The George Cross is Britain’s highest civilian award for gallantry in extreme danger, often awarded posthumously for acts of stupendous courage and self-sacrifice. In 1942, King George VI conferred a collective GC on the island of Malta for its heroic endurance during a wartime siege lasting nearly two and half years of near-constant attack by the Germans.
Malta was bombed relentlessly, day and night; its population was driven to the brink of starvation. Thirty thousand buildings were destroyed or damaged. 1,300 civilians were killed; 2,301 airmen killed or wounded. Also destroyed were: two aircraft carriers; four cruisers; 19 destroyers; 38 submarines; 369 fighters. Bloodied but unbowed, Malta fully earned the GC which it now sports proudly on its flag.
I wonder how the Maltese feel about proposals by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft and the Sun newspaper that a collective George Cross should now be bestowed on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
Personally I’m unconvinced by this frivolous, mawkish, virtue-signalling propaganda gimmick.
This is not to discount the bravery and fortitude of all those doctors and nurses at the sharp end, working in often inadequate protective equipment and exposing themselves to increased viral loads which could potentially be fatal.
So far, more than 20 NHS doctors and nurses have died with Covid-19 and, unfortunately, they’re unlikely to be the last. But while every one of those deaths is a sad loss, this is not the equivalent of being bombed and starved into submission with 110 straight weeks of earth-shattering attacks by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
— RAF Benevolent Fund (@RAFBF) October 4, 2017
Then in 1999, a GC was collectively awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) which had lost over 300 officers murdered and thousands more injured in Northern Ireland.
And it’s not just the pure numbers we need to consider here but the level of risk. Every day during the Troubles, an RUC officer would spend their entire service — and indeed, their days of retirement — wondering whether today would be they day when they’d be kneecapped or have their limbs blown off or shot or otherwise tortured to death by the IRA.
I’m not sure that even the most heavily exposed NHS worker has to face quite such an intense burden of fear.
Lord Ashcroft’s proposal seems to me part of a wider campaign by Britain’s failing political class to rebrand the utter cock up they are making of the coronavirus pandemic as something magnificent, heroic, inspirational and redolent of Britain’s Finest Hour in World War II.
And it really isn’t.
At best, this is a Phoney War. And the man in charge right now — much as he might have wished otherwise when he dashed off his potboiler biography — is certainly no Winston Churchill.
I’m currently reading Andrew Roberts’s magisterial biography Churchill: Walking With Destiny.
What’s clear is that British politicians then were just as useless, craven, party-political, short-sighted, and despicable then as they are now. But the difference is that the wartime government had a man of vision and backbone and purpose to knock their heads together and get things done.
Boris Johnson has neither vision, nor backbone, nor purpose.
Boris took the easy path, draped himself in the mantle of the failing NHS, and courted cheap, short-term popularity at the expense of principle and longer-term beneficial outcome.
One might have hoped that the brains behind the throne, Dominic Cummings, might have understood that trusting the world’s fifth-biggest economy to the dodgy computer models of a few suspect scientists was a grievous error. But no, even Cummings would appear to have lost the plot.
In the Telegraph, Allister Heath warns that “we have entered a mini-economic Ice Age, and its impact on our society will be horrendous.”
The economy will collapse by 35 per cent this quarter and by 12.8 per cent for the year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility [OBR], the worst full-year decline since the Great Frost. Unemployment will shoot up by 2.1 million to 3.4 million, 10 per cent of the workforce. The fiscal costs matter less, but they are equally horrendous. The Treasury will borrow £273 billion this year, taking the deficit to 13.9 per cent of GDP – not quite the 25 per cent seen in World War II, but close. For the first time, the state will spend over £1 trillion, taking public expenditure to 51.7 per cent of national income.
A responsible government would have been mindful of this and done its very best to protect voters from this looming disaster.
Instead, through a mix of weak decision-making, overreliance on dubious advice from parti-pris, narrowly-focused “experts”, and reluctance to upset a cowed, frightened population (whose hysteria is largely the consequence of the government’s own propaganda messaging), Boris Johnson and his fake wartime government is steering Britain inexorably towards spectacular defeat.