London Diary: Of how British govt is taking care of country’s poor and other observations during lockdown

Stories about how poor and homeless in India have been left to fend for themselves, without food and shelter, are in sharp contrast to how British government is looking after the country’s destitute

Photo courtesy- social media
Photo courtesy- social media
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Hasan Suroor

Ramzan & Corona lockdown

Move over, political Iftars. Enter, political Rozas. In what is claimed to be a “first” of its kind, senior figures of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party joined Muslims in observing Ramzan by actually fasting with them for a day #LibDemIftar.

Acting party leader Ed Davey, Layla Moran MP, London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita and councillor Hina Bokhari, among others, observed roza on April 25 as a gesture of solidarity with their Muslim constituents facing restrictions on Ramzan rituals because of Corona lockdown with mosques closed and people unable to come together to worship.

“Our party deciding to fast with our Muslim neighbours, is a significant display of solidarity during a difficult time for all of us,” said Bokhari. Meanwhile, the lockdown has prompted innovative ways of adapting to the new situation. Britain’s Ramadan Tent Project, which holds Open Iftar events every year where hundreds of people from all faiths congregated and shared a meal, is organising a “virtual Iftar” this year.

Calls to prayer are being live-streamed over Facebook. “It’s an opportunity for millions of people who will be observing from their homes to celebrate and share the Ramadan spirit during an unprecedented time of physical distancing,” said Open Iftar’s founder Omar Salha. Long live, common sense.

Corona envy

There are two groups of people in particular who are finding the Corona lockdown specially hard to bear: those who live alone and can’t meet their partners who live elsewhere; and couples who live under the same roof but are finding each other’s 24/7 company a “passion-killer”, according to French relation- ship expert Maia Mazaurette quoted by The Sunday Times many of whose British readers must be finding themselves in one of the two categories. And both groups envy each other for different reasons.

“The first group are very jealous of those in the second group because they think they have intimacy and can have sex, while those who are living as a couple or in a family are jealous of the single people because at least they have space,” she wrote in Le Monde. A classic case of grass on the other side appearing greener.

Delhi, take note

Stories about how the poor and the homeless in India have been left to fend for themselves—without food and shelter and exposed to the risk of catching Corona infection—is in sharp contrast to how the British government is looking after the country’s destitute.

In an ambitious scheme, local councils across the country have booked thousands of rooms in hotels and B&Bs to provide shelter to the homeless or “rough sleepers”, as they are called here. The rental in some of these establishments is up to £100 or more a night. It has been described as an astonishing social experiment to soften the economic impact of Coronavirus on the poor.

Meet Jamie Loftus, an unemployed young man who used to sleep rough outside a London tube station. He now lives in a hotel in central London. “I’ve got a balcony, a shower, a bidet, a 28in telly, a bed they change twice a week and three meals coming every day,” he told The Times recalling how his home was “a patch of pavement...his bath- room a public lavatory and his food supply dependent on begging from passers-by”.

The media has reported similar stories from other parts of the country with beneficiaries describing the pandemic as a “blessing in disguise”. Anyone in authority in Delhi reading this might like to take note.

Lockdown heartache

Guess why so many Tory party donors and high-flying businessmen are pressing Boris Johnson to lift the lockdown? According to Petronella Wyatt, a journalist with whom Johnson had an affair, they are tired of the lockdown not for economic reasons. “About 50 percent of these people are having extra-marital affairs . They have not been able to see their mistresses and are stuck at home with wives they dislike,” she’s reported saying. And the rest?

Muslim backlash

British government has ordered an inquiry into why members of black and Asian communities have been so disproportionately affected by Coronavirus. But a controversy has erupted over the choice of the man to head the inquiry—Trevor Phil- lips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

A number of Muslim groups and individuals, cutting across political lines, have described his appointment as “insensitive” and an “insult” citing his criticism of Muslims in the past.

His appointment came as the Labour Party, of which he has been a long- life member, suspended over allegations of Islamophobia. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former Conservative Party chair joined Labour MP Naz Shah in calling his appointment to be revoked describing it as “an insult to the memory of the numerous Muslims who have lost their lives” during the pandemic.

His selection has also been criticised by some black groups accusing him of being “an Establishment man”. Phillips has, no doubt, been quite outspoken in his comments about Muslims. But “Islamophobic?”

And, lastly,

a cartoon in The Sunday Times showed two nurses hovering over Boris Johnson’s new-born baby and saying:”At least the baby had an exit plan.” Papa Boris is still struggling to find one.

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