Lewis Goodall Profile picture
Policy Editor @BBCNewsnight. I cover politics, policy, economics and government in the UK and beyond | Author: Left for Dead. Buy here- https://t.co/0WXSfvTL3X
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30 Jul
Looking through @ONS data on European deaths, it is v clear how poor the performance in England (and to a slightly lesser extent across GB) really is.

Note the excess death lines. Note the GB nations. Almost uniquely toxic combo of v high peaks which take a long time to decline
No individual British city or region in any given week performed as poorly as the areas in Italy/Spain with the worst rates (some of which are shocking).

For example, in week 12, Bergamo posted excess deaths which were up 847% on normal.

Worst for UK was Brent in wk 16- 357%
So though no individual place in the UK was affected as badly as some places in Europe, the key point is that the disease affected all of Britain quite badly. *Every* local authority area experienced an increase in excess deaths. In other countries it was far more localised.
Read 9 tweets
29 Jul
Why didn't we lockdown earlier? (Thread)

This is a subject about which theories are put forward endlessly

I wanted to explore it in more detail and teamed up with @BBCPM to do so

Two key areas emerged. The idea of lockdown fatigue and where we were on the epidemic cycle.
Lockdown fatigue first

It seems hard to recall now but one of the main reasons given as to why Britain wasn't locking down as other countries were was the idea of behavioural fatigue

The idea that this was a bullet which could be fired once and after a period we'd tire of it.
When you rewatch the govt briefings it's surprising how prominent it is

Eg Whitty 9th March:

"It is important on this - it’s not just a matter of what you do, it is also a matter of when you do it. Once we’ve started these things, you’ll have to continue them through the peak..
Read 31 tweets
26 Jul
So much snobbery and smugness round here. Yes some people chose to go to Spain in the pandemic (once worst of first wave was over and were given green light from govt). That is their affair and no-one else’s business. Not everyone has a Cornish bolthole.
Moreover some of these holidays will have been booked last year. Given govt had given green light they may have faced losing the money. A lot of people have worked very hard during this crisis, don’t get much holiday a year and this was it. Who can blame them.
Like, I can’t help but feel there would be a different reaction from some quarters if this were say France and Provence rather than Spain and the costas.
Read 4 tweets
26 Jul
Simon Hoare (Conservative Chair of Northern Ireland Select Committee) is asked by Ed Stourton On TWTW “whether your colleagues quite appreciate how significant the impact of the NI protocol could be for Northern Ireland’s place within the Union?”

Hoare: “No, I don’t.”
Simon Hoare: “I think there’s always a tendency when it comes to Northern Ireland...if it’s quiet, we can effectively turn a blind eye and ignore it...but there are fundamental questions about the long term viability of the political union of the UK with the protocol in place...”
“...doing as it does...creating effectively a trading border within the UK single market. I think it’s time Westminster as a whole woke up to this issue and thought a little bit more about Northern Ireland.”

That’s the border Theresa May said no British PM could sign up to...
Read 3 tweets
25 Jul
BREAKING: We have a new contender for the "you couldn't write this stuff" stakes

Transport Sec Grant Shapps is on holiday in Spain. He will, therefore, have to quarantine for 14 days when he gets home.
Unless, of course, he gets back before midnight...
In fairness to the govt, on the face of it this decision has been made without political considerations in mind. They would have known where he was when they made it.
Read 5 tweets
23 Jul
Panic in No 10 about the union but surprising it’s taken them by surprise. Trying to retain Scotland, after a period where its lack of veto power on fundamental political questions (Ie Brexit/no deal) has been/is being revealed repeatedly, was always going to be very difficult.
This fact was predicted and put to them and advocates of Brexit (who often tend to be strong unionists) but few answers were/are forthcoming. The twin referendums (14/16) gave them false security. But the legitimacy of the 1st was always going to be undrtmined by Brexit...
... (as Scots weretold voting no would guarantee their place in the EU. The legitimacy of the second (a UK wide majoritarian vote) was again always more limited in Scotland by their remain vote. It epitomised the two now v different political cultures in England and Scotland.
Read 8 tweets
21 Jul
Whitty on care homes: “we hadn’t recognised what in retrospect are obvious but were not recognised at the time. Eg, people who were working at multiple homes. People w/o sick leave etc.”

On Newsnight, night after night, we were reporting on these exact issues from late March.
Others reported on them too and @peterkyle brought them up in the House.

At the time we were told there wasn’t a significant problem in homes and there wasn’t likely to be.

This isn’t a convincing argument. Not least because many of these issues are *still* in place.
On another level, it doesn’t make align with ministerial rhetoric. Whitty doesn’t say there was a “protective ring” and doesn’t say some didn’t follow the correct procedures (as PM did)
Read 13 tweets
21 Jul
The summary of the #RussiaReport (sent to the press) alone is both disturbing and mildly damning of politicians and officials. Suggests government may have “taken its eye off the ball on Russia” and are “still playing catch up”
Need to look through the report in more detail but seems the government with most questions to answer here is the Cameron government. Report identifies prioritisation of commercial links with Russia/Russian citizens over security concerns. Similar themes with China story.
Though all governments (before and after) have questions to answer.
Read 8 tweets
19 Jul
A tour is poor substitute for the truly systemic challenge the union faces this year: a no trade deal Brexit in December. That event is highly likely to exacerbate the breakdown of consent for the union in Scotland by reaffirming the country’s apparent impotence within the whole.
It is possible that the Prime Minitser faces a choice between a no deal and a better chance of keeping the union together but that he can’t have both.
Many in Westminster often seem to forget that the UK is a multi-national state and don’t want to recognise the strain the Brexit process has put it under. As a multi-national state, its maintenance requires careful calibration, especially on big structural issues...
Read 6 tweets
18 Jul
I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve already spent a small fortune on masks, admittedly as a result of losing them or forgetting them at home. It’s fine for me, I can afford to buy more on the road. For those on low incomes, though, this could quickly become a problem.
I’ve just paid £8 in @sainsburys for a pack of 10 before I boarded the tube. The more places we need to wear masks the more likely they are to wear out. Some regional/national governments (like Italy) have experimented with free masks. Might be something we come to consider here.
We know that Covid is more likely to kill poorer people. If masks are to central to our public health strategy for a long time and we’re convinced of their epidemiological value then it makes sense to ensure that part of the population has complete ease of access to them.
Read 5 tweets
17 Jul
Patrick Vallance: "Will there be subsequent waves? By definition it's an unknown, everyone I've spoken to thinks it's highly likely that this disease will continue to circulate and come back in waves and may well be seasonal."

Substantially different tone to PM and ministers.
James Brokenshire told @SkyNews that a second wave is "absolutely not inevitable"
Vallance says social distancing will have to stay: "If it continues to go around the world then we remain exposed ...therefore the measures on reducing contact to reduce spread, social distancing and hygiene measures will be necessary."

PM said earlier 1m rule could be scrapped
Read 4 tweets
17 Jul
PM: “I have no doubt the union has proved its worth in this crisis time and again.”

That isn’t how it’s seen by many north of the border. For them, Covid is seen to have further exposed the weaknesses of the British state and its institutions...
...both of which were already damaged by the Brexit process. As damaging is Scots’ apparent relative powerlessness in the union to affect a major political outcome they did not want (ditto no deal at end of year). Lack of federalism in British institutions providing no outlet.
Covid has also served to illustrate just how much the Scottish government already does and could yet do.

As I’ve said before, I’m really not sure the gravity of the situation with regards to the Union has been absorbed by Westminster.
Read 5 tweets
13 Jul
Sunday , Michael Gove: government trusts people’s “common sense” and masks shouldn’t be compulsory in shops.

Monday evening, Prime Minister: people will face fines if they don’t wear masks in shops.

What happened? bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politi…
This change will be introduced from 24th July. It will be for the police to enforce (though in reality seems unlikely there will be much physical enforcement)
The problem for ministers, in being so all over the place and without much consistency in policy is that without being clear for their rationale it’s easier for them to be buffeted. Easy to see where debate goes next: why not pubs? Offices? All indoor spaces? What is govt’s view?
Read 6 tweets
13 Jul
NEW: Govt confirms that the new “health and care visa” will not include social care workers.
Ministers have said they want NHS and social care to put on an equal footing. This will be another example where they are not.

