Lockdown scepticism is not Euroscepticism repackaged
New research presents an entirely different picture
Nigel Farage, Toby Young, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Allison Pearson, Dan Hannan… what do these names have in common? They are all prominent lockdown sceptics, but also (in what seems like a lifetime ago) ardent Brexiteers.
On the face of it, support for Brexit and lockdown scepticism have much in common: an anti-establishment feeling, pro-business and a streak of libertarianism.
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But new research from King’s College London presents an entirely different picture. According to the paper, there is no link between lockdown scepticism and pro-Brexit values — in fact, it is quite the opposite. Based on a survey of roughly 2,000 people, researchers asked questions based on 10 values — universalism, benevolence, tradition/conformity, security, power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation and self-direction — to explain a large range of attitudes and behaviours, including political ones.
This values system is useful because universalism and the three conservation values (tradition, conformity and security) also predicted voting in the UK’s 2016 EU referendum, both directly and via their effect on attitudes to immigration and European identity.
On the key question of suppressing civil liberties to combat the virus, they found that lockdown sceptics disproportionately valued hedonism, stimulation, power and achievement whereas those who were more accepting of limits on freedoms during the pandemic overwhelmingly valued security, conformity, universalism and benevolence.
Contrast that with the values profiles of Remain and Leave voters:
Interestingly, those valuing universalism were the strongest supporters of Remain, and those valuing security and tradition were the strongest backers of Leave. But these two groups now find themselves relatively united in support of lockdowns.
Still, it is worth bearing in mind that many of the more prominent lockdown sceptics are Leavers. In Parliament, it is Conservative MPs who are most vocally sceptic on lockdown; of the 34 Tory MPs to vote against the Government last year on additional Covid measures, some 30 were Leavers in 2016.
If Nigel Farage had hoped that his ‘Reform’ Party could easily pivot from Brexit to lockdown scepticism as an animating mission, he might be disappointed.
I think it’s an interesting point.
As it happens I voted to remain (although I don’t consider myself a ‘remainer’ – we lost, I got over it in about 10 seconds!).
My scepticism, such as it is, is a result of mixed messages. ‘Protecting the NHS’ (seemingly for doing its job) turned into eliminating the virus and now seems to be something in-between.
Somehow we (in the West) seem to have forgotten how to die. That sometimes something will come along that will kill you and others – that’s life (well, death) isn’t it?
It’s fantastic that we have vaccines and hats off to the government for getting this right at least. But today the government is saying ‘don’t book holidays at home or abroad’, this is getting silly now, for the sake of the population and the economy there needs to be an exit plan otherwise I think the government could find itself in a very difficult situation.
I think immortality is now incorporated into the Human Rights Act
There’s only one “t” in immorality.
Interesting how believing in civil liberties and favoring their protection is tied to hedonism. I guess a more suitable term was not available to these august researchers. Apparently words like liberty and freedom were too much to consider.
I used to work in the USA and I have since visited about 30 times – not to the tourist centres but as a consultant to manufacturing industries. Sometimes I have taken my wife who had to hang around waiting for me for hours. In that time:
She has ridden the subway and been approached by a group of black young women who told her that she should never ride the subway again because it was reserved for black people.
She has sat in a park near fountains watching children playing and been told (politely) that she had to sit in other seats because she was white.
She has been stopped twice by police cars when she was walking along the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Va, and been told that walking alone signalled that she could be in the sex industry.
She had to walk about 100m in San Diego in the evening to meet me and she was stopped by a police officer because it was suspicious behaviour.
My point is that your country does not really deal in civil liberties – it is just something from politicians or people who are ‘wishful thinking’.
Just to add, some of my colleagues from the USA visited for two weeks and we spent most of the time visiting clients in Sweden, Finland and Germany. I was told over and over again that it was not safe to go outside in the evenings. Mostly we had to stay in the hotels. We have more freedom and civil liberty in European countries than you could ever dream of. My worry is that we will get ever closer to the USA, get fatter and fatter, our children talk with American accents.
