A tale of two professors
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HART members are not the only people to be shocked at the double standards applied to three professors all appearing before Baroness Hallett last week. This topic has been covered in the Daily Sceptic and of course by Tom Jefferson in Trust the Evidence. But you really have to watch at least part of the day’s YouTube coverage to get a sense of the level of disrespect shown to Professor Carl Heneghan.
The hostile treatment of Carl Heneghan contrasts starkly with that of Professor Edmunds who preceded him. In fact it is worth watching from 40 minutes in, where Baroness Hallett is thanking the first witness, Professor Catherine Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings, and describing her as one of the ‘unsung heroines’. Then continue viewing to the opening few minutes of the next witness where the senior lawyer, Hugo Keith KC, is smiling, thanking Professor Edmunds for ‘kindly’ providing a 115-page witness statement, and then asking leading questions extolling Edmunds’ expertise in modelling and ‘de facto’ in epidemiology. Professor Edmunds responded smugly at one point with, ‘It was an amazing effort’. They spent an hour or more going through his witness statement together, largely with Hugo Keith describing what was in it, and sprinkling in phrases like ‘these many august brilliant advisory committees’.
Fast forward to 3hr 22 min, when they discuss the September meeting at Downing Street, aimed to include ‘a balanced group of views’ but described by Sir Patrick Vallance as ‘mainly from the “let it rip” brigade’. Edmunds described them as ‘many, well not many, but vocal people’. They then reviewed WhatsApp messages between Edmunds and Angela McKlean (then Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Defence – an interesting invitee), exchanged during the meeting. Edmunds opined that ‘Who is this fuckwit’, refers to the Inquiry’s next witness, Professor Heneghan. He also said that ‘Mr, er, Professor Heneghan was making some really basic epidemiological errors, the sorts of ones we teach our students on day 1.’ He described Heneghan’s views as ‘half-baked nonsense’ and was clearly disappointed that he had not managed to persuade the Prime Minister into another lockdown. His statement concluded with him saying that the government was ‘incredibly well informed’. There was of course no indication that any of the information may have been incorrect, such as the efficacy of lockdowns or masks. Baroness Hallett ended the session with profuse thanks and reassuring him that he had done as much as he possibly could. ‘I’m afraid you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last scientist whose work is misunderstood’.
Then at 3hr 50 mins, Professor Heneghan took the stand, and with Andrew O’Connor KC the whole atmosphere changed – rather than extolling him as an expert, he spent the first eight minutes going through Carl’s CV and recent publications, going to great lengths to show that Professor Heneghan’s research interests were around general practice and not the spread of viral diseases. He commented that Carl had not sat on SAGE or NERVTAG or SPI-MO but failed to understand that this witness was therefore well-placed to interrogate some of the group-think which has undoubtedly occurred.
The session then went on to question Carl for 25 minutes about the Great Barrington Declaration (which the witness had not even signed). This part of the interview was peppered with demands to ‘just answer YES or NO’, a tactic not seen with any other witness. O’Connor then weighed in with the ‘f…wit’ label and how did Carl react to this! The witness was amazingly restrained and professional in his response, unlike the users of such playground language. With the time wasted on the above, O’Connor totally failed to discuss even one line of the 67-page witness statement provided and abruptly ended with ‘no more questions.’
Baroness Hallett concluded the session at 4hr 46 mins by thanking Professor Heneghan for his time with barely a smile or any eye contact and adding that if he wished he could submit evidence in writing – she seemed not to have noticed that he had already done so. The contrast in body language in her thanks to Professor Heneghan, could not be more evident than to the two other professors earlier in the day.
UsforThem’s excellent analysis of the inquiry thus far, comes to the damning conclusion: ‘The Inquiry is now hopelessly compromised by the seemingly presumptive words of its own Chair and leading lawyers and its failure to ask the right questions.’ They observed that the precautionary principle had been turned on its head. They covered Professors Edmunds and Heneghan day 13 as outlined above, but they also reported on the similarly fawning approach to Sir Jeremy Farrar (eg ‘Q. Have you received a plethora of honours from a number of governments, institutes and entities? A. Thank you.’) and Professor Neil Ferguson (from 1 hr 53 mins; note phrases like ‘world-leading specialist’ and ‘prestigious .. awards’ in the preamble).
It does not seem to have even crossed the minds of the inquiry team or its chairman that some of the advice being given to the government may have been fundamentally flawed. Were either of those witnesses questioned about the vast amount of money heading into their departments from the pharmaceutical industry or their proxies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) – were they heck?! Or was Sir Jeremy asked about his role in obstructing discussion of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 – pigs might fly?!
Lord Frost, in the Telegraph, comes to equally damning conclusions. “I am afraid that it seems to many of those watching the hearings or reading the transcripts of the inquiry that its chair, Lady Hallett, and the lead counsel, Hugo Keith, are basing their approach on a particular, preconceived, view of the story of the pandemic lockdowns. That is that Covid was obviously dangerous, that lockdowns were the correct solution to the problem, and that the only real question is the timeliness of the government’s actions, not their merits.
That is certainly the consensus view. It is convenient for many because it allows attention to be focused on the failings of Boris Johnson personally, rather than on those of the government machine and the people who ran it. That doesn’t make it correct. I have a view on the subject from my own experience – which is that we would have been better off following the Swedish approach – but I don’t claim a monopoly on wisdom. I am willing to be proved wrong. But sadly this inquiry seems unlikely to help me in this one way or the other.”
Meanwhile, UsforThem’s report concluded that the Inquiry is ‘.. setting us up for a doom-loop of catastrophic errors we cannot afford to repeat. It has become an embarrassment to the legal profession and is jeopardising the reputation of the English legal system. Its exorbitant costs already cannot be justified, and there is only worse to come. It should be abandoned.’
It is hard to disagree.