If anything sums up Britain since 2016, it is the sight of the hapless transport secretary Grant Shapps on holiday in Spain, introducing a new quarantine system to deter people from travelling to Spain and then having to put himself into quarantine when he returns to the UK after cutting short said holiday. You really couldn’t make this stuff up. And it gets worse. Yesterday morning we hear the government is engaged in creating ‘air bridges’ between badly affected with COVID-19 Britain and not the not badly affected Balearic and Canary Islands but by the afternoon the very same government has now warned against ‘all but essential travel’ to the islands. A week getting shit-faced in Playa de las Americas probably won’t count as ‘essential travel’.
It is true that infection rates in some areas of Spain have spiked but in most areas it hasn’t. It’s also true that infection rates in the UK the week to week infection rate has increased by 10%. What happens if that figure increases dramatically in the next few days? Will we have to warn British holidaymakers to stay in Spain indefinitely because it’s far safer over there (which it probably is)?
I’m beginning to wonder if there is anything this wretched government can’t get wrong. Locking down far too late and sending vulnerable people to their death by sending them untested for COVID-19 to care homes? Giving up on testing just as the virus was rapidly spreading through the country? Not bringing in compulsory mask wearing until four months had elapsed since Boris Johnson said ‘You must stay at home.’ And when we should have been locking down, or at least controlling new arrivals to the UK, we allowed something like six million people to wander in unchecked. There were something like 2000 people who came here from Wuhan where the virus started its deadly journey. No doubt, some of them worked and shopped in the notorious wet markets, too. “Just come in,” said Johnson. “We’re taking back control in the UK now we’ve left the EU and we want to negotiate a fantastic world-beating trade deal with China. Just wash your hands and everything will be fine.” That went well.
At least this finally lays bare the myth that prime minister in all but name Dominic Cummings is not the genius some thought he was. We know that his major skill is getting to understand the mood of the electorate, via data gathering and focus groups and then creating catchy slogans to influence people. ‘Take back control’, ‘Get Brexit done’, ‘Levelling up’, ‘Build, build, build’ and so on. Whilst he hasn’t been any good with the coronavirus, somehow he has managed to keep the Tories well clear in the opinion polls, even though the popularity of his pet monkey Boris Johnson has been tanking. Cummings knows how to get people to vote for stuff, even when it is hugely damaging to the people who are voting for it.
Still, think of poor old Grant Shapps on his Spanish sun bed this morning, finding out minutes after his own arrival in Spain that he will have to come home early from his holiday due to an announcement by his own department. The good news for him, at least, is that he will continue to be able to draw his not inconsiderable ministerial salary when self-isolating for two weeks, unlike the lumpen proletariat who may, upon returning from Spain, be entitled to nothing at all. Not that the multimillionaire politician who once posed as a get rich quick expert under the pseudonym Michael Green needs any assistance putting bread on the table. What an absolute shambles.