Pages tagged "Covid"
If now is not a good time to cut taxes, then I don’t know when it is
By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
The cost of living crisis is going to be number one on the list of priorities for most voters. Last week we heard that the Government plans measures to ease the cost of living crisis, but we don’t know what those plans are. The Government is either deliberately keeping its cards close to its chest, or (more likely) there are divisions on what should be done next.
Some of the economic problems we are suffering at the moment are home grown; many more are faced by other countries around the world. But governments are always blamed when voters are feeling poorer. They always want politicians to do more. Right and wrong do not matter.
In an experiment never tried before, we closed down our economy for many months in response to Covid-19. We restricted the economy for over 18 months. To fund this, the Government borrowed heavily, and the Bank of England, whose primary job is to keep inflation under control, now owns between a third to a half of Government debt. Because most countries around the world also embarked on the same experiment (some much more harshly than we did), they are in a similar position to us. Supply chains are broken, and demand is outstripping supply. It is hardly surprising that inflation is now out of control. It is hardly surprising that the UK’s economy is predicted to go into recession.
The Government has to do more to alleviate the suffering many are going through now, and many more will be going through in the months to come. If now is not a good time to cut taxes, then I don’t know when it is.
VAT on gas and electricity should be scrapped, and the green levy should be removed from bills. The rise in National Insurance Contributions should also be scrapped, but National Insurance threshold uplift should remain in place. This could save some families thousands of pounds a year and will make a real difference.
The next general election is expected to take place in the spring of 2024. We don’t know if Boris Johnson will still be Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party then. We don’t know if Sir Keir Starmer will still be leader of the Labour Party. We don’t know how high inflation is going to be, if the economy will still be underperforming, or how hard the cost of living crisis will have bitten millions of people. To paraphrase the late Donald Rumsfeld, there are many known knowns; there are many known unknowns, and there are unknown unknowns. Although I still don’t think that Labour will form a majority Government, it is all to play for. Those who are gifted at reading political tea leaves will be in great demand!
Covid, clinical trials and dementia
A guest post by Tony Brown
The 'science' (which governments kept telling us they were following) is now clear: lockdowns don't work and inflict far more damage than they alleviate. How can I be so certain? It is the clear conclusion of a meta-study by the highly reputable Johns Hopkins University:
“This meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument."
For any of you that don't know, a 'meta-study' draws its conclusion by looking at all the available studies and aggregating them to produce a definitive judgement.
So, unless there is overwhelming clear-cut evidence to the contrary, we must not be subject to any more locking down, period - and if our government tells us otherwise, they are not following the science whatever they may claim: the deprivation of freedom and choice cannot be justified and must never be imposed again!
How much worse would it have been if Starmer's and others' calls for even longer, tighter and harder lockdowns had been heeded? When Starmer or Sturgeon attack Johnson, it is worth remembering that for all his failings, they got it wrong and would have been even more disastrous for us and for freedom!
What has worked is vaccination. Johnson's government made the right call. They backed their analysis and put in the resources and fast-track procedures to approve and vaccinate as fast as was humanly possible. Perhaps there are a couple of wider lessons here?
First, restriction, regulation and prohibition, even when they may appear to be justified, should be imposed only with the strongest possible justification and even then for the shortest possible time and as moderately as possible: authoritarianism undermines the quality of our lives and our prospects of prosperity.
By contrast, innovation should be encouraged and the obstacles to it kept to a minimum. In particular, new drugs and medical treatments should be brought on as quickly as possible with the speed of the covid vaccines potentially applied to other ground-breaking treatments - and I have a candidate to suggest.
Dementia is a scourge. It comes by and large at the end of people's lives, destroying their quality and blighting the final memories and experiences of loved ones. Sadly, despite much endeavour, medical science has been able to make very little difference to date.
