Lockdown has absolutely crippled the economy and what for? We have a similar death rate to Sweden which never locked down, the average age of death from COVID in the UK is 82.4 when the average age of death for the UK as a whole is only 81.2. Not only that, what I would like to see published is the death rates from other illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks and so on; this is not to mention that COVID is now the 24th biggest cause of death in the UK.
Ministers have been fighting within the Cabinet on the approach to take to dealing with the pandemic, Michael Gove (Minister for the Cabinet Office) and Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care) have been arguing in favour of tougher lockdown measures since the summer whilst the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has been battling for common sense and getting the economy going again. This may seem an uncompassionate way of looking at it, the old health over wealth argument, but look at it from the following perspective, if we continue to have these draconian measures imposed upon us then people will never get the immunity needed to combat this virus, and secondly, there will be more deaths from other causes than COVID itself.
The UK suicide rate has fallen but that has to be treated with cynical criticism, there have been an astronomical number of deaths from various causes put down to Coronavirus, suicides are most definitely included in that number – more worryingly, child suicides are believed to have increased in quarters one and two of 2020. Depression caused by loneliness and lockdown will never be truly shown in any figures published by the ONS or otherwise, but it is ever so plain to see the impact on people's mental health during the period between March and June.
Great Barrington Declaration – An open letter and declaration from public health academics and professionals
I'm glad that now Professors Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta and Karol Sikora have broken the consensus in the science and epidemiology world and have spoken out against the lockdown. They wrote an open letter to Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Professor Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer) and Sir Patrick Vallance (Chief Scientific Officer). To break down the Professors' letter, let me lay out the ultimate goal of the correspondence, they are criticising the Government's approach to combating the virus and their goal of getting 'COVID zero' by keep locking us down whenever there is a slight rise in cases. The letter reads, "In summary, our view is that the existing policy path is inconsistent with the known risk-profile of COVID-19 and should be reconsidered. The unstated objective currently appears to be one of suppression of the virus, until such a time that a vaccine can be deployed. This objective is increasingly unfeasible (notwithstanding our more specific concerns regarding existing policies) and is leading to significant harm across all age groups, which likely offsets any benefits."
They couldn't be more right, the damage to not just the economy today but to the economy 20 years down the line, it is the generation of 16-30 year olds who will be forced into repaying the costs of lockdown. It will be this generation which will find it near impossible to set up their own business unless they have significant financial backing, they will find it even more difficult to get onto the housing ladder, the list goes on. We cannot let our young people down even more, it was Gavin Williamson's watch that the results day carnage occurred, potentially alienating a generation of potential Conservative voters and playing into the left wing, Labour narrative that the Tories don't care for younger people.
We need to work hard to make sure that that isn't the case, we need to cut red tape for planning laws to ensure we build more homes for younger people, affordable homes to turn generation rent into generation buy.
How can we do that then? Well Boris Johnson and Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, have promised to do just that, the PM's campaign slogan is 'Build! Build! Build!' and that is what he must do, however, Mr Johnson's plans to introduce fewer and/or less rigorous checks on new homeowners and mortgage applicants would be a folly. No Prime Minister, with the exception of Mrs Thatcher's 'Right to Buy' scheme, has managed to solve the housing crisis and even fewer have managed to help young people onto the housing ladder, private home ownership is one of the main goals in life for most young people and it is key that we as a Conservative Party ensure that we create a property owning democracy for our young people. By decreasing the checks on mortgage applicants would lead to a subprime mortgage disaster that we saw in the USA in the run up to the Financial Crisis in 2008. President Clinton, in the early 1990s when he was elected, had reduced the amount of checks and money needed for deposits in the hope of attracting more young people to vote Democrat at the upcoming general election, young people who had previously supported Reagan's more free market approach to economics in the 1980s. However, Clinton's generation of homeowning Democrats backfired when those new homeowners couldn't make their mortgage repayments and so began the sub-prime mortgage crisis, a problem which spiralled out of control in the George W. Bush administration in the early 2000s. The banks were too deregulated and federal legislation regarding mortgage checks and financial credit ratings were cut by President Clinton, creating a massive bubble which was about to burst. Whatever Boris Johnson does, he must be wary of past mistakes made both in the US and in the UK.
