Letter against covid passes to Northern Ireland assembly

The Manifesto Club is a signatory on a letter sent to members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, urging them to oppose mandatory covid passes. The letter argues that there is no evidence that covid passes will benefit public health – yet they will create discrimination, harm workers’ rights, and bring in a ‘check-point society’. Read the letter on the Big Brother Watch website here.

Covid marshal funding and the surveillance of the public

Local authority covid marshals were initially financed with £30 million government funding, beginning in October 2020. Funding continued with a £400 million Contain Outbreak Management Fund, which includes continued enforcement and explanation of covid guidelines in the 2021-22 financial year. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) produced a ‘good practice framework‘ on authorities’ use of the initial funding round, which show how this money has financed a growth in council surveillance of the public. There has been a growth of Covid compliance groups, where council and other authorities including the police share ‘intelligence’ on the conduct of businesses and…

Vaccine passports – the nadir of ‘permission slip’ officialdom

Over the past decade or two, there has been a growth of licences to carry out the most everyday of activities. There are licences to busk or to hand out leaflets, licences for people to hold fitness classes or take photos in parks. Under the 2003 Licensing Act, a solitary guitar player in a pub required a ‘provision of entertainment licence’, and a venue’s possession of a piano required a ‘provision of entertainment facilities’ licence. The logic of the licence is that you can act only with an official permission slip. You cannot just pitch up and busk but must first have…

We’re in lockdown, but the state is sending electricians into homes

The government is pushing ahead with plans to require every existing rental property to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report prepared by 1 April. (This new report is in addition to the Electrical Safety Certificate already required). Landlords have been contacted by rental agencies asking them to give permission for the report to be prepared. This means electricians visiting the different rooms of a rental property to inspect the wiring. This is a point when tenants are banned from having their friends or family around to their homes, yet they are required – they cannot refuse – to have an electrician poking…

Covid Marshals: Do we trust in society?

An essay reviewing the role and function of Covid Marshals, by Nikolas Koch. When introducing ‘COVID-secure marshals’, Boris Johnson suggested they would ‘help ensure social distancing in town and city centres’. Marshals should ‘support members of the public in one-way systems and remind them of guidelines,’ or ‘give out masks and hand sanitiser in public places’. In reality, the role of COVID marshals continues to be ambiguous, broadly defined, and most importantly, without formal enforcement powers. Marshals can ‘advise’ and highlight failures to comply with coronavirus legislation but not officially sanction those who ignore guidelines. Often, it remains unclear what marshals actually…

The return of rule by decree

After the health secretary promised to consult parliament about any national coronavirus restrictions, now there has been a revert to previous type – with the now familiar act of introducing laws as statutory instruments (ideally when parliamentarians are on a break), with laws published a few hours before they come into force. Parliamentarians are then offered the chance to rubber stamp laws that are already in existence and are already being enforced. There is minimal debate – only 3 minutes per speaker – and the regulations cannot be amended or improved, only given a yes/no. This means law being created pristine on…

Covid and the targeting of free social life

Few scenes embodied the current approach to coronavirus more than images of squadrons of police officers patrolling Hyde Park. They marched in groups of more than 20, closely packed together. Every time they came across a loose-knit group of 4 or 5 people they told them that they ‘must go home’, and that it is against the law to gather in groups of more than 2. Police officers’ own gathering – and their moving from person person, arresting people and wrestling them to the ground, then placing them in a packed police van without a mask – was somehow not seen as…

Covid wardens must be held to account

The government’s £300 million Covid warden project is now being rolled out across the country, with councils asked to provide wardens to monitor and enforce social distancing rules. These wardens do not have formal powers, but they are linked into council enforcers and to the police. The government guidance for the Covid warden scheme suggests that councils employ private security guards in this role. Unsurprisingly, reports of heavy-handed conduct are coming in. One Norfolk restaurant owner was invaded by ‘black-booted bouncers’, with an ‘aggressive’ manner, after he offered to give his customers a free Scotch egg and salad with their drinks. According…