Guernsey Press

Why there’s no place like home

IT’S good to be back home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is 'blamed if he does and blamed if he doesn’t'. (28812126)

Those of you who are kind enough to spare a few minutes each month to read my utterances may have noticed that there was no offering in September. I felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to produce some commentary during the island’s general election; as a new boy on the block it just didn’t feel right.

So Pat and I took ourselves off to the mainland in September and sorted a few things out before coming back and ‘doing’ our fortnight’s quarantine. It passed very quickly. And a public thank you to our friend Peter, who won Deliveryman of the Year Award for keeping us well-provisioned.

It was quite sad to experience Covid-UK at first hand. The country is badly divided, geographically, sectorally and demographically.

The Labour Party has finally decided to politicise the disease. Calling for a 14-day national lockdown was out and out politics from Sir Keir Starmer; basically assuring the previously red now partly blue wall in the north that Labour would treat the whole country the same received its predictable support from Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester, when he said that to treat the entire land in the same way as his city was only ‘fair’. Why does everything in Labour-land have to be either forbidden or compulsory? What’s fair about busting businesses in areas with fewer coronavirus infections because students and certain communities in large cities won’t obey the rules? And what do you do, Sir Keir, after the fortnight’s exercise in economic suicide? Various elements resort to their previous ways and we’re right back where we started, with the reduced R-rate climbing again in a much more hobbled nation.

With all forms of the leisure and hospitality sector bearing the brunt of the new measures and with them being big employers of, especially young, people the demographic cause and effect analysis is stark. It is becoming clearer by the day that soon the country is just going to have to learn to live with this disease for a long time, with wearing masks and social distancing compulsory and the vulnerable taking additional precautions.

The young/old divide is fuelling increasing nastiness and diminishing tolerance and patience.

The private sector has shown remarkable innovation and steadfastness in ‘carrying on’; when a woman who owns a small business, working hard and risking everything every day, employing people, making a bit of money and paying tax, gets told by someone in the public sector whose job and prospects are safe that something which is urgently required is delayed ‘because of Covid’, don’t be surprised that resentment builds up.

The big northern cities feel more divided from London and the south than ever. Decisions taken 250 miles away are bringing financial and emotional distress to millions and no amount of ‘this is all done for your own good’ will stop people believing that HMG is to blame, the flames of such belief being fanned by those paragons of unbiased broadcasting virtue, Mesdames Beth Rigby, Emily Maitlis and Laura Kuenssberg; indeed, I would not be surprised if any of them announces tomorrow that it’s about to rain and Boris is to blame.

By any measure, the last six months have not been the government’s nor those who serve them’s finest hour (with the fantastic exception of the frontline medical staff at the NHS) but the Prime Minister is, in most things right now, ‘blamed if he does and blamed if he doesn’t’. This has not escaped the notice of the incumbent in Edinburgh, who sticks the knife in whenever and however she can. She has exploited the crisis to push the cause for independence left, right and centre. Yet the stats show she has been just as incompetent or successful as the resident of Number 10. Independence, Nicola? Scotland has desperately needed the cash and financial clout of England to get through this and that will not be forgotten. You’re basing your independence plans on the North Sea black stuff paying for your socialist dreams, just at the time when the world is turning its back on its use. So you would advocate turning your back on a willingly given UK pound to accept Euroloans from the EU and become just an insignificant rounding error in Berlin? And, given you’ve offered them all Scottish passports, why shouldn’t Scots living elsewhere in the UK be given a vote on all this? Because that way, as Ms Sturgeon knows full well, lies the end of the dream and a resounding ‘no’ to independence.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that our visit to the mainland revealed a country full of division and increasing resentment, to cap it all whilst in quarantine I read that, in the current atmosphere, the National Maritime Museum is going to re-examine the role, positioning and standing of Nelson, the hero whose decisive and monumental victory at Trafalgar ensured that the Royal Navy ruled the world’s waves for 100 years and was therefore able, at the cost of some 1,500 lives in the Atlantic alone, to enforce the abolition of the transportation of slaves (saving about 150,000 black lives) and then slavery itself when Britain became the first nation to abolish that disgusting business. Our history belongs to all of us; it is not something that can be cancelled or ‘unwished’, shifted and altered on the whipped-up, social media-fuelled insistence of a minority, cancelling out our heritage to enable the resultant vacuum to be filled with the ideals of a politically-motivated creed that in many ways have little to do with making sure that, right now, black lives do indeed matter (along with every other life, regardless of age, occupation, location, the colour of skin or God that is worshipped) as we all look forward to the future with an anxiety unheard of just nine months ago.

And so we have come home to this welcoming island, feeling safe and secure and appreciating values that seem to have been forgotten just 100 miles away yet are second-nature here.

As I reflect on the successful exercise in democracy that has just been completed, as I wish our 38 new deputies the very best of luck as they lead us forward, as we thank the outgoing chief minister for some great leadership in a time of venturing into the unknown, as we wish his successor all good fortune as he rises to meet the challenges ahead, as we encourage the Director of Public Health to continue such brilliant work (congratulations on the MBE; it wasn’t enough to reflect the gratitude we all feel to you and your team) and as we all look forward to a strong, safe and successful Guernsey, I leave you with the thought that, despite the problems and frustrations that beset us every day, despite some major issues that have to be dealt with, we should look across the water and realise, in a horribly imperfect world, just how lucky we are.