Tag Archives: bungle

Why is Johnson so popular when he has bungled the coronavirus crisis so badly?


I don’t get it.

A poll out yesterday (April 2) shows that most people believe Boris Johnson and his government have botched their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, endangering lives.

But popularity polls put him and his party at their most popular in years, with more than 50 per cent of people supporting them.

In the name of all that’s decent, why?

And don’t give me the old flannel about the alternative being worse. That’s a false argument; we don’t know that the alternative would be worse and can only judge the situation that we have.

The new poll by Ipsos Mori shows 56 per cent of said the social distancing measures were imposed too late while just four per cent believed they were brought in too soon. A further 35 per cent of respondents said they thought the measures were taken at the right time.

Even so, a majority of those polled said they thought the measures had been effective – while watching death figures increase steadily. This is contradictory; if Johnson brought in the measures too late, then he has endangered lives and they have not been effective.

Other critics are harsher.

“No 10 appears to be enamoured with ‘scientism’ – things that have the cosmetic attributes of science but without its rigour,” wrote Nasim Nicholas Taleb, professor of risk engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering and author of The Black Swan, and Yaneer Bar-Ya, president of the New England Complex System Institute.

“Collective safety and systemic risk are the business of the state. Letting a segment of the population die for the sake of the economy is a false dichotomy – aside from the moral repugnance of the idea.” This is a reference to Dominic Cummings’s favoured ‘herd immunity’ idea that was, in fact, unscientific and would have resulted in the deaths of millions of UK citizens.

“Gambling with the lives of citizens is a professional wrongdoing that extends beyond academic mistake; it is a violation of the ethics of governing,” they concluded.

Foreign commentary has been even more unkind.

“Looking across the Irish Sea I find myself thinking surely now, surely the British can see how they’ve been hoodwinked,” wrote Joe Horgan in the Irish Times [boldings mine].

“Boris Johnson is incompetent in a way that is astonishing even to those of us who thought he was a mere showman charlatan.

“Johnson told you one week to carry on, everything would be fine, and the following week to not step outside the door. For a man so fond of wartime imagery there is one that seems to fit him. An image from WW1 that was used to describe British soldiers in the trenches and the generals that ordered them to their deaths. Lions led by donkeys.”

(Led By Donkeys is, coincidentally – or perhaps not – a UK organisation that ran a billboard campaign highlighting the contradictions of Johnson’s, and other Brexiteers’, words on Brexit.)

“Much like those generals, Johnson’s initial idea of herd immunity seemed willing to sacrifice thousands of you only for him to turn around in the middle of no man’s land and run for cover.

“Of all the European leaders he has looked the most out of his depth, the most shallow, and vacuous. These are dark times and rambling verbal buffoonery looks as essentially useless as it essentially is.”

He concluded that he felt the Irish people had been lucky, and: “I dearly hope you, our neighbours, our friends, and our family, on the other side of the Irish Sea, I dearly hope you get lucky too.” Because luck is all that can save us from Johnson’s disastrous policy blunders.

Perhaps most cutting was the New York Times.

“Boris Johnson has spent decades preparing for his lead role, honing his adopted character, perfecting his mannerisms, gauging the reactions to his performance and adjusting it for maximum effect,” wrote Jenni Russell in that publication.

“Now he has the national stage and the rapt audience he always craved… throughout these last weeks as the coronavirus crisis became apparent to everyone in Britain, Mr. Johnson has been indecisive, contradictory, confused and confusing, jovial when he should be grave, muddled when a frightened nation desperately needs him to be clear.

“The man picked for his supposed talents as a great communicator has stumbled his way through news conferences, occasionally hitting with evident relief upon a jolly riff he finds familiar.

“In the rare moments when he has struck the right note, he unerringly hits a jarring one minutes, hours or days later. His switches of strategy and his lack of clarity left far too many Britons oblivious to the importance of social distancing until far too late.

“As the virus spread into Europe in mid-February, an alert prime minister would have taken immediate charge, turbocharging preparations, aware that a possible pandemic posed a grave danger to Britain. Instead, he vanished from public view for 12 days, most of it spent on a private holiday with his pregnant fiancée at a palatial country house.

