The virus is out of control, and only a pasty with chips and/or side salad can save us now

The morning after the night before was never going to be easy

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 13 October 2020 22:58 BST
Health secretary Matt Hancock
Health secretary Matt Hancock (PA)

Dawn breaks on British politics with a news alert sent to the financial markets that local government secretary Robert Jenrick thinks a Cornish pasty is only a proper meal if served with chips or a side salad – and yes, it goes very much downhill from there.

The morning after the night before was never going to be easy. The night before being Monday night, when Boris Johnson announced new coronavirus restrictions that were then disowned live on television by his own chief medical officer, who was standing next to him.

It would then transpire that the new measures had actually been disowned far in advance of their announcement, and to make it clear, the prime minister’s group of scientific advisors published all the guidance they gave to the prime minister three weeks ago, about the urgent need for an immediate temporary lockdown, which he had declined to do.

It meant that anyone whose job it is to defend the government (in other words, members of the government, because good lord nobody else is going to at the moment), was in an especially difficult position.

On the usual morning radio and TV programmes, Robert Jenrick would have to explain why certain pubs could only serve alcohol with a meal, what did or didn’t constitute a meal, and why he thought these measures would make any difference at all. Since about March, the go to excuse offered by government ministers is that they have been “following the science” except this time “the science” has taken preemptive action to make sure absolutely everybody knows that it absolutely is not being followed. Quite the opposite in fact. Not followed but furloughed.

So Jenrick could only say it was urgent that the government act now to control the spread of the virus, even though it hadn’t acted now. That it had to balance the risks to public health with the risks to the economy, even though it’s now abundantly clear that avoiding the tough decisions on lockdown only makes economic impact harder and longer later down the line.

It would lead to Matt Hancock, standing up in the House of Commons, bravely facing down the rebels in his own party who don’t want any lockdown at all. There he was, dismantling the absurd logic of the “Barrington Declaration” scientists who say that herd immunity is the only way. Because there isn’t really any such thing as herd immunity. There is no naturally achieved herd immunity to measles, to flu, to all manner of things. Letting viruses rip through populations doesn’t actually make them go away. And besides, hundreds of thousands of people die.

So there was Matt Hancock, making clear to all who listened that anyone who thinks you can just let this virus get out of control is wrong and mad, but also arguing that the scientists who think the only way to stop it getting out of control is to take urgent action not even now but three weeks ago have also got it wrong.

And that actually, the only thing you can do, at this point, is to make pubs in certain parts of the north only serve alcohol with a Cornish pasty and chips and/or side salad. Because that is the way ahead at this point. You can expect to see it on a Downing Street lectern possibly within 24 hours.

Hands. Face. Pasty. Chips/side salad.

Such is the rage among Conservative backbenchers, that Covid-19 isn’t simply being allowed to run riot and it all be over and done with, that the prime minister was forced to address them all over zoom.

Leaked reports suggest poor wifi connection meant much of the call was done in a chat window, with the actual prime minister telling Theresa May that he can’t allow business people to join the scientific advisory panel because it’s called “Sage not beige” and then chuckling to himself about it.

This really is where we are. Make mine a pasty please, a very very large one. And don’t spare the chips either.

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