Like many, I am delighted that the Government has decided not to impose further Covid restrictions — at least until next year.
This welcome late Christmas present not only means that people in England can enjoy New Year’s Eve, it also means that many restaurants, pubs, theatres and shops will now be saved from closure.
But not everyone shares my relief. Instead, arguing furiously for ever-tougher restrictions — even in the face of the demonstrably milder threat from the Omicron variant — are Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford.
They continue to display breathtaking political opportunism and a shocking refusal to prioritise people’s livelihoods. Meanwhile, their allies indulge in endless handwringing, fury, virtue-signalling and political point-scoring. I’ve had enough of it all.
As a former Labour MP who was a member of the party for 34 years, it pains me to say this, but parts of the Left love bossing everyone else around.
Restricting personal freedom is the itch the Left loves to scratch whenever it can. Lockdowns and the baffling array of contradictory rules and guidelines have provided the perfect pretext for this.
Yes, the state has a role to play in life. But there is a vast and widening gulf between sensible citizens with jobs, businesses and responsibilities, who willingly accept restrictions while longing for the day when they are lifted — and those who constantly demand further curbs, howling with self-righteous fury and predicting disaster when they are loosened.
In England, these Leftist doom-mongers, including Corbynista Labour MPs, party activists and a ragbag of socialists, vent their spleen online and in some cases in the broadcast media. But in Scotland and Wales, Sturgeon and Drakeford’s Left-wing governments (respectively SNP and Labour) actually wield the power to act on their urges.
So despite the encouraging data on Omicron, they have once again been trying to make political capital by upending people’s lives more disruptively than Westminster, bringing in draconian new restrictions and decimating livelihoods.
In Scotland, large public events have been cancelled, one-metre social distancing has been imposed in pubs, restaurants, gyms, theatres and museums, and table service is now mandated anywhere alcohol is served. Nightclubs are closed and the New Year’s party is effectively cancelled.
I live in Glasgow South, in the constituency I represented for Labour. The streets around me are gloomy and empty as they have been for so much of the past two years. Restaurant and business-owners are facing a second bleak midwinter.
This is not because Scotland’s Covid cases are higher than in England — in fact, they are lower — but because of Sturgeon’s relentless virtue-signalling which plays a huge role in all her decisions.
With impeccable political cynicism, she always insists on imposing tougher Covid restrictions than the Prime Minister is prepared to inflict.
During much of the pandemic, her press conferences were scheduled slightly before Boris Johnson’s, making it seem as if she was acting against Covid with greater urgency. Now, in contrast, she is on the back foot as the Prime Minister appears to have been vindicated by his own policy decisions.
Wales’s Labour government, under Drakeford, is similarly cynical. The latest rules in Wales are truly absurd. In a policy decision reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch, Welsh people are currently permitted to go to the pub — but can be fined £60 for going to work.
Like most of the hard Left, Drakeford — a self-professed acolyte of Jeremy Corbyn — is an instinctive authoritarian who clearly enjoys wielding the power to restrict ordinary people’s freedoms