How It Starts 996

The brevity of this post is out of proportion to the enormous importance of the subject. But I want to let you know I am thinking and working on it.

It is a recognised pattern for dictatorship to commence with emergency measures designed to combat a threat. Those emergency measures then become normalised and people exercising arbitrary power find it addictive. A new threat is then found to justify the continuation

It is by no means clear to me that it is a rational response to covid-19 to tear up all of the civil liberties which were won by the people against authority through centuries of struggle, and for which people died. To say that is not to minimise the threat of covid-19. It is also worth pointing out that a coronavirus pandemic was a widely foreseen eventuality. People keep sending me links to various TV shows or movies based on a coronavirus pandemic, generally claiming this proves it is a man-made event. No, that just proves it is a widely foreseen event. Which it is.

The lack of contingency preparedness is completely indefensible. It is partly a result of the stupidity of Tory austerity that has the NHS permanently operating at 100% capacity with no contingency, and partly the result of the crazed just-in time thinking that permeates management in all spheres and eliminates the holding of stock.

It is incredible to me that the UK is willing to throw away some £220 billion and rising on Trident against a war scenario nobody can sensibly define, but was not willing to spend a few million on holding stock of protective clothing for the NHS against the much more likely contingency of a pandemic. What does that say about our society?

Anyway, we are where we are. Nobody knows how deadly this virus is. There have not been, anywhere, sufficient reliable large general population samples to know what percentage of people who get the virus will die. We just do not know how many people in the UK have had it and not got seriously ill. My suspicion is that in a couple of years time it will be discovered the mortality rate was under 1%. But I do not know, and I do not blame the government for making worst assumptions in the absence of reliable scientific evidence. Personally, I am obeying lockdown and would advise others to do so too until the situation is clearer. But I do not want to see the police harassing people for going on a long walk or posting a letter. It really is a problem to have police empowered to stop and question a citizen for just walking in the street. It is also a problem that Peter Hitchens is being reviled for saying, in essence, little more than that. When you can’t criticise restrictions on liberty, you know society has entered a very dark phase indeed.

I would feel much more comfortable if they were open about what they do not know. All the excuses for not testing people rather than admit they did not have the tests rather rattles trust. The ability of the rich and well-connected to access tests also rattles trust.

But none of this justifies rule by fiat – if Parliament cannot sit, I personally believe it would benefit the nations of the UK to have no new laws for a while. There are too many laws already. It does not justify banning political gathering. I don’t recommend anyone to gather, and I don’t imagine they would gather, but the evil of banning political activity is much more serious than the danger of four lonely people in Solihull getting together to talk about coronavirus restrictions.

It certainly does not justify banning jury trials, which the Scottish government has just dropped from today’s Bill after a revolt led by Joanna Cherry. The bill still weakens the defence in trials by allowing pre-taped video evidence and dispensing with the right to cross-examine. If the accusers had been allowed to get away with their lies in the Alex Salmond trial without cross-examination, the result might have been very different. For God’s sake, if you cannot do justice, suspend it. Do not dispense rough justice.

This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.


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996 thoughts on “How It Starts

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  • Skye Mull

    No one should assume that an independent Scotland would act any differently from the corrupt politicians in Westminster.

    • roddy mackenzie

      In an independent Scotland, we the people, will have to make sure that any Scottish Government will be more open and democratic than Westminster. Lets face it, being more open and democratic than Westminster would not be difficult. The Scottish Government have dropped the ‘no jury’ part of the bill and that is a good sign. Division within the SNP can be a good thing as well, and now is the time to remove some of the “Independence-lite” people from the Party.

      However, if you think that an Independent Scottish Government is going to be no better than a Tory led Westminster, why bother with Independence? You may as well vote for Boris!

      • Tom Welsh

        “In an independent Scotland, we the people, will have to make sure that any Scottish Government will be more open and democratic than Westminster”.

        A charming fantasy. How would you actually accomplish it?

        Please note that the “Founding Fathers” of the USA, who authorized the Declaration of Independence which opens with those stirring words, were almost all wealthy and powerful men from a more or less closed circle of the ruling class. The mention of “we the people” in the Declaration was about the only way in which the common folk featured in those historic events.

        The subsequently drafted and adopted Constitution of the United States was even less democratically influenced.

        • Alwi

          They might be crooks, but they’ll be our crooks. And hopefully we’ll have better systems in place to control the b*ggers.

          • Tom Welsh

            I wish you luck, Alwi. But I regret to inform you that systems don’t control the buggers: on the contrary, the buggers control the systems.

      • Leonard Young

        One of the reasons I am sceptical about the fantasy ambitions of independence is playing out right now. Sturgeon is just proposing ditching trial by jury on the excuse that it somehow helps in defeating the virus. How so? If Alex Salmond had no access to a jury trial he would undoubtedly have been in jail by now. If a regional parliament can achieve this while not even independent, what similar powers would a truly independent Scotland claim?

  • Sue Varley

    Civil liberties – I have today been ordered to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from my own husband, and to remain locked in my house for the next 12 weeks. I am fortunate to live in a tiny village in a very rural area and I have been avoiding all contact with others for two weeks already, going out for a walk once a day in the quiet lanes around here. I am not going to live in fear in my own home from now on potentially until a vaccine is discovered.

