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Dr Colin Axon, Brunel University’s senior lecturer in engineering, has been advising SAGE on ventilation in supermarkets in an effort to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

On July 17, he said that masks do not help to reduce cross-infection.

The Telegraph reported that he compared masks to ‘comfort blankets’, saying that wearing one is ‘bad behaviour’ (emphases mine):

The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon noted. “But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour.

Dr Axon added that the effect of mask wearing is too small to be accurately measured:

All around the world you can look at mask mandates and superimpose on infection rates, you cannot see that mask mandates made any effect whatsoever.

The best thing you can say about any mask is that any positive effect they do have is too small to be measured.

Good.

He said that medics have a ‘cartoonish’ view of the world and do not understand some of the laws of physics:

Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the airit’s not their fault, it’s not their domain – they’ve got a cartoonish view of how the world is.

Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view.

Also:

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of information being pushed by medics over their effic[acy].

He compared escaping droplets from masks to marbles being thrown at scaffolding:

“The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,” he told The Telegraph.

Excellent.

I hope that more scientists and engineers start to speak up about masks.

Freedom Day did go ahead on Monday, July 19, in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was told at the weekend to self-isolate. Boris went to Chequers and broadcast from there.

At 5 p.m., Boris gave a remote coronavirus briefing while Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Sir Patrick Vallance were in the Downing Street press conference room.

Nightclubs

It looks as if Covid passports are coming in September for nightclubs and music venues.

As Dan Wootton said on GB News, Freedom Day will be remembered as the day when the Government took more of our freedoms away:

Note that tweet about the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone: no vaccine cards accepted, only the NHS app. No smart phone, no entry. That, to me, is also wrong. The Government should not force people to have smart phones.

GB News took a poll on vaccine passports. They had omitted their earlier question on dictatorship:

Reporter Ellie Costello returned to her favourite nightclub, Faces in Essex. She had a ball. She pulled an all-nighter as she gave this update to the GB News breakfast show. She interviewed the owner of Faces who said he was concerned about his obligation to check vaccine passports in future and the possibility they could be faked:

I hope there are enough Conservative MPs to put pressure on Boris not to go down this route:

Travel

Journalist Isabel Oakeshott spoke to Wootton about the draconian self-isolation one has to go when returning from a nearby country such as France, which is on the Amber list. During that 10-day period, one is not allowed to leave one’s house — at all. Police or a third party representative of the Government can go to a person’s home to make sure he is there:

Supermarkets

Yesterday, on Freedom Day, I did a recce of my high street. Mask wearing was 50/50.

I did not wear a face covering.

I won’t be going to the supermarket until later in the week, so cannot speak to that for now.

However, Guido Fawkes’s readers compared notes on what their Freedom Day experience was like.

One wrote:

… let me report the depressing experience of shopping in Morrisons this morning. Less than 1% unmasked amongst the customers (2 apart from me). Plenty of staff unmasked, though, behind the checkouts. And I could see they were happy, as their smiling faces were visible.

Another Morrisons shopper said (emphasis mine):

I was also in a Morrisons this morning, ignoring the pleas over the tannoy to ‘Be kind and show [you] care’. I decided to be kind to myself and abandon the mask. At first I couldn’t see anyone else unmasked, but finally in the milk aisle there was a guy coming the other way, also unmasked. We smiled at each other and nodded like we had just completed a Freemasonry ritual, and went on our way. I wasn’t challenged and no-one seemed to care, not that I care what they think anyway.

A Tesco shopper wrote in:

I’ve just done my start-of-the-week shop at Tesco: normal crowd levels. Most people are still doing their cleaning routines at the entrance. About 75%, including all at the check-outs, remain masked-up. The other 25% were mainly the twenty-somethings with no fear of Covid, either short or long …

And, finally, there was a report about Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s Chesterfield 9am -ish today.

All screens gone staff scraping up the floor markings and unmasked. 😍

Was worried when I read they “REQUIRED” customers to mask up and had decided that if it was the case to boycott.

They keep my business.

Moving goalposts

Presenter Neil Oliver (the bearded gentleman in the video below) appeared on Wootton’s show to say that the Government is controlling the people, when, in fact, this is our country, not theirs.

Wootton pointed out that the Government is continually moving the goalposts in this coronavirus fiasco. Last year, they told us that when we got the vaccines, we would be able to, in Matt Hancock’s words, ‘Cry Freedom!’ Now that we have the vaccines and a majority of the adult population has had the ‘jabs’, we’re still not out of the woods:

In fact, we have less freedom now than we did a year ago.

The cost of coronavirus in England has been immense.

There is no end in sight for some restrictions and, as I wrote earlier in the week, there will be no Freedom Day on July 19, except for theatres and nightclubs.

London

On July 15, The Telegraph‘s Tanya Gold wrote about London’s ongoing ghost town appearance (emphases mine):

It is too early to say that London is dying, but something is wrong with the city and Covid has accelerated it. Certainly, there is a sense that things are slipping out of control

I was in central London last week, and it felt ever more ominous. Perhaps it was the weather – again, the rain was monstrous. Or perhaps it was the silence: the department stores in Oxford Street were glassy and empty

What will happen if offices shutter forever, and most people work from home? This will work for the affluent with spare rooms for offices, and gardens; or they might just leave for Amersham and its Britain in Bloom awards stacked on posts. For those renting in inner cities, it won’t; employers will pass a business expense onto an employee, one whose home is already small.

Will central London’s beautiful buildings become flats? John Lewis [a nationwide department store chain] is moving into housing. Will anyone want to live in them if the city declines?

Restaurants 

On the topic of London, Mark Hix, one of Britain’s best chefs, has had to close his two restaurants in the capital.

He has moved back to Dorset and opened a restaurant there.

Hix Soho in Brewer Street is now a taqueria and Tramshed, his old 150-cover restaurant in Shoreditch (East London), will become a furniture showroom.

He wrote about the two establishments for The Telegraph.

The owners of the El Pastor taqueria invited him to visit, which he did:

My strongest feeling was not one of regret, or even missing the time when this place was my flagship, but rather of pleasure at seeing it busy and buzzy again. It has a new lease of life. And therefore I wished them well, especially with the landlord, the same greedy one who had doubled the rent when I was the tenant and began the collapse of my London chain of restaurants because we just couldn’t make any money at the rate he was charging.

We have all learnt some important life lessons these past 16 months of Covid. Perhaps the landlord has too in the new business climate it has produced. Most of all, though, what that walk down memory lane did was give me courage.

As for the Tramshed:

I’ve got a date in my diary to go back to the kitchen at the Tramshed, my old 150-cover restaurant in Shoreditch. It is going to be less return in triumph and more fond farewell, for my presence there is, as the theatre posters put it, ‘for one night only’. The guys who have been running it since my business went into administration are moving out and are staging one last hurrah with my help.

Lockdown has killed the place off and it is going to be converted into a furniture showroom of some description. When I took it on in 2012, this handsome building had been used for chemical storage, so I suppose it is a case of back to the future. Which rather neatly sums up my life story since I handed back the keys in March of last year after breaking the news to the staff there that they had lost their jobs.

He foresees a difficult return for hospitality:

I’ve come back to Dorset, where it all started, and am now building a new future. All being well, on Monday we will be taking one more step towards that with the lifting of all Government restrictions on how we trade, but the hard work of repairing the damage done by Covid has only just begun. The road back to prosperity for the whole hospitality industry remains a long one.

As I write, Hix is taking a brief fishing break in Iceland, a country on the Green list.

However, a question remains over whether he and other restaurant owners will be able to trade freely on Monday with the lifting of restrictions. 

Hospitality chiefs are still trying to interpret what Boris Johnson said on Monday, which sounded to me like a U-turn on what he said on July 5. The Times says that masks and outdoor service are still recommended, as is checking customers in with contact details. That is what is in place today.

Furthermore, coronavirus passports, which the Government had previously denied would be recommended, are, in fact, on the table.

On Wednesday, July 14, The Telegraph reported:

Ministers on Wednesday published delayed sectoral advice for businesses on how to operate when the country moves to step four of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown next Monday

The Government was accused of widening the net of companies encouraged to use domestic coronavirus passports, after Boris Johnson initially signalled on Monday that they would be recommended for nightclubs and venues with “large crowds”.

The Prime Minister said relevant firms should show “social responsibility” and “make use” of the NHS Covid pass app, which shows proof of double vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity, as “a means of entry”.

The updated guidance sparked a backlash among Conservative MP and hospitality chiefs, after advice specifically for restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services encouraged the use of Covid passports.

It stated: “Consider the use of the NHS Covid pass to reduce the risk of transmission at your venue or event.”

So far, only Steve Baker MP (Con) has spoken out against this recommendation:

I am simply astonished that after everything the Prime Minister and Michael Gove said in the past about ID cards that they are advancing this fast down this really quite appalling path.

Kate Nicholls, the head of the industry body UK Hospitality, expressed her disappointment and said:

the guidance for pubs and restaurants was “disappointing” in the wake of a select committee of MPs and a Cabinet Office consultation “acknowledging that this was a very difficult thing to implement in a domestic hospitality setting”.

She said ministers needed to provide a “whole suite of guidance” to explain how Covid passports should work in the sector “for us to decide whether we are willing to adopt this on a voluntary basis”.

Predicting few businesses would adopt the measure by Monday, from which date the guidance is meant to apply, she said: “I don’t think anybody would be able to introduce this on a voluntary basis from Monday until we have clarification.”

Ms Nicholls added that “more work is needed by the Government” and warned that there were “real concerns” around equalities legislation, and “practical issues” around the type of testing that qualifies and how businesses should handle customers’ personal health data.

This is an unfortunate development.

Transport

Still on the subject of London, the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan (Lab), a strong opponent of his predecessor Boris Johnson, intends to continue with mask mandates on Transport for London (TfL) vehicles and the Tube as a condition of carriage.

Douglas Murray wrote an editorial for The Telegraph in which he says:

Sadiq Khan, for instance, has tried to look super responsible by insisting that even after the rules for mask-wearing are relaxed masks will be compulsory on public transport in London. Obviously, throughout the pandemic, there have been the rules and there has been what people do. I have seen plenty of people get on the bus with their mask on and then pull it under their chin as soon as they are in their seat. We have become used to the theatre of masks.

