Worldwide, the coronavirus is delivering a double whammy: first to our physical health, then to our socioeconomic well-being. Enforced business closures and orders to practice “social distancing” are hurting communities no less than the obvious economic hits to production and wages. While all are alert to the medical effects of the coronavirus, too few are cognizant of its “social” impact. British MP Steve Baker is all too aware, however, and Britons should be grateful for a dissident voice in government.
Baker’s broadsheet banner reads, “Boris Johnson must end the absurd, dystopian and tyrannical lockdown.” Over at Breitbart London, James Delingpole’s euphoric relief speaks for many: “Finally, a Conservative MP who remembers what it means to be conservative!”
“The situation is appalling,” Baker writes of the statutory use of shut-down protocols that Parliament was prevented from fully vetting. Delingpole kindly shares the nub of Baker’s argument:
Millions of people in our country have been plunged into idleness at public expense and unemployment, facing financial and psychological hardship on a scale never seen before. Thousands of people have missed life-prolonging health appointments. Vulnerable people are isolated and domestic violence has soared. Soon will come the full economic impact on all our lives.
Likening such measures to a “police state,” former UK Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption is appalled. “The real problem is when human societies lose their freedom,” he told the BBC in late March. “It’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away, it’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection from some external threat.” And while that threat is “real,” it is often “exaggerated.” Regardless of its origins, the political ramifications are damning. Lord Sumption warns, “We have to recognize that this is how societies become despotisms.”
“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone,” Thomas Jefferson asserts in Notes on Virginia.
Britons are not about to cross that bridge just yet, fortunately. Breitbart reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will release a “comprehensive plan” for reopening sectors of British society this Sunday, “three days after the government is required to review the current lockdown restrictions.” Social distancing requirements will remain in place, and some businesses will enact “staggered” employment strategies and new workplace procedures to accommodate employees. Students, too, will slowly return to school.
Nevertheless, the social scene will remain grim. Certain government ministers, like Michael Gove, remain overly cautious and link ending the lockdown and complete relaxation to the discovery and production of a coronavirus vaccine — perhaps up to a year away.
Can anyone wait a further twelvemonth before cashiering the political consequences the coronavirus has unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace? Thank goodness, therefore, for politicians like Steve Baker, with the courage to stand up and hold their governments to account. May his lead be an example to others.
In my previous posting, I queried if the European Research Group, a Euroskeptic caucus of British MPs, would “transform itself into a ‘ginger group’ to hold the administration to account for ‘minimal government, maximal liberty.’” Baker is a member and former ERG chairman. May we expect more action from ERG on restoring British civil liberties? Stay tuned.
As always, though, Britons jealous of their natural rights and freedoms cannot sit back and expect politicians to bear the burden alone. With rights come responsibilities; or, looked at from another perspective, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51 — the “governed” versus their “governors.”
In the daily struggle to preserve individuals’ independence from political subservience, citizens of the United States stand full-square with their British counterparts. Perhaps the draftsman of American independence said it best. “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone,” Thomas Jefferson asserts in Notes on Virginia. “The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.”
Stephen MacLean, a freelancer based in Nova Scotia,writes the Brexit Diary for the New York Sun.