However, there is now hope as "British scientists believe they may have discovered the first effective treatment... Researchers at Neuro-Bio, a biotech firm... say their potential remedy is likely to succeed where other treatments have failed because it tackles changes in the brain that have previously been ignored. The scientists say they have identified a ‘neurotoxic’ chemical which triggers the early stages of the degenerative condition, and have developed a treatment that can neutralise it.... Neuro-Bio’s treatment [is] given as a nasal spray," so it is also non-invasive and easily administered. [Daily Mail report]
On the whole medical protocols fail to discriminate between the ages when treatments are taken. Thalidomide was such a terrible tragedy because it was a drug administered in pregnancy and the baby had to suffer the consequences during their entire lives from birth to death. By contrast, a dementia treatment only affects the end of life. Moreover, the effect of dementia as described above progressively deprives it of all quality for all concerned, such that the final death of even the most loved of people can still be a blessed release.
In these circumstances, I would argue that not all medicines are equal and that fast-track procedures can and should apply. Just as with the covid vaccine, Neuro-Bio should be aided and encouraged to develop its treatment absolutely as fast as possible with fast-track procedures and protocols also applied in this case.
I say this with such confidence because the impact and timing in life of dementia mean that there is very little downside, especially if you judge quality of life as well as longevity. A treatment for dementia is the exact opposite in its impact of thalidomide.
My belief in freedom and individualism - which I define as always treating and judging all people and circumstances as individually as possible - combined with the covid experience tells me that we have got to become more nuanced in how medicines and medical treatments are tested and brought into use. What we have achieved should have wider application. Once people reach their 80s, the length and the quality of their lives are ever more limited. Let's recognise this and worry less than we do about a drug administered to a pregnant woman, a child or a younger adult.
Tony Brown was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy
What is going on in Canada and New Zealand?
By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
Whilst the UK has moved away from lockdowns, restrictions, Covid passports, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings, both the Canadian and New Zealand governments are continuing to do the opposite.
A convoy of tens of thousands of Canadian truckers moved its way across the country last week and arrived in the capital Ottawa yesterday. Truckers are protesting against vaccine mandates and other policies implemented by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. His response was to insult them and then go into hiding. He described them as a "small fringe minority" and people who hold unacceptable views.
Nova Scotia has enacted emergency legislation prohibiting those protesting against COVID-19 measures from blocking the Trans-Canada Highway near the New Brunswick boundary. The Emergency Management Act also applies to people who stop or gather alongside the highway. You can find out more by watching this interview on Neil Oliver's show in GB News last night. In Quebec, those who are not vaccinated will be charged a health tax.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, a country which officially abandoned its zero-Covid policy last year, there is very little evidence that the country has moved on from March 2020, despite around 90 per cent of those living in the country being double jabbed. A two-tier society is being developed by Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, (just as it is by Trudeau in Canada) where those who are vaccinated have more freedom than those who are not.
Dan Wooton, writing in the Daily Mail, notes that "after just nine confirmed Omicron cases, Ardern plunged the entire country into red alert, a form of lockdown that bans large gatherings, enforces mask mandates, makes Covid passports compulsory if you want to live normally as part of a 'two-tier society', and reintroduces work from home orders." That sounds very much like a zero-Covid policy to me - one which cannot and will not work if New Zealand wants to get back to anything like normality.
Families cannot reunite, even if a parent is dying. As Dan Wootton notes:
"Each month, around 50,000 desperate Kiwis – many trapped overseas in countries where their visa has run out or desperate to see sick relatives – have been forced to sign up online to enter a waiting room where they are placed in a virtual queue. Only around 1,500 'winners' a month gain tickets.
"And that's just the start of it. Once you 'win' the lottery, you have to pay for an exorbitantly expensive flight and then about £1,500 to spend 14 days in government run hotel quarantine, where the army has been sent in to ensure no one absconds."
One would think that when governments react in these ways, completely dividing society, and destroying businesses and livelihoods, that a majority would stand up and say no. Sadly, this is not the case. The vast majority of Canadians and New Zealanders support their governments. One can speculate as to the reasons why, but I would put fear at the top of the list. Jacinda Ardern once told New Zealanders (and I will never forget this) to "dismiss anything else, we will continue to be your single source of truth.” She needs to be reminded that George Orwell, in his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, was issuing a warning, not offering a blueprint.
Justin Trudeau called a snap general election last year. Despite his draconian policies, he remained Prime Minister, with the results largely unchanged from the general election in 2019. New Zealanders went to the polls in October 2020. Jacinda Ardern recorded a landslide victory. You reap what you sow.
