By Jamie Jenkins (Jamie is standing in the Senedd election for the South Wales Central region, and Pontypridd constituency, May 6).
The default position of many countries over the past year – when there has been a rise in Covid-19 cases – has been to lockdown the entire nation. I believe there is a need for a different, less robotic, approach.
Back in March 2020, we had the first UK lockdown. Choosing this path had some logic as the virus was spreading and we had little information about who was susceptible. Countries went into lockdown one by one, and it was an easy option to follow the crowd rather than stand out on our own against it.
A year on, and with such rich data on the population and the effect of Covid-19, I believe that following the same path in the future would be madness.
The pandemic has led to heartbreak for many families who have lost loved ones and we should remember that while each death is a statistic, to each family it is far more than that.
But the statistics help us understand who is most susceptible to Covid-19. In fact, some 83% of all the deaths have been for those aged 70 and over. Data from NHS England suggest less than 1% of deaths were among people aged under 60 with no underlying health condition.
We need to remember that these statistics do not tell us if Covid-19 caused the death. Some people will have died for other reasons but had the virus and a positive test. We can understand the scale of the pandemic by ignoring the cause of death and looking at how many deaths occurred from all causes and compare that to how many typically occur. If we do this, it is clear over 100,000 people have had lives cut short.
However, much of the discussion in the past year has been exclusively on the health impact of the virus. Daily we learn the number of fresh cases, number of recent deaths, but little on the number of fresh job losses and business closures or other human impacts of lockdown.
Between March 2020 and March 2021 over 800,000 people lost their jobs in the UK. The true impact will be higher as this excludes the effect on the self-employed. For each person this is a significant life event that causes huge turmoil for the individuals and their families. Almost 8 in every 10 who have lost jobs have been under the age of 35, and unemployment for recent graduates continues to soar. The cost to the taxpayer of the pandemic is huge: we have spent over £60 billion in furlough payments alone. Our children will face the burden of that debt – is that fair?
When future generations look back at this pandemic, I wonder how they will score the handling of it? Maybe commentators will have sympathy on the first course of action, but given what we know now, it would surely be an overwhelming failure if we follow the same path time and time again. Ministers talk of data, not dates, which is clearly nonsense as the data should have allowed the UK to open up again weeks ago. I fear the current crop of Ministers across the four nations are not competent to challenge the so-called experts advising them.
We have data on who is at risk from the virus, we have a population where most have antibodies, and we know the economic damage of lockdowns.
I would take an evidence and risk-based approach if there were any future waves of this or other viruses. Remember, we have mutant strains of the flu that sadly kill people, and each year the vaccine changes to combat it. We never talk of robotic lockdowns for the flu. We will need to learn to live with Covid-19 and not eradicate it. As well as the economic harms, we have not yet started the hangover from the past year, with missed health diagnoses just the tip of the iceberg.
Where I live in Wales, we have had the second highest rate of Covid-19 deaths across the country. I know people who have sadly died, and people who have lost their livelihoods. We need to have policies that consider everyone and that is why I have entered politics to give people in Wales someone who will put evidence back onto the table to protect not only lives but also livelihoods.
Jamie Jenkins is the former Head of Health Analysis and Labour Market Analysis at the Office for National Statistics. Jamie has been providing daily data updates for the public on Covid-19 pandemic the past year and has won awards from the Royal Statistical Society and United Nations for presentation of data. He also worked at the BBC advising journalists on data over a General Election period, helping them challenge politicians.
My mother, who is 91, used to have quite a few routine items in her weekly diary. She attended a Pilates class – specially for elderly people – which helped her, she claimed, to remain supple. She used to meet friends for coffee, and she liked a flat white, sometimes two, if the gossip was good. The bus service – free for her, of course – whisked her into town and back again. She would sometimes go to church on a Sunday, especially to show off a new jacket or pair of shoes. Although she admitted that the older she got the more difficulty she had paying attention to the sermon. But church was “good to see people,” she claimed. She also liked M&S – for browsing and for the sales.
Since lockdown my Mum doesn’t get out so much. She admits to being “bored witless”. She’d gladly accept even church services as an excuse to get out of the house if only they were available. But now, apart from family, she only really sees one friend a week and the only destination available to them for a jaunt is M&S. All the other regular activities have been cancelled. No Pilates. No flat whites with gossip. And even M&S, she claims, “isn’t what it used to be…with those bloody masks.”
My mother, like many others of her age, is perplexed by the ridiculous safeism that pervades everything. “I lived through the war. I lived through poverty. We had nothing when I was a girl.”
She tells stories of the squalor of her childhood years, the outside toilets, her father’s delight at joining up again when it was announced we were at war with Germany, as World War 2 emerged out of the depression years. War allowed him to enlist and to get a wage, and to re-join the army he loved.
She asked me recently, “Why is it that M&S is the only place to go during lockdown?”. I wasn’t sure of the answer.
The decision to allow food stores to remain open during lockdown was inevitable. We’d all have starved otherwise. But stores like M&S had clear competitive advantage over other stores. Clothing continued to be sold. Large M&S outlets co-located with other retailers could remain open when NEXT – and others with no food halls – had to remain closed. It may be some time before the rationale is fully explained. But the stores that were given special dispensation to remain open became chief enforcers and mouthpieces for government Covid-law.
