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Reasoning with a pandemic, Boris Johnson’s soup of words and how to mend our shattered politics




I wouldn’t go so far as to say that by the time you read this most of you will be dead, but I’m really afraid of the severity of this pandemic. Not quite the Black Death, but maybe up there with a world war.

Part of the tragedy as well as the frustration of the past 18 months has been our leaders refusing to accept that a pandemic is random, relentless, and beyond reason. He is not afraid to learn that we have a vaccine because he has no ears or emotions. He won’t back down when enough of us say: We’ve had 18 months of masks, time to take them off and get on with our lives, because, like I said, he has no ears. and no access to a calendar.

It’s a pandemic, without thought, imagination, or a business studies degree. When the head of an airline says on TV, I really think we need to revive our vacation flights; people want to travel and why can’t we just know where and when we can go? the interviewer, instead of responding, Thanks for coming and giving us your perspective, should really sign off with, Because THERE IS A PANDEMIC! No one knows where it will go next. I got screwed this morning at my mom’s house, so I’m stuck doing this in my old room, but you think we should all go to Turkey! How did you solve this one? Did you ring the pandemic and ask? Or did you just leave a crappy message? And now the weather forecast with Louise Lear.

[See also:Why the UKs new Covid-19 strategy is uniquely dangerous]

Speech and disaster

As the pandemic spreads across the board, climate change is easing on the benches. Which maybe makes it a weird time to stop it all and ask yourself: what is the nature of political discourse, and have we been wrong? Weird or not, that’s precisely what I’m going to be doing in a special podcast series over the next four weeks. The episodes examine whether the way we do things politically is still suited to our goals and what might follow; but it was really the pandemic and the evolution of the eco-disaster that prompted the series. How did these terrible realities come about, and despite all the opportunities our mass interconnection offers, why have we not been able to come up with a common message in response?

Climate change seems more present with each flash flood, but meaningful action is delayed because Donald Trump and others have persuaded enough people that it doesn’t exist. Rather than being yelled at over facts, this minority has been offered enough bandwidth online, on screen and in the press to become a sizable electorate that some candidates must woo to win.

Meanwhile, in England at least, it wasn’t so much sleepwalking as it was screaming while fully awake in the Covid disaster due to the particular policy behind the government’s removal of the mandatory mask mandate. Boris Johnson’s decision appears to be based on keeping his own party’s backbench MPs and not needing Labor votes to maintain the masks. This is where we find ourselves in the worst crisis to hit the country since World War II: better to keep your own MPs happy than to heed medical advice. It is not so much data as it is dates, it is a holiday and not a pandemic. Why has it come to this, and can we do something about it?

[See also:Is Emmanuel Macrons coercive vaccination strategy an example for the rest of Europe?]

Diversion tactics

I spent some time figuring out what was the best alliterative expression to use out there. The party, not the pandemic, has taken on challenges from conservatives, not Covid and sides, not scientists. But then, I’m a writer by profession, so a lot of my day was spent worrying about words.

Johnson, however, is currently Prime Minister, which is why I would like to know how much time he spent finding this passage in a speech he gave in Coventry on July 15: There is one final ingredient, the factor most important in leveling, the yeast that lifts the whole mattress of dough, the magic sauce, the catch-up ketchup and that’s leadership.

Either it’s awesome or it’s crazy. Either leadership is yeast or it’s sauce, but how can it be both? And who puts ketchup on mattress paste? The line has many different visuals mashed into one; it’s a super dense sentence of words that collapse on themselves. The point is, however: why is Johnson spending time writing this? There is a pandemic! Get out and Prime Minister get the hell out of it.

Westminster reimagined

Which brings me back to a fractured politics. The podcasts I created with the New statesman the political team will consider that, while party leaders try to centralize control from their seat in Westminster, voters instead seek solutions to local, community and regional problems; that despite our interdependence, we have never been so averse to engaging with those whose views differ from our own; that although we may be removed from politics, we have never been more political on individual issues than on party messages.

I will bring together people from inside and outside politics, local and national, activists from Whitehall and activists outside, and ask if we can make connections. I’m going to sit Paul Mason and Anna Soubry down and ask them what they could agree on if they were to form a coalition government. I’ll talk to Ian Hislop about why very few ministers are resigning now, Louise Casey about how to pull the levers of power in Whitehall to tackle homelessness, and others about the demise of local government and the rise of the unelected councilor. Much to chew on, and hopefully in a civilized way; otherwise, all were doomed to failure.

Westminster Reimagined, a four-part weekly New Statesman podcast series, co-hosted by Armando Iannucci, begins July 26. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast, or




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