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Previous instalments in my series on Harry and Meghan can be found here, here, here and here.

I left off at the end of 2019, with The Sun publishing a story on the Sussexes imminent extended visit to Canada, which enraged the Duke and Duchess:

On December 21 that year, Sky News reported:

Harry and Meghan’s spokeswoman ended speculation over their whereabouts by confirming the couple and their seven-month-old son Archie are spending their six-week Christmas break in the country Meghan called home for seven years.

“The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both,” she said.

“The Duke of Sussex has been a frequent visitor to Canada over many years, and it was also home to The Duchess for seven years before she became a member of the Royal Family.

“They are enjoying sharing the warmth of the Canadian people and the beauty of the landscape with their young son.”

The duchess lived in Toronto before joining the Royal Family as the popular US drama Suits, in which she starred in, was filmed in the Canadian city.

Harry and Meghan were famously pictured in Toronto in 2017 at the Invictus Games.

The Sussexes are likely to have spent the US Thanksgiving celebrations on 28 November with the duchess’ mother Doria Ragland.

Prince Harry’s grandmother, the Queen, is said to be supportive of the Sussexes’ plan to take a long break and not join the rest of the Royal Family at Sandringham on Christmas Day.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have previously spent Christmas with Kate’s parents in Berkshire instead of with the Queen.

Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, 98, was taken to hospital in London on Friday from Sandringham for treatment for a pre-existing condition, Buckingham Palace said.

The Queen had just arrived at the Norfolk estate for her Christmas break after the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday …

By Christmas Eve, the Mail reported that the Royal Family wanted the couple to return home in light of Prince Philip’s stay in hospital:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been urged by Royal family members to return from abroad to spend Christmas in the UK, as Prince Philip spends a fourth night in hospital …

It comes after a family Christmas card of the royal couple smiling in front of a Christmas tree, with Archie’s adorable face staring down the camera lens, was revealed.

On December 28, news emerged in the UK that:

THE Duke and Duchess of Sussex have registered the trademarks for hundreds of products with their Sussex Royal brand.

That same day, Blind Gossip posted ‘The Big Plan’:

Think back to a few months ago when we talked about the baby.

Our married couple was oddly reluctant to let the public see the baby, citing concerns over safety and a desire to bond privately.

We told you that wasn’t true. Plenty of their family members have managed to keep their children safe and secure over many generations while meeting their obligations as public figures.

We told you that the couple was actually trying to keep sightings of the baby rare while they figured out how to monetize the situation… without the rest of the family finding out.

They bungled that scenario.

However, it’s now full steam ahead with The Big Plan!

What is The Big Plan?

To brand and monetize everything.

You are now seeing that plan being put into motion. And if you question what they are doing, you will be met with anger, misdirection, and insistence that their motives are pure.

We hid the baby because… Privacy! Motherhood!

We take private planes and stay in posh private digs because… Environment! Wellness!

We isolate ourselves from 99% of our family and surround ourselves with celebrities because… Family! Safety!

We are engaging our own outside lawyers and PR team because… Protection! Charity!

How dare you question our motives!

See how that works?

Fortunately, the Queen put paid to Sussex Royal on February 18, 2020, as the Mail reported:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex must drop their ‘Sussex Royal’ label after deciding to step down as working royals.

Following lengthy and complex talks, the Queen and senior officials are believed to have agreed it is no longer tenable for the couple to keep the word ‘royal’ in their ‘branding’.

Harry and Meghan have spent tens of thousands of pounds on a new Sussex Royal website to complement their hugely popular Instagram feed.

They have also sought to register Sussex Royal as a global trademark for a range of items and activities, including clothing, stationery, books and teaching materials. 

In addition, they have taken steps to set up a new charitable organisation: Sussex Royal, The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

It has now been made clear that they will need to ‘re-brand’.

Returning to December 2019 and January 2020, Harry was eager to work out some sort of arrangement for his and Meghan’s future with the then-Prince Charles. Charles told his son that such things had to be done in person, not via email. Prior to that, Harry had contacted the Queen, who said she would be happy to meet with him until it turned out her diary was full.

Various excerpts in this post come from investigative-turned-royal reporter Valentine Low and his 2022 best-seller, Courtiers. Royal insider Lady Colin Campbell said on GB News a few weeks ago that Low’s book must be the definitive one he had so much access to the people who run the Palace.

On a personal note, I read all of Valentine Low’s work when he wrote for the London Evening Standard around the Millennium. Low left no stone unturned in his lengthy exposés, and it is good to see that he continues to doggedly investigate his subject matter.

Another book I would recommend is Tom Bower’s 2022 best-seller Revenge, which concerns the Sussexes lives. It, too, is packed with detail. Again on a personal note, I read his biography of the late Robert ‘Bob’ Maxwell in the 1990s. Maxwell died an unresolved mysterious death on his yacht. Maxwell was larger than life, both physically and figuratively. Bower’s biography was a page-turner, from start to finish.

I sent both Courtiers and Revenge as Christmas gifts in 2022. I commend them to my readers.

‘Cornered, misunderstood, deeply unhappy

Valentine Low’s excerpt, which The Times published on September 25, 2022, explains what happened between December 2019 and January 2020 (emphases mine):

The current set-up was not working for them, and they wanted to go and live in North America. Harry seemed to be under the impression that they could just sort it out by email before he and Meghan got back to London on January 6. The reply they got, however, was that this would require a proper family conversation. They were also told that the first date that the family would be available was January 29. It is not clear if this inflexibility was on the part of Charles, who was due to be in Davos, or that this was the response of his long-time private secretary Clive Alderton, pulling the strings. Either way, from the Sussex point of view, this went down incredibly badly. It fed into the narrative that they were not being taken seriously by the palace machinery, or by the rest of the family.

Harry had tried to speed up matters by arranging to see his grandmother alone before he left Canada. However, the message was conveyed to him that the Queen had been confused about her diary, and was no longer available. Harry was incensed, because it was not true: the courtiers had got in the way, it seemed, because they saw the meeting with the Queen as an attempt to pick the Queen off before Harry started talks with the rest of the family. As one source put it, “There was a danger that a private conversation could be interpreted very differently by two people.”

And so it turned out with other conversations concerning the Sussexes, leaving the Queen to state that ‘some recollections may vary’.

Harry considered travelling directly to Sandringham to see his grandmother:

He eventually dropped the idea, but it was a sign of his frustration that he even contemplated such a move.

Royal diaries opened up early in January 2020:

Given that the couple announced their plans to stand down on January 8, and the royal family met to discuss it all five days later on January 13 — the so-called Sandringham summit — it seems that the family diary was rather more flexible than originally appeared.

Harry and Meghan could be maddening, of course; they had already infuriated the royal family by pushing out their Megxit announcement on January 8 with the minimum of notice when all the talks had been about issuing a joint statement. But the palace also showed the sort of initial inflexibility that was always guaranteed to infuriate them. Harry and Meghan felt cornered, misunderstood and deeply unhappy. If the rest of the institution failed to appreciate that, even if their demands were unreasonable, the departure negotiations were never going to end happily. It is uncontroversial to suggest that the Sussexes would regard the talks as a failure. They wanted to find a compromise whereby they could live part of the year abroad but carry out some royal duties at home. No such compromise was found. Instead, they lost their royal duties, their patronages, Harry’s military affiliations, their security, their income from the Prince of Wales and, for official purposes anyway, their HRH titles. They pretty much lost everything, except for the freedom to do exactly what they want.

This is what I meant yesterday by the mess of pottage.

The courtiers were busy:

In the immediate aftermath of the Sussex bombshell on January 8, when the Queen said she wanted all four households to “work together at pace” to find a workable solution, Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, was with the Queen at Sandringham. The first negotiations took place in Clarence House — Charles’s home ground — over the following four days, with the private secretaries and communications secretaries from the four households all trying to find a way to make the Sussexes’ dreams a reality. They gathered in Alderton’s office, a sunny first-floor room where paintings from the Royal Collection sit alongside photographs of Alderton’s own family. Young would join the talks on the phone from Norfolk, but for the first few days it was Alderton who was leading the discussions. (Later, they would all have talks at Buckingham Palace.) Simon Case, Prince William’s private secretary, who is now cabinet secretary, also played a pivotal role. “He was talking to both sides,” said a source.

The people sitting around the table went through five different scenarios, which ranged from Harry and Meghan spending most of their time being working members of the royal family, but having a month a year to do their own thing, to them spending most of their time privately, but doing a select number of royal activities. There was, according to more than one source, a positive atmosphere in the room: they wanted to find a solution. At one stage, Alderton made the point that if they could get this right, they would be solving a problem for future generations of the royal family who were not in the direct line of succession.

Ultimately, the Queen decided that the couple could not be both in and out of the Royal Family:

By the end of the week, the five scenarios had been worked through. The view from the palace establishment was that, however much time Harry and Meghan spent away from royal duties, anything they did would reflect on the institution. That meant that the normal rules about royal behaviour would apply. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

But the Sussexes wanted their freedom: freedom to make money, freedom to dip their toes into American politics. There was no way for the two sides to reach an agreement on that point. Crucially, it was the Queen who took the view that unless the couple were prepared to abide by the restrictions that applied to working members of the royal family, they could not be allowed to carry out official duties. One source said: “There was a very clear view: you can’t be in and out. And if you’ve got such clarity of view, it’s very difficult to say, ‘Why don’t we go 10 per cent this way instead of 20 per cent?’ ” Compromise was off the table, removed by the Queen.

Low wonders whether the courtiers could have handled the situation ‘differently’, but it seems the previous paragraph would say that they could not have done so. The Queen took the final decision — and the right one, in the estimation of most Britons.

Mismatched expectations

It would appear that Meghan thought she would be the star of the Royal Family, whereas the Palace, rightly, expected her to slot into her role as the Duchess of Sussex.

Low found empathisers with both sides then adds his view:

One former palace insider believes the way the developing crisis was handled was “incompetent beyond belief”. They said: “I think Meghan thought she was going to be the Beyoncé of the UK. Being part of the royal family would give her that kudos. Whereas what she discovered was that there were so many rules that were so ridiculous that she couldn’t even do the things that she could do as a private individual, which is tough . . . It just required the decision-makers to sit around a table and say, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this? What do you need to feel better? And what can we give?’ ”

There is, however, another view: that nothing could have ever saved the situation. The two sides were just too far apart. Another palace source, who has been critical of the Queen’s private secretary Edward Young in the past, said: “I think that it was an impossible task. I think in Meghan and the household, you had two worlds that had no experience of each other, had no way to relate to each other, had no way to comprehend each other. And Meghan was never going to fit in that model and that model was never going to tolerate the Meghan who Meghan wanted to be. So I think that it was inevitable that they would not be able to work together. I don’t think there’s anything Edward could have done about that that other members of the royal family would have accepted.”

Both things are probably true. There was a collective failure on the part of those who work for the royal family to recognise that there was a serious problem, to flag it up, and to try to do something about it. There were no high-level discussions any time in the first eight months of 2019 — when Meghan was later to say that she had suicidal thoughts and the first clues were emerging that the Sussexes were plotting an escape — about the nature of their unhappiness and what could be done about it.

But even if that had happened, I do not believe that it would have solved the problem. Their grievances were too deep-rooted, and the distance between what the Sussexes wanted and what the royal family felt able to give was just too great. Perhaps the best that could have happened is that the divorce could have been handled without all the acrimony that followed the events of January 2020. One thing is definitely true, however. If there were any failings, they were during the first year or so of Harry and Meghan’s marriage.

There is one final thought on this, and it comes from a surprising source, someone who knows Harry well but remains upset about what Harry and Meghan did. Their view is that perhaps the Sussexes’ departure was not the untrammelled disaster that so many think it was. “There is a part of me that thinks Meghan did Harry the greatest kindness anyone could do to him, which was to take him out of the royal family, because he was just desperately unhappy in the last couple of years in his working life. We knew he was unhappy, but we didn’t really know what the solution would be. She came along and found the solution.”

Dear, oh dear.

The Sussexes ignored staff advice

In an article from January 10, 2020 for The Times, written as the formal separation took place, Low tells us what was going on between the Sussexes and their staff before the couple sent out their statement:

This reveals how Harry has his own sense of the truth:

There was talk of putting out a statement — not the one that was eventually released but a blander version merely confirming that talks were taking place, and giving none of the detail about their plans to become financially independent and to split their time between Britain and North America.

Once more, Harry spoke to the Queen. Versions of how the conversation went differ. According to one narrative she made it clear that he should not go public with his plans. However, a source close to Harry told The Times: “He certainly thinks she said it was fine.”

His closest advisers did not think it was fine. Both Sara Latham, the couple’s communications secretary, and Fiona Mcilwham, their private secretary, argued strongly against putting out a bombshell statement without consulting the other members of the family. Harry and Meghan, however, were determined to press ahead.

The other royal households were given the statement shortly after 6pm on Wednesday. Ten minutes later it was sent out to the world.

It seems that the Duke and Duchess hadn’t listened to their staff on other occasions:

Harry and Meghan’s closest advisers are a devoted team who believe in the values, aims and ambitions espoused by the duke and duchess. But that does not mean that their advice is always listened to: and it also does not mean that some of them are not anxious about their future as the couple carve out their new role.

It also does not mean all of them have been involved in the plans. The Sussexes’ website, sussexroyal.com, was created by Made by Article, a Canadian company, without input from their Buckingham Palace press team. Instead much of the content, criticised for inaccuracies, was created by the couple with Sunshine Sachs, a PR company in New York.

The Sussexes’ most senior advisers are Sara Latham, their communications secretary, and Fiona Mcilwham, their private secretary, both appointed in the past year. Until last year the couple’s household was part of Kensington Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and they were a closely knit team and funded by the Prince of Wales.

Then came the falling out and the decision for the Sussexes to set up on their own. In theory they are answerable to the Buckingham Palace team, but in reality they operate as a separate fiefdom. Most staff costs are paid for by the Duchy of Cornwall, but communications staff under Ms Latham are paid for by the sovereign grant.

Public unhappy

Low then explores the view of the general public in January 2020, which was quite negative, especially as their money went towards the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, where the Sussexes lived for only a short while:

… the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex aimed to be financially independent has raised questions about their future income. The duke has personal wealth — the money left to him by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales — but is supported by money from his father and public cash.

In the narrow streets that surround Windsor Castle, locals grumbled at the cost of a recent renovation to the couple’s residence, Frogmore Cottage, which sits in the castle grounds. Taxpayers paid £2.4 million to renovate the grade II listed building, into which the pair moved nine months ago. Jess Hunter, 28, manager of the Queen Charlotte pub, said: “It seems a bit rich to then turn around and walk away from it all. I like Meghan but she knew what she was getting into when she married Harry. If you don’t want to be a princess, don’t marry a prince.”

