Or, How to Stay Cheerful, in spite of the evidence…
Anyway, some bad news first.
The most reliable way of comparing countries in the coronavirus pandemic is to measure excess deaths. (It’s the least dodgy of all the various statistics.)
Top of the Charts
The PM refers to the UK government’s handling of the pandemic in England as a “massive success”. That’s only true if you count “success” as the height of the pile of dead bodies. Here’s a chart showing the excess deaths for several European countries, measured as a percentage of the total deaths expected at the time of year. Cumulative figures since the start of 2020 show England top of the charts with 7.5% excess deaths:
The Mountain Top
The charts below look like a series of mountains and show excess deaths for the four worst-hit European countries week by week. Although the other “top 3” (for deaths) show sharper peaks, it’s clear it’s taken England and Wales longer to control the outbreak: note the two smaller peaks in later weeks for England and Wales: no such pattern exists for the other countries shown.
A much fuller analysis, using official government figures, can be found at the ONS website here.
For a more readable analysis, why not try this piece from the New Statesman: Why England Was Hit Harder by Covid-19 than Any Other Country in Europe?
Economy Tanked: News v Propaganda
There are those who argue that there is a balance to be struck between saving lives during the pandemic and saving jobs. Not so. The Johnson government has failed on both. The Guardian, perhaps unsurprisingly today (as I write) runs the story UK to Plunge into Deepest Slump on Record with worst fall in GDP among G7. For political “balance”, compare and contrast that with, also today, the Telegraph headline “UK Poised to Suffer the Biggest Covid Blow of Any Major Economy”.
Still, not to worry. If you live in the fantasy universe of Johnson and his gang, it’s good news all the way. This was faithfully reported in that fantasy-filled rag, the Daily Express, a couple of days ago:
As I saw commented on Twitter that day, this front page would be what one might only expect to see in the most repressive dictatorships imaginable. It’s a disgrace to the sort of journalism that we should expect in a supposedly democratic country. (I was bemused to see, incidentally, that Express copywriters haven’t cottoned on to the fact that the UK has been measuring temperatures in degrees Celsius since 1963, only 57 years ago. Still, I suppose it fits with the paper’s target readership: those whose brains ceased to function at least half a century ago).
The Brex Street Kids
Even more good news: we don’t even have to wait until the end of the year to suffer from the entirely self-inflicted damage at the end of the EU Exit transition period. Today’s Observer cheerfully reports the exodus of the brightest and best in a piece entitled Br*xit Fuels Brain Drain as Skilled Britons Head to the EU. The “brain drain” started soon after the 2016 referendum result, the paper reports.
And yet, the Brex Street Kids running the country remain cheerful, it seems. As long as companies making Tory Party donations continue to win government contracts without due process of competitive tendering, all seems right their world. If ever there was doubt before, the “it’s one rule for us and another rule for the rest of you” attitude of those in power is plain for all to see. Blatant rule-breaking, rampant misogyny, cronyism (here’s a view from abroad) and corruption all get the blind-eye treatment by Johnson and his gang. OK, I admit that the last link on corruption takes you to a rather partisan source. But this story has been running, in various forms, in mainstream media (including the FT) on various dates since at least May. Just put “PPE contracts Tory donors” into your favourite search engine to see for yourself.
Give Us a (Second) Wave
Feeling the heat after all this doom and gloom? Then why not head off to Bournemouth beach? I’m sure you will find yourself in good company: that total stranger might shuffle up a bit to give you room to sit down. Give them a wave: after a second one of those, you may be feeling the heat a little more.
Whilst you’re there, why not bury your head in the sand? Don’t worry, that good old English Exceptionalism will see us through! And with the Brex Street Kids in charge, what could go wrong?