The lockdown fanatics have revived Project Fear

The scaremongerers must be defeated once more if we are to recover our freedoms.

Paddy Hannam

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Lockdown sceptics are the latest group to be cast out by the mainstream and labelled as heretics. We have all seen what happens to those who dare to question the most extensive and widespread restrictions to everyday life ever imposed by a British government. The klaxon sounds, the red lights flash, and the Angry Brigade descend. And that is just the social aspect. Some critics of lockdown have faced censorship – YouTube has removed videos and Facebook has removed posts which are critical of lockdown.

Supporters of the present lockdown measures claim that Covid-19 presents an unprecedented risk to public health. But there is much about this crisis that is far from unprecedented. In fact, the government and the media’s response is starting to resemble Project Fear. Despite its defeat in the battle over Brexit, Project Fear is alive and well in the age of Covid.

In the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum, the message from the Remain establishment was clear: vote Leave, and there will be a recession. Jobs will disappear, companies will flee the UK and the average household will be thousands of pounds worse off. The then prime minister even warned that Brexit could trigger a third world war.

Once we actually voted to get out, the hysteria amplified. There were warnings of shortages of medicine and food. The NHS began to stockpile body-bags. Some medical experts even predicted an outbreak of ‘super-gonorrhoea’. Sex sells, I guess.

The cry was that the referendum result must be ignored or rerun to save the country. Apparently, people didn’t know what they were voting for the first time round. They were lied to. They were thick. They were racist. But most of all, a ‘hard Brexit’ – a term invented after the vote itself – could not be allowed. (The meaning of ‘hard Brexit’ changed depending on who you asked – the EU used ‘hard Brexit’ to refer to No Deal, whereas many Remainers used it to mean any kind of departure from the Single Market or Customs Union.) If such an exit were to happen, we were told, we would run out of everything and the country would grind to a halt – all because some idiots in Sunderland wanted their country back. It was simply not permissible.

The refusal of enough voters to buy into the ever-more desperate cries of the flailing Europhile elites meant, blessedly, their efforts ended in failure. It is now widely accepted that Brexit will happen, even by the once enthusiastically pro-Remain Labour leader Keir Starmer. But no sooner had Project Fear been defeated than it was revived by Covid-19. It is a strange irony indeed that a deadly virus has given new life to an otherwise moribund political movement.

Lockdown fanatics cannot understand why anyone would disagree with them. They conclude that their opponents must be stupid, ignorant and extremely right-wing. They say that those who oppose the lockdown would not hold the views they do if they had any real understanding of the issue at hand – or if they had any compassion for those suffering from the virus. Sound familiar? At heart, it is the same refrain that was deployed against Brexit – my opponents are simply dumb and nasty.

What is most striking about all this is that the screechers have not learned their lesson. After years of ever-more absurd fearmongering, which ultimately ended in demoralising failure, they have decided to double down and use the same tactics again. The 2019 election post-mortem seems to have concluded that people were not listening, and therefore the shouting must be made louder. It appears that the more clearly people reject the scaremongerers, the more hardline they become.

That the fearmongers seem uncomprehending of any pushback against lockdown simply demonstrates how utterly convinced they are that they have a monopoly on the truth. How can they be surprised that, after years of crying wolf, some people do not trust their predictions anymore?

In the case of coronavirus, the scaremongers hit detractors with their apparently superior understanding of ‘the science’, which they present as a monolithic and unified gospel. They hold up Professor Neil Ferguson’s apocalyptic modelling as proof they are right. Of course, it is now abundantly clear that his prediction of half-a-million deaths was way off the mark.

On this, as with many issues, the fanatical scaremongerers live in a world of make-believe, in which everyone important agrees with them. Scientists and doctors who take a different approach – of whom we are seeing an increasing number – are viewed as the enemy because they undermine these people’s claim that they have all the clever people on their side.

There have always been reasons to be concerned by coronavirus. Some restrictive measures were no doubt necessary to slow the spread of infection and lessen pressure on health services. Similarly, it is understandable for people to worry about the economic impact of Brexit.

