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Yesterday, I began a brief series on dating.

That post addressed dating in the offline world.

Today’s looks at the online dating scene, upon which more Westerners depend for their love lives. Offline life doesn’t often present all the opportunities for meeting new people that the online universe does.

Everyone who has used one of these sites has a firm opinion on them, one way or another.

Furthermore, every online dating customer has a list of dos and don’ts on how to present oneself.

Fundamentals to bear in mind

In ‘Dating Advice: A Practical, Modern Guide’, Mark Manson advises people to get themselves together when embarking on finding the love of one’s life.

Excerpts follow, purple emphases mine.

About that perfect partner, he says:

First, consider this: everyone wants a perfect partner, but few people want to be the perfect partner.1

I think the vast majority of problems around “finding someone” are caused by uneven expectations like this.

But when you flip this on its head and you start taking a little more responsibility in this area of your life—when you start focusing on what kind of life you want to live and what kind of partner you want to be—you’ll start to see all the flakes and narcissists and liars fade into the background. You’ll start making genuine connections with people and make each other’s lives more enjoyable.

For years, I probably obsessed a little too much over this part of my life. But after stumbling through one unhealthy relationship after another, I learned a very important lesson: the best way to find an amazing person is to become an amazing person.2

Then there’s neediness, which he presents in a unique way:

Neediness occurs when you place a higher priority on what others think of you than what you think of yourself. 

Any time you alter your words or behavior to fit someone else’s needs rather than your own, that is needy. Any time you lie about your interests, hobbies, or background, that is needy. Any time you pursue a goal to impress others rather than fulfill yourself, that is needy.

Whereas most people focus on what behavior is attractive/unattractive, what determines neediness (and therefore, attractiveness) is the why behind your behavior. You can say the coolest thing or do what everyone else does, but if you do it for the wrong reason, it will come off as needy and desperate and turn people off …

Now, we all get needy at times because, of course, we do care about what others think of us. That’s a fact of human nature. But the key here is that, at the end of the day, you should care more about what you think of yourself than what others think

We behave in needy ways when we feel bad about ourselves. We try to use the affection and approval of others to compensate for the lack of affection and approval for ourselves. And that is another root cause of our dating problems: our inability to take care of ourselves.

Taking care of ourselves is an essential factor in finding the right person to love:

No one can see your value as a person if you don’t value yourself first. And taking care of yourself, when done from a place of non-neediness, is what demonstrates that you value yourself …

Think of it this way: people won’t love you until you love yourself.

Health is an essential part of taking care of ourselves:

When you feel better—when you have more energy and your mood is raised a little—it’s a lot easier to get your ass out of the house and into the world so you can engage with people genuinely and confidently. You’re also more pleasant to be around.4

And if you have any past traumas or psychological issues that need to be dealt with, do it. Talk to friends and relatives and get therapy if you need it.5 You’re ultimately the one who can help yourself the most, but it’s okay if you need a little help in this area. Get it taken care of.

Personal finances are also part of self-care:

Money is a major source of stress for a lot of people. It can be so stressful, in fact, that most people end up ignoring a lot of their financial problems altogether. This, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle, where ignoring your money problems only makes them worse and you end up even more stressed as time goes on …

In short, get this area of your life handled so it’s not dragging you down in other areas.

So is one’s career, he says. Do what you can to find the best job for yourself because:

To put it bluntly, no one wants to be around someone—let alone date someone—who complains about their job all the time.

Having an expanded social life is also important:

Developing an active social life not only makes for a more fulfilling, enjoyable life, it also puts you in contact with more (and different) people, upping your chances of meeting someone you click with.

In closing on health, he says:

You’ll notice that all of these areas take quite a bit of time and effort to develop. In fact, you’ll probably never stop working on each of them to some degree, and that’s okay. The best way to get these areas of your life handled is to develop healthy, consistent habits around them.

And the point isn’t to reach some state of nirvana in your life where you have six-pack abs, a bazillion dollars, and a packed social schedule with thousands of friends and then, FINALLY, you’ll suddenly find true love. The point is to just always be working towards being the best version of yourself you can be at any given time.

He has advice on using dating sites:

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with online dating and studies have shown that more and more people are meeting online and having long-term relationships.7 It’s definitely doable and it can be a great way to meet people, especially if you’re new to a city, extremely busy with work, or just “getting back out there.”

With that said, most people don’t use online dating very effectively. If you’re having problems with people being flaky and/or lukewarm, well I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s not them, it’s you.

You see, online dating and dating apps are great for meeting people quickly and efficiently—and that’s about it. After that, it’s up to you to be bold and clearly communicate what you’re looking for.

This will freak some people out. This will cause some people to “ghost” on you. And I’m here to tell you this is a good thing.

Think about it: the people who freak out and ghost on you, they are the flakes and wishy-washy people you’re so tired of going on dates with. It’s best to weed them out as quickly as possible and not play into their wishy-washy games. This is doubly true the older you get.

If you tell someone on a first date that you’re looking for a long-term relationship and it scares them off, then you just did your future self a huge favor. If simply stating your general intentions freaks somebody out, then the reality is that they don’t want the same thing as you and/or they have their own issues to work out. Learn to see it as a blessing when someone eliminates themselves for you.

Your job is to simply express yourself honestly and not be ashamed of that.

Manson says this about the myriad ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of dating. Ultimately:

Vulnerability, when done correctly, is actually a show of strength and power. Telling someone you like them and want to get to know them better doesn’t “give them all the power” unless you’re entirely invested in the way they respond to you.

If, instead, you are merely expressing yourself to make your desires known and you’re willing to accept the consequences, good or bad, others will notice that. And it’s incredibly attractive

But before moving on, I want to make something clear about being vulnerable: this is not another “tactic” or “strategy” to use to get people to like you. That, by definition, is neediness (we always come back to neediness, don’t we?).

A person who is truly secure and comfortable with being vulnerable is simply expressing themselves and saying, “This is who I am, faults and all. You don’t have to like me for me to be OK with that.”

He says it took some time for him to find the right partner:

My first handful of significant relationships were mired with a lot of manipulation and victim/rescuer dynamics. These relationships were great learning experiences, but they also caused me a great deal of pain that I had to eventually learn from.

It wasn’t until I managed to find myself in relationships with some emotionally healthy women who were able to manage their flaws well that I really learned what to look for when dating someone.

And I discovered in this time that there was one trait in a woman that I absolutely must have to be in a relationship with her, and it was something that I would never compromise on again (and I haven’t). Some of us are unwilling to compromise on superficial traits: looks, intelligence, education, etc. Those are important, but if there’s one trait that I’ve learned you should never compromise on, it’s this:

The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.

Because the fact is that problems are inevitable. Every relationship will run into fights and each person will run up against their emotional baggage at various times. How long the relationship lasts and how well it goes comes down to both people being willing and able to recognize the snags in themselves and communicate them openly

You may think a person like this doesn’t exist. That they’re a unicorn. But you’d be surprised. Your emotional integrity naturally self-selects the emotional integrity of the people you meet and date. And when you fix yourself, as if by some magical cheat code, the people you meet and date become more and more functional themselves. And the obsession and anxiety of dating dissolves and becomes simple and clear. The process ceases to be a long and analytical one but a short and pleasant one. The way she cocks her head when she smiles. The way your eyes light up a little bit more when you talk to him.

Your worries will dissolve. And regardless of what happens, whether you’re together for a minute, a month or a lifetime, all there is is acceptance.

He concludes:

And so, if you take nothing else away from this, just know that the way to find true love is to be the best version of yourself and do it unapologetically and without shame. You’ll attract people into your life who connect with you on your level and, just as importantly, you’ll weed out all the people who don’t.

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Online tips for better results

Mark Manson’s essay was mentioned in a Guardian article from 2022: ‘Swipe less, don’t be a sleaze, do say hello — and 10 more tips to raise your dating game’.

Online dating has become more popular because, with many people working from home, chance meetings are becoming rarer:

According to a 2020 YouGov survey, only one in 20 Britons in their 20s met their current or most recent partner “out and about” – at a gig, bar or bookshop, for example – versus one in five aged 50 to 64.

Focus, including time management, is important:

Annie Lord, a dating columnist for Vogue whose memoir Notes on Heartbreak will be published in June, recommends using them at a particular time, “rather than spending every evening just scrolling”, and making a plan to meet any promising matches as soon as possible.

Many people have profiles just for the ego boost, Lord says. “If you haven’t arranged a date within 48 hours of talking, it’s never going to happen. You can overthink it, or procrastinate. If you’ve had one OK conversation, you should probably just meet them.”

Jo is one successful user. Her time management brought benefits:

She met someone last year. Her top tips are to limit your activity and take months-long breaks. On her last venture on the dating scene, she swiped for no more than 10 minutes, a few times a week.

Profiles should be targeted and honest. Getting a second opinion can be helpful.

The aforementioned Mark Manson advises:

appeal to the 10% of people who will think you are fascinating and fun, instead of downplaying them for the 90% who will think you are merely fine. If you are not sure of your best or defining traits, ask a friend.

The same goes for what you are looking for: if you want a long-term relationship, or to be friends first, don’t be afraid to say so. The only people you will put off will be those who want something different. But emphasise what you do want, not what you don’t want: positive, upbeat profiles get more messages and matches.

Getting a second opinion on your profile doesn’t hurt. Jo says her partner’s profile stood out for its detailed description of his interests, which made it easy for her to ask questions, and several decent photographs (not selfies). “He told me later that a female friend helped him.”

On the subject of photographs, an old OkCupid blog post from 2009 has excellent advice.

OkCupid’s data man, Christian Rudder, says:

no matter how much time you spend polishing your profile, honing your IM banter, and perfecting your message introductions, it’s your picture that matters most.

He has four photographs of women, two among those ranked most attractive and two from the middle range in the popularity stakes.

All four ladies are easy on the eye. However, there is one big difference between the top group and the middle-ranking group: the smile. Rudder doesn’t elaborate on that, but the top group are smiling with their lips whereas the other two have a full-frontal, toothy smile. This indicates to me that a partial smile — not 100% toothy — works better: Mona Lisa.

There are also four photos of four men. The chap with the guitar has probably posted a professional publicity photo. His stands head and shoulders, as it were, above the other three.

Get professional photos taken — whether from a friend or a pro — and avoid selfies or party photos. Include more than your head so that people can see part of your torso. Some people are suspicious of head shots, wondering how heavy the person is.

On the other hand, a few of the male commenters said that, for them, the photo matters less.

Returning to the Guardian article, forget about a type of person you want to date. When I was single, I never had a type and had loads of great dates.

The Guardian advises:

Apps make it easy to be overprescriptive about a potential partner, but it is impossible to gauge chemistry or compatibility from a profile. If you are curious about someone, meet them …

Lizzie Cernik, who has interviewed many couples for the Guardian’s How we met column, says it can be helpful to reflect on your “attachment style” – your approach to intimate relationships, established in childhood. “Don’t look for what you want in a partner and try to tick boxes – look for what you need,” she says. “The two can be very different.”

I would add: try not to take remarks personally. Think of any first meeting as a job interview. Also, keep that meeting brief. You’re meeting with strangers, not friends. Do you like every potential employer in an interview? No. Do you take their remarks to heart? Probably not, in most cases. Apply the same principles to dating:

Generally, anyone who demonstrates controlling or problematic behaviour, is consistently poor at communicating or does not meet your effort …

Then move on to the next candidate:

Allow yourself to be excited about your next date: “Life would be so depressing if you didn’t have hope.”

As I said yesterday, being able to converse is vital. The Guardian cites Vogue’s dating columnist Annie Lord, who suggests:

being friendly and striking up a conversation. “There’s less of a risk factor if you can find common ground that will make it seem less intrusive, and you’re not going to feel rejected if the conversation stops.”

If flirting seems foreign, keep it light, says Jean Smith, a “flirt coach” and the author of Flirtology: Stop Swiping, Start Talking and Find Love: “You’ll soon find it’s not as scary as you imagined. Just go up and say hi.”

The article says that, not surprisingly, many men today are hesitant to talk to women, much less ask them out. However, most women should be able to discern a sincere invitation:

“If you’re really attracted to a woman and think the vibe is right, but you’re scared to ask her out, ask yourself: ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’” says Kieran, 26. “Then walk yourself concretely through that worst-case scenario.”

If it is nothing more than a polite no and some mild embarrassment, he says “shoot your shot – send a DM or ask her for a drink like you’re ripping off a plaster. And if the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, take it as a no – and live to try another day.”

the difference between a cynical come-on and a genuine compliment, offered without expectation, is like night and day.

While using online dating, remember the offline world and ask your friends, especially married couples, to help you find someone:

Partnered people, in particular, love to hear dating stories. Put them to work by asking them to set you up with a single friend or colleague, or engineer an introduction to a stranger. Combining groups can often be less intimidating.

Finally, it’s okay not to date at all, even if I’m one of those who thinks the world needs more well-matched couples with a view towards marriage:

It is easy to feel the pressure – from friends or family, or our couple-centric culture – to “put yourself out there”, but no one gains from you going on dates you don’t fancy. “Only date when you’re enjoying it,” says Alison. “Doing it for the sake of it will zap the joy from your life and take away much-needed energy reserves.”

When dating doesn’t happen or ‘doesn’t work’

I now return to the theme at the beginning of this post: self-improvement.

I suspect that many, although not all, people who don’t want to date actually do want a regular companion with whom to share life.

Mairi Macleod PhD is a married mother of three from Edinburgh and the author of Dating Evolved, an advice website designed with women over 50 in mind.

In her post, ‘Lessons on dating in midlife’, she writes:

Yes I know, online dating is no panacea, but it can work and we all know someone who’s found love this way. This is a numbers game and the more men we can sift through the more likely we are to find a good one, so online dating is just another potential way to meet more men.

But your chance of success here is dependent on your attitude and if you like to moan about the horrible selection of men online – change the record. Having a more positive attitude will help you to see the good guys and will make decent men more likely to get in touch.

You might think that actually, there are no decent men out there. This belief often stems from the fact that the ones who approach you are the confident ones, the experienced ones, the ones with the moves but who don’t really care what people think. The nice guys that you could have a decent relationship with – they won’t be so in-your-face, perhaps not so confident.

And you might think, “I’m not interested in men who don’t have the balls to approach me”.

But there are a load of perfectly legitimate reasons why a good guy might keep away:

– You look amazing – why would you be interested in him?
– You’re busy, he doesn’t want to disturb you – he’s considerate, remember
– He doesn’t want to be that creep – he’s respectful.

It’s time to get off your phone, open your body posture, make eye contact, and smile. And if he doesn’t come and speak to you? There’s nothing stopping you speaking to him. It’s the 21st century.

Whatever you do, don’t leave it up to the universe to deliver your man – it ain’t gonna happen. You’ve got to put in a bit of effort, make opportunities, and help your luck along.

Finally, you need to know that you’ve got what it takes to be attractive to a man who’s right for you. Everyone’s different in what they like so show off those unique foibles. Yes, if you’ve a PhD in astrophysics and like doing maths in your spare time some men will run a mile – you don’t want them. Some men will love you and your particular quirks and those are the ones you’re interested in.

Get out there and hold your head high. Good self-esteem and confidence, when you have them, are your most powerful tools for finding the right man. The self-esteem means you won’t put up with crap, and the confidence will make you glow.

And when you meet someone, instead of asking yourself “how can I be attractive to this guy?”, it should be “is this man showing up for me”, “is he capable of being the kind of partner I need?”

This is how to put yourself in the best position to find a fabulous relationship.

Returning to Matthew Hussey from Get The Guy, from which I cited yesterday, he has an excellent post on this subject, ‘5 Reasons You’re Still Single (That Have Nothing To Do With Love)’.

He begins with what’s involved in becoming a millionaire, something else that many hopefuls get wrong, too:

the results we want to achieve in life are best achieved indirectly. So, if you want to be a millionaire, don’t focus on becoming rich. Focus on creating an amazing product that meets people’s needs. Focus on your leadership skills. Focus on your ability to build an amazing team and get them on board with your vision so that they can help you get there.

For those without partners, Hussey says that they often need a wide social circle, new communities in addition to personal friends:

Reason number one you may be single that has nothing to do with love. You have friendships, but not communities. There are a lot of people that will say to me, “Matt, I have a social life. I have great friends.” I know that when they say they have great friends, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re part of any communities …

And one of the great antidotes to online dating and burning out through dating apps is to have communities in real life. If someone invites me somewhere, and it’s not someone I know really well, it’s more of an acquaintance or someone who’s on the way to becoming a friend, but they invite me somewhere. They invite me to a party they’re going to or a social event, they’re running. If I go there, I’m probably going to meet 99%, if not 100%, new people. That gives me a shot at becoming part of a new community, especially if I get invited two or three times and I become a new staple part of that group.

If I join a running club, I am going to be exposed to a new community of people that I wouldn’t otherwise have met. Most of us spend our lives in the exact same communities we’ve always been in. And so, once we’ve exhausted those pools and realize there’s no one there for us, our opportunities stop there, apart from online dating. The antidote to that is not spending more time with your existing friends. It’s two things. Say yes to people you don’t normally say yes to that can expose you to brand new pools of people, and go do things you are interested in in community. Because you could just put your headphones in and go for a run on the street. But when you do it as part of a running club, you are in a community doing it.

And that gives you the added benefit that you’re going to meet people there, some of whom will be new friends that will invite you to new communities again. And if you hit the jackpot, one of whom might actually be the love you’ve been looking for.

The second reason is working from home:

The second reason you might be single that has nothing to do with love is that you work from home …

… It’s always easier not to leave the house. When you go to a place of work, you might bump into someone on public transport on the way, you might bump into someone in the building you work in, you might bump into someone at lunch or at happy hour that someone is holding from your office after work. These are all opportunities to collide with another person. You can sometimes end up in a relationship by accident that way. Some of you have because you worked somewhere and that being somewhere meant that you collided with someone at some point. You ended up in a relationship that could not have happened if you worked from home that day.

… Anywhere that you can bump into someone is a plus and a moment where an opportunity could arise. Don’t use working from home as an excuse to be passive.

The third reason is living in a remote location, in which case, get into larger towns or big cities more often:

If we’re going to remain where we live right now, we have to create multiple wins that we’ll get from going to the nearest place where there are people. What are the four reasons that you could be going into the city that you can combine on a single day or on a weekend? Go do that, and make sure that while you’re there, you attend something social or you meet up with someone or you just go hang somewhere and work for a couple of hours in a busy spot. Or you go on dating apps, and you line up a date while you’re there. Or you may look at something a little more drastic. You may look at your choice in life to live where you live and say, “Does it work with my key priorities?”

“If one of my key priorities is I really want to meet someone, do I want to live a little closer to the action? Is it worth it? Is it possible? If it’s more expensive to live there, could I take a smaller space to go and live there so that I can have the possibility of a different kind of social life that might bring more opportunities for love?” Or, “If I’m looking after my sick mother where I am, do I need to be one minute from her? Or could I be 20 minutes from her and 20 minutes from the nearest place where there’s lots of people, instead of one minute from her and 40 minutes from the nearest civilization?” These are all options. I’m not here to put any judgment on what you’re doing right now or to tell you you should do anything. But they’re questions worth asking.

Life is all about choices. It’s all about priorities. And if we have a setup right now of where we live that’s making it disproportionately difficult to meet someone, something has to give somewhere, and we need to find where that give is.

The fourth reason is personal appearance which does affect how we feel about ourselves:

The fourth reason we may be single that has nothing to do with love is that we’re not proud of ourselves. And more specifically, we’re not taking pride in ourselves and our appearance right now

It could be getting up and getting ready in the morning and feeling good. It could be doing our hair or makeup. What are those things that make you feel sexy? … I’m wearing shoes that I like. I’m wearing an outfit that’s new and crisp. My hair’s done, my skin feels good. And in that moment I’m open to the world. I’m looking around. My head is up. I’m ready for interactions. I’m going to make eye contact with the person serving me my coffee.

I might have a bit of banter. I’m open to the world. And that energy produces a whole different world of opportunities. There is one face that we have that tells the world to go away, that tells opportunity to go in a different direction. And there’s another face we have that invites everything into our lives. The difference is when we leave, do we feel that energy that makes us proud to take ourselves out? Do I feel good? Do I feel like I’m taking myself on a date right now? And am I doing the things that make me feel that? A small thing for me is getting ready first thing in the morning. Showering and making myself look as good as possible in the morning so that I feel like that for the rest of the day. That cheesy cliche, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” right? When you go out and you just feel ready, then anything can happen.

… So, is your head up? Are you open to the world? And are you doing the things for yourself, your presentation, your image that make you feel like doing those things? Are you taking yourself out on a date each day? Because if you are, other people will want to date you.

The fifth and final reason is being too tired and lacking energy:

The fifth reason you may be single that has nothing to do with love is you’re too freaking tired. And I would combine this with you don’t have time. Time and energy are two things that are very connected. In fact, I would go as far as to say energy is time because most people have some kind of time.

Most people find time to watch the latest Netflix show, regardless of how busy they are. They somehow have still seen the episodes that we’re all talking about when we say, “Have you seen this?” So, they have some time. But time without energy is redundant. If you don’t have the energy to reach out to somebody, to flirt, to go out and be where people are, to be on a date with great energy, then it doesn’t matter how much time you have. You’re just exhausted. You’re never going to be able to do it. So, we have to look at our lives and say, “If I’m getting real with myself, what needs to happen for me to have more time and perhaps, even more importantly, more energy to actually invest in creating opportunities in my love life?” And I say this humbly, knowing that there are those of you who are working multiple jobs, who are looking after sick relatives, who have children that you’re raising on your own, that are dealing with all manner of issues in your life. You may be dealing with your own health issues …

And that might involve recalibrating. Who do I need to start saying no to? Who do I keep making more important than me? And they shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of that list. Where do I need to have more boundaries? Where am I doing too much people pleasing in my life? Where am I taking on responsibilities that aren’t my responsibilities? Where do I need to start putting myself first? What help and support could I get? And how do I start to crowbar, albeit imperfectly, time for my love life into my week? Whether it’s time to go and join a community where I might have a hope of meeting somebody, or whether it’s time to go on a date. I need to find that time. If it’s as important to me as I say it is. There may be areas I need to pull back, but if it’s important, I’ll find a way.

When you do these things, it’s not just about giving you more time because, by the way, if you’re honest with yourself, you might already have some time. But it may be more about where do I need to pull back so that I have more energy? Because energy is ultimately going to be the thing that allows me to start to be enthusiastic and more optimistic about this area again.

Conclusion

The above citations are the best advice I have found about online dating.

There wasn’t any of that when I was single over three decades ago. Back then, the offline world was ‘it’. I met people behind the counters in a bank and a railway station. Nowadays, no one needs human contact to get cash or a train ticket.

However, I did meet someone in a restaurant which could have led to something more if we had lived closer to each other. We kept communication going for eight weeks, but it just wasn’t viable.

As it was, several months later, I met the love of my life through a new mutual friend at the time. I had moved far away for a new job. We met soon afterward.

See? A move, new communities and new people really can lead to that special person — and a satisfying marriage.

Tomorrow: Surviving disastrous dates and rejection

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Three recent news items about coronavirus are worth passing along.

Long Covid and olfactory nerves

One of the many drawbacks of long Covid is the loss of the sense of smell.

To some extent, this can happen with any virus. Fifty years ago, my mother contracted a winter virus and lost her sense of taste and smell for two years. Although she wasn’t a foodie, her inability to enjoy our daily family dinner disappointed her the most. Her GP said there was nothing he could do. She would have to wait and see what happened. Two years later, suddenly, her olfactory senses returned and she had no more problems.

A December 22 article in The Times said that researchers are working on a similar problem with long Covid. It seems that the immune system blocks olfactory nerves (emphases mine):

The loss of smell suffered by people with long Covid is caused by an immune response affecting nerve cells in nasal tissue, scientists have said.

The researchers who conducted the study found that there was a decline in the number of these nerve cells in such patients.

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was led by researchers at Duke University in the US and involved colleagues from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego.

They looked at tissue taken from the olfactory epithelium, found in the nose, where nerve cells responsible for smell are located …

The single-cell analyses revealed that there was a widespread infiltration of T-cells, a type of white blood cell used by the immune system, engaged in an inflammatory response in the nasal tissue.

Researchers found this immune response from these T-cells continued even when there were no detectable levels of Covid in the patient

Dr Bradley Goldstein, an associate professor in neurobiology at Duke, who was a senior author for the study, said researchers had been encouraged to find that nerve cells appeared to maintain some ability to repair themselves.

He said learning which sites in the nose were being damaged and what cell types were involved would be a key step in designing treatment. “We are hopeful that modulating the abnormal immune response or repair processes within the nose of these patients could help to at least partially restore a sense of smell,” he added.

In the meantime, the only prescription is patience. Patience is a virtue.

Recovering from long Covid: mind over matter

On November 19, The Times featured an article by Francesca Steele, a long Covid sufferer, detailing how she overcame her debilitating condition.

Steele had tried everything and ended up spending £15,000, most of which was for naught. In fact, some of the medical treatments she underwent made her feel worse.

As a last resort, she embarked on putting mind over matter. The old saying worked.

She describes the journey back to normality:

It was on a particularly bad day that I started to wonder about mind-body courses, which suggest you can control the reactions of your body by “retraining” your brain. I had come across people who had success with these courses while searching online. One that kept cropping up was called the Lightning Process (LP), a short brain-training programme that, enthusiasts said, also had an impact on the body.

Developed in the Nineties by the British osteopath Phil Parker, LP is a three-day seminar (which you can do in person or on Zoom, with a range of coaches you can find online) that combines neuro-linguistic programming with life coaching, hypnotherapy and osteopathy. Its goal is to give people tools to help themselves with a range of conditions, including post-viral fatigue syndromes, chronic pain and anxiety, by reducing the brain’s stress response. It claims to have helped 25,000 people around the world.

Whenever I found someone online who claimed to have recovered from post-viral fatigue conditions in this way I tried to track them down and speak to them directly to check they were real and not invented by snake oil salesmen. They weren’t. I spoke to a journalist who said the techniques had cured him entirely of ME. I spoke to a GP who had gone on to train as an LP practitioner after it helped her ten-year-old daughter to recover after three years. I chatted to several writers who said mind-body work had “cured” them of long Covid but they were afraid to speak out, something I understand because I was trolled after mentioning the concept on Twitter

However, I kept hearing positive things about it on social media, and decided it was at least worth a shot. In March I did the course. The thinking is that a serious shock like a bad virus can send your body into permanent “fight or flight” mode and that your nervous system gets stuck sending messages of sickness that are no longer needed. Using the science of neuro-plasticity, which says that the brain adapts to the neural pathways used most often — and that in this case your brain has adapted to using neural pathways that prompt a sickness response — the course teaches you to “train your brain” to send different signals. So, instead of your immune system, your endocrine system and your inflammation responses all gearing up for an attack, they relax. Your hormones, your blood pressure, your heart rate, your thermoregulation and so on, all, in theory, return to normal. As Dr Anna Chellamuthu, a GP and LP practitioner, puts it: “The LP is absolutely not saying, ‘This is all in your head.’ This is a physical illness. It’s saying that physiology can change when you change your thoughts.”

During a £750, three-day Zoom course, our coach talked the three of us (all with long Covid) through various exercises and taught us all a routine to interrupt negative thoughts. Every time I had an anxious thought about symptoms, I had to say “Stop” and do an intense visualisation, imagining myself in a situation where I was energetic, healthy, confident.

It was not easy to stick to. Constantly interrupting your thoughts feels unnatural at first and there were times I was out at the park with my kids when I really didn’t feel like scooting off to do the process behind a tree. I often doubted it would work. Yet within a month I was back at work. Two months later I celebrated my 40th birthday with a long walk and delicious dinner. Seven months on from the course, I am about 80-90 per cent back to my old self. I do sometimes get symptoms but they are far fainter and less frequent than before.

To those who say that I’d have got better anyway and that LP just happened to coincide with my recovery, I strongly disagree. I was unable to walk beyond our street for months. Within a week of the course I was able to go much further; within eight weeks I was able to run, after 16 months without exercise.

Various studies suggest the efficacy of mind-body work. In a recent pilot study conducted by a professor at Harvard Medical School, for example, all symptoms of patients with long Covid improved on a 13-week psychophysiological course. There is no doubt that more biomedical research is needed into post-viral fatigue conditions, and I, like others, hope that more evidence is found of the exact mechanisms at play. Dr Boon Lim, a consultant cardiologist at Imperial College Hospital who has treated many people with long Covid, says: “As medics we have been taught to focus all our attention on physical issues, to the detriment of patients. I think you need both physical and mind- body help to improve.”

I am also conscious that mind-body courses can be expensive. LP costs £750 (plus more for follow-up guidance). I found the intense nature of it uniquely motivating but cheaper mind-body work does exist, including the app Curable (I know one woman who recovered from 14 years of ME using it) and Suzy Bolt’s extremely compassionate, cheap (and some free) online classes.

For me, the process has been gradual, not immediate. I don’t claim that it will work for everyone or even that the theory is definitely correct, but I feel as if I’ve come back from the dead. Before it, I tried everything mainstream medicine had to offer, to no avail. Mind-body work has got me this far, and I believe it will get me the rest of the way. Without it, I believe I’d still be in bed, without hope.

What an encouraging story. This is further evidence that alternative medicine is viable and worth trying. As with any treatment, conventional or otherwise, doing one’s homework beforehand is a prerequisite.

Parliamentary debate on vaccines: broken silence

On Tuesday, December 13, the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen was granted an adjournment debate in the Commons on the potential harms of coronavirus vaccines. Finally, someone had the gumption to break the silence in Parliament.

I had just tuned into BBC Parliament by chance at the moment he started speaking. How providential.

