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  • Lawrence Bailey

It’s business as unusual

We’re all going to remember 2020 for a very long time and I’m betting one of our abiding memories will be that it’s been a period of contradictions.

We have health experts who warn that coronavirus is not going to be over by Christmas. Yet we have a UK government keen to open up the economy while at the same time chucking councils a hospital-pass by making them responsible for local lockdowns should the need arise.

It’s against this confused backdrop that efforts to regain normality continue. Not that matters are helped by a stream of media stories where you get the impression that some are on the lookout for novelty rather than actual news.

We read that a relaxation of travel restrictions has allowed visits to favourite haunts. Unfortunately, it seems that littering and inconsiderate parking has managed to ruin the natural scenery we’re all eager to enjoy.

The fledgling return of foreign travel is patchy, according to reports. Despite the opening of an air bridge its seems that hoteliers and restaurateurs in parts of Spain have been markedly unsuccessful in enticing Brits with menus boasting full English, curry or fish and chips.

An added complication we learn is that a shortage of staff in passport offices means a 400,000 backlog in applications.

On the other hand, Britain's shoppers have spent millions more on tea, coffee and biscuits, thanks to the trend of home-working. Data from the supermarket industry shows £24m more going on tea and coffee and a £19m increase on biscuits compared with this time last year.

Domestically, politics continues to be an exercise in the absurd. By which I mean that more effort is aimed at re-writing the past than reclaiming the future.

On Monday, England's chief nursing officer confirmed she was "dropped" from one of Downing Street's daily coronavirus briefings. It’s claimed it’s because she refused to back Dominic Cummings's controversial lockdown trip.

However Ruth May told the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee she had no idea why was she axed from the line-up.

Elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, a much-awaited report by the Intelligence and Security Committee concluded that “the UK government took its 'eye off the ball' over a succession of interference threats by Russia.

The government predictably ruled out an investigation along with any attempt to address why security services didn't do more to defend the UK's democratic processes.

A bit later, the prime minister stated a new law to create a "register of foreign agents" was planned. This prompted one parliamentary observer to comment that the most remarkable thing about the announcement was that Johnson made it with a straight face.

Whether it’s being told by America to abandon Chinese 5G contracts or experiencing state-sanctioned murder in Salisbury. Or whether it’s justice denied for Harry Dunn, it looks like Britain’s future largely involves sustained indifference and interference at the hands of foreign governments.

Pandemics aside, we can expect increasingly reduced international influence of our own and just at time when the country needs real allies, we will play our Brexit card.

Normality has never looked so uncertain.


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