Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Shared values?

Faced with confused and confusing statements from government ministers, many of which seem to be at variance with the detail of the laws that they have rushed through, it is no surprise that the enforcement action taken by police over the coronavirus pandemic has itself been patchy and inconsistent. Why should they be expected to understand the detail of what those responsible for designing the rules are unable to agree with each other about?
It is clear that most people are accepting of the need for exceptional rules in exceptional circumstances, and understand that the goal of protecting us all is both valid and important; a short-term interference with civil liberties is a small price to pay for the protection of the vulnerable. I’ll admit that I do have a concern that governments which take powers to themselves in a crisis tend to find it difficult to relinquish those powers later, identifying excuse after excuse for keeping legislation active.  And it doesn’t help that, in Priti Patel, we have a Home Secretary who gives a good impression of someone who’d like to lock up as many as possible of those citizens who she has not either had deported or hanged.
More worrying has been the way in which events have brought out an authoritarian streak in people. It isn’t just an occasional bit of heavy-handed policing where a quiet word might have been a better approach, it’s the way in which some people have been urging the police to come and arrest their neighbours for various perceived infringements of the unclear and inconsistent advice. I don’t want to understate the importance of us all following the guidelines as closely as we can, but there’s something very ‘un-British’, dare I say it, about some of what we’re seeing. The ‘British values’ that the government is always banging on about turn out to be rather more ‘flexible’ than even I had thought.  A crisis like the current one can provoke either a growth in social solidarity – and there have been many good examples of that – or else an outbreak of authoritarianism. Both cases require rules under which we operate and both require that those rules be enforced, but the way in which we collectively choose to enforce those rules tells us a lot about which approach we prefer and our own core values.  Not all of it is turning out to be entirely comfortable.


Gav said...

Has Priti Patel actually had anyone hanged yet?

[It could say something about where we are that one can ask such a question, even today of all days.]

John Dixon said...

Ah! Perhaps my use of tenses has let me down a little here - it should perhaps have read something like 'who she won't already have had...'

Spirit of BME said...

My front runner that Little Priti Awful-Patel might introduce after the little bother were are going through ,is a NHS card which will identify us as qualifying for free treatment and in the event of a future pandemic ,will be able to trace our movements – all in the interests of public health ,you understand .
It appears that South Korea was able to kill off this early, as they knew where everybody lived and where they had been.

dafis said...

South Korea may be a nice place .... compared to North Korea ! Its regime has many characteristics which we( or most of us) would not choose to adopt in this country although Ms Patel would adapt nicely to their style of doing things. Words like traceability and transparency develop strange interpretations when uttered by people with ulterior motives.