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Monday, July 19, 2021, will not be the long-awaited Freedom Day in England, just an unlocking for larger gatherings and venues, including theatres, nightclubs and strip clubs.

Mask wearing will still be ‘expected’.

In his coronavirus briefing on Monday, July 12, Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer used the words ‘terminus’ or ‘irreversible’. In fact, he warned about the winter months ahead.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid had announced the very same in his statement to the Commons earlier that afternoon.

At this point, I doubt that we will see any semblance of pre-coronavirus normality until next year. We might even have to have coronavirus passports. Here is the minister in charge of the vaccination programme, Nadhim Zahawi:

Incidentally, French president Emmanuel Macron announced his plans for such passports on Monday for France. He also suggested that vaccinations could be made mandatory if there is not enough take up.

The Telegraph summarised the position in England (emphases mine):

People will be expected to continue wearing masks in indoor spaces, a stricture that will no doubt remain a requirement of entry for shops and hospitality venues as well as being mandated on public transport. Companies eager for their staff to return to the office have been left in an impossible position by ambiguous guidance about working from home. Employees are not being told to stay away but nor are they expected to go to work.

Since Mr Johnson previously said it was “now or never” to end these restrictions, the inescapable conclusion is that it is to be never. If they are to be requirements now, in the middle of summer, how will they not be in the autumn and winter when the number of Covid and flu cases will rise? Some scientists, indeed, have argued that distancing and face coverings should be made permanent.

In the Commons, the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed the new tone, saying that next Monday would not be a terminus after all but another step on the road back to normality, though with no indication of when that might be.

If there are good public health reasons for this circumspection then let ministers say so and produce the evidence to justify it. If, however, the four tests set for a full reopening have been met – as Mr Javid told MPs they had been – then let it happen. Worryingly, however, the pledge of an “irreversible” course out of lockdown is no longer being heard.

It is, of course, to be welcomed that Stage 4 of the road map will be implemented next Monday. But for as long as ministerial pronouncements seeking to influence how we should behave stay in place, “Freedom Day” will remain some way off.

The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs wrote an excellent editorial on the subject: ‘Boris Johnson has lost his nerve and condemned us to Covid no-man’s land’.

She points out that, despite the stellar vaccine rollout, the Government’s response to the virus is essentially the same as it was early in 2020:

I do not envy the Prime Minister. He is having to make decisions in the face of violent resistance from scientists who have strayed far beyond their proper roles as apolitical advisers. It is, however, astonishing that 16 months and 45 million vaccinations later, our basic approach to Covid is still no more sophisticated than it was in March 2020.

She sees the NHS as the tail wagging the British dog, which, by the way, is also true in the devolved nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland):

No 10’s priority appears to remain to “protect the NHS” at all costs. Restrictions are still deemed to be a vital tool to prevent ICUs becoming overwhelmed. Far from Britain breaking free, one can only conclude that our liberties will be tethered to ICU capacity indefinitely, with the Government loosening and tightening the reins as Covid fluctuates with the seasons.

The Government may think that it has public opinion on its side. Recent polling suggests that a sizeable proportion of the population would be happy for some restrictions to remain forever, even once the threat of Covid has faded …

The only answer is reforming the NHS:

There is one obvious way out of this. If the NHS is so precious that it is in danger of being overwhelmed even after one of the most comprehensive vaccination programmes in history, then the priority now must be to reform the service to make it fit for purpose. Germany, for instance, with its insurance-based model, has more than four times as many critical care beds per capita as Britain.

The NHS has become the new secular national religion in Britain.

Applauding it last year over so many Thursday nights at 8 o’clock has put it on a pedestal it might not wholly deserve:

The NHS has become Britain’s all-consuming project, the millstone around its neck and the cloying source of confected national pride. Its hold over the country is so powerful that even a so-called libertarian Conservative PM decided this week to risk sacrificing our ordinary freedoms rather than dare to reform it.

She adds an interesting fact about NHS financing in 1948, when it was founded:

As noble as the idea behind the NHS might have been, it is founded on delusions about Britain’s finances. (Indeed Westminster initially partly bankrolled it with foreign money, splitting 1940s Marshall aid between its domestic healthcare dreams and ailing colonial dominions).