      • Sue Varley

        It was a long letter I got from NHS Scotland. It’s probably the most risky thing in my house at the moment, since how do I know who has handled it.

      • Sue Varley

        Yes, particularly as today is the 36th anniversary of my (still very successful) kidney transplant. What a way to celebrate such a great anniversary for me. I have been joined to my kidney way longer than married to my husband!

    • Tom Welsh

      The worst of it is, that by my reading of the Act, the government now has the power to enforce such arbitrary and ludicrous restrictions. The following snippets are cited merely to give you a feel for the tone and assumptions of this law. Full powers are given to the government and anyone to whom it delegates authority to “enforce compliance” by any means they consider necessary.

      Similar sections relate to Wales, Scotland Ireland.

      Apologies for any incorrect spacing, which is due to the vagaries of PDF when copied to text.


      5(1) The Secretary of State may, for the purpose of—(a) preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of coronavirus, or (b) facilitating the most appropriate deployment of medical or emergency personnel and resources, issue a direction prohibiting, or imposing requirements or restrictions in relation to, the holding of an event or gathering in England.

      6(1) The Secretary of State may, for the purpose of—(a) preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling theincidence or transmission of coronavirus, or (b)facilitating the most appropriate deployment of medical oremergency personnel and resources, issue a direction imposing prohibitions, requirements or restrictions in relation to the entry into, departure from, or location of persons in, premises in England.

        • Sue Varley

          I don’t think that’s it particularly, just that he is not subject to the same restrictions so he might be a key worker in some sector and unable to self isolate, so might be carrying the virus.

          • Tom Welsh

            Sue, I was referring to the text of the law which I quoted. It gives the government powers to control “event or gathering in England” and also “prohibitions, requirements or restrictions in relation to the entry into, departure from, or location of persons in, premises in England”.

            As no specific mention was made of premises, I assume the specific powers under which those directions were given to you and your husband are those relating to gatherings.

          • Paul Barbara

            @ Sue Varley April 1, 2020 at 20:21
            Now that you have commented on this ‘notorious’ blog, expect a couple of armed guards to be billeted in your house, to ensure the six-foot rule.

  • Fuddledeedee

    What will happen in the longer term is that only partial roll back will be made. A pick ‘n’ mix approach whilst everyone remains confused and/or disengaged. Apart from civili liberties one of the governments aims is to ensure end-to-end encryption is illegal.
    Meantime the City of London will remain making money for themselves and their Government lackies.

    The government are of course taking advantage of this time but we should somehow counter this by declarinf what is required by any new government. Not leave it to the politicians to tell us what we need.

    I am sure there are various groups all ringing their hands and saying “now is our opportunity” but like the Peoples Front of Judea and the Judean Peoples Front I suspect not much will happen apart from more Farcebook pages and Whatsupp groups.

    Divide and conquer, remember Victor Orban rules.

    I assume Governor Johnson’s approval rating must be generated from the number of likes to to Farcebook page.
    Like any dictator he needs to be loved – urgh

    Back to the padded cell….

      • Toby

        Yes, why not get rid of VPNs and end-to-end encryption in one go?

        They could call it the “Data Security Bill, 2020” and say it is designed to promote “better health security” on IT networks.

        Who would dare to oppose legislation calling for “better health security”? No one will notice the non-sequitur.

        And if in doubt, they could say it was also to fight terrorists and paedophiles.

        That usually works pretty well.


    I too am disturbed by the slide into authoritarianism this and other crises always facilitate. Every liberty they take away is never given back when the crisis is over.

    This mismanagement in Europe, the UK, the US and Japan has made China and other authoritarian regimes look good by comparison.

    I agree not enough is known and will not be until we have got thru this. I think it is worse than the China figures indicate. Maybe the Chinese lied, or just did not gather enough data. An Italian scenario seems closer to what the UK and US will face. Africa, India and other poorer countries will suffer more.

    I live in Vietnam. We have 212 cases at present and no deaths yet. We just started 2 weeks of strict measures to contain the spread. Let’s hope they work.

    • Tom Welsh

      The Chinese were faced by a major epidemic, with little or no warning. They handled it pretty much as well as was possible, and have emerged with flying colours.

      The UK government had at least three months to study the Chinese situation and the Chinese government’s reaction. They could have asked for advice, but apparently did not.

      Just as it is unthinkable that a government would ever admit that it has been wrong about anything, it is apparently inconceivable that we should admit that the Chinese have done something far better than we could.

    • Tom Welsh

      “This mismanagement in Europe, the UK, the US and Japan has made China and other authoritarian regimes look good by comparison”.

      Er, are you writing that from your arbitrary imprisonment in the UK? Because if so, you seem to have a weak sense of irony.

  • Alisdair Mc

    “It certainly does not justify banning jury trials, which the Scottish government has just dropped from today’s Bill after a revolt led by Joanna Cherry.”

    Interesting point! That suggests to me that some of her (Sturgeon) acolytes are getting a bit restive. There is an election coming up, and if they want to be re-elected they are going to need their rank-and-file members to do the heavy lifting for them.

