NEWS: Non-essential shops have “low impact” on COVID

The scientific advice that Welsh Government used to impose a three week circuit lockdown from Friday has been published.

It seeks to make the case for a firebreaker lockdown however the Technical Advisory Cell report says non-essential shops and outdoor socialising poses a very minimal impact on the rate of infection (R).

It raises concerns that the new lockdown imposed by the Welsh Government was not purely based on the scientific evidence.

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for the Economy said in response to questions on these points: ‘The advice was that while a number of activities have small impacts on the R rate, taken together they have a significant impact. To keep schools open we need as many gains elsewhere as possible.”

Questions still remain over how closing hair salons for example, another sector said to be low risk, will impact education.

Technical Advisory Cell report

Drakeford is Drunk on Power

Drakeford is Drunk on Power

Charlie Evans

I am cross. I would like to say I am a measured guy but Wales’ new lockdown has left me feeling depressed, sad and angry. Who would have thought when devolution was breathed into life that a sitting First Minister could unilaterally lock up his people under a mandatory house arrest, without scrutiny and decided by dictat. Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething, Ken Skates and the Welsh Labour gang can remove your rights and your liberties at the click of a finger. Do we live in the United Kingdom or not?

Mark Drakeford will deny this of course- but he is drunk on power. He and his mates will claim that he’s doing us all a favour in the name of “public health”. That’s because in this little closed circle, made up of people full of their own self-importance, they are not attuned with the people their decisions truly impact. It won’t be his job that is put onto the economic bonfire- it’s the shopworkers in Aberystwyth who now find themselves out of a job because of a virus that has barely touched the town. It’s the hotelier in Narberth who has put their entire life’s work into their business only to be stripped of its customers and forced to close. It’s the student who has just arrived in Cardiff University and now told they can’t go back home. It’s the young barber who came to this country to make a better life for himself only to be told he has to close. It’s the cancer patient whose prognosis has worsened, and things were getting better, but now the situation worsens. The priest who can no longer tend to his flock. These are the forgotten people, the little people who these power-craven fools can exert power over.

“But lockdown was inevitable!” they will say. Absolute piffle. Where were the lockdowns by ward level? Where is the proper tracing and test results delivered within 24 hours? Where is the shielding to protect the genuinely vulnerable? Instead, the Welsh Labour Government has wielded the full totalitarian power of the state and mandated us to stay at home.

In this little closed circle, made up of people full of their own self-importance, they are not attuned with the people their decisions truly impact.

Charlie Evans

Where is the engagement with elected members of the Senedd? Instead we have a government that leaks so much it makes a local authority public urinal look well-plumbed- to the media and to different interest groups. We now learn of the dismantling of human freedoms on Twitter.

And beware- if these autocrats can do this for 17 days, believe you me they will happily do it for longer even if doesn’t work.

It is truly terrifying how normal and easy this has become. Governments now don’t need to provide any evidence to close your business, your church, your local high street, your social interactions. This is the “new normal”. I am no conspiracy theorist- but I am truly terrified by what Drakeford is doing to our nation.

This Welsh Government is out of ideas, power-mad and is signalling the death knell of civil society. It will take the Welsh public to wrestle power from them. They have lost control over Coronavirus so now they seek to control us.

Sign Our Petition: No to Nationwide lockdown

Sign Our Petition: No to Nationwide lockdown

The Prydain Review Team

Over the weekend, reports emerged that the Welsh Government were contemplating a nation-wide lockdown similar to that deployed in March.

This would be ill-advised and would be a disproportionate reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic. We instead call on the Welsh Government to resist imposing a nationwide lockdown and instead focus on implementing data-driven hyper localised lockdowns.

To do this would allow areas with low transmission of the virus to avoid being forced into lockdown. A disproportionate national lockdown punishes counties with low community transmission of the virus; will lead to an unnecessarily increase unemployment, cause the failure of businesses; and exacerbate the isolation that individuals have experienced. In addition, nationwide lockdown risks having a detrimental impact on public health denying individuals treatments, for cancer and heart disease.  

This can be avoided, but it requires the Welsh Government to instead focus on hyper- localised lockdowns and providing financial support where appropriate to those affected. 

