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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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Anyone who missed previous entries in this series can find them here, here and here.

Every time I read about Prince Harry, I cannot help but think of the story of Jacob and Esau.

Mess of pottage

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage (Genesis 25:29-34). Harry, too, sold his place in the Royal Family for ephemeral media coverage. Who knows what will happen to him in future years?

Like Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:41), Princes William and Harry are embroiled in a feud, one which the current Prince of Wales is handling with dignity. All being well, in time, perhaps they will mend fences, as Jacob and Esau did (Genesis 33).

The expression ‘mess of pottage‘ is still used today (emphases in purple mine):

A mess of pottage is something immediately attractive but of little value taken foolishly and carelessly in exchange for something more distant and perhaps less tangible but immensely more valuable. The phrase alludes to Esau‘s sale of his birthright for a meal (“mess“) of lentil stew (“pottage“) in Genesis 25:29–34 and connotes shortsightedness and misplaced priorities.

It seems pertinent because on January 20, 2023, The Telegraph featured an article, ‘Meghan stays in the shadows as Prince Harry flies solo on Spare publicity blitz’:

“We’re like salt and pepper,” Meghan opined in an interview. “We always move together” …

But, since Christmas, Prince Harry has been left to soak up the limelight alone.

As he embarked on an unprecedented publicity blitz to promote his memoir, Spare, this month, Meghan has remained below the radar – and sent a clear message: This is Harry’s project, not mine

While the Duchess has backed her husband to the hilt over this deeply personal outpouring, she was not quite the driving force behind the project that many have assumed.

Sources suggest that media-savvy Meghan was slightly more circumspect about the concept of a memoir and may have raised gentle concerns about whether it was the right move.

A January 23 article in the New York Post reported on the article:

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle had previously expressed worries that his recent bombshell memoir “Spare” could ruffle the wrong feathers.

The former actress, 41, had raised “gentle concerns” about the book, wondering if it was the “right move,” sources recently told the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, January 21, The Express reported ‘Royal Family news: Palace have “pulled a blinder” as Harry and Meghan “plan” destroyed’:

The Royal Family have “pulled a blinder” by not publicly responding to the recent bombshell claims from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with an expert destroying the Sussex’s “ill-conceived game plan” …

More than a week after Harry’s book was released, both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace have yet to make any comment on the claimes made by the prince.

Edward Coram-James, a PR, reputation and crisis management expert and CEO of Go Up, claimed this shows the Royal Family had a strong “game plan” in place and were prepared for any such accusations, while blasting Harry and Meghan’s strategy as “ill-conceived”.

He told Express.co.uk: “What should the Royal Family do in response to these claims? In a word: nothing. They have pulled a blinder.

“The biggest mistake that they could make would be to respond to any of the allegations. They are simply not serious enough allegations to warrant them breaching their long held code of silence.

“Breaching that silence will imply guilt. Remaining silent gives an air of maturity and remaining above the fray.

“The Royal family have had a game plan and, unlike the Sussexes, whose game plan has appeared ill-conceived and often strayed from, the royals have toed the line throughout.”

Mr Coram-James poured cold water over the accusations made by Harry in his book, adding the Royal Family have only taken a “mild bruising” and “never came close to being on the receiving end of any knock out blows”.

He continued: “The Royal Family know that it will all blow over soon enough, as the news cycle moves on and today’s news becomes old hat.

A scathing, painfully accurate Spare review

My reader Katherine sent in two articles from Dominic Green about Spare. Thank you, Katherine!

These are the best yet.

‘The Tragedy of Prince Harry’ is Dominic Green’s scathing, painfully accurate review of the book for The Washington Free Beacon. I cannot commend it more highly to my readers. It’s long and captivating from the start.

As such, I will excerpt it as briefly as possible:

This is not Prince Harry’s autobiography. It is a biography of a character called “Prince Harry,” assembled from conversations with the real Harry by a ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer. It is to autobiography as one of those Philip Roth novels where the main character is called “Philip Roth” are to fiction, only less tedious. It is fascinating in its way, though not in the way the real Harry intends. It is a collaboration between two unequal partners, one an accomplished ventriloquist, the other believing that he has finally found his voice.

Harry recorded the audiobook, so he knows exactly what is in Spare. He wants us to know that animals give him spirit messages from the beyond. These are usually sent by his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales, who died violently in 1996, when Harry was 12 and his older brother William was 15. The messages begin when Harry is 14. He and William are on safari in Botswana, eating dinner in their tent, when a leopard appears. “Everyone froze,” Harry says. “Except me.”

“I took a step towards it. … I was thinking about Mummy. That leopard was clearly a sign from her, a messenger she’d sent to say, ‘All is well. And all will be well.'”

The leopard lied. Harry is not well. He and William are traumatized by Diana’s death. Their father, now Charles III, struggles to comfort them, and sends them to boarding school. Harry refuses to believe that Diana is dead. He tells himself that she is hiding in a Swiss chalet, and she comes to him in his dreams. Soon, Harry is binge-drinking and smoking weed. Smoking a fat one with his mates in a bathroom at Eton, perhaps Britain’s top boarding school, Harry looks out on the moonlit grounds and meets his spirit animal …

Green provides the passage from Spare, which involves a fox. Harry sees it as a portent some years later:

In 2008, more than a decade later, Captain Harry Wales, now serving as a gunner on an Apache helicopter in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, is camped for the night, drinking hot chocolate and watching the radio. Around one in the morning, a flurry of messages about “Red Fox” come through …

Green gives us the relevant paragraphs then continues:

An Australian magazine had got hold of the story that Harry was in Helmand. He was a target for the Taliban, so his superiors decided to extract him, for his own safety and that of his fellow soldiers. At 24, his active military career was over. The Army made the “spare” a leader, and valued his talents. It gave him a purpose for the first time, and kept him busy enough to forget his sorrows.

The ensuing years see Harry floundering:

Nearly a decade will pass until he meets Meghan Markle in 2016. These are the lost years. The spirit animals fall silent, and Harry self-medicates. He drinks and smokes weed every day. He does coke, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and LSD in an effort to lift the veil of reality and stroke the lost leopard. He falls out of night clubs, too drunk to walk. He picks fights with photographers and his own bodyguard. He has panic attacks whenever he meets the public. He stays in Courteney Cox’s house when she is away, drinks loads of tequila, takes loads of mushrooms, and hallucinates that her toilet is speaking to him.

Harry does not explain why Courteney Cox’s talking toilet was a hallucination, but the spirit animals are real. At this point in his life, he cannot explain anything to himself. He is so overwhelmed with loss and grief that he cannot recall his mother. He is trapped in a “red mist,” a rage that he directs at his feeble father Charles, his scheming stepmother Camilla, his cold, conformist brother William, and above all at the British press, which he blames for his mother’s death.

Diana is a leopard, Harry is a fox. Charles is a cowardly lion. William has surrendered his “autonomy,” so he doesn’t get an animal at all. Kate is the bitch who takes William away from Harry. Alone, he unravels further. By 2013, he cannot control his panic attacks and agoraphobia.

Harry is tormented by the death of his mother, which seems to dictate his reality.

Green tells us the truth about Diana, a name that means ‘huntress’, yet the huntress turned into the hunted:

After divorcing Charles and leaving the royal security envelope, Diana fell in love with an Egyptian playboy, Dodi al-Fayed. It was a Fayed chauffeur who crashed that car in Paris, by speeding downhill into the underpass so fast that the Mercedes limo took off, hit one side of the underpass, then ricocheted across into a concrete pillar. Three of the four passengers died. The survivor was the bodyguard who, being a mere mortal, had worn his seatbelt.

Harry cannot name al-Fayed; he calls him “Mummy’s friend.” He does not mention that Diana dumped William and Harry in Scotland with the grandparents, so she could pursue her summer romance with Dodi. Nor does he mention Mummy’s earlier lover, Dr. Hasnat Khan, whom she smuggled into the Kensington Palace apartment she shared with William and Harry. Like Oedipus, Harry is blind to Mummy’s true nature. Diana manipulated the press, too. Before she was taken from Harry, she abandoned him.

Princess Diana was hunted by the jackals, but the Diana she was named for, the Greek goddess, was the huntress. She pursued fame in revenge for Charles’s faithlessness, staging teary confessionals for the cameras and driving the pack of paps at him and his family. Charles retaliated with his own staged confessions. Harry now retaliates with his. The Windsors survived Edward VIII’s dalliances with Wallis Simpson and Hitler. They survived Charles and Diana’s war for public sympathy. They will survive Harry’s assault, too. But will he?

Harry is sure that Meghan never ‘googled’ him and that it was just a sublime coincidence that she wore his mother’s favourite perfume, but Green reminds us of the facts:

Meghan’s childhood friend insists that Meghan was an avid reader of royal biographies, especially about Diana. Meghan was photographed outside Buckingham Palace when she visited London as a teenager. When William married Kate, Meghan blogged about the “pomp and circumstance surrounding the Royal Wedding,” and the “endless conversations about Princess Kate.”

A 2014 photo shows Meghan, sitting in an airport with her laptop, reading about Elizabeth II. In Tom Bower’s recent book Revenge, Meghan’s former business adviser Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne attests that Meghan told her, “I’ve googled Harry. I’ve gone deeply into his life.” Harry tells us that he googles Meghan as he falls in love, but he insists that she, like Diana, is entering the royal circus as a naif. His first “marathon” Instagram session with her happens to fall on what would have been Diana’s 55th birthday. Who is the naif here?

