AN INFLUENTIAL Trafford MP has sparked controversy by claiming mask-wearing is a form of ‘social control’.

In an opinion piece for The Mail on Sunday, Sir Graham Brady, Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, also suggested ‘whole swathes’ of the population were showing signs of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, due to the ‘constantly changing menu of restrictions’ that have been enforced over the last 16 months, adding 'how far a proud nation has allowed itself to fall'.

In the article, published the day before restrictions were eased on ‘Freedom Day’, the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee said: “The trouble with Stockholm Syndrome is that the greater the control to which people are subjected, the greater the dependence people develop.

“The line between coercion and care becomes blurred, the hostage starts to see the man with the AK-47 who holds him in a cell not as a jailer but as a protector.”

He said nothing showed the divide between those desperate for a return to civil liberties and those calling for restrictions to continue more clearly than the debate on face masks.

He added that no one was asking the ‘serious questions’ of whether or not masks help to stop the spread of Covid-19.

He added: “[The] real purpose is social control – to provide a constant reminder to maintain distance from other people.

“To maintain a state of anxiety that leaves people more likely to comply with the restrictions that might otherwise be resisted or forgotten.”

His comments have sparked anger among Trafford’s residents, councillors and GPs.

Cllr Michael Welton, Green Party representative of Altrincham Ward for Trafford Council, said: “Sir Graham getting media coverage for his extreme anti-restriction views is usually prelude for another lockdown. He’s been wrong at every stage of the pandemic and sees no need to stop now.

“I think the vast majority of his constituents, of which I am one, will find his view that we’re all basically terrified dupes deeply offensive. His libertarian ideology can’t fathom that people are willing to change their behaviour to protect other people out of kindness.”

Dr Maz Sangha, GP Partner at St John’s Medical Practice in Altrincham, also voiced his strong opposition to Sir Graham's words.

He said: “Sorry Sir Graham Brady, face masks are not a form of social control. They are a vital intervention with vaccinations and space to keep us safe.”

Amar Mohee, a consultant surgeon at Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, echoed Dr Sangha’s concerns and said: “Sir Graham Brady, please. A face mask is essential in controlling an airborne infection.”

Trafford resident Mark Cohen added: “It’s a great shame when Altrincham is disrespected in such a way by a Member of Parliament who clearly does not want to understand the argument when it contradicts his own political agenda.”

Others felt differently, however.

One person with the user name ‘WeLiveInACrazyWorld’ commenting on The Mail on Sunday's article said: “People are so utterly brainwashed from a constant barrage of propaganda over 16 months they are now ready to do anything the government want of them. We are heading into a medical slavery and the people will allow it and not fight back.”

Another user, 'BReal', said: “This virus is now under control and a flawed testing system is being used to control our freedoms.”

Another user, Kathryn, added: “Spot on!”

In an interview, Sir Graham said he had received a lot of positive feedback from residents after the publication of his article.

He said: “In my article in The Mail on Sunday, I referred to the work of the SPI-B committee which advises the government on behavioural science and how it can be used to influence public opinion and behaviour. I quoted its published minutes on the desirability of increasing levels of anxiety in order to increase compliance with Covid rules.

“There has been widespread discussion amongst policy makers in this country and internationally of the effect that face masks might have in reminding people of social distancing requirements in the pandemic. People might see this as a good thing or they might disagree with it but we shouldn’t pretend that it hasn’t been a policy objective.

“There is nothing novel or surprising in this. I would urge people to read my article for themselves.”