VIRUS: THE BRIAN WILSON COLUMN

wilson brian 3My favourite tweet of recent days mused: “Mind blowing how some boy in China ate a bat and it eventually led to the postponement of Elgin v Brechin City”.

Apart from being funny, which we need, it contained an essential element of truth. We live in a small, inter-connected world and rarely consider the fragility of the edifice on which all our assumptions are based.

There has been nothing like this in my lifetime.  But if, as a society, we emerge having learned no lessons, the conceit of invulnerability undisturbed, then it will all have been for nothing.

The first obvious one is about the power of the state as a force for good.  We are ritually conditioned to denigrate state spending and enterprise as if they were fifth-rate impediments to the genius of the private sector.

Yet at the first whiff of grapeshot, it is the state which must intervene – massively as only it can. Titans of capitalism emerge from their tax havens to demand public money. How much of their personal fortunes will they contribute?

The state can only do its job if, on an ongoing basis, it is properly funded. The pretence you can have a low-tax economy which provides high quality services and is prepared for all eventualities should never be allowed to recover.

One relic of the crisis I would like to see preserved is the list of “essential occupations”.  It includes the caring professions, the educators, those who maintain essential services, produce our food, stack the shelves we are so desperate to empty.

The list does not include hedge fund managers, PR consultants or breakfast TV presenters.  Yet this pyramid of social dependence is in sharply inverse proportion to the one of financial recompense.

Not everything has changed since Mary Brooksbank wrote her great Jute Mill Song: “O dear me, the warld’s ill divided/ Them that works the hardest are the least provided…”.

When this is over, let there be greater respect for the people we now so desperately depend on. The guys who empty our bins are an awful lot more useful members of society than Special Advisers who consider themselves masters of the universe. That pecking order should be built upon and reflected in what the “essential services” are paid.

There has been understandable media interest in the daftness of panic buying as an unfortunate reflection of the human condition. Fair enough – but greed takes much more sinister forms and I suggest news values should be adjusted accordingly.

Fortunes are being made by speculators who bet against companies facing a decline in value – and there are plenty of them at present.  Pleas from regulators to desist from “shorting” fall on deaf ears because there are fortunes to be made in times like these.

The invaluable Private Eye names a couple of major Tory donors who have made “tens of millions” in recent weeks from such misfortunes. Wouldn’t it be good if as much TV time was devoted to pursuing these miscreants to their doorsteps as on the folly of fighting over toilet-rolls?

I have no quarrel with what Government is doing in the circumstances as they exist.  There are no rights or wrongs, only a balance of options to which human judgement – medical or political – must be applied. Good luck to those entrusted with these responsibilities.

But I do object to re-writing history under the cover of a pandemic. Take for instance the nonsensical statement by Ian Blackford MP: “”In the last financial crisis, the banks were bailed out, the ordinary people were not.”

Mr Blackford surely knows the banks were bailed out because – due to the crazy irresponsibility of his fellow bankers – ordinary people’s savings were about to be lost, ATMs were within hours of not paying out and the financial system was about to grind to a halt.

It was indeed “ordinary people” who were bailed out at that time. Perhaps Mr Blackford and I can agree that the subsequent failure to punish bankers who had endangered the ordinary people was, and remains, a public scandal. Perhaps and perhaps not.

LET’S FORGET ABOUT BREXIT DEADLINES FOR NOW

Throughout the country, businesses face enormous uncertainty. With half the economy closed down, those which continue to trade worry about how they will survive.

Government assistance is, of course, vital. But how far will it go? How long will all this last? Will customers be able to pay for goods, and if so when? How will exports be shipped to markets with borders closed?

The questions are endless and definitive answers in much shorter supply. Nobody knows how long it is going to take and Government cannot be blamed for that.

It can, however, be blamed for adding to that massive uncertainty.  Can it really be true that in the midst of all this, they are ploughing on towards a December 31st deadline for EU negotiations with “no deal” the fall-back option?

Is it really conceivable that businesses which survive the crisis and come blinking into the autumn sunlight, if we are lucky, are immediately to be faced with another dose of Brexit uncertainty?

I have always accepted the referendum result and Government’s right to act upon it. But this is entirely different.  It would be an act of statesmanship to say now that the Brexit negotiations are on hold until all this is over, with no fixed deadlines in place.

