I find the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Lockdown Files’ revelations about Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages simultaneously reassuring and disturbing.
Reassuring, because over the many months I analysed Covid related data for Lockdown Sceptics (as this site was then called) I often had periods of self-doubt. Official announcements by politicians and senior civil servants were so discordant with publicly available information, I assumed I must be missing something, or misinterpreting the figures. Worse, I worried about inadvertently misleading our readership. Recent revelations suggest that my analyses were roughly correct – I’m not claiming any credit because the answers were hiding in plain sight. Anyone with a modicum of common sense and a basic training in biological sciences could have seen it – and many did.
On the other hand, the message trails are disturbing for what they tell us about the nature of decision making in government. It is easy to be misled by taking Hancock’s adolescent WhatsApp messages at face value. Vain, shallow and self-obsessed, he was the perfect mark for manipulation by erstwhile ‘advisors’. A political marionette parroting lines fed to him by others and a convenient fall guy when it all went wrong. I don’t think Hancock is the major villain in the lockdown piece. He’s too lightweight to have dreamt all that up on his own.
Lest anyone misinterpret my view, I don’t think the WEF or the ‘Illuminati’ were behind the lockdown catastrophe. But I do think there were plenty of adults in the room – and that many of them perceived personal advantage in maintaining the Covid fictions and the theatre that went with it.
Hancock’s WhatsApp exchanges suggest a consistent policy of official exaggeration to justify excessive population control measures, certainly from the autumn of 2020. This isn’t news, but it corroborates what I wrote at the time. Here are just a few examples:
- WhatsApp Exchanges between Boris Johnson, Whitty, Valance and Hancock show these main players knew early on that Covid was not a significant threat to the vast majority of the population. We now know that on February 29th 2020 Whitty said on WhatsApp: “For a disease with a low (for the sake of argument 1%) mortality a vaccine has to be very safe so the safety studies can’t be shortcut. So important for the long run.”
I agree with that statement. I think most doctors would concur. Even at the time, the infection fatality rate (IFR) was rarely estimated above 1% except in people over 65 and we now know from the work of John Ioannidis and others that those IFRs were significant over-estimates.
Why did Dr Whitty change his mind? He subsequently vocally and repeatedly advocated for the entire U.K. population to be vaccinated with a drug that had not undergone standard safety studies and in particular for young people to be vaccinated for a disease that was in no way a danger to them. What brought about his volte face?
- The second lockdown: Here is a quote from a piece I wrote in Lockdown Sceptics in early November 2020:
On Weds 4th November, the British Parliament voted to enforce a lockdown of the population in order to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 admissions.
In support of the Government, Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance provided graphs of dubious provenance suggesting catastrophic consequences if lockdown was not re-introduced. These projections subsequently turned out to be grossly inaccurate.
Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in England then presented figures suggesting that the NHS was in imminent danger of collapse from Covid pressures in the coming weeks. He stated that the number of Covid patients in some hospitals was greater than the number in the spring and that in total there were enough Covid patients in England to fill 22 hospitals.
We now know from Hancock’s own messages that he was contemplating offering spare ICU beds in southern England to French patients at that exact time. Leaks from within NHS England in November 2020 showed:
there were 290 vacant ICU beds in London, 278 vacant in the South East and 296 beds available in the Midlands in early November 2020. Conservative MP’s complained that the information they had been provided with was insufficiently detailed to allow them to make an informed decision on the matter.
If the NHS was so close to collapse that everyone had to be placed under house arrest, can someone please explain why the Secretary of State for Health was considering offering spare ICU capacity to our French friends? And why the information in relation to the true state of critical care capacity was not provided to our elected representatives before they rubber stamped the second lockdown?
- The fear narrative: Hancock’s text exchanges clearly demonstrate his intention deliberately to terrify the entire country by officially disseminating a false narrative about the risks of Covid, aided, abetted and amplified by the national broadcaster. I won’t elaborate on this theme because it has been well documented and is beyond contest. If such activities had been carried out by a foreign power, they would have been described as information warfare – for very good reason, because that is exactly what we now know the U.K. Government conducted against its own people.
