We now know that Boris Johnson’s initial reluctance to impose Covid containment regulations was prompted by a confidential January 2020 report which predicted that the total impact of the virus on the health of the UK population would be about the same as the combined threat posed by eczema and athlete’s foot. It was only after the Prime Minister was rushed into intensive care that government officials looked at the small print of that report and discovered that its predictions were derived not from models used by the world’s most respected universities, but from models used by the world’s most respected couturiers. Not surprisingly, the Whitehall staffer who compiled the report was immediately sacked and the government turned instead to Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who duly submitted the report on which all the UK’s subsequent lockdown and social distancing rules were predicated. But calls for that staffer to be reinstated have been getting harder to ignore in recent weeks after it was pointed out that the predictions made in his report have proved to be more accurate than those made by Professor Ferguson. For example, the response of Gianni Versace’s favourite and convicted mobile phone assailant Naomi Campbell to the question ‘How many people in the UK do you think will die of Covid 19’, was ‘I dunno… ’undred?’, while heroin-chic Calvin Klein centrefold Kate Moss’s answer to the same question was ‘Errrrm… a fousand?’ Professor Ferguson’s model, on the other hand, predicted – and with a good deal more confidence – that half a million Brits might perish within the first year. Nearly two years later, the total UK tally is just shy of 130,000, and thanks to Boris’s machine gun vaccine roll-out, not expected to get much higher. When asked to explain how he had gotten it 300 per cent wrong Professor Ferguson said in his defence that the model he’d used could hardly have been expected to work as it was 14 years old and is, in fact, the same model he’d used to make even more inaccurate mortality predictions following Britain’s foot and mouth, mad cow and swine flu outbreaks. Pending the appearance of a new, more virulent virus, Professor Ferguson’s model has now been returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it can be viewed in the same room as the trouser press and the subprime mortgage. But as Campbell and Moss are also models now considered to be too old to work, the British government has given assurances that any fashion icon enlisted to determine future pandemic containment policies must have appeared on the cover of British, French or American Vogue at least once that calendar year.
Not all typing errors have negative consequences for political leaders. I am reliably informed that Poland’s decision to supply Australia’s jab shortfall was as pleasant a surprise for Scott Morrison as it was for the rest of us, which explains the boyish grin he wore when he announced it on live television. But what Mr Morrison failed to mention in that press conference was that far from being a brilliant Canberra coup which took weeks of back-channel diplomacy, the vaccine rescue was an entirely unsolicited Warsaw goodwill initiative prompted by an article in a European daily whose Australian correspondent had misreported a conversation in a Fyshwick café in which a senior Coalition figure – presumably with one eye on his leader’s re-election prospects – had been heard to say ‘you just can’t trust the f—-ing polls’.
While I concede that the jabs available to Australians may not greatly reduce your chances of catching or dying from Covid-19, as far as I am concerned the science is settled that they provide the only real protection against government overreach. But I have yet to see any credible evidence that the wearing of face masks makes any difference one way or the other, so I am forming an organisation whose modest ambition will be to persuade our state premiers to ease off on this particular stricture. As an advertising man I know how important catchy names are, so I am thinking of calling my organisation the Mask Abaters.
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