The British public are being held in contempt by those who deign to rule us. Dominic Cummings and his employee, Boris Johnson, have already been held in contempt once by the British courts, when they prorogued government, but the last couple of weeks, the absolute disregard shown to the ‘plebs’ who actually keep the country ticking over has never been quite so clear. They are literally laughing at us, secure in the knowledge that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act keeps them in power for years and years to come.
Last week, on Sky News, Matt Hancock literally laughed hysterically at Kay Burley when she questioned him on the new Track and Trace system. Grinning maniacally, he continued to laugh and laugh at what he presumably felt was a form of hypocrisy because he “usually” gets criticised for being too late with something. Yet it’s clear that the Track and Trace system, lauded as “world-beating” by PM Boris Johnson is just not ready – the app is delayed and the morning of the launch, reports came in that the new workforce of contact tracers had notice at 10:30pm the night before that they’d be starting the next morning. One caller to LBC said he’d been due to start his shift at 8am, as per the previous night’s late email telling him so, but could not log in. A “Critical Incident” was later declared.
Our elected representatives have been abusing the British Public from the very start of the Coronavirus pandemic – one of my very first articles on Covid-19 laid bare the disparities between various countries as they all succumbed to infections. Now that we have MPs denying reality and making up rules for SpAds as they go along, it’s become crystal clear that we are being gaslit and they’re still getting away with it.
What is gaslighting?
Named for the play that the abuse technique was first featured in, gaslighting comes in many forms. The ‘gaslighter’ is the one with all the power in a relationship. You’re being gaslight by someone when they cause you to question the very reality in which you exist. In the 1938 play, by Patrick Hamilton, husband Gregory manipulates his abused wife Paula into believing that the flickering of the gaslights in their home (which Patrick purposely causes) is not happening. He directly feeds her information on various scenarios at odds with the truth, undermining her faith in herself and everything she knows.
How many ways? Let me count them
In preparing for this article, the sheer amount of examples that cropped up (thank you to all who contributed to my crowd-sourced list) was simply overwhelming. I have attempted to put them in rough date order of when they occurred, by topic, and provided sources for the information where possible.
All those times we’ve been gaslit and abused by HM British government…
The PPE scandal
When we were encouraged by MPs to ‘Clap for our Carers’ while they were being sent to the ‘front line’ without proper protection. This of course is still very much happening – it just includes far more people and far more occupations (see later examples on teachers).
When they downgraded Coronavirus as a “High Consequence Infectious Disease’ allegedly so that they weren’t required to provide as high a level of PPE as we needed (see Panorama, Has the Government Failed the NHS?, BBC). When the government counted each glove in a pair as 1 of 2 items as well as cleaning materials as PPE items (also Panorama).
When Matt Hancock accused healthcare professionals of “overusing” items of personal protective equipment and refused to apologise to the son of dead GP, Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, (who had previously warned about PPE shortages), live on LBC.
When Matt Hancock repeatedly refused to accept mistakes had ever been made in the availability of PPE.
The Dominic Cummings affair
Without rehashing the situation in full, for anyone who truly has been living under a rock, the Dominic Cummings debacle continues to rage on – back as lockdown was being imposed and Boris Johnson was also unwell, special advisor Dominic Cummings was also likely infected. He was called by his wife, Mary, who feared she may be unable to care for their young son, who is 4. Cummings rushed home, only to later return to work the same day, contravening isolation advice. The next day they rushed to Durham, more than 260 miles away, apparently “seeking childcare” despite having family in London and no doubt all the luxuries afforded to Number 10’s most senior acolyte. A second journey, which has been widely debated, to Barnard Castle, was confirmed by Durham Police to have been a breach of lockdown rules. Derided by anyone with any of that good old British “common sense|”, Cummings’ reasoning of a drive to ‘test his eye sight’ is quite ludicrous – even more so when you consider that both his wife and beloved son were in the car for this dangerous mission. More accusations regarding the movements of Cummings on that day have surfaced over the weekend.
