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Tory Rebellion Grows

It still isn’t clear whether the Speaker of the House of Commons will select Sir Graham Brady’s amendment to the Coronavirus Act, which is due to be renewed on Wednesday. But if he does, and Boris refuses to back down, it looks like the Government is facing defeat. Not only has the number of Conservative MPs prepared to vote for it grown from the 43 who originally signed the amendment to 81, according to Katy Balls in the Spectator, but the BBC reports that Labour MPs may join forces with the rebels. If the amendment passes it will mean that no additional Covid restrictions can be imposed by the Government without being approved by Parliament.

The House of Commons debated the coronavirus crisis yesterday and Conservative MPs lined up to urge the Government to allow Parliament to scrutinise and debate any further measures, including ex-Chief Whip Mark Harper and former Cabinet Minister Chris Grayling. But the stand out contribution to the debate was from Sir Desmond Swayne, a long-standing lockdown sceptic. The Daily Record has the details:

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Desmond said: “The purpose of politicians is to impose a measure of proportion, a sense of proportion on science, and not to be enthralled to it.

“Now I will make myself very unpopular, but I believe that the appearance of the chiefs (Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance) last week should have been a sacking offence.”

“When they presented that graph, with the caveat that it wasn’t a prediction, but nevertheless it was clear that they presented it as a plausible scenario, with its 50,000 cases per day by mid-October based on the doubling of infections by the week.

“Not once, not on one day since March, have there been infections on that day that were double that of the day of the week proceeding.

“Not once. Where did this doubling come from? What was their purpose in presenting such a graph?”

And he added: “It was project fear, it was an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they haven’t been terrified enough.”

Sir Desmond said he believed the Government’s policy has been “disproportionate”, adding: “By decree, it has interfered in our private lives, and our family lives, telling us who we may meet, when we may meet them and what we must wear when we meet them.

“We have the cruelty, the cruelty, of elderly people in care homes, disorientated, being unable to see the faces of their loved ones and to receive a hug.”

Sir Desmond isn’t wrong about the shortcomings of Witless and Unbalanced’s graph. Here it is, but updated to include the latest case data. Projections in red; actuals in blue. Today’s new cases – 4044, down from 5,692 yesterday – amount to 36% of their predicted number of 7,205. We will return to this…

Another Conservative MP who had some forceful words for the Government was Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire): “There are many pensioners who wish to see their family rather than live a long life. They would like to be able to make that choice. This Government have a responsibility to listen to those people, some of whom feel passionate because they fought in the war, or their parents fought in the war, for the freedoms that we want.”

Meanwhile, the Government’s handling of the crisis faced equally trenchant criticism in the Lords, with former Chancellor Lord Lamont comparing Witless and Unbalanced’s graph to Tony Blair’s “dodgy dossier”. (Has he been reading Lockdown Sceptics?)

Last night, Matt Hancock, Chief Whip Mark Spencer and Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg were engaged in a frantic round of talks to try and head off the rebellion.

I’m often asked what the most effective way to get the Government to change course is. Getting the sceptical case before the public? Mass demonstrations? Civil disobedience? The answer, I think, is to get Parliament to start doing its job again. Thanks to Sir Graham Brady, that may be about to happen.

Stop Press: Labour MP Daniel Zeichner joked about the closure of 29 branches of Pizza Hut yesterday, putting 450 jobs at risk.

A reader has emailed to say Zeichner has to bear some of the blame for these job losses. “He is my MP, and he has been utterly unresponsive and useless for the entire lockdown when I’ve tried to reason with him,” he says. “His replies could have been written by Matt Hancock.”

More Pointless Restrictions Imposed on Pubs, Bars and Restaurants

Among the new rules that came into force yesterday were those restricting noise levels in pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes to 85 decibels. Managers must now take “all reasonable measures” to stop customers from dancing and groups of six or more from singing. This, in spite of the fact that new cases originating in hospitality venues make up a tiny fraction of the whole (see above). The Mail has more.

They came as Government statistics revealed a tiny proportion of COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to pubs and restaurants. Just 17 of 532 (3.2%) of England’s reported coronavirus clusters occurred in the hospitality sector last week – down from around 5% the week before the draconian restriction was imposed.

