Freddie Sayers is the Executive Editor of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.
March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021
Jonathan Sumption was once the epitome of the Establishment — a brilliant barrister who represented the Government in the Hutton enquiry, Supreme Court Justice, supporter of the Remain campaign and esteemed historian of the Hundred Years’ War. But then Covid happened.
Over the past year, his unabashed criticism of lockdown policies has turned him into something of a renegade. It is a development that mystifies him; as he sees it, his views have always been mainstream liberal, and it is the world around that has changed.
In the course of our conversation, the retired judge doesn’t hold back. He asserts that it is becoming morally acceptable to ignore Covid regulations, and even warns that a campaign of “civil disobedience” has already begun.
You can read what he really thinks below. And watch our interaction on Lockdown TV — it was a fascinating conversation.
On civil disobedience:
“Sometimes the most public spirited thing that you can do with despotic laws like these is to ignore them. I think that if the government persists long enough with locking people down, depending on the severity of the lockdown, civil disobedience is likely to be the result. It will be discrete civil disobedience in the classic English way — I don’t think that we are likely to go onto the streets waving banners. I think we will just calmly decide that we are not going to pay any attention to this. There are some things you have to pay attention to: you can’t go to a shop if it’s closed. On the other hand, you can invite friends round for a drink, whatever Mr Hancock says. People are doing that to some extent already.
“Everyone will have their own different threshold. But I think that in the eyes of many people who disapprove of the lockdown, and some people who approve of it, we’ve reached that point quite a long time ago.”
On the ethics of law-breaking:
“I feel sad that we have the kind of laws which public-spirited people may need to break.