A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

What a statue’s flub into Bristol harbour tells us about the authoritarian Left – a special guest post by Brendan O’ Rawmaish

I have witnessed some rum goings-on in my time, but seeing an innocent statue being flubbed into Bristol’s harbour finally takes the giddy aunt.

A culture war has exploded onto the streets of this once normal country. Those of us who have spent every single day – of the past forty years – warning that Great Britain’s moral fibre was imperilled, now stand fully vindicated.

Admittedly, it’s just the one statue thus far – but that, by wide agreement, is a number which can only increase.

I worry about where we are headed, as a society. Removing memorials erected to honour our nation’s slave-owners is a surefire slippery slope towards tyranny. As George Orwell once prophesied “you know, we shouldn’t just go around doing things”. Or words to that effect, at any rate.

Soon enough our cities won’t be worth living in.

That is why I – along with several other veterans, of largely forgotten wars – have been left with no choice but to devote this week’s neighbourhood watch session to forming a protective ring around the local statue of 19th Century author, George Eliot. I haven’t actually read any of his books – but I hear good things, mostly. So I am proud to do my stint.

Some statue defenders have been a bit uncouth, I will concede – and nobody wants that (the lack of public urinals has much to answer for, I’d venture); but their behaviour was hardly even unlawful. And their patriotism is unimpeachable – even if it is accompanied with the odd spot of robust and unfortunate language. Their service has been invaluable.

It is important to remember Britain’s history. Without effigies of plantation-owners and slave-traders, embellishing our nation’s streets, and adorning buildings, how are we supposed to remember that we generously abolished enslavement? Meaning that we can look back on the whole period with great pride.

It is thanks to Britain that slavery doesn’t exist anymore. Well, I mean it does – but only for making things like cellphones, and trainers, and harvesting food and such like. Along with preparing clothes, and providing the odd gentleman’s moment of satisfaction. Keeping prices very, very low for all of us, in the process. Let us not stray from the point, however.

You cannot judge the past by the standards of today.

It’s all well and good to say that the likes of Colston profited from the forced labour of others, and that this was quite wrong – but that was before slavery was known to be bad. Sure, lots of people opposed the slave-trade at the time, and said it wasn’t good; but they weren’t the ones whose wealth depended on it. So, it’s impossible to say they were being fair-minded.

And that is the key thing here: being fair-minded. We were once a tolerant country – and I would like to see it remain that way. Which is why anyone who looks prone to disrespecting a statue, or the plinth it stands upon, should be locked up forthwith – for the sake of freedom.

Thankfully Britain’s government has taken the whole matter firmly in hand – opting to crack down, hard, from the outset. Quite right, too. If the only way to defeat the authoritarianism of the Left is to intern them in re-education camps, then so be it, I say.

And far from being a “risible vow to defeat yet another imaginary threat”, as some have suggested, the Prime Minister’s pledge to protect war memorials from desecration could not be more timely.

It is important to remember those who were conscripted, and made to serve – at great cost in human life; by previous British governments. A lesson in history, that we would all do well to take on board. So, keep them in their place, I say. Keep them in their place.

 

 

 

 

Brendan O’ Rawmaish is the editor of Fecked! magazine, and an author. His book ‘Woke McCarthyism: keep an open mind, or else’ is set to be published in Autumn 2020.

 

Class war: schools must re-open. It’s for the best, even if everyone dies.

If you ask me – which I am shocked to note, no-one has – schools must re-open, forthwith, for the good of our nation’s children. Every week that goes by, they are missing out on class – and this may cause very real and lasting damage.

I do not say this for my own benefit. I’m merely concerned about the personal well-being of the contemptible little blighters who plague my neighbourhood. I simply cannot bear the thought of them going without – like I had to. It did me no harm, of course – but my generation were blessed with moral fibre, unlike today’s lot.

Many have lost out on years of education, during the past two months. And yes, students and school staff may catch this dreaded virus – and even die, for all I know. But isn’t that all part of growing up? I have lost count of the times it happened to me.

What recalcitrant teachers need to embrace is the spirit of the Blitz. Not the crime wave which ensued during the blackout – or that whole communist insurgency/Savoy Hotel thing (most unruly); but the good part. The part were everything worked out really well – and proved that Britain was the best country, after all. With the flags to prove it.

This is precisely the sort of thing that schools should teach; and there has never been a better time to learn life’s most important lessons. Not trendy lefty concerns – like grievance-based geography; but good old-fashioned common sense, and time-tested values.

Namely, everything is just the way it is for good reason – and if anyone tries to change things, it won’t work; so it’s better not to try at all. Then simply back this up with a well-rounded curriculum: of patriotism, gumption, and dinosaurs.

Speaking of which, so-called teaching personnel would do well to consider the example of true education professionals – such as Reverend Steve Chalke; who justly opines that schools need to restart, as soon as possible, for the benefit of poor children everywhere.

And this is a man of God speaking. The kind of selfless fellow, whose every thought lies with helping the oppressed, and the downtrodden. The fact that his company makes £174 million off the back of state schools is surely the opposite of uppermost in his mind.

I cannot imagine how cynical somebody must be to think that a member of the clergy – a representative of our Lord in Heaven, no less – might care rather more for the material life, than the spiritual one!

Nor is the good Reverend alone. Why, even a former education secretary, Lord Blunkett, and his colleague Lord Adonis, have said that teachers should do the right thing – think of students, rather than their own safety. And re-open schools, promptly [1].

And these chaps are members of the Labour Party: the party of workers and unions. Admittedly, they make a healthy profit out of the school system, whose privatisation they oversaw; but I cannot imagine for one moment that politicians – peers of the realm – would value money more than the well-being of others. I find the very idea outrageous!

I am glad to be joined on that score by another schools minister of yore – Michael Gove. Whose concern, likewise, is purely with the needs of disadvantaged children; and not the financial margins of private companies whose takeover of schools he engineered (the odd discrepancy arising therein is nobody’s business – so let us leave it unmentioned here) [2].

Mr Gove has entirely the correct attitude towards experts, as well, if I may say so. Doctors have suggested that returning to schools is medically unsound, at present; but if what I read on some website or another is anything to go by, the scientific advice is simply not scientific.

In fact, a brisk review of The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Express, The Times, and The Telegraph, reveals that commentators are all of one mind on this issue: it is perfectly safe to re-open schools, no matter how dangerous it may be.

And who are we to trust, precisely? Specialists, who’ve taken years to attain their current level of know-how? Or media columnists, who speak no less authoritatively, without possessing any expertise, whatsoever? The answer seems self-evident to me.

And that is not my only encounter with the patent, this week. The current Education Minister, Gavin Williamson, is determined to re-open schools,  for the sake of “the poorest children, the most disadvantaged children, the children who do not always have support they need at home”, who “will be the ones who will fall furthest behind” [3].

The compassion of Mr Williamson is conspicuous. I mean, it’s not as if he is in a position to help the needy children, he cares about so dearly. Williamson, and his colleagues, are constrained by circumstance.

You see, once their government had ruled-out funding things properly, they were left with no choice but to reduce support for students; and remove social security from parents on low-incomes.

Even Williamson himself voted to reduce child benefit, end education maintenance allowance, and impoverish disabled children. It must have rent his heart fair in twain, doing all of this, given his voluble concern on behalf of the exact same people!

Likewise, free school meals are a vital form of support for many pupils on low incomes. Or at least they had been, until Mr Williamson decided to curtail them. But it’s the thought that counts, surely? Particularly when those doing the thinking are so unused to it.

