A victorious weasel. Any similarities with Messrs V & W are purely coincidental
It’s the ‘day after’ – after the US elections and, much closer to home, after that performance of Messrs Vallance and Whitty in front of the HoC Select Committee on Science and Technology. We don’t yet know the outcome of the first, but, having watched the whole ‘grilling’ of those two leading SAGEs, I can present my verdict of the latter. I repeatedly lost the will to live while watching – but I made it through.
Below is my report, taken from my notes. I’m not going to mention anything our Covid MSM had to say about this – they all omitted to mention the several bombshells the SAGE duo dropped during the hearing. I do apologise for the length of this article: it’s needful so you can get the ‘feel’ of how that SAGE duo operates. In a weaselling competition they’d win hands down.
Firstly, let me set the scene. Present in the room in Westminster were the Chairman, the Rt Hon Greg Clark (Con), one lady apparently taking the minutes – she never spoke – and Graham Stringer (Lab). The rest of the MPs were sat at home. Messrs V and W were also bodily present, duly separated to keep that social distance.
Mr Clark, the Chair, has an enviable skill. He hides the arrows aimed at those he interrogates – in this case the two SAGEs – behind a cloud of lofty, polite words, lulling them into a false sense of superiority. Thus, right at the start, he got them to admit that, for the graphs they presented to the PM on Saturday 31st Oct, they hadn’t taken into account actual data from the NHS – hospital admissions, ICU occupancy, that sort of thing – because they didn’t have those data. Those, they said, were the ‘property of the NHS’. Oh.
Having picked up my jaw that had dropped to the floor, I caught the next bombshell. V said that no, the effect of the measures already in place in the tiered NE cities had not influenced their models. ‘They can’t include everything that happened in their models’, he said. Oh.
The Chair asked again, and now it was W’s turn. “The actual data have tracked very closely with the models”, he said (no they don’t, say I!). He acknowledged that the ‘rates are substantially lower because measures have been taken’ – but they still cannot put them into their models! It was a fruitless back-and forth between the Chair and V & W and for the first time I was losing the will to live, even though none of the MPs had yet spoken.
After a good 45 minutes of this it was the turn of Graham Stringer MP. Having first tied up W in a mound of waffle about the ‘R’ number and infections in the elderly, he asked about those old numbers which went into the horror graph of 4,000 deaths per day which they’d presented to the PM on Oct 31st.
V weasels out: the data for their horror model were based on ‘various good models and data from good scientists’. Yes, that’s correct: that horror graph was the mean of six other models – selected by SAGE. You really couldn’t make it up! It got better: V then said that the publication of that graph – those 4,000 deaths, remember – wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of the MSM … oh, and the graph was ‘only ‘a worst case scenario’, based on assumptions, and the more models project into the future, the more unreliable they become.’ Oh.
The ‘horror’ was really the fault of the bad MSM, said V. The MSM ought not to have used those graphs. How could V & W have known they would! ‘It is only a model’, said V, they were only trying to explain what ‘might be coming’ in this horrid fludemic. Waiting for real data to use in those models or scenarios apparently would be too late, because: ‘events’ …!
Stringer however had another string to his bow (sorry, I couldn’t resist …) and asked about the economics. ‘Why do you not present both sides of the equation, e.g. job losses, cancer deaths etc,’ he asks. V goes first, saying SAGE is there to provide the science side only, it’s for the Treasury to bring the economic data and advice. And then it’s for the ministers to decide. See – decisions for Lockdown, economic damage included, is not their fault, they only do ‘teh science’.
Then W has a go at answering Stringer, explaining that ‘most deaths ‘stack up because of covid’: first, because of covid, then because emergency services can’t cope – never mind that there’s no evidence for that, but remember: V & W, the poor things, don’t have the NHS data. Cancer deaths, said W next, are due to covid as well: ‘if you don’t deal with covid, those deaths will become worse’. Yes, he really said that! And then he said that the ‘worst case scenario’ was not intended to scare people but just to show what might happen if nothing was done. Words failed me then, they fail me now, again!
Next up was Mr Hunt, asking about the data used to get that magic 4,000 number: ‘Isn’t your model somewhat discredited and should be discarded?’ V & W come out with another bombshell ‘explanation’: those were ‘scenarios put together based on assumptions, it’s about things which one doesn’t want to happen but might happen if nothing is done … and ‘hospitals are filling up’. And: these are ‘not forecasts but models’. A nice weaselling out by V & W, but Hunt wasn’t giving up.
