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A Plea to MPs From Mike Yeadon: “Don’t Vote For Lockdown”

Below is a guest post by Dr Mike Yeadon in which he urges MPs not to vote for a second lockdown.

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I am an independent scientist of over 30 years experience leading research into new medicines, operating up to Vice President and head of Respiratory Research at Pfizer, a US pharmaceutical company and founder and CEO of Ziarco Ltd a biotechnology company sold to Novartis in 2017.

As an independent I am less constrained than academics and commercial persons. However, I have applied the same rigour to analysing the pandemic since March as with any of my former projects.

In brief:

  • I am certain the pandemic is over and was over before the end of June.
  • There was a clear peak of excess deaths in spring. COVID-19 clearly caused many deaths, mostly of the elderly and already ill.
  • Turning to late summer and into the autumn – despite exaggerated claims that there is an ongoing full-blown pandemic, there are still FEWER respiratory deaths than at the same time periods in all five of the years since 2015. The below shows monthly deaths with any respiratory primary diagnoses including COVID-19.

There is a small and potentially growing all-causes excess mortality signal. I am working with a pathologist and our evaluation so far shows that these excess deaths are inconsistent with being COVID-19. In short, they are not dying from respiratory illness, but from heart failure and from cerebrovascular accidents such as stroke and diabetes. An awful realisation I have is that these excess deaths are just the sort you would expect if you take a mixed population, deprive them of easy access to the healthcare system for seven months and keep them stressed.

Looking at data obtained from contacts within the NHS, we do not have hospitals full of respiratory patients to any greater extent than usual for November. There are always hotspots and we know Liverpool is one such today. Again, the evidence is against this being due to COVID-19. And to repeat, we have not had excess respiratory deaths since the spring event itself. Liverpool and other cities and towns nearby have additional capacity and ‘surge capacity’, if required. The NHS as a whole is not in crisis and there is nothing to suggest it is about to be. I also checked with a colleague regarding intensive care beds. While an increasing number of their occupants have tested positive for COVID-19, intensive care beds are at exactly normal loadings for the time of year, i.e. 82%. I believe those COVID-19 diagnoses are mostly or all incorrect. We have tested well over 30,000,000 people. It wouldn’t be surprising if lots of people get a false diagnosis from a PCR test.

Antibody prevalence in the blood of those surveyed periodically is falling steadily and has been since its peak in the spring, when the virus was moving very fast through the population, infecting perhaps hundreds of thousands per day at its very peak. That antibodies are falling was last week wrongly touted as problematic and suggested immunity was fading. That’s the wrong interpretation. The human body does not maintain high levels of antibodies which are not needed. Consequently, steady falls in prevalence of antibodies is a clear signal that people are no longer encountering the virus. I believe that insofar as it is still present, it has become endemic at low levels and represents no threat to the health of the nation.

As someone experienced at reading into adjacent areas of science which I have done time without number since obtaining my PhD in respiratory pharmacology in 1988, I was always confident that the population would speedily attain ‘community immunity’. This is what I believe has happened as detailed in my article “What SAGE has got wrong”.

In my view – probably because SAGE lacked cellular and clinical immunologist expertise earlier this year and at no time during this event has it seconded a pathologist or an expert generalist such as myself – they’ve made a series of terrible errors which continue to infect policy to this very day. If such experts had been consulted, our advice would have made a huge difference, not least to the starting assumptions which are widely criticised as outlandish in the scientific community. In addition, we could have “sense checked” some of the more perplexingly unlikely predictions, such as 4,000 deaths per day.

The most fundamental error SAGE has made was to ignore all evidence of the very existence of prior immunity in the population on the spurious grounds that this was a novel virus. This virus is in fact related to four common-cold producing coronaviruses in general circulation and it has been shown unequivocally that a sizeable proportion of the peoples of at least Europe and North America possess T-cells that provide them with some protection against both endemic and novel viruses.

This virus is a serious threat to a low proportion of the elderly, especially if they are already ill. This description of the most vulnerable accounts for the vast majority of Covid deaths and the median age of those who’ve died of COVID-19 is slightly older than the median age of those who died of all other causes. However, the majority even of this elderly group survive infection. Overall, the lethality of the virus is now known to be very close to typical seasonal influenza. Notably, in relation to risks to the working population, the lethality of the virus in those aged 60 and younger is actually less than seasonal flu.

By using several sets of data I have been able to estimate the proportion of the UK population who have been infected. If you add them to the estimated proportion of the population that had prior immunity, and take account of the fact that young children do not often participate in transmission or become very ill, it is clear that there are far too few susceptible people remaining in UK to support an expanding infection as has been suggested. Instead, the evidence is strong from practical, theoretical and observational standpoints that the nation as a whole and probably most if not all regions in the UK are already protected by community immunity as described by many world leading academic epidemiologists in UK.

I heard with disbelief suggestions that surviving infection might not lead to immunity, or that immunity might only last a few months. Let me assure you, we have known for scores of years that surviving simple respiratory viruses which are neither immuno-toxic like HIV or change their appearance yearly like flu, leads as a rule, not an exception, to long-lived and robust T-cell mediated immunity. Antibodies may play a role but they are not central. That this ordinary virus has become a global media event is simply not justified by its profile.

I have been active on Twitter rather a lot in recent months. I would suggest that the people of UK are now highly suspicious of what is claimed to be happening. Many is the time people have in exasperation said: “This just doesn’t make any sense.” Indeed, what we are being told (that there is a full blown pandemic still underway) does not make sense and while I have no idea why it is being said, it is doubtless incorrect. Ordinary people know that each season’s flu takes perhaps three-to-four months to pass through the whole population. Knowing that SARS-CoV-2 is more infectious, they know that it would take the same or less time to pass through the UK population, not more. Indeed, we know it was in the UK by February. Adding a generous four months takes us to June, where all clinical signs of COVID-19 has disappeared (ignoring PCR test results, of which more in a moment). The rise and fall of Covid deaths in the UK follows exactly the same curve as that of other, highly seeded/infected countries such as Sweden. There is no doubt that we are in the same position as Sweden and it is only the monstrously error-prone and untrustworthy PCR test that suggests otherwise. What SAGE claims is happening is immunologically implausible in light of other data, specifically the shape of the death versus time curve, which shows beyond all reasonable doubt that the pandemic was self-extinguishing.

The PCR testing machinery is, at best, greatly in error and completely misleading. I have good knowledge of mass testing systems. I have always been deeply worried about polymerase chain reaction (PCR) because of its power, not only to find one molecule as small as a broken fragment of viral RNA and amplify it, sometimes by two to the power of 40, through repeated cycling, but also because it can find something that is not there – it can yield a ‘positive’ result even though the virus is not present. The greater the amplification and the higher the number of tests being done each day day – and the lower the expertise of the staff doing it – the higher the probability of error. I was the person who, with a radio journalist, finally pressed Mr Hancock to disclose the false positive rate of the Pillar 2 test, when it was still measuring far fewer tests per day than now. Having established that false positives exist, it is important to know that the rate of these can be small yet, when the prevalence of the virus is low, many or even all the positive results are false. That’s a practical debate for another time.

Yesterday, in response to a written question, the Government disclosed that while attempts had apparently been made to determine the operational false positive rate, it still doesn’t know it. As an experienced lab scientist, I know that when testing capacity is boosted substantially and the staff recruited have less and less lab experiences, there is only one outcome: errors of handling and of procedure. These in turn destroy the integrity of the testing system. The entire response of the UK depends upon the reliability of these tests. I have to tell you quite firmly: at present, it is practically, logically and legally impossible for anyone to be able to tell you what fraction of the positive tests recently obtained are real and which are not. For a range of reasons related to strong evidence that this virus cannot just hover around as it has been suggested and viruses certainly do not perform waves ever, the most secure conclusion is that these results are not to be trusted and are not reliable in any way.

So what I am saying is this. Despite warnings from all sides over months about this test it has continued to be used with increasing ferocity. It’s a medical diagnostic test. On no occasion would such a diagnostic be put into mass testing – in the NHS, for example – without knowing in advance how reliable it is. In terms of proper characterisation, it has NEVER been measured, despite the war-like impact of the test results on the nation and its people. At a minimum, the charge is reckless endangerment. Given all this information, it is literally impossible to guess whether the FPR is 1% or 10%. If even near the latter, there are no “cases” et seq. And there are other reasons to be very concerned about mass testing which I cannot go into today.

In my view, community mass testing is the pathology in the country now – not the virus. It must cease today. Without the ‘cover’ of mass testing, there is no evidence at all that the health of the nation is under any threat whatsoever. That event occurred in spring and our responses to it have been exaggerated and – what is worse – extraordinarily persistent, even when all the evidence says the pandemic has concluded.

I have a colleague who has a half a dozen sets of data all related to the pandemic. These show clear relationships between the data in the spring, all of which illustrated the impact of the virus. However, time after time, these relationships have broken down. The explanation for this is that at least one of the measurements are wrong, and the culprit is the PCR test. This has happened before. In New Hampshire in the USA there was a hospital that was convinced it had a huge outbreak of whooping cough. Physicians, patients and parents were all very worried about the expected deaths. Eventually, an older physician examined some of the patients and did not agree with the diagnosis. Asking the staff why they were so sure it was whooping cough, the answer was it had been diagnosed by the PCR test, the sole diagnostic tool. A review was ordered and this led to culture of the organism from the suspected patients. There was not a single person who actually had whopping cough. No infectious organism was found. What had happened was a now infamous case of a “PCR False Positive Pseudo-epidemic”. That is what I believe we have now in UK and in many other countries using similar technology.

MPs: If you vote for it now, you will condemn more people to suffering and some to death and the evidence does not support this extreme measure for which, even if the virus was circulating as SAGE claims, there is no evidence of benefit.

I urge you to vote against so we can all disclose our evidence that the pandemic is over and the epidemic of PCR testing can end.

Scandal: PCR Testing Sites Not Fit For Purpose

A DJ in Ibiza: The kind of “expert” employed to carry out PCR tests by the Government

We were sent the below by someone employed at a PCR testing site in Salisbury. We were planning to lead with it tomorrow, but given the importance of today’s vote in the House of Commons, and in combination with the above post by Mike Yeadon, we have decided to publish it today.

Forgive the intrusion but I was given your contact details courtesy of a mutual friend. I realise the gravity of making this information public and genuinely feel that you are best placed to air my concerns about the fundamentally flawed service provided at testing sites. To be specific, the site operating in Salisbury which has been awarded/allocated without tender or public scrutiny to the unlikely coalition of Mitie and Deloitte.

I was accepted for work instantly after applying online at 01.00 in the morning. I filled out a mere two pages of information – no reference checks, no criminal record check, no photographic ID – and started work the following Monday at 08:00. I was deployed into the car park to essentially point and wave at cars for my first two shifts. I was told that we could read books, use our phones and use tablets in our non-customer-facing time. In a 12-hour shift that time could easily be upwards of eight to nine hours. After proving myself with my enthusiastic waving and gesturing to genuinely bemused looking members of the public I was promoted after three days to the PPE team. At this point, I still hadn’t had any non automated contact with the agency which had placed me.

The PPE team as it turned out was indeed a promotion. Along with ensuring the continuous supply of plastic gloves and surgical face masks to staff on site, we were tasked with assembling the MT PCR testing kits. This entailed putting the vials, swabs and instruction leaflets in foil bags. Some bags were sealed if they were for RTS use (mobile units) and others unsealed if for use on the static site. The static site being a special site donated free of charge by Wiltshire Council as it was now redundant as a park-and-ride site. Redundant thanks to lockdown.

It became apparent to me frighteningly quickly how unstructured and chaotic the processes on the site were across the board. I completed two-and-a-half years of a mental heath nursing degree back in 2013 and I realised, thanks to my prior training, we were preparing these tests in a totally non-sterile environment. A bloody shipping container to be precise! I questioned the practice with site management only to be told that they had no formal written policies in place and so procedures were “fluffy”.

Unlike some of my other colleagues, I decided to read the storage instructions that accompanied the containers of the vials. To my horror, it emerged that the formula needed to be stored at between zero and eight degrees Celsius after a sample is taken and then transported to one of the three testing labs in Milton Keynes, all run by Lighthouse. I have photographic evidence of the temperature in one of the unsanitary shipping containers that the tests were stored in prior to collection – it was not between zero and eight. Furthermore, the instructions stated that the sample must be stored and transported upright. Yet at the Salisbury site, the completed tests were put into medex containers on their side with up to 100 samples crammed in. The aforementioned containers were then collected and transported to Milton Keynes by a combination of Royal Mail vans and privately unmarked and undocumented couriers using their own family saloon cars.

I reported my concerns to management but was told that if I had a problem I should contact the CEO of Mitie. Not unsurprisingly, I declined for fear of the retribution that would almost certainly follow. The testing facility itself never had less than 34 staff on site. That’s one thing Mitie had insisted upon and it was strictly adhered to. Not a single staff member involved at any level had any medical training. Not one! The closest to it was an ex-army nurse who no longer held her pin and was allocated to supervise the car park traffic. The Site Lead and the Deputy Site Manager were an ex-para trooper and a DJ from Ibiza. No disrespect to either DJs or para-troopers as they have been part of some of my best nights out ever. They are not, however, the people I want deciding how we store and handle possible COVID-19 samples on a testing site with “fluffy” procedures. From Dido Harding at the top to the unvetted, poorly-educated minions implimenting policy at the coal face, not one of these people is remotely qualified for the task in hand.

I was also added to a WhatsApp group for the PPE team which was rather unorthodoxly sent to our private phones. I remained part of the group for weeks after I left the site. I have a record of exactly how many tests were performed each day from the July 29th until October 14th. During this time we were told to limit the amount of tests undertaken each day to 145, despite there being ample capacity and stock. The previous daily record of tests undertaken on our site was 459. No reason was given as to why we should limit testing in this way. Without doubt the highlight of the WhatsApp stream is an email shared between G4S and Mitie about a gentlemen in a white van who appeared at the MTU 179 in Lewisham trying to collect tests with a van covered in graffiti that was full of rubbish and contained a large dog. Incredibly, he appeared to have a medex box from another site that he’d already picked up and was taking to a lab when he was turned away from Lewisham.

US Election Result

Not so fast, Big Tech

At the time of writing, it still isn’t clear who has won the US Presidential election. But one thing is very clear. If members of the liberal left want to win elections, censoring your opponents doesn’t work. In spite of the efforts of the mainstream media and Big Tech to suppress dissenting points of view, whether it’s the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration or ordinary people challenging the BLM narrative, it looks like Biden won’t win – at least, not convincingly.

The moral of the story is: if you want to win electoral victories, you need to engage with your political opponents in the public square. Set out your arguments and, if they’re good arguments, you will win the debate.

Refusing to engage and trying to cancel anyone who disagrees with you doesn’t work.

You can silence people on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but you can’t silence them at the ballot box.

That’s how democracy works.

Sue Denim Comes Out

Yesterday, Sue Denim “came out”. We can reveal that our brilliant coding analyst, who wrote the devastating critique of Neil Ferguson’s computer model for Lockdown Sceptics under the name of “Sue Denim”, is Mike Hearn, a former Google software engineer. He is named in Steve Baker’s op ed in today’s Telegraph – we put them in touch – and produced a briefing doc for Steve yesterday on the shortcomings of epidemiological computer models. Mike was one of the small group of people who maintained the Bitcoin infrastructure. You can read about him here.

This is his latest post for Lockdown Sceptics.

I’ve been reading the user guides and validation studies for some of the rapid Covid tests the Government is buying. The Government is mounting a large validation effort on a large number of test kits, with 88 in the pipeline as of the time of writing. The rigour of these tests matters and not only to avoid false positives – the Government has spent half a billion pounds on buying tests in the last two weeks alone. As a result of this validation programme the government has bought 20 million rapid antigen tests from Innova. The makers of the test told the Telegraph:

“If you’re talking about doing mass scale testing where you’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of people flooding through – that could be anywhere from theatres, airports, shopping malls, stadiums, anywhere you want to do an awful lot of people at any one time – you’ve got a rapid test that doesn’t need a machine or a lab, and is easy to do, and relatively cheap,” said Thonger.

To meet this promise the test should obviously be capable of at least two things:

Being administered by anyone.

Being used on people who display no symptoms.

Unfortunately, according to the Innova user guide, neither of these things are actually possible. The instruction books for these tests are, it must be said, well written with clear and plentiful information. In this particular guide we see the following:

“The SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test is intended for use by trained clinical laboratory personnel specifically instructed and trained in the techniques of in vitro diagnostic procedures”

That would seem like a difficult requirement to meet at mass scale. But this could be written off as the usual sort of liability reduction disclaimer. More problematic is the following:

“The performance of this test has not been evaluated for use in patients without signs and symptoms of respiratory infection and performance may differ in asymptomatic individuals.”

Rephrased, the manufacturers have no idea what the test does when used in the way it’s about to be used on a massive scale. Just in case there was any doubt about whether what’s about to happen is useful, they helpfully include this statement:

It is possible that the virus can be infectious even during the incubation period, but this has not been proven, and the WHO stated on 1 February 2020 that “transmission from asymptomatic cases is likely not a major driver of transmission at this time.”

We can see the problem in this presentation by “tried and tested tech”, the UK distributor. All samples used for validation by the manufacturer were from patients with pneumonia, and there weren’t that many which leads to fairly wide confidence bounds (FPs = zero but CI = 98.3%-100%). The Government has done larger scale tests with 1,200 samples, many of which were negative, but no information is provided about whether they came from asymptomatic individuals and the actual observed FP/FN rates also were not published. Still, it’s good to see that the Government is doing stronger validation than the manufacturers themselves and they refer to comparing tests done “in the field” rather than just under lab conditions, albeit without explaining what that really means.

What might the actual FP rates and their confidence intervals be? It’s important due to the massive scale of the planned deployment. The bounds on the FP rate allow us to calculate the size of the resulting pseudo-epidemic. Although the material on gov.uk doesn’t say, from the Times article yesterday:

One senior figure involved in the programme said the aspiration was to offer all Britons a test in time for Christmas. Sir John said he and other scientists had examined around 70 of the so-called lateral flow Covid tests… Of these he said six “look really good” with only one in a thousand false positives… One source said that the UK was hoping to emulate Slovakia, which began testing its entire population last weekend… “We could possibly be going door-to-door, or offering tests to those who want to see vulnerable elderly relatives.”

Consider a conservative estimate that 50% of Britons want to see elderly relatives at Christmas and get tested. Then using Sir John’s figure we would expect to see 66.7 million/0.5 (x 0.001) = 33,350 false positive results for each ’round’ of testing people subject themselves to. For context, yesterday about 20,000 positive results were reported. If this mass testing programme were run over the 24 days of December before Christmas then we’d see about 1,400 FPs per day added to the total case count.

This is assuming the 0.1% FP figure is credible. Unfortunately what we’ve seen with Covid testing so far is that validation studies frequently claim no false positives whatsoever, and then reports come in of rapid toggling, people swabbing nothing and still getting a positive result, etc. Lab conditions often don’t match real world conditions, especially given the biotech industry’s focus on rapid turnaround times, and FPs probably come in lab-localised “spikes” rather than being a constant background rate, making them harder to measure.

An example of this problem might be a different rapid test, the CovidNudge test by DNA Nudge. The user guide is here. Unlike the Innova test, this one is basically a portable PCR machine. Again, the tech is impressive and the user guide well written.

The validation study – which reports no false positives relative to PCR lab tests – mentions that the machine was cleaned regularly with 10% bleach followed by isopropyl alcohol. This is to damage RNA or DNA that might contaminate the work areas. We can see why when reading the WHO’s advice for molecular PCR testing. Written for malaria tests, it comes from a simpler time: advice is earnestly given for how to avoid false positives. The advice includes things like having four separate rooms with rules about not walking “backwards” through them, regularly wiping everything with bleach and waiting ten minutes, irradiating the lab with UV light and even using special air handling systems to avoid external air entering the lab (for cases where labs are detecting “very low levels of DNA or RNA in clinical samples”). This article recommends spraying bleach generously and waiting 15-30 minutes both before and after every single test, as otherwise “the technique [is] prone to producing false-positives”.

In contrast the CovidNudge user guide doesn’t mention regular cleaning anywhere. Advice to use isopropyl alcohol is given but only if fluid literally leaks all over the equipment. Bleach isn’t mentioned, let alone waiting for 15 minutes after applying it. Given the point of the test is rapid turnaround, it’s impossible to believe users will regularly clean the device when nothing is advising them to do so. So how can this sort of test designed for untrained amateurs have identical reliability to the kind of testing setup the WHO describe? Yet the health establishment is effectively claiming it does.

The final problem we may observe is that the CovidNudge study was performed by the people who make it, plus some scientists from Imperial College London (DNA Nudge being a spinout of ICL). There was no need for this obvious conflict of interest – although the validation study is well written and contains a lot of useful information, realistically any lab or university could have done such work.

Hospitals and ICUs NORMAL, Leaked NHS Data Show

Whitty, Vallance: 'No evidence to back church closures' - The Christian  Institute
Witless and Unbalanced defend their Graphs of Doom to MPs

In the midst of the clamour for a new lockdown with frantic warnings of the NHS being overrun and MPs voting later today, a bombshell dropped last night: leaked NHS documents that show hospital and ICU occupancy are normal for the time of year. The Telegraph has the details.

Hospital intensive care is no busier than normal for the majority of trusts, leaked documents show, raising more questions about whether a national lockdown is justifiable.

An update from the NHS Secondary Uses Services (SUS) seen by the Telegraph shows that capacity is tracking as normal in October with the usual numbers of beds available that would be expected at this time of year – even without extra surge capacity. 

An NHS source said: “As you can see, our current position in October is exactly where we have been over the last five years.”

The new data shows that even in the peak in April, critical care beds were never more than 80% full. 

Although there has been a reduction in surge capacity since the first wave, with the closure of the emergency Nightingale Hospitals, there is still 15% spare capacity across the country – which is fairly normal for this time of year.

The documents show there were 9,138 patients in hospital in England as of 8am on November 2nd, although had since fallen to 9,077. 

It means COVID-19 patients are accounting for around 10% of general and acute beds in hospitals. But there are still more than 13,000 beds available.

In critical care, around 18% of beds are still unoccupied, although it varies between regions. 

But even in the worst affected areas such as North West, only 92.9% of critical care beds are currently occupied.

How welcome – finally – to have this information in the public domain, and just in time for MPs to vote (not that it is likely to make much difference with Labour pledged to support the lockdown and few Tories looking like rebelling). But why did it have to be leaked? Why is this crucial data not routinely made public? Why have all requests to release it from journalists and researchers been turned down or pointed towards making an FOI request (which takes weeks)?

Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, told the Telegraph:

This is completely in line with what is normally available at this time of year. What I don’t understand is that I seem to be looking at a different dataset to what the Government is presenting. Everything is looking at normal levels, and free bed capacity is still significant, even in high dependency units and intensive care, even though we have a very small number across the board. We are starting to see a drop in people in hospitals.

Alongside this good news, Professor Tim Spector yesterday tweeted that King’s College’s ZOE Covid survey app was showing that R had fallen to 1 nationwide. “More good news as the Zoe CSS app survey continues to show a plateauing and slight fall in new cases in England, Wales and Scotland with an R of 1.0.”

This is in line with what the current daily “case” data suggests – though I’m unable to show you today because, with impeccable timing, the Government Covid dashboard went down at 4pm yesterday (let’s assume cock-up).

Many are quick to credit the current three-tier system with bringing the spread down. But is that what the data says? Hardly. Recall it was the areas under local lockdowns that saw the greatest rise in positive tests in September. Ah, you say, but then Tier 3 was imposed and that brought the rate down? Not at all. In Liverpool “cases” peaked around October 7th and have been declining since, but the city was only put into Tier 3 on October 14th. Similarly in Manchester, local restrictions were first imposed on August 15th, which didn’t prevent positive tests surging in September. But then they peaked on Sept 30th and have been largely flat since, slightly declining – yet the city was only put in Tier 3 on October 23rd. Tell me again how this shows the tier system working? What it shows me is we’re more likely seeing the autumn surge among those who were spared in spring when the epidemic was curtailed by the warmer weather.

Despite the encouraging data, Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance appeared before MPs yesterday and were emphatic that the epidemic is on a devastating trajectory which only radical intervention will forestall.

Vallance told the Science and Technology select committee: “The R remains above one everywhere, the epidemic continues to grow.” Whitty added: “You don’t need that much modelling to show you that we are on an exponential rise” – with deaths, hospitalisations and cases already rising rapidly. He conceded there is some evidence of a slowing epidemic, particularly in the North East and to some extent the North West. But – “the trouble about things doubling is you move from a few to many cases very quickly.” Vallance said there is a serious risk of hospitals being overrun “if nothing is done”.

One issue, it appears, is that the R is mainly levelling off in younger age groups. “My hope is that it is levelling off in older ages as well,” Whitty said, but added there is no data to confirm this hope and it would be “very imprudent” to act on this since it is this group who will need hospital care. Spot the insidious precautionary principle again. And why would it fall among younger people and not, sooner or later, among the older? Besides, there is no particular reason that this winter should be any less deadly for older people than earlier winters. Recall that 2020 has so far seen fewer deaths than each of the years between 1993 and 2000.

Oddly, Whitty claimed that lockdowns mean people will be more likely to be treated for other health conditions rather than less. “The way you prevent those services from being impinged on or in some cases cancelled is by keeping Covid cases down,” he told MPs.

Whitty and Vallance defended their models and the graphs they had displayed on Saturday, denying they were trying to frighten people. Whitty said: “There is a danger with these extreme forward projections that people misinterpret them as ‘this is going to happen’ and get unduly worried about something that is not intended to happen. The whole point of a reasonable worst case scenario is to say, ‘Right, we’re going to do something to stop this happening.'”

Vallance added: “We went through this a bit on the September 20th, when we said we thought we could be heading to 50,000 cases a day if we had a doubling and that deaths might reach 200. It was there to give a scenario. As it happened, the numbers turned out to be pretty close by the time we got there, so it’s very difficult to project forwards in a way that doesn’t inevitably lead to a problem of ‘Is that real?’ No, it’s not real, it’s a model… These are not forecasts, they are models that tell you how things should look.”

This is drivel, not least because it seems to define the purpose of a model as making unreal predictions of the future (which may in fact explain a lot). But if, as Whitty says, a model scenario is something about which something must be done to prevent it from happening then it is unavoidably a prediction, otherwise why must something be done? And if nothing is done and it does not come to pass then the prediction is flatly wrong.

Vallance is also being misleading to claim his 50,000 “cases” by October 13th was “pretty close”: the seven-day average on that day was 16,228, less than a third of the prediction, which no action had been taken to avert (switching to another measure of “cases” such as the ONS survey is an invalid move as it was clear at the time he was talking about the daily reported “cases”). Likewise, Saturday’s 4,000 deaths scenario which included 1,000 deaths by the start of November, but for which averting action obviously had not have been taken, was demonstrably a failure.

Tom Goodenough in the Spectator says the pair’s defence “makes sense”. I can only think we must have been listening to different people. But it shows how easily people can be convinced by fine-sounding words even when they are nonsense.

MPs pressed the scientists on publishing the models. Vallance said: “The assumptions underlying the models will be published in full,” adding that the intention is to publish all the data as soon as possible. How far in advance of the vote, though? Defending the model, he said: “It’s not at all fair to say it’s discredited. I think the right graphs to focus on in terms of forward projections are the six-week forward projections and to base it on the data today which shows where things are in hospitals at the moment which are filling up.” Indeed, just like they do every October. And as we now know, not any worse than normal.

Whitty conceded test and trace only really works for smaller outbreaks: “Even under optimal conditions, test and trace will do much better in lower conditions.” The lockdown will allow the test and trace system to work more effectively, he argued. Though even then, test and trace is just one element that needs to be in place, he says – though didn’t specify what else was required. Some sort of ongoing restrictions, presumably, somewhat undermining the Government’s latest line that mass testing will let us get back to normal.