But the Mayor of London has ordered Transport for London to enforce mask wearing after July 19, making the prospect of a journey on the London Underground even more enjoyable. Citizens of the capital not only have to pay the highest fares of any commuters in the world for one of the world’s worst services, but must now mask up under threat of the London Transport Police if they do not. What a wonderful way to get the capital moving again.

Agreed. It makes no sense, and Khan has complained for months that TfL’s finances have been dire since lockdown started last year. It’s pure political theatre just to oppose Boris Johnson’s government.

Office work

On July 5, the Government encouraged office workers to go back to their workplaces.

This Monday, they backtracked because they got complaints in the media.

The Times has an article about the travel company Tui, which has told its employees they only need to come into the office one day a month, regardless of what happens on July 19.

Other companies have followed suit. However, in the United States, fully-vaccinated employees are expected to be back at their desks by September:

Other businesses adjusting their working practices include KPMG, the accountancy firm, which has told its 16,000 UK staff they should work in the office for up to four days a fortnight. In the US, by way of contrast, Bank of America yesterday followed Goldman Sachs in telling all fully-vaccinated staff to be back at their desks by September.

The policy director of the Institute of Directors says that the Government’s advice this month has been confusing:

Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: “Like everybody else, businesses across the country having been awaiting ‘freedom day’ with bated breathbut we have had a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements from government that have dampened enthusiasm.

“Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. The guidance has done little to dispel that confusion.

Business leaders are understandably confused as to the legal status that this guidance has and are concerned about vulnerability under health and safety legislation, as well as the validity of their insurance.

“Government needs to inspire confidence in businesses and the workforce that we can all return to work safely.”

School

We have little idea of exactly how much school-age children have been suffering over the past year.

One mother and her ex-husband saw how their daughter’s scholastic performance had been declining and put her in an independent school, with financial help from both sets of grandparents.

The mother, Mel Sims, told The Telegraph her story, beginning in the Spring of 2020:

My daughter was in Year 5 when the first lockdown brought her education to an abrupt halt. A bright only child, mature for her age because she spends so much time with adults, she’d been doing very well in the classroom. But then the state primary she attends in our village in Essex closed its doors to all but key worker children. I’m a 49-year-old single mother. My daughter’s father lives in Durham. I had no choice but to become her full-time teacher.

While some of her friends in private or religious schools were receiving a whole day of live Zoom teaching, my daughter’s school was very disappointing. What they did provide was an email every Monday morning, packed with multiple different lessons for parents to print off, somehow quickly get their heads around, then teach to our children as best we could.

My business – a children’s play centre – shut down along with the schools, so I was at home. I found myself teaching my daughter from 9.30am until 4.30pm every day. Other than the weekly email, we received no contact from the school, which, like many, lacks funding and has class sizes of 30-plus. My daughter’s after-school club, where she mixed with older children, was closed. Extracurricular dance classes went on hold and the swimming pool was shut.

Since Covid, my daughter has received very little or no homework as the teachers seem to feel the children already have enough on their plates. I don’t know what happened to her foreign language lessons. My previously high-achieving daughter was starting to fall behind the level she had been at before – not just a little, but dramatically. By the end of each week of lockdown, her maths and English were worse. She’d lost interest in doing better; any desire to excel. It was heartbreaking to see her sliding backwards.

This caused tension between the mother and the school:

Friction began to develop between us and the school, as they resented me trying to push her beyond the slow pace at which her class was moving. Many of the families in our village didn’t even have enough computers for their multiple children. My daughter’s academic success was riding on all the other local parents’ capabilities, and that felt deeply unfair on her.

Schools reopened last autumn then shut down at the end of January 4, 2021 for several weeks. By then, the cumulative negative effect had kicked in:

When the second lockdown arrived, my daughter was in Year 6 [the year before secondary school]. This time, there was at least a school registration every day, which took place over Zoom. But my daughter gained little from it, as everyone on the call was at such different levels both academically and behaviourally. There wasn’t the opportunity for much academic input from the teacher and my daughter quickly grew bored.

Fortunately, the girl had passed her 11-plus exams, which opened up more education opportunities. Her parents decided that she would have to go to an independent day school, but, even pooling their savings together, they could not afford school fees of £5,500 per term. With the help of the girl’s grandparents, they are able to meet the cost of the new school.

Mel Sims concludes:

We’ll all be making big changes. But we’ll do so in order that, if schools do close again, our daughter’s education will not grind to a halt. The new school staff have already assured me that if we go back into lockdown, exactly the same learning will continue over Zoom, full-time and unaided by parents.

I never thought it would come to this. Pre-pandemic, I’d always believed we didn’t need private school; that whatever happened at state school, we could get our daughter through.

School closures have changed all that. Yes, we’re paying a price. But I feel we’ve had to invest in a lockdown-proof education. With so many children off school again even now, as their “bubbles” have burst, it seems we have made the right decision.

Care homes

Recently, Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare, a group which runs 45 private care homes in England and one in Wales, wrote to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department for Health and Social Care to ask that mask mandates be relaxed.

On Thursday, July 15, The Telegraph reported that:

some of these measures are now damaging the well-being of care home residents.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is expected to issue updated guidance on care homes, and whether or not masks will be mandatory in them, later this week …

“For many residents, a visit from their family member has provided invaluable improvements to their well-being, but the requirement for these visitors to wear a face mask degrades the level of connection and therefore devalues the positive impacts their visits can have.

“This restrictive policy, along with various others from both the DHSC and PHE [Public Health England], should be reconsidered as we approach this next step in England’s roadmap out of lockdown.”

The letter said the success of the vaccination programme among care home staff and residents meant the majority of homes “are now set to confidently return back to an enhanced degree of normality”.

All 46 Sunrise and Gracewell homes have at least 90 per cent of residents vaccinated and all but one have more than 80 per cent of staff jabbed. This is the threshold that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says needs to be met in each setting to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid outbreaks.

Helen Whately MP (Con) oversees social care provision. It is unclear as yet whether she will change any requirements for July 19. The Telegraph quoted her as saying:

I’m also really aware that there will be circumstances I’m expecting to continue in health and social care, clearly, where people will need to continue to wear PPE [personal protective equipment], which includes masks.

Conclusion

I find it concerning that the Left, whether in Parliament, SAGE and elsewhere have caused the Government to backtrack on Freedom Day.

As Douglas Murray says in his aforementioned article:

It is inevitable, perhaps, that politicians like Khan want to score some political points. But again what is so strange is that all the points are scored from that side. Putting aside a few MPs on the Tory benches there is no political pressure on us to go the other way. To do so – to advocate the path of greater risk and greater freedomis still presented as though it is somehow irresponsible or otherwise risky.

But society is risky. Life is risky. The biggest leap towards normal life has already been taken. It is the success of the mass vaccination programme which this country has rolled out so well. But after that we do not need politicians and private companies policing us ever more. We need to take a different leap. Not into greater safety, but into greater freedom. Our allies and competitors are up for that. The question now is whether Britain is. An awful lot rides on the answer.

I couldn’t agree more.

As George Orwell wrote:

All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

This will certainly be even truer in the House of Commons.

As Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle reopens that part of the Parliamentary estate on Monday, July 19, just days before summer recess.

MPs can walk around — and attend the chamber — maskless but their staff must remain muzzled:

Guido Fawkes confirmed the arrangement (emphasis in the original):

One miffed staffer points out that for MPs in the chamber, masks will be recommended, however they’ll be “required” for everyone else on the estate…

He adds:

From the start of summer recess, MPs will be able to decide how many of their staff are allowed to return to the office.

In the chamber, social distancing will disappear, and the public gallery will be reopened:

The prayer cards mentioned in that tweet do have a religious significance, although they are largely used for a secular purpose. An MP can write his name on a blank white card and place it in the chamber to reserve his seat for the day. Of course, in order to claim it, he must attend the short prayer session before the Commons day begins. 

The Speaker is calling time on the highly successful hybrid proceedings:

September will see the return of crowded benches. MPs will also be able to travel to Amber list countries:

Mr Speaker is thrilled:

The Commons’ restaurants and watering holes will also reopen:

One rule for MPs, another rule for their staff — and us.

What a surprise!

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.

This week’s coronavirus debates in both houses of Parliament are proof that only the Left want masks and lockdown to stay.

Below are revealing excerpts from debates in the Commons and the Lords.

Emphases mine.

House of Commons

Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared twice in the House of Commons this week.

Monday, July 5

He delivered his statement about lifting all restrictions, including those for masks, on Monday, July 5.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) objected:

He will be aware that Israel has reintroduced its mask mandate because of the delta variant, so why is he planning to bin ours? Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic when so much virus is circulating. They ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or who takes public transport can do so safely, because wearing a mask protects others. If nobody is masked, covid risk increases and we are all less safe. He must understand that those in the shielding community are particularly anxious. Why should they feel shut out of public transport and shops because he has abandoned the mask mandate? That is no definition of freedom that I recognise.

Who else suffers when masks are removed? It is those working in shops, those who drive the buses, those who drive taxis and those who work in hospitality—it is the low-paid workers who have also been without access to decent sick pay. Many of them live in overcrowded accommodation. It is those who have been savagely, disproportionately impacted by the virus from day one and now the Secretary of State is asking them to bear the brunt of the increased risk again. Will he explain why he thinks abandoning masks is a sensible proposal to follow?

Dr Philippa Whitford (SNP) also objected:

Why is he planning to end even simple measures such as mask wearing?

As did Caroline Lucas (Green):

Failing to mandate mask-wearing in stuffy crowded places such as public transport, where people are often pressed together for much longer than 15 minutes, risks high costs, and allowing people to choose whether or not to put others at risk is both reckless and unfair. If the freedom to pelt down the motorway at 100 mph is restricted because it poses risks to others, why, with millions still unvaccinated, with some immunosuppressed and with the risk of long covid rising, does the Health Secretary not apply the same logic to mask-wearing?

Patrick Grady (SNP) wants masks to become ‘routine’ in the notional new normal:

Given that masks help to reduce the spread of not just covid, but all kinds of respiratory diseases, is it not important to avoid mixed messages and encourage everyone to continue that kind of practice and the likes of good hand hygiene as a relatively routine part of a new normal, to stop coughs and sneezes from spreading diseases?

Paul Blomfield (Lab) said:

We all want to unlock the economy, but surely we should maintain barriers to infection where we can. The Secretary of State has said that wearing masks would be a good thing, so will he accept that requiring them on public transport, in essential shops and in similar locations would make sense and would reassure people?

