by Martin Odoni

I have been meaning to write this article for weeks, and I was only reminded to do it when listening to callers on a radio phone-in today. I suppose I should thank them therefore, but I do not think they deserve it. They want the current UK lockdown against the Covid-19 Coronavirus lifted with immediate effect, and one of the grounds for this argument is that, “The flu kills thousands every year and no one bats an eyelid, so why panic about this?” or words to that effect.

Firstly, this is clearly nonsense even when studied at face-value. Every winter, the country puts together flu vaccines in vast amounts to fight the regular outbreak, so the “no one bats an eyelid” idea dies before it can start; if no one was paying attention, how did we arrive at a vaccine to begin with? But secondly – and this is the bit that keeps needling me – people keep badly overstating how destructive seasonal flu tends to be.

I am not making light of seasonal flu, it is often dangerous, and can be lethal. But truly, the numbers involved most years are quite modest compared with what we have seen in the CoVid-19 tragedy. It is possible the impression that CoVid-19 and the flu have similar death-tolls has been given a lot of recent impetus due to a mistake by the Office for National Statistics. The mistake was exacerbated by some misleading reporting on the BBC and in the Daily Mail (oh quick, someone, catch me as I faint dead away in shock…) a couple of years back, on the 2017-18 Excess Deaths figures for England & Wales.

The BBC reported,

“There were around 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2017-18 – the highest since the winter of 1975-76, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

“The increase is thought to be down to the flu, the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine in older people and spells of very cold weather last winter.”

Now, this is accurate, but the wording inadvertently suggests, by omitting all mention of the fluctuation-margins, that the extra winter deaths for the year were tens of thousands above what was expected.

The Mail then ground in the wrong impression by stating,

“More than 50,000 excess deaths were recorded across England and Wales last winter, official figures show…

“The shocking figures have been partially blamed on the deadly strains of flu that swept the nations over the colder months of December to March. “

The element of misdirection is that, again, the wording appears to imply tens of thousands of excess deaths caused by flu. But this is not the case. The 50,000 figure was the approximate total number of excess deaths. The increase from the previous couple of years, which is the focus of the story, was only about 6,000, and the flu accounted for only about half of them. According to John Stone of the British Medical Journal, the root of the problem was a blunder by the ONS.

“The number of deaths in England and Wales in an admittedly exceptionally bad year would have been only in the region of 335-340 deaths, and the ONS seem to have exaggerated the risk to the public by in the region of 150 times.”

According to Public Health England, the real toll taken by flu for that winter, while distressing, was not on quite so dramatic a scale as the BBC and others had made it sound.

“Through the USISS mandatory scheme, a total of 3,454 ICU/HDU admissions of
confirmed influenza were reported across the UK from week 40 2017 to week 15 2018,
including 372 deaths.”

In half an unusually-active year for the disease, the UK had 372 hospital deaths from flu. Projected total for all influenza-related deaths around the country for the same period, including those not admitted to hospital, was 15,969. That is certainly a heartbreaking total.

But for comparison, consider; we have been living with CoVid-19 for a little under three months in the UK. During that time, the daily hospital death-toll from the pandemic has regularly been well over double the grand hospital total for the flu in 2017-18. Indeed, even now, when the UK appears to have passed the peak (at least for the first wave) of the pandemic, and the nation sighs with relief at ‘only’ confirming the loss of about 450 lives per day for the last couple of days, the daily toll is still significantly higher than the full hospital losses to the seasonal flu in 2017-18. (And the latest daily update, released even as I am typing, has seen another acceleration, back to above 700.)

This is all before we take into account Covid-19 deaths outside hospital, which, if the Financial Times’ extrapolations are reliable, would suggest a real death-toll far in excess of 41,000.

In under three months.

There really is very little comparison. Flu is deadly. But CoVid-19 is deathly. It is time for everybody to stop calling this Coronavirus “just another flu.” It really, really is not.

by Martin Odoni

I recognise that the new weekly ‘lockdown-tradition’ of standing on our doorsteps every Thursday evening, and giving a hearty round-of-applause to our front-line emergency services comes from the best of impulses. It in no way does any harm, it causes no irritation, and I have little objection to it, in and of itself.

