by UnHerd
Friday, 8
May 2020

Newsnight turns Covid-sceptic

An investigation from the BBC programme implies that lockdown may have been an overreaction
by UnHerd

An investigation by the BBC flagship current affairs programme into the projections of mass fatalities that led to the lockdowns was strikingly sceptical.

We couldn’t help noticing the lengthy legalese statement from Imperial that Emma Barnett read out at the end — seems like that institution is alert to the potential reputational damage that this ongoing story could have.

Have a watch.

Join the discussion

  • As to which “scientific truth” to follow, even just in the UK we have a very local disagreement between the team at Imperial College, London, and the Oxford University team who have taken almost diametrically opposed views.

    As an alumnus of Oxford University, one might have thought Boris Johnson would have been inclined to have supported the Oxford view, but apparently not.

    Because here is the real truth as I see it – it was not “scientific opinion” that guided Boris Johnson’s decision to impose a lockdown at all, it was purely a political decision to protect his own job and the Conservative government.

    Because if it had been, he would have taken a wide variety of opinions not only from epidemiologists, but also from economists and psychologists, and realised it was not safe to proceed with the lockdown.

    Because it is almost certain (it doesn’t take any great scientific expertise to work this out, just commonsense) that the deaths caused eventually by the lockdown will far exceed the deaths caused by covid-19.

    But as Nick Whitehouse points out below, “but with the hysteria from the media – including the BBC – the Government would have been crucified if they did not introduce lockdown.”

    Social media and mainstream media such as the Guardian and BBC and the political left generally were demanding that Mr Johnson do the same as other countries, believing this would protect them from what they were already convinced was a deadly disease.

    People like Peter Hitchens who have been working like Trojans compiling counter-evidence from numerous top ranking scientists, even Nobel Prize winning biologists in cases, have been mystified why none of this has sunk in on the government, or until now it appears most of the mainstream media, including the BBC.

    But now we understand this was almost entirely a politically motivated decision, to save the current government and secure the job of the PM, this unflinching resistance to any narrative that said this virus was anything less dangerous than 1918 Spanish flu is easily explicable.

    It is also thus entirely explicable why the economy was totally ignored, because the public had to be convinced that the government had handled the outbreak properly.

    The lockdown is really all a PR exercise for the government, and the Swedish experiment has proven it was totally unnecessary.

    If anybody is in doubt, figures are available here that show the death rate in Sweden has been about 1 in 3500 of the population, and here in the UK it has been about 1 in 2200 to date.

    These are childishly simple figures to calculate, but once again it appears totally ignored by the government, and to date by most of the mainstream media.

    The general lack of confidence in personal statistical ability of most of the population, including journalists, who have all to date more or less blindly submitted to the so called scientific opinion, has prevented this simple truth from coming out much sooner.

    And there are still efforts now to obscure it behind the most complex imaginable arguments about the models used, and the behaviour of the virus and all the associated measures taken in all the different countries.

    But don’t buy it.

    All that is required is simple primary school arithmetic to verify that Sweden didn’t have a strict lockdown like ours, but has less than 2/3 of the death rate per head of population than the UK.

    I had until now held an open mind on Boris Johnson, I thought he might actually want to make Britain a better place.

    But now I see he is just another David Cameron, another PR man, yet another career politician who has got no other real agenda than to maintain the status quo.

    Governments are almost never guided by science apart from that they use to make weapons to threaten or war upon other nations with.

    In reality, what they do, and have always done, is they choose and if necessary even pay (by funding) scientists to support the policies they want to make and carry out, and ignore all the other scientists who disagree.

    The Conservatives have been campaigning relentlessly on this platform of protecting the NHS, so naturally used this situation to try to prove that was what they were trying to do, as well as saving lives.

    But now we consider they didn’t even provide NHS staff with enough protective equipment, regardless of how serious the threat actually was, we see that also was no more than a PR stunt, as defending the public services and NHS was their weakest suit, and Jeremy Corbyn’s strongest one.

    Let us give one further example to be clear how much government is “led by science.”

    If the government wants to carry out fracking, it simply finds scientists who will argue that it is safe, and ignores the ones who say it isn’t.

