MY friend Angela Haggerty, the writer and political commentator, suggested recently that Scotland should have a day of national remembrance to remember all those we lost during the pandemic. Within a few weeks of Covid-19 beginning to exert its grip, Angela suffered the death of her dad, who had leukaemia, as well as the sudden loss of her baby son’s father.

Having to endure such a devastating double blow just as stringent lockdown restrictions were descending gave her a deep emotional connection with all those who lost friends and family to Covid-19.

In a poignant feature article for the Scottish Catholic magazine, Angela captured eloquently the anguish of many who were unable to say proper farewells to their loved ones. She wrote: “My father was placed on the shielding list because of his condition, which meant we were confined to the house and could have no visitors under any circumstances. My two eldest brothers would never see him again before he died.

“Dad died six months after his diagnosis, in June 2020. He died in a hospital instead of a hospice, and rather than having all of his family around him, only my brother was allowed to be there. On the day of his funeral we were permitted 20 people in the church, but fewer at the graveside.

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“I couldn’t sit with my brothers. We weren’t allowed to have a wake. We never got to give my father the goodbye he deserved, and I cried my tears into a face mask. I know I’m not the only one. The pandemic robbed thousands upon thousands of people of the chance to say their goodbyes and to mark the passing of people who had been at the hearts of families and communities.”

I was surprised that no government figures moved to implement Angela’s suggestion for a day of national remembrance to bring to mind those we all lost. At times like these, journalists reach for empty cliches when seeking to capture the grief of loss. We routinely finish reports by saying that the bereaved family “was last night trying to come to terms” with loss.

Yet, why should a family be expected to come to terms with loss? What does “coming to terms with” actually mean? These are situations where words, no matter how sincere and well-intended, will never capture the pain of death. A national day

of remembrance, held annually, would cover some distance in helping to heal the pain of our collective loss. To join with others who have suffered and to know that our government (whose members also lost loved ones) was acknowledging this would bring comfort to many people.

Scottish Government ministers and their senior advisers rarely get the chance to display the humanity they share with the rest of us. And at those rare times when they do, too many journalists (and I’m as guilty as anyone of this) ascribe ulterior motives.

It’s difficult, though, to observe any traces of basic human decency in the personal and public conduct throughout this pandemic of the UK Government. In times of national crisis we’re all encouraged to pull together as a nation and to lay aside petty tribal differences. UK Tories are especially adept at maximising times of national distress and threat to convey a sense of national unity. Often, they will reach for military metaphors to summon the Spirit of the Blitz and members of the royal family will be commandeered to reinforce this.

Occasionally, they will use these times to divert attention from historic malfeasance. The pandemic served as useful camouflage for the iniquities of an extreme Brexit and the dark forces which drove it. Similarly, the Ukraine crisis allowed Boris Johnson some wriggle room to break free from the inquiry into the way in which he and his staff chose to disregard lockdown restrictions and use Downing Street as a 24/7 party house.

THIS week, though, the Metropolitan Police issued cautions to individuals known to have participated in these unlawful gatherings. Like some others, I’d been left somewhat underwhelmed by the scale of these Downing Street bacchanals. In the grand scheme of Tory malfeasance throughout Covid-19, having a few drinks parties didn’t really rate very highly on the scale of other hypocrisies.

Perhaps though, the daily suffering of ordinary Ukrainians being bombed out of their homes by a pitiless psychopath, has made some of us think once more about how threat and jeopardy is experienced differently by very rich and very powerful people. National and global crises are regarded as business opportunities by these people.

The UK and US governments, in providing weaponry to the besieged Ukrainians, portray themselves as angels rushing to the aid of a stricken nation. But these weapons don’t simply materialise from thin air. Global weapons manufacturers and arms dealers are currently experiencing a big payday as the war in Ukraine enters a second month. Some of them have also been supplying arms to the gangster families who belong to the Saudi royal family, the UK’s closest allies in the Middle East.

The excesses of UK Government ministers while their people were burying their mums and dads in bleak, barren hillsides cannot really compare to arms dealers giving weapons to brutal regimes. But it’s part of a pattern that speaks of a congenital deficit of basic human decency.

The ongoing inquiries into lockdown parties should be quickly followed by a judge-led one into the far more serious matter of how the UK Tory leadership operated a mafia enterprise to screw this country when its people were on their knees and at their most vulnerable.

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Some of the UK’s top political operators have their fingerprints on both the scandal of corrupt PPE contracts and the wilful illegality of lockdown parties. And none more so than the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

His party presents itself as the ultimate upholder of so-called British values of restraint, caution and trust. At every election it warns voters that no party can guarantee respect for the forces of law and order more than them.

In the course of the last two years though, Boris Johnson has driven a crime wave through the UK Government. He will retain his liberty and his political career, while others beneath him will be made to take all the hits.

If anyone is driven to crimes of dishonesty as the cost of feeding and housing a family becomes prohibitive they have a ready-made defence: the UK Government have been doing it on the grand scale for two years and with less cause.