Harry has followed in his mother’s sad footsteps:

Harry and Meghan flee from Britain because they believe that his family is colluding with the press against them

For the first time, Harry must fend for himself. Like Diana, he has left the royals’ state-funded and highly professional security envelope

When their children are born, Diana is in the room too. At night, when Meghan and the kids are asleep, Harry slips out and gets high on his own. The clear night sky over Montecito reminds him of the stars over Africa. The Red Fox communes with the spirit of the leopard, but he is never safe. There is no clarity in this freedom. There is no real guidance, either. Meghan, his savior, is pushing him back into the limelight.

Harry must fund his family’s security or risk bringing Diana’s fate upon Meghan and his children. The only way to save them is to sacrifice himself: to sell his story, to seek out the hated camera, to sit with the hated journalists, to dissolve himself in the flashbulbs, to be lost forever in their refractions, and join his mother. “Keeping people tuned to the show, that was the thing.”

Like Hamlet, Harry has now hoist himself on his own petard, the hot wind of his rage and resentment. Like Hamlet, he will fall on his own poisoned sword. Harry, his father’s dim, damaged, delusional, doomed “darling boy,” has sold his family and his soul. Meghan and Moehringer have served him on a platter, like a roast swan at a royal banquet. There is no return after this, only the final act of the tragedy.

On January 19, the Wall Street Journal published Green’s article about Harry’s personal beliefs and how they tie in with those of his contemporaries with regard to Christianity: ‘Prince Harry’s Pagan Progress’.

This, too, is excellent. Excerpts follow:

Harry’s father, King Charles III, may be supreme governor of the Church of England, but when it comes to the inner life, Harry, who was born in 1984, is a typical millennial. Pew Research reported in 2010 that Americans 18 to 29 were “considerably less religious than older Americans.” Twenty-six percent of millennials said they had no religious affiliation, and they were also less likely to pray every day than members of Generation X (41% vs. 54%). Yet the percentage of millennials claiming “absolute certainty” in God’s existence (53%) wasn’t far off the figures for baby boomers (59%) and Generation X (55%) when they were young.

For Harry’s grandmother Elizabeth II, personal faith was indistinguishable from her constitutional duty. King Charles describes himself as a “committed Anglican Christian,” and Harry says he set a “deeply religious” example and “prayed every night.” Harry attended church regularly as a child, obligatory given the Windsor family’s alliance with the church.

Harry was 12 when his mother died in a car crash in Paris. The Christian rites at her funeral in Westminster Abbey couldn’t console him. His only regular contact with the Bible came when a teacher, punishing teenage misdemeanors, delivered “a tremendous clout, always with a copy of the New English Bible.” This, Harry writes, “made me feel bad about myself, bad about the teacher, and bad about the Bible.”

Instead, Harry turned to the animal world:

At around 15, Harry experienced a ritual induction into manhood. Guided by Sandy, a family retainer, he shot a stag. Sandy slit the dying animal’s throat and belly and told Harry to kneel. “I thought we were going to pray,” the prince writes. Instead, Sandy pushed Harry’s head inside the carcass and held it there. “After a minute I couldn’t smell anything, because I couldn’t breathe. My nose and mouth were full of blood, guts, and a deep, upsetting warmth.”

“So this,” Harry tells himself, “is death.” Yet he’s ecstatic. “I wasn’t religious,” Harry writes, “but this ‘blood facial’ was, to me, baptismal.” Finally, he has lived the “virtues” that had been “preached” to him since childhood. Culling the herd is being “good to Nature” and “good to the community.” Managing nature is “a form of worship,” and environmentalism is “a kind of religion” for his father. For the first time Harry feels “close to God.”

This pagan rebirth carries strong symbolic overtones for Harry. Monarchy is a survival from the earliest times. So is the hunt, with its symbolic echoes of religion’s roots in animal sacrifice and seasonal rites. The Windsors live in urban captivity, but their spiritual home is the Scottish Highlands, where the stag is the monarch of the glen. Diana shared her name with the Greek goddess of the hunt—and Harry writes that she was “hunted” to her death, the cameras still “shooting, shooting, shooting” as she lay trapped in the wreckage.

Green concludes:

Harry’s narrative of resurrection bears formal resemblance to the Gospels, but its content owes more to Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and the Californian gospel of self-care. His neopagan progress is that of many millennials—especially those who, like Harry, are white men with no college education. By 2017, Pew found that 38% of Americans 30 to 49 were “spiritual but not religious.” Sixty-seven percent of the unchurched were “absolutely certain” of God’s existence, and 24% “fairly certain.” Fifty-seven percent prayed “at least daily,” but 76% “never” participated in group study or prayer. Like Harry, they are solitary and syncretic, inward travelers with no direction home.

‘Faustian bargain’

On January 9, UnHerd posted an article about Spare: ‘Prince Harry’s Faustian Bargain’.

Its author, Darran Anderson, says:

The most telling line, which reaches towards the heart of the matter, comes back to the Faustian nature of fame and particularly the media’s gaze and how that can distort, “After many, many years of lies being told about me and my family, there comes a point where, going back to the relationship between, certain members of the family and the tabloid press, those certain members have decided to get in the bed with the devil” … Again and again, in his recollections in interviews and writing, Prince Harry comes back to the media as a baleful destructive force in his life …

What is particularly illustrative and sympathetic about Prince Harry’s relationship with fame is that it was not chosen. In the traditional Faustian transaction, the would-be genius or celebrity sells their soul, knowing that the cost is damnation and believing that the gains will be worth it. With the royals, fame is hereditary, which is as much of a curse as a blessing. The transaction is one-sided. No deal is made and yet the individual assumes precisely the same debt. In a world, even a country, where children are born into horrendous poverty and deprivation, it’s difficult to have sympathy for someone born into immense privilege. Yet it is warranted, given that child we watched walking along forlorn at his mother’s funeral did not choose any of this.

The problem is that Prince Harry is now a man and no longer a lost boy. Though he has chosen an arguably noble route of walking away from an environment that had shunned him, and he has the right to speak his mind and tell his own story, he has not walked away from fame. Sympathy, like any resource, is finite

It is even more understandable to wish to escape the glare of the lens that played a part in the death of a beloved parent. Having chosen Meghan and America, Prince Harry had the chance to transcend fame and to effectively defeat the presence that has seemingly haunted his life. He could go semi-privately into any number of ventures. Harry was not, after all, a signatory to the Faustian pact. One of the most tragic aspects to what has been unfolding is not just the painful reality of a family schism, but rather that at the brink of escape, Harry decided to return to the table to sign the contract.

The point where sympathy dissipates is with this issue of fame, the courting of it rather than the walking away. This is where the public’s role in the Faustian bargain comes in. This is what differentiates celebrities from the rest of us, the point of departure, and the judgement can and may well be merciless. By aiming for the echo chamber of the terminally online and the patronage of the American establishment, the wider sympathy is lost. It is especially frustrating as the prince had a chance to get out.

Harry’s case is not helped by a mixed tone of grievance and sanctimony. One moment, he is referring to the killing of Afghan militants as a game of chess, the next he is engaging in flagellation about his previous lack of social consciousness. At its worst, it seems distasteful and condescending, the opposite of a spiritual confessional. It undoes the undoubtedly brave work of speaking about trauma, autonomy, or even his right to speak. As George Orwell put it, “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful”, but here even the disgrace feels performative. It feels grubby and out of touch, both too intimate and too remote. It feels, in other words, like fame

Summer of 2019: too much PDA

Returning to the summer of 2019, where I left off, articles were circulating about the inability of the couple to keep their hands off each other in public.

On August 11 that year, The Sun reported:

MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry’s friends have “stopped inviting” the couple to dinner parties because they “frown upon their PDAs”, insiders have claimed.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex make a point of sitting together at events – even if their host has seated them separately.

Meghan’s excuse was that she finds dinner party etiquette:

too “exclusive” and “traditional”.

Tough. You sit where your hosts seat you. In Britain, it often means splitting up couples at table to enliven conversation. No one with any manners minds that.

Harry’s friends found his wife’s American attitudes tiresome:

Along with ignoring the seating plans, insiders have also claimed that the Duchess is openly affectionate with her husband on these occasions which causes Harry’s friends to “roll their eyes” at her “American ways”.

What’s more, Harry’s inner circle has “stopped inviting her to dinner” over the “frowned upon” PDAs (public displays of affection) at the dinner table.

The Sun lays out dinner party etiquette for the uninitated. This would be useful for the Duchess:

While it might not seem like THAT big a deal to sit next to your partner at a party, the high society occasions Meghan and Harry have been attending ask guests to follow the three rules of “placement”.

To avoid sounding too “common” or American, the first rule is that “placement” must be pronounced the French way which involves emphasising each of the three syllables.

The second rule dictates that couples should NOT sit together in case any affectionate behaviour puts others off their meal.

And in order to truly grasp the rules of “placement”, guests must always sit where they have been asked to achieve the perfect, balanced high society table.

‘Snubbing protocol’

And there was more.

Meghan wanted to hold Harry’s hand when it was clearly not the done thing:

Shortly after she married into the Royal Family last year, Prince Harry refused to hold Meghan’s hand at a royal event out of respect for The Queen.

Because she wore jeans to Wimbledon in 2019, she could not enter the Royal Box:

An insider claimed Meghan was a “nightmare” during the visit when her security guards infamously BANNED guests from taking photos of her and her casual attire meant she wasn’t allowed to watch the action from the Royal Box.

They told The Times: “They couldn’t invite her into the Royal Box because she was wearing jeans.”