About 32 per cent of people thought the decision would “damage” the royal family, while 49 per cent did not. “He’s a normal human being and he’s wanting to carve out a little bit of space for his new family to grow in,” added Michael Smith, 52, a prison officer. “It’s what his mother would have wanted.”

The Sussex Survivors’ Club

The Times featured another excerpt from Low’s book on September 24, 2023.

It gives examples of how unaccustomed courtiers are to incivility — and so should they be. It is hard to imagine what they went through from 2018 to early 2020.

Low takes us back to 2018, when he was part of the press pack on the couple’s South Pacific tour:

It is normally a standard part of a royal tour, the moment when the royals venture to the back of the plane, where the media sit, to say hello and have a chat. But the tour of the South Pacific by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 was different …

Harry had looked out of sorts. His relations with the media pack had been prickly and strained. Where Meghan smiled, always putting on her best face whenever she was on show, Harry glowered. On the five-hour flight back from Tonga to Sydney, his press handlers promised that he would come and thank the media for being there. It was only after the plane had landed that the couple finally appeared.

I remember the scene well. Harry looked like a sulky teenager, Meghan stood behind him, smiling benignly. Her only contribution was a comment about how much everyone must be looking forward to Sunday lunch at home. Harry sounded rushed, as if he couldn’t wait to get back into the first-class cabin. “Thanks for coming,” he said, “even though you weren’t invited.”

This was spectacularly rude — and incorrect. The media had been invited to cover the tour. Later, Harry’s staff told him how badly his remarks had gone down. He replied: “Well, you shouldn’t have made me do it.” Harry’s petulant behaviour revealed much about the couple’s deteriorating relationship with their own staff.

So bad did things eventually become that Harry and Meghan’s team would later refer to themselves as the Sussex Survivors’ Club. The core members were Sam Cohen, whom the Queen had personally asked to step in as private secretary and who worked for the couple from after their wedding until the end of their South Africa tour in September 2019; Sara Latham, the former Freuds PR managing partner, hired in 2019 to be in charge of communications; and assistant press secretary Marnie Gaffney. Sources say the team came up with a damning epithet for Meghan: a “narcissistic sociopath”. They also reportedly said on repeated occasions: “We were played.”

Fast forward to the Oprah interview in March 2021, and all close advisers’ support was forgotten:

Meghan takes pains to highlight the difference between the Queen and those who surrounded her. In Meghan’s account, they were the people who refused to help when she was in her hour of greatest need. They were the ones who “perpetuate falsehoods” about her.

Watching Meghan describe how she considered ending her life in the year after her marriage was an uncomfortable experience. And yet a succession of perfectly decent people, all of whom believed in Meghan and wanted to make it work, came to be so disillusioned that they began to suspect that even her most heartfelt pleas for help were part of a deliberate strategy that had one end in sight: her departure from the royal family. They believe she wanted to be able to say ‘Look how they failed to support me’.

Sam Cohen, who had 17 years’ experience of working at the Palace, would frequently say to Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, and Clive Alderton, Charles’s private secretary, that if it all went wrong, the Palace needed evidence of the duty of care it had shown to Harry and Meghan. The duty of care was crucial. “[Sam] was a broken record with them on that,” said a source.

But by the time of the Oprah interview, everything the Palace had done to support the couple — including giving them a team that would have done anything to help them succeed — was forgotten.

Instead, Meghan was able to point out all the times the institution had failed her. One of them was when she says she went to the head of HR, where she was given a sympathetic hearing but sent on her way. This was inevitable: HR is there to deal with employee issues, not members of the royal family. Meghan would presumably have known that, so what was she doing there? Laying a trail of evidence, would be the cynical answer.

Another former staff member goes even further. “Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness,” they say. The mistake they made was thinking that she wanted to be happy. She wanted to be rejected, because she was obsessed with that narrative from day one.”

Courtiers are unaccustomed to untoward behaviour:

Part of the problem, according to one source, was that everyone in the Palace was too genteel and civil: “When someone decides not to be civil, they have no idea what to do. They were run over by her, and then run over by Harry.”

The situation was not helped by Harry and Meghan’s deteriorating relationship with Alderton and Young. “As things started to go wrong,” a source told royal biographer Robert Lacey, “Meghan came to perceive Young as the inflexible, bureaucratic figure who summed up what was with the BP [Buckingham Palace] mentality, and the feeling was mutual. Young really came to dislike Meghan’s style.” Harry was just as dismissive of the two senior courtiers as Meghan. An insider said: “He used to send them horrible emails. So rude.”

Meghan’s secrecy

If Meghan criticised the courtiers, she was not exactly above criticism herself.

She used secrecy to her advantage:

When Harry and Meghan went to Canada for their six-week break in November 2019, their escape plans were already laid, amid the greatest secrecy. Meghan would not even tell their nanny, Lorren, where they were going. According to one source, she did not know where they were going until the plane — a private jet — was in the air.

Shortly before the end of the year, Meghan confided in a member of her staff that the couple were not coming back. The rest of the team did not find out until they held a meeting at Buckingham Palace at the beginning of January 2020. They found it hard to accept they were being dumped just like that. Some of them were in tears. “It was a very loyal team,” said one.

Money, money, money

By the end of March 2020, Meghan was allegedly panicking about money:

On March 31, The Express reported:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry agreed to pay back the money spent for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage into the Royal Purse as part of their deal with the Queen. As part of their bid for independence from the Royal Family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they want to become financially separate from the Queen and will be looking for new sources of income. Meghan last week was confirmed to have struck up a deal with Disney to narrate their latest documentary Elephant but the Duchess donated the money as the project was filmed before she and Harry announced their departure from the Royal Family.

A royal insider claimed Meghan is terrified because of the financial pressure they are now under and suggested the Duchess has ordered Prince Harry to find a job.

Speaking to US tabloid National Enquirer, the anonymous source said:This debt is a blow to their ambitious plan to become freewheeling billionaires in the world.

“Meghan is terrified that her dreams of being a Hollywood queen will be destroyed by this financial nightmare and she is insisting that Harry make a move and resolve the crisis.”

The insider however noted the lack of previous working experience could make the search for a new job difficult for the Duke of Sussex.

That is too funny. On a serious note, we see again the mess of pottage looming large.

Harry’s lack of work experience led him to dish the dirt on the world’s most famous royals. I hope he’s happy.

Ending on the present day — January 2023 — it is rumoured that Harry might be offered a contract to be a television commentator in the US on his father’s May 6 coronation.

On January 25, The Express reported:

Prince Harry has been tipped to skip King Charles III’s coronation after two US broadcasters allegedly approached the Duke of Sussex to commentate on the ceremony. The Duke’s potential coronation role was first tipped in this weekend’s Sunday Express where TV companies were suggested to be attempting to lure him to join their media teams. Harry’s relationship with his father and the Royal Family has been frosty after a series of digs levelled at the institution in recent months. Royal correspondent Charles Rae said the couple may still be invited to attend the ceremony but suggested Prince Harry may instead opt to strike a deal with US TV channels to act as a commentator and stay in the US …

Speaking on behalf of Spin Genie, Rae added: “There are also rumours that Harry has been offered a lot of money by two broadcasters to commentate on the Coronation …

Networks CBS and NBC are believed to have approached the Duke to get him joining their reporting team in the lead-up to the coronation.

The Venn diagram: Diana

The intersection of the Venn diagram linking Harry and Meghan is clearly Princess Diana.

On August 4, 2021, at the time the Duchess turned 40, her half-sister Samantha told GB News’s Dan Wootton how obsessed Meghan was with the princess:

Here’s the full video, just under 20 minutes long. In it, Samantha discusses how difficult it is to love someone who has caused so much hurt, her disappointment that Meghan has not contacted their ailing father and her book about the Duchess:

As for Harry, Prince Charles’s and Princess Diana’s chef at Kensington Palace, Darren McGrady, says that William and Harry had very different personalities (see at the 1:25 mark).

He says that one day Diana entered the kitchen after the boys had just been in — a favourite place for them to go — and said:

You know, the boys are so different. William’s deep, like his father, and Harry is just an airhead like me.

What more can I say? Nothing.

Cottage pie

In closing, Darren McGrady prepares cottage pie the authentic way. The recipe dates from the 1700s.

There is a note early on in the video that says shepherd’s pie is made with lamb and cottage pie is made with beef, something non-Brits do not realise.

It is also called cottage pie because it was for peasants. Peasants lived in cottages.

But I digress.

Cottage pie was a favourite of Wills and Harry. Perhaps one day, in the years to come, they might enjoy it again together.

End of series

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Picking up where I left off last week, below are some old news articles from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s early years together, which might provide some insight on what Prince Harry relates in Spare. In the words of the late Queen, ‘Recollections may vary’.

However, let’s begin with two book reviews of Spare.

A good ghostwriter’s genius

Tina Brown, the youngest editor of Tatler, the editor who transformed Vanity Fair and the first woman to edit The New Yorker, wrote an excellent review of Spare for The Guardian. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

She says that JR Moehringer made good use of various literary devices and outstanding writing to bring Harry’s story to life:

One of the few good decisions that Prince Harry has made in the last five turbulent years was to take George Clooney’s advice and hire a ghostwriter as skilled as the novelist JR Moehringer. Spare is gripping in its ability to channel Harry’s unresolved emotional pain, his panicky, blinkered drive, his improbably winning rapscallion voice, and his skewed, conflicted worldview. Best of all, Moehringer knows how to drill down into scattered memories and extract the critical details that make this hyper-personal chronicle an unexpected literary success.

Who will forget the scene of monarch and grandson grasping dead pheasants, “their bodies still warm through my gloves” after a Sandringham shoot, confronting each other as she tries to escape in her Range Rover from what she knows is coming. “I’ve been told that, er, that I have to ask your permission to propose [to Meghan],” Harry mumbles. “Well then,” replies her majesty, “I suppose I have to say yes.” It’s one of the joys of this memoir that Harry is still puzzling over her answer. “Was she being sarcastic? Ironic? Was she indulging in a bit of wordplay?” …

The most powerful character in the story, Diana, never truly appears, other than in radiant glimpses. The unassuageable anguish of the 12-year-old Harry’s loss gives Moehringer a potent, overarching literary device. His mother, Harry heartbreakingly decided, was not really dead at all. She had “disappeared”, found a way to escape her unhappy, haunted life, and make a “fresh start” (perhaps in Paris or a log cabin in the Alps). Expectation of her Second Coming freezes his heart and will not allow him to cry except once, when her coffin is lowered into the ground at Althorp. The din of the world’s mourning and the endless tawdry explorations of what really happened that night in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, place Harry’s own memories in a lock box even he cannot access until a breakthrough in his mid-30s in a therapist’s office. The only aspect of his mother’s death that he finds unforgettable is the identity of those who caused it: the press and the paps, variously referred to as ghouls, pustules, dogs, weasels, idiots and sadists, who after “torturing” his mother “would come for me”. The “red mist” of his rage towards them never lifts. The reader is with him all the way as the hack-pack humiliates the rudderless prince for every adolescent misstep.

Unfortunately for Harry, he disregards or misunderstands what a monarchy and hereditary peers bring to the upper rungs of British society. He also doesn’t appreciate his own privilege:

What Harry does not realise, however, is that his magical thinking about Diana’s “disappearance” extends to multiple other aspects of his life. He writes as if he is the first privileged male to notice the unfairness of primogeniture (the “hierarchy”, as he likes to call it with sinister emphasis). Well, duh. The monarchy invented it. The stately homes of England – belonging to many of the people he was at school with – are all inhabited by winners of the birth lottery while the younger siblings are relegated to some mouldy manor house and a sinecure at a bank (if lucky). Harry, we can all agree, has done better than most. At the age of 30, he inherited many millions from Diana and more from the queen mother when she died in 2002. (The fridge at his modest “Nott Cott” bachelor digs within the hardly shabby environs of Kensington Palace is, he tells us, often “stuffed with vacuum packed meals sent by Pa’s chef”.)

Despite Moehringer‘s talent, the reader eventually turns to Harry’s shortsightedness about how the monarchy actually operates:

Harry’s most extreme misunderstanding in Spare concerns the topic he affects to know most about: how the deep state of the Palace works. Harry prefers to blame sycophantic double-dealing courtiers when the decisions handed down are those he doesn’t like. By his account, the queen’s private secretary Edward Young blocked the meeting at Sandringham that Harry requested in January 2020 to discuss the Sussexes’ plan to become part-time royals. The possibility that the monarch herself was having second thoughts about the wisdom of such a meeting (Granny’s diary was suddenly full) isn’t entertained.

… There are more ironies. While the recurring plaint of Spare is the power that his father and brother hold over his life, the truth is how circumscribed their power actually is. Charles tells his “darling boy” to put all his proposals for a hybrid royal role in writing not because he’s stalling but because, as he says: “It’s all decided by the government”

In the end, Tina Brown felt rather sorry for him, but not for the usual reasons everyone else is. It’s for his ‘magical thinking’:

… the nub of his incandescent fury, is how he and Meghan were sold out by the institution. But one senses that his rage has another source: deep marital embarrassment. Harry’s most profound act of magical thinking was the promise of what he could deliver his bride. In the ecstasies of infatuation – and of relief that he’d finally found someone “perfect, perfect perfect” – he boosted his beloved’s fantasy of their life together as world-dominating humanitarian superstars powered by her Hollywood glamour and his royal stature. Sitting on the Ikea sofa of Nott Cott, how could he tell her that, in the grand scheme of the monarchy, he was a penny-ante prince? His great big dreams revealed how small he was: one can’t help but feel that it’s this that he really wants an apology for.

Hugo Vickers, a biographer and ghostwriter himself, wrote a review of Spare for The Oldie:

Apparently this book is ‘full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.’ It purports to be the memoirs of Prince Harry, but it is ghost-written by the Pulitzer-award-winning writer, J.R. Moehringer, a man well-qualified to write about dysfunctional family relationships.

At the end of his own fine memoir, The Tender Bar, Moehringer acknowledged a number of friends who ‘spent hours confirming or correcting my memory, and helping me piece together long-ago conversations’ …

Moehringer also ghosted Open, the immensely popular memoirs of the tennis player, Andre Agassi

It is the job of the ghost to extract facts from the ‘author’, especially an inarticulate one, and turn his outpourings into a book that justifies the many millions spent on it by the publisher. (I believe the publishers have to sell 1.7 million copies to make Spare commercially viable).

