You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 3, 2022.

Considering that Parliament is currently prorogued and that this past weekend was the May bank holiday, one would think that nothing political happened.

One would be very wrong indeed.

In fact, a Conservative MP stood down and Labour’s indoor 2021 election campaign meeting in Durham attracted more attention.

Labour’s 2021 do in Durham

My April 29 post has the background to Labour’s 2021 election campaign do in Durham.

April 30 was its one year anniversary:

I couldn’t agree more.

The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges agrees on Labour’s hypocrisy:

Many Labour supporters say that the Durham do did not break any rules, however, it probably did. Below are the rules for the 2021 election campaign:

Furthermore, it is possible that, despite the fines (fixed penalty notices), the Downing Street gatherings did not break the rules, as the address is part of the Crown Estates.

On April 27, the Conservative Post published an article on the lefty activist QC (Queen’s Counsel) advising senior civil servant Sue Gray in her report on the gatherings. The article says that they were perfectly legal (emphases in the original):

One might ask is this QC holding an almighty grudge?

Is this why Sue Gray / the Met Police haven’t looked at section 73 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984? Do they even know about it?

Surely a bipartisan advisor would have pointed out this important law of the land?

The Act clearly states that pandemic regulations, at all times, never applied to Crown Land (which includes No.10). 

Granted, one rule for them and another for the rest of us seems a bit unfair but it also makes sense.

Steven Barrett, a leading barrister at Radcliffe Chambers who read law at Oxford and taught law at Cambridge explains:

In the eighties lawmakers decided that it would be better to allow the government to function during any future national pandemic without having to worry about being caught up in quarantine regulations. The thinking was that by making the government effectively exempt in law, the government could continue to function.

In addition to the 1984 Act, there were also specific regulations that applied at the time of the alleged “parties” the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.

According to these rules, gatherings were allowed in all public buildings, or parts of them ‘operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.’

So whatever happened in Downing Street was legal. 

How has a QC / Civil Service Advisor not made this clear to Sue Gray? If he had surely no-one at Downing Street would have received a fine at all.  

One would also have thought the Civil Service would check who is advising them.

Can someone let Sue Gray and the Met Police know please before any more incorrect fines are issued out? It’s important rules of the land are adhered to. 

But, butand it’s a BIG BUT:

The matter came up in the House of Lords on December 14, 2021, shortly after the controversy broke. Good grief, that is now six months ago.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Jenny Jones, Green Party) asked:

whether Number 10 Downing Street is a Crown property; and, if so, whether regulations made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 apply there.

Lord True, replying for the Cabinet Office, said that the regulations would have applied to Downing Street, despite its being part of the Crown Estates (emphases mine below, except for Guido Fawkes posts):

No 10 Downing Street is a Crown property. Regulations under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 which relate to the activities of people, apply regardless of whether those activities took place on Crown property or not.

Hmm.

Back to Labour’s Durham do, which has been trending online as Beergate and Currygate:

Durham Constabulary said a long time ago that there was nothing to investigate. Durham is a Labour area, so no surprise there.

However, the clamour over the weekend thanks to Conservative MP Richard Holden’s letter to them was such that perhaps the police have decided to have another look.

On Tuesday, May 3, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Martha Kearney, Keir Starmer refused to say (audio here):

This leads pundits to assume that Durham Constabulary might have been in touch:

Another development over the weekend was confirmation that Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, was also in attendance.

Guido Fawkes posted the following on Friday, April 29:

After months of questioning, it can finally be confirmed Angela Rayner was present at Starmer’s lockdown beer party in Durham. Despite refusals to confirm, video evidence dug out yesterday morning reveals Angie’s attendance, who shared a chair with Sir Keir for a “Get out the vote rally”  on Facebook an hour before the video of Starmer’s unlawful socialising was filmed. Oh. Dear.

Rayner can be heard saying “And being here at the Miners Hall in Durham, I’ve got to start with, you know, the past we inherit, the future we build.” She and Starmer sit in front of a window identical to that Starmer was filmed through an hour later swigging beer, contrary to Covid rules.

Earlier this week, Guido forced a denial from local Police & Crime Commissioner Joy Allen, who said she wasn’t present at the ‘essential campaign event’ after social media rumours began circulating that the female head seen at the bottom of the Starmer beer frame was hers.

Labour claim that there was no other place to go for food and drink, however:

Also:

On Sunday evening, May 1, Mark Dolan of GB News rightly took aim at Labour’s sanctimonious and hypocritical posturing:

However, things weren’t going well for the Conservatives, either.

Neil Parish stands down as MP

Neil Parish stood down as MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon after admitting he was looking at indecent images on his phone while in the Palace of Westminster.

He claimed that he had been searching for tractors on the first occasion and accidentally arrived at an indecent website. On the second occasion, he confessed that he deliberately visited the same website again.

I was somewhere between surprised and shocked. He always seemed like such a level-headed individual.

