Issue 249: 2020 10 01: Compromise For Now

01 October 2020

Compromise For Now

Freedom still at risk.

By Lynda Goetz

Early on Wednesday morning, I wrote to my MP asking him to vote against government powers under the Coronavirus Act being extended.  Given my feelings on the subject (expressed here a few weeks ago – Don’t Plan Christmas), I should have done this earlier, but at least I have now done so, however belatedly.  Later in the day it transpired that there was not to be a vote. Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, backed by dozens of fellow Tories had put forward an amendment calling for future regulations affecting the whole of England only to be introduced if Parliament has the opportunity to debate and vote on them in advance.  This would have forced the government to seek parliamentary approval before using the extensive powers granted under the act.  Not unexpectedly, the Speaker, Sir Lindsey Hoyle, has said he could not give MPs a vote on this matter as any amendment to the motion risked creating uncertainty about the legality of the Act, and potentially opened it up to court challenge.  Furthermore, many of the regulations introduced, such as the ‘rule of six’, were not introduced under the Act but under statutory instruments which do have to be approved by Parliament but are frequently not debated. Sir Lindsey has nevertheless said it was not a decision he has taken lightly and has offered a stinging rebuke to the Government for the way in which it has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation.  All too often” he pointed out, “important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force and some explanations as to why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this House has been unconvincing and shows a total disregard for the House.”  He then added that he was “now looking to the government to rebuild trust with the House not treat it with the contempt it has shown”.  He finished by adding that he would encourage MPs to table more urgent questions and motions to challenge ministers and make them come to the Commons to explain their actions. This is all quite strong stuff from a generally non-interventionist speaker like Sir Lindsey.  Laura Kuensberg, the BBC’s political editor, Tweeted ‘it looks as if a compromise has been done btw Govt and rebels…’  This would seem to be the case, but a Government that is not in tune with its backbenchers is in trouble.  One that is not in tune with either its back benchers or its grass roots supporters is in double trouble.  So many who voted for the irrepressible, bubbly libertarian that was Boris Johnson a year ago are now bitterly disappointed with the authoritarian Stasi-style government we have had since the Covid hysteria erupted seven months ago.  Natural conservatism (with either a big or a little ‘c’)  does not include endless regulations about people’s private lives – which family members they can see or who they can go to bed with, nor exhortations to ‘rat’ on your neighbours.  Many are increasingly disillusioned with this authoritarian government, which seems intent on bulldozing on, following risk-averse science in order, supposedly, to save lives and the sacred NHS whilst at the same time allowing the economy to crater and lives to be lost in so many other ways. The death rate of Covid-19, whilst hard to establish with any degree of certainty, would appear to be less than 0.05% of the population at worst and to affect either the very old or those with co-morbidities.  This being the case, it is hard to justify the extreme clamp down on normal life which has happened over the last 6 months and which it would seem is to go on for at least another 6 or ‘until we find a vaccine’.  This may never happen.  It is time for the government to let individuals decide on the level of risk they are prepared to accept and to stop imposing blanket restrictions on the entire population which do not even have any basis in ‘the Science’.  Which science in any case would that be?  Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of the Institute for Evidence-based Medicine in Oxford, does not have any faith in these ‘panic’ measures.  Nor do many other eminent epidemiologists medics and scientists. The damage which is being done not only to our economy, but to the mental health of those whose jobs have disappeared, whose cancer treatment is not happening, whose education is messed up, etc, is immeasurable and will affect us for decades.  Young people in particular have been adversely hit and they have a right to feel angry.  Measures taken, not only in this country but elsewhere around the world, have been disproportionate to the effects of this virus, which for most, even the most vulnerable, is not ‘deadly’.  This collective madness and government and media-induced fear needs to be curtailed. Expressing one’s views in blogs, tweets or anything else may not reach the ears of those who, as our elected representatives, need to hear it.  It is apparently also possible that you may, as the journalist Allison Pearson was, be locked out of Twitter for expressing views contrary to those being put forth by our shambolic and authoritarian government.  Her beliefs may not be shared by everyone, but it does seem rather sinister that expressing such thoughts gets a 12-hour ban from Twitter for ‘violating our rules against abuse and harassment’.  Being accused of abuse and harassment for stating a valid viewpoint really does smack of the Big Brother state that some have warned we have been moving towards for a couple of decades now ( e.g The Times 2004).  Coronavirus certainly seems to have speeded up the advent of a Stasi-style state.  The question now would appear to be ‘Are we prepared to sit back and let it happen?’ Write to your MP; join the Free Speech Union; start a blog; join a demonstration (socially distanced of course unless you’re pulling down statues), but just do whatever you feel able to do to stop our valued democracy slipping away from us – and unless you wish to live in a police state where informing on your neighbour is the norm, please resist the temptation to ‘dob them in’ for breaking  the ‘rule of 6’ or failing to quarantine properly for the full 14 days on their return from their enviable holiday in [insert country] which was put onto the ‘red list’ the day after they left this country.    
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