MANY have been shocked by the scenes on Saturday night in Clapham, where the Metropolitan Police used heavy-handed tactics to break up a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard. The reason they did this was because the protest contravened the rules on public gatherings, introduced by the Government and supported by almost all Parliamentarians, to keep us all ‘safe’.
I was not especially shocked. It was clear to me that we gave up on being a free country in March last year when millions supinely accepted the apparent need for the curtailment of liberties, ostensibly (but absurdly) aimed at ‘controlling a virus’. Together with a very few other voices, I warned many times that lockdowns, and their wide acceptance as an appropriate policy, marked another nail in the coffin of the free Britain we knew, and would likely herald the start of a slide into a far more despotic society and police state.
The actions of the Metropolitan Police were indeed disgraceful, but they were entirely consistent with the powers granted to the authorities under the Coronavirus Act, and entirely in keeping with the treatment meted out to those who peacefully protested against that very legislation in numerous demonstrations last year.
If you supported the despotic lockdown policy, copied straight from the totalitarian Chinese State (as Professor Neil Ferguson candidly admitted), which included curtailments of the right to protest peacefully, why are you shocked at what happened in Clapham? What did you expect? Did you seriously think that freedom and liberty can be turned on and off like a tap: off, when politicians say it needs to be turned off; on, when they say it’s safe to do so? Did you seriously think that the path to freedom required you first to give up your freedoms?
If so, perhaps you are discovering that this is not how freedom works. In the grand scheme of things, the liberties enjoyed by millions over many decades in this country are an aberration. They are a historic abnormality, granted by the grace and providence of God, through people who were far wiser than our generation — people who understood that the only way to grant and ensure the liberties of a people is to first and foremost put limitations on those holding power.
In the last year, because of irrational and wholly disproportionate fears of a virus which is not deadly to around 99.8 per cent of people, we have allowed these ancient freedoms and laws to be taken away by those who have seized the opportunity to increase their powers. Indeed, the Government and so-called opposition, far from trying to allay people’s fears, as one would hope from good and responsible leaders, deliberately ramped up an extraordinary campaign of fear and hysteria, the like of which have never been seen before. Why? The late Tony Benn can help us here: ‘There are two ways in which people are controlled — firstly frighten people, then demoralise them.’
Which is precisely what has happened. Through fear and hysteria, millions actually believed the authorities when they put forward the absurd suggestion that they could ‘Control the Virus’. In fact, what they then proceeded to do was ‘Control the People’. The idea that lockdowns ‘Control the Virus’ and reduce mortality has been shown by more than 30 studies to be a fallacy, whereas the truth that lockdowns ‘Control the People’ is blindingly obvious, and should be apparent to everyone after a year of often mad restrictions that have curtailed perfectly normal activities.
It’s as if we had all been handed a great and marvellous forest, which had grown up over a thousand years, and which we were asked to preserve and hand on to the next generation. But because of a threat that was in reality no greater than the 1957 and 1968 influenza outbreaks, we gave our leaders carte blanche to burn it down, which they have done very effectively in just a few months.
And we wonder why the police now look like a militia. We wonder why peaceful protests are broken up. We wonder why perfectly lawful activities are increasingly penalised. And as if that weren’t enough, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is to be brought before the House of Commons this week, which if passed will expand police powers to stop protests, with criminal penalties for those who cause ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’ (whatever that means) of up to ten years in prison (see section 59 (2) c here).
As a nation, we have let the Government tear up our ancient liberties for a virus which we could have dealt with by concentrating resources and efforts on protecting the vulnerable. Instead, the nation was put under house arrest, the vulnerable were not protected (the UK has the 4th highest deaths per million, despite having one of the most stringent lockdowns) and we now begin to see how much we look like another country entirely. More like the country we copied our lockdown from, in fact.
C S Lewis made the following comment in The Abolition of Man: ‘In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.’
We have removed that which made us free, and yet still demand freedom. We have castrated our liberties, and yet still expect to live in the Britain that was free. I don’t think so. Those who ridiculed or dismissed the warnings some of us gave a year ago would do well to reflect on their complacency.