It is now commonly accepted that people in the northern half of the country, the elderly and the vulnerable, those with known health conditions and those without, have been put at far greater risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic because of the actions of the main leaders of the northern unionist and pro-union community, Arlene Foster, Robin Swann and Naomi Long, and their apparent belief that maintaining the appearance of the so-called “union” between the Six Counties and the United Kingdom was of greater importance than the well-being of many of their own constituents. The trio chose to force an alignment of the region’s crisis response with the inane “herd immunity” plan initially advocated by the Conservative Party government in the UK, even when that plan was revealed to have potentially catastrophic consequences for hundreds of thousands of senior citizens and those with preexisting aliments.
They did so egged on by their colleagues in the Democratic Unionist Party, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and by unionist MLAs in the Stormont Assembly. They did so with the support and the rhetoric of some well known local newspaper journalists and editors in the UK-ruled region. They did so against the advice of international health experts and organisations, and against the anti-coronavirus policies adopted across Europe and on this island in particular. They did so in an exercise that for some individuals seemed to be little more than an opportunity to spite the northern nationalist community and its elected leaders. Ignoring the evidence in front of their eyes the DUP, UUP and APNI chiefs failed absolutely in their duty as democratic representatives to acknowledge and reject the de facto “culling” policy advocated by the Downing Street administration of Boris Johnson.
Yesterday the Irish Times provided a platform to those individuals who are now seeking to excuse and obfuscate the inaction of the leaders of northern unionism in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, warping the sequence of events in Belfast, Dublin and London over the last fourteen days into so much word garbage. This has had the deliberate effect of turning the chief offenders in the controversy into its chief victims. Let it be stated with clarity. Such distortions are contemptible and it is to its everlasting shame that the Irish Times has joined the partisan ranks of those news media legitimising the pitiful excuses offered up by Foster and company. Excuses that fell apart under the pressure of their own voters, under the criticism of scientists and doctors in Ireland and the UK, and the eventual retreat by the authorities in London from their ill-conceived health policy. (Though there is still a strong suspicion in press circles outside of Britain and among international experts that what the British leaders are claiming in public and what they are advocating in private may be quite different things.)
The response to the pandemic in the north-east of the island will now closely align with that of the rest of the country. Not just because that has always been the right – and scientific – thing to do. But because the unionist bloc in the power-sharing Executive at Stormont has been forced and shamed into doing so. That is the real story of the last few weeks. Not fatuous and untrue allegations of “Anglophobia” and “ethnic slurs” or that the controversy can be reduced to a mere question of “timing”.
Pathetic but not surprising that the unionist parties bought wholesale into the Johnston gov’s approach. Their first consideration is always to be seen to be toeing the UK line, whatever the cost to everyone else. Must say, though, I’m surprised at the passivity and moral vacuity of Alliance on this.
John Crace, sketch writer at the Guardian, had a great piece yesterday on the UK gov’s coronavirus response.
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As far as I’m concerned South Korea has been the “Class Act” that has done almost everything right during this pandemic while every other significantly affected country has fucked-the-chicken one way or another.
As for Communist China this may well be their “Chernobyl”. They covered it up and arrested some of the doctors who tried blowing the whistle.
In Britain the fuck Up was hard immunity. In much of Europe it was emulating the Chinese Communists more than a fellow Democratic Republic like South Korea. In the US it has been shortages of testing and medical supplies.
“fucked-the-chicken”?! That’s a new one! 😉
My brother works at a hospital in a major city as a medic. They have no coronavirus tests whatsoever, but the hospital is utterly overrun with people with coughs, fevers, and respiratory distress who test negative for the flu. Only one hospital in the state can test and their maximum is 150/day right now. They are hoping to bring into 20,000/day. Even where there are machines to test the special swabs needed (they have to be plastic and nylon as paper, wood and cotton can ruin the result) and the reagents needed to use the machines are kits are not available.
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“Fucked the chicken” is school yard slang where I came from!!!
However my brother’s hospital is almost entirely out of masked and PPE for virus. They are resorting to bandanas and face shields. They are dealing with war/refugee camp-like shortages in a hospital with a top tier reputation.
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The right wing policies of the US and U.K. will wreak a trail of death on their aged and health compromised policies.
