‘You turn ….’
This is fascinating: government has now announced that they didn’t really mean to put the over-50s into ‘hard quarantine’. That must be one of the fastest U-turns in government history. It’s equally fascinating to scan this morning’s front pages of ‘Our MSM’ where suddenly that U-turn is treated as one story amongst many and where suddenly there aren’t even the usual fear & hysteria reports about 2nds waves and spikes in foreign countries. We did get a ‘good dogs’ story on the front page of The Times though, about two Staffies who saw off machete-wielding burglars (link, paywalled). So – is it ‘back to Silly Season normal’?
Let’s retrace the whole event and then ask what this tells us about both the government and ‘Our MSM’. The ‘story’ broke on Sunday morning, making me so angry that I had to break my ‘day off rule’ for a “Sunday Special”. Early yesterday morning there was a little report about the ‘backlash from ministers’. This must have led to a veritable tsunami of backlashing during the day so that later another hapless minister – Nadhim Zawari, Business Minister – was forced to tell the nation that this was ‘only speculation’ and they hadn’t really meant it (paywalled link).
The Times, not precisely in the forefront of reporting facts when they could blast Johnson and especially Cummings instead, never mind stoking the fear and hysteria campaign, has suddenly found their dignified, measured tone again, simply reporting that No 10 ‘has dismissed’ these reports on lockdowns for the over 50s:
“No 10 dismissed reports that the measure would be taken in the event of a second wave of the coronavirus. The prime minister’s spokesman said yesterday that the suggestion, which had prompted accusations of ageism, was inaccurate.” (link, paywalled)
Why was it that nobody in that huge cohort of CV-19 reporters in ‘Our MSM’ had asked for clarification from government for their Sunday reports? If they did – had No 10 dismissed the story as speculation but the papers went with their reports anyway? Or is there something else going on – something which I believe deserves a closer look?
The brilliant Toby Young – he of the unmissable site ‘Lockdown Sceptics’ – yesterday evening headlined his comment in the DT on this latest CV-19 government disaster thus:
“Never mind squeezing the brakes – the PM’s lockdown strategy is a car crash. He has simultaneously executed a U-turn, pressed the accelerator and performed an emergency stop” (paywalled link)
His conclusion is aimed at Johnson, but I would respectfully suggest that it applies equally to the whole cabinet and to the Whitehall Mandarins who ran that Wednesday ‘war game’ – and to the vast majority of MSM writers and editors who’ve been instrumental in creating the current climate of fear:
“It seems the Prime Minister was too busy conjugating Greek and Latin verbs at Eton to pay any attention in maths. When I think of his handling of the coronavirus crisis I picture a child behind the wheel of a racing car. He’s overwhelmed by the data constantly popping up on his dashboard, has no idea what any of it means, so just randomly presses different levers and pedals, spins the wheel as fast as he can, and hopes for the best.” (paywalled link)
That’s a very accurate description! This morning we can entertain ourselves by noting the furious back-pedalling by No 10, trying to retrieve some semblance of orderly governing by explaining to ‘Our MSM’ what they really meant:
“The prime minister’s spokesman said that the government’s approach was to implement “localised action to stop outbreaks as and where we find them. We will continue to assess the scientific and medical advice and take steps to ensure the public is protected.” (link, paywalled)
This isn’t encouraging. It’s not a total retraction. Moreover, following Toby Young’s imagery, Johnson and his cabinet, inevitably fed with the same sort of data by his SAGE advisers, will still be incapable of questioning them because he lacks understanding. Worse, he and his advisers are so in thrall to SAGE that they’re incapable of asking the questions all Lockdown sceptics have been asking: where are the numbers for patients in hospital, how many have died?
It’s as if ‘Our MSM’ prefer the ‘diet’ of SAGE advice and ‘models’, not just to clobber Johnson with but to keep their fear and hysteria campaign going. It’s as if they prefer to shun the observations from renowned scientists. Professor Henegan (Oxford) is such a scientist. He criticised the ‘localised’ lockdown strategy which shut down Northern England from friday onwards. You can read his brief analysis here.
