Waving the British flag and claiming that “we’re alright, Jack...” thanks to his vaccine “grab” is Johnson’s only defence against his poor ratings. This seems to be working, for the time being. So Labour’s Keir Starmer has decided to join him under the Union Jack, in this festival of patriotic, “Britain first” bluster and vaccine triumphalism.
The reality is, of course, quite different. “We” are not alright. Not at all. One year after the first Covid cases were discovered, there have been a “record” 114,000 deaths due to this virus in Britain.
There can be no such thing as “health in one country” thanks to vaccination, which Johnson claims to be his “route out of the pandemic”. In this interconnected and inter-dependent world, nobody is going to be safe from this fast-mutating virus, until everybody is safe.
In fact, an effective vaccine roll-out would have had to be rapid and global. But under this capitalist system, based on selfish competition between companies, and selfish competition between the nation states which back them, such a global roll-out just can’t happen. It may be a theoretical possibility, given the many excellent scientists and plentiful resources which exist around the world, but sharing them is on nobody’s agenda.
Deprivation under the flag
Instead, each country resorts to “national solutions”. Here, from under the folds of the Union Jack, we are even invited to celebrate charitable efforts for an NHS which would never have needed them, if not for deliberate government cuts year after year. Yes, by the very same hypocrites who supported, or even implemented those cuts.
When in the 18th century, the writer Samuel Johnson said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” he was talking about those who pretended to be patriotic, but really were not.
But in the face this Covid crisis, how can there be a place for celebrating any kind of patriotism, whether real, or fake?
This narrow nationalist nonsense promoted by Johnson is meant to distract us from the criminal policies he promoted, implemented and then defended as doing “everything we could”.
And this was, of course, also the case with Brexit. Its consequences are not the so-called “victory” in the vaccine race, nor “happy British fish”, as Tory Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg fatuously quipped. No, the consequences are empty supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland and Scottish shell-fishers losing their livelihoods.
As for the “world-beating” vaccine roll-out, it is based on an inadequate supply. But nevertheless, politicians and scientists alike have joined in to defend the 12-week gap between jabs - an oh-so-clever “made in Britain innovation”... Never mind that it’s still not known whether eking out the too-few vaccine shots in this way will still result in (anti-variant!) protection!
Waving the workers’ flag
And now, ministers pretend that the latest (partial!) quarantine measures will somehow keep a mutant virus out, which is already “in”! As usual, they are closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The best they can do for now, is try to cover the cracks they’ve created.
However, the hotel industry will get a guaranteed bonanza from quarantine stays, which will no doubt help make up for its losses during lockdowns. And private labs stand to gain some juicy profits thanks to the 4 tests which the government has made mandatory for each hapless traveller.
Johnson told parliament yet again that his arms are around everyone! Yes, there is certainly is a big “hug” for the bosses who got £47bn “free and for nothing” under the furlough scheme. And they are likely to get more when Sunak announces his budget on 3 March.
But for the rest of us it’s a painful squeeze. Bosses have been using the Covid pandemic as a pretext to increase their profits by turning their exploitation screw up a notch, or even by several notches. So many workers are deciding it’s time to squeeze back. And they are right!
Rolls Royce workers in Lancashire, bus drivers in London and Manchester, Heathrow airport workers, British Gas engineers, construction workers, cleaning and refuse workers - and many others - have been, or are going, on strike. Yes, whether it’s against or job cuts, wage cuts, or so-called “fire and rehire” attempts, workers are saying no! And they are winning their fights!
They are proving that by uniting around the workers’ flag - which has no white stripes on it - they can stop the bosses in their tracks. And that they have nothing to lose but their chains, and a world - not a mere nation - to win!