On whether SAGE looks at economic questions, Vallance was blunt: “We don’t. That’s not the role of SAGE. We have been very clear that this sits in the Treasury. We do not look at the economic impacts and we are not mandated to do so.” Odd that this was having to be clarified to MPs in November, showing again the opacity in the way Government has operated during the pandemic. It also exposes why it is such a problem for Government to be committed to following “the science” when scientific advisers are taking a deliberately narrow view. We also need to ask why the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is not looking at public health more widely instead of only one factor.

MPs asked about the aim of the lockdown, to which Whitty gave a vague and circular answer that it is to ensure there is a “realistic possibility” that restrictions can be lifted on December 2nd and that England will move to a “different state of play”. He later added the Government’s primary strategic goal is to reduce mortality, though said this is one of many, including protecting the economy. So that’s clear then. No criteria of success were given, or any sense of how it will be assessed.

Vallance called lockdown a “blunt instrument” and admitted they “do not have good evidence on the exact value of each intervention on R”. Pressed about church closures in particular, Whitty bizarrely argued that although churches may be following social distancing guidelines, the problem is when people congregate outside after a service. Ah yes, a known hotbed of Covid super-spreading.

Whitty and Vallance both laid into the Great Barrington Declaration. Whitty said he means “no disrespect” to the experts involved (and not forgetting Vallance was an enthusiastic advocate in March) but he considers the plans to be “dangerously flawed, impractical and ethically really difficult”. The biggest weakness, he says, is the starting point that herd immunity will inevitably be acquired if you leave it long enough. This, he says, is not the case for most of the diseases he has worked on, including malaria, HIV and Ebola. Surely he knows that these are completely different kinds of disease and malaria isn’t even a virus? Herd immunity “never occurs” he says. “The idea that this is a fundamental thing is simply incorrect.” I somehow think three of the world’s leading epidemiologists know what they’re talking about better than Chris “herd immunity never occurs” Whitty.

The second problem, he says, is it is “practically not possible” to identify and shield the vulnerable population. “Theoretically that is attractive, but the idea you can do that and for year after year is simply impractical. We have looked at this, everyone says what a great idea until you look at the practicalities.” (Er, the NHS identified those most at risk in March and they were told to self-isolate.) But no one is saying you should do it “year after year”, just until the epidemic passes, say around two-three months, until there is widespread immunity.

His third reason, he says, is that very large numbers of people would die if you had any hope of achieving some sort of herd immunity, as this would require up 70 per cent of the population to contract Covid. This once again shows an ignorance or rejection of the evidence for pre-existing Tcell immunity.

Vallance added that even if you were able to totally shield those at most risk, you would still see a significant number of deaths in younger people. This seems to suggest he is unaware that the death rate in younger people is miniscule, less than 0.05%. He threw in the “long Covid” argument too, for good measure. He also said multi-generational households are common in the UK, especially in some of the communities hardest hit by Covid, making it hard for the young and old to remain separate. This seems pure defeatism, as solving this problem would surely be far cheaper and easier than everything else we’ve been doing.

Most disappointing, I think, was the lack of any challenge from MPs about putting the current situation in the context of hospital capacity and a normal autumn and winter. MPs should be demanding these figures be published routinely so the full picture can be known and scrutinised. We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks – that’s no way to run a democracy.

Herd Immunity From 1935

A reader has sent us the following excerpt from Hans Zinsser’s “Rats, Lice and History”, published in 1935.

Maybe we should send a copy to Witless and Unbalanced. Help them to swot up on the basics.

“The Government is Terrified”

Post from Toby, who has been talking to people close to Downing Street, trying to figure out why Boris is railroading the country into a second lockdown in spite of the data suggesting it’s completely unnecessary. This is what he’s been able to find out.

No one in Downing Street – or, rather, the Quad (Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock), since they’re making all the big political calls – is pretending the data hasn’t been deliberately skewed to create a rationale for Lockdown 2.0, which is why we’ve all been asking what the hell is going on – how on Earth a daily death rate of 4,000 could possibly be achieved without the entire population being simultaneously infected (in which case it would be all over in a few weeks anyway)? But the Quad is worried that in certain northern cities, e.g. Leeds, where post-lockdown disobedience has combined with urban lifestyles (blame the plebs, etc.), there is a prospect of hospitals becoming overwhelmed and that has got them rattled. (We don’t think there is, obviously.)

Note, this anxiety isn’t primarily due to Covid admissions, which aren’t expected to be higher than they were at the spring peak. Rather, this time round NHS Trusts have been ordered not to turn away non-Covid patients if they can accommodate them so some hotspot hospitals are having to cope with operating at their usual winter capacity levels alongside an influx of Covid patients. They’re not at breaking point yet, in part because the influx of Covid patients is being compensated for by a lower-than-usual number of patients being admitted for other respiratory infections. But because the reasons for that aren’t understood, the at-risk hospitals can’t count on respiratory infections not increasing, alongside rising Covid admissions, which could push them over the edge. Could the system flex to accommodate any overspill, with patients being admitted to neighbouring ICUs? Probably (this is normal), but another difficulty is that there are fewer specialist intensive care nurses than there were in March/April, partly because some of them have asked to be reassigned to other departments after the stress of the first wave and partly because hospitals are obsessively testing all their staff using the unreliable PCR kit because they’re terrified of “healthcare-associated infections” (nosocomial transmission of the virus). The upshot is there are fewer intensive care nurses and some of those that are still around have been sent home and told to self-isolate for 10 days. Another issue is that those with young children who’ve been sent home from school and told to self-isolate – because a child in their bubble has tested positive – are having to stay at home to care for their kids. And yet another issue is that some schools and NHS trusts are telling nurses to self-isolate for 14 days if one of their children has been identified as a “contact” of an infected person, even though that’s not something NHS Test and Trace are insisting upon.

So the Quad is terrified that some hospital trusts in northern areas will become overwhelmed and the BBC will start broadcasting pictures of people dying in corridors on the nightly news – which is political Kryptonite, according to the Rasputin-like figure of Dom Cummings. People will ask, “What was the point of Lockdown 1.0 if the precise thing it was designed to avoid is now happening?” Forget about protecting the NHS. It’s all about protecting the Conservative Party’s brand with an eye on the next General Election.

But the Quad is terrified that if they only clamp down on northern cities, as they’ve sort of being trying to do up to now, then the myth of a disease-laden, persecuted and under-funded North, already being wailed about by Messrs Burnham et al, will take even more root. Boris and his top team are paralysed with fear of being accused of abandoning their new friends in the North. So a national lockdown, even though it’s completely unnecessary and they all privately accept that, is a desperate propaganda exercise intended, in a rather futile and half-baked manner, to restore the national Blitz spirit of the spring, even if it means a one-man shop in Penzance and a gift shop in Guildford have to shut their doors forever. They’re also concerned that without said Blitz bollocks, the ornery northerners, whipped up by Burnham’s rhetoric, won’t comply with any new regulations.

Boris is desperate not to go down in history as the Prime Minister who cancelled Christmas, hence the promise about December 2nd, although that’s also because Rishi insisted on making any extension of the Furlough scheme time-limited because HM Treasury long ago ran out of cash and the staff of the Debt Management Office are having a collective nervous breakdown. Seriously – some of the staff in that office are off with stress. At some point, the tap has to be turned off or no one will take our paper.

In effect, they are caught in a trap of their own making. Lockdown 2.0 is another needless measure designed to minimise the political fall-out from the countless other pointless measures they’ve taken. The economy has been thrown to the wolves in order to buy yet more time for the Conservatives to save face. In reality, the Quad know there’s no better than a modest chance of a vaccine existing or working in anything like an effective enough way to make a difference any time soon. Indeed, it might never come, and the four horsemen know that, too. And everyone in the Government knows that the PCR test is hopelessly shonky and NHS Test and Trace, which was only ever a £12 billion PR exercise, is a slow motion car crash that, thanks to false positives and the staggering incompetence of the various companies Hancock has outsourced delivery to, creates as many problems as it solves. But at least it’s one of the few ways the Government can be seen to be doing something – anything – even if it’s a shitshow. According to one insider, it’s the equivalent of juggling plates in an effort to stop a rainstorm.

In short, they’re at a loss to know what to do. Lockdown 2.0 is a last roll of the dice. They’ve run out of ideas, although they never really had any to begin with.

One final point: this isn’t a case of SAGE pulling the strings, browbeating Boris and co into doing their bidding via its envoys Witless and Unbalanced. Rather, the CMO and the CSO are doing the bidding of the Quad, slavishly pumping out propaganda in order to justify Lockdown 2.0. Dom has the two dupes by the short and curlies. They love the power and the spotlight and will say anything, even if it’s transparent balls, to keep it. They’re also worried about the coming reckoning, with lawsuits, etc. heading down the pike, so they want to be able to say, “We were just following orders, your Honour.”

We Must Have Exams

David Mackie, the Head of Philosophy at d’Overbroeck’s independent school, Oxford, has written a piece for us on why there is no good alternative to restoring exams in 2021. Here’s how he concludes.

The cancellation of summer exams and their replacement by centre-assessed grades (CAGs) did students a grotesque disservice, and it would have done so with or without Williamson’s U-turn. The decision negatively affected not just the cohort of 2020 students, but those in other years, as well as universities. It was an error which must not be repeated. No plausible alternative system of moderated CAGs is likely to be possible; nor is continuous assessment a reasonable solution.

In making the case for exams to be held in 2021, and to be run according to 2019 standards, I do not wish to downplay the unfairness that has already been created by the closure of schools and by the continuing and unnecessary measures requiring healthy students to miss face-to-face schooling for prolonged periods in self-isolation.

But the cancellation of exams, and/or a deliberate downgrading of standards, is not the solution. The sole solution is to insist on proper assessment via exams, and thereby give certainty to students, schools, universities, and employers, and to protect the national and international reputation of our education system as a whole. I do not oppose certain adjustments to examinations, such as the availability of choice, which could mitigate the effects of the loss of schooling suffered disproportionately by some students. But we must have exams.

Worth reading in full.

Poor State of Mental Health

A reader who receives support from her local mental health team writes about what she learned from her support worker about what’s been going on behind the scenes.

What I’d like to bring to your attention is that many of the other staff and support workers at the mental health unit are telling patients that they are not able to visit, even though they have been allowed, and many of the patients with problems haven’t been seen since the first lockdown started. Despite Matt Hancock keep telling everyone that mental health issues will be a priority this is not being adhered to by our local teams. Some of the staff working there are just so happy to be sat around all day chatting on the phone and drinking coffee and agreeing that it’s great not to have to go out and see patients any more – wrong people in wrong jobs! One senior member of staff even refused to go into work as she was afraid she would catch the virus. Her patients have had no visits as no one else covers anyone any more for holidays, sick leave etc. Amazingly though these very people who won’t go out to visit patients will still go off on holiday, go for meals, go to the cinema, the pub etc. just not to people whose lives do depend on a visit from a health professional. This is just how life seems to be now and I really feel for anyone who needs help even to get into the system. It does not get any better at all once you are in it and I really do fear for the future. As this second lockdown approaches my care will now be stopped again and I will be left to cope on my own. 

Compulsory Vaccination?

The BMJ carries a worrying letter this week.

From Australia, I’m watching the fast-tracked development of coronavirus vaccines with mounting concern.

Under the Australian Biosecurity Act 2015, refusers of coronavirus vaccination in Australia could be at risk of five years imprisonment and/or a $66,600 fine.

This emergency power has been active since March 2020, and has been extended to December 2020 [4], with the potential for unlimited extensions. 

It’s possible this emergency power could be extended until a coronavirus vaccine is available, and that people in Australia could be under duress to have coronavirus vaccination, i.e. at risk of imprisonment and/or a huge fine, for a virus which is not a threat to most people under 70.

A number of Lockdown Sceptics readers have also flagged up a paper entitled “Compulsory vaccination for COVID-19 and human rights law” by a group of academics from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics that argues: “As and when a vaccine becomes available at scale, the Government should give serious consideration to compulsory immunisation as a means of reducing the impacts of COVID-19.”

Disturbing stuff.

Churches Fight Back

With the Westminster Government proposing to close churches for the lockdown in England, Christian Concern have turned their legal guns, previously pointed at the Welsh Government, on the UK Government. From the press release.

The new restrictions, announced on 31 October and set to come into force from Thursday 5 November, state that “places of worship will be closed” with exceptions for funerals, broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, essential voluntary public services, formal childcare, and some other exempted activities.

These restrictions will once again make it a criminal offence for Christians to gather for worship or prayer, or to go to church on Sunday.

The group of church leaders includes 25 leaders who initiated legal action against the government against the closure of churches in the first lockdown.

Following the application for judicial review, which received favourable comments from the High Court Judge, Mr Justice Swift, the government backed down and allowed churches to meet, providing guidance with virtually no legal restrictions.

In a separate judicial review of lockdown restrictions, the judge, Mr Justice Lewis, singled out the closure of churches as arguably unlawful and a breach of freedom of religion.

Separately the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops have spearheaded a letter from the leaders of many of the UK’s faith communities to the Government calling on them not to suspend public worship again. They write:

We strongly disagree with the decision to suspend public worship during this time. We have had reaffirmed, through the bitter experience of the last six months, the critical role that faith plays in moments of tremendous crisis, and we believe public worship is essential. We set out below why we believe it is essential, and we ask you to allow public worship, when fully compliant with the existing covid-19 secure guidance, to continue.

Good to see a bit of backbone emerging among faith leaders who usually like to toe the line.

True Believer?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has sent us the response they received from their MP, Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative member for Stratford-on-Avon. Depressing to see the pro-lockdown propaganda regurgitated without a hint it isn’t fully believed.

Unfortunately, we are now seeing rapidly increasing rates of Covid transmission across the country. This is already being reflected in hospital admissions and sadly deaths. On our current trajectory, the NHS will be overwhelmed in the run up to Christmas, inhibiting its ability not only to treat Covid patients but all patients. I do not believe that any responsible Government could ignore this evidence and effectively gamble with people’s lives, forcing hospital staff to choose who should be treated and who should be turned away. Therefore, with a very heavy heart, and despite never having wanted to see anything similar to this year’s earlier lockdown repeated, I do support these new measures and the imposition of a second national lockdown.

I am under no illusions whatsoever about the consequences this will entail. I know the economic costs will be huge and that businesses will suffer, again. I am truly sorry for this. But I do believe that more people will die, more jobs will be lost, and more economic damage will be done if we delay acting now. I welcome the immediate announcement from the Chancellor that the furlough scheme will be extended to protect jobs and businesses during this period, and I anticipate that further measures from the Treasury will be announced in due course.

These new restrictions will last until December 2nd, after which the intention is to return to the tiered system of restrictions introduced over recent weeks. Parliament will be fully engaged at all stages and will be voting on all new restrictions.

Once again, I am extremely sorry that these restrictions are now being imposed and also for the hardship they will cause. However, as I have said, I do believe the costs of inaction to be far greater than those of action.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Here we go again” by Ray Charles and Norah Jones and “Person To Person” by Elmore James.

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.

“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. 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 hit job 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 well over 600,000 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.

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.

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…

Toby and his friend James Delingpole have recorded a new episode of London Calling. Main topic is the US Presidential election and the bets they’ve put on the result – looks like they might be in the money. But they also discuss Lockdown 2.0 and the insane clown posse that’s running the country. James and Toby know them all because they were at Oxford together. James is thinking of writing a book called: My Generation: The Worst in History.

MPs to Get Vote on Vaccine Passports

The Government risks being defeated in the Commons over Covid vaccine passports, which MPs will be given a vote on before being introduced. So far, 73 MPs have signed a pledge to oppose domestic vaccine passports. The Telegraph has the story.

MPs will be given a vote on plans for vaccine passports before they are introduced, risking a Government defeat in the Commons, the Telegraph has learnt.

Michael Gove, who is leading an official review of the scheme, has privately promised MPs who are critical of vaccine checks that they will be given a chance to vote them down.

More than 70 MPs, including 41 Conservatives, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister opposing the use of vaccine passports. If more than around 60 Tory MPs rebel and all opposition parties refuse to support the passports, Mr Johnson could be defeated in the Commons, and the scheme abandoned.

Mr Gove held a phone call with a group of MPs about the measures last week, after dozens went public with their concerns.

One MP told this newspaper: “Michael made a very clear statement on the call with MPs that there would be debates and votes before anything like this came into force.”

The Government is currently conducting a review into a passport scheme and has not yet finalised any plans.

Earlier today, Michael Gove asked readers of his article in the Telegraph to “keep sharing their views on the way ahead” regarding Covid vaccine passports. Many of the responses were very amusing, and can be read here.

For the Government to be defeated in a Commons vote on Covid certification, Tory rebels would have to team up with Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

A source on Sunday night indicated that the shadow cabinet has not yet decided whether Labour MPs would be whipped to vote against the motion, but Sir Keir Starmer has previously said he would regard a passport scheme as “un-British”.

Clive Lewis, a Labour backbencher who opposes the passport plans, said many Labour MPs would join the rebels when the vote takes place.

“I imagine there is a calculation [in Labour HQ] that this is something for which there isn’t support across the party,” he said.

“It would also be an opportunity, if there is a large number of Tory rebels, to inflict a possible defeat on the Government which, especially with an 80 seat majority, is a rare opportunity.”

A vote in the Commons could see an unlikely alliance between libertarian Tory MPs and the Socialist Campaign Group, a caucus of MPs on the Left of the Labour Party. Both have been critical of any vaccine checks in the UK, other than for international travel.

Worth reading in full.

Sir Graham Brady, one of the leading anti-vaccine passport Tory MPs, has said that “we should be vigilant in defence of liberty, where the state has reached too far into our lives, we should kick it out”.

The idea of vaccination passports will seem to some like a short cut to freedom but on closer examination it makes no sense at all. According to the baby steps in the Government “roadmap” indoor hospitality resumes on May 17th but not all adults will have been offered vaccinations until July. Second doses will take much longer. To introduce ‘Covid Status Certificates’ when not every adult has been offered would be impractical, so pubs, restaurants and cinemas will have been operating safely for weeks – perhaps months – before the scheme could be put in place.

Meanwhile the high take up of vaccines among vulnerable groups has all but removed the risk of serious illness from Covid. The evidence is that the current vaccines are also effective against the variants that have been identified overseas. Against this backdrop, we should ask ourselves exactly which problem this scheme is intended to solve. If your answer is that we should introduce an intrusive, costly and unnecessary certification scheme just in case a future variant comes along that is impervious to our vaccine, then surely there would be no point whatsoever in having a phone app to tell the world that we’ve had the out of date vaccination?

He goes on to brand the banning of those without vaccine passports from events, such as concerts and football matches, as “divisive and discriminatory”.

Also worth reading in full.

Latest News

The Betrayal of Britain

Image
Bob’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph, contrasting with his optimistic Brexit cartoon of February 1st

Inevitable it may have become, but no less dreadful for that. Yesterday afternoon 516 elected representatives of the English people voted to put England back into lockdown, following the other home nations into this dreary stasis. The aim? To suppress temporarily and with no obvious strategic purpose a disease which over 99.7% of people survive. The excuses of March relied on by many at the time – that not enough was known about the virus to permit any alternative – were no longer available. Seven months down the track and ignorance is no longer a defence. We know far more about this virus – its virulence, who is vulnerable to it, how to treat it, how it responds (or doesn’t) to restrictions, and what it does in places where restrictions are eschewed – to make properly informed decisions. Yet MPs were instead presented with already falsified, out-of-date models predicting imminent catastrophe. The working and assumptions for these dubious creations were only published just before the vote.

Just 39 MPs voted against the lockdown. 34 were Tory rebels voting against the Government. Here is the Roll of Honour:

Adam Afriyie, Steve Baker (teller), Peter Bone, Sir Graham Brady, Steve Brine, Sir Christopher Chope, Philip Davies, Jonathan Djanogly, Jackie Doyle-Price, Richard Drax, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Marcus Fysh, Chris Green, James Grundy, Mark Harper, Gordon Henderson, Philip Hollobone (teller), David Jones, Tim Loughton, Craig Mackinlay, Stephen McPartland, Esther McVey, Huw Merriman, Anne Marie Morris, Sir Mike Penning, John Redwood, Andrew Rosindell, Henry Smith, Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir Robert Syms, Derek Thomas, Sir Charles Walker, Craig Whittaker, William Wragg.

There were also four DUP MPs: Paul Girvan, Carla Lockhart, Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson. And one independent: Julian Lewis. To any of our readers who wrote to these MPs, take a bow. There were also a number of abstentions, most notably Theresa May (though some were because they were Scottish MPs or paired).

The 90 minute debate saw MPs lay mercilessly into the Government’s handling of the epidemic. These MPs at least did not let us down.

One of the surprise heroes of the debate was Theresa May, who has become quite the hardened sceptic (though oddly she then abstained in the vote). As she stood up Boris actually walked out of the Commons (watch here), to audible surprise from MPs. May just shrugged and carried on. 

She said the prediction of 4,000 deaths a day “was wrong before it was even used”. We need proper analyses, she said. “We need to know the details behind these models. We need to be able to assess the validity of those models.”

She raised concerns about a lack of data on the costs of lockdown, including on mental health, domestic abuse, non-Covid treatments, “possibly more suicides” and to the economy: “Jobs lost, livelihoods shattered, businesses failing, whole sectors damaged. What sort of airline industry are we going to have coming out of this? What sort of hospitality sector? What sort of small independent shops will be left?” After watching her performance, you couldn’t help but wonder if we would have been better off during this crisis if she’d been in charge.

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, asked why Matt Hancock had “failed in this task” of sorting out test and trace before now. He said: “Instead of building that capacity and sorting out test and trace properly, he has been spending far too much of his time seemingly relishing the power of seeking to micromanage every aspect of everyone’s lives.” 

It is “perfectly clear” lockdowns do not work, he added, but they do damage the economy and people’s mental health. If they worked, “we would have solved it months ago”. And yet the Government “still persists with this failed strategy”. But the public “no longer has any faith” in what they are doing. He asked how many job losses it would take before Mr Hancock accepted it was the wrong strategy.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee and MP for Altringham and Sale West, said he “fully accepts” the sincerity of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock. But he will vote against the lockdown “with greater conviction than I have in casting any vote in those 23 years” he has served as an MP. He says the impact assessment should be published for the sake of MPs and the public and it should be available for ministers to base their decisions on. 

The Government is “reaching too far into the private and family lives” of the country, he said, observing “an arrogance – unintended perhaps” in assuming the Government has the right to tell people whether they can visit elderly parents, or their children or grandchildren. He told MPs that he “can’t be the only one” who has had constituents in “floods of tears” because of the restrictions. Does the Government have the right “for heaven’s sake”, he wondered, “to tell consenting adults with whom they are allowed to sleep”, to ban communal worship, golf or tennis. 

He said Johnson’s argument, that despite the lack of evidence for each restriction the whole lot must be accepted as a package to avoid it unravelling, was not good enough. “We cannot vote for measures on that flimsy basis, which patently make no sense,” he said. “I have a fundamental problem with much of what we are being asked to do here.”

Sir Charles Walker, 1922 Committee Vice Chairman, told MPs that “freedoms are like the air we breathe” and are fundamental to the country, yet “once again we stand on the threshold of using the rule of law to undermine the rule of law”. He pointedly reminded members they are not asking people to do something “we have coerced them, we have coerced them through criminal and civil law.” The freedom to go about one’s business – and the freedom to protest – are “the oxygen of democracy”, he said. 

Dismissing “sincerely held concerns as wanting to let the virus rip is deeply ungenerous and deeply, deeply unkind,” he added. Sir Charles said he wants people to live full, long, happy lives, but while our mortality is “our contract with our maker”, our freedom is a contract with Government. He said he would not support the “terribly unjust” lockdown, adding: “I will have no part of criminalising parents for seeing their children, and children for seeing their parents.”

Poignantly, former chief whip and Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper told the Commons he will vote against the Government for “only the second time in my 15 years in this House”.

“You will know, madam Deputy Speaker, from our shared endeavours in the usual channels that it is not easy for a former Chief Whip not to support their party,” he said. He stressed that in his part of the country infections are “flat or falling” and no concerns have been raised by local hospitals. He said the modelling that has been presented is “old data and we already know and [Theresa May] set this out very clearly that the most extreme of those is wrong… and wrong by a factor of four or five”. 

“I simply don’t believe the Government has made the case,” he added, also flagging concerns about the burden enforcing the restrictions will place on the police. 

Tory MP Huw Merriman (see his tweets here) asked the Prime Minister what evidence he has that more lives would be saved through lockdown than the restrictions will cause themselves. 

Boris acknowledged this was “the crux of the debate” but argued MPs must “look at the immediate peril we face”. He stressed “the real risk of mortality on what I think would be a grievous scale which would stem from doing nothing”. 

He says doctors and nurses would be forced to make “impossible choices about which patients would live and which would die” – a favourite argument of his, and clearly one which impacts him deeply, perhaps betraying his own fear of making difficult decisions. In reality, triage and prioritising patients for ICU admission is a routine part of managing the demands on the health service. Heads of ICUs make choices about which patients should live and die every day. Besides, he is surely aware that figures show hospitals are nowhere close to being overwhelmed, and that we are a long way from the kind of demand (and deaths) that were seen in England 1993-2000.

Yet he repeated the bizarre claim Chris Whitty made on Monday that the “existential threat” to the NHS comes from “not focusing enough” on coronavirus, which would deprive other patients of the care they need. There are mountains of evidence that it was the lockdown that decimated healthcare in this country, not the virus.

Labour leader Keir Starmer complained MPs should have had more time to scrutinise legislation and “iron out” inconsistencies, and criticised the regulations as “not in any way desirable or perfect”. Nonetheless, Labour would support them, he said, because the Government had “lost control”, betraying the sharp political edge to his manoeuvring. 

“To anybody who disputes the trajectory of the virus, or what the cost of inaction would be, I would point out that when SAGE warned 44 days ago… there were 11 deaths from COVID-19,” he said, noting that on Monday 397 deaths were reported. “That is not graphs, not projections, that is the grim facts,” he said. “That direction of travel has been clear for some time.” But how many more deaths than normal does that figure represent? He didn’t say. Neither did he comment on the evidence that infections are plateauing rather than growing exponentially as R continues to fall.

Scandal: PCR Testing Sites Not Fit For Purpose

A DJ in Ibiza: The kind of “expert” employed to carry out PCR tests by the Government

We were sent the below by someone employed at a PCR testing site in Salisbury. We are republishing it today for those who missed it in yesterday’s mid-afternoon update. Find it also on the right-hand menu here.

Forgive the intrusion but I was given your contact details courtesy of a mutual friend. I realise the gravity of making this information public and genuinely feel that you are best placed to air my concerns about the fundamentally flawed service provided at testing sites. To be specific, the site operating in Salisbury which has been awarded/allocated without tender or public scrutiny to the unlikely coalition of Mitie and Deloitte.

I was accepted for work instantly after applying online at 01:00 in the morning. I filled out a mere two pages of information – no reference checks, no criminal record check, no photographic ID – and started work the following Monday at 08:00. I was deployed into the car park to essentially point and wave at cars for my first two shifts. I was told that we could read books, use our phones and use tablets in our non-customer-facing time. In a 12-hour shift that time could easily be upwards of eight to nine hours. After proving myself with my enthusiastic waving and gesturing to genuinely bemused looking members of the public I was promoted after three days to the PPE team. At this point, I still hadn’t had any non automated contact with the agency which had placed me.

The PPE team as it turned out was indeed a promotion. Along with ensuring the continuous supply of plastic gloves and surgical face masks to staff on site, we were tasked with assembling the MT PCR testing kits. This entailed putting the vials, swabs and instruction leaflets in foil bags. Some bags were sealed if they were for RTS use (mobile units) and others unsealed if for use on the static site. The static site being a special site donated free of charge by Wiltshire Council as it was now redundant as a park-and-ride site. Redundant thanks to lockdown.

It became apparent to me frighteningly quickly how unstructured and chaotic the processes on the site were across the board. I completed two-and-a-half years of a mental health nursing degree back in 2013 and I realised, thanks to my prior training, we were preparing these tests in a totally non-sterile environment. A bloody shipping container to be precise! I questioned the practice with site management only to be told that they had no formal written policies in place and so procedures were “fluffy”.