  • Mist001

    From my experience, self isolation doesn’t work. Unless you’re one of these survivalist types with a years supply of food stocked away, then the normal person will eventually run out of food within a week or two. This means they’re going to have to leave the house and as I thought myself, ‘well, everyone’s self isolating, there won’t be many people around’. The thing is, everyone else thinks the same thing and before you know it, you’re in the middle of a crowd.

    Unless the shops increase their home delivery systems a hundred fold, then it’s difficult to see a way to enforce self isolation.

    • Tom Welsh

      All that self-isolation can possibly do is to delay the time when everyone has to come out and mingle again – at which time the epidemic will resume where it left off. It can do absolutely nothing to cure people, or to prevent them catching the disease. In the meantime the UK will have suffered immense economic and financial damage, as will millions of people who have lost their livelihood.

      Therefore the only possible benefit of the government’s course of action is to give it a breathing space in which to prepare for the epidemic – which it should have done between December and now, but didn’t.

      Under lockdown conditions it will be a lot harder to ramp up hospital beds and facilities, medicines and machines such as ventilators. (Unless the Chinese and the Russians can be persuaded to let us have some of theirs, as they have already done for Italy and the USA). It will be impossible to recruit any large numbers of competent medical staff, as those in this country are already fully occupied and those overseas are fighting their own countries’ battles.

      As there is no cure and cannot be an effective, safe vaccine for over a year (at least), everyone will eventually be infected. Then we shall find out what the true death rate is. If we are lucky, we shall find that it is very low and comparable with that of ordinary flu and other such respiratory diseases.

      Lastly, the key test will be to compare total mortality week by week and month by month with that of previous years. If it rises significantly, we shall know that Covid-19 is killing extra people. If not…

      • Jo Dominich

        Tom hate to say this. Vaccine BS BS BS. Pandemic. There isn’t one. Hype, Propaganda, Fake News, fake unreliable dangerous stats aplenty. Manufactured consent alongside unofficial martial law for a low number of deaths prevalent mostly in a comorbid, frail elderly population. There are many different types of Covids already out there with vaccines. What makes this one any different?

        • Tom Welsh

          Jo, you seem to have reacted to my use of the word “vaccine”. But if you look back at my comment, you will notice that I did not suggest that a vaccine – if one is ever produced – would solve any problems. I just said that, as far as 2020 and maybe 2021 are concerned, vaccines don’t enter into the picture at all.

          Personally, I am sceptical about vaccines and especially plans for mass vaccination.

  • Chris Downie

    There are already worrying developments emanating from police forces in Derbyshire, to mention one such example, where creeping authoritarianism is emerging. While most are observing lockdown for the time being, it only needs a few curtain twitchers to grass on neighbours for arbitrary tasks such as walking their dogs, combined with a few officers deciding they like their shiny new powers a little *too* much, then we have a situation on our hands. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to this.

    • michael norton

      I went for my one form of government permitted solo exercise, last evening,
      I chose a walk from my house going through woodland, as I emerged back on the cycle track, on the side of the main road a gritting waggon came past.
      Behind this followed a car, a young man lent out of the window and shouted “It’s the end of the World”

      I found that amusing and he was smiling as he shouted it.
      It might be the end of the world, as we used to understand, with ever more restrictions on ordinary people and an ever more bullying police force, with Priti Patel as their leader.

  • Contrary

    The full lock-down events may have not been necessary, look at South Korea that has things under control – they have used CONTACT TRACING extensively, a known public health technique and recommended by WHO. Why have we, and other western countries, not used this?

    Look for anything by Allyson Pollock, an expert on public health, she’s been writing sensibly on the subject:

    We have seen the Lancet and others criticise government response as well. No response, and all we get are dire warning unless we all isolate and obey. Government response is NOT good enough, our survival seems to dependent on our own behaviour and the NHS. Businesses and jobs have been thrown to the wind.

  • John

    Indeed and the BBC interview with the former supreme court Judge Lord Sumption , on Monday this week,was, in my opinion, a very important one. Up until then the police had been happily operating well outside of what the legislation actually said.

    Here is the transcript of that interview.

    The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria.

    Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.

    Q At a time like this as you acknowledge , citizens do look to the state for protection, for assistance, we shouldn’t be surprised then if the state takes on new powers, that is what it has been asked to do, almost demanded of it.

    A Yes that is absolutely true. We should not be surprised. But we have to recognise that this is how societies become despotisms. And we also have to recognise this is a process which leads naturally to exaggeration. The symptoms of coronavirus are clearly serious for those with other significant medical conditions especially if they’re old. There are exceptional cases in which young people have been struck down, which have had a lot of publicity, but the numbers are pretty small. The Italian evidence for instance suggests that only 12% of deaths is it possible to say coronavirus was the main cause of death. So yes this is serious and yes it’s understandable that people cry out to the government. But the real question is : Is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up , saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all, like the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister.

    Q The executive, the government, is all of a sudden really rather powerful and really rather unscrutinised. Parliament is in recess, it’s due to come back in late April, we’re not quite sure whether it will or not, the Prime Minister is closeted away, communicating via his phone, there is not a lot in the way of scrutiny is there?

