Daily Archives: April 11, 2020

Et resurrexit quarto die

And on the fourth day, our Prime Minister rose from the deadintensive care.  How very seasonal that it should be Good Friday.

He’s a similar age to me.  He also looks, insofar as I can tell, physically similar to me.  Not in the sense that I could pass myself off as him even if I tried, rather that I’d imagine him a likely match for me medically speaking.  So insofar as any individual case is meaningful, his severe reaction to covid is not reassuring: I should be personally worried.  Unless of course my lurgy last month was indeed a mild case of it.

Blighty is now in lockdown to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.  Happily this is not such severe lockdown as many countries, but in terms of numbers of cases and the death rate, we’re now starting to pay the price of delaying lockdown.  We deliberately waited until the horse had bolted before closing that stable door.

That opens the floodgates to speculating on the counterfactual: where would we be if we’d locked down earlier?  A few days earlier, substantially fewer cases.  Weeks earlier, maybe we’d still be clear of it in the general population (c.f. rabies, before that had a vaccine).  Or managing it as in Korea with extensive tracing to avoid spread without a more general lockdown.

Except, we have to consider not just infection dynamics, but also public reaction.  I think they call it “nudge”.  If government had locked us down much earlier, there would have been a lot more resentment and resistance.  Perhaps they deliberately dragged their feet even after deciding to lockdown, because they wanted public opinion to be ahead of them.  With a buildup of why the **** aren’t they and a reaction of not before time they’ve got a willing population and a high level of compliance.

Except perhaps amongst the young, for whom the personal threat is low but the expected sacrifice is high, and who have already been sold a narrative of generational unfairness.  Combine that with the long-term damage of brexit, and today’s levels of support for older people will surely come under growing pressure.

And except perhaps for everyone, if the lockdown proves worse than useless in the longer term – perhaps because return to normality proves impossible without the Herd Immunity of most of the population catching it.  But if that happens we’re in good company, with much of the world likely to be in similar trouble.

What they’ve done to the economy is of course a whole nother story.  Free no-strings-attached handouts to so many together with closing down so much of the economy was bound to lead to the great fire of Ankh-Morpork[1] (and of course, like any welfare handout, it’s a cruel lottery).  A useful scapegoat for exiting the fairytale bubble.

One thing that still isn’t clear is the role of Stuttley’s Diabolical Bargain.  I was wrong when I first wrote about it, and again when I thought May’s appointing him Foreign Secretary would spare us him as PM by exposing him to everyone as bully and coward.  Now coronavirus has given him his dream Boys Own crisis, only to go off-script by denying him the regular hero’s role of casually brushing off the danger while others succumb[2]   On the other hand, maybe that’s another twist that’ll spare him some serious blame.  Diabolus movet arcano modo.

[1] A naïve foreigner sells insurance to a businessman, who naturally then makes a very thorough job of burning down his premises to collect his free money.

[2] His course through the lurgy should’ve been swapped with health secretary Hancock – diagnosed with covid at the same time as Stuttley but made a quick recovery.   Talking of which, am I the only one who can’t hear the health secretary’s name without my thoughts turning to his namesake Tony Hancock, the comedian whose persona was Village Idiot of Suburbia?