HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Denzil_DC » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 48 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Do not display
Current location: Scotland
Member since: Sun Sep 6, 2009, 11:57 PM
Number of posts: 5,232

Journal Archives

UK abandoned testing because system 'could only cope with five coronavirus cases a week'

Disastrous decision is now seen as the key reason why UK has Europe's highest death rate

Britain’s disastrous decision to abandon testing for coronavirus occurred because health systems could only cope with five cases a week, official documents show.

Newly-released papers from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies shows routine testing and tracing of contacts was stopped because Public Health England’s systems were struggling to deal with a handful of cases.

At a meeting on Feb 18, advisors said PHE could only cope with testing and tracing contacts of five Covid-19 cases a week, with modelling suggesting it might only be possible to increase this to 50 cases.

Advisors then agreed it was "sensible" to shift to stopping routine testing - despite acknowledging that such a decision would “generate a public reaction”....


(Text after the .... only viewable with a Telegraph subscription.)

I've not been posting much, if at all, about the pandemic and fuck-ups around lockdown etc. because the situation's so messed up and we're all up to our necks in it anyway, so why add to the air of doom we're powerless to do anything about apart from try to safeguard ourselves and those around us? But this revelation seems appalling enough to be noted.

The fact that abondoning testing may have suited the initial (and perhaps ongoing in some UK government quarters, who knows?) drive for mythical "herd immunity" and prioritizing economic considerations over our health and lives may also be a significant factor.

"the Health Ministry produced its own timeline and pushback"

That "pushback", judging by its length, style and tone, didn't originate from the Health Ministry, but from Johnson's adviser Dominic Cummings, a major proponent of the initial "herd immunity" policy that would now be totally discredited if it didn't appear to be the last desperate hope, since the UK government has made no serious preparations for an emergence from the current lockdown and social isolation that doesn't involve mass infection, with the accompanying proportion of deaths.

It's the old dilemma between whether events as they've panned out were the result of a conspiracy or a cock-up. Quite possibly a bit of both. Here's Johnson in early February:

Oli Dugmore

Further evidence the UK’s initial coronavirus strategy was wilfully negligent.

Johnson argues global lockdown is an economic opportunity to profit.

Swashbuckling much.

[Twitter video]

It was born of the same demented delusion of Little Britain exceptionalism that fueled Brexit.

Jacob Rees-Mogg's investment firm set to make fortune from the coronavirus crisis

EXCLUSIVE: Somerset Capital Management, which the MP co-founded, says market volatility offers a “once or twice in a generation” opportunity to make “super normal returns”
The MP owns at least 15 per cent of a company investing in businesses hit by falling share values.

Somerset Capital Management says investors have a “once in a generation” chance of “super normal returns”.

Mr Rees-Mogg stood down as a director of SCM to become Leader of the House of Commons. SCM said it was focusing on clients’ long-term security.
As millions face financial misery, SCM managers are buying into businesses where valuations have tumbled – but should bounce back. Potential gains of 500 per cent are touted.
Investments so far include private hospitals in Brazil, pharmacies in South Africa and a firm behind a scanning device which checks if people are wearing masks in China.


The other "once or twice in a generation opportunity" would be Brexit. That's evidently on the back burner for now.

Home Office chief Sir Philip Rutnam quits over Priti Patel 'bullying'

Rutnam announces plans to sue government for constructive dismissal over ‘vicious and orchestrated campaign’ against him
Rutnam was emotional as he said he would step down after 33 years because he had become the “target of vicious and orchestrated campaign against him,” which he accused Patel of orchestrating.
Rutnam made clear his anger in his statement on Saturday, which he read to the BBC outside an address in north London. He said he had received allegations that Patel’s conduct had included belittling people and making unreasonable demands.

He said: “One of my duties as permanent secretary was to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our 35,000 people. This created tension with the home secretary and I have encouraged her to change her behaviours.

“I have received allegations that her conduct has included shouting and swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands – behaviour that created fear and that needed some bravery to call out.”

He claimed the Home Office offered him a financial settlement to avoid his public resignation, and he said he hoped his stand “may help in maintaining the quality of government in this country”.


The Tories' house rag, The Telegraph, has wasted no time launching a counter-spin operation, hot from the desk of Stephen Pollard:

Sir Philip Rutnam’s real agenda was surely ousting Priti Patel

This briefing war is just the latest battle in a long history of civil servants v Home Secretaries

The knives were out for Priti Patel from the moment she was appointed Home Secretary last July. Ms Patel is not one of those ministers who puts her head down, keeps quiet and does what she’s told. She makes waves – and enemies – wherever she goes.

