“Creeping authoritarianism” – Liberal Democrats condemn government’s plan for Covid passports


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Over the weekend, Liberal Democrat MPs have been very busy condemning the government’s plans for Covid passports.
The BBC quoted Ed Davey as accusing the government of “creeping autoritarianism” over the plans, adding:

As we start to get this virus properly under control we should start getting our freedoms back. Vaccine passports – essentially Covid ID cards – take us in the other direction.

Yesterday evening, Ed tweeted:

On the BBC’s Any Questions, Munira Wilson expertly took down government minister James Cleverly on the subject. Separately, Munira said:

By rolling out ID cards in the form of a vaccine passport, this Government is following a dangerous path. These ID cards risk being a wrecking ball, not only to our sacred freedoms but also to businesses on the brink.

This risks creating a two-tier society, leaving those unable to take the vaccine and young people barred from theatres and cinemas relying on them for survival.

Today’s announcement raises more questions than it does answers. Based on their past attempts, the thought of a Government controlled app holding your most personal details and acting as your passport to freedoms should worry us all. Liberal Democrats will oppose these anti-business and anti-freedom ID cards

Christine Jardine said the plans would drop us into a “papers please” society adding that there is a “danger of introducing something which is authoritarian and discriminatory.”

Alistair Carmichael warned that the plans would set us on a “slippery slope”.

I think we can safely say that’s a “no” from the Liberal Democrat jury!

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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70 Comments

  • Paul Barker 6th Apr '21 - 10:52am

    This is great ! There is no point to The Liberal Democrats unless we defend Freedom.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Apr '21 - 10:53am

    It is 100% right to oppose the checkpoint Britain that Johnson and Gove (and SAGE while we’re at it) want to force.

    And it looks like Davey has forced Starmer’s hand too.

    For the first time in a long time I can consider voting Lib Dem.

  • Brad Barrows 6th Apr '21 - 11:12am

    If individual businesses want to insist on evidence of having had the vaccine or having a negative test, that should be their choice. They already have the right to insist on certain dress codes or some form of identification to prove age – this would be just an extension of that. Such a policy would attract customers who place a premium on safety while losing the custom of those who object to the requirements. However, we must resist governments imposing such rules on the whole of society and removing freedom and choice from businesses and customers.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Apr '21 - 11:24am

    Hi Brad

    Can I get your STD details before you use my business please? I’ll just need your STD test history and the details of everyone you’ve slept with for the past five years. And if you want to keep your job I’ll need those STD details to.

    I’m sure that if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear on ID.

  • I’ve already spoken to my local LibDem councillor about lockdown and how, though I normally vote LibDem, cannot do so while the party continues to uncritically support it (liberal and democratic are words that come to mind). I had intended to spoil my ballot paper (for the first time in my life). However, this new stance against vaccine passports means that I will be enthusiastically voting LibDem in May. I am delighted that the party has re-found its sense of purpose and belief.

  • After a year when my willingness to support any political party has been severely tested this is good news.

  • nigel hunter 6th Apr '21 - 12:12pm

    There is an arguement that if this goes ahead it will not be dropped AFTER Covid. Other examples of emergency measures took years to remove or have become part of life. A slow wittling down of freedoms.
    Johnson has had a taste of power.His actions remind me of how Putin is strenghening his position of power.

  • FREEDOM ? What about FREEDOM FROM poverty and hunger, Sir Edward ?

    Trussell Trust 2020 : A record 1.9m food bank parcels were given to people in the past year by the Trussell Trust. In the last five years food bank use increased by 74%

    Prime Reasons for Referral , : low income’, BENEFIT DELAYS and BENEFIT CHANGES (consistently voted for by Sir Edward, see voting record : ‘They work for you’.

    Some of us contacted Sir Edward Davey and Ms Jardine in recent years to respond to the UN Raporteurs Report on Poverty in the UK. Result : Silence and a vacuum.

    But….., a bit of paper or card which might protect the most vulnerable from a virus which has destroyed so many lives ? A deafening chorus when not trying to desperately re-discover some sort of party identity with assorted fish & chips, zoo animals, large chess pieces and baby badgers (none of which have a vote).

    Sorry, Sir Edward. Just not fit for purpose. Sadly, Paul Barker got it half right…. : “There is no point to The Liberal Democrats”. Reductio ad absurdum.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Apr '21 - 12:24pm

    Martin – Perhaps the example is flippant! But the point stands that once you start to legitimise this for one thing the floodgates will open. It won’t just be a ‘simple record.’ The NHS should not be a National House Arrest Service.

    This is going straight to China style social credit – that is the concern here. From there the possibilities are endless. Scottish nationalist? You won’t have enough social credit to use political websites. I’m an irritable sort, so my right to access certain websites will be ended. Facial recognition glasses would allow for automatic stop and search of anyone with insufficient social credit. Needless to say travel could be restricted in a social credit style system. Your kids could be excluded from school on the basis of your social credit score. And doubtless other things that we and the CCP have not even dreamt up yet.

    Maybe, of course, the covid passport could be restricted. I will leave it to you whether you place trust in Gove and Johnson and SAGE.

    If this were the 1980s and AIDS we’d have people online demanding that all gay people be rounded up and taken to prison hotels. And, of course the AIDS vaccine never came. Some would do well to think on that.

