Coronavirus–The big flaw in self-isolation policy

CoronavirusAll of us should by now aware of the Government’s sound advice for social distancing and voluntary self-isolation, particularly for the elderly who appear to be more vulnerable and susceptible to the possible fatal consequences  of exposure to the coronavirus.

At the moment the Government is advising the elderly to self-isolate for 12 weeks, but seem to be ignoring the realities of how this particular group of the population are going to feed themselves. I understand the Government is going to write to the most vulnerable 1.5 million people in our society asking them to self-isolate, but unless that advice contains practicable and realistic advice on how to feed themselves, then at some stage many self-isolators are going to be forced to ignore it.

Supermarket home deliveries seems to be the stock answer from those passing on advice to self-isolators, but the reality for many of this group is that home delivery services have  already effectively ceased.

I am possibly more acutely aware of this problem because I happen to fall within this group. Up until now I like many others, have never needed supermarket home delivery services, and thought I would register online with the three main supermarket chains that cover my area of the West Country. What I found due to supermarkets being inundated with people trying to register for home delivery services, is one supermarket chain has completely suspended registering any new applicants to their home delivery system. The other two have no delivery dates at all for at least three weeks and neither of them give any delivery dates beyond that point. One of the supermarket chains has no Click and Collect outlets in the West Country at all, and the only one that does, requires a considerably long drive to reach. Even then they cannot fulfil any orders for at least three weeks. It may well be other areas of the country find themselves in similar positions.

Some of the elderly have no internet access at all, and although volunteer groups are springing up all over the place, it is placing a great burden and reliance on them to do other peoples shopping for them.One should not forget that many of the war and post war Baby-Boomer generation do not always have family at hand to help them, and due to the self-reliance generation they grew up in, may even find it something of an embarrassment to ask someone else for help.

So far most people have sufficient food stocks at home to last them for several weeks, but as it starts to run out, will be when this easily foreseeable problem will spring into prominence. As their food stocks dwindle, many of the most vulnerable who have no way of replenish food supplies, will be forced to break their self-isolation, even if it were to be mandatory, and risk coronavirus exposure, as they are forced to hunt around shops and supermarkets for groceries and essential sanitary products.

I did write to one age related help organisation about this asking if they had any advice on this potential problem, but so far they have not replied.

Another problem this vulnerable group may have to face is increasing their virus exposure risk, hunting around different supermarkets in the hope of finding their requirements. I am aware that the supermarket chains say there is no supply problem, but I than have to ask why on a daily basis does one still see pictures of row upon row of empty shelves? Panic buyers who descended on supermarkets like a hoard of locusts were the initial problem, but if shelves are being restocked and the amounts than can be purchased controlled, it is not unreasonable to ask why are the shelves still empty?

I must admit it is difficult to judge if the same problem exists in more urban areas, but for many in rural areas it does.

It does seem that there are now a plethora of different policies being adopted by supermarkets, and I think the Government could eventually be forced to step in to ensure they are all singing from the same hymn sheet, particularly in ensuring deliveries to those self-isolating.

It would not be unreasonable for the Government to coordinate with all supermarket chains to;

  • Ensure home deliveries as a priority to vulnerable self-isolators and essential workers.
  • Ensure that all supermarkets impose safe and sane limits on purchases.

I would think the one thing the Government would not like to see, is people in self-isolation being forced to break their isolation in a attempt to stop themselves starving to death.

January 2020

Crystal Ball 02This New Years Day not only heralds the start of another year, but the start of a new decade as well. To myself the start on the new decade engenders a strange feeling, that the 20th century, momentous as it was, no longer seems as it was just around the corner, but has now firmly  become part of history.

  Predicting developments in the forthcoming year is not like trying to gaze into a crystal ball for answers as my article picture would suggest. It is more a case of keeping in touch with events, particularly the more recent ones, and then using common-sense nous, tempered by sensing the public mood on given issues to forecast how things are likely to pan-out.

There can be no doubt recent political events culminating in a General Election will continue to have a major impact in the forthcoming year.

It’s now three and a half years since the UK held the referendum, popularly known as the Brexit Referendum, to decide whether it should leave the EU or not. Our exit date supposedly being by the end of March 2019. During that time, the public mood became increasing frustrated by the political antics of MP’s opposed to the referendum result, irrespective of how their constituencies had voted, used their dominance with a minority government, to try and frustrate, delay, or even abolish Brexit altogether.

