There were many great speeches opposing the new lockdown in the House of Commons on 4th November, but there were three which collectively summed up my reasons for opposing the Government’s latest restrictions. They were from Philip Davies, Huw Merriman, and Bob Neill – all Conservative MPs.
But before I start, I want to tell you a story. When MPs started to debate the new lockdown, I was having lunch with my wife at a lovely French restaurant in Beverley. Our wonderful and attentive waiter gave us an insight on what it is like to run a restaurant when the Government is constantly changing the rules.
This restaurant was gradually getting back on its feet after the initial lockdown. Then the Government announced the 10.00 pm curfew. At a stroke, because they could not accept diners after 8.30 pm, they lost about a third of their trade.
At the end of October, the East Riding of Yorkshire moved into Tier 2. More trade lost as friends could no longer dine together. Just as they were getting used to that, the Government then announced that they would have to close their doors for four weeks. He does not think that the restaurant will open again. I hope that he is wrong as it serves some of the best French cuisine you can find anywhere. If it does re-open its doors again, my wife and I promised that we would be back as soon as we can.
This leads me on to Philip Davies’ speech about the economy and the millions of people who are likely to be unemployed over the coming months. During his speech, he said:
“Earlier this week, I asked the Prime Minister how many collapsed businesses and job losses he and his Government believe are a price worth paying for pursuing this strategy. I do not think I got an answer, so perhaps the Secretary of State can answer that question today. How many job losses would it take before he accepted that we needed a different strategy? How many jobs is he prepared to sacrifice to keep to this policy of lockdowns and arbitrary restrictions? Two million? Four million? Six million? People would like to know. How many house repossessions is he prepared to see while keeping to this strategy?”
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, did not even appear to be listening. Why would he? He is drunk with power and his income isn’t going to suffer every time he issues a new diktat. As Philip Davies rightly pointed out, “People like the Secretary of State and Public Health England are not offering to sacrifice their jobs so that we can pursue this strategy. Nobody voting for the motion tonight is offering to sacrifice their job so that we can pursue this lockdown policy—of course not; they are just expecting millions of others in our country to sacrifice theirs.”
My mind goes back to the French restaurant, and to a waitress who served us in a local pub who feared for her job. The Health Secretary does not give people like that a second thought. The Government has succeeded in terrifying the nation using data that are dubious to say the least. But lockdowns do affect the health of millions of people, as Huw Merriman rightly pointed out. Here is part of what he had to say.
“I have been asked whether I have met anyone who has lost a loved one through Covid? The answer to that is, tragically, yes I have, and the heart goes out to them, but I have also attended the funeral of a friend in the past year who took his life, having lost his job. I have met people who have not attended hospital appointments and now have terminal illnesses and who wish to goodness that they had attended them. I have met people who suffer domestic abuse behind closed doors that has not been uncovered. I have met people who have lost their jobs and the roofs over their heads and who have lost everything in life and become destitute. I have also met people experiencing mental health torture from isolation and loneliness from which they cannot recover. Those lives matter, too, and because I cannot see any evidence that there will not be more of those lives impacted than the lives we save, I am unable to support these measures and will vote against them this evening.”
More than 100,000 people have been waiting for more than a year for NHS treatment in England. There are more than four million people on NHS waiting lists. How many more people are going to die of cancer, heart disease and strokes? Almost one million women have missed breast cancer screening. It is estimated that 8,600 of those women could be living with undetected breast cancer. More people than ever are suffering from mental health problems. In this video, the psychologist Emma Kenny said that children as young as ten have committed suicide. It makes you wonder just how many excess, preventable deaths there are going to be. The Government’s response to Covid-19 is completely disproportionate – a point made by Bob Neill. In his speech, he commented:
“In deciding whether that can ever be acceptable in a country that believes in the rule of law, it is important to consider whether such measures are necessary, proportionate and supported by evidence. I accept that the Covid pandemic is an emergency of a kind that can make such draconian measures necessary. I regret to say, however, that I do not believe that the measures set out in the regulations are either proportionate or based on the evidence.”
There is no scientific basis for closing churches for public worship and for banning team sports. There is no scientific basis for closing restaurants and pubs which have made their premises Covid secure. The Government has not even published an impact assessment. It does not know, and frankly, does not seem to care how many lives it ruins in its response to a virus that kills very few people and which most people will not even realise they have. The average age of someone dying with or of Covid is 82. The average life expectancy in the UK is lower.
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, a reader ended by saying that “I think that most of my elderly friends would rather enjoy what life is left rather than isolate themselves. To those who say it is an unpleasant disease, I would say: tell me of a pleasant one. We all have to die of something.”
Indeed we do. Something which the Government, constantly viewing life through a Covid lens, appears to have forgotten.