Sign our petition here

NEWS: Clothing and non-essential retail to close in Wales

NEWS: Clothing and non-essential retail to close in Wales

Sources tell us Welsh Government have been liaising with Welsh business leaders this morning on a decision to close clothing retail stores and other non-essential retail in a ‘fire-breaker lockdown’. It is expected to last for between two to three weeks.

There is no evidence to suggest clothing stores are spreading the coronavirus.

Question Time

Question Time

Daran Hill

You know who I feel most sorry for in Welsh politics? The guy in the Senedd on £45,000 a year whose full time role is rejigging the seating plan for a room hardly anyone uses anymore. He never gets to put his expensive loafers up for long.

So Mark Reckless is off again. The man with more new homes than Dr David Banner is moving house again.

So how does this latest defection make you feel?

Were you furious when Mark Reckless left UKIP to join the Welsh Conservatives?

Were you incandescent when Mark then moved from the Tories to the Brexit Party?

Are you spitting blood and venom today now that he has pitched his flag on the grumbly male charabanc of Abolition?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it’s likely your feelings about all three of them will be the same. You will really, really not like the idea of Members of the Senedd being allowed to change parties.

So let’s try another question, aimed just at those who are frothing at the mouth.

Would you have actually voted for Mark Reckless in any of the iterations he had presented since 2016?

What about UKIP Mark – or Mark Mark One – bedecked in purple and bestriding the stallion of victory in the 2016 referendum in Wales?

Or how about Mark Mark Two, in sensible Tory suit and blue tie, standing at the back of a big group shot but being slightly distanced from the rest of the gang?

Or Mark Mark Three, his blue tie paler, and his sword of truth and justice wet with the triumphal blood of the 2019 Euro Elections in Wales?

Or the Guido Fawkes version, Mark Mark Four, complete with Spanish moustache, powder kegs and a box of matches to burn the ‘Assembly’ to the ground?

My guess is that if you are really, really outraged at Mark Reckless then you are really, really never likely to have voted for him in any of his outfits, now matter how snazzy.

Mark will have probably not lost your vote today compared to his jump to the Tories or his romance with the Brexit Party.

But let me ask another question of those perpetually outraged: are you a Member of the Senedd that Mark now wants to abolish?

And if you are, then this brief column is aimed at you. Because I have further questions.

Firstly, can you not see that Mark Reckless has been pushed further and further into the arms of Abolish by the very culture prevalent in the Senedd?

Can you not recognise that someone has been on a journey not because he did not like the Senedd when he glimpsed it from afar, but because he did not like what he saw when he got up close?

And every year that went by he became less and less comfortable with a culture where there are now goodies and baddies?

Are you really comfortable with the development of an institution where some Members of the Senedd – not just confined to the unMagnificent Seven first elected for UKIP in 2016 – are now basically denied the rights and privileges most Members enjoy by default?

And one final set of questions to all those Members of the Senedd who are absolutely fecking livid right now. Why didn’t you actually try and change the system to prevent MSs moving between party when you had the chance?

You must remember. It’s when you debated that glorious Bill to change the Senedd’s name and you had to sit into the night and bring in thermos flasks of Bovril and dairylea sandwiches to sustain you through hours of heated debate into the wee small hours, because the name on the door was the most pressing issue you were facing that term and you had to apply your focus and your stamina to dealing with that critical issue of democracy.

You’ll also recall – if any one of you are still reading – that in the rest of the rag bag Bill that you changed the franchise ever so slightly and tinkered around with some other stuff.

But none of you – absolutely none of you – tried to change the rules to stop Members of the Senedd switching parties.

So let me pose a final question: what the actual feck are you going to do about it now – just jaw off in indignation on Twitter, or actually prevent it from happening again?

Closing Wales to the English is unenforceable, prejudiced and stupid

Closing Wales to the English is unenforceable, prejudiced and stupid

Matthew Paul

If Covid-19 has created a Blitz spirit among Britons, it’s not the spirit of stoic resilience you most commonly associate with that national struggle for survival. Rather, it is the Chief Warden Hodges, put-out-that-light tendency that seems to have prevailed. The pandemic has empowered all the country’s biggest idiots, and set them to work imposing arbitrary, irrational and superstitious restrictions on daily life.

