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Andrew Neil, veteran BBC journalist and chairman of The Spectator worldwide, hosted Episode 7 of The Week in 60 Minutes on Thursday, October 15, 2020:

A summary follows.

Not surprisingly, given events of the past week, coronavirus led the news.

Andrew Neil began with England’s increasing number of regional lockdowns. It would seem that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no longer following the science. The Labour and official Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, wants another national lockdown. The political editor of The Spectator, James Forsyth, said that, whatever coronavirus crisis measures Boris Johnson takes, he’s ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ and has to deal with the damage of lockdowns.

Across the Channel in France, Emmanuel Macron has been following a similar strategy to that of Downing Street and is very concerned about COVID-19 in all respects. Neil asked about last week’s contretemps in Ireland. Forsyth said that Ireland’s dispute between their government and medical experts was played out in public; by contrast, in the UK, it was in private. In any event, he said that scientists are now in a position of ‘negotiation’.

The magazine’s deputy political editor, Katy Balls, was on next to discuss Labour’s position on coronavirus. Labour MPs disagreed with Keir Starmer behind the scenes, a move which she said has united the Conservatives. That said, it seems England could well be heading towards a short ‘circuit breaker’, although that would be very difficult for Conservative MPs to stomach.

Forsyth said that this is a very dangerous time for the Government. Starmer could even emerge victorious. (‘At some point’, I might add, as Boris has a majority of 79 [from 80], and no general election is due before 2024.) At this stage, it’s too soon to tell. He said that no one knows if a circuit breaker would actually work in England.

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson was up next. He said that Boris was pretty well on to the way to a national lockdown, adding that he lacks the way to fight off SAGE, having been  ‘outmanoeuvered’.

Neil asked about a recent poll showing approval for more coronavirus restrictions. Ben Page from IPSOS-Mori explained the polls, which showed that 62% of respondents thought that stricter measures should be taken. Page indicated that these were somewhat alarming results: ‘quite astonishing in some ways … across the piece’.

Forsyth noted that 19% of Conservative voters in England oppose increased restrictions, which poses a problem for Boris because it creates a North-South divide. Ben Page countered that the polling support for Labour and Conservative has been fairly stable this year. Labour haven’t been able to gain much ground since December 2019.

Jake Berry MP, a Conservative representing the northern constituency of Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, spoke next. He said that, although their regional lockdown had been relaxed recently, they are now on Tier 2. He said that people are largely ignoring the Government guidelines and will comply only with what they think is appropriate. He does not favour a national lockdown but supports a local circuit breaker ‘based on the data’, so that it becomes less political for the public. He believes that the Government could have ‘handled the North better’ and that recent weeks have proven a ‘very dangerous moment for Parliament and the North’. That said, he added that Labour ‘is in quite a lot of trouble over this as well’ and said Starmer committed quite a big mistake this week when calling for a national circuit breaker.

Berry further advised that we need to give this new two-week regional lockdown the benefit of the doubt which might lead for in-and-out local lockdowns.

Neil then changed tack, moving across the Channel to France, with its local 10 p.m. coronavirus curfews (some of which are now at 9 p.m.) and a campaign against extremism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, speaking to the latter point, was the next guest. She was sceptical about any success against extremism. She said that extremists have convinced French immigrants they are living within another type of state to which they do not feel they naturally belong. She added that this is enough to subvert the French nation. She also said that the same narrative is going on in other Western nations, because leaders remain silent and refuse to admit what is really going on.

Talk then turned to Brexit arrangements, which were to have been concluded that day. James Forsyth said that the EU threw the ball into the UK’s ‘court’. That leaves the situation whereby Michel Barnier wants to carry on talks but neither side wants to back down.

Forsyth expects there will be a deal to be done ‘but with a twist in the tail’. Fraser Nelson said that Boris and Macron communicate with each other quite closely and expected that Britain will budge over fishing rights. It will be, he predicted, one for revision: ‘a process rather than an event’.

Forsyth said there could be a November deadline, even though neither side wants an early deadline because they do not want any changes to the deal. He predicted a last minute November 15 deal.

The last part of the programme concerned protecting the triple lock pension with Katy Balls affirming that Boris is ‘committed to it’.

The panel noted Boris’s ‘unstrustworthiness’ problem with voters. Questions from listeners followed for the last ten minutes. Ben Page said that the Labour Party is very unpopular even if Keir Starmer is popular in the polls.

Viewers are grateful to Charles Stanley Wealth Managers for sponsoring the programme.

Yesterday’s post discussed England’s new three-tier lockdown system and the 10 p.m. curfew on hospitality venues.

I ended with tweets from a publican in Essex, whose story I will go into below.

However, a few news items are worth looking at first.

Yesterday was Global Handwashing Day:

That day, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced that more cities in the north of England would be moving to Tier 2. London and the adjacent county of Essex are also moving to Tier 2 as of Saturday morning, 00:01:

Essex has a low rate of positive tests, or ‘cases’:

London also has a low case rate. With a population of 9.3 million, it currently has 40 hospital admissions per day. On March 23, that figure was 505.

The death rate in the capital is also very low compared with the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

Conservative MPs representing London constituencies were not happy with all 32 boroughs being in Tier 2:

Here’s a more detailed graph of London:

These lockdowns no longer make sense:

Imagine the impact on the hospitality industry:

Guido Fawkes has the Tier 2 rules (emphasis in the original):

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed
  • The “Rule of Six” will continue to apply outdoors and in private gardens
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport

As I pointed out yesterday, there is money to be had in Tier 2 and Tier 3 lockdowns:

As London will be in Tier 2 lockdown, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle has banned alcohol in the House of Commons catering outlets on the Parliamentary estate:

The Government have stated that their new tiered rules make them easier for the public to understand, but they are still confusing.

Adam Brooks, who owns two pubs in Essex, has been tweeting about the regulations:

This week, Spiked interviewed Adam Brooks for his perspective on pubs during the coronavirus crisis:

The interview appeared on October 13: ‘”The pub industry is on the verge of collapse”‘. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Adam Brooks says that the pandemic has damaged two viable businesses which are seasonal, something many of us do not consider when thinking about pubs. The mask policy has not helped:

I have never known anything like this – it’s quite worrying.

One of my pubs is very seasonal in its trade – it’s in the middle of the forest, and it’s food-focused. Lockdown meant I missed all the good weather of April, May and June. I normally make losses through the winter, and those months get me where I want to be. But I have not had that this year. We were lucky to have good weather when we reopened, and up until about two and a half weeks ago, I was optimistic that we would get through to March and have a fairly normal 2021, or if anything a good one, due to people’s desire to celebrate freedom. But the past two and a half weeks, with these added restrictions, have put a real dent in takings. The mask rule has put some people off – I have got friends that just don’t want to go out because they don’t want to wear masks.

My other pub is a backstreet pub. It survived on 60 to 70 people standing up around the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. New things like table service and having to have extra staff make it a real challenge. If the government brings in more rules, I think it would be the final nail in the coffin for a lot of us. At that point, it would probably be best if we closed and did some sort of deal with the breweries to reopen in more normal times. But, unfortunately, that would not protect the staff.

I am losing as much as or more than I would be if my pubs were closed. The worst thing is that being a leaseholder often means having personally to guarantee any future debts against your house. That means I have also got the risk of losing my house down the line if things go really badly.

He described the profile and habits of customers at his backstreet pub:

My backstreet pub is situated amid housing and other restaurants and shops. In the past I would have customers come in before they went for a meal at a restaurant. Then, around half past nine or 10, I would have customers come in who had finished their meals in restaurants, and just wanted an hour or so to chill out or to catch up in the pub. I have lost all of those people. I have lost the people who get home from work on a Friday night, put the kids to bed and pop to the pub. They are just not coming out because it’s not worth it. Overall, the curfew and the mask rules have reduced that pub’s trade by about 35 per cent.

Although Brooks appreciates having been able to take advantage of the coronavirus support from earlier in the year, he has little confidence in the Government’s handling of the crisis:

We were promised the initial lockdown would be brief, and I accepted it. But since June I have been unable to back this government on Covid. We have seen no evidence for the measures enforced on hospitality. It seems to me like the government is trying to put together retrospective evidence to back up these restrictions – and I don’t think it has got any …

If the government could explain why it is doing these things, that would be fair enough. But it can’t. Covid cases linked to hospitality are hovering at around three to five per cent of the total. To see an industry crash when there is no real proof that it is causing a problem is really hard to take.

Essex County’s move into Tier 2 could be very damaging for his pubs. Tier 2 was not yet on the cards when Brooks explained the effect of another lockdown or more restrictions:

This is a bit of a grey area. If we are suddenly hit with a law, not just a guideline, that says people from separate households can’t mix, we will be choked out over two or three months. If there are any more restrictions than we have in my area now – masks, the curfew, tables of six and the various other stipulations that we have – I think the industry will collapse. I really do. If it’s for any more than a couple of months, I can’t see the industry surviving.

A lot of publicans realise we are probably not going to earn any money until March. I have not really earned a penny since last March. Many of us can get by with the loans. But we cannot get by if our businesses are losing £2,000 a week or more until next year. In that scenario, we are goners.

The pub industry is meaningful to many people, a home away from home:

My old backstreet boozer-type pub really is the front room of many older people who want some peace and quiet or some social interaction outside of their family home. It’s a meeting point and it’s a community hub. A lot of the time, the pub is these people’s lives. During the initial lockdown, when my pub in the forest was closed, I saw two or three old guys with cans of lager sitting on the pub benches outside. That was very telling. We had stripped away a huge part of their lives that they could not do without. They could not get drinks from the pub, but they were just coming for the scenery and hoping that sufficed. Socially, it would be a disaster if pubs did not survive.

He also pointed out that an important supply chain revolves around pubs:

The pub industry employs something like a million people. If it collapsed, the supply chains would collapse, too. And that includes everything from breweries to greengrocers to meat suppliers to wholesalers to cleaners. People don’t realise what the pub industry supports in this country, and that’s a shame because sometimes people just think I’m sticking up for a place where people get drunk and disorderly. Your average pub isn’t like that.

Brooks rightly takes issue with the Government for not consulting people at all levels to understand the pub industry. At minimum, he says, Government ministers could have met with a CEO from a brewery to get a better picture.

He also has a low view of the covid crisis modellers from SAGE:

The scientific modellers, who have arguably got us into this mess, don’t seem to understand how people behave.

Brooks thinks that the 10 p.m. curfew should go in return for the following:

I have come up with a list of a few measures pubs could take in return for getting rid of the curfew. It includes things like having a designated staff member encouraging people not to congregate outside at the end of the night. We could allow the authorities access to our CCTV if they think there is a problem. We could commit to sending a weekly report to licensing authorities. We could have a rule whereby the last customer entry is an hour before closing. These are basic things we can do in return for dropping the 10pm curfew.

He concluded by expressing his disappointment that, up to now, the big breweries and pub chains have not said much about coronavirus regulations.

