BY BEN IRVINE
This is an essay about the driving role that public sector unions have played during the coronapanic debacle in Britain. It’s a long essay, but I hope you’ll stay with me, because the topic is extremely important.
I’m going to reveal to you some shocking incidents that you may not know about. For instance, you may not know that the first lockdown was set in motion the day after the largest teaching union threatened unilateral schools closures. Or that numerous teaching unions refused to return to work during the first lockdown. Or that, in the summer of 2020, a transport workers union threatened to strike unless the government mandated masks on trains. Or that, in the same summer, a retail workers union threatened to strike unless the government mandated masks in shops. Or that the third lockdown happened the day after there was a colossal teaching mutiny with hundreds of thousands of teachers refusing to return to work in January 2021. Or that the reason why children have been cruelly masked in schools was that mutinous teaching unions demanded it. And these are just some of the known incidents of unions making demands or threats; I will also reveal a huge amount of circumstantial evidence on this matter.
But before I start talking about the unions in detail, I want to provide some background context.
The first thing I want to point out is something that everyone, on every side of this Covid debate agrees on. During the coronapanic debacle, the government has acted indecisively and indeed capriciously. Boris and his ministers have done countless U-turns, and this has left the public in a state of confusion and exasperation. The impression you get from all this U-turning is a government that’s not really been in charge. They’ve been buffeted this way and that. Reacting rather than leading.
There are two main theories as to why this has been the case. On the left, the most popular theory is that Boris is in hock to the world of business. Socialists seem to think that Boris never does enough to protect us from Covid 19. They say he prefer profits over people, that his powerful friends in the business sector lobby him to prioritise the economy over health. The socialists believe that they themselves have been the only thing that has stood between the status quo and Armageddon. If they hadn’t kept urging Boris to put draconian virus-control measures in place, the socialists allege, Boris would have let the virus rip, and there would been death on a colossal scale. According to this theory, Boris U-turns because the socialists keep making him do the sensible thing.
But there is another theory. This alternative theory is popular among lockdown sceptics. There are many who argue that the whole coronapanic debacle was deliberate – that it was planned from the start, by way of an international conspiracy. There are different suggestions as to who exactly the conspirators were. The Chinese Communist Party, the World Health Organisation, the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates, Big Pharmaceutical Companies, or perhaps all of the above. But whoever was responsible, the general idea is the same; that the Covid 19 outbreak was not just a pandemic but a plandemic. In other words: it was all planned. The virus was deliberately engineered and deliberately released, with the world’s governments always planning to follow China’s example and lock down. Naturally, you may wonder why anyone would want to unleash such mayhem. The lockdown sceptics who believe there was a global plan – let’s call them plandemic theorists – argue that the conspirators were trying to do a “Great Reset”. This is a phrase that originated in the work of a German academic called Klaus Schwab. Schwab argued that nations should cooperate to shut the world’s economy down and start again in a greener, more sustainable fashion. Supposedly, the Covid 19 outbreak was planned in order to do just this very thing – a Great Reset to make the entire world economy greener.
This Plandemic theory offers an explanation as to why Boris has done so many U-turns. Plandemic theorists say that the conspirators behind the Great Reset have been giving Boris instructions all the way through the plandemic. And when those instructions have conflicted with his own decisions, he’s simply reversed those decisions and done what he’s told. Some plandemic theorists go as far as to allege that the U-turns themselves were part of the plan. They say that Boris was deliberately trying to sow confusion, to demoralise the public, to make them feel out of control by asking them to do one thing and then the opposite, with seemingly no rhyme or reason to the instructions. The plandemic theorists call this a “psy-op” – a psychological operation to subdue the public while the Great Reset was in progress.
Personally, I find the plandemic theory deeply implausible, indeed ridiculous. For one thing, I don’t believe that a conspiracy on this grand scale, involving so many officials and politicians in so many countries, would have been possible without someone leaking the news, whether before or during the pandemic. I also don’t think the coronapanic debacle has looked anything like a Great Reset. As economies have reopened, they’ve carried on more or less exactly as before, from an environmental perspective. And some governments didn’t shut their economies down in the first place, or they shut them down and then admitted it was a mistake. Plandemic theorists often say, “it’s been the same the world over”, but this is simply not true. There have been similarities the world over, but every country has reacted differently to the coronapanic. The one thing every country has in common is that there was a global panic. A global panic about Covid 19 was bound to have some similar effects across nations, especially when governments were under so much pressure from their own citizens. With a few exceptions, governments didn’t want to be the odd one out. They didn’t want to be seen to be allowing millions of their citizens to die. They copied China’s lockdown because public demand for lockdown spread as the panic spread.
I’ll return to this plandemic theory later. But let me note something else first, something very important. By focusing on the plandemic theory, lockdown sceptics have overlooked the first theory: that the reason Boris has kept doing all these U-turns is that socialists have kept pressurising him into it. You can believe this theory without being a socialist. I am not a socialist. I do not endorse the rhetoric that the socialists use to describe Boris’s approach to Covid 19. He is not some sort of plutocratic monster who thinks money is more important than people’s lives. But I do believe he has been listening to the socialists all the way through the coronapanic debacle. Indeed, I believe he has been capitulating to them. And I believe that nothing is more obvious, or more important. Understanding the role of socialists in the coronapanic debacle is key to unlocking this whole sorry mess.
What I am going to do in this essay is reconstruct the events of the last 18 months and show how socialist public sector unions have been pushing Boris into repeated U-turns. Although I think it’s obvious that this has been the general dynamic, there are some astonishing revelations when you delve into the details. And once you’ve taken in all the details, the whole landscape of the coronapanic debacle is transformed: you realise that almost every step on Britain’s path into Covid lunacy has been driven by socialists. No socialism, no coronapanic debacle.
So let’s go back to the start. In late January 2020, the Chinese government locked down Wuhan. This alerted the world to the fact that a new coronavirus was on the loose. What followed was a gradual ramping up of fear, with the media playing a big role. A trickle of scare stories grew into a tsunami as the media warned of mass death on a scale not seen since the Spanish Flu a century ago. Of course, the truth was rather different. The virus was basically just a new version of a cold. The average age of death from Covid 19 was soon calculated to be around 82. This is slightly older than the normal average age of death of around 81. Old, frail and sick people have always been vulnerable to respiratory viruses such as colds and flus. In this sense, Covid 19 was nothing out of the ordinary.
Even the scare stories indicated this, if you looked closely enough. Much was made of an outbreak on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship which was carrying thousands of tourists, mainly pensioners. The ship was quarantined with everyone on board from late January until March 1. It was like a petri dish for the virus. However, out of a total of around three thousand seven hundred passengers and crew, only 14 people died. Indeed, most of the people onboard didn’t become infected, and most of the people who did become infected didn’t have any symptoms. Moreover, the youngest who died was 60. The rest were in their 70 and 80s. The outbreak on the Diamond Princess pointed towards a flu-like condition, nothing worse. There were no grounds for panic.
