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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.

Jonathan Gullis, a Red Wall MP who is the first Conservative representing Stoke-on-Trent North, is a larger than life Member of Parliament.

The constituency was created in 1950 and has had Labour MPs from then until December 12, 2019.

Stoke-on-Trent has three constituencies, each of which contain two of the historic six towns of the Potteries; over the centuries, they have given us some of the world’s best ceramics and porcelain.

Over the years, the Potteries have shed many jobs, with the result that the number of registered jobseekers was higher than the national average ten years ago: 5.2% to 3.8%.

However, despite the pandemic, employment has been improving since 2015, as Jonathan Gullis explained in a September 15, 2021 debate on levelling up. Ruth Smeeth was the constituency’s MP in 2015, but the more important change was that the local council control shifted from Labour to Conservative (emphases mine):

I will read out some statistics, because for too long, sadly, Stoke-on-Trent was talked about in a negative light by my predecessors, so I will talk about how great Stoke-on-Trent actually is and what it has been doing under not only a Conservative Government but a Conservative-led city council, led by the fantastic Councillor Abi Brown.

Stoke-on-Trent was ranked first for jobs growth in 2020. Between 2015 and 2018 it saw wages increase by 11.7%, with a 3.9% annual increase. In 2019-20 we built over 1,000 new homes, of which 97% were built on brownfield land. We are the eighth fastest growing economy in England, which includes London. We have created over 8,000 jobs in the last five years. We have the Ceramic Valley enterprise zone, which is one of the most successful enterprise zones in the UK. I am delighted that Tunstall Arrow phase 2 is effectively already under way and bookings are being made. The city council has done a fantastic thing by carrying on the business rates relief, using its own finances to encourage more businesses to come to the area. There is a fantastic story here for Stoke-on-Trent.

I am very sorry to get into the petty party politics, as some people might accuse us of, but I do so because when the Labour party lost Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, it was because it spent too long talking the area down and never talked it up. It spent too long telling people how poor they were and how deprived they were, but never offering a solution to the problem. In fact, Labour’s legacy in Stoke-on-Trent was to build a hospital—the Royal Stoke University Hospital—with a disastrous private finance initiative debt, which means £20 million a year is being stolen from the frontline to pay that debt. Labour built a hospital with 200 fewer beds than the old hospital, which is even more insane.

We saw jobs and ceramics enterprises being shipped off to China, which means I am very grateful still to have Churchill China, Steelite International and Burleigh Pottery in my constituency. They are still doing well, but sadly that industry dying meant that towns such as Burslem and Tunstall, two of the five original towns of Stoke-on-Trent, are now in a much worse state. Those places were forgotten, because for 70 years they had Labour Members of Parliament.

I am the first ever Conservative Member of Parliament for my constituency. What has happened over time, as we have seen that transition from Labour to the Conservatives, is that things are now happening. By the way, that does not mean that I do not acknowledge that there are challenges in Stoke-on-Trent. As I say, the mother town of Burslem has one of the highest number of closed shops anywhere in the United Kingdom. The town used to thrive off Royal Doulton and many other Pot Bank factories, but now that is simply not the case. I am trying to find a future for that town. I was delighted to have spent my summer handing out a survey asking residents for their views—over 300 responses have come in—and I am working with the city council to create a vision, perhaps for an arts and creative culture that will link in with Middleport Pottery.

In Tunstall, the high street is predominantly privately owned. I know that because I rent my constituency office on that high street—it is in an old shop. The top end of the high street is falling into disrepair, but I am delighted that the city council is working with me to hold private landlords to account for allowing their shops to fall into disrepair.

However, to offer the Minister more evidence of levelling up, it is the Conservative-led Stoke-on-Trent City Council that has invested £4 million into Longton town hall, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), and it is spending over £4 million on Tunstall town hall in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke. That will see council offices, a police post, a children’s centre and much more bringing this heritage building back to life, which will bring more footfall to the town centre and hopefully see it rejuvenate.

There is so much more opportunity. I fell in love with the city back in 2018, when I first started campaigning there, because I saw what others did not, which is a people who were desperate for change but just needed someone to go and fight for them. I am absolutely delighted to be their champion, as I have said many times.

I know that we have just heard some hon. Members talk about the town deal fund. I am a member of Kidsgrove’s town deal board. It is important to remember that these towns got this money before I was even elected as a Member of Parliament, but it was a Conservative Government who decided that the town of Kidsgrove, which is linked with Talke and Newchapel, would benefit from a town deal fund that, in total and including the advance town deal payment, came to £17.6 million. I can tell Members that when I go out door-knocking in Kidsgrove, the people there cannot believe what that money has done.

We have invested £2.75 million in Kidsgrove sports centre, which means that this facility will reopen in spring 2022. Rather than building a new one at higher expense to the taxpayer, the existing one will be refurbished and reopenedIn 2017, the then Labour-run Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council was offered the sports centre for £1, and it said no. There was a fantastic, community-run campaign led by Mark Clews, Dave Rigby, Ray Williams and Councillor Gill Burnett, who was a Labour councillor but has since become a Conservative over the decision on the sports centre. They got the borough council behind it, and they certainly got me behind it. Ultimately, we will see that facility reopened, which means swimming and a gym will return to Kidsgrove, which has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country.

Gullis gave several more examples of improvements to the local area then returned to the sports centre:

This is what a town deal has done for my area, and I am proud to be part of it. I will benefit from the fact that the swimming pool exists—as a Kidsgrove parish resident, my daughter, who is just over a year old, will be able to learn to swim in her local swimming facility. Every pound invested by the community into that sports centre is going straight back into it, because the community group that ran the campaign are taking over the day-to-day running of that fabulous facility.

Several hundred civil service jobs will also be coming to Stoke-on-Trent. Having a voice in government was a factor in Stoke-on-Trent voting for Brexit in 2016:

… under the Places for Growth programme, 550 jobs are coming to Stoke-on-Trent via the Home Office. A new innovation centre will provide jobs at all career stages, including apprenticeships to help Stokies get into great civil service careers. Initially, there will be 50 caseworker roles, with a further 200 jobs at an asylum co-ordination hub, and that will expand to about 560 jobs by 2025. In addition to the caseworker roles, the centre will include operational, IT, policy and corporate functions, and will offer exciting career paths to local people. There will also be a number of senior civil service roles in Stoke-on-Trent, meaning that the people there will have a voice in Government. If anyone wants to understand why the people of Stoke-on-Trent voted overwhelmingly to leave—by 73%, in my constituency—it is because they thought that if London did not care about them, then Brussels would not have a bloody clue about their local area. That is why we are finally seeing a big change there.

What can the Government continue to do? The shopping list has not ended unfortunately, Minister. Stoke has had an appetiser and a bit of a main course, but we are still hungry for more, and dessert will come in the form of the levelling-up fund bid that we have submitted. We are lucky to be rated as a grade 1 priority area. We thank the Government for listening to our calls and understanding the deprivation.

He was aware of having a strong link between an MP and local government. Furthermore, he realised that local votes had been lent to him in 2019:

the relationship between the local council and the local MP is so important, because if we end up butting heads nothing will happen. That is not benefiting the people who have elected us to serve them.

I take the fact that those votes will end. I do not sit here arrogantly; they were lent votes, and if I do not deliver, I will be sacked. Every single one of my constituents is a Lord Sugar, so they will hire me or fire me. I take that responsibility absolutely seriously. I say on every doorstep that I do. That is why I do not stop banging on about my local area. That is why the Minister must be bored to death of hearing about Stoke-on-Trent from me and my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and for Stoke-on-Trent South—the Stoke mafia, as we have come to be known in the Tea Room. We will keep fighting for our local area. Councillor Abi Brown is a tour de force—a young, dynamic, forward-thinking council leader paving the way, and now having a major role in the Local Government Association as well.

Let us go over the levelling-up fund bid, which for me is a litmus test of the Government’s commitment. It is a £73.5 million bid. Some £3.5 million will go into Tunstall, which will turn an old library and swimming baths back into a mixed-use facility, including flats, a multi-purpose exhibition space and a café. It will turn one of the largest city centre regeneration areas in the West Midlands into a thriving hotel, flat accommodation and hopefully indoor arena that will specialise in e-sports. There is so much potential in those fantastic bids, which are in with the Treasury. I know that the Minister wants to make my Christmas. One way that she can achieve that is by ensuring that we deliver on those bids. We have bid for the transport elements as well.

We have also bid on the Stoke-to-Leek line through the Restoring your Railway fund. It is a fantastic bid, with four constituency MPs bidding for it jointly. It will unlock people being able to commute around north Staffordshire, meaning that we finally have better transport. I hope that, alongside rail, we will get some Bus Back Better opportunities, because 30% of the people of Stoke-on-Trent do not have access to a car, and the current bus service is not good enough.

Jonathan Gullis is also concerned about immigration, because Stoke-on-Trent takes in many immigrants. They are fifth on the list of areas taking in the most.

In a March 22, 2022 debate on the Nationality and Borders Bill, he rightly had an issue with Labour’s approach to immigration:

I am getting rather confused. The Labour party seems to be saying that we should not remove pull factors that mean that people are willing to risk their lives crossing the English channel and put money into the hands of the people smugglers. What has happened to the Labour party? Back in 2004, Baroness Scotland, a Labour Minister, said that

“a person should seek protection in the first safe country where they have the chance to do so.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 5 April 2004; Vol. 659, c. 1684.]

What happened to that Labour party?

Later in the debate, he took on Stuart C McDonald, an SNP MP, about illegal immigration:

We both served on the Bill Committee but we seem to have a very different recollection. George Brandis, the Australian high commissioner, talked about a three-part effect, with push-back, offshoring and deterring by having tougher sanctions for those who enter illegally all having worked in tandem with one another to deter people from making the journey. That is unlike what the hon. Gentleman is trying to portray, which is that one silver bullet was the magic answer—it simply was not. It is just a shame that only two local authorities in the entirety of Scotland take part in the asylum dispersal scheme, unlike Stoke-on-Trent, which is the fifth largest contributor.

Stuart C McDonald replied:

Conservative Members can continue to try to upset local authorities in Scotland and achieve absolutely nothing in doing so, but on the more substantive—

Gullis was insistent:

It is fact—[Interruption.]

McDonald went on before Gullis had another chance to intervene:

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way after mentioning Stoke-on-Trent. The leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council is annoyed about the asylum dispersal scheme because only a third of local authorities are currently part of it. The council is asking for other areas—such as the 30-plus local authority areas in Scotland—to step up and do their bit because our city of Stoke-on-Trent is now at the one in 200 threshold in terms of refugee versus local citizen. Instead of attacking Stoke-on-Trent City Council with some vague quote, let us get into the facts of the matter. If Scotland stepped up to the plate and did its bit, Stoke-on-Trent would not have to carry the burden for the rest of the country.

McDonald said that Scotland was awaiting Government funding to do so. Hmm.

Gullis returned to criticising Labour and the SNP later on. I saw the debate. The bit about ‘wokerati’ below, referencing the metropolitan elite, was a classic:

Let us be very clear. Currently, illegal economic migrants are entering this country across the English channel from a safe mainland European country, France. That situation is totally unacceptable to the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, because they believe in fairness and they believe in doing things by the book.

