Richard Horton has been criticising Tory government policy on Covid-19 since at least January.
And he’d know his subject, being the editor of that most distinguished of medical journals, The Lancet.
Shall we have a quick shufti at a few of his points? Here:
He lambasts the management of the virus as “the greatest science policy failure for a generation”, attacks the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) for becoming “the public relations wing of a government that had failed its people”, calls out the medical Royal Colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Public Health England (PHE) for not reinforcing the World Health Organization’s public health emergency warning back in February, and damns the UK’s response as “slow, complacent and flat-footed”, revealing a “glaringly unprepared” government and a “broken system of obsequious politico-scientific complicity”.
The series of five academic papers the journal published in late January first describing the novel coronavirus in disturbing detail went unheeded. “In several of the papers they talked about the importance of personal protective equipment and the importance of testing, the importance of avoiding mass gatherings, the importance of considering school closure, the importance of lockdowns. All of the things that have happened in the last three months here, they’re all in those five papers.”
He still can’t understand why the government’s scientific advisers didn’t consult their counterparts in China.
From the published reports of Sage meetings, … scientists were “trying to be as sensitive to economic issues as they were to health issues”. That, he says, “is a dangerous place to be” because it compromises the ability of the advisory group to protect health.
The book, The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again, is only 140 pages long so it came as quite a surprise that even the e-book edition costs £9.99.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
“Tell the truth”: The ‘pink boat’ at Oxford Circus became a symbol of the Extinction Rebellion protest.
It turns out Michael Gove didn’t “get the message” after all.
The nation’s Environment Secretary has done nothing to respond to the environmental catastrophe highlighted by the Extinction Rebellion protests in London over the last two weeks.
Instead it has fallen to Jeremy Corbyn – much-maligned by dimwits – to bring the matter to Parliament for a vote.
I was talking about this issue with a friend last week, and he said that people here in the United Kingdom think they are insulated from climate crisis – that we live in a society that is well-enough ordered that it can survive an emergency. That they didn’t “get the message” either.
Because if the climate emergency goes much further, supplies of food will break down. Crops will fail; even more animals will die (half of the world’s species have already gone, within This Writer’s lifetime).
Even here in the UK, my friend said, people will be fighting each other on the streets for the last precious morsels of food.
That’s if this goes too far.
The message to humanity is simple: Change or die.
But people like Mr Gove, and the big business interests he prefers to represent instead of the people who elected him, still need to “get the message”.
Perhaps it is time to put the “rebellion” into the name of Extinction Rebellion.
Perhaps it is time to make a list of the people who are perpetuating the climate catastrophe; the people responsible for the planet’s sixth extinction event (which is what we’re going through right now). They are the worst mass-murderers in history so we really do need to record their names in our history books.
And perhaps it is time to put them up against a wall and put the message to them in the bluntest, most immediate terms: “Change or die.”
I know. It’s an unusual comment for This Writer. Usually I am the strongest advocate of peaceful methods. But “Change or die” – right?
Perhaps we could start with Mr Gove.
Labour will force a vote on Wednesday to try to make the UK the world’s first country to declare a climate emergency.
Senior party figures confirmed they will use their opposition day in the Commons to move the environment to the top of the agenda.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Extinction Rebellion protests in London and other cities, in which 1,100 were arrested, had been a “wake up call” and he would urge the Government to act.
He said: “Only concerted government intervention through a Green Industrial Revolution can deliver this scale of change. We can and will harness the power of new technologies for social and environmental justice.”
Extra: Here are a few more names to add to the list – the leaders of the company that has been given oil-drilling rights in the Golan Heights by Israel, which has been illegally occupying this part of Syria for decades.
Here they are:
This lot are the true danger to our planet and civilised society. Not immigrants Not socialism Not Muslims. Vote @UKLabour if you want a leader with the guts to stand to to Big Business and promote world peace.#VoteLabourMay2pic.twitter.com/RLFGJqllwu
—Stefano Pessina: When you consider all the tax he has managed to avoid paying, he’s got a lot of reasons to smile.
Why should any of us pay attention to Stefano Pessina? He reckons Ed Miliband’s plan for government would be “not helpful” – but isn’t it even less helpful that he’s the acting chief executive of a major tax-avoiding company whose head office is a post office box in a tax haven?
Mr Miliband’s campaigns against high levels of executive pay and “predatory” capitalists, his plans to restore the 50p top rate of income tax, his pledge of a “mansion tax” on homes worth more than £2 million and promise to freeze energy companies’ prices for 20 months have been described by Mr Pessina as “not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end it probably won’t be helpful for them”.
Gosh. Labour’s business spokesman, Chukka Umunna put him right in his place with this response: “It is important that the voice of business is heard during this General Election campaign, not least on Europe.
“But the British people and British businesses will draw their own conclusions when those who don’t live here, don’t pay tax in this country and lead firms that reportedly avoid making a fair contribution in what they pay purport to know what is in Britain’s best interests” [all boldings and emphases mine].