    I’m not saying it is or it isn’t. I’m just saying that is what governments have been doing for generations – using scientists to support their decisions when it suited them, and ignoring them completely when it didn’t.

    Clearly in the case of the Wales government adviser in the video who did the 2009 report on Swine flu, she advised them that the NHS resources were not adequate if a really serious virus hit on a future occasion (whether or not covid-19 is that).

    And the government clearly ignored her advice completely, and failed to provide the funding required to provide for such a crisis.

    So it appears this current pretended obsession with saving lives is nothing more than a further PR stunt, because it is of course ignoring the likely far greater toll of lives that are likely to be lost due to the lockdown.

    The part nobody knows for sure yet is if Boris Johnson is going to get away with this lockdown, meaning, if the economic consequences like mass job and business loss are going to be as bad as many think.

    I’m not sure he thinks that far ahead.

    Because I recall what happened in the leadership contest where he got “stabbed in the back” by his colleagues, with the result he didn’t even get to stand as a leadership contender, and Theresa May didn’t even have to face a leadership election, and thus simply had an effective “coronation.”

    And the media asked him what he intended to do next, and his reply was:

    “I think lunch.”

    So my feeling is that Boris Johnson is not too worried about the future, just as long as he gets his lunch.

    Only time will tell if he will survive what is coming next, and indeed if anyone else will, in the way that life was before the lockdown.

    I do hope it is not as disastrous as many think, but what is clear, is that we need to find ways of electing politicians who are willing to do the right thing, and not just trying to protect their jobs.

    Because I think what is certain to happen next, and this BBC video shows this is warming, is a huge debate is going to start about whether more are going to die from the lockdown than from covid-19, and depending on who wins that debate, Mr Johnson and his government will either survive or not.

  • Modelling is the essential part of what science has always been. It is the method by which science progresses from theory to ‘law’. Hard science (pre-quantum mechanical physics) produces models by testing models under laboratory conditions, where all variables can be controlled & only the one of interest changed & the output observed. Results were expected to have 100% accuracy, within the limits of measurement error, & if not the model would have to be adjusted or abandoned. More complex models could be built by superposition, but the output accuracy was still meant to be 100%.
    Because science has been so incredibly successful it has been extended into areas where its application is questionable & the predicted results have way below 100% accuracy – sometimes below 50%, which means they are useless. This is because there is either too much data (the number of variables is too great & often interdependent in unknown ways, e.g. weather, economics) or too little data (e.g. ghosts, UFOs).
    With covid19 we have a huge amount of data, but unfortunately it produces conflicting models. Normally this would not be so important as we would have time to sort out the best predictive model but we don’t have that luxury;:people are dying, now, every moment of every day. In that respect it’s much like determining the best strategy to follow when fighting a war.
    People are still analysing WW2 75 years later. I suspect it will be much the same (on a lesser scale) with the virus.Of course worse pandemics – or other catastrophes – could render all this academic. Whatever, trying to assess this government’s performance at the moment is pointless; criticism will of course continue, as it absolutely should, but the hysteria being whipped up on social media & some parts of the press is not helpful.

  • Interesting report, but with the hysteria from the media – including the BBC – the Government would have been crucified if they did not introduce lockdown.
    I would, also, like to know if any of the contributors have any political affiliations. The BBC is gaining a reputation for allowing anti Government contributors to speak, without telling the viewer their background.

    In addition, the Government has to take a course of action, based on their knowledge at the time – which is inevitably incomplete. With the benefit of hindsight even I will be able to tell the Government where they went wrong, although you will have to wait a year or two before I – or anybody else – knows.

    Even now, there is a great reluctance from the majority of people to return to work, with the unions leading the charge to ensure PPE and self distancing, which makes a return to normal impossible.

    If the BBC had created the slogan “Put work before lives”, at the start of the pandemic I would have more faith in their program, otherwise it just seems like an another attempt to attack the Government.

    It is easy to say the Government should have prepared better for the pandemic, particularly with regards to PPE, but how? The increase in demand has been massive, 10 times normal usage, 100 times who knows? But if the PPE has a shelf life of, say, 5 years, after 5 years then the Government would be throwing away 9 or 99 times the normal usage every year. As many of these items contain plastic, I am not certain the BBC would approve of zero usage plastic been discarded!

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