In America there are around 11,000,000 undocumented migrants who cannot go near medical facilities. Then there are another 27,000,000 uninsured Americans. That together with maybe another 100,000,000 who are underinsured make for a lot of people with limited or no access to medical care.
Not exactly the recipe for mass infection – epidemic control.- treatment.
Then factor in the harsh reality of all the folk who had through economic necessity to work instead of self quarantining – isolating themselves. Or a government who put economic advantage, for the few ahead of public health. Trump did after all say only a few weeks ago that COVID 19 was a hoax. Breath it in folks, seemed to be the madman’s message whilst his short trading pals cleaned up.
Yep, America will now pay with it health and economi life.
And in the UK, are things any better. Six weeks ago HM Government were placing full page adverts in the press to say that they were well prepared and all that the best thing folks could do was to sneeze into a tissue, dispose of same and wash hands. Was this to calm public perception to allow the short trading hedge funds to take positions in advance of the market collapse. Was it to keep economic advantage at the trade-off of health. Was it to allow the disease to spread on a failed analysis, on the economic and ultimate health benefits of herd analysis. Prime Minister Johnson did after all say only a couple of weeks ago that folks would have to take i5 on the chin and lose loved ones before their time.
Two peas out of the same pod as the US and UK hurtle towards economic and social ruin.
And by comparison, Germany who has one of the lowest levels of death was very early into testing, ensuring payments to workers to assist early intervention for the population to self quarantine and or isolate,. Even in treatment Germany has five times more ICU beds than the UK – and probably more again than Ireland.
The Great Famine was in many ways a similar to what is now happening with COVID 19. Yes the crop failures in Ireland were as a consequence of natural pestilence. But deliberate economic and social policy fuelled the holocaust. And today, economic and social policy will do the same. Only, this time, the UK have it on there own back yard.
Greed, greed and greed. We all now live in fear of what is to befall us – and oh how the governmental message of only a few weeks ago has changed. Stay safe folks, or as safe as you can.
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Well said, Willie, I agree with every word. The US and UK governments’ attitudes to this virus is a disgrace, but not surprising. It’s a natural extension of their extreme right-wing, survival-of-the-fittest political worldview. They’ll now be scrabbling around to find someone to blame it all on. Trump is already publicly referring to coronavirus as “the Chinese Virus”.
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Isn’t that “Chinese” virus thing awful? As if we need shallow blame labelling at a time like this? It speaks volumes of the man’s integrity and priorities.
Almost everyone I know in the US is FURIOUS at both Trump AND the Chinese Government (not necessarily the Chinese people, who many actually feel sorry for), and that is true even among slightly more than half the Trump voters I worked with until I ended up as a pandemic layoff statistic.
Honestly, you gotten the situation more than a little wrong.
The biases against emergency preparation are as much the fault of the left as the right. Not through “greed” or “being co-opted” but because both left and right are biased against preparing for theoreticals- albeit for different reasons.
On the left, the tendency since at least the late 1980’s has been to dismiss the idea of a serious but theoretical emergency as “fearmongering”, with assumption being that any preparations for an epidemic or agricultural disaster, is simply unwarranted in a developed country and will either be a boondoggle for some contractor to get rich, a way to demonize some other country or both, and that also resources will be taken away from those in need. To some degree this wasn’t just a paranoid fantasy as epidemics, plant diseases, terrorism, and natural disasters have often been used by those looking for scapegoat- a phenomena hardly unique to the US.
If you talk to a lot of people on the left in the US raising GMO’s as a potential risk because too little genetic diversity could be a vulnerability if the wrong disease comes along will be dismissed as “less immediate” than other reasons to object or other food related issues. Some will argue that the GMO “low diversity” angle is a non-issue because Famine was the British Empire’s fault anyhow. Once I had a Jewish feminist community organizer wave away the issue: “So? That Famine was actually Britain’s doing. What makes you think that fungus or low potato diversity had anything to do with it? You’ve been brainwashed by people who think your ancestors deserved what they got! Thank God there are so few Jews who say such things about the Holocaust or Pogroms!!” Of course, that didn’t really describe my position, but she stormed away in disgust “Pathetic!! Absolute sad sack Disgrace!!!”