People with a legitimate claim to come to our country to escape persecution and flee for their lives are being put at the bottom of the list because of people who are illegally entering our country via small boats—and what do the Opposition parties think? They support the Lords amendments, which would simply make it even easier for people to try to come across the channel, making a dangerous journey, risking their lives and putting money into the hands of criminal gangs. Let us not forget that 70% of the individuals who are currently making that channel crossing are men, predominantly single men in their 20s and 30s. Let us not forget that it is women and children who are most at risk: they are being left at home, where they are being persecuted.

The Labour party thinks that people in places like Stoke-on-Trent are racist because 73% voted for Brexit. It thinks that they are thick and uncompassionate, despite the fact that we are the fifth largest contributor to the asylum dispersal scheme in our United Kingdom.

That is why Stoke-on-Trent kicked Labour out, and why the people there will not want it back any time soon. Labour does not understand that when people voted for this Government and elected, for the first time ever, a Conservative Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent, North Kidsgrove and Talke, they did so because they wanted to take back control—which is what they did in 2016 when they voted for Brexit. The out-of-touch wokerati on the Opposition Benches are constantly obsessed with being popular with Twitter and Londoners, so this does not surprise me one bit.

As for the Scottish National party, only one Scottish local authority takes part in the asylum dispersal scheme. To be fair, it is Glasgow, the largest contributor to the scheme. Despite the pontificating, the grandstanding and the virtue-signalling, the fact is that the SNP does not stand up and help out as it should. It is about time that Scotland did its bit, went out and signed up. The Minister is on the Front Bench: let SNP Members go and sign the paperwork with him, and let us get refugees into local authority areas in Scotland. Stoke-on-Trent is doing its bit. It is about time that others, whether in the north Islington coffee bar elites or the Scottish National party-run local authorities, did their bit as well.

Gullis is an active contributor in parliamentary debates, but his ten-minute maiden speech on January 14, 2020 was a veritable tour de force. He was surrounded by many other new Red Wall MPs when he delivered it:

We discovered that the now 32-year-old taught school for several years before entering politics; he taught religious education. He believes that a good education is the best pathway towards social mobility.

He clearly loves Stoke-on-Trent:

“Ay Up Duck” is how I should start, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) will be happy with my pronunciation.

May I start by saying what an honour and a privilege it is to make my maiden speech today, and to represent the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke? I could not be prouder to serve and, as I said to the Stoke Sentinel at 5.30 in the morning of election night, I will “work my bum off” to deliver the change that my constituents deserve.

I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Ruth Smeeth. She will be remembered as a tireless campaigner for our armed forces, against holiday hunger and fighting antisemitism. The abuse that she has suffered as a result of her Jewish heritage is a disgrace. I know she will continue in her work to combat antisemitism and all other forms of racism, and she can count on me to stand shoulder to shoulder with her on such issues.

As a teacher, a school trade union representative and a Tory, I realise I am not the typical stereotype, and I could not think of a more fitting debate in which to make my maiden speech. Education is by far the most powerful tool we have to improve social mobility. In my own family, I have seen this at first hand. My mother, who joins me in the Gallery today, got into a grammar school off the estate in London. My father, having failed his O-levels, took up work as a caretaker to attend night school, ending up at Durham University with a Masters. The hard work, resilience and determination of my parents has allowed them to achieve more than what many, and indeed they themselves, would have anticipated had they been confined to the lazy stereotypes placed upon them. Teachers serve the young people they educate outside the bounds of academia, often assuming the role of mentor, providing intellectual and emotional support. For most of us there is that one stand-out teacher who changed the way we think and made a difference to our lives. The teacher who inspired me is Dr Simon Peaple. He was the head of history and politics at my school. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), who cannot be here, will know him well, because he is now the leader of the Labour group on Tamworth Borough Council. His teaching was so effective that, despite him coming to campaign for my predecessor, I was able to make it on to the Green Benches today. But, in all seriousness, his dedication to his students, extensive subject knowledge and passion for the job stuck with me, and I would like to thank him for all that he did.

Getting education right across Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke is crucial. In 2018 the progress 8 scores showed a majority of children underachieving and only 1% of students getting AAB at A-level compared with 12% across the rest of the West Midlands. However, signs of improvement are beginning to show: today, over 80% of schools are rated good or outstanding, and 2019 GCSE results showed a 6% increase in the pass rate for English and maths across the city of Stoke-on-Trent. And with the Government’s support via the Stoke-on-Trent opportunity area, more breakfast clubs and a 4.7% increase in per pupil funding, the city is on the up.

I say the city is on the up because for too long it has been perceived negatively. Football pundits talk about whether players can perform on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke-on-Trent and last week Piers Morgan wondered whether the Duchess of Sussex would ever want to face opening a community hall on a wet Wednesday in Stoke. In addition, the town of Kidsgrove has been passed from pillar to post in Boundary Commission changes and is now being nicknamed the forgotten town. Well, I say that Stoke-on-Trent is a city to be proud of, Kidsgrove will no longer be forgotten, and it is time that we started talking about Talke—a bit of cheese.

If Members are looking for somewhere to spend their next bank holiday weekend, they need look no further. After enjoying a cheesy Staffordshire oatcake they can make their way to the mother town of Burslem, birthplace of Lemmy from Motörhead, 16-time world dart champion Phil “the Power” Taylor and Robbie Williams. They can also go for a walk around the award-winning park or pop down to Vale Park and see Port Vale FC play, or see local businesses such as Synectics Solutions, Titanic Brewery and Autonet, which together employ thousands of local residents.

Burslem was the heartbeat of this city and hosts its ceramic industry from Royal Stafford to Moorcroft. In neighbouring Middleport we can see Steelite and go on a tour of Middleport Pottery. The place is home to “The Great Pottery Throw Down” on Channel 4 and was used for filming on the TV series “Peaky Blinders”.

Next, we can visit another of the original six towns, Tunstall, where we will soon be able to visit the newly refurbished town hall, go shopping at the indoor market and see another ceramics giant in Churchill China.

We can then make our way to Kidsgrove and Talke. Here we can walk along the beautiful Trent and Mersey canal to see the Harecastle tunnel; at one and a half miles long it was once the longest in the country, responsible for taking the coal to the kilns. We can also see the site of the old sports centre, which, thanks to the efforts of Kidsgrove sports centre community group and the Conservative-led Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, will be refurbished and reopened next summer so it can retain its place as a key community asset.

It is said that World War Two was won in the skies, as alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Paul Holmes), thanks to a little plane called the Spitfire. In Talke my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh can visit the Reginald Mitchell peace garden, named after the Spitfire inventor and yards from where he was born. Reginald Mitchell is heavily celebrated across the Potteries and in 2003 was voted the greatest Midlander in the BBC’s online TV and radio vote.

Lastly, we have Chatterley Whitfield colliery. It is one of the most complete former colliery sites in Europe and has been designated a scheduled ancient monument. It was the first colliery in the country to achieve an annual output of 1 million tonnes, which was achieved in 1937 and again in 1939. The colliery ceased production and closed its doors on working miners in March 1977. The hard work undertaken by the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield has seen some buildings brought back to use, sell-out tours on heritage weekends and important documents saved. However, this important piece of heritage is still at risk of being lost. The potbanks would not have fired if it were not for the coal brought from the deep mines at Chatterley Whitfield. The Potteries would not have existed. I made it a central pledge in my campaign to protect and preserve the site with a long-term plan. The loss of such a site would mean that future generations could be denied an invaluable opportunity to learn about their past. I will not stand by and let that happen.

Talking up an area is very important, but it is crucial to acknowledge the challenges we face. We need more school places, better public transport and to bring more high-skilled, high-wage jobs to Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove and Talke. We must invest in the city by opening up free schools to offer more parental choice. We must reverse some of the Beeching cuts by opening up the old mineral line and ensure the city of Stoke-on-Trent becomes the core of the tech revolution. Silicon Stoke is an ambition to put this city at the centre of future skills and jobs. We are rated as having some of the best 4G download speeds in the country and we are leading the way by rolling out 60 miles of full fibre broadband across the city, thanks to Swedish firm VX Fiber and this Government’s investment of over £9 million. According to council officers, that could generate a £625 million boost to the Stoke-on-Trent economy, meaning more jobs and higher wages.

Stoke-on-Trent, one of the great cities of the industrial revolution, knows what it means to be at the centre of the country’s economy. I wish to see the city reignited at the heart of the coming technological revolution. One of my roles as a Member of Parliament is to represent the people, the place and the history of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke. I will pursue relentlessly the potential and ambition of my constituency, and I will shout at every turn about how amazing the city is and the opportunities it possesses. Make no mistake: we are on the up.

However, Gullis struggles with mental health issues. Negative emotions from his formative years, including suicidal thoughts, still haunt him, as he told the Stoke Sentinel in March 2020 — ‘I self-harmed after bullying’:

He fought and won an election campaign set against the most toxic atmosphere in modern political history – yet behind the mask Jonathan Gullis still has days when he wishes he was dead.

Jonathan, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, suffered relentless bullying as a teenager, to such an extent that he used to self-harm.

At his lowest point he even mapped out a plan to take his own life in a way which would mean his family were spared the trauma of seeing his body.

Now Jonathan says he has been inspired to speak out after reading about others who have told their stories as part of StokeonTrentLive’s mental health and suicide prevention campaign.

Jonathan, a former teacher who was elected to Parliament in December, said: “I always thought that if I did share my experiences, it would be at a time when I was in a position of influence, and hopefully that would make other people feel more confident.

“I went to see a psychiatrist at the age of 14.

“I had been having a very difficult time at school. My whole identity – or my alleged identity – was attacked.

“I had held back a lot of grief over my grandmother, who passed away when I was aged eight. I had not processed it to the point that I was extremely angry at the world, I was lashing out at my peers and my family.

“Other days I was crying and self-harming. I used to cut myself and hide it from my parents and keep it hidden when I played rugby.

“Children can be cruel and I had years and years of bullying. It was name calling …

“At 14, I had taken knock after knock and one day I completely lost my temper.

“My brother said something similar to what I was being called at school and I completely lost it and held a knife to him.

“My mum came in and shouted at me and I completely broke down in tears and told her how I hated what I was going through and how my identity was attacked.

“You can imagine how sorry I am to my brother to this day. To lose it so much that I reached that point of anger.”

Jonathan began speaking regularly about his difficulties to his school chaplain and then received professional help. He was taught some coping strategies, but it wasn’t until leaving school and going to university that he was able to ‘reinvent himself’.

After graduating from university, Jonathan then began a successful teaching career.

He became head of year at his school in Birmingham, responsible for the behaviour and well-being of more than 250 students.

He also became a trade union representative for NASUWT before getting into politics.

Yet he still battles with his mental health to this day.

“There are still days when I feel disconnected and a lack of energy and just down. I get very frustrated at myself,” said Jonathan.

“To meet me, you would think I am very self-confident, but it is just a mask. I’m the most insecure person. I worry about everything, whether my family are happy, whether I’m doing a good job for my constituents.

“Some days I hate myself. I hate looking in a mirror and I hate how I feel inside.

“The last time I self-harmed was in September 2019.

“My depression got really bad around 2015/16. I went on medication, but it made me feel worse.

“I kept thinking about whether to kill myself and how I could do it without upsetting my family. How I could do it so they didn’t see the body.

