Seen on our walk yesterday evening.
So the independent ‘scientific’ advice that the UK government is supposedly ‘following’ turns out not to be entirely independent
When on March 12 the government announced its fatuous ‘herd immunity’ strategy for dealing with Covid-19, some of us wondered what the eminent members of SAGE, its ‘independent’ body of scientific advisers, had been smoking. In the edition of this blog on March 13 I tried to do the maths:
Suddenly (yesterday) the UK government started to talk about “herd immunity” in relation to COVID-19. What it basically means is that if lots of people get the virus and survive it (which is likely for the majority of cases), then we will be in a better state to deal with it in future because those people will have immunity to it. Sounds reassuring, doesn’t it?
Er, perhaps not. Say 60% of the population gets it. That’s 40m infectees. With a 1% mortality rate, that’s 400,000 deaths. So we have to hope that the mortality rate will be a lot less than 1%. No matter how you look at it, this is deadly serious. Herd immunity doesn’t come cheap.
When I was composing that blog post the thought that was running through my mind was “this sounds to me like a classic Dominic Cummings stunt” but I dismissed it on the grounds that (a) the guy announcing it was an eminent (and I presumed independent) scientific knight, and (b) SAGE was entirely composed of folks like him who are not going to be pushed around by any swivel-eyed fanatic.
And now what do we find?
The Guardian today has a major scoop revealing that Cummings and one of his data-science buddies have been in SAGE meetings.
The prime minister’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, and a data scientist he worked with on the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit are on the secret scientific group advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic, according to a list leaked to the Guardian.
It reveals that both Cummings and Ben Warner were among 23 attendees present at a crucial convening of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on 23 March, the day Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown in a televised address.
Yeah, but what about all the meetings before the March 23rd one? Well,
Multiple attendees of Sage told the Guardian that both Cummings and Warner had been taking part in meetings of the group as far back as February. The inclusion of Downing Street advisers on Sage will raise questions about the independence of its scientific advice.
So now we have even stronger grounds for demanding that the membership of SAGE be publicly revealed.
En passant, I’m also wondering why none of these eminent scientific advisers didn’t walk out the moment Cummings appeared in the room. Their much-vaunted ‘independence’ has now been tainted. Their only consolation is that when the government tries to fit them up for the role of guilty men and women when the time comes to allocate responsibility for the catastrophic handling of the pandemic, they can always say “it was Cummings wot done it, guv”.
And as for “following the science” from now on read “following the politics”.
What the UK government knew — last year
From the leaked report for 2019. Yes, that’s 2019. And note particularly the last line.
So the next time you hear a government minister say that nobody saw this coming, just wave this at him/her.
Aw, isn’t that nice. I’m in the money at last.
From today’s inbox.
A blast from the past! Once upon a time this kind of crap was routine.
Can this be genuine?
From Dave Winer’s blog. If it is real, then it suggests that the NYT really needs to unlock itself from the “balance as bias” trap. When talking about this I still use Paul Krugman’s example in a talk he gave to Harvard students many moons ago.
“Dick Cheney [then the Vice President] says the earth is flat”.
“Here’s how the New York Times reports it. ‘Vice President says earth is flat; others disagree’.”
Autocrats are using the pandemic as cover for power-grabs
From this week’s Economist. Every problem is someone else’s opportunity.
Quarantine diary — Day 35
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