We are becoming more insular. It is not only Brexit, but that may not help. It is rather a matter that we are simply not listening to others or observing what they are doing; we are certainly not copying best practice.
I was very shocked, for example, to read an article today that was talking about the various vaccines in development around the world. Apparently, there are 150. We only hear of one and that, I am proud to say, has been produced in Oxford; it is based on a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—which helps the coronavirus invade cells—into a weakened version of an adenovirus, which typically causes the common cold; indeed, alot of work has been done in a small building within the Chruchill hospital complex next to the Haemophilia department that I visited about 10 days’ ago. There was heavy security around the building, hence I have no photo.
A few weeks’ earlier, the trials were suspended because someone fell ill. We were told it was routine and soon we were told the trials were back on. Only this was not really the whole truth.
This is what I read today:
Preliminary results from this candidate’s first two clinical trial phases revealed the vaccine had triggered a strong immune response—including increased antibodies and responses from T-cells—with only minor side effects such as fatigue and headache. It is in phase three of clinical trials, aiming to recruit up to 50,000 volunteers in Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa. On September 8, AstraZeneca paused the trials for a safety review due to an adverse reaction in one participant in the U.K. The details remain unclear, though the company has described the pause as a “routine action.” After an investigation by independent regulators, the trials resumed in the U.K., Brazil, South Africa, and India but remained on hold in the U.S. as of September 23.
There might be political reasons for the delay in resuming the trials in the US. The US is trying to trial home-produced vaccines (by Johnson) and to establish vaccine distribution sites by November 1, 2020, just days’ before the Presidential elections. Nevertheless, the failure of the British press to record the US continued delay is alarming. There is no place for Nationalism in a Global health crisis.
I am hoping to write more about the British response to Covid in comparison to what other countries are doing. Much of this is about the way things are presented. (What Americans have started to call “optics”) It simply does not look good. Optics matter.
This evening I am blogging about a National story. But it has relevance to Daventry and, indeed, to any political campaign.
Let me put this in context: A few weeks’ ago, I felt a red line had been crossed when an elected MEP, David Coburn, compared a Scottish Parliamentary Minister to a convicted terrorist. I had written to the leader of the relevant party (my own) asking for a clear letter of apology to be sent to Humza Yousaf and when no such letter was forthcoming, and equally when the said MEP failed to resign, I did what I thought was the honourable thing and resigned myself both as a Parliamentary candidate and as a member of the said party. In this way, I found myself as an independent candidate standing for the District Council in Drayton.
I am proud that I stood up for what is right. We need to respect one another and we need to stand up to bullies, whoever and wherever they are. Sometimes falling on your sword is the only way to make a point, pun intended. And the point MUST be made that Racism and homophobia are simply unacceptable in today’s society.
I was verbally savaged after I resigned, and then my family was attacked. The savaging I accept- the attack on my family I denounce. It is plucked from the same cupboard as the racism and the homophobia, a cupboard full of the “dark arts” of Politics. It has no place in our world and those who use, or even dip into these dark arts do not deserve public office.
I believe passionately that bullies should be ridiculed. I was a teacher and remain an educational consultant: I know the harm that bullies can do, but I also know how readily they collapse when we laugh at them. I think of the “Ridikulous spell” against the Boggarts in Harry Potter- I think it is not surprising that it features in the best Harry Potter book, “the Prisoner of Azkaban”. That’s how to deal with bullies!
Both racism and homophobia are mostly about bullying, calling people by foul names, of demeaning a person by reference to race, creed, gender. Of course, in extreme cases this can also lead to actual violence. But name-calling is quite bad enough, and it is worth reflecting on the old adage about “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” They may not, but the person who uses racist or homophobic “names” is exposed there and then as a pathetic individual, quite unworthy of election. Anyone who defends that person is smeared by association. Names may not hurt me, but they should certainly hurt the name-caller!
Of course, when you stand up to a bully, as one brave boy I know did a few weeks’ ago in one of our major Public Schools, there is every chance the bully himself will start crying and claim he has been the victim. Though soon after that, he was into blackmail: “By their fruits shall ye know them”!
Today, there is a news story about a Labour man called Ian Smart who referred to the SNP as “fascist scum” and Neil Hay who is himself an SNP candidate has called UK supporters “quislings” or traitors. He has done this rather more shamefully under a pseudonym, and he has rightly been exposed and asked to account for what he has written. It seems he was also fairly outspoken about elderly people, questioning their ability to vote. We can’t have that!
His blog has now been deleted but that is never enough. Nicola Sturgeon said this, “I do condemn the language used and I condemn the comments made – as I always do when anybody steps out of line on Twitter, on Facebook or any medium.”
There is the famous story of S. Jean Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, canonized in 1925, who was faced by a penitent, a lady who claimed to have been gossiping. He asked her to bring him a chicken and, because lunch was calling, to pluck it as she walked from her home to church. When she arrived with the freshly plucked bird, he told her to go back and collect all the feathers. “But that’s impossible,” she said, “Many of them will have blown away”. And so it is, said the priest, with gossip and name-calling. It spreads. The damage that is done when we write a stupid blog cannot be undone simply by taking down the blog. And an apology needs to be made good by a proper demonstration of repentance. (I knew a wonderful man in Greece called Roger de Ponton d’Amecourt who was writing a comprehensive biography of the Priest. I do not know whether he has finished it and we have sadly fallen out of contact.)
I resigned from UKIP because I felt the need to sever the link from a party that condoned racism and homophobia. My penance is not finished. I must now try to repair some of the damage done by my association with that party. The least I can do is to continue writing to Mr Farage and demanding Mr Coburn’s resignation as well as a letter of apology to Mr Yousaf. So far, Mr Farage has failed to respond directly, though I gather he has made national funds available to target my campaign in Drayton.
But it is surely time that politics in the UK changed, and politicians of all parties grew up. Three things need to be said. First of all, some of the greatest politicians have changed party allegiance. That is nothing shameful or new. Churchill, for example, did so. Secondly, there used to be a code of honour because we are all, after all, in the same business: we want to change the way that things are done, and we feel propelled to do this in the public eye. We do not set out to be savaged personally, or to be lynched, and nor should we expect our families to be attacked. Instead, we stand up, we speak out and we, alone, should be held to account. And thirdly and finally, regarding the name calling that has taken place today- there was a referendum only a few months’ ago and Scotland voted very clearly to remain in the Union. That may not be the result the SNP wanted to hear, but it is a democratic decision and until there is a further vote, it should be accepted. The people who voted for the Union are not “quislings”- they were exercising a democratic right. And the SNP is one of the most socially aware parties in our United Kingdom – to call the SNP “fascist scum” is to belittle the people who died fighting genuine fascism in the Second world war; Fascist scum would not welcome immigrants. Fascist scum would not put out one of the most generous education packages for University students in the country.
We need to be less tribal in our politics and there is no need at all for British Politics to be so grubby.