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Matt Hancock’s Bad Day at the Office

The Health Secretary didn’t have a good day yesterday.

It began with an interview on Good Morning Britain in which Piers Morgan attacked him unrelentingly for refusing to appear on the programme for the previous 201 days.

“Do you think it’s right and proper than in the biggest health crisis this country has faced for a hundred years, that you as Health Secretary and the entire Cabinet and the prime Minister have boycotted a big morning breakfast television programme and our viewers for six months?” asked Piers. “Did you support the boycott? Did you agree with it?”

Gurning and waffling didn’t really cut it. After cataloging all the health failures on Hancock’s watch, Piers told him he should resign.

That was followed directly afterwards by an appearance on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show in which she pressed him on whether the Government had “ruled out” a mandatory mass vaccination programme.

“Honestly, I’ve learnt not to rule things out during this pandemic because you have to watch what happens and you have to make judgements accordingly,” he said.

That surely wasn’t part of the script? It generated headlines afterwards, such as this one in the Telegraph: “Matt Hancock refuses to rule out making coronavirus vaccine mandatory.

He then had to step in for Boris at the Downing Street briefing, where he made a series of implausible claims, including that “the virus remains a potent threat… not just to the oldest and the most vulnerable but to anyone of any age and of any background…”

Eh? As I pointed out yesterday, 88% of those who’ve died so far in Scotland are aged 70 or over and only 8% of the people who’ve succumbed to the virus have had no underlying health condition. According to John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford, the infection fatality rate for healthy under-70s is 0.05% – hardly a “potent threat”.

Worse was Hancock’s admission that it was “too early to know” whether the second lockdown would end on December 2nd, or whether some areas might be plunged into Tier 4 restrictions on December 3rd, prompting an angry exchange afterwards between the Prime Minister and member of the Covid Recovery Group. The Telegraph has the details.

Conservative MPs have blasted the “grim” and “terrible” suggestion that lower tiers could be “strengthened” after national lockdown is lifted, with Boris Johnson on another collision course with his backbenchers.

Tories had hoped for a general loosening of restrictions ahead of Christmas, with those in the lower tiers particularly aggrieved at the blanket measures.

Hancock claimed daily cases were still rising, comparing the daily average last week with the daily average the week before. But as Carl Heneghan pointed out on Twitter, the latest ONS infection survey suggests otherwise.

Mass Testing – an Unevaluated, Underdesigned, and Costly Mess

Mike Gill, a former regional director of Public Health England, and Muir Gray, a visiting professor at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford, didn’t pull their punches in an editorial for the BMJ about the Government’s £100 billion mass testing programme.

With incidence across Liverpool already falling, attributing and quantifying any additional effect from the programme may prove complex. Instead, similar programmes are being rolled out across the country to universities and local authorities even before this pilot is complete.

The queues of people seeking tests in Liverpool suggest the initial acceptability of this pilot is high, at least to some. Its ethical basis, however, looks shaky. The council claims, wrongly, that the test detects infectiousness and is accurate. In fact, if used alone it will lead to many incorrect results with potentially substantial consequences. The context for gaining consent has been tarnished by the enthusiasm of some local officials and politicians. In the case of schools, the programme has been culpably rushed: parents have had to respond unreasonably promptly to a request to opt out if they do not want their child screened.

There is no protocol for this pilot in the public domain, let alone systems specification or ethical approval. The public has had no chance to contribute, as required by the UK standards for public involvement in research.

Spending the equivalent of 77% of the NHS annual revenue budget on an unevaluated underdesigned national programme leading to a regressive, insufficiently supported intervention – in many cases for the wrong people – cannot be defended. The experience of the National Screening Committee and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) tells us that allowing testing programmes to drift into use without the right system in place leads to a mess, and the more resources invested the bigger the mess. This system should be designed with up to 10 clear objectives to deliver the aim of reducing the impact of covid—for example, to identify cases more quickly or to mitigate the effects of deprivation on risk of infection and poor outcomes. Progress in each objective (or lack of it) should be measured against explicit criteria. Screening programmes based on experience and on the literature relating to complex adaptive systems offer a model for rapid progress.