“It was only at the end of February, with 80,000 known coronavirus cases worldwide and the World Health Organization on the edge of declaring a pandemic, that Mr. Johnson began to wake up. By that time there were 20 confirmed cases and one death in Britain already — and surely many more coming.

“On Feb. 28, after the FTSE index had suffered its biggest one-week fall since 2008, Mr. Johnson finally said the virus was the country’s top priority. Only not enough of a priority, it turned out, for him to start work on it that weekend. He could have convened an immediate meeting of the government’s top emergency committee, Cobra, but he postponed it to Monday, as if the virus’s unseen and exponential spread would also be taking the weekend off.

“The next week Mr. Johnson announced that “we should all basically just go about our normal daily lives’’ so long as we washed our hands for 20 seconds, several times a day. It was advice he immediately undermined by boasting cheerfully that he was still shaking hands, as he had indeed done at a hospital with several virus patients just days before. He did not recommend stopping.

“Two days later, as Italy and Spain were shutting down, pleading for other countries not to repeat their mistakes, Mr. Johnson was explaining jauntily that one of the options for handling the virus was not to close schools or sporting events but to “take it on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease, as it were, to move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures.” The policy, it was later revealed, was to encourage “herd immunity.” That implied some 40 million people getting ill and another 800,000 ending up in intensive care.

“It was instantly apparent to an aghast public that a creaking, underfunded health service with fewer than 5,000 intensive-care beds; an acute shortage of ventilators, masks, suits and gloves; an inadequate testing capacity; and a disease running free would fall apart just as Italy’s had done.”

Was it? His opinion poll ratings seem to suggest otherwise – in defiance of reason.

““Herd immunity” was quietly reversed. Suddenly restrictions started piling on, but sometimes only as recommendations: 14-day isolations, a warning against pubs, restaurants, theaters; a ban on mass gatherings; school closings. Each day brought new shocks as the government ran to catch up. Each day it acted as if taken by surprise by the virus’s spread.

“Mr. Johnson found it impossible to maintain either consistency or seriousness. He delighted in describing cutting peak death rates as “squashing the sombrero” and declared with verve that we would soon “send coronavirus packing.” He has veered among solemnity, evident boredom and grins, as if his virus briefings were the Boris Johnson Entertainment Show, not the grimmest of necessary broadcasts.

“He said the elderly must be protected from contact, then declared he hoped to visit his mother. Desperate doctors and nurses were warning of imminent disaster, and some of his cabinet were in revolt at his failure to grip the crisis, risk his jolly image and order Britain closed. On Monday, finally, he had to announce that Britain’s lockdown had begun.

“Even then, at this time of profound national fear and disorientation, Mr. Johnson could not speak with gravitas, only with the odd, stagy emphasis of a man pretending while half his mind is elsewhere. His whole political appeal has always rested on his capacity for artful ambiguity, for never necessarily meaning anything he says, for amusing and uplifting people, for avoiding hard facts. It’s what he knows, but not what we need.”

(Apologies to the NYTimes for quoting so much of the article but the facts it contains, and the conclusions it draws, should be drawn to the attention of the UK’s population.)

Given all of these criticisms, it is perhaps unsurprising that Mr Johnson has decided that discretion is the better part of cowardice and is remaining in retreat from the public.

Apparently he still has coronavirus symptoms and is therefore continuing his self-isolation.

Some of us are sceptical, including This Site’s old friend Samuel Miller.

He said Johnson “may stay inside a fridge” – referring to the incident in which our great and illustrious prime minister hid inside a refrigerator to escape having to answer difficult questions.

That’s Boris Johnson for you. That’s the prime minister we elected. A man who spouts nonsense at us and then runs away and hides.

And the people, we’re told, love him for this genocidal stupidity.

In the name of all that’s decent, why?

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Coronavirus: half a year before normality resumes – because of Tory stupidity

Johnson: This stupid ass caught coronavirus because he failed to follow his own social distancing advice (once he got round to giving it). Now he’s got the nerve to tell us he may tighten restrictions – but he’ll never admit that he has been at fault.

