The prime minister has at least been impressively consistent with his incoherent, indecisive hopelessness.
“But at least Covid has brought some cheer at last. Because Priti Patel announced she won’t be visiting her parents this Christmas. They must be bloody delighted.”
Mark Steel www.independent.co.uk
It’s quite charming now, how this government changes the rules back and forth every few days, like some eccentric old professor that’s lost his short-term memory.
So they shout: “Why are the schools shut? We can’t have schools shut, it’s where children go.”
“You shut them, prime minister, to stop the virus spreading.”
“Nonsense. Open them up.”
Then a week later they go: “Who opened the schools? That’s how the virus spreads, what idiot did this?”
“You did, prime minister.”
“Balderdash. Oh my God, why are the pubs shut? You can’t shut pubs, the Battle of Waterloo was fought so we could go to the pub.”
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“But that’s where the virus spreads, prime minister.”
“Don’t be such a nincompoop, who are you?”
“I’m the global scientific advisor for the transmission of viruses in pubs”
“You know nothing. I order all scientists to do your duty to go to the pub and get ratarsed.”
Then a week later: “WHO OPENED THE PUBS?”
A week ago they were saying: “It’s Christmas, you are commanded to be British, by giving your grandparents a naked massage with your own spit, it’s what Christmas is all about.”
But this week they screamed: “Why are you idiots going round each other’s houses at Christmas? Christmas must be on Zoom, or held on an app we contracted to a company owned by an MP’s sister-in-law who has no experience of apps, but she has trained beagles. DON’T GO ANYWHERE, YOU MURDERERS.”
So now no one knows the rules, as once an hour there’s an announcement: “Matt Hancock has said you CAN cross one edge of tier 2a to get to tier 3b+ as long as you travel through space but NOT on a comet unless you’re with less than three people from at least four different planets.”
Half the country is looking at government guidelines on websites, trying to make sense of instructions such as: “If you yawn on Boxing Day, you must sit on a bus shelter for 10 minutes. Before you open presents, all your cats must point south.”
None of the rules seem to make sense. Theatres are shut, presumably because that’s where no one can be trusted, because the minute the curtain goes up, everyone starts gobbing on the violinist, and everyone in the circle wees into the stalls.
But pubs were allowed to stay open because in a pub, no one behaves in a way that might spread a virus. Everyone sits quietly, reading old legal documents, or admiring the craftwork of the beer pumps.
Maybe one of these people who talk about parenting, on daytime television, should tell the government: “The problem you have, my darlings, is you’re sending out mixed messages.” Because they are like someone telling a six-year-old: “We’re going to the seaside, so to be safe, before we set off, make sure you go to the toilet, which is shut and bolted. Because it’s dangerous to go to the toilet, so we’re trusting you to decide whether you should go or not, though you shouldn’t, unless you go outside, and I know Uncle Dominic did a huge turd on the kitchen floor but that was because he was testing his hearing.”
One of the instructions this week was: “Try and avoid crowds in the Boxing Day sales.” That makes sense, in the same way as if you said: “You are allowed to go swimming, but while you’re doing it, try not to get wet.”
Perhaps the reason for this is to pass the responsibility onto us. Matt Hancock said: “It’s up to each of us to collectively do our bit.”
This is fine, but it’s harder to do your bit when you’ve no idea what you’re supposed to do, as the instructions are so hopeless. This is why, if you go to bomb disposal school, I don’t suppose the instructor says: “The thing with a bomb is there are wires poking all over the place. Some of them are fine and some blow the street up, so be careful. You just prod about with whichever one you fancy, I’ve no idea which ones to leave alone and which ones to snip, so it’s up to you to do your bit with each bomb, and if you can, try and avoid taking it into a crowded Boxing Day sale.”
Boris Johnson’s other instruction has been to make Christmas “shorter and smaller”. So does Christmas Day end at half past six? Do the crackers have to be half an inch long? Will the Queen just say: “Hello. What a shitty year” for her speech?
He might as well have said: “This year, make Christmas more triangular than normal, and less prosaic, with a hint of irony.”
This is the decisive voice of authority he admires so much in Winston Churchill. It’s as if he’s copying his hero’s famous speech: “We face a brutal enemy, so I demand of all of you, make things a bit shorter and smaller, Hitler won’t like that.”
But at least he’s been impressively consistent with his incoherent, indecisive hopelessness. The instruction about masks was to wear one if you fancy but not if you can’t be bothered. The instruction for whether to shake hands with people who are infected was: “You might as well, I don’t have a clue.”
When he was ill with it himself, maybe the medical staff were like that, and said: “You can wear a respirator if you want, some people think you need air to live but it’s up to you, really.”
But at least Covid has brought some cheer at last. Because Priti Patel announced she won’t be visiting her parents this Christmas. They must be bloody delighted.