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The coronavirus lockdown has certainly contributed to the rising ratings for BBC Parliament and parliamentlive.tv.

More people are tuning in and the BBC have restyled the chyron on their screen to make it more user friendly. We now know what the debate topic is as soon as we tune in.

However, ratings for televised coverage of Parliament began climbing in 2015, when David Cameron was Prime Minister.

On February 12, 2016, Total Politics reported (emphases mine, apart from the italics):

BBC Parliament has reported a record high of an average of two million viewers a month for the first time ever in 2015.

This is an increase of 150,000 viewers each month on the 2014 figures – and it marks the first time the BBC’s dedicated parliamentary channel has broken the two million viewers per month threshold.

The channel has more live coverage than ever before and covers proceedings from Westminster, the European parliament, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament.

BBC Parliament controller Peter Knowles told TP:

“Providing more live coverage of the key political debates and discussions has meant that during 2015, a dramatic year in politics, we’ve seen a surge in people using BBC Parliament to follow proceedings.

New camera positions are also giving our coverage a fresh feel as this parliamentary term is now in full flow.”

Apparently the new camera angles, brought in last year, represent the first such change since 1989. According to a BBC spokesman, the new camera angles “bring audiences closer to the key exchanges, debates and votes”.

So much for the public being turned off by politicians

In 2020, in a review of the 2017-2019 Parliament under Theresa May’s premiership and with John Bercow as egotistical Speaker of the House, The Institute for Government stated:

Members of the public can now view parliamentary proceedings on a variety of platforms. Run by the parliamentary Digital Service, parliamentlive.tv is the most comprehensive source of parliamentary video and audio, publishing recordings of all events – including meetings of select committees – taking place in public.[24] The site allows members of the public to watch events live, access video on demand and search archive footage going back to December 2007. It is also possible to download clips from parliamentlive.tv – with nearly one thousand clips downloaded on average each week between 5 March 2018 and 30 December 2019. These clips are often shared by MPs, interest groups and political parties on social media. BBC Parliament also carries live coverage of key parliamentary activity.

Parliamentary tensions over Brexit were a massive driver of viewers for Parliamentlive.tv

Average daily viewer numbers increased over 150% from 6,552 per day in 2017 to 16,607 per day in 2019. BBC Parliament also saw record viewing figures – the only BBC TV channel experiencing an increase in viewers. An average of one million adults tuned into the channel for at least three minutes each week during 2019, with viewing figures exceeding two million in several key weeks. One commentator described the channel as “the ratings hit that’s Big Brother meets 24 – with added Bercow”.[25]

Controversial and compelling Brexit debates continued when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, the Radio Times reported:

BBC Parliament hit an all-time ratings high on Tuesday as Boris Johnson suffered his first defeat as Prime Minister, with MPs voting to take control of the House of Commons in order to force a vote on a bill that will prevent a no deal Brexit.

Some 1.5m viewers tuned in across the course of the day, marking the biggest 24 hours for the channel on record.

The drama in Westminster continues into Wednesday, as opposition parties and Tory rebels lead a debate on Labour politician Hilary Benn’s bill to block a no deal Brexit …

The channel is providing live coverage from the House of Commons throughout the ongoing Brexit crisis, and it is captivating the nation – even drawing viewers away from the beloved Great British Bake Off, which aired its latest episode on Channel 4.

The Radio Times article included two tweets, the first of which is from British television’s most famous money pundit, Martin Lewis:

Last year:

Even on less contentious days, the debates can be absorbing, such as a recent closing debate about the threat to driving tests in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, not far from London. I watched it while preparing dinner when it aired, and it was compelling. Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges, who is actress/former MP Glenda Jackson’s son, tweeted:

Once one starts watching Parliament in action, it is difficult to stop. We get to know the MPs and predict what they will say. With coronavirus, we have the added bonus of seeing what the interiors of their houses look like.

The day’s order papers are on the PARLY and House of Commons Twitter feeds:

The most recent development in broadcasting from the Houses of Parliament is a new fit-for-purpose gallery, which Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle visited on Tuesday, March 2, 2021:

In a further development, Chancellor for the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will be giving the first-ever press conference about the budget on national television following his statement in Parliament on March 3. Guido Fawkes has more:

After presenting his budget in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Chancellor will scarper over to No. 10 to take questions on it from the public and journalists from 5pm. The televised event will be the first of its kind on Budget Day …

More on that and the budget tomorrow.

My series on minority MPs in the Conservative Party continues.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Today’s post covers the two minority MPs who were elected during Theresa May’s snap general election of June 2017.

Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Bim Afolami represents the leafy Hertfordshire constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden, far enough from London to be in the countryside yet a close enough for a daily commute to and from the capital.

I always enjoy hearing what Afolami has to say in Parliament. He speeches are eloquent, considered and, above all, sensible.

Afolami was born in the Home County of Berkshire to a Nigerian father, employed as a consultant physician for the NHS. His mother works as a pharmacist.

Afolami attended Eton College and University College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. While at Oxford, he worked as a librarian for the Oxford Union Society and played football for the university team.

He worked as a lawyer prior to entering politics. His employers included the prestigious law firm Freshfields and the banking corporation HSBC.

In 2017, Hitchin and Harpenden’s MP Peter Lilley stood down. Afolami was selected as the Conservative candidate.

Afolami was a Remainer, however, during his time in Parliament, he voted the Brexit line most of the time.

He has been a member of several parliamentary committees.

He has also had positions as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Transport, International Development, International Trade and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Currently, he chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions and is a Commissioner for the Financial Inclusion Commission.

Afolami is married with three children.

He describes Winston Churchill as his ‘biggest hero’.

Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden)

Kemi Badenoch also reveres Winston Churchill, along with Margaret Thatcher.

She, too, has Nigerian roots and spent her formative years there before returning to England.

She represents the constituency of Saffron Walden in Essex, which, not surprisingly, includes the ancient town of the same name. The town of Saffron Walden was known not only for its wool production but also for its cultivation of saffron in the 16th and 17th centuries. That happy combination of industry enabled the town to develop dyes as well as provide the condiment for use in food.

Olukemi Olufunto Adegoke was born in Wimbledon, London. Her father is a GP and her mother a professor of physiology. As her mother obtained teaching positions overseas, Kemi lived in both the United States and Nigeria. She returned to England at the age of 16 to complete her A levels and attend university.

She has worked in computing for most of her career. She obtained a law degree in 2009 and went on to work as an associate director of private bank and wealth manager Coutts and was a director for The Spectator.

Kemi joined the Conservative Party in 2005.

In 2012, she married Hamish Badenoch and took his surname.

In 2015, she served on the London Assembly after Suella Fernandes Braverman had to give up her seat, since she had just been elected to Parliament.

In 2017, Kemi Badenoch succeeded Sir Alan Haslehurst as MP for Saffron Walden with a healthy majority.

In her maiden speech, she explained how she became a conservative: failing nationalised electricity and water provision during her years in Nigeria. Wow.

She also said that Brexit was the ‘greatest vote ever’.

If you want to feel uplifted about Britain and conservatism, this video is definitely worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time:

She currently holds two positions, to which Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed her in 2020: Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) in the Department for International Trade.

The latter position has seen her come up against stiff opposition from the Opposition benches last year when it emerged that minorities were more affected by coronavirus. The protests in June exacerbated the issue.

On June 4, an SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, had the gall to intimate that Badenoch had little understanding of the black community.

Badenoch politely responded that she objected to Thewliss’s ‘confected outrage’.

As former Labour MP — now Baroness Hoey in the House of Lords — put it:

Guido Fawkes posted a video of the exchange and commented (emphasis in the original):

Today’s BAME Urgent Question was never going to be one Parliament’s more tranquil sessions given the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Kemi Badenoch gave a feisty performance, scolding left-wing white MPs for telling her how to feel as a black person. Her slap down of SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who conflated all black Britons with recent immigrants, is worth a watch…

The BBC also attacked her response.

On June 6, Badenoch wrote an article for the Daily Mail, which said, in part (emphases mine):

The disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black and minority ethnic people has been one of the most troubling aspects of the pandemic – and the Government was right to seek the expert guidance of Professor Kevin Fenton, an eminent black physician at Public Health England, to examine the issue

So when, as Equalities Minister, I stood up in the Commons to discuss his review and its conclusions, I expected tough questions

This, after all, has been a week of heightened emotion about racial divisions. Unfortunately, clumsy attempts at scrutiny by some MPs and commentators unintentionally risk inflaming racial tensions

Updating Parliament on the review, Labour MPs repeated racially charged claims such as: ‘Being black is a death sentence.’ 

