July 2020: shambles and zombies

Lockdown continued to dominate the news in the last month.

Poor old Australia seems not to have escaped Covid so lightly after all. Victoria, at the time of writing, is bearing the brunt of it. With a population of just over 6m, i.e. about the same as Scotland, they now have 11k cases, with 116 deaths to date. Their new daily cases figure of almost 400 amounts to, by my calculations, around 60 per million – which would put Victoria in the worst quartile in Europe.

New daily cases in Europe, Tue 28 July. Source: The Times

BoJo would like us to think of these increases as presaging the ‘second wave’. His government is now adjusting the settings almost daily, across several dimensions. One moment, in Oldham a lockdown is applied; the next moment, people across the North West can’t meet others indoors. One moment, masks are now (finally) compulsory in shops; the next moment masks are now required in all indoor public spaces. Meanwhile across the country nobody can now get married, whereas as of yesterday they could.

One government policy, one shop, one day – two ministers.

This leaves everybody having no idea any more.

BBC Radio 4 Today program, as transcribed by FT Alphaville
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June 2020: Disadvantage month

Well, it’s nice having some new news. I would struggle to mention any big stories over the last six months except Brexit and Covid-19. But June has been ‘disadvantaged minorities’ month.

The month began with the awful George Floyd story ricocheting around the world.

Thousands around the world protest against George Floyd's death in ...
Protests over George Floyd’s death spread to Europe (Source: CNN)

My first reaction was to think of this as a very American thing; my conclusion from reading Robert Caro’s masterful biography of LBJ was that America not having apartheid to the present day was a close run thing. And the American policing system is in a western world of its own, helped by those archaic constitutional clauses about the rights to form militia / bear arms / etc. Closer to home, I didn’t approve of the ‘anti statue’ brigade, siding with those who see it as rewriting history.

Edward Colston statue pulled down in Bristol, England during ...

A month later, and my thinking has changed significantly. I’ve woken up to some of the ongoing issues that are easy to ignore in the daily grind. I’m slightly more aware of the UK’s own role in the shameful American legacy (whose colonies were they, after all, when slavery was legalised in 1640?). I now concede that statues are as much style/decoration as they are historical record, and that a town square’s/Oxford college quad’s choice of statue can be seen as a contemporary aethestic choice. I don’t want to see statues destroyed, but I do accept that some might be better moved to a museum rather than left in pride of place.

Is Oriel College, Oxford, right to remove the statue of Cecil ...
Oriel College, Oxford
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May 2020: A sunny month

Well, May 2020 was the month that highlighted, as the Economist put it, Boris’ short-Cummings. Remember much else happening that month?

In May the UK started unlocking, slowly. The government(s) has(ve) been slowly releasing the strait jacket to fit what people (in London at least) have been doing anyway for a week or two. I’ve stayed healthy, and my boundaries have enlarged slightly – by which I mean I had my first Zoom party, and there are slightly more restaurants available on Deliveroo.

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