The political plague

The coronavirus is dominating the news schedules. It has even shoved the Alex Salmond trial off the headlines, and when a story is so big that the British media are distracted from all their SNPBaaaaad Christmasses come at once, you know it must be serious. Everyone who has a passing interest in Scottish politics was expecting that the Salmond trial would receive wall to wall coverage and no other story would get a look in. But instead it’s been bumped far down the schedules, and it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention. That’s how serious a story the coronavirus is.

So you might think then that when dealing with a gravely serious story that the media, especially a public broadcaster like the BBC, should be finding equally gravely serious experts to inform us about the realities of the epidemic. You know the kind of thing, professors of epidemiology, or specialists in public health, blinking in the glare of a spotlight that they’re far from used to and struggling to impart their highly specialised and technical knowledge in simple language that ordinary punters like you and me might understand.

You would of course be wrong.

Last night on the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs programme Newsnight, the producers decided that the best person to give us their views on the coronavirus outbreak was Nigel Farage. Maybe they thought there was no one better than Nigel Farage to opine about something that’s going to economically ruin us and isolate us from our neighbours. Maybe the production team thought that it was important to balance all those experts who actually know what they’re talking about with a man who failed his O levels, who has no relevant qualifications whatsoever, and who is no longer an elected politician. He doesn’t have a background in health. He’s not an expert. He’s not a minister or a shadow minister. He is no more informed about the coronavirus than any random punter you might pluck from a gathering of Brexiteers at a karaoke night in Wetherspoons. Who needs informed commentary when you can have an ill-informed populist who might say something controversial and boost your ratings? And that right there is the problem with the British media. Then people wonder why some folk are panic buying toilet paper.

We’ve reached a new level of meta, a plague discussing a virus. Most of us have been trying to self-isolate from Nigel Farage and his sick politics for a couple of years now, but the BBC is determined not to allow us to. Farage is the man who in 2017 tweeted that the World Health Organisation was “just another club of ‘clever people’ who want to bully and tell us what to do. Ignore.” This was in response to a tweet from WHO welcoming the decision of the Vatican to ban the sale of tobacco within the Vatican City. He doesn’t appear to accept that smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer, but hey, he’s abundantly qualified to tell us all about the coronavirus because he has previously visited the north of Italy.

It was just a few weeks ago that the BBC was telling us that we, the public, needed to save it from attempts by the Conservatives to abolish the licence fee and turn the BBC into a glorified subscription only form of Netflix. Now it’s giving us Nigel Farage as an expert in virology. If there’s anyone in the UK that ought to self-isolate, it should be Nigel Farage. And not even because of the coronavirus, just as a general rule. But even then the BBC would only go and interview him by Skype. Next up Nigel will be popping up to give us his hot takes in a glossily produced history documentary about an outbreak of plague in the Roman Empire and will tell us how Rome fell because they allowed in too many migrants from Chersonesus Taurica, and Ann Widdicombe will present a new series about quantum physics.

It’s not as though we’re getting reassuring and confidence inspiring leadership from the British government during this crisis. That makes it all the more imperative that public service broadcasters like the BBC actually perform a public service instead of resorting to giving yet more of a platform to a cheap populist. Especially since the BBC’s proclivity in giving this cheap populist a platform has made a significant contribution to the huge pile of doo-doo in which the UK is currently mired. Yet here we are, getting Nigel Farage paraded yet again in front of the cameras as though he had something worthwhile to say. Clearly no one at the BBC was listening to Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp the other day when he bristled at being asked questions about the virus during a press conference and quite reasonably pointed out that famous people don’t know more about the virus by virtue of being famous, and told the press to go and speak to an expert. So the BBC said to themselves – “Let’s ask Nigel Farage! He’s an expert in shit stirring.”

