Though I am sorry he can’t sleep, I am very happy if I helped inspire the blog posted this morning by former Welsh government minister Leighton Andrews. Like me, Leighton knows both sides of the government/media fence, having been with the BBC before going into politics. Like me, he also watches the government briefings with a mix of frustration and alarm. Anyway, I think his Convinsomnia will be worth it if just one journalist asked just one of the excellent questions he writes below. Thanks Leighton, and thanks too for TUF – it deserves to catch on … here goes....
… Somewhere in the thousands of words he has written over the last few weeks, Alastair Campbell said he had been suffering from ‘Covinsomnia’. Maybe it was in a tweet, because I can’t find it now. Anyway, last night I seemed to be suffering from a bout of Campbell Covinsomnia myself. I’m not sure why. I went to bed early and I was relaxed and ready for sleep. I made bread yesterday – Adrian Chiles, you forgot to remind us to grease the tin. I went for a bike ride. I cleared my email backlog during the day. I listened to the new Strokes and Laura Marling albums (yes, I’m getting value now from my Spotify account.)
I’ve been back to sleep since, but whether it was caused by the UK government or not, when I woke in the middle of the night, I was turning over in my mind the latest woeful UK Government press conference yesterday afternoon. And the latest abject performance by political journalists. Alastair has written on several occasions about the questions he thinks need to be asked. Here are some of mine, with follow-ups for when The Usual Flannel (TUF for short) is given in answers.
- Will Matt Hancock’s target of 100,000 tests a day be met by 30 April? Yes or no? (If Hancock is doing the briefing and offers TUF, then ask if he will resign if the target he announced is not met)
- How many tests were done yesterday? (If TUF, ask ‘last week?’)
- Is testing central to relaxing the lockdown? Yes or no? If so, how many tests per day will be needed before the lockdown can be relaxed? What’s the point of the app if you are not testing intensively?
- The chief scientific adviser said the plateau, not yet reached, might last for two weeks or more. How many deaths does the government expect by 30 April? (If TUF, ask 25,000? 30,000?)
- Why did the chief scientific adviser say that countries are reporting hospital deaths only when France is reporting combined deaths? If TUF, ask what estimates does the government have for deaths at home or in care home settings overall.
- How many additional ventilators have now been delivered since the promise of 30,000 extra was made in March?
- Emmanuel Macron yesterday set out a plan for lifting the lockdown in stages. What is the UK government’s strategy for relaxing the lockdown? Could we see a similar staged response? (If TUF, ask what are the detailed work streams which the government is examining to allow a lifting of the lockdown).
- President Macron announced that all French people would be able to procure a mask. Does that feature in UK government plans for ending the lockdown?
- Does the government agree with the Home Office deputy scientific adviser who told Passport Office workers a week ago that 80% of people in the UK will get COVID-19?(If TUF, ask what is your current planning assumption for percentage of UK citizens who will be infected in 2020)?
- Does the government accept that the current death rate indicates that the recent Washington study suggesting 66,000 deaths in the UK by August is right?
There are many more questions. These are just the ones I want asked, and answered, now. A lot less TUF, please. The press conferences so far tell me that rabbits do better in headlights. And I’m talking about the journalists as much as the government spokespeople – who have been TUF-ing it out for months.