Here’s the beginning:

The transcript is here. Excerpts from his hard-hitting speech follow:

Three months ago, one of the most eminent and trusted cardiologists, a man with an international reputation, Dr Aseem Malhotra, published peer-reviewed research that concluded that there should be a complete cessation of the administration of the covid mRNA vaccines for everyone because of clear and robust data of significant harms and little ongoing benefit. He described the roll-out of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine as

“perhaps the greatest miscarriage of medical science, attack on democracy, damage to population health, and erosion of trust in medicine that we will witness in our lifetime.”

Interestingly, there has so far not been a single rebuttal of Dr Malhotra’s findings in the scientific literature, despite their widespread circulation and the fact that they made international news.

Before I state the key evidence-based facts that make a clear case for complete suspension of these emergency use authorisation vaccines, it is important to appreciate the key psychological barrier that has prevented these facts from being acknowledged by policymakers and taken up by the UK mainstream media. That psychological phenomenon is wilful blindness. It is when human beings—including, in this case, institutions—turn a blind eye to the truth in order to feel safe, reduce anxiety, avoid conflict and protect their prestige and reputations. There are numerous examples of that in recent history, such as the BBC and Jimmy Savile, the Department of Health and Mid Staffs, Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein, and the medical establishment and the OxyContin scandal, which was portrayed in the mini-series “Dopesick”. It is crucial to understand that the longer wilful blindless to the truth continues, the more unnecessary harm it creates.

Here are the cold, hard facts about the mRNA vaccines and an explanation of the structural drivers that continue to be barriers to doctors and the public receiving independent information to make informed decisions about them. Since the roll-out in the UK of the BioNTech-Pfizer mRNA vaccine, we have had almost half a million yellow card reports of adverse effects from the public. That is unprecedented. It is more than all the yellow card reports of the past 40 years combined. An extraordinary rate of side effects that are beyond mild have been reported in many countries across the world that have used the Pfizer vaccine, including, of course, the United States.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by a journalist from a major news outlet who said that he was being bombarded by calls from people who said that they were vaccine-harmed but unable to get the support they wanted from the NHS. He also said that he thought this would be the biggest scandal in medical history in this country. Disturbingly, he also said that he feared that if he were to mention that in the newsroom in which he worked, he would lose his job. We need to break this conspiracy of silence.

It is instructive to note that, according to pharmaco-vigilance analysis, the serious adverse effects reported by the public are thought to represent only 10% of the true rate of serious adverse events occurring within the population. The gold standard of understanding the benefit and harm of any drug is the randomised controlled trial. It was the randomised controlled trial conducted by Pfizer that led to UK and international regulators approving the BioNTech-Pfizer mRNA vaccine for administration in the first place.

Contrary to popular belief, that original trial of approximately 40,000 participants did not show any statistically significant reduction in death as a result of vaccination, but it did show a 95% relative risk reduction in the development of infection against the ancestral, more lethal strain of the virus. However, the absolute risk reduction for an individual was only 0.84%. In other words, from its own data, Pfizer revealed that we needed to vaccinate 119 people to prevent one infection. The World Health Organisation and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have previously stated and made it clear that it is an ethical responsibility that medical information is communicated to patients in absolute benefit and absolute risk terms, which is to protect the public from unnecessary anxiety and manipulation.

Very quickly, through mutations of the original strain—indeed, within a few months—covid fortunately became far less lethal. It quickly became apparent that there was no protection against infection at all from the vaccine, and we were left with the hope that perhaps these vaccines would protect us from serious illness and death. So what does the most reliable data tell us about the best-case scenario of individual benefit from the vaccine against dying from covid-19? Real-world data from the UK during the three-month wave of omicron at the beginning of this year reveals that we would need to vaccinate 7,300 people over the age of 80 to prevent one death. The number needed to be vaccinated to prevent a death in any younger age group was absolutely enormous.

At this point, Bridgen’s fellow Conservative, Danny Kruger (Prue Leith’s son), intervened to ask whatever happened to the initial policy (Matt Hancock’s) to vaccinate only the vulnerable and certainly not children. Note the pro-vaccine statements BBC Parliament put up when he spoke:

Kruger said:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing this debate to the House. It is a very important debate that we should be having. He is talking about the relative risks for different cohorts of the population. He will remember that, when the vaccine was first announced, the intention was that it would be used only for those who were vulnerable and the elderly because, as he says, the expectation was that the benefit to younger people was minor. Does he agree that it would be helpful for the Minister to explain to us why the original advice that the vaccines would be rolled out only for the older population, and would not be used for children in particular, was laid aside and we ended up with the roll-out for the entire population, including children?

Bridgen responded as follows, then continued:

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and his support on this very important issue. Of course, it is important that the Government justify why they are rolling out a vaccine to any cohort of people, particularly our children. He will recall that, in the Westminster Hall debate, we questioned the validity of vaccinating children who have minimal risk, if a risk at all, from the virus when there is a clear risk from the vaccine. I will again report on evidence from America later in my speech about those risks, particularly to young children.

In other words, the benefits of the vaccine are close to non-existent. Beyond the alarming yellow card reports, the strongest evidence of harm comes from the gold standard, highest possible quality level of data. A re-analysis of Pfizer and Moderna’s own randomised controlled trials using the mRNA technology, published in the peer-reviewed journal Vaccine, revealed a rate of serious adverse events of one in 800 individuals vaccinated. These are events that result in hospitalisation or disability, or that are life changing. Most disturbing of all, however, is that those original trials suggested someone was far more likely to suffer a serious side effect from the vaccine than to be hospitalised with the ancestral, more lethal strain of the virus. These findings are a smoking gun suggesting the vaccine should likely never have been approved in the first place.

In the past, vaccines have been completely withdrawn from use for a much lower incidence of serious harm. For example, the swine flu vaccine was withdrawn in 1976 for causing Guillain-Barré syndrome in only one in 100,000 adults, and in 1999 the rotavirus vaccine was withdrawn for causing a form of bowel obstruction in children affecting one in 10,000. With the covid mRNA vaccine, we are talking of a serious adverse event rate of at least one in 800, because that was the rate determined in the two months when Pfizer actually followed the patients following their vaccination. Unfortunately, some of those serious events, such as heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism will result in death, which is devastating for individuals and the families they leave behind. Many of these events may take longer than eight weeks post vaccination to show themselves.

An Israeli paper published in Nature’s scientific reports showed a 25% increase in heart attack and cardiac arrest in 16 to 39-year-olds in Israel. Another report from Israel looked at levels of myocarditis and pericarditis in people who had had covid and those who had not. It was a study of, I think, 1.2 million who had not had covid and 740,000 who had had it. The incidence of myocarditis and pericarditis was identical in both groups. This would tell the House that whatever is causing the increase in heart problems now, it is not due to having been infected with covid-19.

It was accepted by a peer-reviewed medical journal that one of the country’s most respected and decorated general practitioners, the honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association and the Labour party’s doctor of the year, Dr Kailash Chand, likely suffered a cardiac arrest and was tragically killed by the Pfizer vaccine six months after his second dose, through a mechanism that rapidly accelerates heart disease. In fact, in the UK we have had an extra 14,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in 2021, compared with 2020, following the vaccine roll-out. Many of these will undoubtedly be because of the vaccine, and the consequences of this mRNA jab are clearly serious and common.

Bridgen then went on to discuss conflicts of interest and how they influence vaccine approvals. He then talked about a few subsequent investigations:

In a recent investigation by The BMJ into the financial conflicts of interest of the drug regulators, the sociologist Donald Light said:

“It’s the opposite of having a trustworthy organisation independently and rigorously assessing medicines. They’re not rigorous, they’re not independent, they are selective, and they withhold data.”

He went on to say that doctors and patients

“must appreciate how deeply and extensively drug regulators can’t be trusted so long as they are captured by industry funding.”

Similarly, another investigation revealed that members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation had huge financial links to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation running into billions of pounds. Ministers, the media and the public know that the foundation is heavily invested in pharmaceutical industry stocks.

Unfortunately, the catastrophic mistake over the approval, and the coercion associated with this emergency-use authorisation medical intervention, are not an anomaly, and in many ways this could have been predicted by the structural failures that allowed it to occur in the first place. Those shortcomings are rooted in the increasingly unchecked visible and invisible power of multinational corporations—in this case, big pharma. We can start by acknowledging that the drug industry has a fiduciary obligation to produce profit for its shareholders, but it has no fiduciary obligation to provide the right medicines for patients.

The real scandal is that those with a responsibility to patients and with scientific integrity—namely, doctors, academic institutions and medical journals—collude with the industry for financial gain. Big pharma exerts its power by capturing the political environment through lobbying and the knowledge environment through funding university research and influencing medical education, preference shaping through capture of the media, financing think-tanks and so on. In other words, the public relations machinery of big pharma excels in subterfuge and engages in smearing and de-platforming those who call out its manipulations. No doubt it will be very busy this evening.

It is no surprise, when there is so much control by an entity that has been described as “psychopathic” for its profit-making conduct, that one analysis suggests the third most common cause of death globally after heart disease and cancer is the side effects of prescribed medications, which were mostly avoidable … 

It has also been brought to my attention by a whistleblower from a very reliable source that one of these institutions is covering up clear data that reveals that the mRNA vaccine increases inflammation of the heart arteries. It is covering this up for fear that it may lose funding from the pharmaceutical industry. The lead of that cardiology research department has a prominent leadership role with the British Heart Foundation, and I am disappointed to say that he has sent out non-disclosure agreements to his research team to ensure that this important data never sees the light of day. That is an absolute disgrace. Systemic failure in an over-medicated population also contributes to huge waste of British taxpayers’ money and increasing strain on the NHS.

Danny Kruger intervened a second time:

My hon. Friend is being very good with his time. I just want to call his attention to some research, since I chair the all-party parliamentary group for prescribed drug dependence. He refers to the waste of money; there is £500 million being spent every year by the NHS on prescribed drugs for people who should not be on those habit-forming pills, causing enormous human misery as well as waste for the taxpayer.

Bridgen acknowledged what Kruger said, then concluded his speech:

I thank my hon. Friend for making a point that only reinforces the items in my speech that the public need to know. I thank him again for his support.

We need an inquiry into the influence of big pharma on medications and our NHS. That is been called for many occasions and by some very influential people, including prominent physicians such as the former president of the Royal College of Physicians and personal doctor to our late Queen, Sir Richard Thompson. On separate occasions in the last few years those calls have been supported and covered in the Daily Mail, The Guardian and, most recently, The i newspaper.

We are fighting not just for principles of ethical, evidence-based medical practices, but for our democracy. The future health of the British public depends on us tackling head-on the cause of this problem and finding meaningful solutions …

That first step could start this evening with this debate. It starts here, with the vaccine Minister and the Government ensuring in the first instance an immediate and complete suspension of any more covid vaccines with their use of mRNA technology. Silence on this issue is more contagious than the virus itself, and now so should courage be. I would implore all the scientists, medics, nurses and those in the media who know the truth about the harm these vaccines are causing to our people to speak out.

We have already sacrificed far too many of our citizens on the altar of ignorance and unfettered corporate greed. Last week the MHRA authorised those experimental vaccines for use in children as young as six months. In a Westminster Hall debate some weeks ago, I quoted a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association studying the effect of the covid-19 mRNA vaccination on children under five years of age. It showed that one in 200 had an adverse event that resulted in hospitalisation, and symptoms that lasted longer than 90 days.

As the data clearly shows to anyone who wants to look at it, the mRNA vaccines are not safe, not effective and not necessary. I implore the Government to halt their use immediately. As I have demonstrated and as the data clearly shows, the Government’s current policy on the mRNA vaccines is on the wrong side of medical ethics, it is on the wrong side of scientific data, and ultimately it will be on the wrong side of history.

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield responded on behalf of the Government. She is a nurse who worked on the front line during the darkest days of the pandemic. Not surprisingly, she strongly, but politely, disagreed with Bridgen:

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) for securing the debate. It is important that all Members get to discuss and debate such issues, and they are entitled to their opinion.

I have to say that I strongly disagree with my hon. Friend, not only in the content of his speech, but in the way he derided doctors, scientists and nurses. Many of us worked through the pandemic and saw at first hand the devastation that covid caused. There is no doubt in my mind that, despite the personal protective equipment, social distancing and infection control, the thing that made the biggest difference in combating covid was the introduction of the vaccine …

Caulfield told us things we already know about the Government’s support of the vaccine and how the yellow card system works. She refused to take an intervention from Bridgen but did take one from Kruger, who asked about vaccinating children:

I am grateful. The Minister’s predecessor had asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to review the evidence behind the decision to roll out the vaccine to children. Can she update the House or write to us to explain where that review has got to? Does she agree that the JCVI should be looking at the vaccination of children?

She responded, then continued:

I will write to my hon. Friend with an update on that report. It was touched on that the MHRA has licensed the vaccine for babies, but that has not yet been approved by the JCVI, so that is just a licence rather than a recommendation to roll out. However, I am happy to send him the details of that report.

I want to put on the record that the covid vaccines have saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented hundreds of thousands of people from being hospitalised. I completely disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire that there is a whole conspiracy of doctors, nurses and scientists—they have done nothing but work hard to get us through the pandemic.

In the end, Bridgen got his intervention:

I thank the Minister for giving way on that important point. The claims about the number of lives saved worldwide by the vaccination are sponsored by vested interests. The modelling is the lowest form of scientific evidence—in fact, it is more science fiction than science fact.

Needless to say, Caulfield disagreed and concluded by promoting the vaccines:

I completely disagree. I worked on the covid wards with patients who were dying from that virus. We had infection control measures, antibiotics, dexamethasone—a steroid—and every known facility available, and the only thing that made a difference was when those vaccines were introduced. They do not necessary stop people from getting the virus, but they certainly reduce its intensity and the likelihood of someone dying from it.

I completely debunk the conspiracy theories about a whole group of people benefiting financially from the roll-out of the vaccine and would gently say to my hon. Friend that if he has evidence, there are mechanisms in place for raising concerns, as we have seen with other drugs. Only today, I was before the Health and Social Care Committee talking about sodium valproate—we also had an Adjournment debate on that last week—where there are genuine safety concerns. The MHRA is taking that extremely seriously. It is not worried about pharma concerns; its first priority is patients, and it is exactly the same with the covid vaccine. So if there is evidence—I am not saying that there is not—it absolutely must go through the proper channels so that it can be evaluated.

We have launched a nationwide campaign to encourage people to come forward this winter to get their booster. I recommend that people do that safe in the knowledge that the vaccine is safe for people to have.

The debate ended and the House was adjourned.

Last Saturday, December 18, GB News’s Neil Oliver covered Bridgen’s debate and Aseem Malhotra’s findings in his editorial. Oliver rightly wonders why the vaccine scandal isn’t getting plastered all over the media the way coronavirus statistics were in 2020 and 2021. Instead, he says, there is nothing but deafening silence:

Dr Aseem Malhotra’s journey

When governments first announced the vaccines, Dr Malhotra, a cardiologist, was enthusiastic and encouraged everyone to get them.

Like the rest of us, he believed it when world leaders said the vaccines would prevent transmission. We saw that they did not.

Then, Malhotra’s father fell ill from one of the jabs. While he was an older gentleman, he was fit and ran daily. He also led an active life.

Malhotra examined his father and saw that he had suddenly developed heart problems.

On October 6, the cardiologist spoke publicly at the World Council for Health about the dangers the vaccines pose. He also said he doubted whether the original claims about preventing transmission were true. He urged a pause in vaccine roll outs:

Even with treatment from his son, Malhotra senior died in October. What a blow that must have been:

On December 17, Malhotra and Dr Peter McCullough discussed the vaccine’s dangerous side effects with Jan Jekielek of Epoch Times:

Medical practitioners now speaking out

Fortunately, within the past week, medical practitioners have begun speaking out about the dangers of the vaccines.

On December 16, a vascular specialist urged a pause in the vaccine roll out:

On December 17, a British GP said he would like an investigation into the vaccines:

Doctors for Patients UK aired their views on Wednesday, December 21:

Their video was taken down for a time but is now back up and running:

Apparently, one place where speaking out is forbidden is California, where one’s licence to practice can be suspended. No surprise there:

We can but hope that 2023 blows the vaccine controversy out into the open once and for all.

I can bet you dollars to doughnuts that every media outlet knows these interventions don’t work and are injurious to health. As Andrew Bridgen said of the media personality he spoke with, they’re afraid of losing their jobs if they say something openly.

One media outlet that is covering the vaccines is GB News, particularly on Mark Steyn’s weeknight show. My best wishes go to him as he recovers in France from two heart attacks in succession. I hope they are not related to ‘the jabs’.

Anyone who has missed the previous entries in the series of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, now a backbench MP with the Conservative whip withdrawn, can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

I left off on Friday, June 25, 2021, with Dominic Cummings’s Substack post on Hancock’s and Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.

However, the big news that day was The Sun‘s front page — a ‘world exclusive’ — which had a large photo of Hancock handling a part of his assistant’s anatomy. A security camera captured the image a few weeks before, when social distancing was still in place:

It was bad enough, as I wrote, that he lost all credibility with the Queen the day before when she aired her views to Boris during their weekly meeting.

But The Sun‘s scoop surely meant that Hancock’s dictatorial time was up. And, lo, so it was:

UK coronavirus news: Matt Hancock’s final 48 hours as Health Secretary (June 25-27)

That post included these tweets, the first about his marital situation …

… and the second and third featuring polls saying that Britons wanted him gone, especially under those circumstances:

It was a wonderful start to the weekend.

Matt Hancock’s side of the story

In the final instalment of Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries that the Mail published, he tells his side of the story. Emphases mine below.

Friday, June 25:

The Sun published the story at 2am as a ‘world exclusive’. The picture was a grainy CCTV image of me and Gina embracing in my departmental office.

It was immediately obvious that the story would be huge.

I knew I had to get out of London, and my wonderful driver Mark came to pick me up very early and take me to stay discreetly in the countryside.

At about 8am, a welcome call from No 10: Dan Rosenfield [chief of staff] to say they’d got my back. He offered any support we might need, including sending a Conservative Party press officer to my house.

By 9am I’d had half a dozen sympathetic messages from ministerial colleagues: a terrible sign. They knew that I was in deep trouble.

Nadhim [Zahawi, Minister for vaccine deployment] sent me a piece of advice ‘from a brother’, which sounded very much like an appeal not to resign.

Meanwhile, I went back over all our movements and tried to think of any other rules we might be accused of breaking. Other than the one-metre-plus rule, I couldn’t think of any. ‘Should I do a fast apology for letting everyone down/breaching guidance?’ I asked.

Gina thought it was a good idea, so Damon [Poole, media adviser] began crafting a short statement. I tried to focus on the words, but my head was spinning. The final version of the statement, which went out at lunchtime, accepted that I breached social-distancing guidance and said I was still focused on working to get the country out of the pandemic. I hoped it would quiet the furore.

Yet the story continued to rage: on all the news websites, on the BBC, on Twitter and on just about every other conceivable news outlet.

By mid-afternoon, there were still suggestions that we’d broken the law. It was categorically untrue, and Damon thought we needed to brief harder or put out another line. ‘What’s wrong with ‘No laws were broken’?’ I suggested.

Round and round in circles we went, trying to find the right words. Damon’s mobile phone was practically melting, and I was more stressed than I have ever been in my entire life.

All afternoon, the ‘what, when, where, who, why, how much?’ questions continued. Journalists began suggesting I might have broken the Ministerial Code. I hadn’t, but I could see the way this was going.

My local constituency association in Suffolk was wonderfully supportive. Allan [Nixon, special adviser] worked the phones, trying to get MPs to say something helpful.

My spirits lifted a little when William Hague [former Tory leader] publicly declared that I shouldn’t resign. Not for long, though: by late afternoon it was clear tomorrow’s papers will be hideous.

Saturday, June 26:

Privately, I was still getting positive messages from colleagues. Publicly, few were willing to defend me. Politically, I was increasingly isolated. I felt desperate for my family, my children and Gina’s family and her children, and powerless to protect them. Worse was the knowledge that Gina and I had brought all this on them.

Gina’s feelings of shame and guilt were nearly overpowering her. The jokes and cartoons on social media were excruciating. We were being publicly humiliated, again and again.

While close friends and family were amazing, I also had messages from friends and colleagues who had had terrible lockdown experiences and were very upset. Their disappointment in me – and their sense of betrayal – was agonising.

It is all my fault, of course. I knew I had to take responsibility. I knew in my heart that I had to resign.

I went to Chequers to see the PM. I explained that I had been thinking about what had happened and how it had made people feel – and that my mind was made up. The damage to my family and to the Government was too great.

I told Boris I had to resign.

He was regretful but didn’t argue. We sat on the patio and talked about what this would mean for the management of the rest of the pandemic.

An exchange of letters was prepared, offering and accepting my resignation, and we each edited our letters. We had to decide how to make the announcement, what to say and how.

I must have shot a thousand videos over the course of the pandemic, levelling with the public and thanking the NHS for their dedication. This would be the last.

In the end, the great machinery of the State was nowhere. It was just me and the PM fumbling around with an iPhone. He stood on the grass, holding the phone while I said my piece. It took a few goes to get it right.

He nodded sympathetic encouragement so much throughout the first take that the camera waved up and down. In the end it wasn’t perfect, but I was beyond caring: I had to get it out.

Now messages of sympathy and support flooded in: from my team, the Prof [Chris Whitty, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer], JVT [Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer], Pascal [Soriot, head of AstraZeneca] – and just about everyone else who worked so hard alongside us to save lives.

I’m incredibly grateful to all my team, especially my spads [special advisers] and private office, for going above and beyond in supporting me in what is such a difficult time for them, too.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I told them all. ‘I mean, the honest truth is I made a mistake due to love and it doesn’t matter that it was only guidance. I should not have broken advice that I myself signed off.’

This evening Jamie N-G [Njoku-Goodwin, former spad] whose endless advice – offered long after he stopped working for me – has been so valuable throughout the pandemic, messaged to say I’d done the right thing.

‘There is so much you have done that you should be incredibly proud of. There are people alive today who wouldn’t be if you hadn’t made the decisions you did,’ he said.

‘I love her. That’s what screwed my judgment,’ I replied wretchedly. ‘Love does that to us all. I hope you can both be happy,’ he said.

‘Of that I have no doubt,’ I replied.

As for Boris – well, if anyone knows how to survive a catastrophic political and personal mistake, it’s him.

‘Time to dive beneath the ice cap,’ was his advice.

Here’s the awkward video from Sky News:

That concludes the Mail‘s excerpts from Pandemic Diaries. The paper posted the following (emphasis in the original):

Matt Hancock’s book sale royalties will be donated to NHS Charities and good causes relating to dyslexia. 

Hancock is a dyslexic and had special tutoring to enable him to pursue his studies at Oxford University.

The book is available now. Someone on social media repositioned it at a bookshop in the Crime section:

https://image.vuukle.com/98cdcb40-7d3c-4d74-8d23-f9daebdfd1a1-14316ab8-684d-4c3e-90ff-4edc55822e5e

However, as my post on his last 48 hours as Health Secretary pointed out, Hancock told us in April 2020 that social distancing was more than guidance, it was an ‘instruction’. I’d included this tweet as proof:

In the days that followed, Sajid Javid — Boris’s first Chancellor — became our new Health Secretary. Questions whirled about the camera, security breaches and ministerial code breaches. Oliver Tress is the name Hancock’s girlfriend’s husband. He owns the Oliver Bonas chain of shops:

UK news: Sajid Javid’s return to Cabinet as Health Secretary (June 27-28)

UK coronavirus news: will Matt Hancock be investigated? (June 28; Oliver Tress, restriction-free Wimbledon video)

MPs worried about Matt Hancock’s security camera (June 28)

By now, most Britons know that Hancock met his girlfriend when they were undergraduates at Oxford. They both worked at the student radio station. Recollections from their contemporaries differ as to whether Hancock was part of the in crowd or whether he was a geek on its periphery.

Sky News’s Beth Rigby put that period of history in perspective for us:

On June 26, 2021, The Telegraph explained how the woman got involved in Hancock’s parliamentary career:

Gina Coladangelo started work for Matt Hancock during his short-lived Conservative Party leadership campaign in 2019, it has emerged.

Sources said Ms Coladangelo provided unpaid advice on the Health Secretary’s bid to replace Theresa May.

The work coincided with Mr Hancock sponsoring a parliamentary pass at the same time for his longtime friend, who has worked as communications director of Oliver Bonas, the homeware store, since 2014.

Mr Hancock declared his candidacy during a broadcast interview on May 25 2019, saying “we need a leader for the future, not just now”.

He quit the race on June 14 2019 – a day after coming sixth in the first ballot of Conservative MPs.

Ms Coladangelo was registered as holding a pass sponsored by Mr Hancock under her married name, Gina Tress, from June 2019.

Sources suggested she then started providing unpaid advice to Mr Hancock during the Covid-19 pandemic, before she was hired as a non-executive director at the Department of Health in September.

Her non-executive directorship also raised eyebrows. Who appointed her and how?

Tatler‘s profile of Hancock, published on June 28, told us:

Both Hancock and Coladangelo, who were contemporaries at Oxford, have three children

But, what of this relatively youthful minister? In 2014, he was touted as a junior minister with the skills ‘to reach the top’. Certainly, academically, his results are a tour de force of excellence, a first at Exeter College, Oxford, in what many consider a politician’s ‘rite of passage’, Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). He worked briefly for a Tory backbench MP before breaking loose as an economist at the Bank of England specialising in the sterling money markets and on housing, before being sent to do a masters at Cambridge. On return, he was plucked out by George Osborne (in 2005) to join the Conservative economics team, later becoming the future chancellor’s chief of staff, and a bonafide ‘high-flyer’.

It was in 2010 that he became an MP for West Suffolk, and today – or at least before the lockdown – he balanced his time between his weekday home in London and his abode in Little Thurlow, in his Newmarket constituency, at the weekends. He has admitted that the work-life balance can sometimes be a challenge, explaining in an interview with the Financial Times in 2014, ‘I pay a lot of attention to timetabling. Both my professional and social and family time gets booked up a long way in advance and then you have to be strict about it.’

Hancock married an osteopath, Martha Hoyer Millar, in 2006, and together they have three small children, a daughter and two sons as well as a dachshund called Hercules (which Hancock will occasionally document via his Instagram). With noble connections, Martha, a red head, is the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra, a British diplomat who served as Ambassador to West Germany from 1955 to 1956. Baron Inchyra had four children, two sons and two daughters, their youngest, Dame Annabel Whitehead, was a Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret and later to the Queen

By his own admission, Hancock is fiercely competitive. He once, in 2012, trained as a jockey and won a race at the beating heart of British racing, Newmarket, in his constituency. Going the whole hog, he trained rigorously, shedding two stones and even seeking advice from champion jockey Frankie Dettori. He keeps it up; in December, 2019 he posted a video of himself galloping atop a racehorse on the Newmarket heath, summarising afterwards, ‘absolutely exhilarating, every single time’.

It’s been far from plain sailing for Hancock, he’s overcome his own difficulties. One being dyslexia. His political career apparently practically ended before it even started, when a simple spelling mistake relayed the dead opposite of what he was trying to communicate. As a young Tory campaigner in Guildford he wrote an election leaflet. Instead of saying that candidate Nick St Aubyn wanted to ‘unite’ the community during the 2001 election, a then 22-year-old Hancock wrote: ‘I want to untie the community’. The mistake was spotted after the leaflet had been printed and landed in 50,000 letterboxes. St Aubyn went on to lose the seat by 538 votes.

Hancock reportedly winces at the memory, but told the tale since he does not want other dyslexics growing up thinking they are ‘useless’ like he did. His wife, too, is dyslexic. He says he got on by focusing on numbers-based subjects, taking A Levels in maths, physics, computing and economics, but told the Telegraph, ‘I wish I had been diagnosed earlier’.

Sheer hypocrisy

On June 25, before he resigned, the media rightly began enumerating Hancock’s diktats and his own actions, proving the man’s hypocrisy.

The Telegraph reported:

… How has the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care managed to cling on this long in the first place? …

As the man in charge of England’s health system when the pandemic struck, he is accused of overseeing the disastrous discharge of Covid-positive hospital patients into care homes, mismanaging the supply of personal protective equipment, and the multi-billion pound failure that is NHS Test and Trace.

According to Mr Cummings, Mr Hancock “lied” to Mr Johnson and the public about much of this …

Mr Hancock strenuously denies much of this.

Nevertheless, it comes on top of allegations that he awarded a lucrative contract to supply the Government with tens of millions of Covid test vials to a former neighbour, who lacked experience producing medical supplies after he received a WhatsApp from him.

He also committed a “technical” breach of the ministerial code by failing to declare that a firm run by his sister, in which he has a 20 per cent stake, had been awarded an NHS contract

The danger lies in the familiar territories of hypocrisy and the alleged “chumocracy” of the Johnson administration.

If Mr Hancock’s embrace of Ms Coladangelo contravened government guidelines, as he has now admitted it did, many will remember his reaction to last year’s Neil Ferguson scandal, where he suggested it could be a matter for the police, not to mention countless hugs with loved-ones missed over recent months.

Meanwhile, if evidence emerges suggesting that Ms Coladangelo was brought into the Government because of her personal relationship with Mr Hancock, rather than her expertise, the rap sheet all too quickly becomes too heavy to survive.

The Spectator‘s Steerpike, their gossip columnist, posted ‘Nine times Matt Hancock told us to obey the rules’, most of which follows (bold dates in the original):

From threatening to ban outdoor exercise and close the beaches to advising against sex outside ‘established’ relationships, Mr S presents his round-up of Hancock’s best/worst moments:

9 February 2021:  Ten years in jail for Covid returnees

Hancock announced that people returning from holidays who conceal that they’ve been in a red list country would face a prison sentence of up to ten years …

1 February 2021 ‘Don’t even think about stretching Covid rules’

At another No. 10 press conference, Hancock gave an update on the South African variant in which he said that those living in postcodes affected by the mutation should ‘not even think about stretching the Covid rules.’

