United Kingdom

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: These restrictions are a concerted assault on our civil liberties

You can’t say I didn’t warn you. Back in March, a fortnight before the first lockdown, I wrote the following about the ‘experts’ planning Britain’s response to Covid-19:

‘What you have to remember is that pandemics are their World Cup Final, their Six Nations, their Wimbledon tennis championships, all rolled into one. Out will come the hi-viz jackets, the face masks, the tented decontamination units . . .’ 

The political class, the civil service, the quangocracy, the tinpot Town Hall gauleiters, the Toytown devolved governments and big city mayors were all salivating at the prospect of flexing their muscles and expanding their empires.

A police officer is seen speaking to people sitting outside a pub in Soho, London. Having wrecked the economy and trashed our freedoms, they will keep on doubling down because they don’t have the faintest idea how to get out of the mess they have created

What came next was an economic Armageddon and a concerted assault on civil liberties never before attempted, even in wartime.

Later, in June, as restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly were partially relaxed, I predicted that the New Normal would be ten times worse than lockdown itself. 

So it proved, as hundreds of new regulations were enshrined in law, without so much as a cursory debate in Parliament.

Virtually no element of human behaviour has escaped unscathed.

When I speculated that an army of Warden Hodges wannabes would be hired to enforce the New Normal, even I couldn’t have imagined Boris would be talking about mobilising the Army, too. Ministers have even had the temerity to try to dictate where and with whom consenting adults can have sex.

When I speculated that an army of Warden Hodges wannabes would be hired to enforce the New Normal, even I couldn’t have imagined Boris would be talking about mobilising the Army, too

The guidelines have now been clarified. It’s OK to have sex provided you are already in an ‘established relationship’.

What on earth does that mean — marriage, engagement, civil partnership, co-habitation, a hook-up on Tinder, a knee-trembler behind the cricket pavilion, a brief history of light petting?

In the summer, the new rules were so confusing it seemed you could have sex in the garden with someone from another household, but not in a bedroom.

Even that’s no longer clear. In the Mail on Sunday, political commentator Dan Hodges relayed a conversation with a baffled Tory minister, who told him: ‘We got one briefing note about how people could be allowed to mingle. It said they could meet in the garden if they socially distance, but couldn’t enter a Wendy House if there was one.

‘We’ve become the Government that wants to lock down Wendy Houses. It’s insane.’

You can say that again. Call me old-fashioned, but how many people want to have sex in a Wendy House? Still, takes all sorts. There’s probably an app for that, too.

Come to think of it, though, what we’ve got here is another example of Life Imitating Minder, an occasional theme of this column.

In a gloriously memorable episode, The Beer Hunter, Brian Glover guest stars as Yorkie, a Northern bookie and old Army buddy of Arthur. 

After a drunken night out at an Italian restaurant, he picks up a ‘prossie’ — sorry, ‘part-time modelle’ — called Renee, played by the lovely Georgina Hale, who entertains gentleman callers while her husband is working away, driving juggernauts.

Yorkie wakes up in her bed, with no memory of how he got there or what hotel he’s supposed to be staying in.

When he can’t find his trousers, Renee explains that he threw them out of the window last night after waving them round his head while singing I’d Like To Get You On A Slow Boat To China. They landed on the bin and before Yorkie can retrieve them, they are carted off by the dustmen.

Realising that her sister-in-law is on the way round to discuss kitchen fitments, Renee kicks Yorkie out into the garden to await rescue by Arthur and Terry. They find him hiding in a Wendy House, sans strides, with only a generous pair of red and white Y-fronts to hide his modesty.

Yorkie’s attempts to extricate himself from the Wendy House are priceless. The chaps furnish him with a fresh pair of trousers just in time to meet his lovely wife Dora — aka, the Snapdragon — off the coach at Victoria.