Leadership, Anti-Semitism and proposed fiscal issues also were causing Labour a lot of concern. It was only when a General Election was finally called with many anti-Brexit MP’s firmly convinced the public was completely behind them, that they finally awakened the real truth of public opinion, as the electorate swept them aside. In the end voters elected with an overwhelming majority, the only major political party to have put honouring the Brexit Referendum at the centre stage of their manifesto. Now it looks like the Conservative Party are firmly in control for the next five years, although it may be a little shorter than that depending on circumstances at the time, as most political parties are loathe to hold elections in the winter

Now the losing political parties will carry-out a lot of soul-searching as to why they lost, and some electing new leaders. But irrelevant of how many enquires they hold, the real question is whether they can accept what to many is the blindingly obvious reasons for their defeat, or for reasons of  political expediency become self-deniers?

In Labour’s case, I think there is a possibility of strong differences of opinion over future policy issues, which could lead to something of a internal struggle. There is a strong feeling running through the country that no political party really supports working people any longer, and the traditional support Labour relied on from working people is no longer there. Given this left in the wilderness feeling and general distrust of all political parties, many voters now vote tacitly in each election be it local or national, dependent on the issues at the time. One aspect many working people are also suspicious of is the rise of the professional politician. Labour is now at something of a crossroad and depending on the path they take, they can either eventually start travelling on the long road to recovery by rebuilding working peoples trust, or begin the long decline into insignificance. If they choose the latter, it is inevitable that another workers party will eventually emerge to take their place. Even the most wonderful of election manifestos is worthless if the party proposing it does not take power. The forthcoming year is likely to see the future fate of the Labour Party decided for a long time to come.

The SNP did extremely well in Scotland and once more cries for Scottish Independence have started to ring loud. However there are many Scots who will say although they voted for the SNP, that does not mean they would vote for Independence. Recent polls indicate only about 45% of the Scottish electorate support the idea. That is about the same amount as the Scottish Independence Referendum held five years ago and which was supposed to be a once in a lifetime vote. The new Conservative Government have already indicated the last referendum on independence should be honoured, which is the polite way of saying no. If as looks likely the UK does leave the EU at the end of January, and with the EU having previously indicated they would only accept Scotland as part of the UK, apart from the noisy sabre-rattling sounds of displeasure, it is not clear to me what real cards the SNP have left to play.

As for myself, I am English by birth but I have always considered myself to be British. Historically, the United Kingdom may well have been at one time three separate nations plus Northern Ireland, but to most people including myself, all of it has been my country throughout my lifetime, and I have never considered the Untied Kingdom as anything other than one country. There are many people, possibly the majority throughout the whole of the UK who feel the same. I am sure that any politician who tries destroying our country, the United Kingdom, for short term political gain, is likely to get short shrift from the public as a whole.

Even with the UK. leaving the EU, until the end of 2020 there should be little difference to individuals travel and holiday arrangements in the within EU. What happens beyond that will largely depend on how negotiations on trade and conditions with the EU develop.

One thing that clearly has to be resolved is the question of the Irish border. In the past year with a minority government, both the EU and the Irish Republic were able to take a tough stance on the issue, but now the political football field has radically changed, one would hope they will now adopt a more reasonable stance, particularly as a hard border will be very damaging to Ireland. In the world of politics, there is no such thing as the impossible. All is possible providing the will, and possibly the financial necessity is there.

The 1st February will be a historic day in itself as it will be the first time in 47 years since 1973,  that the UK once again becomes a truly sovereign nation, able to determine its own way in the world. That may be something of a strange feeling to those born after that date, but those old enough to have experienced it before, know how it feels to be able to stand on your own two feet. In some ways it is like the time in life, when a young person is considered to be legally mature enough to make their own decisions in life, independent of their parents.

This year will also see major decisions made on the High-Speed rail link to the north of England. During the past year there have been suggestions questioning it’s economic viability. I am certainly no economist although I have a gut feeling that a lot of money must have be unnecessarily wasted and escalating costs need to be firmly brought under control. It does seem to me though, a question of how can one expect the Northern Powerhouse to properly flourish, if it is not adequately connected by rail to the rest of the country? There are some projects that need to placed well beyond the dampening influence of bean-counters, and this is one of them.

