Horton, Editor-in-Chief of the medical journal, The Lancet,
was interviewed on 24 April for the Financial Times by Anjana
Ahuja. A friend sent me a copy knowing that my father had been a past
died seven years ago and was delighted when Richard visited him in
his care home. After one visit I asked him how it had gone. In answer
he smiled and said, “A solid chap. He will do the Lancet proud.”
first met Richard Horton on the ‘Peoples Train” to the Stop the
War demonstration outside the 2006 Manchester Labour Party
conference. A memorable journey. Richard travelling with his wife and
daughter and there to address us about war mortalities in Iraq. Tony
Benn was with us, joking that we had nationalised the railways for
one day. Most memorable of all were Hettie Bower and Bernhard
was then aged 101 (she died age 108) and Bernhard 97. They sat
opposite each other and didn’t exchange a word. I was told later
that she, as a German Communist, couldn’t stand the sight of
Bernhard, who was a German Trotskyist.
the orgins of their political loyalties it certainly gave them
years later Horton told the BBC that the UK government response to
the Covid-19 pandemic is a ‘national scandal’ accusing them of
adopting a laissez-faire response by floating the idea of ‘herd
immunity’. “We’ve had the biggest science policy failure in
a generation,”he told the Guardian, adding these words to
the FT. “I’m angry because I know how good the NHS can
be. Politicians and policymakers and scientists let down the NHS and
its staff. And that’s unforgiveable.”
to speak out he said, “Some of the great advances, like the 19th
century sanitary movement and the birth of the NHS, were not
technical accomplishments, but political struggles.”
workers in the present crisis”, he told the FT, “have been
bullied and forced to see patients who clealy have or are suspected
of having Covid-19 without PPE. When they raise concerns, they are
belittled or threatened. It’s horrifying to see the lack of concern
by some NHS management.”
years ago Horton was diagnosed with advanced melanoma. I had no idea
about this. When in contact with me he has enquired about my health
problems and said not a word about his own.
agree with him about his experiences as a NHS patient. “I don’t
think I’ve ever been in an institution where people have been so
genuinely kind and thoughtful. That’s why I’m so angry that we
didn’t act sooner.”
with this comment, “I wake up and think I’ve got to make the
most of every day, because I don’t know how many I will have.”
hoipe you will join with me and insist on many many more.
BBC Panorama exposes government Coronavirus ‘crimes’. If you didn’t watch it you can find it on YouTube at link below.
The programme made the following allegations ….
Government ministers repeatedly claimed that the UK has delivered over one billion items of PPE since the crisis began. Panorama said it had received documents from “inside the supply chain” which show the government’s claim is a lie.
Firstly, over half the items are surgical gloves. These are not the items there is a shortage of and this number has been doubled by counting them per glove rather than per pair.
Secondly, the figure includes cleaning equipment, waste bags, detergent and paper towels.
Thirdly, the second-biggest item are plastic aprons. These have short sleeves and do not give same protection as medical gowns.
One A&E doctor on described these aprons as “like something you would expect a dinner lady to wear. It’s like a pinny, it’s plastic, it’s flimsy. You put it round your neck. It does nothing.”
Out of date masks are being used. One nurse showed his box of masks were out of date. When he lifted up the date sticker, it showed that the original use-by-date was even longer ago than the update use-by-date. So they’d gone out of date twice.
The government didn’t stockpile any gowns.
Panorama said that successive governments had failed to buy any hospital gowns at all – despite their own advisers warning that gowns were needed in a stockpile.
Public health expert Professor John Ashton commented: “It’s breathtaking that there were no gowns at all in stock. Breathtaking!”
20 million respirator masks have gone missing.
According to Panorama, 33 million respirator masks were on the government’s original stockpile procurement list in 2009 but only 12 million have since been handed out.
The government refuses to explain what happened to the other 20 million, but said that there was “limited demand which is one reason why they haven’t all been distributed”.
UK-made PPE is being exported abroad because the UK has failed to make adequate orders.
The boss of a company who makes the special fabric needed for a lot of PPE said he wanted to supply the NHS. He’d been writing to ministers, MPs and Public Health England but had not heard back. So was exporting his fabric to the USA.
In January, the government put coronavirus into the category of a “high consequence infectious disease”. For this category of disease, the Health and Safety Executive recommends all staff wear a full face visor, a respirator face mask and a gown.
The government had a legal requirement to ensure staff have all this. In mid-March, the government downgraded coronavirus. As it was no longer a “high consequence infections disease”, the government could then legally get away with providing less kit to staff in all but the most dangerous situations.
Instead of a gown, they just have to provide a plastic apron. Instead of a respirator face mask and a full face visor, they only have to provide a surgical mask.
According to Professor John Ashton, coronavirus was downgraded for political reasons: “This must have been done because they realised that they weren’t going to have enough equipment and they needed somehow to have a story that stacked up with being caught out on supplies.”
