A leader of men
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner
Over the weekend, I had cause to revisit Boris Johnson’s great soliloquies of the coronavirus pandemic. The cause, of course, was the now notorious insight piece in last week’s Sunday Times, which documented the UK government’s response to the emerging crisis.
But what really captured my attention was not so much the patchy timeline – although, it is quite alarming, if you haven’t seen it already – but, the sheer, brute bellicosity of it all.
Johnson talks repeatedly about the “fight”, of defeat, sacrifice and enemy. He conjures images of us in battle, primal, red-faced and surging for the enemy, a colossal defiant army with spit, blood and mud motionless in the air, in our teeth, a hungry flame burning in our eyes. We fight as one against an indiscriminate beast that will touch us all, one way or another.
I suppose he was trying to harden our resolve, rally us around a common cause, and cement himself as a leader of men. But wartime language like this was last used, you know, when we were at war.
The coronavirus pandemic is not a war. Wars are governed by laws, they are tightly choreographed, strategies are agonised over, industry is mobilised. They are also predominantly started, fought and ended, by men.
Britain’s Covid-19 response is not a sexy, masculine game of strategy, fortitude and violence. It is a desperate, tragic, health, social and economic emergency. Describing it as a war harks back a century to when women were considered weak and vulnerable, and men were their designated valiant protectors.
Meanwhile, back in the present, and these dated connotations bear a dark resemblance to reality in homes across the country. The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls, and domestic abuse killings have more than doubled.
Women have historically borne the brunt of domestic abuse - although men can be victims too. From 2014 to 2017, women accounted for 73% of domestic homicides, and over 80% of high frequency abuse victims.
Coronavirus lockdown measures mean women are at greater risk than ever. They have been removed of choices and agency, stripped of access to regular healthcare, support, social workers, contraception, control over their bodies.
Women are also more likely to be in the part-time, low-paid, ‘unskilled’ or informal cohort of workers who now find themselves either without a job or reliant on government support. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that job losses so far have disproportionately hit women, as well as young and low-paid people.
Without income, women are more dependent on those around them, vulnerable to controlling partners and often in the primary caring role for children, without a way out. Women’s refuges are now operating at a “reduced capacity”, at least in Scotland, and women are much less likely to present themselves at a hospital or GP surgery.
The coronavirus lockdown is the perfect storm.
There is no room then for bravado, ego, hyper-masculinity and a rhetoric that divides along the lines of gender, especially from our leaders. In this crisis, we should give up antiquated war cries in favour of a language based on science and empathy.
NHS supplies of face masks could be put at risk if the government starts advising the public to wear them, hospital bosses have warned. The government’s scientific advisers are set to meet later to discuss whether the public should be urged to wear masks in a bid to combat coronavirus.
Donald Trump has vowed to “temporarily suspend immigration” into the US due to the coronavirus pandemic. The US president wrote on Twitter: “in light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!" He did not give further details and the White House did not clarify.
More than 140,000 UK companies have applied for help to pay furloughed staff since the government’s coronavirus Job Retention Scheme launched yesterday morning. This equates to the wages of over one million people, who will receive 80% of their salary while they’re furloughed during lockdown.
Business and economy
The price of US oil edged back above zero this morning, after plunging into negative territory for the first time as the coronavirus pandemic crushes demand in global energy markets. West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, was fetching $1.43 a barrel in afternoon trading in Asia, after starting the session at -$14. (£)
Sir Richard Branson has pledged his luxury island resort as collateral to help get a UK government bailout for his stricken airline Virgin Atlantic. The billionaire Virgin Group boss said in an open letter to staff that he was not asking for a handout, but a commercial loan, believed to be £500m. The news comes as Virgin Group’s airline in Australia enters administration.
Only one in five Britons will hit the shops when quarantine restrictions end, but more than half of us expect to be back on the high street within two weeks, according to a survey of how citizens are coping in lockdown. Jefferies, the investment bank, interviewed more than 5,500 people from 11 countries to build a picture of the experiences, opinions and aspirations of citizens worldwide. (£)
Columns of note
Writing in The Guardian,Omar Khan explains how the coronavirus is exposing racial inequality in Britain. Ethnic minorities are at greater risk because social and economic disparities lead to poor outcomes in health. But worse, parts of the government response will exacerbate inequalities, with increased state powers most likely to be applied to ethnic minorities, and younger black men in particular.
In this week’s Atlantic,Emma Green explores how coronavirus is disrupting religious ritual for Orthodox Jewish women. According to the Jewish laws of sexual purity, women have to immerse in a mikvah pool after their period. At the moment, mikvah’s are either highly trafficked, scary spaces, or are closed altogether. But, when the alternative is to remain separate from partners indefinitely, many women are taking the risk. (£)
Source: New Yorker
What happened yesterday? Yesterday was seismic for the global economy, with oil falling to the lowest price in its history due to the coronavirus pandemic. FTSE 100 stocks sunk under the weight of the collapse but recovered slightly to finish the day 0.45% higher at 5,812.83. The more domestically focused FTSE 250 fell 0.20%, ending at 15,828.29. In company news: Up to a fifth of Goldman Sachs’ credit card and personal loans customers are taking payment holidays, a far higher level than at more established lenders such as Bank of American and Wells Fargo. Goldman, which lends to consumers under its Marcus brand and issues credit cards offered by Apple, has seen 10 to 20% of such borrowers request to defer payments since the coronavirus crisis. (£) Australia’s second-biggest airline, Virgin Australia, has entered administration following its failure to secure a A$1.4bn ($886m) bailout from the government. The carrier has appointed Deloitte to look for investment. Accounting firm Grant Thornton has cut the pay and hours of 300 UK employees whose workload has declined due to the coronavirus pandemic, as it attempts to slash costs ahead of an expected 20% fall in profits.
What's happening today?
River Merc Red
Mitchells & But
UK economic announcements
(09:30) Unemployment Rate
(09:30) Claimant Count Rate
Int. economic announcements
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Economic Sentiment
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Current Situation
(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) – Economic Sentiment
Did you know?
A 2017 study suggests that being lazy is a sign of high intelligence.
House of Commons
Ministry of Justice
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Pedicabs (London) – Nickie Aiken
Immigration and social security co-ordination (EU withdrawal) bill: second reading
Private car parks – Caroline Nokes
House of Lords
Proposals contained in the report of the Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House for new appointments to the House of Lords to be on a “two-out, one-in” basis - Lord Balfe
Enabling members to take part in the proceedings of the House of Lords remotely - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Representations made to the government of India to request the closure of call centres targeting British citizens with scams - Lord Naseby
Arrangements and timetable for the removal of restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic - Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill (Money Bill) – Second
reading and remaining stages - Baroness Williams of Trafford
Coronavirus: Justice sector response
First minister’s questions