On August 19, the Mail reported on what the editor of Majesty, Ingrid Seward, had to say about the Sussexes’ protocol breaches:

Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, suggested that the Sussexes’ attempts to move away from tradition might ‘bother’ the Duke of Cambridge, 35.

Appearing on Saturday’s Channel 5’s documentary William & Harry: Princes At War?, Ingrid suggested that Harry and Meghan had ‘snubbed protocol’ in a way that was unexpected from royals

She said: ‘I would think it might bother William a little bit, because he might see the way that Harry and Meghan do things as being detrimental to the business of the monarchy as a whole.’

The couple have faced a growing backlash over the summer over their privacy demands, including holding a top secret christening for son Archie and refusing to tell the public who his godparents are … 

Critics have hit out at Meghan recently for ‘considering herself more of an A-lister than a member of the royal family’, after she selected a handful of celebrity friends for the cover of Vogue. 

Speaking about Harry and Meghan ‘snubbing protocol’, Ingrid said: ‘It wasn’t done in a very royal way, or the way we’d come to expect.’ 

The ‘eco-lecturers’ and their private jet flights

Between August and September 2019, the Sussexes took several trips on private jets.

There is nothing wrong with that other than Prince Harry used one of those flights to deliver a lecture in Italy on how everyone had to cut back on air travel in order to save the environment.

On August 15, The Sun reported on Piers Morgan’s disgust at the couple’s hypocrisy. At the time, he was still co-presenting Good Morning Britain. The British public were also disgusted:

PIERS Morgan has criticised Meghan Markle and Prince Harry after they took a private jet to Ibiza for a six day break – despite the Duke warning of the “terrifying” effects of climate change.

The GMB presenter, who has previously criticised the couple, took to Twitter following the news where he made a dig at the Sussexes.

Sharing an article about their trip, he wrote: “Saving the planet, one private jet at a time.”

Many were in agreement with Piers, dubbing the “eco-warrior” couple hypocrites following the holiday.

One wrote: “You’re absolutely correct, virtue signalling and full hypocrisy!!”

Another agreed adding: “Utterly ludicrous! If you’re going to take private jets, fine but then don’t preach about climate change. Hopeless!”

According to local reports Harry and Meghan flew to Ibiza with their son Archie Harrison to celebrate her 38th birthday on August 4.

The jet created seven times more C02 per person than any one of nine daily scheduled flights from London to the Spanish holiday isle.

Harry and Meghan, who took baby son Archie, landed in Ibiza on Tuesday last weekalong with publicly-funded Met Police protection officers.

Five Spanish security officers then whisked them to their secluded luxury private villa.

The family returned to the UK on Monday.

It was the second time that the prince had used a private jet in two weeks after he flew to Sicily to attend the Google Camp to deliver a “barefoot speech” on saving the environment the week before.

But Harry has been accused of hypocrisy over his use of private jets following his speeches urging everyone to “take action” on climate change.

In a post on his SussexRoyal Instagram site in July, he wrote: “With nearly 7.7 billion people inhabiting this Earth, every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference.”

… Buckingham Palace refused to comment on the Ibiza trip.

On August 19, the Mail reported on another private jet trip, to Nice:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were embroiled in another hypocrisy row today after being pictured leaving the south of France over the weekend in a fourth trip by private jet in just 11 days.

Prince Harry and Meghan, who have been outspoken on environmental issues in recent months, generated an estimated seven times the emissions per person compared to a commercial flight when flying home from Nice.

Photographs of the royal couple and three-month-old Archie showed the family stepping on board the Cessna 680 Citation Sovereign jet on Saturday at about 3pm local time, having arrived in France three days earlier.

Royal experts said the British public do not want to be ‘lectured on climate change by those who don’t do follow their own advice’, while MPs said the trips do not ‘fit with their public image’ they project as eco-warriors. 

The couple are believed to have visited the £15million palatial home of Castel Mont-Alban owned by Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish overlooking the Promenade des Anglais during their holiday to the French Riviera. 

The trip to Nice came shortly after Harry and Meghan, who married in May last year, had returned by private jet to the UK from Ibiza after a six-night break on the Spanish island to mark the Duchess’s 38th birthday. 

Veteran royal watcher Phil Dampier gave his views about the anger of Britons about the flights and the Sussexes’ behaviour as a whole:

They are not unique – other royals have taken private jets, but they have been criticised over the years as well.

I certainly don’t believe they are getting a bad press because the British public are racist.

It is simply that people don’t like to be lectured on climate change by those who don’t do follow their own advice.

Some families slave away all year to afford one nice holiday and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about harming the planet when Harry and Meghan are swanning about in luxury.

It’s really sad to see all the goodwill that people had towards this couple disappear in such a short space of time.

They really need to understand quickly the damage they are doing and take steps to turn it around.

They could start by taking on some of the 1500 patronages of the Queen and Prince Philip, and get out there and do some run-of-the-mill royal jobs and shake a few hands.

Meghan gives the impression she wants to live like a Hollywood star protected by publicists, agents and lawyers and that’s not how the royal family works.

It only survives because there is give and take and the public- who are paying for it – want it to succeed.

If they lose the public’s support they are in trouble.

Sir Elton John stepped in to stop the turbulence, as it were.

The Mail reported:

Sir Elton John today confirmed he had paid for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to fly to and from his £15million mansion in Nice by private jet for a holiday ‘inside the safety and tranquillity of our home’.

The 72-year-old singer claimed he had ensured Prince Harry and Meghan’s flights to and from the French Riviera last week were carbon neutral by making the ‘appropriate contribution’ to a carbon footprint fund.

That angered people all the more. Who among us can do that?

More flights followed until early September.

The Africa tour

That autumn, the Sussexes toured southern Africa, an official trip of goodwill towards the Commonwealth countries.

They left behind strained relations with their Palace staff.

Even Africa, a place the Queen thought the couple would enjoy, considering Harry’s Sentebale charity was there, could not bring them happiness or escape:

While there, they gave an interview to ITV’s Tom Bradby, who also interviewed Harry about Spare in January 2023. Where they are concerned, Bradby is more a friend than an objective reporter.

The interview with Bradby aired in October 2019, while the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were touring Pakistan, another initiative to show goodwill towards the Commonwealth.

Valentine Low, author of 2022’s Courtiers, wrote:

The first real intimation the public had that all was not well in Meghan’s world came in October 2019, when ITV released a trailer for its documentary, Harry & Meghan: an African Journey. As Meghan spoke to Tom Bradby in a garden in Johannesburg, she spoke about how she had struggled with life in the spotlight as a newlywed and as a new mother. Almost as if she were trying to hold back tears, she said she had found it hard and added, “And also, thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

The trailer came out while William and Kate were on a tour of Pakistan. The resulting coverage inevitably overshadowed reporting of the last day of the Cambridges’ tour. The Cambridge team was not happy and saw it as a deliberate attempt to knock the Cambridges out of the headlines. Relations between the two households became quite tense.

When the documentary came out, it also showed how far Harry and William had drifted apart. Asked by Bradby about the rift between him and William, Harry chose not to deny it, but said instead, “We are certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him, as I know he will always be there for me.”

William, back home after the Pakistan tour, appears to have been taken aback at such a stark portrayal of his brother and sister-in-law’s unhappiness. He realised they were in crisis. The day after the documentary aired, William whatsapped his brother to ask if he could come and see him. This put Harry and Meghan into a spin. What should they do? Initially, Harry was in favour. Then he spoke to his brother again and asked him who he would tell. William explained that he would have to clear his schedule, which would mean telling his private secretary. At that point, Harry said don’t come. He was so concerned that William’s team would leak the visit to the press that he would rather they did not come than risk it getting into the papers. It highlighted once again the dysfunction at the heart of so many royal relationships and that members of the royal family so rarely pick up the phone and speak to each other directly.

The final months

The Times featured several excerpts from Valentine Low’s Courtiers, one of which explained the time before the African tour through to the beginning of 2020:

As one senior source put it, when they gave an interview in the autumn to Tom Bradby of ITV News in South Africa “they had made it clear that they were finding it very difficult. They were anxious and excited to chart their own course, knowing that they had more flexibility as they were not in the line of succession.”

Moves were already afoot to create their own website with the help of the American PR company Sunshine Sachs. The site was originally intended to promote their charitable foundation, but later to explain — when the time came — how they planned to branch out on their own.

As they took an extended break with their son, Archie, now eight months, in Canada, the negotiations over their plans began to take shape. Harry originally contacted the Prince of Wales just before Christmas about spending more time in North America but was told he needed to come up with a thought-out plan, the London Evening Standard reported. When he sent a draft proposal to Prince Charles early in the new year he was told more time was needed to think through the complex implications, particularly over funding.

A source told The Times: “It reached an impasse where his father said, ‘We need to have these conversations in person. This is not something we can negotiate over email.’

That much was agreed, but Harry also wanted to talk to his grandmother.

“He wanted to go and see the Queen,” a source said. “He has been communicating with her on the phone throughout. He wanted to see her, not to negotiate with her but to talk to her grandson to granny, to say, ‘This is how we have come to this.’” It was intended to be a gesture of respect, rather than an attempt to open negotiations with her.

He called her suggesting that he visit her at Sandringham when he returned home. “She says, ‘Yes, love to see you, come and see me,’” the source said.

Then came what has been described as a “classic” move from the Palace.

“A message was conveyed: ‘Oh, sorry, misunderstanding, she might have said she was available, but actually she is not available.’” Harry, it seemed, had fallen victim to family politics. The source said this was, in part, because the family were worried that he would use anything she said in their meeting as a negotiating tactic. Nothing, apparently, could have been further from the truth. But the result was that Harry was angry and upset at the rebuff.