None of us really knows what transpired between Ms Patel and Sir Philip Rutnam, her now departed permanent secretary. Sir Philip has taken the extraordinary step of making his grievances public. According to him, Ms Patel is an all-round monster, responsible for days of hostile stories about the department. He says he will now sue the government for constructive dismissal. Needless to say, Ms Patel denies these allegations....


The rest of the Telegraph's story fades into blah behind a paywall, but you no doubt get the drift.

It remains to be seen whether another of the Telegraph's better-known and more colourful columnists will be able to find the time to drag himself away from not holding COBRA meetings about widespread flooding, instead understandably preoccupied with singing onstage at a Tory party fundraiser, to offer his view on the kerfuffle in the Home Office.

Pentagon reveals deal with Britain to replace Trident

MPs dismayed after US defence officials leak news of nuclear weapons deal before parliament is told

Britain has committed itself to buying a new generation of nuclear warheads to replace Trident, which will be based on US technology. The decision was revealed by Pentagon officials who disclosed it before an official announcement has been made by the government.

The revelation has dismayed MPs and experts who question why they have learned of the move – which will cost the UK billions of pounds – only after the decision has apparently been made. It has also raised questions about the UK’s commitment to staunching nuclear proliferation and the country’s reliance on the US for a central plank of its defence strategy.

Earlier this month, Pentagon officials confirmed that its proposed W93 sea-launched warhead, the nuclear tip of the next generation of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, would share technology with the UK’s next nuclear weapon, implying that a decision had been taken between the two countries to work on the programme.

In public, the UK has not confirmed whether it intends to commission a new nuclear warhead. The Ministry of Defence’s annual update to parliament, published just before Christmas, says only: “Work also continues to develop the evidence to support a government decision when replacing the warhead.”

But last week Admiral Charles Richard, commander of the US strategic command, told the Senate defence committee that there was a requirement for a new warhead, which would be called the W93 or Mk7. Richard said: “This effort will also support a parallel replacement warhead programme in the United Kingdom, whose nuclear deterrent plays an absolutely vital role in Nato’s overall defence posture.”


Brexit - UK loses 6.6 billion a quarter since referendum, S&P says

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom has lost £6.6 billion in economic activity every quarter since it voted to leave the European Union, according to S&P Global Ratings, the latest company to estimate the damage from Brexit.

In a report published on Thursday, the ratings agency’s senior economist, Boris Glass, said the world’s fifth-biggest economy would have been about 3 percent larger by the end of 2018 if the country had not voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the EU.
“Immediately after the referendum, the pound fell by about 18 percent. This was the single most pertinent indicator of the impact of the vote and the drag it created, via inflation, has been spreading through the economy,” he said.
The estimate is slightly lower than an assessment by Goldman Sachs earlier this week, which pegged the cost to the economy at about 600 million pounds per week. That equates to 7.8 billion pounds a quarter, according to Reuters calculations.


And now the good news:

HS2 go-ahead controversial and difficult, admits Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link will be built.

The first phase of the route will travel between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds.

"It has been a controversial and difficult decision," Mr Johnson said.

The prime minister added he was going to appoint a full-time minister to oversee the project and criticised the HS2 company's management of the scheme.


The identity of the minister is as yet unknown, but Chris Grayling has to be in the running.

Meanwhile, Johnson seems intent on spaffing £20 billion and counting on a bridge from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere (with apologies to those who live in the middle of nowhere, as I've done at various times in my life).

Slated to link Portpatrick in south-west Scotland and Larne on the east coast of Northern Ireland as the currently favoured route, the progress of the bridge (or tunnel, tunnel/bridge, details, details ...) will apparently be unhindered by the facts that the infrastructure at either end as it stands would have no chance of coping with increased traffic flows by road, the Irish and mainland UK rail gauges are incompatible, the current ferry services seem to have no problem coping with traffic, and whatever might eventually be cobbled together would have to span Beaufort's Dyke - a 30-mile by 2-mile chasm up to 1,000 feet deep that's been used in the past as a messy and ill-bounded massive dumping ground for incalculable amounts of surplus munitions (MoD estimates run at a million tons or more, but record-keeping has been patchy to non-existent), nuclear waste and anything else governments of the time felt like ditching out of sight and out of mind, which periodically throws up items such as old incendiary bombs to litter the Irish and Scottish coasts.

