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Why the English sacrificed liberty for lockdown Amid Covid-19, this country has happily abandoned the freedom from which America was born

Washington. Credit: Karen Ducey/Getty


April 23, 2020   7 mins

Happy St George’s Day. England is passing its saint’s day in lockdown, by and large contentedly. This is curious, for all sorts of reasons.

It is said by many observers and participants in the Government’s lockdown policy that the most remarkable thing about a remarkable policy is how successful it has been. Arguably too successful.

Some people in and around government have been surprised, and not always happily, at how widely people have accepted and even embraced lockdown. Many more people than anyone really expected have chosen to heed the government’s messaging and shut themselves away for the duration.

That has deepened the economic impact of lockdown, and led to some unexpected misallocations of resources. Officials expected that around 20% of children would continue to go to school, either because their parents were key workers or because they qualified under the provision made for those eligible for free school meals by virtue of low incomes. In fact, the figure is barely 2%.

One reason the NHS has avoided catastrophic overload is the sharp drop in people presenting for non-Covid reasons. Some industries, such as construction, have all but shut down even though they were not told to do so and might have continued to operate in some form.

Elsewhere, lockdown is causing social tension and even protest. Only very small numbers of people in some American states are demonstrating against the curtailment of liberty, but they are demonstrating. The English, by contrast, have accepted lockdown with a wistful shrug and maybe a bit of passive-aggressive grumbling, eschewing riots in favour of settling down with a nice cup of tea to wait things out.

Curious, because I’m not sure how this sort of behaviour fits into ideas of the English, or at least, into English cultural history. Running through that history is the notion of the English as a people with a deep and even unique love of liberty, a desire to be left alone, especially by people in power.

After all, we had Magna Carta, did we not? That extraordinary document echoed down the centuries, with consequences far beyond my scope here. One was probably the Civil War, which in England at least had its roots in the legal reasoning of men such as Sir Edward Coke, that even the monarch was subject to Parliament’s laws. Coke paved the way for William Blackstone, the 18th century judge who defined “the absolute rights of every Englishman” including freedom from unwarranted interference by the state.

These “rights of Englishmen” were a cornerstone of the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States. At least some of the founders believed that their new nation was brought into being to preserve the liberties that supposedly defined England yet which a tyrannical king and his ministers had defiled.

Here is George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787:

“We claim Nothing but the Liberty & Privileges of Englishmen, in the same Degree, as if we had still continued among our Brethren in Great Britain: these Rights have not been forfeited by any Act of ours, we can not be deprived of them without our Consent, but by Violence & Injustice
”

When our American cousins cry “Live Free or Die” and take to the streets to protest overweening state authority during lockdown, whether they know it or not, they are honouring the tradition of English liberty.

That tradition has not entirely died out in England itself, even if many of the English prefer to hallow St George and the nation’s history by ignoring the issue altogether. Or perhaps by grumbling at the lack of a Bank Holiday, a propensity for long weekends apparently being an essential part of our Protestant national character — so unlike the idle French and other workshy southern papists.

But some people still remember, upholding the idea of “freeborn Englishmen” as a band especially committed to personal freedom. One of them is our Prime Minister, whose writings for the Telegraph (I used to help edit them) are shot through with a silvery vein of liberty in the face of an intrusive state.

For Boris Johnson, it is an essential part of the English character that, when faced with pettifogging officialdom giving us orders, we tell the offending bureaucrat to bugger off.

Here is Boris in 2004 when Tony Blair was keen on a national ID card:

“If I am ever asked, on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and when I am simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded that I produce it.”

If Boris Johson has a personal philosophy, it is probably contained in those words. At least until the coronavirus, he saw himself, fame and Cabinet rank notwithstanding, as “simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman”.

That view of the English character was visible in Johnson’s early, stumbling Covid-19 press conferences, when he resisted initial calls for lockdowns and the rest. “We live in a land of liberty,” he insisted on March 18th:

 Not all of his now-famous resistance to lockdown was about personal politics. A big part of the expert calculations put to ministers was about how many people would reject restrictions on personal freedom, rendering lockdown ineffective. Some government advisers counselled that people would simply get bored and resentful about being told to stay at home, so ministers should be wary.

I doubt the behavioural scientists making that calculation explicitly considered Magna Carta, Coke, Blackstone and the “rights of Englishmen”, but the people whose behaviour they were attempting to predict are the inheritors of that tradition, knowingly or otherwise.

So what to make of the way we have largely accepted and obeyed a polite instruction to put ourselves under house arrest? Why is England, land of liberty, so happy to spend St George’s Day — and maybe many more days beyond — in lockdown?

The search for a definition of the English character is endless and largely fruitless. I used to write about England a lot (for a Scottish newspaper, the Scots often being more interested in Englishness than the English) and have sometimes wondered if the refusal to agree on a common idea of Englishness is, in fact, the defining characteristic of the nation.

Fortunately, there are much better thinkers than me who have looked at this question, doing work that might shed some light on the failure of freeborn Englishmen to resist orders to leave the pub and go home.

One of them is Paula Surridge of Bristol University, who studies the values that underpin voting behaviour and much else besides.

Last month, she spoke to the English Labour Network, which wants Labour to pay more attention to English identity and those voters who think it’s important. More on that in a minute.