    A No. Certainly there’s not a lot in the way of institutional scrutiny. The Press has engaged in a fair amount of scrutiny, there has been some good and challenging journalism, but mostly the Press has, I think, echoed and indeed amplified the general panic.

    Q The restrictions in movement have also changed the relationship between the police and those whose, in name, they serve. The police are naming and shaming citizens for travelling at what they see as the wrong time or driving to the wrong place. Does that set alarm bells ringing for you, as a former senior member of the judiciary?

    A Well, I have to say, it does. I mean, the tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform. They are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command. Yet in some parts of the country the police have been trying to stop people from doing things like travelling to take exercise in the open country which are not contrary to the regulations, simply because ministers have said that they would prefer us not to. The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences, but only legal regulations which don’t go anything like as far as the government’s guidance. I have to say that the behaviour of the Derbyshire police in trying to shame people into using their undoubted right to take exercise in the country and wrecking beauty spots in the Fells so that people don’t want to go there, is frankly disgraceful.

    This is what a police state is like. It’s a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers’ wishes. I have to say that most police forces have behaved in a thoroughly sensible and moderate fashion. Derbyshire Police have shamed our policing traditions. There is a natural tendency of course, and a strong temptation for the police to lose sight of their real functions and turn themselves from citizens in uniform into glorified school prefects. I think it’s really sad that the Derbyshire Police have failed to resist that.

    Q There will be people listening who admire your legal wisdom but will also say, well, he’s not an epidemiologist, he doesn’t know how disease spreads, he doesn’t understand the risks to the health service if this thing gets out of control. What do you say to them?

    A What I say to them is I am not a scientist but it is the right and duty of every citizen to look and see what the scientists have said and to analyse it for themselves and to draw common sense conclusions. We are all perfectly capable of doing that and there’s no particular reason why the scientific nature of the problem should mean we have to resign our liberty into the hands of scientists. We all have critical faculties and it’s rather important, in a moment of national panic, that we should maintain them.

    Q Lord Sumption, former Justice of the Supreme Court, speaking to me earlier.

  • Clark

    Craig: “My suspicion is that in a couple of years time it will be discovered the mortality rate was under 1%”

    I bet you your garage you’re wrong about that.

      • Paul

        It’s really going to depend on how you define mortality. As Lord Sumption pointed out, only a small proportion of people dying whilst infected with Covid-19 were not also under the effect of some other chronic illness. Dying with Covid-19 is not necessarily the same as dying of Covid-19.

        My understanding of why the German mortality figures are currently much lower than most other places is that they don’t automatically ascribe all deaths with as deaths from.

        • John

          Indeed there is a big difference of ‘dying with Corvid 19’ and ‘dying from Corvid 19’ a point made in this article in the Spectator that the quote below comes from. The collection of statistics across the world is being done in so many different ways that get accurate data is well nigh impossible.

          “But there’s another, potentially even more serious problem: the way that deaths are recorded. If someone dies of a respiratory infection in the UK, the specific cause of the infection is not usually recorded, unless the illness is a rare ‘notifiable disease’. So the vast majority of respiratory deaths in the UK are recorded as bronchopneumonia, pneumonia, old age or a similar designation. We don’t really test for flu, or other seasonal infections. If the patient has, say, cancer, motor neurone disease or another serious disease, this will be recorded as the cause of death, even if the final illness was a respiratory infection. This means UK certifications normally under-record deaths due to respiratory infections.

          Now look at what has happened since the emergence of Covid-19. The list of notifiable diseases has been updated. This list — as well as containing smallpox (which has been extinct for many years) and conditions such as anthrax, brucellosis, plague and rabies (which most UK doctors will never see in their entire careers) — has now been amended to include Covid-19. But not flu. That means every positive test for Covid-19 must be notified, in a way that it just would not be for flu or most other infections.

          In the current climate, anyone with a positive test for Covid-19 will certainly be known to clinical staff looking after them: if any of these patients dies, staff will have to record the Covid-19 designation on the death certificate — contrary to usual practice for most infections of this kind. There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes. Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not. It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded.

          If we take drastic measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19, it follows that the deaths will also go down. We risk being convinced that we have averted something that was never really going to be as severe as we feared. This unusual way of reporting Covid-19 deaths explains the clear finding that most of its victims have underlying conditions — and would normally be susceptible to other seasonal viruses, which are virtually never recorded as a specific cause of death.”

          • Clark

            From the mathematical models of CoVID-19’s spread that have been proving reasonably accurate, during this expansionary phase of infection, there are about 1000 infected people for each death. Globally, some 43,000 deaths have been attributed to CoVID-19, implying about 43 million infected. That’s less than 0.6 of the global population, so the vast majority of people still have no immunity to CoVID-19, ie. CoVID-19 has plenty of room to expand into.

            You can argue that deaths have been over-counted, but that just means that CoVID-19 has a greater population yet to infect.

    • Liz

      It’ll be hard to assess in the UK where we will never have a definitive number for how many people were infected. However, of you assume that 80% of the UK population was to get it, (52 mil) then 1% of that is still 520000 deaths.

