by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 16
September 2023

Did Rory Stewart just admit that lockdowns were a mistake?

The politician made an intriguing statement on the These Times podcast

Rory Stewart’s conversation with UnHerd’s Tom McTague, on the These Times podcast, is exceptionally interesting. Whatever your views on Stewart’s politics, he doesn’t sound like a politician: he is much too thoughtful and reflective and eloquent. In particular, he is willing to contemplate the tensions and contradictions in his worldview — between a high Tory romanticism and a technocratic respect for competence, between a love of liberty and an authoritarian reflex.

Tom did a great job in teasing out these contradictions — do listen to the whole thing.

One exchange jumped out at me, when Stewart was asked about the Covid lockdowns. Many will remember that he was one of the earliest to demand full national lockdowns and school closures — he made great play of it, and it is still quoted as an example of his good judgement (see last week’s Henry Mance interview in the FT). ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 14
November 2022

China abandons ‘one size fits all’ Covid policy

There are echoes of the Great Barrington Declaration in Beijing's latest plans

At the end of last week the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party affirmed 20 amendments to the “Zero Covid” policy that has dominated life in the country for over two years. Although the headline statements preserve the rhetoric of Zero Covid (and Bill Hayton is right to be sceptical in his UnHerd piece that they will drop it completely) the announcement added up to a fundamental change in approach.

Amendment 2, for example — no longer tracking close contacts of close contacts of an infected person — may not sound like a big step, but it will greatly reduce the number of people being isolated and removed to quarantine facilities who aren’t even infected. Another amendment allowing home quarantine even in high-risk areas will further reduce the numbers in those facilities, which have been one of the more visibly extreme features of the Chinese response. (See our interview with an intern at a Beijing Covid camp from April.) ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 12
October 2022

Investigating the Florida mRNA vaccine study

Are young men really dying from vaccine-related heart injury?

“Today, we released an analysis on Covid-19 mRNA vaccines the public needs to be aware of. This analysis showed an increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39. FL will not be silent on the truth.”

So went the announcement by the Florida Surgeon General, Joseph A. Ladapo, less than a week ago. The analysis he posted in PDF form listed no authors and was not attached to any publication or university, but made a claim that made headlines around the world: that young men were 84% more likely to die of heart problems in the 28 days after having had an mRNA-based Covid vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 9
September 2022

Church sings ‘God save the King’ for the first time

UnHerd filmed a spontaneous — and historic — service at St Anne's Kew yesterday evening

It was supposed to be a service of prayers for an ailing Queen, but minutes before the 7pm start last night the news went out.

Giles Fraser, as well as being an UnHerd columnist, is vicar of St Anne’s Church in Kew Green — a church with centuries-long royal connections. Amid the uncertainty of yesterday afternoon, he invited his congregation in for a spontaneous 7pm service, and allowed UnHerd to be there with our cameras to capture the moment. At 6:34pm the BBC News alert reached everyone’s phones that the Queen had died.

Immediately, he began to ring the church bell, still audible across the green despite the traffic and the planes overhead. Members of the congregation began to drift in, some of them tearful. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 27
July 2022

WHO’s Susan Michie: my politics are my business

Freddie Sayers spoke to the new WHO Nudge Unit chair to discuss the politics of public health

When Professor Susan Michie’s appointment as the new Chair of the World Health Organisation’s “Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights” was announced on Monday, almost every news report mentioned that she is a longstanding member of the British Communist Party.

“Communist British scientist dubbed ‘Stalin’s nanny’ who wanted face masks and social distancing FOREVER is given top job at World Health Organization,” read the Daily Mail headline. “British professor who is member of the Communist party appointed as chair of WHO advisory group,” said the Telegraph. “WHO appoints Communist Party member who said face masks should continue ‘forever’ as chair of advisory board,” said GB News. And so on. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 19
July 2022

Tory leadership latest: Liz Truss becomes the favourite

Polling triggered an anti-Penny campaign in the media

We’ve had two pieces of information in the past hour on who will be the next prime minister. First, Kemi Badenoch is out — after an extraordinarily successful campaign, leaving Rishi Sunak to face either Liz Truss or Penny Mordaunt. Second, the poll of Conservative party members that matters most, YouGov, has been re-run and the results are very different to last week.

It reveals that the membership are making up their minds day by day on the candidates they will shortly be asked to consider. The commanding lead Penny Mordaunt had over all her rivals last week has been lost — she now trails both Liz Truss (and Kemi Badenoch, as it happens) in direct head-to-heads. The question of whether the polling triggered the massive anti-Penny campaign in the Right-leaning media will never be answered, but either way it seems to have worked. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 15
July 2022

Note to MPs: YouGov is not wrong about Penny Mordaunt

The polling company has a near-perfect record for leadership elections

Asked this morning on Radio 4 about the YouGov poll showing a commanding lead for Penny Mordaunt among Tory party members, Liz Truss supporter Iain Duncan Smith rolled out an old classic: “the most important thing is not to look at what the polls say.”

Well, actually Iain, that’s not such a great strategy. Pollsters YouGov (at which I used to work) have been eerily accurate in forecasting every major party leadership election of the past era.

When Jeremy Corbyn entered the 2015 Labour leadership, he was considered a tokenistic Old Left candidate, an irrelevance, a feature of every Labour leadership election for decades. Only when the first YouGov poll of Labour members showed him leading the pack with a stunning 43% did the realisation — and panic — about his potential victory set in. The rest is history. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 1
June 2022

Meet the ultra-royalists camping at Buckingham Palace

For some people, the monarchy means a great deal

It is the day before the Jubilee and outside Buckingham Palace is full of people in uniforms shouting instructions and making preparations. There are Union flags hanging all the way down the Mall and St James’s Park is filling up with Portaloos. Close to the palace itself, a small group of ultra-royalists have pitched tents in the rain to make sure they get front row seats for the coming days’ parades. We wanted to find out what motivated the intensity of their love for the Queen — so we went down there to find out. 

Viewed from one angle, it’s easy to have a chuckle at the lengths they’ve gone to. For what? To catch a glimpse of a minor royal, or a golden carriage? And yet, for these royalists it is far from a joke. The existence of the monarchy evidently provides a real sense of security.  ...  Continue reading

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