More gaslighting of the public ensued, with ministers straining to justify his movements, insinuating that anyone who followed the guidelines as stringently as most of have done just didn’t love their children enough. The chant of “it’s what any father would have done” insulted countless parents and denied their “instincts” to protect their own children. Parallels with those who have been prevented from visiting dying relatives, attend funerals (in particular the funeral of 13 year old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab) or support children through painful and arduous treatment were quickly drawn and MPs have collectively received literally hundreds of thousands of emails from distraught and incensed constituents.
Michael Gove really didn’t help matters as his favouritism of Cummings (who was previously Gove’s aide) was laid bare by Nick Ferrari on LBC. Gove couldn’t even finish his sentence as he must have realised his complete idiocy, stating he too had been known to test his eyesight by taking to the road with a lethal weapon. He sealed his fate by admitting he wasn’t known for his expertise behind the wheel. No wonder, Michael.
Grant Shapps came similarly unstuck a few days before, desperate to discuss the A66 with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, which was the topic of his original booking on the show.
Changing from ‘stay at home’ to ‘stay alert’ was the topic of much mirth as well as fury a couple of weeks ago (it feels like forever, doesn’t it?) as MPs did the rounds on breakfast TV and radio.
It became obvious that the new guidelines were just so crystal clear, that even the government didn’t understand them. Dominic Raab was roasted by Piers Morgan on GMTV – Morgan called the new stay alert advice a “shambles” after Raab got it wrong live on his show, saying you could meet two members of your family.
Phillip Schofield didn’t pull any punches either when he confronted Matt Hancock on his show This Morning. Calling the advice “utterly bonkers”, he couldn’t work out why it was permitted to see both of your parents on the same day, staying 2m apart, but not together.
The stay alert rules meant that you could employ people in your home as a cleaner or nanny, let someone come and view your house for sale and sit 2m away from strangers from a different household while you had a picnic or sunbathed, but not see anyone you actually know and love – in numbers greater than one.
Beaches were subsequently packed with thousands of people and this weekend the coast guard have been called out four or five times to people being reckless with their lives by jumping wildly into the unknown of a low tide beneath Lulworth’s Durdle Door.
Recklessness with lives seems the fashion these days though, just use your common sense and instinct?
Tracking and tracing
As already mentioned, Matt Hancock’s laughing face really sums up the nature of the laughable track and track system, which seems to be changing brand constantly. It’s now Test and Trace after briefly being “Track, Trace and Isolate”.
digitalhealth.net declared on 19 May, “The government cannot rely on the use of a contact-tracing app to ease social distancing measures and minimise the risk of a second peak, a government committee has found.”
This was the crux of the hilarity for Hancock, as Kay Burley pressed him on the fact that he’d said the system entirely relied on people downloading the app, having previously encouraged the population of the Isle of Wight to sign up to the digital mobile application. Hancock’s maniacal reply disgusted many. His arrogance and elitism dripping off him as he drew in close to the camera, and showed off his pearly whites, all the while braying like a donkey.
Today, 1 June, is the day that schools are due to welcome more children back to the premises – not ‘reopen’ as is the term many seem to favour. Schools may have been closed to most kids but were still open throughout the majority of the crisis to the children of keyworkers.
Teachers have been presented as both heroes and villains – how dare they fear for their safety when countless other key workers are putting their lives on the line? When the same government who have presided over the care home coronavirus death scandal are the same ones insisting they go back to work without adequate protection with the youngest children; those most unlikely to be able to maintain social distancing?
The Daily Mail continued the government line of demonising the profession, suggesting we “LET TEACHERS BE HEROES”, facing to comprehend that the use of hero is tantamount to admitting there’s an unacceptable amount of risk and inherent danger in returning to work as suggested.
The Department of Education apparently released changes to guidance about 41 times a week whilst expecting head teachers to suddenly magic up space enough to distance children who like to lick you for a laugh.
