COVID-19 Thirty Years From Now

Take a step back from the COVID-19 pandemic, and compare one country against another. I wonder which will benefit and which will suffer from the consequences of COVID 19. I mean in the long run, measured over the next thirty years.

In the UK, the oldest in the population have died and will die. Their wealth will pass to the next generation. The age profile of the country will change. There will be more people of working age and more spending power for those who inherited unexpectedly early. The drain on the Health Service will be less because the vulnerable will have died. For non-COVID patients there will be an increased demand. That will come from those whose disease progressed more than it would with earlier treatment. But that will be offset in part or whole by those who died waiting for treatment.

Life expectancy will decrease because those who could have had treatment for non-COVID disease early did not. And pension funds will benefit, according to XPS actuaries:

Article In The Times November 30th 2020

Employers with large pension deficits are expected to seize on Covid-19 to justify making smaller payments in their negotiations with the funds they sponsor in the coming years.
An analysis from the actuaries XPS, formerly Punter Southall, suggests that deaths in Britain by the end of March will be around 100,000 higher than in a normal year. In its worst case scenario, which it says is unlikely, it sees 250,000 excess deaths in total.
These so-called “excess deaths”, along with a recession-induced reduction in life expectancy growth in the years ahead, will cut the liabilities of defined benefit schemes in the UK by between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent — or £25 billion to £60 billion, it estimates on its central case forecast.

COVID-19 Case Fatality Rates

Britain had a case fatality rate of 15.4% early on in the pandemic. That was in part caused by decisions made by the British Government to move elderly infected patients from hospital to nursing homes. Once in nursing homes filled with the elderly, the virus spread like wildfire.

The COVID-19 death rate when I first drafted this article at the end of 2020 was down to 3.6%. Now at the beginning of 2022, the death rate is down to a fraction of 1%.

The initial case fatality rate in Britain was much higher than almost anywhere in the world. Britain will benefit, therefore, from having a older generation die early. It’s positively Machiavellian.

The unknown is long-COVID, and how long it lasts. How long is the ‘long’ in long-COVID? And what proportion of the affected will find life less than optimal far into their lives?

Taiwan Suffers When Nicaragua Changes Allegiance

On 10 December, Nicaragua severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and started diplomatic relations with China. That reduced from fifteen to fourteen the number of countries that recognise Taiwan (The Republic Of China) as an independent country, not part of China proper.

Just to step back in time for a moment, hostilities between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek who fled to Taiwan in 1949 and the Communists (who remained on the mainland) never formally ended. As a result, relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have never been established on an official basis.

The fifteen, now fourteen, countries that recognise Taiwan are very small countries. So on one hand, the loss of one country is of minor importance. On the other hand, if the trend were to continue then Taiwan’s claim to be an independent country would suffer to the point of being a pariah among nations.

Mainland China has been making noises about reclaiming Taiwan. So what is the chance of it happening? Australia has strong ties with Taiwan, as has the United States. Any move from China would be seen as aggressive. Would China care?

  • Taiwan is about 160 kilometres (100 miles) across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China.
  • It has a substantial army for its size, but it is a small island compared to the giant of Mainland China.
  • It is a world leader in chip manufacturing.

Put all that together, and on the one hand it would seem so easy for China to invade. But threatening the world’s supply of chips could have consequences such that no one could foresee where it would end.

I am reminded of Subi The Volcano, by Burt Cole, with American forces fighting a war in a country not unlike China.

Nicaragua severed relations because it again has a Leftist Government in power, and the last time the Leftists were in power they made a promise to change allegiance. Then it was ousted and the Rightist Government reversed the decision. Then the Leftists got in again. So now that the Leftists are in power, the severance of diplomatic ties will not have come as a surprise.

Yet it must have caught Taiwan somewhat by surprise because the Taiwanese ‘sold’ their diplomatic buildings to the Church in a hurry at the last moment, for a token amount. The Nicaraguan Government has overturned the sale, and presumably mainland China will just walk in and take over the buildings. What could the Church do? What power does it have to oppose this? Maybe none.

The Commons Select Committee On Standards and Owen Paterson

Kathryn Stone is the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards of the House of Commons.

The Commissioner is an independent officer of the House of Commons, and the Commissioner’s remit is to investigate allegations that MPs have breached the rules found in paragraphs 11-18 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members.

Once the investigation is concluded, the Commissioner reports to The Commons Select Committee On Standards.

