RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: 2020? Even I couldn’t have made it up!
This is the season when newspaper columnists are expected to pull on their Old Moore outfits and have a stab at predicting the year ahead.
Forgive me, but I opted out of this hackneyed tradition years ago, even though I’d never really taken it seriously.
No matter how outrageous or spectacularly silly my forecasts, they rarely came anywhere close to anticipating what fresh madness the next 12 months had in store.
This year the Butterfly Effect has been working overtime. Chaos theory holds that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can trigger an unstoppable chain reaction which leads to a tornado on the other side of the world.
In 2020, it wasn’t a butterfly but a bat that caused global meltdown. A diseased bat allegedly infected a pangolin bought from a wet market in the city of Wuhan, China, which has been blamed for sparking a pandemic which would impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Pictured: People throwing a statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Bristol on June 7, 2020. Four people have since been charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the statue
That is, of course, if you don’t buy into the perfectly plausible explanation that Covid-19 is a biological weapon manufactured in a secret Chinese military laboratory. Whether or not China released it deliberately to inflict maximum economic damage on the West is one for the conspiracy theorists. But just because you’re paranoid, etc.
Whatever happened, to adapt the old saw: coronavirus was halfway round the world before Western governments had got their boots on. None was as slow to act as Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration, which initially treated Covid as a faraway virus of which we knew nothing and was unlikely to pose any imminent threat to our shores.
At the end of January, when the pandemic was already starting to stretch its tentacles as close to home as Italy, Boris was celebrating Getting Brexit Done.
All that remained was the simple business of concluding a trade deal by the end of the year. That was the plan, anyway, and with the exception of die-hard, ultra Remainers most of the country breathed a sigh of relief, however we had voted in the referendum.
In these pages, I expressed the sincere hope that a line had been drawn under the bitter divisions of the past few years and we would rediscover the innate spirit of magnanimity and solidarity which had brought us together before, most notably after the Civil War.
With an 80-seat Tory majority and Brexit finally done, I wrote: ‘We can now look forward, fingers crossed, to five years of stability.’
What was I saying about not coming within a country mile of what was about to unfold? Just as well I crossed my fingers.
After a year of mayhem, of stop-go lockdowns, of economic devastation, of social unrest, of politicians and so-called experts making it up as they’ve gone along, Britain is about as stable as a three-wheeled Reliant van in a Force Nine gale.
Pictured: A police officer goes to one knee in front of Black Lives Matter protesters in London on June 3, 2020
It didn’t have to be like this. When Boris announced in March a brief three-week shutdown to ‘flatten the sombrero’ we complied willingly.
If we exercised restraint and stayed home we would save lives and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed. Most people were happy to obey the Government’s temporary restraints, although that didn’t prevent deranged panic buying and bog-roll banditry.
Even lifelong sceptics like me went along with it at first. Frankly, we knew too little about the virus so we simply couldn’t be sure what to think. When Boris went down with Covid and hovered at death’s door, we were all spooked.
As far as I was concerned, if this really was a ‘war’ on corona, I was happy to play the ENSA concert party and perform a song and dance act aimed at keeping up morale.
But as three weeks turned into three months, doubts began to creep in. It soon became apparent that we were in for a long haul. The Government was hiding behind ‘the science’ and had no idea what to do next.
Worse, vested interests had started to capitalise on the Covid confusion to advance their own selfish agendas.
One of the few predictions I did get right was that ‘green’ fanatics would co-opt social distancing to launch a vicious anti-car campaign.
Councils have been carpeting the country with idiotic, gridlock-and-pollution-generating cycle lanes — thanks to a £225million bung from XR pin-up Grant Shapps, who is supposed to be a Conservative transport minister.
I also told you that once the restrictions were eased, the Warden Hodges tendency would draw up a whole new series of curbs on individual freedoms. There would be nothing normal about the so-called ‘New Normal’. Temporary measures have a nasty habit of becoming permanent. And so it has proven.
Pictured: A man leaves a Costco store in Manchester with a trolley full of toilet paper amid panic buying by people concerned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic
What no one saw coming was the social upheaval another event thousands of miles away would rain down upon us. The gruesome death of George Floyd on the other side of the Atlantic allowed the miniscule, neo-Marxist Black Lives Matter movement to import American-style race-baiting identity politics to Britain, ushering in a Summer of Stupidity.
Bored students and others genuinely concerned about racism took to the streets, alongside hardened troublemakers.
What do we want?
Why do we want it?
At one stage, privileged, largely white and middle-class demonstrators marched towards unarmed British bobbies chanting: ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!’
Patently absurd. But the powers-that-be were running scared, sometimes literally.
Who can forget the demeaning sight of Metropolitan Police officers running away from BLM thugs along Whitehall, the epicentre of government?
On June 12, the headline on my column read: ‘Britannia teeters on the brink of anarchy’. There was an End of Days atmosphere abroad, as police and our civic institutions surrendered to widespread, sometimes violent, BLM demonstrations.
