Wetherpsoon boss demands 'proper debate' on UK's handling of Covid

Wetherpsoon boss Tim Martin demands ‘proper debate’ on how UK is handling Covid crisis rather than ‘politicised government propaganda and statistics’

  • Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin compared the death figures of the UK and Sweden
  • Mr Martin said given ‘huge job losses especially in hospitality’ a debate is needed
  • Pub giant chairman has criticised the government response throughout the year 

The chairman of pub giant Wetherspoon has called for a debate on how the UK has dealt with the coronavirus crisis rather than relying on ‘politicised government propaganda and statistics.’

Tim Martin contrasted the difference in the number of people dying from the virus in this country and Sweden, which has not imposed a lockdown.

Sweden has had fewer deaths in recent weeks and months than the UK, adjusting for the population difference, said Mr Martin.

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin (pictured) called for a debate on how the UK has dealt with the coronavirus crisis rather than relying on ‘politicised government propaganda and statistics’

‘The statistical comparison between the UK and Sweden is freely available but often seems to be ignored or misreported.

‘Given the huge scale of job losses in the UK, especially in the hospitality industry, and the widely reported ‘collateral damage’ to health, there should be a proper debate on this subject, rather than reliance on politicised government propaganda and statistics,’ he said.

Sweden was one of the few European countries not to impose a lockdown and allowed pubs and restaurants to remain open.

According to figures collected by Worldometers, Sweden has suffered 8,279 deaths – a fraction of the UK’s 70,405.

In terms of the number of cases, Sweden ranks 14th among European countries with 396,048 cases while the UK ranks third with 2,256,005 cases to date behind only France and Russia.

Mr Martin’s comments are the latest in a long line of critical remarks made by the pub giant boss since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.

Mr Martin last month accused the Government of extending ‘a form of lockdown by stealth’ as he said 366 of its pubs will still remain closed in light of new tiered measures.

This was prior to the introduction of Tier 4 and was when pubs and restaurants in Tier 3 were only allowed to open for takeaway and deliveries. 

He said Boris Johnson is ’embarking on economically ruinous policies, with no health benefits’ by imposing the contentious new tier system.

Mr Martin, founder and chairman, has previously accused the Government of embarking on ‘economically ruinous policies’. Pictured: A staff member in a Wetherspoons pub in London

Prior to the tier system Commons vote on Tuesday, which passed by a margin of 291 to 78, Mr Martin wrote a letter to all MPs claiming there was a lack of transparency from the Government.

He said: ‘A pub licence, unlike a restaurant licence, allows you to sell beer, wine and spirits “for consumption on the premises”, without a table meal – and this is now prohibited.

‘The reality is that pubs in Tier 3 will be physically shut from December 2 and pubs in Tier 2, if they open at all, will be trading as restaurants, not pubs.

‘There are only a tiny number of pubs in Tier 1 – and in those you can’t even order at the bar.’

He said the Government was making ‘reckless decisions’, with MPs only having an occasional opportunity to intervene.

‘There is overwhelming scientific evidence that lockdowns and quasi-lockdowns can be counterproductive, as the World Health Organisation has recently emphasised.

At the start of the month, Mr Martin offloaded 431,500 of the company’s shares at a price of £11.66 each on Tuesday, leaving the firm’s founder and chairman with a 27 per cent stake.

He also sold £5 million worth of shares in the summer.

Share sales by management are often seen as a bad sign by investors.

Wetherspoon shares have plummeted from more than £16 before the pandemic struck to a low of £5.59 in March as pubs were ordered to shut ahead of the spring lockdown.

The stock has recently rallied a little, hitting £12.46 at one stage on Wednesday – its highest since early March.

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