And so, here in the U.K. we emerge into the light, blinking and marvelling at what we find. Coffee shops and pubs actually open, shops you can walk into and buy things, the village school actually open, groups of children with their parents playing on the grass outside the community centre after school. How on Earth did we allow all of these freedoms to be denied us, why didn’t we protest or flout the rules? Why did we allow our new democratically elected government to switch into full blown dictatorial mode, after all, no other country did this did they? Oh, hang on a moment ….
“Hindsight is notably cleverer than foresight”
“In the midst of war and crisis nothing is as clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight”
There is nothing that demonstrates the pathetic empty headed clamour for power more than opposition politicians flip flopping from one foresight policy view to a hindsight policy regularly on a monthly basis; “Starting this lockdown is ridiculous, we need to keep business going” followed a month later with “The prime minister should have started lockdown much sooner, lives would have been saved”. “Closing our borders is an affront to genuine travellers …..” followed by “we demand to know why the government didn’t close our borders sooner”. There have been so many examples that the leader of the opposition Labour Party has now become known as Captain Hindsight! However perhaps the most ridiculous expression of a hindsight mentality is a shrill demand from all sides for an “Urgent Review” of the government’s handling of the Covid crisis before the damn thing is even over. Imagine this ….. “Well Mr Churchill, our troops have had to be rescued from Dunkirk by private civilian ships, our cities are being bombed and spitfire production isn’t fast enough. Isn’t it time for you to consider your position and have an independent review of your handling of the war so far?”
So let’s get positive, at least for 5 mins, let’s have a bit more light than heat with some facts about the last 12 months and one particular brilliant story about our country’s strategy that isn’t so well known. Firstly however, it begins with a massive decision to invest heavily in vaccine research and production, to partner the renowned Oxford biochemical research laboratories with Astra Zeneca, to place a guaranteed order for their first supply, to fund everything such that OAZ can sell their vaccine at cost without profit. Mostly unseen and unheard at the time. Coupled with this was the U.K. decision NOT to join the European Medicines Agency. It was ridiculed and howled at from all quarters as a blatant right wing Brexit policy and had to be reversed. My god, haven’t these howling wolves now gone quiet as the EUs research, purchasing and rollout fell apart, stalled, and undoubtedly cost lives as they blundered around blocking sales to other countries, accusing OAZ of reneging on contracts and even downgrading and banning the OAZ vaccine before changing their minds.
Kate Bingham and The Vaccine Rollout
And now to the details of our brilliant vaccine rollout programme, at the centre of which is a lady called Kate Bingham, not a civil servant, not a member of parliament. She is a venture capitalist ……… I know what you’re thinking ……… but she is also a qualified biochemist, with a degree from Oxford University and an MBA from Harvard. Not many of them in our government or civil service ranks! Despite all this, charges of “cronyism” were naturally thrown at her by all and sundry. Well, the mud slingers have had to eat humble pie and have gone very quiet.
Kate Bingham started to set up her Vaccine Taskforce with Nick Elliot, a former army bomb disposal engineer, adding Clive Dix a CEO in the pharmaceuticals industry, then Ruth Todd seconded from the Submarine Delivery Agency. Bingham then placed orders for 7 vaccines in total to “deliver” 400 million jabs for a UK population of 67 million. Meanwhile, over in Brussels ……. chaos. Next …..
“Rolling out the vaccines needed military precision — and the military. Soldiers from 101 Logistic Brigade, under the command of Brigadier Phil Prosser, had been embedded in the NHS since the PPE debacle. ‘They used the same principles of logistics that they did in Afghanistan or Iraq,’ says one official. ‘To them, there is no such thing as “Can’t do it””.
Now came the time to roll out the vaccines in a precise and orderly fashion, right vaccines, in the right numbers, at the right place, BUT, also transported below freezing point which was a necessity with the Pfizer vaccine. So …..
“Once the vaccines were ready to go and be distributed to hospitals and care homes, a plan was needed to ensure that this was done speedily — by bringing in the private sector. As Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be transported at temperatures below freezing, a decision was made not to rely on PHE logistics but to go to companies already used to cold-chain medicine — the distribution arms of Boots and Superdrug. One minister describes it as ‘the best decision we made’.”