However, Tim Martin, who founded the JD Wetherspoon chain, has been speaking out. Today, Friday, October 16, the London Evening Standard reported that his chain is losing money. He also thinks that England should move towards the Swedish ‘herd immunity’ approach:

In the year to July sales plunged 30% to £1.26 billion and the divided to shareholders – which includes 10,000 of the staff – went from 12p a share to zero.

Last year, ‘Spoons made a profit of £102 million on sales of £1.8 billion.

Mr Martin called on the Government to follow Sweden’s coronavirus-tackling approach in a bid to save his pubs.

Sweden was one of the few European countries not to impose a compulsory lockdown, with pubs and restaurants allowed to stay open, as health officials opted for a “herd immunity” drive to combat the pandemic.

The outspoken chairman suggested the UK follow suit, as more than half of England prepares to enter the Government’s “high” or “very high” risk Covid alert tiers.

Yesterday, the Evening Standard reported on the damage that the tiered system is likely to cause the pub industry:

As Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association puts it: “Tier two measures mean pubs can remain open, but households cannot mix inside them. This completely kills our pubs’ business model making many of them totally unviable.”

UKHospitality’s chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Being moved into tier 2 is a curse for businesses. They will be trapped in a no man’s land of being open, but with severe restrictions that will significantly hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in tier 3. It is the worst of both worlds for businesses.”

Unfortunately, we have Government and SAGE members driving pubs into the ground.

Here’s Sir Patrick Vallance saying there is no such thing as herd immunity. Wow:

Here’s Matt Hancock condemning herd immunity in Parliament earlier this week:

Iain Duncan Smith MP (Con) has written an article for The Telegraph saying that our economy cannot go on like this:

I agree.

While everyone is empathetic to those who have lost friends or family to COVID-19, this is also true:

I hope that Adam Brooks’s pubs survive. May they prosper next year.

I wish all publicans the very best for the future. This is a parlous state of affairs.

Breweries and heads of pub chains really should try to arrange a meeting with Matt Hancock or a Cabinet minister representing business interests.

On Monday, October 12, 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a three-tier system for England in an attempt to make new coronavirus restrictions easier to understand:

He delivered a statement in Parliament and later addressed the nation. In the video clips below, Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty is on the left and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is on the right:

These plans run for the next six months:

Earlier that day, Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam presented an update. It is unnerving when SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) members make an announcement of upcoming health policy before the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. They did this on September 21 as well, against a Government backdrop. They have official permission to do so, but it is unsettling to see. It looks as if they are in charge. Perhaps they are.

Hmm.

I very much agree with this tweet about SAGE members who are physicians, such as the aforementioned three men (emphases mine below):

‘Drs’ go into epidemiology and PH because they want the same salary as the frontline grafters without the hours, stress or risk.

So, how accurate were Sir Patrick Vallance’s alarming projections from September? Not very accurate at all, as many people in England suspected three weeks ago, and deaths are thankfully minimal compared to springtime statistics:

The SAGE members spoke on Monday morning. Boris addressed MPs that afternoon.

The Conservative MP for Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan, rightly pointed out that a Conservative government should let citizens make informed choices for themselves:

As Conservatives, we often speak of levelling up. However, now is the time to level with the British people. There is no silver bullet. All measures to stop the spread of covid have painful effects on our economy, social lives and mental wellbeing. Voices on the Opposition Benches believe that British people are incapable of understanding complex issues such as Brexit. The Conservative party is the champion of individuals’ rights to make autonomous decisions without state interference. Will the Prime Minister double down on our party’s historic commitment to invest greater trust in the individual to decide what is best for themselves?

Boris gave his standard communitarian response:

Indeed, and I hope that the individual will also recognise that the risk that we carry—he or she carries—is not just to ourselves, but to the whole of the community because, in the end, we are all potential vectors of this disease and we may bring it inadvertently to someone who is more vulnerable than ourselves. That is the risk. That is why we are bringing in these measures, why we have had the package of measures that we have had throughout this pandemic, and why we now need to intensify them in some local areas now.

Boris answered over 100 questions in two hours. The session ended just before 6 p.m.

He addressed the nation on television at 7 p.m.

The adjournment debate in Parliament that evening revealed that the National Health Service would be more aptly named the National Covid Service.

Labour’s Fleur Anderson, who represents Putney in south west London, spoke about the continued closure of the Urgent Care unit at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton. Excerpts follow:

In August 1997, Queen Mary’s Hospital, which is in Roehampton, ended its A&E service, and has since had a minor injuries unit, which the trust gave a gold-standard accreditation in November last year. So there is no A&E service in my constituency. The minor injuries unit was upgraded to an urgent treatment centre, with a GP added to the excellent nurse practitioner staff, earlier this year. In a normal year, the centre serves 16,000 to 18,000 people, so it is a vital service in our community.

During the peak of the pandemic, the decision was taken to temporarily close the service because of a lack of space for social distancing and to be able to adhere to Government guidelines, and also to move the staff to other areas that needed them more. The pharmacy for out-patients has only recently been closed, and at very short notice. Of course I understand, as do local residents, that changes had to made and that health services had to adapt. I fully appreciate that our NHS managers had to make some extremely difficult decisions on service provision as they faced the prospect of being overwhelmed, which they are now facing again, with the second wave. The continued closure makes us in Roehampton feel overlooked, and it is putting additional pressures on NHS services at Teddington, the walk-in centre at Kingston, St George’s Hospital A&E and local GP surgeries. I am concerned that this will cause untold long-term damage to the health and wellbeing of our community.

I have been asked, “What about the person with the dislocated shoulder, the chest pain, the allergic reaction?” They all need to be assessed and stabilised urgently, but at the moment they are being turned away. I have met the chief executive of the hospital trust and raised these issues. I asked her to assure me that the centre would be reopened as soon as it was safe to do so, but she has not confirmed when it will reopen, if at all. That is very worrying. I hope to hear from the Minister this evening that he will support the trust in making plans to reopen the walk-in urgent treatment centre. 

I would like briefly to explain the impacts that the closure is having on local people. Anyone who goes to where the minor injuries unit used to be is asked to travel far away to the Teddington walk-in centre, to Kingston A&E or to St George’s A&E in Tooting. Those bus journeys can take an hour, which can result in painful journeys or in many people not making the journey, not being seen and not being treated. I am sure the Minister will agree that an hour on public transport is an unacceptably long journey time when there is a really good hospital right there in Roehampton, but it is just not open for walk-in urgent care. One of my constituents wrote to me this week to say:

I took my elderly father, who is nearly 90 years old, to Queen Mary’s just over a month ago, because he had cut his fingers quite badly and they were bleeding. The kind staff there had helped us when my father had a similar problem last year and they knew how to bandage his fingers because he has very thin skin…Because the Centre was closed, we had to go all the way to Kingston Hospital which was quite stressful. While his treatment there was good, it would have been far easier if we could have gone somewhere more local to him as my father isn’t used to travelling that far.”

Also, some patients are unable to travel or should not travel. An example is patients with diabetic foot ulcers, who should keep their activity to a minimum to allow ulcers to heal. At the same time, if they have an infection, it needs treating immediately as it could deteriorate rapidly leading to the need for amputation. That is one group of patients who are not getting the care they need because the urgent treatment centre and the pharmacy are not open. There is an obvious health risk to people needing to travel further if they are seriously ill.

There is also an increased risk of covid infection through asking people to travel greater distances by public transport during the pandemic, especially when they are unwell or chronically ill. They could have an underlying condition, which might be the reason they are going to the urgent care centre in the first place. That would make them more susceptible to the effects of covid-19. Closing the pharmacy is having the effect of delaying patients receiving treatment, as they are now being referred to their GP by the clinics. If they cannot immediately get an appointment with their GP, this can lead to delays of up to 48 hours before starting their treatment. That is another impact.

There is also a knock-on effect on services in other places. The fact that 16,000 to 18,000 people a year used to be treated at Queen Mary’s is putting pressure on St George’s and Kingston, along with the increasing demand at the momentGP surgery appointments are already at a premium, and this demand will only worsen as the difficult winter months approach. Even before the pandemic, it was reported that over 11 million patients had to wait more than 21 days for a GP appointment. In my constituency, there are 14 main surgeries and three branch practices. My team has called round all the local GP services. Several are still only doing appointments over Zoom, and in one local medical centre, a member of staff begged for the urgent care centre to reopen due to the pressure its closure is causing for GP surgeries.

Increased demand for overstretched GP surgeries with finite resources ultimately means fewer local people’s conditions or illnesses receiving treatment, and even more concerningly, serious and urgent illnesses such as cancer being missed and going undiagnosed. It is cancer diagnosis that I am particularly concerned about. As the Minister knows, lots of cancers are diagnosed when people present at hospital with a symptom. With the doors of the urgent treatment centre still closed, many cancers that might otherwise have been spotted will have been missed

Edward Argar, Minister for Health, responded on behalf of the Government:

… I am conscious that the trust has yet to set out a firm commitment to a reopening date, but I join the hon. Lady in saying that I hope it will set out its future plans as soon as possible. I am conscious that she has met the trust’s chief executive, Jacqueline Totterdell, to discuss these issues and plans for the reopening of the urgent treatment centre. Although that reopening date is still to be confirmed, I understand that the trust and local commissioners are undertaking work to agree a new covid-secure model of care before reopening, which is the right approach.

The hon. Lady highlighted not only the urgent treatment centre but its role in helping early diagnosis and treatment of cancers. I completely understand and recognise her concerns about the impact of the pandemic on cancer services and the importance of ensuring that cancers do not go undiagnosed. The NHS is working to restore the full operation of all cancer services, with local delivery plans being delivered by cancer alliances. Systems will be working with GPs and the public locally to increase the number of people coming forward and being referred with suspected cancer to at least pre-pandemic levels—I will come on to the performance of her local trust in a moment.

To support that, systems will help to ensure sufficient diagnostic capacity in covid-19-secure environments, through the use of independent sector facilities and the development of community diagnostic hubs and a rapid diagnostic centre. The hon. Lady is right to highlight that diagnostic capability is a considerable challenge, not least because, to put it perhaps a little bluntly, many diagnostic tests are very close and personal, and the equipment used is intimate in terms of looking inside the human body. The cleaning and infection control measures that are necessary between each patient make it challenging to see as many patients as would have been the case before the pandemic.

That last sentence worried my far better half, who asked, ‘Does that mean they weren’t cleaning between patients before coronavirus?’

