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Continuing my series on Red Wall MPs, today’s concludes the Stoke-on-Trent trio with Jack Brereton, who was the first Conservative MP elected to represent Stoke-on-Trent South in 2017.

Brereton’s two neighbouring Conservative MPs are Jo Gideon and Jonathan Gullis.

Brereton is 30 years old but got involved in politics at the tender age of 18. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for councillor in the East Valley ward in the Stoke-on-Trent City Council election. Undeterred, and studying for his degree in Politics and International Relations at the local Keele University, he ran again in 2011 and held the Baddeley, Milton and Norton ward for the Conservatives.

He completed his degree at Keele in 2012 and was re-elected as councillor in 2015, after which he served on the local Regeneration, Heritage and Transport committee on the City Council as part of a Conservative/Independents ruling coalition.

In February 2017, he ran unsuccessfully in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. However, a snap general election was called that June, under Theresa May’s leadership, and the Conservatives selected him to run for Stoke-on-Trent South.

Brereton defeated Labour’s sitting MP Rob Flello, who had represented the constituency since 2005. Aged 26, he was the youngest MP in the 2017 Conservative intake.

He continued to serve as a local councillor until June 2019, when he announced that he would not be standing for re-election.

In Parliament, Brereton served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department of Education in 2018. Between September 2019 and January 31, 2020, he was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Exiting the European Union. Afterwards, he became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence.

From this, we can see that he has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for politics and for his constituents, most of whom voted to leave the EU.

He has also found time to study at University College London and divides his time between the capital and Stoke-on-Trent, where his wife and son live.

Maiden speech

The most interesting speeches in the Commons are the maiden speeches. One learns so much about our beautiful nation from them.

Jack Brereton gave his maiden speech on July 18, 2017. That day, the Stoke Sentinel reported (emphases mine):

Jack Brereton’s win in Stoke-on-Trent South last month, which ended decades of Labour domination, was one of the most notable results in the General Election.

Indeed. Stoke-on-Trent South voters had been loyal to Labour since the constituency was established in 1950.

He showed his love for his home town and the Potteries in his maiden speech, excerpted below:

It is an absolute honour to be able to make my maiden speech and to represent the people of Stoke-on-Trent South in this place. Stoke-on-Trent is the city that I grew up in and where I have lived my whole life. Nothing could make me prouder than serving the people of Stoke-on-Trent South in Parliament.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr Rob Flello. I thank him for his commitment to Stoke-on-Trent South over the past 12 years. He will be remembered as a dedicated community activist in Stoke-on-Trent and was respected here for his campaigning on a number of national concerns, particularly those relating to the road haulage industry, in which he played an active role.

Stoke-on-Trent is a unique place with a strong cultural identity. It is a city founded on its industrial heritage, with those industries now resurgent and a hotbed of innovation. The potteries were born out of industry and our culture flows from that

Stokies are especially known for their friendliness, and many visitors to the city remark on how welcoming the local people are. What makes us most distinctive, however, is our geographical make-up, following the coming together in 1910 of six different, individual towns to form one body. Two of those towns, Fenton and Longton, are in my constituency. However, we did not gain city status until 1925, in what was a rare modern occurrence of royal intervention in which the monarch countermanded the Government. Having initially been refused city status by the Home Office, Stoke-on-Trent made a direct approach to His Majesty King George V and became a city on 4 June 1925.

Surrounding the pottery towns of Fenton and Longton, my Stoke-on-Trent South constituency includes a diverse slice of north Staffordshire. We have the only grade 1 listed building in Stoke-on-Trent, the Trentham Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of the Dukes of Sutherland. They were significant philanthropists in the area, particularly in Longton, Normacot and Dresden, giving land and paying for many of the important public buildings and facilities that we see today. They include the fantastic Queen’s Park, the first public pleasure park in the potteries, which was opened to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. It was once a lone oasis in an otherwise smog-filled urban area, but today we are one of the greenest cities in the country, with more than 1,380 hectares of parks and open space. One of the most important natural sites, Park Hall country park, is in Weston Coyney in my constituency. It is a site of special scientific interest and the only national nature reserve in Stoke-on-Trent.

Where once stood thousands of bottle ovens in Stoke-on-Trent, only 47 now remain. They are protected, of course, and I am pleased to say that half of those iconic structures are in my constituency, with the largest number in Longton. My constituency has no shortage of first-rate architectural gems, both old and new. Many of these important historical sites have now been converted, with a number becoming enterprise centres to host thriving small businesses. They include the Sutherland Institute, St James’s House, CoRE and now also Fenton Town Hall, which has been reborn as a centre for business and industry by the grandson of the original builder and benefactor, William Meath Baker. There is a tremendous spirit of resourcefulness and renewal in my constituency, and it gives me great optimism that so many of our heritage landmarks will continue to find new uses in a new age

Stoke-on-Trent has been a global city, designing wares and products to fit every taste and market. We have been exporting and trading products around the world for centuries, and that has never been more true and important than it is today. We have some of the most advanced steel manufacturing in the world. Just like pottery, steel manufacturing has strong roots in Stoke-on-Trent. Goodwin International, which is based in my constituency, is a world leader in mechanical engineering, producing some of the most intricate steel components, both large and small. It works in partnership with Goodwin Steel Castings in neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent Central, which has been producing machined castings since 1883—one of the 10 oldest companies listed on the stock exchange. Goodwin’s products are of the highest standard and are used right around the world in energy production, bridge construction and armed forces equipment.

Today in Stoke-on-Trent our industries are becoming more diverse and more innovative than ever before. Rated nationally as the second-best place to start a new business, it is the No. 1 city for business survival and the ninth-fastest growing economy in the UK. Productivity has increased by over 25% since 2010. It is ranked fourth for employment growth and has one of the fastest-growing housing markets, and our big ceramics businesses have increased production by over 50%.

People are waking up to what Stoke-on-Trent has to offer as one of the best connected places. We have kept ahead of the digital curve with some of the best broadband connectivity, and we are rated as having the best 4G download speeds in the country, not only making Stoke-on-Trent a key hub for some of the leading brands in distribution and logistics, but putting the city at the forefront of a revolution in digital and advanced manufacturing.

Our clay-based industries in particular have become more diverse and are expanding into new sectors. Whether healthcare, tourism, high-tech materials or construction, ceramic products are becoming ever more essential in the modern world. That has been exemplified by recent investment in the Wedgwood factory and visitor centre in my constituency. The fully refurbished factory site manufactures some of the finest wares in the world, and the World of Wedgwood visitor centre is a must see for any tourist. Most recently, we have seen the opening of the brand-new Valentine Clays facility in Fenton, which is continuing the growth of the industry and supplying clay and raw materials to potters around the country.

Our growing economy and industry are supported by strong academic institutions. Staffordshire University is now rated one of the best nationally for some of its digital courses, such as gaming. We also have Keele University—I should declare an interest in that my wife and I are both Keele graduates—which is renowned nationally for its academic strength and has won numerous awards for the quality of its academia, including being ranked top nationally for student experience and student satisfaction and most recently being awarded gold in the teaching excellence framework. Importantly, the universities play an active part in the community and economy of north Staffordshire and have a critical role in the innovation and development of our local industries.

The businesses and people who have invested in Stoke-on-Trent South are rightly proud of what we have achieved. As their strong voice in Parliament, I am determined to work to create better jobs that will spread the net of opportunity wider. Critical to that will be securing the best possible deal from leaving the European Union, guaranteeing trade and ensuring ease of access to markets throughout the world. That is what people in Stoke-on-Trent South overwhelmingly voted for in the referendum and what people were saying to me on the doorstep during the general election campaign. I will be calling on the Government to advance trade agreements around the world as part of a more global Britain that supports businesses in Stoke-on-Trent South to sell their products abroad. This is about creating prosperity for every household in Stoke-on-Trent South, driving up skills and increasing local people’s wages. We need to see not just more jobs in Stoke-on-Trent South but better jobs that pay higher wages and take full advantage of the talent that Stokies have.

We need to see investment in our infrastructure that ensures businesses in Stoke-on-Trent can continue to thrive and local people are not blighted by sitting in daily traffic jams. It will mean improving our transport network to be fit for the future, improving rail and road connections to my constituency to help address congestion and ensuring that we see better local rail services to Longton station and improved connectivity to Stoke-on-Trent from across the country.

For our industries to grow and create the jobs we need locally, we must also ensure greater energy security, with infrastructure that matches the needs of our manufacturing sectors. As a city made up of towns, we need to ensure that our town centres are healthy and that our high streets remain relevant to the local communities they serve. I want to see Longton and Fenton town centres become stronger, with new housing and businesses moving in. Those are my priorities as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South.

I began by speaking of our heritage and culture in Stoke-on-Trent. I could not be more delighted that our city has been shortlisted for UK city of culture 2021. Stoke-on-Trent is the world capital of ceramics, which is an industry and art that has not only shaped my constituency but has left its stamp on our national culture. Many Stokies, like me, are proud of the products we see around the world that are back-stamped “Made in Stoke-on-Trent” and “Made in Britain.” A Stokie can often be spotted apart turning over a plate or a mug to check where it was made.

The Palace of Westminster, like many of the greatest buildings across the country, is filled with products manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent. From the tableware to the Minton tile floors, each piece is an ambassador for Stoke-on-Trent. I was a little disappointed to find that the ongoing floor restoration works in Central Lobby are using tiles manufactured in Jackfield, Shropshire. However, I was reassured to discover that the powder used to produce these fantastic tiles is sourced from Stoke-on-Trent

This debate is about drugs policy. The use of psychoactive substances in particular is increasing, which is ruining lives and is a significant cause of crime on our streets. That not only affects police services but puts pressure on our national health service, which has to deal with much of the human cost of drug abuse.

