Sunday 29 March 2020

Emergency measure

Opining on the way the government is handling this pandemic is above my paygrade. How do I know which experts are the stablest geniuses? 

We’re seeing a stream of contradictory and confusing advice. For example, I can’t drive a short distance to take my normal daily walk in a virtually deserted open space, despite the fact that it’s impossible to stick to the requisite social distancing if my allotted hour’s exercise must be taken in my immediate vicinity. Andrew Marr was on the case this morning, and it seems that the ‘logic’ for this rule is the possibility of having a driving accident which could divert essential resources from the virus.  

However, I assume we can drive to the supermarket. Which creates another contradiction. Can we confine our shopping to the ‘immediate needs’ principle, while going out shopping as infrequently as possible? Surely it’s one or t’other. It can’t really be both.

The Labour Party’s newfound cry for ‘unity’ seems absurd in the light of their recent electoral disaster. They behave as if their support for the government is some sort of altruistic act.  From such a position of weakness, it’s ludicrous for the Labour Party to pretend that supporting the government amounts to a concession on their part.

As for Jeremy Corbyn’s delusional assertion that Labour’s economic policies were right all along, well, the illogicality of that apples-and-pears comparison shows that his grasp on reality has departed. If it was ever there in the first place. It’s beyond satire. “Of course, I’m a human, (!) of course I make mistakes”. 

Some Labour MPs can’t put their destructive criticism and accusations of governmental negligence on the back-burner. Negativity shines through all those cries for unity and togetherness. 

The Doctor

Take Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is currently doing night-shifts in an NHS hospital. She couldn’t resist complaining to Sophy Ridge about the government’s failure to provide adequate PPE for ‘the front line’. Sure, that’s a genuine cause for concern, but wouldn’t it be more productive for the BBC  and the media in general to investigate the reason for any alleged delays rather than just endlessly disseminate criticism of the government. 

They could send Greg Wallace to visit-a-factory-in-a-hairnet to find out if something in particular is holding things up.  One of their investigative reporters could ferret out the source of blockages twixt manufacturer and recipient. Perhaps un-sequester John Sweeney for the task? 

The Sweeney

I’ve learnt a new word: Furlough: ‘leave of absence, especially that granted to a member of the services or a missionary’ Am I the only person who hadn’t heard of the word before this crisis, and might something similar be applied, in this emergency, to the BBC?


  1. i had heard the word furlough but had (wrongly?) assumed it meant a break for soldiers from fighting in a war.

    1. Not wrongly, as far as I'm concerned.

  2. I don't like the 'above my paygrade' expression, that can be used by every deputy-despot downwards to justify doing nothing. It also implies that only the 'great and good' know the answers when in reality we are in unknown territory.

    I too am curious about the use of 'furlough', a word that I had only heard before by 'dog-faced pony soldiers' in the US Cavalry!

    The travel restrictions don't make much sense either, traffic accidents aren't that common and with fewer people on the roads the risk should go down.

    I can't help but think that we are going to come unstuck soon as to a degree everyone's activity has a small part to play in running a country. Last week Jeremy Vine was telling a caller that delivering furniture and paper clips wasn't 'vital', well it might be if they had to set up a regional government centre in a hurry or if the lorry was needed urgently for something else but was full of undelivered furniture and paper clips.

    The only thing that is certain at the moment is if there is a negative that can be turned into a demoralising story they will be on it!

  3. Yes...John Sweeney is now an official NHS Volunteer. The thought of a masked Sweeney bearing down on you being the last thing you might see on this good Earth is truly terrifying!

    "How do I know which experts are the stablest geniuses?" Well of course we can never be sure but it is vital we apply our own judgement otherwise we might otherwise sell off our birthright, our liberty, on the say-so of a charlatan or an incompetent or an academic from Imperial College.

