Never have statisticians, mathematical biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, behavioural scientists and a few epidemiologists dictated government policy to such an extreme degree as over the past year.
By Sonia Elijah
On March 25, 2020, the Coronavirus Act received Royal Assent having been fast-tracked through Parliament in four working days. The Act contained emergency powers to enable public bodies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or Sage, and its subcommittees became the de facto leader of the operation. This was the point at which the UK ceased to be governed by elected representatives.
To this day, Sage do not answer to the public – they don’t even answer to the government. They ‘advise’ the government on all things Covid, and the government is then led by the ‘data’ to implement the most draconian restrictions on freedom in our nation’s history. Sage are accountable to no one. In my opinion, Sage have staged a covert coup and hardly anybody has taken notice, let alone the mainstream media.
Below is a list of attendees from one of the early March Sage meetings just before the first lockdown. I’ve highlighted the key members.
Patrick Vallance (Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer), Jonathan Van-Tam (Deputy Chief Medical Officer), Steve Powis (NHS), Charlotte Watts (Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Development), Angela McLean (Chief Scientific Adviser MoD), John Aston (Chief Scientific Adviser, Home Office), Sharon Peacock (Public Health England), Graham Medley (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), Neil Ferguson (Imperial College), Brooke Rogers (King’s College), James Rubin (King’s College), Jeremy Farrar (Wellcome), David Halpern (Behavioural Insights Team) Ian Diamond (Office for National Statistics), Tom Rodden (Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Aidan Fowler (NHS), Maria Zambon (PHE), Phil Blythe (Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Transport), Wendy Barclay (Imperial College), Peter Horby (Oxford University), John Edmunds (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), Carole Mundell (Chief Scientific Adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
If you take a closer look at the key ‘experts’, they have all had connections in some way with either Big Pharma, Big Tech or the Big NGOs, such as GAVI-The Vaccine Alliance, World Health Organisation, World Economic Forum, World Bank, Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Many have had their research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. In fact, the UK is the biggest beneficiary of university grants given by the Gates Foundation with $744million disbursed to 38 universities, the top beneficiaries being Imperial College London, University College London, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LHSTM), King’s College London and Oxford University.
Many of the key Sage members have held senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry before being government advisers and some hold shares in the pharmaceutical companies they worked for.
In September 2020 the Telegraph revealed that Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, had £600,000 worth of shares in GlaxoSmithKline, which was contracted to develop a coronavirus vaccine. In December 2020 the British Medical Journal wrote that ‘by July the UK government had signed a coronavirus vaccine deal for an undisclosed sum with GlaxoSmithKline, securing 60million doses of an untested treatment that was still being developed.’ If this is not a blatant conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.
Vallance not only held GSK shares but was also president of research and development at GSK from 2012-2017. It was while he was president, in 2013, a partnership between GSK and the Gates Foundation was announced to ‘accelerate research into vaccines for global health needs’.
As a researcher at the LHSTM, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty received £31million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for malaria research.
His deputy, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, joined the pharmaceutical industry as an associate director at SmithKline Beecham (now GSK) in 2000. Van-Tam was Head of Medical Affairs at Roche in 2001 and then went to work at Aventis Pasteur MSD as the UK medical director the following year.
Van-Tam chaired the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) expert advisory group on H5N1 vaccines and advised the WHO during the H5N1 influenza (bird flu) outbreak in 2009- 2010. The WHO in turn triggered countries around the world, including the UK, to buy enormous quantities of the drug oseltamivir (brand name: Tamiflu) produced by the pharmaceutical companies Roche and GSK, former employers of Van-Tam.
An investigation by the BMJ and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, reported by Deborah Cohen and Philip Carter, said some of the experts advising WHO on the pandemic had ‘declarable financial ties with drug companies that were producing antivirals and influenza vaccines. As an example, WHO’s guidance on the use of antivirals in a pandemic was authored by an influenza expert who at the same time was receiving payments from Roche, the manufacturer of oseltamivir (Tamiflu), for consultancy work and lecturing.’