Moehringer clearly had his work cut out with Prince Harry

If you are not convinced, try this line in which Harry explains a Page Three Girl for the benefit of American readers. Does this sound like him? – ‘That was the accepted, misogynist, objectifying term for young, topless women featured each day on page three of Rupert Murdoch’s the Sun.’ Where did that come from?

I’ve heard on GB News that Meghan helped edit the book and that those words are hers.

Then there is the opening quote:

This book opens with a quote from William Faulkner. On page 13, Prince Harry admits he has no idea who Faulkner was

Hugo Vickers points out many of the book’s historical inaccuracies:

I mistrust this book. Prince Harry admits to a shaky memory, apparently too traumatised to recall anything much before his mother’s death. He acknowledges the ‘superb fact-checking’ of one Hilary McClellen, but no! she has allowed numerous howlers to slip through, causing me to wonder how much else Prince Harry has got wrong or simply cooked up to sell his book.

The Queen did not consign the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to a remote grave in the Frogmore burial ground (page 2). This trivialises the Queen and misunderstands her sympathy. She even paid the Duchess the signal honour of commanding flags to fly at half-mast on public buildings on the day of her funeral. Prince Harry could not have been offered a place in the Royal Vault in St George’s Chapel (page 5). The Royal Family did not get out of the car on the way back from Crathie Church on the Sunday Diana died to look at flowers (page 20). They did come out on Thursday 5 September.

He seems in a muddle about what flag was on his mother’s coffin (page 23) (well, OK). He does not descend from Henry VI (page 43). He won’t have known about Snowdon’s vile notes to Princess Margaret (page 73) until that was revealed years later by Anne Glenconner. He was not called at school about the Queen Mother’s death (page 75). She died during school holidays on Easter Saturday. He was in Klosters. So that scene was invented. The Queen was not at the pop concert when Brian May played (page 78). May played at the beginning. She arrived just before the end. The Queen did not go to the Guildhall for the Charles/ Camilla civil wedding in 2005, but she was most certainly at the Service of Blessing (page 99). (He talks of standing near the altar. He was sitting next to his brother).

Need I go on? Yes – a lie on page 337 or another muddle: Meghan could not have bought her father a first-class Air New Zealand ticket. They do not run first-class seats from Mexico.

People will read this, as they watched Netflix – to salivate over the bile he pours out against his family. Enough has been written about that. I took additional exception to his unforgivable description of dumping lovely Cressida Bonas (page 240), but then who will not be moved reading of his burgeoning love for Meghan Markle (page 265 – passim)?

Whether Harry realised it or not, there is an irony about the book:

There is a line which shows just how hypocritical this whole exercise is. Harry is in therapy (page 310). He writes, ‘I vented about my family. Pa and Willy. Camilla.’ He stops when he thinks passers-by can over hear the conversation. ‘If they ever knew. Prince Harry in there yapping about his family. His problems. Oh, the papers would have a field day.’ I rest my case.

Vickers concludes, wondering about JR Moehringer’s ultimate goal in ghost-writing Spare:

One further point. Prince Harry bases a large part of his premise on the idea that the only thing the Royal Family care about is being on the front page of newspapers. The enormous success of the Queen and Prince Philip (and the quiet success of Princess Anne) is that they did not care a jot what people thought. They got on with the job.

No doubt J.R. Moehringer and his team of shades were well-paid for their ghosting. But, given he comes from a considerably less privileged background than Harry’s, I wonder where his sympathies ultimately lie, and whether he is proud to have played a part in such an unpleasant exercise.

Now let’s move on to older news items about the Sussexes.

Fact-checking Meghan’s Babe statistics profile

Shortly before Meghan and Harry married, I saw an online posting about Meghan. This is a screenshot of it:

I am grateful to my reader Katherine who sent me a Newsweek article about the profile, which says that Meghan did not write or post it herself. An excerpt follows:

Several other tweets have also shared the same screenshot.

While the profile image of Meghan Markle was posted recently, it appears to have been circulated online for a few years. The earliest example Newsweek could find was in 2019, posted on Twitter, alongside similar disparaging claims about Markle and her race.

However, the biography was not authored by Meghan Markle, and instead appears to be a user-submitted biography from a mostly pornographic website called freeones.com.

The website was found by searching for images similar to the profile of Markle posted on Twitter. Markle is still listed on the site as “Caucasian”, although her details can be edited by anyone.

While an exact copy of her profile on freeones.com as shared on Twitter has not been archived, other profiles from 2013—when Markle’s details were reportedly added to the website—show the same format and presentation as the entry posted on social media (such as the header “Babe Statistics”.)

That same year, Markle told the South China Morning Post that she was “bi-racial”.

“Specifically for me, because I’m bi-racial, I can go in for so many parts,” she said.

“If you’re blond and blue-eyed, you may have 10 auditions but, because I could look what they call ‘exotic Caucasian’, instead of having 10 auditions I would have 40. You hear ‘no’ a lot more.

“It hurts a lot because you feel like all you hear is ‘no’. It’s really just about powering through. At a certain point, people just give up and once they’ve dropped out of the pool your chances of making it are so much better. It’s a numbers game.”

Markle’s representatives told Newsweek she had not uploaded any information to the site, and that third parties without any relationship to her or the authority to act on her behalf to do so were responsible

Mentoring Meghan and managing Harry’s insecurities

When Lady Diana Spencer was engaged to Prince Charles, I remember reading at the time that the Queen Mother took her under her wing to prepare her for life as the future Princess of Wales.

This is normal procedure and includes etiquette, protocol and more.

Valentine Low, the former investigative-turned-royal reporter for The Times, wrote 2022’s best seller, Courtiers. On September 23, the paper published an extract from the book which is full of detail about the turmoil going on between Harry, Meghan and the Palace:

Even before Meghan came on the scene, Harry’s grievances with the media, especially the tabloid press, could lead to tensions with his staff. One insider recalls: “He was always messaging, making phone calls. It was nonstop. There were constant battles with the media and expecting the team to be on your side.… He was always on Twitter. You then had to be on everything too. Every minor infraction was a big deal.”

Harry’s enemies were not just in the media. “He definitely had mistrust of the courtiers at Buckingham Palace and his father’s palace,” said one source. This could lead to tensions within his own team who were based at Kensington Palace …

Compounding Harry’s frustration was a long-held fear that his time was running out and that once Prince George turned 18 he would become irrelevant. “He had this thing that he had a shelf life. He was fixated [on] this. He would compare himself with his uncle [Prince Andrew]. He would say, ‘I have this time to make this impact. Because I can.’ Until George turns 18, was the way he was thinking about it. ‘Then I will be the also-ran.’ He was genuinely thinking of it as, ‘I have this platform now, for a limited amount of time. I want to move forward, move forward.’ ” …

Harry’s obsession with the media, his sense of frustration, mistrust of palace courtiers and the constant loyalty tests of his own staff were all there before Meghan. But after Meghan turned up, it got significantly worse.

Once their relationship became public in October 2016, Meghan became insecure about it, which, in turn, disturbed Harry. The tension revolved around getting her a security detail:

Faced with hordes of journalists intent on trawling through every aspect of Meghan’s life, Harry became determined to protect his girlfriend. Meghan, meanwhile, told him that if he did not do something about it, she would break off the relationship. A source said: “She was saying, ‘If you don’t put out a statement confirming I’m your girlfriend, I’m going to break up with you.’ ” Harry was in a panic. Another source said: “He was freaking out, saying, ‘She’s going to dump me.’ ”

Harry turned to Jason Knauf, the bright young American who was recruited by Kensington Palace in 2015 to be the communications secretary for the Cambridges and Prince Harry. His previous role had been running the communications for the crisis-hit Royal Bank of Scotland. He loved working for William and Kate and Harry.

Harry phoned Knauf, demanding that he put out a statement confirming that Meghan was his girlfriend and condemning the racist and sexist undertones of some of the media coverage. Meghan wanted public validation that this was a serious relationship. She was convinced that the palace was unwilling to protect her from media intrusion. She told Harry’s staff: “I know how the palace works. I know how this is going to play out. You don’t care about the girlfriend.”

It’s odd, but I don’t remember any negative coverage of Meghan at all at that time. The media were overjoyed that Harry had another girlfriend, one whose intentions seemed serious.

Valentine Low says that the courtiers sensed the American was different from Harry’s previous girlfriends:

Harry’s staff knew that Meghan was different from other royal girlfriends. She had her own opinions and would let people know what they were. In the spring of 2017, more than six months before the couple were engaged, she told one of Harry’s advisers: “I think we both know I’m going to be one of your bosses soon.”

There was also a lot riding on Meghan. The palace knew it could not afford to repeat the mistakes that were made with Princess Diana. Before the wedding, Meghan had a meeting with Miguel Head, William’s private secretary, who told her that the palace would do everything they could to help. There was no need to think that she had to take on her new role in a particular way.

Meghan thanked Head and said she wanted to concentrate on her humanitarian and philanthropic work and to support Harry as a member of the royal family. As one source said, “The entire place, because of everything about her and because of what Harry’s previous girlfriends had been through, was bending over backwards to make sure that every option was open.”

Sir David Manning, former ambassador to the US who was William and Harry’s foreign affairs adviser, also put his mind to thinking about how Meghan might fit in to the royal family and what married life could look like for them. However, the couple’s sense of frustration and their suspicion of the palace establishment was already causing problems. An early issue was security. In the immediate period after her arrival in London there was no straightforward mechanism for providing Meghan with full-time police protection, especially at a time when the palace was trying to slim down the level of security provided to members of the royal family.

The Government needed to get involved, which was par for the course and nothing against Meghan. Edward Lane Fox — often called ELF because of his initials — took the lead:

Such matters were decided by a Home Office committee called Ravec (the executive committee for the protection of royalty and public figures). Harry’s private secretary at the time, Ed Lane Fox, a former captain in the Blues and Royals who’d joined Harry’s close-knit team in 2013, argued Meghan needed to be protected immediately.

“Ed had to wage a huge battle to get them to understand that she would not be able to live her life without police protection. Meghan had no idea that this was even happening, because we did not want her to have another reason to think that she wasn’t going to be welcomed. Ed did amazing things for her behind the scenes, but none of them was really appreciated.”

To Harry and Meghan, the two months that it took to get a decision about her security seemed like an age. They felt as if the powers that be were simply unwilling to provide her with the security she needed.

Meanwhile, the interpersonals between Meghan and Palace staff received mixed reviews:

At this time, at the Queen’s request, the Lord Chamberlain, Earl Peel – the most senior figure in the household – went to see the couple to explain to Meghan how the palace worked. He recalled, “I liked her, actually. She was very forthright. Very, very polite. Very understanding. She wanted to learn.”

However, relations between Meghan and the team at Kensington Palace were fraying fast. In late 2017, after the couple’s engagement was announced, a senior aide discreetly raised with the couple the difficulties caused by their treatment of staff. People needed to be treated well and with some understanding, even when they were not performing to Harry and Meghan’s standards, they suggested. Meghan was said to have replied, “It’s not my job to coddle people.”

Meanwhile, she wasn’t dealing with the more junior staff, even people whom William and Kate – and Harry, before Meghan came along – had been quite happy to engage with. It seemed that she wanted respect and having to talk to someone a bit further down the pecking order – in a small office, where there wasn’t much of a pecking order – wasn’t treating her with respect. “She would take it as an insult,” believes one source.

On April 29, 2018, shortly before the wedding, Yahoo!News posted an article from London’s Evening Standard on Meghan’s touchy-feeliness, stating that the Palace wanted to mentor her for her new role:

Meghan Markle is likely to turn to the Duchess of Cambridge for tips on getting to grips with Royal etiquette before her wedding to Prince Harry, an expert has claimed.

The former Suits actress, 36, may be encouraged to reign in her “touchy-feeliness” ahead of the big day but is unlikely to be given formal lessons, says royal etiquette expert William Hanson.

Those who have been there, done that and got the tiara including Kate and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will help coach Ms Markle ahead of her wedding at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on May 19 .

Mr Hanson said: “Meghan won’t have a specific tutor, but the royal household and other members of the royal family who have ‘married in’ will be passing on their knowledge to the newest addition.

“Meghan will also be observing others, too, watching and copying certain mannerisms or tricks that they do to cope and successfully navigate the pitfalls of court life.

“Her fiancé will, of course, also be sharing his considerable knowledge too.”

Hanson also:

revealed that Prince Harry’s bride-to-be might struggle with to reign in her tactile nature

“This may well be a conscious choice on her part and may be one of the ways that she plays her part in evolving the monarchy, but this touchy-feelyness cannot happen everywhere that she will go and so she may well struggle with having to learn when to be informal and when to be slightly more reserved.”

Ms Markle has previously broken royal protocol by hugging members of the public

Mr Hanson said he would advise Ms Markle to take her time when getting used to Royal etiquette in a bid to succeed.

“Meghan is clearly going to shake things up a bit for the royal family, but I hope not everything gets changed overnight,” he added.

Based on what happened during the wedding preparations, it seemed that the Duchess of Cambridge was not the one to mentor her future sister-in-law. More on that below.

Over a year later and after the birth of Archie, the new Duchess of Sussex’s lack of mentoring was still on the Queen’s mind.

On Thursday, August 1, 2019, The Express reported, ‘Queen sees Sophie Wessex as Meghan Markle’s “unofficial mentor”‘:

Queen Elizabeth II is trying to ease Meghan into her new royal life after the Duchess of Sussex has come under fire multiple times in the past months. The monarch believes the 37-year-old former actress could find a friend and ally in Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as the pair share the desire of a normal life within the Royal Family, according to a close friend … 

The Queen’s suggestion doesn’t come out of the blue, as Meghan and Sophie are believed to have bonded after spending time together at Royal Ascot last year

Just like Meghan, Sophie had a career of her own for years before marrying Edward, and has worked in public relations for a variety of firms.

The Wessexes want their children to grow up away from the spotlight – similarly to what Prince Harry and Meghan are trying to do with their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor.

I have no idea how that worked out.

Wedding stress

I was going to call this section ‘Tantrums and tiaras’ but that seemed too clichéd.

The weeks running up to the wedding were reportedly highly tense. It must have been hell.

Valentine Low writes that the tiara kicked everything off:

Organising the wedding was particularly stressful. There were rows about scheduling, the wedding announcements, the gospel choir and, most famously, the tiara. In the months before the wedding, Meghan was told that the Queen would lend her a tiara for the big day, just as she had done for Kate Middleton seven years earlier. An appointment was made in February for Meghan to look at a shortlist of appropriate tiaras at Buckingham Palace. Accompanied by Harry, and under the watchful eye of Angela Kelly, the Queen’s dresser, who is also curator of the Queen’s jewellery, Meghan opted for Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara.

