IMAGINE if I’d told you on that dark night of Monday, March 23, as the country was plunged into an unprecedented national lockdown, that six months later the Government would be sending the Army on to the streets to keep Covid under control.
Imagine if I’d told you that our historic pubs would be fined £10,000 and immediately shut down by the authorities if they dared serve a drink at their bar like they’ve been doing for hundreds of years, including during far more deadly plagues.
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Imagine if I’d told you Nicola Sturgeon, bathing in the popularity of authoritarianism, was going to make it illegal to invite your parents over to the house for a cup of tea.
And imagine if I’d told you the only way out of this dystopian nightmare was a promise of a not-yet-invented, or largely untested, vaccine that some experts say will take ten years to be internationally effective.
It’s OK sometimes to take a step back, pinch yourself and say: “Hang on a moment, this isn’t right. How did we get here? And who is going to stand up for our dwindling civil liberties and freedoms?”
Certainly not Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of no opposition, who blindly nods through every oppressive measure not backed up by science without a second thought, in a self-centred bid to look statesmanlike.
Half a year ago, I reluctantly supported the initial lockdown.
There was much we didn’t know about the virus — a great national effort was required as we worked out how the hell we could live with Covid, without overwhelming our NHS.
How depressing to come to the realisation that all these months on, Doctor Doom Chris Whitty and his gloomy sidekick Patrick Vallance believe terrifying an already scared-stiff population is the best way to get our spiralling case numbers down. These decisions based on short-termism risk splintering public support to such an extent that when the Government needs the population on side for the great vaccination effort of 2021, I fear they could find themselves in trouble.
That’s quite a conundrum: How to keep the trust of those sceptical about increased government controls so that they agree to be vaccinated?
An Axios/Ipsos survey in the divided US this week shows just 13 per cent of the population would be willing to try a first-generation vaccine.
Here, the signs are also worrying. A University College London poll of 70,000 people shows 22 per cent are unlikely to be vaccinated and ten per cent very unlikely.
But more worryingly, 40 per cent of Brits think it is definitely true that vaccines have harmful effects which are not being disclosed, while 16 per cent think that is probably true.
For a vaccine to have any chance of being effective, it’s likely at least 70 per cent of the population would be required to be injected.
While I would be fine with being vaccinated in order to return to an old normal, many of my friends, who have no propensity to sign up to conspiracy theories or health hysteria, have told me there is no way they would consider taking part.
WE HAVE DONE PHENOMENAL THINGS THESE PAST SIX MONTHS
Some point to the polio vaccination disaster that led to disabilities in children in the Fifties, while others have been spooked by the increasing amount of misinformation spreading like wildfire over social media.
Contrary to many of these videos and memes, there is no compulsory vaccine law in the UK.
That’s why the move away from policing by consent to more draconian laws — potentially enforced by the military — rings serious alarm bells in my head. It’s also why Whitty and Vallance’s dodgy projections graph, not backed up by evidence, is a boon for those trying to ferment mistrust.
The Government needs to take us on this journey.
We need to feel like we are in this together. We need to be absolutely certain all the facts are being shared with us, honestly and with the under-standing that questioning and debate does not equal dissent.
The British people have done phenomenal things these past six months. We have changed our lives in ways previously unthinkable — from missing saying goodbye to loved ones, to cancelling weddings and losing businesses.
The Government should trust us because then, when vaccine time comes, we will be more likely to trust them.
Wills’ anger inspires big Bafta shake-up
IT was only in January that I revealed Bafta President Prince William was furious with the organisation he heads.
The absence of BAME talent in the top four acting categories, and an all-male directing line-up, saw the Duke make an unprecedented behind-the-scenes intervention and address the scandal in his speech on the night.
A source said of Bafta at the time: “If it is not careful, someone like William won’t want to keep his official connection to an organisation being so publicly branded as racist.”
It takes guts for a high-profile organisation to admit it needs to fundamentally change to adapt to the modern world.
So credit to Bafta, and its brilliant new chairman Krishnendu Majumdar, who have spent the past seven months working out how to completely overhaul the way they work, no doubt partly inspired by Wills’ disdain.
What I’ve been so impressed with is that the 120 new measures they are introducing are aimed at levelling up a traditionally snobby organisation dominated by posh luvvies.
While there are new steps to address gender and race issues, socio-economic disparities often relating to class are also being factored in.
The best news is that Bafta has been able to do all of this without going down the controversial and dispiriting route of introducing quotas.
Miracles won’t happen overnight, but I’m glad to see Bafta has stopped paying lip service and started making genuine change.
Meg axes another fall guy
WITH friends like Meghan, you certainly don’t want any enemies in your life.
Just ask Omid Scobie.
The Sussexes’ slavishly loyal mouthpiece – responsible for that awful crock of nonsense Finding Freedom – was thrown under the bus by the Duchess in her ridiculous £4million court case against the Mail on Sunday.
Ironically, Meg’s lawyers’ list of complaints about the hagiography read just like my review: “Extremely anodyne”, “the product of creative licence” and “inaccurate”.
But the whole sorry saga is yet another example of why it doesn’t pay to try to be there for Meghan, because she will never return the favour.
Scobie joins a growing list of former confidantes, best friends and relatives who she has decided to cut off to further her own ambitions.
This week, we got another reminder of where she sees her future: The White House.
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I have no issue with her and Harry becoming activists for the Democratic Party, but they must renounce their royal titles because the embarrassment for the monarchy is only going to grow.
For the moment, Harry remains the obedient, nodding First Man, chipping in on Meghan’s pet projects with perfectly scripted wokeisms doused in British princely charm.
But what happens if he finally decides to put the institution he grew up in before her? I shudder to think . . .
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