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ROSS CLARK: Until recently, Boris Johnson had a reputation as a libertarian


Coming from every British Prime Minister, the new restrictions on our daily lives that have been imposed in recent weeks would be extraordinary.

It is now illegal to meet up with friends or family members, even outdoors, in much of England, where the virus is far less likely to spread.

Up to 16 million Britons are suffering draconian restrictions on their personal freedom, and a growing group of Tory MPs is warning of "standard national lockdown" – Boris Johnson faces an impending rebellion from his backers.

A growing group of Tory MPs warns of "default national lockdown" – Boris Johnson faces an impending rebellion in his back benches

The new rules are backed up by fines and pettifogging officers empowered to use "reasonable force".

It is almost unbelievable that pubs are now being fined up to £ 10,000 for being allowed to sing on their premises.

Those who fail to self-isolate when asked to do so could be fined £ 10,000 – as much as many people make in six months.

Even employees worried about keeping their jobs, who don't tell their boss that they are self-isolating, run the risk of getting stabbed for a £ 50 levy.

I accept that the Treasury Department has been a little drained by the Covid recession, but trying to make up the deficit by picking people who don't understand the rules is a step too far.

Notably, none of these regulations or fines have been discussed in Parliament. Rather, they were imposed by the Prime Minister himself, by order of the executive, using emergency powers which, at the beginning of this crisis, we believed would only be needed for a short time.

Most amazing, however, is the fact that this attack on our everyday freedoms was imposed by a man who until recently had a reputation as a libertarian.

As far as Johnson has any political philosophy, it has always been about getting the state off our backs.

It is now illegal to meet up with friends or family members, even outdoors, in much of England, where the virus is far less likely to spread

It is now illegal to meet up with friends or family members, even outdoors, in much of England, where the virus is far less likely to spread

How hard is it to reconcile the Tinpot dictator who now lives on Downing Street with the editor of The Spectator, who wrote about the Blair administration's "lust for meddling in every aspect of our daily lives"?

Can the Prime Minister, who is now threatening us with fines of £ 10,000 for seeing our loved ones, really be the columnist who so bitterly opposed Tony Blair's attempt to impose 90 days without trial?

Or the man who wrote eloquently in 2011 in response to suggestions that skiers might be forced to wear crash helmets: “I angrily oppose the element of coercion, not just because it violates the principles of freedom, but because of the whole problem of politics over the past 30 years, has we adhered to core legislation instead of leaving decisions to individuals and communities? & # 39;

In short, what happened to the freedom-loving, carefree man whom the country voted through a landslide less than a year ago?

Is it the taste of power – coupled with his own fear of the virus that emerged from a very bad case – that made him such an oddly authoritarian prime minister?

The shift seems almost unbelievable – and for no one more than me. I know quite a bit about how Johnson thinks because I wrote many of his editorials for several years when he was editor of The Spectator.

One of these, in March 2001, concerned the Blair government's overreaction to a previous epidemic – foot and mouth disease.

With heartfelt encouragement from Johnson, I mocked the way the country was closed, mobile libraries were taken off the streets, and how the Bishop of Carlisle had been locked in his home because of an outbreak in the field next door what I called the "bestial equivalent of athlete's foot".

Events showed that Johnson's instincts were right about Blair's jerky approach to foot and mouth disease – a report from the University of Edinburgh later concluded that many more animals were slaughtered than necessary.

Some of the measures were just stupid – for example, closing thousands of kilometers of footpaths, including those through farm fields and forests miles from the nearest livestock.

In 2005, Johnson wrote in The Spectator, remembering being taken to an Oxford police cell overnight after a boisterous dinner at the Bullingdon Club: “I was suddenly aware of the immense practical power of the state and its ability to make my life hell.

"I think back to that strange moment of shock – when I realized the cops were able to invent something."

But now he is not thinking of threatening the population with heavy fines and sending troops onto the streets with regulations that even he can hardly understand or even less articulate.

One person at the wrong end of Johnson's reign of terror is weather forecasters Piers Corbyn (pictured), who has been fined £ 10,000 for organizing a protest against the lockdown

One person who found himself on the wrong end of Johnson's reign of terror is weather forecaster Piers Corbyn (pictured), who has been fined £ 10,000 for organizing a protest against the lockdown

One person who has already found himself on the wrong end of Johnson's reign of terror is weather forecaster Piers Corbyn, Jeremy's older brother, who was fined £ 10,000 for daring to protest the lockdown.

(The organizers of the summer's anti-racism protests appear to have been left alone.)

How ironic that Johnson was once one of the biggest fans of Pier's predictions. Of course, there are some people who will dismiss Johnson's earlier libertarianism as irresponsible.

It's one thing to resist coercion on health and safety issues, but it was his carefree attitude towards his own health and safety that resulted in him shaking hands on everyone he met on a hospital visit in March shook – at a time when Covid-19 it was rampant.

Three weeks later he almost lost his life to the illness. Johnson admits that being overweight contributed to the severity of his illness.

That, too, may have hit the mark, as he had often ridiculed the efforts of nanny state governments to legislate on obesity.

Before he became Prime Minister, however, his insight was absolutely correct: Governments can make problems worse by jumping straight to legislation instead of addressing individual responsibility.

As Johnson himself wrote in 2004 when a committee of MPs suggested "fat taxes", "The more the state tries to take responsibility for the problem, the less solvable the problem becomes and the more people will actually feel like" victims " . " "of an ailment when it is nothing but their own fat fault."

Sorry Boris: You were right the first time. You saw once, and strongly argued, that governments cannot resist passing stupid laws and threatening us with ever increasing fines for failing to obey.

Their newly discovered authoritarian principles destroy our freedoms and bring the economy to its knees.

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