Marcus Stead

Journalist Marcus Stead

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Radio Sputnik Interview

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Earlier today, I appeared on Radio Sputnik to discuss the balance between protecting public health and the need to reopen the economy. I also assessed the challenges social distancing measures bring to the private sector:

You can listen to the interview in full below:


Written by Marcus Stead

June 16, 2020 at 11:13 pm

Twenty Minute Topic Episode 39: The New Normal

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Marcus Stead June 2020

Marcus Stead

WHAT IS ‘the new normal’? It’s a phrase we hear a lot on TV news bulletins and read a lot in the papers, but what does it actually mean? As the lockdown begins to ease, and economic activity picks up, what restrictions on working life and on recreation are we going to have to learn to live with well into the future?

Marcus Stead and Greg Lance-Watkins discuss whether restaurants, theatres and other places of recreation have a future, if social distancing means they will have to operate at massively reduced levels of capacity.

The discussion then turns to the wider issue of tax revenue. Around 60% of tax yield comes from VAT and National Insurance. With places of entertainment and recreation operating in a much-reduced way, this, in turn, means a much-reduced tax revenue. What does this mean for the future of public services and public sector workers?

Finally, the discussion turns to new ways of working. The pandemic has proven that it is possible for many office jobs to be done from home, most of the time. Businesses will increasingly question whether they need so much office space. But will the trend spread to other sectors?

The podcast is available on the Talk Podcasts website, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and the TuneIn app.

Written by Marcus Stead

June 3, 2020 at 2:44 am

Why it’s time to stop the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’

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ON THE evening of Thursday 25 March, I opened up my balcony shortly before 8pm. The sun had just set on a cool, early spring day and I put Sky News on in the background to await the first ‘Clap for Carers’.

One minute before the start, I turned the sound down on my TV because I wanted to appreciate the noise around me from my neighbours and in the adjoining streets. What followed was something very special. For around five minutes, I could hear applause, cheering, and the banging of pots and pans in all directions. When it ended, I turned up the volume on my TV to listen to people being interviewed in all parts of Britain, who had just taken part in an act of mass appreciation.

I was glad to have been a part of that. With the lockdown still new and COVID-19 cases rising rapidly, I was happy to have done my bit to show my appreciation to doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners, social care workers, the armed forces, the other emergency services, supermarket shelf-stackers, postmen and women, lorry drivers and the many others who were doing their bit to save lives and to keep this country functioning under exceptionally difficult circumstances. Indeed, I was one of the people who called for it to become a weekly occurrence during a media appearance in the days that followed.

But as the weeks went by, my enthusiasm for it began to wane, but now, nine weeks later, and with its initiator Annemarie Plas calling for next Thursday’s 8pm clap to be the last, I feel able to articulate why.

There are three reasons why I am no longer comfortable with it:

  1. Am I clapping in appreciation of doctors and nurses, or for the institution of the NHS?

I have a tremendous respect for what doctors and nurses have done, and continue to do, during the pandemic, and by joining in the Thursday night ‘clap’, I felt I was doing my bit to thank them and to give them a small morale boost.

But we should all be careful not to confuse our admiration and respect for medical professionals with worship of the NHS as an institution. The NHS is not a religion. To ‘love’ it is absurd – love should really be reserved for people and animals.

To ‘love’ the NHS is to stand in the way of rational, intelligent debate as how to best provide healthcare during the next half century. The NHS was a consequence of the Beveridge Report of 1942, to which both the Conservative and Labour parties committed to implementing at the end of the war. The Labour Party often likes to inaccurately claim the NHS as its sole achievement, and of Aneurin Bevan as its founder. Indeed, Bevan deviated massively from Beveridge’s vision of an NHS run through local health centres and regional hospital administrations, favouring a state-run body. This led to the politicisation of the NHS from its inception.

Furthermore, Beveridge’s vision of the NHS was built on three assumptions, all of which sounded very reasonable and logical in 1942, but which turned out to be unsound. They were:

  1. As people became healthier, demand on the NHS would decrease. In reality, people are living longer, healthier lives due to expensive drugs and medical advances, so demand has increased exponentially.
  2. Demographics would remain roughly the same. In reality, the average lifespan in 1931 was 58.7 for a male and 62.9 for a female. In 2011 it was 79.0 for a male and 82.8 for a female.
  3. The whole thing could be paid for by ‘the stamp’, what we now call National Insurance. In reality, that ended many decades ago, and the NHS is now paid for out of general taxation.

It is not difficult to find politicians and advisers in both the Conservative and Labour parties that know the current funding model of the NHS is unsustainable, and they both hope the other will be in power when it collapses. They both know that even debating it is a ‘sacred cow’ and that any change will be unpopular with the electorate.

However, the reality is that the current Government mass expenditure through furloughing and the increased pressure on the benefits system isn’t some long, boring holiday at the state’s expense. It is borrowed money that will have to be paid back through a mixture of increased taxation and cuts to public expenditure. The so-called ‘austerity’ of the David Cameron and George Osborne years will seem minuscule by comparison to what is to follow in the decade ahead.

The ‘default’ argument in defence of the NHS is to tell horror stories from the USA about working class people being left to die because they cannot afford medical bills. But how much do most people in Britain know about the healthcare systems in, say, Germany and Singapore? Are they better systems than the NHS? And when we ‘clap for the NHS’, are we implying that our doctors and nurses are doing a better job than those in other countries? Are we saying that the NHS is better than systems in other countries?

By engaging in the cult of ‘NHS worship’, we are preventing an open and honest discussion as to whether the NHS system of healthcare is either desirable or affordable in the years ahead.

  1. I don’t like anything that’s ‘compulsory’.

As one of life’s stroppy non-joiners and proud outsiders, feeling forced to join in anything, no matter how noble it may seem, sits uncomfortably with me. I am reminded, in a sense, of the ‘Two Minutes Hate’ in George Orwell’s 1984, or of the forced jollity of the Boy Scouts or those hideous youth movements dictators love.

I am also increasingly aware of various forms of compulsion individuals, public bodies and private businesses feel obliged to join in with in the name of diversity and political correctness, which is increasingly intolerant of any form of dissent.

For example, during the course of the last few years, public bodies, private businesses and voluntary organisations have been cajoled into joining in the annual festival of rainbow flag-displaying as part of the ‘Pride’ movement. What this really means is that a quiet tolerance of homosexuality is no longer enough. You now have to actively approve, and be seen to be actively approve, or face ostracisation and your name, or the name of your organisation, blackened by the ‘woke’ mob.

It may well be the case that you find aspects of the Pride movement distasteful. One look at the Twitter hashtag during last year’s Pride weekend in my area showed a large number of people openly boasting about looking for casual gay sex. It appears I’m expected to actively approve of this behaviour as well, even though I’m in no doubt many decent homosexuals would find it unhealthy and inappropriate, as indeed would anyone who believes that sex should only take place as an act between two people who are wholly committed to each other. I am also reminded of a mother I know who, two years ago, put her six-year-old son to bed at around 8pm during Pride weekend, but found he could not settle due to the thud of bass of music from the live stage in an open park more than a mile away in the city centre, that did not stop until well past 10pm. Neither she, nor the male friend of mine who had an early start with work the following morning, felt they could complain to the council or the police about the noise for fear of being branded ‘homopbobic’. That’s the society we now live in.

I was already starting to have feelings of unease about the Thursday night clapping after week three or four of the Thursday night clapping. But a real turning point came during an incident two weeks ago. As 8pm approached, I was walking in my local area towards a supermarket. Surrounded by flats and apartments, applause and the banging of pots and pans broke out. Upon realising it was 8pm, I stopped walking, and joined in. I smiled at the two young women who had come to their front doors immediately opposite where I was standing, and we waved at each other.

After around two minutes, the applause began to fade, so I stopped clapping and continued with my journey. As I started walking again, a faint ripple of applause continued from a few especially-enthusiastic people. One such person, standing on his balcony, bottle of beer in hand, shouted down at me, in a flat, northern accent, “F*****g clap!”. Needless to say, I ignored him and walked on.

That was a major turning point for me. Since this minor incident, the Thursday ‘Clap for Carers’ has felt not like a voluntary act of appreciation, but something people feel compelled to join in, much like the rainbow flag compulsion we now see every summer.

  1. It has become politicised.

The first ‘Clap for Carers’ felt like a genuinely uniting experience. Political differences were put aside as the nation showed its appreciation for frontline workers. Boris Johnson, just a day before he announced he had coronavirus, stood outside 10 Downing St and joined in the applause, as did prominent figures from all the main parties from outside their homes.

Yet within a week, some vicious trends were appearing on social media, saying things like, “If you join in the Clap for Carers and voted Tory, you’re a f*****g hypocrite” and far worse. Quite a number of people on the left think they have a monopoly on care and compassion. They glibly ignore certain uncomfortable truths, such as that NHS spending has increased year-on-year, or that the biggest drain on NHS resources are payments due as a result of the PFI arrangements Gordon Brown put in place to pay for new hospitals from the time Labour came into power in 1997, and lasted well into the 2000s.

Yes, old, Victorian hospitals that served us for well over a century have been closed down and replaced with gleaming, modern buildings, but the PFI arrangements Mr Brown put in place mean that they still haven’t been paid for, nor will they be for many years yet to come, long after he has departed frontline politics. This is just one example of governments of all colours pretending the NHS is more affordable than it actually is.

As the weeks went by, the tweets became more vindictive and scathing. The hard left increasingly claimed the weekly clap-a-thon as its own, and used it to promote its aggressive agenda.

Annemarie Plas is right. The ‘Clap for Carers’ has served its purpose. It was a good turn, but it went on too long. A voluntary act of national appreciation became something altogether more political and sinister, and it is time for it to cease.