Unlike some of my other colleagues, I decided to read the storage instructions that accompanied the containers of the vials. To my horror, it emerged that the formula needed to be stored at between zero and eight degrees Celsius after a sample is taken and then transported to one of the three testing labs in Milton Keynes, all run by Lighthouse. I have photographic evidence of the temperature in one of the unsanitary shipping containers that the tests were stored in prior to collection – it was not between zero and eight. Furthermore, the instructions stated that the sample must be stored and transported upright. Yet at the Salisbury site, the completed tests were put into medex containers on their side with up to 100 samples crammed in. The aforementioned containers were then collected and transported to Milton Keynes by a combination of Royal Mail vans and privately unmarked and undocumented couriers using their own family saloon cars.

I reported my concerns to management but was told that if I had a problem I should contact the CEO of Mitie. Not unsurprisingly, I declined for fear of the retribution that would almost certainly follow. The testing facility itself never had less than 34 staff on site. That’s one thing Mitie had insisted upon and it was strictly adhered to. Not a single staff member involved at any level had any medical training. Not one! The closest to it was an ex-army nurse who no longer held her pin and was allocated to supervise the car park traffic. The Site Lead and the Deputy Site Manager were an ex-paratrooper and a DJ from Ibiza. No disrespect to either DJs or paratroopers as they have been part of some of my best nights out ever. They are not, however, the people I want deciding how we store and handle possible COVID-19 samples on a testing site with “fluffy” procedures. From Dido Harding at the top to the unvetted, poorly-educated minions implementing policy at the coal face, not one of these people is remotely qualified for the task in hand.

I was also added to a WhatsApp group for the PPE team which was rather unorthodoxly sent to our private phones. I remained part of the group for weeks after I left the site. I have a record of exactly how many tests were performed each day from the July 29th until October 14th. During this time we were told to limit the amount of tests undertaken each day to 145, despite there being ample capacity and stock. The previous daily record of tests undertaken on our site was 459. No reason was given as to why we should limit testing in this way. Without doubt the highlight of the WhatsApp stream is an email shared between G4S and Mitie about a gentlemen in a white van who appeared at the MTU 179 in Lewisham trying to collect tests with a van covered in graffiti that was full of rubbish and contained a large dog. Incredibly, he appeared to have a medex box from another site that he’d already picked up and was taking to a lab when he was turned away from Lewisham.

At Last – a Good Response From an MP

Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bedfordshire, sent this response to a constituent, which we think is pretty good.

Thank you for your recent email regarding today’s vote in Parliament whether to provide the legal basis for a second national lockdown. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

There will be limited time for debate today and I am unlikely to be selected to speak. I have therefore laid out my thinking on my website, here, but as this is quite a long, I would like to summarise the key points here.

On balance, I have decided that I cannot support the motion to impose a nationwide lockdown. I will abstain rather than vote against because my alternative approach does not currently have the requisite support from medical advisors. What is material, and which I hope the government will recognise, are my reasons for not supporting these measures and the actions I now wish the government to take.

My main arguments are that the measures represent an overreach of government powers in a free society; that alternatives, such as the recently adopted tiered approach, provide a more targeted response which should be given more time; and that the information provided does not demonstrate persuasively that the potential benefits outweigh the costs in lives and livelihoods.

We are a free country within the law. We are not an authoritarian system: freedoms have been fought for and matter: the freedom to associate, the freedom to worship, and the freedom to trade. Parliament should defend these freedoms not acquiesce in their limitation until all other options have been pursued.  Sadly, these measures suggest the government has become too casual in its exercise of powers to restrain our freedoms. It is unacceptable that people should not be able to see their relatives in care homes; that communal worship should be prohibited; and that businesses which have spent considerable sums to make their premises Covid secure should be forced to close in areas where the virus is not prevalent.

I have given Ministers some suggestions for what they should focus on now. Firstly, to operationalise the rapid testing strategy being clear with the public of the constraints and timeline. 

Secondly to put Covid in context with other illnesses and diseases by galvanising the NHS to make progress on clearing the backlog of treatments and presenting statistics that broaden understanding rather than reinforce this unique focus. Thirdly, to restore the traditional disciplines on the scope of government action and by making available the full assessment of policy consequences before judgements must be made.

Alexander Hamilton Nails It

To retract an error even in the beginning is no easy task. Perseverance confirms us in it and rivets the difficulty; but in a public station, to have been in an error, and to have persisted in it, when it is detected, ruins both reputation and fortune. To this we may add that disappointment and opposition inflame the minds of men and attach them still more to their mistakes.

Alexander Hamilton, 1774

“I Will Never Vote for the Labour Party Again”

A Lockdown Sceptics reader and life-long Labour voter has sent us the letter she sent to her MP Rebecca Long-Bailey informing her she will not be voting for them again.

Dear Rebecca,

I write today to let you and Sir Keir Starmer know that I will never vote for the Labour Party again.

I am 62 years of age and have voted Labour all of my life. I grew up in a Yorkshire mining town, my family were miners and I saw their struggles. At school I was in remedial class but I overcame this problem and by my mid-30s I had obtained a 1st Class science degree, an MPhil, a teaching qualification, a diploma in psychotherapy and a postgraduate qualification in public health. I spent most of my working life employed by the NHS. I have specialised in mental health and HIV prevention.

With this background I believe you can see I am talking from substantial experience and qualifications. It is from this position that I wish to convey my utter disappointment and disgust in the position the Labour Party has taken over the pandemic. I have personal circumstances in that my frail elderly father with vascular dementia has been unable to have the support of his family since mid-March. I have returned to Salford today from my weekly trip to Yorkshire, where I pick up my father’s 83 year old sister and drive to the care home to sit outside locked double glazed doors to try to support my father who sits inside in his wheelchair. I see other families, wives and husbands in their late 80s, separated and, as all of us in this position, maybe never to see our family member in person again. It is heart breaking.

I am so angry as the Labour Party could have advocated for the 400,000 lonely and isolated care home residents and their desperate families. The Labour Party could have supported the call, begun in the summer, for families to be treated as key workers and for care homes to have more support and to have their insurance underwritten by the Government. It did not.

On the eve of the second nation lockdown of my country I do not have words to express my anger in the Labour Party. You could have taken the route of challenging the authoritarian imposition of restrictions, you could have challenged the fear, you could have promoted trust and unity. Instead I have seen the Labour Party drive fear, promote greater authoritarianism and neglect the poor in our communities. It is only the fortunate who can benefit from lockdown and work from home. So many other people are needed to support the community – shop workers, food preparation, supply and delivery, police, fire service, care workers, health service workers, warehouse pickers, packers and deliverers, refuse workers, construction workers, waste water workers, power supply workers, this list is endless. Whilst the rich are indoors sheltering the poor service their needs.

It is my opinion that the Labour Party has failed the country generally and poor communities in particular.

I would like you to show Keir Starmer my email as I am certain my views are representative of many former Labour Party voters.

Test and Trace Stasi

A reader sent us a disturbing story heard from a neighbour.

Her sister who lives in Skipton tested positive a few days ago – she only took the test because she’d lost her sense of smell. She had no other symptoms to speak of. She self-isolated immediately.

This was followed by “in excess” of 20 text messages demanding that she download the NHS App. She did not do so since she doesn’t want to be followed round by it and she’s self-isolating anyway. She was then telephoned by the Test and Trace system and the caller threatened her with a “police check at your address if you do not download the app.” Utterly furious, she ended the phone call and is waiting to see what happens next.

Needless to say, there is no such legal basis for the threat: the app is entirely voluntary. One wonders what the motivation for the threat is is the Test and Trace system based on some sort of “results” score sheet? Are they even paid by the download? God knows.

It just shows you how it doesn’t have to be the government introducing a Stasi system of rule some members of the Great British Public are only too happy to do it for them off their own bats. That’s actually more frightening.

“Captivity in Somalia Was Easier Than Lockdown”

Eleven years ago Paul Chandler and his wife Rachel were abducted by Somali pirates and held hostage for over a year. Here Paul reflects on the ways in which lockdown is worse.

Almost 10 years ago, on November 14th 2010, Rachel and I regained our freedom after 388 days at gunpoint. Now, in Evesham, “quarantine” (after returning from Portugal) is morphing into “lockdown” – euphemisms for house arrest. Approaching that 10 year anniversary, and with ample time to fret, I can’t help but think about the similarities and contrasts.

The events, although at first glance dramatically different, have followed a remarkably similar trajectory. In September 2009 we were in a particular place at the wrong time; early in 2020 a novel virus appeared in an unsuspecting world. In the Indian Ocean a dramatic and terrifying violent attack was followed by a gradual de-escalation of the physical threat and settling down to a safe, if boring, existence. The virus made a terrifying attack in Europe and elsewhere, followed by a gradual accumulation of empirical data which show that it is “just another virus” with which we must co-exist. Initially in Somalia there seemed to be no end to our sentence. But we realised that there would be – there was only a negotiation to be completed first.  In the UK, on the other hand…

Comparison of the physical conditions is facile, and not terribly interesting. But the psychology, the mind games, that’s another matter.

In Somalia I managed eventually to quell the feeling of guilt (how could I, the male in the relationship, have put my partner into such a situation?). Despite the media’s preoccupation with “what food did you miss?” the overwhelming loss was of course freedom. Buoyed by a (partial) adherence to Stoicism I determined not to worry about things I could not control. I accepted that our freedom had been stolen by a gang of youngsters, most of whom bore us no malice and were in a sense good honest criminals. What a contrast with today – our freedom, and that of the whole population, has been stolen by our own Government. A totally dishonest campaign (since May, at least) by the “fatuous four”, whose eyes, ears and minds are open only to the advice from the “dishonest duo” (you know who I mean), fraudulently giving wilfully exaggerated forecasts (sorry, projections; no, scenarios) based on the anti-scientific, irrational group-think emanating from the half-witted huddle named after a herb.

Once I realised that our captors meant us no harm, and that the process of negotiation was outwith my control, my mind turned to the obvious risks – accident and health problems. In either case the absence of available medical care could be fatal, and this was an ever present fear. In reality our captors, aware that our value to them was in direct proportion to our health, ensured that we were supplied with all the medicines we needed – if care in a failed state was difficult, at least medicines would be no problem. We were given a (fairly) healthy diet, plenty of fresh air and sun – vitamin D to the rescue! 2020 in Evesham: there is, to all intents and purposes, no routine health service. People are encouraged to stay indoors – directly contrary to biological requirements. And the situation here is a result of direct action by the government. I am much more concerned about deteriorating health or injury here than I was in Somalia. 

Control of information is a tool of oppressors. In Somalia our captors provided a radio and encouraged us to listen to the World Service (only 10 years ago the BBC was still held in great esteem in many parts of the world.) In the UK in 2020 the media is coerced (that which isn’t a government propaganda outlet) into suppression of information that does not match the narrative. There are, thank goodness, a few honourable exceptions. At this point Orwell’s 1984 jumps into my mind – not only rewriting the facts to match the narrative, but NEWSPEAK: adjusting language to remove the ability to question. UK Government 2020 – redefining words such as “case” and “exponential” so as to make reasoned consideration meaningless.

A few months into our captivity the gang discovered the leverage they could exert by separating us. Once they kept us apart for three months. This was a huge blow, raising our mental stress and generating violent behaviour in the gang. Why did they stop? Did they realise that this was beyond the pale for “good, honest criminals”? Now, in the UK in 2020, it brings tears to my eyes to think of the countless elderly or mentally ill people being kept apart from their partners or other family for months on end – indeed often being kept in isolation until death. Is this cruel and unusual punishment? Breach of human rights? Unthinking, uncaring diktat? This is a direct consequence of government action – I despair.

One thought leads to another – dehumanisation. Society depends on social interaction. Ten years ago I mastered a little of the Somali language, the better to interact with our captors. I had in mind explaining some of the cultural differences between us, with a view to persuading them to see the error of their ways. Almost without exception they encouraged this engagement, up to a point of course – they didn’t get as far as teaching me to fire an AK47. They wanted us to be as happy as possible in the circumstances. Contrast with here and now. By Government diktat discourse is discouraged, made almost impossible for many.

I am trying to say why I am so depressed, an order of magnitude more than when we were in captivity. And the most distressing thing is that it is all down to government action.

Finally, Orwell again. 1984, although set in the future, is not a fantasy, full of scientific imaginings. It is a warning. Fast becoming a forecast (sorry, projection). There is no happy ending. The essence that I take from it is that dystopia is not a temporary state. There is still, in a few people, a dimming memory of better times. There is no future. Mere existence is not life. We must heed the warning.

Now my blood is boiling, but that’s healthier than despondency. My conclusion is that there is only a superficial similarity between Somalia 2010 and Evesham 2020. The contrasts in terms of mental health – low mood, depression, etc. – are huge, and in favour of Somalia. Then it was the bad guys in charge, acting as well as they could, subject to their declared criminal aim. Now it is another group of bad guys, but they think they are the good guys. I despair.

Lockdown Loophole Permitting Public Worship?

A reader thinks he’s spotted an unintended loophole in the regulations that means communal worship can go ahead – as long as it’s being broadcast.

The rules are in STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS 2020 No. 1200 PUBLIC HEALTH, ENGLAND: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

“5.(1) No person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.” … including “6. (2) (e) to attend a place of worship;”

So you can still leave your home to go to a church. This might be for private prayer – this is allowed: churches can be used “18 (8) (f) for individual prayer, and for these purposes, ‘individual prayer’ means prayer by individuals which does not form part of communal worship”.

They have closed the churches: “18. (7) A person who is responsible for a place of worship must ensure that the place of worship is closed, except for uses permitted in paragraph (8)”, but with exceptions …

“(8) A place of worship may be used … (c) to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast”.

So the person responsible does not have to close the church if it is used to broadcast an act of worship. (I assume this was the Government intention.) But the Government thinks – and the churches believe – that congregational worship is banned – this is in the Archbishops’ letter (written before the SI was published).

But in fact the congregants can still attend the act of worship by virtue of 6. (2) (e) (and I assume this was most certainly not the Government intention).

How is this? 18. (8) (c) allows churches to conduct a worship service if it is broadcast from the church. Crucially, it does not forbid a congregation to attend it. The Government could have written more restricted regulations. For example:

6. (2) (e) to attend a place of worship for the purposes of individual prayer;

18, (8) (c) to broadcast an act of worship other than an act of communal worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast” ;

or maybe

18, (8) (c) to broadcast an act of worship involving only persons present as part of their work or providing voluntary services in connection with the act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast”.

But they did not. Therefore, as long as somebody in a church can Facebook Live or YouTube live stream, communal worship can carry on.

The crucial point seems to be that the regulations fail to specify that they ban communal worship (only saying the church must be closed, save for the exceptions) and also fail to specify that the exception for broadcasting an act of worship does not permit communal worship. Meanwhile, attending a place of worship remains a reasonable excuse to leave the house. Would any lawyer readers like to confirm for us if this reading is correct? Ideally before Sunday?

What MPs Should Have Asked Whitty And Vallance

Whitty, Vallance: 'No evidence to back church closures' - The Christian  Institute

Francis Hoar, a barrister on Simon Dolan’s legal team and a Lockdown Sceptics reader, sent some questions via Twitter to the Science and Technology Select Committee but they were ignored by MPs. A great shame as they are exactly the questions the two advisers need to answer.

  1. The results for the PCR tests, which is the basis for all the ‘case’, hospitalisation and death numbers, are found after 45 cycles. Why do you continue to use 45 cycles when they create so many false positive results?
  2. It is right, isn’t it, that that data on hospital ‘admissions’ of patients with COVID-19 includes anyone who has had a positive PCR test up to 14 days before admission, on admission or after admission. Moreover, is it not right that any person testing positive within different seven day periods would be counted within each of those?
  3. In relation to deaths, is it not right that these include all deaths within 28 days of a positive PCR test, regardless of the cause of death?
  4. PHE publish the Emergency Department Synromic Surveillance System: England every week. This includes data on attendances for respiratory infections, which include COVID-19. Does the latest, published on 28th October, not show that the daily number of attendances in A&E for all respiratory infections and for all acute respiratory infections (both of which include COVID-19) are below average for the time of year and rising at no more than average levels?
  5. In the most recent ‘Weekly national Influenza and COVID-19 surveillance report’, published on October 29th 2020, it was found that triage for respiratory infections (including COVID-19) was at average levels?
  6. Professor Chris Whitty has said that the quantification of excess deaths is internationally recognised as the “key metric” in assessing countries’ performance in handling infectious diseases. In the Surveillance Report, it stated that: “No significant excess all-cause mortality was observed in week 42 overall or by age group, however subnationally excess was noted in the North West.”
  7. However, there have been substantial fewer excess deaths from acute respiratory infections but considerable excess deaths for ischaemic heart diseases and cerebrovascular diseases.
  8. Thus, this data suggests that there are: (1) Fewer 111 and GP assessments for respiratory infections than is typical for the time of year; (2) Fewer patients treated for acute respiratory infections than the seasonal norm; and (3) Fewer deaths from acute respiratory infections (including COVID-19) than is normal for this time of year. If that is so, how can you say that there is a respiratory health crisis?
  9. The NHS has provided data for the last quarter of 2019, which shows that a mean of 89.6% of beds and 91.5% of “general and acute” beds were occupied between October and December 2019 within the North West of England. What is the occupancy now?
  10. What is the total occupancy for hospitals in other regions both this year and 2018 and 2019 for ICU units and generally? Without this, how can we compare this year against other years in which there were bad flu epidemics – including especially 2018?

Stop Press: Parliament’s website shows that five questions from MPs about the false positive rate have gone unanswered by ministers. The only answer so far, posted on Monday: “The Department of Health and Social Care has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Cosy Prisons” by A-ha.

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, a reader has sent us the ludicrous menu of genders that confronts a person when attempting to register for “Crunchbase.com”, a platform for tech companies to market their latest fundraising rounds:

  • Female
  • Male
  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Female to Male (FTM)
  • Male to Female (MTF)
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Non-Binary
  • Neutrois
  • Pangender
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transfeminine
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Two-Spirit
  • Other
  • Prefer not to identify

Completely insane.

“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. 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 hit job 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 well over 600,000 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.

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.

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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swfyslAaz2o

This YouTube mash-up by Computing Forever in which Klaus Schwab, the architect of the Great Reset, is intercut with famous movie villains is pretty funny. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but… (Still think that phrase would look great on a T-shirt.)

Latest News

Lockdown Rebellion Returns

Bob’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph reports that the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs is now as many as 100 strong and enjoying increasing clout with Number 10. The return to tiers was, he claims, a concession to the rebels, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy with the result.

It all sounds a bit ungrateful, given that it’s not even a year since Boris Johnson personally won an 80-strong majority for his otherwise-doomed party. But many Tories feel that a national collapse is underway, because the Government cannot think its way out of lockdown. Last week, the Chief Whip finally persuaded the Prime Minister of the seriousness of the situation: there are now about 100 MPs in the “Covid group” of rebels. They wanted a local lockdown system, judged on clear criteria and answerable to parliamentary scrutiny.

What they got yesterday was intended to quell the mutiny. No more Vallance and Whitty horror shows, with blood-curdling slides drawn from data which falls apart on further scrutiny. No more “illustrations” or “scenarios” showing 50,000 cases a day or 4,000 daily deaths. In its place, new criteria for judging local lockdowns: virus infection levels, especially among the elderly. The rate of virus growth (or decline). Pressure on the NHS.

In theory, it’s just what lockdown sceptics asked for: a transparent, evidence-based way of judging the new system. But the way the map has been drawn has led even pro-lockdown MPs into revolt as many find their constituency under tougher restrictions than before lockdown. They ask why their constituency has been lumped with others – and how they can justify voting it through. “This is like one of these old colonial maps where they draw a marker pen through territory they don’t recognise,” says one MP.

The new system is riddled with maddening inconsistencies.

Kent is regarded as one homogeneous lump and been placed into Tier 3, having had no special restrictions before lockdown. All of Buckinghamshire has ended up in Tier 2, in spite of places like the Chilterns being almost as Covid-light as Cornwall and the Isle of Wight. York, too, is back in Tier 2 – in spite of having less Covid than before lockdown. In the Commons yesterday, MPs queued up to ask: where is the logic?

It’s looking like MPs will get a cost-benefit analysis, but not the one they’ve been pressing for.

No 10 has made one final offering: to publish assessments of what local lockdowns do to the economy, society and wider public health. This is intended to persuade MPs that the Prime Minister will now look at things in the round and judge local lockdowns by more than simply the virus levels. This would do much to assuage those who argue that officials should talk about risk to cancer treatment, or the chances of furloughed small businesses making it to Easter. But those who have seen the ideas for the report predict that it will be underwhelming, and unlikely to win over any wavering MPs.

In a press release put out by the Covid Recovery Group, Harriett Baldwin MP, a former minister, said:

I voted for the current lockdown on the basis that it would give us a 28-day period to develop a new and enduring strategy for living with the virus that doesn’t require us to keep having to live under cycles of damaging lockdowns and severe restrictions, and to reform NHS Test & Trace so that only the infectious individuals and their close contacts have to isolate. 

Over 23 million of us were living under Tier 1 restrictions before the lockdown that figure will be under 1 million in December.  There is no logic whatsoever in having a month of lockdown only for people to have to live under an even more severe set of restrictions afterwards.

That’s why we must see the evidence, the data and the cost benefit analysis published in full and on time so that we can assess whether or not the current strategy is working, and make sure we know if we are being asked to vote for something with an end date and which will explicitly save more lives than it costs.

While Labour continues to support the Government’s Covid strategy no Tory rebellion can realistically succeed. However, relying on opposition MPs to bail you out is never a good look for a Prime Minister and often means his (or her) days are numbered. And what if Keir Starmer sniffs an opportunity and switches to opposing the measures? The new tier system, in which the majority of English citizens have been placed in a higher tier than they were before the four-week lockdown, looks to be a massive own-goal by Boris and is bound to poll badly. Starmer may conclude that opposing the measures – and calling for a continuing national lockdown instead – is a way to ingratiate himself with Labour’s traditional voters in the Midlands and the North who’ve been placed in Tier 3, particularly those that deserted the party for the Conservatives last December.

If Starmer does decide to abandon Boris the CRG will find itself in a strong position in the run-up to next week’s vote. Some realistic demands would be:

  • More granular differentiation between tiers, so, for instance, the whole of Kent doesn’t have to be plunged into Tier 3 because there are over 500 cases per 100,000 people in Swale, even though there are only 120/100,000 in Ashford. (See MailOnline for the fury this has unleashed.)
  • Meaningful reviews of the tiered restrictions every fortnight, followed by a Parliamentary vote, instead of asking MPs to approve the current arrangements until March of next year and place their faith in Matt Hancock to decide which areas to move in and out of different tiers.
  • A proper cost-benefit analysis of the impact of the tiered restrictions so MPs can make an informed choice about whether to support them every two weeks.
  • The replacement of Sir Patrick Vallance as Chief Scientific Officer with Prof Sunetra Gupta and Chris Whitty as Chief Medical Officer with Prof Carl Heneghan. Okay, maybe that would be too great a humiliation for the PM, but at the very least Gupta and Heneghan should be invited to join SAGE, alongside Dr Mike Yeadon, Dr Clare Craig, Prof Karol Sikora, Dr John Lee, Prof Ellen Townsend, Prof Allyson Pollock and Prof David Livermore.

If the stars align, we might just be looking at a turning point.

Stop Press: According to today’s Times, Boris faces a growing rebellion on his back benches and won’t be able to count on enough support to get his proposed measures through without Starmer’s help.

Tell Your MP How PCR Testing is Fooling the World

Today, Lockdown Sceptics is publishing a brilliant new briefing document for MPs that explains very clearly (with oodles of illuminating graphs) how the fatally flawed PCR test, which was never designed to be used on an industrial scale, has given the false appearance of a deadly autumn epidemic when in fact the underlying signals, such as GP respiratory consultations, hospital admissions and overall deaths, are normal.

It is authored by Dr Mike Yeadon, Dr Clare Craig, Jonathan Engler and Christian McNeill, and comes with all their expertise and experience as they set out in clear terms the issues and the evidence.

From the introduction:

Across Europe, including in the UK, we see the following:

1. Daily ‘cases’ sky-rocketed in Europe as Autumn arrived.

2. Daily deaths labelled as ‘Covid deaths’ rose in line with ‘cases’ – to levels apparently higher than at the Spring peak.

3. BUT: Total all-cause mortality does not reflect the above.

What is behind this conundrum?

The central thesis of this paper is that we have a major problem with PCR-testing.

This is distorting policy and creating the illusion that we are in a serious pandemic when in fact we are not.

This is causing:

Excess deaths due to restricted access to the NHS.

An NHS staffing crisis which is exacerbating matters.

Unprecedented assaults on civil liberties and the economy.

What we need to do about this:

Stop mass-testing using PCR in the UK and replace with Lateral Flow Tests where required.

Other recommendations as detailed later in this document.

We’ve given it a permanent home on the right-hand side. Find it here.

There is also a PDF version which you can download and this is the best one to use for attaching to an email and sending to your MP. Or you can use a website like Write To Them and include a link to the PDF.

Definitely worth reading in full.

Oxford Vaccine To Undergo Extra Trial

In what appears to be an admission of serious problems that need addressing, AstraZeneca has announced that it will run another trial for the Oxford vaccine. The Telegraph has more.

The drug company behind one of the UK’s leading coronavirus vaccines is set to run an extra trial amid growing questions about the jab’s performance.

On Monday, scientists from Oxford University and AstraZeneca revealed that their vaccine had achieved an overall efficacy rate of 70%  in Phase Three trials. However, this rose to 90% in a sub-group, a finding researchers said was “intriguing“.

It was then revealed that this had stemmed from an error when some of those in the study were given just half a dose for the first jab when a full dose had been intended. Those given the intended dose saw efficacy rates of just 62%.

The company has said it will run extra trials to satisfy regulators after US health officials revealed that nobody in the group with 90% efficacy rates was above the age of 55.

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Barry Norris is not impressed by the spin coming out of AstraZeneca as they manage the PR of their disappointing (and botched) trial results.

There’s been no proper scientific release of the data; it’s all just been leaked out selectively and they breached trial protocol over the doses and switching to give the placebo group saline rather than meningitis vaccine, which was the original plan. I also suspect and this is also true of the mRNA trials that the antibody response fades from the data presented as we develop antibodies against the vaccine.

Things will start to get very interesting when and if the Astra vaccine is rolled out. People will realise that the vaccine hurts and comes with side effects which in most people will be worse than getting COVID. When people who have taken the vaccine still get COVID (as the response fades) there will be complaints and what if it heightens the risk for otherwise healthy adults through inhibiting the natural response? If it wasn’t for COVID the trial would already have been called a failure.

Astra now saying they will do more trials. Normally this is an admission that the first trial failed and isn’t enough to get the vaccine approved. Coincidentally, this was announced at 4.30pm on Thursday, just after the UK market shuts and with US markets shut for Thanksgiving and not even a proper press release, again.

They are claiming that this will not affect UK authorisation but I think it will. If they haven’t done enough for the American FDA of which this is a tacit admission then are we saying in the UK we have lower safety standards?

Stop Press: A poll has found that almost half of doctors would not take a rushed Covid vaccine. A poll of readers of Medscape UK found that of 308 UK doctors, 4 in 10 would not get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is approved by the MHRA. Medscape has the details.

Online polling took place 18th-23rd November after the positive Pfizer/BioNTech results but with most responses received before the positive news about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Of those who wouldn’t have the jab at this stage:

– 56% cited safety concerns
– 27% would rather wait
– 7% mentioned personal health reasons
– 14% had other reasons

Overall, 59% said vaccination for healthcare staff should not be compulsory. Among those who wouldn’t have the jab at this stage, nine out of 10 were against compulsory staff vaccination.

Are We Over-Counting Excess Deaths?

How many more have died in England and Wales in 2020 than in a normal year? To calculate the number of “excess” deaths, most of us follow the ONS in comparing this year’s figure with the average of the previous five years. But is this a fair representation of how many deaths are above what would be expected? Not when the population is ageing, explains Ross Clark in the Spectator.