Unfortunately, at this point, not many people were keeping cool and looking at the known facts. One person who was, however, was our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. On March 3, he told the press that he was continuing to shake hands with people. He said he’d been to a hospital where there were some coronavirus patients and he’d shaken hands with everybody. He was clearly playing down the threat. Dominic Cummings, his former adviser, has said that, at this stage, Boris thought Covid 19 was a scare story, like Swine Flu. He thought it was a panic that would blow over. Cummings has even suggested that Boris wanted to be infected with Covid 19 live on TV to show that the virus was “nothing to be scared of”. Boris’s science advisers who flanked him in press conferences were merely recommending that people washed their hands; no talk of lockdowns yet.
This relaxed attitude was reflected in the government’s official policy in the first weeks of the outbreak. The government pursued a “herd immunity” strategy. The plan was to let the virus spread fast through the young and healthy population, so that later in the year, during the more dangerous months of the winter, the virus wouldn’t be able to spread as readily, because most people had already acquired immunity through the initial spread. Meanwhile, vulnerable people – old and sick people – could stay out of harm’s way for a while, if they wanted to. The sooner the virus had spread through the young and healthy population, the sooner the older people could emerge from hiding. A sensible plan; keep the economy open and keep the vulnerable people safe. And indeed, this is how things normally work when it comes to respiratory viruses. Old people don’t normally go to nightclubs. They stay indoors drinking Horlicks and watching TV.
Admittedly, Boris never publicly came out and said that he was pursuing herd immunity. The closest he came was in a TV interview on March 5 when he said herd immunity was “one of the theories” the government was looking at. Famously, he said: “Perhaps you could take it on the chin, take it all in one go, and allow the disease, as it were, to move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures”. But we know for sure that herd immunity was not just one theory; it was official government policy. Dominic Cummings has confirmed this. Also, in early March the Italian PM told Channel 4 that herd immunity was Boris’s policy. And, as late as March 12, the government’s chief science advisor Patrick Vallance was on TV and on the radio elaborating and defending the herd immunity strategy.
Alas, we know that this resolve didn’t last. During the first few weeks of March, the idea gradually took hold that Covid 19 patients would “overwhelm the NHS” if the government pursued a herd immunity strategy. There were doctors, scientists, campaigners, politicians, journalists and regular members of the public repeating this warning like a mantra. It soon became an entrenched principle; allowing Covid 19 to spread was unacceptable because the NHS could be overwhelmed. Boris and his colleagues tried to play down this notion too – offering the usual platitudes about the NHS being the best health service in the world, and well prepared, etc. But note: this defence of the NHS was already a sign that the government was caving in, because they were not challenging the idea that protecting the NHS was the be all and end all. What the government should have said is this: an overwhelmed NHS, or indeed a potentially overwhelmed NHS, is no excuse for confiscating people’s freedom. It’s no excuse for stopping family members from seeing each other. It’s no excuse for destroying businesses. It’s no excuse for blighting the lives of young people and children who were virtually invulnerable to Covid 19. Additionally, the government should have said this: apart from causing catastrophic damage, lockdown won’t make any difference to anything, because whether or not there’s a lockdown, sick people will stay in their houses. But hardly anybody made these rational points because the idea of overwhelming the NHS rapidly became a taboo – an unthinkable outcome.
As this NHS obsession gripped Britain, and the panic grew, Boris’s government caved in further. Their messaging became more equivocal. Not so much of the brazenly shaking hands in hospitals. Now Boris started talking about “taking the right measures at the right time”. The government had started to hedge its bets – preparing for a possible U-turn. When Italy locked down on March 9, a clamour grew for Britain to do likewise. But it’s important to note that the government didn’t capitulate immediately. Boris continued to resist what he called “draconian measures”. His science advisors continued to point out that even big public gatherings didn’t have much of an effect on transmission. As late as March 12, Boris was still saying: “We are considering banning major public events like sporting fixtures. The scientific advice is this has little effect on the spread – but it does place a burden on other public services.” I invite you to pause and consider that statement carefully. It is very revealing. The government ultimately did ban big public events (and more). And the stated reason wasn’t the scientific advice. It was because of the potential burden placed on public services, as Boris put it.
So what happened behind the scenes to make Boris prioritise the public sector over the science? I think it goes without saying that the NHS was pressurising Boris into lockdown. With all those nurses dancing, and all the clamour for PPE, and the public being encouraged to protect the NHS, and clap the NHS, our health service became a veritable lockdown cult over the next few months. We can also assume that public sector workers generally supported draconian action, because Boris was in discussions with them about the “burden” placed on public services; he must have been given the impression that public services weren’t able to cope with the so-called burden. There was also pressure from academia. On March 14, 200 academic scientists – none of whom were leading experts in epidemiology – wrote an open letter to the government warning that herd immunity was risking lives. And on the same day, at least one teaching union called for the government to take draconian measures. The National Education Union wrote an open letter on March 14 calling for all schools to be closed. The NEU is the largest teaching union in Britain, with around 450,000 members. In their letter, the NEU claimed that the government was considering taking legal action to keep schools open. There was obviously a battle taking place between Boris and unionised teachers. We can only speculate as to whether similar battles were taking place between the government and other public sector unions in early and mid-March. At that point, the unions were a little less publicly vocal about their views on the pandemic than in subsequent months.
It’s also worth noting that the atmosphere among socialists generally in early March 2020 was febrile, certainly if social media is anything to go by. On Twitter, I was defending the government’s efforts to keep the country open. I received an almighty backlash from socialists. They were calling me a selfish murderer, and worse. This backlash is relevant because socialists dominate Britain’s public sector and its unions, as well as academia and the media. And the whole principle behind the lockdown was inherently socialist. Socialists told us we should all be forced by the government to pull together in the collective interest to protect the NHS. The idea that individuals should freely take responsibility – whether for their own health, or for supporting each other – has been taboo throughout the coronapanic debacle, because personal responsibility is always taboo on the left. And what a calamity that taboo always is! Without personal responsibility, society falls apart. During the Covid 19 pandemic, the right thing to do – and the government knew it – was for young and healthy people to take personal responsibility, to go out and face the music, to continue working, to keep the country open, and protect the vulnerable. On March 12, the government started advising vulnerable people not to venture out. Boris made this announcement almost apologetically, as though it was a massive imposition on people’s lives. Of course, much much worse was to come.
On March 16, Professor Neil Ferguson published his ridiculous prediction that 500,000 people could die from Covid 19. The media went ballistic, and the panic shifted up a gear. Later that day, the Prime Minister made a statement asking people to work from home where possible, avoid unessential travel and unessential social contact, and not congregate in social venues. But there was still no lockdown. At this point, the government was dishing out stern advice, not rules. Indeed, on the same day, Boris expressed a willingness to keep schools open. He said: “We think on balance it is better that we can keep schools open for all sorts of reasons but this is something we need to keep under review.” Meanwhile, again on March 16, representatives from the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers met privately with education secretary Gavin Williamson and warned him it was “likely” that schools would have to close due to staff isolating. The pressure from the teachers was growing.
