UK – the murder of Sgt Matiu Ratana

Missy has posted from the UK on the murder of Sgt Matiu Ratana at Croydon Police station.

Hi All, Yes it is yet another (very rare) post from the UK.

This week we have moved on from COVID (sort of) and have other stories. For those interested I will summarise most of what has been happening in the UK over the last few months in a series of posts for all.

First, one of the main stories early this week was the murder of Sgt Matiu Ratana at Croydon Police station. This has shocked everyone on a number of levels, mostly though because it happened in what should be a (relatively) safe area for police.

There has been a lot of comment on this, and whilst the Met Police have not officially commented until the investigation and internal inquiry have been completed, many former police have been happy to comment publicly. One former police officer said that full searches are unable to be undertaken in public (ie: outside police stations), so when he was arrested he would have been patted down, but not searched, and as it appears the weapon was hidden in an intimate area they would not have found it at arrest.

The suspect was handcuffed, some media are suggesting behind the back but my understanding is that the handcuff in the front now as it is less stressful for the person being handcuffed (I could be wrong, I heard that third hand).

The suspect had just had his temperature taken for COVID check, and was about to be searched with a metal detector to check for weapons when he pulled the gun, he shot Sgt Ratana five times before shooting himself. The suspect has been named, and was apparently ‘good with weapons’ as well as being on the terrorist watch list.

His death, on first look and information provided so far, appears to have been due to a failure in police procedure.

The High Commissioner for NZ laid a wreath today in his memory, and a condolence book has been opened.

Johnson launching UK racism commission

In response to the Black Lives Matters protests that had spread to the UK Boris Johnson has announced the launching of a racism commission.

Reuters:  Calls for action, not words, as Johnson launches UK racism commission

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under pressure on Monday to deliver action on racism after he launched a commission on racial inequalities following Black Lives Matter protests.

Johnson said a cross-government commission would examine racism and the disparities experienced by minority ethnic groups in education, health and the criminal justice system.

Johnson said he could not ignore the strength of feeling shown by tens of thousands of people who had demonstrated in British cities following the death of African American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

“What I really want to do as prime minister is change the narrative, so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination,” he said on Sunday.

“It won’t be easy. We’ll have to look very carefully at the real racism and discrimination that people face.”

On Monday, Johnson’s spokesman said that work to establish the commission had already begun, and a report on findings and recommendations was expected by the end of the year.

But…

…he gave few details about the commission, leading to criticism that he was prevaricating rather than delivering concrete steps.

“It’s the sort of morning that makes me slightly weary, because it feels like we’re going round in circles,” said David Lammy, an opposition Labour lawmaker whose own report into over-representation of black people in the criminal justice system is one of several whose findings have not yet been implemented.

“The time for review is over and the time for action is now.”

Sounds like Johnson’s government wants to be seen to be doing something but doesn’t really have much idea what to do, or they are kicking the racism can down the road.

The commission was announced in a broadcast clip and accompanied with an article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, where Johnson also again said it was absurd that a statue of Winston Churchill should be under threat from protesters.

Johnson said he was “extremely dubious about the growing campaign to edit or photoshop the entire cultural landscape” by tearing down statues.

“Let’s fight racism, but leave our heritage broadly in peace”.

A commission that will take months is unlikely to stop the current protests and debate over statues and racism.

UK now second to US with Covid-19 deaths

The UK has passed Italy and is now second to the US for recorded Covid deaths. It was predicted weeks ago that the UK would end up with the highest toll in Europe.

Meanwhile New York has revealed 1,700 previously undisclosed Nursing Home deaths.

There are now more than quarter of a million deaths world-wide, with recent signs of just a slight slowing down of deaths (but cases keeps climbing at 80-90,000 a day).

Countries with more than a thousand deaths recorded (with new totals to date for 5 May GMT):

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

BBC: UK reports highest death toll in Europe

  • The latest daily reported death total for the UK (29,427) is now higher than the total for Italy (29,315)
  • The UK has reached this figure faster in its epidemic than Italy, but there are caveats to the comparison
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says there will be no “real verdict” until the pandemic is over
  • Europe’s first-known case may have emerged almost a month earlier than thought, French doctor suggests after re-testing patient

The death count in New York has been bumped up:

National review: New York Reports 1,700 More Coronavirus Deaths at Nursing Homes

New York on Tuesday announced 1,700 previously undisclosed suspected coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

The new data from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which includes people who passed away before a lab test could confirm they had coronavirus, brings the state’s death toll from the virus to at least 4,813 since the beginning of March. That number does not include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospital before they died, causing the actual toll of the virus on nursing homes to remain fuzzy.

