Precaution is a useful thing, but designing policy based on maybes is a dangerous road

It is is so familiar, the script almost writes itself. Health professionals start to call for more restrictive measures at the slightest whiff of bad news. The government initially dismisses the concerns. Gradually, ministers – many of them almost wholly innumerate – are beaten into submission by projections of what might happen. If we were […]

Unchallenged inflation will make strike action the norm in a new labour market

Last Friday, London once again muddled through the inconvenience of yet another Tube strike. Another one is planned for the middle of December. They are just as much a feature of the metropolitan scene as Big Ben. Until more of the trains are automated, Tube staff will retain the capacity to cause disruption. But this […]

New winter Covid restrictions would make it official policy to pray for a better day

A trip to the Scottish Highlands is always refreshing. Despite the shortening days, the hills were in perfect late autumn condition. It clears your mind and helps you reflect on what’s not working. This time around, it was more interesting than usual: it illuminated the stark contradictions and hypocrisy of the current Covid regulations, administered […]

Britons squeamish to spend their savings are jeopardising our economic recovery

The economic recovery is under threat. British consumers are saving and not spending. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that during lockdown, households accumulated a massive £180bn of so-called “excess savings”.   Earlier in the year, most economic forecasts assumed that these would be run down. Lockdown had constrained people’s normal behaviour and with the […]

The influencer economy: online ranking systems are a purveyor of inequality

To the victor the spoils.  This well-known phrase might be thought to relate to the recent Olympics. Except that it is not a really accurate description of the Games themselves. True, the gold medallist gains more kudos than the silver or bronze. But at future athletics meets, for example, all three can expect an increase […]

Beware those who’d lock us down and throw away the key

Rather like dedicated Remainers, pro-lockdown enthusiasts never seem to give up. Their ardour will have been fuelled by leaks over the weekend of results from the epidemiological models. Apparently, even though quite soon all the over-70s will have been jabbed, lifting restrictions before the summer would lead to a massive third wave of the virus.  […]

Cash for Covid? Cash for jabs makes far more sense

As the snow fell on Sunday, I almost expected a Cabinet minister to address the nation that very evening: “Don’t go out in the snow. Don’t slip and sprain an ankle. Save the NHS!” It could have been backed up by a scientist brandishing a chart and a “model” to demonstrate that icy weather led to […]

The Government scientists’ credibility is shot to pieces

Imagine.  No, not the silly childish song by John Lennon.  Imagine there were no vaccines available.  What would Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, do? He might ask people to pay more attention to the scientific advice. But the plain fact is that the credibility of Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and […]

Want people to get the Covid vaccine? Pay them

The vaccines seem to be coming thick and fast. The task now is to ensure that enough people get them to keep the virus under control. The first issue is one of logistics. The track record of the UK’s health bureaucracy during the crisis has not been good. But the NHS does have experience of […]