On March 17, the National Education Union wrote another open letter to the government, again calling for all schools to be closed. And this time the NEU upped the ante. Like the ASCL and the NAHT, they noted that some of their members would have to stay away from school, as per the government’s advice on protecting the vulnerable, and this might mean that the schools didn’t have enough staff to function. This was surely an exaggerated fear; whatever the potential inconvenience schools faced, the proper attitude among the non-vulnerable teachers should have been to keep calm and carry on. They should have taken responsibility for keeping kids in school. But the NEU saw things differently. They warned that they would support any Head teachers who unilaterally closed schools. This warning was tantamount to a threat of mutiny. There would have been chaos if schools had started closing unilaterally, chaos that the government wasn’t willing to face.
Let me make this point very clear, because it’s extremely important. The government was under siege in mid-March – there was massive public support for locking down, and similar support from the NHS and other public services, as well as from academia and the media. Boris was politically vulnerable. He was being vilified, being told that he would be personally responsible for people’s deaths. He was being called a butcher. The Labour Party backed the lockdown, as did the largest union in the country, Unite, with 1.3 million members. Much of Boris’s own party did. His chief advisor Dominic Cummings was pressurising him to lockdown. Indeed, Cummings has disclosed that he and other ministers had been plotting against Boris from the very first days after the general election. Boris may not have survived the chaos of trying to keep schools open amid a teaching mutiny and a possible cabinet mutiny. I think there is every chance that Boris would have been pushed out if he hadn’t capitulated in mid-March, in which case the lockdown would have happened anyway. And let’s remember what was at stake: he was elected to deliver Brexit. Brexit might have been thwarted if Boris had been unseated. He faced a horrible dilemma.
And let me also make this clear: Boris faced this dilemma almost completely alone. The vast majority of mainstream conservative journalists offered zero support for keeping Britain open. Aside from a handful who entered the fray in mid-March when the pressure on Boris was already unsustainable, mainstream conservative journalists simply abandoned the principle of freedom. As did many conservative voters. While Boris pursued herd immunity, most conservatives offered at best a stony silence, and at worst, active support for lockdown. Let me ask you this: How can a general win a fight if he runs over the top of a trench and the soldiers stay behind in the trench? The idea that one man, with almost zero support, could instruct an entire nation, including six million unionised public sector workers, to keep calm and carry on when most people adamantly didn’t want to keep calm and carry on is a fantasy. Mainstream conservative journalists failed Boris Johnson and failed Britain in March 2020. Most of the conservative public did the same; very few people spoke out in support of freedom.
And so it was that Boris pulled the trigger on lockdown. On May 18, the day after the NEU’s threat, Boris announced that all schools would close. The schools would close on March 20 – a Friday. The lockdown began on Monday 23, i.e. after the weekend. The timing of this is significant. The lockdown began on the first weekday that the schools wouldn’t be open. You cannot keep a country open if people can’t go to work; and people can’t go to work if their children are not being supervised. The NEU’s intervention directly caused the first lockdown. It was the tipping point, whereby Boris had no choice but to lockdown if he wanted to stay in power. You could think of him as bending like the proverbial blade of grass in a hurricane. Unlike an oak tree that stays firm but gets blown over in a hurricane, a blade of grass bends and lives to fight another day. Even the rhetoric of the first lockdown hints at the government’s desire to ride out the storm. “Two weeks to flatten the curve”, we were told. Why just two weeks, if a terrible pandemic is raging? A paraphrase would be: two weeks to try to get everyone to calm down and see that they are overreacting; two weeks to get the teachers back to work; two weeks to get the public and the public sector onside for herd immunity.
After Boris had announced the lockdown, there was one very revealing moment in a press conference. A journalist asked him if the lockdown would be enforced by the police. Boris blustered back an incredulous question– “the police!?” He was stunned that anyone in Britain would suggest such a thing. By locking down, he was obviously going against his own judgement. You could see in his tortured eyes that he knew that what he was doing was wrong. But events were spiralling out of his control. The first lockdown was accompanied by a massive fear campaign, eagerly supported and branded by the NHS, along with zealous buy-in from the whole apparatus of British government. When I think of this, I think of a remark by Steve Hilton, a former chief advisor to David Cameron. Hilton said: “the bureaucracy masters the politicians”. In other words, when he and Cameron were in power, they would often read in the newspaper about new initiatives that had been adopted by the public sector without the government even being consulted. The public sector has a life and an energy of its own. Of course, I am not suggesting that Boris had completely lost control of the government in mid-March. But the lockdown with all its associated rules and measures happened with such rapidity and momentum, much of the impetus must have been distributed across the whole of the public sector, including the NHS. I also suspect that some sort of pre-existing emergency plan for an Ebola-type outbreak had been triggered, which hampered Boris’s capacity to reacquire much control over the situation. The Coronavirus Act that passed through Parliament without a vote on March 23 probably reflected such a plan. Boris was tied up in legislation and public sector zealousness. Moreover, if he had tried to reverse course, the socialists who shrieked him into the lockdown would have shrieked even louder, and probably succeeded in forcing him out of office. He remained politically vulnerable as long as he remained sceptical.
Another factor that leant momentum to the lockdown was, ironically, lockdown sceptics themselves. Most lockdown sceptics actually supported the lockdown when it happened; they only gradually became sceptical. But unfortunately most of the newfound lockdown sceptics had been too busy panicking at the start to notice that Boris had ever pursued herd immunity. Either that, or they were too ashamed to admit that they had supported the lockdown. So they too started shrieking at him, holding him solely responsible for the lockdown. They called him a Marxist, a fascist, a dictator. And, as we have seen, many of them suggested that he had been following a global plan all the way through – a Great Reset, with Klaus Schwab the architect. Supposedly, herd immunity had all been a ruse, a psy-op. Supposedly, Boris had never intended to keep Britain open.
The problem with all these notions is obvious: by ignoring what actually happened at the start, lockdown sceptics helped keep the public in the dark, and this helped perpetuate the lockdown. For one thing, lockdown sceptics who favoured the plandemic theory were hardly likely to convince the public that the lockdown was crazy when their own theory was even crazier. And more importantly: Boris wasn’t about to announce that socialists had pressurised him into abandoning herd immunity, and if lockdown sceptics weren’t willing to make that announcement on his behalf, the public would never get to find out that the lockdown was based on politics not science. Of course, the public aren’t stupid. They knew that Boris had pursued herd immunity and changed direction under pressure. The socialists knew it too. By refusing to explain that this capitulation was a bad thing, most lockdown sceptics allowed the socialists to own the narrative of what happened at the start. The public were given no alternative to the socialists’ narrative of Boris being a free-market butcher who had grudgingly yielded to the science.
