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The Conservative Party Conference took place in Manchester from Sunday, October 3 through Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was the first one since 2019, which was two months before their victory in the December 12 election that year.

UK in crisis

This year’s conference took place during the ongoing petrol supply problems and shock record-breaking hikes in gas futures on Tuesday and Wednesday:

On top of that, on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the UK’s petroleum regulator rejected Shell’s plans to redevelop the Jackdaw gasfield in the North Sea (emphases in purple mine):

“We’re disappointed by the decision and are considering the implications,” a Shell spokesperson said.

It was unclear on what grounds the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) refused to approve the environmental statement for the field’s development.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under whose umbrella OPRED operates, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Maddening.

The supply chain crisis for food continues. On Wednesday, The Times reported The National Pig Association warned retailers that 120,000 pigs would have to be slaughtered because of a lack of butchers. Some pig farmers are closing down altogether.

Some supermarkets are also suffering from empty shelves. Tesco, however, is bucking the trend. The Times reported that the supermarket chain is:

often highest up the pecking order when it comes to suppliers committing to make the business a priority …

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

The Conservatives riffed on this in a Bake Off-style event. Pictured with Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Home Secretary Priti Patel:

Having listened to some of the speeches and read excerpts from others, they were all light in content. Most of them were pep rally or visionary statements rather than what plans Cabinet ministers have for the nation.

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

Never at a Tory Conference has so little been said, by so many, to so few.

Sunday, October 3

As the conference opened, rumours circulated about three unnamed Labour MPs thinking of crossing the aisle to the Conservatives, as the Mail on Sunday reported:

Guido Fawkes had more on the story (emphases in red Guido’s):

… this is due to disillusionment with Starmer’s leadership, with the MPs already having opened up “lines of communication” with Tory whips. In related news, a senior Labour MP was spotted by a co-conspirator chatting with two Mail on Sunday hacks and three senior Tory advisors at a conference bar last night…

The day’s big event, according to The Spectator, was the drinks party that the 1922 Committee of backbenchers held, sponsored by ConservativeHome. Interestingly, a long-time Labour MP for north-west London — Barry Gardiner — was in attendance:

… the main focus of the night was the 1922 drinks with ConservativeHome in a room stuffed full of parliamentary talent and, for some reason, Barry Gardiner.

Strangely, Boris did not appear, leaving a gap which Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ably filled (video):

While Johnson was not scheduled to make an appearance here, Prime Ministers have traditionally done so in the past to pay tribute to their colleagues. His ‘disappointing’ absence – in the words of one disgruntled backbencher – left a vacuum for Sunak to fill, in a room full of MPs who will presumably one day decide who Johnson’s successor should be.

The Chancellor leapt to the stage to tell fellow Tories about what he was most looking forward too at conference: Michael Gove dancing, the PM running in a full suit (not just a shirt) and ‘machine like message discipline from every single one of you – and that means you too Cabinet.’ He added that ‘I’ve got your back’ to anxious MPs in the room and that ‘for the record I too am a low tax conservative’ – welcome words for those party donors who Mr S[teerpike, columnist] understands attended a ‘tense’ meeting earlier at the Midland, amid considerable unease at the recent NI [National Insurance] hike.

In such circumstances, perhaps it’s understandable that Boris would stay away.

According to The Telegraph, senior Conservatives have warned Boris not to dream up any more future tax hikes:

Earlier that day, Boris gesticulated wildly at the BBC’s Andrew Marr, saying, ‘You have no fiercer opponent to tax rises than me’. This probably means more tax rises are on the way:

The Spectator has more on the interview.

On tax hikes, Sir Desmond Swayne MP told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer the raw truth. He added that lower taxes will enable greater economic growth:

Another event that Boris avoided was the one by the Tory Reform Group (TRG), which wants the Conservatives to move closer to the centre politically. They are Remainers. The Spectator reported:

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

Green, a mainstay of various causes on the left-ish wing of the party over the past two decades, told activists that it was their task to ‘make sure that the voice of moderate conservatism, centre-right conservatism is as strong as possible within the party’ – a job ‘never more important than today because there are times when I slightly feel that it is only people like us that stop this party drifting back to being seen as the nasty party.’ A tacit rejoinder to Priti Patel perhaps?

But then it was time for the speaker and the great white hope of Tory moderation. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, took to the stage to ecstatic applause and, like Green, was under no illusions about the awesome responsibility he and his One Nation caucus members share – to keep the Conservative party effectively sane …

There was also ample time for several potshots at the current Tory leader Boris Johnson, with whom Tugendhat is said to enjoy a wary relationship.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, tipped to be a future Party leader, also made the rounds that day (video):

The fringes were packed last night as Tory ministers did the rounds. Liz Truss, the darling of the free market think tanks, appeared at the Think Tent equipped with a magnificent blow dry and an applause-winning speech which castigated cancel culture as ‘fundamentally wrong.’ That and other jibes at identity politics in her conference address lead the Daily Mail this morning to ask whether she is in fact the new Mrs Thatcher.

Several reporters wrote about her new hairdo, which, to me, didn’t look much different from the old one.

Returning to the mysterious Labour people who might want to change parties, here’s Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP, heaping praise on Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Boris’s levelling up programme. Burnham spoke to Trevor Phillips on Sky News that morning. Hmm:

Neither Andy Burnham nor Barry Gardiner is a Conservative. Crossing the aisle for ideals they don’t believe in seems a rather rash way of getting their own back at Keir Starmer.

Boris made four appearances at conference that day, including one for the Scottish Conservatives. Guido captured his wit along with audio:

The PM warned of a “crackpot coalition” between the SNP and Labour – “the only way they could” kick the Tories out.

He described the Labour conference as “a total rabble”, saying it had the air to him of “a seriously rattled bus conductor” facing an “insurrection on the top deck of the bus”, or the “captain of a Mediterranean cruise ship facing insurrection by a bunch of Somali pirates”.

Douglas Ross MP/MSP also addressed Scottish Conservatives. As party leader in Scotland, he wants to position the party as that of the nation’s working class. It’s a good move, as The Spectator reported:

Like all good fables, Douglas Ross’s speech at Tory conference had a beginning, middle and end. Act One detailed the many iniquities of the SNP, from their dysfunctional vaccine passport scheme to their Hate Crime Act, and most of all their agitation for Scotland to break away from the UK. Act Two took the sword to Labour, bemoaned its abandonment of working-class voters and its internal divisions over the constitution. Theirs was not the party to take on the SNP. Only one party was and it was the subject of Act Three, in which Ross deepened a theme begun under Ruth Davidson’s leadership: the Scottish Conservatives as the party of the Scottish working-class.

He hit all the familiar notes about the SNP’s failings in government, the ones that never seem to stick longer than two or three news cycles and are invariably forgotten about by the next election. He also hinted at an interesting theme that, if teased out carefully, could come into greater play. It is the perception, no longer wholly limited to unionists, that Nicola Sturgeon is a bit… off. Out of touch. Superior. Maybe even a bit of a snob.

In other news, last week, Labour’s Angela Rayner called Conservatives ‘Tory scum’. Feisty Dehenna Davison MP, representing Bishop Auckland as the constituency’s first Conservative, had ‘Tory Scum’ badges made.