However, it is becoming very difficult to ignore the empty futility of it. While emergency workers are doubtless aware at least that it is happening, they are very, very unlikely to hear about 99% of the population making the gesture.

Clap for NHS?

Do people really think this is achieving very much?

Even if they could, would it really help those on the front line all that much? In the current pandemic crisis, what, say, NHS staff are looking for in considerable quantities is not critical acclaim. What they want is Personal Protective Equipment of sufficient quality to give them a fighting chance of treating CoVid-19 patients without becoming infected themselves. What they need more broadly is for hospitals to be adequately resourced to fight the pandemic.

Knowing they are being applauded is probably good for front-line workers’ morale, but it will not provide even one pair of rubber gloves or one face-mask. The applause is very much a gesture dreamt up with the heart, and not with the head.

More darkly, a fair number of the people making a big show of their Thursday night applause performance are the very same people who offered nothing but cynicism during, just for instance, the Junior Doctors Strike. This is just one of many reasons why the sudden concerns expressed by Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary who tortured the NHS to the brink of death’s door for years, are absolutely nauseating.

This is a genuine argument against clapping; it offers a very cheap, easy path to a self-laundered moral public illusion to people who previously ignored the devastation of the Health Service.

So last Thursday, at 8pm, I decided that instead of stepping onto my tiny balcony and applauding into the void, I would do something a bit more practical. I nipped onto the NHS Charities Together‘s donations website for their CoVid-19 appeal. I made a donation of £30, and made sure to tick the Gift Aid box.

And you know what? I will do the same again this evening. Maybe any readers who have a little cash to spare could do similar? I realise that not everyone will have any money available, in which case, the page has an option available for donating items. Or maybe you want to donate to a different front-line service, like care homes – try here. Or use a search engine.

I just think that this approach would do more practical good. Yes, I realise it is distasteful that Virgin is providing the NHS Charities platform, given Richard Branson’s utterly slimy recent behaviour, but I would argue that it is worth an unclean moment if it helps save even one life.

And hey, if you enjoy doing the round-of-applause thing and still want to do it, no problem, there is nothing to stop you from doing both.

by Martin Odoni

The mechanical rejoinder currently fashionable online among Tory supporters is, “Now is not the time for political point-scoring!” or “Stop manipulating a crisis for political gain!” whenever they see anybody giving the Government a well-earned kicking.

As I have already made clear before, ‘point-scoring’ is not what critics of the Government are doing when they point out the British mishandling of the CoVid-19 Coronavirus. The cross-analysis of Government conduct is desperately needed at a time of crisis, as every mis-step the Government can take in this climate will cost lives. The eleven-day mis-step of not imposing a lockdown is responsible, by some calculations, for around two-thirds of the Coronavirus deaths the UK has suffered to date. And it was only because of growing public anger at Government stupidity and complacency that Boris Johnson relented and changed policy.

So cross-analysis is important, not least because it generally works.

But for the sake of argument, let us assume for the moment that the real incentive for criticism really is point-scoring. One question I must ask in these circumstances: So what if it is?

Who, after all, are the Conservatives, of all parties, to cry ‘foul!’ over politicising a disaster? When the Credit Crunch bit and started the Global Financial Crisis twelve-to-thirteen years ago, did David Cameron, the then-Tory-leader, just sit back and make soft, supportive noises as Gordon Brown desperately bailed water from the UK economy?

Far from it. Not only were the Tories unsympathetic during that crisis, they took the most deceitful and malicious advantage of it imaginable. They told the absolutely flagrant lie that the disaster was caused by ‘reckless Government spending’, when in truth the public sector had not crashed at all, while the crisis had begun in the US Derivatives Market, not anywhere under British jurisdiction at all.

