by Martin Odoni

I recognise that the new weekly ‘lockdown-tradition’ of standing on our doorsteps every Thursday evening, and giving a hearty round-of-applause to our front-line emergency services comes from the best of impulses. It in no way does any harm, it causes no irritation, and I have little objection to it, in and of itself.

However, it is becoming very difficult to ignore the empty futility of it. While emergency workers are doubtless aware at least that it is happening, they are very, very unlikely to hear about 99% of the population making the gesture.

Clap for NHS?

Do people really think this is achieving very much?

Even if they could, would it really help those on the front line all that much? In the current pandemic crisis, what, say, NHS staff are looking for in considerable quantities is not critical acclaim. What they want is Personal Protective Equipment of sufficient quality to give them a fighting chance of treating CoVid-19 patients without becoming infected themselves. What they need more broadly is for hospitals to be adequately resourced to fight the pandemic.

Knowing they are being applauded is probably good for front-line workers’ morale, but it will not provide even one pair of rubber gloves or one face-mask. The applause is very much a gesture dreamt up with the heart, and not with the head.

More darkly, a fair number of the people making a big show of their Thursday night applause performance are the very same people who offered nothing but cynicism during, just for instance, the Junior Doctors Strike. This is just one of many reasons why the sudden concerns expressed by Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary who tortured the NHS to the brink of death’s door for years, are absolutely nauseating.

This is a genuine argument against clapping; it offers a very cheap, easy path to a self-laundered moral public illusion to people who previously ignored the devastation of the Health Service.

So last Thursday, at 8pm, I decided that instead of stepping onto my tiny balcony and applauding into the void, I would do something a bit more practical. I nipped onto the NHS Charities Together‘s donations website for their CoVid-19 appeal. I made a donation of £30, and made sure to tick the Gift Aid box.

And you know what? I will do the same again this evening. Maybe any readers who have a little cash to spare could do similar? I realise that not everyone will have any money available, in which case, the page has an option available for donating items. Or maybe you want to donate to a different front-line service, like care homes – try here. Or use a search engine.

I just think that this approach would do more practical good. Yes, I realise it is distasteful that Virgin is providing the NHS Charities platform, given Richard Branson’s utterly slimy recent behaviour, but I would argue that it is worth an unclean moment if it helps save even one life.

And hey, if you enjoy doing the round-of-applause thing and still want to do it, no problem, there is nothing to stop you from doing both.