One SNP MP conflated all black people with recent immigrants. This language does nothing to calm tensions at a time when politicians need to set an example

Far more irresponsible though, was the BBC’s coverage of the debate – with the headline: ‘Minister rejects systemic racism claims’. I did no such thing

In fact, the phrase ‘systemic racism’ was not used once in the debate. The BBC report was shared on social media thousands of times and believed because it was from a trusted source. This is incredibly harmful

By implying that a black Minister has, out of hand, rejected racism as a factor, the hard work done by many ethnic minorities in Government, the NHS and Public Health England is discredited, trust is lost and race relations become worse

Yes, there are gaps in PHE’s review. By its nature, it highlights what we don’t know and must investigate further

We will build on this work, engaging with individuals and organisations within communities, to protect lives in this pandemic … 

We need to be more circumspect; we need real journalism, not campaigning

We must address prejudice but this is impossible if our national broadcaster, politicians and commentators play a social media game to achieve outrage rather than enlightenment

We must combat the real inequities in society, but we do everyone a disservice if we give in to culture warriors whose relevance depends on inflaming tensions

By hijacking the Government’s work to improve the lives of BAME people, those spoiling for a fight are sacrificing the hope of so many young people for little more than clicks, likes and retweets

In October, Badenoch volunteered to take part in a vaccine trial:

Moving to the present day — February 2021 — issues have arisen with minorities reluctant to get vaccinated when the time comes. Personally, I do not blame them. There is a lot we do not know about their long-term effects, particularly the mRNA vaccines. So that minorities would feel more reassured, the Government appointed Nadhim Zahawi MP to oversee vaccine rollout in the UK. His brief includes visiting minority communities to encourage uptake:

In January, minority MPs from both sides of the aisle took part in a video to promote the vaccine programme.

Badenoch was criticised for not having taken part. She said it was because she was participating in the aforementioned vaccine trial:

Let’s return to last year.

In October 2020, Badenoch spoke in Parliament about Black History Month in the UK. She said that she was taken aback by something her daughter said:

That month, she participated in a Spectator discussion debunking various socio-political left-wing theories and promoting conservatism.

This triggered a severe reaction from the Left in November.

Several radical left-wing academics took issue with what she said:

Guido Fawkes provided the exhaustive list along with the radical positions of each academic, explaining the background (red emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sent Twitter’s wokesters and academia’s race baiters into meltdown a fortnight ago when her savaging of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) went viral, with 2.4 million views. Guido’s since picked up on an open letter doing the rounds in nutty left-wing academic circles, who – unable to take on the substance of what Badenoch argues – have chosen instead to misrepresent her words. Aside from their attacks on the substance of Kemi’s words – incorrectly claiming she wants “the banning of certain ideas or schools of thought” and that she misunderstands history and CRT – the mostly former-polytechnic-based academics now claim CRT has “scientific principles” behind their ideology. Eugenicists, phrenologists and Marxists have argued the same for decades...

Looks like Kemi’s on pretty sound ideological ground…

I wish Kemi Badenoch all the very best in holding her ground so consistently.

Tomorrow’s post concludes this series.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The best known of the minority MPs from David Cameron’s premiership — 2010 to 2016 — is Rishi Sunak, who is Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He represents the Richmond constituency in Yorkshire.

Early years

Rishi Sunak’s grandparents moved from the Punjab province of India to East Africa. Rishi’s mother Usha was born in Tanzania. His father Yashvir was born in Kenya. Both are Hindus.

Both sets of grandparents migrated to the UK in the 1960s.

After marriage, Usha and Yashvir settled in Southampton, on the southern coast of England. Usha worked locally as a pharmacist. Yashvir was a general practitioner.

The couple have three children: Rishi, another son Sanjay, who is a psychologist, and a daughter Raakhi, who works on COVID-19 strategy for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Rishi Sunak went to the renowned public (private) school Winchester College, founded in 1382, where he was head boy and editor of the student newspaper.

He then went to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a First in 2001 in PPE, which is nothing to do with hospital gowns, rather Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Whilst at Oxford, he did a brief stint at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

During summer holidays he worked at a curry house in Southampton.

Sunak began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he worked as an analyst from 2001 to 2004.

He then decided to study for an MBA at Stanford University in California, where he met his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, the man behind Infosys. The couple married in 2005. Sunak, a Fulbright Scholar, completed his MBA in 2006.

Sunak and his wife settled in England and have two young daughters.

Prior to entering politics, Sunak worked for two hedge funds and was also the director of one of his father-in-law’s companies, Catamaran Ventures.

Political career

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague represented Richmond, which has been a safe seat for the party for over a century.

Rishi Sunak was elected comfortably to his first term with a majority of 19,550 (36.2%). Once in Parliament, he was appointed to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Sunak was also committed to Brexit and was an early advocate of free ports, having written a report on the concept in 2016, the year of the referendum.

In 2017, with Theresa May as Prime Minister, Sunak won re-election with an even greater majority of 23,108 (40.5%). In Parliament, he continued to support Brexit, voting for Theresa May’s deal and against a referendum on a final withdrawal agreement in 2019.

That year, Theresa May stood down as PM. Sunak supported Boris Johnson in the ensuing leadership contest.

That autumn, during the general election campaign, he appeared on a television debate, representing the Conservatives:

I am sure Sunak did better than Iain Dale gave him credit for:

He also participated in a seven-way debate on ITV.

On December 12, Sunak further increased his margin of victory at the polls to 27,210 (47.2%).

The coronavirus Chancellor — and some inside scoops

Then, in February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson replaced Sajid Javid with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor:

He gave his first budget less than a month later, on Wednesday, March 11, which I wrote about at the time.

The following Monday, March 16, Boris announced social distancing rules and the closure of pubs, restaurants and events venues. Rishi spoke at one of Boris’s televised coronavirus briefings with news of a generous financial package:

Guido Fawkes posted the full video and remarked (emphasis in the original):

You wouldn’t guess he’s only been in the job for five weeks…

Full details are here. Sunak also issued a Twitter thread with a summary:

Then lockdown came a week later on Monday, March 23.

A few days later, Boris was struggling with his bout of coronavirus, as was Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

The Conservatives soared to record approval ratings in the polls:

Early in April, Boris was quietly rushed to St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Rishi did another coronavirus briefing to reassure an anxious nation:

The well-spoken, gentle Sunak appealed greatly to the folks at home. The Independent did not like that one bit.

Society magazine Tatler began running articles on Sunak in March. They could see he would quickly become a cult personality.

On March 18, the magazine posted an article by Annabel Sampson, ‘Everything you need to know about Britain’s new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’.

It begins with this (emphases mine):

The virtues of 39-year-old Rishi Sunak have been extolled many times over; for his charming demeanour, his razor sharp brain and his acute financial sense. Now the man who has come to be recognised as the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’, thanks to his Indian ancestry and Yorkshire home, has been appointed to the highest office in the country, to Boris Johnson’s Cabinet in the role of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the second biggest government job; and the second youngest person ever to take the position.

The appointment follows the ‘Cabinet Reshuffle’ that occurred in February when Savid Javid, the former Chancellor, resigned when he was asked to get rid – reportedly a request linked to Dominic Cummings – of his closest aides. Rishi Sunak’s star has been rising for some time now, so his appointment to the position will have baffled few.

The article has several photos, including one of Sunak in the Yorkshire countryside and one with his dog, which resembles Boris Johnson’s Welsh rescue pup, Dilyn.

Sunak and his wife had a traditional Indian wedding:

Rishi and Akshata were married in her hometown of Bangalore, in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Akshata is a working mother:

Akshata runs her own fashion label Akshata Designs and is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010. Her designs are wonderful; she’s been profiled by Vogue India and been credited for creating clothes that are ‘vehicles to discovering Indian culture’ – comprised of chic silhouettes with bold, Indian design.

Did we know that the Sunaks throw great parties? We do now:

With their combined wealth, they understandably have a generously sized home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire (in Sunak’s constituency). The Daily Mail reports that their annual summer garden party is a county highlight; where uniformed staff loft around serving ice cold champagne and canapés (no doubt prepared by the prestigious Yorkshire Party Company).

Sunak is a natural at politics:

According to the Daily Mail, ‘While many MPs stutter and trundle their way through their maiden speech in the Commons, Mr Sunak’s at-ease manner provided a glimmer of what was to come’. One ally in parliament told the Telegraph: ‘He’s ferociously intelligent and thoroughly decent at the same time’

He was one of the few Conservatives who were let loose on the air waves (14 times in total) and allowed to make public appearances during the election campaign last year. He has even been dubbed the ‘Prime Minister-in-waiting’, we’ll see. His first big challenge was the March budget; and now he is juggling the unprecedented complexity of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. The UK are in safe hands.

The article also has a photo of him supporting Yorkshire County Cricket at Edgbaston.

Early in July, Tatler‘s Ben Judah travelled to Sunak’s home town of Southampton and reported his findings in ‘Inside the world of Rishi Sunak’.