10 January 2021: Hancock claimed that flexing of rules ‘could be fatal’

The Health Secretary appeared on the Andrew Marr Show where he was asked about the police fining two women who went for a walk five miles from their homes. Hancock told Marr: ‘Every time you try to flex the rules that could be fatal’ and that staying at home is the ‘most important thing we can do collectively as a society.’

24 September 2020:  Hancock warned people to ‘be sensible’ when having sex during lockdown

Asked about the government’s guidance that only ‘established’ couples should be having sex, Hancock told Sky News: ‘There have to be boundaries, to coin a phrase.’ He warned against casual sex, advising the public to stick to ‘well-established relationships’ and joking, ‘I know I am in an established relationship,’ with his wife

5 July 2020: Hancock threatened to shut down non-compliant businesses

In an interview with Sky Hancock said: ‘We also have the authority to shut down a business if it doesn’t follow that [Covid] guidance.’ When asked by Sophy Ridge if he is ‘looking at shutting down businesses’ Hancock replied: ‘Yes and that’s happened, absolutely’. He added: ‘We’re not just asking nicely, we’re very clear to businesses that these are their responsibilities.’

25 June 2020: Hancock theatened to close the beaches

After sun lovers flocked to the seaside on Britain’s hottest day of the year, Hancock warned that he could close beaches

5 April 2020: Hancock threatened to ban outdoor exercise

At the beginning of the first lockdown, Hancock criticised sunbathers and warned the government would ban outdoor exercise if people continue to ignore government advice. He said on Sky that those who flout the guidance were ‘putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way’. He told Andrew Marr that same day: ‘I don’t want to have to take away exercise as a reason to leave home… if too many people are not following the rules.’ He added:If you don’t want us to take the next step and ban exercise… then the message is very clear… you have to follow the rules.’

Sickening.

The Mail has a report with reactions from several journalists also calling out Hancock’s disgusting hypocrisy, well worth reading.

Questions, questions

Also on June 25, The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman asked:

Why was it appropriate for Gina Coladangelo to have a parliamentary pass, to become an unpaid adviser at the department and then to receive the paid non-executive director post?

… the important matter here isn’t the affair: these things happen and they’re not normally anyone else’s business. But where it becomes other people’s business is when the affair is interlinked with government business and taxpayer’s money

Then there’s the hypocrisy charge, not just from someone in a government that has restricted personal freedoms so much this past year, but from the very minister responsible for the lockdown legislation and guidance

Questions about the camera and security were many.

At lunchtime that day, The Telegraph reported:

The Government Security Group, which is in charge of security at 800 buildings across Whitehall, has been asked to investigate, with Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, expected to be in charge of an inquiry.

There have also been calls for MI5 to get involved in order to rule out any involvement from hostile foreign states.

Government insiders said it is “unheard of” for security cameras to be placed in the offices of Secretaries of State, raising questions about whether the footage of Mr Hancock was filmed on a pre-existing camera or could even have been filmed by a camera deliberately placed there to catch him out.

Day-to-day security at government buildings is typically contracted out to private firms, though the Department of Health and Social Care has yet to confirm if this was the case at their offices in London’s Victoria Street …

One source said: “There are an awful lot of questions that need answering. Lots of government buildings have cameras outside offices that film people going in and out, but I have never seen one inside a Secretary of State’s office. It’s unheard of.

“What was that camera doing there, was it even a CCTV camera, and did Matt Hancock know it was there?

“More importantly, who is it that has access to what is going on inside that office? We are talking about people being able to spy on a Secretary of State, so this is a serious breach of security, regardless of what you think of Matt Hancock’s behaviour” …

Among the questions the Government Security Group will have to answer is whether proper vetting was carried out of staff who have access to CCTV footage, and whether they have been required to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Breaches of the Official Secrets Act can carry a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

The paper had a follow-up article that evening:

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock had no idea the camera existed when it captured him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo

It raises the possibility that the camera was deliberately placed by someone with access to his office with the intention of catching the pair cheating on their spouses and breaking Covid rulesIt is the first time a Cabinet minister has been filmed in their own office without their knowledge.

In a further twist, the Department of Health and Social Care’s offices use CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision, which is banned in the US because of national security concerns

One theory being investigated is that the footage was filmed by someone on a mobile phone as it was being played on a CCTV screen, which could make it more difficult to prove who was responsible.

While the revelation could spell the end of Mr Hancock’s Cabinet career, the leak has also triggered a red alert in the Government over who could be spying on the country’s most senior ministers

A source told The Sun that the pair had regularly been caught embracing and that their affair was an open secret among staff. The newspaper claimed the footage was released by a whistleblower disgusted that Mr Hancock was breaking Covid rules while telling people to obey them.

At the time, the country was in stage two of the lifting of lockdown, meaning hugging anyone from outside your own household was banned. On Friday, Mr Hancock admitted breaching social distancing guidance and said he was sorry for having “let people down” …

The £144 million building is owned by Singapore-based property firm Ho Bee Land, which bought it five years ago and has not so far responded to requests for comment.

Cameras on the outside were made by Hikvision, which is owned by the Chinese state and banned in the US because of national security concerns and alleged human rights violations. The firm is alleged to have provided cameras that monitor Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang …

One covert security expert said: “In all my years of working in this field I have never known a camera to be positioned inside an office like this. An office is a private space and that raises all sorts of issues.

“The camera is facing the door so it will give you a record of who is coming and going. But if you wanted to do that you would place the camera outside of the office in the corridor. Also, the angle of the camera is all wrong because if someone walks into the office with their head down this will not be able to see their features. To me it smacks more of a small covert camera that has been placed in a light fixture”

The fact that the camera was part of the overall CCTV network ruled out any suggestion that Ms Coladangelo could have been behind the leak, and friends of Dominic Cummings, the former Downing Street special adviser who has waged a campaign against Mr Hancock since leaving his job last year, insisted he had nothing to do with the leak.

One government source suggested it was possible the camera had been placed in the office to increase security as a result of the Covid pandemic, while another person familiar with the layout of the office speculated that extra cameras could have been put there because it has a balcony, making it more vulnerable to break-ins

Indignity for his wife

On Saturday, June 26, the papers had stories about what was happening in the Hancock’s marital home.

The Mail‘s first report was ‘Callous Matt Hancock dumped wife on Thursday after learning his affair would be finally exposed’:

Matt Hancock dumped his university sweetheart on Thursday night after learning video footage of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office would be exposed.

The ex-Health Secretary, who announced his resignation this evening, raced home to tell his wife of 15 years that he would be leaving her after he was contacted by The Sun newspaper over his affair with Gina Coladangelo …

Martha Hancock, a 44-year-old osteopath, had no clue about the affair until her husband told her their marriage was over, reports The Sunday Times

The reports of the affair came just weeks after Hancock was seen enjoying lunch out with Martha – the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra – in London.

The pair were seen waiting for a taxi after eating at Exmouth market in the capital.

They were last seen together in public at the England vs Scotland Euro 2020 match at Wembley a week ago

Mrs Hancock is said to have met her future husband while they were students at Oxford University. Both are dyslexic and he once revealed that the condition helped them bond. 

Descended from a baron and a viscount, Mrs Hancock had a privileged upbringing. Her father, Old Etonian Alastair Hoyer Millar, 84, was secretary of The Pilgrim Trust between 1980 and 1996. The organisation supplies grants to preserve historically significant buildings or artefacts. 

Her mother, Virginia Hoyer Millar, 70, an antiques dealer, was yesterday pictured comforting her daughter in the street by putting her arms around her shoulders. They also linked arms as they strolled around North-West London.  

The couple [the Hancocks] divide their time between London and their West Suffolk constituency home, where there was no sign of Mr Hancock following his resignation.

The ex-Health Secretary wrote in his letter: ‘The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.

‘I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.’

Another report from the Mail followed that day, discussing Conservative MPs’ disgust with their colleagues and more information about the respective marriages involved, complete with photographs:

Mrs Hancock looked sad and upset as she left the couple’s home but didn’t speak to reporters about her husband’s alleged infidelity.  Her husband was nowhere to be seen, however, she was still wearing her wedding ring   

The shutters were closed at the £4.5million South London home Mrs Coladangelo shares with Oliver Tress and their three children yesterday. They are also believed to have a country home near the West Sussex coast. She has been working as an advisor for Mr Hancock since last year, with one source saying: ‘Before Matt does anything big, he’ll speak to Gina’

Mr Hancock was meant to be at Newmarket Racecourse to visit the vaccination centre but a spokesman revealed he cancelled at the last minute ‘early this morning’

A Department of Health probe into how the footage from outside Mr Hancock’s office was leaked is expected, with the whistleblower described as a former civil servant who was angry about his ‘brazen’ affair, adding: ‘They have tried to keep it a secret but everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that’ …  

Mrs Coladangelo was appointed as a non-executive director at the department in September, meaning she is a member of the board.

She can claim up to £15,000 in taxpayers’ money in the role, though there is no public record of her appointment

The woman Matt Hancock has been allegedly having an affair with is married to the millionaire founder of fashion firm Oliver Bonas and has worked as its communications director for the past seven years

Gina Coladangelo, 43, knows the Health Secretary from Oxford University, where they both worked on the student radio station and studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) – and where he also met his wife Martha, 44. 

Mrs Coladangelo remains Facebook friends with Mr Hancock’s osteopath wife – with whom the Conservative politician has two sons and a daughter – after they both graduated from the university at around the same time. 

And they all reside in London, with Mrs Coladangelo living with her multi-millionaire fashion tycoon husband Oliver Tress and their three children in Wandsworth, while the Hancocks live in Queen’s Park with their children … 

Mr Hancock met Mrs Coladangelo when they worked on Oxford student radio together in the 1990s. Mr Hancock was a minority sports reporter on Oxygen FM and they would have socialised together at Exeter College, Oxford.

Mrs Coladangelo went on to marry Mr Tress, 53, who is founder of fashion chain Oliver Bonas, named after his ex-girlfriend Anna who is cousin of Prince Harry’s former partner Cressida Bonas.

It is not known exactly when Mrs Coladangelo and Mr Tress wed, although they were listed on the electoral roll together with her maiden name as recently as 2008, and then her married name of Gina Tress by 2011.

Mr Tress founded Oliver Bonas in London in 1993 with handbags and jewellery he had brought from Hong Kong where his parents lived, and his wife began working there in June 2014 after 11 years at Luther Pendragon. 

They live together in a five-bedroom detached property believed to be worth around £4million in Wandsworth, South West London, on a quiet tree-lined street with residents-only parking bays that is popular with families.

Many of the cars parked in the street – which is a 20-minute drive away from Central London – are top-of-the range BMW 4x4s and Volvos. Neighbours of Mrs Coladangelo remained tight lipped and refused to comment.

But one visiting workman who left a neighbouring home was unimpressed by Mr Hancock. He said: ‘The guy had been caught bang to rights on film. He will have to do some smart talking to get out of that one with the wife.’

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, called readers’ attention to a Sunday Times report saying that Hancock took his girlfriend to a G7 summit:

The Sunday Times has something more significant: that Hancock took Mrs Coladangelo to the G7 health ministers’ summit, raising questions about whether they stayed together (the event took place a month after their being filmed canoodling in his office). The brilliantly-informed Tim Shipman has a devastating quote from a Cabinet source.

She went with him to the G7 health ministers summit. Did he disclose this to the PM? If it was shown he was shagging on the taxpayer he had to go. He’s been puritan-in-chief in the government and now it turns out he’s a massive, lying hypocrite.

… In this week’s magazine, Kate Andrews has dossier of how ministers have been living la vida loca, travelling globally at a time when they made it illegal for others to do so. All within the loophole-addled rules, yes, but generally conducting themselves in a way that others have been unable to do.

The girlfriend’s brother

More news emerged on June 26, this time concerning Hancock’s girlfriend’s brother.

Sky News reported:

A relative of the Whitehall director alleged to have had an extramarital affair with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is an executive at a private healthcare company which has won a string of NHS contracts.

Sky News can reveal that Roberto Coladangelo – who is Gina Coladangelo’s brother – works at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), a specialist in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients

People who know Mr Coladangelo said that he and Mr Hancock’s aide were siblings, and social media profiles and electoral roll data appear to confirm a relationship between them.

None of those contacted by Sky News on Friday afternoon would confirm or deny the relationship between the Coladangelos.

Weekend papers

The weekend papers were magic for those of us rejoicing over Hancock’s resignation:

Also see The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph.

Of the resignation news, the redoubtable Peter Hitchens tweeted that it was sad that the government didn’t believe in their guidelines but the public did — ‘our tragedy’:

He added that, given all the damage Hancock caused Britain, it was ironic an illicit grope brought him down:

Maybe that’s why Hancock wants to return to private life after the next general election. Will the formal coronavirus inquiry advance that far in two years’ time? If not, he could be safe in the knowledge he won’t be asked to testify.

No. 10: photos ‘in the public interest’

On July 16, The Telegraph had a follow-up on The Sun‘s photos: ‘Leaked Matt Hancock CCTV footage was “in public interest”, says Boris Johnson’s office’:

The leaked CCTV footage which exposed Matt Hancock’s affair was in the public interest, the Prime Minister’s spokesman has said, as an investigation into an alleged data breach continues.

Two people suspected of recording the film without consent had their homes raided on Thursday by officials from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Police and Crime Commissioners have also called for the police to launch an urgent investigation amid concern over the security of government buildings.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson believed in the importance of a free press being able to investigate matters that were in the public interest

Excellent!!!

There ends the resignation saga.

A final instalment on Hancock’s time as a backbencher will come next week.

Thus far, most of my series on Matt Hancock has focused on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who missed them can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Even though the vaccine was about to be distributed throughout the UK, people in England were frustrated by the restrictions which the Government had imposed indefinitely. Effectively, we had had a Christmas lockdown, with more restrictions that came in on Boxing Day. As I covered in my last post, even at the end of the year, Hancock could not say when they would be lifted.

This post covers the first half of 2021 with excerpts from Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries as serialised in the Mail along with news I had collected during that time. Pandemic Diaries entries come from this excerpt, unless otherwise specified.

Vaccines and side-effects

Former Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott co-authored Pandemic Diaries. On December 7, The Spectator posted her impressions of Hancock and the pandemic.

This is what she had to say about the vaccine policy (emphases mine):

The crusade to vaccinate the entire population against a disease with a low mortality rate among all but the very elderly is one of the most extraordinary cases of mission creep in political history. On 3 January 2021, Hancock told The Spectator that once priority groups had been jabbed (13 million doses) then ‘Cry freedom’. Instead, the government proceeded to attempt to vaccinate every-one, including children, and there was no freedom for another seven months. Sadly, we now know some young people died as a result of adverse reactions to a jab they never needed. Meanwhile experts have linked this month’s deadly outbreak of Strep A in young children to the weakening of their immune systems because they were prevented from socialising. Who knows what other long-term health consequences of the policy may emerge?

Why did the goalposts move so far off the pitch? I believe multiple driving forces combined almost accidentally to create a policy which was never subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Operating in classic Whitehall-style silos, key individuals and agencies – the JCVI, Sage, the MHRA – did their particular jobs, advising on narrow and very specific safety and regulatory issues. At no point did they all come together, along with ministers and, crucially, medical and scientific experts with differing views on the merits of whole-population vaccination, for a serious debate about whether such an approach was desirable or wise.

The apparent absence of any such discussion at the top of government is quite remarkable. The Treasury raised the occasional eyebrow at costs, but if a single cabinet minister challenged the policy on any other grounds, I’ve seen no evidence of it.

In Hancock’s defence, he would have been crucified for failing to order enough vaccines for everybody, just in case. He deserves credit for harnessing the full power of the state to accelerate the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. He simply would not take no or ‘too difficult’ for an answer, forcing bureaucratic regulators and plodding public health bodies to bend to his will. He is adamant that he never cut corners on safety, though the tone of his internal communications suggest that in his hurtling rush to win the global race for a vaccine, he personally would have been willing to take bigger risks. I believe he would have justified any casualties as sacrifices necessary for the greater good. Fortunately (in my view) his enthusiasm was constrained by medical and scientific advisers, and by the Covid vaccine tsar Kate Bingham, who was so alarmed by his haste that at one point she warned him that he might ‘kill people’. She never thought it was necessary to jab everyone and repeatedly sought to prevent Hancock from over-ordering. Once he had far more than was needed for the initial target group of elderly and clinically vulnerable patients, he seems to have felt compelled to use it. Setting ever more ambitious vaccination rollout targets was a useful political device, creating an easily understood schedule for easing lockdown and allowing the government to play for time amid the threat of new variants. The strategy gave the Conservatives a big bounce in the polls, which only encouraged the party leadership to go further.

Now on to side-effects:

Given the unprecedented speed at which the vaccine was developed, the government might have been expected to be extra careful about recording and analysing any reported side-effects. While there was much anxiety about potential adverse reactions during clinical trials, once it passed regulatory hurdles, ministers seemed to stop worrying. In early January 2021, Hancock casually asked Chris Whitty ‘where we are up to on the system for monitoring events after rollout’

Not exactly reassuringly, Whitty replied that the system was ‘reasonable’ but needed to get better. This exchange, which Hancock didn’t consider to be of any significance, is likely to be seized on by those with concerns about vaccine safety.

January 2021

On January 2, Hancock hoped to ease red tape allowing NHS physicians to come out of retirement to be part of the vaccination drive:

On January 3, The Conservative Woman‘s co-editor and qualified barrister Laura Perrins blasted the Government for keeping Britons under ‘humiliating and undignified treatment‘:

Schools reopened in England on Monday, January 4. They closed again by the end of the day.

Monday, January 4:

Millions of children returned to school today, only to be told schools are closing again tomorrow. After sleeping on it, Boris agreed we have no choice but to go for another national lockdown.

On Thursday, January 7, Hancock appeared before the Health and Social Care Select Committee to answer questions about lockdown. He came across as arrogant, in my opinion:

Monday, January 11:

A message from a friend tipping me off that straight-talking cricket legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott is very unhappy about the delay in the second dose. He’s a childhood hero of mine, so I volunteered to call him personally to explain. I rang him and made the case as well as I could, but it was clear he was far from persuaded.

That morning, Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist posted his ghoulish perspective on Hancock: ‘A nightmare before vaccination’. It was hard to disagree:

Tuesday, January 12:

A bunch of GPs are refusing to go into care homes where there are Covid cases. Apparently there are cases in about a third of care homes, meaning many residents aren’t getting vaccinated. Evidently I was naive to think £25 a jab would be enough of an incentive. We may have to use the Army to fill the gap.

Also that day:

Not only is [Sir Geoffrey] Boycott in the Press having a go at me; now [former Speaker of the House of Commons] Betty Boothroyd is kicking off as well. Given that I personally ensured she got her first jab fast, it feels a bit rich. It’s particularly miserable being criticised by people I’ve grown up admiring and went out of my way to help, but welcome to the life of a politician.

On Wednesday, January 13, Hancock still had no answer as to when restrictions would be lifted. Many of us thought he was enjoying his power too much:

Friday, January 15:

An extraordinary row with Pfizer bosses, who are trying to divert some of our vaccine supply to the EU!

When I got to the Cabinet Room, the PM practically had smoke coming out of his ears. He was in full bull-in-a-china-shop mode, pacing round the room growling.

What really riled him was the fact that only last night he was speaking to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and Bourla made no mention of it! I was wary: when the PM is in this mood, he can really lash out. I knew I’d need to be as diplomatic as possible if I wanted to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Monday, January 18:

Pfizer has relented. Following a robust exchange between Bourla and the PM, lo and behold, they’ve located an ’emergency supply’, which is now heading our way.

On Tuesday, January 19, Hancock got coronavirus and had to self-isolate. This was his second bout. The first one was earlier in 2020:

Julia Hartley-Brewer of talkRADIO posed an interesting question about re-infection and T-cells. Hmm:

Thursday, January 21:

[Social Care minister] Helen Whately wants to find a way of allowing indoor visits again. I’m hardline on this: we cannot have Covid taking off in care homes again.

Monday, January 25:

The EU health commissioner has tweeted that ‘in the future’ any company that produces vaccines in the EU will have to provide ‘early notification’ if they want to sell it to a third-party country. In other words, they’ll need permission. Totally desperate stuff! They’re doing it purely because they screwed up procurement.

Tuesday, January 26:

Today we reached a really grim milestone in the pandemic: more than 100,000 deaths in this country. So many people grieving; so much loss.

Wednesday, January 27:

A humiliating climbdown from the EU, who clearly realised their ‘export ban’ wouldn’t end well. It followed frantic diplomacy on our side, plus our lawyers confirming that they wouldn’t be able to block our supply anyway. What a ridiculous waste of time and energy.

Tonight I’m doing a night shift at Basildon Hospital [in Essex]. Front-line staff are still under horrendous pressure, and the best way for me to understand is to see it for myself.

Thursday, January 28:

The night shift has left me completely drained. I don’t know how they do it day in and day out: heroic. I donned full PPE, and got stuck in, helping to turn patients and fetch and carry. In intensive care, I watched a man consent to being intubated because his blood oxygen levels weren’t sustainable.

He spoke to the doctor, who said: ‘We want to put a tube in, because we don’t think you’ll make it unless we do that.’

His chances of waking up were 50:50. He knew that. It was an unbelievably awful moment. He reluctantly agreed, and within a minute he was flat out on the ventilator. The doctor next to me said: ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again.’

When my shift was over, I went down to the rest area. One of the registrars told me he’d just had to phone the wife of the patient to say he’d been intubated.

‘We’re doing this, we all know it’s our duty, we’re coping with a second wave — but we can’t have a third,’ he said. Then he burst into tears.

That day, an article appeared in Spiked about the Government’s censorship of lockdown sceptics. ‘Shouldn’t we “expose” the government rather than its critics?’ says:

It’s true ‘lockdown sceptics’ have made mistakes. But the government’s survival depends on none of us ever understanding that lockdown sceptics are not in charge – it is.

they’re gunning for people like Sunetra Gupta, the professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University … 

Pre-Covid, I would estimate 97 per cent of the population couldn’t have picked Matt Hancock out of a police line-up if he had just mugged them. So when he stood up in the House of Commons, last January, to state that ‘the Chinese city of Wuhan has been the site of an outbreak of 2019-nCoV’, there was no reason to doubt him when he said ‘the public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well-prepared for these types of outbreaks’. In February, he explained ‘our belts and braces approach to protecting the public’ and insisted that ‘the clinical advice about the risk to the public has not changed and remains moderate’.

On 23 March, he made a complete volte-farce. (That was not a typo.) The ‘risk to the public’ wasn’t ‘moderate’ at all. ‘It is incredibly important that people stay more than two metres away from others wherever they are or stay at home wherever possible’, he told the Today programme, adding those who weren’t doing so were ‘very selfish’. Four days later, Hancock tested positive for coronavirus. Seven days after that (3 April), he opened the Nightingale hospital (‘a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat’), while ‘blowing his nose’ and not appearing ‘to be at 100 per cent’. Two days after that, he threatened to change the rules again so that people who weren’t ill couldn’t go outside at all: ‘If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home, then you’ve got to follow the rules’ …

We’ll skip over Hancock’s botching of track and trace, the dodgy private contracts he’s had a hand in rewarding, how he breaks the rules he makes for us while cracking jokes about it, or his intervention into the debate about whether scotch eggs constitute a ‘substantial meal’.

In the autumn of 2020, pubs could only open if they served a plate of food. Why, I do not know.

The article mentions Hancock’s tears on Good Morning Britain as he watched the first two people get the first doses of the vaccine. Then:

Days later, all this ‘emotion’ had gone down well, so Hancock did more of it – in parliament – announcing that his step-grandfather had died of Covid-19. (‘He was in a home and he had Alzheimer’s – the usual story’, Hancock’s father told the Daily Mail. ‘It was just a few weeks ago.’)

‘Beware of men who cry’, Nora Ephron once wrote. ‘It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.’ Was Hancock crying because he was devastated that his step-grandfather was not kept alive long enough to receive the vaccine (suffering from Alzheimer’s – so it would not be a leap to fear – bewildered, confused, and very likely denied the comfort of the touch of anyone he loved for most of the year)? Or was it because the political survival of the Conservative government depends on being proved right about lockdown – and that depends on one thing: the vaccine …

Hancock told the Spectator that Covid-19 will never be eradicated. But he sees no reason for his extraordinary powers as health secretary to cease even if – by some miracle – it does. In late November, Hancock told a Commons health and science committee that he wants to end the British culture of ‘soldiering on’. Having built a ‘massive diagnostics capacity’, he said, ‘we must hold on to it. And afterwards we must use it not just for coronavirus, but everything. In fact, I want to have a change in the British way of doing things, where if in doubt, get a test. It doesn’t just refer to coronavirus, but to any illness that you might have.’

The idea that we would continue to test, track and trace healthy people who have cold symptoms is so psychotic it’s a struggle to understand whether the man is even aware of how many people weren’t tested for cancer last year. The only hero in this context is Professor Sunetra Gupta. All she’s done is express her fears that lockdown – long-term – will do more harm than good – which is what she believes. In China, Zhang Zhan was also worried that people were dying and the government didn’t want anyone to know about it, so she tried her best to warn everyone in society that more people were going to die if nothing was done. If China had been honest about the outbreak from the start, maybe, just maybe, 100,000 lives would have been saved from Covid-19 here …

Maybe anyone who shares Gupta’s fears are ‘fringe cranks’, but ‘fringe cranks’ have as much right to say what they think as anyone else. And especially when the government has stripped us of all our rights to do pretty much anything else, while refusing to reveal when – if ever – our rights will be returned. This isn’t China. It’s Britain. And we do things differently here. Or at least we used to – in those halcyon days when none of us had a clue who Matt Hancock was

Friday, January 29:

Scandalous behaviour by certain care home operators, who are unscrupulously using staff with Covid. Inspectors have identified no fewer than 40 places where this is happening.

Wow. I am shocked. It underlines why we need to make jabs mandatory for people working in social care. The PM supports me on this.

February 2021

Monday, February 1:

A YouGov poll suggests 70 per cent of Britons think the Government is handling the vaccine rollout well, while 23 per cent think we’re doing badly. I forwarded it to [NHS England chief executive] Simon Stevens.

‘Who the heck are the 23 per cent, for goodness’ sake!!’ he replied.

I don’t know. Maybe the same 20 per cent of people who believe UFOs have landed on Earth? Or the five million Brits who think the Apollo moon landings were faked?

Thursday, February 4:

Tobias Ellwood [Tory MP] thinks GPs are deliberately discouraging patients from using vaccination centres so they get their jabs in GP surgeries instead. I’m sure he’s right. That way, the GPs make more money.

On Saturday, February 6, The Telegraph reported that Hancock wanted to ‘take control of the NHS’. Most Britons would agree that something needs to be done — just not by him:

 

On Sunday, February 7, The Express‘s Health and Social Affairs editor said a specialist thought that the Government was using virus variants to control the public. Many would have agreed with that assessment:

Monday, February 8:

We’ve now vaccinated almost a quarter of all adults in the UK!

Also that day:

I’ve finally, finally got my way on making vaccines mandatory for people who work in care homes.

Because of that, a lot of employees resigned from their care home posts and have gone into other work, especially hospitality.

A poll that day showed that the public was happy with the Government’s handling of the pandemic. John Rentoul must have looked at the wrong line in the graph. Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor, came out the best for shaking the magic money tree:

On Tuesday, February 9, Hancock proposed 10-year jail sentences for people breaking travel restrictions. This referred to people travelling from ‘red list’ countries, but, nonetheless, pointed to a slippery slope:

The Conservative Woman‘s co-editor and qualified barrister Laura Perrins pointed out a logic gap in sentencing:

Spiked agreed with Perrins’s assessment in ‘Matt Hancock is behaving like a tyrant’:

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced new, staggeringly authoritarian enforcement measures in the House of Commons today.

Passengers returning from one of the 33 designated ‘red list’ countries will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels from next week. Anyone who lies on their passenger-locator form about whether they have visited one of these countries faces imprisonment for up to 10 years. As the Telegraph’s assistant head of travel, Oliver Smith, has pointed out, this is longer than some sentences for rape (the average sentence is estimated to be eight years).

In addition, passengers who fail to quarantine in hotels when required to do so will face staggering fines of up to £10,000.

This is horrifying. Of course, we need to take steps to manage the arrival of travellers from countries with high levels of infection, particularly since different variants of Covid have emerged. But to threaten people with a decade behind bars or a life-ruining fine for breaching travel rules is a grotesque abuse of state power.

During the pandemic, we have faced unprecedented attacks on our civil liberties. We have been ordered to stay at home and have been banned from socialising under the threat of fines. But this latest move is the most draconian yet …

we have now reached the stage where a 10-year sentence is considered an appropriate punishment for lying on a travel form.

Matt Hancock is behaving like a tyrant.

Meanwhile, Hancock’s fellow Conservative MPs wanted answers as to when lockdown would end. The Mail reported:

Furious Tories savaged Matt Hancock over a ‘forever lockdown‘ today after the Health Secretary warned border restrictions may need to stay until autumn — despite figures showing the UK’s epidemic is firmly in retreat.

Lockdown-sceptic backbenchers took aim at Mr Hancock when he unveiled the latest brutal squeeze aimed at preventing mutant coronavirus strains getting into the country …

… hopes the world-beating vaccine roll-out will mean lockdown curbs can be significantly eased any time soon were shot down today by Mr Hancock, who unveiled the latest suite of border curbs and warned they could last until the Autumn when booster vaccines will be available.  