Meghan then needed to make sure her hairdresser had an opportunity to rehearse with it before the day itself. Unfortunately, on the day her hairdresser, Serge Normant, was in town, Angela Kelly was not available, so neither was the tiara. In Harry’s view, this was Kelly being obstructive. According to the book Finding Freedom, Kelly had ignored repeated requests from Kensington Palace to set up a date for a hair trial. And Harry was furious. “Nothing could convince Harry that some of the old guard at the palace simply didn’t like Meghan and would stop at nothing to make her life difficult,” wrote the book’s authors.

But there is another version: that Harry and Meghan were naive at best, entitled at worst, to expect others to jump to their command when they had not even bothered to make an appointment. As a source told The Mail on Sunday: “Meghan demanded access to the tiara. She didn’t make an appointment with Angela but said, ‘We’re at Buckingham Palace. We want the tiara. Can we have it now please?’ Angela essentially said, ‘I’m very sorry, that’s not how it works. There’s protocol in place over these jewels. They’re kept under very tight lock and key. You can’t turn up and demand to have the tiara just because your hairdresser happens to be in town.’ ”

Harry then began ringing others to put pressure on Kelly to bend the rules and in the course of his less than diplomatic efforts is said to have used some fairly fruity language. Whether Harry swore at his grandmother’s aide, or about her, is not clear. But she wasn’t impressed. She reported all this to the Queen, who summoned Harry to a private meeting. “He was firmly put in his place,” a source said. “He had been downright rude.”

On Friday, January 13, 2023, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey wrote about the wedding stress and how it affected Meghan’s relationship with Catherine, starting in 2017:

… as with the family hierarchy – there was a pecking order: and the problem for Meghan was that Kate always appeared to get first dibs on designers.

Erdem Moralıoğlu was one of Meghan’s absolute favourites, but even after Harry had put a ring on it, Kate, who was already a client, continued to get priority …

Suffice to say the notion of her soon-to-be sister-in-law receiving preferential treatment did not, it is claimed, go down well with Meghan, especially as she “wasn’t even Queen”. (Meghan always pointedly insisted on calling the Princess of Wales “Kate” even though the rest of the family referred to her as “Catherine”. Harry reveals in Spare that when he first introduced Meghan to his brother Kate remained in the garden, playing with the children – hardly the welcome they both wanted.)

In Spare, Harry confirms an argument with Angela Kelly, the late Queen’s closest aide, over Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara she borrowed for the big day. Although he denies saying: “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets”, there is a sense that this was the unofficial slogan of the nuptials. Air freshener was indeed requested to improve the aroma of “musty” St George’s Chapel.

He also confirms a row between Kate and Meghan over bridesmaids’ dresses, despite describing it as a “sci-fi fantasy”.

The French couture dresses did not fit any of the bridesmaids properly and, contrary to Harry’s suggestion that Kate was the only one who made a fuss, Meghan told staff at the time she had complained to the designer and that several of the mothers were angry. The row didn’t actually happen at a fitting but when Kate went round to Meghan’s to discuss it. (At this point both women lived at Kensington Palace: Meghan at Nottingham Cottage and Kate at Apartment 1A).

Ironically, it was Meghan herself who acknowledged to the then Cambridges’ staff that Kate “had left in tears”in a bid for help to smooth it over. That’s why the palace couldn’t demand a retraction.

Contrary to Harry’s claim in Spare that the original story claimed “Meghan had reduced Kate to tears about the bridesmaids’ dresses”, actually the rather more balanced 1,200-word feature read: “The Telegraph has spoken to two separate sources who claim Kate was left in tears following a bridesmaids’ dress fitting for Princess Charlotte.

“‘Kate had only just given birth to Prince Louis and was feeling quite emotional,’ said one insider.” (It was the Sun who splashed the headline: “Meghan Made Kate Cry” the following day, with a piece written by Jack Royston, now Newsweek’s chief royal correspondent and one of the Sussexes’ cheerleaders). 

Here is The Sun‘s article.

Moving on:

It is true that Kate went round again the next day with a bunch of flowers and a card to apologise (another bid to keep the peace) …

Harry insists the bridesmaids’ dress story was briefed by the palace, claiming Kate told Charles and Camilla about the altercation over dinner. But more negative headlines started appearing after the wedding precisely because the histrionics staff had grown well used to were now being witnessed by all and sundry. The palace could no longer keep a lid on it.

Even the Prince of Wales had witnessed the aftermath of Meghan’s “bridezilla” behaviour.

The Duchess is alleged to have spoken particularly harshly to a young member of the team in front of her colleagues after criticising a wedding plan she had drawn up, saying: “If there was literally anyone else I could ask to do this, I would be asking them instead of you.” When William heard of the incident, he took the woman aside and said: “I hope you’re okay. You’re doing a really good job,” prompting her to burst into tears.

On January 10, 2023, the Mail interviewed Royal tailor Ajay Mirpuri, who finally broke his silence about the wedding:

Luxury suit and dressmaker Ajay Mirpuri has broken four years of silence on the now infamous affair – claimed to have led to tears from the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge – after being tracked down by the Daily Mail.

He revealed that he saw nothing of what is said to have gone on but he and three staff had to work round the clock at Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle for four days before the 2018 nuptials after finding that none of the six bridesmaids’ dresses made by French fashion house Givenchy fitted.

Mr Mirpuri, 45, who has a showroom in London‘s West End, said he felt it was a shame that how the young bridesmaids, including Princess Charlotte, looked on the day had been overshadowed by reports of the fall-out between Meghan and Kate …

‘All six bridesmaids’ dresses had to be fixed, and we did it.

‘I’m a royalist and I wanted to do whatever I could with my small business to serve the Royal Family.

‘We just got our heads down and said “Now we’re here, we’ve got to fix it so that on the day Britain comes off well.”

‘Had this book not come out, no-one would have known it was us. But if it saved the day, it saved the day, and good luck to them.

‘I won’t say it upsets me, but in that whole big event, this [the row] is what’s spoken about the most – it should be the fact that they [the bridesmaids] looked fabulous.’

Mr Mirpuri was speaking for the first time about his role, after Prince Harry detailed in his book Spare, officially published today, his and Meghan’s version of the row with the Duchess of Cambridge about the dresses.

The Prince remains angry that initial reports of the argument focused on Kate being left in tears. There have been several different versions over the years of who made who cry.

Now, Harry has said it was Meghan who he found ‘on the floor sobbing’.

According to his account, four days before the May 2018 wedding, Kate sent Meghan a text about her daughter Princess Charlotte crying because her dress was ‘too big, too long, too baggy’.

A terse exchange ensued in which Meghan said a tailor – named by Harry only as Ajay – had been ‘waiting all day’ at Kensington Palace to make alterations

The gowns were created – as was the wedding dress – by British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of Givenchy. But they were made, it seems, from measurements only, and without repeated fittings.

The other bridesmaids were Harry’s goddaughter Florence van Cutsem, Rylan and Remi Litt, the daughters of close friends of Meghan, Ivy Mulroney, daughter of Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney, the unofficial maid of honour and Zalie Warren, another of Harry’s goddaughters and the youngest of the troop, aged just two at the time.

‘I’ve no idea what measurements Givenchy had received, but with our experience and knowledge we could see straight away that all six bridesmaids’ dresses had to be fixed, as they weren’t going to fit,’ Mr Mirpuri said.

‘We had to work tooth and nail for four days, four of us working until 4am three nights in a row, to make them fit.

‘We left Windsor Castle at 10pm the night before the wedding. Did anyone on the day complain about the bridesmaids’ dresses and how they looked? The answer is no.’

Mr Mirpuri has worked for Meghan several times, plus others in the royal household, as well as A-listers Elton John, Michael Caine and Mariah Carey.

When asked what he charged, he replied: ‘I won’t divulge that – or who paid the bill. I can’t say it was four figures or five figures. But whoever’s mistake it was paid the bill.’

Givenchy did not respond to a request for comment.

Then there was Meghan’s father’s illness. Camilla Tominey tells us that, as Harry:

concedes, her father Thomas Markle’s heart attack had just thrown the wedding into chaos

Mr Markle went on Good Morning Britain in June 2018 and revealed he had never actually met Harry despite talking to him about “Donald Trump” and “Brexit” over the telephone. Then his daughter Samantha Markle took to the airwaves, publicly questioning Harry and Meghan’s treatment of the gravely ill former lighting director. That was the moment the Sussexes’ staff felt they “lost control of the narrative”.

Early misgivings proven correct

The then-Cambridges were concerned about Harry’s relationship with Meghan, and the way she treated staff confirmed their fears.

Camilla Tominey says:

the Cambridges, as they were then known, had their reservations from the start.

Harry’s insistence that their joint communications secretary Jason Knauf put out a statement in November 2016, claiming his “girlfriend” had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment” at the hands of the media created early unease between the brothers. Harry feared he would be “dumped” if he didn’t “protect” the American actress. Yet having already warned him to “take as much time as you need to get to know this girl” (a description that apparently offended Meghan), the rashness of the statement rang alarm bells with William

William, who along with equally introverted Kate has never craved the limelight, felt it was too much of a “celebrity” approach. Being of a more “never complain, never explain” persuasion, William questioned the wisdom of Harry going to war with the newspapers so early on in the relationship. It was risky, for a woman he had only been with for a matter of months … 

Contrary to Harry’s suggestion he was unsupportive, it was the Prince of Wales “in fix it mode” who agreed that experienced and highly professional Amy Pickerill be moved from the press office to become Meghan’s deputy private secretary following her engagement to Harry.

Returning to the tearful staffer whom William comforted, Valentine Low tells us:

On another occasion, when Meghan felt she had been let down over an issue that was worrying her, she rang repeatedly when the staffer was out for dinner on a Friday night. “Every ten minutes, I had to go outside to be screamed at by her and Harry. It was, ‘I can’t believe you’ve done this. You’ve let me down. What were you thinking?’ It went on for a couple of hours.” The calls started again the next morning and continued “for days”, the staffer said. “You could not escape them. There were no lines or boundaries – it was last thing at night, first thing in the morning.”

Relations between the couple and some of their senior staff became so fractious that Miguel Head had to step in to keep the peace.

The Queen became concerned and made a staffing change to help out the newlyweds:

Ed Lane Fox never planned to stay much longer than five years working for Harry. A few days after the wedding, Buckingham Palace announced that Samantha Cohen, the Queen’s former assistant private secretary, would be stepping in to help the couple out for six months as their interim private secretary. Cohen, then aged 49, had already handed in her notice at Buckingham Palace, but just as she was preparing to leave, after 17 years, the Queen, who had a high regard for her, asked her to stay on and help Harry and Meghan. Cohen – everyone calls her Sam – was one of the most popular and well-regarded members of the Queen’s household.

Harry knew her well already, as did William, and was very fond of her. The feeling was reciprocated. Cohen was determined to make her new job work. “Harry was initially very enthusiastic,” said a source. But Cohen was soon to discover that making Harry and Meghan happy was a bigger challenge than she had anticipated.

Low has much more on other staff who were being bullied in the months that followed. Cohen, he says, was one of the best Royal tour organisers, but everything seemed to fall apart during the Sussexes first official tour, that of Australia and the South Pacific in 2018. Meghan was also receiving a lot of freebies during that time, another Palace no-no.

Low says that Jason Knauf sounded the alarm, having heard from staff on the South Pacific tour:

The harsh treatment was not confined to junior staff. One source said that Samantha Cohen had been bullied. Another said: “They treated her terribly. Nothing was ever good enough. It was, ‘She doesn’t understand. She’s failing.’ ” In fact, the source said, Cohen was “a saint” and the best organiser of royal tours they had known.

In February 2021 the duchess’s lawyers denied that Cohen had been bullied, saying that the couple were always grateful for her support and dedication. “She remains very close to the duke and duchess.”

On October 26, 2018, just as Harry and Meghan were flying from Tonga to Sydney for the Invictus Games, Knauf wrote an email to his immediate boss, Simon Case, Prince William’s private secretary [Case moved on to work at No. 10 Downing Street afterwards during Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister], saying that he had spoken to the head of HR for the palace about “some very serious problems” concerning Meghan’s behaviour. He wrote: “I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year… The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying X [name withheld by author] and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards X despite the universal views from her colleagues that she is a leading talent within the household who is delivering first-rate work.”

Knauf, who was in daily contact with staff on the tour, went on to say that the tour was “very challenging” and was “made worse by the behaviour of the duchess”. He also expressed concerns about his own standing and suggested that even Samantha Cohen could be struggling to cope

He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”

Jason Knauf, the person who made the bullying allegation, was also American. Insiders said this was about more than just Meghan’s American straight talking.

On tour, Meghan was received enthusiastically everywhere, but she was disappointed and wanted more:

Massive crowds were turning out to see them and Meghan’s refreshingly informal approach to royal visits was proving a hit with the Australian public. When she turned up at the home of a farming family, she brought some banana bread that she had baked herself. When the couple visited a school to see the work of a programme to improve the educational outcomes of young Aboriginals, she was fêted as an inspirational role model.

Behind the scenes it was a different story. Although she enjoyed the attention, Meghan failed to understand the point of all those walkabouts, shaking hands with countless strangers. According to several members of staff, she was heard to say on at least one occasion, “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this.”

Admittedly, Meghan was pregnant at the time of the tour.

Nonetheless, Low writes:

More than once, staff felt they were treated harshly. On the journey from Tonga to Sydney, Sam Cohen was said to have had a particularly torrid time of it, according to one source.

“Sam had been screamed at before the flight and during.” After that, she warned other staff to stay away from Harry and Meghan for the rest of the day. That evening, her colleagues tried to arrange matters so that she did not have to see Harry and Meghan any more than was strictly necessary. “It was so horrible to see yesterday,” one said the next day. According to one source, David Manning, who was always a reassuring presence on tours, would say, “You are dealing with a very difficult lady.”

The effect of Meghan’s behaviour was perhaps seen in its starkest terms some time after Knauf wrote his email to Simon Case. Harry had heard about the complaint and had tried to persuade Knauf to make it go away (something denied by the Sussexes’ lawyers). One member of staff, who was named by Knauf in the email, was due to work with Meghan the next day and was worried that she would find out about the complaint.

