Artillery Row

Pin the tail on the lockdown donkey

We are regularly told that Britain is on the brink of crises, but where is the evidence to support this?

However many waves of Covid-19 there will be, we have endured more waves of dire warnings. Our inclination to gather as social animals has been tested and restricted from weddings to funerals, parties to protests.

In 2020 we have repeatedly been told that mass gatherings and the loosening of lockdown screws would result in more Covid-19 cases, more deaths, a surge, another wave, a tsunami, a worst-case scenario. Disaster has always been around the corner; by the time we are around that corner, we are onto the next crisis.

Here are eight times that the doom-mongering modellers and the pessimistic politicians and pundits that comprise Team Apocalypse told the people of the UK that they had caused disaster and death.

8 May – VE Day

Despite being urged to stay at home, people held socially-distant street gatherings for VE Day, braving the UK media’s disapprobation. Villagers in Grappenhall were described as “breathtakingly stupid” by the Secret Barrister for performing a socially-distanced conga holding a rope marked at 2 metre intervals. A local journalist commented that “the best thing the Grappenhall conga line could have done was to keep on dancing all the way down Knutsford Road to Warrington Hospital.” Yet they must have found their way home, as there were no Covid-19 deaths in the local hospital over the next several weeks.

26 May – Bank Holiday

Tourism bosses and local authorities panicked by the beautiful weather forecasts warned people to stay at home for the Bank Holiday. Merseyside employed a charming “Wish You Weren’t Here!” campaign. Perhaps the high temperatures and fresh air weren’t conducive to disease transmission; no spike in deaths followed.

16 May Onwards – Anti-Lockdown Protests

Anti-lockdown protests inspired outrage. People who attended were labelled “idiots” and “selfish anti-lockdown morons” who would “put everyone at risk”. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, branded anti-lockdown protests “unacceptable”. There was no discernible impact on deaths.

31 May Onwards – Black Lives Matter Protests

Whom does the evidence make an ass of? Not the “Covidiots”

Many thousands took to the streets in a series of protests over the death of George Floyd and in support of Black Lives Matter. This time, politicians, the police and media were fairly quiet about the risk of spreading Covid-19. Sadiq Khan said, “To the thousands of Londoners who protested peacefully today: I stand with you.” An article in The Guardian claimed that the mobility of crowds and mask wearing reduced risk. One study, reported in The Independent, went further and said the protests helped increase social distancing behaviours. Although the science must have changed, as Priti Patel said this week she’d like to ban protests of more than two people.

25 June – Bournemouth Beach

A “major incident” was declared at Bournemouth beach on 25 June. There were half a million visitors in Dorset, roads were gridlocked and the beaches were full. Local MP Tobias Ellwood said that people were “being selfish and also acting dangerously”. Chief Medical Offer, Chris Whitty responded to the beach scenes by saying that Covid-19 cases would “rise again”. They didn’t.

4 July – Super Saturday

Dubbed “UK’s Independence Day” or “Super Saturday”, 4 July was the day that pubs re-opened in Britain. Places of worship opened too, but people seemed more cross about the pubs. Predictably, news stories on 5 July contained photographs of crowded streets of “drunken idiots”. While most of Britain probably celebrated sensibly, one police officer claimed to have dealt with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more drunks”. A Saturday night then. “Welcome to the second wave” one furious commentator said.

September – Back to School and University

Academics and unions warned that students preparing to return to university were risking a “public health crisis” and that we were “weeks away” from “sleepwalking into a disaster”. They also grumbled that plans to make schools “Covid secure” were “unviable”. In line with fresher’s flu and back to school sniffles, cases of Covid-19 undeniably rose in September although deaths remained low.


Neil Ferguson of Imperial College warned that households mixing “risks some transmission and there will be consequences of that. Some people will die because of getting infected on that day.” Happy Christmas to you too, Neil. Let’s see.

In a twist on “pin the tail on the donkey”, see if you can locate the super-spreader events on the graph of deaths and discern any impact. Then see if you can pinpoint the following interventions: lockdown 1.0, masks on transport, masks in shops, rule of 6.

Has the illusion of control exaggerated our belief that we can control the course of a virus?

The sneering attitudes towards people who would gather and mingle are definitely not illusory. Journalists, politicians and the public condemned ordinary people as “Covidiots” and “selfish”. People are more likely to assume responsibility when things go right, and less responsibility when things go wrong; perhaps they simply need scapegoats lined up for the crisis around the corner. Bringing a third animal into the mix, whom does the graph make an ass of? Not the “Covidiots”.

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