Naturally, Judah went to the curry house where Sunak worked during his summer holidays:

The kitchen at Kuti’s Brasserie, not far from Southampton docks, was not the sort of place, in August 1998, you would have gone looking for a future hedge funder, son-in-law of a billionaire and Conservative chancellor.

That summer – the summer of the France 98 World Cup and the Omagh bombing – Kuti Miah, the eponymous restaurateur behind the curry house, went to have a word with one of his waiters. ‘You’re going to be someone, Rishi,’ he said. The future UK chancellor flashed his famous smile. He was, adds Miah, ‘a brilliant talker’. Rishi Sunak, then 18, was about to go to Oxford, but that holiday he waited tables for Miah, a close family friend, to earn some pocket money. ‘I saw him grow up,’ says Miah. ‘His father used to bring him in his carry cot.’

Miah was fast friends with Yashvir and Usha Sunak, both Hindu Punjabis born in colonial Kenya and Tanzania respectively, whose parents had migrated from India. After India’s independence, both families left East Africa for Southampton in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yashvir and Usha met in Britain and married. He became a local GP and she ran a pharmacy. They were ‘brilliant conversationalists’ and ‘very strong believers’ who ‘worked very, very hard’, according to Miah, who also recalls that they were ‘passionately British’.

Rishi, the eldest of their three children, was cut from the same patriotic cloth. Not only did the young Sunak fall in love with the game of cricket, he fervently supported England over India at any opportunity. His career, too, has followed one of the most traditional and storied of England’s paths to power. Like five chancellors of the exchequer before him, Sunak was schooled at the ancient and distinguished Winchester College; and like three of those same Wykehamist chancellors, he went on, as was expected, to study at Oxford.

The article includes a photo of Sunak with his wife and in-laws.

Ben Judah had met Rishi Sunak before, in 2015, just before the general election that year. They met up in Northallerton, North Yorkshire:

We were a long way from London – from where Sunak had been ‘parachuted in’ for the seat. During the interview, I had a distinct sense of being the only person in the cafe who knew that this slight man in a Barbour jacket was running for parliament. ‘I tell this story when I’m out and about,’ he said, coffee in hand, ‘that you can come to this country with very little… My grandparents came with very little from a village in northern India, and two generations on, their grandson has this enormous privilege of running as a candidate for parliament. For my family, the route was education.’

Well said.

Sunak’s candidacy in 2015 raised some eyebrows:

He was vying for a seat once presided over by Tory grandees William Hague and Leon Brittan. But I had spent days in Richmond and the surrounding area, reporting on the resentment his sudden arrival had stirred up among certain local Tory notables, who felt the seat in the Dales was rightfully theirs. ‘There was a very acrimonious constituency battle,’ claimed one source, with a lot of hostility to an outsider coming in.

Sunak’s wife had also met with some resistance on the campaign trail, says Judah.

However, Sunak’s father-in-law enthusiastically flew to England where he helped to campaign:

Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, NR Narayana Murthy, however, has been so enthusiastic about Sunak’s parliamentary career that he’d flown in, and had even been leafleting on his behalf, wearing a Rishi sweatshirt. ‘To be honest,’ said Sunak in Costa Coffee that day, ‘I think it’s patronising to assume minorities should only run in minority seats.’

The article discusses Sunak’s property profile:

On 7 May 2015, Sunak won, with more than 50 per cent of the vote (a Ukip vote of 15 per cent had appeared from nowhere). He put down roots in his new constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, augmenting a £10 million property portfolio (metropolitan digs in London – a Kensington mews house, a flat on Old Brompton Road – and a place in California) with a £1.5 million Georgian manor in Yorkshire set across 12 acres, including an ornamental lake. Here, he now entertains the constituency membership with lavish summer parties at which uniformed staff serve champagne and canapés. He has been repeatedly dubbed by newspapers the ‘Maharajah of the Yorkshire Dales’.

The general public know less about those details. Nonetheless, Rishi Sunak has become a household name:

In a swift few years, Sunak has become known as many things: Dishy Rishi to the tabloids; one of the richest MPs in Westminster; the second-youngest-ever chancellor of the exchequer, presiding over a £350 billion package to boost the economy (the largest ever recorded in peacetime); and a former hedge funder whose profile has risen faster than stocks in a vaccine manufacturer.

However dazzling all of this is now, things were very different when Sunak entered Winchester College as an adolescent:

… Winchester would come at a price for the Sunaks. No sooner was he accepted than Rishi’s good fortune immediately foundered: he missed out on the expected scholarship. Desperate not to let the opportunity go to waste, his parents decided to take on the high fees themselves, picking up extra work and making what the chancellor has called considerable ‘sacrifices’. His brother would later follow.

One of his classmates discussed Sunak and described Winchester in the mid- to late 1990s:

Tim Johnson, now a lawyer, was in the boarding house next door. ‘Rishi was a good chap, in boarding-school idiom,’ he recalled. Sunak, he said, was a ‘reasonable cricketer’, who stood out in friendliness; and he was a solid, but never number one, student. ‘Rishi was always expected to do something,’ Johnson remembered. But exactly what, beyond Winchester, was vague. ‘He was always expected to be head boy as he was clever enough, reasonable enough and well behaved enough.’ This became Sunak’s thing – hard work and attainment, becoming the first Winchester head of school from an Indian background.

Sunak was different to other sixth formers in Winchester: a lifelong nondrinker, he wasn’t distracted by the allure of the pub. But there was something else that marked him out from the herd. He was a conservative in every sense: not only in his outlook and demeanour but in his religious attitudes, too – a practising Hindu who avoided beef. At school, where few boys were political, Sunak was clearly ‘associated with the Tories’, said Johnson. It was 1997, The Chemical Brothers were topping the charts and the mood was rebellious. Counterculture, New Labour and ripped jeans were in; the Conservatives were out. ‘That wasn’t his intellectual jam. Rishi didn’t play that game,’ Johnson explained.

‘Everyone was chipper about it when Blair won,’ Johnson said. But not Rishi. His family’s story was closer to Margaret Thatcher’s than that of his bourgeois Labourite classmates. Watching the early results of the landslide on election night 1997, Sunak sat down to write a gloomy article for the school magazine, The Wykehamist, lamenting the news. His main complaint: Europe. ‘He revels in the label of a patriot,’ he complained of Tony Blair, ‘but has plans for the possible break-up of the United Kingdom and membership of an eventual European Superstate.’ The seeds of Brexit were already in his mind.

‘Already,’ fretted Sunak, ‘the New Labour rhetoric sounds worryingly pro-European and avid pro-Europeans are being sent to Brussels’

Later, at Oxford, Sunak had a low profile, unlike his predecessor as MP, William Hague:

He was nothing like the young William Hague, who arrived at Oxford fêted and almost a Tory celebrity, or the young Boris Johnson, the blond beast who tore apart the Oxford Union. At Oxford, Sunak was a nobody, much like Tony Blair.

He continued to eschew strong drink:

Oxford acquaintances remember him as a nerdy teetotaller who was ‘just very clearly going into business’. He would ‘make this big thing’ out of drinking Coke in the pub. ‘Rishi was unknown to the student politicians, that gossipy overlapping world, who all knew each other,’ said Marcus Walker, then-president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, now a clergyman. Sunak was never a member.

It is hard to remember how irrelevant and demoralised Tory circles felt after 1997, but some do recall Sunak as a ‘Thatcherite’ and ‘Eurosceptic’. ‘That was absolutely par for the course,’ said Walker. ‘If you were still a Tory after 1997, you were a Eurosceptic. That was all you had left.’

Nevertheless, Sunak did develop a network from his Winchester College and Oxford days. Graduates from Winchester are called Old Wykehamists:

These days, socially, Sunak has been placed by some in Westminster’s Spectator set. He was best man to his lifelong friend and fellow Old Wykehamist James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, at Forsyth’s politician-studded wedding in 2011, to Allegra Stratton, the national editor at ITV Newsand gave what one guest recalled was ‘one of the most touching best man’s speeches I’ve ever heard’. (In fact, Stratton has recently announced she’s leaving ITV News for a job with Sunak at the Treasury. Some have seen this as very Cameron-esque in its ‘chumocracy’.)

Allegra Stratton, also a good friend of ITV’s Robert Peston, now works for Boris Johnson as his notional press secretary, although she has not yet begun to give press briefings, probably because of coronavirus.

Imagine the son of immigrants having ties to Britain’s two oldest — ancient — magazines: The Spectator and Tatler. Wow.

