Written By Michael Newland
A government decides one day to imprison the entire population. This is greeted with genuine adulation by much of the population and few dare to dissent. If you wrote a story like it then it would seem very far-fetched. Much of the population is hailing their own incarceration as though it were something to celebrate – ‘our’ NHS, ‘our’ police state.
Now you might suppose for such a thing to happen in a mature democracy it would require for extraordinary emergency powers to be adopted, and maybe a law to be passed amid much debate in parliament and in the media. In fact, none of this happened in the case of Britain.
The virus lockdown regulations imprisoning us all are not a part of the Coronavirus Act. They were introduced as routine changes to health and other rules which ministers can make without needing legislation. Think of changing charges for parking fines or some such. It gets worse. Under the rules a policeman or PCSO can force you to go home if you venture from your cell without requiring to arrest or having any evidence. There are no checks and balances and there is no appeal. Incidentally, the High Court decided recently that imprisonment does not mean that you never be let out. Curfews and so on constitute imprisonment.
If you read about this happening in some foreign country in a history book you’d think – well what would you think? Brainwashed population living in a police state.
When the new regime was introduced the key manoeuvre was to prepare the way by provoking panic. The pretend independent mainstream media has done sterling work on that I think you’d agree. Anyone dissenting, as the current government well understood, would be dubbed as not caring if people died. So there was virtual silence as what amounts to a police state was introduced by a stroke of a pen.
Give them any power and they’ll misuse it. Did the appropriately dated Public Health Act of 1984 – the ‘enabling act’ – which it’s claimed entitled the Government to imprison us as a routine ‘delegated power’ really allow or envisage something like this? There is now substantial legal opinion that it did not. A businessman is bringing a case for judicial review of the entire lockdown and being represented by Field Court Chambers which recently published a paper on the subject. The core of it is that the lockdown conflicts with human rights.
Now things get even more interesting. The Government does seem to have legal power to imprison us all but it has to declare a state of emergency in order to restrict our civil rights under the Civil Contingencies Act passed by the sainted Tony Blair. But Johnson’s government did not do this. They treated national imprisonment as a ROUTINE ADMINISTRATIVE MEASURE! Think about that for a moment and its implications for the future. The hurdle as to what government can do repressing its own people has been massively lowered and a precedent set unless a legal challenge succeeds.
This is not a question about the wisdom of a lockdown in itself. It’s about what degree of dictatorial power a government in this country now has under existing laws.
You may ask why Johnson did not announce a state of emergency and use the relevant laws. As Lord Hoffman said somewhere, if a government wishes to take away civil rights it should face the matter squarely and bear the political consequences. Why did it not? There are considerable checks and balances under the emergency laws which don’t exist along the route the Government has taken. Also declaring a formal emergency tends to imply that the government has failed if things have reached that pretty pass. Not good for the image. As things are there is a serious problem but a routine one so just obey your orders and everything is in hand.
Anyone who thinks that the current caper will never be repeated needs a little more experience. All it needs in future as things stand is for some pretext to be contrived and even your basic freedom to move around can be taken away at any time without even a debate in parliament.
Will the legal challenge succeed? Probably not since the courts tend to give way to politics. But it’s vitally important that the public grasps the enormity of what has occurred. If government wishes to do this kind of thing again it must be made politically unacceptable without a formal declaration of an emergency instead of the stealthy means employed by Johnson which are entirely in character. This was not what was done in WWI or WWII. There were formal laws passed introducing removal of civil rights.
The craven acceptance of mass imprisonment without trial by the entire political and media class when the lockdown was started bodes ill for our futures and should tell you just how rotten the system is. Among the regulations is effectively a ban on political meetings and demonstrations – a proceeding which, incidentally, has been declared unconstitutional in Germany under their laws.
People ask how societies succumb to dictatorship. Well we’ve just experienced a taste of it. And all too many cheered. People speak of freedom dying with a whimper. Let’s have a party.