We cannot go on like this forever, even though some would like to do so:

the downsides of lockdowns are becoming too enormous to ignore. Their effectiveness is limited in free Western countries plagued by widespread low-level non-compliance and inadequate infection control in care homes and hospitals. Contrastingly, the damage lockdowns cause is limitless – from decimating mental health to destroying children’s education. It is extraordinary that, even now, Johnson only pays lip service to this inescapable truth.

The biggest problem for the foreseeable future will be masks, especially as the Government says they are ‘expected’ in crowded, enclosed spaces. What does that really mean?

Another Telegraph article, by The Spectator‘s Anglo-American Kate Andrews, offers a suggestion to make things clearer:

Boris Johnson’s message last night was that he ‘expects and recommends’ that people continue to wear masks in ‘crowded’ and ‘enclosed’ spaces, or where you come into contact with strangers: a vague, yet seemingly large request. The message could be far more simple: be aware of your surroundings and make an informed decision. This would be a real breakaway from our Covid lifestyles, and a return to the notion of personal responsibility.

The continuation of masks and compliance in this regard could be interpreted in a sinister way:

Perhaps the mask debate playing out now is the one we should have had in the first place. After the Government’s most senior medical and scientific advisers spent months last spring telling the public not to buy or wear masks, the rule changed to mandate them on public transport, punishable by fines. Did we need to criminalise people for not wearing a mask, or might guidance have done the trick? But even now, the push for guidance often reveals itself as a push to keep emergency laws — not to be clearer with the public, but to be harsher.

There has been consensus throughout the pandemic that the British public have been wonderful: thoughtful and willing to uphold their social contract to strangers, to protect the lives of the vulnerable and elderly. Now, as their freedoms are set to be returned, that consensus is breaking. It seems when some were praising the public, they were really praising the rules that hovered over them.

Perhaps so. It is a sobering thought.

In any event, July 19 will not be Freedom Day by any stretch of the imagination. It will certainly not affect me personally, especially if I am still expected to wear a face covering.

I had been looking forward to going out for a long, languorous, maskless lunch in London next month. That will have to wait, probably until 2022.

Episode 14 of Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV was broadcast on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

He interviewed Trevor Phillips, past head of the Commission for Racial Equality and chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the succeeding organisation. Since then, Phillips has held a number of other appointments in human rights, the arts and retail. He is currently managing director of Webber and Phillips, a data analytics provider.

Neil also interviewed Mark Harper, one of my favourite Conservative rebel MPs, who has spoken out against coronavirus lockdown and restrictions. Harper has served as the MP for the Forest of Dean constituency in Gloucestershire since 2005. He has also served as a junior minister in the Cabinet Office, an Immigration Minister and Minister for Disabled People. He was the Chief Whip for the Conservatives in the House of Commons between May 2015 and July 2016. His tenure as Chief Whip ended when Theresa May became Prime Minister.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, also appeared on the programme:

By the time the show aired, the mass purchase of the BioNtech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was finalised, announced and is now on its way to the UK.

A vote on the new tier restrictions after England’s second national lockdown was held on Tuesday, December 1. Mark Harper was one of the rebels who voted against the Government.

Conservative rebels

The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth said that the rebels’ vote against the Government, while not toppling the final result, ‘was the biggest of Boris Johnson’s premiership’. Had the Opposition (i.e. Labour) not supported the Government, Boris and his Cabinet would have lost.

Forsyth pointed out that the number of Conservative rebels ‘has been rising consistently’. There will be a vote in January on renewing the tier restrictions. Currently, many English constituencies that started out in Tier 1 before the national lockdown are now, arbitrarily, in Tier 2. (Kent is a good example: communities closer to London have higher coronavirus infection rates than those along the east coast of the county.) If these discrepancies are resolved for in a local way — splitting counties into two different tiers — Forsyth sees more Conservative MPs voting against the Government next year.

He said that vaccine roll out might help to quell the rebellion if it’s efficient. However, if the roll out is ‘bumpy’ and restrictions persist, the rebellion will increase.

Deputy political editor Katy Balls came on next. She said the Government tried to reduce the rebellion, through a Zoom call asking for unity, but that did not succeed as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the call, had hoped.

Economics editor Kate Andrews summarised the retail losses — up to £2 billion a week — coupled with retailers Debenhams and the Arcadia Group going into administration was a real problem. Pubs are in severe difficulty, too; only two per cent of them are in Tier 1.

