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The new Tory MPs are getting flack from constituents angered by the increasingly arbitrary lockdown restrictions imposed by the PM. In an Express & Star Article entitled, “Tory rebels may not get Covid powers vote but concessions brewing.” They say that, “Reports suggest an amendment demanding more scrutiny on Covid-19 social restrictions is unlikely to be put to a Commons vote. MPs may fail to get a vote on an amendment giving them more say over future coronavirus restrictions despite rebels having enough support to inflict a damaging defeat on the Government. The House of Commons will vote on Wednesday on whether to renew the powers in the Coronavirus Act, but there are calls for ministers to consult Parliament before introducing new curbs on people’s freedoms. Boris Johnson is under pressure to give Parliament the opportunity to debate and vote on future restrictions, with more than 50 Tory MPs signalling they could rebel on the matter, forcing ministers into crisis talks to ward off a revolt.”
They say, “according to reports in both the Guardian and the Times, there are question marks over whether Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will put Sir Graham Brady’s amendment – which has enough support to overturn the Prime Minister’s majority – to a vote. A constitutional expert told the Guardian the circumstances of this week’s vote – which does not create new legislation but instead gives a choice over whether to continue an existing law – means Sir Lindsay would be unlikely to allow any amendments. The act clearly envisages the vote as a yes-no question,’ Dr Hannah White, deputy director of the Institute for Government, told the paper. ‘It doesn’t envisage, ‘yes, but’.’ The binary choice envisaged in the legislation means the Speaker would ‘probably be justified’ in not selecting the amendment, Dr White added.”
If still in post, former Speaker John Bercow surely he would have overruled an idiosyncrasy of our ancient Parliament by deviating from convention to accommodate common sense and good governance. Express & Star note, “The Times also reported ministers were ‘confident’ Commons procedure would prevent a vote but that the rebels, which could number as many as 80 according to the paper, could instead be satisfied with a pledge to give more scrutiny over new rules. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chief Whip Mark Spencer and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg met Conservative MPs in an effort to address their concerns. Former minister Steve Baker, one of those who signed up to Sir Graham’s amendment, was at the ‘cordial and constructive meeting’. ‘I hope and expect we will reach a satisfactory agreement,’ he said. Mr Baker has likened some of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, specifically referencing a ban on singing and dancing.”
The Express & Star say that Matt Hancock told MPs he strongly agreed that the House required an appropriate level of scrutiny, but they quoted him saying that, “the Government had to have the ability to act quickly where necessary.” They say, “one possible concession on the table is for MPs to be granted a retrospective vote on new coronavirus powers five sitting days after they are laid in Parliament, rather than the current wait of four weeks. The Prime Minister has already committed to ‘regular statements and debates’ on coronavirus in the Commons and promised that MPs will be able to question the Government’s scientific advisers more regularly.” Be in absolutely no doubt that this unscrupulous Tory Government will ruthlessly exploit any and all of the quaint idiosyncrasies of our decrepit Parliamentary system to avoid scrutiny and break the rules of basic decency and just practice that have been adhered to for hundreds of years. They say that ‘an Englishman’s word is his bond,’ but Johnson thrives on deception!
Speaker Sir Lindsey Hoyle rose to read his much anticipated statement before PMQs. He said, “I wish to make a statement about this House’s scrutiny of delegated powers during the pandemic, and on the selection of amendments to the motion relating to the Coronavirus Act 2020 later today. The way in which the Government have exercised their powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory. All too often, important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force, and some explanations why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this House have been unconvincing; this shows a total disregard for the House. The Government must make greater efforts to prepare measures more quickly, so that this House can debate and decide upon the most significant measures at the earliest possible point. The use of made affirmative statutory instruments under the urgency procedure gives rise to particular concern.”
Regarding the actions he was prepared to take Hoyle said, “I will give very sympathetic consideration to applications for urgent questions or emergency debates in such cases, requiring Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box to justify the use of such powers.
I hope that all hon. Members will have a chance to express their views through substantive amendable motions on scrutiny of delegated powers, or on the operation of the Coronavirus Act 2020, or both. I turn now to the motion to be considered later today, which invites the House to make a narrow, binary choice as to whether the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 should or should not expire. Unfortunately, as it is only a 90-minute debate as a proceeding under an Act under Standing Order No. 16, I am disappointed that I cannot give additional time to discuss the issues. I know some Members will be disappointed.”
Hoyle continued, “When I became Speaker, I made it clear that I would take decisions on matters relating to procedure guided by professional advice. I have concluded, on the basis of advice that I have received, that any amendment to the motion before the House risks giving rise to uncertainty about the decision the House has taken. This then risks decisions that are rightly the responsibility of Parliament ultimately being determined by the courts. Lack of clarity in such important matters risks undermining the rule of law. I have therefore decided not to select any of the amendments to the motion. As I hope my earlier comments show, I have not taken this decision lightly. I am looking to the Government to remedy a situation I regard as completely unsatisfactory. I now look to the Government to rebuild the trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that they have shown.”
