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Opinion

Super League saga shows the potential of people power

The entire football world was thrown into disarray this week when the self-proclaimed ‘Big Six’ of the Premier League signed themselves up to a new European ‘Super League’ breakaway project.

Six English clubs [Arsenal, the two Manchester clubs, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool] joined several other football giants cross Europe in doing so, in what would have represented the most radical change to football for over 30 years.

It would have seen the aforementioned clubs join an elite European league, with access hinging on wealth and status, rather than success. The teams would never have been faced with relegation, and opportunities to enter the league were insultingly small.

The plans were met with an unmistakable backlash from leading voices across the football landscape; Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher tore the plan to pieces live on television, while ex-footballer Rio Ferdinand labelled the project a ‘war on football’.

The response from within the game itself was no different. When asked about the plans, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp proclaimed that he and his players had nothing to do with the breakaway project, while vice-captain James Milner said: “I don’t like it, I don’t want it to happen”.

Photo by Ajay Meganathan on Unsplash

Football organisations from the Premier League to UEFA and FIFA also spoke strongly against the plans, threatening to ban players from competing in domestic and international competitions.

Perhaps the most hard-line response came from the UK government, and was led by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He threatened the plans with legislative action, ranging from the removal of work visas for international players to an outright ban on the league going ahead.

While we will never know whether such levels of government intervention could have got through Parliament, Johnson did send a special envoy to the United Arab Emirates to warn its government that Manchester City’s involvement in the plans would put a strain on UK-UAE relations, given the status of City’s owners within the nation.

Though several sources, including from within UEFA itself, have confirmed that Johnson’s staunch opposition was crucial in bringing down the plans, there is little doubt that ultimately, it was the collective voice of football fans who made the difference.

Within 24 hours of the league being announced, hundreds of Liverpool fans gathered outside Elland Road ahead of their game against Leeds United to make their opposition heard.

The following day, thousands of Chelsea fans congregated outside Stamford Bridge and chanted ‘Fuck the Super League’. They blocked the team bus from entering the ground, leading to former goalkeeper Petr Cech engaging with the fans and a delayed kick off.

Within hours, Manchester City announced that they would no longer join the Super League – all six clubs had withdrawn by the end of the night. Just like that, the whole project came crumbling down like a pack of cards.

Apologies to the fans came pouring out of each club – Liverpool owner John Henry released a three minute video, while Manchester United owner Joel Glazer wrote an open letter to the fans expressing his remorse.

And yet, while Boris went back to his usual business and UEFA and the Premier League were relieved to see the status quo maintained, the fans remain as hungry as ever.

Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

Just this morning a group of Manchester United fans broke into the club’s training ground waving banners around hailing ‘Glazers Out’. The group only left after they were confronted by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and several other coaches and players.

While some may disagree with these methods, no one can dispute the power that football fans still hold within the game. The symbolism of owner apologies show just that – while it may be a surprise to those not involved in football, fans rarely, if ever, hear from their club’s owners.

They are shrouded in mystery, and this is no accident. It allows them to carefully pull the strings from behind the scenes, whilst drawing out as much money as possible to line their own pockets. It would not be out of line to say that for these owners, it is money first, football and fans second.

So the fact that the fans managed to draw an apology from these usually absent owners is a victory in and of itself – though an apology is the bare minimum to be expected.

Perhaps, though, there is something that society can learn from this this saga – that is, the power of effective group mobilisation. When you disagree with something the government is doing, for example, make your voice loud and clear.

Photo by Zach Rowlandson on Unsplash

Protests are nothing new – they have worked before and they will fail in the future. What made these protests so successful so quickly was not only because of the outrageous nature of the project but because almost every single person who spoke on the issue viscerally opposed it – every fan, every ex-footballer, every player, every manager, every politician.

Naturally, this dominated social media for days upon end, to the point where companies felt they had to get involved too. Two broadcasters, Sky and BT, who may have benefited from the project, said they could not support it. Gary Lineker, former player and current football TV presenter, also vowed never to work on such a job.