The subway and park stories are worrying to sure. Along with your general points about civil liberty are you saying that an informal anti-white segregation is on the rise in America? It does sound like a calculated mirror image of pre-civil rights segregation.
Yes, that is what I am saying. I am getting bored by constant references to Civil Liberties. To me, this means that you can sit behind a computer and say anything you want – maybe, just maybe, you can do this now in the USA but everybody on this site is always talking about the Left taking over the media so the Left could decide in the future that for minorities to be safe it would be necessary to listen in on some conversations.
But, apart from typing anything, you definitely can’t do anything in the USA. Bill Bryson, USA born, raised his family in the UK and they decided to move to the USA for a change. They found somewhere rural and chose a house within about 500m of the school so they could walk with their children to school every day. At the end of the week they had a deputation from the neighbours asking them to stop – it was not the done thing in that neighbourhood. Worse was to follow when the Brysons didn’t go to church on Sunday. They had another deputation saying that this behaviour was not allowed.
I could go on and on but it would be very boring.
De Tocqueville comes to mind …
What does that have to do with the inclusion of “hedonism” to describe those who still value civil liberties? I agree that, too often, freedom is given lip service and that lip service often comes from politicians. Politics is typically downstream from culture, so when things such as you cite occur, most elected officials are too weak-kneed to call out the offenders.
Two of your scenarios involve minorities, whom the American left regards with a condescension that is staggering. At best, these mostly white leftists see black people as pets and mascots; at worst, they despise minorities with a fervor that would make a Klansman blush.
One question: if visits to three European nations came with safety warnings, how on earth do you have more freedom? Is the comparison between those nations and the UK? Because some large American cities have been unsafe for decades and everyone knows why, but the malicious truth is seldom uttered.
See my latest note two paragraphs above. No, we are at cross purposes. I am happy to explain but you will find it boring. Here goes.
I came onto UnHerd to learn something and so far I see a lot of disgruntled (older) people who are unhappy about the future – a bit like the old men who gather in the parks in US cities and try to put the world to rights.
Almost every post and argument seems to involve civil liberties and I am convinced that nobody really understands what it means. Imagine:
You are 16 years old, a new voter (some places in the UK). You have learned:
The old people have destroyed the planet.
The old people always talk about wars.
The old people have used black people as slaves.
The old people have been unfair to women.
However, this story is from the Left. The Right (now slowly becoming the Left) is talking all day about civil liberties and each one is spending hours and hours defining it precisely. What a waste of time for these boring old f***s.
Really only the Left is explaining to this young person who he should vote for. The right is wasting time in endless critiques of words. Who will he vote for?
You talk a lot about civil liberties. Isn’t it time to stop defining things and start to do something actively? But what?
“The old people have destroyed the planet.
The old people always talk about wars.
The old people have used black people as slaves.
The old people have been unfair to women.”
Speak for yourself. Not me or people in my generation (Old). Your first post was interesting. Your second one bizarre.
The 250-year-old people, possibly. Not those of us who are still breathing, thank you very much.
It’s often meant as a slur, although it is far more complex than that. I agree it’s an odd choice for a question like this as it’s a very
One definition of Hedonistic is:
“living and behaving in ways that mean you have as much pleasure as possible, according to the belief that the most important thing in life is to enjoy yourself”
I think the opposite answer should have been Puritan, and the good old “the haunting fear than someone somewhere is happy”.
Why is this wrong? Does this mean that your idea of civil liberties is the correct one? For me, there is more to civil liberties than being able to type something. You also have to be free to go somewhere.
For example. Pre-Covid, every big town and city in the UK was besieged every Friday and Saturday night by drunken revellers who vomited everything they had drunk or eaten against the walls of the buildings. Their civil liberty gave them the right to do this (nobody stopped them) and the next morning the city councils would organise the clean up. I’m guessing that this is the hedonism bit?
However, I worked with a lot of normal people who would have liked to go into the city at weekends with their families for a meal, say. But they would not do this because they did not want their children to see these things. So these people had lost their civil liberty.
My guess is, that if you had a conversation about this on UnHerd, most people would say that the government/police should do something but not at the risk of curtailing the civil liberties of the revellers.
