Ever heard of Annemarie Plas? I hadn’t until a week or so ago. She’s 36, comes from Amsterdam, lives in Brixton, teaches yoga and was the creator of Thursday’s ‘Clap for Carers’. This week will represent the tenth and, she believes, final Clap for Carers. “It has had its time,” she says. I agree.
I’ve found the whole thing rather moving. It was not a top-down initiative, it sprang and grew from the grassroots until millions of people joined in and the whole thing was shown live on the BBC. It has never been a compulsory event. To the best of my knowledge, those who choose to not take part for whatever reason, well it’s up to them. I’ve enjoyed the sight and sound of neighbours giving their thanks to those whose lives involve saving us and have in some tragic circumstances lost their own lives. A round of applause was the very least we could do.
Ms Plas continues: “Without getting too political, I share some of the opinions that some people have about it becoming politicised. I think the narrative is starting to change and I don’t want the clap to be negative.” She said this before last weekend’s revelations about the prime minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings flouting the rules that were imposed on everyone else and who was later praised by Boris Johnson for so doing. The narrative is definitely starting to change.
Boris Johnson’s initial decision to demand migrant NHS staff pay to use the NHS whilst helping to save lives was a straw that gave the camel backache. Cummings’ arrogant, dismissive attitude to the policy he literally helped create was, for many of us, the final straw that broke said camel’s back.
I’ve felt uneasy about clapping for some weeks now. The sight and sound of Conservative politicians, including Johnson, clapping and generally praising NHS staff were also the Conservatives who only three years ago cheered when they voted down a House of Commons vote to give nurses a pay rise. And the ten years of austerity, of cutting the NHS back to the bone, should not be forgotten.
More than anything, Clap for Carers has had its day. Ms Plas suggests that perhaps we could have an annual event where those of us who want to give thanks for the work carers do. More than that, I would add, we should concentrate on ensuring there are adequate numbers of nurses, that they have sufficient PPE and are rewarded financially for the special work they do. That’s NHS workers and all of those who work on the frontline of caring for people.
For one more week, let’s Clap for Carers so we can remember it for what it has been, a joyous celebration of carers. For this Thursday, politics can wait.