Jenny Harries, Deputy CMO, revealed her own lack of school friends as a lass, when she insisted she “I can almost guarantee that one child won’t want to eat the lunch of the one sitting hopefully two metres distance from them.” prompting every parent in the world to ask “have you ever met a child?”
Government ministers suddenly seemed concerned for ‘vulnerable children’, saying they needed to go back to school, ignoring the fact that vulnerable children were always permitted to attend, along with keyworkers’ children.
We also heard, before lockdown, that closing the schools didn’t make much difference to the reproduction rate of the virus, hence initial reticence to closing them, but SAGE now insist they don’t have enough evidence to allow them to reopen.
Now for the science bit
“We have made the right decisions at the right time” is the arrogant mantra, denying reality a way of life. “Following the science”, regardless of the fact that science can only guide policy, not make it reveals the careful construction of a scapegoat for the future enquiry. Never mind that scientists apparently urged lockdown a long time before it happened and that four members of SAGE have broken ranks and are now urging the government not to reopen schools, citing ‘substantial uncertainty’
Lockdown measures are easing today in England, allowing meetings in residential gardens with up to 6 people present, despite many scientists urging the government to stop the changes, citing the danger of lifting lockdown too early.
According to ITV News, “Sir Jeremy Farrar, Professor John Edmunds and Professor Peter Horby, all members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) […] said ministers were taking risks by allowing the gradual reopening of shops and schools and larger gatherings to meet in private.”
That’s not to mention the hypocrisy of stopping comparisons between different countries’ death rates as soon as we became the leader in deaths, forgetting to include the number of those who had been tested in the daily briefing for 4 days on the trot, insisting we’d met 100,000 daily tests by massaging the figures, insisting that they meant capacity rather than number of tests completed when we reached the ability to test 200,000 a day, double counting tests done on one person (nose swabs and throat swabs) and Johnson insisting that international observers were looking at our “great success” as we rose to the top of Europe’s total death charts.
MPs ‘return’ to work tomorrow
Perhaps the most egregious abuse and gaslighting of the public, however, is the attack on democracy that the “switching off” of digital participation for MPs will bring. MPs return to work tomorrow, 2 June, but social distancing is impossible with a full house. Many MPs will need to remain at home to work because they are shielding or very vulnerable and voting in the house is limited to just 50 MPs.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, recently notable by his absence since his gaslighting comments to Ferrari on LBC that those who perished in the Grenfell Fire only had their own lack of common sense to blame, has a plan. As Leader of the Commons, he’s clashed with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle about the plans.
Politics Home reports “Sir Lindsay has given Mr Rees-Mogg until Monday to come up with an alternative method of voting – having warned the traditional spectacle of all 650 members traipsing through the division lobbies will not cut it while strict Covid-19 social distancing rules are still in place.”
Given that four prominent members of the government’s fight against Coronavirus – Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings – have already been infected, I can’t fail to agree with Hoyle.
Tory MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, who has a disability, said Rees-Mogg was flicking “multiple v-signs” and making vulnerable MPs into “eunuchs”. Hardly any wonder given the Tory government’s record on looking after disabled people. Interesting given he himself has, according to the ‘They work for you’ government voting public record collation service, consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability. You reap what you sow, Robert.
Something to look forward to?
There are so very many more examples but an exhaustive list would no doubt make me into a screaming mess – even more so than I am currently stuck at home, at 6 months pregnant with two of our previous creations crawling the walls.
Staying home and staying safe as we are, I wouldn’t want anyone to be telling me to “watch my tone” like Matt Hancock did to Rosena Allen-Khan, an MP and A&E doctor from the BAME community.
Maybe she should have just laughed in his face at the mess he and the rest of the shower we call the government has made of this crisis.
But hey, at least Nando’s is opening, eh? The good news we have all been waiting for, according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak. A heat chart you can at least rely on.