The A-Z blogging challenge is quite straightforward, blog everyday in April, except Sundays, with subjects that follow the alphabet. It’s all a bit of fun. My subject is ‘A month in lock down’.
L is for liberty and law. During times of crisis, governments always grab more powers for themselves, even if they are voted for in the proper way through parliament. These powers are always eventually abused.
These are difficult times and require determined action. The government is now pursuing a social distancing policy which requires the liberty of its citizens to be restricted, hopefully in the short term. Laws have been introduced to give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State to, for example, ban gatherings or sequester boats and planes. People’s movements are being restricted.
In some cases the COVID-19 bill is very clear. In other cases the advice from the government has been more opaque and this has led to some confusion as to what is covered by legislation and what is not. Many high street shops are closed yet food, medicine and toiletry stores remain open. People are encouraged to shop infrequently and to buy essential items. There is no definition within the law however as to what constitutes an essential item.
One man’s essential is another man’s treat?
In some cases the police have stopped shops selling Easter eggs yet the sale of chocolate bars passes their test. There is no legal case for such action and indeed the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police has had to backtrack on his threat to search people’s shopping bags for non-essentials. This is a flagrant abuse of power and an attack on civil liberties. Government has stated that if a shop is permitted to remain open then it is allowed to continue to sell the goods it normally does.
Some common sense is required here but we all need to be on our guard. We need to comply with the law, both in actual and in spirit, as it is for our own good. On the other hand we need to know our rights and push back when they are being unnecessarily curtailed by overzealous law enforcement officers. We also need to ensure our MPs remove these powers as soon as the crisis is over.
Liberty is hard won and can be easily lost.