In a watershed moment for lockdown sceptics, Prime Minister candidate Rishi Sunak has said his opposition to lockdown is a reason that Conservative members should vote for him to lead the country.
In an interview with Andrew Marr on LBC, the former Chancellor said that last December he cut short an overseas trip and flew back to London to intervene and “stop us sleepwalking into a national lockdown”.
“We were hours away from a press conference that was going to lock this country down again because of Omicron,” he said. “And I came back and fought very hard against the system, because I believe that would be the wrong thing for this country, with all the damage it would have done to businesses, to children’s education, to people’s lives.”
It is the first time a leading politician, whether from the Government or opposition, has suggested that being opposed to lockdown is a reason to vote for him or favour him for office. It is indicative of a significant shift in public opinion about Covid restrictions, particularly that he felt able to be so bold in trumpeting his opposition to lockdown and his role in defeating it without a need to couch it in careful language about taking the virus seriously and being cautious. That his interviewer, Andrew Marr, didn’t challenge him on it is further indication of how opinion has changed. This is despite a number of recent high profile calls for restrictions to be reintroduced, most recently by the editors of the BMJ and HSJ.
It offers hope that the future lies with politicians willing to turn their back on the ruinous and illiberal restrictions of 2020 and 2021.
Here is what Rishi said in full.
I’ll tell you what I was doing in December, though, because I still remember it quite vividly. You know what I did in December was fly back from a Government trip I was on overseas and I flew back to this country to stop us sleepwalking into a national lockdown. Because we were hours away from a press conference that was going to lock this country down again because of Omicron. And I came back and fought very hard against the system, because I believe that would be the wrong thing for this country, with all the damage it would have done to businesses, to children’s education, to people’s lives.
That’s really important in December Andrew because we were hours away, we were hours away from a national lockdown, but I came back and challenged the system, and said this is not right and we don’t need to do this and I’m glad I won the argument. But it should give people some confidence that in the same way I stood up for Brexit, in the same way I did that, I am prepared to push hard and fight for the things that I believe in even when that’s difficult.
Watch it here (from 28:45).