After discussing cancer services, Argar discussed the Urgent Care pharmacy in question:

The hospital pharmacy is absolutely vital for people being able to have timely access to the medicines they need and being able to get them on site. Although people using it will have been treated and advised in hospital, they can none the less get very helpful advice from the pharmacy as well, so I share her view about the importance of that. As I have said, I include that in my offer to her—to discuss that with her and with the chief executive. I will endeavour to do that later this week …

I simply reiterate that I share the hon. Lady’s view that, where services for perfectly good and legitimate clinical reasons have been temporarily closed or altered, it is extremely important that they are reopened as soon as trusts are able to do so and, where in the future any changes are proposed, that they are subject to the usual full public consultation, engagement and consideration. I do not want to see temporary measures becoming permanent by default, and she can read that as perhaps an expression of my view on what is happening in Roehampton

I hope that I have been able to offer the hon. Lady some reassurances today. I thank her for securing the debate, and I very much look forward to meeting her

Fleur Anderson was reassured. I hope that Queen Mary’s Hospital gets back to full service soon.

The content of that debate was alarming.

Apologies for the digression, but this is the state of play for the NHS, or should I say NCS, not only in Roehampton but all over the nation. It is an absolute shambles.

Tuesday, October 13 — the almighty SAGE, no evidence needed

On Tuesday, October 13, Treasury Minister Steve Barclay laid out the Chancellor’s expanded plans for financial support during the continuing coronavirus crisis.

The 10 p.m. curfew for pubs was also voted on later that day.

Mel Stride, the Conservative MP representing Central Devon, asked for scientific evidence about the curfew:

My right hon. Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have done a great deal to support the economy, but there has to be a careful balance struck between protecting against the virus and avoiding further economic destruction. With that in mind, what scientific evidence has the Treasury received that closing pubs at 10 pm gets that balance right?

Steve Barclay did not answer the question and inadvertently pointed out SAGE’s woefully inaccurate modelling (see graph at the top of the post):

We have to balance the evidence that the Government receive from a range of quarters. My right hon. Friend will recall that when the initial advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies was put forward, the Government came forward with a range of measures, such as the rule of six and the curfew. Indeed, if we look at the projections that were made at that time, we see that we could potentially have had 49,000 or so daily cases by 14 October when in actual fact the figure on that date was 12,872. That indicates the fact that the package of measures put in place by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have had an influence. However, listening to the SAGE advice, it is recognised that we need to go further and that is why the tiered approach has been set out.

Mike Wood (Con, Dudley South) sounded the alarm about pubs in his West Midlands constituency:

A tenth of pubs have not reopened since lockdown in March while two thirds were already trading at a loss, even before restricted opening times, mandatory table service and the new restrictions announced yesterday. Will my right hon. Friend look at the support that is available for pubs that are not yet compelled to close, but are legally prevented from operating economically, and in particular state aid limits that threaten to prevent 10,000 pubs from receiving the support they need? Without that support, many thousands of pubs will close their doors and never reopen.

Barclay responded:

Ultimately, that is why the Chancellor set out the wider package of support, recognising the concerns he speaks of with the tax deferrals, the loans, the business rate support and the measures on VAT, which are targeted at the sector because of the very real concerns he correctly articulates.

Bob Seely (Con, Isle of Wight) asked for evidence that compels swimming pools and gyms to close in some areas under the new restrictions:

Is there any specific evidence that swimming pools and gyms are centres for covid transmission? Has any research been done into rising obesity and unfitness levels, and has any research been done into rising unemployment caused by the closure of gyms and pools that is now happening in parts of the UK?

Barclay reiterated that those sectors were part of the reason for the Chancellor’s expanded support package. Again, he could not provide any scientific evidence:

In some ways, that is slightly more of a Health question than a Treasury question, but I recognise that there is read-across from those businesses into the economy. In short, the opinion of the chief medical officer and the chief scientific officer is that those businesses do carry significantly more risk, which is why they have been harder hit in the guidance that has been issued.

What if it turned out that Whitty and Vallance were as wrong about that as they are with their astronomically mistaken ‘case’ projections?

I fully agree with the assessment of Sir Edward Leigh (Con, Gainsborough):

It is not surprising that more and more Members are calling for more Government support, because the Government are forcing more and more businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, out of business. The Chief Secretary says that his priority is to help business. The best way to help businesses is to let them get on and do business. We are going bankrupt as a nation—there will not be the money to pay for the NHS or pensions. What is the Treasury doing to row back against other parts of the Government and insist that we must allow British business to operate? He did not answer the question from the Chairman of the Select Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride)—what is the scientific evidence for pubs closing at 10 o’clock? Is he leading the fight to help Britain to stay in business?

Barclay replied:

With respect, I did answer it. I pointed to the projection given by the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser at that time, the SAGE guidance and the fact that the package of measures put in place by the Prime Minister has resulted in a lower infection risk. The CMO and others would recognise that this is a range of measures. My right hon. Friend says that the Government have gone too far and that there is no evidence for the curfew. The tenor of most of the questions one gets is that we have not moved far enough and should be taking more drastic actions. That speaks to the fact that this is a balanced judgment. One needs to look at the range of measures we are taking, and that is what I would refer him to.

After that, MPs debated then voted on all the new coronavirus measures. All passed, including the 10 p.m. curfew for pubs across the nation.

Matt Hancock delivered the statement which opened the debate.

He took strong exception to the Great Barrington Declaration:

Some people have set out this more relaxed approach, including those in the so-called Great Barrington declaration. I want to take this argument head on, because on the substance, the Great Barrington declaration is underpinned by two central claims and both are emphatically false. First, it says that if enough people get covid, we will reach herd immunity. That is not true. Many infectious diseases never reach herd immunity, such as measles, malaria, AIDS and flu, and with increasing evidence of reinfection, we should have no confidence that we would ever reach herd immunity to covid, even if everyone caught it. Herd immunity is a flawed goal without a vaccine, even if we could get to it, which we cannot.

Well, not all of us get flu every year, and, in the wide scheme of things, COVID-19 has a 99% survival rate.

I agree with Hancock’s second point about the impossibility of isolating older members in multi-generational households.

However, overall, Hancock really is in thrall to SAGE. They must be relishing the power they have over him:

John Redwood (Con, Wokingham) asked a simple question:

How long do the scientists think we will need these lockdowns for, and what is their exit plan?

Hancock had no real answer. The one he gave proves that lockdowns do not work. So much for SAGE advice:

We have seen the exit plan from local lockdowns. For instance, in Leicester, where we had a firm local lockdown, the case rate came right down. We lifted that and we have sadly seen it start to rise again. The case rate is determined by the amount of social mixing, and it reduces during a lockdown. In some parts of the country where the case rate has continued to rise, there is an argument for further ensuring that we do not reach the level of contact that is at the root of the virus spreading. The challenge is how to calibrate the lockdown to get the virus under control while doing the minimum damage to the economy and to education.

Huw Merriman (Con, Bexhill and Battle) pointed out the futility of a 10 p.m. curfew, as everyone pours out into the street and onto public transport at the same time:

The Secretary of State talks about a regulation on pubs closing at 10 o’clock, which has been in force for four weeks. There may be some undoubted positives for health, but we see some negatives with people amassing together on public transport and in the streets. Do the positives outweigh the negatives, as far as the science is concerned?

More waffle from Barclay, I’m sorry to say.

You can see some of Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth’s reply to Barclay in the video below. Ashworth says that the Government have not gone far enough, even if he opposes another full lockdown, or circuit-breaker, as it is now called.

The debate continued.

Addressing Matt Hancock, Dr Andrew Murrison (Con, Southwest Wiltshire), who is a physician, cautioned him against being closed-minded and advised looking at other voices in the medical world, including those of those who say that lockdown serves little purpose and should be confined to the vulnerable only:

I support these restrictions with a heavy heart. On balance, I will be supporting the Government this evening, but I want to make just a few quick points.

I would be very careful about subscribing to the Vallance/Whitty orthodoxy that informed these regulations, while not at all examining very carefully respectable bodies of medical opinion to the contrary. I would cite particularly the Heneghan/Sikora/Gupta line. It is important that the Secretary of State and his ministerial team address those things head-on and treat them with the respect that they deserve

We need to be careful about groupthink, confirmation bias, a thin evidential basis and uncertainty masquerading as certainty. There is a huge margin of uncertainty with all this, and we all need to develop a level of humility in our attitudes towards dealing with this crisis. That is why I shall be supporting the Government this evening …

In all this, we simply do not know and we are learning all the time. We have to accept, I think, the expertise of those advising Ministers and that we have experts for a reason, but there is an alternative view. Unless we get a vaccine—goodness me, I hope we do—I think we may find that the cure is worse than the disease in terms of lives lost directly to covid, incidental lives lost to other common diseases—stroke, heart attack and particularly cancer—loss of liberty, loss of livelihood and the compete trashing of our economy. That is what is at stake. I do not envy the Secretary of State in his work.

Labour’s John Spellar (Warley) made excellent points. I agree with every one of them:

There is a huge principle to be debated here. At the heart of it is the false dichotomy posed again by the Secretary of State today between hospitality and the economy and jobs, as though hospitality were not part of the real economy and millions of jobs did not depend on it. Tell that to the workers and businesses owners in pubs and clubs, restaurants and cafes, hotels and wedding venues, theatres and cinemas, betting shops, bingo halls and casinos and gyms, all of which are facing really hard times and challenges. They are facing closures, ruin and job losses on a massive scale. At the same time, as we heard earlier, Treasury support is weakening and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not only losing the cost of support but suffering a major loss of revenue.

Unfortunately, the approach seems to be driven less by deep analysis and more by the dreaded doctrine of “something must be done”. This is something; therefore we must do this irrespective of proportionality, outcome or impact. But this time it is even worse. It seems to be “something needs to be seen to be done” without any cost-benefit analysis or considering the impact on a beleaguered industry and a workforce facing mass redundancies. Accordingly, I and many other Members are unclear about the basis, either at a local or national level, of these proposals. The Chief Secretary talked earlier of anecdotes. I want a bit more than anecdotes.

Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, rightly said on Radio 4 today that a far better way than closures and curfews is to give powers to local councils to take rapid action to shut down non-compliant venues. In my authority of Sandwell, which has an enviable contact rate of 85% led by the excellent public health director Dr McNally, we have had one case linked to a hospitality venue, and that was early on in the pandemic in a pub in Smethwick. The Express & Star, our evening newspaper, investigated and found that across the Black Country, which is home to 1.25 million people, there have been just 10 such incidences of covid, again all early in the pandemic.

In his opening speech, the Secretary of State did not give an indication of how long he thinks this can go on. It could last almost indefinitely unless we develop a vaccine, an event that, as the Prime Minister candidly admitted yesterday, is uncertain and would not be 100% effective. One of the tests of an exit strategy is considering how we contain the virus if we are not able to eliminate it, as we have had to do with major diseases throughout history and as many of parts of the world still have to do today.

