Let me be very clear!

Too often politicians, of any political type, come to an interview with their usual hype and the phrase “Let me be very clear,” only to then confuse or speak vaguely!

I am not a politician. But I am political. I have a tendency to reflect, rather than hector. I usually persuade, rather than command. To some, on any thread, in any context of debate, particularly online and in writing, what they seem to want to some real degree is one sided, strong opinion to agree with or disagree with. Even if that is then what is presented, the same types, reacting, want it expressed with little subtlety, no humour or irony. Of a recent article of mine, one reaction was, “this has no clear message!” Thinking aloud is not meant to. It was what I was doing. It was the intention of that piece. It was thus, in cause and effect, clear.

Let me be very clear. Not reflective. Nor thinking aloud. I am angry. No. I am sad. I am angry and sad, not because I, my wife and others are having to stay at home as the full extent of our apparent sacrifice. I and many are angry that it was not possible for that to be voluntary because of people and their irresponsibility. I am sad because people are so into business, as usual, and yes I mean that in every sense, personal, and political, societal, and economic, that it was considered, so anathema to them, that it is no sacrifice to avoid pubs, clubs, bars, markets, when the only reason is to help others in doing it. And the government assured us there would be compensation.

Well, many of us have no sympathy with the naysayers, individuals or companies. Not with any of them. Those unknown or known to us as famous, or infamous. Tim Martin, who thinks his pubs essential, or Mike Ashley, who forces people to stack the shelves of his sports goods shops calling them key workers; shame he didn’t think them this when he treated them so disgracefully all the years prior to their new found apparent status! Construction companies not told strongly enough to do so are at least better than these two examples, in closing down non essential contracts.

Which bit of the sentence or three do people not get? Let me be very clear and repeat them. Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. We were asked to do this before. We are told to now. We must do this. But some are still fretting regarding the supposed loss of their civil liberty, in being told to sit and spend hours watching DVDs! Others are full of bleeding hearts for the young who cannot go to clubs. They think of that as a loss of liberty. Do they think of the young woman of twenty one has lost her life who due to Covid-19? It is the people who are treating these tragic victims who ask us to heed the call. It is the people who are treating this as not important who are the ones that do not want to heed it.

Then there are those, more constructive at least, who because of this loss of activity worry so about the effects on society and on the economy. Austerity was a choice. Bailout was too. As can be the new and exciting potential choices for changes to our society and economy, here, elsewhere, and our priority, for people, all people, especially the powerless or those who need empowering. This virus, and the effects that have gone viral, can spread a new message of new activity for humanity. We can and must remake societies and economies, with more important priorities.

Let me be very clear. I, we, all, who see that by staying as far from people as possible, to help as many people as possible, we are not making a sacrifice, and have lost very little of liberty. All that is loss is temporary. And all it is, is a loss of normality. Non conformists, having to conform, can take comfort in this. They, we, are being asked to conform to new apparent norms, very far from the norm!

So to those who cry at the loss of liberty, revel in your non conformity. Embrace this abnormality. But do as the real heroes, the medical practitioners, ask or tell, us, for the sake of us all and particularly the really vulnerable. Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

Was that clear enough?!

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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  • I too believe that the impact of this virus, when it is over, will be significant and long lasting. Hopefully undermining ‘greed is good’ and replacing this with a more compassionate society. Also, as is temporarily happening, lead to the permanent introduction of those measures required to seriously mitigate the climate emergency.

  • Thank you Lorenzo for another thoughtful and impassioned piece

    The message is loud and clear and.

    Together I am sure we can beat this and together I am sure when we come through the other side we will be able to learn some valuable lessons about society, community, environment, the importance of a proper funded first-class health system. a decent welfare state that offers real protection. An end to exploitive employers and zero-hours contracts, a fairer tax system.
    It seems as though 3/4 of the population have found a piece of inner-socialism and even the more prosperous have now realised the importance of having a proper fit for the purpose welfare state now they have come to realise that events beyond one’s control can see them thrown from prosperity to poverty at the drop of a hat. I don’t mean to sound crass but there has never been a better opportunity to argue for a Universal Basic Income.

