By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
This week was supposed to be ‘Law and Order’ week for the Government. It started on Monday morning with Boris Johnson dressed in a police uniform on an early morning raid with Merseyside Police. Just four days later, his future as Prime Minister hangs in the balance after the worst week of his premiership so far.
There is a stench emanating from Downing Street. It’s not just the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to Covid restrictions. That is bad enough, and has already claimed one scalp. What the British people cannot stand is hypocrisy. We were told to forsake a normal Christmas last year, but it appears it was business as usual in Downing Street. But let’s park that to one side, as egregious as it is.
The Government was praised by me and millions of others for having the courage to (eventually) ditch Covid restrictions during the summer. He was criticised by those addicted to lockdowns, but he held his nerve. Yes, Covid spread more rapidly throughout England, but we didn’t witness a spike in hospitalisations and deaths. Covid infected young people who barely noticed that they were infected. The vaccination programme has been a huge success and the vast majority of those who are most vulnerable to the worst that Covid has to offer have received a booster jab. I received mine last Sunday.
The Omicron variant appears to be mild. No-one in the world who has been infected with this new variant has died. The World Health Organisation has told us not to panic. The evidence from South Africa tells us not to panic. Even Joe Biden has said that we shouldn’t panic. But during a press conference on Wednesday that is exactly what Boris Johnson did, unless he announced more restrictions to our freedoms as a ruse to deflect other negative headlines: the so-called ‘dead cat’ strategy.
It is estimated that the restrictions he announced will cost the economy £4 billion a month. Businesses in the hospitality sector are already reporting cancellations in what should be the busiest time of the year for them. There is no support for them now - they just have to take it on the chin. During the traditionally lean months of January and February, these businesses may close.
Evidence from Scotland, for example, highlights that Covid passes do not reduce the spread of the virus. We know that even if you are fully vaccinated you can still catch Covid and can still pass it on to others. A vaccine protects the person who receives it. I didn’t get vaccinated in some selfless act to protect others. I got vaccinated to protect me. Covid passes are illiberal - I will not share my personal medical information with anyone unless they are treating me for a medical condition. Even though I am fully vaccinated, I will not enter any venue which demands to see proof. We are not a ‘papers please’ country. England shouldn’t and mustn’t move in that direction.
Boris Johnson has suggested that we have a national conversation about mandatory vaccinations. I will happily start one: the answer is no. The idea of forcibly injecting someone against their will fills me with revulsion. In the words of GP Dr Renee Hoenderkamp, "I'm 100% against mandatory vaccines. It goes against every medical ethic that I've ever been trained to." It is something which we have never done, and frankly, it plays into the anti-vaxxers hands.
According to ONS data, in the week beginning 15 November 2021, the percentage of adults that would have tested positive for antibodies is estimated to be 95.3% in England; 93.9% in Wales; 91.6% in Northern Ireland; and 95.0% in Scotland. We were told earlier this year that the roadmap to freedom was irreversible. Instead, the Government has performed an emergency stop and has engaged reverse gear. If now is not the time to learn to live with Covid, the time will never come.
Boris Johnson doesn’t have many allies in Parliament. His relationship with Conservative MPs is contractual: as long as he is electorally popular, they will continue to support him. In a recent opinion poll, more than half of the electorate thinks that Boris should resign as Prime Minister. He is rapidly (for a number of reasons) losing support from his backbenchers. In recent weeks he has marched them up to the top of the hill only to change his mind and make them look like fools. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only way he will get his Covid pass policy through the House of Commons next week will be because of opposition votes. This is unsustainable.
Two years ago, Boris Johnson appeared to be a man with libertarian instincts. Where has that Boris gone? The Number Ten operation is chaotic; he is not showing leadership; he is not across the detail; he is alienating the public and members of his party; he is pushing unpopular green and nanny state policies; he is presiding over a fiscally incontinent government; he is not behaving like a Conservative. Unless Boris takes a firm grip and changes his ways, he will not be Prime Minister for very long.