This harks back to 1948, when Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan said the Conservatives were ‘lower than vermin’. Following that, the Conservatives formed the Vermin Club. Club member Margaret Roberts — who would become Margaret Thatcher — also had ‘Tory Vermin’ badges made, as Nigel Farage told Dehenna Davison on GB News:

Party chairman Oliver Dowden pledged that the Conservatives would do away with ugly new housing developments by strengthening planning laws.

He also assured the public that they would have turkeys for Christmas, referring to ongoing supply chain problems.

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

Liz Truss is at the top. Other MPs pictured are (left to right) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi:

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

The turn round in her fortunes from last year when she was being tipped to be sacked from the Cabinet is quite something. Liz is one of the increasingly rare consistently free market voices around the Cabinet table…

Rishi Sunak is down by some 10 points and moves from second to fifth place. Rishi’s tax hikes have clearly taken the gloss off him with the true blue believers. 

Grant Shapps [Transport] and Priti Patel are bumping along the bottom in barely positive approval territory. Shapps has been doing fairly well with the incredibly difficult transport brief. Patel is suffering because she has failed to do the seemingly impossible – stop the cross channel migrants. Tory activists are unforgiving, they don’t want excuses, they want results.

It was the turn of Rishi Sunak to address the party faithful.

A rise in council tax would not go down well. Meanwhile, protesters pelted Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP with a traffic cone:

Some at conference are disappointed with Sunak, whose budget comes up in a few weeks’ time. Steve Baker MP is pictured in the second tweet:

Boris was out and about in Greater Manchester. He spoke to an interviewer about policing and said that the Government needs to change its culture, which has become misogynistic, particularly in light of the Sarah Everard murder earlier this year, committed by … a policeman, who recently received a life sentence.

In other news, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab plans to reform UK human rights legislation and do away with the ties to EU human rights legislation we are still under.

With regard to the Labour mystery, Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, had a conversation with Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, whom he had praised the day before. The Mail reported that Burnham was also due to address Conservatives at a fringe event sponsored by Transport for the North the following day. Hmm.

The cervix question that appeared at Labour’s conference was also brought up with Conservatives. Dominic Raab responded by bringing up both misogyny and misandry in a highly confused way (video):

Two MPs decided to have a bit of fun with the issue as they drove to Manchester together:

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

Health-conscious Conservative MPs Marco Longhi and Lee Anderson don’t want to fanny about when it comes to their well-being. Marco, according to their road-trip video, made sure to receive a cervix exam before heading to conference this week. Always better to be safe than sorry…

Why is it that no one ever asks if women have a prostate gland?

On the subject of health, Desmond Swayne told Julia Hartley-Brewer why he is firmly against vaccine passports:

Lord Frost (pictured on the right) threatened the EU over the post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland. Outside of the conference, pig farmers protested over the inability to get their stock to market. Boris had said that government cannot solve every issue, referring to the supply chain problem. He also told British businesses to hike staff salaries, which did not go down well, either:

I think they should give the meat away. A lot of poor families would appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 5

Boris began the day with an interview to LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Extinction Rebellion offshoot Insulate Britain had blocked some of Britain’s roads for the ninth consecutive day.

Despite injunctions from Priti Patel’s Home Office, their human blockades continue.

Boris told Ferrari they are ‘irresponsible crusties’ (video). The question remains whether Extinction Rebellion gets any Government funding:

Dominic Raab confirmed in his speech that he would be reform the Human Rights Act to free it from EU hackles.

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

They will detach it from the ECHR, enabling quicker deportations of convicted criminals and swifter action on domestic abusers …

Raab’s successor at the Foreign Office, Liz Truss, confirmed a trip to India later this month, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Guido had a chat with her:

Among other topics, the foreign secretary confided in Guido she was finding the new department’s mandarins to be “a bit ‘Yes, Minister’”…

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

Sunak claimed that there is a “new age of optimism” in the north thanks to Red Wall Tories, and heaped them with praise for “helping to change our party and change our country“. “In me, you have a Chancellor who is going to be with you every step of the way,” he added.

See? I told you these speeches were content-free.

Later in the day, he appeared at a fringe event where he was asked about the cost of Net Zero. This was his alarming answer:

Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised another reform of the NHS, which mostly involves digitisation. I can think of more pressing NHS concerns and agree with Guido:

… pouring in taxpayers’ money without checking how it’s being spent isn’t enough. That cash needs to be put to good use. Reviewing the eye-watering pay packets of some NHS diversity managers would be a start…

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope interviewed Oliver Dowden, who is thinking about resurrecting the singing of the National Anthem at conference, calling it a ‘splendid idea’.

Hope also took the opportunity to present Dowden with a ‘Tory Scum’ badge, which he put on and said he would wear for the duration of the interview. Hope suggested he wear it until the end of conference.

This video shows the badge exchange. Hope gives us more information on the aforementioned Vermin Club:

Guido says that the badges were most popular. Dehenna Davison had to order more:

Many conference-goers have spent the last couple of days asking Davison for one of her badges, only to be disappointed upon being told she’d run out. Good news however, after Davison put in an emergency order for 400 more given their popularity…

The most outrageous session of the day — and a British first — was an address by the Prime Minister’s wife to Party faithful. No Prime Minister’s spouse — we’ve had two husbands in that role — has ever made a party political address until now:

Never mind the subject matter: was it the right thing for Carrie Johnson to do — even if she is a very good public speaker? Boris watched from a distance.

Polling stable

I’ll review Boris’s closing speech in tomorrow’s post.

Post-conference polling is stable. YouGov’s was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Sir Desmond Swayne explained to Julia Hartley-Brewer that Boris’s popularity and the lack of ideas from the Opposition have buoyed the Conservatives:

What Government should do next

Health Secretary Sajid Javid needs to keep a gimlet eye on NHS spending, especially on things like this:

Guido says:

The NHS is recruiting a supplier to deliver “compassionate conversations training” to 14,000 front facing NHS staff in a publicly funded contract worth a mind-boggling £3 million. The contract tender, which was published yesterday and closes on 5 November 2021, says the aim is to equip NHS staff with “the skills they need to handle challenging situations with compassion whilst ensuring they feel able to look after their own wellbeing if needed”. Guido assumed that doctors were already taught about the importance of a good bedside manner…

It’s almost ludicrous to think that this weekend Javid promised a forensic review of the NHS’s management and leadership whilst the NHS continues to recklessly splash cash on diversity roles. Just six months ago Guido revealed that the NHS was hiring eight more ‘diversity, equality and inclusion managers’ across the country, with salaries up to as much as a whopping £62,000. If Javid is going to cut down those waiting list times he needs to focus taxpayers’ money on the clinical front line, not nonsense make-work contracts and diversity roles…

Guido says it is also time for Boris to reconsider the current Government moratorium on fracking:

If Boris wants to energise Britain, domestic gas production should be part of that mix; it would provide energy security when Britain’s energy needs are being threatened by the Russians and the the French. Boris is now in a position to do something glorious, to stop pussy-footing around and leave no stone unturned or unfracked. So get on with it…

This is what Boris had to say on the subject while he was Mayor of London:

I won’t be holding my breath on either of those propositions.

