PITY poor Andy Murray. He’s been dropped right in it; a shot in the arm whether he wants one or not.
So reluctant might people be to have the new Covid-19 vaccination that government officials north and south of the border are, we’re told, approaching well-kent faces to see if they’ll promote the jab.
On television the First Minister suggested the nation’s favourite tennis star might like to set a good example and take one for the team. Andy Murray’ll look churlish if he refuses now, not that that’s ever stopped him.
I sympathise with his position. I had an unexpected vaccination just the other week. One minute I was shunting my mum up to the local sports centre for her flu shot, the next thing I know an overly efficient nurse had me by the sleeve, needle piercing the skin. I wasn’t ungrateful; just taken a bit aback.
Still, our various governments will have no shortage of famous role models if the English education secretary is correct in his assertion that “we’re a much better country” than our foreign neighbours.
NHS England is said to be curating a list of “very sensible” faces to front the vaccine uptake campaign, presumably because we can rely on no one in the cabinet to fit the bill.
Having thought we’d seen the back of off the cuff bungling international diplomacy at the fall of Donald Trump, here we have Gavin Williamson. Not only is Europe looking at our septic isle askance as we try and fail to Brexit, now the minister has thrown unexpected shade at our Gallic cousins.
Poor Belgium has already taken a bruising from President Trump. “Do you all remember how beautiful and safe a place Brussels was,” he tweeted without punctuation. “Not anymore, it is from a different world!”
Well, now it’s got sub par medical regulators, according the UK government. Don’t feel blue, Belgium, because France and America are right there with you.
Live on LBC Radio yesterday morning, Mr Williamson engaged in a bit of light impromptu willy waving with presenter Nick Ferrari when asked whether Brexit had assisted with the speed of the vaccine roll out.
While he did stop short of the downright lie that Brexit has hastened the speed of vaccine approval, unlike his colleagues Jacob Rees-Mogg and Matt Hancock, who had no pause in attributing the jag to leaving the EU, Williamson did go quite the way to hinting that Britain is better off on its own.
A provision in the Human Medicines Regulations allows for the rapid licensing of medicines in an emergency situation. The UK will be under the remit of the EMA until January 1. Brexit has not hastened the UK’s vaccine programme.
We are able, he said on the radio, “to get on with things”, which is presumably a swipe at the French, spending half their time on strike and the other half eating soft cheese.
He similarly praised Britain’s “brilliant people in our medical regulator”. Fair enough. But he continued. “That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them, aren’t we.”
Ah, to live in Gavin Williamson’s little world.
For context, a Downing Street source said the education secretary is “enthusiastically patriotic” as though this were as a free pass, rather than the reason we’re in this mess in the first place.
If anything was demonstrated by the production of the vaccine it would be the success and power of international collaboration. Instead, Williamson is not the first MP to reach for petty jingoism. Earlier, Alok Sharma tweeted that “in years to come we will remember this moment as the day the UK led humanity’s charge against this disease”.
Yes, the UK is fast. Currently, the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are on their way to the UK. Where from? Belgium. And from where is Pfizer? Oh, the US. Careful now Gavin.
Thanks to the efforts of these boastful politicians, Britain has fared far worse than much of mainland Europe in terms of death rates and economic impact of the virus. Both in England and Scotland we have seen missteps and errors – some fatal, others with untold long term consequences on, say, mental health and education.
A respite from the grim privations of the past eight months should have been a given with the vaccine news on Wednesday but there was no brief pause to the usual factional divisions.
Bickering over the impact of Brexit. Squabbling over the future of the union. Nicola Sturgeon was asked if the speed of the vaccine roll out was a case for the union. Her reply was that England and Scotland would continue working closely together following, if it should come, independence.
A fudge, said some. Sensible and collegiate said others.
This a global pandemic. Westminster’s rush to claim an individual victory in a collective crisis shows a measure of insecurity – and isn’t that the essence of willy waving, a macho emotional precarity.
It is good news. But it is not inspiring that the UK is first to a vaccine roll out, far less that it is so boastful. It is an indictment of how desperate the government is to atone for, or perhaps more correctly, given the lack of apparent remorse, distract from years of bad choices.
What is even less inspiring is this display from Williamson. From a man sacked as defence secretary, a man who has overseen England’s mishandling of school exams and failed to plan ahead for the effect of a pandemic on schools, one doesn’t expect inspiration.
Being across the basic briefing notes isn’t much to ask. I’ve been live on air with Nick Ferrari more than once and you do have to think on your feet. Williamson was clearly unable to do so, he was clearly not able to conjure any relevant facts that might have salvaged the interview with a bit of dignity.
No, yet again, it was ill informed posturing. We’re all going to be facing the needle. Could someone in the government please use one of theirs to change the record?
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