When I interviewed Jon Dobinson of Recovery, recently, he pointed out just how much messaging we are all exposed to, in addition to unrelenting government propaganda advertising on all paid media. Retailers like M&S then amplify the fear narrative – that we’re all essentially walking biohazards – with signage, posters, one-way traffic systems, marshalling and even digital campaigns.
There is no room for any nuance or flexibility in this. The messaging and ‘policy’ are unrelenting. There is no room to question the clear silliness of the entire regulation edifice. Everybody of sound mind knows that insisting that perfectly well people walk around with masks on makes no sense, especially when the entire ‘vulnerable’ population has been offered ‘the jab’. And yet, on they go with all the social distancing and signage and patronising nonsense about ‘staying safe’ and hand sanitising. I, and others, can tweet forever about the randomness and silliness of the ‘policy’ – but the compliance officers carry on regardless, like automata. The direct marketing teams fire emails out advising us on how we should turn up at the stores – ideally alone and fully masked and distant. And then they hang a few additional bells on telling us to be kind, like we used (pre-lockdown) to arrive in bovver boots and kick-up the food hall. In the space of a year, we have arrived in a hell governed not by Beelzebub, but by some yellow tabard wearing health and safety moron – where the only quasi-virtue that has any merit is mandated virtue signalling.
The result is a society that is, by every definition, anti-intellectual. We have returned to the days before the great enlightenment. Our government is a cult-master and the pillars of civil society that we once depended on have become collaborators. It reminds me of the scene in Barbarella when the cute little robot dolls that Barbarella initially finds so endearing turn out to have metal teeth and are intent on eating her flesh. “Stay safe” essentially means, “don’t think too much, just accept, and be eaten.”
There’s an opportunity in all of this, of course. It’s a business opportunity. In the same way that pub landlords can ban Keir Starmer and Matt Hancock from ever setting foot in their premises, retailers who have not been dealt a fair hand during lockdown can choose to gain competitive advantage. That’s what the best businesses do. Every entrepreneur will be thinking of ways to get round, evade or simply pay lip service to pointless rules. The more the rules are flouted the more we’ll flock to them and support them. Marks and Spencer, take note. My Mum has a very long memory.
I was born and grew up, on and off, in London. Throughout my teenage years I was aware of an annual event called “The Notting Hill Carnival” that took place on the last weekend of August. I knew it to be a very dangerous event. People got stabbed there. There were violent riots. No one was safe. I knew this because the BBC told me so. I saw images of police being attacked and arrests being made. So I was astonished when, at the age of 21, my first serious boyfriend announced that he was “excited” about us going to “Carnival” together. I questioned his sanity. He laughed at my irrational fears and assured me that it was the safest event on earth, full of love and joy. Holding his hand tightly, I embarked on my first Carnival. He was right. It was incredible. I danced, I laughed, I loved and I felt loved. It was the greatest celebration of humanity I had ever known… until recently.
The other live events I avoided, growing up, having been warned, by the BBC and the majority of national newspapers, that my life would undoubtedly be at risk, were live football matches. Hooligans dominated these events, I was told. Fighting always broke out between fans. I would probably get crushed to death. The worst fans were Liverpool FC supporters because… Hillsborough. But I loved Liverpool. I had a schoolgirl crush on Michael Owen and always felt a great sense of pride when – as was so often the case in the 1990s and 2000s – our lads played for England. When I was first invited to a game at Anfield, I was nervous. I had sleepless nights worrying about being caught in the crossfire of raging thugs. I almost lost my bottle. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather any minute of that beautiful day. It was magical. I had never felt surrounded by such love and passion and solidarity… until recently.
Since March 2020, my personal views on the UK government’s response to the Covid pandemic have not only been unrepresented, they have been co-opted as signifying a nasty, selfish, brainless attitude. I am not nasty, selfish or brainless. I have a huge heart, I think about others all the time, and I consider myself well educated and worldly, having travelled extensively and lived in many countries. I approach everything in life with an open mind and a generous spirit. When people started obsessively distancing, chemically sanitizing their hands and wearing masks, I was deeply alarmed. When they accepted enforced isolation and quarantining, I was horrified. Distancing is not healthy in any way, shape or form. I did not need any “scientific proof” to tell me that wearing masks was unhygienic and damaging on many levels. I had been raging about the ill-advised practice of using hand sanitizer in place of hand washing for years. Then it got worse. The government passed legislation that gave them the power to force businesses to close, to forbid people from seeing their loved ones, and to stop children going to school. I was enraged. But I was a lone voice. I felt as though a hypnotic spell had been cast over the whole world and I had been left alone, yelling at people to wake up and stop acting in such an inhumane way. However, my voice was silenced.
As the weeks and months rolled on, I eventually found a few courageous voices echoing my thoughts. The relief I felt when I read Dr John Lee’s first article questioning lockdown policy in the Spectator was palpable. When I read Mike Yeadon’s brilliant, meticulous, astute explanation of how we’d made a huge mistake in our assumptions about SARS-CoV-2, first published on Lockdown Sceptics, I felt the tide would turn. When he urgently appealed to be connected to Keir Starmer, and to be given a chance to explain the errors that had been made, I assumed we would soon be home and dry. But nothing changed. And soon I began to suspect that something deeper was amiss. It got harder and harder to believe that this was all a big “fuck up”. Slowly, I found friends and family who agreed with me. But we were confused and scared. The BBC told us that only Trump supporters (which we were not) and people from something called QAnon (I still don’t know what this is) questioned the official Covid response. These people were so dangerous that, when they gathered to protest in London, in the summer of 2020, riot police had to be called in. I saw some disturbing pictures of people being restrained and arrested.