Evidence to the Scottish Parliament in 2000 found that:

exhaustive investigations into exactly what munitions were present eventually revealed that alongside the everyday variety of bombs, grenades, rockets, bullets and explosives might lie a bewildering cocktail of canisters of sarin, tabun, mustard gas, cyanide, phosgene and anthrax. Phosphorus bombs abound and, in June 1997, it was finally revealed that radioactive waste containing both caesium 137 and radium 226 had been systematically dumped in Beaufort's dyke in the 1950s. It has now been freely admitted that some of that waste was thrown overboard in 40-gallon steel drums encased in concrete.

Now that's what I call Project Fear.

Sajid Javid's At War With Dominic Cummings Over The "Control Freakery" Of Boris Johnson's Top Aide

Allies of Javid have accused Cummings of plotting to get him sacked at the looming cabinet reshuffle — expected in the next seven days — and replaced with a more junior minister such as chief secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak, or another figure more amenable to Johnson’s senior aides.

The attempt failed and the prime minister has privately assured the chancellor that his position is safe, with Johnson and Javid maintaining a strong personal and working relationship, a Whitehall source said.

The bruising fight between the chancellor and Johnson’s chief aide — and Cummings’ struggle to convince the prime minister, cabinet and senior civil servants of the merits of some of his proposals — have been the early themes behind the scenes in Downing Street since the Tories won an 86-seat majority in December.

BuzzFeed News can also reveal that:

* Javid’s allies have complained that Johnson’s advisers were responsible for “poison pen” briefings to the newspapers criticising the chancellor, as Number 10 aides blasted Treasury officials for unauthorised briefings against them.

* A longtime friend said Javid’s relationship with Cummings had broken down “irrevocably”.

* Ministers worried about losing their jobs during the reshuffle have been holding “new pizza club” meetings to discuss how to combat the “control freakery” of Johnson’s de facto chief of staff.

* Even some of Cummings’ closest allies have started to question his decisions, in the first sign of dissent among the Vote Leave faction of advisers.

* Number 10 aides have lost internal arguments on a range of decisions from High Speed 2 to knocking down walls inside Downing Street.


Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

During the election, the very reasonable assumption was that anything reported by Laura Kuenssberg et al. as coming from a "No. 10 source" was something Cummings wanted reported. That may no longer be such a certainty, judging by a comment later in the article:

"One minister told BuzzFeed News that they have been playing a game where they send journalists anonymous quotes in the unique style of Cummings in order to see if they can make him look ridiculous in the media."

Maybe they've been at it for ages, because I've always thought Cummings has looked ridiculous in the media.

The article goes on to point out that there are ministerial concerns that there's been a lot of hot air from the government so far, but very little of the sort of "substantive activity" that might be expected with such a sizeable majority. I'm not sure I'm unhappy about that, given what they could get up to.

Boris Johnson wants Brits to crowdfund 500,000 pounds to bong Big Ben on Brexit night

The Prime Minister admitted it'd cost a small fortune to ring out the bell at 11pm during restoration work - so he has a plan for the public to 'bung a bob' to pay for it instead

Scores of Tory MPs have been calling for the bell to toll to celebrate the moment Britain legally becomes the first nation to leave the EU.

But so far no plan has been revealed because the Elizabeth Tower, which holds the Great Bell known as Big Ben, is being restored.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission on Monday. But the cost was estimated at £500,000 - so the idea was ditched.
Yet in an interview with BBC Breakfast, Boris Johnson said the Government was working up a plan to fund the costs.
Commons authorities said for the Bell to ring on 31 January, the temporary striking mechanism used for Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve would need to be reattached and tested to ensure the timing is correct.

A temporary floor of the belfry would also need to be installed as "extensive work is currently taking place in this area." The total costs of this would be £120,000.

But it would in turn push back the works by two to four weeks, and with delays costing £100,000 a week, the total cost would come to between £320,000 and £500,000.


Follow-up article:

Boris' bonkers 'bung a bob for Big Ben Brexit bongs' bid bombs

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to crowdfund £500,000 cost of ringing the country's most famous bell has unravelled less than five hours after he suggested it


Meanwhile ...

