Instinct as a getout

The moment was when Boris Johnson said in his prepared statement that Cummings had “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity. … I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent … “
Cos the public health instruction was that you must stay at home. Boris Johnson had a letter sent to every household saying so. Instinct as an exemption negates any public policy.

I think you have to be ready to forgive people for getting things wrong; for making a decision that was against the policy; you might have to fine them for it; or censure them; but forgive them nevertheless.
But here, the Prime Minister has accepted a breach of the policy without chastisement, apparently in full knowledge of all the facts, facts which has not been shared with the public.

This may trigger more occasions of members of the public challenging officers seeking to enforce the policy.
But more, it triggers disappointment, or stronger, in those who complied, and sometimes with some sacrifice. And that is what we see in the newspaper front pages, in social media, and no doubt in chatting with friends and neighbours.
And will make the repeat of a call to action should a second wave come, all the harder.


A word of warning about predicting that these events heralds a second wave of disease. Given the status of the disease in the UK, that may not be the case. (And I understood second waves to be associated with new mutations of a virus.)

Chris Grey@chrisgreybrexit·
“Populism is based on the trick of a self-evident elite purporting to speak for ‘the people’ *against* ‘the elite’. So it’s always vulnerable to its leaders being exposed as not of the people and, even, contemptuous of them.”

Dr Mike Galsworthy@mikegalsworthy
“Ironic to watch a Brexiter government desperately put saving an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat before supporting the will of the people.”

Astonishing tweet; apparently from a member of staff.

Stephen Reicher@ReicherStephen
Level 1:As one of those involved in SPI-B, the Government advisory group on behavioural science, I can say that in a few short minutes tonight, Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control COVID-19.

Be open and honest, we said. Trashed.
Respect the public, we said. Trashed
Ensure equity, so everyone is treated the same, we said. Trashed.
Be consistent we said. Trashed.
Make clear ‘we are all in it together’. Trashed.

It is very hard to provide scientific advice to a government which doesn’t want to listen to science.

The quality of mercy is not strained

Never did understand the line. Did strained mean filtered? Or put under pressure. Turns out it means ‘constrained’, or ‘forced’. (Yep, only now have I bothered to check – hence the C grade in O level English Literature.)

I kinda got “the speaker is telling Shylock that mercy must be freely given, and is inviting him to show mercy to the title character.” Our hippy English teacher (twas the ’70s) then pointed out that when they tricked Shylock into giving up his claim, they showed him no mercy at all. Nor does rain often gently fall from the heavens.

It’s been weird. Dancing around strangers during walks at a distance; and taking offence, or causing upset, if either party gets it wrong. It’s not really that we worry about passing the disease on; it’s that someone is not joining in with the campaign to not spread the disease. And we can get mightily righteous about it. Impressive that people have so overwhelmingly joined in with the campaign; but I have had to report situations to the Police this week.

When not talking about strangers of course, we are perhaps more inclined to understand people who have made exceptions. Even if the Govt’s lockdown has come in the form of INSTRUCTIONS

So where next now we know important people haven’t followed instructions. Important people who follow that mantra – “never complain, never explain”.
“He should resign!”
“He should be sacked:”.
(Bit of an issue here – has no-one else never been a staff rep trying to defend a colleague who’s got it wrong at work?)
But I do think an apology is in order. Through an interview, a long one. One where the same points get made in a different way for a long time so the apologies have to be repeated. Maybe using that actor who played the daughter from the Outnumbered family; or Philomena Cunk.

And remember, he’s not the messiah – he’s just a very ….

Postscript: written one day on …
Having wanted to be wary of condemning Cummings outright, a number of points have come up since that make the situation even more frustrating –
– that Cabinet members have cited defence of the child as the proper thing to do; as if other members of the public haven’t made a different decision in similar circumstances;
– that Cummings’ wife, a journalist, had already written a diary of events that clashes with No. 10’s explanation;
– that No.10 has denied that Durham Police had spoken to Cummings and his family, when Cummings’ father had acknowledged that the Police had;
– that Cummings has been accused since of being in County Durham on 3 separate occasions after returning to London;
– that Cummings developed the notion of caring so little for the elitism of the establishment, yet has behaved in an elitist way.
And the original article didn’t make enough about how the actions undermine the enforcers of the lockdown.

Seems unlikely that Boris Johnson will allow Cummings to leave his post; like calling upon Emu to get rid of Rod Hull.