He remarked that those 4000 deaths weren’t ‘overblown rhetoric’, as W had just said, but were presented by V & W as actual possibility, asking them next if treatments etc haven’t been developed which would reduce mortality? They might, says W, but ‘some people will still come to hospital and die’ … oh dear oh dear!
Hunt then asked about the presentation of the graphs, and now V tries to confuse all those non-scientist politicians with ‘scientific dazzle’. His explanation is important, so pay attention, peasants!
V explained that one is a ‘scenario’ (the 4000 deaths), the other is a’ projection’ (hospital admission rates). He says their models are based on assumptions. In fact, it’s all based on assumptions, and anyone who gets scared by these data is a fool because that’s not what W &V really meant. Yes, that’s what he said!
Next, W explained that he’s never said anything which went above six weeks in anything he’s presented, modeled, projected … and then said that his ‘projection’, going above six weeks – which he just said he’d never said! – was actually presented to the PM anyway. All clear now?
Next, V & W were asked if T & T had an impact, if that had gone into their models (or scenarios, or forecasts or projections … ). W comes up with another remarkable observation: “T&T would have a bigger effect in areas with low incidence than in places with high incidence.” What the fluff?
The chair asked again if their models assume that T&T made an impact. No, said V, but W came back, saying that it will have an effect in the short term, but he cannot say anything about such data because they’re owned by T&T, not SAGE. Oh. So what data were used if they ‘can’t use data that belong to T & T or the NHS’? They used data from other models, by SAGE-approved scientists, and – took the mean! Crikey.
As for the economic impact of .e.g. lockdown, we’re back at: ‘not us, guv’. V explained that ‘SAGE is for scientific advice, not economic advice’ even though there’s an economic person on SAGE. ‘Economics is for the Treasury – but they must of course take their scientific advice from SAGE. Even the BoE does.’ Blimey – not their fault then, is it! V & W explained that SAGE is good for doing the review of all the scientific evidence and then presents it to the government, so: SAGE IS INNOCENT!
Next we received another gem: ‘Does your model, incorporating the measures being taken, allow the Lockdown to be lifted on Dec 2nd?’ That’s not down to SAGE and the models but to the PM … and the HoC, said V & W. ‘But you must have modelled the impact of the lockdown’, asks the chair. ‘There’s a realistic possibility to move into a less restricted space’, W. answered. What the fluff does that mean?
To show you what I’ve been suffering through, here’s a verbatim quote from my notes:
“‘Are you confident that the PM heeds your advice’ asks the SNP woman. ‘Advice has been presented and understood, but there are many factors which must be taken into account, so the science advice cannot be taken in a ‘linear fashion’, sez V. – Gawd, please stop this now … we’ve heard already that SAGE is innocent! The SNP lady waffles on – BJ shoulda done what Nicola did, yeah right. V waffles back, about that there are differences in different countries … and there’s more waffle from the SNP lady by which time I’m losing the will to live, especially since V waffles back again. The peacocking – it hurts!”
Yes, it was that bad. Then Mr Clark (Chair) asked about ‘exit strategies’. V & W didn’t disappoint – they are the clear winners in the weaselling competition. The MPs aren’t even in the same league. Again, this next bit is lifted verbatim from my notes:
“Chair asks about criteria for coming out – It’s about getting R down (V) – W thinks people will be very very good in this Lockdown, so he expects R to come down. There’ll be infinite variations in scenarios of how this plays out, sez W, so he doesn’t even want to say anything about this, he doesn’t ‘want to speculate so he doesn’t want to advise about them’. – Chair: If the threat to the NHS is removed but R is above 1, will restrictions be lifted? ‘Not our decision, sez W, it’s a decision for ministers and HoC.’ Yep, whatever happens, V & W can’t say, even though modelling and scenarios are their business… ‘Let’s see what the data will be, sez W.”
After more tedium where V & W kept maintaining that they, that SAGE is innocent, that they only ‘advise’ the PM, the chair wraps it up, stating that apparently there is no other measure except lockdown until vaccines and more, better treatment methods arrive. Cloaked in more waffle, basically yes, said W: ‘We don’t want to use those measures but we will have to – better medicine from ‘early next year onwards’ might be available: a difficult winter but a brighter spring’. And V wraps it up with ‘better and more tests’ becoming available … And that was that, finally. Phew.
By now Messrs V &W will hope that we’ve forgotten their hair-raising admissions about the basis for their models, scenarios, predictions and all that jazz. They only advise, you understand! Nothing is their fault, they are innocent, and if the PM heeds their advice then it’s his fault, not theirs.
We’ll see later today if the MPs voting for this will be as foolish as the PM.
Photo by susie2778