COVID-19: Workers and Employers Show No Great Enthusiasm for Returning to the Office to Revive “Business As Usual”

An almost entirely deserted Liverpool Street station on April 2, 2020 – a previously unpublished photo from Andy Worthington’s photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

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In Sunday’s Observer, the paper’s chief political commentator Andrew Rawnsley related how, a few weeks ago, a group of civil servants at the Cabinet Office were “told to find a way of re-opening nightclubs in a coronavirus-safe way.” Although they were, in Rawnsley’s words, a “bright group”, they couldn’t overcome the fundamental  — one might say fatal — flaw at the heart of the exercise. “The socially distanced nightclub is a contradiction in terms”, as Rawnsley put it, adding, “Nightclubs, by their very nature, are all about social intimacy.”

Rawnsley proceeded to explain that he was telling this story “to illustrate just how very desperate the government has been to release Britain from every aspect of lockdown and return us to something that resembles the pre-coronavirus world as closely as possible.” Our leaders, as he put it, “dreamed of returning to that prelapsarian age in which you could eat out with your family, go drinking with your mates, commute to work, celebrate a religious festival or jet off to a holiday somewhere reliably sunny without having to worry about catching or spreading a deadly disease. While never quite saying it explicitly, their ambition has essentially been to get everything open again.”

This indeed seems to be the case, and it is typical of a government made up largely of inadequate ministers who are only in place because of their enthusiasm for the insanity of Brexit, and who are led by the laziest example of a Prime Minister in living memory, that the nuances of the challenges facing us — and the unexpected opportunities for a less chaotic and more environmentally sustainable world — are being ignored.

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3,000 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

Some of the most recent photos from ‘The State of London’ on Facebook, where I post a photo a day from eight years of photos taken on bike rides around the capital.

Check out all ‘The State of London’ photos here!

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My photo-journalism project ’The State of London’ has just reached a noteworthy milestone — 3,000 days since I first consciously went out on my bike, on May 11, 2012, to cycle around London taking photos to chronicle the fabric of London and the many changes wrought upon it, beginning with the upheaval that attended the capital’s role as the host city of the 2012 Olympic Games. I began posting a photo a day on Facebook on the fifth anniversary of that first trip, on May 11, 2017, and have been posting a photo a day for the 1,176 days since.

In the eight years since, I have taken many tens of thousands of photos, covering all 120 of London’s postcodes in the 241 square miles of the London postal district (those beginning EC, WC, W, NW, N, E, SE and SW), with a particular focus on central London — the City (EC1 to EC4) and the West End (WC1, WC2 and W1), and the immediate surrounding postcodes (SE1, SW1, NW1, N1 and E1) — and with other clusters of repeated activity in the whole of south east London, where I live, in east London, most readily accessed via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and in parts of south west London — particularly, it seems, Brixton, Vauxhall and Battersea and Chelsea — and west London; especially Paddington, Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove.

These 3,000 days have not only been a way of keeping physically fit; they have also played a major role in ensuring some sort of mental equilibrium amidst the general chaos of the state of the world — even if some aspects of ‘The State of London’ have added to my sense of rage rather than placating it; in particular, the colossal and colossally expensive construction projects that have transformed the city to an alarming degree over the last eight years.

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COVID-19 and the Economic Meltdown: Was Global Tourism the Only Thing Keeping Us Afloat?

Grounded planes in Alabama, March 25, 2020 (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters).

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Three months since the arrival of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 prompted an unprecedented lockdown on human interaction and on huge swathes of our economy, the primary objective — preventing our hospitals and morgues from being overwhelmed — has been achieved. The cost — economically, and, in some cases, psychologically — has been enormous, but the road ahead, as those in charge attempt to revive a functioning economy, looks like it will be even more arduous.

No congratulations should be extended to Boris Johnson and his government for the achievements of the lockdown. Johnson dithered for far too long at the beginning of the crisis, and the deaths of tens of thousands of people are, as a result, his responsibility, although not his responsibility alone, as the last few months have also shown us that, sadly, this empty windbag of a Prime Minister is largely manipulated by his senior adviser, the sneering eugenicist Dominic Cummings.

Both men were initially prepared to allow the virus to spread unchecked throughout the entire population, with people required to “take it on the chin”, as they let it “move through the population”, as Johnson explained in a now notorious TV appearance. It was only when medical experts pointed out the potential death toll of the “herd immunity” scenario that the lockdown began, following similar conclusions that were, in most other countries, reached rather earlier in the virus’s spread.

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The Dim and Dom Show: Why Dominic Cummings Must Be Banished From Political Life, and Boris Johnson Must Fall With Him

Like rabbits caught in the headlights: Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson.

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“The Dim and Dom Show” is a phrase I came across on Twitter, and is apparently how the UK is being referred to in New Zealand.

