What could have been. Originally, Britain, led by a Prime Minister that called the mayor of Jaws his hero, intended to follow the “Swedish” strategy of trusting people’s common sense to tackle the coronavirus. However, the British government famously u-turned and decided instead to follow the extreme strategy of lockdown most countries were following. Fast forward to the present day, and Sweden has less per-capita deaths than the UK from the virus (and have lower transmission than even their neighbours), now likely enjoys herd immunity, has no second wave, their liberties preserved, an intact economy and even a budget surplus. Meanwhile, the UK once again is having their liberties curtailed and the economy (which reached its worst performance in over 300 years during the spring lockdown) and those with non-covid health problems face near certain ruin. What can be done to change this catastrophic loop of doom?
While Boris Johnson has many wonderful qualities, for whatever reason, maybe down to his own near-death experience with the disease, he has been convinced of the necessity of throwing out ancient liberties to manage the disease. Obviously, COVID-19 is serious. However, unlike in March, we largely know how to treat it. Deaths are currently very low even as cases rise. The average age of death for someone with COVID is higher than the life expectancy of your average person. Hospitals are not at risk of being “overrun” and the Nightingale Hospitals in fact sit empty. Worst of all, lockdowns and restrictions on liberty have not been proven to stop the disease or prevent deaths – the most deaths per capita happened in places with the most extreme lockdowns – places like Belgium, New York and Peru – whereas places with light restrictions such as Sweden, Taiwan and Japan have had much less disease disruption. Some countries have learned from this, such as in Scandinavia, and will not do another lockdown. Nevertheless, Britain stubbornly clings to the idea that draconian restrictions on liberty are the only effective medicine. Sadly, the only opposition to these restrictions are among backbench Tory MPs (and supposedly some “hawks” in the cabinet) – all of the opposition parties back the curtailment of Britons’ liberties- with the possible exception of the Liberal Democrats. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP is even more authoritarian than the UK government’s approach.
With little representation among elected officials, it is time for the people to once again fight back. There is precedent for hope. In early 2019, there were large majorities in parliament for a “soft Brexit,” or no Brexit at all, and a Prime Minister who advocated for what Boris Johnson called a “surrender.” But the people rose up on the street and in the European elections and within months Boris Johnson was Prime Minister, a landslide election happened, and Brexit got done. Now I am not advocating getting a new Prime Minister – his work on Brexit, global free trade and civil service reform need a chance to develop. But the encroachment on liberties and project fear must be stopped.
We must continue to frequent local shops and pubs. We must not abandon our friends and loved ones. We must continue to speak out in support of our freedoms. We must make MPs aware of the views of the people – we must write to them, contact them on social media, and talk to our friends – and especially make them know that rule by arbitrary ministerial fiat is not acceptable in a democratic nation. We must not clap for the bureaucratic, wasteful cult of the NHS. We must use common sense in approaching the disease but also research numbers, facts, and figures to get the truth of the situation and persuade people there is another way. It is only when the people stand up that the “temporary” measures originally supposed to last 15 days and now have lasted six months – does not become a permanent fixture of a hypochondriac fearful authoritarian land.
Boris Johnson may truly believe that the Churchillian struggle of our time is against the disease. But he is wrong. The true struggle of our era, most of the world over, is against rule by authoritarian technocratic “experts” and bureaucrats. We must not falter and we must not fail in this struggle for our civilisation.