By the time he and Meghan were back home, their press team was aware that The Sun was on to a story about their plans to spend more time in Canada. It prompted anxious negotiations between the Sussexes and the rest of the family about how to proceed. Should they sweat it out and say nothing, in the knowledge that such delicate negotiations are best conducted out of the public eye? Or should they release a statement and thereby try to set the agenda? The matter was taken out of their hands when the story appeared in Wednesday’s paper under the headline “We’re orf again”.

Never fans of the tabloid press, Harry and Meghan were incandescent. “They were so angry,” said the source.

The final instalment will come tomorrow.

What a sad story. It seems to get more desperate by the day and will not end well.

Last Friday’s post was about the friction between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge but also Palace staff. (You can read my first post on them here.)

There were other signs that the Sussexes were a rather unusual Royal couple, which might have tainted the public’s opinion of them.

Political ambitions

Just days after their wedding in May 2018, Sebastian Shakespeare wrote an article for the Mail, ‘Why Meghan Markle for President isn’t crazy’ (emphases mine):

Meghan Markle is said to have told a former close associate that her ultimate ambition is to be president of the U.S. The conversation apparently took place after Meghan began her romance with Prince Harry.

‘Meghan was quite clear that she wanted to be president one day,’ the source claims.

It may sound fanciful, but the new Duchess of Sussex has held the ambition since she was a little girl. In 2015, she reportedly told the journalist Piers Morgan that she had not always sought showbusiness success.

‘As a kid, I wanted to be either the president or a news broadcaster like you,’ she told him …

And the claim appears to have caused consternation at Kensington Palace yesterday, with the Duchess giving her official spokesman permission to take the unusual step of issuing a public denial.

‘This conversation you describe with an associate is fictitious,’ the spokesman insisted.

I am, though, not the only one to hear rumours that Meghan still holds political ambitions.

Former Times editor Sir Simon Jenkins says: ‘Her friends and associates affirm that she is a political animal.

‘Such is her fame, she could perfectly well follow a route taken by a certain Ronald Reagan. She might lead for the Democrats against a Republican Ivanka Trump. All I can say is, why not?’

On November 17, 2018, the Duchess practised interfaith outreach in an official visit to a mosque near Kensington Palace:

PJ Media reported on the visit a week later, taking their source from The Telegraph:

In yet another shocking failure in a long line of interfaith outreach by Western governments since 9/11, The Daily Telegraph reports today that the American-born Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, has been recently promoting a program associated with the notorious Al-Manaar mosque not far from Kensington Palace. The mosque has produced as many as nineteen terrorists — including “Jihadi John” and his Islamic State “Beatles” who tortured and beheaded Western captives in Syria.

The duchess has helped raise more than $250,000 for the Hubb Community Kitchen operated out of the mosque by promoting a cookbook that royal press agents have billed as celebrating “the power of cooking to bring communities together” …

The Grenfell Tower fire had taken place in June 2017, one of the worst blazes in London in decades. It is still spoken of today. Much community rebuilding had to be done, so one can understand that, but, according to The Telegraph, the Duchess had made earlier, ‘secret visits’ to the mosque:

In February it emerged the 37-year-old royal had made secret visits to the mosque in Westbourne Grove, which has also hosted Princes William and Harry, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in recent months.

An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), the anti-extremism think tank, has linked the mosque, opened by Prince Charles in 2001, to 19 jihadists, including Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John.

Research by the HJS suggests the mosque was once attended by three of the four “Beatles”, the Isil terror cell charged with guarding, torturing and killing hostages in Syria and Iraq. As well as Emwazi, Choukri Ellekhlifi, Alexanda Kotey and Aine Davis, all from west London, also have links with Al Manaar.

PJ Media pointed out that ITV News had also picked up on the Duchess’s prior visits:

An ITV News report earlier this week reported that the duchess has made numerous unreported visits to the notorious mosque in recent months:

Also:

The Sun reported last night that Kensington Palace was trying to distance Markle from the mosque, claiming that the community kitchen housed in the mosque is an independent project.

But this does raise questions about how royal officials decided to promote an effort so closely tied to the Al-Mannar mosque when reports going back to 2014 chronicled the role that the mosque played in the radicalization of “Jihadi John” and the ISIS “Beatles.”

The move to Frogmore Cottage: strain with the Cambridges

As my post from Friday says, by the time the wedding took place, many Palace staff as well as the Cambridges saw too much tension and outbursts involving the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It could no longer be contained.

On November 23, 2018, The Sun reported that the Sussexes were leaving Kensington Palace for the 10-bedroom Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the Windsor estate:

The brothers have always been incredibly close, but Harry and Meghan are setting up their home in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Queen has given them Frogmore Cottage, which is having a multi-million pound refit paid for by the taxpayer.

It will provide ten bedrooms and a nursery for their baby, due in April. The couple are expected to move in next year.

A royal source said: “The initial plan was for Harry and Meghan to move out of their cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace and into one of the main apartments.

“But there has been a bit of tension between the brothers.

“Now Harry and Meghan don’t want to live next to William and Kate and want to strike out on their own.”

The cosy cottage the pair currently live in as previously home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before the couple moved into a 20-room apartment inside the palace.

They need more room and hope Frogmore Cottage will be ready in time for when they have the baby.”

Frogmore Cottage needs major building work to turn it back into a luxury family home, boasting 10 bedrooms & a new nursery plus space for a gym & yoga studio.

Currently it’s been chopped up into 5 units where palace staff have been living.

News of Meghan and Harry’s decision to leave Kensington Palace comes weeks after it was first reported that Harry and William would have separate courts in the future instead of using Kensington Palace as a joint office for them.

Nearly a year later, on August 27, 2019, The Sun reported that the Sussexes actually wanted to live in Windsor Castle, but the Queen said no:

MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry wanted to move in with his grandparents and set up home in Windsor Castle, reports say.

It’s claimed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex asked the Queen if living quarters in the historic castle could be made available for them after they were married but the answer was a firm ‘no’, so they went on to renovate Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the estate …

The original castle in Berkshire dates back to the 11th century when construction was started following the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror.

Since the time of Henry I it has been used by the reigning monarch.

Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the 13th century which were later expanded upon by Edward III.

Frogmore Cottage, in the grounds of Frogmore House on the royal estate, was built in 1801.

On Christmas Day 2018, The Sun reported that all seemed to be well between the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex at Sandringham:

MEGHAN Markle placed a hand on Kate Middleton’s back in a show of unity as they today brushed aside rumours of a rift for a Christmas Day church service.

The sisters-in-law were all smiles as they joined the royal family at Sandringham for the annual service this morning.

And Meghan and Kate brushed off feud rumours as the former actress placed a hand on the Duchess of Cambridge’s back as they appeared to share a joke.

The pregnant Duchess of Sussex looked radiant in a navy £2,250 Victoria Beckham coat with £1,350 black boots as she held tightly to Prince Harry’s arm.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who wore a £3,000 red Catherine Walker coat and £650 burgundy “Halo Band” made by milliner Jane Taylor, walked apart from Prince William.

Kate teamed the festive look with matching gloves and a clutch bag, while the Queen was vibrant in a grey feathered hat and jacket with a bright pink trim.

Three weeks later, in January 2019, royal reporters were none the wiser about whether a feud was actually taking place.

On January 17 that year, The Daily Caller reported:

According to new reports by royal insiders Katie Nicholl and Leslie Carroll, the Duchesses may not be as at odds as we were previously led to believe.

Contrary to mainstream narratives pushed over the past several weeks, Markle and Middleton may not be feuding as much as  just feeling each other out.

“When [Prince] Harry met Meghan [as] the relationship was progressing, he was really keen to get Kate’s stamp of approval,” Nicholl tells ETOnline. “He wanted them to be close as sisters-in-law. I think they’re still in an early stage of their relationship.”

And while there very well could be some jealousy, that doesn’t necessarily equate hard feelings.

“Possibly, Kate does feel a little eclipsed by Meghan, who’s just come along to such huge media interests, public interests and being so successful from the start,” Nicholl added.

Of course, Harry and Meghan’s decision to move out of Kensington Palace this year — a rare decision for the Royal Family, who usually resides together at the palace during most of the year — fanned the flames of a rumored feud. It didn’t help that a report that Middleton left a meeting with Markle in tears before her May wedding quickly dominated headlines for weeks …

For what it’s worth, Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, isn’t buying the candy-coated reporting.

“People forget Meghan is an LA girl,” Seward suggested. “It’s very different for her to suddenly come here and marry into the royal family…I think Meghan thought she had an ally in Kate…Kate was pregnant and unwell. And then she had a new baby. So she couldn’t give Meghan the attention she expected. And I think that’s when things started to sour.”

So is it a case of misunderstanding? Or did the two women get off on the wrong foot? We’ll have to wait and see…

On February 5, The Daily Caller told its readers that it was Princes Harry and William who were allegedly feuding, not their wives:

Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton’s alleged feud is reportedly really between Prince Harry and Prince William after the eldest offered some “brotherly advice.”

It reportedly happened when Prince William shared that he was “quite concerned that the relationship [with the Duchess of Sussex] has moved so quickly,” Katie Nicholl said in a clip from TLC’s “Kate v. Meghan: Princesses at War,” per E! News Monday. 

And that “‘You know, this seems to be moving quickly. Are you sure?’ And I think what was meant as well-intended brotherly advice, just riled Harry,” she added.

That advice reportedly translated to Harry that William wasn’t behind his decision to marry Meghan Markle.

