James O'Brien caller suggests worst mistake PM made in handling Covid

3 November 2020, 12:37 | Updated: 3 November 2020, 12:47

This James O'Brien caller posits the worst mistake "of many" the Government made in the handling of coronavirus.

Caller Harry told James that at the end of the last lockdown, despite achieving a R number of below one and having the virus under a degree of control, "we opened a vast amount of our economy in quite quick succession."

"Schools and universities came back, there was Eat Out to Help Out, our service industry was back up and running, pro sports came back and you had your banks in Central London at the behest of the good mayor saying they needed their employees to come back," Harry said.

He continued: "We have no idea where in the economy the R number is taking the biggest hit because at the time we had it under control, they had the opportunity to experiment with different areas of our economy and see whether or not the service industry that really boosts the R, or if it's hospitality."

If the Government had chosen to do that, the UK might have been able to find a successful equilibrium between protecting people from the virus and having our economy running.

Responding to James' question of why SAGE scientists would ever lie about the data, as some right wing papers have implied, Harry posits they might have done this due to the "hugely underwhelming" effect of the lockdown.

James countered that the exiting of lockdown was a political and economic choice, not scientific.

Harry posited that the scientists "maybe are lying" through politically driven reasons: "My conclusion that unfortunately, the nature of statistics these days is there's such a wealth of information out there, that it's actually quite easy to manipulate the data in your favour."

"In trying to get public support for your opinion, you need to have an idea which is easily conveyed," Harry said, "perhaps trying to explain...running a proper experimental reopening of our economy whereby we stress test different areas and reach quasi-scientific conclusions about which areas of our economy up and running, perhaps that messaging is not something which we can actually do."

James observed that this would be entirely opposite to the current Government messaging which is "simplistic and often quite crass."