‘Masks were a softening up exercise for Plan B,’ according to a government whistleblower. He told me that while there is little appetite in the Cabinet for a full lockdown, Covid Passes are ‘oven-baked’ and ready to go.
In my opinion, the UK government’s Winter Plan was always about Plan B. It displayed a classic ‘foot-in-the-door’ strategy - the raison d’être of Plan A was to prepare you for Plan B. Now winter is upon us, and the nudges fall in a flurry of torpefying snowflakes. Worst case scenarios, big numbers, salutary stories in the media, threats and cajolements are directed at us daily. Plan B is in motion as calls for working from home are heard from the usual suspects and we hear the Cabinet is divided on Covid Passes.
This seasoned government insider plays a key role on a Covid task force and has decided to speak out now because he is disturbed by the unethical reasons for mandating masks. Firstly, ‘It’s a highly political move to reset the Johnson administration’s orientation after bad polling over sleaze and corruption. If Omicron turns out to be super-bad and the public ask what the government did about it, the answer is we implemented masks. The one-way systems, plexiglass screens and masks are to give you an illusion of the government doing something. It’s just theatre. There is no evidence base or proportionality in favour of masks.’
Boris Johnson is a fan of deadcatting, a technique to deflect attention from one issue to another, akin to throwing a dead cat on a table during a heated debate to change the topic. Masks are a dead cat. In this case rather than throw them on the table, the government have slung them on our faces.
Face masks are increasingly discredited, but certain journalists fell hungrily upon a recent new study which concluded that face masks reduce transmission by 53%. The Guardian, The Times, Metro and New Scientist positively feasted. However, that fragrant soupçon of a percentage was based upon weak evidence, there were confounding factors and caution was required when interpreting the study, as Fullfact explained.
‘The public are annoyingly on board about masks’, said this task force advisor. ‘Journalists have not demanded evidence that they work. But the message from the government and the media is hegemonic - everyone says they do work.’
As I set out in my book A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic masks are a nudge, even described as a ‘signal’ by David Halpern, the director of the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team. Similarly, Professor Neil Ferguson said that masks remind us ‘we’re not completely out of the woods yet’. They serve as a visible public reminder of the pandemic, turning us back into walking billboards pronouncing danger. My source concurred: ‘Masks are a behavioural psychology policy. We need to stop pretending that it’s about public health. Nudge is a big thing in government.’