On the other constitutional front, I note a portentous statement from Michael Russell that “the Scottish Government has paused work on preparing for an independence referendum this year…It follows from this that a referendum will not take place this year.”

In a reciprocal gesture, I have paused plans to holiday on the moon this year. Indeed, I will shelf them indefinitely in order to concentrate on more important matters.

 

 


2 thoughts on “VIRUS: THE BRIAN WILSON COLUMN

  1. Interesting that Brian raises the matter of short traders having made fortunes having taken positions on companies going down. Short trading is a game for those those in the know and therein lies the issue that Boris Johnson and his counterpart Trump in America may have deliberately suppressed bad news until such times as the financial friends in the know were able to take short positions on companies, or commodities, or currencies that would collapse on the recognition of the unfolding crisis.

    Epidemiologists and statisticians job is to understand how viruses spread within a community. Track, trace and predict these people have all kinds of data and in the case of COVID 19 they understood exactly what was happening in China. They, together with virologists also had the knowledge of previous outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics of everything from the common cold, to SARS, to HIV and how they progressed and how they were abated.

    Consider therefore how only six weeks ago HM Government were putting full page health adverts in the press to advice that HMG and the NHS were well prepared for the Coronavirus and how the best thing that people could do was sneeze into a tissue, dispose of tissue and wash hand regularly.

    All very reassuring but look at where we are now. An outbreak out of control, an NHS unable to cope with a country now going into total and utter lockdown. But it was all all right six weeks ago before the stock market crash.

    And in America a similar story with Trump declaring that Coronavirus was a hoax. Some hoax so why declare it to be a hoax when the epidemiologists and statisticians would have known exactly what was going to happen if there was no proper early intervention.

    With short traders having made trillions cleaning up on having correctly anticipated (?) the market falls, the rest of society is now left to pick up the social, economic and health fall out never seen in a hundred years – and I ask you again, how could the government have got it so wrong, or did they delay and defer for vested financial advantage.

    Looking at the epidemiological analysis the death toll could be horrendous and the lockdown procedures too little too late to flatten a spike that will utterly swamp the healthcare system.

    Battlefield triage as to who gets treated, who gets left to die. Army built morgues to take the bodies. Multi body cremations. Total and utter economic and social ruin. That is what we are facing.

    So why was everything so well prepared six weeks ago, but not now. That is a question a priorly somnolent populace must ask of Mr Johnston and his Tory Government as we move forward into these holocaust times.

    An Wilfred Owen repeated all those centuries after Horace penned the words, we would do well to reflect – ‘ Dulce et decorum est in pro patria mori ‘

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  2. Oh and in the midst of the greatest ever threat to our lives and way of life I do of course note Brian Wilson’s party politicking against the SNP.

    In relation to Brian Wilson raising the issue of Ian Blackford railing that during the last banking crisis the banks were bailed out, the people were not, Brian Wilson proceed to describe this as ‘ nonsensical. ‘

    Don’t know about other folk but in the last crash it was the banks that got bailed out. Not the people. And it was all under the stewardship of Gordon Brown and his light touch regulation of the city. But tell us Brian, are people who have lost their jobs getting the financial support they need now.

    Or tell us a Brian, do you support Ian Duncan Smith’s opposition to Ian Blackford’s proposal that in the midst of this unfolding cris everyone should be paid a universal wage. Duncan Smith, the Uber Tory that he is thinks it would be a disincentive to work. Maybe Brian Wilson thinks the same. His last Labour Government after all put private companies like Capita and Atos into the DWP to administer the benefits system.

    Or what of Brian Wilson’s comments picking up on the statement by a Michael Russel that there would be no Indy ref this year as it would be deferred until after the virus crisis, and to which Brians response was ‘ in a reciprocal gesture I have paused plans to holiday on the moon ‘

    As a reader of this type of comment from Brian Wilson it is not difficult to see why his Labour Party have been totally and utterly wiped out in Scotland.

    People are suffering now. The Tories are helping business but not the people. Statutory Sick Pay of £94.00 per week if you’re entitled to it, ( and many gig workers, zero hours contract workers and self employed are not entitled to even that. ) does not go far feeding, heating, lighting and supporting living And Brian snipes against the SNP.

    And note to Editor. Maybe you would wish to do a piece on hardship in the area. Businesses in the area have already let workers staff go in lieu of paying wages and this includes companies providing public services.

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