    If we want a two-tier society then that is a discussion we should have openly. We should not be weaponizing the NHS and using vaccines as back door coercion.

  • Brad Barrows 6th Apr '21 - 12:25pm

    @Little Jackie Paper
    If I really wanted to give your business my custom – perhaps because I was grateful you were taking the safety of your customers so seriously – I would be willing to meet those conditions. If I didn’t want to, I could chose to take my custom elsewhere or decide not to avail myself of what your business supplies. The business has freedom to choose and customers have freedom to choose.

  • Joseph Bourke 6th Apr '21 - 12:36pm

    Duncan Brack posted this essay on the thread announcing the passing of the late Tony Greaves https://liberalhistory.org.uk/2021/03/tony-greaves-why-i-am-a-liberal-democrat/
    Says it all really:
    “Liberalism is fundamentally libertarian, tolerant and generous. It starts with people as individuals, with equal fundamental rights and the equal right to regard by others, not with categories or groups, whether inherited, imposed or chosen. It emphasises the equal inherent value and importance of each one and seeks ways in which they can enjoy the freedom to develop their talents and their lives to the full.

    In order to fulfil their potential, people have to live in society and relate to each other. Relationships between people should therefore be based on openness, consent and voluntary involvement; not on decisions made by elites in secret and imposed by authority, whether arbitrary or according to rules laid down from on high, or even imposed by a majority if they deny basic individual rights.

    It means tolerance in personal relationships; economic and political systems based on democracy; and freedom in all spheres, personal, social and economic, to the maximum extent that it does not impose unreasonably upon others.

    Perhaps we can dream that, with the end of socialism, liberalism may flourish in the 21st century as the genuine libertarian left, in active opposition to all the malignant forces of corporatism and the greedy and intolerant right which are growing in strength throughout the world?

    So I do my best to encourage the Liberal Democrats to become truly liberal, and liberals to truly embrace the Party. And I produce Focus leaflets and try to help create a liberal local community. What else can I do?”

  • Laurence Cox 6th Apr '21 - 3:15pm

    @Joe Bourke

    it was Tony’s description of himself as a libertarian and seeking to make it a defining condition of being a Liberal that concerns me. The Wikipedia article on the Nolan Chart says: Libertarians favor both personal and economic freedom and oppose most (or all) government intervention in both areas. Like conservatives, libertarians believe in free markets. Like liberals, libertarians believe in personal freedom. This is certainly my understanding of the libertarian position.

    By Tony’s definition, great Liberals like Beveridge or Keynes would be excluded and Liberals should have opposed the founding of the NHS, for example. Perhaps it is not surprising that he never felt comfortable in the Liberal Democrats, which is really more of a Centrist party in Nolan’s terms, accepting that the State does have a significant role to play and that untrammelled free markets rarely, if ever, give the best outcomes for the majority.

  • The practicality of an ID (Vaccination Certificate (VC)) seems dubious to say the least..

    I worked/lived in the US and, in a country where 21 is the ‘drinking age’, the use of forged IDs among those under 21 is widespread (a 2007 study showed that 46% of college students actually admitted to using a false ID)..

    Those who, for legitimate (or otherwise) reasons, are not vaccinated will, in many cases, not even view using a false VC as a crime.. Good luck with enforcing such a law..

  • Laurence,

    this 2019 speech by Tony in the House of Lords might give an idea on what he was getting at.
    “For all the faults of local authorities over the years and some of the major mistakes that were made, council housing is one of the great success stories of the last century. The more that that is said, the better. I remember when social housing was a new term introduced from America and we did not like it, because in America it meant housing for the down and outs and people at the bottom of the pile. Council housing at its best was housing run by and provided by the local community for the local community. It provided so many families with a decent quality of life.

    The same was true of local housing associations when they started. They were set up as locally controlled and relatively small, providing for local needs. Nowadays, a lot of housing associations have simply turned into large non-profit-making housing companies. Why it is thought that affordable and social housing should be provided by companies like this, rather than by democratically elected local authorities, is a mystery to me.

    Yet many local authorities, including my own I regret to say, were bribed and bullied—by the Labour Government in our case—into a stock transfer to a housing association. We were bribed because of the vast amount of money the Government gave us. Some of it was for housing improvement, renovation and repairs, which was fine, but a lot of it was just money handed out to the council to bribe us to do it. We were bullied into doing it because, if we did not, we would not even get the money to repair the housing. Initially, it was okay, and it was a local housing association with local representation, but it has now become part of a large north of England housing company.

    There are two major scandals associated with [what has happened with social housing]. One is the fact that something like two out of five houses—probably more now—sold under right to buy are owned by private landlords. This is not a property-owning democracy where people own their houses under owner-occupation. It is simply a policy of the Tories handing over all this stuff to their mates and to private landlords. I have mates who are private landlords, and there are lots of good ones. But the large private landlord companies, particularly in the big cities, are responsible for a shocking deterioration in the housing stock occupied by the poorest people.

    I do not have time to discuss the second scandal, the question of land. Until the question of land is sorted out—in the cost of a new house in London and the south-east, something like 70% or more of that is for land; it is payment for nothing other than the uplift to the people who own the land—it will remain an absolute disgrace. The land ought to belong to the people. It does not, but we need some policies that move in that direction.”