Not only is the population of England and Wales growing; it is also ageing. The population of over-70s, for example, has grown over the past decade by an average of 2% a year. Therefore, year on year, we should expect deaths to rise – simply comparing this year’s mortality rate with the five-year average does not give us a like for like picture. A more enlightening view is provided by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which publishes a weekly ‘mortality monitor’ in which it compares this year’s mortality rate with last year’s, adjusting for the change in population profile over the past 12 months. 

Its analysis shows that deaths in week 46 were 1,442 — or 13% — higher than they would have been had 2020 had the same mortality rate as last year. Compare it with the standardised mortality rate for the years 2015 to 2019, on the other hand, and excess deaths for week 46 of 2020 fall to 1,388.

By this way of counting 2020 was only running at 6% above average mortality by mid-November (see graph above). Many of those extra deaths are the result of lockdown, not the virus, of course.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: An article in the Johns Hopkins Newsletter published on November 22nd summarised the findings of Genevieve Briand, Assistant Program Director of the Applied Economics Master’s Degree Program at Hopkins. She analysed all-cause mortality in the US in 2020, comparing the data to deaths in previous years, and found, to her surprise, that 2020 was less exceptional than it seemed at first blush.

After retrieving data on the CDC website, Briand compiled a graph representing percentages of total deaths per age category from early February to early September, which includes the period from before COVID-19 was detected in the U.S. to after infection rates soared.

Surprisingly, the deaths of older people stayed the same before and after COVID-19. Since COVID-19 mainly affects the elderly, experts expected an increase in the percentage of deaths in older age groups. However, this increase is not seen from the CDC data. In fact, the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same.

“The reason we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S. older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals,” Briand said.

Briand also noted that 50,000 to 70,000 deaths are seen both before and after COVID-19, indicating that this number of deaths was normal long before COVID-19 emerged. Therefore, according to Briand, not only has COVID-19 had no effect on the percentage of deaths of older people, but it has also not increased the total number of deaths.

These data analyses suggest that in contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.

But how is this possible? After all, hasn’t COVID-19 killed over 250,000 Americans this year?

When Briand looked at the 2020 data during that seasonal period, COVID-19-related deaths exceeded deaths from heart diseases. This was highly unusual since heart disease has always prevailed as the leading cause of deaths. However, when taking a closer look at the death numbers, she noted something strange. As Briand compared the number of deaths per cause during that period in 2020 to 2018, she noticed that instead of the expected drastic increase across all causes, there was a significant decrease in deaths due to heart disease. Even more surprising this sudden decline in deaths is observed for all other causes.

This trend is completely contrary to the pattern observed in all previous years. Interestingly, as depicted in the table below, the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19. This suggests, according to Briand, that the COVID-19 death toll is misleading. Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.

Needless to say, the article no longer appears on the website of the Johns Hopkins Newsletter – far too heretical. But you can read an archived version here. We’ve made a copy in case the enforcers of Covid orthodoxy remove that too. If it’s gone by the time you read this, email us and we’ll send it to you.

Update: AIER have published an analysis of the article here.

Hospitals That Kill

After yesterday’s story about Covid spreading around hospitals, a reader writes to tell us how this happened to people he knew.

How your story yesterday about hospitals not protecting people from Covid rang true. Two days ago our neighbour died at home after coming out of hospital from 15 months’ unsuccessful treatment for leukaemia. Half that time was spent recovering from the stroke caused by the first bout of chemo. The second bout of treatment ended recently when he gave up on it all and was discharged to come home to die. Guess what? He’d also just caught Covid in hospital, having spent months and months in virtual isolation to protect him, after an infected person was brought into the ward so naturally he’ll go down as a Covid statistic. He was 60.

Last week a close friend’s father-in-law died too. He was in his 90s and had acute renal failure. He was whipped into hospital where he tested negative for Covid twice. By the third test he’d caught Covid too after another infected person was brought in and successfully infected everyone in the ward. Of course, he’s gone down as a Covid statistic too.

Now, both these men had terminal conditions and would have died anyway, probably at the time they did. But nothing can alter the fact that we have been suffocated by precautions to protect people like them from Covid only for the health service we are supposed to be protecting actually to allow them and the people in adjacent beds to catch the wretched disease. In this incredible bizarro world we are being exhorted to save the NHS from being crushed by a disease it’s actively spreading.

Covid spreading in hospitals both increases the true Covid death toll and inflates the number of those who die “with Covid”. We need to get much better at separating those with highly infectious disease in the healthcare system.

Dear Deirdre…

A reader has decided to write to Deirdre, the Sun‘s agony aunt, about a relationship that’s gone south.

Dear Deirdre,

I’m starting to suspect that there might be a problem with my relationship. Please tell me I’m not going crazy.

At the start of this year I started going out with a new man, Boris. He was charming and seemed very clever – he’d been to Oxford and could read Latin. He’d “been around the block” a bit, if you know what I mean, and he was a bit overweight. But he was good fun and very decisive. He liked to “get things done”, which was a big appeal.

Anyway, in March he started to change. He went down the pub one evening with his friend, Neil, who’s a bit of a weirdo to be honest, and Neil told him all about this “Chinese bat flu” that was going to wipe out the human race. Neil showed him all this stuff on his phone that he’d got off Wikipedia and he did some calculations on the back of a beer mat showing that the population of the UK would basically be wiped out in six month’s time unless we completely changed our way of life.

When Boris told me about Neil’s predictions I thought he was having a laugh. Sadly not. The next morning he went to the corner shop and bought all the loo roll and Pot Noodles then he insisted that we stay at home completely, no going to work or socialising, and only going out to buy absolute essentials.

He’s a clever guy, so although I had my doubts I assumed he knew what he was talking about, and creepy Neil was good at maths and had once been on Countdown. Anyway, Boris said it only needed to be for three weeks – to “flatten the sombrero” or something (don’t ask me!) so I thought I’d play along, maybe it was a mid-life crisis or something.

Anyway, three weeks came and went, and still Boris wouldn’t let me go out and see anyone or go back to work. I didn’t complain though. It’s hard to explain – he’d spooked me so much I kind of stopped thinking critically about what he was saying. And it wasn’t too bad at first. I was a bit worried about the financial impact of not working, but Boris said he had lots of money in the bank. And it was quite nice to have a bit of time off. We watched Tiger King on Netflix and I bought a lot of stuff off Amazon to take my mind off things.

After several months things got ever so slightly more normal. Boris said that we could go out again and go to the shops and talk to people, but we still had to “stay safe” at all times and stay two metres apart from other people. I could even go back to work for a bit. I kind of played along with it, thinking he was about to lose enthusiasm for the whole bat flu situation. Then, in the middle of summer, out of nowhere he suddenly announced that we had to wear masks whenever we went to the shops! This was when things started to get really weird. He even wanted to wear a mask when we made love, but I drew the line there.

Then he got angry with me one day and said I hadn’t been taking the rules seriously enough. I should say at this point that Neil and these other creepy blokes from the quiz team down the pub, Chris and Pat, were obsessed with this thing called the “R number”. This had something to do with how much bat flu there was going around. Every day they would call Boris up and tell him that the “R number” wasn’t coming down enough and there was too much bat flu, and Boris would go white and say how sorry he was. Then he would take it out on me and give me these long lectures. One day Chris and Pat sent him this really scary chart, showing how we were all going to die again unless we acted straight away. I remember Boris asking if this was a prediction, and for some reason this made them furious, and they kept screaming over and over “it’s a projection!”, which really confused him.

Boris sat me down and said the “R number” was still too high, and it was all my fault for not following “the rules”. I must have been forgetting about the two metres, or not wearing the mask, or not singing Happy Birthday while I washed my hands or something. He said that he had no choice but to introduce a “Three Tier” system. Tier 1 meant things were bad, Tier 2 meant that they were very bad, and Tier 3 meant that they were catastrophic. We were only allowed to do certain things depending on what Tier we were in. This was the only way we could “save Christmas”. I asked if there could ever be anything lower than Tier 1 and he just shook his head and said that was obviously impossible. He called up Chris and Pat and they said that we could start off in Tier 2. This meant I had to wear a mask even when I was driving in my car and no-one else was around.

We went on like this for a while, until one day Chris and Pat called Boris and gave him a stern talking to. Another “projection” – the R number was going to get high again! Boris then started shouting at me, and accused me of having taken my mask off in Lidl. It was back to “lockdown”. This meant no meeting anyone at all, no going to work, nothing. This went on for a month. I started getting very anxious and worried about everything. Plus I had a really nasty shock one day when I happened to see Boris’s credit card statement. He was tens of thousands of pounds in debt! I started crying and shaking and having some very dark thoughts.

I think Boris realised how upset I was and he sat me down and said he knew that it was tough but it was all for my own good. He didn’t like locking me up like this but I had given him no choice. Then his tone changed and he said that there was some good news – the “lockdown” would end in December! I was overjoyed, until he revealed that the “lockdown” would be replaced by the return of the “Tiers”. Only this time it was even more serious. I could forget about Tier 1. It was just Tier 2 or 3 from now on. To be honest, I couldn’t even understand what the difference between these Tiers was. It was something to do with eating a “substantial meal” and “the rule of 6” – total gibberish, really. Boris did say that we could have five days off “the rules” at Christmas so that I could see my mum, but we would have to sit two metres apart with the windows open and not use the same serving spoons.

I asked him if the more serious “Tier system” meant that the bat flu had got worse. And here’s the weird thing – he said that there was actually less bat flu than before. This made no sense, and I tried to get him to explain, but he started muttering “hands face space” over and over again and talking about the toot of the distant bugle. I used to find that stuff quite charming but to be honest it’s got really annoying and I’m not convinced that he’s in his right mind.

I just don’t know when all of this is going to end. It’s unbearable – the bizarre rules that change every second of the day, the uncertainty, the endless control over my every action, the lack of freedom, the fear and anxiety. I think the mask is starting to make me ill. I just can’t see any hope for the future.

And here’s the thing. I’ve got a friend who works in a hospital. She says that the bat flu was actually real, and it was quite nasty, but it wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. They coped with it without much difficulty and it seems to be going away now. They are having a pretty normal winter in her hospital – certainly no busier than usual. So why the Tiers and the masks and the rwo metres and the massive credit card bill? It doesn’t make any sense to me any more.

I’m at the end of my tether. What should I do?

Yous sincerely,

Anonymous

He hasn’t yet received a reply, but he imagines it might go something like this.

Dear Anonymous,

You asked me what you should do. I’ll tell you. Pack your bags and leave this man, right now. This is not normal behaviour.

The constant control, the limiting of your freedoms, the psychological manipulation, the false hope, the small rewards for good behaviour, the forced financial dependency – these are all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship.

Perhaps he can’t help himself. He seems to be a deeply deluded man. He probably wants this to end as much as you do.

This is not your fault. But it needs to stop – now.

Round-Up

https://twitter.com/mlevitt_np2013/status/1332082955037134849?s=11

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “I wasn’t born to follow” by The Byrds, “Living in hope” by The Rutles and “I Think I’m Gonna Kill Myself” by Elton John.

Stop Press: “Safetyland“, the latest tune from lockdown sceptic rockers MediaBear, is out now.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, McDonald’s has been accused of the weird woke crime of “cultural appropriation” because it introduced a sandwich based on a Jamaican recipe. The Mail has the story.

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been accused of “cultural appropriation at its finest” over one of its new Christmas menu items.

The chain announced a new Jerk Chicken Sandwich for its festive menu, which also features a double Big Mac and a Celebrations McFlurry. But it is the Jerk Chicken Sandwich which has caused the biggest stir – and not all for the right reasons. While some have taken to social media to praise the burger, others have hit out at McDonald’s accusing them of “cultural appropriation”.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. It is particularly controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.

Jerk chicken originates from Jamaica and is believed by historians to come from indigenous Taino people and Maroons – descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the Caribbean islands.

One person tweeted: “The more I think about it the more I’m bothered by the McDonald’s ‘jerk chicken’ attempt. It shows me one of two things: 1) They don’t care to respect the culture or 2) They have zero diversity on their team.”

Another said: “Jerk Chicken Sandwich, yet there is not one McDonald’s in Jamaica.”

One person tweeted: “Who approved McDonald’s Jerk Chicken Sandwich?”

Another added: “Disrespect to the fullest. McDonald’s slapped a dead sauce on top of a crispy chicken and called it Jerk Chicken Sandwich, unreal.”

By this twisted logic there should surely be a ban on the sale of all Jamaican jerk products to non-Jamaicans, and on all non-Jamaicans enjoying them.

Stop Press: FSU Legal Advisory Council member Andrew Tettenborn has written in CapX on the Universities UK Critical Race Theory capitulation that we flagged up in yesterday’s Woke G.

“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.

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 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 700,000 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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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.

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

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 his Spectator column this week, Toby lets on about the unusual sleeping arrangements that writing Lockdown Sceptics – and having the house rewired – have created in his home.

I’ve moved out of my home. No, Caroline and I haven’t broken up. It’s just that we’re having the house rewired, which means we have to be out of our bedroom by 8am Ordinarily, that wouldn’t matter but about eight months ago I started a blog about lockdown and I’m usually up until 4am working on it. We have almost 7,000 subscribers to our daily newsletter and I want it to be waiting for them when they wake up. And superhuman though I am, I can’t survive on four hours’ sleep a night.

I haven’t gone very far. I’ve stuck a blow-up mattress in the garden shed that doubles as my office. But, weirdly, the children seem to think this is a prelude to divorce. Given how many of their friends’ parents have separated — the divorce rate in England and Wales is 42% — they’ve become experts in the telltale signs, and apparently Mum and Dad sleeping in different bedrooms is one of them. My efforts to reassure them have been in vain. Earlier this week, I explained to 13-year-old Freddie that it was only a temporary measure, but he just stared at me anxiously. “Don’t you and Mum love each other any more?” he asked.

And it’s not just the kids.

Even my mother-in-law has become a bit suspicious. She came to lunch last Saturday – she’s in our support bubble – and because she’s an expert on everything to do with home improvement I asked her if she thought it would be possible to add an extension to my shed and get a lavatory plumbed in. The idea would be to create a separate bedroom with an en suite bathroom. “That way, we could Airbnb it,” I said, rather unconvincingly. She arched her eyebrows and adopted an ironic tone: “I thought it was supposed to be a man cave, not a self-contained flat?”

Needless to say, Caroline has no objections to my sleeping in the shed – she says she sleeps better because I don’t disturb her when I come to bed in the middle of the night – but is slightly irritated that after supper, when the children are refusing to do their homework or are fighting with each other, I just slip out of the back door clutching a bottle of wine and a bowl of nuts. In the past, Caroline has complained that I’m more like a fifth child than a parent, but at least I would occasionally play the role of a more experienced older sibling – helping the others with their ties, walking them to the bus stop, telling them what to do if they got into a fight: “Hit first, hit hard and hit often.” But now I’ve been transformed into a kind of lodger. I smile at the children across the kitchen table, flirt with their mother a little and then retire to my room for the evening.

So now we know the secret of how Lockdown Sceptics gets published at 4am each morning.

Worth reading in full – very funny.

Latest News

Laurence Fox Launches Political Party to Fight the Culture War

The Sunday Telegraph has quite the scoop this morning: Laurence Fox is launching a new political party.

The actor Laurence Fox is launching a political party to fight the culture wars after raising over £1 million, including substantial sums from former Tory donors, the Telegraph can disclose.

Fox hopes to stand dozens of candidates for his new party at the next General Election to provide a political movement for people who are “tired of being told that we represent the very thing we have, in history, stood together against”.

His aims include reforming publicly-funded institutions, likely to include the BBC, and celebrating Britain’s history and global contribution.

The new party (provisionally called “Reclaim”) could launch as soon as next month. The party’s name is subject to approval by the Electoral Commission. Papers are due to be submitted to the electoral regulator in the middle of this week.

In a statement to the Telegraph, Fox said: “Over many years it has become clear that our politicians have lost touch with the people they represent and govern.

“Moreover, our public institutions now work to an agenda beyond their main purpose. Our modern United Kingdom was borne out of the respectful inclusion of so many individual voices.

“It is steeped in the innate values of families and communities, diverse in the truest sense but united in the want and need to call this island home.

“The people of the United Kingdom are tired of being told that we represent the very thing we have, in history, stood together against.

“We are all privileged to be the custodians of our shared heritage. We can reclaim a respectful nation where all are included and none are ashamed to have somewhere to call home.

“I have been so encouraged by the support I have received by those wishing to add their voices to this reclamation of our values.

“Our country is now in desperate need of a new political movement which promises to make our future a shared endeavour, not a divisive one. This is now my endeavour.”

I’m a big fan of Laurence’s and take my hat off to him. This is an exciting development. But I note he hasn’t said anything critical about the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. So not an anti-lockdown party, but an anti-woke, pro-British party.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Conservative Government Suddenly Grows a Pair

Charles Moore and Paul Dacre

Coincidence? On the day the Sunday Telegraph breaks the story of Fox’s new party – described by one Westminster source as the UKIP of the culture wars – Downing Street has announced two significant appointments: ex-Telegraph editor Charles Moore is in the frame to become the Chairman of the BBC and ex-Mail editor Paul Dacre is being lined up to become the next Chairman of Ofcom. The Sunday Times has the story.

Boris Johnson is ushering in a revolution at the top of British broadcasting by offering two of the top jobs in television to outspoken critics of the BBC.

Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail, is the prime minister’s choice to become chairman of Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, replacing Lord Burns, who is due to leave before the end of the year.

Lord Moore, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, who has condemned the criminalisation of those who refuse to pay the licence fee, has been asked by the prime minister to take up the post of BBC chairman.

The potential appointments of two right-wing Brexiteers will send shockwaves through the broadcasting establishment.

Charles Moore will make a great Chairman of the BBC, but the more significant of the two appointments, to my mind, is Paul Dacre’s. Under its current Chairman Lord Burns, Ofcom has had little regard for freedom of expression – a case in point being its “coronavirus guidance” which means lockdown sceptics are rarely featured on the BBC and which the Free Speech Union is hoping to challenge in the High Court. (Please donate to our Ofcom case fundraiser here). But Dacre has long been a staunch champion of press freedom, as he made clear in this speech to the Society of Editors in 2018. If Ofcom’s regulatory remit is to be extended to include the Internet, as seems likely, it’s essential that the new Chairman understands the importance of free speech.

Stop Press: Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, has warned museums and galleries to stop removing statues and other artefacts or risk losing government subsidies, and the Department for Education has issued guidance to teachers saying they should teach children that woke “cancel culture” and “no-platforming” is an attack on free speech and has no place in British society. Is the Conservative Party finally going into battle in the culture war?

The Rising Tide of Lockdown Scepticism

A reader’s photograph of the demo in Trafalgar Square yesterday before the police figured out it wasn’t a BLM or XR protest and got out the truncheons

Hugo Gye has written a good piece in the i about the rising tide of lockdown scepticism.

When the Government starting locking down the UK in March, ministers were surprised by just how easy it all was. Polls showed 90 to 95 per cent of the public supported the strict curbs on everyday life, with little outcry from MPs or the courts, and – unlike in America – no street protests against the measures.

That appears to be changing. There is still broad support for tough action to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is much less universal than it was: a survey for i by Redfield & Wilton Strategies this week found 57% believe the Government was right to introduce new measures such as a pubs curfew while 17% were against.

A growing number of Conservative MPs, led by Sir Graham Brady, are speaking out at the way Parliament has been sidelined throughout the crisis. And legal figures have criticised ministers for sneaking out changes to the law in the dead of night, sometimes just minutes before they come into force, meaning that neither Parliament, nor the police, nor citizens can scrutinise the incoming regulations or correct potential errors and loopholes.

Gye distinguishes between four different groups of sceptics.

Legal Eagles

One group expressing concern about how the Government imposes ever-changing rules comes from the legal community. Retired Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption has been a persistent critic and this week he was joined by former colleague Baroness Hale, who wrote: “My plea is that we get back to a properly functioning constitution as soon as we possibly can.”

One complaint many lawyers have is that, while changes to the rules are often announced publicly several days in advance through speeches and press conferences, the legislation putting them into effect via statutory instruments is not made available until hours or in some case minutes before it becomes law.

Judges would be able to impose life sentences with no prospect of release on 18-year-olds in exceptionally serious cases under Government plans. Ministers will publish proposals to change the law that prevented the accomplice in the Manchester Arena bombing from getting a whole life order.
There are worries about the legal status of lockdown rules. Human rights barrister of Adam Wagner, of Doughty Street Chambers, told i he supports the principle of the lockdown rules but added: “Now for six months the Government has imposed new laws using an emergency procedure. There is not really any longer a good reason why those regulations can’t be put before Parliament and debated. It is just not justifiable and it is not a good way to make laws.”

He said it was understandable for ministers to use emergency measures in the early stage of the crisis, when they were forced to act at extreme pace, but argued that the failure to implement a more regular procedure had created “a permanent sense of essay crisis” at the top of the Government.

Backbench Battlers

After staying supportive of the Government during the height of the lockdown, increasing numbers of Conservative MPs are demanding a change in direction. Many believe the strategy has been tilted too far towards Covid-19 suppression at the expense of economic concerns and long-term health issues – ex-Cabinet minister Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury select committee, told Boris Johnson: “We should listen very carefully to the epidemiologists, but we must also listen very carefully to the Treasury, to businesses and to economists.”

More than 40 Tory backbenchers have subscribed to a cross-party amendment which could come to a vote on Wednesday, demanding that all changes to the rules are approved in advance by Parliament unless there is a genuine emergency. It is unclear whether Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will accept the amendment, but the rebels hope the Government will nonetheless cave in advance and agree to their demands.

Outright Opponents

One of the first public figures to speak out against the idea of using lockdown to control Covid-19 was journalist Toby Young, who set up a Lockdown Sceptics website in mid-April. “At the very beginning, there were not very many people who were opposed to the lockdown,” he told i. “I think most people gave the Government the benefit of the doubt.”

Now, he claims, he has much more support – although not the “critical mass” needed to push the Government into a U-turn. He said: “Gradually people are waking up to the fact that the NHS has been failing to provide critical care, because of a diktat from on high… People can see with their own eyes the impact of the lockdown on the high street.”

Businessman Simon Dolan is masterminding a legal challenge to the coronavirus rules which will be heard in the Court of Appeal next month, after losing in the High Court. He insists he understood why the Government initially locked the country down but added: “What I think was catastrophic was to carry on with it when it was evident that the peak had gone, that the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed.”

Both men, although Brexiteers who consider themselves on the right of politics, are adamant that opposing the lockdown is not a right-wing position. Mr Dolan said: “I’ve found myself agreeing with people that I usually disagree with vehemently on almost everything else.” Mr Young added: “The people who are suffering the most as a result of the restrictions the Government has imposed are the most disadvantaged.”

A Government spokesperson said: “During this unprecedented global pandemic we’ve kept all measures under constant review. It’s essential we’re able to take urgent action when necessary to stop the virus spreading, protect the NHS and care sector from a second wave and save lives.

“Both houses have had opportunities to debate and scrutinise all lockdown regulations, and members will continue to have opportunities to scrutinise future regulations.”

Hardcore Conspiracists

The most visible opponents of lockdowns are possibly the least representative: the conspiracy theorists who believe Covid-19 is a total hoax, or caused by 5G networks, or no worse than the common cold.

Leaders of this group include Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers and David Icke, the showman who accuses the royal family of being lizards. The two men are the headline speakers at a two-day rally in central London this weekend which aims to attract at least 35,000 protesters.

More mainstream sceptics tend to be sceptical of these outliers. Simon Dolan said: “I don’t believe particularly in the demonstrations, I think they’re far too easy to hijack and I don’t actually think they make any difference.”

But Toby Young suggested that they helped the cause by highlighting just how strict some of the regulations are: Mr Corbyn was fined £10,000 over a previous protest which broke the official guidelines.

The period of the lockdown seems to have encouraged some conspiracy theories to thrive, such as the 5G claims and the “QAnon” movement which sees the world being under the control of a paedophile cult. Experts have suggested that the dislocation caused by the pandemic may have encouraged some people to seek solace in unlikely places.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The police decided to break up a peaceful anti-lockdown demonstration in Trafalgar Square yesterday, injuring several people in the process, including a middle-aged woman. As Douglas Murray says in this week’s Spectator, all protests are not equal in the eyes of the police.

A reader who attended the protest describes what happened.

Despite the good general mood, at the end things got a little ugly. People were peacefully dispersing and suddenly a group of police with helmets moved in and started blocking stairways out of the square. We ended up scrambling over a wall to get out after a copper pushed me on the stairs and yelled “move!” It was ridiculous, completely unwarranted behaviour – everyone was already leaving anyway. On the way home we saw some MSM reports about the police having to pen people in to disperse the crowd (not sure how that quite works) and there being injuries. I can honestly say that if they hadn’t turned up, people would have just left. There is stuff on the BBC about the demo having to be broken up, but that is nonsense. It just ended at 3pm. Very sad that a group broadly supportive of the job the police do, and one that showed respect for them by observing a minute’s silence for the police officer killed on Friday, was treated so badly (while police take the knee to BLM who want them defunded). You just couldn’t make it up.

Growing Tory Rebellion

Has Boris’s luck finally run out?

Tim Shipman has a piece in the Sunday Times in which he describes the growing discontent in the Parliamentary Conservative Party with Boris Johnson’s leadership. He describes five groups and ranks each one according to how dangerous it is.

Common sense group

MPs: Around 50
Leading lights: Right-wingers such as Iain Duncan Smith and “red wall” MPs such as Lee Anderson
Grievances: Disgruntled with the new tighter measures to control COVID-19, they also want tougher action to curb cross-channel migration and hate plans for tax rises
Trouble rating: Four stars – The new backbench awkward squad

The Brady bunch

MPs: 12
Leading lights: Sir Graham Brady and the other members of the 1922 committee executive
Grievances: The shop steward of Tory backbenchers usually helps to enforce discipline. Instead he is leading the rebellion over Covid
Trouble rating: Five star – If you’ve lost the 22, it’s often the end

Remainder remainers

MPs: Around 20
Leading light: Bob Neill
Grievances: Enraged that the Government was prepared to break international law over Brexit, they have already forced a U-turn so MPs would have to vote on that first
Trouble rating: Three stars

European Research Group

MPs: 80
Leading lights: Steve Baker, John Redwood and Bill Cash
Grievances: Will cry foul if Johnson does not pursue a hard enough Brexit
Trouble rating: Two stars – Dormant, but potentially deadly

The dispossessed

MPs: Dozens and rising
Leading light: Sajid Javid
Grievances: Everyone who has lost/not been given a ministerial job
Trouble rating: Two stars

Stop Press: A new opinion poll puts Labour ahead of the Conservatives for the first time since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

Students Plot the Great Escape

“I only came here to take a degree in Business Studies, not become an expert in tunnel engineering. Still, if it works out at least we can spend Xmas in Switzerland. Bugger, the Covid Marshalls have turned the searchlights on…”

Channel 4 News carried a report yesterday evening, relating how students across the United Kingdom have effectively been placed in lockdown, with some of them unable to leave their halls of residence.

Numerous readers have sent in reports, describing how miserable life is for their children. Here’s one from a parent of two kids at Edinburgh:

My children are out of their halls of residence and staying in an Airbnb to avoid an expected clampdown in Pollock Halls, the resident blocks for 1,900 first year undergraduates. We hope to terminate their contracts with the Halls and move them into a house in the city. Students have been fleeing Pollock in droves, my daughter says. Police squads together with wardens are patrolling the Pollock campus. Young people, many of them away from home for the first time in their lives, have been told they may be banned from returning to their families for Christmas. Snarling wardens called students trying to socialise “disgusting” and all seating in outside spaces has been removed. All students have been banned from pubs. In the canteen, students are shown to seats so cannot choose where to sit. They each sit at single desks facing in the same direction. They receive directives by email from the university, hectoring them about “the rules in Scotland” in a tone that is patronising towards foreigners south of the border. A few nights ago a warden ordered my daughter, who was outside her hall at 10pm, to “go to bed now”. My daughter is 20 next month. It appears the only way to respond is to leave Pollock Halls and find accommodation in the city. Then again, if you cannot meet other students and since all teaching has gone online, why stay in Edinburgh at all?

