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Treasury Made No Forecast For Lockdown 2.0

SAGE say it’s not their job to take into account the economic impact of lockdown. It’s the Treasury’s job. Why then has the Treasury now admitted that it produced no forecasts in the run up to the second lockdown? Why did SAGE on September 21st claim they were in hand? These were the questions MPs put to Treasury officials on Wednesday. Kate Andrews in the Spectator has the details.

Chair of the Committee Mel Stride asked Clare Lombardelli, Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury, to comment on specific economic analyses conducted around lockdown restrictions, ranging from the closure of pubs, gyms and restaurants to “circuit breakers” and working from home directives. It was quickly revealed that no analysis has been done.

Stride’s interest stemmed from SAGE meeting minutes dated September 21st, which referenced a “package of measures” that the Committee said “need to be adopted to reverse [the] exponential rise in cases”. These included some of the more radical measures implemented during the first lockdown, including changes to “working from home” rules, banning contact between households, the closure of hospitality and leisure sectors, and even the return of a (shorter) lockdown. In the minutes, SAGE states that the economic impact of these measures was being modelled by the Treasury: “Policy makers will need to consider analysis of economic impacts and the associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment. This work is underway under the auspices of the Chief Economist.”

In yesterday’s session, Lombardelli revealed that no such work was ever underway. The impact of the specific restrictions on the economy were not forecast or predicted by the Treasury before they came into force: “As the Chancellor set out in Parliament last week, we haven’t done a specific prediction or forecast of the restrictions… what we do is ongoing policy that feeds into decisions ministers take, which they consider alongside the health impacts, the social impacts, and they also consider the economic impact.”

Without this analysis and these forecasts, what was the basis on which the Government was weighing up whether to shut down the country again?

The Treasury’s lack of forecasting does not mean Chancellor Rishi Sunak would have been without any data when in discussions with the Prime Minister and other senior Cabinet figures about lockdown. Lombardelli notes the Treasury has been compiling forecasts done by other bodies, including the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Bank of England.

But yesterday’s admission from the Chief Economist calls into question the priorities of the Treasury: the Sage minutes are dated over a month before England’s second lockdown was announced, giving the Treasury at least four weeks (though the minutes imply longer) to forecast the impact of specific lockdown measures on the economy. That the institution did not produce any forecasts or predictions also raises serious questions about the extent to which the economic implications of such radical measures were considered before the Government brought them in.

Worth reading in full.

Why Does Europe’s “Second Wave” Have Almost No Excess Deaths?

Lockdown Sceptics regular Dr Clare Craig pointed out on Twitter last night that there’s a discrepancy in Europe between the number of “cases” (positive tests), the number of “Covid deaths” (validated with a positive test) and the number of excess deaths, i.e., there are plenty of the former two, but excess deaths in autumn 2020 are close to the five-year average.

“We are in a false positive pseudo epidemic,” she concludes.

Hard to disagree.

“Victoria in Lockdown Resembled 1970s East Germany More Than a Liberal Democracy”

A friend and life-long Melbournian writes of his despair at the state of his home state under the rule of Kim-Jong Dan.

I am increasingly sad about the prospects for Victoria in the next decade. The political leadership this year has highlighted a number of trends built up over some 20 years under Labour governments with characteristics to the left of their federal and interstate counterparts, and not dealt with by the few weak state coalition governments. It is now evident that Victoria in lockdown resembled 1970s East Germany more than a liberal democracy, and most Victorians seem happy with that. The public service seems stuffed at the top with overpaid and sinecured people whose values and principles are far from what public service should be. This is evident in all sorts of ways that line up with the current Government’s totalitarian agenda of emergency legislation removing basic liberties, bypassing Cabinet, largely side-lining Parliament, setting up a pathetically tame inquiry to investigate, ignoring human rights protections, destruction of the Country Fire Authority, destruction of the hardwood timber industry threatened, etc., not to mention meekly signing on to China’s Belt & Road influence. While the lockdown-induced anger may achieve a change of government in 2022, unravelling the mess is likely to be nearly impossible. At the least it will require the reinstitution of values of public sector independence and robust accountability mechanisms. There is not enough widespread pushback, and while there is critique across most of the media it is muted (Kevin Rudd is upset about Murdoch media influence – perhaps the others could raise their game).  

Postcard From East Fife

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Lockdown Sceptics reader Dean Fraser has sent us a postcard from north of the border and tells of a world that freedom has abandoned under the rule of Nic Sturge-On.

