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While this is a change to the previous schedule of analysing Liz Truss’s premiership, more about which next week, there are references below as to why hers and Kwasi Kwarteng’s plan was the right one for the UK.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn Statement — a Labourite Conservative budget — on Thursday, November 17, 2022.

Compared with Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event of September 23, this will be a disaster for most middle class Britons.

It was clear that Hunt designed this budget to placate the all-hallowed — for whatever reason — OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) and the markets. Stability is their watchword. Growth, regardless of what Hunt said yesterday, plays little part in our economy for the foreseeable future.

Unlike Kwarteng’s, which did focus on growth, Hunt’s statement had little to no consideration of the British taxpayer in a cost of living crisis.

What Hunt said

Before going into Hunt’s address, Guido Fawkes has a brief summary and the full detail from the Treasury, a 70-page document.

Below are excerpts from Hunt’s Autumn Statement to the House of Commons (emphases mine):

… today we deliver a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild our economy. Our priorities are stability, growth and public services. We also protect the vulnerable, because to be British is to be compassionate and this is a compassionate Conservative Government.

Remember when then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak told us we did not have to worry about the cost of borrowing and borrowing itself during the pandemic? Well, now we have to worry:

Most countries are still dealing with the fallout from a once-in-a-century pandemic. The furlough scheme, the vaccine roll-out and the response of the NHS did our country proud, but they all have to be paid for.

Hunt paid homage to the Bank of England and had a poke at Kwarteng for not doing so:

So the Bank of England, which has done an outstanding job since its independence, now has my wholehearted support in its mission to defeat inflation and I today confirm we will not change its remit. But we need fiscal and monetary policy to work together, and that means the Government and the Bank working in lockstep.

He delivered a deeper attack on Kwarteng:

I understand the motivation of my predecessor’s mini-Budget and he was correct to identify growth as a priority, but unfunded tax cuts are as risky as unfunded spending, which is why we reversed the planned measures quickly. As a result, Government borrowing has fallen, the pound has strengthened and the OBR says today that the lower interest rates generated by the Government’s actions are already benefiting our economy and public finances. But credibility cannot be taken for granted and yesterday’s inflation figures show we must continue a relentless fight to bring it down, including a rock solid commitment to rebuild our public finances.

He bowed before the all-powerful OBR, whose forecasts have not been terribly accurate over the past few years. Let us see if these come true in the coming months:

Richard Hughes and his team at the OBR today lay out starkly the impact of global headwinds on the UK economy, and I am enormously grateful to him and his team for their thorough work. The OBR forecasts the UK’s inflation rate to be 9.1% this year and 7.4% next year. It confirms that our actions today help inflation to fall sharply from the middle of next year. It also judges that the UK, like other countries, is now in recession. Overall this year, the economy is still forecast to grow by 4.2%. GDP then falls in 2023 by 1.4%, before rising by 1.3%, 2.6% and 2.7% in the following three years. The OBR says higher energy prices explain the majority of the downward revision in cumulative growth since March. It also expects a rise in unemployment from 3.6% today to 4.9% in 2024, before falling to 4.1%.

This is Hunt’s strategy, with the blessing of the OBR and borrowing Sunak’s morality from the August leadership campaign about leaving debts to the next generation:

I also confirm two new fiscal rules. The first is that underlying debt must fall as a percentage of GDP by the fifth year of a rolling five-year period. The second is that public sector borrowing over the same period must be below 3% of GDP. The plan I am announcing today meets both rules.

Today’s statement delivers a consolidation of £55 billion, and means inflation and interest rates end up significantly lower. We achieve this in a balanced way. In the short term, as growth slows and unemployment rises, we will use fiscal policy to support the economy. The OBR confirms that, because of our plans, the recession is shallower and inflation is reduced. Unemployment is also lower, with about 70,000 jobs saved as a result of our decisions today. Then, once growth returns, we increase the pace of consolidation to get debt falling. This further reduces the pressure on the Bank to raise interest rates, because as Conservatives we do not leave our debts to the next generation.

So this is a balanced path to stability, tackling inflation to reduce the cost of living and protect pensioner savings, while supporting the economy on a path to growth. But it means taking difficult decisions.

Hunt then discussed the fiscal drag elements of the budget. Fiscal drag means drawing the unsuspecting into paying new and more tax:

I start with personal taxes. Asking more from those who have more means that the first difficult decision I take on tax is to reduce the threshold at which the 45p rate becomes payable from £150,000 to £125,140. Those earning £150,000 or more will pay just over £1,200 more in tax every year. We are also taking difficult decisions on tax-free allowances. I am maintaining at current levels the income tax personal allowance, higher rate threshold, main national insurance thresholds and the inheritance tax thresholds for a further two years, taking us to April 2028. Even after that, we will still have the most generous set of tax-free allowances of any G7 country.

I was amazed he could talk about 2028 with a straight face. By then, we will probably have a Labour government. Oh well, he’s done their work for them.

Continuing on tax rises, he said:

I am also reforming allowances on unearned income. The dividend allowance will be cut from £2,000 to £1,000 next year, and then to £500 from April 2024. The annual exempt amount for capital gains tax will be cut from £12,300 to £6,000 next year, and then £3,000 from April 2024. Those changes still leave us with more generous allowances than countries such as Germany, Ireland, France, and Canada.

Because the OBR forecasts that half of all new vehicles will be electric by 2025, to make our motoring tax system fairer, I have decided that from then electric vehicles will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty. Company car tax rates will remain lower for electric vehicles, and I have listened to industry bodies and will limit rate increases to 1 percentage point a year for three years from 2025.

At least he kept one thing from Kwarteng’s statement:

The OBR expects housing activity to slow over the next two years, so the stamp duty cuts announced in the mini-Budget will remain in place but only until 31 March 2025. After that, I will sunset the measure, creating an incentive to support the housing market, and the jobs associated with it, by boosting transaction during the period when the economy most needs it.

He won’t even be Chancellor then.

Moving on to businesses:

I now turn to business taxes. Although I have decided to freeze the employers national insurance contributions threshold until April 2028, we will retain the employment allowance at its new higher level of £5,000. That means that 40% of all businesses will pay no NICs at all. The VAT threshold is already more than twice as high as the EU and OECD averages. I will maintain it at that level until March 2026.

Then came the windfall tax:

Can I just say that any such tax should be temporary, not deter investment and recognise the cyclical nature of energy businesses? So, taking account of that, I have decided that from 1 January until March 2028 we will increase the energy profits levy from 25% to 35%. The structure of our energy market also creates windfall profits for low-carbon electricity generation, so we have decided to introduce, from 1 January, a new, temporary 45% levy on electricity generators. Together, those measures will raise £14 billion next year.

Business rates have been a thorn in the side of those enterprises on our high streets. Here, it would seem, Hunt offered some relief:

Finally, I turn to business rates. It is an important principle that bills should accurately reflect market values, so we will proceed with the revaluation of business properties from April 2023, but I will soften the blow on businesses with a nearly £14 billion tax cut over the next five years. Nearly two thirds of properties will not pay a penny more next year and thousands of pubs, restaurants and small high street shops will benefit. That will include a new Government-funded transitional relief scheme, as called for by the CBI, the British Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses and others, benefiting around 700,000 businesses.

Then he turned to people on benefits, proving that Sunak’s furlough scheme during the pandemic was more than adequate:

… I am proud to live in a country with one of the most comprehensive safety nets anywhere in the world. But I am also concerned that we have seen a sharp increase in economically inactive working-age adults of about 630,000 people since the start of the pandemic. Employment levels have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, which is bad for businesses who cannot fill vacancies and bad for people missing out on the opportunity to do well for themselves and their families, so the Prime Minister has asked the Work and Pensions Secretary to do a thorough review of issues holding back workforce participation, to conclude early in the new year.

Alongside that, I am also committed to helping people already in work to raise their incomes, progress in work and become financially independent. So we will ask over 600,000 more people on universal credit to meet with a work coach so that they can get the support that they need to increase their hours or earnings. I have also decided to move back the managed transition of people from employment and support allowance on to universal credit to 2028, and will invest an extra £280 million in the DWP to crack down on benefit fraud and error over the next two years. The Government’s review of the state pension age will be published in early 2023.

He then discussed foreign spending:

… I salute the citizens of another country right on the frontline … the brave people of Ukraine. The United Kingdom has given them military support worth £2.3 billion since the start of Putin’s invasion, the second highest contribution in the world after the United States, which demonstrates that our commitment to democracy and open societies remains steadfast. In that context, the Prime Minister and I both recognise the need to increase defence spending. But before we make that commitment, it is necessary to revise and update the integrated review, written as it was before the Ukraine invasion. I have asked for that vital work to be completed ahead of the next Budget and today I confirm that we will continue to maintain the defence budget at at least 2% of GDP to be consistent with our NATO commitment.

I was pleased to hear that overseas aid will stay at 0.5%:

Another important international commitment is to overseas aid. The OBR’s forecasts show a significant shock to public finances, so it will not be possible to return to the 0.7% target until the fiscal situation allows. We remain fully committed to that target, and the plans I have set out today assume that official development assistance spending will remain around 0.5% for the forecast period. As a percentage of GNI, we were the third highest donor in the G7 last year, and I am proud that our aid commitment has saved thousands of lives around the world.

Net Zero is still going ahead:

I also confirm that, despite the economic pressures, we remain fully committed to the historic Glasgow climate pact agreed at COP26, including a 68% reduction in our own emissions by 2030.

He discussed schools, beginning with those in England:

we have risen nine places in the global league tables for maths and reading in the last seven years.

… as Chancellor I want to know the answer to one simple question: will every young person leave the education system with the skills they would get in Japan, Germany or Switzerland? So, I have appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise me and my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary on the implementation of our skills reform programme.

Some have suggested putting VAT on independent school fees as a way of increasing core funding for schools, which would raise about £1.7 billion. But according to certain estimates, that would result in up to 90,000 children from the independent sector switching to state schools, giving with one hand only to take away with another.

So instead of being ideological, I am going to be practical: because we want school standards to continue to rise for every single child, we are going to do more than protect the schools budget—we are going to increase it. I can announce today that next year and the year after, we will invest an extra £2.3 billion per annum in our schools.

He has asked a former Labour MP, Patricia Hewitt, to help him reform the NHS. Oh, my days:

I have asked the former Health Secretary and chair of the Norfolk and Waveney integrated care system, Patricia Hewitt, to help me and the Health Secretary to achieve that by advising us on how to make sure that the new integrated care boards, the local NHS bodies, operate efficiently and with appropriate autonomy and accountability. I have also had discussions with NHS England about the inflationary pressures on their budgets.

More money will be pumped into the system:

With £3.3 billion for the NHS and £4.7 billion for social care, there is a record £8 billion package for our health and care system. That is a Conservative Government putting the NHS first.

Barnett consequentials, which come from the hard-pressed English taxpayer, will also increase:

The NHS and schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face equivalent pressures, so the Barnett consequentials of today’s decisions mean an extra £1.5 billion for the Scottish Government, £1.2 billion for the Welsh Government, and £650 million for the Northern Ireland Executive. That means more resources for the schools and hospitals in our devolved nations next year, the year after and every year thereafter.

A new energy strategy will be forthcoming from the Business Secretary.

These are Hunt’s infrastructure commitments:

… today I can announce that I am not cutting a penny from our capital budgets in the next two years, and I am maintaining them at that level in cash terms for the following three years. That means that although we are not growing our capital budget as planned, it will still increase from £63 billion four years ago to £114 billion next year and £115 billion the year after, and will remain at that level—more than double what it was under the last Labour Government.

Smart countries build on their long-term commitments rather than discarding them, so today I confirm that because of this decision, alongside Sizewell C, we will deliver the core Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 to Manchester, East West Rail, the new hospitals programme and gigabit broadband roll-out. All these and more will be funded as promised, with over £600 billion of investment over the next five years to connect our country and grow our economy.

Our national Conservative mission is to level up economic opportunity across the country. That, too, needs investment in infrastructure, so I will proceed with round 2 of the levelling-up fund, at least matching the £1.7 billion value of round 1. We will also drive growth across the UK by working with the Scottish Government on the feasibility study for the A75, supporting the advanced technology research centre in Wales and funding a trade and investment event in Northern Ireland next year.

He is bringing devolution to England in the form of mayoralties:

Our brilliant [Conservative] Mayors such as Andy Street and Ben Houchen have shown the power of civic entrepreneurship. We need more of this inspirational local leadership, so today I can announce a new devolution deal that will bring an elected Mayor to Suffolk, and deals to bring Mayors to Cornwall, Norfolk and an area in the north-east to follow shortly. We are also making progress towards trailblazer devolution deals with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the West Midlands Combined Authority, and soon over half of England will be covered by devolution deals. Taken together, that £600 billion investment in our future growth represents the largest investment in public works for 40 years, so our children and grandchildren can be confident that this Conservative Government are investing in their future.

Hunt is altering the Truss-Kwarteng investment zones to be more in line with Michael Gove’s aspirations for levelling up:

I will also change our approach to investment zones, which will now focus on leveraging our research strengths by being centred on universities in left-behind areas, to help to build clusters for our new growth industries. My right hon. Friend the Levelling Up Secretary will work with Mayors, devolved Administrations and local partners to achieve this, with the first decisions announced ahead of the spring Budget.

The Truss-Kwarteng energy support plan remains in place until the end of March 2023:

I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), and to the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), for their leadership in this area. This winter, we will stick with their plan to spend £55 billion to help households and businesses with their energy bills—one of the largest support plans in Europe. From April, we will continue the energy price guarantee for a further 12 months at a higher level of £3,000 per year for the average household. With prices forecast to remain elevated throughout next year, this will mean an average of £500 of support for every household in the country.

There is more help for the most vulnerable:

At the same time, for the most vulnerable, we will introduce additional cost of living payments next year of £900 to households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioner households and £150 for individuals on disability benefit. We will also provide an additional £1 billion of funding to enable a further 12-month extension to the household support fund, helping local authorities to assist those who might otherwise fall through the cracks. For those households that use alternative fuels such as heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas to heat their homes, I am today doubling the support from £100 to £200, which will be delivered as soon as possible this winter. Before the end of this year, we will also bring forward a new targeted approach to support businesses from next April.

But I want to go further to support the people most exposed to high inflation. Around 4 million families live in the social rented sector—almost one fifth of households in England. Their rents are set at 1% above the September inflation rate, which means that on current plans they are set to see rent hikes next year of up to 11%. For many, that would just be unaffordable, so today I can announce that this Government will cap the increase in social rents at a maximum of 7% in 2023-24. Compared with current plans, that is a saving for the average tenant of £200 next year.

Labour started a commotion at this point. Hunt then announced a rise in the minimum wage:

This Government introduced—[Interruption.] I thought they cared about the most vulnerable! This Government introduced the national living wage, which has been a giant step in eliminating low pay, so today I am accepting the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission to increase it next year by 9.7%. This means that, from April 2023, the hourly rate will be £10.42, which represents an annual pay rise worth over £1,600 to a full-time worker. It is expected to benefit over 2 million of the lowest-paid workers in our country, and it keeps us on track for our target to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024. It is the largest increase in the UK’s national living wage ever.

Benefits will increase by the rate of inflation:

today I commit to uprating such benefits by inflation, with an increase of 10.1%. That is an expensive commitment, costing £11 billion, but it means that 10 million working-age families will see a much-needed increase next year, which speaks to our priorities as a Government and our priorities as a nation. On average, a family on universal credit will benefit next year by around £600. To increase the number of households that can benefit from this decision, I will also exceptionally increase the benefit cap by inflation next year.

Finally, I have talked a lot about the British values of compassion, hard work, dignity and fairness, but there is no more British value than our commitment to protect and honour those who built the country we live in, so to support the poorest pensioners I have decided to increase pension credit by 10.1%, which is worth up to £1,470 for a couple and £960 for a single pensioner in our most vulnerable households, but the cost of living crisis is harming not just our poorest pensioners but all pensioners.

The triple-lock stays:

Because we have taken difficult decisions elsewhere today, I can also announce that we will fulfil our pledge to the country to protect the pension triple lock. In April, the state pension will increase in line with inflation, an £870 increase, which represents the biggest ever increase in the state pension. To the millions of pensioners who will benefit from this measure, I say: “Now and always, this Government are on your side.”

Hunt did not receive a jubilant reception from Conservative MPs, some of whom had concerns.

Dr Liam Fox asked about quantitative easing and interest rates:

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a balanced and skilful statement prioritising fiscal stability. He will be aware that some of us believe that the Bank of England maintained monetary conditions that were too loose for too long, but that it would also be a mistake to maintain monetary conditions that are too tight for too long. Can he therefore confirm that the anti-inflationary measures that he has taken today will mean that the pressure to raise interest rates will be minimised, and that there is a much greater chance that they will fall earlier than would otherwise have been the case?

Hunt replied:

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on this issue, because every 1% increase in interest rates is about £850 more on the average mortgage, so it is hugely important to families up and down the country. The OBR has said that the measures that we have taken today will mean that inflation is lower than it would otherwise have been. That means that the Bank of England is under less pressure to increase interest rates, which for reasons that he knows are such a worry for so many families.

Sir William Cash was concerned about the ever-increasing costs of the HS2 rail project:

My right hon. Friend argued for sound money and sound foundations. Would he be good enough to explain how it is that High Speed 2 will continue beyond Birmingham at a verifiable cost of at least £40 billion, when every independent report on HS2 condemns the project and confirms that phase 2 will make rail services to all west coast destinations north of Birmingham much worse? I ask him to make a clear commitment to keep this matter under review at all costs; it is in the national interest.