“This is why I feel sick,” they said. “I don’t want to have to get into the car with her tomorrow morning… She will blame me for it, which will make tomorrow absolutely horrific.”

In the months after the tour, it became clear that the two Americans — Jason Knauf and the Duchess of Sussex — did not see eye to eye:

In the months after the South Pacific tour, the relationship between Jason Knauf and Harry and Meghan was effectively over, even though Knauf was still officially in charge of their media operation. In December, Meghan, wearing a black one-shoulder Givenchy dress, made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, where she presented an award to Clare Waight Keller, who had designed her wedding dress. Knauf had no idea it was happening until Meghan was on stage. She had refused to let Sam Cohen or her assistant private secretary, Amy Pickerill, tell him it was happening.

A month after Knauf sent his bullying allegations to Simon Case, he handed in his notice. He was instead taken on by William and Kate as a special adviser and later became chief executive of the couple’s charitable body, the Royal Foundation.

The Royal foursome also ended:

The bullying allegations, meanwhile, accelerated a major shake-up at Kensington Palace, with Harry and Meghan splitting their household from William and Kate’s.

Cohen prepared her departure:

Cohen was clearly delighted to be getting out soon. A source once said: “Sam always made clear that it was like working for a couple of teenagers. They were impossible and pushed her to the limit. She was miserable.”

Cohen “was at her wits’ end”, said a friend. She was exhausted, had stayed on with the Sussexes for longer than she originally planned and felt isolated from the rest of the royal hierarchy now that she was no longer in the Queen’s private office. “She was constantly having to battle on Harry and Meghan’s behalf, while taking all this abuse from them.” She also found herself getting far more involved in arranging their personal lives than would normally be appropriate for a private secretary, who, despite the job title, is just there to look after their official lives.

The Sussexes’ new team was large, as one would expect of them:

It included a private secretary, two assistant private secretaries, a communications secretary and two other communications officers, as well as administrative staff.

Another American, although one with dual US-UK nationality, was part of it:

Sara Latham – a dual US-British citizen with a bright smile and seemingly boundless energy – was the PR big-hitter who was going to be in charge of communications. Then a managing partner at the Freuds PR agency, she had a wealth of experience, having been a senior adviser on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign … 

At first, Latham and Meghan were a golden combination. She told a friend, “I love this job. It’s amazing.” Latham would go round for lunch with the duchess at Frogmore Cottage to talk things over. Latham thought she understood Meghan, who believed that the press hated her and that she was a victim of racism in the media. The way Latham saw it, Meghan as an American was a victim of cultural differences rather than racism. What she needed was someone to hold her hand and help her navigate her way through the minefield.

It did not take long for the shine to wear off. There was a series of battles with the media that spring and summer. First came Meghan’s lavish baby shower in New York. Then, when Archie was due in May, Meghan was determined to avoid the indignity of a royal birth with journalists camped outside the hospital. The palace put out a statement saying that the duchess had gone into labour, only for it to emerge later than she had, in fact, given birth some eight hours before.

Remember that 2019 was the year Meghan and Harry took private jets everywhere:

This prompted rows with Sara Latham, who had advised Harry against taking private jets.

Relations between the couple and Latham became increasingly tense. Close colleagues began to wonder how long Latham would want to stick around. At the back of their minds was the feeling that anyone leaving the Sussex team would be best advised to think of a good excuse. Meghan did not like it if she thought it was about her.

Meghan’s assistant private secretary, Amy Pickerill, resigned around that time. Low says that the Duchess was quite ‘angry’.

Then came the Africa tour that year.

To be continued next week.

Following on from Wednesday’s post, I have a few bookmarks about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex which are worth exploring in light of Prince Harry’s new book, Spare.

As Harry portrays his situation, nothing the Royal Family gave him was ever good enough. Let’s look back and see what was said at the time.

I will end the post with analyses of Spare for readers’ weekend viewing.

Nottingham Cottage

We know from Spare that he thought Nottingham Cottage — Nott Cott — in the grounds of Kensington Palace, was not an adequate home for him, either single or married.

A Daily Mail article from August 22, 2016, ‘Eugenie’s moving in to Kensington Palace with William, Harry and Kate’, shows us the full palace layout and where everyone lived at the time. What a delightful enclave for family members, young and old alike.

This is what Richard Kay wrote about Diana’s former apartment and Nott Cott (emphases mine):

It is Margaret’s four-storey residence, which also has an eight-car garage, that is now home to William, Kate and their children Prince George, three, and Princess Charlotte, one.

William’s decision to return to his childhood home, the source of memories much happier than those of his late mother, triggered the regeneration. It followed a period of soul-searching and house-hunting.

Clarence House, where until his wedding he had shared an apartment with Harry, was briefly considered until his stepmother, the Duchess of Cornwall, loftily declared: ‘There’s no room here.’

Then there was St James’s Palace next door — but William was said to find it ‘rather gloomy’.

The only other option was Buckingham Palace, but imagine the upheaval — and the angst for Prince Charles — had the popular William set up home in his grandmother’s official residence.

‘It would have suggested a very dangerous message: that the Queen was apparently endorsing her grandson as her successor,’ says a courtier.

Kensington Palace was where William really wanted to live with Kate. But he drew the line at returning to his mother’s old flat, Apartments 8 and 9, because, according to Princess Michael, of the ‘ghosts’ of Diana. (Margaret’s old flat is said to have a ghost, incidentally — a woman in a blue dress.)

After Diana’s death, her apartment was stripped to the bare floorboards. Even the light fittings were removed.

For a decade it was left as a shell before being split into offices for charities, as well as providing a home for the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff.

Thus William and Kate’s first marital homeKP’s Nottingham Cottage (where Harry now lives)was of modest proportions. Self-contained, cosy and private, it was formerly the home of Prince Philip’s private secretary, Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, and his wife Gay.

Two years later and, after a £4.5 million taxpayer-funded refit, they were ensconced in Apartment 1a, Princess Margaret’s old home.

So, Nott Cott was of modest proportions, yet it was William and Kate’s first home after they married. Harry makes it sound as if it were an insult that he and Meghan were expected to live there as newlyweds.

By the way, Kensington Palace is home to more than members of the Royal Family:

The 50-plus residents include senior courtiers, military figures, domestic staff and even a few members of the public, who pay the market rent for accommodation.

In return, they get 24-hour armed police security, their own telephone exchange and a team of gardeners and craftsmen to maintain the palace, which was adapted for royal use by Sir Christopher Wren.

… Clearly, with so many Royals and VIPs, the security — which we have purposely not highlighted in our graphic — is world-class.

At the time it was built, ‘KP’ was in the countryside:

Originally a Jacobean mansion, KP was bought in 1689 for the princely sum of 18,000 guineas by William III. Suffering from chronic asthma, he hoped to benefit from the Kensington air, which was cleaner than in the city centre, and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to make it a home fit for a king.

Queen Victoria resisted moves to turn it into a national gallery. And despite similar attempts in this century — part of Prince Charles’s plan to streamline the Royal Family — Victoria’s descendants still live there today.

Here is a little-known fact about the palace and Princess Margaret’s apartment:

for Diana, haunted by unhappiness, it came to be ‘more prison than palace’. Princess Margaret’s decline from being a vibrant party-goer — and party-giver — was marked by her loneliness, rattling around a 22-room apartment after her divorce from the Earl of Snowdon …

… after a £4.5 million taxpayer-funded refit, they [William and Kate] were ensconced in Apartment 1a, Princess Margaret’s old home.

Veteran palace staff have jokingly wondered whether repairs included the replacement of a loose-fitting drain cover outside the front door.

According to Margaret’s former chauffeur David Griffin, Diana drove over the cover if she had a late-night assignation because the route was not covered by CCTV cameras. He said: ‘Whenever the Princess heard the cover clanking late at night, she knew it was Diana and would peer out. It usually meant Diana didn’t want anyone to see who she was bringing home.’

2017 — engagement year

2017 turned out to be the year that would change Harry’s life permanently.

It is no wonder that the Queen thought that Harry’s future would include Africa. Here he was in October that year with the co-founding patron of the charity, Sentebale — ‘Forget me not’. The charity is in memory of Princes Harry and Seeiso’s late mothers:

In November 2017, Harry and Meghan announced their engagement.

On January 24, 2018, Vanity Fair explored how the couple met. Note that no sooner had he slipped a ring on her finger than a television film was in the making (original emphases in bold):

Well, it is looking like they are going to have to hire an extra fact-checker or two for the forthcoming Prince HarryMeghan Markle Lifetime movie, as the details relating to the pair’s “origin story” grow increasingly . . . complex.

Let’s recap: in November, on the day their engagement was announced, the shimmering couple sat down for a joint interview with the BBC, where they were asked how they met. (In their case, the circumstances of their meeting—given the very separate spheres, not to mention continents, they each occupied—held special intrigue.) Meghan and Harry explained they had been set up by a mutual friend—but, just as it appeared Harry might let slip the friend’s name, Meghan cut him off, and said they would try to maintain “her” privacy. Yes, her!

Of course, this clue had the British press off to the races …

The press came up with several names, all of which turned out to be wrong. Finally, the matchmaker’s name emerged:

But now E! News has come along and . . . added a new dimension to the mystery … the outlet claims that it can confirm that the actual “real heroine of this love story” is Violet von Westenholz (whose name had also been bandied about back in November). Who is she? Well, her father is a baron and friend of Prince Charles, and she has, according to E!, “been in Harry’s trusted inner circle of friends for years.” (Curiously, Violet’s younger sister, Victoria, had once been romantically linked to Harry, in fact.)

Harry had been concerned about finding the right woman:

E! offers this pretty amusing sourcing about Harry’s state of mind before meeting Markle, which touches on . . . the possibility of his using Tinder: “Harry was having a really hard time finding anyone. It’s hard enough finding someone new to date. He can hardly go on Tinder or a dating app like normal people, but to meet someone that you actually connect with, that was proving to be almost impossible. It was something he had confided in his closest friends about; he was ready to meet someone but it was so hard to actually find the right person.”

It was at about this point when von Westenholz encountered—yes—a star of USA’s Suits with a lifestyle blog named Meghan Markle. The two reportedly “became friends through Violet’s P.R. work” with Ralph Lauren. E! says that Markle had “been a part of the London social scene for a while,” and that, with the knowledge that Harry was looking for love, as it were, Violet put two and two together and let Harry know “she might just have the perfect girl for him.”

Von Westenholz has, unsurprisingly, not responded to E!’s request for comment about her role in the relationship.

At the bottom of the article is one of the engagement photos. Why does Harry have a problem with the placement of his right hand? He always looks as if he’s trying to hide something with it. Two fingers are often out in a horned gesture. Perhaps his therapist could explore that a bit more with him. It might unlock secrets of his psyche.

The Markles speak out

Members of the Markle family spoke out in the weeks before the wedding on May 19, 2018.

On May 2, the Mail featured an article on the April 26 letter that Thomas Markle Jr sent to Prince Harry. He wrote it on yellow lined office pad stationery, the sort that is available everywhere in the United States. Markle shared it with In Touch magazine.

Excerpts from ‘Meghan Markle’s brother warns Prince Harry to cancel royal wedding’ follow:

Elder sibling Thomas Markle Jr has warned the 33-year-old royal to ditch the May 19 union with the ‘Suits’ actress.

Mr Markle slammed the American star, insisting that 36-year-old Meghan is a ‘jaded, shallow, conceited woman that will make a joke of you and the royal family heritage.’ 

The letter, shared with In Touch magazine reads: ‘As more time passes to your royal wedding, it became very clear that this is the biggest mistake in royal wedding history.’

‘Meghan Markle is obviously not the right woman for you.

‘I’m confused why you don’t see the real Meghan that the whole world now sees.

‘Meghan’s attempt to act the part of a princess like a below C average Hollywood actress is getting old.’

The 51-year-old, who is from Oregon in the US, then went on to claim that their father went into debt in order to support Markle’s acting dream and is still struggling financially. 

He also claims that their father was not invited to the wedding …

Mr Markle accused his sibling of turning her back on the family and said she is ‘falsely’ trying to portray herself as the new Princess Diana.

He told the Daily Mirror: ‘She’s clearly forgotten her roots. It’s torn my entire family apart. Meg likes to portray herself as a humanitarian, a people’s person and a charitable person but she is none of those things to her family.

‘She is giving the greatest ­performance of her life. She is acting phoney. I’ve read that Meg wants to be like Diana. 

‘Diana was worshipped by everyone in the world. She was loved for the right reasons.

‘That’s what Meg wants, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. She’s not genuine like Diana.’

Mr Markle has not seen his sister since 2011 when the pair – and Meghan’s film producer ex Trevor Engleson, 41 – attended the Los Angeles funeral of their grandmother, Doris. 

However, Markle Jr was not without his own notoriety:

Markle believes that his brushes with the law may have embarrassed his half sister who is avoiding him. 

He was in the news at the start of the year when he was thrown in jail for two days for a drunken brawl with his fiancee Darlene Blount on New Year’s Eve. 

Last year Markle was also arrested for brandishing a gun at his fiancee during another drunken fracas, although the charges were later dropped.

He blamed his behaviour on struggling to cope with the extra pressure and scrutiny he and the rest of his family have faced since Meghan’s royal engagement.

New title for Harry

On the big day, Saturday, May 19, 2018, the BBC reported that the Queen conferred upon her grandson a title that had not been used since 1749:

Prince Harry has been given a Scottish title by the Queen.

He will be the third Earl of Dumbarton – a title that has strong military connections and one not used since 1749.

On her marriage, Meghan Markle has become the Countess of Dumbarton.

The title goes back to the time of King Charles II:

The first to hold the title was George Douglas, a younger son of the first Marquess of Douglas, who was created Earl of Dumbarton in 1675.

A Scottish nobleman and soldier, George was given the title by Charles II in recognition of his military service.

On George’s death at St German-en-Laye in France, the title passed to his son, also called George, who became the second Earl of Dumbarton.

The title became extinct when the second earl died in 1749, meaning it has not been used in more than 260 years.

Dumbarton has historical significance dating back to the Dark Ages:

Dumbarton, on the north bank of the River Clyde, to the west of Glasgow was founded in the fifth century and was once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde.

It is the site of a volcanic rock on which stands Dumbarton Castle. During its long history, the castle has been both a royal residence and a fortress.

Dumbarton was a Royal Burgh between 1222 and 1975.

Mary Queen of Scots was kept at the castle as a young child for several months in 1548 for her safety before she embarked for France to become the bride of the Dauphin, the young French prince.

The wedding

In the days preceding the wedding, many Britons will recall the effusive, if not over-the-top, headlines.

