Less than a year ago, Boris Johnson won an historic victory over the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party. This saved the UK from being dragged into a Venezuelan like economic and political nightmare. With his 80-seat majority, many of us hoped for a truly conservative programme of low taxation, controlled government spending, reduced national debt, business-friendly and job-creating economic policies, reductions in EU-inspired red tape and the promotion of individual freedom to take responsibility for our own lives and actions.
A year later we are experiencing what I believe Jeremy Corbyn could only have dreamed of introducing. Public spending has soared, the national debt is higher than it was at the end of the of six years of World War Two, thousands of businesses are being pushed into bankruptcy as a result of government demands that they close their doors to customers. Unemployment is soaring, and instead of being lifted out of poverty the poor are being pushed into destitution. Personal liberties, from the right to meet our friends and families, worship in our churches, and even visit our dying loved ones and attend their funerals, have been removed.
All this has been done in the pursuit of dealing with a virus which is spread by social contact and therefore, by very definition, is not going to be eradicated unless we put everyone in a box and stop them meeting with anyone else. Of course, we cannot be blasé about the threat that coronavirus presents to the population. That would be the height of neglect by a government which the public expects to play its part in keeping them safe. Equally, when faced with a new threat to public health it is reasonable for the Government to take drastic steps until there is a clearer picture of the nature of the disease and how best to deal with it. It is also the duty of those devising health policies to ensure that the cure they propose is not worse than the problem being addressed.
That is why the Government can be excused for its initial response to lockdown the economy for the period of four weeks it originally proposed. On the evidence available it looked like the NHS might be overwhelmed and deaths would be in the hundreds of thousands. It quickly became apparent that the doomsday predictions of the medical advisers were nowhere near true, that their advice to lockdown the economy was not only damaging to livelihoods but also to public health. There are many people who died because they could not see a doctor or were too scared to go to the hospital, and that the economic damage from the fruitless pursuit of eradicating the virus was completely out of proportion to the health benefits the lockdown produced.
To justify the lockdown madness dodgy doom-laden data is produced daily. Anyone who challenges it is described as a Covid denier and heartless, and they are dismissed out of hand even though many are highly regarded in their relevant fields of expertise. The result is we are now heading into another lockdown of uncertain duration with all the economic and public health damage this entails. We are also facing the prospect of further lockdowns if the infection rate increases again in the future, as it surely will once people are free to mix again socially.
This economy-destroying, freedom-curtailing and health-damaging policy is not the only response which the Government could follow. Since we know that it is mainly the elderly and those with other underlying illnesses who are most vulnerable, and account for 94 per cent of deaths, then we should target protecting them as best we can. If that means regular testing of those in contact with them then put resources into that. Since 25 per cent of infections happen in hospitals, then concentrate testing and preventative resources there. If some businesses are flagrantly breaking the regulations about social distancing etc then close them but do not force law-abiding entrepreneurs to lose their businesses. Fewer than 3 per cent of those who have died from this disease are of working age so why stop them from going to work, earning income, paying taxes and helping to restore our damaged economy?
Instead of meekly being led by Covid-obsessed medical experts who since they are paid from the public purse will never experience the despair of unemployment or drastic cuts in their income, the Government should follow its political instincts as champions of a vibrant free-market economy and promote personal freedom and personal responsibility.
Lockdowns do not work in the long term and they are also anti-everything conservatives stand for because they impose unthinkable state intervention, are wasteful in terms of the use of taxpayers’ money and destroy our basic freedoms. They are compatible with the ethos of anti-democratic left-wing dictatorships. They should not be the chosen policy of any government which claims to be conservative.