I Was Pilloried for Being a Lockdown Sceptic – Now It’s Clear I Was Right
Suddenly everyone is pretending they were never into lockdowns all that much
At the end of the Second World War, Gaullists and Communists insisted that the majority of the French people had played a part in the Resistance. Actual figures for those who actively opposed the Nazis vary between 400,000 and 75,000. Something not entirely dissimilar is happening now as the Government prepares to lift Plan B restrictions next week, and fervent advocates of lockdown try to distance themselves from its dire consequences. Scientists whose mathematical models persuaded anxious ministers to impose drastic restrictions on human freedom not even seen during the Blitz are suddenly keen to emphasise that these were merely worst-case “scenarios”, not something on which you’d want to base actual policy.
Did they mention that at the time, I wonder? Or has the Eddie-the-Eagle reliability of their predictions given rise to a certain hasty revisionism? Sorry, that’s unfair. Eddie the Eagle never predicted up to 6,000 Covid deaths a day this winter (actual number: 250).
Michael Gove, the Cabinet’s most hawkish lockdown supporter, admitted last week to the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs that he was a “bedwetter” who got things badly wrong (unlike Boris) when he called for further restrictions over Christmas. Wes Streeting, the shadow Health Secretary, now says that we must never lock down again without explaining why the useless, No-opposition Opposition party not only failed to challenge any of the destructive rules, but continually called for them to be stricter.
Cracks are even opening up in the wonkish façade of the Behavioural Insights Team, the so-called Nudge Unit, which bears much of the responsibility for terrifying the British people into complying with measures so cruel that I predict future generations will refuse to believe we ever allowed them to happen. Simon Ruda, co-founder of the team, told Unherd: “In my mind, the most egregious and far-reaching mistake made in responding to the pandemic has been the level of fear willingly conveyed on the public.” Eh? It’s a bit like the kid who drops a banger in the tin of fireworks, claiming he never meant to start a fire. Honest, guv!
For those who were part of the lockdown Resistance, it is gratifying, but also oddly unbearable, to see the people who attacked us admitting that the “misinformation” we were accused of spreading 18 months ago turns out to be remarkably close to the truth. I am not a particularly rebellious person, and certainly not a brave one, but if I encounter any kind of injustice, my inner Welsh dragon starts breathing fire. I can’t help it. During the lockdowns, Idris the Pearson dragon seldom stopped fuming at the thousands of harrowing stories which readers shared with me. Like the lecturer who emailed about one of his students, a glorious young man, who fell to his death after hiding on the roof when police raided his house because a small party there breached lockdown regulations and the lad didn’t want to get into trouble. He paid with his young life for the stupid rules that were made – and repeatedly broken, as we now know – by middle-aged men in Westminster.
When the Resistance dared to suggest that some lockdown measures were disproportionate, crazy and unsupported by science, let alone common sense, we were reviled. That is no exaggeration. I regret to say your columnist was called, in no particular order, a Covid denier (I nursed my entire family through the virus), a granny killer (I didn’t see my own mother for 18 months) and a spreader of disinformation. When I protested on social media that putting padlocks on the gates of playgrounds was a terrible idea, back came a fusillade of vicious accusations: “You want people to die!”
To question the official narrative that nothing mattered except keeping people safe from Covid was heresy. Witches like me had to be burnt at the stake before we could spread our subversive ideas to all Sage-fearing people. Funny how things turn out, isn’t it? It is now widely acknowledged that the NHS was never overwhelmed (that’s why the Nightingales were shut without being used). And even those prophets of doom at the BBC finally acknowledged this week that half of “Covid deaths” since Christmas are not actually “from” Covid but “with” Covid.
That is not to deny that some of us came up with occasional wrong answers. I certainly did, although I will be proud for the rest of my life that my Planet Normal co-pilot, Liam Halligan, and I had the guts to keep asking the questions.
Admittedly, the lockdown tragedy did have its moments of unintentional comedy. Who can forget the immortal exchange between Sky News’s Kay Burley and the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock?
Burley: “How long will the ban on casual sex last?”
Hancock [serious face]: “Sex is OK in an established relationship, but people need to be careful.”
Careful, unless you were the Secretary of State for Health, of course, in which case sex outside your established relationship was fine and dandy because, well, it was with a colleague. What No 10 would doubtless call a “work event”.
How did we listen to that bonkers, ahem, advice with a straight face? With the UK set to be one of the first countries to come out of the pandemic, I thought it was worth starting to compile a list of the most lunatic measures. Lest we forget.
Some of my followers on Twitter offered these. I’m sure you will have your own.
1. “Church yesterday. Wafer but no wine for communion. Service followed by wine and biscuits to mark the vicar’s retirement.”
2. “The one where you could work in a control room with multiple people for 12 hours then be breaking the law if you sat on a bench drinking coffee with one of them.”
3. “Forming a socially distanced queue at the airport before being sardined into a packed plane with the same people, two hours later.”
4. “Swings in our local park put into quarantine or removed – even though children were barely at risk from Covid as swings were outside.”
5. “No butterfly stroke allowed while swimming.”
6. “Pubs with no volume on the TV.”
7. “Not allowing people to sit on a park bench. My elderly aunt kept fit by walking her dog every day, but she needed to rest. Since that rule, she stopped going out. She went downhill and died last April.”