Even as everyone could see that the UKs vaccine rollout was proceeding at Light Speed, Kate Bingham became the subject of negative press with the Sunday Times saying she had spent £670,000 on PR consultants and was bound to be personally profiteering because she was a venture capitalist! The next image sickens me to the core.
I kid you not, but this is so unbelievable and disgusting and I bet you’ve never even heard of Kate Bingham before today. And, she wasn’t even paid, she insisted on working for free, for her country! But it will all come out whenever a review is held, Because ……
“The story is not over — But in terms of how things operated, the Vaccine Taskforce is being seen inside government as exemplary. ‘It makes us ask: is it possible to get things done at this speed and with this competence outside of a pandemic?’ says one minister. An unpublished Treasury report on the process is understood to describe it as a blueprint for an industrial strategy in the future.”
I mentioned in my opening paragraphs how relatively simple things have returned to normal such as pubs, shops and schools opening. But it goes further than this. In our village everyone now speaks to each other as if they’ve known you for years, everyone stops for a chat during morning walks, politeness is tangible, courtesy is everywhere. Food and drink outlets have made massive efforts to get their businesses going again, most noticeable has been the “building” of outdoor infrastructure, simple things like chairs and tables outside village cafes and tea shops, a local winery putting out tables and benches in a nearby field for tastings and charcuterie (this one ok as long as you don’t mind the wind, rain and the cows …… but nobody minds at all). Then there is a local restaurant and wine bar that has built outdoor “pods” to seat 4 people for lunches and dinners.
There are many more simple examples, but there is no doubt in my mind that we are seeing “the new normal” and that things will NOT go back to the way they were. More people are now working from home, either because their employers have recognised that it can be done, or they have set up their own businesses from home. Internet shopping for groceries has literally exploded here in the UK with all of our supermarkets having to expand warehouses, delivery vehicles and drivers, and shelf pickers. Which brings me around to delivery drivers, whether it be from Amazon or not there has been an incredible rise in the number of new small delivery businesses, and all of these people plus the supermarket people deserve our deep gratitude. But don’t believe that this portends the death of high street shops, because on a city scale people still need to go into stores, try clothes on, make choices for example. And don’t worry about our small village shops either. Our great butcher, Tony, has really boomed, never closing for Covid, for the first time taking phone orders and delivering, finding whatever you want if its something out of the ordinary, employing more staff, and really knowing everyone by name. Our little supermarket, a Londis, likewise, cheerful, well stocked, reserving baskets of stuff in advance. Then a new one, yes new and in the middle of Covid …… HealthBox, selling dried fruits, cereals, nuts by the gram from self-help bins, juices, vitamins, teas, etc with everyone supporting them they’re doing really well. THIS is the entrepreneurial spirit of Britain, without bureaucracy, without foreign regulation imposed, without labelling restrictions that make no sense, without any imposition at all!
And so finally, let’s all learn from a little hindsight …… and have a laugh. It was a mistake to empty the supermarket shelves from panic buying of toilet rolls when a pandemic hits us affecting chest and lungs. If or when we next have a pandemic affecting our stomach and bowels, ignore any government advice or otherwise to rush out and stock up with cough medicine! And remember……
I would just like to thank a few people for helping me to be where I am today, but especially my wife, daughter and her husband as we all stuck together. Then there is the prime minister, the government, Kate Bingham, the NHS, the British Military, the supermarkets, the delivery drivers ….. I really mustn’t forget the people of our village, Tony the butcher and his team, especially Sean, Tom and James, then there are my internet friends too. Oh and did I mention our wonderful neighbours who …….. 🙏🙏
I think its all about quick planning and execution with good command from the leaders needed during these crisis which are missing in our context.
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Yes, quick decisions too were made over a year ago, some didn’t work but most did. Our government WAS criticised for some decisions but nobody on Earth really knew what to do, so ……… we tried absolutely everything. Thank goodness! Stay safe 🙏