Opinion with Christine Tongue: Are you dispensable?

Christine votes to put her Auntie Annette in charge of the country

When are you expecting to die? My granny lived to 97, but my mother died at 68. I’m hoping granny’s genes prevail.

I heard an MP on the radio a few days ago saying that as most people die between 80 and 90 we shouldn’t be too shocked at the number of deaths from covid, it was sort of natural! It affects the older age group much worse than the young so we should live with that reality and not try to harm the education and job prospects of people with their lives in front of them – just in order to give a few more weeks of life to us oldies who’ve had our turn (and can’t even walk properly any more, he might have added).

Well I found that shocking.

I had plans to fade out slowly at a hundred and something with a gin and tonic in my hand gazing at an Aegean sunset. Or similar. A Thanet one would do if we’re not allowed into Europe ever again.

I might want to choose when to go. A friend in Amsterdam has just said goodbye to an old friend who has decided to go for assisted suicide to avoid the pain in front of her with terminal cancer.

One of the few risks we took this summer was to celebrate the continued health of our favourite relative. To have anything resembling an auntie at my age is tremendously lucky. She belongs to my partner really but I claimed her years ago.

We went out twice to celebrate her 90th birthday – to places with tarpaulin roofs and a howling gale rushing through so we thought the virus would blow away. The Posillipo garden was a bit like eating aboard an Elizabethan galleon on Broadstairs seafront with flapping canvass and a main mast wobbling convincingly!

But the birthday auntie seemed unflappable. She quite enjoyed the Blitz as a child in London’s East End, but all her life campaigned for peace (she was on the first Aldermaston march in 1958). She has calmly stood by me through my worst life crises – so a seafood pasta in a storm was fun!

How dare politicians think people like her are dispensable! She still gives good advice, helps to run a pensioners’ campaign group in London, and is a role model of political activism and optimism.

But even if you’re less active and might even be forgetting who you are in a care home, you’re human, your life matters. We are in a wealthy country. We can pay for healthcare, we can pay to keep people off work and out of the schools and universities to protect their grandparents. We can pay for everyone to have a vaccine and implement a proper test and trace system. Why don’t we do it?

At the end of WW2 the UK was poor from six years of having to invest in destruction but the 1945 government set up the basis of the welfare state, free education, free health care, decent pensions, state funded housing at reasonable rents etc etc.

Our PM has often compared this virus to a war. If it was we’d be in smithereens by now through Boris getting some missile tracking system wrong or putting Serco in charge of Trident.

As for our family, I’d like us all to be together at Christmas, or at least alive. It’s all looking a bit dodgy at the moment. We need a leader with a bit of life experience and common sense – and a heart!

Can’t we put Auntie in charge?

Christine Tongue is a Broadstairs resident and former Labour Party member. She now does not belong to a political party but does represent disability campaign group Access Thanet


  1. It is the grossest of obscenities to balance lives on the one hand and freedom to do what you like on the other.
    How many grandparents would you write off so you could go out for a few pints?
    It seems to ne that if this useless government had locked down in a timely manner, and people had obeyed the regulations, we wouldn’t be talking about killing off a few thousand old folk so that we can get the economy going again.

  2. I don’t think anyone is implying that older people are dispensable, no more than they’re claiming that smokers and the overweight are dispensable. After all, the reason we are having lock-downs is because we are NOT all young, non-smoking and fit, otherwise they wouldn’t be needed.

    As for Christmas, my elderly and asthmatic mother will be spending Christmas alone this year for the first time in her life… she did suggest that we risk having dinner with her, but I’d much rather improve the odds of her still be around for Christmas 2021 (and far beyond) than possibly being responsible for finishing her off!

    • The Barrington Declaration says that the “vulnerable” should be “shielded “, so that the rest of us can go about our lives as normal.
      What does “vulnerable” mean?
      What does “shielded” mean?

  3. I have news for you Christina,SERCO are partly in charge of Trident.The Govt has just announced that it will take back the running of the AWE from a consortium with SERCO as a partner.
    You can guess why: Cost overruns, under performance etc etc.
    Looking at Dido’s delight at test, track +trace, you can see,certain contractors with eyes for profit, bigger than their means to deliver.
    SERCO again.They are the gift that keeps on taking.

  4. Put Priti Patel in charge as empathy Czarina with a remit for inter-generational relationships, and Chris Grayling as competence adviser to Dido Harding.

  5. What even the Daily Mail is saying today: “What they DON’T tell you about Covid: Fewer beds taken up than last year, deaths a fraction of the grim forecasts, 95% of fatalities had underlying causes… and how coronavirus facts can be twisted to strike fear in our hearts.”

      • Good old fashioned journalism from Ross Clark number crunching all the stats available to all of us. Some do their research and some just throw out weirdly useless comments. Read across a whole range of media, including the less mainstream, look at all the ONS stats and use your own discernment. Don’t be led by the nose.

        • I look at the stats, and draw conclusions.
          Eg: if the infection rate and death rate is going down, something is working. If it’s going up, then something is going wrong.
          Not rocket science. Not arcane. Not mystical.

  6. What common sense tells me is that because of lockdown, the mortality of this dreadful disease is much lower than it would otherwise have been. In March and early April, the death rate was rising exponentially, and would have carried on doing so without intervention. On March 24th the government imposed strict lockdown; by mid April, the death rate was beginning to fall.
    New Zealand, which imposed very strict lockdown, has almost no CV.
    I’m so glad that the actions taken by the government (and they could have been much better than they were) that :”Fewer beds taken up than last year, deaths a fraction of the grim forecasts”
    A much cheerier outcome than what it might have been.

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