If an Englishman’s home is his castle and his second home is his local pub, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson deserves to be run out of the country right now for what he has just said about “vaccine passports”.
“It may be up to the landlord,” Johnson has said, weasellishly, on the subject of whether or not people should be compelled to have one of his jabs before being allowed into the pub.
This is classic Johnson: havering; fence-sitting; procrastinating; buck-passing — and thoroughly, shockingly illiberal.
Boris Johnson belongs to the generation which grew up watching World War II movies like The Great Escape where the police or the Gestapo ask “Ihre Papiere, bitte!” (“Your identity papers, please!”).
He will have been conscious well into adulthood that identity cards, papers, and suchlike are something associated with totalitarian states, not liberty-loving places like Britain.
We know this because, till quite recently, he used to write about this stuff in his lavishly paid newspaper column:
Actually, the full article — which he wrote in his Telegraph column in November 2004 — is even more forthright than the excerpt quoted in that tweet.
He goes on:
If I am incapable of consuming it whole, I will masticate the card to the point of illegibility. And if that fails, or if my teeth break with the effort, I will take out my penknife and cut it up in front of the officer concerned.
Later, he satirises those authoritarians — of which there are more than a few in Britain right now, unfortunately — who bay for more rules, more regulations, more ID checks…
“So what!” yodelled my audience, “We want ID cards! We had them in the war! If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear!” And they started gurgling and drumming their feet like the impis of Chaka, and I hung my head and gave up.
Those who “yearn for ID cards”, he concludes in his diatribe, are the kind of people who would “extinguish the flame of liberty in the breath of public panic.”
And he was right back then. Now here he is, 17 years on, doing exactly what his younger self was warning against. Boris Jonson is indeed extinguishing the flame of liberty in the breath of public panic.
Johnson used to love waving the (metaphorical) Gadsden flag. He was forever banging on about the importance of liberty. In one of his speeches (delivered in 2006 to Lloyds of London), he famously said that the true hero of the movie Jaws was Mayor Vaughn.
According to the Telegraph, he said:
A gigantic fish is eating all your constituents and he decides to keep the beaches open. OK, in that instance he was actually wrong. But in principle, we need more politicians like the mayor — we are often the only obstacle against all the nonsense which is really a massive conspiracy against the taxpayer.
But you’d never catch him saying such a thing now. Boris Johnson hasn’t just gone full authoritarian. He has gone full, shameless totalitarian.
As Ross Clark says here:
If this Government faced a shark attack it would not only close the beaches for good, but also the promenade and, indeed, the entire seaside resort just in case a new variant of shark evolved capable of waddling out of the water and gobbling people up some distance inland.
Even a year ago the very idea that in order to go to a pub you’d have to show that you’d taken a brand new vaccine for a disease with a high survival rate would have sounded bananas. Today it is something that Boris Johnson is pushing with barely a hint of embarrassment.
Every now and then you’ll still see one of Johnson’s toadying backbenchers defending his latest illiberal measure by claiming that his instincts are libertarian and that he hates imposing all this draconian regulation on free Britain.
Yeah, right. In the same way that scorpions just hate stinging people.