Leadership v. Buffoonery

Two words guaranteed to get the disciples of the cult of Boris all hot under the collar: HERD and IMMUNITY. The very mention of these words and they’re all over you, insisting that herd immunity was never the official government policy.

It clearly was – see my last blog post for all the quotes – but to argue that it wasn’t is the most insane defence of a government reaction to a national crisis you will ever hear because to deny that herd-immunity was the policy in the absence of any measures of social distancing at all is to argue that the government did not have a policy. From Johnson claiming he’d shaken the hands of patients with coronavirus on February 27th to the closure of schools, pubs and restaurants on March 24th the government’s apologists are mounting the extraordinary defence that in the face of a national crisis – as deaths in Italy surpassed 700 a day – the UK government had decided not to have a policy.

That’s their defence of this government.

This isn’t my hostile assessment, remember. This is this government’s apologists’ own spin. That in the face of the greatest public health emergency in 75 years, an emergency in which there is 100% agreement that time is of the essence – the government made a conscious decision to do nothing.

For over three weeks.

That is their defence!

That is the best-case scenario for the reputation of this government and its pound-shop Mr Bean of a Prime Minister.

This defence has come largely from the Facebook and Twitter arms of the cult – perhaps the government have decided that their customary practice of telling barefaced lies and not caring about being caught out doing so is inappropriate as the death toll mounts. If so, Matt Hancock didn’t get the memo as he denied that herd-immunity was ever a part of government policy…

(Matt Hancock on BBC QT)

So it’s not about herd immunity, then  – what is it about Matt?

(Matt Hancock on BBC QT)

So it’s about “trying to get the curve down” and “protect lives”.
That’s not a policy Matt. That’s like having an economic policy of “having a good economy” or a football strategy of scoring more goals than the opposition. A policy is not the same as a slogan.

A policy has to tell us what you’re going to do.

What was this government’s policy after the Cygnus pandemic exercise in 2016 revealed that the country was woefully unprepared to face the likely threat of a pandemic?
This government’s policy was to do nothing.  

What was this government’s policy after the Cabinet Office published its Civil Emergencies risk register in September 2017 warning of the potential scale of a future pandemic?
This government’s policy was to do nothing.

In July 2018 when the Biological Security Strategy was published – do nothing

In January this year when the Chinese government alerted the international community to the danger – do nothing.

On January 23rd Hancock announced in Parliament his intention to do nothing.

Eight days later as Chinese scientists warned of the inevitability of global outbreaks, the UK government turned down the opportunity to participate in joint procurement schemes with other EU countries. Their first action in the face of this crisis was to do less than nothing. To opt-out of doing something because it was Brexit day, and as Michael Gove later commented “we’re an Independent nation now”[2].

Despite warning after warning the government continued its policy of doing nothing – another month was wasted even before Johnson’s hand-shaking stunt at the end of February

Another week drifted by before his announcement in early March that we could “take it on the chin, take it all in one go, and allow the disease as it were to move through the population”.

Yet another week drifted by and then his CSO, Patrick Vallance mentioned in an interview with Sky News that this policy decision would require 60% of the population to become infected[3]. That’s right – on March 12th we were treated to the numbers behind the government’s “plan”, and this really was when the tide turned. People began to look at these numbers – 60% is 40 million cases. A fifth of cases becoming serious is 8 million hospitalisations. Ten per cent of those cases requiring ICU is 800,000. The number of available ICU beds is publicly available information updated every week. At the time we had 765 ICU beds available. 765 beds for 800,000 patients. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to work out that that’s over 1,000 patients per bed. At an average stay of 10 days, that policy is going to need more than 28 years. It’s not going to work is it?

A week later the government announced that the science had changed and that they now favoured a policy of social distancing, trotting this out as “an excellent example of how we respond, based on science…when the facts change, our policy changes…there was no hesitation: we changed the official advice within three hours”[4].

Sorry, what?

So – thanks for confirming that the official government line that the policy has never changed is yet another complete lie – but aside from that…what? When the facts change? The facts haven’t changed.

“We changed the advice within three hours”?

Really? Because on February 27th Johnson was shaking hands with imaginary patients, on March 5th he was saying the policy was to “allow the disease as it were to move through the population”, on the 12th Vallance was talking up herd-immunity on Sky, on Friday 14th I was posting on Facebook about how the numbers didn’t add up and by the 16th Hancock was claiming that the science had changed. The quote about responding in three hours came out on the seventeenth and the government actually responded a week after that on the 24th. People who responded more quickly than the government  – include me, the FA, the Football League, the RFU, Radio 1, Warner Brothers, London Book Fair and The Who. That’s the band The Who, not the W.H.O. We don’t know Roger Daltry’s or The Who’s position on the value of testing, but we do know the W.H.O. was advising governments to “test test test”.

Our government’s abject failure to do so means that we have no idea how many cases there were by the time they finally introduced lockdown measures on March 24th. By that point we’d conducted 90,000 tests[5] – Germany by then was carrying out 350,000 tests a week.

We don’t know how many cases we had by the start of the lockdown on the 24th and the failure to instigate a testing programme means that we never will. But we do know that more than 422 people had died of Covid-19 in the UK before the lockdown started. Germany locked down after 13 deaths. Portugal locked down before any deaths. Here’s how that’s worked out:

Deaths per 100,000 population, data from

While Italy, Spain and France were hit early and caught unawares, the UK government has no such excuse. The warnings were there and were heeded by governments in Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and more.

This shaded area on the graph below represents 9,000 lives. The lives potentially lost due to the UK government’s abject failure to fulfil its first responsibility – to protect its people.

Deaths per 100,000 population, data from

Don’t clap for Boris. Save your applause for the nurses he and his lackeys refused to give a pay rise to, and then cheered themselves for having done that…

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