Another reader reports that his neighbour’s 18 year-old is dreading leaving home and going to university:

Our neighbour’s son is about to head to York tomorrow. His mother reports he is so terrified now, he had a panic attack. What a contrast with how it should be – the most exciting time of a young adult’s life turned into the prospect of doing a stretch in a high security prison, and in solitary confinement too.

Stop Press: Robert Halfon, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, has said locked-down students should receive refunds on their tuition fees.

Staggering Cost of Glasgow’s Nightingale Hospital

Nic Sturge-on discovers a cache of money left behind by the British Government in 1999 and immediately sets fire to it

A reader has done some digging about the cost of the Nightingale Hospital in Glasgow that is shutting its doors. Eye watering!

Further to your story today on the decommissioning contract for the NHS Louisa Jordan facility at the SEC in Glasgow, I had a quick look into the costs involved with this empty COVID-19 hospital.

The contracts page you provided a link that shows it’s costing £429,877.48 for a contract merely to appoint a “Lead Advisor consultant to support the decommissioning of the NHS Louisa Jordan temporary field hospital at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow”.

The minutes of the NHS Louisa Jordan Governance Board on May 21st state that total decommissioning costs were estimated at over £4 million, so there’s considerably more to come.

A Scottish Government FOI release published on July 22nd shows that no patients were treated at the facility.

This recent spreadsheet from September 10th shows that the final build cost was £30.9 million and monthly running costs have been £2.4 million.

The Herald featured these figures in a story on September 11th.

The Daily Record ran a story on the costs on September 20th, stating that the hospital with no Covid patients will cost taxpayers £67 million.

But, all is not lost – it has been used to provide healthcare training.

And it may have hosted some orthopaedic outpatient consults.

Multiply these staggering sums of cash across all of the standby Covid facilities, and there’s a colossal bill to be paid by taxpayers.

And for what in return?

NHS Track-and-Trace App Plumbs New Depths

The NHS track-and-trace app is the gift that keeps on giving – to lockdown sceptics. I honestly didn’t think this fiasco could become even more embarrassing for the Government, but it has. The latest cock-up is that anyone who’s got a test result back from NHS hospitals or Public Health England can’t actually share their results via the app.

The Telegraph has the details:

Officials were forced to urgently remove a major blindspot in the Government’s COVID-19 app yesterday which meant that more than a third of daily tests were being excluded from the system.

On Saturday morning, it emerged that those who tested positive for the virus in NHS hospitals and Public Health England (PHE) labs were unable to share their result using the official contact-tracing app for the first 48 hours after its introduction on Thursday.

The Department of Health said it had worked “urgently” fix the problem.

Tests carried out by the NHS and PHE make up one in three of those carried out each day, and their exclusion would have meant that casual contacts of a large proportion of medics who tested positive for the virus would not have received automatic notifications asking them to isolate.

As does the Mail:

More than 60,000 Britons are unable to tell the long-awaited NHS Test and Trace app whether they have tested positive for coronavirus, the Government has admitted in the latest fiasco to engulf the UK’s ‘world-leading’ testing system.

Results from swabs examined by NHS hospitals and Public Health England – more than 70,000 a day – cannot be entered into the app as they are not supplied with a test code, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The oversight means sufferers are unable to send out alerts to people they have been near to advise them to self-isolate to curb the spread of coronavirus.

As does the Sunday Times – although the Times points out that it isn’t just results obtained from NHS hospitals and PHE that can’t be entered in the new app. It’s also results received via the ONS infection survey.

On Friday, the day after the app launched, at least 61,000 people tested in England were unable to enter their results. As a result, thousands of other people who had been in close proximity to those with positive results will never be notified.

The NHS Test and Trace website said: “If your test took place in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether they’re positive or negative. We are working to make this available as soon as possible.”

😂 😂 😂

As usual, I turned to Lockdown Sceptics’ dedicated track-and-trace app correspondent to explain what’s going on.

It only took three days for the NHS COVID-19 app to acquire a litany of problems.

Users cannot report negative test results because the app asks for a result code and negative tests don’t have a code. If you reported symptoms to the app when booking that test then your self isolation counter continues to count, even though you have a negative test.

How about positive tests? According to the @NHSCOVID19app twitter account responding to complaints: “If your test took place in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether they’re positive or negative.” This shouldn’t be a surprise to the team building the app as they told us about it in their own documentation. But as this tweet from an incredulous user points out: “So if I get symptoms, and as an NHS nurse, get a test through work (because that’s the only way you can get a test these days), then if I am positive the app will not automatically alert my contacts? Same for a patient with a positive test?” That’s right, if you have your test done in an NHS hospital you cannot tell the NHS app about it.

The ludicrous levels of optimism around this app are evident in the twitter stream: “For every 1 to 2 people who download the app, an infection could be prevented.” Really? Could we see “the science” behind that please?

Meanwhile the venue check-in function doesn’t have a way of telling it when you leave a venue. That’s by design apparently: “You do not need to check out of a venue. Your phone will register when you check into somewhere new, and it will automatically check you out of your last venue at midnight.” So if I visit a venue for a few minutes at 9pm, then go home, and someone who later tests positive visits that venue at 10pm, I will be alerted and asked to isolate. No prizes for seeing the problem with that.

Presumably this level of incompetence is all part of the new normal?

Et Tu, Sainsbury’s?

A reader is disappointed to find his local Sainsbury’s becoming more zealous in its enforcement of the rules.

Sainsbury’s has now moved into enforcement mode. See yesterday’s message from their Chief Executive below.

“Greeters will be on hand outside all supermarkets and busy convenience stores to remind customers to wear face coverings when they enter stores. If you do not have a face covering when you arrive at a store, our colleagues will help you find one.”

Tannoy announcements to be ramped up.

How sad. Our local store at Chertsey was an oasis of common sense before this.

The message has the line: “If you think there is anything else we should be doing that would make your shopping experience easier or better then please do get in touch with me.” It is, of course, a ‘no reply’ email and there is no obvious way on Sainsbury’s website to communicate about anything more than being overcharged for Activia yoghurts.

Stuart Wheeler’s Farewell Party During Lockdown

Stuart Wheeler flanked by daughter Charlotte and David Cameron at the Conservative Summer Party in 2006

JP Floru, author of The Sun Tyrant: A Nightmare Called North Korea, is working on a book about the lockdown policy and has written an original essay for Lockdown Sceptics on the folly of governments removing people’s right to choose when it comes to what risks to take in their lives – what he calls the “nationalisation of risk”. You can read the full essay here, but the final section, in which he describes the last request of Stuart Wheeler, is below.

By all means, let us hear from the experts and the scientists! We should not return to a pre-scientific society based on superstition and prejudice.

But Instead of supplanting people’s individual risk/benefit calculation by central diktat, the Government could have made sure that its citizens had better information to take their own decisions. They could have put more emphasis on how contagious COVID-19 was; and what to do to avoid it. They could have suggested who might want to shield, instead of ordering it. They should have advised, but not dictated.

Some more people might have died. But perhaps they would not have been alone in their final months and weeks and days. Perhaps fewer people would have felt so hopeless that they killed themselves. Perhaps fewer people would have become poor, because they would still have had their jobs. Perhaps fewer people would be angry or in despair. Perhaps fewer people would have seen their quality of life tank so dramatically.

I want to end this with a real story. One of the most interesting characters I have met was Stuart Wheeler. He made his money with spread betting and went on to be tremendously influential in British politics by financing the Conservative Party, UKIP, and assorted Eurosceptic causes. He was a jovial man who hosted everybody of note and potential note at his Elizabethan Castle in Kent, which is often featured in period dramas and other Agatha Christie films.

One day during the lockdown, his friends found this e-mail in their inbox:

“As many of you know, I have cancer and my doctors do not expect me to live more than about six months. So what would I prefer – to never see again my and my daughters’ friends? Or to see them, taking the very slight risk of catching the virus from them, which might shorten my life by a few months? The answer is crystal clear to me…”

“No one who, for my sake, declines an invitation to visit us at the castle, is doing me a favour,” he wrote. “On the contrary, by depriving me of their company, they are doing me a great disfavour.”

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Rome

For those prepared to “risk” a trip to Rome, the reward is a complete absence of tourists

Long time contributor to Lockdown Sceptics Guy de la Bédoyère has just returned from a trip to Rome which he found surprisingly life-enhancing. He has written a postcard for us, describing the whole blissful experience. Here is an extract:

In the famous H.G. Wells story The Time Machine the remote future is a dystopian world. After a horrific war humanity divided into two: those who took shelter underground and those who took their chances in the sun. By the time Wells’s Time Traveller arrives they have evolved into two species. Those who stayed on the surface have become the passive and indolent cattle known as the Eloi. They are farmed by the hideous troglodyte Morlocks who lurk in their caverns with machines they use for processing the Eloi whom they harvest and eat.

This all came back to me as we wandered in a blissfully quiet Rome, but in a reverse form. In our dystopian future the Morlocks are those who cower at home, by choice or under the government heel, while the rest of us enjoy the sunlit uplands. In short, in a really strange sort of way all the Covid precautions have made life better for those prepared to take their chances and live a little. Perhaps we should keep them on after all.

We have been visiting Rome since 1975 and never before have we walked straight into St Peter’s with no more than a cursory bag check. The great basilica was no busier than a large parish church in a country town on a desolate weekday afternoon. We had Michelangelo’s Pieta to ourselves. It was busy around the Colosseum but not by normal standards. We spent a day in the ruined Roman port at Ostia Antica, wandering around the remains of streets, apartment blocks, houses and temples. I suppose we must have seen a couple of dozen other people but that was all. The Spanish Steps had almost no-one on them. We were only in Rome for three days so didn’t bother with museums as that would have meant more time wearing masks. But I don’t doubt that they are equally empty.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and “Sitting in the Corner Blues” by Rab Noakes.

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.

Woke Gobbledegook

Today I bring you the Free Speech Union‘s latest attempt to protect our members from woke gobbledegook.

Many of our members have asked us what to do if they find themselves at odds with their employers about how best to tackle prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. As some of you will be aware, employers, as well as schools and universities, have introduced a raft of new “anti-racism” initiatives in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, from circulating suggested reading lists (Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race) to introducing mandatory unconscious bias training. Is there a way of expressing your reservations about these initiatives that means your employer cannot legally punish you for doing so? What are the limits on what an employer can do to force you to assent to the “woke” orthodoxy on this issue?

Because we were getting so many questions along those lines, and dealing with so many cases of people who are being punished for dissenting from the BLM narrative, we thought it would be helpful to publish some Frequently Asked Questions on this topic. You can read them here. We did a good deal of research in the course of compiling this first set of FAQs, and one of the people who helped with that research, a journalist called Carrie Clark, has written up her findings in the form of a briefing paper. Carrie looked specifically at the Implicit Association Test, a diagnostic tool that sits at the heart of most forms of diversity training. It’s worth reading in full, but the short version is that this test has been almost completely discredited in the scientific literature since it was first devised in 1998. You can read a summary of Carrie’s paper here.

Of course, if you’re concerned about being punished by your employer or your university for being insufficiently woke, the best thing you can do is join the Free Speech Union.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Tony Husband’s cartoon in the latest Private Eye

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 nappies in shops here.

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

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: A reader says his local cafe owner is now insisting customers follow absurd, arbitrary mask-wearing rules, following last week’s tightening of restrictions.

A clearly nervous cafe owner tells us that she will risk being closed down if her customers don’t follow the new rules. So we have to put on a mask to walk the three paces from the street door to a table. Then we can sit for as long as we want without a mask to eat or drink, but had to put one back on if we stood up to walk the two steps to look at the cakes or when we wanted to leave. What madness! Why is it OK to sit in a small cafe for an hour without a mask, but the two seconds needed to enter or exit is so deadly a mask is needed? Perhaps the virus is more deadly at a height of 6 foot than it is at at a height of 3 foot?

Mask Extra: The Telegraph has discovered that anti-mask activists are urging people to buy “mask exempt” lanyards to avoid wearing face nappies. Ooh mother! Whatever next?

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.

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.

And Finally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKhOFKCOH5M

Matt Lucas wheels out his Boris impression to promote the next series of Bake Off. Quite funny, particularly the first bit.

More Than 70 MPs Warn Against Vaccine Passports

Opposition to domestic vaccine passports appears to be growing in the Commons. More than 70 MPs – from differing political parties – have voiced their concern over the introduction of “discriminatory” Covid IDs. Katy Balls in the Spectator has the story.

As Boris Johnson prepares to deliver an update on Monday on Government plans for immunity passports and international travel, the Prime Minister is already facing a parliamentary backlash. More than 70 MPs have voiced their concern over the use of “divisive and discriminatory” immunity IDs in England. The cross-party group opposing ranges from Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Baker to Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. 

While the Government insists no final decision has been taken, the expectation in Government is that immunity IDs are coming. MPs on the various “listening exercises” Michael Gove has hosted this week, came away thinking immunity passports are a done deal – no matter what they make of them. There’s also a sense that they could underpin any easing. MPs interested in the social distancing review are being directed to the immunity certificate review. This suggests ministers view the way to ending social distancing as showing one’s Covid status.

The cross-party group of politicians has signed a pledge not to support the introduction of domestic Covid passports. Sky News has more details on the pledge’s signatories.

The signatories to the pledge include leading Tory Covid rebels such as Mark Harper and Steve Baker, who run the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and former cabinet ministers Esther McVey, Andrew Mitchell and Sir John Redwood.

Another of the Conservative signatories, Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said: “Covid-status certification would be divisive and discriminatory.

“With high levels of vaccination protecting the vulnerable and making transmission less likely, we should aim to return to normal life, not to put permanent restrictions in place.”

A 20-strong group of Labour MPs has signed the pledge, including former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Labour peer Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who now sits as an independent MP, have also joined the campaign.

“International travel is a luxury but participating in your own community is a fundamental right,” said Baroness Chakrabarti, who used to run civil liberties and human rights group Liberty.

“So internal Covid passports are an authoritarian step too far.”

Almost all Liberal Democrat MPs have signed the pledge, with their party leader Sir Ed Davey having this week branded the use of Covid passports within the UK as “illiberal” and “unworkable”.

“As we start to get this virus properly under control we should start getting our freedoms back, vaccine passports – essentially Covid ID cards – take us in the other direction,” he said.

The Spectator’s report is worth reading in full.

Latest News

Government Proposes to Liberate Local Areas in Bid to Placate Rebellion

Bob in today’s Telegraph offers a suggestion as to who might be advising Boris Johnson

The Government has said that towns and villages will be able to go into lower tiers than neighbouring virus “hotspots” in an effort to see off a growing Commons rebellion against their new lockdown plans. The Telegraph has the exclusive.

MPs have been told that rural areas with low infection rates could be “decoupled” from cities that have “unfairly” dragged them into Tiers 2 and 3 under the Government’s regional approach.

It comes amid a major rift between ministers and scientific advisers, who say areas of England are more likely to go up a tier than down one.

Government scientists have said they expect few changes within the system in coming months, with Tier 2 areas far more likely to go up than down and almost nowhere likely to get to Tier 1 until March. Scientists are understood to have told Boris Johnson that he should consider moving Tier 2 areas to Tier 3.

The draconian advice comes despite new figures showing the reproduction or ‘R’ rate of the virus to have come down to between 0.9 and 1.0 – its lowest level since August – meaning Covid could already be in retreat.

Up to 100 Tory MPs are threatening the biggest rebellion of Mr Johnson’s premiership when the new tier system is put to a vote next week amid anger over a broad brush approach that has put low incidence areas into higher tiers because they are in the same county as a city with a high infection rate. 

Government ministers Nadhim Zahawi and Jesse Norman are among those who have publicly criticised the new tiers.

Labour has yet to decide whether it will vote for the tier system, meaning Mr Johnson could face defeat unless he can persuade enough of his own MPs to back down. The Prime Minister said on Friday that he understood the “frustration” of people who have ended up in Tier 2 or 3 despite low infection rates in their own town or village.

According to reports, Mr Johnson has pencilled in Easter Monday as the day when the strict Covid tiers will be lifted.

Ministers and officials are trying to win round Tory MPs by offering them hope that their constituencies will be “decoupled” from hotspots when a review of the Tiers is carried out in mid-December.

It’s a start, but a very small one given the absurdity and destructiveness of the Government’s intention to keep the tier system in place until at least Easter.

The main reason being given for the extreme ongoing restrictions is the supposed need to “protect the NHS” from being overwhelmed. The Sun reports.

The PM is determined to put the NHS first – and believes he will have to wait until after Covid’s winter peak in February and March to ease his grip.

A senior government source told the Sun: “Boris will not countenance hospitals overflowing like they did in Italy. Nor can we get to the stage where we have to cancel operations and treatments. In all likelihood, the tiers have to stay.”

This must be the most expensive and repressive way to manage demand in a health service ever devised – and it’s dishonest to pretend elective surgeries aren’t being cancelled as it is. Why not simply increase surge capacity? It’s not as though hospitals have been overwhelmed so far, even in the spring. In fact, they’re currently running at below average occupancy rates across the country, while the surge capacity that has been created is not being used. As one reader writes to tells us:

Hot off the press from a friend who has spent the last six weeks getting the Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate up to speed at huge expense – they had a sign-off on Tuesday and yesterday were stood down – they may use it at some point for vaccinations. This is the emergency overspill for the Humber (Tier 3), Leeds (Tier 3) and Bradford (Tier 3).

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the mortality rate this autumn, as this explainer by Joel Smalley makes clear, and neither is there evidence that lockdowns are responsible for preventing a runaway epidemic. The R rate, after all, was below 1 before the current lockdown began, with daily deaths peaking on or around November 13th and infections three weeks or so before that. Oddly, the Government has only just announced that the R has fallen below 1, weeks after the surveys it relies on for this calculation – from Imperial College, King’s College and the ONS – announced it occurred. Could this have anything to do with the fact that, at three weeks into the lockdown, they are now in a position to credit it? Not that we can check their working, which remains as obscure and concealed as ever.

Lockdown 3.0 is SAGE’s “Pound of Flesh” For Christmas Freedom

Iain Duncan Smith writing in the Telegraph sums up perfectly the mood of MPs in the Covid Recovery Group ahead of the crucial vote next week.

The Chancellor laid bare the stark and painful economic reality for all to see this week. The economy has shrunk by 11.3%, the worst collapse in output in 300 years. Unemployment will reach 2.6 million and borrowing will reach an eye watering £394 billion.

The mood of sombre reflection and deep concern among MPs brought on by the Chancellor’s statement rapidly gave way to disbelief and anger as the full implications of the Government’s new tier system became apparent. In particular, many recalled the past use that has been made of dodgy figures to bounce us into lockdown.

The critical balance in decision making required to ensure that our response to the virus does not end up doing more damage than the disease still seems to elude the Government with the figures on coronavirus simply not justifying their ongoing desperate pessimism, particularly when set against the desperate damage to business, livelihoods and lives, beyond Covid.

SAGE predicted 4,000 daily deaths early next month. This rapidly turned out to be absurd. Four thousand deaths a day would be three times higher than the peak death rate in Brazil, which has a population three times greater than the UK.

Then, with a 16-day time lag, a mass of data showed that infection rates had flattened and were falling before the effect of the lockdown could be felt. That, however, hasn’t stopped Patrick Vallance and ministers rather brazenly claiming that the reductions were down to the lockdown. Liverpool is a good example. The fall there seemed to happen long before the nation-wide lockdown even started. Even the mass testing programme rolled out there, despite what the Government claims, didn’t change the rate of decline. Given that, perhaps the most trusted document produced by the Government was the one covered in scribbled and panicky question marks.

Yet despite the facts, instead of returning to the original tiers from before lockdown, we are effectively about to consign half of England to further lockdown after December 2nd. To put this in context, when the new rules come in the number of people in Tier 1, the lightest level of restrictions, will have fallen from 24.5 million pre-lockdown to just 700,000. Previously, nine million people were in Tier 3, post-lockdown that number will have risen to 23 million. Worse, the new set of tiers are far tougher than they were – even those whose tier hasn’t gone up will still find themselves subject to far tougher restrictions.

The announcement brought an outcry from MPs because so many of their areas have been shunted into Tier 3 on what appears to be contradictory and shallow evidence. Take, for example, the city of Bristol. Before lockdown, they had 292 infections per hundred thousand people and were in Tier 1. Now, after a minor increase in the rate to 309, they have been moved to Tier 3. Or Tunbridge Wells, in Tier 1 with a rate of 48.9 before lockdown and now in Tier 3 with a rate of 103, a figure much lower than other areas in Tier 2.

What was the point of the lockdown if, as we come out, we end up with tighter restrictions than before lockdown? We aren’t even waiting to learn what the effect of the lockdown has been before rushing into these changes.

IDS says there is growing concern among MPs that the draconian new tier system is the “pound of flesh SAGE demanded in return for the decision to have five days off over Christmas and that unless the Government stayed in a de facto lockdown for most of the country now then they would be demanding another lockdown in January”.

He repeats the call for proper cost-benefit analyses to be published to enable MPs to make informed decisions.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: IDS talks to JHB here, telling her the Government must stop listening to the advice of SAGE.

Metropolitan Police Issues Warning About Today’s Protest

For those going along to the protest today, be prepared for an unaccommodating police force. The Territorial Support Group is likely to be out in force. The following is from a statement issued by the Metropolitan Police:

Ahead of a planned protest on Saturday, November 28th, the Met is urgently reminding those looking to attend that protest is not currently a permitted exemption to the prohibition on gatherings under the current Coronavirus regulations.

Strict regulations have been introduced by the Government nationally to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This means that anyone gathering for protest risks enforcement action by officers. 

A robust policing plan is in place throughout the weekend and officers will take action if they witness breaches of the regulations. 

Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, policing commander for this weekend, said: “The Met has a proud history of facilitating protest. However, our city is in a critical fight against COVID-19 and we cannot allow gatherings to jeopardise the progress and sacrifices our communities have made in fighting this virus. 

“That is why we will be taking action in relation to prohibited gatherings on the streets of London, including those related to protest across the capital this weekend. Our top priority is public safety and that is why we cannot allow individuals to break the law and put their health and the health of their friends, family and the wider community at risk. If you are planning on attending a gathering, I would urge you to reconsider and stay at home.”

They’re obviously expecting something big.

“If You Vote to Destroy the Jobs of Others, Don’t Expect to Keep Your Seat”

Peter Hitchens has asked if Lockdown Sceptics readers would care to join him in a campaign for a “mass write-in to MPs this weekend on the lines of ‘If you vote to destroy the jobs of others, don’t expect to keep your seat’”. Websites like Write To Them make it easy, as he points out.

Sounds like a great idea. Good readers, over to you.

https://twitter.com/clarkemicah/status/1332365233478918149?s=11

Government Threat to Business Puts More Firms at Risk

Is the Government about to use its powers to pull the rug from under firms struggling under the Government’s lockdown measures? One reader is concerned.

On December 1st the Government is proposing to reinstate Crown Preference, a legal concept whereby HMRC gets priority over other creditors to recover unpaid taxes in the event of a company’s insolvency. In normal times this would not have been an especially significant change. However, right now many companies have racked up significant tax liabilities because the Government has been using this as a way of supporting businesses in difficulty. We are not talking about small amounts of money – if you think of VAT (20% of turnover) and PAYE bills since March, these have really added up.

When Crown Preference is reinstated on Tuesday, a company’s lenders, suppliers and credit insurers will need to reduce their exposure by the amount of taxes which are owed (as HMRC will now have priority over these debts). For struggling businesses this will probably mean their credit lines will be pulled from under them, and they will go out of business.

In the current circumstances it is difficult to see this move bringing in much revenue for the Exchequer – at the cost of pushing many businesses over the edge at the worst possible time. Why did we support these businesses in the first place, only now to throw them under a bus? It should be a no-brainer to defer this move, but the Chancellor didn’t announce such a deferral on Tuesday and it feels like the issue has been buried under the weight of other news. It shouldn’t be – it really matters.

Further reading on this is available from the law firm Addleshaws.

Care Homes Ban Christmas Decorations

Care homes are being banned from putting up Christmas trees and decorations by local authorities due to “infection control issues”. CareHome has the story.

Care Campaign for the Vulnerable (CCTV) has revealed it has received “distraught messages from care home managers” due to the ban.

One manager told CCTV: “I’m a manager of a residential nursing home. We are being told the local authority are trying to put a stop to homes decorating for Christmas!

“After everything that has been taken away from our residents this year, we’re now expected to take Christmas away from them too!! ‘Infection control’ issues. I had a visit from Infection Control and we’d started to decorate our reception area and she told us ‘I wouldn’t bother going any further, because you’ll be told to rip them all down’.

“I asked the direct question to the local authority bosses and they’ve told me there’s no published guidance as of yet but they won’t allow Christmas decorations.

“Our hearts are breaking for our beautiful residents. We’ve taken them down. It seems they’re intent on taking away any little thing that brings them joy. That in itself is more dangerous to their well-being than Covid would ever be! And we’ve been through an outbreak and I stand by that statement.”

The care home manager said she has heard similar stories from other care homes.

A spokeswoman for Care Campaign for the Vulnerable said: “’I find this downright appalling. As if residents haven’t lost enough this year already. Why deprive them of the joy of Christmas?”

Pitkerro Care Centre in Dundee is one of those making changes to the way it decorates its home due to the pandemic and is asking people to donate outdoor Christmas decorations and lights to put in the back garden.

Normally during the festive period the care home is covered in Christmas decorations and trees, but this year anything that cannot be wiped down daily is banned.

What this over-zealous, killjoy guidance forgets is that even if surfaces spread the disease they can only do so when they are touched. But no one touches Christmas decorations except to put them up or take them down. More to the point, no one has yet succeeded in culturing the virus from surface samples, suggesting surfaces are not a major route of transmission. As the Lancet reported in October: “During the initial stages of the pandemic there was concern about surface transmission. However, latest research suggests that this is unlikely to be a major route of transmission as although SARS-CoV-2 can persist for days on inanimate surfaces, attempts to culture the virus from these surfaces were unsuccessful.”

Woman Goes Blind After Lockdown Cancels Treatment

Helen Jeremy lost her sight during lockdown

A woman has lost her sight after she was left without her regular treatment for months during the lockdown. The BBC has the details.

A woman has become blind after her monthly eye injections were delayed for four months during lockdown. Helen Jeremy, 73, said everything she enjoyed doing has “gone out of the window” after losing her eyesight.

Thousands more people in Wales are at risk of “irreversible sight loss” because of treatment delays, RNIB Cymru warns. The Welsh Government said health boards are working to increase services.

Mrs Jeremy, from Bridgend, has glaucoma and was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration four years ago. Monthly injections controlled the condition and meant she could still drive and play the piano. However, her appointments were cancelled when the pandemic struck and her eyesight deteriorated.

“I was panicking. It was terrifying. Because I’m a widow I’m on my own and it was awful,” she said. “Suddenly my eyesight was basically gone. By the time of my next appointment I was told there was no point in going on with these injections because the damage had been done to the back of my eye. Everything I loved doing has gone out of the window and my life’s changed totally.”

The NHS said it was just one of those things, nothing to do with them.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said priority at the time was based on patient risk. “We are sorry that Mrs Jeremy sadly experienced deterioration in her eyesight a few weeks following her last treatment in July,” a spokesperson said. “Sadly, some eye conditions can become worse over time despite ongoing treatment.”

The reference to “treatment in July” is clearly misleading as it is the lack of treatment since March that is the problem, which they do not acknowledge. Mrs Jeremy was just not a “priority”. And now she is blind and can no longer do almost any of the things she loves.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Tears of Rage” by The Band, “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I do” by Billie Holiday and “Mad World” by Tears for Fears.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the news that Eric Clapton has joined Van Morrison in his anti-lockdown “Save Live Music” campaign with a new collaborative song “Stand and Deliver” – and been called a “white supremacist” for his trouble. National File has the story.

Legendary rock-and-roll guitarist and vocalist Eric Clapton is collaborating with Van Morrison on a song called “Stand and Deliver” that is critical of United Kingdom’s laughably stringent Covid lockdowns and their effects on live music. Predictably, liberals on Twitter are seething uncontrollably over the news.

Clapton, the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, told Variety magazine that he chose to collaborate with Morrison on the song after finding the effect of lockdowns on musicians “deeply upsetting”.

