In a way, it would’ve been a breath of fresh air to have been proven wrong, to have had all suspicions and scepticism exposed as ill-founded and to realise our elected leaders were acting out of genuine concern for the people after all. Alas, so engrained now is mistrust of the political class – and not without good reason, lest we forget – that it seems we were destined to have our worst fears confirmed once the private exchanges between those who implemented pandemic policies began seeping out into a mainstream media that slavishly toed the party line at the time. Two or three years later, the MSM has changed direction with the wind and is belatedly engaged in a sequence of double-takes, as though any of these so-called revelations are remotely surprising. In a way, it’s an amusing measure of just how remarkably dim Matt Hancock really is that he entrusted his WhatsApp messages to a Fleet Street snake like Isabel Oakeshott when she was co-authoring his pandemic diaries; true to her nature, Ms Oakeshott proceeded to pass them on to the Daily Telegraph, and now the former Health Secretary’s true thoughts during the period in which he and the Government adopted an approach to civil liberties that Oliver Cromwell would have regarded as a bit extreme are laid bare for all to see. And what an unedifying example of the contempt in which Hancock and his cohorts hold the proles they truly are. And we all thought they cared, didn’t we.
‘Hilarious! I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first-class and into a premier inn shoe box.’ That was the reaction of Whitehall mandarin Simon Case to Matt Hancock when the sudden branding of certain countries as ‘red list’ meant any Brit returning from them would have to be quarantined in hotels at the princely sum of £1,750 per person; the notion that these would all be jet-setters returning from skiing holidays is a crude generalisation that distorts the fact that not-so affluent individuals often have to travel abroad to visit family and may well have saved for years to do so. Hilarious indeed. Just how detached Ministers are from the economic realities the vast majority are governed by was further demonstrated in Boris Johnson’s reaction to the news that police crackdowns on ‘lockdown breakers’ had resulted in one specific case of £10,000 fines for two people; Hancock sent the PM the good news, to which Boris replied ‘Superb!’ The fines Boris & Co eventually received for their own spot of lockdown breaking reminded me of similar punishments dished out to Premier League footballers who bring the game into disrepute in that they were hardly likely to plunge those fined into poverty; what of the unfortunate plebs forced to fork out £10,000, though?
As for the instigation of Project Fear itself, whilst TV ad breaks and billboards were flooded with images of masked patients in hospital beds and shops were rationing customers as every available space was plastered with orders posing as advice, Hancock was busily reviewing the success of the campaign on WhatsApp, reminding his media adviser that ‘(We need) to frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain’ before asking ‘When do we deploy the new variant?’ Cabinet Secretary Simon Case evidently knew what worked, stressing ‘the fear/guilt factor (is) vital’. Needless to say, scaring the population into submission wasn’t entirely unprecedented; Project Fear tapped into the global catastrophe narrative in which the end of the world is always nigh; everything from Remainer predictions on the ramifications of Brexit to the elevation of an obnoxious schoolgirl into a secular prophet for the most nihilistic crusade of the age had helped generate widespread insecurities primed to play straight into Government hands. Indeed, one could argue the only competence Boris’s administration showed was in enlisting the obedient compliance of the populace, for in this particular instance the end of the world could be averted if you did as you were told.
Those who expressed grave doubts as to what was being done were criticised at best, demonised at worst, and some were effectively no-platformed, their dissenting voices dismissed as Covid-denying, anti-vax, right-wing extremism; even the respected academics who were the prime signatories to the Great Barrington Declaration – which offered a more humane approach to dealing with Covid that made ring-fencing care homes a top priority – had their reputations blackened and besmirched. The MSM and social media, as well as their Big Tech paymasters, clamped down on any deviancy from the official narrative to the point where few were prepared to air their concerns; and the few that dared to were rapidly silenced, anyway. YouTube and Twitter were censoring freedom of speech like cyberspace Covid Marshals, goose-stepping across hard-fought civil rights that had been one of the achievements of Western civilisation for centuries and grinding them to dust.
Meanwhile, out in the real world the STASI-like encouragement to grass-up one’s neighbours was complemented by drones tracking dog-walkers, and coppers threatening to fine householders sat in their own front gardens if they didn’t go back inside. The employment of virtual curfews, the cavalier destruction of industry and the economy, ruthless pharmaceutical gambling with the lives of the perfectly healthy, the interruption of education and the polluting of infant minds, the outlawing of religious services, the house arrest and solitary confinement of the elderly and mentally ill, the suspension of travelling, the closing-down of sports, hospitality and entertainment venues, and the untold psychological effects of informing people that every step outdoors would kill another granny – all played their part in a period so unnervingly nightmarish that it’s almost hard to believe it actually happened now. But it did, and those that enforced it with their edicts were pissing themselves at the rest of us as they and their pals made a fast buck out of the crisis, snogged their aides, and stopped-off at the off-licence en route to Downing Street.
It’s no wonder so many entombed indoors concluded this was the ultimate conspiracy theory, the culmination of every Great Reset rumour that had been gathering pace for years. One friend of mine bought heavily into the conspiracy theory angle during lockdown and was severely impacted by the concurrent insecurity about where it would lead us; most who know him are convinced it contributed to his subsequent breakdown and radical change of personality. But the irony is, as much as it’s strangely reassuring to believe events beyond our control are being orchestrated by a malevolent global coterie of governments, corporations and so on, the Matt Hancock WhatsApp leaks simply confirm the fact that those pulling the pandemic strings were mainly making it up as they went along; yes, most of them were callous, avaricious individuals who were utterly indifferent when it came to the damage they were doing to the lives of the masses, but they weren’t agents of some SMERSH-like syndicate; they were merely mediocrities who had suddenly been handed the kind of powers they’d never dreamt would ever fall into their hands – not unlike the underachieving nonentities the SS often made commandants of concentration camps; few powers corrupt quite like those given to little men and women who would otherwise amount to nothing.
We also shouldn’t neglect to remember – as we edge towards an inevitable change of government – that opposition parties were even more rabid lockdown fanatics than the heartless implementers of policies whose private personas have finally been made public. Rather than offer a counterbalance to the increasingly draconian legislation the Tories were rushing through Parliament as they became thoroughly sozzled on unlimited power, Labour and the Lib Dems instead offered an alternative that was even more draconian, even more extreme, even more undemocratic, and even more doom-mongering. I suppose they were simply building on the example set before them on the other side of the House. After all, as Matt Hancock said on WhatsApp, fear was ‘vital’.
© The Editor