Worryingly, the public, and our elected officials, seem increasingly comfortable with be being ruled by diktats, which have wrecked the economy and destroyed our personal liberty. MPs should stand up for our freedoms, and put an emboldened Government in its place. The restoration of democratic accountability would be an appropriate way of achieving this, argues David Yorath

From today, social gatherings of more than six people will be banned in England. This fresh assault on individual freedom has been accepted, for the most part, without a word of opposition – with lawmakers, and the public, seemingly content with giving the government the benefit of the doubt on its strategy for limiting the transmission of COVID-19.

Few would argue with rationale behind the restrictions, in light of rising positive test numbers and the reality that winter flu season is just around the corner. Yet, it seems the Government, having received unopposed backing for its strategy, via the Coronavirus Act, back in March, is operating with the belief that it no longer requires approval before rolling-out further draconian measures.

As Tory backbenchers, Christopher Chope, Graham Brady, Steve Baker and Desmond Swayne have flagged – somewhat belatedly, given their respective climbdowns and support for the Coronavirus Act, earlier this year – these new rules will have serious impacts on "family and social life", and constitute a "huge intrusion" into the "individual liberty" of us all. That there will be no debate or vote on the measures exemplifies the contempt with which the Government now holds the House of Commons, as well as the feebleness of its opposition.

For those on the right, state aggrandisement and interventionism should warrant concern. This is especially true where a government is free to act without the harness of democratic or legal accountability.

Yet, worryingly, the public, and our elected officials, seem increasingly comfortable with be being ruled by diktat.

Politicians of all sides failed us, in March, when they rolled over in haste to the passage of the Coronavirus Act. They did not press hard enough for legal restraint or accountability – in the form of sunset clauses – and we are now paying the price. As of today, more red tape will be thrust upon businesses in an already strained hospitality sector, and on-the-spot fines will be doled out by local enforcement teams.

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The contradiction in government strategy, and messaging, has gone undetected for the most part. Only the Liberal Democrats, and their miniscule representation in the Commons, have challenged the Government. Labour, as commonplace in recent years, has been silent and ineffective. It could be that they support such moves. After all, "big state" interventionism is a pillar of Labour-thinking in 2020. Yet, in the face of campaigns to get Britons back into the office, schools, and restaurants and pubs, it would not be difficult for them to at least flag the holes in government logic.

It's a simple enough task. For instance, how can it be rational, or fair, that dozens of people can meet in an indoor environment, such as an office, where transmission rates are higher, but a family, or group of six or more, must forgo societal interaction? Put more plainly: how can it be that, from today, a family of five will not be able to visit two grandparents at the same time, while workplace and school numbers swell.

It is not a credible, or even simple, strategy. It is multi-faceted.

For instance, if you performed a street poll, today, few would know the previous legal limits on social gatherings, or the appropriate distancing that should be employed in different environments. The changes are not "simple", as Matt Hancock claimed in a media round earlier this week. Nor are they respectful of our country's proud defence of liberty.

They are, increasingly, akin to those of a surveillance state –  and cannot even be trusted to be employed with consistency, if the pandemic activity of regional constabularies is of any indication.

So, it's time for lawmakers to find their voices, and, at the very least, insist that time-limited clauses are applied to the cession of our freedoms. They can do this by stripping away the more draconian portions of the Coronavirus Act, when it comes forward for debate and review, in a couple of weeks' time.

The Government, too, needs to be honest. It cannot credibly argue that it requires indefinite hold of the powers it attained in March. We are at a different stage of the COVID pandemic now. We now know more about transmission and the properties of the virus. We also know that our economy is wilting and will not survive, in a competitive sense, if it laden with yet more restriction.

MPs, and Conservative lawmakers in particular, have an opportunity to stand up for Britons, and their freedoms, and to put an emboldened Government in its place. The restoration of democratic accountability, of discussion on forward strategies, and the inclusion of time-limits on any future restrictions, would be an appropriate way of achieving this.

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