JANET STREET-PORTER: I don’t understand why how I spend Xmas is any of PM’s business

I truly resent being ordered to spend months wearing a mask just because a mysterious new strain of Covid – Omicron – ‘might’ overwhelm the NHS. It’s drastic action, considering little is known about this virus, except that it’s highly transmissible, not a death sentence and sounds more like a nasty bout of flu.

Omicron is just the latest variant of coronavirus and we’ll face many more over the coming years, but the way the government has reacted this time seems hasty and hysterical and bodes ill for the future.

It’s especially infuriating because the decision to reintroduce pathetically semi-useless face masks was issued by a master of the double standard. A bloke who is known to loath face coverings (less room for photo opportunities), who couldn’t even be arsed to set an example by wearing one for a lunch on Monday, the day after he’d taken to his Presidential podium to issue new restrictions.

Boris Johnson has shown time and time again that rules (about marriages, lavish holidays, expensive wallpaper or generous party donors, for example) are to be bent and manipulated to suit personal whims.

In the latest example of ‘another rule for them’ we’ve just discovered that a year ago – when England was brought to a standstill by the implementation of a Tier 3 lockdown and the public were stuck at home unable to socialise with family and friends – not one but two boozy staff parties were held in Downing Street. Gatherings at which several dozen workers enjoyed food and drinks, and played party games until after midnight.

Boris Johnson applauds the choir as he attends the switch on of the Christmas tree lights outside 10 Downing Street in London on Wednesday

Naturally, the Prime Minister stood up in Parliament today and blathered and blustered that no rules were broken, but here’s a classic example of one rule for the insiders, another for the mugs (ie compliant members of the public) who back in December 2020 were dutifully sitting at home sipping a glass of vino trying to connect with Aunty Vi on Zoom, washing their hands every five minutes and sanitising the dog?

The latest decision to re-enforce mask-wearing results from panic at misson control following a handful of cases of Omicron, a variant of the virus thought to have come from Southern Africa. Even though there’s still less than 50 cases in the UK, Boris – determined not to be labelled a ditherer once again – has decreed masks must be worn in shops, on public transport and a whole heap of random places like auction houses, estate agents and nail bars (but not pubs and restaurants) until next March.

Masks; those filthy flapping bits of paper we stuff in our pockets, drop on the pavement, forget to bin or burn and which at least a third of the public have never worn on public transport, believing that somehow they are ‘special’ immune people. This time, fines have been introduced but who is going to enforce them?

Meanwhile, supermarkets like the Co-Op say they won’t enforce mask-wearing, because it’s a ‘personal choice’ and their workers are not police officers.

Apart from having brought us the bad news about masks, and introduced a semi-useless set of travel restrictions (testing on arrival in the UK but not pre-departure) Boris is determined that life in the UK must carry on as normal so that we continue to tolerate his larger-than-life persona.

Sadly for Santa Boris, his scientific boffins and health chiefs beg to differ, taking to the airwaves to tell anyone who will listen that we must avoid going out unnecessarily, return to social distancing, work from home and not gather in large numbers. If we dare to go to a pub or club, we should be stuffing lateral flow testers up our noses every five minutes to ‘make sure’ we’re safe. Some want our borders locked down, like Australia, Switzerland and Japan.

What’s the real threat? You can take your pick, because the mixed messaging is deliberately vague and contradictory, designed to envelope us in a cloud of new anxieties and fears, so that we self-police ourselves back into yet another lockdown.

Into this melting pot of Covid-confusion Santa Boris has reinvented himself as the Man whose prime mission is to Save Xmas. Instead of Santa’s Grottos, tombola and lucky dips, he’s promised booster jab centres will pop up all over the country just like Christmas trees.

Into this melting pot of Covid-confusion Santa Boris has reinvented himself as the Man whose prime mission is to Save Xmas, writes Janet Street-Porter

Into this melting pot of Covid-confusion Santa Boris has reinvented himself as the Man whose prime mission is to Save Xmas, writes Janet Street-Porter

They’ll be manned by servicemen and women, thousands of volunteers, pharmacists and GPs who’ve been offered more money (currently £12.58 per jab) as well as bonuses for jabbing at the weekends.

This is our army of Christmas helpers – so if your kid’s Nativity play has been cancelled, take them for a trip to the local GP surgery or walk-in vaccination centre, because that’s where Santa’s mountain of cash has been diverted.

But ask yourself this; would you rely on Boris Johnson to protect your office party, your trip to the panto, the family gathering with relatives from all over the country?

Would you give Boris sight of your plans and say ‘I trust you to make my Christmas special. I trust you to ensure that I get to visit Aunty Nell in her care home, that my cousins and my step kids and nephews and neices can all pack into my living room on December 25th and shout their heads off, gorging on pigs in blankets and Baileys?’

Why should Christmas even be under threat in the first place?, writes Janet

Why should Christmas even be under threat in the first place?, writes Janet

Boris isn’t someone I’d trust to run a dogs home, let alone Christmas Day for the long-suffering population of the British Isles.

It’s a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus by eating our body weight, playing dumb parlour games, and watching wall to wall repeats on the telly. All a sacred part of our national identity.

I’ve never thought of Mr Johnson as a spiritual man who cherishes the right of families to cast aside their differences and come together and eat turkey once a year. His own childhood was eccentric to say the least.

His father was a philanderer, recently accused by two (younger) women of unwanted attention. Over the years, Boris has sprouted several families, with ex-wives, lovers and at least six or seven children. His latest wife is pregnant with their second child and he’s besotted with Wilfred, his small son, blathering on to the CBI conference about what you can learn from Peppa Pig after spending a day in a theme park.

Boris seems to have a free and easy attitude to the notion of family – and good luck to him, because in Britain we’re relaxed about that.

But isn’t it a bit rich of someone who must have a dilemma deciding what branch of his family to spend Christmas with, to patronise the rest of us by promising to ensure our Christmas will be ‘saved’?

Why should Christmas even be under threat in the first place?

Covid infection rates and deaths are low, 90% of us have anti bodies and almost 24 million are double jabbed. Medics in South Africa, where Omicron originated have said most cases are mild, patients show no symptoms, and there have been few, if any deaths. Cases are predominantly amongst young adults, many of whom are university students. 

The Prime Minister is seen switching on the Downing Street Christmas tree lights in London

The Prime Minister is seen switching on the Downing Street Christmas tree lights in London

The World Health Organisation agrees. Scientists point out that the current dominant variant – Delta- has far more troubling health implications.

In another grand gesture to capture the headlines, Santa Boris announced that everyone over 18 will receive booster jabs by the end of January. This insanely grand gesture means attention will be diverted from those seeking GP’s appointments for cancer and other troubling conditions. The NHS will be diverting staff and resources into another of the Prime Minister’s Big Ideas.

Isn’t it time to accept that Covid is with us to stay, that it will never be fully eradicated, and we must adapt and make our own choices about how to live?

The public are being brainwashed into fear of the unknown, by a politician who is too fond of pointless grand gestures. (Like that bridge to Ireland which has sunk without trace).

Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to build a 100-foot statue to him right now on condition he leaves us the hell alone?

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