The end of Lockdown 2.0 next week should have been a cause for celebration. But any sense of relief will have evaporated at the advent of the new localised system of tiers, says Sir Graham Brady (pictured)
The end of Lockdown 2.0 next week should have been a cause for celebration. But any sense of relief will have evaporated at the advent of the new localised system of tiers.
In practice, the new regime is just as heavy-handed as lockdown, leaving 99 per cent of the population under arbitrary state control.
Riddled with contradictions and unsupported by compelling scientific evidence, these restrictions will cause immense further damage to the economy, cripple our civil liberties and worsen the nation’s health.
In short, they threaten to destroy the social fabric that makes up Great Britain.
That is why I shall be voting against their implementation when Parliament decides on the issue on Tuesday. I will do so with regret, because I know the Government faces agonising choices in the handling of Covid-19.
Indeed, in this crisis there are no easy decisions and the Cabinet has been grappling with an unprecedented challenge. Nevertheless, like many of my Conservative colleagues, I cannot lend my backing to this policy, which I fear will do more harm than good.
For a start, it represents a continuation of the authoritarian attack on fundamental human rights which we in Britain have taken for granted for centuries.
In the name of public health, essential freedoms are being drastically eroded, with officialdom now telling us with whom we can socialise and even have sex.
If anyone had predicted last year that in December 2020 grannies could be barred by bureaucratic edict from hugging their grandchildren, such a claim would have been greeted with snorts of derision.
In this crisis there are no easy decisions and the Cabinet has been grappling with an unprecedented challenge. Nevertheless, like many of my Conservative colleagues, I cannot lend my backing to this policy, which I fear will do more harm than good. (Above, Boris Johnson at Porton Down science park near Salisbury on Friday)
But that is what has happened in Covid-scarred Britain.
Like citizens in the former Soviet bloc, we find that our freedoms to travel abroad, and even move within our own country, have been drastically curtailed.
Our long-standing British tradition has always been that the people tell the state what it is allowed to do. But now that relationship has been completely inverted, with the public fully accountable to the state.
The Government’s response to the coronavirus has badly undermined common sense. Faith in the judgement of ordinary citizens has been replaced by endless coercion and instruction by the authorities.
In parts of the north of England and the Midlands, residents have had to put up with some form of lockdown for no less than eight months – apart from a brief spell of relief in July.
Now, after a month of national restrictions that were sold to us as a necessary solution, they find themselves in the same – if not a worse – position than they were in at the beginning of November.
The issue is that the mechanics of the tiers are dubious. They have been constructed on the wide basis of counties rather than boroughs, giving rise to glaring inconsistencies.
My own constituency of Altrincham and Sale West is a classic example of this lack of flexibility.
Even though our rate of infection is far lower than the English national average, we have been placed in Tier Three because we are lumped in with Greater Manchester.
If we had been part of Cheshire – as historically Altrincham was until the 1970s – we would have been in Tier Two. What makes our classification even more absurd is that infection rates are actually falling dramatically across Greater Manchester.
Indeed, there is a distinct lack of data to justify these tiers, and the same story of geographical illogicalites can be found throughout the country.
For all the claims about ‘following the science’, there has been a worrying absence of hard evidence behind many of the authorities’ actions throughout the Covid crisis.
After all, it hardly says much for the effectiveness of the current lockdown that 61 per cent of England’s population – 34.1 million people – will come out of it in a higher tier than before.
Moreover, the plethora of rules often seem dangerously counterproductive. In Tier Three, there is a blanket ban on the opening of bars, cafes, restaurants and pubs for anything except takeaways – even though the owners may have spent a fortune on making such places Covid-secure.
As a result, people will end up mixing in environments where the virus is much more easily spread, such as private homes.
In fact, there seems little rationale about the way the hospitality trade has been singled out for punishment, given that pubs and restaurants account for only 2 per cent of Covid transmissions.
At a time when unemployment, public debts and business failures are soaring – as the Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out in the starkest possible terms in his spending review statement this week – these new tiers will only wreak further havoc with the state’s finances and hopes of recovery.
And that’s to say nothing of the nation’s mental health, which is being stretched to breaking point by the depressing cycle of lockdown and oppression.
Yes, the fight against Covid is an epic struggle and we all have to take responsibility to protect ourselves and others. But this is not the way we are meant to live in a once-open, prosperous democracy.