Dr Surridge — whose work really should be followed by everyone interested in UK politics — has looked at voters and how they identify themselves. She finds that around 35% of the electorate in England consider themselves to be “very strongly English”.

Within that group, you will probably find the 20-odd % who, in other surveys, are identified as “English not British” or “more English than British”.

However you measure them, these people are very important, politically and otherwise. According to John Denham, a former Labour Cabinet minister who now studies Englishness and the English, almost all of the Labour voters who switched to the Tories last year are from that “very English” group. Until Labour reconnects with England and the English, he argues, it will never regain power. I think he’s probably right about that.

But how to do that? And what’s this got to do with lockdown?  Back to Dr Surridge.

A lot of her research looks beyond traditional Left-Right divisions on economic questions and incorporates another scale of measuring attitudes: liberal-authoritarian.

Your position on that axis depends on your view of the following five statements:

  • Young people don’t have enough respect for traditional values
  • Censorship is necessary to uphold moral values
  • We should be tolerant of those who lead unconventional lifestyles
  • For some crimes the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence
  • People who break the law should be given stiffer sentences”

The more strongly you agree with those, the further towards the “authoritarian” end of the scale you fall.

And guess what Dr Surridge found about the “very strongly English”, the group most likely to be celebrating St George’s Day today and to generally embrace Englishness in preference to other identities? The more English you feel, the more likely you are to say that the state and society should tell people what to do, to make them conform and, when they disobey, to punish them harshly.

This correlation between Englishness and authoritarian attitudes strikes me as fascinating, important and underexplored in a lot of political conversation — possibly, in part, because the Prime Minister who seems to appeal so much to authoritarian English voters is so keen to tell a story of them as freeborn lovers of liberty.

Johnson is not unaware of the importance of authoritarian inclinations, of course. Priti Patel isn’t Home Secretary because she likes Brexit. It’s because she used to like the death penalty.

On the other side of the Commons, I wonder what would happen if Sir Keir Starmer managed to reinvent himself as a hardline prosecutor of yobs and petty criminals and shifted Labour’s home affairs posture back to “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”?  That might go some way to solving Labour’s very grave English problem.

As for lockdown, this is, of course, just my speculation, but it seems likely that people who think that the majority and its official representatives should be able to tell us all what to do would be willing to heed instructions to stay at home — even on their patron saint’s day. And to make sure others do too, hence all those calls to the police from people informing on others for such transgressions as walking the dog not once but twice a day. So numerous are those calls that the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has had to urge the public to “exercise common sense and only report well-meaning concerns”.

In other words, the police in England, this land of liberty, have had to beg people to stop grassing up their neighbours to the authorities for “simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman”.

Happy St George’s Day.


James Kirkup is Director of the London-based Social Market Foundation

jameskirkup

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andy young
andy young
4 years ago

I wonder how many older people (like me) have simply withdrawn from the modern version of England anyway? The perpetual virtue signalling, victim worship & pettifogging officialdom have hacked me off big time; I was pretty well self isolating before the virus.
But I like people & generally get along with them. My tolerance of others depends on their character; not race, sexuality, wealth or gender (something the cultural elite in charge of the media could never believe).
I’m conforming to the guidelines because it makes sense to me. And also because some people seem terrified if I come within half a mile of them, & I don’t like to upset others, even when I feel they’re overreacting.
Quite simply freedom isn’t absolute & I don’t want my unfettered freedom to endanger lives. We’ll see how this pans out – long way to go yet.

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  andy young

My tolerance of others depends on their character; not race, sexuality, wealth or gender

This is called the bias blindspot cognitive bias (wiki page below).

Every human have biases. Those who claim none are simply ignorant of them.

Also, “virtue signalling” is a useless argument, pure bollocks. It’s ad hominem. Even the most sincere of good gestures can be dismissed as “virtue signalling” without any evidence of people’s intentions. It should never be used as an argument at all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

andy young
andy young
4 years ago
Reply to  M C

I didn’t say I didn’t have bias, I said my opinion of character doesn’t depend on people belonging to specific groups. I always reflect when somebody accuses me of bias, but I usually find it’s because I don’t share their particular bias, e.g. all Tories are child murdering bastards.
Virtue signalling isn’t an argument, it’s a recognition that other people’s apparently good gestures are not in fact sincerely motivated but intended to make them conform to what is expected by their peer group.

Michael McVeigh
Michael McVeigh
4 years ago

I’m sure one main reason why people basically obeyed the Lockdown was that older people were more careful to avoid the virus while younger people have lost the ability to question authority. A product of modern universities.

M C
M C
4 years ago

Your certainty is backed up by no evidence and is one form of the older criticising the younger without grounds. Ironically, it’s at odds with another strain of young-bashing that maintains that the young doth complain too much about the status quo (about housing costs, corporate pay gaps, climate change inaction) instead of putting their heads down and grinding things out.

Cynicism in authorities is high with the young. There’s a reason why they don’t trust the political system.

One only needs to actually speak more with the young to see this (the politically engaged ones, of course, for political engagement rate has always tracked age: even the older cohort of today were similarly apathetic in their youth).