Far too many ordinary people in my constituency have felt the impacts of drug use and told me they do not feel safe in our communities. I will be working with Staffordshire police and Matthew Ellis, our police and crime commissioner, to ensure that we continue to see drug use decline and we act against the associated crimes. Much progress is being made by local partners and communities; putting in place a public space protection order in Longton has made a big difference. I have particularly seen the fantastic work put in by volunteers such as Street Chaplains locally in my constituency. Significant work has been done to help ensure people feel safe and welcome when visiting the town centre, and in directing people who need help to get the right support.

Often the misuse of drugs can be linked to mental health problems, and I have been pleased to see Staffordshire leading the way to ensure that people with mental health problems get better support. Local services, the police and the voluntary sector continue to work more closely in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire to help people get better support to tackle addictions and change their lifestyles. I want to play my part in ensuring that we continue to tackle these issues in our communities, so we continue to see drug-related crimes reduced and people with addictions get the right support.

In the end, Coventry won the 2021 bid for the UK City of Culture.

However, Brereton remained a strong supporter of Stoke-on-Trent.

Channel 4 relocation

On October 17, 2017, Brereton put forward a Ten-Minute Rule Bill proposing that Channel 4 move their offices out of London, in the way that the BBC moved many of their operations north to Salford.

Excerpts follow:

Being in public ownership means that Channel 4 has a responsibility to the nation, not just in the innovative and boundary-probing programming that it rightly produces, but in the way in which it is organised and run. Truly, it must be operated for the benefit of all parts of our country, throughout all the nations and regions that make up the UK. We should consider the effects of the BBC’s relocation to Salford Quays, with the creation of MediaCityUK. The regeneration that comes from such investments has a much wider ripple effect beyond the transfer of the headquarters, staff and offices. With the right location, such moves can significantly boost prosperity across a whole region and help support thousands of jobs. As the Secretary of State said at the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week, more people are employed at Salford Quays today than there ever were when they were docks. That is a direct effect of a public service broadcaster fulfilling its remit in its most inclusive sense.

Channel 4 could have a significant transformative impact on a new location, with the potential to anchor wider regeneration and deliver jobs over and above those which move out of the capital. Very careful consideration must be given to location in order to maximise and extract value. There could be an open competition to decide on the new location, allowing interested areas and sites to put forward their case, ensuring that the site that delivers the greatest impact and fulfils the needs of Channel 4 is selected. This is not just about the benefits a move could have on a specific area; many organisations could have a similar impact from relocating their headquarters. There is greater significance in and much wider benefits from helping to rebalance the institutions of broadcasting within the UK to reflect much more effectively the diverse communities in our constituencies across the country, and to bring a fresh perspective.

The realities faced on a daily basis by my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South and those in many constituencies throughout the UK are very different from those experienced in London. As I said, Channel 4 produces some phenomenal programmes that are greatly valued, but this could be so much better. If Channel 4 relocated out of London, the organisation and its employees would experience directly the true vibrancy and diversity across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. The programmes it produces could be drawn from a much more diverse palette, giving a much greater scope, depth and quality to what we see on our screens.

As a commissioning organisation, Channel 4 has huge potential to support the wider broadcasting and creative sectors across the countries and regions of the UK. Many small and medium-sized businesses right across the country could contribute significantly to diversifying the content produced by Channel 4, but currently all the decisions are made in London and many companies and organisations are not getting a fair chance. A move would have much greater knock-on benefits across the industry, helping to support and create more highly skilled jobs outside London. Location is hugely important not only to extract the greatest benefit from our media, but to ensure that there are the skills available in the workforce to match the demands of the organisation.

There are a number of extremely interesting suggestions for a potential future location for this national broadcaster. They come from a number of areas across the country, including from my area, Stoke-on-Trent. Many parts of our country have the wealth of skills and creativity— both in industry and academia—needed to support the relocation. I know from visiting Staffordshire University that our academic institutions across the country have state-of-the-art digital and media facilities. For example, Staffordshire University is now rated the best in the country for computer gaming.

Industries and universities right across the country are leading the way in the digital and creative sectors. The move of Channel 4 out of London would further support this success and mean that more of those skills could be retained in other parts of the UK. This is the critical point: we are currently seeing a brain drain of skills and employment opportunities from across our country towards London. The Bill aligns with the Government’s industrial strategy to help to rebalance the economy, driving prosperity right across the country. I hope that all hon. Members can support that aim.

The further benefit that a move could realise is to counteract the consequences of an overheating property market in London. Land is much cheaper and more freely available outside London, particularly in areas like mine, meaning that the costs of development and moving have the potential with the right location to be significantly lower. Much of the cost of the move could probably be made back from the sale of Channel 4’s current headquarters site on Horseferry Road.

The cost of property also has an important effect on the likely quality of life of those working for Channel 4. Outside London, workers are likely to be able to afford a much better quality of life. The average house price in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency in quarter 1 of 2017 was £1,275,000 compared with £122,150 in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent South. The Bill does not specify a location to which Channel 4 should move, but it secures the principle of a move away from London and would allow for the process in selecting a new location and facilitating the move once a location is agreed.

I encourage Members on both sides of the House to back this Bill and ensure that Channel 4 can continue to improve the quality and range of its broadcasting to reflect the entire UK.

Question put and agreed to

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 October 2018, and to be printed (Bill 111).

The bill was successful. One year later, on October 31, 2018, Channel 4 announced that it would be moving 25% of its staff to Leeds, meaning that half of its programme budget will be spent outside of London by 2023.

Transport

It is not surprising that having served on the local Regeneration, Heritage and Transport committee on the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Jack Brereton has a keen interest in improving public transportation links in his constituency.

One of the ongoing issues is the reopening of the Stoke-Leek railway line, more about which below.

First, however, was his debate from January 23, 2020 on improving local bus routes, excerpted below:

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and I made clear to the Minister’s colleague Baroness Vere recently, bus services are too few, too slow and too infrequent. Indeed, a survey I conducted in a number of communities in my constituency resulted in many hundreds of replies saying just that. We now have communities that lack any service, with elderly and vulnerable people left cut off. The removal of evening and weekend services has also had a major impact on people’s ability to get to work and get around the area.

At the same time, local train services—they are almost non-existent and are often overcrowded—have been under a slow process of decline. Little more than 100 years ago, north Staffordshire had an excellent local rail and tram network. Old maps reveal that we had one of the most comprehensive public transport networks in the country. Since then, local rail lines and local train stations have been lost. The tram network has gone altogether and the bus has risen and fallen as a replacement. It is on bus services that I will focus most of my remarks today …

The six historic market towns in Stoke-on-Trent share a north Staffordshire identity that is more than merely geographical with the other historic market towns around the city, including Newcastle-under-Lyme, Kidsgrove, Biddulph, Leek, Cheadle, Stone and Stafford, which are home to many commuters to and from Stoke-on-Trent. Improving and enhancing the public transport links between all those towns is important for our economic growth. Sadly, bus use in the Potteries has declined by more than 10% in the past year alone, with more than 1 million fewer bus passenger journeys in 2018-19 than in 2017-18. The number of journeys fell from 10.4 million in 2017-18 to 9.3 million. Compounding the disappointment is the fact that bus use had at least seemed to have levelled off from the previous decline. The 10.4 million journeys reported in 2017-18 were an increase on the 10.3 million reported in 2016-17. However, at the start of the decade, more than 15 million journeys were recorded.

Since 2010, the relative cost of travelling by car has decreased considerably. Fuel duty has rightly been frozen and even for those who are entitled to free bus passes, the falling marginal cost of driving has disadvantaged bus services in relative terms. Relative price signals have often been compounded by the enhanced marginal utility of driving instead, particularly as cars have improved in personal comfort over the decade relative to buses. Once a decline in bus services begins, it all too often feeds on itself as the relative convenience of just jumping in a car becomes ever more pronounced. Against a backdrop of less frequent bus services, passenger utility is reduced even further. With the reduction in demand comes more cuts in supply.

In north Staffordshire, journey times by bus can be more than double those by car—sometimes easily treble or worse—due to the loss of direct cross-city routes. No doubt that story is familiar to Members in all parts of the country. I have raised the situation in north Staffordshire in particular because, as our local newspaper The Sentinel has highlighted, the decline in the Potteries has been much faster than in England as a whole

Currently, very few buses run straight through the city centre, meaning that almost all passengers face waiting times for connecting services at the city centre bus station if they want to get from one side of the city to the other. Operators have been reluctant to provide through services, because it is much harder to guarantee their reliability. That, in turn, adds to the congestion at the city centre bus station, with two short-route buses needed to complete what could have been a single-bus through journey.

The required interventions are a mix of low, medium and high-cost schemes, ranging from relatively simple traffic management measures, such as the widening of bus lanes, to more complicated redesigns of junctions to give buses priority. As an initial step, three cross-city routes are being developed, but a number of additional cross-city routes have also been identified to create a truly north Staffordshire-wide network …

The second key element is improved frequency. A turn-up-and-go service requires a frequency that does not exceed 10 minutes between buses. Even that frequency would be regarded as poor in London. A 10-minute interval is considered to be one of the downsides of some parts of the Docklands Light Railway, and it certainly would not be tolerated on the London underground. Yet in Stoke-on-Trent a 10-minute frequency is exceptionally good; currently, only four bus services operate at that frequency. The frequency of other services is generally 20 or 30 minutes.