  • John Marriott 6th Apr '21 - 5:09pm

    I was born three years after my dad managed to get home in 1940 via Dunkirk. We spent the first seven years of my life living first with my widowed grandmother and then with my mother’s brother, whose wife had left him. I was playing with a neighbour’s son when mum came round and told our neighbour that we had got “a council house” and, honestly, after all these years , I can still see in my mind’s eye the expression of joy on her face. For me and my family a new council house in a village on the edge of Leicester was no ‘stigmatised last resort’ as was once described to a meeting I attended as a District Councillor by a Housing Officer at the height of ‘Right to Buy’. We need a massive return of council houses with no right to buy.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Apr '21 - 5:21pm

    Laurence Cox –

    The founding of the NHS is not the same thing as its continuation.

    The fact that a massively intrusive digital ID has an NHS logo on it doesn’t make that ID any better.

  • John Marriott 6th Apr '21 - 5:32pm

    On the question of COVID passports, I have no problem with these or ID cards for that matter. I have nothing to hide, although, if you go down that route, don’t assume that everyone uses a mobile phone regularly or even know what an app is!

    Tony Blair a libertarian? Really? A sad disappointment more like. With a majority to die for, like Cameron, Clegg and the rest, he professed to be an agent for change and just ended up feathering his nest. “Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss”!

  • Roger Billins 6th Apr '21 - 7:56pm

    Modern Liberalism emphasises the importance of freedom from poverty and ignorance..which implies an embracing of social democracy. What defines Liberalism is the importance of the individual-government intervention must be measured by balancing the greater good against the curtailing of individual rights. That distinguishes us from Socialism along with the concept of the obligation of the individual towards society “ Do not ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country “. Saving the planet is not only a job for government but for each one of us.

  • Seventy years ago this month Harry Willcock tore up his ID Card outside the National Liberal Club. This was the same Harry Willcock from the West Riding who in December 1950 became the last person in England to be prosecuted for not producing his card when asked to show it by a police officer. He reportedly said to the officer “I am a Liberal, and I am against this sort of thing.” He would have had a lot of sympathy with many of the above comments.

  • Paul Fisher de 6th Apr '21 - 10:24pm

    If you pay income tax, have a bank account, a driving permit and a credit card, on the electoral register, a passport you effectively have an ID card. Problem with that? Mobile phone also. The LibDems really need to get real

  • Peter Martin 6th Apr '21 - 10:52pm

    @ Joe B,

    “The land ought to belong to the people. It does not, but we need some policies that move in that direction”

    With all due respect to the late Tony Greaves, this does sound like a typical piece of wishy washy liberalism.

    At least us socialists say what we want and when we want it. Usually it’s “now” !

    I can imagine Lib Dems on a march chanting: “What do we want?” “We want the land!” “When do we want it?”

    A reply “We’re not really sure, but we should be moving in that direction” might not be quite enough to convince the doubters that you’re being totally serious about changing anything.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Apr '21 - 11:00pm

    John Marriott.

    We are seriously talking about coerced medical procedures. Do you really think balking at forced mobile phone ownership is on the cards?

    There is some hard core born yesterday liberalism doing the rounds.

    It’s only…..

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Apr '21 - 1:09am

    Peter Martin,

    Tony Greaves was one of four officers of the APPG on Land Value Capture. The other officers are Helen Hayes (Lab), Kevin Hollinrake (Con) and Caroline Lucas (Green). Tony was pivotal in developing a private members bill for reform of the Land Compensation Act 1961 with the support of Shelter.
    In 2019 Helen Hayes presented a Private members bill In presenting the bill she cites an example of the problem from south London. “A site with an existing use value of £5 million was put on the market at £25 million on the assumption that it could be developed for housing. It was later withdrawn from the market on the expectation that the value would rise even further, setting back the delivery of any housing at all on that site by years and making it almost impossible to deliver affordable housing, even by the current broken definition. This inflation of value either places sites far beyond the reach of councils and housing associations or requires a significant quantum of private homes to be built to cover the costs—homes that either push up density to levels that are unacceptable to the surrounding community or are built at the expense of genuinely affordable home.”
    Kevin Hollinrake has published an article in Conservative home arguing for a proportional property tax Proportional property tax Caroline Lucas has previously tabled a bill calling for a Land Value Tax Guardian
    “The Institute for Fiscal Studies has urged the Treasury to develop a scheme, while the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas has tabled a private member’s bill proposing a land value tax. Labour said in its 2017 election manifesto that it would consider a similar tax”
    Tony Greaves was a critical part of this cross-party effort to address the question of land and the above are the policies designed to do just that.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Apr '21 - 7:43am

    I was commenting today on a disabled man of around 40 years old, with cerebral palsy living in terrible conditions in Manchester. He has a sight problem, and they removed his guide dog because it’s not good enough for the guide dog.
    I read further on the subject of Housing in the area, not a good read.
    You will mostly have read, about my constant comments on Power Wheelchairs and lack of housing.
    While Johnson spends 2 million on the Press Room at number 10, we are getting closer to the politics of Putin.
    I can’t believe this situation has developed the way it has. Very little comment, on lack of NHS treatment, or what Hancock has planned.
    I agree with Ed Davey on these passports, too much information being given to badly managed and performing private companies.

