From the lockdown to the destruction of statues, these febrile weeks show the pillars of our freedom and civilization are rotten. As the Left now controls every lever of power, we face nothing less than regime change
By PETER HITCHENS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 01:09, 14 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:12, 14 June 2020
What we now face is regime change. That is why these strange crowds have begun to gather round ancient and forgotten monuments, demanding their removal and destruction.
They do not know what they want, or understand what they are destroying. But that no longer matters. They think their moment has come, and they may well be right.
This is why the memorial to Winston Churchill, and the Cenotaph itself, were shamefully boarded up on Thursday night – an act of appeasement if ever there truly was one.
That is why police chiefs kneel like conquered slaves to the new gods of woke, and the leaders of the Labour Party do likewise. I have seen it happen before, but only when things were moving in the opposite direction.
Then, as the Soviet Empire fell and an evil thing was swept from the world, it was a matter for rejoicing. The bloody mass murderer Vladimir Lenin, and his equally gory secret police enforcer Felix Dzerzhinsky, were pulled from their pedestals by a people sick of being ruled by their heirs.
This time, as ignorant armies seek the final abolition of Britain, it is very frightening. I would not like to say where it will end. I cannot claim to have known this would happen but I will say that I had an instinctive fear of very bad things to come when the country began its mad, wild shutdown in March.
I have learned over many years to trust my instincts, to take that train, to make that phone call, to turn that corner. When I have heeded them I have either benefited or been saved from bad things. When I have ignored them I have been hurt. It may be inherited from our forebears, or learned by decades of experience. It may be a mixture of the two.
But on crucial occasions we know more than we think we do. And as the cities began to darken and empty, and the world as we knew it started to close, I feared that we should never again see the lights lit again as they had been before. It was like the start of a great war without limit, made more perplexing because there was no obvious end to it, ever.
This was not just about a disease and a wholly overdone response to it. It was like the death of Princess Diana and the fall of the Twin Towers gathered together into a single great mass of unreason and panic.
The Diana episode had been a Dictatorship of Grief, in which even the most revered parts of the establishment had bowed to the mob. ‘Show us you care!’ shouted the headlines. And woe betide those who did not.
Then came September 11, 2001, and a Dictatorship of Security. No argument could withstand the claim that safety was paramount, and we willingly made a bonfire of our freedoms, wrongly persuaded that we could trust our governments not to take advantage.
And now we have the Dictatorship of Fear. It is not the largely fictional ‘R’ number which governs the behaviour of our feeble Government, which is only just beginning to grasp how much damage it has done and how hard it will be to repair. It is the ‘F’ number, the number of people scared into pathetic timidity by the slick but false claim we were all at risk from a terrible and devastating disease.
The numbers of dead are grossly inflated by an incredibly lax recording system, which does not distinguish between those who died of Covid-19 and those who died of other things but may have been infected by it. Many who have died of Covid-19 are almost certainly victims of the Government’s failure to protect those who were in fact most vulnerable – the residents of care homes.
The sad but unavoidable fact, that the disease is little danger to most young and healthy people but is especially deadly to the old and ill, is also now beyond dispute.
The initial claims of Imperial College London, that half a million might die if strict shutdown measures were not taken, have been devastatingly dismantled by other experts, who believe its methods and codes are, to put it mildly, hopelessly wrong.
Yet Imperial’s chief spokesman, Professor Neil Ferguson (caught ignoring his own advice with a girlfriend), has the double nerve to claim the rules he flouted should have been introduced even earlier. By contrast, Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, says that the shutdown should be lifted immediately.
Thanks to the barefaced dishonesty and unlawful bias of the BBC, and also the pitifully bad coverage of several newspapers, millions are unaware the whole basis of Government policy is now completely exploded by scientific experts. Even the truth about Sweden, which did not shut down, is obscured by incessant hostile reporting.
Sweden followed Britain in one thing – failing to protect care homes, and so it has had a higher death toll than it should have done. But even so, its experience – along with Japan – shows clearly that there is no link between shutdown and the number of deaths suffered.
The ceaseless assumption of the Government and the BBC that the shutdown ‘protected’ the NHS is simply not borne out by any facts. The NHS was never going to be overwhelmed. Covid deaths in this country peaked on April 8 – an event far too soon to have been caused by the shutdown announced on March 23 and begun the following day.
In fact, the country with the highest number of deaths per head is Belgium (843 per million). Yet Belgium introduced one of the tightest and most severe shutdowns on the planet. Sweden, without a shutdown at all, has suffered 472 deaths per million.
The UK figure of 620 per million may be inflated by our lax recording methods but hardly suggests that we did better than Sweden by throttling our economy and grossly interfering in personal liberty. Japan, which also did not shut down, suffered just over seven (yes, seven) deaths per million.
It is as if some establishments, including our own, wanted a crisis and used their control of information to achieve one. And still it continues. As of tomorrow, in a symbolic moment never to be forgotten, users of trains and buses will be compelled to wear muzzles or forbidden to travel.
The legal basis for this is highly doubtful. The medical basis for it is more doubtful still. These muzzles have been described as being as much use against a microscopic virus as a chain-link fence would be against mosquitoes.
As the distinguished pathologist Dr John Lee asked, after examining the evidence for and against, ‘does any of what is out there add up to a watertight case for compelling people to wear masks in public or at work (outside a healthcare setting)? The threshold for compulsion must surely be higher than “maybe” and “perhaps.’”
I am fairly sure these measures, like the house arrest and sunbathing bans which came before, have another purpose. They accustom us to being told what to do. Stand there. Wait there. Don’t use cash. Don’t cross that line. They permanently change the relationship between the individual and the state.
