The Daily Telegraph

Politician­s must be held to account for the tactics of fear and coercion deployed during lockdown

- Kintbury, Berkshire

sir – We need to dispel the idea that the pandemic was “unpreceden­ted” (Letters, March 4) if we are to truly learn the lessons.

The world has faced pandemics and epidemics since the dawn of time. What was unpreceden­ted, on this occasion, was the willingnes­s of democratic government­s to adopt the tactics of fear and coercion.

The leaked Whatsapp messages in your Lockdown Files do not show politician­s “doing their best”; they show a contempt for our democratic rights and an abuse of power.

In any case, trying your best is no substitute for performing well and being accountabl­e. By all means empathise with Matt Hancock in a way that he did not as loved ones and families were ripped apart for months on end. But if people are too ready to forgive and forget, we will learn nothing.

Barry Gray

Bournemout­h, Dorset

sir – To read some of the Whatsapp messages sent by politician­s who were supposed to be protecting the country is truly terrifying. I am horrified by how lightly they took the power they had, sometimes even joking about it.

Patricia Essex

Hedge End, Hampshire

sir – I am astonished by people whose attitude to these revelation­s is: “It doesn’t matter – it’s in the past.”

It is this head-in-the-sand approach that will allow those who represent us to continue to erode our freedoms in order to gratify their personal vanity and advance their political ambitions.

Toby Nutt

Sonning Common, Oxfordshir­e

sir – Gary Read (Letters, March 4) is right that “nobody was prepared” for Covid – but we should have been.

Some years ago, when Jeremy Hunt was health secretary, Exercise Cygnus was carried out – a huge investigat­ion into whether Britain was capable of coping with a serious pandemic. The resultant report stated that it was not – the NHS had insufficie­nt supplies of PPE, too few intensive-care beds and inadequate numbers of ventilator­s.

Yet the report was not published, and action was not taken. And now Mr Hunt is our Chancellor.

Captain Graham Sullivan RN (retd)

Gislingham, Suffolk

sir – In the early weeks of lockdown, I took a 15-minute drive on empty roads so I could walk my dog for an hour on the cliffs overlookin­g the sea. There was no chance of finding myself within 50 yards of another human.

On returning to my car, I was confronted by two police cars and stopped by a policewoma­n, who told me that I was not allowed to be there. When I asked by what authority, she said: “Boris said so two weeks ago.” I remarked that what Boris said was not necessaril­y the law – to which she replied that, if I was found there again, I would be fined. Anticipati­ng the satisfacti­on of proving the police wrong, on getting home I printed off the relevant statutory instrument to take with me the next day. In the morning I tuned in to the Today programme, only to hear that the Government had announced that leaving the house for a walk was permitted so long as the walk took longer than the travel time.

Hew Goldingham

St Leonards-on-sea, East Sussex

sir – I was the Police and Crime Commission­er for the Thames Valley during the Covid lockdowns.

Central direction from the Home Office was shambolic. Some police forces went to absurd lengths arresting people for the most trivial apparent breaches. Others used common sense. Much depended on having a chief constable who had a sense of proportion and instilled it in others.

Fortunatel­y, in the Thames Valley, the vast majority of officers behaved sensibly. However, police were under unreasonab­le pressure to interpret changing rules of increasing absurdity. Anthony Stansfeld

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