As things seemed to go back to normal in September, I tried to put the worst experiences (like being denied entry to a shop because I refused to use sanitizer and being told by a café they would only serve me outside because I was mask exempt) behind me. The November lockdown was a bit of a joke. Shops were open for “call and collect” and no one paid much attention to the “rules”. But then the MHRA gave emergency use approval for a couple of “vaccines” and my blood ran cold. Firstly, because I had dismissed hysterical cries for “vaccines before Christmas” as I knew no vaccine could be given to the general public without several years of trials (I confirmed this on the NHS website) so what on earth was going on, secondly because I had just read that the pharmaceutical companies making these drugs (the very companies that have historically paid the largest fines, sometimes amounting to billions of dollars, for criminal activity, most notably defrauding the population over safety data for drugs) had been indemnified against legal liability by the government, and thirdly because we knew – by then – that medications such as HCQ and Ivermectin were being successfully used to treat Covid in other countries, meaning that no emergency approval should ever have been given to these “vaccines”. (Emergency use approval for a new drug can only be given if there is no other known treatment available.)
Nothing could have prepared me for the hysteria that then ensued.
Cut to April 2021 and suddenly we had celebrities posting live “vaxies” (photographing and filming themselves being “vaccinated”) on Instagram, manic “vaccinators” trawling residential areas looking for likely targets to stick needles into, MPs calling for “vaccine passports” and half the general public calling for the “unvaxxed” to be rounded up and cast aside, having been goaded by the mainstream media into calling these people “antis” (short for anti-vaxxers – the new untouchables). The pinnacle of this pantomime was Edwina Currie, a woman raised as an Orthodox Jew, saying she wanted to be sure she never had to “sit next to an unvaccinated person on a bus”. The irony of a Jewish person demanding the segregation of people based on a delusional completely false and twisted belief that they were somehow diseased and unclean is astounding, and should never be forgotten.
And the BBC lapped it all up. Young reporter Marianna Spring was hired to investigate the mad conspiracy theorists who were warning young healthy people not to be coerced into taking these hastily approved, experimental “vaccines”. More pictures were circulated in March of the crazy “alt right” protesters endangering everyone’s lives (unlike the kind and caring mourners at the vigil for Sarah Everard, or the Black Lives Matter protesters, or the XR campaigners). This was getting weird. Okay, if some really anxious elderly people wanted an emergency-approved experimental drug being offered as a “vaccine”, let them have it, but why this frenzy? Why the desperation to be jabbed as if it was baptism into a cult? Why this hysterical coercion by the NHS, and manic threats of “no jab, no job” and “no jab, no travel” and… and… what the hell is Tony Blair doing on our TV screens telling everyone they MUST GET VACCINATED?!
When I heard there was another protest planned for 24April 2021, where people fighting for the full restoration of civil liberties and the right to bodily autonomy were coming together to voice their objections to lockdowns and restrictions and coerced “vaccines” and “health passports”, I knew I had no choice. I was more scared of not speaking out than I was of any angry “alt right” mob.
And what do you know? The BBC – through the trembling tones of a terrified Marianna Spring – had done it again! They’d tried to dupe me, and millions of others, into believing anyone who challenged the Covidian ideology – of lockdowns and masks and mandatory jabs for all – was somehow dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can attest to this because… I was there. I waited in Hyde Park enveloped by hoards of peace-loving, passionate, humane, joyous people. I set off up Park Lane… one in half a million people. Don’t believe any report to the contrary. This was undoubtedly a crowd larger than a 200,000-strong Glastonbury (another event I was scared off attending for years before I discovered it was not a cesspit of thieves) and close to the size of Notting Hill Carnival, which attracts around a million per day. To give you an idea of the size of this protest, I stopped at a pub just off the route to spend a penny and have a rest. When I re-joined the march, half an hour later, the crowd was still going strong and I couldn’t see the back of it. A few police officers walked amongst us – some of them chatting pleasantly with protestors – but for the most part we were left to police ourselves. I didn’t see any heavy drinking, there was less littering than any music festival I’ve attended, and there was not even much swearing. I spoke to many people who’d never been on a march before but shared my feelings of exasperation at being silenced. We were united in our need to be heard and our desire to preserve humanity. There were children. There was dancing. There was singing. There was love. There was joy. I felt safe. I felt happy. I felt heard. This was no angry mob, this was no “alt right” rally. I doubt the majority of people in that crowd had any clearer idea of what “QAnon” is than I do. (Note to Marianna Spring who sounds obsessed with this organisation. Perhaps she could enlighten us.)
As we came down Victoria Embankment, approaching Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, I wept.
None of us choose to be born. None of us choose to be born within a particular country. But by virtue of being born we have a birthright to live on the land of our unintended nation. We have the right to breathe freely and work honestly. We have the right to assemble in public spaces and we have the right to speak. We have the right to learn, the right to love, and the right to liberty. No man or machine has the right to take those rights away from us. We have the right to life until God, or whatever you want to call the power of nature, calls time on our existence.