This video clip is from March 14, 2019, around the time I began watching BBC Parliament regularly. Tension about Brexit had been ramping up since January that year:

In June 2020, he led a debate on the BBC’s axeing of local and regional political coverage:

More importantly, he had headed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee since 2015. He came from a farming family and left school at the age of 16 to help run his family’s farm.

Last week, rumours had been circulating about a Conservative MP looking at indecent images during parliamentary proceedings.

On Friday, April 29, Guido reported that the Conservatives removed the whip from Parish:

The hunt is over: Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, has lost the whip this afternoon after being revealed as the Commons’ mystery porn viewer. Following conversations with the Whips’ office today, Parish has reported himself to the Standards Committee of the House of Commons for investigation. The Tories had previously referred the claims to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, so Parish is now under investigation by both bodies…

A spokesperson from the Chief Whip’s office said:

Having spoken to the Chief Whip this afternoon, Neil Parish MP is reporting himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Mr Parish has been suspended from the Conservative Whip pending the outcome of that investigation.

Guido included an interview Parish had given to GB News that afternoon. It was clear Parish had no intentions of resigning at that time:

I think the whips’ office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result… I think you’ve got some 650 Members of Parliament in what is a very intense area, you are going to get people that step over the line. I don’t think there’s necessarily a huge culture here, but I think it does have to be dealt with, and dealt with seriously. And that’s what the whips will do in our whips’ office.

There was a time when someone could be sacked on the spot for looking at indecent images at work. Granted, this was in the private sector.

I knew of one such individual in the mid-1990s. His dismissal was also shocking, as he was the last person I would have expected to engage in such activity and was a senior manager who was very good at what he did.

However, it seems that such behaviour is becoming normalised, according to The Telegraph. It extends to viewing such things on public transport. Ugh.

Early on Saturday, The Telegraph posted an exclusive interview with Parish:

Suspended from his party and facing public ridicule, Mr Parish is at the centre of a maelstrom. But now that the accusation is “out in the open,” Mr Parish said on Friday night, “it’s almost as if a weight is lifted off me” …

Over the course of the interview, conducted in Mr and Mrs Parish’s sitting room in front of a warm hearth, the MP confirmed he had referred himself to the parliamentary standards committee, apologised to his constituents, and suggested that, even if cleared, he might step down.

It was late on Friday night when The Telegraph called. The couple’s eight-year-old labrador, Kitty, was dozing in front of the fire. Mr Parish, after a long day, was wearing a dressing gown. The MP is a farmer by trade, and the couple’s home is the family farmhouse. Their sitting room is bedecked with books and family photos. It is typical for MPs embroiled in scandal to flee their homes, but the Parishes, who have two adult children and two grandchildren, have stayed put …

Earlier in the day, Mr Parish, 65, said he had opened pornographic material “in error”, but he declined to give further details. Asked what happened, Mr Parish said: “I think it’s all going to have to go through the inquiry, and then I will give them all the evidence I have, and it’ll be for them to make the decision. And then I will make my mind up as to what I do, whether I remain in Parliament or whether I leave.”

He had not spoken to the Prime Minister, he said. Asked if he had a comment for his constituents, Mr Parish said: “That I very much enjoy being their MP, I’ve worked very hard, and I will continue working for them. I apologise for the situation – the whip is withdrawn – but I am still their MP. And at the moment I’m still the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, and I take that job very seriously. And I will carry it on for as long as I have it.”

Mr Parish faces an ignominious end to a 12-year parliamentary career in which he has won increasingly large majorities and worked on a broad set of issues within farming and rural affairs. Local elections are coming up and he is now seen as a liability, with fellow MPs calling for his resignation

Mrs Parish, 66, said she had first learnt of the allegations from a journalist who rang her for comment. “I didn’t know anything about it until he rang and said, ‘Oh, you know what I’m ringing about…’

“I didn’t know who was more embarrassed, actually, me or him!” said Mrs Parish. “Poor chap.”

It seemed that the couple had discussed the matter between them and that it had been explained to Mrs Parish’s satisfaction.

“Yes,” said Mrs Parish, without hesitation.

“My wife is amazingly loyal and better than I deserve,” said Mr Parish.

“That’s for sure,” said Mrs Parish, chuckling.

At the end of the interview, Mr Parish took a phone call from his brother, Rod. They chatted briefly, with Mr Parish thanking his brother for what sounded like a supportive call. Mr Parish, having swapped his dressing gown for a shirt and jacket, then politely assented to having his picture taken …

By Saturday afternoon, Parish had resigned:

People did not believe the tractor excuse …

… but there is good reason to accidentally see something indecent when searching for tractors:

Guido wrote:

Neil Parish has told the BBC he’s quitting after being accused of watching porn on two occasions while performing his MP duties in Parliament. With bizarre detail he claims “the first time was accidental after looking at tractors, but the second time was deliberate”. 

24,239 majority in his seat of Tiverton and Honiton. If this by-election ends up being remotely interesting, the Tories are in deep trouble…

A by-election upset in a similar constituency took place in the staunchly Conservative North Shropshire which now has a Liberal Democrat MP after Owen Paterson was forced to stand down late last year.