What the Prime Minister and the Housing Secretary need to consider is to take rent history into account for new mortgage applicants, there should be a mass house building project in the UK, prioritising brown field and industrial sites for new homes. By increasing the supply of homes, it will naturally drive down the price of new builds, therefore there will be less of a deposit needed if houses are cheaper. Yes, this isn't an overnight solution to a decades old problem but we need to be focussed long term here, we need to incentivise private companies to ramp up house building, grants for building companies – this would not only help contribute towards solving the housing crisis but it will also create short to medium term employment. Lets not forget, one of the hardest hit sectors during COVID was the building and construction sector, maybe second only to hospitality, so we need to make a conscious effort to supercharge this area of the economy which employs so many people in the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, we need to ensure that this generation is not left behind and dealt an even worse hand by imposing further lockdown measures on the nation; the national debt racked up by the first lockdown is almost inexcusable, however the Chancellor must now cut taxes across the board to stimulate the economy. Great Britain has been crippled enough already, the debt cannot and should not be repaid through increased taxes, and lets not forget it is Sir Keir Starmer and the upper echelons of the Labour Party that wish to impose stricter lockdown rules and strangle the economy even more. Similarly, we can not and should not proceed with a programme of austerity, public services such as Police, justice, and other essential needs to a democratic and law abiding nation have been stretched to the limit already.
By slashing taxes, the economy will get the much needed tonic it has been crying out for, tax breaks may very well save a lot of businesses – businesses which would've have been perfectly feasible had we not taken the now devastating decision to lock down in late March. We need to be drawing investment into Britain post Brexit and post Coronavirus, this cannot be done if HMT decide to raise taxes on a personal or a business level.
Another lockdown would absolutely cripple the economy and cause mass levels of unemployment unless there is an astronomical bail out package, which would need to be even larger than the first scheme such as the furlough scheme, this is simply not possible. Professors Heneghan, Gupta and Sikora have argues for a "more targeted measures that protect the most vulnerable from COVID, whilst not adversely impacting those not at risk, are more supportable. Given the high proportion of COVID deaths in care homes, these should be a priority. Such targeted measures should be explored as a matter of urgency, as the logical cornerstone of our future strategy. In addition to this overarching point, we append a set of concerns regarding the existing policy choices, which we hope will be received in the spirit in which they are intended. We are mindful that the current circumstances are challenging, and that all policy decisions are difficult ones. Moreover, many people have sadly lost loved ones to COVID-19 throughout the UK. Nonetheless, the current debate appears unhelpfully polarised around views that COVID is extremely deadly to all (and that large-scale policy interventions are effective); and on the other hand, those who believe COVID poses no risk at all. In light of this, and in order to make choices that increase our prospects of achieving better outcomes in future, we think now is the right time to 'step back' and fundamentally reconsider the path forward."
It is rather much a shame to see the freedom loving, libertarian, Boris Johnson agree to such draconian measures; as one MP, Sir Desmond Swayne so eloquently put it, that the PM had been "abducted by Dr Strangelove, and reprogrammed by SAGE over to the dark side." The New Forest West MP also went on to criticise the CMO, Professor Whitty and CSO, Sir Patrick Vallance for their 'graph' presented in the data conference, saying "I will make myself very unpopular, but I believe that the appearance of the chiefs last week should have been a sacking offence, When they presented that graph, it was with the caveat that it was not a prediction, but nevertheless it was clear that they presented it as a plausible scenario, with its 50,000 cases per day by mid-October based on the doubling of infections by the week. Not on one day since March have there been infections on a day that were double that of the same day of the week preceding, not once." He also went onto brand their analysis as exactly what it is: "Project Fear".
It was also a great disappointment that when the Brady Amendment to the Coronavirus Act, 2020 wasn't selected for a vote in the House, that the near 60 Conservative MPs who had declared their support for the Amendment to the renewing of emergency powers of the Government, nearly all of them decided to vote through the Act. Only 7 MPs on the Conservative benches walked through the 'No' lobby to vote against these abhorrent measures. These were Peter Bone, Sir Charles Walker, Sir Desmond Swayne, Philip Davies, Esther McVey, Philip Hollobone and William Wragg. Furthermore, discontent over the government's handling of lockdown and pressure from the Leader of the Opposition to go into another, grew with 42 Conservative MPs voting against the 10 pm curfew on pubs and restaurants opening, these included high profile backbenchers from former Ministers to new intake MPs; MPs who voted against the curfew include, Andrew Rosindell, Steve Baker, Sir Graham Brady (Chairman of the 1922 Committee), David Davis, Sir Geoffrey Clinton-Brown, Dehenna Davison, Sir John Redwood, Anne Marie Morris and others as well as the aforementioned seven. It will be this group of MPs that will be on the right side of history and will be looked upon favourably in the public eye. I would also like to show the growing discontent within the Conservative ranks over lockdown, Chris Green, MP for Bolton West and Atherton (an area hit by 'local lockdown' and then tier 2) resigned from his role as a Government PPS and was supported by the Conservative Leader of Bolton Council.