The “Coronavirus Act” should be revoked immediately. Every politician who enabled this totalitarian nightmare we are living in should be given an amnesty period to come forward and speak the truth to a reconciliation commission. Because they know; they know what they have done is wrong. No matter what they have been told or bullied into believing about things that are necessary for “the greater good”, they know what they are enabling is wrong. If they do not speak up now, if they do not use their right to speak up now, there may come a time when they find they no longer have the power to determine people’s liberties, but the people will have the power to determine theirs.
Anna Wright is a guest writer for The New Era. Note: all TNE guest posts represent the views of the authors.
I have heard and used the phrase “because of covid” probably more than any other in the past year. It’s easy to just write off the problems and madness of the past year as having been because of Covid, but that is not the reality. The government has been the source of many of the issues that have come from a year of lockdowns and my hope in this article to encourage you all not to forget this and end up letting them off the hook. Governments make laws, not Covid.
We live in what I believed to be, until 2020, a democratic and free society in which we valued the rights and freedoms that our ancestors went to war and died in their millions to protect. It’s easy to forget the significance of what they fought for, given how different it is to modern warfare and our view of it. When we fought Nazi Germany, we were fighting a brutal dictator on our doorstep to ensure that he did not take control of Europe because, however foolishly, we seemed to believe in the principles of freedom and democracy that our country was supposed to represent. 1930s Britain was far from a perfect society, but the ideals of democracy that they were defending were well understood to be crucial to our way of life.
Compared to our modern wars in the Middle East over oil, lithium, natural gas and opiates, the fight for democracy seems somewhat more consequential. Our ancestors fought and died in their millions to give us rights that we have surrendered without a second thought. Not once have I heard anyone in a position of power mention the idea of democratic consent for the removal of our many rights and liberties – backbench Tory Sir Charles Walker may be the notable exception.
Freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, the right to protest, visit friends or host people in our own homes have all been banned. We have allowed mandatory curfews, closing of businesses, curbs on alcohol sales after certain times, and witnessed a complete failure of our 4th estate – the media – to hold government to account and ask them to justify these policies.
The government has been able to mandate what we wear, refuse to let us visit or even hug elderly relatives, and stopped us from sharing the last moments with dying loved ones; they’ve even stopped us from grieving together – all whilst ignoring the rules they imposed upon us (while flouting the rules themselves – Michelle O’Neill and Dominic Cummings I am looking at you). They found money from an endless well to hand out to friends and donors whilst fighting tooth and nail not to give nurses a pay rise. They’ve brought the NHS to breaking point over the past decade and then had the audacity to claim it was because of covid. Now, in the latest development of the absurd, they have announced that they are considering vaccine passports (an idea that was laughed at last year for being the spawn of paranoid conspiracy theorists). It’s another assault upon our rights as part of a monstrous attack upon what I long thought to be the cornerstones of modern civilization – inalienable rights and freedoms.
All this was achieved without a single vote by the people, public consultation, democratic consent, or even that much of an explanation. Questioning “the science”, asking for some form of cost-benefit analysis or risk reward assessment, pointing out inconsistencies or outright lies, or even suggesting that people should be allowed to have their own choices in these matters have all become highly contentious. Anyone willing to speak out in contrary to the official narrative has been condemned, ostracised, shadow banned online, or censored entirely. The very idea of freedom of speech and thought has been labelled as dangerous.
It is not controversial to suggest that major changes to our fundamental rights need and deserve democratic consent and justification. It was a time sensitive emergency, but that does not give a free hand to these politicians once the initial period of panic and uncertainty had passed. Unfortunately for us, once the power to lock down and control society is there, it can and will be abused by politicians again and again until we stop them. Sadly it is human nature and whilst we can be kind, so too can we be cruel and even vicious in pursuit of what we believe to be “the right thing”. Belfast’s very own C.S. Lewis wrote in his Essays on Theology,
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”
This brings me to my second point of contention. Covid was responsible for nothing, our government has made these rules that have inflicted such pain. Covid did not force businesses to close, giving no indication of when they might open, the government did. Covid did not throw out our entire pandemic preparedness plan and fail to stockpile PPE, the government did. Covid did not abandon taxi drivers, hairdressers and beauticians, making their trade illegal, the government did. Covid did not lecture you from their zoom calls and fail to hold the government to account, the media did. Covid did not censor contrary opinions or doctors preaching accepted basic virology, Big Tech did. Covid did not cause the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history (a swing of $8 trillion towards the richest in society), lockdowns and government policy did.
Please do not let our inadequate leaders and politicians off the hook after the pain they have caused us over the past year. When you hear about the sharp rise in mental health problems, homelessness, food bank use, suicides, cancer deaths, waiting lists, children regressing or underperforming, or bars, gyms, and restaurants going bust, don’t forget it was not because of covid. It was inflicted by those who we entrusted to rule us. Remember the £37 billion they wasted outsourcing Test and Trace to Serco next time they tell you there isn’t enough money for a pay rise for teachers, nurses, or carers.
The saddest part of the pandemic was our response as people to this corruption and outright authoritarianism. Whilst we were stripped of our rights with no vote, little debate, justification or explanation, we all sat around and did precisely nothing. If you ever wondered how authoritarians turn democracies into dictatorships, this year has been a front row lesson. We accepted the removal of our rights for our own safety, for our own good, and sat by like good little citizens. Some amongst us brayed and begged for stricter rules and harsher regulation, demanding our government become more authoritarian.
