LIKE those other thoughts that soon give way to malevolence these ones come insidiously and unbidden. In this pandemic they’re often triggered by a map with shaded areas indicating the most of this or the sharpest increase of something other. In England the darkest patches are always located in the north-east or north-west. Sometimes they’re sparked by footage of young people behaving “recklessly” inside pubs or on the streets around them.  

As the countdown began on another curfew last week a bacchanal seemed to be under way in Liverpool city centre. And in those civilised and upright sectors of the UK we looked at each other with glances that said: “These people; they just can’t help themselves.” These reports are deliberately shorn of any context. Thus we respond in the way that we’re supposed to respond: censoriously; judgmentally, piously.  

Some elected local panjandrum was marched out last week to respond to the party scenes and he dutifully stuck to the script. “These scenes shame our city,” he said. But They really don’t: they shame the country and not in the way he imagined.  

There’s a reason why those who live in our poorest communities appear to be more relaxed about the pandemic. For them, coronavirus is merely the latest affliction that menaces their physical and mental wellbeing and results in child poverty, high mortality and acute depression. They can be grouped under the heading multi-deprivation.  

We know the causes too: mass unemployment; one-sided austerity; low wages and the historic annihilation of their industries by Margaret Thatcher. And we know what’s responsible: the virus of Toryism that reviles an entire class and the way it chooses to live.        

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, has offered more opposition in the last 48 hours to the Tory virus than Sir Keir Starmer has in the entirety of his benign and acquiescent leadership of the Labour Party. Mr Burnham is seeking to resist Boris Johnson’s attempts to place Manchester in the critical, third-tier category of coronavirus containment. He has accused the Tories of using his locality as an “experiment”. 

He must know though, that the Conservatives have always treated communities such as his as experiments. “Let’s see how long a person can survive with no money; no jobs and bad health. Oh dear, there goes Newcastle. But at least they made it to 60. That puts them in the lead. Did any of you chaps have money on Newcastle?” 

I hope that an enlightened television executive has commissioned one of those edgy, lived-experience documentaries chronicling the reality of this pandemic. Mine would have a sort of Tale of Two Cities theme. It might feature a household in Leeds or Port Glasgow, whose breadwinner has been told they’ve been laid off by a business that made several billion pounds last year, like Wetherspoons or Virgin or British Airways.  

The contrast might be provided by the intense preparations for a socially-distanced garden party in Kensington where guests are asked to design their own face-masks and the talk is of having to let the hired help go or wondering when they’ll next be able to fly to their second homes on the Adriatic coast. “Has anyone made a killing on the markets? I know a chap in the city who’ll advise you for a reasonable consideration.” 

Mr Burnham was chastised for adopting a belligerent attitude to government attempts at quarantining his city. “You can’t hold us to ransom by demanding more money for it,” said Dominic Raab as he delivered Dominic Cummings’ daily ukase. 

Raab, like all the other Tory ministers given a platform by the BBC, was never questioned about the billions his government has handed to companies with close family and business connections to the party. These emoluments occur shadily where no questions are asked and the transaction is completed with a nod and a wink and an invitation for drinks at White’s “when this is all over”.  

While the rest of us saw this as an ordeal to be endured, the bottom-feeders who scavenge from the Tory cartel saw it as a business opportunity. Coronavirus has laid bare the apotheosis of Toryism; the distillation of its entire philosophy. These last seven months represent a virtual theme where all the disciples and purveyors of capitalism have gathered to feast on the spoils of the pandemic while affecting paternal concern. Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings have turned the UK into a gangster state. 

In Scotland there have been no stand-offs like this mainly, I suspect because the country has invested a far greater degree of trust in Nicola Sturgeon than the people of England have in the Johnson/Cummings cartel.Yet, many of the same patterns and divisions persist in Scotland. A straitjacket has been placed across the central belt, housing our poorest communities and marked by that familiar shaded band on television news bulletins. Pernicious attitudes to the proles also persist at the heart of government here.

Amidst our political classes another narrative has emerged, as specious and uninformed as anything seeping from Downing Street. Thus the pandemic offers a historic opportunity to break Scotland’s obsession with drink.  

An industry has emerged around Holyrood these last 20 years providing jobs for these unctuous moralisers of the managerial class that thrives in Holyrood. Coronavirus is an opportunity for them too; not to profiteer but to indulge their obsession for finger-wagging. Their conceits and caprices have come to define this Holyrood class and their disdain for working class culture. These people: they drink too much and, unlike us, they drink beastly elixirs like Buckfast. They smack their children and they sing dodgy songs. They need a state-appointed guardian to monitor their home lives and, worst of all, they never use the right gender pronouns.  

The First Minister must tread carefully here. Thus far her leadership during this pandemic has been exemplary. Lately though, she has begun to exhibit distressing symptoms of the Holyrood mediocracy. Don’t go to Blackpool? And don’t dare think about setting foot in an English pub to watch the Celtic v Rangers game? But please feel free to go and watch a game of rugger instead. And you can take a wee hip flask in with you too.