Paul McNamee: It’s important to grab the small warming coals of hope

We need the light that hopeful stories bring and we must allow it to run through the cracks — even if it is just football's long-awaited return

They drift up like smoke signals on the horizon. We search eagle-eyed for stories of positive turns.

Look there, South Korea one day reports no new cases. And over that way, the death toll is steadily dropping in Spain. Schools are reopening in Denmark. Hairdressers too.

In Switzerland they’re also allowing the barbers to dust down their chairs.

When, like me, you have become little more than a hairball with eyes, that is succour. And I think it’s OK to say so. There is a bit of fear over holding up such things as both missed and important in the teeth of ongoing agonies of loss that so many face, in life and in livelihoods.

But we need the light and must allow it to run through the cracks.


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

In this week’s edition of the magazine (#1408, out May 7), there is a simple paragraph that asks: Are you missing football? I have read it perhaps half a dozen times getting the magazine ready, and each time I shout out loud YES, YES I DO! as if it were the first time. Each time feeling the same stab of longing.

So it’s important to grab small warming coals of hope. And it’s vital not to allow the weight of fear to cripple.

The rise in testing is important and a positive. The Westminster government barely made the 100,000 a day end-of-April target. But there is at last an acceleration. If we know who has had the virus, and where, then we can understand how to plot a way forward.

The rise in testing is important and positive

There is one issue that needs more explaining. The contact tracing. The idea is sensible.

Part of the process will be allowing those who test positive to get in touch with people they’ve been in close contact with and, subsequently, those people taking action.

In order to scale this up, we will be encouraged to download a contact tracing app. The idea being that you’ll be alerted that somebody who crossed your path has tested positive and you’ll have to go and isolate.

But who will hold data on us, and for how long? And will this information become a commodity that is tradeable? Will it impact on other aspects of our lives? Will other details of our personal life have to be handed over?

When we learn that a Google executive who specialises in AI sat on a governmental scientific advisory committee about national policy around lockdown, we need further explanation. Nobody will ever argue that we shouldn’t be fleet-footed and merciless in attempts to beat coronavirus and emerge from the crisis. But, as ever, we need to be cautious around unintended consequences.

That said, if I was told a little app download would allow football to return, I’d walk a mile on my knees for a signal.

We all have our limits.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue   

Image: Anita Miles