Andrew Gray 2, BBC 0

Disgracefully and yet wholly unsurprisingly, on 3 February 2020, Boris Johnson’s henchmen prevented half of the attendant media hacks, who were already assembled inside Number Ten, from attending a briefing. Naturally, the prohibited hacks were from media outlets which didn’t regurgitate Tory spin: The Daily Mirror, Independent, The I, The Huff Post and others.

Brilliantly – and in service to their country – journalists from the BBC, ITV, Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Sun, The Financial Times and the Guardian, walked out in solidarity with their journalistic comrades.

Johnson’s dangerous tactic was of course straight from the “Fake News” Trumpian playbook. Each of those principled journalists – particularly their leader, whomever they were (because I bet there was a ringleader) – have performed a great service to this country, giving us all hope in an era of extreme partisanship. Democracies demand a free press.

Laura Kuenssberg, BBC Political Editor, was one of the journalists who walked out. To journalists worth (or not) their salt, this was some story – and they were the story. Given that when Trump did the same thing across the pond the BBC reported it, you’d expect that the BBC would lead with this newsworthy event, or at the very least report it that day. Additionally, you would think that, the ever-tweeting, Kuenessberg, with her 1.1m Twitter followers, would have tweeted from Number 10. But no, nothing.

I knew about the walkout because The Guardian reported it here – on the day it happened. I’m unaware if other news outlets ran this huge story on that day.

I complained to the BBC about their decision to omit this significant event. Here is my complaint:


Was it bias? Did they not want to rock the boat? I don’t know. Regardless of reason, by walking out, the BBC and others were upholding their journalistic vows. But by failing to report their actions, the hacks laid bare their spinelessness. Dominic Cummins now has a self-censoring semi-supine press, just where he wants them.

Here is the BBC’s reply dated 7 February 2020.

Lesson learned: go out of your way to read from a variety of news sources.

In another blog, I’ll share another victory I had against the BBC, for another example of biased reporting.


Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Pre-pandemic, only someone inculcated against hearing accurate news about the NHS would not know how just parlous a state is it in. Never-events are now commonplace, often leading to deaths. A & E waiting times are the highest on record. Children are left on hospital floors, yet Boris wouldn’t look at the proof. Staff morale is at its nadir. Short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors, it is little wonder that the NHS is unfit to face its greatest challenge.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

When in March 2015, after studying the Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates cogently explained why a pandemic was so likely and would be so harmful to health and to the world economy, the powers that be in the UK – the Tories – ignored it.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

When coronavirus – precisely the type of virus which Gates had foreseen – surfaced in December 2019, the Tory Government did next to nothing. Only when the best Italian hospitals, in the wealthiest region of the country, became mortuaries, did the Government click into gear.

Now into the middle of March, I will not forget receiving this letter, which was forwarded to me by Harrogate Borough Council. What is unforgiveable about this letter is the date that it was circulated. Only in mid-March did the Government deem it a good idea to purchase more ventilators – ventilators which hadn’t been designed or manufactured yet, and designed and manufactured during a pandemic. Matt Hancock tells us that “If you make them, we will buy them.”

If we are short of ventilators, and this scarcity kills people, the Tories ought to be toast.

CategoriesThought of The Day

Captain Fantastic

The title of this blog doesn’t refer to our sick PM – no, no, no – rather it refers to a 10 out of 10 film I watched last night, which made me blubber throughout the second half. Though it felt juxtaposed to watch a film whilst the heroes in our NHS are at war, with 260 people losing their lives yesterday, I’ll remember that film, always.

The premise is that a family – husband and wife and their six children – isolate themselves in a forest in the US, with no connection with the outside world. Thriving in their self-built accommodation, hunting for food, growing vegetables, and playing instruments in the evening – life was rosy. Educationally, the children read literature many years more advance than what is “normal”, with their father playing the part of an Oxford Don coupled with Bear Grylls.

Undisputedly, the father is the boss, though the family appear comfortable with his strict regime, which included sprints through the forest and mountain climbing in the rain.

The children were athletic, collegiate and brave. No bickering. Who wouldn’t want such children? Which father wouldn’t want to be that dad? Father envy, I had: there was no task he couldn’t do.

