We need to move on

By Baroness Claire Fox | 14 September 2021

In a packed beer garden last week, I was surrounded by five hen parties.  For once I was happy to have my sedate drink disrupted by roars of raucous laughter. After postponed disappointments of impending nuptials these young women were making up for lost time.  Similarly, my street is filling up with students and rather than moan about their loud parties, I relish them. Now that the lethal threat of COVID-19 is fading and with the vast majority of adult citizens vaccinated, at last - after a hesitant start - society is beginning to open up. Everything from family gatherings to local choirs are meeting for the first time after many months and are full of joyous hugs and catching-up chatter. More people are returning to the real-life office, remembering that it can be fun to work alongside peers, indulge in office banter and gossip about the bosses. In other words, communities are starting to feel – well – communal again.  The public are back in the public sphere, and wow - what a difference it makes to the atmosphere. 

So why on earth did the Government threaten to ruin it all with their recent announcement of divisive vaccine passports for events? Such passes are so contentious that politicians themselves seem torn. As I write, only a week after vaccines minister Nadim Zahawi declared vaccine passports a necessity, health secretary Sajid Javid has announced they will be scrapped. This stop-go approach hardly gives one confidence in policy making.  Was it the decline for the Conservatives in polls or the fight back by civil libertarians? Will there be more U-turns? It seems that leaked letter two weeks ago, describing plans as in ‘chaos’, was spot on. Regardless, such policies need to be debated on principle, so we can avoid knee-jerk responses. To add to the confusion, Scotland has just passed vaccine passports into law.

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