THE caprices of middle-class grievance have lately been evident during this second, edgier lockdown. It was in full spate last week in the predictably contrived outrage at Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland. I’m not an authority on what the daily responsibilities of a UK prime minister in the midst of a global pandemic are but I’m assuming that one of them is to be an occasional presence, within reason, in all parts of, well … the UK. Many of those whom Mr Johnson met on his brief venture across the border will have been appreciative, no matter their political leanings, that their efforts during the national crisis are simply being acknowledged and appreciated.

The First Minister herself also worked up a full head of wrath about the visit and also chose to become furious about unspecified and unquantified transphobia within the SNP. I suppose when some very serious and troubling questions about the Alex Salmond affair have begun to emerge which appear to bring it directly into your home and office any opportunity to deflect attention must be grabbed.

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Last month too, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Scotland, emerged from its nine-month-long vow of silence to campaign for its churches to remain open during the lockdown. In those nine months our poorest communities, housing a disproportionately high number of Catholics, have been menaced by the pandemic in every way imaginable. Yet, the Church’s only meaningful response was to claim that church attendance is a basic human right.

Wee word of advice here to their graces and lordships: I’m sure God will choose not to downgrade the prayers and entreaties of the faithful just because they’ve been made in a room and kitchen rather than amidst statues and stained glass.

Meanwhile the ongoing pressure being exerted by entrepreneurs to “get the economy moving again” continues unabated. There is always an implicit threat in these: that the longer they keep the padlocks on the more likely they’ll be forced to “let people go”; this being the favoured euphemism of business-owners for throwing workers out of their jobs.

None are ever asked to explain why “letting people go” is considered the only option. They are never asked how much profit they made during the boom years; how they chose to spend it; what they pay their staff and how many are on zero-hours arrangements.

Nor have we seen any senior executives of our major financial institutions being asked about their own pandemic practices. Have they eased any of their predatory overdraft rates of interest; permitted business owners longer to pay back loans on more favourable terms? Will any of their directors be forgoing their multi-million pound bonuses in these straitened times?

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How many mortgage arrears have they forgiven owing to sudden and unforeseen unemployment? How many repossessions have they halted? Will the banks alter their business models over the next five years to help Britain and its people get back on their feet?

Last week too, we were given due notice of how the world will look as it embarks on the long recovery from the pandemic. In those countries whose people already toil in the shadow of impossibly vast international debt recovery from the pandemic will be significantly slower again. Before this summer has turned into autumn most of us will have received the Covid-19 vaccination and thus feel safe to liberate our plans to drink coffee again and take wine. The UK Government will congratulate itself at having led the world in developing the vaccine and rolling it out in short order.

In the midst of our euphoria the World Health Organisation has chosen to remind us of our moral responsibilities. Its chairperson, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described our “Me First” attitude as a “catastrophic moral failure”. Just as the affluent west disproportionately devours the world’s resources so have we begun to use our wealth to annexe the market in Covid vaccines. By the end of 2021 the planet’s richest nations will have amassed sufficient stockpiles to inoculate their citizens many times over. In the world’s 70 poorest nations they’ll be lucky if even a fraction of their people by comparison have received the vaccine in that time.

The UK and the G20 countries have the wealth and means of distribution to ensure that this particular health gap is drastically reduced. It won’t happen, though. This became clear last week when the UK Labour Party chose not to press this Conservative administration to ease the debt burden of Third World countries.

When asked by the political website Left Foot Forward about Labour’s intentions on this issue the response by Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesperson was curt and unambiguous: “That’s not a policy of the Labour Party.” Thus continues the UK Labour leader’s successful spell as Minister for the Opposition in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.

Third World debt cancellation is one of the world’s major moral imperatives, significantly greater than the middle class indulgence of reducing our carbon footprint. Clue: it helps if you’re actually alive to have a carbon footprint.

Much of Third World debt was accrued by corrupt regimes, supported by the west who were only too happy to sell military hardware and build palaces for them at premium rates. When tyrants were overthrown and a semblance of democracy gained the west and the global corporations which prop them up strangled any attempts at economic recovery by insisting on full repayment. That the UK continues to be one of the world’s busiest arms traffickers to its biggest abusers of human rights is outright wickedness.

When you combine our indifference to the vaccination needs of these countries with our callousness in chasing up their historic debts you have the makings of another pandemic coming down the track. Debt cancellation will enable the poorest countries on the planet to invest in the health and education infrastructures to protect their people and, by extension, us their affluent neighbours.

Just one unvaccinated person in one of these countries contracting some future variant while the rest of us swan around complacently and all-inclusive in their tourist attractions will set the death train running round the planet once more. And this time we’ll deserve all we get.

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