Please don’t forget who did this to us. It was not covid. It was the government.
Every parent is aware that the moment will come when they will have to destroy their child’s fantasy. They will have to admit that Santa Claus is not “real”.
For my friend, it was a particularly painful ordeal. You see, she allowed her 13-year-old daughter to believe in the fantasy for a little too long. A 7-year-old or 8-year old will forgive you and move on, but a 13-year-old has too much invested. My friend didn’t intend to keep the lie going so long. It was far more a case of her headstrong, imaginative daughter being unwilling to give up the magic.
As she grew older, friends at school – presumably a little bemused by her devout belief – would hint at the fact that the Santa story wasn’t real, but she refused to succumb to their bubble bursting tactics. She would come home and roll her eyes at her mother, telling tales about the nonsense her heretic friends were spreading. But this past Christmas, my friend decided enough was enough. She sat her daughter down and explained that Santa was just a made up story, partly upheld to make children behave themselves in the run up to Christmas, because – as we all know – only the good and obedient children get their gifts.
There followed two days of hysterical tantrums. There were tears; doors were slammed. But the upshot was this: Santa would not be defiled. Another Christmas came and went; the fantasy remained untarnished with the truth.
I was reminded of this story when I saw Keir Starmer come up against a desperate, angry, frustrated former Labour voter and exasperated publican on Monday 19th April. Rod Humphris confronted the Labour Party leader, exclaiming that he had failed the country. Rod pointed out that the average age of someone dying with or from Covid is around 82, which is in line with the country’s average age of death in most preceding years, and on that basis there was absolutely no justification for the abhorrent and abusive lockdowns that have devastated lives, left many locked out of any health care and decimated the educational experience of a whole generation of children (my choice of words in describing harms of lockdown restrictions).
Starmer’s response was, “I am not going to be lectured by you!” He sounded like a petulant teenager. Interviewed on camera later, he stated that Rod was entitled to his “opinion” but that he, Keir, “profoundly disagreed” with it. I was reminded of my friend’s daughter who effectively said to her mother, on hearing Santa did not exist, “You are entitled to your opinion but I profoundly disagree with it.” The Labour Press office (sounding like Keir’s playground gang) later Tweeted that their leader had been accosted by a man “spreading dangerous misinformation.” It may well have been dangerous to the Labour Leader’s fantasy, but it was not misinformation since it was taken straight from the ONS website.
I had a similar experience recently when I tried to explain, over the phone, to the operations manager at my gym, that their request for people to wear masks was unwise since they admitted they had done no risk assessment on the harms of mask wearing. When I suggested sources they might refer to, he retorted, “I am not going to have a conversation with a conspiracy theorist!” And hung up on me.
We clearly have some deeply disturbed and disgruntled grown-up children in the world, throwing tantrums over the fact that people are ceasing to believe in their fantasy. I am reminded of a powerful and poignant quote by George Orwell (significantly written in 1946 as the true horrors of the Nazi regime were coming to light). He said, “We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
I confess that it was with some relief that I watched Starmer stamp his feet. I have found his actions over the past 12-13 months so absurd, I was almost beginning to believe the insane conspiracy theories circulating about him. I have read that he is a member of some elite organisation called the “Trilateral Commission” and is in cahoots with Tony Blair to usher in a digital ID that would create a health apartheid and end civil rights forever. That is clearly utter tosh. Now I know he is just a scared child, juvenile and embarrassed, desperate not to be caught out having made the most horrific mistakes. He could take a leaf out of Justin Welby’s book. Our current Archbishop of Canterbury, a man who has seen and experienced more human suffering than most, recently apologised for “getting quite a few things wrong” when he did not push harder for churches to be kept open during lockdowns. He acknowledged that we now have a national case of PTSD and sounds fully committed to getting the country back on its feet.
Perhaps Starmer should be reminded that the purpose of the privilege of education, which he has been privy to, is not to make and hoard money, or to seek omnipotence over the human race, but to lead and inspire. Those more fortunate have a duty of care to those less fortunate. And the duty of leadership itself is to have the humility to say, “I was wrong, I made mistakes, I will do everything I can to put things right.”
Lockdowns are profoundly wrong; they are inhumane. Everyone in their right mind knows this. Nothing will ever change that fact. All our leaders need to find the courage to stop digging their destructive rabbit holes, apologise for telling lies, and find the compassion to help people heal.
Anna Wright is a guest writer for The New Era. Note: all TNE guest posts represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of TNE.
Tim Martin, boss of the pub chain, Wetherspoon, has said vaccine certification (or passport schemes) would be ‘the last straw’ for struggling pubs. Today the government closes its consultation on certification – and there’s a strong chance it’s being actively lobbied to roll out a passport “solution” to continue its theme of coercion and control in dealing with Covid.
This government has imposed the most draconian rules on the lives of its citizens since the second world war, on a false premise – that lockdown and restraint of trade would mitigate the effects of a virus.
Certification schemes would continue this false premise and represent continued restraint of trade at a time when we most need economic freedom to stimulate growth.
The government has imposed significant, economically damaging, restraint on trade that is without parallel in our nation’s history since the second world war – without proving the justification for such a hugely damaging policy.
