by Peter Franklin
Monday, 28
December 2020
Idea
09:00

Ten ways this year could have been worse

If we’re lucky, 2020 will be the worst year of the 21st century
by Peter Franklin
The kind of 2020 enthusiasm we can now only dream of. Credit: AP

If we’re lucky, 2020 will be remembered as the worst year of the 21st century.

But, believe it or not, it could have been worse. Here are ten things that could have happened over the last 12 months, but didn’t:


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  1. Covid-19 is a dreadful disease. 1.7 million people have lost their lives to it so far — and that’s almost certainly an underestimate. And, no, it doesn’t just kill people who were about to die anyway. On average, its victims would have lived for another decade or more. And yet — unlike, say, the Spanish flu — this is not, for most part, a killer of the young and healthy. Could we have coped if it had been?
  2. Let’s not forget, tens of thousands of younger people have died. One of them was Li Wenliang — a 33-year-old doctor from Wuhan. He was among those who warned the world of what was happening in his home city. But what if the Communist government had managed to hide the truth for as long as they’d wanted to?
  3. Of course, it’s not that most western governments acted fast enough on the warnings that we did get. But, again, things could have been worse. For instance, the British government could have followed its worst instincts and adopted the Swedish strategy — which didn’t even work in Sweden, and would have failed harder over here.
  4. And where would we be without the furlough scheme and other emergency support measures? Yes, we’ve massively increased the debt burden; but mass unemployment plus a domestic debt meltdown would have done far deeper damage. Thank goodness we had a Chancellor who realised that there’s a time for fiscal conservatism — and that 2020 wasn’t it.
  5. Dare I say it, but Boris Johnson did his bit too — especially by prevailing in his own battle with the virus. That strange and silent April was unsettling enough without having a Prime Minister in intensive care. His recovery was a vital boost to national morale — and the alternative outcome doesn’t bear thinking about.
  6. Meanwhile in America, Donald Trump was voted out office. Joe Biden’s win may seem inevitable to us now, but it really wasn’t. Back in February, the Democrats were poised to choose Bernie Sanders as their candidate. Biden got through more by luck than design, but what if he hadn’t? We’d have had a US election pitting radical Left against radical Right in the year of Covid and the George Floyd protests. Instead, we got Sleepy Joe — a poor result in another year, but a blessed relief in this one.
  7. Even the Trump versus Biden contest could have gone horribly wrong. The sitting President came pretty close to winning the electoral college, despite losing the popular vote by more than seven million votes. A crisis of legitimacy would have resulted had a few toss-up states gone the other way. Or even worse, the margin in these states could have been much smaller, turning the quixotic legal proceedings of the last few weeks into something more dangerous.
  8. While most eyes were on America, the European Union was having its own bitter political dispute — over the rescue package for the countries hit hardest by the pandemic. The deal that was eventually hammered out takes the EU further down the road to fiscal integration. However, the absence of a bail-out for countries like Italy and Spain could have provoked a new Eurozone crisis — which is the last thing the global economy needs right now.
  9. As we limp towards 2021, the pandemic is still raging. Just when we think we’ve got the virus under control, it surprises us — making a mockery of our plans and policies. But as grim as the outlook is right now, we have hope. There’s not just one vaccine riding to the rescue, but a whole cavalry. While we still have much to endure, we need not despair.
  10. The fact that the UK vaccination programme is leading the way is something we shouldn’t be ashamed to celebrate. Just for once, something worked out for us. Like so much else, it could have been botched — and yet it wasn’t. In a future full of public inquiries into the things that went wrong, I hope we find time to honour those who got it right.

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David Slade
David Slade
2 years ago

I know we sound like a broken record for saying it but…… Sweden’s strategy can’t be said to have failed (re point 3), they have a better outcome than we do (in terms of mortality) and are on track for an over all death rate this year no higher than their average.

Can we put this tired trope of Swedish apocalypse – usually based on some strained logic about their neighbours death rates and some tasteless carping about their winter resurgence – to rest?

If you do love lockdown, try and find a better reason why.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

Schweden uber alles!

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
2 years ago

the British government could have followed its worst instincts and adopted the Swedish strategy ” which didn’t even work in Sweden, and would have failed harder over here.

In what sense didn’t it work in Sweden? Sure, the country had more deaths than its immediate neighbours, but a) that was mainly due to the gross mistake of failing to protect old people’s homes sufficiently (a mistake made by the UK and New York City, among others); and b) the country had a lower fatality rate than the UK, Spain, Italy and Belgium.

So a more reasonable judgement is that Sweden fared about average, no? Sweden is currently on course to finish the year with no more excess deaths than in the past 5 years.

Second, why would Sweden’s approach have “failed harder” in Britain? Is this an allusion to the absence of the legendary Swedish civic responsibility and obedience in British people? The same British people who are overwhelmingly in favour of strict lockdown, much to the chagrin of lockdown sceptics?

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
2 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Great response.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago

I have to say that this must rank among the worst articles I’ve read on Unheard (ok I know its The Post).

Item eleven could have been “more articles from Peter”

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
2 years ago

Lol.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

A facile list and I disagree with almost every statement.

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Me too

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It is like there is some kind of looking glass out in the world where all images are reversed and truth, reason, and The Western Way flipped backwards, and the MSM has crawled through it, sending back their stories from the other side.