Steve Baker (Con, Wycombe) brought up the economic damage done and his support for the Great Barrington Declaration. He said that the Government must find a middle way:

three problems. The first is that a vaccine may not come. The second is that a vaccine may not be effective. The third is that all this is propped up on quantitative easing and ultra-cheap credit. Indeed, now we are reading in the newspapers about negative interest rates, and this is why I declared the interest. I think you have to have a peculiarly high level of economic education to believe that we can head towards £745 billion of QE and ultra-low or negative interest rates and that all this will not be a problem. I will not say any more about it. I think it will be a problem, and it is precarious indeed that the Government’s strategy is propped up on such a monetary policy

Personally, I think that privately the Government are a little more optimistic about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned, but here is the thing: even suppose the Government had vaccinated the public with a successful, safe vaccine by Easter or possibly the summer, that still leaves our economy and Government spending propped up on ultra-cheap credit. The problem with that is that the Bank of England has told us on the Treasury Committee that if inflation comes in it will have to, under its mandate, fight inflation. That would effectively mean pulling the plug on Government spending. This is precarious indeed …

For the reasons that I have given, I am convinced that the Government must find an alternative strategic plan between the Great Barrington declaration and where we are today.

All Government measures passed in the votes that night.

Labour’s mixed messages

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow cabinet are all over the shop.

On Tuesday, Jonathan Ashworth opposed a national lockdown, while saying that the Government were not going far enough with measures:

However, Labour leader Keir Starmer announced on national television that he wants a national lockdown, as Guido Fawkes points out (emphases in the original):

Why does Keir Starmer support imposing a national lockdown on areas with low Covid incidence whilst opposing regional lockdowns on areas with high Covid incidence? Whatever side of the argument you are on, surely it is clear that being on both sides of the argument at the same time makes no sense logically? Unless it is pure political opportunism…

Ashworth said, rightly that a national lockdown “would be disastrous for society… but I don’t believe anyone in the house is proposing that…” Hours later Starmer proposed precisely that…

Tiered lockdown: public money from taxpayers or private enterprise?

In closing, this is what is allegedly happening in Essex, which is just to the east of London. This is puzzling, because Essex has low positive test rates.

Adam Brooks is a publican:

Essex Council deny that money is involved. The councillor giving the following statement said that the Council is doing it for health, not financial, reasons:

Fair enough.

The leader of the Council issued this video announcement, which was not well received by Essex residents (read the replies):

Essex aside, on the subject of lockdown money, Laura Dodsworth has written a lengthy article for Spiked, ‘There’s a financial incentive for councils to lock down’.

She stands by her article:

She explains that Liverpool Council made sure they received commitment to a financial package from the Government before entering Tier 3:

Liverpool mayors Steve Rotheram and Joe Anderson said that they did not agree with some aspects of the Tier 3 lockdown, but were aware that government would bring in rules ‘with or without them’. And so rather than argue forcefully against lockdown, they negotiated to secure the best financial package possible.

This policy is not without its drawbacks:

The new funding package for councils is designed to alleviate the pain of lockdown, to sugar the pill. But the structure of the funding might end up providing local authorities with the ingredients to make lockdown cake indefinitely. It is specifically intended to support more testing, including door-to-door testing, sometimes with help from the military. But more testing leads to more cases. More cases lead to more lockdowns.

the funding is also going towards enforcement of lockdown regulations and self-isolation, which there are fines for breaching. That, in turn, raises more funds – the revenue from fixed-penalty notices, whether they are issued by local police, environmental-health officers or new Covid marshals, goes into local-authority coffers. In theory, the lockdown fixed-penalty fines should be going straight back into public health (as littering fines would go towards the environment). But, in reality, revenue from fines is not always that well ring-fenced in local authorities.

Liverpool Council is nearly broke:

Back in April, Liverpool council warned it was facing bankruptcy. It’s easy to appreciate that local leaders are anxious to secure funds to deal with the ongoing lockdown crisis. I am not suggesting that councils and local politicians would make calculated decisions to push areas into lockdown. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This financial model has the potential to become a vicious circle. Seasoned disaster-planner Lucy Easthope tells me: ‘There is a tendency in reactive disaster funding to create dependency and to actively avoid thinking through the long-term harms and over-reliance [on emergency funds].’

Allegedly, London is likely to be next:

It will be interesting to see how this turns out in the months to come. I hope that the Treasury have terms and conditions attached to this funding.

The end of the road for England’s pubs?

Since the smoking ban in 2007 and the financial crisis the following year, the number of pubs decreased from 50,000 to 39,000 in the UK. That was as of 2018.

Because of the earlier lockdown this year, more have no doubt closed — for good.

The new coronavirus regulations began on Wednesday, October 14:

Below is a video of the ‘last hurrah’, as my parents’ generation would have called it, in Liverpool, before Tier 3 regulations set in.

Regardless of what one thinks of the video, according to the pie chart, when workplaces and schools/universities are factored in, according to Public Health England, hospitality accounts only for 3 per cent of coronavirus ‘case’ sources:

Not all pubs have to close, but in order to stay open, they must serve ‘a substantial meal’, as in New York City. A packet of crisps or pork scratchings will not do. The Pub Curmudgeon said that the Government have not precisely defined the term ‘substantial meal’, which could be problematic.

Meanwhile, Adam Brooks, the aforementioned publican from Essex, has given an interview to Spiked:

More to come tomorrow on how his business has fared during the coronavirus crisis.

Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV posted its sixth episode of The Week in 60 Minutes on Thursday, October 8, 2020:

Guests included Prof David Nabarro, World Health Organization special envoy for Covid-19; Andy Preston, mayor of Middlesbrough; Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times and a few Spectator journalists.

The programme began with the status of coronavirus measures in Ireland.

Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times, says that the Irish government was surprised by the recent recommended lockdown which they ultimately rejected. The Irish government were highly critical of the proposed measures, privately and publicly. Leahy explained that the head of the public health advisers has been off work because of compassionate leave, then, last Sunday, he returned and recommended another lockdown. The Irish government took it as, he says, a ‘power play’.

The government objected to the health experts’ very quick meetings amongst themselves and with government officials. Leahy said that the government were ‘annoyed’.

The government did not disagree with the recommended measures per se, but there was a fine balance to be achieved. The minister of finance warned of employment and social consequences, because a number of jobs would not be coming back. He and his staff needed to consider if other measures could be taken instead.

Neil mentioned today’s minimal COVID-19 deaths in Ireland. Leahy agreed and said that the so-called second wave has much less severe than the first. That said, the admissions to hospitals have been rising dramatically. So, there is a question about whether the second wave is different from the first. The Irish government felt they could weigh the statistics, adopting a wait-and-see approach. Leahy said that Dr Leo Varadkar, a physician who was formerly the prime minister and is now the deputy prime minister, essentially threw the nation’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan ‘under the bus’.

Leahy said that the part of Ireland’s problem was assigning decisions to scientists and doctors in the first wave earlier this year. Currently, scientific advice ‘is only one factor’ in the decision making process that the Irish government will take with regard to coronavirus measures. Leahy said that time will tell whether the public will back the government. The economic factors are such that things could change in the weeks to come.

Katy Balls was up next, advocating Swedish models that a number of Conservative MPs back. A number of backbenchers disapprove of Drs Whitty and Vallance.

Conversation then turned to the WHO’s Prof David Nabarro who says we are still in a bit of the first wave and we’re not over it, so we need to learn how to live with the virus without lockdown and the ‘closing down of economies’. What he calls ‘the middle path’ requires holding the virus at bay while allowing the economy to resume in order to make certain we can put safeguards in place, so that we can stop the virus whilst getting local ‘actors’, as well as testing and tracing, involved as much as possible and a common commitment to each other to keep everything as safe as possible. He said that lockdowns serve only to give a health service some breathing space.

Nabarro said that is what South East Asian countries are doing, also Germany and Canada. As lockdown lifts, nations can deal with increased cases ‘elegantly’.

As for Ireland, Nabarro sided halfway with the Irish government and halfway with the scientific advisors. He did caution that public buy-in was necessary for any success.

Nabarro predicted many more weeks of uncertainty but that we would feel ‘much more comfortable’ in the New Year.

Neil asked Nabarro about Prof Sunetra Gupta’s views on a milder lockdown. Nabarro said that the WHO do not advocate lockdowns as an absolute principle. (UK government: please take note!) He cited the damage done to the Caribbean and Pacific tourist industry. As a result, many more people could lapse into poverty.

Neil brought up Scotland’s coming lockdown and a possible one in the North of England.

Kate Andrews had current statistics, comparing them to Sir Patrick Vallance’s alarming case graph from the third week of September. So far, we are not close to Vallance’s projection, but the UK is higher than France’s and Spain’s cases, respectively.

The effect of local lockdowns showed a skyrocketing in positive tests (‘cases’).  According to statistics, it is possible that Leicester should have already been taken out of lockdown.

Kate Andrews showed graphs that revealed that hospitality was responsible for a very low number of cases: around four per cent, not dissimilar to this pie chart, which I cited last Friday.

Nabarro intervened, saying he preferred ‘local integrated responses’, because breaking the virus involves input from every institution, be it a factory or a house of worship. He praised Leicester for its diversity, holding it up as a model for the world.

The Spectator‘s political editor, James Forsyth, came on to comment about the former Labour ‘Red Wall’ in the North. Much of that Red Wall voted for Conservatives in December 2019. Forsyth said that lockdown will be viewed as flooding has been in recent years: even if measures taken are not political, they look as if they ARE political. Northerners see that London and the surrounding Home Counties will not be locked down, and, as a result, will suffer fewer socio-economic casualties.

Andy Preston, the Independent mayor of Middlesbrough, was the next guest. He has been positively incandescent about lockdown. The transmission is a bit choppy, but Preston said that many of his residents didn’t personally know many people who had or died of COVID-19. He added that Middlesbrough’s residents have paid more in tax whilst losing out locally. He felt that ‘the Government is doing stuff to us’.

Preston has asked for a temporary ban on in-house socialising but supports frequenting restaurants. He said that local government and the UK government need to work together on measures.

Preston said that he thought there was an ‘inside group’ of advisers to the government, with no one from Middlesbrough involved.

He said that this type of decision making could go ‘very badly wrong for the country’.

Talk then turned towards the American vice presidential debate. Freddy Gray covered this segment. He said that Mike Pence is ‘a very accomplished performer’, ‘intelligent and he spoke very fluently’. He disclosed that he has never been a Pence fan but predicted that he could be the next Republican nominee in 2024.

Neil said that a Trump-Biden virtual debate would not be the first. Nixon broadcasted in 1960 from Los Angeles. Gray said that no one knew what is going on in Trump’s mind and said that the American president had gone ‘full gonzo’.

Viewers’ questions came next.

The first had to do with successful measures against COVID-19. Nabarro commented on coronavirus success in South East Asia, which he attributed to community buy-in and no delay in taking action, which can result in more problems later.

Another viewer said that England’s mayors needed to come together with regard to England’s lockdown. Andy Preston said he would back Manchester’s Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP.

A third viewer wondered about the vote coming up this week on England’s 10 p.m. curfew. Katy Balls said she doubted whether Labour would oppose the vote, but Conservative rebels might have their chance in the weeks to come to succeed in voting against the Government. (Personally, I don’t think it will happen. Most of the Opposition support lockdown measures and restricting civil liberties.)