  • Adrian Collett 7th Apr '21 - 9:54am

    I feel relatively safe on the roads because I know that people require a driving licence to be allowed to propel those heavy metal vehicles around. Similarly, as someone with a string of medical conditions that make me vulnerable to Covid, I will feel safe going to the theatre, or concerts, or restaurants, or the pub, if I know that the people there have either had a vaccine or a recent negative Covid test.

    It would be wrong to exclude young people, or those who cannot have a vaccine for whatever reason, so the Covid test alternative is an essential part of this.

    But by opposing any such scheme during the period while we gain confidence that we really have started to put Covid behind us, the Party is arguing that I should be denied the freedom to attend any of these events unless I am prepared to take unreasonable risks.

    This doesn’t feel like the Liberal party that I have loved for the 45 years since I joined in 1976. The social inclusion, and the JS Mill harm principle, seem to have been jettisoned in favour of a right-wing libertarianism. Why don’t we argue against driving licences too?

  • Chris Miller 7th Apr '21 - 9:56am

    I’m afraid this sort of knee-jerk rejectionism validates my decision not to renew my party membership. For better or worse, the era in which most people lived happily without carrying ID is long gone, and few voters have a problem with that situation. Showing your driving licence to prove you are who you say just doesn’t feel oppressive to most, and a Covid certificate needn’t be any worse if it responds to a genuine danger. I hope we all agree here that Covid is real and vaccines work.

    Even if you are horrified by such public apathy, you need to recognise there’s no groundswell of public anger. People want their normal lives back, and straightforward proof of immunity looks like it will speed that up. If certs are expensive perhaps that will change views, but until then I wish Liberals would engage with the details. Resisting mission creep on something like this will be important, enough so that I hope we don’t rule ourselves out of the debate in advance.

    What’s the minimum information a certificate needs to disclose to be effective, and if more is being gathered/shared by the authorities, why?

    Where would it be reasonable to check certificates, and where not?

    Does there need to be a paper version for non-smartphone users, even if it is easier to forge?

    If letting the certs become permanent is oppressive, what should be the trigger for scrapping them – some percentage of the population fully vaccinated?

  • I wonder why my factual take on the practicality of such certificates was deemed unsuitable?

  • Liberalism has to have boundaries: we shouldn’t be free to harm others. They stopped smoking in pubs to protect people and ensuring people aren’t carrying Covid seems reasonable to me. That said having a vaccine on board is a very poor test as to whether or not you can transmit Covid, as we understand things at this moment in time. Lateral flows can give false negatives. This is another example of the Tories putting the economy before health. Really we should sit outside in household/small groups well distanced and reassess in the autumn. Just saying.

  • @ Laurence Cox “it was Tony’s description of himself as a libertarian and seeking to make it a defining condition of being a Liberal that concerns me.” Well it needn’t, because Mr Cox missed out the other two words in that sentence : “generous” and “tolerant”.

    I knew Tony for near on seventy years since we were at school, and I can assure Mr Cox he was as a Social Liberal with a capital S and a capital L. Mr Cox should also take a look at the party constitution because Tony wrote the preamble. He was a proper Liberal to the core.

  • Peter Watson 7th Apr '21 - 11:04am

    @Adrian Collett “Why don’t we argue against driving licences too?”
    I must admit that I’ve been waiting for Little Jackie Paper to rail against the need to prove our identity just because we might want to drive a car or ride a moped, or even to re-enter the country after a foreign trip.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Apr '21 - 11:14am

    Martin

    Your point 1 is all. If I thought that this would be a strictly limited 12 month thing I’d hate it and live with it. But it won’t be.

    Once the government and big tech sink their fangs in we’ll never end it. It will be ever-expanding.

    As I said, if we want social credit then we must debate it on those terms and not use vaccines and the NHS as a political back door. Asking me to believe Johnson, Gove, big tech and SAGE is born yesterday liberalism.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Apr '21 - 11:24am

    Peter Watson

    The difference is that coerced medical procedures are not the same thing as driving. Neither a driving licence nor a vaccine passport are in themselves proof of identity by the way.

    Would you mind taking a gonorrhea test for me. And your family too.

    If this was the 1980s and AIDS you’d be on here demanding gay people be locked up. That is the path you are going down and that is what I rail against. And I take great pride in doing so.

  • Laurence Cox 7th Apr '21 - 11:41am

    @David Raw It was the word libertarian that I was specifically objecting to; as far as generous and tolerant are concerned I have met individuals from other parties both to the Right and Left of the Liberal Democrats to whom those terms can be applied – they are not unique to this Party as you suggest. Tony Greaves made his views about the Social Democrats very clear at the time of the merger. If you go back and actually read what Tony Greaves wrote and what Joe Bourke quoted from, he starts by saying:

    “Fundamentally I am not a ‘Liberal Democrat’ for fundamentally I don’t know what it means!”

    He then goes on to talk about ideology and equates his ideology with libertarianism, saying:

    “Perhaps we can dream that, with the end of socialism, liberalism may flourish in the 21st century as the genuine libertarian left”.

    Take off your rose-tinted glasses Mr Raw; Tony Greaves was an Old Liberal all his life and had no obvious sympathy for those of us who came from the other side at the merger.