You could almost have been forgiven for thinking we weren’t living in a dystopian nightmare up here in the Kingdom of Fife. Because back in April and May this year you could not have witnessed anything more spectacularly bucolic. The picturesque, almost leafy country lanes. The tractors, ever so gently meandering and bobbing through partially ploughed fields. Hares darting, for what seemed like their lives, from still motionless ‘lies’ on the brown earth, or females fending off randy jacks (“not at the moment mate, thanks”). The birds, squirting into hedge rows, and then into trees – beaks full. And let’s not forget the farmhouses and cottages, releasing small wisps of smoke via the chimneys up into the blue still skies. My God, like something out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the weather, all over the UK, was glorious, then).

We cycled along main roads, with virtually no traffic, having to pinch ourselves to properly recall what kind of hell this was.

Worth reading in full.

“COVID-19 is a Force Largely Beyond the State’s Control”

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère has a letter in the New Statesman this week on the conceit of the tyrannical efforts to “defeat” and “control” the virus.

When Simon Heffer quotes Enoch Powell – “the supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils” – he slightly misses the main point (“A crisis of statesmanship”, November 6th). Most human beings have always been prepared to sacrifice some of their autonomy in return for leadership that provides a buffer against disorder, famine and fear. This is, and always has been, the contract between the state and the people.

COVID-19 is a force largely beyond the state’s control; many governments, especially ours, have tried to convince us otherwise. They have used fear as a weapon and promised salvation in return for unprecedented losses of freedom. They have failed to deliver, mainly because they cannot rein in a natural phenomenon on this scale.

No government has found a permanent solution, even New Zealand. Their current virus-free state is no better than a mirage and has been bought at the price of isolation from the rest of the world. Our own Government has offered mainly time-buying slogans and glib promises. It has preferred to listen only to a small cabal of well-paid and securely employed scientists who seem incapable of contextualising the problem and the collateral effects of their solutions on the wider health and well-being of the population.

Perhaps this week’s exciting news about a vaccine will turn the tide at last, but it will be no thanks to governments and the games they have played, and the damage they have done to public trust.

Jailed By The Covid Stasi For Painting A Pub

A retired police officer and Lockdown Sceptics reader found himself thrown in jail when he dared engage in some lawful voluntary labour during the last lockdown.

At 5.30pm the police arrived. One constable and five PCSOs. They first entered the private accommodation of the landlord by saying they had power to enter under the Coronavirus Regulation.

(First mistake. No such power existed at the time.)

They then entered the pub, bodycams whirring. I don’t know what they were hoping to find but they must have been bitterly disappointed. There was no furniture in the place and there was no alcohol being consumed. It would have been obvious even to the chronically thick that the place was being renovated. People were working drills etc. in hand. The landlord was carted off to a separate room to be interrogated by the constable.

The PCSOs were deployed to take everyone’s name and address. Kate dutifully gave her name and address.

PCSO: “What’s your telephone number?”

Kate: “I’m not giving you that.”

PCSO: “What if we need to ring you?”

Kate: “Why on earth would I want you to ring me?”

We’ve given this one a permanent home on the right-hand side under “Are the Police Being Too Authoritarian?”. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A couple in Yorkshire have been stripped of their pub licence under Covid lockdown laws for giving out free drinks on Remembrance Sunday to people paying their respects at the war memorials in the village. They told the Mail:

People going to or returning from the memorials were welcome to stop on the pavement and raise a glass, both to the fallen and indeed to the late landlord, Andrew Henstock [an ex-serviceman].

We never dreamt this might be against either the letter or the spirit of the law these were drinks we provided, not the pub. Some people took their drinks to the smoking shelter at the rear of the building when three vans of police turned up.

This severe response to a gesture of goodwill is in stark contrast to the soft treatment given to the highly disrespectful Extinction Rebellion protest at the Cenotaph. As Spiked say, Britain has become “a state where Covid means protesting is banned, unless it’s the right kind of protest, in which case the police will turn a blind eye or even endorse it”.

“The Only Thing Lockdowns Do Is Make Us All Poorer”

Lockdown sceptic Sir Desmond Swayne MP, a member of the new Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs – now 70 strong – appeared on Julia Hartley Brewer’s show on talkRADIO yesterday morning. Watch him here. Also Lord Sumption here, and Dr Clare Craig here. A sceptical bonanza!

