Day: 15 December 2021

News Round-Up

‘Plan B’ Restrictions Risk Killing Public Music Venues, Charity Warns

The Music Venue Trust, a charitable organisation dedicated to securing the existence of public music venues across the U.K., has warned that the Government’s ‘Plan B’ measures represent a financial hammer blow, reporting that the industry has been put “back on red alert”. Likewise, the Night Time Industries Association, a trade union which represent nightclubs as well as live music venues, have expressed concern that the vaccine passport scheme, while not mandating that attendees be jabbed, will prove too much of a logistical, expensive, and time-consuming requirement. Complete Music Update has the story.

Other critics of the scheme are more concerned with logistical matters, in that they question how effective Covid Passport checks really are in restricting the spread of the virus, given the impact the scheme will have on affected businesses, in terms of instigating the checks and likely lost business.

That’s the position taken by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which has repeatedly warned that forced Covid Passport checks will put a big strain on clubs and venues that are already struggling financially after nearly 18 months in partial or complete shutdown.

And, the NTIA argues, that has already been seen in Scotland and Wales, where Covid Passport schemes are already in force.

The trade group’s CEO Michael Kill said last night: “We are disappointed that MPs have today voted into law Covid Passports for nightclubs. The NTIA have consistently opposed their introduction due to the many logistical challenges they pose for night time economy businesses, and what we have seen in Scotland and Wales where they have dampened trade by 30% and 26% respectively”.

“It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the Government have decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus”, he added. “This is a slippery path we are going down. I would urge the government to listen to its backbenchers now – this far and no further”.

In addition to the specific new rules, representatives for the live music sector are also stressing that the rushed and confused communications that have been coming out of Government since the Omicron variant started to spread are causing as much – or possibly more – damage as the new regulations.

Not all venues in England will have to check Covid Passports. Although any venue or event classified as a nightclub will have to check for vaccine certificates and Covid tests, for gig venues the requirement kicks in at a 500 capacity for unseated venues and 10,000 for seated venues.

And, of course, some gig venues have already been requesting that customers show proof of vaccine or a negative Covid test since re-opening earlier this year.

But even those venues not directly affected by the new Covid Passport rule are reporting a significant downturn in business since Government communications began around omicron, which – of course – has come during a crucial time of the year for venues and night-time businesses.

Based on a survey of the Music Venues Alliance, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) reports that: “A catastrophic drop in attendance, advance ticket sales and spend per head has hit grassroots music venues since the Government announced the implementation of the ‘Plan B’ restrictions last Wednesday, placing the entire sector back on red alert for the risk of permanent closures”.

“Losses across the sector in this first week of this new phase of the Covid crisis hit nearly £2 million”, it adds, “with 86% of grassroots music venues reporting negative impacts and 61% having to cancel at least one event in the second week of December”.

Although artists – or a member of their crew – testing positive for Covid are behind just over a third of those cancellations, people cancelling private hire bookings and poor ticket sales – both as a result of renewed Covid concerns – were responsible for 31.13% and 23.6% of cancellations respectively.

Commenting on the findings of its latest survey of venues, MVT’s Beverley Whitrick says: “This is the busiest time of the year for grassroots music venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season”.

“Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector”, she adds, “and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, it’s lost bar take and excess staff costs”.

Worth reading in full.

Danish Study Confirms That Natural Immunity Protects Better Against Infection Than the Vaccines

Last week, I wrote about a second major study finding that natural immunity protects better against infection than the Pfizer vaccine. Both this study and the earlier one were from Israel, and while there’s every reason to believe the results generalise to other populations, it’s always good to have data from multiple countries.

We now have those data in the form of a study published by the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark. I can’t say the report itself is worth reading in full, since it’s written in Danish. But I’ve posted the key figure below. It shows protection against infection for three different groups – adjusting for age, sex, comorbidities, and time of year.

The orange line corresponds to people who’ve been previously infected but not vaccinated; the yellow line to those who’ve been previously infected and vaccinated; and the green line to those who’ve been vaccinated but not previously infected.

The y-axis gives the percentage reduction in the number of infections, compared to those who haven’t been vaccinated or previously infected. For example, a value of 90% means there would be only 10 infections for every 100 in the comparison group. The x-axis gives the number of days since the relevant event.

As you can see, vaccine-induced immunity wanes rapidly, beginning a few weeks after vaccination. And at the five month mark, protection is well below 50%. Natural immunity, by contrast, is robust: a full year after infection, protection is still above 70%.

