Now that freedom of movement has been curtailed, we’re now at the mercy not of the law but of the police who will be enforcing it. Freedom of movement has never been so popular in the UK, which must be prompting some guffaws in Brussels. Well, it would if the virus hadn’t already pulled their pants down.
The Act itself is open to considerable interpretation to the extent that consensus among some of the nation’s top Rumpoles has not yet been achieved. Hoof that over to your average plod, coupled with the absence of precedent for fresh-out-of-the-box legislation, and you can expect some shenanigans at grassroots level.
Already, Derbyshire police have been flying a drone over nature spots to capture transgressions, on one occasion identifying a selfie-taker as taking a picture for an Instagram post. How they could tell that the selfie was, ahem, for the Gram, remains a mystery. It makes you wonder what sort of fictional context they might add to their everyday encounters on the street.
Your essential shopping trip for eggs, milk and flour may morph into conspiracy to rob. Or you may receive a helpful recipe for the quiche that they are certain you are trotting off to make.
The whole enforcement lark probably won’t sit too comfortably with most cops who by and large take the concept of policing by consent as a quid pro quo for the avoidance of unnecessary aggravation. There is a general understanding that responsible civilians provide a critical mass for supporting the rougher stuff on the real villains who in turn accept heat as an occupational hazard. Add to this, the general awareness that all this Tintin Quarantino drama is absolute tosh, and it makes over-zealous coppering exponentially self-defeating.
As long as people are not taking the piss, the old bill won’t be counting the number of times you venture out. If it all seems to be ticking over ok, they’ll be happy to kick on with a robust interrogation of the coffee and doughnuts in the break-out area.
Unfortunately, that pragmatism won’t go viral. For every person who wants to push the boundaries and argue the toss, there’ll be a cop who approaches the new legislation narrowly and literally. Ore over, they’ll be led by their Sergeant, whose expertise on law will be limited to PACE, road traffic offences, and the terms and conditions for McDonald’s Monopoly.
The other legislative factor will be Sod’s Law. That will ensure that the most awkward customers and the worst jobsworth coppers will be dovetailing with painful regularity. And all we’ll need is for an NHS worker to fall foul of this, and in an instant, social media will mobilise its murky droid strata, and support for the rozzers will be going up in flames faster than an Iceland delivery van.
But when you take a step back, this is one hell of a sledgehammer to crack a Nutkin. In just under 24 hours, the heir to the Throne, the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have all tested positive. Apart from the initial ripple of interest, nobody’s too concerned.
Because it all matters not a jot. Along with the overwhelming vast majority, they’re all going to bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in no time at all.
Yet the most precious of our freedoms have been surrendered without a whimper, and police powers have at the same time received a Ben Johnson-strength shot in the arm.
Now, I don’t think that we’re going to see widespread abuse which would lead to a wholesale breakdown in law and order though there will doubtless be incidents. What concerns me most is how a nation apparently attuned to the dangers of fake news simply gave up so much on the basis of few facts.
We’ve all jumped on the panic-wagon, yet our placid reaction to emerging VIP infection betrays what we all believe deep-down. That all this hype is a load of bollocks. It’s a reflex action, but not anything that scratches beneath the surface.
But it tore away our rights as effortlessly as a well-rounded and researched rationale would have struggled to achieve only a few years ago And we did this within weeks of us trashing the economy we’d only just seen out of the wilderness after enduring years of austerity. If they ever capture this in a documentary, they’ll probably call it Death Wish 7. As with the more recent film, there won’t be any Winner.
It’s all a measure of the dangers of the deeply rooted post-fact culture in which we’re all prisoners.
Does anybody really understand what we’ve given away, and what it will actually mean?
And what will we be giving up next?