8. “I got thrown out of a McDonald’s for refusing to stand on a yellow circle. I was the only customer.”
9. “Yellow and black hazard tape across public seats and benches outdoors.”
10. “I’m stuck in the infant in-patient ward with my nine-day-old sick baby, post C-section, unable to look after him. My husband (same household) is not allowed to be here with us. I’m having panic attacks, which is preventing me from producing milk for the baby.”
11. “I was advised by a council worker to keep my dog on a lead because people might stop to pet her and congregate too closely.”
12. “My bed-ridden mother-in-law with dementia in a care home where only ‘window visits’ were allowed. Mum was on the first floor. Had to wait for someone to die on the ground floor so she could be moved down there and finally seen by her family. After 12 months.”
13. “Two people allowed to go for a walk on a golf course. If they took clubs and balls, it was a criminal offence.”
14. “The one-way system in my local pub, which meant that to visit the loo you had to make a circular journey through the building, ensuring you passed every table.”
15. “My dad was failing in his care home. We weren’t allowed to visit him until the doctor judged he was end-of-life care because of one positive case in the home. We had 24 hours with him before he passed.”
16. “People falling down the escalator on the Underground because they were frightened of touching the handrails – even though you couldn’t get Covid from surfaces.”
17. “Rule of Six. My wife and I have three children so we could meet either my wife’s mum or her dad, but not both at the same time.”
18. “Nobody solved an airborne virus transmission with a one-way system in Tesco.”
19. “How about not being allowed for several months – by law – to play tennis outdoors with my own wife? We’d have been further apart from each other on court than in our own home.”
20. “On two occasions, I was stopped and questioned while taking flowers to my mother’s grave. One time, a police officer even asked for my mum’s name. No idea what he would have done with that information.”
21. “Birmingham City Council cutting the grass in two-metre strips – so the weeds could social-distance?”
22. “Northampton police checking supermarket baskets for non-essential items.”
23. “All the children at school were asked to bring in a favourite book, but it had to be quarantined for two days before being ‘exposed’ to the rest of the class.”
24. “Dr Hilary on Good Morning Britain advising people to wear masks on the beach – and that it would be a good idea to swim in the sea with one on, too.”
25. “Gyms and exercise classes forced to close, but fast-food outlets remained open.”
26. “They taped off every other urinal in my workplace.”
27. “Sign on the inside of work bathroom door: close toilet lid before flushing to prevent plumes of Covid-19.”
28. “We held our carol service in a local park, but had to send out invitations by word of mouth, rather than email, so we’d have plausible deniability if stopped by police.”
29. “Having to wear a disposable apron and gloves while visiting my mother in a care home, while she was on the other side of a floor-to-ceiling Perspex wall.”
30. “Scotch eggs. You couldn’t drink in a pub unless you also had a ‘substantial’ meal.”
31. “Testing of totally healthy people and making them stop work based on a questionable positive test result, when they have no symptoms, creating NHS staff shortages, cancelled operations. Things that, you know, actually kill people…”
32. “My son works in the NHS on the Covid ward and could go to the local Sainsbury’s for his lunch. But when we were ill and isolating at home, he had to isolate as well – for 10 days.”
33. “My eight-year-old granddaughter telling me they weren’t allowed to sing Happy Birthday at school for her friend’s ninth birthday.”
34. “It was illegal to see your parents in their back garden, but legal to meet them in a pub garden with lots of other people.”
35. “I had to abandon my weekly choir practice – but my husband was allowed to sing as a spectator at a football match.”
36. “They removed all the bins in Regent’s Park and Hampstead Heath.”
37. “Having a flask of tea or coffee on a walk meant it was classified as a picnic – and thus verboten.”
38. “Bring your own biro to a dental appointment to fill in a form declaring you do not have Covid.”
39. “My neighbour refused to hang the washing out to dry – they thought the sheets might catch Covid and infect them.”
40. “My 12-year-old had to sit alone at her grandfather’s funeral – her first experience of one – even though we drove there together and hugged outside. There were three officials watching us all to ensure we didn’t break the rules.”
41. “We could only go outdoors once a day for exercise.”
42. “In pubs, wearing a mask to get from the door to the table, and the table to the toilet – but not wearing a mask while sitting down.”
43. “People in a Tier 3 area walking two minutes down the road for a pint in Tier 2.”
44. “In Wales, supermarkets were allowed to stay open, but the aisles containing children’s clothing and books were taped off. Because buying a baby’s jumper is so much more perilous than picking up a pint of milk.”
45. “The pallbearers all but threw my mother’s coffin in the grave and ran away. They had her down as a Covid death, but she died of cancer.”
46. “The one-way systems around supermarkets that led to people being forced into parts they didn’t want to be in, making them spend more time in the shop – while Covid simply circulated over the top of the shelves.”
47. “Children abandoned by social services and left in the clutches of terrible parents.”
48. “Police breaking into our student house and pinning my girlfriend by the neck up against the wall. I said: ‘This is England – you’re not allowed to do that.’”
49. “Residents of care homes forgetting who they were during the long months when family were not allowed to visit them.”
50. “Dying alone. How many died alone? How many?”
Source: The Telegraph