Lockdown-Sceptic MP Disturbed by ‘Enthusiasm’ of Britons Embracing Loss of Civil Liberties

The government's advice to combat the coronavirus epidemic is displayed on the advertising boards at Piccadilly Circus in central London on April 9, 2020, as Britain continues to battle the outbreak of Coronavirus Covid-19 and warm weather tests the nationwide lockdown as the long Easter weekend approaches. - The disease …
ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images

Conservative MP Desmond Swayne has said he has found it “unnerving” how Britons have embraced their civil liberties being taken away during lockdowns, expressing hope that public opinion will shift once citizens realise the costs to health, education, and society.

“The most worrying thing I find about the whole last year is the enthusiasm with which people have embraced the diminution of their civil liberties and their ordinary lives.

“But the counter to that is the huge disruption we’ve had to education, the huge costs that we’re all going to have to pay, and the devastating consequences for mental health.

“When all those things impinge on people’s lives, perhaps they will realise the damage that’s been done, and their enthusiasm will diminish,” Sir Desmond told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer on Tuesday.

Survey after survey, notably those conducted by YouGov — a British polling firm co-founded in 2000 by Nadhim Zahawi, the current vaccine minister — pointed to Britons backing lockdown. Various reports from the group have shown the public demanding the police exact even harsher punishments on rule-breakers, supporting the idea of the government using phone data to surveil quarantined individuals, and in a plurality agreeing with mandatory ‘jabs for jobs’ employment contracts.

Mr Swayne, however, claimed that despite the results of the numerous surveys, he has struggled to meet many people in real life who expressed true zeal for the government eroding civil liberties during the pandemic.

“One of the things I have found most unnerving is that people have not protested at the way their civil liberties have been taken away, and appear to have given their assent and consent. Although, to be fair, we’re told these things by pollsters, but I find it quite difficult finding many of these people who have these views,” the MP for New Forest West said.

Swayne is not alone in his doubts, with former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney saying last week that YouGov polling results “bear[] no resemblance to reality” after one found that a massive 82 per cent of Britons back children being forced to wear masks at schools if they were not able to socially distance, remarking: “This level of propaganda would make Putin blush.”

Desmond Swayne also said he thought “the popularity of lockdown is based on the perception of the huge threat — in terms of death and in terms of the NHS being overwhelmed. I’m pretty confident that as hospital admissions tumble, and we get back to normality, that thirst for lockdown will diminish significantly.”

Another remarkable characteristic that many polls point to is the state of fear Britons exist in over the Chinese coronavirus.

A September 2020 poll by Orb International found that 83 per cent were frightened of a second wave of the virus “hitting the UK hard”, with 63 per cent backing tighter restrictions and a curfew. An anonymous MP told The Telegraph at the time that the government’s messages had made Britons “fearful”, allegedly to make people consent to “authoritarian” lockdown measures.

Inducing fear might have been by government design. An official government briefing document from March 22nd, 2020, on “increasing adherence to social distancing measures” expressed concern that Britons did not feel enough personal fear over the pandemic.

Under a heading entitled “persuasion”, the document said: “A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened… The perceived level
of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.”

Swayne’s marked concern over Britons’ apparent widespread acceptance of lockdown comes after author Peter Hitchens condemned fellow journalists and MPs for failing to fight hard enough against infringements on people’s rights.

Speaking to talkRADIO on Monday, Mr Hitchens said that not enough people had backed the lockdown, and as such, the lockdown scepticism movement had “lost the contest”.

“I don’t think there has been sufficient resistance at a time when it could have been of use. People wake up now and say, ‘oh gosh, this is all a terrible mistake’ — where were they?

“Particularly in my own trade, but in general: where were they in the months of March, April, May, and June?

“Where were they in parliament and the law when some difference could have been made, and this could have been stopped? They weren’t anywhere to be seen,” Mr Hitchens told host Mike Graham.

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