Nicholl continued, “Harry is hugely protective of Meghan. He saw that as criticism. He interpreted that as his brother not really being behind this marriage. And I don’t think things have been quite right ever since.”

However, royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell explained that the alleged distance between the brothers is all about Markle’s influence on her husband.

“Everything I hear is that Harry is completely beguiled by Meghan, and completely enthralled to her and has changed considerably,” Lady Campbell shared.

Baby Archie

On March 4, 2019, Gateway Pundit‘s Niall McCrae didn’t sit on the fence when discussing the Duchess of Sussex’s baby shower:

Keep your seatbelts on, folks. According to Vanity Fair, Meghan revealed at her baby shower that her imminently expected will be raised as a gender-fluid child. Of course, this was denied by Buckingham Palace. But nobody would be surprised if this progressive princess, supported by her widely popular and slightly wild husband Harry, fully meant what she allegedly said.

It was predictable from the outset that Meghan would be a wrong ‘un (should anyone imply such inference, I attribute none of this to her ethnicity or American nationality, which freshen the Windsorhood). She is the epitome of the self-righteous, virtue-signalling, celebrity social justice warrior. Narcissistic Meghan wants to emulate and exceed Diana, and ensure that in future movies she will be not the actress but the actual heroine.

Never being a fan of Diana, my response to her untimely death in 1997 was coolly detached as I saw all those flowers, all those personal messages from people who never met her. However, Diana obviously fulfilled a need in society, and the outpouring of grief after the tragedy marked a turning point in British culture, from the traditional stiff upper lip to open emoting. As Tony Blair said when taking office earlier that year, ‘A new dawn has broken, has it not?’

We all wish Meghan and Harry a healthy and happy child. A boy is rumored, and perhaps that explains the gender fluidity. As a devout feminist, Meghan would probably be less keen on undermining the sex of a daughter: instead, she would be raised a strong female, preparing to right the wrongs of the patriarchal world.

On Monday, May 6, The Independent reported on ancient rules regarding royal custody of grandchildren. Keep in mind that this now pertains to King Charles:

… there is a fascinating law in place that means that Prince Harry and Meghan may not always have full legal custody of their child.

More than three centuries ago, a law was enacted that means the sovereign has full legal custody of their minor grandchildren, royal expert Marlene Koenig explains.

The law, called “The Grand Opinion for the Prerogative Concerning the Royal Family,” was introduced by King George I in 1717.

“George I did not get along with his son, the future George II,” Koenig tells The Independent.

“I believe it came about when the Prince of Wales [George II] did not want to have the godparent for his son that his father wanted – so George I got Parliament to come up with something.”

This means that when Charles, Prince of Wales becomes sovereign, he will have custody of his minor grandchildren.

According to Koenig, issues surrounding the law arose in 1994 when Diana, Princess of Wales separated from Prince Charles.

Diana expressed wishes to take their sons, Harry and William, to live with her in Australia, but couldn’t due to the regulations laid out by the custody law

Hmmm …

CNN tries to trap Trump on Markle

On June 1, CNN tried to trap President Trump into saying that the Duchess was ‘nasty’. Instead, he said (29-second point in the video):

No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.

Here’s the full exchange:

Another Twitter user, since deleted, observed — nearly correctly:

List of women Trump has used the word “nasty” to describe: -Hillary Clinton -Nancy Pelosi -Meghan Markle -Kamala Harris -San Juan mayor -Danish prime minister.

August 2019: the turning point

Valentine Low, the author of 2022’s best-seller Courtiers, tells us that, by August 2019, things were unravelling quickly for the Sussexes, who already had a US PR team lined up:

By August 2019, things were “awful and tense” within the Sussex household. There were also clues that Harry and Meghan did not see their long-term future as working members of the royal family. Their Africa tour was coming up, but there was nothing in the diary after that. Meanwhile, staff were increasingly aware of the presence in the background of Meghan’s business manager, Andrew Meyer, and her lawyer, Rick Genow, as well as her agent, Nick Collins, and Keleigh Thomas Morgan of Sunshine Sachs. The US team had been very busy, working on deals not only with Netflix but also a deal for Harry’s mental health series for Apple+ with Oprah Winfrey and Meghan’s voiceover for a Disney film about elephants.

The most the public knew at the time was that the Queen had arranged for the couple to go on a tour of Africa, as part of a goodwill sign towards the Commonwealth countries there:

While preparing for the Africa tour, the team was trying to persuade the couple that it would be appropriate to do an interview with the British media. Sam Cohen suggested Tom Bradby of ITV, who already had a relationship with Harry. Meghan was reluctant at first. Her attention was focused on the prospect of doing an interview with Oprah Winfrey. After thinking about it, however, Harry said they would agree. There was one proviso: he and Meghan could not do interviews together or be in the same shot. That would go against their deal with Oprah, which at that point was slated for the autumn of that year. (It eventually went ahead more than a year later, in March 2021.)

The Express was on to the Sussexes at that time.

On Saturday, July 28, the paper reported that the Sussexes’ job vacancies were no longer on the Clarence House recruitment site:

The American and the Duke of Sussex are no longer listed on the recruitment page of Prince Harry’s father Prince Charles’ website. Prince William and wife Kate however, remain there. One family friend said of Harry: “He wants to control everything and everyone he’s involved with. How he’s going to pay for it is another question.”

Under the recruitment tab of the Clarence House website vacancies are listed for staff keen to work for Charles and Camilla and the Cambridges.

Regardless of there being any vacancies available, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were listed at the top of the site, along with Charles, Camilla, William and Kate.

The couple are no longer there.

The suspicion the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now split from Prince Charles on his website also raises questions about funding.

The costs of Harry’s office and his royal duties are met by a stipend from the Prince of Wales.

Between them Harry and William share about £4million a year, with the lion’s share going to the direct heir to the throne.

But without his father’s support, Harry would have to turn to the Queen for funding – and she already has a lengthy list of people to support.

Meghan and Kate seemed to have patched up their differences with a visit to Wimbledon this summer.

But Meghan and Harry aides sparked outrage when it emerged there were rules on how to approach them in Windsor.

The Sun reports neighbours are advised against initiating conversations with the couple.

However, if Meghan or Harry start a discussion they are welcome to exchange pleasantries with the young couple.

They are also asked not to play with the couples’ dogs or request to see their baby, the report claims.

On Thursday, August 1, The Express had a follow-up article:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made big changes in their lives during recent months as they simultaneously became parents for the first time. The royal couple split from their charity partnership with Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge in January. Three months later it was announced Prince Harry would team up with US talk show legend Oprah Winfrey on a new TV series about mental health.

This was followed by the birth of their first son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on May 6, 2019.

Since then, Meghan and Harry have planned a forthcoming royal visit to South Africa in autumn.

They also raised eyebrows after citing their intention to raise Archie as a “private citizen” despite him being seventh-in-line to the throne.

The royal baby lives with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at their Windsor Estate home where they can maintain strict privacy …

Her mum, Doria Ragland, lives in Los Angeles where she is a yoga instructor.

Doria has crossed the pond to visit her daughter and grandson but a royal expert has now revealed Meghan may be looking to set up house over there.

Emily Andrews told Yahoo’s The Royal Box the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may well purchase a property in the USA for work and personal reasons

The royal expert did not suggest that any purchase would mean a permanent move to the United States

She and Harry are expected to travel to the Queen’s official Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, along with other senior royals this summer.

The idyllic holiday home becomes the Queen’s two-month break from royal duties every July and August.

Vogue

On August 2, Meghan’s issue of Vogue that she had guest-edited appeared on the shelves.

The Spectator rightly objected to the Duchess’s perceptions of life. She appears to think that it’s not what you do that matters, it’s what you look like that counts. Look at Harry in the photo — a completely different person:

The issue featured the Duchess’s supposed heroines.

Author and journalist Douglas Murray wrote about it for UnHerd‘Meghan and Harry are playing a dangerous game’:

… Meghan Markle, otherwise known as the Duchess of Sussex, has guest-edited the September edition of Vogue. The contents of the issue are perhaps unsurprising. As well as inevitably celebrating prominent women, such as the teenaged school truant Greta Thunberg, the Duchess has also set out to prove that women don’t need men to give them status. Something she has done by including an interview with her husband, Prince Harry.

This in itself has drawn a certain amount of comment, and will not have calmed fears some people had that a highly political figure marrying into the nation’s most necessarily non-politically opinionated family might cause problems down the line. The fact that Meghan Markle’s pre-Harry politics might be best described as ‘woke’ is in some ways unimportant – a prominent Donald Trump-supporting Republican marrying into the Royal Family would raise similar concerns, to say the least.

The worry was that Prince Harry’s marriage to Ms Markle would end up tipping him towards her political path, fears that will not have been calmed by his appearance in the high-end fashion magazine. In the royally-guest-edited issue, Prince Harry talks about a number of things, the headline-grabber being his claim that he and his wife would not have more than two children because of its impact on the environment and climate change …

It is the Prince’s follow-up comments, however, that dish up the problem, less for his audience than for the Prince himself. Watching Prince Harry beginning to play the game of identifying ‘unconscious bias’ is like gazing at a hapless amateur juggling with loaded pistols; it is enough to make any well-disposed person want to scream “Stop” and seize the guns from his unsuspecting hands.

The comments appear in a conversation between the Prince and primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, on the subject of what humans can learn from chimpanzees. At one point Dr Goodall says that children do not notice skin colour, to which Harry adds: “But again, just as stigma is handed down from generation to generation, your perspective on the world and on life and on people is something that is taught to you. It’s learned from your family, learned from the older generation, or from advertising, from your environment.” Well perhaps …

One of the most extreme forms of – generally unconscious – bias that people demonstrate throughout their lives is towards attractive people, and not only in the selection of partners. Study after study shows that good-looking men and women stand a better chance of promotion in their chosen field of work than people who are average-looking or actively unattractive.

