Few MPs in the House of Commons have been as eloquent on either side of the lockdown argument as Charles Walker. The MP for Broxbourne returned to the chamber yesterday afternoon to take aim at the scientists sitting on Sage — the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. Walker — who has accused Boris Johnson of treating MPs like dogs and carried around a pint of milk in protest — began his speech by contrasting the status of elected members with that of the unelected ‘experts’:
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sage has huge power over our lives. It has power over whom we hug and hold. It has power over which businesses open and which businesses close. In essence, it has power over who keeps their job and who loses their job. We, too, in this place have great power, but our power is matched by accountability. Accountability is very important in the exercising of power, so I want to suggest some reforms to Sage — some quite technical reforms.
Walker began by suggesting greater financial transparency for Sage members, in line with MPs’ own declarations about their outside earnings, interests and pensions. This would ‘help our constituents know whether or not the people making these decisions are sharing the pain or are insulated from the pain’ given the ‘new satanic mills’ many young people now find themselves in, working from bedrooms turned makeshift offices. He then turned his guns on the current trend of advisers appearing on national television to give their opinions on the pandemic:
There should also be far greater personal accountability. There should be no more, ‘Here is Sir Mark Walport — of Sage, but here in a personal capacity’. Nonsense! He is there because he is a member of Sage.