“We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover,” Clapton stated.

Morrison, who founded the Save Live Music campaign, said “Eric’s recording is fantastic and will clearly resonate with the many who share our frustrations,” adding, “It is heart-breaking to see so many talented musicians lack any meaningful support from the Government, but we want to reassure them that we are working hard every day to lobby for the return of live music, and to save our industry.”

The attacks on Clapton from unknown verified profiles on Twitter began almost immediately. Buzzwords such as “white supremacist,” stemming from Clapton’s collaboration with Morrison and off-the-cuff remarks he made onstage in support of British nationalism in 1976, appeared at the vanguard of the outrage machine.

“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.

Stop Press: A maskless woman in a supermarket was issued by police with a fixed penalty notice even though she explained to them to them that she was exempt on health grounds. The Mail has the story.

Footage shows two officers from West Midlands Police handing the female customer a fixed penalty notice, saying that she has “broken a guideline”.

A policewoman explains that she can take the fine to court and show her “burden of proof” while the shopper claims that she is exempt from wearing a face covering.

Towards the start of the clip, the male police officer says: “What we’re going to do, we’re going to take this lady’s details.” The man filming asks “what for?” before the policeman urges him to listen to the other officer, who says: “If we give you a fixed penalty notice, what it then does, you take it to court and you show your burden of proof then to the court.”

The female customer says “I don’t need to”, before the policeman responds: “Yes you do.” The policewoman says that, as officers, they “do not have to ask for proof of her exemption” but that they can ask what it is “in a conversation”.

The customer then interjects: “Hold on, hold on. I’ve just shown you my card, I’ve explained my situation.” The policeman replies: “You showed me a card that you printed on the internet. That’s not valid”, to which the customer responds: “So?” He responds: “Because you haven’t got a certificate or a doctor’s note, the onus is on yourself.”

The shopper says: “I can prove to you here that my son’s girlfriend has ordered me a card, which I just said to you, I only texted the other day saying ‘has my card come yet?’ I can prove to you here that she’s put ‘yes, it does take a few weeks, I think my mum’s took a few weeks as well’.”

The camera operator questions whether she has broken the law, to which the policeman says she has “broken a guideline”.

It’s a funny kind of “guideline” that can land you a fine and in court.

The police officers are wrong of course. There is no requirement to produce a certificate or doctor’s note and there is nothing “invalid” about an exemption card. Government guidance explains: “If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering: you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this; you do not need to show an exemption card. This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.” Furthermore, people are told to be “mindful and respectful” of the circumstances of people unable to wear a mask: “Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.”

Someone needs to tell the police officers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that West Midlands Police has any intention of doing so.

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 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 700,000 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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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.

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.

Stop Press: Simon Dolan has a piece in Conservative Woman on “Boris’s cruel Christmas joke” that is worth a read.

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

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…

Pubs may have found a loophole in the Government’s ill-defined requirement that customers in Tier 2 areas must have a “substantial meal” with their pint

Latest News

Tories Rebel and Labour Abstains

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Parliament will vote today on the Government’s new tier system and Labour will abstain. The Independent has more.

Labour will abstain in a key vote on Boris Johnson’s new COVID-19 tiers. Speaking on Monday night, Sir Keir Starmer said his party was “acting in the national interest” by not opposing the regulations but he said that he had reservations about them. The move is significant because it represents the first time the opposition has failed to back the Government in a vote on COVID-19 regulations.

“Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public’s health and that’s why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions. We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow… However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place. We still don’t have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months. It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy.”

Don’t get too excited. With the Labour party abstaining, rather than voting no, the tier system will still pass. But with a prospect of up to 100 Tory MPs rebelling, the legitimacy of the new COVID-19 regime is shaky at best. How can you reasonably ask people to obey all the new draconian restrictions, particularly those that live in Tier 3 areas, if only a minority of MPs have voted for them?

In the hope of appeasing mutinous Tory backbenchers, Downing Street published a long-awaited ‘impact assessment’ yesterday, but it did little good. Details from the MailOnline:

The Government released its assessment of the economic and social effects of the pandemic and its response this evening. But the document made clear that it is not possible to say exactly how the tiers will hit local areas – a key demand of Conservative MPs. It also insisted there was no way of imposing looser curbs and instead merely argued that it would be “intolerable” to allow the NHS to be overwhelmed.

The assessment said it was “clear that restrictions to contain COVID-19 have had major impacts on the economy and public finances, even if it is not possible to forecast with confidence the precise impact of a specific change to a specific restriction”.

Tory rebel ringleader Mark Harper complained that the information was being released too late, just 24 hours before MPS are due to make their decision. “This information is what Ministers should have been insisting on before they make their decisions so it surely could have been made available earlier,” he said…

Mel Stride, the Tory Chairman of the Treasury Committee, criticised the documents, saying:

“On a number of occasions, I’ve requested from the Chancellor and Treasury officials that they publish an analysis of the economic impacts of the three tiers. With little over 24 hours until MPs vote on the new tiered system, this rehashed document offers very little further in economic terms other than that which the OBR published last week. It is frustrating that there is little here that sets out how the different tiers might impact on the specific sectors and regions across the country. Those looking for additional economic analysis of the new tiered system will struggle to find it in this document.”

Perhaps, in the rush, the Government did not give them the right file. The Times has discovered that the Government has in fact produced impact assessment that includes an analysis of the effect of various restrictions on different sectors of the economy. This gives the lie to the Government’s claim that such an analysis isn’t possible, due to the fiendish complexity of disentangling the effects of the restrictions from the effects of the pandemic. Couldn’t it just have released this internal assessment instead?

The Government has drawn up a secret dossier detailing the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, with a dozen sectors rated “red” and facing significant job cuts and revenue losses, the Times has been told.

The COVID-19 sectoral impacts dashboard, which is prepared by officials from across Whitehall and frequently updated, gives “granular” detail on the effect of coronavirus on nearly 40 areas of the economy.

Among the sectors with a red rating are aerospace, the automotive industry, retail, hospitality and tourism, arts and heritage, maritime, including ferries and cruises, and sport.

Worth reading in full.

At least MPs and decision makers are beginning to think about a cost-benefit analysis. Long-time readers may recall the COBR meeting of March 23rd, when Michael Gove, who was chairing, surprised those present by announcing the Government was planning the country into a national lockdown, effective immediately.

Only Jesse Norman, a Treasury minister, raised any doubts, asking whether there had been any cost-benefit analysis of the economic and health impacts of lockdown or consideration of less onerous alternatives. Around the room there were blank looks: the decision had been taken.

The absence of any such analysis was, notorious, confirmed by the last line of “the Lockdown Regulations”, a statutory instrument enacted at 1pm on March 26th by Matt Hancock:

No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations.

Stop Press: Christopher Snowden has done a good thread on the failings of the Government’s cost-benefit analysis document

The Astronomical Cost of Lockdown

For a much more robust assessment of the cost of the lockdown and associated restrictions, we recommend this new report by Tim Knox and Jim McConalogue for Civitas called The Cost of the Cure. The report is worth reading in full, but the short version is that the Government has spent a minimum of £96,000 for each QALY saved, which is over three times the figure that the NHS routinely uses of £30,000 when assessing whether a particular course of action is worthwhile.

Tim Knox has kindly written an 800-word article summarising the report for Lockdown Sceptics that you can read here. He is predictably scathing about the impact assessment published by the Government yesterday. Here is an extract.

If you wanted a chuckle, then imagine you had the job of the unfortunate civil servant who had been given the job of cobbling together this strange hotch-potch of information. The document is clearly a rushed job, published with the political aim of persuading the growing number of Conservative MPs who are sceptical about the need for tighter restrictions that they are, in fact, necessary. (There was once a time, not so long ago, when the Civil Service would have demurred from being involved in such a blatantly political operation.) A futile effort, for no self-respecting MP could be persuaded by such a flimsy document.

Take its estimates of additional deaths from other diseases. Table 9 of the report looks at the effect on morbidity and mortality of certain conditions – alcohol misuse, road injuries, depressive disorders, and the like. But instead of trying to estimate the actual numbers, the report simply uses up and down arrows to describe the general direction of change that social distancing measures might produce. Is that really the best that our Rolls Royce Civil Service can do?

Or take the report’s attempt to take a sectoral approach of the impact of lockdown on the economy. Here again in some cases, all the report does is provide a pre-COVID-19 assessment of Gross Value Added (GVA) output of each sector – it seems to be afraid of making any calculation of the likely impact. If estimates are made, they are drafted as general changes in GDP, not reported as actual costs on deeply impacted industries.

Very much worth reading in full.

Reviewing Michael Gove’s Dubious Lockdown Claims

Micheal Gove penned an essay in the Times over the weekend, seeking to win round Tory rebels. The Spectator‘s Steerpike has done a cracking fact-check:

Gove: The decision to implement the second lockdown was rushed.

Steerpike: Gove here confirms what has been reported elsewhere. On the Thursday, ministers had been told there might be a bit of tightening to the regime. Then, on Friday, they were blindsided by some supposedly terrifying new information suggesting that the virus was surging and lockdown was needed urgently. The Treasury later admitted it did not even have time to estimate the cost of the second lockdown that the scientific advisers were suddenly urging. So the decision to lockdown was rushed. Which makes it all the more important that scrutiny is applied now.

Gove: Infections were doubling fast. The number of days taken to see that increase was open to question. But the trend was not.

Steerpike: On the day Cabinet met to agree Lockdown 2.0 the seven-day average was just 2% higher week-on-week. It would not have been clear then but it’s hard to talk, now, about a ‘doubling’ rate.

Gove: Sweden, which has always places restrictions on its population, has found that even the battery of measures it adopted was not enough. Infections rose dramatically in October and early this month, and hospitalisations continue to rise as its government has, reluctantly but firmly, introduced new measures to keep households apart, restrict commerce, stop people visiting bars and restaurants and comprehensively reduce the social contact that spreads infection.

Steerpike: Yes, do let’s look at Sweden. Contrary to what Gove claims, it has placed hardly any “restrictions on its population”. The only law it “reluctantly but firmly” introduced was a rule of eight for public places and a 10 pm. limit on serving booze. No tiers. It has not “stopped people visiting bars and restaurants”. No “battery of measures,” just non-binding advice. Sweden believes that people, if treated like adults, tend to heed advice. Compulsion and lockdowns are not needed to control a virus in a mature democracy. Yes, Sweden has taken a similar COVID-19 hit to Britain. But its strategy always was to treat COVID-19 as a manageable risk while minimising collateral damage on society, personal liberty and the economy.

Worth reading in full.

The Mass Write-In

Many readers have taken up Peter Hitchens’s call to write to MPs. Herewith a small selection:

From James Delingpole to Chris Heaton Harris (Conservative):

Dear Chris,

I never imagined that I would have to write to my local Conservative MP politely asking him not to vote to destroy the economy, kill jobs and small businesses and impose unprecedented restrictions on liberty – all in the name of “defeating” a virus no deadlier than bad seasonal flu.

But this is where we are in 2020. Please don’t insult my intelligence by fobbing me off with the official Government line on coronavirus. We know it’s bunk. You’ll know it’s bunk too if, as I hope, you’ve done some rudimentary research on the work of Michael Yeadon, Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta and the myriad other respected scientists around the world who are bemused and frustrated by the increasingly anti-science – and relentlessly anti-human and anti-prosperity – measures being pursued by your Government.

This is not why I voted Conservative. I hereby promise that if you vote for the tier system (Lockdown by any other name) I shall not vote for you in the next General Election. Nor will I vote Conservative on any other occasion. The policies being pursued by this Government are not remotely conservative.

If you believe in conservative values and the wellbeing and livelihoods of the people you represent, then this is the moment to take a principled stand.

Thanks for all the work you have done in the past as an excellent constituency MP.

All best,

 James

And from another reader to Tom Hunt (Conservative):

Just a “short, sharp” email to urge you to vote against these farcical tier restrictions tomorrow. 

Putting aside the monumental assault on our basic civil liberties, we now know that the number of lives lost as a direct result of these restrictions is far higher than the number of lives saved from dying “with” COVID-19.

I’m not going to even go into the absurdity of a Government pretending it can somehow control a sub-microscopic virus. It’s like the Government declaring that they can control the weather. Put simply, it’s pure science fiction. The data is in for all to see and there is no parallel that you can draw between the severity of a country’s lockdown and its overall death rate. None. So let’s stop it. Immediately.

I also hadn’t realised that being born a citizen of the UK meant that my fundamental freedoms are contingent on the smooth running of the NHS. We keep getting told that our freedoms have been removed to protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed, as if it’s our national duty, and yet, the Government is spending billions on its “moonshot” testing program, enough to build 200 new hospitals. Surely, that would be a much better use of our money, and would prevent the hospitals getting overwhelmed, now and in the future?

And finally, sent to Angela Richardson (Conservative):

Thank you for your email in response to mine

I fully expect you to continue following the Government line and so in the spirit of the times I am moving you from Tier 1 (a candidate I could not possibly vote for) into Tier 2 (a candidate I shall actively campaign against).

Only Four English NHS Trusts Busier Now Than Last Winter

From MailOnline – Got to take your hat off to whoever is designing these graphs for the Mail

Given that protecting “our NHS” from being “overwhelmed” being one of the Government’s core justifications for continued restrictions, MailOnline has done an analysis showing that – contra Gove – only four hospitals in the whole of England are busier now than last winter:

NHS England figures show that there are thousands more hospital beds spare this year than last winter. On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7%) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22nd, which is the most recent snapshot. This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.

For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9%, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8th in 2019, which is the most comparable data available for last winter, when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full. 

Just four trusts – Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), University College London Hospitals FT, Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT – are busier now than they were a year ago. 

Dr Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a “brainwashing PR campaign” with “data that doesn’t stack up”. He told MailOnline: “We’ve gone back to how it started in March, with the Government claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you’ve shown me proves that it doesn’t need protecting. It’s dealing with COVID-19 very well indeed. 

“What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they’ve still got some spare beds for COVID-19 if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn’t stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Read the story of the NHS call handler who quit claiming she did “f*** all” during the pandemic apart from filming “empty” A&Es in London. Again from MailOnline.

The Vaccine is Not Compulsory but…

AFP/Getty

Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister recently appointed to oversee deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, gave an interview yesterday to BBC Radio 4’s World at One. The Guardian has more:

Nadhim Zahawi said that while having the vaccine would not be compulsory, businesses such as pubs and restaurants might require proof that people have been vaccinated before allowing them in.

Asked whether those who have been inoculated would get would get an immunity passport, Zahawi said: “We are looking at the technology. And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated. But, also, I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system, as they have done with the Test-and-Trace app. I think that in many ways, the pressure will come from both ways. From service providers who’ll say, ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated.’ But also we will make the technology as easy and as accessible as possible.”

The Minister said people would have to “make a decision” on whether to get vaccinated, and said if they chose not to they could face severe restrictions.

His remarks were echoed later in the day by Matt Hancock who, in a Downing Street press conference, said:

Firstly, we do not plan to mandate the vaccine. We think that by encouraging the uptake of the vaccine, we will get a very high proportion of the people in this country to take up the vaccine, because of course it protects you but it also helps to protect your loved ones and your community.

Worth reading in full.

The question of mandatory vaccination, is, of course an old one, and it is worth noting that immunity passports are already used in some countries to see whether people have protection against yellow fever and polio. But politics and vaccinations do not mix well and these remarks will not sit well with the 36% of people who, according to research carried out by the British Academy, are either “uncertain” or “very unlikely” to be vaccinated against the virus.

The Guardian also carries a hint of the campaign that is in preparation to persuade people to take the jab.

Ministers and NHS England are drawing up a list of “very sensible” famous faces in the hope that their advice to get immunised would be widely trusted. Health chiefs are particularly worried about the number of people who are still undecided. “There will be a big national campaign,” said one source with knowledge of the plans. “NHS England are looking for famous faces, people who are known and loved. It could be celebrities who are very sensible and have done sensible stuff during the pandemic.”

NHS communications experts suggest privately that the footballer Marcus Rashford, who is widely admired for his child food poverty campaign… and members of the Royal Family. Politicians will not be used.

I wonder if Marcus Rashford and Prince William will go so far as to get vaccinated themselves and then let us monitor them for four weeks to see whether there are any ill effects?

Worth reading in full.

It may take an awful lot of “very sensible” celebrities to overcome some doubters’ uncertainties, and even more as kinks in the plans for the roll-out of the vaccines come to light. The appeal for vaccination volunteers who “under the supervision of healthcare professionals will be trained to deliver a vaccination to a patient” and who “will be ready to act if the patient has an adverse reaction”, prompted this reaction from Mike Yeadon on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/MichaelYeadon3/status/1332989416105775111

Stop Press: For more on the roll-out of vaccines, and the Government’s plans to quell vaccine dissent, watch Toby Young’s recent interview on TalkRADIO

Another Reader Arrested

Nick Harvey. Shutterstock

We’ve been sent another account by a reader who was arrested during Saturday’s protest:

I knew that there would be a lot of police at the anti-lockdown demonstration in London last Saturday, but I wasn’t prepared for the levels of chaos and heavy-handedness on display. It was a style of policing that seemed deliberately designed to create disorder.

The first thing I saw when I got to Marble Arch were about 20 dark blue police vans marked “Territorial Support Group”. Slightly intimidating. I then saw the marchers crossing the road further down Park Lane, so I hurried down there to join in at the back. The march was already pretty busy and full of energy, with people singing and chanting “Freedom.” I waved the placard my daughter and I had drawn in the morning, which said “Freedom. Remember That?” My partner turned up on his bike and we walked along together.

We got as far as Grosvenor Square. At this point, masses of police suddenly surrounded us, running alongside the edge of the marchers and trying to box us in. This was the first of many attempts by the police to split up and separate the group. Whenever the police tried this it led to chaotic scenes – with marchers running around, shouting, and trying to stay together. We managed to regroup and started marching again, but this time quickly reached another police block. More shouting; the crowd suddenly turned back on themselves and down a narrow side street. This was a dead-end, and we were all syphoned down a narrow alleyway – hundreds of us being funnelled down a tiny conduit barely wide enough for two people to walk down.

We marched along another side street, which led us out onto Oxford Street. My partner and I breathed a sigh of relief, and said to each other that this was a better, and safer, place to be. Out in the open, overlooked by other members of the public – there were quite a few families and tourists out walking around, window-shopping. We marched past Bond Street Station, and the atmosphere was calm – the police had seemingly left us alone, and it felt more like a “normal” march. I started to daydream and chat to my partner.

Suddenly a female police officer was standing right in front of me, looking straight at me. “Turn round and go home now, or you risk being arrested”, she said. This took me aback. “No, I don’t think I’m going to turn round, I’m allowed to walk along here”, I said. “Turn around now or I will arrest you”, she said again. And within a couple of seconds two other officers, one on either side of me, took my arms around my back and put me in handcuffs.

I have never been arrested before and the whole thing was pretty rushed and surprising. I guess I didn’t really believe it was happening. It’s uncomfortable being cuffed, and I just stood there dumbly while my partner asked, “Why are you arresting her?” A reasonable question. “Do you want to be arrested too?” was the reply, as if that was a perfectly reasonable response, and then, “She’s an adult, she’ll be allowed a phone-call home.”

I was led off back down Oxford Street, and me, my arresting officer and another policewoman stood around outside Body Shop waiting for a police van to come and pick us up. The van came after about 10 minutes and I got in and sat in the back with one other protestor and six police officers – not the greatest way to travel. We got to King Charles Street, which I’d heard the police describe on their radios as the “Processing Centre”. We were told it was “full”, and sat there in the van for a while, waiting to be let in.

Finally, we walked in. King Charles Street was completely enclosed with makeshift corrugated iron barriers at either end. I joined a long line of “prisoners” who stood at one side, each one guarded by their arresting officer. I stood there for about an hour-and-a-half, during which time I was searched twice. Every now and then, a more senior officer would come along with a clipboard, and check my details, and explain what was going to happen. I’d get to the front, my details would be logged in the computer, and I’d receive a fine. Probably £200, reduced to £100 if I paid quickly.

And that is what happened. I reached the front of the ‘queue’, and my arresting officer was cued to deliver her speech to me: “I’m reporting you for breach of Coronavirus Regulations. You will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice by post in a few working days.” And that was it. I was walked to the corrugated iron gate at the other end of King Charles Street and sent on my way. I’d been arrested for walking down Oxford Street carrying a homemade placard with “freedom” written on it in felt-tipped pen.

If you’re in any doubt that Britain in 2020 has changed beyond all recognition, then you haven’t been paying attention.

We have put her in touch with Richard Parry, Piers Corbyn’s solicitor. When it comes to heavy-handed policing and vexatious arrests, he’s probably the world’s leading expert.

Infection Fatality Rate in Norway: Slightly Worse Than Influenza

Reader Katherine Jebsen Moore – author of the brilliant knitting trilogy in Quillette – has drawn our attention to the latest data on the infection fatality rate in Norway. It is good news.

“The lethality rate for COVID-19 in Norway is 0.12%,” says Norway’s National Institute for Public Health, according to Nettavisen. In its latest report, the Institute has attempted to map Covid-related illness in Norway in the past six months. 73,000 Norwegians had the virus between June 1st and November 30th. 0.12% of those died, while 0.15% needed intensive care, and 1% were admitted to hospital, according to the report. In comparison, the death rate for influenza is around 0.1%, and around 1.5% of patients need hospitalisation. The numbers from Norway, which has a population of 5.4 million, are considerably lower than the best estimates in the rest of the world, which are around 0.4-1 %. So far, almost 90% of deaths have occurred in the over 70s. For people over 80, the illness has a lethality of more than 5%. The country has so far had only 332 deaths from the virus.

Has Lockdown Affected Your Mental Health?

King’s College London is seeking volunteers for online study of personality and mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic. Personality profile for all and £10 expenses if you complete the follow-up. Sign up here at measureyourpersonality.com. The study code is 57894876.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/UnmaskedDoco/status/1333542517539819528?s=20

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Two Pints of Lager and A Packet Of Crisps Please” by Splodgenessabounds, “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie, “I Won’t Back Down” by Johnny Cash and “Banned From The Pubs” by Peter and the Test Tube Babies.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, from the Telegraph, the story of the students who want the adjective “black” expunged from textbooks and lectures:

University students have demanded the word “black” be banned from lectures and textbooks amid claims it symbolises “negative situations”. Undergraduates from the University of Manchester say the colour’s use as an adjective stems from our “colonial history”, which has become outdated in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Supporters are calling for commonly used phrases such as “black sheep” to be removed from lecture slides and books, while concerns have also been raised about “blackmail” and “black market” during an audit of racism concerns on campus.

The University said it is preparing to roll out new training and research in response to the unease in order to tackle “racist terminology” and “aggressions”.

In documents seen by the Telegraph, students called for: “The University to ban the use of these words listed above and any other use of the word ‘black’ as an adjective to express negative connotations”. This is because black is “linguistically and metaphorically associated with negative situations” and “used for bad and unsavoury situations or objects”.

This is part of an “accepted consciousness” of using colours as adjectives that is “situated in colonial history”, the student report stated.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The National Trust has hired strategic advisory firm Hanbury Strategy to help it de-woke-ify its image in the wake of the backlash which followed the report addressing its properties’ links with slavery and colonialism. The firm was co-founded by Paul Stephenson, who was formerly a Director of Vote Leave. MailOnline has the details.

“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 will not 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.

Stop Press: Sometimes academic studies comes up with results that were obvious all along. Researchers from the University of Manchester have investigated the “Impacts of face coverings on communication: an indirect impact of COVID-19“. They conducted an online survey of 460 members of the public, oversampling people with hearing loss. The results, which were published in the International Journal of Audiology, are no great surprise:

With few exceptions, participants reported that face coverings negatively impact on hearing, understanding, engagement and feelings of connection with the speaker. Impacts were greatest when communicating in medical situations. People with hearing loss were significantly more impacted than those without hearing loss. Face coverings impacted communication content, interpersonal connectedness and willingness to engage in conversation. They increased anxiety and stress and made communication fatiguing, frustrating and embarrassing, both as a speaker wearing a face covering and when listening to someone else who is wearing one.

Their research is worth reading in full and the MailOnline has a report which is worth reading too.

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 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 700,000 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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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.

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

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solschenizyn

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

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…

Listen to the latest episode of London Calling with Toby and James Delingpole here. This week, the two curmudgeons discuss today’s Parliamentary vote, the attack on free speech at Eton, James’s stubborn insistence that Trump won the US Presidential election, the latest Free Speech Union victory and whether Rogue One is better than the last three Star Wars movies (spoiler alert: yes).

Click here to listen and click here to subscribe on iTunes.

Latest News

Where Did SAGE Get 4,000 Deaths a Day?

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Telegraph

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson wrote a terrific blog post on Saturday evening, querying where SAGE got its 4,000 deaths-a-day figure from. Remember, it was this modelling that frightened Boris into abandoning his ‘middle path’ strategy in favour of a second lockdown.

Just 10 days ago, Boris Johnson was attacking lockdowns for the “psychological, the emotional damage” they inflict: the effect on mental health as well as the economy. Then, he saw COVID-19 as a menace that could be managed with a “commonsensical approach” of local and regional measures. Now, he sees Covid as a monster capable of overwhelming the NHS and warns of a “medical and a moral disaster” if we do not do a stay-at-home lockdown. His view of the virus seems to have changed, utterly. Why?

As soon as he started his statement, he turned to the graphs on which his case hangs. It was not so much new data, but new models showing new forecasts. Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Officer, ran through them: the same ones leaked to the BBC a few hours earlier. As we know, the first wave peaked at just over 1,000 daily deaths. The new graphs show deaths hitting 4,000 deaths a day – perhaps even as high as 6,000. To put this in perspective, daily deaths in the USA peaked at about 2,500. If 4,000 daily deaths is now plausible from a second wave in Britain, as the models seem to suggest, drastic action is understandable. Here is the graph, shown at the press conference, that makes the case for lockdown:

The above graph is quite a departure from previous understanding of Covid’s potency. We now see second-wave deaths dwarfing not only those from the first wave but those envisaged by the Government’s official ‘realistic worst-case scenario’ (RWC) for the coming winter. The RWC was a secret until the Spectator published it a few days ago, showing deaths peaking at about 800 a day. Here it is.

When we printed the above chart, it looked bad enough. Now it looks tame by comparison of the new studies. And there’s no mention of ‘worst-case’ scenarios: these are billed only as ‘winter scenarios’. But who drew them up? What are the assumptions? And how robust are they? The leak this morning told us who did the modelling: Cambridge, Imperial, etc. Just as an Imperial study made the case for the first lockdown, these four studies make the case for the second. So they ought to be published, together with the assumptions behind them. It would help explain how we get from the data we’ve seen in recent weeks to the scenarios shown to us now, which suggest a tsunami.

Fraser is quite right. If the Government is going to rely on these models to justify placing the whole of England under virtual house arrest for at least a month and almost certainly longer, it is surely under an obligation to publish them? Not just so they can be scrutinised by the electorate, but also by other scientists and – critically – Conservative MPs who will be expected to vote for the second lockdown on Wednesday.

Ross Clark, writing in yesterday’s Telegraph, cast doubt on the reliability of the models used in Saturday’s briefing.

Who noticed the small print at the bottom of the graph, illegible on the version flashed before us during the press briefing but visible in the slides published online: “these are scenarios – not predictions or forecasts”? Oddly, there was no source listed for these graphs – we were told only that they come “from a number of academic modelling groups”. We have subsequently learned that the most frightening curve – the 4,000 a day one – was the work of Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University. But it does not seem to have been published – and my efforts to extract the study from PHE have so far drawn a blank. Without being able to see its workings, we have no idea what assumptions have gone into the 4,000 deaths a day claim.

It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test. On Saturday, Public Health England reported 278 new Covid deaths in England. The average number of deaths for the past seven days is 214, up 50 per cent on the week before. If deaths kept on rising at that rate then, yes, you would get to 4,000 deaths a day in December.