The BBC ran an article stating that ‘hundreds of millions of pounds may have been wasted on a drug for flu that works no better than paracetamol, a landmark analysis has said’. This was based on The Cochrane Collaboration (a global non-profit organisation of 14,000 academics) review on Tamiflu. Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, University of Oxford, stated that the side effects of Tamiflu ‘included serious psychiatric adverse events, renal and metabolic adverse events’.
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At the heart of Sage is SPI-M. It’s been driving government policy ever since the ‘war’ on Covid-19 began. Only very few media outlets, such as TCW and the Daily Mail, have questioned the ‘dodgy data’ derived from its computerised type of modelling. Anyone who suggests it is not perfect is often branded a ‘Covid denier’.
The man who ran the show at SPI-M at the start of the pandemic was Neil Ferguson. He is also acting director of Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium (VIMC) based at Imperial College, which is funded by GAVI-The Vaccine Alliance, in turn funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as TCW reported here.
Just to give a quick recap on how ‘well’ his previous modelling predictions have gone: in 2001, Ferguson’s modelling of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak influenced the UK government pre-emptively to cull well over 6million animals at an estimated £10billion cost to the economy. As a result, the farming community was utterly devastated, giving rise to more centralised power by the EU over UK agriculture.
Professor Michael Thrusfield of Edinburgh University, an expert in animal diseases, later described Ferguson’s modelling during the foot-and-mouth period as ‘severely flawed’ and ‘not fit for purpose’. Ferguson’s predictions of ‘worst-case scenario’ were seen as grossly over-estimated.
This pattern of Ferguson’s models over-playing the ‘doom’ factor has been repeated several times. In 2005 Ferguson claimed that up to 200million people worldwide would die during the bird flu outbreak including up to 750,000 in the UK. This led to the stockpiling of Tamiflu in the UK from 2006; this was widely prescribed later in the swine flu pandemic. The World Health Organisation was able to link only 78 deaths worldwide to the bird flu virus.
In 2009, Imperial’s model led by Ferguson gave rise to the prediction of 65,000 deaths from swine flu in the UK; in fact only 457 deaths were linked to the virus. Based on Ferguson’s model, the government spent £1.2billion to prepare for the swine flu pandemic. As a result, more than 20million unused doses of vaccine were left over.
Once more it was Ferguson’s ‘doomsday’ modelling prediction in the March 16, 2020 report from the Imperial College Covid-19 response team that gave the dire warning of 510,000 UK deaths by the end of May 2020 if the government continued with its ‘herd immunity’ response to the pandemic. This catastrophic prediction caused Boris Johnson to do an abrupt U-turn days later and steered the course for the most draconian restrictions and dreadful lockdowns ever since. It was only after Ferguson was caught flouting the rules in May 2020 when meeting his mistress that he resigned from Sage but he is still, remarkably, a member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag). Given Ferguson’s record, it is hard to understand why he continues to be given a platform to speak and influence UK government policy. It is worth noting that Ferguson was very influential on Boris Johnson’s Christmas U-turn.
While SPI-M provides the ‘mathematical science’ for lockdowns, SPI-B provides the ‘behavioural science’. It’s a key component in its ‘PsyOp’ for the inhumane and disastrous lockdowns that’s estimated to have cost up to 200,000 lives (that’s more than the supposed ‘120,000’ lives taken by COVID-19) and cost the economy £2.4billion a day.
I use the term ‘PsyOp’ in the truest sense of its meaning – a psychological operation or psychological warfare ‘to denote any action which is practised mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people’.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_warfareAnd what was the planned ‘psychological reaction in other people’ that needed to be evoked by Sage last year? Fear. In other words, scare the public senseless and they will do anything you want them to do. This unfortunate truth has been echoed throughout history.
The Johnson government, through SPI-B’s coaxing, expertly crafted a highly effective advertising campaign for COVID-19. The government spent more than £1.1billion of tax-payers’ money on ads such as this.