    This Virus might have given us a good kicking, but together we can fight back and come through this and put the country on a much better footing that is more Liberal and inclusive for everyone.
    We must learn lessons from the past in order to move forward and create a better world for ourselves whilst at the same time being better more responsible custodians of the planet

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Mar '20 - 11:02pm

    Fine comments from you John and thanks, Matt for yours.

    We do need to do as advocated. Make things over create anew, a new and far better way.

    It is a moment for us to pause on the unbalanced towards balance. What else, is justice, personal or political, individual, and social?

  • I think when the crisis is over there will still be a Conservative government. There will also be lots of unemployment and lots of closed businesses. I certainly don’t think it will lead to a kinder more tolerant world because we’ve formalised the idea of distancing, suspicion and demanding something be done about public transgressions.

  • @Glenn

    Actually Glenn I do not expect the Conservatives to win the next election now. Before I thought that it was going to take 2 election cycles to remove Johnson beings he had such a large majority, however, I think this crisis will be his undoing, but not for the same reasons that you do I am sure.

    I think when this is all over there will be a lot of anger towards the Tories.
    (1) for the underfunding of the NHS and cuts in 2010-2018 which cut the NHS so it was unable to deal with a crisis
    (2) I think people will actually be angry that Johnson did not act sooner and say that evidence suggested what was happening in China and Italy showed that the UK was heading in the same direction as these countries and the government should have acted sooner with tighter controls to delay the spread to limit the death rate. and allow the NHS to prepare
    (3) The Tories are heavily dependant on the North and the working-class voter to get reelected, no doubt tories will do what tories do best and will try to shoulder most of the economic pain on the poorer member of societies, but nobody is in any doubt there is going to have to be a lot of tax rise and cuts to pay for the giveaways.
    (4) NHS staff and Key workers will be key to winning the next election also and they are furious and rightly so at the lack of protection they have been given.

    These are all things that will come back to haunt Johnson when the time is right along with a few more
    I do expect us to win the fight with this virus, and there will be economic pain for some time.
    But I don’t expect the tories to be in power much longer afterwards, Churchill the great war hero was not Pm much longer after the war.

    Not sure who will be leading labour by then, or we might end up with another Coalition Lib / Lab this time, who knows, but I don’t expect it to be Tory.
    Maybe we will see a more centre-left government, it is much harder now to totally dismiss socialist politics when we have just had the hardest dose in living history.

    Capitalism only allegedly works in a good time, but it always takes a massive amount of socialism to bail them out in the bad times

    Maybe that is why there is talk amongst some tories trying to get Labour to join in a national government so they get their hands dirtied in this so to speak.

    Change is coming, we just have to get through this crisis first together

  • Lorenzo I usually come on here and have a go…..I salute your words sir.

  • As far as my limited observations go the vast majority of the country are going along with the measures that the government are proposing. They are, as far as they can, keeping to the rules – but they are not helped by the mixed messages. They are not helped by the pretend plans of the government.
    The Chinese government acted swiftly in January and passed to the WHO the details of the virus. Why is there no plan in place?
    We are all under stress. We live in a rich country. There is an obvious need to protect the vulnerable. Especially as none of us know if we are one of the vulnerable. However the lesson we must learn is the need for having disaster plans in place.
    The world will be change. But we should not jump to the conclusion that this is because of a virus. The growth of China in particular is something which we tend to ignore. They have the resources to offer help to other countries, and the resources to buy up companies in other countries. In other words to do what America did in the recent past.

