MP Swayne calls to sack government scientists' over coronavirus warning 'project fear'
SIR Desmond Swayne has slammed a claim by the government’s chief scientists that coronavirus cases could reach 50,000 per day in mid-October– suggesting they said it only to scare the public.
The comments made by Prof. Chris Witty and Sir Patrick Vallance were a “sackable offence”, the New Forest West MP claimed, adding: “It was project fear. It was an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they had not been terrified enough.”
Sir Desmond, an outspoken critic of lockdown measures, also went as far as questioning if Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been “abducted by Dr Strangelove” – the mad scientist portrayed in Stanley Kubrick’s famous anti-war satire – and “reprogrammed by Sage over to the dark side”.
He made the outburst in the House of Commons on Monday, when he said the purpose of politicians was to “impose a sense of proportion” and “not be in thrall” of science.
“I will make myself very unpopular, but I believe that the appearance of the chiefs last week should have been a sacking offence,” the Tory backbencher said.
“When they presented that graph, it was with the caveat that it was not a prediction, but nevertheless it was clear that they presented it as a plausible scenario, with its 50,000 cases per day by mid-October based on the doubling of infections by the week.
“Not on one day since March have there been infections on a day that were double that of the same day of the week preceding, not once.
“Where did this doubling come from? What was their purpose in presenting such a graph? It was the purpose of the fat boy in [Charles Dickens novel] The Pickwick Papers – ‘I wants to make your flesh creep’.”
Sir Desmond said he had “celebrated” the ascension of Mr Johnson to Tory leader and PM, as he thought he would lead a “sceptical and liberal Conservative administration”.
However, he stressed his belief that the government’s lockdown measures and policies to combat the spread of the pandemic were “disproportionate”.
“By decree, they have interfered in our private and family lives, telling us whom we may meet, when we may meet them and what we must wear when we meet them,” he continued.
“We have the cruelty of elderly people in care homes being disoriented, unable to see the faces of their loved ones or to receive a hug.
“We have the tsunami of deaths that we may experience shortly as a consequence of undiagnosed cancers and heart disease, and the discontinuation of clinical trials.”
Sir Desmond added: “I do not underestimate for one moment the horrible nature of this disease and its post-viral syndrome, but in terms of the United Kingdom’s killers, it is 24th in the league, accounting for only 1.4% of deaths.”
Questioned by fellow Tory MP Sir John Redwood about Sweden’s response to the pandemic – which saw it pursue the ‘herd immunity’ theory – Sir Desmond replied that he “certainly” held it up as an alternative.
“We have seen the eye-watering costs that we must now all face for a generation, having closed down our economy for all those months as a consequence of the government’s policy,” he said.
“We face the crushing of enterprises, the destruction of livelihoods, and unemployment among young people, all as a consequence of an overreaction. I understand that there is now some question as to whether students will be allowed to return from university at Christmas.
“I say most gently to the minister that the last administration that sought to restrain celebrations at Christmas was during the Commonwealth, when the Lord Protector was left musing in public whether, if he were to arm one in 10, that would be enough. How many marshals will be required?
“I conclude by saying that the policy of the government has been disproportionate in response to this threat. There may be a virus one day that threatens our very way of life, but this is not it, even if we are behaving as if it were.”
After the debate Sir Desmond said he had received an “extraordinary” response to his speech in his email inbox. “There’s been 500 overnight and they keep coming thick and fast. All in support except for just two so far. Not just from New Forest, from all over: France, USA and Australia.”
On Wednesday, in the face of a Tory backbench rebellion over the extension of the Coronavirus Act which gives the government emergency powers, health secretary Matt Hancock promised MPs votes “wherever possible” on new measures.