The comment that follows is from Dr Irial Eno who was interviewed for the programme …
"I’ve just finished a shift and heard the news and I’m fuming. Are you SERIOUS?? Is Matt Hancock seriously still talking about the amazing hard work (“herculean effort” in his words) the government are doing to try to secure us with PPE? Why are we still having these conversations??!! This should have been sorted WEEKS ago!
I’ve used the same (disposable) mask for 3 days. We’re still sharing a limited supply of visors. Last night a nurse from another department turned up in mine and begged me with tears in her eyes for a FFP3 mask as she didn’t have access to any, despite caring for respiratory patients. (We’d also ran out, so I couldn’t give her one).
We’ve had multiple staff members coming in as patients (many healthy and young), and three of them die. All of us at work are talking about which of us is going to be the next one to fall ill.
NONE of us have been tested yet, despite all this chat about testing being prioritised for healthcare staff. We’ve all had (or have) mild coughs, colds, sore throats etc and are constantly paranoid about these being the onset of Covid symptoms.
When we’re exposed to so many Covid positive patients, it feels cruel not to offer us testing. We need to know if we’ve had it and are immune, or if we’re still at risk. Not having access to PPE and tests is causing us real psychological distress.
I know healthcare workers are getting in trouble for speaking out about this but bloody hell, our colleagues are dying and we are STILL not protected and I am terrified, so it feels important. This government is a shambles.”
Amelia Gentleman has
written a powerful article about London’s new homeless in today’s Guardian. (“London
is So Strange and Sad”). The full piece is here. I was
struck by its similarity to George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris
and London. They were written 87 years apart, but sadly they share dystopias. Orwell wrote about
destitute hotel and restaurant workers. Amelia has returned to the same people.
Here is a condensed version from the Guardian interspersed with short quotes from Orwell. I hope Ms Gentleman will forgive my interference with her work!
“The mass of
the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing
else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher
dressed in a new suit.” George Orwell
All the normal
sounds and smells are absent – the salty, greasy smells from fast
food restaurants, the wafts of coffee from snack bars, stale beer
odours rising up from sticky pavements, the stench of rotting food
seeping out from kitchen dustbins, even the trails of diesel fumes,
have all gone.
There is no noise of
people laughing or shouting, no sounds of plates clattering at
pavement cafes. Bins are not overflowing with coffee cups and
discarded newspapers. Even the pigeons seem hungrier, rushing to peck
at food scraps.
You can hear the
wind rushing through the streets. It feels so eerie, like waking up
in a post-apocalypse movie.
Trafalgar Square is silent. Clusters of homeless people wait on the steps of
the National Gallery for food to be distributed. Central London is
seeing a surge of newly unemployed restaurant and pub workers forced
to sleep on the streets because they can no longer afford to pay
“You have thought
so much about poverty—it is the thing you have feared all your
life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it
is all so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be
quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would
be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring." George Orwell
recently-sacked chef is finding life increasingly
difficult and dangerous. “London has become so strange and sad. The
only people who are out look like they are looking for drugs. There
are a lot of crazy people with knives.”
“It is fatal to
look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.” George Orwell
In the capital,
there are hundreds of tents and cardboard box encampments and
conditions are getting much harsher.
The city’s day
centres have been closed leaving the homeless with no place to shower
or wash their clothes, no toilets and nowhere to access regular food
No one is offering
money to the destitute, at a time when most soup kitchens and food
banks are not operating, and when the closure of cafes has meant the
homeless no longer receive unsold sandwiches at the end of the day.
Martin worked his
way up through London’s kitchens, starting as a porter to his most
recent job as chef de partie at a fashionable restaurant. He has been
sleeping on a bit of pavement near Charing Cross station for six
Brian, a volunteer comments, “One of the really distressing
things is the hospitality homeless. We’re seeing so many people who
were working in kitchens, hotels and pubs until a few weeks ago.
They’re so obviously ill-equipped to be out there. The long-term
rough sleepers know how it works, but for them it’s very new. They
recently-sacked waitress was preparing to sleep again in the doorway
of a cocktail bar. “She wants to be helped. I don’t understand
why she hasn’t been picked up,” says Brian.
A welder sleeping in
the park behind the Savoy, wanted information about where he could
wash; he said he had been unable to have a shower for the past five
weeks since arriving in London to look for work.
“Dirt is a
great respecter of persons; it lets you alone when you are well
dressed, but as soon as your collar is gone, it flies towards you
from all directions.” George Orwell
Alexander, who worked as a cleaner and caretaker at a pizza
chain until he says he was sacked was experienced at sleeping rough
since he was already unable to afford to rent a room on his minimum
wage earnings even when he was in work, and has been living on the
streets near Leicester Square for 18 months.
But finding enough
cardboard to build himself a sheltered space to sleep in has become
much more problematic since all the businesses closed down and
stopped throwing away packaging.
