The horror of coronavirus is all too real. Don’t turn it into an imaginary war | Marina Hyde

Politicians may turn to platitudes about heroes or battlers or victories, but they can’t disguise Britain’s grim current reality

The language of war is baked in to most of us, to one degree or other. Our new daily discourse runs deep with talk of field hospitals, frontlines, the battles against an invisible enemy. The shock of the news that prime minister Boris Johnson lies seriously ill in intensive care drew a tide of messages and well-wishes from world leaders and other politicians, many of which invoked a kind of martial courage. “You are a fighter and we need you back.” “He is a fighter and will beat this virus.” Together, “we will be able to win this battle”. “You fight for a swift recovery.” “You are a fighter, and you will overcome this challenge.” I truly hope he does.

For his part, Dominic Raab – who will deputise for Johnson – was described as looking “shell-shocked” last night, before this morning chairing the “war cabinet”. According to the breakfast interview inquiries thrown at Michael Gove, it seems that one of the primary questions is whether Raab is now technically in charge of the UK’s response to a notional nuclear attack. I suppose we have to treat this as a matter of vital pertinence, though like many people living through this 100-year deadly pandemic, I’d have just three words for any nuclear power contemplating an imminent first strike at the UK: not now, mate.

Related: Boris Johnson’s illness is a message to us all about the horror of coronavirus | Martin Kettle

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