As of Monday travellers from high-risk ‘red list’ countries will be forced to spend 10 days in ‘quarantine hotels’, and all arrivals must test negative three times through gold-standard PCR coronavirus tests before being allowed to freely move around the UK. Anyone who lies about whether they have been to places on the banned list recently will face up to 10 years in prison. 

The fallout continued the next day. See below.

Wednesday, February 10:

Meg Hillier [Labour MP], who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, has started an infuriating campaign accusing ‘Tory ministers’ of running a ‘chumocracy’ over PPE contracts. How pitifully low. I’m incandescent.

What Meg fails to acknowledge is that when the pandemic kicked off, of course we had to use the emergency procedure for buying, which allows officials to move fast and not tender everything for months.

And when people got in contact [about] PPE, of course we forwarded on the proposals for civil servants to look at.

Even the Labour Party were getting involved — it was a national crisis and these leads have proved invaluable.

[Shadow Chancellor] Rachel Reeves wrote to Michael Gove at the time, complaining that a series of offers weren’t being taken up. Officials looked into her proposals, too.

I’m even more offended because I used to respect Meg. It’s so offensive for a supposedly grown-up politician to bend the truth in this way.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was angry at the Conservatives. What else is new?

This story has not gone away. There was a debate about it in the Commons this month.

Fallout continued from February 9 over Hancock’s never-ending lockdown.

His fellow Conservative, Sir Charles Walker MP, gave an interview saying that Hancock was ‘robbing people of hope’. He was also appalled by the prospect of a 10-year prison term for travelling from a red list country:

With regard to lockdowns, recall that at the end of 2020, Hancock said that only the vulnerable needed vaccinating, then we could all, in his words, ‘Cry freedom’. In the space of a few weeks, he had a change of tune:

Thursday, February 11:

So here we are, in the depths of the bleakest lockdown, with the virus still picking off hundreds of victims every week, and Test and Trace officials have been having secret talks about scaling back. Unbelievable!

I told them there was no way they should stand down any lab capacity, but I’m told they’re getting a very different signal from the Treasury.

Friday, February 12:

The Left never ceases to amaze. The bleeding hearts who run North West London CCG (one of many health quangos nobody will miss when they’re abolished) have taken it upon themselves to prioritise vaccinating asylum seekers. They have fast-tracked no fewer than 317 such individuals — ‘predominantly males in their 20s and 30s’.

So, while older British citizens quietly wait their turn, we are fast-tracking people who aren’t in high-risk categories and may not even have any right to be here?

Meanwhile, some of our vaccine supply has met an untimely end. I’d just reached the end of a tricky meeting when a sheepish-looking official knocked on my office door. He’d been dispatched to inform me that half a million doses of the active ingredient that makes up the vaccine have gone down the drain.

Some poor lab technician literally dropped a bag of the vaccine on the floor. Half a million doses in one dropped bag! I decided not to calculate how much Butter Fingers has cost us. Mistakes happen.

On February 22, CapX asked, ‘Why isn’t Matt Hancock in jail?’

It was about Labour’s accusations about procurement contracts for the pandemic. The article comes out in Hancock’s favour:

On Thursday, Mr Justice Chamberlain sitting in the High Court ruled that Matt Hancock had acted unlawfully by failing to to publish certain procurement contracts

It is worth noting that there was no suggestion in Mr Justice Chamberlain’s judgment that Matt Hancock had any personal involvement in the delayed publication. The judgment was made against the Health Secretary, but in his capacity as a Government Minister and legal figurehead for his Department, rather than as a private citizen. In fact, the failure to publish was actually on the part of civil servants in the Department who, in the face of the pandemic, saw a more than tenfold increase in procurement by value and struggled to keep up.

Indeed, on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Hancock did not apologise for the unlawful delays, saying it was “the right thing to do” to prioritise getting the PPE to the frontline rather than ensuring timely transparency returns. I wonder how many of those calling for Mr Hancock’s imprisonment would rather he had published the contracts in the required timeframe even if it meant there was less PPE available for NHS workers.

As a general rule, we should be able to see how the Government spends our money, what it is spent on and to whom it is given. Transparency improves governance. It is right that the Secretary of State is under a legal duty to publish contracts such as those at the heart of this case. However, this case – and the way it has been reported – is likely to have a much more invidious impact than simply improving transparency in public procurement policy.

Opposition politicians and activists have attacked the Government with claims that it has been using procurement during the pandemic as a way to funnel money to its political supporters and donors. It is certainly true that the sums spent by the Government have been large, and have been spent quickly.

What is certainly not true is that Mr Justice Chamberlain in his judgment gave any credence to this line of attack. He accepted evidence from an official at the Department of Health and Social Care that the delay was due to increased volume in contracts and lack of staff. However, that has not stopped figures linking the judgment to the attack line, such as Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth who tweeted that the delay was ‘Cronyism’. In fact, there was no evidence to suggest that was so.

Vanishingly few people will read Mr Justice Chamberlain’s judgment in full, or even in part. Most people will only see the headlines in the press. Coupled with tweets such as those by Mr Ashworth, the public at large is likely to come to the conclusion that a court has found against the Government for cronyism, when that is not the case. And this will likely fuel further resentment that the Cabinet are not serving decades behind bars.

Justice must be done and it must be seen to be done. Justice has been done in this case – the Secretary of State has been found to have acted unlawfully – but too many lack the ability and willingness to see.

Sunday, February 28:

A potentially dangerous new variant — which we think originated in Brazil — has been identified in the UK, but we can’t find Patient Zero. Whoever it is failed to provide the correct contact details when they took their Covid test, so we don’t know who or where they are. Cue a frantic search.

March 2021

Monday, March 1:

When a lab technician first spotted the new variant, we didn’t even know which part of the country the positive test had come from. Since then, thanks to some fancy sequencing and a high-quality data system, we’ve been able to identify the batch of home-test kits involved, and narrowed it down to just 379 possible households. We’re now contacting every single one.

Tuesday, March 2:

The net’s closing. We now know that the PCR test was processed at 00.18hrs on Valentine’s Day and went to the lab via a mailing centre in Croydon [south London].

Thursday, March 4:

Test and Trace have found Patient Zero! He was on the shortlist of 379 households and eventually returned calls from officials at 4 pm yesterday.

Apparently, he tried to register his test but got the details wrong. We now know his name and age (38) and that he has been very ill. He claims not to have left his house for 18 days.

This is extremely good news: assuming he’s telling the truth, he has not been out and about super-spreading. What amazing detective work.

Friday, March 5:

Covid deaths have nearly halved within a week. The vaccine is clearly saving lives.

On Saturday, March 6, The Conservative Woman‘s Laura Perrins, a qualified barrister, pointed out that mandatory vaccinations — she was probably thinking of health workers — is ‘criminal battery’:

Wednesday, March 10:

Can you imagine if we hadn’t bothered to set up a contact tracing system? And if we’d decided it was all too difficult and expensive to do mass testing? Would we ever have been forgiven if we’d failed to identify clusters of cases or new variants?

No — and rightly so. Yet a cross-party committee of MPs has come to the conclusion that Test and Trace was basically a gigantic waste of time and money. I felt the red mist descend.

Yesterday, we did 1.5 million tests — in a single day! No other European country has built such a capability.

Thursday, March 11 (see photo):

The Test and Trace row is rumbling on, as is a ridiculous story about me supposedly helping a guy who used to be the landlord of my local pub in Suffolk land a multi-million-pound Covid contract. As I’ve said ad nauseam, I’ve had nothing to do with awarding Covid contracts. I find these attacks on my integrity incredibly hurtful.

The story rumbles on in Parliament, including in a debate this month.

Friday, March 12:

Oh well, at least [retired cricketer, see January’s entries] Geoffrey Boycott is happy. He texted me to say he’d got his second dose. He seems genuinely grateful. I resisted the temptation to tell him that good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, March 16:

To my astonishment, hotel quarantine is working. There’s a weird new variant from the Philippines, but the two cases we’ve identified have gone no further than their Heathrow airport hotel rooms.

Wednesday, March 17:

Today was my son’s birthday. We had breakfast together, but there was no way I could join the birthday tea with family. I hope to make it up to him — to all of them — when all this is over.

On Tuesday, March 23, the first anniversary of lockdown, Boris did the coronavirus briefing. Below is a list of all the Cabinet members who had headed the briefings in the previous 12 months. I saw them all:

On Wednesday, March 24, Hancock announced the creation of the sinister sounding UK Health Security Agency. SAGE member Dr Jenny Harries is at its helm:

Tuesday, March 30:

How did Covid start? A year on, we still don’t really know, and there’s still an awful lot of pussyfooting around not wanting to upset the Chinese.

No surprise to learn that the Foreign Office has ‘strong views on diplomacy’ — in other words, they won’t rock the boat with Beijing and just want it all to go away.

Sometime in March, because magazine editions are always a month ahead, the publisher of Tatler, Kate Slesinger, enclosed a note with the April edition, which had Boris’s then-partner/now-wife Carrie Symonds on the cover. It began:

As I write this letter, the Prime Minister has just announced an extension to the nationwide lockdown, to be reviewed at around the time this Tatler April issue goes on sale — an opportune moment for us to be taking an in-depth look into the world of Carrie Symonds, possibly the most powerful woman in Britain right now.

April

On April 5, a furious Laura Perrins from The Conservative Woman tweeted that Hancock’s policies were ‘absolute fascism’, especially as we had passed the one year anniversary of lockdown and restrictions on March 23:

Note that lateral flow tests, as Hancock tweeted above, were free on the NHS. The programme continued for a year.

Tuesday, April 13:

The civil service seems determined to kill off the Covid dogs idea, which is so much more versatile than normal testing and really worthwhile. The animals are amazing – they get it right over 90 per cent of the time – but officials are being very tricky.

We should have started training dogs months ago and then sending them to railway stations and other busy places, where they could identify people who probably have Covid so they can then get a conventional test.

Unfortunately, even though I’ve signed off on it, the system just doesn’t buy it.

So far we’ve done a successful Phase 1 trial, but Phase 2, which costs £2.5 million, has hit the buffers. The civil service have come up with no fewer than 11 reasons to junk the idea.

That’s one idea I actually like. It sounds great.

On Friday, April 16, someone posted a video of Hancock breezing into No. 10. He had his mask on outside for the cameras, then whisked it off once he entered. Hmm. The person posting it wrote, ‘The hypocrisy and lies need to stop!

That day, the BBC posted that Hancock had financial interests in a company awarded an NHS contract — in 2019:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock owns shares in a company which was approved as a potential supplier for NHS trusts in England, it has emerged.

In March, he declared he had acquired more than 15% of Topwood Ltd, which was granted the approved status in 2019.

The firm, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, also won £300,000 of business from NHS Wales this year.

A government spokesman said there had been no conflict of interest.

He also said the health secretary had acted “entirely properly”.

But Labour said there was “cronyism at the heart of this government” and the party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has asked the head of the civil service to investigate whether Mr Hancock breached the ministerial code.

In March this year, Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests that he had acquired more than 15% of the shares in Topwood, under a “delegated management arrangement”.

Public contract records show that the company was awarded a place in the Shared Business Services framework as a potential supplier for NHS local trusts in 2019, the year after Mr Hancock became health secretary.

The MPs’ register did not mention that his sister Emily Gilruth – involved in the firm since its foundation in 2002 – owns a larger portion of the shares and is a director, or that Topwood has links to the NHS – as first reported by the Guido Fawkes blog and Health Service Journal.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Matt Hancock has to answer the questions… He can’t pretend that the responsibility lies elsewhere.”

But he said he was “not suggesting” the health secretary had broken any rules.

Here’s photographic proof of share ownership:

Saturday, April 17:

Prince Philip’s funeral. The Queen sat alone in a pew, in widow’s weeds and a black face mask. Looking at her in her grief, I felt an intense internal conflict, almost an anguish, between the overwhelming sense of duty I have had to save lives on the one hand and the painful consequences of my own decisions on the other. Out of duty, out of an abundance of caution, and to show leadership, the Queen took the most proper approach. It was humbling, and I felt wretched.

Monday, April 19:

The police rang to warn me that anti-vaxxers are planning a march on my London home. They suggested I liaise with [my wife] Martha so she can tell me if it’s happening.

Great that they spotted it, but asking my wife to keep an eye out of the window while a baying horde descends on the family home is not exactly British policing at its finest. I asked for more support. Then I went home to make sure I was there if it kicked off, but there was no sign of anyone.

A policeman explained that the anti-vaxxers had posted the wrong details on social media so were busy protesting a few streets away. What complete idiots.

Thursday, April 22:

Boris has completely lost his rag over Scotland.

He’s got it into his head that Nicola Sturgeon is going to use vaccine passports to drive a wedge between Scotland and the rest of the UK and is harrumphing around his bunker, firing off WhatsApps like a nervous second lieutenant in a skirmish.

He’s completely right: Sturgeon has tried to use the pandemic to further her separatist agenda at every turn.

Now the Scottish government is working on its own system of vaccine certification, which might or might not link up with what’s being developed for the rest of the UK.

On April 26, the vaccine was rolled out to the general population. Hancock is pictured here at Piccadilly Circus:

I cannot tell you how many phone calls and letters we got in the ensuing weeks. Not being early adopters of anything, we finally succumbed in early July, again a few months later and at the end of the year for the booster.

On April 29, Hancock and Deputy Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam had a matey vaccination session together, with ‘JVT’, as Hancock called him, doing the honours:

May

Saturday, May 1:

Another outright death threat today in my inbox that said simply: ‘I am going to kill you.’ Lovely. The threats from online anti-vaxxers are getting far more frequent and violent.

As a result, I’m now being assessed for the maximum level of government security.

Tuesday, May 4:

Today, I was out campaigning for the local elections in Derbyshire. Gina [Coladangelo, adviser] drove me up. My relationship with Gina is changing.

Having spent so much time talking about how to communicate in an emotionally engaged way, we are getting much closer.

On Wednesday, May 12, the London Evening Standard interviewed Hancock. ‘Matt Hancock: Let’s put our year of hell behind us’ is more interesting now than it was then:

Matt Hancock today struck his most upbeat note yet on easing many of the remaining lockdown restrictions next month, with Britain set to be “back to life as normal” within a year.

The Health Secretary, who has been one of the most powerful voices arguing for lockdown to save thousands of lives, stressed that the Government would lay out the low risks of further Covid-19 infections if, as expected, it presses ahead with the final relaxation stage in June.

“Our aim on the 21st is to lift as many of the measures/restrictions as possible,” he told the Standard’s editor Emily Sheffield in a studio interview aired today for its online London Rising series to spur the city’s recovery from the pandemic. “We’ve been putting in place all these rules that you’d never have imagined — you’re not allowed to go and hug who you want,” while adding he hadn’t seen his own mother since July and he was looking forward to hugging her.

“I am very gregarious,” he added, “and I really want to also get back to the verve of life. For the last year, we have had people literally asking ministers, ‘Who can I hug?’”

Mr Hancock also criticised as “absolutely absurd” protests outside AstraZeneca’s offices in Cambridge, where demonstrators have been calling for the pharmaceutical giant to openly licence its vaccine. He stressed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs were already being offered to many countries “around the world” at cost price.

During the interview, for the business and tech section of London Rising, he admitted being too busy to keep a diary of the year’s extraordinary events.

He also said he hadn’t had time to help with the housework as he was “working full-time” on the pandemic and that he had spent more hours than he cared to remember in his home “red room” office, which went viral.

In a boost for going back to offices, he admitted that he was now back at Whitehall, adding: “I get most of my work done there.”

He also said he had not heard Mr Johnson say he was prepared to see “bodies pile high” rather than order another lockdown, a phrase the Prime Minister has denied using, saying: “No I never heard him talk in those terms.” But he admitted there were very lengthy, serious debates and “my job is to articulate the health imperative”.

He added: “By this time next year, large swathes of people will have had a booster jab. That means we’ll be able to deal with variants, not just the existing strains, and I think we’ll be back to life as normal.”

In the interview, Mr Hancock also:

    • Warned that another pandemic hitting the UK was “inevitable” and “we’ve got to be ready and more ready than last time. Hence, we are making sure we have got vaccines that could be developed in 100 days and the onshore manufacturing” and that health chiefs would be better equipped to defeat it …
    • Told how he hoped that England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, his deputy Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are “properly thanked” for their work in steering the country through the crisis. Pressed on whether they should be elevated to the Lords, he said: “That’s a matter for Her Majesty the Queen”
    • Backed Boris Johnson, enjoying a “vaccines bounce” which is believed to have contributed to Tory success in the recent elections, to be Tory leader for a decade.

Indeed, the Queen did reward Whitty, Van-Tam and Vallance with knighthoods.

Boris seemed invincible at that point, until Partygate emerged in November that year. Someone was out to get him. They succeeded.

Four days later, on May 16, Wales Online reported ‘Matt Hancock sets date for next lockdown announcement; he also says local lockdowns are not ruled out’. This is interesting, as he seemed to walk back what he told the Evening Standard:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the date for the next lockdown lifting announcement by the Government, but has said local lockdowns ‘have not been ruled out’.

Speaking on Sky News this morning Mr Hancock said their strategy was to continue with the lockdown lifting roadmap as planned, but said they would be monitoring the data very closely.

He said there had been just over 1,300 cases of the Indian variant detected in the country so far, with fears it could be 50% more infectious than Kent Covid.

Mr Hancock said: “It is becoming the dominant strain in some parts of the country, for instance in Bolton and in Blackburn.” But he said it has also been detected ‘in much lower numbers’ in other parts of the country

He added: “We need to be cautious, we need to be careful, we need to be vigilant.”

Asked if lockdown lifting could be reversed he said: “I very much hope not.” but on local lockdowns he said: “We haven’t ruled that out.”

Mr Hancock said: “We will do what it takes to keep the public safe as we learn more about this particular variant and the virus overall.”

The Health Secretary said an announcement on the next stage of lockdown lifting would be made on June 14

It was thought at the time that lockdown would be lifted on June 21.

Wednesday, May 26:

Dominic Cummings has told a select committee I should have been fired ‘for at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions’.

Apparently I lied about PPE, lied about patients getting the treatment they needed, lied about this and lied about that.

Later, the PM called. ‘Don’t you worry, Matt. No one believes a word he says. I’m sorry I ever hired him. You’re doing a great job — and history will prove you right. Bash on!’

I went to bed thinking, ‘Thank goodness I kept vaccines out of Dom’s destructive hands or that would have been a disaster like everything else he touched.’

I watched that session. Everyone was at fault except for Dominic Cummings. Anyone who presents himself in such a way is probably not all he seems.

Thursday, May 27:

When I got into work, I heard that the Prof [Whitty] had called my private office volunteering to support me in public if need be.

This spectacular vote of confidence meant the most.

Shortly before I headed home, [Defence Secretary] Ben Wallace sent a nice message asking if I was OK. ‘The Cummings evidence can be summed up as the ‘ramblings of a tw*t’,’ he said.

Also:

Of all the many accusations Dom Cummings has hurled at me, the media seem most interested in his claims that I lied about the arrangements surrounding hospital discharges into care homes at the beginning of the pandemic.

Annoyingly, it was only after this evening’s [Downing Street] press conference that I received some very pertinent PHE [Public Health England] data. They analysed all the Covid cases in care homes from January to October last year and found that just 1.2 per cent could be traced back to hospitals.

The vast majority of infections were brought in from the wider community, mainly by staff.

Overall, England did no worse at protecting care home residents than many countries, and better than someincluding Scotland, where [Nicola] Sturgeon’s team has been responsible for decision-making. Regardless, the awfulness of what the virus did to people in care homes around the world will stay with me for the rest of my life.

That day, YouGov published the results of a poll asking if Hancock should resign. Overall, 36% thought he should and 31% thought he should remain in post:

Saturday, May 29:

Boris and Carrie got married at Westminster Cathedral. I’m not entirely sure how much the PM’s mind was on his future with his beloved, though, because this afternoon he was busy texting me about the latest Covid data.

‘Lower cases and deaths today. So definitely ne panique pas,’ I told him.

Then again, perhaps he’s just very good at multi-tasking and can examine infection graphs, pick bits of confetti off his jacket and give his new bride doe-eyed looks all at the same time.

Sunday, May 30:

‘Keep going, we have seen off Cummings’s bungled assassination,’ Boris messaged cheerfully.

It was lunchtime and the PM didn’t appear to be having any kind of honeymoon, or even half a day off.

Nevertheless, that day, the Mail on Sunday reported that the Conservatives were beginning to slip in the polls and had more on Cummings’s testimony to the select committee:

The extraordinary salvo launched by Mr Cummings during a hearing with MPs last week appears to be taking its toll on the government, with a new poll suggesting the Tory lead has been slashed by more than half. 

Keir Starmer tried to turn the screw today, accusing Mr Johnson and his ministers of being busy ‘covering their own backs’ to combat the Indian coronavirus variant.

The Labour leader said ‘mistakes are being repeated’ as the Government considers whether to go ahead with easing restrictions on June 21.

‘Weak, slow decisions on border policy let the Indian variant take hold,’ he said.

‘Lack of self-isolation support and confused local guidance failed to contain it.

‘We all want to unlock on June 21 but the single biggest threat to that is the Government’s incompetence’ …

Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former adviser, told MPs on Wednesday that ‘tens of thousands’ had died unnecessarily because of the Government’s handling of the pandemic and accused Mr Hancock of ‘lying’ about testing for care home residents discharged from hospital – a claim he denies. 

Separately, the Sunday Times highlighted an email dated March 26 from social care leaders warning Mr Hancock that homes were being ‘pressured’ to take patients who had not been tested and had symptoms.

Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Provider Alliance at the time, told Mr Hancock managers were ‘terrified’ about ‘outbreaks’.

‘The following action MUST be taken: All people discharged from hospital to social care settings (eg care homes, home care, supported living) MUST be tested before discharge,’ she wrote.

However, the government’s guidance on testing was not updated until April 15.

Instructions issued by the Department of Health and the NHS on March 19 2020 said ‘discharge home today should be the default pathway’, according to the Sunday Telegraph – with no mention of testing …  

An insider told the Sun on Sunday on the spat between Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock: ‘Boris returned from convalescence at Chequers when he heard the news. He was incensed. 

‘Matt had told him point blank tests would be carried out. He couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been. For a moment he lost it with Matt, shouting ”What a f***ing mess”.

‘At least three ministers told Boris Matt should be sacked.’

However, Mr Johnson refused to axe Mr Hancock reportedly saying that losing the health secretary during a pandemic would be ‘intolerable’.  

Sir Keir said the situation in care homes had been a ‘betrayal’, adding: ‘We may never know whether Boris Johnson said Covid ”was only killing 80-year olds” when he delayed a second lockdown.

‘What we do know is that the man charged with keeping them safe showed callous disregard for our elderly, as he overlooked the incompetence of his Health Secretary.’

June

Tuesday, June 1:

For the first time since last summer, there were no Covid deaths reported yesterday. We really are coming out of this.

Things might have looked good for Hancock at the beginning of the month, but the mood would sour rapidly.

England’s 2021 reopening on June 21 looked as if it would not happen. Not surprisingly, members of the public were not happy.

On June 6, Essex publican Adam Brooks tweeted Hancock’s words about personal responsibility back at him, calling him a ‘liar’:

Brooks, who owned two pubs at the time, followed up later, threatening that the hospitality industry would issue another legal challenge to coronavirus restrictions:

The next day, June 7, The Sun sounded the death knell for a reopening on June 21:

BRITS’ holiday hopes have been dashed AGAIN as Matt Hancock warns that the new variants are the “biggest challenging” to our domestic freedom.

The Health Secretary told MPs that restoring international travel is an “important goal” – but is one that will be “challenging and hard.”

Health Secretary Mr Hancock said the return to domestic freedom must be “protected at all costs”.

It comes after he confirmed that over-25s in England will be invited to receive their Covid jabs from Tuesday as the Delta variant “made the race between the virus and this vaccination effort tighter”.

Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon: “Restoring travel in the medium term is an incredibly important goal.

“It is going to be challenging, it’s going to be hard because of the risk of new variants and new variants popping up in places like Portugal which have an otherwise relatively low case rate.

“But the biggest challenge, and the reason this is so difficult, is that a variant that undermines the vaccine effort obviously would undermine the return to domestic freedom.

“And that has to be protected at all costs.”

The Health Secretary added: “No-one wants our freedoms to be restricted a single day longer than is necessary.

“I know the impact that these restrictions have on the things we love, on our businesses, on our mental health.

“I know that these restrictions have not been easy and with our vaccine programme moving at such pace I’m confident that one day soon freedom will return.”

This comes as desperate Brits have flooded airports as they race against the clock to get back to the UK before Portugal is slapped onto the amber travel list.

The next day, nutritionist Gillian McKeith tweeted her disgust with Hancock:

On Wednesday, June 9, the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt headed, posed questions to Hancock in a coronavirus inquiry session:

On Thursday, June 10, The Guardian reported that Dominic Cummings would tell all about coronavirus as well as Brexit on his new Substack:

Dominic Cummings is planning to publish a paid-for newsletter in which subscribers can learn about his time inside Downing Street.

Boris Johnson’s former top aide has launched a profile on Substack, a platform that allows people to sign up to newsletter mailing lists.

In a post on the site, Cummings said he would be giving out information on the coronavirus pandemic for free, as well as some details of his time at Downing Street.

However, revelations about “more recondite stuff on the media, Westminster, ‘inside No 10’, how did we get Brexit done in 2019, the 2019 election etc” will be available only to those who pay £10 a month for a subscription …

It follows Cummings taking aim at Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, and the government in general as part of evidence given last month to the health and social care select committee and the science and technology committee.

Cummings, who left Downing Street after a behind-the-scenes power struggle in November last year, accused the health secretary of lying, failing on care homes and “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” on testing.

However, the parliamentary committees said Cummings’s claims would remain unproven because he had failed to provide supporting evidence.

On Friday, June 11, Labour MP Graham Stringer — one of the few Opposition MPs I admire — told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer that ‘things went badly wrong’ on Hancock’s watch and that the Health Secretary should not have ‘blamed scientific advice’:

On Monday, June 14, talkRADIO’s Mike Graham told listeners forced to cancel a holiday to sue Hancock, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, SAGE and ‘every single one of them, personally’, otherwise ‘they will think they’ve won’:

Friday, June 18:

[Lingerie tycoon] Baroness (Michelle) Mone has sent me an extraordinarily aggressive email complaining that a company she’s helping isn’t getting the multi-million-pound contracts it deserves.

She claims the firm, which makes lateral flow test kits, ‘has had a dreadful time’ trying to cut through red tape and demanded my ‘urgent help’ before it all comes out in the media.

‘I am going to blow this all wide open,’ she threatened.

In essence, she’s not at all happy that a U.S. company called Innova has secured so many contracts while others ‘can’t get in the game’. She claims test kits made by the company she’s representing, and by several others, have all passed rigorous quality control checks but only Innova is getting the business.

‘This makes it a monopoly position for Innova, who to date have received £2.85 billion in orders,’ she complained.

By the end of the email, she seemed to have worked herself into a complete frenzy and was throwing around wild accusations. ‘I smell a rat here. It is more than the usual red tape, incompetence and bureaucracy. That’s expected! I believe there is corruption here at the highest levels and a cover-up is taking place . . . Don’t say I didn’t [warn] you when Panorama or Horizon run an exposé documentary on all this.’

She concluded by urging me to intervene ‘to prevent the next bombshell being dropped on the govt’. I read the email again, stunned. Was she threatening me? It certainly looked that way.

Her tests, I am told, have not passed validation — which would explain why the company hasn’t won any contracts. I will simply not reply. I won’t be pushed around by aggressive peers representing commercial clients.

In December 2022, Baroness Mone announced that she would be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords. Her Wikipedia entry states:

Mone became a Conservative life peer in 2015. From 2020 to 2022, in a series of investigative pieces, The Guardian reported that Mone and her children had secretly received £29 million of profits to an offshore trust from government PPE contracts, which she had lobbied for during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and National Crime Agency launched investigations into Mone’s links to these contracts in January 2022. Mone announced in December 2022 that she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords “to clear her name” amid the allegations.

Also that day came news that, after Parliament voted on coronavirus restrictions that week — June 21 having been postponed to July 19 — the NHS waiting list was much larger than expected. It was thought to be 5 million but was actually 12 million:

LBC reported:

The Health Secretary told the NHS Confederation conference that up to 12.2 million people are in need of elective procedures delayed due to the pandemic.

This includes 5.1m people already on waiting lists.

Health bosses believe there could be as many as 7.1m additional patients who stayed away from hospitals because of the risk of Covid-19.

Mr Hancock told the NHS conference that there is “another backlog out there” and that he expected the numbers to rise even further.

NHS leaders have warned the backlog could take five years to clear

Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said the current wave of cases would “definitely translate into further hospitalisations”.

On Saturday, June 19, a YouTube video appeared, which has since been deleted. These are my notes on it:

June 19, coronavirus: 24 mins in — Matt Hancock says unvaccinated will not receive health treatment if NHS is overwhelmed, also mentioned are Birmingham deaths, FOIA Pfizer vaccine information forwarded to Special Branch re Warwickshire and four Birmingham hospitals; Mark Sexton, ex police constable – YouTube.

I have no idea what ensued.

On Friday, June 25, Dominic Cummings posted this article on his Substack: ‘More evidence on  how the PM’s & Hancock’s negligence killed people’.

It’s quite lengthy, but begins as follows:

Below is some further evidence including a note I sent on 26 April regarding how we could shift to Plan B with a serious testing system.

It helps people understand what an incredible mess testing was and why care homes were neglected. Hancock had failed terribly. The Cabinet Office did not have the people it needed to solve the problem. Many were screaming at me that Hancock was failing to act on care homes and spinning nonsense to the Cabinet table while thousands were dying in care homes.