What the political analysts missed.

Polling chartYesterday England went to the polls in local elections for it’s Metropolitan and District Councils. This did not include the counties of England often referred to as ‘The Shires’ as they are on a different electoral timetable.

Prior to the elections, one party in particular was boasting of the large landslide wins it expected to make and most of the media got caught up in a lot of this speculative hype. However irrelevant of what popular media might think, the electorate has its own unique  way of of determining what they want, not what the political parties of media think they should have.

Well the aspired to political landslide eventually turned out to no more than a few grains of sand rolling down the proverbial hillside. One political party was all but wiped out of local affairs and the seats they previously held fell reasonably evenly to the two main political parties dependent on a particular area. Overall the local political map was neither painted with large new areas or Blue, Red or Orange, but with few exceptions on either side, the political map remained more-or-less as it had been prior to the election.

Political analysts are busy beavering away with their charts, swingometers, statistics and graphs trying to make sense of what happened and what this means to the future fortunes f the political parties and their leaders.

One thing I find the political analysts tend to overlook is the mood of the electorate as a whole, which is more likely to make more sense of yesterdays voting trends than anything else. Something I have sensed for a long time is a complete lack of trust in any political party. Many voters now have a feeling they have been completely disenfranchised by parties that seem to have long ago forgotten who they represent other than themselves. If that is correct, then no political party can in future rely on any form of support from traditional supporters, as dependent on any given local area, the vast numbers of voters who feel they have become disenfranchised will no longer vote for a given party, but are more likely to vote for what it sees as the best of a bad bunch at the time.

All political parties are very inventive in their dialogue and the popular flavour of the month, particularly after an election, is talk of ‘re-engaging’ with the electorate. These are however just words, words the electorate are becoming weary of and it is likely that political futures will now be made or broken depending on which way the wind is blowing at the time. One thing the electorate do know is they voted by a majority for Brexit in a referendum, and all they have seen is politicians constantly trying to undermine the majority decision. It is unlikely a future wind will blow favourably on such politicians and more than likely our second chamber,  the unelected House of Lords will face calls for its abolition after they decided by a large majority to attempt to impose what is effectively a Brexit wrecking measure.

General Election Fever

Election BinWhether we like it or not, for the next month the media will be filled with General Election news from the hustings as to which political party has promised this or that, which ones have dropped a gaffe, (and there has been a few already), and their grandiose visions for the future of Britain.

It does seem to me that one thing that is certain, lessor political parties can promise the world knowing that as they unlikely to achieve sufficient votes to form a government, their promises will never come to anything.

Because the current snap General Election caught all political parties by surprise, most have feverishly been cobbling together their election manifestoes over the last two weeks and dependent on how active or moribund those parties are in your local area, those manifestoes will soon be dropping through our letter boxes. As can be see from my cover picture, I am well prepared for them.

Already on a number of occasions when asked in news interviews about salient political points, the response has been that it will be covered in the parties manifesto. That rather begs the questions why they do not know now and what have they been doing for the last couple of years if important issues are only now being rapidly discussed simply because a snap election is forthcoming?

The one thing I am always wary about any politician at election time is those that use the words ‘pledge, promise or commitment’. Such words are already being bandied about in terms of the ‘triple-lock’ on pensions and I cannot help but recall the Lib/Dems pledge on no increases in university tuition fees, which must be on record as one of the most short lived pledges ever. Tax the rich to pay for various election promises is another old idea also doing the rounds at the moment. However that always sounds like the accumulation of wealth is a crime to be heavily penalised apart from it being a disincentive for accumulating wealth in the first place. I always wonder when politicians decide to slice up the financial cake how they end up with more slices that actually exist than the totality of the cake itself. Well that’s politics for you.

Every political party will have the question of housing in their manifestoes usually in the form of promises of how many homes they will build if they come to power. All this always ignores the fact that housing is a issue that can never be solved as the population is growing faster than houses can be built. There is also a limit to how much land is available or desirable to build on in such a small island.

Brexit which is a relatively new thing in elections will form a large part of election speeches, ranging from those politicians determined the will of the people will be upheld, to those who will be trying to save the British public from themselves as they claim they did not know what they were voting for. Perhaps those same politicians will want a re-run of the General Election if they lose for the same reason.