“There are some lovely country walks where I was living before I was selected. There was a particular spot I found. I remember thinking I could telephone the police and then leave a note just saying I’m really sorry.

“It’s horrible. I hate waking up feeling trapped in my own head. It breaks my heart to say it, but sometimes I have wished I wouldn’t wake up.

“I still think that now, occasionally. But I think how my dad would feel and how it would affect my family and loved ones – I couldn’t put them through that.

“My parents are aware that I struggle, but I don’t think they are aware of how bad it is.”

The article says that three out of four MPs suffer mental health problems. Hmm:

A study carried out last year – before Jonathan was elected to Parliament – found that three out of four MPs suffer from poor mental health.

The analysis found that long hours, the stress and isolation of the job, coupled with constant criticism and even personal abuse on social media, meant that MPs are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than people in many other professions.

Gullis feels under a lot of pressure to succeed:

He said: “Being an MP is isolating and there is massive pressure to deliver for my constituents.

“I love my job and the fact I have been given this opportunity. There is no-one more fearful than me of not delivering.

“I question every day whether I have done a good job. I’m terrified of being a failure because I have had so much trust put in me.

“I’m lucky that my family and loved ones are around me.

“When I get hate on social media, I try to see it as a joke. I try to see the funny side …

“I have fallen in love with this area and I want to make a difference so badly. I set such high standards and expectations on myself and my staff.”

I have never read such honest testimony from a public figure about such a sensitive issue.

He is divorced but has a daughter with his current partner, Nikita.

Easter recess has begun. I hope that he gets time to relax a bit and enjoy his family.

In any event, I wish Jonathan Gullis the greatest of success as an MP. He deserves it.

It is always good to know of broadcasters who balance their programming with another point of view.

In the UK, that broadcaster is GB News.

On Wednesday, March 23, 2022 — the second anniversary of the UK’s lockdown — Mark Steyn interviewed Dr Guy Hatchard, who talked about the new studies emerging from Poland and Germany about the adverse effects of the vaccines:

Dr Hatchard, a physician from New Zealand, lamented that governments and the media were ignoring these studies.

Younger and middle aged people have been dying in larger numbers after taking the vaccines.

In New Zealand, he said that younger men are experiencing cardiac problems after getting the vaccine. However, media reports are minimising the gravity of the phenomenon, dubbing it the ‘Warne effect’ after the 52-year-old legendary cricketer Shane Warne, an Australian who died a few weeks ago from a sudden cardiac event. The media say that the vaccine is not a problem, rather, men of a similar age are suffering from anxiety about having heart problems. That, in my view, is preposterous — and dangerous.

Hatchard says the vaccines do not actually work, but, of course, governments cannot admit that. Furthermore, they have also swept adverse reactions and resulting deaths under the carpet.

Hatchard says that each vaccine dose weakens our natural immune systems. However, he says that pharmaceutical companies are ‘plumbed into’ governments and regulatory agencies as well as media, so we are not getting the full picture.

He says that biotechnology is seen as the future for the economy, therefore, no one in a position of influence will oppose it, beginning with these vaccines. That means, none of the rest of us can even talk about adverse effects or scrutinise them. Hatchard said that he tried to raise his vaccine doubts with the government but they ended their conversation with him.

Hatchard says that 99% of our state of health depends on what we eat and how we live our lives. In other words, vaccines cannot help that. Nor can biotechnology.

He also said that politicians and other elites are ‘playing God’ with the vaccines. They see it, he said, as a reality television show.

On Monday, March 21, Sir Christopher Chope MP (Conservative) appeared on Dan Wootton’s show to talk about the UK’s Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979:

Wootton asked him to confirm that the BBC, Sky News or ITV have not invited him on to discuss adverse effects from vaccines. Chope shook his head.

Chope had been granted an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 2, on vaccine damage payments. Someone put a copy of it on YouTube, but YouTube took it down.

He said that the UK Government have not presented vaccines correctly. He says they should have urged people to get vaccinated because, for most people, they are safe. The Government should have also said that, in case of side effects, citizens would be reimbursed for their illness ‘because they did the right thing’ by being vaccinated. He said those messages are the crux of the 1979 vaccine payments legislation.

The Act is in force today, but no payouts have been issued to those who have fallen ill from the coronavirus vaccines. In fact, the Government has only started processing the 1,000 claims they have received thus far. He noted the Government’s ‘tremendous resistance’ in this matter.

The amount anyone could receive would be around £120,000, which Chope rightly pointed out should be increased to £155,000, as the original sum was last reviewed in 2015. He added that if this involved any other circumstance of injury or death, the payout would have been not only swift but also in the millions of pounds.

He says that this is a big issue for the Government, which chose to indemnify the vaccine manufacturers from the start. The vaccine manufacturers did not want to risk being sued because:

the vaccines hadn’t been tested to the extent that most vaccines are.

But now, it has to face up to the consequences and recognise that there are people, a significant minority of people, who have suffered as a result …

More recently, the message has changed: the vaccines are safe for the majority.

My question is: what about those who are not in the majority? What is being done to help them?

Wootton said that transparency is needed, because Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been talking about a second booster — a fourth shot — being needed sometime later this year. Wootton, who has had coronavirus twice as well as his three shots, said he is unhappy about having a fourth, especially as he is still a young man.

Sir Christopher said he could appreciate people of his own age being given another booster, but not for those who are younger, e.g. Wootton’s age, and certainly not children.

Wootton said that people his age and younger, including children, experience most of the harmful side effects.

Following his adjournment debate (well worth reading), Sir Christopher said that he and another MP went to meet with the Secretary of State (Sajid Javid):

and, frankly, it was a big disappointment.

We had ten minutes and he said that he would look into this issue, that he would ensure that the questions I asked him would receive answers. I should have had those answers already, but I haven’t. 

He was full of platitudes, frankly, about how most people had benefited. That’s not in dispute. But, actually, what we need to do is ensure that people who haven’t benefited from the vaccine are looked after by the State because they did the right thing by the State and, now, the State needs to reciprocate. 

Chope said that at least 2,000 Britons have died following the vaccine and that 500,000 yellow cards have been raised. He has received communications from several people who have had adverse reactions, some of which he discussed in his adjournment debate.

He wants to know why, if coroners have listed the cause of death as the coronavirus vaccine, the Government is hesitating in compensating their families:

What else needs to be proven? …

There have been a whole series of these cases. In a lot of them, they have been in the prime of their life, married with children, breadwinners, with all the consequences which flow from that.

I am glad that Sir Christopher Chope is on the case, so to speak. He’s an old-school Englishman who dots every i and crosses every t in making his principled points.

I wish him every success in his campaign for compensation. This is one case where we can use the word ‘justice’ in a traditional way: compensation where it is due.

That is the least these individuals who acted in good faith deserve.

Isn’t it interesting that the media narrative has changed from wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage to Ukraine?

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-3c44750c-bcec-4796-bb34-204df9acad35

It seems that there is never room for more than one media narrative at a time. Sadly, this is now true even on GB News.

Fortunately, I have a few coronavirus gems from last month.

We must never forget what our notional betters did to us over the past two years.

The UK will hold a formal inquiry, although we do not know when it will start.

On Saturday, February 5, GB News’s Neil Oliver delivered a five-star editorial on coronavirus measures in Scotland and other Western nations:

This was the theme:

Well, the narrative certainly changed by the end of the month.

Nonetheless, even as I write, coronavirus measures are still a thing in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has lifted some, with others to go this month. However, it might be some months before all of them disappear north of the border.

This was the state of play in Scotland in early February:

Somehow, Covid still manages to be in our faces – suffocating us bit by bit and all the time.

My children are still required to wear masks at school all day every day – rebreathing their own exhaust fumes for hours at a time.

In Scotland last week, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said her devolved assembly would spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds cutting the bottoms off classroom doors so as to improve air flow in schools.

Seriously – that’s what she said. Get this: she actually said there’s a worry about how much CO2 children are inhaling in improperly ventilated classrooms.

They have to keep the masks on – so that they exist in a permanent cloud of their own, self-generated CO2, held over their mouths and noses like a smothering hand, but rather than let them take off those masks and breathe air like free people should, Sturgeon’s proposed solution is to take a saw to the bottom of the classroom doors.

To say you couldn’t make it up is an insult to made up things.

The fact that you can open a door to increase ventilation, on account of its hinges, the fact that doors exist in schools at least in part to inhibit the spread of smoke and flames in the event of fire, significantly more of a threat to the lives of children and staff than Covid ever was, has apparently passed Sturgeon by.

But, hey-ho, if there’s one thing we’ve learned after two years, it’s that everything is all and only about Covid.

Some days it feels like it always will be.

Covid could and should be behind us, as I have already said, but the powers that be keep pulling it back around until it’s front and centre.

[Boris] Johnson announced some sort of an end to restrictions, but still, that air of lives limited, lives controlled, prevails, like the smirking grin that remains after the Cheshire Cat has otherwise disappeared.

And do you want to know why? Because after these two years like no others in our history, Covid is all they’ve got to explain and to justify everything else.

He took issue with Western governments:

Governments need Covid, and desperately

All the money we ever had and most of the money we might ever dream of having – they blew the lot on Covid.

And since Covid is all the Governments have got now, by God they’re determined to keep it.

Covid, as it turns out, is like a sort of Swiss Army knife, equipped with all sorts of useful little tools for all sorts of jobs, large and small. And meanwhile the evidence of manmade disaster is all around us.

He referred to the Johns Hopkins study that came out a few days beforehand:

A recently published study from the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, found lockdowns had had little to zero public health benefits and instead imposed enormous economic and social costs.

Like we didn’t know that already, having been there while it was actually happening – but anyway, let’s hear it again.

Researchers found lockdowns in Europe and the US lessened the Covid-19 mortality rate by just 0.2 percent.

The authors concluded that lockdown policies are ill founded and should be rejected in future.

Everywhere they were applied – everywherelockdowns caused enormous economic and social costs.

He went on to discuss how our various governments ‘blew it’:

Allow me to summarise those findings even more: Our governments blew it.

Faced with what they told us was the greatest threat to our civilisation in our lifetimes, for a hundred years or more, our governments took a bad thing and, through over-confidence, monumental incompetence and with the dull-eyed stubbornness of mules made it massively worse.

More importantly, when they must have known they were making it worse, they did it again. And again.

Now, rather than take responsibility and own up to their catastrophic failuresmaybe say sorry for all the lives ended, lives ruined, lives compromised, a generation of children used like sandbags to protect the vulnerable from a flood, like stab vests worn on the chests of adultsthey keep holding up the tattered rags of Covid, like the remnants of a curtain to stop us seeing the reality that lies behind it.

What lies behind that shabby curtain are consequences, and even now those powers that be don’t want us looking at them, far less talking about them and thereby understanding the crippling reality of them.

Isn’t it convenient that the TPTB now have Ukraine with which to distract us? Thanks, Putin. The news overkill on that is the ultimate distraction.

Oliver then talked about the horrors of quantitative easing:

What they did with money – your money, my money, everybody’s money – during the pandemic is what the banks have been doing with money for decades now, and it’s largely to blame for the bigger mess we’re in now.

Quantitative Easing, they called it – printing money, to you and me.

For decades the tactic applied by the banks, with governments in cahoots, was to print uncountable, unthinkable amounts of money.

