If Labour had elected a Stuffed Dummy It Could Not Have Done Worse than Keir Starmer – It’s Time For This Stiff To Depart

50,000 people have died because of this Government yet Starmer Stays Silent 

It’s not often that I agree with George Osborne, the former Tory Chancellor of Exchequer, but it is difficult to disagree with him when he gloats that ‘Labour has nothing to say’.

COVID-19 has already officially killed over twice the number of civilians who died in the Blitz (43,000). If one takes excess deaths in the same period then the figure is nearly three times.

Yet despite this the Tories have just taken a lead in the opinion polls. And what is Starmer’s response? A devastating indictment of the Tories record on COVID-19? No an appeal to nationalism, the flag, war and patriotism. As Samuel Johnson remarked patriotism is ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel.’ Of course it’s easier than proposing a wealth tax or an end to privatisation.

Those 50,000 people represent people who could have survived. If a parent was responsible for the negligence that this government is guilty of they would be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter.

Boris Johnson likes to compare himself with Winston Churchill, who for all his many sins was nonetheless a rousing war leader. Johnson by contrast is a puffed up buffoon.

Johnson is going to end up killing possibly 4 or more times the number of civilians who died under Churchill, in a period of little over 1 not 5 years. It is a comparison that this amoral Bunterish sociopath is quiet about.

Of course not all the 108,013 current deaths are Johnson’s responsibility. On January 24th 98,000 had died in Britain compared to 52,087 in Germany, a country with 17 million more people than us. But Germany has nearly 5 times as many critical care beds per 100,000 people as us (29.2 v 6.6).

Between 2010 and 2020 more than 17,000 beds were cut from the original total of 144,455. Between 1987/88 and 2019/20, the total number of NHS hospital beds fell by 53 per cent – from 299,4000 to 141,000. Yet at the same time the population has grown from 47.3 million to 56 million.

If there was any justice, then Johnson and Matthew Hancock, to say nothing of Mogg and the rest of the Cabinet, would be sharing a cell in Belmarsh Prison whilst Julian Assange was being freed. It is no accident that Britain has the highest death toll in Europe:

On 30th January the World Health Organisation declared that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On 31 January Britain left the European Union.

On 3 February 2020 Johnson gave a major speech at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. It was a speech filled with “supreme national self-confidence”, as he suggested that the UK was “on the slipway” of global economic dominance.

This was a full month after the Coronavirus pandemic had been announced by the Chinese. It was the first time Johnson had mentioned the subject. He was full of his normal patriotic bombast about how Britain was a ‘world beater’.

“When [trade] barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational, to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government, somewhere, that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange.”

Britain, the prime minister cried, was

“ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles, leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion” of economic freedom in any stand-off with public health restriction.

In other words Johnson would not be deflected by a mere pandemic from keeping the economy open. This was his first fatal mistake. He counterposed the economy to eliminating the virus, whereas they are both complementary.

It was not that Johnson had no warning. In 2016 a government pandemic drill took place which predicted that the NHS would be plunged into crisis by an infectious and deadly disease. Codenamed Exercise Cygnus, it highlighted shortages of intensive care beds, vital equipment and even mortuary space. But its conclusions have never been made public. See How did Britain get its coronavirus response so wrong?

More than a quarter of all deaths have occurred in the last month. Whatever excuses for the initial surge of deaths there can be no excuse for the bloody slaughter that is now taking place with over 1,400 deaths today (3 February).

When Boris Johnson announced on 26 January that he was ‘deeply sorry’, with head bowed he explained that

“we truly did everything that we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise [the] loss of life and to minimise suffering.”

Johnson was lying and not for the first time. Yet quite amazingly Keir Starmer had nothing to say. Literally nothing.

Clueless – no politics, no personality

Throughout the crisis Starmer has echoed Johnson, urging the opening of schools at the earliest possible moment. He didn’t criticise the ‘back to work’ message still less the return to schools. That is the real reason he sacked Rebecca Long Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet, as she had supported the teachers union, the NEU, which refused to put their members at risk. Starmer preferred unity with Johnson in the ‘national interest’.

Starmer had weightier matters on his mind. The campaign to eradicate another virus, Labour’s non-existent ‘anti-Semitism’ was what concerned him. Dancing to the tune of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement (for which read the Israeli Embassy) was his pastime.

Labour is not now about policy but the cult of the personality – except that Starmer doesn’t have one

Suspending and expelling Labour members, in their thousands if necessary, was considered of far greater import than a mere pandemic. The protection of the Apartheid State of Israel was a higher priority by someone who described himself as a ‘Zionist’ i.e. racist, ‘without qualification.’.

Starmer has failed to lay a glove on Johnson for the simple reason that they both share the same pro-capitalist neo-liberal ideas around the benefits of privatisation in the NHS. It is no accident that Starmer has failed to mention the corruption in government procurement or the appointment of cronies like Dido Harding as Head of the National Institute of Health Protection.