Forsyth thought that the Government might make the tier classification more local but said post-Christmas restrictions present real concern, including the return of university students.

Forsyth did not see any easing of the rebellion until February or March 2021.

Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group, was on next. He did not think that the Government had been as ‘transparent and open’ as they should have been. He has questions as to why hospitality was singled out as a danger sector but has received few answers. He wonders if it makes sense to have a lockdown, then a relaxation over Christmas only to be followed by further restrictions for a month.

Harper said that he wants to support the Government but cannot do so right now.

However, he has noted a change in the tone from the Prime Minister. Letters to the Covid Recovery Group have been more ‘collegiate’.

That said, there is nothing of substance in them, e.g. clinical evidence and a ‘coherent narrative’. He noted that the scientific experts’ opinions differ to those of the Government.

Neil asked Harper what policy change he would like to see. Harper said that the impact of the first lockdown and the recession it caused would have a worse impact on quality of life years (QALYs) than the coronavirus deaths themselves.

Harper says he sees no balance from the Government between health and economic issues during the crisis.

While he appreciates that this is a difficult time with ‘no easy answers’, he is frustrated with the lack of openness from Government ministers on how they arrive at their decisions.

He hopes that the Government will start showing the criteria on which they base their decisions and ‘a proper roadmap’ by the end of January 2021.

Scottish independence

The latest support for Scottish independence has risen to 56%.

Emily Gray from IPSOS Mori showed a series of slides demonstrating that Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) is far and away the most popular of any political party north of the border.

While Scots admire Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Brexit is another factor in the preference for independence. Scots trust the SNP on all major issues, from the two that I named through to the NHS and education.

Conservatives and Unionists are not doing well in Scotland. Part of the reason for this, she said, was that they were not making a compelling argument for the Union, i.e. being better off together than as separate nations.

Neil pointed out that the SNP have not done well in terms of equality in health and education. Gray said that Sturgeon’s ratings have remained high throughout the pandemic. She has calmed their fears; therefore, any shortcomings are not in the forefront of people’s minds.

The Scots voted two-to-one to remain in the European Union. Brexit is deeply unpopular there. Neil said that some Scots would vote for independence as revenge for Brexit. Forsyth acknowledged that such a point of view is a problem.

Gray, however, made it clear that the pandemic was a greater factor in the yearning for independence than Brexit.

James Forsyth said that the SNP will win the local 2021 elections handily.

He added that Boris Johnson will have to address this issue of independence sooner or later. Perhaps the Unionists have to wait for ‘something to turn up’ in order for them to make their case. They would do well to ‘buy time’, he said.

Katy Balls agreed with Neil when he said that Boris does not ‘poll well’ north of the border, however, Rishi Sunak does. She said that a Labour government would have a easier time dissuading the Scots from voting for independence.

Forsyth said that a successful UK government vaccine roll out might change Scots’ minds against independence. Visiting relatives in different parts of the UK this Christmas might also help to reinforce the benefits and commonality of the Union.

Equality

Equality was the last topic of conversation when Neil interviewed Trevor Phillips.

Critical race theory — yes, Neil used those exact words — was the topic of conversation.

Phillips did not deny the use of critical race theory and said that he, too, was sceptical of the term, saying that it serves only to feed white nationalism.

He also says that it downgrades education. It is, he said, based ‘on anecdote, narrative, “my feelings” … none of which will change a single thing for people of colour’.

He called it a ‘scam’.

He said it is wrong to make the issue of race ‘entirely about white people’ with people of colour as ‘bystanders’.

Neil, somewhat apologising for his skin colour, pointed out that much progress has been made in race relations but that the theory does not acknowledge any of that progress.

Phillips said that Neil did ‘not have to apologise for being white’.

Phillips said that the UK is not the United States. He noted that a number of families in Britain have bi-racial antecedents or parents since the Second World War. He said that no other nation in the world has that number of black and white familial unions. Britain, however, does.

Neil objected to the modern treatment of the telling of American independence, which he said purported to promote slavery. Phillips agreed, calling it ‘complete drivel’. Phillips then brought up slavery in the US — tobacco and cotton-based — versus slavery on the Caribbean plantations, which he said was much larger, on a ‘factory level’.