But telling the public that they face Armageddon if they do not follow your instructions is a dangerous and reactionary approach to politics. It has already done great damage to the elites in this country by revealing their contempt for ordinary people. It has demonstrated that they do not trust us. And it has shown them up for what they often are – just as at-sea in predicting the future as the rest of us.

Paddy Hannam is a writer. Follow him on Twitter: @paddyhannam

Picture by: Getty.

Let’s cancel cancel culture

Free speech is under attack from all sides – from illiberal laws, from a stifling climate of conformity, and from a powerful, prevailing fear of being outed as a heretic online, in the workplace, or even among friends, for uttering a dissenting thought. This is why we at spiked are stepping up our fight for speech, expanding our output and remaking the case for this most foundational liberty. But to do that we need your help. spiked – unlike so many things these days – is free. We rely on our loyal readers to fund our journalism. So if you want to support us, please do consider becoming a regular donor. Even £5 per month can be a huge help. You can find out more and sign up here. Thank you! And keep speaking freely.

Donate now

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Mike Coops

26th May 2020 at 11:28 pm

The more lockdown has gone on the more crap it’s become….In England at least now we are seeing some movement…however all eyes on Wales and Scotland….their leaders don’t seem to be cutting the mustard …

Bob Bobbing

26th May 2020 at 9:28 pm

Might be handy if Spiked was the one publication that proved itself above knee-jerk, lazy labelling of things as “project fear”…

Highland Fleet Lute

26th May 2020 at 10:07 am

It’s not about experts, it’s about overlords. Otherwise why would The UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, USA, Russia, etc all be indulging in the same insane lemming-fest?

Stef Steer

26th May 2020 at 9:03 am

Your last point about experts is key I think to the point Cummings was making. We need experts at government level who crucially are good at making predictions and have a track record of being so.

Unfortunately what we have are “experts” who have said the right thing, have the right friends or ticked the right box or lets face it are just corrupt lobbyists/activists.

Actually it goes beyond just experts if there is one hope that I have it is that being objectively good at job will once again be a determinant of success. Meritocracy if it ever existed has pretty much died in this country replaced by cronyism and tokenism (hence also awful productivity). This is why the “liberal” elite are an elite because saying the right thing is the key to getting on far more than being good at your job.

Neil John

26th May 2020 at 7:02 pm

Working in scientific research we define an “expert” as a ‘former drip under pressure’ (ex-spurt), and PhD is pronounced Fud the sound of falling down with a ‘thud’. A lot of researchers are so ‘narrow’ they have a great deal of expertise in very little, the higher they climb the greasy pole the less they know.

The ‘people’ are right not to trust the pronouncements of exspurts, especially those with an agenda.

Highland Fleet Lute

26th May 2020 at 7:54 am

The busy-body, do-gooderism, virtual-virtue roots of fascism.

Why bother with “I vas only obeying orders” as a defence, when “I was only trying to help” does the job so much better.

Of course, the more people try to ‘help’, the more fascism will ensue.

The lockdown and its tentacles are like a tidal-wave-sized outbreak of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy….

a watson

26th May 2020 at 7:21 am

‘It has demonstrated that they do not trust us.’ Yes. Particularly the BBC and Labour. It has also demonstrated they do not trust our democracy also. It has also demonstrated that they will hound, smear and victimise those who they fear.

Neil Foss

26th May 2020 at 2:18 am

What this article fails to acknowledge is the polarisation now endemic in everything. Lockdown haters revile 5G as the cause. Not scientific in anyone’s universe. I am concerned about 5G generally but not as a cause of the virus. Similar hate is directed at the vaccine when it comes. It will chip us all for surveillance on a new scale. Again not very scientific and our phones already do that.
On the flip side lockdown may be a bit draconian. Not helped by all the conflicting advice from experts.

Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

28th May 2020 at 7:36 pm

You can’t conflate half the country with a few conspiracy theorists

Especially if they are equally divided between left and right!

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.

Deplorables — a spiked film