Under cover of coronavirus, the Tory government is bulldozing basic liberties | John Harris

The Tories have been increasing police powers, bringing in laws by diktat and sowing mistrust. When will the left speak up?

Towards the end of last week, someone I know posted a video and photograph on social media, taken one balmy afternoon on Hampstead Heath in north London. They showed a group of young people – who, by the look of them, had spent the day together at school or college. The images also featured three police officers, dispatched to disperse the gathering. In response, everyone had tried in vain to retreat into groups of six. “In the end they give up and all leave together,” ran the accompanying text. And that was that: a small, faintly absurd incident that highlighted the strange times in which we now live.

The underlying logic of England’s so-called rule of six is, I suppose, clear enough. But the sheer complexity of apparently simple regulations – not to mention the fact that they exempt grouse-shooting parties – shows something is clearly wrong. Given that schools are back, people are being encouraged to return to work and visiting restaurants and pubs is still held to be some kind of moral duty, the effectiveness of the new rule is obviously open to question.

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