James Forsyth says that half the Conservative MPs really detest the Government’s coronavirus restrictions. He cited the communications surrounding them and questioned what the £12bn poured into the ‘test and trace’ programme has actually achieved. He said it was ‘not delivering’.

Andrew Neil asked about the Great Barrington Declaration, which Prof Sunetra Gupta and many other physicians signed a week ago in Massachusetts. Kate Andrews said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be a ‘game changer’ with no social restrictions a year from now. As such, time is not a big deal for Boris. Neil said that Boris sounded like Chauncey Gardiner. I don’t like saying this, but I tend to agree with his assessment. Boris seems off the rails right now.

Leahy had the final word, measuring the rising positive tests with closed pubs and other measures. The Irish government, he says, needs to give these new measures time to work, including buy-in from the public to avoid another lockdown. He predicts another two to three weeks.

The final question came to Nabarro about the origin of the virus. He said, in short, that there was no definitive answer. ‘You [have to] bring in independent actors’, therefore, the WHO would need ‘to bring in other staff to help’.

Hmm. Interesting.

Then, in an abrupt change of tone, Nabarro sounded a blast at certain countries, including Belarus and Spain, saying that a second wave could come soon and that no nation should be complacent.

Hmm.

Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored this week’s programme. For that, we are most grateful. Agree or disagree, Spectator TV is manna in a desert of dry, one-way MSM broadcasts.

Public Health England is being reorganised, but not before they have a go at coronavirus statistics.

As of October 9, 2020, coronavirus and flu stats COULD appear combined in ONE statistic:

Here we go (note the yellow highlight below). This went into effect on Thursday, October 8, 2020:

Let this news sink in and click on the text image (see 11:12 below) for more information:

Good grief.

Where could this lead?

Those who have listened carefully to Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, have made the following observation, probably concerning the absolute necessity (not) of getting a flu jab (shot, vaccine):

Even lockdown advocates should be concerned:

Standing back for just a moment, will this be a report that clearly separates the two maladies?

Which takes precedence — COVID-19 or the flu?

Whatever the case, this has a huge bearing on how the English lead their lives during the foreseeable future. Sadly, we have no answer and no influence:

We can but see.

However, has this tactic from public sector organisations and the Government come too late in the game?

For those who doubt the reason behind this move, think about looking at a blurry photograph or video of your loved ones, impossible to identify, and being asked if you wanted to keep it. Most people would say, ‘No, thanks, I have better ones already’. This is the same type of situation.

When it comes to health, we need to see specifics, not blended statistics that leave us in the dark.

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock continues to fearmonger, claiming that a vaccine is the only way out:

Thankfully, some replied:

Please, Lord, how long can this go on?

What are the unknown stories and statistics behind the dangers of lockdown?

One day, we will find out. We will not be happy.

This week, a mini-rebellion erupted on the Conservative back benches over coronavirus.

More on that in a moment.

First, let’s have a look at Friday’s headlines.

As millions of Britons are worrying about their vanishing income, it is shameful that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, an independent body which oversees the system of allowances and salaries for Members of Parliament, decided to give them a pay rise! Incidentally, a Labour MP is shown in the photograph below:

Unconscionable!

Although the economy was starting to recover earlier in the summer when lockdown was lifted, things are different today:

It’s been a challenging year for Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who replaced Sajid Javid in March, just a fortnight before lockdown. He delivered a brilliant budget for a bright year ahead, then coronavirus struck.

Sunak is one of the contrarians on coronavirus and is said to prefer letting Britons get back to work.

That said, he has given billions in financial aid to the nation and delivered a Winter Economic Plan. However, pressure is on now to not only find a way to boost the Treasury’s coffers but also to provide extra financial support to the areas of the country which are under what seems to be permanent lockdown. The Huffington Post has more on today’s new measures.

These are the highlights:

This is his latest tax plan:

Hmm:

It’s a tough job, so I’m glad Rishi is in that post. He’s doing the best he can.

Next door, at No. 10 Downing Street, Rishi’s former aide Allegra Stratton has been named as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new press secretary. Conservative men across the nation had hoped for a Kayleigh McEnany, but we will wish Ms Stratton well in her new job:

Note how media and politics intertwine. Stratton is connected not only to Nos. 10 and 11 Downing Street but also to top adviser Dominic Cummings as well as to The Spectator:

Guido Fawkes says (emphases in the original):

Widely anticipated and always the bookies favourite, Allegra Stratton has been confirmed as the new Downing Street Press Secretary. Her experience as a television reporter on Newsnight, ITV News and with Peston will stand her in good stead. 40 year-old Allegra is married to the Spectator’s James Forsyth. They have one child. She has done a good job spinning for Rishi and he will miss her…

Bring on the briefings…

Stratton left ITV in April to work for Rishi:

I had bookmarked a tweet from ITV’s political editor Robert Peston a few months ago when No. 10 announced its search for a press secretary. Unfortunately, I subsequently deleted it. Peston tweeted that he knew of a perfect candidate, someone who had worked for him and was now working for Rishi Sunak: Allegra Stratton.

And, lo, it came to pass.

Here’s an interesting tweet from May, after Dominic Cummings had to give a press conference in the garden of No. 10 to apologise for his questionable trip up North to Barnard Castle (a town named for its castle) with his wife Mary Wakefield and their four-year-old son:

One of Cummings’s goals was to clear out No. 10 of Remainers in senior positions. Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, the most senior Remainer and the man in charge of civil servants, resigned during the summer.

Sedwill’s replacement is Simon Case, who used to work for Prince William:

Guido Fawkes has posted Case’s email to civil servants, popularly referred to as ‘mandarins’, and says:

Simon Case, Sir Mark Sedwill’s replacement as Cabinet Secretary, has got off to a strong start in the job by sending an email to all civil servants boasting of his ‘profound sense of pride in our nation’s history”, telling Whitehall staff “We must maintain our dedication to honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity.” Guido hopes counselling will be put in place for any distressed metropolitan mandarins at this time…

Now on to coronavirus.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon is putting much of that nation under a 16-day ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown (pubs shut, no alcohol in restaurants, no visiting) during half-term (break for schools). Yet she is decommissioning the Nightingale hospital in Glasgow. Why?

In England and Wales, questions have been raised about the new contact-tracing app:

Today (Friday), the Telegraph‘s Chief Political Correspondent Christopher Hope interviewed the Conservative MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who had a lot to say not only on coronavirus but also Brexit (he thinks large parts of the Withdrawal Agreement should be torn up if we want a Canada deal).

Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson will never defeat the coronavirus pandemic, Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said, and instead must start to help Britons to learn to live with the disease.

The former Conservative leader told today’s Chopper Politics podcast … : “‘I’ve never been to a time like this where we have almost suspended all judgement on everything else as secondary to Covid.

“And the truth is that if we go on just trying to push these spikes down the whole timethen we could be in this for years because there are very few vaccines that have been completely effective against viruses.”

Sir Iain said the focus on Covid meant that other risks were being completely ignored. He said that the problem was “we’ve lost the balance of risks. We now have only one risk. And if you think of only one risk, then you can damage everything around you.

He added that he thought the right course of action regarding coronavirus was “managing it but not expecting that, as people say, we can defeat this, because I honestly don’t think we will actually.”

YES!

The 30-minute podcast is here. Hope interviews other guests, too.

Conservative MPs are warning Boris not to take the votes of former Labour-supporting area lightly. Those areas, many of which now have Conservative MPs, are the ones most affected by semi-permanent lockdown:

Earlier in the week, the Government postponed a vote on the 10 p.m. curfew on pubs and restaurants in England. It has been rescheduled for next week:

Members of the public are understandably concerned. One summarised Boris’s speech at the (virtual) Conservative Party conference this week:

But I digress.

The reason the Government are picking on the hospitality sector is because of this chart, which MPs on both sides of the aisle dispute:

Hospitality venues are at the top of the list.

Note that schools and workplaces are not mentioned.

This is the reality, and this is what dissenting MPs are going by. Hospitality is ranked at 4 per cent (see pie chart):

The hospitality sector had to put a lot of money into their businesses in order to reopen during the summer, yet the Government is targeting them. That is also true in France, but we’ll stick with England for now:

I am very concerned about this eventuality:

Conservative MP Steve Baker talks a good game, but he voted with the Government this week to renew coronavirus restrictions.

ITV interviewed him yesterday:

ITV has excerpts of Baker’s interview:

Speaking to the Acting Prime Minister podcast, the MP said the rule is “badly evidenced and appears to be counter-productive”.

He said the rule, which forces pubs to close between 10pm and 5am, is “wrecking the hospitality industry, which we only just pumped lots of taxpayers money into through Eat Out to Help Out”.

He claimed the “cost of lockdowns are worse than the cost of the disease” and suggested the PM is only imposing them because of hopes of a vaccine “turning up and solving all these problems”.

He said he fears the UK is in “grave danger” of “jumping into a lobster pot here from which we can’t emerge” if a vaccine is not forthcoming.

“The danger we’re in at the moment is we’ll destroy our economy,” he told podcast host Paul Brand.

He said he supports Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his response to coronavirus, but questioned whether he is “betting the country on a vaccine turning up”.

“If his strategy is based on a vaccine coming, I think there’s going to be a problem,” he said.

The Wycombe MP appeared to suggest the team around the prime minister was not allowing him to use his strengths …

Mr Baker, who was a prominent Brexit supporter, said he “deeply” regrets the way the UK divided over EU membership and said he can feel the same happening with coronavirus.

I’m really worried that our society is polarising with hysterical arguments on both sides.

“What I am saying is I want us to have a radical spirit of concern for one another, a radical willingness to listen to one another and then be moderate in what we say and do to try and close all these, all these divides.” 

I agree wholeheartedly with every word.

In closing, I really hope that Steve Baker and the other Conservative rebels vote against the Government on the hospitality curfew next week.

They won’t win, but they will send a strong message to Boris and Matt Hancock.

Below is Episode 5 of Spectator TV’s The Week in 60 Minutes, which aired on Thursday, October 1, 2020:

It was another hour of informative television, hosted by Andrew Neil.

Discussion points prove that a week is a long time not only in politics but also where coronavirus is concerned.

Although the first segment is now dated, as thousands of extra ‘cases’ (positive test results, for the most part) were discovered missing from English coronavirus stats last Friday, The Spectator‘s economics correspondent Kate Andrews reviewed Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance’s alarming graph from two weeks ago. The English stats were flat when Andrews gave her commentary.

This is a graph from October 6, showing actual data plotted against Vallance’s:

This is also worth noting, including the comparison of hospitalisations from earlier in the year:

Kate Andrews said that France and Spain are levelling out. Nearly one week on, that is continuing. Spain’s positive test numbers/cases are falling noticeably:

In any event, Andrews rightly pointed out that COVID deaths are still far fewer than flu or other causes. In fact, she said, 51% of Britons now worried about the economy, particularly in light of lockdowns across a growing swathe of England in the North and the Midlands.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson thinks Boris has created some space to evaluate COVID measures, as he will now be meeting with Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Dr Chris Whitty once a week.

