I remember it well, most people do, but how many actually understood that what they were doing was shallow and meaningless? The idea was simple, everyone stands outside their door at 8pm every Thursday and applaud the NHS heroes as Britain went into its first lockdown. It was a gesture and nothing more. The idea originated with Annemarie Plas, a Dutch national living in London, who started it to as a ‘clap for carers’ event. It quickly broadened to include other key workers, but NHS staff became, and remained, the focal point for many participants.
I never observed this superficial act. It just seemed divisive and simply a means of getting people to do the least possible while feeling good about it. They call it virtue signalling. Politicians were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Well, why not? Everyone appeared to feel like they were doing something significant when they were not making any promises nor spending any money! That is the kind of thing that professional politicians love. The truth was revealed when the question of a pay rise for NHS staff came up, hardly a clapper in sight then.
Annemarie Plas was probably well intentioned, but then that proverb springs to mind, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. It was an empty gesture and nothing more. Perhaps that is why, when it came to actually rewarding NHS staff, most people felt like they had done enough for them already. It might also explain why Britain is facing a recruitment problem across the medical services, exacerbated by the government’s attacks on non-British staff.
Come on clappers, where are you when you are actually needed?!