I used to think that both Canada and New Zealand were populated by freedom loving people. I have been disabused of that opinion. We have endured much during the last couple of years in the UK, but we have not gone anywhere near the level of restrictions imposed in New Zealand. We have gone too far in mandating vaccinations for health care and NHS workers, but we do not suffer from the levels of authoritarianism currently being displayed in Canada. I am concerned, though, that if Boris Johnson had followed the examples set by Trudeau and Ardern, too many people would have supported him. I would like to think that we would have protested in sufficiently large numbers, but I honestly don't think that we would have done.
There are many other governments in the world who continue to strip freedoms away from their citizens - some are very close to home in Europe, and I haven't even touched on Australia. I can't say that I am grateful to Boris Johnson for returning freedoms which were not his to take away. The way we allowed people to die alone was disgraceful. Allowing elderly and vulnerable people to exist without any meaningful human interaction was cruel. Sweden didn't close schools, but we deprived children of their education for months on end. In the first lockdown, children's playgrounds were closed. Millions more are now suffering from mental health problems. The number of people who will die from preventable illnesses is still yet unknown. Having said that, when I look at what is still being endured by people in other countries, I am grateful that I live in the UK - warts and all.
If the PM can't turn the Johnson supertanker around in record time, he may not have a future as its captain
By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
It has been a terrible week for Boris Johnson. Before Christmas, Number 10 had hoped that the so-called 'Partygate' scandals would be forgotten about. Instead, matters have got far worse.
I am not going to go into detail about all of the parties which have taken place in Number 10. But what I will say is that there is a "do as I say, not as I do" culture inside the heart of Government, and that no-one appeared (or appears) to be interested in changing that culture.
In the House of Commons last Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that when he mixed with 40 people all merrily chatting and drinking in the evening sunshine, he hadn't realised that it was a party. That stretches incredulity to breaking point. I don't begrudge anyone a drink after work; I have done it plenty of times myself over the years, but the problem is that at the time that particular party took place, if you or I had sent an email around to colleagues suggesting that they bring their own booze to an after work party in a garden, we would have been fined up to £10,000 for breaking Covid laws.
Likewise, the images of the Queen sitting alone in St George's Chapel, Windsor, during Prince Philip's funeral are in stark contrast to the two parties in Downing Street the previous evening, where some people left with an empty suitcase to fill it up with booze at a local convenience store so as not to arouse the suspicion of police officers when they returned.
I will always be grateful to Boris Johnson for eventually getting us out of the European Union, but as I have said on numerous occasions, the Government is not taking full advantage of the benefits Brexit has to offer. Instead the tax burden is at its highest since Clement Attlee was in power; inflation is rising; electricity and gas bills are rising; the cost of petrol and diesel have risen substantially over the last year. The Government could immediately scrap VAT on domestic fuel, but it will not. It could help families and businesses by scrapping the planned rise in National Insurance this April, but has no plans to do so. Next year, Corporation Tax will rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent.
Boris Johnson has lost the trust of many people. Patients died in hospitals alone because their families were prevented from visiting them. Many friends and family of those who died were prevented from attending their funerals. Celebrations were cancelled. When trust is lost, it is very difficult to regain it.
For the Prime Minister to survive he needs to offer a truly heartfelt apology. He can't hide behind technicalities and exemptions. He needs to remember that we hold those in Government to high standards. They are not above the law.
He needs to understand that this year is going to be an extremely difficult year for millions of people. You can't grow the economy by constantly increasing the tax burden on families and businesses.
All of us want to live in a clean environment, but stop the doomsday rhetoric. Most people don't believe that we are at a minute to midnight and that if we don't act now, the earth is doomed. Allow businesses and entrepreneurs the time to develop the technologies required to move us in this direction. Stop banning things; stop setting arbitrary targets; stop inflating all our energy bills with green levies. We can't afford any of this. Let the invisible hand of the free market do its work.
The Prime Minister needs to show real leadership. He also needs to have a huge clear-out at Number 10. The operation there is shambolic.
If he fails to understand the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people; if he fails to fully appreciate the sacrifices we have all made since March 2020; if he thinks that laws he pushed through Parliament don't apply to him, then he is doomed. In short, if he can't turn the Johnson supertanker around in record time, he may not have a future as its captain. I suspect, though, that it is already too late.