Tatler‘s Ben Judah also spoke with people who had worked with Sunak during his hedge fund days. They painted a similar character portrait of the Chancellor:

After two years in California completing a CV-topping MBA, he returned to London and Mayfair in 2006, where a new type of boutique finance was booming: hedge funds. He was hired by Sir Chris Hohn at The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI). It was a dream job: a big role at an activist firm off Berkeley Square at the peak of their fame. ‘He appears to have been trusted,’ said a source. Indeed, Sunak was made a partner two years later. Contemporaries remember him ever-ready to meet and greet; a mixture of a junior, deputy and a bag carrier; the perfect foil to Hohn’s bolshy swagger. ‘Ridiculously nice.’ ‘Affable.’ ‘Approachable.’ ‘Charming.’ These are the words that come up again and again among Mayfair types who knew Sunak. The charm was of a particular kind: ‘There are two kinds of people at hedge funds,’ said one source. ‘Handsome and thin smooth-talkers who are always on the phone or going out to lunch with clients, getting them to part with their money. And then quants in the back room with their shirts buttoned up badly.’

Sunak was one of the smooth-talkers, his charm honed on calls to investors, getting them on board with whatever drastic moves the fund wanted to make. The kind of charm that prizes clarity and persuades people to part with their money. It worked: but hedge-fund charm is designed to hide as much as it reveals. The atmosphere at TCI was buccaneering and bold; it both led and profited from a controversial banking raid that eventually meant a £45.5 billion public bailout of the Royal Bank of Scotland. (The Treasury and TCI say Sunak was not involved in the deal.) He left when TCI split in 2009, and joined the breakaway hedge fund Theleme Partners. His new firm’s reputation took a knock when its founder was revealed to have used a notorious tax avoidance scheme. The Labour Party researched Sunak’s past during the 2019 election. ‘But he was too little known for us to use it,’ said one source

His reasons for entering Parliament are equally obscure. Those who know him have different opinions as to why. One thing that everyone agrees on is his penchant for order:

Many in Westminster see his motivation as status. ‘He’s not an ideologue,’ said one Tory source. ‘He wanted to enter politics in that old-fashioned way, because it was seen as the good thing to do.’ Good, as in socially ambitious. Whether that’s true is another matter, because first came a stint at Policy Exchange, leading a unit researching black and minority ethnic attitudes. The scruffy but influential Conservative think tank world is seen as a de facto holding pen for future special advisers, but it was nonetheless an unexpectedly technical way into Westminster for someone with means.

Sunak quickly made an impression. ‘He’s got that Blair-like ability to hold your eye,’ says Nick Faith, who worked with him there. Sunak cut a snappy figure amid slovenly suits. ‘He’s into his clothing.’ His is not the fusty establishment Rees-Mogg or Nicholas Soames style, but more the wiry Emmanuel Macron look. Everything Sunak wears, many remarked, is immaculate, even at the end of a Treasury work day, and fits perfectly. Faith says that ‘everything, from how Rishi dresses to how he structures his life, is very well organised’. Sunak’s elegant house in London, with a touch of Indian decor, reflects that. ‘Nothing is out of place. For someone with two small kids, that’s quite an achievement.’

Having learned from his background in finance, Sunak also knows how and when to place his bets:

‘His mind works in Excel,’ said one City contemporary. But like all hedge funders, it also works in bets: and the two biggest bets that Sunak has made in his career have paid off spectacularly – Brexit and Boris. David Cameron knew the gravity of his predicament when Sunak came out for Leave. ‘If we’ve lost Rishi, we’ve lost the future of the party,’ he reportedly said. The same thing played out in reverse in June 2019 when Sunak came out for Boris in The Times with two other MPs during the party leadership elections. This was widely seen in Westminster as a decisive turning point: the one where Johnson won over ‘the sensibles’ and pivoted the backbenchers. The PM seems to agree: all three have been handsomely rewarded.

In Parliament, he keeps a low profile but, to those who know him, is loyal:

‘He’s unknown in parliament,’ said one MP. ‘He doesn’t play the parliamentary game at all.’ Tory Remainers are sceptical of him. ‘It’s Star Wars,’ said one MP, referring to the chancellor’s strange and classically ‘geek-chic’ hobby for minutely detailed models of spaceships and video games. ‘Most of his political philosophy comes out of the Star Wars trade wars that are about the independence of various kingdoms from the Empire. He’s not someone intellectual.’ Loyalty has been his strongest suit. Sunak is a No 10 man. ‘He’s a grown-up,’ said one MP. ‘The only grown-up in Downing Street, despite him being 20 years younger than them.’

At the height of tensions over Brexit last year, he was cheerfully going around Westminster saying he would back ‘no deal’ if push came to shove. He struck the right note, in the right place, at the right time. Tensions between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid’s teams exploded in February, when the then-chancellor resigned after refusing to fire his own special advisers and submit to an unprecedented joint team with Downing Street, effectively under the stewardship of Dominic Cummings. It was Sunak, with high skills and no clear agenda or faction behind him in parliament, whom Downing Street turned to. He quickly agreed to the joint team, once again becoming the perfect foil for an outsized boss

Even now, it’s still too early to say whether Rishi Sunak will become a future leader of the Conservative Party and, as such, a possible prime minister. A week is a long time in politics.

When Boris’s erstwhile special adviser Dominic Cummings broke coronavirus rules in travelling from London to Durham and back during Boris’s time in hospital, Sunak tried to calm the ever-turbulent waters surrounding Cummings, who was never popular with the Remainer media. He tweeted this after Cummings’s lengthy press conference in May:

In June, Sunak was tactful about the reopening of shops and businesses in Britain after the first coronavirus lockdown:

He also warned that his generous financial package could not go on indefinitely:

A few weeks later, in early July, pubs were allowed to reopen:

The Government launched the Enjoy Summer Safely campaign. Pictured below is Piccadilly Circus:

On July 8, he issued a Summer Economic Update, with financial help continuing (more here):

This included the launch of his Eat Out To Help Out plan, which lasted to the end of August:

A lot of Labour MPs didn’t like the plan. I don’t know why. Leftists own restaurants, too.

He cut VAT for the hospitality industry, too.

He also issued a detailed jobs plan, including an apprentice scheme:

Some men in the media were taking a shine to Dishy Rishi, including the leftist Owen Jones of The Guardian and Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine:

At that time, the attention being given to Sunak and Boris Johnson got the better of Conservative MP Caroline Dineage, a Culture minister, who was questioned on masks, which were strongly suggested (mandatory only on public transport) but still optional in what now look like heady days. This was from a BBC interview:

asked why the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had not worn one in public, she snapped: “You’d have to ask the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that, with respect.

“But it is something that is advised and we keep it under review.”

At the end of September 2020, the coronavirus crisis dragged on. Talk intensified about a winter lockdown.

On September 24, Sunak issued a Winter Economy Plan, about which I wrote at the time. When he presented it in the House of Commons, he advised all MPs to live ‘without fear’.

By October 6, Sunak was being blamed for an uptick in coronavirus ‘cases’ (positive test results, not necessarily hospital admissions) for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme:

A US study, which did not cover Britain, showed that hospitality venues were shown to be responsible. However, the study did not cover workplaces or hospitals. Nonetheless, it is still a contentious point even to this day.

The Sun‘s Harry Cole rightly, in my opinion, defended the Chancellor’s restaurant promotion.

Then talk of hospitality curfews emerged. Fellow Conservative MP Matt Vickers defended the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out programme, which had come to an end five weeks earlier.

The calls for a winter lockdown grew. The Chancellor rightly opposed them:

By then, more areas of England had moved into tiers, indicating more coronavirus cases. Sunak increased financial support to those cities and counties. He also offered more help to businesses, including the self-employed.

By November, some thought a storm was truly brewing between Boris and Rishi. Despite all the talk from the Government about people being able to meet loved ones at Christmas — for the first time in months, for many — a pessimistic undercurrent, which turned out to be accurate, seemed to be part of every news cycle.

Rumours circulated that Sunak was ready to resign. However, on November 1, the Daily Mail reported:

A source said there was a ‘collective decision’ to back a second lockdown, and that Mr Sunak ‘accepted it’ – and he did not threaten to resign, as some whispers around Westminster were suggesting yesterday.

The November lockdown was supposed to prevent a Christmas lockdown, but that was not to be. There was a brief re-opening before Christmas, and on December 19, the hammer fell once more.

Interestingly, the minority MPs in Cabinet shared Sunak’s concerns.

By the middle of December, Sunak was clearly worried about how long the borrowing could go on. On Saturday, December 19, the day when Boris announced Christmas was cancelled, The Spectator reported what the Chancellor said about borrowing and quantitative easing (QE):

‘Are you or anyone else going to guarantee me that, for the duration of this parliament, rates might not go back to 1 per cent?’ he asks, pointing out that this almost happened in March, before the Bank of England started printing money to bring rates back down. There is this very large QE thing that’s going on. No one has done that before. There are plenty of smart investors who are also thinking about the risks of inflation over the next 12 months. Because we are now so levered, small changes have huge cash implications. If I have to come up with £10-£20 billion a year in a few years’ time because things have changed — well, that’s a lot of money.’

To Sunak, it’s not just an economic problem but a political one. ‘If we [Tories] think borrowing is the answer to everything, that debt rising is fine, then there’s not much difference between us and the Labour party,’ he says.