The magazine’s political editor, James Forsyth, said that the hotspots are more regional now and that Tory MPs from regions with lower positive test rates will ask for easing lockdown restrictions with more focus on improving the economy. That has happened in Parliament but not to a great enough extent to make a difference when it comes to voting on coronavirus restrictions. The Government won the vote on the Rule of Six hands down this week.

Kate Andrews says economists now think recovery will take longer because of new restrictions.

They are absolutely correct. A lot of businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sectors are likely to suffer during the winter months. Restaurant and banqueting venue owners do not know whether they should take bookings for Christmas parties. Businesses — their customers — are also loath to make large Christmas bookings. At the weekend, Boris predicted that the coming months would be ‘bumpy’ through Christmas ‘and possibly beyond’, perhaps ‘until Easter’. Boris and much of his Cabinet are banking on a vaccine appearing on the market by that time. Oh, dearie, dearie me.

The best part of the interview was the segment with Prof Sunetra Gupta, an infectious disease epidemiologist and a professor of theoretical epidemiology at the University of Oxford. Last weekend, Prof Gupta signed the Great Barrington Declaration in western Massachusetts, opposing the current form of Western lockdowns. Those who wish to watch that segment separately can tune in below:

She doubted the validity of Vallance’s graph which, she said, still applies to the first, rather than a second, wave. She said that what we are seeing is in line with the way viruses work in the autumn. She thinks that governments and scientists should move away from lockdowns because of other equally urgent issues involving human life. She also said that lockdowns serve only to delay more COVID-19 cases. She believes that we need to learn to live with the virus and added that it should settle down eventually, as with the flu. She says this is called endemic equilibrium. She told Neil that she recently met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Unfortunately, she said, Boris told her he disagrees with her scientifically reasoned request to return to normality.

That makes it even more obvious that Boris is all in for a vaccine, nothing less. How sad.

Talk turned to the appointment of a new chairman of the BBC. Charles Moore, a long-time conservative journalist and former Spectator editor, was thought to be the likely candidate last week. Andrew Neil interviewed Claire Fox from the Institute of Ideas, who spoke about Charles Moore and the BBC, which many Britons believe is biased against conservative ideas. Claire Fox said that we have to have a national discussion and ‘shake up’ about what we expect from the media, because people think there is a one-sided narrative and ‘groupthink at their core’.

Fraser Nelson said that conservatives don’t really play that game, to their detriment.

In the days that followed, Charles Moore indicated that he would not apply for the job at the BBC (more here from The Telegraph):

Andrew Neil discussed the US election debate, which had taken place earlier last week. Matt Purple of The American Conservative, probably the only anti-Trump journalist at that publication, said it was ‘a Chernobyl’, largely because Trump does not correct his errors. He said that Biden is ahead in the polls. Neil asked about the undecided voters watching the debate. Purple said that Trump’s ‘temperament’ is the issue. He also thinks that independent voters see Joe Biden as a ‘better package’. He added that incumbents have a record to defend and that Trump ‘burned the most’.

I find it incredible that Matt Purple thinks Trump is a bad president. I wonder why he works for The American Conservative, which Rod Dreher, a solid conservative, edits.

In any event, Purple’s words were music to Andrew Neil’s ears. Like most middle- and upper-class Britons, he loathes Trump, for whatever reason.

Neil asked Kate Andrews, an American, whom she preferred. She said that, although she is conservative, she was leaning towards Joe Biden. No surprise there.

Neil said that Trump is going to lose both the popular and Electoral College vote. He mentioned a plethora of court cases to be settled afterwards.

Looking into American history, Neil mentioned the controversy surrounding Rutherford Hayes’s election in 1876, which took four months to resolve. Purple agreed, predicting more violence in the streets.

Andrew Neil ended the hour by reading out questions from viewers.

John Prescott (not the retired politician) asked about coronavirus metrics. Gupta said that health officials need to look at deaths and the correct number of cases versus the number of tests then benchmark those data against other infections.

Roger Murphy asked about reversing lockdown. James Forsyth said that we will see in a fortnight, because this is the first time we have seen local pushback to lockdowns. Fraser Nelson said that Boris is missing the point. Lockdown, he added, will not help strengthen the Red Wall that the Conservatives won in the North last December. Locking down London is another possible sticking point.

No doubt this week’s Spectator TV broadcast, to be filmed on Thursday, will cover Boris’s speech at the Conservative Party conference and rebel Conservative MPs who want lockdown rules to be changed. I’ll post that video soon.

Once again, coronavirus measures featured strongly in this week’s debates in the House of Commons.

Yesterday’s post explained that a compromise was reached over the proposed Brady Amendment and covered the subsequent debate on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

In the end, only a handful of MPs voted against the extension. Congratulations to them and to the Liberal Democrats, all of whom voted No:

The Labour MPs were Dawn Butler, Kevan Jones, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John Spellar, Graham Stringer and Derek Twigg. I do have a particular admiration for Graham Stringer who adds lucidity in every discussion in which he participates. I’ve seen him in Select Committee hearings and he’s brilliant.

Below is a review of coronavirus debates from the other days.

Monday, September 28

Steve Baker (Con) was in rebel mode on his way to the Commons that morning:

In the afternoon, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock appeared at the despatch box for a debate on COVID-19 measures.

He received several interventions (interruptions).

Sir Edward Leigh (Con) was the first. He also mentioned Sir Graham Brady of the eponymous amendment (emphases mine below):

If the first duty of Government is to keep people safe, will the Secretary of State remember that the first duty of Parliament is to hold Government to account? I know that he wants to take public opinion with him, but will he therefore reassure us that he is also determined to take Parliament with him? In that respect, may I urge him to meet with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) and come to a compromise to ensure that, if there are further national lockdowns, Parliament will be fully involved in the process?

He agreed, but note the ‘where possible’ in his reply:

We are looking at further ways to ensure that the House can be properly involved in the process—in advance, where possible. I hope to provide the House with further details soon. I will take up the invitation to a further meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady), whom I have already met to discuss this matter, to see what further progress can be made. I hope that that, for the time being, satisfies my right hon. Friend.

Mark Harper and Steve Baker, both Conservatives, hit the nail on the head.

Harper said:

To develop the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), I accept the points about scrutiny that the Secretary of State makes, but it is about not just scrutiny but the laws we are making. The laws that came in at midnight, for example, were 12 pages of laws, with lots of detail, criminal offences and duties not mentioned when they were set out in a statement last week. That includes duties on employers, directors and officers, with serious criminal penalties. We need to scrutinise the detail of the legislation before it comes into force and give our assent, and not, I am afraid, just allow the Secretary of State to put it into force by decree.

Hancock batted that away, as if it were nothing:

Of course, sometimes in this pandemic we have to move fast. Sometimes we have had to move fast, and we may need to do so again. The challenge we have in this House is how to ensure proper scrutiny while also being able, when necessary, to move fast in response to the virus. That is the challenge that collectively we all face.

Steve Baker dismissed that answer with facts but had to couch it, knowing how thin-skinned Hancock is:

I reassure my right hon. Friend that I am going to praise him later, but the Constitution Unit at University College London tweeted earlier about the regulations mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) that

this policy was briefed to the media 8 days ago. Was it really not possible to schedule proper, detailed parliamentary debate during that time, given the far-reaching consequences?”

It added:

“Given the current mood, it seems very likely MPs will ask this.”

Well, I am asking. Surely it was possible, in eight days, to have the debate that my right hon. Friend has called for.

Hancock replied that both he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had made statements about the new laws the week before.

Labour’s John Spellar, who voted against the extension of the Coronavirus Act 2020, pressed Hancock on the issue:

It is nice to be informed, nice to be consulted and nice to be able to scrutinise, but in the end it is about who decides. Can the Secretary of State explain why he is so against Parliament’s making the decision, even if he argues for urgency and immediacy —within two days, for example—to either confirm or revoke those regulations? Why is he against Parliament’s being the one that finally decides on this? It is quite clear that this is not even being decided in Cabinet, but just by one or two Cabinet members. Let Parliament decide.

Hancock said he hoped to find a way forward.

Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary, replied on behalf of Labour.

This was an excellent debate, one worth reading in full. A few more highlights follow.

John Spellar pointed out that a vaccine would give no guarantees:

There has been much mention of the success of a vaccine, but, first, it is unclear when that is likely to be and, secondly, surely even if we have a vaccine, it will not be 100% effective.

Sir Desmond Swayne (Con) gave the best speech of the debate — a must-watch at just under two minutes:

He took exception to Chief Medical Officer Dr Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance’s televised presentation the week before with a graph that strained credulity. They took no questions from the press. No government minister was present, either, even though they sat in front of a No. 10 backdrop.

Swayne rightly railed about it and them:

Less than a year ago, I celebrated what I thought was the election of a sceptical and liberal Conservative Administration. Now, I am left wondering if the Prime Minister has not been abducted by Dr Strangelove and reprogrammed by the SAGE over to the dark side.

The purpose of politicians is to impose a sense of proportion on science and not to be in thrall to it. I will make myself very unpopular, but I believe that the appearance of the chiefs last week should have been a sacking offence. When they presented that graph, it was with the caveat that it was not 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 on one day since March have there been infections on a day that were double that of the same day of the week preceding—not once. Where did this doubling come from? What was their purpose in presenting such a graph? It was the purpose of the fat boy in “The Pickwick Papers”:

“I wants to make your flesh creep.”

It was “project fear”. It was an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they had not been terrified enough.

I have been banging on about this since March, and with every criticism I have made, I have been told that the Government were relying on the best possible science. So I was delighted by the letter one week ago today with the nuanced criticism of Professors Heneghan, Gupta and Sikora. I believe that the Government now have to answer that criticism. I am glad that the consensus in the scientific community is broken and the critics are speaking out.

I do not underestimate for one moment the horrible nature of this disease and its post-viral syndrome, but in terms of the United Kingdom’s killers, it is 24th in the league, accounting for only 1.4% of deaths. As a consequence, I believe the Government’s policy has been disproportionate. By decree, they have interfered in our private and family lives, telling us whom we may meet, when we may meet them and what we must wear when we meet them. We have the cruelty of elderly people in care homes being disoriented, unable to see the faces of their loved ones or to receive a hug. We have the tsunami of deaths that we may experience shortly as a consequence of undiagnosed cancers and heart disease, and the discontinuation of clinical trials.

He praised Sweden’s lack of lockdown and compared the Government’s warning about Christmas celebrations to Cromwell, who, as Lord Protector, also banned the holiday:

All sorts of criticisms are levelled against the Swedish Government that, on examination of the data and comparing like for like, are without foundation. I certainly hold up the Swedish model as an alternative.