There are now over seventy thousand deaths recorded in the US,

BBC: A hunt for the ‘missing link’ host species

It was a matter of “when not if” an animal passed the coronavirus from wild bats to humans, scientists say. But it remains unclear whether that animal was sold in the now infamous Wuhan wildlife market in China.

The World Health Organization says that all evidence points to the virus’s natural origin, but some scientists now say it might never be known how the first person was infected.

Global health researchers have, for many years, understood how the trade in wild animals provides a source of species-to-species disease transmission. As life-changing as this particular outbreak has been for so much of the global population, it is actually one of many that the trade has been linked to.

Infectious disease experts agree that, like most emerging human disease, this virus initially jumped undetected across the species barrier.

Donald Trump keeps trying to blame a Chinese laboratory and has promised to release evidence. Others are also promoting this claim – Mike Pompeo: ‘enormous evidence’ coronavirus came from Chinese lab

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed on Sunday there is “enormous evidence” the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but did not provide any of the alleged evidence.

Pompeo said: “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” later adding: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

But when he was reminded that US intelligence had issued a formal statement noting the opposite – that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not manmade or genetically modified – Pompeo replied: “That’s right. I agree with that.”

BBC: US allies tread lightly around Trump lab claims

UK officials believe it is not possible to be absolutely sure about the origins but point to scientific opinion suggesting the most likely scenario is that it was from a live animal market. However, they add that it is impossible to rule out the theory of an accidental release from a lab without a full investigation.

Their view echoes comments on Tuesday by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said: “We can’t rule out any of these arrangements… but the most likely has been in a wildlife wet market.”

US intelligence, like other countries, has devoted extensive resources to try and understand what has been happening within China, and some of the information could be highly sensitive.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic on Monday that he did not entertain the lab theory. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says it has not received any evidence from the US to back up the lab theory.

Intelligence may well point to China having tried to play down or hide details of the initial outbreak, although this is different from hiding the exact origin of the virus.

Trump is still trumping up claims and has reassigned his ‘miracle’ claims.

But that ignores the more important comparison of tests per population.

  • USA: 7.6 million tests (22,988 per million)
  • Germany: 2.5 million testst (30,400 per million)
  • Italy: 2.2 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Canada: 919,000 tests (24,359 per million)
  • France: 1.1 million tests (16,856 per million)
  • Spain: 1.9 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Belgium: 3309,552 tests (39,3632 per million)
  • UK: 1.3 million tests (19,026 per million)
  • Australia: 664,756 tests (26,069 per million)
  • New Zealand: 155,928 tests (32,335 per million)

There are 39 countries with a higher testing rate than the US.

It would be a miracle if Trump started to be honest (unless he doesn’t understand the numbers).

Fox News: Coronavirus death toll in US projected to double as restrictions ease, key model predicts

A revised mortality model predicts coronavirus deaths in the U.S. will nearly double to 135,000 through August as states continue to ease social distancing restrictions.

The grim new projection, released by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) Monday, which has helped influence the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, has jumped up considerably from its April 29 forecast of 72,433 deaths.

the new projection coincides with an internal Trump administration forecast obtained by The New York Times that predicts the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1. It also projects there will be 200,000 new coronavirus cases every day. This is a significant jump from current numbers of roughly 25,000 new cases and 1,750 deaths each day.

Sources told Fox News that while a significant portion of the data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the projections of new cases and deaths come from modeling done at Johns Hopkins University.

When asked about the document, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.

“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.”

 

 

Lockdowns extended in UK, Australia, some states of US but others want to reopen

While some lockdowns are being relaxed, others are being extended around the world.

BBC: UK lockdown extended for ‘at least’ three weeks

Lockdown restrictions in the UK will continue for “at least” another three weeks as it tackles the coronavirus outbreak, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.

“We still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he said.