“We don’t have any money left.”

“Well print more, then.”

“How much?”

“As much as you like – and keep it coming, I need another super yacht, and so does my mum. No one’ll notice. And if they do, say it was Covid.”

Imagine a glass of orange squash – a little bit of concentrate, topped up with water.

Tastes like orange, you know how it goes.

Then imagine tipping that glass-full into an empty swimming pool and turning on the taps.

By the time the pool is filled up with water, any orange in the mix is so diluted as to be utterly undetectable.

That, more or less, is what has happened to our money.

The value of our money has been so diluted it is quite literally not worth the paper it’s printed on – which probably explains why they don’t seem to want to actually print it on paper anymore.

They just add more zeros on their computer screens instead. Look at what they did with some of that pretend money: trillions of pounds worth of debt that will never, ever be repaid.

Billions blown on dodgy PPE, billions handed over as ‘Bounce Back Loans’ to companies that didn’t even exist. Gone.

Those gazillions are gone – and the truly troubling point is that in every way that matters, they didn’t really exist in the first place.

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson and the like have the gall to say they’ve got a way to fix the mess.

They might as well try to put out a factory fire by blowing on it.

On account of all that funny money, and then their use of Covid as a hammer to flatten business after business, the economic and financial model we’ve taken for granted for the last 50 years or more is finally done.

He looked at Covid measures in various countries:

Much of Europe is an interesting watch, to say the least. Austria is a police state now, in all but name, thanks to Covid.

Papers, please! Italy and Germany are much the same.

France would likely go the same way – except President Macron is too properly scared of too many of his own people to go all the way to vaccine mandates.

Instead, he remains committed to making the lives of the unvaccinated as miserable as possible. In Western Australia unvaccinated parents are barred from the hospitals where their children lie sick, dying.

In Canada the GoFundMe organisation has withheld millions of dollars raised in good faith, in support of the truckers protesting vaccine mandates.

What will become of that money, donated by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians, remains unclear.

More and more questions are being asked about the vaccines, all around the world.

Questions about efficacy, about safety, and yet governments like the US, Canada and Australia, as well as here and just about everywhere else continue to dig in, more and more determined to get a needle into every arm on the planet.

Israel is beavering away with injection number four – and the positive cases are spiking in what looks, on the graphs, like a vertical line pointed into space.

With the Covid narrative in tatters now, new weapons of mass distraction are being deployed to stop us thinking too much about the mess.

Enter Putin with his invasion of Ukraine. How timely. In early February, we knew it was coming:

I’d like to say, Don’t Mention the War, but of course there’s Russia and Ukraine to look forward to as well.

Oliver brought up non-Covid health issues:

There was a GP on the telly last week saying the stress of lockdown is causing heart attacks and strokes.

Well, I never.

He brought up the irony about the silence surrounding all the plastic face masks being dumped into the environment:

Climate crisis and environmental meltdown are back to the fore again – never mind the fact we’ve dumped trillions of filthy face masks, and Covid tests into that environment, that doesn’t seem to matter.

He concluded:

Weapons of mass distraction or not, there’ll be no hiding the fuel bills due in a few weeks’ time.

People forced to choose between eating and heating tend to behave differently than before.

Energy black hole, Net Zero and its consequences and only pretend money with which to pay for it all.

How much longer can our dear leaders hide behind Covid?

We do a lot of weather forecasting on this channel. I tell you this – there’s a storm coming.

Oliver then had Benjamin Loughnane (pron. ‘Loknayn’) from The Bow Group think tank to discuss the Johns Hopkins study about lockdown. This was also a very good segment:

Richard Tice from the Reform Party also appeared to talk about our leaders’ mistakes:

You can see the full show below. Almost all of it concerns coronavirus:

Later in the evening, Mark Dolan presented an excellent editorial on how the media and Government handled the pandemic:

The replies to the tweets were worthwhile, such as this one:

Some of us knew from the beginning that most of the coronavirus measures in Western countries were bogus, but anyone who mentioned that PCRs were picking up old viruses was dismissed as a crank.

Lo, it emerged last month that the intrusive PCR testing was proven to be ineffective in accurately diagnosing coronavirus.

Dolan said (emphases mine):

A major new study confirms that PCR tests are horribly inaccurate. There’s a surprise.

According to researchers at the University of Oxford, if you’ve heard of it, a third of people who tested positive for coronavirus via PCR tests were not contagious and did not need to self-isolate.

The study found that many laboratories are setting the positivity bar very low, meaning they’re picking up people, who are – quotes – “a danger to no one”.

Hand sanitising is also inconclusive:

Do you remember our blistered skin, in March 2020?

Sing happy birthday twice, as you wash your hands? After which a couple of scientists with half a brain cell, pointed out that the virus is transmitted through the air, via aerosols. No sugar, Sherlock.

Perspex screens in shops — or, in cars, as was the case in France — might not have been a good idea, either:

A report came out in August of last year, suggesting those environmentally catastrophic Perspex screens you see in shops, offices and on TV, may make matters worse.

The Environmental Modelling Group, a panel of 16 SAGE experts, said “There is some epidemiological and mechanistic evidence, that suggests screens could increase risks of aerosol transmission, due to blocking/changing airflow patterns or creating zones of poor air circulation behind screens.

Well done everyone.

The best masks couldn’t stop the rise in contagion:

Even where countries have demanded better N95 masks, like Austria, cases have sky rocketed nonetheless.

There was no evidence that vaccine passports stopped the spread:

What about vaccine passports? We’re saving lives aren’t we?

Except that cases have continued to soar in countries that have implemented these divisive measures, which link your medical status to certain basic rights, freedoms and privileges, including in particular in France and Italy.

The same held true for closing nightclubs:

What about closing nightclubs?

The Welsh first Minister Mark Drakeford, who likes a boogie himself, was able to demonstrate no evidence that closing nightclubs would have an impact on spread.

After two years, our health service is on backlog overload and probably will be until the end of the decade.

Some people’s lives are in ruins: closed businesses, relatives’ suicides, nervous breakdowns, missed diagnoses of terminal illness. I could go on.

Dolan said:

Two years in which we have incarcerated the healthy, stopped people from going out to work and making a living, closed once viable businesses, wrecked mental health and ignored worse diseases like cancer.

The Telegraph are reporting that up to 87,000 cancer diagnoses may have been missed. And the rest.

If you think Covid is worse than cancer, there is something wrong with you.

But that’s been the message of the pandemic response.

‘If it’s not Covid, they don’t care’ is something I’ve heard from so many of you over the last two years.

The famously deadly disease of cancer, that affects all age groups, has been relegated in importance for two years, with tragic consequences that will be with us for years to come, with cases like young mothers who didn’t get that lump checked or weren’t able to. Well done everyone.

There will be a day of reckoning for what Professor Jay Bhattacharya, one of the most respected medics in the world, has called the biggest public health mistake in history. He’s being polite.

Dolan rightly took issue with governments, modellers and the media:

So who’s to blame?

Well, weak politicians who panicked in March 2020 and discarded decades of pandemic planning

I blame the modellers like the randy professor, Professor Pants Down himself, Neil Ferguson, who predicted half a million deaths at the start of the pandemic, which spooked ministers into taking this ruinous path.

Some government scientific advisors predicted 6000 deaths a day if we didn’t cancel Christmas

I blame Sage, who failed to equate economic damage with death.

The University of Bristol have told me that half a million people will die as a result of creating the biggest recession in 300 years. And what about wrecked lives?

It’s a question no one has ever been able to answer me. Why is it okay to wreck lives? Of course, it isn’t. But wreck them we did. And it’s most reprehensible when you think of the needless impact on young people and children, who face vanishing threats from the virus. So who else do I blame?

Well I blame the media …

I blame the media for offering just one narrative. Lockdowns work, masks work and absolutely everybody’s got to have the vaccine.

Now these views are valid, arguably the majority of people and perhaps most scientific professionals think exactly that. No problem. Let’s hope you’re right, because that’s the hell you’ve put us through.

As data come in from around the world, based upon different approaches, with no obvious difference from where I’m standing, I have my doubts. But remember those press conferences – the Beeb, Sky, ITV – why are we not locking down longer, tougher, harder?

By offering such one-sided coverage of the pandemic, by betting everything on the words of SAGE, and freezing out other scientific voices like Sunetra Guptha, Carl Henegan, Martin Kulldorf and Jay Bhattacharya, the media let us down.

To say that the media have lied to you is a bit strong. But they have not provided the full picture.

And any lawyer will tell you concealing information is tantamount, in its own way, to an untruth.

Shall we be polite and just call it government propaganda? I think that’ll do.

I shouldn’t name names, but I will. The Mail and the Telegraph are the only papers I can think of that have consistently balanced their reporting and have dared to offer a critique about these debatable lockdowns.

The Guardian is a paper I’ve always admired and read every day.

But where was their coverage of the Johns Hopkins University report, a meta analysis of 24 studies into lockdown, suggesting the measures saved 0.2% of lives, whilst of course exacting colossal harm.

Not peer reviewed and the study has been done by economists, but worth reporting?

I’d say so.

Sweden got it right. That was something that many of us were criticised for saying offline.

Dolan said:

Sweden have seen a fraction of the economic damage, the societal damage and have had fewer per capita deaths than so many countries that locked down hard.

He concluded:

In the end I think the media have got this wrong – they’ve backed the wrong horse and they are on the wrong side of history.

So there will be a day of reckoning for their one-sided coverage. But will we ever get an admission of guilt, or dare I say it, an apology? I doubt it.

There will be no contrition. And for all of those well paid and high profile figures in the media – we know who they are – the relentless cheerleaders for these disastrous and, in my view, failed measures, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Now to the present day.

On Wednesday, March 2, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee gathered oral evidence on coronavirus in a session called ‘UK Science, Research and Technology Capability and Influence in Global Disease Outbreaks’. Greg Clark (Conservative) chaired the session.

You can watch it here.

After the first hour, Prof Graham Medley — who exchanged tweets late last year with The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson on modelling — gave his oral evidence on SPI-M’s modelling of the pandemic. He is SPI-M’s chair.

Sorry seemed to be the hardest word for him, too, as he saw no need to apologise for Prof Neil Ferguson’s mad models which the Swedes described as ‘hysterical’.

Medley told MPs that SPI-M ‘didn’t have the time’ (his words) to calculate the probability or feasibility of their overblown scenarios. They plugged garbage in, and, lo, garbage came out. However, he defended everything. He had no regrets.

Three MPs gently took him to task for the modelling. Labour’s Graham Stringer came right out and said that he doesn’t trust modelling at all, none of it.

One of the MPs tried to press him on the Twitter exchange with Fraser Nelson. Medley replied:

I wish you wouldn’t do that.

In the end, he managed to get himself out of any controversy.

Most of the other MPs wanted to question the person from the behavioural part of SAGE, SPI-B. This person was to have sat along side Medley. However, the SPI-B representative cancelled. How convenient.

Dr Camilla Holten-Møller appeared in the final segment. She is the Chair of the Expert Group for Mathematical Modelling at Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Denmark. What a breath of fresh air she was.

She admitted that SSI did get one of their models woefully wrong, so they quickly regrouped, studied their mistakes and liaised more closely with university research and clinical groups who provide them with data.

