Different feeling pervades second UK lockdown
Different feeling pervades second UK lockdown
09 NOVEMBER 2020 8:50 AM

United Kingdom residents seem resigned to the second national lockdown, but hotel businesses and others are starting to see real pain, which could be alleviated if our leaders start acting like leaders.

When you read this, the United Kingdom will have entered the fifth day of 28 of its second lockdown.

It is boring, but most people, even if they do not understand the entire reasoning behind this second bout, have shrugged their shoulders, pursed their lips and muttered “tut,” which is about as counter-culture as many of us get over here.

I do not understand the reasoning for this new lockdown. How could anyone, with the government wobbling between saying we all need to follow the medical advice but ignoring those experts when it best suits it?

There have been protests in some cities, and there is real concern about this next pause on life.

It does feel different, though. People obviously remember what it felt like the first time around, and I do not see the panic in the supermarkets or the antagonism against what we are being asked to sacrifice.

I spoke to several hoteliers this week who wondered why it was that the government could not have had the common sense, grace or maturity to reach out to opposition politicians, business leaders and independent thinkers to secure a real plan on how to deal with COVID-19 and get the economy running again and safely.

One reason this might not have been done is that the ruling Conservative Party trounced the opposition at last year’s General Election (my word, how long ago does that feel?) and therefore does not need anyone to get its way.

We are seeing more of this type of attitude—and I will call it childishness—in the U.S. presidential election, which, as I write, is a fury and blur of postal-ballot counting, lawsuits and rhetoric that easily could flame into serious consequences.

I guess this is what power does, which is why most of us think the opposite.

I do not think this is due to a 24-hour news cycle and the instant ease of social media.

When people say I’ve never seen times like these, it is a good exercise to look at what was happening 10, 25, 50, 100 years ago, and a skim of the headlines does not make for any better reading. Often it is worse, and I certainly think those in power now are more accountable.

Is it too flippant to suggest that if one does not like a decision, then wait, for it, too, shall pass—in the cases of democracies the next time we go to the polls?

This is a time for common sense, collaboration and civility if ever we have needed it—actually, I just looked back 25 years ago, and we needed it then, too. It was 25 years ago this week that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Peace—was assassinated.

Companies in the hotel industry and elsewhere are hurting so much at the moment, our energies should be directed there, not in petty politics, however large the prize.

In the United Kingdom, help has gone to employees, who are hurting from loss of loved ones, pressures on paying mortgages and bills and the stress of uncertain futures.

Another comment hoteliers made to me this week is that having a wonderful Christmas is literally the last thing on their minds, and they are right.

I would be very happy to drive to my favorite birdwatching reserve and go for a walk on 25 December, a joy that I am not allowed to do until at least 3 December.

Hoteliers being able to open on Christmas Day might be a bitter pill considering they will have lost out completely on lucrative U.K. Christmas-party business, even if what events there would have been would have been socially distanced ones.

Businesses need help. They have not received the necessary help. Yes, business rates have been frozen, but there is a huge weight of rents, debts and fixed costs to pay.

Not everything will survive, but if I were to go down, I would have perhaps felt a little better if I knew that decent, civil conversation had happened to try and bail me out.

This crisis will go away when a vaccine is developed, but until then wise heads able to contribute to and listen to reasoned argument are what is needed.

My one hotel of 2020
I have stayed in a hotel this year. I was due to have stayed in my second and third this Friday and Saturday into Monday, but the lockdown ended that.

My only hotel of the year was the Hotel St. Florian in Štúrovo, Slovak Republic, a small city sitting on the banks of the River Danube.

This was in mid-January, and at the time I was the only guest, and how weirdly apt is that for right now as we wallow once more in self-isolation.

I loved the fact that I could wander around this hotel at will without seeing anyone. I could wander down to the empty lobby and make a coffee, and when I arrived I was given a key so I could let myself in, as the single check-in employee was going to go home right then, so she told me.

In the morning I was told to close the door behind me when I finished breakfast, and the sun was shining, and I seem to remember I did not have a single care.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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