“The British nation is unique in this respect: they are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.” – Winston Churchill
On many of the big issues – like all the places Britain would fight the Nazis, for example, and why so few deserved the thanks of so many, for another – the former prime minister’s nous could not be faulted.
But, let’s be honest, our appetite to hear the bad news unfiltered is waning slightly; our insistence on being told the unvarnished truth is a little less clamorous than it once might have been. We have, in short, lost our appetite for getting it straight after getting it straight for almost a year. We might, in fact, prefer to whistle a jaunty tune as we wander through a fool’s paradise in our rose-tinted sun specs.
We have been playing this dismal game of snakes and ladders for almost a year now, occasionally being allowed to joyfully leap up some short ladders before, quickly, sliding down some very long snakes.
While our prime minister likes to imagine he’s a little Churchillian, himself – ho, yes – he does not share his political inspiration’s faith in our British bulldog appetite for the worst-case scenario.
Boris Johnson, in fact, believes there is no bad news that could not be delayed a little, replaced with a little Latin, perhaps, or leavened with some self-raising bumble and banter. That is, of course, just one of the reasons that he – and we – are in the state we’re in.
Above all, the PM loves to be loved and, above that, hates being the bringer of bad news. So, given the slightest chance, he puts it off until it is absolutely unavoidable and, by then, of course, it is far, far worse.
So when at a few minutes to five on Friday afternoon, we were told Mr Johnson would soon be pitchforked to the podium for the daily Downing Street catch-up, not many were expecting announcements of balloon and cake. Yet, when the news came it was still shockingly unwelcome.
Many of us had suspected, as deaths and cases climbed through January, despite a stringent lockdown, that something was amiss but his confirmation that the new super-spreading strain of Covid might also be more lethal and that others might be on their way, was another uppercut to a nation already reeling around the ring looking for a safe corner.
And so we beat on, clinging on to the hope of a vaccine rollout, straining our eyes to see a break in the clouds. What else can we do but keep on keeping on, looking after our loved ones and trying to be kind?
Never knowingly underquoted, Mr Churchill also said: “It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”
We can probably all agree with that one, although, in truth, we have little choice.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe