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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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: “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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
-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
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."