Roland Powell
Roland Powell
4 years ago

We English take part in the self isolation and social distancing to protect and care for our fellow English. We preserve our nations liberties by acting together. It is this facet of Englishness that enables us to survive and overcome. In the article the inherent coming together of England and the English when in danger has been intentionally ignored. Ă°ĆžÂÂŽĂłÂ ÂÂ§ĂłÂ ÂÂąĂłÂ ÂÂ„ĂłÂ ÂÂźĂłÂ ÂÂ§ĂłÂ ÂÂż

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
4 years ago

Losing your freedom because you are oppressed for political ends is one thing, but most people understand that we are being oppressed by a virus.

Why is this so difficult to understand ?

Amy San
Amy San
4 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

You really believe this is about a virus? You have more reading to do. With each major event rights and civil liberties are being taken away. These are things that people died for. Now we are just freely giving them up. Unalienable means just that. It was written as that for a reason. Read more history.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
4 years ago
Reply to  Amy San

Yes Amy ! Its a virus !

Are you waiting for the flashing pink lizards of Betelgeuse to land ?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

This whole saga is rapidly turning into the greatest confidence trick since the Resurrection.
Why can’t everyone calm down, It’s only death after all? What is there to be afraid of?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Be afraid of the pink lizards, be very afraid.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Thanks, I had rather forgotten about the ‘pink lizards’. Still, Betelgeuse is quite along way away is it not?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

It is apparently impossible to reply to this! A bit one sided, not to say biased but I can offer no other explanation.
Vale.

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

People with more knowledge than I do have already expounded why these deaths are unique:

1) People die, but if we had to choose between dying now and dying much later, we often choose the latter. This virus causes many, many deaths now, rather than later.
2) People get sick, but getting sick all at the same time overloads healthcare system, even the logistics of burying and cremating everyone would’ve been overloaded.
3) These deaths are not only from the virus, but the knock on effects of an overloaded healthcare system
4) Many of those who’ll die are the vulnerable in society, disproportionately. Humans, in general, have evolved to take care of the vulnerable
5) Many of those most at risk are health workers. Why should they bear a larger risk of dying (and again, affecting healthcare capacity) because you think death is just death (just not yours, because you’re not at risk)
6) The economy is being affected now, but high levels of infection will similarly knock out the economy severely.

Many, many people have answered your questions. It just takes you seeking out the answers beyond your confirmation bias.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  M C

I am sorry, but I beg to disagree.The only sane voice in this whole hysterical catastrophe has been that of Lord Jonathan Sumption.
It is astonishing and indeed terrifying to see how the rest of the ‘elite’ have behaved like the proverbial gadarene swine, and hurtled off the cliff of national
disaster.

Sue Briggs
Sue Briggs
4 years ago

I think that the number and proportion of freedom loving English, and more broadly of British people, were severely diminished by the death rates of young British men (and consequently no ability to pass on their genes) in both World Wars.

The same willingness to live in chains is also occurring in Australia, possibly for the same reason.

I do not understand why healthy people are so scared of the virus. By and large, it will not cause serious illness in people of any age, providing they do not have other health conditions, are not obese, do have a diet high in antioxidants, polyphenols, flavinoids etc. (ie, a diet high in herbs and vegetables, and in other micronutrients such as found in tumeric, andrographis, etc. which boost one’s immune system), and do not have certain hereditary blood or other conditions.

The strange thing about people’s reaction to the virus is that libertarians are nowhere to be found. My brother in law is a strong libertarian – protests against having to wear a bike helmet, supports smoking, although he does not smoke himself, but he has not uttered one squeak about the serious loss of liberty, eg, criminalisation of sitting in the sun, etc. caused by governments’ responses to the virus.

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Sue Briggs

I do not understand why healthy people are so scared of the virus.

This has been rehashed several times – it’s not about you, or any individual. It’s to flatten the curve.

Healthy people may not suffer, but they may then be a disease vector that passes it on to an unhealthy person. Or passes it on to a key worker (e.g. care home worker) who then passes it on to a vulnerable person.

It’s all about decreasing the rate and speed of the spread and healthy people being in contact increases this.

And a rapid infection of many people will overload the health system, which has knock on effects on its ability to handle other healthcare issues. Even the funeral business is struggling to handle the spike in number of dead.

Finally, 9% of those who have died did not have any comorbidities. The healthy can die of it too.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
4 years ago

I might have taken this article more seriously if I hadn’t just got back from a hour walking along tracks in nearby fields listening to birdsong and seeing sheep and lambs in a field beside the track, also enjoying the cleaner air.
I’ll probably spend the afternoon planning another painting.
I realise I am one of many people fortunate enough not to live in a city flat but lockdown need not be a physical or a mental prison.

Keith Sutton
Keith Sutton
4 years ago

I really don’t see how agreeing with the phrase ” We should be tolerant of those who lead unconventional lifestyles” would make one more authoritarian. Or is it just me?

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
4 years ago

St George’s Day and England lies serene
And thinks of Shakespeare, playwright of plague years
And takes her comfort from the quiet green
And tries to calm her stress and squash ideas
Of ancient freedom, freeborn English men
Had never thought to see wholly erased.
She stills her shocked sense with the hope that when
The first flush fear of death has slowly phased
Into a time of better courage we
Shall not seek refuge in a prison state
That fools itself it can beat death, but free
Again to look and think and contemplate,
Acknowledges our finite nature calls
For traffic noise, and pubs and shopping malls!

sclerderabbey
sclerderabbey
4 years ago

I think the article has failed to understand the English psyche completely . We do as we are told for a while and as long as it suits us. We never fight or raise our words against authority because we learned long ago that it is a waste of time. We just say nothing and do what we want anyway. The lockdown will end because people will walk away and stop listening to the instructions they have been given. Its already crumbling.