The government has not published a cost/benefit analysis for lockdown and restraint of trade associated with it. It claims to have implemented the lockdowns (and associated restraint of trade) for public health reasons but that is a subjective judgement that has not been adequately scrutinised by democratic processes. Therefore, in seeking consultation responses for an opening up of society (and continued restraint of trade and individual liberty), it assumes that continued restraints are necessary. They are not, in my view. This is also the view of many others.
The SARS-Cov-2 virus is not a novel virus. It’s a SARS virus – one that was identified and has been mutating for close to two decades. It is one of hundreds of coronaviruses – a family of viruses that is responsible for the common cold. The government justified its lockdown policy because it deemed this virus to be so serious that it merited suspending normal life in favour for a policy that has never been tried before – and one that had been ‘templated’ by the totalitarian government of China i.e., lockdown.
This policy response was not justified. The virus, while highly infectious, did not (and does not) represent a significant risk to the vast majority of our population.
Most of the population – the young, and most healthy adults under 70 years of age – survived infection with no symptoms or mild to moderate short-term symptoms. While the elderly, and those with co-morbidities, were more likely to suffer more adverse reactions to virus exposure, this was never sufficient reason to close down so much of our economy and subject the public finances to the strains they have suffered since last March.
This virus deserved a policy response that was appropriate to its severity: e.g., government recommendation for hand-washing, and recommended restriction on movement to those in vulnerable groups.
The government should have increased emergency NHS capacity significantly (as it did with the unused Nightingale hospitals) – without the hugely damaging consequences on the economy and civil society that came about as a result of lockdown.
Certification schemes would merely continue the lie that this virus needs to be tracked and traced and that the vast majority of the population needs to be protected from it.
Like all coronaviruses (and other viruses that cause seasonal respiratory spikes) this one should be treated no differently. As the government itself admits, the virus is constantly mutating, that’s what coronaviruses do. But as a class of viruses, they do not merit this degree of scrutiny or tracking and testing. Moreover, the government will never be able to regulate away (or certify away) current or future viruses.
It needs to make clear that it accepts this. Zero Covid is an oxymoron. Certification schemes are merely the extension of a false narrative: that lockdowns work, that masks are effective, that destroying the economy has good outcomes.
The government, in my view, acted illegally in imposing lockdown. Many businesses and individual livelihoods have been destroyed. The advertising campaigns and machinery of lockdown (built on highly questionable science and public health advice) have caused huge levels of fear in the population – particularly among groups of people more likely to suffer mental health problems.
Moreover, the NHS fixation on just one relatively ineffectual pathogen has resulted in a significant increase in home deaths and excess deaths from non-Covid conditions. It is my view that the damages caused by this government in terms of its lockdown policies are significantly greater even than the grotesque levels of public spending required to support these ill-conceived policies e.g., testing, tracking, furlough.
Certification schemes would make the situation even worse. Certification implies that SARS-Cov-2 has a level of threat or risk materially greater than other pathogens that are freely circulating and that may be circulating in society in future. History tells us that public health response is never going to be adequate to eradicate a freely circulating virus. Other nations/states that have halted lockdowns (or never had them in the first place) do not have materially different outcomes in terms of degree of infection (e.g., Sweden, Texas, Florida).
By definition, certification schemes would be discriminatory – against the unvaccinated, groups less likely to be vaccinated (e.g., BAME communities) and those deeming the policy to be an infringement of civil liberties.
The government’s best approach to mitigating the terrible cost of lockdown is to get out of lockdown, completely, as soon as possible. This means the reintroduction of freedom – not the introduction of certification schemes that continue amplifying the false narrative that SARS-Cov-2 is a fundamental threat to our society.
This government, in its policy response to Covid-19, has introduced policies that have damaged this nation. The levels of damage to our freedoms, our economy, and our way of life are barely calculable. I recognise that the government may be reluctant to admit this because it may mean that members of the government – who are deemed to be most responsible for the biggest public policy mistake in our history – may be held liable.
However, this is not sufficient reason to extend the false premise that’s at the heart of lockdown as a policy response. Certification schemes continue to curtail liberty and freedom to trade. They represent a failed policy, continued.
If national certification schemes are introduced, they will represent the continued folly of the lockdown policy response. The damages to our society will be even greater.
It’s time for this government to recognise that its failed experiment is a failed experiment. It’s time to restore the nation’s freedom and to move on.
No doubt many of the consultation responses will be from companies hoping to make money off the back of regulation. However, individual business owners, many of whom have taken huge risks to build their businesses from scratch, have had their businesses hugely damaged from lockdown. Certification will continue to heap more regulation onto these same businesses. At a time when we must recover – and must rely on our businesses to restore normality – the last thing we need is more tracking and tracing and parodies of freedom.
The government needs to get off the backs of small and medium business. Certification is just the latest iteration of the biggest failure of public policy since the second world war.
There was outrage yesterday that Recovery’s campaign calling for an end to fear based advertising by the government had been banned by leading outdoor media companies on spurious grounds.
Today I had the chance to interview Jon Dobinson of Recovery and ask him about the campaign.
In the last year the government spent £184m on advertising which has fuelled unprecedented levels of fear. According to the mental health chaity, MIND, the country is in the middle of ‘a mental health pandemic’. However, giant media companies won’t allow criticism that may damage their lucrative Government advertising contracts.
