The year is 2051. At the age of 86, Boris Johnson is now in his fourth decade as Prime Minister. Unfortunately, however, his premiership continues to be dogged by a familiar problem. On the first Monday evening in January, he instructs a TV camera crew to set up their equipment a minimum two metres from his desk, and prepares, once again, to address the nation…

“Folks! You join me on a major occasion for our country. A milestone in our great island story. An extraordinary landmark in our history.

“Because I can hereby confirm that, as of midnight tonight, the United Kingdom will be entering a world-beating 50th national lockdown.

“Naturally, I appreciate that this news may come as a disappointment. I know that many of you were hoping that the third lockdown would be the last. Certainly the fourth. Or at least the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, the 10th, the 20th, the 30th or the 40th. Or indeed the 43rd, the 44th and the 45th, which, in a radical but vain attempt to fox the virus, we imposed simultaneously.

“However, I wish to take this opportunity to reassure you. This latest lockdown is definitely going to be our last. Categorically. Unequivocally. Fear not, folks: I’ve got a good feeling about this one. Fiftieth time lucky! The half-century’s the charm!

“Of course, I do accept that previous lockdowns have not been entirely successful. For example, the firebreak. And the circuit-break. And the firewall, the troubleshoot, the reboot, the restore-factory-settings, and the try-turning-it-off-and-on-again.

“I also acknowledge that we have not yet fully delivered on previous promises to flatten the curve. Or to squash the sombrero. Or to crush the camel’s hump, scalp the Alps, harpoon the Loch Ness Monster or break Mr Tickle’s arm.

“Nonetheless, I am absolutely convinced that this time we’re going to crack it. One more heave, folks! One last push! The light at the end of the tunnel is now positively dazzling! Why, it’s so bright I can hardly see! And that’s not just because the NHS is so badly overwhelmed that my cataract operation has just been postponed for the 38th month in a row!

“To ensure that this 50th lockdown is our most effective yet, I can tonight announce the introduction of three vital new measures. First, I can confirm that we’ll be enforcing the strictest possible controls at our borders. This will be crucial, given the discovery of the new Faroese variant – which our scientists believe is even more transmissible than the Easter Island variant, the Antarctic variant, the Martian variant, and the Narnian variant.

“Second, I can offer my most solemn guarantee that there will be no repeat of the mishaps that hindered our previous efforts to roll out the vaccine. Again, I can only apologise for the unfortunate misunderstanding that led to us storing 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in an industrial kiln.

“Third, I have taken on board the various criticisms of Gavin Williamson’s performance as Education Secretary – and then, subsequently, as Health Secretary, Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Deputy Prime Minister. I am very clear that, at a time of national crisis, there can be no room in my Cabinet for ministers who underachieve. Which is why I am now sending Gavin to the House of Lords instead.

“As I’m sure everyone will understand, the decision to impose this 50th lockdown is not one that I have taken lightly. I recognise that the public’s patience will only last so many decades. And I know that you’ve all had to make the most enormous sacrifices. Especially those of you living in Tier 96. It must be incredibly tough, only being allowed out of the cupboard under the stairs for 23 minutes every Tuesday lunchtime.

“I also appreciate that in recent years, home schooling has become particularly challenging for parents. Not least because, owing to the lockdowns imposed during your own childhoods, none of you actually went to school yourselves. It has also, of course, been difficult for your children’s teachers, given that none of them actually went to school either. Which has, regrettably, meant that your children have ended up being set questions that they, you, their teachers and indeed their examiners don’t know the answers to.

“All I can do, once again, is to thank the British people for their astonishing fortitude. I know all too well what so many families have been going through. After all, I myself caught the virus in April 2020. And again in October 2022, May 2025, February 2028, July 2030, November 2033, March 2035, June 2037, August 2041, January 2043, December 2045, April 2047 and September last year.

“To lift our spirits, however, let’s all focus on the incredible party we’ll be able to throw once the virus is finally vanquished. It’ll be like all our Christmases have come at once. You remember Christmas. Christian festival, held annually on the 25th day of December. Traditionally celebrated by members of an extended family congregating for the day in a single household. Viewers under the age of 30 will find more information on Wikipedia.

“At any rate: I’m sure you’ll see what I mean soon enough. Because, with every fibre, vein and corpuscle of my being, I truly believe that this 50th lockdown will work. That’s right, folks – this time, things are going to be different!

“And if not this time, then definitely the next.”

Read more of Michael Deacon’s columns here

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