What is the answer? My answer is ‘No civil liberty without responsibility.’ For saying this most people would dismiss me as old and boring – which I am.
Why is this wrong?
Because hedonism speaks to self-indulgence. If this now applies to civil liberties, then we are no longer even a nominally free society.
You also have to be free to go somewhere.
the lockdowns ended that and someone daring to want to do what you describe is considered self-indulgent by this study. And there is a gap between going somewhere, and going somewhere and creating a mess. If this Friday scene is so well known, you’d think having a few cops round to monitor and, when necessary, fine or arrest the offenders would be in order.
My answer is ‘No civil liberty without responsibility.’
I agree and the same applies to rights, which ties back to the previous point regrading the drunks.
My freedom to own a gun does not grant me license to indiscriminately shoot at people, nor does my right to speech entitle me to say nasty and untrue things about Chris Wheatley. But when govt issues a “thou shalt not” edict things we take for granted, I object to that being classified as hedonism.
As a postscript, I do not find you boring. You may be old, but so am I, at least by what I used to consider old. That seems to be a moving target as the years pass. 🙂
“Pre-Covid, every big town and city in the UK was besieged every Friday and Saturday night by drunken revellers who vomited everything they had drunk or eaten against the walls of the buildings.”
This is ridiculous hyperbole. Whilst there are instance of such behaviour in the UK (and elsewhere), this is a gross exaggeration. I have personal and recent experience of several UK towns and cities and there is no such “besieging”. I take your description as one with that of the imaginary UK city multiple Muslim “no-go” areas. Both are fantasies
Hmmm…I am certainly a sceptic when it comes to these findings. It seems to be that there is a direct correlation between EU-scepticism and lockdown-scepticism.
The political classes, the public sector types, the corporate types and most of the media all supported Remain and all seem to benefit from, and support, lockdowns.
People who own or work for small businesses, or who are generally at the lower end of the food chain, generally supported Leave and are now being persecuted by lockdowns.
Perhaps the research found some people in hospitality and entertainment etc who probably leaned Remain but are also being persecuted or destroyed by lockdowns. Assuming they have accepted Leave as a reality, they may well be sympathetic to an anti-lockdown party.
My sense is that Farage could very well succeed with an anti-lockdown approach. I, for one, had assumed he would take this approach.
Well said. But there are two riders to your remarks. First, the leave contingent contains a platoon or two of conformist social authoritarians prepared to swallow wartime analogies and believe whatever British leaders and officials may say – especially now that their Great Inspiration, “Boris”, is in office. These will favour lockdown. Second, the better sort of Remain supporters were those who favoured a pragmatic approach in the perhaps false but still plausible belief that prior to 16 Britain had the “best of both worlds”. These people will not have supported the antics of Bercow and company and they will not like lockdown either – think of Lord Sumption. So I believe that whilst your characterisation of the two camps at heart is true, your peripheral topography is perhaps less so.
I fear that if Farage is successful he will meet the same end as Trump
It suits the anti Brexit bits of the media to emphasise that many lockdown sceptics are in favour of brexit. (I remember one Guardian article saying something like “not all brexiters are lockdown sceptics but most lockdown sceptics are brexiters”. They can then use this as evidence that lockdown sceptics are bad people, because supporting brexit is beyond the pale.
From what I have seen on discussion forums, there are perhaps more pro brexit lockdown sceptics, but it is by no means universal
Yet another useless academic study. And we taxpayers are ultimately funding this rubbish. I would like to have seen the questions which determined the values for hedonism, stimulation (?), achievement, universalism etc, because I don’t know what they are trying to measure. And instead of these airy-fairy pictograms, they could have tried some hard, statistically testable, correlation coefficients. What little I can glean from the diagrams presented is those who accept some (but not large) limits on civil liberties are generally more moderate in most things than most people AND more likely to be Leavers.
This accords with my experience. Remainers were usually more extreme in their opinions and actions.