The media criticised him for going to his constituency of Richmond for Christmas. To be fair, he did work while he was there, visiting a local hospital and a vaccine centre. He did not rush back to London.

On February 3, 2021, Sunak rightly accused scientists advising the Government of shifting the goalposts regarding lockdown:

This might be causing a rift in Boris’s Cabinet:

On a brighter note, Time magazine has included Rishi Sunak on its list of 100 ’emerging leaders’. On February 17, the Daily Mail reported:

Under the ‘leaders’ category, Chancellor Rishi Sunak landed a spot on the list, being described as the ‘benevolent face of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic’ by Times reporter Billy Perrigo.

The Chancellor’s profile piece discussed the furlough scheme, describing how he approved ‘large handouts’ for people whose jobs had been affected by coronavirus.

The piece also paid respect to Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which the magazine described as an attempt to ‘revive the economy’ by subsidizing dining out at restaurants.  

Although his profile acknowledges that Sunak bears more responsibility than most for his calls to ease lockdown restrictions, Time’s profile for the Chancellor admits he has earned himself a ‘legion of fans’.

Sunak’s accompanying profile points to a YouGov poll showing him to be the nation’s most popular politician and even tips him to be the bookmakers’ favourite as the next Prime Minister.  

Again, a week is a long time in politics. We shall see about the future as and when it happens.

For now, Sunak is focussing on the budget, to be delivered on March 3. He is asking industry leaders for their thoughts.

Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay was one of those leaders:

If Rishi Sunak ever tires of being an MP or Chancellor, a job in media awaits.

He is an excellent interviewer and researched Gordon Ramsay well. The 15-minute video is worth watching.

The list of minority Conservative MPs continues. All being well, more tomorrow.

Recently, I ran two posts on the Biden family: Hunter’s laptop and alleged corruption.

Let’s look at their past and present dealings.

The present

By way of update on the laptop story, whistleblower Tony Bobulinski, President Trump’s special guest at last Thursday’s debate, appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Tuesday, October 27.

The Daily Mail has an article about the interview, referenced below.

Below are two clips from Carlson’s interview.

In the first, Bobulinski, a US Navy veteran, explains how he met Joe and Jim Biden. The clip also includes a shot of an email which details what percentage of financial cut individual Biden’s hoped to receive from their venture with China:

Background and excerpts of the video transcript from the Daily Mail follow, emphases mine:

Bobulinski has since early October been pushing the story of his time in business with Hunter, 50, and his claims that Joe was involved in the attempts to make deals with their Chinese partners. 

Bobulinski and Hunter formed a company in 2017, specializing in infrastructure investment. No deals appear to have been completed, and the firm folded in 2018

Joe had left the White House and was a private citizen at the time … 

Bobulinski is listed as one of the recipients of a May 13, 2017, email detailing their business deal, and he claims that ‘the big guy’ mentioned is a reference to Joe, whom he claims Hunter regularly asked for business advice. 

Joe has always insisted he was not involved in Hunter’s numerous business ventures. 

His team and Hunter’s lawyers have not responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment …

Bobulinski, in Tuesday night’s interview, told in additional detail how he had allegedly met Joe in Los Angeles.

I first met with Hunter Biden and Jim Biden, and just had a light discussion where they briefed me that my dad’s on the way, and we won’t go into too much detail on the business front, but we will spend time talking at a high level about you, your background, the Biden family and then he’s got to get some rest because he is speaking at the conference in the morning,’ Bobulinski said.

Joe was coming to Los Angeles to speak at the Milken Conference and discuss his ‘moonshot’ efforts to find a cure for cancer. 

Asked by Carlson why Joe would meet him, Bobulinski emphasized that Hunter and Jim wanted him to meet Joe – it was not Bobulinski wanting to meet the former vice president. 

They were sort of wining and dining me and presenting the strength of the Biden family to get me more engaged and taking on the CEO role and develop it both in the United States and around the world in partnership,’ he told Carlson. 

‘And as you can imagine, I’ve been asked by a hundred people over the past month why would you be meeting with Joe Biden, and sort of turn the question around to people that ask me, why that 10:38 on the night of May 2nd would Joe Biden take time out of his schedule to sit down with me in a dark bar at the Beverly Hilton‘s position – behind a column so people couldn’t see us – to have a discussion about his family and my family?‘ 

In Bobulinski’s telling, when Joe arrived with his security detail, Bobulinski ‘stood up out of respect to shake his hand.’

He continued:  ‘And Hunter introduced me as: “this is Tony, the individual I told you about that’s helping us with the business we are working on in the Chinese.”‘ 

The group sat down …

The conversation focussed on family and personal interests, e.g. family deaths because of cancer. Business was not on the agenda.

Bobulinski met again with Joe Biden the following day, albeit briefly, after his conference speech.

The second clip is about his meeting with Joe’s brother Jim. The quote refers to a business associate who asked Bobulinski not to make the Chinese deal and the Bidens’ involvement public:

Here’s what happened when Bobulinski met Jim Biden after seeing Joe at the conference:

After Bobiulinski said goodbye to Joe on May 3, he went to meet Jim at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles, he said.

Jim Biden, seven years younger than Joe, spent two hours discussing the family’s story, and their careers. 

Bobulinski told Carlson: ‘I know Joe decided not to run in 2016, but what if he ran in the future – aren’t they taking political risk or headline risk?

And I remember looking at Jim Biden and saying: “how are you guys getting away with this? Aren’t you concerned?” 

And he looked at me and he laughed a little bit and said: “plausible deniability”.

He said it directly to me at the cabana at the Peninsula Hotel, after an hour and a half or two-hour meeting, with me asking out of concern how are you guys doing this, aren’t you concerned you will put your future presidential campaign at risk, the Chinese, the stuff you guys have been doing already in 2015 and 2016 around the world.

‘And I can almost picture his face where he sort of chuckles and says plausible deniability.’

Jim has not responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.

The past

Back in 1988, Biden was one of the Democrat candidates running for the presidential nomination. His bid was unsuccessful — former Massachusetts governor Mike Dukakis got the nomination that year — however, Biden’s Midwest field director was a Chicago political operative, Joseph Cari.

Twenty years later, Cari was tipped to have a major role to play in Biden’s presidential run that year, but trouble befell him. On August 25, 2008, American Thinker reported:

He got indicted for participating in the kickback scheme involving contributions to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. This is the same scheme that involved Obama friend Tony Rezko. In fact, Cari was a key witness at Rezko’s trial.

Tony Rezko and Obama did a little property deal on the land where his Chicago home is. The CBS Chicago affiliate’s link is now gone, but America’s Watchtower (nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses) has a few paragraphs from it:

Obama bought a house and lot. Rezko’s wife bought an undeveloped property next door. The two parcels had once been a single tract of land.

Obama paid $1.65 million for the house and lot while Rezko paid $625,000 for the undeveloped lot. Six months later, Rezko sold a strip of his property to Obama, who wanted to increase the size of his side yard. Obama paid Rezko $104,500, which he says was the market rate.

While Obama has said that the transaction was handled ethically, he has conceded the perception of favor-trading it created was a “boneheaded” mistake.

America’s Watchtower article is dated June 4, 2008, and leads with this:

Rezko was later convicted on 16 money laundering charges.

But I digress.

Back to Biden.

Somehow, Joe Biden was able to amass enough money to open an eponymous institute at the University of Delaware in 2017. Amazing. Those do not come cheaply. My post yesterday cited Town & Country‘s breakdown of Biden’s income around that time, so that explains it.

He also opened an institute in his name at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018: the Penn Biden Center. Wow.

On March 15, 2018, Breitbart gave a sneak-peek into Peter Schweizer’s book Secret Empires, which also featured in my post yesterday.

Breitbart reported:

The private equity firm of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden inked a billion-dollar deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Bank of China just 10 days after the father and son flew to China in 2013.

The Biden bombshell is one of many revealed in a new investigative book Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends by Government Accountability Institute President and Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer. Schweizer’s last book, Clinton Cash, sparked an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation …

In December of 2013, Vice President Biden and his son Hunter flew aboard Air Force Two to China. Ten days after the trip, a subsidiary of the Bank of China named Bohai Capital signed an exclusive deal with Hunter Biden’s firm to form a $1 billion joint-investment fund called Bohai Harvest RST. The deal was later increased to $1.5 billion.

Joe Biden has yet to comment on how the firm of a sitting vice president’s son was permitted to bag a billion-dollar deal with the Communist Chinese government—nor whether they had any knowledge or involvement in the deal.

Hmm.

