SINCE the beginning of this interminable cycle of restrictions on social and economic life, the Labour Party has consistently called for the Government to implement longer and tougher lockdowns.
So those suffering the consequences of the clampdown may console themselves with the thought that ‘at least Labour is not in power’.
One may assume that if Jeremy Corbyn had miraculously won the 2019 election, the party’s inclination to expand the reach of the Nanny State would have made the past 12 months even more unbearable.
However, one of the notable features of parliamentary debate about Covid-19 has been that any whimper of opposition to the powers exercised by the state has come from the Government back benches, not from the opposition.
Indeed, the lack of parliamentary opposition to the measures perhaps explains why the media and the public have been so submissive in the face of state tyranny.
One cannot help but think that if it were a Labour government destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions, Tory MPs with any shred of a conservative instinct would have felt more emboldened to challenge the measures and the prevailing narrative.
Right-leaning print media would also surely have been more inclined to question and criticise a Labour leader – particularly Corbyn – adopting Chinese Communist Party tactics of virus suppression.
When debating the necessity of the clampdown, a typical response has been: ‘These restrictions must surely be necessary if they are being employed by a Conservative government.’
Many debate under the assumption that restricting civil liberties and free enterprise is anathema to any form of political conservatism, and such measures are therefore being implemented with a heavy heart.
It is of course contentious whether the modern Tory Party is guided by any philosophy of conservatism. Peter Hitchens quipped that the party has ‘more in common with the Socialist Workers Party than it has with conservatism’.
Despite doubts among the Right-leaning commentariat over the party’s commitment to conservatism, it would appear that by virtue of being the ‘Conservative Party’, these measures have gained an air of legitimacy. The notion that Johnson is a ‘libertarian at heart’ has to some made the restrictions seem all the more necessary and urgent.
Had Labour been in charge, the scrutiny it would have likely faced from the opposition benches and the media may have tipped public opinion sufficiently to make a year of harsh restrictions untenable.
Paradoxically, electing an ostensibly conservative government, instead of Labour, may have resulted in a Covid response even less akin to conservatism.