Tory emotional blackmail rebuttal

If “now is not the time to criticise the Government,” when will be? And how would it be any different to the way they behaved when in Opposition?

This utterly malicious smear of the last Labour Government – a Government I have little sympathy for in most respects and I seldom feel much wish to defend – continues to the present day, with the right wing media often leaping on the bandwagon. It was used as the entire rationalisation for years of completely harmful and unhelpful Austerity, imposed entirely for ideological reasons.

More even than that, however, who has been playing politics with the pandemic more than the Tories? Certainly not Keir Starmer, who by and large has been much too gentle with the Government since taking over as Labour leader. Whether point-scoring or not, Opposition parties are in any event not lying about what is happening.

No, the Tories are the ones who have consistently spun and lied, who have released death statistics heavily-distorted by exclusion of all who died outside of hospital. The Tories are the ones who keep boasting about how much PPE they are providing, rather than openly comparing what they have with the amount NHS frontline staff actually need, and while ignoring native sources of PPE in favour of preferred ‘Big Business’ firms from overseas who are taking far longer to deliver – all an attempt to cast a needless shortfall as a mighty logistical triumph. The Tories keep claiming they have delivered resources that have not really arrived and have only just been placed on order. The Tories continue mobilising armies of bots on social media to give the false impression that their policies are more popular than they really are, and even misuse Department of Health resources in order to deploy them. The Tories keep making insinuating noises that shift blame onto others for how weak the pandemic response has been, and for the shortness of supplies.

The Tories, in short, are not interested in doing the job of handling the pandemic efficiently, or in saving lives. They are only interested in controlling the public narrative of the crisis, and evading accountability for mishandling it.

That is pretty much the definition of politicising a tragedy.

by Martin Odoni

Following up on that offensive image of Ed Miliband in a cartoon in the Evening Standard the other week, I thought people might be interested to know that I submitted a formal complaint to the ‘newspaper’. I am going to share both the complaint and the response I have received, as I think it demonstrates a point I have been making for some time. I wish to make clear that I am not necessarily saying that the reply is not fair enough. But I am saying there is some characteristic right-wing hypocrisy on display.

Here is my original complaint; –

M Odoni

Apr 14, 13:41 BST

A cartoon by Christian Adams that appeared in the Evening Standard on 7th April, portraying Ed Miliband, was clearly anti-Semitic. It portrayed Miliband as having a hooked nose, bushy eyebrows and prominent teeth, in line with traditional stereotype Jewish imagery. I have attached images of the cartoon in question. I also note with disgust the enthusiasm with which the Chief Editor of the ‘newspaper’ has promoted the cartoon online.

Please take action against both the artist and the Chief Editor that you feel appropriate for such racial aggravation; please note that your response to this request will be very revealing as to the Evening Standard‘s attitude to racist imagery.

I also attached images of the cartoon. Here it is if you need to refresh your memory; –

Miliband hooked nose cartoon promoted by Gidiot

If you really believe that the Brick Lane Mural was anti-Semitic, how can this be anything else?

Here is the reply I received from the Evening Standard; –

Madeline (Evening Standard)

Apr 15, 16:16 BST

To whom it may concern, [WRITER’S NOTE: Nice personal touch there, when I put my name in the original e-mail….]

Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback on our daily cartoon.
 
While I am sorry that you have felt cause to complain, the Evening Standard denies that the cartoon bears the meaning you have alleged. 

Kind regards,

Madeline Palacz
Editorial Compliance Manager

Now, in most climates, I would in fact be totally okay with this. But the problem is that in the climate of anti-Semitism hysteria over the last five years, what I see is the right wing giving itself room-for-nuance that it will not give to anyone else.

As I have pointed out more than once, an image will never ‘be’ anti-Semitism. Nor an object. Nor even an action. Anti-Semitism is the attitude that might be behind said image, object or action. And the Evening Standard are making precisely that point here. As I say, I am okay with that in itself. If Christian Adams insists that he genuinely did not mean to play-to-racial-stereotype with this image, I am prepared to give him the benefit-of-the-doubt, at least until he does it again. The reason why is because it is possible for people to behave in a way that resembles the behaviour of anti-Semites without having any particular hostile intent towards Jews behind it.