Hunt said:

My hon. Friend is right that the increases in the budget for HS2 are disappointing, but a strong economy needs to have consistency of purpose, and that means saying we will make sure that we are a better connected country. The lack of those connections is one of the fundamental reasons for the differences in wealth between north and south, which we are so committed to addressing. There is a bigger issue about the way that we do infrastructure projects: it takes too long, and the budgets therefore get out of control. We are just not very good at it, and we have to sort it out.

Theresa Villiers rightly asked how soon we could move to a lower-tax economy if the forecasts are wrong. For me, this was the question of the day:

I thank the Chancellor for the announcement on schools funding, which, as he knows, is something that I raised with him as being crucial. Can he also confirm that, if current forecasts about economic recovery and inflation prove to be overly pessimistic, we will move more quickly than he has announced today towards delivering a lower-tax economy?

Hunt was non-committal:

My right hon. Friend is an immensely experienced colleague. She is right to point out that there is always inaccuracy in any forecast, and there is always variation from fiscal event to fiscal event, so we keep all those decisions under review in the round. I think it is still important to have forecasts—that is better than not to have them—but we keep all those decisions under review.

Virginia Crosbie from Ynys Môn in Wales asked how soon the new nuclear programme would begin:

This Government’s commitment to Sizewell C and large-scale nuclear is welcome, and it was noted that Labour’s shadow Chancellor failed to mention nuclear. When will the launch of Great British Nuclear be announced, and will its scope include large-scale gigawatt nuclear at sites such as Wylfa in my constituency, as well as small modular reactors?

Hunt was encouraging:

There is no more formidable advocate for big nuclear investment on Ynys Môn than my hon. Friend. Indeed, when I went on a family holiday to Ynys Môn this summer, she tried to persuade me to visit the potential site of a nuclear power station with my children. I apologise that I did not take her up on the offer, but it shows her commitment. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be making an announcement soon on things such as the launch of Great British Nuclear—I hope before Christmas, but if not just afterwards—because we want to crack on with our nuclear programme.

Richard Drax was concerned about the burden on the taxpayer, another excellent question:

I have huge sympathy for my right hon. Friend. We are facing severe financial challenges for the reasons he explained so well, but Members on both sides of the House are promising to spend billions and billions more pounds. I remind the House that it is the private sector, and hardworking people through their taxes, who pay for Government expenditure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that raising taxes on both risks stifling the growth and productivity that he and I both want, and that would counter the recession we are now in?

Hunt defended his budget:

My hon. Friend is right to make the case for a lightly taxed dynamic economy, and I would like to bring taxes down from their current level. We are faced with the necessity of doing something fast to restore sound money and bring inflation down from 11%, which is why we have made difficult decisions today. But yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: there is no future for this country unless we get back on the path to being a lower taxed economy.

Mark Pawsey asked about small businesses:

My constituents in Rugby and Bulkington will not enjoy the tough decisions that the Chancellor has had to make today, but they will understand the need for sound finances after the huge expenditure that the country has made on the pandemic and supporting people with their energy costs as a consequence of the war in Ukraine. They will also want to know that businesses will continue to invest to grow and to create jobs. Will he speak about the incentives that still exist for businesses to do exactly that?

Hunt pledged his support:

I am happy to do that. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise those issues. We are doing a lot of short-term things, including help with energy bills as well as business rates. As we move to a new business rates system, we are freezing the levels at which business rates can increase and introducing a 75% discount next year for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Fundamentally, as a Conservative Government, we know that we cannot flourish as an economy without flourishing small businesses, and we will back them to the hilt.

Greg Smith asked what Hunt was doing about reducing fuel duty:

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend when he talks about the inflationary pressures coming from the aftershocks of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. We see that at the fuel pumps and, more significantly, our haulage and logistics sector sees it with the enormous level of taxation on diesel in particular driving inflation to get food and goods on to our shelves. As he prepares for the March Budget, will he look at the inflationary impact of fuel duty on top of the high cost of diesel and see whether we can reduce it?

Hunt said he was looking at the issue:

I assure my hon. Friend that I will absolutely do that. We have a little time, and I know that fuel duty is an important issue to him and many other colleagues.

March 2023 — fuel duty hike

Hunt’s answer to Greg Smith on the fuel duty hike sounded reassuring, but GB News’s economic editor Liam Halligan uncovered a planned fuel duty hike of 23% for March 2023 from the OBR forecast. It would be the first since 2011:

Here’s Liam Halligan talking about it:

Forbes noticed it, too, bringing the news to an even wider international audience:

https://image.vuukle.com/8d46442a-2514-45e7-9794-98dfc370ce1b-94c4922a-473b-4f2c-bf6c-332bb8ccac4e

Fiscal drag

The Times had an article on the upcoming fiscal drag following Hunt’s budget:

Disposable incomes, after adjusting for inflation, will fall by 4.3 per cent in 2022-23, which would be the largest fall since records began in the 1950s. It is set to be followed by the second largest fall — in 2023-24 — of 2.8 per cent.

… Despite the aspirations of Rishi Sunak to create a low-tax economy, Britain is on course for its biggest ever tax burden as hundreds of thousands of workers are dragged into higher income tax bands by the freezing of thresholds and allowances while businesses also face a jump in levies, including employment taxes.

The tax burden is set to rise to 37.5 per cent of GDP in the financial year ending 2025, reaching the highest level since records began shortly after the Second World War.

The level of taxation as a share of the national income will rise to 36.4 per cent of GDP this year and 37.4 per cent in the financial year ending 2024, breaking the previous record.

Recovery is not likely to begin until 2025, several months after the next general election. This is accurate only if Conservatives are still in power by then:

GDP is expected to rise by 4.2 per cent this year before falling by 1.4 per cent next year, only returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024. However, growth is expected to pick up to 2.6 per cent the following year and 2.7 per cent in 2026, following a recovery in real incomes, consumption and investment.

The Telegraph also had an article on fiscal drag:

Nearly a quarter of a million workers will be dragged into paying the 45p rate of income tax after Jeremy Hunt slashed the threshold at which it is charged.

The salary on which the additional rate is payable will be reduced from £150,000 to £125,140 effective next April, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Autumn Statement, and frozen until 2028, forcing 232,000 workers into paying the top rate of tax for the first time and costing these quarter of a million taxpayers £620 on average, according to wealth manager Quilter.

The number of workers paying 45pc has more than doubled since the rate was first introduced in 2010 – rising from 236,000 to 629,000 today – as wage inflation has pushed more taxpayers into the highest income tax band.

Lowering the threshold will cost the 629,000 workers earning over £150,000 who are already impacted by the 45pc tax an additional £1,250 …

Just two months ago, then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng promised that the top rate would be abolished altogether. But now the Government is hoping to earn £420m in 2023-24 by catching more taxpayers in the 45pc net, and almost double that – £855m – in 2027-28.

Neela Chauhan of accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young said the move was “a major attack” on higher earners.

She added: “It’s going to bring in people into the upper rate who feel that they are far from being rich.”

Tax firm RSM said that there are also unexpected consequences of slashing the additional-rate threshold and the Chancellor had opened the door to a new 67.5pc tax rate.

Taxpayers earning over £100,000 lose their personal allowance at a rate of £1 for every £2 of income.

This means for every £100 they earn between £100,000 and £125,140, a worker takes home just £40 – because £40 is lost to income tax and another £20 to the tapering of the personal allowance – creating a 60pc tax trap.

Dismal headlines

The Guardian has a breakdown of last Friday’s front pages, which were bleak.

The Telegraph noted the austerity of George Osborne, Chancellor when the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition took over from in 2010, and the Labourite policies of his predecessor Gordon Brown. At the bottom of the page is an analysis from Lord Frost:

Lord Frost’s analysis is pro-Truss/Kwarteng

Lord Frost points out that the OBR are predicting what Liz Truss did just a few weeks ago:

This was a very curious Autumn Statement. For the last month, we have been told that Britain needed to re-establish the confidence of the markets and put in place renewed fiscal discipline, supposedly so carelessly squandered by Liz Truss. “Eye-wateringly painful decisions” were coming for all of us …

… public spending will be at its highest since the 1970s and taxation the highest since the Second World War. Both only start to fall, gently, in the late 2020s, and then only because of some pretty heroic assumptions about growth. Indeed, under Liz Truss we were told that 2.5 per cent growth was impossible – yet the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is predicting exactly that for 2025 and 2026.

How do we explain this?

To do so, I think, we have to go back to that extraordinary week in mid-October, when Truss’s government blew up on the launch pad

She was levered out of Downing Street with the argument that she had been careless about the public finances, casual about fiscal discipline and had lost market confidence. An emergency correction was needed – tax rises or spending cuts, and probably both.

Yet on taking office, our current government will have found – as the OBR has now acknowledged – that we were already into a deepening recession. Tightening fiscal policy with growth collapsing and interest rates increasing globally would clearly have been an insane policy, one at variance with what virtually every economist would suggest. But, having destroyed the Truss administration for being insufficiently fiscally disciplinarian, the Government could hardly overtly change course itself.

That is why we got what we got. Keep growing spending, raise taxes now on unpopular groups, defer deficit reduction and everything else until 2025, and meanwhile talk a lot about austerity and discipline to disguise the reality that this is likely a similar fiscal policy to what Truss’s would have been, just at higher levels of tax and spend. Then, after the election, if the Conservatives are still in power, it can all be looked at again …

… Taxes on business wreck investment and growth. Taxes on the (not very) rich destroy incentives. Britain’s hard-won reputation for being a low tax country is permanently lost. And we all have less of our own money and are less free.

Another defence of Trussonomics

The Mail reminds us that the Truss plan was to cap energy prices for two years. Hunt has reduced this to the end of March 2023:

Average energy bills will rise to £3,000 a year from April as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed he was scrapping previous Government plans.

In his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hunt revealed changes to the ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ would leave Britons facing higher gas and electricity payments next year.

When former prime minister Liz Truss first announced the cost of living support in September, she outlined how average energy bills would be frozen at £2,500 a year for the next two years

Delivering details of an altered plan today, Mr Hunt revealed the Energy Price Guarantee would now be set at a higher level of £3,000 a year for average households until April 2024.

Of course, those who use less energy at home might have less to pay:

The plan only caps the cost per unit that households pay, with actual bills still determined by how much is consumed.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

The fact that this comes on top of so many other price rises means life is going to get even tougher next spring.

More Trussonomics

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson wrote an analysis of the budget for The Telegraph, ‘This could turn out to be the week that the Tories lost the next election’.

I noted above that some of what Hunt said points far into the future.

Fraser Nelson also observed that fact:

Suspiciously, almost all of this austerity is due to take place after April 2025, after the election. The Tory benches were very quiet during Hunt’s speech, perhaps because they were piecing all this together. It was not just an Autumn Statement being written, but the next Conservative manifesto, too – with all the bad stuff saved for after the vote. Hardly the behaviour of a party expecting to win.

As one minister put it: “This was the day we lost the election.” This is how some Tories see the Autumn Statement: a suicide note, wrapping a poison pill for a Keir Starmer government to swallow.

This is the alarming rate of borrowing today. Factor in the previous QE and the generous Sunak pandemic programmes when he was Chancellor:

Even now, the Government is borrowing £485 million a day – or £20,000 by the time you finish this sentence. It all needs to be repaid. And the interest we all have to pay for such debt is, broadly, treble what it was a year ago.

The new forecasts show a UK Government expecting to pay £484 billion in debt interest over the next five years – almost £300 billion more than was expected this time last year. This year alone it’s £120 billion, twice last year’s sum.

This extra £60 billion has had to come from somewhere. It’s enough to double the size of the military, treble the police force or rebuild every school or hospital. But instead it is dead money, servicing an old debt – and things need to be squeezed to make room for it. For years, Tories wrote cheques, for HS2 and more, barely thinking about the cost. Now the bill has landed.

Nelson doesn’t mention the number of times long-serving Conservative backbenchers warned Sunak over the past two years that the bill would come due, but I saw them in parliamentary debates being duly ignored. To Sunak, those men were mere Thatcherites, so last century. Rishi told us we could borrow with little consequence. Not so.

He created a lot of our current problems and campaigned in August that he would be the candidate to get us out of this situation.

Now he is No. 10, just as he wanted to be from the beginning:

Sunak can’t be blamed for the debt interest. But he might have been expected to have better ideas of how to get out of the mess.

Of the Autumn Statement, Nelson writes:

Liz Truss said her message was “growth, growth, growth,” but Sunak’s seems to be “brace, brace, brace”. A massive fiscal impact lies ahead, he says – and our mission is to recognise it, make our peace with it, and accept that talk about a low-tax future is futile. So his Autumn Statement did not kick-start a recovery. It was, instead, a requiem for growth.

Of the August leadership campaign, he reminds us:

During the leadership debate, Truss was asked what advice she would give to Sunak. Don’t be so fatalistic, she told him. Don’t go along with narratives of decline. She had a point. Groundless optimism ended her premiership very quickly, but groundless pessimism can also be deeply damaging.

Nelson wonders how a government can so quickly discount its people:

A million more Brits, for example, are expected to join the 1.7 million already claiming disability or health-related benefits over the next five years. They will, in turn, join the 3.5 million others on out-of-work benefits. Was it so unreasonable to hope that this number might go down, with people helped back to work? We’ve been promised a review into all this, but not much else.

Another assumption is that most of the 400,000 who have dropped out of the economy since the pandemic started, citing long-term sickness, will never work again. It’s hard to find many other countries giving up so readily on such a stunningly large chunk of the population.

Is a uniquely British malady at work here? Or is the real problem a kind of Tory fatalism, where an exhausted governing party thinks the country is now too old, too sick or simply too workshy to get back to where it was in January 2020?

Many conservative voters said at the time that Rishi’s furlough scheme was a bit too helpful — and we were paying for it.

Now we are paying even more for it.

Nelson concludes:

the risk is that voters make up their mind now – and associate Toryism with chaos, broken promises and a general counsel of despair. Labour just needs to promise to do things better. As things stand, it’s not a very high bar.

Feeling fleeced yet?

The Telegraph‘s editorial warned, ‘Hard times ahead for British taxpayers’:

Unlike the tumultuous response to Kwasi Kwarteng’s unfunded growth measures in September, the market reaction was muted, which is precisely what Mr Hunt hoped for, even if the pound fell against the dollar amid forecasts of a year-long recession …

… benefits and the old age pension will rise in April by 10.1 per cent, the inflation rate in October.

This continues a trend of recent years whereby working people are expected to pay more in tax to protect social programmes that successive governments have been reluctant to reform. Although headline tax rates have not risen, the extended freeze on allowances at a time of double-digit inflation is a serious hit to the incomes of millions who will be dragged into higher bands. Some three million earners will pay income tax for the first time.

This year will see the sharpest fall in living standards on record, while the tax burden rises to its highest level as a share of GDP in decades. More than 47 per cent of national income will be spent in the public sector. In fact, spending will actually rise in real terms. The cuts are to planned budgets.

Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt consider this social democratic approach to be fair and compassionate, closing off attack lines from Labour as a general election approaches. But there are consequences for the long-term well-being of the country if working people and businesses feel they are being fleeced to prop up failing public services and a benefit system in need of a drastic overhaul.

Essentially, the productive part of the economy is being squeezed to prop up the unproductive. The problem Mr Sunak faces is that, by 2024, the Conservatives will have been in office for 14 years and they need to offer voters a better slogan than “Labour will be worse”. In fact, Labour would support many of the measures in the Autumn Statement, from loading more tax on the wealthy to increasing windfall taxes on the energy companies.

ministers need to prepare for the worst and could proactively address the biggest drags on the economy, above all the NHS, social care and welfare benefits. The health service continues to soak up huge sums – with another £6 billion announced yesterday – and yet produces worse outcomes. Its shortcomings are causing problems throughout the economy, with treatment backlogs contributing to acute manpower shortages which the Government intends to fill by increasing immigration.

The Spectator‘s political editor James Forsyth, a close friend of Rishi Sunak’s, explained in The Times why this recession is different to previous ones and why we need more people in the workforce. I hope his friend pays attention to this:

One bright spot amid the gloom is the unemployment rate, which is just 3.6 per cent, down from 3.8 per cent this year. This is close to historic lows. But even this glimmer is tarnished. The low unemployment number disguises how many people have left the labour force: one in five working-age Brits are economically inactive, meaning they are neither in work nor looking for it. More than five million are claiming out-of-work benefits.

The recession may last a year, perhaps two — but it will be different. Unemployment, as formally defined, won’t exceed 5 per cent even during the worst of the downturn — in the 1980s it went into double digits. Seldom have there been more vacancies in the economy. It’s an odd form of recession where almost anyone who wants a job can find one, but that’s the situation we’re in. Almost every month, the number of those not looking for work grows: it jumped by 169,000 in the three months to August. That is more than the population of Oxford.

This has consequences. The OBR thinks the cost of health and disability benefits will rise by £7.5 billion — quite a sum. A shrinking labour market is also one of the reasons why the Bank of England thinks potential growth is now a mere 0.75 per cent even in 2024-25. The Tories desperately need to get back to moving people from welfare into work — not just to reduce the welfare bill but also to boost the economy

Alongside those not in work nor looking for it, there are 970,000 people on Universal Credit who are working very limited hours in an economy where employers are offering shifts. Hunt announced that about 600,000 of them will now be required to meet a work coach to try to increase their hours. This signals a return to Tory welfare reform …

to ensure taxes don’t need to keep going up indefinitely, two things are needed. The first is a renewed emphasis on public-sector reform. The Tory mantra used to be more for less from public services. But in recent years, it has felt like the opposite is the case. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out this week, the NHS has more money and more staff than it did before Covid yet is treating fewer people on the waiting list. This needs reversing if the tax burden is not to continue climbing ever higher.