  • OK, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. I have laid off my staff but I am still walking to work on my own, having no interaction with anyone. I see 30 – 40 people on my 2 1/2 mile walk which includes part of the town centre. Everyone keeps there distance from everyone else. When I get to work I lock the doors behind me after I have wiped down the handles and other surfaces with industrial alcohol, and then I see no one all day. In the evening I walk home. By doing this I might just be able to save my business and keep five people employed in the longer term. I consider I am acting responsibly and that my greatest risk is when I go to the supermarket (as infrequently as possible) rather than when I am doing my small bit to keep the economy going. We need to be sensible about this and not get into the mentality that the police in some areas seem to be encouraging by setting up hotlines for people to report their neighbours for being outdoors, or using drones to shame lone walkers in the depths of the countryside.

  • Matt
    I was not talking about the next election which is almost five years away. If you look at the history of virus and infection they create fear. They do not create togetherness. Those people you see going to the supermarket in face masks and some cases latex gloves are not doing it to save the NHS or vulnerable people. They’re doing it because they think someone else might infect them. Telling people to stay indoors and only have close contact people they live with creates suspicion, not empathy. The nation is not sat at home stoically enduring this in spirit of camaraderie. People are there because they are forced to be there, bored, scared, irritable, worried about their future and livelihoods. Confining healthy people in this way will not turn out well. It is not just bad for the economy. Its bad psychologically, it’s bad for politics and it’s bad for the social life of the country. It’s also bad for people’s physical health.

  • John Marriott 27th Mar '20 - 8:27am

    Nigel Farage, Richard Tice, Aaron Banks, Andrew Bridgen, Mark Francois, Jacob Rees Mogg, Ian Duncan Smith, Patrick Jenkin, Bill Cash, Gisela Stuart, Kate Hoey, Nigel Lawson, Tim Martin, Matthew Elliott (add your own candidates, if you wish) – where are they when you need them?

  • A lot of sensible words written on the above posts and very heartening, thanks Lorenzo for another thought provoking article which I fully endorse

  • Dilettante Eye 27th Mar '20 - 10:38am

    John Marriott

    “where are they when you need them? “

    I’m not sure what you mean? Why do you need Brexiteers, when Brexit is on track to be completed satisfactorily, at the end of the year? The time for Brexiteers to re-group to continue the consolidation of a new politics for free UK citizens, is probably mid 2021. COVID 19 has thrown a lot of cards into the air, but for sure we haven’t taken back control from the EU, just to hand it to Boris. Boris is only safe until midnight on the 31st December 2020.

    I think some people still don’t fully understand the political phenomenon of Ukip, and then The Brexit Party, which were ‘campaign vehicles’ that steered populism to move establishment mountains.
    Reflect on the fact that the ‘will of the people’ successfully achieved Brexit against the ‘will of the establishment’, without bottoms on green benches.

    You don’t need bottoms on green benches to shift politics, when every populist vote is a proxy-pitchfork in the new revolution?

  • Very, very good luck @tonyhill.

    I like impassioned pieces, Lorenzo and thanks for an interesting article. But I think we need to be a little careful of tabloid villlains. Especially as the tabloids themselves are continuing to pump out *printed* newspapers. The risk per paper is very small but it is multiplied millions of times and with online versions, TV and radio they’re not essential.

    As to pubs etc. the advice from public health England was that they were safe up until it was decided that the coronavirus had spread so that they should shut. You can argue about PHE’s advice and timing but it is not irresponsible to follow it.

    I wouldn’t defend Mike Ashley but I hope that Lib Dems won’t too much fall for the line of evil capitalist villains. Some may be! And while we want them to be responsible and pay fair taxes and treat their employees well, we also I venture see the value of a capitalist free market economic system – not least to pay for the healthcare we are dependent on. And company owners have a duty to their employees to advocate for their company as well as of course their employees’ health and safety.

    Good luck everyone!