There are clearly errors in my note but the fact that *I* had to write it tells you a lot about how the system had collapsed. As you can see it is a draft for a document that needed to exist but didn’t because Hancock had not done his job properly and was absorbed in planning for his press conference at the end of April, not care homes and a serious plan for test-trace.

The Sunday Times‘s Tim Shipman summed up the article with Boris Johnson’s impressions of test and trace:

Returning to Hancock, it was clear that he would have to go, but no one expected his departure would be so dramatic.

To be continued tomorrow.

 

My series on Matt Hancock MP continues.

Those who missed them can catch up on parts 1 and 2.

Today’s post takes us further into the late Spring up to the early autumn of 2020. The Government’s policy on coronavirus held the UK hostage at home, for varying amounts of time, depending on what part of the country one lived in.

Testing centres popped up around the country. Hancock, who was Health Secretary at the time, urged everyone to go to one of these centres to find out if they had the virus. The narrative was that the asymptomatic could still have it and transmit it to someone else. What a load of cobblers. As Mike Yeadon, who used to work for Pfizer said, if you’re ill, you’ll know about it.

A mobile phone app also appeared: Test and Trace. Another load of rubbish, which was very expensive. Surprisingly, many Britons with smartphones used it. Another good reason for not having a smartphone.

Imperial College’s SAGE modeller, Prof Neil Ferguson, was discovered to have broken lockdown with his mistress, who lived on the other side of London.

In May, news emerged that Boris’s top adviser Dominic Cummings slipped off from London with his wife and son to Barnard Castle, County Durham. As penance, Boris made Cummings give a 90-minute press conference in the Downing Street Rose Garden. Excruciating.

England’s Independence Day was declared on the Fourth of July. Then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s hospitality plan, Eat Out to Help Out, started a short while later, boosting restaurant sales.

During this time, the borders were open and people could travel freely. The problem were the sudden embargos which interrupted holidays at inconvenient hours of the day. Britons were often told to return home from a European country, mostly France and Spain, at midnight or 4 a.m.

However, it wouldn’t be long before the long tentacles of SAGE would find more doom and gloom in the autumn.

More extracts from Matt Hancock and Isabel Oakeshott’s Pandemic Diaries, serialised in the Mail, continue, with news items I bookmarked from the time. Emphases mine below.

May 2020

Amazingly, Hancock managed to achieve his testing goal of 100,000, which seemed impossible when he announced it only a month earlier.

These are the principal extracts from the Mail for the entries below, unless otherwise indicated.

Friday, May 1:

We did it, and with a very comfortable margin. 122,347 tests! Let the naysayers put that in their pipe and smoke it! I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed my moment, given how desperately certain people were willing me to fail.

Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fascinated by Australia’s low rate of infection. Little did he know at the time that Australia would go into a prolonged lockdown lasting months.

Sunday, May 3:

We still haven’t figured out what to do about borders. [Dominic] Raab, [Grant] Shapps and Sunak all want to keep the borders open. Crucially, they’re supported by the Prof [Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty]. On the other side, Priti Patel and I are in favour of far tougher measures, as is Boris.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was enjoying her power over her people, starring in daily briefings which the BBC televised. She gave her briefings at lunchtime. The UK government gave theirs in the early evening.

Monday, May 4:

Tonight, Nicola Sturgeon announced a ‘summer push to elimination [of Covid]’, a policy which has about as much hope of working as Chairman Mao’s attempt to eliminate sparrows by getting the Chinese population to bang pots and pans.

Much as I’m sure Nicola would love to build a Trump-style wall between her fiefdom and the rest of Great Britain, we’re all in this together. One person who’s clearly not keen on a hermit lifestyle is Prof Neil Ferguson [who was advising the Government on its Covid response]. 

I wasn’t particularly sympathetic when I heard he’d been caught breaking the rules [by meeting with his lover]. He’s issued a grovelling apology, but it was obvious he couldn’t continue to act as a Government adviser.

Ferguson resigned from SPI-M, SAGE’s modelling team, but was reinstated in 2021.

The care home situation continued to loom large. Infections and deaths were ever present. Furthermore, families were rightly distressed by having to press up against a window to see their elderly loved ones, a situation that persists in some care homes even today.

Boris suggested that Hancock hire Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist with a background in pharmaceuticals, as the head of the Vaccine Taskforce.

Also on May 4, we discovered that Good Morning Britain‘s star presenter Piers Morgan was a ‘Government-designated essential worker’. His test was negative, but he was experiencing symptoms, so he stayed off air for a few more days. The Mail reported that Hancock tweeted his best wishes before Morgan got the results of his test:

Mr Hancock, who had his own battle with coronavirus and who has previously clashed with the GMB host on the ITV morning show, tweeted that he hoped if Mr Morgan did test positive for Covid-19 that the symptoms would be mild. 

On May 7, Hancock announced that Baroness Dido Harding would head the Test and Trace programme:

On May 9, the Mail on Sunday reported that Boris and Cabinet members were clashing with the beleaguered Health Secretary:

Matt Hancock is living on ‘borrowed time’ as Health Secretary following clashes with the three most powerful members of the Government over the Covid crisis, The Mail on Sunday has been told.

Mr Hancock is understood to have pleaded ‘give me a break’ when Boris Johnson reprimanded him over the virus testing programme – leading to open questioning within Downing Street over Mr Hancock’s long-term political future.

His run-in with Mr Johnson follows battles with both Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove over the best strategy for managing the pandemic.

Shortly after Mr Johnson returned to work at No 10 a fortnight ago, he and Mr Johnson had a tense exchange about the the Health Department’s ‘grip’ on the crisis, during which Mr Hancock said to the Prime Minister, in what has been described as a ‘petulant’ tone: ‘That’s not fair – give me a break.’

He is also being blamed in some Government quarters – or scapegoated, according to his allies – for not moving quickly enough to do more to protect care homes from the epidemic. 

On Wednesday, May 13, Hancock announced a new genomics initiative in order to better understand the virus:

Thursday, May 14:

People are starting to blame us for discharging elderly people from hospital into residential settings without testing them properly, before we introduced strict rules. The evidence simply doesn’t bear that out: care home outbreaks rose sharply long after we had enough tests to put that right.

That day, a Labour peer was mystified as to why the Government did not know how much PPE there was:

Friday, May 22:

Westminster is abuzz with claims that Cummings broke lockdown rules, going to stay with his parents while he had Covid, which looks like a mega breach.

Saturday, May 23:

Downing Street called asking if I’d do some media [to support Cummings], but I’m uneasy. Despite all the reassurances, it feels off.

In the end, I issued a supportive tweet, saying he was right to find childcare for his toddler when both he and his wife were getting ill.

[Former Chancellor] George Osborne messaged me this evening warning me not to stick my neck out for Cummings again. ‘Lie low’ was his advice.

Sunday, May 24:

I spent much of the day fielding angry messages, many of them questioning why the PM is still standing up for Cummings. The answer is that he rules through fear and intimidation, squashing those who dare to challenge him or get in his way.

Monday, May 25:

Cummings tried to draw a line under the Barnard Castle affair by holding a press conference in the Downing Street garden. He sat behind a table, squinting awkwardly into the sun, looking like a sulky teenager who’d been sent outside to do his work for disrupting the class.

Afterwards, I found myself feeling strangely sorry for Boris.

Cummings has only one setting – divide and destroy – and now the boss is having to say some pretty stupid things as he machetes his way through the resulting mess.

The only thing for it was to keep backing Cummings – silence from me would only create an unhelpful story – so this evening I tweeted that I welcome the fact that Cummings ‘has provided substantive answers to all the questions put to him’. Apparently it got me some credit in No 10, but I can’t say I felt good about it.

Away from the Cummings s*** show, we had a Cabinet meeting to discuss plans for easing restrictions. It was a bizarre Cabinet, held on Zoom without a single mention of the Cummings-shaped elephant in the room. 

In fact, an absurd amount of bandwidth was occupied by a discussion about whether – when we allow two households to get together outside – people should be permitted to walk through a house to get to a friend’s garden

It’s fine by me, but are people going to ask whether they will also be able to go inside to use the loo? ‘If they’re quick and disinfect the handle?’ the Prof replied.

Who could believe that under a Conservative government, the long arm of the State would find its way into people’s loos?

On Tuesday, May 26, a Sky News reporter called out to Hancock asking if he was going to sack Cummings. Ermm, it wasn’t Hancock’s responsibility, only Boris’s:

June 2020

Thursday, June 4:

Boris messaged me at 6.43am saying he was ‘going quietly crackers’ about not testing enough people. He told me he sees it as our ‘Achilles heel’. He was in a proper flap. ‘What is wrong with our country that we can’t fix this?’ he complained. 

I tried to calm him down. ‘Don’t go crackers,’ I said. ‘We now have the biggest testing capacity in Europe.’ Tempting as it was, I refrained from saying we did this against the obstruction of his own No 10 operation.

Wednesday, June 17:

In an embarrassingly crude power grab, [European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen is trying to wrest control of vaccine research and procurement from EU member states.

Never mind that health is a matter for individual countries: the woman who once sent German army units on manoeuvres with broomsticks – because they didn’t have any rifles – wants to move responsibility for scientific development and manufacture into the sticky paws of Brussels bureaucrats.

I may have voted to Remain, but it’s enough to make a Brexiteer out of anyone.

Friday, June 19:

A massive blow-up with Kate [Bingham, head of the Vaccine Taskforce]. She simply doesn’t see the need to order 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccineshe wants 30 million – and can’t seem to grasp almost everyone may want or need it.

I warned her during today’s meeting that if we don’t get our ducks in a row on this one, we risk a complete car crash.

She pushed back hard. But with the other elected Ministers on my side, I won the argument [for buying 100 million doses].

‘I’m not happy with that meeting,’ Kate snapped afterwards. ‘Nor me,’ I replied.

‘We will create a guide for you to explain what we are doing – there are enormous risks with this,’ she said, as if I don’t spend all my time thinking about how to save lives.

Kate pressed on, claiming that the technology that underpins the vaccine Oxford is working on [Astra-Zeneca] ‘is neither proven nor scaled’, and that she has ‘an expert team who are working round the clock, pushing hard’.

I told her: ‘We need to have tried everything feasibly possible to accelerate delivery. I’ve been asking the same question over and over again and not yet had a satisfactory answer – hence my frustration.’

This only seemed to wind her up further, prompting a mini-lecture about the dangers of trying to go too far too fast.

‘The worse case is we kill people with an unsafe vaccine,’ she said. ‘We need to tone the comms to register the fact this is risky and unproven.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being patronised.

On Wednesday, June 24, Hancock, riding high as the chap in charge of the nation’s health, appeared on Robert Peston’s ITV current affairs show:

July 2020

July 4 was Independence Day from coronavirus in England.

However, separate regulations applied in Leicester, which still had a high rate of infection. Even so, nothing was stopping them travelling elsewhere to socialise or shop:

On Sunday, July 5, Hancock expressed concern over high infection rates and overcrowded working conditions in certain factories in Leicester. It seems he was thinking of certain textile factories operating like sweatshops:

Monday, July 6:

The Vaccine Taskforce have consistently argued that we only need to back three [vaccine] brands. My view is that, to hedge our bets, we need more. Any one of the vaccines could fail in clinical trials.

Fortunately, Rishi and Steve Barclay at the Treasury are totally onside.

Wednesday, July 8:

Rishi’s announced a new Eat Out To Help Out initiative. I did my best to sound supportive, but in truth I’m worried that it might backfire and lead to a spike in cases.

Thursday, July 16:

In my box tonight was one particularly startling note relating to the way Covid has been getting into care homes. The main takeaway is that the virus is primarily being brought in by staff, not by elderly people who’ve been discharged from hospital.

This explains a lot, including why the rise in care home deaths came so much later than would have been the case if hospital discharges were the primary cause. We must ban staff movement between care homes, fast.

On Friday, July 17, news emerged that deaths from natural causes were being classified as coronavirus deaths because of a previous positive test. A retired journalist had the story:

He pointed out that Public Health England (PHE) never announced how they were tabulating deaths. Scotland, of course, tabulated theirs differently:

The question remains: how many ‘Covid’ deaths were true Covid deaths?

Saturday, July 25:

Anyone coming back from Spain from midnight tonight will have to self-quarantine for 14 days. This is very bad news for a lot of British holidaymakers.

Department for Transport officials kept pushing for 24 hours’ notice for the Spain decision, which I thought was curious – Grant Shapps is normally an ‘action this day’ Minister – until I discovered that Grant and his family had just flown there on holiday. The officials were trying, perhaps too hard, to protect their Minister.

In Cobra meetings, Nicola Sturgeon’s political games have become incredibly debilitating and significantly limit scope for open discussion. She sits like a statue, lips pursed like the top of a drawstring bag, only jolting into life when there’s an opportunity to say something to further the separatist cause.

The minute someone presses ‘End Meeting’, you can almost hear her running for a lectern so she can rush out an announcement before we make ours. We now chew over big decisions elsewhere and relegate formal meetings to rubber-stamping exercises.

Monday, July 27:

Downing Street is in a semi-panic about a second wave.

Tuesday, July 28:

Sturgeon is on manoeuvres again, trying to persuade us all to sign up to her impossible and anti- scientific zero-Covid plan.

Sure, we’d all love zero Covid, but that’s about as realistic as a bagpipe-playing unicorn.

She just wants to look and sound tough, then blame us when her policies don’t work.

I can hardly bear to watch her on TV any more.

Wednesday, July 29:

Testing is a continuing concern. We still haven’t sorted procurement for what Boris calls ‘Operation Moonshot’. The idea is to carry out literally millions of Covid tests a day to keep the economy going.

Also on that day:

Officials say we mustn’t eliminate staff movement across care homes because it might lead to a shortage of staff. Yet research shows the risk of outbreaks in care homes doubles if carers are coming and going.

On Thursday, July 30, Bradford was experiencing a high rate of coronavirus. Hancock put restrictions in place.

This was Bradford Council’s message:

Hancock’s restrictions prohibited people meeting up at each other’s homes:

SkyNews had a report on the story:

Fortunately, for them, it might have felt like an eternity but it was temporary.

What wasn’t temporary was his announcement earlier that day that GP appointments would have to take place remotely. This is still in place today, causing untold distress to millions of Britons.

The Guardian reported:

All GP appointments should be done remotely by default unless a patient needs to be seen in person, Matt Hancock has said, prompting doctors to warn of the risk of abandoning face-to-face consultations.

In a speech setting out lessons for the NHS and care sector from the coronavirus pandemic, the health secretary claimed that while some errors were made, “so many things went right” in the response to Covid-19, and new ways of working should continue.

He said it was patronising to claim that older patients were not able to handle technology.

The plan for web-based GP appointments is set to become formal policy, and follows guidance already sent to GPs on having more online consultations.

But the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) hit back, saying it would oppose a predominantly online system on the grounds that both doctors and patients benefited from proper contact.

They don’t seem to think so now, do they?

The article continues:

Addressing the Royal College of Physicians in London, Hancock noted the huge increase in online consultations as much of the NHS closed its doors to focus on the crisis. In the four weeks to mid-April, 71% of routine GP appointments were done remotely against 25% in the same period a year before.

Outlining what he said were the ways the pandemic had demonstrated the need for greater uses of technology in healthcare, Hancock said that before the coronavirus, “there was a view advanced by some which held that anyone over the age of 25 simply could not cope with anything other than a face-to-face appointment”.

He said: “Of course there always has to be a system for people who can’t log on. But we shouldn’t patronise older people by saying they don’t do tech.”

The rise in online consultations had been welcome, he argued, especially in rural areas. “So from now on, all consultations should be tele-consultations unless there’s a compelling clinical reason not to,” Hancock said.

“Of course, if there’s an emergency, the NHS will be ready and waiting to see you in person – just as it always has been. But if they are able to, patients should get in contact first – via the web or by calling in advance.”

Sure, Matt.

What a disaster that policy has proven to be.

The month seemed to end on a positive note with regard to agency staff working in multiple care homes.

July 31:

Good news on banning staff movement in care homes. After I blew my top, officials got the message.

August

By August, even though England was open and people were socialising again, rules were still in place. They caused a lot of confusion, including in Government. Only Boris had mastered them.

Monday, August 3:

To ram home his point about how complicated the Covid rules have got, Boris went round the [Cabinet] table asking everyone to set them out simply. We had endless different answers, and he got them all right

‘I hope colleagues feel I have justified my general reputation for mastery of detail by being RIGHT this morning about the rules. It’s two households inside and six outside,’ he said triumphantly.

Boris was eager for people to get back to work. He saw self-administered tests — lateral flow tests — as the answer.

Friday, August 7:

Boris is having a sugar rush about DIY Covid testing, which he believes could lead us to what’s he’s dubbed – in emphatic capital letters – ‘COVID FREEDOM DAY’. I have no idea who he’s been talking to, but he’s very fired up.

He thinks rapid home tests are the way to ‘get Whitehall and the whole British army of bludgers and skivers’ back to the office and ‘douse all remaining embers of the disease’. Today, I’m on a short break in Hay-on-Wye. When we got to the pub, there was great excitement. I’m not used to people recognising me, so the universal recognition is a bit of a shock. Something I’ll have to get used to, I suppose.

The following year, everyone would know who he was — and not just in the UK. How happy I am that The Sun released that photo of him and his girlfriend. It went viral, worldwide.

Hancock announced the end of Public Health England, which, strangely enough, still seems to be around.

Tuesday, August 18:

[Hancock has announced plans to abolish Public Health England.] On reflection, I should have been more brutal earlier. It wasn’t fit for purpose, and I should have cleared out senior figures who blocked the expansion of testing, basically because they didn’t want the private sector involved.

In response, Angela Rayner [deputy Labour leader] has been tweeting the usual tripe about Tories wanting to privatise the NHS by stealth. Does anyone seriously listen to this c**p any more?

The truth is, we wouldn’t stand a chance of winning this fight against Covid if it wasn’t for support from business. From manufacturing tests to developing the vaccine, the private sector – alongside the NHS and academia – has been critical to the fight.

Friday, August 21:

Border enforcement is a mess. Everyone who flies in to the UK has to fill out a passenger locator form, which they’re supposed to hand to officials on arrival at the airport, but half the time the documents go straight in the bin.

We can blame compulsory masks for secondary school pupils on Nicola Sturgeon. The UK government fears the woman.

Tuesday, August 25:

Nicola Sturgeon blindsided us by suddenly announcing that when schools in Scotland reopen, all secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in classrooms. In one of her most egregious attempts at oneupmanship to date, she didn’t consult us. The problem is that our original guidance on face coverings specifically excluded schools.

Cue much tortured debate between myself, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and No 10 about how to respond.

Much as Sturgeon would relish it, nobody here wants a big spat with the Scots. So, U-turn it is.

Amazing — and not in a good way.

Boris was worried about the British economy, and rightly so.

Wednesday, August 26:

I was minding my own business, when suddenly, ping! Ping! Boris sprang into life. It was 6.29am. He veered off the reservation, suddenly going off on one about how the virus isn’t really killing many people any more so ‘how can we possibly justify the continuing paralysis?’

He noted that an 80-year-old now has a six per cent chance of dying, which he didn’t think was enough to justify what we’re doing.

‘If I were an 80-year-old and I was told that the choice was between destroying the economy and risking my exposure to a disease that I had a 94 per cent chance of surviving, I know what I would prefer,’ he argued.

This exchange, which continued on WhatsApp pretty much all morning, was more than a little stressful, given that it represented a fundamental challenge to our entire pandemic response.

I’m not quite sure what he expected – that the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Scientific Adviser, Cummings and I would all suddenly throw our hands up and say: ‘You know what, you’re right, this whole thing has been a huge mistake. Let’s ditch everything we’re doing and pretend none of it ever happened’?

Fortunately, after a few hours he ran out of both statistics and steam. All the same, I sense a very definite shift in attitude. Something has unsettled him. Who has he been on holiday with?

By the next day, Boris had gone back to normal.

Thursday, August 27:

Overnight, Boris’s creeping suspicion that everything we’re doing has been a catastrophic over-reaction has evaporated as quickly as it appeared, to be replaced by annoyance at the discovery that there is a supply/demand gap for testing

In fact, we are a victim of our own success. Our advertising campaign encouraging more people to come forward for tests has been a bit too effective, and now we’re overwhelmed.

Saturday, August 29:

Boris has started going on about ‘freedom passes’. I think he envisages some sort of app that would allow anyone who can prove they’re negative to get back to normal. I can see the appeal, but I can also see the likely furore over anything resembling ‘Papers, please’.

Covid cases are rocketing in France. ‘We need to draw lessons pronto,’ Boris said, asking if the French have tried local lockdowns or whether it is ‘a case of the whole frog getting slowly boiled?’

September 2020

Wednesday, September 2:

Test and Trace is now identifying more than half of new cases. ‘It’s like the system actually works!’ I messaged Dido Harding [head of Test and Trace] excitedly. ‘Who would have guessed!!’ she replied.

Hancock talked about a vaccine in a coronavirus briefing.

Tuesday, September 8:

I got a blast from No 10 about talking up the vaccine yesterday. Other than Boris, nobody there has ever really believed we can make it happen. In reality, their scepticism suits me, because it means they’re not meddling. The last thing I need is Cummings interfering or the project going through the Cabinet Office mincer.

Restriction tiers across England were looming. An example would be the aforementioned restrictions in Leicester and the north of England where coronavirus was prevalent.

Tuesday, September 15:

The PM is still dithering over restriction tiers, a classic Boris battle between head and heart.

Thursday, September 17:

Cases are growing. Sage [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] thinks we need a two-week ‘circuit-breaker’. Boris seemed confused, doing that thing he does, emphatically verbalising the arguments for and against out loud – alarming everyone as they try to work out where he’s going to land.

Friday, September 18:

We are now at 6,000 new Covid infections a day in England alone, nearly double the figure last week.

By 10pm, No 10 had done a complete about-turn. They now want tougher local lockdowns and more warnings about what happens if people don’t follow the rules. Apparently the PM wants to explain that we have to balance Covid with other health and economic factors. 

Well, no s***. What’s really infuriating is that the people who want action to control the virus didn’t insist on me being there [at meetings] to press the point.

Monday, September 21:

Boris is torn. Everyone’s getting heavy with him, from the Prof to Sage, who say there will be ‘catastrophic consequences’ if we don’t act now. They’ve proposed a two-week circuit-breaker.

Friday, September 25:

An alarming note from the modelling people who advise Sage. They say the epidemic is ‘close to breaching the agreed reasonable worst-case scenario’. Meanwhile, public finances are a horror show – from April to August, the figure borrowed was £173.7 billion

Rishi has clearly been using these figures to freak out the PM. But the only sustainable way to get the economy back on track is to defeat the virus, not pretend it’s gone away.

Saturday, September 26:

We’ve spent millions promoting the [NHS Covid] app, including buying wraparound ads in loads of publications. Just as I was allowing myself a moment of satisfaction at a job well done – or at least not ballsed up – there came news of fresh horror. A major glitch has emerged: the app can’t take data from NHS Covid tests.

I sat very still, trying to absorb the full implications of the fact that we’ve just spent tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on an NHS app that… doesn’t link to the NHS. Which genius thought it would not need to do this, first and foremost? Which other genius signed it off on this basis?

Given the multiple overlapping responsibilities of the various quangos involved, Whitehall’s institutional buck-passing and the involvement of two mega tech companies (Google and Apple), we just didn’t know.

What I did know was the buck stopped with me, and it was probably time to adopt the brace position. I prayed that word of this hideous blunder would not reach Cummings, but that was of course too much to hope. Naturally he went nuts when he found out, and I can’t say I blame him.

I find this sort of screw-up personally mortifying. Should I have asked such a basic and obvious question? I took it for granted that we would link our own app up to our own tests. Never assume!

To be continued tomorrow.

Following on from my news items of November 21, I have more, this time on Thanksgiving, crossword puzzles, technology and health.

Thanksgiving everywhere!

It is hard to disagree with Jordan Cracknell, the American wife of Olympic rower James Cracknell.

On November 22, 2022, she wrote an article for Metro: ‘Thanksgiving is a holiday that all Brits need in their lives’.

I couldn’t agree more, and I wouldn’t restrict it to the UK, either.

The problem is turkey, which the British associate with Christmas dinner. The other problem is the lack of sausage links — chipolatas — which the British associate with turkey and are absent from Thanksgiving dinner.

Not surprisingly, when Mrs Cracknell took her husband to his first Thanksgiving dinner in 2019 at a friend’s house:

he grumbled about ‘the bastardisation of British dishes’

Oh, yes. My far better half thought similarly three decades ago.

Now things are different, in both our households. James Cracknell’s reaction sums up that of those Britons who taste Thanksgiving dinners and become converts:

By the time we’d eaten, he was in awe of the ‘un-Britishly moist and juicy’ turkey.

Indeed. Americans can definitely roast turkey to perfection.

His wife writes:

Now, I am firmly of the belief that this American holiday needs to become a British fixture. 

Of course, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving in honour of our earliest settlers who learned from the Native Americans to cultivate the land and local livestock. That partnership and its bounty was the focus of the feast. The settlers gave thanks to God for that first harvest.

Admittedly, in Florida, initially settled by the Spanish, the menu might not include turkey. However, most Americans follow the New England menu celebrated in Massachusetts in the 1620s: turkey and corn being mainstays.

Jordan Cracknell explains what Americans give thanks for today. Her second paragraph below explains why I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas (emphases mine):

Sometimes it can just be having gratitude for being able to see relatives, who might have travelled thousands of miles across the US. Other times we give thanks for our health.

It is as simple and lovely as that, and unlike Christmas there’s no exchange of presents. A positive and non-materialistic holiday, where all the family get together, is something that seems to be missing from the British annual calendar … 

I’m one of around 166,000 Americans living in the UK, and in my experience, other US expats would also be hard-pressed to give up the holiday …

Since being here, I have managed to convince a handful of UK friends to mark the day by inviting them to dinner. Going in with an open mind, they too have enjoyed it.

Thanksgiving is now James’ favourite US holiday, and not just because of the food. ‘It just makes sense to have two major holidays back-to-back to spend with family,’ he says. ‘Why try and fit it all in over Christmas where inevitably someone gets disappointed?’

I agree – and there are also a lot of benefits to having a holiday where the focus is merely on giving thanks and spending time with your family.

She is the descendant of one of those first settlers in Massachusetts who arrived on the Mayflower and learned from the Wampanoags (pron. ‘Wom-pa-nogs’) how to cultivate the land. As she says:

My ancestors would have starved to death without the help of the Wampanoag people.

True!

There are two other advantages to Thanksgiving, for me, anyway. First, turkey is out of the way for another year, enabling us to eat goose at Christmas. Secondly, it is the start of the holiday season, so we start decorating the house for Christmas in the days that follow.

The Telegraph‘s new Cross Atlantic crossword

Speaking of things American, The Telegraph is introducing a new crossword puzzle called Cross Atlantic.

The article says that The Telegraph was the first British paper to feature crosswords, an American creation. That was around 100 years ago:

It is that rare treat: a new puzzle, to be published every weekend and daily online, in our own Telegraph, a newspaper that knows a thing or two about the genre, having delivered its first crossword to readers almost a century ago, years before Fleet Street rivals cottoned on. The name of the new game gives a hint of its origins: American crosswords whose clues engagingly blend wordplay, odd definitions, colloquialisms, general knowledge and current affairs, stretching and testing the brain without the forbidding challenge that the cryptic grid presents to the uninitiated (and which, in the 1940s, prompted Bletchley Park to use the Telegraph crossword as a test to recruit new code-breakers).

The article shows the first Telegraph crossword, which is splendidly symmetrical and a joy to behold, unlike the new Cross Atlantic, which looks ugly by comparison. I can do the original puzzle, which has quick rather than the cryptic clues that are so characteristic of British newspaper crosswords.

My British readers will be interested to know that the geeky comedian Dave Gorman already sets the paper’s cryptic crosswords and offers this advice to neophytes like me:

The formulations are unavoidable. The most frequent are hints that an anagram may be involved – using words like ‘unsettled’ that indicate other parts of the clue are anagrams of the answer. Then there are substitutes for letters. For example, ‘sailor’ often indicates the use of ‘AB’ for Able Bodied. Most solutions blend several such elements in directing the reader to a single answer.

I am lost already. I would not connect the word ‘sailor’ with the terms ‘AB’ or ‘Able Bodied’.

Anyway:

To the inexperienced, says Gorman, all this can seem impossibly complicated, not to say convoluted – an off-putting ritual only for those initiated into its dark arts.

But there is a shortcut, he says, a way that smug solvers rarely mention. This is the fact that each clue contains a simple, straightforward pointer to the whole answer. What surrounds it are small elements of the whole. But if you can find that critical definition, usually at the beginning or end of the clue, you can leap straight to guessing at the answer. Then, says Gorman, ‘you can work backwards’, to confirm your guess using the other elements of the clue.

Take a poser of which Dave is extremely proud. The elements are as follows: sea eagles are known as ernes. ‘Min’ is an abbreviation of minimum, or smallest. Golf, as military folk know, is the letter ‘G’ in the Nato alphabet. And a way, or path, is also a course.

Again, that would not even enter my head.

Continuing on:

Armed with all that, try deciphering the clue: Eagles on the smallest golf course.

Did you get it?

No, I did not.

Here’s the solution:

ERNES+THE+MIN+G+WAY. Which may still look baffling. But that’s before you add the clue to the whole answer and the number of letters:

Writer eagles on the smallest golf course (6,9) = Ernest Hemingway.

Gorman says that ‘it’s far from being the best clue I’ve written but the discovery of it – the idea that a real person’s name can also quite sensibly be rendered as a meaningful sentence – is somewhat delightful. There’s no wrestling it into submission, adding an initial of something here or the last letter of something there. So it feels like it’s been hiding in plain sight for ever. It’s like discovering a fossil on a Dorset beach – the setter doesn’t invent a clue, they find it.’

