I write this while I self isolate, the best chance I have to survive the Coronovirus Pandemic.
There must be something very badly wrong with the way the UK manages its affairs when it leaves the front line doctors and nurses of its flagship NHS so vulnerable and unprotected from the Coronovirus Pandemic when the NHS has an annual spend of over £100bn and was, more than once, forewarned that at some time or other a life threatening new virus might invade our population bringing widespread havoc in its wake. And this the second cataclysmic event since the turn of the 21st Century, the first being the banking meltdown in 2008.
I have taken this snapshot of the UK in the years leading up to the Coronovirus pandemic in 2020. Recently these years were dominated by the austerity that the Government felt obliged to adopt following the cataclysmic collapse of the World’s banking in the financial crisis in 2008; the greed of bankers compounding the aspiration of millions to own homes that they could not afford and those who traded politically on that aspiration. After that the internecine fighting to determine whether the UK should quit the EC. While this book doesn’t relate to any of those things, it may help to give an enquiring mind some answers to the question Why? Why repeated cock-ups Why do people ask for trouble? And why do they find it? Why with Coronovirus were they not prepared for it? Why was the pain and suffering not ameliorated?
I myself am one of the fortunate ones. Octogenarian, I have had my life. At times a roller-coaster, but personal challenges along the way substantially met, enriching friendships still ongoing, music, art, travel, leisure groups, the countryside, and a truly beautiful marriage with my wife Ros underpinning it.The high water marks, SCS now a plc, Philip Cussins House, and the Rotary Club of Sunderland that introduced me to the late Fredwyn Haynes, the inspired head teacher of Barbara Priestman School. That, totally unplanned, changed my life in my retirement and gave it its focus .And the wonderful thing is about of all of this is that all that I have just mentioned brought beautiful people into my life, and many of these relationships continue to this day.
As a young boy I avoided the worst of World War II though witnessing it from my air-raid shelter in Sunderland. The Holocaust, while it happened, mercifully for me, a young Jew, out of sight and out of mind. Serious health issues that in earlier times would have taken my life resolved by our NHS and the medical profession. Overall, very much to be grateful for.
My writing here does not reflect any of that. I started my life – in my early days I used to say it was half a lifetime – as a Liberal. I still am, though without any party-political affiliation for many years. Donald Summerfield, later the Manchester’s Coroner, when I knew him in Chambers in Bow Lane Manchester, himself a Liberal, perceptively said that I was safe with my Liberal belief, grounded in conviction not idealism. The conviction a simple one. Every life has a value. Not equal. Significant, and worthy of respect. But respect only when mutual.
Here, in this book, life has been a disappointment. And I write about the disappointment I did not expect. My story has many heroes, but no villains, only casualties of a system that is short-termist, encourages conformity, favours its selfish self, and loves to play charades. It loves to pretend it is better than it is, and then must pay the price for its self-indulgence.
I hope that by the time the Coronovirus is over everyone will appreciate that the State has a key role in people’s lives having rescued most from the economic ravages wrought upon them by the virus. I also hope that they will also appreciate the contribution that the private sector driven by the profit motive has made to providing the food, sustenance and medical provisioning everyone needed.
Their profound gratitude to all those employed in our NHS, doctors, nurses right through to porters and cleaners still has to be tempered by an understanding that in an annual NHS spend of over £100bn some people somewhere got their priorities badly wrong, illustrating my core belief that we do not factor human fallibility into the decision making process and should allow for it. Time and again that happens. Each time a price to be paid for it, in this instance in human life and much else besides.
Two other things.
Having seen Governments printing money by the billion – £s, $s, €s – to bail out the banks in 2008 and to bail out the livelihoods of their citizens in 2020, it will be tempting to believe that the philosopher’s stone, the legendary substance turning base metals into gold, has finally been discovered. Governments can produce money out of thin air when they absolutely must, but the value of that currency to us when we borrow it is determined by others, the nation’s creditors. They will have no good reason that we should live well at their expense trying to repay our debts to them in Monopoly money.
There is no God given right to the quality of our lives however much politicians and lawyers might claim that there is, simply by passing a law. In the final analysis whatever rights and rewards we have must be earned in the marketplace of the world by our fellow citizens. And fair play, not equality, should then be the arbiter for their distribution.
Finally, in a world where mutual respect should be of the essence, those who wish their legitimate rights to be respected should themselves be respectful of the legitimate rights of others that may conflict with them. Equality has no relevance here. Their rights may well not be equal; on the other hand fair play can be the only way to provide a peaceful resolution. The Left does not always recognise this.
The moral of my story.