The second is the economy needs to grow. Meat needs to be put on the bones of the growth agenda that Sunak and Hunt set out this week, with further incentives for businesses to invest.

After the debacle of the mini-budget, this autumn statement was always going to be about steadying the ship. Yet satisfying the markets is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful government. Sunak and Hunt must now deliver on public service reform, moving people from welfare into work and getting more out of the health and education budgets.

The Telegraph had more on the parlous state of the NHS, despite more taxpayer money being dumped into it, all for nought:

An analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows the health service in England carried out 600,000 fewer procedures in the first nine months of 2022, compared with the same period in 2019.

The NHS’s budget rose from £123.7 billion in 2019-20 to £151.8  billion in 2022-23, with the extra funding tied to a target of increasing elective hospital activity by 30 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels. This will not only be missed but matters have worsened. Why is no one being held to account?

Record sums have been poured in for years, yet there is now a waiting list of more than seven million patients. Working practices remain stuck in the past, with consultants complaining that hospitals are “like the Mary Celeste” at weekends, while most GP surgeries are only open on weekdays, pushing patients to overstretched A&E services.

The NHS unions are not helping in their demands for more money.

The article concludes:

There is something fundamentally wrong with the NHS which politicians must confront before it crashes and brings the rest of the economy down with it.

Hunt puts economic hope in migrants

It seems the OBR, a quango started by the Conservative Chancellor George Osborne and staffed by Labourites, has convinced Jeremy Hunt that he should increase our already heavy migration levels to boost the economy.

That’s a left-wing idea that has never worked.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman will oppose that, but can she succeed? Only a few weeks ago, a 90-minute argument with Liz Truss and Hunt resulted in Braverman’s resignation. Her security violations were a likely smokescreen for what really happened.

The Telegraph reported:

Jeremy Hunt is relying on a surge in net migration to more than 200,000 people per year to help deliver economic growth as he oversees a sharp rise in the tax burden to its highest ever peacetime level.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted net migration – the numbers entering the UK minus those leaving – will be 224,000 next year, before gently declining to settle at 205,000 a year from 2026 onwards.

This is dramatically higher than the OBR’s March estimate, when it predicted that net migration would be between 139,000 and 129,000 in the same years, some 80,000 lower.

It is also significantly higher than the long-term “ambition” of Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, to reduce net migration to below 100,000 – similar to the target of Theresa May, one of her predecessors in the post.

The increase in migrant labour will help to buttress Britain’s economy as Mr Hunt imposes higher taxes on earnings, jobs and investment. The OBR said that an increase in migration would help add to the potential size of the economy.

However, rising costs from tax are creating “growing disincentives to work”, reduce business investment and depress wages, according to the OBR itself.

Business groups were even more damning. The Chancellor talked a lot about “hard work” and “fairness” in his Autumn Statement. But workers, entrepreneurs and businesses have been left to pick up the bill to keep Britain’s welfare state on the road.

The OBR are being deeply irresponsible in advocating city-sized populations coming from abroad each year.

Where will these people live? How is our infrastructure — medical facilities, schools, water supply — increase to meet this demand year upon year?

Anyone travelling by Tube can pick up a copy of the Evening Standard to read about how many British twenty-somethings in London cannot find a room to rent. In many cases, there are 100 of them chasing every available room. The Standard interviews them. Their stories are heart-breaking. These young people are signed up to every rental app, to no avail.

Council tax increasing

On top of all of this, The Times reported that Hunt has given the green light to councils to increase council tax:

… the chancellor announced “more council tax flexibilities”, enabling councils in England to raise council tax by 3 per cent a year (up from 2 per cent) from April 2023 and increase the adult social care precept by 2 per cent a year (up from 1 per cent) without having to hold a referendum — leaving councils free to raise the tax by up to 5 per cent next year.

Their article has charts of various council tax rates and offers this example:

If they decide to increase council tax by the full 5 per cent, council tax band D payments would rise by £115 from £2,300 to £2,415 a year in Rutland in the East Midlands — the local authority with the most expensive tax bills in England — while in Westminster in central London, the cheapest authority, they would increase by just £43 from £866 to £909 a year.

Short takes

The Telegraph has an article on winners and losers from the Autumn Statement. There are only two groups of winners: housebuyers and pensioners/benefits claimants.

The Guardian interviewed some of Hunt’s constituents in leafy South West Surrey. They are unhappy with him as MP and are equally unhappy with the Government.

Guido Fawkes’s sketchwriter summed up Hunt’s announcement as follows:

What was the job of the day? To persuade the markets that all was under control. That debt-to-GDP would fall in reasonable time, that things would get back to normal in his cool, technocratic, managerial hands.

It’s what we all need, to believe that someone knows how things work and that they know what they’re doing. That there is such a thing as “sound money”. That the great, communal hallucination of financial reality may be preserved.

In Guido’s view, the Chancellor did exactly that. (Pound crashes, housing market collapses, the global financial architecture disappears into the Pacific Trench)

The readers’ comments near the end of that post have to do with the raw deal Liz Truss got. Here’s the exchange:

I find it impossible to believe that Liz Truss did so much damage in a couple of weeks with a mini budget which was never even enacted to require today’s grotesque socialist budget. Hunt and Rishi must be following an ideological policy and using Truss as their excuse.

Yes, she’s been made a convenient scapegoat by the WEF shills, to cover all their earlier and current mistakes and wrongdoings.

She went too far too fast and, by doing so, gave the one nation Tories and SunakHunts the opportunity to bring her down. The real villains are Sunak and Bailey [Bank of England governor] with their money printing and inflation denial. We are paying for their mistakes.

She didn’t go too far too fast. That is the Conservative spin. The Socialist spin is that she crashed the economy. It was cautious and a promising start, a direction of travel being set, nothing more – except for that huge two year package on the gas bills which was pure socialism and not mentioned by anyone.

The true Conservative spin is that, as an experienced Cabinet minister, she didn’t scan the political and financial hinterlands and underestimated the faux Conservative forces ranged against her. Once she u-turned she was done for.

On another of Guido’s posts, a reader posited that this is all about reversing Brexit:

The champagne socialist billionaire Rishi Sunak and arch remainer narssisist Jeremy Hunt have nailed the final nails in the socialist party AKA as the Conservative party coffin. They will be wiped out at the next GE for a generation. They want to tank the economy and make everyone feel financial pain so they can say BREXIT didn’t work. They will then seem to come to the rescue with every excuse on the planet and join us up first to the single market and customs union. Then kicking and screaming back into the EU. Why do you think they staged this remainer coup and got rid of Truss? The Truss budget of low tax, high wages, high growth, low government spend and the scrapping of the 2300-3000 EU laws retained on the UK statue book would have taken advantage of BREXIT and boosted the economy. They could not allow that to happen. They want to ditch plans to scrap the EU laws as that will make it harder to leave. They have folded on the NI Protocol and leaving the Jurisdiction of the ECHR. Why? Because they want to rejoin. We now are having forced on us a low wage, high tax, low growth, high government spend economy that will cripple most people financially and small businesses. Who wants to invest in the UK now?

On that note, another reader posted a photo of Hunt and Sunak sharing a laugh, with this fictitious caption:

Hunt: Told you you didn’t need the support of the members.

Sunak: Yes, it was so easy to stab Truss in the back, too. Who needs democracy?

What taxpayers can do

All is not lost for taxpayers. There are ways to mitigate the effects from Hunt’s statement.

Anyone who needs to cut back on food costs, protein in particular, should start eating eggs, which are cheap and the best source of protein around. Supposedly, they’re in short supply, but I bought a dozen only yesterday.

The Telegraph has an excellent article on various egg preparations, whether sweet or savoury. It’s well worth reading.

The paper also has a helpful article about what taxpayers can do to mitigate Hunt’s raid on their money. Some will require advice from a financial planner. The most important tip is to get one’s capital gains in order and start liquidating shares or funds to put into an ISA — a process called ‘bed and ISA’ — without exceeding the CGT thresholds. This has to be started well before the end of the 2022-23 tax year in April, when the current capital gains threshold of £12,300 expires and becomes £6,000 for one year, then £3,000 the year after that.

Good luck!

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On Thursday night, November 10, 2022, Liz Truss’s Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, broke his silence in an interview with TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn on First Edition.

He and Truss disagreed on how quickly to move on the economy.

Background

Looking back at that period of mourning for the late Queen when Truss assumed office, the nation had been jittery over the cost of living crisis.

The Conservative leadership contest, which had lasted several weeks, put paid to any constructive solutions to the problem in the latter half of the summer.

Furthermore, Parliament had been in its customary weeks-long recess at that time.

During that period, energy prices were forecasted to be at a crippling high. Every news outlet was full of articles and broadcasts on the choice between food or fuel.

People wanted Parliament to be recalled because ‘something must be done’.

A general election is also coming up in two years’ time, therefore, Truss wanted to hit the ground running and make up for the two-and-a-half years lost with the pandemic.

Hence Truss’s ambitious and, to use her word, bold economic plan.

Kwasi explains

Tom Newton Dunn wrote up highlights in The Times of what Kwarteng told him (emphases mine):

In his first interview since being sacked as chancellor, Kwarteng told TalkTV that he had advised Truss to “slow down” and take a “methodical and strategic approach” to boosting growth as prime minister …

In the interview with First Edition, Kwarteng also revealed that Truss was “distressed and emotional” when she summoned him to be sacked days before she was forced from Downing Street.

He said he told her during their meeting that she was “mad” to fire him, adding: “People will ask, ‘If you sacked the person who was doing what you wanted, why are you still there?’”

Which is exactly what happened. The Sun‘s Harry Cole asked that very question at Truss’s press conference that fateful day, Friday, October 14. Truss thought that Cole would be more empathetic, as The Sun generally supports the Government.

Whilst unapologetic for his economic plan, the former Chancellor did say that lessons had been learned:

Kwarteng repeatedly refused to apologise for pursuing the principle of the pair’s economic agenda and warned Rishi Sunak that he could not “simply keep putting up taxes”.

He said that he had had reservations about the scale of the planned tax cuts in his mini-budget, especially as there were no accompanying plans to reduce government spending. “The prime minister was very much of the view that we needed to seize the opportunity and we hit the ground running,” he said. “She’s very dynamic, very forceful. That’s a great strength. But I think you had to have a measured approach, especially doing the things that were radical, that were bold. And that’s the lesson that we’ve learnt.”

Asked who controlled the timetable of the mini-budget, Kwarteng said that he bore “some responsibility for it” but added: “I think the prime minister was very much of the view that we needed to move things fast. But I think it was too quick. If you look at it, it was on the 23rd of September. We only got into the office on the 6th of September. And looking back I think a measured pace would have been much better.”

Kwarteng said that afterwards he confronted Truss and warned her the government could fall unless she slowed down. “After the mini-budget we were going at breakneck speed and I said, you know, we should slow down, slow down. She said, ‘Well, I’ve only got two years’ and I said, ‘You will have two months if you carry on like this’. And that is, I’m afraid, what happened.”

He also said:

She was very emotional. I can’t remember whether she was actually shedding tears but she was very emotional and it was a difficult thing to do. I think she genuinely thought that that was the right thing to buy her more time to set her premiership on the right path. I disagreed, obviously. I thought that if chancellors are sacked by the prime minister for doing what the prime minister campaigned on, that leaves the prime minister in a very weak position.

Kwarteng revealed that he found out he was being sacked by reading a tweet from a Times journalist:

… a tweet from The Times’ political editor as he drove to a meeting with Truss in Downing Street.

As King Charles said to Truss only a month ago — and just days before she sacked her Chancellor:

Dear, oh dear.

Kwarteng is supportive of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak but says that he and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt should not put the blame for a cratering economy on him and Truss:

Kwarteng praised Sunak as a “very credible prime minister” but said he and the new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, should not attempt to blame him and Truss for all the government’s current problems. “The only thing that they could possibly blame us for is the interest rates and interest rates have come down and the gilt rates have come down. I mean, it wasn’t that the national debt was created by Liz Truss’s 44 days in government.”

He added that although he accepted that taxes would need to rise in the short term, the government still needed a growth strategy. “You’re not going to grow an economy or incentivise economic growth by putting up our taxes,” he said.

True. I wrote earlier this week about why the Truss-Kwarteng plan was the correct one for the UK.

Kwarteng and Truss have known each other for years and live near each other in Greenwich.

He says they are ‘still friends’, but:

he had still not returned a missed call from her two days ago. “I will call her back,” he said.

The BBC’s analysis

In an analysis of the interview, the BBC points out that, at the time of the mini-budget, Kwarteng promised more tax cuts to come:

During his time as chancellor, he repeatedly advocated measures of the sort set out in the mini-budget, and two days after delivering it told the BBC there was “more to come” in the way of tax cuts.

The comment, along with a decision to announce the mini-budget without publishing an assessment by the government’s fiscal watchdog, was later seen as key to convincing investors that the government did not have a credible plan to keep debt levels under control.

Did Kwarteng reveal too much in the interview?

He insists that he remains friends with Ms Truss. But in this interview he does reveal elements of private conversations during his sacking that Ms Truss may well have preferred had stayed within the walls of Downing Street.

He once toured TV studios insisting she would make a great prime minister. It doesn’t feel like they’re on as good terms now as they once were.

And what next for Mr Kwarteng? It doesn’t sound like he’s going to be an awkward backbencher: he’s pledging complete loyalty to Rishi Sunak.

There was lots of detail in this interview, but it’s important to remember that this is only one side of the events that took place as Ms Truss’s premiership began to crumble. When will she break her silence?

Jeremy Hunt’s tactful comments

On Friday, November 11, the new Chancellor reacted to Kwarteng’s interview.

The Guardian reported:

Good morning. We’ve got less than a week to go now until the autumn statement – in effect, the second budget of the autumn – and already a blame game has broken out in the Conservative party about who is responsible for the massive spending cuts and tax rises the nation is about to face.

Kwarteng had denied there is a black hole in the nation’s finances:

The national debt wasn’t radically changed by Liz Truss … There isn’t a black hole and the interest rates and the gilt rate funding the debt is exactly the same as it was before the mini-budget. So the black hole hasn’t been caused by the mini budget. It’s something that Jeremy and Rishi and their officials are going to have to tackle on their own regardless of what happened in the budget.

However, on Sky News, Jeremy Hunt pushed back on Kwarteng’s claim:

All I would say is that when we produced a fiscal statement that didn’t show how we were going to bring our debts down over the medium term, the markets reacted very badly and so we have learned that you can’t fund either spending or borrowing without showing how you are going to pay for it and that is what I will do.

The Guardian concludes:

Hunt did not engage with Kwarteng’s specific argument, but he was clearly implying that his predecessor was at fault.

The article includes a clip from Hunt’s interview:

Hunt was giving an interview to respond to this morning’s growth figures showing the economy shrank by 0.2% in the third quarter of the year.

The Bank of England admits QE wrong policy

But wait, there’s more.

On Tuesday, November 8, the Bank of England (BoE) finally admitted that QE — quantitative easing — was a mistake during the pandemic.

This is where the real problem lies. It has nothing to do with Kwarteng or Truss.

The Daily Mail reported that the BoE’s chief economist, Huw Pill, appeared before the House of Lords economic affairs committee, admitting:

the Bank played a part in driving up inflation through its massive money-printing programme.

Known as quantitative easing (QE), this pumped £450billion into the economy during 2020.

He had more to say on inflation:

Pill also blamed the huge mismatch between supply and demand in the aftermath of Covid lockdowns for pushing the price of goods ever higher.

Pill has only been in his job for a year, so no one can blame him, but:

The comments could make uncomfortable reading for Bank Governor Andrew Bailey, who oversaw the explosion in QE, and new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who as chancellor was at the heart of the Government’s response to Covid.

The Government has been fond of blaming the war in Ukraine for our current problems, however:

even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which caused gas prices to spike, inflation was already at 6.2 per cent – more than three times the Bank’s target of 2 per cent.

Rishi and the BoE are to blame for this. As Chancellor, Rishi told MPs that we could borrow, borrow, borrow during the pandemic at little to no cost.

However, Huw Pill sees things differently:

Gas prices do not ‘explain all of the overshoot’ in inflation, said Pill. One factor, he said, was ‘developments in the past – including choices over monetary policy’.

Warning that ‘QE and the choices over QE may have contributed’ to the rise in the cost of living, Pill added: ‘I was not at the Bank two or three years ago when some of those rounds of QE were undertaken. Whether those would be chosen to do now is an open question.’

He also suggested that lockdowns – and the support offered to households and businesses through the pandemic such as the furlough scheme – played a part as they boosted demand at a time when the supply of goods and services was severely hit.

‘Looking back at the impact of the pandemic, I think one can say that destruction of demand was over-emphasised relative to the destruction of supply,’ he said.

‘The support coming from the macroeconomic side – both fiscal support and monetary support –was very profound.’

QE works in the UK as follows:

buying bonds from investors – mainly government bonds known as gilts – reducing borrowing costs and freeing up cash for those investors to plough into the economy.

During the pandemic:

this helped to fuel demand by propping up buying activity while ignoring the supply problems caused by lockdowns, when businesses were forced to shut their doors.

When economies reopened, there was a surge in demand that could not be met, driving up prices and causing workers to demand higher wages.

Other economists and financial experts sounded the alarm at the time:

Andy Haldane, Pill’s predecessor at the Bank, predicted as much when he began warning early last year that inflation could get out of hand.

Delaying efforts to tame inflation would be like ‘trying to catch a tiger by its tail’, Haldane said.

But other members of the Bank of England’s interest rate-setting committee remained adamant that inflation would be ‘transient’.

The Bank only began to raise interest rates in an attempt to get a grip on inflation in December last year and has now raised them from 0.1 per cent to 3 per cent.