Phillips said we should think of the current movement as we do Extinction Rebellion. He noted that Cuba, with all its black residents, has never had a black leader. He said the current movement is a front to ‘overthrow things as they are’. He said that, if they want to change things, ‘do it honestly’.

Neil asked if Malcolm X would have been a supporter. Phillips doubted it, because he would have disliked ‘the indiscipline of the movement’. However, he acknowledged that, he might have done in the middle of his life. Later, Phillips said, Malcolm X dropped the idea that ‘whites are intrinsically bad’.

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Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored the programme.

Episode 13 of Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV aired on Thursday, November 26, 2020.

As you can see, the main topics were coronavirus and Brexit:

I haven’t tuned into the episodes following the US election, because everyone is so anti-Trump.

The Chancellor’s spending review

Andrew Neil opened the programme with the UK Government’s spending review.

We are heading towards a national debt of £3 trillion and a budget deficit of nearly £420 billion.

There will be few spending cuts but tax rises will help to fill the gaps.

Kate Andrews gave us more information about Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s statement. She had updated data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The economy is set to contract by 11.3%, the biggest fall in 300 years. I wrote about that earlier this year, so it came as no surprise.

We will not even start to recover until 2022. Andrews said that some believe this is too pessimistic, even if the OBR says they took into account that we would have a vaccine. Well, we have that vaccine now (the week after the programme aired), which means that we could reopen our economy by the middle of next year. That said, we do not know how long the vaccine programme will take. Unemployment will rise by 3.5% to 7.5%, 2.5 million people.

Even by 2025, our deficit will still be around £100 billion. There will be a £15 billion increase in social spending, but Rishi will have to start to raise money. We won’t find out how until early next year, possibly at the end of the year.

Andrew Neil said that, so far, the Chancellor has ‘kept his powder dry’. James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, said there is too much up in the air right now to make any firm predictions.

Katy Balls, The Spectator‘s deputy political editor, said that a few areas of the statement have raised questions. However, Rishi’s decisions might look more reasonable next year. Some cuts, e.g. foreign aid, will be popular with Conservative voters, including those in the North of England.

Forsyth said that as we spend more on defence, it is logical that something will have to be cut: foreign aid (which, in reality, is not being cut by that much).

The 2019 intake of Conservative MPs have formed the One Nation Caucus, who could rebel against the Government, but, as Katy Balls noted, there are various shades of conservatism that do not automatically amount to mass rebellion.

Andrew Neil asked Kate Andrews about the OBR’s four scenarios, especially the most optimistic one. She said that we do not know how effective the vaccine will be and how quickly the roll out will go.

Neil asked her about the lack of specifics from the Treasury. Andrews said that he is probably looking at all the options, especially positive ones that might prevent higher unemployment next year.

Forsyth said we will know how much more we need to spend on COVID-19 compensation plans by March 2021, but the Chancellor will have to decide on policy by 2022, well in advance of the next election in 2024. He added that the Chancellor will have to put clear water between the Conservatives and Labour on spending. Currently, there isn’t much difference.

Coronavirus tiers in England

Coronavirus tiers came up next. England was still in its final days of the second national lockdown, which ended on December 2.

Only Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight are in Tier 1. That wasn’t known at the time of broadcast, but it was already expected because of indications from the Prime Minister and our national medical experts who warned that most areas in Tier 1 before lockdown would end up in Tier 2.

Neil asked Forsyth whether a relaxation over Christmas for family celebrations wouldn’t start bumping up contagion rates. Forsyth said that, in Canada, after their Thanksgiving in October, rates started to soar. He also mentioned the warnings going on in Scotland: be sensible and try not to take advantage of Christmas celebrations.

Katy Balls talked about the backbench Conservative rebels on lockdown, particularly about the new tier classification. Many counties with low rates are in Tier 2. However, those rebels are not of large enough number to cause the Government to lose a vote on further restrictions. That vote was held on Tuesday, December 1. Balls said that Boris has Labour’s votes on his side, so he will win now and in future.

Coronavirus vaccines

Neil announced that the Government had pre-purchased doses of various vaccines so that two-thirds of the population could achieve ‘herd immunity’. Dr Stuart Ritchie, a behavioural scientist at Kings College London, gave his views on the subject.

