ACCORDING to his resentful former chief of staff, last October Boris Johnson initially resisted another national lockdown because, as paraphrased by Dominic Cummings, ‘The people dying are essentially all over 80 and we can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80.’
Even if the words attributed to Johnson are not verbatim, the sentiment is consistent with the reservations the Prime Minister put in writing at the time, when he questioned the need to reimpose restrictions for ‘Covid fatalities [having] a median age . . . that is above life expectancy’.
Cummings and BBC interviewer Laura Kuenssberg cosily concurred that Johnson’s reluctance to reinstate restraints was an egregious example of him ‘putting his own political interests ahead of people’s lives’. The detractors who decry Johnson for having been insufficiently authoritarian will no doubt agree and accuse him of callous indifference; however, it is difficult to understand how defying the large, loud and influential pro-lockdown lobby would have been in ‘his own political interests’.
Despite his apparent reservations, at the end of October 2020 Johnson did of course succumb to the siren calls and issued a further stay-at-home order – again enraging sceptics for whom lockdowns have been a dementedly disproportionate response and an unconscionable violation of our freedoms.
From the lockdown addicts, there is much confected shock and outrage that last autumn Johnson did not concentrate solely on the coronavirus casualties, but instead wanted to weigh the titanic trade-offs between lives, livelihoods and liberty. From those of us who deplore him being a stooge for scheming scientists and mendacious modellers, there is surprise that the Johnson of October 2020 seemingly was still capable of rational and independent thought, albeit he soon surrendered to the scaremongers.
Nine months on, this week’s pusillanimous performance by Johnson confirms that he has been completely captured by the public health partisans. On what was bogusly billed as ‘freedom day’, it was horrifying to hear the UK Prime Minister announce: ‘I would remind everybody that some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination.’
A chilling prospect, and a dystopia which Johnson warns might only be two months away: ‘By the end of September . . . we’re planning to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.’
Some on the Right complacently regard this as an idle threat to pressgang young adults into accepting a vaccination for which they have no need. According to Sarah Knapton, the Telegraph’s Science Editor: ‘It may even teach them a little something about collective responsibility – and in an era of epidemic levels of self-absorption, that can only be a good thing.’
To be clear: this is the science editor – repeat, science editor – of an allegedly conservative newspaper arguing that young people should not only submit to a coerced and unnecessary medical procedure but also be grateful for a lesson in morality.
Knapton should be ashamed of herself, as should Boris Johnson for even suggesting that vaccination status should be a condition of entry to any social gathering. Regardless of whether it is a tactical threat or a repressive promise, from the British Prime Minister it is reprehensible rhetoric.
Leave aside the impracticalities and suspect science which underpins the plan: Conservative MPs should publicly oppose on principle this contemptible plan which Big Brother Watch accurately describes as ‘divisive, discriminatory and wrong’.
Depressingly, most Tories are too lily-livered to resist, and at the time of writing only 42 of the parliamentary party have pledged: ‘We oppose the divisive and discriminatory use of Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs.’
So far Big Brother Watch’s petition against Covid passes has been signed by almost as many LibDem and Labour MPs. Right now, there is more reason to respect signatories Diane Abbot, Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler than the unconcerned and cowardly Conservatives.