The real leaders of the Opposition over COVID have been Marcus Rashford and Piers Morgan. 56% and 32% of people think that they have done a better job of challenging Johnson than Starmer (29%). Yet the Labour Left – Momentum, the Campaign Group of MPs, CLPD and LRC – have refused to call for Starmer to quit still less ensure that he is challenged for the leadership this year.

It is not as if Starmer and the Labour Opposition, if that is what it can be called, has lacked advice. Professor Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds said:

“This was absolutely avoidable,. You can’t be reactive in a pandemic, you have to be proactive and act ahead of the curve. … The fact we’ve had three lockdowns is the ultimate expression of failure, I’m afraid, because you should not need to have more than one.”

Likewise Professor Tang said that:

All this bouncing backwards between lockdown, relaxation, lockdown, relaxation – we’re in the third one now – it just fuels the epidemic. You’re always chasing the virus, and if you’re chasing it, you’ll never catch it.”

How is it that China was able to get a grip on the virus despite having been at the centre of it?  China sealed off Wuhan.  It clamped down and tested every single person.

The key failure was the lack of any strategy. After all our neo-liberal rulers believe that the market will take care of everything. There is no need for planning which smacks of socialism. If Johnson had taken care to study the economic strategy of Churchill during the war he would have known that the economy was centrally controlled with nothing being produced without government approval. That is what Joe Biden is beginning to do in America with the commandeering of factories to produce the vaccine.

If the war against the Nazis had been left to private enterprise to finance then we would have lost. Likewise contracting out PPE, test and trace and social care to the market was always going to be a disaster. Without a plan it was inevitable that we would lurch from one crisis to another, one wave to another, one ad-hoc measure to another.

On March 16th, a week before the British lockdown and when Italy was already in the grip of the pandemic, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had a simple message ‘ test, test, test” calling the pandemic “the defining global health crisis of our time”.

“All countries should be able to test all suspected cases, they cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded.”

Without testing, cases cannot be isolated and the chain of infection will not be broken, he said. He was of course ignored as Britain had no plan for mass testing of the population, without which it was impossible to get on top of the pandemic.

Below are just some of the things that helped make Britain Europe’ COVID capital. These are just some of the fatal mistakes that Johnson made and on which Starmer was silent.

i. There was never any zero covid strategy. The attempt was to contain COVID-19, not eliminate it.

ii. February 2020 was the missing month. Johnson was taking a break at the 3,500 acre government retreat Chevening in Kent. At the New Year he had stayed on the private island of Mustique, at someone else’s expense. We had 7 weeks from the WHO announcement on January 30 to March 23 to stock up on PPE, create more intensive care beds and make preparations for mass hospitalisation. Nothing was done.

iii. The original lockdown, on March 23 2020 was one week too late. Research from Imperial College showed that up to 26,800 deaths could have been prevented.

iv. Johnson and his ministers, under the influence of Dominic Cummings,who argued against strict measures even “if that means some pensioners die, too bad” pursued a ‘herd immunity’ strategy before abruptly changing course as the implications of a million+ deaths began to dawn on them. For the first 3 weeks of March 2020 the government had pursued a herd immunity strategy. Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said it was ‘desirable’.

v. You can read the genesis of the Tories’ ‘herd immunity’ strategy and their retreat from it in the letter (below) that Michael Rosen, who himself contracted COVID-19, sent to the Guardian. The Guardian refused to publish it because it undercut Jonathan Freedland’s narrative that anti-vaxxers rather than the government were to blame for the massive death toll.

vi. Johnson missed 5 meetings of Cobra called to discuss the crisis as his attention focussed on his next holiday with Carrie Symmonds.

vii. The early crisis of a lack of PPE was directly caused by the outsourcing of PPE, like so much of the NHS to private contractors. Instead of a 3 months stock of PPE the cupboard was bare. ‘Just in time’ was their business model, oblivious to the fact that hospitals are not car factories.

As the Deputy Chair of the BMA David Wrigley said:

‘Since the passing of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012 the NHS in England has been forced down a route of increased marketisation and privatisation – and the Government has accelerated its aggressive outsourcing to private firms during the COVID-19 pandemic,’.

viii. Between mid-March and mid-April 25,000 elderly patients were shunted from hospital to care homes, in order to free up critical care capacity without their being tested for the virus. To this day the government defends this. The result was that care homes became incubators for the virus with what amounted to a cull of the elderly.