By all accounts, the ludicrous 10pm curfew was plucked out of thin air, simply because there was a feeling that the Government had to be seen doing something, anything. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured above

But would there have been such a happy ending had Yorkie found himself in a similar situation today? Would the neighbours do as they have been urged by Home Secretary Priti Flamingo and grass him up to the police?

‘Hello, is that Detective Sergeant Chisholm? There’s a man in his underpants hiding in next door’s Wendy House.’

No doubt Plod would scramble a helicopter and armed SWAT team. ‘Come out of the Wendy House with your hands up!’

Would Renee be arrested and fined £10,000 for having unauthorised sexual relations with someone from another household, or would her insistence that he wasn’t ‘capable’ be sufficient to satisfy them that no breach of regulations had occurred?

Frankly, nothing would surprise me. As I wrote months ago, any country which tries to make consensual sex illegal has lost the plot. Can you even begin to imagine the mentality of those members of the committee that came up with rules on Wendy Houses? 

Yet, according to credible reports from inside Government, some ministers and ‘experts’ wanted to go further.

There were even attempts to force pubs and restaurants to close altogether, despite lack of evidence that they were contributing in any major shape or form to the spread of the virus. 

By all accounts, the ludicrous 10pm curfew was plucked out of thin air, simply because there was a feeling that the Government had to be seen doing something, anything.

Anyone with half a brain could have foreseen the chaos which would result from kicking thousands of drinkers and diners on to the streets at the same time.

Horrifyingly, we’re also led to believe that Whitty and Vallance — the Two Ronnies of Doom — are among the PM’s more sensible advisers. Other scientists would cheerfully bankrupt the country and ruin millions of lives in their monomaniacal determination to eradicate every trace of the virus.

It is only too easy to forget what we have already given up over the past six months.

Yet still it isn’t enough for the Covid fundamentalists. They should be walking up and down London’s deserted Oxford Street wearing sandwich boards warning THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH, and howling at the moon, not drawing up further draconian impositions on our freedom.

Condemning students to house arrest in their halls of residence —and charging them nine grand for the privilege — is monstrous.

In Scotland, Wee Burney has even made it an offence for students to return to their parents’ homes for a few days.

How the hell has she managed to get away with it? Silly question: in a one-party state she can do whatever she likes.

In Brave New Burney World, you are encouraged to spy on your neighbours but banned by law from inviting them round for a wee dram — despite the fact that as of yesterday there had not been a single death from (with?) Covid in Scotland during the previous 24 hours.

The official advice is all over the place, like a drunken hokey-cokey at chucking-out time. The Rule of Six, keep two metres apart, Eat Out, Stay In, go back to the office, work from home, the 10pm curfew — all made up on the hoof. Police officers are seen out on patrol in Soho, London

Things aren’t much better south of the border. There are indications that England may soon go the same way, because Boris doesn’t want to be left behind and is scared of defying ‘the science’ however alarmist and unreliable.

As I wrote in the summer, from the beginning, like most of us, I was prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt. 

For the past few months, though, I haven’t believed a word they’ve said — especially that infuriating little squit Hancock who delights in strutting his stuff on the airwaves, scaring people half to death and threatening ever more severe curbs on our liberty.

They keep changing the terms of reference to justify their past mistakes — not just the dodgy graphs wheeled out by the Two Ronnies last week, but also the way they now refer to Covid ‘cases’, however mild or asymptomatic, not hospitalisations or deaths.

The official advice is all over the place, like a drunken hokey-cokey at chucking-out time. The Rule of Six, keep two metres apart, Eat Out, Stay In, go back to the office, work from home, the 10pm curfew — all made up on the hoof.

Thank goodness MPs have finally summoned up the backbone to call ministers to account.

Yet all the indications are that the Government has no plans to change course.

Having wrecked the economy and trashed our freedoms, they will keep on doubling down because they don’t have the faintest idea how to get out of the mess they have created.

Never mind face masks, it’s another part of their anatomy they’re intent on covering.

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