Super Saturday: the summer of death that wasn’t

All over the country, people behaved sensibly – but that wasn’t enough to stop the wave of vile snobbery.

Fraser Myers
Topics Politics UK

England was about to ‘drink itself into chaos’ warned the headlines. Hospital bosses were told to prepare A&E departments for New Year’s Eve levels of drunken accidents. Police predicted ‘a month of New Year’s Eves’. England would be plagued by the demon drink. The River Thames would be foaming with vomit. The summer of death would be in full swing.

In the end, ‘Super Saturday’, as it has come to be known, didn’t turn out quite like that. On Friday, Independence Eve, the curtain-twitchers at the Guardian denounced the opening of pubs and the (heavily regulated) return of social life as ‘alarming and irresponsible’ – part of ‘the prime minister’s hedonism agenda’. But after the event, the same paper had to admit that ‘fears of widespread disorder’ were ‘unfounded’.

Head of the NHS Simon Stevens was also pleasantly surprised: ‘Pleasingly, we did not see last night the kind of scenes that people feared. The foolish few but the sensible majority is I think the story across the country, and long may that continue.’ A&E departments remained relatively quiet – just as they have throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

London’s Metropolitan Police reported ‘no significant incidents in the capital’. In Birmingham, chief superintendent Steve Graham said that only four arrests were made throughout the West Midlands in connection to pubs. ‘We saw people taking great personal responsibility for their actions and behaviour and the evening ran smoothly with only a handful of incidents at pubs and bars reported to us’, he said.

Lancashire Police put on extra patrols but only had to deal with the ‘the usual number’ of drink-related incidents, and the number of drinkers on the town was still below pre-pandemic levels, according to the Chorley Guardian. Throughout England, it was the same story.

The predicted carnage did not arrive. But in a country of 29million drinkers, there were bound to be some scenes of raucousness. Crowds of drinkers in Soho, for instance, have been held up as evidence of nationwide loutishness.

The apparent risk of coronavirus brings an added sting to the condemnation of pubgoers. But it is snobbery and puritanism, not Covid-19, that is driving this outrage. The callous, dehumanising slurs directed at the ‘petri-dish’ of revellers in Soho echo the previous weekend’s complaints about the ‘lumpen’ beachgoers during the heatwave.

Another lightning rod for social-media fury was a man in Manchester who was enjoying an early-morning pint after a night shift tarmacking roads. Jimmy told a reporter from the Manchester Evening News that his first taste of Carling since the lockdown was like ‘an angel pissing on the tip of his tongue’. Tweets called him ‘tragic’ and a ‘sad, empty man’ for enjoying his pint. One tweeter said ‘I loathe men like him’, while another said of his fellow drinkers that ‘They all look exactly how I imagined the first people going to the pub would look’. Given that Jimmy was clearly following the social-distancing rules and there was no evidence of any bad behaviour, it is hard to believe the bile directed at him had anything to do with the virus. He is just one of those people.

The two-minutes hate for everyone who leaves their house has become a near-weekly event. Whether people are behaving within the rules or not makes no difference. Even the fact that infections have been in decline for months does little to dent the righteous indignation. The sight of packed beaches, packed parks, Black Lives Matter rallies, anti-Black Lives Matter rallies, queues outside Primark, quarantine raves, a VE-day conga and the Rees-Mogg conga have all been greeted with shrill condemnations of the disease-ridden masses. It will be weeks before we know if Super Saturday has prompted a rise in infections. Nobody has any idea whether there will be a ‘second wave’ but confident predictions of mass death seem to turn to nothing week after week.

