Special issue


Lord Howell of Guildford

Former Secretary of State for Energy, UK

London, United Kingdom

The good news is that working from home, and thanks to Zoom etc, MUCH more ground can be covered. You can switch from meeting to meeting, webinar to lecture, any discussion to any other, at fantastic speed, write books and articles faster, so productivity greatly increased. 

Also, shopping for almost anything ten times easier. Every item arrives on the doorstep within hours. Also communication with family and friends on-line much more frequent. Also – in my case – much MORE participation on-line in Parliamentary discussions and committees than was the norm in the physical past. And on top of all this more time to read and write, so journalistic output up, travel exhaustion down, morale – so far – HIGH.

The bad news is that real social life much curtailed, parties are out, opportunities to get out and about very limited, no theatres or cinema, casual conversations disappear, and all the chance factors that come in life from rubbing shoulders, meeting someone by chance, sharing experiences much reduced. Real, as opposed to virtual contact with all family and close friends more limited (and in full lockdown or quarantine of course cut out altogether). Overseas travel greatly curtailed, whether on tour or business or both.

And just to spice things up, for an oldie there is the constant stream of warnings that you are super-vulnerable, that Covid will knock you off any moment and other cheerful information poured out from a generally badly edited and controlled media, full of disinformation, half-true and ill-informed stories and highly biased opinion-formers  masquerading as interviewers or news informants.

That’s it. Over-arching question, when does it end? Presumably when reliable vaccine arrives for all, some say about next summer, some say sooner, some say never. It has definitely changed work patterns, behaviour patterns, think patterns, permanently, demanding life resets and work resets all round. There is a slight sense of madness in the air and in public affairs and discussion. People want contradictory things – e.g. good strong government but don’t trust government. All Government is hopeless but why don’t the Government do this, give us that, solve the other? When they find they can’t have both, can’t have cake and eat it, people get angry, rude, bitter, divided. Politics and systems of governance definitely changing, as is the philosophy behind our past arrangements. ‘Democracy’ has to be redefined (Read my last book). Asia is getting ahead of Europe. But maybe this was all coming anyway, with
on-going digital revolution, and Covid has just accelerated it.