Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 77 (Friday, June 5)
WHEN I decided to follow advice and self-isolate for three months, I thought it would be a stroll in the park. We closed our office and decided we would work through the comings weeks, so what’s the big deal?
Seven days into lockdown I decided to write this blog for the LymeOnline website and nearly 70,000 words later, this is my final offering.
I’ve never written so many words on a single subject before and it’s certainly been a challenge to find 1,000 words every day.
I’ve been happy with the number of readers who have stuck with me throughout but was aware that not everyone would agree with my views. In fact many have not, although a few have been kind enough to say they looked forward to it every day.
I was determined when I started the diary to be as positive as possible, especially when commenting on the many acts of kindness that were happening in our town. Lyme never let’s you down.
Sometimes it was difficult finding a positive angle on some on the continual flow of instructions and advice from government and I had days when I felt pretty low.
I started out being fully supportive of the government and thought that Boris Johnson was doing an okay job. Not because of political allegiance but because I felt it was time to put politics to one side and all pull together to steer the country through it’s biggest challenge since the last war.
I did not think any other government would be doing any better so it was best to get behind the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet members who were facing the toughest time in their careers. No government had faced such testing examination before.
Inevitably, my views were interpreted by some as those of a rabid right-winger, which I am most definitely not, and they were not slow in expressing their disgust. But having written an opinion column for the past 20 years, I’ve been used to taking it on the chin.
I also angered a few with some comments which were politically incorrect, for which I have offered an apology.
As the days went by I started to wonder whether Boris Johnson was the right man for the job, especially after he was let out of hospital after a near-death experience from COVID-19. The experience had a profound effect on him and he wasn’t the combative BoJo that we have known.
Whilst not going as far as saying we ought to have a government of national unity, as that was never going to happen with the Tories having such a big majority, I did float the idea of inviting the new Labour Leader Sir Keir to take on a specific role.
Sir Keir has demonstrated in just a few appearances at the dispatch box in the House of Commons that he’s going to be a formidable leader of the opposition and Boris is not going to have such an easy run as he might have expected.
I want to be loyal to Boris Johnson but, like many I expect, my desire to do so is waning a little. There seems to be too much policy happening on the hoof and if the political commentators are to be believed things are not all sweetness and light at Cabinet level.
I believe the Dominic Cummings situation has inflicted great harm on Boris’ reputation, which could be costly in the end, and it’s difficult to maintain confidence in the government after the PPE, testing and care home debacles. We are all waiting for the next car crash.
And whilst the total of COVID-19 deaths in the UK, now about to exceed 40,000, is a breathtaking figure to swallow, there is good reason to accept that the overall strategy adopted by the government is proving to be a success.
As I am writing this it has just been announced on television that just one in a thousand are infected. That’s encouraging news.
Throughout this daily blog I have wrestled with my journalistic beliefs that those in power who make decisions that can costs lives should be held to account and robustly challenged by the press.
But I have been so appalled by the manner in which some of the big bests of Fleet Street and television news stations have gone about this duty. I admire Emily Maitlis, presenter of Newsnight, for the manner in which she conducts herself but I think she has stepped over the mark in recent times. And I have no respect for the bully-boy tactics of Piers Morgan.
Much of the behaviour of the press is all a game, so graphically demonstrated by the bun-fight which goes on every day outside Dominic Cummings’ house. How many bloody photos do they need of him coming out of his home every morning?
Many people I know outside the media who rarely take any interest in politics have been watching – or should I say were watching – the daily press briefings from Downing Street and have been appalled by what they have seen.
Sir Alan Sugar believes the press has misjudged the mood of the country and I have some sympathy for that view. I certainly think the continual negative coverage has had a big effect of people’s mental health.
Well, that’s it. You won’t have to suffer me every day from now on. Before signing off, however, can I say a big thank you to those of you who have stayed with me the last 78 days. It’s been an interesting journey.
My Lyme Matters column in the digital edition of the LymeOnline newspaper will return next week and I promise you there will be no mention of politics.
“Journalism is more than a journey – it’s a life sentence”. Who said that? I did!”