Half a cheer for vaccine passports

I could write to curse the idea as discriminatory and a shackle of servitude; or I could praise vaccine passports as a route to freedom. I could instead say both, but do not let the government machine anywhere near them. There is a better way.

It has been said by many commentators that a vaccine passport scheme would be divisive and discriminatory. It would indeed treat people who have not had the jab differently from those who have, but that is not much of an objection: if it liberates millions, let them be liberated. Some people have eyesight too bad to let them drive, but we do not ban cars for everyone in the name of equality. If a scheme reopens businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, let us do everything to let them reopen.

Those who are immune are at no risk and are no danger to anyone. At the beginning of this epidemic, I pleaded for those who had been through the disease to be given their freedom back – and not just for themselves but to let the economy come back on line. Those ‘immunity passports’ were discussed but it came to naught. Now the epidemic is practically over in the United Kingdom, because of the immunisation programme, and new infections from Europe and America will hit that wall of herd immunity. We should be fully opening soon.

Even so, the fear is still there, of crowded venues, hot with breath in our faces, the few yet diseased spreading to those still vulnerable, who cannot escape. The trains into London are still emptied by fear and no one will sit next to anyone else – they stand, in half-empty carriages. What will they be like in pubs and cinemas?

If customers are to have confidence to return and spend money in pubs, clubs and theatres, they want assurance. These are the vaccine passports.

The pubs and venues are the ones who need a scheme to keep their customers safe; not the government. Nothing the government does depends on it. However in this emergency the government has taken control of every aspect of life, and death. They feel responsible and the legion of advisers (if they were more honest) enjoy the power. The politicians, bureaucrats and newly empowered doctors now need to step back. It is not their fight. The government’s job in this is to take their hands off and open us up as fast as possible. If they demand that pubs be closed to those still at risk, let the pubs determine the question. They will do it better.

If the Civil Service get hold of a vaccine passport system, they will mire it in bureaucracy, and give a lucrative monopoly to a company with the slickest PR department. That company then has a financial interest in making it as complicated and expensive as possible and of staving off the end of lockdown, without actually achieving the objective. The lockdown has been manna from heaven for leech companies. The American government, remember, spent an eye-watering $1 billion on a probe, and it got to Mars; the British government spent eleven times the amount on Track and Trace and it didn’t get off the ground.

The pubs however know what they need to get customers through the door. It does not need a nationwide, intrusive database, it does not need to follow you round the country and it does not need a heavy, laminated and bound document set to last years: the longest it would ever be needed is a couple of months until the last of the lockdown is sloughed off. It just needs a simple card with a bar code or QR code for the user’s name and likeness and confirmation that they have had the jab, certified by the existing database. A single, spotty geek fresh out of an IT course could programme that, and for barely more than the cost of a pint. Breweries and theatres and airlines could do their own or join together for one they can all accept. All there is to say to Matt Hancock is ‘get away and stay away’.

Some dangers with vaccination passports have been well rehearsed. For me, the worst are twofold. The first is that the government will take ownership of the scheme and effectively persecute those who (for whatever reason) will not have the vaccination. The second is more sinister: that if the scheme is successful, allowing the vaccinated to crowd into sports grounds, pubs and theatres, that may be an excuse to prolong the lockdown for the rest. Indeed if a really expensive, bureaucratic scheme were adopted, the lockdown would have to be extended just to justify the expense and effort.

Overall – no – Matt Hancock’s Department must not even contemplate a vaccine passport scheme. However if the venues want one, as well they might, they will do it far better than a bureaucracy ever could.

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Books

Good night, sweet prince

In many fields, the Duke of Edinburgh’s service to the Commonwealth and the world was immeasurable. His passing leaves a hole it would take legions to fill.

I met him but once, many years ago, while he was engaged in his keenest endeavour: encouraging the development of youth through his Award Scheme.

He alone could create such a scheme with credibility, as he represented its highest values. He served with distinction in war and peace; those humourless souls who in later years jibed at his great heart had never fought with a cool head in a ship under heavy enemy fire, deep in the heart of a war for civilisation itself and earning in his own right, high praise of his fellows; nor have they, as he did, created in peacetime so many schemes and charities whose good work we may take for granted.

His first duty, he often said, was to support Her Majesty, and that he did, over a reign of some seventy years by her side, troubled and bewildering times as they often were, ensuring that our Queen, whose own sense of duty is unwavering, could perform her role without being worn down by life which would flatten most of us in a moment, with a smile and an ever-kindled heart.

