by Finn McRedmond
Thursday, 25
August 2022
News
07:00

Rishi Sunak: we were wrong to spread fear during Covid

The former chancellor opens up about his government's failings
by Finn McRedmond
Credit: Getty

Rishi Sunak, at the time of the pandemic the Chancellor and second-most powerful member of the UK government, has revealed the dysfunctional and unquestioning atmosphere at the heart of government on Covid policy.

In an interview with The Spectator magazine, the prime ministerial hopeful says the ‘fear’ narrative set in motion at the outset of the pandemic via government messaging was “always wrong,” and that he said so internally at the time.

“It was wrong to scare people like that,” he said. “I constantly said it was wrong.” Among the worst elements of this public fear campaign, he suggests, were posters branded with the NHS logo and depicting Covid patients on ventilators.

He went on to question the idea that the public were fundamentally supportive of lockdown measures (in March 2020, polling suggested that 92% of the public were behind the policy). Sunak says that the government scared the public into this mindset: “We helped shape that: with the fear messaging, empowering the scientists and not talking about the trade-offs.”

Central to his criticism of the government he was previously a core part of is the claim that he was frustrated in his desire to investigate the long-term trade-offs implicit in lockdown policy.

“I wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-offs” Sunak claims. If the media asked ministers to talk about potential side-effects of lockdown “the script was not to ever acknowledge them. The script was: oh there’s no trade-off, because doing this for our health is good for the economy,” he now says.

When presented with the scientific modelling, Sunak – who resigned as Chancellor in early July – asked for a cost-benefit analysis of various scenarios: “I was like: ‘Summarise for me the key assumptions, on one page, with a bunch of sensitivities and rationale for each one.” But the analysis never arrived. “In the first year I could never get this,” he said.

In conversations inside government it “felt like no one talked… we didn’t talk about all the missed [doctor’s] appointments, or the backlog building in the NHS in a massive way. That was never part of it.” Meetings where he attempted to argue back “were literally [only me] around that table, just fighting. It was incredibly uncomfortable every single time.”

One instance he recalls was about children: “I was very emotional about it. I was like: ‘Forget about the economy. Surely we can all agree that kids not being in school is a major nightmare” or something like that. There was a big silence afterwards. It was the first time someone had said it. I was so furious.”

In a Covid context, he felt that scientific advisors had become overly powerful in the policy making process.  “This is the problem,” he said. “If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed.”

Sunak summarises the mistakes of the pandemic as follows: “We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did. And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that we could be in a very different place.”

An inquiry has been set up to examine and investigate the UK’s response to Covid-19.

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
3 months ago

How nice of him to finally say things that many others (incl thousands of doctors) were saying in June of 2020.

The fact that nearly every industrialized nation on Earth went down the same disastrous road is a fundamental indictment of the American, technocratic governance model. The model says experts should be in charge, and yet when faced with the exact scenario expert leadership is said to be best at, a scenario they war-gamed hundreds of times, all the experts failed miserably.

This isn’t a “change who’s in charge” problem. This is a “change the entire model of science and governance in society” problem.

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 months ago

Agreed. Meanwhile the WHO is seeking to expand its authority in the event of another pandemic so that it, in effect, runs the global response.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
3 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Just yesterday on FB I saw a sponsored ad from the WHO saying that we should wear masks, keep a distance, etc etc.
I marked it as spam.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
3 months ago

No. What it says is that scientific experts give advice from their areas of expertise; it is up to politicians to make the choices taking, into account other factors and advice from experts in other areas that are not within the remit of the scientific experts. Politicians who just parrot “we are following the science” are abdicating their responsibilities; they make the choices and they live or die at the polls from these choices, when thje electorate decide if they agree with what the politicians did or not.

Wayne Gault
Wayne Gault
3 months ago

Absolutely. It’s for the technical experts to use their specialism to provide a risk assessment including the uncertainties in that assessment. It’s for the policy makers to decide on the risk management to be adopted, taking all things into consideration.

I wonder when Sunak will start saying, “nobody told me quantitative easing (printing money) would lead to rampant inflation”!

Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
3 months ago

I still think a lot of the media response had to do with US politics and everyone wanting to get rid of Trump. It seems clear that Fauci and CDC in general were pretty influential though. Western leaders should really be called followers.