Neil asked Ritchie about vaccine scepticism. Ritchie said that more and more Britons were sceptical about taking a vaccine. He found the polls ‘worrying’. He said that there is a new term replacing ‘anti-vax’, which is ‘vaccine hesitancy’. He said that people are rightly worried, especially when they perceive a political element to vaccination. The rapidity of the vaccine development is one factor, the lack of information about it being another. He admitted that there are things we just do not know yet until the vaccine is rolled out.

Neil asked about mandatory vaccinations. Ritchie said that France has several vaccines that are mandatory, as do the US and Australia. Ritchie does not think this will be a question in the UK, because, despite the polls, there is still an eagerness among the public for vaccination. He thinks the Government should pay people around £200 to get vaccinated as an incentive.

Changing people’s minds could be less successful, he admitted. Neil pushed Ritchie on no admittance to restaurants or on flights. Neil clearly is gung-ho on this, sadly. Ritchie agreed, saying that people would feel safer if mandates such as these were added to our everyday lives. (Pathetic.)

Forsyth said that the Government wants 75% of target groups to be vaccinated but added that scepticism would be a problem. Ritchie said making it compulsory would only make people more suspicious. That said, he purported that the vaccine was truly safe.

Ritchie looks very young to me and he was most enthusiastic on vaccination. I would like to see him as a 60+ giving such views.

Katy Balls said the vulnerable as well as front line health workers will be at the top of the vaccination priority list. However, she does not doubt that Conservative rebels will be on the case, depending on the vaccination issue of the day.

She said that one poll showed that the public would be more likely to take the vaccine if their MP took it first. (Excellent idea.)

Ritchie said that vaccine efficacy will determine future uptake.

Brexit

The final topic was Brexit. Neil spoke with Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU between 2013 and 2017. He worked closely with former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May on this issue. Neil asked Rogers about Brexit talks as they stand. Rogers said they were ‘very fraught’. Time is running out, and decisions now have to be made. Rogers thought the markets were too optimistic on the EU and UK arriving at a deal.

Rogers said that Boris’s government is not ‘classically Conservative’, meaning Thatcherite. He added that we are also in the coronavirus crisis, which has added another dimension to EU-UK negotiations.

Neil said that British politicians never considered how difficult Brexit would be to negotiate. Rogers said that ministers knew about the difficulty and discussed it privately during his time. He agreed that ministers did not have a vision as to how they wanted to negotiate an exit. He added that he had real doubts from the beginning about Theresa May’s deal, which he never thought would succeed.

Then there were disagreements about what a ‘Canada+’ deal actually meant. He said there were ‘huge misreadings’ on both sides. He warned about the ‘++’ element for that reason. The final deal will be much stronger on goods than on services, he thinks, which is a centuries-old priority.

Neil asked if these negotiations could go on and on in smaller ways, even with a deal. Rogers thinks there will be modifications in the years to come. Some of these are already under discussion, he said, which is making a final deal more evasive at this time.

After the interview, Forsyth said that fishing is the biggest issue right now, especially as the French — Emmanuel Macron, specifically — baulking at the UK’s reclaiming our national territories.

Forsyth stated that, even with a deal, future EU-UK negotiations will continue ‘for the rest of our lifetimes’. He said these will be a ‘constant for the rest of our working lives’.

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Thanks to Charles Stanley Wealth Managers for their sponsorship of the programme.

Below is Episode 10 of Spectator TV’s The Week in 60 Minutes, broadcast on Thursday, November 5, 2020:

As per their YouTube blurb, Andrew Neil’s special guests are:

David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge [and] Ece Temelkuran, a Turkish journalist who was fired from her publication for criticising the government.

Andrew Neil began with the US election. Neil clearly loathes Trump. This is why I have not listened to or posted the previous two broadcasts.

He did mention that the state legislatures have a big part to play in deciding whether their election counts are legal or if they can take other action. Political Editor James Forsyth said this was not the predicted Blue Wave Democrats and pollsters predicted. As such, the Republican-dominated Senate will put a check on how much Biden, should he become president, could do.

Economics Correspondent Kate Andrews, who is American, said that to Trump supporters, the incumbent represents ‘normality’. She is not a Trump fan, by the way. She said that Trump will not go down without a fight in the courts, especially after the Democrats have dogged him since 2015. She also pointed out how wrong the polls were.

Neil said that the Democrats never seem to learn their lessons, beginning with Hillary Clinton in 2016. He also said that Biden made a mistake in offering a huge concert featuring Lady Gaga; it looked to ‘Flyover Country’ as if he were pandering to multi-millionaires.