  • Nigel Jones 7th Apr '21 - 12:19pm

    Freedom comes with responsibility, but can responsibility be imposed by rule of law ? Maybe there needs to be sufficient laws to enable society to make people accountable if they deliberately do not act responsibly ? This means laws are used to deal with the consequences of people’s actions; for example, laws are more severe when someone kills by dangerous driving, than when they are caught speeding.
    As to the virus, it is going too far to force people to have vaccination before they can enter a pub or restaurant. On the other hand, if I were ill and needed specialist care I would insist that the person providing me with that care had been vaccinated. While that cannot remove the risk to me completely (as far as we know) it substantially reduces it; so the carer will have acted responsibly in doing whatever he/she can to reduce the risk to me.

  • @ Martin With the exception of our English teacher, ‘Jock’ Grose, a refugee from Germany in the 1930’s (who introduced us to the ‘Manchester Guardian’ and Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, the answer is, No.

    @ Laurence Cox Tony was not an ‘Old Liberal’. He was a ‘New Liberal’ , more than familiar with the works of Masterman, Green, Hobson, Hobhouse, Rowntree et al and of course Herbert Samuel whose book, “Liberalism” in 1902 called for old-age pensions, labour exchanges (job-placement organizations), and workers’ compensation, all prefiguring actual legislation. The state was to be the agent of the community.

    I’m sorry, Mr Cox, but I was civil to you in my original response. I think it better if we don’t prolong this exchange in present circumstances.

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Apr '21 - 12:44pm

    Laurence,

    I think your concern stems from the use of the term libetarian which Tony in his essay goes on to qualify as the Libetarian left. When people use the term “social liberal.” it is not always clear what they mean. I expect it means something different to Tony Greaves than it does to Richard Reeves.
    Social-liberalism” may be an economic system, a revised version of classical liberalism, such as Keynesian economics. Being socially Liberal, however, may mean where you stand on the cultural war.
    Both Keynes and Beveridge were economic social Liberals. Products of the Victoria/Edwardian era that set out to save capitalism from itself. Beveridge was horrified at the state bureaucracy that was introduced with the foundation of the NHS. His plan was based on retaining the community based medical infrastructure under local authority/friendly society control, but replacing private insurance with national insurance. He held that good government and forward planning could override the damaging side-effects of market forces. Beveridge was an admirer of the teachings of John Ruskin (not for Ruskin’s philosophical High Toryism), but for his practical involvement in apprentice schemes, working-class higher education, housing programmes, and emphasis on the ‘dignity’ of public works.
    These ideas lay behind Beveridge’s role as a pioneer of labour exchanges and statutory social insurance during the ‘new liberal’ phase of British social policy from 1908-14. And they help also to explain his lifelong association with Sidney and Beatrice Webb (even in periods when he deeply disagreed with them). Beveridge always identified himself as an ‘advanced liberal’.
    Social-liberals are basically mixed-economy capitalists. They are for regulating capitalism, upholding labour rights, and creating a safety net, but are also always careful not to overspend, overtax, or make the safety net so comprehensive that it destroys the incentive to work and provide for oneself – what Beveridge called idleness.
    The lines get blurred when you try to contrast social liberalism with social democracy. As this article concludes https://pplswar.medium.com/social-liberalism-vs-social-democracy-whats-the-difference-4a06cdee92e3 “In many cases, their day-to-day policies will be indistinguishable from each other, though, depending on the situation.”

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Apr '21 - 12:59pm

    David Raw,

    our primary shool English teacher was a Yorkshireman. He introduced us to Fred Trueman and the techniques of fast bowling.

  • Nigel Jones 7th Apr '21 - 1:03pm

    Interesting arguments about Tony Greaves, libertarians and social democrats, but may I bring the conversation back to what we do about this government ? Not long before he died, Tony Greaves commented on Lib-Dem Voice that Keir Starmer would be a flop. It’s looking as though he was right and we Lib-dems must try to take on the role of leadership of the opposition, outside Parliament as well as within. This Tory government under Boris is moving in a very concerning direction of behaviour, no unlike Trump.

  • Nigel Jones 7th Apr '21 - 1:04pm

    Sorry, last phrase above is NOT unlike Trump.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Apr '21 - 1:05pm

    I think the way this government thinks is going down a dark path.
    The panic at beginning of the AIDS epidemic, that took so many lives. Years later, thing’s have changed.
    Why can’t a simple, been vaccinated be enough? I won’t be going to eat out, or go to the theatre, my choice.
    Any injection passport, is no proof that anyone can’t pass the virus on.
    I’m returning to the thought, I’m part of the human race, this government enduced panic has caused so many problems.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Apr '21 - 2:23pm

    This is a very dangerous government, they push the boundaries as far as they can and unless they are constantly challenged we are going to lose so much freedom. If vaccination passports become too complex retail businesses and others are going to take a very long time to recover. I for one will continue to shop online if proof of vaccination can only be proved via an IPhone.

  • A note on the ‘New Liberalism’ and Social Liberals. Earlier today I mentioned the ‘New Liberalism’ of Hobhouse, Green, Hobson, Masterman, Rowntree, Samuel et al. early in the last century.

    Those arriving in the Liberal Democrats via the SDP should consider a Journal article (Vol.16, No.2) written by the late Peter Weiler (former Vice-President of Penn State University) for the Indiana University Press .

