My daughter’s Christmas won’t quite be the same this year. She and I are in England but her French mother has been prevented from making the trip by her president. It’s a funny world when hundreds of people can quite easily cross illegally from France to England in small boats – 1,200 in four days last week – but a mother isn’t allowed to take a train to be with her daughterat Christmas.
But that is France for you in what Macron’s opponents call his ‘Covid Dictatorship’. Even so his authoritarian measures are doing him and his country a fat lot of good. Yesterday France recorded 91,000 new cases of Covid, around the same as England, this contaminated little island that Macron so hates. One might have hoped such vertiginous figures would prompt a rethink in the Élysée. Has it occurred to Macron that perhaps Covid passports aren’t the answer? They were introduced in July and what have they achieved, other than to segregate France?
So Macron’s solution is to tighten restrictions still further. Dependent on parliamentary ratification (a foregone conclusion) as of January 2022 people in France will require not just proof of three vaccinations to enter most public places but also to show a negative PCR test.
It really isn’tmuch fun being young in Macron’s France. At the start of this month he closed nightclubs and outlawed dancing in bars and restaurants. Ah, the joy of the festive season.
No wonder my 17-year-old daughter is revelling in the freedom of England. Last night we strolled down the road to the pub. Instinctively as we entered she pulled a mask from her pocket. ‘What are you doing?’ I snapped. This is an English pub, I reminded her. No masks and no Covid passports.
I can’t blame her. She’s been conditioned to wear a mask at all times. Since May2020 they have been mandatory in French classrooms and that will continue longinto 2022. Youngsters in Paris now wear masks by instinct, even when they don’t have to. There are few things more dispiriting than seeing a masked child walking to school. My daughter’s generation are growing up in a world without smiles.
France is not alone in its hysterical and irrational restrictions. Holland is back in lockdown, Ireland’s nightlife ends at 8pm, Greeks over 60 will be fined for not taking up the vaccine, Italy and Spain have just re-introduced the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors and we don’t need reminding what Austria is going tostart doing to its citizens in February. The madness has infected Wales,where people are now fined for going to the office, and Scotland, where the high priestess of pointless restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon, has guaranteed it will be a Hogmanay to forget.
This has presented an opportunity for Boris Johnson to relaunch his premiership in2022 and show his supporters that there still lurks within a libertarian – as Lord Frost suspects. He will be able to boast that he kept calm and carried onwhile other leaders lost their heads in the face of a variant that is considerably less severe than previous strains of Covid.
As a result his standing will rise among the people. His name won’t be chanted with derision around football grounds and dart fans will no longer mock him.
For two years he has kowtowed to the doom-laden view of Covid and it has earned himthe contempt of a great many people who gave him a landslide election victoryin 2019.
Above all, if Johnson holds his nerve in the coming weeks, resisting any further measures and quickly rolling back Plan B in the new year, it will throw into stark relief what is unfolding in France where, as health minister Olivier Véran admitted recently, the Covid passport is obligatory vaccination in disguise.
Macron may regard Boris as a clown, but better a cool-headed clown than an authoritarian.
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