by UnHerd
Wednesday, 24
February 2021
Video
11:52

David Blunkett and Charles Walker join forces to question lockdowns

Politicians from Left and Right on being in the dissenting minority
by UnHerd


One of the main features of the UK lockdowns has been the near-uniform consensus around them. As each one has gone by, cross-party support for lockdowns has only strengthened while fewer voices have been willing to offer anything in the way of dissent. There have been exceptions on both sides of the aisle: Lord (David) Blunkett, a famous figure of the New Labour era and former Home Secretary, and Sir Charles Walker, a prominent Conservative Party backbencher and vice chairman of the 1922 Committee, the all-important backbencher group.

Coming from two very different political backgrounds, these unlikely bedfellows have joined forces to draw attention to the pitfalls of the UK’s ongoing lockdown policy:

  • They agree that a different solution could have been found, with a greater emphasis on personal agency
  • They are particularly worried about the impact on mental health and the economy
  • They would like a faster timetable out of lockdown
  • They call for a public enquiry, and for people to be held to account
  • They share strong messages for each of their party leaders
I’m very strongly in favour of both free speech and defending the newspapers when it was unpopular, including the fact that they’d been extremely unpleasant to me 15 years ago. And in favour of free thought and free expression. But I’m not a libertarian. In other words, I’m not someone I’m not a hedonist. I don’t believe that anything goes so I’m a bit of a contradiction in small C, conservative social attitudes, but a very strong commitment to a democracy being participative. Not taking the word from the top down. And I think that when we get out of this in the summer… we’ll need to reset the the political dialogue, because otherwise we’ll become used to being told what to do from above. That’s bad for all of us, but it’s particularly bad for democracy.
- Lord Blunkett, LockdownTV
People are frightened. The political class and the media and the scientists on stage have been very, very good at frightening people. We’ve had these amazing television campaigns, which basically say, you’re going to kill people if you leave your home because the government wanted to keep infection rates down and it wanted to keep deaths down. I’m afraid the legacy of that, as I said in Parliament yesterday, is going to be a very long tale of mental health problems… We’ve got people who were so terrified, they won’t leave their homes. We’ve got children who won’t go outside because they’re frightened, if they catch something and bring it back they’ll kill their parents, we’ve got adolescents self harming. We have just done in my view, a terrible, terrible thing, and we will regret it for a long time to come.
- Sir Charles Walker, LockdownTV

On returning to normality:

Readjusting to any kind of normality is going to be a massive challenge, it will have an impact on productivity on our life and wellbeing for some time to come. There should be a recovery programme geared to that the psychology. In terms of those daily press conferences, they should be turned into something positive, if we’re going to recover, not just economically in terms of restoring growth, and getting people into meaningful jobs. But also getting back the kind of life that we want to lead and the way in which people can get up in the morning and get themselves to work.
- Lord Blunkett, LockdownTV

On SAGE:

I think you can be a SAGE scientist and advise the government, or you can be a scientist that goes on the airwaves, TV and radio, but it has been so damaging to have these various scientists from SAGE beating each other up on the airwaves, creating huge concern. It is pretty disgraceful when they’re introduced as X, Y and Z, and Professor X, Y and Z is a SAGE scientist, but is here in his or her own capacity. They’re not there in their own capacity. They are there as a SAGE  scientist, and of course, they’ve never been more in demand. They’ve never been more intellectually engaged. But having these various scientists on our airwaves and in our newspapers day after day after day after day, beating each other up IS scaring constituents. Some of my constituents have just been debilitated. Again, I’m sorry, if I sound emotional but this has been utterly disgraceful. I hope there’s a public inquiry and I help hope people are held to account I’ll be held to account at the ballot box.
- Sir Charles Walker, LockdownTV

On China:

I went to China first in 1983. I wouldn’t want to live in China, I wouldn’t like to live under that particular regime, and particularly the one that’s in place at the moment. And I wouldn’t want anybody to actually have to transfer that particular command and control both socially and economically, to this country. I would fight very hard against that. So the answer is that the Chinese have developed an understanding of the way in which they comply, not just the communist era from 1949, but long, long before that. We wouldn’t want to put up with it for one moment. We should be very wary of everything we do. On the economic front, we should be extremely robust, not just as a nation, but internationally with the Chinese. But they are the second largest economy now in the world. And we need to learn how to deal with them. And dealing with them needs a bit of good statecraft and clever political operation, and not just a head in the wall.
- Lord Blunkett, LockdownTV

Join the discussion


  • Terrific interview. So good to see a bit of cross party agreement against the lockdowns for once; and I have great admiration for Charles Walker’s compassion.
    Lets hope these two gentlemen’s colleagues start to take more notice of what they have said here, and recognise the wisdom of their words.

  • I think it is testimony to the power of fear that many people are in favour of Lockdowns and seem to want to ignore any evidence to suggest a different approach may have been more effective overall. it is like getting turkeys to vote for Christmas.
    Surely we should want to find alternative ways and pull out all the stops in order to find alternative strategies rather than be subjected to these damaging restrictions?
    I do hope a truly independent and objective enquiry (if there is such a thing ) is held. If the idea holds that they ‘worked’ then we can be in for a very uncertain future.
    Heartening to see an MP bold enough to call it out for what it is – barbaric.

  • I too never believed that a Chinese style lockdown could EVER happen here and was dumbfounded when it did . I thought the people of UK were real progressives and the government an outlier/leader but lo & behold we have surpassed China and infact are a laughing stock. Like a flag in the wind.

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