For these harbingers of doom, what circumstances would make ending restrictions acceptable?
As a classicist, the Prime Minister will undoubtedly be aware that Alexander the Great once solved the intractable problem of the Gordian Knot with a single decisive stroke. After nearly eighteen months of restrictions curtailing our basic freedoms, ranging from mild inconvenience to draconian, the decision to lift the remaining restrictions draws a fitting parallel with the legend of antiquity.
There are however those on the left for whom the opportunity to resume a semblance of normal life has become an occasion of unbridled pessimism rather than cautious optimism. Across print, radio, television and social media we have repeatedly seen politicians and social commentators alike use hyperbole to weaponise the lifting of restrictions, catastophising every aspect of the pandemic. A daily drip-drip of anti-Government performative vitriol within an echo chamber that revels in infection rate spikes and unfavourable comparisons of international death tolls (despite not being intra-comparable) for the chance to leverage another oh-so-clever tweet prophesising the demise of the nation.
Any setback in the fight against the virus is seized upon as a Pyrrhic victory, framing problems faced internationally as unique to the country. Sir Keir Starmer is no stranger to this tactic. Never one to miss an opportunity he gave his obligatory contrarian soundbite, branding the lifting of restrictions as “reckless” whilst offering no tangible solution. A hypocritical stance to adopt for a man who had no such concerns whilst benefitting from the easing of restrictions to attend the Euro 2020 Final with 60,000 other fans and foreign visitors less than a fortnight ago.
For these harbingers of doom, what circumstances would make lifting restrictions acceptable? How is a post-pandemic future achieved with perpetual restrictions in place, as unwelcome as they would be unfeasible? Zero Covid is all but realistically impossible, no country successfully keeping the virus at bay, merely temporarily successful in halting its inevitable advance.
The coterie of Left-wing opposition to a return to normality appears to be rooted in the feverish ideological commitment to the support of the big state they have long wished for. The caution of those who continue to push for restrictions to remain in place and see any relaxation as irresponsible are the same individuals who have no truck with the idea of personal responsibility, who can look only to a central authority to inform their decision-making, providing it is one with which they already agree.
There is a certain irony in that the same politicians and social commentators who so often describe the Government as fascists are equally critical at their restoration of liberty and the removal of restrictions that have dictated so much of our lives; Schrödinger's fascists, if you like.
The impact of 18 months of restrictions upon the education and development of children, to stalled careers and to struggling businesses, to the mental health of so many has been immense; a burden that will be shouldered for years to come. To continue to wilfully inflict such a costly and extreme solution to a country where such a significant proportion of the population is partially or fully vaccinated would be nonsensical. The hidden cost is already too great.
The Gordian Knot was solved by Alexander the Great’s bold and direct solution to the problem. Given the success he went on to achieve, perhaps one Alexander can serve as inspiration to another.