We have been living with the fallout from the 2016 Referendum for more years than many of us would care to admit to. After the General Election last December, many really did think that, followed by our exit from the EU we really had reached the “end of the beginning”. However, who would have thought this time last year that we would have spent most of 2020 hunkering down and ending with probably our largest ever peace time deficit? And for once we were not alone. How we humans have got to where we are exposes several theories. My personal view is that we humans are paying the price for encroaching ever closer to the animal world. Given nature’s shrinking environment it is not surprising that viruses are continuing to cross the species barrier and pose serious threats to our survival. What we have experienced all over the world for most of this year has been war by any other name. Just as two world wars in the space of thirty years witnessed the evolution of the aeroplane from the wood and canvas biplane of 1914 to the all metal jet plane of 1944, so the combined efforts of teams of scientists around the world have produced vaccines in less than twelve months that before had taken years to perfect, and in the case of a vaccine against HIV/AIDS, not at all.
We are not out of the woods yet, but, again, the “end of the beginning” may well be where we are now. It might sound odd to some; but it could be argued that, in a bizarre way, it might actually have been the arrival and spread of COVID that finally put paid to the Trump administration in the USA. Without the virus, it is quite likely that we would not be anticipating the inauguration of President No 46 in January. As for who is to blame for unleashing this current pandemic on mankind, many would argue that you need, with some justication, to look no further than the People’s Republic of China. The question that some are asking is whether this nation deserves some kind of ‘punishment’, especially as it appears to be emerging from the devastation relatively unscathed in terms of its economy. For me the words of that old song resonate; “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself”. Perhaps it’s time for us to stop relying on China to produce so many of the goods many of us appear happy to buy. However, dear consumer, if that is the case, you may have to be prepared to pay a little more, just at a time when you are about to be made a little poorer. It’s your shout.
So, if you put Brexit and COVID together, we really have an opportunity to find out whether we, as an ‘independent sovereign state’, really have the wherewithal to make the best of what an interpretation of ‘democracy’ and a reactive nature has thrown at us. We are where we are, as that hackneyed phrase goes. We really do have nobody to blame but ourselves if we mess up this time. As US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, famously said back in the 1960s, we have lost an empire and failed to find a new rôle. We are still searching it would seem. The ball is in your court, Mr Johnson.
So, while some of you will still be prepared to put your faith in God as you pass through the gate of the year, as King George VI was advised, I personally would rather hope that we humans will continue to exhibit the kind of resilience and public spiritedness which has often been on display this past year. Perhaps, if putting your faith in God is a step too far for some of you, why not just add an ‘o’ to his name and put your faith in GOOD?
So, if any of you have managed to read this far, just stay safe and let’s hope that at some time in 2021 we might get back to something like normal service.
* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.