(This is the reason why I think Keir Starmer’s whole notion of “anti-Semitism training” seminars is completely nonsensical. They might police the actions, but they will never police what the people attending the seminars are thinking, and many of them will not need policing in the first place.)

But that is the point – intent. Attitude. And that is precisely what has been missing in the endless hysteria about supposed ‘anti-Semitism-in-the-Labour-Party’. Anything that can be presented as bearing a resemblance to the behaviour of anti-Semites is just assumed must be, ipso facto, the deeds of anti-Semites. And there are inevitable points of resemblance between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, or even between anti-Semitism and simple disagreement with Israeli policy.

So many people on the left – including not only my own Jewish self but also Mike Sivier of Vox Political and Tony Greenstein (among others) – have been tarred with the anti-Semitism brush for reasons of resemblance in what we have written, far more than for reasons of intent behind it.

My question therefore is this. If the left are not allowed to have the real intentions behind what they say and do taken into consideration when the ‘Jew-hater klaxon’ is sounded – not even Jewish members of the left – why should a right wing newspaper like the Evening Standard, which has shown no shortage of self-righteousness on the topic itself, get to protest, “No no no, we didn’t mean it that way!!! We were just being mean about Ed Miliband’s general appearance”?

And on further reflection, would that really make it a whole lot better?

Any last lingering hopes anyone on the Labour left might have been clinging to that Keir Starmer would be a progressive leader are now ashes, it would seem. Unity News claim to have discovered the identities of Starmer’s private donors of greater than £5,000. If Unity are correct about them, they are, depressingly predictably, the kinds of people you cannot possibly walk through City Of London’s financial district without them colliding with you and pushing you off the pavement.

Robert Latham – £100,000
Retired barrister

Clive Hollick – £25,000
Ex-merchant banker

Martin Clarke – £25,000
Ex-Daily Mail publisher (major alarm bell over this one!)

Sonny Leong CBE – £5,000
Former executive of the Labour Party’s ‘1000 Club’ – essentially a legalised cash-for-access-to-politicians scheme

Lady Katharine Gavron – £5,000
Widow of British printing millionaire Baron Gavron, who funded Tony Blair

Spot the difference between Starmer and Blair

Starmer’s the one of the left. Er, I think.

Read more here.

by Martin Odoni

As mentioned overnight, a dossier detailing conduct within the mechanisms of the Labour Party over the last five years has been uncovered. It was compiled for sending to an independent inquiry into supposedly “rife” anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but some administrator in the party structure barred the dossier from being forwarded (a move that sounds strangely reminiscent of…. oooooh, something that happened in about, what was it? 1989? In South Yorkshire, was it?). Excerpts were leaked to Sky News yesterday, and there has been a growing clamour for it to be published in full.

Well guess what? The dossier was leaked to Novara Media. I doubt we shall ever know who did it, but what I can say is that, yes, from what I have seen so far, it really is damning. It demonstrates that, while they were whining to the complaints unit about being ‘bullied’ by ‘Trotsrabbledogs‘, the right wing of the Labour Party were being just as abusive, often contemplating outright violence, but behind the backs of the left. They were also very evidently trying to obstruct and sabotage any chance Labour had of winning elections so long as Jeremy Corbyn remained leader.

A lot of the abuse and occasional dirty tricks can be found in Section 2, starting on page 27 through to page 117. Here are some samples; –

Bullying Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott receiving some behind-the-back insults, some bordering on sexist, some bordering on racist, none bordering on acceptable. And trying to set her up at a bad moment by sending a Channel 4 reporter after her was just vile.

Page 45

It seems the party staff had no higher an opinion of Owen Smith (who?) than the left of the party had. Oh, and Catherine Bramwell hates ‘Trots’ it seems. Derogatory terms like that do rather make it obvious why the Labour left retaliate with terms like “Red Tories”.