The BBC televised the wedding in full. I watched the sermon from Bishop Curry, the President of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Then I watched the couple exchange vows. I remember there was something about that I didn’t like.

Although the ceremony took place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, there were many American elements to it, as the BBC reported:

It was a traditional wedding – the dress, the bridesmaids, the vows, the hymns. And it was very, very different.

The Palace made it clear in a stream of announcements that they wanted a different kind of wedding.

But it was the service that marked this out as a modern, diverse wedding for a modern, diverse couple: the Kingdom Gospel choir setting toes tapping, a young black cellist, and a breathtaking address from Bishop Curry, the President of the Episcopal Church.

Every royal wedding is a chance for the Royal Family to relaunch and reinvent. There may have been trouble in the week before the wedding. But that is in the past.

This wedding was about the future, a different future for the Royal Family.

And how. Little did we realise it at the time.

The article had a summary of highlights. The BBC omitted mentioning that Prince Charles walked his new daughter-in-law down the aisle, as Thomas Markle Sr had been too ill to attend:

The wedding service combined British tradition with modernity and the bride’s African-American heritage.

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, the president of the US Episcopal Church, gave an address, the Rt Rev David Conner, Dean of Windsor, conducted the service and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, officiated.

“There’s power, power in love,” said Bishop Curry, who was invited to speak by Ms Markle.

“If you don’t believe me think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to centre around you and your beloved.”

In a fiery, passionate speech, he also referenced the African-American spiritual song Down by the Riverside, which was sung by slaves, and when he realised he had gone on too long, he told his audience he had better wrap up as “we gotta get you all married!”

Indeed.

Also:

Lady Jane Fellowes, the sister of Prince Harry’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, gave a reading from the Song of Solomon.

Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir performed Ben E King’s soul classic Stand By Me during the service.

As the bride and groom signed the register, 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason – who won the 2016 BBC’s Young Musician – performed three pieces by Faure, Schubert and Maria Theresia von Paradis.

He was accompanied by musicians from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia.

The gospel choir also performed Etta James’ uplifting version of Amen/This Little Light of Mine as the newlyweds left the chapel.

Afterwards, the couple went into Windsor:

After the service, the duke and duchess travelled through Windsor along a route lined by tens of thousands of well-wishers.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead said more than 100,000 people visited the town on Saturday.

The celebrations

Guests seemed to be divided up into two groups for two different celebrations.

The first was the Queen’s luncheon for the happy couple:

All 600 guests were invited to a lunchtime reception at St George’s Hall, hosted by the Queen. The best man, the Duke of Cambridge, acted as compere.

Guests were treated to a performance by Sir Elton John and were served langoustine canapes, Windsor lamb, and champagne and pistachio macaroons. Instead of a formal sit-down dinner, food was served in bowls.

If I were hosting, I would have put my foot down re bowls. Formal or not, it’s an extraordinary occasion. Eat off a plate.

Then again, remember Harry’s words before the wedding: ‘Whatever Meghan wants, Meghan gets’?

Here is a photo of the elderflower and lemon cake:

Royals, celebrities and sports stars attended. The article has a partial list.

As it was not a state event, there were no politicians, only former Prime Minister John Major, who had been:

a special guardian on legal matters to Princes William and Harry after the death of their mother …

Members of the public were invited into the Castle grounds to see the newlyweds. There were 1,000 in all, most of whom were charity workers.

Then came the evening reception, which Prince Charles hosted at Frogmore House, which, in time, became the couple’s home:

On Saturday evening, the newlyweds are celebrating with 200 close friends and family at a private reception less than a mile from Windsor Castle at Frogmore House, hosted by Prince Charles.

Ms Markle was expected to break with tradition for royal brides and make a speech at the event.

No taxpayers’ money was spent:

The Royal Family will pay for the wedding, including the service, music, flowers and reception.

On Monday, May 21, The Sun reported on Meghan’s speech.

The bride’s mother Doria Ragland, 61, attended, as we remember, and wore a beautiful Givenchy outfit. Both she and her daughter had a most positive view of the Royal Family:

MEGHAN Markle declared “I have found my Prince” as she made a romantic speech to her new husband hours after joining the Royal Family.

The Duchess of Sussex bravely took the microphone to profess her love for Prince Harrywhile thanking his family for “welcoming” her at the Royal Wedding reception.

In the speech, the US actress particularly singled out the Prince of Wales, just hours after her new father-in-law walked her down the aisle in the wedding of the year.

She is said to have a “special bond” with Prince Charles, grateful of his kindness to her and her mother during the huge change in her life.

Meghan’s mum Doria Ragland, 61, was the bride’s only family member on her big day after Meghan’s dad Thomas Markle dropped out due to health issues …

According to one source, the Duchess of Sussex expressed her gratitude to Prince Charles at how welcoming he had been to both herself and her mum.

They told the Daily Mail: “She has been so touched by how welcoming the Prince of Wales has been. So is her mother.

“Honestly, they are touched beyond belief. It was important to her to make a point of thanking him publicly, although, of course, he knows privately how she feels.”

Another source told the newspaper: “It is often said that he always wanted a daughter and I think he has been really moved by how well they have got on.

“There is definitely a connection there. Meghan’s mother means more to her than anything, so it was lovely to see the way he was so welcoming to Doria too.”

The evening reception took place in:

a £300,000 glass marquee in the grounds of Windsor Castle paid for by Prince Charles.

Harry’s dad left guests in stitches with a speech about changing his nappy, while the groom delighted everyone when he referred to Meghan as his “wife”.

Jubilant guests were later treated to an incredible firework display that could be seen for miles around Windsor as the Royal Wedding was brought to a close.

The Sun said that, earlier, Thomas Markle Jr retracted the sentiments he had penned in his aforementioned letter to Harry:

he has now backtracked on his scathing comments – branding it a “moment of madness”.

There was a bit on the clothes:

The loved-up pair gazed at each other during the ceremony, with Meghan wowing in her spectacular gown by designer Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy.

She teamed it with a dazzling Mary Diamond Bandeau tiara – lent to her by the Queen.

The article made one mention of:

star-studded guests that had gathered at the couple’s reception at Frogmore House on Saturday night.

That was because there was another article about them and much more to read about this special day, including, but not limited to, the following:

Harry’s friends’ hurt feelings

However, not everyone who thought they would get an invitation to the evening bash received one.

On May 21, Katie Nicholl, Vanity Fair‘s royal reporter, had quite the list in ‘Some of Prince Harry’s Old Friends Were “a Bit Surprised” to Not Be Invited to the Evening Wedding Reception’ (bold emphases in the original). This is why I think there were two groups of guests:

While George Clooney was the last man standing at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding party and James Corden had guests in stitches with his hilarious jokes, some of Harry’s oldest pals were left wondering why they hadn’t been invited to the party of the decade. Below, a few of the old friends who didn’t make the cut.

While she was at the wedding and afternoon reception at Windsor Castle, Violet von Westenholz wasn’t at the evening party. Having played cupid—it was von Westenholz who gave Harry Meghan’s number after suggesting they meet—von Westenholz was notable by her absence. Perhaps she had double-booked, as she was seen at the wedding of Harry’s old chum Ed Watson to Cara-Louise Pratt later in the evening.

While Harry generously extended wedding invitations to his exes (he thought it was the right thing to do, according to one of his pals), neither Chelsy Davy nor Cressida Bonas got a golden ticket to the bash. Though reports claimed Davy was there, a family friend told Vanity Fair that she didn’t get an invite to the party, despite speaking to Harry in a tearful phone call last week. “It was their final call, a parting call in which they both acknowledged Harry was moving on. Chelsy was quite emotional about it all, she was in tears and almost didn’t go to the wedding. In the end, she went and promised Harry she wouldn’t try and gatecrash the party.”

There was also no invite to either the wedding or the reception for Harry’s old party chum Natalie Pinkham. The prince has known Sky Sports presenter Pinkham for more than 10 years and they stay in regular touch. “Natalie was a bit surprised not to be there,” said a source who knows them both. “She and Harry still talk so it was a surprise for her not to be invited at all.”

Another society nose out of joint was that of Astrid Harbord, one of the prince’s oldest friends, who has a reputation for being a party girl but wasn’t at the party of the decade. Harry’s old army pal James Blunt and his wife, Sofia Wellesley, were also left off the elite evening guest list. “Some of Harry’s pals were a bit surprised not to get the golden ticket to the evening party,” said a society friend. “There was actually another wedding that weekend that a lot of them were invited to, so they got to have fun in any case.”

Prince Charles’s 70th birthday charity party

On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the Queen held a garden party for the then-Prince Charles in honour of his 70th year.

He was born on November 14, 1948, but, beginning with the garden party, special celebrations and exhibits marked his birthday year.

A bee plagued Harry during the speech he gave in honour of his father. Meghan stuck her tongue out. (Why?)

The Sun reported, complete with many photos of the new bride:

MEGHAN Markle was left giggling as her new husband tried to swat away a bee as he gave a birthday speech for his dad.

The US actress couldn’t help but smile as Prince Harry was buzzed by the insect during a 70th birthday bash for Prince Charles.

At one stage the playful royal even seemed to stick her tongue out as her new hubby struggled with the persistent pest – a flashback to Christmas Day when she did the same at Sandringham.

Prince Harry had been speaking about his dad’s “selfless drive to affect change” to the garden party crowd at Buckingham Palace when he was forced to swat away the insect …

But as he tried to go on, the 33-year-old interrupted himself – waving a bee away and saying: “sorry, that bee really got me.”

While many in the crowd laughed, none were more amused than Meghan.

The new royal burst out laughing, leaning forward as she was overcome with giggles at her new husband’s mishap.

She also exchanged smiles with Prince Charles and Camilla as they chuckled at the insect’s ill-timed interruption.

The second-in-line to the throne appeared to be slightly embarrassed by his son’s praise during his speech, bashfully tapping his cane on the floor as Prince Harry addressed the crowd.

Meghan today seemed comfortable with her in-laws as she attended her first official event as a royal.

That sentence reads a bit oddly with the addition of ‘today’, as if she had been uncomfortable in the past. Hmm.

Analysis of Spare

Moving on five years to the present day, we see a different Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Dan Wootton, who writes for the Daily Mail and hosts a two-hour GB News show every Monday through Thursday, has devoted the week to discussing Spare as well as Harry’s interviews.

On Monday, January 9, his column began as follows:

If the Queen Consort Camilla is ‘dangerous’ and a ‘dragon’ for working with the British free Press to improve her reputation, then Prince Harry and Meghan are themselves dragon slayers.

We’ve now had to sit through hours of a grim fantasy created by the embittered Sussexes, most recently outlined in painful softball interviews by their BFF Tom Bradby on ITV in the UK and woke US media allies Anderson Cooper on CBS and Michael Strahan on ABC.

The fairy tale goes that this selfless and altruistic couple were forced to smash relations with their British royal relatives and flee the country because of a vicious briefing campaign launched against them, even seeing the Press conspire with the institution and senior members of the Royal Family to drive out such a popular pair.

That narrative is deranged.

It’s a hypocritical invented account designed by snivelling Harry and fake Meghan to avoid taking any account for their own behaviour, including credible claims of bullying against staff by the American diva.

Well, I’ve had enough of media figures tiptoeing around what we all know are falsehoods.

If Harry and Meghan claim briefing the tabloid Press is some sort of unforgivable ‘crime’ undertaken by Charles, Camilla, William and Kate, then they are just as guilty.

How do I know? Well, I was on the receiving end of such briefings by the Sussexes’ own communications team during my years covering Meghan’s time in the Royal Family as I broke a series of now infamous scoops, from Tiaragate, the bitter rivalry between Kate and Meghan, and, ultimately, Megxit.

On Tuesday, he had just finished reading Spare. Wootton holds nothing back in his analysis, which begins with this:

I needed to take a wash after reading what is without doubt the most pathetic, self-serving and tone-deaf autobiography ever because of the number of vitriolic and deeply personal swipes he takes at his own flesh and blood.

No one is safe.

Not even the late Queen, who Prince Harry paints as cold, detached and old-fashioned, rather than a monarch desperately trying to hold her wayward family together for the good of the institution.

What’s so disturbing is that, even when describing his version of events in such an obviously one-sided manner, it was still clear to me that Harry is in the wrong about almost every menial gripe for which he opines.

While his father King Charles and brother Prince William are, unsurprisingly given their role, far from perfect, they are left at the end of their tether by Harry’s pig-headed intransigence, especially once he is so heavily influenced by a cabal of woke psychotherapists and Hollywood yes men working in cahoots with his controlling wife Meghan Markle.

Harry has spent the past two years claiming all he wanted was support from the Royal Family.

But Spare makes plain when they tried to offer help and solutions, it was never good enough for the Sussexes, who want everything their own way all the time

Predictably, having broken a number of damaging scoops about the Sussexes, often accepting briefing from Harry and Meghan’s staff, as I revealed in my column here yesterday, I come in for a pasting, being described as ‘a sad little man’ for first revealing the story of Megxit.

Just like much of the fiction and fantasy in Spare, Harry gets it all wrong again though, incorrectly claiming I was ‘likely working in concert with the Palace, whose courtiers were determined to get ahead of us and spin the story’.

Harry admits he went to the late Queen with the information that I was about to break the story, in order for the Sussexes to release a statement to scoop me, despite the fact I’d given them over a week’s notice already by that point.

Here are Dan’s shows from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Monday’s seems to have disappeared, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, January 10:

Wednesday, January 11:

Thursday, January 12. This one has a video about the Elizabeth Arden cream Harry used on an intimate part of his anatomy to relieve frostbite. He then says that it reminded him of his mother, which creeped out the two men on Dan’s panel:

You can fast forward through the adverts, of which there are many.

Watch early to avoid disappointment.

I will have more on the Sussexes 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.

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.

Four years ago at this time, I was lukewarm about Kevin McCarthy, the Republican (Minority) Leader in America’s House of Representatives.

He represents California’s 23rd District, so he knows a lot about the state’s politics.

He wasn’t too keen on Donald Trump in 2016, but, since then, he got on board the Trump Train and makes a lot of sense.

Below are some of his latest and greatest tweets.

The 2020 results for the House

Six days after the 2020 election, he tweeted:

He also had a go at Nancy Pelosi’s predictions about the election results. She was so wrong:

2020 election censorship

On Wednesday, December 9, YouTube posted a statement: ‘Supporting the 2020 U.S. Election’.