Lockdown sceptics were so furious with Boris, they may actually have discouraged him from being honest. At best they were threatening to kick him out of office as soon as the truth emerged. At worst they were threatening to put him in jail. Going back to my previous analogy, most lockdown sceptics were like soldiers who’d stayed in the trench while their general had run over the top alone. When Boris inevitably surrendered, his soldiers started calling him a traitor. And even the few who did acknowledge that Boris had faced a monstrous barrage were calling him weak, conveniently ignoring the fact that he had been slightly stronger than most of them.
Let me put these psychological points another way. If you want to get someone to admit a mistake, the best thing to do is flatter them. You could tell them, for instance, that admitting a mistake takes bravery. Or that the mistake was understandable in the circumstances. And if that person initially did the right thing, before making the mistake, you should certainly focus on that. Given that Boris had initially done the right thing by pursuing herd immunity, lockdown sceptics should have admitted this, and admitted their own failure to support him. They should have extended an olive branch to him, cleared the air. They should have said “You were right, Boris, and we were wrong; go back to your initial herd immunity strategy; and we’ll support you this time”. Instead, most lockdown sceptics vilified Boris to make themselves look braver. They were massive hypocrites. Perhaps he decided that he’d rather not fall on his sword to appease them, especially when the furore from socialists would probably have seen him replaced with a lockdown hawk anyway. The hypocrisy of most lockdown sceptics helped trap Britain in the coronapanic debacle. They were doubly unbrave. Not only did they succumb to the mass panic at the start, they were then not brave enough to admit that they had panicked. In heaping all the blame on Boris, they obscured the truth about his ongoing capitulation to the socialists.
As soon as Boris had sanctioned the lockdown, he was trapped in lies. His political survival depended on him continuing to pretend that the coronapanic debacle was justified. This fact is extremely important because it made him vulnerable to further mutinies from the public sector. He couldn’t confront those mutinies without telling the truth. And he couldn’t politically survive telling the truth.
What followed was 18 months of public sector threats and government U-turns. The story of these threats and U-turns is largely unknown because no one in the media will report on it. So let’s go through the whole chronology.
For a start, let’s consider the fact that the first lockdown didn’t only last two weeks. The National Education Union continued to resist the idea of teachers going to work. Remember, this was crucial: because if the schools weren’t open properly, the country couldn’t reopen. There is direct evidence that teachers were resisting returning to work during the first lockdown. On May 8, the Trades Unions Congress published a joint statement on behalf of six unions with teaching members. The statement included a series of tests that the government must meet before schools could reopen. Yes, they did use the word “must”. The tests included additional PPE and “No increase in pupil numbers until the full rollout of a national test and trace scheme”. At that time, only the children of key workers were in school. By demanding the “full rollout” of test and trace, the teachers were in effect refusing to return to work. Four days later, there was another statement, this time from nine unions; three more had got in on the act. The statement demanded adequate social distancing in schools, which was contingent on small class sizes. Again, this was in effect a refusal to reopen schools as normal. The statement included this phrase, which just drips with cowardice: “We do not know enough about whether children can transmit the disease to adults. We do not think that the government should be posing this level of risk to our society.” On May 15, the British Medical Association also threw its weight behind the teaching unions, and called for schools to stay shut, although several days after that the BMA changed its mind. On May 30, the National Education Union issued another press release calling for the government not to reopen schools properly.
They got their way. Schools never did reopen fully during the first lockdown. Which is a main reason why the first lockdown continued for so long. Restrictions were gradually lifted during May and June, but Boris didn’t implement an easing of the working from home guidance until July 17. This is a very significant date, because it was the day after the schools had closed for the summer. Boris waited until he wasn’t going to get into a confrontation with teachers before properly reopening the economy. All the while, he was also dealing with other unions, for instance, Unite. On May 5, Unite’s General Secretary Len McCluskey wrote to the union’s membership to inform them that he was in discussions with the government about reopening the economy, and he would put safety first. And on May 4, Britain’s three rail unions – the RMT, ASLEF and the TSSA – wrote to the PM urging him not to lift the lockdown and not to run more trains. No wonder Boris took so long to get Britain open again. But when he finally did, he predicted that the country would see a “significant return to normality” from as early as November. It might be possible, he said, to move away from the social distancing measures.
So it seemed that life was heading back to normal last summer. Unfortunately, public sector unions had other ideas. The coronapanic lunacy escalated.
On May 18, the rail workers union, the RMT, which has 80,000 members, called for mandatory face masks on trains. Led by General Secretary Mick Cash, the RMT threatened strike action if the government didn’t comply with this demand. As Cash explained: “If that’s what needs to be, to keep people safe then we will stop trains”. He insisted that staff were entitled to refuse to work if they didn’t feel safe. At the same time, another union, Unite, was likewise calling for masks on all public transport, specifically mentioning buses and trams.
And what happened? Lo and behold, the government caved in again. The threat of industrial action crippling critical transport infrastructure is enough to make any government think twice. On June 4, there was a government announcement that masks would be mandatory on all public transport from June 15 onwards – coinciding with the date when home working would be phased out. ASLEF welcomed the announcement. So did the TSSA, and of course the RMT. The transport unions had got their way. The government had been blackmailed into a policy that ministers didn’t agree with.
And worse was to come. On Jul 24, masks were mandated in shops. This demented measure seemed to come out of the blue. Like most people, I was stunned. Why on earth had there been no mask mandate throughout the first few months, but now that the first wave was over, and life was going back to normal, suddenly we were being forced to adopt a measure that we’d been told all along wasn’t necessary? Even in the weeks leading up to the mandate, government spokespeople had told us that masks in shops weren’t necessary. And then a U-turn.
By now, I hope you can guess what was behind the U-turn. That’s right: lobbying by a large union. In this case, it was the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), the retail workers union, with 400,000 members. USDAW had spent months lobbying the government for mandatory masks, social distancing, one-way systems, and cleaning stations in shops. On May 1, the Telegraph reported that the government faced possible industrial action over this issue. USDAW and the British Retail Consortium had joined forces to compile a submission to the Government about how the retail sector could reopen without any threat of industrial unrest. The government ultimately caved in. Mandatory masks in shops were announced in mid-July, coming into force on July 24. It’s worth pausing to reflect on how incredible this is. For the next year, shops were turned into madhouses, with masked shoppers shuffling around, one-way systems, arrows on the floor, instructions everywhere, little circles telling you where to stand to keep two metres apart, boxes piled up in supermarket lobbies to create barriers for separate entrances and exits, hand sanitiser dispensers at the front of shops, and often, a masked goon at the entrance instructing you on how to behave. None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for the retail unions.
Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you might argue that all this would have happened without the lobbying of the unions. Some people say that after Boris himself contracted coronavirus, a week after the first lockdown, he became a convinced zealot for draconian measures. I don’t think so. The case of the second lockdown suggests that Boris became more sceptical over time, not less. The second lockdown happened in mysterious circumstances. I do not know for sure what caused it. What we do know is that Dominic Cummings has said that Boris tried to convince his own colleagues that another lockdown was a bad idea. In Whatsapp messages he sent at this time, Boris said he no longer believed “all this NHS overwhelmed stuff”; he said that all the people dying were over 80, and that hardly anyone over 60 had ended up in hospital. Dominic Cummings has also claimed that Boris was regretful after the first lockdown, saying “I should have been the mayor of Jaws and kept the beaches open”. Moreover, during a discussion with his colleagues about the prospect of a second lockdown, Boris apparently shouted “no more fucking lockdowns” and “no, no, no, I won’t do it”. A book by a former SAGE member Jeremy Farrar even quotes Boris as stating after the first lockdown: “I don’t believe in any of this, it’s all bullshit.” When the second lockdown came, it was leaked to the press in advance. There are suggestions that Boris was still unconvinced and was “bounced” into the lockdown by the press leak. According to Cummings, Boris subsequently declared that he would rather see “bodies piled high in their thousands” than oversee a third lockdown.
There was something very fishy about the circumstances of the second lockdown. It started on November 5 and was announced on October 31. Two weeks before that, the National Education Union had been up to its tricks again, making demands. The NEU wanted what they called a “circuit breaker”, whereby the school half term, which came at the end of October, would last for two weeks instead of the usual one week. This was to “allow the government to get in control of the test, track and trace system”. The NEU’s demand for a circuit breaker was refused, and the school term resumed as usual on Monday November 1. However, within days of this resumption, a cruel new measure was introduced in schools. On the Thursday, the government announced that pupils in all secondary schools were now required to wear masks in school corridors. Masks in schools had already been demanded by teaching unions earlier in the summer. It seems they finally got their way on November 5 – the same day that the second lockdown started.
I think this is all too coincidental for us not to speculate about the circumstances of the second lockdown. The government presumably was facing another teaching mutiny, with teachers making absurdly unreasonable demands. This time, perhaps, the government decided that keeping schools open was the absolute priority. You can imagine ministers proposing that instead of closing the schools for a short period, a national lockdown would be introduced for a short period. After all, the teaching unions were complaining about the “infection rate”. A national lockdown might have placated them if it reduced the infection rate. Likewise, the teaching unions would have been placated by the masks in corridors rule; they had been demanding mandatory masks in schools since the summer. In my opinion, on November 5 the teaching unions received a package of measures that convinced them to stay at work. It’s even possible that the November 5 mask mandate was thrown in as an added extra, after the teachers had returned to work on Monday 1 but were still restless. Interestingly, after the second lockdown was announced, teaching unions proceeded to insist that schools should close too. But without the blackmail leverage of potentially forcing the economy to close – the economy was already closing! – this further demand was rebuffed by the government. Goodness knows what went on behind the scenes. But what I do know is that probing questions need to be asked about all this. The events of the second lockdown were sinister. Somehow, despite having a PM who said, “I don’t believe in any of this, it’s all bullshit”, we ended up in lockdown again with the nation’s schoolchildren being tormented by cowardly unionised teachers.
When the second lockdown ended on December 2, Britain reverted to a “tier system” where the extent of local restrictions was determined by the infection rate in each area. At this point, Boris seemed to be hell bent on making sure Christmas wouldn’t be ruined by too many restrictions. The original plan was for three households to be able to meet for five days over Christmas in tiers 1-3, which was most places. But suddenly, on Dec 19, the allotted time that households could spend together was changed to just a single day. And much of the country was plunged into tier 4, which meant no indoor mixing or travel at all. The U-turn was breathtaking. Only days before in Parliament, Boris had been mocking Kier Starmer, who was calling for tougher restrictions over Christmas. Boris said: “All he wants to do is to lock the whole country down. He is a one-club golfer; that is the only solution he has.” Boris’s lockdown sceptic colours were on full display in this instance. Then suddenly: almost the entire country was in lockdown again over Christmas.
So what on earth happened? Well, you know the drill. It’s a case of trying to work out which union pressurised the government into the U-turn. On this occasion, I think the culprits were the British Medical Association, which has over 150,000 members, largely doctors and consultants. In the days preceding Dec 19, the BMA went into campaign mode, producing a strongly worded press release saying that the government must review its plans for the Christmas period. Yes, that word “must” again. The Chair of the BMA, Chaand Nagpaul, spoke to the radio and TV, stoking fears and demanding tougher measures over Christmas. He told the Times “We need to hear from the government very soon”. Don’t you think that’s somewhat menacing language? Was a mutiny on the cards? I don’t know, but I do know that in 2016 the BMA supported a junior doctors’ strike, over working conditions. Given that working conditions for NHS staff were central to the whole coronapanic debacle, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the BMA threatened to strike during the Christmas period of 2020 if the government didn’t tighten the Covid restrictions. Whatever the BMA said to the government, Boris caved in again, humiliatingly.
So Christmas came and went – a lockdown squib. And the coronapanic debacle rumbled on. Indeed, it escalated again. What followed was the most extraordinary episode in the whole debacle. It was doubly extraordinary because most lockdown sceptics simply ignored it and its significance.
At the end of December, Michael Gove said he was confident that the nation’s schools would reopen in January. The plan was to reopen primary schools on January 4, and to allow pupils in years 11 and 13 to return in the first week, with the rest going back in the following weeks. On January 3, Boris went on national TV and said: “There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”. Also on January 3, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, wrote in the Daily Mail: “We must all move heaven and earth to get children back to the classroom”. Alas, on the same day, an utterly astonishing event took place which meant that the government had no hope whatsoever of reopening schools. The National Education Union held an online Zoom meeting attended by a combined 400,000 teachers and members of the public. Yes, you heard that right. 400,000 people attended a trade union meeting. The NEU correctly noted in a subsequent press release that it was the biggest trade union meeting in history. The advice agreed by the executive at this meeting was that teachers should not return to their classrooms. In the words of the NEU itself: “The NEU advised its members on Sunday, 3 January that it would, in our view, be unsafe for you to attend the workplace in schools and colleges which were open to all students.” This was a teaching mutiny on an unprecedented scale. Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers called for all schools to move to home learning, and recommended that Head teachers should take no action against staff who felt too unsafe to return to work. Another teaching union, the NASUWT, likewise called for remote learning. Since late December, they had been calling for schools to remain closed until the spring.
Before I tell you about the inevitable government capitulation, let me note that the government had already bowed out of one similar battle. The government had planned to reopen primary schools in 10 London Boroughs, while other boroughs remained under tighter restrictions. But eight of those ten councils were Labour-led and – supported by the NEU – they lobbied the government to stop the schools from reopening. So the government backed down and announced that all schools in London would remain closed.