How this Tory Government warped ‘the science’ is exposed in the second of a series of Byline Times Exclusives on “SAGEGATE: Part Two,” they uncover, “Herd Immunity was Imposed on Government’s Science Advisory Group On Dominic Cummings’ Watch.” Nafeez Ahmed investigates, “how the adoption of the outlandish policy, which would have led to half a million deaths, coincided with the presence of Boris Johnson’s controversial chief advisor. The minutes of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) not only confirm that the Government did not at any time give serious consideration to the possibility of suppressing the Coronavirus, they throw new light on its fascination with the idea of ‘herd immunity’. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficiently large number of people in a population have obtained immunity, preventing a virus from being transmitted onward. Usually, it is achieved purely as a result of vaccination, but in some cases scientists agree that it can build up naturally over time.”
Ahmed recalls, “The SAGE minutes which I have delved into provide compelling circumstantial evidence that, contrary to official denials, herd immunity was a central Government strategy – even though SAGE scientists were not able to offer any scientific justification for it at all. On 13 February, the same day that the Government wanted to consider the impact of school closures on ‘the wider economy’, SAGE minutes reveal that it decided to establish another sub-group, SPI-B (Scientific Pandemic Influenza – Behaviour), ‘to provide behavioural science advice via SAGE throughout this incident’. A cross-section of behavioural scientists at SPI-B would later advise the Government to use herd immunity as a way to justify an emerging policy of ‘shielding’ the elderly and vulnerable, while allowing the rest of the population to get infected with the Coronavirus.”
Ahmed reports that, “Until mid-March, the SAGE documents confirm that the Government continued to expect that the virus would achieve ‘sustained transmission’ in the UK, while simultaneously refusing to implement any measures that might prevent that from happening. On 18 February, for instance, the SAGE minutes conclude: ‘When there is sustained transmission in the UK, contact tracing will no longer be useful.’ The Government was not trying to prevent people getting infected and dying, but to keep this at a level which would not collapse the healthcare system.” What is unforgivable is that instead of reverting back to the well established highly efficient local Test, Track and Trace system when the Tory Government finally heeded WHO appeals to “test, test, test” they recklessly awarded responsibility for this to costly private contractors with no experience in the field.
Local authorities have years of experience implementing Track and Trace to identify and halt the spread of STDs, but also when food poisoning or other contamination events. To complete the sabotage of legitimate efforts they are dismantling Public Health England in the midst of the Pandemic and placing serial failure, Dido ‘Tallyho Harding,’ in charge of inappropriately outsourced services, but I disrupt the time line. According to Ahmed, “The Government also displayed a particular interest in understanding the scale of asymptomatic cases in the UK – which was of direct relevance to the herd immunity strategy. While it is easier to track the number of people showing symptoms, if more people had become infected without showing symptoms, this would suggest a wider degree of transmission – giving an indication of progress in achieving herd immunity. Accordingly, the SAGE minutes called for efforts to ‘better understand asymptomatic cases’ through more ‘comprehensive swabbing of returning global travellers’.”
Ahmed reported that, “By 27 February, in a meeting attended by Dominic Cummings’ Downing Street advisor Ben Warner, SAGE updated its assumptions for a reasonable worst-case scenario. It said: ‘80% of the UK population may become infected, with an overall 1% fatality rate in those infected.’ It also added that: ‘Only a proportion of those infected will experience symptoms’. Though seemingly innocuous, this is a crucial observation because the Government appeared to believe that a much larger number of people were asymptomatically infected, consistent with the hope that its strategy was potentially heading towards achieving herd immunity. But it also seemed to have accepted that doing so would come at a huge cost. The Government’s working assumptions indicated an expectation that as many as 500,000 people could die with COVID-19.” Their acceptance of this is truly staggering!
Ahmed says that, “Just a week earlier, Government figures produced by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) had advanced an even worse figure of up to potentially 1.3 million fatalities. Those figures, updated by SAGE on 27 February, showed that the Government estimated that some 37% of people infected would be asymptomatic.” It is really shocking that, “Despite the Government’s own figures suggesting it was on a path to a colossal scale of death, social distancing measures were not implemented until weeks later when the Government realised that NHS capacity would be overwhelmed. The Government was not trying to prevent people getting infected and dying, but to keep this at a level which would not collapse the healthcare system.”
They document that, “In early April, Byline Times obtained leaked recordings of a confidential Home Office call showing Rupert Shute, Deputy Chief Science Advisor, telling staff that ‘we will all be exposed to it [COVID-19] at some point.’ According to the ‘current modelling we are working on, 80% will get it – of that, a large portion won’t notice that they have it,’ he said. ‘Another substantial portion will have very, very mild symptoms. And a small portion will have a very significant reaction.’ What SAGE was describing as a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ was being actively pursued by the Government as a strategy two months after it was first discussed in February.” In reality it is believed that at best Herd Immunity just went underground as a covert agenda.