The backlash was so large, so collective and so powerful that club owners were left with no other choice but to withdraw their support for the plans. And yet, not a single bit of violence ensued, not by the fans nor by the police.

It is easier said than done – clearly, the fans had those in power on their side, from the government to celebrities and football organisations. If the government had supported these plans, the outcome may have been different. Yet, they did not because it was abundantly clear what the implications would have been for football clubs, fans and their communities.

When the message is loud and clear, and when mobilisation is collectively strong, the people can win. Ultimately, power still lies with the people.

Categories
LRC Opinion

UK Traveller Community Facing Sustained Discrimination

In an era of multiculturalism and diversity in the UK, underscored by the recent government commissioned race report, and celebrated by Black History month in October and LGBT history month in February, one ethnic group has been sidelined and marginalized in society in recent decades.

The traveller community have faced persistent discrimination and predujice, measured in a range of factors. This has been further highlighted in the news cycle by two particular stories – Labour MP’s Charlotte Nichols recent party leaflet, and the implications of the new police powers bill.

But first, some background. It is estimated roughly 300,000 travellers live in the UK, including significant communities in the London boroughs of Harrow and Brent, some dating back to the 1850s. Under the Equality Act of 2010, travellers are considered a “protected characteristic”, forbidding discrimination based on ethnic origin, among other factors. 

Despite this, prejudice against travellers is commonplace in modern day Britain. A 2017 YouGov poll, published by advocacy group The Traveller Movement, exposed various negative and discriminatory societal views held against the community. Only a third (34%) of respondents (the wider public) consider travellers to be an ‘ethnic group’.

Only 41% would be happy for their child having a “playdate” at the home of a traveller friend, whilst 42% would be unhappy with a close-relative having a long-term relationship with a traveller.  Shockingly, 13% believe pubs should ban travellers from entry.

The same report, titled “The Last Acceptable Form of Racism?”, also summarized that 70% of travellers faced discrimination regarding education, 49% regarding employment, and 30% regarding healthcare. 55% had been refused services due to their ethnicity, whilst 77% had experienced hate speech or a hate crime. 76% had hid their ethnicity at some point to avoid further discrimination. 

This report is not wholly groundbreaking and instead reinforces long-held research evidencing pervasive attitudes of an anti-traveller culture. Nine out of ten children have suffered racial abuse. A 2004 report found the group were castigated as “unsightly, dirty, or unhygienic”. After 15-year-old traveller Jonny Delaney was attacked and killed in 2003, the judge refused to rule the killing as “racially motivated”.

In March, a whistleblower at holiday firm Pontins revealed a company “blacklist” of “undesirable guests” with mainly Irish surnames, investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Such practices were part of the company policy.

As mentioned, this discrimination has entered the news cycle in both a sharp and developing sense. Primarily, this occurred after a slip-up by Labour’s Charlotte Nichols, MP for Warrington North since 2019. Last week, Nichols was pictured with an official party leaflet in her constituency, detailing various policy aims. 

One of the bullet points listed “dealing with traveller incursions”. Incursions is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an invasion or attack, especially a sudden or brief one”. This language is clearly problematic and ostracizes travellers as a threatening and harmful group.

Nichols was criticized on social media, including by Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley as “vile and obviously racist”, demanding an  “apology and appropriate disciplinary action”. Nichols quickly offered an “unreserved apology” whilst Labour, typically portrayed as the party for diversity, promised to destroy the leaflets. Nichols said she was unaware of the “problematic definition” of the language used, but anyhow, it was a shocking PR move and a total blunder. 

Compounded to this, the various socioeconomic implications of the new police powers bill, a ’mammoth’ piece of legislation already embroiled in controversy and outrage, have damning effects for travellers. The bill includes a clause giving the police powers to seize vehicles, which could potentially encompass homes, and issue £2,500 fines, or 3 months imprisonment, for the offence of trespass. 