I’ll leave cryptic crosswords there. Life is too short.

Old technology fans

On Wednesday, November 23, The Guardian had a fascinating article about fans of old technology, from 100-year-old typewriters to Atari. A number of the people interviewed would have been too young to experience the initial rush when these items first appeared.

The comments were equally fascinating. I read them all. It’s amazing what people still enjoy and why.

Definitely an article to enjoy on Black Friday, while the rest of the family is out Christmas shopping.

The ‘big night out’ returns

Thankfully, after two years of pandemic fears, the big night out has returned.

This is the complete opposite to staying in with old tech.

On Saturday, November 19, The Times reported that disco-style skating rinks are this year’s hot venue for Christmas parties:

This month has seen the arrival of Flipper’s, a vast rink in a disused power station in west London, large enough to house 1,800 guests. Whatever you do, though, don’t call it a roller disco — it is a roller “boogie palace”, insists the venue, which has become one of the hottest places to host a Christmas party this year

And it is not the only new skate venue to open in recent months. Two new rinks have opened in Manchester, including Paradise Skate World, which has seen Christmas bookings flood in. It’s billed as an intergalactic experience, with tunnels you whizz through on the dancefloor and the option to hire “space visors”.

“The obvious route was to go down the retro 1980s style, but we didn’t want to regurgitate old ideas,” says Chris Legh, the co-founder, who was also behind Junkyard Golf Club, another so-called “competitive socialising” format. This is the term used to describe a phenomenon of the past decade which has transformed the nightlife of many towns. Instead of going out drinking with your friends, you take part in some low-level sporting competition: ping-pong, crazy golf, cricket nets or axe-throwing …

Flipper’s is co-owned by Liberty Ross, the model and daughter of Ian “Flipper” Ross, who founded the original rollerskating nightclub in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. It was swifty dubbed “Studio 54 on wheels” because it attracted Prince, Robin Williams, Elton John, Nile Rodgers, Cher and other hard-partying celebrities. It lasted until 1981 before it shut down

At Flipper’s it costs £22.50 for a two-hour session for an adult, including the hire of skates in a funky electric-blue suede.

Legh has another theory as to why rollerskating has become the new party craze: “If you are in charge of your Christmas party and you only have a £30-a-head budget, do you really want to spend £20 of it throwing drinks down your throat? Because so many young people don’t drink now, there is still quite a bit of discretionary spending, and skating feels active and wholesome.

“For a couple of hours, it is escapism from the digital world,” he adds. “Sure, people will take photos and post them on Instagram, but you can’t be on WhatsApp while you’re skating.”

Partying deplored in 1922

Every generation thinks it is the first to decry partying.

To the finger-waggers, any and every party is bad, especially where seemingly endless alcohol and — gasp! — cigarettes are involved.

On November 23, The Times dug out an article on the topic from its 1922 archive: ‘What cocktails, cigarettes and unhealthy meals meant for “society girls”‘.

In reality, most socialites, then and now, get parties out of their system early on and settle down with a husband and a family.

But there’s always someone, then and now, who wants to make them out to be physical and psychological wrecks.

Such was the case with Dr Agnes Savill, who delivered a lecture on partying socialites a century ago:

Dr Agnes Savill delivered a lecture on “The Dangers of Society to Health” at the Institute of Hygiene last evening. She said that the development of communities was found in the earliest stages of human society, and this gathering together of families to share a common life had many advantages, provided the individuals concerned were of a high grade and had a sound organization.

… the girl who could command her parents’ wealth left school for a life of continual excitement which resulted in mental and physical deterioration

“I have seen some of these girls after a few years of society life aged by ten years and, before the age of twenty, as worn out and nerve-tired as if they were forty.

The hectic life of continual excitement, the absence of all repose, all time for meditation, the perpetual change, the cigarette smoking, irregular and unhealthy meals — no wonder these girls become the prey of disease. And though the physical consequences are disastrous, even of greater importance is the evil effect of this life upon the character.

“Society life is responsible for deficient sleep and consequent deterioration of the nervous system. It encourages the pernicious habit of the too-frequent cigarette. It encourages the girls to take cocktails and whiskies-and-sodas, which ruin their digestion, impair their livers, and upset the nervous system, and it encourages them to take rich foods, which upset the rhythm of the body.

“The ill-health of modern society girls is in a measure the fault of their parents, who have it in their hands to postpone the downfall of our modern civilization.”

My diagnosis of Dr Savill? She was deeply envious, as are all killjoys — then and now — who wish to restrain us, young and old, from having a bit of fun.

Most socialites have taken great care of themselves throughout their lives. Very few deteriorate. They cannot. They are in the public eye all the time.

Online gambling ‘addiction’ damaging young adults

Unlike cocktails, ciggies and rich food, there is a serious phenomenon affecting some twenty-somethings, especially young men on low incomes: the lure of online gambling.

I first read about this phenomenon in a French newsweekly earlier this year. Young lads place bets on sporting events, most often football fixtures, often prompted by frequent texts from gambling firms. Enough young men are going into debt and are sometimes driven to suicide because of it to be a worry.

In fact, the French government is currently running an advert about the lure of online gambling, showing some of the texts those who bet often receive. I’ve seen them on M6. If they were in English, they’d be something along the lines of:

Hi there, haven’t heard from you in a while. Fancy a flutter?

The more the recipient ignores the messages, the more frequent they become, driven by algorithms.

The Times has a good article from November 22 on what is happening in the UK, especially in England. It says that victims also come from the middle classes. Furthermore, young women are also affected:

Health bosses urged betting firms to “think hard about the human cost behind their profits” after a 42 per cent annual rise in demand for NHS gambling clinics was revealed.

Doctors said more patients were attending A&E after losing all their money in online betting sprees. NHS gambling clinics are full of “young men in football shirts” who have fallen foul of “predatory tactics” by betting firms, including a boom in addictive “in-play” sports betting.

The health service will announce tomorrow that it has opened clinics in Southampton and Stoke, adding to a national network of five commissioned in 2019. Figures seen by The Times show that 599 patients have been referred to the service in the past six months, a 42 per cent increase on the same period last year and up 65 per cent from 2020-21.

The clinics offer addiction therapy, including medication usually given to opioid users to reduce cravings. Patients can be sent by GPs or hospitals or self-refer and usually spend several months in treatment. One in three have attempted suicide; 57 per cent report thinking they would be better off dead. There are more than 400 gambling-related suicides a year in England.

Matthew Gaskell, a consultant psychologist and clinical lead at NHS Northern Gambling Service, said that almost all the patients it saw were hooked on online gambling, including in-play betting, which allows fans to bet on every aspect of a live game. He said: “People start gambling as soon as they wake up in the morning; they’re gambling in the shower, gambling while they’re driving to work. The NHS is picking up the tab.

“There has been an increase in people turning up at A&E in crisis, in a state of suicide. People are completely desperate, begging for help and seeing suicide as a genuine escape.” The service opened in 2019 and has clinics in Leeds, Manchester and Sunderland.

With football’s World Cup going on as I write, one can only imagine the damage.

The article profiles a 34-year-old woman who developed an online slot machine addiction at the age of 24:

Jennifer, a young mother, spent weeks in hospital and lost custody of her children after her gambling addiction triggered a mental breakdown.

Jennifer — a pseudonym because she did not want to reveal her real name — began gambling a decade ago aged 24, and became addicted to online slot machines, feeling trapped “in a never-ending spiral with no escape”.

By 2019 Jennifer had £40,000 of debt and was declared bankrupt. Her mental health collapsed and she was admitted to hospital, with social services taking control of her children

She has not placed a bet for two years. She said: “The group therapy made me realise there’s gambling addicts from all walks of life. By giving me the tools to manage gambling addiction, I’ve had the platform to rebuild my life financially and it means the world to me to be with my kids again as a happy family.”

The article briefly mentioned two young men who took their lives, one of whom was an English teacher:

Jack Ritchie, 24, an English teacher, killed himself in 2017 after six years of battling his addiction to gambling.

Joshua Jones, 23, a talented jazz musician, leapt to his death from a ninth-floor balcony in 2015 after an addiction that culminated in him gambling all his money away and even selling his prized trombone.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of betting shops, but at least, I would imagine, they have some human control. Men who frequent betting shops often have a group of mates they meet up with there. They might tell their friend that he’s been betting too much too often. The staff behind the counter are also likely to have a kind word with someone they see a bit too frequently.

Feet rule knees and hips

On November 19, The Times had an instructive article on the importance of our feet and how they affect other parts of our body.

While this is intended mostly for women, sedentary men would do well to pay attention, too:

According to Dalton Wong, the founder of Twenty-Two Training and who has worked with a host of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Olivia Colman, stretching and strengthening the lower limbs can prevent pain in the feet and postural problems elsewhere in the body. Yet most of us neglect to focus on strengthening the 29 muscles of the foot and ankle.

“I am seeing an increasing number of clients coming in with hip, lower-back and knee issues that can be traced back to weakness and instability of their foot and ankle,” Wong says. “What so many don’t realise is that if you are not working your foot muscles enough, then it is reflected further up the body as ankle, knee and hip joints don’t work well.” Anatomically, these interconnecting body parts, joints and muscles that work together to perform particular movements are referred to as the kinetic chain. “Our toes, feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, upper legs, hips, pelvis and spine are all part of the body’s lower kinetic chain,” Wong says. “If one part is weak or out of kilter it has the potential to affect the rest of the chain.”

A strong, healthy foot has a moderately high arch, minimal overpronation — rolling inwards — and some natural spreading of the toes. There are four layers of muscle and soft tissue in the feet that help to lock them into position and keep us upright. A team of Harvard researchers writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine described how the foot has an intertwining central “core” of muscles that work to maintain a naturally raised arch, providing us with the stability needed to hold us in good posture or to support even the most basic movement patterns, such as walking. It follows that misuse of these muscles through, say, lots of sitting or the wearing of ill-fitting shoes can play havoc with foot performance and structure. For starters, too little strength of muscles in the feet can lead to decreased ankle mobility. “If your ankles are stiff and inflexible, you will be less able to transfer weight from foot to foot in a walking or running stride,” says Lucinda Meade, a physiotherapist at Twenty-Two Training.

We should be able to flex our toes easily:

Big toe mobility is particularly important for better balance and gait. “If you can’t bend and flex the big toe, your posture and functional movement will deteriorate,” Meade says. “We should be moving all of our toes, especially our big toes, freely for at least 15 minutes every day.”

Walking around in bare feet is also helpful:

Wong recommends that his clients perform some weekly workouts barefoot. “We spend so little time without shoes that even 20-30 minutes a couple of times a week going barefoot is helpful for strengthening the feet,” he says. Not that you should ditch shoes for workouts overnight. “It takes time to strengthen the muscles in the feet, so build up your barefoot time gradually, starting with 5-10 minutes daily,” Wong says.

Your ability to walk around in bare feet is dictated not just by the feet but by the strength of your glutes in supporting the pelvis and hips, and if these muscles are not strong enough the inside of the foot will collapse if you suddenly go shoeless, Wong says.

At the very least, practise some foot moves for ten minutes each day. “Setting aside some time for your feet will pay huge dividends,” Wong says. “And if your feet are tired or tight, roll them on a cold bottle of water to release the fascia underneath the foot.”

The article has simple foot exercises that anyone can do.

Who knew the role feet played in governing the body? I certainly didn’t.

Egg news latest

And finally, barely a day goes by without a story about Britain’s notional egg shortage. My last news post had an article about egg substitutes.

On Tuesday, November 22, The Telegraph reported that supermarkets will be rationing eggs and that the shortage is expected to last six months.

The second sentence below irritated me:

Both M&S and Morrisons have confirmed its customers are now limited to two boxes each. A spokesperson for Morrisons, which only sells British eggs, said the rationing followed “unprecedented demand” at the end of last week.

The reason for ‘unprecedented demand’ came from the media, blasting news of a ‘shortage’ here, there and everywhere.

At my supermarket, egg prices have remained relatively static for around two years: £1.10 for six, then $1.20 and, only within the past few weeks, £1.40.

Someone’s not getting paid properly — the farmers:

farmers are grappling with double-digit inflation in the price of feed and soaring energy costs to store eggs. The National Farmers’ Union has warned the supply chain issues causing egg shortages on supermarket shelves could last until next summer …

Farmers who are currently making a loss on eggs are not reinvesting in new flocks of hens, leading to a shortage for shoppers.

Robert Gooch, of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association, said the egg shortages would last until “retailers pay a fair price to farmers” …

Ioan Humphreys, a fourth generation farmer in Wales, has 32,000 birds, for which the cost of feed has risen from £250 a tonne last year to £400 today. Meanwhile his electric bill on the farm has more than tripled.

But since December, Mr Humphreys has only received a 5p increase from retailers for each dozen eggs he sells them and is operating at a loss.

He said: “I have got to sell them even if at a loss to get some money in.

“Retailers are blaming bird flu for the shortages, but I haven’t culled one bird from my flock this year. There are shortages on the shelves because farmers are not being paid fairly by supermarkets.”

An M&S spokesperson said the company had provided “additional support, including for animal feed” to help suppliers manage rising costs. Meanwhile Sainsburys said it had increased the amount it paid to its own-brand egg packers, not directly to farmers, by 40pc in the past year.

A spokesman for Asda said the supermarket was “working hard” with its egg suppliers to resolve industry challenges.

Tesco and Ocado did not respond to requests for comment.

——————————————————————————————————-

In conclusion, I hope that my American readers had an enjoyable turkey day and that they’ve got plenty left over to enjoy this weekend.

My far better half and I never miss a Neil Oliver editorial during his Saturday evening GB News shows.

His topic is the changing fabric of the Western world post-pandemic, whether it be through farming prohibitions, climate change or the ongoing revelations about coronavirus policies.

Here is the transcript and the video from his August 13 editorial:

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

It is hard to think the unthinkable – but there comes a time when there’s nothing else for it. People raised to trust the powers that be – who have assumed, like I once did, that the State, regardless of its political flavour at any given moment, is essentially benevolent and well-meaning – will naturally try and keep that assumption of benevolence in mind when trying to make sense of what is going on around them.

People like us, you and me, raised in the understanding that we are free, that we have inalienable rights, and that the institutions of this country have our best interests at heart, will tend to tie ourselves in knots rather than contemplate the idea those authorities might actually be working against us now. I took that thought of benevolent, well-meaning authority for granted for most of my life, God help me. Not to put too fine a point on it, I was as gullible as the next chump.

A couple of years ago, however, I began to think the unthinkable and with every passing day it becomes more and more obvious to me that we are no longer being treated as individuals entitled to try and make the most of our lives – but as a barn full of battery hens, just another product to be bought and sold – sold down the river

Once the scales fall from a person’s eyes, the resultant clarity of sight is briefly overwhelming. Or it is like being handed a skeleton key that opens every locked door, or access to a Rosetta Stone that translates every word into a language instantly understood.

Take the energy crisis: If you’ve felt the blood drain from your face at the prospect of bills rising from hundreds to several thousands of pounds while reading about energy companies doubling their profits overnight while being commanded to subsidise so-called renewables that are anything but Green while listening to this politician or that renew their vows to the ruinous fantasies of Net Zero and Agenda 2030 while knowing that the electricity for electric cars comes, in the main and most reliably, from fossil fuels if you can’t make sense of it all and just know that it adds up to a future in which you might have to choose between eating and heating then treat yourself to the gift of understanding that the powers that be fully intend that we should have less heat and less fuel and that in the planned future only the rich will have cars anyway. The plan is not to fix it.

The plan is to break it, and leave it broken. If you struggle to think the best of the world’s richest – vacuous, self-obsessed A-list celebrities among them – endlessly circling the planet on private jets and super yachts, so as to attend get-togethers where they might pontificate to us lowly proles about how we must give up our cars and occasional holiday flights – even meat on the dinner table … if you wonder how they have the unmitigated gall … then isn’t it easier simply to accept that their honestly declared and advertised intention is that their luxurious and pampered lives will continue as before while we are left hungry, cold and mostly unwashed in our unheated homes.

Here’s the thing: if any leader or celeb honestly meant a word of their sermons about CO2 and the rest, then they would obviously lead by example. They would be first of all of us willingly to give up international travel altogether … they would downsize to modest homes warmed by heat pumps. They would eschew all energy but that from the sun and the wind. They would eat, with relish, bugs and plants. They would resort to walking, bicycles and public transport. If Net Zero and the rest was about the good of the planet – and not about clearing the skies and the beaches of scum like us – don’t you think those sainted politicians and A-listers would be lighting the way for us by their own example? If the way of life they preach to us was worth living, wouldn’t they be living it already? Perhaps you heard Bill Gates say private jets are his guilty pleasure.

And how about food – and more particularly the predicted shortage of it: the suits and CEOs blame it all on Vladimir Putin. But if the countries of the world are truly running out of food, why is our government offering farmers hundreds of thousands of pounds to get out of the industry and sell their land to transnational corporations for use, or disuse unknown? Why aren’t we, as a society, doing what our parents and grandparents did during WWII and digging for victory? Why is the government intent on turning a third of our fertile soil over to re-wilding schemes that make life better only for the beavers? Why aren’t we looking across the North Sea towards the Netherlands where a WEF-infected administration is bullying farmers off their land altogether, forcing them to cull half the national herd

Why do you think it matters so much, to the government of the second most productive population of farmers in the world, to gut and fillet that industry? Why? Why have similar protests, in countries all across Europe and the wider world, been largely ignored by the mainstream media – a media that would have crawled on its hands and knees over broken glass just to report on a BLM protester opening a bag of non-binary crisps. Why the silence on the attack on farming?

Isn’t the simple obvious answer … the answer that makes most sense and that is staring us in our trusting faces … that power for the power-hungry has always rested most effectively upon control of food and its supply? Why are the powers that be attributing this to a cost of living crisis when everyone with two brain cells to rub together can see it’s a cost of lockdown crisis – the inevitable consequence of shutting down the whole country – indeed the whole world – for the best part of two years. Soaring inflation, rising interest rates, disrupted supply chains

Rather than dismiss as yet another conspiracy theory the idea of cash being ultimately replaced with transactions based on the exchange of what amount to glorified food stamps that will only be accepted if our social credit score demonstrates that we’ve been obedient girls or boys … how about taking the leap and focussing on the blatantly obvious … that if we are not free to buy whatever and whenever we please, free of the surveillance and snooping of governments and the banks that run them, then we have absolutely no freedom at all. And while we’re on the subject of money and banks, why not pause to notice something else that is glaringly obvious – which is to say that the currencies of the West are teetering on the abyss, and that one bank after another is revealed, to those who are bothering to watch, as being as close to bankruptcy as its possible to be without actually falling over the edge.

Then there’s the so-called vaccines for Covid – I deliberately say “so-called” because by now it should be clear to all but the wilfully blind that those injections do not work as advertised. You can still contract the virus, still transmit the virus, still get sick and still die. Denmark has dropped their use on under-18s. All across the world, every day, more evidence emerges – however grudgingly, however much the various complicit authorities and Big-Pharma companies might hate to admit it – of countless deaths and injuries caused by those medical procedures

Now I ask myself on a daily basis how I ignored the stench for so long. Across the Atlantic, the Biden White House sent the FBI to raid the home of former president Donald Trump. Meanwhile Joe Biden and his son Hunter – he of the laptop full of the most appalling and incriminating content – fly together on Air Force 1. No raids planned on the Obamas, nor on the Clintons. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi flew to Taiwan and onwards to China. Her son Paul, an investor in a Chinese tech firm and with seats on the board of companies dealing in lithium, was along for the ride, into that part of the world where three quarters of the world’s lithium batteries are made. Taiwan leads in that technology.

It is hard to think the unthinkable. It’s hard to think that all of it, all the misery, all the suffering of the past and to come might just be about money, greed and power. It is hard to tell yourself you’ve been taken for a fool and taken for a ride. It’s hard, but the view from the other side is worth the effort and the pain. Open your eyes and see.

In the middle of last week, Rishi Sunak gave an interview to Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, about his view on the Government’s coronavirus policy and SAGE, their medical and scientific advisory team.

Excerpts from ‘The lockdown files: Rishi Sunak on what we weren’t told’ follow:

When we meet at the office he has rented for his leadership campaign, soon to enter its final week, he says at the outset that he’s not interested in pointing the finger at the fiercest proponents of lockdown. No one knew anything at the start, he says: lockdown was, by necessity, a gamble. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, would openly admit that lockdown could do more harm than good. But when the evidence started to roll in, a strange silence grew in government: dissenting voices were filtered out and a see-no-evil policy was applied.

Sunak’s story starts with the first Covid meeting, where ministers were shown an A3 poster from scientific advisers explaining the options. ‘I wish I’d kept it because it listed things that had no impact: banning live events and all that,’ he says. ‘It was saying: you should be careful not to do this stuff too early, because being able to sustain it is very hard in a modern society.’ So the scientific advice was, initially, to reject or at least delay lockdown.

This all changed when Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College published their famous ‘Report 9’, which argued that Covid casualties could hit 500,000 if no action was taken – but the figure could be below 20,000 if Britain locked down. That, of course, turned out to be a vast exaggeration of lockdown’s ability to curb Covid deaths …

A cost-benefit calculation – a basic requirement for pretty much every public health intervention – was never made. ‘I wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off,’ says Sunak. Ministers were briefed by No. 10 on how to handle questions about the side-effects of lockdown. ‘The script was not to ever acknowledge them. The script was: oh, there’s no trade-off, because doing this for our health is good for the economy.’

When he did try to raise concerns, he met a brick wall. ‘Those meetings were literally me around that table, just fighting. It was incredibly uncomfortable every single time.’ He recalls one meeting where he raised education. ‘I was very emotional about it. I was like: “Forget about the economy. Surely we can all agree that kids not being in school is a major nightmare” or something like that. There was a big silence afterwards. It was the first time someone had said it. I was so furious.’

One of Sunak’s big concerns was about the fear messaging, which his Treasury team worried could have long-lasting effects. ‘In every brief, we tried to say: let’s stop the “fear” narrative. It was always wrong from the beginning. I constantly said it was wrong.’ The posters showing Covid patients on ventilators, he said, were the worst. ‘It was wrong to scare people like that.’ The closest he came to defying this was in a September 2020 speech saying that it was time to learn to ‘live without fear’ – a direct response to the Cabinet Office’s messaging. ‘They were very upset about that.’

Lockdown – closing schools and much of the economy while sending the police after people who sat on park benches – was the most draconian policy introduced in peacetime. No. 10 wanted to present it as ‘following the science’ rather than a political decision, and this had implications for the wiring of government decision-making. It meant elevating Sage, a sprawling group of scientific advisers, into a committee that had the power to decide whether the country would lock down or not. There was no socioeconomic equivalent to Sage; no forum where other questions would be asked.

So whoever wrote the minutes for the Sage meetings – condensing its discussions into guidance for government – would set the policy of the nation. No one, not even cabinet members, would know how these decisions were reached.

In the early days, Sunak had an advantage. ‘The Sage people didn’t realise for a very long time that there was a Treasury person on all their calls. A lovely lady. She was great because it meant that she was sitting there, listening to their discussions.’

But his victories were few and far between. One, he says, came in May 2020 when the first plans were being drawn to move out of lockdown in summer. ‘There’s some language in there that you will see because I fought for it,’ he says. ‘It talked about non-Covid health impact.’ Just a few sentences, he says, but he views the fact that lockdown side-effects were recognised at all at that point as a triumph.

He doesn’t name Matt Hancock, who presided over all of this as health secretary, or Liz Truss, who was silent throughout. As he said at the outset, he doesn’t want to name names but rather to speak plainly about what the public was not told – and the process that led to this. Typically, he said, ministers would be shown Sage analysis pointing to horrifying ‘scenarios’ that would come to pass if Britain did not impose or extend lockdown. But even he, as chancellor, could not find out how these all-important scenarios had been calculated.

Liz Truss was not part of the ‘quad’, though, the four Cabinet ministers who determined policy. If I remember rightly, the ‘quad’ were Boris, Hancock, Michael Gove and Rishi. Truss claimed that she didn’t speak up because she was told that the decisions were a fait accompli. Nelson verifies that below.

Returning to Rishi:

‘I was like: “Summarise for me the key assumptions, on one page, with a bunch of sensitivities and rationale for each one”,’ Sunak says. ‘In the first year I could never get this.’ The Treasury, he says, would never recommend policy based on unexplained modelling: he regarded this as a matter of basic competence. But for a year, UK government policy – and the fate of millions –was being decided by half-explained graphs cooked up by outside academics.

‘This is the problem,’ he says. ‘If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed.’ Sir Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, has suggested that Sage should have been asked to report to a higher committee, which would have considered the social and economic aspects of locking down. Sunak agrees. But having been anointed from the start, Sage retained its power until the rebellion that came last Christmas.

In December 2021, at the time JP Morgan’s lockdown analysis appeared:

He flew back early from a trip to California. By this time JP Morgan’s lockdown analysis was being emailed around among cabinet ministers like a samizdat paper, and they were ready to rebel. Sunak met Johnson. ‘I just told him it’s not right: we shouldn’t do this.’ He did not threaten to resign if there was another lockdown, ‘but I used the closest formulation of words that I could’ to imply that threat. Sunak then rang around other ministers and compared notes.

Normally, cabinet members were not kept in the loop as Covid-related decisions were being made – Johnson’s No. 10 informed them after the event, rather than consulting them. Sunak says he urged the PM to pass the decision to cabinet so that his colleagues could give him political cover for rejecting the advice of Sage. ‘I remember telling him: have the cabinet meeting. You’ll see. Every-one will be completely behind you… You don’t have to worry. I will be standing next to you, as will every other member of the cabinet, bar probably Michael [Gove] and Saj [Javid].’ As it was to prove.

Nelson claims that Rishi is telling the truth:

For what it’s worth, his account squares with what I picked up from his critics in government: that the money-obsessed Sunak was on a one-man mission to torpedo lockdown. And perhaps the Prime Minister as well. ‘Everything I did was seen through the prism of: “You’re trying to be difficult, trying to be leader,”’ he says. He tried not to challenge the Prime Minister in public, or leave a paper trail. ‘I’d say a lot of stuff to him in private,’ he says. ‘There’s some written record of everything. In general, people leak it – and it causes problems.’

Rishi said why he did not resign at the time:

To quit in that way during a pandemic, he says, would have been irresponsible. And to go public, or let his misgivings become known, would have been seen as a direct attack on the PM.

At the time, No. 10’s strategy was to create the impression that lockdown was a scientifically created policy which only crackpots dared question

David Cameron employed the same strategy with the Brexit referendum in 2016. He said that the only people supporting Leave were ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

Rishi explained why he waited until now to speak out:

He is opening up not just because he is running to be prime minister, he says, but because there are important lessons in all of this. Not who did what wrong, but how it came to pass that such important questions about lockdown’s profound knock-on effects – issues that will probably dominate politics for years to come – were never properly explored

And the other lessons of lockdown? ‘We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did,’ he says. ‘And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that, we could be in a very different place.’ How different? ‘We’d probably have made different decisions on things like schools, for example.’ Could a more frank discussion have helped Britain avoid lockdown entirely, as Sweden did? ‘I don’t know, but it could have been shorter. Different. Quicker.’

Even now, Sunak doesn’t argue that lockdown was a mistake – just that the many downsides in health, the economy and society in general could have been mitigated if they had been openly discussed. An official inquiry has begun, but Sunak says there are lessons to learn now …

To Sunak, this was the problem at the heart of the government’s Covid response: a lack of candour. There was a failure to raise difficult questions about where all this might lead – and a tendency to use fear messaging to stifle debate, instead of encouraging discussion. So in a sentence, how would he have handled the pandemic differently? ‘I would just have had a more grown-up conversation with the country.’

Hmm.

On Thursday, August 25, Fraser Nelson wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘Rishi Sunak is just the start. The great lockdown scandal is about to unravel’:

For some time, I’ve been trying to persuade Rishi Sunak to go on the record about what really happened in lockdown. Only a handful of people really know what took place then, because most ministers – including members of the Cabinet – were kept in the dark. Government was often reduced to a “quad” of ministers deciding on Britain’s future and the then chancellor of the exchequer was one of them. I’d heard rumours that Sunak was horrified at much of what he saw, but was keeping quiet. In which case, lessons would never be learnt.

His speaking out now confirms much of what many suspected. That the culture of fear, seen in the Orwellian advertising campaign that sought to terrify the country, applied inside Government. Questioning lockdown, even in ministerial meetings, was seen as an attack on the Prime Minister’s authority. To ask even basic questions – about how many extra cancer deaths there might be, for example – was to risk being portrayed as one the crackpots, the “Cov-idiots”, people who wanted to “let the virus rip”. Hysteria had taken hold in the heart of Whitehall …

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance began by advising ministers not to lock down, saying public events were fine, and that face masks were pointless. They were talking about herd immunity as the way out. Then they flipped entirely. But this reveals something crucial: lockdown never was backed by science. It was about models and suppositions, educated guesswork. It was driven by moods, emotion, fear – and, worst of all, politics masquerading as science.

This is part of Sunak’s point. He doesn’t say locking down was wrong. Just that it somehow went from being a daft idea, rubbished by scientists, to a national imperative whose necessity was unquestionable scientific truth. So we need to ask: was the fear messaging really necessary? Why were No 10 outriders sent out to savage dissenting scientists? Why was Sunak made to feel, as he told me, that he was being seen – even inside government – as a callous money-grabber when he raised even basic concerns?

