Musician and campaigner Billy Bragg has responded to controversial comments made by Neil Oliver on his GB News show.
The former BBC presenter claimed he would “cheerfully risk catching” Covid-19 for the sake of his personal freedom and would risk others catching the deadly virus too.
He then went on to compare those who refuse to comply with current guidelines to those who fought in the Battle of Britain, saying:
“It was a minority of people, outgunned and shouted down by fellow citizens who felt deals might be struck with tyrants” who stood up against fascism during the Second World War.
The comments have provoked outrage on social media, with several people dubbing his opinions “reprehensible”.
A post penned by Billy Bragg has also been making the rounds after he struck a chord with the public.
Here’s what he had to say:
“For me, it’s all and only about freedom” declares Neil Oliver at the start of this clip from his GB News show and then goes on to reveal that he means his own personal freedom and damn anyone else. Looking straight into the lens of the camera, he earnestly states that he’s prepared to infect other people with covid “for the sake of freedom”.
“Makes me think of another sake that begins with ‘F’.
“Oliver seems like a clever guy who knows his history. I can’t believe he’s unfamiliar with what John Stuart Mill said about the limits of personal freedom: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”.
“I understand the civil liberties argument about the response to covid. In normal times we should always be looking to strike a balance between individual freedom and the common good. But under the current circumstances, the notion of the common good has to take precedence, until we are all of us free to exercise our individual liberties in an environment where the threat of infection is manageable.
“And for an historian to have such a weak grasp of the effect that the Second World War had on individual liberties is shocking. Oliver constantly refers to that conflict without recognising that it required the whole population of the UK to put up with having their personal freedoms curtailed in order to defeat the threat of nazism.
“For some, this meant having to tolerate the rationing of food and clothes, but for others it meant enlisting into the forces, being told what to do and where to go for several years and, for some, making the ultimate sacrifice. Is there any greater example of the notion of the common good?
“By seeking to dress his wreckless individualism up in the uniform of those who served in the Second World War, Oliver has betrayed the sacrifices of that generation and shamed his own profession.”Billy Bragg
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