Saturday 5 June 2021

Lockdown scepticism and IQ

I am deeply ashamed that I ever gave up on the Tory party as I did in the late 1980s. It had grave faults then and is far, far worse now, but it is the one political camp with a chance of power that has some people with good instincts, a belief in freedom and common sense. This is best shown by lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs. 

Lockdown sceptics are almost silenced in the UK but the tradition of parliamentary government is not extinct and allows their speeches to be reported. 

We have come to the point where we have to be grateful to the media for that mercy.

It is hugely to the credit of Toryism that the Tory house paper, the Daily Telegraph, tends to be lockdown sceptic too. 

Lionel Shriver (an American novelist and Democrat living in England, who supported Brexit) was interviewed in it today. I agree with her when she said this.

“It is about what we have done to liberal democracy all over the world. We used to have civil rights. They were irrevocable. Now, they are revocable.

“All of our liberties have become conditional, and they will stay conditional for ever. What is the difference between living under the Chinese Communist Party and the Conservative Party?

“We never used to talk about lockdowns except in prisons – then it became a thing in days. I have been horrified to see how people have adapted to the new circumstances. It is a violation of the country I thought I lived in.”

Lord Sumption, the retired Supreme Court judge, was interviewed yesterday in the paper. 

He said he had noticed that lockdown scepticism goes with high levels of education. I cannot really say the same. It goes with intelligence perhaps. 

"Does he take an absolutist libertarian view that no mitigation measures were needed? ‘No, I don’t. If we were confronted with an Ebola outbreak that could possibly kill 50 per cent of those who catch it or smallpox with 30 per cent fatality then they would be warranted.’ Covid, he insists, is at the more bearable end of what mankind has previously had to endure. The bubonic plague, for example, wiped out 40 per cent of the population. The Covid death rate is less than one per cent.
"So why did we lock down? ‘Essentially because other countries had done it and people started saying the solution to any problem like this is government action. If they are doing it on the other side of the Channel why aren’t we doing it?’ That, adds Sumption, is ‘not a very impressive argument’.
"Neither is he moved by the suggestion that it was difficult for the UK Government to resist the pressure for a lockdown and therefore unfair to pillory them for it. He points out that they had a plan for dealing with a pandemic but failed to stick to it. What they did not have was any strategy for a lockdown.
"‘If you are going to do something as drastic as this, you need to know what the consequences are likely to be – that requires serious thought, serious research and serious planning. None of these things happened,’ he says. ‘The dominant factor in Government policy – the entire attack on our humanity – has been guided not by “The Science” but by the desire of politicians to avoid being criticised.’
"He is particularly scathing about the Prime Minister in this regard, whom he cites as ‘a classic example of someone whose prime desire is not to be criticised’, and also someone suffering from a reluctance – or inability – to study any dossier profoundly.
"‘He is very vulnerable to people who are utterly confident about their position,’ Sumption observes. ‘He’s never prepared to put in the work that would make him utterly confident of his own position. In that respect he is completely different from Margaret Thatcher who always attempted to ensure she was on top of every issue she was called upon to deal with. Boris Johnson has got some of the rhetorical flair and a not dissimilar ideological position, but he simply does not have the intellectual capacity to follow it through. It’s not because he’s stupid. He clearly isn’t. It’s because he’s intellectually idle.’
"He is equally scathing about Dominic Cummings, whom he describes as a ‘Putin-esque natural autocrat, incredibly dogmatic’, whose idea of good government is ‘minimal deliberation or consultation, which gives a much greater likelihood of really bad decisions. It’s extraordinary that two so different individuals, so obviously designed to rub each other up the wrong way, found themselves in a clinch. Either one on their own is disastrous, but the two together – my goodness.’"

Clearly he is not a Brexiteer and nor I suspect are any Supreme Court judges, but I think he is right about lockdowns. I suspect he is right about Dominic Cummings and Boris too.

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