NEWS
23/10/2020 10:58 BST | Updated 23/10/2020 11:00 BST

5 Fibs You Were Told This Week About Herd Immunity, Free School Meals And Rudy Giuliani

Featuring the Battle for Manchester, weird excuses for not feeding children, and a politician's nether regions.

Hello and welcome once again to 5 Fibs, which this week breaks new ground by featuring Rudy Giuliani’s nether regions.

Still with us? My, you are brave.

Don’t worry too much, that doesn’t come up until the very last entry so there are plenty of fibs to get angry about before we get... there.

And because we have your best interests at heart, here’s some eye bleach to dip into as required.

Lovely stuff. 

Manchester

The news this week was dominated by the astounding battle between Downing Street and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham in scenes so dramatic, the government was accused of “waging war” against the region.

The saga peaked with the mayor finding out from the media on live TV that his constituency had been put in tier 3 lockdown.

Fuelling the tussle was a flurry of statistics being flung by the government as it attempted to justify imposing the strictest set of restrictions.

On Monday it was claimed Greater Manchester hospital intensive care beds would be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients by November 12 – in a best-case scenario.

But when journalist Jennifer Williams of the Manchester Evening News tried to find evidence of this, she was met with mostly silence from the relevant authorities

She spent a full day on Monday trying to access trust-by-trust Covid admissions numbers as a proportion of overall capacity, compared to the April peak, as well as the same figures for intensive care and high dependency beds. 

Despite contacting every hospital trust in Greater Manchester, as well as five other bodies including the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Downing Street and the mayor’s office, not a single organisation responded with answers. 

Most of the little information regularly published on bed occupancy only breaks the figures down by region, with the north-west presented unhelpfully as one homogenous area – which does nothing to explain what is going on in Greater Manchester. 

On Tuesday No.10 did send out the slides used by the PM during his press conference announcing restrictions in Greater Manchester, showing the seven-day rolling average of Covid-10 patients in hospital beds in the conurbation edging towards 600 as of October 19. 

But these figures are across all hospital beds, and don’t refer specifically to ICU capacity – and also show that the number of hospitalised patients is still roughly half of what it was at the peak of the first wave in mid-April. 

Dan Wootton

2020 has been a year of things that really, totally and absolutely suck. And in amongst it all there is one phenomenon that is more infuriating than most – journalists pretending to be scientists and getting things very wrong. 

5 Fibs has trodden this ground before when a number of commentators a few weeks ago spread (and continue to spread) the false claim that 93% of Covid-19 tests are false positives. Unfortunately, it has not stopped there.

The latest example is talkRADIO host Dan Wootton, who built a career in writing showbiz and gossip articles for The Sun.

So it was somewhat of a surprise when on Monday Wootton adamantly declared the best way out of the pandemic was to shield all the vulnerable people in the UK while the rest of us deliberately catch Covid-19 in order to reach herd immunity.

When questioned by his guest, Labour MP Chris Bryant, on how exactly the UK could protect the vulnerable amid a “herd immunity” approach, Wootton declined to give specifics, opting instead to say there is “a whole load of ways to do it”. 

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is exactly the proposed strategy of the Great Barrington Declaration, a document reflecting the views of a minority of the world’s scientists that oppose lockdowns and say we should all carry on largely as if nothing is happening and let herd immunity do the rest.

But there are four things you need to know about the Great Barrington Declaration:

  1. It completely ignores the fact that herd immunity has never been achieved without a vaccine
  2. It provides no plan for how a country can effectively shield all vulnerable people
  3. It was sponsored by an organisation funded by Charles Koch – a right-wing billionaire known for promoting climate change denial and opposing regulations on business
  4. The vast majority of experts disagree with it

For his efforts, Wootton was branded a “dangerous conspiracy theorist” by a clearly furious Bryant.

Nationalising children

Yes, you read that right, “nationalising children”. Specifically, not believing in “nationalising children”.

These were the words uttered by Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith in what was supposed to be an attack on proposals to extend free school meals for the poorest over the holidays.

On Wednesday, MPs voted against a measure spearheaded by England football star Marcus Rashford that called for the scheme to run until Easter 2021 – an extra six weeks or so.

For an idea of just how badly the government ls handling this issue, even Nigel Farage is coming across as compassionate by comparison.

Technically we cannot call Clarke-Smith’s comments a fib as he may indeed not believe in nationalising children. But on the grounds that no one was calling for that, and therefore it was a totally daft made up thing to say anywhere, never mind in the Commons, it makes our list.

As for further comment, we now turn to the good folk of Twitter.

Kit Malthouse

While we’re on the topic of feeding children, let’s listen to what another Tory MP, Kit Malthouse, had to say on the matter.

He said he voted against the motion to extend free school meals because “the best way to help those on low incomes is to pump money into the welfare system”.  

We’ll have to stop you there, Kit, because this appears to be a fib.

The Universal Credit (UC) system, which was designed and rolled out nationwide under Conservative rule to replace multiple separate benefits, has repeatedly been cited as a key factor in pulling families into poverty

According to the UK’s biggest food poverty charity, the Trussell Trust, the huge surge in demand for foodbank use can be explicitly linked to the introduction of UC. With a five-week wait for the first payment, many households have been plunged into rent arrears and faced mounting bill payments. 

So no, it would seem it isn’t the best way to deal with the issue of hungry children.

Rudy Giuliani

Our customary US entry this week is a truly bizarre episode featuring New York City’s former mayor and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Turns out he is one of the victims of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest Borat movie but it’s all OK because Giuliani, 76, thinks he got away without anything too embarrassing.

“I only later realised it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen,” he said. “I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me.” 

But hang on a sec, Rudy, we have questions.

The film features a scene with Giuliani touching himself in the presence of a woman pretending to be a conservative reporter, as multiple publications have reported, and how this constitutes getting away with anything remains to be see.

After holding a mock interview with Giuliani, actor Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat’s daughter in the new film, goes with the former mayor into a hotel suite rigged with hidden cameras. Giuliani sits on the bed, Bakalova appears to remove his microphone, and Giuliani then lies back and reaches into his trousers.

Soon afterwards, Baron Cohen, playing Borat, bursts into the room and says, “She’s 15 – she’s too old for you!” (Bakalova is 24 years old.)

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for Donald Trump, with the president and members of the City of New York Police Department Benevolent Association

Giuliani told the New York Post in early July that he thought he was participating in a real interview, only to find out he was being fooled by Baron Cohen, who is notorious for pranking public figures in his films.

“This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy  what I would say was a pink transgender outfit,” Giuliani said at the time. “It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive.”

Thinking he was the victim of a “scam or shakedown,” the former mayor called the police and Baron Cohen sprinted away.

Police did not pursue charges.