Many, like myself, may have had most influence from Prince Philip through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Unfashionably, but with immense success across the world, it reproduced something of those lessons drummed in at Gordonstoun, character-building, resilience-building, providing in each new generation those who can stand against the storm. Had it not been for the founder’s own character, wrought in peace and war, it could not have succeeded as it has.

he was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves:
He had no legs that practised not his gait;
And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,
Became the accents of the valiant;
For those that could speak low and tardily
Would turn their own perfection to abuse,
To seem like him: so that in speech, in gait,
In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion’d others.

This was just one aspect of the man. Many more have been touched by him whether they know it or not, whether from endeavours like the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildfowl Trust, the Work Foundation or many others: he might have said that “constitutionally I don’t exist”, but wherever he trod he made the world that bit better.

Our thought now are with Her Majesty in her grief. I will pray for her comfort, as will we all, for this is first and foremost a time of sadness for our Queen. I will also give thanks for a life of service beside her.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Whom are you serving?

You are being used, and they will spit you out when they are done. You may gather at a school to make your feelings felt, and you may end a good man’s career this time, and believe that this means you now have power to force society to bend more to your preferred norms, but you are being used. You have no more power than an atheist mob permits to you.

It was a different world in 1989, before the Wall fell.  As the year opened, protests burst out upon the streets of many countries against a Whitbread Prize-winning novel few then had heard of. In Bradford, Muslim elders hung from a stick a book they had never read and burned it in protest – they made at that time no threat against people or property, but all of respectable opinion in Britain was against them. When Persia’s spiritual chief issued an actual death sentence against the author, not just British opinion but that of the world was repelled. It was a turning point, but not in favour of the freedom proclaimed from all ends of social opinion; it was a turning point against free expression.

The shock at that fire in Bradford was not the act itself, burning a book – it is a very good book, but it is only paper. It was the sudden discovery of a new political identity within the population. Before Bradford there were Asians, undistinguished amongst their tribes and sects for most of us – now there were Muslims.

It was a rollercoaster year, 1989: the Satanic Verses, the invention of the World Wide Web, Tiananmen Square, and the collapse of European Communism, ushering in a new order to the world. The Wall fell, old, oppressed nations began to rediscover themselves and the thrive anew in freedom: except in the first to turn, Algeria, which fell to Islamicists. In the West, socialism was disgraced, but a backlash began in quiet corners, and the events of Bradford were too good an opportunity to miss.

There was no conspiracy – there did not have to be when men of ill-will were thinking the same thoughts and swapping fake outrage in the Grauniad. The Communist regimes in the East were no longer there, their failures and brutality exposed to the world, but those who had long hated their own society and culture, who had supported the Communists to destroy it, saw in the ash from those book pages a new way to attack the Judeo-Christian normality of society.

After Bradford it became a necessity not to offend Muslims, and that sounds benevolent enough – I really have no wish to annoy Muslims unnecessarily. The power game is not about benevolence though. There were some Muslims who saw an opportunity to push an agenda of their own – to persuade schools to treat Islam as unchallengeable, for example; there are always people like that in any group. That though is all far less important than the liberal offensive.

Driving Christian references from public life moved on apace after 1989. The tabloids’ favourite is ‘banning Christmas’, but it goes far beyond. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher ensured that school assemblies be ‘broadly Christian in character’, but thirty-three years later that seems inconceivable. State and society have been secularised from top to bottom, and discrimination laws so interpreted as to keep it that way.

So it was in 2005 or 2006 that I attended a talk on Islam in British life, and was shocked by something I heard, from the mouth of a learned judge. The subject of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons had come up and common commentary seemed to be that they were grossly offensive and should be shunned, even banned. An audience member then asked why he cartoons should be banned when we champion the right to free speech by Salman Rushdie. The judge, a liberal and certainly not a Muslim, said he thought we had got it the wrong way round, and the cartoons were unimportant but the Satanic Verses should have been banned. How the world had turned in that short time; as Eastern Europe cast off servitude and embraced freedom, Western Europe has cast away freedom.

The world of ‘acceptable opinion’ is different now. The result is not what Muslims would have wanted: would the average Muslim be happy with what was once a religious society becoming enforcedly atheist? Barely any Muslim is bothered by the public celebration of Christmas, but may be greatly offended by the suppression of religious expression.

Those at that school gate in Batley may think they are defending their religion, but it is a game played by the Guardianista liberal, which is the bitterest enemy of all religion.

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Books

Propitiating the divine NHS

A long shop window in the high street of a prosperous town; more than just a hairdresser but a ‘salon’ with shelves shining with new unguents for the discerning lady; and all closed and dark. The window shows across its whole width a rainbow and a line of praise to the NHS as to a divinity.

The rent must still be paid, and the rates, but there is no income from which to pay them as the salon is closed in the name of health, which brooks no logic, no moderation, and demands that Hygieia receive unquestioning devotion. Though driven to possible bankruptcy by this cult, the desperate shop-owner expends lavishly on a huge plastic banner proclaiming her own devotion.

