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January 07, 2021

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ltr

January 6, 2021

Coronavirus

UK

Cases   ( 2,836,801)
Deaths   ( 77,346)

Deaths per million   ( 1,136)

Germany

Cases   ( 1,841,228)
Deaths   ( 38,199)

Deaths per million   ( 455)

Scurra

It might be no accident that our worst PMs disproportionately attended private school, as this inculcates (among other misperceptions) a tendency for one’s confidence to exceed one’s abilities.Or even our best PMs.
Later you also note that nobody takes "proper" politics seriously. That's not true, of course; what you mean is that the media and most of the members of the House of Commons don't take "proper" politics seriously.
And it's quite simply the "debate club" problem. If you don't have to experience the consequences of your choices, it almost always devolves into merely a game of scoring points at PMQs or on television/radio talk shows.

I think Joel Morris summed it up pretty well in a tweet the other day:
A pundit with an opinion that 50% of people share will have competition for broadcast work. But pick a mad fight that only 5% of people will stand for, and you're in demand, presented as a valuable balance to the accepted views of 95%, as if it were a 50/50 argument.

Dipper

There is only general agreement the government has handled the pandemic badly amongst the government's opponents. The data is all over the place. You can justify whatever policy you want, and whatever assessment of policy you want.

And now the vaccine roll out is ahead of every other European nation, because we rejected the EU path and went our own way. You lot love to go on about how Austerity cost lives, how Brexit has cost lives, how Boris has cost lives on the pandemic. It's all rubbish. But here, right now, Boris and Brexit are clearly unquestionably saving lives.

Jim

The idea that powerful groups prefer the rather poor government system we have is interesting. The fundamental problem is that humans everywhere are apt to cheat and lie to gain and keep advantage. This has been built in from our simian past.

A similar situation might be expected to evolve elsewhere. The US seems to have got a logjammed and corrupt system but what about the French, the Germans and say China? None of these is exactly a shining beacon and most of us are not close enough to the action to see just how good (or bad) these systems are on the ground.

There does seem a hint that those countries with an adversarial legal tradition might evolve worse government. The adversarial system does not require any discovery of 'truth' but instead requires that one side 'wins' by whatever means. This at least has the advantage of being palpably dishonest and thus aligns with human nature. We might hope that an investigatory legal system might be better but one might suspect political interference or laziness would be a hazard.

Then where there are a good number of political parties government we might hope for better government. Might even be worth paying for political parties (and putting a tight belt around donated parties). Competition is a good thing but we don't really want any party to win else we are back where we started.

As things stand Britain is going to find out the hard way whether or not the mother of Parliaments is up to the job.

GCarty80

Dipper,

By far the biggest UK failure with respect to Covid is down to its chronic unwillingness to impose travel bans or to quarantine incoming travellers (strict border quarantines are something that all the success stories in East Asia and Australasia have in common).

This could be an indicator of how Britons who voted Leave are often in denial about how European they really are, but if anything it seems the UK's dogmatic belief in freedom of movement (in the sense of travel of course, not in the sense of settling in a new country) is even stronger than that in Schengenland!

I do wonder though if Jacinda Ardern's wokeness was perversely an asset in this crisis, as it meant that she could close New Zealand to foreign travellers without being accused of racism? "Only Nixon could go to China" and all that...

Jan Wiklund

Incompetent government is a feature that already George Orwell complained about. He wrote it down to being pampered with too much money. Or to pose it another way, being wrapped up in financial capital, too far away from real things.

Ian Welsh believes that the bad dealing with covid-19 in the Atlantic world has to do with our dependence of financial capital. While the East Asians who have handled it best deal with real things, i.e. industry. See https://www.ianwelsh.net/why-western-elites-are-so-incompetent-and-what-the-consequences-are/

Counterfactual

Simplistic I know but is the Civil Service largely to blame? When Chris Grayling (don't imagine I'm defending him, he should have asked questions and known better) chose a company with no ships to help with Brexit he was working from a shortlist given to him by his civil servants. How did that company get on to the list in the first place?

Was an IT system for the NHS ever a good idea given that we don't have a NATIONAL Health Service but a series of often poorly connected regional fiefdoms!

And if it is the Civil Service how do we reform it?