The whole world has been laughing at us, as our Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed himself, more conclusively than ever, to be little more than an empty vessel incapable of any kind of leadership without his chief advisor — and effectively his only advisor — Dominic Cummings, the former campaign director of the Vote Leave campaign, which, for those of us who can recall the world before the coronavirus, persuaded a small majority of those who could be bothered to vote in the EU referendum in June 2016 to vote to leave the EU.

Cummings — an alleged anti-elitist who is actually privately educated and an Oxford graduate, and married to the daughter of a Baronet — is routinely described as a brilliant political strategist, but if that is the case then it is only in the malicious, dumbed-down way in which politics has been conducted over the last decade in particular. He is credited with coming up with the winning phrase ‘Take Back Control’, to twist the electorate’s understanding of how EU membership worked, and was instrumental in the lie that leaving the EU would mean an extra £350m a week for the NHS.

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Celebrating Eight Years of My Photo-Journalism Project, ‘The State of London’

Andy Worthington’s most recent photos of London under lockdown, as part of his photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

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Check out all the photos here!

Exactly eight years ago, on May 11, 2012, I set out on my bike, from my home in Brockley, in the London Borough of Lewisham, in south east London, to begin a project of photographing the whole of London — the 120 postcodes that make up what is known as the London postal district or the London postal area (those beginning WC, EC, E, SE, SW, W, NW and W). These postcodes cover 241 square miles, although I’ve also made some forays into the outlying areas that make up Greater London’s larger total of 607 square miles.

I’ve been a cyclist since about the age of four, and I’d started taking photographs when I was teenager, but my cycling had become sporadic, and I hadn’t had a camera for several years until my wife bought me a little Canon — an Ixus 115 HS — for Christmas 2011. That had renewed my interest in photography, and tying that in with cycling seemed like a good idea because I’d been hospitalised in March 2011 after I developed a rare blood disease that manifested itself in two of my toes turning black, and after I’d had my toes saved by wonderful NHS doctors, I’d started piling on the pounds sitting at a computer all day long, continuing the relentless Guantánamo work I’d been undertaking for the previous five years, which, perhaps, had contributed to me getting ill in the first place.

As I started the project, I had no idea really what I was letting myself in for — how massive London is, for example, so that even visiting all 120 of its postcodes would take me over two years, or how completely I would become enthralled by the capital that has been my home since 1985, but that was unknown to me beyond familiar haunts (the West End, obviously, parts of the City, and areas like Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, which I’ve always been drawn to), and places I’d lived (primarily, Brixton, Hammersmith, briefly, Forest Hill, Peckham and, for the last 20 years, Brockley).

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The Coronavirus Lockdown, Hidden Suffering, and Delusions of a Rosy Future

London under the coronavirus lockdown, March 30, 2020 (Photo by Andy Worthington from his photo-journalism project The State of London).

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Nearly a month since the coronavirus lockdown began in the UK, it seems clear that the intentions behind shutting most retail outlets and workplaces, and encouraging everyone to stay at home as much as possible — to keep the death toll to manageable levels, preventing the NHS and the burial industry from being overwhelmed — are working, although no one should be under any illusions that Boris Johnson’s government has managed the crisis well. Nearly 13,000 people have died so far in hospitals in the UK, a figure that seriously underestimates the true death toll, because it cynically ignores those dying in care homes.

However, frontline NHS staff are also dying, and this is because they are still deprived of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), which is an absolute and unmitigated disgrace, showing how far our current elected officials are from the wartime spirit of the plucky British that they are so intent on selling to the public to cover up their failings.

If they really were who they claim to be, they would have pulled out all the stops to get factories manufacturing PPE in as short a time as possible, but they’re not who they claim to be: they’re incompetent disciples of a neo-liberal project that is interested only in elected officials handing out contracts — and all profit-making ability — to private companies, and that is determined to destroy the state provision of services, something that the Tories have been gleefully doing, not least to the NHS, since they first returned to power almost ten long and dreadful years ago.

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Imagining a Post-Coronavirus World: Ending Ravenous Capitalism and Our Consumer-Driven Promiscuity

A tug leading Royal Caribbean’s insanely-misnamed ‘Harmony of the Seas’ into Southampton Harbour. Cruise ships are environmentally ruinous, helped spread the coronavirus, and needs to be high on the list of enterprises that mustn’t be bailed out after the coronavirus crisis ends, if we are to secure a better world (Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA/AP).

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It’s too early to begin creating a post-coronavirus world when we’re still in the throes of the crisis, but we can beginning thinking about it, and planning for it; otherwise, the dark forces that led us to this point — helped by many of our least helpful habits — will only return with a vengeance once the worst of the crisis is over.

When we think about the post-coronavirus world, there are, I presume, two camps: those who want everything to go back to how it was before, and those who don’t. The latter camp, for now, contains many more people than it has within living memory — those who recognize that running the world solely for the unfettered profits of the few has been a disaster.