Christopher Hope📝 ✔

Big Ben Brexit bongs latest:

Brexit Party founders @Nigel_Farage and @TiceRichard are planning to play Big Ben's bongs through loud speakers on Parliament Square on Brexit night, I am told. 1/4

More at our live blog: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/14/brexit-news-latest-boris-johnson-labour-leadership-liam-fox/

Christopher Hope📝 ✔

Richard Tice, the chairman of Leave Means Leave, says he will arrange for the bongs to sound through his "excellent speaker system" to the estimated 15,000 Brexiteers who have applied for tickets for their Brexit night celebration. 2/4 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/14/brexit-news-latest-boris-johnson-labour-leadership-liam-fox/

Christopher Hope📝 ✔
· 8h
Replying to @christopherhope

He tells The Telegraph: "We find it disappointing that Big Ben will not be allowed to ring out on this momentous night, despite recently chiming for New Year's Eve.

"However, we still hope common sense can prevail... 3/4 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/14/brexit-news-latest-boris-johnson-labour-leadership-liam-fox/

Christopher Hope📝 ✔

Richard Tice: "If not, we will provide the sound of the famous bell tolling from our excellent speaker system. This will, of course, be watched and listened to around the world."
The Greater London Assembly is yet to give permission for the party. 4/4 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/01/14/brexit-news-latest-boris-johnson-labour-leadership-liam-fox/

The current favoured method is to hold another referendum.

But it's possibly not the only way independence could be achieved legally. Maggie Thatcher used to hold that if Scotland returned a majority of SNP MPs, that would be enough to secure independence. Times have changed since then (the SNP currently has 48 out of 59 Scottish MPs).

The SNP's current plan is to clear the way for a second referendum with the co-operation of the Westminster government, under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998, which is what secured the first independence referendum. This is unlikely to be forthcoming any time soon, if at all, in which case we're likely to enter uncharted legal territory along the way, involving the Act of Union and later legislation. Andrew Tickell, one of Scotland's brighter legal brains and sympathetic to independence, feels that legal avenues offer no clear path forward if a Section 30 order isn't granted. The headline to the linked article is more categorical than he's prepared to be, but basically concerted political pressure is what he sees as the way forward in the absence of a Section 30 order. This may involve action in various courts, but it may end up offering more of a campaigning tool than an ultimate remedy.

Scotland has a great deal of goodwill in the EU, having undertaken a concerted campaign of quiet diplomacy since the 2014 independence referendum, which may help as the UK's negotiations unfold over the next few years. It's a far cry from the first independence referendum, when the threat of Scotland losing its place in the EU was persuasive for many people and the EU was generally hostile to the idea of Scottish independence, and the boot is now on the other foot, with various EU officials and politicians saying on the record that Scotland would be welcomed with open arms if it became independent and accession could happen very quickly. Whether that would be the best option for Scotland if it did gain independence is another question, as support for EU membership isn't universal even among independence supporters, so it might end up that an EFTA-type arrangement or whatever would suit it better, at least in the short to medium term.

The path to devolution which set up the Scottish Assembly (later the Scottish Parliament) was far from clear, too, and after some 20 years of wrangling it took some clever blindsiding of the UK government by Scottish politicians' recourse to international law courts and international political pressure (threats of legal action even) from the EU before it was granted. There are some very smart politicians and lawyers in the independence movement, so we'll have to wait to see what they can come up with in addition to popular pressure.

Polls since the Brexit referendum have shown that many in the UK aren't that bothered about the Union, whether it involves Scotland or Northern Ireland. That may change if Johnson sees it as a useful rallying cry/distraction from the troubles ahead in exiting the EU. It would be a tortuous argument given the government's repeated claims that Scotland's economic welfare is dependent on the rest of the UK (which I don't intend arguing in detail here as it gets very technical, but basically it's untrue), and many of Johnson's supporters may feel they don't want to "bail out" Scotland any more.

The last independence referendum was agreed at a time when independence was only polling in the high 20s percent, and the closeness of the final result gave David Cameron conniptions. Currently it's more like 50:50, even before last week's general election result, so that may have some bearing on whether the UK government feels it wants to risk going ahead with another referendum. On the other hand, there are Tory voters but precious few Tory MPs in Scotland, so Johnson may feel like it wouldn't be the end of the world for his and future Tory governments if independence happened.

Meanwhile, noises from Johnson et al. so far indicate that they intend to pare back, if not strip, the Scottish Government's powers, which is likely to inflame feelings even more.

Whatever happens, I'm bracing for a bumpy ride.