Steve Hilton has more on the China deal in the next video, thought to have involved John Kerry’s son-in-law and heir to the foods fortune, Chris Heinz. Most of this, however, involves Joe and Hunter Biden. It appears that some of the content comes from Peter Schweizer’s Secret Empires:

Another thread follows from elsewhere, alleging that Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz’s business partner Aviation Industry Of China (AVIC), a Chinese state-owned aerospace & defense conglomerate, hacked US military intelligence. (Start five tweets in and keep reading.)

There was more:

In May 2018, Biden, then a private citizen, went to visit the late US Senator John McCain, who was in his final months of life:

The Daily Caller recapped an article about the visit that originally appeared in the New York Times:

According to the Times: “The Republican senator encouraged the former Democratic vice president to ‘not walk away’ from politics, as Mr. Biden put it before refusing to discuss a possible 2020 presidential run.”

Biden was one of those giving a eulogy at McCain’s funeral in August that year. He was also one of the pallbearers — along with Warren Beatty. This is quite the list:

(During the Democrat presidential primaries in 2019, McCain’s widow Cindy and daughter Meghan, it was rumoured that they would lend their support to Biden rather than to Trump, who had said that McCain was ‘not a war hero’.)

Around that time, President Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance. Biden was not happy. Brennan had had two positions in the Obama administration — Homeland Security Advisor then CIA director — spanning Obama’s eight years in the White House:

It is believed that many knew about the — pardon the pun — trumped up charges against the American president who took office in 2017, including Biden and Brennan:

In September 2018, it was revealed that Trump’s former 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort had done some lobbying for Ukraine in 2013. A member of his team had met with Obama and Biden. Politico reported:

Paul Manafort’s pro-Ukraine campaign reached the top of the White House, with one of the members of his lobbying effort meeting President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2013, according to new court documents released Friday.

A member of the so-called Hapsburg Group, which comprised former European politicians Manafort convened as part of his lobbying effort in support of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych, came with a foreign prime minister on May 16, 2013, to meet with Obama and Biden, “as well as senior United States officials in the executive and legislative branches,” according to the court documents …

Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal charges from special counsel Robert Mueller to head off a potentially dramatic trial over allegations he violated laws on foreign lobbying. The court documents released Friday say Manafort failed to register as a foreign lobbyist, as required under U.S. law, or disclose a host of meetings, including the one involving Obama and Biden.

After that, in 2014, Joe and Hunter Biden’s involvement in Ukraine began. I won’t be posting all of the following tweets in the thread below, so be sure to read all of them:

Peter Schweizer researched Burisma and the Bidens for his book, Secret Empires:

Peter Schweizer could not uncover how much money Biden made for his work with Burisma. Ukrainian disclosure laws do not require that Biden’s reveal his compensation. (Schweizer’s book is worth the money just for his section on the Bidens alone.)

The thread continues.

Two months later, in April 2019, the Epoch Times (paywall) reported that Ukraine’s chief prosecutor was reopening a corruption probe into Burisma, which could adversely affect Joe Biden’s run for president. It is unclear what the current status is.

However, in September that year, President Trump, who faced impeachment charges at that time, tweeted:

And:

Well, this is enough for one day.

All being well, more to come tomorrow.

An American named Chaziel Sunz used to belong to Black Lives Matter some years ago.

In 2017, he made a 15-minute video about the movement having been ‘infiltrated’ and controlled by ‘Soros and Clinton’. He warned blacks not to play into the desire of them and the Democrat Party who want a civil war.

He said that left-wing movements, such as BLM and Antifa, are ‘bogus’ and are preying upon people’s emotions. Those in charge of them want a fully divided right and left. He also said this is another reason why gun control is such a big deal with the Democrats. They want everyone unarmed for a reason.

Sunz asked that people put any race issues they have to a side and approach this issue with a clear head: don’t fall into the trap of a civil war.

He also said that the Las Vegas attack, which had taken place on October 1 that year, was a far-Left act, purposely against those attending the country music festival.

I only saw this video a few days ago. Apparently, it’s been taken down several times since 2017:

If this is removed, Gateway Pundit have another copy of it with this key quote:

Chaziel Sunz: They got us working for them. How they get us is they playing us emotionally… They getting anybody who basically doesn’t like Donald Trump to fight for war that is being started on American turf very, very soon. And they want us to be a part of their side. What I’m trying to get the black population to understand, and this is critical, is the movement has been compromised… BLM is not actually a black organization and never was… If you have any kind of brain you know BLM is endorsed by the Soros and Clinton family.

Chaziel Sunz made another video earlier that year, just after the Manchester bombing in England in May. Even though it’s three years old, now is an apposite time to watch it. He accuses the media of ginning up falsely emotional reactions to news events. Again, he asks us not to get too emotional about these things. If we want to pray, fine, but he said that a lot of people are making money out of false sympathy when these attacks occur:

He’s not a Trump fan, in case anyone is wondering.

He does want unity in a time when manipulation is rife.

I hope he has been talking with community groups about his experiences and knowledge from his time as a left-wing activist.

During our 2015 visit to Cannes, we went to Le Bistrot Gourmand and absolutely loved it.

It is located at 10 Rue Docteur Pierre Gazagnaire, in an unassuming side street just steps away from Cannes’s main market, Marché Forville.

Owned and run by Guillaume Arragon since 2007, the restaurant is known for its discriminating use of seasonal ingredients from the market.

We were fortunate enough to make two return visits since then.

2017

We were relieved that the grumpy older waiter who served us in 2015 had been replaced by a delightful young woman who made her job look effortless, even when the restaurant was buzzing with diners.

Chef Arragon also brought some of our dishes to the table and had a brief, yet friendly, chat with us.

Two days after our visit, there was a fire at the night club next door. In 2015, it was called Les Pénitents, because it was right across the street from the Chapelle de la Miséricorde. The next owner renamed the club Hell. That was where the fire took place. Oh, the irony. It took hours to put out, Nice-Matin reported at the time. Apparently, an electrical fault caused the blaze. God will not be mocked.

Starters

My far better half (FBH) ordered a satisfying plate of mushroom ravioli in a truffle cream sauce.

I opted for their stuffed courgette flowers, which were coated in a light tempura batter and deep fried. They were hot and crisp to the end. I thought their spicy dipping sauce was better than L’Assiette Provençale’s tomato-based sauce. Even so, I didn’t need much of this dipping sauce, either, and left most of it behind.

Mains

Once again, we both ordered the steak tartare with matchstick fries. This was every bit as perfect as it was in 2015.

Wine

We enjoyed a bottle of Côtes de Provence Rosé from Château Maïme.

Dessert

Had the delightful lemon tart from 2015 been on the menu, we would have made room for it.

As it was, we were more than satisfied with what we’d had and didn’t really want anything else.

2019

We had been anticipating our return visit to Le Bistrot Gourmand for weeks.

That’s how good the food here is.

Once again, the young woman and Chef Arragon served us, depending on the course. Chef also took our wine order.

Our bill came to €120.

Incidentally, I checked out the nightclub next door. Hell had closed its doors for good, never having recovered from the 2017 fire. No one has taken it over, either, which is interesting.

Starters

Both of us ordered the deep fried courgette flowers, which excelled themselves. The ricotta and basil stuffing was creamy and not overpowering. I did not eat much of the dipping sauce, although I can understand that customers would want a bit of piquancy.

Mains

Why mess with a winning formula? We both had the steak tartare with matchstick fries and side salad.

We think this is the best steak tartare in Cannes.

Wine

We ordered a wine unknown to us, a red Sancerre: Terre de Maimbray (€44), produced by Pascal and Nicolas Reverdy. Maimbray is the name of the hamlet where their estate is. Their wine was a revelation and we would order it again.

Dessert

It looks as if the lemon tart is gone forever.

We opted for two small cheese assortments, which were very good and went well with the red Sancerre.

Additional notes

You can see Le Bistrot Gourmand’s menu, with photos, here.

TripAdvisor gives the restaurant 4.5 out of 5.

This is an excerpted review from a New Zealander, which gives a bit of insight into Guillaume Arragon. This man and his wife also ordered the red Sancerre:

The owner is staunchly proud of fine, fresh food. He was telling us that he liked the site because it allowed him to have a kitchen bigger than the dining area, allowing him to prepare properly from fresh. I tried the cerviche followed by the tartare. My wife had the linguine. All dishes were superb. Generous portions, tasty and clearly made with a lot of love. The wine list was interesting and reasonably priced, enabling us to have an interesting red from Sancerre to accompany our delicious meal. If you want to try something different from the usual tourist stuff and you seek marvellous, fresh French fare, try this place. Really lovely.

I couldn’t agree more.

The unisex loo is sparkling clean and nicely appointed.

Conclusion

Le Bistrot Gourmand is on our list for a fourth visit.

This is an outstanding establishment which consistently offers innovative and appetising dishes at reasonable prices. When in Cannes, we would rather eat here in preference to a five-star ‘palace’ (luxury hotel) restaurant any day of the week.

L’Assiette Provençale — The Provençal Plate — is a great little restaurant to visit in Cannes.