Trespass has traditionally been a civil offence in the UK, so this legal change has severe impacts for travellers across the country. A report by Friends, Families and Travellers concluded the bill “compounds inequalities”, “disproportionately affects minority ethnic groups”, and blamed a lack of space for travellers originally, slashed by the Conservatives, for the issues in the first place. 

Spokesperson Abbie Kirkby said “the cruelty is unfathomable, nobody should be imprisoned for the crime of having nowhere to go”.

In a society supposedly intent on rightfully celebrating and embracing multi-ethnicity and diversity, this is a serious shortfall. Two things would have to occur to swell this tide of discrimination.

Firstly, political parties must be better educated and regulated on party material containing language that is directly discriminatory to a group protected under the Equalities Act.

Secondly, provisions of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill must be revised to protect the traveller community as an ethnic group, with greater consultation and dialogue. In this current culture and environment, whether either of these is feasible or attainable is another question entirely. 

Categories
Opinion

Not-so-New Labour: why Keir Starmer is failing

He was meant to be the man, the Lord and Saviour, the man who could pull Labour back from the brink – dare I say it, the new Tony Blair. Nearly one year on, Keir Starmer’s Labour revolution has barely even begun.

Last April, Keir Starmer replaced one of the Labour party’s most controversial leaders ever, Jeremy Corbyn, after it suffered its worst electoral result in nearly one hundred years.

It was the 2019 General Election that saw Labour lose 60 seats, many of which were thought to be part of an indestructible ‘Red Wall’ – and yet, as in Westeros, the wall came crashing down.

Labour lost Birmingham Northfield, Wrexham, Bridgend – perhaps most shocking was the loss of Bolsover; this saw Parliament’s longest-serving MP, Dennis Skinner, lose his seat.

It truly was a shocking performance and there is no doubt that the party leadership had to change – it was not resonating with the public anymore. But why?

There are likely many reasons for Labour’s shocking performance. Perhaps the British public simply was not interested in a radical, left-wing government; the party had also been unforgivably slow and reluctant to deal with a vile anti-Semitism that had spread across the party.

However, this contradicts Corbyn & co’s success just two years earlier, when they forced Theresa May’s minority government into cahoots with the Northern Irish DUP.

Rather, it is abundantly clear that Labour’s historic defeat was largely defined by Britain’s issue of the day: Brexit.

Corbyn failed to clarify his stance during the 2016 referendum and then proceeded to vote against every single solution May’s government came up with. To this day I could not tell you what Corbyn wanted out of Brexit.

Of the 60 seats lost by Labour, all but eight voted to leave the European Union – that is 52 constituencies that looked at Labour’s dreadful Brexit stance [if you can even say they had one] and thought “I’m not having any of that”.

The eventual winner Boris Johnson, on the other hand, framed the 2019 GE as the second referendum Remainers had craved for so long. The results of this make-shift referendum were so conclusive that talk of an actual follow-up all but disappeared.

It is worth noting that Keir Starmer was a ferocious Remainer himself, and frequently called for a second referendum during his time as Shadow Brexit secretary.

So, given the huge role Brexit clearly played in the last election, was it really wise to respond to the nation’s decision to double-down on Brexit with somebody who does not believe in it at all?

Of course, Starmer would tell you now he wanted the ‘will of the people’ to be respected, but his prior behaviour clearly suggested otherwise.

To make matters worse for Starmer, Boris has since ‘Got Brexit Done’, achieving a deal that, at least on some level, has managed to appease most factions across the country: Remainers were relieved to see a deal, while hard-liners were happy to see us leave the single market and customs union.

But it would be lazy to pin Starmer’s troubles solely on Brexit – the reality is, it is no longer the nation’s biggest worry.

As well all know, the UK has been gripped in battle against the deadly COVID-19 virus for over one year, which has totally upended the normal political agenda.

Perennial debates about the economy, education and the state of welfare have not disappeared, but have been re-framed in the context of a global pandemic.

It’s no longer about improving education, it’s about getting kids into school safely; it’s not about who should get welfare, it’s about who isn’t being furloughed.