There does come a point where many people will simply become desensitised to all the political rhetoric that is bound to come and will treat it like background traffic noise. That is to say it is something that is always there but nothing can really be done to stop it. However after a period of time, no one hears it anymore. For anyone suffering from insomnia, perhaps listening to politicians pledges, commitments and promises might be a good cure.

Snap General Election 2017

Teresa MayWell it would appear that the Prime Minister has well and truly set the cat amongst the pigeons with her decision to call a snap General Election over Brexit. It is a move that has sent something of a shockwave through all political parties.

I cannot help but think that this election which will be held on June 8th will not only decisively settle the issue of Brexit in Parliament but will also ultimately turn out to be something of a game-changer for the face of British politics for years to come.

With all political parties caught off guard, their leaders had little choice but to express their individual optimism of how well they all think this election will turn out for their own parties but I do suspect without the usual hype that normally proceeds known General Elections, there is something of a background panic at suddenly having to muster their unprepared troops for this unexpected contest for the future of the nation.

I can only make possible predictions based on my own personal reading and feelings of the state of play in British politics, and public opinion, but I have little doubt that after the votes are cast and counted Teresa May will be returned as Prime Minister with a vastly increased majority. If that eventually proves to be true, then it begs the question of which political parties will lose-out?

I have little doubt the majority of the loss will be felt by the Labour Party which seems to be in a constant state of disarray and turmoil between its grass-root members and current Members of Parliament. There was a good chance that some of these MP’s would have been deselected by their own parties in the normal course of events, but the calling of a snap election now means there is no time to go through the normal selection process and existing Labour MP’s will stand again as candidates. It is however well possible that in some constituencies, many local members may feel disinclined to campaign for them. Although the undisputed leader of the Labour Party, I have always felt that Jeremy Corbyn has lacked the dynamic charisma necessary to lead a party. Although well meaning in his views, most of them tend to boil down to a mixture of either tax the rich or introduce even more taxes to pay for his aspirations. For a already heavily taxed country, it is a message unlikely to be well received. If Labour do lose heavily then either Jeremy Corbyn will resign and opportunist MP’s, not to the liking of many  Labour members, who have been waiting in the wings will once again attempt to seize control  of the Labour Party. Either that or if Jeremy Corby stays,some of them might attempt to form their own political party.

Whatever way it plays out, there are just so many of Labour’s traditional electorate who feel Labour have long ago lost their way in recognising who it is supposed to represent, and why, that Labour is becoming almost meaningless in their traditional supporters eyes. One thing is for certain, a political party which is at war with itself does not win votes.

The Liberal Democratic Party will obviously pin its hopes on making something of a recovery, but I cannot help but feel that even if they do win a few more seats from their already decimated position, they are still destined for years in the wilderness. The public has long memories and former university students who are now married with families and mortgages, and with hefty debts accrued while at university as a direct result of their then leader reneging on his pledge not to introduce university fees. With that and their failure to accept the democratic majority vote in the Brexit referendum, they curry little favour in many of the publics eye.

For the Scottish National Party (SNP) who command a sizable position within Parliament, I think this election could well prove the beginning of their decline.I accept they are still likely to be the biggest winning party in Scotland after the election, but I also think it possible they may lose a number of seats. If the SNP do lose a few seats, it is likely to be as a result of their incessant demand for yet another Independence Referendum even though there was one such ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum only a few years ago. It does seem the majority of Scottish voters are not in favour of having another referendum forced on them and this is likely to cause some resent apart from that often felt towards most governing parties. Losing a few seats might not seem the end of the world but it would show the SNP’s position in Scotland is not impregnable and would be the start of the slippery slope to eventual defeat..

As for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), now that the vote for Brexit has been achieved, I am not sure they have too much of a future. Support for UKIP swelled enormously when there was a lot of pressure for a Brexit Referendum on which UKIP’s stance was clear. Now that has passed and with a Tory Party now implementing the same thing, apart from ensuring Brexit stays on course, many voters including myself do not understand what other policies they stand for. I am certain they do have policies but for some reason their message never seems to come across. UKIP did manage to succeed in getting one Member of Parliament elected but he has since defected. I think they are still likely to do reasonably well in this election particularly from disaffected Labour Voters but due to the current Parliamentary system, this is likely to result in few, if any seats in Parliament.

I would not be at all surprised if future historians will look back at this General Elections as being a defining moment and something of a sea-change for British politics.

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