So we go from lockdown to… lockdown. Unless you live in Cornwall or the Isle of Wight, in which case – lucky you.
It’s nonsense of course. As Damien Green, the Ashford, Kent, MP pointed out, he can’t have a drink in his own pub where the infection rate locally is zero but he can get one across the border in East Sussex where the infection rate is actually higher.
Even recognising that combating the spread of the virus will always throw up some odd anomalies, the blanket nature of the current orders is hard to stomach. Scotland under Nanny Nicola is already under even more strict orders to stay put and see no one. But Nicola Sturgeon is a typical left wing crypto-socialist and if that’s what the people of Scotland want, good luck to them.
South of the border, we elected a Conservative government less than a year ago, but sadly this current lot don’t strike me as at all Conservative. One of the most disturbing features of the last year has been government’s willingness to assume state control over huge swathes of our lives.
Half the working population is now being paid by Rishi Sunak. Matt Hancock is saying he knows better than we do how we should spend our Christmas holiday. We are borrowing billions like a drunken sailor while putting half the economy in free fall. The scale of unemployment and bankruptcy is staggering. To be facing the worst recession for 300 years is appalling.
The Conservatives seem to have forgotten what fiscal prudence and social liberalism mean in practice
Boris Johnson meanwhile lurches from one bad idea to the next, desperate to be positive but unable to restrain his own cabinet. He is in office but not in power, as Norman Lamont once said of John Major. I’m told Dominic Cummings was never actually a member of the Tory party and, as he was until very recently effectively in charge of the government, we might conclude this drift toward manic state control was his doing. But Dom has gone and good riddance. It is time this government looked at itself in the mirror and asked itself what it stands for.
One example of weak thinking emanates from my old ministerial stamping ground the Department for Transport. Secretary of state Grant Shapps larded local authorities with millions of taxpayers’ money to ensure that air quality might improve during the lockdown and that we might all learn to walk and cycle more. A noble objective no doubt but singularly ill thought through.
Low traffic neighbourhoods, (LTNs) appear to be based on the belief that frustration theory works. Frustration theory is much beloved of left-wingers like Ken Livingstone who was deeply anti-car (he famously still does not possess a driving licence) because cars are a symbol of middle-class decadence.
This flows through to the idea that if you frustrate motorists enough as they attempt to go about their daily lives, they will shrug their bourgeois shoulders, sell the car and buy a proletarian bicycle. It is of course a ludicrous theory for which there is no evidence whatever. It leads to what Londoners will now be familiar with – a cycle lane in Park Lane that occupies half the road that effectively pushes all the traffic into one lane where it stands in queues pushing more pollution out of the collective tail pipes than would ever otherwise be the case.
And it has not been just Labour councils who have enthusiastically endorsed these LTNs. Tory councils have been as guilty. Some have now seen the light and had the offending hardware removed.
But it points to yet another example of a Conservative Party that seems to have forgotten what fiscal prudence and social liberalism mean in practice. I suspect it will take a new leader for this to change. On current performance, we may not have to wait long.
Steve Norris is chairman of Soho Estates and Future-Built