The apparent correlations may be more of an underlying function linked with wealth, class and age, for instance. And in turn, where is a single score summing the multi-parameter correlation of z-scores. How much is an ‘overwhelming’ difference between the scores. How are they ‘normalised’? Is an ‘overwhelming’ difference a statistical thing or marketing-speak for simply ‘a bit different’? I find the significance of these z-scores impossible to interpret without being given a far better analysis than is offered here. Blinding us with (pseudo) science perhaps?
There is no detail offered here, before ‘the full story’ is laid out. Even then it will not be the full report. If you want the detail then consult the actual research report that will define and explain just what has been measured or tested in some way. It’s often the reporting by ‘new research says’ articles that falls short and is superficial rather than the care and attention paid by whoever has gathered data and turned it into meaningful information. The report itself may be 20, 30, perhaps 70 or 80 pages long, and rare is the report that doesn’t show something very interesting thanks to care taken doing the work.
I must have been unlucky. I’ve read hundreds (if not thousands) of reports in my lifetime and a large percentage were completely without interest or merit. But, Hell, someone wanted a report commissioned with a certain conclusion …
You could argue that the results contrast the utilitarian viewpoint with the human rights/ libertarian viewpoint. Although it is unpleasant for some, the majority of lockdown supporters think the lockdown will promote long term happiness so they accept the short term pain. The sceptics argue that individual freedom is more important both now and in the future, never mind the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Of course they could both be wrong….
Most lockdown supporters I’ve meant are just dishonest virtue signallers. They ‘agree’ with lockdown because it’s the correct thing to say – then they go and break or bend all the rules.
Isn’t this a sweeping statement !!! You are probably right. But I think, as always, you miss the point. I would guess there are a couple of hundred regular contributors to UnHerd and this is not really a very big number. So if all 200 say the same, so what? Of course, you also meet other people.
I think that what everybody misses is that while these wonderful conversations are taking place the world just carries on as before. Criticise the government? Vote in another government.
In my opinion (I am definitely a minority of one) the learned people on this site find it too easy to be critical but don’t have any ideas of a way forward. The lockdowns will continue because the government(s) of today say that we will have lockdowns. The media sort of agree, with the odd doubter.
I am reminded of the time when I worked for a year in Italy and every day of the week the old men sat in the cafes and talked about all the things the government were doing wrong.
This is certainly true in the US. Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, Fauci, Biden, Harris, Pelosi, half the MSM, all caught without masks inside buildings. Or worse. Caught breaking lockdown rules to eat out and get hair done.
My observation has been that there is a difference between what I would call lockdown skeptics, and lockdown don’t give a shits.
The latter includes all kinds of people who simply don’t like the rules, don’t care much about their purpose, and these people do what they want as long as they can get away with it.
The former are people who have some kind of considered ideas that lockdown will not be effective in the way it is meant to be, or the other bad effects of lockdown make it not worthwhile, or who are worried that the civil liberties implications are a risk to the necessary conditions of democracy. These people may actually follow the rules for the most part.
I’d think the psychological profiles of these two groups are rather different.
Well it hardly takes a research project to come to those blindly obvious conclusions separating the two camps
This is a very poor comparison.
Leave vs. Remain was a very clear choice between staying in the EU, an organidasion with a very clear architecture and treaty framework, and not (though it could perhaps be argued that not everyone voting was perfectly informed as to what that was, or what the manner of leaving might me).
No-one but an idiot would argue that at some point during the pandemic, certain NPI’s* have been justified and beneficial. The question is which ones and when. The bona fide criticism of “lockdowns” is that no detailed evaluation of each measure has been debated and presented to the public. Those presenting themselves as “lockdown sceptics” appear to be opposed to the imposition of each and every such measure, at any time. This verges on a religious belief, unless it amounts simply to a demand that such evaluation ought to take place, rather than an insistence that the result is clear. It is no wonder that they haven’t had the popular appeal afforded to Brexiters. Farage is but a grifter seeking a new grift.
*Even the “focussed protection” advocated by the GBD amounts to targeted NPI’s.
‘ those who were more accepting of limits on freedoms during the pandemic overwhelmingly valued security, conformity’
Well, no sh*t, Sherlock. Authoritarians the lot of them.
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