Consistent with what the two Israeli studies found, hybrid immunity – conferred by the combination of vaccination and previous infection – is slightly better than natural immunity. However, the difference is small compared to that between natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Evidence for the superiority of natural immunity is now robust. So while those who’ve already had Covid should be perfectly free to get vaccinated, there’s no obvious need for them to do so. The tricky part may be getting this message through to politicians.

Sign These Five Petitions

Below is a list of five petitions, which are available to sign at petition.parliament.uk, that relate to repealing Government lockdown measures and vaccine mandates, as well as repeal the state’s political power to enact these restrictions. A link is provided next to the petition’s title that will take you directly to the appropriate page and URL link. If a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it must be considered for a debate in Parliament – so get signing!

Prohibit employers from requiring staff to be vaccinated against Covid (here)

Make it illegal for any employer to mandate vaccination for its employees. This should apply to all public sector (including the NHS, armed forces, care workers), third sector and all private sector.

Do not make vaccination against Covid mandatory (here)

Do not under any circumstances make vaccination against Covid a requirement for the public. To coerce in the form of fines or otherwise, as is being proposed in Austria, would be a grotesque violation of bodily autonomy.

Repeal all ‘Plan B’ Covid measures (here)

The Government must immediately repeal existing ‘Plan B’ measures, and not introduce any additional measures. This means repeal all mask mandates, not making proof of vaccination (or negative test result) a requirement for any venues, and not requiring people to work from home.

Do not require a Covid passport for access to any services, jobs or events (here)

Covid Passports are divisive, discriminatory and wrong. The Government should not implement them for any domestic purpose. It is divisive and discriminatory to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs which these passports could be used to do.

Referendum in the United Kingdom to abolish the Coronavirus Act (here)

The Government as a matter of urgency, to bring to Parliament for approval, legislation to have a referendum on the above subject within a maximum of six months.

Anti-Lockdown Tycoon Elon Musk Named Time’s Person of the Year

In a surprising move, Time Magazine has named Elon Musk as its person of the year, despite being one of the most outspoken opponents of lockdown measures and vaccine mandates. Last year, he proclaimed that stay-at-home mandates were “fascist” and refused to apologise for saying so, and has warned that the United States is quickly losing its liberty. Jeffrey A. Tucker, writing for the Brownstone Institute, examines the transition of Elon Musk into a liberty-loving American who fears the growing and unrelenting power of the state apparatus, and is not afraid to speak his mind about his concerns and beliefs.

The last two years have been transformative for him. He is a businessman above all else. When the Government told him that he had to close his factories for a virus, he balked. He began to look at the data (he is trained in economics and statistics). He saw that the infection fatality rate was not highly unusual for this type of virus, and he was clearly aware of the harms that would come from lockdowns to his company, the country, and the world economy.

On May 11, 2020, he tweeted: “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules, I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.” By the end of the year, he moved Tesla’s headquarters from oppressive California to emancipate Texas. Good on him. Remarkable really. 

Two years earlier, his dust up with the SEC made a mockery of the agency. He believes that he should have free speech so he tweeted what he wanted to tweet. The SEC reminded him that this is not a free country and that he cannot do that. He faced their investigatory tribunal, and then resigned briefly as CEO so that he could say what he wanted to say. In the end, he outsmarted them all. 

What’s happened to Elon is what has happened to millions of other people. He began to realize that the governing elites in this country are incredibly inept and unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. He noted the completely undemocratic methods and the unscientific rationale that were deployed to bring about lockdowns. For that reason, he has been smeared and put down as a promoter of misinformation. Anyone who has paid attention for the last two years knows exactly what that means: he is telling truths he is not supposed to tell. 

Let’s address his relationship with China, which in many respects pioneered the lockdowns he despises. He has said that despite his good relations in China, he disagrees with many policies of the government, just as he disagrees with policies in the U.S. This opinion gets him in trouble with both Democrats and Republicans. But we do well to pay attention.

For all the controversy, the hypocrisy, and the mixed messaging over the years, Elon Musk has turned into a true American, a resistor, a revolutionary. His influence in business and philosophical outlook offers a real path forward. He deserves every congratulations for refusing to go along with ruling-class ideology and instead demand that most essential thing, the freedom to trade, speak, run a business, and innovate without government interference. 

That he has been named Person of the Year portends more than Time Magazine knows. There is a new spirit of resistance alive in the land, and Musk embodies it as well or better than anyone else in his position. In that case, there are many people and institutions in this country and around the world that should be very worried. 

Worth reading in full.

After Boris Suffers Largest Rebellion of His Premiership, is ‘Plan C’ Dead in the Water?