Dipper

@ GCafrty80 how do you know travel bans would have changed much? It's another 'We did X, Country Z did Y and got better results, if we'd have done Y we'd have had Country Z's results' pieces of logic.

We don't know why East Asian countries have done so much better. I have a personal theory which is to do with the prevalence of obesity in the west. But I await post pandemic analysis.

'Incompetent government' ... 'is the Civil Service largely to blame? '. Blame for what? Outstanding delivery of vaccination compared to our European neighbours?

LJC

The simple answer is that the Government made the same mistake repeatedly. In March the majority scientific advice was that a full lockdown was needed urgently, but the Government dithered for a week before taking action and we probably ended with twice as many deaths in the first wave as we might have had. This is forgivable because you cannot expect a Government to make the right decision first time, every time, and in the early months of 2020 some of the modellers were giving different outcomes from the majority. If they had been right and the mortality rate from covid had been as low as 0.1% then the epidemic could have burnt itself out (the herd immunity argument). The apparently low number of deaths in China supported this position.

Back in July they were warned again that cases would rise in the Autumn; when they did the scientific advice was for a new lockdown. This is what Belgium (who had been one of the most badly-hit countries in the first wave) did:

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2021/01/how-belgium-s-second-lockdown-became-covid-19-success

Instead, first we had tiers, then a pre-announced lockdown, with the five-day delay giving another upward twist to case numbers, then the lockdown was too short to really make a difference, then an announcement of a major relaxation over Christmas and finally (when it was already too late) a real lockdown.

If the Government had just listened to the scientists and gone into full lockdown in October and kept the lockdown going even through Christmas, we would now be looking at far lower case levels and no risk of the NHS collapsing.

Dipper

@ LJC. Different countries have tried different approaches, and when the evidence has been put together and considered, there isn't a lot of evidence that Lockdowns work.

People pro permanent lockdowns never seem to think there are any consequential costs. There are lots.

It is a natural instinct to think that every problem has a solution, and that the thing you've just thought of is it. But Orgels second law of evolution is '"Evolution is cleverer than you are.", and so in this case it is, mutating to evade our protective habits.

GCarty80

Dipper,

If you don't have strictly enforced border quarantine you can't eliminate the virus, and if you can't eliminate the virus you can't hold out the possibility of a (minus foreign travel) return to normal in order to encourage compliance with lockdowns.

But even if European countries had closed their borders in March, the virus was already so prevalent that it would have taken 9 months of lockdown at least to eradicate, which would be intolerable.

Australia and New Zealand started from much lower case counts because they were geographically isolated (= fewer imported cases) and in the southern hemisphere (= slower community transmission, because summer). In fact they probably started their first lockdowns at the point where Europeans ended theirs.

Incidentally, given how South Korea lost control in December, I wonder if they'd have been better served if they had gone into lockdown early on (with the intention of eradication, like New Zealand) instead of trying to rely on test and trace to contain the virus? Their case rates at the time they took action (unlike those of European countries) were low enough that eradication should have been feasible.

And the other point about border quarantines is that it is an area where the UK's island status (+ Brexit!) ought to have been an advantage, but this wasn't the case at all...

Dipper

@GCarty80 "If you don't have strictly enforced border quarantine you can't eliminate the virus"

You can't eliminate the virus. It's just not possible. All these politicians demanding a zero Covid strategy are idiots.

Paulc156

Even if it's not possible to eliminate the virus with lockdowns this government's incoherent and often risible efforts at suppression of virus while pandering to so called libertarian backbenchers are little short of a clusterfuck. More u-turns than a mountainside snake path.

Eat out to help the virus... followed by hands face and space and back again before breakfast.
Masks don't work...to wear masks.
World class track and trace by month of June... year not specified.
Back to something like normal by Xmas...to National lockdown in New Year.
Sue Greenwich and Islington for closing schools a week before Xmas...to ordering ALL secondary schools to shut after Xmas.
No free school meals...followed by free school meals...TWICE over. A Marcus Rashford double!
And yes 10 years austerity has given us a health service ill prepared for a global pandemic that the Tories were warned would place unbearable burdens on health and social services in a gov commissioned report, 3 years before Covid...report subsequently buried. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/07/revealed-the-secret-report-that-gave-ministers-warning-of-care-home-coronavirus-crisis