So let us ensure that children of poor families return to school – no matter the risks to their long-term health. So that Members of Parliament, and company executives, can get back to business as usual. Priming students for their future roles in society, thereby.

*

Notes

[1] A further ex-education minister, now demanding the re-opening of schools, is Alan Johnson: whose number one concern at present is, as he attests, children’s education. Particularly that of the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Many of whom are currently stuck indoors, as they rely on school playing fields for exercise and recreation.

I mean, it’s a pity so many school fields were sold off by Mr Johnson and co.; but that does not detract from the general point.

Similarly, it is a testament to the length and breadth of Mr Johnson’s foresight that he was a progenitor of private finance initiatives taking hold in schools. And elsewhere, of course. While schools and hospitals fell into debt and disrepair as a consequence of these policies, Johnson has profited from them personally. Striking a perfect balance, as I’m sure he would agree.

It would be remiss not to suggest there was something of a conflict between his support for reducing school-teachers’ salaries, via an ongoing pay-freeze, and his professed concern for education; but that could be weighed against the lucrative speakers’ fees he personally commands. Another faultless equilibrium.

[2] Re-opening schools is a cross-party concern: even the former Conservative Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has been demanding that, with regard to teachers and students, we should send them back. Rudd has previous form on putting that sentiment into practice, with certain consequences arising; but let us not digress.

Of note, the Children’s Commissioner for England – Anne Longfield – upbraided the government and teaching unions for their impasse over safety. Longfield urged both parties to stop squabbling, resolve their differences; and find a way to open schools as soon as possible.

They could well follow Longfield’s own example, in my opinion. In 2015, Longfield’s deputy, Sue Berelowitz, took voluntary redundancy, and received a severance package worth £134,000. Longfield then re-hired the same person to work as a consultant, for c. £1,000 per day.

It is the most striking of coincidences, however, that this scandal made headlines in governmentsupporting newspapers, shortly after Berelowitz had published a report, criticising the government’s own failings.

That’s how grown-ups in politics resolve matters properly.

[3] Against the left-wing bias of public servants wanting to avoid contracting fatal diseases, I would ask people to consider the government’s assurances that nothing bad will happen.

The government got lockdown-implementation wrong, true. They got the provision of Personal Protective Equipment wrong as well, granted. And the testing/tracing scheme didn’t work out quite as planned; or at all, for that matter. Nor did their vow to create sufficient ventilators materialise. They got returning hospital patients to care homes wrong, also; and to top it all off, we have the second highest Covid death-toll in the world.

But they have to get something right eventually, surely?

Why have the right-wing press doxxed Neil Ferguson?

To answer the question, there are two likely reasons. One is to divert public attention away from the fact Britain has recorded the highest number of fatalities among European countries.

This unwanted record was broken on 5th May 2020. Ferguson’s trysts happened during March and April. Yet, the Telegraph newspaper broke the story more than a month later – on the same day that incriminating headlines for the government seemed imminent [1].

The following morning, what dominated the front-covers of rightwing newspapers was not news of Britain having the worst Coronavirus death-toll in Europe, but of Ferguson’s resignation:

 

There is another probable reason, however, as unwittingly indicated by the front-cover of the Times:

 

The government is presently drafting the next phase of its response to the Covid crisis. This involves forcing workless people into poverty, and pressuring them to seek jobs which do not currently exist; irrespective of any harm that may lead to.

It is thereby indistinguishable from the welfare policies, implemented by the Conservatives since 2010 – which did not begin then, either. Draconian benefit cuts were undertaken by the Coalition government: suffering and deaths followed. How could the outcome be any different in the midst of a pandemic?

The nascent policies are identical – so is the rhetoric of journalism. People have supposedly become “addicted” to state aid during the lockdown. They were previously adjudged to be suffering an “addiction to benefits“. Likewise, they need to be “weaned” off the government’s support, in 2020 – as they had to be “weaned off welfare“, in 2010.

The Telegraph and Daily Mail are bemoaning the fact that half of all adults in the UK are currently dependent on the government for an income – in the form of a furlough, and unemployment benefits.

Both the Telegraph and Daily Mail have previously complained that half of all Britons depended on money from the government, in the form of social security. It is not difficult to see the contiguity [2].

It also seems likely that members of the government will blame people for not working during the Covid lockdown, even though they had been instructed by the Prime Minister to stay at home. Just as ministers had previously blamed people for not staying at home, when the government had encouraged them to continue life as normal.

 

This suggests another reason why Conservatives may have considered it advantageous to dispense with Neil Ferguson. He had been the foremost advocate of the lockdown, enacted belatedly by the UK government.

However, a lobbying effort to end the lockdown has been underway for several weeks – indifferent to any human cost which may arise. This campaign has been gaining traction since early April 2020.

Among its vanguard is Toby Young – who was classed as an expert, by The Sun. Though it was not clarified what his area of expertise might be, Young opined that the lockdown must end, because it will cause economic damage. This was on 11th April 2020.

A day later, Young would seem to have created a low-quality website, dedicated to pushing for an end to the lockdown. On 18th April, he appeared in the Telegraph, making his case. Since then, he has repeatedly been a guest on talk radio broadcasts, continuing in this vein.

So why has Young been crusading against the lockdown? An indication lies in a source he cites, during his part of The Sun’s aforementioned debate.

As Young notes:

“The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says the lockdown is costing £2.4billion a day”.

This stat was quoted in various right-wing newspapers, on 5th-6th April 2020. The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Times, and The Sun all published it. So, it seems fair to assume they received it in the form of a press-briefing.

A key focus of these articles was on the impact that Britain’s lockdown has had on the country’s manufacturing sector. The CEBR report in question was presumably the one entitled ‘As the UK remains in lockdown government may need to target more support at manufacturing sector‘.

How objective is the Centre for Economics and Business Research being on this issue? Not very, in all likelihood. It is a think-tank, with a clientele of government departments, and mostly unnamed corporations. Including “some of the largest manufacturers of consumer goods”.

One of these is Kellogg’s – and the CEBR vaunt their successful promotional campaign for the company, on the pretext of increasing awareness about food poverty.

This does not encourage belief that the CEBR are making an impartial assessment of the lockdown; so much as it raises the prospect that their report is part of a lobbying campaign, on behalf of the group’s undisclosed backers [3]. Whether the same is true of Toby Young as well, only he could answer.

 

Despite these efforts, on 25th April 2020, Neil Ferguson defended the government’s lockdown-strategy. He also suggested that the government should follow South Korea’s model of easing the lockdown. Namely, mass-testing and contact-tracing.

In fact, on 26th April, the Telegraph reported that Johnson “could decide to ‘modify’ elements of the lockdown before the May 7 deadline”; and was “increasingly bullish about the possibility of altering restrictions if scientific advice allows”.

Yet the UK government has been failing to meet its own targets for testing and tracing Covid infections. Given the circumstances, it seems doubtful that the scientific advice would approve of “altering restrictions”. Which would pose a problem for the Conservatives.

They have come under pressure to lift the lockdown, from their own wealthy donors, and anonymous cabinet ministers; along with several corporate-lobbying outfits, who are liable to serve much the same set of interests. As may the current leader of the Opposition, and one of his predecessors; who followed suit with their demands to exit the lockdown.

 

So why would those intent on ending the lockdown benefit from Ferguson being sidelined? The Telegraph perhaps provides the answer:

The Daily Mail also raised these questions, the same day.