    Weiler concludes that Leonard Hobhouse (brother of Emily),

    “anticipated the Keynesian Liberalism which developed in the inter-war years. Nothing accomplished by the Labour government of 1945 would have shocked Hobhouse or failed to receive his approval on Liberal grounds. Keynes intellectual roots lie deep in this period. So too William Beveridge, whose famous report shaped the welfare legislation. Hobhouse’s New Liberalism was one of the intellectual roots of the modern welfare state”.

  • John Marriott 7th Apr '21 - 3:40pm

    I am sure that, whatever regime is in power, no matter how authoritarian, there are quite a lot of people who just keep their heads down, conform and lead quite a happy life, thank you very much.

    Now the U.K. is clearly NOT Myanmar, at least not yet, as some in you might say. So, when someone says you need ID for this and that, most people will oblige, with no questions asked. I always remember that old ‘Candid Camera’ stunt where they put up a border post near King’s Lynn and turned in comers away as “Norfolk was closed for the day”. Nobody argued! Perhaps times have changed; but not that much.

    No vaccine passport is foolproof, as Barry Lofty seems to imply. I agree with him; but I reckon that if HM government were to introduce one, whether digital or in paper form,mmost people would accept it, just as most people currently can’t see an alternative to Johnson and his second raters and, quite frankly are not that bothered.

    Let’s face it, as Helen Duden writes, no app, no piece of paper, no acquisition of antibodies means for certain that you can’t pass on the virus. Until the whole world, or a good proportion of it, has received vaccination will we be in any position to open things up to something like they were before COVID struck, and even then, if you think you can return to how things

  • John Marriott 7th Apr '21 - 3:44pm

    Cont/
    were or you thought things were? If you think you will be able to return to all your bad habits, you’ve got another think coming. Beware, fellow humans, Mother Nature is at last fighting back!

  • Barry Lofty 7th Apr '21 - 3:55pm

    John Marriott: You are probably right that most people will accept whatever for a quiet life but I have always been a bit of a rebel and as my son said to me recently ” I don’t think we are going to change you now Dad, ” good on yer”. I should perhaps accept life as it is at my age, but this present PM brings out all my anti Tory feelings so I suppose I will have finish as I began!!!

  • John Roffey 7th Apr '21 - 4:22pm

    As an observer rather than a member of the Party – I am inclined to agree with MEG – although I would perhaps go further and ask “Is it time for the Party to abandon its desire for a liberal society – at least temporarily?” Apart from being a difficult concept to apply – civil liberties are not the key issues at this critical juncture in human affairs.

    In order to provide a government suitable for these dire times, I would like to see the Party’s representation grow at all levels – but particularly in the HofC so that another hung parliament is created – although not another coalition. I do not believe a resolute, just, yet compassionate government can be provided by the Tories or Labour and with the SNP too local in its interests and obsessed with independence – it has little value as the nations third largest party in these uniquely desperate times.

    As Meg says, applied to Covid-19, [a deadly virus that can kill and leaves many who merely contract the disease with lifelong physical and/or mental damage] – a passport, one that provides with a high degree of certainty that the holder is unable to infect others – seems a very reasonable development at the present time. Also, I understand that if the government does not introduce a passport – something similar will be introduced by commercial organisations for those who wish to use their services.

    A passport is also a beneficial double edged sword – it encourages those who have not been vaccinated to become so – along with protecting others from contracting the virus.

    Applied to climate change and environmental protection. Very strict rules are likely to be needed to prevent those who are untroubled that the continued existence of humankind and many other species is under threat if the necessary action is not taken in time to avert the disaster.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Apr '21 - 5:03pm

    John Marriott – ‘I reckon that if HM government were to introduce one, whether digital or in paper form, most people would accept it.’

    So you would take for example public passivity about leaving the EU as some sort of a green light? Or you would take public passivity about rounding up gay people as an AIDS control as a green light? Or public passivity about first past the post electoral systems as an endorsement of them?

    Look, all I can say is that John Roffey is honest. He sees this as a mechanism not to control a virus but to control people. This is the direction this goes. This is social credit, where your travel and consumption habits and everything else are micro-regulated by the state and big tech. Once you open the social credit/ID card door this is where you end up.

    If you are happy with this then that’s another issue, but what is utterly utterly wrong is to pretend that somehow this will all be contained at covid. If you want the government (and any future government of any political complexion) and big tech controlling you and your children through social credit, then that’s your argument to make – but at least accept that you are ushering in authoritarianism as you do so and make your case.

    We as a generation are not fit to lick the boots of our predecessors who managed to work out AIDS without authoritarianism.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Apr '21 - 5:21pm

    Helen Dudden – ‘I think the way this government thinks is going down a dark path.’

    It is rare that I come to the defence of Johnson and co, but….In fairness I suspect that this government on some level does genuinely have in mind a very limited system. I think that they believe that it would be limitable. And I think that they genuinely have in mind that this passport would speed up reopening and minimise an exit wave. In and of themselves these are laudable aims.

    Indeed clearly a lot of Conservative MPs and probably some in the Cabinet are very uneasy about ID cards. I suspect that in passports are being pushed by bureaucratic inertia as much as anything else.