Tuesday, July 6

On Tuesday, July 6, Javid delivered a statement on self-isolation and vulnerable people.

By way of response, Jonathan Ashworth had more to say on masks:

Getting back to normal, which we all want to do, depends on people feeling safe. Does the Secretary of State appreciate that those who are immunocompromised, or for whom the vaccination is less effective, will have their freedoms curtailed by ditching masks on public transport? Blood Cancer UK warned yesterday that people with blood cancer will feel like their freedoms have been taken away when mask wearing lifts. What is his message to those with blood cancer? It is not good enough simply to say that people should travel or go to the shops at less busy times.

Of course, the Secretary of State understands the importance of masks. I have now read his Harvard pandemic paper, to which he likes to refer. He praises the use of masks in this paper, but he also warns:

“Changing course in policy making…is an essential feature of good policy making. Yet, politicians find it hard”

because of—

“the tendency for decisions to become psychologically and emotionally anchored.”

Well, I agree with him, and I hope he still agrees with himself. Let us have a U-turn on mask wearing. Yes, let us have freedom, but not a high-risk free for all. Keep masks for now, fix sick pay and let us unlock in a safe and sustainable way.

Martyn Day (SNP) agreed:

In a poll by New Scientist, a majority of disease experts said that some form of mask-wearing would be required until 2022. Others thought that 2023 or later was the correct time to lift mask requirements—more than agreed with the Government’s position of ending the requirements this year. For the sake of clarity and honesty, can the Secretary of State confirm that the UK Government have stopped listening to the science on their covid policy? Tragically, we have 150,000 people dead already, and the Prime Minister has said that we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from covid, so perhaps the Secretary of State can enlighten us as to how many more deaths the UK Government think acceptable.

Tulip Siddiq (Lab) brought up public transport:

The flu season that we have just been through was the mildest on record, thanks in no small part to the fact that we have all been wearing masks to protect against coronavirus. Public Health England has warned that we could see a flu surge in winter, as we have not had much recent exposure to and therefore immunity from other respiratory viruses. What is the Secretary of State doing to prepare for this? Does he agree that we should keep the wearing of masks compulsory on public transport to keep covid cases down and prepare for the flu season?

Matt Western (Lab) wants England to emulate the Far East:

Case rates are currently eight or nine per 100,000 in Korea and Japan, yet those countries—certainly Korea—are still mandating the wearing of masks. In the light of that, what does the Secretary of State think we should be doing, because those places are clearly having success?

House of Lords

The House of Lords held debates on Sajid Javid’s vaccine-driven strategy for Freedom Day on July 19.

The Left-leaning among the noble lords were furious.

Tuesday, July 6

Below are excerpts from Tuesday’s debate.

The Lords direct their questions to a Government minister, in this case, Lord Bethell (Con).

Baroness Thornton (Lab) had a lot to say about masks. She is old enough to have had both ‘jabs’, therefore, in theory, she should not be worried:

We have government Ministers saying different things about what they personally intend to do; last night, we had a clear message from the CMO [Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty] about the circumstances under which he intends to wear a mask. So I think that we have every right to be concerned that the debate may cause confusion and compromise crucial safety.

Let us look at public transport, for example. I have been using public transport throughout. I started wearing a mask long before it became mandatory. I still do not feel safe on a very crowded Tube, and I still do not want anyone to sit next to me. I test twice a week, and I have self-isolated twice since January when I got pinged. I do not think that I am unusual or nervous, but I feel strongly that I have a duty not to unwittingly spread the virus, and I do not want people to infect me. In a recent travel study, a majority of passengers said that they would lose confidence if the use of face masks were reduced. Many people, especially those who are more vulnerable, may become more anxious about using public transport if face masks become voluntary.

What is the Minister’s answer to these legitimate concerns? Does it go with the view that we let the virus rip and take the consequences? Given that we know that bus and taxi drivers experience Covid and death, what does the Minister have to say to them about their safety in these circumstances? Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic when so much virus is circulating; they ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or takes public transport can do so safely. Who suffers most when masks are removed? It is those working in the shops, those driving the buses and taxis, and low-paid workers without access to decent pay, many of whom live in overcrowded housing and have been savagely, disproportionately impacted by this virus from day one.

We know that masks are effective when a virus is airborne. Given that high circulations of virus can see it evolve and possibly escape vaccine, what risk assessment have the Government done on the possibility of a new variant emerging? Will the Minister publish that assessment?

Baroness Brinton (Lib Dem) followed her, also with much to say on masks, putting forward the example in the Far East:

We on these Benches want to start with a return to normal and to lift restrictions. We desperately need to kick-start the economy, to start to socialise again and, as my noble friend Lord Scriven said last month, to live with Covid as it is now endemic and will be with us for some years to come. However, that means providing the safety net needed to ensure that people are as safe as possible. Asian countries that managed their pandemic well learned from SARS. The use of face masks became routine and a matter of personal and wider social responsibility, allowing life to continue in the flu season and in the pandemic. They also maintain strong and effective test, trace and isolate systems all the time. We will be discussing test, trace and isolate in detail following the Statement that is due to come to your Lordships’ House on Thursday, but the proposed reductions in test, trace and isolate will remove the UK’s ability to manage outbreaks swiftly, during which time others will catch and pass on Covid.

When we drive into our towns and cities, we rely on local authorities to set up traffic systems, including traffic lights, to help to guide us on safe journeys, regulate movement and reduce harm and damage. But it is as if “freedom day” is getting rid of all our traffic lights.

Proportionate responses are needed, and these include face masks. Early last year, even the WHO was equivocal on the use of face masks but, as the world became aware that this is a respiratory disease passed on through droplets, most countries moved to face mask mandates. On 19 July we switch to rules that make it only the responsibility of individuals. Thankfully, most people have taken that responsibility seriously, but not everyone has. That is important because, despite what the Minister said in response to my question yesterday about the clinically extremely vulnerable, there is no direct reference to the CEV in this Statement—unless he meant the passing reference to them being part of the priority group that will get the third jab. They need to know where they stand. There is no new advice, just the burning of the remaining rules that keep them safe.

I’m including part of Lord Bethell’s reply, because I have not covered the Lords as much as I have the Commons:

I have four children—who are vectors of infection, to put it politely—and I attend a large number of business meetings, including here in the House, and I regard myself as a high-risk candidate for carrying the disease.

I have never caught it myself and I have been vaccinated but when I sit on a Tube train I wear my mask, not to protect myself but to protect the person next to me. That is my personal assessment and my personal decision. That is the spirit in which we are inviting people to step forward and make their own decisions and to be considerate to each other.

We cannot have laws on all these matters for the rest of time. At some point we have to ask the country to step up and take responsibility and to have personal agency in these decisions. If we do not put that challenge to the country in the summer months, when our hospitals are relatively safe and the virus has the right conditions, when will we be able to make those decisions?

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) put forward a case for the vulnerable, a tiny proportion of the English population:

My Lords, is it not obvious that if you reduce mask wearing on public transport and in public places, those who believe they are more exposed to the virus will then reduce their use of public transport and avoid public places? People who are fearful of more liberated environments will avoid them, leading to a slowdown in the return to work that the Government want. Indeed, it is the reverse of what the Government want. Why remove those restrictions that offer the only way of securing public confidence in the new regime that is being proposed?

Lord Bethell replied:

I applaud the noble Lord for his advocacy of mask wearing, but of course this issue cuts both ways. He is right that we need to build back trust in sharing space with one another, but I am not sure that mandatory mask wearing either builds trust or erodes it. If we give people the impression that wearing masks is somehow a panacea that protects everyone on a tube train or in a lift, that is a false impression. Masks are not a panacea. In fact, for some people, they can be a source of grave concern and be enough to send them back home to seek safety. I take the noble Lord’s point that we have to be clear about this, but I am not sure that mandatory mask wearing, or even ubiquitous mask wearing, is either a universal antidote to the spread of the disease or necessarily builds trust in the manner he describes.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (Lib Dem) spoke next:

My Lords, continuing on this theme: “masks work” is the clear message from Public Health England. Both Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have said that they will continue to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, primarily because it protects others. Critically, it does not hold back the opening up of the economy, but rather provides a safeguard as social distancing rules are relaxed. Can the Minister tell me why there is so little in the Statement about our social responsibility to others, including front-line transport and shop workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable? In this scrapping of masks, we are condemning millions with poor immune systems to be trapped in their homes, too afraid to go to the shops or their workplace or to use public transport.

Lord Bethell responded, saying that people who are ill should stay at home:

Since this is the second question on masks, I hope the noble Baroness will not mind if I go off on a tangent. Masks do work a bit; they are not a panacea. What is really important is that when you are ill, you stay at home. That is the big behavioural change that will make a big difference in the year to come. That is where Britain has got it wrong in the past. Too often we have put our workmates, fellow travellers and school friends at risk by heroically going into crowded indoor places and coughing all over them. I hope that is one habit that will stop and that that will be a legacy of this awful pandemic.

Baroness Donaghy (Lab) said that not enough people were being penalised for ignoring the mask mandate:

My Lords, one person’s choice is another’s imposition. Even when mask wearing was mandatory on the tube, some broke the law and there was no policing. So-called choice will cause conflict and confusion. Can the Minister assure me that the Government are not reverting to type and their original herd immunity policy based not on the science but on “let us see how it falls”? Although he does not accept any deaths, as he said, what assessment has been made of the impact of this new policy on death rates and long Covid rates?

Lord Bethell countered, saying that a lot of fines had been issued:

My Lords, I do not have the figures to hand, but I reassure the noble Baroness that the policy on masks was very diligently imposed and a large number of people did get fined. We have to ask ourselves as a society whether we really want to live in a country where simple behavioural habits, such as wearing a mask or not, make you susceptible to arrest or fines. That is a very uncomfortable place for a country to find itself. The noble Baroness is right: that does introduce ambiguity, but we are sophisticated people and can live with a degree of ambiguity. We need to learn how to live not only with this disease but with each other. The dilemma that the noble Baroness points out is one that we will all have to debate, understand and learn to live with. We are not in any way letting this disease get on top of us. We are fighting it through the vaccine, we are supporting the vaccine with test and trace, and we have a tough borders measure. We are taking the battle to the virus and will continue to do so.

