Dr Sarah Ingham is a member of Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Association.
Might it have been better if Jeremy Corbyn and his band of merry Trots won the December 2019 General Election?
Had Corbyn and the comrades somehow got their hands on the levers of power, it is unlikely that the press, Parliament and public would let them get away with the assault on our liberties and livelihoods in the doomed attempt to combat Covid-19 that we have experienced since 23rd March 2020.
Lockdown was supposed to last for three weeks. Eleven months on, not only are we under house arrest and but we are kettled in Britain, forbidden to leave the country. We are warned that we face a ten-year prison sentence if we fib about our travel history. Meanwhile, millions are on furlough and thousands of businesses have vanished.
Declaring it wanted to put its arms around us, this Government has brought the country to its knees and the state has its boot on our collective windpipe.
Britain’s economy has been trashed and children’s education destroyed, the long-term health of millions sacrificed and ancient liberties cast aside. This Government has jettisoned every Conservative principle. We have statist Corbynism by stealth, aided and abetted by supine MPs who were only too happy to get themselves elected on the Tory ticket.
The party for which millions voted in December 2019 stood for Brexit, but also for Conservatism. This means a love of freedom, personal responsibility and a level of state intervention which protects society’s vulnerable. Voters believed that the Party was on the side of enterprise and business, that it was instinctively wary of meddling officialdom.
Statist authoritarianism has now become almost as routine as serial incompetence, cronyism and the non-stop barrage of Covid-related propaganda paid for by us. Orwell’s Two Minute Hate only lasted two minutes.
A disproportionate amount has been exacted to ‘save lives’, but it has failed. If the Government’s measures were so successful, how it is Britain’s death rate is among the highest per capita in the world? The threat to bang us up for going to the Algarve would not be justified even if, instead of 115,000, 1,500 had perished from the virus – as in South Korea.
If John McDonnell were in Number 11 would we be so relaxed about the Government’s discovery of a Magic Money Forest, or about the billions disappearing in Bounce Back loans? No wonder many are braced for confiscatory taxes in next month’s budget.
Children are the collateral damage in all this, but it’s not Piers and Poppy at their expensive prep schools who are missing out. Should Angela Rayner be at the helm of the Education Department, the teaching unions might not be so stroppy – and so happy to bake in social disadvantage by denying schooling to the most under-privileged.
Had Prime Minister Corbyn’s team exercised power in the arbitrary manner of this government, it is hoped that Conservatives MPs would have channelled their all-too-latent Oliver Cromwell or John Pym. But instead of holding the overmighty Executive to account, with a few honourable exceptions, our MPs have had their trotters up for 11 months. With only 50 MPs allowed in the Commons’ Chamber, Parliament is not so much hybrid as comatose. Bring back Bercow.
For almost a year, democracy has been iced. The warning bells sounded when the under-scrutinised Coronavirus Bill was fast-tracked in one day through a pandemic-spooked Parliament. Questions about why the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act was not being deployed were brushed aside. Specifically drawn up to deal with emergencies, regular Parliamentary oversight is integral to the CCA – unlike the Coronavirus Act.
Asleep-at-the-switch MPs are allowing rule by ministerial caprice. Currently, ministerial wishes are commands, to be interpreted by Britain’s police forces. Exercise within five miles from home, for an hour a day? In relation to the lockdown, the cause of liberty – the lodestar of Conservatism – is not helped by the deliberate muddying of the difference between the law and the guidance.
Against expectations, we have a vaccine and the roll-out is going spectacularly well. Millions have also had the virus, but we are hearing little about the possible immunity it confers. In addition, because of natural immunity it is far from impossible that some might never succumb to Covid-19 at all… All this is surely a cause for celebration. Plans should be made to unlock as much as possible, as soon as possible.
When the penny finally drops for the slow learners around the Cabinet table and on the Government benches in the Commons that Covid-19 is not the bubonic plague, perhaps they might recover a sense of proportion and political nous. ‘Until the public inquiry’ is this year’s ‘kicking the can down the road’.
Because they are going unchallenged, too many of Labour’s narratives are taking hold, among them locking down too late. But from about 8th March, the majority of the public was making its own risk assessment, not waiting for state directives about ‘stay home’. Unlike too many elected Conservatives, Jo/Joe Public was being Conservative. This same public differentiates between the death of teenagers and those aged 80+. They wonder why the Government has been in thrall to do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do scientists.
If Corbyn and his followers are not to have the last laugh, perhaps Conservative MPs could reflect on a title of a book to which some Tory ministers contributed – Britannia Unchained. If irony hasn’t died, how about some action this day?