Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

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Kim Sanders-Fisher

On the Marr show this morning the Sunday Times spread detailing the “38 Days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster” showed that even one of the most compliant of Tory supporting papers was no longer prepared to ignore the wilful negligence over Covid 19. The scathing piece reported that our part-time PM, Boris Johnson, had failed to attend any of the five Cobra meetings held in January and February while the Tory Government had grossly misjudged the seriousness of the situation. Presenting it as a low risk to the UK, Ministers weren’t fast enough to act, They highlighted that all through the austerity years there was recognition that a pandemic was always considered the single biggest threat to the country, but the Tories had stripped away UK preparedness funding and reduced stockpiling as if this would never amount to more than coping with seasonal influenza.

Professor Sarah Gilbert from the Oxford team busy working on a vaccine provided a truly illuminating and brutally honest appraisal of the team’s progress. It was so refreshing to hear honest answers to tough questions; she stands no chance of being elected as a future MP! Gilbert said that they are just completing final safety tests and approvals so human trials could get under way at the end of next week. They have already started recruiting and checking for healthy participants. The vaccine could potentially be ready as early as September, but there are no guarantees.

After reminding Marr that testing is not a simple process she described a gradual expansion of test subjects starting with healthy 18-55 year olds, then an older and a younger group as there is generally less immune response with older people. She provided a rapid explanation of what is involved in conducting a double-blind trial and how if that was successful then they could apply for an “emergency use” licensing to expand more widely.

The Professor said we need to be ready to manufacture, but said the UK does not have large scale manufacturing facilities for vaccines right now and that would require Government support to help set up and accelerate manufacturing without threatening other production lines. Marr asked who owns it? The repkt was that Oxford University and Vaxitech own the intellectual property, but it will be made available worldwide she said giving the impression this was not a major profit seeking enterprise. The cost of the vaccine is low so it must be made widely available for public health use; not free but inexpensive. She emphasized that her team had crammed five years work into just four months and she was in a hurry to get back to work,

Asked more general questions like can someone who has had Covid 19 become re-infected? She said that they know from similar infections that immunity does not last indefinitely, but she was quick to point out the difference between that type of naturally immunity acquired from exposure and the immunity acquired from a vaccine. She said that coronavirus itself does not leave a strong immune response, but that they were using a different vaccine and with the Adenovirus leaving a strong immune response that would stay at a high level for a longer period of time. This would seem to kibosh the Tory “Herd Immunity” solution as such naturally acquired exposure protection would not last for very long.

Marr asked if the virus would mutate Professor Gilbert thought that although it already had to some extent they were comparing their expectations of how the virus might behave to their knowledge about MERS. Tests on MERS showed not much change in the virus, but we could see five or more waves as people lose natural immunity and become infected again. Marr asked her if she could explain why some people were more vulnerable than others, older people and particularly men? She said that this was largely to do with the expression of the receptor the virus attaches to in order to get into cells. The ACE2 protein found on the surface of cells in the respiratory tract is at low levels in children, but increases with age and is higher in men.

The Professor also said that as the immune system ages we are less able to fight off viruses, this is particularly true if there is a high viral load at the time of infection. The exposure to a high viral load is almost certainly why some NHS staff have become so very ill and died after exposure to Covid 19 despite a younger age and healthier condition free of co-morbidities. There may also be genetic susceptibilities that might explain differences in vulnerability between various ethnic groups… we are still learning. The Proffessor offered more insight into Covid 19 in this one short interview than I have heard elsewhere in weeks of listening to the expert opinions’ I learned a lot.

Professors do give you very clear answers sometimes Marr said moving on to his next guest after a brief summary of the economic catastrophe unfolding worldwide dye ti the pandemic. Marr interviewed Angel Gurria, the Secretary General of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD to ask how bad is this recession going to be? Gurria stressed that it was going to be very bad, but it was not the great depression; it is a recession and the difference was the length of time the impact would last. This would mean the drop would not be as bad, but there would be negative growth throughout a very bad year in 2020 and wounds, scars in 2021 and 2922.

Marr said that a lot of people fear mass unemployment and Gurria said that’s already happening as the Coronavirus advances in waves we are having the immediate consequences, unemployment, the survival or not of hundreds of thousands of SMEs and large businesses will go down. Countries are trying to choose between getting their economy up and running again and health risks. Gurria said that’s a false dilemma you don’t separate between the virus and the economy they are absolutely related; the faster we deal with the virus the faster it will be to get the economy back in shape and the less castle it will be.