Professor Henegan shows that case numbers are picking up because of more tests while the numbers for patients hospitalised with CV-19 have been staying the same. But that doesn’t fit the narrative, that “we” must be afraid and that “we” must observe government ‘guidance’, rulz and laws and lock ourselves down, trembling like rabbits in our rabbit hutches.
That explains the current, more careful interpretation from No 10, namely that what they really meant was only to fine-tune their policy of ‘segmentation’ (why do I always read ‘segregation’ instead?) – by providing ‘personal medical advice to the ‘most vulnerable’. See – that’s not so bad, is it! We still must be very afraid, but only on a more personal level. Here’s The Times, reporting the oh-so-reasonable government interpretation:
“At the time the segmenting was largely based on age and the most serious medical conditions. As knowledge of Covid-19 has advanced, it has become clearer which conditions increase the risk and which do not. This makes personalised risk scores feasible and after uproar over suggestions of a “grey lockdown”, No 10 was careful to say yesterday that no policy would be introduced based on age alone.” (link, paywalled)
Of course government wouldn’t institute a lockdown based on age alone, of course not! Sadly, it so happens that ‘the old’ are so terribly vulnerable … ‘At the time’ means when national lockdown was decreed in March. However, Mr Hancock, trying to sweet-talk this policy of local lockdowns, shows that, like Johnson, he has no idea of what he’s actually talking about:
“He said: “We paused the shielding programme because the number of infections is so low. The reports with respect to the over-50s are inaccurate and they’re speculation. But we’ll always do whatever’s necessary to keep people safe.” (paywalled link)
Yes, he really said that the number of infections ‘is so low’! Note how ‘Lockdown’ has suddenly become a ‘shielding programme’ – lovely soft words! However, this governmental back-pedalling is a smokescreen, meant to appease the vociferous over 50s. At no time did Hancock or the No 10 spokesperson take up the point made by professor Henegan.
Moreover, they did not refute the reports that they plan to use NHS patient data to write their ‘personalised’ letters, advising ‘the most vulnerable’ (read: “the old”) to stay at home when government – national or local – deem it necessary because ‘case numbers’ rise, thanks to more tests.
These numbers are bound to rise once the latest tests, these ‘game changers’ will have been rolled out. We mentioned yesterday (here) that one of those tests will also pick up flu infections and other viral infections. I still wonder if government will also advise ‘the vulnerable’ to ‘shield’ in case of flu? After all, who has forgotten the outcries about flu patients overwhelming ‘Our NHS’ which seem to be a feature of ‘Or MSM’ every winter! Don’t forget: the instruments for lockdowns, personal, local or national, are all in place.
And so – what to make of the war-game reports, of this U-turn, these explanations and interpretations? Was it really just ‘a blunder’ by some hapless junior civil serpent? Was it really just a government exercise to prepare for winter, for a flu epidemic and a 2nd wave’? Was it perhaps an attempt to ‘look good’ while ‘Our MSM’ pursue their fear and hysteria campaign by all and any means? Was it targeted, to discredit Johnson? Or was it leaked by some secret Lockdown sceptic, to warn us about what is in store?
I think that the leak, with all those details, must have been ‘permitted’ and was meant to show Johnson to be ‘decisive’ and on top of this CV-19 outbreak. The only U-turn I discern is the one about that blanket lockdown for the over 50s. The mechanism for this ‘personalised lockdown’ however has not been dismissed as ‘speculation’. ‘Personal letters’ in case of ‘localised outbreaks’ will still be sent, based on harvesting people’s medical data held by ‘Our NHS’.
Furthermore, we’ve not yet heard from the sage SAGEs. Perhaps their ‘explanation’ will provide new fuel to ‘Our MSM’ in their ongoing campaign to keep us fearful, a campaign which they’ve become addicted to. After all, they’re ‘teh scientists’ and must be believed. Above all, “we” surely cannot “put the economy before people’s lives”, can we!
So in the meantime, go out and have lunch on Sunak’s £10 voucher. Enjoy the summer as best you can and above all