The Taste of Freedom Turned Sour | The Honest Liberal
The government’s week of chaos began on Sunday, when the Chancellor and the Prime Minister were pinged by the NHS app, but claimed to be on an elusive ‘pilot scheme’, which meant they were tested everyday and as a result did not need to isolate. After a huge backlash, that position was reversed under three hours later, once the PM had travelled to his luxurious grace and favour country home, Chequers.
This was appalling. The pilot scheme had never been heard of before, and the almost criminal fault here was that the Prime Minister and Chancellor seemed to think that their freedom was more important than the freedom of the citizens over which they govern. I take the point that their work is vital to the country running properly, but they can do that effectively remotely. It was a huge shame that this happened, as it was such an unforced error which played along to the tune of the Opposition’s line that there is ‘one rule for them, and one rule for the rest of us’.
We might also think that a man who famously caught COVID last year, and has had two doses of vaccine since, would have a high enough antibody level that isolation would be unnecessary. The vaccines are the only way out of this crisis and the PM meets the requirements for someone who should no longer need to isolate.
Should we not be worried about the judgement of the advisors and ministers involved in this decision? It doesn’t pass the smell test or the Daily Mail test – people were always going to react angrily against this; anyone with any political sense could see that the public, Conservative MPs and journalists with difficult questions were going to rip that decision to shreds.
The tragicomedy continued on Monday – Freedom Day. As midnight passed, jubilant patrons were seen happily entering nightclubs for the first time this year. But by five o’clock the bubble was burst by the PM. He announced at a press conference that from the end of September, nightclubs, and other venues at which large gatherings occur, would be forced to ask for proof of having two jabs – antigen or antibody tests would no longer suffice.
This is fundamentally coercion by the government of its people. It is truly a case of, ‘do exactly what the government tells you without exemption, or you cannot live your life in the way that you wish’. This was the Freedom Day Betrayal, and it left Conservative MPs and supporters incensed at the deception and the manipulation. Having had the choice to get a jab or not, it was the choice of the individual that mattered. But now that power is being taken away from individuals and given to the government.
On Tuesday morning we heard from the Business Minister that the NHS Covid App ‘pings’ were an ‘advisory tool only.’ Later, another government minister said that ‘it would allow people to make informed decisions.’ Incredibly the government seems unsure of its own policy on the app and isolation. At a time when the government is intent on setting the rules on how we must live our lives, we need to be really clear about what they are, or they should be abolished to let people choose for themselves. I chose the latter.
That evening, Dominic Cummings’ heavily trailed interview with Laura Kuenssberg aired. Mr. Cummings unsurprisingly attacked Boris Johnson, the man he had apparently used as a tool to get the Brexit deal done, before considering ousting him in favour of a rival candidate. The rather gossipy interview was a chance to dig into Mr. Cummings views and actions, but was sadly wasted, and was of little consequence in the end, giving Mr. Cummings a free pass to attack the government as he pleased.
On Wednesday at PMQs Keir Starmer asked about the so-called ‘Pingdemic’ – half a million people were self-isolating by Wednesday because they had been contacted by people who had tested positive. The PM then said that ‘isolation is a very important part of our armoury against COVID,’ despite it crippling businesses and ruining children’s education. Not to mention that the policy is ending for doubly vaccinated people in August – why not bring that date forward then?
On Thursday Nadhim Zahawi announced in the House of Commons that COVID passports will be available for businesses to choose to use, and he encouraged them to do so. The ‘COVID Pass’, is nothing less than a Medical ID card, a huge intrusion by the government into the private lives of the citizens of this nation. ‘Deploying the pass is the right thing to do,’ the Minister said, followed worryingly by ‘we reserve the right to mandate its use in the future.’ To make matters worse, there was of course little push back from Her Majesty’s Official Opposition on this ominous statement. They are not providing a serious alternative proposition to the current party of government and they are therefore failing in their duty to this nation.
The government is stating clearly that at any point in the future at which they deem it necessary, these Medical ID cards will be made mandatory in any setting they choose. This coerces people to get the vaccine, it will segregate public life between young and old, and black and white, as the young and ethnic minority groups have taken up the vaccine far less than the old and white groups have. An apartheid in pubs is not something that we might have expected from this apparently freedom loving Prime Minister.
By Sunday pundits on the BBC were discussing Vaccine Passports being used for football matches, the BBC Proms, and many other events. The two guests were not particularly phased, ‘this is the new way of life,’ ‘it will make us feel safer,’ they had little problem with it. The bien pensant of London metropolitan life who think that everyone should think as they do miss the fact that people’s lives are incredibly different to their own.
They are able to work from a comfortable home with a spacious garden, to still go to rather pleasant dinners, to still see a show at the theatre by flashing their Medical ID card. In other parts of this country people who work in factories, or in retail are being pinged, businesses destroyed, lives wrecked, and liberties restricted.
The evolution of these Medical ID cards has been astonishing, from the Cabinet Office working on ‘certification’ in the earlier months of 2021, to Michael Gove announcing at the Select Committee that they would not be used, until the Freedom Day betrayal by the Prime Minister on Monday. The government has created a monstrous system and has asked businesses to adopt it. Those who don’t will be forced to in September.
The only thing to do is to refuse to show our papers, to not go to venues which would ask for them, and to protest against this abhorrent measure. The people of this country have sadly become reliant on the government to tell them the rules of life (according to a multitude of opinion polls) but we need to take back control of our lives, to make our own choices, take our own risks and yes, to face the consequences ourselves.
These Medical ID cards are not only a huge betrayal of the nation’s trust, having been abandoned by the government just months, they are deeply illiberal and worrying for those of us who see the slippery slope that the government seems to relish sliding down.
Vaccine coercion is also a disgusting move, having given everyone fair opportunity to get a vaccine voluntarily we should now be moving into the phase of the pandemic when people face the consequences of their choices, having made a judgement about their own risk and the risk that they pose to others.
The deal was ‘cautious but irreversible.’ We the people stuck to it, as we endured a slow ascent, over seven months, back towards a freedom that it appears we will never enjoy again. Now the government is disavowing that deal, pulling up the drawbridge in front of our eyes, moving the goalposts. It is not an irreversible move back to freedom it seems, and the government has clearly premeditated this dishonesty, to lead the nation towards the hope of being free, and then imposing an additional cost for that pleasure, and pushing it further into the long grass. Like a blackmailer telling their victim to do just one more thing for them, over and over again.
Do not be infantilised, do not just do as you are told now. Acceding to a government demand in this manner would only encourage their dishonest behaviour again. Please, stand up against it, say no. I wanted everyone to get the vaccine, as they are incredibly effective at stopping hospitalisation and death, and have been thoroughly tested – but now I believe that if you are under thirty years old and have chosen not to get the vaccine before the announcement on Monday – please do not get one now.
Ultimately there are two key questions here; the first is, is this the government that we want? With their weakness to give into medical and scientific advisers, to not stick to their apparently liberal instincts, with poor judgement and not able to hold fast against opposition.
The second is, at what point does rejection of government action that we disagree with begin? Do we value our liberty highly enough to resist and to act? To protest peacefully, to say no politely, to vote with our feet, to write to our MPs and to say no to the government loudly. To that question I say, the time is now.