Marr concluded that he was saying that countries should not unlock until that are confident that the virus is safely defeated. Gurria said he could see a stop and go process with potential renewed surge… the cost could be very high if we get it wrong. All countries will have to decide how to pay for it Marr challenged would they go for austerity or tollover the debt further and further into the future. What is the perspective of the OECD? Gurria talked of the consequences of the crisis but said Governments had a duty to protect but with higher levels of debt that was the price we were all going to have to pay hopefully to avoid a second wave.

Marr then asked if there was so much debt who did they owe it to? Governments owe it to investors who buy debt in treasury bonds or to the central banks were buying up debt.. Marr noted that one positive thing we are seeing in response to a real challenge Governments can change direction very fast and do things very big the former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carne said on the economist that we will expect greater attention to be paid to risk, more attention given to scientists and the great test of this new hierarchy of values is how we deal with climate change. Gurria emphasised our responsibility to the next generation to protect our planet.

Labour’s new Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds responded to Marr saying we must learn from the lesson of the slow recovery from banking crisis protect the most vulnerable as the impact of this crisis ripples across the economy. We should try to save the businesses who have furloughed workers and backfill their wages. She said there was low take-up due of the scheme due to multiple problems preventing the applications being processed. Perhaps it was deliberately poorly designed to focus only on looking good superficially as with most Tory programs? My comment not Dodds!

Dodds remarked that John Mc.Donnell had said that coming out of this crisis the Government must target banks, the wealthy and high earners who are best able to cope. After the Bank bailout UK workers had suffered the longest financial squeeze since Napoleonic times with a huge burden placed on the poor; we cannot repeat that error. In reaction to the Sunday Times piece Dodds said that Labour had been aware of all the Cobra meetings missed by the PM in his chaotic approach to the crisis and their MPs had been very worried; it was no revelation, but now the public know the truth. Should there be a public inquiry? The Unions were saying that the Governments inappropriate handling of this crisis represents a National Scandal.

Gove response to WHO guidelines for emerging from lockdown was a typical denial of reality. He started into familiar expansive Tory spin about the new tracking App they were working on and the fading hope of wide-scale testing and contact tracing with that lofty target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month. Who still believes this level of community testing will be made available anytime soon? Just 21,000 tests a day now with less than a fortnight to go. With capacity at 30,000, why was there less take-up? Government gas the brakes on as the tests are restricted to just NHS staff and patients we already know are infected. Gove describes the slow progress as “cautious and measured, guided by the science,” said he who once decried the input of experts! Gove returns to beta testing of their App lots of ers? Will it be obligatory? It all sounds like an excuse for big brother surveillance.

Moving on Gove warned we cannot relax yet and restrictions on the hospitality sector will come last. Sarah Gilbert and the Oxford ream want a major scale up of production Gove says is planned for Harwell. But no, there was not yet a network of vaccination centres being prepared for mass vaccinations. Marr pointed out that in France, Macron had admitted to making mistakes in a frank address to the French people, would the UK Government be as honest about their failings. What a ridiculous question to ask a Tory, they will be blaming everyone but themselves. Dodging fire Gove said “all Governments make mistakes!” None of us knew the consequences the Tories have adjusted their preparations, still learning lessons.

The Sunday Times article really riled Gove who would not admit to a “shudder of recognition” he claimed there were a number of things wrong with the piece. The PM did not attend the Cobra meetings because other Government Ministers were responsible for attending on his behalf and reporting back to the PM. Well that’s not a demonstration of strong leadership in a national crisis. Gove’s defensive comments and claims of “not fair” got desperate. A bizarre revelation that we had sent protective equipment to China, but not from our inadequate pandemic stock! Wow what a prosecution case, Gove was really losing his rag blaming bad press; he was sounding very much like Trump.

It was great to see Marr really get his teeth into Tory for a change; Gove became so perturbed by the aggressive questioning I thought his head would blast off! Scotland and Wales both had PPE, but not the UK, more defensive hype as Marr went for the jugular. Marr was not letting Gove get away with the usual Tory spin over early boasts that the UK “had the most equipment you could ever need in the world.” Marr switched to business, saying that the business loans were sorely needed as many SMEs will go bust in the coming week with only 0.25% of the Government money being accessed so far. Would the Government guarantee on these loans be raised from 80% to 100% of the loans, just as they had found it necessary to do in Germany? Gove couldn’t say, but I doubt the chancellor will correct yet another cheapskate Tory miscalculation that will cost us all in the end.