It is located along the Old Port at 9 quai Saint Pierre.

We first ate there in 2017, and again this year.

2017

We ordered their €30 prix fixe menu.

I noted in my food diary: ‘** WOULD RETURN **’.

Starters

One of our first food experiences in Cannes 20 years ago was enjoying stuffed courgette flowers dipped in tempura and deep fried.

Not many restaurants offer this memorable treat. The restaurant where we first had them, La Poêle d’Or (The Golden Skillet), closed a couple of years later. A luxury boutique replaced it.

Therefore, we relished the opportunity to enjoy them once again. We were not disappointed. They came with a light tomato sauce that, to me, was superfluous to requirements. Stuffed with a mild, soft cheese, they needed no accompaniment.

Mains

My far better half (FBH) ordered grilled Mediterranean sea bass — loup — on a bed of mini-canellonis: a perfect balance of textures.

I had sauteed octopus — poulpe — and artichoke slices. The plate had a generous quantity of both.

Wine

We enjoyed a bottle of Cassis Bodin 2014. The domaine is run by the Abrizzi family in Cassis in the Var.

Dessert

We had a peek at the tarte au citron, but it looked like American lemon meringue pie, rather than the classic French version.

We declined in favour of a refreshing glass of limoncello.

2019

We could hardly wait to return.

We ordered from the €31 prix fixe menu. With wine, the bill came to €107.

Starters

I ordered the stuffed courgette flowers, which they term beignets, although they are far from being doughy beignets. They were light, hot and crispy up to the end. I did not bother with the tomato dipping sauce.

FBH was in a less summery mode that night and chose the royale des cèpes, a creamy, comforting mushroom concoction with cèpes as the star.

Mains

FBH ordered the roast guinea fowl breast, which came with a superb sauce and potatoes.

I had grilled loup, which was done perfectly.

Wine

We enjoyed a bottle of Cassis from Domaine de la Ferme Blanche (€45).

Desserts

FBH liked the cheese assortment.

I loved the coconut crème brulée, which was a great discovery, and one that I would order again. It had just enough coconut for texture and flavour. It was delightfully creamy.

Additional notes

TripAdvisor members give L’Assiette Provençale 4.5 out of 5. Justifiably so.

These are the current prix fixe menus, which, at €26 and €31, offer terrific value for money.

Service is excellent.

The unisex loo is very clean, too.

Conclusion

We’re looking forward to another visit to L’Assiette Provençale on our next trip.

We eat at Le Pistou whenever we visit Cannes.

It is located at 53 Rue Félix Faure, right in the centre of town along with all the classic seafood restaurants.

Pistou is the Provençal version of pesto. Pistou lacks the pine nuts but makes up for it with more grated hard cheese.

We first had Le Pistou’s tasting menu, the menu dégustation — or, menu dég (their term) — in 2015.

What follows are our dinners there in 2017 and 2019.

2017 — first visit

We chose the €38 prix fixe menu.

Starters

My far better half (FBH) chose the foie gras mi-cuit (i.e. pâté, not lobe). It was a generous, thick slice. The foie gras was made in house.

I chose the jumbo shrimp — gambas — in tempura. They were sublime — crunchy to the last bite.

Mains

We both had the Mediterranean sea bass — filet de loup.

This is always beautifully plated. It comes with pea velouté (pea purée sauce), fine French green beans and two small boiled potatoes. The potatoes are turned; each side is peeled lengthwise for a total of seven sides. Peeled into a slim barrel shape, they look very elegant on the plate.

The loup was moist and flavoursome. This is always a winning dish.

Wine

We enjoyed a bottle of Cassis: Clos d’Albizzi 2014. The estate, now run by F. Dumont, has been producing wine since 1523. Cassis has three grape varieties: marsanne, clairette and ugny blanc. The grapes are grown in the native Cassiden terroir, which adds a refreshing mineral taste. It was the perfect complement to our dinner.

Desserts

We both had their crème brulée with cinnamon.

It had just the right amount of cinnamon: enough for flavour but not overpowering.

2017 — second visit

We returned later during our stay for the seven-course menu dég, which we loved in 2015.

This has to be booked in advance. We made reservations a couple of days beforehand.

First course

We began with a delightful tian — i.e. a raised disc — of layered crab, sliced scallop and smoked salmon on a base of avocado. It was heavenly.

Second course

This was an amazing tarte tatin of diced apple and sautéed lobe of foie gras in puff pastry. Words cannot describe how unctuous this was.

Third course

We had lobster ravioli, probably three small ones — a perfect portion size.

The filling and the accompanying lobster sauce were perfect. However, the pasta could have been rolled out more thinly.

Fourth course

This was a palate cleanser: an apple and rum sorbet with plenty of rum. Delightful!

Fifth course

We had a generous fillet of beef with wild mushroom sauce. It came with creamy potatoes dauphinoise.

End of the road

Unfortunately, we could only eat half of the beef fillet.

We were so full by that time, that we were unable to proceed to the cheese course and dessert.

It took some explaining to the caring staff that the food was great, but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.

The bill, wine included, came to €174, which included the full price the menu dég: fair enough.

Wine

With our first two courses, we had Cassis: Clos d’Albizzi 2014 (as above).

With the next three courses we enjoyed a Bandol Rosé: Domaine des Baguiers 2013, which won a Medaille d’Or (Gold Medal) in Paris in 2016. The estate, located in Var, has been run by the Jourdan family for several generations.

2019

We put our menu dég defeat of 2017 down to our age. Obviously, our appetites are decreasing as the years advance.

However, we could not miss having a three-course dinner at Le Pistou.

Our bill came to €102.

As I noted in an earlier post last month, Rue Felix Faure has been pedestrianised. We found this somewhat disconcerting, as we were used to the recycling bins in the esplanade across the street. All of that has been removed. The traffic is gone. The levelled, new look esplanade took some getting used to.

Starters

Both of us enjoyed the gambas in tempura (see ‘2017 — first visit’ above).

Mains

One cannot have a more reliable course than the filet de loup (again, see ‘2017 — first visit’).

Wine

We enjoyed another bottle of Cassis, Clos d’Albizzi.

Dessert

FBH opted for the chocolate and vanilla millefeuille.

I could hardly wait to have the cinnamon crème brulée again. I was not disappointed!

Additional notes

Le Pistou’s website has their current menu. Their dishes are always reasonably priced, particularly with the prix fixe menu, and great value for money.

TripAdvisor has customer reviews. I particularly liked this one from 2018, excerpted:

Le Pistou’s menu is a bit more creative and so it stands out from the others on the street. Because the menu was so different, we ate there twice during our recent stay in Cannes and were not disappointed. We each had the €23.50 Menu du Marche. I had the Duet of asparagus and parma ham with pesto, mixed salad, roast quail and foie gras, I’m not sure that it held together as a coherent dish but the components were delicious. My wife had the avocado and crab salad and she loved it.

As a main course the monkfish and turbot duo was spectacular. As advertised, the sauce was a curry sauce but light enough that it didn’t overpower the delicate fish. The filet de loup in a pea sauce was didn’t impress me quite as much but was very good nonetheless. My wife loved the gambas and said that the daurade was excellent. Most of the fish dishes were served with a small portion of ratatouille.

Call me insane (my wife does) but for me des[s]ert is the least interesting part of a meal. Pistou’s roast pineapple and mango spring roll with two sorbets in a sauce flavoured with mandarine impériale was very creative and delicious.

Le Pistou has been good for years. With the current menu it moves out ahead of the others on the street. Well worth a visit.

If you’re ever in Cannes, don’t miss Le Pistou.

One Cannes restaurant we did not return to in 2019 was Chez Astoux, 41-43 Rue Felix Faure.

When we visited Cannes in 2015, we ate there twice. It was fabulous.

We eagerly made reservations in 2017, only to find that Chez Astoux was a shadow of its former self.

Chez Astoux is part of the Astoux et Brun establishments: two restaurants and a fishmongers.

There is an Astoux et Brun restaurant a few doors down from Chez Astoux (corner location), where there is always a buzz. If TripAdvisor is anything to go by, they do not take reservations. We ate there several years ago, and the seafood was very good, indeed. That said, it can be noisy when one wants a quiet dinner.

Hence, our more frequent visits to Chez Astoux.

2017

This was the year of our last visit.

We had looked forward to ordering off the slate (ardoise). Unfortunately, there was none. The waiter told us it was no longer economically viable to have a list of daily catch of the day specials.

Bummer.

Starters

My far better half (FBH) ordered tartare of sea bream (daurade) but said it was bland.

I had much better luck with my squid (seiche) beignets, which were great: unctuous on the outside and tender in the middle.

Mains

FBH stayed with sea bream and had a fillet of it with meat sauce. Surprising, yes, but meat sauce with fish is an amazing taste contrast which has been trending in France for several years, especially among younger chefs. I have since tried it at home — cod with beef sauce — and it is spectacular.

