Allison Pearson has written a terrific piece for today’s Telegraph about how vindicated she feels as a lockdown sceptic by Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages. I know how she feels. Here is an extract:
I was spied on, reported, publicly denounced, called a murderer, banned and shadow banned. At times, it felt like we were living in East Germany under the Stasi. Our blessed, free country had become an island of hysterics, snitches and obsessive Dettol wipers. Driving in my car one morning to take the dog for a walk in woods two miles up the road, I thought, “Am I allowed to do this?”
Am I allowed to do this? Dear God. Where had Britain gone?
And now, vindication. So much that we “conspiracy theorists” suspected turns out to be true, from the Wuhan Covid-19 lab leak (“racist” back in 2020 but now highly likely says the FBI) to Matt Hancock’s imaginary “protective ring” around care homes to the brutal collateral reckoning for lockdown. Vindication is bittersweet, alas, because you cannot mend all the people they broke (over a million children with mental health problems, millions more awaiting hospital treatment – where do you begin?) nor bring back those who died without a loved one to gentle their passing.
And don’t tell me thousands more would have died if we hadn’t locked down because thousands more are dying because we had lockdown. Men and women in their thirties, forties and fifties with families; fit, younger people whom the virus could not harm, now presenting with incurable cancers. Will they be putting their names on the National Covid Memorial wall? They should.
Human beings have an astonishing capacity to forget, especially when something is embarrassing to look back on or when it makes us feel a bit stupid.
“The tingle of a remembered shame,” George Eliot called it. But we should force ourselves to remember, I think. The Lockdown Files, drawing on the WhatsApp messages vouchsafed to the superb investigative journalist Isabel Oakeshott by Matt Hancock, the former health secretary of state, and published this week by The Daily Telegraph, are an extraordinary aide-memoire to the madness we all lived through. They also provide a remarkable insight into the behaviour of those running the country at the time. What a bunch of arrogant, clueless, emotionally stunted authoritarians they turn out to be for the most part.
The biggest shock revealed by the Telegraph scoop is quite how often our leaders, who always claimed to be guided by ‘the science’, were making decisions on the hoof.
Astonished, we read conversation after conversation where, it becomes clear, that decisions affecting the suffering of the elderly entombed in care homes, of children shut out of schools and playgrounds is filtered through the prism of something called ‘Comms’.
So, when Boris Johnson asks his top team whether masks in schools are necessary, Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, replies: “No strong reason against in corridors etc, and no strong reason for. The downsides are in the classroom because of the potential to interfere with teaching.”
But Lee Cain, the PM’s director of Comms, is not happy. Scotland has just confirmed masks in schools so England is under pressure to follow suit lest Nicola Sturgeon gain the advantage. “Why do we want to have the fight on not having masks in certain school settings?” asks Cain.
Oh, I don’t know, Lee. Maybe because imposing an unevidenced and alienating NPI (non-pharmaceutical intervention) on vulnerable adolescents is a really bad idea? Perhaps because forcing children into futile masks for protection against a virus they largely don’t need protecting against is just a repugnant piece of political power play. Perhaps because, with their young worlds turned upside-down, the reassurance of seeing smiling faces would have been really nice. Finally, as that WhatsApp conclave of geniuses somehow failed to foresee, permitting masks in school corridors would be the gateway to the teaching unions demanding (and getting) masks in classrooms.
(While the big boys’ club was throwing kids under the devolution bus, a group of mums who founded an organisation called Us For Them to stick up for children’s rights, were fighting furiously to get the school mask mandates withdrawn under threat of pre-action letters. They succeeded, twice. So often during the pandemic, it took the defiance of ordinary men and women – parents, publicans, restaurateurs, shop owners, small business people – to restore some sense to the senseless edicts.)
Worth reading in full.