Emily Maitlis just picked apart the government's 'misleading' language around coronavirus in 60 seconds

If the Covid-19 pandemic has done anything, it is upend assertions made by certain politicians.

Like workers previously classed as “low skilled” by Home Secretary Priti Patel being revealed as the lynchpin of society in a crisis. Or our benefits and sick pay systems having to be completely upended because it turned out, they’re not fit for purpose.

And there’s been a certain rhetoric surrounding coronavirus itself...

But now senior BBC journalist and Newsnightpresenter Emily Maitlis has challenged the way coronavirus is being talked about from the top down in a powerful monologue that’s winning praise across the internet.

“Good evening,” Maitlis said, before launching into a blistering dissection of recent commentary on coronavirus...

The language around Covid-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading.

You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Minister’s colleagues will tell us.

And the disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone – rich or poor – suffers the same.

This is a myth which needs debunking. Those on the frontline right now – bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce. 

They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.

Maitlis didn’t stop there – she also took aim at messaging surrounding pictures of people crammed onto tubes and threats by local councils to close public spaces like parks.

“Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher,” she said.

Those in manual jobs will be unable to work from home. 

This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare. 

And this is a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.

Maitlis’ remarks come after government and media messaging that have often portrayed coronavirus as a warwhich we’re all “fighting” together.

Some high profile Tories have even presented Covid-19 as a test of individual fortitude – and contracting it as a failure.

When asked to comment on Boris Johnson’s admittance to the ICU, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith said:

He has obviously worked like mad to try and get through this but it’s not good enough so far.

Meanwhile Dominic Raab, who is standing in for Boris, described the PM as a “fighter,” a comment that sparked criticism.

“This blather implies that anyone who does not “pull through” is not ‘a fighter’” wrote one Guardian reader. “Did he think of the effect of his words on anyone who has lost a loved one to coronavirus?”

Recent studies also suggest that BAME people are more likely than white people to fall critically ill with coronavirus, despite being a much smaller demographic within the population.

Experts have suggested several reasons for this, including lack of access to healthcare, lower socio-economic living situations and the amount of BAME individuals who are key workforces like transport workers and retail.

Maitlis’ monologue seemed to strike a chord – there was praise across the board for her words.

Labour Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy simply described it as “truth”.

Others called her a “star”.

However, some pointed out that while Maitlis’ comments were very welcome, the plaudits she was receiving was because critical analysis from UK media that questions the government can be in short supply.

It just goes to show that we shouldn't be afraid to question certain narratives.

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