Ahmed reports that, “The events that followed those February SAGE meetings over a particular three-day period in early March are pivotal. The documents show that the Prime Minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings played a direct role in the SAGE meetings during which a herd immunity strategy ended up determining the Government’s ‘cocooning’ approach to social distancing. On 3 March, SAGE finally began discussing the impact of ‘potential behavioural and social interventions on the spread of a COVID-19 epidemic in the UK’. However, the only tangible measure that was put forward was ‘social distancing for over-65s’. The following day, a group of Government behavioural science advisors called for a strategy focused on isolating only ‘at-risk groups’ while allowing the rest of the population to acquire ‘immunity’.”
Ahmed declared that, “The idea of ‘immunity’ was not based on scientific research within SAGE, but was described by members of the SPI-B group as a public messaging strategy to help quell confusion about a Government policy of ‘not applying wide-scale social isolation at the same time as recommending isolation to at-risk groups… One view is that explaining that members of the community are building some immunity will make this acceptable.’ On 5 March, the SAGE minutes confirm that the Government decided to adopt this approach. The meeting during which this was cemented was attended by Cummings, Warner and David Halpern, head of the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team (known as the ‘nudge unit’). The minutes show that the attendees agreed on recommending ‘social isolation (cocooning) for those over 65 or with underlying medical conditions to delay spread, modify the epidemic peak and reduce mortality rates’.” The public were shocked by the callously cruel reality of the Tory approach!
Ahmed reports that, “Consistent with the SPI-B advice relayed the previous day, the Government was simultaneously advised to avoid other social distancing measures such as banning large public gatherings, limiting social interaction in public spaces and school closures. Instead, it was agreed that the focus would be solely on ‘cocooning of older and vulnerable patients’, though this would ‘start later, and would have to continue longer’. By 10 March, SAGE was warning the Government that the country was just four to five weeks behind the situation in Italy. Despite this, it continued to insist that the Government should not suppress the Coronavirus on the grounds that doing so would make a second wave inevitable. The following day, Halpern told BBC News that by the time at-risk groups ‘come out of their cocooning, [the plan is that] herd immunity’s been achieved in the rest of the population’. Throughout this period, no scientific evidence about herd immunity was discussed or ratified by SAGE.”
In what is referred to as, “The end of an unworkable idea, Ahmed noted that, “It was only later that the Government began to realise that its previous sanguine approach had allowed the Coronavirus to become far more endemic at a far faster rate than previously anticipated – in a way that could overwhelm the NHS. A little less than a week on, it was clear that the Government was grappling to keep up with the pace of events and, suddenly SAGE advice switched to calling for stronger social distancing measures, which had previously been deemed ‘ineffective’. ‘On the basis of accumulating data, including on NHS critical care capacity, the advice from SAGE has changed regarding the speed of implementation of additional interventions,’ read the minutes from 16 March. ‘SAGE advises that there is clear evidence to support additional social distancing measures be introduced as soon as possible’.” Sadly we are reminded of ‘closing gates’ and ‘bolting horses;’ Covid was leading in the Grand National!
At this point according to Ahmed, “It was also clear that SAGE appeared to be particularly confused about the efficacy of these social distancing measures because the Government had not asked the group to model them – until now. The minutes noted that ‘further analysis and modelling’ of potential school closures and many other social distancing interventions was required for the Government to make its next decisions.” But, Ahmed says, “this raises an obvious question: why hadn’t this analysis and modelling been done much earlier? These minutes can be read as an inadvertent admission that, until this time, the Government’s scientific understanding of the efficacy of social distancing measures was lacking in substance and inadequate to underpin its policy decisions. The same applies to the ‘herd immunity’ approach, which appeared to remain of key interest even as the lockdown proceeded.”
Ahmed reports, “On 26 March – three days after the lockdown began – SAGE minutes recorded that the Government also ‘needs to know more about immunology and its implications’. In the same meeting, it was tasked with shifting attention to ‘future phases of the epidemic’ during which the Government would ‘release current measures safely and advise on long-term issues’. It was only by around mid-April that SAGE began to seriously process scientific data on immunity. What it found decisively challenged the idea that ‘herd immunity’ could work as a viable strategy. A series of meeting minutes from this period show that SAGE belatedly conceded that there was “no evidence pointing to high levels of population immunity in this stage in the pandemic”; that it was unclear how long immunity lasted; and that therefore the idea of opening up the economy via mass distributing of immunity passports for people recovered from the Coronavirus was premature.”
Ahmed concluded, “By the end of April, SAGE had driven the final nail in the coffin for the herd immunity fantasy. But, instead of a positive change of direction, this led to a dangerous new phase in the Government’s strategy.” A while ago a Skwawkbox Video warned of turning Covid “on and off like a tap.” I sincerely doubt the harsh scolding of Speaker Hoyle in the Commons will deter Johnson or Cummings, from driving a wrecking ball through the remnants of our democracy. The PM is being directed to test the boundaries of what this corrupt Tory cabal can get away with. Cummings remains in post without sanction for past transgressions; the PM and his entire cabinet are further distancing themselves from scrutiny despite repeated serious mistakes. Do not accept the ‘landslide victory’ of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election; we must Investigate the Vote to expose the truth, delegitimize this Tory Government and force them out of office as there is no other way to derail the impending Herd Immunity Covicide. DO NOT MOVE ON!