I am in no way suggesting that Starmer and his party should exploit a terrible situation in what would be a ruthless and maniacal attempt to move up the polls, but these are issues Labour have dealt with before, and frankly, they should be doing a much better job holding the government to account for its inexcusable mistakes.

The ground is ripe for opposition and we are in dire need of it: the UK has the third-highest per-capita death rate in the world and has experienced some of the worst case and hospitalisation rates across Western Europe. We lack a fully functioning test & trace system, as the UK government fails to provide indispensable support to those in need across the country.

And yet, the government has been given a fairly easy ride. That is because Starmer’s priority appears to be ‘one-upping’ the government, rather than dealing with the issues that so desperately need addressing.

A common criticism has been that Labour waits until it hears rumblings of a policy that the government is seemingly veering towards; it then calls on the government to do exactly what it is already planning to already do.

One recent example is the party’s suddenly extreme stance on the issue of border control; we have been in this pandemic over one year, with this particular issue being one of concern for some time now.

Despite this, it is only now that Labour are attempting to dominate the national discourse and lament the Tories for their lack of action – even more ironic, then, that Starmer was an avid Remainer.

Unsurprisingly, the government already plans to introduce ‘quarantine hotels’ for high-risk countries.

And then there is issue of schools. This is a very sensitive moral dilemma, the solution to which is by no means easy.

Right at the start of the year, Boris and his government were hammered by the national press for dithering and delaying on the issue of school closures. In a typical-timely manner, right at the last moment, Starmer urged to the government to close schools – just days later, the government did.

Now the party’s policy has changed again: vaccinate all teachers and open schools immediately – keep in mind, the country has not yet vaccinated everyone from the four most vulnerable groups. Not only this, but there would still be 17 million more people considered to be at high-risk of serious disease in need of vaccination.

The desire to vaccinate nearly one million people who work in schools would mean one million people with serious vulnerabilities not getting vaccinated and would almost certainly lead to unnecessary deaths.

It would be understandable if teachers were at serious risk of illness or death, but the profession sits in 12th for overall number of COVID-related deaths – with lorry drivers first, why is the focus not on giving them greater protection?

Starmer’s overall position on education perfectly encapsulates the party’s approach over the last year: wait until the right moment to criticise the government, claim they are holding it to account when it inevitably enacts a policy, and then wait for a new angle on the same issue.

Seemingly, the public see right through it: the latest YouGov/Times voting intention figures show the Conservatives on 39% (+1), gaining a lead over Labour, who are down on 38% (-1).

As for a recent Survation poll, Conservative voting intentions sit at 39%(-2), while Labour remains unchanged at 37% – even as the Tories drop, Labour do not gain.

The gap is respectable, perhaps even more so given the dismal outcome of the last General Election, but the trajectory is worrying and with this government, it should be doing much better.

In a recent interview we conducted with ‘The Kunts’, a satirical-punk band most famous for its recent song ‘Boris Johnson is Fucking Cunt’, Kunt, the main act, gave us a sense of what people across the country think of the Labour leader:

“When I look at Keir Starmer, I just see Tony Blair. He’s part of the system because he’s a “Sir” presiding over the Crown Prosecution Service when they chucked out the Jimmy Saville case. I’m not saying he’s personally responsible but it’s what he represents as a leader”

Starmer’s first year as Labour leader must be considered a failure. The party is failing to hold the government to account, it’s failing to win over the public and lacks any sort of general image or policy direction.

There are four years until the next General Election, so there is some time yet to shift the post-pandemic debate in Labour’s favour.

If the last 12 months are any indication, however, Keir Starmer has shown he is incapable of leading the Labour party.

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POLICY ANALYSIS

One Year On: analysing the UK’s COVID-19 response

Almost one year ago to the day, the first two cases of COVID-19 were detected in the UK. It was the positive test of two Chinese nationals on January 29th 2020 which marked the nation’s fight against the disease.

