DAN WOOTTON: The real lesson of Partygate is not that Boris is a lying hypocrite (we knew that already) but that lockdown laws are an ass and always have been
The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin.
But once again, the political, scientific and media establishment are using that outrage to obscure the reality that the rules were never workable, or even necessary.
The people who made them and voted them through time and again – from Cummings to Hancock to Starmer to Drakeford – have never followed them to the letter.
They weren’t living in mortal dread of the virus themselves. They were all prepared to take calculated risks to improve the quality of their lives.
They simply wanted all of us mere mortals to be terrified and so it was easier to enact disturbingly dystopian levels of control and deny us the right to make our own decisions.
Lockdown laws are an ass that should be ruled out as an option from the public health playbook forever.
As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us
They were an unnecessary step too far that I’m convinced will lead to far more deaths in totality when this pandemic has finally played out.
Now the worm has turned. The data is damning.
History will show that those who backed shutting schools, discouraged cancer patients from attending hospital and allowed helpless souls like little Arthur Labinjo-Hughes be brutally abused for days on end – locked in a house without the usual protection of teachers and extended family – have blood on their hands.
It’s only now, with BoJo’s political life on the line, that the penny is starting to drop for his allies.
His Cabinet pal Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has been valiantly sent into the enemy territory of the BBC’s Newsnight and liberal LBC to defend his boss, is starting to ponder, 22 months too late, that maybe the rules were too tough, after all.
He must have known that at the time, given he admits to being lobbied by a friend who was cruelly banned from attending the funeral of his two-year-old granddaughter – the sort of moral outrage that the government brushed off as acceptable collateral damage.
But now, in attempting to keep Boris in his job, he says: ‘We must consider, as this goes to an inquiry and we look into what happened with Covid, whether all those regulations were proportionate or whether it was too hard on people.’
Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden in May 2020
There was nothing proportionate or sensible about lockdown.
For a start, everybody forgets that most of Britain had already largely voluntarily locked itself down before Boris turned the key on March 20th 2020. Offices, shops and pubs were already deserted before Boris ORDERED them to close.
And while Covid deaths soared until mid-April the three to four week time-lag between infection and death suggests that the public’s voluntarily cooperation had already done enough to make the pandemic manageable.
But folk like me who have been pointing this out for the past two years have been derided as granny killers, accused of wanting the virus to rip through society and take out as many vulnerable people as possible.
Of course, that was never the case.
But there was another way, as the ravers at Number 10 Downing Street prove: Allow the healthy, the young, the immune and the recovered to live a normal life in order to build up herd immunity, while spending the billions we wasted on furlough and test and trace to protect the vulnerable.
The reality is that none of those present were running any huge risk and they knew it. They already worked in close proximity to each other, they were meeting outside where transmission is less likely and by late May the virus was clearly in full retreat in any case
The scandal is not that they had a party but that the rest of us mug punters were not trusted to act equally responsibly in our own lives.
That’s why I supported the Great Barrington Declaration, a strategy of focussed protection authored by three of the world’s top scientists – Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.
But in the new world order, scientific debate was muffled. Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the USA Anthony Fauci demanded the Barrington scientists be rebuffed and censored.
That wasn’t hard. You see, if you stood against the lockdown orthodoxy, the mainstream media didn’t want to know.
It’s sad to see that Boris was captured by the establishment.
The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin
But a brave group of Tory backbenchers formed the Covid Recovery Group – led by former chief whip Mark Harper – and their influence slowly built, culminating in the mass rebellion against what I call Plan BS last month.
While the Leader of No Opposition Keir Starmer nodded through the Boris plan to enact mask mandates and work from home orders, it was the uprising from his own MPs that forced Boris to finally stand up to the dangerous doomsday merchants who he’d been listening to all along: Christopher Whitty, Patrick Vallance, Jenny Harries, Neil Fergusson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid (who has depressingly been captured by NHS management and become a Matt Hancock clone).
That will turn out to be one of the most significant moments of the entire pandemic.
