A timely word of warning from a supreme court judge
There has never been any doubt that the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 was, and still is, very serious and has put many vulnerable people at risk. The media kept everyone informed of the number of deaths in the UK and ‘cases’ of infection on a daily basis. These ‘cases’ are people who have tested positive but, because it is acknowledged that many forms of testing are unreliable, they may not necessarily have the disease. The UK government reacted by imposing a strict lockdown on the whole country generating such fear that there was almost total compliance by a terrified population. Fear is a powerful emotion and in this state people can be easily manipulated. At the end of WW2 after the defeat of Germany, Air Marshal Goering was asked at the Nuremberg Trials how the Nazis managed to gain such control over the German population. He is alleged to have replied "just keep the people fearful and they will become like sheep, and will do whatever you tell them to do."
THREAT TO PERSONAL FREEDOM
Last October, the former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Jonathan Sumption delivered the 2020 Cambridge Freshfields Lecture entitled "Government by decree - Covid-19 and the Constitution" in which he attacked the UK government saying "it deliberately stoked up fear over coronavirus with the language of impending doom; the daily press conferences; the alarmist projections of mathematical modellers; the manipulative use of selected statistics; the presentation of exceptional tragedies as if they were the normal effects of Covid-19; above all the attempt to suggest that Covid-19 was an indiscriminate killer, when the truth was that it killed identifiable groups, notably those with serious underlying conditions and the old, who could and arguably should have been sheltered without coercing the entire population, in order to justify lockdown restrictions that represent the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country." He believes that future generations will look back on the measures taken to contain coronavirus “as a monument of collective hysteria and governmental folly”. It is hard to believe how people could so willingly throw away their personal liberties and human rights for which thousands of service men and women laid down their lives in two world wars
SLIDING INTO A POLICE STATE
In a BBC World at One interview, Lord Sumption warned that coronavirus rules marked the UK’s “hysterical slide into a police state”, paving the way for a society to turn despotic. He pointed out, “The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria. Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease”.
What happened in Germany should be a salutary warning. Fear of being arrested for their association with certain people, especially those of the Jewish faith, made people turn against their neighbours, most of whom they had previously lived harmoniously alongside for many years. Even friends began to be viewed with suspicion, so great was their fear for their own lives. The appalling Holocaust was the eventual, tragic outcome.
POLICE ASSUMED NEW POWERS
Fear can infiltrate even the most level headed and intelligent people. Only a few months ago, UK ministers were encouraging people to report neighbours who flouted the rules of the lockdown. Derbyshire police went to the extreme by launching surveillance drones to film people walking in the countryside and then issued heavy fines. Lord Sumption commented “The implication was that in a crisis the police were entitled to do whatever they thought fit, without being unduly concerned about their legal powers. That is my definition of a police state.” He also warned that "a move to a more authoritarian model of politics would outlast the current crisis. The government has discovered the power of public fear to let it get its way; it will not forget.”
As the threat of the coronavirus continues, especially with the new variants that have recently appeared, so the divisions between individual thinking has grown. There are those who are firmly in favour of more lockdowns, some of whom are so afraid of being infected that they have not left home since the first wave of the virus early in 2020. Lord Sumption criticised the government "for imposing draconian restrictions on people’s lives using ministerial decrees with minimal parliamentary scrutiny". He observed that the first three months of lockdown had “placed everybody under a form of house arrest, qualified only by their right to do a limited number of things approved by ministers”. “The sheer scale on which the government has sought to govern by decree creating new criminal offences sometimes several times a week on the mere say so of ministers, is in constitutional terms truly breathtaking."
Then there are others, such as the large numbers of people that have signed the Great Barrington Declaration. (Concerned Citizens. 727,152 signatures, Medical and Public Health Scientists. 13,292, Medical Practitioners 40,199), who think differently. They believe that the best way forward is to protect the vulnerable, but let children go back to school and the rest of the country return to work before the economy descends into total collapse.
TRAGIC LOCKDOWN SIDE EFFECTS
The staggering level of debt in the UK has already ensured that it will take decades to repay. Even worse, is the appalling toll caused indirectly by the lockdowns in the form of the disruption of treatment for cancer patients, many of whom have died as a result, lack of ongoing treatment for heart/stroke patients and the alarming increase of mental problems among children. The disruption in children’s education has been a monumental disaster with some very young children actually regressing, forgetting what they had already learned and having to start all over again.
Many people have put their faith in a vaccine that will protect the elderly and vulnerable people with underlying health problems. Then, as promised by the UK government, restrictions would start to be gradually lifted, but they have constantly moved the goal posts so that the prospect of getting back to normal life is now receding into the distant future.
MANDATORY VACCINATION ?
The vaccination programme is advancing at a great pace, which is what the government set out to achieve. They have invested millions in the project. However, there has still been some reluctance to come forward to be vaccinated with claims that vaccines have not been tested long enough to establish their safety. Most new drugs undergo many years of tests before they are considered safe to be released for general use on the public. This has caused alarm amongst those in authority. With so many new laws introduced by the government, how long will it be before vaccination becomes mandatory? Even if it is not actually made mandatory, will pressure be put on people by making it difficult for those who have not been vaccinated to, say, get a job, or travel by air? Some airlines are already stipulating negative tests for Covid 19 before allowing passengers to get on board. There are worrying times ahead.
The entire Cambridge Freshfields lecture video can be seen at:
https://www.privatelaw.law.cam.ac.uk/events/CambridgeFreshfieldsLecture or downloaded as a transcript.