STEPHEN GLOVER: This is Boris Johnson’s Falklands moment. Like Mrs Thatcher, he MUST now hold firm
My new hero is Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister and a member of the Social Democratic Party, which broadly corresponds to the moderate wing of the Labour Party.
Earlier this week, Mr Maas said there were no political or legal justifications for maintaining coronavirus restrictions in Germany once the whole adult population has been offered a jab. This target is expected to be reached by the end of the month.
Britain is slightly ahead of Germany’s vaccination roll-out, and should open up a little earlier — by July 19, though we await confirmation from Boris Johnson next week.
And yet Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer yesterday described the Government’s plan as ‘reckless’ and forecast a ‘summer of chaos and confusion’. Since it is widely accepted that his party stands in desperate need of an incisive new leader, perhaps it should send for the excellent Mr Maas.
Admittedly, Germany’s current Covid infection rate is much lower than the UK’s, but its number of fatalities is roughly the same. Over the past week, the country has reported an average of nearly 25 deaths a day whereas the UK’s daily average was 23.
Mr Maas’s point is that the vaccination provides a very high degree of protection against death. Once everyone has been offered two jabs, it makes no sense to keep a country in lockdown, with all the consequent damage to the economy and people’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer yesterday described the Government’s plan as ‘reckless’ and forecast a ‘summer of chaos and confusion’
If only Sir Keir and Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth were as clear thinking. Unfortunately, they whinge and they grumble without giving their own timetable for opening up society.
Let me make a prediction. Boris Johnson is about to enter the stormiest period of his prime ministership. If he keeps his nerve, he could be remembered not as a maverick easily tossed about by the waves, but as a resolute leader.
The infection rate will almost certainly rise over the coming weeks since the Indian (or Delta) virus is rampant. On Monday the PM imagined 50,000 new daily cases, while with seemingly greater candour the new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has suggested as many as 100,000.
If that happens, the death rate is bound to increase, though to levels very far below those of January. Unvaccinated people are obviously most vulnerable, but there are likely to be a few deaths even among those who have been double-jabbed.
Boris Johnson is about to enter the stormiest period of his prime ministership. If he keeps his nerve, he could be remembered not as a maverick easily tossed about by the waves, but as a resolute leader
When that transpires, Labour will create a stink and attempt to represent Boris Johnson as a trigger-happy prime minister who doesn’t care a jot for human life.
Critical scientists and self-declared experts will emerge in droves and be given a pulpit by our state broadcaster, the BBC, from which to throw missiles at the Government. By contrast, the scientists who support official policy will be given short shrift by Auntie.
Note that chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty — who looked uncomfortable by the PM’s side at Monday’s No 10 press conference — has just delivered a characteristically lugubrious judgment that it is ‘going to take quite a long time to get back to normality’.
If infection rates do soar, and fatalities climb a little, the Whittys of this world will multiply more quickly than the virus. There is going to be a cacophony of protest that could unnerve Mr Johnson.
After all, he stands accused of falling asleep at the wheel during earlier phases of the pandemic, and of being slow to countenance previous lockdowns. If ever there were a man sensitive to the charge of being heartless, it is Boris.
I expect an almighty political bust-up over the next few weeks. I very much hope the Prime Minister doesn’t cave in, though I can’t say for certain that he won’t.
My argument is not that there are no circumstances in which the Government should back-pedal vigorously. If there were a nasty new variant over which existing vaccines proved ineffective, there would obviously have to be a change of policy.
But as things stand, and facing as we do an inevitable increase in infections and (I hope) only a very gentle rise in deaths, it is vital that Mr Johnson sticks to his guns, supported by a new health secretary who appears more robust than his predecessor.
The Government’s plan of action is not a reckless one. It is backed by many scientists, including, with only mild caveats, the normally gloomy ‘Professor Lockdown’, aka Neil Ferguson.
Businesses, particularly restaurants, pubs and nightclubs, are crying out for liberation. So are seven million people who, according to Mr Javid, have missed NHS routine care since the pandemic began.
Tourists want to travel abroad. Students yearn for proper university courses — if they can persuade risk-averse tutors to teach them. Children would like not to be sent home from school to self-isolate.
Boris was right on Monday: ‘if not now, when?’ Unless we are shown a route out of the miserable and constricting circumstances of the past 16 months, how can we ever escape?
It’s not just the PM who must hold his nerve. All of us have to. We have been indoctrinated into a state of fear for so long that many of us will blink nervously as we totter into the daylight.
Dear old Auntie (other channels aren’t much better) has terrorised us with her graphic footage of intensive care wards and her phalanxes of medical folk who, like Sir Keir Starmer, always offer us reasons for staying in prison, never for getting out.
We have been traumatised by the daily litany of statistics —those with Covid, and those who have died.
Yet few of us fret about the much greater dangers of dying from cancer or heart disease or even an accident at home. Fact: Covid was only the 24th ‘leading’ cause of death in June. Let’s free ourselves from the tyranny of statistics pumped out by the media which have the effect of exaggerating the dangers of Covid. And let’s remember that life is never without risks.
Just like Boris, all of us must show balance and good sense and fortitude as numbers edge up over the coming weeks, as the likes of Sir Keir Starmer seek to stir up public hysteria.
Incidentally, I wish restaurants and pubs would stop spreading gel around to ward off Covid, since there is little evidence it does any good as the virus is airborne.
According to American microbiologist Emanuel Goldman, ‘the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small’ unless an infected person has just coughed or sneezed on them. We’ve been brainwashed by the Government as our medieval ancestors were brainwashed into believing that garlic deters evil spirits.
Now, thanks to the near miracle of mass vaccination, we finally have a chance of freedom. Barring unforeseen circumstances, we must hope Boris has the courage of what I trust are his true convictions.
In 1982, Margaret Thatcher ignored those experts who declared that re-taking the Falkland Islands was militarily impossible. She stood her ground because she knew it was the right thing to do.
This is the Prime Minister’s Falklands moment. The pressures on him will be immense over the next few weeks. If he holds firm, Boris Johnson could at last emerge as a serious and formidable politician.
In 1982, Margaret Thatcher ignored those experts who declared that re-taking the Falkland Islands was militarily impossible. She stood her ground because she knew it was the right thing to do. This is the Prime Minister’s Falklands moment
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