Forsyth pointed out that there is still deep division in the way that Americans think. Neil mentioned the upcoming litigation from Team Trump and mentioned voter fraud, including mail-in ballots. Forsyth said that Establishment Republicans, e.g. Mitch McConnell, will not want him to move into the territory of ‘vexatious lawsuits’.

Neil noted that Democrats are hardly triumphant, particularly because of Biden’s age: 78. Kate Andrews replied that their mandate will be unclear for a one-term president. [They are both assuming Joe’s going to last for four years.] She disagreed with Forsyth about coronavirus being the reason Trump didn’t get more votes; she thinks that Trump came on too strong in the first debate. [The presidential debates are supposed to sway the undecided.]

Andrews think that Biden will ‘work across the aisle’ if he becomes president. However, she says there’s a long road ahead before the president is decided.

Forsyth says that chances are good that Republicans will continue ‘Trumpism without Trump’, building more links with the working class and those on lower incomes. He thinks Democrats have more work to do here than Republicans.

Neil said that the Midwest could take the coastal areas over as the deciding region in future elections — for both parties. Andrews said that people there really appreciated the 2017 tax breaks. The economy, from what she has seen in exit poll issues, was much more important than coronavirus.

Neil said that if Biden becomes president, he will face a Republican-controlled Senate and a majority-conservative Supreme Court. [Neil and Andrews haven’t allowed for him to stack the Supreme Court.]

At that point, both Neil and Forsyth started showing their vulnerabilities as pundits on US politics. So, I’ll move on to the next topic.

The next topic of discussion was the second coronavirus lockdown in England, paralleling the one in Wales and something similar in Scotland. It started the day of the broadcast.

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, talked about the ‘debacle’ of spurious data from SAGE that appeared at the press conference on Saturday, October 31, which 15 million people watched. He pointed out that there are nowhere near 4,000 daily deaths from coronavirus. The magazine has been tracking the data daily.

Nelson also mentioned Sir Patrick Vallance’s exaggerated projections from September, which were not at all true. Nelson said that it looks — even before lockdown — as if the Government’s localised tier system is working. Liverpool’s case numbers decreased by 48%, he said, in the second half of October. He concludes that the Government pushed lockdown based on modelling rather than reality, i.e. ‘scary charts’. [I couldn’t agree more.]

Prof David Spiegelhalter appeared remotely. Neil asked him about these strange statistics and scary scenarios. Spiegelhalter, a statistician, said that he would be speaking personally, not professionally. He said that the ‘4,000 deaths’ were ‘completely unnecessary’ to make a case for a second lockdown. He pointed out that, in more moderate areas of the country, e.g. the south-West, cases are going up. He said that, even as R is decreasing, we are only stabilising the situation temporarily. The situation we are in now is still putting pressure on the NHS to carry out routine treatments. That could have been explained and that would have been reason enough for the public to accept a second lockdown.

Nelson broke in to say that he thought showing alarmist statistics to an early evening audience nationwide on a Saturday was irresponsible. Spiegelhalter agreed, saying that the graph was ‘inappropriate’. He added that it had been produced under earlier, out-of-date assumptions — and was never part of an official document.

Nelson asked for a more balanced view with regard to public statistics. He was also concerned about false-positive test results. Spiegelhalter replied that the true false-positive result is very low. However, we are moving on from the PCR (swab) test we have been using. [A trial with a new test in Liverpool started a few days ago.] He said that the new tests would need to be further evaluated for false-positive rates.

Neil has been talking to the True Blue (Conservative) faithful and they have been growing increasingly ‘hostile’ towards Boris Johnson’s premiership. James Forsyth said there could be a vote on a third lockdown later in the winter. He predicted that there would be an even bigger Conservative backbench rebellion than there was on Wednesday, November 4, when the new lockdown was voted in. Andrews said that the public have not seen enough done during the summer to prevent a further coronavirus crisis. They are also edgy and frustrated about an ever-extended furlough scheme, recently extended to the end of March 2021.

