London: The leak of government’s new Lockdown policy has infuriated the Prime Minister and backbenchers, this leak bounced the government into releasing the stringent restrictions over last weekend and not on Monday as planned. Only the Covid “Quad” (Johnson, Sunak, Gove and Hancock), the Chief Medical and Scientific Officers, and a small contingent of senior advisors were present, No10 has apparently launched a leak inquiry. The pointy finger has been aimed at Matt Hancock and Michael Gove but there is no evidence to support this, only that they both ardently support containment.
The official medical and scientific data has been challenged by scientists, medics, some MPs, analysts and media, they argue that the data was out of date, the death forecast (4,000 a day) was exaggerated, the modelling did not factor in current and relevant data, and that the virus cannot be suppressed by cyclical lockdowns. These were not just claims as the Office for National Statistics and The Office for Statistics Regulation have both called on the government and the Chief Scientific Officer saying “ the use of data has not always been supported by transparent information being provided in a timely manner. As a result, there is potential to confuse the public and undermine confidence in the statistics.” And “It is important that data are shared in a way that promotes transparency and clarity. It should be published in a clear and accessible form with appropriate explanations of context and sources. It should be made available to all at the time the information is referenced publicly.” As a result of exaggerating the fatalities the government has been obliged to reissue scaremongering charts that were used to justify Lockdown2.0
When The House of Commons voted on the new measures a surprising 34 Tory MPs voted against the measures, Theresa May questioned the validity of the modelling and the costs to specific businesses: airlines, hospitality and independent retail. As the former PM began her critique into the Lockdown Johnson impolitely left the chamber, apparently for a scheduled appointment and he apologise after the event. May is good at detail, a skill Johnson reputedly lacks, May said parliament would make better decisions if it was properly informed, and there had been no proper analysis of the impact of the Tiered approach, she said it looks like the figures are chosen to support the policy not the other way around; May demanded the so-far unavailable detail about the costs of the lockdown to mental health, domestic abuse, non-Covid deaths, suicides and the economy. Graham Brady, Chair of 1922 Committee, said the measures dictate rules that reach too far into the private and family lives of the public; Brady asked if government has the right to ban collective worship, outdoor sports, visits to elderly relations, to separate families and tell consenting adults who they can sleep with? Many other Conservative MPs made statements advocating freedom and transparency, or for balancing the economy with the future trajectory of Covid.
Although the government stated the restrictions would end on 2 December in time for the Christmas break, on Thursday Rishi Sunak announced extended furlough measures, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked up till March 2021. Now everyone is expecting an extension of the current restrictions, if this happens that is when the real rebellion will begin, it will be impossible for lockdown sceptics to accept an ongoing cycle of suppression and relaxation.
Meanwhile Nigel Farage and Richard Tice have relaunched The Brexit Party as ‘Reform UK’, to counter the government’s Coronavirus management; they advocate focused protection, hygiene measures, new therapeutics and common sense, to build herd immunity in the population. Reform UK plan to stand candidates in the May 2021 UK local elections and police and crime commissioner elections.
Farage is a successful force, the Brexit Party have a good track record they achieved 29 MEPs in the 2019 European Parliament elections, Reform UK could present a viable alternative for Tory voters who have lost trust and confidence in the government.
There has been overwhelming support from the public and parliament for President Macron. The Conservative government avoided comments about the US election; if Joe Biden, who is proud of and loyal to his Irish heritage, becomes President it will put extra pressure on the Johnson government to preserve the Good Friday Peace Agreement between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the way in which UK leaves Europe on 31 December must not jeopardise hopes for a swift FTA with USA. In turn this might put extra scrutiny of the passage of the Internal Market Bill over the state aid rules that effectively mean NI remains aligned to the EU with a border between Great Britain and NI in the Irish Sea.