United Kingdom

PETER HITCHENS: Holding the handrail won't kill you - but the Covid Hezbollah might! 

How very sad that people travelling on the London Underground are tumbling down escalators in greater numbers because they are afraid to grasp the handrail. 

They fear that they will become infected, fall ill and perhaps die. But instead they fall and are injured or even killed.

As far as I know the evidence that anyone will catch Covid by touching the escalator rail on the London Underground is scanty, to put it mildly. But the evidence that it is safer to hold the rail, and that serious injury can follow a fall if you don’t, is strong.

This grim piece of news perfectly sums up the problem with making people so frightened that they stop thinking. It is a metaphor for our current national madness. By trying to attain total safety, we in fact expose ourselves to greater risks.

How very sad that people travelling on the London Underground are tumbling down escalators in greater numbers because they are afraid to grasp the handrail

The tragic mess which the NHS has now become is the most obvious example of this. We shall never know how many people have died or will die, needlessly, because doctors were harder to see and appointments harder to make during the great national shutdown. But there is no doubt that this has happened, and – despite the latest bucketful of money chucked into the NHS by the Government – the problem is far from solved. Yet this was done in the name of saving life, and indeed of saving the NHS.

The health service, very far from perfect, will probably continue its long decline because it is now politically impossible for any government to get a grip on it. I do not think we saved it. But there are severe permanent effects on health and society that may linger for years. The worst of these is the pervasive fear, which may yet see us engulfed in another state-sponsored panic as the days shorten and the cold weather inevitably brings more patients to surgeries and hospital wards. I see this fear everywhere, often in highly intelligent people with good education and even scientific training.

And this is good news for the Covid Hezbollah, the faction which longs to close down society and the economy again. They also dream of forcing us all into covering our faces like the devotees of some new religion of submission. And they will not need to try very hard to bounce the Government into doing their bidding. 

The liberation which should have followed the successful mass-vaccination programme never happened, because of repeated warnings of supposedly terrifying new ‘variants’, and I suppose it is about time another one of those came along. 

You can hardly listen to BBC news programmes for five minutes without hearing presenters taking sides on this issue, chiding Ministers for not wearing masks and assuming that shutdowns are actually effective in containing the disease.

The behaviour of the police towards Green protesters on the M25 tells us a great deal about the revolution which has overtaken this country

Evidence from round the world simply does not back this belief up. I cannot even be bothered to discuss the, er, lack of usefulness of loose cloth masks again. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. 

Much of the media regurgitate statistics which they do not even try to understand. Nothing can stop them referring to supposed ‘cases’ which are merely positive test results, often quite without symptoms.

I cannot even be bothered to discuss the, er, lack of usefulness of loose cloth masks again. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it, writes Peter Hitchens

They cannot grasp that if you have many more such tests, as we do, you will get more positives.

Then there are the hospitalisations. Once again, it is very hard to discover how many people are actually in hospital because of Covid, or because of something else. 

Have they tested positive for Covid after arriving in hospital (where it is horribly easy to catch diseases)? Or have they actually contracted Covid in hospital?

The same thing applies to death figures, where the formula seems designed to blur the distinction between people who died from or with Covid. 

Anyway, bear all these things in mind in the months to come, in the hope that one day we may have a sensible debate. And also in the hope that one day people will have the sense to see that they are safer if they hold the handrail on the stairs than if they do not. And that being scared does not necessarily make you safe.

Since everyone else is using the new tennis star Emma Raducanu to make some point or other, may I just mention that this obviously well-educated, confident person attended a single-sex grammar school, of a type ‘progressives’ have been trying – with much success – to stamp out for 60 years?

Police are now our rulers 

The behaviour of the police towards Green protesters on the M25 tells us a great deal about the revolution which has overtaken this country.

Long ago, the difference between law-governed Britain and centralised France was explained to me: If a group of protesters sat down on the road in Dover, the local police would arrest them for obstruction and move them. If a similar group did the same thing in Calais, the Gendarmes would first check what their political aim was, then contact Paris for instructions. If they were the right sort of protester, they would be left alone. If they were the wrong sort, they would be attacked with clubs and kicks, and chucked into the cells.

Now, although we still technically have local police in this country, they have all been politicised, and trained to know which way the national wind is blowing. Whatever your own opinions may be, it has been growing clearer for several years that some types of protester are now treated more gently than others. The police themselves long ago ceased to be what we thought they were. 

They are largely uninterested in us or in crime, and have become – as Parliament 200 years ago feared they would – our masters rather than our servants. Robert Peel managed to overcome those fears by ensuring that police had limited powers, were unarmed and wore modest unmilitary uniforms. In just 50 years of liberal-Left control, all that has gone.

For a while they pretended to be what they had once been, still wearing the old helmets and tunics. But now they have a swaggering, arrogant look to them, in clompy boots, combat trousers and baseball caps, hung with clubs, manacles and gas sprays.

Yet the tough face is seldom turned towards those we want kept under control, such as burglars, vandals or street louts. It is turned towards us.

It is four decades since the big trade unions were identified as overmighty subjects, and the Thatcher government resolved to cut them down to size. I think the time has come for the Government to take on the police, before they get completely out of control. Ministers should start by retiring that figurehead of modern policing, Dame Cressida Dick.

Let’s eat like we’re French

Amazing now to remember that in my childhood British children were not supposed to eat between meals and generally didn’t. This rule must have collapsed some time in the 1960s, like everything else.

Yet somehow the French have managed to retain it, along with a good deal more parental power than we have. The French Bake Off star Manon Lagrève says: ‘In France you don’t snack. You just have your meals... at ten, you might have an apple, then lunch. You’re sitting at the table with all your friends and family and you spend five hours. You have appetisers, starter, main, cheese, dessert.’

I’m not sure about five hours, but the idea is sound.

We used to think the French were chaotic and a bit feeble. Now they outclass us in this important area. We should copy them.

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