Boris, knowing his leadership was on the line, finally refused to enact a lockdown or further restrictions.
The usual suspects predicted imminent doom: Bodies piled up, the NHS overwhelmed, all non-urgent surgery cancelled… You’ve heard it all before by this point.
But within less than a month it’s clear none of that is going to happen.
In fact, England’s decision to refuse to lockdown has proved to be a masterstroke.
Scotland and Wales enacted more ridiculous restrictions – including shutting nightclubs, banning mass gatherings, stopping fans going to the football and the like – but their rates have ended up worse than England.
According to figures published by Nicola Sturgeon’s government, the nation had 2,824 cases per million people in the week to January 6, compared to England’s 2,615.
England is also much lower than Wales with 3,481 and Northern Ireland with 3,893.
Let that sink in: Scheming Sturgeon and Mad Dog Drakeford’s pathetic controls on their citizens resulted in HIGHER Covid case rates.
Across continental Europe, the comparison is even more stark.
The Netherlands went into a lockdown before Christmas and cases are now soaring: A new record was set this week, with over 201,000 people testing positive.
On Tuesday, France hit a record 368,000 cases, even though the Covid hysteric Macron has attempted to shut the unvaccinated out of society, closed nightclubs, mandated facemasks outdoors in Paris, and even banned eating and drinking on trains.
All lockdowns do is delay the inevitable, while causing untold collateral damage.
What a shame Boris didn’t listen sooner to his brilliant former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost, who quit in a rare act of political morality throughout this pandemic because he couldn’t stomach the PM’s continued restrictions for a moment longer.
In a new interview with this week’s brilliant Planet Normal podcast, he has said: ‘I think honestly, people are going to look back at the last couple of years globally and see lockdown as a pretty serious public policy mistake. I would like to see the Government ruling out lockdowns for the future, repealing the legislation, ending them.
‘We can’t afford it [and] it doesn’t work. Stop doing Covid theatre – vaccine passports, masks, stuff that doesn’t work – and focus on stuff that does work. Stuff like ventilation, antivirals, proper hospital capacity – that’s what we need to be focussing on.’
He’s right. And it’s also time we change our language about Covid and a constant obsession with an illness that is minor for most and fast becoming endemic.
I’ve had Omicron and people say things like, ‘I’m so glad you got through it.’What the hell? It was a pussycat – especially compared to the Wuhan strain which I had in March 2020 – nothing more than a common cold, irritating for a couple of days, but certainly not something for which I needed a jot of sympathy.
Boris now has the teeniest of windows to try and salvage something from his unfathomable rule break to secure some sort of Covid legacy.
Lord Frost is correct that what will probably be his final chapter as prime minister must be to banish the lockdown laws that even he couldn’t follow.
He must turn his back on the authoritarianism that he promoted and that has finally seen him lose the teflon coating that for so long allowed him to remain politically popular despite scandal after scandal that would finish off any other politician in the brutal age of the 24-hour news cycle and social media.
But Boris is reaping what he sowed 22 months ago.
He allowed his advisers to ramp up the terrifying propaganda, turned guidance into laws, threatened healthy folk for simply seeing friends, and empowered the police to arrest and issue ridiculous fines (which should all now be handed back).
Oh, the irony that all of this could come back to haunt former libertarian Boris and see him deposed as PM.
Returning Britain to normal life by the end of the month is the only way he now has any hope of convincing his mutinous backbenchers to offer a stay of execution.
Boris today, however, is hiding behind the worst of the Covid restrictions.
Out of an abundance of unnecessary caution – probably because he wanted to avoid a TV interview – he’s self-isolating AGAIN after a family member tested positive.
And if we continue to live in this way the country will never get back on its feet and the economy will continue to splutter along with far too many staff out of work for no good reason.
The lesson we must learn from the tragic fall of Boris Johnson is that lockdowns never worked and they must never be unleashed again.
And that we should all have the right to decide for ourselves how much we are prepared to let Covid, or any other virus, rule our lives.