Andy Richardson: 'The brains trust didn’t think that one through'

At first, it was hospitality.

People in Soho, London, after pubs and restaurants were subject to a 10pm curfew
People in Soho, London, after pubs and restaurants were subject to a 10pm curfew

Back in March, Boris told people not to go to their local restaurants, which led to a flurry of bookings as trade fell off a cliff. Rishi Sunak plugged the gap and introduced furlough. Industry saved, for a little while.

Those in hospitality continue to face the hardest of times. There’s the rule of six, 10pm curfews, social distancing, track and trace and wear masks as the Government looks to protect the public and stop the spread of Covid-19.

Those in the UK’s night time economy, in contrast, can but dream of social distancing. They’ve been without work since March and Health Minister Helen Whately – remember her, the one who performed so exceptionally on care homes back in Spring – rang the death knell for the 3.2 million who work within it.

During a TV interview, she said it didn’t make sense to continue supporting jobs where there simply wasn’t work at the moment. Her interviewer said: “So you’re not going to support the nightlife industry? It’s done.” Whately gazed at her shoes.

The Government can’t save every job. To do so, would bankrupt our impecunious nation. Yet when we look to Spain and France and others, we see Governments that have pledged support for another 24 months. In the UK, the Government has turned its back on the night time economy, the UK’s fifth largest industry.

In the coming months, there will be wholesale redundancies – in addition to those that have already taken place – and a huge number of theatre, concert hall and nightclub closures.

Not all Covid-19 rules work and it’s becoming increasingly apparent just how barmy the 10pm curfew is, as footage from towns and cities across the UK shows congested high streets and malls at 10.01pm. The brains trust didn’t think that one through.

As the Government seeks to deploy a snoopers’ charter to make up for its failed track and trace policy, we have interesting news about a vaccine. There’s little chance of the UK immunising anyone other than essential workers by the end of 2021. This thing may last for two to three years; and we thought it would be months.

That bastion of neutral broadcasting, the BBC, and neutral regulator, Ofcom, meanwhile, may employ staunch Conservative supporters and Boris Johnson's friends in the top jobs. Welcome to the new oligarchy.

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