Toby Young had made an insinuation on precisely that theme, in his contribution to The Sun. He claimed to be sceptical about the prognosis that “if we end the lockdown more people will become infected, demand for critical hospital care will outstrip the NHS’s capacity and we’ll begin to see people dying in even greater numbers”. As “it is based on the statistical modelling of Professor Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College”.

On 5th May, Ferguson resigned, following the Telegraph’s revelations. On 6th May, Johnson announced that the lockdown could be eased, the following week [4].

 

It cannot be proven that the Telegraph’s journalists had followed Ferguson, known about his personal misconduct; and made the information public at a time which was politically favourable.

Nor that members of the government encouraged any of the paper’s journalists to undermine Ferguson, by giving them tip-offs, in order to remove him as a potential obstacle to their upcoming policies.

However, leaving aside the blatant hypocrisy in evidence, there is a precedent which makes this last scenario a possibility.

In 2010, David Cameron appointed Action 4 Employment’s Chairwoman, Emma Harrison, to be their ‘families champion’. Action 4 Employment was known to have been implicated in a fraud scandal, as reported in 2009. The government was aware of this, but hired Harrison nonetheless.

On 5th February 2012, Harrison criticised the government’s benefit cap policy, because it placed families with disabled children at risk of harm.

On 10th February 2012 the Daily Mail published an article, criticising Harrison’s profiteering from state contracts.

On 11th February 2012, the Daily Mail reported that Conservative MPs had begun to call for a “probe” into Harrison’s finances.

On 22rd February 2012, the Daily Mail reported that police had launched an investigation into Action 4 Employment.

On 23rd February 2012, Emma Harrison resigned from her government advisory role. She stepped down as head of Action 4 Employment the following day.

The benefit cap was administered by the DWP – as was the inquiry into Action 4 Employment’s alleged fraud. Quite a coincidence.

None of this makes Harrison sympathetic. Action 4 Employment’s staff had been justifiably brought to account – but the timing, and scale of actual wrongdoing, suggests that the government did not act with financial propriety in mind. It also makes the media response seem quite disproportionate.

On 26th February 2012, the Independent published an ‘exclusive’ report on a House of Commons inquiry into allegations that Action 4 Employment was embroiled in a “£200 million scandal”. The Telegraph suggested it was a “billion pound scandal” on 23rd May 2012.

On 23rd March 2012, the BBC reported that a “leaked document suggests ‘systemic fraud’ at A4e”.

The actual amount defrauded was c. £300,000 – considerably less than the headline sums. Ten defendants were convicted – six were jailed [5].

 

Not dissimilar is the scale of Neil Ferguson’s misconduct; and the timing of its coverage.

Maybe journalists were simply doing their jobs, without fear or favour; and holding a public official to account for not practising what he preached.

Perhaps this dominated newspaper front-pages on the day that Britain’s Covid death-toll became the worst in Europe, because editors believed a sex-scandal was more befitting the public interest.

But maybe there is a corrupt working relationship between members of the government, and journalists – along with the interests they serve; and this is merely the latest example.

 

 

 

Notes

 

[1] It is noteworthy that the Telegraph’s article, revealing Neil Ferguson’s indiscretions, had four authors. It is not possible to confirm, but this would suggest its content involved leaks from government personnel – who often comprise the nameless sources cited by politics reporters.

Does it take four people to write an article like that, including two senior members of staff? If not, then why were there four contributors? What did each of them contribute?

The Telegraph had begun trying to undermine Neil Ferguson’s credibility as early as 28th March 2020. It begs the question why, at that early juncture. Unfortunately, only the Telegraph’s journalists will know the answer; along with their sources.

 

[2] It is particularly significant that the rhetoric of the Telegraph et al, on Covid crisis-measures, is consistent with their expressed support for welfare reforms; as it suggests they are attempting to pave the way for similar policies.

For example, compare the Telegraph/Daily Mail’s complaints about half of all adults depending on state aid, with the Telegraph’s assertion in 2015 that “Half of households receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes” – which was published in support of George Osborne’s upcoming plans to remove social security from people.

The statistic was derived from the Centre For Policy Studies, and was untrue.

The Centre For Policy Studies openly boast of their influence on government policy, and the thinking of its ministers – including the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. Though this claim may be equally vainglorious, for all anyone knows.

 

 

[3] The Telegraph, in particular, has repeatedly published opinion pieces calling for an end to the lockdown. It printed four separate articles on 5th May 2020, alone – that is, the day before Boris Johnson was scheduled to outline the government’s plans for its next phase of the lockdown.

One article described teaching unions as hysterical, for prioritising the safety of pupils and staff; another unabashedly insisted that money was more important than peoples’ lives. A third, by Charles Moore, advocated overriding public support for the lockdown. The fourth took a more philosophical view of matters.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond has also been lobbying for an end to the lockdown. It is notable that in November 2019, Hammond took a job on the board of a manufacturing firm – a sector whose profits have been impacted heavily by the lockdown.

 

 

[4] Following Boris Johnson’s announcement about easing the lockdown, it is noteworthy that the Telegraph euphorically declared restrictions on exercise would be lifted – but these do not exist.

Their article states the government: “will also scrap the once-a-day limit on exercising and tell people they can take ‘unlimited’ exercise either on their own or with members of their household”.

This does not represent a change of policy. The government’s published legislation notes that:

“During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—

[…]

(b)to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”

It does not impose a limit on the amount of exercise. Is it the case that the Telegraph did not know about the actual regulations, because its journalists failed to check? Or is it simply misinforming its own readers, in a manner which casts a positive light on the government?

For more in this vein, see the BBC’s decidedly glib piece about lifting aspects of the lockdown. It notes that restrictions could be removed, but “would require very good access to quick testing and protective equipment”. Neither of these exist in the present; nor do they seem liable to, any time soon. A fact left unacknowledged by the BBC’s author.

 

[5] Nine members of Action 4 Employment’s staff were charged with fraud, in 2013. As the BBC note “Thames Valley Police began an investigation into the company’s Slough branch in May 2011 after the matter was referred to them by the DWP”.

It is not clear where the tenth defendant came into it, by 2015. Nor why the DWP had previously been aware of this matter, then mysteriously forgot about it; until immediately after Harrison criticised their benefit cap policy. The benefit cap was itself nothing more than a con-trick, being played out on the public by the government, aided by media outlets.

For more on Emma Harrison’s conduct, and her profitable relationship with the government, see ‘Emma Harrison set up firm to pitch for government cash on project she devised‘ by Randeep Ramesh/Guardian (11th September 2011).

See also ‘Emma Harrison appointment comes under fresh scrutiny‘ by Rajeev Syal/Guardian (28th February 2012)

 

On patriotism

If what I read in the more sensible news publications is anything to judge by, Britain is currently beset with a distinct lack of patriotism. This really has reached the limit, in my opinion.

So, I have decided to do something about it.

My message of defiance may, perhaps, be a touch too vigorous for namby-pamby play-safe sorts; but for those who rank being born in Britain among their greatest achievements, it will undoubtedly prove the very stuff that dreams are made of.

I say there are many reasons for Britons to be proud of our island’s history.

For one thing, Britain created the world’s largest ocean liner of all time, in the Titanic – which sailed almost a thousand miles in comfort and luxury, before meeting a truly memorable end.

