Not all CV19 sceptics:
… rush to their FB echo chambers with the latest utterances of cherry picked experts – some of whose opinions I take seriously, though with a modicum of caution – while ignoring all others as government mouthpieces;
… shriek, “we told you so”, on the back of equally cherry picked data;
… deride as morons and suckers those whose beliefs place them elsewhere on a matrix where multiple variables intersect;1
… raced out to endorse, with ill judged enthusiasm given that many were on the Left, the Great Barrington Declaration (of which more in a moment);
Then again, not all who accept CV19 as a real and grave threat dispute that ruling classes across the globe will make hay while the sun shines, seizing this opportunity for further encroachments on hard won liberties, as in the wake of 9/11. And/or living standards, as in the wake of Lehman Brothers. Opportunism is something ruling classes tend to do rather well.
Confused? You should be. Beware the gleam of messianic certainty. All too often it masks an excess of a trait found to some degree in all of us: inability, in the face of things that matter, to live with the excruciations of doubt.
I don’t have the truth on CV19. I lost a very good friend to it in May but otherwise know only a handful who have tested positive. The same goes for everyone I ask, leaving me with a nagging sense, exacerbated by data we’ve long known to be unreliable,3 that maybe this isn’t the Big One; the killer pandemic epidemiologists have been telling us since SARS 2003 is a matter of when not if.
Which is as much as I’m prepared to offer as preface to my three chosen reads. I’ll start with the most controversial.
This 5800 worder by Gegory Sinaisky, on OffGuardian in late September, argues that we have indeed been taken for a right royal ride.
I offer it despite not sharing the author’s belief that the pandemic may have been manufactured. And despite finding his arguments in support of that view unconvincing.4 I offer it because while I do not draw the conclusions Mr Sinaisky draws, least of all on CV19, I agree with the thrust of his assessment of the twilight zone in which Western imperialism now stands. Empires rise and empires fall, but in the past they had not the capacity to take out all advanced life with them. As 500 years of Western ascendancy draw to a close, the biggest and scariest uncertainty is that of how Washington and Wall Street mean to respond.
Gregory Sinaisky has his answer to that. I fear something different.
The declaration advocates an approach to herd immunity called “focused protection,” where the most vulnerable are supposedly provided haven. At the same time, the youngest are encouraged to become infected to establish broad-based immunity in the population.
The AIER, a libertarian think-tank, which posits as their aim “a society based on property rights and open markets,” is engaged in a highly reactionary, anti-working-class and anti-socialist enterprise. The declaration has been partly funded by the right-wing billionaire, Charles Koch, who hosted a private soiree of scientists, economists, and journalists to provide the homicidal declaration a modicum of respectability and formulate herd immunity as a necessary global policy in response to the pandemic.
A week ago WSWS – site of Socialist Equality Party, phoenix from the ashes of Gerry Healy’s WRP sect – ran this 1600 word piece. It sets out a clear view, with which many on the Left – ‘revolutionary’ and ‘democratic’ alike – would concur, of pandemic as real and capitalism’s response as callous beneath a veneer of concern. As such the piece has my agreement, with the important proviso of my being less certain than WSWS of the full extent of CV19’s lethality.
No confidence! Keir Starmer’s Address to the Nation
Last but by no means least, some may recall a post from the early days. On April 30 I hosted a piece by two academics: Chik Collins (University of Faroe Islands) and my friend and former colleague Peter Jones (Sheffield Hallam). It set out a manifesto for responding to pandemic as if people mattered more than profits.
This week I was asked to host the duo’s latest piece, an imaginary 1250 word declaration by Sir Keir Starmer – described elsewhere on this site as “beneficiary of the dirtiest war ever waged on a Labour leader” – for Boris to step down, on ground of serial incompetence, revolving door venality and assorted scandals, to make way for a government of national unity.
