At a time of no definitive answers, 'no end in sight' is the wrong message for business

Knowing the man, Boris Johnson will return as soon as is physically possible Credit: Pippa Fowles / 10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright

Boris will be back. Knowing the man, that will be as soon as is physically possible. But even if he is not working in the full sense, his presence will be felt and his views will be communicated. We can give thanks for that.

538prom精品视频在线播放But in truth, there never was a crisis of governance. The overhyped melodrama of cabinet dissension and uncertain leadership was not going to produce – as it might well have done in more excitable nations – a breakdown of civil authority. For a brief moment we might have gone on to vacuous autopilot in the understandable confusion and shock. But this is a very grown-up, stable country with an extremely competent, assured administrative class. Nobody was going to run amok and everybody with any degree of responsibility was going to behave well.

There has been gossip about disagreement and power machinations within the Cabinet and some speculation about paralysis as a consequence of this argy-bargy. Most of it can be ignored: a few supposedly well-connected sources mouthing off to journalists whose business it is to make politics seem as exciting as possible. (For “exciting”, read “vicious”.) Of course Cabinet ministers disagree with one another. That’s what politicians do. You would not want to live in the kind of society where there was no possibility of disagreement among those in power.

But this situation is not, perhaps inconveniently for my own trade, a political problem. It is a medical emergency that carries enormous economic implications. The questions that need to be asked are factual (what will work?), and moral in the highest sense (how much risk to life is acceptable?) rather than strictly political (who should be in charge?).

On the last of these – how to decide who should be running the government – there has also been some rather pointless controversy. Much has been made by commentators stuck at home with too much time on their hands, of the lack of any specific provisions in Britain’s constitutional arrangements. When American friends ask me who is the designated successor to Boris Johnson, I have to explain that the prime minister, not being elected to his office by the population at large but by his party, is simply the first among equals, blah-blah.

Here at home, the US Constitution, with its legally rigorous rules for succession is being commended as superior to our rather rackety ad hoc solutions. Be careful what you wish for. The vice president, who automatically steps up, has often been chosen as the presidential candidate’s running mate for crassly opportunistic reasons: because he or she “balanced the ticket” or was expected to haul in a difficult cohort of voters.

Add to that the fact that the third in line to the presidency is none other than the Speaker of the House of Representatives who is, as often as not, from the opposition party. Not only does the country lose the president it voted for, but it ends up being governed by a party it rejected. So there is a lot to be said for impromptu agreements especially when there is a general understanding that those who govern will behave reasonably – as there is, in this very fortunate polity.

538prom精品视频在线播放If much of the political chatter at the moment is contrived and phoney, it might be because there is a desperate need to talk about what is happening in some way that is comprehensible to our modern consciousness.

Having left the Middle Ages behind (I hope), we have no language for describing this phenomenon: the evil spirits, the demonic forces that would once have filled this role in the popular imagination are not available. So the metaphors are of war or terrorism: of an “invisible enemy” that must be defeated or destroyed by superior tactics.

This is absurd of course, and ultimately unhelpful. The virus is not malevolent. It is not calculating. It has no plan and no intention. It is not a sentient being that can be outwitted or an army that can be outmanoeuvred. This is just a more contemporary form of superstition.

The corona virus is a brainless organism whose only imperative, like all life forms, is to survive and replicate. It does that by attaching itself to human cells. We have to find a way of preventing that. Nobody knows, as yet, what the best way of doing it is, but all the attempts are being made with the best and most honest of intentions. It helps no one to suggest otherwise.

The real enemy now is hopelessness: “no end in sight” is not the right message.

538prom精品视频在线播放The task seems to be peculiarly difficult because of the bizarre nature of an illness which causes symptoms so mild in many (perhaps even most) of the people it infects while killing a significant number of others quite rapidly.

In the midst of the desperate search for a way to put an end to this thing are questions which only post hoc historical analysis has a hope of answering – about genetic links or lifestyle effects. These are strictly empirical matters which, in the blessed time after the present emergency has ended, will be explored.

In the meantime, we can legitimately debate the moral issue on which everyone has a right to an opinion. How much should the potential damage to our economic future weigh in this? There are those who talk as if taking the economic consequences into account was a heartless contest between money and lives when, in fact, the collapse of the economy would destroy all public services (including the NHS538prom精品视频在线播放) and thus cost huge numbers of lives while undermining the quality of life of the great majority of the population.

T538prom精品视频在线播放he argument has to go on but it must be conducted with humility – nobody yet has a definitive answer. This is, I think, in sympathy with the mood of the country which has willingly complied with government advice to a degree that has taken its scientific advisors by surprise. Here is the national character at its recognisable best: a quiet decency and generosity that makes authoritarianism seem absurd.

We will get through this.