What is really being expressed is not a fear of the virus, but the puritan fear that someone somewhere may be enjoying themselves. Perhaps the pub is better without such people.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

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Jonathan Smith

7th July 2020 at 11:34 am

‘an angel pissing on the tip of his tongue’ That’s rather poetic. Did nobody notice?

alan smithee

7th July 2020 at 11:13 am

Meanwhile pubs are closing since Saturday because of the virus…

Gerard Barry

7th July 2020 at 11:23 am

You said in your other post “It’s not about ‘being afraid’, it’s about being sensible and thinking of others.” I understand where you’re coming from but spare a thought for people who live alone and who may be struggling with loneliness, anxiety, depression, etc. It’s not right to expect these people to stay at home on their own forever. People are social animals and we need contact with others. I don’t think people appreciate how draconian governmental responses to the coronavirus have been around the world.

jamie murray

7th July 2020 at 9:00 am

If the government was as zealous in prosecuting certain groups of people, in certain “communities” who did and still do, with almost complete impunity, certain things to a young, white and female section of our community as they have been about enforcing house arrest and utterly ruining the fabric of our country and economy over a virus I might not hold them in such contempt, as it is though……

alan smithee

7th July 2020 at 9:00 am

Wouldn’t it be better to wait 2 weeks after Saturday before declaring all is well??!!

Gerard Barry

7th July 2020 at 10:03 am

The coronavirus could be with us for some tome to come. We can’t hide away in our homes from it forever. My attitude has always been that those who are afraid of it can stay at home, while those who’re not and who want to enjoy life should be free to do so. The restrictions on people’s freedoms imposed all over the world in response to the coronavirus have been frighteningly authoritarian.My own mental health has been severely affected.

alan smithee

7th July 2020 at 11:15 am

It’s not about ‘being afraid’, it’s about being sensible and thinking of others. As I write this pubs are closing in England since Saturday…

alan smithee

7th July 2020 at 11:17 am

With freedom comes responsibility. You are not free to infect others. Everyone has a right not to be infected.

Jerry Owen

7th July 2020 at 3:28 pm

Don’t visit the pubs !

jamie murray

7th July 2020 at 8:49 am

I was enjoying a very well written article until the author threw in the little nugget of BLM marchers being criticised along with the others mentioned?
The BLM marches were only criticised by the types of people who get fired for criticising them, they most certainly were not condemned by any major media players, the only shrill condemnation came from the guardian/bbc et al towards any criticism of BLM! No BLM was given a pass by the cowardly MSM, they didn’t need another one here did they?

Tracy Jones

7th July 2020 at 8:16 am

Can I direct your readers attention to yesterdays Times cartoon, no better evidence as to what the Times thinks of the people who use pubs in England and clearly its asking its readers to enjoy the joke of laughing and despising the “great unwashed ” who are not part of their metropolitan elite club.

Jerry Owen

7th July 2020 at 8:03 am

I expect the Twitter mob have already decided Jimmy is a Brexit voter, a wife beater, a misogynist, a racist, an islamophobe, and a white man of privilege to boot.
I did a few pubs over the weekend, what a surreal and unpleasant experience it was, completely sanitized and cold.
I fear now for many pubs, they are absolutely anything but places of social interaction. The way they have opened will kill many of them off.
We’ll be rotating in one another’s gardens for the foreseeable future, the lack of beer choice was very apparent. The extra cost of beer as opposed to the 4 beers for six quid at the supermarkets we all became used to became very apparent. The pubs have opened in the worst manner possible and the pubs we did all had different approaches to how the operated. Some you could order at the bar, some you had to be directed to a seat, some you had to give a phone number.
The whole thing is a mess.
I speak as a real ale fan, the whole thing is a depressing farce.
If Jimmy felt had an angel pissing on his tongue, he was a lucky man indeed.
We all felt we were being pissed on from a great height.

Tracy Jones

7th July 2020 at 8:20 am

I think the myriad of inhospitable rules are having exactly the reaction the Government and the health lobby wanted, they don’t want pubs they believe they create societal problems we are now effectively being run by a temperance movement. The ideal is to keep you at home in small groups that way there is no chance for crime, no risk of health related alcohol dependency in their eyes. You watch they will obliterate the majority of pubs and then they will go after Alcohol sales in Supermarkets etc

Jerry Owen

7th July 2020 at 8:39 am

There has been a war on alcohol intake for some years, in Scotland they have hiked up taxes to try and cut down peoples intake. It will happen here soon.
The strength of many beers has been diluted over the years as well .. the most famous is Stella down from 5% to 4.8% with no price decrease. Badger Tanglefoot from 4.9% down to 4.5% again no price decrease and a lesser taste to boot, there are others as well.
We lose over thirty pubs a week I fully expect that rate to go up dramatically over the coming months. There is a war on all forms of enjoyment, most of it wrapped up in green propaganda but much also dressed up as ‘public health’.
It’s not a good era to live in, we have passed the best times of personal freedom.