For another, our nation’s military exploits have inspired timeless poetry, such as Tennyson’s The Charge Of The Light Brigade. Equally glorious moments include victory on the fields of Peterloo; and the Great Fire Of London.

Therefore, let us encourage patriotism by presenting every true-born Briton with a pair of British-made roller skates, and a native-hewn ironing board – ensuring a swift and mobile workforce; with spruce clothing upon arrival. No matter the weather.

We can also rename foreign things in a British manner, which is much more befitting. Instead of ‘a cup of cappuccino’, for instance: a mug of frothy coffee. Rather than ‘baguette’: crusty bread wand.

You know where you stand with that.

In fact, in my view, it does not go far enough. British food for British people, I say. No imported ingredients at all. It’s high-time that this country got its act together.

Instead of Dutch asparagus working its insalubrious way into innocent British bowls of “consommé”, people will be free to enjoy a fine, slow-boiled, Welsh sheep’s eyeball soup; enhanced with a delicate garnish of rendered Scottish goat’s hoof. Truly English fare – and just the sort of stuff to put hair on the chest of the nation.

Some people may suggest that one can go too far with this sort of thing, but we didn’t win two world wars with half measures. And Britain is doing at least as well with current travails as it did at Passchendale.

True, “flourish” and “prosper” have been downgraded to “survive” and “hopefully” – but it is always important to manage expectations sensibly. Nobody wants to get ahead of themselves. Not in this day and age.

As Rupert Brooke would have written, had he lived to see the present:

The British Patriot

If old Blighty should find itself a-cropper,
Think only this:
We cracked the duty-free Toblerone market,
So the rest shouldn’t be too hard.
We’ve got jam and biscuits, and flags,
And all that.
I can’t see what people are complaining about, quite frankly.
Now blow out your bugles!

I will concede to my critics, in advance, that my views are not those of an educated man – but they are all the better for that.

Covid grifting vs. mundane but worthwhile priorities

 

You might have seen this tweet, posted by John O’Connell, and read the lengthy thread attending it:

Its author purports to have uncovered evidence of a covert government operation, to create false NHS profiles – in order to encourage support for its Covid policies.

You may be among the 30 thousand or so people who believe this claim has merit – but please don’t.

Instead of taking the author’s tweets on this theme at face value, let’s ask some questions of them instead.

 

O’Connell claims in a subsequent tweet that, of these fake NHS accounts, there are:

128 confirmed, 9 probables and 14 possibles, and amongst those, there are 16 which do not claim an #NHS connection. 43 accounts use actual photos of actual NHS staff”.

If there were 128 confirmed fake accounts, why does O’Connell provide only the one screenshot?

If there were 16 which did not claim an NHS connection, how did he discern they were fake NHS accounts? How did he verify that 43 of the photos featured in these profiles were genuine staff members?

O’Connell claims to have contacted 7 people, who confirmed their identities were being used without authorisation. So, why not present the evidence for this?

Could people check into the matter themselves, however? Unfortunately not. As bad luck would have it, O’ Connell further tweets:

“The accounts have now mostly gone, not suspended by Twitter but deleted by the account holder(s) in one simultaneous mass cull a few days ago … At the click of a button. Which itself, goes to prove the singular control of all the accounts”.

And the time-frame for all of this palaver? Half an hour – in between the beginning of O’Connell’s tweet thread; and claiming that most of the phoney accounts had been deleted.

Yet, surely if at least some of these profiles remained – as O’Connell intimates – he could publish screenshots of them?

He goes on to explain his reasons for not doing this. Firstly, legal concerns:

“We’re analysing the data and seeking a way of presenting it while protecting ourselves from legal issues. We know what happened to those that blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica. More to come”.

What data needs analysing, though? Screenshots of fake twitter accounts – and ones which supposedly no longer even exist?

And what did happen to Cambridge Analytica’s famed whistleblower, Christopher Wylie? He went on to a high-profile media career, off the back of his revelations. There is no public record of anything untoward arising in consequence.

 

Furthermore, O’Connell suggests the evidence is just too complicated for the public to understand:

“This is not ready yet for questions to be asked. Way too data-heavy for non-geeks. We are determined to gold-plate this and present as a fait accompli”.

But why would data, supposedly relating to one account under “singular control”, be too heavy for anyone? Could O’Connell not present his evidence anyway; and then leave people to draw their own conclusions?

Seemingly not. O’Connell repeats his claim about legalistic worries:

“I am currently taking legal advice to protect my sources, methods of data gathering, and of course those who do the collating and analysis of the data”.

The method of data gathering was a skeg around Twitter – and seemingly O’Connell acting alone. Why would legal advice be necessary for either aspect of that?

It wouldn’t, of course. O’Connell is almost certainly making this up. His claims are nebulous, self-contradicting, and devoid of evidence. One of them is demonstrably untrue:

This seeming influx of malfunctioning spammers turned out to be people making fun of putative ‘Boris bots’ on Facebook.

The fact O’Connell cites it as evidence to the contrary would suggest he does not know what he is talking about; or is making it up as he goes along. Either way, his condescension is misplaced [1].

What’s worse, anyone accusing Britain’s government of serious wrongdoing is hardly going to struggle for material to work with, in the current circumstances.

Which is precisely the point. There is no need to invent stories in order to criticise the Prime Minister, and the Conservatives, for their incompetent response to the Coronavirus.

 

So why do people go along with untenable conspiracy theories, when they are being promoted by unreliable individuals?

Perhaps because an element of truth makes these claims plausible, unless they are examined properly.

The Conservative government, in particular, has a track-record of dishonest online campaigning, and dirty tricks. Its supporters are not above astroturfing, either [2].

So it is entirely within the bounds of possibility that Conservatives would create a misinformation wheeze, as part of a PR exercise. But that does not mean it has actually happened.

The persistent, and renowned, lack of truthful clarity from politicians may also be leaving people prone to believing superficially persuasive explanations, from less prominently dishonest counterparts.

Moreover, journalistic gossip and speculation, derived from anonymous sources, is not entirely distinguishable from conspiracy theories, in tone or content [3].

 

Disturbing events often leave people feeling helpless, and it is possible that these kind of theories seem helpful.

The Covid crisis has had a shocking impact on public life – just as the outcome of the EU referendum did; and the Presidential election of Donald Trump had done.

Those events both saw certain individuals post sensational claims – or write interminable twitter-threads; and advance paranoiac theories to identify what was supposedly afoot.

It’s not difficult to explain what these commentators were doing: exploiting credulous people, to further their own political/career ends.

What’s arguably worse is that their claims ignored actual explanatory factors behind support for Brexit/Trump – such as racism, media coverage, the dishonesty of politicians, and the way corporate lobbying has corrupted politics [4].

 

Conspiracy theories are also quite exciting. Which supposition is more stimulating? Brexit, and Donald Trump’s presidency, arose because:

a) Russia’s government used online adverts to provoke an insurgency, replete with murky operatives, and various other hallmarks of thrilling espionage.

Or

b) your friends, relatives, and neighbours have been reading tabloids, then voted as they were encouraged; due to baseless grievances levelled at foreign people, who they’ve been convinced to resent.

But speculation about Russian interference in the UK and US ignores material problems in our societies, which actually need addressing in order to prevent harmful events unfolding continuously.

The same is true of Covid-grifting.

It does not remedy issues which have been brought to light by the Coronavirus pandemic. Such as chronic underfunding of the NHS. Or the reasons why BAME people have been disproportionately affected. Less still, the growing pressure on people to not challenge the government – and the implications this has for democracy.