Another time, when I suggested as an anti-war activist that smallpox vaccine was a legitimate issue even though invading Iraq would if anything make the risk worse. I got shouted down with claims “How can you sit here and justify spending that money on something that may never happen, when we have people in this city who can’t pay their rent”. Some labeled the nuclear freeze movement “elitist” for not focusing on “more immediate problems” like HIV/AIDS, poverty, Salvador etc.
Essentially they have a bias that says “If you advocate any kind of planning for something that may or may not happen however catastrophic, instead of putting all focus on ‘more immediate’ problems that are happening now you are elitist-and sort of being *a Trevelyan* (although they may not use that name, that’s the gist of it!!) for focusing on a *a theoretical* and not what somebody in the community needs NOW, NOW, NOW!!” Suggesting that The Oklahoma Dustbowl of the 1930’s (aka The Dirty 30’s) might have avoided regional famine due to luck as much as any government effort, might also get you accused of “saying the hungry deserved what they got”, even if that’s not your argument. (Contrary to the impression in the book “Grapes of Wrath” the Federal Government went to fairly heroic lengths to stem the actual dustbowl-but couldn’t undo years of damage. President Hoover’s business had been Famine aid before he became President and mining engineering before that. So Hoover actually went to great additional lengths to stem immediate hunger and economic chaos. He actually started the “path” FDR continued-but incumbent Presidents tend to be blamed for economic hardship regardless of whether or not they deserve it.)
Of course, the reason The GOP has not been kind to the CDC. That is no big secret. What is less well known and rarely acknowledged is that the left can be just as bad- albeit for different motives and ideological rationales. This is not necessarily true of the Democratic party. In fact, some Democrats-who will not be named- have been labeled by the lefts as “elitist” and “co-opte” for wanting to give more money to the CDC, for wanting to stockpile medical supplies for just such an emergency (hint: one consideration is that it’s a bigger country than South Korea or most European states save Russia). The left cries “boondoogle” and “takes resources away from those in need” the INSTANT such stockpiles, or infrastructure for an emergency gets raised.
This is not to just complain about the left in the US- OK, maybe a little, as I know their virtues, vices, and blindspots too damn well- but to point out that issues like this are a lot more complicated than most people in the country let alone outside realize.
One reason the Democrats accepted some CDC funding cuts was not just the predictable leftist howling of “boondoggles” and “resources wasted” but because since the US government is set up so almost nuttin’ gets down without compromise, they didn’t like it, but bit that bullet to save Obamacare from being sacked 100% by Trump.
You make some legitimate points, Grace.
However, I at least am attacking the extreme right-wing in the US and the UK primarily because that’s who happens to be in power at the moment. It is they who are responsible for tackling this virus and, largely because of their ideological tendencies, I would contend, are making a complete mess of it. Moreover, “the Left” in US politics bears little resemblance to the Left anywhere else in the world, so it’s very much a relative term. A genuine Left has never been in power in the US. Each of the major parties is so in hock to large corporations and big business, what differences there are between them are often hard to discern. Aside from that, and this is true of most democracies, political terms are so (relatively) short, as soon as a politician is elected they start thinking about, and preparing the ground for, the next election. Long-term planning (on anything) is out the window, as it’s not going to play with the electorate and get someone elected again. It’s instant hits the politicians are looking for (no matter how imaginary they actually are). Or, failing that, to at least stick with the tried and trusted party line.
I could go on, but will finish with this: With the intellectually challenged and morally vacuous Trump and Johnson in power, surrounded as they are by coteries of right-wing extremists as advisers, it is no accident that the US and UK are making such a mess of tackling this virus. No amount of long-term planning could have prepared for those two charlatans, and the worst is probably yet to come.
Actually the Democrats have a majority in The House of Representatives and Progressive Democrat Pelosi is The Speaker (closest thing to a PM) and sort The Adult in The Room.