Who put the sock puppet up to that? Who authorised the police to incarcerate people in their own homes – a form of detention without trial – for 14 days, when we now know from the leaks that a five-day quarantine, provided it was accompanied by testing, was sufficient in the eyes of Chris Whitty? Who authorised the incoherent and inconsistent policy of ‘early release’ where people could shorten quarantine if they paid extra for an early test? The WhatsApp leaks are so far silent on this point.
This brings me to the disturbing part of the ‘lockdown files’ reaction. It’s the silence.
By silence, I don’t mean absence of noise – there has been plenty of noise from the lockdown advocate section of the media, largely shrieking ad hominem attacks on Isabel Oakeshott and the ‘lockdown deniers’ (Kate Burley’s tormented phraseology). One example is this piece by Observer columnist Sonia Sodha.
The writer claims the WhatsApp leaks are being exploited by anti-lockdown activists motivated by ‘ideology’. It appears to me that the ideologues are entirely on the other side of the argument – deliberately ignoring the growing evidence quantifying the costs of the policy while dogmatically clinging to the mantra that ‘government-imposed restrictions that reduced people’s social contacts cut infection rates and saved lives’.
She refers to the Swedish official report on the country’s Covid experience and draws attention to a comment that the Swedes should have “taken faster and stronger action to slow the spread of Covid in the first wave, such as closing restaurants”.
Perhaps she got bored of reading past the first couple of pages. Had she read the entire report, she would surely have noted this paragraph:
In the light of current knowledge, however, the Commission is not convinced that extended or recurring mandatory lockdowns, as introduced in other countries, are a necessary element in the response to a new, serious epidemic outbreak. First of all, many countries that have pursued such an approach have experienced significantly worse outcomes than Sweden, indicating at present, at least, that it is highly uncertain what effect lockdowns have in fact had. Second, long-term and recurring lockdowns restrict, not to say practically remove, people’s freedom in a way that is hardly defensible other than in the face of very extreme threats. And third, the argument about measures sustainable in the long term, which people can be expected to accept, carries significant weight here. In many parts of the world, including countries close to our own, we have seen protests, even violent ones, when new lockdowns have been imposed in response to growing transmission of COVID-19.
There has been total silence and zero engagement on the key arguments revealed by the leaks. A wilful deafness and blindness by those who shaped the decisions in the SAGE committees and the civil service, let alone any kind of mea culpa from the hysterics on Independent SAGE. No commentary on the self-evident policy of deliberate public misinformation, or on the multiple instances of official advisors appearing on the media to bounce decision makers into more sustained draconian measures. No commentary on the deliberate policy of denigration, surveillance and repression of dissenting voices – most of whom turned out to have been right all along.
The real instigators of lockdown conveniently hide behind the fig leaf of a ‘public enquiry’ while the inept narcissistic former Secretary of State for Health fulfils his final political function as a human shield. When all this is over, Hancock will be gone, political chaff, sacrificed to deflect blame from the people who wrote the lines he parroted. But they will still be there. Nameless, unaccountable, untouchable.
So, cui bono? Who benefited from the economic and social catastrophe that was U.K. Covid policy 2020-22?
Testing companies, PPE merchants, vaccine manufacturers must head the list. I find it hard to blame them for taking advantage of the golden goose. They weren’t prime movers, just opportunistic exploiters of a confected crisis.
But right behind them were the civil servants and advisors. Several have already banked their gains with promotions and decorations. Some have moved on to more lucrative pastures. The other big winners were the consultants – bound to their governmental counterparts, charging £1 million a day to advise on the development of the disastrous, £37 billion ‘Test and Trace’, which turned out to be the cause of an economically crippling and clinically unnecessary ‘pingdemic’.
The losers? British taxpayers and businesses. Schoolchildren deprived of education. Patients deprived of routine but necessary medical care. Those suffering injury from a vaccine they were coerced into taking for a virus that posed no threat to them.
And paradoxically the politicians are also losers. Their function in a modern managed democracy is now reduced to little more than PR mouthpieces for a state infrastructure that leaks or briefs a compliant press against them when they deviate from the official line.
Power lies in controlling what people believe, because that determines how people act. Hancock didn’t control what people were led to believe. He just read the script out. The public need to know who wrote it.
Get to it Isabel.
The author, the Daily Sceptic‘s in-house doctor, is a former NHS consultant now in private practice.