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

Boris Johnson is now into his third year as Prime Minister.

On Wednesday and Thursday, September 15 and 16, he reshuffled some of his cabinet and ministerial posts, signalling that he is more than halfway through his premiership. In other words, this will be the major reshuffle to lead the Conservatives into the next general election.

I hope that Boris does not go for a 2023 election, unless it is late in the year. The coronavirus crisis will have put much of the Conservative manifesto agenda on hold for two years. As such, not much has been accomplished to date, as Andrew Neil, who recently resigned from GB News, says:

Boris has appointed more Leave ministers as well as more minority and female ministers, which will not matter to most small-c conservatives:

Highlights of the reshuffle follow.

Dominic Raab no longer Foreign Secretary

It looks as if dithering over Afghanistan while holidaying in Crete has finished Dominic Raab’s days as Foreign Secretary. He had to do the walk of shame after his demotion:

That said, Boris has found a new job for him as Justice Secretary.

Raab will also continue to be Deputy Prime Minister, a role he handled extremely well in April 2020, when Boris was hospitalised with coronavirus.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace defended his fellow MP and the move in an interview with BBC Breakfast:

Wallace said of Raab: “Dominic is by trade a lawyer, he started his life in the Foreign Office as a human rights lawyer and he’s gone to the Ministry of Justice, which is actually a very, very important role and a role he desperately understands.”

Liz Truss becomes new Foreign Secretary

Former Trade Secretary Liz Truss replaces Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary, with Anne-Marie Trevelyan taking her place.

Post-Brexit, Truss has made various trade deals with other nations, notably Australia and Japan.

She also remains minister for women and equalities.

Truss is popular with grassroots conservatives and her name has often been mentioned as a future party leader and Prime Minister.

She succeeded not only in trade but also in refusing wokery in 2020 …

… and in 2021, as Guido Fawkes reported on June 16 (emphases mine):

Liz Truss tells Times Radio most people aren’t interested in the culture war…

My role as equality minister is to make sure everybody in Britain is treated equally regardless of their sex, their sexuality and their race. What we have seen over the past few years is the development of identity politics where there has been division created. People are described as being members of a group rather than for their own personal, individual humanity and dignity… We have just launched for example a big data project looking where are the gaps in education, employment and enterprise across the country, and how we can fix those. That is the approach we need to take… I think some of the identity politics we have seen focus on symbolism over real results has been divisive… I think most people aren’t interested in this socalled culture war, what they’re interested in is, “Am I being given a fair chance? Do I have a good chance of getting a job? Am I treated fairly by public services?” And that’s why I think our equality agenda should focus onthose bread and butter issues that are of concern to everyone in the country.”

She is consistently among the most popular of the Cabinet members. This survey is from March 2021:

She can even ably dodge camera equipment during an interview:

Nadine Dorries moves from Health and Social Care to Culture Secretary

In what is hoped to please grassroots small-c conservative voters, Nadine Dorries now heads Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), replacing Oliver Dowden, who, as new co-chairman of the Conservative Party, will formulate a strategy for the next general election.

Most of these grassroots supporters are fed up with the BBC. Will Dorries take on Auntie Beeb?

I do not put much stock in that possibility. Resurrecting Dorries’s tweets from several years ago are no indication of her current willingness to oppose the BBC on anything much:

The BBC have just appointed a firmly left-wing executive editor of BBC News, Jess Brammar. At least one Conservative MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith, was unhappy about the possibility of her appointment back in August:

I will not be holding my breath for Dorries to take her on, although others in the left-wing and anti-Brexit political establishment are angry about Dorries’s appointment, as Guido Fawkes reports; he has screenshots of her past tweets (emphasis in the original):

She’s been in the job for 17 hours and is already annoying all the right people… 

John Whittingdale returns to backbenches

I have doubts about Dorries because one of the DCMS ministers, John Whittingdale, was supposed to take on the BBC in 2016 and never did. He also washed his hands of removing free TV licences for most over-75s, saying it was a decision for the BBC. Is this why he got the sack?

During the Euro 2020 soccer tournament this year, Whittingdale told Kay Burley of Sky News that travel restrictions were lifted for ‘important’ people associated with the matches:

Speaking on Sky News, John Whittingdale was asked why players, officials and others coming to London for the Euros final on 11 July should be allowed in without self-isolating.

He said: “We’ve always said that for some people who are important, players, for instance …”

The presenter, Kay Burley, interrupted him, saying: “So people who want to go on holiday are not important. Is that what you’re saying?”

Whittingdale’s last pronouncement, standing in for his boss Oliver Dowden, was about a proposed mandate to make all BBC and ITV output ‘distinctively British’. That was on September 16. It will be interesting to see whether Nadine Dorries will insist on it.

Newsnight argument over Dorries

Nadine Dorries was the subject of an argument between Conservative MP Charles Walker and former Conservative MP, Remainer Anna Soubry, who lost her seat in December 2019.

By the way, this was Anna Soubry with Nigel Farage either just before or just after the Brexit referendum in June 2016:

https://image.vuukle.com/53c514e6-2ea5-43ee-8d62-ab3605e89230-4b7901f5-a9d3-4364-8bc8-df6af8f09a3c

But I digress.

The discussion between Soubry and Charles Walker took place on the BBC’s Newsnight on September 15:

Here’s the video, with Labour MP Peter Kyle sitting at the desk with presenter Emily Maitlis:

Guido Fawkes has the highlights:

Nadine Dorries provided the biggest clash, as the eternally bitter Soubry ranted that her appointment “actually says everything that’s wrong and rotten about this prime minister’s stewardship of this country”. Charles Walker had some thoughts:

“Nadine Dorries has been a health minister, a minister of state, at an incredibly difficult time for the department of health; has been an extremely good minister for mental health; and really to come onto this programme and just trash her like that is just not a very nice thing to do to be perfectly honest”

Responding to Soubry’s claim that people don’t really care about reshuffles in the real world, Walker pointed out “Why is it the lead story on Newsnight, and why are you appearing on Newsnight?” Why indeed…

However, there is a personal reason why Anna Soubry is angry with Nadine Dorries.

On July 1, 2016, one week after David Cameron stood down as Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader because of the Brexit referendum result, tensions were running high not only in the Commons but also among the public.

Soubry went out near Parliament to address her fellow Remain supporters. Dorries tweeted that Soubry was under the influence. Soubry demanded that Dorries retract the tweet. The Times has the full story, which ends with this:

Update (25.07.2016): Following publication of this article, Nadine Dorries MP has withdrawn her tweet about passing Anna Soubry MP leaving the bar before she attended a rally of Remain supporters in central London. Ms Soubry has confirmed that she had not drunk any alcohol before speaking at the event.

Another reason why I am doubtful about Nadine Dorries is because she did not question the Government’s coronavirus restrictions when she was at Health and Social Care. Does she really believe everything she hears? Here she responds to Conservative Woman‘s co-founder Kathy Gyngell. Dorries and her mother had the virus at the same time, and her mother recovered first. Even so, not questioning lockdown earns her a black mark from me:

At least she supported Brexit.

