Dr Death: do you think the public’s appetite for an election to get rid of Rishi Sunak might have something to do with his ideas being responsible for killing loads of us during the Covid-19 crisis?
I know – it doesn’t matter what a politicians says; a pollster will always be able to show public opinion opposes it. Let’s just enjoy Rishi Sunak’s discomfort anyway:
Most Britons want a general election by May next year, with little appetite to hold on until January 2025, a new poll shows.
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Weeks after Rishi Sunak said an election is “not what the country wants”, More in Common found voters want a poll sooner rather than later due to high levels of “dissatisfaction with the current state of politics”.
Three in four Britons want an election because they want a change in government, the polling group found.
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.
If you’re entertaining the idea of allowing groups of people to die unnecessarily to maintain an economic system that can’t handle a stoppage to save them, you’re a Nazi. Congratulations.
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza 🏳️🌈🏴 (@TheMendozaWoman) April 1, 2020
“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.
Boris Johnson still has Covid-19 symptoms and may stay inside a fridge | Politics | The Guardian https://t.co/LuLF1qBTFL
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?
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.
The Independent‘s caption for this picture reads: “A little over half of Labour’s 2015 voters say they now support the party led by Jeremy Corbyn”. Gosh. And how many people who didn’t vote Labour now support the party? How many who didn’t vote at all, because the couldn’t support any of the right-wing parties (including Labour at the time) that were on the ballot paper? [Image: Getty].
Why has nobody seen through Andrew Harrop’s transparent and flimsy attempt to trash Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party?
His ‘research’ (if you can call it that) is riddled with false assumptions. In opposition, allow me to offer you this:
Get the picture now?
If you read his piece on the Fabian website, you can drive a truck through the holes in Mr Harrop’s logic.
“The Corbynite left has won the big internal battles but it seems to have no roadmap for winning back lost voters.” And which “lost voters” are these? The Liberal Democrat or Tory voters who had been temporarily won by the silly ‘triangulation’ policies of Blair, Brown and, to an extent, Miliband, that forced nearly five million voters from Labour’s natural constituency out the door? They were never truly Labour voters.
“On Brexit, the greatest political question for two generations, the party’s position is muffled and inconsistent.” Isn’t that because, with a “muffled and inconsistent” position from the Conservatives, there is nothing for Her Majesty’s Opposition to, you know, oppose?
Seriously, Labour did set out a consistent position. Unfortunately, right-wing Labour MPs with their own agenda seem to have taken delight in trying to confuse the electorate about the party’s attitude – with the help of a salivating press that relishes any opportunity to put Labour out of reckoning, especially when the Conservatives are in such poor shape. Keir Starmer has done the party no good at all by speaking out in public without having discussed matters in private.
“Labour remains strong in urban pockets but is faring very badly in by-elections.” This is a flat lie. Labour has been recording double-figure increases in voter percentages at by-elections. Sure, there have been some losses; that’s democracy – you don’t win every seat.
“If the opinion polls are any guide, it could soon cease to be a nationally competitive political force.” The opinion polls aren’t any guide, though. They’ve been consistently wrong for nearly two years.
“In Scotland there is no sign of recovery.” Scottish Labour has a right-winger – Kezia Dugdale – as leader. She is a huge liability, an obstacle to a left-wing Labour resurgence.
“The real threat in marginal seats is that former Labour supporters will scatter in all directions, while the Tories reach out to everyone who voted Leave.” It is misleading to refer only to “former Labour supporters”. If they are “former” supporters because they don’t like the party now, then they were never really Labour supporters at all. And what about people who didn’t support Labour in the last few elections but have returned to the party now? What about those who haven’t been voting at all, because they couldn’t support any of the right-wing parties (including Labour at the time) who were on the ballot paper? Is Mr Harrop ignoring them because they’ll mess up his propaganda piece?
As for Tories chasing “everyone who voted Leave”, perhaps Mr Harrop hasn’t noticed, but far fewer people would vote Leave again if the referendum was re-run, because they have realised that the Leave campaign fed the British public nothing but a series of lies from beginning to end. And has he forgotten that a significant proportion of Tories also voted Remain? Some might stay out of (misplaced) loyalty, but many may be put off by a party that is turning its back on them (if his claim about Tory policy is accurate).
“The Liberal Democrats now have their sights on the party’s 5 million remainers, and in the recent by-elections they’ve won plenty over.” This may be the only relevant point in Harrop’s entire piece. Yes. The Liberal Democrats are enjoying a resurgence – and Labour isn’t doing its job in response. The response is to point out that the Liberal Democrats are a right-wing party that allied with the Tories for five years and pushed through policies that were hugely harmful to the general population of the UK.
