And that is my second plea: let’s not abandon our freedom. According to a Telegraph poll, 86 per cent of us are willing to give up our civil liberties to help beat the coronavirus – and I think they mean (I hope they mean) temporarily and voluntarily, in which case I entirely agree. Self-sacrifice is good: the proper spirit should be “I am happy to stay at home if it helps save lives”. But it should not be “I will do as I’m told because I’m terrified and the state knows best”. If that’s the way a majority of us now think then, in the long run, we really are doomed. A society that does not instinctively cherish freedom will eventually lose it.
I say this not out of self-indulgence: on the contrary, I am practically a hermit and can live cooped up like this for as long as it takes. No, I am alarmed that powers of arrest and detention have been dramatically strengthened; that new jury trials have been suspended; that prisoners are now forced to spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells and are banned from seeing friends and family; that parole board hearings have been cancelled. Maybe all this is necessary and justifiable, but we have got to question it and we must stay on guard against Big Brother. How far we are willing to go to protect human rights is just as important a test of a nation’s character as what we will do to protect human life.