Is it me, or is Boris actually doing a pretty good job?
- Credit: PA
Liz Nice has never been Boris Johnson’s biggest fan. But, over coronavirus, she sees signs that, this time, he might just be on the right track...
It is amazing what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.
In just a week, we have closed all our bars and restaurants, taken our children out of school, nationalised our railways and, well, changed our day to day lives completely.
Somewhat sobering to anyone who has sat on their hands for years over unhappy marriages, soul-sapping jobs, or other unsatisfactory elements of their lives and thought to themselves, ‘oh well, there’s nothing to be done about that.’
Now we work from home, home school our children and spend all our free time with the people we love. Our pets are ecstatic and even my mother has learned to do a video call on whatsapp. Who knew it would only take a week to achieve all that?
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There are many elements of this experience which are alarming, of course.
I went for a brief walk on Saturday – keeping my distance from other humans obviously – and saw signs on pub doors which made my blood curdle. ‘Closed until further notice by order of the Government.’
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The dystopian novel is likely to go out of fashion, I thought to myself. Now that we are living it.
A brief trip to the supermarket, meanwhile, with their echoing shelves and empty carrier bags, made me lose a little faith.
My heart goes out too, to emergency workers, small businesses, teachers, in fact to all of us who can’t help but wonder what will be left at the end of all of this. How many will have died? How many jobs will still exist? What will happen to the generation who missed all their exams? Whether there will be anything or anyone left to come back to, in the end.
But right now, if we live in the here and now - and what choice do we have? - many people are coming into their own.
Boris Johnson, it seems to me, and somewhat to my surprise, is one.
An experience like this drills down into the very bones of you, and all that is left is who you really are.
Woe betide those who have no heart beneath.
But if you do have one, or indeed if you don’t, now is the moment when everyone will be able to see for sure.
Boris has been buffeted about for decades by things that once seemed to matter very much, but now don’t matter at all.
How he longed for power. Yet, who would wish the power he has on anyone now?
All he wanted was for people to listen.
Now, the whole country hangs on his every word and yet his face, every day, betrays his fear that in some way he may come up short.
But I like him better for that. Because, right now, the last thing we need is the arrogance and entitlement of old. His rueful look when asked by a BBC journalist if he had ever taken a five-year-old to a park and tried to get them to practise social distancing said it all. But he didn’t try to pretend that he had, as he once might have done. What he did do, however, was take the point on board and you could see his brain whirring away, listening.
When was the last time we really felt any of our politicians had the capacity to do that?
Boris, it seems to me, like his idol, Winston Churchill, has found his moment and heaven knows we need him to.
We need honesty and humility and someone doing their best to take heed of those who are crying out for help and leadership. And, it seems to me, he is on the right track so far.
Conservative and Labour are out the window; yesterday’s debris, meaning nothing.
Now that dyed in the wool Conservatives are talking about community, and everybody coming together, about resources needing to be shared fairly rather than grabbing what you can for yourself, socialists might allow themselves a muttered ‘I told you so’, but even that feels like bad form in these times.
We really are all in this together. Everyone is equal now. No one is better than anybody else because this virus could claim any one of us and, thus, unity is our only hope.
All the usual nonsense that flies around and stops us really achieving anything except a lot of hot air has been swept away and all that remains is a man who seems to be trying to do his very best to do the right thing, while, for the most part, the whole country behind him does the same.
The efforts of our NHS are herculean. We know this and no amount of thanks will ever be enough.
Our doctors and nurses want and need more protection, parents are panicking about what to do with their children and still keep the show on the road.
But right now, whenever people cry out, for the first time in as long as I can remember, there is evidence that people are listening, reacting, trying.
It very much went against the grain for Boris to do what he did last night - you could see that from the way he delivered his message.
But he did it, because he had listened to the people who made him see that we had no choice.
There will always be cries of ‘it’s not enough’. Many of these are justified and, each day, they must be heard.
But only the hardest of hearts can fail to respond to what seems to be a genuine effort to do the right thing by everybody.
And if our leaders got it wrong yesterday, because things are moving so quickly, they, and we, can take heart from the possibility that they can put it right today.
The current situation might not be perfect – it is a long way from perfect.
But if, within just a week, we can all change our own lives beyond all recognition, and somehow, still carry on, who knows where we will be by this time next week.
And, if that’s not a reason for hope, what is?