Incidentally, I was talking a week or two ago to reps of UCU’s Sheffield Hallam branch. Their employer is making the usual protestations that nothing is of higher value in its eyes than the safety of staff. (Is there an employer in the whole wide world that doesn’t make this claim?) At the same time, these reps tell me, it has – Pontius Pilate fashion – kicked responsibility down the food chain, leaving it to the discretion of junior but ambitious managers to order academic staff to come in for repeated contact with returning students.
Followers of my legal struggle with Sheffield Hallam know my love for it to be conditional. But other than the fact I’d look kindly on any reasonable request from a man who has publicly backed me on that struggle, Peter Jones’s employer is not a factor here.
Rather than link to a pdf, I replicate the Collins-Jones spoof in full.
Motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government
Keir Starmer’s address to the nation (as imagined by Chik Collins and Peter
Jones) @chikcollinsUFI @PeteJonesSHU
19th October 2020
Good evening everyone
I am telling you tonight of a critical decision that I have come to, as Leader of Her
Majesty’s Opposition. It has been taken after extensive discussions with many of
those across our country who have key responsibilities for both public health and for
our economy, employment and our future prosperity.
It is a decision that will, I hope, have support in the House of Commons from all
opposition parties, but also from a growing number of Conservative MPs who share
our view on the current crisis and are prepared to put the national interest ahead of
narrow party loyalty.
We have concluded that the present Conservative government of Boris Johnson
lacks the competence to continue in office. It simply cannot be trusted any further
with the vital decisions on which so much now depends. I have therefore decided to
call on the government to step down in advance of the motion of no confidence
which we are at this moment preparing to put before the House.
This decision is a last resort. For the last eight months the government has failed to
deal with the pandemic decisively and effectively. We have given our support to the
government when measures were taken, such as the nation-wide lockdown in
March, which we considered to be necessary, even though belated and insufficient.
We have been patient with the government more generally, recognising the difficult
challenges they have been facing. But we believe that the patience of the British
public is now exhausted by the serial incompetence from which we continue to
The government has conclusively failed in its primary duty towards the people of this
country – namely to save and protect the lives of its citizens. And it has repeatedly
failed to protect and enhance our public services, to preserve livelihoods and to
develop our capacity to bounce back as an even stronger and more united society
after the pandemic crisis is over.
The government has also failed to articulate an effective strategy to protect society
from the long expected second wave of Covid-19. Some weeks ago, we now know,
they cut entirely loose from their own scientific experts, and over the past week have
imposed on parts of the country panic measures that everyone knows cannot
effectively stem the tide of infection, while they will certainly have devastating
consequences for livelihoods. That is why we have supported the elected authorities
and mayors in those cities and regions in their refusal to accept the government’s
This all brings us therefore to an extremely dangerous moment. The previous
substantial consensus on dealing with the virus is seriously broken. People have lost
trust in, and respect for, the government. There is now the frightening possibility of
open conflict between government and sectors of the population – and we only need
to look at the USA to see that we must not go down that path
This is not a decision I have taken lightly.
In March we watched with horror the nightly TV news reports from Italy with dreadful
scenes of hospitals overwhelmed, of people seriously ill and dying from the
coronavirus, of angry and grieving relatives and of desperate and exhausted health
care workers and doctors.
Rather than preparation and response, we witnessed our own government in absurd
denial – as if this couldn’t happen in the UK. But within weeks we experienced the
same awful crisis and quickly attained the unenviable worst record in Europe for our
handling of the pandemic. Reliable estimates put the number of coronavirus deaths
in the UK at between 60,000 and 70,000.
The government failed to prepare our health and other public services, allowed the
virus to spread from hospitals to care homes, failed to provide adequate hospital
resources and PPE, and has failed miserably even now to develop an adequate
system for test and trace – despite eye watering contracts to private firms.
The government failed to work with or even consult the devolved governments of
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and has made it impossible for us to work as a
genuinely united kingdom.