This week, it looked as though the University of York would romp home by several lengths in the wacky ‘Rona rules races, with its unsatisfactory recommendation that in the event of fire, self-isolating students in its halls of residence should not rush precipitately outside, but spend a minute or two waiting in their rooms out of consideration to fellow residents.

It may be right that many students would prefer an agonising, fiery death to the risk of catching Coronavirus by excessive proximity in stairways or corridors. It may also be right that people in Wales prefer the complete devastation of their tourist economy and hospitality industry, to the remote risk of harm associated with welcoming Scousers on an autumn break. That, at any rate, is what the Welsh Government believes.

Here in Wales, it’s easy to find the country’s biggest idiots because they cut about wearing red rosettes and swanking the title ‘AS’, which is only one ‘S’ short of the truth. Their leader Mark Drakeford, who has now soared among the Welsh public to near-recognition as First Minister of Wales, decided on Wednesday to completely outdo York University by taking the measured and proportionate step of announcing his country closed to the English. This was in response to the perceived threat of Scouse, Brummie and other potentially contaminated English holidaymakers descending on Wales over half term, and spreading their Saxon lurgy over our pristine shores.

Welsh Covid-19 lockdown regulations already make it an offence for people resident elsewhere (including any part of England) to enter or, having entered, to remain in locked-down areas in Wales without reasonable excuse. By contrast, the Tier 1, 2 and 3 restrictions in England only limit or prohibit activities within areas subject to the restrictions; they don’t prevent people entering or leaving those areas.

This isn’t an accidental omission by English legislators; restrictions on movement between local authority areas are completely unenforceable. People often aren’t aware of what local authority area they live in, or where the boundaries lie. Millions upon millions of necessary journeys take place every day between local authority areas; many of these millions of trips will be between areas with different Covid alert levels. Expecting the police to intercept and question them all would leave little opportunity for them to do anything else; at a time when the problem of misgendering on Twitter has never been more urgent and serious, and David Starkey may already be plotting another interview.

There has similarly been no attempt by Welsh police forces to use roads policing, road blocks, ANPR or other similar means to enforce local lockdowns, and Drakeford must know (not least because Mark Bleasdale –Welsh lead of the Police Federation of England and Wales– has told him so) that the police don’t have the manpower to pull over English vehicles and interrogate their drivers: “On the face of it, this is unenforceable because of the difficulty of identifying where people are coming from and where they are going to. There will also be plenty of individuals travelling legitimately from areas which are not high risk.”

See the source image
Source: Daily Mail

Expecting the police to intercept and question them all would leave little opportunity for them to do anything else; at a time when the problem of misgendering on Twitter has never been more urgent and serious, and David Starkey may already be plotting another interview.

Matthew Paul

Even if Scousers and Brummies do choose to come to Wales for a half-term break, that is a manageable risk, and one people in mid and west Wales should be prepared to take. Instead of closing the country, Mark Drakeford and his Government should be working out ways for providers of holiday accommodation to test their guests, and setting down sensible guidance for visitors and the tourist sector to follow.

But Drakeford, for someone who hated being bullied by mean Welsh Nats when he was growing up in Carmarthenshire, is proving adept at mimicking their language when it suits him. If the Scousers and Brummies can’t be stopped on the Prince of Wales Bridge, enforcement will be devolved upon Wales’ emerging Gestapo of sneaks and grasses: “When they arrive in the far west of Wales,” the First Minister told Times Radio, “I’m afraid they will meet a local population that are fearful, that are anxious and are on the lookout for people who shouldn’t be in those areas.”

There are no border posts between Wales and England, and nor will there ever be. There is no-one, from any part of the United Kingdom, who shouldn’t be in Wales.

Quite apart from the immediate harm this prejudiced posturing will do to the tourism and hospitality industries in Wales –and they’re already on their knees– it is fuelling xenophobic strains of nationalism. The priority here isn’t public health. It’s to pick a meaningless fight with the Westminster Government, sideline Adam Price and his increasingly irrelevant party, and sway the Yes Cymru crowd towards Labour in advance of next year’s (scheduled) Senedd election.