It takes a member of the public to ask the right question

For some time, I’ve been trying to understand the numbers associated with the disease in terms of Nottingham city, and the Meadows ward. Yet it took a member of the public to ask the question in a way that Chief Scientists – it turns out quite easily – could answer. Except they answered it in a slightly deconstructed way.
Nevertheless, a former city council colleagues has done some analysis on the numbers published …

Stephen Barker has written … Numbers. Numbers. Every day more numbers.  At the outset, we didn’t know much about the invisible enemy. Where was it? Who had it? How fast would it spread? Who was at most risk? How many would it kill? We had to act as one. Apply the law of large numbers.
We know a lot more now. We can act more individually, according to our personal – and local – circumstances. One of [the government’s chief officers] said last night that he estimates 10% of the population of London (a million people) and 4% of the rest of us (that’s another two and a quarter million) have had Covid 19 already.  That’s 3,250,000 people. 32,000 of them have – sadly – died. 1 per cent.  But it’s likely deaths have been undercounted. So let’s double that number for the sake of argument. 64,000. 2 per cent.  88% of those who have died have been over 65. There are 10,000,000 over 65s. So 56,000 of them have died. About 1 in 180.  12% of those who have died have been under 65. There are 54,000,000 under 65s. So 8,000 of them have died.  About 1 in 7000.  91% of the under 65s who have died have had an underlying health condition.  9% of under 65s who have died were otherwise healthy. That’s about 700 people.  About 1 in 77,000. 
The [chief officer] went on to say that perhaps 130,000 people are currently infected.  That’s 4% of all those who have been infected.  1 in 500 of the population.  An even distribution across the country would suggest 1,300 of them are in Nottingham.  But distribution has not been even. Nottingham’s infection rate is only a little over half that of the national average.  So 1,300 becomes 650. Not enough to fill 8 double decker buses.  Where are they?  A good number are in hospital. A good number are in care homes. Let’s say half. So 325 are in the community.  About 1 in 2000 of the people you might live with, run into in the street, on the tram, or at work.  And a one in 2000 chance that it’s you.
It’s time to be more confident than fearful. The worst is behind us. If we behave sensibly now it can stay that way.  If you’re older, have underlying health conditions (including obesity) remain extremely cautious. Wherever you live.
If you live in Nottingham, or somewhere like it, are younger, slimmer, fitter and do not have underlying health conditions, keep your guard up (stay alert), keep washing your hands and (if not already the case) think seriously about getting yourself – safely – back to the office or shop – and the pub – perhaps sooner than you might expect. 
Today’s tip. I think the biggest return-to-work challenge is going to turn out to be shared toilets.

The disease matters cos it’s killing people, and despite the age profile shown by Stephen, I’ve seen a report saying it’s taken 10 years of life away from its victims.
The disease matters cos it’s killing people trying to help people.
The disease matters cos it will have a lasting impact on the quality of life on a number of people who have recovered from the disease.  
The disease matters cos of the potential to overrun our hospitals and medical services.
And that despite the seemingly small share of the people who’ve had it. Perhaps 1 in every 22 in the UK.  … Someone should follow up Stephen’s calculations cos we should get them first hand – and not have to calculate them from the elements of the answer given. Especially since the killing rate seems high at 2% (published number is up to 1.5%).
One element of the national dialogue has been missing – that people have been going to work throughout the epidemic. Yes the key workers, but also people in construction and in manufacturing. Regional news tv has given some profile to factories such as Bombardier’s in Derby that have introduced distancing to enable production to re-start at (from memory) half the rate.  
I kinda get the argument that it’s time to get more people back to work but it needed better preparation than Sunday’s announcement. And it needs a set of criteria to be checked at each workplace – something of the kind that may not not easily reduced to a simple public relations slogan – valuable as they can be.  
In these situations, it transpires that after walking or cycling, using the car to work may well be a better way of travelling (and I’m not supposed to be saying that). What can’t have been desired was the packed London Underground trains – something that should have been anticipated. (A London Labour MP had to protest about it in Parliament yesterday.)
The stories of the 1918 influenza pandemic shows there will be more waves of the disease, and the VE Day / PM announcement has the potential to echo the story of how the second wave took a grip in some USA cities when celebrating the end of the the First World War.
So I hear the point about confidence. I’ve heard the points about common sense. What is needed is a heightened knowledge and awareness of the science and of health & safety. And I’m just not sure that we’ve seen enough of that in the last few days. 

Clement Attlee came to power 80 years ago

The Labour statesman Clement Attlee (1883-1967). He was Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Since local elections generally take place between the 1st and 7th May, it’s been quite a time for my Labour Councillor friends, celebrating their anniversaries as Councillors.
And why not? Available every waking hour and seeking to implement a free society with no unjustifiable inequalities to help the many rather than just a few from a council and ward level.  
On Friday, we were invited to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, but the signs are that we’ll be invited to think of in terms of veterans from the armed forces rather recalling the wider efforts of the people, their long hours, low rations and extra duties that put more of them in jeopardy.  
Through experience of a planned economy and consideration of the previous inequalities in health care, and wealth and employment (especially in the ’30s), people came to want more; and voted for it on 5th July.  
So on Sunday, 26th July, we can celebrate the 75th anniversary of Clem Attlee and the Labour government coming to power. The day when Britain “won the peace”.
And as a friend recently pointed out, we overlook the contribution of Labour to organising the delivery of victory.