It reads in part (emphases mine):

Yesterday was the safe harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect. Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, in line with our approach towards historical U.S. Presidential elections. For example, we will remove videos claiming that a Presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors. We will begin enforcing this policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come. As always, news coverage and commentary on these issues can remain on our site if there’s sufficient education, documentary, scientific or artistic context.

While only a small portion of watch time is election-related content, YouTube continues to be an important source of election news. On average 88% of the videos in top 10 search results related to elections came from authoritative news sources (amongst the rest are things like newsy late-night shows, creator videos and commentary). And the most viewed channels and videos are from news channels like NBC and CBS.

NBC and CBS weren’t biased, were they?

Kevin McCarthy was quick to respond. He’s absolutely right. There was nothing like this in 2016:

Praise for Trump’s historic five peace deals in four months

On Thursday, December 10, the Trump administration made history once again, with yet another exceptional peace deal, where people said none could be done.

Yes, Donald Trump is the Peace President:

I couldn’t agree more:

China

A week ago, I wrote on Orphans of Liberty about the revelations that a female Chinese spy was active in California and the Midwest for several years (see the part on China). The principal politician involved was Rep. Eric Swalwell. The Chinese national, Fang ‘Christine’ Fang, met him when he was councillor for a San Francisco Bay area town, Dublin City. At the time, she was a student at California State University East Bay and affiliated with the Chinese Student Association.

Swalwell was first elected to US Congress in 2012. He was re-elected in 2014. Fang was his ‘bundler’ for campaign contributions. That was ideal for her and for China. She ended up placing a few political interns in his offices, including one in Washington, DC.

Fang overplayed her hand in the months to come. By 2015 — and this was during Obama’s second term — the FBI was on to her. They gave Swalwell a defence briefing about Fang and he put an end to his association with her.

Nonetheless, Swalwell has served on the House Intelligence Committee for several years. He is still serving on the House Intelligence Committee.

Furthermore, few people are more vocally anti-Trump than Eric Swalwell. He was one of the principal peddlers of the ‘Russian collusion’ narrative.

Kevin McCarthy nailed it with this tweet from Tuesday, December 8:

The following day, he explained to Laura Ingraham of Fox News that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi nominated him to that committee. Did Madam Speaker know about Swalwell’s connections? If so, she never should have nominated him:

On Monday, December 14, he also had a go at Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, about Swalwell. Schiff, also a Democrat, is another US legislator from California:

This is his message for the next session of Congress, when the Speaker of the House position is once again up for grabs:

Coronavirus lockdowns

For me, however, this is Kevin McCarthy’s best tweet:

Yes, they do, indeed.

In August, he tweeted:

Yet, the longer lockdowns and restrictions go on, the more people are likely to believe small business closures, particularly those in the hospitality sector, are a way of letting either big firms or the Chinese in to buy vacant property.

Yesterday, Howie Carr interviewed a restaurant owner from the North End in Boston who has a long-established restaurant that is opening and closing at the whims of city officials and the Massachusetts governor. The man was fighting back tears. This is not easy — at all. He said he does not know what is going on but he says that all the benefit is going to big corporations rather than to him and his brother as well as other small business owners.

When I found McCarthy’s ‘lockdowns destroy livelihoods’ tweet, I’d also spotted a prescient comment from someone who has been an ex-Democrat since 2008. The comment is excerpted below:

Why are all the Dem leaders so blatantly cold & heartless & PUNITIVE towards destroying people’s lives…while continuing to party in their own lives

Why would Cuomo & DeBlasio let NY turn into a ghost town? and Newsome & Garcetti let the great state of California & the once grand city of Los Angeles die a slow death to the point of driving even Silicon Valley & Elon Musk to skedaddle out to greener & nicer pastures taking all their jobs & moola with them??? Why??

and then it hit me……there is a strategythe Dems want the businesses to fail; they want the small business people to fail…they want to kill their golden goose…WHY? Democrats have always been big supporters of Eminent Domain…I could not believe it when I found out years ago it is usually the Dems behind confisicating people’s land, homes, businesses…not really repubs…they believe in their right to do that…for the “greater good”

so my theory goes Dem leaders want to suffocate the small business & real estate & workers to the point of blight & where they give up, lose their businesses & property, have their business licenses & credentials taken away from them, etc

and then Dems claim all the property & real estate, small businesses under eminent domain or some other concocted device…take what they want …demolish the rest & start selling the locations & properties to FOREIGN INVESTORS…namely CHINA, CHINA, CHINA

Does anyone doubt that CHINA (given we are speaking about Dems, throw in Iran, etc) would love to own Los Angeles & New York City?

THIS is what I believe is the method to their madness…let things get as bad as they conceivably can without being too obvious…and then one by one Foreign money will appear & buy up the fire sales…& then recreate in their own image a “New America” with Dems in charge of who gets what & at what price.

That is very plausible, very plausible. And, if it is, it won’t just be true in the United States. What about the many European countries experiencing endless lockdowns and restrictions?

The Democrats — either at state or federal level — are not helping the normal American who has worked hard to make his or her living.

McCarthy retweeted this:

As he told Maria Bartiromo of Fox News, Nancy Pelosi used this despicable strategy to hurt President Trump. Instead, it hurt millions of Americans:

Civil rights

On civil rights, McCarthy knows the history of the Republican Party, which has championed them from the 19th century:

After the 2020 election, McCarthy pointed out the diversity among the Republican winners:

Oldies but goodies from 2018 up to 2020

In 2018, McCarthy proved that a goodly number of Democrat congressmen don’t care whether illegals vote in a US election:

Nearly three weeks later — and three weeks before the mid-term election that year — Newt Gingrich lauded McCarthy for his stance on immigration: ‘Here’s a leader with a plan to genuinely control our southern border. He needs our support’.

California politics is part of this, too:

When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., introduced the Build the Wall, Enforce the Law Act he set the stage for a vital national debate on important questions

When contrasted with the open borders bill of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – which every Democratic Senate incumbent has co-sponsored – the choice between the two parties is clear.

Republicans will control the border. Democrats will throw the border wide open to anyone who wants to enter.

On October 23 that year, Fox News reported that two men threw a large rock through the window of McCarthy’s office in Bakersfield, California. The men then burglarised the equipment inside:

McCarthy posted four photographs documenting the alleged episode on Instagram — three showing the individuals he identified as possible suspects, and one providing a clear view of a massive slab of rock lying on the floor amid shattered glass.

“Does anyone know these two guys?” McCarthy wrote on the social media site, next to images of two people spotted near his office.

The Bakersfield Police Department did not comment on the alleged incident when reached by Fox News and said it would have more information on Tuesday.

McCarthy, like several other congressional Republicans, has faced threats and harassment in the past several weeks. In August, protesters in Sacramento chanting “No justice, no peace” disrupted McCarthy’s event at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Ironically, on Thursday, McCarthy retweeted President Trump’s “#JobsNotMobs” slogan, underscoring the deteriorating level of civility in politics ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

After the November 6 election that year, McCarthy was approved by a vote of 159-43 to become the new House Minority Leader.

McCarthy is someone who appeals to all Republicans. Trump, however, also wanted a more controversial figure to also represent his interests — Jim Jordan from Ohio, a wrestler during his university days:

Jim Jordan did not get his appointment as Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee until March 20, 2020. That said, Doug Collins (R-Georgia) did an excellent job defending the president during his impeachment hearings.

During Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) shutdown early in 2019, McCarthy wanted Congress in session:

During that time, he also made it clear that he supports small government:

At the end of January 2019, in an effort for tighter border legislation, McCarthy gave a speech about the many Americans who had been the victims of crime at the hands of illegals. It was so moving that he received a bipartisan standing ovation.

A few days later, he upheld the right to life in criticising Virginia’s Democrat governor Ralph Northam for his egregious racist behaviour and stance on abortion:

Sadly, Northam’s still there.

On February 19, 2019, he posited that Adam Schiff should have recused himself from investigating Trump’s notional ‘Russian collusion’ because Schiff met with Glenn Simpson, the founder of GPS Fusion, the opposition research firm behind the Democrat-funded Steele dossier at the Aspen Security Forum in July 2018.

The matter persisted through the end of March that year, but Schiff is still the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

In April, he warned Americans of the Democrat plan to regulate the Internet. He countered that Republicans want to keep the Internet free and open.

Two months later, he pointed out that YouTube considers itself a publisher, not a platform. It should be noted that a publisher can choose what to publish, a platform — which YouTube claims to be — cannot.

Kevin McCarthy also managed to raise a lot of money for President Trump’s 2020 campaign, starting in 2019:

McCarthy had a strategy to win a House majority in 2020. Sadly, that didn’t work — and historically, it’s very difficult — BUT at least the Republicans did not lose any seats (see the first tweet in this post).

In late October 2019, McCarthy rightly criticised the secrecy that Adam Schiff engineered around the preparations for Trump’s impeachment. Republicans were not allowed to see some of the evidence.

McCarthy refused to give it legitimacy:

On December 6, 2019, McCarthy brought Pelosi’s forked tongue approach to the attention of all Americans:

In January 2020, McCarthy set an all-time annual fundraising record for the Republicans:

On February 5, 2020, McCarthy announced that Trump was ‘acquitted for life’:

He defended Attorney General Bill Barr (who is leaving his post this month) against 2,000 former DoJ — Department of Justice — employees who wanted him to resign.

In June, he saw the agenda that lies behind people who want to topple statues and destroy police stations, public housing as well as churches:

Later this past summer, he appeared in a moving campaign ad for President Trump:

In a change from four or more years ago, McCarthy stated that he did not want an endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce. That is because the Chamber of Commerce rejected Trump in 2020 and endorsed Democrats instead. Now please revisit the ex-Dem’s comment earlier in this post about what could happen to the property that businesses going bust from coronavirus leave behind. It is entirely possible that those properties could be sold to a foreign entity or to big real estate developers.

On Wednesday, November 4, the day after the election, he tweeted, ‘Americans rejected socialism and voted for freedom’, which was true at state and federal levels. Team Trump continues to contest the presidential results.

McCarthy wants the battle for truth to continue. On November 6, he told Laura Ingraham of Fox News, ‘Republicans will not be silenced’.

I have enjoyed what I have seen and heard from Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California over the past four years. I hope he continues like this, because, if he does, he would make an excellent Speaker of the House someday.

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.

In September 2018, Guido Fawkes reported that ‘Parliament’s infamous Sports and Social bar’ — his words — had been renamed The Woolsack.

The Woolsack refers to the large red upholstered bale of wool in the House of Lords.

The Woolsack is an ancient part of English history. Wikipedia explains, with photos in the entry (emphases in purple mine):

The Woolsack is the seat of the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords, the Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Before 2006, it was the seat of the Lord Chancellor.

In the 14th century King Edward III (1327–1377) commanded that his Lord Chancellor whilst in council should sit on a wool bale, now known as “The Woolsack”, in order to symbolise the central nature and huge importance of the wool trade to the economy of England in the Middle Ages.[1][2] Indeed, it was largely to protect the vital English wool trade routes with continental Europe that the Battle of Crécy was fought with the French in 1346.[3] From the Middle Ages until 2006, the presiding officer in the House of Lords was the Lord Chancellor and the Woolsack was usually mentioned in association with the office of Lord Chancellor. In July 2006, the function of Lord Speaker was split from that of Lord Chancellor pursuant to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, with the former now sitting in the Woolsack.[4]

The Woolsack is a large, wool-stuffed cushion or seat covered with red cloth; it has neither a back nor arms, though in the centre of the Woolsack there is a back-rest. The Lords’ Mace is placed on the rear part of the Woolsack.[1]

In 1938, it was discovered that the Woolsack was, in fact, stuffed with horsehair. When the Woolsack was remade it was re-stuffed with wool from all over the Commonwealth as a symbol of unity.[5]

The Lord Speaker may speak from the Woolsack when speaking in his or her capacity as Speaker of the House, but must, if he or she seeks to debate, deliver his or her remarks either from the left side of the Woolsack, or from the normal seats of the Lords.[6]

If a Deputy Speaker presides in the absence of the Lord Speaker, then that individual uses the Woolsack. However, when the House meets in the “Committee of the Whole“, the Woolsack remains unoccupied, and the presiding officer, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, occupies a Chair at the front of the table of the House.[6]

Returning to the former sports and social pub, Guido wrote in 2018 (emphases in the original):

Parliamentary authorities have sneakily reduced the number of guests allowed to be brought into the bar by a passholder from six to just two. Passholders on the Parliamentary estate can still take up to six guests elsewhere…

This move appears to be an attempt to crack down on rowdy behaviour after the bar faced closure last year over a glassing. Guido isn’t convinced about this move. From his experience, it usually isn’t the guests who make the trouble…

Good grief. Parliamentarians involved in a glassing? Unthinkable, yet, here we are.

On January 24, 2020, Guido posted a photo of the notice on the Woolsack’s loo:

Sounds like drugs or sex, doesn’t it?

Guido’s post has no explanation, therefore, any revelations are for the future.

Meanwhile, this is what British taxpayers fund.

It must stop.

The charges of anti-Semitism that have dogged Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015 beggar belief.

Labour has the highly dubious distinction of being the only other political party than the BNP to be formally investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for anti-Semitism.

It is unclear why anti-Semites within Labour have felt so free to be so open with their hatred.

The front page article in The Sunday Times from December 8 has chilling content (click on image to read it in full):

Few are saying Jeremy Corbyn himself espouses the same hate, but he seems to be doing little about it. This is what he said on the last debate of the campaign on Friday, December 6:

Yet, the diversity campaign video that Labour issued on Saturday, November 30, mentions every ethnic and religious group in some way — except the Jews!

The Daily Mail has the story along with the video (emphases mine below):

Mr Corbyn posted the one minute and eight second video about diversity on Twitter on Saturday with the words ‘this is our strength’. 

The video uses a speech by shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler as a voice over in which she lists various different groups and insists ‘a Labour government will value you’.

But the video does not refer to British Jewish people in a move which has sparked fury and risks worsening Labour’s existing anti-Semitism crisis

The party remains under formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over its handling of allegations of anti-Semitism …  

Ms Butler said in her speech: ‘If you are in social housing, if you are LGBT+, if you are straight, if you are a traveller, if you struggle to pay the rent, if you wear a hijab, turban, cross, if you are black, white, Asian, if you are disabled, if you are old, if you are young, if you don’t have a trust fund.

‘If you didn’t go to Oxbridge, if you are working class, if you are under 18, if you are aspirational, if you work, if you are a carer, if you feel you won’t live beyond 25, if you have ever ticked the ‘other box’. 

‘You have a future and you are worthy. Worthy of equality, worthy of dignity and worthy of respect and a Labour government will value you. Just be your authentic self.’