 

Page 51

Jo Greening approves of using Hitler-comparisons against the party leader, while Dan Hogan advocates the execution by firing squad of a staff member showing support for Corbyn.

 

Moussavi idly discusses murder

Staff at Labour HQ seemed to think plotting to assassinate the party leader is fine so long as you are HALF-joking.

P49 - 50 - open declaration of conspiracy

Simon Jackson, during “the Chicken Coup”, insists Corbyn has to go, even if forced.

P77-78

Showing respect to a fellow party member is a sackable offence in an Iain McNicol office, it seems

 

P 87

During the GE2017 campaign, Corbyn was deliberately removed from early campaign literature, while extra party finance was reassigned to Tom Watson’s safe seat in the West Midlands, to make sure he was in position to usurp Corbyn in the event of the (wrongly) predicted heavy defeat. They also indulged in deliberate ‘go-slow’ work-rates to hamper Corbyn’s chances even further.

 

24-4-2017

Through the GE2017 campaign, Corbyn was blocked from seeing the party’s digital spending budget.

 

2-5-2017

It really was a miracle Labour forced a Hung Parliament in 2017, when the HQ did things like this; here they block Corbyn from getting contact details for the party’s Election candidates, making it very difficult for him to co-ordinate rallies and other events with them.

 

5-5-2017

There was a sewage problem in the Labour HQ building. Naturally, the rooms worst-affected and that smelt the most abominable were assigned to Corbyn’s staff, and not McNicol’s

 

Right wing hogs resources - LOTO kept in the dark

Perhaps the biggest corruption. Campaign resources during GE2017 were allocated to prioritise right-wing party candidates, with Corbyn being deliberately kept in the dark at all times. This meant leftist candidates were always under-funded and in far more danger of being wiped out at the polls.

All-in-all, it stinks to high heaven of a petty, spiteful, territorial and corrupt faction taking their ball home when they cannot get their own way, like a schoolkid who provides the football in the playground, but refuses to let anyone else play with it unless he is allowed to be one of the captains. It is always the same with the right wing of the Labour Party, and has been since at least the 1950’s. The right wing must always be in charge, the left wing must always do as the right tells them. Any other arrangement, and rebellion breaks out.

And remember, this is only a summary of an overview of what was happening at Labour HQ. So much else was going on in Westminster with the Labour backbenchers trying to remove Corbyn by bullying and by dirty tricks. That he forced a Hung Parliament in his first General Election is a truly miraculous achievement, given he had the mechanisms of his own party set against him every bit as much as the Tory and Liberal Democrat machines were.

Far more analysis is to be done, but what we can say is that this dossier already leaves Iain McNicol and his staff bang-to-rights, and the subtle implications of intrigues with Tom Watson, while not enough to say his guilt has been proven, are clearly too strong to be overlooked.

More to come soon.

______________

FOLLOW-UP IS HERE.

by Martin Odoni

EDIT 13th APRIL: It now has been published.

—————————–

I am just going to leave these details here, and let readers figure it out for themselves.

NOTE: This dossier does not necessarily disprove the long-running ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations against the Labour Party. Indeed, given the report was doubtlessly written using the hopelessly-flawed IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ as a guideline – one that conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism – even applying it retro-actively to the time before it was accepted on any (relatively) wide scale, it will probably conclude that thousands of examples submitted as evidence are valid cases when they are not.

Nonetheless, it appears that it will prove that the right wing of the Labour Party conspired and operated behind the scenes to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and sabotaged the party’s chances of winning the General Elections of 2017 and 2019. In so doing, they not only smeared many of their fellow party members, but also corrupted the United Kingdom’s electoral processes. It proves once and for all that the right wing of the Labour Party would prefer the Tories in power to the left forming a Government. Iain McNicol and Tom Watson must be called to account.

THE WITHHELD DOSSIER MUST BE PUBLISHED IN FULL.