At a minimum, there should be an immediate pause, until the fundamental building blocks of this mass testing programme have been externally and independently scrutinised by the National Screening Committee and NIHR. In the meantime, nobody’s freedom or behaviour should be made contingent on having had a novel rapid test.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A panel of scientists form universities in Newcastle, Birmingham, Warwick and Bristol sounded the alarm yesterday about the dangers of mass testing. The Mail has more.

They described it as the “most unethical use of public funds for screening” they’ve ever seen and claimed it had the potential to “actually do a lot of harm”.

The panel said it was telling that population screening for COVID-19 has not been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

At a virtual press conference today, Professor Allyson Pollock, clinical professor of public health at the University of Newcastle, said: “The evidence for screening is not there.

“The evidence around the tests is poor and weak at the moment, and needs to be improved.

“We’re arguing the moonshot programme really should be paused, until the cost effectiveness and the value for money of any of these programmes is well established.”

Also worth reading in full.

Is the Pandemic Machine Similar to the German War Machine in 1914?

What follows is a guest post by longtime contributor Guy de la Bédoyère.

Reading the interview with the epidemiologist Tom Jefferson in Der Spiegel flagged up in Lockdown Sceptics yesterday really made me think. When he said:

The WHO and public health officials, virologists and the pharmaceutical companies. They’ve built this machine around the impending pandemic. And there’s a lot of money involved, and influence, and careers, and entire institutions! And all it took was one of these influenza viruses to mutate to start the machine grinding.


I was instantly reminded of Germany’s Schlieffen Plan. Human beings always want to plan for the future, offset future disasters, protect the population and so on – and it’s usually for the best possible reasons. The Schlieffen Plan had a totally different purpose in mind. It was supposed to protect Germany in a war with France.

In 1914 the Plan was all set up and ready to go and had been since Count Alfred von Schlieffen had dreamed it up in 1906. Except that the circumstances in 1914 weren’t what Schlieffen had quite imagined. A Serb had killed the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austro-Hungary, in Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarians were outraged and threatened war. Russia said it would support the Serbs. The Germans said they would support the Austro-Hungarians. It looked like Germany was about to go to war with Russia – but France was Russia’s ally and that meant – wait for it – that Germany might have to go to war with France.

And that’s when the Schlieffen Plan came off the shelf and how a conflict that started in Sarajevo ended with a war between Germany and France, leading to four years of unbelievable brutality and bloodshed, millions killed and a fallout that echoes down to today via the Second World War. Let’s not forget that huge amounts of money were involved – every one of the belligerents believed they could get the defeated enemies to pick up the bill. They all got that wrong: the world has been paying for the Great War ever since.

No, that’s not a bit like dealing with a pandemic. Of course it isn’t. But it’s a real warning from history about overplanning in advance of circumstances that will always be unrecognizably different from what actually happens. Then put in charge the sort of people who can only operate to a rule book and the scene is set for believing that just following the bullet points means the problem will be sorted. Instead, the pit just gets dug deeper and deeper, positions get entrenched, money gets spent. But perhaps that’s just the way human beings are. I’m not suggesting for a moment the intentions aren’t sincere.

I have a creeping feeling that however things look right now, when our descendants look back on this time in the decades to come, there’s a more than sporting chance that just like us looking back at 1914 they’ll be saying, “What on earth were they thinking?”

Just imagine how different everything would have been if the powers that were had got together at Xmas 1914 and said: “This is absurd, let’s stop now and rethink it all – there’s no point in destroying the world.” But they didn’t. They just ploughed on to save face.