Mark Bevington
Mark Bevington
4 years ago

I too have been amazed at our reaction. It can be seen by schools being closed by the pressures of the electorate and not scientists. There are rare times in life where cultural conditions make a widely held view almost unsayable; I suspect many who are mad as hell feel they must hold their tongues for now at least. What event might change that is incredibly hard to predict.

simon taylor
simon taylor
4 years ago

Perhaps it is a fear of dying that has seen us obey the authorities. And as some one who works in construction, I would like to ask the author (who has probably never lifted anything heavier than a pen) which section of my industry would be able to function under social distancing, and with what evidence would he back up his belief? The “English are lazy/sheeplike” nuance given to the piece would have me believe the author is Scottish.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
4 years ago
Reply to  simon taylor

And how does the construction industry continue when its suppliers have closed.

I’m not convinced that many such businesses necessarily needed to close, but there’s been a concerted media campaign to close anything “not essential,” including the police threatening to inspect people’s shopping for non-essential items.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  simon taylor

Oh dear, not again, and we have only just got rid of Thales of Miletus, aka: Rob Roy!

Ashley
Ashley
4 years ago

It’s utterly depressing how readily we have accepted state-imposed restrictions on basic liberties. We’re not allowed to hug loved ones, celebrate births, honour deaths, walk over moors or go to the beach without fear of prosecution and yet we’re just taking it for the team. I say this to my friends and they shrug, as if the thought of liberty never occurred to them, or is a small price worth paying. Have they been brain-washed by this notion of saving the NHS at any cost? Is the glorious weather side-tracking them? I know many are enjoying the perk of a fully-paid furlough, so why would they seek to end that, but their compliance leaves me speechless. Perhaps it’s because the middle-classes are so comfortable, have been so cosseted for so long, so caught up in the rat race, so desperately sociable, so unable to imagine anything other than an easy life, that lockdown is regarded as a bonus. The chances of serious illness are low so any loss of liberty is merely a mild annoyance.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Ashley

If you recall in the 2016 Brexit Referendum, 72% of the electorate were almost evenly split on ‘stay or go’. It seems as if history has repeated itself over the reaction to Chinese Death Flu.
Half the population seem to have supinely rolled over and vociferously support the ‘Lock Down’ whilst the other half recall the great days of Empire, Churchill etc, and are, for the present, prepared to grin and bear it.
For how long is a question that the PM and his muse, Herr Cummings must consider extremely carefully.

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Ashley

Or perhaps that a temporary loss of liberty is a lower cost than the cost of an overloaded NHS, spike in illnesses and drastically earlier loss of life at a projected half a million people?

People may have made rational cost-benefit analyses. Just because they don’t agree with you (and your idea that this is a low cost event) doesn’t mean they’re brainwashed. In fact, they may have willfully absorbed more information on it than you have.

j.lee
j.lee
4 years ago

Perhaps in England there are two kinds of people: the authoritarians who are willing to have their freedoms trampled on in the interests of strong government, and the libertarians who, in present circumstances, freely engage in supporting lockdown because they believe it’s the right thing for them to do in the interests of everyone. Luckily, we have here a situation where their behaviours largely coincide, though one indeed imagines that the former are much more likely to inform on transgressors etc. Then the embrace of lockdown isn’t in itself an indication of authoritarian drift (though plenty of other things are). And the failure to anticipate it is a failure to understand the extent of altruism among some people as much as the compliance of others.

lvigero
lvigero
4 years ago

The lockdown provides lot of freedom. It provides the free time to think about your life, the free time to spend with your love ones, freedom to be yourself. Maybe from that perspective, we are more free after all ?

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
4 years ago

Years ago I tried to drive to Pilsen. The Iron Curtain very much there. I ended up kicked in the face by a border guard and slung out at gunpoint. Something to do with the fact that an Englishman might corrupt the Czechs with tales of freedom.
To be fair we have nothing like that here even with our bossy police.
As to the neighbours informing that is not really Stasi level. More petty than that.
Being over 70 and fit and reasonably strong and still working i will not take kindly to my proposed house arrest ( latest rumours that it will only apply to the over 70s ) and have already planned how to get about safely and unseen. If i get arrested and slung into jail so much the worse for the state. It will show it’s true colours and we will know that all the brave Boris talk of freedom is the fraud it sounded like.
‘Freedom ‘s just another word for nothing left to lose’
Me and Bobby Mcgee’ 1960s something.

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

It’s fine if you only risk yourself. The issue is if you come into contact with other people who do not want that risk, and infect them.

The key thing is to think about other people beyond one’s self.

