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Yesterday’s post, ‘The Western world is changing, from coronavirus to climate change’, discussed the outrage that Britons felt on reading Rishi Sunak’s revelations in The Spectator about the UK’s coronavirus policy:

Rishi, Liz Truss’s rival in the Conservative Party leadership contest, did not do himself any favours. If he hoped to garner votes from the Party’s coronavirus sceptics, he was mistaken.

From March 2020 to the present, any sceptics voicing an opinion were thrown under the bus, such as Bev Turner, who featured in yesterday’s post.

On Thursday, August 25, the day that the ex-Chancellor’s revelations were published, another sceptic, GB News’s Dan Wootton, aired his views:

Wootton rightly took issue with Rishi’s claim that the wrongful promotion of the SAGE scientists to an all-powerful level was wrong and that he should have changed it.

After all, next to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Chancellor is the next most powerful position in the Government. Yet, Rishi stayed quiet — for two years. Only now has he said anything.

He did nothing. Yes, he could have changed the course of events but did not:

At the end of that night’s show, the Union Jackass nominees — prominent names in the news cycle for dumb things — were Boris Johnson for flying to Ukraine again instead of visiting the Channel to see migrants being escorted in, Nicola Sturgeon for saying she will always be British in spite of pushing for a second Scottish independence referendum and Rishi Sunak for not resigning or doing anything about our damaging coronavirus policy. Wootton chose Rishi Sunak:

Another coronavirus sceptic, Robert Taylor, wrote for The Telegraph about his own experience over the past two years and Rishi’s revelations (purple emphases mine):

 … Take a bow, Rishi Sunak.

I had to do a double take when I saw the reports. For those long lockdown months, nobody in government, let alone the Cabinet, was prepared to say any such thing. It was left to a few courageous journalists and scientists to take on the overwhelming force of the lockdown fanatics, with police fining people for sitting on park benches and neighbours eagerly shopping each other like this was some authoritarian country.

The brave few kept the flag of personal freedom alive. That really is no exaggeration. And they paid heavily for it. On social media the abuse was intense. You don’t care about lives! they snarled. You’re murderers! they claimed. And in the mainstream, things weren’t much better. You’re a “small, disproportionately influential faction,” moaned a Guardian Leader, that “denies the virulence of the virus”. Thanks for that.

One MP, Neil O’Brien, took it upon himself to publicly discredit any sceptic, declaring “they have a hell of a lot to answer for”. No, you do Mr O’Brien, for stifling free debate, along with certain mainstream news outlets for failing over a two-year period to examine whether lockdown might cause more harm than good

But while I welcome and applaud Sunak’s intervention, I also have a question. He was second only to the Prime Minister for power and influence, and lockdown was the most consequential, freedom-destroying government initiative since the war. He had severe doubts about it. So why didn’t he resign? Yes, it would have been another headache for Boris. But given the massive consequences of the wrong strategy, didn’t he owe it to the British people?

It’s tragedy upon tragedy. Okay, it’s a relief to hear that someone in the heart of government had the guts to challenge the dangerous group-think. But it’s cold comfort to millions of children whose schooling was irreparably damaged along with their long-term prospects, and to patients who only discover now that they have cancer, diabetes or heart disease, and to those who were denied the chance simply to hug lonely, dying relatives.

For all these lockdown victims, Sunak’s words come two years too late.

Publican Adam Brooks tweeted the article, which didn’t get any replies in support of the former Chancellor:

However, earlier that day, two former Government advisers weighed in against Rishi: Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.

Cummings blasted Rishi. The trolley in the tweet is Cummings’s symbol for Boris, who veers off in all directions like a supermarket trolley:

Then he had a go at The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson who conducted the interview with Rishi. Recall that Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield, writes for the magazine:

Guido had a post on Cummings and Cain:

But, wait. Wasn’t Rishi a friend of Cummings?

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases his):

Whilst many sources disagree with some of Rishi’s more lockdown-sceptic policy views, his criticism of the decision-making process by which those policies were reached are more widely supported. Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings, however, are not playing ball…

Former comms director Lee Cain argues that whilst he is a “huge admirer” of Rishi, “his position on lockdown is simply wrong. It would have been morally irresponsible of the govt not to implement lockdown in spring 2020.”

Dominic Cummings is, characteristically, less diplomatic. Taking on Twitter he says, “the Sunak interview is dangerous rubbish, reads like a man whose epicly bad campaign has melted his brain & he’s about to quit politics. Also pins blame *unfairly* on 🛒 & others”. A very rare defence of Boris. He ominously promises more blogging on the topic later…

I checked Cummings’s Twitter account, but he hasn’t posted anything more on the subject.

He defends his former boss here because he, too, wanted lockdown, even though he sneaked off to County Durham with his family one weekend during the first one in Spring 2020. He got rumbled, and, as penance, Boris made him give an agonising televised press conference about it. Cummings left Downing Street later in November that year.