To understand the ‘behavioural science’ behind the campaign of fearmongering, take a look at a screen shot from the March 22, 2020 Sage meeting.
The highlighted areas show how the SPI-B subcommittee proposed the use of fear – ‘sense of personal threat’ – through the media and intimidation – ‘the use of social disapproval for failure to comply’- against the trusting UK public. They even predicted that the overall effectiveness would be ‘HIGH’ (one of the very few things they were right about).
The report goes on: ‘There are nine broad ways of achieving behaviour change: Education, Persuasion, Incentivisation, Coercion, Enablement, Training, Restriction, Environmental restructuring, and Modelling’ [my emphasis].
Shockingly, ‘coercion’ is listed as an effective way of achieving behaviour change in this report. The current government adopted the technique of coercion with due diligence through its 2020 Coronavirus Act and subsequent draconian laws, with the police handing out fines to people illegally sitting on a park bench, for example.
In summary, the SPI-B report highlighted the need for three elements: fear, intimidation and coercion. They were incorporated into the production of a lethally effective propaganda campaign against the public by the UK government.
A key SPI-B report on ‘Increasing adherence to COVID-19 preventative behaviours among young people’ was considered by Sage on October 22, 2020. It is a shining example of how SPI-B has created a science out of manipulation in order to induce behaviour change it seeks. It recommends techniques that can be used to promote adherence in young people in the face of a decline in ‘following the rules’ by the 18-29 age group. The examples that follow demonstrate the ethically questionable tactics the SPI-B subcommittee deem acceptable. One is using ‘trusted’ celebrities and commercial brands to influence the behaviour of young people:
Another suggests providing young people with ‘free mobile phones data, streaming and gaming’ – in other words, straightforward bribery to induce behaviour change.
The art of manipulation through the means of peer pressure and social conformity is central to the techniques described below.
This is astonishing in the view of concerns about the horrendous effects of online bullying and peer pressure.
The team members involved in the production of this paper and others such as the March 22 SPI-B report, highlighted in Part 2 include:
Professor Susan Michie, SPI-B member, psychologist and political activist who is Professor of health psychology at University College London. She is director of UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change and of its Health Psychology Research Group. She was the wife of former Corbyn adviser Andrew Murray. She’s been a political activist for the Communist Party of Britain for the past 40 years. Michie is also consultant adviser to the World Health Organisation on Covid-19 and behaviour. Her research programme HBCP (Human Behaviour Change Project) is funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Michie was one of the main Sage voices pressurising Boris Johnson to close schools in December, claiming they were ‘unsafe’. Yet, as I noted in an earlier article for TCW on the school closures catastrophe, the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Control) had found schools to be very low transmission settings for Covid-19.
The subsequent U-turn on Christmas and closure of schools, announced on the very eve of the new school term, speaks volumes about how the government has acted during this crisis. Once again Sage played the ‘bad cop’ to Johnson’s ‘good cop’ and Johnson capitulated as has been his pattern all year.
Dr David Halpern, SPI-B member, psychologist and head of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) unofficially known as the Nudge Unit, (since its formation in 2010) co-owned in part by Halpern, its employees, the Cabinet Office and the innovation charity Nesta. The group’s revenues in 2017 climbed by a third to £14million, nearly 40 per cent coming from overseas. Its worldwide clients range from government bodies to the World Bank.
BIT came under scrutiny when Private Eye criticised £200,000-a-year Halpern for charging the government for work it used do itself. It’s worth noting that Halpern was a former member of Tony Blair’s strategy unit and was the first to bring ‘behavioural science’ to Whitehall.
BIT is governed by ’nudge’ theory, conceived by Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thaler, which states that governments can tweak people’s behaviour in subtle ways to avoid legislating and ordering. In 2018, Halpern gave a video presentation for the London Business Forum, explaining more about this concept.
Unfortunately, the benign-sounding ‘nudge’ has been transformed into fear-engendering techniques to ensure compliance with the sledgehammer of lockdown and draconian Covid legislation to which we have been subjected over the last year, culminating in the full-blown Project Fear ‘Look into my eyes’ campaign.