Introducing all the proposed cross-city lines with a weekday daytime frequency of at most 10 minutes would cost some £4.8 million per annum. There would be a further capital cost of £1 million for purchasing additional vehicles. It is important to note that in certain important corridors in the city, such as between the railway station and the city centre, frequencies would be much closer to five minutes than to 10 minutes, with the exception of early mornings, night-times and Sundays …

There are other, smaller operators, which run a limited number of services, mostly using buses smaller than the standard single-decker ones prevalent in the First Potteries and D&G fleets. The current operators run a multi-operator ticket scheme. One such ticket is called Smart, which is focused on Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, and another is called The Knot—after the Staffordshire knot—covering the whole of Staffordshire. There is also a PlusBus scheme covering the Smart zone.

That brings me on to the third key element: the price cap. The current standard adult fare for one of the most popular tickets, the Smart day ticket, is £5.90, and the proposal is to cap it at £3 per day, resulting in a ceteris paribus revenue loss of £3 million per annum. However, it is, of course, expected that all things will not be equal, and the price cap, together with congestion-busting road traffic management for bus services, should result in a substantial increase in ticket sales.

Indeed, the uplift is expected to be such that the city council has warned that operators will need to be prepared for boarding delays caused by the volume of people wanting to buy the £3 day ticket. That would have been much more of a concern only a year ago, when contactless payment was still far from widespread across north Staffordshire buses. Thankfully, operators have now invested in contactless technology that speeds up the boarding process

Let me be quite clear: what is envisioned is nothing short of a revolution for road traffic planning in Stoke-on-Trent, with a radical reordering of highway space and junction prioritisation in favour of buses. By removing the worst pinch points and installing bus priority measures, we can improve passengers’ level of confidence that buses will run smoothly and to time. The measures envisaged would mean that timetables could provide for faster services running over longer distances across north Staffordshire. We would once again be able to boast one of the best and most comprehensive public transport networks, just as we did over a century ago. I hope we will receive the Department’s full support, and the Minister’s support today.

Nusrat Ghani, replying on behalf of the Government, said:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher [Chope MP], in this incredibly collegiate and productive debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) for securing it and giving me the opportunity to provide some answers that will please both Government and Opposition Members …

When I appeared before the Select Committee on Transport a while ago, my hon. Friend was robust in challenging me on bus strategy. However, he and I wanted the same thing, and we have got it—we have a win here. First, we have had the announcement of an ambitious and innovative £220 million bus package and, secondly, we are putting together the first ever national bus strategy, which will revolutionise bus services across England

Members are keen to ensure that they are doing their bit to secure funding from the transforming cities fund. The Government are investing £2.5 billion to support the development and creation of new and innovative public transport schemes, which will improve journeys and tackle congestion in some of England’s largest cities. Stoke-on-Trent has been shortlisted for an upgrade to its public transport links. The speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) was spot on; she put forward a fantastic case. At the Department we welcome the business case put forward by Stoke-on-Trent and supported by hon. Members. It will improve connectivity across the region. I am afraid I cannot say anything more right now, but an announcement on the outcome of the process will be announced in the next few months. The strength of this debate will no doubt be recognised when that decision is made …

Thanks to the Stoke-on-Trent MPs’ pressure, the latest news from the Stoke Sentinel on April 6, 2022 is that bus pass prices will be noticeably cheaper and that some routes will cut across the city:

Stoke-on-Trent bus passengers will be able to snap up all-day tickets for just £3.50 as part of a £31.7 million Government deal for the city. People currently have to shell out £5.20 for unlimited day travel within the city.

The cheaper fare – available across multiple bus operators – is expected to come into force in September. It’s not yet known whether other types of bus tickets could also be discounted.

It comes after the Department for Transport (DfT) awarded Stoke-on-Trent the funding to transform bus services over the next three years. Other plans include having more evening and Sunday services to boost the night-time economy and help commuters get home from work.

And a bus route which was split in two several years ago is to be ‘re-linked’ so people travelling from the north to south of the city no longer have to catch several buses. Coupled with bus priority changes, it will mean quicker journey times.

Nigel Eggleton, managing director of bus operator First Potteries, said: “We are delighted with the announcement. Ourselves, other bus operators and Stoke-on-Trent City Council have put in a lot of work compiling this bid.”

He hopes it will attract more people onto the buses and make some of the changes commercially sustainable after the Government funding runs out. But he admitted there could be ‘anomalies’, particularly if people are travelling outside the city boundaries into Newcastle or the Moorlands.

Staffordshire County Council has not been awarded a single penny through the DfT’s latest announcement, even though it submitted a bid for £112 million of bus service improvements.

Mr Eggleton added: “We will need to look closely at the terms and conditions to see what we can and can’t do across boundary journeys. But we will try our best.”

The 113 comments following the article were highly critical of the bus company and bus routes.

Now on to the Stoke-Leek railway line, debated on July 20, 2021 which was secured by Karen Bradley, the Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands. All three Stoke-on-Trent MPs took part.

Maggie Throup MP, responding for the Government, said:

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) on securing this debate on the proposals for reopening the Stoke-Leek line—or, as she said, the Leek-Stoke line. I thank all Members who contributed. My right hon. Friend is a committed advocate of this scheme, alongside my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon), who have spoken passionately with one voice in today’s debate. Their collective campaigning to reinstate the Stoke-Leek line is second to none. I am sure the description that my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands gave of her constituency will definitely have put it at the top of the tourist map for those who are listening to the debate. I also pay tribute to all right hon. and hon. Members who have sponsored applications to restore rail lines and stations in their own constituencies. I know just how much these schemes mean for local communities. Those Members are great advocates for the restoration of their railways.

This Government are committed to levelling up the country, and a strong, effective railway is central to that ambition. As part of that levelling-up agenda, in January 2020 the Government pledged £500 million for the Restoring Your Railways programme to deliver on our manifesto commitment to start reopening lines and stations. This investment will reconnect smaller communities, regenerate local economies and improve access to jobs, homes and education. The Beeching report led to the closure of one third of our railway network—2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of track were identified for closure. Many places that lost their railway connection have simply never recovered. For the towns and villages left isolated and forgotten by the Beeching cuts, restoring a railway line or station has the potential to revitalise the community. It breathes new life into our high streets, drives investment in businesses and housing and opens new opportunities for work and education. Ilkeston station, in my constituency, which reopened in 2017 after more than 50 years of closure, is a proven example of this positive impact …

As my right hon. Friend explained, the proposal details the many benefits that restoring the Stoke-Leek line would bring to the area—she was so graphic earlier about all the benefits—including providing residents of Leek with direct access to education and employment opportunities in Stoke-on-Trent and the opening up of Staffordshire Moorlands to the tourist trade. The assessment process for those bids is currently under way. The Department expects to announce outcomes over the summer. Decisions on bids are made by an expert panel, which the rail Minister chairs. It is informed by analysis from the Department for Transport, technical advisers and Network Rail. The standard of the applications is, as ever, very high.

In nearby Meir, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, a proposal to reopen the railway station has already been successful in the ideas fund. This scheme used the funding awarded to create a strategic outline business case, which the Department will be considering soon. If delivered, the scheme would reconnect the people of Meir to the rail network for the first time since 1966, giving them access to new educational and economic opportunities, making new housing developments in certain areas viable and levelling up a region that suffers from poor productivity relative to the rest of the UK …

Beeching destroyed the railway network in the mid-1960s. It will take a long time, if ever, to restore it.

With regard to the Stoke-Leek line, £50,000 was granted on October 27, 2001 for a feasibility study. One can only hope for its success.

No doubt, Jack Brereton will continue to press ahead with these and other local issues with his usual passion and enthusiasm.

I wish him every success in his parliamentary career. He richly deserves it.

Yesterday’s post examined Britain’s metropolitan elite and the unwitting effect they had on the 2015 general election, handing the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron another term with a clear majority of seats, surpassing the magic number of 326 to end up with 331!

At that point, Cameron no longer needed the Liberal Democrats in coalition. The Conservatives were fully in charge.

David Cameron

Cameron fulfilled two Conservative pledges:

1/ To resolve the 1977 West Lothian Question and EVEL — English Votes for English Laws — the Government made a change to a standing order in Parliament so that:

a new law could no longer be imposed only on England by a majority of all MPs if a majority of English MPs were opposed. However, a proposed new law could still be vetoed by a majority of all MPs even if a majority of English MPs were in favour. 

This was abolished in 2021, a move with which I disagreed and instigated by a Scot, Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove, whom I do not trust at all. His reasoning was that the measures:

had “added complexity and delay to the legislative process” and that their removal would allow all MPs to be represented equally.[9]

I watched that debate. Why should another nation have its MPs ‘represented equally’ where English laws are concerned? English MPs cannot vote on another nation’s laws.

That said, so far, Scotland’s SNP MPs are careful to leave their benches when laws for England and Wales are debated.

2/ A referendum on leaving the European Union was scheduled for June 23, 2016. Fifty-two per cent of British voters opted for Brexit.

Although he said that he would abide by the referendum result, David Cameron resigned on Friday, June 24, that year at 9:30 a.m.

He and his wife Samantha honestly did not think the British would vote to leave. According to some news reports, Samantha spent much of the night in tears while watching the returns come in.

Theresa May

Theresa May became Conservative leader and Prime Minister in the summer of 2016.

