Photos by Laura Dodsworth
Artillery Row

Fighting against lockdown

The group that projects messages onto Parliament is briefing MPs behind the scenes

The second, England-only, lockdown came into effect today after the House of Commons voted for it yesterday, with only 38 MPs voting against the 512 in favour. But several groups are hoping to make the rebellion much higher next time by lobbying politicians and highlighting to the public the problems caused by shutting so much of national life down.

One of the first out of the traps, and still banging the drum for a return to normal, is Toby Young’s Lockdown Sceptics. Young, amongst other things, is an associate editor at Quillette, but the editorial line at the website was pro-lockdown at the beginning of 2020 and Young decided to launch his own site (lockdownsceptics.com) which posts daily updates and articles chipping away at the lack of a clearly documented rationale for Lockdown being a proportionate response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Beginning in mid-April, the website now takes donations and even started a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate”.

Another group, Unlocked, is a social media channel set up in May and run by former Brexit Party MEPs Martin Daubney and Belinda de Lucy. Unlocked describes itself as being, “a new common-sense media channel for those abandoned by the MSM” and is not afraid of fighting the culture war. Unlocked produces viral videos by interviewing people like Professor Karol Sikora on the impact of lockdown: a video from Sikora posted yesterday already has 115,000 views.They recently posted a video with Laurence Fox, the actor-turned-politician, on why Remembrance Sunday “cannot be a casualty of Covid-19”.

Recovery project their message onto Wembley Stadium (Photo by Laura Dodsworth)

But perhaps the largest group opposing the lockdown is Recovery, which recently released polling suggesting almost three in four people are more concerned about the impact of lockdown restrictions than catching coronavirus. The photographer Laura Dodsworth has been tracking their guerrilla projection campaign around London landmarks.

The group was also involved in setting up a Zoom call earlier this week in which scientists discussed concerns with the data the Government is using, and former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption was also on the line to make a speech on the impact on civil liberties.

Those behind Recovery, which was set up in September, say they were concerned by Professor Karol Sikora’s revelations on the impact the first lockdown has had on cancer patients. Now, they have expanded their remit and are recruiting people who work in all areas of life with first-hand experience of the damage the shutdown has caused to their profession. Recovery have had offers of support from celebrities like Kirstie Allsopp and Sue Cook, who herself described Ofcom’s coronavirus guidelines as akin to ‘censorship’. The group is currently in the process of setting up separate units for Law and Education.

Photo projected onto St Thomas’ hospital (Laura Dodsworth)

Recovery has made “Five reasonable demands” on the government in which they accuse the government of restricting the “liberty and essential freedoms of large swaths of the population” and say that the debate shouldn’t be framed as saving lives or saving the economy because saving lives depends on a healthy economy. John Dobinson, one of the founders, is keen to stress that the group does not doubt the virus is dangerous, but says there must be a balance struck between Covid and other health complaints – not to mention everything else.

Dobinson used to be Secretary General for the International Society for Human Rights but now runs an advertising agency called Other. Like everybody on the campaign, he works on Recovery in his spare time, something that people tend to have more of during a lockdown.

It’s difficult to tell how much impact these groups have made but a number of the MPs who voted against the Coronavirus legislation in the commons yesterday were on the Zoom call arranged by Recovery. In the latest press conference this evening Boris Johnson was joined by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens but there was little by way of reassurance that some of the concerns raised by the Coronavirus rebels were being thought about. Dobinson says when they manage to create separate groups for different professions they will be able to present a fuller assessment on the impact of lockdown, something the government has so far refused to do.

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