THIS summer I’ve set myself an unusual task: writing to every MP in the country. It’s my way of dealing with the ongoing incredulity I feel at what looks very much like the passing of British democracy.
In 2020, I watched in disbelief as Parliament nodded through unprecedented curtailments on the lives of British citizens without asking even the most basic questions. By 2021 – by which time I’d left the country and secured residency in Portugal – it was clear that parliamentary power had been handed to a tiny group of people behind closed doors. Throughout 2022, incredulity mingled with resignation as it became clear that almost none of the country’s 650 MPs would consider the consequences of lockdown or the implications of the abandonment of informed consent.
Now, in 2023, I’m watching with renewed incredulity as changes which could put an end to our way of life are being discussed by unnamed representatives in Geneva. As reported by Dr Elizabeth Evans in TCW, the amendments to the International Health Regulations that the UK signed in 2005 and the Pandemic Accord proposed by the World Health Organization will give a single organisation – indeed, a single person – a level of control over human life which has never before been attempted. Taken together, the two instruments of international law will give the WHO Director-General the power to declare public health emergencies and stipulate the way its 194 member states respond, right down to the ‘pandemic-related products’ they must prescribe to their people. The WHO will be able to require that governments hand over personal and genetic data and intellectual property, while significantly higher ‘contributions’ from taxpayers will allow them to increase its infrastructure and powers of surveillance. The changes are due to be agreed at the World Health Assembly next May, while the UK’s chance to reject amendments already agreed in 2022 expires on December 1. You can find a summary of the timescale here.
There has been no parliamentary debate, much less any public debate, about the implications of these changes. There has been almost no coverage in the mainstream media, lulling most people into a false sense of security that the response to Covid was a one-off, an unhappy period they will never have to live through again. In contrast, partly thanks to a former career as a public policy journalist, I am one of a minority who are hyper-aware that MPs are failing monumentally in their duty of scrutiny. The tiny number who have raised the issue in Parliament have been fobbed off by bland assurances that the proposed changes pose no threat to British sovereignty – something completely with odds with what is proposed in the documents.
Hence, in a modest attempt to reawaken their democratic consciences, I am sending every MP a letter with a list of questions based on my own reading of the two key documents. Are they content with the proposal to extend the powers of the WHO Director-General to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern for ‘potential’ as well as actual outbreaks of contagious disease and to crises involving the environment and climate change? Are they ready to pass legislation putting the WHO’s binding recommendations to quarantine ‘suspect persons’ and ‘require’ medical examinations and vaccinations into British law? What will they tell their constituents if they are suddenly obliged to order the mass closure of businesses and schools because of something that may be happening in a far-off land?
You can find the full letter here. I am not asking MPs to do anything except read the letter, nor am I necessarily expecting a reply.
I have decided to email each MP individually, copying and pasting the text 650 times and attaching a screenshot of Article 18 of the amendments, the most frightening of the WHO’s proposed powers. The exercise is a kind of ritual, a citizen’s attempt to do due diligence in a failing democracy. I want to feel that, as the daughter of parents riven by both sides of the Second World War, I am doing everything I can in the face of this new form of tyranny.
The merit of boring, repetitive work is that it releases the mind. As I work my way through the alphabet of MPs, I ponder the variety of names that make up the population of the British Isles, the Joneses and the Alis, the Greenwoods – a family name of mine – and the Smiths. I recognise some names from an older cohort of MPs, a time when politicians seemed less careless with the lives and freedoms of the electorate. One is a distant cousin, but I wouldn’t dream of claiming kin. Others are MPs who spoke out against the lockdowns but have since gone quiet.
At times, I hear myself saying out loud ‘Dear John’ or ‘Dear Angela’, as if making a direct communication to my intended recipient. And MPs’ time constraints aside, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be, in a liberal democracy? A citizen addresses their elected representative who was, after all, only a citizen themselves and will be so again.
In these anti-democratic times, it almost feels like casting a message in a bottle on to unknown seas. What, if anything, will come back? What will the replies from an entire Parliament of elected politicians reveal about the state of British democracy in 2023?