Voices

I never thought I’d agree with a posh Tory MP

Sir Charles Walker debating the Covid restrictions in parliament on Thursday
(PA)

I never thought I would agree with a posh Tory MP whose idea of protest is carrying a pint of milk around instead of a placard. But I do. Sir Charles Walker stood up in parliament on Thursday and announced that his personal stand against continuing Covid restrictions would take the form of... a pint of milk.

Sir Charles will be carrying this carton around with him for the coming weeks as a token gesture of defiance, since public gatherings are OK under the coronavirus rules, so long as they are for the purposes of protest. He could be a bit whiffy by next week, but I get the point.

This week, the government voted to continue restrictions into the autumn, and Labour MPs were cowed into submission. What has happened to debate and opposition? Have months of confinement turned us into a bunch of wimps willing to hand over our freedom because of advice from a group of non-elected scientists and experts, many of whom disagree with each other?

To add to our misery, Matt Hancock has refused to rule out the possibility that restrictions will be removed by October and Sage member Neil Ferguson announced it would be “unwise” to book a summer holiday abroad.

All that in a week when infections fell 33 per cent, the NHS alert was downgraded, and doctors reckon that one in three of us are now carrying antibodies.

We continue to be treated like children who must ask teacher for permission to go to the toilet. On Monday, when Boris takes his first presidential-style press briefing in Downing Street’s posh new media room, he will be unveiling another national slogan. Instead of “stay at home”, it’s going to be along the lines of, “let’s take the next step safely – stay local”. More nanny-speak from someone who once claimed to be a libertarian.

A year of talking to us like children has had disastrous consequences. With over 90 per cent of the over-80s vaccinated, the big challenge is now to persuade the young to bother. In the meantime, Michael Gove is considering vaccine passports – apps which would allow people who’ve had the jab or a recent test to show proof of immunity to gain access to pubs, restaurants and anywhere people gather. Business owners desperate to resume activities indoors before they go bust – from theatres to music venues, cafes, pubs and restaurants – must consider whether to accept documentary proof of immunity as a way of gaining admittance.

It offers a way of reopening their business with an increase in income and a way out of insolvency, but it discriminates in the very places where we come together as equals

This is wrong on two counts. First, on grounds of privacy and personal freedom. Once you’ve downloaded a government app detailing your Covid immunity on a smartphone, it will be possible to track your movements 24/7. That might be OK in China, but it’s not something that seems appropriate in modern Britain. Although ID cards never made it through parliament, we already have more security cameras watching us than most countries, tracking our movements on the road, through city centres and in public buildings. They might be justified by police and councils on safety grounds but carrying a personal tracking app on our phones is another matter.

Secondly, requiring documentation to enter somewhere to eat or drink places staff on the front line, a potential target of abuse and harassment. It’s been said that a Covid immunity app would be useful for cleaners, electricians and builders – but in my experience all the above have continued to work throughout the pandemic, wearing masks if necessary and maintaining social distancing.

There is no need whatsoever to require them to carry proof of Covid jabs – these jobs are carried out by people desperate to work and earn wages, people who will take every sensible precaution to continue to ply their trade.

Dangling the possibility of Covid passports to pub owners is cruel. It offers a way of reopening their business with an increase in income and a way out of insolvency, but it discriminates in the very places where we come together as equals.

Some people do not want to be vaccinated for very good reasons – they might cite genuine health issues and cultural concerns. We might not agree with their decision, but as we live in a civilised society, we must allow people freedom of choice and protect their liberty.

The “woke” culture is already cancelling out anyone who has a challenging point of view, and this is another continuation of that stultifying process. A simple answer might be for pubs and restaurants to offer separate, socially distanced seated and non-seated areas. The customer makes the choice, not the government, and certainly not the front of house staff. Access should only be denied to people exhibiting anti-social behaviour.

We have enough divisions in our society through lack of social mobility, the continuance of private schools (claiming charitable status and thus avoiding tax), and a housing market which denies entry to all but the waged and middle class. Why make more divisions for the sake of “safety” from Covid, a virus we are going to have to live with for many years?

Scientists are not sociology experts; they are not qualified to manoeuvre rules and regulations which impact on personal freedoms we have fought so hard to achieve. Covid passports will only cause resentment and divide our already fragmented society even more.

 

I love Chrissy Teigen but wish she hadn’t handed victory to the trolls

TV host and lifestyle promoter Chrissy Teigen has left Twitter – where she commanded 13.7 million followers – citing the negativity she encountered. She says “my life goal is to make people happy”, and has “come to terms with the fact that some people aren’t gonna like me”. I know the feeling. But I wish she’d been tougher, and not handed victory to the trolls.

Since 2017, Chrissy and her husband John Legend have been targeted by supporters of conspiracy theorists QAnon, who falsely claimed the couple were part of a secret paedophile ring. Chrissy has blocked and unfollowed millions of hostile accounts, announcing in a final tweet: “I have taken so many small, 2-follower counter punches, that at this point, I am honestly deeply bruised.”

Another wave of hostile comments came last year after she bravely documented her miscarriage on social media. Trolls claimed it was to “gain popularity”.

Chrissy’s unfailing cheeriness will be sadly missed on Twitter, where nastiness reigns supreme. This week, she appeared on James Corden’s Late Late Show in the US confessing that she’d once had sex with her husband in the toilet at the Democratic Party Convention. You’ve got to love this woman!

Her appearance was to promote the new company she’s launched with Good American Denim company founder Emma Grede and Kris Jenner, called Safely, with a range of home cleaning products.

I sneered at the sight of these fashion mavens promoting surface cleaner in big green (albeit beautifully designed) bottles, with all the shelf appeal of expensive cosmetics. But then I read that the home cleaning market is set to double in the next six years. Smart thinking, ladies, although I won’t be paying out for celebrity toilet cleaner.