It comes as the UK recorded another 861 coronavirus deaths in hospital, taking the total to 13,729.

Mr Raab, deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from the illness, said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic.

“If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said similar when warning about rushing relaxations of restrictions – we won’t find out until Monday if the lockdown here is being scaled back next Thursday.

SkyNews: Australia in lockdown for another four weeks: PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there are “no plans” to change the current lockdown measures for at least another four weeks.

Delivering an update in Canberra on Thursday, Mr Morrison said restrictions would only be eased if Australia met three key conditions: increased testing, better contact tracing, and the ability to lock down localised areas in cases of outbreaks.

“We want to be very clear with Australians, baseline restrictions we have in place at the moment there are no plans to change those for the next four weeks,” he said.

Mr Morrison also clarified what he sees as the end date for the “six month” timeline his government has referred to the response to the pandemic.

Australia’s lockdown conditions are probably more similar to our planned Level 3 lockdown than our current Level 4.

In the US the partisan divide is a problem, with Democrat governors extending lockdowns while republicans want to scale back:

New York’s stay-home order will be extended until May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo, during his daily briefing in Albany, said extreme distancing measures that began on March 22 have helped slow the coronavirus infection rate, but he’s not ready to let up on the far-reaching restrictions.

Wisconsin schools will be closed for the rest of the school year and many businesses will stay shuttered until the end of May under action Gov. Tony Evers took Thursday to extend restrictions to contain the coronavirus in the state.

The move will keep hundreds of thousands of school children at home for nearly three months — some receiving no virtual instruction — and comes as key Republican lawmakers are calling for Evers to roll back restrictions, not extend them.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no plans to move forward with a broader reopening of businesses during the COVID-19 emergency.

His spokesman said he will veto the GOP-backed Senate Bill 613, which the General Assembly sent to his desk on Wednesday. The governor plans to continue his aggressive measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Following President Trump’s lead, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday created a task force to plan for the “resurgence and reopening of Florida” from the coronavirus shutdown.

The governor also notably distanced himself from Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees’ comments Monday that social distancing could last as long as a year or more until there was a vaccine.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer faces at least two federal lawsuits challenging her April 9 executive order to combat the coronavirus outbreak, including requirements that residents stay at home and most businesses close.

In complaints filed on Tuesday and Wednesday, several Michigan residents and one business accused the Democratic governor of violating their constitutional rights by imposing her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

The plaintiffs in Wednesday’s lawsuit “reasonably fear that the draconian encroachments on their freedom set forth in this complaint will, unfortunately, become the ‘new norm,’” according to their complaint.

The governors for Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky have formed a partnership to work together on restarting the economies in their states, they said in a statement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday warned against reopening the country prematurely, saying the public health threat posed by the deadly coronavirus is a greater evil than the current economic hardship facing businesses and workers nationwide.

The Speaker is calling for more widespread testing around the country, to gauge the regional prevalence of the deadly virus, before scaling back locally imposed prevention measures.

“I heard one of them say: ‘Well, people will die — or we’ll open up the economy and people will die — so that’s the lesser of two evils,'” Pelosi said.

The White House plans to release guidelines Thursday to inform states on how to relax coronavirus restrictions and reopen businesses.

President Trump announced the plans during a news conference Wednesday, claiming data shows that the United States has “passed the peak” of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

The decision on what individual states do, however, will fall to governors across the country.

“The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

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Covid-19 – Ireland acted sooner than UK, double the testing, less than half the deaths per 1m

A comparison between Ireland and England in dealing with the Covid-19 virus and their casualty rate seems to reinforce the importance of timing in locking down countries, and in testing rates.

Irish Central (March 17): Britain and Ireland’s differing approaches to Covid-19

The United Kingdom may be Ireland’s closest neighbor, but the two nations could hardly be further apart in how they are approaching COVID-19. 

They are virtually polar opposites and Britain’s approach could deeply impact the Republic of Ireland, especially since the countries share a significant border in Northern Ireland.

The UK has lagged behind Ireland (and indeed the rest of Europe) in implementing stringent measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus.

From a Twitter thread by historian and writer Elaine Doyle @laineydoyle (edited):

I don’t understand the British media. I really, really don’t. Basic things: Ireland and the UK started this pandemic with roughly the same number of ICU beds (6.5 per 100,000 for Ireland, 6.6 per 100,000 in the UK). If anything, the UK was slightly better off.

