Opinion: ‘It’s the hypocrisy that causes upset’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Sunday, 12th December 2021, 3:15 pm
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Last December was a particularly grim time: I remember when in the space of a few days we moved up from Tier 2 restrictions, to Tier 4, and then to a national lockdown.

Festivities, if any, were done via Zoom. Virtual toasts were raised, viewed via laptop screens.

When the calls ended, there was an unusual, eerie quiet.

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It wasn’t quite the same at Downing Street. While families throughout most of the country were separated, there, party games were played, and people made merry. Yes, we have heard the denials: however, it’s so typical of this government that their ethos is “do as I say, not as I do”.

Hypocrisy is a lethal poison for democracy.

There are many inspiring stories which arose out of World War Two, however, one that particularly sticks in my mind is the Royal Family’s reaction to Buckingham Palace being bombed.

They stated that it was a relief to be able to look the East End of London in the face. The ethos of “all in it together” mattered to the Royal Family; yes, of course, it wasn’t quite the same for them as it was for a family in Rotherhithe; nevertheless, danger was a shared experience. It bound the country closer together.

The government could have done a great good if they had had the same wisdom: if Johnson had made sure that last Christmas at Downing Street was as sparse and austere as it was for everyone else, then he would have been in a far better position to look the country in the face when he asked for further sacrifice.

He perhaps would have been in a better position now if he had to ask for caution given the new Omicron variant.

What he did, however, was entrench the idea that political elites live at a remove from the rest of us; he added fuel to the fire that is burning under the foundations of democracy.

If people believe that they are governed by hypocrites, they are less likely to participate in the electoral process.

That may suit some: however, it is not the cornerstone of a healthy society.

The Labour Group in Peterborough intends to adhere to good science: we are going to practice common sense in relation to the Omicron variant.

I believe that the government should encourage people to work from home for a time; I believe that we should practice a measure of social distancing. I believe that this must be a country-wide effort: as recent events have shown, it doesn’t take much to start community transmission of a new variant.

I believe that our local officials should be leading from the front on this issue: they must be visible in masking up, not indulging in events which could risk further transmission of the virus.

We should support our vibrant third sector to ensure that Christmas is as pleasant as possible for those who must isolate.

It won’t do to simply say that hypocrisy is acceptable or try to disguise it using the dark arts of spin control.

We are not going to stop a virus with denials: only action and the full participation of the public will achieve that.