Six reasons why the Left need not despair

Boris Johnson has routed Labour. But his victory could turn out to contain the seeds of its own destruction

Yes, I know. For “progressives,” liberals, leftists or anyone else less than keen on reactionary nationalism, this has been an abject defeat. Boris Johnson has blustered his way to a commanding majority, and Labour has been routed in dozens of seats while the Liberal Democrats went nowhere at all. We’re in for a dose of nasty authoritarianism, with more lives squandered in failing jails, and perhaps more attempts to bully the media too. Truth-telling in public life will fall further out of fashion, and as I wrote in the first hour after the ballot boxes closed, there is reason to fear the ground rules of politics being rigged. It is, then, entirely natural that a very dark mood has descended over progressive Britain.

And yet. These are mercurial times, in which nothing stays frozen for long. Indeed, a number features of this result make it feel more like the product of surface currents, rather than deeper tides. Most obviously, it was a case of a new prime minister shrewdly seizing his moment of novelty to define himself against everything his party has done in office for a decade. Beyond that, in the embers of election 2019 I can spot several glimmers of hope for those who dream of a world beyond Boris Johnson.

1- Labour’s biggest problems look easily fixed. ... If the party can only find a leader who is remotely cut out for the job, and if its MPs can learn to direct their energies against the Conservatives rather than within their own tribe, then its position would immediately be greatly improved, if not transformed.

2- Meanwhile, the Conservatives now have one almighty and immediate problem that can’t be fudged—Brexit. Johnson showed remarkable skill in cobbling together a unified Conservative position. It got him through the campaign handsomely. But remember how he did it. ... London has only six months to give notice about whether it wants to breach the Conservative manifesto by staying longer in the single market while a trade deal is negotiated, or crash large parts of the economy by dropping out of Europe before a comprehensive trade deal can be agreed. I cannot see how Johnson’s winning Christmas coalition within his party and the country beyond can survive either choice.

3- The dramatic result is more about the way the vote split than any dramatic lurch to the right. If you look at the popular vote, Labour has done very badly, but not exceptionally so by the often-dim standards of its modern record. ... If the anti-Conservative forces had acted with less of the sectarianism that has often dogged the left, but this year infected a liberal centre that also dug in against any co-operation with Labour, things could have been very different. And herein lies an opening for the future.

4- The new Conservative coalition in the country now includes Bassetlaw, Blyth Valley and Bolsover. It is an extraordinary thing, but as a result it is surely also frail. ... Voters don’t do gratitude at the best of times, and there will be no retrospective glory in many of last night’s stunning Conservative gains for having “got Brexit done” if its practical effects turn out to disappoint.

5- In contrast with the last chunky Conservative wins, in 1983 and 1987, there is no sense of the party riding the tide of ideas. ... Sound money is forgotten, along with all the old free market nostrums of the party Johnson joined. They have been replaced by crowd-pleasing moves to raise the minimum wage and grip energy prices. And the crowd is indeed pleased. But there is no sense of any coherence, or even direction.

6- Most fundamentally, Johnson has triumphed by playing to the past, as opposed to the future. This is true at the level of campaign messages—that significant “back” in “take back control”—but also at the level of sociology. Number crunchers will soon give us estimates for which age group backed which party, but we can already see from the electoral map that there is a deep generational divide. ... Locked out of the housing market, and educated enough to ask searching questions about why, the rising cohort is unlikely—even as it ages—ever to be won over to recreating a lost world of more sovereignty, humming factories and fewer migrants which it has no memory of.


Posted as an attempted antidote to the sense of doom that's pervading today's post mortems. Tom Clark and Prospect are by no means lefties.

I'd add that it will be interesting to see how things pan out in the House of Lords, which may continue to put a spanner in Johnson's works until he no doubt packs it out with a spray of new peerages. His time in office so far has consisted of picking fights - and losing. Even with his majority and mandate, there are only so many fronts he can engage battle with at once and succeed. The problem for the rest of us will be sifting the dead cats and squirrels from issues where pressure can most productively be brought to bear.

And there's always "events, dear boy, events". Already the much-trumpeted fallback of "WTO terms" is unravelling as an option:

UK's post-Brexit trade at risk as WTO's top court shuts down

Shutdown of court will leave UK at mercy of EU in its trading relationship after transition period


Johnson's government has been flat-footed in the face of even mundane challenges. The makeup of the new Tory intake doesn't give much confidence that will change for the better. Meanwhile, we have many vulnerable minorities - from Travellers to immigrants to the destitute - we'll need to look out for. And each other, of course.
Go to Page: « Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 48 Next »