The Welsh Government should be doing all it can to welcome visitors to Wales, and to keep them, and locals, safe. Instead, it has much the same plan for Coronavirus as the University of York has for fires: we waste time dithering inside our homes, while all around us the economy is burning down.

This article was originally published in The Pembrokeshire Herald.

The Starmer Honeymoon Is Over

The Starmer Honeymoon Is Over

Charlie Evans

It had been a good start for Sir Keir as Labour leader since assuming the leadership of the Labour Party from the hopeless Jeremy Corbyn. He’s done much to root out the antisemitic virus which was raging throughout the Labour Party. He has draped himself in the Union Jack and appealed to the Blue Wall. He had largely been a constructive voice on coronavirus and at the beginning certainly wasn’t being “opposition for opposition’s sake”. He has been perceived to be a competent and credible voice. His calm and composure has been welcomed by the British public with his own polling ratings being incredibly high and the Labour Party now neck and neck with the Tories in opinion polling.

However, he has been excused of fence-sitting, being nicknamed Captain Hindsight by the Prime Minister.

His opposition appeared to be becoming more robust threatening to vote against the 10pm curfew, but then subsequently supporting it. He and the Labour Party started getting tetchy at the severity of the local restrictions and even used Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight data of increasing infection rates in these local lockdown areas. Labour MPs in the North West including members of his frontbench team wrote to the government complaining of these new restrictions.

See the source image
Source: Express and Star

Starmer’s first decisive decision he has taken as Labour leader is clearly a wrong one.

Charlie Evans

So it was news to me when at his alternative press conference he said he now supports a so-called “circuit breaker lockdowns”, plunging areas such as the south of England and rural counties like Herefordshire and Worcestershire into closing bars and restaurants when the coronavirus has very little prevalence. This approach is now being actively looked at by Mark Drakeford too. Why should Pembrokeshire which is successfully keeping the virus at bay be punished by national measures when we are doing a blinking good job at it?

It is all too convenient for Keir Starmer. Polling on lockdowns is clear- the public supports them, albeit by an increasingly smaller margin as lockdown fatigue sets in. But the scientists now largely do not, beyond the discredited SAGE scientists who have frequently got it wrong. The World Health Organisation is clear- localised approaches and test and trace are the only means to control the virus and prevent social, economic and public health damage. 9,495 medical and public health scientists have signed the Great Barrington Declaration rallying against lockdowns as have 24,982 medical practitioners. The argument of course is that test and trace and local lockdowns have not worked. There’s no evidence to suggest Starmer’s approach will work- this is against a backdrop of Swedes working and playing in freedom and sees their cases and deaths continue to be low.

Starmer, Drakeford and Plaid Cymru cannot explain to us what the endgame is. What happens if rates do not fall in the two to four week period? The original lockdown was supposed to be, by their definition, a “circuit breaker” with a three-week timescale. The reality was very different. What happens if the vaccine isn’t just around the corner? Or if they only provide us with short-term immunity? How many boarded up shops, closed pubs and restaurants, and excess cancer and heart disease deaths are they willing to tolerate? Starmer et al should be saying- we now have to live with this virus. It’s not going away. We need to respect the virus but not shut down life because of it.

Sir Keir Starmer is obviously no Jeremy Corbyn. He seems like a decent and honourable man. His CV attests to that. But his first decisive decision he has taken as Labour leader is clearly a wrong one.

Proportionate response

Proportionate response

Christopher Harries

Benjamin Franklin famously remarked in correspondence that nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Despite the inevitability of death, in an increasingly secular society, the fear of death appears to have taken hold. To assert this is not to downplay death, every death during this pandemic is a tragedy. Yet, fear should not dictate a crude and disproportionate response.

The Pandemic has seen fear taking root with crude government policy enacted as a result. To say this is not to diminish the virus. The virus is pernicious and undoubtedly lethal for some. Accordingly, measures should be encouraged to protect the most at risk like the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Yet, some of the policy implemented seems to be for the sake of appearance.

