PETER HITCHENS: We are in the age of curfew – and there is no escape

Prepare to be homebound again. Prepare to be prevented from working and receive state allowance. Prepare to wreck your education.

Prepare to be banned from traveling and show wads of paper or allow intrusive apps to be installed on your phone.

I can’t say when it will be. But after last week’s parliamentary report on the Covid panic, you can be sure it will happen. Next time it might not be the Covid. But it doesn’t matter.

A terrifying principle has been established that shutting down society is a wise and proportionate response to illness.

If you want to know how bad it can get in a supposedly free country, take a look at what is happening over and over again in the Australian state of Victoria and in particular in the once lovely city of Melbourne.

Prepare to be homebound again. Prepare to be prevented from working and receive state allowance. Prepare to wreck your education. (Above, an empty street in Leicester in March 2020)

An intimidating and bossy police force has allowed itself to be used to enforce the orders of a not very intelligent head of government. Life has been miserable, confined and under surveillance.

And no one knows when it will stop or if it will start again.

I mention this because I’m pretty sure the next time our country does a nationwide shutdown it will be much better prepared and have a lot fewer gaps than last time around.

Those who like this stuff will have watched carefully and noticed how some people have managed to stretch the rules a bit to make life more bearable. There will be none of that. Show your papers, get scanned or whatever.

And all this on the basis of what? Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Services Committee are simply assuming the closures are working.

If you want to know how bad it can get in a supposedly free country, take a look at what is happening over and over again in the Australian state of Victoria and in particular in the once lovely city of Melbourne.  (Pictured is Victoria Police in early October)

If you want to know how bad it can get in a supposedly free country, take a look at what is happening over and over again in the Australian state of Victoria and in particular in the once lovely city of Melbourne. (Pictured is Victoria Police in early October)

This belief is now the conventional wisdom, the group thinking that these MPs strangely claim others suffer from.

Evidence from around the world does not support this at all. From Japan to Sweden, countries that used light touch restrictions instead did not do significantly worse than those that placed their people under rigid house arrest.

And hardliners haven’t done particularly well. Take the Czech Republic, for a start very popular with enthusiasts of closure.

It “locked down” on March 16, 2020, imposed strict controls on its borders and published the first European decree on masks. Yet that fall the disease came back with a vengeance, causing it to die off again – and the process repeated in December.

It currently has the sixth highest number of deaths per million, 2,860, compared to 1,451 in Sweden. And this despite the fact that Sweden, like us, has mismanaged its care homes.

Studies around the world show that there is no obvious link between closures and containment of the disease. In addition, this is the first time in human history that healthy people, rather than sick people, have been quarantined.

What we need are better MPs and more vigilant media. But without them, we’ll soon be returning to the days of the Sunbathing Squad, Picnic Squad, Front Garden Squad, and drones hovering over secluded moors, stalking hikers trying to get away from it all.

It is the era of the curfew. I wonder what other piece of the Middle Ages they are going to reintroduce next?

On a rare trip on the London Underground, I suddenly realized that a public announcement had just told me to make sure my shoelaces were buckled.

I braced myself for a motherly voice telling me to tuck in my shirt, or perhaps an outstretched mechanical arm to wipe my nose.

I never really liked the expression “Nanny State” because it is unfair to nannies, who often do a good job.

But the era of the face mask and hand sanitizer reduced us to childhood and gave authorities some pretty weird ideas about what is now their business.

The good life now takes on a wicked side

A wicked stage version of the TV classic The Good Life shows how our national spirit has been muddled by dope.

In the play, premiered in Bath but destined for a London theater, the Good’s smoke marijuana and give cannabis-infused bread to their respectable neighbors, the Leadbetters. Tee hee. Very funny, or not.

In fact, this drug was already far too prevalent among the English middle classes by the 1970s. But then and for many years after, those who used it were often either embarrassed or afraid to admit it.

A wicked stage version of the TV classic The Good Life shows how our national spirit has been muddled by dope.  In the play, premiered in Bath but destined for a London theater, the Good's smoke marijuana and give cannabis-infused bread to their respectable neighbors, the Leadbetters.  Tee hee.  Very funny, or not.  (Above, Rufus Hound as Tom and Sally Tatum as Barbara in the production)

A wicked stage version of the TV classic The Good Life shows how our national spirit has been muddled by dope. In the play, premiered in Bath but destined for a London theater, the Good’s smoke marijuana and give cannabis-infused bread to their respectable neighbors, the Leadbetters. Tee hee. Very funny, or not. (Above, Rufus Hound as Tom and Sally Tatum as Barbara in the production)

Over the next half century, hashish became less and less of a joke. A frightening number of people have suffered from mental illness after using it and this is increasingly linked to insane violence.

The suspect in last week’s mass bow and arrow murder in Norway was quickly revealed to be a known user of marijuana.

Is there another case where a drug becomes more acceptable when it also becomes more obvious that it is dangerous for its users and for society?

RNIB should stop taking money for electric scooters

I was intrigued by how little information we heard from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) about the threat of electric scooters.

After all, those nasty little motorized toys, so often taken to the sidewalk, are more of a threat to the blind and visually impaired than to almost anyone else.

Well, now I hear that the RNIB – an organization I very much admire in normal times – has collected fees from electric scooter companies for “consultations.” They told me, “We provide consulting services that we charge for.

But when I asked how much these fees were, they said, “We can’t go into the details of these fees. When I said it could have affected their attitude towards electric scooters, they said no.

They argued, “While we work with electric scooter operators to make the industry more inclusive, this does not stop us from campaigning on key aspects of the electric scooter debate and making it clear that there is behaviors, such as driving on the road, which cannot be tolerated.

I was intrigued by how little information we heard from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) about the threat of electric scooters.  (image file)

I was intrigued by how little information we heard from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) about the threat of electric scooters. (image file)

The RNIB believes that a combination of campaigning, influence, training and advice offers the best chance to bring about change. ‘ Well, I don’t agree. If electric scooters are legalized, they will be everywhere.

The police, largely absent from the streets, will do next to nothing. Organizations smaller than the RNIB have warned that legalizing electric scooters will make our roads and sidewalks much more dangerous.

But they had little impact on Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps. He is showing all the signs that he has made up his mind to unleash this additional misery on our streets next year. So-called “experiments” across the country undermine the existing law, under which they are banned altogether.

Even the police don’t understand what the law is. When I confronted an illegal electric scooter driver speeding along a trail last week, he chuckled that it would soon be legal so I could get lost.

Meanwhile, a shrewd PR campaign, mistakenly claiming that electric scooters are green and will reduce car use, is working. If only all of the power of the RNIB was directed against him, I think things would change.

If they stop taking money for electric scooters and have such a campaign, I will gladly make them a box to help them make up for what they have lost.

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