Friday 10 April 2020

Scuppering Boris

I feel I’ve been unfairly lumbered with a ‘right-wing’ label. All because of the defensive, pro-Israel stance I take against the BBC’s institutional anti-Israel bias. But I’m not particularly right-wing.

I share some of the sentiment I read on conservative blogs, particularly in relation to the family, but I’m not at all on board with the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ approach, or the ‘hang ‘em and flog ‘em principle that lies behind or goes together with the so-called traditional right-wing philosophy.

Personally, I can boast of an old-fashioned marriage and a brood of kind-hearted, industrious, law-abiding children to show for it. There you are.

I (we) value your engagement and I certainly wouldn't want to discourage or make anyone think they’re not appreciated, but I beg to differ from some of the (in my opinion) prematurely dogmatic below the line responses I’ve read. 

I’d be the first to acknowledge that the lockdown/shutdown strategy is risky and has massive downsides. As someone whose particular circumstances have, over the years, had a habit of slipping through all manner of Rishi-type safety nets, I still say it’s impossible to calculate a final tally while we’re in the midst of the crisis. 

Even when it’s all over, the wisdom of adopting a strategy (albeit belatedly) that depends on 100% co-operation will be open to interpretation and politicisation. For now, I think that dogmatically expressed dissent of the Peter Hitchens variety recklessly ‘rocks the boat’ and sabotages the journey, holes the ship below the waterline and other nautical metaphors. “Scupper” is the word I’m looking for.

The police’s interpretation of the rules is another matter. Some of the things we’re expected to go along with are utterly illogical in practice. Our regular, pre-lockdown ‘walk’ is a short drive away. It’s a vast open space where you rarely see another soul. The edict that one mustn’t ‘drive to walk’ is effectively a sledgehammer to crack a nut -  just because some people drove miles and miles for their exercise, potentially causing traffic-related incidents and wasting resources. Tough nooks. (we used to say at our school) So we suck it up and don’t go there any more.

Then there’s the shopping conundrum. How can you shop infrequently when you’re not allowed to buy sufficient goods to tide yourself over for more than a day or two?  But for the potential ‘good of the cause’, we do our best, like good boys and girls (and all genders in between.)  Let’s hope someone finds a vaccine or a treatment PDQ. 


  1. The thing is, Sue, when it comes to the Lockdown issue, you aren't balancing negatives versus positives, you are (a) balancing negatives versus negatives and (b) having to ask the question "Are total lockdowns on balance better than a sensible suite of Swedish style measures?".

    Sweden's deaths per million are 35% lower than the UK's. They don't have a total lockdown. We do. Other countries without total lockdowns e.g. South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan have all done much better than countries like France, Italy and Spain, or indeed the UK.

    Also, this is an untried policy - it's an innovation. There is no evidence to go on - we are engaged in a giant experiment. But already doctors are pointing to a rising death toll among children with health issues and adults too, where people are having appointments cancelled or are unwilling to go to the GP or hospital. The Lockdown atmosphere generates unnecessary fear, leading people to make bad health choices. We don't know what the toll on mental health and physical health is yet either.

    Certainly if we crash our economy and become poorer that will have an effect on our ability to cure the sick and protect the vulnerable.

    1. I understand why you see Swedish style measures as ‘sensible’, and I do see the logic of the rationale you’ve been articulating, but I still believe it’s too soon to be as sure as you seem to be. And risky.

      I think it’s impossible to evaluate the comparative merits of one negative strategy against another while we’re still in the midst of the crisis with no clear light at the end of the tunnel.

      Meanwhile, the number of deaths stack up alarmingly. We really have little option other than to give the Lockdown strategy a chance. That’s how I feel.

    2. I would take a look at the latest ONS mortatlity figures. Take this for instance:

      "In Week 13, 18.8% of all deaths mentioned “Influenza or Pneumonia”, COVID-19, or both. In comparison, for the five-year average, 19.6% of deaths mentioned “Influenza and Pneumonia”."

      So for the week ending 27 March, Covid-19 with other respiratory infections had still not reached the average percentage for respiratory infection deaths.

      One way of interpreting those figures is that most of the people who die "with" or "from" Covid-19 would have died from respiratory disease arising from other pathogens in a "normal" year.

      It's true that we now appear to be moving into excess mortality against the five year average in Week 13 but, it's swings and roundabouts...this is after we've had nine weeks of mortality rates being below the average - that's probably "saved" something like 8000 lives.

      We can be sure that a prolonged Lockdown will cause deaths - thousands already in all likelihood, through people being deprived of exercise, livelihoods, and social contact, through lack of Primary Care, through fear of attending GPs or hospital A&Es and through negative mental health effects.

  2. Not saying I believe this projection any more than any other, but it has to be weighed - 150,000 people could as a direct result of the effects of the Lockdown:

    1. Okay, but I don’t think anyone could argue against weighing up any projection you care to mention - and don’t you agree that basing a policy (or a change of direction) on “could”, “might” and “possibly” seems pointless under the circumstances?

    2. No. I think it's vital we begin the return to normality as soon as possible. Most people are living in cloud cuckoo land at the moment thinking they are being protected against the virus (despite the evidence to the contrary) and suffering no major negative economic consequences.

      If we lose 10% of GDP from a one month lockdown, that will be costing us £9 billion per day in lost output. If, as I fear, it's more like 20%, that's £18 billion per day. These figures really aren't sustainable, in terms of the prosperity we're used to. The effects long term would be extremely negative.