Anybody who votes for a Liberal Democrat, based on the party’s position on Brexit, is voting for a lie. The Liberal Democrats cannot affect the UK’s membership of the European Union – but they will happily ally with the Tories again if they get the chance. Tim Farron has said as much.
“To find a way back, Labour must therefore become the party of this cultural ‘middle’.” This is plain – Mr Harrop is advocating a return to the Blairite ‘triangulation’ that reduced Labour to the hollowed-out shell that lost the 2015 general election so badly.
Mr Harrop is completely wrong.
We’re back to Tony Benn’s “weathercocks” and “signposts”. Mr Harrop wants Labour to be a party of “weathercocks”, going any way the wind blows in a desperate bid for votes from people who – according to the assumption – won’t change their opinions. Labour has tried that plan. It is, in the words of Blackadder, “bollocks”.
British politics is at a low ebb and copying other parties is a sure way to self-destruction.
Labour members should be the “signposts” to a new kind of politics. Jeremy Corbyn has clearly expressed his direction of travel. If you need to be reminded, here it is:
Are these words not clear enough?
Sadly, it seems some in the media are keen to give Mr Harrop’s claims a semblance of credibility that they do not deserve.
Look at The Guardian‘s ‘fake news’ piece suggesting John Healey agreed with the Fabian doomsayer. The strapline has it that “John Healey … says report that party could shrink to 150 MPs is ‘warning’”.
Look at what he actually says, further down the piece, and you’ll see that this is an unwarranted misrepresentation. He didn’t support Mr Harrop’s attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s new direction for Labour. Instead, he pointed out: “Quite rightly, the Fabian Society say the roots of Labour’s problems pre-date Jeremy Corbyn. They were there in the 2015 election and in the 2010 election.”
In other words, he is suggesting the opposite of Mr Harrop’s claims.
In the immediate aftermath of the Scottish referendum there are many details of the campaign and the data to examine (expect more here next week). One particularly interesting feature is how the polls carried out during the final weeks of the campaign compare with the actual result, writes Oliver Hawkins in the House of Commons Library blog, Second Reading.
The following chart shows the distribution of polls whose last day of fieldwork fell during the final two months of the campaign. The columns show the number of polls reporting a given percentage of people intending to vote Yes, once undecided voters are excluded. The dotted green line shows the actual percentage of people voting Yes in the referendum. Both the polls and the actual result are rounded to the nearest percentage point.
As the chart shows, the most frequent result for Yes was 47%. Superficially this doesn’t seem too far from the actual result of 45% — it’s within the margin of error for a single poll. But looking at the polls in aggregate, it’s clear there is a systematic difference between the estimated level of support for Yes and the percentage of people who actually voted that way: 23 of the 29 polls conducted in the last two months of the campaign estimated support for Yes at 46% or more.
Of course, what is missing from this analysis is any consideration of the trend in the level of support for Yes during the final two-month period. It’s possible there was a late swing to No. But looking at the 14 polls conducted in the week before polling day, all of them estimated the level of support for Yes at 46% or more, with an average result of 48%. Furthermore, as Lord Ashcroft’s post-referendum poll indicates, most voters made up their minds much earlier than this.
Further analysis of the Scottish referendum results will be published next week here on the blog and in our forthcoming research paper.
In a Guardian interview (quoted by the BBC) he has called for a “time limited contribution” from the richest in society beyond his party’s current policy for a mansion tax – taxes on properties above a certain value.
This is a departure for the Deputy Prime Minister who voted solidly for the millionaires’ income tax cut (from 50 per cent to 45 per cent) in George Osborne’s most recent attempt at a Budget.
Some might say that the turnaround is genuine, that Mr Clegg has rethought his position and, in light of the Coalition’s failing economic plan – which has put government borrowing up by a quarter so far this year – admitted that the Tory plan, to cut public services to the bone and tax the poor for the remainder, simply won’t make the grade.
But then we see that, in the same interview, Mr Clegg said he wants to see the return of David Laws to a cabinet position. Laws quit after having to admit he had claimed £40,000 in Parliamentary allowances to pay his partner’s rent. He spent 18 months on the backbenches. If you or I were to overclaim £40,000 in housing benefit, we would be jailed for six months.
So you can see that Mr Clegg is still a big fan of privilege and the principle that, when you’re in power, you change conditions to help your friends.
That’s why I say: Don’t be fooled by this man. He’s seen the state of the opinion polls; he knows his party could be cut down to a maximum of 10 MPs in 2015, and he wants to stop that from happening. That’s why he’s appealing for the sympathy of those of us on low or middle incomes. He wants us to believe that he identifies with us against the rich. In fact, he’s banking on it, even though he himself is a rich man from a privileged background.
What a morally bankrupt attitude (as I’m sure David Cameron might describe it, since he’s fond of that phrase).
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