Professor Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a leading authority on crowd psychology, is another member of SPI-B.
Reicher wrote in the Guardian that ‘Covid has done much to further the study of behaviour by bringing it into people’s homes and day-to-day conversations’. Perhaps Reicher let the cat out of the bag with that comment – under the pretext of Covid, we’ve all been part of a mass behavioural science experiment conducted by SPI-B.
Reicher was the author of an inflammatory piece in the Guardian headlined ‘Don’t blame “selfish covidiots”. Blame the government’ and was one of Sage’s most vocal proponents for the third lockdown. At the end of December, he wrote another piece in the Guardian, warning that the vaccine roll-out was not enough and stipulating that a ‘five-point emergency plan’ was absolutely necessary.
The justification for the third lockdown was a variant of SARS-CoV-2 said to have arisen in Kent (variant B117). Sage’s SPI-M estimated that it was up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the previously circulating form of the virus, and warned that it ‘may be more deadly’. The modelling was compiled by the discredited Professor Neil Ferguson, his close Imperial College associate Dr Erik Volz and other members of Nervtag (the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group). This is the new group that provides ‘scientific risk assessment and mitigation advice on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses and on options for their management’.
Volz later admitted that the model that produced the ’70 per cent more transmissible’ statistic was flawed. In an online event on December 18 2020, hosted by Professor Sharon Peacock, executive director and chair of the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium (funded by the Wellcome Trust), Volz talked about the data for the new variant being ‘very noisy and overly dispersed’. He spoke of ‘lots of pitfalls you can fall into when analysing the data’.
He used the A222V variant (variant which arose after UK holiday makers returned from Spain last summer) as a reference. Though the modelling predicted a high fatality rate from this variant, the opposite actually happened with low fatality rates. ‘Trends don’t always pan out,’ Volz noted in his presentation. Yet it was this flawed modelling data for the new variant that Volz himself declared as ‘too early to tell, we don’t have enough data’, along with a preliminary genomic characterisation of the new strain by Nervtag member Wendy Barclay, which led to Johnson ‘cancelling’ Christmas and the UK going into a third hard lockdown with schools, colleges and universities being closed from January 4to March 8.
A Mail Online article revealed that minutes from a meeting of Nervtag on Friday December 18 showed that many members had ‘only moderate confidence’ that the new strain was more transmissible. The majority of members concluded that there was ‘currently insufficient data’ on the new strain and opposed drastic action. Needless to say, after the meeting, ‘data’ presented to Johnson showed the new variant to be highly transmissible.
During the same period, when Ferguson was briefing the Commons Select Committee on the need for the third lockdown based on his modelling, he gave a now notorious interview to the Times in which he casually stated, ‘I didn’t even do biology O-level. I’d never even thought about using mathematics to study biological systems. And there’s something very nice about pandemics in particular, the way they behave mathematically.’ In Part 2 of my report I detailed citing the horrific consequences on our country of Ferguson’s flawed maths. On China’s draconian lockdown measures, Ferguson said: ‘It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought. And then Italy did it. And we realised we could.’ Well, the experts at Sage and its subgroups certainly did get away with it, and as a result our freedoms and most basic human rights have been stripped away from us for an entire year so far.
A recent letter from GP Anne McCloskey to the BMJ highlights the dangers of the lack of public scrutiny of the ‘advice’ given by these scientists. She writes: ‘Governments were advised in this course of action by scientists and medics whose identity, qualifications and aptitude for this work was largely hidden from public scrutiny. Even now, the conflicts of interest of these people on whose advice our futures depend are not publicly available.’
It’s high time for an independent public inquiry to investigate Sage’s modelling data and the conflicts of interest of the scientists and indeed our politicians.
This article was originally published by ‘The Conservative Woman’ in three parts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, authored by Sonia Elijah and has been republished on ‘The Daily Expose’ at the request of the original publishers and author.
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