One year on, the UK’s fight against COVID-19 looks very different: since then, over 100,000 people have died, while over 3.6m have tested positive, as per the John Hopkins University.

We analyse the government’s performance over the last year, outlining five things it has got right, and five things it has got wrong.

Let’s focus on the negatives first.

Five things the government has got wrong:

Lockdown(s) timing

I am not here to scream ‘LOCKDOWN’S DO NOT WORK!!!’ – I hate them as much as the rest of you. They are a disaster for the economy and for people’s health; however, they have been shown to be effective in bringing down cases and consequently, hospital admissions and deaths.

Whether the trade-off between COVID-19 and other health conditions, mental and physical, as well as the damage to economy is justified, will be saved for another article.

What we do know, however, is that all three of Britain’s lockdown’s have come too late.

The government’s initial lockdown advisor, Neil Ferguson, stated that locking down just seven days earlier in March may have halved deaths [granted, this is the same advisor who flouted his own recommendations mid-lockdown to stay over a woman’s house].

Yet, his point stands: the government’s persistence at delaying the inevitable is not an isolated incident; when cases started to rise again around mid-September, leader of the opposition Keir Starmer called for a two-week ‘firebreaker’ to be implemented around half-term week.

In avoiding the opportunity of half-term, Boris delayed the inevitable and ultimately plunged the country into a second national lockdown at the beginning of November.

This lockdown was in place for just four weeks. Cases had started to come down but by mid-December, they were on the rise once again.

What is different about this third national lockdown was the looming prospect of a COVID-Christmas: cases were rising at a commensurate rate, yet government policy still remained that up to three households could mix for five days over the festive period.

Just days before the government eventually reduced the period to one day and to only two households, Boris claimed that cancelling Christmas would be inhumane. And yet, Boris cancelled Christmas for many.

Unsurprisingly, cases surged and this was quickly reflected in hospital admissions. As things stand, the NHS is on the brink of being overwhelmed.

You cannot help but think that had the government acted sooner and more decisively over Christmas, the NHS would not have entered this place of panic. After all, the sooner cases come down, the sooner we can all be free from this horrendous situation.

No doubt, it is easy to look from afar and accuse the government of acting too slowly – we are talking about shutting down the entire nation. It’s certainly not an easy decision to make.

Exactly why Boris and his government have dithered and delayed is unknown. There are rumours around Westminster that Boris delays the inevitable in order to demonstrate his reluctance to more hard-line, anti-lockdown Tory MPs.

In this attempt, the government appears to have allowed this pandemic to be worse than what was necessary, with lives being lost in the process.

Testing

Another one of the government’s initial failures was testing. Again, as with the lockdowns, it is easier to sit from afar and scream about what the government should and could be doing.

But testing was far too slow and too meagre at the start of this pandemic. During the first wave, daily positive cases peaked at around 7,000. To put this into perspective, the highest daily case rate during the current wave is over 68,000. Can you imagine how many more cases would have been uncovered had testing capacity been in place?

It has also failed to properly utilise one of the greatest tool’s at its disposal: mass community testing. The mass testing pilot in Liverpool was deemed a success; indeed, case rates came right down and ultimately, it was one of the last region’s to remain in Tier 2 prior to the third national lockdown.

But why has this programme not become a national one? Why is it not now the gold standard? There are many logistical challenges associated with testing an entire region, with a large number of volunteers and much of the army needed.

Liverpool’s experience cannot be considered a total success, either: in particular, the government’s programme failed to reach young, digitally-excluded males, a group thought to be prominent spreaders of the virus.

All of this is bad enough on its own, but is made significantly worse by the UK’s ineffective track and trace system.

NHS track, trace & isolate

The government ultimately succeeded on getting testing capacity up [more on that below]. One thing it has simply failed to get on-lock is an effective test and trace system – the city of Leicester can attest to that.

As Leicester left the national lockdown with the rest of the country, cases continued to surge. This is no surprise given that just 53% of contacts are being traced within the national system.