Image

(ICU beds is just one indicator of country preparedness. Germany and Austria have relatively low death sates compared to Italy, France and Belgium, but so do Portugal and Finland).

As of today, there have been 320 deaths from the coronavirus in Ireland, and 9,875 deaths in the UK.

So we adjust per capita – how many deaths per 100,000 people?

As of Saturday 11 April, there have been 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Ireland (now 6.8).

There have been 14.81 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK (now 15.6).

Guys, people have been dying at more than *twice the rate* in the UK.

That the UK’s closest neighbour, with almost the *exact* same starting line in terms of its health system, is having a wildly different outcome? Not saying Ireland’s a paragon of virtue! Loads to discuss & critique & make better!

But wait, it’s worse! Because if you compare the per capita death rate between Ireland and *England*, rather than the UK as a whole, England has almost *2.5* times the number of deaths as Ireland (14.81 deaths per 100,000 vs 6.5 deaths per 100,000).

So you have two English-speaking countries, with close cultural and historical associations, both with underfunded health systems, & comparable levels of ICU beds (almost half the EU average) going into the pandemic.

But England has more than 2.5 times the deaths? Why?

If you’re arguing over whether Boris & Co’s ‘herd immunity’ policy (& the resulting delay in lockdown) had any effect on death rates – here’s your angle, lads. You have a real-time A/B test happening *right in front of you*.

Because Ireland closed down earlier. Much earlier.

While Boris was telling the British people to wash their hands, our Taoiseach was closing the schools.

While Cheltenham was going ahead, and over 250,000 people were gathering in what would have been a massive super-spreader event, Ireland had *cancelled St Patrick’s Day*.

The four-day Cheltenham Festival is a meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar in the United Kingdom. It place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire – Wikipedia

Daily Mail: Cheltenham Festival organisers say Boris Johnson’s trip to England-Wales Twickenham rugby match was one reason they didn’t cancel race meeting blamed for coronavirus spread  – since the festival took place hundreds of people have complained of getting symptoms of the deadly virus.

In Ireland, we watch a lot of British media and news, and let me tell you, it was like living in bizarro-world.

Because our Irish TV news was filled with very direct, serious pronouncements about what was coming. But when we switched to the British TV channels… *crickets*.

Particularly vivid for the weekend before Paddy’s Day. Rolling restrictions in Ireland, so no groups > 100, but pubs not yet closed. Video emerged of people singing in a pub in Temple Bar => public outcry, #shutthepubs trended, Health Minister comments, voluntary closure ensued.

 

I remember watching that video being posted on Twitter that Saturday night, and feeling sick to my stomach. How many people were being infected, at that very moment, singing along to the Stereophonics? It was such a huge crowd.

I assume there were people in Cardiff who felt the same way I did. But the difference was: I was supported by my government. You weren’t.

And that cost lives.

The Stereophonics gig was on the 14 March. Median 5-7 days to get sick, and let’s allow another 14 days to get seriously ill. The people infected at the Stereophonics gig were in hospital last week.

The people *they* infected will start dying next week.

Pandemics roll along exponential curves. The NYT (using @brittajewell’s calculations) showed it beautifully here:

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@brittajewell used US figures, & showed that if you started to stay home *this week* (March 13, at the time of publication), you could prevent 2400 infections. But if you started to home *next week* instead, you prevented 600 infections. (Those figures were based on US infection numbers at that point, with 30% growth rate per day. It’s not the UK.)

It’s weird, right? Exponential curves are really counter-intuitive. When they go up, they go up FAST. Timing matters, a lot. By staying home *this week* rather than *next week*, one person could prevent an extra 1800 infections. One person!

And as @jkottke pointed out, assuming a 1% death rate, that’s 18 lives saved. 18 lives saved, by the choices of one person to stay home for the week starting 13 March, rather than the following week. That Stereophonics gig? Was on 14 March.

Ireland cancelled Paddy’s Day on 9 March, initiating a series of rolling, controlled restrictions, from school closures & large group bans (12 March), to closure of non-essential businesses & social distancing, to full lockdown. It was precise, clearly communicated, controlled.

