On Monday 11 May, the UK Government published 60 pages of general guidance called “Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” subtitled “ The Government’s roadmap for how and when the UK will adjust its response to the COVID-19 crisis”.( CP 239: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy)
In its introduction the Prime Minister makes the following factually inaccurate statement, part of the general dissembling spin for which he has become famous in his political, and before that, journalistic career.
“the Government increased daily tests by over 1,000% during April - from 11,041 on 31 March to 122,347 on 30 April”
This is highly misleading, as it includes 40,000 “tests” mailed out but not necessarily administered. This spin was done just to save the increasingly strained and embarrassed face of Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, who made a misguided and surely hostage-to-fortune misguided pledge there would be 100,000 daily tests nationally administered by end of April.
Johnson compounds the failure to deliver, by dissembling barely a few paragraphs into a 50 page official so –called ‘Roadmap’ for the nation. As recent Tory peer, Baroness Morgan once observed, you would not want Boris Johnson to be driving if you were returning from a party! Or reading the map…..
On page 18, under the sub-headline of Transparency, the British Government had the shameless audacity to write:
“The Government will continue to be open with the public and parliamentarians, including by making available the relevant scientific and technical advice. The Government will be honest about where it is uncertain and acting at risk, and it will be transparent about the judgements it is making and the basis for them.” (my emphasis)
It later added:
“The [UK] Government will be honest about where it is uncertain and acting at risk, and it will be transparent about the judgments it is making and the basis for them.” (my emphais)
This is gross hypocrisy. Less than a week ago, on 8 May, The Guardian’s special Coronacris investigative team exposed the significant number of redacted pages in the SAGE Covid19 scientific advisory committee documents the UK Government released - with a fanfare of proclaimed transparency - after months of withholding them from public scrutiny, and increasing demands for disclosure. (“UK scientists condemn 'Stalinist' attempt to censor Covid-19 advice- Exclusive: report criticising government lockdown proposals heavily redacted before release”; www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/08/revealed-uk-scientists-fury-over-attempt-to-censor-covid-19-advice)
A page from an official Sage report critical of government proposals over the coronavirus lockdown that was heavily redacted. Photograph: No Credit
The Guardian reported that “[UK] Government scientific advisers are furious at what they see as an attempt to censor their advice on government proposals during the Covid-19 lockdown by heavily redacting an official report before it was released to the public…. large blocks of text in the report, produced by SPI-B, the SAGE subcommittee providing advice from behavioural scientists on how the public might respond to lockdown measures, were entirely blanked out.”
It added:”Several SPI–B members told the Guardian that the redacted portions of the document contained criticisms they had made of potential government policies they had been formally asked to consider in late March and early April.One SPI-B adviser said: “It is bloody silly, and completely counterproductive.” A second committee member said: “The impression I’m getting is this government doesn’t want any criticism.”
Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews, was reported as saying:
“Personally, I am more bemused than furious…the greatest asset we have in this crisis is the trust and adherence of the public. You want trust? You need to be open with people. This isn’t open. It is reminiscent of Stalinist Russia. Not a good look.”