Professor John Edmunds, a prominent SAGE member, pointed out that it was not SAGE’s remit to do a cost-benefit analysis of lockdown. That would have been the responsibility of the Chancellor and the Treasury:

So, Conservative Party members should elect Rishi Sunak as their next leader when he couldn’t be bothered to do a cost-benefit analysis during the pandemic? The Treasury has a lot of civil servants. That would have been part of their job. If only someone had asked them to do it:

GB News had a good article with reaction from Government advisers, including scientists:

Boris Johnson’s former communications chief, Lee Cain, dismissed Mr Sunak’s assessment of the situation, saying he is “simply wrong” …

He said No 10, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care “met multiple times daily and discussed the trade-offs”.

Mr Cain added: “We all knew lockdown was a blunt instrument that had many downsides but in a world without vaccinations it was the best option available.”

… A No 10 spokesman said: “At every point, ministers made collective decisions which considered a wide range of expert advice available at the time in order to protect public health.”

Prof Graham Medley, a member of Sage, said: “Government have the power, so if one member of Cabinet thinks that scientific advice was too ‘empowered’ then it is a criticism of their colleagues rather than the scientists.

“The Sage meetings were about the science, not the policy options, and the minutes reflect the scientific consensus at the time.”

… Another scientist who contributed advice to the Government during the pandemic said Mr Sunak’s comments “are very misleading as they suggest that he was alone in thinking about the wider impact of lockdown on schools and other social impacts”.

The source said the SPI-B group, which investigated behavioural impacts, and other advisers spent a lot of time examining the issues around school closures.

“If the former chancellor was arguing against school closures he would have found plenty of evidence to support his case from the very group of scientists he now appears to be criticising,” the source said.

On Friday, August 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an interview in which he discussed the controversy. GB News reported:

Boris Johnson said he is “very confident” the Government made the “right” decisions about lockdowns.

The Prime Minister was asked to address the comments made by his former chancellor during a visit to South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre in Surrey …

Speaking to broadcasters at the orthopaedic centre , Mr Johnson said if the Government did not lock the country down during the pandemic, “the delays for cardiac, the delays for hips, the delays for cancer treatment, or the other procedures that people care about” would have been “even greater”.

He added: “I’m just giving you my view, which is that the… about the decision to try to stop the spread of Covid, and with all the things that we did.

“Of course, the inquiry will have to look at those decisions. I’m very confident that they were the right ones. I just want to remind people of the logic because I think there’s a bit of… it all gets turned upside down.

“People say, ‘Oh, well, it was because of the lockdowns that people’s health was impaired’. Actually, the purpose of using those methods, imperfect though they were, to restrict the spread of Covid, was to reduce the huge numbers in the NHS.

“Forty-thousand people at one stage occupying beds in the NHS because of Covid, and therefore, to reduce the numbers of patients with other complaints, other sicknesses, other needs, who were displaced by Covid, and are now coming back into the NHS. That was the purpose of what we were doing.”

Unfortunately, lockdown has made the NHS worse. We still cannot see a GP. The A&E wards are full, even early in the evenings on a weekday. Six million patients are awaiting various medical procedures.

Lockdown was the worst thing we could have done. I know the UK is not in an isolated position here, but we should have been better at this.

Rishi Sunak could have come up with a cost-benefit analysis during those two years, yet he never did.

And he’s running to be our next Prime Minister?

It turns out that Conservative Party members are asking the same question. On Saturday, August 27, The Telegraph featured an article: ‘The moment Rishi Sunak knew his leadership dream was over’.

It had nothing to do with The Spectator interview, but with remarks he made earlier in the month during the hustings in Eastbourne, on the south coast:

It was when Rishi Sunak mentioned California for the third time in less than 10 minutes that his campaign team realised it was all over.

On stage at the Conservative leadership hustings in Eastbourne on Aug 5, Mr Sunak answered a question about the career he would choose as a young graduate by reflecting on the “culture” of enterprise he saw while living on the West Coast between 2004 and 2006.

“I think it’s incredibly inspiring and empowering,” he said. “If I was a young person, I’d want to go and do something like that.”

But back at his campaign headquarters in Holborn, Central London, his strategists were far from inspired.

Staff felt his focus on California showed he was out of touch and summed up his failure to win over grassroots Tory members as polls showed members backing Liz Truss by more than two to one.

“People started to say that it wasn’t going to happen now and he wasn’t connecting with voters in the room,” a source on the campaign told The Telegraph.

“He kept talking about California and tech. It became an open secret within the campaign that he wasn’t going to win. That hustings was the point things really took a turn as everyone started to realise that.”

Just as well, really.

All this talk of California? He must be wondering how he’ll get his Green Card back.

Knowing Rishi and his in-laws’ connections, he’ll find a way.

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