The UK closed their schools on 20 March, a full week after we closed ours. Full lockdown came to the UK on 23 March.

And while there was some muddied, confused advice in the UK between times (avoid non-essential travel from 16 March? don’t go to the pub, but then again, they’re still open, so maybe do?) – there was an abrupt about-turn, after the Imperial College report came out.

The comparisons aren’t neat between the two countries, because the processes (and nomenclature) were different. Technically, the UK went into lockdown *before* Ireland; but that’s not a fair comparison, as we were already operating our ‘Delay Phase’ from 12-27 March.

But I would argue the crucial difference lies in that two-week period: from 9 March, when we cancelled Paddy’s Day, to 23 March, when the UK govt finally (and abruptly) wheeled about, and went into lockdown.

And because the UK government delayed, distorted and distracted for those two weeks, the UK people ended up on the wrong part of an exponential curve, when lockdown started. And now, the UK has over twice the number of deaths per capita than Ireland.

But wait, it’s worse! HOW how HOW can it be worse.

Because: testing.

Because the UK figures only include deaths, in hospitals, from people who had already been tested positive for COVID-19. That sentence has a whole pile of clauses and commas, doesn’t it? Let’s break it down.

It means that a person could die *in a UK hospital* of the coronavirus; and all their doctors could agree that yes, they definitely died of coronavirus; and their *death cert* says that yes, they did, in fact, die of coronavirus –

… and they wouldn’t be included in UK figures.

Because they weren’t tested.

And you have to have a positive test, before death, to be counted in the UK deaths.

The UK isn’t testing nearly as much as it needs to.

And Ireland is testing a *lot* more. We have a drive-through testing centre in the sacred sporting grounds of Croke Park – think turning Wembley Station into a testing centre, and you get somewhere close.

Ireland is still building its testing capacity, but we’ve been explicitly following the South Korean model of test, test, test (and contact trace). And we’re using our time in lockdown to build our testing network.

The aim is to have 15,000 tests per day, or 105,000 tests per week – that is, testing 2% of the population a week. 15,000 tests is about 7 months of flu testing for Ireland – and we’re planning this, every day, for months and months.

We’re not there! We had to grab Germany for a dig-out, we fell so far behind! There’s loads of teething problems! Like I said at the top of the thread: I’m not saying that Ireland is a paragon of virtue here.

Of course no country has dealt with Covid-19 perfectly, it was a rapidly evolving with big decisions needing to be made quickly that had huge health, economic and social ramifications. Not easy for any country to get things right.

And to date, Ireland has performed 8.69 tests per 1,000 people. ourworldindata.org/covid-testing# The UK has performed 4 tests per 1,000 people.

Currently Worldometer shows Ireland with 10.73 and the UK with 5.2 (New Zealand 12.68).

So: to my UK friends, let’s lay it out there. You’re testing at half the rate that Ireland is, and your loved ones, your family, your friends are dying over twice as fast.

So timing and testing have been very important.

And that’s still a wild underestimate of how bad things are, because your low testing rates are artificially depressing your death figures; whereas Ireland’s high testing rate is (comparatively) inflating ours (or, more fairly, accurately recording them in our figures).

Failed by your government, and failed by your media.

Failed, by news reports that (correctly!) talk about how horrific the death toll is in NYC, while eliding the horrors of nearly 1000 people dying in a single day at home.

Failed, because it didn’t have to be like this.

Failed, because there are lessons and exchanges to be found here, but in those 2 weeks when so much could have been done, your media didn’t pay any heed to what was happening beside it.

Because your media didn’t report on the contrast between Boris’ choices and ours.

Failed, because your media STILL isn’t reporting on the contrasts in death rates between us, and why that might be the case.

It’s too late to get the timing of even cancellations and lockdowns right, but not too late to ramp up testing.

Failed, because in this long-standing, complicated, skewed relationship between us, we can see you clearly, and you seem to barely see us at all.

And it breaks my heart.

But there’s still time. Time to flatten your curve. Time to build testing. Time to develop a robust contact tracing system. Time to *use* your lockdown as it should be used, while we do the same. Time to be our partners in this, as we all must be, in a globalised pandemic.

The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.

The best time to stop this pandemic was last January. The second-best time is now.