It would be nice if Medley had showed the same candour. As it was, he didn’t even look bothered.

I can hardly wait for the formal coronavirus inquiry in the UK. The Science and Technology Select Committee will write a report on this evidence session, as they have with others, and submit it to the Government. The reports will be part of the inquiry process.

For the past several weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have been lagging behind Labour in the polls.

Boris and the Conservatives held the top spot for most of 2021, apart from one week in January. Their ratings began to sink in November, if I recall correctly. Initially, this had to do with Net Zero policies (far out of reach from the normal Briton), a tax increase to help pay for the NHS and rumours of parties during lockdown at No. 10 Downing Street.

Later, around Christmas, news emerged of parties dating from late 2020. More recently, news leaked about a No. 10 gathering on May 20, 2020 (during lockdown), for which Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised during Prime Minister’s Questions on January 12, 2022:

Today, it is alleged that parties also took place in Downing Street the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.

For Keir Starmer and Labour to be ahead of Boris and Co for this long is a parlous state of affairs:

On January 8, 2022, GB News reported that the Conservatives were beginning to regain lost ground (emphases in purple mine throughout):

The Conservative Party has recovered some of its lost lead against the opposition Labour Party, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, but Boris Johnson’s personal ratings remain deeply negative as he faces ongoing ethics questions.

Polling company Opinium said Labour’s poll rating held at 39% in a January 5-7 survey, unchanged from late December, while support for the Conservatives rose two percentage points to 34%. The Liberal Democrats were on 11% and the Green Party was on 5% …

Johnson’s own net approval rating in the Opinium poll was minus 24%, up from minus 31% before Christmas but well behind Labour Party leader Keir Starmer at plus 3%.

Soaring inflation was also souring the public mood, with 86% of people saying their living costs had risen, the polling company said.

On Monday, January 10, the Conservatives continued to gain ground, although they still trail Labour:

Guido Fawkes noted that not moving to Plan C coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period probably helped:

Labour’s 8 point poll lead at the end of last year has halved in the latest YouGov poll. The plunged best PM rating for Boris has bounced 6 points and Starmer’s has eroded a point, though Boris still trails. Making the right call on Omicron appears to be paying off for Boris. Who knows, if the Tories get their act together and govern a bit more like Tories, they might even regain their lead…

Moving on to coronavirus measures, a number of news items broke since the New Year, some of which relate to England only; the devolved nations have their own measures, largely socialist in nature.

Self-isolation time

On Monday, Boris said he was considering lowering the number of days that people have to self-isolate:

Guido Fawkes reported that Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove said that the current Plan B measures are likely to expire as planned on January 26.

Boris’s comment followed Gove’s on Plan B:

This follows Michael Gove’s comments earlier today on the potential lifting of Plan B measures in a few weeks, provided the NHS continues to keep Omicron under control. Looking increasingly likely that pandemic measures will – finally – wind down sooner rather than later…

On self-isolation being reduced from seven days to five, as the US is doing, Boris said:

We’re looking at [it]… we will act according to the science as we always have. But what I would say to everybody is that Omicron is still out there, it’s incredibly contagious. Everyone will know somebody who has had it, it can be pretty unpleasant.

Boris was likely reconsidering because British scientific advisers ‘misread’ US self-isolation guidance. Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), is pictured:

Guido Fawkes showed the difference between the UKHSA guidance on January 1 and January 10.

Guido concludes:

The US Centres for Disease Control has now clarified their isolation periods do start after the first appearance of symptoms, giving further credence to Tory backbenchers’ calls for a cut. This country has had enough of experts…

Indeed, we have had enough of experts. Unfortunately, Jenny Harries is receiving a damehood, having been on the New Year’s Honours list.

The move for a shorter isolation period is to enable those with coronavirus to return to work as soon as possible.

It is a curious thing that, since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, I have seen the same shop assistants week after week. By contrast, when I watch the news, there is a plethora of public sector workers — the NHS and teachers, to name but two groups — who are constantly sick.

This tweet expresses the phenomenon well:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-52ee10ed-274e-4073-9d2f-c130beeed0cb

On Thursday, January 13, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced in the House of Commons that self-isolation will be reduced to five days beginning on Monday, January 17, provided that the person involved can provide two negative lateral flow test results on Days 4 and 5:

The end of mass vaccination?

On Sunday, January 9, Dr Clive Dix, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said that it was time to end mass vaccination and begin urgent research into antibodies as well as T-cells.

The Observer reported:

Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the booster campaign, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has said.

With health chiefs and senior Tories also lobbying for a post-pandemic plan for a straining NHS, Dr Clive Dix called for a major rethink of the UK’s Covid strategy, in effect reversing the approach of the past two years and returning to a “new normality”.

“We need to analyse whether we use the current booster campaign to ensure the vulnerable are protected, if this is seen to be necessary,” he said. “Mass population-based vaccination in the UK should now end.”

He said ministers should urgently back research into Covid immunity beyond antibodies to include B-cells and T-cells (white blood cells). This could help create vaccines for vulnerable people specific to Covid variants, he said, adding: “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

On Wednesday, Professor Jeremy Brown of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) echoed Dr Dix’s call for a post-pandemic plan. He rightly pointed out that we do not test for influenza:

Schoolchildren suffering

I do feel for children having to wear masks, undergo regular testing at school and for being persuaded — with parental consent — to get vaccinated. My commiserations also go to their parents.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the rate of children’s vaccinations must speed up:

The topic of mask-wearing, although confined to secondary school students, came up on a recent instalment of ITV’s This Morning programme. Author and television presenter Gyles Brandreth explained how difficult this is for children with learning difficulties:

I am glad to see that pupils are refusing to wear masks: sensible kids showing common sense.

Vaccines

Having watched all the coronavirus briefings on television, I remember when either then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock or one of our senior health advisers told us that not everyone would need to get vaccinated in order to put the pandemic at bay.

This historical example from the smallpox era shows that a only relatively small percentage of people need a vaccination in order to eradicate the disease. In the case of smallpox, this was 32%:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-3f958417-af3a-492b-8ba5-1295b96658d7

Yet, the UK is now jabbing children, mandating vaccine passports as well as threatening loss of employment in April 2022 to unvaccinated NHS and care home workers. WHY?

The biggest news story on this subject appeared on Friday, January 7.

The Telegraph reported that Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London told Health Secretary Sajid Javid that he had had coronavirus and has the antibodies. He said he had no intention of getting a vaccine.

He said that the science does not warrant a health worker vaccine mandate:

Here is a clip from The Telegraph‘s article:

https://image.vuukle.com/5a13d893-99ce-45cf-838a-4fee2a3447a2-d6bcf1df-87ae-419a-a99b-34db16fce297

NHS is doing well

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the NHS is coping well. Eight Nightingale facilities will also be opened in the coming weeks:

Socialist policies in Scotland and Wales do not work

On Monday, January 10, talkRADIO’s Kevin O’Sullivan said that vaccine passports are not working in Scotland and Wales. He rightly wonders why Boris Johnson wanted to extend their reach in England.

Wales’s rate of infection is three times higher than England’s. Scotland recorded its highest ever number of coronavirus ‘cases’:

Dan Wootton of GB News also had plenty to say on the Welsh and Scottish approach to coronavirus:

He said:

The chilling reality of the United Kingdom under a Labour/SNP coalition was laid bare over the New Year period.

And it’s not something any of us should want to become a reality.

More on that below.

Wales

On Sunday, January 9, Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford (Labour) said that Welsh coronavirus rates are lower than England’s. Note that, at one point, he did specify Welsh rates were lower than those in England’s hotspots, not the whole country. In that sentence, he told the truth, less so overall:

Drakeford came up with a few more new rules before Christmas. People couldn’t work in an office, but they could go to the pub.

Dan Wootton said:

In socialist Wales, Mark Drakeford – seemingly so intent on smashing the economy to smithereens – has started to fine honest folk £60 for going to work in an office.

Genuinely. I’m not making that up. Doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly healthy, either.

But Drakeford is the man who forced supermarkets to cordon off aisles selling toys and clothes, remember. Now the Chief Medical Officer in Wales Sir Frank Atherton is hysterically proposing that we should all self-isolate for days on end if we have a common cold.

And, with Labour’s love of restrictions, circuit breakers and draconian laws controlling our behaviour, have Welsh Covid rates been any lower than the rest of the UK? Nope!

According to government data across the pandemic, Wales has had the second highest total rate of cases per 100,000 – just under Northern Ireland – at a rate of 20,386.2.

That compares to England’s 20,174.2 and Scotland’s 17,673.4.

In the last seven days, Wales remains the second highest, again just behind Northern Ireland.

The following tweet shows another absurd aspect of the situation, with an English non-league football (soccer) club, Chester, wondering how it can survive under Drakeford’s draconian rules. Chester’s stadium lies just over the border in Wales:

This exchange shows how complicated the situation is:

Scotland

North of the Border, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) has implemented some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the UK.

Dan Wootton says that these are a smokescreen for the lack of a second independence referendum. Nonetheless, he details how totalitarian they are:

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon prizes her role as a Covid dictator using press conferences broadcast to the nation by the BBC to spread fear and introduce harsh controls on poor Scots.

She insists it’s to keep them safe.

But in my opinion, it’s to keep the Covid crisis running for as long as possible, so she doesn’t have to face the fact her dream of a second independence referendum lies in tatters.

So to Sturgeon omicron has been a blessing, allowing her to impose new social controls essentially killing off the Scottish hospitality industry once more for months. Compare and contrast today’s [January 3] Times front pages.

The English edition reports that ministers in Westminster are confident new curbs won’t be needed, given Plan B has already been imposed and Omicron is a far less severe variant.

The Scottish edition, by contrast, reports that large public gatherings could be forbidden in Scotland well into the spring, with National Clinical Director Jason Leitch saying April will still be too early to host a postponed Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh.

And it’s these draconian policies propagated by Sturgeon that resulted in ridiculous police overreach and brutality in Scotland that you won’t see reported in the mainstream media.

Case in point: police raiding the Avant Garde gastropub in Glasgow on New Year’s Eve, where there were around 50 folk, most of them over 60-years-old, simply trying to enjoy their night.

Then, for some reason, two large police vans carrying more than 20 officers, according to witnesses, turned up because they were suspected of breaking Sturgeon’s outrageously over the top Covid rules.

The pub may have been targeted because it displays this poster on its door saying

“We have no discrepancy over whether you want to wear a mask or not.” This is what happened when multiple cops stormed the pub…

The footage is included with this interview of the man who filmed it:

What a despicably unnecessary show of force from Scottish police who routinely fail to investigate muggings and burglaries.

But it’s not their fault, it’s Sturgeon’s for introducing such authoritarian laws, banning bar service and enforcing social distancing between groups.

Sturgeon has implemented these measures despite only ONE patient with omicron having been admitted to intensive care in Scotland. Only one!

The police claim they were simply making a ‘routine visit’, but, come on, it should never have come to this.

Sturgeon is criminalising people drinking and having a good time.

This month — and we’re less than two weeks in — she has had to backtrack on her stringent restrictions.

When the editor of the Scottish Daily Mail, Mike Blackley, asked her on December 17 if she could reduce the number of self-isolation days, she turned caustic:

Yeah, because that’d really help ’cause that would spread infections even further and that would not be doing any favours to businesses.

