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COVID - Is Lord Sumption immoral?

Updated: May 8, 2021

19 May 2020

[This is a letter about an article by Melanie Phillips suggesting the Jonathan Sumption was being, not just wrong, but immoral for taking an anti-lockdown position.]

I’m not sure whether you sent us the Melanie Phillips article because you agreed with it or because you thought it was wrong. I assume the former! Which prompts me to respond.

I don’t have a view about whether the lockdown was right in the first place. I suspect that the government had no alternative, faced with the horrifying forecast by Prof Ferguson that has since been much modified (to put it politely).

The question now is what we should do for the foreseeable future. Melanie Phillips didn’t tackle that, though she implies that we shouldn’t relax the lockdown or, that if we do, we should do so very slowly.

The interesting point to me is that, in taking an essentially pro-lockdown position, she feels that she is firmly situated on the moral high ground; and that Lord Sumption, in taking an extreme anti-lockdown view, is being “amoral”.

That seems to me odd. There are several reasons for relaxing the lockdown. One of them – and this is where the moral issues kick in – is that the virus attacks children almost not at all; and adults under about 50, with no vulnerabilities, only in a way that with proper health care is manageable. So, we are imprisoning the general public, depriving children of education, putting countless people out of work, causing numerous businesses to go bust, and probably much else, in order to protect people like me. Why is that moral? I feel perfectly free to do all I need, including staying in indefinite lockdown, to protect myself.

Do tell me where I’m wrong. Lord Sumption may be taking an extreme view in saying that the lockdown is “wicked”. But I struggle to think that his view is “amoral”.

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