I recall the newsroom conversations during the dark days of the pandemic only too well. They were upsetting at the time. Now, as we see a disturbing rise in excess deaths across the country, the thought of them fills me with horror and outrage.
‘You do realise these lockdowns and restrictions will end up killing people too, don’t you?’ I would say to senior editorial colleagues with something approaching desperation in my voice. ‘Sure, the virus is a serious threat to a small proportion of the population but the longer-term consequences of shutting the economy down and closing off the NHS will be deadly for huge numbers who were never at serious risk from the virus, people with years of life ahead of them. Shouldn’t we be reflecting that in our coverage? Shouldn’t we be considering the possibility that the government is going down the wrong path on this?’
The response of these colleagues would vary in tone, from patient but patronising good humour to open mockery. Many were influenced, I believe, by social media echo chambers (curated by pernicious algorithms). My colleagues had swallowed the myopic belief, adopted by people largely on the liberal left, that only lockdowns could ‘save lives’ and ‘protect the NHS’ from the devastation threatened by Covid-19. Anyone who demurred was, as far as they were concerned, clearly a right-wing lunatic.
Now we can all see how well that is working out. Provisional figures released this week reveal that more than 650,000 deaths were registered in the UK in 2022 – 9 per cent more than 2019. This is one of the largest excess death levels outside the pandemic in 50 years. But despite many of the causes of this being obvious, the BBC is pretending the development has come as something of a shock.