    • SA

      People latch on to mortality and of course that is important. But of course we are in no way placed to quantitate overall mortality from Covid 19 accurately at present. In countries that only test for the virus on very sick individuals, the mortality will be recorded as higher than in countries were there is more widespread testing. A case in point may be Germany which has a much far ranging programme of testing. Also overall mortality is not the same as case mortality rates. That would be defined for all those, for example who have been admitted to hospital with the virus and the defined clinical picture who die. This again would be higher because it selects for the more sick individuals. Having said all that there are now some ball park figures and Italy shows the worst mortality. One factor in mortality differences is also how equipped countries are to deal with large numbers of casualties. If healthcare facilities are swamped, you will have what can be termed as ‘collateral deaths’, that is patients with other treatable diseases who will not be able to access treatment.
      The important reasons why this epidemic is scary, without focussing too much on mortality are: the rate of spread. Because this is estimated to be high each infected person infects 2-3 others, as opposed to 1.3 in Flu, the rise is exponential. The lack of detection and isolation of milder cases is therefor a mistake, because this will keep the numbers rising, and you just can’t predict who gets bad disease. The second factor is not just mortality, but morbidity which is the number of individuals who have severe disease necessitating hospital admission. This also appears to be high, about 25% of cases in Chinese and Italian published studies.
      As to this concept of people dying with the disease rather than of the disease, that is utter rubbish promulgated by some who understand little about medicine. In any death there is a main factor and contributory factors. Of course a disease that causes pneumonia will kill the weakest, the elderly and those with other co-morbidities. But that doesn’t mean that they would not have survived much longer. That is what medicine has achieved, that we keep people alive for longer, despite their illnesses.
      To say that some die with the disease rather than of it is like saying that if for example I have heart failure and because I am weak and breathless, I fall and break my neck, I do not die with a broken neck, but of a heart failure because I was going to die of it any way at some stage. The determination here is that the clinical picture of the infection plus virus isolation determines the cause of death.

      • Nick

        Yes but here in ayrshire we have had 3 recent deaths recorded as covid19…yet no test for covid19 or post mortem performed. Repeat this across the nation and the figures become utterly meaningless.

    • Tom Welsh

      Eventually everyone will have been infected. At that time, the true mortality will become clear. If it is 5%, about 3.3 million will die. If it is 1%, 660,000. If it is 0.001%, only 6,600 will die.

      It’s a difference of opinion that makes for horse races. We’ll see, by and by.

    • Jo Dominich

      Clark, I suspect Craig is 100% right given analysis of all the current available international stats. People have died in hospital from extremely poor or wrong medical treatment and diagnosis and from botched surgery and medical interventions. As happened in Staffordshire Hospital, an elderly person’s death was glibly written off as Pneumonia without a second thought or an autopsy. Thank God for her daughter and son-in-law whose determination exposed the whole fiasco. She never had pneumonia.

  • Geoff

    And yet here we are, all under house arrest,

    Regardless of whether you believe it is justifiable given how serious a threat this covid 19 is, or you think it is overblown nonsense. It doesn’t matter. We’re locked in just the same. No assembly, no freedom. We are at the mercy of ‘our’ government.

    The evidence is there that the police are relishing their new found status as prison warders. The chief constables may be wringing their hands in faux despair but at street level, the thuggish behaviours are showing already as they have less constraint imposed by a surrounding public. Some may turn away from this direction, but for a long time, the police has been moved in the direction of a paramilitary force and it is now composed of a lot of likeminded individuals.

    Are we left to hope that the prime minister is a compassionate and worthy leader who will hand back the whip just as soon as he is able? That someone in a position able to is going to say ‘enough’ ? That there will be sufficient public resistance? Sadly, of those three options, I think the first is the most credible… what does that say about where we are?

    • Goodwin

      “And yet here we are, all under house arrest”

      Err, no we’re not. But don’t let that stop you from being hyperbolic.

      • Tom Welsh

        Actually, Goodwin, we are all under house arrest. We are allowed to go outside once (or perhaps twice) a day, if the police and others permit us to do so. But the rest of the time we are compelled to remain in our houses; and that is the definition of “house arrest”.

  • willyrobinson

    “My suspicion is that in a couple of years time it will be discovered the mortality rate was under 1%.”
    You’ve been saying this for a while, but even if there is a theoretical mathematical model where everyone is sick but few people die, the amount of dead bodies here in Spain suggests it’s not like, and should no longer be compared to a normal flu. The image of the ice rink in Madrid being used as one of several makeshift morgues should put paid to that idea. In France or other countries there may be as few deaths from coronavirus as there were from Aids in Uganda back in the day, but the bodies will still be piling up.

    • craig Post author

      Willy. Yes, and a 1% mortality rate with an 80% infection rate in Spain would be 380,000 bodies.

    • Spencer Eagle

      You will never see true figures as the coroners are already casually recording and attributing all sorts of deaths as resulting from covid-19. Last week the news headlined with britain’s youngest covid-19 victim, a 21 year woman, only it was later revealed that she had died of a cardiac arrest totally unconnected with covid-19 (the hospital confirmed she had been tested and was free from the virus). That didn’t stop the Berkshire coroner from going ahead and recording the cause death as resulting from covid-19, his reasoning was that ‘she had a cough’.