Conspiracy theories do not help anyone to achieve meaningful improvements. Instead, they are apt to preoccupy people with inane disputes, instead of focusing on catastrophic government policies.

The pandemic is not merely a natural phenomenon at work. It is also a political crisis, and political decisions have meant that particular communities of people are more likely to suffer harm, to lose their jobs and homes; or to die.

People still have to pay rent, and utility bills. Many are required to attend non-essential jobs. Others have to live on poverty-level benefits. Still more suffer precarious finances, while caring for people who are ill.

The government is not doing all it can. It has continuously failed to pursue effective testing and tracking programmes; or to supply basic protective equipment to front-line hospital staff. It has also neglected to provide support for care homes, and care-workers. The consequences of these failures are not benign.

 

So, with all of this in mind, a brief selection of do’s and don’ts:

• Do demand action on rent, and protection from debt or homelessness.

• Do demand the closure of all non-essential workplaces, until the risk of infection is manageable.

• Do demand benefits are raised to a level people can live on, safely.

• Do demand social security payments are fast and efficient.

• Do demand that harmful immigration policies are ended.

• Do demand protective equipment supplies for front-line workers.

• Do demand testing and tracing programmes, which work.

• Do demand proper social-care for people who are currently isolated, mentally ill, and housebound.

• Do demand proper oversight of the police, given their reported abuse of new powers.

• Do demand international support for people in refugee camps.

• Do donate to support people who are homeless, or workless, going without food, or otherwise desperate for financial support.

• Do confront the racism, which right-wing activists are exploiting the Covid crisis to fuel.

• Don’t waste time on conspiracy theories.

• Don’t fall for petty grifts.

 

 

 

Notes

 

[1] O’Connell’s claim about uncovering a network of fake NHS accounts was refuted by Twitter. Full fact also stated that no evidence supported his claims. While O’Connell did not subsequently adduce his supposed data, he did find time to write a rebuttal to his critics; though it merely repeated the assertions of his tweet-thread. I think the case can be left there.

The screen-shotted account itself is notable, but not for the reasons O’Connell suggests. Its creator’s fairly snide references to the anti-Brexit FBPE campaign, along with disability/trans issues – and a pun about banning the clap – would seem to be hallmarks of trolling; rather than anything with actual purpose.

It is also herd-immunity, not herd-mentality, which had been the government’s policy. Their advocates have since tried to mislead the public about this; once its disastrous consequences became clear.

Of note, O’Connell’s tweet-thread alludes to a pair of individuals who both work for the Department of Health and Social Care. He suggests that they were responsible for this operation, as supposedly proven when they retweeted fake NHS accounts; but neither have been active on Twitter during this period.

One appears not to have posted anything at all; and the other has not tweeted since 2018 (though they have ‘liked’ two tweets since then – one in 2019, the other in March 2020). Meaning they were unlikely to notice if O’Connell tagged them into his tweets, of course.

The two people’s names can be found easily on the Civil Service department’s website – but I’m not linking to it here, as it includes their work emails.

 

[2] For a particularly silly exhibition of suspect Twitter campaigning, see various Tory MPs conducting a synchronised whinge about the new Labour Leader, Keir Starmer.

Starmer had supposedly “misjudged” the government’s attempt at blaming NHS staff, for their own PPE shortages.

Starmer has “badly misjudged” the matter, according to ToryHealth.

He has “terribly misjudged” it, in the view of Chris Clarkson MP.

“Surely misjudged”, says Eddie Hughes MP.

“Misjudged” – Anthony Mangnall MP.

“Misjudged”- Stuart Anderson MP.

Then back to “badly misjudged” – Lee Anderson MP.

Similarly, the Guido Fawkes website has been doxxing NHS workers, after they criticised the government’s failure to provide them with protective equipment. It must come as a source of comfort to doctors and nurses that an absence of PPE no longer places them at risk of infection, as long as they have left-wing political views.

I am not suggesting that Labour are entirely free from making misleading claims, or engaging in similar online conduct, by the way. That’s a discussion for another time, however.

 

[3] The quality of professional journalism on the Covid crisis has not always been particularly brilliant.

It would be generous to call early media commentaries about the onset of the pandemic facile. Several of them broadcast harmful misinformation. Others published sycophantic paeans to the government. Some continue in this vein.

It seems that the function of many journalists is to project the views of government to the general public – rather than hold government ministers to account, on behalf of the public interest.

 

[4] A lobbying effort is currently underway to end the Covid lockdown in Britain, before it is safe. The pretext is personal freedom, and economic well-being. The actual reason will be profiteering. It is not clear yet who is funding these efforts.

However, the Daily Mail unwittingly provides one indication, in its piece about six Tory donors urging Boris Johnson to “ease” the lockdown.

There is little-to-no analysis of this overall campaign in UK media, as far as I can tell. In fact, several newspaper commentators are actively engaged in it, at some level.

While the lockdown has had a significant impact on mental and physical health; the insincerity of avowed concern from these pundits can be discerned from their indifference towards the huge and avoidable cost of life that Covid has borne.

For the US version of this lobbying campaign, see the New York Times’ article about conservative groups astroturfing, via protests to end the lockdown. Arstechnica have also written about this practice.

I think the issue of corporate lobbying is worth peoples’ time and attention, in a way that conspiracy theories are not.

The Big Debate – Keir Starmer’s first performance at PMQs. Good, terrible, okay, or both?

 

Arthur Blair – politics journalist

This was an assured first outing, from Starmer.

Measured, probing, informed, courteous, calm, forensic, authoritative, and measured: a serious adult in the room, at last. At long last.

I actually cried. Me – a grown man – weeping real tears; at the thought we could have had someone like this as leader of the Opposition during the past few years.

Lost years, in many respects – when Trotskyite-Stalinists ruled Labour; and Momentum thugs roamed the internet: terrorising the good professionals of British journalism, by saying they were wrong about things.

All that on top of making a once great party unelectable – by virtue of their clandestine Brexiteering; and their general unwillingness to listen to the legitimate concerns about free-movement, that all normal people hold.

If only Starmer had been given a position of Shadow Ministerial significance – maybe had some input into Labour’s Brexit policies – how different everything would be.

Today, we saw the dawn of a new age, however. An era of credible politics, for sensible people only.

For instance, instead of saying that the government has been tardy with Covid testing, and needs to improve (as his predecessor was fond of doing); Starmer took a grown-up approach. Namely, suggesting that the government was too slow to react; and should aim to do better.

It was like watching Harry Potter wrong-foot Voldemort, combined with the most stirring speeches about cross-party compromise, from episodes of the West Wing.

I feel represented, for the first time since Change UK became insolvent. After a 5 year absence, Britain has an Opposition again – of the kind not seen since the unveiling of the Edstone.

Why, even Conservative politicians and commentators were effusive with their praise for Starmer – and no sensible person would ever question their sincerity.

 

 

Jolyon D’Isscorse – host of the Left Behind podcast 

The Starmer-cult may have found their messiah, but this was an underwhelming performance; with Sir Kier proving singularly unable to park his tanks on the government’s lawn.

Starmeristas won’t want to hear this, but their beloved leader lacks electability. Under any other person, Labour would be 20 points ahead of the Tories right now, given the state they’re in. This is the worst government ever!

It pains me to say it – I’m just as left-wing as he is, on some things – but I think it’s time for Keir Starmer to go. How many more of us must find ourselves politically-homeless before he does the decent thing, and resigns?