For instance, it may be carefully suggested that the editor of September’s issue of Vogue would not be editing September’s edition of Vogue if, rather than the acclaimed beauty she is, she looked rather more like a member of the Addams family. Or indeed an average-looking member of the general public. There may be many reasons why Prince Harry requested Meghan Markle’s hand in marriage, but her looks must have – consciously or otherwise – at least counted in her favour on the way to the altar.

Another form of bias that people express throughout their lives – again, consciously or otherwise – might be an inclination towards someone who is financially or socially secure. I should never want to accuse a Duchess – or any other member of the Royal Family – of any variety of bias. And yet it seems possible that in her search for a husband Ms Markle may have demonstrated some form of bias (unconscious or otherwise) towards thrones and their heirs. I will put the point no stronger. But in her search for love, Ms Markle must have met many people. Perhaps she met many princes and mingled with many a duke. But it is striking, at the very least, that of all the people who appeared across her path, the one she ended up marrying in a low-key ceremony at Windsor Castle happened to be the second son of the Prince of Wales.

Balmoral no-show — part 1

It was a given that the Royals joined the Queen during her summer holiday at Balmoral and participated in her favourite country pursuits.

However, the Duchess was fussy.

On August 11, The Sun reported:

MEGHAN Markle might fake a headache to avoid taking part in blood sports when she visits the Queen in Balmoral, a royal expert has claimed.

Sports like hunting and fly fishing are much-loved group activities at the Queen’s summer retreat in the Scottish highlands.

With a 50,000 acre estate comprising of grouse moors, forestry and farmland, animals to hunt are in no short supply in Balmoral.

But the Duchess of Sussex, 38, who follows a vegan diet during the week, isn’t a fan of hunting – despite her husband Prince Harry being taught from a young age.

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, royal editor Robert Jobson said: “Meghan, however, who rather disapproves of such blood sports, may choose to feign a headache.”

BBQs and picnics are thought to take place daily at Balmoral, regardless of the Scottish weather, as the royals are so fond of all things outdoorsy.

“It is hunting which is perhaps the biggest passion”, Robert added of the royal hobby, which includes shooting birds and deer.

“Her Majesty shot her last stag in 1983 near to the Spittal of Glenmuick, in a spot that is now called The Queen’s Corry.

“But she still attends shoots and drove Kate to a grouse shoot when the couple visited a couple of years ago.”

This I did not know. Wow:

The Queen was taught to stalk deer by her late cousin, and best friend, Margaret Rhodes.

Returning now to Meghan:

Earlier this week, a source told Fabulous pescatarian Meghan would try fly fishing to appease her father-in-law Prince Charles.

They added: “But there will no softening on Meghan’s stance against hunting, any stag or deer hunting fills her with horror.

“Venison will not be one of her menu choices for sure.”

However, the Queen was also fussy. And, after all, Balmoral was her estate.

Five days later, on August 16, The Sun told us that Her Majesty despised ripped jeans and wedge heels. Meghan loves both:

It has been reported that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will make their first trip to the Scottish castle this summer, but the Queen has her firm views on correct attire.

Speaking to Fabulous Digital, the source said: “The Queen is no favourite of jeans so the US boyfriend look and ripped jeans will be left in Frogmore Cottage along with any wedges which her Majesty hates with a passion.”

Meghan Markle has often demonstrated she is a fan of wearing denim, and recently caused a stir when she showed up at Wimbledon wearing jeans …

It is thought this year Meghan will visit the castle for the first time, where the Sussexes will be given their own wing, as well as enjoying a traditional afternoon tea with Her Maj.

A source told the Sun on Sunday: “The Queen and Prince Philip adore the couple and, of course, their new great-grandson Archie, and they have invited them to Balmoral for a few days.

“It is testament to Meghan that she has been given this invite. It’s a huge honour.”

However, they did not go, according to the Mail‘s September 6 report:

aides insisted the Sussexes were too busy working on charitable projects to join the Queen at Balmoral this weekend

There had been rumours that the Sussexes would be joining the monarch at Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands this week with their baby son Archie.

But while most of the Royal Family have made the long trek up to Aberdeenshire, Harry and Meghan actually have no plans to fly to Scotland at all.

Sources close to the couple insist that the decision should not be seen as a ‘snub’ – and Harry only rarely goes up to the Queen’s Deeside estate nowadays.

The US Open

Instead, the Duchess made plans to fly to New York to see her friend Serena Williams compete at the US Open.

Serena Williams was said to be hesitant as she lost at Wimbledon when the Duchess was in the stands:

Despite the long flight and a stressful delay for Meghan, sources have claimed that Williams’ coaches aren’t massively thrilled that the Duchess has come to support her friend, as she could distract her from the game in hand.

They are said to be concerned due to the fact that Williams lost when Meghan attended her last match at Wimbledon.

A source told Page Six: ‘Serena asked her coach about Meghan coming when she won last night and everyone is worried, as tennis players are very superstitious, and Serena lost when Meghan came to watch her at Wimbledon.’

The source added that Williams’ aides were concerned that the trip was a publicity stunt.

However Williams is said to ‘adore’ Meghan and ‘wouldn’t have a word of it’.  

It is not yet known where in New York Meghan will be staying and who she will be staying with, however she is thought to have flown first class for the two-day trip across the Atlantic.    

It comes just days after her husband spoke out about sustainable travel at an environmentally-friendly tourism event in Amsterdam. 

And last month he is understood to have given a passionate barefoot speech about saving the planet at Google’s £16million climate change summit in Sicily.

Meghan’s 7,000 mile journey to New York and back is expected to generate 986kg of carbon dioxide

The article has a helpful map showing all seven flights that the Sussexes took between August 6 and September 6 in Europe.

Harry excused his flights as follows:

He took a scheduled flight to Amsterdam this week to promote Travalyst, a scheme for environmentally-friendly tourism.

Speaking at the event, the prince refused to apologise for his recent private flights, saying: ‘I spend 99 per cent of my life travelling the world by commercial.

‘Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity [to fly privately] based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe – it’s as simple as that. 

‘For me it’s about balance. It’s not a decision I would want to take, but if I have to do that, I will ensure that I balance out the impact that I have.’ 

Harry dismissed concerns over his carbon footprint by insisting that he ‘offsets’ his emissions by donating to renewable energy incentives and planting trees. 

Returning to tennis, it seems that Serena Williams’s coaches were correct. Meghan’s presence and Williams’s loss coincided, as the Mail told us on September 8:

Tennis fans have accused Meghan Markle of jinxing Serena Williams last night as she watched the tennis star lose and fail to secure an historic 24th Grand Slam at the US Open, just months after she attended Williams’ defeat at Wimbledon.

The Duchess of Sussex, 38, was called a ‘bad luck charm,’ with fans citing the resounding loss at the Wimbledon final to Simona Halep and the year before at SW19 to Angelique Kerber.

The Royal was the centre of attention in New York as she watched with Williams’ mother Oracene Price but the pair were left disappointed as the former number one was beaten 6-3, 7-5, by Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Balmoral no-show — part 2

As for Balmoral, the Mail article continued:

Prince Harry and Meghan’s absence from the trip has left Her Majesty ‘hurt and disappointed,’ the Mail on Sunday understands, at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together at her favourite time of the year.

The Queen is already said to be ‘baffled’ by Meghan and Harry’s inability to steer clear of PR calamities, and is concerned that her beloved grandson and his new wife are failing to listen to their team of advisers.

On September 8, The Sun told us:

THE QUEEN was left “hurt and disappointed” when Meghan Markle skipped visiting Balmoral in favour of her last-minute trip to New York over the weekend.

In opting for the US Open instead:

she snubbed the Queen’s invite to attend the Highland Games – something that proved a disappointment according to royal insiders.

The Mail on Sunday described the move as an “outright snub” adding that Her Majesty “is ‘hurt and disappointed’ at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together.”

According to insiders the monarch had been looking forward to “a few days of merry chaos” with her great-grandchildren, including Archie who is still yet to visit the Queen’s summer home with Harry and Meghan claiming he is “too young.”

While Meghan was watching Serena Williams:

the Queen was joined by Prince Charles and Camilla at the Braemar Gathering Highland Games on Saturday …

The Queen is currently staying at her nearby summer residence Balmoral where she last night hosted Boris Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds.

But the Prime Minister was forced to cut short the anticipated weekend-long visit after a turbulent week.

One week later on September 16, The Express reported:

The Queen “does not want to talk about the Sussexes” according to claims from a royal insider. People spending time with Her Majesty, 93, have reportedly been told not to mention Meghan Markle or Prince Harry. Leading royal expert Quentin Letts tweeted the bombshell remark this week, claiming it was the only subject that was strictly banned from discussion.

That is really bad.

As the King would say, ‘Dear, oh dear’.

The article continues:

Letts tweeted on Friday: “Friend of an acquaintance was about to go riding with HMQ.

Was given v firm advice ‘Talk about anything except one subject.’ Brexit? ‘No, The Sussexes.'”

This comes after claims of clashes within the royal family.

The Queen was reportedly left “deeply disappointed” by Meghan and Harry’s hostile behaviour.

Several royal sources claimed the monarch was not impressed with the way Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have acted since marrying last year.

She is reportedly “disappointed” with their behaviour as representatives of the British monarchy around the world.

