Emergency State: How We Lost Our Freedoms in the Pandemic and Why it Matters

Emergency State: How We Lost Our Freedoms in the Pandemic and Why it Matters
Published : 13 Oct 2022 - Bodley Head

On 26 March 2020, a new law appeared. In 11 pages, it locked down tens of millions of people, confined us to our homes, banned socialising, closed shops, gyms, pubs, places of worship. It restricted our freedoms more than any other law in history, justified by the rapid spread of a deadly new virus.

You might have expected such a law to be fiercely debated in Parliament. But it wasn't debated at all. A state of emergency was declared, meaning the law came into force the moment it was signed. The state of emergency lasted for 764 days, whilst ministers brought in over 100 new restrictions, almost never debated, increasingly confusing the public, and some - we would find out - stained with corruption. Meanwhile, behind the doors of Downing Street officials and even the Prime Minister broke the very laws they had created. This book tells the startling story of the state of emergency which became an emergency state, how extreme measures caused constitutional chaos, and why it is only by understanding these unprecedented events that we can learn lessons for the future.


A riveting account of how our democracy was put under threat during the Pandemic and why we must never let the Emergency State - all-powerful but ignorant and corrupt - take over again.

Lady Hale, Baroness of Richmond

A brilliant analysis of law and politics over the two years in which Britain became a virtual police state

Geoffrey Robertson

Piercing and profoundly troubling, this is a journey to the heart of the pandemic and the great British struggle to balance the well-being of the individual and the group. A tale of rights and misdemeanours, told with a passion of power and forensic precision

Philippe Sands

Absolutely invaluable. Adam Wagner has been an indispensable guide and this is a gripping, important, definitive book

Dr Xand van Tulleken

EMERGENCY STATE demonstrates why Adam Wagner rapidly became the indispensable authority on the unprecedented restrictions on liberty that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic. Clear-eyed, forensic and compelling, it sets out what happened - and the urgent lessons we need to learn

Jonathan Freedland

…invaluable new book… <br />

Jewish Chronicle

Superb...authoritative, thoughtful and terrifying in equal measure

The Secret Barrister

At times, Emergency State reads like a dystopian novel with a dramatic plot twist - those who wrote these draconian laws failed to follow them. the law expert who kept the receipts, Adam Wagner has written the definitive account of a unique moment in legal history.

Susanna Reid

Astonishing. Detailed, dispassionate and definitive. An urgent warning and a work of major importance.

James O'Brien

Fascinating. An invaluable service to historians of the pandemic, and a passionate and compelling argument for the rule of law.

Baron Danny

The service Adam did for the country and continues to do on these pages shows the brilliant nuance and proportionate review of our right to life versus the Public Health Act and some of the outrageous overreaches of power committed by the police and the sitting government. It is as gripping as a Michael Crichton novel; but more disturbing because we collectively survived the events discussed with only some of our core human rights left intact.

Jamie Klinger, co-founder of #ReclaimTheseStreets

This book is the definitive legal guide to the law of the pandemic and will serve as an important historical account of this dark and challenging period in our history.

Benjamin Seifert, The Law Soceity

Wagner’s book is a vital contribution to a debate we need to have: how to ensure that the biggest casualty of the next pandemic is not the democratic model.

The Financial Times

Interesting and important... Wagner is a fierce and effective critic.

Lord Sumpton

You do not have to take the view that the lockdowns were unnecessary for this book to be valuable. Anyone with an interest in the maintenance of good governance in a time of emergency will find much to ponder.

Dominic Grieve for Prospect Magazine

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