I went to the pub…light the blue touchpaper and stand well back

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I figured that last weekend would be a bit crowded in pubs, so I reserved time in my (not-so)busy diary to visit the pub yesterday. Monday is the new Saturday.

All went well. The pub I visited seem to have lots of measures in place, and well-trained staff.

I enjoyed an excellent couple of pints of a local brew (Loddon Brewery’s Citra-Quad, since you ask). I had a meal which was obviously well-familiar with the inside of a microwave but still, as they used to say, “filled a hole”.

So far, so uncontroversial.

….Until I tell you the name of the pub. Wetherspoons.

Cue: H.M Bateman cartoon retrospective: “The man who admitted, in polite company, to going into Wetherspoons”.

Yes, I am well aware of the views of the founder and Chairman. I know what he said about his staff upon lockdown (later U-turned). I know what he said about Covid in pubs (later U-turned with a £12 million package of anti-Covid measures). I know what he said about Brexit – I used to regularly put his leaflets on the floor under his tables.

I go to lots of other pubs and I am a shareholder in a local brewery.

Should I feel guilty about occasionally indulging the urge to use the Wetherspoons app and see a procession of drink and food coming to my table, borne by waiting staff?

If I boycott Wetherspoons, who would suffer the most? The mulleted foghorn or the overworked young waiter who was yesterday repeatedly saying to customers, in a very friendly way:

Can we please stick to the arrows?

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • John Marriott 7th Jul '20 - 9:51am

    Paul, I remember the famous question about David Owen; “Yes, but what was he like as a doctor?” Or something like that. So, as far as Mr Martin is concerned, we could ask; “Yes, but what’s he like as a pub owner?”:It’s a pity he didn’t stick to that line of business instead of branching out into areas slightly more controversial.

  • I notice the photograph used at the top of the piece contained a (not so) subliminal message. Very clever.

  • Matt Wardman 7th Jul '20 - 11:08am

    Purely out of interest – what is Citra-Quad like and where is the name from? Lemons?

    The brand sounds to me too much like a brand of motorcycle oil, but that could be my regionalist bias.

    Obviously I am now going to have to get some to try…

  • Stick to the Ferryman’s Gold. It’s nectar.

  • On the news, three pubs have had to close because customers have tested positive for the virus, still too much of the virus in the system to take the risk… looking like the govn has got many things wrong but nothing new there.

  • A lot of young people got to Wetherspoons, especially in London. The service is quick and they are very, very, cheap compared with the more “acceptable” establishments. In the press the clientele are characterised as Daily Mail readers, but whenever I’ve gone to meet anyone in them they’ve been packed with students, people on shopping trips having lunch and just generally ordinary working people. They’re the Aldi of pub chains, decent products, decent prices, reliable and often better than their more select competition.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jul '20 - 12:05pm

    A microwave meal and a couple of pints, as a sociological or other experimental action, great, as pleasure, mmmmmmmmmmmmm?!

    Frank here reveals it, this so called lock down, was not that, it was those of us who are Liberals but not libertarians, wanting to be free….of a virus!

    This pub obsession makes this non drinker move from being a Kings Man, to oliver’s army!

  • Re the virus
    The fact that people are testing positive, but the death rate is going down is telling us that this particular coronavirus is far more common and far less deadly than the models predicted just as people like Dr John Ioannidas were suggesting right from the start. Herd immunity and vaccines are also a red herring because the vast vast vast majority of people already have immune systems perfectly capable of seeing the infection off. There is not a shred of evidence that lockdowns have worked or ever will. Our representatives overreacted and have made one of the biggest mistakes in history. It’s time to admit it. Otherwise we going to continue turning the country into an anti-society wasteland. What we have is a new virus that causes medical complications in some people with underlying health conditions and in some older people. What we do not have is the Black Death or Spanish Flu or a serious threat to general health or a good reason for destroying the fabric of society.

  • @Glenn – Aaah the benefit of hindsight and the selective use of facts…
    However, the death rate going down doesn’t necessarily mean what you want it to mean. We will know the real effects of this weekend’s lifting of restrictions somewhere around August Bank Holiday.
    As for the death rate, once the most susceptible have died, the death rate will go down, yet the virus and other factors are unchanged…

  • Roland
    I’ve been saying it right from the start. I will add that the predictions of what would happen in countries that didn’t follow the fad for house arrest and societal destruction have also proved to be wide of the mark. But, by all means continue to let Matt Hancock tell you when you are allowed to breath and out as you watch universities close, unemployment sky rocket, bankruptcies increase and your fellow man shuffling about in queues to buy basics like the unfortunate citizens of Eastern Bloc just before it collapsed.

  • Jenny Barnes 7th Jul '20 - 2:08pm

    My mother used to be very snobby about microwaved food. It’s just a method of heating, not some sort of class marker!
    For example my slow cooked lamb tagine, heated up in the microwave is perfectly yummy.

  • Is Glenn a pseudonym for Tim Martin ? I better tell him some of us prefer Nicola Sturgeon to Matt Hancock…. or the always Missing in Action BoJo.

    Much better stats in Scotland these days, and a First Minister who steps up to the plate and leads from the front every day.