If the government had used February and early March to plan then the Nightingale hospital and similar facilities could have been readied to take in this 25,000.

ix. Of course if Britain had not engaged in 10 years of austerity and privatisation, the effect of which was to reduce the NHS’s capacity, then we would have been better prepared.

x. The UK came out of lockdown too soon. Professor Julian Tang, a virologist at Leicester University told how

“The lockdown did bring cases right down, but the problem is that the virus wasn’t completely gone. If you relax all the restrictions as they did in summer, with Eat Out to Help Out and allowing domestic and international, you’re going to let the virus grow – and it did.”

xi. Throughout the summer workers were being urged to return to work. Travel on public transport was encouraged.

xii. At the beginning of September Johnson ignored calls from SAGE for a ‘circuit breaker’ of 2 weeks. Having caught the virus himself, Johnson clearly knew better than the scientists.

xiii. Schools were kept open thus contributing to the spread of the virus. Children may not easily get the virus but they can infect others.

xiv. Johnson’s ‘world beating’ track and trace system has proved an utter disaster. Johnson promised last June to provide a 24-hour turnaround for all in-person tests by the end of the month – but even now that has not happened. And without providing financial support for those forced to isolate no track and trace system will work.

xv. There was no attempt to introduce quarantining at airports. I flew out with my children to Italy in mid-July and came back two weeks later. Apart from a temperature test when we departed there was no attempt to test us for the virus. We entered Heathrow without any difficulties apart from getting the automatic gates to open!

What is Starmer For?

Throughout the COVID crisis Starmer has played ‘follow my leader’, Boris Johnson. Far from mapping out a strategy of his own, Starmer has been content to applaud Johnson from the sidelines. Any Opposition leader worth their salt would have greeted the announcement of 100,000 deaths with a call for Johnson’s resignation and the hapless Hancock with him.

Starmer was more focussed on removing Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, at the behest of wealthy donors.

Yet the vigour that Starmer and his glove puppet David Evans have shown in using ‘anti-Semitism’ to attack anti-racists and anti-Zionists, Jewish and non-Jewish, is in marked contrast to his inability to lay a glove on Johnson.

The time has come for groups like Momentum, to shake off their lethargy and languor and campaign for the removal of Starmer. When Corbyn was elected the Right immediately organised to replace him. Yet the Campaign Group of Labour MPs are content to say nothing and do nothing. Unlike Corbyn, who won against Owen Smith with an enhanced majority Starmer and Rayner could well lose such is the level of dissatisfaction with them. The question is whether they have the guts to do so.

We even had the appeaser-in-chief, John McDonnell, saying that “Keir’s got this exactly right.’ Such are the lengths that Labour’s ‘left’ will go to avoid confronting the obvious. The only thing that McDonnell and the Campaign Group lack are some placards they can hang around their necks saying ‘please walk all over me’.

Tony Greenstein

Michael Rosen’s Unpublished Letter to the Guardian on Covid-19 and the Tories Herd Immunity Strategy

Dear Sir/Madam

Jonathan Freedland’s comment ‘Lies about Covid, insisting that it was a hoax cooked up by the deep state, led millions of people to drop their guard and get infected’ (‘Trump may be gone but his big lie will linger’ Guardian, Jan 15) misses the point. If we look closely at what was being said in official circles in March 2020, we can see quite clearly there was a plan to create ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination.

Robert Peston had his usual inside story on March 12 in ‘The Spectator’ with a headline “Herd immunity’ will be vital to stopping Coronavirus’ and wrote of this desirable outcome without mentioning the inevitable huge loss of life involved nor the high chance of it being unachievable.

A day later, 3 government scientists sang the same tune: Graham Medley told BBC Newsnight, ‘We’re going to have to generate herd immunity…the only way of developing that in the absence of a vaccine is for the majority of the population to become infected…’

Sir Patrick Vallance said that morning on the Today programme, ‘Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity.’ Same day, John Edmunds said, ‘The only way to stop this epidemic is indeed to achieve herd immunity’.

These people were talking of engineering mass death. It’s not as if science is unaware of the Black Death, Myxomatosis, or Dutch Elm Disease. At the time, Boris Johnson was appearing on TV telling us that he was shaking hands with Covid patients.

The extraordinary fact is that this idea of ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination is lousy biology. No one knew then how long or short nor how strong or weak the body’s immune response would be to this virus. No one knew how often it would mutate nor how different the mutations would be from the original virus. These scientists were gambling with ‘known unknowns’ some of which would result in no ‘herd immunity’.

What’s more, the limited ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination that occurs naturally usually involves the evolutionary process of ‘breeding out’ (through death, before they reproduce) of those individuals who are susceptible to the virus and the ‘breeding in’ of those who are resistant, assuming the resistance is inheritable. This takes generations to effect – if ever. The problem for this scenario is that the section of the population most affected by the virus is above ‘breeding’ age! This negates the process by which evolution favours resistant individuals.

It seems to me horrific that top scientists were able to put forward their proposals to enact mass killing without being challenged, either on ethical or biological grounds. If you want to find out why or how this government has been lax, chaotic, incompetent and cruel in its approach to Covid-19, it starts here. The consequence is that there have been tens of thousands of deaths, and there are tens of thousands of us with long term or lifetime debilitating consequences.

They must never be let off the hook.

Yours faithfully

Michael Rosen