As per Gian Volpicelli from WIRED, the city has since set up its own localised test and trace system. And the contract-tracing success rate? Over 90%.

This success is not only testament to the tireless work of local officials but exposes the ineffectiveness of the government’s own national test and trace system.

The NHS test & trace app has not been much of a success, either. Over ten million people have downloaded the app, which is well below what is needed for the system to work comprehensively.

Downloading the app is also entirely optional and users can simply ignore any notification ordering them to isolate.

At this stage of the game, COVID-zero is not a possibility and would not be achieved even with a fully-functioning test and trace system; however, it would serve to break chains of transmission and bring case rates under control as the vaccine roll-out continues.

And if a failing test and trace system is not enough to dishearten you, then the isolation system might: back in September, SAGE warned the government that just 20% of people who test positive for COVID-19 fully isolate for the full duration of their period. That is up to 80% of people knowingly leaving the house with COVID-19.

Some of those people are undoubtedly ignorant, underestimating the impact of the disease and how quickly it can spread to those with certain vulnerabilities. Others, however, seem to be left with little choice.

In particular, those on zero-hour and precarious work contracts who simply cannot afford self-isolation. For a large part of the pandemic, the self-isolation period was 14 days. – without a stable income, how are people meant to buy food or pay the bills?

The government states that those self-isolating should be given support from employers, but stops short of enforcing this support, or providing it themselves.

It is against the interest of the public and government policy to allow these systems to continue to fail.

Border control

You will have heard a lot about border control over the last few weeks. The fact that it has taken this long to dominate the public discourse is worrying enough, and it only highlights this gaping whole in the government’s policy.

It has come under greater scrutiny since the discovery of several significant COVID-19 variants across the globe, which pose a great threat to any vaccination roll-out programme.

It was only the start of this year when the government mandated that arrivals into the UK must provide proof of a negative test within 72 hours, a policy that has been adopted by many European nations for nearly six months – why have we waited until the variants are already here?

Self-isolation is also a requirement but it is rarely enforced – if people are coming into the UK without a test and without enforced isolation, how can we stop the importing of international variants? The answer is we cannot.

The UK government finally appears to be getting the message on border controls. We are expecting an announcement on the introduction of an Australian-style ‘quarantine hotel’ system for new arrivals in an effort to stop the introduction of even more variants.

This pro-Brexit government wanted greater border control powers – now, it needs to use them.

Education

This is one of the most difficult issues for the government to navigate. Whatever stance the government takes, it’s damned if it does, it’s damned if it doesn’t.

This has been highlighted by Labour’s continuously-shifting stance on the issue during the last year. For months and months, the opposition called for schools to close as infections rates sky-rocketed. When schools did close, the government was accused of acting too late. Now they are closed, Labour is pushing the government to publish a plan for schools to re-open. When schools do open, there will no doubt be people arguing that it is too soon, some too late.

As a result, it is difficult to determine whether the government has failed in terms of timing. But it has undoubtedly not protected students or teachers enough. Testing systems should have been set up in schools throughout the summer in readiness for the new academic year.

Students, at least those in secondary school, should be able to access tests readily and without stigma in an environment they are comfortable with. It is entirely unreasonable to expect children and teenagers to social distance at all times, and so transmission is inevitable. If an effective testing system can be set up prior to students returning before schools return, a huge amount of transmission will be avoided.

University students have also been neglected during this pandemic. I have a bit of a personal bias with this one, but let me tell you what is going on first hand.

Back in the summer, students were told to come back to university – we were promised an overwhelmingly-normal student experience. Six months later, we are all stuck in our accommodation, paying unnecessary rent, with little-to-no access to study spaces and just three hours of poor-quality online seminars per week.

Any prospect of a refund looks bleak, just like our futures in education.

Now, for something a bit more positive [sorry, I really cannot help myself].

Five things the government has got right:

Testing 2.0

Yes, the government has experienced successes and failures in relation to testing. Although the government was undoubtedly slow at increasing test capacity, it has improved impressively since.