    To that extent it’s not this government that worries me as such. I think that they are largely more over-optimistic than malign. It’s where future governments and big tech might take this that worries me far more. Once we start this it can’t be stopped – that’s the principle here.

    Think of it this way, if we’d issued temporary AIDS cards in the 1980s how long do you think it would have taken to lose them? In 1987 Ronald Regan temporarily banned HIV positive people from entering the US. That temporary measure ended in 2010.

  • john oundle 7th Apr '21 - 5:27pm

    Chris Miller

    ‘I’m afraid this sort of knee-jerk rejectionism’

    Agree, completely absurd, opposition for the sake of it.

    Let’s just ignore a simple temporary measure to control the pandemic & save lives because it’s as authoritarian as having a driving license or passport.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Apr '21 - 5:36pm

    I do not reject vaccine passports out of hand, just extremely concerned as to how this government implements this procedure??

  • I don’t agree with the party position on covid passports. Allowing huge numbers of vaccine hesitant adults to mix freely with people who cant be vaccinated and are vulnerable is the mark of a society that doesn’t value vulnerable people at all. UK sent covid patients from hospitals to carehomes to spread the disease amongst those least able to fight it. I though the Lib Dems were better than this

  • John Roffey 7th Apr '21 - 7:01pm

    Little Jackie Paper – perhaps you did not see the comment on Corporatocracy that I posted a few days ago – where I described the power that the global corporations have over governments as the underlying problem which prevents administrations from tackling the climate crisis and other environmental issues with the necessary urgency.

    I certainly do not want big tech, along with the other giant global corporations, involved in regulating society in any way – they are the primary threat to the survival of humankind and many other species.

    If you question this and believe that maintaining civil liberties is more important – please read this article from Monday’s Guardian and prepare to be shaken by the recent staggering increase in the wealth of the very richest:

    “Bill Gates is the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States. Why?

    Gates has been buying land like it’s going out of style. He now owns more farmland than my entire Native American nation.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/05/bill-gates-climate-crisis-farmland

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Apr '21 - 7:09pm

    John Roffey

    Yes. Lockdowns clearly and massively transfer wealth to the rich and the coming bio-surveillance state will give big tech hitherto unimaginable power.

    Quite why the born yesterday liberals are a-ok with all of this is something of a mystery.

  • John Marriott 7th Apr '21 - 9:44pm

    @Little Jackie Paper
    Interesting that you bring in HIV/AIDS. After all this time there’s still no vaccine to combat this dreadful disease. However, treatments now mean that it can be controlled. You might still die with it; but you don’t usually die from it. It’s therefore incredible that we have managed to develop vaccines against COVID-19 so quickly. Hence the need not to undo all the good work and sacrifice.

    Green light? Red light? Passivity? No, probably indifference. Which brings me to my point. You or I might get worked up about such matters; but many, possibly most people don’t give such matters a second thought.

  • I find it interesting that no one has asked the question why Boris is so keen to get specific parts of the economy going again in time for the summer…

    Basically, even with furlough etc. businesses are still incurring costs and going to the wall – it has been reported that potentially 30% of business in the pub/restaurant/night time entertainment sectors have already closed down. With many more likely to shut down before the autumn, as owners put a line under their losses.

    So the real challenge is how to enable major sporting events eg. cup final, go ahead and other entertainment businesses to open for the summer, before the completion of the vaccination programme in September.

    Naturally, due to the priority order of vaccination, the U40’s, who in the main frequent pubs, clubs and sports events won’t have received their first dose until well after the cup final game and so won’t be able to take advantage of the vaccine passport/certificate…

  • John Marriott 8th Apr '21 - 9:33am

    @LJP
    And…. there’s an interesting letter in today’s Guardian from a Professor, who writes that, as “an enthusiastic target shooter”, who owns three rifles, he has to possess a firearms certificate, “which itself imposes stringent conditions as to where and when these firearms can be used”. The jury is still out regarding whether vaccinated people can still pass on the virus. However, even as a currently half vaccinated person, I’d still be happier if I knew that the person sitting near me as I enjoyed an al fresco beer or a movie had got their certificate.

  • Little Jackie Paper 8th Apr '21 - 10:52am

    John Marriott – Do you mean the letter by Prof Michael V Williams here?

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/07/covid-passports-and-the-risks-of-a-two-tier-society

    Most obviously I assume his gun licence is not in the form of a medical procedure and, similarly, that him not owning a gun licence would not mean large-scale exclusion from society. But look at the rest of his letter:

    ‘Conversely, those who oppose Covid certificates argue that it is my human right to wander around without certification, possibly carrying a virus that can equally cause serious injury or death.’

    So if you are not, ‘certified,’ you are not at liberty. So this appears not to be about Covid per se, or even infectiousness, in his mind. AIDS, STDs, flu and ‘possibly’ anything else make your liberty and freedom fair game for this Professor. We do not exist at the pleasure of some big tech certification. Professor Williams seems to be talking here about bio-surveillance tyranny and the fact that he is doing so in the pages of the Guardian is mind-boggling.

    Mr Marriott if you can not see the slippery slope and the born-yesterday liberalism in that letter I weep.

    Yes – I believe that Professor Williams’ existence and life should not be contingent on or regulated by his ‘certification’ by big tech or an overreaching NHS or interest lobbyists or populist stances. I believed it in 2019 and I believe it now.