JohnH H

7th July 2020 at 5:35 am

“What is really being expressed is not a fear of the virus, but the puritan fear that someone somewhere may be enjoying themselves”.

That is the definition of a puritan.

What is also evident that this abysmal government and abysmal media got the whole thing wrong and the lockdown was either not necessary or was ever going to work, and they are terrified that the public will realise this.

Gordon Te Gopher

6th July 2020 at 10:40 pm

Yeh yeh you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. I’ve been for a quiet pint with Jimmy. Three weeks and 30 grand later, after god knows how many grams of charlie and bottles of diamond white with nightnurse chasers, after sleeping with the umpteenth hooker who may well have been the mum and then the grandma and then the great grandma of the first one, after waking up in a pool of our own vomit, blood and urine in the gutter of a random street in a random town 350 mile from where we started – I found out what a quiet pint with Jimmy is REALLY like. Don’t let Jimmy fool you. Have you seen Jimmy since Saturday? Thought not.

David Margison

7th July 2020 at 8:59 am

Well Gordon, where do I start? Was that a lame attempt at humor, or just a nonsensical rant for the sake of it. Get a grip man.

Gordon Te Gopher

7th July 2020 at 11:59 pm

No thanks. Grip your own.

Matt Ryan

6th July 2020 at 6:10 pm

Jimmy is a white man so obviously is going to garner scornful comments from his “betters”. Those being university educated (in a non-STEM subject), idiotic, woke, non-binary, loud mouthed asshats.

James Knight

6th July 2020 at 5:34 pm

A virus is like a fire. The fuel for the fire is the number of susceptible people. If you believe the lockdown was effective, which is highly doubtful, all we have done is maximise that number. So we would have theoretically the maximum fuel load.

How about we had injected every fit and healthy person in a low risk group with covid. The whole thing would be over by now. Possibly with fewer deaths over all.

Mark Houghton

6th July 2020 at 4:26 pm

Going to the pub? Having fun. Jeez, the plebs will be off to the beach soon. How awful.

Barbara Baker

6th July 2020 at 4:22 pm

According to reports the dreaded R number had already risen in London – presumably due to the protests of previous weeks , though I would expect that only the statue protectors would get the blame . Ferocious outrage will doubtless be heaped on those awful people who had the temerity to go out and have a good time while trying to support local businesses- the inconsiderate plebs

Gareth Edward KING

6th July 2020 at 4:03 pm

And not a death mask in sight! Well done! And you want to come to Spain for your holidays? Whatever for? Madrid resembles Wuhan on a bad night at the best of times! Muffle muzzles galore and in all sorts of pretty colours! They’ve become fashion items de riguer which rather defeats their original, sanitary function which seems to have got lost in the general hysteria! I’m at a loss to work out how it’s all been done with barely a murmur. Two regions: Lugo (NW) and Lérida (NE) (=200,000 pop.) are back in lockdown mode and the authorities are ‘worried’ because those testing positive are asymptomatic, what? So, it’s actually nothing to worry about then! But what the heck! Why worry about facts when you can impose autoritarianism at the drop of a hat! (or better said: surgical mask!).

Warren Alexander

6th July 2020 at 3:41 pm

It is quite scandalous that ordinary people wilfully defy the preconceived notions of the left/liberal elite and demonstrate that people are quite capable of making sensible decisions on their own without the agents of the State interfering. When will the government step in and pass laws to enforce bad behaviour so that The Guardian can sneer at the plebs and the Daily Mail can screech like a deranged banshee at the impending cataclysm.

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