It was throughout the rest of the country that the government hoped it could get schools open again. But when the NEU advised its members not to return to work, and the NAHT advised Heads not to take any action against staff who didn’t return to work, the government was in a hopeless position. You can’t just make hundreds of thousands of people go to work if they refuse to. Especially when most of them are socialists and they hate you. The schools reopened as planned, but there must have been chaos on January 4. By the end of that same day, the government was in panic mode. They suddenly announced another national lockdown, citing all the usual nonsense about a new variant and stopping the spread. Obviously, it was an extremely cynical political move, to rapidly shift the narrative to avoid disclosing that the teaching unions had openly defied the government. No government can afford such a humiliation. They U-turned, to give the illusion of staying in control. This is the same government that 24 hours before was insisting that schools were safe. Now suddenly everyone was in lockdown purely because teachers had refused to return to work. It’s staggering. Beyond belief. And what is most staggering of all is that the circumstances of this U-turn were barely remarked upon in the press. Even lockdown sceptics generally ignored what had happened. Most of them chalked it up as another “psy-op”; the government supposedly was deliberately trying to confuse everyone again. Even half a year later, I can hardly get any lockdown sceptics to engage with this episode, even to admit that it happened. As I said earlier, it’s because most lockdown sceptics desperately want to blame everything on the government, and to ignore the dynamics between the government and the unions. Otherwise, these lockdown sceptics would have to face up to the fact that they didn’t support the government at the very start, in March 2020 when the first capitulation happened. It’s easier to blame everything on Boris or a Great Reset than to face up to one’s own shortcomings.
So Britain had returned to lockdown for no reason other than teachers refusing to go to work. It turned out to be longest lockdown of the three. It was also the most insane, from the beginning to the end. The shenanigans from the unions escalated from the start. On January 17, the UCU, the academic union, threatened strike action to stop the government from reopening universities properly. The UCU had been resisting the reopening of universities at least since August 2020, when they warned of an “avalanche” of Covid 19 cases if universities returned to normal. With no face-to-face teaching, and students often being quarantined in their dorms, universities became madhouses. The UCU intended to keep it that way. Meanwhile, on January 11 the RMT had demanded an upscaling of protections on the London Underground, despite the fact that only so-called essential workers were using it.
And the teaching unions were continuing to run amok. Bear with me; I know this is an exhausting litany, but that’s the reality of it. In December, the National Education Union had demanded that children wear masks in classrooms. In January, the NEU reiterated the demand, although they were now resisting any sort of reopening of schools. On February 19, nine teaching unions issued a press release saying that the government’s plan to reopen schools on March 8 was “reckless”. Recall that in October 2020, the teaching unions had called for a test and trace system to be in place before schools reopened. This demand remained on the table too. In the end, the government managed to persuade the teachers to return to work in March, but the teachers’ two main demands were met. When the schools reopened, kids were being tested daily and whole groups were being sent home based on one child having a positive test without any symptoms. Utter madness. And if this wasn’t mad enough, schoolchildren were now being forced to wear masks in classrooms. Nothing has made me more angry since the start of the whole coronapanic debacle – the sight of children being forced to wear masks for hours upon end, because some cowardly psychotic socialist teachers are scared of a cold. It was child abuse, pure and simple. I am flabbergasted that any parent tolerated it. Those poor tormented children. Surely some of them will be scarred for life.
On February 22, the government announced a “roadmap” out of the third lockdown. This longwinded plan was designed purely to give the government an opportunity to cave in again if the unions caused trouble. By the end of March, the strict lockdown was over – the “stay home” order had been rescinded, although people were still being advised to work from home, and public venues only gradually reopened thereafter. In May, the government announced that children would no longer be required to wear face masks in schools. Led by the NEU, five teaching unions wrote an open letter to protest this, but the government managed to uphold the ruling. Many schools simply ignored it and continued to force the children into masks anyway. On June 8, four teaching unions piped up again, again led by the NEU, demanding the reintroduction of the masks. The government held firm again. Maybe the fact that many Heads were unilaterally enforcing the mask rule was enough to stop the unions from mutinying again.
Or did the government hold firm? The roadmap was supposed to be completed on June 21. The plan was that there would be an end to all measures on that date, including no more mandatory social distancing, no more masks, and no more capacity limits for venues. But the government postponed the reopening by a month, citing “scientific evidence”. The BMA had also demanded a delay, which perhaps influenced the government. At this point, most lockdown sceptics were in despair, thinking that the debacle would never end. I was more optimistic. I couldn’t help noticing that the revised end of the roadmap coincided with the final week of the school term. Freedom Day, as it became known, was on Monday July 19, when all schools were either shut for the summer or winding down, just days away from shutting. I am speculating here, but maybe the government had thrown teachers another sop: warding off their latest demand for face masks by upholding infection control measures throughout the country. As usual, the teaching unions were obsessed with the infection rate; if the government could prove to the teachers that it was taking the necessary action to keep the infection rate down outside of schools, perhaps the government wouldn’t have to do another U-turn on masking the children.
Whatever the truth of this matter, July 19 was the new date for Freedom Day. On July 5, when Boris first explained exactly what Freedom Day would entail, he seemed more bullish than he had been since 18 months ago when he had boasted about shaking hands with people in the hospital. On July 12, he made another statement about Freedom Day. He noted – tellingly – that if he delayed the reopening until September, the school term would be upon us. He mentioned this point twice, calling the school holiday a “natural firebreak”. I’m sure by now you can appreciate the deep exasperation in that comment. “It’s now or never” was a phrase that Boris kept saying around this time. The plan was that all legal restrictions would be lifted on July 19, although the NHS track and trace system and border restrictions would remain in place. Boris also emphasised that wearing a mask would become a matter of “social responsibility”. This was a classic Boris fudge, but it was also ingenious. He knew there was opposition from the unions to Freedom Day, and he knew they would attempt their own unilateral mask mandates. Rather than be obligated to oppose these unilateral efforts, his social responsibility fudge enabled him to both endorse and not endorse mask wearing and wash his hands of the whole debate. In the process, he would allow the public to see exactly who was driving the coronapanic debacle, namely, the public sector unions, not the government. Wherever there were still mask mandates, the public would know exactly who was behind them.
In the run up to Freedom Day, there was an almighty demented outcry from almost all the unions. It’s hard to do justice to the scale and intensity of this outcry, but here’s a list of just a few unions that called for continued restrictions. The UCU, Prospect, the TUC, Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the NAHT, Equity, the National Police Chiefs Council, The British Dental Association, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, the National Education Union, the RMT, the retail workers union, ASLEF, GMB, the PCS Union, Community Union, Unite, various NHS organisations including NHS Confederation, NHS Employers and NHS Million, and the BMA, the union for doctors and consultants. There was a chorus of the usual accusations – that Boris was being grossly negligent, risking lives, ignoring the science, putting profits over people. Etc. But he held firm. He banked on gaining enough public and media support for Freedom Day. And there was enough support. It’s amazing what a difference support makes. Freedom Day actually happened.
