Blog from Simon Acreman, Chair of Salisbury Branch

In the last year, we have seen things that we would have assumed were only possible in the mind of a conspiracy nut. A surreal world in which we can only leave home if the government approve of your purpose for doing so. A world in which breathing freely is frowned upon. And the reason we are told we have to endure this lunacy is to “save lives” despite the obvious detrimental effect on the majority of the population. The government and media are constantly stoking the fire of hysteria and irrational behaviour. Many have said that it is a method of manipulating us and controlling us, and I agree. So, for comparison, how do the Conservatives respond to a genuine and serious threat?

I’d like to take you back to Sunday 4th March 2018. After some shopping, my other half, our kids and I strolled through a small local shopping centre. We considered getting a meal at The Mill pub, but ultimately decided to eat at the Wetherspoon’s across the road. Unbeknown to us, while we ate events were unfolding that would make international news for several months.

An hour or 2 later, an article appeared on the local paper’s Facebook page stating that a male and female had been discovered very unwell on a bench in The Maltings shopping centre. At the time I believe they were assuming it was drug induced. I thought nothing more of it until the following morning.

I arrived at work the next day to hear on the radio that the local A&E had been closed and a “major incident” had been declared. They said no more than that. Over the coming weeks and months journalists from around the world came to my home town to tell the story of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Sky News and MSNBC vans parking outside my business and cameras everywhere.

While you will all recall the official story and who was allegedly responsible, those of us living in the area were kept in the dark. They closed off a small section of The Maltings around the bench the Skripals had been found on, The Mill pub, the London Road Cemetery and the road leading to Mr. Skripal’s house. We were told very little about how dangerous this substance was, certainly no more so than the mainstream media were saying. We were encouraged to carry on life as normal. The A&E was decontaminated and reopened within 48 hours and we were told to visit should we have any concerns about coming into contact with Novichok. The Conservative-led Wiltshire Council offered to pay for the dry cleaning of anyone who had been eating at the restaurant or pub where the Skripals had visited.

Except for a few key points, the exact actions of the Skripals are largely unknown. Anywhere in the city centre could potentially have been contaminated, and anyone could fall victim, as far as anyone knew. Despite the potential magnitude of the threat posed by the invisible contaminant, PHE chose to downplay it in order to avoid widespread panic.

Compare that to the government’s response to a far less significant threat of covid-19. Stories of doom and actively encouraging widespread panic despite the data not matching the devastation described by the media. There are valid questions that will likely never be answered about the Novichok poisonings and many theories exist as to what really happened, but what is clear is that there certainly was a serious threat. The behaviour of the government and other authorities when there is a threat is to avoid panic and to keep life as normal as possible.