The policy to close pubs at a set time is one such policy. Are we to assume from this policy that humans have some mogwai like trait that the consumption of alcohol or food after a set time could have Gremlin like consequences? Consumption in a pub after a set time may increase risk, but where is the evidence to rationale the policy?

To allow a semblance of normality to return to life entirely reasonable precautions should be taken while protecting those most at risk. Technology could and should have been implemented earlier to help manage the response to the virus – a track and trace system should have been made available to the public months sooner. In the event of local hot-spots that risk overwhelming health provision then it is eminently sensible for the government to implement short term lockdowns albeit in a hyper localised fashion. A crude national lockdown would needlessly cause untold damage, to truly localise lockdowns when necessary allows individuals in areas without infection to continue to live without unnecessary impediments and businesses to operate.

The Welsh Government must resist the allure of imposing another crude national lockdown. Intervention by the government in response to Coronavirus should be reactive to data and scientific guidance, rather than merely posturing.

The response to Coronavirus must reflect that a vaccine may not be available for some time or even at all. We cannot have all of society cooped up at home to while away the days until deliverance. Long term lockdown is not desirable or sustainable in the long term, locking down society may protect people from the virus however it undoubtedly contributes to deaths from other health conditions due to delays and cancellations of treatments as well as suicide.

Rhetoric and posturing is no substitute for proper governance.

Border Issues

Border Issues

Charlie Evans

Mark Drakeford last night said he was going to send a second letter to Boris Johnson warning that it will be the Welsh Government that will legislate to take action to stop people from high-covid areas in England coming into Wales.

When devolution came into existence, I cannot think many imagined the scenario where the Welsh Parliament, still as part of the United Kingdom, would have the power to erect de-facto border infrastructure. Of course Drakeford denies this and says it is all in the name of “public health”, but what is the evidence that “the English” are bringing COVID into Wales? The calls for evidence over 10pm curfews and pub closures were asked of Welsh Government- there needs to be the same calls over this. If such evidence is not forthcoming, it is no more than dirty politics- making a scapegoat out of England for Wales’ increase in infections. It is not England that has allowed COVID to spread through hospitals leading to many deaths or that decided to lockdown eighty percent of Wales’ people.

Of course this is a nationalist pipe-dream. Not even they in their wildest dreams could have thought up a situation, with a Welsh First Minister standing up to their perceived imperial commanders in Westminster. It has taken a deadly pandemic for separatists to lick their lips and have a taste of what an independent Wales could look like. But whilst this may whet the appetite of the nationalists, it certainly does not do it for me. Only last week I drove through Mid Wales to Hereford through Rhayader and Kington. And as I ventured westward from Herefordshire a few days later to Pembrokeshire, I took in the beautiful nature around the River Wye and the rich history of the counties of Radnorshire and Brecknockshire, as well as the luscious scenery of Carmarthenshire.

We need a non-ideological approach to devolution. Powers should flow freely depending on who is best to carry them out- whether that be local authority, Cardiff or Westminster.

Charlie Evans
See the source image

The border between Wales and England is porous, with its peoples interdependent on one another, yes for business in the form of trade and commuting, but also for the simple human pleasures of nipping over for long walks, lazy Sunday lunches or quick staycations in my case. The problem posed for us unionists is that if Welsh Government has the power to impose restrictions between England and Wales once, they can do so again, all under the innocent cause of protecting us from a medical harm.

We need a non-ideological approach to devolution. Powers should flow freely depending on who is best to carry them out- whether that be local authority, Cardiff or Westminster. People want decisions made based on the merits of them not where they are made. But on this particular issue, however good or noble his intentions are, the Welsh First Minister having the power to block other people coming in from the United Kingdom is the final straw.

Pandemic response being a devolved matter, save for the electorate’s judgements on the performances of Welsh and UK Government, has been a constitutional disaster. There should be complete clarity for our peoples up and down Great Britain in a time of great emergency. It is why in my view, in emergency times, powers such as these should be reserved for the British executive, not left to the likes of Drakeford and Sturgeon who have used this pandemic to their own ends and means.