Local politicians up and down the country are realising the detrimental effect that lockdown is having on their own local economies, even Andy Burnham, the Labour elected Mayor of Greater Manchester slated the Labour Leader's performance at PMQT on Wednesday 14th October for 'playing politics' and his statement the evening before that where he endorsed a full national lockdown. The contempt that Starmer has shown towards businesses, people and their livelihoods is on another scale, yes the Conservatives 'led by the science' haven't been great but now, thankfully, the Prime Minister is resisting the so-called advice and making up his own mind and Rishi Sunak is coming into his own as Chancellor and putting the economy first which will ultimately save more lives as it will allow us to return towards some sort of normality where cancer patients aren't told to wait, major surgery put on hold and people not getting themselves checked. We should be hopeful that Boris Johnson takes on board what Professors Heneghan, Gupta and Sikora have said and not take Professor Whitty and his team's 'evidence' and suggestions as gospel – even the WHO's special envoy for COVID, Dr David Nabarro has spoke out against more lockdowns, in an interview with Andrew Neil for The Spectator. The laughable thing is that Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, said that the Shadow Front Bench 'do support a national 'circuit breaker' lockdown, but do not support regional lockdowns in areas of high infection such as Greater Manchester' i.e. they don't support Greater Manchester being moved into Tier 3 but do support the full country being moved there!
The interesting thing is that metro Mayor, Andy Burnham have slated Sir Keir Starmer's call for national lockdown and harsher restrictions – the reason probably being he lives in the real world, dealing with businesses and working people, and not in Sir Keir's metropolitan bubble! Burnham said in his press conference that he will not enforce Tier 3 measures, should they be imposed by central Government.
It also emerged in The Telegraph that Rishi Sunak opposed any form of lockdown, whether that be a so-called 'circuit breaker' or more regional lockdown measures saying it would "cause needless damage to parts of our country where virus rates are low" and that it would 'very damaging and inflict terrible harm on Britain'. Furthermore, the Chancellor said "We must acknowledge the stark reality of the economic and social impacts of another national lockdown. The costs of doing that are not abstract – they are real. They can be counted in jobs lost, businesses closed and children's educations harmed; they can be measured in the permanent damage done to our economy, which will undermine our long-term ability to fund our NHS and our valued public services; and they can be measured in the increase in long-term health conditions that unemployment causes." This comes after London was placed into 'Tier 2' of the new system of ranking COVID alert levels and Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford essentially erecting an internal physical border between England and Wales. However, more disappointingly, Boris Johnson told MPs on a Zoom call "not to rule anything out". Let us all hope that the Chancellor can have his way and oppose any further lockdown restrictions on our lives and liberty.
Not only have the devolved administrations caused great division among their people, but they are also now like I mentioned previously, attempting to put borders up within our United Kingdom. Labour Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford announced that if the PM refused to introduce more UK wide travel restrictions then he would increase Police patrols to 'stop people entering Wales from high COVID areas of England'. This is outrageous! Thankfully, Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg also thought the same and said, "What would you expect of a hard-left Labour Government. The approach to putting a border between England and Wales is unconstitutional and will place the Police in an invidious position considering that they serve the whole of the United Kingdom. We are one single United Kingdom, and we should not have borders between different parts of the United Kingdom, and I'm afraid that is what you get when you vote for socialists." A rather refreshing stance to see our elected politicians in Westminster take a stand against separatist and nationalist politicians. This just highlights the need for a strong Conservative opposition to the SNP in Scotland, especially with Holyrood elections next year.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has had her own problems and makes the problems with the response in England seem like a vicar's tea party! From rogue MP Margaret Ferrier hopping, skipping, and jumping around the country on public transport whilst COVID positive to her own CMO taking several trips to her second home when the First Minister was rattling on about not leaving your house. Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives must call upon the help of the old socialist, George Galloway, who was so influential in 2014 in the Independence Referendum, and fight against the greater enemy of the SNP with their backward economic policies which have been crippling Scotland and racking up a huge deal of debt with the Treasury. The Lib Dems and Labour are finished in Scotland and Starmer isn't doing anything to win back support north of the border so it is down to the Conservatives, with the help of Alliance for Unity, to quash the SNP once and for all.
Unfortunately, Mayor Khan hasn't reacted the same way his more formidable Manchester counterpart has, in fact very much the opposite, almost as if he is cosying up with First Minister Drakeford – Sadiq Khan has been pushing for more measures imposed on London, heaven knows why! This just emphasises the need for change in our capital, whoever that may be, Labour cannot be returned with the Mayoralty; their support for BLM thuggery, Extinction Rebellion's nonsense and a London lockdown is unforgivable, especially for working Londoners trying to go about their daily lives. London, the city which was made the second financial city in the world after New York in the 1980s, is now being brought to its knees by Mayor Khan and his environmental communism and woke attitude, from imposing ridiculous congestion charges, possibly one of the most anti-business policies his administration has concocted, to the multi million pound cycle lanes which just cause more congestion and pollution, through traffic jams, on the streets of London, this is all not even to mention his desire to pull down every statue he fancies left, right and centre. London needs change next May for the good and the future of the city.