The video ends with a statement on screen which reads: ‘Our diversity is our greatest strength. Let’s unite and unleash the potential of all our people’.

The situation has been serious for at least a year. Yet, it would appear as if most of our main media outlets are purposely ignoring it.

Imagine if the Conservatives had this problem. It would have been headline news, front and centre, all year long.

How did I find out about it earlier this year? Via Guido Fawkes.

In looking through my bookmarks, however, I found a few Press Association articles from 2018:

‘Corbyn sorry for “pain and hurt” caused by anti-Semitism in Labour’ prior to a protest by Jewish leaders in front of Parliament (March 25)

‘Corbyn faces renewed calls to tackle Labour anti-Semitism’ (April 1)

‘Shadow minister “frustrated” over Labour’s slowness to tackle anti-Semitism’ which features a protester holding a sign saying ‘For the many, not the Jew’ and mentions Labour MP Thangham Debbonaire being criticised by her Bristol constituency Labour Party for attending the aforementioned rally against anti-Semitism (April 8)

Things went quiet until July 2019, when the BBC’s Panorama investigated charges of anti-Semitism against Labour. This was just after the the Equality and Human Rights Commission had begun their formal investigation. Guido Fawkes‘s team distilled the hour-long documentary into a video just under nine minutes long:

Labour’s Disputes team, comprised of a handful of people, was in charge of investigating claims of anti-Semitism. Then, Corbyn appointed a new party General Secretary. Under her leadership, few suspensions were issued. Instead, letters were sent reminding offending members of the party’s code of conduct. One by one, the longer-serving members of the Disputes team resigned. One had a nervous breakdown. Another seriously considered committing suicide.

One Labour MP interviewed said that things started to go downhill once Corbyn made his pro-Palestinian views more widely known. It appears that pro-Palestinian party members thought they had licence to abuse the notional enemy, with Jewish members suffering verbal abuse for their faith.

On August 2, Guido Fawkes posted ‘Labour Anti-Semitic Incidents Hit Record Numbers’, which says in part (emphasis in the original):

A damning report published by the Community Security Trust – the charity set up to protect Jews from antisemitism – has shown that there have already been 100 incidents of anti-Semitism which are “examples of, or related to arguments over, alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party” in the first half of this year alone …

Alarmingly, there was a spike of 55 incidents in February and March alone – when several Labour MPs including Luciana Berger left the party over its endemic anti-Semitism. Almost 20% of anti-Semitic incidents across the whole UK were linked to the Labour Party in March, with the CST report noting that Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis “clearly has an important bearing” on the record-high number of incidents recorded. All the while Corbyn continues to dismiss it as just a case of a few members occasionally ‘dipping’ into antisemitic language…

The MP mentioned, Luciana Berger, joined the Liberal Democrats.

One month later, a Brexit-supporting Labour MP stood down to work for the Conservative government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

On September 12, Guido Fawkes posted a schedule of fringe meetings for the Labour Party conference, ‘Labour’s Anti-Semitic Conference Line-Up’, which ends with this:

The problem for Labour is surely within their party these views are no longer fringe…

On October 16, a Labour MP from Liverpool, Dame Louise Ellman, resigned her party membership. She is featured in the BBC Panorama video above:

More former Labour MPs began to denounce Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The next was Ian Austin, who was an independent MP before Parliament dissolved on November 6:

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett — now Lord Blunkett — was next:

Charles Falconer — Baron Falconer — served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain under Tony Blair. On November 26, he gave the BBC his thoughts on the Chief Rabbi’s condemnation of Labour:

Britain’s former most senior civil judge is also deeply concerned about anti-Semitism in Labour:

Former Labour MP Ivan Lewis is calling on voters to back Boris:

Yet, the anti-Semitism continues. The bookmarks I have are too numerous to include here.

Going back to The Sunday Times of December 8, referenced above, little is actually being done about anti-Semitism at Labour HQ (paywall):

Moving on to other topics, it has been said that Jeremy Corbyn wants to do away with MI5 and specialist law enforcement.

This happens to be true, as evidenced by these photos of the December 1979 issue of the Socialist Organiser featuring Jeremy Corbyn. Click on any of the tweets below to see the full thread. Click on any of the images themselves to see the full text:

Former leftist and veteran political pundit Rod Liddle succinctly summarised historical reasons not to vote Labour — Corbyn in particular — on Thursday. This is from a recent BBC Question Time programme in Bishop Auckland:

Reports have emerged saying that Hamas are actively supporting Corbyn’s election on Thursday:

Then there is Brexit. Corbyn has been very non-committal on where he personally stands. Historically, he has been thought a Leaver, but, as his party supports either Remain or Leave as a member of the Customs Union — worse than remaining as a full EU member — interviewers could not get him to make a commitment either way.

We also have the outrageous spending pledges from Labour.

This is a long but interesting thread debunking them. Highly recommended:

A shorter thread follows. Even this leftist says that we can’t take these pledges seriously:

Kate Hoey, a Brexit supporter and, most recently, Labour MP for Vauxhall in south west London, urges Bournemouth West voters to back Boris by voting for the Conservative candidate, Conor Burns:

These are only some of the many reasons not to support Labour, especially on Thursday, November 12.

Before I continue with the surprise ending the exiting Speaker of the House John Bercow received during an afternoon of nauseating tributes, this is what happened today in Parliament:

I’m writing this post before the session begins, but, note how late Monday sittings start — rarely before 2:30 p.m. Parliament does not meet on Fridays, either, so it’s a nice long weekend for all concerned.

Also note that there will be no prayers from the chaplain, as the House of Commons is in transition with regard to clergy. The outgoing chaplain will be appointed as Bishop of Dover later this month. She is in the photo on the left in red. The newest Sergeant at Arms, originally from Nigeria, carries the mace:

Someone responding to the House of Commons tweet lamented that no prayers were being said:

I think a few Prayers are needed before the Election of a New Speaker Clearly none were said during the last election.

I agree.

Apparently, the new chaplain, a Catholic priest, has not yet started. However, I would have thought that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, could have been in a position to say prayers.

Another issue looms. Bercow knew that an election was coming up on December 12, yet, he wanted his successor chosen now. Several MPs will not be standing for re-election, e.g. the Father of the House Kenneth Clarke, and many more, e.g. the Independents, risk losing their seats next month.

Therefore, it seems inappropriate for a departing House of Commons, led by an departing Father of the House to appoint a new Speaker. Parliament will be adjourning on November 6, by the way:

More on the new Speaker anon.

Now let’s return to Thursday, October 31. Bercow was lapping up the afternoon session, which MPs completely devoted to him.

Never mind any pending legislation that has to be completed by the end of the day on Tuesday. One looming bit of legislation concerns compensation to victims of child abuse in religious and state-run care homes in Northern Ireland. I have heard the testimony from some of these men, now in their 50s and 60s, and it is harrowing.

Labour MP Kate Hoey has served her London constituency of Vauxhall for many years and will retire (unless she runs for the Brexit Party), but she is from Northern Ireland originally. She was appalled by Thursday afternoon’s events:

Yes, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen messed up Bercow’s delightful punchbowl by demanding the truth about a crooked, longstanding Labour MP for Leicestershire, Keith Vaz. Vaz represents Leicester East and Bridgen North West Leicestershire.

What a surprise ending for Bercow.

A report — an investigation into Keith Vaz’s activities — came out that day. Andrew Bridgen is holding it in his hand when he speaks. (You can see the name Keith Vaz on the cover.)

Bridgen told Bercow — ‘Mr Speaker’ — that he tried warning him about this in 2015. Bercow shot out of his chair and told Bridgen to sit down. Then he made out as if Bridgen was in the wrong: ‘I cannot help him’; ‘I fear he is beyond redemption’.

Interestingly, at this point, Bridgen had spoken for probably a total of two minutes. Bercow told him to sit down twice. As the video below shows, Bercow spoke for at least ten minutes. Near the end, Bercow gave him permission to speak for a third time but not ‘to dilate’ (go on at length):

Bridgen seized the opportunity, warning about public sentiment once the report on Vaz is released outside of Parliament:

Mr Speaker, to the fag end [cigarette butt] of your tenure, you are defending the indefensible and your very close relationship with the honourable Member in question [Vaz]. The House can come to its own conclusions. The Standards Committee has come to its own conclusions, and, Mr Speaker, the public will come to theirs. Thank you very much.

Political pundit Guido Fawkes put it this way:

At the end of the day, Bridgen tweeted and got a lot of compliments for speaking out:

The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges, who is the son of actress and former MP Glenda Jackson, agreed with Bridgen and the public. He got hammered for it:

However, not all comments were negative:

A Conservative MP also spoke up about Bercow’s conduct during his tenure:

Nothing will happen. Bercow denied allegations of bullying members of his staff and, as I wrote last week, that’s the end of the matter. Lucky for him. Yet, Bercow was the one telling Conservative MPs that they must be nice and moderate their language in Parliament when, in reality, it’s the opposition who are the strident ones. More on that in another post.

Returning to Andrew Bridgen’s short but sharp comments, let us look at the allegations about Keith Vaz, the Speaker’s personal friend. Wikipedia tells us (emphases mine):

Vaz served as the Minister for Europe between October 1999 and June 2001. He was appointed a member of the Privy Council in June 2006. He was Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee from July 2007, but resigned from this role on 6 September 2016 after the Sunday Mirror revealed he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male prostitutes and had said he would pay for cocaine if they wished to use it. At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee; a parliamentary vote to block this development was defeated.[1]

The Mirror, incidentally, is a Labour-supporting newspaper.

Further detail follows:

Allegations about Vaz were published by the British Sunday Mirror tabloid in early September 2016. It was reported that he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male prostitutes and had told them he would pay for cocaine if they wished to use it. He told the prostitutes that his name was Jim and that he was an industrial washing machine salesman.[60] Vaz later apologised for his actions.[61][62] “It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals who have acted in this way”, he said.[61][63] Vaz resigned as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee on 6 September 2016.[64]

At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee, after he had put himself forward and was nominated by his party.[65] A House of Commons motion to block this development was defeated; they are rare on such an issue. According to Laura Hughes of The Daily Telegraph, Conservative Party whips told their MPs to vote for Vaz in the division to prevent a precedent being created of such appointments being rejected by MPs. Over 150 Conservative MPs voted in support of Vaz.[1] The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen asked in the chamber of Vaz; “If the right honourable member for Leicester East found himself last month to be not fit to be chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the matters are unresolved, what makes him think that he is a fit and proper person this month?”[66]

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, has previously announced an investigation into Vaz’s conduct.[66] The Standards Commissioner’s investigation was halted “for medical reasons” in December 2017.[67] The inquiry recommenced in March 2018[68] and, in October 2019, the inquiry recommended that he be suspended from Parliament for six months.[69][70] On 31 October, MPs voted in favour of the suspension.[71]

I agree with Diane Abbott below (if only this time), but, if Labour had any moral compass at all, they would not allow Vaz to stand for re-election:

On November 7, 2018, the BBC published an article by Newsnight‘s editor Chris Cook, ‘How John Bercow keeps Keith Vaz’s secrets’. The article says that Bercow is exercising ‘parliamentary privilege’. Newsnight is a BBC weekday programme:

In the 17th century, England had a problem with laws on sedition. MPs could not speak freely about the king’s policies for fear of judges. To solve that problem, we adopted a special guard against tyranny: “parliamentary privilege”. Now, John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, has invoked it to stop Newsnight getting information about the behaviour of the MP Keith Vaz.

Bercow had the final say in the matter:

Mr Bercow has personally intervened and gone out of his way to bar Newsnight from asking the Information Commissioner or a judge to review the decision. We will not be able to overturn this decision, as journalists fought through the courts to get to see MPs’ expenses.

The core legal text here is the 1689 Bill of Rights. It states: “the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament” …

This is perhaps the most important legal change in England that came from the 1688-9 coup, dubbed by supporters “the Glorious Revolution”, when James II was replaced by the Dutch prince William of Orange and his wife Princess Mary. It is an important constitutional principle.

That is why MPs and peers can make allegations in the Commons or Lords without fear of libel law. When Lord Hain named Sir Philip Green as having obtained an injunction against the Daily Telegraph, he was deploying this right. Injunctions have no weight inside the walls of the debating chambers.

As Chris Cook explains, not everything is cut and dried in these matters, past and present. Recently, judges have had to intervene, as they did when the expenses scandal broke several years ago.

At the time Cook wrote the article, he focussed on Vaz’s expenses rather than the prostitution angle. Cook and his team tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to get details of Vaz’s trips abroad, but to no avail:

If the administration of MPs’ expenses is not covered by privilege, why should the administration of committee trips be? MPs are involved – but they oversaw expenses too. Could knowing which travel agent booked tickets for MPs be a route to power for a would-be tyrant? What is the threat to free speech?

Some months ago, Mr Bercow personally made the argument that this paperwork was all covered by privilege. But I looked forward to a tribunal when this could be tested.

It all got heavy handed, as Bercow pulled out all the stops to prevent Newsnight from getting access to information about Vaz:

Normally, this sort of determination can be referred to the Information Commissioner and then to the tribunals and courts to judge whether that finding is fair. My judgment is, if they did that, I had a reasonable chance of winning.

I suspect Mr Bercow agreed. That would explain why he has now used an unusual personal power to block any appeals.

This week, I was notified he has issued a “certificate” under section 34(3) of the Freedom of Information Act. This is, in effect, a personal release veto.

These sorts of vetos are supposed to be used sparingly – an emergency reserve power to guard sacred spaces if courts get it wrong.

That is because their use means I have no rights of appeal. The Information Commissioner’s view is that, since the certificate is genuine, that is the the end of the matter. Any appeal to the tribunals will automatically be discarded. I can ask a judge to review his decision, but it would entail looking at a decision taken by a parliamentary officer. That would hit privilege from another direction.

The net result is that the Speaker, who denies bullying, has made an order to hide information about the behaviour of his close personal friend, Keith Vaz, a man who also denies bullying – supposedly to protect MPs’ freedom of speech.

And then he has gone out of his way to use a personal veto to make sure no-one could even consider reviewing that questionable decision.

You can understand why staff are so suspicious about whether MPs will ever let themselves be judged by outsiders when it comes to bullying and harassment.

I have no confidence that Bercow’s conduct will be investigated, whether it concerns bullying, Brexit or Keith Vaz.

On a happier note, however, Andrew Bridgen hurried home to Leicestershire to end Thursday with what looks to have been an excellent curry:

More to follow on the new Speaker soon.

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