However, a better guide to future deaths is the figures for new infections, which, of course, tend to lead the death figures. Over the past seven days PHE has recorded an average of 22,521 new cases a day – which was a six per cent increase on the week before. If deaths follow the trajectory of new infections – as surely they must, unless COVID-19 suddenly mutates into a vastly more deadly form – they will be nowhere near 1,000 a day by Christmas, let alone 4,000.

The figures for new infections clearly show a slowdown in the increase in new infections. But you wouldn’t have gained this impression listening to Professor Chris Whitty or Sir Patrick Vallance on Saturday. Whitty tried to tell us that infections are rising in every part of England – in spite of a graph on the screen clearly suggesting they have begun to fall in the North East. The graphs also indicated a levelling off of new infections in London, the South East and the West Midlands, and low trajectories in the East and South West. Only in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber are infections following a really worrying curve. Parts of these regions have recently been subjected to Tier 3 restrictions, which are not now going to be allowed time to work.

Instead, exactly as Boris Johnson told us a week ago would be misguided, we are going to close down restaurants in Cornwall to try to fight an epidemic in Manchester. As in the spring, the Government has allowed itself to be panicked by alarmist modelling, a worst-case scenario dressed up as if it were scientific fact – and this time we don’t even get to see the workings.

This is truly alarming. What assumptions have PHE and Cambridge University made in these apocalyptic models? And just how credible are they?

If anyone would like to leak these models to Lockdown Sceptics, we will get a crack team of top scientists to subject them to a quick-and-dirty peer review in time for Wednesday’s vote. Contact us here. Discretion assured.

Stop Press: Turns out, the projections produced by the Cambridge statistical unit that were invoked by Patrick Vallance at Saturday’s press briefings were out of date. According to the Telegraph, Vallance relied on a scenario that was drawn up three weeks ago rather than using a more-up-to-date scenario from the same unit that was far less apocalyptic.

The modelling presented on Saturday night, which suggests deaths could reach 4,000 a day by December, is so out-of-date that it suggests daily deaths are now around 1,000 a day.

In fact, the daily average for the last week is 260, with a figure of 162 yesterday.

And the statistics unit at Cambridge University has produced far more up-to-date projections, with far lower figures, the Telegraph can reveal.

These forecasts, dated October 28 – three days before the Downing Street announcement – far more closely track the current situation, forecasting 240 daily deaths by next week, and around 500 later this month.

While these predictions do not look as far ahead as December, they suggest a picture which is far more optimistic than the scenario which caused shock waves this weekend.

Prof Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, at Oxford University, said he was “deeply concerned” by the selection of data which were not based on the current reality.

He said: “Our job as scientists is to reflect the evidence and the uncertainties and to provide the latest estimates.”

“I cannot understand why they have used this data, when there are far more up-to-date forecasts from Cambridge that they could have accessed, which show something very different.”

Prof Heneghan said his analysis suggests the forecasts could be four to five times too high.

He said: “I’m deeply concerned about how the data is being presented so that politicians can make decisions. It is a fast-changing situation, which is very different in different regions, and it concerns me that MPs who are about to go to a vote are not getting the full picture.”

The Mail has done some digging of its own and also found out some worrying shortcomings in the data that featured so prominently at the Downing Street presser on Saturday night. For instance, the Cambridge forecast classified a death as being from Covid if it occurred within 60 days of a positive test result. It was precisely because the Covid death toll was being inflated in this way (as pointed out by Prof Carl Heneghan) that PHE reluctantly introduced the 28-day cut-off.

Was Boris aware that the Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer were presenting him with out-of-date information when they leant on him to impose a full lockdown on Friday? The data presented by them in the Downing Street presser is looking more and more like the dodgy dossier that Alastair Campbell cooked up to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader with a scientific background has summarised the REACT survey for us. You’ll recall, this was among the studies that scared the bejesus out Boris.

They take 85,971 self-administered swabs and analyse using our worst friend, the PCR.

They get 863 positives, which is 1%.

They then add a bit of ‘weight’ to it to make it 1.28%

THEN – get this! – they promptly ignore everyone who’s had it (probably 23 million based on an IFR of 0.2% and the deaths we’ve had) plus those who won’t get it because of T-cells, and multiply 1.28% by the entire population!

They then add a bit more ‘weight’ to the resulting 870,400 to make it 960,000 and then go ‘mmm… symptoms last about 10 days, so that must mean 96,000 cases a day!’

Shitty and Malice read it, report back to Prime Minister Lighthead (who at this stage I’m assuming can’t read himself unless it’s in Latin or Greek), everyone dumps in their pants and we’re off again.

Unbelievable. Utterly Un-make-up-able.

Pressure Builds to Close Schools

The figures on the Lockdown track are children

Having succeeded in persuading Boris to do a U-turn, the lockdown hawks in SAGE are becoming emboldened and now have school closures in their sights. Sir Mark Walport and Sir Jeremy Farrar, both members of SAGE, have warned that lockdown restrictions may need amending as schools staying open could be problematic. The Mail has more.

Former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport said the new restrictions were not as “severe” as the first time round, and that there was a “possibility” the restrictions may need to stay in place for more than four weeks.

In an interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he warned: “It’s unlikely this time to come down quite as fast as it did during the first lockdown because we have got schools open.”

His comments were echoed by Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), who said transmission in secondary schools is “high”.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The big difference to the first lockdown is that schools remain open.

“Because we have delayed the onset of this lockdown it does make keeping schools open harder.

“We know that transmission, particularly in secondary schools is high.

“Personally I think this is definitely the lockdown to put in place now but if that transmission, particularly in secondary schools, continues to rise then that may have to be revisited in the next four weeks in order to get R below one and the epidemic shrinking.”

Worth reminding these zealots that there has been no recorded case of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil anywhere in the world, as reported in the Times in July. Back then, Mark Woolhouse, a leading epidemiologist and also a member of SAGE, told the Times that it had been a mistake to close schools in March given the limited role children play in spreading the virus.

“One thing we have learnt is that children are certainly, in the 5 to 15 brackets from school to early years, minimally involved in the epidemiology of this virus,” Professor Woolhouse, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Edinburgh University, said. “They are probably less susceptible and vanishingly unlikely to end up in hospital or to die from it.”

“There is increasing evidence that they rarely transmit. For example, it is extremely difficult to find any instance anywhere in the world as a single example of a child transmitting to a teacher in school. There may have been one in Australia but it is incredibly rare.”

Stop Press: Kevin Courtney, the joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, who’s been leading the calls for school closures, is the highest-paid trade union leader in the country. His annual salary is £217,501, which includes an employers’ national insurance contribution of £21,968 and a pension contribution of £25,264. I wonder how he’d feel about closing schools if he was a single dad working two jobs to support his family?

Three Days to Save the NHS Economy

An image beamed on to the House of Commons by the new Recovery group last night

My friend the famous financial journalist, who cannot be named because it would jeopardise his career, thinks the only thing we can do to try and avert the looming disaster that is the second lockdown is to write to our MPs. I suggested he create a template that Lockdown Sceptics readers could use and he duly obliged.

Dear Member of Parliament,

This week you will be called upon to authorise a second lockdown across England. As your constituent, I urge you reject this proposal on the grounds that lockdowns are ruinous to lives, livelihoods and liberty.

Lives are lost when other medical services are suspended. Lives are ruined by depression and domestic violence which accompany lockdowns. Livelihoods are destroyed and countless families impoverished with future generations left to bear the costs of this ruinous policy. Liberty is suspended as the government rules by decree. Parliament is sidelined and its constitutional role seriously diminished.

Lockdown is not only a cruel and blunt instrument for dealing with COVID-19, it is singularly ineffective. That’s why we are facing a second lockdown so soon after the first. We’re told that hospitals are about to be overwhelmed. But how much confidence should we have in epidemiological models when their forecasting record to date has been so poor?

Evidence from around the world reveals no correlation between lockdowns and coronavirus fatalities. In fact, Peru, the country with the highest fatality rate also had one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns. By contrast, Sweden, which had no lockdown has suffered no excess deaths this year. A policy of “focused protection” for the vulnerable offers a viable alternative approach to a second lockdown.

We have reached a critical moment in our country’s history. If you truly care for the health and welfare of the nation, or are concerned about the future of Parliament, our constitution and liberties, you must reject this second lockdown.

And if you don’t fancy that one, here’s an actual letter a reader has just sent to his MP, Gareth Davies, the member for Grantham and Stamford (Con).

Sir,

I am writing to you as my representative in Parliament, as a resident of Bourne, to urge you not to vote in favour of the planned second Lockdown from Thursday.

The effects of Lockdowns are well known. They’re so negative that even the WHO now advises against them with Prof David Nabarro, special envoy to the WHO saying precisely this in an interview with Andrew Neil on Spectator TV. Our PM even described Lockdowns recently as the ‘nuclear option’ when responding to the Leader of the Opposition’s call for a ‘circuit-break’ recently.

Being furloughed and having to make ends meet on 80% salary as a single-parent of two children was bad enough in March, April and May but will be impossible over the coming month with Christmas approaching. And of course it won’t just be the coming month, will it?

I appreciate the low case rate in South Kesteven compared with elsewhere in the UK May afford me and others here a perceived misunderstanding of the situation nationally, but it doesn’t take long using the government’s own Covid Dashboard to see that what SAGE members are saying doesn’t square with reality. Tier 3 measures being introduced in Greater Nottingham from last Thursday, for example, despite the persistent and sustained fall in cases there from the start of the month is a good case in point. The same for Liverpool & Merseyside and the majority of boroughs in Manchester.

I have never had time for conspiracy theories but I am now fully on board with the likelihood of sinister work at play. All these discredited models by SAGE scientists still seem to curry favour with the PM, who has undoubtedly been ‘got’ early on, following his fight with COVID-19.

Why is SAGE’s reasoning behind their models kept secret? Why is SAGE conflating cases with infections when the two are far from the same?

To be clear, if you vote for this atrocious, unnecessary and legally dubious further grab of our liberties, I – like many others I know – will never vote Conservative again.

You may consider time is on your Party’s side with just under four years before the next General Election, but the lockdown-caused deaths will be ‘slow burners’ for all to see, taking place over the forthcoming years with highly publicised cancer, heart-related and mental illness deaths played out before your, and all your constituents’, eyes, from which there will be no going back.

If the good people of South Kesteven see thousands of unnecessary excess deaths reported with as much gusto as the press has with reminding us of the daily case/death rates for years and years, there is every chance that this Tory stronghold will turn red in the same way the Beast of Bolsolver would never have thought he’d see his constituency turn blue.

Yours sincerely,

XXXXX XXXXXXX

Stop Press: There’s a rebellion brewing on the Conservative back benches, according to the Telegraph – not helped by Michael Gove’s hint on Marr yesterday morning that the second lockdown could be extended well beyond December 2nd.

Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a “huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action”.

Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the announcement of another lockdown was a “body blow” to the British people.

A Government source said there was “enormous frustration” from backbenchers and ministers about the Government’s handling of the crisis, with the leak of lockdown restrictions suggesting “incompetence” within Number 10.

The Mail has more.

Boris Johnson was facing a Tory rebellion last night over his new national lockdown.

Many of his own MPs were outraged by the revelation that the restrictions could last much longer than the planned four weeks – and potentially even run into spring.

Some indicated they would oppose the measures that business chiefs fear will devastate an already fragile economy.

“I will be voting against the new national lockdown on Wednesday when it comes before the House of Commons,” said former Cabinet minister Esther McVey. “The ‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid.”

Another Conservative MP said the fresh clampdown was “like a nightmare that we’ll never wake up from”.

The Mail also has a hard-hitting comment piece by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, questioning whether the data presented by Witless and Unbalanced on Saturday night was fair and accurate.

Please God let more Tory MPs rebel. If Boris has to rely on Labour votes to get the second lockdown through Parliament that will be a political disaster for him.

The Grim Reaper is Owed a Few Souls

I’m publishing a guest post here by an independent researcher who has come up with a novel argument as to why SAGE’s prediction of 4,000 deaths a day if we don’t impose a second lockdown is implausible. I’ve also given it a permanent slot on the right-hand side under the heading of “How Reliable is the Modelling”?

I’m not usually a big fan of making predictions. I love the quote, reputedly from Nils Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. But I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say I don’t think the graph shown by Boris Johnson’s “scientists” yesterday, of over 6000 deaths a day in the UK is going to happen. The fact that it was even shown I just find embarrassing. As a Brit. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s so scientifically illiterate, or whether it’s evidence that the authoritarian elite have so little respect for the people of this country that they can just put up such transparent garbage, to get what they want. Which appears to be the destruction of our wealth and way of life.

But there clearly are increasing Covid hospitalisations and deaths currently happening in the UK and in other places. My hypothesis below is that this is because the epidemic was artificially suppressed in April, and now reality is catching up again. The Grim Reaper wants his souls. And I think we can make a reasonable prediction of how many he is coming for, based on how many we tried to prevent him getting the first time around. Apparently, deaths during respiratory epidemics normally follow the Gompertz curve, a feature of which is the straight line decline once the epidemic has peaked. A comparison between Sweden and the UK shows this.

The artificial suppression of the virus progress back in March and April took the UK off the natural Gompertz trajectory. The change in the slope is clearly visible around the last week in April. What I am proposing here is that those lives which were saved from the end of April through to the end of July were only really delayed deaths, as this virus is not eradicable. And now they are due. And they are also predictable. If we look at the UK in more detail (showing actual seven day average death counts):

The break in slope at around April 23rd is clear, and makes sense when you consider that it would have taken about a month for any effect of the lockdown to become visible on the death count. And as can be seen with the change in slope, we have had less deaths than should have occurred.

And then all I have done is the graph up these daily ‘missing deaths’ that were the ‘gap’ between April and July, and overlay them against what is being observed as ‘the second wave’. As can be seen in this graph, the fit to the actual rise in cases in October is actually quite good. Up until now.

This ‘model’ would suggest that deaths will peak within a week or two, and after a month’s plateau at numbers between 250 and 300 per day, rapidly decline through December.

Now of course this could all be complete nonsense. Time will shortly tell. But I thought it would be good to put out an alternative hypothesis to the rubbish that Boris Johnson has based his reasoning on. Unfortunately, even if what I have shown above comes to pass, our liberal elite leadership will claim this is based on their lockdown response and assure us we need to remain with restrictions as there will still be cases in the community, and according to SAGE only a few percent of the nation will have been infected. Hundreds of thousands could still die. And don’t forget the recent ‘study’ from Imperial college, showing that immunity is only transient, so lots of scope for us all to be reinfected. We may be down this rabbit hole for a very long time.

Brexit Party Reinvents Itself as Anti-Lockdown Party

According to the Telegraph, the Brexit Party is about to reinvent itself as an Anti-Lockdown Party called Reform UK and contest hundreds of seats at the elections in May. Founders Nigel Farage and Richard Tice have declared lockdowns don’t work and instead back a policy of “focused protection”, as set out in the Great Barrington Declaration (see below).

Chief Political Correspondent Christopher Hope has more.

The news will worry Conservative MPs, scarred by the way that Mr Farage’s previous Eurosceptic parties – the UK Independence Party and the Brexit Party – sapped support for the Tory party at previous elections.

The Brexit Party – which won 29 seats in last year’s European Parliament elections 10 weeks after it was set up – claimed to have 150,000 ‘registered supporters’ at its peak, although numbers are understood to have fallen to tens of thousands since then. Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been said to have been pledged for the re-badged party.

Mr Farage said he expected to find support among people whose businesses have been adversely affected by the lockdown, such as the self-employed, restaurateurs and others in the hospitality industry.

He said: “We feel there is a massive political hole at the moment. The crisis has shown how badly governed we are – everything from our quangos to the £12 billion we have wasted on track and trace, to firms being given the most ludicrous contracts, to illegal immigration where we tough talk and nothing ever happens.

“The whole system of government in the UK is not working, and is therefore in need of very radical reform. Brexit is about making us free, but beyond Brexit we have to be governed better. Brexit is the beginning of what we need. Brexit gives us self-governance – we now need to have good self-governance.”

Farage and Tice have announced the formation of the new party in a comment piece for the Telegraph.

They say: “Lockdowns don’t work: in fact, they cause more harm than good. But there is a credible alternative, recommended by some of the finest epidemiologists and medics in the world. It is the Great Barrington Declaration. It is effectively being practised to a large degree in Sweden, with considerable success.

“Focused protection is the key, targeting resources at those most at risk: the elderly, vulnerable or those with other medical conditions. Many of them of course would prefer to hug their grandchildren and enjoy a family Christmas with loved ones. They should not be criminalised for the simple acts that make life worth living, particularly in their final years.

“The rest of the population should, with good hygiene measures and a dose of common sense, get on with life. This way we build immunity in the population. The young act as warriors, creating a shield of protection. Multi generational households will of course need to implement stricter measures.”

They add: “Every death is a huge loss for family, friends and loved ones. But we must put Covid-related deaths into perspective. Around 1,600 people die every day in the UK, for some reason or other.

“The average age of a coronavirus fatality is 82: older than average life expectancy. The truth is this horrible illness is only very dangerous for a tiny minority of people.

“The average person has more than a 99.5 per cent chance of surviving the disease if they catch it. We must have the courage to live with the virus, not hide in fear of it.”

The party will back the Great Barrington Declaration, a policy backed by thousands of scientists and doctors, which advocates only requiring the elderly and most vulnerable to lock down.

The pair add: “Reform is the only significant political party that supports the Great Barrington Declaration. We are showing the courage needed to take on consensus thinking and vested interests on Covid.

“But there are so many areas of public life that can be improved to benefit ordinary people. That is why we will campaign for Reform.”

This is a very positive development. Until now, political opposition to the lockdown has come from a few brave Conservative MPs like Sir Graham Brady, Sir Desmond Swayne, Esther McVey, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Walker. If Reform UK can attract the same sort of support as the Brexit Party it will pose a credible threat to sitting Conservative Mayors, Counsellors and Police and Crime Commissioners in the local elections next May – and that will undoubtedly create more internal opposition to the lockdown policy within the Conservative Party. More power to their elbow.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Thinks the Lockdown is a Ravenous Devouring Monster

Scylla as a maiden with a kētos tail and dog heads sprouting from her body. Detail from a red-figure bell-crater in the Louvre, 450–425 B.C. This form of Scylla was prevalent in ancient depictions, though very different from the description in Homer, where she is land-based and more dragon-like.

A reader has pointed out that Boris recently compared a second lockdown to the mythical Greek monster Scylla – which is spot on, obviously. Classically-educated readers will recall that Odysseus had to navigate a narrow waterway, with Scylla on one bank and Charybdis on the other, plotting exactly the right line or risk being devoured by one of them.

It’s worth reminding ourselves now of the metaphors that Boris has used to describe lockdown. The “nuclear option” – assured destruction, massive and indiscriminate, only to be deployed by an insane Dr Strangelove. And Scylla (a characteristically show-off classical reference – Boris said he would steer a course between the Scylla of national lockdown and the Charybdis of “letting it rip”). Which makes the lockdown… a ravenous devouring monster. Sounds about right. Someone should lash him to the mast and stop him listening to the alluring sirens of SAGE. (In Robert Fagles’ translation of the Odyssey, the opening lines are: “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course”.)

I’ve Started a Petition to Cut MPs Salaries by 20% – in Line With Furloughed Workers

I started a petition last night on Change.org asking MPs to take a 20% pay cut for the duration of the lockdown, just as furloughed employees are having to do. My hope is it will attract so many signatures, MPs will feel under moral pressure to do it and that, in turn, will make them reluctant to wave through the second lockdown in the House of Commons on Wednesday – or, if they do, make them more inclined to hold Boris to the December 2nd deadline.

You can sign it here.

Stop Press: Someone has started a petition to stop the second lockdown. You can sign that one here.

The Covid Physician

I’m publishing a long piece today by a dissident NHS doctor who styles himself the Covid Physician and can be found on twitter here. It’s essentially a diary of what it’s been like to be a practising GP during the pandemic. Here’s an extract:

My attitude to the Government pandemic advice hardened significantly when I received the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) advice on pyrexial over-70 year olds in the community: do not admit them. If they get very ill, call the Macmillan nurse and palliative care team. This was my first sniff of the new-normal clinical lunacy. It was redolent of the swine ‘flu panic where in 2009 we were negligently told to prescribe novel anti-viral medication to anyone on the basis of the slightest raised temperature, regardless of better alternative diagnoses. A reasonable body of doctors would never do this under sane conditions.

I did research. Given my older patients were to be left at home to sink or swim, I concluded that the very safe hydroxychloroquine, zinc and azithromycin combination was worth trying in the best interests of those marooned patients. I was blessed to have my own NHS dispensary and quickly ordered the medications. That was when the second whiff of madness was caught: the gaslighting (‘nudging’) mainstream media was repeatedly telling me it was very dangerous, they were lambasting my brave and learned international medical colleagues for daring to say anything but a vaccine was effective in mitigating COVID-19. Our CCG pharmacist emailed all GPs to ask us to not prescribe hydroxychloroquine in suspected COVID-19 cases as this would diminish stock for the usual rheumatoid and lupus users.

As it happens, such was the lack of community cases of clinically-unwell COVID-19, I never had to use the triple therapy. The closest I got was when a very feverish lady in her 80s was being left to probably die of a severe sepsis. She was refused hospital admission. At that time, I was not allowed to see her, as we had a dedicated Covid ‘red hub’ to remotely triage queried Covid cases to. Its guidelines had concluded temperature equated to Covid, which in turn equated to no hospital access allowed for over-70s. This was my third experience of what was now a reeking stench. Fortunately, her home-help called me to notify me of the ensuing danger. I assessed the situation remotely and concluded that the clinical logic of the red hub was wrong. The most likely cause was line sepsis (she had an in-dwelling feeding line in a major blood vessel). I spoke to the red hub and the hospital to explain that the guidelines were fatally negligent. They took her in, and line sepsis it was. This simply required a new line and intravenous antibiotics. She survived to rejoin her husband, but how many are still dying of perfectly treatable, potentially fatal illness?

Worth reading in full.

Latest Polling

I received an email from Savanta ComRes yesterday detailing the results of a poll it conducted after Boris’s presser on Saturday. It makes for grim reading I’m afraid.

Latest polling conducted by Savanta ComRes last night, after Boris Johnson’s announcement, shows strong support for new four-week lockdown. Almost three quarters say they support the measures (72%), with just 15% saying that they oppose them. One in ten (11%) say they neither support nor oppose the measures.

Support is highest for closing pubs, bars and restaurants, with three quarters of English adults supporting it (76%), and just one in ten opposing it (12%). Around half (47%) say they support schools, colleges, and universities staying open, with two in five opposing keeping these open (37%).

When asked how long they think the measures will last, almost half (47%) of English adults think we’ll emerge later than the planned date of 2nd December, while a third believe the measures will end on that date (32%). Just over one in five believe the restrictions will end earlier than the planned date of December 2nd (7%).

I’d like to meet someone in the 20% who think restrictions will end earlier than December 2nd. I have a bridge I’d like to sell them…

There was one glimmer of light.

When asked about how the Government has handled the pandemic over the last month, around half of English adults think they have handled it badly (53%), while around a quarter think they have handled it well (23%).

We still have much work to do comrades.

NHS Test-and-Invent

I get about a dozen emails like this every day. Something has gone very wrong at NHS Test and Trace.

Just heard an amusing anecdote from my taxi driver today. He explained that he and three members of his family went for a test (as he’d been in contact with someone infected). When they got to the centre they were told there was a four-hour wait, he said “f**k that!” and they all left without being swabbed… Thirty-six hours later all four of them received a text that they had all tested positive and had to isolate by law for 14 days! And that system cost us 12 billion pounds???

Message From North Korea the Devolved Nations

A reader in Scotland emailed me yesterday, having created the above image.

Living under the Sturgeon Terror I could not resist creating this in Photoshop when I heard England would be screening Lockdown 2: This Time It’s Personal for a month.

Ironically, despite Sturgeon’s “anything Boris can do I can do worse” policy, come Thursday Scotland will have the least severe Lockdown in the UK by default. I give that about five minutes before Sturgeon goes one up by making gloves and goggles compulsory or something equally mental.

Don’t expect the restrictions to end on December 2nd. In Scotland we were told that the restrictions would be for two weeks. That was then extended to three weeks then with the Tier System it was extended to forever.

On the plus side, now that the nations of the UK are all in the same sinking boat the tossers at the top can no longer play regional divide and rule. This means that there will be a united opposition to the UK wide restrictions. Since it is clear that protest, resistance and push back are the only thing that are going to put an end to this madness, that can only be a good thing.

Stop Press: Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph says Nicola Sturgeon has been a contrast-gainer from Boris’s latest flip-flop. The dithering chump is going to cost us the Union, isn’t he?

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just two today: “If You Wanna” by the Vaccines and “Here We Go Again Pt 1 and Pt 2” by the Isley Brothers.

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 highlighting a fantastic article by John Tamny in Forbes.

“I was shocked by how little dissent was tolerated at Harvard. Anyone who disagreed with the new orthodoxy was automatically branded a racist or a sexist or a homophobe.” “The prevailing orthodoxy was that concepts like ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’ had no place in contemporary education.” Intimacy with female Harvard students meant “you had to seek the woman’s formal permission at every stage in the seduction process.” One professor “had to abandon teaching his class on the ‘Peopling of America’ after he was dubbed ‘racially insensitive.’” His error was to talk about America’s native “population as ‘Indians’ rather than ‘Native Americans.’”

Harvard University has really gone over the edge. It’s hard to imagine that this is what’s happening at what is realistically the U.S.’s most prestigious university, if not the world’s. Higher education is surely in trouble, which means the U.S. is.

Of course the punch line to this weak attempt at a good set-up is that the above recollections weren’t those of a 2019 grad; rather they’re a few tidbits picked up from Toby Young’s classic 2001 memoir, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. It seems Harvard was ahead of the political correctness pack as the 20th century closed until it’s understood that Young was writing about the Harvard he encountered in 1987. After graduating from Oxford, the essential Young (please bookmark his website Lockdown Sceptics) was given a Fulbright Award, which enabled him to spend a year at Harvard.

Up front, Young would likely admit that part of what makes him so interesting and entertaining is his use of playful exaggeration. We’re talking about someone talented enough to have worked at Vanity Fair in its heyday, but who wrote a memoir about all of all his blunders while there.

Looked at through the prism of his time at Harvard, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that Young cherry-picked the most egregious examples of political correctness. He might admit that the vast majority of students have grand ambitions for their lives after Harvard, many of them are financially motivated, which means most aren’t too politically active one way of the other. Young’s examples of PC-stupidity have a wow factor precisely because they’re kind of rare.

Still, for the purposes of this piece they’re a reminder that PC ridiculousness is hardly an early 21st century concept. It’s as old as higher education is.

Terrific piece and well worth reading in full.

Incidentally, if any readers are tempted to read How to Lose Friends and Alienate People on the back of these glowing references, you can purchase a copy on Amazon here.

Highly recommended.

“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. 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 hit job 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 well over 600,000 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.

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 Welsh Government over its insistence on closing churches during the “circuit breaker”. See its letter-before-action here and an article 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.

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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6HQm3ZzyhM

If you’ve been watching the American Presidential election, you’re probably feeling pretty uninspired by the two candidates. However, the candidates in 2024 should be more impressive. Some of the Republican governors who refused to shut down their states – or made sure the shutdowns were as short as possible – are formidable politicians and none more so than Kristi Noem, the Governor of South Dakota. She says the most important lesson she’s learned about how best to cope with a pandemic is, “More freedom rather than more government is the answer.” You can watch a recent speech she made about how she responded to the crisis here. Among the highlights: “I didn’t even define what an essential business was because I didn’t think I had the authority to tell you your business isn’t essential.” And this, on modelling: “While modelling certainly has a place, models have two shortcomings today. No model can predict the future, especially when those models are based on incomplete information… [and] no model can replace human freedom as the best path for responding to our life’s risks, including in response to this virus. That is why central planning of the economy has failed us every single time the government has tried it.”

If Kristi is the Republican nominee in 2024, I’ll be tempted to campaign for her.

Latest News

Protest Chaos in London

Police clashed with protesters in Central London yesterday, leading to chaotic scenes and over 150 arrests. More from the MailOnline:

Central London descended into anarchy as riot police arrested 155 angry anti-lockdown demonstrators as thousands took to the streets and booed officers while chanting “shame on you”.