  • PM Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus


  • LC, I agree with every word…

    However, as for a ‘brave new world’ emerging from the ashes, I have my doubts. The 2008 financial crash saw bonuses, salary increases, etc. back to normal within months and it’s the same mindset in those in charge…
    I wonder how much irony was lost on the ‘great and good’ supporting the ‘Clap for the NHS’ ? Those same G&G used ever more constructive means to avoid paying the ‘fair’ tax that would have ensured a fully m,anned/equipped service; will they, and the tax laws, change: I doubt it.
    At the moment the country is in ‘Titanic Sinking’ mode and it is up to the opposition parties to ensure that any enquiry won’t be fobbed off with,,”The offer for EU co-operation to procure ICU equipment was lost in Boris Johnson’s ‘spam folder’…

  • Glenn – we actually don’t need a full 18-month lockdown. Once you get it down to a manageable level a.k.a bending the curve, you can keep a boot on it via Korean-style mass testing and tracing while imposing mandatory quarantine on ALL international arrivals.

  • John Marriott 27th Mar '20 - 1:40pm

    @Dilettante Eye
    Sorry if my sarcasm didn’t register with you. The point I was trying to make was that the people that I named, and others, seemed to monopolise the media until recently. When the chips are really down most of them appear to have gone AWOL. Mr Martin has at least unintentionally featured; but hardly initially in a positive way. We don’t need these one trick ponies, which is a lesson that some Lib Dems need to learn, and fast. Clearly, outside of Brexit, they have little to say.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Mar '20 - 1:51pm

    Fine response, thanks.
    Michael, agreed, the head of that wretched sports goods shop, a rare one!

    expats, let’s attempt to make the better world that could emerge if we try.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Mar '20 - 1:53pm

    Silvio, Barry,

    Grazie! Thanks!

  • Thomas
    Where did I say anything about an 18 month lockdown? It does not take 18 months to shed vast numbers of jobs, shut businesses down, strain relationships and cause serious long term problems.

  • John Marriott 27th Mar '20 - 3:17pm

    @Dilettante Eye
    “Brexit is on track to be completed satisfactorily by the end of the year”. Are you really so sure? Well, if you are, you’re a braver man than I (always assuming you are a man with that handle of yours). With the present emergency, perhaps our finally exiting the EU should join that ever lengthening list of events, starting with the Tokyo Olympics, that are being rescheduled/postponed.

  • Dilettante Eye 27th Mar '20 - 10:37pm

    John Marriott

    “Brexit is on track to be completed satisfactorily by the end of the year”. Are you really so sure?


    With the present emergency, perhaps our finally exiting the EU should join that ever lengthening list of events, / ../ that are being rescheduled/postponed.


  • Catherine Jane Crosland 28th Mar '20 - 9:05am

    Lorenzo, I have a lot of sympathy with what you are saying here.
    I also feel very sad, even angry, that so many people previously ignored the advice and guidelines that had been given. If everyone had behaved responsibly from the start, we might not have ended up in the situation of the advice and guidelines having to become “rules”.
    The problem was that so many people convinced themselves that the advice somehow didn’t apply to them, or that theirs was somehow a special case. Unfortunately, young, healthy people often seemed to think there was no need for them to follow the advice,
    because if they did get the virus they would probably just get it very mildly. They had failed to understand that even if they themselves would be fine, they might pass it on to a vulnerable person, and endanger that person’s life.
    Some even continued to go to work, and to socialise, when they had symptoms that they knew might be symptoms of a very mild case of Coronavirus, saying that they were too busy to stay at home for a week.
    Those of us who did try to follow the guidelines were sometimes told that we were over-reacting.
    It was this sort of thoughtless behaviour that meant that guidelines had to become “rules”.
    It is important that we should all keep the current rules, which clearly are there for a reason.
    But…We do need to be careful not to become too accepting of restrictions on individual freedom. These rules are necessary now, but we do need to make sure they are not allowed to stay in place any longer than is necessary. We should scrutinise and question any attempt to impose any further restrictions on freedom. After all, standing up for freedom is one of the main purposes for which this party exists.

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