Sir Tom Moore was a wonderfully optimistic 100-year-old Yorkshireman who’s determination lifted the mood of the nation.
I have defended his right to take one last holiday in Barbados with his lovely family and have toasted his extraordinary fundraising efforts.
I understand why people would wish to publicly applaud him on their doorsteps – not least the amazing NHS staff for whom he raised a staggering £33million completing his own garden marathon.
But whilst we exist in this current climate of fear and judgement, it has become socially unacceptable to challenge the overt public narrative of what is ‘right or wrong.’
Having expressed – very briefly – my mixed feelings about Sir Tom’s doorstep ovation on social media, I was subject to something of a ‘twitter pile-on’ sparked by Piers Morgan.
I have always enjoyed sparring with Piers on the GMB sofa – there appeared to be a mutual respect given our shared willingness to express an opinion. I expect we share more common ground than it is possible to articulate on social media.
Captain Sir Tom Moore, died with coronavirus aged 100 this week, raised more than £32million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden
Beverely Turner (pictured) says she ‘expressed – very briefly – mixed feelings about Sir Tom’s doorstep ovation on social media’
Personally, I find it impossible to view the events surrounding Sir Tom Moore’s latter days without looking through the prism of Covid-19, the government’s response to it and the various ways in which our country has been manipulated and controlled with no clear metrics to escaping lockdowns.
I’m baffled by the fact that the truly vulnerable (in care homes for instance) are still not being protected from Covid-19.
I cannot fathom how poor metabolic health (obesity being the biggest co-morbidity next to age in a poor Covid outcome) has been actively encouraged by ‘eat out to help out’ and the closing of sport’s facilities.
And I’m deeply saddened that this wonderful country seems suddenly beset with curtain-twitchers, jobs-worths and finger-waggers desperate to dob in the neighbours or simply shake their heads at an empty doorstep on any ‘designated clapping day.’
I have maintained a clear position on this disease since last Spring – every death is sad for someone.
But for the vast majority of people, Covid-19 remains relatively harmless. Amongst the under 40s, there is an infection-fatality rate of 0.1 per cent. It rises to 5 per cent in the over 80s.
NHS staff members outside University Hospital of North Tees last night clapping in remembrance of Captain Tom
Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds applaud outside No10 Downing Street last night
And yet endless Lockdowns and an unleavened diet of Covid drama is leading too many people to believe it is an instant death sentence for otherwise healthy people.
Told by the government to literally pretend to be ill – to ‘act as if they have Covid’ is truly unprecedented and such dictats are being issued without any concern for the long-term implications. People are locked away, terrified, as 250,000 small businesses close, families become divided and mental health problems rocket.
There is a huge socioeconomic and educational chasm which is growing wider every day with no sense of urgency on how to address it.
Orchestrated, overtly public shows of appreciation give the impression that we are all ‘in this together’ when we clearly are not. There are people ‘home-schooling’ by the pool in Dubai while others are cramped with three kids to a bedroom in a high-rise flat with no garden.
Too much of this past twelve months has depended on treating a nation like children. Maybe it’s just me, but standing in the street and clapping into thin air feels oddly childish and infantilising.
I honour and respect the NHS every day by staying fit, driving carefully and vaccinating my kids appropriately. It’s staff require proper appreciation through funding and resources – not distractions on doorsteps.
Captain Sir Tom Moore receiving Inspiration Of The Year Award at the GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2020
At a time when many people feel they are being micro-managed by a government unwilling to share an objective exit strategy, I prefer to stop and question any collective demonstrations of emotion. They are rarely completely benign.
Judging by the private responses I received on twitter (inquisitors are afraid to go public right now) I am not the only person blinded by the glare of irony as Boris Johnson clapped on the steps of Number 10 in appreciation of Sir Tom’s £33million charity fund when his own incompetence blew an eye-watering £22billion on a car-boot-sale Test & Trace system.
There are few things more stomach-churning to the British public than politicians basking in someone else’s reflected glory.
Sir Tom Moore went to his grave knowing that he was loved and respected as a symbol of social altruism and as a soldier he fought fascism so that we could live in a ‘free’ country – free to choose how to remember, free to celebrate or commemorate in our own ways.
I doubt any true solider would want Brits to feel morally obliged to stand outside and clap because they are afraid of what the neighbours – or twitter followers – might say.
So as much as I loved Sir Tom and everything he represented, I was in no mood to do Boris or Piers’s bidding.
I honoured him in my own way as I’m sure millions of others did too and thank him for his outstanding impact in a difficult time. May he rest in peace.