Wednesday, 27 January 2021

In Memoriam: 1 in 100,000

My dear mother Gloria Jean Pinkney died of Covid pneumonia in Southend Hospital on New Year’s Day and her body was cremated this morning.  She was eight-seven years and four months old and, being down in Essex, it seems likely that she succumbed to the new UK variant of the virus, though I can’t be sure.  Blessedly, it was a very short illness, but it’s also an immensely painful loss because she was so close to vaccination, so near to getting through this crisis; she and I were discussing my post-lockdown Easter visit to Southend, and she was planning a trip down to the New Forest in May.

But our deep family grief is cast into another dimension by the fact that yesterday the UK reached the grim official milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths.   Personal grief is transmuted by statistics – above all that statistic - into analysis and politics: Mum’s cremation took place against a background of intense media discussion of why we have one of the worst Covid fatality rates in the world, possibly the very worst per capita.  For Labour, Jonathan Ashworth spoke of Boris Johnson’s ‘monumental mistakes’; the Independent assailed his ‘dither and delay’ throughout this crisis; health professionals on the radio gave stark accounts of existing health inequalities and long-term cuts to public provision which had left this country so badly equipped to face a pandemic.

Even now our borders are not adequately closed, something other countries did ten months ago.  We had an ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ policy which basically meant: Eat Out to get infected and spread infection.  Our test-and-trace programme was farmed out to a bunch of private-sector cowboys who pocketed huge public funds and delivered a shambles.  Over and over again, the interests of business have been prioritised over public health.  Capital has reigned supreme, and working-class people in frontline roles of all kinds have born the terrible brunt of the pandemic. 

I can’t quite say ‘Boris Johnson killed my mother’ because I suppose that Mum could in fact have improved her personal Covid security by a few notches, which might have made a key difference.  But we certainly can say that Johnson, the Tory government, UK capitalism in general left us disastrously exposed to potential medical danger and have proved serially incompetent to protect us from it once it arrivedMy Mum, in a sad irony, was herself a Tory voter, but if we are to have a truly worthwhile future on the other side of Covid, then Morrisian communism and utopianism will have to be at the very informing core of it.

 

2 comments:

Kotick said...

Tony, Good analysis here too, which adds more detail to your own anger: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/31/a-year-after-johnsons-swaggering-greenwich-speech-and-100000-dead

Tony Pinkney said...

Owen Jones gives a characteristically strong account of the Tories' UK Covid botch: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/24/uk-covid-government-held-to-account-freedom