Photo Credit: Boris Johnson - Michael Tubi / Shutterstock.com
Restricting our freedoms is now the default option. This Government is not interested in freedom
By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
This week was supposed to be ‘Law and Order’ week for the Government. It started on Monday morning with Boris Johnson dressed in a police uniform on an early morning raid with Merseyside Police. Just four days later, his future as Prime Minister hangs in the balance after the worst week of his premiership so far.
There is a stench emanating from Downing Street. It’s not just the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to Covid restrictions. That is bad enough, and has already claimed one scalp. What the British people cannot stand is hypocrisy. We were told to forsake a normal Christmas last year, but it appears it was business as usual in Downing Street. But let’s park that to one side, as egregious as it is.
The Government was praised by me and millions of others for having the courage to (eventually) ditch Covid restrictions during the summer. He was criticised by those addicted to lockdowns, but he held his nerve. Yes, Covid spread more rapidly throughout England, but we didn’t witness a spike in hospitalisations and deaths. Covid infected young people who barely noticed that they were infected. The vaccination programme has been a huge success and the vast majority of those who are most vulnerable to the worst that Covid has to offer have received a booster jab. I received mine last Sunday.
The Omicron variant appears to be mild. No-one in the world who has been infected with this new variant has died. The World Health Organisation has told us not to panic. The evidence from South Africa tells us not to panic. Even Joe Biden has said that we shouldn’t panic. But during a press conference on Wednesday that is exactly what Boris Johnson did, unless he announced more restrictions to our freedoms as a ruse to deflect other negative headlines: the so-called ‘dead cat’ strategy.
It is estimated that the restrictions he announced will cost the economy £4 billion a month. Businesses in the hospitality sector are already reporting cancellations in what should be the busiest time of the year for them. There is no support for them now - they just have to take it on the chin. During the traditionally lean months of January and February, these businesses may close.
Evidence from Scotland, for example, highlights that Covid passes do not reduce the spread of the virus. We know that even if you are fully vaccinated you can still catch Covid and can still pass it on to others. A vaccine protects the person who receives it. I didn’t get vaccinated in some selfless act to protect others. I got vaccinated to protect me. Covid passes are illiberal - I will not share my personal medical information with anyone unless they are treating me for a medical condition. Even though I am fully vaccinated, I will not enter any venue which demands to see proof. We are not a ‘papers please’ country. England shouldn’t and mustn’t move in that direction.
Boris Johnson has suggested that we have a national conversation about mandatory vaccinations. I will happily start one: the answer is no. The idea of forcibly injecting someone against their will fills me with revulsion. In the words of GP Dr Renee Hoenderkamp, "I'm 100% against mandatory vaccines. It goes against every medical ethic that I've ever been trained to." It is something which we have never done, and frankly, it plays into the anti-vaxxers hands.
According to ONS data, in the week beginning 15 November 2021, the percentage of adults that would have tested positive for antibodies is estimated to be 95.3% in England; 93.9% in Wales; 91.6% in Northern Ireland; and 95.0% in Scotland. We were told earlier this year that the roadmap to freedom was irreversible. Instead, the Government has performed an emergency stop and has engaged reverse gear. If now is not the time to learn to live with Covid, the time will never come.
Boris Johnson doesn’t have many allies in Parliament. His relationship with Conservative MPs is contractual: as long as he is electorally popular, they will continue to support him. In a recent opinion poll, more than half of the electorate thinks that Boris should resign as Prime Minister. He is rapidly (for a number of reasons) losing support from his backbenchers. In recent weeks he has marched them up to the top of the hill only to change his mind and make them look like fools. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only way he will get his Covid pass policy through the House of Commons next week will be because of opposition votes. This is unsustainable.
Two years ago, Boris Johnson appeared to be a man with libertarian instincts. Where has that Boris gone? The Number Ten operation is chaotic; he is not showing leadership; he is not across the detail; he is alienating the public and members of his party; he is pushing unpopular green and nanny state policies; he is presiding over a fiscally incontinent government; he is not behaving like a Conservative. Unless Boris takes a firm grip and changes his ways, he will not be Prime Minister for very long.