In October 2021 the Commissioner found that Owen Paterson had breached the paid advocacy rules for making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency and four approaches to the Department for International Development in relation to Randox and seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods.

The Commissioner said Paterson had “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute” and that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”.

Acting on her report, The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended that Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days. The Government decided they didn’t like that and voted to overturn the suspension. The uproar that followed resulted in Own Paterson resigning as an MP.

Before the uproar, the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News that he believed Kathryn Stone should review her position after her suspension of Owen Paterson was blocked by Parliament.

But here’s the thing. She didn’t suspend him. She reported to the Committee and they suspended him.

According to the Committees page of Parliament the current members of the Committee on Standards are:

Chris Bryant MP Labour Rhondda Commons Chair
Dr Arun Midha Lay Member
Mrs Jane Burgess Lay Member
Mr Paul Thorogood Lay Member
Mrs Rita Dexter Lay Member
Mrs Tammy Banks Lay Member
Dr Michael Maguire Lay Member
Mehmuda Mian Lay Member
Andy Carter MP Conservative Warrington South
Alberto Costa MP Conservative South Leicestershire
Allan Dorans MP Scottish National Party Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
Mark Fletcher MP Conservative Bolsover
Yvonne Fovarque MP Labour Makerfield
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP Conservative Harwich and North Essex

How did they arrive at their decision on the penalty to impose on Mr Paterson? There are four Conservative MPs on the Committee. How did they vote?

Bearing in mind the Commissioner’s finding that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches” was as bad as Mr Paterson’s, it might have been more appropriate for the The Commons Select Committee on Standards to suspend Mr Paterson for the rest of the Parliament.

If Parliament had not voted to overturn the suspension, then Mr Paterson would not have resigned and he would have been suspended for 30 sitting days.

The Standing Orders of Parliament dictate the consequences of being suspended.

  1. Members suspended, etc., to withdraw from precincts
    (1) Members who are ordered to withdraw under Standing Order No. 43 (Disorderly conduct) or who are suspended from the service of the House shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.
    (2) Suspension from the service of the House shall not exempt the Member so suspended from serving on any committee for the consideration of a private bill to which he may have been appointed before the suspension.

45A. Suspension of salary of Members suspended
The salary of a Member suspended from the service of the House shall be withheld for the duration of his suspension.

So there is a financial penalty, assuming ‘withheld’ means that it is never paid to the MP, rather than held back and paid later.

So how much is it? The basic annual salary of an MP in the House of Commons is £81,932, as of April 2020. How does a withholding of pay for a sitting day tie into that? The Commons Library records the number of Commons sitting days by session since 1945, and from the latest figures (2015-2016) there seems to be around 150 sitting days. So would Owen Paterson have forfeited 30 of 150 of £81,932, which would be £16,800?

Or would it be 30 of 365 of £81,932, which would be £6,700? Or something else?

The newspapers reported that Mr Paterson made something around four times his MP’s salary as a consultant. So having his name in the public eye associated with sleaze may have hurt him more than it did his pocket. Or perhaps not. Without knowing Mr Paterson, one cannot say.

All of which is blood under the bridge, because he resigned and lost all his pay. Who could have predicted that outcome? And bearing in mind the 80 seat majority that the Conservatives have in the Commons, what skin was it off their nose if one of their MPs was suspended for 30 days? It makes you wonder.

Update 17 December

On this 17 December the voters of North Shropshire gave the Tories a bloody nose. And for what? If the Government had not forced a vote to overturn Owen Paterson’s 30 day suspension given to him for breaking standards rules, then he would not have had to resign after the furore caused by the vote.

Then there would not have been a by-election in which the Conservatives lost. It shows the poor judgement of the Government in getting the mood of the country so very wrong. And that will cause the Grandees in the party to desert Boris Johnson all the more. The only thing lacking is a replacement.

North Shropshire by-election result
Lib Dem Helen Morgan 17,957
Con Neil Shastri-Hurst 12,032
Lab Ben Wood 3,686
Green Duncan Kerr 1,738

Which, if any, traditional Labour voters voted tactically? Which voters switched parties from Labour to Lib Dem intending it to be a longer term move? Those are questions that analysts in all parties will be looking at now.

I don’t know how easy it is to get to the numbers. People acting on behalf of the various parties often ask people after they have voted, if they would say how they voted. Even if that gave an accurate picture, it doesn’t say whether those who voted, voted tactically or from a change of allegiance. Maybe it is time for some doorstep polls.