Frederick B
Frederick B
4 years ago

With one exception I agree with all of Dr. Surridge’s points, which is no surprise to me because I’m an ultra conservative authoritarian Englishman. The exception is the third point: “we should be tolerant of those who lead unconventional lifestyles”. I don’t really have a problem with unconventional lifestyles although I tend to regard them with scorn as a kind of showing off, but I am surprised that this point appears with the other four – it doesn’t really fit, does it? Or am I missing something?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago

in view of the present synthetic crisis that has engulfed us, this is a most apposite essay.
However, I was astonished that whilst William Blackstone is mentioned, yet nothing was said about his near contemporary Thomas Paine. Arguably the greatest English radical ever, the author of Common Sense (1776), The Rights of Man (1791) and The Age of Reason (1794), but completely ignored in an essay about Englishness and Revolt!
Paine virtually ‘kick started’ the American Revolution and had a major influence on the subsequent French one, yet, as this essay proves,
has been airbrushed from History.
Historically the English have always been very slow to anger, even torpid, unlike their excitable ‘island cousins’. There hasn’t been a really serious disturbance since Peterloo (1819). You have to go back to Oliver Cromwell to see what happens when the English really do go berserk.
No, being ” confined to barracks” because of Chinese Death Flu (CDF) will, sadly, not prove the catalyst for revolution .
The premise that those who call themselves English are all in the hang ’em and flog ’em brigade is also seriously flawed.
The interesting statement that the Police have been inundated with (presumably) anonymous ‘vigilante’ telephone calls is regrettable. However if the Police were to announce that all these calls are logged and can be traced, it would deter many.
I was astonished to read that Bristol University sees fit to squander precious resources on Dr Paula Surridge to study “the values that underpin voting behaviour” No wonder Herr Cummings wishes to abandon Arts and Humanities subjects.
Finally the only example of real Englishness to come out of toxic drama is the wonderful polemic by Lord Jonathan Sumption on the 30th March last. A gravure performance of intellect, reason and ‘plain common sense’. It could not have been bettered.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
4 years ago

I wonder if the easy acquiescence to lockdown is because most people are oblivious to the economic damage which has resulted because they’re suffering the blinding effects of fear.

Has the media reported the lack of people getting treated for serious issues while hospitals are much less busy except for Covid-19 cases? Have they made clear the early deaths that will result from the economic depression and reduced NHS and welfare spending in future? Have they reported the daily flu deaths with the same breathlessness as Covid-19 to put things into perspective?

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Joe Smith

Everyone’s aware of the economic damage. The stimulus packages passed by wealthy nations have been reported as unprecedented.

But people are also aware that implicit cost-benefits are made – that the cost of letting the disease spead unmitigated would’ve been higher.

Has the media reported the lack of people getting treated for serious issues while hospitals are much less busy except for Covid-19 cases?

They have:
https://www.euronews.com/20

FT and Guardian also have pieces.

But be mindful that this is down to the uneven spread of Covid-19 thus far. Without the lockdown, the speard would’ve been far more even, and far more hospitals will be heavily loaded (as the London ones are)

Have they made clear the early deaths that will result from the economic depression and reduced NHS and welfare spending in future

People are aware of this. Even those scientists who supported the lockdown are discussing exit strategies.

Have they reported the daily flu deaths with the same breathlessness as Covid-19

https://www.theguardian.com

Yes, and many have reported what epidemiologists can tell from the data – this is 10 times more fatal than the flu, and spreads a lot quicker.

Your distrust of the media means you indulge in confirmation bias by accusing them of not reporting what they do report.

vipacoustic
vipacoustic
4 years ago
Reply to  M C

I don’t think everyone is aware of the economic damage. Many people have no idea of the economic effects that we are yet to see. Every day I see people calling for more and more state spending… for example “Give everyone in the NHS a 20% payrise”. They seem to have no idea that the money to do this comes from their own pocket in the form of tax – they think that “The Government” is completely separate from their own finances and sits on a big pile of money. Now there is some merit in the argument that, given this crisis, there should be more political will to extract money from the super rich and tax-dodging corporations. But I won’t hold my breath, and I don’t think people realise the scale of spending that has already been agreed to just to cover this 3 month period.

Also, a lot of people think it’s great right now, because they’re being paid 80% of their wage to sit at home getting drunk and watching Netflix. They won’t find it so wonderful in a few months if they no longer have a job.

Andrew Richardson
Andrew Richardson
4 years ago

My theory as to why the English are being so supine over lockdown is because we have such a long history of stability and continuity. I think if we’d lost a few more wars and been invaded a few more times and had felt threatened a little bit more often, then we would be a little more recalcitrant now.
I think the explanation as to why the English are so authoritarian now is because they are so pissed off with political correctness and globalisation. They’re just pushing back against it. I believe the deep instincts of most English is to be instinctively liberal and permissive of others.

Don donfriend
Don donfriend
4 years ago

I guess people just see it as a temporary expedient. If they thought there were more insidious aspects they might review their acquiescence.

Amy San
Amy San
4 years ago
Reply to  Don donfriend

Agreed. Many are not seeing the forest through the trees.

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
4 years ago

Hmm – those questions are hardly definitive.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
4 years ago

Not really seeing any attempt at an explanation here. AFAICS it is more the authoritarian Left who are keenest on Lockdown, with the populist Right quietly grumbling. Polling has consistently shown that the balance of opinion in the UK is authoritarian-Left – “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for Our NHS!”, a demographic which Blairite Labour successfully held but fragmented under Corbyn. This demographic embraces the Precautionary Principle, is keen on State power used to enforce conformity – and is as likely to read The Daily Mail as The Guardian.

