Do you remember Ye Olde Operation Moonshotte, an ancient promise by the elders of this government to test 10 million people a day? My apologies for the leading question. There are absent-minded goldfish who remember that figure, given it was announced by Boris Johnson’s government barely three seconds ago. The only representative of the animal, vegetable and possibly mineral kingdoms who doesn’t remember it is the prime minister himself, who on Wednesday told a committee asking him about it: “I don’t recognise the figure you have just given.” Like me, you probably feel grateful to be governed by a guy whose approach to unwanted questions is basically, “New phone, who dis?”
Like me, you will be reassured by Matt Hancock’s plan to throw another “protective ring” around care homes. What’s not to fear about a Matt Hancock ring, easily the most dangerous ring in history, including Sauron’s Ring of Power.
Like me, you are probably impressed that the government is ordering you to snitch on your neighbours for having seven people in their garden, while whichever Serco genius is running testing as a Dadaist performance piece about human futility gets to live in the witness protection programme. Shitness protection programme, whatever.
Speaking of which, like me, you probably feel relaxed to learn that Chris Grayling, who notably awarded a ferry contract to a firm with no ferries, is now to be paid £100,000 a year for seven hours work a week advising a ports company. When I read this story I imagined his aides pulling a hammer-wielding Grayling off the pulped corpse of Satire, going: “Jesus, Chris! Leave it – it’s already dead! We need to get out of here!”
Elsewhere, testing supremo Dido Harding has surfaced in parliament. It was starting to feel like we’d see Avatar II in theatres before we saw Dido front up to explain this mushrooming fiasco. Her last appearance before a select committee was as head of TalkTalk – after two teenage boys hacked the network, resulting in 157,000 people having their personal details stolen. When she was appointed to head up the test and trace programme, Hancock explained he “can’t think of anyone better than Dido”. Then take another five seconds, Matt. Off the top of my head I can come up with Baroness Gemma Collins of Towie, and Grandmaster Glitch from the Go Jetters.
Still, here she comes again – Dido Queen of Carnage, on hand to gloss the havoc. As she put it: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks.” But Dido: they literally were.
At least Harding is visible. Huge amounts of the malfunctioning system are now being run – badly – by unaccountable figures. Take firms like Deloitte, which ran logistics at the testing site at what we might call Chessington World of Misadventures. Hospitals felt forced to ask to take it over after the results of NHS staff were serially lost or misdirected. The pile of 2020 sentences I never expected to type is now Earth’s tallest structure, but let’s add another one: “NHS commandeers Vampire Ride from accountancy firm charged with controlling spread of deadly pandemic.” (Seriously, stick a fork in me. I’m done.)
While Harding was defending the barely functional testing system, Jacob Rees-Mogg was telling the Commons that “instead of this endless carping saying it’s difficult to get [tests], we should be celebrating this phenomenal success of the British nation”. To which the only possible reply is four-lettered.
His own ma and pa clearly hopelessly overindulged Jacob Rees-Mogg, but millions of other parents just will not feel minded to take it from this rejected Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character. If there were any justice, Jacob would have been stretched into a mile-long liquorice lace by vigilante Oompa-Loompas as they sang one of their trademark cautionary songs.
Instead, he is somehow leader of the House of Commons. There, he speaks of what ordinary people “should” be doing – with the air of a man who knows that if any of the Mogg progeny are sent home from school with a possible Covid symptom, it’s not going to be him taking time off work to homeschool them and wait for a test spot to open up in Manchester a week on Friday.
There is zero uncertainty about childcare and loss of earnings in the Rees-Mogg household, where even the adults still have nannies. (At the age of 51, Jacob retains the live-in childcare professional who was – formerly? – responsible for wiping his backside.)
Yet again, the overriding impression is of a government run by men for whom the domestic sphere is a mystery they have no wish to get to the bottom of. One of them driving hundreds of miles to Durham – just in case he got ill and still had to do his own childcare – sounds, to the other guys, like a totally reasonable thing to have done. Meanwhile the big boss fails to be meaningfully involved in the lives of between 17% and 29% of his children (awaiting full data). If you can be persuaded it’s normal to drive a 60-mile round trip with a child in the car to test your eyesight, then naturally you believe parents should think it fine to stick a five-year-old in their own vehicle and travel 400 miles to obtain what’s necessary to get the child back to school and them back to work.
Either way, of course a government run by weirdo elitists didn’t reflexively foresee that September – back to school, back to offices – was going to mean a huge surge in testing demand. This is the trouble when “hardworking families” is merely a demographic you wish to appeal to, as opposed to who you are. Real-life “hardworking families” could have told you in a heartbeat that September was the main event. THEY could have predicted it. Because unless someone else does it all for you, huge amounts of parenting are about thinking ahead, planning, creating yet another routine that keeps the whole precarious show on the road – the endless foresight of it all.
Only this week Dominic Cummings was pictured slouching through the Downing Street gates carrying some archive letter written by US general Bernard Shriever, pushing for continued investment in ballistic weapons technology. Cummings should hang around the school gates instead, where any amount of mothers who’ve seen all this shit before and didn’t have time for it back then would be able to enlighten him in the simplest possible terms. Namely: Hey squidbrain, I’ve got some “data” for you! Mind if I “special advise” you with it, only I don’t have a window to put it in a 20,000-word blog? OK, here goes: I don’t WANT you to build me a fricking missile defence shield, I don’t CARE about the Manhattan Project, I think all your reading recommendations REEK of the business section of the airport bookshop, and I’m NOT going to be accused of “carping” by guys who’d have a nervo if they had to change a nappy.
You know what I want? A SWAB WITHIN A THIRTY-MILE RADIUS, YESTERDAY. Now spad THAT, genius.
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Matt Hancock, could you honestly think of no one better to run test and trace? have 1425 words, post on www.theguardian.com at September 18, 2020. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.