An interview (and part two) with David King, former government chief scientific adviser (2000-2007) and founder and chair of Independent SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies) about SAGE and following the evidence. The articles are from September 2000 while the main criticisms remain valid.
HW: How many civil servants are on the official SAGE, relative to independent scientists?
SDK: Not counting sub-committees, out of the main group of 23, 13 are civil servants
HW: So SAGE is not a body of independent scientists? It’s a body that is controlled by government, given the dominance of civil servants in it?
SDK: I’m afraid I think that’s right [although] I have enormous respect for Sir Patrick Vallance [the current chief scientific adviser].
HW: Was this anything to do with this government’s view of the public – that the public must simply be told what to do, so the debate about the science can’t be open?
SDK: Yes. The government want to be able to say, ‘We are following the science.’ If the public doesn’t know what the science advice is, the public has no means of knowing whether or not the government is being honest. But it’s going further than that. If it goes pear-shaped, it’s the scientists’ fault.
SDK: The prime minister believed in the herd immunity programme. In other words, if there are enough of us who have had the disease, we’ve got the antibodies and the disease can no longer spread. Enough means about 70 per cent. It’s like a vaccine. You’ve got the antibodies and the disease is just wiped out. That, of course, was how the plagues were eventually wiped out, but the human cost was enormous. Now the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, did say in one of his press briefings, with the approval of the prime minister standing on his right, ’With herd immunity, it is likely to take a while but we will eventually come out of it.’
HW: Did he admit that it would be at the cost of tens of thousands of deaths?
SDK: The prime minister said, ‘We have to be prepared for losing some of our loved ones, every one of us has to be prepared.’ So, there was that expectation. They consciously allowed the disease to spread.
There was the football match up in Liverpool in early March against a team from Spain. Spain had the epidemic, massively, and we allowed the crowds into Liverpool to attend that match, British and Spanish crowds. It was the best possible way to make sure that it was spread in the country at large. Then we had the Cheltenham races on 10-13 March with a quarter of a million people there – another wonderful way for an epidemic to spread. That was a formula for us to all quickly get immunity by having the disease.
The problem was a delay period before they actually pushed the lockdown button. In that period of time, we all knew that the epidemic was doubling every three to four days. So, in one week it was quadrupling. My analysis was that if they had just gone into lockdown one week earlier – when they began discussing the Ferguson paper [predicting that around 250,000 people would die if we didn’t go into lockdown] we would have a quarter of the number of deaths that we have today. It’s going to turn out to be 40-50,000 unnecessary deaths in this country – unwarranted, a complete cock-up by government.