People are idiots

The greatest of all sins is stupidity.

In 1945, when the people of Britain were released from six years of life under the restrictions of the Second World war, they held parties in the street. They hung bunting from their houses, they hugged their friends, their families and even complete strangers.

In June 2020, when the people of Britain decided to release themselves for the strictures of social distancing and staying home to save the NHS, what did they do? They flocked to the beaches, leaving their litter (and worse) in their wake and blocked the industrial estate roads in their hunger for a Big Mac and fries.

One of the things that has been said abut this whole three months – yes, that’s all it’s been – is that it has taught us how good and kind and generous some people around us are. We have seen how courageous and dedicated all our key workers are, whether they are in out care homes, our hospitals, our schools or out delivering our groceries so we can “Stay Home, Save Lives”. It’s shown us that people are good and kind. And that some of them are complete flipping imbeciles.

I’m not just talking about the woman who drove 90 minutes to get to the beach and then complained that it was too crowded, nor just of the young men who thought they were invincible so decide to try tombstoning in Dorset. Spoiler alert – they weren’t and one has broken his spine. For four hours people queued in Warrington on Monday in order to get into Ikea. Who the hell needs tea-lights, meatballs and coat hangers that much? Junctions near drive-through fast-food outlet have been gridlocked because three months without a burger and chips is apparently three months too many.

Voting in Parliament, a task which used to take minutes, took hours yesterday as MPs queued in the sunshine to do their duty. You really couldn’t make it up: they queued for hours to vote on whether to outlaw remote voting. Another thing that this lockdown has taught us is that, whilst human contact is valuable and necessary, technology does mean that physical attendance at things isn’t always, strictly necessary.

I’m really not sure why the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg decide that politicians cannot do their parliamentary duty unless they are actually present in Westminster. He said yesterday something to the effect that voting whilst out for a country walk or shopping is not giving the task the consideration it is due. Well, just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it will be done. In theory, I could produce all the copy for BMJ on a laptop balanced on my knee in the garden, a glass of something cold and fizzy to hand. I don’t. I do it sitting at my desk, because that is the best way of working. And I came to that conclusion because I am a grown -up, capable of rational thought and decisions making. I’d like to think I have that in common with most of those elected to Parliament. Anyway, at least it seems from PMQs today that some sense has been seen and that any MPs who are shielding will be able to vote by proxy. All those MPs who agreed to end the experiment with remote voting will probably regret their loyalty in a few months, now that it looks as though our subscription to Summer has run out and we are back to shivering in supermarket car parks, huddled under our separate golfing umbrellas. At least those will help with the 2m social distancing


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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