This weekend the Guardian and Independent both published a whopper of a story sure to set social media and MP’s casework inboxes alight; with claims Boris was to use Brexit to authorise the use of a “bee-killing pesticide banned in the EU” – neonicotinoid thiamethoxam – to treat sugar beet seed this year in an effort to protect the crop from a virus. Greta immediately leapt on the story:
UK government has announced "a bee-killing pesticide so poisonous that it is banned by the EU" may be used in England.— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 9, 2021
New coal mines and pesticides... the UK's so called "green industrial revolution" is off to a great start.
Very credible indeed.https://t.co/R4o54ZEyvD
There was just one problem with the screeching Remainer environmental outrage: the pesticide is not banned in the EU and the UK was always entitled to use it pre-Brexit – with 10 EU countries also having issued emergency authorisations for the pesticide since 2018 including Belgium, Denmark and Spain. DEFRA makes it very clear: “The UK’s approach to the use of emergency authorisations has not changed as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU.”
British sugar beet yield in 2020 is expected to be down by 20-25% on previous years due to predation by aphids which have been spreading beet yellow virus:
“The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators.”
Don’t expect blind, unverifiable Remainer anger to die down just because Brexit’s finally done and dusted…
UPDATE: Reported today in French press France approves three-year use of controversial pesticide
Since the vaccine news came out on Wednesday morning, Remainers have spent their time arguing that Brexit point-scoring shouldn’t politicise the good vaccine news; as the Guardian published on Wednesday, the “UK’s triumph at approving Covid vaccine must not become a chest-thumping exercise”:
“The health secretary saw this as a triumph for Britannia. Matt Hancock even tried to spin it as a triumph for Brexit… But political posturing will not help the huge effort ahead to get the vaccine taken up by the elderly and vulnerable most at risk from Covid.”
The paper’s aversion to political posturing over the vaccine is clearly newly-found however, given that back March the Observer’s political editor Toby Helm gleefully told readers:
“Brexit means coronavirus vaccine will be slower to reach the UK – and it will cost more here because of the UK pulling out of the European Medicines Agency on 30 December”
Yes, that’s the same EMA that is yet to approve a vaccine, holding back immunisation for EU citizens. Unsurprisingly, Toby has remained quiet on social media vaccine analysis this week…
The Guardian is far from the only outlet to have pronounced Brexit doom on Britain’s hopes of a vaccine. In July the Independent’s Rob Merrick told readers Boris Johnson had put “Brexit before health by rejecting an invitation to join an EU scheme to procure a coronavirus vaccine”, citing Layla Moran who said the decision was putting “Brexit over vaccines”. According to sources at the time, the EU made scrapping the Oxford vaccine trials a pre-condition of UK participation in their vaccine programme. Now we have more vaccine than the EU, faster than the EU. Will Remainers ever learn to stop predicting gloom and disaster?
Last week’s Guardian splash – “Government admits millions may miss out on most effective vaccine” – so incensed deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam that he’s written a letter to them slamming the paper’s tone and accuracy, accusing the Guardian of being “both misleading and sensationalist,” and bluntly attributing the error “to a lack of understanding”:
“It is oversimplistic to imply that any vaccines are “superior” or “inferior”. The results we will have initially for any vaccine will pertain to efficacy determined over a relatively short timeframe… Comparing vaccines based on a single interim estimate of effectiveness is therefore a mistake.”
First Peston, now the Guardian: Van-Tam seems to be single-handedly continuing Lee Cain’s no-nonsense approach to the media…
The Guardian is following up on The Times stories about Kate Bingham, the chair of the government’s vaccine taskforce, who was hired for her expertise in biotech investments, having had investments in biotech. Their angle on the story is that a government-backed fund invested in private equity firm SV Health, creating a conflict of interest:
“Bingham “stepped away” from her role at private equity firm SV Health Investors in May to take an unpaid post as chair of the vaccine taskforce, which aims to ensure the UK population has access to vaccines as soon as possible.
Two months later, SV Health Investors announced it had secured a $65m investment into its SV7 Impact Medicine Fund from British Patient Capital (BPC), which is entirely funded by the UK government.”
The article goes on to cite public records as well as NGOs condemning this supposed conflict of interest. Guido took a look at those same public records and found that the journalist’s employers, Guardian Media Group plc, benefited from the $65 million investment because they were among the original investors in the very same SV7 Impact Medicine Fund.
How could these investigative journalists, looking at the same public records that they cite, fail to mention that their employers had also invested in the same fund? Covering up their own conflict of interest?
Recently-sacked Guardian staff have been forced to cough up to receive their own redundancy notices after the news organisation sent the letters with insufficient postage, meaning former employees had to pay the Post Office the extra before taking possession. The farce has compounded anger amongst staff who had already spent weeks waiting for the mail to arrive.
With the Guardian announcing cuts of 12% to its workforce after an anticipated £25 million hit to its revenues thanks to Covid, staff were expecting to receive their redundancy notices on Monday. After the letters failed to arrive they were told they would be emailed instead. On Friday morning some staff began receiving notifications from the Post Office that £1.50 was required to take possession of the letters. Staff have been told they can either expense it or leave it and wait for the grim news via email instead…
Lockdown may have been a bleak experience for some, however the Guardian is providing entertainment in the form of a column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones – for just £45 (plus £2.65 booking fee). The paper is clearly attempting to avoid digging into its billion pound endowment. They promise it’s fully accessible, though at £47.65 for an online video it’s clearly not for working-class fans…
The class promises to teach how to write “compelling columns that challenge the status quo” as well as how to “look at different narrative approaches – from the contrarian to the activist-columnist and the voice-of-reason”. The Guardian also promises a percentage of the tickets will be donated to schemes supporting greater diversity in the media. Guido hopes the class covers how to use the correct photo of your subject in the featured image…
In case you missed it: Red Faces as Guardian Mixes Up Rapper Kano for Wiley
UPDATE: Guido is embarrassed to belatedly realise that the accompanying picture to this article is not in fact Owen Jones, but a stock image of a white man. This is unacceptable. A full and frank apology has been issued on the Guido Fawkes twitter account.
I'm absolutely horrified to see this terrible photo mistake made after my piece was signed off five minutes ago, and want to apologise profusely on behalf of Media Guido. https://t.co/kLa1N3iLYa
— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) August 5, 2020