I had large prawns (camerones) with rice. They were exceptionally good.

Wine

We enjoyed a bottle of white Bandol, Château Barthès 2015 from Var (83330 Le Beausset), which complemented our dishes perfectly.

Additional notes

There were not many people dining on the Sunday evening when we went, but those who were there were French.

There was also a quiet ‘domestic’ incident going on at a table near us which troubled the waiters, who chatted about it amongst themselves. They wondered if they should politely intervene. There was a threesome: a couple and a little girl. The woman kept checking her phone and responding to texts. The man kept asking her quietly what was so urgent and who was texting her. I couldn’t ‘earwig’ the whole conversation, but it seemed as if it had to do with her work. I did not catch who was texting her. Was it only work or did she have a certain someone at work? In any event, after they had finished their starters, she said to the man, ‘I don’t have to listen to you’, picked up her handbag — along with the phone — and stormed off. The little girl started sobbing and she was left with the man, with whom she seemed comfortable, by the way. I don’t know what the family relationship was among the three of them. We were ready to pay the bill by then, so I don’t know what happened after that. I thought about it for days, wondering what happened next.

On a lighter note, TripAdvisor has rave reviews of Chez Astoux.

Conclusion

With regard to value for money, Chez Astoux is expensive. The value for money question looms even larger with the continuing absence of the daily catch slate.

We decided there were more creative seafood preparations elsewhere in Cannes at lower prices, so it is unlikely we will return anytime soon, unfortunately.

We first went to Aux P’tits Anges in 2017.

I found out about it online somewhere, because I was a bit fed up with the street hawkers and musicians strolling up and down Rue Felix Faure and Le Suquet outside of the main tourist restaurants.

Aux P’tits Anges fit the bill perfectly, as it is located far away from all that, yet is still in the centre of town on a side street near the Marché Gambetta: 4 Rue Marceau (near the corner of Boulevard de la République).

They still have the same maître d’, who likes speaking English. (He is fluent outside of saying ‘idee’ for ‘idea’, which is rather charming.) He worked in England for several months years ago and enjoys taking his family there on holiday.

The owner is the chef, by the way. He also employs two pastry chefs.

2017

Rue Marceau is a modest street of businesses and bars.

Aux P’tits Anges can be a bit difficult to find the first time around — and reservations are recommended. If I remember rightly, we scoped it out one afternoon and reserved a table during their lunch service.

We sat outside, which isn’t exactly scenic, but it did mean we could enjoy a cigarette between courses. Whilst service is good, the maître d’ serves all the tables, indoors and out, therefore, dining here takes a while.

We had the Menu Diablotin for €37 each. There is a higher priced menu, Menu des Anges, for €55. (More here.)

Starters

We both had the pan seared slices of the lobe of duck foie gras (escalope de foie gras).

We received just the right amount of slices, seared to perfection. On the side was a flavoursome mango chutney, which was an ideal complement.

Mains

We both had king scallops (coquilles St Jacques) seasoned with piment d’Espelette and topped with tiny slices of chorizo. We both enjoyed it a lot. As I noted in my food diary, ‘Beautiful!’

Wine

We had a Côtes de Provence rosé 2013 from Château Les Valentines in La Londe-des-Maures (Var). The château, incidentally, is named after the owners’ children, Valentin and Clémentine. I put the name in bold, as we ordered another of their wines in 2019.

Desserts

I ordered the cheese plate, which had two wedges of Tomme and one of Coulommiers.

My far better half (FBH) had a dreamy dessert which was a chocolate cigar — yes, it looked just like the real thing — with a creamy filling. It was served in a tuile ashtray. FBH still talks about it.

Verdict

We both regretted we had already reserved at other restaurants for our remaining nights. We resolved to eat here twice on our 2019 trip, which we did.

2019 — first visit

We did not make reservations for our first return visit this year.

It was a quiet Tuesday evening, and the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

We opted for the Menu Diablotin again (still €37).

Starters

The chef changed the lobe of foie gras starter.

I preferred his former presentation, but FBH liked this one equally.

The highlight of this was the diced strawberries (with a touch of balsamic vinegar, I would guess) that came as the fruity garnish, rather than chutney, sautéed peaches or figs.

This year, the slices came in a sandwich format. The bread is a charcoal-turmeric marble loaf. The slices were lightly toasted with the foie gras slices in the middle. Obviously, this was not meant to be eaten with one’s hands. Chef probably thought this was a witty presentation.

For me, there was too much bread, especially as the top slice hid the foie gras. Why do that when fewer things are lovelier to look at than seared foie gras?

Initially, I left my bread behind.

Then, as more diners began arriving, the maître d’ understandably was busy taking orders and serving customers. I ended up eating the bread, which I still think is a strange combination of ingredients. However, such flavour combinations in bread have been the trend in certain French restaurants and bakeries in recent years. FBH enjoyed it, so it has its customer appeal.

Mains

We both had the roasted cod (cabillaud) loin topped with tiny slices of chorizo, served with a red pepper and raspberry sauce. It was to die for!

I don’t know how they do their sauce, and the maître d’ said that one could substitute raspberry vinegar for the actual fruit, but it was out of this world. I had to come up with a close facsimile when we got home, because we both wanted it again. What follows is my recipe, which comes pretty darned close to theirs.

Red pepper and raspberry sauce

200g raspberries
pinch of sugar
1 scant tsp balsamic vinegar
3 red bell peppers, finely diced
pinch of salt and pepper
dash of raspberry vinegar

1/ Put the raspberries and sugar in one saucepan and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Remove from the heat to cool, then strain. Keep the juice.

2/ While the raspberries are cooking, put the diced bell pepper into a pan with salt, pepper and the balsamic vinegar. Gently sauté until cooked through — around 15 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool.

3/ Put the raspberry juice and the sautéed bell pepper into a blender or food processor to blitz into a sauce. Strain again, if necessary.

4/ This is a sauce to prepare just before you cook your cod, because the sauce loses the raspberry aspect fairly quickly. If the raspberry taste needs topping up, add a dash of raspberry vinegar to revive it.

5/ Reheat the sauce and serve with the cod, spooning it around the side of the fish rather than on top.

6/ Top with sautéed chorizo slices or bits.

Wine

We had a red, La Punition (The Punishment) 2017, another great wine from Château Les Valentines (see above), priced at €45. The bottle’s tasting notes explain that the grapes — 100% Carignan — were difficult to grow for a number of years. The producers could hardly wait until they had enough Carignan to make this wine, hence ‘the punishment’. Whatever they’ve been doing to make their harvest successful has obviously worked.

Dessert

We both had cheese assortments on this occasion.

The maitre d’ did identify them for us, but I did not note them in my diary. They were very good, however.

2019 — second visit

We could hardly wait to return and, had in fact, booked our table in advance.

We opted for the Menu Diablotin once more, with FBH hoping for a second chocolate cigar!

It was rather windy that evening, so we ate inside for the first time ever.

The chef-owner’s wife and mother-in-law have chosen the little plaques and artwork about happiness. These small additions are rather over the top, but the general atmosphere is one of elegant charm.

Starters

FBH had the lobe of foie gras again, partly for the marble bread.

I opted for breaded gambas (jumbo shrimp), perfectly deep fried and served with courgette tagliatelle. It was delightful.

Mains

We both opted for the duck breast stuffed with foie gras. The sauce was a raspberry coulis, which was perfect.

We ordered seasonal vegetables. These were largely courgettes. The maître d’ explained, ‘Chef loves his courgettes. He puts them with everything.’

The duck was okay, but it was not great. In fact, neither of us would order it again. We expected a juicy, unctuous duck breast with a rim of rendered, crispy skin on top enhanced by an equally unctuous insert of foie gras. The reality was a dry duck breast devoid of all outer skin that even a foie gras centre couldn’t save.

Oh well.

Wine

Another bottle of La Punition (see above)!

Dessert

Amazingly, I did not write down what I had.

But that doesn’t matter, because I will now describe FBH’s dish which we dubbed ‘the dessert of the trip’.

FBH still has fond memories of the chocolate cigar, but the chocolate tart ranks right up there. The experience was further heightened when we saw the two young pastry chefs (both men) go out for a quick ciggie break. They were the same chaps who made the chocolate cigar in 2017.

It was the most elaborate — and tasty — creation.

The filling was a light chocolate mousse topped with a spun red sugar spiral, two tiny chocolate cookie/vanilla ice cream sandwiches and two caramel filled chocolates on the side.

We would have paid any amount of money to take a box of those chocolate caramels back to the hotel. The salted caramel oozed out and was sublime, if not divine.

Additional notes

TripAdvisor has customer reviews.

Conclusion

We will definitely return to Aux P’tits Anges on our next trip.

By then, the menu will have evolved further, including the desserts!

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