Article by Fraser Myers
This week, we learned that this shushing of debate and silencing of questions went right to the top of government. Speaking to the Spectator, former chancellor Rishi Sunak claims that even he was unable to get a hearing for his concerns about lockdown.
An omerta on lockdown harms was quickly established in the spring of 2020. Ministers were told not to talk publicly about potential trade-offs. According to Sunak: ‘The script was, oh, there’s no trade-off, because doing this for our health is good for the economy.’
Although there was an apparent consensus in SAGE in favour of lockdown, Sunak says this isn’t the whole truth. When difficult questions or disagreements were raised in the scientists’ meetings, these were simply edited out of the minutes before they reached ministers. Dissent was excised. It is only because Sunak had a Treasury official listen in to the SAGE calls that he knew there was often a great deal of disagreement and uncertainty among the scientists.
Many opponents of lockdown suspected that SAGE was being overly alarmist throughout the pandemic, and this was confirmed beyond any doubt in December 2021, when the government defied SAGE’s recommendations and refused to implement new restrictions. A predicted bloodbath of 6,000 deaths per day simply did not materialise.
Throughout the pandemic, the government and the scientists tried to hide their uncertainty. The media demonised dissenters and Big Tech cracked down on them. All of this was apparently to the end of showing a unified front, preserving the integrity of science and pushing a singular, easy-to-follow public-health message. We were essentially told that in times of crisis it is better to put up and shut up than to undermine the authorities.
But look where that has got us. An economic crisis, a health-service crisis and an education crisis are now engulfing the nation – all of which were, at least in part, fuelled by lockdown. We are standing in the smouldering wreckage of our elites’ terrible decisions. We have paid a heavy price indeed for suppressing debate and dissent.