Having previously branded the Conservatives ‘the nasty party’ at an annual party conference a few years before, she had big plans to improve opportunities for everyone living in Britain.

Although she was a Remainer, she pledged to abide by the referendum result. She appointed good Conservative MPs to her Brexit team, and Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary.

The Opposition benches said that she had no mandate, so she held a general election in June 2017. Two trusted aides told her that polling showed that the Conservatives would do well. Furthermore, the controversial Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader. It sounded as if May and her party were shoo-ins. In the end, there was a hung Parliament and May brokered a confidence and supply arrangement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), led by Arlene Foster at the time.

Things began to unravel further in the summer of 2018. May’s Brexit team had come up with a sensible, considered plan to leave the EU. May held a meeting at Chequers, the prime ministerial weekend estate, to discuss the plan. Unbeknownst to her colleagues, she had a compromise plan ready to discuss which superseded the Brexit team’s plan. She told her ministers that if they did not agree to her compromise plan, later rumoured to have been developed with German input from someone working for Angela Merkel, they were free to leave the country estate at their own expense. It was shocking and resulted in several resignations from the Brexit team. Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary.

By January 2019, May could get nowhere in Parliament with Brexit votes, even with her compromise. I began watching BBC Parliament in earnest at that time and haven’t stopped. We really do have a load of virtue-signalling troughers from the metropolitan elite in both Houses. But I digress.

On May 24, 2019, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7. That triggered a leadership election by the party members. May stayed on as PM until July 24, the day after Boris Johnson became the new leader of the Conservatives. Today, May serves on the backbenches, representing the constituency of Maidenhead, a delightful Home Counties town bordering the Thames.

Boris Johnson

Boris gave his first speech at the despatch box, all guns blazing. I watched it on television. He had a go at Labour, alleging that one of their MPs had been involved in corruption while serving on the Greater London Assembly many years before. A PM couldn’t get better than this.

However, Brexit was the major issue, and he was presiding over the hung Parliament from the 2017 election, with Arlene Foster’s DUP providing confidence and supply to Conservative policies. Try as he might, Boris could get nowhere with the Opposition benches.

Brexit negotiations with the EU resumed on August 28, 2019, the same day that Boris attempted to prorogue (adjourn) Parliament from September 10 to October 14. He claimed that the prorogation would cover all the party conferences normally held during that time. However, court cases arose in the Supreme Court in England, presided over by Baroness Hale, she of the spider brooch (Guido’s story involves a later controversy, unrelated to the prorogation):

‘Spiderwoman’ Hale’s decision forced Parliament to reconvene on September 3. It will come as no surprise that attempting to get Brexit votes through the House of Commons became even more difficult. On September 4, the Benn Act, a bill to block a no-deal Brexit passed. At that point, Boris proposed a motion to hold a general election on October 15. It failed to command two-thirds approval from MPs.

In addition, several Remainer Conservative MPs had the party whip removed at that time, which made matters worse. Although some had the whip restored, the Conservatives no longer had a working majority.

As a result, Parliament was dissolved in October 2019, with an election called for December 12 that year.

What voters thought

Whether Leavers or Remainers, more people began paying close attention to the goings-on in Parliament.

Leavers knew that, while Boris was flawed, he was on their side with regard to getting Brexit done. After delay upon delay in Parliament from June 2016 to October 2019, that was all that mattered.

Remainers wanted a second referendum to confirm (ahem) the first vote. In other words, they wanted to overturn the 2016 vote.

Leavers felt increasingly betrayed by Parliamentarians. However, Brexit was also beginning to have an effect on their personal lives: relationships broke down, family feuds began and working life became strained.

England was becoming a highly divided and divisive place, exacerbated by print and broadcast media alike. Leavers felt alienated and betrayed.

The fallout between 2015 and 2019

I’m returning briefly to the comments left on the 2015 Guardian article I cited yesterday: ‘The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class’, which appeared on May 22, two weeks after the general election.

What people felt about the metropolitan elite did not change in the four years that followed. Voters were disappointed.

One Guardian commenter remembered the unity during the Thatcher era as the Iron Lady began closing mines (emphases mine):

We have a situation amongst the majority of the “lower classes” which is this:
If you dare to offer a “lefty” opinion you are automatically assumed to be a rich metro elite type, with no experience of the real world.
If you dare to offer a “right” opinion you are immediately branded a racist, ignoramus.

Does no one else see the division this has caused?

Remember when the gay rights groups went to help the miners? Can you imagine that happening today?They’d be sniping at each other over these perceived differences, instead of recognising their similarities and fighting together against a common enemy.

We are all exactly where they want us, and until we recognise that- the real elite have won and will carry on winning- regardless of what colour they pin to their (old boys) ties.

Another went back further in time, putting forward post-war Prime Minister Clement Attlee as a man of duty:

the most effective Labour Prime Minister by far was Clement Attlee: the son of a well-off London solicitor, educated at Haileybury and Oxford, served with distinction as a junior officer in WW1 and reached the rank of Major. Though not a patrician, you’d hardly have called him a man of the people, and I suspect that he would have felt under no obligation to put on glottal stops or pretend that he liked football (though he had actually played it in his youth).

The point is that perhaps aided by attending Haileybury – the public school that specialised in training boys up for the Indian Civil Service – he had an intense, deeply ingrained sense of his duty to the nation and particularly to the less well-off part of it, which carried him through all the vicissitudes of setting up the Welfare State in a bankrupt, exhausted country with an empire to get rid of. He knew what had to be done, and he was determined to do it, and what focus groups or the media thought about it was of no consequence to him.

… where there is no vision the people perish. Without a thoroughgoing analysis of the state we’re in and a thought-through programme for putting it right, such as it had in 1945, Labour is simply wasting its own time and everyone else’s and might as well shut up shop now.

People dislike when MPs are not local, especially when a well-heeled Londoner represents a disadvantaged Northern constituency:

It’s ridiculous that these parachuted-in pillocks can hold office in northern constituencies when many of them will secretly smirk about it being “grim up north” every time they’re sat in some trendy London wine-bar.

Someone had a solution to candidate selection:

We need to stop north-London PPE [Philosophy, Politics and Economics] graduates from pretty much automatically getting into Westminster. Anyone who’s interested in being a politician does that PPE degree, then works for a think-tank or as a political advisor then a junior minister and so on.

Candidates should be elected from people who live in individual constituencies, who have done proper jobs and who genuinely wish to fight for their communities. In this system George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband would not be able to stand in northern constituencies; they’d have to run in the cities and towns where they actually lived. Generally speaking, that would mean a borough of LondonOh, wait Chukka Umunna and Ed Miliband live in the same borough? Tough! Only one of them can stand for Labour. What’s that; several of the Tory cabinet live in the same town in rural Oxfordshire? Oh dear, only one of them can stand. And in order to prevent parachuting candidates in, they’d have to live there for at least five years prior to being selected.

The whole political system in this country lacks any legitimacy. The people who are affected the most by politics are the people who are the least engaged in it …

This issue also affects London. One person wrote about Labour’s David Lammy:

Lammy is my MP and I like him, but I do have a slight problem: according to the Tory leaflet through the door pre-election, he doesn’t live in Tottenham, his constituency, he lives in Crouch End, which is rather met-elity itself. Not to mention giving the option of a state secondary school you’d actually want your kids to go to.

If the Tories were lying I apologise.

One reader understood why people resented the metropolitan elite:

I totally get the hatred of the “metropolitan elite”. The assumption that you, as someone who is not a member of that class, will have no idea what they are talking about whether it is art, literature, politics, whatever and, by extension, you are an idiot. It’s bloody infuriating!!

It’s essential for the media not to leave London:

Aside from John Harris I know of no other Guardian columnist that sets foot out of London – or even North London.

Tell a lie – Polly [Toynbee] is in Brighton for her Arts Festival.

That’s the nature of metropolitan elites – write about those less well-off but be sure never to meet any.

Also:

Metropolitan elite means people living in London who are unnatural and out of touch with the rest of the country. This is nothing new. The medieval word for a Londoner was “cock’s egg”‘ (cockney) which also described something unnatural and out of touch.

I did not know that!

Other readers noted the petty, controlling interference that the metropolitan elite display:

Different people will have different reasons for disliking the ME. One of these must surely be the neopuritanism they espouse, which means you’re always looking over your shoulder worrying whether you’ve exhibited the wrong attitude, e.g. insufficient enthusiasm about gay marriage or a penchant for Top Gear.

On that topic:

Metropolitan elite who work in media, government, academia, charities, and NGOs from the National Trust to Oxfam and the Royal Society. These tend to coalesce on gay marriage, “safe” places, “islamophobia” issues, pro-EU sentiment, pro-Obama and catastrophic climate change. Just watch the BBC for any length of time.

Another said:

I personally feel this miring of everything in semantics does little to describe the current rot in UK politics. It would be better to use a historical example – I personally think referring to these people as “The Marie Antoinette Class” is more appropriate. It illustrates just how out of touch they really are with the current reality of life for British working people.

Even worse, they don’t really seem to be British at heart:

What has happened (maybe?) is that the elite in the UK (England specifically) has become more like other countries – urban and bourgeois, rather than rural and aristocratic – and without the aspiration to ennoble themselves that the previous industrial bourgeois had (by marrying their wealth into the old order’s titles). What we have now is a class of educated professional people who share urban liberal-middle-class values that are much more like those of their equivalents in other European countries than they are many of their own compatriots.