Michael Gove moves to Housing, no longer Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Michael Gove, who is in the process of a divorce and was a recent party boy in an Aberdeen nightclub, is no longer the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Stephen Barclay, formerly Chief Secretary to the Treasury, replaces him in that post. Simon Clarke replaces Barclay in the Treasury role.

Michael Gove replaces Robert Jenrick at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and is in charge of Boris’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

A first attempt at a new acronym for the department has produced DULL:

Guido reports on the problems with acronyms for government departments in general:

The Sun’s Harry Cole reports the initial proposal for a new “Department for the Union and Levelling Up” is no longer a flyer after realisations its acronym, ‘DULU’, sounds too much like “Dull”. It’s a shame a change was needed, given it was pointed out yesterday that Michael Gove the first MHCLG Secretary with all the letters of the department in his name

Guido will leave it up to cleverer minds to work out an acronym that includes all the letters of Gove’s new remit (MHCLG + Union + Levelling Up + Elections) though it’s not the worst reshuffle acronym problem encountered by a PM. As Alan Johnson recounts, in 2005 Tony Blair came up with a plan to rename the department for Trade and Industry as the “Department of Productivity, Energy, Industry and Science”. Thankfully Johnson was used to it by that point however – he’d already been Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, and headed up the Sexual Health Advisory Group…

Although this looks like a demotion for Gove, it involves a hefty budget with pan-govermental reach, something that should definitely appeal to him:

New Education Secretary

Nadhim Zahawi, formerly in charge of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, is the new Education Secretary, replacing Gavin Williamson, who likely got the sack because of the school exams fiasco during the coronavirus crisis.

Zahawi has achieved the British dream, having arrived in the UK as a child refugee who could not speak English:

Other appointments

Guido Fawkes has full reshuffle information for September 15 and 16.

Some MPs have transferred to other departments:

Others will be returning to the backbenches:

Jesse Norman tweeted that he was happy to return to the backbenches:

The new role for Nigel Adams is said to be a ‘fixer’ appointment in order to get things done:

More information and analysis can be found at The Guardian, The Telegraph, GB News , The Spectator and The Times (here, here and here).

House of Lords

Reshuffles can affect the House of Lords, too.

Fortunately, two of the stars there are still in place.

Baroness Evans

Baroness Evans, composed and competent, will remain as Leader of the House of Lords.

Lord Frost

Lord Frost will remain Cabinet Office Minister for Europe, in charge of EU negotiations and changes to relevant legislation:

On September 16, Guido wrote about Frost’s plans to rid the UK of EU laws (emphases in the original):

Lord Frost has announced the government’s plans to finally capitalise on the freedoms of Brexit and remove the “special status” of all individual EU laws still on the UK’s statute books. There are also plans to invest heavily artificial intelligence, transport, and farming over the Parliament. Now if we just pair deregulation with lower taxes we may actually get somewhere…

Speaking on the reforms this afternoon, Lord Frost said:

“From rules on data storage to the ability of businesses to develop new green technologies, overbearing regulations were often conceived and agreed in Brussels with little consideration of the UK national interest.

“We now have the opportunity to do things differently and ensure that Brexit freedoms are used to help businesses and citizens get on and succeed.”

Lord Frost will begin with a review of so-called “retained EU law” – the huge amount of EU legislation still on the UK’s statute books; removing its special status so it’s no longer a distinct category of UK domestic law, and ensuring all courts have the full ability to depart from EU case law. He describes it as finalising the process of “restoring this sovereign Parliament”. There’s a reason he’s popular with the Tory membership…

Guido’s post has more detail, much of which involves digitalising everything from share (stock) certificates and driving licences.

Hmm. I hope that when his proposals reach MPs that they are not taken too far. First, not everyone is online. Secondly, think of the hacking opportunities this could provide. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, digitalisation can lead quickly to establishing a Chinese-style social credit score.

One thing I did like was this:

Permitting the voluntary printing of the Crown Stamp on pint glasses and reviewing the EU ban on markings and sales in imperial units and legislating in due course, none of which were possible within the EU.

Robert Peston’s misguided predictions

Sometimes, it is better to wait for the final outcome rather than tweet silly predictions:

On September 16, Guido noted witheringly of ITV’s Robert Peston:

While yesterday may not have been great for Dominic Raab, at least he can take solace in the fact he had a better reshuffle than Robert Peston. ITV’s senile senior political reporter spent all day tweeting every thought process, speculation and briefing with the acumen and insight of a first-year politics student.

Guido’s article lists Peston’s tweets. Perhaps ITV should buy him a new crystal ball.

Conclusion

I still think that most Conservative MPs are half-hearted. It’s a shame that Boris did not promote any of the 2019 intake, especially the feisty ones from the North of England.

Fortunately, last week’s horrible poll results have been reversed. Participants were polled during the reshuffle days of September 15 and 16:

Onwards and upwards to Boris’s promised ‘sunlit uplands’, I hope.

It had to happen at some point.

For the first time since January, a poll has shown that Labour is more popular than the Conservatives.

YouGov took the following poll on September 8 and 9. September 8 was the day of the parliamentary vote on an increase in National Insurance to fund the NHS and, from 2025, social care.

YouGov are also pro-Conservative.

This is a warning to Boris and his team:

The full results are here. They reveal that a high percentage of respondents — 19% — do not know for whom they would vote. That figure was 20% in the previous week’s poll.

Those who would not vote in the next election, some years away, rose from 9% to 12%.

Boris Johnson is keen on polls. He should take this to heart and tell his new wife to stop running the country.

LBC’s Nick Ferrari interviewed Conservative MP and Cabinet member Oliver Dowden, who said that polls go up and down:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post says (emphases in the original):

It will have been nigh on impossible for co-conspirators not to have already seen last night’s bombshell YouGov poll that sees the Tories end their 149 consecutive leads over Labour, slipping back five points down to 33% versus Labour’s 35%. Dowden unsurprisingly put on a brave face, saying “polls go up, they go down”. How much further down is the main question…

Meanwhile it’s not just the polls that see the Tories in the mud. Guido learns that even a Tory bigwig fundraiser on Wednesday, at Mayfair’s Wallace Collection, couldn’t get hands reaching into pockets for the party, despite cajoling from both Boris and Rishi. Who knew Tory donors weren’t keen on an enormous tax hike?

Guido’s readers listed a litany of complaints against the Conservatives — and rightly so:

  • too much taxation and spending;
  • too green — also at the cost of the taxpayer, including electricity and gas bills going up dramatically this year and next;
  • too many economic migrants crossing the Channel from France;
  • too woke.

Guido also received a lot of comments to this tweet:

The public will not appreciate that Downing Street is defending the NHS in hiring more managers with outrageously high salaries:

Guido quoted a spokesperson who briefed the press (Lobby):

The public will rightly expect every penny raised by the levy to be spent on cutting Covid waiting times and finally fixing the care crisis … NHS England is already working to be more efficient and cut waste.

The spokesperson said that the NHS was already being more efficient. Guido’s post says:

… there were initially “211 commissioning organisations”, so the 42 executives running the new Integrated Care Services ‘significantly reduce[s]’ the total number of managers.