US politics are extremely easy to misunderstand from a European perspective (and vice versa of course!!!!!!). It’s a type of trias poltica where parties and factions per se are never “in power” in the sense you might see in Europe. Sometimes European will assume that the Democrats or Republican could do “X, Y, and Z”, of only they actually had the politically will for it. In reality, they needed at least a noticeable minority of the other party to break ranks in order to accomplish any such thing. Trump was not able to get rid of ObamaCare, even though he desperately wanted to, for the exact same reasons Obama, Clinton, and Carter couldn’t do everything they would have liked to have done. In Britain when one party is in power, that party is in power. Full stop. As long as they can maintain confidence and supply they can dominate in a way that is very rare in the US system.
The main reason “the left” looks different in the US from Britain and Europe is basically because the US has been a mixed economy from inception. It started out as one of the late 18th early 19th century “post-colonial” nations. A major reason why it set up a government where compromise is so hard to avoid was because The Founders saw that as a way to prevent another Cromwell from rising in their new Republic-a motive few Irish Republicans could dismiss out of hand!!
It never tried Laissez-Faire Capitalism or any form of Socialism/Communism- It’s biggest misery was a massive Civil War over slavery!! There was once a temporary regional case where nearly all heavy industry was state planned and most private enterprise consisted of agriculture or small business-much like early independent India in some respects. However no American schoolchild is taught to call that plan “socialism” or even “mixed-economy”: The textbooks call it Reconstruction. (An attempt to rebuild the South after the Civil War.)
Basically I’m telling you that what a lot of Britons and European believe about the US is either wrong or distorted. The US is not and never has been this big bastion of Laissez-Faire Capitalism and it certainly isn’t this “country with no historical baggage” commonly assumed. In most of the US people reserve the term “Socialist” for people who want a full state planned economy and are either Orthodox Marxist or Trotskyites. For those deemed on the left who support a mixed economy and/or
To bring it to modern day? With Trump I blame incompetence as much as anything else. He doesn’t really have a coherent ideology, and the analogy between him and Johnson (versus Brazil’s Bolsonaro!!!) has been overplayed!!!
I actually follow US politics, Grace, though not nearly as intently as I did a few years back, and have read extensively on the American Revolution and Civil War periods (I particularly like David McCullough on the Revolution, he writes like a novelist).
The Democrats do indeed hold power in the House, but Pelosi is hardly equivalent to a PM. The republican-controlled Senate can veto at will any House bill they don’t like, and this is not to mention Trump’s power of veto. And of course a party can hold “power” if they control the House, the Senate, and hold the White House (as was the case for the Democrats from 2009 – 2011).
“With Trump I blame incompetence as much as anything else.” Are you kidding me, Grace? Has there ever been a more consciously malignant presence in the White House?
The lasting legacy, for generations, of Trump and Republicans will be the lifetime appointees (all right-wing extremist/religious zealots) they made to the Supreme Court to shift the balance of power in that body. That each member of a nation’s Supreme Court can be so readily identified as to their political/social persuasions, and “balance of power” in the Court is not only an issue but is taken as a norm is, frankly, horrendous.
I’m not kidding about anything. Trump has no coherent ideology and I’m not sure he ever had one. He was nominally a Democrat until 2000. His malignancy is borne of temperamental unfitness, a vendetta against Obama, and a lack of any consistent worldview.
The only reason he plays more to the right than a certain subset of Bernie Sanders supporters (yes there’s evidence he got some of their votes too!!!!) is because his main ideology besides his own ego, is a grudge against OBama and a desire to undo everything Obama managed to accomplish. Obama insulted him on national TV, so that and the fact he ran as GOP means that despite some “red meat” for disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters mostly it’s the right he tries to please.
Actually even in 2009-2011, the Democrats were forced to make significant compromises to get a handful of Republicans on board and to minimize the number of Democrats who would break rank if they felt certain things would hurt their constituents. If they hadn’t Obamacare simply wouldn’t have been possible. The other side of the coin is that Trump couldn’t get rid of Obamacare even though for his first two years both Houses had strong GOP majorities.
As for partisan Justices, my solution to that would be rather simple. Make the bar for Senate approval 2/3 rather than a simple majority. However, there is no way I’d want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I actually believe in a fairly strong Supreme Court. The challenge is having the controls to weed out partisans justices.