Gerard Lyons, chief economist at investment firm Netwealth and former economic adviser to Boris Johnson during his time as mayor of London, accused the Bank of making a ‘major policy mistake’ with QE.

And Sir Paul Marshall, a hedge fund veteran, compared QE with a drug to which markets had become ‘addicted’.

One week ago, sterling slumped as the BoE raised interest rates to 3%.

The Daily Mail reported:

Sterling slid around 2 per cent towards $1.11 as Andrew Bailey said markets were wrong to believe rates would peak as high as 5.25 per cent next year. 

His comments came as the Bank raised rates by a mammoth 0.75 percentage points to 3 per cent, the largest hike in more than 30 years. But in a warning to traders who were expecting more bumper hikes, Bailey suggested the unprecedented speed of rate hikes would soon begin to slow

There is internal disagreement among the BoE’s ninestrong Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). A vote had to be taken on the interest rate rise:

More splits emerged at the Bank of England as two members of its ratesetting Monetary Policy Committee ( M P C ) opposed the hike to 3 per cent. Swati Dhingra argued that interest rates should be raised by 0.5 percentage points to 2.75 per cent and Silvana Tenreyro voted for an increase of just 0.25 percentage points to 2.5 per cent. They were outvoted by the other seven members, who opted for a 0.75 percentage point rise. The split exposed the difficulty the Bank is having in navigating Britain through the economic storm. Dhingra said that ‘a small rate increase was warranted to safeguard against creating a deeper and longer recession’ in Britain. Tenreyro, meanwhile, said the rate rises seen already would bring inflation back below 2 per cent in due course.

Sterling hadn’t been that low since Kwarteng was Chancellor one month ago:

The pound slid by more than 2 per cent. Yesterday’s [last week’s] clash with traders again pulled down the value of sterling, which would usually rise on news of higher rates as traders shift to a currency promising greater returns. It is now at its lowest point since before Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked in mid-October following a disastrous six-week stint as Chancellor.

The US Federal Reserve has also affected sterling:

The pound has also been dragged down by the US Federal Reserve, which has been more aggressive than the Bank in its fight against inflation. The Fed has hiked rates by the unusually high amount of 0.75 percentage points at its last four meetings, taking its base rate to a range of 3.75 to 4 per cent and causing traders to flock to the dollar. While the Bank of England said its own base rate was unlikely to hit 5.25 per cent, it conceded it was also unlikely to remain at 3 per cent

Bailey said: ‘Where the truth is between the two, we’re not giving guidance on that.’ 

Analysts pointed out that more uncertainty lies ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s budget next Thursday, November 17:

Analysts said Threadneedle Street [where the BoE is] would be worrying about what other unpleasant surprises could be in store – especially regarding gas prices, which have been a key driver behind rising prices.

Philip Shaw, an economist at Investec, said rate-setters also had little idea what Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would announce in his Autumn Statement later this month, and whether there would be any further help for households which could fuel inflation.

Other economic news

More economic news came to light this week.

London

On November 10, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told Times Radio that he has never been so worried about the capital:

I’ve lived in London my entire life; including the 80s during Thatcher’s reign and the recession. I’ve never known it so bad.

Really?

I had the good fortune of being in London three times in the past week: once in the afternoon and twice at night.

I have not seen so many people on the streets in the evening since before the pandemic. The streets were filled, especially with 20-somethings, giggling as they made their way to their various destinations. I saw no unhappiness.

The restaurants were full. The one my better half and I ate at this week was already booked for the next several weeks. The one we ate at last week started filling up from 5:30 onwards. It had plenty of students dining there.

Furthermore, the Tube was heaving with passengers. Maybe Sadiq Khan (Labour) needs to take the Underground now and again rather than his motorcade to see what’s really going on in London.

NHS — eye-watering costs

The NHS always wants more money: billions and billions more.

No one has got the nerve to reform its bloated ways.

Today, The Guardian reported that agency fees are spiralling out of control, yet Labour wants to give the NHS even more money if/when they get into Government:

NHS trusts are paying as much as £2,500 for a single agency nursing shift, research by the Labour party has revealed.

The party produced the figures by submitting freedom of information requests, and it says the results show the need for a big investment in NHS recruitment – which is what Labour is promising.

… A BBC investigation on the same topic found that, even though pay rates for agency staff are supposedly capped, these limits are regularly ignored, on the grounds that patient safety would otherwise be at risk.

Hmm.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail reported that the NHS will be curbing procedures such as tummy tucks and liposuction in order to save money.

An excellent idea. This should have been done years ago:

Circumcisions, tummy tucks and liposuction are among 13 operations which will stop being funded by the NHS in a ‘crackdown’ on wasteful spending.

It is thought that stopping the state funding of these operations could save £2 billon a year, along with less wasteful prescribing methods.

Last week bosses of the ailing NHS said that they want billions more cash to keep key services running this winter as Rishi Sunak ruled out cutting its budget as part of the public spending squeeze.

The £152 billion-per-year health service is seeking an extra £7 billion this year — the equivalent of an extra five per cent of its budget — to counter the effects of sky-high inflation, pay rises and Covid costs.

Finance chiefs warned that vital cancer, mental health and GP services face being axed unless the Treasury stumps up the cash.

Somehow, though, past efforts have not been proven money-savers:

It follows years of plans being drawn up to cut NHS costs.

In 2018, plans to stop funding breast reductions, tonsillectomies, and varicose vein surgeries were estimated to save the NHS £439 million a year, but in 2019 the spending had only dropped by three per cent in these areas, the newspaper reported.

Two years ago, 31 procedures were complied in a list in a plan to limit funding, including imaging for lower back pain. It is estimated that around 2.7 million procedures on the list were being carried out each year prior to this.

The new list, which includes circumcisions, tummy tucks and liposuction is the third that the NHS has made a bid to reduce costs.

The NHS will fund procedures on the list only if specific criteria are met:

Created by NHS bosses and medics from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the plan states that the procedures should only be performed via NHS funding if specific criteria have been met …

The right-wing think tank The Policy Exchange estimates that this new guidance could save the NHS up to £2 billion.

Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, told the newspaper: ‘In short, this programme is about making sure we don’t waste money doing things that don’t work and we are instead redirecting that cash towards those things that are proven to be beneficial.’

MPs’ ‘golden goodbyes’

The UK’s parliamentary constituency boundaries are being redrawn prior to the next general election.

As such, some MPs will lose their current constituencies, meaning they will stand to gain from ‘loss of office’ payments, or LOOPs.

The Daily Mail reported:

Rules on ‘golden goodbyes’ for MPs could be made more generous after a swathe of constituencies had their boundaries overhauled for the next election.

The Commons watchdog is looking at changing the provisions for politicians who are ejected from the House after it emerged very few could be entitled to cash.

Under the existing rules, departing MPs are only eligible for ‘Loss of Office’ payments – LOOP – if they have served at least two years and stood for re-election in the ‘same seat’. 

However, the extent of the boundary review – due to be finalised in the coming months – means that all but a handful of constituencies have either been redrawn, had their names changed, or both

LOOP is equivalent to two or three weeks’ salary for every year served, depending on age. For an MP on the core wage of £84,000 with 10 years’ service that would be worth between £30,000 and £50,000.

Similar rules apply to ‘winding up’ payments, which are equivalent to a lump sum of two months’ salary after tax and NICs [National Insurance Contributions] roughly £10,000.

The turnover of MPs could be particularly high at the election – potentially in 2024 – with Labour riding high in the polls.

Conclusion

Various news outlets have reported that the UK is in for six years of austerity, beginning with Hunt’s budget next Thursday.

Despite that, Rishi Sunak has just pledged billions in foreign aid — climate reparations — this week at COP27:

What about the folks back home?

What about Kwarteng’s £50m notional ‘black hole’ that the media and Labour have been crying about?

On Monday, Guido Fawkes’s sketch writer wrote about Sunak’s new commitments to apologise for … the advances the Industrial Revolution brought the world:

Not only was Little Rishi backed up in the speaking queue behind Iraq, Mozambique, Kenya, Tonga and the Congo – he had to listen to Barbados telling him to up his giving game. Billions? That was last year. Trillions are the new billions.

Other speakers pointed out that we in the rich world had failed to make good on our pledges for £100 billion in climate finance. In the new world order, we will fail to make good on our trillion-pound pledges and they’ll be a thousand times better off. “I profoundly believe it is the right thing to do,” he said. He heard none of us who were shouting at the screen.

He went on to tell the COP that Britain had been the first major economy to legislate for Net Zero. He suggested that it was our leadership that had raised the proportion of countries going for zero emissions from one third to 90%. That we were going to reduce our emissions by 68% by 2030. Not a shred of shame did he allow himself for any of this.

Are we one of the rich countries anymore? It seems odd that the Treasury is agonising over a £50 billion hole in this year’s budget and Rishi stood there offering the world £11.6 billion because of something we started 250 years ago.

Lance Forman, who runs his family’s smoked salmon business and was a Brexit Party MEP, also points out the radio silence surrounding Rishi’s pronouncements:

I can’t figure it out, either.

It must have something to do with being on the correct side of the Establishment.

My far better half and I never miss a Neil Oliver editorial during his Saturday evening GB News shows.

His topic is the changing fabric of the Western world post-pandemic, whether it be through farming prohibitions, climate change or the ongoing revelations about coronavirus policies.

Here is the transcript and the video from his August 13 editorial:

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

It is hard to think the unthinkable – but there comes a time when there’s nothing else for it. People raised to trust the powers that be – who have assumed, like I once did, that the State, regardless of its political flavour at any given moment, is essentially benevolent and well-meaning – will naturally try and keep that assumption of benevolence in mind when trying to make sense of what is going on around them.

People like us, you and me, raised in the understanding that we are free, that we have inalienable rights, and that the institutions of this country have our best interests at heart, will tend to tie ourselves in knots rather than contemplate the idea those authorities might actually be working against us now. I took that thought of benevolent, well-meaning authority for granted for most of my life, God help me. Not to put too fine a point on it, I was as gullible as the next chump.

A couple of years ago, however, I began to think the unthinkable and with every passing day it becomes more and more obvious to me that we are no longer being treated as individuals entitled to try and make the most of our lives – but as a barn full of battery hens, just another product to be bought and sold – sold down the river

Once the scales fall from a person’s eyes, the resultant clarity of sight is briefly overwhelming. Or it is like being handed a skeleton key that opens every locked door, or access to a Rosetta Stone that translates every word into a language instantly understood.

Take the energy crisis: If you’ve felt the blood drain from your face at the prospect of bills rising from hundreds to several thousands of pounds while reading about energy companies doubling their profits overnight while being commanded to subsidise so-called renewables that are anything but Green while listening to this politician or that renew their vows to the ruinous fantasies of Net Zero and Agenda 2030 while knowing that the electricity for electric cars comes, in the main and most reliably, from fossil fuels if you can’t make sense of it all and just know that it adds up to a future in which you might have to choose between eating and heating then treat yourself to the gift of understanding that the powers that be fully intend that we should have less heat and less fuel and that in the planned future only the rich will have cars anyway. The plan is not to fix it.

The plan is to break it, and leave it broken. If you struggle to think the best of the world’s richest – vacuous, self-obsessed A-list celebrities among them – endlessly circling the planet on private jets and super yachts, so as to attend get-togethers where they might pontificate to us lowly proles about how we must give up our cars and occasional holiday flights – even meat on the dinner table … if you wonder how they have the unmitigated gall … then isn’t it easier simply to accept that their honestly declared and advertised intention is that their luxurious and pampered lives will continue as before while we are left hungry, cold and mostly unwashed in our unheated homes.

Here’s the thing: if any leader or celeb honestly meant a word of their sermons about CO2 and the rest, then they would obviously lead by example. They would be first of all of us willingly to give up international travel altogether … they would downsize to modest homes warmed by heat pumps. They would eschew all energy but that from the sun and the wind. They would eat, with relish, bugs and plants. They would resort to walking, bicycles and public transport. If Net Zero and the rest was about the good of the planet – and not about clearing the skies and the beaches of scum like us – don’t you think those sainted politicians and A-listers would be lighting the way for us by their own example? If the way of life they preach to us was worth living, wouldn’t they be living it already? Perhaps you heard Bill Gates say private jets are his guilty pleasure.

And how about food – and more particularly the predicted shortage of it: the suits and CEOs blame it all on Vladimir Putin. But if the countries of the world are truly running out of food, why is our government offering farmers hundreds of thousands of pounds to get out of the industry and sell their land to transnational corporations for use, or disuse unknown? Why aren’t we, as a society, doing what our parents and grandparents did during WWII and digging for victory? Why is the government intent on turning a third of our fertile soil over to re-wilding schemes that make life better only for the beavers? Why aren’t we looking across the North Sea towards the Netherlands where a WEF-infected administration is bullying farmers off their land altogether, forcing them to cull half the national herd

Why do you think it matters so much, to the government of the second most productive population of farmers in the world, to gut and fillet that industry? Why? Why have similar protests, in countries all across Europe and the wider world, been largely ignored by the mainstream media – a media that would have crawled on its hands and knees over broken glass just to report on a BLM protester opening a bag of non-binary crisps. Why the silence on the attack on farming?

Isn’t the simple obvious answer … the answer that makes most sense and that is staring us in our trusting faces … that power for the power-hungry has always rested most effectively upon control of food and its supply? Why are the powers that be attributing this to a cost of living crisis when everyone with two brain cells to rub together can see it’s a cost of lockdown crisis – the inevitable consequence of shutting down the whole country – indeed the whole world – for the best part of two years. Soaring inflation, rising interest rates, disrupted supply chains

Rather than dismiss as yet another conspiracy theory the idea of cash being ultimately replaced with transactions based on the exchange of what amount to glorified food stamps that will only be accepted if our social credit score demonstrates that we’ve been obedient girls or boys … how about taking the leap and focussing on the blatantly obvious … that if we are not free to buy whatever and whenever we please, free of the surveillance and snooping of governments and the banks that run them, then we have absolutely no freedom at all. And while we’re on the subject of money and banks, why not pause to notice something else that is glaringly obvious – which is to say that the currencies of the West are teetering on the abyss, and that one bank after another is revealed, to those who are bothering to watch, as being as close to bankruptcy as its possible to be without actually falling over the edge.

Then there’s the so-called vaccines for Covid – I deliberately say “so-called” because by now it should be clear to all but the wilfully blind that those injections do not work as advertised. You can still contract the virus, still transmit the virus, still get sick and still die. Denmark has dropped their use on under-18s. All across the world, every day, more evidence emerges – however grudgingly, however much the various complicit authorities and Big-Pharma companies might hate to admit it – of countless deaths and injuries caused by those medical procedures

Now I ask myself on a daily basis how I ignored the stench for so long. Across the Atlantic, the Biden White House sent the FBI to raid the home of former president Donald Trump. Meanwhile Joe Biden and his son Hunter – he of the laptop full of the most appalling and incriminating content – fly together on Air Force 1. No raids planned on the Obamas, nor on the Clintons. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi flew to Taiwan and onwards to China. Her son Paul, an investor in a Chinese tech firm and with seats on the board of companies dealing in lithium, was along for the ride, into that part of the world where three quarters of the world’s lithium batteries are made. Taiwan leads in that technology.

It is hard to think the unthinkable. It’s hard to think that all of it, all the misery, all the suffering of the past and to come might just be about money, greed and power. It is hard to tell yourself you’ve been taken for a fool and taken for a ride. It’s hard, but the view from the other side is worth the effort and the pain. Open your eyes and see.

In the middle of last week, Rishi Sunak gave an interview to Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, about his view on the Government’s coronavirus policy and SAGE, their medical and scientific advisory team.

Excerpts from ‘The lockdown files: Rishi Sunak on what we weren’t told’ follow:

When we meet at the office he has rented for his leadership campaign, soon to enter its final week, he says at the outset that he’s not interested in pointing the finger at the fiercest proponents of lockdown. No one knew anything at the start, he says: lockdown was, by necessity, a gamble. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, would openly admit that lockdown could do more harm than good. But when the evidence started to roll in, a strange silence grew in government: dissenting voices were filtered out and a see-no-evil policy was applied.

Sunak’s story starts with the first Covid meeting, where ministers were shown an A3 poster from scientific advisers explaining the options. ‘I wish I’d kept it because it listed things that had no impact: banning live events and all that,’ he says. ‘It was saying: you should be careful not to do this stuff too early, because being able to sustain it is very hard in a modern society.’ So the scientific advice was, initially, to reject or at least delay lockdown.

This all changed when Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College published their famous ‘Report 9’, which argued that Covid casualties could hit 500,000 if no action was taken – but the figure could be below 20,000 if Britain locked down. That, of course, turned out to be a vast exaggeration of lockdown’s ability to curb Covid deaths …

A cost-benefit calculation – a basic requirement for pretty much every public health intervention – was never made. ‘I wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off,’ says Sunak. Ministers were briefed by No. 10 on how to handle questions about the side-effects of lockdown. ‘The script was not to ever acknowledge them. The script was: oh, there’s no trade-off, because doing this for our health is good for the economy.’

When he did try to raise concerns, he met a brick wall. ‘Those meetings were literally me around that table, just fighting. It was incredibly uncomfortable every single time.’ He recalls one meeting where he raised education. ‘I was very emotional about it. I was like: “Forget about the economy. Surely we can all agree that kids not being in school is a major nightmare” or something like that. There was a big silence afterwards. It was the first time someone had said it. I was so furious.’