Guido Fawkes has an update from Wednesday, January 5:

On 22nd December, England’s Covid rules changed so infected individuals can stop isolating after seven days rather than ten, so long as they test negative on day six and seven. Six days ago Wales followed suit, and a day later Northern Ireland copied the change. Leaving one obvious outlier…

It now looks like Sturgeon will confirm the cut, with a statement expected later today and her deputy John Swinney saying yesterday that their administration is “actively considering” reducing the self-isolation period. There’s just one problem with the move if it goes ahead – it’ll be a very embarrassing U-turn on Sturgeon’s part…

So, will she now apologise to the Scottish Mail‘s Mike Blackley?

Unlikely.

Late last week, SNP MP Stewart Hosie appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that Scotland had a lower number of coronavirus cases than England.

The SNP then tweeted this news, which was based on out of date statistics:

Guido Fawkes rightly called out the SNP, including a graphic of the updated statistics.

Not only does England have a lower prevalence than Scotland, it has the lowest prevalence of all four UK nations despite having almost no legal restrictions. The lockdown lovers always say they’re following the science… except when they aren’t.

Last weekend, England still had a lower prevalence of coronavirus than Scotland, which demands mask wearing and vaccine passports:

Last week, Sturgeon took exception to Boris Johnson’s idea to scrap free lateral flow tests. He wants to reserve them for ‘high-risk settings’:

On Monday, January 10, Sturgeon apparently decided Scotland will have to live with the virus. We’ll see:

The Scottish Daily Express reported:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on the latest Covid-19 situation on Tuesday

Nicola Sturgeon is under mounting pressure to scrap crippling Coronavirus restrictions after she admitted for the first time that Scots will need to “learn to live” with the virus.

The First Minister is due to announce whether an extension to Scotland’s restrictions will occur in Holyrood today, with critics claiming they have made little difference to infection rates.

Currently the rules put in place on Boxing Day to rein in the Omicron Covid-19 variant include curbs on spectator sports, the closure of nightclubs and the resumption of table service in pubs.

But speaking ahead of her statement to MSPs, the First Minister said that Scots would have to ask themselves “what adaptations to pre-pandemic life” would be required in the longer-term to “enable us to live with it [the virus] with far fewer protective measures.”

Ms Sturgeon also warned the NHS would need to be managed differently to cope with Covid in the long term with more patients treated away from hospitals.

In an interview with STV Scotland Tonight, she added: “Covid will change all of our considerations of how we manage our health service, and that will be part of the way in which we all learn to live with it over the months and years to come.

“We are in a position where we all want to get to as much normality as possible. All of us, me included, really crave that.

“But we need to recognise that this virus, although we hope Omicron is milder than previous variants, this virus still takes lives and it still causes significant health impacts for people.

“So we have got to treat it seriously and not underestimate the damage that it can do.”

It comes after Ms Sturgeon last week said the SNP-led Scottish Government would unveil a blueprint for Scots to live with the virus in the long term that would be “more proportionate and sustainable and less restrictive”.

Opposition parties in Scotland are particularly keen for these restrictions to end.

The Scottish Conservatives are the main opposition party in Holyrood:

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish public need to see some light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s time for the First Minister to produce a timetable on the new strategic framework that she promised.

“People want reassurance that restrictions won’t stay in force for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

“After almost two years of sacrifice, the public need to see a bold timetable from the Scottish Government that will enable us to live safely with Covid.”

Labour are the next largest party in opposition:

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader added: “Almost two years into the pandemic, I don’t think we have yet built the resilience in the system in order to respond appropriately to Covid.

“I think we accept that Covid is a risk to people’s health and wellbeing and we’ve also got to accept that how we respond to Covid is also a risk to people’s health and wellbeing particularly their mental health.

“I think this day by day decision making and waiting to see what may and may not be said at a press conference is not actually a good way of responding to the pandemic.

“I would like to see a framework in place that builds resilience, that sets quite clearly what the trigger mechanisms for any potential restrictions are and what those restrictions maybe and also then what the trigger mechanisms are for financial support for individual businesses …

“I don’t think the government has done that work here in Scotland and across the UK and I think we urgently need to do that work.”

The Liberal Democrat response was the best:

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, said: “I’ve been concerned at the absence of data offered to Parliament by the SNP.

“We still don’t have a firm idea of those who are in hospital because of Omicron or who just test positive when they go in for something else.

“Without that information, Parliament can’t take a view on whether restrictions are appropriate.

“There’s no clear evidence that the enhanced restrictions in Scotland have reduced the rates of infection compared to other parts of the UK.”

Too right!

Conclusion

If Boris can return to a rational outlook on coronavirus measures, England can be the first to exit the dystopia we have found ourselves in since March 16, 2020, with lockdown implemented one week later on March 23.

Let those who wish to take precautions do so.

Let those of us who wish to live and work again do so freely, without hindrance.

Over the weekend, I read two contrasting approaches to coronavirus, going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

El Salvador

This is the latest message from the government in El Salvador about coronavirus. It advocates exercise, achieving a normal weight, eating properly and getting enough sleep:

It is sublime. If only other governments had advocated the same thing over the past 22 months. Then again, there’s no Big Pharma involvement, so this never could have happened in the West.

France

Now we move to the ridiculous.

Last summer, the French government mandated the vaccine passport, popularly called le pass sanitaire, when in reality it is le pass vaccinale.

In August 2021, the Minister for Work, Elisabeth Borne, said that anyone refusing to get a vaccine passport would be denied his/her salary or unemployment benefit. Someone replied to this tweet with a quote from February 2021 in which Borne said that, as a woman of the Left, fighting for social justice and equal opportunity were her two biggest objectives in life. Oh, the irony:

Initially, at least, vaccine passports were required even to go into a supermarket.

Here’s a chap at Carrefour who could not get past the security guard on August 17 at Noisy le Grand, just outside of Paris:

Two more videos appeared on August 18. One was in the city of Pau in the south west of France. Police prevented angry shoppers from entering Leclerc:

The second confrontation took place at an Auchan in Marseille. Shoppers chanted ‘Liberté, liberté’:

I don’t know what happened after that, but I haven’t heard or seen any more about people being prevented from entering a supermarket.

I did see videos with police checking people sitting outdoors at cafés and bars for vax passport status.

Fast forwarding to January 2, 2022, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that food and drink can only be taken in bars and cafés sitting down. A bit like Wales and Scotland, then:

That same day, the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, explained that every school would have a list of students showing their vaccination status, thereby violating the principle of privacy with regard to personal health records — a slippery slope:

The following day, the president of France’s parliament, Richard Ferrand, got coronavirus. No one was allowed to ask questions, though, because it wasn’t anyone’s business. Circulez, il n’y a rien a voir. Keep moving, nothing to see here:

Incidentally, no vax passport is required in France’s parliament. Typical:

On January 4, French president Emmanuel Macron said that he wanted to ‘p— off’ as many unvaccinated as possible. This means that the unvaccinated will not be able to go to sports fixtures, the cinema — or even restaurants, bars and cafés.

Contrast that with what he said on December 15, 2021: ‘With some things I’ve said, I’ve hurt people. I won’t do it again’:

There is even an older statement from Macron from April 29, 2021, in which he pledged there would never be a mandatory vax passport in France:

Jean Castex refused to comment on Macron’s pronouncement about p—ing off the unvaccinated:

Meanwhile, an anti-vax passport petition circulated online. It had over 1.2 million signatures as of January 5. The initiator of the petition was not allowed to present it to parliament. Police restrained him:

France’s senate will be voting on further vax passport measures this week, postponed from last week:

Constitutionalists say that the vax passport measures are unconstitutional:

Here is a roadside hoarding (billboard) critical of Macron’s vaccination policies:

The vaccine passport mandate was supposed to end on November 16, 2021. Yet, it is still in place.

On Saturday, January 8, many thousands of French citizens took to the streets to protest.

This was the scene in Aix-en-Provence:

Paris had the largest demonstration, despite the rain:

Here’s another view:

Of course, the media, in this case BFMTV, reported ‘only a few thousand’ protesters. They would, wouldn’t they?

On Monday, January 10, a French physician who works in ER called for the abolition of vaccine passports and urged the government to focus on treating the sick — ‘Revenons au basique‘, or ‘Back to basics’:

Just before Christmas, a general practitioners’ union pledged their support for the unvaccinated, a clear refutation of Macron’s policy:

France’s talk radio station, RMC, discussed the unvaccinated on Monday. Here’s the segment from Les Grandes Gueules [The Big Mouths], for any interested Francophones.

A general practitioner who is a regular guest on the show said that anyone spreading ‘disinformation’ should be put in prison. Unbelievable:

One of the panellists complained about the constant testing of schoolchildren, which she thought was a waste of time and money:

Some time ago, when waffling on about the necessity for constitutional reform, Macron pledged that any petition with more than 1 million signatures would go to a referendum in order to give the French people a voice. As the anti-vax passport petition has 1.2 million signatures, will Macron prove good on his word?

Even during an election year, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Macron’s voters are pro-vaccine and pro-vaccine passport people. Sadly, I think he will win another five-year mandate in May 2022.

England had a relatively better coronavirus Christmas season than Wales or Scotland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided against moving from the current Plan B restrictions, in place until January 26, 2022, to Plan C, which would have resembled the approach our socialist mainland neighbours have imposed on their residents.

As such, a number of Scots visited Newcastle and Carlisle to celebrate Hogmanay, the last day of the old year: New Year’s Eve. The Scots celebrate through to January 2, an annual bank holiday there. Edinburgh has the best Hogmanay celebrations, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cancelled them this year.

The Welsh also journeyed across the border to England to ring in the New Year.

We were happy to have both nations share in our fun.

On January 2, The Sunday Times reported (emphases mine):

Several hours before the famous new year countdown in Times Square, New York, young Scottish revellers were counting down the seconds to midnight at bars in Times Square, Newcastle.

Party-goers fled Scotland, where nightclubs were shut and tougher socialising restrictions were in place, desperate for a big blowout. In the west of England, a similar exodus of young people from Wales boosted the numbers of clubbers in Chester, Bristol and other towns and cities across the border.

In the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, groups of friends spilled out of Newcastle station, dragging wheelie cases behind them, girls freshly spray-tanned, hair in rollers, and boys clutching plastic bags full of cans.

One, with his arms around the shoulders of a group of friends, declared they were here for “a party”. Hailing from towns and cities across Scotland, most were in their late teens and early twenties. Many had spent successive birthdays in lockdown and were not prepared to do the same for a second New Year’s Eve.

While the UK government had allowed new year celebrations to continue, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, ordered nightclubs to shut for three weeks to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, and Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay celebrations were cancelled.

“It’s boring in Scotland, all the nightclubs are shut — what are we going to do in Scotland?” said Brian, 25, from Edinburgh. Lily Owen, 19, a student from Edinburgh, was visiting Newcastle for the first time with a group of friends. “There’s clubs here, it’s open, it’s a no-brainer: we’re going to go,” she said.

Aimee Stuart, 22, had also come to England with friends, “because Nicola Sturgeon has banned us from going out”. They had paid about £200 each for the trip — and they were not worried about Covid. “I’ve just had it, so it’s fine,” Stuart said. “And we’re all double-vaccinated.”

