As we enter the 5th week of lockdown, the government issued two rebuttals to the searing Sunday Times article, one saying the article ‘contained a series of falsehoods and errors’, the second concerning a Financial Times story on efforts to source privately designed ventilators. On another rebuttal, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the Sophy Ridge Show that Gove had given “possibly the weakest rebuttal of a detailed exposé in British political history” about the PM skipping the February COBRA meetings.
Conservative MPs are barred from talking to the media about the pandemic without No 10 clearance, but some are known to be worried about the apparent lack of preparation, the continued significant daily rises in deaths, and the lack of a publicly discussed lockdown exit strategy.
The Times reported on the decision to keep secret until the crisis is over the advice and advisers to government. Neither the minutes nor the membership of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), the government’s most senior team of expert advisers, are being made public. As SAGE is ‘the most senior team of expert advisers’, this lack of transparency will cause even more public disquiet because it’s been clear for a while that the use of ‘evidence’ and ‘science’ is variable and inconsistent. Scientist Dame Anne Glover said: ‘Openness supports trust and trust is really needed at the moment. It also opens up the possibility of very valuable challenge and input from ‘not the usual suspects’ which could be very helpful.” (my italics). This begs the question does the government want ‘valuable challenge’?
Added together, these various sources of opacity could result in even more anxiety for the public. But at least it’s good that more and more media sources are discussing the mental health implications of this crisis.
Meanwhile, the PPE and gowns saga rumbles on: the supply flight from Turkey expected before the weekend has still not reached the UK and even then the equipment would first need to be tested and distributed. Meanwhile, politicians repeat that this is global issue and clinicians continue to put their lives at risk. The suggestion of a minute’s silence to pay tribute to health care workers who have died seemed another diversionary tactic, not unlike the care badge, a cynical kind of virtue signalling that doesn’t address the problem.
The quality of ministers leading the 5 pm Downing Street briefings seems increasingly variable. Earlier a wag tweeted ‘Updated list for the next rota for the Downing Street Briefing: Priti Patel; Gavin Williamson; Stanley Johnson; Tim Martin; Guy Martin; Guy Fawkes; Ben Fogel; Foghorn Leghorn; Leggy Mountbatten; Jim Davidson; Oliver Dowden; Oliver’s Army and Chris Grayling (but only if absolutely necessary)’.
Finally, I know we’re being inundated with zillions of suggestions for stuff to read/watch/listen to, but if you’re looking for something really compelling to listen to, you might enjoy Tunnel 29, the story about the building of the escape tunnel under the Berlin Wall. This kind of gripping listening has the ability to take us out of ourselves, something very much needed at the moment.