It’s important that we listen to experts, because this emergency is showing that Boris Johnson is so far out of his depth that it’s like inviting a childrens’ party clown who makes balloon animals as the main speaker at a scientific conference about how to maintain the wild population of rhinos with improved artificial insemination techniques. Although to be fair, Johnson does know a lot about spaffing. In a recent appearance when he’s not been self-isolating from responsibility, the part time British Prime Minister openly speculated about taking the coronavirus on the chin, as though this was a minor defeat in a public school sporting contest and not an epidemic that is affecting millions of people.

Who needs experts when we have Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, and Michael Gove? These are the people who are steering the UK ship of state these days. The UK is where we have a serious epidemic, and the go-to guy is Nigel Farage. So it’s no wonder that support for Scottish independence only keeps growing. Maybe the British media might like to consider the possibility that the reason so many of us are coming to support Scottish independence is because we rather like the idea of public policy which is evidence led and where expert opinion is valued, where we can hold our political class to account, and we’ve had more than enough of the Breakfast TV sofa politics of the UK.

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59 thoughts on “The political plague

  1. Pingback: The political plague | speymouth

  2. The last thing we need is Farage, Johnson or any other uninformed idiot telling us what to do. We need real experts on how a viral epidemic spreads and how to attempt to contain it.

    To find out what somebody on the front line actually fighting an epidemic thinks about the consequences of “keep calm”, read this article from the Independent website.

    • Agreed on the first part Jim, but unfortunately the experts on epidemiology are being drowned out by the politicians and blowhards on news as Paul’s piece amply demonstrated…
      Surprised initially at the fronted Tucker Carlson video condemning the nonsense being peddled until he started his fake-news/partisan-politics spiel…
      The article itself indeed a valuable insight to the reality of the front line actually dealing with the bedlam, another was posted in Indyref2 which I suspect is beyond the Cummings sphere of influence and more likely of what may await the UK…
      Contrasting the Italian government’s “over-reaction” (a la China evidence) to the “wait and see” policy of the UK is somewhat 👀, the only question left is how may deaths may have been avoided after the fact. With the UK’s bulk order of surgical masks requisitioned by the French Government, I suggest fan and excrement are about to hit “efficiency in the NHS” as parroted by every Tory in the last decade, including Handcock…
      One poster elsewhere suggested England was reliving it’s King Cnut moment in history, until one wag pointed out that the similarities to Johnson were only marred by the spelling error….
      As an aside to this, observations from a US cruise-ship victim caught up in this I found quite enlightening

  3. eh he is the man of the people , well in England maybe , I think he is probably well liked down south and on a lot of things he manages to connect to people , I worked with very similar folk for many years our main factory was in thanet (kent) once you get to know them and can stand the Jock jokes and the blowhard bluster they are not a bad lot , But a expert aye ok pinch of salt prob ,

  4. The BBC have Nigel Farage, ITV have Boris Johnson interviewed by Philip Schofield, a man with less depth than a sheet of A4 paper (although that description could fit both of them).

  5. I bet Farage was there to remind people why Brexit was a good thing. The sub-text being, that with freedom of movement gone there won’t disease ridden Europeans flooding into the country and bringing the plague with them. He was just keeping the delusion of Fortress England alive for a few more hours.

  6. It is not a requisite to have intelligence to be in government in the UK.
    What is required is the ability to sound authoritative and lie convincingly.
    England’s public schools know all about this and seem to have an endless supply of such people with which we get inflicted.
    Maybe Trump secretly attended Eton or Harrow when he was young.
    I can’t think of another explanation.

  7. “we rather like the idea of public policy which is evidence led and where expert opinion is valued,”

    Hang on to that science based approach because it’s not just applicable in this case but also for everything else.

    Which, interestingly, is an approach in which some people have been verbally attacked and even cancelled for taking with the requisite level of seriousness. Sometimes even by those who claim to support such an approach.

    • Often thought those graphics would make good campaign stickers or posters.

      (Although any with Farage’s nightmare-inducing grin would be more appropriate for bringing business to trauma therapists!)