Jim R
Jim R
3 months ago

I’m surprised the Canadian government is allowing me to read this misinformation! I’m sure the article will disappear by morning.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim R

Once the CRTC amending legislation gets called into force this won’t be a joke anymore. He absolutely will censor anything he disagrees with. I personally think Canada needs to split apart – then Ontario and Quebec can do whatever the [email protected]&& they want and leave Western Canada alone.

Aaron James
Aaron James
3 months ago

Indite – Investigate – Incarcerate.

Thousands of criminals responsible for this covid Plandemmic belong in Prison for a very long time. This could Not have just happened, this took corruption from the bottom to the top.

Lockdown
School closing
NHS refusing treatments
Paying people to not work by printing money in the form of National Debt. They still spent, but produced nothing.
Vaccine lies and pushing and £££££ spent, with no studies on long term health, or even if they worked. (they have lots of long term health problems, they do not work)
Masking – bad for everyone, but very bad for child development, and it did NO good.
Work from home so tens of thousands who support the office workers lost their jobs and businesses – and now those WFH jobs will offshore because the work can be done from anywhere.
millions of vaccine injuries, and even deaths
People having to die alone. Cruelty of solitary confinement.
Travel halted, for no reason.
Churches and religion places closed
Weddings, Baptisms, celebrations, family gatherings, sport…forbidden

You could list for ever – but the really big one, the huge one, the Depression and stagflation this not producing, but spending by borrowing wile keeping interest zero; will destroy all savings, pensions, incomes, and the economy. 13% inflation, almost no interest. Bonds pay nothing, stocks crashed, and so your Pensions have been destroyed!. The top .02% doubled their wealth by this corruption which destroyed the economy.

Aaron James
Aaron James
3 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

And let us not forget – Suppression of the drugs which worked. The total ban on Ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, and a great many allready tried and true medications that worked amazingly well.

If early response, right on first symptoms, of treating the symptoms, (steroids, blood thinners, all kinds of ways to do EARLY Treatment) – if early treatment was done 90% of all deaths would not have happened. But all early treatments were outlawed till the complications of the immune system fighting the virus were terminal and the person sent to hospital too late to have avoided the grave issues.

This was entirely to force Vaccine compliance. If the Gov allowed cures no one would have taken this Frankenvax, this gene therapy. So they outlawed medications which saved lives and make covid just a light flu or bad cold.

The Bio/Pharma/Medical Industrial Complex just destroyed the global economy by using their shills and useful idiots and paid off lackeys, and threats of job loss (That is how the Medical Doctors and scientific researchers were forced to comply)

Time for the inquiries….real ones

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

“ Investigate – Incarcerate.
Thousands of criminals responsible for this covid Plandemmic belong in Prison for a very long time“
Correct, but unfortunately incarceration is far too expensive, thus a capital charge is the only answer, and all it needs is the necessary referendum to enact the legislation.
Frankly these ‘people’ are genetic nuisance and need to be removed from the gene-pool forthwith.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 months ago

Into genocide, are we? better be sure it is your side that kills off the wrongthinkers ebfore the wrongthinkers get to you.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No a bad hangover after the ‘Washington Dinner’!
However you have a better solution?
Incidentally wouldn’t it be Classicide not Genocide?

Last edited 3 months ago by stanhopecharles344
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago

So the greatest fiasco in British history since the South Sea Bubble is glibly dismissed by a bleat of “mea culpa” Brilliant!
From the very beginning of this unbelievable farrago, the former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Jonathan Sumption clearly warned us that we were on the road to ruin, and so it has proved.
Now that the dust has settled, we find that here in the UK a mere 200K died WITH C-19, not OF, and had an average of death of 82/3, whilst life expectancy itself is only 80!
Was it worth it? NO!

Last edited 3 months ago by stanhopecharles344
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago

It used to be that roles with high levels of responsibility and authority came with high levels of accountability. It now seems that accountability is inversely proportionate to responsibility and authority. It’s now possible for leaders to just say “don’t blame my decision, my underlines told me to do.”
The same pattern with Rotherham et al. Western societies have created a perfect world of zero accountability.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

agreed – make decisions that negatively affect millions – then just say ‘sorry’. Not good enough – I think it was the Greeks who pioneered ‘you do a bad job as a leader , you die at the end of it’. I think this would sort out the genuine from the ego trippers. Sad.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
3 months ago

He says he “wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-offs”. He was the Chancellor of the blinking Exchequer. Surely he does not need anyone to “allow” him to talk about anything he likes? He said all of that stuff about harm to kids in private meetings, so why didn’t he say it in public and provide succour to those brave souls out of government who were willing to put their necks on the line, such as Us for Them? Fear? Cowardice? Career concerns? Party politics? Which was it, Rishi?