Later in the day Gavin Williamson drew the short straw and was thrown into the press conference bear pit today to talk about the children not returning to school after what would have been the end of Easter break. Gavin is not a good speaker often giving the impression he is addressing a group of five year olds; who will ever forget him saying that the Russians should “shut up and go away.” He splashed some cash on child help lines in response to horrific reports in the incidents of abuse. Williamson announced that Oak National Academy had prepared 108 video lessons to help parents with home schooling. There would also be a package available on TV and online, but what about that TV license? There would be free 4G routers and laptops for the disadvantaged and he ended with an apology to all those kids eager to get back to school.

Doctor Jenny Harris, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, was also on hand to present the daily update of graphs, but after explaining who she was the Doctor became just “Jenny no title” by the time Gavin Williamson handed over to her. I noted that testing was creeping up very slowly. The session then switched to questions which focused heavily on the missing PPE, how the Government had let stocks run down and then failed to expand resources in February and March.

I was totally gob-smacked by the Doctor’s unbelievable statement that the UK is “an international exemplar in preparedness:” really you have to be kidding? I would hate to see how poorly prepared countries might fair. Not getting back to willing manufacturers par among British suppliers who were eager to contribute came under attack again: the Tories are still cherry picking their suppliers. Was refusing to treat patients without PPE kit acceptable? Harris gave a convoluted answer about how it was their responsibility to understand agreed guidance, there was a lot of fudge, but it sounded like: “we failed to protect you so we just changed the protocol to make it OK to risk your life; suck it up and get over it!” The touted PPE from Turkey has now been delayed, but let’s thank the airforce who will be flying it in here, better late than never.

Boris Johnson not attending important Cobra meetings in person, just getting briefs. The PM leading from a confused rear end of you ask me. Again there was waffle about “best practices” and individual risk factors; right, analysing the data without testing so one major strand of the data is missing! Were they expecting schools to reopen in mid May as kids without computers with no support from home were falling behind. Gavin seemed a little taken aback, had he not announced a package of goodies, like IT equipment… why were the not impressed? Would schools stay open over summer break to catch up? No plans, sure we expected that.

But more intense scrutiny was to follow. At the end of March when the WHO said test, test, test your team said that this was not appropriate for the UK. It targeted Dr. Harris, but she defended her reasoning behind supporting this prevarication. Jemmy Harris obviously does not like being compared to the shining example of Germany, so she started into the “apples and oranges” excuse as if we were of a different species in the UK. There was no excuse for the glaring disparity caused by their massive testing program, but we all get that! Many countries did not realize they had a problem she meandered on, we had very strict quarantine until the end of the containment phase. So why did we quit testing and tracing? That is why has UK has been so badly hit.

Are we past the peak? Dr, Harris was reluctant to comment… deaths are down today, but always down on the weekend a plateau perhaps. One journalist had seen an controversial email re PPE saying that sustainable supplies were not available anf there was no date for solving problem, which was met with spin about the gowns from Turkey.
Do teachers need PPE? Is it safe for teachers to go back to work? Williamson invoked the Tories five tests, but said schools were not unsafe places there was no key element of risk as children are less affected.

Lack of PPE in Social care as the sector have been let down with Government promises that have been broken. There was a big diversionary pitch for Nottingham as Gavin skidded off sideways to avoid blame. Dr. Jenny Harris then called for a more adult conversation as if questioning why people’s lives were still being put at grave risk was such a petty thing to ask about: don’t blame us for screwing up. The reply shifted to the right equipment in right places, which was code for sub-standard kit for expendable poorly paid Carers. If we were demanding more bullets for guns to kill people there would be no supply problems or delays; the UK excels at supplying the arms trade, but saving lives is unimportant.

Sir David Attenborough also appeared on the Marr show this morning to remind us that the Covid 19 crisis the Climate crisis had not gone away. In an interview conducted before Social Distancing had kicked in to keep participants apart he talked about his new film. He highlighted a few good examples of countries we should try to emulate: the Netherlands for out-producing their own food needs; advances in Japan, but he was most impressed with Costa Rica. Their enlightened leadership had decided that they did not need to squander money on maintaining an army and should focus on re-wilding. Filmed hacking a path through dense undergrowth in a tropical rain forest he explained that the exact same spot 25 years earlier had supported grazing for cows.

David Attenborough described humanity as having become victims of our own success with dense overpopulation and he stressed the need for us to stop waste. It was no longer just about saving the planet he said, but about saving us as it was out last chance. However, the environment has no chance at all without removing tyrannical populist despots driven by ego and personal ambition like Trump in the US and Bolsonaro torching the Amazon in Brazil. Here in the UK we must prevent the Tory usurpers from joining this toxic elitist club by calling for a full investigation into the Covert 2019 Rigged Election to oust the corrupt leadership that seized power in December and has cost so many innocent lives through incompetence, negligence and greed.