Brexit Against Lockdown‘Herd Immunity’ Campaigns Lead Back to Farage
An influential anti-lockdown campaign has links to Nigel Farage’s ‘World4Brexit’ project, reports Sam Bright
A new, increasingly-influential campaign protesting against Coronavirus lockdowns has close links to Nigel Farage’s ‘World4Brexit’ campaign, Byline Times can reveal.
A largely faceless body, ‘Time for Recovery’ became active in October this year and seems to present itself as a grassroots campaign for a better Government response to the pandemic.
“We aim to put an end to the panic-driven policies that are doing so much damage to our lives and the nation’s hopes for tomorrow,” the Time for Recovery website reads, inviting people to join and donate. “We want a rational, balanced response.”
It is not clear what this entails in practice, from reading the Time for Recovery website. The campaign has five ‘demands’ of the Government, ranging from a more detailed economic assessment of its policies, to a public inquiry into the Government’s response. Lockdown isn’t mentioned directly, aside from in a few news links.
However, these external links reveal the true nature of the campaign. In an article for the Brexit Watch blog, Recovery co-founder Jon Dobinson gives a scathing assessment of lockdowns, as a way of coping with the Coronavirus.
“The facts don’t look good for lockdown. The lockdown countries which chose this route are going through hell…” Dobinson claims. “That cupboard was bare of facts and arguments. All the lockdowners found in it was two grim looking spray cans. One marked ‘fear’, one marked ‘smear’. And that’s what they’ve sprayed constantly into this debate to stop this country seeing sense.”
It’s difficult to see how this language corresponds with Time for Recovery’s stated aim for a “rational, balanced response”.
Going one step further, Time for Recovery recently projected “LOCKDOWNS DON’T WORK” on the side of Parliament – a stunt itself projected on the front page of the Daily Mail this Monday.
The Time for Recovery website has little detail about the individuals behind the campaign, stating merely that it is housed under a company called ‘Restore the Balance Limited’.
For his part, Jon Dobinson is both a director at Restore the Balance, and one of just two directors at ‘World4Brexit Limited’. Dobinson shares this mutual connection with fellow Restore the Balance traveller Steven Hyde, a director at Restore the Balance and, according to company records, a leading figure in the World4Brexit campaign.
Dobinson and Hyde are joined by Adam Whipps, who appears to be the majority shareholder in Restore the Balance. In his day job, Whipps is client strategy director at ‘other’ – a digital marketing agency in London run by Dobinson. Restore the Balance is registered at 3 Morocco Street in Bermondsey, which houses Dobinson’s digital agency.
Whipps told Byline Times that the co-founders of Time for Recovery, “come from across the political spectrum – several of them actively campaigned for Remain.”
Yet, records show that both Dobinson and majority shareholder Whipps have in the past worked for Gunster Strategies, a US lobbying firm run by Gerry Gunster – another key figure in the World4Brexit campaign. Not one to avoid Brexit-related campaigning, Dobinson also worked for two pro-leave campaigns during the EU referendum. Gunster himself advised the Leave.EU campaign, fronted by Nigel Farage. At least two other members of the ‘other’ marketing team also used to work for Gunster Strategies.
Launched last year, World4Brexit was an opaquely-funded organisation, spearheaded by former Ronald Reagan staffer Peggy Grande, that intended to raise funds for Brexit to be promoted on a global stage – but largely, it seemed, in America.
There is no suggestion that World4Brexit is involved in the operation of Time for Recovery, aside from an overlap of some key figures.
Indeed, Whipps told Byline Times that, “Our campaign has no connection with Nigel Farage’s relaunch, which came as a complete surprise to us and not a pleasant one.”
Whipps likewise claims Farage “had no formal involvement” in World4Brexit, and that the organisation has been discontinued “as it did not attract sufficient cross-party support in the US”.
Yet, even if this is the case, it is still interesting that Farage and others in the Brexit orbit are now, roughly in unison, launching campaigns against Government lockdown measures.
Just yesterday, Farage himself announced that he will soon be rebranding the Brexit Party as an anti-lockdown outfit called ‘Reform’. The party supports the idea of ‘herd immunity’ – the widely-debunked concept that vulnerable people should be shielded from Coronavirus, while the rest of us pass the disease around and build up immunity.
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“We must learn to live with the virus not hide in fear of it,” Farage’s announcement states. This is particularly ironic, given that Farage was a strident supporter of tough lockdown measures early in the pandemic, calling for the Government to close the borders, and supporting a more conventional ‘test and trace’ strategy.
“Reform is the only political party that supports the Great Barrington Declaration,” Farage and Brexit Party chair Richard Tice go on to say. The Great Barrington Declaration is a letter, signed by anti-lockdown academics, that seems now to underpin the popularity of herd immunity in right-wing circles. However, as Byline Times has revealed, the group that sponsored the declaration is a libertarian think-tank with close ties to science-sceptical billionaires.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty described the Great Barrington Declaration as “dangerously flawed, impractical and ethically really difficult,” in a meeting with MPs today.
It is not known definitely whether Time for Recovery supports herd immunity and the Great Barrington Declaration, but its co-founder Dobinson does cite Sweden as an example to follow – a country that is widely admired by anti-lockdown campaigners.
“Sweden, which didn’t fully lockdown is doing better, with considerably fewer COVID deaths,” writes Dobinson in his Brexit Watch article.
This is echoed by Farage in his announcement, claiming that Sweden has successfully implemented the Great Barrington Declaration, by shielding the vulnerable. “It is effectively being practised to a large degree in Sweden, with considerable success,” he says.
This neglects the fact that COVID-19 had a devastating impact in care homes during the early stages of the pandemic in Sweden. By 19 May, care home residents accounted for half of Sweden’s Coronavirus deaths. The country has also suffered far more overall deaths than its Scandinavian neighbours.
Dr Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s strategy, acknowledged in June that care home deaths in the country were too high. “If we were to encounter the same disease again, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would settle on doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Tegnell told Swedish public radio.
Yet this hasn’t stopped the pro-Brexit crowd launching itself on the scientifically suspect, anti-lockdown bandwagon.
Additional reporting by Turlough Conway