It has been interesting to note how the media narrative is beginning to change from a pro-restriction one to a more Swedish-style one.

On January 2, news emerged that epidemiologist Prof Mark Woolhouse OBE from the University of Edinburgh once again advocated a Swedish-style approach, which he had done in September 2020.

The Guardian obtained excerpts from Woolhouse’s forthcoming book, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir, and published them:

Rather than imposing blanket lockdowns across the nation, the government should have adopted measures designed to make contacts safe, Woolhouse maintains. “You can see from the UK data that people were reducing their contacts with each other as cases rose and before lockdown was imposed. That, coupled with Covid-safe measures, such as masks and testing, would have been sufficient to control spread.”

Largely voluntary behaviour change worked in Sweden and it should have been allowed to progress in the UK, argues Woolhouse. Instead, we plumped for an enforced national lockdown, in part because, for the first time in history, we could. Enough business is now done online to allow large parts of society to function fairly well – through video conferences and online shopping. “But it was a lazy solution to a novel coronavirus epidemic, as well as a hugely damaging one,” he adds.

However, Woolhouse is at pains to reject the ideas of those who advocated the complete opening up of society, including academics who backed the Barrington Declaration which proposed the Covid-19 virus be allowed to circulate until enough people had been infected to achieve herd immunity.

“This would have led to an epidemic far larger than the one we eventually experienced in 2020,” says Woolhouse. “It also lacked a convincing plan for adequately protecting the more vulnerable members of society, the elderly and those who are immuno-compromised.”

Instead, the country should have put far more effort into protecting the vulnerable. Well over 30,000 people died of Covid-19 in Britain’s care homes. On average, each home got an extra £250,000 from the government to protect against the virus, he calculates. “Much more should have been spent on providing protection for care homes,” says Woolhouse, who also castigates the government for offering nothing more than a letter telling those shielding elderly parents and other vulnerable individuals in their own homes to take precautions.

The nation could have spent several thousand pounds per household on provision of routine testing and in helping to implement Covid-safe measures for those shielding others and that would still have amounted to a small fraction of the £300bn we eventually spent on our pandemic response, he argues. Indeed, Woolhouse is particularly disdainful of the neglect of “shielders”, such as care home workers and informal carers. “These people stood between the vulnerable and the virus but, for most of 2020, they got minimal recognition and received no help.”

Britain spent a fortune on suppressing the virus and will still be servicing the debt incurred for generations to come, he adds. “By contrast, we spent almost nothing on protecting the vulnerable in the community. We should and could have invested in both suppression and protection. We effectively chose just one.”

And Woolhouse is emphatic that further lockdowns are not the way to deal with future waves of Covid-19. “Lockdowns aren’t a public health policy. They signify a failure of public health policy,” he states.

Instead, the country needs, very quickly, not to be surprised by new variants and not to respond each one in an ad hoc fashion. “We should agree a sliding scale of interventions and trigger points for implementing them. With omicron it all feels a bit chaotic. We need better planning and preparation for when the next variant arrives, as it surely will.”

Woolhouse is having a poke at the Conservatives there. He would be better off posting that to Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford (Wales’s First Minister). They have maintained much more stringent restrictions than England from 2020 to the present.

Another piece about adopting a Swedish-style strategy appeared in The Guardian on January 2. Larry Elliott wrote about Boris’s new change of tack in an attempt to reduce his current hero to zero reputation.

Elliott writes:

Government policy towards Covid-19 has come full circle. For now, at least, England has returned to the Swedish way of dealing with the pandemic. Tough, officially imposed lockdowns are out. Trusting the people to do the sensible thing is back in.

Whether this approach will survive the expected surge in hospitalisations from Christmas and New Year revelries remains to be seen. Boris Johnson is the master of the screeching U-turn and with the number of infections hitting new records pressure on Downing Street to act is growing. We have been here before.

Back in the early days of the pandemic the prime minister was minded to copy Sweden, a country that imposed few restrictions and decided early on that it needed to learn to live with the virus.

The prime minister’s flirtation with the “Swedish experiment” was brief, and at the end of March 2020 a draconian lockdown was imposed. Ministers knew this would have a dire impact on the economy but felt the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed left them no choice.

A paper published in the online journal Scientific Reports last year examined what would have happened had Britain followed the Swedish approach. Even assuming the public here would have been as willing to adhere to non-mandatory recommendations as the Swedes (a pretty big assumption) the UK death rate would have at least doubled.

This time, the decision is a lot less clearcut, not least because vaccines are providing protection from the virus. The news from South Africa, one of the countries where Omicron first surfaced, has also been encouraging. While more transmissible, the new variant has resulted in fewer hospitalisations and deaths. Case numbers, after rising rapidly, have started to decline.

A degree of caution is needed when comparing the two countries, because South Africa has a much younger population than Britain, and it is summer rather than the middle of winter there. Even so, it is clear the government has set a high bar for imposing further restrictions.

The prime minister’s weakened political position is one reason the government has gone Swedish. The risk of causing serious damage to the economy when it is looking particularly vulnerable is another, because this is going to be a tough year for the British public. Inflation is rising, interest rates are going up, and energy bills are expected to rocket in the spring just as Rishi Sunak’s increase in national insurance contributions comes into force.

The cumulative effect is a whopping cut to living standards. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank the average household is going to be £1,000 a year worse off. Those on the lowest incomes will be especially hard hit by soaring gas and electricity bills.

In the circumstances, it is easy to see why the government is reluctant to add to the economic pain by imposing tougher restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. Fresh curbs mean slower growth and a hit to the public finances. They would also test the resilience of the labour market.

Good news. I, like many others of a libertarian bent, foresaw these disasters nearly two years ago in March 2020.

Let Scotland and Wales continue mired in socialist control, which is doing little to alleviate coronavirus numbers.

Meanwhile, may England lead the way out of this pandemic.

In a few months’ time, we’ll find out which approach was the correct one. I suspect England’s, provided it turns out to be a more libertarian one, will have been proven the right thing to do.

I suspect that Omicron is providential. Whilst I would not advocate throwing drinks and nibbles parties, how many people have had it and not know it?

In that respect, it could be good for building up herd immunity the old fashioned way.

The UK had another big weekend of news, which, as I said last week, is unusual, given that Christmas is just around the corner.

One of the big scoops was The Spectator‘s revelation as to why every SAGE scenario is based on a worst-case outcome.

Fraser Nelson, the magazine’s editor, had an online exchange with Graham Medley from SAGE, which can be seen in his article, ‘My Twitter conversation with the chairman of the Sage Covid modelling committee’, which is a must-read.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Medley is a professor at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Last week, LSHTM published another alarming set of figures for the Omicron variant that, naturally, make the case for more lockdowns.

By contrast, JP Morgan came up with a different conclusion after looking at LSHTM’s data:

JP Morgan had a close look at this study and spotted something big: all the way through, LSHTM assumes that the Omicron variant is just as deadly as Delta. ‘But evidence from South Africa suggests that Omicron infections are milder,’ JP Morgan pointed out in a note to clients.

JP Morgan concluded:

Bed occupancy by Covid-19 patients at the end of January would be 33% of the peak seen in January 2021. This would be manageable without further restrictions.

Fraser Nelson says:

So JP Morgan had shown that, if you tweak one assumption (on severity) then – suddenly – no need for lockdown.

Nelson went online to find out why LSHTM didn’t do the same thing:

Medley seems to imply that the Government wants the worst case scenario:

Nelson says:

Note how careful he is to stay vague on whether any of the various scenarios in the Sage document are likely or even plausible. What happened to the original system of presenting a ‘reasonable worse-case scenario’ together with a central scenario? And what’s the point of modelling if it doesn’t say how likely any these scenarios are?

From what Prof Medley says, it’s unclear that the most-likely scenario is even being presented to ministers this time around. So how are they supposed to make good decisions? I highly doubt that Sajid Javid is only asking to churn out models that make the case for lockdown. That instruction, if it is being issued, will have come from somewhere else.

He concludes that there is an ethical issue with SAGE’s pronouncements:

Prof. Robert Dingwall, until recently a JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation] expert, has said that Medley’s candour reveals “a fundamental problem of scientific ethics in Sage” – ie, a hardwired negativity bias.  “The unquestioning response to the brief is very like that of SPI-B’s behavioural scientists,” he says and suggests that the Covid inquiry looks into all this.

At a time when we have just been given a new set of ‘scenarios’ for a new year lockdown it might be good if someone – if not Prof Medley – would clear up what assumptions lie behind the new 6,000-a-day-dead scenario, and if emerging information from South Africa about Omicron and its virulence have been taken into account. And how probable it is that a double-jabbed and increasingly boosted nation (with 95 per cent antibody coverage) could see this worst-case scenario come to pass.

In my view, this raises serious questions not just about Sage but about the quality of the advice used to make UK lockdown decisions. And the lack of transparency and scrutiny of that advice. The lives of millions of people rests on the quality of decisions, so the calibre of information supplied matters rather a lot – to all of us.

Too right.

I haven’t believed SAGE at all, from the beginning. I am also still angry about how much taxpayers’ money has been pumped in for a pandemic that needed a common sense solution in March 2020, such as, ‘There are a lot of unknowns here. We will provide updates. However, we advise that anyone who feels sick to get a test then isolate at home for 10 days. Keep your distance from those outside your household. Keep your hands clean. Above all: use the same precautions you would in any potentially contagious environment.’

That’s it in a nutshell. Not a lot more needed to be said.

But no.

We plebs couldn’t have that. We cannot be trusted.

Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty implied that we do not know what we are talking about.

This video is from Whitty’s appearance before a parliamentary Select Committee on Thursday, December 16. Dean Russell MP (Conservative) asked him whether the NHS risks prioritising the virus over cancer. While it might not be Dean Russell’s view, this is a prevailing opinion among many members of the public.

Whitty wasted no time in shooting that down, saying that we do not understand ‘health’ and insisting that lockdowns helped to save the NHS, which would have collapsed otherwise. Along with Prof Gordon Wishart, I also beg to differ, but here is the exchange:

People are frustrated:

General practitioners are wrapped up in this, too:

Coronavirus has overtaken their surgeries. It was already nearly impossible to get an online appointment, never mind one in person. As of last week, GPs’ priority from the Government is to dispense boosters:

No, pandemics are not a regular occurrence, but the NHS should be prepared to deal with one.

On Monday, December 20, Boris convened the Cabinet for a two-hour meeting to discuss the possibility of imposing a Christmas lockdown in England. Sir Patrick Vallance presented a doom-and-gloom scenario.

Bear in mind that Boris is skating on thin ice at the moment politically. A lockdown might have caused some of them to resign their Cabinet positions.

In the end, they decided not to go for a lockdown in England, at least over Christmas weekend:

Well, five of them did, at least.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had to leave early:

https://image.vuukle.com/72d3fbbd-8a54-4bac-865c-3fd342d8e2b7-0450edce-1519-43f8-8417-b493691b9f15

Guido Fawkes has more (red emphasis his, the purple one mine):

The Times and Telegraph have the most comprehensive write-ups, reporting Rishi, Steve Barclay and Grant Shapps were those leading the sceptics’ charge. The Times reports Jacob Rees-Mogg had a prolonged argument with Vallance about their modelling, telling Boris to trust the people rather than the scientists. Truss, Kwarteng, Alister Jack, Nadhim Zahawi and Nigel Adams are all also reportedly sceptical about the threat of Omicron…

On the other side of the divide backing restrictions, according to The Telegraphare (unsurprisingly) Javid and Gove; Nadine Dorries and Chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke. We can only presume the PM also errs towards this group. There’s set to be one more Cabinet before Christmas day that could still decide to recall MPs before New Year.