  8. I suppose the bbc Scotland based Question Time will dress up Farage as a schoolboy with orange socks so Fiona Bruce can ask him the first question. “Yes young man, do you believe it is the foreigners fault?”

    • Annie Wells will be on BBC Sportsound in place of Michael Stewart to argue the case for Ranjurs playing a back 3 with overlapping wing backs, I hear.
      The BBC is a laughing stock now. Are they still holding cocaine parties allegedly?
      Being out of their tree on drugs would explain a lot.
      Boris Johnson on afternoon TV urging us all to let the virus run its course through the population, and that we should just take it on the chin.
      That would be my chin, and all the hundreds of thousands of 70 year old plus chins who are dying of ignorance and Free Trade Capitalism…they are still flying around the world on business trips?

      Farage must know where the BBC bodies are buried, that’s for sure.
      If Johnson is prepared to ‘take it on the chin’, may I volunteer to grant him his stalwart wish?

  9. This blog confirms we made the correct decision five years ago cancelling our TV licence, but we extend our sympathies to those who suffer for the cause on our behalf. The mainstream media has been hollowed out over the years; the press by falling revenues and the BBC by chasing too many platforms (as the current in-vogue term seems to be) so are unable to wield numerate scientifically literate journalists who could, on our behalf, analyse the readily available epidemiological data and present a readable summary. Instead we get, basically, ‘Don’t Panic’.

    But, hey, the Internet is a wonderous thing and there are others out there doing it for us and, as a result, further undermining the credibility of the msm.

    Most organisms show exponential growth while there are plenty of nutrients, then asymptotic growth when they either run out of nutrition or the environment becomes too toxic for further growth. But, first, there is a lag phase as things get going and the organism adjusts to a new environment. The lag phase can be mistaken for a failure in expected population growth. The UK is in the lag phase of the novel coronavirus and, as of today (things may change) there is an expectation that the lag phase will last, possibly, another two weeks.
    During the lag phase our political masters could choose to try and flatten the epidemic curve so as not to overwhelm the health services, or they could sit on their hands and think of the future savings with less state pensions required. Cynical? Me?

  10. didn’t see yesterday’s Newsnight, but I did hear today’s Good Morning Scotland, which did a terrific job on Coronavirus with Jason Leitch, Scot Gov’s National Clinical Director. Starts about 2 hrs 7 mins in. An entire 20 mins of primetime news given over to some great public service broadcasting:

    • Thanks for that link Ben. Horrific when you think that the BBC presenter in Italy blurted out last night that they have many more ICU beds in Italy than they have in the UK (England?).

    • Yes indeed but worth pointing out once again that parents can take great comfort from the fact that no children under 10 have died and that less than 1 in 500 of those from 10 to 19 have died. Indeed it seems that very low mortality is evident up to the age of 50 and significant mortality only occurs for those over 60.

      This is an unusually age sensitive virus.

      My wife, who is a nearing retirement teacher, has ironically observed that all the school kids seem to be in possession of hand gel dispensers and are using them every 5 minutes while we have been unable to find any in the supermarkets or chemists.

  11. Just been announced that Nadine Dorries, Health Minister, has tested positive for coronavirus.

    Felt I’ll Friday, held constituency surgery Saturday and now self isolating.

      • Nadine Dorries Tory under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care? That’ll rattle a few cages. Wondering if she shook LBJ’s hand?

        Anyway best wishes to her for a full recovery and more so for her 84 year old mother who lives with her.


        Great wee video posted by Ann on Indyref2. Compassion and care. With other countries following suit maybe it’s something that Westminster would consider adopting it? Naw?

        “What Matters to Me” – a new vital sign | Jason Leitch | TEDxGlasgow

  12. Something else that they hadn’t taken into consideration until it was pointed out to them by Ronnie Cowan SNP MP?


    Great article in the National, Paul. Also gave us all a much needed laugh.

