Getty/ the_burtons
Artillery Row

The Lockdown Sceptics

The ‘liberators’ fighting back against the ‘ever-lockers’

The divisions on Coronavirus started off between those who wanted to lockdown the UK early and those who wanted to leave it until later.

The greatest advocate of early-locking was Piers Morgan whose Twitter diatribes and on-air ranting against the government became more unhinged as time went on, but the early lockers were also not helped by a pioneer of their cause being the flakey independent London mayoral candidate, Rory Stewart.

These divisions have now been replaced by those who want to keep us indoors indefinitely and those who want to end it: The ever-lockers vs the liberators.

It’s strange that a government led by big Vote Leave hitters like Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson and stuffed with numerous ex Vote Leave staffers have so readily accepted expert advice.

Slavishly following ‘the science’ shielded No.10 from criticism to their comparatively late-lockdown, but that strategy is now holding them back from doing what they clearly want to – relax the laws earlier than they’re being advised.

To avoid this trap the government could have accepted the heat early on, told journalists that whilst they happen to agree with the advice they were being given they always considered a broader range of advice before making any decisions.

For now, a majority of the population seem happy with the ongoing draconian restrictions to their freedom. But several media commentators are fighting the prevailing consensus that the lockdown is doing us good. The Critic brings you the names of the dissenters so you can memorise them and – just before you clap for the NHS this week – jeer their names and boo.

1. Toby Young – Free Speech Union creator

“People are killed by economic downturns just as surely as they are by pandemics and more years of life will be lost than saved if the lockdown is prolonged.”

One of the original lockdown sceptics, his article in The Critic was referenced by Cabinet Ministers in discussions about the restrictions. The main thrust of his argument is that more lives will be lost due to the economic downturn than would be saved by mass incarceration of the public. Led to a big social media backlash against him but kicked off the mainstream debate we’re having. Has since started a website with daily updates to argue his case.

2. Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday columnist

“The evidence from Stockholm, which has so far pursued a rational, proportionate, limited policy, still suggests that Sweden will emerge from this less damaged by far than we will.”

Peter Hitchens likens the lockdown to a doctor cutting off a patient’s leg to cure him of chicken pox. The patient recovers from chicken pox, the Doctor presents a large bill and the one-legged, bankrupt patient says ‘Thank you!’. He was invited to speak on Good Morning Britain by Piers Morgan after they had a major Twitter row. Has lots of data to back up his view that the virus is far less potent then is being made out but for a man ill-suited to summarising, it’s hard to believe many GMB viewers were persuaded. He carries on the dissent in his regular column.

3. Brendan O’Neill – Spiked Editor

“The supposedly virtuous pro-lockdown lobby is implicitly making a ‘trade-off’ too – between lives at risk from Covid and lives at risk from the lockdown. They have decided, it seems, that the latter are not very important.

Libertarian/Marxist O’Neill points to numerous examples suggesting people dying through fear of going into hospital or calling the ambulance when they have serious but treatable health problems like heart attacks. Criticises Health Minister Nadine Dorries for telling journalists not to ask about the exit strategy.

4. Fraser Nelson – Spectator Editor

“What can never be repaired is the long-term damage to children’s education, or the lives of those whose cancers might lie undetected in this interregnum.”

Nelson claims he’s not necessarily a lockdown-sceptic but it’s clear from his Telegraph column which way he’s moving. He reveals the government has no plan to get out of the lockdown and wonders why we’re still under national house-arrest even though the NHS has easily coped with the level of cases. Cites a Norwegian study which suggests younger pupils’ adult earning potential is permanently lowered by £650 for every week they miss school.

5. Lionel Shriver – novelist & Critic contributor

“The supine capitulation to a de facto police state in a country long regarded as a cradle of liberty has been one of the most depressing spectacles I’ve ever witnessed.”

An American, Shriver is disgusted at what she sees as the British weakness for the idea that the law is more important than what it’s trying to achieve and points to examples of police taping over park benches and harassing sea swimmers as evidence. She believes we were whipped into pro-lockdown hysteria by the government but public opinion is now stopping the government from easing the restrictions. She’s calling for an independent inquiry after it’s all over. Isn’t clapping for the NHS.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover