The pandemic update from Britain: Downing Street plays musical chairs

Boris Johnson has instituted a shakeup in Number 10 Downing Street. According to a senior Conservative source, it’s to “bring some order” to the decision making process. Here’s how it’s going to work:

Johnson will chair a strategy committee, called CS, because committees work best when their initials run in one direction and their names run in the other. Michael Gove will chair on operations committee, called CO, because ditto. Then someone will put on a piece of music and four ministerial groups that were set up to deal with Covid-19, along with the regular Covid-19 morning meeting will all run down the hall screaming. When the music stops–which will happen at some unpredictable time, well before the song reaches its natural conclusion–whoever’s left without an office will be returned to parliament, postage due. 

This may, it’s rumored, curb Dominic Cummings’ influence, although I’d be inclined to try exorcism myself. 

Except for the business about the hallway, the music, and the exorcism, this is real. 

Oh. And the postage due.

Irrelevant photo: A gerbera daisy.


In a stunning display of pointless determination, the House of Commons took 46 minutes to vote on a single measure on Tuesday. Or possibly 1 hour and 23 minutes. It depends on your source. And possibly on which measure they were timing.

However long it took, the time didn’t include the debate. It was just for Members of Parliament to cast their votes–something that would normally take 15 minutes.

They were kept the proper distance apart while they waited by an airport-style system that channeled them into a kilometer-long, snaking line. Cleverer writers than me (and also than I) have said that it looked like the world’s most boring theme park. In the photos I’ve seen, somewhere between none of the MPs and very few of them were wearing masks. Because, what the hell, they’ve given up all hope of escaping the virus. 

Since the middle of April, parliament’s been operating on a hybrid system that allowed some MPs to show up in person and others to vote and debate remotely. But the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, scrapped the hybrid system, forcing MPs to show up in person if they wanted to vote.

Why does R-M want them all back? To set an example. 

Of what? I don’t think he’s said. Certainly not of following government advice to minimize contact with people outside your household, work from home if at all possible, and only meet people out of doors in groups of no more than I don’t remember how many. 

I’ll admit, though, that they’re setting an example of the British stiff upper lip. As one MP said, “If I haven’t already had Covid, I’m now resigned to the fact that I definitely will.” 

R-M also said everyone had to come back because it will make democracy “once again flourish.” 

I don’t think he’s explained that either.

MPs who, for medical reasons, can’t come back will be able to take part in some debates remotely but they won’t be able to vote. Because, hey, if they’d had any foresight they wouldn’t have gotten themselves into this situation. To compensate for that, there may be pairing arrangements. That means that if an MP from one party can’t vote a paired MP from the opposing party is taken out and shot so they can’t vote either.

Okay, that’s not the exact wording of the proposal. Maybe they just put a bag over the sacrificial MPs head and lead him or her into a nice dark closet until the voting’s over. Which may take a while. 

Given that there are more than two parties, which  party do they pull the sacrificial paired MP from? Do they ask the non-attending MP, “Who do you hate most? We’ll keep them from voting”? Or do they take one MP from each party? 

But that’s only for MPs with medical reasons not to attend. What happens to MPs who live hours’ away from London at a time when travel’s limited? That’s up from grabs. They too should probably have thought their lives through before they got into that position.

Predictably, opposition MPs voted against the recall, but they were joined by a number of Conservatives–especially the ones who need to keep themselves out of the virii’s path because of age or disability or because someone in their family is particularly vulnerable. 

I don’t even begin to understand British law, but even so I seem to catch the scent of a lawsuit in the wind–from disenfranchised constituents or from older and disabled MPs or from both.

I’m not directly affected by this. I’m not an MP and I’d be happy enough to see my MP blocked of voting for almost any reason, but if I got a chance I’d join the lawsuit anyway.


The head of the UK Statistics Authority, David Norgrove (Sir David Norgrove to his friends), criticized Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s use of statistics on coronavirus testing, saying they’re “still far from complete and comprehensible.”

“Statistics on testing perhaps serve two main purposes.

“The first is to help us understand the epidemic . . . showing us how many people are infected, or not, and their relevant characteristics.

“The second purpose is to help manage the test programme, to ensure there are enough tests, that they are carried out or sent where they are needed and that they are being used as effectively as possible.”

However, the aim of the statistics Hancock throws around in his briefings, he said, “seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.”


A couple of unpublished pages of Isaac Newton’s notes are up for auction, and one of them has a remedy for the plague. It involves making toad vomit and making both the vomit and the unhappy toad itself into lozenges. 

Believe me, you don’t want to know how they got the toad to vomit. And it was a different plague, so I wouldn’t bother trying it for this one.

35 thoughts on “The pandemic update from Britain: Downing Street plays musical chairs

  1. Given that this involves Rees-Toff, maybe they could use him and members of his family to provide the vomit – that would make it snake vomit instead of toads, with a side order of slime.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I quite fancy the idea of MPs remote voting & zooming debates … living and working in their constituencies instead of travelling to London. I think we’d see less parachuting into safe seats (which is what happens where we live) if they were committing to actually being here full time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t understand British law either. In America everyone thinks they understand American law but they all disagree on what it is. Even the members if the supreme court can’t agree. On anything complex the split five to four with all nine writing separate opinions sll giving different reasons for voting the way they did. Makes a lot of money for the lawyers.

    Our numbers for Covid went down instead of up since the riots started. It must be good for people to get outside in the fresh air instead of staying in closed poorly ventilated rooms and buildings. We will keep.a close look at the numbers to see if the trend continues.

    When I looked up the numbers for different countries I saw the UK listed as a country. But I am told that England, Wales, Scotland and one more are countries, but no one outside of the UK seems to know or understand that. As I said I don’t understand British law, or if there is such a thing, Must be UK law I don’t understand.

    Anyway, I turned 78 today and there seems to be more and more I don’t understand.

    Stay safe.

    Liked by 3 people

    • UK law is as complicated as US law in that there are laws that apply to the whole country and laws that apply only to one or another of the separate jurisdictions, and the British get as baffled by the US system as Americans do by the British one. And of course in both countries, laws are open to interpretation–as is precedent.

      Your point about Covid-19 statistics is an interesting one. The statistics are being handled–um. They’re manipulated regularly, so it’s hard to know how much to trust them. But in general, for internal consumption they do seem to be available for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. For export, hell, no one would understand why anyone would do that, so they’re combined.

      Or that’s my best guess.


    • The the personification of the British aristocracy, in all is arrogance. He may well bring a plague on both houses, but I expect he considers himself (and people like him) too good to be vulnerable to a mere virus.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, this was much needed comic relief over here in The USofA. Today Secretary of Defense Mark dESPERate said he had no idea he had accompanied the president, the attorney general and General Milly (I suppose General Susie was busy elsewhere ?) to the Episcopal Church for a photo-op. No, he had been told they were going to inspect a fire-damaged restroom in the park across from the White House. If this is what our Secretary of Defense is used for, it gives the lie to the Vice President’s irrelevancy. Is it possible to smuggle toad vomit in through Canada ?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really don’t know what to say about the Parliament except that I thought I understood the toad story more clearly than the voting procedures of the British Parliament during the coronavirus.
    God, or Lord or whoever help y’all.

    Liked by 1 person

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