One of Sunak’s big concerns was about the fear messaging, which his Treasury team worried could have long-lasting effects. ‘In every brief, we tried to say: let’s stop the “fear” narrative. It was always wrong from the beginning. I constantly said it was wrong.’ The posters showing Covid patients on ventilators, he said, were the worst. ‘It was wrong to scare people like that.’ The closest he came to defying this was in a September 2020 speech saying that it was time to learn to ‘live without fear’ – a direct response to the Cabinet Office’s messaging. ‘They were very upset about that.’

Lockdown – closing schools and much of the economy while sending the police after people who sat on park benches – was the most draconian policy introduced in peacetime. No. 10 wanted to present it as ‘following the science’ rather than a political decision, and this had implications for the wiring of government decision-making. It meant elevating Sage, a sprawling group of scientific advisers, into a committee that had the power to decide whether the country would lock down or not. There was no socioeconomic equivalent to Sage; no forum where other questions would be asked.

So whoever wrote the minutes for the Sage meetings – condensing its discussions into guidance for government – would set the policy of the nation. No one, not even cabinet members, would know how these decisions were reached.

In the early days, Sunak had an advantage. ‘The Sage people didn’t realise for a very long time that there was a Treasury person on all their calls. A lovely lady. She was great because it meant that she was sitting there, listening to their discussions.’

But his victories were few and far between. One, he says, came in May 2020 when the first plans were being drawn to move out of lockdown in summer. ‘There’s some language in there that you will see because I fought for it,’ he says. ‘It talked about non-Covid health impact.’ Just a few sentences, he says, but he views the fact that lockdown side-effects were recognised at all at that point as a triumph.

He doesn’t name Matt Hancock, who presided over all of this as health secretary, or Liz Truss, who was silent throughout. As he said at the outset, he doesn’t want to name names but rather to speak plainly about what the public was not told – and the process that led to this. Typically, he said, ministers would be shown Sage analysis pointing to horrifying ‘scenarios’ that would come to pass if Britain did not impose or extend lockdown. But even he, as chancellor, could not find out how these all-important scenarios had been calculated.

Liz Truss was not part of the ‘quad’, though, the four Cabinet ministers who determined policy. If I remember rightly, the ‘quad’ were Boris, Hancock, Michael Gove and Rishi. Truss claimed that she didn’t speak up because she was told that the decisions were a fait accompli. Nelson verifies that below.

Returning to Rishi:

‘I was like: “Summarise for me the key assumptions, on one page, with a bunch of sensitivities and rationale for each one”,’ Sunak says. ‘In the first year I could never get this.’ The Treasury, he says, would never recommend policy based on unexplained modelling: he regarded this as a matter of basic competence. But for a year, UK government policy – and the fate of millions –was being decided by half-explained graphs cooked up by outside academics.

‘This is the problem,’ he says. ‘If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed.’ Sir Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, has suggested that Sage should have been asked to report to a higher committee, which would have considered the social and economic aspects of locking down. Sunak agrees. But having been anointed from the start, Sage retained its power until the rebellion that came last Christmas.

In December 2021, at the time JP Morgan’s lockdown analysis appeared:

He flew back early from a trip to California. By this time JP Morgan’s lockdown analysis was being emailed around among cabinet ministers like a samizdat paper, and they were ready to rebel. Sunak met Johnson. ‘I just told him it’s not right: we shouldn’t do this.’ He did not threaten to resign if there was another lockdown, ‘but I used the closest formulation of words that I could’ to imply that threat. Sunak then rang around other ministers and compared notes.

Normally, cabinet members were not kept in the loop as Covid-related decisions were being made – Johnson’s No. 10 informed them after the event, rather than consulting them. Sunak says he urged the PM to pass the decision to cabinet so that his colleagues could give him political cover for rejecting the advice of Sage. ‘I remember telling him: have the cabinet meeting. You’ll see. Every-one will be completely behind you… You don’t have to worry. I will be standing next to you, as will every other member of the cabinet, bar probably Michael [Gove] and Saj [Javid].’ As it was to prove.

Nelson claims that Rishi is telling the truth:

For what it’s worth, his account squares with what I picked up from his critics in government: that the money-obsessed Sunak was on a one-man mission to torpedo lockdown. And perhaps the Prime Minister as well. ‘Everything I did was seen through the prism of: “You’re trying to be difficult, trying to be leader,”’ he says. He tried not to challenge the Prime Minister in public, or leave a paper trail. ‘I’d say a lot of stuff to him in private,’ he says. ‘There’s some written record of everything. In general, people leak it – and it causes problems.’

Rishi said why he did not resign at the time:

To quit in that way during a pandemic, he says, would have been irresponsible. And to go public, or let his misgivings become known, would have been seen as a direct attack on the PM.

At the time, No. 10’s strategy was to create the impression that lockdown was a scientifically created policy which only crackpots dared question

David Cameron employed the same strategy with the Brexit referendum in 2016. He said that the only people supporting Leave were ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

Rishi explained why he waited until now to speak out:

He is opening up not just because he is running to be prime minister, he says, but because there are important lessons in all of this. Not who did what wrong, but how it came to pass that such important questions about lockdown’s profound knock-on effects – issues that will probably dominate politics for years to come – were never properly explored

And the other lessons of lockdown? ‘We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did,’ he says. ‘And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that, we could be in a very different place.’ How different? ‘We’d probably have made different decisions on things like schools, for example.’ Could a more frank discussion have helped Britain avoid lockdown entirely, as Sweden did? ‘I don’t know, but it could have been shorter. Different. Quicker.’

Even now, Sunak doesn’t argue that lockdown was a mistake – just that the many downsides in health, the economy and society in general could have been mitigated if they had been openly discussed. An official inquiry has begun, but Sunak says there are lessons to learn now …

To Sunak, this was the problem at the heart of the government’s Covid response: a lack of candour. There was a failure to raise difficult questions about where all this might lead – and a tendency to use fear messaging to stifle debate, instead of encouraging discussion. So in a sentence, how would he have handled the pandemic differently? ‘I would just have had a more grown-up conversation with the country.’

Hmm.

On Thursday, August 25, Fraser Nelson wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘Rishi Sunak is just the start. The great lockdown scandal is about to unravel’:

For some time, I’ve been trying to persuade Rishi Sunak to go on the record about what really happened in lockdown. Only a handful of people really know what took place then, because most ministers – including members of the Cabinet – were kept in the dark. Government was often reduced to a “quad” of ministers deciding on Britain’s future and the then chancellor of the exchequer was one of them. I’d heard rumours that Sunak was horrified at much of what he saw, but was keeping quiet. In which case, lessons would never be learnt.

His speaking out now confirms much of what many suspected. That the culture of fear, seen in the Orwellian advertising campaign that sought to terrify the country, applied inside Government. Questioning lockdown, even in ministerial meetings, was seen as an attack on the Prime Minister’s authority. To ask even basic questions – about how many extra cancer deaths there might be, for example – was to risk being portrayed as one the crackpots, the “Cov-idiots”, people who wanted to “let the virus rip”. Hysteria had taken hold in the heart of Whitehall …

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance began by advising ministers not to lock down, saying public events were fine, and that face masks were pointless. They were talking about herd immunity as the way out. Then they flipped entirely. But this reveals something crucial: lockdown never was backed by science. It was about models and suppositions, educated guesswork. It was driven by moods, emotion, fear – and, worst of all, politics masquerading as science.

This is part of Sunak’s point. He doesn’t say locking down was wrong. Just that it somehow went from being a daft idea, rubbished by scientists, to a national imperative whose necessity was unquestionable scientific truth. So we need to ask: was the fear messaging really necessary? Why were No 10 outriders sent out to savage dissenting scientists? Why was Sunak made to feel, as he told me, that he was being seen – even inside government – as a callous money-grabber when he raised even basic concerns?

The disclosures should start a great unravelling of the lockdown myth, its pseudo-scientific sheen stripped away and the shocking political malfeasance left to stand exposed. Were Sage minutes manipulated, with dissent airbrushed out? If Sage “scenarios” were cooked up on fundamentally wrong assumptions we need to know, because that will mean lockdowns were imposed or extended upon a false premise. A premise that could have been exposed as false, had there been basic transparency or proper scrutiny.

This isn’t just about a virus. An autocratic streak took hold of the Government and overpowered a weak Prime Minister – and did so because our democratic safeguards failed. It should have been impossible for policies of such huge consequence to be passed without the most rigorous scrutiny. So many lives were at risk that every single lockdown assumption should have been pulled apart to see if it was correct. It should have been impossible for government to suspend such scrutiny for more than a few weeks.

I suspect that this authoritarian reflex lies embedded in our system, ready to twitch again. Life, after all, is easier without opposition so if tools exist to suspend it, we can expect them to be grabbed

Sunak doesn’t speak like a man expecting to end up in No 10. He said earlier this week that he would rather lose having been honest with people than win by telling half-truths. Opening up on lockdown may not save, or even help, his campaign. But his candour has offered important insights into one of the most important stories of our times – and one that is only beginning to be told.

As the then-Chancellor, he was the most powerful man in Government after Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rishi held the nation’s purse strings and could have said ‘no’ at any point to the policies. But he didn’t.

It was difficult to know exactly what Rishi’s motives were in giving such an interview. Perhaps he was trying to glean votes from sceptical Conservative Party members in a last ditch attempt to save his candidacy.

Whatever his reason, one outcome was that it got Covid sceptics talking again, with some indirect support from him.

On Friday, August 26, one of those sceptics, Bev Turner, delivered a guest host editorial on GB News.

She was not happy with Rishi’s silence over Government policy:

Now, Rishi Sunak says that lockdowns “could have been shorter. Different. Quicker. We could be in a very different place”, he says now with the benefit of hindsight that some of us never needed… Apparently, as the economy tanks, he regrets the Government’s Covid strategy, stating that the scientists at Sage should never have been put in charge of the country’s response.

Well…who knew?…thanks for that, Rishi. Now I can sleep at night….except of course I can’t. And I won’t until there are arrests over the despotic, unscientific measures of the scamdemic and the perverted profits sucked up by vampirical pharma companies aided and abetted by a media paid off to the tune of £300m. Paid for, by Rishi Sunak’s department with our tax payers money!

“If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed,” he now says in reference to Sage, “We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did.”

She brought up Susan Michie, who is now — or who soon will be — working for the WHO:

a leading member of Sage is a life-long member of the Communist Party and might just have enjoyed the frisson of power.

She wondered why Rishi didn’t do more in his position of power:

… Rishi’s wrong, you can empower scientists – except that as with any medical decision – the consequences of which could be life-changing, you seek a second opinion.

Are you telling us, Rishi Sunak, that you didn’t have the chance, at one of your Sage meetings to ask your colleagues to read The Great Barrington Declaration for instance? That statement written in October 2020 by some of the world’s top epidemiologists and public health scientists in which they expressed their grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of your policies, instead recommending more Focused Protection for the vulnerable. They were publicly discredited as ‘fringe’ according to leaked emails and denounced as quacks. You should have had the gumption, Rishi Sunak, to insist to your team that there might have been a different way.

Rishi acknowledged that there was no cost-benefit analysis of the lockdowns. I remember a handful of  Conservative MPs asking for them in Parliament. Answer there came none.

Bev discussed her own demonisation during the pandemic:

Is he FINALLY referencing the necessity of a cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns?

Let me tell you, after making such statements on TV I was vilified by the press, demonised on social media and written off by former employers as a selfish granny-killer

But it was so obvious if you chose to look. You didn’t need to be the Chancellor to see what was coming. You just needed to switch off the BBC; seek out people who were looking at facts rather than trilling with emotion.

It wasn’t easy taking a public stance for the poor, the old, the young, and anyone who was going to suffer harms from Covid theatre. But I did it anyway. Because it was the right thing to do.

She finds it hard to support Rishi’s stance:

In my opinion, Sunak’s words paint a picture of a man who lacked the spine to publicly call-out what he now says he knew were policy mistakes. How dare you, Rishi Sunak, How dare you

… He wasn’t a passenger when, long after we had a clear picture of the infection fatality rate, said nothing to stop confused, 98-year-old care-home residents having to mouth “I love you” through windows when all they wanted was to hold someone’s hand.

Sunak wasn’t a passenger when schools closed; when the decades-old pandemic response plan was mysteriously ripped up in favour of a Chinese style quarantine-the-healthy strategy. He wasn’t a passenger when the Chief Medical Officers took to their lecterns with baffling figures seemingly obfuscated to maintain the fear.

He was a driver, one of a handful up front at the wheel, map in hand as he helped drive the country into a brick wall with businesses closed, families destroyed, mental health problems exacerbated and some educational achievements lost forever.

He was in on the meetings that decided the NHS must be solely obsessed with a disease that was involved in the deaths of those averaging 82 years of age. Thanks to the growing treatment backlog he was well aware of, we are now deep in a period of excess weekly mortality in the relatively young which dwarfs anything that Covid-19 managed …

“In every brief, we tried to stop the fear narrative,” he now says. “I constantly said it was wrong.”

No, you did not. If you had genuinely believed that you would have resigned noisily and defiantly with the backing of so many British people who could also see the Covid pantomime for what it was. You could have taken a temporary step off your own political career ladder and ironically – you could have eventually come back free from the stains of the Covid oil slick in which this country is now drowning.

You say, Rishi, that you were ticked off by the Cabinet Office after saying it was time to ‘live without fear’. So tell us – who didn’t want to hear that message? Name names now and put your money where your mouth is.

It’s actually hard to know who Sunak is aiming this about-turn at: those of us who stuck our own necks out to question the non-scientific policy, whether that was on TV or even just round a family dinner table are not ready to forgive those who were in power.

Sunak has even said that minutes from Sage meetings were edited to omit dissenting voices from final drafts.

This has caused lawyer Francis Hoar to tweet: “This is absolutely shocking. If this is true then those responsible – and it is reasonable to suppose that Whitty and Vallance were at least aware – should face a criminal investigation for misconduct in public office.”

Quite right.

Sunak has thrown the scientists under the bus. They will now blame the politicians who took the decisions. The inevitable infighting will be bloody and brutal and it will finally allow us to see behind the curtain and find out WHY in my opinion insanity was allowed to run riot. I will have my popcorn ready.

The next day, Neil Oliver delivered another great editorial.

This one is spectacular:

He advised us not to be taken in by Sunak, although he admits that the ex-Chancellor’s revelations have brought the coronavirus policy narrative to the fore.

Excerpts follow:

Don’t be fooled into thinking this disaster movie is coming to an end.

Rishi Sunak was quick off the mark last week with his pitiful, self-serving claims about having known the lockdowns were a bad thing but that despite him drumming his tiny fists on the table until they were a little bit sore no one would listen to him.

He said his heroic efforts to avert disaster were deleted from the official records of meetings he attended.

If that’s true – if minutes of meetings affecting government policy were doctored – then Sunak’s claims demand criminal investigation and jail time for those responsible – including big wigs with letters after their names, who presumably knew the truth of it as well and kept their mouths shut while people needlessly died miserable deaths, endured miserable lives and the country was driven off a cliff.

Sunak squeaks that he was on the right side of history but powerless. What absolute twaddle. He was arguably the second most powerful figure in government. By his own admission, he went along with all that was done to us. If it had ever been about principles, he would have resigned the first time his dissent was ignored and erased. He would have made his way hot foot to a television studio and there delivered an honest statement about how doing the right thing was more important than keeping his job. He did none of those things.

For all that, there’s excitement in the air. The mere fact the former chancellor and would-be prime minister have broken ranks – basically opting for the tried and trusted playground tactic of claiming a big boy did it and ran away means many are scenting blood in the water.

I’m hearing a lot of people, desperate and hopeful that the whole truth will finally come out, saying things like, “the narrative is finally falling apart.”

It might be and it might not. But the Covid and lockdown double-act is expendable. They’ve wrung all the juice they’re ever going to get out of that rotten fruit and now it’s ready to be cast aside. Or maybe it will just go on the back burner while other, fresher concoctions are brought forward. Either way, someone, somewhere seems to have decided it’s time to move on.

Just don’t be fooled into thinking that stuff about saving Granny and the NHS was ever the point, far less the main event. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again:

“It’s never about what they say it’s about.”

Thousands of grannies and grandpas died anyway and the NHS is a vast money pit that sucks in billions and now shuts its doors against people dying of cancer. I don’t believe the last two years was ever about public health

The good ship Pandemic is holed below the waterline and all the rats are scuttling towards the life rafts. All the lies about Covid, all the lies about vaccines, more and more exposed every day.

On the other side of the Atlantic, micro megalomaniac Antony Fauci is making for dry land as fast as his little paws will propel him. There are so many rats on that sinking ship, however, that they know there won’t be enough rafts. They are aboard the Titanic and many won’t make it. Here’s hoping.

Now that some of the great and the good are changing their tune … now that more and more of the mainstream media are pirouetting like ballerinas and finally contemplating questions some of us have been asking, shouting indeed, on a desperate loop, for months and years, there’s a narrow window of opportunity for getting some other stuff out into the open. And so now seems like the right time to think more of the unthinkable and say more of the unsayable.

Things are unfolding now exactly as the so-called conspiracy theorists, us with the tin hats on, said they would. And while everyone else – those who poured scorn, and ridiculed and hated – surely have to face the fact that we, the outcasts who lost work and reputations and much else besides – were right all along about the unforgivable damage of locking down, about harms to children, about being determined to refuse the Covid injections – in this brief moment while those who had nothing to offer but spite, and vitriol and undisguised loathing for those of us who first suspected we were being sold a pup – and who felt something wrong in our guts and so bothered to do our own reading and learned we were absolutely right and so spoke out and kept speaking out – right now before those smug smarty pants regroup behind the next line trotted out by the establishment, we can state some more of the blindingly obvious.

Let me, on behalf of my fellow conspiracy theorists, put more of the truth out there. After all, in a few months’ time it’s what those same smarty pants will be saying they knew all along as well.