But where was mum? It transpired that mother was in hospital, suffering from a mental health condition. When mum commits suicide, the family undertake a road trip to attend her funeral. I won’t write any more about the plot.

I cannot adequately put into words what it was that made me blubber more than I have ever done. Watching it during this weird period of time, perhaps heightened my reaction. Isolation, home schooling, death, joy, with a reliance on family from afar, all made for a gripping watch. It had all the best ingredients from The Beach, The History Boys, Dead Poet’s Society, Road Trip. Watch it and weep, both in joy and in sorrow.

CategoriesThought of The Day

What should my personal life look like post-pandemic?

  1. Family and friends are still with us.
  2. As a family, we have grown closer.
  3. Proud to have played our bit to help society through this awful time, forging long-lasting relationships.
  4. Aware of the simple things in life, perhaps having slowed down a little.

What should my business life look like post-pandemic?

  1. Alive, so it can we can continue to help people.
  2. Nobody having been furloughed.
  3. We should have stronger relationships with our wider connections.
  4. Feeling fulfilled: that we have been useful to humanity, through our pro bono advice.
  5. Rewired as to how we function as a business, with more flexibility, better technology, higher productivity, with happier colleagues, moving towards a 24-7 business.
  6. Ready to seize opportunities.
  7. All less important to-do items complete.

Thank goodness that Johnson beat Corbyn

(For context, I type this blog just minutes after Johnson and Hancock have tested positive for COVID-19.)

When the electorate cast their vote in December 2019, multiple factors influenced each decision. Chief amongst those reasons was a question of party leadership. When placing the X, most people’s decision comes boils down to this: in a time of impending doom – such as a war – who would you trust most to steer us through?

Above all else, people demand a competent – if not brilliant – leader.

Going into the election, Corbyn’s poll ratings were the worst for any leader of the opposition, ever. Only a person of extreme arrogance and/or incompetence would have led their party when they were fully au fait with the polling. It was the incompetence and intransigence of Corbyn, aided by the follow-the-leader-at-all-costs mentality of the Corbynistas, and abetted by the spineless Labour MPs who wouldn’t derail such an obvious loser, which gave Johnson his commanding majority. Brexit didn’t lose Labour the election, it was toxic Corbyn.

Though Boris must be the least moral of the Prime Ministers in my lifetime (my kids love to ask Alexa how many children the PM has – given that there are a few different answers), as much as it pains me to write it, given our parlous predicament, I’m glad that he beat Corbyn. It isn’t that Johnson is competent – he isn’t – it is that he is more competent than Corbyn. The same can be said for the Cabinet versus the Shadow Cabinet. Bizarrely, faltering Diane Abbot was front and centre of the Labour campaign, whereas Jacob Rees-Mogg was forced by Cummins to self-isolate, given his penchant to put his foot in it.

Now imagine Corbyn, in a national broadcast, asking those who despise him – including 90% of the media – to stay at home. Imagine Corbyn, flanked by McDonnel, introducing what is a Universal Basic Income and nationalising the railways. I don’t believe that most people, even if Corbyn had won the election, would have listened. The Daily Mail and Express would have taken a Trumpian – it’s just the flu – line. We would, therefore, be in a worst position.

But just imagine just how much better a situation we would be in now, particularly in terms of the funding for our beloved NHS, had we not gone through such unnecessary, cruel austerity since 2010. The mad dash to create 10,000 ventilators wouldn’t be a story. The calibre of the leader usually swings an election, but the calibre of the policies makes for a prepared, caring country.

CategoriesThought of The Day

What trends will emerge from this pandemic?

As a business owner, with all the responsibilities which go with it, I need to grasp how the world is going to change – both socially and economically – in order to scope out the likely future. Planning, though, is perhaps now pointless, given that no plan would have foreseen this pandemic.

This blog is primarily for me: for me to organise my thoughts. By committing my thoughts to writing, I find answers. This blog helps me to make sense of things.

