Tom Utley: I'm can't say I'm proud of my son who protested in lockdown

TOM UTLEY: My Corbynist son broke lockdown to join the protests… and it’s left me in a bit of a pickle

 He’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But how I empathise with poor Piers Morgan, tied up in intellectual knots by the conflict between his professed beliefs and his affection for his son.

As the high priest of lockdown and scourge of those ‘Covidiots’ who break social distancing rules, Piers had no hesitation last week in lambasting Labour’s Barry Gardiner, calling him ‘reckless and irresponsible’ for attending a thronged Black Lives Matter protest outside Parliament.

Yet the very next day, after it emerged that his son Stanley had attended a similar lockdown-busting protest, the Good Morning Britain host and MailOnline columnist took to social media, tweeting: ‘Proud of my son for attending the #BlackLivesMatter protest which he found profoundly inspiring.

MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan (pictured left) found himself in a difficult situation as his son attended the Black Lives Matters protests in London shortly after the Good Morning Britain host criticised Labour MP Barry Gardiner (right) for taking part in the demonstrations

Morgan tweeted his pride regarding his son’s attendance in the protest and maintained that he kept to social distancing regulations

‘He told me he maintained social distancing as best he could in the large crowd. Not easy given many others weren’t, but I’m glad he tried.’

Hmmm. It strikes me that, whatever our view of the matter, and irrespective of how hard they tried to stay two metres apart, those who attended the BLM protests flagrantly breached the official advice that we should avoid large gatherings and stay at home as much as possible. 

It is therefore very hard to see why Piers should dismiss Barry Gardiner as a reckless Covidiot, while holding up the ‘profoundly inspired’ Stanley Morgan as a worthy object of pride.

Or, rather, as every parent reading this will appreciate, it’s perfectly easy to understand why.  

The answer, of course, is that one of the two is Piers Morgan’s son, and the other isn’t.

True, Morgan senior insists that his boy, described as an aspiring actor, wore a mask and gloves and that he met up with fewer than six friends before joining the protest.

But is it unfair of me to remind Piers that he is the man who raged at the end of March: ‘Just stay near your home. This is all you have to do. This is our contribution to the war effort. People can’t get it in their thick skulls.’?

What a difference it makes when one of the thick skulls in question happens to be attached to the neck of our own beloved offspring!

I confess that I am similarly torn, although perhaps not quite to the same extent as Mr Morgan.

This is because the most Corbynist of my four sons has also attended at least one BLM protest over the past few days, joining the thousands who converged on the U.S. embassy in London on Sunday.

Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets for the Black Lives Matters demonstrations at important UK landmarks, including the US embassy in London (pictured)

He, too, has assured his dad that he did everything he could to observe social distancing rules (although having seen many photographs of the demonstration, I have to say that I didn’t notice any lonely figure recognisable as an Utley or a Morgan standing apart from the crowd).

But then I’m not in exactly the same position as Piers.

This is partly because, unlike him, I’ve never felt sure that the blanket lockdown was a good idea — and although I’ve been as careful as the great majority of us to obey the rules myself, I’ve hesitated to attack those who have broken them even when they’ve seemed, as all too often, to defy common sense.

For example, from the very beginning I never saw much wrong with those who liked to sunbathe in the park, while keeping a safe distance from others.

Nor have I ever felt inclined to attack people who walked their dogs on isolated moors, even when this was strictly against the rules.

Nor, come to that, could I get worked up about those who took more than an hour’s exercise outdoors every day. 

But on balance, I felt it was probably more responsible to abide by the rules, no matter how bonkers some of them seemed. Not very logical of me, perhaps.

I’m far from the only one, of course, who has been thrown into agonisingly illogical contortions by the lockdown.

Take the BBC, which along with so many others relentlessly attacked Dominic Cummings for breaking the rules after his infamous trip to the north, in quest of a safe haven for his son. 

Yet, since George Floyd’s horrendous death in Minneapolis, Auntie has allowed barely a word of criticism of those thousands, such as my son and young Morgan, who have flouted the rules, blatantly posing quite as great a threat of spreading the virus as Cummings ever did.

Is it unduly cynical to suggest that there’s a straightforward explanation of this doublethink?

I mean, of course, that Auntie disapproves strongly of Mr Cummings, the mastermind of the Leave campaign, while strongly approving of the BLM campaigners, even when they’re vandalising public and private property.

As for the virus that is said to have killed more than 40,000 of our fellow citizens — and counting — who at the BBC thinks this is the big issue, when there are political axes to grind? 

But I realise that I’m dodging the point of where precisely I stand on our son’s participation in Sunday’s demo.

So let me say, first, that I’m proud of my boy for thinking deeply about politics and caring very much about the plight of oppressed minorities.

Indeed, unlike many virtue-signallers who joined the protests, he plans to devote his life to helping others as a mental health worker for the NHS.

I also give him high marks for being basically sweet-natured, peace-loving and kind — qualities that set him far apart from many of his fellow Corbynistas, whose stock in trade is violence, vandalism and spewing hatred over the internet.

But, unlike Piers, I can’t say that I’m proud of my son for joining the BLM demonstration.

Others have failed to conform to social distancing rules whilst protesting across the UK (pictured: demonstrators in London this week)

As an agnostic about the benefits of lockdown, I’m not saying the boy definitely endangered lives here at home by mixing with the crowd, but why on earth take that risk?

Enough to say that on this, as on so much else, my boy and I have profound differences.

He thinks that my Toryism is a selfish creed, with nothing to offer the poorest in our society.

I think he’s plain deluded to believe that overthrowing capitalism will help anyone — least of all those who have to struggle hardest to survive.

It’s an intergenerational war fought out in countless households all over the land. But, deep down, though we don’t always show it, don’t we all love our near and dear rather more than our principles?

Just ask Mr Cummings — or Piers.

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