This group includes many environmentalists — those who, in the last year and a half, helped to amplify the messages of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion to try to alert everyone else to an uncomfortable but vitally necessary truth: that we are facing an unprecedented man-made environmental crisis, which threatens humanity’s very existence.

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Celebrating 1,000 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The latest photos in my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

Check out all the photos to date here!

Please feel free to support ‘The State of London’ , for which I receive no funding other than via the support of readers. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Today marks 1,000 days since I began posting a photo a day — on a page I set up on Facebook called ‘The State of London’ — from what is now a nearly eight-year archive of photos I’ve taken on bike rides throughout London’s 120 postcodes. The project is also on Twitter here.

I began posting a photo a day on May 11, 2017, which was the fifth anniversary of when the project began, on May 11, 2012, so today, Day 1000, also marks 2,826 days since this long journey to record London in all its diversity — of weather, wealth disparity and architecture — began.

I haven’t been out on my bike every single day, of course. I’ve been away from the capital for at least a month every year, on various holidays, or work-related trips, and very occasionally, through illness or particularly dreadful weather, I haven’t left the house, but, with these exceptions, I have, on every other day, been out on my bike, in London, come rain or shine, camera in hand (or in pocket, to be accurate). Most days, it would be fair to say, I haven’t travelled beyond my immediate neighbourhood, in south east London, radiating out from my home on a hill in Brockley around the surrounding areas, with a particularly well-travelled route taking me through Deptford to Greenwich and back again.

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Radio: I Discuss Boris Johnson’s Alarming Election Victory – and Guantánamo – with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

Boris Johnson promising to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and Donald Trump and Guantánamo.

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On Thursday, I was delighted to be interviewed by Chris Cook, in Victoria, Canada, about the parlous state of British politics, and the ongoing and outrageous injustice of Guantánamo, on his weekly show, Gorilla Radio, which is “dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.”

The show is here (and here as an MP3), and I’m also pleased to be able to embed it below. My interview is in the first half of the one-hour show:

Here’s how Chris introduced the show on his website, accurately capturing the madness of the UK right now:

Last week, Britain followed America’s lead in electing an ultra-conservative, faux populist based on the single premise of, if not making Britain Great again, at least carrying through with the years-old promise to take the country out of the European Union. The great mystery to those looking from outside the country is why?

Why, following the divisive and ill-defined scheme dreamt up by the David Cameron Tories of yore, did the people of that green and pleasant land, rather than punishing the authors, and bungling executors of the disastrous Brexit debacle, decide instead to reward them with massive electoral success? And for Britons, the greater question now is, what’s going to happen next?

I’m honoured that Chris has had me on his show numerous times over the last ten years — almost always to discuss Guantánamo, but occasionally to discuss other topics — and it was a pleasure on Thursday to be able to provide some analysis of the disaster area that is Britain today, following last week’s General Election.

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Boris Johnson’s Election Victory: A Truly Depressing Day for Britain, But Now He ‘Owns’ the Toxic Brexit Nightmare

Boris Johnson in a bike helmet during his eight useless years as London’s Mayor. Now, absurdly, promoted to Prime Minister of the UK, he is intent on turning the British economy into a car crash via his enthusiasm for a no deal Brexit.

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The only positive message that can be taken from the otherwise almost insanely depressing outcome of Thursday’s General Election — in which the Tories, under Boris Johnson, a lying and thoroughly untrustworthy philandering narcissist, secured an outright majority — is that Johnson now ‘owns’ Brexit, the toxic destroyer of the UK, and both he — and the fawning mainstream media that was so shockingly biased in his favour throughout the election campaign — will be unable to blame Britain’s slow, agonising and inevitable collapse on anyone other than themselves.

Elsewhere, there is no other good news to report about this election. The Tories won largely because traditional Labour strongholds in the north of England and in Wales swung their way, often for the first time in their history (although the results didn’t come out of nowhere). An additional factor that should be noted is the number of EU-supporting Tory voters who stayed faithful to the party brand, even though, under Johnson, the party has become unrecognisable, and is clearly fixated with inflicting a hugely damaging no deal Brexit on the country.  

And those swings occurred fundamentally not because of how credible or not Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party’s policies were, but because Johnson took one simple stupid message — ‘Get Brexit Done’ — and hammered it home relentlessly and successfully. While I and others groaned at its constant repetition, it did exactly what it was intended to do: to confirm to those who voted Leave in the EU referendum that all the faffing about was over, and that a strong leader would now deliver what they voted for. Further analysis will also show, I’m sure, that many who voted ‘Remain’ in 2016, also voted for Johnson and his sledgehammer message, because they too thought that it was long overdue that the “will of the people” needed to be respected.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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