SIR GRAHAM BRADY: Cabinet Ministers lining up against a new lockdown? That’s the best Christmas present of them all
If I had told you at the start of 2020 that the Government would soon ban you from seeing your children or grandchildren, you would have replied with some very simple advice. Namely, go and lie down in a darkened room.
But in the days that followed, we accepted this sinister decree on the grounds that it was an emergency – a short, three-week emergency we were told.
Later that year, when the formerly freedom-loving Boris Johnson discovered his inner Cromwell and in effect abolished Christmas, many people were so worn down by virus panic that they accepted it as the new normal.
Today, we are the best part of two years into emergency measures which are wreaking untold damage on the fabric of our society.
It is a dangerous state of affairs, the more so as many of us have been cowed into accepting them.
Even with new concrete evidence that the Omicron variant will not cause the devastation first predicted, there are very real fears that, if this year’s Christmas has been reprieved, New Year could be cancelled instead.
It must not happen. Enough is enough.
Even with new concrete evidence that the Omicron variant will not cause the devastation first predicted, there are very real fears that, if this year’s Christmas has been reprieved, New Year could be cancelled instead. It must not happen. Enough is enough
There must be no new unnecessary restrictions this week whether the PM sees fit to recall Parliament for an emergency session or whether he resorts simply to more ‘guidance’.
We need to shake off the panic-driven groupthink gripping the nation – and our political masters.
As the great thinker Charles Mackay observed nearly two centuries ago, men go mad in herds.
Sadly, as Mackay noted in his book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, they only recover their senses ‘slowly, one by one’.
That was in the age when the printing press and the penny post were the main engines of mass communication.
Imagine what he would have made of broadcast media and Twitter beaming alarmist messages into our living rooms and on to the screens of our smart phones around the clock.
How much quicker might the human herd be terrorised? And so it has proved.
How much slower will be the return of sanity and calm reasoning amid the electronic fog of confusing data and ‘daily Covid deaths’?
Context is all too rare. Weekly figures published just a fortnight ago show a total of 661 deaths from Covid in England and Wales, for example.
The Chancellor had no choice last week but to add another billion pounds of aid to the £400 billion already spent on Covid measures. But a billion here and a billion there soon adds up to real money. Pictured: An empty House of Fraser on Bond Street, London
That is a sad picture. But why is Covid the only cause of death reported when 11,269 people died of other things in the same week?
Why do our national broadcasters not discuss this wider context? Why don’t they contribute to a more rational discourse, including the balance of risks involved?
Why is there so little discussion of the immense social damage caused if Covid is allowed to become the sole driver of policy?
They should be ashamed of their blinkered, fear-mongering coverage.
Of course, I do not blame the public for this groupthink – or for being totally confused, as diktat is swapped for guidance at the drop of a hat, and guidance for diktat.
Just a few days ago, the self-isolation period for positive cases was slashed from ten to seven days.
It is not that long since Dr Susan Hopkins from the Health Security Agency was telling us that Omicron was the biggest threat from the pandemic to date.
Yet just a few days ago she was talking about the ‘first signs of cautious optimism’ as the data came in proving – as predicted – that the variant is in fact less virulent.
In the past few weeks, we have seen mandatory isolation for people ‘suspected’ of being in contact with an Omicron case introduced and then replaced with a much more benign regime of testing.
How many millions of work or schooldays have been lost in the past two years to an isolation regime now acknowledged to have been longer than necessary?
Constant and bewildering rule changes could have been designed to habituate people into waiting for instructions from our ‘betters’ in Whitehall.
Constant and bewildering rule changes could have been designed to habituate people into waiting for instructions from our ‘betters’ in Whitehall. Pictured: London’s once packed Soho has slipped into a Christmas slumber for 2021
Such has been the fate of families and businesses the length and breadth of the land in the run-up to Christmas.
Did you take the plunge and buy a goose or a turkey, or did you think it sensible to wait and see if the celebration is for 12 or just for two?
Did you book your train tickets or hang on for word from No 10?
What if you run a restaurant that has suffered enforced closure for six of the past 12 months?
What if you were depending on a bumper Christmas to balance the books? You’ve taken on extra staff and ordered stock, only to find most of your bookings cancelled.
It is a catastrophe.
What sane bank manager would extend credit to a business that is turned on or off at the click of a Minister’s fingers?
Muddled messages and a revolving door of restrictions are killing a hospitality sector that employs three million.
And cancelled parties hit the hairdresser and the dress shop almost as surely as they smash the pub or restaurant.
The loss of demand ricochets back up the supply chain – and adds to the fearsome economic woes to come.
The Chancellor had no choice last week but to add another billion pounds of aid to the £400 billion already spent on Covid measures. But a billion here and a billion there soon adds up to real money.
And yet more subsidy will be needed to prevent the collapse of airlines which had clawed their way back towards two-thirds of their normal business, only to see a wave of cancellations as passengers decide not to take the risk.
There must be no new unnecessary restrictions this week whether the PM sees fit to recall Parliament for an emergency session or whether he resorts simply to more ‘guidance’
The great 18th Century advocate of liberty, Thomas Paine, in an essay titled Common Sense, urged American colonists to consider whether they might be better off making their own decisions for their New World rather than waiting for a remote colonial government in London to hand down laws and regulations.
‘A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom,’ he wrote.
Well, after nearly two years of Covid, the damage has been done.
It is now our ‘custom’ to accept orders, to wait until we are told what we are ‘allowed’ to do.
We tolerate a government telling us whether and where we can work. They tell us whom we can see.
Even ‘snogging’ under the mistletoe has fallen under the ambit of Government guidance.
This might have been acceptable in the early, emergency phase of a new virus.
But now, it is not. So now we must take back control over our own lives. We need the Government to rediscover the British values of liberty and respect.
The Socialist regime in Wales and the Nationalists in Scotland have helpfully reminded us that imposing even tighter restrictions than those in England has failed to make the slightest difference.
We must learn the lesson. The Swedes, who never locked their people down and did right by their children by keeping schools open throughout, have had much the same outcomes as we have had here in terms of infection.
And, in comparative terms at least, their economy has prospered.
It is always worrying when we hear leaks of confidential Cabinet meetings, as we did last week, when it was reported that Ministers were queuing up to oppose fresh, pre-Christmas restrictions.
But if those reports are true, it suggests that senior figures in the Government are now ‘recovering their senses, slowly, one by one’.
And that would be the best Christmas present of all.
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