IN the week before Easter Philip Patrick talked to Sir Christopher Chope, the MP on a seemingly lone mission to defend the rights of the vaccine injured. In the interview, reported below, Sir Christopher reflects on the state of ‘denial’ he believes the government is in over vaccine injuries, Sajid Javid’s dismissive treatment of him in a ten-minute meeting (mirrored in those contemptible, evasively bureaucratic replies to Sir Christopher’ written questions that we published yesterday), on the likely scope of the Covid inquiry and finally how differently to today’s generation of ministers, ‘who don’t attack officialdom’, Margaret Thatcher, a defender of freedom, would have responded to the Pandemic and dealt with Sage (‘a bunch of lefties’).
Sir Christopher Chope is a gentleman. Early in our interview he is at pains to defend Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, despite what appeared in online clips to be a withering putdown after the Conservative MP for Christchurch raised the issue of Covid 19 vaccine injuries in a debate.
‘Some of the coverage was taken out of context. Basically, what I wanted to do was use a supplementary question in order to make a point. The Speaker allowed me to make my point but said he wouldn’t ask the minister to respond as it didn’t arise from the question under debate. He has made it clear he is absolutely on my side in order to express my point of view and get information out of the government. People said I’d been put down by the Speaker, but I hadn’t.’
He is also keen to clarify that, despite reports that he is fighting a lone battle on vaccine injuries, he isn’t.
‘I’m not saying we’ve got massive support but in my Ten-Minute Rule Bill I was allowed to name 11 supporters, including Hannah Bardell of the SNP. Most of the others were Conservatives. And Jeremy Wright (Conservative MP for Kenilworth and Southam) is onside. But it’s quite difficult to get Labour people to support it.’
This is putting it mildly. One of the strongest reactions to Sir Christopher’s question in the Commons came from Wes Streeting, the shadow secretary of state for health, who tweeted that Sir Christopher’s quoting of potential numbers of vaccine adverse events was ‘baseless, offensive and wrong’. Streeting lambasted the Conservative Party for harbouring ‘anti-science extremists in their party’.
‘Anti-science’? Sir Christopher referenced the government’s own VAERS Yellow Card reporting scheme, which has amassed reports of more than 2,000 deaths so far, a figure which may well be an underestimate given the generally acknowledged tendency of passive reporting schemes significantly to understate a problem. ‘Offensive’? To whom? Sir Christopher’s modest appeal is simply for further work to be done on verifying the VAERS figures with a view to clarifying vaccine safety and properly compensating those who have been genuinely damaged. As he put it:
‘What is the purpose of the MHRA [Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency]? Isn’t it to boost consumer confidence in vaccines by assuring people that if there is an adverse consequence that’s drawn to the attention of the manufacturer very quickly? If these Yellow Card reports are worth the paper they’re written on, it should be possible to get an answer [to the question of how many deaths were truly vaccine related]. Their [the government’s] reluctance to answer questions just raises suspicions.’
Why is the government proving so intractable (Sir Christopher is awaiting answers to a dozen name-day questions)? Is the problem a consequence of the massive investment, political and financial, in the vaccine programme? Are we stymied by the near-impossibility of the government climbing down from such an entrenched position?
‘I think that is absolutely fair comment, and I agree with that. The failure to answer name-day questions is indicative of the fact that the government doesn’t want to admit that there are adverse events. The fact that we’re not getting answers just feeds into the suspicion that either the government is in denial or that the answers to these questions are going to be embarrassing.’
Sir Christopher and Jeremy Wright are doing their best to apply pressure, though with mixed success.
‘Jeremy Wright has been telling the Health Secretary, with whom he has good relations because they were in the government together, that [vaccine damage] is an issue in its infancy at the moment which is going to become a potential embarrassment to the government if it is not seen to be on the front foot and sympathetic in its response. We had a meeting with Sajid Javid, and it was a great disappointment, though not necessarily a surprise. It was only ten minutes, and he was still reading his brief while Jeremy was going on.’
Will the government maintain its stance, its state of denial? What is the long-term vaccine strategy?
‘I think it will become rather like the flu jab, an optional thing. And they have redefined the symptoms of Covid basically to include everything. It comes back to the question of the difficulty of climbing down. I’ve avoided getting into a discussion of efficacy, but it seems quite clear from the number of people who have had Covid recently that a very large number have already been triple-jabbed. And anecdotal evidence [is] suggesting the double-jabbed have retained greater protection than the triple-jabbed. But the government couldn’t possibly admit that, could it? So, it then tries to encourage people to have a fourth jab. But that’s the way government works. If you have a regulation or requirement that is found wanting, the answer is even more of the same.’