Only one Conservative peer spoke out in favour of masks, Lord Bellingham, who said:

My Lords, as a strong supporter of the Government’s policy on the coronavirus, I was nevertheless critical of them being very slow to enunciate a clear policy on masks over a year ago—so I have a lot of sympathy with those noble Lords who have expressed concern about the imminent lifting of compulsion regarding masks. Surely one possible compromise might be to keep masks where you have passengers on public transport sitting or standing next to each other?

Lord Bethell replied, saying that it would be up to local councils and transport companies, rather than the Government:

My Lords, I hear my noble friend’s words loud and clear. The Government have indicated that we will leave it to those who run the transport systems themselves and to local politicians. There is a good case for a degree of devolvement and subsidiarity in this matter. He is right that masks do perform an important role, but they are not a catch-all, and it is therefore reasonable to leave those who run the transport systems to make decisions for themselves.

Thursday, July 8

On Thursday, July 8, another debate on the Government’s new coronavirus strategy took place.

Once again, Baroness Thornton (Lab) had a lot to say. With regard to masks, she mentioned the tiny minority of people living in England with poor health:

Does the Minister appreciate that those who are immunocompromised or for whom the vaccine is less effective will have their freedoms curtailed by ditching masks on public transport? Blood Cancer UK warned yesterday that people with blood cancer will feel that their freedoms have been taken away from them.

Baroness Brinton (Lib Dem) followed her. She was horrified by what she saw on television following the England-Denmark match:

Wonderful as yesterday’s England victory was, the sight of 60,000 fans walking down Wembley Way in very close proximity with hardly a mask in sight was concerning. As with the England-Scotland match, we must expect a surge in cases. Yesterday, the BBC asked Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization about the UK proposals to lift all restrictions on 19 July. He replied:

“The logic of more people being infected is better is, I think, logic that has proven its moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity”.

The letter in today’s Lancet from 100 senior medics and scientists echoes the WHO view. What are the Government doing to explain to the experts why their strategy is safe? …

Last night, Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times reported the re-election of Sir Graham Brady MP as chairman of the 1922 committee, and tweeted:

“Brady’s re-election is … a reminder of why Johnson is dropping masks and nearly all other … restrictions on July 19: ministers privately say the government no longer had the … votes to keep the measures in place. Relying on Labour would have been … difficult for the PM.”

Are the Prime Minister and the so-called Covid Recovery Group now putting health and lives at risk for their own principles?

Lord Bethell replied, saying that it was better to reopen England now rather than wait until autumn or winter, when the NHS would be under pressure:

… the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, half-answered her own question, because she is entirely right: we need to focus on getting the NHS back to speed in order to address the very long waiting lists and to get elective surgery back on track. It is very difficult to find an answer to the question, “If not now, when?” That has been tackled by the CMO and a great number of people. It must surely be right that we take the inevitable risks of restarting the economy and getting people back to their normal lives at the moment of minimum risk from the virus, which has to be in the middle of summer. Assessing those risks precisely is incredibly complex. Impact assessments of the kind that we would normally associate with legislation are the product of months of analysis. They often identify one relatively straightforward and simple policy measure. We are talking here about a machine of a great many moving parts.

I cannot guarantee that any model anywhere could give us accurate projections of the exact impact of what is going to happen this summer. We are, to a certain extent, walking into the unknown: the Prime Minister made that extremely clear in his Statement. As such, we are ready to change and tweak our policy wherever necessary in reaction to events. However, what we know very well now on the basis of our assessment of the data, and because of the pause we put in place to give ourselves breathing time to assess and additional time to roll out the vaccinations, is that that direct correlation between the infection rate and severe disease, hospitalisation and death has massively diminished. There is a relationship, but it is a fraction of what it used to be.

We can therefore look at a period where those who are at extremely low risk of any severe disease may see an increase in the infection rate, because we know that those in the highest-risk groups have been protected by two doses of the vaccine, and two weeks, and because we are working incredibly hard to get as many in the high-risk groups vaccinated as possible—half a million a day—and to roll out the vaccine to younger cohorts. That is the balance. I cannot deal in certainty here, because certainty does not exist. Balance is key, and I believe the balance we have here is the right one.

A Cross-bencher, Baroness Bull, cited the editor-in-chief of The Lancet — another leftist, as we saw last summer — which called the Government’s new policy ‘libertarian’:

My Lords, 120 scientists have written to the Lancet and today come together in an emergency summit to ask the Government to rethink their plans. The editor in chief warned against

“a plan driven more by libertarian ideology than prudent interpretation of the data”

and called for continued mask-wearing, distancing and increased vaccine coverage. A YouGov survey found that two-thirds of people want to continue with masks and an ALVA survey found that three-quarters of people did. So why have the Government decided to end this simple yet effective measure? It costs the economy nothing, but it would be life-changing for the clinically extremely vulnerable, who will be forced back into lockdown by this shift from a public health approach to so-called personal responsibility.

Lord Bethell said that the policy was not at all ‘libertarian’:

I am always grateful for the challenge of medics in the Lancet and elsewhere. I would like to reassure them that this is not a question of libertarian ideology but a question of assessing the risks faced by the country. We have discussed masks several times in the Chamber. I would like to reassure the noble Baroness that masks simply are not a panacea; were the whole country to wear masks for the rest of their lives, we would still have pandemics because they offer only marginal protection.

One peer voiced his disapproval:

Nonsense!

Lord Bethell replied:

I am afraid we cannot have in place laws on the intimate practicalities of people’s lives for the long term. We do not have a law on sneezing. I would not think of sneezing in the presence of noble Lords, but I do not accept that I should be given a fine for doing so.

I’ll leave it at that.

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear, with only one Conservative peer speaking in favour of masks and many Left-leaning MPs and peers supporting continued muzzling, that they do not trust the general public — the great unwashed who pay their salaries.

We, the great unwashed, however, do have the brains, the intellect and the discernment to think for ourselves and do the right thing.

If that is libertarianism, count me in.

On Monday, July 5, 2021, Richard Madeley, an occasional co-presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB), asked SAGE member Susan Michie if her avowed Communism affects her coronavirus recommendations to the general public:

It must have come as a surprise to a number of GMB‘s viewers who probably did not suspect that a card-carrying Communist works for the Government.

Michie, a psychologist who is also a professor at University College London, works on the SPI-B — behavioural — committee of SAGE which has been driving public behaviour during the pandemic. She appears most frequently on the BBC but also on other television channels.

She was also a speaker at the UN’s Psychology Day in 2020. The Division of Health Psychology of the British Psychological Society, of which she is a member, tweeted:

I’ve written about Michie three times before, twice in the run-up to Christmas (here and here) and once in June.

Before I get to Richard Madeley’s interview with Prof Michie, the tweets below show what Communist health policy looks like. We’ve been living under such rules for 16 months and counting.

2018 Daily Mail article

But first, here is a brief retrospective from the time when Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader.

In 2018, the Daily Mail posted an extensive article about her support of Corbyn and her praise of Communism. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

This is her family background. Much of the £52 million she inherited from her mother was in a Picasso, which she and another family member sold:

Susan Fiona Dorinthea Michie is the granddaughter of Henry McLaren, the 2nd Baron Aberconway, an Eton-educated Edwardian industrialist and Liberal MP. 

He inherited major interests in coal, iron, steel and engineering conglomerates, and created the sumptuous gardens at Bodnant House, a stately home set in 5,000 acres near Snowdonia.

Her mother, Dame Anne McLaren, was born at Aberconway House, the family’s imposing 2,800-square-metre second residence in London‘s Mayfair, and was one of the world’s leading biologists. When she died in 2007, aged 80, she left £52million in her will.

Ms Michie’s father, meanwhile, was an eminent computer scientist who was the son of a wealthy banker whose photo is among the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Despite these moneyed roots, the blue-blooded Susan, 62, marches to the beat of her own drum.

She stretches her every sinew in pursuance of a class war as a member of the Communist Party of Britain.

The article then described the speech she gave in early March 2018:

On Monday night, she addressed a meeting of about 40 true believers at the Marx Memorial Library in London’s Clerkenwell.

She delivered her speech while standing beneath a portrait of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a bronze of Lenin and an array of Soviet flags

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, this lifelong beneficiary of inherited wealth began by saying: ‘We, the working class.’

During the course of a two-hour talk, Ms Michie (whose day-job is as a university academic) made a comment that broke almost a century of hard-Left tradition. 

Britain’s Communist Party, she said, is urging its members to work ‘full tilt’ to help get a Labour prime minister.

This development — after decades of Communists and Labour operating on very separate lines — is a direct result of Labour’s lurch to the hard Left under Jeremy Corbyn.

Already, there have been signs of this change of policy with the Communists deciding last year not to split the Left-wing vote by fielding their own candidates at the General Election.

With the two parties increasingly in harmony (Ms Michie declared it ‘a really good situation to work much more closely than we have in the past’), the Communists — by way of a ‘priority’ — are advising their comrades to actively campaign on Corbyn’s behalf.

In the general election of December 2019, Labour suffered its worst result since 1935.

Sir Keir Starmer eventually replaced Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Now on to Michie’s activity as a SAGE member.

Regular media appearances

By May 2020, Michie was already becoming a regular guest on various news programmes:

As Guido Fawkes explained, Michie is not only a member of SAGE but also Independent SAGE, a breakaway group (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Susan Michie is a Marxist campaigner who has managed to get herself on not only the activist dominated fake SAGE, she is also on the official SAGE. Quite an achievement and evidence of the time and effort she is dedicating to the cause…

Michie is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL, so prima facie she has the credentials to be a scientific advisor. What is never mentioned at any point to give context to her many media appearances, in which she usually launches a tirade at the government, is that she has for 40 years been a member of of the Communist Party of Britain.

All this has not precluded her from using family wealth to financially support the Labour Party under the Corbyn leadership. In March 2018, it was Michie who said that the Communist Party would no longer stand against Labour in general elections and she should be “working full tilt” for the election of Corbyn as PM. Hardly surprising given her daughter was appointed under him to Labour HQ and her ex-husband was Corbyn’s close adviser. That illustrates the level of her dedication to far-left politics.

Two days later, the Father of the House, Peter Bottomley MP (Con), appeared on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme to lambaste the BBC for not revealing her political philosophy and connections:

He said (audio in Guido’s post):

If one of your previous contributors has been a member of a far left party for decades, donated more to the Labour Party under Corbyn than I’ve given to the Tory Party in forty years, was the wife of a former Labour Party special adviser and mother of Labour’s head of complaints, that might have been better than just saying she’s a member of SAGE.