Written by Marcus Stead

May 23, 2020 at 5:15 am

Posted in Comment, Health, Opinion

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout in UK This Year Sounds Farfetched Given Various Safety Checks – Marcus Stead on Radio Sputnik

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Earlier today, I appeared on Radio Sputnik, where I argued that a COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the UK this year seems far-fetched. I went on to say a large number of people can’t afford to drive to work due to car parking/congestion charge costs. The transcript is on top and the audio is underneath:

Written by Marcus Stead

May 18, 2020 at 7:15 pm

Coronavirus Update: 13 May 2020

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CoronavirusTHE UK Government’s slogan ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ has been replaced by the altogether more woolly, ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’.

In this week’s Coronavirus Update podcast, Marcus Stead and Greg Lance-Watkins assess the Government’s strategy, as we enter a new phase of the pandemic.

Marcus and Greg also look into the problems devolution is causing in preventing a UK-wide, co-ordinated response to the crisis.

Later in the podcast, they discuss whether Germany’s part-relaxation of lockdown rules is likely to lead to a second spike in COVID-19 cases, and whether the planned resumption of Bundesliga football this weekend is wise.

The podcast is available on the Talk Podcasts website, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud and the TuneIn app.

Written by Marcus Stead

May 13, 2020 at 8:18 pm

Coronavirus Update: 07 May 2020

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CoronavirusMUCH HAS been made of the news that the UK death toll from COVID-19 is now higher than that of Italy. But is that a fair comparison because the figures were collated in very different ways?

Marcus Stead and Greg Lance-Watkins discuss how much emphasis should be put on the statistics. They also explore what the ‘easing’ of restrictions in Spain, Italy, Germany and Austria really means and how their lockdown measures compare to those in the UK.

Germany has announced plans to resume the Bundesliga football, a decision which Marcus and Greg utterly condemn.

They go on to explore what the ‘new reality’ will be for restaurants, pubs, cafes and the rail industry, all of which will be operating on much reduced capacity well after lockdown restrictions begin to be eased.

They assess the situation in the United States, where different states are handling the lockdown in widely contrasting ways.

Marcus Stead

On Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation and announce his plans for handling the next phase of the pandemic. Marcus and Greg discuss what this is likely to entail.

In a broad context, they ponder what life in Britain will look like in six months’ time.

Finally, they look into whether the changes we’re seeing with more people working from home will become a more permanent fixture – will companies need as much office space in the future?

The podcast is available on the Talk Podcasts website, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud and the TuneIn app.

Written by Marcus Stead

May 7, 2020 at 1:03 am

Posted in Comment, Health, Politics, Review

Coronavirus Update: 29 April 2020

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CoronavirusPRIME Minister Boris Johnson is back in Downing Street and has returned to work, but he’s warning against complacency and is saying that the lockdown must remain in force for the time being.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation warns that having the virus once doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get it again. And there is a rare but serious new syndrome in children that could be linked to COVID-19.

Marcus Stead is joined by veteran campaigner and blogger Greg Lance-Watkins to try and make sense of this deeply concerning global situation.

The podcast is available via the Talk Podcasts website, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud and the TuneIn app.

Written by Marcus Stead

April 29, 2020 at 2:40 am

Coronavirus Update: 22 April 2020

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CoronavirusTHE LOCKDOWN in the United Kingdom is set to continue for the next three weeks. Schools will not be reopening any time soon, and there is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals.

In this week’s podcast, Marcus Stead and Greg Lance-Watkins assess the situation in Britain and around the world, and also look into the effect the lockdown is having on people’s personal relationships and social lives.

The podcast is available on the Talk Podcasts website, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud and the TuneIn app.

Written by Marcus Stead

April 22, 2020 at 1:36 am

Marcus Stead discusses COVID-19 on Radio Sputnik: 17 April 2020

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On 17 April 2020, I appeared on Radio Sputnik to discuss the likelihood of the COVID-19 lockdown ending in the medium term. I said that the scientific community still knows very little about how the virus works, and that any easing of restrictions brings with it a strong risk of a second wave of infections. Furthermore, I argued that Sweden’s ‘light lockdown’ policy was not an example to follow, due to a spike in new cases and deaths in recent days.

Written by Marcus Stead

April 18, 2020 at 2:02 am

Coronavirus Update: 14 April 2020

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Me April 2020 2

Marcus Stead

AS THE number of global COVID-19 cases passes the two million barrier, Marcus Stead and Greg Lance-Watkins assess the situation and conclude it is highly unlikely that life will return to normal any time soon.

The figures from Spain, Italy and France suggest the threat to life posed by the virus remains very real, and that the scientific community knows very little about how COVID-19 actually works.

After you have had the virus, do you have immunity for one month, three months, six months, twelve months, a lifetime, or not at all? We simply do not know.

Later in the podcast, Marcus and Greg deliver a scathing verdict on the Welsh Government’s attempts to bully and silence journalists and NHS staff, as was revealed on David Morris Jones’s excellent Penarth News hyperlocal site, which has recently been revived following a sabbatical.

The podcast is available on the Talk Podcasts website, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, SoundCloud and the TuneIn app.

Written by Marcus Stead

April 14, 2020 at 3:12 am

Posted in Health, Opinion, Politics, Review