      • SA

        This is a single story and we should not let anecdotes define the narrative. In fact the hospital denied that she had symproms of the virus and it was probably a rather hasty coroner . But most of the recided deaths due to Covid-19 are just that.

        • Spencer Eagle

          SA ..I think you are being rather naive and lacking in understanding if you believe the example above was a one off. Peter Hitchens explained some of the issues around covid-19 becoming a notifiable disease in a recent piece:

          ”This is already a major problem in judging death totals from such countries as Italy. Yet new rules in the UK mean deaths which may well be mainly from other causes are recorded as corona deaths.

          John Lee, a recently retired professor of pathology and a former NHS consultant pathologist, writes in The Spectator this weekend that by making Covid-19 a notifiable disease, the authorities may have distorted the figures.

          ‘In the current climate, anyone with a positive test for Covid-19 will certainly be known to clinical staff looking after them: if any of these patients dies, staff will have to record the Covid-19 designation on the death certificate – contrary to usual practice for most infections of this kind.

          ‘There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes.

          Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not. It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded.’

          This, of course, explains why such an overwhelming number of Covid deaths, here and abroad, involve so-called ‘underlying conditions’, in fact serious, often fatal, diseases.

          Take this into account whenever you hear official figures of coronavirus deaths.

          Dr Lee adds, equally crucially: ‘We risk being convinced that we have averted something that was never really going to be as severe as we feared.’

          That is the heart of it. It was never going to be as bad as the panic-mongers said……….

          • Clark

            When a CoVID-19 outbreak runs through a city, there are ten times as many critical patients than can be cared for, and crematoria cannot dispose of the bodies fast enough. This is being seen in city after city all over the world.

            This is a pandemic; miscounted figures don’t overwhelm hospitals and mortuaries.

          • SA

            With due respect neither you nor Peter Hitchens are trained scientists who can make these conjectures. I do not really like to be called naïve by naïve individuals who get their information from journalists and google.
            How do you die of Covid-19? You come into hospital and you have appendicitis and then you are tested and found positive then you die and you are labelled as dying from Covid-19? No. You have a clinical picture consisting of fever, cough and breathlessness. They test you and you are positive. You have a CT scan and it shows quite marked changes compatible with a condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Unlike ordinary pneumonis, this is much more serious because the lungs become rigid and the air sacks contain fluid. Using a ventilator in these cases is only partially successful and is a holding measure. If the patient has diabetes or whatever beforehand, there would be other things that would indicate why it is the diabetes that kills them and not the lung condition. Because this picture is usually rare, and because there are so many patients coming in with this picture, which cannot be confused with other things, it forms a diagnosis of Covid-19 disease. Just because you have something else does not mean you have died of that other condition because the clinical picture would be different.
            Now if you continue denying that there is a serious epidemic, you have to tell me, in your profound wisdom, what you think all these cases overwhelming the health service are/ Just a touch of flu?

          • Herbie

            This is the “died of” or “died with” Covid-19, issue.

            Your description of “died of” is interesting, but you provide no evidence that the published data is making the distinction between “died of” or “died with”.

            Evidence from Italy is that only about 12% of deaths are “died of”.

            The rest are “died with”.

            As in your “appendicitis” example.

            Anyway, the legal measures are unprecedented.

            The massive transfer of more public wealth up to big corporates and banks unprecedented.

            A path to the end of independent business opened.

            There’s much more going on here than Covid-19.

        • Tom Welsh

          On the contrary, that “single story” shows us all what can happena dn has indeed happened. The only question is how often it happens. Don’t expect to see any official statistics on that.

    • Tom Welsh

      You are assuming that everyone who is infected gets “sick”. But that is not necessarily the case, and actually seems very unlikely. It is quite possible that as many as a quarter of the UK population were already infected before the lockdown began last week.

    • SA

      In fact Clark, this virus has had the effect of grounding most air traffic and at least in China reducing pollution in the highly industralised centres remarkably with improvement of air pollution. It might also encourage us all towards local food production, shopping and so on and also in planting our allotments.

        • Tom Welsh

          Yes, Clark; and if all human beings were to die, the levels would fall still further.

          • Clark

            We deem ourselves the most intelligent species by far; let’s try to live up to that by implementing a better solution than extinction.

          • Tom Welsh

            As Arthur C. Clarke observed, it has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. The vast majority of successful species have very little of it (if any).

            Homo sapiens (and the other great apes) are experiments that don’t seem to be very promising. The dinosaurs ruled the Earth for about 100 million years; we have been around for perhaps 2 million at the very most. It’s only about 10,000 years since we set to work on our grand project to drive ourselves (and many other species) extinct.

          • Herbie

            “As Arthur C. Clarke observed, it has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. The vast majority of successful species have very little of it (if any).”


            You can only really talk about success for a period of time.

            Ultimately, it’s all a matter for God, and very little to do with human plans, desires and so on.


            Success in human societies seems much more knowledge and nepotism-based.

