Britain defines itself by its history. This history is a major reason why so many people are attracted to the country. Whilst most overseas visitors come for the historic buildings and pageantry, for many Britons it’s World War 2 that makes the British who we are – stoical in adversity, defiant and more than anything else, free. So it was interesting that as Covid restrictions were lifted on so-called ‘Freedom Day’, our new freedoms were celebrated as wildly as those on VE Day. The fact that those who imprisoned us were our own government, and the invisible enemy is still far from defeated, was largely ignored.
The battle against Covid in the past 18 months increasingly resembles a rather bizarre episode of Dad’s Army, a show that mocked the idea that British genius and resolve were decisive factors during World War 2. It still amuses people 50 years on. Oh how we laugh. But the government’s handling of the pandemic on behalf of the country is proving to be as inept as anything from the Warmington-on-Sea Home Guard, and it’s not funny. Not funny at all.
It’s quite clear that Boris Johnson, far from being the Churchillian figure he likes to think he is, is a dead ringer for Captain Mainwaring. He’s pompous, makes profoundly wrong decisions which have cost thousands of lives and if he gets anything right, it’s more by luck than by judgement. He’s made so many U-turns it’s not hard to imagine him saying “I was wondering when you’d spot that” every time he’s forced into one.
Jeremy Hunt makes a plausible Sergeant Wilson. Like Wilson, he’s urbane and mild-mannered. Although he is not in government and therefore observes from the sidelines, his position as chair of the Parliamentary Health and Social Care select committee gives his criticisms of Johnson added spice. He hasn’t yet said, ‘Do you think that’s wise?’, but as Johnson beat him to the top job the subtext for any comment Hunt makes must be, ‘I could do a better job than you, mate.’
What of the other members of the platoon? Gavin Williamson is so obviously Private Pike it hardly needs mentioning. A man whose career highlight before politics was selling fireplaces, Williamson’s every decision about how to manage schools during the pandemic has been resoundingly awful. Even in this appalling cabinet, his every remark is probably greeted with the muffled chorus of ‘Stupid boy.’
Matt Hancock’s record on Covid PPE supply, which supplied more cash to business acquaintances than it did any usable PPE, once made him Grifter-in-Chief, but he is now more like Private Godfrey, asking to be excused so he can spend more time with his lover and his lawyers. Once the alter ego of Private Walker, Warmington’s resident black marketeer and spiv, Hancock has now been replaced by Robert Jenrick. Jenrick will cut any deal you like, especially if you live in Newark (his constituency) or desperately hard-up Richmond in N. Yorkshire (MP, billionaire and cabinet colleague Rishi Sunak).
Brandon Lewis and George Eustice alternate as Corporal Jones. They have no qualifications other than being unable to understand what they read (the whole cabinet qualifies in that regard), will loyally follow orders, and then will hand over surreptitious parcels of sausages to any passing customers (especially from Northern Ireland).
More from Central Bylines
- EU haulage firms now avoiding the UK
- Where have all the HGV drivers gone?
- Cabinet cronies and the PPE fiasco
Sajid Javid is ARP-Warden Hodges, a ridiculous strutting figure no one takes seriously. Hodges is the same. Michael Gove is perfect as the preachy vicar, damp handshake and all. His churchwarden is Helen Whately. Helen who? Well yes, exactly. Peripheral characters like Captain Square and Private Sponge are represented by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Robert Buckland. We don’t see much of them. This is probably a good thing. Liz Truss, Grant Shapps and Kwasi Kwarteng appear as other platoon members. Like Rees-Mogg and Buckland, they say nothing. Lurking nearby is Priti Patel, busy making her list. You don’t want your name on her list.
This just leaves Private Frazer. By now it should be obvious that Covid is a kind of interactive experience, and so Frazer is played collectively by those of the nation who have a conscience; acting as a Greek chorus and commenting on the damning behaviour of the principals and the mob. Every time a cabinet minister makes a soundbite statement (‘If not now, when?’), or the mob reacts aggressively to the vaccines (they don’t like it up ’em, you know) or to the masks (‘I’ve got to wear a bit of cloth on my face!! Don’t panic! DON’T PANIC!!!’), the only proper response from us Frazers is to let everyone know, ‘We’re doomed, I tell you. Doomed.’
So, there we are folks, Britain has a new attraction for the rest of the world to gaze at in astonishment. A nation that earned a reputation for standing up to the jackboot is being ground underfoot by malevolent incompetence. It’s Dad’s Covid Army. It’s on daily and it’s LIVE!