As gritters lay rock salt on our roads, Matthew Moggridge wonders whether the nation as a whole should be taking large pinches of the stuff whenever it reads the newspapers or listens to the politicians.
Way back at the beginning of 2003 when plans were afoot to invade Iraq, my brow was furrowed as I listened to media reports about resolution 1441, the so-called ‘dodgy dossier’ – which WAS dodgy – and all that stuff about how we, the citizens of the UK, were just 45 minutes away from being blown to bits by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
I remember all the trips Hans Blix and a gaggle of IAEA inspectors made to Iraq to try and find nuclear weapons that simply weren’t there and, of course, I recall the very suspicious (and, in my opinion, still unresolved) David Kelly affair. In short, it didn’t add up, but the impression we, the public, were being given was that everybody was trying their level best to avoid military intervention. This, of course, was a huge lie.
I remember saying to people at the time when military action was first being mooted that it was a foregone conclusion. I just had a hunch that everything else was mere posturing to make it look as if we really tried our best to avoid an invasion of Iraq but in the end we simply had to go in to protect the UK. And then, to add insult to injury, to double-bluff the public, we heard afterwards that our intelligence services were simply not very intelligent and that was why we accidentally invaded sovereign territory. But, oh dear, it was too late to go back by then so we’d better get on with it.
I’m still amazed at how people actually believe it. I won’t mention names, but people very close to me have what can only be called blind faith in Government.
And now, of course, the truth is coming out, thanks to the Chilcott investigation, and we hear that Blair really was Bush’s poodle. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here: Blair is not going to be punished in anyway for his role in what amounted to an illegal invasion of another country. If I recall correctly, Blair has been appointed Middle East Envoy. But hold on a minute, isn't that like giving Nick Griffin a job with the Commission for Racial Equality?
In fact, judging by the way things work in this country, he’ll probably be rewarded for his role in creating a climate of fear in the UK that had a knock-on effect elsewhere and, of course, lead to other people being given awards when, perhaps, they should have been overlooked. Cresida Dick, the woman in charge of the police investigation that led to an innocent Brazilian being mistaken for a terrorist and shot dead on Stockwell tube station was recently awarded the Queen’s Medal.
Sadly, the message here is that you simply cannot trust anybody in this world, certainly not the Government, whether it’s Labour, Conservative or Liberal. Never trust or believe in what you read in the newspapers or hear on the television and always bear in mind that somewhere there’s a hidden agenda – especially where the bigger, longer running stories are concerned. Invariably, somewhere along the line, you will find that your suspicions were, to some degree, right.
The reason I have decided to put pen to paper is a newspaper report on the so-called swine flu pandemic that, at one stage, was going to be infecting a ridiculously large number of people in the UK. I think it was supposed to be something like 100,000 people per day! I remember thinking that this would mean that I was definitely going to be infected at some stage. I bought zinc from my local health food shop, started eating loads of navel oranges and making a point of keeping well away from anybody with the slightest sniffle. I began envisaging days off work, Lemsips and everything else one associates with the flu – like the Jeremy Kyle Show – and, secretly, I hoped that if I was struck down I would not be one of those who died from the disease.
The Government was predicting 64,000 deaths. The climate of fear created and fuelled by the media had, to a degree, worked – until I started thinking, hold on, 100,000 people per day, surely I will know somebody with swine flu? Oddly, nobody I know has caught the disease – absolutely nobody.
The so-called ‘swine flu’ pandemic was great for the work shy. All they had to do was call a helpline and spell out, to an indifferent telephonist,a few symptoms and they would be sent some Tamiflu and signed off of work for a week – job done (or not in this case). Anybody could do it and nobody was going to ask any questions.
In the same way that the credit crunch gave businesses carte blanche to sack people without a decent reason, swine flu provided skivers with the equivalent of a Get Out of Jail Free card.
And now the truth might be floating to the surface. I use the word ‘might’ because the report I read this morning was in a tabloid newspaper, an area of the media where the phrase ‘economical with the truth’ is definitely an understatement – although hats off to the Sun for a great headline when swine flu was welcomed into the UK; it led with ‘Pig’s ‘ere’.
It is being claimed, not in the Sun, that the head of health at the Council of Europe, Mr Wolfgang Wodarg (there’s probably an anagram there somewhere) believes that the World Health Organisation’s swine flu pandemic was, in fact, completely false and driven by the drug companies who stood to make billions out of convincing us that it was for real. Surely not!
The Council of Europe has passed a resolution, proposed by Mr Wodarg, calling for an investigation into the role of the drug companies involved in the scandal and this at a time when it has emerged that the British government is trying to offload a huge consignment of Tamiflu that it ordered at the height of the scare. Not another case of faulty intelligence, surely?
But there is a big problem here. If we stormed into Iraq for no reason, if swine flu was a sham, then what about climate change? We’re all busy trying to reduce our carbon footprint while putting up with the fact that China and America are producing more greenhouse gasses than the lot of us put together – it all begs the question, what the hell is going on?
It’s all a matter of trust and I for one will continue to take everything I’m told with an extremely large bag of salt – even if it is true that the UK diet contains more salt than any other country in the world. Perhaps that’s not true either.