Another reader also noticed the lack of Britishness:

One explanation could be that many young educated people in Europe were brought up to feel European (or even global) than from a particular country or region. Programs like ERASMUS and the increasing cheapness and availability of travel have opened up the horizons of many smart and educated individuals. This is definitely causing a class divide with those who remain rooted and patriotic. Combine that with the growing phenomenon of elitism in all societal institutions (you need a degree to do anything these days), then you inevitably get more of group A in all positions of power.

I can’t tell whether this is a good thing (or even inevitable) or not. The “metropolitan elite” would probably find themselves thinking that they are better than group B, who are quagmired in small mindedness and petty issues. Then you have group B, made up largely of working class people, who are feeling disenfranchised and silenced (the elite would probably condescendingly refer to it as “feeling left behind”). It’s like a soft Russian revolution, and look what happened that time when they let their “betters” look after them. I think a healthy society needs to always listen to both sides, whenever you start thinking “you know best” and ignore the plebs who “don’t know any better”, well, then you get the Star Wars prequels.

Globalism alienates:

There is hardly any difference in the political parties communications, only semantics. The nation state is dying and Universalism is taking over through the multinational corporations & global organisations.

One reader gave us the education profiles of the main political players of 2015 and the Labour years:

They are all cut from the same cloth…a ll that differentiates them is how they divvy up and pork barrel the the trolls tax contributions.

Cameron: Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Brasenose College, Oxford

Miliband: Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, and the London School of Economics

Clegg: University of Cambridge, the University of Minnesota, College of Europe

Farage: Dulwich College, a public school (private), and stockbroker….

Mandelson: Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Catherine’s College, Oxford

Blair: St John’s College, Oxford…and various private schools

Brown: University of Edinburgh, History (as the son of CoS [Church of Scotland] Minister he is definitely middle class)

The list is not exclusive…….but the stench is unmistakable……

At least voters know where they stand with the Conservatives:

This is why the Tories won the election. So the PM is posh and privileged. He knows it and we know it.

Someone complimented Cameron’s approach to EVEL:

What people object to, at a gut level, is getting a clever-dick, hypocritical answer to their concerns.

For example, Labour’s position on EVEL is transparently self-serving and relies on a lot of chin-scratching about complicated constitutional niceties. In contrast Cameron’s proposition, that it is only fair for England to have self-determination on the same issues which Scotland does, is an uncomplicated statement of a simple principle, even if it is of course equally self-serving.

So people see Labour as putting self-interest first and talking down to them about constitutions, on the one hand, and on the other they see Cameron espousing a simple principle which they see as being on their side.

It’s no surprise Labour end up on the wrong side of so many arguments.

Interestingly, someone brought up Boris:

Londoners are not much interested in the politics of power, influence, wealth and class envy. For many, social justice might mean the mortgage paid off so they can fund their care home one day. Love him or hate him, Boris Johnson recognised and tapped into this and that’s why they voted Boris Johnson Mayor. Twice. London actually gave an early indicator for the national mood.

Labour, on the other hand, cannot relate to most people. The second sentence gave me a chuckle:

I am still angry that Ed wasn’t able to put his view across more forcefully.
He is very fond of the third chapter of The Working Classes And Their Struggle For A Cohesive Understanding Of Dialectical Materialism Within A Framework Of Sonambulant Artifice And Prolapsed Thinking and yet people still didn’t think he understood what life is like on a Council estate or in a factory.
It beats me.

Someone else agreed, saying that Labour were interested only in themselves:

Labour’s metropolitan political class – and believe me, they are ABSOLUTELY the worst, an utter ideological and moral vacuum compared to, say, the Lib Dems or the centrist strain of the Tory Party – are utterly without allegiance to anyone but their own caste.

What voters want(ed)

One reader provided a profile of the ideal MP:

Here’s what we require of our politicians:

(1) honesty
(2) probity
(3) the ability to listen to their constituents
(4) the ability to put the needs of their constituents before the interests of big business, the aristocracy or the establishment.

Tick all four boxes and I don’t care where you were born, where you were schooled or where you live. The problem is finding anybody who’ll tick those boxes.

Little did that person know that a bevy of Conservative candidates could tick those boxes in 2019.

To be continued next week.

How could Joe Biden end US involvement in Afghanistan so disastrously?

He made the decision unilaterally, leaving the nation in peril over the weekend, with horrific images unfolding across world media.

That said, by the time the US and UK entered Afghanistan in 2001 to rid the world of Osama bin Laden and terror, everyone knew that any operation there would be futile. The Soviets even pulled out in 1989.

In fact, Afghanistan was always an intractable place, a law unto itself throughout history.

Alexander the Great’s tenuous hold

Military historian Jamie Hayes wrote a gripping history of an ancient and weak conquest of Afghanistan, ‘Unwilling To Stop And Unwilling To Go On: Alexander the Great’s Afghan Campaign’.

Until his invasion of Afghanistan, Alexander the Great believed himself invincible (emphases mine):

Alexander the Great was undeniably the greatest military commander in history. He took over his father’s throne at just 20 years old and immediately began a campaign the likes of which the world has never seen. He fought battle after battle, forging the largest empire on earth—all without losing even once. As he rampaged across Western and Central Asia, he founded countless cities that stand to this day. Millennia after his death, military geniuses like Napoleon painstakingly studied his battles to learn from his success. He unquestionably earned his moniker—Alexander was Great.

With such a spotless military record, Alexander’s conquests seem almost like they were…easy. With his elite troops and unmatched tactical genius, he started from the unassuming Macedon in Northern Greece and wrought the largest empire the world had ever seen, spanning from Greece in the West all the way to India in the East. But while his remarkable conquests in Persia and his far-reaching campaign to India take center stage in the history books, there’s an often-forgotten chapter of Alexander’s legacy that was anything but easy.

Alexander’s campaign in Afghanistan has become a mere footnote in his legacy—perhaps because it was the region where the great warlord saw the least success. Like many other military superpowers would after him, from the British Empire to Russia to NATO, Alexander waltzed into Afghanistan with all the confidence in the world, but he left battered and bruised, with very little to show for it. The region chewed him up and spat him out, and while he never explicitly “lost” any battles in his time there, it’s hard to so he won much of anything either. In fact, historians have claimed that the brutal Afghan campaign marked a shift in Alexander—from infallible Golden Boy to a cruel, paranoid shell of what he once was.

Alexander the Great wanted to topple a man named Bessus, the only obstacle preventing the military commander from becoming king of the Persian Empire. Bessus had toppled Darius III (Darius the Great), the self-styled King of Kings of the Persian Empire. Bessus gave himself a new name, Artaxerxes V.

Incensed, Alexander believed that Artaxarxes V was a usurper and set about to right that perceived wrong. For that, he had to follow the new king into Bactria, which is part of modern-day Afghanistan.

Bactria proved to be highly difficult with regard to the terrain and the men who lived there:

… the conflict here was slow and brutal—guerrilla warfare and sieges that left Alexander and his men exhausted and disillusioned. The frozen mountains and blazing deserts of the region were a far cry from the battlefields they were used to, and “glorious battle” seemed to be a thing of the past.

Alexander spent two agonizing years in Afghanistan, a major chunk of his historic campaign across western and central Asia. Granted, he didn’t leave the brutal landscape empty-handed: His primary goal in Bactria was to capture the traitorous Bessus, and he accomplished that. The rival claimant to the throne of the Persian Empire was dealt with, and Alexander could rightfully call himself the King of Kings. But the price he paid for that luxury was extreme.

Alexander’s most successful enemy in Afghanistan was the land itself. He lost far more men to the frigid peaks of the Hindu Kush or the scorching Northern Afghan desert than to any military resistance he faced. And when he did try to engage enemy forces, he found himself playing a frustrating game of whack-a-mole.

Once he left, his victory was short-lived:

Fighting in Afghanistan was a Sisyphean task, and Alexander’s grip on the region started slipping the moment that he left. While it was considered a part of the enormous Empire that he left after his death, control of the territory was tenuous at best. Revolts began almost the moment that Alexander dropped dead, and they seemingly never truly stopped. Rebellion was simply a reality for any foreign state that attempted to claim sovereignty over the unforgiving landscape.

Nonetheless, he left a legacy with the foundation of several cities, including Kandahar. He also found a wife there:

He founded many cities as he chased Bessus across the region, some of which still exist today. The most notable is the city of Kandahar, which he named Alexandria Arachosia (in fact, it’s believed that the name Kandahar itself is derived from the Persian name for Alexander, Iskandar). He also found his famous bride, the beautiful Roxana, whom he loved above all others, in the region. But while Alexander left his mark on Afghanistan, Afghanistan also left its mark on him.

Centuries later, the British tried to control the country as did the Soviets. Both failed.

That would not stop another British foray nor did it stop the Americans.

The Americans tried their best

I have only a few bookmarks on the Americans’ long-term mission in Afghanistan.

In October 2009, Michelle Malkin found two reports about a deadly attack on US troops. She wrote (emphasis in the original):

An incredible account from ABC News reporter Karen Russo, who notes that wounded troops refused to leave the battlefield this weekend during the deadly siege at Kamdeysh:

Flying into the besieged Afghan base during a nighttime firefight this weekend is a harrowing mix of overwhelming noise, stomach dropping maneuvers and shadows hurrying through the gloom.

When the chopper lifted off moments later with three wounded soldiers, it left behind others who were wounded but refused to be MEDEVACED out of the combat zone so they could return to fight with their buddies.

As fighting at two U.S. outposts raged on the ground this weekend, the MEDEVAC team at a nearby base waited – with both patience and frustration.