It is reminiscent of finding a ruined Roman house with a clay tablet cast in a final precatio, an address in devotional, loving terms to the gods the householder believed were destroying him.

Someone is making a fortune with these slick, professional banners. (Good luck to them – at least someone is still making money.)

Nigel Lawson wisely observed that the NHS is ‘the closest thing the English people have to a religion’, and the truth of that has been amply demonstrated over this long epidemic. In past years the NHS had been seen to replace the church (an unreformed church desperately needing a Cranmer). The messages of the rainbows suggests it has gone further, in an apotheosis by which the National Health Service has been deified, such that to it are addressed the praises and supplications of its supplicants.

The NHS are now praised even more for their miraculous achievement of the vaccines; but these were not developed by the NHS – the NHS would be incapable of doing such a thing, but will passively accrued the credit for this feat.

As the lockdown is lifted, some shops will stagger to their feet. Others will simply shut and walk away, leaving a hole in the high street and employees at the dole office (being paid from your pocket and mine). In the wreckage there may be some sensible shaking down of opinions, but that is unlikely. If the failures of this last year are examined by cool heads, any attempt at a Reformation will be met by the fury of the devotees of the deified NHS.

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Books

Five Questions for the new ochlocracy

Tony Benn was wrong on most things, but he was a great Parliamentarian and he had five questions that may be asked of anyone with power:

  1. What Power Have You Got?
  2. Where Did You Get It From?
  3. In Whose Interests Do You Exercise It?
  4. To Whom Are You Accountable?
  5. How Can We Get Rid Of You?

To the Social Justice Warriors, the wokearchy, call them what you will, those questions are addressed. Their formal power is limited, but they infest the governments of Canada and the United States, and influence many others. Elections make little difference ,and that is the issue for Tony Benn’s five questions.

There is point denying that ‘social justice warriors’ have power.  It may not be formal, legal power, except when exercised by those who have inserted themselves into the structure of government, and there is no ‘deep state’, but it is real power with real-world consequences. Each time someone is sacked from a position of authority for denying a doctrine of the New Left; a Christian actress is denied work; a book is withdrawn from sale; a speaker turned away, or banned from a social media platforms for calling a man ‘he’; an academic is demoted; an honest man in public life reviled, mocked and forced to recant some commonplace observation, this is real power, hurting real people. When the police intimidate and record the names of those who transgress social-justice rules that are not laws, this is real power. The examples are well known and innumerable.

It is not just for the ‘new ochlocracy’ to answer these questions, because they will not address them with any honesty. These are matters which need to be considered by those who are meant to have constitutional power, and who are meant to use it to protect British subjects. If they are not doing that basic job, then the Five Questions are addressed to them.

1     What power have you got?

There is power to wreck careers and beggar ones victims, to wreck lives and families, without appeal or redress.

Power is not just exercised by the ochlocracy nor just by those who believe in the woke doctrine: those who sack and decommission may be those who are simply afraid of criticism or worried that they will be next, like those who turned their neighbours in to the KGB for a quiet life.

2    Where did you get it from?

There is formal power which in Britain is authorised by the Equality Act 2010, a lever piece of social justice warfare from the lamentable Harriet Harman. Its honeyed terms start with the principle that no state body nor employer should treat each person fairly without regard to characteristics irrelevant to their job, and that every member of the public should be able to have access to services sold to the public, but it has been a Trojan horse, as many have found to their cost in the Tribunals. The Act is an excuse used far beyond what it actually says.

In the last few years, formal power has been eclipsed by mob power; the ‘cancel culture’. This is power not granted but taken. It arises by neglect by everyone else; fear; activists pushing themselves forward where no one else can be bothered to make such an effort; blackmail; lying to cowards about the rules and about who is watching them; developing a cadre of useful idiots.

3    In whose interests do you exercise it?

The activists’ own interests and amusements; no more.

4    To whom are you accountable?

Accountability is to none. There is no appeal nor mitigation. There is no referral to any accepted law. Even a mugger in the street may listen to a plea or a bargain, but a woke mob will not.

5    How can we get rid of you?

To those with formal positions; your jobs can be terminated, just as you terminated others’ jobs. To those who attack your fellow workers; your Equality Act condemns bullying and intimidation, so watch your own backs. Employers may realise how many valuable staff they are losing and can adopt anti-bullying policies which catch you – and that is a forthcoming article.

For the mob – you have power because cowards permit it to you. That can be withdrawn at any moment. You have taught the rest of the world what are effective tactics for taking down those you do not like, and it may be that at any moment those weapons will be turned upon you.

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Books