Part of Associate Editor, Jeremy Warner’s, article for the Daily Telegraph on 3 March read as follows:
“In the First World War outbreak there was thus a lasting impact on supply, with many families suffering the loss of the primary bread-winner. This is quite unlikely to occur this time around. Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the Covid-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents”.
Formulated in semi-technical and anodyne terms for the most part (‘a lasting impact on supply’, ‘mildly beneficial’, neat opposition between ‘bread-winner’ and ‘dependents’), the piece tries to look neutral. But the word ‘cull’ is truly shocking – and resonates in a paper that actively advocates the culling of badgers and deer.
Warner is a senior editor, not a stringer or occasional contributor. The strong association between the Telegraph, Tories and the prime minister is well known in the UK. The average age of the paper’s readership is 61. It maintains an almost inflammatory right-wing editorial policy about the EU, the National Health Service, economics and tax policy – in fact, most political issues. Culling elderly dependents is about par for the course. Getting people to follow the strong advice of health professionals, and looking out for vulnerable neighbours, are not a priorities. The irony is that the readership represents a population most likely to die from the virus and to the slashing of health spending beloved of conservative policies in past years.
It is strange how people seem to vote for and support those who in reality threaten their health and economic stability. Were Epicurus alive today he would be wanting to protect the old, the vulnerable and the poor, who are as entitled to health, peace of mind and a pleasant life as the well-off.