Eight soldiers, all from Fort Carson, were killed that night. Malkin cited another report (emphases mine):

In the deadliest day for Fort Carson since Vietnam, eight soldiers from the post’s 4th Brigade Combat Team died in Afghanistan on Saturday when insurgents attacked a pair of remote outposts in Nuristan province

“My heart goes out to the families of those we have lost and to their fellow Soldiers who remained to finish this fight,” Col. Randy George, the brigade’s commander, said in a statement late Saturday. “This was a complex attack in a difficult area. Both the U.S. and Afghan Soldiers fought bravely together; I am extremely proud of their professionalism and bravery.”

Later that month, when Obama had been in the White House for less than a year, Global Research published ‘America’s Phoney War in Afghanistan’, which posited that the real reasons for being in Afghanistan were far removed from terror. Controlling the opium supply there was one real objective. The second was to maintain a bulwark against Russia and China.

Excerpts follow:

The US military is in Afghanistan for two reasons. First to restore and control the world’s largest supply of opium for the world heroin markets and to use the drugs as a geopolitical weapon against opponents, especially Russia. That control of the Afghan drug market is essential for the liquidity of the bankrupt and corrupt Wall Street financial mafia.

According even to an official UN report, opium production in Afghanistan has risen dramatically since the downfall of the Taliban in 2001. UNODC data shows more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past four growing seasons (2004-2007), than in any one year during Taliban rule. More land is now used for opium in Afghanistan, than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This is no accident.

It has been documented that Washington hand-picked the controversial Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun warlord from the Popalzai tribe, long in the CIA’s service, brought him back from exile in the USA, created a Hollywood mythology around his “courageous leadership of his people.” According to Afghan sources, Karzai is the Opium “Godfather” of Afghanistan today. There is apparently no accident that he was and is today still Washington’s preferred man in Kabul. Yet even with massive vote buying and fraud and intimidation, Karzai’s days could be ending as President.

The second reason the US military remains in Afghanistan long after the world has forgotten even who the mysterious Osama bin Laden and his alleged Al Qaeda terrorist organization is or even if they exist, is as a pretext to build a permanent US military strike force with a series of permanent US airbases across Afghanistan. The aim of those bases is not to eradicate any Al Qaeda cells that may have survived in the caves of Tora Bora, or to eradicate a mythical “Taliban” which at this point according to eyewitness reports is made up overwhelmingly of local ordinary Afghanis fighting to rid their land once more of occupier armies as they did in the 1980’s against the Russians.

The aim of the US bases in Afghanistan is to target and be able to strike at the two nations which today represent the only combined threat in the world today to an American global imperium, to America’s Full Spectrum Dominance as the Pentagon terms it …

Each Eurasian power brings to the table essential contributions. China has the world’s most robust economy, a huge young and dynamic workforce, an educated middle class. Russia, whose economy has not recovered from the destructive end of the Soviet era and of the primitive looting during the Yeltsin era, still holds essential assets for the combination. Russia’s nuclear strike force and its military pose the only threat in the world today to US military dominance, even if it is largely a residue of the Cold War. The Russian military elites never gave up that potential.

As well Russia holds the world’s largest treasure of natural gas and vast reserves of oil urgently needed by China. The two powers are increasingly converging via a new organization they created in 2001 known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). That includes as well as China and Russia, the largest Central Asia states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The purpose of the alleged US war against both Taliban and Al Qaeda is in reality to place its military strike force directly in the middle of the geographical space of this emerging SCO in Central Asia. Iran is a diversion. The main goal or target is Russia and China.

Officially, of course, Washington claims it has built its military presence inside Afghanistan since 2002 in order to protect a “fragile” Afghan democracy. It’s a curious argument given the reality of US military presence there.

In December 2004, during a visit to Kabul, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finalized plans to build nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia. The nine are in addition to the three major US military bases already installed in the wake of its occupation of Afghanistan in winter of 2001-2002, ostensibly to isolate and eliminate the terror threat of Osama bin Laden.

The Pentagon built its first three bases at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, the US’ main military logistics center; Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan; and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand, the largest US base in Afghanistan, was constructed a mere 100 kilometers from the border of Iran, and within striking distance of Russia as well as China.

Afghanistan has historically been the heartland for the British-Russia Great Game, the struggle for control of Central Asia during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. British strategy then was to prevent Russia at all costs from controlling Afghanistan and thereby threatening Britain’s imperial crown jewel, India.

Afghanistan is similarly regarded by Pentagon planners as highly strategic. It is a platform from which US military power could directly threaten Russia and China, as well as Iran and other oil-rich Middle East lands. Little has changed geopolitically over more than a century of wars.

Afghanistan is in an extremely vital location, straddling South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Afghanistan also lies along a proposed oil pipeline route from the Caspian Sea oil fields to the Indian Ocean, where the US oil company, Unocal, along with Enron and Cheney’s Halliburton, had been in negotiations for exclusive pipeline rights to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to Enron’s huge natural gas power plant at Dabhol near Mumbai. Karzai, before becoming puppet US president, had been a Unocal lobbyist.

By the time the article was posted, there was allegedly little terrorism threat left:

the National Security Adviser to President Obama, former Marine Gen. James Jones has made a statement, conveniently buried by the friendly US media, about the estimated size of the present Al Qaeda danger in Afghanistan. Jones told Congress, “The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

That means that Al-Qaeda, for all practical purposes, does not exist in Afghanistan. Oops…

If we follow the statement to its logical consequence we must conclude then that the reason German soldiers are dying along with other NATO youth in the mountains of Afghanistan has nothing to do with “winning a war against terrorism.” Conveniently most media chooses to forget the fact that Al Qaeda to the extent it ever existed, was a creation in the 1980’s of the CIA, who recruited and trained radical muslims from across the Islamic world to wage war against Russian troops in Afghanistan as part of a strategy developed by Reagan’s CIA head Bill Casey and others to create a “new Vietnam” for the Soviet Union which would lead to a humiliating defeat for the Red Army and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now US NSC head Jones admits there is essentially no Al Qaeda anymore in Afghanistan. Perhaps it is time for a more honest debate from our political leaders about the true purpose of sending more young to die protecting the opium harvests of Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, terror remained a by-product of the American presence in Afghanistan. One Afghan-American visitor was so affected by his time there that he returned to launch terror attacks of his own in the Chelsea district of Manhattan as well as in a shore town in New Jersey. He was from Elizabeth, New Jersey.

On September 19, 2016, the Boston Herald reported that a friend of the suspect said that the visit to Afghanistan was ‘life-changing’:

A man who described himself as a childhood friend of the 28-year-old busted today in connection with this weekend’s New York-area bombings told the Herald the suspect made a life-changing trip to Afghanistan two years ago

“At one point he left to go to Afghanistan, and two years ago he came back, popped up out of nowhere and he was real religious,” friend Flee Jones, 27, said of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami. “And it was shocking. I’m trying to understand what’s going on. I’ve never seen him like this.”

Police this morning released a photo of Rahami, an Afghan immigrant and U.S. citizen, wanted for questioning in the bombings that rocked a Manhattan neighborhood and a New Jersey shore town. Rahami was taken into custody after a gunfight in nearby Linden today at 11:20 a.m. (See that story here…)

The terror suspect’s arrest came after investigators this morning swarmed a chicken restaurant and apartment here in connection with the hunt for Rahami, Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage told the Herald …

Bollwage told the Herald the search began after five people were pulled over on the Belt Parkway last night in connection with the bombing in Chelsea. That led to the search of First American Fried Chicken and the apartment above it in Elizabeth, Bollwage said, but it was unclear how the people detained were connected to the restaurant.

In addition to the blast in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday that injured dozens, a pipe bomb exploded in a New Jersey shore town before a charity 5K race and an unexploded pressure cooker device was found blocks away from the explosion site in Chelsea. Yesterday, five explosive devices were discovered at an Elizabeth train station.

FBI agents as well as state and local police were in the eatery and the apartment upstairs, which are cordoned off by yellow crime tape. Investigators towed a black Toyota sedan away from the street in front of the restaurant this morning …

According to an Elizabeth resident, Rahami worked the register at the restaurant and was in charge when his father was gone.

A few months earlier, in June, the father of mass shooter Omar Raheem allegedly supported the Taliban and wanted to become president of Afghanistan. The Daily Mail reported:

Mass shooter Omar Mateen’s father Seddique Mateen recently visited Congress, the State Department and met political leaders during a trip to Washington, DC.

Mateen, who made the trip in April, is seen in social media posts posing in front of the State Department and Democratic Foreign Services Committee offices.

The Afghanistan native, who also regularly writes open letters to President Barack Obama, has expressed gratitude [to the] Afghan Taliban who hosts the Durand Jirga Show on a channel called Payam-e-Afghan, which broadcasts from California 

Dozens of videos are posted under Mateen’s name on YouTube, where he speaks on a range of political subjects in the Dari language.

One video shows him declaring his candidacy for the Afghan presidency.

Posts include topics such as ‘Rise Afghan people against Pakistan’ and ‘Intelligent service and Military of Pakistan real Enemy of the USA (sic)’.

In one video the elder Mateen holds up a sign that reads: ‘ISI Pakistan and Military is Destroying 14 years of US work in Afghanistan to cut AID to killers’.

Meanwhile, the Taliban were still terrorising children, revealing the fact that local government was superior to that from the nation’s capital, Kabul. On June 12, 2010, the Taliban hanged a seven-year-old boy in order to punish his family. The Telegraph reported:

Del Awar, aged seven, was taken at sunset and found hanging in an orchard at sunrise the following day.

