Several constituents have written to me, outraged at the prospect of ‘Covid passports’ and quoting Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the USA, who said
“those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”
Franklin couldn’t have been writing in more different circumstances: his concern was the liberty of the Pennsylvania legislature, for the purpose of meeting military expenditure, to insist on its right to levy taxes on the State’s founding family, rather than to be bought off with a lump sum in return for an acceptance by the assembly that they had no right to tax them.
However impressive the quote may sound (and I’ve used it myself) it is a bit of a tight fit when it comes to shoe-horning it into the debate on compulsory vaccination.
My retort to the constituents who quoted Franklin to me is that, on the contrary, I have secured both my safety and my liberty by freely choosing to be vaccinated: a course that I recommended to them, and which I recommend to everyone else.
Nevertheless, regular readers of this column will know that I am deeply concerned about the creeping encroachment on liberty. I’ve twice used this column to set out my opposition to Covid passports and to the decision to make Covid vaccination compulsory for anyone working in residential care homes.
I do not want to live in a society where we would routinely have to produce our bona fides in order to secure access to venues and enjoy our full civil rights. I’m confident that were such a system introduced -and we are not there yet, with the parliamentary battle still ahead of us – it would be very difficult to subsequently dismantle it and it could be the fore-runner of a system of identity cards.
I understand the Government’s preoccupation that, whilst we have had enormous success with the vaccination programme, progress with the youngest age cohorts has been less impressive. From the outset I believed that the vaccination roll-out for younger people should have been incentivised on the basis of ‘carrots and not sticks’.
Frankly we have made a poor job of trumpeting the effectiveness of the vaccines: We have thoroughly undermined them by maintaining restrictions even after the vulnerable groups had been vaccinated and by insisting on isolation and quarantine conditions notwithstanding fully vaccinated status. This sends completely the wrong message to younger and less vulnerable people. Which is possibly why the Government is now having to raise the prospect of making their lives less convenient and agreeable should they choose not to bother.
As for those who write to me about the Government’s malign and hidden agenda to deprive us of liberty. I reject it utterly. Though I disagree with their policy, I know these ministers personally, they are among my friends, they have the best of motives, even if they are mistaken. But I do accept that the threat to our personal freedoms are growing in intensity and we have to decide whether we insist on holding on to them, or we are going to allow the growing power of the state to take them from us whenever it chooses.