Andy Richardson: The battle is not yet won - but it will be
Rewind the clock. Two months ago, Britain was preparing to leave the EU. The nation was divided as the toxic politics of Brexit took hold. There was little or no consensus. The only ones doing well from the discord were BoJo and Dominic Cummings.
Worse was to come. Soon after we left the EU, there was a well-publicised assault on the civil service and the BBC. Britain was a hostile and unwelcoming place. Covid-19 has changed all that. Now we stand on our doorsteps and applaud the NHS.
It’s more than a little ironic that the idea to cheer our health workers came from a young Dutch woman while the NHS is full of migrant workers who were targeted by the Home Office. Their heroic efforts are now saving lives. Covid-19 is restoring good will, healing parts of society, doing away with division.
The nation’s finest civil servants stand shoulder to shoulder with ministers of state at daily press briefings. They offer clear and unambiguous advice. It is their words we trust when they tell us to social distance. There is a sense of purpose, an outbreak of unity, a willingness to work together – the very behaviours that politicians discouraged. The news services that were so pilloried are now the very ones who communicate the message that is saving lives.
When Chancellor Rishi Sunak replaced Sajid Javid, he was considered a lapdog to Johnson and Cummings. Now the man from Number 11 is a giant among men. BoJo feels like the poodle and Cummings has all but disappeared.
There is more to be done. NHS trusts in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, West Birmingham and Dudley find themselves at the centre of the worst British outbreak, outside London. The virus is in our communities. Those who did not take it seriously now must. Over the next week, more cases will emerge as those who harbour Covid-19 become ill. Some will die.
And yet we should also reflect on the exceptionalism of residents. They are adhering to the strictest lockdown of all time. They are enduring catastrophic disruption to their daily lives. Enormous sacrifices are being made as parents home school, businesses are mothballed, families social distance and doctors and nurses become our new soldiers and generals. The battle is not yet won but it will be. We will emerge a stronger, more united nation. It is not just the NHS we should applaud. It is also ourselves.
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