And while we’re working this ground together, remember that over the fence, in your neighbouring allotment, we’re tackling the same tasks as you. It might be worth taking a peek over the fence sometime, to see what we can share.

The UK seems to be similar to how France was, not counting deaths in rest homes.

Business Insider: Hundreds of coronavirus deaths are taking place in UK care homes but not being included in the official death toll

BBC: Warning over daily death figures

Over the weekend, NHS England released new figures broken down by the actual date of death.

And these reveal that between 11 March and 1 April there were about 300 more deaths than previously thought during that period.

Separate figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggest the number of people dying with coronavirus is higher than the daily totals indicate.

The ONS examined registrations and found deaths in the community not included in the daily hospital deaths figures.

In the week to 27 March, for the 501 deaths recorded in hospitals the ONS also found 38 deaths linked to coronavirus in the community.

Also from BBC:

Larissa Nolan (Irish Mirror:  7 April): UK and Ireland’s responses to Covid-19 crisis are worlds apart

For far too long, the Brits’ approach to this crisis was to stick their fingers in the ears, close their eyes and go: “Lalalalalala”.

Like many others in Ireland, I watched on; worried for relations and friends in England. What were they at over there?

British political leaders have subsequently made some attempts to address it, but it’s too late now. The “denialism” – as a senior British scientist called it – is too strong.

Reports from the weekend show Britons still gathering, regardless. Attitudes are ingrained. Behaviours have been set. Outcomes are following accordingly.

Here in New Zealand we don’t have such a stark contrast in approaches with our larger neighbour, Australia, except for timing. Covid-19 seemed to become established in Australia a few days sooner than here, particularly in New South Wales, but we lockdown harder and about the same time as Australia.

Current deaths in New Zealand 4, in Australia 59.

 

Boris Johnson’s condition deteriorates, moved to intensive care

Boris Johnson’s condition has deteriorated after having had symptoms of the Covid-10 coronavirus for 11 days, and he has been moved into hospital and intensive care.

So far there’s been 57,599 deaths recorded due to Covid-19, but it is still big news when the Prime Minister of the UK catches the virus and gets very ill.

Downing Street spokesperson:

Since Sunday evening, the prime minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus.

Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital.

The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the first secretary of state, to deputise for him where necessary.

The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.

Guardian: Boris Johnson taken into intensive care – live updates

It is understood Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit just short of an hour and a half ago.

The decision was made by his medical team after his condition worsened over the course of Monday. The prime minister is understood to be conscious and to have been moved as a precaution in case he needs ventilation.

Many people who get Covid-19 suffer only mild to moderate symptoms, but some have severe symptoms that often take time to worsen. Johnson will likely have the best possible care, but it sounds bad for him.

Brexit: UK MPs vote 330-221 for Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Progress is finally being made on the UK exit from the European Union,

BBC: MPs give final backing to Withdrawal Agreement Bill

The Commons voted 330 to 231 in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and it will now pass to the House of Lords for further scrutiny next week.

If peers choose to amend it will it come back before MPs.

The bill covers “divorce” payments to the EU, citizens’ rights, customs arrangements for Northern Ireland and the planned 11-month transition period.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 January.

The bill comfortably cleared its third reading in the House of Commons, as expected, with a majority of 99. All 330 votes in favour were Conservative.

It took just three days for the bill to pass the remaining stages in the Commons, after MPs gave their initial approval to the legislation before the Christmas recess.

The latest vote gives approval to the 11-month transition period after 31 January, in which the UK will cease to be an EU member but will continue to follow its rules and contribute to its budget.

The purpose of the transition period is to give time for the UK and EU to negotiate their future relationship, including a trade deal.

Also:

Brexit bill backed by Parliament – including a few Labour MPs

The UK Parliament has voted 358 to 234 in favour of Boris Johnson’s  EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which included six Labour MPs who voted against their leader Jeremy Corbyn’;s advice.

BBC: MPs back Boris Johnson’s plan to leave EU on 31 January

MPs have backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January.

They voted 358 to 234 in favour of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which now goes on to further scrutiny in Parliament.

The bill would also ban an extension of the transition period – during which the UK is out of the EU but follows many of its rules – past 2020.

The PM said the country was now “one step closer to getting Brexit done”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told his MPs to vote against the bill, saying there was “a better and fairer way” to leave the EU – but six of them backed the government.