And, no, Downing Street said these managers are not ‘bureaucrats’:

No. 10 also pushed back on calling these managers “bureaucrats“, claiming “these individuals will be responsible for a population of around a million people with billion pound budgets, and so we want highly qualified people who can deliver for the public.” A reminder that some will earn 80% more than Boris himself…

Guido spotted another YouGov poll on how the imminent rise in National Insurance is going down with the public:

Here are the poll results:

Opinium’s results on the same question showed that a clear majority oppose the rise:

In related news, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is suspending the triple-lock on pensions for one year, meaning that state pensions will not rise with inflation. That has not gone down well, either. Admittedly, nearly half of those polled do not know what the triple lock involves. Maintaining the triple lock was also part of the Conservative manifesto, as was the commitment not to raise National Insurance:

Boris is fortunate that Labour’s Keir Starmer is so unpopular:

Boris polls way above Starmer:

That said, his popularity might not hold out in the long run.

Some pundits are beginning to refer to the Conservatives as Blue Labour.

However, Paul Embery, who really is Blue Labour, a Labour party member who likes aspects of conservatism, explains how pundits are misusing the label (emphases mine):

There is little sense either that the government understands the value that Blue Labour attaches to relationships and community. Where is the recognition of the family as the bedrock of society and the plan to strengthen that institution? How does the government propose to revitalise our disempowered local and relational institutions — the little platoons that fill the space between market and state and are the lifeblood of our civil society: credit unions, friendly societies, faith groups, co-operatives, and other voluntary or campaigning groups.

All of this stuff matters, and any government genuinely concerned about fostering the deepest social solidarity, reinvigorating democracy and restoring a true sense of community, while making our nation more just and equal, would place these questions front and centre.

But it won’t happen under a Boris Johnson government. That’s because, at heart, the prime minister, economically and socially, remains an instinctive libertarian. Blue Labour’s “socialism with a small ‘c’” runs counters to this. Johnson may have the nous to recognise that the movement’s message plays well. But he doesn’t really believe in it.

I agree with Paul Embery that a Conservative emphasis on family would be a good start, but Boris cannot espouse that without looking hypocritical.

As for Boris being ‘an instinctive libertarian’, I disagree. He’s about as instinctively libertarian as he is Blue Labour.

In any event, Boris should consider these polls a wake-up call. He did say in December 2019 that the overwhelming Conservative votes were ‘on loan’. Now he has to find a way to keep them.

Last Friday’s post was about Matt Hancock’s fall from grace as Health Secretary as featured on the front page of The Sun.

The Queen had lost confidence in him before then, as my post explains, covered in another front page feature, in The Times.

Hancock’s final 48 hours as health secretary were pivotal, not only for his political but also his personal life.

Thursday, June 24

The Sun allegedly contacted Hancock to ask him if he had any comment before they published the compromising photo of him in a steamy embrace with a female aide.

Hancock went home that evening and dropped a life-changing bombshell on his wife and youngest child. 

On Sunday, the Mail reported (emphases mine):

Mother-of-three Martha was reportedly blissfully unaware of her husband’s infidelity until he broke the news to her on Thursday night when it became clear the footage would be published the next day.  

And he reportedly even woke up the couple’s youngest child, aged eight, to tell him he was leaving

How unspeakably cruel.

My commiserations to both — as well as to his two other children.

Apparently, Hancock is serious:

Friday, June 25

On Friday, YouGov and Savanta ComRes took snap polls to test public opinion on The Sun‘s revelations about Hancock.

It was clear that this representative portion of the public were deeply unhappy and thought he should resign.

These were YouGov’s results:

Savanta ComRes found that 46% of Conservative voters thought Hancock should resign:

The full video of Hancock’s illicit embrace became available online.

A number of newspaper columnists expressed their disgust with Hancock’s hypocrisy.

The Telegraph‘s Emily Hill wrote:

Four days after Freedom Day failed to dawn, what fun it is for the masses who must continue to abide by the Minister’s absurd rules to see this! Dancing inside at a wedding – verboten. Nightclubs – verboten. Standing at the bar in a pub talking to perfect strangers – verboten. It’s as if they don’t want the young and fit and healthy to mate anymore. Sex privileges, it seems, are reserved for middle-aged men in Westminster while the rest of us can only watch, helpless, wondering how much their cheating is costing the taxpayer.

But it is now the afternoon and Hancock has merely cancelled his appearance at a vaccine centre while Grant Shapps [Secretary of State for Transport] was sent out to inform us: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.” Seconds later he stated: “whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed” in relation to the ministerial code. This makes hypocrites of much of the Government, not to mention every world leader who flouted social distancing rules so publicly at the G7 summit.

The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson pointed out how much the British public has sacrificed in personal relationships over the past year and a bit because of Hancock’s restrictions:

Thousands of people posted reactions on social media. Some were bitterly mocking the official mantras: “Hands, Face, Back to My Place”. “Saving Lives, Shagging Wives”.

Others were simply devastating: “I wasn’t even allowed to kiss my dying father because of Hancock.”

The anger and disbelief were palpable. Was this really the minister who told us on the 17th May that, after fourteen months of physical and emotional self-denial, we were free to hug our loved ones, when, a fortnight earlier, he’d been giving mouth-to-mouth to some glamorous chum he’d put on the public payroll? Knowing Hancock, he’d call it First Aide.

We are all humble sinners and a man or woman’s private peccadillos shouldn’t disqualify them from doing their job. But no such understanding or humanity – not a sliver of mercy – has been shown by the Secretary of State or this Government to members of the public who have broken often cruel and arbitrary rules. Remember how we watched in horror as police arrested a retired nurse as she tried to drive her 97-year-old mother away from a care home. Hundreds of thousands of people have departed this life without a last touch or kiss from their best beloveds because the restrictions forbade it so relatives sobbed in the carpark because Matt Hancock said it must be so. Almost 30,000 children have been put on anti-depressants yet just one positive test (without any Covid symptoms) can still send an entire year group home to self-isolate for ten lonely days. Parents know this is insanity, but they must suck it up because that prating popinjay Hancock tells them it’s vital to keep us “safe”

If I had a gasket left to blow it would have exploded when Culture and Sports minister John Whittingdale explained this week how up to 3,000 Uefa officials will be allowed to arrive in the UK, without quarantine, for the Euro semis and finals. “We’ve always said that for some people who are important…”, said the hapless minister, accounting for the fact that normal people would be held to different standards.

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” I never ever thought George Orwell’s satirical take in Animal Farm on an arrogant, unaccountable elite patronising the masses would apply in our country. More fool me. We’re all in this together, eh, Matt?

Trust me, it’s not closed. There are millions of us, and we are raging now, and we will not allow it to be closed. If the Government permits one law for Hancock and “important people” and another for the rest of us then it is morally bankrupt. Boris must act this very day to restore the people’s faith, to prove that we haven’t been mugs.

