Are you a Clap for Carers hypocrite?

Steve questions how you can clap for the NHS if you voted Conservative Picture: Getty Images/iStock

Steve questions how you can clap for the NHS if you voted Conservative Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How many people clapping at their doors and windows on Thursday nights voted in the Tories?

This is an island nation, with a population blessed with the belligerence borne of isolation and a sense of uniqueness.

Brits don’t like being told what to do. In fact, history shows that they revel in doing the opposite.

Lockdown is the kind of concept that is tailor made for a hardcore Communist regime: Albania or Romania circa 1970. Somewhere that people are programmed to do exactly as they are told - unless they want to disappear or be ‘re-educated’.

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It is not designed for the UK.

And yet, during our daily exercise, what do we see? Obedience, discipline, and a collective falling into line.

People are - by and large - staying at home, exercising once a day, being scrupulous with spacing in the supermarket, and generally being teacher’s pets.

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I did not see that coming. I thought lockdown would be a shambles, with an antagonistic split between those who obeyed the rules, and a large number of rebels disobeying for the hell of it.

I could see there being fights in supermarkets as the non-conformists ignored social distancing and loomed into the personal space of a shopper in order to grab the last tin of chopped tomatoes.

Yes, there have been some pea-brains who have gone rogue, including some who have had “words of advice” from police officers (in case you think “words of advice” is a euphemism for “bundled into a police van, battered with a truncheon, and dumped in a skip”, it’s not, it means words of advice. Modern life can be dull).

Most, though, have responded superbly. And I’m not convinced that has been properly acknowledged.

While the NHS and other key workers have rightly been shown our deep appreciation for their perilous efforts on the front line, what about everybody else?

Behind the togetherness and obedience are millions of stories of lives disrupted or disintegrating: workers furloughed, people laid off, shops closing, businesses on the brink.

Everybody has been adversely affected by coronavirus, but there is little or no appreciation of the sacrifices they are making to preserve lives.

Not everyone is a key worker, but everyone plays a key role. If we didn’t obey the rules, the key workers would be overwhelmed. This is a collective effort.

And yet, while I would like to applaud everybody, we have to stay narrow.

There is a tide of moral pressure to live our lives in the light of the key workers. Praise should never be far from our lips, and adoration always in our hearts.

Clap for Carers began as a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude: it wasn’t designed to be a weekly diary date that, if you miss it, you risk being judged.

I’ve always had enormous admiration for those working in the NHS. I have literally owed my life to them three times, and believe the institution is precious.

So how many of you who are out clapping on a Thursday, or encouraging your children to do “thank you NHS key workers” signs for your windows, voted Conservative?

If you did, you voted for the gradual dismantling and privatisation of the NHS, by a party with disdain for the nurses and other workers. Now, suddenly, it is fashionable to love the NHS, you hypocrites.

The test of our love for the NHS will be whether it continues when coronavirus subsides.

Nurses, GPs, surgeons, orderlies, mental health carers and so many other workers will still be dealing with crises, pain, sadness, death and drama every day - albeit on a smaller scale.

Many will be doing it for a relative pittance, thanks to successive governments that have disregarded and undervalued them.

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If you’re one of the hypocrites, make a resolution to turn your applause from an empty gesture to a lifelong commitment to supporting the NHS.

Everyone else, when you applaud, give yourself a clap, too.

You deserve it, for being one of the unsung heroes of this life-and-death struggle.