It would be hard to think of a better example of elite privilege, decadence, and hypocrisy than the story that broke Tuesday about Professor Neil Ferguson and his married lover, who broke social distancing rules Ferguson himself had helped promulgate so she could visit him during a national lockdown—twice.
Ferguson, you’ll recall, is the epidemiologist who led the team at Imperial College London that produced widely influential computer-models predicting more than half a million Britons would die without a national lockdown. Ferguson’s models also predicted that even with lockdowns and social distancing measures, hospitals would be overrun, ICU beds would be full, and more than a million Americans would die—2.2 million if nothing at all was done. U.S. policymakers listened to him, shutdowns ensued, and more than 30 million Americans lost their jobs.
But then, once it became clear that his doomsday scenario wasn’t going to happen, Ferguson walked back his claims, telling a parliamentary committee in late March that U.K. deaths from coronavirus wouldn’t exceed 20,000, and might be much lower. He never issued a retraction or an apology for his wildly inaccurate predictions.
So, that guy.
On Tuesday, after the Telegraph broke the story of Ferguson’s lockdown trysts, he resigned from his government advisory position on the committee that’s been guiding London’s response to the pandemic.
According to the Telegraph, the professor allowed his mistress to visit him even as he was lecturing the public on the need for social distancing. “On at least two occasions, Antonia Staats, 38, traveled across London from her home in the south of the capital to spend time with the government scientist, nicknamed Professor Lockdown,” reported the Telegraph.
Staats, we later learn, lives with her husband and two children in a £1.9 million home in south London. She’s a “left-wing campaigner” who is reportedly in an open marriage. According to the Telegraph, “She has told friends about her relationship with Prof Ferguson, but does not believe their actions to be hypocritical because she considers the households to be one.”
Ah yes, the old our-households-are-one-because-I’m-in-an-open-marriage argument. Never mind that a week before Ferguson and Staats’ first meeting, Britain’s Health Secretary had said even couples not living together must stay apart during the lockdown.
To make matters worse, before their first visit on March 30, Ferguson had just completed a two-week quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus. Staats made her second visit on April 30 after telling friends that she suspected her husband had coronavirus symptoms.
If you were to design a computer simulation—a model, let’s say—to demonstrate elite contempt for ordinary people, it might come up with something exactly like this: the tut-tutting professor who tells everyone they have to stay at home or die gets caught breaking his own rule to have a fling with his married lover, who denies she did anything wrong because she’s in an open marriage.
One rule for the poor people, another rule for us elites. And they wonder how they got Brexit.