Bruises and scratches around the young boy’s neck suggested his murder had been neither quick, nor easy, according to those who saw his slight body after it was cut down.

His death is widely believed to have been punishment for the stand taken by his family against the Taliban in their remote Helmand village.

Reports from the village of Heratiyan in Sangin district said Del Awar’s father, Abdul Qudoos, and grandfather, Abdel Satar, had grown tired of Taliban intimidation and the violence the militants attracted.

The family had either demanded rebel fighters stop using village compounds to stage ambushes or had refused a demand of £400 for machine guns, villagers reported.

The two men had been angrily denounced as Nato or US spies and unknown to them, Del Awar’s cruel fate was sealed.

The Taliban have denied the killing, but in Heratiyan where villagers must live under the reality of complete militant control, many privately doubt their protestations.

Awar’s father, Abdul Qudoos, was a poor man who could not send his children to school and did not have a feud with anyone, explained Maulawi Shamsullah Sahrai, a 50-year-old elder from the village …

For those accused of collaboration with the Nato-led forces or with Mr Karzai’s weak government, Taliban control often means rapid summary execution.

Afghanistan brought other peculiarities involving alliances through sexual relations. In 2014, an American couple sued the United States Marines for allegedly covering up the circumstances of their son’s death in 2012. The New York Post reported:

The shattered family of a Long Island Marine murdered by an Afghan rebel on an American military base in 2012 is suing the corps and top brass for allegedly covering up details of the incident, The Post has learned.

Relatives of Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., 21, of Oceanside, say his killer served as a “tea boy” for an infamous Afghan police chief who was allowed to operate out of the Helmand province compound despite his perverse reputation, according to the Brooklyn federal suit filed Wednesday.

Ainuddin Khudairaham walked into a gym on the base and shot dead Buckley, Cpl. Richard Rivera and Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson. He proclaimed himself a jihadist before being arrested.

Khudairaham was employed on the base by Sarwar Jan, a notorious Afghan police chief with a taste for young boys, drug dealing, and trading arms with the Taliban, the suit states.

He had already been ejected from another village for his unsavory activities and the US military compiled a dossier of his ugly exploits long before he arrived at Buckley’s base, court papers state.

Afghan women continued to be terrorised, as the Daily Mail reported on December 28, 2016, after Donald Trump had been elected president:

A woman has reportedly been beheaded by a group of armed men in Afghanistan after she entered a city without her husband.

The horrific act took place in the remote village of Latti in Sar-e-Pul province, which is under Taliban control.

Provincial Governor spokesman Zabiullah Amani told the Nation that the 30-year-old woman was targeted because she went out alone without her husband, who is in Iran.

The Middle East Press reported the woman had gone to the market to shop.

Under Taliban rule women are prohibited from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative.

They are also banned from working or education and are forced to wear the burqa.

The Taliban have rejected any involvement in this latest incident

Gateway Pundit carried the story and said that Trump would bring better days:

There is hope, however because Donald Trump has publicly stated that ‘things will be different after January 20th’.

Terrorism persisted in Afghanistan. On April 13, 2017, Trump retaliated with a MOAB, Mother of All Bombs:

Here is a video of the MOAB:

A Fox News article from that time stated that the MOAB had been tested for deployment as early as 2003:

It was first tested in 2003, but hadn’t been used in combat before Thursday.

Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said the bomb had been brought to Afghanistan “some time ago” for potential useThe bomb explodes in the air, creating air pressure that can make tunnels and other structures collapse. It can be used at the start of an offensive to soften up the enemy, weakening both its infrastructure and morale.

“As [ISIS’] losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against [ISIS].”

President Trump told media Thursday afternoon that “this was another successful mission” and he gave the military total authorization.

Trump was also asked whether dropping the bomb sends a warning to North Korea.

“North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” said Trump.

It was thought that the MOAB was launched in retaliation for the death of a Green Beret soldier. The Daily Mail reported that the Pentagon denied any revenge:

The blast killed 36 militants as it destroyed three underground tunnels as well as weapons and ammunition, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense said.

No civilians were hurt, he added.

U.S. forces used a 30-foot long, GPS-guided GBU-43 bomb, at around 7.30pm local time in the Nangarhar Province …

A crater left by the blast is believed to be more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide after it exploded six feet above the ground. Anyone at the blast site was vaporized

The Pentagon is denying that the attack was a revenge strike despite the fact that it came in the same area of Afghanistan where a Green Beret soldier was killed on Saturday.

Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar of the 7th Special Forces Group was cut down by enemy small arms fire while his unit was conducting counter-ISIS operations. 

A WikiLeaks document, quoting a New York Times article, says that the CIA had built those tunnels with the help of their then-ally, Osama bin Laden, who had a degree in civil engineering. He tapped into his family’s construction equipment. They owned the Saudi Binladin Group:

From the White House, Sean Spicer confirmed the MOAB hit. Nearly two-thirds of registered American voters approved.

Weeks later, on May 7, the US confirmed they had taken out Afghanistan’s head of ISIS at the end of April. Reuters reported:

The head of Islamic State in Afghanistan, Abdul Hasib, was killed in an operation on April 27 conducted jointly by Afghan and U.S. Special Forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, U.S. and Afghan officials said on Sunday.

Hasib, appointed last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a U.S. drone strike, is believed to have ordered a series of high profile attacks including one in March 8 on the main military hospital in Kabul, a statement said.

Last month, a Pentagon spokesman said Hasib had probably been killed during the raid by U.S. and Afghan special forces in Nangarhar during which two U.S. army Rangers were killed, but prior to Sunday’s announcement there had been no confirmation.

“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson said in a statement from U.S. military headquarters in Kabul.

Late that summer, on August 21, Trump gave a speech on the future of Afghanistan, stating that he was weary of the American presence. He said that the country would need to sort its own governance out. He told the terrorists that America was keeping a close eye on them. He threatened to withdraw funding for Pakistan if they continued to support terrorists. He requested help and support from India. The short version is here, but beware of the language from the person summarising it.

The full transcript of Trump’s speech is here. It is too long to excerpt. He delivered it before the first lady, Mike Pence and a group of American troops.

By October 13, Pakistan was helping the United States. That day, Trump tweeted:

Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts.

Nearly one year later, on September 3, 2018 — Labor Day — an American soldier serving in Operation Resolute Support was killed in an attack on NATO forces. He was the sixth American to fall in Afghanistan that year.

Two days earlier, news emerged that China was encroaching on Afghanistan, specifically into the Wakhan Corridor, which connects China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang to Afghanistan. This is a thin tongue-shaped area of land, which you can see in a map here.

On September 1, Lawrence Sellin, a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve, wrote an article for the Indian Center for Diplomatic Studies, ‘China Moves into Afghanistan As Part of Its Global Expansion Mission’.

He wrote that China was seeking to end the Afghan conflict and enhance their own strategic standing:

For many, it was a stunning development. China will build a brigade-size military training facility in the strategic Wakhan Corridor, the land bridge between Tajikistan and Pakistan, which is located in Afghanistan’s northeast Badakhshan province and borders China.

Although Beijing denied the claim that hundreds of Chinese soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan, a source close to the Chinese military stated, “Construction of the base has started, and China will send at least one battalion of troops, along with weapons and equipment, to be stationed there and provide training to their Afghan counterparts.”

For those who have been closely following growing Chinese influence in Afghanistan, the above report comes as no surprise.

A year earlier on August 14, 2017, Spogmai radio quoted the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense (translation): “A brigade base will be built to maintain the security of Badakhshan, which will be funded by China.”

The spokesman stated that China has steadily increased its military cooperation with Afghanistan and had, at that point, already provided $73 million in military aid.

Beyond the enormous geopolitical implications of a Chinese military base inside Afghanistan, the Badakhshan installation is the final security link between Tajikistan, vital to China’s commercial interests in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, China’s “all-weather” ally in South Asia.

It was largely unreported that China financed border outposts and deployed troops to Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, which borders Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province and is part of the Wakhan Corridor.

Consolidating a Chinese presence in Badakhshan province, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Technology has discussed signing a contract with China Telecom for a fiber optic network connecting China to the Wakhan Corridor. No doubt, the intention is to couple that system to the larger network linking China with Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa.

China is already Afghanistan’s biggest investor. In 2007 it took a $3 billion, 30-year lease for the Aynak copper mine. China and Pakistan have offered to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan. Some have concluded that the CPEC invitation is a prelude to positioning China as a mediator to end the Afghan conflict.

I will stop there and continue tomorrow.

Involvement in Afghanistan is an unholy mess, aided and abetted by China and its allies.

As I wrote last week, the fawning media coverage of Prince Philip’s death, especially by the BBC, was appalling in its hypocrisy.

They were rarely nice and respectful to him during his long life. It was disgusting to see BBC reporters suddenly in black, notionally fighting back tears. For decades, they and other media outlets treated this man terribly, so much so that, for many years, I wondered why the Queen had married the Prince. No one I knew could explain why. Eventually, I had to do my own research to learn more about him.

Re media knavery, here’s a case in point. In 2019, the BBC’s veteran radio presenter and, more recently, host of Mastermind, John Humphreys told of his slanging match with Prince Philip in 1975 during a Royal visit to Mexico. There was a mix-up over what vehicle each was to have been travelling in. That’s what he remembered about Prince Philip.

Humphreys then proceeded to voice his regret about not having an exclusive interview with the Queen. The Sun (link above) reported (emphases mine):

John, who left Radio 4’s Today last month, was speaking to BBC colleague Justin Webb at an event organised by Intelligence Squared.

