John Harris

Journalist & Author

This is the legacy of Britain’s year of Covid: power unchecked, scrutiny sidelined | John Harris

Vaccine passports are just the start – we increasingly have a state that thinks it can do as it pleases

What a strange moment of ambivalence this is. The vaccination programme seems to have so far worked its expected wonders, the lifting of key restrictions looms, and a fragile sense of optimism has been boosted by balmy weather. But there is a slowly rising unease about something that may yet cut across that increasingly upbeat mood: the fact that this is a dangerous moment for both our democracy, and the relationship between the state and society.

Everywhere you look, there are high-ranking Conservatives blithely evading scrutiny, and the government is thereby slipping free of meaningful constraints. From the prime minister’s relationship with the “technology entrepreneur” Jennifer Arcuri and her access to public funds and favours, to the stink given off by David Cameron’s efforts on behalf of the financier Lex Greensill, recent headlines have confirmed that old-fashioned ideas of probity now count for very little at all. Much the same applies to the way Covid-related contracts and jobs have been brazenly handed to associates of senior Tories.

Related: Boris Johnson to give go-ahead for trials of Covid passports

Related: The Guardian view on Covid and civil liberties: keeping a close watch on government

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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