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Thursday 22 July 2021 Weekly Column

The fact that my In-tray is evenly split between correspondents outraged by the slightest infringements of our freedoms to restrain the spread of Covid, and those who are outraged by the increasing freedoms we are now enjoying as being irresponsible and spreading disease, misery and death, probably means that the Government are getting it just about right.

The infection rate is deeply alarming, so I will be avoiding nightclubs (what a fearful deprivation of liberty), wearing a mask when it seems sensible, but increasingly doing what I can to return to normal over the Summer Recess. A large photograph in today’s Daily Telegraph shows a number of us mask-free for the final PMQs yesterday. We are perfectly well socially distanced, and the Chamber was baking hot, so I thought a mask-free moment sensible. The picture has occasioned outrage from some.

The Ping-demic is causing huge and unnecessary disruption. If we have 100,000 new cases a day which seems likely, and if they have been in contact with - let’s say - 20 people before they were diagnosed, then 2 million people a day will be ‘pinged’, 14 million a week, or the entire population in less than a month. This cannot go on. A tiny handful of those ‘pinged’ have tested positive, so I really do think it sensible to move to a testing regime rather than this pretty random contract tracing programme. (I hate Apps anyhow.)

Then again, it seems to me only reasonable that the proprietors of nightclubs, perhaps football matches and other large gatherings will want to be reasonably certain that those attending their event are free of the disease. A certificate of ‘two jabs’, or proof of a negative PCR test is the only way they can be certain. The true libertarians are outraged at the resulting ‘Covid passport’, ignoring the fact that we need all kinds of vaccination certificates to travel to all sorts of parts of the world. It seems to me not unreasonable that if we want to do certain things, we should have to prove that we will not infect other people at the event.

We are not through this thing yet, so while I welcome the final removal of compulsory Lockdown, and the resulting greater freedom for the individual; we must still be very careful in everything we do. Numbers of those in hospital and sad deaths are lower than when infection was last at this level back in January, largely thanks to the superb vaccination programme. So the spread of infection is worrying, and we must do what we can to control it; but its consequences are much less severe than in previous infection surges.

Let us all therefore take reasonable precautions and behave sensibly and with good manners and concern for others. But for Heaven’s sake let us avoid the mildly self-righteous extreme Covid battlers, who would have us imprisoned for ever. We need our ‘Get out of jail free card’. And if not now, then when?

Thursday 15 July 2021 Weekly Column

If you love freedom, you also have to accept the responsibilities which come with it, and its corollary - risk. So after 18 months of accepting rules and regulations which no normal liberal democracy would even think of accepting - lockdown, work from home, wear masks, no socialising and so on - surely now is the right time to embrace the freedom which will be ours from next Monday. We also have to accept the personal responsibility to act sensibly thereafter.

That also implies

Friday 9 July 2021 Latest News

I was an eleven year old boy wandering around the gardens of Schloss Mainau in Germany’s Lake Constanz at the moment of England’s triumphant 4-2 win over Germany on 30 July,1966. Being surrounded by rather glum Germans made my family a little nervous about too much cheering! My excellent Private Secretary, Jenny Fleischer was at Wembley last week to see her team once again being defeated by England, so she can sympathise with my predicament, almost embarrassment, of 55 years ago. Whatever

Friday 2 July 2021 Weekly Column

Yesterday’s Batley and Spen by-election near miss may well be further evidence of a fundamental shift in the tectonic plates of British political history.

Blair’s glory days of 1997 (418 Labour MPs by comparison to today’s 202) must seem a distant memory to Sir Keir Starmer, nursing his wounds and preparing to see off a leadership challenge from hard lefty, Angela Rayner. Labour’s hegemony in Scotland is all but destroyed (41 seats reduced to just one, and a wipe out in local

Thursday 24 June 2021 Weekly Column

Parliament and Government are different things. You might think that obvious, but it’s amazing how many people confuse the two. Government does things, the House of Commons gives them the power to do so, and then we and the House of Lords scrutinise what they do. The Judiciary meanwhile are fiercely independent of both, and the Monarchy provides the invisible glue that holds the whole thing together. That is the great British Constitution in a nutshell. It’s the product of 1000 years of


My latest book 'Wiltshire to Westminster' is now available here.

My latest book 'Full English Brexit' is now available online at jamesgray.org/full-english-brexit

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