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

You mean the fact that Tories have held on to power longer after World War 2, or that the entry to the EU (opposed by Labour and the Left in the 70s) and exit from it (opposed by Labour and the Left now), does not indicate that the left is actually somewhat not in the majority?

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
4 years ago
Reply to  M C

I was using Left-Right Authoritarian-Libertarian in the way those “what are your social/political attitudes?” tests do. So eg strong punishment for crime is authoritarian, strong support for state single-payer healthcare is left-wing, a free market is right wing.

The problem for mainstream left-wing parties is that they tend to be taken over by extreme-left loonies, whereas right-wing parties are rarely taken over by extreme-right loonies. And the Tories are adept at blowing with the prevailing wind.

Sinclair Black
Sinclair Black
4 years ago

Lock down is preferable to the risks from Corvid19. It is a ghastly disease. Get very lucky and have a mild case. Tests have shown in one study around 2.5% of people are in that category in a random but large sample. You could end up having a respiratory infection only, be gasping and fighting for every breath and have a ghastly protracted death. The death could be from drowning (over many days) or the virus savaged heart failing to function after a life sapping struggle. Or maybe skin rashes, ischaemic damage, loss of kidney function from clotting or loss of a limb or just digits. Maybe neurological damage from low oxygen saturation for days and days. Too early to say if brain damage can be caused but possible. Certainly possible lung damage. Get out of breath going up a step ladder. Or you could just be lucky.

These are very early days yet and the death toll has only one direction to go in. Some people would put their freedom to get infected and infect others above the horror they could be causing friends and neighbours. That is the ultimate in selfishness but some people are like that.

Baron Jackfield
Baron Jackfield
4 years ago
Reply to  Sinclair Black

Your comments explain the reason why so many “True Brits” have abandoned their freedom and locked themselves away… Basically, they, like you, are terrified by the scare sories being promulgated by the press, ignorant politicians, and worst of all, the BBC.

It’s no more a “ghastly disease” than many of the flu variants that we have seen over the last 60 years, several of which killed vastly more than SARS-COV-2 is likely to. The present “plague” appears to affect the elderly and those younger with severe pre-existing conditions. The bad flus killed indiscriminately, young and old.

The latest ONS figures appear to show that although deaths have jumped well above average, deaths from respiratory illnesses are not significantly higher than average, in fact the biggest rise in deaths in the last couple of weeks has been in the “non-Covid” category – possibly indicating that “normal” illnesses are not being treated and/or the cancellation of ongoing treatments (especially for cancer) is causing an upsurge in deaths of those who would otherwise have survived after treatment at (now only half-full) hospital.

Sinclair Black
Sinclair Black
4 years ago

No flu causes strokes or very early vascular dementia. No flu causes kidney failure resulting in the need for a transplant (imagine the competition for those organs) or permanent dialysis. No flu causes so many debilitating conditions in younger people. Yes the elderly when hit hard may die relatively fast if horribly. It is the younger with no pre-existing conditions who can be hammered with permanent disabilities. It is the young who have the strength to drown slowly for up to 17days fighting for every breath day and night. Spanish flu killed in a few hours. Some patients in ICU are on 100% oxygen and so far no way of reducing it without killing them. They have been there for weeks. Turn off the oxygen and watch them slowly die or give them an overdose? No flu ever made doctors make that choice.

Yes others die from not getting treatment for other conditions but the bandwidth is not there for everyone. The answer is to do what the Army does. Switch triage around. Only treat those who are less ill. Do not treat the really sick, disabled, autistic etc. those considered to offer society less verses what they cost in terms of time/resources. Decisions you never want to take. These are very early days in the pandemic. Much worse is to come. Trying to pretend SARS Cov-2 is trivial like a flu would be a huge mistake.

M C
M C
4 years ago

The latest ONS figures appear to show that although deaths have jumped well above average, deaths from respiratory illnesses are not significantly higher than average, in fact the biggest rise in deaths in the last couple of weeks has been in the “non-Covid” category – possibly indicating that “normal” illnesses are not being treated and/or the cancellation of ongoing treatments (especially for cancer) is causing an upsurge in deaths of those who would otherwise have survived after treatment at (now only half-full) hospital.

This is bollocks. First of all, the ONS numbers are with the lockdown, not without.

Second, Covid-19 deaths are not filed as respiratory deaths.

That interpretation of the numbers compares this week’s deaths with a 5-year average and finds “extra” deaths exceeding the number of Covid-19 deaths as a rise of deaths from “normal illnesses” due to non-treatment.

