Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Boris Johnson on lockdown and freedom

An interesting section of Hansard (22nd September 2020 - vol. 680, column 814) that was brought to my attention today:

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. He is right to say that it is the co-operation and good sense of the British public that has seen the spread of this difficult outbreak curtailed. My constituents will continue to do exactly what is required of them, but the truth is that Cornwall has a very low rate of covid-19, and that has been the case throughout. What message of hope can the Prime Minister give to teenagers going to schools and colleges who are being asked to wear face masks when not in class, to churchgoers who have been blocked from freedom of worship, and to businesses that have yet to open and are continually frustrated from doing so?

Churchgoers will continue to have freedom of worship under the proposals. We want life, as far as we possibly we can, to keep going as normally as possible. We want the economy to keep moving. The best hope I can offer my hon. Friend’s constituents, for whom he fights so valiantly, is that we get this virus back under control, take the country forward and keep the economy moving. That is the best prospect for our country.

Does the Prime Minister think that the reason Germany and Italy have far lower covid rates than us, with life continuing more or less normally, might be that they have locally and publicly run test and trace services that actually work?

No, I don’t, and I think the continual attacks on local test and trace and what NHS Test and Trace has done are undermining and unnecessary. Actually, there is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world: our country is a freedom-loving country. If we look at the history of this country over the past 300 years, virtually every advance, from free speech to democracy, has come from this country. It is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that is necessary. What we are saying today is that collectively—I am answering the right hon. Gentleman’s question directly—the way to do that is for us all to follow the guidelines, which we will strictly enforce, and get the R down. That is the way forward.

This semester, I've been teaching freedom (as part of our introduction to political theory module) and will be teaching about pandemic responses (as part of my ethics of public policy module). This exchange is relevant to both.

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