Fraser Nelson, also writing for the Telegraph, pointed out how Hancock insisted on following his draconian rules, therefore, he should not expect privacy now:

Mr Hancock has always been one of the most emphatic for the rules. In internal government debates, he has invariably pushed for the toughest restrictions and wanted 10-year jail sentences as a penalty for trying to dodge draconian quarantine rules. “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures,” he said: they’d target a “minority who don’t want to follow the rules.” Who, presumably, he thinks, deserve everything coming their way. When two women were fined by police for walking together, Mr Hancock was unforgiving. “Every time you try to flex the rules,’ he said, “that could be fatal”

This is the irony in his request on Friday for “privacy for my family on this personal matter” now. There is no doubt his family deserves it. But a great many other families would have been grateful for more privacy over the last 15 months. Instead, the Tory Government decided to legislate for what people do in their own homes. And in so doing, set up a system where people came to worry that they’d be reported to the police – perhaps by their neighbours – if they stretched the rules by inviting children over to play in their back gardens. Greater Manchester Police issued a statement boasting that they had raided a family home to break up a child’s birthday party.

Sweden managed to fight back two Covid waves while respecting privacy and civil liberty. There are bans on mass gatherings, and a rule of eight for public places. But no rules would apply inside anyone’s property, where they had sovereignty. Government would not come through your front door: in Sweden, your home is your castle. It wasn’t so long ago when this respect for privacy summed up civic life in Britain.

When Mr Hancock started issuing advice on where we should hug (embracing outside, he said, was better than inside) alarm bells ought to have been ringing in Number 10. It was a sign that the Government machine had gone way out of control, losing any sense of its remit or boundaries. Number 10 should have stepped in, and perhaps asked for a study on the efficacy of the intrusions or work of Project Fear: the blood-curdling posters showing Covid victims on their deathbeds. If there was no proof that the campaign was making a difference, they could have been told to change tack …

Paul Waugh of HuffPost dug up a quote from April 2020 (and a 2021 photo), showing how dictatorial Hancock was:

Conservatives in Parliament began complaining about Hancock. Christopher Hope, writing for the Telegraph, reported:

Baroness Foster of Oxton, a Tory peer, accused Mr Hancock on Twitter of having “used emergency powers to impose these punitive restrictions leading to horrendous consequences across society without debate yet ignored them himself & at work!”

Backbench Conservative MPs contacted their whips about the Health Secretary. One texted: “You don’t need me to tell you what I think.” Another said that “children have missed out in so many ways” and that Mr Hancock’s behaviour was “so hypocritical”, while a third MP said the Government “is looking ridiculous now, I am sorry to say”.

Oddly, the Shadow (Opposition) Health Minister Jonathan Ashworth was silent.

The day ended with The Sun‘s Harry Cole appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight:

Saturday, June 26

The Telegraph had running live coverage of the Hancock debacle. Excerpts follow.

Coverage began at 9:01 a.m.:

Tory MPs urged Boris Johnson to “pull the plug” on Mr Hancock and expressed their frustration to party whips over the Health Secretary’s “hypocritical” behaviour …

A senior government source said public reaction was being monitored and could determine Mr Hancock’s fate.

At 9:30:

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock had no idea the camera existed when it captured him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo, and government sources said it was “unheard of” for cameras to be installed in ministers’ offices.

It raises the possibility that the camera was deliberately placed by someone with access to his office with the intention of catching the pair cheating on their spouses and breaking Covid rules. It is the first time a Cabinet minister has been filmed in their own office without their knowledge.

In a further twist, the Department of Health and Social Care’s offices use CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision, which is banned in the US because of national security concerns.

At 10:20:

A healthcare company which employs as a senior director the brother of the aide Matt Hancock was pictured kissing has insisted it had never benefited from the connection to the Health Secretary.

Reports suggested Roberto Coladangelo, strategy director at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), was the brother of Gina Coladangelo, a familial connection later confirmed.

At 11:06:

The Health Secretary is under mounting political pressure this morning after a video was published of him hugging and embracing Gina Coladangelo, a non-executive director in his department, in early May.

At the time, hugging and socialising indoors with people outside one’s household was banned.

But according to The Sun, they have been “all over each other” again this week in the same ninth-floor office of the Department of Health and Social Care.

At 11:19:

Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, has called for Matt Hancock to resign.

Mr Baker, who was elected in 2019, is believed to be the first Tory MP to openly call for Mr Hancock to go and told his local newspaper the Eastern Daily Press: “In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role …

“I will not in any shape condone this behaviour and I have in the strongest possible terms told the Government what I think.”

Duncan Baker was not alone. Three other Conservative MPs spoke out against Hancock — Esther McVey, William Wragg and Sir Christopher Chope:

Sir Christopher told the Dorset paper, the Daily Echo:

“I think that he should resign rather than be sacked because this should actually be an issue for him and his conscience.

“One of the benefits of having been around for a long time is that I’ve seen this sort of thing before and the strength of feeling is such, within the party and outside,  that this will not simply go away. 

The sooner he resigns the better so we can have a new secretary for health who commands public respect.

Hancock is finished.

The sooner he goes the sooner he can be rehabilitated.”

That afternoon, Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a conversation. Hancock wrote a letter of resignation. Boris responded with a written reply:

Around 6 p.m., Hancock announced his resignation via a personal video:

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that Boris should have sacked Hancock:

However, given Boris’s philandering, that would have been hypocritical.

Also, Hancock will now return to the backbenches. Boris will want to keep him sweet. Even I can figure that out.

Around two hours later, it was announced that Sajid Javid would be Hancock’s replacement. Javid has been Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, so he will be comfortable with another post in the Cabinet.

This means that Boris’s expected reshuffle will not now take place until perhaps later in the year. A smart move:

This thread summarises Javid’s career. He is the son of a bus driver. His teachers told him that he should pursue television set repair as a career. Were they ever wrong:

Dominic Cummings was quick to react, blaming Boris’s wife Carrie for the appointment. She had at one time worked for Javid. Cummings said he himself had ‘tricked’ Boris into firing Javid from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT):

Sky News’s Beth Rigby appeared outside of No. 10 late on Saturday:

Beth has some nerve. She was suspended from Sky News for a few months for having revelled in a non-coronavirus-compliant way at her colleague Kay Burley’s 60th birthday party evening in central London:

Sunday, June 27

Newspaper editors must have been pulling out their hair in changing their front pages for Sunday.

The Sun went for a play on words (matt paint):

The Mirror had the same idea, adding that his aide has quit her job, too:

The Times had a front page article adding that Hancock used a personal Gmail account to conduct Department of Health business. Apparently it’s done now, but any of those emails are subject to FOIA requests with regard to Government business. It also means that the Government might not be able to get a trail of all of his activity with regard to contracts:

The Express said that Conservative donors threatened to stop contributions if Hancock stayed in office:

I will stop there for now.

The Sunday articles and news programmes had much more to explore.

For now, it looks as if Sajid Javid has a more libertarian approach to handling the virus and wants restrictions lifted as soon as practicable.

The British are a sensible, pragmatic people.

A recent poll from Ipsos MORI shows that most Britons are far more concerned with coronavirus, the economy and our post-Brexit future than they are about climate change:

This year, the global climate conference, COP26, will be held in Glasgow, but it is a low priority for most of us.