I know all about Trump; his one-time flirting with the Democrats, his extreme narcissism and his lack of a coherent political ideology, aside from anything that advances and enriches himself. Although he has at least one ideology, he is instinctively deeply racist (the Central Park 5 is but one example, his anti-immigration stance is another) which no doubt helped bring him and the GOP together. But how does any of that justify dismissing his reaction to the coronavirus as mere “incompetence” on his part? Simple fact is, the man is entirely without empathy. He doesn’t give a shit, as long as he is not affected by the virus or by the fall-out from it.
As for the Supreme Court, how do you take the political partisanship out of something which is built entirely on political partisanship? My point wasn’t that supreme justices should be without political beliefs (an impossibility) but, as with the best journalists, they should be able to do their jobs without allowing personal political beliefs to interfere. Most of the US supreme justices are elected on the understanding that their political beliefs WILL skew their judgements.
“Dismissing” Trump’s actions as incompetence? Not at all. I’m condemning him for incompetence and having sought out a role he wasn’t fit for in the service of his bloated ego and extreme pathological grudge bearing.
Sadly, you don’t always need to follow a right wing or any other ideology to be bigot. Furthermore, what Trump said of the Central Park five, he would have happily said of people of any ethnic origin, if it served the cause of getting him the kind of attention that feeds his massive ego. A lack of empathy is in fact a lack, an inability, before political ideology comes into it. If he doesn’t have any concern for other people and likely isn’t capable of it, he isn’t competent to be dog catcher let alone President. Even if he became a sweet empathetic guy overnight, that wouldn’t necessarily make him capable of solving a serious crisis like this one. By some accounts he has always had the attention span of a nine year old with severe ADHD/ADD at different stages of his adult life, his speech is often incoherent in a way it wasn’t when he was younger, he says what ever pops into his mouth like a four year old.
The Supreme Court was intended to be above politics, and the destructive trend towards more partisan Justices started in the 1950’s. Many Republics have some version of that ideal for their Supreme Court. Before you scoff at that consider that most Constitutional Monarchies put that expectation on a King or Queen. As for how requiring 2/3 of the Senate to approve a Supreme Court Justice would fix the problem? It’s simple! If any more than 1/3 of the Senate can veto the President’s Supreme Court Justice picks, it would be much harder to push a partisan through that filter.
Actually my problem with Kavanaugh was more temperamental unfitness than being too ideological or the accusations (and I’m a feminist). Nobody who loses his cool like that in front on the Senate should get such a role.
Who knows, you may be right about the Central Park Five; but it was hardly attention-seeking that led him (and his father) to refer to African-American tenants as animals, and much worse, and treat their few black tenants in the appalling manner that they did.
Not sure why you’re referencing Constitutional Monarchies in discussing the US Supreme Court. Do you imagine that I don’t hold with the IDEAL of a Supreme Court? I certainly do, but the US Supreme Court is a million miles from the ideal. It has been poisoned by politics. In fact, large parts of the entire legal system in the US has been poisoned by politics (not to mention racism). As a small example, how many innocents are lying in prison today because some local sheriff or DA was coming up for re-election and wanted to clear the books on unsolved crimes?
I agree that Kavanaugh showed himself to be temperamentally unfit (I must admit to laughing at the public tantrum, quivering lip et al). But that was the least of my worries about him. Ideologically he’s a religious zealot with views on women’s rights that wouldn’t have looked out of place in 1930s Ireland.
To be honest I blame the UK mess on the malign influence of Cummings and his backroom graph-plotters. I come from a mixed Quality and IT background and if you take the human element out and just go for the stats and facts approach you can come up with all sorts of crazy solutions. Great solutions if you care about the solution only and not everything else.
Agreed, and ditto Stephen Miller and his ilk in the White House – though I doubt very much whether Miller even bothers with the stats and facts. Having said that, nothing can exonerate in the slightest the pair that employ them.
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Obviously the herd immunity thing “ignores the human element”. However, I’m not sure long term lockdown or “social distancing as a way of life” is that much better.
Basically I’m being told that we are going to have to live in a state of “strict social distancing” and intermittent lockdown for a minimum of 18 months and possibly several years. I’ve heard it suggest that even people living in the same house shouldn’t hug or kiss each other at all, except for parents and children under the age of four. I’ve been told that for that long I can’t visit my parents due to their age or medical issues, can’t visit my brother because of his work and his wife’s health issues, can’t visit my Man because he lives with a brother who has diabetes, can’t be within six feet of another human being except when absolutely unavoidable, and can’t look for another job-but should live on welfare.