None of this was ether inevitable or necessary. China, South Korea and New
Zealand and, closer to home, Germany have shown that. Our predicament reflects
the grave incompetence of the government and indeed its indifference to what is
required of responsible leadership in a time of crisis – as its response to the Dominic
Cummings affair clearly demonstrated.
Some may suggest the step we are taking is undemocratic. I have weighed that
argument carefully. But no actually democratic government has an unconditional
right to continue in office, regardless of how recent the General Election or however
big its Commons majority. Victory in a General Election does not give a government
the right to expose its citizens to either deadly harm or economic ruin – and certainly
not to both at the same time.
The government has lost the confidence of the British people at the very time when
confidence is most essential. Given the situation we are now in, the government
itself is now the main threat to both public health and economic security for many
millions of ordinary people. It can no longer perform the most basic and essential
duties required of any government.
Of course, the government may well not give way. It may even be that our motion of
no confidence in the government will not succeed. But it is the basic duty of the
Opposition now to state very clearly and without any political point scoring: The
government has fundamentally and decisively failed. It is now standing in the way of
dealing adequately with the most serious crisis we have faced as a people since the
Second World War.
While a new General Election is prepared, we propose to establish an interim
government of national unity with representatives from all parties in the House, with
myself as Prime Minister. This government will work closely with the governments of
the devolved nations and with elected authorities and mayors in the regions to
develop and implement a National Plan for Public Health and Economic Security,
based on the following principles:
- Work for Covid-Zero, that is, complete suppression of the virus: this will involve
setting up as quickly as we can an actually effective test and trace system,
based on proper investment in local public services, along with adequate social
distancing and lockdown measures where necessary;
- Incomes, livelihoods and jobs must be fully protected and preserved, especially
where heightened social distancing or lockdown measures are in place;
- The NHS and all public sector infrastructure must be protected and enhanced.
This will mean cancelling failing private contracts for PPE and other services
which have been awarded by the government in favour of appropriate public,
locally based resourcing and control.
In developing our National Plan we will consult closely with the Independent Sage
Group on the scientific basis of our public health measures and we will also ask for
help from the scientific advisors of those countries who have successfully dealt with
the virus competently.
I know that this drastic decision may come as a surprise and shock to many of you.
But I would ask for your understanding and support. We must work together as a
united people to defeat the virus, protect our livelihoods and preserve our future.
This has become impossible under the present government.
* * *
- We could design a matrix of two axes. On the x-axis we’d have CV19 is real at one pole, imaginary at the other, with real but overstated at the midpoint. On the y-axis we’d have governments are doing well at one pole, dire at the other. Even on so simple a matrix we could plot many positions. And that’s before we add a third and more provocative variable: is CV19 a conspiracy?
- The word ‘cabal’ derives from Kabbalah and a common thread in many if not most overarching conspiracy theories is antisemitism. I stress, overarching. More specific conspiracy theories may be true or false. I doubt official accounts of Dallas ’63 and, while I don’t claim to know what did happen on 9/11, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to acceptance that its fullest and most coherent official explanation, the NIST Report of 2005, is riddled with holes.
- Unsurprisingly, those who believe CV19 a hoax or overstated say governments seek to inflate CV19 mortality stats. Those who see CV19 as deadly and government response, in USA and UK especially, as criminally inept claim the opposite. Similar biases inform arguments as to whether testing produces false positives or false negatives.
- Mr Sinaisky is fond, I say inexcusably given the breadth of his canvas, of unsupported generalisations. Some are flat out wrong, as when he says “media never compare the number of deaths caused by flu in recent years with Covid-19 deaths”. Even the most cursory search online shows that they do. Often. And his answer to the argument that those who cry global conspiracy must account for Beijing, Havana, London, Moscow, Tehran and (Trump or no) Washington being in on it? Not at all, he retorts. Few states have the resources to ignore WHO advice, and WHO is US dominated. That last is true. WHO, like OPCW, IMF and other “independent” bodies is indeed US dominated. But parties capable of an independent line include Beijing, Moscow and Havana.