Last Wednesday, MPs were asked to approve regulations consigning the whole of England to a lockdown lasting from 5 November to 2 December, in an effort to control the COVID-19 virus.
When considering whether to impose another lockdown, the starting point must be to ask in what circumstances it can ever be right to deprive law-abiding citizens of the liberty that everyone in this country takes for granted. Liberty is precious and should not be lightly constrained.
The last lockdown had a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of huge numbers of people and on the economic wellbeing of the nation.
To suppress the virus, the Government has imposed localised restrictions on cities such as Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester. These appear to have been effective. England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, acknowledged last week that the reproduction number in Liverpool could already be below 1; that assessment is shared by such experts as Professor Carl Heneghan, of Oxford University, and Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London.
Against that background, it is hard to see the justification for a second national lockdown, when localised lockdowns appear to have been successful.
The Government’s decision was based upon the advice of the SAGE advisory group, including Professor Whitty and the chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance. It is, however, clear that the data used to support the case for a lockdown was obsolete. The current number of fatal cases was in reality considerably less than appeared on the charts produced by the Government’s experts.
This is not to say that any number of deaths is tolerable. However, if the Government is asking Parliament to take the extreme step of depriving the entire population of England of their civil liberties, it should provide compelling evidence of the need to do so.
I could not in good conscience support depriving so many of my fellow citizens of their freedoms on the basis of such unreliable evidence. I would prefer to see the continuation of the localised approach, and keep it under constant review. That is why I voted against the measure.