  • I see on the Guardian website just now that at least four pubs in England that reopened their doors for the first time on Saturday have been forced to close again after customers or staff tested positive for Covid-19…… all on the same day that a further 155 Covid deaths were announced in the UK.

  • David Raw
    I’m not Tim Martin.
    I just wonder how many job losses, untreated tooth abscesses, crashed businesses, how much social destruction, restrictions on liberty or misery endured will it take before the Lockdown lobby loses it’s sway. That rather than being a bold life saving innervation, it’s all been a wrongheaded hysterical political fad to combat a virus that is simply not the threat it was made out to be.

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jul '20 - 10:20pm

    “it’s all been a wrongheaded hysterical political fad to combat a virus that is simply not the threat it was made out to be.”

    We still don’t really know how bad it might be in the end – and cases are emerging of people who’ve contracted it and are still suffering weeks/months later.
    e.g. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/07/health/richard-quest-covid-wellness-intl/index.html

    Richard Quest might be able to do his well-paid job without too much trouble while still suffering – but I have serious difficulty in visualising someone with a manual job, suffering the same drawn-out symptoms, being able to do theirs properly – if at all.

    In some parts of the USA where they have had serious increases in numbers of cases, with ‘issues’ over lockdown measures and face masks, there are reports of hospitals struggling seriously to cope.

  • Noncomformistradical
    That is true of any illness. It suggest better sick pay and better health provision. What it does not suggest is stopping people without long drawn out symptoms from working or having active social lives. This is currently what we are doing. It’s false equivalency based on a model that is plainly damaging. The reason I call lockdowns a political fad is because thy are like prohibition and totalitarianism. The argument is that they are logical solutions that it will cure all manner of ills, but the reality is they are destructive and don’t actually work. Please show me a shred of evidence that curtailing the arts, keeping youngsters from hanging out, putting ministers in charge of social mores and destroying jobs serves any real purpose? I think it is wrong, does not work and will lead to nowhere good.

  • @ Glenn. I’m relieved to hear you’re not Tim Martin, but are you, by any chance, the President of Brazil ?

  • John Marriott 8th Jul '20 - 8:50am

    Oh dear, Glenn, when will you put that bone down? Or, perhaps, stop digging that hole? On LDV you ain’t gonna win, old chap!

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Jul '20 - 9:48am

    “The reason I call lockdowns a political fad is because thy are like prohibition and totalitarianism”
    Actually I dislike intensely being told what to do – especially by people like Johnson – but in this case I believe J S Mill’s point about doing what you like but not harming others is the major factor.

    “Please show me a shred of evidence that curtailing the arts, keeping youngsters from hanging out……”

    Have a look at Israel’s situation – interesting charts.



  • Innocent Bystander 8th Jul '20 - 10:23am

    I’m with Glen. If the lockdown had any effect there should have been a step change one incubation period after 28 March. No sign at all, no sign of a change, in fact, on any graph in any country, locked down or not. I have little faith in experts as, underneath, they are flawed humans. Although I have always followed the advice of one top physicist. He said to me, when you are in an Italian restaurant never put pasta and anti-pasta on the same plate.

  • Nonconformistradical
    I suggest you look at the figures from places Japan, Belarus, Taiwan, Iceland and yes Sweden(the predictions were 40, 000 deaths by May 1st and 100, 000 by August). The point is if the virus is so deadly we need to halt virtually all social activity, do you not think we should be seeing hundreds of thousands of deaths in densely populated aging Japan or tens of thousands deaths in the other countries? As it is they are all doing better than the UK or Belgium. This particular coronavirus is, as I keep pointing out, a complication for people with underlying health issues. It is simply not that deadly, yet people are being told to act like they will drop dead if they meet each other without government permission or go to work. I’m never going to agree to support that. It’s wrong and it is causing untold damage, thousands of lost business (that is people’s livelihoods), millions of extra unemployed ( a lot of people on furloughs will find this out in a few months), lost education, damaged social lives and has its own health implications.
    It’s not an argument between saving something called the “economy” or lives. It’s an argument about the best way forward and consequences.

  • Peter Martin 8th Jul '20 - 12:49pm

    @ Glenn,

    So you are saying that if we hadn’t locked down, if theatres, cinemas, football grounds, workplaces, pubs etc had been allowed to carry on as normal we’d have had far fewer than the 43,000 or so deaths we’ve actually had?

    OK it was an interesting POV to start with. But it’s looking more threadbare with over-use and repetition. The relatives of the 43000, and the many more who have close to adding to the figure, may disagree somewhat with your assertion that “It is simply not that deadly”.

    Maybe the next time a new and dangerous virus appears you’ll have better luck persuading us all we don’t need to bother about a “little flu”.

  • John Marriott
    “Shut up Glenn” as usual. No I won’t.

  • Peter Martin 8th Jul '20 - 4:27pm

    @ Innocent Bystander,

    “If the lockdown had any effect there should have been a step change one incubation period after 28 March.”

    Most of us started to take more precautions before the 28th March. You wouldn’t expect to see step change immediately after that. Firstly, because the lockdown wasn’t total and, secondly, because there were many multiple occupancy residences, including some care homes, where just one person would have been infected, and that would have taken some time to transmit to other residents.