Believe me, I say this with no pleasure at all: I’ve been a lifelong Labour supporter, since 2012; and I support all the same causes as Starmer. Mostly. But we have to beat the Tories – for the sake of voters who depend upon us. And it’s just not working out, is it? 

I hate to say it, but I’ve not heard a single good word about Labour on the doorstep, since Starmer took over. Everybody I’ve spoken to says the same thing: Starmer is just not up to the job – and he’s only keeping the Tories in power. 

I believe Keir is a good man – and I want to see his programme enacted as much as the next socialist; but, if we are to achieve that goal, we have to consider Starmerism without Starmer.

Having principles is all very well, but if you can’t win power, you can’t make a difference to people’s lives. Unfortunately, Labour is now a party of protest.

 

 

Rosa Goldman – occasionally posts comments about politics on social media

It was neither particularly good, nor especially bad. I hope people don’t get carried away by hype from pundits with ulterior motives, and notoriously fallible judgement, just because they’re being told what they want to hear.

Also, that the Labour Left avoid repeating the mistakes of the Labour Right, by finding fault with everything; instead of being more objective.

Only time will tell if Starmer is good or bad overall, though, I think.

The Right-Minded View on social distancing infractions

 

Now, I’m not one to judge by appearances – no matter what they may indicate about a person’s character and morals. So I believed in giving people a fair shake, and the benefit of considerable doubt, when it came to social distancing measures.

However, I realised it was time to act – and act promptly – when my neighbours looked suspiciously like they might be on their way to enjoy a picnic in the local park

Nobody relishes their civic duty more than I. Accordingly, I dialled 999, in order to request immediate emergency assistance; only to be placed on hold, for very nearly an hour.

When someone finally answered, I registered my concerns, in full.

To my surprise – in fact, outrage – I heard them sigh audibly, then found myself being told it was “not an emergency of any kind, whatsoever”. To say I was livid would be the biggest understatement of all time.

I was of a mind to visit the police station in person, there and then – and discuss the matter of recklessly breaching social-distance measures, face to face!

*

Only, unlike others I could mention, I am sufficiently modest to appreciate that the police have enough on their hands as is. What with rogue sunbathers, renegade picnic-conductors, and juvenile delinquents, playing in their own front gardens, for all to see.

That is why, rather selflessly, I have decided to stay indoors throughout this ordeal – in-between making the necessary journeys, here and there (by contrast to many, who have been hoarding enough things to last a fortnight, I took no more than I required to cover the next three weeks or so).

I compare the lackadaisical attitude of far too many people, with the conduct of our nation’s Prime Minster, most unfavourably. Working tirelessly as he has, for a few hours each day – and leading by example. Shaking hands with everyone in a hospital; including no end of coronavirus-positive patients.

And that is merely one testament to Boris Johnson’s leadership.

*

At the beginning of this outbreak, the government said people should carry on as normal; and senior journalists lauded them for their clear-thinking approach [1].

The schools were open. Cheltenham Festival was allowed to go ahead. Pubs and restaurants were in full swing. All carried on unhindered, thanks to the sensible attitude of our government.

But then the science changed, and reality with it. At which point, regrettably the public began letting our government down, rather badly. Going to eateries. Visiting drinkeries. Attending sports events, and turning up at educational facilities. All despite the government’s utmost efforts, at making people behave more sensibly.

I don’t blame the Prime Minister – he’s done his best, by encouraging people not to take the matter seriously, until it was too late.

Instead, I attribute it to our permissive society – where people are not permitted to do certain things, but do them quite regardless of their complete legality.

After all, the government’s advice merely led to an upsurge of mortality statistics; whereas this business of sunbathing, without written permission, is really quite serious.

*

And yet, I’m afraid to say, the general public are not the only ones who have let our PM down, at this crucial moment. Certain members of Her Majesty’s Opposition have been most impertinent.

Now is a time for unity. It is not the time to politicise this issue – by suggesting that our government have gone about things the wrong way. Let alone ask why the Prime Minster and his colleagues felt sufficiently emboldened to pursue the strategy which led us all to this situation, in the first place.

What’s more, mentioning – in the presence of journalists – that the government were supposed to provide 30,000 ventilators while only managing to produce 30, and failed to supply protective equipment for doctors, nurses, and carers, is the very height of poor taste.

Even the Queen has had to take time out from her busy schedule, and politely remind the nation to come together, and stop being so disobedient. Not to mention, ungrateful.

Applauding health-workers, for placing their own lives at risk, and saving others; but not applauding the Prime Minister, who put them in this position to begin with?

And nobody should be asking government ministers how the National Health Service came to be left in such a parlous state; nor why social care has grown precarious during their time in office.

If journalists can manage to refrain from raising these matters, then I see no reason why others cannot follow suit.

Naturally, I am sorry that people feel there may have been failings for our government’s part. But any mistakes will have been made in good faith; and the correct lessons learned. Just like they were during the odd wars, which went awry. The phone-hacking thing. Windrush [2]. Orgreave. Hillsborough. And all that Grenfell palaver. So let us not dwell.

What we need is a sense of community, and togetherness; not recrimination.

Besides, we all know who is to blame: Premier league footballers. As it transpires that their reluctance to hand over a week’s wages, during the past month, is responsible for chronic under-funding of the public sector, during the past ten years.

It’s not as if that could have been resolved by the Prime Minister. I mean, the government can’t simply raise taxes on high-earners: not when many of Britain’s wealthiest people are struggling to get by as it is.

*

No, what we need are sensible solutions. Policies which combine practicality, with sound financial prudence, good old-fashioned commonsense – and, yes, Britishness.

What I propose, therefore, are the following simple but effective measures:

 

• Make crime illegal again: law-abiding felons are the very worst kind, in my opinion. So, let’s nip this sort of thing in the bud – before it gets out of hand. I recommend that anyone who, at birth, looks like they may go on to lead a life of picnics and strolls, should be locked up from day one.

Furthermore, we should station officers of the law in every supermarket throughout the land. Have armed police patrolling the toilet-paper aisle; with a judge, and full jury, situated at every checkout. Casting firm verdict on whether people have bought sufficient essential items to justify any luxuries. Enough pasta to account for a chocolate orange, for example.

Failing that, make proper use of the military. I draw the line at summary executions in the middle of our shops – though others may feel we cannot be too careful; and I am, at heart, a democrat. From the outset, however, I would suggest giving folk a round in the hand, or foot, for relevant offences. Such as a lack of deference to the Royal Family; or for posting outrageous comments on the internet.

Fines or imprisonment will suffice for those who ignore the rules, and sit on benches in parks, for a moment longer than strictly necessary. And we can send vans around public places, insisting that people do not belong there, and should go home.

 

• Refrain from politicisation: I favour pragmatism over politicking. Politicians who simply get on with the job – working across political divides – and doing their level best. Putting country before party; rather than indulging in opposition for opposition’s sake. Which would prove unbecoming.

So, I hope the Parliamentary Opposition continue exactly as is – providing robust encouragement, and hard-hitting praise, with a well-timed tweet, politely phrased; from one day to the next – if that.

Only ever disagreeing with policy if a government minister says something is no longer quite the tip-top idea they believed, the previous week.

In fact, to avoid future unpleasantness, we might consider a change in Parliamentary rules altogether, so that the Leader of Opposition is selected and appointed by the government (I cannot believe nobody has thought of this before). Though, I will concede, this seems unnecessary at present [3].