Talk then turned to the ongoing disagreement between France and Turkey, which saw two terrorist incidents in France recently. Ece Temelkuran, an award-winning Turkish journalist and author, was the final interviewee. Neil asked her if Turkey’s President Erdogan was an ‘authoritarian’. She replied, ‘Definitely’. However, she added that the move away from secularism started in the 1980s with members of the military and went on from there. She explained that part of that move was against the Cold War. After the Berlin Wall fell, the military leaders were ‘jobless’ and looked for something with which they could occupy their time. Twenty years ago, after 9/11, Turkey became the ‘model, the exemplar country’ for ‘moderate Islam’, which emerged after 2001, and became stronger advocates for the cause.

She does not think that Erdogan has a plan, that he merely wants power. She says that Erdogan perceives — along with some Turks — that the ‘West has lost its moral superiority’ with the refugee crisis that began in 2015.

She said that Erdogan is increasing his control over various Turkish institutions, ongoing over the past four years. She said that things will get worse before they get better.

Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored the programme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two more increasingly popular Spectator TV videos to view, brilliantly presented by Andrew Neil.

Each of the episodes below is one hour long, but it is unlikely that those seeking real news and analysis will be bored.

As a supporter of President Trump, I was somewhat less impressed with Episode 3, from September 17, which downplayed his chances for re-election as well as his foreign policy, as many of us consider it a peacetime triumph:

Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was the first to be interviewed about his nation’s handling of coronavirus. As we know, they had no lockdown.

Tegnell regretted not having controlled the many deaths in care homes — similar to those in other Western nations. There were also other lives that could not be saved because of co-morbidities. He said that a lockdown would not have saved them.

The problem in the care homes related to their separation from a national health care system, again, not dissimilar to the tragic result seen in other nations, particularly the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

He indicated that Sweden wanted to ensure that care home fatalities were resolved going forward as well as those among minority populations. He said that an EU commission was looking into those challenges.

Neil asked why Sweden was one of the few countries that ignored the projections from Imperial College London earlier this year. Tegnell replied that Imperial’s models were ‘quite extreme’ and ‘doubtful’. He added that models are not made ‘for prognosis’ because ‘you don’t really know’ what is going to happen.

He said, ‘This is not a competition’ and expressed his desire for more international collaboration and discussion to find a common pathway towards fighting the a second wave of the pandemic as well as agreement on testing.

He said that Sweden had been conducting 80,000 tests a week with no recent deaths.

Good for Sweden. They did well considering they bucked all the odds.

In case the interview is difficult to listen to because Tegnell is on a train, here is another transmission:

Episode 4 of Spectator TV, from Thursday, September 24, covered a multitude of health, economic and political topics:

Kate Andrews talked about the broadcast that Dr Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance made about coronavirus last week. Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave a statement last week on a winter economic programme. It focussed on a change from furlough, which expires in October, to a jobs subsidy for viable employment. She said that there is no doubt that unemployment will rise in the UK in the coming months.

James Forsyth echoed that and said that Rishi Sunak’s plan is to retain as many current jobs as possible but also to create many more.

On that note, Katy Balls said that there is some tension between 10 and 11 Downing Street. Boris errs on the side of health and personal safety. Rishi is more focussed on the economic numbers in order to keep Britain afloat.

With regard to coronavirus, Dr Flavio Toxvaerd, an economic epidemiologist from Cambridge University, said that epidemiologists do not have a good estimation of human behaviour. He did not believe that we were likely to see the latest coronavirus predictions from Whitty and Vallance’s graphs come true. That said, there is a delicate balance to be struck between health and the economy in dealing with COVID-19. Both are critical at this time. Neither can be viewed in isolation.

With regard to his eponymous amendment anticipated to be brought before the House of Commons, Sir Graham Brady said he felt confident that any future coronavirus-related statutory instruments would have to be brought before the House of Commons for debate and a vote prior to implementation.

Questions have been raised as to Boris Johnson’s future as Prime Minister. Katy Balls and James Forsyth both thought that he would not be gone by the end of the year, as many have predicted over the past several days. Leaving the EU, they predicted, will put fuel in the tank for 2021, so to speak.

Turning to the upcoming US elections, Dominic Green said that a Biden administration would favour the EU more than the United Kingdom emerging from Brexit. Again, this assumes that Joe Biden will win the election. Green rightly warned that polls are unreliable. (We saw the same situation four years ago with the polls and the ‘Trump can’t win’ theme. We are seeing it again now.)

Thousands of us are grateful to the NatWest Group for sponsoring these useful broadcasts.

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