They’ll never admit it but if it does take half a year or more before people in the UK are allowed to resume their normal lives, it’s because of the stupidity of our Conservative government.

And if the lockdown lasts as long – or almost – that will be because of Tory stupidity too.

Boris Johnson’s letter saying the situation will worsen before it gets better is nothing more than we should all expect.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries, said the number of deaths is likely to worsen over the next one or two weeks – because it will take that long before the effects of social distancing begin to be felt.

And Johnson has warned that stricter measures could be put in place if necessary. This makes perfect sense, if deaths continue to rise.

But the reason deaths may continue rising is the government’s failure to impress upon the population the fact that the measures already in place are important.

In his letter, Johnson says, “From the start, we have sought to put in the right measures at the right time.” This is contemptible nonsense.

Before coronavirus arrived in the UK, the Tories had ensured that none of the plans necessary to protect the public against a contagion of this kind were up to date.

And they had dismantled the specialist team in the Department of Health, that would have dealt with the pandemic, nine years ago.

Medical journal The Lancet warned the government to get its act together on January 24.

But Johnson dithered for a further seven weeks, issuing contradictory statements and advice that left members of the public confused.

Is it any wonder, then, that when he ordered us all to stay home and observe social distancing rules, many people have ignored him completely – including himself?

The prime minister himself caught the disease because he failed to follow his own advice.

The news websites are full of reports of street parties being broken up by police, who are empowered to issue fines starting at £60 but rising to £960 for repeat offenders.

This Writer has been told of barbecues in Shrewsbury, and even health professionals have been caught flouting the rules.

This brings us to another point: remember Jenny Harries, who said the number of deaths is likely to worsen? She must take part of the blame for that.

The Lancet (again) has called on her to apologise for claiming that the NHS had “a perfectly adequate supply of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment, worn by medical staff while treating coronavirus patients to prevent them from contracting it or passing on to others]”.

It didn’t – and I note that two doctors are reported to have died in this report alone.

The government failed to join a European Union scheme to provide much-needed ventilators – by misdirecting the email, it seems – and there are concerns over the choices of supplier made by Johnson and his cronies.

Put it all together and you can see that more people will die because of the Tories; there is a lack of equipment to fight the virus because of the Tories; and if it takes longer for life to return to normal – they’ll be responsible for that too.

Source: Coronavirus: Strict measures could last ‘significant period’ – BBC News

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The ‘Dunce of Downing Street’ can no longer rely on lies

140402dunce

For someone who was educated at Eton and Oxford, it seems strange that David Cameron never learns his lesson.

Today in Prime Minister’s Questions he got on the wrong side of an argument on the Coalition government’s botched sale of the Royal Mail and committed every MP’s cardinal offence: He knowingly lied to Parliament.

Ed Miliband had caught him out with a question about share prices, pointing out that Royal Mail shares had been sold far too cheaply. Referring to Cameron, he described the Prime Minister as “not so much the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, more the ‘Dunce of Downing Street’.

Cameron hotly denied that his government had bungled the sale, and in response to Miliband’s claim that nobody had wanted it, he told Parliament that Labour had planned to do the same. “It’s in their manifesto!” he ejaculated.

It isn’t.

I have a copy of Labour’s 2010 manifesto on my computer, so I was able to check it immediately and found no mention of any such sell-off. Cameron was inaccurate.

Not only that, but unless the memory cheats, this is not the first time Cameron has made such a claim. His advisors would certainly have informed him of any inaccuracies, so any repetition is a conscious decision. Cameron was lying.

This blog has covered the offence known as Contempt of Parliament in considerable detail before (mostly in relation to serial offender Iain Duncan Smith). By rights, anybody misleading Parliament who does not apologise and put the record straight should be expelled from the House. The current government seems to be ignoring this (for obvious reasons).

Labour’s Jon Ashworth raised a point of order after PMQs, demanding that Cameron return to the Commons to correct himself. Fat chance.

A spokesperson insisted that the language in the Labour manifesto was “similar” to a 2009 plan by Lord Mandelson to sell off 30 per cent of the Royal Mail and prepare the remainder for modernisation.

This means nothing. If it isn’t in the manifesto, Cameron can’t claim that it is.