There is plenty more to come about the Sussexes. Stay tuned.

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.

On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the outspoken Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen had the whip removed for remarks he tweeted about the coronavirus vaccines.

He now sits as an Independent.

Before going into that news, let us look at Bridgen’s past history in Parliament.

Watchdog

Bridgen, who has represented North West Leicestershire since 2010, has always been a watchdog, in and out of Parliament.

Holding his own on Brexit

On April 8, 2019, when Theresa May and Parliament were at loggerheads on how to proceed with Brexit, Bridgen appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that most voters would prefer No Deal. He was the only Leave supporter on a panel of four. Everyone else was a Remainer, including the host, Jo Coburn. They piled in on Bridgen, but the MP was correct. He had cited a poll from YouGov which said that 44% of Britons preferred No Deal. By contrast 42% wanted to remain in the EU.

One month later, he rightly objected to MPs who wanted to have a customs union with the EU instead of a full exit:

The impasse in the House of Commons worsened as the months dragged on. On September 10, Bridgen supported Boris’s prorogation, which ended up being overturned. He talked with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer just before that prorogation:

In late November, The Sun tweeted an excellent video of Bridgen canvassing North West Leicestershire voters before the general election on December 12 that year. They had strong opinions on Brexit, Labour and Boris. Incidentally, North West Leicestershire is the happiest place to live in the East Midlands:

Pointing out ‘modern slavery’ in Leicester

In January 2020, Bridgen called to the Government’s attention the working conditions at certain women’s garment factories in Leicester. They would be considered sweatshops in the United States.

The city of Leicester is not in Bridgen’s constituency, but he was concerned enough to call the companies out, directing a question to Kelly Tolhurst MP, the then-BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) in Parliament:

Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss the situation in Leicester, where I believe that approximately 10,000 people in the clothing industry are being paid £3 to £4 an hour in conditions of modern slavery?

Guido Fawkes reported that nothing was done until July that year, when Leicester showed unusually high rates of coronavirus (emphases in the original):

What happened at the meeting months ago?

The Labour Behind the Label campaign has a report out alleging there is evidence which indicates that conditions in Leicester’s factories, primarily producing for Boohoo, are putting workers at risk of COVID-19 infection. Grim reading…

Leicester’s rates remained high throughout the rest of 2020. By contrast, North West Leicestershire — Bridgen’s constitutency — had the lowest rates in Leicestershire. On October 12, he debated the knotty problem of full lockdowns with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, who advocated sequestration of the vulnerable only:

Calling out West Midlands mayoral candidate

In the week before the 2021 local elections in England, he asked IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) to investigate Labour MP Liam Byrne’s alleged use of parliamentary expenses to fund his campaign for the mayoralty of the West Midlands. Byrne fired back that Bridgen put his own London accommodation on expenses, which is what every other MP, including Byrne, does. Then Byrne accused Bridgen of having one of the worst voting attendance records in Parliament. Byrne was wrong there, too, as records show that Bridgen voted 88% of the time, whereas Byrne voted only 63% of the time between 2010 and 2019.

Calling out the BBC

On May 21, 2021, Bridgen complained about the BBC in a tweet, saying that Britons are forced to pay for it, while the organisation shows inadequate accountability in the face of broadcasting scandals it hid under the carpet.

Objecting to coronavirus vaccine passports

On July 22, 2021, Bridgen told GB News that showing a vaccine passport upon entry to various places was ‘unworkable’, saying that most people were already vaccinated and that it would take too much extra time to check everyone’s vaccine status:

2022 signalled big trouble ahead

In 2022, Andrew Bridgen became known as an MP with a reputation.

Initially, his letters of no confidence in previous Prime Ministers became clear, all the way from David Cameron’s time through to Liz Truss:

However, later on, his relationship with his family’s potato business would begin to bring matters to a head, affecting his standing as a Conservative MP.

On September 3, The Times reported (purple emphases mine):

A Conservative MP branded “dishonest” by a judge has been ordered to pay £800,000 and evicted from his luxurious country home after a dispute involving his family potato business.

Andrew Bridgen, 57, has spent years suing his family business, AB Produce, which supplies potatoes and other vegetables to catering companies and supermarkets.

In March, a High Court judge ruled that he “lied” under oath, behaved in an “abusive”, “arrogant” and “aggressive” way, and was so dishonest that nothing he said about the dispute could be taken at face value.

The North West Leicestershire MP had accused the firm of forcing him out of a £93,000-a-year second job, which required him to attend a monthly board meeting. The judge found that, rather than being bullied out of the job as he alleged, Bridgen resigned in order to reduce the amount he might owe his first wife, Jackie, in divorce proceedings.

Judge Brian Rawlings also found that Bridgen pressured the police inspector in his parliamentary constituency to launch a costly one-year investigation into vexatious allegations against his estranged younger brother, Paul Bridgen, 55, who runs AB Produce, which is based in Derbyshire.

In a later judgment in June, which came to light only last week, the MP has been forced by the judge to vacate the Old Vicarage, a five-room property reportedly valued at about £1.5 million. He was given a final deadline of August 24 and Bridgen, his wife and their child complied with the deadline. It is not known where they now live …

Bridgen and his second wife, Nevena, 42, a Serbian blogger and former opera singer, had lived in the restored 18th-century home without charge since 2015. During this period, it is understood that he refused to pay rent, or bills for water and electricity, according to court filings.

Bridgen was told to pay in excess of £800,000 in legal costs to three shareholders at his family’s firm, of which one is his brother, Paul, after bringing claims of unfair treatment. He could yet be ordered to pay £244,000 in rent arrears.

It is understood that Bridgen, who earns a basic salary of £84,144 as an MP, has paid the money he already owes, although the source of the funds is unknown and is likely to come under scrutiny

Parliamentary rules stipulate that MPs who are declared bankrupt must step down if a bankruptcy restrictions order is made against them. He is also vulnerable to another referral to the parliamentary commissioner for standards as he failed to declare AB Produce as the entity paying his rent and utility bills.

According to the guide to the rules relating to the MPs’ code of conduct, MPs must declare “taxable expenses, allowances and benefits such as company cars”, as well as “financial support and sponsorship” and “gifts of property”.

On November 3, Guido reported that the Commons Committee on Standards recommended that Bridgen be suspended from Parliament for five sitting days for the aforementioned controversy:

They also describe an email he sent to the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone as “completely unacceptable behaviour” as he ‘sought assurance’ about a rumour that Stone was shortly to be ennobled provided she arrived “at the ‘right’ outcomes when conducting parliamentary standards investigation[s]”.

The full list of aggravating factors are as follows:

    • Mr Bridgen breached the rules of the House on registration, declaration and paid lobbying on multiple occasions and in multiple ways. (The Committee noted that each of these breaches could have led it to recommend a suspension from the service of the House);
    • Mr Bridgen has demonstrated a very cavalier attitude to the rules on registration and declaration of interests, including repeatedly saying that he did not check his own entry in the register;
    • Mr Bridgen is an established Member of the House, having been elected in 2010;
    • Mr Bridgen’s email to the Commissioner called her integrity into question on the basis of wholly unsubstantiated and false allegations, and attempted improperly to influence the House’s standards processes …

For Andrew’s clarification, no you cannot submit a letter of no confidence in the Standards Committee…

But, by then, Bridgen had already turned his attention to the coronavirus vaccines, saying that, if there is an investigation in the EU Commission, there should be one in the UK, too:

On Tuesday, December 13, Bridgen was granted an adjournment debate in which he criticised the vaccines and cited Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist who saw his own father, a healthy man, die of unusual heart problems after taking one of the vaccines. Bridgen, like Malhotra, wanted the mRNA vaccines stopped and offered evidence as to why. As I wrote on December 22, Maria Caulfield, the Government minister and a practising nurse, did not approve of Bridgen’s speech. Danny Kruger, another Conservative MP, supported Bridgen’s statements, but Caulfield reiterated the Government’s line on vaccines.

On Wednesday, December 28, the British Heart Foundation disparaged Bridgen’s claims in the adjournment debate, which I also wrote about the following day.

2023 can make or break Bridgen

On Monday, January 9, 2023, Bridgen began the day by tweeting the link to a discussion about alleged lies told during the pandemic and the response to coronavirus:

Later that day, The Guardian reported that Bridgen had been suspended for five working days for lobbying and undeclared interests, matters unrelated to coronavirus:

The MP for north-west Leicestershire was found to have repeatedly broken the MPs’ code of conduct by a cross-party committee, which endorsed findings from Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards.

He was unsuccessful in an attempt to overturn the recommendation in December and a motion was approved by parliament on Monday.

The suspension is due to start on Tuesday 10 January, and will run for five sitting days.

Bridgen was found to have approached ministers and officials on behalf of a forestry company, Mere Plantations, that had given him a donation, a visit to Ghana and the offer of an advisory contract, a role that ended up being unpaid.

Two of the days were recommended by the committee for the breaches of rules on advocacy and interests. The other three days of suspension were advised in response to what the committee said was a “completely unacceptable” attempt by Bridgen to put pressure on Stone.

Bridgen attempted to appeal against the decision, criticising the investigation as “flawed” and arguing that it had not fully considered the motivations of the person who had made the initial complaint.

He argued that he was just helping a local company that worked with Mere, and that it was thus simply a “constituency interest” that brought him no personal benefits. The committee disagreed with this, saying the MP had breached lobbying rules.

The committee, chaired by the Labour MP Chris Bryant, found that Bridgen breached the rules “on multiple occasions and in multiple ways”.