Mr Pessina, you see, took over Boots (more accurately Alliance Boots) in 2007, alongside US private equity manager Kohlberg Kravis Read. Between 2010 and 2012, the company’s tax bill – to all of the countries in which it operates put together – totalled £156 million, against pre-tax profits of £1.8bn – an effective rate of just nine per cent (according to Richard Brooks in The Great Tax Robbery, p.140).
It seems to this writer that Mr Pessina is the one who is “not helpful” for the country.
Columnist Jill Filipovic hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “I can already hear your objections: ‘But the area under my boobs doesn’t stink!’ or ‘What kind of marketing genius not only came up with the term “swoob,” but actually thought half the world’s population might be dumb enough to buy into it?’ or simply, ‘This is a dumb product aimed at inventing an insecurity and then claiming to cure it.’
“You would be correct on all three points.
“In fact, inventing problems with women’s bodies and then offering a cure – if you pay up – is the primary purpose of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry.”
The simple fact is that you don’t really need to worry about smells down there – a good old soapy flannel will cure any such problems.
That’s not the point, though. The aim is to get you thinking about it and devoting your energy to it, rather than to other matters.
Now let’s translate that to politics.
We already know that all the scaremongering about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants storming the country from January 1 was a crock. That bastion of good statistics, The Now Show, told us last week that the total number of Bulgarian immigrants in the last couple of weeks was “around two dozen so far”, according to their ambassador. In the first three months after our borders were opened to Croatians, 174 turned up.
Yet the government wanted you to believe they would flood our immigration service in their millions, “taking benefits and yet simultaneously also taking all the jobs”.
My use of language such as “storming” and “flood” is not accidental. By far the more serious threat to the UK in the early days of 2014 was the weather – and, guess what, not only was the government unprepared for the ferocity of the storms that swept our islands, the Coalition was in fact in the process of cutting funding for flood defence.
This would have gone unnoticed if the weather had behaved itself, because we would all have been distracted by the single Romanian immigrant who was ensnared by Keith Vaz in a ring of TV cameras at Heathrow Airport.
Now the Tories are telling us that our take-home pay is finally on the rise for all but the top 10 per cent of earners, with the rest of us seeing our wages rise by at least 2.5 per cent.
The government made its claims (up) by taking into account only cuts to income tax and national insurance, using data leading up to April last year, according to the BBC News website.
“The data used … takes no account of the large benefit cuts introduced by the coalition, such as the real-terms cut in child benefit, the uprating of benefits in line with CPI inflation rather than RPI, and the cuts to tax credits,” writes the Statesman‘s George Eaton.”
He also pointed out that other major cuts such as the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, and the 10 per cent cut in council tax support were introduced after April 2013 and were not included in the Coalition figures.
Once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that almost all families are worse off – and the Coalition also appears to have forgotten the five million low-paid workers who don’t earn enough to benefit from the increase in the personal allowance.
Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock compounded the mistake in an exchange on Twitter with Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Asked why his analysis “ignores more than four million people in work (the self-employed)”, Mr Hancock tweeted: “Analysis based on ONS ASHE survey of household earnings data”.
Wrong – as Mr Portes was quick to show: “Don’t you know the difference between household and individual earnings?”
Apparently not. ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) is a survey of employed individuals using their National Insurance numbers – not of households or the self-employed.
So the Coalition – and particularly the Tories – were trying to make us all feel good about the amount we earn.
That’s the distraction. What are we supposed to be ignoring?
Or is it the growing threat of a rise in interest rates, which may be triggered when official unemployment figures – which have been fiddled by increased sanctions on jobseekers, rigged reassessments of benefit claimants, a new scheme to increase the number of people and time spent on Workfare, and the fake economic upturn created by George Osborne’s housing bubble – drop to seven per cent?
It seems possible that the government – especially the Tory part of it – would want to keep people from considering the implications of an interest rate rise that is based on false figures.
As Vox Political commenter Jonathan Wilson wrote yesterday: “If the BOE bases its decisions on incorrect manipulated data that presents a false ‘good news’ analysis then potentially it could do something based on it that would have catastrophic consequences.
“For example if its unemployment rate test is reached, and wages were going up by X per cent against a Y per cent inflation rate which predicted that an interest rate rise of Z per cent would have no general effect and not impact on house prices nor significantly increase repossessions (when X per cent is over-inflated by the top 1 per cent of earners, Y per cent is unrealistically low due to, say, the 50 quid green reduction and/or shops massively discounting to inflate purchases/turnover and not profit) and when it does, instead of tapping on the breaks lightly it slams the gears into reverse while still traveling forward… repossessions go up hugely, house prices suffer a major downward re-evaluation (due to tens of thousands of repossessions hitting the auction rooms) debt rates hit the roof, people stop buying white goods and make do with last year’s iPad/phone/tv/sofa, major retail goes tits up, Amazon goes to the wall, the delivery market and post collapses… etc etc.
“And all because the government fiddled the figures.”
Perhaps Mr Cameron doesn’t want us thinking about that when we could be deodorising our breasts instead.
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