Category Archives: stuttley
Today’s big announcement: “track and trace” to go live tomorrow. Five days earlier than previously announced, and nobody expected the app to be ready for that. Even those supposed to be running the programme were only told this afternoon.
It’s Designed to Fail in so many ways: total centralisation (which has been the UK government’s response throughout – have we learned nothing from the failure of Soviet centralised planning?), an app developed by the government’s mates ignoring both the established (e.g. the South Korean app) and the hopefully-competent (Apple/Google), and a workforce not told what they’re supposed to do.
But we knew that already. Bringing the date forward makes it officially a Dead Cat: give the meeja something to talk about other than disgraceful Cummings and Gowings, free of the rules affecting the rest of us (even government advisers Calderwood and Ferguson). Mephistopheles himself is, it seems, to be exempted if Stuttley can possibly make the story go away.
Here’s a thought. Could bringing track-and-trace forward have caught the inevitable scammers off-guard? Could we perhaps survive the rest of the week before anyone is scammed by someone posing as being from the programme? For this is surely fertile hunting ground for criminals: a call from someone tracing Covid contacts should elicit a wealth of information for phishing and identity theft from a victim anxious to cooperate. I expect willing subjects will leak a lot of inexcusably-valuable secrets, too. And not just on themselves, but on friends, family, colleagues who happen to be identified as possible contacts.
As for the UK app, I’ve been half-meaning to comment on that, so here goes – though today’s announcement serves a second purpose of backpedaling from the focus on it. Concerns have been raised over privacy, and it’s been widely pointed out that its centralised privacy-violating approach is unnecessarily complex, inefficient, and different to that of many countries. For myself, I might bring myself to live with that if it looked like a valid contribution to public health – a supposition now as dead as the cat. But I’m certainly not going to go around making my phone a sitting duck by broadcasting bluetooth to every malefactor who might be listening. Neither should anyone else who has valuable information – such as banking apps or payment-enabled channels – on their ‘phone! I wonder how long it’ll be before government underwrites losses from phones through their app – or more likely requires the banks to do so?
And the whole programme headed by a party-political appointee whose claim to fame is that for years under her stewardship, Talktalk became a byword for all that could go wrong in an ISP and then more – an unassailable reputation as the worst-run in the business.
People – most importantly the Chattering Classes – are getting restive. The novelty of Lockdown has worn off somewhat, and there’s a growing clamour for change. The subtly different nuances of Sturgeon’s position have attracted favourable comment, even from the government’s own backbenchers and customary cheerleaders.
But now we have a timetable. No, they haven’t announced it as such, but Stuttley is to return to work next week, and he is not a man to let such an occasion pass without some headline-grabbing flourish. I think now we can be sure that within the next few days there will be an announcement to please the crowd and steal a march on Sturgeon and others. Not of course an unlocking – that would not be welcomed – but there will be some slight easing (whether symbolic or material) and, more importantly, an update to refresh the carrot of our future prospects.
What easing? I wouldn’t like to say. Stuttley’s instinct will be to go further than anyone expects. But he (and his nudge) will want to anticipate public and media reaction: how much pushback (vs welcome) from the media will they want, and will they have thought beyond an initial reaction? Paradoxically being seen to go too far might provoke the most cautious behaviour, just as doing nothing would cause the current lockdown to fray.
 Head of Scottish government (in case she’s unknown to non-UK readers).
And on the fourth day, our Prime Minister rose from
the deadintensive care. How very seasonal that it should be Good Friday.
He’s a similar age to me. He also looks, insofar as I can tell, physically similar to me. Not in the sense that I could pass myself off as him even if I tried, rather that I’d imagine him a likely match for me medically speaking. So insofar as any individual case is meaningful, his severe reaction to covid is not reassuring: I should be personally worried. Unless of course my lurgy last month was indeed a mild case of it.
Blighty is now in lockdown to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. Happily this is not such severe lockdown as many countries, but in terms of numbers of cases and the death rate, we’re now starting to pay the price of delaying lockdown. We deliberately waited until the horse had bolted before closing that stable door.