The BBC called Bottomley’s remarks an:

ad hominem attack.

Prof Stephen Reicher, who teaches at St Andrews in Scotland, is another SAGE member who works on SPI-B. He took issue with Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not sacking his then-special adviser Dominic Cummings after his fateful trip to County Durham during lockdown. Michie agreed:

She is clearly not a Boris fan, nor is The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr:

Lockdown and mask fan

In May, it was becoming clear to a segment of the British population that Michie favoured a Chinese-style handling of the pandemic. An Anglican clergyman tweeted:

The accompanying article from Michie in The Psychologist is a mild one about directing the public’s response to the pandemic. Notable is this sentence (emphases mine below):

If these behaviours changed across the population (as seatbelt use and smoking in public places have), the Covid-19 pandemic would extinguish.

In July 2020, masks had been compulsory on public transport since mid-June, but were not yet mandatory elsewhere. Michie told LBC’s Andrew Castle that they must be required:

By November, more Britons were finding out the truth about Michie:

When Boris banned Christmas, lockdown sceptic Dick Delingpole tweeted:

Michie started 2021 by asking why people were not complying with the mask mandate:

In April, mainstream journalists were finally beginning to reveal Michie’s political persuasion:

Guido Fawkes reminded his readers that he had unearthed the information in May 2020:

In June, despite Boris’s stellar rollout of the vaccine programme — still the best in Europe — Michie, laughing, told Channel 5 News that we would have to wear masks ‘forever’ (00:57 – 1:05):

A week later, she complained to Freddie Sayers of UnHerd that she had been misquoted (video at the link):

I actually used four words [in that interview with Channel 5], and only one of them was reported. The full words I used were “forever to some extent”. What I mean by this is that, sadly, this isn’t going to be the last pandemic. For as long as humans are around viruses are going to be around …

In reality, as you can see in the Channel 5 video above, her first answer was ‘Forever’. When the interviewer expressed her astonishment, Michie gave the longer response.

She told Sayers that she wanted a delay to Freedom Day, which was to have been on June 21. She must be happy:

I don’t think there’s really any alternative other than delaying for four weeks and seeing what’s happening. It’s a very tricky situation… I think [Boris] is right — I think the question is: is it going to be sufficient?

She probably opposes the possible July 19 Freedom Day, too.

She clearly did not want to discuss her communist beliefs with Sayers:

My politics are not anything to do with my scientific advice. And I’ve never discussed my politics with people like yourself, so nor am I going to now. And the important thing is that when one gives scientific advice, one does so using the expertise one has — not going beyond the expertise, being transparent about what expertise you provide. And I think that the kind of articles you refer to are a really disturbing kind of McCarthyite witch hunting, which I don’t think should have any place in a liberal tolerant society.

Richard Madeley’s interview

This brings me neatly to Richard Madeley’s interview from Monday morning, July 5.

Guido Fawkes broke the story, along with the video (emphases in the original):

Guido commends Richard Madeley for being the first TV host in the country to invite “Independent” SAGE’s Susan Michie on to their show and finally confront her about her hard-left politics. Madeley rightly points out that activist expert Michie’s love of national Covid restrictions may not be born from her concern for the nation’s health, rather the default policy position of a hard-core, state-loving communist. It looked like Susan didn’t appreciate this line of questioning…

Lockdown Sceptics has the transcript (emphases in purple mine):

Richard Madeley: There’s a point I really have to put to you and you’ll be aware of this because there’s been a lot of commentary about this in the British media about you and it’s to do with your politics and you know what I’m going to ask you. You’ve been a member of the Communist Party for about 40 years now, you’re still a member, and we know that they’re statist. We look at Communist countries around the world and we see that they are tremendously top down dominant and controlled societies that they rule over. I just wonder – and I’m putting this question on behalf of those who wonder about your politics – if your politics actually informs your sense of control? It’s not just the medical arguments, but you have a kind of a political bent to want the state to tell people what to do?

Susan Michie: I’ve come on your programme as a scientist, as do all people who come on to your programme as scientists. They come on to talk about the evidence, relevant theories, how we approach our scientific disciplines, and you don’t ask other scientists about politics so I’m very happy to speak about science which is what my job is and to limit it to that.

RM: So you’re saying that your politics doesn’t inform your opinion on this subject?

SM: I’m saying that I agreed to come on this programme as a scientist and I’m very happy to talk to you about the issues that you’re raising as a scientist which is the same for other scientists that you invite on to the programme.

Michie has a large house in a leafy part of London, but the video clip says Berkshire for her location. So, she must be one of those privileged people with two homes. Could one call her Berkshire place a dacha?

If Michie thought her interview with Richard Madeley was a one-off, she was wrong.

On Tuesday, July 6, Times journalist Matthew Syed brought up her Communism in his interview with the BBC’s Jo Coburn on Politics Live:

Syed mentioned Michie by name and said that it would be wrong for a political agenda to determine a pandemic response:

Guido Fawkes provided this analysis of what Syed said:

On Politics Live earlier Matthew Syed succinctly made the point that Richard Madeley was inching towards yesterday – the issue of the card-carrying communist Susan Michie, of the self-appointed “Independent” SAGE, being given frequent media platforms to smuggle in her political agenda under the guise of “science”. Michie is a committed Marxist ideologue, and central committee member of the British Communist Party. This is relevant.

Marxist analysis understands socialism itself to be a scientific method for understanding and predicting social, economic and material phenomena to derive probable outcomes and probable future developments. Her life-long ideology feeds into her work as director of UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change. That theoretical underpinning to her ideas on behavioural change and social compliance has gone unexplored even as she has been given a position advising the government in these matters. She has spoken approvingly of the Chinese Communist dictatorship’s authoritarian methods and of her belief that restrictions in Britain should continue “forever, to some extent.” Her whole mindset is one of top-down control and diktat that is incompatible with a free and open society.

Before anyone claims that Syed is a misogynist or a right-wing Murdoch lackey – he has a very readable intellectual column in the Sunday TimesGuido would remind them that he stood as the Labour candidate in the 2001 UK general election. At the very least it is fair to discount Michie’s advice in the light of her ideological activism.

However, as the aforementioned Lockdown Sceptics article says, complete with a tweet, one woman accused Good Morning Britain of misogyny and asked people to stop watching the programme in protest.

Toby Young, who wrote the article, says that her sex had nothing to do with Madeley’s question. It was her politics (emphases mine):

I really don’t get why it was “misogynistic” of Madeley to ask Susan Michie whether her hard left politics have affected her position on mask mandates. Of course they have! After all, forcing people to wear masks as a condition of participating in certain activities is a flagrant breach of their liberty and the reason Michie doesn’t care about that and thinks public health concerns should take priority (even though there’s precious little evidence that masks reduce transmission of the virus) must in part be because she’s a communist, who famously don’t put much value on individual freedom. And the reason Madeley hasn’t put the same question to other members of SAGE is not because Michie’s a woman, but because she’s the only one who’s been a member of the Communist Party for the past 40 years.

True.

However, by July 8, Ofcom, the media watchdog, received 145 complaints about Madeley’s interview:

Guido reported that one of the 145 complainants was Michie herself (emphases in the original):

Ofcom are unlikely to rule against Madeley for asking a question Michie did not want to answer; that’s an editorial judgement way outside Ofcom’s remit. Yet apparently for 145 viewers, it was all too much. Of course, amongst those complaining was Michie herself, who took to Twitter to write:

“A complaint has been submitted and a public apology requested”.

If Michie and 144 other pearl-clutching viewers were upset by Madeley, Guido has to wonder what they thought of Matthew Syed’s comments on Politics Live yesterday…

What concerns me is that Susan Michie might not be the only Communist in SAGE.

If only we could find out more about the political proclivities of the other members.

One year ago, July 4 was England’s Independence Day from coronavirus.

Shops and restaurants re-opened, albeit with requirements for masks.

One year on, and it’s Groundhog Day. After a prolonged period of restrictions from Christmas 2020, England awaits Freedom Day, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Cabinet ministers assure us will be on July 19.

On Monday, July 5, 2021, when the Duchess of Cambridge began self-isolating for ten days and her husband Prince William attended an NHS service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Boris gave a coronavirus briefing about what we can expect on Freedom Day. Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave Parliament a briefing at the same time.

All being well, tomorrow, I will report on the details of what they had to say.

It was largely good news, except for some ambiguity about masks, which could lead to mask rage once restrictions are relaxed.

Below is relevant analysis aired and published before Boris and Saj (as he is now known) delivered their remarks.

Masks

The most contentious lifting of restrictions concerns masks.

Masks are the new Brexit referendum. They have divided England enormously, as Matthew Lynn wrote in the Telegraph on July 5 (emphases mine):

Maskers and anti-maskers look set to become the new Remainers and Leavers (with almost, if not quite, the same tribes in both camps). Very few people on either side of that bitter debate were actually very interested in the finer points of tariffs on citrus fruits, or what the European Commission’s plans for the digital transformation of European industry might be this week. They wanted to say something about themselves.

He is not wrong. Anti-maskers, for the most part, appear to be Leavers. Pro-maskers are Remainers.

The Sunday news shows seemed to bear this out.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Trevor Phillips on Sky News that he would stop wearing one as soon as restrictions are lifted:

By contrast, Prof Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) told Phillips that he would continue to wear his mask ‘indefinitely’:

Finn is a man who manages to travel to holiday locations on taxpayer’s money. Here he is in Coimbra, Portugal. Nice work if you can get it. Wouldn’t Portugal have been on the amber list at the time of this interview? Interesting. Another case of ‘For me, but not for thee’.

So, how exactly will this mask dilemma play out in real life? This is what Matthew Lynn foresees:

London mayor Sadiq Khan, a man who never saw a cynical political gesture without wanting to give it a big hug, is reportedly toying with demanding that masks continue to be worn on public transport in the capital, whatever the Government decides. If he goes through with it, it can surely only be a matter of seconds before Wales’s Mark Drakeford and Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon follow suit, saltire or dragon optional, while every grandstanding local politician will soon be jumping on that bandwagon.