Not only can the Government now tell us where we must live and when or if we can go out. Not only can it tell us who we can sleep with (apart from Professor Ferguson, who is still allowed to pontificate after brazenly breaking these rules). It can now even tell us what to wear.
This is something I have not had to endure since my schooldays. What is even more startling is that it can tell me what to wear on my head and on my face, which is somehow even more personal and more intrusive.
I well remember the moment of liberation on the day I left my Devon preparatory school for the last time, and hurled my annoying cap from a high viaduct (it was a school tradition) as the train took me towards the grown-up world I longed to join.
All subsequent efforts to get me to wear such a thing failed. As soon as this lockdown began I could see most of this coming. It was clearly a revolution. And as the long weeks dragged by, something else became clear. The actual time it was taking was important.
During these long dreamy weeks we have bit by bit forgotten who we were before, how we lived, what we thought, what we expected of life. I believe that forces hostile to our country, its history and nature, have seen this as an opportunity. Probably incredulous to begin with, they realised the British people really had gone soft, accepting absurd and humiliating diktats, believing the most ridiculous claims.
They also noticed that formerly great institutions and forces – the church, Parliament, the police, the armed services, much of Fleet Street, the universities – submitted to it without so much as a sigh. So did what remained of our great industrial and commercial companies.
There was, on top of this, an increasingly feverish atmosphere. Deprived of normal routines and circles of friendship, many people became strained and suggestible.
They were discontented but not allowed to protest against the thing which was oppressing them, the shutdown, since from every quarter they were told it was justified. Almost any spark could have ignited this rich mixture.
As it happens, it was the death in Minneapolis, a city most British people will never even see, of George Floyd. Seeing the surging crowds, the rioting and the looting in the USA, the British radical Left grew jealous.
They imported the protest, converted it into outrage against some mouldering statues, and set the streets alight. Last week I attended one of these demonstrations, against the statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford. I have lived in Oxford for more than 50 years and I went out of interest, not because I care especially about this mediocre sculpture of a questionable man.
The event was utterly incoherent, moving from vague rage against the long-dead Rhodes to concerns about the oppression of West Papua to shouts against colonialism. As far as I know, China is the only major colonial power left. Peking is certainly raping Africa on a scale Cecil Rhodes never dreamed of.
But such people can’t quite bring themselves to attack that particular regime. Sometimes I think the radical Left are more nostalgic for the British Empire than any retired Indian Army colonel ever was.
They need it, to hate it. Its utter deadness is a nuisance to them. I became briefly famous because, when the crowd were invited to sit down for eight minutes and 46 seconds, with fists clenched, to commemorate Mr Floyd, I did not join in. One of the protesters accused me of refusing to ‘take the knee’.
It is true I would have refused to do so if asked, but in fact they were ‘taking the buttock’, a slightly different thing. The important thing about these protesters, lauded by the Labour Party and deferred to by police chiefs, is that they help to strengthen the new establishment and destroy the old one.
They have already helped to make it very hard for traditional, normal, Christian conservative and patriotic opinions to be expressed at all. By using social media as a form of discipline, they have made everyone – including the Left-wing multimillionaire author J.K. Rowling – fear them.
Anyone, as she learned last week, can now be ‘cancelled’ – the new radicals’ chilling word for the obliteration they like to visit on their victims. She has been pursued for saying the wrong thing about the transgender issue. In fact, there is no right thing. I have known for years it was futile to try to respond with fairness and reason to the new orthodoxy.
However carefully and generously I might argue, I would still be denounced for thought crime. You cannot be right, nor can you know if you are right. That is a large part of the trick.
No actual debate can take place in these conditions. And where there is no debate there is no freedom. I have also pointed out for years – without effect – that the police were long ago infiltrated with radical Left-wing thought.
I warned of Cressida Dick in 2004, noticing her early experiments in ‘negotiating’ with demonstrators rather than reclaiming the streets from them, and predicting that she would be the first female Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
I pointed out that Labour’s smoothie Mandelsonian and Blairite Eurocommunists were far more dangerous than Jeremy Corbyn’s crude and obvious Marxism.
Now, when Sir Keir Starmer (another one of those who dallied with a Trotskyist sect in the 1980s) kneels in supplication to the new orthodoxy, who wants to tell me he is a ‘moderate’?
People thought this frothing, intolerant Leftism did not matter or was a minor issue on the edge of our society. But in fact it was the first wave of a new orthodoxy which will shortly be dominating all our lives. And it is the Covid frenzy which has made its final triumph much closer.
For the Tory Party – in office but not in power – has over the past few months done the militant Left a huge favour. It has destroyed itself – voters will not forgive the mess it has made of their lives and of the economy, especially when they get the bill and the inevitable public inquiry reveals just how wrong they were.
The Johnson Government is now just keeping Downing Street warm for Sir Keir and his Blairite legions. But this will be far worse than 1997, when the Blairites moved softly and cautiously, nervous that they might rouse the Forces of Conservatism.
For the past few weeks have also demonstrated that all the pillars of British freedom and civilisation are hollow and rotten, and that we are ripe for a sweeping cultural revolution as devastating as the one Lenin and Dzerzhinsky launched in Petrograd in 1917.
Except that this time there will be no need to storm the Winter Palace, seize the railway station or the telephone exchange or the barracks. The Left are already in control of every lever of power and influence, from the schools the Tories are too weak to reopen to the police, the Civil Service, the courts and the BBC.
It is regime change. Do not worry too much about the statues which are now coming down. They mean surprisingly little. Worry more about the ones they are soon going to be putting up, and what they will represent. Perhaps our grandchildren will find the courage to pull them down.