Last week I found myself on the cover and in an article in the Western Gazette about comments I made on the radio around the introduction of vaccine passports. The way in which this has been reported is fairly alarming. This paper said I compared the introduction of vaccine passports to atrocities in Nazi Germany (I didn’t). The Guardian reported that I had suggested that Sajid Javid is a Nazi, which is also not at all true.
Words matter especially if they can be taken out of context and in my piece in the Jewish Chronicle I apologised for using words that may have caused offence. What I said was in response to a BBC interviewer sneering at ideas of liberty and freedom and suggesting people “should be made to be vaccinated and stopped from walking around infecting others”. This is an attitude the station had been attempting to whip up for some time and its suggestions for use of vaccine passports went well beyond what the government was considering.
I noted that we should resist authoritarian attitudes in society, that personal freedoms of bodily autonomy and association must be preserved, and that surveillance apps are the thin end of an authoritarian wedge. Pressed on the point, I added “We are not a papers please society... this is not Nazi Germany.”
The points I made in the Jewish Chronicle in addition to my apology for not using a better counterpoint were that the atrocities of the 1930s should never be trivialised and we should be especially careful of majoritarian attitudes and policy making born of fear and propaganda. Such threats to human freedom are very relevant at this time when so many decisions on governance of technology and human interaction need to be made and bad ethical precedents could be catastrophic.
It is a shame the coverage chose not to mention that article or its apology or give any context to what I said.
Meanwhile Piers Corbyn recently told protesters they should, “hammer to death those scum who have decided to go ahead with introducing new fascism. (…) You’ve got to get a list of them (…) and, well, I would recommend burning them down.” The Guardian did report this but with no moral outrage, no opinion pieces, no personal criticism towards him and they even afforded him the courtesy of reporting what he actually said. Mr Corbyn has rightly been arrested but many will note references to the 1930s are not unusual for the left.
Of course the other issue that led me to vote against vaccine passports is they don’t work, with those on vaccine passes at events more likely to infect those with negative lateral flow tests than the other way round.
I would respectfully suggest others might consider that by attacking me and misrepresenting what I said they might be making light of this issue and trying to close down serious discussion.
Still as we head into Christmas let’s remain positive. Hopefully omicron will prove not to be too dangerous on account of our great vaccine coverage and the amazing efforts of so many to get boosted. A303 dualling is under way, and from environmental protection to animal welfare, a national strategy for autistic children and adults, getting trade deals across the world, levelling up with local investment and skills development and many other initiatives, the Government is working every day to create a better future.