Boris Johnson ‘forcing’ pubs in the North of England to close is a cultural car crash bound to cause more trouble than it cures
A second wave of Covid-19 is hitting the north of the UK particularly hard but Prime Minister’s plan to copy Scotland and ‘force’ pubs to close from Monday is not the answer, and it could backfire big time.
There’s a place called The Bigg Market in Newcastle that is the stuff of English legend.
You may even have heard of it, maybe not in quite the same revered tones as the legend of King Arthur and Camelot and all that, the Toon is far more raucous and there’s a lot more alcohol involved.
Also, unlike Camelot, really exists.
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And many of the clichés about the place, like most clichés, are pretty much true.
For example, the way people dress up for a night out. An Arctic chill blasting down the streets, icicles forming on the earlobes, even penguins waddling down the street chased by polar bears – none of that would stop the Geordie lads and lasses from going out on a ‘Sarraduh neet’ (that’s ‘Saturday night’) in t-shirts and skimpy dresses.
And never mind Tinder. Many a child is alive today thanks to the Bigg Market, and its slightly more upmarket sister down the hill, the Quayside.
But it seems covid-19 has done for them, what the weather and two world wars couldn’t, and something even an alien invasion would probably struggle with: from Monday the pubs and clubs could shut for a while.
They did it once before, of course, during the full-on lockdown but the virus is still with us.
Most of the kids who frequent these bars and clubs are, statistically, at miniscule risk of being seriously ill with Covid-19. What the government actually needs to do is to keep them away from the elderly and people with health conditions. Plenty of scientists agree.
Closing the pubs and clubs might seem like the easy and obvious thing to do, to avoid people gathering in groups. So what, right? Let the pubs close. Again.
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That’s easy if you’re not the sort of person who goes to the pub anyway. And Boris Johnson and his chums down south most certainly are not.
Yeah, BoJo likes a drink. A bottles or two of Chateau Margaux with a spiffing meal and possibly a single malt to finish with the other chaps from his Eton and Oxford days. But my guess is that he has no REAL experience of what it means to go down to the local for a few beers with your mates. Every Friday and Saturday night.
If he ever does go, it’s for a photo op and he’s swiftly whisked away as soon as the snappers have put away their lenses.
Also, it seems to me – for those who never go down the pub nor dance around their hand-bag in a nightclub – there’s a certain pleasure being taken in all this. Schadenfreude, they call it. But people who would use such a pretentious German word in a conversation un-ironically are simply not the sort of people who like other people falling drunk out of a pub door. They hate the sight of youngsters cavorting in the street.
They just don’t understand, you see. The pub is a release valve. It’s where people congregate, especially in the north. It’s where you help someone out with a pound or two, it can be where grievances are aired and egos are soothed.
It is, basically, where your mates are. It’s also good fun!
Especially after a trip to St James’s Park to see Newcastle United, or Anfield to watch Liverpool. Elland Road to watch Leeds. The Etihad Stadium to watch Manchester City (not Old Trafford to see Manchester United, most United fans get in their BMWs with their prawn sandwiches and head home – to the south).
Oh hang on… football grounds are closed now too.
Some people will never get this because it’s simply not their culture, particularly amongst a section of the middle classes in the south of England. The south is a different country anyway, only in the south will you see a grown man ordering a ‘lager top’ in a pub (that’s a pint of lager with an effeminate dash of lemonade).
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I bet Boris likes a lager top, now and again, if the g&ts are starting to get a little samey.
People in the north won’t take kindly to this command if it comes, Boris. Plenty people still don’t quite understand how a character torn straight from the pages of The Beano got to be Prime Minister in the first place. Spiffling and piffling and waffling – never mind a Liverpudlian or Geordie accent, I can’t understand what the guy is trying to say half the time: precisely because, half the time, he isn’t actually saying anything at all.
Boris is, at a stroke, rebuilding the so-called red wall of Labour voters in the north who turned blue and swung towards the Tories at the last election. He has hit a sweet spot for sure … for new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. His votes are going down the drain with all that unsold lager.
Actually, though, if you check out the map – the north east of England never fell for Beano Boris, and remained resolutely red. But these places are only islands in a sea that’s Tory blue.
Yes, of course, it’s more of an outdoor culture in Spain because it’s warmer. Fine.
Let the lads and lasses have a few beers outside then, Boris. Open up all the foot paths. The parks. They don’t notice the cold anyway. Maybe put out some of those heaters that look like little lamp posts.
These places, pubs and football clubs, exist for a reason. They exist because a human need made them exist, and that need is not resolved simply by putting the games on the telly and having a beer on the sofa. It’s not about the beer. It’s not about the game itself, per se.
It’s about being part of a tribe. Yes, the herd.
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So, of course – absolutely – let’s protect the weak and the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable in every way we possibly can. But let the herd gather, let the herd build its immunity.
It’s what nature intended, it’s what nature – and the tribe – has always done. And nature got us this far without lockdowns and face masks… oh, and for the record: I have never ordered a lager top.
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