In fact, climate change is a luxury worry, as Guido Fawkes explains, after reading the accompanying breakdown of polling figures (emphases in bold mine):

According to Ipsos-MORI’s regular monthly polling, the little rising concern that there is about the environment and climate change is being driven by specific demographic subgroups within the wider population:

“It is a big issue for almost three in ten of those in social grades AB (28%), double the level of concern among social grade C2DE (13%)… Those living in the south of England and Scotland are more likely to mention these issues than those in the Midlands and north of England.”

There are no significant differences in environmental concern between Britons of different ages. Party strategists obsessed with voters in the Red Wall seats should note that they are the least interested in climate issues. Red Wall voters are primarily concerned about the pandemic, the economy, Brexit, and the NHS ahead of green issues.  It is a small minority of mostly better-off Southern voters who will vote to put up their electricity bills and force people to buy expensive electric cars.

Conservative MPs are in the tank for climate change initiatives. However, as Guido warns, the former Labour voters they are wooing have more practical concerns on their minds. MPs live in their own leafy world while the rest of us cope with more pressing issues of the day.

On Monday, May 17, 2021, Guido Fawkes posted a summary of Christopher Snowdon’s Nanny State Index 2021:

It says (emphases in the original):

The Nanny State Index (NSI) has been updated for 2021, and it makes for grim reading for any libertarian – with author Christopher Snowdon claiming “everything is steadily getting worse” and that “all the momentum is with the paternalists of ‘public health’” in the wake of the pandemic. Lifestyle restrictions on eating, drinking, smoking, and vaping have all steadily increased across Europe for the past four years…

The post includes a summary quote about the UK from Snowdon. Among the European countries he researched, we’ve become somewhat more free only because of certain duty freezes during the pandemic:

It is a sign of how much nanny state activity there has been in Europe since 2019 that the United Kingdom has slipped from fourth place to eleventh in the table without liberalising anything. This can be partly explained by the government freezing beer and spirits duty since 2018 and freezing wine duty in 2020. Adjusted for income, its alcohol taxes are now only the ninth highest of the 30 countries in the index. It also helps that the UK takes a common sense approach to e-cigarettes… It remains to be seen whether the government uses Brexit as an opportunity for further liberalisation, but it remains highly paternalistic on food, soft drinks and tobacco.

However, what follows is the biggest news gleaned from the report (purple highlight mine):

The nannying countries at the top of the table – Norway, Lithuania, and Finland – don’t boast higher life expectancies or lower hospitalisations connected to smoking or drinking, though that hasn’t stopped governments pushing illiberal policies further and further – especially under the cover of the pandemic. It’s gesture politics at its most dangerous.

Many of us who are libertarians thought so.

It’s always good to have proof of that fact.

Readers can find Christopher Snowdon’s chart here along with his full 44-page report.

Page 4 of the report discusses the Nanny State’s adverse impact on the poor, who rely on alcohol and cigarettes to calm their nerves. It states (emphases mine):

Insofar as ‘public health’ campaigners acknowledge the damage done by their policies, they argue that it is more than offset by the benefit to health – the ends justify the means. But there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity. As Figure 1 shows below, there is no correlation whatsoever between Nanny State Index scores and life expectancy.

Although the UK has dropped from fourth place to 12th in a year, making it freer, this is only because dealing with the pandemic has hoovered up funds that normally would have been spent on tobacco and alcohol control.

As an avid follower of the UK Parliament’s debates, I am sure, sadly, that tobacco control will once again be on the agenda when it can be funded. The Government would like to resume this year. We’ll see.

In any event, I am grateful that Chancellor Rishi Sunak froze tobacco duty in this year’s budget, after having raised it twice last year.

Yes Minister, which aired on BBC2 in the 1980s, is still as fresh as it was decades ago, a perfect satire of politics and the civil service.

In this short clip, which is under two minutes long, Sir Humphrey demonstrates how pollsters use a list of questions to get the end results they want. Amusing, accurate — and relevant:

Would that we had satirical sitcoms like this today, especially ones that didn’t rely on four-letter words for laughs, such as The Thick of It, which didn’t even come close to Yes Minister in terms of humour.

On Thursday, April 29, 2021, The Telegraph published results of a study of students at British universities.

The trends in the findings were present before coronavirus, although the survey, “Sex and Relationships Among Students”, was conducted last summer by the HEPI (Higher Education Policy Unit).

Ultimately:

they don’t want to have sex particularly – nearly six in ten (58 per cent) say making friends at university is more important than finding a sexual partner.

Here’s the story via Twitter:

Hmm:

I can well imagine welcome weeks led to encounters.

Nick Hillman, who is the director of HEPI, which conducted the survey, said that we have misconceptions about the number of sexual encounters women have. A retired psychiatrist said that sex on campus appeared to be a Boomer thing:

I heartily disagree with the assertion in the article that the British are somehow abnormal for leaving home to attend university. That is also widely done in the United States. It is a good thing for those who did not attend public (boarding) school. It teaches independence in a controlled environment.

The mandatory university lectures on what one can and cannot do in a one-to-one encounter are good, but they might also make one sex afraid of the other. Dr Nicholson, the retired psychiatrist, said that (emphases mine):

sexual mores have shifted, she says, and men are scared about getting consent wrong. At some universities, it’s compulsory to attend training around consent and coercion

“In the old days, you knew the rules,” says Nicholson. “It was the man’s responsibility to make the first move.

“For girls, it was how much flirting you could do without ending up in bed. And for boys, how little flirting you could get away with before ending up in bed. Boys in our generation weren’t shocked if you said no. But they did know on first dates you could be as optimistic as you liked but you weren’t getting anywhere.”

True.

These days, sexting seems to be a thing, with 40% of students polled admitting to sending intimate photos of themselves to someone they fancy.

By and large, however, a media lecturer said that most students are worried about money and getting ahead in life:

If students have any free time, says the lecturer, many spend it earning cash rather than having sex.

Her students – undergraduates and postgraduates – tend to be more worried about homesickness, juggling jobs and study, or whether they are going to have a successful career. “Sex is just not top of their radar.”

Furthermore, some things just do not change over the generations, including the reluctance between parents and children to discuss sexual intimacy. Dr Nicholson said:

“ … you don’t want the previous generation telling you what the moral code is. That’s very much for your own peer group to work out.”

For parents, it’s hard to know whether to be relieved that one’s young adult children are not having sex at university, or worried that they’re not having enough fun, or that no intimate relationships could mean they are lonely.

The truth is, ask parents today about their student children’s sex lives and most don’t have a clue. Some report that their kids are approaching sex with gusto, others say their children are more worried about debt, career, and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

“I can honestly say that I have never worried that the pandemic, for instance, has scuppered my son’s chances of getting laid or put the kibosh on his prospective promiscuity,” says Rebecca*, a mother of a second-year undergraduate at the University of Birmingham.

“I don’t think young women need men and sex in that way,” says Tess, mother of a second-year student. “They are a lot less needy of male approval to get their self-esteem as they were in the past. Then, having a boyfriend, being thought ‘hot’ was really important. These young women are much better educated and empowered now. If my daughter meets someone she likes, then fine, but she’s not worried about it.”

And finally, some students will find comfort in this research. It will put to rest their FOMO (fear of missing out):

I don’t know what to think about this report. My friends and I enjoyed dating and parties at university. It was a good opportunity to find out more about the opposite sex in a relatively safe environment. Better there than outside in the big, bad world where anything can happen, sometimes adversely.

