A BILIOUS odour of sanctimony is hanging around the Novak Djokovic saga. Following the news yesterday that the world’s finest tennis player was to be ejected from Australia, ripples of smug vindictiveness began to break on social media. “Good f****** riddance,” tweeted one unctuous media performer, a sentiment shared by others whose sense of objectivity about this complex case seemed to have departed.

Even before three Federal Court judges upheld the Australian government’s decision to deport Mr Djokovic, he was being eviscerated. He was an “anti-vaxxer” and, being a multi-millionaire, it was good that an example was being made of him. This is because, in the words of one prominent sportswriter “the privileged cannot always just ride roughshod over rules which are there for all of us”. (Incidentally, why are miscreants always assumed to have shoddy footwear when committing their malfeasances)?

In finally denying Mr Djokovic’s visa and ending his chance of defending his tennis title, the Australian immigration minister, Alex Hawke, cited public interest on “health and good order” grounds. Effectively, the Serbian star was being held responsible for any and all future outbreaks of civil disobedience by anti-vaccine campaigners. Thus, the first case of being considered guilty of an assumed future offence has just been recorded. It sets a sinister precedent.

The Serbian tennis player had first been cleared to play in the Australian Open by both the tennis tour organisers and the state of Victoria. Each had accepted that, having had Covid-19 within the previous six months, his application for a visa was sound and that he was exempt from the vaccination obligation on medical grounds.

It was at this point that the casuistry of the permanently righteous began to seep forth. Mr Djokovic was reviled as an anti-vaxxer when, in truth, he had uttered nothing that could possibly lead to such an imprecation. He had simply stated that, knowing what was good for his own personal health, he’d rather not take his Covid jag. Having trawled through his previous statements on this issue there is nothing that remotely smacks of encouraging others not to be vaccinated. Indeed, according to the BBC’s Serbian correspondent yesterday, Mr Djokovic has helped fellow competitors and members of his own tennis academy to access vaccines.

You don’t have to be numbered among the conspiracy theorists to concede that his reluctance to be vaccinated is understandable, even if you think it’s ill-advised. Mr Djokovic is one of the fittest athletes in the world, whose insanely intense health regime allows him regularly to vanquish all his younger and less grizzled opponents. His body is so finely tuned to the physical demands of his sport that each minute of every day is calibrated to its needs. Not an ounce of food or drink is superfluous in such a rigorous health plan.

This is his personal choice and until we start imposing mass vaccination by order of the state or permitting an individual’s personal health details to be made public this should be respected. We already take it on trust that any individual who chooses not to wear a mask in public places has done so for a medically-valid reason.

There’s also been some noise about whether or not Mr Djokovic was fully compliant about self-isolation, having tested positive for Covid-19. This at a time when almost the entire UK Government was found to have staged a year-long Covid wine festival in and around Downing Street. And when authorities all over the world have been insouciant about mass gatherings of people for sporting events. And whose abject incompetence about managing the pandemic included sending elderly and vulnerable people to certain death in privateer care homes. And who knowingly permitted essential PPE equipment for NHS workers to be manufactured by opportunist amateurs.

If you want to start blaming people for fuelling the paranoia of the anti-vaxx brigade look no further than the collection of knaves and fools whom we trust to protect us at times like this.

There’s also an intellectual arrogance evident when we who operate in a political and media bubble warn the rest of the country about the wiles of foreign actors seeking to undermine national security by disseminating fake information. The SNP’s Westminster Chuckle Brothers, Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith, seem to have become our self-appointed Ministers for Keeping an Eye on the Russians. Perhaps they might want to have a quiet word with their boss who’s been on quick-dial for the, ahem … Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. Perhaps though, I’m being paranoid here and it’s all about getting another couple of pandas over for Edinburgh Zoo.

Among our young people there’s barely concealed and entirely understandable contempt for those who set the pandemic restrictions. Along with the elderly and infirm, it’s they who have suffered most in the course of the last two years. All the while we’ve asked them to trust us with knowing what’s good for them. Yet, all they’ve witnessed is a catalogue of ineptitude and criminal negligence by those whom they’re told are their betters by reason of seniority and experience.

For many generations the Scottish and UK governments have remained impervious to the inequalities that exacerbate ill health in our most impoverished neighbourhoods. Yesterday, Scotland’s drugs minister was being lauded for supporting safe consumption rooms by the usual government and media glove-puppets. What’s desperately-needed is many more rehab facilities, but instead we choose to facilitate ‘safe’ drug-taking. This though, will never be a priority because it’s mainly poor people and those suffering deep-rooted mental health crises who die from addiction and there aren’t many votes among such a wretched constituency.

Yet, we entreat them to trust us when we tell them that vaccines are safe and all the restrictions are necessary. There are entire communities in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh who have learned through bitter experience not to believe a word that comes out of the mouths of the political classes.

For his own future wellbeing, I’d urge Mr Djokovic to get vaccinated. But we’ve become accustomed to political stitch-ups by struggling governments and this world-class sportsman has fallen victim to one.

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