That opens the floodgates to speculating on the counterfactual: where would we be if we’d locked down earlier? A few days earlier, substantially fewer cases. Weeks earlier, maybe we’d still be clear of it in the general population (c.f. rabies, before that had a vaccine). Or managing it as in Korea with extensive tracing to avoid spread without a more general lockdown.
Except, we have to consider not just infection dynamics, but also public reaction. I think they call it “nudge”. If government had locked us down much earlier, there would have been a lot more resentment and resistance. Perhaps they deliberately dragged their feet even after deciding to lockdown, because they wanted public opinion to be ahead of them. With a buildup of why the **** aren’t they and a reaction of not before time they’ve got a willing population and a high level of compliance.
Except perhaps amongst the young, for whom the personal threat is low but the expected sacrifice is high, and who have already been sold a narrative of generational unfairness. Combine that with the long-term damage of brexit, and today’s levels of support for older people will surely come under growing pressure.
And except perhaps for everyone, if the lockdown proves worse than useless in the longer term – perhaps because return to normality proves impossible without the Herd Immunity of most of the population catching it. But if that happens we’re in good company, with much of the world likely to be in similar trouble.
What they’ve done to the economy is of course a whole nother story. Free no-strings-attached handouts to so many together with closing down so much of the economy was bound to lead to the great fire of Ankh-Morpork (and of course, like any welfare handout, it’s a cruel lottery). A useful scapegoat for exiting the fairytale bubble.
One thing that still isn’t clear is the role of Stuttley’s Diabolical Bargain. I was wrong when I first wrote about it, and again when I thought May’s appointing him Foreign Secretary would spare us him as PM by exposing him to everyone as bully and coward. Now coronavirus has given him his dream Boys Own crisis, only to go off-script by denying him the regular hero’s role of casually brushing off the danger while others succumb On the other hand, maybe that’s another twist that’ll spare him some serious blame. Diabolus movet arcano modo.
 A naïve foreigner sells insurance to a businessman, who naturally then makes a very thorough job of burning down his premises to collect his free money.
 His course through the lurgy should’ve been swapped with health secretary Hancock – diagnosed with covid at the same time as Stuttley but made a quick recovery. Talking of which, am I the only one who can’t hear the health secretary’s name without my thoughts turning to his namesake Tony Hancock, the comedian whose persona was Village Idiot of Suburbia?
I think perhaps we need a watch on our devious prime minister. His sycophantic party, rid of its moderates in the Stalinist purge last autumn, looks unlikely to hold him to account.
Today’s big announcement: sale of new fossil-fuel-powered cars to be banned from 2035. Great (if it happens). Just a shame no such thing happened much earlier in my life. It’s a good signal to be sending to the world – insofar as anyone believes him. Not that many will: if actions speak louder than words, his unexplained sacking of Claire O’Neill from the Glasgow summit, coming hard on the heels of the Flybe bailout, drives a Chelsea Tractor through his credibility on the environment.
On the other hand, the man who brought Boris Bikes to London seems likely to be someone genuinely keen to breathe cleaner air. I expect he’ll be well-pleased if we hit the target. It’s just not credible that that’s the primary motive for making the announcement today.
Car industry reacts with alarm (well they would, wouldn’t they)? My first thought: this pre-empts more announcements of them reducing capacity here, and the unspoken brexit-bonus headlines: people who voted to lose their jobs, lose their jobs. Now there’s a new scapegoat. But that’s not really plausible: much more likely he wants the industry to stay. His announcement, and the industry reaction, are preparing for some big bungs of taxpayer money to bribe them to stay here and invest in re-tooling to produce electric cars.
I wonder if this could be Good News for my very small shareholding in one of the companies providing charging points for electric cars? I see them in quite a few places now (for example, Lidl’s car park), but the bottleneck isn’t them, it’s the electricity generation and distribution capacity.