Tim Coles’ Notebook

Posted 11th February 2021

Those allergic to different opinions and lacking a sense of humour should expose themselves gradually to this column. Always read everything in context and in full, otherwise even the previous sentence poses problems. Suitable as a basis for discussion for young people denied critical thinking lessons (well, any lessons at all, actually). Warning: Contains strong research.

Carbon footprint… I don’t normally make new year’s resolutions, but I’ve been inspired by two knights of the realm. Sir Lewis Hamilton and Sir David Attenborough. Both honoured for services to the industries in which they’ve made fortunes. And both on a mission to stop the world from burning up within the next nine years. We must all buy electric cars and scrap our gas boilers by then. If the poorest get poorer, well, that’s collateral damage. If we can ignore the consequences for deprived people of the Government’s response to covid, we most certainly can with climate. To set an example, Sir Lewis will try to make gas-guzzling Formula 1 racing more eco conscious. Having changed the livery of the famous silver arrows to black in support of the Marxist BLM, might he now switch it to green? Wow, that would be something. And as for the sainted Sir David, he’s going to…wait for it…think about giving up his thousands of annual air miles producing and promoting his films. My carbon footprint is already much lower than most but, during many sleepless nights, I’ve been racking my brain to consider what more I can do. Even though I haven’t set foot in an airport for yonks (I’ve been waiting to renew my passport to make sure it’s blue), I’ve resolved to go even further than the great man and definitely give up flying when I’m 94. You can hold me to it.

Casting off our EU shackles… So, we’re now a sovereign country again. Thirty years of campaigning has reached fruition, Liz Truss has secured umpteen free trade deals, and the world has not ended. It reminds me of the millennium bug, except with hatred for those who courageously refused to be cowed. And talking of bugs, that’s the very spirit that is needed to hold to account those who, having taken back control from the EU, have been consumed by a control freakery that has convinced them they have an almighty power over an endemic virus and are willing to cause evermore misery to huge numbers of people rather than accepting their lockdowns have failed. As the situation wasn’t conducive to celebration, for the first time in years I woke up on New Year’s Day without a hangover having toasted casting off our EU shackles with a glass of water and fallen asleep before the clock struck 12. It all might have been different, there having been many treacherous turns in a long journey. And, for that matter, if the Fox at Carlton had been open on New Year’s Eve. 

Our hospitality industry… The hospitality industry’s been singled out by the Government for particularly harsh treatment. Despite spending fortunes on Covid-safe measures, restaurants, and pubs which are the lifeblood of many communities, have been summarily shut. The beauty industry’s been targeted too. An industry contributing £28.4bn annually to the economy and only 0.05 per cent to the R rate, and which has always been scrupulous about safety and hygiene, is estimated to have shrunk by 30 per cent, with over 4,500 hairdressers and salons closing for good. Thriving businesses, created through incredible hard work and dedication have been destroyed. Women account for 90 per cent of those who work in the industry. Both industries employ many of the lower paid. Both are responsible for much happiness. Meanwhile, ministers and scientific advisers responsible for much trauma, and politicians who have failed to hold them to account, have pocketed full salaries throughout (how can they be so shameless as to not even take 80 per cent of their salaries?). When people who have lost their livelihoods hear so many others lauded as heroes for doing their jobs, they must cry: “That’s all we ever wanted to do.”

Some things never change… We should be truly grateful for amazing doctors and nurses, coping under extraordinary pressure with the winter resurgence of the virus. With mind-boggling sums of money pouring into the NHS each year, it’s difficult to believe we still see queues of ambulances with patients awaiting admittance. But this year, with 13000 less beds due to Covid distancing and huge numbers of staff self-isolating, it beggars belief that, as I write, tens of thousands of nursing students remain idle. Why is it best, anyway, that nurses learn their job in a lecture rather than an operating theatre, or on a ward? And why were Nightingale Hospitals decommissioned having not admitted any patients? As a company which has designed numerous kitchens for disabled people, we were employed, many years ago, to supply and install an assessment kitchen in a large new hospital building. Proudly presenting the kitchen to the bigwigs, I enquired as to when the building would open. I was told that there was no set date because they weren’t sure what it was going to be used for. Some things never change.  

Red tape… We should also be grateful for the tens of thousands of retired doctor and nurse vaccine volunteers. The NHS had them jabbing away the minute the vaccine was approved, right? Wrong! They were presented with hours of form filling to prove they could recognise terrorists and safeguard children who wouldn’t be vaccinated. As with ridiculous regulations putting off willing helpers when I set up my village’s Neighbourhood Watch, so one of the most crucial tasks the state has ever faced is stymied by red tape.

Free speech… Biased broadcasting was a feature of Brexit. It’s far worse with Covid. Dissent is crushed. Government pressure on social media channels led to YouTube cancelling Talk Radio, the only broadcast outlet posing serious questions. Realising it was a step too far, the channel was restored, but the direction of travel is clear. Free speech, the bedrock of society, is under unprecedented assault. Toby Young, founder of the Lockdown Sceptics website, was accused on Newsnight of having “blood on his hands.” Judgemental people are everywhere, watching, reporting, and shouting down debate, turning on people who have the temerity to disagree with the police that a cup of tea is a picnic (Blimey, if it is, and the pubs are ever allowed to re-open, there should be no problem with a scotch egg being classed as a substantial meal). Tiny minorities force the cancellation of those with whom they disagree, often with the tacit approval of the elites. Votes are cancelled too. Don’t be surprised if May’s local, mayoral, and police commissioner elections don’t go ahead – anything to avoid the public giving their verdict in real polls. It’s not just in America where the results of democratic votes are not accepted – just look at Parliament after Brexit. The present Government grabs unprecedented powers without the proper parliamentary debate that is the basis of our democracy, and the media and opposition parties scream “more, more!” When trust breaks down and the people are denied a voice, therein lies the makings of cataclysm. In 1941, Theodore Roosevelt made a powerful speech in the very building that witnessed the recent shameful scenes in America: “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world….” Quite!

An open mind… I’m not seeking an MBE (in case you were thinking of nominating me), but I do pride myself on this column’s public service credentials. I’ve set a couple of science reading assignments for young people confined to their homes. Find a quiet spot with your computer (If you don’t have either, tough!) Google The Great Barrington Declaration (now signed by over 53,000 scientists and medics) and The Danmask-19 trial. Both are currently online (but be quick as certain studies and sites have been taken down). Read and discuss. Parental participation must be with an open mind.