As Birmingham suddenly enters the new Tier 3 lockdown, MIKE OLLEY, general manager of Westside BID, calls on Boris Johnson to explain this unfair policy to the cleaners, bar staff, chefs, doormen and waiters plying honest trades on modest incomes in the safe hospitality sector.
What on earth is the government up to? Tier three for Birmingham is a death blow for the one of the most and best-regulated industries in the UK.
The hospitality sector requires those in charge to be schooled, examined and – if they come up to the mark – to be issued with a license to ply their trade.
If they get in trouble with the law, a speeding fine or something more serious, they have to self- report to the regulatory authorities. The standards for those who run pubs, clubs, hotels, casinos and so on is exceptionally high.
On the other hand, you could have a criminal record as a long as your arm and yet still be an elected as a councillor or MP … even becoming a prime minister. I don’t object to that, incidentally, because politicians all get voted in by us and their backgrounds are scrutinised by the free media as we consider our choice. The democratic franchise is super important, and long may it remain.
Yet this does make the point that those managing in the hospitality sector takes their role very seriously: that’s everything from food hygiene for restaurateurs to not serving drinks to people who shouldn’t be served for pub landlords.
Another clear responsibility they have is to take all possible measures to prevent people from becoming infected with the death-delivering COVID-19. And their track record is amongst one of the best that almost any industry in the UK can boast.
Not that anyone wants that to be a proud boast, as such. But it’s true to point out that COVID-19 deaths from infections picked up at hospitality venues are around 2.5% to 3%. Whereas schools, colleges and universities make up about 30%.
And yet those overwhelmingly state-sponsored and supported educational establishments get to stay open, while the largely privately supported and funded hospitality sector gets closed down. This is complete madness.
Why is this? Prime minister Boris Johnson was a member of the Bullingdon Club, of course, that private, all-male dining club for wealthy Oxford University students. And so perhaps it’s that club’s wanton vandalism of restaurants and student accommodation that characterises his understanding of how people go out to enjoy themselves.
Perhaps his lively experience centred around youthful exuberance is his only guide and explains why he is comfortable to close the nation’s hospitality sector. In short, the prime minister doesn’t trust us to be sensible and feels we will spread disease, death and thus disaster. This is despite the statistics which indicate we largely have clean hands. Is this because Mr Johnson – with his memories of buffoonery – has never really trusted himself?
Therefore, can I make a personal plea to the prime minister? Going out on Broad Street and to other entertainment areas isn’t like your days out with the Bullingdon bully boys! Yes, there is the occasional scrape that the media give focus to, I get that.
But when you are devising policy that ruins businesses, forcing them to collapse and never get up again, please don’t judge the hospitality sector based on your own misdemeanours.
Instead, Mr Johnson, please consider that there are hundreds of thousands of normal folk who provide their honest trade on modest incomes as cleaners, bar staff, waiters, chefs and doormen in the hospitality sector. And focus on the fact that your prejudiced safety tiering will result in them all facing redundancy and being thrust on the mercy of the state’s meagre handouts.
For goodness sake, man, please look past the headlines that are only ever devised to sell papers and realise that hospitality has a great, enviable and very clean record. We simply don’t deserve to be penalised.
Can I also put in a plea to Mr Johnson to let us know how on earth he and his boffins have determined this new tier structure?
For starters, it is incredible that he is even using this failed tier system again. Wasn’t it Einstein who suggested that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is madness? Well, the prime minister appears set on that course. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pointed this out the other day.
All I ask, Mr Johnson, is that you tell us what the metrics are that place cities and regions in which tier. Because I’m afraid at the moment it looks like you’ve simply put a map up on a dart board and chucked a few darts at it to determine our livelihoods.
Of course, some boffins may well then produce more overblown maps and charts which no-one understands just to convince us it’s done scientifically.
Sadly, I’m with the army of unemployed hospitality workers, the pub companies and decent, hard-working people who are risking their life savings in their own businesses. All deserve much better than the current lunacy.