Likewise, businesses will be coming up with their own rules, based on what they see as their core demographic. A sports bar in Chelmsford, decked out in England flags? My feeling is it won’t require masks. A vegan cafe in Islington or Bristol? You will have to wrap up your face before ordering that soyamilk fair trade latte.

There was a time — at the height of the pandemic in Spring 2020 — when we had no masks. Somehow, the vast majority of us did not catch coronavirus.

Lynn reminds us of the absurdity of the rules:

We can also all argue about whether masks were ever necessary. The scientific evidence was always shaky, which was why most governments in Europe, as well as the US, were reluctant to impose them in the first place. The rules governing masks have become increasingly bizarre, too. Why the virus doesn’t spread while you are eating a meal at a restaurant, for example, but does while you walk to the lavatory, defies any rational explanation.

Nonetheless, Lynn sees masks and lockdowns as yet more tools of social division:

We might have hoped that Covid-19 would soon be behind us. There seems little chance of that now. The divisions lockdowns have opened up and exacerbated will run for years.

Hope amidst ambiguity

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley wrote ‘The British must reject fear and dump their masks’.

He began by saying:

Hope, at last! The Government has indicated that all legal lockdown restrictions will end in England on July 19 and that even masks will become a question of choice, in which case I choose to burn mine. I’ve only worn the wretched thing “to make others feel comfortable”, and my heroes are the religious cranks and anti-social yobs who refused to play along.

He is pinning his hopes on new Health Secretary Sajid Javid:

Javid, one hopes, has taken a fresh look at the data and concluded that cases are rising significantly but hospitalisations and deaths are not, which suggests the emergency is under control.

Stanley says we must adjust our outlook towards coronavirus:

We need to shift from disaster containment to threat management. Think of it as living in an earthquake zone: you’re conscious of the risk and prepare for the worst, but you don’t walk around acting like an earthquake is happening right now, with your knees bent, holding onto the furniture. Nor should we act as if Covid will kill us all, because it won’t.

He has two suggestions for the Government in order to make things clear to the public and avoid ambiguity:

The Government needs to get two things right. One is consistency: if adults are free, children should be too. It makes no sense whatsoever that they are isolating from school, or even routinely tested, if this disease doesn’t pose a direct threat to them and the vulnerable are double-jabbed. If we keep this silly regime going on in schools, it would both be unjust and sow confusion and fear: how are we supposed to feel safe if kids are treated like unexploded bombs?

And, second – this is so crucial – the Government mustn’t allow legal restrictions to be replaced with ongoing “advice” or “guidance”, because we’ve never got to the bottom of which is what, and the result – if trains or supermarkets are still advising us to distance and people assume they have to comply – will be de facto lockdown.

SAGE and communitarianism

SAGE continue to try to make the UK a communitarian, authoritarian society with their rules and restrictions.

Sorry, we are not the Far East, and most of us do not want to transform Britain into that type of society.

Here is a good example of SAGE-think. On Sunday, July 4, the Telegraph reported:

Prof Stephen Reicher at the University of St Andrews, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, said it was frightening to have ministers “who want to make all protections a matter of personal choice when the key message of the pandemic is “this isn’t an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing.”

No, it is not a ‘we’ thing. It never should have been.

Reicher gets a lot of airtime on the BBC, especially in Scotland.

Prof Stephen Powis, the NHS medical director for England, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that we must continue to protect the NHS by getting vaccinated twice. He said that the link between infection and hospitalisation is ‘severely weakened’ but not yet broken:

When asked about masks, he said:

Some people may choose to wear face masks in particular circumstances, such as crowded environments, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those habits to reduce infections are a good thing to keep.

Millions of us would disagree.

As for official figures in England:

Official figures showed there had been 24,248 Covid cases in the last 24 hours, up 161 per cent on a fortnight ago and highest daily figure since January, but only 15 more people had died as more than half English residents have now been double-jabbed.

These scientists must be from SAGE:

Some UK scientists warned however, that the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions was like building new “variant factories” at a very fast rate.

If it were up to them, we, the great unwashed, would never see freedom again.

A new ‘broom’, a new outlook

We are fortunate to have a new health secretary who is a new broom, so to speak, with a new outlook.

Sajid Javid is on the same page as Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Boris himself.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson explained the alliance for the Telegraph on Thursday, July 1:

Unlocking on July 19 now looks a near-certainty, but so does the surge in Covid cases. So the Prime Minister will need to explain to a nervous country why, all of a sudden, people should be relaxed when the virus rises. Javid will need a version of the “live without fear” theme that Sunak was developing last summer. To say that most of these cases are now among the under-25s, so hospitalisations should be low, posing no serious threat to the NHS. And it’s best to get this “exit wave” over with now, rather than wait for the winter.

This will be the next battle: whether Covid-style techniques (self-isolation, classroom closures) should be used to fight back whatever winter brings. This is perhaps where a Sunak-Javid alliance will really come into play. Last summer, the Treasury vetoed an NHS plan to expand hospital capacity on the (now laughable) logic that Test and Trace would quash any second wave. Extra capacity is needed now. Lockdowns, of course, hurt the economy and hit future ability to pay for the NHS.

When the vaccines were first proven to work, Johnson’s first thought was that this meant things should be over quickly. Surely they’d only need to protect the over-50s, he thought, then life could then get back to normal. It all turned out very differently, and he ended up caught in a Whitehall war. In Sunak and Javid, he now has two of his most senior ministers committed to an irreversible reopening.

They might not succeed. But this time, he can’t say he lacked the support that he needs.

I hope the plan for July 19 works, especially as it would send a clear message to SAGE about the direction of the future for the UK. A data review will take place on Monday, July 12.

Yesterday’s post covered former Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s final 48 hours in that post.

Marital breakups

When Harry Cole’s story broke in The Sun on Friday, Hancock asked for privacy because he wanted to spend time with his children.

Perhaps.

However, on Monday night, Cole reported (emphases mine):

The ousted Health Secretary quit on his wife Martha last week after 15 years and is now understood to be living with his lover.

Her husband is devastated:

Gina, 43, has called time on her own 12-year marriage with Oliver Tress after her affair was exposed.

Oliver, 54, the millionaire Oliver Bonas founder, is said to be “devastated” by the shock revelations, as family pals confirmed the split

A neighbour in Wandsworth, South West London, said: “Gina and Matt are giving it a proper go and Olly was left reeling.

“They had lots of friends here so we are all trying to help look after Olly.”

Hancock’s relationship seems to have been developing for some time, as the Mail reported:

The aide who kissed Matt Hancock in CCTV footage which ended his marriage and Health Secretary career was ‘asked two years ago if they were having an affair‘.

Gina Coladangelo, 43, is said to have denied the existence of any romance between her and Mr Hancock when she was quizzed by one of his allies.

Friends said on Saturday night the affair had been going on for months, despite others only seeming to find out when the steamy minute-long clip of them emerged.

One wonders why they did not get married after graduating from Oxford. They both read PPE and worked on the student radio station. The Mail explains why:

Matt Hancock’s mistress Gina Coladangelo was way out of the disgraced former Health Secretary’s league while they were studying together at Oxford, a fellow alumnus revealed last night.

Broadcast journalist Maxie Allen, who worked alongside the pair at university radio station Oxygen FM in the late 1990s, recalled that men were desperate to date Miss Coladangelo while ‘low profile’ Mr Hancock cut ‘an obscure figure’ and was ‘not someone you would mark out as destined for greatness’.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mr Allen told the Sunday Mirror: ‘She struck me as someone who would get what they want. He’s done well. This wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t the Health Secretary and she wasn’t lobbying, that is blatantly obvious to anyone who knew them back then.

Gina was very glamorous, very nice and very good looking – all the young men held a candle for her. She was suave, composed and elegant. Most men would have given their right arm to go out with her.’

The former Health Secretary, who read sports for the radio station while he studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics, was regarded as ‘low profile’ and ‘not someone you would mark out as destined for greatness’.  

He added: ‘Hancock did the odd sports report but he wasn’t well known. He was not the sort of person where he’d come into a room and everyone went, ‘Oh, Matt Hancock’s here’.

‘He had a very slight presence, not someone you would mark out as destined for greatness. Whereas Gina was very well-known and high-profile and memorable. You never saw them talking to each other.’

Mr Allen recalled Miss Coladangelo’s 21st birthday party at her parents’ home in Royston, Hertfordshire, and remarked: ‘It was a glamorous affair. They had a few bob. Gina is not the sort of person to get drunk and make a scene. She was very composed and elegant.’

Affair unfair to the public

The Mail‘s veteran columnist Richard Littlejohn put the affair into perspective for us in a time of lockdown:

Clearly this wasn’t simply a ‘moment of madness’. It’s emerged that the affair has been the talk o’ the steamie, as they say in Scotland, for months.

When wasn’t it going on?

So all the time Hancock was ordering us — on pain of prosecution — to keep our distance, not to hug our grannies or make love to anyone outside our immediate household, he was getting hot and heavy with his old university flame — a woman he’d put on the public payroll so he could keep her in close proximity for whenever the fancy took him.

So it would seem. He personally appointed her to her post, which required only 15 days of actual work per year:

Cross constituents

In Newmarket, Suffolk — the heart of Hancock’s constituency — people were unhappy with their MP. The Mail interviewed several of them on Sunday:

Today Newmarket locals said they were ‘happy’ that the MP for West Suffolk had resigned from the Cabinet as they accused him of ‘hypocrisy and double standards’ over coronavirus restrictions. 

Residents described how they had been prevented from visiting their grandchildren by Mr Hancock, while some admitted they only voted for him in 2019 to keep Labour out. Others were thrilled to hear that the minister whose regulations had kept their businesses shut had left the Government.

Graham Gladstone, 41, said: ‘He should have resigned immediately. The defence from Boris Johnson shows a contempt towards British members of public who have followed the rules and NHS staff who have had to be involved in treating people and the consequences of the virus. 

It seemed typical of Conservative ministers to see what the public reaction was rather than think about the consequences of what he did. Especially after he publicly denounced Neil Ferguson.’ 

Hannah Grimwood, 32, who works at Argos and has lived in Newmarket for 10 years, said: ‘I never liked him in the first place, I’ve been moaning about the man for yearsI feel sorry for Boris Johnson, he had too much on his plate and too many people telling him what he should and shouldn’t do.’

Miss Grimwood’s partner Gary Holliday, 42, added: ‘If you make the rules you have to follow the rules. He’s only human but when it’s happening a couple of times or more then members of the public are going to think it’s not fair.’