Government Admits It’s Been Miscounting Cases – Again

“Dido? Is that you? Matt here. NHS Test and Trace has cocked up again. But don’t worry. We’ll get PHE to announce it.”

Oh dear. Public Health England announced yesterday that NHS Test and Trace has been wrongly identifying the location of people testing positive, using their address on the NHS database rather than the location where they’ve been tested. Until recently, there wasn’t much discrepancy – only 4% of people were living in a different area to the place they got tested, according to PHE. But between September 1st and October 12th, this increased to 12% of cases, driven mostly by younger people aged 17 to 21 relocating from their homes to universities.

The upshot is that the number of positive cases per 100,000 has been inflated in London, while the cases per 100,000 in university towns has been understated.

The Evening Standard identified this problem over a month ago, running a story on October 12th pointing out that the number of cases in Richmond had jumped by an implausibly large amount at exactly the same time that term started at universities.

The coronavirus rate jumped in the borough to 130.8 new cases per 100,000 population in the week to October 8th (259 cases), compared with 78.8 (156 cases) for the previous seven days, according to an analysis.

Borough chiefs believe a significant part of the rise in recent weeks, possibly more than 16%, may be due to students from Richmond at universities in other cities around the country, including Leeds, Exeter, Manchester and Durham, being included in its figures.

One obvious question is whether London needed to move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 towards the end of October, given that the number of positive cases in London was being inflated by this glitch. At the time, Sadiq Khan told the London Assembly that the decision was based on “expert public health and scientific advice”. But was the Mayor aware that the students who were pushing the numbers up were located in cities like Leeds, Exeter, Manchester and Durham rather than the capital? I doubt it.

According to a well-informed Twitter thread by Dr Duncan Robertson, a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford who specialises in COVID-19 modelling and analysis, this was a cock-up by the commercial company NHS Test and Trace hired to run the programme and can’t really be laid at the door of PHE. “It is unfortunate that PHE are making this statement as opposed to NHS Test and Trace or DHSC (who is responsible), as the error appears to have been with the methodology employed by commercial DHSC Test and Trace,” he Tweeted. Presumably, Hancock and co thought it would be prudent for PHE to take the blame because the agency is due for the chop shortly.

The Law Commission Wants New Blasphemy Law by the Back Door

Andrew Tettenborn, Professor of Law at Swansea University, appeared on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show yesterday morning to raise the alarm about the Law Commission’s new hate crime proposals. According to Andrew – a member of the Free Speech Union’s Legal Advisory Council – if these proposals become law an author of a novel like The Satanic Verses could be jailed for seven years.

You can read the Free Speech Union’s briefing document about these dreadful, anti-free speech proposals here.

Why is the Medicines Regulator Seeking an AI Software Tool to Process Vaccine Side Effects?

Alicia Vikander as Ava, an intelligent machine, in Ex Machina

Several readers have alerted me to a recent invitation to tender by the medicines regulator that seems to suggest the Government is expecting a huge number of negative reactions to the Covid vaccines. I asked the Lockdown Sceptics test and trace correspondent – who tracked the failure of the NHSX Covid-tracking app for us – what this was all about and whether it was cause for concern.

There has been some excitement over an announcement spotted in the Official Journal of the EU by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA):

MHRA urgently seeks an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software tool to process the expected high volume of Covid-19 vaccine Adverse Drug Reaction (ADRs) and ensure that no details from the ADRs’ reaction text are missed.

Adverse Drug Reaction? Expected high volumes? Is this playing into the hands of the vaccine conspiracy theorists? Not so fast. The actual story is a familiar one in this pandemic response: failure of Government planning, wasted money and a last minute dash to build an IT system, all summarised rather nicely in the announcement itself:

Award of a contract without prior publication of a call for competition in the Official Journal … Reasons of extreme urgency — the MHRA recognises that its planned procurement process for the SafetyConnect programme, including the AI tool, would not have concluded by vaccine launch.

