t yet the 4th of July when the news of a second spike and a city-wide continuation of the lockdown in Leicester reached us.

Johnson Has Washed His Hands

A beach packed with punters
Creates a major incident
Johnson has washed his hands

From rules to guidance
From cognisance to dissonance
Johnson has washed his hands

A COVID spike
In abattoirs and factories
Johnson has washed his hands

A dialled in parliament
On pound shop batteries
Johnson has washed his hands

Keir passed the soap
And held the towel
While Johnson washed his hands

A welcomed announcement
Despite its disavowal
Helped Johnson to wash his hands

Stay at home as much as you can
While visiting the shops as much as possible
Says Johnson has washed his hands

While the march back to Wetherspoons
Is seemingly unstoppable
Because Johnson has washed his hands

Confused about the guidance
Scared or simply bitter
Johnson has washed his hands

The scientists’ advice
Relegated to Twitter
Because Johnson has washed his hands