      The Government's current policy is based entirely on "could", "might" and "possibly". In particular it was based on Prof Ferguson projections that could possibly be 250,000 deaths in the UK.

      The evidence that total national lockdowns aren't working is everywhere. Take France - it started its lockdown on 17 March. 24 days later, new cases are still running at over 7000 per day and new daily deaths are nearly 1000. That was not supposed to be what should happen!

  3. Completely agree with you, Sue.

  4. Isn't the current policy based on “could”, “might” and “possibly”?

    At the moment lots of things aren't being done. Some may not be essential but many will become essential. I feel we may well be running on reserves that will eventually be exhausted. That isn't “could”, “might” and “possibly”, it is a certainty.

    1. I agree can't run a complex advanced society on an empty economic tank.
      We can coast on government borrowing for maybe a couple of months but the economic damage is cumulative, the longer things go on, the more confidence will crumble. The worst aspect is that even after a lockdown you could easily have a fresh surge in cases. Then what? More lockdown? That would be insane.

      I heard a report recently that the UK dairy farming industry is being hit hard...reduced orders from the hospitality sector and disrupted infrastructure (milk collections cancelled).

      The way forward is:

      1. Ensuring we have all the emergency facilities, staff and equipment that can be mobilised in the event of further case surges.

      2. Reopening of schools, universities, shops and offices, plus all workplaces.

      3. A national effort to identify who has had the virus and who hasn't, beginning with medical and key workers.

      4. Keep in place protective arrangements for the elderly and vulnerable.

      5. Keep in place social distancing and hygiene measures for shops.

      6. Ensure that people with even mild cold symptoms self-isolate.

      7. Gradual relaxation of controls. Move first to Sweden's max of 50 for gatherings. Gradually relax travel restrictions.

      8. In parallel plough huge funds into treatment and vaccine research.

  5. The police go out in pairs or threes close together... as usual the rules they want us to obey they don't obey themselves. Why are they going out in pairs which reduces the patrol coverage by 50%? Policemen when I was a lad did their beat on their own, and knew the people in their area. The main aim of the Police was to deter crime which has been lost as now they react to some crimes and ignore anything considered "minor" like burglary, theft, shoplifting, possession of drugs, most motoring offences.

    As usual the plods do not set a good example. Resources seem to be available to patrol areas which haven't seen a patrol for years.

    1. An obvious downside of the pairing-up is that they then become less approachable, which then diminishes any value that their presence in the community might have.
      As far as the resumption of patrol activity is concerned, it's a fair bet that it's simply driven by the need to maintain social distancing around the various mega-stations that the police inhabit these days.

      (David Copperfield's book, "Wasting Police Time", was a real eye-opener as the the life of a police officer. Appropriately, the author went off to become a police officer in Canada and was then able to compare and contrast the way that both forces were managed.)

  6. Personally Sue I think you should consider driving to your usual walking place and being prepared to defend your actions if questioned by plod. These rules need to be interpreted purposively and with common sense and presumably you would be saying that the short drive enabled you to socially distance more successfully. I say this with caution though because I am in the fortunate position of being able to walk and distance easily from my home.

    1. Am considering it! Soon we’ll all be driven to it. (Boom boom.)

  7. "I share some of the sentiment I read on conservative blogs, particularly in relation to the family, but I’m not at all on board with the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ approach, or the ‘hang ‘em and flog ‘em principle that lies behind or goes together with the so-called traditional right-wing philosophy."

    What you say as "traditional right-wing philosophy" has nothing to do with right-wing. It's authoritarian and to assign it as you do shows that you too have been infected. Don't worry too much we are all affected by this lazy language. But I did expect better from you.

    1. Thank you for your critique.
      Guilty of using imprecise language, I grant you. Perhaps a bit lazy to assume ‘right-wing’ necessarily involves authoritarian, disciplinarian and reactionary attitudes and it was careless to assume readers would ‘know what I mean’.

      Anyway, I’m flattered that you had high expectations of me, at least. ;-)

    2. I agree with Sue...first time round...

      Historically I think the association between child-centred education (beginning with Rousseau) and the Left, and harsh school discipline (often with militaristic elements, drill and so on) with the Right is broadly correct.

      Likewise the Left have always been associated strongly with prison reform and the Right with retributive justice.

      These things have shifted in recent decades but there is certainly a historical pattern which Sue is referencing I would say.

      I would say the area of education is one where the Left have probably been on their strongest ground. Drill education was never very successful at doing anything more than inculcate a rudimentary knowledge base.

    3. "Right wing" is now the liberal's pejorative sneering label for what used to be mainstream basically Christian values of 75 years ago, whether one was a humanist, a Labour voter (but not a communist), or Conservative voter. Being honest, decent, and law abiding were values common to all.

      The 1960s saw the decline (already in some sections of society) of what used to be called "standards" and the rot really set in in the last couple of decades of the last century. Sadly what was "normal" is now remarkable... like celebrating 25 or 50 years of marriage, like believing in God and worshipping Him, like being honest even if it means personal loss or sacrifice.

  8. I am not a huge fan of vaccination and think the flu vaccine might have created fertile ground for a new coronavirus to develop. Generally we have become "vaccine happy" - reaching for the vax before the case is properly made. Big Pharma makes billions, probably tens of billions out of our vaccine culture.

    That said, vaccinations have their uses and have their place. It appears that the death rate from Covid-19 in countries with BCG vaccination is something like 6 times less than in those without it.

    We should be looking at this seriously. It might be a means to protect front line health staff and also to provide for a safe return to work more generally if people want to receive the vaccination voluntarily.


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