So this Sunday, we can celebrate the 80th anniversary of Clem Attlee and Arthur Greenwood joining the government. Viewers of the “Darkest Hour“, broadcast for the first time on BBC tv, can be forgiven for wondering who Clem was, if they didn’t ready know. The dialogue he had was for a debate that Arthur led on, and in which Churchill gave the government case – instead the film showed an empty seat with a hat on (laughable).

How on earth did it come to this?

Keir Starmer took apart Johnson’s claims of Britain’s apparent success in tackling Covid-19 in the Hour of Commons.

As seen by Matthew Parris.

Lilian Greenwood was to ask a question on council finances. Citing Nottingham City Council’s challenge of £56 million, Boris Johnson said the bill would be met and that Nottingham had already had £19 million.

When the Government cannot be trusted with basic information

Even The Spectator is calling out Matt Hancock’s misrepresentation.

Daily Mirror explains it was 73,191 tested yesterday.
The BBC have announced the tests issued figure of 122,347.

The Conservatives in Government cheated so as to say that they met a milestone.  They have claimed a general level of success when we seemed destined to have the highest rate of Covid-19 cases amongst Europe’s largest nations.
So shout about it now.
Not wait for the outcome of a possible public inquiry.
Cos free market ideology enables more death. Cos misdirection enables more death. Cos complacency enables more death.

Disappointed too about the demand for a public inquiry on the Gov’t handling of the Public Health Emergency.
Sure, a public enquiry found the Conservatives guilty on the Falklands, but well after the events.
And why the emphasis on judges finding things out?
Let’s work on the data and evidence now, using political processes. 
Be political.

And know the discipline of emergency planning will not only have required the setting out of plans, but an analysis of how the plans were or weren’t executed. And what was and wasn’t successful. And how the plans have been updated.

Criticism of Government and their briefings by the media

Just one summary of the Sunday Times article – “Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster” – which many have seen as a decisive article, whilst the BBC has chosen to give no attention to.

The Sunday Times article makes broad charges concerning “those “lost” five weeks from January 24” against Boris Johnson’s ways of working as a Prime Minister, and complains about his significant absence in February and from COBRA meetings.
And “there was a further delay that month of nine days in introducing the lockdown as Johnson and his senior advisers debated what measures were required“.
The article has been contested by the Government and their response is worth reading.
One allegation has been particularly refuted – the volume of PPE equipment sent to China during a peak in Wuhan, has since been more than matched in returns.


There’s a heavy assertion that our capacity to plan for a pandemic had been eaten up by the focus on preparing for Brexit.

Then the assertions about the position of scientists –
“A senior politician told this newspaper: “I had conversations with Chris Whitty at the end of January and they were absolutely focused on herd immunity. The reason is that with flu, herd immunity is the right response if you haven’t got a vaccine.
All of our planning was for pandemic flu. There has basically been a divide between scientists in Asia who saw this as a horrible, deadly disease on the lines of Sars, which requires immediate lockdown, and those in the West, particularly in the US and UK, who saw this as flu.”

Elsewhere, a Boris Johnson speech has been highlighted (with video), and does seem to indicate a preference for supporting the market rather than protecting public health –
“we are starting to hear some bizarre autarkic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion, of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.
“And here in Greenwich in the first week of February 2020, I can tell you in all humility that the UK is ready for that role.”

I’ve seen relief expressed at times, that the Government was essentially following the advice of its Chief Medical and Science officers, but doubt has now grown about what has been said and what has been followed.

Building on previous criticisms, the points of contention –
NOT READY: Britain’s preparedness has been compromised; by austerity and by preparing for Brexit; yet there was complacency about our readiness, despite the findings of the 2016 operation Cygnus;
LOCKDOWN WAS LATE: that the lockdown was unduly delayed; and part of the reason for that has been ideological;
IDEOLOGY OVERTOOK SCIENCE: that scientists’ advice has been overridden;
SLOW TO TEST: that despite clear commitments to drive on with testing, Britain has been slow;
SLOW TO PROTECT: that despite clear assertions that all is being done to make sure staff are protected, the sourcing and procurement of physical protection equipment has been, and remains, too slow;
SLOW TO PRODUCE: ditto, for ventilators;
DIDN”T CARE FOR CARE: the care sector has been overlooked; (Only now do we consider care)

See a previous rehearsal of criticisms within – Veracity of Government statements on the public health emergency.
And criticisms of the communications – The faux Churchillian stuff gets in the way.

Note, whilst listing concerns about the British government, it seems to me that the Chinese government should answer for allowing the keeping of a mixture of live wild animals in close proximity and in a poor way in “wet” markets where it seems the latest Coronavirus to jump to humans began; and for an initial reluctance to accept that a new human-to-human coronavirus has developed; even if the Chinese appeared to have made a sept-change and then been very good at sharing knowledge and closing the disease down.