    So we’d expect some increase after the 28th March, a peak in the death rate a couple of weeks or so after that, followed by a steady decline. Which is exactly what we saw.

  • Thanks Glenn for introducing some balance and perspective into this and other discussions (and for not rising to the petty insults). I’m not sure where you get your independent information but certainly the CEBM and a site called InProportion2 (plus Michael Levitt’s tweets) have been very useful in cutting through all the hype. Comparisons between ‘lock-down’ and non-lock-down countries and regions are also very interesting. As for the pubs re-closing due to, er ‘cases’ – well “test and you will find”… However, for me, one of the glorious things of this whole appalling episode is that never again will I need to glance at comments by regulars on this site who’ve spent the last ten years slagging off Nick Clegg for his involvement in austerity, but who now support a response to SARS-CoV-2 whose effects will make Clegg’s flirtation with Osbornomics seem like a vicarage tea-party compared to what’s in store for Britain, and I don’t just mean the economy.

  • Peter Martin
    I’m not saying that, I’m saying there is no consistent way of measuring deaths from one country to the next and virtually no difference between countries taking different approaches. In a normal year the death rate in the UK is about 1600 per day. In people with health problems it can be hard to tell exactly what is sadly ending their lives. Heart disease, diabetes, cancers, old age, infections, and other respiratory diseases cannot have all miraculously stopped killing people in March 2020. As I keep pointing out sars covid 2 a new risk for people who are already at high risk from known infection than a generally lethal disease. My argument is that instead of treating everyone as if they are at deaths door and wrecking the country in the process, it would be better to target help towards people who need it and even then it should be left up to the patient if they choose to accept that help. I don’t support the fad for turning nations into police states no matter how well intentioned the proponents of it are.

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Jul '20 - 11:30am

    My concern about your approach is that I perceive you as discounting the possible merits (or otherwise) of lockdown across the board when the problems different countries face may be very different.

    You mentioned Iceland – which seems to have handled Covid-19 pretty well – although from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/iceland/ it looks as though a 2nd wave might be starting – Japan even more so from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/japan/

    But Iceland – despite its geographical size – has a population in hundreds of thousands – less than that of some English counties, most of it in the Rekyavik area. It is a well to do country with an inexhaustible (on human timescales) supply of geothermal energy. It also has only one international point of entry – Keflavik Airport – the UK has had people flying in from here, there and everywhere.

    One international point of entry seems like the best possible situation for tackling the problem of travellers bringing the virus into the country. And from https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/iceland-reopens-coronavirus/index.html it appears that international travellers either accept being tested at the airport or do 14 days quarantine.

    In Japan it seems they did close schools and ban public events – but wearing a face mask seems to be an everyday thing there – one sees routinely in news and documentary videos loads of people wearing face masks in the street, when being stuffed into crowded trains etc. https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-how-japan-keeps-covid-19-under-control/a-52907069

    My point is that it is dangerous to try to discount one particular approach to controlling the spread of such a virus when the countries concerned have so many differing characteristics – population size and distribution, means of entry, culture, functional/dysfuncional bureaucracy etc. Just because some countries appear to have managed to control spread of the virus without resorting to lockdown doesn’t mean that lockdown might not be an appropriate approach elsewhere.

  • Katherine Porter
    The prediction were not that Sweden would do worse than their close neighbours, It was that they would have 40,000 deaths by May 1 and 100,000 deaths by August. Their big mistake was much like ours. They sent frail people to care homes to clear space for what was thought would be a flooded health system. I also refer you to Japan, Belarus, Taiwan and Iceland. There are also variations in the way deaths are recorded from one country to the next. The models look incredibly wide of the mark. Again, the virus is a new complication in the treatment of people already at high risk and poses very little threat to the general population.
    There is a vast difference between the modelling that led to lockdowns and the reality of what actually happened However, there is very little difference in the outcomes of countries that took different approaches. Germany has low death rates, but so does Japan. Belgium is fairly a close neighbour to Germany and locked down, but has high death rates. So why are we are being asked to compare Sweden to their neighbours but to ignore other European countries high death rates? There is no consistency in results or even the arguments beyond some sort of political conviction that we have done the right thing. Viruses do not care about politics, they don’t reward or punish places based on good intentions or a perceived lack of them. We closed down to flatten the curve of a threat that was thought would swamp our health services and that would lead to vast numbers of deaths in countries that did not follow suit. I think it is becoming more and more obvious that it hasn’t worked and as only really achieved levels of social damage not seen since the 1930s. The pandemic has not caused this, the political fad has.

  • Nonconformistradical
    In Japan they took some minor voluntary measures and gave up on them when the economic effects looked bad. I also mention Belarus which has a population of close to 10, million. There is no consistency in the results or even how anything is being measured. Personally, I think the virus caused a huge panic, it became fashionable to praise the Chinese response and now people are trying to find reasons to feel better about the huge blunder it resulted in. There’s a kind of desperation find reasons why countries that did not do the same thing don’t have worse results and an unwillingness to contemplate the idea that our countries just overreacted.

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