Of course, Boris was still criticised. For one thing, Freedom Day didn’t actually spell a complete end to masks or other coronapanic measures, because his social responsibility fudge meant that organisations could unilaterally mandate those measures. Wherever the furious unions held sway, and wherever the public sector held sway generally, masks and social distancing mandates remained in place, for instance within the NHS, council buildings, dental surgeries, and more. Many major retailers continued to request mask wearing in their stores. The police were still required to wear masks. There was even one instance where the mask mandate remained a legal requirement, and that was on London’s public transport system, after the RMT and the TSSA had protested vehemently in the run up to Freedom Day. London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Kahn used his legal powers to back the unions.
Still, on July 19, Britain was transformed. It became one of the few places in the world with (almost) no legal Covid restrictions. Personally, I have never worn a face mask, apart from once during the first lockdown when I had to go to hospital; I was too ill to put up a fight. Elsewhere, I have very rarely been accosted for being unmasked. Nonetheless, on July 19, I was delighted to be able to go wherever I wanted knowing that legally I was under no obligation to be masked. It felt liberating. Sadly, many lockdown sceptics felt otherwise. Instead of celebrating this victory, they continued to vilify Boris, because they believed he hadn’t gone far enough. They believed he should have banned mask mandates and other coronapanic measures altogether and told the truth that the whole debacle had been a massive overreaction. Well, yes, I agree, he should have done. In an ideal world. But would telling the truth have still been politically unviable for him? Would he have still faced the risk of being forced out, thus putting Freedom Day itself in jeopardy? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I think Boris thinks it’s “yes”.
To be fair, lockdown sceptics did have one extremely good reason to criticise Boris on Freedom Day. On July 19, his public statement contained an absolute bombshell. Here is what he said:
“I should serve notice now that by the end of September – when all over 18s will have had the chance to be double jabbed – we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”
Obviously, this is a hideous prospect. If it becomes reality, people who are attending certain types of large gathering will be required to show evidence of vaccination status using the NHS Covid Pass, which is a smart phone app. The specific mention of nightclubs indicated the reason behind the proposed new ruling – nightclubs are mostly attended by young people, and uptake of the vaccine had been relatively low among the young. Fudging, as usual, Boris said it was matter of “social responsibility” for nightclubs to require Covid certification over the next few months, but once young people have had the chance to take the Covid vaccine, the requirement for certification would become mandatory, at the end of September. Boris’s July 19 announcement meant that the British public were being threatened with future restrictions on their freedom if they didn’t take the vaccine. This is blackmail. It’s disgusting, especially when you consider that young people, who were the main targets of the blackmail, are virtually invulnerable to Covid 19. Already, many venues are voluntarily requiring certification, including premier league football clubs and some nightclubs. Shame on them.
To understand how it came to this point, you have to understand why this Covid vaccine mania got started in the first place. For Boris, the vaccines have always been a way to spin his way out of the coronapanic debacle without having to tell the truth. Once enough people were vaccinated, he reckoned, the public panic would die down and Britain could move on. It was herd immunity via a cynical political route. For the pharmaceutical companies and the medical personnel involved in creating or administering the vaccine, there were profits to be made. And for everyone concerned, there was a psychological momentum towards mass vaccination. Once you start vaccinating old and vulnerable people, the momentum spreads to the rest of the population, because no one who has been involved in pushing any of the coronapanic measures will want to admit that there is no justification for vaccinating younger, healthier people; admitting this would be tantamount to admitting that the whole debacle was an overreaction. So Covid vaccination became a mania; everyone must be vaccinated because the alternative was disadvantageous for the politicians, scientists and medics involved in the debacle.
You can think of the NHS Covid Pass as a sort of bureaucratic power grab. Every bureaucracy wants to increase its fiefdom, and the NHS bureaucracy is no exception. Add in the potential for all vaccines and other health interventions to be linked to the Covid Pass, and there are huge potential profits to made by the NHS and its partners in this project. The burning question is: Why did Boris suddenly announce on July 19 that the government would collude with the NHS in mandating Covid Passes? Why make this announcement on Freedom Day, of all days? Boris’s own view on Covid Passes has been typically equivocal. He has told the press: “What I don’t think we will have in this country is, as it were, vaccination passports to allow you to go to the pub, or something like that”. There are also suggestions that Boris has privately said he would rather leave the decision to individual businesses. And on July 5 when he announced the forthcoming Freedom Day, he said: “There will be no Covid certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event, although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification.” Yet, in March, when discussing the matter in Parliament he seemed less sure: “I find myself in this long national conversation thinking very deeply about it”. He added “the public want me as Prime Minister to take all the action I can to protect them”. Boris’s equivocation is unsurprising. On the one hand, we know he thinks the whole coronapanic debacle has been, in his words, “bullshit”. And we know he has always been fundamentally against citizen ID cards. But, on the other hand, he now sees mass vaccination as key to his political survival. And he sees his vaccine spin operation as key to Britain reaching herd immunity without inflaming all the mutinous socialists, who were always likely to pressurise him on Covid Passes. In contrast to Boris’s equivocation, other ministers, such as Michael Gove and indeed the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, have outright denied that Covid Passes were under consideration. Zahawi even called them discriminatory. Which makes it all the more important to understand why the government suddenly supported the scheme on July 19.
What’s your guess? As usual, it’s a case of working out which union applied the decisive pressure. I think the British Medical Association did the job. In the run up to Freedom Day, the BMA was by far the most furious of the unions, going ballistic at the prospect of Britain reopening. The Chair of the BMA, Chaand Nagpaul, once again was briefing the media about the infection rate and the supposed irresponsibility of restoring people’s freedoms. Such was the outcry from the BMA, I was a little surprised that Boris didn’t cave in. But then again, perhaps he did cave in; perhaps the announcement of mandatory Covid Passes was a concession to the BMA. We know that GPs have been hiding in their surgeries avoiding normal face-to-face consultations throughout the coronapanic debacle; we know how stubborn and selfish they have been. We know that the BMA supported a strike by junior doctors in 2016. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another threat of a doctors strike in July 2021, and Boris placated the BMA through Covid Passes. Let’s not forget: doctors stand to make a lot of money not only from completing the mass vaccination programme but also from the implementation of Covid Passes on a long-term basis. Vaccine mania is highly profitable for doctors.
Moreover, the BMA seems to have been pushing the idea of Covid Passes for a while now. In March 2021, the BMA wrote a report into Covid certification. The report was broadly supportive of the notion and pre-empted much of the government’s July 19 messaging about the Passes. The report argued that mass vaccination was key to unlocking Britain, that groups with low vaccine uptake could be targeted with Covid Pass measures, and that it was only fair that the vaccine should be offered to everyone before Covid Passes were introduced. Tellingly, the report also said that the government should consider whether other vaccines could be added to the Covid Pass and insisted that the government should promote the NHS as the sole supplier of the technology. The BMA knows where its interests lie.