Teo
Teo
2 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Brilliant, can not stop laughing. 🙂

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
2 years ago

C-19 Worldwide Scoreboard:
Infected:81M,
Survived: 57.2 M,
Pending: 22M,
Killed: 1.77M.

Comment: This is not the Black Death. QED.

If only the forthcoming Chinese War could be won so cheaply.

Source:worldometers.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
2 years ago

Cannot find anything of value in this piece. By the way, in the West 2021 will be worse than 2020.

Gwynneth Coan
Gwynneth Coan
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Yep, we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Pure wokery orthodoxy.

This article is Liberal/Lefty Koolaid.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago

Is this guy wrong about EVERYTHING? Trump lost by 34,000 votes in key districts of key states by Biden using dirty means. His loss was NOT inevitable.

Covid is not a problem for healthy. almost 8 Billion people you know. Death from everything goes on, the numbers are not worth destroying the lives and education of so many.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Yes, he is wrong about everything here, and in almost everything else he writes. Never forget that most of these writers are simply not very bright. The point at which I finally gave up on The Guardian came a couple years ago when Afua Hirsch wrote of the British fighting at Stalingrad. Like most MPs, these people are just dumb.

Tom Griffiths
Tom Griffiths
2 years ago

A brief glimpse at the 20th Century gives us two incredibly simple ways this year could have been a lot worse. Ten years of the 20th were spent in global conflicts of appallingly destructive power. This was followed by 30 years of living in the paralysing fear of global nuclear warfare.

Clearly Peter Franklin knows no history.

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Griffiths

Rubbish!
I not only know the history as history, I was there for the second of the wars and all of the “paralysing fear of global nuclear warfare”.
Yes, the war was bad but the thirty years following were a period of almost unparalleled economic growth and prosperity and global reductions in inequality.
Not everybody in the world lives in the UK. Luckily.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
2 years ago

11. 2020 gave posters on this site a lot to moan about, and in case some are feeling withdrawal symptoms after a few days merry-making, I’m going to write this short article that pushes the buttons all over again – covid really is deadly to a lot of people, the Swedish model is not a panacea, the vaccines are a good thing, Donald Trump has not been a good president.

Thanks, Peter, I am in a small minority, but I agree with almost everything you’e written here.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

But how I long for a summing up of 2020 by a writer who lives in reality instead of the fairy land of the wokes. Maybe Rush Limbaugh could be commissioned to sum up 2020 on Unherd, for the people who understand reality.

David Slade
David Slade
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

I know you’re trolling but sadly, you are only in the minority here – most people in the wider world seem to agree with you (I had the misfortune of seeing a twitter spat about C19 yesterday and lost the will to live).

Apparently you can blame people for disease; sacrifice the well being of the young; overturn liberal democratic values; isolate the elderly whilst claiming to protect them and impoverish millions – all to rapturous applause (literally) and almost biblical condemnation of those who say ‘umm, hold on’

All you need is a suited and booted newscaster giving you a daily dose of non-contextualised death statistics.

Who knew it would still be that easy even in 2020?

Vem Dalen
Vem Dalen
2 years ago

Appointing Kate Bingham as the head of the vaccine task force was the right one. Cries of cronyism look past the fact that she was eminently qualified to lead the UK’s vaccine strategy. And most importantly she backed the right horse with initial orders of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Athough the heavy lifting will probably be done by the AstraZenica University of Oxford vaccine, we were able to enjoy a December respite when our old and vulnerable could finally see a route out of this misery. That was a much needed boost. So, thank you Kate Bingham for your diligence and professionalism. I’m also hopeful that we’ll also have a big debt of gratitude to Professor Sarah Gilbert and her team at University of Oxford very soon.

Robert Malcolm
Robert Malcolm
2 years ago

Nonsense. What we should have done was issued the entire public with free supplies of Vitamin D: which would have saved 50,000 lives and prevented any need for a lockdown.

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
2 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

Yes. The evidence is not all in yet but it would have been a bloody good start. I think history will show it wouldn’t have been a silly idea.

I also believe that vaccines will play a very small part in the defeat of this virus. Like all previous viral pandemics it will be defeated by the virus mutating to be more benign. Vaccine or not it will be just a common cold for most by 2023. Vaccine or no vaccine.

blanes
blanes
2 years ago

If the so called pandemic was real, you wouldn’t have people arguing if it was real or not.

Peter KE
Peter KE
2 years ago

Poor article. Lack of balance.

Barry Coombes
Barry Coombes
2 years ago

I always wondered why Trump went for “Sleepy Joe” instead of the more cutting “Creepy Joe”. He used to be so good at insults. With hindsight, maybe “The Necromancer” would have been even more appropriate.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Re: 5
The Prime Minister’s recovery was a vital boost to *brexiteer* morale. As for me – I was glad he survived. I would also have been glad to see him replaced, in the interest of the nation’s future..

Re: 10
As you say, you got one thing right, alongside the many you botched, like the test-and-trace system. Cause for contentment, maybe happiness. For (auto)celebration??

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago

Ten ways this article couldn’t have been worse…

Mark Beal
Mark Beal
2 years ago

The curious thing about the Covid panicdemic, is that while one can understand the tough measures back in March, when the virus was still largely an unknown quantity, as time has gone by, measures have become increasingly disproportionate to whatever threat the virus poses. A naturally sceptical person might suspect that there’s something going on that has precious little to do with the virus.

Regarding Biden, his victory is no more than a “Be careful what you wish for” moment.