WHEN the scandal of Imperial College’s Professor Neil Ferguson’s breach of the Covid-19 lockdown social-distancing rules with his married mistress Antonia Staats broke, it was not only understandable but also totally justified that the main focus of public attention by far was on his own gross professional and personal hypocrisy.
After all, here was arguably the principal architect of the SAGE advisory group’s ‘expert’ ‘scientific’ advice, which prompted the Government to restrict personal freedoms to an extent unprecedented in peacetime, in effect shut down the economy and put half the nation’s entire workforce on the public payroll, flagrantly doing the precise opposite of his own recommendations.
The disastrous effects of the Government’s panicked U-turn from mitigation to suppression, so as to follow the SAGE/Ferguson recommendations slavishly, are all too familiar. The excessively heavy-handed authoritarianism of the police in enforcing lockdown rules. The deliberate instigation of the worst recession for 300 years. A level of budget deficits which will take years to recover from. They need no more than a brief mention here.
Neither is this the place to debate either the merits or demerits of lockdown per se, which have been impressively covered by my fellow TCW authors, or Ferguson’s morals, which are of no intrinsic concern to us.
However, given the sheer hypocrisy of his personal conduct compared with his professional scientific advice, and the baleful consequences of the Government’s following the latter, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether there are any underlying political factors which influenced Ferguson’s specific choice of paramour? Or, possibly, which influenced his paramour’s particular selection of him as the object of her attention and beneficiary of her favours?
Primarily on Ferguson’s ‘expert advice’, a formerly-‘Conservative’ Party government has created a weaker, static, travel-shunning society cowed into acquiescent submission by lurid pandemic scaremongering, and a weaker economy dependent on massive State intervention. It’s pursuing policies which wouldn’t be at all out of place in an election manifesto produced jointly by Momentum and Extinction Rebellion. No wonder the State-Socialists and the Green anti-capitalism eco-totalitarians are crowing that lockdown has become the new normal. So what part, if any, might Ferguson’s inamorata have played in influencing that advice?
It didn’t take very long for Guido to uncover ‘Left-wing campaigner’ Ms Staats’s political affiliations, which turned out, with a wearisome predictability, to be eco-socialist, anti-Brexit, and anti-capitalist. As to Ms Staats’s other links, including to the US-based online globalist-activism Avaaz, these were set out very succinctly by Janice Davis in the penultimate paragraph of her TCW article of Wednesday May 13; it needs no repetition or elaboration from me, other than, perhaps, to note the allegations of funding connections with the Moveon.org organisation funded by George Soros.
To those of us disinclined to believe in fairies and unicorns, this all started to ring warning bells, and still does. A hard Green-Left anti-Brexit, globalist, eco-activist who just happens to have been bedding the very man on whose ‘expert advice’ coincidentally the Government has been inveigled into trying to re-make the economy and society in ways very similar to what the anti-Brexiteers, the far-Left, and extreme-Greens demand? Can we totally exclude the possibility that Ferguson and Ms Staats connected by some process other than pure chance?
How long has the relationship been going? Does the apparent willingness to breach the lockdown rules for the amorous assignations – in Ferguson’s case hypocritically so – suggest that it might still be in its first flush of ardour and therefore of comparatively recent origin? The pair are reported to have hooked up via the match website OkCupid, but which of the two initiated it? Is Ferguson subject to the Official Secrets Act in relation to divulging via pillow-talk any confidential information to which he might be privy by virtue of his official role?
It must be said that, from Ferguson’s track record, it’s entirely possible to conclude that his recommendations to the Government via SAGE were formed without any external influences. Professionally, his history of wrong predictions with disastrous consequences has been mercilessly dissected. The coding on which his modelling is based has been taken apart.
In his personal capacity, he has not been notably reticent about his political views, either. Remember that the spectacularly misnamed ‘Liberal’ ‘Democrats’, whose capture of Oxford West and Abingdon he greeted so effusively in 2017, have consistently campaigned to ignore the result of the 2016 EU Referendum and unilaterally overturn it.
It’s worth, too, listening to this James Delingpole/Toby Young London Calling podcast of May 6 for the latter’s excellent monologue summary (from 06:36) of how Ferguson so egregiously epitomises the dangerous serial failings of the ‘liberal’-Left, authoritarian-statist, fiscally-incontinent, groupthink-conformist quangocracy. His apparent assumption that lockdown rules on social distancing were for the little people to follow, but not necessarily himself, could well stem from an elitist hubris that’s entirely self-generated.
So it’s entirely feasible that little, if any, external influence was necessary for him to make up his mind in the direction he did. After all, his recommendations were hardly inconsistent with his previous positions; it was not as if he’d reversed policy direction by 180 degrees.
But perhaps any influence, if influence there was, was of the more subtle kind, in the form of flattery, or validation, which might just have prompted him to strengthen them in a particular direction? Would it have been akin to gently pushing on an already open door?
Both in reality and fiction, the honey-trap has a long and chequered history. Betty Pack, as MI6 agent ‘Cynthia’, used her feminine allure to help Britain covertly abstract from the Poles the key to the German Enigma codes. In Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, ayoungfemale OAS agent deliberately becomes the mistress of de Gaulle’s much older security adviser, to inform the would-be assassin of the action being taken in the hunt for him. Former LibDem MP Mike Hancock employed as his parliamentary researcher, with access to sensitive defence papers, the Russian spy Katia Zatuliveter, 40 years his junior, with whom he was also having an affair.
We have no reason to assume the practice doesn’t continue. And in a world populated by many more non-state actors, there is equally no reason to suppose that sexual entrapment, not undertaken for criminal blackmail purposes but with the aim of either obtaining intelligence or exerting influence in a particular policy direction, doesn’t occur outside government agencies, and is never used by either supranational bodies or well-funded NGOs. Or, indeed, online activist organisations?
It was intriguing how much the initial reaction to the Daily Telegraph‘s exposure of Ferguson’s liaison bordered on the incredulous: based on the first glamorous photograph of Ms Staats published, comment along the lines of ‘What on earth did she see in him? She’s a bit out of his league, isn’t she?‘ was frequent. At the risk of being ungallant, subsequent pictures may have modified this impression somewhat, but was he possibly, because of his position and influence, selected as a target for some kind of subtle honey-trap operation?
One of the few certainties about the whole Covid-19 imbroglio is that there will eventually have to be a mammoth public inquiry. Are there not sufficient grounds for a full security inquiry to be held within its ambit? To investigate whether there exist, not merely ‘questions to be asked’ or even ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’, but actually something more than either of those? Were Ferguson’s lockdown recommendations and his own subsequent flouting of them based entirely on scientific certitude and elitist personal hubris? Or something more?