I think the government announced Covid Passes to keep the BMA and the NHS happy. The Covid Passes, you could say, were a condition of Freedom Day. What a mess. A paradox. However, there are a few glimmers of hope. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has recently recommended against routine Covid jabs for children, on the grounds that the risk far outweighs any negligible benefit. This is significant, because four teaching unions in a joint statement have called for a rollout of Covid vaccinations for pupils. And Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT has talked about the “benefit” of making the Covid vaccine available to schoolchildren. Recently the vaccine has been made available for 16/17 years olds, which has been welcomed by the NEU. There has been an alarming momentum towards vaccinating children, and it seems that this momentum is currently in abeyance. That’s cause for hope.
Another cause for hope is the fact that there has been considerable pushback against the government’s mandatory Covid Passes plan, from industry leaders, journalists and the public. And in two countries where the Passes were introduced, namely Denmark and Israel, they have now been phased out. It is crucial that lockdown sceptics continue to offer dogged opposition to the plan. I am inclined to believe that Boris’s heart is not in it. Perhaps he even hopes that the public will veto the plan. The phrase he used when he announced the mandatory Passes – “I should serve notice” – was almost sheepish, apologetic, perhaps even a warning, or a call to arms; a call for the public to finally step in and draw a line in the sand against deranged union demands.
Or maybe I am giving Boris too much credit. I am aware that I will be accused of “defending” him by portraying the coronapanic debacle as a battle between the government and the unions. So how guilty is he? Well, personally I am extremely disturbed by anyone who can stand in the front of the public and lie for 18 months. But I also realise that if Boris had been unseated, the alternative could have been worse. We could have had a lockdown hawk in power – someone who wouldn’t have fought repeated legal battles trying to keep the country open, someone who wouldn’t have pushed Freedom Day over the line. And Brexit might have been thwarted. No leader is a magician. There is a two-way dynamic between the leader and the led. Both influence each other. When virtually the entire apparatus of British government – including millions of public sector workers, and the monopolistic NHS – insisted on implementing draconian Covid measures, perhaps Boris decided that a true leader would stay at the helm and try to inject some sanity into the proceedings. At the very start, I warned that we were seeing a crime against humanity. My view has not changed. Boris ostensibly led this crime. But if the alternative to him staying in power was worse, his actions could arguably be justified – just as, for instance, the allied leaders in World War 2 were arguably justified in authorising a nuclear attack on Japan. These are complex issues. My view is that when all the facts are in, the law must decide questions of guilt and innocence.
If Boris is guilty, I want him punished. I am very much open to that prospect. But here’s the crucial point: to reach any sort of legal conclusion, we need to get the truth out there first. We have to talk about the battle that has taken place between the government and the unions, otherwise this insane dynamic of union pressure and government U-turns will go on and on. As I write, the school term is starting, and teachers are running amok already – trying to postpone the start of term and demanding the same old litany of mad Covid measures in schools. Schoolchildren face the prospect of another year of being tormented by their teachers. And goodness knows what the rest of the unions have got planned this winter. We have to tell the truths that the government itself is too compromised to tell.
In contrast, focusing on a so-called plandemic is futile. Yes, the government has occasionally parroted Great Reset slogans, such as “Build Back Better”. But there is a big difference between a planned conspiracy to reset the world’s economy, and a post hoc spin operation by national leaders most of whom are in the same boat, trying to put a positive gloss on the coronapanic debacle. Yes, many international organisations and businesses have used the coronapanic debacle to gain power. But there is a big difference between a planned conspiracy to make money from an atrocity, and international organisations and businesses opportunistically exploiting the coronapanic debacle. Yes, the world’s borders are now subject to vaccine passport rules. But there is a big difference between a planned conspiracy to create a communist style “social credit system”, and a panicked policy response that culminates in democratic governments being unable to reverse Covid border controls without losing credibility. I might be wrong about all this. But I am also right to warn against paranoia. Plandemic theorists may have succumbed to just as much paranoia as any Covid zealot.
I think all aspects of the debacle have to be taken into consideration, including the global aspect. But in order to get free here in Britain, we need to get our house in order. We need to subdue the socialist unions that have caused chaos here for 18 months. Only then can we reclaim our freedom, like the Texans and Floridians did. In the end, getting our house in order is a precondition of dealing with the global aspect of the problem. Freedom percolates upwards. It has always been this way. Ironically, the more that lockdown sceptics obsess about a global tyranny, and our government’s supposed role in that tyranny, the more likely the global tyranny will become, because lockdown sceptics are neglecting to pursue the local actions that will protect us against undemocratic global schemes. In this connection, it’s also worth noting that, all around the world, unions may well have played a nefarious role similar to that which they played in Britain. I could say more about this, but here is one relevant contrast: in the USA, where Covid madness is still prevalent, the teaching unions have run amok, whereas in Sweden, which stayed open throughout the coronapanic, the teaching unions have been determined to keep the schools open and protect the welfare of children.
Plandemic theorists aren’t the only lockdown sceptics who are reluctant to focus on the role of the unions in the coronapanic debacle. Almost all lockdown sceptics are focusing too much of their anger on the government or on international organisations. I have already intimated the reason for this skewed focus. Unlike myself, and a handful of others, most lockdown sceptics didn’t support Boris on herd immunity; most of them were too busy panicking. To admit that Boris had almost zero support when he caved in under colossal pressure from the public sector is to admit one’s own small role in causing the coronapanic debacle. Lockdown sceptics need to find the inner strength to be honest that they abandoned good sense at the start. They need to start fighting the fight that they didn’t fight at the start – against public sector socialists. It’s the only path to victory; it’s the only path there ever was. Blaming the government alone is like arresting a drugs mule and thinking you’ve nailed the kingpin. It’s barely a victory at all.
There’s one final advantage of being honest about one’s role in the mass panic that precipitated this disaster. By being honest in this respect, you can extend an olive branch to Covid zealots. Talk to them about the mass panic. Have enough humility and strength to admit that you panicked too. Give them a way out. There is too much stubbornness on all sides. No one wants to admit they made a terrible mistake. Not the government. Not the Covid zealots. Not the unions. And not lockdown sceptics themselves – most of them anyway. We all make mistakes. We’re all human. If lockdown sceptics are the enlightened ones in all this, they need to start leading a process of clearing the air. Unleash the awkward truth, and this whole sorry saga will unravel.
Ben Irvine was founding editor of the Journal of Modern Wisdom, which features essays from leading public thinkers seeking to put wisdom back on the agenda, and Cycle Lifestyle, a free magazine which promotes the health and happiness benefits of cycling. As part of this project, Ben is running the London Cycle Map Campaign, which is lobbying for a single, Tube-style map and network of cycle routes in the British capital. Ben is an Affiliate of the Well-being Institute at Cambridge University, an Honorary Fellow in the Philosophy Department at the University of Durham, and a regular guest blogger for The Creativity Post. His first book, Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling, was published by Leaping Hare in September 2012. Ben’s website can be found here.