            That trumps both intelligence and brawn

  • Christian

    From locked down Strasbourg, France:
    Lockdown is necessary to prevent an exponential growth of cases, which would lead to a quick saturation of the healthcare system, hence most patients would be denied medical care, thus the number of casualties and health after-effects among survivors would increase hugely.
    By being most of us home-bound, the spread of the disease is slowed, which allows hospitals to take care of all patients, reducing casualties, and gives researchers time to create a vaccine and a cure for the time after lockdown.

    • James

      Christian – I agree.

      In this sketch (start at 3.15) Dave Allen explains why it is so important that there is no more than one funeral per day at a cemetery.

      For this reason, the curve has to be flattened so that we don’t all go together at the same time.

    • Jo Dominich

      Christian, one problem there, not a single shred of evidence out there that proves hospitals are being overwhelmed.

  • Republicofscotland

    Indeed the lack of preparedness is disgraceful, especially when you learn that in 2016 the UK government ran a scenario for such an event as Covid-19 called “Exercise Cygnus”.

    There were many recommendations from this exercise that as usual were not acted upon by the Tory government. One significant finding was that the NHS wouldn’t be able to cope with such an outbreak. Add to the findings all, negative, that Englands Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies actually told the the World Innovation Summit for Health, that the UK was ill equipped to handle a pandemic.

    As for the extensive powers of the Covid-19 bill, many folk are indeed worried, not just at its two year length period, which is far too long in my opinion, but as you quite rightly point out, what possible staged event could materialise to see large chunks of the bill remain in law permanently, severely damaging our civil, and possibly human rights, one must recall the Torys were leaning towards constricting human right.

    We only have to look back to see the plethora of people who’ve died indirectly linked to Tory austerity. Not to mention UN officials visiting the UK and denouncing the way the UK government treats its sick, elderly, disabled and the poor.

    Many lives couldve probably been saved if the UK government had heeded the stark warnings from Exercise Cygnus, such as procuring more ventilators at the time, even now in the middle of this pandemic radio news reports that the UK sold over £17 million pounds worth of PPE to other nations, whilst those working in the hospitals trying to save lives, putting their own lives and their families lives at risk, have been told to shut up over the lack of PPE or face the sack.

  • Misbah

    The only crumb of comfort I take from this is that, the effects of this lockdown are similar to a General Strike and we are seeing how responsive the Government has to be to economic pain.
    If Scotland ever chooses to go for independence then it has a valuable, effective weapon in its armoury.

  • Crispa

    I check the South Korea figures daily on because it provides the most rational approach that I can find to the situation as has been stated with strict targeted measures but no basic loss of civil rights and liberties. It has carried out 421k tests 395k of those proving negative so that targeted action can be taken on the confirmed cases (with contact tracing etc) and that strategy has resulted in an estimated 165 deaths from covid-19 (mainly in the older age range as would be predicted).
    Talking to my GP son last night, he put this down to Korea having been fully prepared with test equipment and dedicated infrastructure quickly put into place – Korea had less time than this country to prepare. By contrast he had visited care homes yesterday where several residents had symptoms and being treated through enforced isolation. Homes were short staffed because of staff going into self-isolation. But unless anyone’s symptoms developed to the point where they had to go into hospital none would be tested. So it is we citizens who are suffering this enormous deprivation of our liberties because government actions, contrary to its propaganda,is far from being evidence based. More a matter of pissing into the wind.

    • Bill Boggia

      I agree with you Crispa – government incompetance is at the heart of it. Tories seldom give a shit about the wellbeing of ordinary folk at the best of times.

  • Peter M

    “My suspicion is that in a couple of years time it will be discovered the mortality rate was under 1%. ”

    Having read a lot about Covid 19, from those that caution about a lockout – all comments by those experienced in the epidemiological field or public health services – to those who screech in panic mode, the main thing I come away with is:
    The disease spreads faster as symptoms show up delayed.
    20% show severe forms of the disease and 15 – 18% of those will die. Those are usually patients that are affected by other health problems.
    The point is: because the delay in the symptoms and the spread there is a sudden wave of severe cases that overload the health care systems that are insufficiently funded without enough protective gear and respirators that are needed.
    Flue usually spreads out over several months – up to six, so a system overload is usually not a given.
    Therefore the quarantine approach can work to keep down the inrush of patients into hospitals.
    Imagine a population of 100 000 affected by the virus, 20% severe cases amounts to 20 000 to an already stretched system.

    The problem is not so much the virus itself, but the unpreparedness of the health system and the unwillingness to prepare for such an occurrence – just see the late response by the USA who knew sind January 3 of the crisis developing in China, and still not having sufficient material and test kits to isolate early on those who are carriers.

  • Doug

    “It is incredible to me that the UK is willing to throw away some £220 billion and rising on Trident against a war scenario nobody can sensibly define, but was not willing to spend a few million on holding stock of protective clothing for the NHS against the much more likely contingency of a pandemic. What does that say about our society?”

    Well, it certainly says a lot about English/British nationalist Westminster. Empire2.0

  • bj

    Two things:

    Firstly, on RT yesterday I found this quote:

    Yesterday former supreme court justice Lord Sumption branded Derbyshire Police “disgraceful” over
    their handling of the new controls.

    He told the BBC: “The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform,
    they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command.

    “This is what a police state is like. It’s a state in which the government can issue orders or
    express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers’ wishes.”