    ‘Wee Ginger Dug: British nationalism’s bankruptcy is all around us.’

    • Also the term special measures is not used in Scotland. The guy is a true Britnat. He spends so much time in Westminster he should just self ID as English and be done with it. I am sure he will feel more content with his true identity.

  13. Pingback: The political plague… Why is the BBC giving fascist populist Farage platforms? – New Scotland

  14. Pingback: The political plague… Why is the BBC giving fascist populist Farage platforms? – New Scotland

  15. The Labour Party illegal wars, tax evasion and financial fraud. Wasting £Trillions blowing the world to bits. Causing the worst migrant crisis since the 11WW, which gave the excuse for Brexit. Liars like Farage. Migrant workers now being charged £thousands just to stay here. A complete and utter disgrace.

    The British State. The State of it. It is European countries who have to pick up the cost and try and sort out the mess.

    Looks like Johnston and the Cabinet have the virus.

    Ruining the economy. Another fine mess.

  16. Maybe the BBBC should ‘self isolate’ – there again many of us are helping them do that by not watching their output.

  17. I’d also like to know why ITV are bigging up the asinine comments by the P.M as though he has offered absolutely gems.

  18. Now if there is one person on these islands you’d like to see feeling the effects of the shortages on high street shelves… It’d be Mr Farrago (No. Not a misspelling).

  19. Meanwhile yesterday in the mother of parliaments we had an internal fight between the old guard of the tory party and the new boys and girls, the subject was the Chinese Telecoms company underbidding to win the contract to update the system to G5.
    Unfair says a mr smith, they’ve got so much money they can underbid and not go bankrupt.
    The irony was lost on him on the day that a Chinese company ‘BOUGHT’ little british steel from an Indian company and that a French/Chinese partnership were building a new nuclear power station for englandland.
    He was telling his own party that brexit was about taking back strategic control of the ‘COUNTRY’, it’s reported that 35 tory old guard voted against their own government position, the media are more concerned about a virus.
    Then as reported the junior minister reports being virus positive, hope she voted in the lobby with the other mps and in nice close contact, hope all recover from the illness but reminds them that we all live on a small planet with a very small atmosphere.

  20. want to feel you’re in good Coronavirus hands?

    Have a listen to Jeanne Freeman on this morning’s GMS as the main interview just after 8am.

    And, credit where it’s due, another fine morning for Radio Scotland.

  21. A good comment on Wings this morning ,

    The contributor asked if this union is so great why all the money and daily propaganda to keep this body functioning , if it requires constant Life support maybe something is far wrong and a serious reappraisal is desperately required .

    Some of the stuff on twater from obvious supporters of the union is frankly really depressing so many people either lying through their teeth or seriously deluded , the former are beyond help , the latter unfortunately are deluged daily by the former and so the cycle continues ,another universe exists and the ones that inhabit it are blissfully unaware of the real world and not the media constructed one they reside ,

    it’s a depressing situation that appears endless .

    • You’re so right.
      The alternative universe where spin and words have multiple meanings and where the intent is to confuse by omission.
      Like the passengers from the cruise ship in Japan, have they been tested before getting on the aircraft for the UK, Yes they were.
      Problem, the results arrived after they arrived at Heathrow after an 18 hour flight.
      Yes tested but NO results, media didn’t ask the question, why would they.
      A universe where presenters travel to far flung places to be photographed with a cruise ship passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, Sky did that. The presenters will not catch the virus in that parallel universe.

  22. Perhaps, like his good chump, Trump, Farage has, “a natural ability”?

    Apparently, the Donald really gets, understands and loves that world.

    The naked American emperor and his gurning English clown.

    Is it any wonder Armando Iannucci has given up political satire.

  23. The new chancellor says he understands people get worried about the cironavirus when they turn on the telly – exactly – because they see Boris Johnson is in charge.

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