Speaking about the reintroduction of face coverings on public transport and shops to deal with the Omicron variant, the former Brexit secretary said stopping people’s choice to wear them or not was “authoritarian” and warned our society was “heading towards hell”.
He said: “It’s not really about face coverings... it’s about how we react and the kind of nation and civilization we are creating in the context of this new disease.
🗽"This is about how we react, and the kind of nation and civilisation we are creating in the context of this diseas… https://t.co/QW9C2U4pj2
— Steve Baker MP FRSA (@Steve Baker MP FRSA)
“What is the relationship between the state and the individual? Are we to be empty vessels or mere automata—things to be managed, as if a problem?”
He went on: “Or are we free spirits with, for want of a better term, a soul? We are free spirits with a soul—people who deserve the dignity of choice and the meaning in our lives that comes from taking responsibility.
“This is a fundamental choice between heading towards heaven and heading towards hell. If we continue to react to these fears and uncertainties by taking the authoritarian course, without impact assessments—because the regulations are only temporary, you know—we are embarked on that downward course.”
His intervention came as part of a debate before MPs voted on whether to reintroduce masks and stricter travel requirements to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant. While Baker and 21 other Tory MPs voted against the measures, they ultimately passed by 434 to 23.
Not for the want of Baker trying. He continued: “The most extraordinary set of choices are being taken because of an overwhelming, narrow focus on the one issue of coronavirus. It falls on ministers to provide the lead, the breadth of thinking, the vision and the values to set out what broad kind of society we are trying to create. Where are we going as a society and civilisation? What will be our redemption and salvation? How will we provide that hope for our future?”
Elsewhere in the speech he noted that he had worn masks on trains even when they haven’t been mandatory, but said that “taking away the public’s right to choose what they do based on flimsy and uncertain evidence” did not sit well with him.
“We have to learn to live with it. If we panic every time there’s a new variant... we are going to make entire sections of our society uninvestable,” he said.
But as he went on and on, his reaction was deemed rather dramatic and therefore he got a pretty thorough roasting on Twitter.
I have an existential crisis like this when Netfilx asks me "are you still watching?" after too much binge watching… https://t.co/j3w4TDsZRY