    I would say apply common sense. Is coronavirus uniquely deadly? No. Except in some parts of Italy and possibly Spain the death rate is no more than you would expect from any coronavirus respiratory disease. Is total mass lockdown the only way to deal with the disease? No - lots of countries like Sweden, S Korea and Japan have dealt with it successfully. Will the total mass lockdown cause deaths? Yes - thousands, possibly tens of thousands through loneliness, stress, missed hospital appointments, people not going to their GPs, and older people standing in cold and wet weather waiting to get into shops.

    Just ask logical questions of the evidence - that's all you have to do.

  4. BBC R4 News at 6 pm was a loop of carping criticism for alleged government failures to adequately support FRONTLINE doctors, nurse, care workers and so on. It's politically driven hypocrisy on stilts.

    1. But it is a fact, isn't it? The Government have had all the time in the world to produce a proper Pandemic Plan and after the 2009 flu epidemic, the Ebola outbreak and the Novochik attacks of 2017 the need for an effective plan was clear. Despite the fact they had a nominal "Pandemic Plan" once the pandemic came, they found they had no adequate arrangements in place for mechanical ventilators, PPE, mass testing or emergency hospital beds. Why? They are the government and together with the NHS and Civil Service they are have to take responsiblity for these failures. This isn't being wise after the event: everyone including Government knew about the pandemic risk and the need to plan for it.

      Given the front line staff's lives are on the line, literally, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me for the media to air these complaints and inadequacies. I don't see the hypocrisy.

    2. It's hypocrisy because it's politically-driven. I guarantee that if we had a soft-left Labour Government the BBC would be full of supportive items about the heroic efforts of Labour ministers. What we have is carping and second guessing of everything Boris or Trump do; compared to no criticisms of Macron, Merkel, Sweden or China. It's not constructive at all.

      Further I think you fall into the BBC mindset that "GOVERNMENT" should prepare for and execute everything and for all possible outcomes. It's not affordable. Especially since we have been living under Austerity (supposedly) because Labour spent all the money prior to 2009.
      The BBC is part of the problem as it has clamoured for more tax money to be directed at every claimant identity group they can fit into a 3 hour Today program. This pressures whatever money there is to go to quell the immediate not contingencies that may never happen.

    3. Well I wouldn't disagree with you on that - the political bias for sure. Another one they have made a criticism-free zone is the Netherlands. They've always like the Netherlands - very much what the BBC would like to make the UK...solidly pro-EU, socially v. liberal, open door migration, Islamofriendly, bicycling monarchy. So they won't dwell on the fact that the Netherlands has the third worst outbreak in Europe.

      However, if we can't criticise the Government even in a crisis, there's no point in having a democracy. We might as well just follow the
      "the correct path of Chairman Xi".

      I am not sure what a Government is for if it's not to deal with big crises. Our government planned for WW2. I expect them to plan for Pandemics and they claim to have had a Pandemic Plan. The problem doesn't lie in my expectations or the Government's understanding of its role - it lies in its complete incompetence in planning for warehousing of ventilators, PPE, testing, and emergency hospital facilities. It's pretty clear that no effective planning was undertaken. I'd say that's borderline criminal negligence. It meant we had no viable alternative to something like a lockdown with all the calamitous impact on our economy, our liberty and our democracy.

    4. The exercise of pouring unlimited funds being into the NHS will, I fear, be repeated with vastly increased budgets for police, local authorities, civil service, schools and universities.Employees rights within these publicly funded sectors will be orotected and we can expect salaries, pensions and holiday entitlements to escalate as a big 'thank you' to the angels and heroes who will have seen us through the virus outbreak.

      How does the private sector, with their now-threatened wealth, react? As in the days of Labour governments of the 1970s, capital, accompanied by a latter day brain drain, will find a haven away from the unavoidable high taxes that will be imposed.

  5. If we are going into full emergency powers, a government commissioner serving D notices on the bbc and vetting journalists would be useful cold war history to copy.

    1. The vetting now would be to ensure the journalist was prepared to toe the line and agree the total mass lockdown are wonderful things that stop Coronavirus when plainly they are not.


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