  • Laurence Cox 8th Apr '21 - 11:43am

    @Joe Bourke

    I think that both of us would come to the same conclusion on vaccine passports even if we reach it through different routes, based on whether we come at it from a social liberal or social democratic starting point. Just yesterday, the barrister Adam Wagner wrote this article in New Statesman:

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2021/04/are-vaccine-passports-threat-human-rights

    His arguments include the following:

    “I worry that those arguing against Covid passports from a human rights perspective sometimes present too narrow a view of human rights. A year ago I wrote in the New Statesman that the Covid-19 emergency was one which was anticipated by the writers of foundational human rights treaties. They had lived through the Spanish Flu, which killed tens of millions. They built in a right to life, to health and other social rights, which would sometimes need balancing against other rights such as to privacy – so long as any interference was proportionate. ”

    The organisers of the various sporting test events with mass audiences will be using pre- and post-event testing, which I believe is a better way to bring us out of lockdown and back to normalcy than vaccine passports and does not disciminate against those who have not been vaccinated for any reason.

    On the subject of Beveridge and the NHS, I believe he may well have changed his mind had he lived long enough to see the NHS mature as a National health service. It is notable that two countries with centralised health services: Israel and the UK, have been among the quickest in getting their populations vaccinated while countries like Germany where the health service is decentralised have had difficulty in getting the various Länder even to agree on a consistent public health approach.

  • Good points from Wagner, Laurence.
    On the NHS, there are benefits to Whitehall centralisation during times of national crisis when central planning comes into play. But there is also the issue that, local control of public health would likely have given us a much better test and trace system for addressing and containing the Pandemic at a local level. There are perhaps good arguments both ways.

  • The organisers of the various sporting test events with mass audiences will be using pre- and post-event testing, which I believe is a better way to bring us out of lockdown and back to normalcy than vaccine passports and does not disciminate against those who have not been vaccinated for any reason.
    LOL!
    Wembley has a capacity of 90,000, do those who advocate such actions have any idea of the logistics (and the associated costs) involved. The best venues such as Wembley can do is to to perform a simple temperature scan.

  • Little Jackie Paper 8th Apr '21 - 1:19pm

    Joe Bourke/Laurence Cox –

    The Wagner article is interesting, and he certainly acknowledges the risk of mission-creep, even if he doesn’t seem to say what should be done about it. He is indeed clear that he sees this as a backdoor ID card, to his credit.

    But the problem with these arguments that rest on ‘foundational human rights’ and the inherent balances is that we are bringing a past outlook to a current issue. Those who wrote the foundational human rights and worked the balances did not have big tech to contend with or modern smartphones and databases and all the good and ill they bring. An app is not an ID card in any classic sense.

    What we are being asked to do here is have big tech regulate our lives by means of a coerced medical procedure and bio-surveillance. Let’s at least put it in those terms. I simply don’t believe that the people who wrote foundational human rights had that situation in mind. Where does this stop? We have never opened these doors before and very rightly.

    In all sincerity I could see a place for a vaccine passport if someone can explain to me how this is anything other than the thin end of a terrible, terrible wedge. How do we stop this expanding ever-more and how do we get rid of it? I think (though its not clear) that Wagner sees vaccine ID cards as temporary but I don’t see how he can simultaneously take that view alongside expressing unaddressed concerns about mission creep.

    Laurence/Joe – it you want CCP style social credit and big tech running our lives and our children’s lives in perpetuity then fine, but at least recognise that is the path we are on and make a case accordingly.

  • Peter Hirst 8th Apr '21 - 3:10pm

    This debate seems to be centred around trust. I have no principled reason against Covid passports if they are used appropriately, the data is restricted and guarded and they are temporary and allow people to do things they would not otherwise be able to. This government does not encourage this trust so it is the government rather than the passports that is the issue.

  • James Fowler 8th Apr '21 - 11:19pm

    The analogies drawn between the proposed COVID passport and licence to drive a car or own a gun are as expected, but false. Owning a car or a gun is a competency based assessment rooted in individual agency which grants the recipient a new, specific, positive freedom. As it is currently proposed, a card proving that you are resistant to the virus merely allows you to enjoy previously natural human rights.

    But it gets worse. Once you’ve accepted that your medical status is legitimate public property which determines your access to society, there’s no moral or practical limit. Medical ID cards open a discourse – legitimised by clinical science – where society is divided between those deemed ‘biologically clean, healthy and valuable’ and, inevitably, those portrayed as ‘biologically dirty, infectious and dispensable’. What could follow in time is horrendous to contemplate, but there are, of course, precedents.

  • Dyce Willoughby 12th Apr '21 - 4:52pm

    Finally!!!

    A major political party pushing back against the latest disastrous policy idea stemming from covid hysteria.

    I have not voted for the Lib Dems since the coalition Government and the tuition fees debacle. I swore I never would again. However, this clear unequivocal statement reflecting liberal values when no other liberal voices can be heard is a game changer for me. If there were a general election tomorrow I would vote LD for this reason alone. The 6 May local election candidate will benefit.

    Thank you!!

  • Malcolm Todd 12th Apr '21 - 6:04pm

    What James Fowler said. I haven’t seen the case for unease about vax passports put better or more soberly.

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