Cross Conservative MPs

Conservative MPs were also angry at Hancock’s hypocrisy. No doubt their inboxes were filling up with complaints from constituents. A crucial by-election is also coming up in Batley and Spen on Thursday, July 1, which the Conservatives hope to win. More on that later this week.

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope had the story about Hancock’s decision to resign on Saturday:

The Daily Telegraph understands that this view crystallised in a “fairly direct” conversation with Mark Spencer, the Government’s chief whip, at lunchtime on Saturday, who told him that 80 Tory MPs had complained to the whips’ office about him in the 24 hours after he refused to resign.

Mr Spencer fed back the concerns in a call to Mr Hancock at midday on Saturday. “There were 80 Tory MPs saying he should go at that time,” a source said.

The number of complaints means that more than one in four of the party’s 363 MPs complained about Mr Hancock.

Sky News interview about funerals

On Sunday morning, Trevor Phillips interviewed a Conservative Cabinet member, Brandon Lewis, about Hancock’s hypocrisy.

On his Sky News show, Phillips related the story of his daughter who died during lockdown on May 11 this year, six days after Hancock’s steamy clinch with his aide. Phillips’s daughter did not have the virus. She was anorexic.

Here’s the video:

The Evening Standard has the dialogue:

Mr Phillips told Mr Lewis he wanted “to do something I wouldn’t normally do and put a personal, private, question to you”.

He continued: “Over the past two days, every Cabinet minister, including you, has come out to essentially defend the Prime Minister and Matt Hancock.

“The pictures that we saw were of an encounter on May 6.

On May 11, my family buried my daughter who had died not of Covid but during the lockdown.

Three hundred of our family and friends turned up online but most of them were not allowed to be at the graveside, even though it is in the open air, because of the rule of 30.

Because of the instruction by Mr Hancock.”

Before allowing Mr Lewis the chance to respond, Mr Phillips finished by saying: “Now the next time one of you tells me what to do in my private life, explain to me why I shouldn’t just tell you where to get off?”

Mr Lewis failed to acknowledge Mr Phillips’ loss, and said: “Look I absolutely accept the frustration, even the anger, from people and the situations they’ve been through.

“I’ve lost friends whose funerals I’ve not been able to go to, that is such a tragic situation for any of us to be in, which is why it’s so important for all of us to do what we can to keep ourselves and family members safe.”

He again defended disgraced Mr Hancock, adding: “What Matt did was wrong and that’s why he apologised and acknowledged that.”

Mr Phillips is covering for Sophy Ridge on the channel’s Sunday morning politics show.

More double standards

With regard to coronavirus restrictions, here is a video of Wimbledon from Monday, June 28. The stands are full. There are no masks nor is there any social distancing:

However, football matches are still restricted in audience numbers and require mask wearing:

And here we are, being told to wear masks in shops, when we are there for far less time than it takes to watch a day’s worth of tennis at Wimbledon.

However, since the Hancock photos and video emerged, some shops are no longer asking for masks to be worn.

The Mail reported:

Together with growing exasperation at the never-ending cycle of lockdowns, people are taking matters into their own handswith small retailers discouraging mask-wearing while massive anti-lockdown protests sweep through London calling for Mr Hancock’s arrest. 

Shops in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, placed signs in windows showing Mr Hancock kissing Miss Coladangelo, who studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford at the same time as Mr Hancock in the 1990s and is married to Oliver Bonas founder Oliver Tress.  

The signs say: ‘Welcome to House Interiors. Don’t wear a mask if you don’t want too (sic). Matt doesn’t’

The article has a photo of the sign, which is as amusing as it is true.

Hancock’s house was also targeted. It’s a pity he was not there to see it:

Police were pictured removing a sticker put on Mr Hancock’s London home, where his wife Martha and their children live. It says: ‘Our forefathers gave their lives to keep this country free, and you’re just going to sit back and let it become an authoritarian hellhole, over a virus with a 99.9% recovery rate?’ 

Television presenter Kirstie Allsopp pointed out:

the incident showed how ‘it was one rule for you, another for us’, tweeting: ‘I remember footage of Hancock whipping of his mask as he entered No 10, not even keeping it on in the corridors as school children were made to do, I knew then it was one rule for you, another for us.’ 

Humour at Hancock’s expense

On Monday, June 28, an amusing video went viral of a man enquiring of Hancock at the gates of Downing Street:

The Mail reported:

The clip, filmed by company boss Dan Wright on Monday afternoon, has gone viral and been viewed more than a million times already

In the video, Mr Wright asks the group of armed policemen: ‘Is Matt allowed to play? Is Matt allowed to come out and play?’ The smirking officer then responds: ‘No, he’s cleaning his locker out at the moment’ – to roars of laughter from his colleagues.

Passerby Mr Wright, of Chelmsford, Essex, also bursts out laughing while a second armed police officer quips: ‘He’s had his play already.’ 

Conclusion

It is to be hoped that the House of Commons will not forget the Hancock debacle any time soon.

Debates on coronavirus restrictions this week have been lively, even though Hancock was only the subject of one Urgent Question, which related to the security camera in his former office.

Julia Lopez, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, also fielded questions from MPs about Hancock’s use of his personal Gmail account for Health Department contracts.

More on those tomorrow.

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed Freedom Day from June 21 to July 19, 2021.

Although a vote on this passed comfortably on Wednesday, June 16 — 489 to 60 — the number of rebel MPs, mostly Conservative, increased compared with previous votes on coronavirus restrictions. This page shows who voted No.

Boris and Matt Hancock might want to rethink their dependence on the lefty scientists of SAGE, but will they?

SAGE are effectively running this nation … into the ground.

Chesham & Amersham by-election upset

In addition, on Thursday, June 17, the Conservatives lost a by-election in Chesham & Amersham in leafy Buckinghamshire, not far from London. It had been a safe Conservative seat since the 1970s. A journalist from the Financial Times tweeted that he was sure they would win it once again:

In reality, it was a hat made out of fabric. Jim Pickard took three small bites of it, washed down with water. Sensible, as it could have been made in the world’s largest manufacturing country (no prizes for guessing correctly). H/T Guido Fawkes:

Now they have a Liberal Democrat MP, the lady pictured below standing next to party leader Ed Davey MP. The reply to the tweet blames the win on local opposition to a high speed railway (HS2) and to extending lockdown:

However, the Lib Dems never really opposed HS2:

The by-election took place because Dame Cheryl Gillan MP died on April 4. Despite a long term illness, she was an active participant in parliamentary debates until the end.

According to a Guido Fawkes reader, this was the vote tally on Thursday compared with 2019’s general election:

2019 results:

Conservative 30,850

Lib Dems 14,627

Labour 7,166

2021 Votes:

Conservative 13,489

Lib Dems 21,517

Labour 622

The only consolation is that the Labour vote sank like a stone:

Coronavirus cases rise in Cornwall after G7 summit

The virus lives and is on the rise in Cornwall:

In addition to the G7 and half term, another factor could be the warm weather last Sunday, attracting people to beaches.

Guido Fawkes has maps and the figures (emphasis in the original):

Last week, both St. Ives and the Carbis Bay area had two positive cases respectively. Now, St. Ives has 36 cases, and Carbis Bay has 15. That’s a 1,700% increase in the former, and a 650% rise in the latter…

One of Guido’s readers replied that a hotel and university are responsible (emphases mine below):

Tosh. The rise in St Ives/Carbis Bay happened before G7 kicked off and was down to the staff in one hotel and is linked back to the plastic University at the top of Penryn.

Cases, however, are only positive tests. Not all should require hospitalisation.

Wednesday’s vote in Parliament

On Wednesday, June 16, Matt Hancock opened the debate on coronaivirus restrictions in the House of Commons.

He said, in part:

Thanks to the protection of the vaccination programme, huge advances in treatments like dexamethasone, which was discovered a year ago today, and the resolve of the British people in following the rules that this House has laid down, we have been able to take the first three steps on our road map, removing restrictions and restoring colour to the nation, but we have always said that we would take each step at a time and look at the data and our four tests before deciding whether to proceed. The regulations before the House today put into effect our decision to pause step 4 on our roadmap until 19 July. Before outlining the regulations that will put this into effect, I would like to set out why we made this difficult but essential decision.

Unfortunately, there has been a significant change since we started on our journey down the road map in February. A new variant has given the virus extra legs, both because it spreads more easily and because there is some evidence that the risk of hospitalisation is higher than for the alpha variant, which was, of course, previously dominant in this country. The delta variant now accounts for 96% of new cases. The number of cases is rising and hospitalisations are starting to rise, too—they are up 48% over the past week. The number of deaths in England is thankfully not rising and remains very low, but, as I told the House on Monday, we do not yet know the extent to which the link between hospitalisations and deaths has been broken, so we propose to give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.

Mark Harper (Con) intervened:

Can I just ask my right hon. Friend what we expect to achieve in the four weeks? I think I am right in saying that there are 1.3 million people in priority groups one to nine who have yet to have a second dose of the vaccination. The good point is that that means we have vaccinated 96% of people in those groups, but I just wonder—after four weeks, I doubt that we will get to 100%, so there will still be a significant number of people in those groups not vaccinated with two doses, and at that point, there is still going to be some risk. My worry, and the worry of others, is that we are going to get to this point in four weeks’ time and we will just be back here all over again extending the restrictions. That is what we are concerned about.

Hancock said he was sure that four weeks would be sufficient. He’s said that before.

Steve Baker (Con) also intervened:

Is not the problem with the two-week checkpoint that it creates another moment of hope for people who still feel even these restrictions very acutely, and that if we create hope and then shift the goalposts again, people will continue to deepen their despair? What will he say to those people?

Hancock said the public understood the reasons for the delay.

After Hancock finished speaking, it was the turn of the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) to respond.

Ashworth largely agreed with the Government’s extension to Freedom Day, but he rightly posed questions, such as this one:

Will we continue wearing masks?

At which point, Desmond Swayne (Con), who wears a silk scarf instead of a mask, shouted:

No!

