WHILE I share the collective exasperation of the nation in the wake of Matt Hancock’s leaked WhatsApp messages, this has an extra layer of frustration for me as it feels very personal. It confirms what I’d always felt: the whole Covid-19 response was a massive political game to those in charge, and a power grab unlike anything for decades, if ever.
I was so sure of this fact that, in 2020, I took legal action against the government over their lockdown measures, aiming to put a stop to them. These WhatsApp messages convey much of what we tried to highlight in the case. I believe, had the courts had access to these messages, or had the government been honest in court, things would have been very different.
The judge’s rebuttal against my case was that the government should be given a very wide discretion in the power they use during a time of ‘emergency’. In contrast, what these WhatsApp messages reveal is that there was no ‘emergency’ to warrant such unprecedented restrictions on our freedoms. Chris Whitty himself declared that Covid-19 was a virus with ‘such a low mortality rate’ that vaccine rollout shouldn’t have been fast-tracked. How then was the greatest restriction on civil liberties justified in the name of this ‘emergency’?
The court was told by the government’s lawyers that science was being used to drive decision-making – their slogan ‘following the science’ will echo in the public consciousness for years to come. Reading through these WhatsApp messages, though, it is clear that there was almost total disregard for ’the science’ unless it suited the agenda of the government.
The messages showed multiple examples of this, including when Hancock rejected Chris Whitty’s calls for easing of isolation rules and again, when health ministers were aware that there was no evidence to justify making kids abide by rule of 6 – but No 10 ‘didn’t want’ to exempt them.
Had the government been honest with the courts, and indeed with the country, I believe that the judiciary might have ruled in our favour, and we wouldn’t be facing the extreme consequences of lockdown now. Our economic climate would be far more prosperous and stable, the NHS would not have been devastated, we could have been there with our loved ones as they died – I could go on, and these are just the downsides that we know about.
And for what benefit? The idea was that these lockdowns would save lives and prevent excess deaths. However, one need only look to the Swedes, who chose not to go down the draconian restriction route, to see that this was far from the outcome. The most recent WHO analysis shows that in 2020 and 2021, Sweden had an average excess death rate of 56 per 100,000 – compared with 109 in the UK, 111 in Spain, 116 in Germany and 133 in Italy.
These leaked messages are, therefore, bitter-sweet for me. I feel vindicated that what I always suspected has been proven to be true. However, there is a great frustration that they weren’t available during my court case, which would have allowed us to prevent all this needless suffering. We must learn retrospectively from this, and ensure we never allow a ruthless power grab of this kind to happen again.