But then, Cameron seems very confused about manifesto pledges. He once claimed that Andrew Lansley’s reorganisation of the NHS in England had been a part of the Conservative Party’s 2010 manifesto, for example – despite having himself ordered that nobody should mention it in the run-up to that year’s election, in case it put voters off supporting the Tories.

I leave you with Martin Rowson’s cartoon on the Royal Mail sale, for Tribune magazine.

140402royalmail

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Jail the DWP fraudsters who tried to fix UK unemployment figures!

[Image from a post on Facebook]

[Image from a post on Facebook]

Iain Duncan Smith and everybody else associated with this scam should be facing charges and the possibility of imprisonment, rather than re-election next year.

Let’s be honest about this: The government hasn’t messed up by omitting Universal Credit claimants from the official unemployment benefit claimant count – the Department for Work and Pensions messed up by admitting this had happened.

It means we may be looking at a long-term attempt to defraud the electorate. The plan seems clear: When the general election finally takes place next year, Iain Duncan Smith would have claimed that his policies have been a brilliant success in creating jobs and cutting down the number of people claiming benefits.

If people are convinced that the DWP has succeeded in cutting the amount of money being paid out in benefits – the burden on the taxpayer – then they are more likely to vote for the Conservatives. Electoral victory means more money for everybody involved – what’s known as a pecuniary advantage.

But the claim has been made by deception. Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception is the dictionary definition of criminal fraud.

There can be no doubt that the omission was deliberate. When it comes to fiddling the official figures, the DWP has ‘form’ going back for years. Look at the lies about the benefit cap pushing people into work; the way people on ESA were encouraged to say they were self-employed and claim tax credits – even though this is not permitted and they were racking up a huge overpayment.

Look at the abuses of the sanction system; look at the abuses of the IB/ESA work capability assessment; look at the number of successful appeals against the DWP that have been kept out of official figures.

The claimant count, which provides the headline unemployment figure, is the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance every month – and has been for many years.

But Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship (if the ship was the Titanic) Universal Credit is up and running – on an extremely limited basis – in certain pilot areas of the country, and people without a job in those areas should be included in the claimant count.

This has not happened. It is possible that this is yet another oversight by Mr Duncan Smith, the government’s top bungler (indeed, he was recently voted favourite cabinet minister by ConservativeHome, so he must be doing something right, and the thing he does most often is make mistakes).

Mr Duncan Smith himself would disagree, however. He has claimed repeatedly and vehemently that his department does not make mistakes with statistics; that everything done on his watch has been justified and that everybody at the DWP is entirely competent.

So we must accept that there was a decision to keep Universal Credit claimants out of the claimant count, meaning that there was a decision to make it seem there are fewer people unemployed than is actually the case.

This seems to be supported by the complaint from the Office for National Statistics, which publishes unemployment figures. The wording runs as follows: “The DWP have not been able to supply ONS with this information in a way that has allowed its inclusion within the Claimant Count [italics mine], resulting in the exclusion of UC claims from this measure.”

This implies that the DWP is perfectly capable of supplying the figures in a manageable way but has deliberately done otherwise.

Further indication that DWP officials knew exactly what they were doing comes from a spokeswoman’s response to this affair, published in the Daily Mirror: “We have been fully transparent in publishing the number of people claiming Universal Credit.

“To ensure consistency the Department released these figures alongside the employment statistics. Universal Credit is both an in- and out-of-work benefit so some claimants may be working.”

In that case, the DWP cannot have been “fully transparent”, can it? Transparency would have required the department to separate UC into “in-work” and “out-of-work” claims, and we have no evidence that this has happened. Until it does, neither the ONS nor the rest of us have any way of knowing how many people are unemployed in the UK.

This has been going on for nearly a year, as Universal Credit was rolled out in its first pilot area in April last year. This means that all unemployment statistics since then have been falsified by the DWP and unemployment figures have been higher than claimed.

The Labour Party has tried to paint this as incompetence, but it is wrong to do so.

This was deliberate, premeditated disinformation.

Now the deception has been uncovered, they are unrepentant.

Perhaps someone should remind them that fraud is still a crime.

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