After nearly half of Conservative backbenchers revolted against ‘Plan B’ yesterday, Boris has agreed that if any further restrictions are imposed between now and the New Year Parliament will be recalled. But it is probable that if he attempts to impose ‘Plan C’, i.e. a national lockdown, not only would he face an even greater rebellion, but it would trigger a leadership challenge. That means ‘Plan C’ is unlikely – for now. MailOnline has more.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed this morning that the premier has bowed to demands that Parliament must be recalled for a vote before any further restrictions are brought in.

During the pandemic most curbs have been introduced by ministers and then only approved by MPs retrospectively, something that has added to the fury of sceptics.

One Cabinet source warned that the only way Tory MPs would support a tightening now was after “very clear evidence that Omicron is leading to hospitalisations and deaths”.

The mutiny suffered by Mr. Johnson was close to the record insurrection that hammered Theresa May’s Brexit deal in 2019 – and greater than the biggest rebellions faced by David Cameron, Sir John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

Thirteen MPs who have attended Cabinet under four premiers defied Mr Johnson, including Dame Andrea Leadsom, David Davis, Liam Fox and Chris Grayling. Some 26 Tories first elected in his 2019 landslide victory revolted.

Louie French, the newest Tory MP who was elected in a by-election less than two weeks ago, also went against the government whip.

The numbers were more than enough to wipe out the government’s huge 80-strong majority had Keir Starmer not ridden to the rescue.

The vote came less than two hours after the PM made a last-ditch attempt to quell the rebellion by telling a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers that he had “no choice” but to impose new curbs.

The grim week for Mr Johnson looks set to get worse, with the Tory struggling to cling on to the previously rock-solid seat of North Shropshire in a by-election tomorrow, triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson in the sleaze furore.

Worth reading in full.

Shaun Bailey Resigns From London Assembly Role After Being Caught Partying Last Winter

The former Tory London Mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, has resigned from his post as Chair of the London Assembly’s policing and crime committee shortly after a photograph emerged showing Bailey to have attended a party, which was held in violation of last winter’s Covid restrictions. The event took place at the Conservative Party’s Westminster headquarters in December during London’s Tier Two restrictions, which prohibited the public from socialising. MailOnline has the story.

Bailey bowed to pressure this afternoon after a week of intense demands for him to quit, MyLondon reported. 

Members of Downing Street staff joined the party, which included dancing into the early hours of the morning, despite Tier Two restrictions in London barring indoor socialising at the time.

Four members off Bailey’s staff are reported to have been disciplined over the “raucous” gathering, in which a door was reported to have been damaged.  

An image taken on the night last December shows Bailey standing in the middle of a crowd of some 24 people huddled closely together at Conservative Party HQ,  with platters of food nearby. 

None of the partygoers are pictured wearing masks and some of them including billionaire Tory donor Nick Candy are seen raising their drinks to toast the night; while millions of Londoners were forced to self-isolate in line with Tier Two restrictions.

Bailey had been scheduled to chair Wednesday’s police and crime committee, where it was expected London Assembly Members would personally demand he step down.

But an email announced that City Hall Conservative leader Susan Hall would chair the committee in the interim. 

A Conservative Spokesman from the Greater London Assembly said: “Shaun Bailey AM has today stood aside as Chairman of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee.

“He does not want an unauthorised social gathering involving some former members of the London mayoral campaign team last December to distract from the Committee’s important work holding the Mayor of London to account.

“He will continue to speak up for Londoners who no longer feel safe in our city and push for a strategy to tackle the disproportionate level of crime in London’s black community.”

In response to Bailey’s departure, Labour’s London Assembly policing lead Unmesh Desai AM said: “Shaun Bailey still has to answer questions put to him by the Labour group.”

The Labour group has demanded to know who attended the party and whether Bailey received any gifts.

Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden is said to have been “appalled” by the image showing the bash at Tory HQ.

Several hours earlier on day of the gathering, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock had announced London would move into Tier Three restrictions. 

Worth reading in full.

Stand Up For Comedy!

The Free Speech Union has organised a night of no-holds-barred comedy at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green this evening. Please do come and join the fun if you’re not doing anything else – and, rest assured, you wont have to show a vaccine passport to get in! The restrictions introduced last night won’t affect this event.

Our MC for the evening will be FSU favourite Dominic Frisby, and he’ll be joined by comedians Leo Kearse, Mark Dolan and Joe Jacobs. Should be a hoot!

I’ll be there, so do come and say hello at the bar. Round up your friends and family and buy your tickets now!

If you’re feeling especially full of Christmas cheer, please consider selecting the option of a ticket plus a £10 donation to the FSU.

You can buy tickets here. See you at 7.30pm!