The collection and analysis of Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) is a standard part of all drug development. Pharma companies employ hundreds of experts in “Patient Safety” teams and numerous IT systems and processes to handle it, and it is partly why drug development takes so long and costs so much. But if that is done by the drug companies then why does the UK regulator, MHRA, need its own ADR processing system?

The scrutiny of drugs does not stop when they get a license. Following the thalidomide tragedy in the 1960s, the WHO set-up adverse event [AE] vigilance systems in countries like the UK. Here it is called the Yellow Card scheme. You may never have heard of it, but there have been over 700,000 ADRs submitted since it was established. With the number of adverse events increasing dramatically each year, pharma companies and regulators are reaching the limits of what people can do accurately and efficiently. Heaping the nation’s largest ever mass vaccination campaign onto the regulator’s human based systems was not going to work. A problem for AI to solve? Perhaps Matt Hancock’s £250m National AI Lab, announced in August 2019, could help? Indeed MHRA were onto a similar idea as early as Oct 2018 when their board said:

MHRA has been encouraged to put forward bids to several government programmes for funding/ external resources to explore the utility of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver enhanced vigilance capability.

Nearly two years later and how has the time and money been spent? Not all that productively it seems as on Sept 14th EU procurement rules had to be bypassed as a £1.5 million contract was urgently awarded to GenPact (UK) to process an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 ADR reports over a six- to 12-month period. Even then, the MHRA said the system would not be ready for the vaccine launch date.

Someone should tell Kate Bingham, chair of the UK’s vaccine task force, who said the use of AI was “just what the MHRA should be doing”, adding that the UK is “incredibly well set up to do this given we all have NHS records which are electronic and connected”. Err, no we don’t. Connecting all patient records in the NHS was the NPfIT programme, which cost £12.7 billion before being cancelled and described by a House of Commons enquiry as “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos ever”.

Still, I am sure it will be different this time.

Why is Sweden Imposing Restrictions When ICU Admissions are Falling?

What follows is a guest post by Will Jones.

Stefan Löfven, the Swedish Prime Minister, has announced he will pass a law to ban public gatherings of eight people or more.

“Do your duty,” he said. “Do not go to the gym, do not go to the library, do not have parties. Do not come up with excuses that would make your activity OK. It is your and my choices – every single day, every single hour, every single moment – that will now determine how we manage this.”

This shift in strategy to a nationally enforced “Rule of 8” does not appear to have the backing of state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has said he wants to use the same no-lockdown approach for the “second wave” as he did for the first.

Perhaps the PM is listening instead to Fredrik Elgh, Professor of Virology at Umeå University, who recently claimed Sweden is two weeks away from surpassing the first wave’s peak hospitalisations. Has he not noticed that ICU admissions are currently in decline? And does he not recall that the health service coped fine in the spring?

Prof Elgh also noted that lockdowns appear to have worked in Belgium and the Czech Republic. But it’s cherry-picking data to look just at two countries where a decline happened to coincide with restrictions.

What about the fact that Sweden’s first wave declined with no lockdown, while in the UK the R rate dropped below 1 before lockdown both in the spring and in the autumn?

Why is the country introducing lockdown measures now, when there is nothing to indicate an autumn out of the ordinary? It may be because the country had hoped to have a milder autumn surge than they are experiencing. But that disappointment doesn’t change the basic parameters, which is that Covid has not been responsible for more than a medium to severe flu season anywhere, whatever restrictions have been applied. The graph below illustrates this point perfectly, showing Sweden’s 2019-2020 flu season death toll scarcely higher than earlier years. Not locking down does not result in a death toll much beyond the normal range, and most of those who die are already past the average life expectancy.

All-cause deaths in Sweden in October–May (not adjusted for population)

Lockdown zealots have recently taken to arguing that Sweden is so different to the UK and the rest of Europe that its example is of no practical relevance. They claim, for example, that Sweden has lower population density than the UK. But they fail to mention that most of it is empty space and that Sweden is in fact a more urbanised country than the UK (87.7% vs 83.4%). They also omit to note Stockholm has a similar population density to London.

