I hate to say it, but Britain’s doing OK. Even Germany envies us… | Brexit

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For those of us who like to talk Britain down, all this good news is hard to take. The vaccination figures are shocking. Nearly 20 million first doses administered. A forward-thinking procurement plan. The leading large nation, far ahead of the US and, more gallingly for us frothing Remoaners, miles ahead of Europe. Nothing could be more depressing for the honest self-loathing liberal Brit. You know the type. Recycle assiduously but fly once a fortnight.

We can’t say we haven’t had a good run. The past few years have been wonderful. Any positive stories could be written off as a fluke or a statistical aberration. There has been abundant bad news to confirm what we already knew: Britain is a sad, grey little Plague Island in the Atlantic, incapable of relinquishing its past glories and heading full tilt towards irrelevance. Brexit has been Gloomster Glastonbury.

The early days of the pandemic were promising, too. We had the dithering over lockdown, the PPE fiasco and the Barnard Castle drive-by. All reinforced our narrative of total incompetence. A simple eye-roll was usually enough to convey your membership of the told-you-so club. What do you expect from 10 years of Tory rule? The turkeys voted for Christmas. It’s our children and grandchildren I’m worried about.

The self-loathers hadn’t had it so good since Suez. But this year life is increasingly bewildering. The test-and-trace fiasco was comforting. It proved that when the Tories combine public money with private businesses, an orgy of cronyism ensues. Yet the vaccine programme has turned out to be a slick collaboration between hard-nosed businesspeople, big pharma and the academic establishment. It’s almost as confusing as Gillian Anderson playing Margaret Thatcher. Even Private Eye conceded that they’d been “harsh” on vaccine tsar Kate Bingham.

It turns out it might not only be vaccinations that Britain is excelling at. An article in the Economist, not normally given to jingoism, pointed out the UK’s success in cutting carbon emissions. For several months last year the UK burned no coal. It looks likely that soon it won’t burn any at all. You might argue we’ve outsourced emissions to China, but so has everyone else. The bitterest pill is that we’re beating Germany. Germany, the nation self-loathing Brits revere more than any other. Germany, which welcomes every immigrant, has sensible governments, and has only ever craved peaceful European integration.

It transpires that several of the dozen or so vaccines Germany thought to order have been ensnared in red tape. Surely the pandemic can’t have exposed shortcomings in having a pan-continental uber-bureaucracy?

Wasn’t all that technik meant to lead to a bit of vorsprung? The front page of Bild, one of Germany’s main tabloids, last Wednesday read “Britain, We Envy You”. While Eeyorish Mrs Merkel warns of yet another lockdown, with less than 10% of her population vaccinated, our flaxen-haired prime minister leads his nation towards a summer of Weimar excess. Mutti, how could you forsake your fans in Islington like this?

The American economics professor Tyler Cowen, in a blog about the Economist piece, said Britain was “grossly underrated”, also pointing out our performance in AI and London’s enduring appeal as a global city. Our bond yields are substantially higher than Germany’s, indicating that hopes of recovery are better advanced. At the time of writing it looks as though the European Football Championships, originally to be played across the continent, will be held solely in England, a neat metaphor for this confusing year.

There are glimmers of light for gloomsters. Amsterdam has taken over as Europe’s share-trading capital? Tell me more. Lorry delays and export nightmares? Give it to me neat. But everywhere we look there are questions without easy answers. Does Ed Davey deserve some credit? Is Matt Hancock not the literal devil? Is the UK actually… good?

We must be thankful for the cricketers. Presumably reading about the vaccination rates from their bubble in Gujarat, they took the trouble to engineer one of their most craven defeats in memory. When everything else is looking up, it’s nice to have failures you can rely on.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: I hate to say it, but Britain’s doing OK. Even Germany envies us… | Brexit

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