JC Decaux, the world’s leading outdoor media company, refused to run Recovery’s posters on the grounds that the Code of Advertising Practice bans political advertising, This is completely untrue. Trafford Council – the owner of the sites Recovery booked near the BBC – also banned it as ‘political’ and refused further explanation. The intention was to place posters near leading broadcasters including the BBC and Sky – but this has been prevented by the ban.
Working with a smaller outdoor media company, Recovery has secured a site for the poster in central London and will also still show it at the BBC via an advertising van which will circle the site.
Results of a new independent poll commissioned from market research experts Yonder by Recovery reveal that the Government’s campaign of fear has had a shocking impact on the mental health of the nation. 15% of respondents reported depression, anxiety, or fear as a direct result of Government pandemic advertising. That’s equivalent to over 8m people.
A further 7% – the equivalent of over 3.6m people – report the advertising has made an existing mental health condition worse: that’s almost 12m people around the country whose mental health has been damaged by an unprecedented Government advertising campaign designed to create fear.
Prior to lockdown and the various paraphernalia of anti-freedom Covid laws, I’m not sure that Dr Naomi Wolf and I would have as readily agreed on so much. Covid response policies have brought together many from disparate ideologies who are united in our contempt for authoritarianism – and our belief that Covid is a handy excuse for squeezing the will out of the people by the government.
On the eve of the House of Commons vote to renew the Coronavirus Act it’s clear that MPs should be voting for or against the restoration of freedom – because this draconian legislation is one mighty large sledgehammer. The United Kingdom is moving inexorably towards a command economy.
We were promised by the government that when the vulnerable were vaccinated we’d have our liberty restored and that emergency legislation would be removed. But the end-game seems to be getting further and further away. Increasingly this seems to be less about a virus and more about a new way of life outside of normal democratic processes.
Naomi has been long associated with liberal politics and civil rights in the United States. Her latest venture is Daily Clout.
Having come from the left, she recognises that the so-called liberals are letting themselves down badly by not standing up for liberty and freedom, on either side of the Atlantic. I don’t agree with everything she has to say. And I’m more from the classical liberal tradition than a US-Democrat style liberal.
But her analysis is absolutely correct in terms of how easily administrations seem to have lapsed into the type of authoritarianism we only associate with China or other totalitarian regimes. We may not be quite there yet but it may not take too much longer unless we do something about it.
The conversation starts with a focus on her assertion that the UK’s lack of a bill of rights makes tyranny more possible. She then discusses the origins of the loss of liberty (with coronavirus as the excuse). And then she touches on how corporatism is potentially killing our salvation – capitalism. Finally, she provides some useful tips for protesters. Enjoy.
Saturday’s anti-lockdown protests were an incredible success. Judging by the turnout in some of Europe’s major capitals – especially in London, Amsterdam and Brussels – the organisers played an absolute blinder in terms of communicating in stealth mode until the very last minute. But people who needed to be informed were informed. In London it was clear that the police had no idea that the numbers assembling in the West End would be anywhere close to the tens of thousands who showed-up.
The BBC’s coverage was risible. Initial news reports suggested that the London protest included “hundreds” of people. However, numerous attendees were livestreaming the gathering crowds. Hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands converged – marching up Park Lane, then assembling in Trafalgar Square and onwards through the city.
The streams showed a happy crowd in good spirits – many being welcomed by London bus drivers who seemed delighted to have their near-empty buses stopped by city crowds. London hasn’t seen such crowds for nearly a year. The city has been near-crippled by a lockdown than has seen offices close, the Civil Service vacate Whitehall, and a London Mayor insisting on even more draconian levels of self-destruction than those mandated by government propaganda.
By the time the BBC started reporting the protests in its early afternoon bulletins on Saturday it was forced to admit that the crowds of protesters were, indeed, large. Marianna Spring, the BBC’s “specialist reporter covering disinformation and social media” was despatched, donning a loose-fitting mask that resulted in her nose popping out repeatedly mid-report. She reported that the protesters represented a variety of groups – including many that were spreaders of conspiracy theories. But the most obvious conspiracy theory on Saturday was the BBC’s own – that this protest was anything short of massive and that a very large number of people do not accept the BBC’s relentless, unchallenged, scientism and propaganda.
I have no idea what has happened to the BBC. Perhaps it was informed by the new, incoming government that in order to protect its license-fee funding model it was required to parrot government ‘lines’. But, whatever the reason, the BBC has apparently given up on objectivity when it comes to covering the Covid beat. Lockdowns, as the definitive policy of dealing with the Covid threat, are unquestioned. The seeking of information before consenting to vaccination is portrayed as the stuff of conspiracy. Meanwhile government “scientists” are beyond reproach, beyond question, beyond accountability.
But worse than the BBC’s sycophancy is the apparent lack of any democratic opposition to the government’s Covid-response. The Labour Party opposes – but only to the extent that self-flagellation should be greater, should have started sooner, and that taxpayer money-squandering should be even more profligate. The Liberal Democrats just seem bemused, increasingly irrelevant.