Mr Johnson insists a trade deal with the EU can be in place by the end of the transition period, but critics say this timescale is unrealistic.

The bill had been expected to pass easily after the Conservatives won an 80-seat majority at last week’s general election

The vote passed by 124 votes.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Lessons from Boris: Respect for voters is good politics

And that is, in no small measure, what the election was about: The people, especially disenfranchised laborers and people in rural Great Britain, saying: Not this time. We actually do know what is best for us and we know what we voted for and we meant it.

American politicians who do not see the parallel to this country are living in denial, or an alternative universe.

Boris Johnson has given us a lesson if we are willing to learn.

His message is fairly simple: popular sovereignty and national sovereignty.

That is, the people, not the queen, and not the courts, and not the media, and not the self-anointed enlightened class get to choose their leaders and their national direction.

And the elites are not allowed to veto, or nullify, the people if they think their choices ill considered.

Britain voted for Brexit. The British wanted to be British not Europeans (Mr. Johnson calls it “One Nation Conservatism”). They wanted their own economy. They were not globalists and did not wish to be part of a global economy in which British jobs were given away to other nations. They wondered how impoverishing them was somehow modern and progressive. They would not willingly be absorbed.

On the night of his victory, Mr. Johnson made a point of thanking traditional Labour voters who trusted him and gave his party a chance to defend their interests.

There is a lesson for Republicans in the U.S. and the president here: Reach out. Expand the base.

And there is a lesson for Democrats: Hug the middle and get out of the East and West Coast elitist bubble. Don’t promise what cannot be delivered but pursue what will help the country progress and change economic fortunes in the heartland and for the working man and woman.

The ultimate lesson for both parties? Respect the voters.

I’d widen that to ‘respect the voters at all times, not just in election campaigns’.

 

UK election

The UK election is under way. Polls close at 22:00 GMT (11:00 am NZT), with results due to come out this afternoon our time.

This follows elections in 2015 and 2017 and  tumultuous political period mainly due to the Brexit mess and  virtual hung parliament.

BBC – General election 2019: Voters head to polls across the UK

A total of 650 MPs will be chosen under the first-past-the-post system used for general elections, in which the candidate who secures the most votes in each individual constituency is elected.

Elections in the UK traditionally take place every four or five years. But, in October, MPs voted for the second snap poll in as many years. It is the first winter election since 1974 and the first to take place in December since 1923.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cast his vote – he visited a polling station in central London, taking his dog, Dilyn, along with him, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn posed for pictures when he went to vote in north London.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon visited a polling station in Glasgow, while Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson cast her vote at a polling station in East Dunbartonshire, accompanied by her husband Duncan Hames.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price voted in Carmarthenshire and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley did so in south London.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has used a postal vote.

A post at The Standard by Bill hopes that a late surge of young voter registrations will favour Corbyn and Labour – The Missing Millions.

As Zoe Williams reported in yesterday’s Guardian, none of the predictions flowing from any poll used in the UK incorporates the 4 million new registrations from this year. As she points out, most of those new registrations are from ‘young’ people who are far more likely to vote Labour.

That leaves four million, (registrations in 2019) the majority of whom are young. Even while various pollsters are happy to predict that they will break 2:1 Labour (which is actually quite a cautious estimate: if they’re young, they turn out and they vote tactically, the Labour share could be higher), they have so far been unwilling to build these voters into their predictions.

By my reckoning that’s about 10% of the total number of people who are eligible to vote that have been ‘blanked’ by polling companies.”

I’m almost left scratching my head as to why publication after publication has been been making robust predictions of a Tory victory and a Labour loss based on polling. And here’s the rub. I’m persuaded the predictions are driven by ideology and the polls merely offer cover for that fact.

We’ve heard similar dreams of election miracles and claims of poll and media plots here in the past.

But swordfish suggests Bill’s hopes may be fanciful.

Be nice to think so … but I strongly suspect Zoe is catering to those clutching at straws, Labour having proven unable to narrow the Tory lead over the final week to the extent that supporters would’ve liked.