The UK’s testing capacity is the relative highest in the world and is still growing by the week. From January 7th to 14th, nearly three million people were tested, a 14% increase from the week before.

This is particularly impressive given that 2.3m vaccine doses were also administered during the same period – that is over five million actions taken to try and control this deadly virus.

If the government can turn around testing, it can turn around tracing – let’s hope it succeeds.

The Furlough Scheme

This might be a bit of a controversial one. I have said it myself – those with precarious employment contracts have not been supported enough.

But the reality is that the majority of people are not in informal employment and so a huge portion of the population will have benefited from this scheme.

Paying 80% of people’s wages comes at great cost to the state and although it is largely to be expected, it is generous compared to similar schemes in other European nations: France covers 70% of its workers salaries, while Germany covers 67%.

Unemployment has just hit 5% in the UK for the first time since 2016, so the furlough scheme has not saved every job – but, it was not expected to.

One thing the furlough scheme has exposed, however, is the UK government’s policy on sick pay. Workers in Sweden are entitled to sick pay is worth 80% of workers’ salary [the same as the UK’s furlough scheme] – for comparison, in UK sick pay sits at just £95,85 per week.

Given that a huge number of people knowingly go to work with COVID-19, the UK government seriously needs to re-consider its policy on sick pay, especially during a health crisis.

Compliancce

Disclaimer: the public should take the overwhelming majority of praise when it comes to compliance during the COVID-19 crisis. The government does deserve some praise, though.

The average level of compliance has remained stable throughout the crisis, sitting at just above 90%, with a small dip in summer.

Its messaging on the tier system is perhaps the most confusing and some of the rules are definitely too vague.

But the overall severity of its messaging relative to the risk that is posed has been, on the whole, a resounding success.

The governent’s use of word-play rivals that of a GCSE student in an English language exam: ‘Hands, Face, Space’; ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’. These catch-all, memorable phrases are ingrained into the public psyche; when they are uttered by ministers, the public know exactly what to do.

Seemingly, the impact of messaging is huge and the overall level of compliance reflects the effectiveness of government messaging.

Brexit

It is bad enough doing an article on the issue that everybody’s most sick of hearing about, but forcing in the second most despised issue is pretty shameless. Nonetheless, it is relevant to the UK’s COVID-19 response.

Another disclaimer: I am not a fan of Brexit. Yet, I accepted it as the UK’s reality long before many of the remainers who still think that Keir Starmer will save their European dream.

It was meant to be the nation’s biggest event of the 21st century. And yet, it does not even compare to the scale of the COVID-19 crisis. The two culminating at the exact same time could have been a total disaster for the government.

Though the COVID-19 response has been far from perfect, Boris did a very good job at navigating Brexit – it was in the public consciousness enough to be scrutinised, but not to detract from the ongoing public health crisis.

His deal also appears to have appeased large sections of both sides. Those who wanted a No-Deal were happy to see us leave the single market and customs union; those who wanted to remain are happy to see a deal; those wanting a soft-Brexit are probably most pleased.

Thankfully, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Britain has not magically turned into a third-world country.

Vaccines

I am aware that I may be speaking too soon when it comes to vaccines. A lot could still go wrong and I do not want to doom the nation by jinxing anything. But, as things stand, the vaccine roll-out is going extremely well.

Well over 2.3m vaccines were administered last week, bringing the total to over 7 million. This means that 10.4 people have been vaccinated per 100 – by comparison, the highest in Europe is 5.4 [Malta].

There has been some criticism over the decision to delay people’s second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I cannot say I am a science man, but the notion that a single dose of a vaccine could be rendered ineffective within three short months seems extremely unlikely.

Not only does this decision allow for a greater number of people to be vaccinated, it also buys manufacturers time to scale up production.

Which country is vaccinated first is not a competition, as the government seems to be presenting it, since the vaccination of the entire planet is in the interests of the UK.

But the UK is doing an excellent job at covering its own base first. Long may it continue.