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PETER HITCHENS: The panic-makers long for another shutdown… but it won’t do any good 

You can almost hear the BBC presenters drooling at the prospect of yet another of the shutdowns they long for and enjoy so much. 

Reports of a new variant of Covid, combined with the frenzy of medical repression on the Continent, have filled them with hope that England can once again be closed down for Christmas.

Once again, they have begun moving the supposedly menacing figures of ‘cases’ (positive tests resulting from endless state-sponsored testing) back up their bulletins.

Well, that is the BBC. But almost as bad are the others who still believe that there were only two options – shutting the country and ‘letting it rip’. 

Sweden did not in fact follow the closedown route. It took many measures, but it did not engage in mass forced quarantine of healthy people or the strangling of its economy

Only last week, a rather intelligent person wrote, as if to excuse the devastation of the NHS by months of near-closure: ‘If we’d let Covid rip, if we hadn’t locked down, I’m not sure there’d have been a functioning hospital to go to.’ I am sure she really believes this, alas.

And among those who howled for yet more damaging measures back in March 2020, there remains the other baseless belief that ‘we should have locked down faster and harder’. This, I promise you, is the pre-arranged verdict of any official inquiry that takes place.

Yet even at the time, it was obvious that the evidence for this view was thin at best. Sweden did not in fact follow the closedown route. It took many measures, but it did not engage in mass forced quarantine of healthy people or the strangling of its economy.

If closedowns worked, if milder measures more fitted to a free country were ‘letting rip’, then surely Sweden’s figures would be far worse than those of any other country. But they are not.

Sweden’s response was not perfect, especially in care homes, and many died. But the country’s tally of Covid deaths per million has for some months remained on the low side of comparable European figures. Any study of the immense variety of national responses from Japan to Brazil shows no apparent connection between the severity of repression and the level of deaths. Even now, those continental countries praised by liberals for such things as strict masking rules are among those now experiencing apparent surges of Covid.

I have no doubt that in March 2020, this country’s Government went into a spasm of panic. It was egged on by many of its advisers, using naked fear. It distilled that fear into raw power.

If closedowns worked, if milder measures more fitted to a free country were ‘letting rip’, then surely Sweden’s figures would be far worse than those of any other country. But they are not

If closedowns worked, if milder measures more fitted to a free country were ‘letting rip’, then surely Sweden’s figures would be far worse than those of any other country. But they are not

Some of the panic-makers, being supporters of the far Left, may actually have believed that this was an ideal moment to increase the power of the state in the name of health. Who can say? They certainly achieved it.

But the response showed that the British people would in fact have behaved with great caution and care, and consideration for each other, without the fear or the bossiness.

The Government has had a long time to digest these facts. While it will never admit publicly that it went bananas in March 2020, let us hope that enough MPs privately grasp this, and that we will be spared another future self- damaging, state-sponsored panic in the coming winter. Above all, it will not actually do any good.

For years here, I have pointed out the scientific fact that the evidence for the effectiveness of ‘antidepressants’ is extremely weak and their side effects are very worrying. As you might expect, official opinion is beginning to catch up with me, many tragedies later.

Marijuana is the real killer 

If last week’s mass killing in Wisconsin had been the work of a gunman, the USA would still be convulsed with renewed demands for more gun control. If it had happened on this side of the Atlantic, and a person from a Muslim country had been involved, we would still be taking new precautions against Islamist terrorism.

But both the gun control lobby and the terror obsessives have been silent. For the massacre was carried out using a motor vehicle, a terrifying lethal device which no red-blooded American, liberal or conservative, would ever be without. And the suspect, Darrell Brooks, plainly isn’t an Islamist.

So it has faded rather fast from front pages. Yet, in fact, it has one thing in common with about 95 per cent of such mass killings here, in France, or in the USA. The suspect is a known user of marijuana. The connection between marijuana and mental illness is now so alarming that even The Times, that modish liberal organ, has noticed it.

So is the gigantic mountain of reports of wild, irrational crimes in which the culprit was a marijuana user, including last week’s British case of Jake Notman, who stabbed his girlfriend, Lauren Bloomer, 30 times, then got into his car and ran her over. The man was plainly out of his mind.

The prosecutor in the case had little doubt about the reason, explaining, very upsettingly, that Ms Bloomer ‘was just trying to care for him in this state of being disordered through cannabis’.

Professor Sir Robin Murray, one of Britain’s most distinguished psychiatrists, no longer bothers to hedge his bets on the link between the drug and mental illness. He said last week: ‘One third of young people who develop schizophrenia-like psychosis in London do so because of their heavy use of high-potency cannabis.’ 

He warned: ‘Everywhere that cannabis has been legalised, the use and potency of the drug have increased, and more cannabis-induced disorders have followed. Most worryingly, tobacco companies that have experienced falls in the sales of cigarettes are now buying into cannabis companies with the aim of selling as much cannabis as they once sold tobacco.’

This is a huge danger. Big Tobacco, experienced in profiting from misery, switches its resources to backing Big Dope instead.

Big Dope wants marijuana to be legal, advertised and on sale everywhere. And many fools will fall for it, including the teenagers who never grew up and who, terrifyingly, are about to become the government of Germany. We have similar fools here.

Grounded – by M&S red tape 

I’m not sure I can be bothered to go abroad again. I had a wonderful time visiting 57 countries over the past half century, but the current bureaucracy is so tedious and annoying that I just don’t fancy it.

How I used to love collecting a crisp collection of foreign banknotes before setting off to some new place. But I note that Marks & Spencer’s foreign exchange desks are telling me that, to buy currency, I ‘need’ to produce a passport or some other document. I don’t. I have checked with HM Revenue & Customs, and such things are compulsory only for transactions of €15,000 and above. This is to prevent money-laundering.

M&S, which took ages to respond to my query about this, can’t really explain why they wish to make life difficult in this way. They say: ‘In our bureaux, we highlight that ID may be required so that customers can have this to hand if needed.’

But they don’t. They flatly say customers will ‘need’ documents. No if. Why?

I rather like the Labour MP Stella Creasy, foe of the payday loan sharks, and I think she has a point about bringing her lovely, well-behaved baby into the House of Commons. Lots of MPs have been drunk some of the time in that chamber. Many more have been stupid all the time. 

Even if Ms Creasy’s baby started crying, it would show more sense than is contained in many parliamentary speeches. Personally, I think raising the next generation is a more important and respectable task than full-time politics, but if she wants to combine the two, I’m not going to criticise her for it. 

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