Given their absence govt is effectively saying care homes should recruit from UK.
Is true that there will be huge vacancies and retraining opportunities and with unemployment there will be some capacity in labour market for that.

That said, there massive vacancies in the sector before. And historically not that much desire from UK workers to work in care...
Read 7 tweets
8 Jul
On holiday but on procedures in care homes: in my experience following this story from start of crisis there was actually a lot of concern about asymptomatic transmission in the care sector- that’s why care homes wanted more testing and decent PPE, which weren’t always available.
The possibility of asymptomatic infection was one of the first things I heard about from care managers in Hove in late March. There was a great deal of concern about agency care staff going from home to home and spreading the disease. That hasn’t really been addressed.
Here is the piece from Newsnight from April 2nd which lays out all of these issues. It’s also clear from this that there was very little sense of strong guidance from the centre- the focus was v much on NHS.
Read 5 tweets
5 Jul
What’s happening in Scotland is the biggest political story in Britain right now but it’s barely registering in the Westminster conversation.
And for those who are saying they’re just polls- they’re also registering an SNP surge for Holyrood voting intention for next year. If they win a majority (possibly even bigger than that they won in 2011) the call for a second referendum may well be irresistible.
Wrote about some of the reasons for the fragmenting union (in context of Wales) a year or so ago. Feels like Covid has exacerbated those issues. news.sky.com/story/amp/wexi…
Read 4 tweets
1 Jul
The no border comment is interesting. It speaks to the idea that the UK is one state (true) but also to the idea that it’s too often confused with being one nation (not true) and having one politics (definitely not true). It’s a multi-national state (unusual)...
...and as such its politics requires very careful calibration, especially in an age where it’s no longer, for any intents and purposes, a unitary state, with one seat of power....
In other words, historians might one day conclude that one of the reasons the union came under such strain (possibly to breaking point) is that too often Westminster politicians mistook the UK for being one nation, with one state.
Read 9 tweets
1 Jul
For what it’s worth- local government leaders (Tory and Labour) have privately been complaining to me for weeks and months about wanting better access to data central government data and lobbying for an improvement. It’s been a significant bugbear for some time.
And we’ve reported it on Newsnight accordingly.
Know that other journalists have heard and reported the same thing.
Read 4 tweets
28 Jun
If this story is true, it would represent a transformation as to how we’ve understood the role of the civil service and its head, not least that we’re not supposed to know how they’ve voted about anything.
If, as the article says, No10 wants to recruit civil servants on the basis of their political views (ie being Brexiteers) then they’ll have to change the civil service code, which in various places, is very clear that that isn’t really permissible.
Read 4 tweets
28 Jun
Thoughts on Sedwill

-another senior civil servant bites dust (following Home Office/FCO)
-v unusual for a Cab Sec to serve such little time. Will add weight to those who argue that service is being/risks being politicised.
-not least re timing- before Brexit/middle of pandemic
-Sedwill fried to get close to Cummings, it worked for a while but in the end, Sedwill crossed him and he couldn’t survive it. Despite Barnard Castle, Cummings writ is as strong as ever.
-It’s clear that No 10 intends to pin some blame for a poor Covid performance on civil service, as part of “failings of British state”

But we shouldn’t forget that the momentous Covid decisions (eg lockdown timing) were political, not administrative.
Read 9 tweets
25 Jun
NEW: Conservative MP Tim Loughton tells me there's growing support on Tory backbenches for govt to give carers free visas, as they've done for doctors: "For goodness sake let’s make sure their position is safe for the foreseeable future so they can go on doing that crucial job."
I've spent the day talking to NHS support staff and carers who are not covered by the govt's free visa extension scheme

They're struggling to get the money together to pay for their fees, with stress of the front line

Below are some of their experiences
A quick recap:

On 31st March Priti Patel announces visa extension scheme for doctors, nurses and paramedics. The extension will be for a year
Read 23 tweets