The disclosures should start a great unravelling of the lockdown myth, its pseudo-scientific sheen stripped away and the shocking political malfeasance left to stand exposed. Were Sage minutes manipulated, with dissent airbrushed out? If Sage “scenarios” were cooked up on fundamentally wrong assumptions we need to know, because that will mean lockdowns were imposed or extended upon a false premise. A premise that could have been exposed as false, had there been basic transparency or proper scrutiny.

This isn’t just about a virus. An autocratic streak took hold of the Government and overpowered a weak Prime Minister – and did so because our democratic safeguards failed. It should have been impossible for policies of such huge consequence to be passed without the most rigorous scrutiny. So many lives were at risk that every single lockdown assumption should have been pulled apart to see if it was correct. It should have been impossible for government to suspend such scrutiny for more than a few weeks.

I suspect that this authoritarian reflex lies embedded in our system, ready to twitch again. Life, after all, is easier without opposition so if tools exist to suspend it, we can expect them to be grabbed

Sunak doesn’t speak like a man expecting to end up in No 10. He said earlier this week that he would rather lose having been honest with people than win by telling half-truths. Opening up on lockdown may not save, or even help, his campaign. But his candour has offered important insights into one of the most important stories of our times – and one that is only beginning to be told.

As the then-Chancellor, he was the most powerful man in Government after Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rishi held the nation’s purse strings and could have said ‘no’ at any point to the policies. But he didn’t.

It was difficult to know exactly what Rishi’s motives were in giving such an interview. Perhaps he was trying to glean votes from sceptical Conservative Party members in a last ditch attempt to save his candidacy.

Whatever his reason, one outcome was that it got Covid sceptics talking again, with some indirect support from him.

On Friday, August 26, one of those sceptics, Bev Turner, delivered a guest host editorial on GB News.

She was not happy with Rishi’s silence over Government policy:

Now, Rishi Sunak says that lockdowns “could have been shorter. Different. Quicker. We could be in a very different place”, he says now with the benefit of hindsight that some of us never needed… Apparently, as the economy tanks, he regrets the Government’s Covid strategy, stating that the scientists at Sage should never have been put in charge of the country’s response.

Well…who knew?…thanks for that, Rishi. Now I can sleep at night….except of course I can’t. And I won’t until there are arrests over the despotic, unscientific measures of the scamdemic and the perverted profits sucked up by vampirical pharma companies aided and abetted by a media paid off to the tune of £300m. Paid for, by Rishi Sunak’s department with our tax payers money!

“If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed,” he now says in reference to Sage, “We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did.”

She brought up Susan Michie, who is now — or who soon will be — working for the WHO:

a leading member of Sage is a life-long member of the Communist Party and might just have enjoyed the frisson of power.

She wondered why Rishi didn’t do more in his position of power:

… Rishi’s wrong, you can empower scientists – except that as with any medical decision – the consequences of which could be life-changing, you seek a second opinion.

Are you telling us, Rishi Sunak, that you didn’t have the chance, at one of your Sage meetings to ask your colleagues to read The Great Barrington Declaration for instance? That statement written in October 2020 by some of the world’s top epidemiologists and public health scientists in which they expressed their grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of your policies, instead recommending more Focused Protection for the vulnerable. They were publicly discredited as ‘fringe’ according to leaked emails and denounced as quacks. You should have had the gumption, Rishi Sunak, to insist to your team that there might have been a different way.

Rishi acknowledged that there was no cost-benefit analysis of the lockdowns. I remember a handful of  Conservative MPs asking for them in Parliament. Answer there came none.

Bev discussed her own demonisation during the pandemic:

Is he FINALLY referencing the necessity of a cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns?

Let me tell you, after making such statements on TV I was vilified by the press, demonised on social media and written off by former employers as a selfish granny-killer

But it was so obvious if you chose to look. You didn’t need to be the Chancellor to see what was coming. You just needed to switch off the BBC; seek out people who were looking at facts rather than trilling with emotion.

It wasn’t easy taking a public stance for the poor, the old, the young, and anyone who was going to suffer harms from Covid theatre. But I did it anyway. Because it was the right thing to do.

She finds it hard to support Rishi’s stance:

In my opinion, Sunak’s words paint a picture of a man who lacked the spine to publicly call-out what he now says he knew were policy mistakes. How dare you, Rishi Sunak, How dare you

… He wasn’t a passenger when, long after we had a clear picture of the infection fatality rate, said nothing to stop confused, 98-year-old care-home residents having to mouth “I love you” through windows when all they wanted was to hold someone’s hand.

Sunak wasn’t a passenger when schools closed; when the decades-old pandemic response plan was mysteriously ripped up in favour of a Chinese style quarantine-the-healthy strategy. He wasn’t a passenger when the Chief Medical Officers took to their lecterns with baffling figures seemingly obfuscated to maintain the fear.

He was a driver, one of a handful up front at the wheel, map in hand as he helped drive the country into a brick wall with businesses closed, families destroyed, mental health problems exacerbated and some educational achievements lost forever.

He was in on the meetings that decided the NHS must be solely obsessed with a disease that was involved in the deaths of those averaging 82 years of age. Thanks to the growing treatment backlog he was well aware of, we are now deep in a period of excess weekly mortality in the relatively young which dwarfs anything that Covid-19 managed …

“In every brief, we tried to stop the fear narrative,” he now says. “I constantly said it was wrong.”

No, you did not. If you had genuinely believed that you would have resigned noisily and defiantly with the backing of so many British people who could also see the Covid pantomime for what it was. You could have taken a temporary step off your own political career ladder and ironically – you could have eventually come back free from the stains of the Covid oil slick in which this country is now drowning.

You say, Rishi, that you were ticked off by the Cabinet Office after saying it was time to ‘live without fear’. So tell us – who didn’t want to hear that message? Name names now and put your money where your mouth is.

It’s actually hard to know who Sunak is aiming this about-turn at: those of us who stuck our own necks out to question the non-scientific policy, whether that was on TV or even just round a family dinner table are not ready to forgive those who were in power.

Sunak has even said that minutes from Sage meetings were edited to omit dissenting voices from final drafts.

This has caused lawyer Francis Hoar to tweet: “This is absolutely shocking. If this is true then those responsible – and it is reasonable to suppose that Whitty and Vallance were at least aware – should face a criminal investigation for misconduct in public office.”

Quite right.

Sunak has thrown the scientists under the bus. They will now blame the politicians who took the decisions. The inevitable infighting will be bloody and brutal and it will finally allow us to see behind the curtain and find out WHY in my opinion insanity was allowed to run riot. I will have my popcorn ready.

The next day, Neil Oliver delivered another great editorial.

This one is spectacular:

He advised us not to be taken in by Sunak, although he admits that the ex-Chancellor’s revelations have brought the coronavirus policy narrative to the fore.

Excerpts follow:

Don’t be fooled into thinking this disaster movie is coming to an end.

Rishi Sunak was quick off the mark last week with his pitiful, self-serving claims about having known the lockdowns were a bad thing but that despite him drumming his tiny fists on the table until they were a little bit sore no one would listen to him.

He said his heroic efforts to avert disaster were deleted from the official records of meetings he attended.

If that’s true – if minutes of meetings affecting government policy were doctored – then Sunak’s claims demand criminal investigation and jail time for those responsible – including big wigs with letters after their names, who presumably knew the truth of it as well and kept their mouths shut while people needlessly died miserable deaths, endured miserable lives and the country was driven off a cliff.

Sunak squeaks that he was on the right side of history but powerless. What absolute twaddle. He was arguably the second most powerful figure in government. By his own admission, he went along with all that was done to us. If it had ever been about principles, he would have resigned the first time his dissent was ignored and erased. He would have made his way hot foot to a television studio and there delivered an honest statement about how doing the right thing was more important than keeping his job. He did none of those things.

For all that, there’s excitement in the air. The mere fact the former chancellor and would-be prime minister have broken ranks – basically opting for the tried and trusted playground tactic of claiming a big boy did it and ran away means many are scenting blood in the water.

I’m hearing a lot of people, desperate and hopeful that the whole truth will finally come out, saying things like, “the narrative is finally falling apart.”

It might be and it might not. But the Covid and lockdown double-act is expendable. They’ve wrung all the juice they’re ever going to get out of that rotten fruit and now it’s ready to be cast aside. Or maybe it will just go on the back burner while other, fresher concoctions are brought forward. Either way, someone, somewhere seems to have decided it’s time to move on.

Just don’t be fooled into thinking that stuff about saving Granny and the NHS was ever the point, far less the main event. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again:

“It’s never about what they say it’s about.”

Thousands of grannies and grandpas died anyway and the NHS is a vast money pit that sucks in billions and now shuts its doors against people dying of cancer. I don’t believe the last two years was ever about public health

The good ship Pandemic is holed below the waterline and all the rats are scuttling towards the life rafts. All the lies about Covid, all the lies about vaccines, more and more exposed every day.

On the other side of the Atlantic, micro megalomaniac Antony Fauci is making for dry land as fast as his little paws will propel him. There are so many rats on that sinking ship, however, that they know there won’t be enough rafts. They are aboard the Titanic and many won’t make it. Here’s hoping.

Now that some of the great and the good are changing their tune … now that more and more of the mainstream media are pirouetting like ballerinas and finally contemplating questions some of us have been asking, shouting indeed, on a desperate loop, for months and years, there’s a narrow window of opportunity for getting some other stuff out into the open. And so now seems like the right time to think more of the unthinkable and say more of the unsayable.

Things are unfolding now exactly as the so-called conspiracy theorists, us with the tin hats on, said they would. And while everyone else – those who poured scorn, and ridiculed and hated – surely have to face the fact that we, the outcasts who lost work and reputations and much else besides – were right all along about the unforgivable damage of locking down, about harms to children, about being determined to refuse the Covid injections – in this brief moment while those who had nothing to offer but spite, and vitriol and undisguised loathing for those of us who first suspected we were being sold a pup – and who felt something wrong in our guts and so bothered to do our own reading and learned we were absolutely right and so spoke out and kept speaking out – right now before those smug smarty pants regroup behind the next line trotted out by the establishment, we can state some more of the blindingly obvious.

Let me, on behalf of my fellow conspiracy theorists, put more of the truth out there. After all, in a few months’ time it’s what those same smarty pants will be saying they knew all along as well.

Here’s what I make of the bigger picture – and what some of us so-called Covidiots, anti-vaxxers, Putin-apologists, fascist, far-right extremist swivel-eyed loons want to talk about next.

… The horror show in the Ukraine is being exploited.

Here at home last week, Boris implied that while only lesser mortals are fretting selfishly about heat and food, his attentions are focused on the lofty heights of saving the world. The little people of Britain must endure cold and hunger for … guess what … the greater good.

Anyone with even the faintest grasp on, at least an interest in, geopolitics knowns it is utterly bogus and he is a fraud – along with Biden, Trudeau, Macron, Von der Leyen and the rest of a list so long I don’t have time to read it out.

The imminent cold and hunger were made inevitable not by Putin in 2022, but years ago by the adoption of ruinous, ideologically-driven nonsense presented as world-saving environmental policies that only denied us any hope of energy independence, the profitable exploitation of all the resources beneath our feet and seas, and condemned much of Europe to dependence on Russia.

What we are paying is the cost of going Green, when those polices are not green at all but predicated upon some of the most destructive and toxic practices and technologies ever conceived.

Wind and solar will never provide the energy we need to keep thriving as societies, to grow and flourish. The situation is so insane I find it easiest to conclude we are simply meant to do without.

Stop thinking we’re all going to have cars, and international travel, and warm homes – just different than before. What seems obvious is that we are being groomed to live small lives, to make way for the grandiose expectations and entitlements of the elites that are working so effectively to hoover up the last of the wealth …

Energy prices will keep going up. This will obviously hurt the poorest countries and poorest people first and worst. What is obvious about the Green warriors making war on affordable, reliable energy is that they care not a jot about the poor – at least not the actual poor alive in the world today. Those real flesh and blood people are to be sacrificed, by the millions, utterly denied the energy that might have lifted them out of poverty, so that imaginary people as yet unborn might thrive in a Utopia that exists only in the imaginations of pampered protesters. China will just burn more coal to compensate and seize more control but, shh, best not mention it.

That corrupted thinking comes from Communism – or perhaps Communism’s idiot cousin Socialism. Green warriors don’t care about the poor, in the same way socialists don’t care about the poor … they just hate the rich.

Which is ironic, given that with their infantile protests they are doing the work of the very richest for them.

Ukraine produces a fifth of the wheat crop, required by the poorest. Not this year though. Whatever has been grown will be hard to store and harder to export – so that hunger and full-blown famine becomes a looming threat for hundreds of millions of the world’s hungriest people.

In richer countries, life is being made deliberately impossible for farmers. Spiking costs of fertilisers and fuel are one thing but governments in the Netherlands, across Europe, in Canada and elsewhere around the world are persecuting those who grow our food. Farmers are being made to endure restrictions that destroy their businesses, being driven off their land altogether. They will have to watch as fields they have known and cared for over generations are hoovered up by transnational organisations with other ideas about what that land might be used for.

If you think mass migration and immigration are difficult problems now, wait until the unavoidable famines cause a haemorrhage of humanity out of the poorest countries of Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps hundreds of millions of people with nothing more to lose. Where do you think they’ll go?

And here’s another inconvenient truth: money and weapons keep flowing into Ukraine, but despite months of war and sanctions, the Russian rouble remains strong and an end to hostilities seems as far away as ever. Maybe no one wants that war to end. Wars don’t determine who’s right anyway; wars determine who’s left.

Ultimately this is all about wealth and power. Not money, remember. Money is to wealth as a menu is to a steak. One’s a worthless bit of paper, the other something that will keep you alive. This is about actual wealth and its acquisition. It’s about the already super-rich getting hold of even more of the real things. Land, buildings, natural resources, gold. While we are supposed to be frightened out of our wits, squabbling among ourselves, and just hoping that one day it will all be over, a relative handful of others are hoovering up all the wealth, as planned

Don’t be fooled by Sunak and the rest and their about face – their pretence that they were with us all along. Covid and lockdown carried them only so far – but they plan to go much further. Disease, War, Famine, Death – the same people always ride on the same four horses. Now is not the time to take our eyes off the ball. Not by a long chalk. Keep watching the usual suspects.

On Sunday, August 28, Scottish comedian Leo Kearse guest hosted Mark Dolan’s GB News show.

He gave an excellent editorial about eco-warriors. This is a five-minute video you won’t regret seeing, full of fact with a generous scoop of wit:

He points out that Green pressure on Government has made us back away from energy independence over the years. The result? We are now dependent upon Putin for gas. He says that eco-warriors are helping Putin to win the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be cutting back on fuel we need to heat our homes this winter.

He concludes that Green policies are a nonsense, especially when the Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie says that only right-wing extremists advocate energy independence.

He gives President Trump credit for telling Germany to become energy independent, even if the German delegation listening laughed in his face. He asks when Germany will ever be on the right side in a war.

I cannot help but agree.

Returning to Rishi’s coronavirus revelations, I will have more on that tomorrow, as there was fallout over the weekend. Bev Turner was not wrong. They’re turning on each other.

At the weekend, it seemed as if more and more people began waking up to the fact that coronavirus policies of lockdowns and forced ‘vaccines’ did more harm than good.

Sweden was right

First, let’s go back to the end of July 2022 to an article in City Journal: ‘The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize’.

Its author, John Tierney, says that if anyone merits the Nobel it’s Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

Journalists pilloried him for not joining in the hysteria, but he has been proven right. In Sweden, the overall rate of excess mortality—a measure of the number of deaths more than normal from all causes—during the pandemic is one of the lowest in Europe. Swedish children kept going to school and did not suffer the learning loss so common elsewhere. Swedish children and adults went on with their lives, following Tegnell’s advice not to wear masks as they continued going to schools, stores, churches, playgrounds, gyms, and restaurants. And fewer of them died than in most of the American states and European countries that delayed medical treatments, bankrupted businesses, impoverished workers, stunted children’s emotional and cognitive growth, and stripped their citizens of fundamental liberties.

If it hadn’t been for Tegnell and a few other heretics in places like Florida, we would not have clear evidence to prevent a similar catastrophe when the next virus arrives …

Tegnell was aided by another worthy candidate to share the Nobel, Johan Giesecke, who had formerly held Tegnell’s job and served during the pandemic as an advisor to the Swedish public health agency. Decades earlier, he had recruited Tegnell to the agency because he admired the young doctor’s willingness to speak his mind regardless of political consequences

Politicians in Sweden were ready to close schools, too, but Tegnell and Giesecke insisted on weighing costs and benefits, as Tegnell had done in a 2009 article reviewing studies of school closures during pandemics. The article had warned that the closures might have little or no effect on viral spread and would cause enormous economic damage, disproportionately harm students and workers in low-income families, and create staff shortages in the health-care system by forcing parents to stay home with young children. Given all those dangers, plus early Covid data showing that schoolchildren were not dangerously spreading the virus, Tegnell and Giesecke successfully fought to keep elementary schools and junior high schools open—without masks, plastic partitions, social distancing, or regular Covid tests for students

The virus would eventually spread to other countries despite their lockdowns and mask mandates, Tegnell warned in July 2020 as he advised his colleagues and critics to take the long view. “After next summer,” he said, “then I think we can more fairly judge what has been good in some countries and bad in other countries.”

Sure enough, by summer 2021, Sweden was a different sort of “cautionary tale.” Without closing schools or locking down or mandating masks, it had done better than most European countries according to the most meaningful scorecard: the cumulative rate of excess mortality. Critics of Tegnell’s strategy were reduced to arguing that Sweden’s rate was higher than that of several other nearby countries, but this was a weak form of cherry-picking because two of those countries—Norway and Finland—had also avoided mask mandates and followed policies similar to Sweden’s after their lockdowns early in the pandemic …

With the possible exception of the Great Depression, the lockdowns were the costliest public-policy mistake ever made during peacetime in the United States. The worst consequences of lockdowns have been endured by people in the poorest countries, which have seen devastating increases in poverty, hunger, and disease. Yet the WHO has refused to acknowledge these errors and wants to change its pandemic planning to promote more lockdowns in the future. It has even proposed a new global treaty giving it the power to enforce its policies around the world—thereby preventing a country like Sweden from demonstrating that the policies don’t work.

The last thing the WHO deserves is encouragement from the Nobel jurors. The prize should reward those who protected the lives and liberties of millions of citizens during this pandemic, and whose work can help protect the rest of the world during the next pandemic …

Now let’s move on to last weekend’s news and views.

Lockdown and excess deaths

On Friday, August 19, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey discussed lockdown, the effective closure of the NHS and excess British deaths in ‘Lockdown fanatics can’t escape blame for this scandal’.

She began with the story of Lisa King, a bereaved widow whose husband died an agonising death at home because he was not allowed to see his GP:

The father of two, 62, did not catch coronavirus. He died on October 9, 2020 because he was repeatedly denied a face-to-face GP appointment during the pandemic – only to be told that an urgent operation to remove his gallbladder had been delayed because of spiralling NHS waiting lists.

His sudden death, in agonising pain, was completely avoidable.

As Mrs King told me at the time: “To the decision makers, he is nothing more than ‘collateral damage’, but to me, he is the love of my life.”

Tominey points out that several doctors and journalists in the UK opposed lockdown but were told in no uncertain terms how hateful they were:

we were accused of being mercenary murderers intent on prioritising the economy ahead of saving lives.

Scientists who dared to question the severity of the restrictions were, as Lord Sumption put it at the time, “persecuted like Galileo”. Falsely branded “Covid deniers” simply for questioning some of the “science” that was slavishly followed, they were subjected to appalling online abuse by a bunch of armchair experts who claimed to know better.

Two years later, those who objected to lockdowns and an effective closure of the NHS, all the way down to GP practices, have been proven right:

… they were right to raise their concerns in the face of pseudo-socialist Sage groupthink.

Official data now suggests that the effects of lockdown may be killing more people than are currently dying of Covid.

An analysis by the Daily Telegraph’s brilliant science editor Sarah Knapton (another figure who was pilloried for questioning the pro-lockdown orthodoxy) has found that about 1,000 more people than usual are dying each week from conditions other than coronavirus.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed that excess deaths are 14.4 per cent higher than the five-year average, equating to 1,350 more deaths than usual in the week ending August 5. Although 469 deaths were linked to Covid, the remaining 881 have not been explained. Since the start of June, the ONS has recorded almost 10,000 more deaths than the five-year average – about 1,086 a week – none of them linked to coronavirus. This figure is more than three times the number of people who died because of Covid over the same period – 2,811.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked for an investigation into the data amid concern that the deaths are linked to delays and deferment of treatment for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease …

The horror stories are everywhere you look: from people dying needlessly at home like Mr King, to elderly patients waiting 40 hours for ambulances, to cancer sufferers now dying because they didn’t get appointments during lockdown, or didn’t want to be a burden.

It’s tempting to blame this on the NHS being in urgent need of reform – and that’s surely part of the explanation. We all know how staff shortages – again, exacerbated by the pandemic – are crippling the system.

But this isn’t simply a result of a lack of resources. Healthcare spending has risen sharply as a percentage of GDP in recent years.

The nettle that needs to be grasped is that these figures suggest that the country is facing a growing health crisis that has been caused by our overzealous response to the pandemic – scaremongering policies that kept people indoors, scared them away from hospitals and deprived them of treatment.

These excess deaths may well turn out to be a direct consequence of the decision to lock down the country in order to control a virus that was only ever a serious threat to the old and the vulnerable.

Had a more proportionate approach been taken, akin to Sweden’s, then would we be in this mess right now? Perhaps only a government inquiry will be able definitively to answer that question, but what’s certain now is the debate over the severity of lockdown was never about the economy versus lives – as pro-shutdown fanatics would have it – but over lives versus lives

Lest we forget that in the last quarter of 2020, the mean age of those dying with and of Covid was estimated to be 82.4 years, while the risk of dying of it if you were under 60 was less than 0.5 per cent. Who wouldn’t now take those odds compared to being diagnosed with cancer, circulatory or cardiovascular related conditions and being made to wait months for post-pandemic treatment?

None of this has come as a surprise to those running organisations like the British Heart Foundation or the Stroke Foundation, which had predicted a sharp rise in deaths because “people haven’t been having their routine appointments for the past few years now” …

The World Health Organisation said at the time that the Great Barrington Declaration “lacked scientific basis”, but nearly three years on from the start of the pandemic there has been precious little analysis of whether the raft of Covid restrictions either served the collective good – or actually saved lives in the round – compared with the lives that are now being lost as a result.

These numbers aren’t just statistics – they are people’s husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. The appalling truth is that a lot of these people would probably still be here today were it not for the lockdowns; lockdowns which seemingly did little to stop tens of thousands of people dying of Covid in the UK.

We stayed at home to “protect the NHS”. It turns out the NHS isn’t there now to protect us.

The ambulance waits are a horrorshow. This is going on throughout the UK. Scotland and Wales experienced long waiting times before England did.

This photo shows a recurring scene outside a London hospital and explains the situation. Ambulances are backed up because the patients inside cannot be accommodated in the hospital:

Here’s a chart of the UK’s excess deaths this year:

Blame belongs on both sides of political spectrum

Who can forget how the media, especially the BBC, ramped up Project Fear over the past two years?

Although the media don’t legislate, judging from the response to the pandemic, they heavily influence what our MPs do.

So, who is to blame?

Someone thinks it is Michael Gove, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 2019 until September 2021. He was also a Minister for the Cabinet Office at the same time.

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer says Gove bears a lot of the blame for coronavirus policy. Interesting:

What about the Left? Labour’s Keir Starmer held Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford as a paragon of wisdom during the pandemic. Drakeford’s government made ‘non-essential’ shops close and supermarkets put tape over the aisles the Welsh were forbidden to shop in. That meant they could not buy greeting cards, party favours, toys, books or shoes. That’s only a partial list, by the way. That lasted for a few months.

Following Drakeford’s example, Keir Starmer wanted earlier and longer lockdowns in England. So did other Labour MPs.

They voted for every Government restriction in Westminster. Boris must have been relieved.

However, this brings up the definition of ‘liberal’. How I wish that we had not adopted this American perversion of the word. ‘Liberal’ in its original definition is akin to ‘libertarian’. It certainly isn’t ‘leftist’.

Rapper and podcast host Zuby brought up the subject last Saturday:

Here comes the conflict of blaming, because both sides of the House of Commons voted in unison on pandemic policy:

Vaccine harm

Then there is the vaccine harm done to young hearts via myocarditis.

Dr Aseem Malhotra is opposed to vaccines being given to children. Here he links to a study from Thailand about the adverse effect a second Pfizer dose can have on one in six teenagers:

Apparently, the Thailand study did not get much publicity at home:

Neil Oliver’s editorial on coronavirus

On Saturday, Neil Oliver delivered an excellent opening editorial on pandemic policy, which he said should be a sacking or resigning offence:

He rightly pointed out that those responsible feel no remorse.

Dan Wootton’s coronavirus hour

Dan Wootton had a blockbuster coronavirus hour in the first half of his GB News show on Monday, August 22. It was marvellous:

His opening Digest was brilliant:

The transcript is here:

The damage, both to our health, our economy and our future way of life, has been obvious to me since the first national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, following the playbook of communist China.

My overarching mission on this show has been to have the important conversations about the most damaging public health policy of all time, which the vast majority of the media, the establishment and our so-called leaders want to avoid at almost any cost.

This was my opening night monologue on the first night of this channel in June 2021 that, at the time, sparked total outrage from all the usual suspects, who campaigned to see me reprimanded by Ofcom for daring to question the efficacy of lockdowns on a national news channel.

I said then: “Lockdowns are a crude measure. Mark my words, in the years to come we will discover they have caused far more deaths and devastation than the Government has ever admitted.

“They should be wiped from the public health playbook forever more. But, tragically, the doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control.

“They’re addicted to the power and the Government are satisfied its 15-month-long never-ending scare campaign has suitably terrified the public into supporting lockdowns.

“But if we don’t fight back against this madness, some of the damage will be irreversible.”

It was always going to take some time to get the devastating statistics to back-up the idea that a policy of lockdowns was catastrophically wrong – but it was obvious to me what was just around the corner.

Those statistics are now coming in thick and fast; the conclusions are unavoidable and undeniable.

This striking front page of the Daily Telegraph, suggesting the effects of lockdown may now be killing more people than are dying of Covid, should be leading every news bulletin in the country.

Here’s the front page to which he refers:

He discussed the statistics I cited above and rightly pointed out that The Telegraph is the only media outlet (besides GB News) talking about it:

Instead, our dramatic excess death toll is virtually ignored by the BBC, ITV News and Sly News, which used to trumpet Covid death figures on an almost hourly basis

The officials who terrified the public on a daily basis, backed up by a crazed media and gutless politicians, have blood on their hands.

A small group of honourable folk – many of whom now appear regularly on this show, like Professor Karol Sikora – shouted from the rooftops that delays and deferment of treatment for a host of conditions like cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease were going to be responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in years to come.

We tried to warn people and wake up the rest of the population, while being dismissed as Covidiots, deniers and the anti-vaxx brigade.

And yet, there’s still no apology. Still no acceptance of a gigantic error.

In fact, the same irresponsible and evil idiots who got us into this mess want lockdowns, mass vaccination and muzzling to return this winter.

We cannot and will not rest until the true damage of lockdowns is exposed and accepted so we learn the mistakes of our recent history.

A panel discussion followed:

Cardiologist Karl Sikora gave his view and found it astonishing that health experts, including former SAGE member, behaviourist Susan Michie, whom they did not name, want everlasting masks and lockdowns:

Susan Michie, by the way, has just taken up a plum job with the WHO. Says it all, really.

Neil Oliver told Wootton that he was not optimistic about no future lockdowns, which is one of Liz Truss’s proposed policies:

And, finally, the Fairbrass brothers from Right Said Fred presented their scepticism over coronavirus policies. They’ve lost a few gigs because of it but also picked up a new set of fans:

Conclusion

This past weekend really gave me a lot of encouragement about examining coronavirus policies more closely.

For once, it seemed as if a lot of news items and editorials hit at the same time.

I do hope this augurs well for the future.

John F MacArthurIn writing this week’s Forbidden Bible Verses post on Philippians 2:14-18, I used, as per usual, John MacArthur’s sermons.

‘Stop Complaining, Part 1’ begins with his view of an overly indulged, complaining generation.

He says that the problem is getting worse, rather than better.

Emphases mine below:

Let me sort of ease in to our subject a little bit, if I might.  We’re in Philippians chapter 2 verses 14 through 16.  And I titled the message, “Stop Complaining.”  There’s a reason for that, and it’s fairly obvious if you look at verse 14 where Paul says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” which are really two ways of saying stop complaining And as I was thinking about this very pertinent message about living your Christian life without complaining, it became very apparent to me that we live in a very complaining society.  And I really believe we are breeding a generation of complainers, and they seem to be getting worse with each passing generation

And as I’ve said to you on a number of occasions, it is a curiosity to me that the most indulged society is the most discontent society, that the more people have, the more they seem to be discontent with what they have and the more complaining they seem to be.  In thinking about this, and there would be many ways to approach it, I was just inadvertently flipping on the radio this week and I heard a speech by a sociologist that was quite curious to me and quite interesting The sociologist made a very interesting point.  He was talking about the young people in our culture, talking about their discontent, talking about their complaining attitude, their resistance to responsibility, and how that nothing is ever the way they would like it And they go through life with a kind of sullen discontent, kind of rejection of things the way they are And he had an interesting thesis What he basically said was this: that in many ways this discontented generation of young people is a product of small families His thesis was that where you have families where the average is two or less, of course the average family now in America is 1.7 children, which is kind of strange to think about; as one brother said to his sister, “I’m the one and you’re the point seven.”  But every family seems to come out at about 1.7.7.  We realize that families are getting smaller and smaller and moving toward one child families, if that.  Most families in America have either none, one, or two children …

And the difference is where you have a small family, the system bends to the child Where you have a large family, the child bends to the system And so, what you have, he said, is young people growing up in an environment where the system bends to them And you have child-centered parenting.