Stop Press: Sceptic legend Professor Sucharit Bhakdi appeared on the TRIGGERnometry podcast, asking: Are we being told the truth about COVID-19? Listen here.

“Cases” All Over the Place

UK positive tests

Imperial’s REACT study is now showing R fell below 1 before lockdown, bringing it into line with KCL’s ZOE app, which yesterday reported R at 0.9. On the other hand, yesterday saw a record number of “cases”: 33,470 reported, up by more than 10,000, or 46%, on the day before. Unusually, Stephen Powis, the NHS Medical Director speaking at the Downing Street briefing downplayed the rise, saying it is important to look at the seven-day average, which is about 22,000, rather than one day. Is Project Fear on pause for a moment? Worth noting that testing was also at record levels yesterday, which may be part of the explanation.

The positivity rate dropped last week for the first time since July. Meanwhile, acute respiratory infections are still trending well below the baseline according to the Emergency Department Syndromic Surveillance System (EDSSS) that monitors emergency hospital attendance. A pretty ordinary autumn so far – save for the totalitarian Government, of course.

Round-Up

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing stories: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the link now comes up beside the headline whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, Toby in his latest Spectator column wonders whether under the proposed hate crime laws his children won’t turn on him, at least for blackmail purposes.

If Humza Yousaf has his way, there will be less free speech in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe – but not for long. The Law Commission of England and Wales has proposed that we pass a similar law. Actually, I say “similar” but in some respects the Commission’s proposals are even worse. Andrew Tettenborn, a law professor at Swansea University, describes the 533-page ‘consultation’ as “the Scottish Hate Crime Bill on steroids”. For instance, the Commission wants to make ‘sex and gender’ protected characteristics. It proposes that a vast array of groups and subcultures should be given similarly special status, including ‘migrants’, ‘asylum seekers’, ‘asexuals’, ‘non-binary people’, ‘cross-dressers’, ‘goths’, ‘punks’ and ‘sex workers’. And it wants to ban ‘inflammatory cartoons’, particularly ‘Islamophobic cartoons’. Talk about handing a victory to terrorism!

Like Humza Yousaf, the Law Commission wants to remove the ‘dwelling exemption’ from the Public Order Act 1986, meaning people could be prosecuted for stirring up hatred in their own homes. Toby recounts his efforts to explain the full horror of this to his four children.

“If this becomes law, one of you could call the police and have me arrested if I call your mother a whore,” I said. “Not that I would, obviously, but you get the point.”

They got the point all right. Suddenly, they began rubbing their hands with glee.

“So how much will you pay me not to tell the police what you’ve said about Black Lives Matter?” asked my 13-year-old son Freddie.

I began to explain that nothing I’d said about the unashamedly Marxist group which wants to defund the police came remotely close to an offence under the Public Order Act, when I was forced to reconsider. After all, if Darren Grimes can be investigated by the Met for ‘stirring up hatred’ against black people simply for publishing an interview with David Starkey, maybe the police would be interested if Freddie told them my views of BLM. That is, if the Law Commission gets its way and you can be charged with ‘hate speech’ for something you say in private and not just in public.

Funny as well as disturbing. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Dr Radomir Tylecote, the Research Director of the Free Speech Union, has produced a briefing doc about the Law Commission’s proposals that you can find here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry.

Mask Censorship: The Swiss Doctor has translated the article in a Danish newspaper about the suppressed Danish mask study. Largest RCT on the effectiveness of masks ever carried out. Rejected by three top scientific journals so far.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Sunetra Gupta, Professor Martin Kulldorff and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched last month and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you Googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over 650,000 signatures.

Update: The authors of the GDB have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many JRs being brought against the Government and its ministers, we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.

Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars.

Christian Concern is JR-ing the Government over its insistence on closing churches during the lockdowns. Read about it here.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Quotation Corner

It’s Easier to Fool People Than to Convince Them That They Have Been Fooled.

Mark Twain

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Charles Mackay

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…

Ideology – that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get into the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man, who knows where it hurts, is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialist.

Sir Winston Churchill

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

Richard Feynman

We’re Hiring

Lockdown Sceptics is looking to hire someone to help us write the daily update. This will involve producing a daily update yourself two or three times a week – so a page exactly like this one – under your own byline. The ideal candidate will have some journalistic background, be able to work quickly under pressure and know their way around WordPress. We can pay you £75 for each update. If you’re interested, email us here and put “Job Application” in the subject line.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Bob in today’s Telegraph