I think part of the effort should be to test out the asymptomatic low mild symptom infected and quarantine them for a two week period. That’s not perfect, but better than what’s happening.
It wasn’t just the Unionist parties who went along with the decision to adopt the U.K. government’s policy on dealing with this virus, it was the decision of the entire N.I. executive including Sinn Fein, or perhaps I was hallucinating when I saw Michelle O’Neill standing nodding her head next to Arlene Foster and all the other Stormont ministers when the policy was announced. Michelle, of course, performed a u-turn within 12 hours, she must have had a wee call from Dublin. The only real real point of difference seemed to be the closure of schools, which has now been done, though with the number of essential public service workers in N.I. a lot of kids are still going to be in school on Monday.
That’s true, that initially there was sign-off by O’Neill. That said she did change her mind (or if you prefer perform a u-turn). But then from the time the UK government announced the policy and the conceptual underpinnings to it there had been a rising and increasing storm of criticism from the medical and scientific communities. I don’t know if closing schools is a small point. Seems to me to be quite a significant one, and certainly best practice suggested by WHO and a raft of other international health agencies points to it being essential as one of a range of tools to push back against the spread of the virus. So O’Neill resiling from that original statement did have a substantive aspect to it. None of which is to say this is easy, and you’re right some children will be going to schools. But the point of broader closures is to decrease a broader societal risk thereby lessening the numbers of those infected at this point in time with consequent impacts on the ability of medical and other services to withstand potentially massively increasing demands on them.
One question I’d have about closing schools. If a lot of kids end up with their grandparents, couldn’t that also be a hazard? Children are the most likely to have asymptomatic infections, and grandparents are likely to be more likely to get extremely ill or die.
I guess it depends when schools are closed during the timeline of the outbreak (ie earlier when there community infection is lower or later when it is not – if the latter that danger is much greater). But given the children are meant to stay away from other children that risk is perhaps somewhat minimised if not entirely negated. That in a way is why the tardiness in NI is so irritating. There’s the absolutely absurd case of a school where a case of the virus was found and the school didn’t close immediately – which at this point in proceedings is bizarre (given for example in the ROI at least workplaces where people catch it would close and be subjected to deep cleans etc). Again it’s like the point above to William, there is risk, short of a complete imposition of martial law (and even then one would wonder) but lessening that risk is key.
Hope yr looking forward to yr coronavirus free chlorinated chicken from the US thanks to the coming US/UK trade deal!
That’s just stupid. Chicken isn’t a vector for coronavirus for one thing. It might have spread from bats to humans via pangolins or snakes, but chickens had nothing to do with it. Even if chickens had been implicated once a virus jumps from animals to people and can be spread human to human that’s going to be 99.99% of the transmission if it gets anywhere.
Secondly, a US/UK trade deal is no foregone conclusion. For one thing some of the parameters for it will depend on your relationship with the EU. Trade deals with the US and other NAFTA members don’t work like the EEC anyhow, so don’t expect of it to be that simple. Secondly, the US Congress is extremely tough on even friendly nations when it comes to trade deals, so expect members of both parties to go over everything with a fine tooth comb. The President can’t make Congress finalize a trade deal if it doesn’t want to and don’t expect Nancy Pelosi or even Orrin Hatch to overlook the fact Britain did such a 180 degree turn on EU involvement when they decide
Finally, Pelosi meant it when she said that any deal is conditional on no harm to Northern Ireland. There are a lot of reasons, why the investment in the GFA for the Democrats and US Diplomatic establishment that exist for a wider variety of reasons they’d you imagine or believe. It was a major FP accomplishment by a Democratic President that did not involve starting a war and at least took the worst violence out of a problem with a reputation for being intractable. It is a major model for later treaties around the world. Given your odd history of the US I don’t really expect you to believe this or understand other reasons I could give why you have grossly misjudged the situation.
That you lack a sense of humour does not surprise in the least Grace.
You mean the discredited policy being carried out by the UK, Israel, Nederlands and Sweden?