 

• Keep up morale: here our nation’s journalists may shine as exemplars to all. They have performed admirable service thus far, in fearlessly holding the public to account, for undermining the government.

I have a suggestion for further refinement, however: be more patriotic.

So, for example, instead of dispiriting news headlines like “nearly a thousand deaths occurred in the past 24 hours”, have invigorating lead-ins, like “impressive government efforts are underway to do something worthwhile”.

Likewise, rather than say “the government purchased millions of faulty Covid tests“, say “the Health Minister is doing his jolly best”.

Instead of writing “despite pledging 10,000 tests daily, only 8,000 people were tested today”, try “we’ve reached 10,000 tests per day” (rounding up) “and are on track for 25,000 tests daily” (rounding down to the nearest ballpark).

Instead of “NHS workers and carers have dangerous jobs to perform. Those who died of Covid infection were victims of an occupational hazard, and should have been protected by the government”; use the language of self-sacrifice. Issue medals. Posthumous awards for valour. That sort of thing. Similarly, instead of raising salaries, for the first time in 10 years, simply call people heroes. Then we need think on the matter no further. 

Instead of “hospitals are being forced to ration oxygen, and ‘do not resuscitate‘ certificates are being demanded of disabled people, while doctors are being tasked with deciding who lives or dies” – simply say “pray for the Leader”.

Instead of negativity about NHS staff depending on supplies from adult fetish outlets, and  props from TV hospital dramas; write positive, feel-good stories about the nation pulling together. Fetishists and MPs, side by side, as one. Very easy to picture.

 

• Exit strategy: things went pear-shaped when the science changed – so, let’s simply change the science back. Get everyone out of doors once again, forthwith – it’s the last thing that the virus will expect [4].

 

I appreciate that these ideas may seem radical to some, but I contend they are vital if we are to avoid the Coronavirus pandemic having negative repercussions for our government.

After all, it is not Boris Johnson’s fault that his policies have had consequences.

True, people forewarned the PM, and the PM ignored them; but that is simply everyone else’s fault, for not trying hard enough to leave Mr Johnson convinced. Reality really should have tried much harder to impose itself, far sooner, as well.

And, if need be, Johnson and his ministers can face some tough questioning in a select committee one day, a few years down the line. If indeed it does turn out that some few of their decisions were a spot off-tangent, they can be granted life peerages in the House of Lords, as punishment.

That shall surely suffice.

 

 

 

Notes

 

[1] Those countries which adopted populist measures, like lockdowns, were wrong – but now they’re doing the same thing as Britain. So, belatedly, they are right. The fact that they copied us, several months before we began doing it, just goes to show how faultless our government has been all along.

 

[2] While it is fair to note that roughly 33% of Covid infections affect people from ethnic minority backgrounds, even though they comprise only 13% of the UK’s population; I’m afraid that asking why this circumstance arose is playing politics. Really quite unacceptable. So let us say no more about it.

 

[3] One person who understands the gravity of the situation facing our government, is the new Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer.

Instead of confronting Boris Johnson with difficult questions, or asking about people falling ill in detention centres and prisons – because the government won’t release them – Sir Starmer has given the Conservative Party nought but constructive feedback. Wishing it well, and all the best, in its future endeavours.

If his predecessor was still in office, I have no doubt the situation would be completely different. In fact, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest failings was that his politics were quite often political.

Accordingly, I expect he would have used the present moment to score one or two political points: like, demanding pay-rises for carers; rent-freezes for the jobless; and an end to immigration policies which will see NHS workers lose their right to reside in Britain, once the pandemic has ended, and they are no longer serving our government’s purpose.

In my opinion, real opposition means supporting the government. Perhaps posting an inspiring tweet, about laying politics to one side, and coming together in celebration of our differences, at this challenging time.

Not talking about “official responsibility”; let alone demanding “accountability”.

 

[4] Other ideas of mine include:

• Replace social security with televised re-runs of the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, celebrating Britain’s glory.

• Neighbourhood Watch schemes to be tasked with reporting disrespectful tweets about Boris Johnson, to their authors’ employers (off-colour comments about other politicians are perfectly acceptable, and a matter of free-speech).

• People should only travel in groups of one, or less.

• If new laws against sunbathing do not curb the practice, what I propose is to block out the sun entirely. I would imagine this can be achieved using some kind of giant umbrella, maybe a parasol; or possibly an oversized spoon, of some variety.

• Members of the public should be thanking our government for the nice weather.

• When things get back to business as usual, we should have an inquiry into how and why members of the public let the Prime Minister down so badly – by doing exactly as they were instructed, before it was suggested that they do something completely different; instead of following the government’s clear guidance.

 

How should the Left respond to Keir Starmer’s leadership? A look at the options

How can the Left respond most effectively to Keir Starmer’s appointment as leader of the Labour Party?

An array of possible options:

A) Announce their refusal to serve in his shadow cabinet, then complain when they’re not offered a shadow-cabinet post.

B) Make snide comments about him during interviews to the Times, Telegraph, Sun, Guardian, Observer, BBC, New Statesman, Daily Mail.

C) Pretend to have sworn at one of his prominent allies.

D) Denounce Labour Party members in florid terms.

E) Threaten to resign from Parliament if he doesn’t step down.

F) Send derisive texts about him during Parliamentary meetings, to journalists at the Huffington Post.

G) Announce their resignation from ministerial roles, on live television.

H) Resign en masse, and launch an ineffectual leadership challenge.

I) Blame him for every instance of online misbehaviour any supporter of his engages in.

J) Conduct a protest-march of MPs, over a minor disciplinary case.

K) Join cynically-contrived demonstrations against their own party.

L) Leak photos of him sharing the company of somebody controversial, to the GuidoFawkes site.

M) Claim that even the simplest policy announcements he makes are incomprehensible.

N) Claim that his most sophisticated policies are too dumb.

O) Complain that he’s too radical.

P) Complain that he’s too moderate.

Q) Suggest that he’s not opposing the government enough.

R) Suggest that he’s opposing the government too much.

S) Leak the party’s manifesto ahead of a General Election.

T) Take selfies with members of the government.

U) Exhort people to vote for the government.

V) Flounce off, and form a new Centrist party.

W) Flounce off, and take jobs with the government.

X) When they do well off the back of his popularity, claim it’s entirely due to their own merits.

Y) When they do badly in an election, attribute 100% of the blame to him.

Z) Continuously tweet that a different leader of the Opposition would be 20 points ahead of the government.

Or…

Support Starmer constructively: be critical of the bad, and supportive of any good. Lobby tirelessly for what should be done. Try to draw the Shadow Cabinet towards worthwhile policies – which will improve the Labour Party, and life for people in Britain. And not give up.

People are free to make their own minds up.

Photos of Hull during the Coronavirus pandemic

These are photos I took of Hull’s City Centre, on 21-22 March 2020; during the Coronavirus pandemic.

People are living through a complex and troubling historical moment. I think it is important to try and document what is happening, as several quite harmful political narratives are already taking hold.

Tescos, in St Stephens:

 

 

 

The cheese aisle was virtually untouched – who doesn’t buy cheese, in a crisis?

