Le Tissier came off social media briefly before his Sky exit, referencing “trolls and bots out there who try to belittle me” and, for his own wellbeing, limits his daily social media activity. He has no regrets, however, about any of his Covid-19 postings. “I’ve always said that the response [to the pandemic] was not proportionate,” he says. “A deliberate overreaction in my opinion. If they were scared about it, they wouldn’t be having parties while the rest of us were locked in our houses, would they? We can’t be so fearful of death that we stop living.”
Le Tissier says he has had “a couple of days where I felt a bit rough, a bit shivery” but does not test. “I don’t really care whether I’ve had it or not. If I feel ill, and I don’t feel up to going out, I don’t go out. If I’m coughing and spluttering then I definitely don’t go out because that is just bad manners and rude”.
He is also dismissive of face masks but, on the theme of being polite, why not wear one if it might help and put another person’s mind at ease? “Mask wearing is a sign of compliance,” he says.
Le Tissier has rejected the “anti-vax” label, saying he is just “very sceptical” and that he has had other vaccines. “I’m not some far-right conspiracy theorist,” he insists.
He rightly implores others to proactively “look for themselves” and consider all the evidence but, whether it is death tolls, masks or the potential benefits as well as downsides of various measures, he seems only to highlight data or opinions which reinforce a particular narrative.
He is courteous, though, in how he debates and baffled by the idea that taking different sides on subjects like Brexit or indeed Covid-19 should polarise society, impact on friendships and invite vitriol.
“I’ve always been somebody who will stick up for what he believes in but, at the same time, if the evidence changes and I am proved that I was wrong, then I would be the first person to hold my hands up and go, ‘I’m really sorry, I read that completely wrong’,” he says. “You move forward by having debates and giving people the opportunity to hear both sides.
“I don’t attack people for having different views to mine. I will talk to people and debate. I didn’t think that things were fair and balanced. That is why I have taken the stance that I have.
“It’s my view … that the whole divide and conquer thing is done on purpose because, while we are all fighting among ourselves, actually nobody is really taking any notice of what is going on at the top. I am very much my own person – I have always been willing to question authority … when something doesn’t sit right with me.”
For all that, you still have to wonder what sort of toll the last two years might have taken. Le Tissier said that he felt “a bit sad” when he came off social media in 2020, highlighting “snide remarks trying to make out I’m some uncaring individual who has no empathy”, but now seems emboldened and says that he has received a vast recent upsurge in support for his stance.
“The attacks that have come my way have probably affected people around me more than they have affected me,” he says.
“I find it quite easy to cope with any abuse. I guess that comes from having 50,000 people singing, ‘you fat b——’ and all that stuff for many years. You develop a thick skin. I’ve got an incredibly tough mental resilience. I’m pretty content in my life.”
The Pundits Tour will appear at St George’s Hall in Bradford on Thursday, Feb 10, starting at 7.30pm.