We have seen the eye-watering costs that we must now all face for a generation, having closed down our economy for all those months as a consequence of the Government’s policy. We face the crushing of enterprises, the destruction of livelihoods, and unemployment among young people, all as a consequence of an overreaction. I understand that there is now some question as to whether students will be allowed to return from university at Christmas. I say most gently to the Minister that the last Administration that sought to restrain celebrations at Christmas was during the Commonwealth, when the Lord Protector was left musing in public whether, if he were to arm one in 10, that would be enough. How many marshals will be required?

I conclude by saying that the policy of the Government has been disproportionate in response to this threat. There may be a virus one day that threatens our very way of life, but this is not it, even if we are behaving as if it were.

In other news, people in England were deeply unhappy to discover that, while they are under 10 p.m. closing time for pubs and restaurants, Parliament’s bar and restaurant were allowed to stay open past that hour.

Guido Fawkes reported that a U-turn took place. The exemption was initially made because both are considered as a ‘workplace canteen’, as sittings in both the Commons and the Lords occasionally run into the night. Now, at least, alcohol will not be served after the witching hour:

Tuesday, September 29

The 10 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants in England has rankled both proprietors and the public to the extent that the Mojo Bar in Manchester has banned all MPs until the curfew is cancelled:

Guido Fawkes had more details (emphasis in purple mine):

After five days of the disastrous mandatory 10 pm closing time policy for bars, pubs, and restaurants, Mojo Bar in Manchester is taking matters into its own hands. Clearly fuming at the counterproductive curfew order imposed this week, the bar took to social media to share pictures of all MPs – declaring none of them will be served until the curfew is cancelled. Clearly the management know which strings to pull to get the attention of MPs…

Managing Director Martin Greenhow tells Guido that the eye catching policy came about “from frustration and fear”. Before the curfew the bar had bounced back pretty strongly from lockdown, back up to 85% of normal turnover. After the curfew was imposed it’s down to just 20%.

Good grief! Stop the madness.

The coronavirus restrictions in England became so complicated that ministers, including Boris, could not keep them straight any more.

Gillian Keegan, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, had a rough start in the morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today:

Guido had more (emphases in the original):

… she was unable to clarify the newly-imposed rules in the northeast on meeting other families, squirming “no, I’m sorry I can’t clarify that… no I don’t know the answer to that question”, claiming she couldn’t answer the ever-increasingly complex regulation question because she’s “not from the northeast”. Mishal Husain correctly pointed out Keegan, as a minister, couldn’t understand the new rules, what hope does the general population have of being able to stick to them…

Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also appeared on BBC radio that morning. He took issue with their ‘gotcha’ tactics:

Boris, too, got tripped up around lunchtime. He was asked to clarify Gillian Keegan’s answer on Today:

Guido reported:

Responding to a Channel 5 question, Boris said:

“Outside the areas such as the North East where extra measures have been brought in, it’s six inside and six outside, in those areas such as the North East where extra tight measures have been brought in you should follow the guidance of local authorities, but it’s six in a home or in hospitality but as I understand it, not six outside. That’s the situation there.”

Which is precisely the opposite of what the new restrictions say, as the Government announced last night:

“Measures will be brought into law restricting inter-household mixing in indoor settings, including pubs and restaurants”

So in indoor settings no household mixing. Outdoor can see household mixing. Something the PM got 180 degrees the wrong way round…

He quickly issued an erratum early in the afternoon:

Wednesday, September 30

In the debate on extending the Coronavirus Act 2020, another highlight was Conservative MP Charles Walker’s speech. He was on fire:

He said:

I first thank the Secretary of State for everything he has done to get us to this stage tonight, but 90 minutes to debate the renewal of an Act that has fundamentally changed the nature of the relationship between the state and citizens is not good enough. If this is the portent of the promises to come, it is not good enough. I need, at some stage, more than three minutes to discuss the fundamental hardships that are going on in my constituency—the jobs that are being lost, the opportunities that are being lost, the young people struggling to find work, to get back to university and to come back from university. Ninety minutes is an utter, utter disgrace. It is actually disrespectful to this House and it is disrespectful to colleagues.

I am sorry, Secretary of State, if I sound—actually, I am not sorry that I am angry, because a lot of people in this place are angry. We want to see this virus beaten, of course we do, but it would be nice—just nice—if this House were shown some respect.

Charles Walker is the vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee, which Sir Graham Brady chairs. It represents backbench Conservative MPs.

Walker’s righteous anger has been building since September 10:

I note that Steve Baker did not vote against the extension of the Coronavirus Act 2020, despite a bold interview days before on Sky News.

Despite that, he still has his eye on the ball. He retweeted this from Italy:

And he’s doing more interviews:

We really do need to reopen the economy in full — now.

Next week, I’ll have a wrap-up of the final debates of the Brexit-oriented Internal Market Bill.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has done incredibly well since he was hastily appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this year, coming up with a budget that was sound and sensible.

Of course, the coronavirus crisis put paid to his well-crafted plans.

He put together and presented a balanced furlough package, which he said more than once at the time ‘could not save every job’.

HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) had to be able to act accurately and quickly without having to investigate thousands of individual cases. As such, some freelancers and self-employed were not on the list of those who could be helped financially through the furlough scheme. They had to go through the usual government income support schemes.

The furlough scheme expires in October. On Wednesday, September 24 presented a new plan to help workers in his Winter Economy Plan.

Before I cover that, he implemented other more economic initiatives.

In July, he gave a Summer Statement. He cut VAT from 20% to 5% for the hospitality and tourism sectors, which will now run through March 31, 2021. He also announced a stamp duty holiday that month on the purchase of a home. It applies to all sales taking place before March 31, 2021.

On July 15, the Treasury Committee, which, like all Select Committees, are comprised of MPs, interviewed him about the furlough scheme and whether he could target it more specifically by sector:

During his Summer Statement, Sunak also announced the Eat Out to Help Out plan for restaurants.

The Eat Out to Help Out plan ran every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of August. Diners at participating restaurants received a discount of 50% — up to a maximum of £10 — on their meals. The plan excluded take-aways, alcohol and private parties.

It did well from the start:

It was a great success, as Sunday Times columnist Robert Colvile tweeted:

Yes, I know of two small restaurant chains that extended the scheme to run through September.

It was a gimmick that worked:

On September 2, he launched the Kickstart Scheme for new apprentices, an initiative he previewed on July 8 during his Summer Statement:

The Kickstart Scheme subsidises six-month work placements for young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are on Universal Credit and in danger of falling into long-term unemployment.

He also addressed the new intake of backbench Conservative MPs that day. Guido Fawkes has the text:

We will need to do some difficult things, but I promise you, if we trust one another we will be able to overcome the short term challenges. Now this doesn’t mean a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight.

But it does mean treating the British people with respect, being honest with them about the challenges we face and showing them how we plan to correct our public finances and give our country the dynamic, low tax economy we all want to see.

We cannot, will not and must not surrender our position as the party of economic competence and Sound finance. If we argue instead that there is no limit to what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole then what is the difference between us and the Labour Party.

Three weeks later it was time for him to present his Winter Economy Plan (WEP). He got mixed reviews from Twitter users to this tweet:

Last Wednesday, he had his photo taken with two women — Frances O’Grady from the Trades Union Congress and Carolyn Fairbairn from the Confederation of Business Industry:

The Hansard record of the WEP is here.

Guido Fawkes has a short version with the highlights of Rishi’s statement in the House of Commons, excerpted below:

– £12bn spent on Test and Trace so far;

– a warning that the economy will be undergoing ‘a more permanent readjustment’;

– a new six-month Job Support Scheme focussing on ‘viable’ jobs will replace furlough, as some furloughed jobs are now gone for good; targeted at SMEs, people must work 1/3 of their normal hours and the government will cover 2/3 of the pay they normally would have received;

– the grant to the self-employed is extended, running along the same terms as the aforementioned new jobs scheme;

– the business loan schemes deadline has been extended to the end of 2020; a new scheme will come into force in January;

– there are two business loan schemes: one involves bounceback loans, including the new Pay As You Grow, which can be extended from six to ten years with the flexibility of pausing payments or making interest-only payments; the other, coronavirus business interruption loans, now have an extended government guarantee, which is up to ten years;

– the lower 5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism extended to March 31, 2021.

The Sun has an excellent guide on the new Job Support Scheme that replaces furlough.

The paper also has an article explaining what constitutes a ‘viable job’.

Sunak has a delicate balancing act. We have good news and bad:

Guido has more on borrowing, tax receipts and unemployment.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Lockdown was a dangerous idea. May we never repeat it.

Sunak ended his WEP with the following (emphases mine):

We have so often spoken about the virus in terms of lives lost, but the price our country is paying is wider than that. The Government have done much to mitigate the effects of those awful trade-offs between health, education, and employment, and as we think about the next few weeks and months, we must bear all those costs in mind. As such, it would be dishonest to say that there is now a risk-free solution, or that we can mandate behaviour to such an extent that we lose any sense of personal responsibility. What was true at the beginning of this crisis remains true now: it is on all of us, and we must learn to live with it, and live without fear. I commend this statement to the House.

Yes! Thank you!

The Daily Mail‘s Simon Walters wrote an excellent analysis of Sunak’s statement: ‘The day Rishi Sunak ripped up the truce in Downing Street’.

Walters begins with thoughts on the words ‘live without fear’:

They were the three words which spoke volumes about the rift between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor.

Closing his statement to the Commons on his new Covid jobs-rescue package yesterday, Rishi Sunak defiantly gave us a new slogan: ‘Live Without Fear.’

He was telling us that we have to learn to live with the virus – and stop the country and our benighted economy from total collapse.

His approach is much different to that of his boss, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who seems afraid to reopen the nation. Walters offers this analysis:

Yesterday, Mr Sunak declared there was another way to deal with the crisis.

Tellingly, Mr Johnson chose not to be at the Chancellor’s side in the Commons yesterday, preferring to visit Northamptonshire Police HQ instead. It was the sort of routine visit prime ministers make on a Friday, when nothing much happens in the Commons.

But yesterday, a lot was happening in the Commons. Perhaps beleaguered Mr Johnson could not bring himself to sit alongside his Downing Street neighbour.

The day before, Boris gave a press conference saying that draconian coronavirus measures will stay in place for the foreseeable future:

It could not have been more different to the hollow cod-Churchillian rhetoric of Mr Johnson in a television broadcast on Wednesday.

Don’t go to work, beware soldiers on the streets, don’t stay out after 10pm at night and don’t break the rules or you’ll be fined £10,000, he said, jabbing his finger at millions of viewers.

In short: Live With Fear. Number 10 insisted it had cleared Mr Sunak’s speech in advance, and approved of the last three words.

Walters thinks that Sunak might be a proxy for Boris to reassert his own libertarian instincts at a time when he feels incapable of so doing:

Some Tory MPs suggested the Prime Minister, shackled by medics and boffins forcing him to play safe, had cleverly ‘licensed’ the Chancellor to act as a proxy for his own libertarian instincts.

