SINCE the virus crisis struck Britain the basic rules of democratic politics have been thrown out of the window.
Placing the nation under a ‘lockdown’ that is straining the economy to breaking point and the fallout of which could result in more deaths and misery than the virus itself (never mind the implications for our liberty), has largely gone unchallenged by a puerile media, undebated by an absent parliament bereft of real opposition, and unquestioned by a public fed a daily diet of fear and the need for ever-changing ‘tests’ for ending restrictions.
So it was all the more refreshing last Thursday night to see the Cambridge Union hosting the first proper two-sided debate on whether shutting the country down is the right response to Covid-19, shaming, as participant Peter Hitchens wrote, Parliament and the BBC which have yet to do so.
You can watch the great man and the debate here.
As well as forgetting the principles by which politics should be practised, the government also appears to have forgotten who fills its coffers. On the BBC’s dire ‘The Big Night In’ on Saturday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that every pound raised by the telethon was to be matched by the Treasury. How generous.
But exactly who is this mysterious we, and where does its money come from? The taxpayer, of course. Mr Sunak could never say this out loud, since ‘we are making you pay double for your donations’ doesn’t sound half as kind and cuddly. This is, however, the truth of the matter. Just as all the money needed to cover the government’s response to the coronavirus (roughly £2.4billion each day, according to the Times) will come from the taxpayer’s pocket.
Such blatant spin should be met with derision. Instead, many are lapping it up. Young Tory Twitter, for which the maxim ‘what’s worse than an old Leftie is a Young Conservative’ was presumably invented, has taken to declaring that Mr Sunak must become the next prime minister, after this show of generosity. For Emily Hewertson, ‘he is slowly shaping out to be one of the most formidable politicians in years’.
The bar is undeniably low, but this statement is still a stretch. What has Mr Sunak done other than declare that the public’s generous donations are not enough and engaged on our behalf to double them, without so much as a by your leave?
If it’s his style which viewers have been fawning over, then I am equally dumbfounded. Like so many present-day politicians from Mr Blair onwards who try hard to appear normal, he comes across as fake and patronising.
To be fair to the new Blue Peter presenter, perhaps he is right to treat us viewers like children, if we the public are so unable to look beyond the government’s public messaging propaganda to the wider picture.
This is that our country will be paying the bill for the government’s response to the virus for generations to come.
Over the coming months and years, for every pension slashed, every tax raised, every business made bankrupt, and every life ruined as a result, we should ask whether the government was right to shut down the economy, or if it has made a terrible and deeply damaging blunder.