    This is so profound and pertinent that any comment would destroy the impact of its certain truthfulnesss.

    And secondly, there’s this site, the COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker:
    Note the few countries where actually new laws have been passed….

  • Caratacus

    Very well said, and calmly argued. I have been subjected to the usual volleys of abuse from trusting souls who defend Big Brother, whom they love, when saying the same thing.

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin.

  • Republicofscotland

    “It is also a problem that Peter Hitchens is being reviled for saying, in essence, little more than that. ”

    On the other side of that coin we have political commentator Toby Young, saying some pretty nasty stuff, in the form of complaining of the spending of £350 billion pounds to save a few hundred thousand, mostly elderly people.

    • David

      That’s the Toby Young who alleged featured multiple times in (dead) Epstein’s little black book of numbers? Was that ever explained Toby Young? Is it the same Toby Young who’s been similarly defending a royal idiot?

      From on the day in question, he was most likely “at a Pizza Express in Woking”. Toby Young offered that these flighty stories amounted to “a good alibi” for Prince Andrew, and the bad manner in which he came across in the interview just one of the “drawbacks of having a large male ego”

      On the other hand, I find Peter Hitchens very accurate

  • SA

    The most dangerous aspect of the totalitarian situation we are drifting into is that we have a government with a large majority which has sent parliament packing, in a state of national emergency, with extremely centralised power and sweeping new police powers. In a situation like this, despite the dominance of one party, we should have a government of national unity, and some form of parliamentary oversight must be maintained, even by virtual meetings. There is nothing partisan here, and the government has no divine right to rule by diktat. Unfortunately the Labour party has become totally neutralised in this extremely prolonged leadership election.

  • Fleur

    One of the most worrying aspects of the forecast “ongoing” nature of isolation is threats in many countries that older people “should be kept isolated” even once others can go out. (eg

    While retirement age people are constantly depicted as foolish, ignorant, sickly, and with little useful input to society, my experience (eg in the ongoing battle to save Julian Assange from his ongoing persecution by various states) is that very many of the most active foot-soldiers (both virtual and in the streets) for change are of retirement age. This extends to Assange’s family (both mother and father work tirelessly), key spokespeople, and legal team.

    This bias towards aged activism may be because older people have long memories, and so have other times and other mores to which they can compare the current political & legal madhouse. It may also be because many of this age group now have spare time, and/or they are no longer beholden to employers.

    Are such people now to be confined to their home long term, and sacrificed if they fall ill? With growing online censorship they may even find that sole remaining outlet for their voices silenced.

    Is this all coincidence?

    • Tom Welsh

      Ironically, it is believed that human lifespan became as long as it is so that grandparents and great-grandparents could pass on their knowledge and wisdom to the young.

      And it is precisely to stop that from happening that our establishment wishes to get rid of the old. The naive young are easier to con.

      The Athenian establishment killed Socrates for exactly the same reason. He taught the young to think, reason and question.

  • Brendan

    It’s one thing to have strict rules to avoid a deadly crisis, but some of the measures are so bizarre that you have to wonder what their real purpose is. The ban on walking in the countryside is not just irrational and pointless, it has the opposite effect of what it is supposed to achieve – to keep people at a safe distance from each other.

    It’s hard to believe that decisions to do weird things, like tracking people with drones in the Peak district and dyeing a lake black in Buxton, were made locally. The plod in Derbyshire couldn’t be completely brainless.

    The only explanation I can think of is that some higher authority is using the crisis as a test to see much they can get away with. If the population accepts being ordered around for no apparent reason, that will become the new normal. And whenever the next crisis occurs, the authorities will step up the suppression of freedom even more.

    • Kempe

      The local council first started pouring black dye into the Blue Lagoon back in 2013 to dissuade people from swimming in it. Although it looks beautiful the blue colour is the result of toxic pollutants and the water has a pH of 11.3.

      • Brendan

        There wouldn’t be many people swimming there at this time of the year. The reason given for pouring the dye in this time round was just to make the surrounding area less attractive to walkers.

    • Tom Welsh

      Meanwhile, since 1990 the US and UK governments have killed literally millions of people in the Middle East and Africa, maimed and bereaved at least another million, made countless millions homeless refugees, and destroyed the physical and social infrastructure of half a dozen nations.

      Quite deliberately.

      But when a few dozen people die in our precious countries, somehow that does matter. What can account for the different values assigned to British lives and Syrian lives – or Libyan, or Iraqi, or Iranian, or Yemeni, or Sudanese, or Somalian?

      I am at a loss to say.

  • Mary

    The BBC is heralding the arrival of a new drug to combat the virus. It was produced during the Ebola outbreak.

    ‘A drug that could help treat coronavirus is to be trialled on a small number of patients in England and Scotland.
    The studies, which have been fast-tracked by the government, will initially involve 15 NHS centres.
    In the absence of a known treatment for the virus, a handful of experimental drugs are being tested globally.
    The drug, known as remdesivir, is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Gilead.
    Two studies are to be carried out in the UK – one on patients with moderate symptoms, and one on those who are in a serious condition.’

    Gilead. See Rumsfeld and Schultz onboard.. Revenue $22.1billion !

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