I’m not unusual in becoming COVID-19 obsessed. It’s affecting my professional life (I work in the health sector, although not a part directly affected), I’ve been thinking about it a lot as a school governor (not just the potential impact but also about how the messages are shared with anxious children) and my attempt to be pretend I’m an academic just happened to hit a stage of studying global health as a live case study was unfolding on a daily basis.

What has been somewhat disconcerting is that we have to deal with a pandemic at exactly the time we have a government almost uniquely incapable of dealing with it. The example of Nadine Dorries, a health minister, continuing with her schedule despite being symptomatic, causes me some concern about the quality of political decision-making. And while on 5 March the Chief Medical Officer was telling MPs we were mainly in the delay phase Boris Johnson thought we were still in the contain phase four days later. Then a few days later we have other government advisors who appear to have misunderstood how herd immunity works and suggested a plan that appears to amount to everyone just getting COVID-19. Which brings us to being presented today with an over-70s quarantine plan that isn’t fully formed (details will come later) and I can’t help feeling the government is just trying to style this one out.

At a time we need calm, authoritative, advice—and sometimes decisive action—that helps slow the spread and protect the most vulnerable in our society we are stuck with a government for whom the best thing you can say is that at least they aren’t Trump.1


  1. Having pretty much left social media, and felt so much better for it, I still needed the teeniest vent for this. The first duty of a government is to protect its people and I (along with hundreds of scientists) just have no confidence in this government in this situation. I hope I’m wrong. 

A few hundred people listening to the first-timers’ briefing Clapham Common parkrun this morning. There a touch over 1,100 runners and walkers in total, the biggest one ever (until next week, which is likely to be even bigger).

I’d always, intellectually, understood the benefits of parkrun but it wasn’t until I got involved with Clapham Common that I realised how powerful it is, not just because of the physical activity, but also because of the sense of community and volunteering it entails. However you might want to be involved I can not recommend it highly enough.

Had to queue to vote today. First time I’ve ever seen that.

But for all the progressive optimism in my queue I worry that there were lots of (what I would think) the wrong type of queue in lots of the wrong places.

Many years ago when I was dabbling in student politics RON was a candidate at the bottom of every ballot paper. If you didn’t like the candidates a vote for RON, or re-open nominations, was there to express that opinion. And if RON won, it was back to square one for the election as if it hadn’t happened. I managed to get RONned once, losing my first bid to become college president (in a fit of stupidity I stood again, this time winning but having learned a valuable lesson about hubris).

The general election has left me thinking about the RON option a lot, wondering if it might be the winner in an election where it’s so hard to feel positively towards either of the two main parties. Despite my past (which I increasingly try to keep secret) as an elected Conservative I just cannot see why anyone would vote for a Conservative Party that seems to be led by people whose only vision is that governing is their birthright and have absolutely no capacity for empathy. But it’s equally hard to come up with positive reasons to vote for a Labour Party that clearly has a problem with anti-Semitism and, more generally, with tolerating  anyone who is not an adherent to the particular Corbyn brand of Labour. How lovely it must have been to live in a period of political consensus when people in politics were mature grown-ups who could tolerate difference.

And how lovely it must be to live in a constituency where you are not forced into voting for a least worst option with the moral ambiguity that entails.

I have spent a long time thinking about how to choose that least worse option. Can you net off Labour anti-Semitism by the fact that the Tories appear to be anti-everyone? Is Johnson worse for having no principles than Corbyn is for having strong principles with which you disagree? And how do you decide between a shadow Cabinet with some lamentably weak members and an actual Cabinet in which any form of intellectual ability seems to be a disqualification from office?

Of course, this is to make it more of a dilemma than it actually is: Brexit looms large over the election and, as such, the only option I have is to vote tactically. Personally, I could never vote for a Conservative Party that has moved so far to the extremes. It is delightful that Boris Johnson has been able to satisfy his personal ambition and so many Tory members get to indulge their fetishistic prejudice that it’s the foreigner that ills this country, I just don’t think making the country poorer and weaker and depriving the next generations of opportunity is a price worth paying for that.

There are lots of reasons to be pessimistic about tomorrow’s election but if you have any sense that Britain should be a proud, progression nation voting tactically will keep the hope alive.