Boots, St. Stephens:St. Stephens:

Paragon Station/Ferensway:

Impossible to maintain social-distancing:

Whitefriargate:

Nearly half the shops are derelict, even before the pandemic affects retail:

Street preacher, forecasting the end-times:

Victoria Square:

The building with the dome is the Maritime Museum, where I used to help teach people about local history:

 

 

More street-preachers – the man in the black coat has heralded the end of days every Saturday, for at least the past decade. Seemed quite chipper, here. No passers-by to preach to though:

 

 

Council worker, looking on non-plussed:

 

Part of the fish-trail:

Carr Lane:

 

The man here wasn’t weeping, just using his mobile:

The presence of absence:

Instead of wind-witches blowing through an empty town, a paper bag in a deserted shopping mall:

Second World War memorial, Paragon Street:

Prospect Street:

Jubilee church, to which a foodbank is attached:

Jameson Street:

While the supermarkets are inundated, the fruit seller couldn’t find customers:

 

George Street:

Rough sleeper – possibly unaware of what’s happening:

 

Hull still hasn’t recovered from the recession of 2008, and has never fully overcome the collapse of its fishing industry, during the 1970’s. It’s now set to suffer again.

I have uploaded most of these pictures onto Flickr. Some of the older photos on the gallery demonstrate what the city usually looks like.

These images are in the public domain, so if people wish to reproduce them, they are welcome.

Transcript of the Cabinet’s COBRA meeting about Coronavirus

 

Present

Boris Johnson, Gavin Williamson, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Dominic Cummings, Rishi Sunak, a Civil Servant.

*

Johnson: If you ask me, somebody ought to just jolly well do something about this bally virus. It’s not on, I say, dash it.

Civil Servant: We await your orders, eagerly, Prime Minister.

Johnson: Ah, er, I mean, um, which is to say, of course, if, if, well, that is, if, and then, and when, and also, I mean, especially, what, gad-gad-gadzooks, man! What?

Raab: Can’t we use 3D printers to just, you know, print the cure?

Johnson: Can we – can’t we do that?

Civil Servant: There is no cure at present, Sir.

Cummings: Has anyone checked online for information about the cure, like I suggested?

Williamson: I have – there was quite a lot about it, in fact. Wikipedia says “The Cure are an English rock band, formed in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1978”. “Still active”, it adds here.

Cummings: Shut up, Gavin.

Hancock: What if we outsmart this virus, by using reverse psychology. Say to the virus: ‘go ahead – we want you to infect everyone, so they all die; we don’t care’?

Johnson: No, no – then it will know our tactics, and outflank us. Think harder.

Hancock: I find that sometimes the best way to think, is to avoid thinking at all.

Cummings: A practice at which we excel.

Williamson: Could we not just tell the virus to shut up and go away?

Johnson: Gavin, please. This is a serious business; and I want sensible suggestions only.

Raab: Could we use the army, to shoot the virus, with guns?

Johnson: No. Can we?

Civil Servant: Indeed not, Sir.

Cummings: You people are stupid. And that’s why you people are stupid – because you’re stupid.

Williamson: I’m not stupid. I think very hard, and am almost always right.

Johnson: That’s enough. Now, think, dash it, chaps. Think harder than you’ve ever thought before.

Civil Servant: Are you sure that will be necessary, Sir?

Hancock: I read something the other day, and according to an authority…

Johnson: An authority on what?

Hancock: Countryside churches.

Johnson: No, no.

Raab: Thinking. Thinking.

Sunak: Perhaps the smartest strategy is to have no strategy?

Cummings: We’ve already got that nailed.

Raab: Thinking. Thinking.

Williamson: Can I think as well?

Civil Servant: There is a first time for everything, Sir.

Johnson: Right, I’ve got it! By jingo, I have.

Civil Servant: Yes, Sir?

Johnson: Well, now, it seems to me…

Civil Servant: Sir?

Johnson: If, if my calculations are correct…

Civil Servant: Sir?

Johnson: And some fair few of those continge-thingies hold steady…

Civil Servant: Contingencies, Sir.

Johnson: Yes, those – that what we should do is…is…is…

Civil Servant: Sir?

Johnson: Approximately…

Civil Servant: Go on, Sir?

Johnson: Where was I?

Civil Servant: You must tell us your plan, Sir.

Johnson: Really? Right. Yes. Yes. What if, instead of fighting this virus thing, we all just, well, you know, voice our disapproval of its comings and goings, and all that sort of jazz, instead? Tell it what for. Leave it in no doubt about who is really in charge.

Civil Servant: The situation would seem to demand a more robust approach, Sir.

Johnson: Really? I thought I had it there.

Raab: I have an idea.

Johnson: About what?

Raab: I’m not sure – I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Williamson: Wait, I’ve got it. I know what we need.

Johnson: What?

Williamson: A plan.

Johnson: Well, what is it?

Williamson: A plan? It’s a sort of, like, kind of detailed proposal – for achieving something.

Raab: Could be just what we need.

Sunak: At times like this, I say we should listen to the science. Do whatever the science tells us.

Johnson: What does the science tell us?

Raab: [Reads from phone] Oh, oh – ‘low battery’.

Johnson: Any different science to hand?

Hancock: [Shakes Magic 8 ball] ‘concentrate and ask again’.

Johnson: Ah. Very well. And, so, again?

Hancock: [Shakes Magic 8 ball] ‘better not tell you now’.

Civil Servant: If I may quote the health briefing, which evaluates the government’s present course of action, Sir.

Johnson: Yes?

Civil servant: 250,000 deaths, Sir.

Johnson: Lummy, what? Bit of a rum to do there, chaps. Nevertheless, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

*murmurs of assent*

Sunak: How many preventable deaths can we submit, and still get re-elected?

Johnson: Ah. Good question. Pertinent. Pertinent. Any ideas?

Civil Servant: Quarter of a million would seem excessive, Sir.

Johnson: Quarter of a mill? Is that more, or less, than 250,000?

Civil servant: Correct me if I’m wrong Sir, but would quarantine not be advisable?

Johnson: Quarantine?

Civil Servant: Restrict peoples’ movement, to contain the outbreak, Sir.

Johnson: Ah, I see. I see. People can just spend a week, indoors, doing nothing. We shall lead by example!

Civil Servant: You appear to have said the quiet part loud, and the loud part quiet, Sir.

Cummings: This really is a quandary. On the one hand, we can do something. On the other, we can do nothing.

Hancock: It’s impossible to say which of those is the best course of action, to stave off disaster.

Williamson: What can anyone do, if we rule-out doing anything?

Johnson: Wait, I’ve got it – I really have this time.

Civil Servant: Really, Sir?

Johnson: This is nothing that a brisk walk, and bit of British resolve can’t cure – or I’ll be bound!

Civil Servant: Are you quite certain, Sir?

Johnson: Certainly. Everyone should just jolly well go outdoors, and breath deep in the fresh air.

Civil Servant: Are you sure that’s wise, Sir?

Johnson: Um. On second thoughts, everyone should, should just jolly well stay indoors; and hold their breath until this thing blows over.

Civil Servant: Indeed, Sir?

Johnson: In fact, everyone should just jolly well do both – and do neither; at the same time! Meeting adjourned. Now, who’s for a game of cribbage?

*

Briefing for journalists

We need civility in politics. Not competence. Politics should never be political.

The Prime Minister did not make an error of judgement. It was the facts which were wrong. The science may have changed, but his opinion never shall.

Besides, the other guy offered free internet. And while people may die, due to government inaction, at least they’ll die under a PM that can sing the national anthem, dash it. Most of it, at any rate.

Further measures will be undertaken, as the situation develops.