A DECADE ago, education expert Katharine Birbalsingh warned that falling classroom standards had led to many pupils thinking Winston Churchill was the talking dog from the insurance adverts.
Given the “Churchillian” qualities of our current PM, it seems they might have been on to something.
Boris Johnson is ‘Churchillian’ but like Churchill the bulldog
For our much-lauded wartime leader may well be a hero of Boris Johnson — who wrote The Churchill Factor — but that, I’m afraid, is where the comparison ends.
Instead, the No10 hot seat appears to be occupied by a likeable but sadly impotent “bulldog” reduced to following whichever “master” is currently yanking his chain.
It could all have been so different.
Philosopher Thomas Aquinas once said: “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port for ever.”
In March, when we didn’t know what we were dealing with, it made sense to batten down the hatches and stay in port until we knew the enemy.
But ten months on, it’s unforgivable we are still being buffeted by waves of uncertainty while tethered helplessly to the dock.
If tough decisions had been taken much earlier on (the mark of a true leader), it would be a very different story.
Instead, it’s like the movie Groundhog Day . . . without the laughs.
Winston Churchill is the PM’s hero – but that’s where the comparison ends Credit: Hulton Archive – Getty
CHAOS FOR WORKING PARENTS
So now, like so many people in this country, I have moved from a feeling of quiet “needs must” resignation to simmering anger at how this unprecedented challenge has been handled by those who purport to lead us.
On BBC Breakfast yesterday, Mark Currell, a primary headteacher in Northampton, said of school closures: “We have known for months this was likely to happen and we were waiting for some strong leadership.”
Instead, on Sunday, the PM popped up on The Andrew Marr Show urging that parents should send their children to school where possible . . . only to shut them all the following day.
Resulting in chaos for working parents, the dashing of hopes for young kids looking forward to seeing their friends and the wanton waste of millions of pre-ordered food for school lunches that will now become landfill.
Meanwhile, exactly like last year, they still publicly dithered over whether GCSES and A levels would be cancelled.
And what of vaccines?
We have also known for months that brilliant scientists around the world were close to finding one.
So why didn’t we spend the summer planning how we could get it out as quickly and efficiently as we could to those who need it most?
Instead, while Boris rightly described the latest vaccine as “a triumph of British science”, the implementation of getting it out to the masses is a triumph of government ineptitude, summed up by the latest news that retired medics wishing to help are faced with endless red tape inquiring whether they have undertaken courses in racial awareness, handling terrorism and step-ladder awareness . . . or whatever.
If Boris was a true leader, he’d have taken the tough measures we needed at the start of the pandemicCredit: Getty – Pool
This needless bureaucracy should have been anticipated and dealt with last spring.
Then we would already have an army of volunteers in place countrywide to run vaccine departments like a well-oiled machine — and freeing current NHS staff to return to the critical job of treating emergencies and other medical issues. But no. Those who received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine just before Christmas (my mother among them) were told it was imperative to have the second one three weeks later — yet they now face a postponement of another EIGHT WEEKS despite many in the medical profession saying this is ill-advised.
Why the delay? The only conclusion can be that it is a political decision borne out of the Government’s failure to forward-plan. Pre-pandemic, that same failure meant we were left playing catch-up when it came to PPE equipment.
And the lack of investment to produce vaccines left us without the means to manufacture them at a fast enough pace when required.
Those oversights could be forgiven. But a year after the pandemic hit, we are feeling less forgiving about the Government’s ongoing failures.
They have failed to introduce the effective test-and-trace system that has helped elevate other countries out of crisis mode; our borders have remained open throughout; we were told to “eat out to help out”, then instructed to stay in; a wider family Christmas was gifted then swiftly taken away; schools were on one day and off the next; and even though small businesses went to all the trouble of implementing strict social-distancing measures, they found themselves shut down anyway, while hundreds crammed into supermarkets in search of the last turkey.
A year ago, my local high street was a buzzing potpourri of thriving, independent shops.
It is now a virtual ghost town of “to let” signs, while giants such as Amazon and the big-brand supermarkets continue to clean up. Where’s the sense in that?
And now we have Chancellor Rishi Sunak plucking yet more billions from the magic money tree to prop up our once-thriving economy, which still has both hands tied behind its back.
A few people are still banging on about relishing the opportunity to spend more time at home and reconnect with nature on long walks, yada yada. But sorry, I’m sick of hearing it.
It’s pie in the sky for the millions of people who face job uncertainty and are losing sleep over paying those bills that keep on coming despite lockdown.
Our vast hospitality and entertainment industries are in shreds and the consequences will be felt for decades.
And it will all be paid for by the “lost generation” once again having their crucial education disrupted by a Government still throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
Yesterday, a meme was doing the rounds of Boris saying: “We are now entering Tier 11. You must not eat jelly. You CAN eat beef Hula Hoops. And you CANNOT speak to anyone with a lisp . . . if you have a goldfish called Brian, you can walk it once a day between 2pm and 2.17pm. WE WILL BEAT THIS.”
But frankly, the increasingly ludicrous, mixed messages are almost beyond parody now. And despite talking a good game, the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland haven’t fared any better.
Little wonder so many people have been quietly breaking the rules behind closed doors because they don’t really know what the actual rules are any more and have simply stopped listening to the rudderless politicians who initially had the electorate’s goodwill but slowly threw it away.
No one knew that this lethal and cruel enemy was coming.
But it has been part of our lives for a year and is still getting the better of us when, elsewhere in the world, countries with leaders who made swift and effective decisions at the outset are now returning to some semblance of normal life.
Is the overwhelming desire to emigrate regarded as “essential travel”?
If so, see you at the airport.
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