Notes From the Margins…

Clap for Boris? You must be joking

  • April 11, 2020
  • by

As most people in the UK will be aware, Boris Johnson has spent most of the last week in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  Fortunately, he is now recovering. I say ‘fortunately’ because only ghouls wish to see their political enemies, no matter how contemptible they find them to be, exposed to physical suffering and death.

That does not, however, mean that we are obliged to accept the meanings that some of Johnson’s supporters have tried to impose on his illness during the last week. Consider the hashtag campaign on Twitter that accompanied Johnson’s transfer to the ICU, which called on the nation to come out of their houses and #ClapforBoris on Tuesday evening.

These exhortations referenced the #clapforNHS campaign that has been unfolding across the country since the lockdown began three weeks ago, which in turn echoes similar campaigns in Italy and Spain. The aim of these campaigns is simple, unequivocal, and entirely admirable: to express appreciation to the doctors, nurses, and other health service workers who have been treating patients during the pandemic.

Anyone who reads the newspapers or goes on the Internet can find the most heart-breaking and devastating testimonies of the traumas to which these workers have been exposed. Many of them have worked beyond the point of exhaustion, risking their own lives and the lives of their own families, because they were not tested or lacked the personal protection equipment (PPE) that should have been available to them in any advanced industrial economy.

Some of them have died because they lacked such equipment. That is, or should be, a national scandal. And yet these workers have shown the kind of heroism, solidarity, and self-sacrifice that is normally associated with wartime – something that was recognised in Italy, where some towns sang the old partisan anthem ‘Bella Ciao’ in appreciation of their courage.

My piece for Ceasefire Magazine.  You can read the rest here.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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