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The assaults on our basic freedoms have to stop. We didn’t take back control from Brussels to hand it over ministers who can arbitrarily dictate how we lead our lives

By Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns

To a certain extent the Government has had no option but to make it up as it goes along. None of us have experience of a virus like Covid-19. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But the Government’s latest assaults on our liberties and freedoms must be challenged. 

We are no longer a Parliamentary Democracy. That stopped months ago. But we were told that it wouldn’t be for long. All we had to do was stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We did that in the tens of millions. Roads were deserted. All but essential shops were closed. Pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, and bowling alleys were closed. We could only leave our homes to buy essential goods. We could exercise for an hour a day, but at least the weather was getting better, although for those of us with gardens, lockdown was far more tolerable than for those who live in blocks of flats. 

If we thought it was bad then, we ain’t seen nothing yet. We are now about to enter the dark, cold months of the year. The sight of a setting sun around 3pm is not far away. And as we face that prospect, the Government is going to make our lives miserable. 

Prof. Chis Whitty clearly thinks that banning groups of more than six people is here to stay for some time. 

Forget going to a local fireworks display on 5th November. That’s cancelled. 

Forget getting together with your loved ones at Christmas - Christmas may as well be cancelled for many. 

All those children’s birthday parties are done for, despite the fact that most of the children invited to parties will be classmates who they see, learn, and play with every school day. 

If there are five in a household, it will be illegal for Mum, Dad, and little Johnny, Sarah, and Jemima to see both grandparents at the same time. Indoors or outdoors. It doesn’t make a jot of difference. But if you want to get around it, you could first meet with one grandparent and then meet with the other. That isn’t against the law, even though the absurdity of it is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain. 

You can work closely with eight colleagues at the office, but it will be illegal for all of you to have a drink together at the end of the working day. 

We also have the prospect of “Covid Marshals” patrolling around town and city centres. Modern-day Warden Hodges’, barking out orders: “Keep a safe distance. Don’t you know there’s a pandemic going on?” Just what we need as we try and get on with our lives. 

Matt Hancock is our equivalent of King John. He sits in his Victoria Street office issuing edicts affecting the lives of millions of people. He can’t even be bothered to go to the House of Commons to announce his edicts there. King John was eventually held to account by greedy barons who had had enough. But there isn’t a prospect of Hancock being properly held to account anytime soon. Parliament is barely functioning at the moment. It is not doing its job of holding the Government to account, so it is hardly surprising that Hancock is so dismissive of it. But it’s about time it did. 

Later this month, the Coronavirus Act can either be repealed or renewed. Democracy depends on the former. Our way of life depends on the former. Freedom depends on the former. We have always been a liberal democracy. We have never fallen for dictators like many other countries in continental Europe. We have preferred evolution over revolution, and we have exported Parliamentary Democracy across the world. 

The assaults on our basic freedoms have to stop. We didn’t take back control from Brussels to hand it over to ministers who can arbitrarily dictate how we lead our lives. Let those who are vulnerable shield if they want to. Let the young, who are at the least risk, lead their lives. And let grandparents decide if they want their houses full of children and grandchildren. It’s their choice. Let them make it. 

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