They argue Sweden has more single occupancy households (39% vs 28%), but fail to mention that that translates to 17.8% and 15% of the population respectively so isn’t really significant.

They argue Swedes are a more naturally compliant people who studiously follow all the guidance so don’t need coercive rules. However, Stockholm in April was notorious for young people crowding into nightclubs and cafes while the rest of the world locked down. Karolinska Institute immunologist Marcus Buggert was quoted in the BMJ in September saying social distancing in Sweden was “always poorly followed, and it’s only become worse”. Conversely, Brits have been surprisingly conformist (and fearful of the virus), especially in the first lockdown.

In terms of the unfavourable comparison of Sweden to the death rates of its neighbours, that appears to be largely a result of a run of mild flu seasons in the country, leaving more “dry tinder” (older people vulnerable to respiratory infections), which is why 70% of Covid deaths in Sweden occurred in nursing homes.

What a shame that the chin-wobbling Swedish politicians seem at this late stage to have developed a hunger for locking down. Whatever restrictions they now impose though, Sweden remains an important demonstration of what happens when a country refuses to lock down. Sweden may not want to heed the lessons of its own example, but others can.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.

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, I’m flagging up Christiane Amanpour’s bizarre comparison of Donald Trump’s four-year term with Kristallnacht, the infamous night in 1938 in which the Nazi Party and its supporters ransacked Jewish schools and hospitals, damaged or destroyed over 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses, arrested 30,000 Jewish men and murdered at least 90.

“This week, 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened,” Amanpour said at the top of her CNN show last Thursday.

It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against a whole identity. And, in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth.

After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden/Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth. And, every day, Joe Biden makes presidential announcements about good governance and the health and security of the American people, while the great brooding figure of his defeated opponent rages, conducting purges of perceived enemies and preventing a transition.

CNN hasn’t exactly been pro-Trump for the last four years, but even by the network’s partisan standards this was over-the-top. To compare Trump’s Presidency to Kristallnacht is to wildly exaggerate his sins – the ultimate example of Trump Derangement Syndrome – and, at the same time, minimise the crimes committed by the Nazis on that terrible night.

Not surprisingly, top Israeli officials have demanded an apology, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch said on Sunday that the US news network “should be a partner in the global effort to fight antisemitism and not fuel the fire”.

“Using the memory of the Holocaust for cheap headlines or a political agenda is concerning and distorts the historical and moral truth,” Yankelevitch said.

Stop Press: Liz Truss has been accused of “gross negligence” by a Lib Dem MP after appointing David Goodhart, a member of the Free Speech Union’s Advisory Council, to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. His sin? To describe the claim that Britain is systemically racist as “statistically naive”.

Stop Press 2: There’s a good piece in the Times on the difficulties various companies have got themselves into by trying to appear woke.

Stop Press 3: Suzanne Moore has left the Guardian, presumably forced out as a result of dissenting from woke orthodoxy. Watch me sticking up for her in a ding-dong with Owen Jones on Sky News a few months ago.

“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.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you want be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

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.

Stop Press: Joe Biden, in his first economic address since the election, said he supported a national mask mandate to help curb the rise of the virus.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta 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 my 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.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”.

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 and is challenging the 10pm curfew. The hearing date is set for December 3rd, the day after we come out of lockdown.

Christian Concern and over 100 church leaders are 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

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Carl Sagan

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell

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…

In the latest episode of London Calling, my weekly podcast with James Delingpole, we discuss how Boris became Prince Harry to Princess Nut Nuts, condemn ⁦the Labour Party for demanding that anti-vaxxers be even more censored on social media than they already are and review The Queen’s Gambit, which James thought was unrealistic because, according to him, you need an “autistic” male brain to become a chess champion.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here.