Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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Menaced by Johnson, the phoney libertarian

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ADDRESSING the nation on Tuesday evening, Boris Johnson had me cursing after only his second sentence: ‘In less than a year this disease has killed almost a million people, and caused havoc to economies everywhere.’ 

No, Prime Minister. Covid-19 is a threat to public health, not a fiscal fiend. Panicking politicians – of which Johnson is an egregious example – are to blame for having crippled economies with cataclysmic lockdowns, imposed because, in the words of SAGE member Professor Mark Woolhouse, they ‘couldn’t think of anything better to do’. 

Boris Johnson’s earlier draconian decrees might have been forgivable had he come to accept the futility of such disproportionate measures. Alas, Tuesday’s announcement was another spooked overreaction; except that unlike his previous lockdown last March, the latest restrictions – again imposed without proper parliamentary scrutiny and with non-existent opposition at Westminster – will not be eased for at least six months. 

Indeed, as the UK’s devolved administrations compete to become the most authoritarian, to keep pace over the winter it is highly likely that Johnson will further erode freedoms. During Tuesday’s TV appearance the phoney libertarian claimed to be ‘deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions’, yet he also threatened to ‘put more police out on the streets and use the Army to backfill if necessary’.

That would be a menacing message from any peacetime premier; it is even more chilling that a Conservative prime minister should consider deploying the military. Johnson would never dare use the Army to tackle the Leftist lawlessness of Extinction Rebellion or Black Lives Matter, yet he is prepared to clamp down on any concerned citizens who take a stand against the loss of civil liberties.

Despite thousands of medical procedures and treatments having scandalously been delayed or denied, Johnson also had the nerve to claim: ‘If we let this virus get out of control now, it would mean that our NHS had no space – once again – to deal with cancer patients and millions of other non-Covid medical needs.’ It kept Boris alive, but he should try extolling the ‘unbeatable’ NHS and its Covid-only service to this fellow:

Johnson also appeared to have taken maths lessons from Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty, the Government’s scientific schemers whose support act the previous day proffered a shamelessly politicised projection of Covid cases and deaths. 

The downbeat duo fulfilled their function by making headlines with fanciful figures of 50,000 cases and 200 deaths per day, thereby enabling Johnson to assert that ‘the iron laws of geometrical progression are shouting at us from the graphs’. Renowned for his rhetorical flourishes, Johnson went on to claim that action must be taken now because, ahem, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.

That’s the benefit of a Classical education. By the way, according to Messrs Vallance and Whitty, if the number of required stitches doubles each day, by mid-October we will be sewing the equivalent of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Johnson attempted to end on an upbeat note: ‘Though our doctors and our medical advisers are rightly worried about the data now, and the risks over winter, they are unanimous that things will be far better by the spring, when we have not only the hope of a vaccine, but one day soon . . .’

Yes, yes . . . the lifting of all restrictions? A return to pre-Covid normality?  Er, not quite: ‘. . . mass testing so efficient that people will be able to be tested in minutes so they can do more of the things they love.’

For Pete’s sake. Still the PM bangs the drum for Operation Moonshot, which remains unfeasible, is widely held to be impractical and would be hugely intrusive. But for Johnson: ‘That’s the hope; that’s the dream.’

His dream; my nightmare.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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