Meanwhile, the proportion linked to schools has doubled to more than 40 per cent after thousands more students flocked back to classrooms and universities, which is likely to have had a massive knock-on effect on care homes where the rate fell from 44 to 25%.

The Government is facing mounting criticism of its decision to impose a 10pm curfew, given that it has resulted in crowds thronging the streets in city centres shortly after closing time.

Downing Street today dismissed a barrage of condemnation of the 10pm curfew, despite Tory MPs branding it a “sick experiment” and the mayor of one of the UK’s biggest cities warning it is doing “more harm than good”.

The PM is facing a rising tide of anger over his handling of the crisis after Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the Government’s drinking deadline was merely shifting the partying into homes.

Scores of drinkers were spotted in trendy Moseley, Birmingham, on Saturday night twirling around to a brass bands, despite restrictions urging social distancing. Similar extraordinary scenes were witnessed in London and Manchester as the restrictions appeared to backfire spectacularly.

But the PM’s spokesman voiced defiance this afternoon, insisting there is no intention of changing the rules again – and even denying they had caused any serious problems.

What a shambles.

Police Warned Not to Download NHS COVID-19 App

I’ve a feeling we’ll be using this illustration every day for the next month

Police officers have been advised not to download the NHS Test and Trace COVID-19 app on their smartphones, according to the BBC.

Some officers have also been told they may not need to obey self-isolate alerts generated by the app when downloaded to their personal phones.

Lancashire Constabulary has told staff to call the force’s own COVID-19 helpline instead.

The BBC contacted the North-West of England force after a source said the advice had been given because of “security reasons”.

The source also said officers had been told not to carry their personal phones while on duty if they had activated the app.

This applies to staff working in public-facing roles as well as those in back-office positions.

“The health and wellbeing of our officers, staff and the public remains our priority,” a Lancashire Constabulary spokeswoman subsequently told the BBC.

“Members of staff, like all members of the public, are personally able to download the Track and Trace application should they choose to do so. Guidance provided to staff within the workplace remains in line with the national NPCC position.”

The NPCC confirmed the work-phones policy was common to all forces, but said it was carrying out an urgent review of the matter.

“We have been taking time to review the specifications of the app to assess the implications for policing,” added a spokesman.

Presumably, the real reason Chief Constables have ordered their officers not to download the app is that they don’t want them being forced to self-isolate for 10 days after Matt Hancock’s random notice generator goes even more haywire.

Stop Press: The Government has been accused of a “massive state data grab” after millions of messages have started appearing on people’s phones urging them to download the NHS COVID-19 app. Has the Government harvested people’s mobile phone numbers from GPs in violation of GDPR? Christine Burns, a former NHS adviser who was awarded an MBE in 2005 for her work with transgender people, thinks so. She wrote on Twitter: “I read the privacy statement linked to by that message, which details a massive state data grab. I’m never trusting my GP with my data again.”

NHS Extra: A reader has submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office about being spammed by his local GP. If any readers want to do likewise, the details of how to complain are here.

This is the wording of the text I received:

“This is a public health message from NHS Test & Trace. Please download the NHS Covid-19 app from the App Store/Google Play. More info at https://covid19.nhs.uk”

I don’t know if my complaint has any merit but I made four points to the ICO:

1) This is spam (although I am happy to receive information from my healthcare providers – e.g. GP etc; I wasn’t aware that I had agreed to receive this sort of promotional material).

2) It creates a significant opportunity for fraudsters to send out their own spam messages (pretending to be NHS modeled on this) tricking people into making an action that will lead to them being defrauded. (We already saw lots of this earlier in the ‘pandemic’.)

3) (building on point 2) The text includes a link for people to click on (to: https://coivd19.nhs.uk) while this link is presumably trustworthy this is the classic modus operandi of fraudsters and they must be rubbing their hands with glee at the opportunity it creates for them to copy these tactics. Anti fraud professionals would usually put a stop to this sort of thing.

4) The text promotes two commercial websites – the App Store and Google Play. I wasn’t aware NHS did this sort of promotional activity?

Why Brendan O’Neill is Not A Conspiracy Theorist

Brendan O’Neill wrote an excellent editorial in Spiked yesterday, summing up everything that’s wrong with the Government’s – and the public’s – response to the crisis. He was particularly good on why he doesn’t have much time for conspiracy theories.