This is an abuse of the data. The 5-year average itself contains much variation within those fires (plus or minus 2000), which means those extra 2000 deaths can possibly be a statistically attributed to natural variations.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Sinclair Black

What an extraordinary jaundiced account of this Chinese Death Flu (CDF)! What percentage really do die of “drowning (over many days) or have a ghastly protracted death”?
No doubt the same percentage of the approximately 1650 people who die daily anyway. Would you not agree?
Emotional nonsense like this is only stoking the fires of morbid hysteria.
It seems to be a national trend, the first manifestation of which was, the frankly appalling, reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales (failed) in 1997.

cjhartnett1
cjhartnett1
4 years ago

The State overreacted to some bogus quackery from the same fools who destroyed our farms in the foot and mouth shambles of 2000/1.
Politics trumped true scientific analysis. With notable exceptions, most of our science dopes are eco trained activists, not scientists as previously understood.
Boris panicked, the humanities stuffed media heard the phrase ” herd immunity”, and- being vegan and extremely stupid, killed any chance of evidence led policy in its crib.
We have a Brahmin caste of essential staff like Philip Schofield’s driver, Piers Morgan’s powder puff artiste. Nobody regards the media or politicians as essential. Fixers of washing machines are.
All this has been more than two generations of Major/ Blair social education, bad lawmaking, fear ,timidity and power grabs by eunuchs of the governing caste. The groomed snowflakes turn out to be over 50 now, unscientific, godless and deserving of the bat up the nightie.
0.03 % of people die in ” connection” with Covid. More with it than because of it
Of that 3 in a thousand, 85% plus are over 80 when they die.
This is Chinese Manflu, and all the civil liberty outrages, the Stasi style compliance is only possible because we believe the idiot screen feeds, and refuse to look around where we live.
Ah well, the NHS is Moloch, so sacrifice your organs to it….by law, you’re soon to be ” nudged” so to do.
A grotesque golden calf, but that’s how debased and stupid we’ve become.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 years ago

Very good article, thought provoking (which is good) and disquieting (which is not so good).

The government though could not have picked a better time to put us under house arrest, as it happens. Glorious weather, and the best communications and entertainment technology we have ever had. But the true test would be to stop paying us. Then the subservience would cease.

And when we realise we have beggared ourselves to pay ourselves, hindsight might become very bad tempered. The government is taking some very big forward risks the longer this goes on.

Simon James
Simon James
4 years ago

Dr Surridge is standing on the shoulders, metaphorically speaking, of Karen Stenner, whose research in the US about 15 years ago showed that authoritarianism rises to the surface when people feel that no one is in charge and fades to a background hum when there is a general national sense that things are going pretty well and leaders can be trusted to do the right thing.

Another view on why we have accepted a loss of liberty would be the general drift towards a more risk-averse culture in the West, perhaps because we have become more inclusive (i.e. less ‘male, pale and stale’) and therefore we now have our first serious national crisis in which, for example, women’s voices are properly represented in the discussions about what the problem is and what we do about it.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
4 years ago
Reply to  Simon James

Which women are those???

Brain Unwashed
Brain Unwashed
4 years ago

“Many more people than anyone really expected have chosen to heed the government’s messaging and shut themselves away for the duration.”
WHY ?…….because of the baying and fear porn spewing MSM.
This bunch of corporate OWNED imbeciles must bear the responsibility for the destruction of our economy that pays for the NHS and the resultant deaths of many more times those (even with the deliberately inflated numbers) that have and will die from the yet another new flu strain.

Brain Unwashed
Brain Unwashed
4 years ago

Help Help I’v been censored

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
4 years ago

I “started the discussion ” about 6 hours ago, saying I disagree with the premise of this essay. Is that why my posts haven’t appeared?

Brain Unwashed
Brain Unwashed
4 years ago

See what I mean

robwrvickers
robwrvickers
4 years ago

We are going through exceptional times at the moment, but over many years I’ve come across quite a few of the sort of voters to whom Dr Surridge refers. They tend to share an authoritarian outlook and to repeat the same few catchphrases. Anyone from Left or Right whom is concerned with civil liberties, or general liberal values, is scorned as a ‘Do-Gooder’. And what is wrong with a police state, identity cards, mass surveillance and detaining people without charge or trial if it is ‘keeping us and our kids safe’ above all as ‘if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear’. There could hardly be a greater contrast between these people and American ‘small state’ conservatives, or traditional conservatives in general.

thomasbcarver
thomasbcarver
4 years ago

I’ve always been sceptical about the idea that the English are a nation of rugged individualists who love their liberty; most of us are quiet, law-abiding conformists who will follow the directions of anyone in authority. To illustrate my point I would recommend an article from the New Statesman in 1974 called Prospects for the English Revolution.
The moral authority for the lockdown is, of course, to protect the NHS, and it is working because we do all love and worship the NHS; in the USA they do not have quite the same emotional attachment to their health providers.
There also seems to be a general lethargy in England at the moment, and (for many people) a preference for being inside all day looking at a computer; thus you have, what for many people, is an ideal situation.

vipacoustic
vipacoustic
4 years ago
Reply to  thomasbcarver

The weather certainly has a large effect on how well the lockdown restrictions are obeyed. When it was sunny last week, social distancing didn’t appear to be such a priority.

prussian
prussian
4 years ago

Great many words to express very little here I think. The lock down has been obeyed because it is sensible. Boris early on supposedly on the basis of this sort of English liberty stance was resistant to the idea until he realised the likely consequences. And then he caught the virus. It is all very well to criticise the lock down now these consequences have been avoided and no doubt we will hear a lot in the future criticising it for its economic impact. It was absolutely necessary. Especially in the absence of any capacity to test and target carriers of the virus. We are only now looking at the airports where we were disgracefully negligent. Unless we can greatly improve on this front we will face further breakouts of the virus when lock down is relaxed. We simply don’t seem to be taking any notice of success stories such as South Korea.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  prussian

Nonsense. We should have followed the pragmatic, unemotional advice of Lord Jonathan Sumption,KS.
Instead we have followed the hysterical, and not to say morbid advice of the triumvirate of ‘Whitehall Witches’, Ferguson, Whitty, and Valance.
This whole charade is rapidly turning into the greatest social and economic disaster since the Black Death, and yet you condone it.