The pandemic is over and the virus is now categorised as endemic. It is amongst us and we have to manage risk
By Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns
The vaccination programme has been a huge success. A total of 33,666,638 people have received the first dose, and a total of 12,587,116 people have received the second dose. Because of the vaccination programme, Covid cases have fallen by up to 90 per cent.
New research (based on throat swabbing over 370,000 UK citizens between December and April) has found that one dose of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine sees a fall of 74 per cent in symptomatic infections, and a fall of 57 per cent in asymptomatic infections. After two doses of the vaccine, those figures rise to 90 per cent and 70 per cent respectively. Wonderful news!
Results announced last month from the U.S. and South American study of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have found that it was 79% efficacious in protecting against symptoms of Covid-19. In the trial, the two-dose shot was also 100% efficacious in protecting people from severe symptoms and hospitalisation from the disease. We should all be rejoicing at this news.
With all of this great news and with deaths with or of Covid at very low levels, why are we not opening the rest of the economy sooner? I appreciate that the Government doesn't want to take unnecessary risks, but the Prime Minister has said that he will be guided by data, not dates. The data could hardly be better. We should be getting on with it now.
What we also need to decide as a country are what levels of restrictions are acceptable in the future. It appears that the Government is receiving advice that when Covid infections rise again from the autumn, social distancing and mask wearing will once again be necessary. Most of the restrictions, we are told, will not be necessary through the summer, but not beyond it. Is it acceptable for mask wearing to become the norm? Are we prepared to tell children that they should wear face masks for over six hours a day whilst they are at school? Will social distancing in pubs and restaurants be with us for years to come? Some businesses may not be viable if that is so. Are we as a country prepared to allow some businesses to go to the wall in order to limit the transmission of Covid, even though because of vaccines the most vulnerable will be protected?
The pandemic is over and the virus is now categorised as endemic. It is amongst us and we have to manage risk. Over recent decades we have become more risk averse. Is the reaction to Covid a symptom of how just risk averse we have become? How frightened as a country are we that we feel we need to lock ourselves away? I appreciate that the law of the land has been changed to make sure we comply with many rules and regulations, but the vast majority of citizens have been happy to give up many freedoms. How long are they going to be prepared to continue to do that?
I know where I stand and will do everything that I can to present alternatives to the status quo; alternatives which manage risk and protect basic freedoms. For those who say that life is going to go back to normal from 21st June; to stop bleating on about restrictions because we are nearly there, I have this message: you are wrong. If the Government wants, it can continue to restrict freedom until September. It has those powers thanks to the extension of the Coronavirus Act. And I wager that those powers will be extended for another six months in September.
Wake up, wake up, it's later than you think.
WATCH Andrew Allison in conversation with Mark Littlewood, Director General of the IEA
Our Head of Campaigns, Andrew Allison, chatted with Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs about the now aborted European Football Super League, what future the economy has post-Covid, and free speech & cancel culture.
Click on the image below to watch it.
WATCH Andrew Allison in conversation with Mike Graham of talkRADIO
In another episode in our series of 'Free Spirits' podcasts, Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns, chatted to Mike Graham of talkRADIO about the life of Prince Philip, the opening of hospitality, cancel culture and the media.
WATCH Andrew Allison talking to Bill Etheridge
Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns, was interviewed by former MEP, Bill Etheridge, on his Open Dialogus show. They discussed the state of freedom in the UK, amongst many other issues including the future of the Monarchy and constitutional reform.
You don’t have to be right wing to go bonkers – but it helps
The following is a guest post by the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, Hon. Chaplain of The Freedom Association
There are great platefuls of tripe being served up by what is called “the new right.” I don’t know anything about the new right – unless the phrase is a tautologous self-definition by the people who are serving up the platefuls of tripe. Let me be specific…
The flavour of this tripe is that we are sliding into a new totalitarianism. Now, I think there has been an excess of new regulations and bossy restrictions during this long Covid emergency. I might even agree with those who say the government has overdone these. Worse - for me anyway – is that the government has been, and remains, incoherent in its administration of its regulations and restrictions. One minute they say one thing, and the next the opposite.Read more