It is understandable that some people have weaved conspiracy theories to try to explain the current moment, insisting that dastardly figures like Bill Gates, Big Pharma and of course wicked governments are busily plotting the overthrow of human liberty on the back of a cooked-up virus crisis. After all, things are confusing. Extraordinary events have unfolded with very little clarity or explanation. In such circumstances people will create stories to try to make sense of the sudden diminution of their freedom and their lives. And yet, this conspiratorial bent among anti-lockdown protesters is a very serious problem. It ends up giving rise to a competition of narratives of powerlessness.

So on one side, we have officialdom’s lockdown myopia which disempowers communities by exaggerating the threat of COVID-19 and downplaying our capacity for dealing with risk and uncertainty. And on the other side we have a pushback against officialdom that says dark, evil forces beyond our control are puppeteering this crisis in order to achieve their malevolent ends. In both scenarios, the public is reduced to spectators. Spectators either to the fearful crisis-management of government officials and experts who insist we must follow the rules if we want to survive, or to an evil conspiracy of the usual suspects that we can hate and rage against but not really do much about. In both situations, the capacity of individuals and communities to understand this crisis and to start taking action to alleviate it, or live with it, are diminished. We need a better opposition.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From University

A student has written to us, describing the horror of life on his university campus.

At my university, Estate Patrol are everywhere, ready to remorselessly disperse large groups, hand out hefty fines and other penalties in ways that make the Stasi look like friendly neighbourhood support officers. I have heard numerous horrific stories from my Russian family about life in the Soviet Union. How can we call ourselves an advanced free society when the same authoritarian measures are being forced upon us?

While our freedoms have been snatched away from us, we are still expected to pay full tuition and accommodation fees (by forcing us into one-sided accommodation contracts), compounding the disadvantages young people already face when it comes to debt and income. Now we face the possibility of being locked up in our halls of residence over Christmas.

We’ve published it in the “Postcard” section as a “Postcard From University”. Worth reading in full.

Dr John Lee: “Politicians Doing Amateur Science and Scientists Doing Amateur Politics – A Pretty Awful Brew”

Dr John Lee, one of the first senior doctors to raise the alarm about the lockdown, appeared on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s TalkRADIO show yesterday to warn of the dangers of a second lockdown. He told Julia the latest coronavirus measures are “completely disproportionate” because “we have politicians doing amateur science and scientists dong amateur politics. Mix the two together and it’s a pretty awful brew.”

New Poem From Bent Knee

Anti-Lockdown poet Bent Knee has sent us his latest.

Do not

Do not sing, do not dance
Forgo the joyful chance

Do not breathe, do not kiss
Intimacy is remiss

Do not embrace and kiss the bride
Love must never override

Do not party, do not play
Limits are here to stay

Do not mingle, do not mix
Follow the rule of six

Do not hug your grandparents
Love is literal violence

Do not believe that you can choose
You must obey the curfews

Do not plead for liberty
Forget your old humanity

Two-Thirds of Wales Locked Down

After a brief respite, lockdown has returned to Wales. The BBC has more.

Nearly two-thirds of Wales’ population will be under lockdown when new restrictions are imposed at 18:00 BST.

Neath Port Talbot (NPT), Torfaen and Vale of Glamorgan will join eight other areas in lockdown, affecting almost two million people in total.

The country’s two biggest cities – Cardiff and Swansea – had restrictions applied on Sunday evening.

The new rules mean no travel outside council boundaries other than for work, education or medical emergencies, with no indoor mixing allowed and no alcohol sales after 22:00.

Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham, Flintshire, Anglesey and Carmarthenshire are being “closely monitored” by Public Health Wales, meaning if cases continue to rise they could also face lockdowns.

Wedding planner Gail Windley says it’s an incredibly frustrating time for everyone.

“The rug is being pulled from under your feet constantly,” said Ms Windley, who lives in Neath Port Talbot.

She said one bride she was working with was “very stressed” and would be “glad to get it over with”.

“A wedding is a milestone in your life – that’s how your ancestors will trace you back – so it’s heart-breaking to be involved in that and see it.”

Preston’s Wild Boar Park Well Worth a Visit

We got an email from a reader who’s just spent a pleasant weekend at Bowland Wild Boar Park near Preston. Sounds great!