Ambitious senior coppers anxious to advance their careers thought it opportune to take the knee, both literally and metaphorically. Petrified by the prospect of allegations of racism, they stood back and watched BLM agitators attack Churchill’s statue and the Cenotaph.
Sadly, the Old Bill had no such reservations when it came to enforcing the haphazard, back-of-an-envelope Covid restrictions against non-violent members of the public. Drones were launched to spy on dog walkers in the Peak District and innocent sunbathers were threatened with fines.
In a scandalous abuse of power a 72-year old woman was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a patrol car for the heinous ‘crime’ of taking her 97-year old mother out of a care home for a cup of tea and a cream cake.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins resigned yesterday after his force was placed in ‘special measures’ by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary which expressed ‘serious causes for concern’. He even sent officers to measure pizza slices to determine whether they constituted a ‘substantial meal’.
This at a time when GMP failed to record a fifth of all crimes.
Margaret Keenan, 90, is the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, administered by nurse May Parsons, at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK’s history on December 8, 2020
Fortunately for them, as a result of the pandemic, I have had to cancel this year’s prestigious Mind How You Go Awards, which are awarded for outstanding examples of police incompetence, stupidity and excessive abuse of power. Otherwise, GMP would have been a shoo-in.
It was bad enough the police capitulating to BLM, worse still when virtually all our institutions, from government departments and the universities to the National Trust and the British Museum, decided to take the knee.
Statues have been toppled, streets renamed, works of art removed and the education curriculum ‘decolonised’, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.
Not even The Queen is immune. Her painting of Rorke’s Drift, one of the great British military rearguard actions, immortalised in the film Zulu, is the latest national treasure under assault from the woke revisionists.
It only goes to prove how every pillar of civic society has been captured by the Left, which wants to trash British history and falsely portray our proud, tolerant nation as a racist hellhole, riddled with oppression and founded exclusively on the slave trade.
Worse still has been the way the pernicious woke agenda has been cynically embraced by the corporate world, advertisers and shameless bandwagon hoppers like Sky TV and professional football, now the official knee-bending partners of BLM.
They’ve been getting away with it in a vacuum as democracy and accountability have been put on hold. This totalitarian insanity has been visited upon us without any consultation or consent, largely against the wishes of taxpayers and charitable donors.
Still, I’ve tried to see the funny side, too. The daftest development of the BLM tyranny was when a council in Devon had to take down posters advertising a clean streets initiative because they read ‘Dog Fouling Matters’ and were thus deemed to be a racist hate crime.
There was also a serious suggestion that frogmen be sent down the sewers to examine human waste to determine the extent of the Covid virus.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Crazy days: A collection of some of Richard Littlejhon’s headlines from 2020’s Summer of Stupidity
Much of the hilarity has been provided by the Government’s incoherent, inconsistent rules. If we didn’t laugh, we’d be phoning the Samaritans.
One minute Dishi Rishi is pumping £500 million we don’t have into his Money For Nothing And Your Chips For Free bonanza, encouraging us to Eat Out To Help Out. The next minute, the Government is forcing all pubs and restaurants to close their doors again.
There’s no rhyme nor reason. A few weeks ago, 32 coppers raided a North London gym, open in contravention of Covid rules. The owner was hit with a crippling £67,000 fine. Now, under Tier 3, gyms can open. Go figure.
Bizarrely, sauna parlours can stay open too. So you can sit in a boiling hot wooden box with any number of other sweaty men or women, but you can’t eat a socially distanced steak and chips at the Covid-secure cafe next door.
And as things stand — I think I’ve got this right — you can meet up to six friends in a garden (in December?) but not in a Wendy house. As if you’d want to.
This madness will pass, some day. But who’d have thought that when someone in China tucked into a dodgy, bat-infused pangolin stew, it would lead to anarchy on the streets of London and a deadly serious debate about whether a scotch egg is a substantial meal or a criminal offence?
You couldn’t make it up.
For what it’s worth, 2020 is the Chinese Year Of The Rat. I had to check that wasn’t a spelling mistake. If you ask me, as Al Stewart almost sang on his brilliant platinum-selling album from 1976, this was The Year Of The Bat.
Sadly, my hope that the country would unite has not materialised. Now we’re split into two new camps. On one side there’s public sector staff guaranteed full pay whether they do any work or not, and those lucky enough to ‘work from home’ — all of whom would like lockdown to last forever.
On the other, there’s the desperate private sector, already reeling from pay cuts and large scale job losses.
I wonder if the smug WFH brigade, selfishly boasting about their quality of life and how much money they’re saving, ever spare a thought for the thousands of small businesses going bankrupt.
Or for redundant shop, airline and hospitality trade staff facing a bleak future. Thought not.
What comes next? Your guess is as good as mine. Our frightened-rabbit Government hasn’t a clue either. More lockdowns by the sound of it.
But there’s one prediction I should have made back in January. With Christmas a few days away, and 11 months after we officially left the EU, I really ought to have known we’d still be arguing about Brexit…