The harsh reality, however, is that if it was an act of defiance, such is sinewy Sunak’s burgeoning political muscle, Johnson would not be able to gag him. 

There also appears to be a Cabinet split on coronavirus measures. Part of this is because of their orientation as Conservatives:

With rumours swirling in Westminster – fiercely denied by Downing Street – that Mr Johnson is fed up, hard up, even planning to up stakes and leave No 10 in the new year, Covid has become the focus of a power struggle between two Cabinet factions.

When Mr Johnson was agonising last week over introducing the new six-month coronavirus crackdown, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged him to impose a Covid ‘circuit breaker’ including shutting pubs and restaurants for two weeks. They thought they had won him over.

But they had reckoned without Mr Sunak. Backed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Business Secretary Alok Sharma, the Chancellor intervened. He demanded to speak to Mr Johnson and bluntly told him the fiercely ambitious Gove and Hancock were wrong.

Mr Sunak made clear that any new lockdown could lay waste to business and jobs, just when there were signs that the coronavirus-battered economy was picking itself up from the floor.

Mr Johnson was reduced to a political ‘piggy in the middle’, forced to tread a delicate balancing act between the two Cabinet Covid tribes. Although neither Mr Gove nor Mr Hancock are old-fashioned ‘silver spoon’ Tories, they, like Mr Johnson, have treated politics as a ruthless game since their debating days at Oxford

They have all modelled themselves as post-Thatcher Tories. Sunak, Patel and Sharma, who all have Indian parents who emigrated to Britain, are not ashamed to call themselves Thatcherites.

Oh, boy.

Walters says that the photo above with the heads of the TUC and CBI, representing both sides of the spectrum, was no accident. It is meant to send the right visual message:

In a slick piece of political choreography, Mr Sunak showed he is more than a ‘son of Thatcher’ by posing on the steps of No 11 before his Commons statement, flanked by CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, and, remarkably, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

A Tory Chancellor with the respected leaders of both the biggest bosses and union organisations standing at his side, both of them pillars of support.

There have been many calls for a wartime style government of national unity to fight the pandemic. Here was Sunak’s version.

The fact that both those ‘pillars’ are succesful modern women made it all the more striking.

Although Walters acknowledges the rumours that Boris might leave No. 10, he says that they are premature.

I agree.

My own view is that Boris is great at dealing with issues such as Brexit. Coronavirus, on the other hand, is a health issue, and I don’t think that is his forte.

Walters says that Boris needs to rediscover his sense of conviction, upon which he won an 80-seat majority in December 2019.

I think Boris will do that, once we get closer to leaving the EU.

For now, I’m grateful we have a Chancellor who can tell us the truth about the economy in light of coronavirus — and help vulnerable people in the meantime.

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, another anti-lockdown protest took place in Trafalgar Square and at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

The media have showed protesters charging the police, with the police reacting violently, eventually dispersing the crowd and shutting down the protest.

The crowd were of all ages and races. The middle class people attending were nicely dressed, as is evidenced in the images below.

Many people from all walks of life are questioning the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis:

Yet, with selective editing, newscasts made protesters look like crazed fanatics.

One person who read a protester’s account in The Sun shared it in a comment on one of Guido Fawkes’s posts. I can’t hyperlink it because Guido’s commenting software does not have that facility. Here is the comment, left in its original state (emphases mine below):

OT. Just read the following c0mment from a sun reader on yesterday’s pr0test. So far I’ve not seen one MSM news report telling the truth.

I would just like to let you know what happened yesterday at the mass demonstrations in London yesterday – to counter the lies and distortions that were published yesterday in the Mainstream media. We were there from 11am and watched as Trafalgar Square got more and more full, up to capacity which was 35,000 and not the 15,000 reported by the media.

The rally began with a one minute silence for the police man who died on Friday. 35,000 people observed it without a sound. There was a big round of applause for the police. Not mentioned anywhere in the medias shameful coverage of this event.

There were 2 hours of talks with no trouble. Many were at two previous rallies and the question was raised did any previous attendee get ill from Covid-19 by attending. There was silence. As none did. Just as followed the much larger BLM marches when the virus was much more prevalent.

    • Then as soon as a well-respected German doctor began speaking, who represents a group of 1,000 medical experts and doctors worldwide speaking against the Lockdown, the police moved in confiscated equipment and with raised batons attacked the crowd, many of whom were sitting down. This was a coordinated attack on peaceful protestors.  A large group were sitting on the floor and the police stomped over them. The police attacked peaceful elderly demonstrators as Save our Rights UK FB. People were batoned in the face. in the mainstream media the videos they show, show protestors moving towards the police.

Here is Dr Heiko Schöning, who travelled to England from Germany, giving an interview some time before he spoke. The video ends with his arrest, which took place later that day.

If I were the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, I would be very embarrassed indeed.

Oops, look. YouTube removed a very intelligent interview. Only the past two minutes covered Dr Schöning‘s arrest:

He spoke in his home country, in Berlin, a few weeks ago with no problem, even though his perspective on coronavirus probably differs from Angela Merkel’s. He was still in custody on Sunday. Good grief:

David Kurten, a Brexit Party member of the London Assembly who has just founded the Heritage Party, commented:

As of Sunday it appears as if he was still being held but not charged with any offence (?!):

Police finally released the good doctor from custody on Sunday afternoon (!). He was quick to comment, rightly frustrated that his phone and computer had been confiscated. He said that a book, Corona, False Alarm, had been translated from German into English recently. (He is not one of the authors; Karina Reiss PhD, an associate professor in biology, biochemistry, infection and inflammation, co-wrote it with Dr Sucharit Bhakdi.) He thinks that was the trigger for his arrest. He says that this is a ‘plandemic’ and goes back to the bank crash of 2008, where TPTB were just ‘biding their time’ for a reprise in order to create chaos:

Thank goodness he can return home.

Yet, Dr Schöning committed no crime, unlike the person who vandalised Churchill’s statue in London:

It took quite a while before the defacer of Churchill’s statue was arrested:

Now on to those attending the protest.

At the 43-second point in the next video, a man is escorting a young woman away from the police. She looked as if she were about to throw up. Hmm, looks as if something’s gone wrong and possibly not by her own making:

After allegedly roughing up a 59-year-old man carrying an American colonial Don’t Tread on Me flag in Hyde Park, police allegedly laughed at him:

Fully agree about the shocking murder in cold blood of the police sergeant. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Back to protests, however. It’s hard to disagree with those who say we have seen two-tiered policing on display over the past few months:

It seems that way. Contrast Saturday’s protest with a police-escorted one from June. Talk about double standards:

Kathy Gyngell, editor of Conservative Woman, attended Saturday’s protest. This is her report, excerpted:

As I approached Trafalgar Square from Whitehall, it seemed almost too quiet. I even wondered for a moment if the rally was happening. Then I knew it still was. For, arriving within the Square, I found thousands of people quietly and respectfully listening to a speech, as I then tweeted.

All ages were there, all races, classes, colours and creeds – and many, many young people.

‘Look at this’, I messaged a friend with this picture, ‘compared with the crazy disruptive XR that the police did nothing about for weeks.’

By contrast with the positive gaiety and smiling police faces I witnessed day after day trying to get through XR’s massive disruption of Trafalgar Square earlier this year, I felt a lowering police presence. I did notice and wonder about the armed police poised menacingly between the columns of the neo-classical National Gallery frontage looking down on the crowd.

Nor were they there, it later became obvious, to protect the speakers or the organisers. 

I moved through the crowd chatting to different friendly people – who was speaking, who was next on? Everyone was straining to see and hear. But no one could have missed the event’s organisers’ repeated stress on the importance of the rally’s peaceful credentials. Though they really didn’t need to. The atmosphere was warm, wonderful and good-humoured. The placards said it all – with so few but such apposite words:

Democracy not Dictatorship; No Gestapo Policing; When Tyranny Becomes Law; Fear is Contagious so is Hope; In the Name of Public Health – Hitler Said the Same; Take the Masks Off – Smell the Bullshit; We do not Consent; We are the 99 Per Cent; We Are Being Gaslit; Matt Hancock can go Vaxx himself. 

I felt proud to be British again. It felt the best of how British people are; in a great tradition of British questioning of authority.

Soon I was singing along to ‘We are the 99 per cent’ and more words I cannot repeat here – hard to hear anyway because there was so much laughter. 

Then it got serious again with a rather long and worthy speech about the need for world or free trade (I couldn’t make it out) which decided me to do a final survey of the crowd before setting off home. More young people. All races. All good-humoured.

As I reached the south-west corner of the Square I saw police by their motorbikes were donning helmets

Heading on towards Pall Mall, I saw that grim faced masked police in vans were beginning to pull out from a side street parking. In my innocence I thought this over-manned convoy was off back to base because with no trouble and relatively few people they were just not needed.

How mistaken I turned out to be. It was not till I got home that I found to my horror from the news that far from going back to base this must have been the start of their mobilising against the crowd. Which indeed they did. Officers determined to disperse the crowd, penned it in. Protesters and police were hurt.

Who authorised them to pen the crowd in? There was no need – there was no overspill into surrounding streets. And why did the police not regard this crowd with the same tolerance they did with the recent BLM protests?

As a friend who was there to the bitter end reported back to me: ‘It was an amazing day but so tarnished by the police at the end. I feel deeply shocked by the way they stormed in. It was totally unnecessary and quite worrying in our democracy that this is how a peaceful demonstration is treated. It’s made the whole situation all the more worrying, I feel. It did feel amazing however to be surrounded by people not willing to accept this so-called New Normal.’

The Metropolitan Police tweeted about the protest on Saturday, before the event. The photos in the reply were from that afternoon. Note the lady in the tweed suit (lower right hand corner):

Here’s a close-up of her and a contrasting photo of police from early in the summer at a violent protest, proving two-tiered policing:

Let’s get a closer look at the contrast between June and September:

This video shows what happened to that lady. A policeman punched her in the stomach and she was thrown to the ground:

I hope that lady and other attendees will be all right and were able to get prompt medical attention.

However, an alternative version of the lady’s actions, implying she was a crisis actress — possibly for the police — is here, part of a thread.

Whether she was a playing a bit part or not, Saturday afternoon proved to be an abject lesson on how to deliberately reverse a peaceful protest.

Anna Brees, a former journalist for both the BBC and ITV, interviewed honest, hard-working people at the protest who have genuine concerns about their livelihoods under the Coronavirus Act 2020. They are not actors. Many are first-time ‘protesters’. They attended in good faith, to make their views heard peacefully:

This is what the Mayor of London had to say:

Terrible. Just terrible.

I remember nearly 30 years ago when one could ask a bobby on the beat for directions and have a pleasant exchange with him.

Back then, our police — including London’s Met — were the best in the world for fairness and courtesy.

We have been hearing throughout the coronavirus crisis that British policing is ‘by consent’. Historically, that has been true.

Those were the days — long gone, it seems, in some contexts.

How sad.

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