Myself and the family spent a lovely weekend at Bowland Wild Boar Park. It’s not our first visit, and having previously camped there in the pods before we were a little apprehensive as to the changes.

On arrival we were greeted by a staff member with the obligatory face mask, but no mention of me not wearing one. Once we’d checked in, we were able to enjoy what turned out to be a lovely weekend, with all the fellow pod campers and tenters turning out to be as sceptical as myself. Most had young kids and we all waxed lyrically on the damage done to kids, other health issue, etc.

The park had introduced some changes. No animal petting sessions for the kids, where normally they hand round various animals for the little ones to manhandle, and the barrel ride had set booking times and was disinfected between sessions. The cafe was take-out only, but it was refreshing that despite mask signs everywhere the visitors were mostly unmasked and the staff never challenged any non-maskers. The rest of the park was business as usual.

So if you find yourself near the Forest of Bowland, up t’ north, it is well worth a visit and giving them your support.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Dido’s Lament” by Anna Dennis and Voices of Music.

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

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we thought we’d flag up a piece in Spiked by Carrie Clark, the journalist who’s written the briefing paper about unconscious bias training for the Free Speech Union.

How would you react if your employer introduced mandatory astrology training at your workplace? What would you make of an organisation that spent thousands of pounds teaching its employees that their character is predetermined by the alignment of the stars and that, despite what they might consciously think or how they choose to behave, their actions are ultimately dictated by invisible cosmic forces? Now imagine that your employer claims to be fighting the scourge of racism by introducing this training.

Bizarre as it may seem, employers across the UK are dangerously close to doing just that. Workers up and down the country are finding themselves forced to undergo mandatory unconscious-bias training – ostensibly to make them less racist. But unconscious-bias training has, at its heart, a psychological test with barely more scientific credibility than astrology. In effect, employers are throwing vast sums of money at a discredited pseudoscientific method which will do nothing to tackle racism and discrimination in the workplace. Meanwhile, practical changes that might truly benefit black and minority-ethnic employees are ignored.

Unconscious-bias training is an outgrowth of the Implicit Association Test (IAT). When it was first introduced in 1998, the results claimed to show that 90 to 95% of IAT participants were implicitly racially prejudiced. While the test-takers might not have thought of themselves as racist, their responses on the test suggested that they were unconsciously biased against black people. This proved a seductive narrative for committed anti-racists, particularly those whose careers depended on portraying Britain and America as systemically racist. The test seemed to show that vast swathes of people were still ‘unconsciously’ racist, in spite of the dramatic decline in racist attitudes over the past 25 years.

The diversity industry has grown to be hugely profitable. It is now worth a cool $8 billion a year in the United States. Assisted by the IAT’s veneer of scientific respectability, unconscious-bias training has been marketed as an essential tool for any business serious about addressing racial inequality.

But reams and reams of research have discredited the IAT, undermining the entire premise of unconscious-bias training in the process. Time and again, meta-analysis has failed to find a correlation between a person’s score on the IAT and how discriminatory their behaviour is. Psychologists and neuroscientists, still puzzling over the complicated distinction between conscious and unconscious thought, are sceptical of the claim that the IAT measures something that can be defined as ‘implicit’. For instance, the propensity of IAT participants accurately to predict their score in advance suggests conscious awareness of something that the IAT’s creators describe as ‘unconscious’.

This is a fantastic article that’s well worth reading in full.

You can read a summary of Carrie’s briefing paper here, the full version here, and the Frequently Asked Questions the Free Speech Union has pulled together for people that want to opt out of diversity training here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.49 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: Some shops are employing mask recognition technology, according to BBC News, whereby customers have to stand in front of a scanner and are barred from entering if they’re not wearing a face nappy. I wonder if the patent-holder for this marvellous invention is Jeff Bezos, the multi-billionaire owner of Amazon?

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…

Prisoners of conscience

In this week’s episode of London Calling, mine and James Delingpole’s podcast, we talk about James’s adventures at Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest in Trafalgar Square, the appalling treatment of students and Laurence Fox’s new political party. At one point, we try to imagine what Boris could do now to redeem himself. Secure a brilliant trade deal with the EU? Hardly. Restore the Britain’s overseas territories, so we once again have an Empire on which the sun never sets? Wouldn’t be enough. Lead Earth to victory in an intergalactic war? Maybe…

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