Sunday, 31 May 2020

Planning for the coronavirus pandemic

The government of the United Kingdom decided on 19 March 2020 on the basis of a review of the evidence that the coronavirus did not constitute a high consequence infectious diseaseOn 20 March 2020 Boris Johnson announced the start of the "lockdown" and rolled it out completely on 23 March 2020, even though the Coronavirus Act was not passed (without parliamentary scrutiny or division) until 25 March 2020. The Act (and the associated regulations) were the result of drafting that had been done in the light of the Cygnus Exercise in 2016, an NHS exercise which was designed to test our ability to deal with a pandemic. The conclusion of that exercise had been that the NHS would be overwhelmed; so rather than increase NHS capacity, the government decided to draft emergency legislation that would deny us our rights and liberties and give the government to power to do anything, forever, ie, they prepared, not to protect the people, but to exploit a potential pandemic to install an authoritarian regime.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Coronavirus and the violation of rights

The "lockdown" measures introduced to deal with the alleged risk posed by the coronavirus have violated rights on an unprecedented scale. The measures have resulted in:

the suspension of juries,
the cancellation of elections,
the suppression of the right to freedom of expression,
the denial of the right to assembly,
the suspension of the right to protest,
the limitation of the right to engage in legitimate economic transactions,
the removal of the right to receive or refuse medical attention,
the limitation of the right to freedom of movement within the country,
the limitation of the right to practise religion,
the suspension of the right to an education,
the violation of the right to family life,
the denial of the right to a livelihood,
the institution of a police state by giving the police and others the right to detain indefinitely on mere suspicion,
the removal of the right to privacy,
the undermining of the rule of law;
and, if all that were not enough, the Coronavirus Act 2020 Part 2 Section 90 gives a minister of the Crown the power to extend these powers indefinitely and to change any power by mere fiat.
None of this was subjected to parliamentary scrutiny; indeed parliament passed the act and associated regulations without scrutiny or division, sent itself on holiday and decided to reconvene on a digital basis, ie, turned itself into a pretend parliament. The Coronavirus Act 2020 is our Enabling Act 1933. Fascism has been implemented without even a hint of organised opposition.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Coronavirus legislation is unlawful

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the detention of Gerry Adams in the 1970s had been unlawful. Mr Adams had been detained in Long Kesh on the basis that the authorities had suspected him of belonging to an unlawful organisation. The court found his detention had been unlawful on the ground that he had been detained on the basis of the authorities' suspicion. Whilst Mr Adams' case dates back to the 1970s, it is of much wider contemporary significance.

The coronavirus measures (The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020) introduced without parliamentary scrutiny or division provide the authorities with the power to detain people indefinitely on the basis of mere suspicion. This power is clearly incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, and equally clearly violates the European Convention on Human Rights. Last week's ruling by the Supreme Court reinforces that judgement and provides an obvious precedent for action to be taken against the government.

The violation of human rights enshrined in this legislation was obvious. Yet parliament made no protest. And the corporate media are deafeningly silent on this abuse of state power; indeed, they support it. The usual army of human rights lawyers, who only months ago we busily warning of Boris Johnson's totalitarianism, are only noticeable by their silent acquiescence.

It seems fear of the coronavirus, which has been whipped up by an hysterical corporate media campaign, has driven many to the point where they are prepared to sacrifice any right or liberty in the hope that it will provide security from the virus. There do not appear to be any limits to this willingness to trade rights for a specious sense of security. The coronavirus measures violate right after right. In the name of combatting a virus, elections have been cancelled, juries have been suspended, the right to assembly has been violated, the right to protest has been removed, the right to a family life has been limited, the right to an education has been suspended, the right to practise one's religion has been limited, the right to earn a livelihood has been removed, the right to freedom of movement in the country has been violated, the rule of law has been undermined, a police state has been instituted, the right to receive or refuse medical attention has been abandoned, and parliament has been turned into a digital pretence. Public policy is being made by a select group of ministers in conjunction with hand picked experts. Taken as a whole, these measures constitute fascism. And yet this was achieved without any organised opposition. The only dissent has come from unorganised, isolated voices, who have been easy to ignore or suppress, as the corporations have enthusiastically colluded with the censorship of dissident voices.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Coronavirus: a case of collective madness

It was predictable that the government's "lockdown" measures would cause more harm than the virus. Predictable that is to anyone adopting a rational approach to this issue. However, it was not predictable to the government. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted on 10 April 2020 at the Coronavirus Daily Update that the government had not made any attempt to assess the number of people who would die as a result of the government's "lockdown" measures. This was an admission that the government had adopted an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making on this issue.

This irrationality is also revealed in the constantly reiterated assertion that the government is simply following the "science". There is no way that science can determine policy. Science cannot tell you what your values should be; nor can it tell you what your priorities should be; nor can it tell you how to weigh competing demands and needs. If science could do these things, we would have a government of scientists. We don't, and we don't because policy-making is always about values, preferences, choices: ie, policy-making is always and inevitably a political process. The claim that the policy is just a matter of science is an obvious, blatant falsehood. A falsehood that is designed to rhetorically hide a set of value judgements and to protect those value judgements from political, democratic accountability.

You weren't asked if you wanted the "lockdown" measures. You weren't told that if implemented they would save X amount of lives but cost Y amount of lives. You weren't told which lives were to be prioritised and which were to be sacrificed. You weren't offered a chance to express your preference. What you were told was: Stay Home [in order to] Protect the NHS [in order to] Save Lives. But this was so simplistic as to be not just misleading, but essentially wrong, as it leaves out of the equation many very important variables.

I have no idea what motivated the government to introduce its "lockdown" measures. But I do know that the policy is not rational when judged on the criterion the government provides: ie, to save lives. There is also the government's track record, which to say the least, casts doubt on the claim that the government values lives above the economy - I am thinking here of the fact that the government's austerity policies have (perfectly predictably) resulted in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. That track record has led many to claim that the government has a secret plan. Variations on this theme suggest the measures were introduced to protect and promote the interests of finance and corporate capitalists; to promote the interests of Big Pharma; to impose compulsory vaccination; to make all economic transactions electronic; to introduce a global police state, etc. These arguments are all based on a search for a rational explanation for a set of measures that are plainly irrational, inconsistent and clearly not going to achieve their stated objective. This search is, in my opinion, a fool's errand. The response to the coronavirus is nothing more than just another case of collective madness.