But a political blind man on a galloping horse could see that there’s a huge opportunity to redefine British politics for a generation staring us in the face. There is vast, palpable and seething anger at the extent of government incompetence that has resulted in the economy being eviscerated, non-Covid healthcare being consigned to the NHS B-list, and government borrowing scaling to levels that mean this nation is effectively trading insolvently – and will be for generations.
Laurence Fox, the London mayoral candidate for the Reclaim Party, attended the protest on Saturday. He was asked what his first act would be if elected and he said he’d restore the right to protest. Many rounded on him, via Twitter, suggesting that such a reversal of policy wasn’t part of his brief. But the point was well made. The restraint of the right to protest is part of the government’s Coronavirus Act. The Mayor of London was given a direct mandate for policing in London in 2011, as part of the Police and Social Responsibility Act. Therefore, as Mayor, he could give whatever strategic direction to the Metropolitan Police that he saw fit – including turning a blind eye to peaceful protest.
Fox’s campaign is growing in momentum. Just as those bus drivers welcomed the protestors on Saturday there’s a growing and significant constituency across the UK that’s had enough of draconian lockdown restrictions for over a year. The most vulnerable have been vaccinated. Rates of infection are tiny. The disease is easily survivable by most, unnoticed by many. The never-ending paranoia, in the face of a jumped-up common cold virus, of a Prime Minister whose political hero is Winston Churchill, is thoroughly perplexing. But if Fox and his Reclaim Party do well in the Mayoral election, Johnson will have a long fight on his hands, well before the next general election. A big majority in the House of Commons is no guarantee of success. Johnson’s administration could suffer a long, slow death of a thousand cuts.
People can sense when they’re being stitched-up. And I sense that Laurence Fox is more in tune with the mood of the nation than any other politician in the UK today.
Daniel Finkelstein, in The Times, yesterday, asked whether we were too ready to sacrifice our freedom. He asked the question a year after the government implemented house arrest (also known as lockdown). Finkelstein also acknowledges that lockdown as a policy was inspired by China.
But despite all of this Finkelstein, bizarrely, implies that the government’s Covid measures in the last year were appropriate – but may not be in future:
“In the absence of preventive measures, it is clear that hundreds of thousands more people would have died. There are, of course, trade-offs but the impact of Covid is so severe I’m not surprised that almost everywhere, national governments have made a similar choice.”
This is, of course, nonsense. And Finkelstein presents precisely no evidence to show that the government’s “preventative measures” had the impact he claims. There’s no data available that can show such causality. He knows it and the government knows it.
Every Winter we see spikes in excess deaths from respiratory disease. And every Spring the excess deaths go away as more people build immunity to novel coronaviruses. This year’s spike was severe but we’ve had worse in previous Winters.
I suspect I could put together a much more compelling counterargument (to Danny’s non-argument) that the government’s lockdown measures on the healthy population had little to no impact on excess death from Covid-19. But they had a devastating impact on hospital waiting lists for non-Covid procedures, mental health, education and livelihoods.
Finkelstein’s assertion that other countries adopted such ridiculous policies is supine. Many other nations take their lead from the UK – except, of course, nations that couldn’t possibly incur the sovereign debt required to fund the folly of lockdown.
Despite all of this, Finkelstein does make the case that with such authoritarianism out of the bottle, there is a real prospect that it might be used again in the future when it’s not justified:
“A bad flu season might take the lives of 20,000 people. What if it threatened, say, 10,000 more than that? If that happens, the authorities may not react as they have done in the past. Now they know we might be willing to isolate, or wear masks, or cancel mass events or even lock down again. We need to discuss how many deaths we are willing to tolerate before we do those things.”
Indeed. And that is precisely the issue at hand. Many of us believe that that is precisely what has just happened – but the government has used wholesale propaganda (and bought the media by becoming one of the biggest national advertisers) to have the majority of the population believe (and many leading political columnists) that the means were justified in the last year. They weren’t.
The last year has shown us that the government could very easily put together duff forecasts of the likely impact of a virus/flu and bring in draconian measures to justify keeping us all “safe”. Finkelstein, like many journalists, has no ability to distinguish between fearmongering and forecasts. There is every likelihood that we’ve just been through such a Winter as the hypothetical one he describes. While “with-Covid” deaths have been data-engineered up, flu deaths have mysteriously declined. I’m not arguing that it wasn’t a bad Winter in terms of excess deaths, but I’d dispute that it was particularly exceptional based on longer term historical data. In the past we haven’t had a novel virus to blame. Nor did we have hugely inaccurate testing systems as props for ridiculous spurious-causality data claims.
Finkelstein is indeed right that this last year has shown just how many people can be completely terrified by sensationalist and erroneous claims by government. The trappings of lockdown have all been about enhancing the narrative – masks, social distancing, yellow markings, warning signs, pseudo-science babble from journalists who just never bothered with a grounder in data analysis or quantitative techniques.
This government has engaged in wanton destruction of the economy and public health – built on a huge edifice of dodgy data. The track and trace “system” has resulted in criminal wastage of taxpayer money (and taxpayer funded debt). The lesson to learn from the last year is that governments can indeed scare the hell out of the population and impose control against the will of the thinking class. For many of us this has undermined our trust in parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.
The people of our four nations have been let down very badly by this government and its devolved fiddle-players. My fear is that the perception of our nation and its public servants may be terminally damaged. If pseudo-science and duff data define our public policy response to everything that represents public health risk, is this a country in which people will want to live?