  1. The UK has moved leftwards, with a reliance upon the State.
  2. People now know their neighbours – neighbourliness is here to stay. Localism is here to stay.
  3. People will be more appreciative of their public services and the welfare state.
  4. People are beginning to value the simple things in life, which might mean that fripperies are out.
  5. People will become more self-sufficient, planting their own veg.
  6. If the self-employed are largely unscathed, will there be a movement towards self-employment? This looks unlikely.
  7. If employees are left largely unscathed, then the self-employed may choose to become employees.
  8. Environmentalism will accelerate: you can now hear the birds.
  9. As uncertainty is the new norm, people will spend less, accumulating cash.
  10. Young and old will rely on technology.
  11. Home working is the new norm.
  12. School curriculums will become less relevant.
  13. People will cook more, rather than eating out. Foraying outside unnecessarily may feel risky.
  14. People will travel abroad less: will you get back home unquarantined? Will you be quarantined upon arrival? The cruise-ship industry will decline.
  15. There will be less reliance on post. Ever more communication will be electronic.
  16. The new war heroes are the key workers: supermarket staff, delivery drivers, NHS workers, social care staff and all the others. They will receive pay rises. Who is and who isn’t a key worker will become part of the culture.
  17. Medical technology usage will accelerate.
  18. The individuals and organisations which stick with you during the pandemic will garner loyalty for years.
  19. People will spend more time and money on home improvements.
  20. People will be more comfortable with death: people will prepare.
  21. There will be a greater interest in medicine and biology.
  22. International comparisons will be increasingly made for most issues.
  23. If we fair worse than other countries (we are far behind South Korea), British exceptionalism will diminish as a concept.
  24. Many grandparents will have learned how to care and teach their grandchildren from afar.
  25. Families may choose to live in larger houses, pooling resources.
  26. Flats will feel too small, so more people may opt for homes with gardens, which may lead to people leaving the cities.
  27. Religiosity may decline: God didn’t prevent the virus and collective worship spread the virus.
  28. Older generations may fear the spread of germs by younger generations. Care homes will change the mechanics of family visits.
  29. People will become more hygienic. Enforced washing of hands when entering premises will become normal. The spread of other diseases will decline. Cleanliness is here to stay.
  30. There will be a small reduction in the usage of public transport.
  31. Having experienced clear roads and clean air, every traffic jam will grate more than it used to. People may become more local, so that journey times are reduced for all.
  32. The pre-pandemic speed of life may never return.
  33. Parents will feel closer to their children and, though this lockdown period will have been tough, many may feel more confident to home school, thereby reducing the workforce.

And what does this all mean for the economy? I foresee large sectors of the economy reducing in size. The sectors which are hardest hit now will not return to pre-pandemic levels. Cities will experience decline, whereas rural areas and small towns will thrive. Offices will have become less attractive as places to work, though people will still want connection with other humans – so 50-50 home and work will become the new normal. Commuting will feel increasingly pointless.

Given that people will spend less, and that Government will struggle to stimulate demand, coupled with a drop in international demand, a depression seems highly likely. Unemployment will therefore increase, though fewer men (more than women) and women will return to work, choosing instead to spend more time with their children. There is likely to be a move towards a universal basic income, perhaps introduced to stimulate demand for the non-essential items. Obsession with GDP will decline. The pace of life will have slowed down, permanently.

If unemployment is militated against by the introduction of a universal basic income (something which may take years to be introduced), and a reduced full-time workforce, this new world order is likely to be kinder, greener, nicer. However, a large swathe of the private sector is going to have a few challenging years.

CategoriesThought of The Day

Are You Important?

I’m not particularly important to the functioning of society, and nor are most people. But that’s OK. This confirmation was made crystal clear by the Department of Education’s recent list of who the Government states are key workers in our response to COVID-19.

I would argue that the people on this list aren’t just crucial to the tackling of the virus, but they are – and always have been – crucial to the functioning of society. The below people are heroes and have always been heroes.

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms-length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.


This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

When this virus passes, lest we forget the heroes on this list – those who cannot hunker down at home with every other sensible person.

Let’s celebrate the delivery drivers, and the paramedics.

Let’s praise the refuse workers, and the doctors.

Let’s remember the bank workers and the journalists.

Let’s commemorate the supermarket workers and the police.


Lock Them Up?

