PETER HITCHENS: The dictators have taken over – and we didn’t even notice
By Peter Hitchens
In a lecture of astonishing power and force last week,
the former Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption, revealed in sad detail what has happened to our country in the name of Covid. I have placed a copy of it and a recording on the Peter Hitchens blog and I strongly advise you to read and watch it.
It says that Parliament has been elbowed aside by Ministers who rule by decree.
Now, Jonathan Sumption is not just a brilliant lawyer. He is also a distinguished historian. Last year he gave the BBC’s Reith Lectures, and they were the best for many years. If he has any politics I have no idea what they are, but he uses language with immense care.
If he says this ‘has been the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country. We have never sought to do such a thing before, even in wartime and even when faced with health crises far more serious than this one’, then you may be sure that this is so.
When he says ‘Ministers are accountable to no one, except once in five years at General Elections’, you may be sure that this is true. This a complete breach with centuries of law and tradition, and who can say where it might end?
When he points out that laws, backed by tyrannical, ruinous fines, are now made at televised press conferences and enforced by bluff by police forces operating far beyond their authority, then it is happening. He accuses the Government of showing ‘a cavalier disregard for the limits of their legal powers’. This, he says, is how freedom dies.
And behind it lies an astonishing, previously unnoticed seizure of economic power, which has made the entire Covid panic possible.
By long tradition, Parliament has had ultimate control over the Government’s purse strings. It must permit major spending specifically. Without this power it is just a mascot or a toy.
That power has been abolished. Back in March, unnoticed by almost everyone, Parliament vastly increased the Government’s freedom to spend what it liked. The old limit, for emergency spending, was increased from a mere £11billion to almost £270billion a year.
I cannot say where or how this will end. It is my own growing belief that Johnson and Hancock do not understand what they are doing.
Their decision to strangle our struggling economy once again in an alarmist shutdown is one of panic piled on panic and is visibly destroying the NHS they claim to be saving, as well as laying waste to those jobs and businesses they have not yet ruined or obliterated.