Some people would go further and suggest that the third and fourth jabs are actually driving infection. If there is the slightest possibility that that is true, shouldn’t a complete halt be called to the vaccination programme?
‘I don’t know enough about it to say if that’s true. I don’t want to be accused of being an anti-vaxxer. It would play into the hands of all the people who are in denial. I don’t want to go down that road. There is a feeling out there that anyone who is questioning the vaccines is some mad conspiracy theorist, who is part of the “anti-vax” campaign. I’m not anti-vax. I just believe that vaccine confidence is best promoted by being open and transparent, and not by covering up.’
And what of the looming inquiry? How alarmed should we be by the PM’s recent comments where he appeared open to the possibility of another lockdown?
‘No, I think it was just a typical Boris take. He didn’t want to take a line and just mumbled through with a slightly incoherent [answer] as to whether and in what circumstances, but didn’t rule it out. I wouldn’t attach much weight to it either way. As far as the inquiry goes, I think it’s very important that it looks at the issue of the safety and the efficacy of the vaccines and the injuries resulting therefrom. I’ve written to Baroness Hallett [the inquiry chair] to make that explicit [in the terms of reference]. But ultimately the terms of reference are in the gift of the PM.’
What of the efficacy of lockdowns? Many sceptics are worried that the inquiry will only consider the timing and extent of lockdowns, not whether they should have been employed at all. What is the likelihood that that question will be properly addressed?
‘I think it is most unlikely. It depends on the timescale. It could go on for years and years. If you want an earlier result, it may be that the government will allow a lot of other issues to be raised to delay the inevitable, which is that the reaction we had was totally disproportionate. I supported the initial lockdown as I thought the NHS was unprepared, but thereafter I voted against every lockdown measure. I think we should have relied on individual responsibility and common sense. The long-term damage to our economy and things like the work ethic, not to mention the next generation, were they just collateral damage? No, I think a fundamentally flawed decision was taken at the very top at the outset that we would deal with this by suppressing individual freedom. I don’t see any prospect that the inquiry will reach that conclusion. I’m an eternal optimist but it’s beyond my wildest dreams.’
The wildest dream of many sceptics of a conservative persuasion would have been for Margaret Thatcher to have been in charge during the pandemic. Sir Christopher knew her well. What would she have done?
‘I think she would have got to grips with the issue in detail very early on. And I think she would have made life hell for the people who were coming along with advice which was very hard to justify. And her instincts were always – you should not take away people’s freedom. Removing people’s right to see their loved ones in hospital would have been anathema to Margaret, and likewise closing large parts of society on effectively a whim to ‘save the NHS’, I don’t think she would have bought into that either. It was completely at odds with everything she stood for. And she would have been rigorous in her questioning and analysis of everything she was given, and angry at the lack of preparedness, which was basically “we can’t cope so we’re just going to close down and take away people’s freedom”. She would never have allowed Sage to take control. She would have said “Who are these people?” and she would found out that they were in many cases well-known lefties, and she would have chastised her advisers for allowing this to happen. It would never have got to the stage of there being a Sage giving duff advice. She would never have allowed that to happen in the first place. She would have said “Who’s in charge?” and she would have been in charge. But too many MPs are now no longer in charge, they have lost the self-confidence to take control and follow their own instincts. Instinct would have drawn Margaret Thatcher to a completely different conclusion to that which we had.’
Which leads into the final question: why did Parliament fail so badly to hold the government and the ‘experts’ to account?
‘Since Margaret Thatcher left, the Conservative Party has recruited people who are not independent thinkers. Almost all [new Conservative candidates for Parliament] are clones selected on the basis of a particular set of beliefs. In order to be promoted in the party the best plan is never to question what the government is doing and never to ask probing questions. And if you never challenge the government as an MP, you are never going to challenge the advisers as a minister. We have a whole generation of ministers who are not challenging officialdom. They don’t lack the intellectual ability, but they lack the self-confidence. It’s a lot to do with suppressing our own homegrown talent and [not] encouraging people to get into public life and ask questions.’
That last comment surely says it all and explains far more than just the failings of the pandemic.