Here’s what I make of the bigger picture – and what some of us so-called Covidiots, anti-vaxxers, Putin-apologists, fascist, far-right extremist swivel-eyed loons want to talk about next.

… The horror show in the Ukraine is being exploited.

Here at home last week, Boris implied that while only lesser mortals are fretting selfishly about heat and food, his attentions are focused on the lofty heights of saving the world. The little people of Britain must endure cold and hunger for … guess what … the greater good.

Anyone with even the faintest grasp on, at least an interest in, geopolitics knowns it is utterly bogus and he is a fraud – along with Biden, Trudeau, Macron, Von der Leyen and the rest of a list so long I don’t have time to read it out.

The imminent cold and hunger were made inevitable not by Putin in 2022, but years ago by the adoption of ruinous, ideologically-driven nonsense presented as world-saving environmental policies that only denied us any hope of energy independence, the profitable exploitation of all the resources beneath our feet and seas, and condemned much of Europe to dependence on Russia.

What we are paying is the cost of going Green, when those polices are not green at all but predicated upon some of the most destructive and toxic practices and technologies ever conceived.

Wind and solar will never provide the energy we need to keep thriving as societies, to grow and flourish. The situation is so insane I find it easiest to conclude we are simply meant to do without.

Stop thinking we’re all going to have cars, and international travel, and warm homes – just different than before. What seems obvious is that we are being groomed to live small lives, to make way for the grandiose expectations and entitlements of the elites that are working so effectively to hoover up the last of the wealth …

Energy prices will keep going up. This will obviously hurt the poorest countries and poorest people first and worst. What is obvious about the Green warriors making war on affordable, reliable energy is that they care not a jot about the poor – at least not the actual poor alive in the world today. Those real flesh and blood people are to be sacrificed, by the millions, utterly denied the energy that might have lifted them out of poverty, so that imaginary people as yet unborn might thrive in a Utopia that exists only in the imaginations of pampered protesters. China will just burn more coal to compensate and seize more control but, shh, best not mention it.

That corrupted thinking comes from Communism – or perhaps Communism’s idiot cousin Socialism. Green warriors don’t care about the poor, in the same way socialists don’t care about the poor … they just hate the rich.

Which is ironic, given that with their infantile protests they are doing the work of the very richest for them.

Ukraine produces a fifth of the wheat crop, required by the poorest. Not this year though. Whatever has been grown will be hard to store and harder to export – so that hunger and full-blown famine becomes a looming threat for hundreds of millions of the world’s hungriest people.

In richer countries, life is being made deliberately impossible for farmers. Spiking costs of fertilisers and fuel are one thing but governments in the Netherlands, across Europe, in Canada and elsewhere around the world are persecuting those who grow our food. Farmers are being made to endure restrictions that destroy their businesses, being driven off their land altogether. They will have to watch as fields they have known and cared for over generations are hoovered up by transnational organisations with other ideas about what that land might be used for.

If you think mass migration and immigration are difficult problems now, wait until the unavoidable famines cause a haemorrhage of humanity out of the poorest countries of Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps hundreds of millions of people with nothing more to lose. Where do you think they’ll go?

And here’s another inconvenient truth: money and weapons keep flowing into Ukraine, but despite months of war and sanctions, the Russian rouble remains strong and an end to hostilities seems as far away as ever. Maybe no one wants that war to end. Wars don’t determine who’s right anyway; wars determine who’s left.

Ultimately this is all about wealth and power. Not money, remember. Money is to wealth as a menu is to a steak. One’s a worthless bit of paper, the other something that will keep you alive. This is about actual wealth and its acquisition. It’s about the already super-rich getting hold of even more of the real things. Land, buildings, natural resources, gold. While we are supposed to be frightened out of our wits, squabbling among ourselves, and just hoping that one day it will all be over, a relative handful of others are hoovering up all the wealth, as planned

Don’t be fooled by Sunak and the rest and their about face – their pretence that they were with us all along. Covid and lockdown carried them only so far – but they plan to go much further. Disease, War, Famine, Death – the same people always ride on the same four horses. Now is not the time to take our eyes off the ball. Not by a long chalk. Keep watching the usual suspects.

On Sunday, August 28, Scottish comedian Leo Kearse guest hosted Mark Dolan’s GB News show.

He gave an excellent editorial about eco-warriors. This is a five-minute video you won’t regret seeing, full of fact with a generous scoop of wit:

He points out that Green pressure on Government has made us back away from energy independence over the years. The result? We are now dependent upon Putin for gas. He says that eco-warriors are helping Putin to win the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be cutting back on fuel we need to heat our homes this winter.

He concludes that Green policies are a nonsense, especially when the Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie says that only right-wing extremists advocate energy independence.

He gives President Trump credit for telling Germany to become energy independent, even if the German delegation listening laughed in his face. He asks when Germany will ever be on the right side in a war.

I cannot help but agree.

Returning to Rishi’s coronavirus revelations, I will have more on that tomorrow, as there was fallout over the weekend. Bev Turner was not wrong. They’re turning on each other.

At the weekend, it seemed as if more and more people began waking up to the fact that coronavirus policies of lockdowns and forced ‘vaccines’ did more harm than good.

Sweden was right

First, let’s go back to the end of July 2022 to an article in City Journal: ‘The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize’.

Its author, John Tierney, says that if anyone merits the Nobel it’s Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

Journalists pilloried him for not joining in the hysteria, but he has been proven right. In Sweden, the overall rate of excess mortality—a measure of the number of deaths more than normal from all causes—during the pandemic is one of the lowest in Europe. Swedish children kept going to school and did not suffer the learning loss so common elsewhere. Swedish children and adults went on with their lives, following Tegnell’s advice not to wear masks as they continued going to schools, stores, churches, playgrounds, gyms, and restaurants. And fewer of them died than in most of the American states and European countries that delayed medical treatments, bankrupted businesses, impoverished workers, stunted children’s emotional and cognitive growth, and stripped their citizens of fundamental liberties.

If it hadn’t been for Tegnell and a few other heretics in places like Florida, we would not have clear evidence to prevent a similar catastrophe when the next virus arrives …

Tegnell was aided by another worthy candidate to share the Nobel, Johan Giesecke, who had formerly held Tegnell’s job and served during the pandemic as an advisor to the Swedish public health agency. Decades earlier, he had recruited Tegnell to the agency because he admired the young doctor’s willingness to speak his mind regardless of political consequences

Politicians in Sweden were ready to close schools, too, but Tegnell and Giesecke insisted on weighing costs and benefits, as Tegnell had done in a 2009 article reviewing studies of school closures during pandemics. The article had warned that the closures might have little or no effect on viral spread and would cause enormous economic damage, disproportionately harm students and workers in low-income families, and create staff shortages in the health-care system by forcing parents to stay home with young children. Given all those dangers, plus early Covid data showing that schoolchildren were not dangerously spreading the virus, Tegnell and Giesecke successfully fought to keep elementary schools and junior high schools open—without masks, plastic partitions, social distancing, or regular Covid tests for students

The virus would eventually spread to other countries despite their lockdowns and mask mandates, Tegnell warned in July 2020 as he advised his colleagues and critics to take the long view. “After next summer,” he said, “then I think we can more fairly judge what has been good in some countries and bad in other countries.”

Sure enough, by summer 2021, Sweden was a different sort of “cautionary tale.” Without closing schools or locking down or mandating masks, it had done better than most European countries according to the most meaningful scorecard: the cumulative rate of excess mortality. Critics of Tegnell’s strategy were reduced to arguing that Sweden’s rate was higher than that of several other nearby countries, but this was a weak form of cherry-picking because two of those countries—Norway and Finland—had also avoided mask mandates and followed policies similar to Sweden’s after their lockdowns early in the pandemic …

With the possible exception of the Great Depression, the lockdowns were the costliest public-policy mistake ever made during peacetime in the United States. The worst consequences of lockdowns have been endured by people in the poorest countries, which have seen devastating increases in poverty, hunger, and disease. Yet the WHO has refused to acknowledge these errors and wants to change its pandemic planning to promote more lockdowns in the future. It has even proposed a new global treaty giving it the power to enforce its policies around the world—thereby preventing a country like Sweden from demonstrating that the policies don’t work.

The last thing the WHO deserves is encouragement from the Nobel jurors. The prize should reward those who protected the lives and liberties of millions of citizens during this pandemic, and whose work can help protect the rest of the world during the next pandemic …

Now let’s move on to last weekend’s news and views.

Lockdown and excess deaths

On Friday, August 19, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey discussed lockdown, the effective closure of the NHS and excess British deaths in ‘Lockdown fanatics can’t escape blame for this scandal’.

She began with the story of Lisa King, a bereaved widow whose husband died an agonising death at home because he was not allowed to see his GP:

The father of two, 62, did not catch coronavirus. He died on October 9, 2020 because he was repeatedly denied a face-to-face GP appointment during the pandemic – only to be told that an urgent operation to remove his gallbladder had been delayed because of spiralling NHS waiting lists.

His sudden death, in agonising pain, was completely avoidable.

As Mrs King told me at the time: “To the decision makers, he is nothing more than ‘collateral damage’, but to me, he is the love of my life.”

Tominey points out that several doctors and journalists in the UK opposed lockdown but were told in no uncertain terms how hateful they were:

we were accused of being mercenary murderers intent on prioritising the economy ahead of saving lives.

Scientists who dared to question the severity of the restrictions were, as Lord Sumption put it at the time, “persecuted like Galileo”. Falsely branded “Covid deniers” simply for questioning some of the “science” that was slavishly followed, they were subjected to appalling online abuse by a bunch of armchair experts who claimed to know better.

Two years later, those who objected to lockdowns and an effective closure of the NHS, all the way down to GP practices, have been proven right:

… they were right to raise their concerns in the face of pseudo-socialist Sage groupthink.

Official data now suggests that the effects of lockdown may be killing more people than are currently dying of Covid.

An analysis by the Daily Telegraph’s brilliant science editor Sarah Knapton (another figure who was pilloried for questioning the pro-lockdown orthodoxy) has found that about 1,000 more people than usual are dying each week from conditions other than coronavirus.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed that excess deaths are 14.4 per cent higher than the five-year average, equating to 1,350 more deaths than usual in the week ending August 5. Although 469 deaths were linked to Covid, the remaining 881 have not been explained. Since the start of June, the ONS has recorded almost 10,000 more deaths than the five-year average – about 1,086 a week – none of them linked to coronavirus. This figure is more than three times the number of people who died because of Covid over the same period – 2,811.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked for an investigation into the data amid concern that the deaths are linked to delays and deferment of treatment for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease …

The horror stories are everywhere you look: from people dying needlessly at home like Mr King, to elderly patients waiting 40 hours for ambulances, to cancer sufferers now dying because they didn’t get appointments during lockdown, or didn’t want to be a burden.

It’s tempting to blame this on the NHS being in urgent need of reform – and that’s surely part of the explanation. We all know how staff shortages – again, exacerbated by the pandemic – are crippling the system.

But this isn’t simply a result of a lack of resources. Healthcare spending has risen sharply as a percentage of GDP in recent years.

The nettle that needs to be grasped is that these figures suggest that the country is facing a growing health crisis that has been caused by our overzealous response to the pandemic – scaremongering policies that kept people indoors, scared them away from hospitals and deprived them of treatment.

These excess deaths may well turn out to be a direct consequence of the decision to lock down the country in order to control a virus that was only ever a serious threat to the old and the vulnerable.

Had a more proportionate approach been taken, akin to Sweden’s, then would we be in this mess right now? Perhaps only a government inquiry will be able definitively to answer that question, but what’s certain now is the debate over the severity of lockdown was never about the economy versus lives – as pro-shutdown fanatics would have it – but over lives versus lives

Lest we forget that in the last quarter of 2020, the mean age of those dying with and of Covid was estimated to be 82.4 years, while the risk of dying of it if you were under 60 was less than 0.5 per cent. Who wouldn’t now take those odds compared to being diagnosed with cancer, circulatory or cardiovascular related conditions and being made to wait months for post-pandemic treatment?

None of this has come as a surprise to those running organisations like the British Heart Foundation or the Stroke Foundation, which had predicted a sharp rise in deaths because “people haven’t been having their routine appointments for the past few years now” …

The World Health Organisation said at the time that the Great Barrington Declaration “lacked scientific basis”, but nearly three years on from the start of the pandemic there has been precious little analysis of whether the raft of Covid restrictions either served the collective good – or actually saved lives in the round – compared with the lives that are now being lost as a result.

These numbers aren’t just statistics – they are people’s husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. The appalling truth is that a lot of these people would probably still be here today were it not for the lockdowns; lockdowns which seemingly did little to stop tens of thousands of people dying of Covid in the UK.

We stayed at home to “protect the NHS”. It turns out the NHS isn’t there now to protect us.

The ambulance waits are a horrorshow. This is going on throughout the UK. Scotland and Wales experienced long waiting times before England did.

This photo shows a recurring scene outside a London hospital and explains the situation. Ambulances are backed up because the patients inside cannot be accommodated in the hospital:

Here’s a chart of the UK’s excess deaths this year:

Blame belongs on both sides of political spectrum

Who can forget how the media, especially the BBC, ramped up Project Fear over the past two years?

Although the media don’t legislate, judging from the response to the pandemic, they heavily influence what our MPs do.

So, who is to blame?

Someone thinks it is Michael Gove, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 2019 until September 2021. He was also a Minister for the Cabinet Office at the same time.

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer says Gove bears a lot of the blame for coronavirus policy. Interesting:

What about the Left? Labour’s Keir Starmer held Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford as a paragon of wisdom during the pandemic. Drakeford’s government made ‘non-essential’ shops close and supermarkets put tape over the aisles the Welsh were forbidden to shop in. That meant they could not buy greeting cards, party favours, toys, books or shoes. That’s only a partial list, by the way. That lasted for a few months.

Following Drakeford’s example, Keir Starmer wanted earlier and longer lockdowns in England. So did other Labour MPs.

They voted for every Government restriction in Westminster. Boris must have been relieved.

However, this brings up the definition of ‘liberal’. How I wish that we had not adopted this American perversion of the word. ‘Liberal’ in its original definition is akin to ‘libertarian’. It certainly isn’t ‘leftist’.

Rapper and podcast host Zuby brought up the subject last Saturday:

Here comes the conflict of blaming, because both sides of the House of Commons voted in unison on pandemic policy:

Vaccine harm

Then there is the vaccine harm done to young hearts via myocarditis.

Dr Aseem Malhotra is opposed to vaccines being given to children. Here he links to a study from Thailand about the adverse effect a second Pfizer dose can have on one in six teenagers:

Apparently, the Thailand study did not get much publicity at home:

Neil Oliver’s editorial on coronavirus

On Saturday, Neil Oliver delivered an excellent opening editorial on pandemic policy, which he said should be a sacking or resigning offence:

He rightly pointed out that those responsible feel no remorse.

Dan Wootton’s coronavirus hour

Dan Wootton had a blockbuster coronavirus hour in the first half of his GB News show on Monday, August 22. It was marvellous:

His opening Digest was brilliant:

The transcript is here:

The damage, both to our health, our economy and our future way of life, has been obvious to me since the first national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, following the playbook of communist China.

My overarching mission on this show has been to have the important conversations about the most damaging public health policy of all time, which the vast majority of the media, the establishment and our so-called leaders want to avoid at almost any cost.

This was my opening night monologue on the first night of this channel in June 2021 that, at the time, sparked total outrage from all the usual suspects, who campaigned to see me reprimanded by Ofcom for daring to question the efficacy of lockdowns on a national news channel.

I said then: “Lockdowns are a crude measure. Mark my words, in the years to come we will discover they have caused far more deaths and devastation than the Government has ever admitted.

“They should be wiped from the public health playbook forever more. But, tragically, the doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control.

“They’re addicted to the power and the Government are satisfied its 15-month-long never-ending scare campaign has suitably terrified the public into supporting lockdowns.

“But if we don’t fight back against this madness, some of the damage will be irreversible.”

It was always going to take some time to get the devastating statistics to back-up the idea that a policy of lockdowns was catastrophically wrong – but it was obvious to me what was just around the corner.

Those statistics are now coming in thick and fast; the conclusions are unavoidable and undeniable.

This striking front page of the Daily Telegraph, suggesting the effects of lockdown may now be killing more people than are dying of Covid, should be leading every news bulletin in the country.

Here’s the front page to which he refers:

He discussed the statistics I cited above and rightly pointed out that The Telegraph is the only media outlet (besides GB News) talking about it:

Instead, our dramatic excess death toll is virtually ignored by the BBC, ITV News and Sly News, which used to trumpet Covid death figures on an almost hourly basis

The officials who terrified the public on a daily basis, backed up by a crazed media and gutless politicians, have blood on their hands.

A small group of honourable folk – many of whom now appear regularly on this show, like Professor Karol Sikora – shouted from the rooftops that delays and deferment of treatment for a host of conditions like cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease were going to be responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in years to come.

We tried to warn people and wake up the rest of the population, while being dismissed as Covidiots, deniers and the anti-vaxx brigade.

And yet, there’s still no apology. Still no acceptance of a gigantic error.

In fact, the same irresponsible and evil idiots who got us into this mess want lockdowns, mass vaccination and muzzling to return this winter.

We cannot and will not rest until the true damage of lockdowns is exposed and accepted so we learn the mistakes of our recent history.

A panel discussion followed:

Cardiologist Karl Sikora gave his view and found it astonishing that health experts, including former SAGE member, behaviourist Susan Michie, whom they did not name, want everlasting masks and lockdowns:

Susan Michie, by the way, has just taken up a plum job with the WHO. Says it all, really.

