Sunday Column: Despite what the polls say, nobody wants a "circuit breaker" lockdown.

Keir Starmer may think he is following public opinion but he is once again only representing the opinion of a small metropolitan bubble.

By Derek W Gardiner

2020 is likely to go down in history as a lost year, a write-off where nothing of any lasting significance was accomplished. We spent over a quarter of a year in some form of national lockdown, some parts of the country remain in lockdown today even after all these months. Our economy has taken a massive hit and may take up to four years to recover, major events scheduled for this year such as the Olympic Games have had to be postponed and the people have been denied their democratic rights at the ballot box in London leaving them with a Mayor hell-bent on imposing the most draconian restrictions on the capital.


Much like on Brexit Labour couldn't seem to make up their minds on what they wanted. First, they called for an "exit strategy" from the first lockdown then they accused the Prime Minister of easing restrictions too quickly, they then opposed local restrictions and a second national lockdown but on Wednesday in what can only be described as a blatant act of political opportunism came out in support of a second "circuit breaker" national lockdown although did not go as far as defining what restrictions this would entail. They were clearly trying to capitalise on the publication of the minutes of a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) meeting which showed that the scientists on the committee had recommended a circuit breaker lockdown but the Chancellor Rishi Sunak had opposed it, the Prime Minister had to balance these two viewpoints (which is the job of any competent decision-maker) and imposed the "rule of six" and the 10 pm curfew instead, which was at the time opposed by the Labour party.


A YouGov poll suggested that 65% of those surveyed would support a second lockdown over the October break while 20% would oppose this was based on a survey of over 3,000 people. However, this should by no means be taken as gospel, these surveys rely on voluntary participation and many who choose to participate may be predisposed to a certain viewpoint or simply have more time on their hands to respond to a survey and therefore less likely to be adversely affected by a second lockdown. Most people I have encountered day to day tell me they find the restrictions bizarre and would not want to have their jobs and businesses put at risk again especially with the furlough scheme coming to end in under two weeks time.


Scientists on the SAGE committee have also said that a circuit breaker lockdown is unlikely to completely prevent any deaths but rather only delay them for a few months. The first lockdown was sold to us as a three-week measure designed to ensure that the NHS did not become overwhelmed but it went on for far longer than it needed to. What guarantee would we have that a two to three-week circuit breaker lockdown wouldn't end up lasting all winter?


A No-Deal Brexit will not leave us like Mauritania or Afghanistan.


So it looks like we may well be headed for No deal which for me is no surprise given that the EU still want control over our fisheries and state aid rules, something which they have not asked of any other country they have a deal with. This has led some commentators to claim that what the government is calling an "Australia" deal, trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules amounts to a Mauritania-style deal.


Mauritania was up until recently the only country in the world to trade solely on WTO rules with no trade deals with other countries around the world but has since signed agreed to an "anything but arms" deal with the EU and several other countries. However, the UK would under no circumstances be trading solely on WTO rules. We have signed several bi-lateral trade deals which will come into effect when we leave the EU transitional arrangments on the 1st of January. We have so far signed 19 trade agreements encompassing 50 countries including Switzerland, South Korea and most recently Japan.


So perhaps the claim that we will be like Mauritania, Somalia and Afghanistan is one that the fact-checkers should flag up.


Nicola Sturgeons No-Deal hypocrisy.


In response to the announcement that we should get ready for a no-deal Brexit Nicola Sturgeon issued the following statement during one of her part political broadcasts on Friday:


"It is beyond belief that, in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession, the Prime Minister is telling Scotland to get ready for a disastrous no-deal Brexit. With less than three months to go until the end of the transition period people in Scotland will be in despair at this extraordinary statement."


In response to that, I would say this.


"It is beyond belief that in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession The first minister is still telling Scotland to get ready for another independence referendum. Business and people in Scotland will be in despair at this."