The retired newshound, famous for his tough grillings, also admitted he twice begged the Queen, 93, to do an interview — but said she replied: “Nope.”

She also told him that if she was ever to do such a chat, it would “certainly not be with you”.

John said: “I have wanted to sit there and say, ‘With me this morning is Her Majesty The Queen.’

“She has probably met more powerful people than anyone else. And there’s the gossip, you know what I mean?”

Good for the Queen for seeing through John Humphreys. Such an interview would have been all about him.

Last week, MPs and Peers in Westminster spent time remembering Prince Philip. So did representatives in the devolved assemblies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

One young MLA from Northern Ireland said that she ‘never really appreciated’ Prince Philip until he died, at which point she discovered all sorts of interesting details about his life that she had never heard before.

Well, yes, the media hid all that from the British public.

The only time Prince Philip was in the news was when he made one of his famous ‘gaffes’ on a trip. News presenters would ask the royal reporters if said gaffes would cause a diplomatic incident or harm trade relations with the country in question.

The satirical magazine Private Eye referred to the Prince as Phil the Greek. One would expect that from a satirical magazine. However, the news media were no better.

Even on May 4, 2017, when the 95-year-old Prince announced he would be standing down from public life, coverage was lukewarm, including in The Telegraph.

These are the principal facts from the article, mixed in with the usual negatives:

The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron, President or a member of over 780 organisations, with which he will continue to be associated, although he will no longer play an active role by attending engagements …

The Duke of Edinburgh has spent 25 days so far this year carrying out public engagements – more than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Queen.

Philip’s appearances out and about with the monarch in the public eye since the start of 2017 have ranged from feeding an elephant at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to attending the unveiling of a national memorial on Horse Guards Parade.

Solo engagements by the 95-year-old also included opening the new Warner Stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on Wednesday and meeting actor Tom Cruise at a Buckingham Palace dinner to mark the 75th anniversary of the Outward Bound Trust in March.

The article also had a section called ‘The Prince in numbers’:

Here are some facts about Prince Philip:

Total number of solo engagements – 22,191

Total number of solo overseas visits – 637 (Commonwealth countries – 229 visits to 67 countries / other countries 408 visits to 76 countries)

Total number of speeches given – 5,493

Total number of patronages – 785 organisations

Presentation of colours – 54

Number of service appointments – 32

Number of books authored – 14

Oddly, the best tribute that day came from Jeremy Corbyn MP, who led the Labour Party at that time. Corbyn is hardly known for his royalist sentiments, but he recognised the Prince’s service over so many decades:

I would like to pay tribute to Prince Philip following his decision to retire from public service.

He has dedicated his life to supporting the Queen and our country with a clear sense of public duty.

His Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has inspired young people for more than 60 years in over 140 nations.

We thank Prince Philip for his service to the country and wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.

On July 8, 2020, CheatSheet listed the Prince’s most famous ‘gaffes’ and pointed the finger at him for his globalist perspectives regarding overpopulation, complete with a video:

Back in 1988, the duke brought up overpopulation when speaking to the German news agency Deutsche Press Agentur about reincarnation.

“In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation,” The Telegraph quoted Philip saying at the time.

A few different versions of the quote have circulated during the coronavirus outbreak. Another published version claims the queen’s husband said: “If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”

Prince Philip has never shied away from his feelings about overpopulation. In 2008, he said he believed it was one of the biggest challenges in conservation before offering his thoughts on what should be done about it.

And prior to that, the Duke of Edinburgh told People Magazine: “Human population growth is probably the single most serious long-term threat to survival. We’re in for a major disaster if it isn’t curbed–not just for the natural world, but for the human world. The more people there are, the more resources they’ll consume, the more pollution they’ll create, the more fighting they’ll do…If it isn’t controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily by an increase in disease, starvation, and war.”

It was left to ordinary people — not journalists — to tell the world about the Prince and his life. Did you know, for example, that Prince Philip held the Queen’s hand while she gave birth to Prince Edward in 1964? Very, very few fathers did that in the 1960s.

This is an excellent Twitter thread about his life on the occasion of his 99th birthday last June:

Last Monday, a number of MPs said that they had participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme when they were young. A few of them said that the programme — comprised of arduous Bronze, Silver and Gold levels — gave them the confidence to run for public office. It also encouraged physical activity and spurred Lady (Tanni) Grey-Thomas to become an award-winning Paralympian — now a crossbench life peer in the House of Lords. She explains the programme in more detail in this short video:

The residents of the South Pacific island of Tanna must have been sad to know that the man whom they viewed as their messiah had departed this mortal coil. They believed that he would settle among them:

What we did not know was that Prince Philip, once he found out he was so revered, kept in touch with the islanders, sent them gifts and also met privately with a delegation of them at Windsor Castle.

On Sunday, April 18, The Telegraph reported on this unusual story, excerpted below:

In the Sixties, when Vanuatu was an Anglo-French colony known as the New Hebrides, it is believed that tribesmen would have set eyes on a portrait of Prince Philip alongside the Queen (whom he had married in 1947) hanging in various official buildings – and decided that this handsome young man in the Naval uniform was the very same ancestor of their god.

This belief that the Duke was a prodigal son of the island was reinforced when coincidentally he and the Queen made an official visit to the New Hebrides in 1974. A warrior named Chief Jack Naiva, who died in 2009, was one of the paddlers of a war canoe that greeted the Royal Yacht Britannia.

“I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform,” Chief Jack is on record as saying. “I knew then that he was the true messiah.”

Ever since, villagers have prayed to the British monarch daily. They ask for his blessing on the banana and yam crops they grow in the fertile volcanic soil and have held on to the fervent belief that one day he will return to the island and unite the nations of England and Tanna

Largely cut off from the world with limited electronic communications, the islanders were only made aware of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death last Friday when a worker from a nearby spa resort made a journey on Saturday afternoon to break the news to them. It was reported that one tribeswoman immediately burst into tears, while the men fell silent as they tried to comfort their children.

When the Duke retired from public duties in May 2017, villagers only found out several days later after a visit by a Reuters journalist. The village chief Jack Malia said then that the islanders were still holding on to the hope that the Duke would visit.

“If he comes one day, the people will not be poor, there will be no sickness, no debt and the garden will be growing very well,” he said through an interpreter at the local Nakamal – a traditional meeting place where the tribesman gather at night to swap stories and drink highly intoxicating kava.

The same drink was cracked open to celebrate the 89th birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh on June 10, 2010 – the date he was initially prophesied to return to the island and live alongside villagers in a straw hut, hunting the wild pigs that are abundant on the island and adopting the local traditional dress which, for males, is nothing but a large grass sheath …

Discovered in 1774 by Captain James Cook, in 1906 the islands became the New Hebrides, jointly administered by Britain and France until independence in 1980. Even after his visit in 1974, the Prince was not aware of the legend surrounding him until John Champion, the British Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides, told him a few years later.

Ever since, he has always taken the esteem with which he is held by the people of Tanna extremely seriously. Over the years he has exchanged various gifts with the islanders. Tanna elders once sent Prince Philip a “nal nal” wooden hunting club. He in turn sent them back a photograph of himself holding the club – which has become a cherished religious icon on the island alongside other photographs of the Duke.

In 2007, a delegation of five islanders visited Britain in the hope of an audience with Prince Philip as part of a Channel 4 documentary called Meet the Natives. The filmmakers took the men to stay with Prince Philip’s friend Sir Humphrey Wakefield at Chillingham castle in Northumberland. Sir Humphrey, whose daughter Mary Wakefield is married to Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings, took the Tanna tribesmen on a hunting trip and invited them to various black tie dinners.

At one of the dinners where another friend of the Duke, Lord Haddington, was in attendance, he assured the visitors: “If he had a moment, he would love to meet you, I’m sure.”

The Duke was good to his word and eventually hosted the men for a private reception at Windsor Castle, which the film crew was not invited to attend. Once they had returned to Tanna, the delegation relayed the somewhat cryptic message they said they had been given by the Duke of Edinburgh to their chief – “When it is warm, I will send a message. At the moment, it is cold in England.”

In 2018, the Prince of Wales followed in his father’s footsteps and visited Vanuatu where he was made an honorary high chief. During the ceremony, he was presented with local gifts and garlands of flowers and took a sip of specially brewed Royal Kava, which had last been consumed when Prince Philip visited in 1974.

In the tradition of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs, the heir to the throne took part in a series of rituals before being given the high chief name of Mal Menaringmanu.

In closing, on April 18, the leader of Sinn Féin apologised for the IRA’s assassination of Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, in 1979. He is shown on the left in this photo, standing next to his nephew:

The Independent reported that party leader Mary Lou McDonald told Times Radio:

My job, and I think that Prince Charles and others would absolutely appreciate this, my job is to lead from the front, now, in these times.

I believe it is all our jobs to ensure that no other child, no other family, no matter who they are, suffers the same trauma and heartbreak that was all too common on all sides of this island and beyond.

I have an absolute responsibility to make sure that no family faces that again and I am happy to reiterate that on the weekend that your Queen buried her beloved husband.

Better late than never, but not surprising in timing.

One does wonder if this apology — take it for what it is — would have been made sooner had media coverage of the Prince been more positive while he was alive.

Nonetheless, even left-leaning nationalists in the Stormont assembly in Northern Ireland praised the Queen and Prince Philip for their visits and for helping to reconcile both sides of the political aisle to bring peace to what is still a troubled nation.

Tomorrow’s post, all being well, will cover the highlights of the Prince’s funeral.

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.

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