It’s a criminal offence to speed, because when you speed, you are a danger to others. It is a criminal offence to have unprotected sex, as a HIV carrier, if you haven’t warned your partner of the likely transmission. The libertarian logic underpinning these laws is sound: your actions are causing harm to others and must therefore be stopped.

For caring and intelligent people, their moral compass has been speedily reconfigured to now include the calculation that their actions might lead to the reckless transmission of COVID-19. The news is filled with knackered, mask-wearing medics, carrying signs, imploring people to stay at home, whilst they bravely save lives. If you won’t obey the Prime Minister, at least listen to these hero medics.

The blindspot for some people is that they haven’t grasped that even if they do not display symptoms, then they might still be carriers. Our actions have always had consequences, but now more so than ever.

It’s now time that the law caught up with morality. There have always been, and will always be, people who outsource their moral compass to the low bar set by the law, so we need to raise the legal bar. Some of these people may be super-spreaders – the unmasked mass murderers of this time.

It’s the first obligation of the Government to keep its people safe. Therefore, time-limited emergency legislation is urgently needed to prevent the morally bankrupt from spreading this virus. Chunky £1,000 fines should do the trick, for prison is the last place we would want to place such fools.

CategoriesThought of The Day

Then The Earth Healed

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.

Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

I hope you will agree, this poem is a must-share, in these times.

With the speculation surrounding just how many people COV-19 will take from us, it is right that we remember that according to the World Health Organisation findings, pollution kills around 7 million people annually, with some 40,000 Brits per year. And with our pre-pandemic roads fit-to-bursting, we lose circa 2,500 to road deaths, with thousands of others dying needlessly on the roads.

Whilst the earth heals, due to a significant drop in pollution caused by this pandemic, it might well be that the world’s population will finish this year higher than it would have been. Is this a cause for celebration?

How blinkered we are as a species! We respond with devastating alacrity to acute problems like pandemics, but we find it near-impossible to handle the larger threats to the human species – pollution and climate change. We need a longer lens. It’s time that we press reset on what is important to us as a species.


The Return of the State, and The State Strikes Back

All hail the State! All hail the State.

Those of you who claimed that the only way to recover from the International Banking Crisis of 2008 was to cut, cut and then cut some more, have now been exposed as the phoniest of phoneys – all thanks to this Tory – yes, Tory! – Government’s recent double budget. Theresa May’s Magic Money Tree has been found! And it isn’t just one, miserable tree – oh, no, no – rather it’s a whole forest of Magic Money Trees, prepared to bail us out.

Austerity, meted-out by the Tories for a decade, was a political choice, cloaked in a dishonest narrative, regurgitated by our right-wing press and lapped up by far too many of our citizens. Throughout the last decade, George Osbourne’s project to rewire the country, to penalise those who relied on the State, was proved intellectually and morally bankrupt by all key life indices, yet still too few people took the time – nor had the curiosity – to appraise themselves of the facts. In light of recent events, I dare you to argue with me that austerity wasn’t a choice.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending bonanza – “to do whatever it takes” – to get us through the Corona Depression has killed, once and for all, the Tory lie that the principle which should guide a family’s finances (that you shouldn’t spend more than you have, with some tucked away for rainy day) is the same principle by which a country’s finances should be managed. It isn’t, and never has been. Name a family that can print money, nationalise a bank, create a bond, build HS2. Managed correctly, the State can create confidence, stimulating demand, increasing the tax-take.

Out of the ashes of World War Two came the NHS, Legal Aid and the modern welfare state, even though the world’s economy was on its knees. But what will arise from this Corona Depression? Like World War Two, this virus is no respecter of class. At rapid speed, more people realise that we are all interdependent; that we all rely upon the other. If one of us is destitute, we are collectively all worse for it.

For example (should an example be required), if someone is too impoverished to isolate then spreads the virus, we are all impacted. If someone doesn’t wash their hands, then we all suffer. If one business lays off staff, we all pay to support those unfortunate people.

For those who previously doubted it, know now that we rely on most of our public sector services, as well as our key private sector employees, such as delivery drivers and supermarket personnel. We must all do our bit. Private sector no longer trumps public sector: we need both. And now, surely, we can all accept that if we don’t adequately fund our NHS – just as people have chosen not to do this last decade – we will all catch the cold?