Videos of “yobs” harassing England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, have gone viral. The gibberish chants of these “thugs” have set in motion a MET office enquiry into what our PM, Boris Johnson, described as a “despicable” act. Austin takes a sideways look at the impact of the incident and the broader trends in the British political landscape.
30th June 2021
What Happened to Whitty?
If you haven’t come across the appalling clip of “yobs” harassing Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, you must be living under a rock. The clip shows two male aggressors swarming Whitty, bellowing unintelligibly in a symphony of masculine idiocy. Pushing him from side to side, it is hard to work out what the pair wanted from the distressed Whitty.
In the footage, Whitty is just able to duck beneath the arm of one of the men. His accomplice yells from behind, “Just one photo, please”. It would be wrong to trivialise the incident. But, there is something deeply amusing about the “yobs” demanding a photo with Whitty, whilst capturing the whole thing on camera.
Opening social media yesterday morning to see this was deeply concerning. Firstly, no human being (regardless of what Noah says about politicians) should have to endure such abuse. But secondly, it is the perfect illustration of the lack of respect the public has in the institutions of this nation.
MPs have condemned the incident in their droves – and rightly so; newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the men “should be ashamed”. Priti Patel commented that she was “horrified” to see this “terrible” act, committed against a “remarkable public servant”.
Think what you like about Whitty. But, there are no logical grounds on which to support the acts of these men.
Is Whitty the First?
Sadly, this is not the first time such an attack has happened. It is not even the first time Whitty has experienced harassment. Just four months ago, a man followed Whitty around London branding him a “liar“, accusing him of making up Covid statistics.
Today’s footage coincided with the hearing of protestor Martin Hockeridge who, harassed journalist Nick Watt. Watt was forced to run the length of the Strand, wading through a sea of megaphone-wielding protesters chanting “that’s what you get for serving this filthy government” and “down with the monarchy”.
The alarming frequency of harassment cases against those in politics begs the question, why? What is driving people to hound individuals in this manner?
The footage of the “yobs” doesn’t reveal any political motive. But, this kind of action is a testament to the fact that the government isn’t being taken seriously. Given the government’s track record, this is hardly surprising!
In the space of the last few months, the Prime Minister used £60,000 in unmarked cash from Tory donors to pay for renovations of his flat at No.11 Downing Street. The £39 million ‘Track and Trace’ contract was handed out to Hancock’s Tory chums and proved completely inoperable. Patel has several counts of workplace abuse to her name and yet has not resigned. And most recently, Hancock was caught on camera conducting an affair with his aide.
The current Conservative government is lurching from scandal to scandal, plundering through the pandemic like a bull in a china shop. So, is it any wonder that the public has no faith in the government? The individuals who have prioritised lining their own pockets at the expense of millions of British lives?
I understand that the government makes it even harder to respect the British political system. However, the assault on Whitty illustrated a grave problem with the burgeoning “leftist” demagogy. The notion that harassing a journalist, or physically bullying England’s Chief Medical Officer is an acceptable course of action is utterly disappointing. And, in each of these cases, Whitty’s included, social media has greatly exacerbated the turn of events.
Yes, it is important to hold the government to account. That is the basis of this country’s constitution. It is why Parliament exists, why the Queen installs an official opposition and why there has been an increased focus on e-petitions to allow more people’s views to be heard by the government. But, the increase in criminal acts against journalists and government officials is not “holding the government to account”. It is abuse.
Politically, we are trundling down a path towards a precarious tyranny of the majority. With crowds acting as they have been towards Whitty and other officials, there is no hope of positive change.
Instead, these acts give the government ammunition to clip the rights of protestors and non-conformists, reducing our capacity to actually hold the government to account. We have already seen this happen. Priti Patel’s proposed restrictions on protests as part of her policing bill earlier this year illustrate the intentions of this government to silence dissenters. So, what use is there is making the government’s desires easier to achieve?
It must be noted that I am by no means suggesting that the government is behaving in a corrupt way to invoke protests, with the ulterior motive of clipping protesting rights. To assert such an opinion would be to entirely misconstrue events and to descend into conspiracy theories. However, the violent minority is putting ever greater pressure on the government to legislate to reduce our right to protest.
Protests are a part of this nation’s vibrant past. Without protests, Patel would not have a seat in the Commons, let alone a position in Cabinet. As a nation we must safeguard our right to express our opinions and hold the government to account by not allowing ourselves to be caught up in this political aggression.
What is to be done?
I’m sure our high-calibre Decablogs readers will appreciate the Lenin reference in the subheading. But, you must understand I am not advocating some sort of Decablogs Blanquism and a mass overthrowal of government. No, no.
Instead of resorting to violence and playing right into the hands of those sleazy government officials, we must show a reverence for the constitutional process. It is impossible for serious political and social change to occur if the “thug” persona can be pedalled by the media. We cannot give way to atavistic instincts. We cannot lose sight of what really matters – the burning social injustices of our society.
While MPs were quick to rally around Whitty to condemn the atrocious act of violence against him, they have as yet failed to recognise that such violence is the lived experience for women across the globe – over half of the world’s population. They have as yet failed to remedy the vast social inequality, that has only been perpetuated by Covid.
The assault on Chris Whitty was disgusting to watch – a shameful act of half-baked barbarism. Sadly, though, such instances of harassment are now very much commonplace. And yet, spurred on by a dangerous brand of vaguely socialist Instagram “leftism”, the course of activism has been hijacked by a intense breed of far-fetched revolutionaries. Such action makes a mockery of real concerns like inequality and achieving social justice.
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