The coronavirus pandemic is making people do things they would have never contemplated. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday evening refuted one of the most famous contentions of Margaret Thatcher, one of his party’s former prime ministers.
“There is no such thing as society,” Thatcher said in 1987 as part of her set of beliefs that aimed for free markets and a small state. Instead of planning and regulating business and people’s lives, she believed the government’s job is to get out of the way.
In isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, a slightly hoarse Johnson appeared in a video clip, hailing thousands of retired doctors and health professionals returning to the front-line of the National Health Service, besides lakhs of volunteers registering to help.
Contradicting Thatcher’s endorsement of pure individualism, Johnson said: “We are going to do it, we are going to do it together. One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society.”
Some commentators believe the pandemic is Johnson’s ‘Churchill moment’: he in charge at a time when the United Kingdom is facing a major national crisis, just as Winston Churchill famously led the country during World War II.
Johnson’s aides insist he continues to lead the government’s response to the pandemic, chairing meetings through video-conferencing from inside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street.
He said: “Thank you to everybody who’s now coming back into the NHS in such huge numbers. Just this evening I can tell you we have 20,000 NHS staff coming back to the colours”.
“It’s a most amazing thing. And that’s in addition to the 750,000 members of the public who have volunteered to help us get through this crisis.”
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