THE only stupid question is the one not asked, so we are told.
Like most clichés, it contains a grain of truth. Who hasn’t sat in a meeting scared to ask something, fearing it betrays our stupidity or lack of attention?
Often, though, we fail to ask questions because we fear the answers. And the great scandal, the hideous moral corruption, of the whole Covid catastrophe has been based on this: Questions that were never asked because they may give the wrong answers.
Right from the start, the Government narrowed the frame of references and terms of debate. Aided by a pathetically compliant media, ministers amplified the risks of Covid and, having done so, utterly ignored the horrendous side-effects of the draconian overreactions that naturally followed.
There has never been a serious discussion of the pros and cons, the colossal collateral damage, that lockdowns have caused. With our leaders having trapped themselves in the lie that Covid was a new Black Death, all paths led to a zero Covid strategy – and the insane, but wholly predictable, delay to freedom day on June 21. Theoretically a delay of four weeks, in practice probably forever.
How did we get here? Leaving aside the sinister agendas of secondary figures, the tunnel-visioned scientism of SAGE or the cynical sensationalism of the entire mainstream media, ultimately these were political decisions. Ultimately, the buck stops with the likes of Johnson, Gove and Hancock.
There are three explanations, in descending order of moral turpitude. The first is what data scientists call ‘feature reduction’. Early on in the crisis, faced with a rapidly changing situation with a huge number of poorly understood variables, it was natural to try to reduce complexity by concentrating entirely on the disease itself.
Wrong, but understandable. If you are charitable, you can just about forgive the decision for the first lockdown on this basis.
The second is narcissism. Politicians are a vain lot who yearn for a simple, binary, Manichean issue where they can play a starring Churchillian role.
Frustrated by the mundane reality of day-to-day politics, they seize the opportunity to play ‘The Great Man’. For Anthony Eden, it was the Suez invasion in 1956, which ended in debacle. For Tony Blair, it was the even greater tragedy of the Iraq War, starting in 2003. For David Cameron, it was military intervention in Libya in 2011. For Johnson and Hancock, it is Covid.
The third reason is the most despicable of all: Cowardice. The response to Covid was not driven by following the science, instead it was driven by optics.
Fearing that the footage from hospitals in Lombardy would be career-ending if replicated in their own jurisdictions, with a very few honourable and brave exceptions, politicians in the UK and the world over resorted to groupthink, a herd immunity to save their own skins.
Tragically, there are no optics for the patient whose terminal cancer went undiagnosed and who will die two years from now, the early deaths from heart attack or diabetes, or the quiet suicide in despair of the socially isolated, the lonely or the bankrupt business owner.
Who can doubt that the next few weeks will see more such deaths of despair, as those who have been desperately hanging on finally give up?
Our own political leaders must not be allowed to get away with this wickedness for one moment longer. Recently, the columnist James Delingpole called Boris Johnson the ‘fat Blair’ .
Let this be Johnson’s own Iraq and Covid exposed for what it is: A phantasm to equal Blair’s weapons of mass destruction. Let this be the time when history repeats itself, when a seemingly insuperable, charismatic leader who consistently defied political gravity suddenly crashed to earth, and in the process takes down his whole rotten party with him.
I, for one, will no longer be obeying any restrictions after June 21.