On May 1, The Sunday Times confirmed that two female MPs had seen Parish looking at indecent material online:

Parish, 65, said the first time he had watched pornography was accidental, insisting he had been looking at tractors on his mobile phone before straying onto a website with a “very similar name”. He said he watched the video “for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done”.

On the second occasion, however, the married father of two admitted he had looked at porn deliberately while waiting to vote at the side of the chamber. “What I did was absolutely wrong,” he told the BBC.

Parish, who chaired the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, issued a “full apology” to the two female MPs who had seen him watching the pornography, but insisted it was “not my intention to intimidate”.

It marked a significant U-turn in 24 hours. At first he had defied calls to quit and said he would await the findings of a parliamentary investigation. A growing number of Conservative MPs made clear that his position was untenable, however, and that he should resign immediately rather than prolong the controversy days before the local elections on Thursday

His departure means that the Conservatives are now facing the prospect of having to defend two by-elections in short succession.

Imran Ahmad Khan, who was elected MP for Wakefield in 2019, tendered his resignation last week after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Labour is widely expected to win back the seat.

Conservative Party insiders are also braced for a third by-election. They are awaiting the outcome of the investigation into David Warburton, who had the Tory whip withdrawn last month after it was alleged that he sexually harassed three women.

Although Parish’s constituency has returned a Conservative at every election since its creation in 1997 — and the party has a majority of 24,000 — Tory insiders fear that it shares parallels with North Shropshire, the seat lost to the Liberal Democrats in December after the resignation of the disgraced MP Owen Paterson.

Last night a Lib Dem source said: “As we saw in North Shropshire, there is a real backlash against Boris Johnson from rural communities who are fed up with being taken for granted.”

What a shame.

Also on Sunday, The Telegraph confirmed rural communities’ disillusionment with the Conservatives. One woman running for the local council in North Frome, Somerset, says that locals are tearing down her campaign posters and handing leaflets back to her.

The paper refers to these communities and counties as the Blue Wall, historically Conservative areas:

The election is a key test for Boris Johnson, who is facing a difficult mid-term contest after months of criticism of his leadership from Tory quarters over partygate, tax rises and the cost of living crisis.

Many of the English council areas, including Somerset, Hertfordshire and Hampshire, are places the Conservatives have traditionally considered to be strongholds.

Now, they are increasingly thought of as part of the “Blue Wall” – containing millions of wavering Tory voters who are disgruntled with Mr Johnson and could “flip” to Labour or the Liberal Democrats

Voters in Somerset demonstrate what strategists in all parties have identified – that there has been a shift away from the Conservatives among people who live in the countryside.

New research from Parliament’s all-party group for rural business and the “rural powerhouse” suggests the Government has a “chronic under-appreciation for the economic and social potential of the countryside,” and that businesses in rural areas are on average 18 per cent less productive than the country at large.

Many voters who have always lent the Tories their trust feel that southern rural areas have suffered at the expense of “levelling up” – the Government’s plan to improve high streets and fortunes in neglected Northern areas traditionally represented by Labour.

Meanwhile, a Conservative promise to deliver next-generation broadband speed by 2025 is unlikely to be met, the parliamentary spending watchdog has said.

Countryside voters, who are often keen to protect the natural beauty of their homes, say plans to rip up the planning system to build more houses and erect new onshore wind farms are a direct attack on their way of life.

Paul Moody, an antiques dealer who lives near Shepton Mallet, said his faith in the Conservatives’ commitment to the countryside is being challenged by “horrendous” new “T pylons” near his home and the threat of solar panels carpeting the fields.

“They march across the countryside and stand out all across the Somerset Levels” he said.

“I would prefer more nuclear power stations than ruining the countryside.”

Answering a survey conducted for The Telegraph by Redfield and Wilton Strategies this week, just 19 per cent of voters said the Conservatives cared about rural areas, while 28 per cent said Labour did. Almost half of voters (46 per cent) say “levelling up” does not inspire them.

Other national polling shows Labour has increased its lead over the Conservatives by three points since April 12, when Mr Johnson was fined over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

While ministers have repeatedly suggested that the public does not care about partygate and would prefer to see the Government focus on making domestic policy, Tory sources admit privately that the polling shows that idea is “for the birds”.

It’s all falling apart for Boris at the moment.

Ukraine loves Boris

On Tuesday, May 3, Boris made history by becoming the world’s first leader to address Ukraine’s parliament:

Also on Tuesday morning, he gave an interview to Left-leaning Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

It did not go well …

… and not knowing who ITV’s queen of breakfast television, Lorraine Kelly, is unforgiveable. She’s only been on the network for over three decades:

Maybe the man has a point, but it still helps to play to the audience, most of whom probably stay tuned for Lorraine’s show, which follows Good Morning Britain.

It’s a shame that Ukraine’s enthusiasm for Boris doesn’t translate here at the moment, but I cannot blame Conservative voters for being disillusioned.

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