Dozens of violent anti-lockdown activists clashed with police while thousands more gathered in the capital amid growing discontent with the Government’s new tier system to be introduced on December 2nd. 

Officers detained protesters led by Piers Corbyn who chanted “freedom” and carried placards reading “stop controlling us” and “no more lockdowns” at Marble Arch for flouting coronavirus restrictions. 

Tweets posted by Jeremy Corbyn’s brother indicate that grassroots group Save Our Rights UK marched from King’s Cross station through Angel to Hyde Park and along a road parallel to Oxford Street. 

Traffic was temporarily blocked on Regent Street as officers attempted to handcuff people on the ground in the middle of the road, while police apprehended demonstrators weaving through the capital.  

Videos show police cracking down on protesters, including a lone man who howled in apparent agony and burst into tears as he fell to the ground during an arrest outside King’s Cross St Pancras. 

The Metropolitan Police said officers had made more than 60 arrests by 3pm. 

Those arrests were for offences including breaching coronavirus regulations, assaulting a police officer and possession of drugs.

Officers made a number of early interventions to prevent people from gathering and to urge people to go home. Coaches transporting protestors into the capital were intercepted and those who did not turn back and go home were either arrested or issued with fixed penalty notices. Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, policing commander for this event, said: “This was a challenging day for Met, City of London and British Transport Police officers and I would like to thank them for the professionalism they have shown throughout the day.

On Friday, we made it very clear how we would police this event, warning those looking to attend that they risked facing enforcement action if they attended a gathering in London. Today’s enforcement action is a direct result of those individuals deliberately breaking the law and at times, targeting our officers with aggression and causing disruption to the road network.”

The report is worth reading in full and, for a video account, try this by Charles Lampwick.

One of those arrested was, of course, Piers Corbyn. According to his Twitter account he was arrested at around 5pm, after giving a speech at Piccadilly Circus.

Also arrested was a Lockdown Sceptics reader. He sent us this report:

The plan was to meet at King’s Cross station at 12 noon. However, due to the huge police presence the location changed twice. Eventually people met at Speaker’s Corner at around 1 pm.

There were police vans everywhere; especially the Territorial Support Group (TSG). I have never seen so many police in London in my entire life. It was insane!

The march had a fantastic atmosphere. I’d say there were around 5,000 people on the main march. The problem was that the police were trying their best to break everyone up. It became a ridiculous game of cat and mouse. As soon as the march changed direction, another group of helmeted TSG goons would turn up and block off the road. We managed to make it down Oxford Street, Regent Street and several smaller back streets.

After about an hour of marching, I was standing at the back of the protest, casually chatting away to a new friend I’d made. Suddenly, out of nowhere a police officer grabbed my arm.

“What is your reason for being here?” he asked me.

“Just going for a walk. It’s my daily exercise.” I replied.

“Are you protesting? We have reason to believe you are protesting?” he said.

Next thing I know, he put my arms behind my back and cuffed me. The cuffs were so tight I asked him to loosen them as they were cutting off the blood supply to my fingers, on one of my hands. I was then searched on the spot and taken in a police van to a courtyard area, about five minutes’ drive away. This was a makeshift “prisoner” processing centre just off King Charles Street. There was a huge queue of us, all waiting to be processed. Apparently, they had run out of room in all the custody suites.

After an hour of waiting, I was taken to a tent where I was searched again, more thoroughly. I was then taken to a more senior police officer who asked me to confirm my name, date of birth and address, on camera. I was told I would be released and sent a £100 fine in the post. If I pay this within 28 days, I am told it will be reduced, or alternatively I can challenge it in court.

Overall, I found the police presence completely over the top. They seemed to be randomly picking off any individuals who had become separated from the main march; much like hungry lions preying on injured gazelles – easy, unwitting targets. Their approach was heavy-handed, unreasonable and not in keeping with common-sense, proportionate policing.

I no longer have any respect for the British police. They have made themselves enemies of the very people they are meant to be protecting. We officially live in a totalitarian, police state. People innocently exercising their democratic right to protest are being treated with contempt and violence.

Another reader sent us this:

I was listening to 5 Live where they said “hundreds” attended with 160 arrested. The Mail had thousands which was more accurate. I went to Kings Cross station to discover that the protest had been re-routed to Marble Arch. I met a few other “freedom fighters” on the tube. It was a pleasant experience sitting in a carriage with other unmuzzled passengers, a sadly rare occurrence.

After the obligatory arrest of Piers Corbyn, the crowd moved along Oxford Street, then to Piccadilly and back into Hyde Park. The police/TSG were constantly in close attendance. A “second wave” eventually returned along Oxford Street. I left at Oxford Circus shortly after the sad sight of the arrest of Louise from Save Our Rights. They seemed to be targeting organisers.

The TSG were out in force, as expected. I was fearful of arrest but I was lifted by the communal spirit and the fact that they could not apprehend us all. Just outside Hyde Park, where the police were trying to split up the protestors, some people moved some roadwork barriers into the road to block traffic which effectively prevented the TSG vans from getting to the scene. Some kids on bikes joined in somewhat enthusiastically, but there was also a lot of anger about the whole ridiculous situation, the biased policing, and this tyranny of a supposedly libertarian government.

It is one thing spending hours reading Lockdown Sceptics, etc. and watching some excellent videos on YouTube, but there is nothing quite like getting out there with like-minded people. It was just a shame that with the shops closed, not that many were there to witness it. Several bus/car drivers, however, despite being held up, offered their support to loud cheers of applause.

And from a third:

Saturday morning 11am: Get forwarded a video of a long line of police vans at Kings Cross including several of the Territorial Support Group, with the ironic voiceover asking: “What is going on to cause this amount of police response?!” Messages about last-minute changes in location come through social media and the protest moves to Marble Arch.

Saturday afternoon 1.15 pm. Arrive at Marble Arch to see a crowd of several thousand people walking, in good spirits, down Oxford Street and decide to walk with them. Passengers on buses that cannot move for the sheer volume of protesters wave, bystanders look on. Lots of filming on phones, tv cameras and handy cams. At the junction of Regent Street an arrest is made. People are chanting “Choose Your Side!” “Freedom!” and “We do not Consent!” As we move towards Piccadilly Circus the police show up in very large numbers. It doesn’t feel like a peaceful protest anymore.

1.45 pm. The protest is split up. I am in a smaller group that is blocked off by the police in Great Marlborough Street. There is not enough of a crowd to punch through the police line so many turn back up to Oxford Street where the message is passed along to go back to Marble Arch. More arrests are made as the police just keep coming. They work in packs of about 20-30, helmeted, masked and as disciplined as a standing army. It is quite intimidating. They separate out people who are by themselves, surround them and pin them to the pavement, then arrest them and take them away.

2.30 pm. There is no way through to Piccadilly Circus so we go back to Oxford Street and walk back to Marble Arch. There is a very visible police presence and at least 25 police vans.

3.05 pm. In the park some members of Freedom Festival go and talk to the police who are waiting at the Marble Arch park entrance then suddenly they are walking back to the much smaller group at Speakers’ Corner followed by a group of at least 50 police, mostly TSG. Is it looking like it is going to kick off? Protesters climb the railings to go onto the street or scatter in the park.

3.10pm. Some of the TSG start moving towards onlookers and we are pushed gradually back and encouraged to disperse. A lady next to me talks to one of the TSG who takes off his mask. He has a northern accent. These police appear to have been mobilised from across the country. The groups disperse. Time to go home and watch the rest of the protest that has been streaming on social media.

Boris Fights to Quell Rebellion

The Prime Minister has written a piece for today’s Mail on Sunday pleading with his rebel backbenchers not to rebel on Tuesday when the new restrictions are put to a vote.

We can’t blow it now. We can’t just throw it all away – not when freedom is in sight. We have worked too hard, lost too many, sacrificed too much, just to see our efforts incinerated in another volcanic eruption of the virus.

Once again, the British people have come together to bring Covid under control. Once again, our collective efforts have paid off – and as I write the R rate is once again below one.

Across the country, the disease is no longer doubling in prevalence. It is halving. We did it before, in the spring, and now we have done it again.

But this time it is different. This time we know in our hearts that we are winning, and that we will inevitably win, because the armies of science are coming to our aid with all the morale-boosting, bugle-blasting excitement of Wellington’s Prussian allies coming through the woods on the afternoon of Waterloo.

In months, or even weeks, we will have a viable vaccine against coronavirus – giving elderly and vulnerable people the durable protection they need. And we are not just backing one vaccine, but seven.

We have secured 40 million doses of the highly promising Pfizer-Biontech treatment, with millions possibly available by the end of this year. We have obtained 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that is now going for approval by the regulators at MHRA. And as of yesterday, the Government has bought a total of 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has proved 95% effective in clinical trials.

Pretty feeble stuff, not helped by the tortuous metaphors. Indeed, Boris’s verbal gymnastics at a moment of such gravity feel sophomoric and inappropriate – and the same side of his personality was on display at a meeting with seven ministers last week when the decision to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system was made. According to the Sunday Times:

Boris Johnson could not quite decide if his attempts to channel Winston Churchill in the fight against the coronavirus had reached the equivalent of the Battle of Britain, when national survival was secured, or El Alamein, when the slow advance to victory began.

It was 8.15pm on Wednesday when the prime minister began summing up the conclusions of a closely guarded meeting of eight ministers that decided tier levels across England and the fate of millions. Several times the prime minister conjured up his hero’s spirit: “Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?” he mused. After what one witness described as “several mixed metaphors”, Johnson settled on: “I think we’re at the beginning of the end of the second half.”

Yesterday, the Prime Minister responded to a letter from the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group, addressing some of their concerns. Among the concessions he offered were:

  • To take into account “local views” when reviewing the restrictions every fortnight, with a heavy hint that some areas would be moved to a lower tier on December 19th.
  • A full cost-benefit analysis of the restrictions in different areas to be published before Tuesday’s vote.
  • A “sunset clause” whereby the new restrictions will come to an end on February 3rd and won’t be renewed without a Parliamentary vote.

Steve Baker, the Vice-Chair of the CRG, welcomed this as “constructive”, but according to the Observer it’s unlikely to persuade many of the rebel MPs to change their minds because they were so incensed by Michael Gove’s piece in the Times yesterday telling them to “take responsibility for difficult decisions”.

Boris Johnson was facing a growing Tory mutiny over new COVID-19 restrictions last night as furious Conservative MPs accused the government of exaggerating capacity problems in the NHS in an attempt to win their support.

Ahead of a crucial Commons vote on the new three-tier system on Tuesday, an extraordinary row erupted over claims by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove that the NHS, including the newly constructed Nightingale hospitals, could be “physically overwhelmed”.

Writing yesterday in the Times, Gove revealed that the earlier decision to impose a second national lockdown had been taken after ministers had been presented with a grim picture of rising COVID-19 cases and Nightingale hospitals at capacity.

“Every bed, every ward occupied,” Gove wrote. Attempting to force rebel Conservatives into line, he told elected members that they had “to take responsibility for difficult decisions” in the national interest.

In a desperate attempt to win potential rebels round, the prime minister wrote to all MPs spelling out that regulations putting areas in tiers would end on February 3rd and be reviewed every fortnight until then. He also promised the analysis demanded by many MPs of the health, economic and social impact of COVID-19 and the measures taken to tackle them.

But as Tory MPs objected to Gove’s tone, the argument was stoked further as other Conservatives revealed to the Observer that health minister Nadine Dorries had told a group of them last week that the Nightingale hospitals were in fact largely unfilled because people regarded them as “dark and dingy”, and that it was proving difficult to find the staff to run them. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care denied she had used those words and said: “Each NHS Nightingale has been developing a clinical model that can be scaled up as and when additional capacity is required in the region. This model ensures that the right skill mix of staff will be available from NHS trusts in the region, NHS professionals and direct recruitment if required.”

A spokesperson for the NHS confirmed that just two of seven Nightingales – Manchester and Exeter – had begun to admit patients.

One senior Tory said: “Ministers like Gove cannot at one and the same time be saying we are on the brink of being overwhelmed unless we adopt far tougher measures, while admitting they are not using any but a tiny number of the emergency capacity beds we have, and that, anyway, they don’t have the staff. If it is as bad as he says, what have they been doing since March?”

Tobias Ellwood, one of the Tory MPs threatening to vote against the government on Tuesday, said Gove had been “completely disingenuous because every one of our Nightingales is underused – they are largely dormant”. On Twitter, he added: “Let’s not place areas in higher tiers, due to local bed pressure when other beds lie empty.”

Worth reading in full.

Gove’s argument was also attacked by Jonathan Sumption on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday. The MailOnline has more:

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Sumption said: “The problem is that there is a lack of rational thinking everywhere. 

There is, in this country, a particular problem which undermines Michael Gove’s article, which is the problem about the information that the Government puts out.

“Some of the statistics used to justify the lockdown have been extremely selective and tendentious. The most serious case recently, which was used to justify the current lockdown, resulted in criticism from the UK’s Statistics Authority.”

He added: “The fact is that the public has become increasingly unwilling to comply for reasons that to me are sound.

“Of course this is not enforceable. None of these things are enforceable, none of them are, without a strong measure of public willingness to comply.’

He added that “the fact that the Government cannot send policemen into every one to police it doesn’t seem to me to justify locking down ever large numbers of people’ who are ‘going to suffer no serious ill effects and certainly are not going to die”.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, we are encouraging Lockdown Sceptics readers to join in Peter Hitchens’s mass write-in to MPs. Read his appeal in the Mail on Sunday. The Conservative Woman has also given his campaign their full support.

Stop Press: Tory restlessness does not stop at the bank benches. The following is a message posted to a Facebook group for members of the Conservative Party in Kent, which is going into Tier 3 restrictions, despite several areas in the country being below the national average.

Around here in Tier 3, everyone I know is booking up dinners at pubs in Sussex or going to go up to London. This is a bit like the Delhi cobra cull during the British Raj when the authorities offered a bounty for every dead cobra. Initially it seemed to work, so they stopped paying. But it turned out that locals had been breeding cobras to get the cash and, when payments stopped, they let the snakes free. Misjudged incentives and restrictions lead to perverse or unintended outcomes. This stupid tier system means that rather than going to the pub down the road in an area with little Covid, lots of people will travel around instead. It won’t stop Covid but it will destroy business and livelihoods. Boris just has to go. Time up, cowboy.

Is the NHS Really on the Brink?

In the wake of Michael Gove’s claims that the NHS is on the brink of being overwhelmed, we asked the former NHS doctor who’s a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics to take a look at the latest data and ring round his friends to see if it was true. His answer won’t surprise you.

This morning Michael Gove asserted in the Times that all NHS hospitals including the super-surge Nightingale capacity could be overwhelmed by Covid patients if lockdown restrictions did not remain in force. Toby has kindly asked me to have a look at the latest hospital figures and comment on whether the available data supports this assertion with particular reference to London.

In May I was asked to write an opinion on what the coming months might bring. At the time I thought the primary issue was not medical, but socio-political. That remains my view today.

In answering the latest question, I will firstly look at the evidence that we are permitted to see by the NHS. I have reservations as to its veracity, but that’s all we have to go on. Then I will say what I think it means and finally draw some conclusions.

First, the data.

I prefer to look at ICU cases as a marker of Covid because the headline figures from the testing programmes are polluted by an unknown number of false positives and conflate asymptomatic and symptomatic cases. The ward-based inpatient data is too easily manipulated and doesn’t take account of the high turnover and relatively short stays for most patients. In addition, the burden of care for non-ICU patients is easier to manage in the event of a surge. Headline inpatient COVID figures are skewed by persistently high nosocomial (hospital acquired) infection, which Stevens, Vallance and Whitty expertly forget to mention in their dramatic public briefings.

Over the whole of England ICU cases have been relatively stable over the last two weeks – even falling off in the North West (Graph 1). With specific reference to London, there were 259 ICU patients counted as COVID positive on November 24th out of a current bedstock of approximately 1200 (21%).

The rate of admission is nothing like as steep as the spring and the picture across the capital is variable. In North East London, hospitals such as Barts and Barking have been under steady pressure for some weeks. In the last fortnight, South East London has seen an increase in numbers, consistent with outbreaks in Kent – localised to the Medway area. The West of London is quiet in Covid terms with very low numbers of ICU cases in South West and central London hospitals in particular.

Graph 2 shows the difference in the curves from April – May compared to Oct-Nov for the four worst affected central London teaching hospitals. Readers will notice some data drop out on the spring curves – because staff were too busy to report figures. A casual glance at this graph shows the disparity between the spring wave in blue and the autumn in brown– and these are the busiest hospitals in the capital in terms of Covid cases.

If we look at the ONS death statistics on Graph 3, there is nothing remarkable about this autumn compared to any of the last five years in terms of recorded deaths in London up to week 46 (November 13th). It is important to recognise that there is a lag between patients being ill with Covid and dying from it, and there is also a reporting lag – but the spring peak is clearly visible and coincides with peak hospital occupancy.

So, what’s all the fuss about?

The major difference between the spring and the autumn is that NHS hospitals are currently attempting to run a full load of routine work alongside usual winter pressures. Doctors often have to make decisions around prioritisation on the basis of medical need – if that means scaling back routine work to treat sicker patients, then we just have to live with it and catch up later. If Covid cases were to continue to rise and stress the system, scaling back routine work would be the logical thing to do. On the basis of the available evidence, there are no imminent signs of the situation getting out of hand in the way it did in the spring. In any event the capital has plenty of spare capacity in several large hospitals which are not currently particularly busy for this time of year.

The burden of patients with respiratory illness is not unusual for this time of year but protocols intended to limit the spread of COVID are creating added pressure. These have had the effect of removing large numbers of staff into self-isolation because they’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive using a PCR test. There’s no shortage of beds and equipment – but a shortage of people to staff them. During the spring, NHS Digital reported that 7.2% of NHS staff in London were off sick due to COVID related reasons – leaked information last month suggested that up to 30% of staff were absent in some Northern hospitals. These people are not necessarily ill themselves – just told to stay at home by NHS Test and Trace. Many of them will have been told to isolate as a result of false positive PCR test results.

In answer to a Parliamentary Question last week on the operational false positive rate of PCR testing, the best the Department of Health could produce was a short paper presented to SAGE on June 3rd – highlighting the fact that the NHS did not know what the false positive rate was. Estimates from previous work put it at between 0.8 and 4.0%. If we assume a median average of 2.3%, this implies the vast majority of NHS staff ordered to self-isolate have been in contact with false positives, given the relatively low prevalence of Covid. On June 3rd, SAGE was advised to urgently conduct external quality assessments to ascertain what the operational false positive rates were. I have searched the available minutes from SAGE since then and can find no further reference to this point – perhaps it is too embarrassing to be mentioned in public. False positives may be mitigated to a degree by the recent introduction of lateral flow tests, which I understand have a lower false positive rate. It is telling that Health Department officials have repeatedly denied there is a problem with false positives and the PCR tests – it has taken FOI requests and a Parliamentary Question to force an admission that SAGE has known about it for months.

SAGE minutes from Meeting 63 (Oct 25th) and Meeting 66 (Nov 5th) reveal an acknowledgement that nosocomial infections are also a significant problem. I note the committee avoided quantifying the issue – now running at about 20% from derived analysis of data in the public arena. Once again, the NHS has issued repeated denials that a significant percentage of Covid patients have been self-generated by failure of in-hospital infection control – only to be caught out when the evidence becomes overwhelmingly obvious.

From my reading of the available figures, there is no imminent cause for alarm in London – it is fear of a repetition of the spring which is driving senior NHS managers to agitate for further “non pharmaceutical interventions” (the euphemistic term for lockdown). I don’t understand why Michael Gove believes the NHS is at risk of being totally overwhelmed. If he has hard information to support that assertion, he should put it in the public domain for discussion. Failure to provide evidence justifying such breathless hysteria suggests he is shroud waving to influence his own backbench colleagues rather than making informed comment. Perhaps Gove is actually worried that the Government will lose the vote on Tuesday.

Within London, plans are in place for an expansion of ICU capacity, elective work can easily be scaled back and moving to a more reliable testing regime should reduce unnecessary staff absence. More tier-based restrictions appear to me to be a political choice, not a medical one. This sets a worrying precedent where medical bureaucrats advise the government to restrict civil liberties in order to conceal the consequences of their own poor preparation. My assessment is that we are currently in a lockdown of convenience, not of necessity.

Finally, I will test readers patience with another graphic – this time of an economic nature. Please note that the ‘y’ axis reads ‘billions of pounds’. That bill needs to be paid by private sector taxpayers, working in an economy which our current Government insists on vandalising with the active collusion of medical civil servants. There is moral hazard here, in that the officials advocating lockdown enjoy protected state-funded employment and pension rights. Would they be so keen on the idea if they had to suffer a 30% salary reduction until the middle of 2021?

Covid Tiers “Will Cost the Economy £900 Million a Day”

Analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) has estimated that the tiering system will cut GDP in the month of December by 13% compared to December last year, amounting to a cost of more than £20 billion. The Telegraph has more:

The CEBR worked out its forecast based on 31% of England’s economy being in Tier 3; 68% in Tier 2 and just 1% in Tier 1.

The forecaster estimated that the daily loss in GDP for Tier 3 is 20%, less than the lost output of 25% of GDP in April when schools and shops were closed. The loss in Tier 2 was estimated to be 10%.

Doug McWilliams, the CEBR’s Deputy Chairman. said: “It remains to be seen whether those costs, which of course can’t take account of the longer term damage done to so many pubs, restaurants, sports and entertainments venues, is justified by the reduced incidence of the disease. My suspicion is that the shutdowns imposed by Whitehall will end up doing more economic damage than can be justified on medical grounds.”

Julian Jessop of the Institute of Economic Affairs provided some grounds for cautious optimism:

“The tiered system is less of a drag than the England-wide lockdown. The package of restrictions currently in place – for example, non-essential shops are not allowed to open – is tighter than those in any of Tiers 1-3, so even moving from nationwide lockdown to Tier 3 is a marginal improvement – and will boost growth… The limited evidence so far suggests that the economic costs of lockdown 2 itself are less than feared, and certainly a lot less than lockdown 1.”

Worth reading in full.

Liam Halligan, writing for the Telegraph, is astonished that the Government still hasn’t commissioned its own analysis of the economic impact of the Covid restrictions it’s introduced.

While the rapid introduction of a two-week curfew was justifiable in March, lockdown extension during subsequent weeks and months should have been accompanied by exactly this sort of cost-benefit analysis.

Instead, Boris Johnson surrounded himself with a very narrow group of advisers – almost all medics, all with the same pro-lockdown views. No room was made for highly respected anti-lockdown epidemiologists (there are many), economists or others with a broader perspective.

The lack of such official cost-benefit analysis ahead of a policy that has already caused the deepest depression in three centuries, sent our national debt into orbit and destroyed thousands of businesses and millions of livelihoods, with much more to come, is simply astonishing.

Some highly respected independent economists have produced such studies – including former Monetary Policy Committee member David Miles and Professor Robert Rowthorn at Cambridge.

Their analysis suggests lockdowns can’t be justified. 

Worth reading in full.

SAGE Advice for Covid-safe Christmas

Santas have their temperature taken as they attend a socially distanced Santa school training at Southwark Cathedral in London, Monday, Aug 24th. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours has just released its “Insights on celebrations and observances during COVID-19“. It’s hard to imagine, as a reader commented, that it isn’t a little tongue in cheek. From the BBC:

The Government’s scientific advisory committee, SAGE, warns coronavirus could easily spread during the festive relaxation of the rules. They say people should still weigh up if an event could be postponed. If not, meeting online or outdoors where the risks of transmission are lower, could be a better option. But if you do go ahead, they say, it’s important to include everyone taking part in drawing up a plan for how to manage the event.

They highlight the particular importance of involving women in the decision-making. “Women carry the burden of creating and maintaining family traditions and activities at Christmas. Messaging should be supportive of women adapting traditions and encouraging those around them to share the burden and to be supportive of any alterations to adapt for COVID-19 restrictions.”

The Telegraph has provided a helpful summary of the advice:

May your Christmas be merry and bright!

Unlock Defensive Immunity With Vitamin D

A side of smoked salmon from Bleiker’s Smokehouse, a great source of Vitamin D

Three senior medics and a health researcher – David C Anderson MD MSc. FRCP FRCPath, David S Grimes MD FRCP, Parag Singhal MD FRCP and Chris Williams BSc – have written an open letter on Lockdown Sceptics imploring the Government to start issuing large doses of Vitamin D to the elderly and the vulnerable. Not the 10 micrograms (400 units) per day that the Government has just announced it will be giving away to 2.5 million people – which is “wholly inadequate”, according to these experts – but 100 micrograms per day.

Here’s an extract:

The phrase “following the science” has been used repeatedly, but this is inaccurate. Rather, we have been following the mathematicians, whose ignorance of biological science is dire.

To date, the disruptive and damaging attempts to control COVID-19 have been physical in nature. Lockdowns, ‘social distancing’, masks, etc. as if we are fighting a conventional war. Whereas. in reality, we are trying to defend ourselves against a virus, which is invisible and is transmitted through the air in its trillions. The virus will always be with us but we can develop immunity against it. Lockdown, masks, social distancing, closure of schools, universities, places of worship, shops, places of work, etc. may slow down the spread of the virus, but they will not cause it to go away. And people are still dying.

The answer lies in defensive immunity. We had a respite during the summer months when we had the benefit of the Vitamin D-producing sun with the production of vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D is a hormone, the vital key that unlocks our complex, defensive process of immunity.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Hypocrite of the Week

Michael B. Hancock. Photo: David Zalubowski/Associated Press

More rank hypocrisy from the governing class. This time, the Mayor of Denver, flagged in the Wall Street Journal. Here is his statement of contrition:

I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel… What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver. I recognise that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone… I made my decision as a husband and father and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are born of my heart and not my head.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by The Who, “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, and “Oh What a Circus” by David Essex.

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 so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, from MailOnline, another tale of language policing at the BBC.

Football pundit Steve ‘Tommo’ Thompson has been axed by the BBC for describing a clash between players as “handbags”. The 65 year-old was laid off until the end of the year for using the familiar match day phrase after listeners complained.

Thompson, who works as a freelancer, made the comment on BBC Radio Lincolnshire during Lincoln City’s 1-0 win at Swindon Town on Tuesday. Explaining its decision to suspend Thompson, the BBC said that the term “handbags” did not meet its standards. 

The BBC said: “After listeners raised concerns, Steve acknowledged some of his comments on air didn’t meet the standards we expect. He is taking a break but will be back in the New Year.” Thompson had previously received a written warning about his use of language in 2018 and also referred to a player as a “drama queen”.

But fans have reacted in outrage at the BBC’s decision, arguing that using the well-known phrase did not merit Thompson’s immediate suspension. Marcus Greatorex told the Sun: “It’s just an old term. The BBC should pay more attention to songs on their stations promoting knife crime and drug use”.

Lincoln fan Bernard O’Mahoney said: “As any football fan knows, ‘handbags’ is an incredibly well-known saying… I can’t begin to think who’d be offended by it”.

“Handbags” is such a common term in sports commentary that it appears in the Collins Dictionary. It is described as “an incident in which people, especially sportsmen, fight or threaten to fight, but without real intent to inflict harm”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Sarah Oliver in the the Mail on Sunday has written a terrific piece about the scandal at Eton following the dismissal of an English teacher for encouraging his students to question the idea that there’s something fundamentally toxic about masculinity. Includes some extraordinary details about how woke the school has become, such as the fact that the boys were shown a film about a man who becomes pregnant and gives birth.

“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.

Stop Press: Jenin Younes’s recent piece for the AIER blog on “The Strangely Unscientific Masking of America” describes how mask-wearing turned virtually overnight from something unheard of into a moral necessity. Well worth a read.

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 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 700,000 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”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter 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.

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 would give up essential liberty to purchase 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

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

Shameless Begging Bit

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And Finally…

We think this is genuine. It’s a guide from the Workplace Mental Health Institute about how to tell if you’re in an abusive relationship, but it applies with extraordinary accuracy to the Government’s attitude towards the people of Britain. Perhaps it’s time to end that relationship…