Steve Brine (Con), former Public Health minister, intervened, recalling a bad flu year:

The right hon. Gentleman is right: we had a battle royal with influenza in the first year that I was in the job, but the difference was that we did not have any non-pharmaceutical interventions. Our interventions were about the take-up of the vaccine—yes, for children as well as for adults, especially the vulnerable. One of our chief advisers, the deputy chief medical officer then, one Professor Chris Whitty, never suggested masks, let alone closing schools—just a really good roll-out of the flu vaccine. We lost 22,000 people that year. Never were those numbers rolled on BBC News; never did we know the R number, but there was a point where we accepted an element of risk in society. I guess that was the point of my earlier intervention on the hon. Gentleman: what element of risk is he prepared to accept? Because that is what it comes down to—our own mortality is part of the human condition.

Ashworth replied, in part:

I do not want to see it done by some of the wider restrictions and lockdowns that we have heard about. That is why I would be interested to know whether the Department has developed plans for restrictions this winter and whether the Secretary of State has been discussing that with Whitehall colleagues.

Mark Harper intervened again:

On the point about the restrictions, I know that those discussions are going on because I have seen documents from within Government with very detailed suggestions about what measures may continue. I asked the Secretary of State about this when he was in the Commons earlier this week, and he did not rule out bringing in restrictions this winter. That is partly why some Conservative Members are very concerned and why we are not going to vote for these regulations today. However, I want to take the right hon. Gentleman back to his comments on what Chris Hopson said about the fact that the NHS is very busy at the moment. There is a danger here. I am very sympathetic to colleagues who work in the NHS, who have done a fantastic job, but we cannot get to a point where we restrict and manage society in order to manage NHS waiting lists. That is not the right way round. The NHS is there to serve society. If we need to enable it to do that, we have to think of a way of doing it other than putting restrictions on the rest of society. That is not a sustainable or a desirable position, but it is the logical consequence of what Chris Hopson was saying earlier this month.

Here’s the video, which begins with Ashworth sitting down to give way to Harper:

Ashworth replied, beginning with this:

Even though we will find ourselves in different Lobbies this evening, I think there is more in common between us than perhaps one might expect. I do not want restrictions to remain in place for any longer than they need to. I want to move to a system where we are trying to push down covid infection rates by, yes, rolling out vaccination as far and as fast as possible to everybody, but also putting in place the proper framework so that those who are ill or a contact of someone who has been ill with covid is able to isolate themselves.

He took more interventions from Conservative MPs, then concluded:

The House is being asked to extend these restrictions, but there are a number of pressing issues. First, many of us have been contacted by business people in our constituencies who are deeply concerned about the extension of these restrictions. For my constituency in Leicester, which has been living under a form of restrictions more severe than other parts of the country, other than perhaps parts of Greater Manchester, this has been particularly devastating. I hope that the Government will be putting in place full support for businesses such as mine in Leicester and Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

The second issue, which we have touched on a little bit, is whether these restrictions will ever end, or whether the Prime Minister has trapped us in Hotel California, where we can never leave. He has talked about 19 July as the terminus date, but the explanatory notes themselves say that the four tests will apply on 19 July, and that these four weeks will be used to gather more data.

Hancock said later on that July 19 is still the terminus date and that data would be examined in two weeks’ time.

The general debate took off from there, with Sir Desmond Swayne (Con), the original rebel, the first to speak. He criticised SAGE and one of its members, Susan Michie, the Communist:

I never believed that it was proportionate, even from the outset, for Ministers to take such liberties with our liberty. I always thought that it was wrong for them to take our freedoms, even though they believed that they were acting in our best interests in an emergency, but by any measure that emergency has now passed and yet freedoms are still withheld and the Government will not allow us to assess for ourselves the risks that we are prepared to encounter in our ordinary, everyday lives. The Government do not trust the people whom they govern.

Many members of SAGE—a misnomer if ever there was one—have been out busily undermining public morale. One of them even shared her dystopian vision that we must all remain masked and distanced in perpetuity—a shocking, horrible prospect. The fact is that once the consequences of this virus in terms of their financial and health impacts have long been addressed, the moral impact will remain. The Government have set a disastrous precedent in terms of the future of liberty on these islands. I could understand it if we were a communist party, but this is the party that inherited the true wisdom of the Whig tradition. This is the party of Margaret Thatcher, who said that liberty was indivisible. This is the party that only recently elected a leader whom we believed was a libertarian. There is much on which we are going to have to reflect.

Here is the video of his remarks:

Smoking also came up in the debate:

Sir Charles Walker (Con), another early rebel, spoke. He wants a reform of SAGE. Excerpts follow:

I wish to try to be constructive about how we can improve SAGE. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, SAGE has huge power over our lives. It has power over whom we hug and hold. It has power over which businesses open and which businesses close. In essence, it has power over who keeps their job and who loses their job. We, too, in this place have great power, but our power is matched by accountability.

Accountability is very important in the exercising of power, so I want to suggest some reforms to SAGE—some quite technical reforms. First, there is a need for greater financial transparency from members of SAGE in line with that expected of Members of Parliament. For example, I think when we look at SAGE members, we should be able to see what their annual income is—not only from their substantive job, but from their pensions accrued or the pensions they might well be in receipt of. This is something that is freely available for all Members of Parliament. I think we should also know and constituents should know if they have any significant shareholdings in companies, in the same way that our constituents know if we have significant shareholdings in companies. We could also look at whether they get other forms of income—from rent, for example

in the case of young people, many SAGE experts say that young people should be working from home. We know that young people are now tied to their small kitchen table or in their bedroom in miserable environments—the new dark satanic mills—and working endless hours in appalling circumstances, because people with nice gardens and comfortable homes think that is what they should be doing.

There should also be far greater personal accountability. There should be no more, “Here is Sir Mark Walport—of SAGE, but here in a personal capacity”. Nonsense! He is there because he is a member of SAGE. We should also have elections to SAGE, so we could see Sir Mark Walport, Professor Susan Michie, John Edmunds and regular talking heads in our TV studios challenged by people with a different perspective—people such as Professor Karol Sikora, Professor Paul Dolan, who is an expert on human behaviour and quality of life, and Professor Ellen Townsend, who has a huge interest in the welfare of children and adolescents who are now being plagued by anxiety and eating disorders …

So here it is: full financial disclosure from members of SAGE and full elections, or they advise the Government, and if they do not want to do that, but want to advise TV studios, they do that, but they do not do both.

Here is the video of his speech in full:

Graham Stringer (Lab), also a rebel, spoke next. He rightly said that MPs do not have enough scientific data to make an informed decision about restrictions. Excerpts follow:

As ever, it is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker). On his interesting point about SAGE, we could do with full disclosure from the Government about all the facts that they have available to them on covid. In the Science and Technology Committee this morning, we were told that vaccinations have saved 14,000 lives. I have no doubt that that is an accurate figure, but there are many figures that have not been given. As we said the last time we debated this issue, only one side of the equation is given. Let me ask this question: how many lives have been lost in order to save capacity in the NHS? When it comes to looking at people untested and untreated for cancer, heart disease and other diseases, we will find that the figures are of a similar, if not greater, magnitude than the number of people who have died from covid …

There is a great deal more information that we require in order to make a rational decision about whether the lockdown should continue. I agree with the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) that what we have here is the Government asking for emergency powers when there is no longer an emergency

The Government have refused on a number of occasions to give out that information. They have run a campaign to scare people into accepting their decisions

One of the things that has annoyed me most in the last 15 months is when the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care say, “We instruct you”—meaning the population—“to do various things,” when there is nothing in the legislation that would give the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister the ability to instruct individuals. We live in a liberal democracy in which we pass laws that are enforced by the police, and then the courts make a decision if there is a prosecution, not one in which the Secretary of State acts like some kind of uniformed Minister of the Interior.

I will vote against the regulations today. We need a more direct debate on the issue and we need what Members have searched for—a straightforward comparison, with real statistics, of what risks everybody faces.

Steve Baker (Con) agreed with Mark Harper about society and the NHS:

I refer the House to the declarations that I have made relating to the Covid Recovery Group.

No one can deny the brilliance of the Government’s—the NHS’s—vaccination programme. By mid-April, the over-50s and the vulnerable had had their first vaccination, and overwhelmingly they have now had their second. That is reflected in the Office for National Statistics antibody data, which shows extraordinary levels for anyone over 50. Antibodies are there in that population, which is vulnerable to the disease.

That brings me to the best case that the Government could make for the regulations before the House, which is that the ability of the NHS to provide other healthcare could be compromised by admissions from a younger population, because a small percentage of a big number is still a big number. But the huge problem with that is that it concedes the point that our liberties can be used to manage the capacity of the NHS. I cannot concede that. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) said, that is not the way in which we should be going as a society. If the restrictions that we are extending had been proposed for that purpose in the past, we would never have accepted them.

In Wycombe, people have of course been dutifully washing their hands, covering their faces and keeping social distancing rules, yet early in this pandemic, I remember one dear, sweet, older lady was beside herself with anxiety at the thought of having to go about her ordinary life with her face covered, and look at us now, taking it for granted. This is not normal. This is the dystopia that I stood here and forecast on the day we went into lockdown

One of the most important things that we have learned from Mr Cummings’ leaked WhatsApp messages is that it seems that the Government have been significantly influenced by polling. I fear we have had a real doom loop here between polling and policy making, which has driven us into a disastrous position. We now must not tolerate lockdowns being perpetually on the table. We must not tolerate a situation going on where we and the police are unclear about what the law is and how it should be applied. Imagine that you can hug but not dance—what madness is this? We cannot tolerate a situation any more in which a Government social scientist told the author of the book “A State of Fear” that the Government had used unethical techniques of behavioural science to deliver a policy which he said, in his own words, “smacks of totalitarianism”.

We have transformed this society for the worst. We have it put in place a culture and habits that will take years to shake off and that distance people from one another and diminish their quality of life and the quality of relationships that they have with one another. High streets are in danger of becoming haunted alleyways. We are in danger of hollowing out and destroying the entertainment industry—much of what makes life worth living. Today’s vote will go through—it is a foregone conclusion—but as my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) implied, if the Conservative party does not stand for freedom under the rule of law, in my view, it stands for nothing. We have got to have a turning point. We have got to recapture a spirit of freedom.

Mark Harper spoke later on, at which point the Labour benches were empty. It is important for Britons reading this post to look at what he has uncovered. The Government continue to be dishonest not only with MPs but also the public:

Well said!

Please also note the following about winter. Meanwhile, Democrat-run New York and California are now open:

May our merciful God help the UK out of this unholy mess.

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