Perhaps I’m showing my age.

The UK’s local elections will take place on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Labour have been casting shade on Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the past few weeks over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. As one would expect, the left-leaning media are having a field day.

On Wednesday, April 28, after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer verbally attacked Boris at the despatch box during PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), Boris let rip by listing all the Conservative government’s achievements on Brexit and coronavirus over the past 16 months. The fact that he could rattle everything off in just under two minutes is impressive. Even better, it looks as if our pre-COVID Boris is back. The Conservative MP for West Bromwich East in the West Midlands tweeted:

Here are two more Conservative achievements:

The media are dead wrong when they say that ‘Boris is on the ropes’:

Here is a more recent poll, taken earlier this week:

Last weekend, the papers were full of stories about what Boris allegedly said before reluctantly announcing a third lockdown around Christmas. He denies having spoken these words, and Labour made a big deal about this earlier this week in Parliament. The public, however, view it in a more nuanced way:

Then we come to the refurbishment of the flat in Downing Street. It is alleged that Boris received funds from a Conservative Party donor to top up the statutory £30k maximum from the taxpayer. The public aren’t that interested:

I’ve seen photographs of one of the redecorated rooms. It looks very Turkish, including the pictures. Although some might find a deep red patterned wallpaper with matching sofa agreeable, it’s not the sort of room most people could stay in for long because it is too ‘busy’. There is no solid pastel shade anywhere. The next occupant will be busy redecorating it, at taxpayers’ expense, to look more neutral.

That has been the work of First Fiancée Carrie Symonds (the ‘y’ is a long ‘i’, as in ‘Simon’), who does not strike most of us as a true Conservative. If Conservatives have any complaint, it’s been that she seems to be running the Government via Boris.

Douglas Murray wrote a great article which appeared today in The Spectator: ‘Carrie Symonds and the First Girlfriend problem’.

Unlike the United States, European countries have a tradition whereby leaders’ spouses take a back seat where politics is concerned. They stay out of the limelight. This is probably the first time in living memory where a British partner of a Prime Minister has been involved in decision making.

Murray explains:

There is no getting around the fact that there is a problem with Carrie Symonds, which it is probably best to have out now.

In 2019 our Prime Minister came in with a significant and clear mandate. Covid has added significantly to his workload. But for many of us he seemed the perfect — even the only — man for the hour. Yet as that hour has gone on, problems of his own creation keep appearing. Too many of them originate from the sway — even terror — his younger companion seems to exert over him.

Carrie Symonds herself is a perfectly nice, intelligent person who successfully worked her way through Conservative campaign headquarters. But she is having too great an impact on the course of government. There are issues the Prime Minister avoids because she does not favour them. And there are others — principally green issues — which he appears to adopt to satisfy her. The feeling is growing that the First Girlfriend wants political power without the trouble of having to run for office, and to wield it without any resulting criticism. This is not a sustainable state of affairs …

It is not just policy she seeks to influence. The First Girlfriend seems to have a desire to be involved in all personnel issues. Her principal ambition seems to be for her friends to make up all the central control flanks around the Prime Minister. This was one of the main causes of Dominic Cummings’s exit from Downing Street last year …

It seems no Carrie-related issue is ever too minor to distract the PM. Last year she made him stop a Cobra meeting at the height of the Covid crisis. The urgent cause was her demand that the PM make an official complaint to the Times newspaper over a story claiming that Carrie’s affections for the couple’s Jack Russell, Dilyn, had cooled in the year since the couple adopted him …

the trap laid by Carrie and her defenders is clear. Say that Carrie has gained political influence only because of who her boyfriend is, and you will be accused of being envious of powerful, successful women who have made it in their own right. ‘Carrie is an expert in politics,’ one well-briefed source recently told the media. And she may well be. But that is not why she is sleeping in No. 10.

In the UK anyone who wishes to have political power should run for elected office. The emergent Office of First Lady is clearly a source of tension in Downing Street, and is already responsible for an unprecedented number of interventions in policy areas that affect our country. We hear nothing from the Prime Minister on issues he was elected on, and far too much on ones that Carrie happens to favour. The Prime Minister may have need of a First Girlfriend, but the country does not.

A year ago, I was wondering why Boris’s priorities were changing. Was it because of coronavirus or Carrie?

Twelve months on, I have my answer.

As far as local elections go, however, the Carrie problem is unlikely to affect voters’ opinions. Those determined to vote Conservative will carry on regardless of Carrie.

On Monday, March 29, 2021, news emerged of a Gallup poll indicating that only 47% of Americans now have a religious affiliation.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes about matters of faith for the Washington Post. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson served as general secretary of the Reformed Church in America for 17 years and writes for RNS (Religion News Service):

I went to Wes Granberg-Michaelson’s article ‘Behind Gallup’s portrait of church decline’ for more details.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The article begins as follows:

As Holy Week began this year, a Gallup Poll found that church membership in the United States had declined to less than half of the population for the first time. The headline grabbed attention, but it’s mostly unsurprising: In a country where 90% of the 350,000 congregations in the U.S. have a profile older than the general population, time brings an inevitable decline.

Christians have also suffered self-inflicted damage: Surveys show that the identification of many white evangelicals with former President Donald Trump drove many millennials away, as did the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church over the previous decades. “Nones” — those claiming no religious affiliation — are growing, now roughly equaling the number of evangelicals or of Catholics in the U.S.

However, not everyone has stopped worshipping publicly. It appears this phenomenon affects the white population:

People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

Interestingly, there has been a slight uptick for mainline Protestant denominations:

The latest available data from the General Social Survey, a major tool for sociologists, shows that the percentage of mainline Protestants in the U.S. recently increased for the first time in nearly 30 years, from 10.2% to 10.8%, while Catholics and evangelicals showed a moderate decline.

The lack of religious affiliation with any world religion, not only Christianity, is not a matter of unbelief, either, as only 22% of those polled describe themselves as atheists.

Another RNS article looks at the survey: ‘Gallup: Fewer than half of Americans belong to a church or other house of worship’.

That article shows the Gallup graph of formal religious affiliation from the late 1930s to the present. It’s a rather shocking picture.

Looking at it, we see that, in the late 1930s, 73% of Americans were members of a church or synagogue. In the post-war years, that figure rose to 76% then went back to 73% until the 1970s when it slipped to 71%.

Today’s decline began after the Millennium, when religious affiliation was under 70%. By 2015, that figure was 55% and falling continuously to the present 47%.

By now, multiple generations have grown accustomed to not entering a place of worship unless it is for a wedding or a funeral. The article says:

Younger Americans are increasingly disconnected from organized religion, according to the report from Gallup. But the number of older Americans who are members of a house of worship has also declined in recent years.

No doubt Christian clergy will think they need to make their church services even more ‘relevant’ in a secular style. However, Britain’s Anglican churches have been doing that for decades with little to no success.

Meanwhile, in California, Pastor John MacArthur has no problem attracting well over 1,000 people to his church every Sunday and Wednesday. He also has a very well attended Spanish service.

What is the secret of his success? Preaching the Bible, one verse at a time. Clergy, take note.

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