Jake Pepper
Jake Pepper
4 years ago

I have read a lot of tripe in my time but this just about beats the biscuit. As an Englishman I can attest that many – perhaps even most of our citizens – saw what was happening in China and Italy and Knew that we would have to accept some TEMPORARY curtailment of our basic freedoms if we were not to get 250K deaths. The writer of this piece uses a small number of “authoritarian English voters” to extrapolate that the majority of us feel the same way. James Kirkup, the writer, needs to “smell the coffee”. If this James KIrkup is the same James Kirkup who writes for the UK newspaper, the Telegraph, then his views suggest he is one of those “authoritarian English voters”. His views do not represent those of the majority of my fellow countrymen. We simply see the TEMPORARY curtailment of our basic freedoms as a way to save ourselves and manyof our fellow countrymen from death.
“Quod Erat Demonstrandum”.

vipacoustic
vipacoustic
4 years ago

It seems to me that most politics boils down to liberty versus authority. It’s interesting how the Covid situation is dividing along similar lines to Brexit. On one hand we have the “clappers” who demand a more and more authoritarian response to the crisis, crying out for the state to interfere in their lives, and on the other hand those who view any interference in their lives to be a horrendous imposition.

We had all that stuff about the ‘end of history’ etc, but have things really changed? It’s still a fight between big governement/nanny state and hands off government; people who want the market to be as free as possible and those who would like everything controlled and regulated centrally. It’s just now there is the added problem of technology and it being so difficult to resist in a society where we are all digitally visible. The Corona crisis is doing a good job of getting everyone used to buying stuff without cash, I notice. Much easier to control the population when all their transactions are electronic.

vipacoustic
vipacoustic
4 years ago

People couldn’t resist orders to leave the pub and go home. Once it had closed on Friday night it didn’t open again. So the only people in a position to resist were publicans. Our local pub stayed open fractionally longer than it should have and immediately received a visit from the authorities (obviously grassed up by a neighbour). If anyone wants to resist the lockdown, it won’t be by going to the pubs or to any other businesses which are now closed.

Personally I feel the lockdown is a reasonable measure FOR NOW but there will come a point at which I start socialising again – hopefully that point will coincide with the government making a sensible decision to allow us out.

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
4 years ago

Whilst I am seeing more people out and about as time goes on, it is clear that lockdown, or voluntary house arrest as I call it, is remarkably successful.

What is also very noticeable is the number of houses displaying NHS rainbows. In some streets it seems every house has one. Whilst one accepts that some degree of virtue signalling is going on, I wonder if the success of voluntary house arrest is down to people buying into the save the NHS message rather than obeying lockdown?

linda drew
linda drew
4 years ago

William Blackstone, the 18th century judge who defined “the absolute rights of every Englishman” including freedom from unwarranted interference by the state.
regulation 7 of coronavirus act 2020 pushed through in 24/7 without debate IS THE ENEMY TO FAMILIES AND FRIENDS SEEING EACH OTHER

John Little
John Little
4 years ago

Personally I’d rather temporarily put Liberty to one side when it’s a matter of saving people’s lives. To date, over 18,000 people have died across Britain of this virus in little over 5 weeks. I have connections to people working for the NHS and I don’t want to see them overwhelmed or put at greater and more prolonged risk in order for someone’s finer feelings or paranoia about loss of liberty to be assuaged. Liberty is irrelevant if you’re seriously ill, dying or dead. Lets show a bit more concern for the sanctity of human life please. When eventually this pandemic has subsided I will be more than eager to demand and fight for any civil liberties which are not immediately returned. But until then, lets not put the chicken of Liberty before the egg of life.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  John Little

In a ‘normal’ day just over one person dies every minute in the UK.That works out at roughly 1,650 a day, or just over 600,000 per annum.
Thus your figure of a possible ‘extra’ of 18,000 in five weeks, whilst tragic is not a national disaster.
This is NOT the Black Death! (death rate 50-60% approx).
If you can discard Liberty on such a flimsy, hysterical, excuse, there is no hope for the human race.
Astonishing really, as no doubt you are the beneficiary of the extraordinary freedoms out forefathers fought for over so many centuries. Yet here we are, hedonistically basking in the peace afforded by the Pax Americana, and you are distraught by a whiff of Chinese Death Flu. Incredible!

M C
M C
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Comparing to the Black Death is a red herring. It doesn’t need to be as bad to be worth the cost.

18,000 in five weeks is with the lockdown, it would’ve been higher otherwise.

Projections were 500,000. Of these, even with a conservative estimate that half were early deaths (250,000), an extra 250,000 deaths is enough to overwhelm existing systems (e.g. burials, NHS).

This doesn’t even take into account hospitalisation rates, which are 10x that number. Even a conservative added 1 million hospitalisations will cripple the NHS, leading to other patients not being able to access services, and adding to the risks of healthcare workers

Losing many healthcare workers in one go due to illness or death is bad for the system and impacts us all.

Really, really go look at the numbers rather than ignore tham.