“As things stand, we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures” – Andy Preston, Mayor of Middlesbrough, 1st October 2020.
Never would the mayor of post-industrial and market town in North Yorkshire had dreamed of making a statement of such renown, magnitude, and rebellion. Just a few days ago Mr Preston stood in stark defiance of the government and loudly declared that he is prepared to defy the local lockdown measures for Middlesborough. He acted in an effort to protect the jobs and well-being of his town against a measure introduced “based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance.” How tenaciously he stands against the force of government remains to be seen, but this abject defiance is a strong sign of progress. For the first time, a person in a position of authority has stood up against the government’s draconian and flawed measures, and finally imposed a limit on their exceedingly growing power.
This is not the first sign of progress. There is a growing growl of unrest from the House of Commons as its members are desperate to protect their people from the damaging economic and well-being costs of lockdown.42 Tory MPs have backed an amendment tabled by the 1922 Committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady to force a vote in parliament on any future COVID-19 restrictions. For the first time in six months, there are signs of democracy taking the reins of governance back from the misguided paternalism of the Nanny State; the very men and women we elected to represent us have finally begun to defend our rights in Parliament against those wishing to restrict our freedoms based on inaccurate and illogical science.
Challenges to the government’s “best efforts” to manage the virus are becoming more frequent. The Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin has requested that the 10pm curfew on pubs, which has been “another devastating blow to the beer and pub sector”, be reviewed every three weeks. Many MPs such as Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood and Shadow justice secretary David Lammy have been consistently criticising the 10pm curfew, as it’s misguided efforts actually encourage people to gather in less social distanced situations whilst also harming pubs. Criticism of the 10pm curfew has come from all sides of Parliament; Tory MP Philip Davies has told Health Secretary Matt Hancock to ”start acting like a Conservative” whilst Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, and Lib Dem Mp Daisy Cooper also criticise the restriction. It appears Boris Johnson has done a ‘Theresa May’ and managed to achieve the almost unthinkable of uniting the Tories, the Lib Dems, and Labour. It may be a fragile alliance, but at last, the country is no longer blindly following what the government dictates. At last, the detriment caused by lockdown is being realised. At last, we have political leaders questioning the right of the government to impose such restrictions.
We still have a long way to go. The government is still freely impinging upon our liberties without the sweeping and uproarious objection that should be made and the few cries made are easily played down as “divisive language”. The government leans on loose definition of tragedy, false heroism, and poorly gilded valour to consolidate powers which members of their own party are starting to realise have been taken without even a modicum of due cause. However, time is running out for Bojo, Hancock, Gove, et al. As a nation, most people were prepared to band together for a short while to conquer a deadly virus. We were prepared to sacrifice our liberties temporarily for the ‘greater good.’ Now, we are cognisant of the fact the we are in this for the long-haul, that this virus will, in fact, not be defeated on the other side of a two week lockdown, that it is not immediately conquerable. The end of restrictions is not imminent, and many people, frankly, have had enough.
We have fought countless wars to protect and preserve our liberties, and yet now we are happy to give them so easily away in fear of inevitable death. Let us not take our freedoms for granted anymore. Instead, let us fight for our rights that make life worth living. Although we may be making long over-due steps in the right direction, it is not enough. We must now build upon these steps that have been made by a small few and relentlessly challenge the unfounded measures infringing upon our freedoms. As Patrick Henry once said: “Give me liberty, or give me death” – or in Mr Preston’s words “we defy the Government.”
Olivia Groom & Alexandre Denizé
The views in this article are the authors’ own and may not reflect the opinions of The Liberty Club