Neil Oliver told Wootton that he was not optimistic about no future lockdowns, which is one of Liz Truss’s proposed policies:

And, finally, the Fairbrass brothers from Right Said Fred presented their scepticism over coronavirus policies. They’ve lost a few gigs because of it but also picked up a new set of fans:

Conclusion

This past weekend really gave me a lot of encouragement about examining coronavirus policies more closely.

For once, it seemed as if a lot of news items and editorials hit at the same time.

I do hope this augurs well for the future.

On Wednesday, August 10, 2022, Liz Truss appeared on GB News’s The People’s Forum to answer questions from residents of Leigh in Greater Manchester about her proposed policies:

The veteran newsreader and broadcaster Alistair Stewart ably moderated proceedings, allowing the audience to ask questions then reading viewers’ questions and asking a few himself:

The programme was an hour long:

Brian Sheeran was first up to the microphone. Leigh, established in 1885, is a Red Wall constituency. They elected their first Conservative MP in 2019: James Grundy.

Sheeran asked why the people of Leigh should trust the Conservatives. Truss said that voters no longer could rely on Labour, because Labour never did anything for them:

She said that she would make sure that she started local projects as soon as possible, because people only trust a political party once they see tangible signs of improvements being made.

She also pledged to boost local businesses by rescinding EU laws that are still on the books post-Brexit.

She said that she would place a moratorium on the green levy on fuel and prepare an emergency budget as one of her first tasks as Prime Minister.

Not everything would happen straightaway. At least one measure would have to wait until April 2023 to be implemented because the Finance Act would require amending, a procedure that would require approval in both Houses of Parliament.

Another man asked what help Truss would give to working class families now, because the price of home energy has become crippling. He has had to take on a weekend job just to make ends meet:

Truss said that ‘from day one’, people would be able to keep more of what they earn.

He said that he needs help now, not at some point in the future. She said that she would look into all the options as soon as she becomes Prime Minister, should that happen.

Philip Orr asked about illegal immigration and was remarkably well informed on the statistics of our population increase over the past several years:

Truss summarised the situation of people trafficking across the Channel in dinghies. Criminal gangs are making big money. She hopes to make the Rwanda deportation policy work through Dominic Raab’s proposed Bill of Rights. She also hopes to expand the number of countries who could take in these illegal migrants because they need more workers.

Orr suggested revoking French fishing licences if the French authorities continue to do nothing to stop the dinghies coming across the Channel.

In response, Truss said that she had had a ‘tough’ conversation with the French two weeks ago and that she would continue to be ‘robust’ in her negotiations. She cited the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as proof that she could get things done.

She said that these migrants are in league with their lawyers before they make the trip over, enabling the lawyers to use ECHR laws to stop their deportation from the UK.

Finally, Orr asked why the UK couldn’t use other countries’ ports instead of being so reliant on France.

Orr called all of this ‘sticking plaster politics’, because nothing so far has been successful.

Jane Knight was the next to ask a question. She noted that the Government was not working. She asked what Truss’s key strengths were and how she hoped to build a good Cabinet that would be ready to run on Day One:

Truss said that she has established a record of being able to get things done and has received backing from those Cabinet ministers, past and present, who have worked with her.

She said that she would be looking for three things in her Cabinet ministers: competence, the ability to stand up to civil servants in Whitehall and loyalty to her rather than to the media.

Knight said ‘yes’ to those but said there should be a certain amount of ‘risk taking’ and asked whether Kemi Badenoch, immensely popular among the people during her leadership campaign, would be able to have a Cabinet post, such as, perhaps, Foreign Secretary, Truss’s current position:

Guido Fawkes has the dialogue (emphases his):

Jane Knight: I would like you to give some opportunity to maybe people that you might not know as well at the moment… certainly somebody who fired the imagination of the public was Kemi Badenoch and I’d really like to see her given a meaty role.

Truss: Do you have any ideas about what that role should be?

Knight: Oh well, Foreign Secretary! There might be a role going there!

Truss: Look, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and this leadership campaign is still going on, but I can tell you that I will make sure the best players in the Conservative Party are on the pitch if I’m elected leader… Kemi – I’ve worked with her as Women & Equalities Minister – we’ve taken on a lot of the agenda of people who are trying to deny that women are women and so on, so I think she’s absolutely brilliant and I would definitely want her as part of my team if I’m successful.

Knight also asked whether the Cabinet would be ‘leaner, leaner, leaner‘, nodding for affirmation as she spoke those words.

Truss said that she could promise a ‘leaner No. 10’, which ‘has become a bit too presidential’ and she repeated her pledge to find a good post for Badenoch.

Knight said:

Ohhh, good answer.

Alistair Stewart brought up strikes at universities which prevent students from getting a full education. Some of these strikes are about changes in terms to lecturers’ and professors’ pensions because some universities took a ‘pension holiday’, not paying in continually to the pension pot. Other strikes, however, took place during the pandemic over health concerns. Either way, students are out of pocket, to the tune of £9,000 per year. They do not receive refunds for strike action.

Theo Murphin (?), a student, asked about this situation:

Truss said that she would hold universities to account to ensure that students get what they pay for.

In other strike areas, such as railways, she would ensure that industrial action would not overrun the network completely.

Theo also asked about the Online Safety Bill and the coming restrictions on freedom of speech. Truss said that her major focus of the bill would be to ensure that minors are not adversely affected by what they see online. With regard to adults, she said that one should be able to say the same things online as well as offline.

On the subject of strikes, Janice, a Daily Mail reader, wrote in with a question about the disruption of this year’s strikes in various sectors across the country. Stewart asked her question for her.

Truss said she would legislate ‘as soon as possible’ to ensure that a minimum level of service is provided. She added that she is also concerned about activist organisations and mentioned Extinction Rebellion. She said that she would also take steps to ensure that they are dealt with, too, so as to not disrupt the daily circulation of people and goods.

Stewart brought up child grooming gangs (30:39), which seem to be everywhere in England now. He called Paul Eckersley to the microphone. Eckersley asked Truss what she planned to do about these gangs and ‘bring criminals to justice’:

Truss said that police should not be spending time patrolling tweets. Instead, she said, they should be fighting crime. She said that she wants to introduce police league tables on various forces’ results.

Returning to the grooming gangs, she said that what has been going on has been ‘absolutely repulsive’. She said that she wanted gang members to be held to account, ‘but more than that’ also the locals in authority — police, councillors and so forth — who did not do anything to stop them.

She received a round of applause for her answer.

Stewart then turned the subject to housing, especially getting young people on the housing ladder.

Jessica Buckthorpe, a cheerful and polite university student, asked whether Truss had any proposals to help young people in her situation, a student who works but cannot put together enough savings:

Truss proposes using young people’s rental history of paying in full and on time to go on their mortgage applications, helping them to get a mortgage more easily.

Truss added that she also wanted to give more planning control to individual communities to plan for the housing they need. It is not unusual for young people to move away from where they grew up because they cannot afford the house prices.

Buckthorpe said that, while she appreciated these ideas, she said that the enormous actual mortgage deposit required is a ‘pipe dream’ not just for herself but for many other young adults.

Truss replied that using rental history would play an important part in enabling young adults to get a mortgage.

Truss said that it was important to keep in mind that our current inflationary period is temporary:

… we should not bake that into the future.

Stewart looked at Buckthorpe for her reaction:

There’s a smile there.

A beaming Buckthorpe said:

Thank you very much.

The subject of war widows’ pensions came up, especially those widows of veterans who subsequently remarried and lost their first husbands’ pensions through subsequent rule changes. They are known as the WASPIs.

Stewart called on one woman who has a problem with her pension, Patricia Morgan, to ask her question. See the 2:40 point in this video:

Morgan said that, while she does not think she is getting the right amount of state pension because of a change in retirement dates, she cannot help but notice that money is going everywhere else, from coronavirus programmes to the war in Ukraine.

Truss said that she has met many such women in her own Norfolk constituency. The matter has also been addressed — unsatisfactorily, to many women — in Parliament. Truss said that she does not think that women have been looked after fairly in this regard. However, she said it would be very difficult to revisit the circumstances of the WASPIs and she apologised for that. She did, however, pledge to look at the tax system and see how it has an unfair impact on women in changing family circumstances.

Morgan politely countered by bringing up a parliamentary ombudsman’s report which said that ‘maladministration’ had taken place. Truss said that she did not want to make promises that she could not keep. She could only address the future.

Stewart brought up the war widows’ issue. Truss said she had already looked at that when she was in the Treasury. This issue, she said, she would look at again in more detail. Some 300+ women are affected.

Stewart then discussed the problems in the NHS.

Janine Ronaldson was the next person to approach the mic. She is a registered nurse with 31 years’ experience, who works as a community nurse. She asked what Truss would do about the fact that nurses’ salaries and benefits have decreased in recent years, resulting in many of them leaving the profession:

Truss said that nurses on the front line should be able to make more of their own decisions. She added that additional funding could come from existing funds and that the National Insurance tax rise was unnecessary. Some of this money can also go into social care, enabling hospital beds to be freed up for the elderly to go into a care home upon release from hospital. Currently, some patients have to stay in hospital because there is no satisfactory home situation for them to return to.

This, coupled with a huge post-pandemic backlog, is becoming a national problem.

Truss also pledged to look at the pension situation and talk to individuals to assess their concerns. She said that her incoming Health Secretary would also have to be committed to this.

Ronaldson said that it has been very difficult for her to see nurses leaving the profession and having to take on their workloads.

Stewart then asked for final questions on the topics that had been addressed.

One question came from Councillor Liam Billington, who asked about the child grooming problem. He said that Greater Manchester Council keep voting down motions to hold a public inquiry into what happened in Oldham. Truss responded that she would look into it and get back to him.

Johnny Riley (?) was next. He said that he had to give up his job to become a full-time carer for his wife. He receives only £70 a week from the Government in carer’s allowance. He now has to use his life’s savings to help them get by.

Truss thanked him for his devotion to his wife, who has cystic fibrosis. She said that her pledged review of the tax system should reveal how it works with the benefits system. She does not people like Johnny to be penalised for doing the right thing.

He said that he has paid into the system, so it’s not about paying tax; it’s about benefits, the least paid of all of them. Truss said that the whole system has to work, which is why she wants to look into it. She said she does not have a detailed answer. He said it was no wonder, because there has never been a detailed answer:

All we’re asking for is a fair crack at the whip. 

Trevor Bell asked how the Government can retain VAT on gas and electricity, when that is an EU law that should have gone once we left the European Union:

It was a Brexit promise … It should go now.

Truss reiterated that she would abolish the National Insurance tax rise and impose a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy. She also repeated that she would have an emergency budget early this autumn.

She said that the 70-year tax high is unacceptable but, right now, she cannot be more specific because the leadership contest is not yet over.

Truss said that getting rid of the green levy would save as much as getting rid of VAT.

The penultimate question came from Shelley Guest, who asked if Leigh could break away from Wigan Council and set up its own in order to use the tax receipts that it generates for its own needs (58:08). This is known as Lexit (!), something that Leigh’s MP, James Grundy, also supports.

The room burst into applause.

Stewart told Truss that, while this seems like a local concern, it is also one that many other communities in England face.

Guest is concerned about rising council tax were Leigh to become independent.

Truss herself was once a local councillor. She appreciated Leigh’s wish for independence and has spoken with James Grundy about it. She said she would consult the people of Leigh and appoint a Local Government Secretary to look into the matter with Grundy.

On a much lighter note, the final question came from a viewer who wanted to know about Truss’s relationship with cats. Larry is the Downing Street moggie, and Liz remembered Palmerston, the Foreign Office’s cat.

She replied that Larry frequently sidles up to her at Cabinet meetings, so she would like to develop her friendship with him. As for Palmerston, she said he left the Foreign Office during the pandemic and is now:

working from home. It’s a true story!

She got a huge round of applause.

Some undecided voters there told Michelle Dewberry, who came on next with her show, that they really liked what Truss said.

They were a polite but hard-hitting group of real people who spoke frankly.

One wonders if Rishi Sunak would have the bottle to sit in a studio with their like. Would he or wouldn’t he?

GB News has extended him an invitation to participate in his own People’s Forum, so we’ll see.

Speaking of Sunak, that day, a few other developments occurred.

Guido reported:

    • Away from the glare of the GB News cameras, Liz’s team spent the day tearing chunks out of Camp Rishi on her behalf. After Rishi attacked Liz’s cost of living plan for being “clear as mud“, Team Truss went nuclear: “Rishi Sunak wouldn’t know how people benefit from a tax cut because he has never cut a tax in his life.
      People didn’t vote for the Conservative Party to be subjected to old fashioned Gordon Brown style politics of envy.” Team Rishi inevitably responded in kind – see below…
    • The mudslinging didn’t stop there: Kwasi Kwarteng and Simon Clarke have an article in the Telegraph today in which they claim Rishi “dug his heels in” as Chancellor over post-Brexit reforms, particularly on plans to ditch the EU’s Solvency II rule and reform the NI Protocol. You’d be forgiven for forgetting they’re all in the same party. Team Rishi insist the claims in the article are “categorically untrue”, and Sunak backed a muscular approach to Brussels all along…
    • Rishi didn’t take kindly to Team Liz’s attacks – it turns out being compared to Gordon Brown doesn’t exactly flatter him. His team countered by claiming Liz’s backtrack on regional pay boards last week was “a serious moral and political misjudgement affecting millions of people“. This is the same Liz Truss whom Rishi has claimed he’ll serve under in any Cabinet role.
    • His campaign also sent out a dubious press release claiming he’d cut taxes “16 times during and following the pandemic“. One of those ‘cuts’ was reducing the Universal Credit taper rate, another is the promise to cut income tax by 1p in 2024 which, last time Guido checked, is two years away…

Instead of being with an average group of taxpayers, he chose to be interviewed one-on-one by the BBC’s Nick Robinson:

    • He also promised to do more for households this winter beyond the package already announced, although didn’t go into specific details on the basis that it was simply too early. Although when asked whether it would cost “a few billion” or more than £10 billion, he said it would be “closer to the former than the latter”…

He gave Robinson an indication that he might lose the leadership contest:

    • He came the closest yet to admitting the race may well be over, claiming he’d always “stay true to [his] values” and he would rather lose than “win on a false promise”.

It’s interesting that Sunak chooses television formats that suit him rather than the electorate, even if, at present, they are Conservative Party members.

Sunak’s non-participation in public fora other than Party hustings and closed interviews tells us something about the man.

Next week I will post on The Telegraph‘s hustings, held on Thursday, August 11.

On Tuesday, July 26, the UK’s fledgling news channel TalkTV scheduled a Conservative Party leadership debate with The Sun for 6 p.m.:

Kate McCann was the moderator.

She was to have been joined by Guido Fawkes alumnus Harry Cole, The Sun‘s political editor, but he had coronavirus:

TalkTV asked for questions from viewers, as well as their audience, half of whom had voted Conservative in 2019.

It promised to be a debate quite unlike the ones on Channel 4 and the BBC:

With The Sun involved, one knew that the candidates would get hard-hitting questions rather than boring ones from the media establishment.

In the opening round, Kate McCann gave the candidates 60 seconds each to present themselves and their platform.

Rishi Sunak did well …

… even if he was still in Tony Blair mode and sounded like Labour’s Keir Starmer …

… but Liz Truss had to glance at her notes:

Then it was on to the questions.

It was gratifying to see that the audience members, both in person and remotely, asked them of the candidates directly.

The first one came from John Hughes in Birmingham, who spoke remotely. He is a cancer patient and said that, since the pandemic, he has had a very difficult time getting the care and the support he needs. He said that a cancer charity has been helping him but the NHS and Macmillan Cancer Support nurses have not been available:

Rishi said that it was good that John was getting the support he needed. John retorted that he was not getting the support he needed. Rishi corrected himself.

Rishi gave a long answer, which did not respond to the question.

The Times has the dialogue:

Sunak said that he had been criticised for raising national insurance contributions to tackle the NHS backlog and fund social care reform, but that it was a “brave decision” and the right thing to do.

Liz said that she would reform the NHS, reducing layers of management so that the focus could be on patient care rather than bureaucracy:

I want to see fewer layers of management in the National Health Service and less central direction because I simply don’t think that people can sit there in Whitehall and direct everything that happens in local communities across our country.

It seemed that John preferred her answer to Rishi’s. At least Liz offered a plan. Kate McCann asked John what he thought. He said that:

he remained unconvinced by their answers and stated that the Conservative Party had been given 12 years to fix the NHS.

The next question came from a member of the studio audience. A lady said that she was used to buying steak several times a week, however, the price has gone up so much that she can no longer afford to buy meat of any kind. She asked whether she should become vegetarian:

The Times reported:

The debate then moved on to the cost of living, with Gemma from Manchester, a Sun reader, telling the candidates about the rising cost of meat in supermarkets and asking if more people should go vegetarian to save money.

Rishi said:

he would ensure that prices came down by “making sure that the supermarkets and all the other people in the supply chain are being fair in how they price these things [and that] no one is taking advantage of the situation to pass on price rises.”

Surely, although I agree with the principle, if everyone in the supply chain is being fairly remunerated, prices will go up even further.

Liz told Gemma that becoming vegetarian was ‘a choice’ and one that the Government leaves to individuals.

I understood what Gemma meant by asking about vegetarianism, because with this year’s price rises, it does seem as if that is the end game.

Bloomberg’s Alex Wickham summed up this refreshing debate well:

For once, we had real people asking about real problems.

However, the candidates reverted to a subject with which they were more comfortable — tax cuts.

