JANET STREET PORTER on Boris Johnson and his Brainiacs of Doom

JANET STREET-PORTER: Do Boris and his Brainiacs of Doom really think we can’t see that the numbers in their dodgy dossier don’t begin to add up to a new lockdown?

Twenty four hours before Covid lockdown two and – to add to our state of anxiety – Britain is on the highest terror alert.

Shoppers are roaming the streets clutching jumbo packs of toilet rolls and Xmas presents they won’t be able to afford because their employers will be going bankrupt. The twin boffins of Doom have finally managed to push us over the edge.

We’re living in a modern dictatorship where a couple of Brainiacs (Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty) devise the justification for the strict rules which now control our lives.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre), Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (right) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (left) at Downing Street in London on October 31

Dithering Boris has been blindsided by their incomprehensible graphs, confusing statistics and contradictory predictions. It’s no surprise that the PM is adrift, he’s a classics scholar not a biologist or statistician. And he’s trying to salvage his reputation as a Warrior Leader.

But where’s the common sense in all of this? When millions of people are not told but ordered to endure four weeks without seeing family and friends, going to work and getting on with their everyday lives, there has to be a strong justification for the huge economic and mental harm which will result.

In fact, this dictat is a direct result of data unveiled by scientists and medics who can’t even agree amongst themselves.

Public and politicians alike are utterly confused by catastrophic theories constructed by academics who live in hermetically sealed labs and think tanks.

The pandemic is crying out for someone who talks Normal. Even Tony Blair sounds like a man who could kick this crisis into shape and take the nation with him.

In contrast Boris increasingly seems like a panto-turn who’s past his see-by date. His MPs are furious – because they know the damage this lockdown will do to business and their chances of re-election.

MPs are right to be angry, because democracy is taking a back seat as policy is devised by a select group of unelected specialists (SAGE) about whom we know very little. Our Prime Minister is like a rabbit caught in the headlights, unable to think for himself and exhibit leadership.

He’s also being driven by his political guru Dominic Cummings who obsessively follows polls and focus groups that he thinks show that people back lockdowns without ever trying to craft a policy that might change their minds.

Last Saturday, Vallance and Whitty produced a graph (above) predicting that without a second lockdown, deaths might soar to 4,000 a day – four times higher than the previous peak

Last Saturday, in a hastily convened press conference, Vallance and Whitty produced a graph predicting that without a second lockdown, deaths might soar to 4,000 a day- four times higher than the previous peak last April. Handily, this very graph had been leaked at least 12 hours earlier to the BBC and allowed to marinate all day online and on the airwaves.

This was the key fact which allowed Boris to talk up the benefits of drastic action and seem (temporarily) decisive once more.

Professor Carl Heneghan from Oxford University quickly derided the figure of 4,000 as ‘mathmatically incorrect’ and said it was based on deaths currently being 200 a day – whereas the latest daily tally was just 136.

When asked to explain themselves to a House of Commons committee this week, the Brainiacs seemed to find it incomprehensible that their 4,000 deaths graph could have caused fear and anxiety.

Proof they lack communication skills and empathy was evidenced by this reply from Sir Patrick Vallance – ‘I think I positioned that as a scenario from a couple of weeks ago, based on an assumption to try and get a new reasonable worst-case scenario. And if that didn’t come across then I regret that.’

What’s a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’? According to Vallance that is ‘something you don’t want to happen but could reasonably happen if things went in a certain direction’. I know, that’s as clear as mud.

The same boffins also admitted that infections are already declining in some areas as a result of the tiered local lockdowns. So why rush into a national shutdown?

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower

The Brainiacs were still covering themselves, claiming that infections are ‘rising amongst older people’. Well, that wouldn’t be surprising – deaths from flu and pneumonia are higher amongst older people too.

It seems that our two experts may even be disagreeing amongst themselves with Whitty claiming to the MPs committee that the 4,000 deaths was based on projections of six weeks and he only ever looks two weeks into the future ‘with any degree of confidence’.

None of the above inspires confidence.

Boris is still claiming that ‘better days lie before us’ thanks to his ‘moon-shot’ testing fantasies and a vaccine after Christmas but few of us have the energy to listen.

As with the first, this new lockdown is being justified to ‘save the NHS’ but with 84 per cent of NHS beds currently occupied, compared to 92 per cent at this time last year, I can’t help feeling that a massive exercise in bullshitting and PR has taken place.

The public has been cowed and frightened into submission. We’re panic-buying, loading up with cans of tomatoes, bread-making flour and dog food again as if we’re on the brink of war, not four more weeks of watching Netflix and getting fat.

And what I resent the most is the arbitrariness of it all. Even Michael Gove didn’t even know whether tennis and golf were OK (they’re not). My hairdresser has to close, but she can still go and work on a photo session or a film set. Care homes still haven’t received the rules about visiting or whether they will be getting weekly tests before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the government is still on a Covid buying spree. The latest bit of dodgy shopping that’s emerged involved an order for £45million worth of masks from a company who then subcontracted the order to a business called Win Billions based in the Virgin Islands, a tax haven. You couldn’t make it up. The masks have never arrived and legal action has commenced.

So I hope you’ll understand why, like millions of other Brits, I’m going for a drunken dinner tonight on the last night of freedom (don’t worry, it’s strictly ‘business’).

And afterwards I’ll order a nice, fresh mint tea. I’ve got more chance of predicting the future by reading the leaves than I have listening to Whitty and Vallance.

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