Katy Balls of The Spectator reports that this is the first time in ages that the Cabinet has been consulted on coronavirus policy:

So what happened in that meeting? ‘Boris did a great job and encouraged a proper discussion and respected other views,’ says one minister. ‘He had quite a lot humility’. Michael Gove was, as usual, leading the arguments for more lockdown. But this was based on Sage forecasts of what might happen which have lost some credibility in the eyes of Cabinet members who were — for the first time in a while — genuinely being consulted.

Boris knows he’s in trouble:

Several members of Johnson’s Cabinet are vocally opposed to new restrictions. They argue that there needs to be clearer data before any restrictions are brought in – with whispers of resignations if Johnson pressed on without this. These members of government hope that more time will offer clarity that could show omicron is milder than previous variants.

Behind the scenes, the Chancellor is understood to have played a key role warning against rushing into decisions that could cost billions. Other ministers keen to see more modelling include Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (“although it was never quite clear what he was saying,” I’m told.) Other ministers have been pressing on Johnson the idea of limiting any new measures to guidance.

But when Johnson emerged talking about the need to observe the data, and questions about Omicron’s severity, he was using the language of those who opposed lockdown. They argue, in effect, that Sage models cannot be trusted as they are composed of hypotheticals – and that we need to wait for real-world data. The next few days of hospital data, it’s argued, will tell us much about how severe Omicron is and if lockdown is needed. Data is emerging not just from South Africa (where cases now seem to be falling) but Denmark where Omicron has been found to be significantly less likely to put patients in hospital. At least some Sage modellers produced figures on the assumption that Omicron is no less likely to hospitalise or kill: one scenario talks about deaths peaking a day

Johnson faces a parliamentary party filled with MPs vehemently opposed to any new restrictions and who could question his ability to lead as a result. When the Whips office sent a note around this afternoon telling MPs that the parliamentary away day has been cancelled, one messaged me to say:

‘It’s probably for the best. If we were all in one place for a few days, we could work out a successor’

But there are Tory MPs who believe action is required. One senior Tory concludes:

‘This is a Prime Minister paralysed between science and his backbenchers. It’s depressing.’ 

The Times reports on Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg’s words of wisdom. He, too, read Fraser Nelson’s article. Good man:

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Commons, said the government should trust people to do the right thing rather than introduce further restrictions. He said many people had voluntarily changed their behaviour as the threat posed by Omicron became clear.

The prime minister said Rees-Mogg’s argument was interesting but asked how he would justify his approach at a press conference. He said that as prime minister he had to look after everyone’s health. Rees-Mogg is understood to have responded: “I would stand up and say I respect them for doing the right thing.” The prime minister is said to have suggested that this would not be enough if the NHS were at risk of being overwhelmed.

Rees-Mogg is also understood to have criticised official modelling suggesting that without further action 3,000 Omicron patients a day could need a hospital bed. He asked if Johnson had read an article by Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, questioning the assumptions behind the data.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, is said to have responded directly to Rees-Mogg that the modelling had included scenarios where the Omicron variant was deemed less severe than the Delta variant.

If so, why did Vallance not present those data?

Boris made a brief announcement after the Cabinet meeting, saying that he is still keeping all options open after Christmas:

On Wednesday, December 22, Health minister Gillian Keegan told LBC’s Nick Ferrari not make firm plans for New Year’s parties because of ongoing ‘uncertainty’:

As people have been cancelling dinner reservations and reneging on trips to the pub, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has had to come up with a £1bn compensation plan for the hospitality sector, which amounts to £6000 per business. A nightclub owner says it’s ‘insulting’. I agree with the person replying — just drop any remaining restrictions:

When is this going to end?

Oh, well. At least we’re not in the socialist nations of Scotland or Wales, where things have been far worse and continue so to be.

In the UK, coronavirus vaccine boosters progress apace.

This advert is showing at cinemas around the country. It features Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer:

https://image.vuukle.com/567afe53-342b-4f8e-a203-156c1d4476f2-48f207ed-296b-4e59-8ad1-467af89a498a

Scary.

It is reminiscent of 1984:

https://image.vuukle.com/72d3fbbd-8a54-4bac-865c-3fd342d8e2b7-4a1fc761-e4f9-4c05-9320-8e9620eef6fd

Someone else posted those images a few days ago.

Here’s another:

https://image.vuukle.com/4df088ea-a2bd-4e5a-9a27-e8d14bfdebbc-982859b6-edbb-4025-8295-d5f48d64cd4e

On Saturday, December 18, Neil Oliver of GB News interviewed Dr Robert W Malone about the vaccines and the boosters (33-43 minutes in):

Malone discusses his involvement in mRNA vaccine technology from its inception in the late 1980s and development into the 1990s. He now looks at these vaccines from a regulatory perspective.

He, along with a number of other physicians and scientists, e.g. Dr Pierre Kory, does not think that the coronavirus vaccines have been developed in a conventional manner.

Furthermore, he does not think they should be:

1/ given to children;

2/ given to people with normally functioning immune systems;

3/ mandated.

In other words, if he is correct, most of us reading this post should never have had the coronavirus vaccines or boosters.

Malone thinks that those should have been reserved only for the immuno-compromised, but admits that, even with that caveat, he’s having second thoughts about that group as well.

Hmm.

In June, Linked In suspended his account for his views on the vaccines:

In 2022, the UK is likely to get legislation prohibiting ‘hateful anti-vaccine’ (MPs’ words) articles and opinions. A few other countries already have such laws:

Note how the BBC fits in:

Congratulations to Neil Oliver and GB News for giving Dr Malone much needed air time.

Two videos of interest follow concerning coronavirus vaccines, including boosters.

On Monday, December 13, 2021, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in Parliament that NHS work would be largely paused to focus on the booster programme, with which the British Army will help administer.

An oncologist, Prof. Angus Dalgleish from St George’s Hospital, London, told GB News that the booster programme was ‘a waste of time’, because the new Omicron variant is so infectious. He is concerned that many other ailments, cancer, in particular, will go untreated. He says that a relatively mild cancer which goes undetected can become Stage 4 cancer, bringing about more fatalities from non-COVID illnesses. As for the vaccines, he says that the focus should be on T-cells rather than antibodies, which can disappear over time.

This is around six minutes in length and well worth watching:

A longer video about the vaccines is on Parliamentlive.tv. I recommend the first 40 minutes with Dame Kate Bingham, Former Chair, UK Vaccine Taskforce. (Scroll through the first 10 minutes or so, as the start was delayed.) On December 14, 2021, Dame Kate told the Science and Technology Select Committee how the vaccine programme, which was her big success last year, has begun to falter.

She has been out of the taskforce for a year now. She told the Select Committee that she left a detailed plan behind of how to proceed: staying ahead of the curve both with variants and vaccine supply. She surmises that her plan has not been followed, for whatever reason, because the vaccine rollout has become inefficient.

The most eye-opening part was her discussion of the Valneva lab in Livingston, Scotland. Dame Kate said that the Government recently withdrew funding from the facility because they wanted booster shots only; Valneva produces whole-virus vaccines, which are seen to be more adaptable in the long run.

Valneva was supposed to be 2021’s big success story. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the facility earlier this year.

Although Valneva is a French company, in February, they were willing to ship their vaccines to the UK first, because the EU had not yet signed a letter of intent:

Guido Fawkes reported that the vaccine would be ready in 2022 (emphasis in the original):

This morning it was revealed that the UK has exercised its option to purchase a further 40 million doses of a promising new vaccine from Valneva SE, a French vaccine developer with its product still in stage 1/2 trials. While the vaccine would not be available until next year it could prove vital in defending against new strains as the UK deploys what will likely be an annual vaccination effort similar to the massive flu jabs programme. The UK had already ordered 60 million doses, bringing the total to 100 million…

Valneva SE CFO David Lawrence told the Today Programme that whilst the UK has been in discussions and had signed deals since the summer of 2020, the EU is yet to sign even a letter of intent with the firm, which is headquartered in Paris.

In April, The Scotsman reported that Valneva was searching for Phase 3 trial volunteers for their promising vaccine, being developed ahead of schedule for delivery at the end of 2021 (emphases mine; sorry about the font size, which I was unable to change):

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, which are set to be delivered at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022.

With all adults due to have been vaccinated by the end of the summer, Valneva hopes its vaccine will be used as a booster jag or as a modified vaccine which is more effective against new variants of Covid-19.

The phase 3 trial will run in 24 sites across the UK, with two in Scotland. It is open to healthy adults who have not already had a vaccine.

Around 3,000 people over 30 will be given either two doses of the Valneva vaccine or two doses of the AstraZeneca jag.

Following JCVI guidance not to offer AstraZeneca to under 30s, around 1,000 younger participants in the study will be given only the Valneva option.

Volunteers will be given two doses, 28 days apart, starting at the beginning of May.

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva chief executive, said: “This Phase 3 initiation marks a significant milestone in the development of the only inactivated vaccine candidate against Covid-19 in clinical trials in Europe.

“As Covid-19 continues to impact people’s daily lives, we remain fully focused on developing another safe and efficacious vaccine solution.

“We believe that VLA2001 has an important role to play including boosters or potential modifications to the vaccine to address variants.”

Valneva’s candidate is an inactivated whole virus vaccine, which contains virus that has been destroyed so cannot infect cells, but can still trigger an immune response.

The technology is used in flu, polio and rabies vaccines, and it’s a more traditional approach than the Pfizer (mRNA) and AstraZeneca (adenoviral) vaccines.

Because the vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus, it may be especially suitable for vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those with weaker immune systems.

On November 31, Daily Business reported that the UK Government might return to the negotiating table with Valneva, which they had accused of breach of contract:

UK Government ministers may be about to return to the negotiating table with French vaccine developer Valneva two months after cancelling a contract to supply Covid vaccines from its plant in Livingston.

A source close to the situation says it is hoped the UK Government will “seek an amicable resolution” and at least partially reinstate the £1.2bn order to help combat the new Omicron variant.

Westminster terminated the deal in September, claiming breach of contract, a move that drew criticism from business leaders, senior academics and politicians.

The government had placed an order for 100 million doses of its VLA2001 vaccine after increasing its request by 40 million last February. Then, without warning, it pulled the plug.

It placed a question mark over the future of the firm’s new West Lothian factory, a globally-qualified manufacturing site for viral vaccines including VLA2001.

The company is currently supplying, or is in discussion, with other countries about potential deals for the vaccine.

For once, I agree with Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs; they rightly deplore the Government’s withdrawal of the Valneva order.

Dame Kate Bingham pointed out that, because Valneva’s vaccine is a whole virus one rather than one with just the protein spikes, e.g. Moderna’s, it can be modified quickly to attack new variants. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s, on the other hand, require months of work.

Dame Kate called Valneva ‘nimble’. She added that, even if the UK were not interested in the vaccine, other countries around the world would want it, which can only be a positive for Britain.

One wonders how many other stories there are like this.

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