Somehow we have to find it in our ourselves to forgive this most hopeless generation of politicians and broader elite for their gullibility, naivety, and their dangerously misguided, hopeless and inept attempts to control the uncontrollable in 2020-22. But let us never, ever forget. Because they will try it again, and again, and again because it is human nature to want to try and control things we cannot control. As Bret Weinstein is fond of saying, we have to “work against the genes” because they can lead us to some very dark places.

And there is an absolutely urgent need to stop the WHO’s pandemic treaty in its tracks. This would do precisely what Sunak wants against, except that it won’t empower “the scientists”, it will empower a dangerous communist politician in the pocket of the CCP who is ostensibly advised by scientists and who enjoys the trappings of a “health expert” without actually being one. Would Rishi care to make his views on that known in public, I wonder?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Indeed. Unless he wants us to believe it was Boris that told him not to say anything, which I find even more ridiculous.
Perhaps it’s a quiet, tacit acknowledgement that the government is indeed a marionette. In which case, is there any point in voting for him?

Keith Dudleston
Keith Dudleston
3 months ago

The enquiry should examine the issue of possible untoward effects of the v-ccine. Reports [about numerous yellow card warnings] on youtube appear to have been censored, and the issue has received almost no publicity. Will UnHerd to brave enough to tackle this?

AC Harper
AC Harper
3 months ago

And there you have it. The Blob favoured coercive control through fear and most governments were too supine to resist it.
You could argue that the first UK lockdown was a necessary precautionary measure in the absence of hard data… but later lockdowns and mask wearing were not justified for most of the population. The Great Barrington Declaration suggested an alternative but was widely pooh-poohed by governments who were too deeply committed to backtrack without losing credibility.
I always said that it would take years of scientific effort to learn lessons from the pandemic. The length of time being necessary to absolve current politicians of any blame found. The inquiry will drag on too, for the same reason.

andrew harman
andrew harman
3 months ago

I was as dismayed and appalled by the lockdowns, restrictions and general fear mongering as anyone. Even back in march 2020 I had the sense we were going down a road that would do us enormous harm. And so it has proved. It is beyond me how anyone could think how the measures we took would not lead to catastrophic consequences. Certainly those culpable have much to answer for.
However swivel-eyed demands for retribution are not the answer. Lessons need to be learned to be sure and those most responsible: Ferguson, Gove, Hancock, Farrar and others need to be permanently discredited. The media also bears a heavy responsibility and there needs to be repercussions at the BBC for example (Sky was worse) but the newspapers were just doing what newspapers do and they have a declining influence anyway.
We also need to be wary of those who intimate conspiracy. Being prone to such thinking is an indication of an essentially weak mind.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
3 months ago

Too little, too late.
I’m one of the 3Million-plus Excluded.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
3 months ago

But no admission he was driving the car when he wrecked it?
No admission that spending trillions of pounds on paying people not to work would lead to inflation and a recession?

Spencer Andrew
Spencer Andrew
3 months ago

And so it begins

Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
3 months ago
Reply to  Spencer Andrew

Indeed. There’s some loopy and scary stuff being thrown around down here.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  Spencer Andrew

It ‘began’ on the 24th March, 2020 last, when Sumption first spoke out.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 months ago

100% hindsight from Sunak. It would certainly have been good to think more about the trade-offs in advance, but the problem was always that not much was known, and the worst-case risk was high. Quite apart form the fact that it was his own (collective) decision, it is way too easy to boast you were against buying insurance *after* you know that the ship did not sink. Did he resign? No. Did he open his mouth at the time? No. Let him keepo it shut, then.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
3 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

What, so that the false narrative that he helped to manufacture never gets deconstructed, and that there can never be any truth and reconciliation for many millions of people harmed?

No. The truth will out, however painful it is going to be for many of those who got sucked in by the narrative to accept.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 months ago

The (then) Chancellor of the Exchequer was unable to commission the most powerful department of the Civil Service (i.e. his own) to a) carry out its own independent cost benefit analysis of the impacts of his government’s policy b) to disseminate this to his fellow cabinet ministers and c) to go public with its conclusions if the cabinet failed to act and d) to resign. What does that make him?