MacArthur grew up in a large family, where choice was not an option:

I know as a child myself, one of the reasons I wanted to grow up was I wanted freedom I lived in a totally conformed society.  I ate what they gave me I don’t ever remember going shopping with my mother, everI wore whatever she brought home I never picked out a thing, never.  I don’t even remember going to a department store clothing section as a young person.  My mother brought me what I needed, and I put it on.  And I conformed to the system.  And I looked forward to adulthood so that I could be free to make my own choices The reverse is true now; children grow up controlling the family and they don’t want to become adults because that means conformity Then, they have to go to work, and nobody at work says, “Now, how would you like your office decorated?  And what time would you like to take a break for lunch?”  Nobody says that.  They put you on an assembly line or they put you in a place where you are forced to conform, so what you have then is a generation of young people who don’t want to grow up.

And this sociologist said on the radio, you ask the average high-school kid, what do you want to do when you get out of school?  What’s his answer?  “I don’t know.”  You ask the average college student, what do you want to do when you’re out of college?  “I don’t know.”  And the reason he doesn’t know is because he is postponing responsibility because responsibility means conformity to a system, whereas childhood for him has been absolute freedom Eat what you want when you want, wear what you want when you want, and your mother will take you anywhere you want to go whenever you want.  And so, you breed a generation of young people who are irresponsible And when they do get a job, they get a job simply to finance themselves so they can enjoy their indulgences, and then when they’re 28 years old their license plate says, “He wins who has the most toys.”  And the whole idea of adulthood is to collect toys, boats, cars, vacation trips, on and on and on.

Now, what you have in this kind of thing, said this sociologist, is breeding moody discontent And you build young people who cannot conform and cannot be satisfied, over-indulged kids who don’t want to be adults, continue to push off responsibility; they grow up in an environment they control They don’t like being controlled And they become discontent They don’t want to take responsibility.  They don’t want to work And their adult years are sad.  They become sullen, very often, they become complainers And I really believe that he’s right in many cases.  One of the curses of our culture are overindulged childish kind of adults who are really complainers about everything Nothing is ever enough.  That’s why we have a whole society with a critical mentality, constantly attacking everything.

The church environment is no different:

Now, I want you to know this has found its way into the church And the church is full of its own complainers, and what is really sad is many of them are run by their children’s discontent People leaving the church because their children don’t like it Can’t imagine such a thing, unless their children control the family.  The church has its complainers.  And here we are with so much, so much.  How in the world could we possibly complain just because every little thing in life isn’t exactly the way we want it?  Frankly, I would suggest to you that few sins are uglier to me and few sins are uglier to God than the sin of complaining.  Frankly, I think the church at large does much to feed this thing by continuing to propagate this self-esteem, self-fulfillment garbage that just feeds the same discontent There’s little loyalty There’s little thankfulness There’s little gratitude.  And there’s very little contentment.  And sadly, what happens eventually is your griping, grumbling, murmuring discontent is really blaming God because, after all, God is the one who put you where you are So, just know who you’re complaining against.

He discusses how famous people from the Bible railed against God, from the very beginning:

Now, having said all of that there is a sense in which this complaining is part of our culture There’s another sense in which it’s not new at all Who was the first complainer who ever walked the earth?  Who was it?  The first complaining human being who ever walked was the first human being whoever walked.  And what was Adam’s first complaint?  “God, the woman You gave me.”  We are in this mess because of this woman.  He didn’t blame Eve; he blamed God.  Eve had nothing to do with it.  God made Eve.  Adam wasn’t married; he woke up one morning he was married.  God could have picked anybody He wanted, He picked her.  Why?  It’s God’s fault.  She led the whole human race in sin.  The woman You gave me, complaining.  Cain complained to God about God’s work in his life, Genesis 4:13 and 14 Moses complained to God for not doing what he wanted Him to do when he wanted Him to do it, Exodus 5:22 and 23 Aaron and Miriam complained to God against Moses, His chosen leader and their own brother in Numbers chapter 12.  Jonah complained to God because he was mad at God for saving the Ninevites, Jonah chapter 4 verses 9 and 10.  And it is still a popular pastime to complain at God And may I say that all of your complaints in one way or another are complaints against the providential purpose and will of God.

There’s a new book out called “Disappointment With God,” very popular and being promoted very heavily.  It seems to me to make complaining against God okay It sort of tries to define God as a lonely misunderstood lover who is really trying to work things out, but is really kind of a victim of all of us and we shouldn’t complain against Him, we ought to love Him What a strange view of God.  He is not some lonely misunderstood lover; He is the sovereign God who has ordered the circumstances of all of our lives And to complain against God, to grumble against God is a sin and we must see it as such.

In the ninth chapter of Romans verse 20, “O man, who answers back to God?  The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?”  Who in the world are you to answer back to God?  What an unthinkable thing to do.  And when describing the apostates in Jude 16, it says they are grumblers finding fault following after their own lusts All they want is what they want when they want it, they don’t get it, they grumble and find fault.  It’s characteristic sin of the proud and it is characteristic sin of the wicked.

Now, the tragedy of this particular sin is that it is so contagious Let me take a minute to usher you back into the Old Testament, chapter 13 of Numbers.  And I want you to follow me and we’ll at least get through this little introduction and I think set the stage for what is ahead of us.  This is really very, very interesting and very important.  We go back to the number one illustration of grumbling, murmuring belly-aching griping people the world has ever known, namely whom?  The Israelites.  Numbers 13 just gives us a little insight in to the potential power of this attitude to spread.  Verse 30 says, “Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, we should by all means go up and take possession of it for we shall surely overcome it.”  Joshua, you remember, and Caleb came back from spying out the land and they said we can do it; God is on our side, we can take it.  “But the men who had gone up with him said, we are not able to go up against the people for they are too strong for us.”  Which is nothing but doubting God.  “So, they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out saying the land through which we have gone in spying it out is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size.”  And then, they said this, “Also we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim, and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight and so were we in their sight.”

So, they come back with this complaining: we’ll never do it, we can’t make it, we can’t defeat them.  It’s a bad report.  It will fail, it will never make it.  Prophets of doom, they are.  And they’re really complaining against the fact that God has told them to go in.

God hates complaining as much as He hates sin.

God killed complaining Israelites. The wages of complaining were death:

Now, go over to chapter 14, watch what happens in verse 36, “As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation,” what?  “Grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land,” follow this, “died by a plague before the Lord.”  You know what the Lord thinks of grumblers?  He killed them because they spread a brooding discontent against God That’s the issue.  These people complained against God, they complained against God calling them to go into the land, they complained because the odds were against them humanly speaking.  And in their disbelief and complaining against God, they caused the whole nation to grumble, and as a result God killed them with a plague Grumbling really spreads, and your discontent, and your critical spirit, and your grumbling attitude, and your murmuring complaints will infect other people.

Here were the children of God They had been led out of Egypt.  God had parted the Red Sea for them They had seen ten plagues, miraculous plagues at the point of their deliverance And as soon as they got out of the land of Egypt they started to complain, and it never really ended Can I take you through a little trek?  Go back to Exodus and let’s go back to where it started in the Exodus.  Verse 11 of chapter 14, “Then, they said to Moses,” and they’re out in the wilderness now.  “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?”  They said, “What do you bring us out here for, because there weren’t any graves in Egypt?”  Which is a mocking statement.  I mean, wasn’t there a place to bury us there?  You’re going to have to take us to the desert to bury us?  “Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?”  Here’s the complaint, it’s not like they want it.  They’ve left Egypt, it’s not the way they want it Pharaoh is moving after them, and they begin to complain.  Of course, God did a marvelous thing, He opened the Red Sea, drowned Pharaoh’s entire army and saved them.

Go to chapter 15, they come through the Red Sea, they’ve been delivered, and in that great 15th chapter, the song of Moses sings of God’s great deliverance And it’s no sooner than they’ve done that, verse 22, then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur, and they went three days and they didn’t have any water, three days.  And they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink the waters of Marah, they were bitter therefore it was named Marah, so the people what?  Grumbled at Moses saying, “What shall we drink?”  Again, the same attitude.  Chapter 16, by the way, God provided water for them You remember it.  Verse 27 of chapter 15, 12 springs of water and they camped there and 70 date palms and they had a feast.  “Then, they set out from Elim and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai, on the 15th day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt, and the whole congregation of Israel grumbled against Moses.”  Nothing is ever enough.  Part the Red Sea, provide the water, more grumbling.  “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, we would have been better off there when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full.”  Boy, this is a crass crowd, right?  They don’t care about anything but food.  “We’re all going to die of hunger.”  Boy, they’re real deep, aren’t they?  Real deep people.  “And the Lord provides again.”  It’s absolutely incredible.  God sends quail, God sends manna down.

Then, you come to chapter 17 “Then, all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin according to the command of the Lord and camped at Rephidim and there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, give us water that we may drink.”  See, here’s more complaining, griping, grumbling, quarreling, disputing.  “Moses said to them, why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test the Lord?  He is the one who has ordained the circumstances.  But the people thirsted there for water and they grumbled against Moses and they said, why now have you brought us up from Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Well, Moses is getting to the end of his rope.  So, Moses cried to the Lord, and I’m sure it was loud, “What shall I do to this people?  A little more and they’ll stone me.”  Some group, huh?  So, the Lord said, “Pass before the people, take with you some of the elders of Israel, take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile and go.  I’ll stand before you there on the rock at Horeb and you’ll strike the rock and water will come out of it the people may drink Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel, he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord saying, is the Lord among us or not?”  It doesn’t take very long for people to forget the provision of God.

Now, go over to Numbers for just a moment or two because I want you to see this pattern.  Now, they’re at the other end of the 40 years They’re ready.  Time is ready to go into the land.  And it’s not much different Verse 1 of chapter 11 of Numbers, “Now, the people became like those who complain.”  You ought to underline that.  “They became like those who complain of adversity.  Complaining of adversity in the hearing of the Lord.”  That’s where their complaint really was directed.  “And when the Lord heard it His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp The people therefore cried out to Moses and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.  So, the name of the place was called Taberah because the first of the Lord burned among them.”  40 years later, and they have been complaining the whole time about everything.

Verse 4 says, “The rabble who were among them had greedy desires, and the sons of Israel wept again and said, who will give us meat to eat?  We remember the fish and the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, and we’ve got nothing but manna, crummy manna.”  Day after day, this is typical complaining.  Chapter 14, God keeps on providing.  God sends the spies into the land.  And what happens?  They come out, they give this evil report, we can’t do it.  Verse 27 of chapter 14, “How long,” the Lord says to Moses and Aaron, “shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me?  I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel which they are making against Me.  Say to them as I live, says the Lord, just as you have spoken in my hearing, so I will surely do to you.  Your corpses shall fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men according to your complete number from 20 years old and upward who have grumbled against Me.”  God says I’ll kill the whole lot of you, you’ll never enter the promised land, and He did it.  He did it.

Chapter 16 verse 41, “On the next day,” what next day?  The next day after God had just punished some people for invading the priesthood The next day after God’s object lesson about serious treatment of His law, “All the congregation of the sons of Israel,” verse 41, “grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and they’re saying you are the ones who caused the death of the Lord’s people.”  And the Lord was furious.  Verse 45, He says, “Get away from among this congregation that I may consume them instantly.  Then, they fell on their faces.”  And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in a fire from the altar and take incense in and bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord, the plague has begun Then, Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold the plague had begun among the people so he put on the incense and made atonement for the people.  And he took his stand between the dead and the living and the plague was checked, but those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah,” where the ground swallowed them all up God just starts slaughtering thousands of them because of their grumbling, complaining, discontent.

You find it again in chapter 20 You find it again in chapter 21 I won’t read them to you.  I suppose the summary of all of it could be in Psalm 106, just listen to this, verse 25.  It says, “They didn’t believe in His word but grumbled in their tents.  They didn’t listen to the voice of the Lord.  Therefore, He swore to them that He would cast them down in the wilderness.”  And that’s exactly what He did.

I read with interest and thought that this must be quite a recent sermon.

How old do you think it is?

MacArthur delivered that sermon on January 15, 1989!

Let’s return to our generation of complainers from that era, 33 years ago, as I write in 2022.

Their parents would have been born in the late 1950s through to the early 1960s, in most cases.

Those young adults, their children, in 1989, would have started getting married and bearing their own offspring in the 1990s.

Here we are, three decades — and three generations — later.

I have an update on today’s youth from Saturday’s Telegraph, July 30, 2022: ‘Our fixation with feelings has created a damaged generation’.

The article is about British youth. Post-pandemic, the main topic that appears in many news articles and parliamentary debates is mental health.

If I had £1 for every time I’ve heard the words ‘mental health’ in parliamentary debates between 2020 and 2022, I’d be living in Monaco right now.

Not only do we have a new generation of complainers, they say they are suffering.

They are suffering because they are too introspective.

Feelings are the order of the day. A dangerous solution to that is the Online Safety Bill currently in the House of Commons. Pray that we can put an end to it, because it has provisions for ‘legal but harmful’ speech. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport — currently Nadine Dorries — can decide what is ‘legal but harmful’ speech.

Whoa!

That is a very dangerous route.

Even more dangerous are the voices coming from Labour MPs, who say that if they are ever in government again — a likely possibility — they will clamp down on whatever free speech remains.

Even worse, the legislation has not been passed, yet, here are Hampshire Constabulary just last Saturday, July 30, 2022, arresting a military veteran for tweeting a meme. The person who complained said that the meme caused him or her ‘anxiety’.

The police don’t ordinarily go to people’s homes to investigate crime these days. Yet, they are all too ready to look into social media.

Five officers attended this man’s residence and arrested him. It appears that no charges stuck, possibly because of the Reclaim Party’s Laurence Fox’s video of the incident. Perhaps the police were embarrassed?

The man tweeting this — unrelated to the incident — is former firefighter Paul Embery, a GB News panellist and Labour Party member who is active in unions, someone concerned about freedom of expression:

Guido Fawkes has more on the story and points out (emphasis in the original):

Arresting people for causing offence or anxiety, all while Hampshire recorded 8,000 burglaries in the last year, probably isn’t the best use of police time…

How did we get here?

The Telegraph article consists of an interview with Gillian Bridge, 71, who is an addiction therapist, mental health advocate, teacher and author of many years’ experience in schools and prisons.

Now you might think she makes all manner of apologies for today’s youth.

Au contraire!

Gillian Bridge was aghast to find that the BBC put great emphasis earlier this year on how young Britons were reacting to the war in Ukraine. She said:

there was this expectation that they were going to be enormously distressed – and about something that was not affecting them directly. Meanwhile, what were they doing in Ukraine? Living in bomb shelters; giving birth in cellars. But we were supposed to worry about the ‘anxiety’ young people were experiencing here? Frankly, I found that terrifying.

She said that this was not surprising, because in our post-pandemic world, feelings in a world of short attention spans are the only thing that matter.

As such, Ukraine is less important now. It shouldn’t be, but it is:

Terrifying, but “not surprising”, she adds with a sigh. “And you’ll notice that just like other political subjects that have prompted huge emotional outpourings on and off social media of late, things have now gone very quiet on that front. Once we’ve had these ‘big’ emotions, we are no longer particularly interested, it seems.” She cites our celebration of the NHS as another example. “People were virtually orgasmic about their pan-banging, but how many of them then went on to volunteer or do something tangibly helpful?” It’s in part down to our gnat-like attention span, says Bridge, “but also the fact that a lot of the time we’re not interested in the actual subject, just the way we feel about it.”

Mental health problems, real or otherwise, have spun out of control over the past few years, even pre-pandemic:

the 71-year-old has watched our “fixation with feelings” balloon out of all proportion, eclipsing reason, and predicted how damaging it would be, especially for the young. However, even Bridge was shocked by figures showing that more than a million prescriptions for antidepressants are now written for teenagers in England each year, with NHS data confirming that the number of drugs doled out to 13 to 19-year-olds has risen by a quarter between 2016 and 2020.

Child mental health services are reported to be “at breaking point”, with referrals up by 52 per cent last year and some parents even admitting that they have been sleeping outside their children’s bedrooms in order to check they are not self-harming. There is no doubt that we are dealing with an unprecedented crisis – one that was definitely heightened by the pandemic. “But Covid cannot be held responsible for all of it,” cautions Bridge. “And while antidepressants can be very effective, we need to be asking ourselves how we reached this point? Because whatever we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working.”

Bridge blames this on too much introspection:

At the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference in 2019 Bridge told the 250 independent school heads in attendance what she believed to be the root cause of this mass unhappiness: “This focus on ‘me, myself and I’ is the problemIt’s taking people who are vulnerable to begin with and asking them to focus inwards.” And in Bridge’s ground-breaking book, Sweet Distress: How Our Love Affair With Feelings Has Fuelled the Current Mental Health Crisis, the behavioural expert explains why too much emphasis on emotion is as bad for our health as a surfeit of sweet treats. Indeed the “empty calories contained in some feelings” have only helped our “sense of self-importance to grow fat”, she says. Hence the “emotional obesity many are suffering from now”.

Cancel culture and censorship are part of this dreadful focus on feelings:

The book – which kicks off with Bridge’s assertion, “We’ve been living in a gross-out world of personal emotional self-indulgence and sentiment for decades now … decades which have seen the nation’s mental health worsening” – is a succession of equally magnificent declarations. Magnificent because she has pinpointed the cause of a whole range of societal problems, from mental distress and the determined fragility of the young to the woke chaos of universities and cancel culture.

Interestingly, Bridge believes that this toxic focus on feelings began in the 1970s. MacArthur and the sociologist he cited spoke in 1989The timing makes sense.

Bridge told The Telegraph:

Certainly the touchy-feely approach to things had already started in classrooms back in the 1970s.

From there, it gradually expanded, year after year, decade after decade:

Flash forward to today, when every boss can be silenced by an employee starting a sentence with: “I just feel that …”

Whereas you could do so in the old days, it is now taboo to downplay someone’s feelings, and that is not a good thing:

The great value of feelings today, Bridge tells me, “is that no one else can ever deny them … so if you feel offended then someone has genuinely harmed you”. Celebrity culture has promoted this new way of thinking as much as social media, “where you can witness people actually gorging on themselves, getting high on the strength of their own feelings just as they do on sugar – self-pleasuring, basically. And listen, it may feel good in the short term, but it’s very bad for us in the long run.”

People can convince themselves that their feelings are the truth, their truth, anyway. That omits fact, what really happened. Bridge mentioned Meghan Markle’s complaints:

Take the Duchess of Sussex, she points out, and her litany of “heartfelt” complaints. “Just last week there she was explaining that she didn’t lie to Oprah about growing up an only child, because she felt like one, so it was, as she put it ‘a subjective statement’.” Bridge laughs; shakes her head. “We really are tying ourselves up in knots now, aren’t we? Because it’s all about me, myself and I, and someone like Meghan has made it so much easier for people to follow in her footsteps, when the reality is that feelings are not immutable. They are not fixed, an absolute. They are not fact. And they are certainly not something that must override everything else.”

Yet there is a natural neurological process whereby the brain is able to turn feelings into fact, Bridge explains. “If you revise, rehearse, repeat and reinforce, then you create a fact, and that fact will then be embedded in your memory: ‘your truth’. Going back to Markle, that’s crucially a truth that no amount of counter-evidence can challenge.”

Bridge says that encouraging children to emote and focus on their feelings is unhelpful for them and for society at large. The focus on feelings originated in the United States, the source of all bad ideas in our time:

“The worst possible thing you can do with a child is to give them a fixed idea that they are feeling a certain way,” she says with aplomb. So those “emotional literacy” classes that started in California and are now being taught at schools here in the UK? The ones using a “traffic light” system, with pupils as young as four being asked to describe their “happiness levels” accordingly? “A terrible idea,” Bridge groans. “Feelings are simply physiological sensations mediated by cultural expectations; they go up and they go down!” Yet thanks to the pervasive narrative that every feeling should be given weight, “instead of enjoying the limitless health and optimism of youth” many youngsters “are now entrenched in their own misery”.

Bridge then tapped unknowingly into what MacArthur preached about in 1989, the notion that there were once roles for us in life, conformity to social expectations:

The desire to feel significant (either by embracing victimhood or by other means) is hardly new where young people are concerned, Bridge reminds me, and her tone is notably empathetic. “Let’s not forget that people used to have a role in life assigned for them within their communities. You might do an apprenticeship and then go and work in a factory or go into your father’s firm, or you might be preparing to get married and have babies. Now people have to find their role, they have to choose an identity, and that is much more complicated for them.”

Remember when we older folk — the 60+ group — were taught resilience at home when we were children? ‘Tomorrow’s another day’? It meant that today’s setback was temporary and, sure, we were hurt or upset, but better times were on the way. And, sure enough, they were.

Parents and schools are not teaching children about the temporary nature of setbacks. Therefore, today’s children lack resilience, which gave all of us who learned it so long ago hope for the future:

“The reason ‘everything will look better in the morning’ is so important,” says Bridge, “is that just like the children who did well in [Walter Mischel’s famous 1972] marshmallow experiment, they were able to predict the future based on their past.” That ability to delay and see the bigger picture is closely associated with the development of the hippocampus, she explains, “which is memory, navigation and good mental health. Yet by immersing ourselves in feelings and the now, we’ve blotted out the ‘OK so I’m feeling bad, but tomorrow will be another day’ logic, and we’re trusting the least intelligent part of our brains. As parents, we should all be discouraging this in our children. Because a child has to believe in tomorrow.”

Developing resilience is good for brain health, and it helps us to survive.

Bridge says that altruism also helps our brain health. We look out for others, not just ourselves. She says:

Studies have shown that it protects us from mental decline in our later years, but that the self-involved are more likely to develop dementia.

She cautions against cancelling or revising our history, whether it be factual or cultural:

Learning and a sense of history are equally important when it comes to brain health. “Yet again we seem to be distancing ourselves from the very things that we need to thrive. We’re so threatened by history and its characters that we try to cancel them! When you only have to read something like Hamlet’s ‘to be, or not to be’ speech to understand that it encapsulates all of the issues and irritations we still suffer from today. And surely knowing that gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of context, continuity and, crucially, relativity?

Alarmingly, Bridge says that some young people believe that suicide is a melodrama, not a final act:

they don’t actually realise it’s the end of them. Instead, they are almost able to view it as a melodrama that they can observe from the outside. Which is a deeply distressing thought.

Scary.

Bridge warns that too much introspection can lead to criminality:

Although it’s hard to condense everything she learnt about the criminal brain during those years down to a tidy sound bite, “what was notable and important in this context,” she says, “was their fixation on themselves. So the more a person looks inwards at the me, myself and I, the more they’re likely to run afoul of everything, from addiction to criminality. In a way, the best thing you can do for your brain is to look beyond it.”

She tells me about a prisoner she was working with “who came up to me and said: ‘I’ve got mental health’ – as though that were a disorder. Because people have become so ‘into’ the problem that the phrase is now only negative. That’s surely one of the most worrying developments of all. And it’s why I refuse to use or accept the term ‘mental health’ unless it is prefixed by ‘good’ or ‘bad’.”

Incredibly, with all the misplaced importance on feelings, Bridge says she has never had a bad reception to her talks:

… she stresses she “has never encountered negativity anywhere I have spoken”. Yet another reason why Bridge isn’t about to dampen her argument.

She thinks there might be the seeds of a turnaround, based on news items over the past few weeks:

“I think people understand that it’s time for some tough talking,” she writes in Sweet Distress. “There is increasing evidence that families, schools and universities are being overwhelmed by an epidemic of mental ill health.” So whatever we are doing isn’t just “not helping”, but harming? “Absolutely. But I am seeing more and more people speaking up about this now. The narrative is changing. Just look at what the Coldstream Guards fitness instructor, Farren Morgan, said last week about body positivity promoting ‘a dangerous lifestyle’. He’s right.” She shrugs. “It’s no good saying ‘it’s OK to be any size you please’ when we know that if children have bad diets, that can in turn lead to obesity – which in turn makes it more likely that they will suffer both physically and mentally later on.”

She mentions the new smart dress code implemented by the head of Greater Manchester Police – the one that, according to reports last week, helped turn the force around into one of the “most improved” in the country. “These officers were performing better at work because they were dressed smarter. So what does that tell us? That if you have a disciplined life and if you accomplish the things you set out to do, that gives you self-esteem – which makes you happier. But of course none of this happens if we are just sitting around ‘feeling’ things.”

She suggests that a good way of getting young people out of the cancel culture narrative is to point out that, someday, they might be cancelled, too. Also note the final word:

How do we get people out of themselves when they are so entrenched, though? How do we root them when they are flailing to such an extent? “By giving them a sense of being part of history! By getting them to see that if they want to cancel someone who lived 50 or 100 years ago, then in 50 or 100 years’ time someone may have entirely ‘valid’ reasons to cancel them. By building the inner scaffolding that will keep them standing throughout life’s ups and downs. And you know what that inner scaffold is called?” she asks with a small smile. “Resilience.”

Get Gillian Bridge into the new Government, coming soon, as an adviser. The nation needs someone like her. She would be perfect in helping us to defeat our mental health pandemic.

In 2020, millions of Britons stood outside their houses at 8 p.m. on Thursday nights, prompted by television adverts, to applaud the NHS.

Here’s then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the first Thursday of the embarrassing two-minute applause sessions on March 26, 2020:

Two years later, on April 27, 2022, The Spectator‘s Tim Knox reported that public opinion of the nation’s best loved institution has fallen to a 25-year low (emphases mine):

While MPs compete to shout the loudest in their support of the UK’s health services (‘save our NHS!’), the British public has fallen out of love with it. More people are now dissatisfied with the NHS than are happy with it. This is true across all ages, income groups, sexes and voters of different political parties. Support for the NHS is now at the lowest level for a quarter of a century.

The public is right, the NHS is just not that good. Compare it, as I have done in a new report published today, with the health systems of 19 similarly well-off countries and it is hard to come to any other conclusion. UK life expectancy is down at 17 out of these 19 comparable nations. Our cancer survival rates are shockingly low. We are the worst for strokes and heart attacks. We are one from bottom for preventing treatable diseases. We are third from bottom for infant mortality. The only thing we top the charts on is helping diabetics avoid amputation. Sadly, despite the great efforts of NHS staff, our health system does not match the success rates of other nations: we come bottom of the league tables four times – more than any other country – and are in the bottom three for eight out of the 16 measures.

Tim Knox advocates for an insurance model. No, thanks. It is apparent that Knox has never lived under an insurance model. I have. Premiums and inefficiencies would only rise in the years to come.

Here’s a better idea for the NHS: root and branch reform.

The problem is that most NHS workers are unionised, so they can go on strike. Another is that they are trained to be part of an inefficient health delivery system, which would have been much better had it stuck to the basics as it did when it was founded, e.g. emergency care, broken limbs, heart problems and cancer treatment.

This tweet comes from a former NHS nurse who has since become a barrister. Her tweet from April 11, 2020, which disapproved of the applause during the pandemic, attracted many insightful replies:

The same day that Tim Knox’s article appeared — April 27, 2022 — The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman wrote about the High Court ruling on what happened in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before going into that, Hardman raises a good point about the NHS and why the new levy on National Insurance will not help care homes. No, it won’t initially. My understanding from parliamentary debates is that the first two years’ of proceeds from the levy will be going to the NHS instead:

The phrase ‘protect the NHS’ was a powerful one in the public health messaging in the pandemic. It was also a description of where the focus lay in government. The health service was the priority, not the care homes these patients went into. There are lots of reasons for this, but one is clearly a political calculation that the NHS matters to the public in a way care of the elderly does not. That is why successive governments have been able to shirk proper social care reform. That includes this government, by the way, as its levy does nothing to improve the quantity or quality of care …

It is debatable that the NHS itself was really protected throughout the pandemic.

So, our lockdowns were all for nought.

Last month’s High Court ruling implicated former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the erstwhile Public Health England, so it is rather useless in order for any action to be taken against either. Why did it take two years for this ruling to be made?

That said, it could come in handy for any public inquiry into how the UK Government managed the pandemic.

Hancock denies that he said that the Government was putting ‘a protective ring’ around care homes, but I watched or listened to every one of the coronavirus briefings as well as his statements in Parliament. He did use those very words, time and time again.

This is what Hardman had to say about the High Court case regarding care homes during the pandemic in 2020:

The High Court’s ruling today that the government broke the law on the discharge of patients to care homes in the early days of the pandemic further undermines the claim by the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock that ministers had thrown a ‘protective ring’ around the sector.

The case was brought by two relatives, Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, of care home residents who died after testing positive for Covid. Their argument was that six policies in place at the start of the pandemic represented ‘one of the most egregious and devastating policy failures in the modern era‘. The fathers of Gardner and Harris were among the 20,000 people in care homes who died after testing positive between March and June 2020. The pair argued that one of the worst failures was the mass discharge of 25,000 patients from hospital to care homes without Covid testing or proper isolation arrangements in place, meaning the virus rampaged among vulnerable and frail populations. They also cited poor – and initially non-existent – advice on PPE which made it even harder to protect the residents of the homes.

The discharge policy is something politicians and NHS figures have been squabbling over for some time, despite Hancock’s ‘protective ring’ line. Was it conceived in Whitehall or in the NHS itself? The rationale behind it was that it would free up beds in hospitals ahead of the anticipated wave of Covid patients. But because some of those being discharged from hospital had Covid themselves, this led to a wave within care homes: a deadly one.

The UK was far from the only country that experienced problems in hospitals and care homes during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. Even Swedish officials were sorry for what happened in their care homes at that time.

Something must be done, not only about the NHS but also care homes, the Cinderella of health care.

However, who in Government will take on the nation’s favourite institution? No one.

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