The Government’s instincts are anti-freedom

by Matthew Eason

The government is considering allowing pubs to block people from entry if they have not received the Covid vaccine. They are only in the initial stages of deciding whether they will follow through on this policy, but it has unsurprisingly provoked a severe backlash from Conservative backbenchers.

Boris let this potential policy announcement slip at this week’s Liaison Committee appearance where he suggested that pub landlords would be able to require drinkers to need vaccines to be let into their establishments.

Boris has tried to row back from that idea as much as possible since his appearance, but the damage is already done. Moreover, we all know that once Covid ideas like this one have been trailed or leaked it is rare that the government actually decides to not implement the policy.

Hot on the heels of this leaked idea of papers for pubs the government has pushed through the renewal of the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act for another 6 months. This is despite the government’s own roadmap to the end of lockdown allegedly ending in only 3 months. It is even more concerning that a further renewal of the most serious restrictions in October until March 2022 was not ruled out by the Government. These include sweeping powers of detention.

This is on top of the government bringing forward an expansion of police powers to restrict protests. It would appear that our Conservative government – allegedly a party of individual freedoms – has decided to jump onto the bandwagon of deciding that freedom is no longer a primary concern and that the government always knows best.

Of course, I support measures to control the spread of Covid-19. Lockdown is a necessary evil of this process and it does indeed appear that locking down earlier with tighter travel restrictions would have been a better option than what SAGE decided but hindsight is always 20/20. Moreover, we must do everything we can to get the population vaccinated as fast as possible. People are free to not take the vaccine, but you would really hope that the vast majority of UK citizens are not foolish enough to reject the completely safe vaccine and will do their duty to help protect the rest of the country.

However, this does not excuse the government’s decision to continue to hold the emergency powers beyond their own projected timescale. If the government had sought an extension to the point where their roadmap anticipated the end of lockdown it would have made sense. If necessary, a further short term extension could then have been sought at the appropriate time.

There has been a rise in high-profile protests in the past couple of years and there has been a clear double standard between how certain protests have been treated by the police. However, the recently proposed Police Bill has certain aspects that seem heavy handed and unnecessary such as “serious annoyance” potentially carrying up to 10 years in jail. What is “serious annoyance” and who will be determining it? There will be cases determined by those members of the police force who have been aggressively recording and chasing non-crimes on social media.

It is right that this country has the right to protest and yet it also has restrictions to prevent protests becoming overly disruptive. It is just unfortunate that the government’s instincts seem to be erring too far in the wrong direction rather than focusing on common sense and actually applying the same standards to all those involved.

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