First casualty of a pandemic is democracy

Coppetts Wood

Coppetts Wood isolation hospital was shut in 2000 - Credit: Archant

If the first casualty of war is truth, then the first casualty of a pandemic must be democracy. For with social distancing comes the loss of public meetings; there is nowhere to physically ask questions, debate, share ideas, or convey distrust. What a good time to bury bad news. 

Here in Crouch End, Haslemere Road residents recently discovered Haringey’s plans - far too late in the day - to dispose of this road’s much-needed overnight respite centre for families with profoundly learning disabled children. Local councillors were not informed, neither were carers nor residents consulted. Over the past decade Haringey council has haemorrhaged day centres, residential care, support and respite services. And now this last bastion too, without public debate. 

Sue Hessel is prepared to wrap up and attend a carol service in the garden.

Sue Hessel says that lockdown is denying people access to public meetings and consultations - Credit: Sue Hessel

Back in 2010 there was a massive plan to downgrade the Whittington Hospital and to dispose of its Accident and Emergency Department. They tried again in 2013, unsuccessfully due to the public outrage. Imagine how Haringey residents would have fared in the pandemic if we hadn’t all marched against the plans. Haringey has no hospitals left here - in the 1980s we had seven - including Coppetts Wood isolation hospital (closed in 2000). If ever there was a time that proves how wrong the authorities were, and how right the public can be, it is now.  

In a pandemic we need our representatives to be more vigilant, not less.

So, let’s hope the authorities bear this in mind as they roll out the vaccine. Boris Johnson’s political plan to win the numbers game by not following the instructions on the vaccination packet has rightly been challenged by the British Medical Association. The public should give the BMA full support on this. We should be vaccinating the population a second time three weeks later, as recommended by the scientists who created it. The stakes are too high to do anything else.  

As Amanda Gorman’s prescient words rang out brightly and clearly at last week’s Inauguration Ceremony, she gave a warning that we would do well to do things properly for the sake of all generations - lest "our blunders become their burdens". 

  • Sue Hessell is a campaigner in Crouch End.