Should we have done much better?
England has suffered the worst rate of excess deaths in Europe.
"England was entering the pandemic in a poor state of health, with life expectancies in its most deprived areas declining and a slower improvement in overall life expectancy than in almost any other rich nation."

https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4842


Which all begs the question...for those desperate to exonerate the PM and his motley crew for their failure of leadership on covid...what exactly would failure have looked like?

ltr

January 7, 2021

Coronavirus

UK

Cases   ( 2,889,419)
Deaths   ( 78,508)

Deaths per million   ( 1,153)

Germany

Cases   ( 1,869,306)
Deaths   ( 39,258)

Deaths per million   ( 468)

ltr

Of course, there are models of dealing with this awful epidemic, but the models have to be fairly viewed and "adapted" for British use. There is Germany; really, not a perfect model obviously, but look to Germany and adapt should have been the British approach.

ltr

January 7, 2021

Coronavirus

US

Cases   ( 22,132,045)
Deaths   ( 374,124)

India

Cases   ( 10,414,044)
Deaths   ( 150,606)

UK

Cases   ( 2,889,419)
Deaths   ( 78,508)

France

Cases   ( 2,727,321)
Deaths   ( 66,841)

Germany

Cases   ( 1,869,306)
Deaths   ( 39,258)

Mexico

Cases   ( 1,479,835)
Deaths   ( 129,987)

Canada

Cases   ( 635,134)
Deaths   ( 16,579)

China

Cases   ( 87,278)
Deaths   ( 4,634)

ltr

January 7, 2021

Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

UK   ( 1,153)
US   ( 1,127)
France   ( 1,023)
Mexico   ( 1,003)

Germany   ( 468)
Canada   ( 437)
India   ( 109)
China   ( 3)

Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases are 8.8%, 2.7% and 2.5% for Mexico, the United Kingdom and France respectively.

Dipper

One thing about the UK response is it has shown what an absolutely useless organisation the NHS is. That's not to in any way question the skills and the commitments of those who work in it, but as a way of delivering a service it is hopeless.

No matter how much money you pour into it, it will never be enough and there will always be shortages and queues.

Paulc156

@Dipper.
On the contrary I think we shall see that as opposed to the shambolic response of this U turn a week government the NHS will be one of the few (along with genetic research and pharma) to score well despite the staggering level of incompetence from our political classes led by a dithering PM, (plus ca change).
As for your contention that 'no matter how much money we put into the NHS...' well we didn't did we? Certainly not in the last 10 years where we quietly let it flounder. Perhaps partly because this lot wanted to see it flounder so they could flog best bits off to crony capitalists like Circle and America's own cronies post Brexit.

"England was entering the pandemic in a poor state of health, with life expectancies in its most deprived areas declining and a slower improvement in overall life expectancy than in almost any other rich nation."
https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4842


ltr

January 8, 2021

Coronavirus

UK

Cases   ( 2,957,472)
Deaths   ( 78,833)

Deaths per million   ( 1,173)

Germany

Cases   ( 1,895,033)
Deaths   ( 40,401)

Deaths per million   ( 481)

Dipper

The bottom line of Covid is that once we knew the parameters of the disease it would have been best to say to those who are likely to die, and we all know who they are, "Don't get it or you might die and there is no guarantee of medical attention if things get really bad." Instead we have gone for a sort of pseudo socialist worldview where everything is always somebody else's fault or responsibility and risk is assessed on a completely irrational basis.

Paulc156

Well if its a choice between 'pseudo socialism' or Ayn Randian dystopia, telling 10 odd million or so people re Covid "don't get it or you'll likely suffer horribly or die...and maybe without any medical attention", I tend to think the 'pseudo soc.'is far preferable. Notwithstanding any nostalgia for Thatcherite levels of callousness.

Guano

"There might be more – a fundamental problem with our political culture. It doesn’t even recognise what politics should be about. In principle, it should be about solving problems of collective action – of what happens when individuals pursuing their self-interest produce outcomes that are bad for us all. Too many people however – not least the media – don’t see this."

Precisely.

I find it interesting that life in the UK in WW2 is often portrayed as individualistic stoicism and not as a large-scale example of collectiive action.

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