I think she’s probably wrong for the following reasons:

(1) She is clearly influenced by the widely-held assumption that a similar  Youthquake occurred in 2017. The most authoritative research (by the British Election Study & separately by a few other academics) suggests this was largely a myth … essentially Tremors, yes, but no Youthquake (although the concept still remains popular with one or two Political Sociologists).

(2) My understanding is that Pollsters naturally incorporate newly-registered voters, (in the correct proportion) as they do everyone else, in their samples (& hence in their % & seat predictions).

And – in contrast to 2017, when they were aggressively down-weighting younger voters – almost all UK Pollsters are currently basing their turnout models on respondents self-reported likelihood of voting. Hence, any assumed lower turnout by younger age-groups will be down to a larger proportion of young respondents telling pollsters they’re less likely to vote than people in older age groups.

(3)  Zoe has probably exaggerated the number of new registrations. Chaminda Jayanetti has analysed newly-registered voters across a large number of constituencies (519) in recent days and suggests a much more modest increase – certainly nowhere near 4 million.

(4) Jayanetti certainly argues that newly-registered voters could play a key role in the outcome of up to 20-30 marginals.

But he emphasises that the data compiled from 519 constituencies across the UK, including most battleground constituencies, shows the largest increases in registered voters are generally not located where Labour needs them most – ie in its Red Wall of Northern & Midlands Leave-voting Marginals. The greatest rises tend to be in Metro & student-heavy seats, many of them Labour strongholds & near-strongholds.

Of the 26 most marginal (read: absolute knife-edge) seats in the latest YouGov MRP model predictions … only 9 (according to Jayanetti’s detailed analysis) have experienced the sort of mild-to-significant increases in new registrations that could prove decisive. And of the 41 next-most-marginal, just 1 is showing the sort of substantial rise needed to play a crucial role.

What’s more, a lot of marginals have actually experienced a fall in registered voters. For example, all 4 of the Labour-held marginals in West Yorkshire (each of them a key Tory target) have registered a decline.

So that is some detailed analysis by swordfish, as opposed to cherry picking wishful thinking by Bill, plus predicted odds of various outcomes

I’d say Likelihood:

Small Tory majority: 50%

Larger Tory majority: 30%

Hung Parliament: 20%

David Farrar at Kiwiblog: Final UK projections

The four projection models are:

  • FocalData Cons majority 24
  • YouGov Cons majority 28
  • Electoral Calculus Cons majority 46
  • Savanta Cons majority 30

The seat projections are:

  • Conservative 337 to 349
  • Labour 226 to 235
  • SNP 41 to 45
  • Lib Dems 11 to 15

We should find out later today.

 

 

 

One person who made Brexit posssible

One person can make  big difference. Michael Spicer had a significant influence on Brexit.

Alan posted:


This is a fascinating story but unfortunately pay-walled.

Without the unbelievable modesty of one man, Brexit would have been impossible

A couple of quotes:

As much as anyone, Spicer made Brexit happen. He led the Eurosceptic movement from the early Nineties until the 2005 general election, founding the European Research Group in 1993. You didn’t know that? I’m not surprised. The characteristic of his career was an almost unbelievable modesty.

Ronald Reagan, the former US president, had a sign on his desk: “There is no limit to what a man can achieve in politics, provided he is indifferent as to who takes the credit”. Spicer took that dictum further than any politician I know. He wasn’t just indifferent as to who took the credit. He actively thrust the credit at others, knowing that it was the best way to bind them to his agenda.

and

If you’ve ever wondered why the European Research Group has such a bland name, the answer tells us a great deal about Spicer’s approach to politics. When we were about to launch – he was the first chairman, I the first employee – I kept suggesting suitably stirring titles, involving words like “independence”, “democracy” and “freedom”.

“Daniel”, he told me, with a patient smile, “if you’re setting up a campaign to take over the world, you don’t call it The Campaign to Take Over the World. You give it a dull, generic name like, I don’t know… European… Research Group.”

He was a walking lesson in how to get things done in politics. He grasped how valuable it is, in a world full of blabbermouths and serial leakers, to be known to be discreet.

He understood that, in order to convince the Tory party, it helped to fit in, at least superficially. “You have to dress like them,” he told me not long before he died. “You have to talk like them. You have to tell funny stories about when you played rugby against them at school. If you want to do anything radical, for heaven’s sake don’t look like a radical.”