As the i paper‘s Hugo Gye pointed out, it seemed as if Rishi and Liz still couldn’t connect with the audience as well as a certain Prime Minister — Boris Johnson:

Harry Cole, watching from home, tweeted this at 6:27 p.m.:

The Times reported:

The candidates’ response quickly turned to the economy, with Truss saying that Sunak’s manifesto-breaking tax rises had been “morally wrong” as she accused the former chancellor of having policies which are “making us less competitive” as a country.

Sunak said that tackling inflation remained his priority but suggested that some businesses were also profiteering from the cost of living crisis. He said he would ensure that prices came down by “making sure that the supermarkets and all the other people in the supply chain are being fair in how they price these things [and that] no one is taking advantage of the situation to pass on price rises.”

Sunak also defended his plans to increase corporation tax. He said: “I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask the largest companies in this country, just the top 10 per cent of companies, to pay a bit more because they’re received a lot of help during the pandemic.”

Truss countered by telling Sunak: “You’ve made it worse”. “Companies have a choice about whether they invest in the UK or whether they invest elsewhere. Rishi’s policies are making us less competitive,” she said.

The Mail‘s Henry Deedes described other exchanges between the candidates and the optics. Rishi still looked vexed when Liz contradicted him. Liz almost fell into the same trap this time (emphases mine):

Rishi seemed to have eased a little on the caffeine since the night before.

He’d also rediscovered his manners and used his opening spiel to wish his opponent a happy birthday. Truss, 47 yesterday, shot him an icicle smile

The Foreign Secretary wore a purple dress the colour of a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk wrapper. Très snazzy. She went into a brief monologue about how her upbringing was more modest than Sunak’s. ‘I know what it looks like when economic times are hard,’ she said. Rishi bit down and resisted making a tart response. There was a bit of early tit-for-tat, but nothing that required Kate to pull them apart. The candidates had a brief struggle over who had the stronger family connections to the NHS. ‘My father was GP,’ said Rishi. ‘Well, my mother was nurse!’ countered Liz

Tempers frayed whenever Truss began to discuss her economic plans. Rishi’s blood pressure would visibly spike, his eyes flickering from side to side as if to say: ‘Leave the maths to me, luv.’ 

Once again their main beef was over taxes – Liz wants to cut them, Rishi thinks it’s unaffordable to do so. 

He accused Truss of funding her cuts by saddling future generations with more debt. ‘That’s not true, that’s not true!’ Liz retorted, shaking her head crossly. 

Kate McCann was doing an excellent job as moderator, keeping everything going at a rolling pace which made it interesting. I was settling into an unusual comfort zone, which I normally don’t do when watching debates.

Just after 6:30 p.m., Kate asked Liz a question.

While Liz was speaking, viewers at home could hear a soft rocking noise, possibly a perspex podium against the floor.

Seconds later, there was a crash of perspex on the floor.

Viewers saw this:

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley was also watching from home and describes what happened:

It was one of the strangest, most shocking moments in TV history. Liz Truss was in the middle of denouncing Russia with her characteristic tics – her hands gripping that invisible tea tray for dear life – when there was an almighty crash off-screen.

“Oh my God!” Liz covered her mouth. Then she stepped towards the camera.

Turns out that poor Kate McCann, the talented journalist and host, had fainted.

Rishi also went to Kate’s aid, but we didn’t see that.

We didn’t know what had happened.

The Mail reported:

A loud noise caused the clearly worried Foreign Secretary to hold her face in shock as she exclaimed: ‘Oh my God!’. Ms Truss was then seen leaving her podium and walking towards where Miss McCann had been standing.

The broadcast feed was swiftly cut, with viewers shown the message: ‘We’re sorry for the disruption to this programme. We’re working hard to fix the issue and will return to normal programming soon.’

Stanley wrote:

For 25 excruciating minutes, viewers speculated if a light had fallen, a bomb had gone off, or Boris Johnson had rushed the stage demanding to be heard – all the while that producers tried to carry on as normal by cutting to a promo for their other shows.

What were they thinking? That this was a great chance to promote their product? We’re lucky they didn’t try to flog us some diamante earrings …

debating tax policy is exactly how Liz would want to spend her birthdayand though the evening took an alarming turn, the gods did her a favour by having the camera focused on her when Kate passed out. Liz’s instinct to run towards the disaster did her credit, a reminder that whatever her job, she is first and foremost a mum.

And her mother was a nurse!

Just before 7 p.m., when the debate would have ended:

TalkTV put on two talking heads who calmly discussed what we’d been watching – vegetarian options, clown doctors – without substantial reference to the one bit we were all shouting at the telly about: “What the hell just happened?!”

It was surreal: the commercial equivalent of Soviet TV cutting from the coup against Gorbachev to 72 hours of Swan Lake. Thankfully, Twitter was still reporting the news: Kate was ok. By then it was 7pm and time for Piers Morgan’s landmark show on Ukraine – at which point what was probably TalkTV’s largest ever audience, all 250 of us, turned off.

Kate, you’re a star and your peers wish you the very best.

Henry Deedes said:

Doctor’s orders were that she was done for the evening. It must have been frustrating for Team Rishi, who are running out of time. The former chancellor has agreed to be interviewed by that fearsome rottweiler of an interviewer, Andrew Neil, on Channel 4 on Friday. For politicians, such encounters rarely end well.

The candidates spent the remaining half hour talking to the studio audience:

Kate received many supportive messages.

Harry Cole tweeted:

BBC Newsnight‘s Nicholas Watt complimented Kate on her moderation of the debate:

The candidates also sent their best wishes, saying they would like to return to finish the debate:

I hope the debate is rescheduled — and agree that it should pick up where it left off:

Harry Cole is an excellent journalist.

That night, The Sun reported that, after all these days of insisting his tax plan was the right thing to do, Rishi decided to do an about-face and cut VAT on energy bills.

But has he stolen Work and Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey’s idea? Hmm:

Polling results must have been eating away at the former Chancellor.

The Telegraph also carried the story on its front page for Wednesday:

The Mail alleges that this was Boris’s plan but Rishi wouldn’t allow it:

Rishi Sunak makes a desperate bid to claw back lost ground in the Tory leadership race today by promising a £4billion VAT cut on energy bills just hours after he and his rival Liz Truss led tributes to TalkTV presenter Kate McCann after she fainted live on air.

The former chancellor has repeatedly refused to match rival Liz Truss on cutting taxes, labelling her plans a ‘fairytale’ and insisted such cuts must wait until inflation is curbed.

But today he pledges to scrap the 5 per cent VAT rate levied on domestic energy bills for a year.

Last night No10 insiders told the Daily Mail that this plan was something Boris Johnson tried to implement to ease the burden on consumers – but was blocked by Mr Sunak.

‘Boris begged him to do it – but he wouldn’t budge’, said the source. ‘It’s astonishing that he’s now claiming it as his own policy.’

A source close to Liz Truss’s campaign told The Telegraph: ‘It’s good that Rishi has finally woken up and decided to offer something to people struggling with the rising cost of living.

‘However, this feels like a screeching U-turn from someone who has spent the last few weeks of the leadership campaign branding everyone else’s tax cuts immoral and fairytales.’

The article states that this was also Labour’s policy:

Mr Sunak’s energy bill tax move, which would save an average household £160, has been Labour Party policy for nearly a year, and Mr Sunak voted against the proposal in the Commons in January.

He told the Commons in February that the policy would ‘disproportionately benefit wealthier households’.

He added: ‘This would become a permanent £2.5billion Government subsidy… when we are trying to rebuild the public finances.’

This month he argued that tax cuts are ‘immoral because there is nothing noble or good about racking up bills on the country’s credit card that we then pass on to our children and grandchildren’.

One can understand his point, but when the Work and Pensions Minister and the Prime Minister both want it, it’s the right thing to do.

I read only this week that VAT is an EU tax. Therefore, we can scrap it.

No one ever mentions that VAT is an EU tax. Why not?

The Mail says:

Until yesterday [Wednesday] Mr Sunak had refused to consider tax cuts before autumn 2023, the earliest point when a 1p cut in the basic rate of income tax could come in.

Autumn 2023 would be way too late, especially if our next general election is held in May 2024.

The Telegraph reported that Rishi’s team denied a U-turn:

The Sunak camp denied there had been a U-turn, adding that the tax cut was “a tool that was always in our arsenal”.

“We didn’t use it back in spring because the size of the jump of the bills was way bigger, and it wouldn’t have touched the sides,” a source said. “This is a response to latest estimates that suggest the rise might be £100-200 more than anticipated.”

For me, this volte face comes too late in the contest, because Rishi was adamant in three debates that he would not cut taxes.

As such, in Truss we trust.

———————————————————–

UPDATEGuido Fawkes posted TalkTV’s ratings for Tuesday night. The debate’s ‘off air’ message beat Piers Morgan’s show by far:

Morgan tweeted McCann, who has since recovered:

On Wednesday, July 27, the i paper reported ructions at TalkTV about the interruption of the debate, with staff asking why it didn’t continue with another presenter:

Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV is holding an inquest into why there was no “plan B” to keep its Prime Ministerial debate on air after presenter Kate McCann fainted.

Presenters at TalkTV and its sister radio station were said to be ready and able to jump in and replace the stricken presenter during the abandoned live broadcast, i has been told.

As panic spread, executives asked Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to remain at their podiums at the Ealing studio, normally used for Piers Morgan’s nightly programme, while they considered their options.

However it was decided that stunned viewers would continue to be shown a recorded message saying normal programming would resume, rather than restart with a new presenter.

Trouble began behind the scenes when planned co-presenter Harry Cole was forced to pull out on the morning of the debate after contracting Covid.

An insider said: Tom Newton Dunn (presenter of TalkTV’s 7pm news show) would have stepped up to co-present but the bosses wanted Kate to front it solo as a showcase for her.”

McCann, Talk’s political editor, was said to be “nervous” at fronting the high-profile event but had shown no sign of ill health, even during the broadcast’s first half hour.

The source said: “It was very sudden. She crashed forward into the podium. That was the loud bang viewers heard.”

Truss, speaking on camera at the moment, said “oh my god” and rushed over towards McCann. At that point, with the clock showing 6.31pm, the channel cut from the debate.

“Rishi also rushed over. He knelt on the floot and held Kate’s hand, he was very comforting,” the insider said.

Faced with a crisis playing out live on TV and social media, some in the building believed that the show must go on.

“There were plenty of experienced on-screen talent already there who felt they could have taken over. They could have winged it.”

“All the News UK bigwigs were there. There was a panicked pow-wow. Some said ‘who can we get to fill in?’ but they decided against it.”

Instead the candidates were asked to stay in the studio and take questions informally from The Sun readers in the audience.

The insider added: “Today there is an inquest into why there wasn’t a Plan B to keep the debate on air. It’s a given for any serious broadcast channel”

The incident gave a brief boost to TalkTV’s struggling ratings. The channel has recorded zero viewers at low points in its schedules and Piers Morgan’s flagship show has even been beaten by rival GB News on occasions.

The screen message telling viewers TalkTV was off air was watched by one of the channel’s highest ever audiences.

Some 141,000 people tuned in, numbers comparable to Morgan’s opening week on Talk in April before his figures tumbled.

The debate peaked with 183,000 viewers tuning in shortly after its 6pm start. However Talk’s numbers dropped across the night with Morgan’s programme dropping to 14,000 viewers at its conclusion.

Despite the lure of the debate, Sky News, BBC News and GB News all recorded a greater audience than TalkTV across the whole of primetime, according to Barb data.

Insiders said this would disappoint NewsUK’s bosses who had hoped to relaunch TalkTV off the back of the debate, which was shared with sister title, The Sun

The podium “crash” even gave TalkTV what it has been seeking since it launched three months ago – highly-shareable viral content that creates a buzz on social media.

On this occasion though, that content, seized upon by media rivals including the BBC, was unintended.

In 2020, millions of Britons stood outside their houses at 8 p.m. on Thursday nights, prompted by television adverts, to applaud the NHS.

Here’s then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the first Thursday of the embarrassing two-minute applause sessions on March 26, 2020:

Two years later, on April 27, 2022, The Spectator‘s Tim Knox reported that public opinion of the nation’s best loved institution has fallen to a 25-year low (emphases mine):

While MPs compete to shout the loudest in their support of the UK’s health services (‘save our NHS!’), the British public has fallen out of love with it. More people are now dissatisfied with the NHS than are happy with it. This is true across all ages, income groups, sexes and voters of different political parties. Support for the NHS is now at the lowest level for a quarter of a century.

The public is right, the NHS is just not that good. Compare it, as I have done in a new report published today, with the health systems of 19 similarly well-off countries and it is hard to come to any other conclusion. UK life expectancy is down at 17 out of these 19 comparable nations. Our cancer survival rates are shockingly low. We are the worst for strokes and heart attacks. We are one from bottom for preventing treatable diseases. We are third from bottom for infant mortality. The only thing we top the charts on is helping diabetics avoid amputation. Sadly, despite the great efforts of NHS staff, our health system does not match the success rates of other nations: we come bottom of the league tables four times – more than any other country – and are in the bottom three for eight out of the 16 measures.

Tim Knox advocates for an insurance model. No, thanks. It is apparent that Knox has never lived under an insurance model. I have. Premiums and inefficiencies would only rise in the years to come.

Here’s a better idea for the NHS: root and branch reform.

The problem is that most NHS workers are unionised, so they can go on strike. Another is that they are trained to be part of an inefficient health delivery system, which would have been much better had it stuck to the basics as it did when it was founded, e.g. emergency care, broken limbs, heart problems and cancer treatment.

This tweet comes from a former NHS nurse who has since become a barrister. Her tweet from April 11, 2020, which disapproved of the applause during the pandemic, attracted many insightful replies:

The same day that Tim Knox’s article appeared — April 27, 2022 — The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman wrote about the High Court ruling on what happened in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before going into that, Hardman raises a good point about the NHS and why the new levy on National Insurance will not help care homes. No, it won’t initially. My understanding from parliamentary debates is that the first two years’ of proceeds from the levy will be going to the NHS instead:

The phrase ‘protect the NHS’ was a powerful one in the public health messaging in the pandemic. It was also a description of where the focus lay in government. The health service was the priority, not the care homes these patients went into. There are lots of reasons for this, but one is clearly a political calculation that the NHS matters to the public in a way care of the elderly does not. That is why successive governments have been able to shirk proper social care reform. That includes this government, by the way, as its levy does nothing to improve the quantity or quality of care …

It is debatable that the NHS itself was really protected throughout the pandemic.

So, our lockdowns were all for nought.

Last month’s High Court ruling implicated former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the erstwhile Public Health England, so it is rather useless in order for any action to be taken against either. Why did it take two years for this ruling to be made?

That said, it could come in handy for any public inquiry into how the UK Government managed the pandemic.

Hancock denies that he said that the Government was putting ‘a protective ring’ around care homes, but I watched or listened to every one of the coronavirus briefings as well as his statements in Parliament. He did use those very words, time and time again.

This is what Hardman had to say about the High Court case regarding care homes during the pandemic in 2020:

The High Court’s ruling today that the government broke the law on the discharge of patients to care homes in the early days of the pandemic further undermines the claim by the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock that ministers had thrown a ‘protective ring’ around the sector.

The case was brought by two relatives, Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, of care home residents who died after testing positive for Covid. Their argument was that six policies in place at the start of the pandemic represented ‘one of the most egregious and devastating policy failures in the modern era‘. The fathers of Gardner and Harris were among the 20,000 people in care homes who died after testing positive between March and June 2020. The pair argued that one of the worst failures was the mass discharge of 25,000 patients from hospital to care homes without Covid testing or proper isolation arrangements in place, meaning the virus rampaged among vulnerable and frail populations. They also cited poor – and initially non-existent – advice on PPE which made it even harder to protect the residents of the homes.

The discharge policy is something politicians and NHS figures have been squabbling over for some time, despite Hancock’s ‘protective ring’ line. Was it conceived in Whitehall or in the NHS itself? The rationale behind it was that it would free up beds in hospitals ahead of the anticipated wave of Covid patients. But because some of those being discharged from hospital had Covid themselves, this led to a wave within care homes: a deadly one.

The UK was far from the only country that experienced problems in hospitals and care homes during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. Even Swedish officials were sorry for what happened in their care homes at that time.

Something must be done, not only about the NHS but also care homes, the Cinderella of health care.

However, who in Government will take on the nation’s favourite institution? No one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-isolation time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido concludes:

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

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

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

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

This tweet expresses the phenomenon well:

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

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

The end of mass vaccination?

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

The Observer reported:

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

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

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

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

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

Schoolchildren suffering

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

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

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

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

Vaccines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a clip from The Telegraph‘s article:

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

NHS is doing well

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

Socialist policies in Scotland and Wales do not work

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

More on that below.

Wales

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

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

Dan Wootton said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This exchange shows how complicated the situation is:

Scotland

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

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

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

She insists it’s to keep them safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sturgeon is criminalising people drinking and having a good time.

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

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

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

Guido Fawkes has an update from Wednesday, January 5:

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

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

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

Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scottish Daily Express reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scottish Conservatives are the main opposition party in Holyrood:

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

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

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

Labour are the next largest party in opposition:

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

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

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

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

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

The Liberal Democrat response was the best:

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

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

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

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

Too right!

Conclusion

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

Let those who wish to take precautions do so.

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

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

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

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

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

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

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

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

JP Morgan concluded:

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

Fraser Nelson says:

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

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

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

Nelson says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too right.

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

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

But no.

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

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

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

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

People are frustrated:

General practitioners are wrapped up in this, too:

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

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

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

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

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

Well, five of them did, at least.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had to leave early:

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

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

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

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

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

Boris knows he’s in trouble:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If so, why did Vallance not present those data?

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

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

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

When is this going to end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One wonders how many other stories there are like this.

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