Adrian was working
as a night cleaner for a bank and found himself unable to continue
paying for his room. He was finding his first exposure to
homelessness very difficult. “It’s a really tough time. I don’t
There are now large
parts of central London where the only people you see are homeless
people, drug dealers and police. There is a growing sense of
Some look close to death. About 10 people are sheltering
beneath a shop front near Charing Cross station, where the
underpasses that used to shelter dozens of homeless have been closed
"Hunger is so constant for a poverty-stricken man that it actually robs him of his humanity, for he can think of nothing but his empty stomach. Hunger, therefore, dehumanises the poor. The pitiful handouts of bread and margarine do not assuage, or alleviate hunger and so keep him in a painful and dehumanised state." George Orwell
have always liked the story about the butterfly in Brazil flapping its
wings and setting off a tornado in Texas. It suggests that tiny
actions can produce massive changes.
and I live in a one-bedroom flat. As high-risk I stare out at our neighbours and wonder what life
is like for people living in multi-storey flats. A few minutes on the
internet gives me the answer.
Tower Hamlets an outbreak of Covid-19 hit Barnardo Gardens which
houses 200 people. “No one feels safe,” said one resident
on the fifteenth floor and trying to cope in this situation with two
young children, “At least ten people on my landing are ill and
there’s no one to help. We feel abandoned.”
have access to just two lifts which are someimes out of use. One
wheelchair-bound asthmatic woman says she feels like she’s in
prison. "I just sit and look out the window all day. And
that's really annoying me because I want to go out."
you ever received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs Tax Inspector, written personally to you and containing these words ... "You
must make payment in full by DATE. If you do not, I will start
distraint action against you. This means that I will seize your
possessions and later arrange to have them sold at public auction.
The proceeds from the sale will be set against the debt and the costs
of the action."
if your name is Richard Branson, Theresa May’s husband, Phillip
May, or at the head of five of the UKs biggest companies who pay not
one penny in tax.
the top 10 countries allowing billions
in tax avoidance, four are British overseas territories. Branson’s island
Necker in the British Virgin Isles is, of course, one of them.
challenged Government claims that tackling tax avoidance is a
priority for them, but Tax Justice Network found that the UK has
“single-handedly” weakened the global corporate tax system which
loses an estimated £395 billion per annum to avoidance.
is more than three times the NHS budget. There would be funds to put
an end to the suffering taking place at Barnardo Gardens.
Cobham, Tax Justice Network CEOI, has said, “A
handful of the richest countries have waged a world tax war so
corrosive, they’ve broken down the global corporate tax system
beyond repair …. The ability of
governments across the world to tax multinational corporations in
order to pay teachers’ wages, build hospitals and ensure a level
playing field for local businesses has been deliberately and
McDonnell, ( remember him?) and speaking under the words, ‘For the
Many not the Few’, during what was supposed to have been a General
Election, said, “The Tories’ record on tax avoidance is
embarrassing and shameful … The only way the UK stands out
internationally on tax is in leading a race to the bottom in creating
tax loopholes … A
Labour government will implement the most comprehensive plan ever
seen in the UK to tackle tax avoidance and evasion.”
The sun shines, I can hear children’s laughter in the gardens below, and we are grateful to have kind neighbours and a police cadet we have yet to meet, who braves the long supermarket queues to do our weekly shop. He then drops it off here by bicycle.
We have bought two folding chairs so we can sit outside at the front of the house and another stranger stopped by (two meters distance of course) and offered to add our food order to her delivery.
are lucky, but my sadness and
at the prolonged fate of those residents at Barnardo Gardens.
people are saying they hope things will return to normal once the
epidemic is over. I hope not. We have to start living in
recognition that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’ We
have to behave like Brazilian butterflies and set off social and
adviser” to Boris Johnson, eminent Professor of Eugenics,
population control and culling, Dominic Cummings, has
been sitting in on SAGE meetings, the scientific group advising the
government on the Covid-19 pandemic.
his academic pronouncements is this - "a child's performance has
more to do with genetic makeup than the standard of his or her
education." Adding we should “identify the top 2%
in IQ and give this 2% a specialist education as per Eton.”
one sentence the eugenic association of genes with intelligence,
intelligence with class, class with worth, and worth with the right
Against Fascism’s Weyman Bennett said that "These people give a
nod and a wink to the politics and ideology that led to the
Holocaust,” and went on to say that the 75 years since the
enforced end of the genocidal eugenics programme of the Nazis was
seemingly not enough to end the conversation for good.
Guardian, Dr Anna Down, an Ealing GP talks about the high Covid-19 death rate in West London care homes. “I am really angry about this … One home had
23 deaths, another lost 19, and another 13 ... In two units 50% of
residents died in the space of 10 days.” In a normal month, she
might expect to lose around 28 people. In the last month she has lost
have information on a North London care home where the Covid-19 death
rate is now at 25%.
Down concludes with this, “From the moment this started we
highlighted where the problems were going to be and said we can get
on top of this now ...Yet no definitive and timely action was taken
across the health and social care system.”
I think she is wrong. Action was taken. The action that is part and
parcel of the Johnson / Cummings pursuit of herd immunity.
police should attend the next SAGE meeting and make arrests for