Meanwhile, Bridgen continued to sound the alarm about coronavirus vaccines.

On Tuesday afternoon, January 10, he tweeted a Project Veritas interview with a Pfizer scientist who alleges that they were aware that their vaccine was responsible for the unusual spike in cases of myocarditis. This is short, subtitled and well worth watching:

That afternoon, Bridgen tweeted a video featuring Dr Peter McCullough, who alleges that the vaccines are responsible for myocarditis cases and deaths. This, too, is a short video well worth watching:

On the morning of Wednesday, January 11, Bridgen retweeted a message from Dr Malhotra which included a video of Tucker Carlson and vaccine watchdog Robert F Kennedy Jr discussing the omerta on coronavirus vaccines:

Bridgen followed up with his own tweet about the alleged dangers of the vaccines, including a quote from Robert F Kennedy Jr:

Worse news than a five-day suspension came later that morning, after Bridgen had tweeted a cardiologist’s comment that the global rollout of coronavirus vaccines will have been the worst human rights violation since the Holocaust. Bridgen later deleted the tweet, but other MPs saw it and strongly objected to it. Pictured along with Bridgen is Conservative MP Simon Clarke:

It then came to the attention of the Conservative Chief Whip Simon Hart, who withdrew the whip from the MP:

On Wednesday morning, Guido reported what Simon Hart had said in defending his decision:

Andrew Bridgen has crossed a line, causing great offence in the process. As a nation we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme. The vaccine is the best defence against Covid that we have. Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the Whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.

However, that afternoon, the Daily Sceptic reported that a Jewish academic in Israel came to Bridgen’s defence:

Andrew Bridgen, the British politician suspended as a Conservative MP over allegations of being anti-Semitic in a tweet criticising the Covid vaccines, has been defended by the Jewish Israeli academic whose article he linked to in the tweet in question.

Dr. Josh Guetzkow, a senior lecturer in criminology and sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told the Daily Sceptic that as a Jew living in Israel he was “surprised” by the accusations against Mr. Bridgen, because “there is nothing at all anti-Semitic about his statement”

John Mann, the Government’s independent anti-Semitism adviser, was unequivocal, saying: “There is no possibility that Bridgen can be allowed to stand at the next election. He cannot claim that he didn’t realise the level of offence that his remarks cause.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he “completely condemn[ed] those types of comments in the strongest possible terms”.

“Obviously it is utterly unacceptable to make linkages and use language like that and I’m determined that the scourge of antisemitism is eradicated,” he told the Commons on Wednesday …

However, Dr. Guetzkow, whose tweeted article details the alarming, recently-released analysis of vaccine adverse event data from the U.S. CDC, said this is a “tempest in a teapot”.

“The hollow accusations against him only distract from genuine examples of anti-Semitism and ultimately hinder attempts to draw attention to them, much like the boy who cried wolf,” he said.

It is clear from the statement by the Chief Whip that Mr. Bridgen’s chief sin is to have criticised the vaccines. Mr. Hart’s statement notably does not mention anti-Semitism, but rather says that Mr. Bridgen is having the whip removed for “misinformation about the vaccine”, which “causes harm and costs lives”, adding only that he had caused “great offence in process”.

The allegations of anti-Semitism therefore appear to be just the opportunity party chiefs needed to mete out the punishment to the vaccine heretic

Stop Press: Dr. Guetzkow has pointed out that Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav has been drawing parallels between the extreme and discriminatory public health measures during the pandemic and the Holocaust throughout the the last three years.

Rishi Sunak’s comment came up during Wednesday’s PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), the first of 2023, which I watched on BBC Parliament.

One might well ask who asked the question.

None other than Matt Hancock, who has just returned from a short holiday in Turkey, which seemed to involve shopping.

The Daily Sceptic reported:

Matt Hancock, the disgraced lockdown Health Secretary, hit out at Mr. Bridgen’s “disgusting, antisemitic, anti-vax conspiracy theories” at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He said the comments were “deeply offensive” and “have no place in this House or in our wider society”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak replied that he joined Mr Hancock in “completely condemning those types of comments in the strongest possible terms”.

In closing, the Daily Sceptic calls to readers’ attentions Andrew Bridgen’s qualifications:

Mr. Bridgen, who has a science background, has become Parliament’s most vocal critic of the Covid vaccines. He thus made himself a big target for the pro-vaccine zealots who will have been looking for an excuse to punish and cancel him, and who have predictably leapt on the first ‘offensive’ thing they could find.

Wikipedia states that Bridgen studied genetics and behaviour at the University of Nottingham and graduated with a degree in biological sciences.

The Government does not want their big achievement of the past three years — the vaccine rollout, Europe’s first — to be tainted in any way.

However, judging from the comments, Daily Sceptic readers are supportive of Andrew Bridgen and look forward to hearing more from him on the vaccines this year, which is more than can be said of Matt Hancock, who, as of December 28, was still searching for a celebrity agent to kickstart his new career in reality television.

—————————————————————————————————-

UPDATE Guido Fawkes has reported Andrew Bridgen’s statement on having lost the Conservative whip, complete with video:

The fact I have been suspended over this matter says a lot about the current state of our democracy, the right to free speech, and the apparent suspension of scientific method of analysis of medicines being administered to billions of people.

It is apposite to follow my posts about Lee Anderson with a series on his fellow Red Wall MP Marco Longhi.

Among other things, they have in common a dislike of Steve Bray, the noisy anti-Brexit protester who had his amplifying equipment taken by police this week.

Steve Bray

This is where I left off yesterday:

I’ll get to the debate in which Marco Longhi said those words.

First, however, Steve Bray reappeared in the area around Parliament on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, with a new boombox:

Guido Fawkes had the story and a video:

His post says (emphases in the original):

Just when you thought it was all over, Steve Bray’s back for an encore. With his boombox ripped from his hands yesterday by a swarm of Met officers, it looked like it was finally time to say bye, bye Bray-by. Not so much.

Undeterred, and as promised during a BBC interview yesterday afternoon, Bray is back on his island outside Parliament, having found a new boombox to blast his tunes at full volume as MPs walk past. He’s also picked up a gang of new supporters to chant along with him. Presumably they don’t have jobs to go to either. Chopper [The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope] even claims he’s seen pedestrians hand Bray some cash in solidarity. It’s not like Met officers have far to commute given New Scotland Yard’s just metres away…

On May 11, Marco Longhi mentioned Steve Bray, although not by name, in a parliamentary debate, Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice.

Guido covered the bit about Bray:

Guido wrote:

… Speaking in the Chamber yesterday afternoon alongside Bray’s arch nemesis Lee Anderson, Longhi said:

I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever… This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met really should deal with him.

Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle intervened to offer swapping offices with Longhi so that “there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either”…

Guido concluded by saying that, like Lloyd Russell-Moyle, he has no problem with Bray’s braying as it shows we tolerate free speech.

Personally, I disagree. After six years of his daily noise, the Met should put a stop to it.

Returning to the debate, which took place after the Queen’s Speech in May, Longhi discussed the people from his constituency, Dudley North, and their concerns, among them Brexit and re-establishing law and order (emphases mine):

I was going to confine my speech to the Public Order Bill, but I will follow up on a few comments that the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) made. The more I listen to him, the more I think he speaks a good deal of common sense. I would like him to know that I for one, and a number of my colleagues, agree with much if not everything of what he says, and we have a steely resolve to make sure that we are one United Kingdom. That is what we voted for when we voted for Brexit.

My daughters, for some unfathomable reason, sometimes describe me as a grumpy old man. I really do not know why. However, there are a few things that can make me a little bit miserable, and one thing that has really grated on me in recent years is the minority of protesters who have pretty much used guerrilla warfare to disrupt the everyday lives of the vast majority of our constituents—not just mine, but everybody’s.

The good people of Dudley North are ordinary folk, working hard to make a living, a living that is increasingly harder to make in the current climate. I cannot fathom how the privileged and entitled few think it is acceptable to stop our carers and nurses from being able to get to work to care for our sick and elderly, or to blockade a fire appliance from getting to a serious fire burning a local business to the ground—or, more tragically, perhaps preventing people inside the burning building from being saved. Of course, that applies to any blue light service, not just the fire service. That minority of criminals truly disgust me. They have no concept of the real world out there. They have no concept of the misery they bring to those less fortunate than themselves.

I hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and those on the Front Benches will join me in making working here more bearable for our staff, myself and my colleagues. I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever.

Lee Anderson intervened:

I know the character my hon. Friend alludes to, and I have witnessed some ferocious verbal attacks on my hon. Friend from that character, who patrols Whitehall like a public nuisance. May I suggest telling him that, if he is interested in changing things in this country, he should come to Dudley North and stand against my hon. Friend at the next general election?

Longhi replied:

In fact, that invitation has already been made. I am going to print off a set of nomination papers, but I wonder about the 10 people this person might need for the form to be valid.

My staff cannot hear distressed constituents on the phone through the awful racket he causes. All our staff who have offices in 1 Parliament Street suffer considerable stress and anxiety from the disruption he causes to their, and our, work. I doubt that staff in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the buildings opposite, would say anything different—[Interruption.] Is someone wanting to intervene? I do not know. I heard some noises. It is like a Hoover—an irritating thing in the background. I do not know what it is.

This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met Police really should deal with him. He is causing misery to hundreds of staff, he is intimidating many

Then Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is quite the leftie, intervened for a bit of to-ing and fro-ing:

Russell-Moyle: No, he’s not!

Longhi: I think someone wants to intervene, Mr Deputy Speaker. This person intimidates many who are passing by, going about our business and representing our constituents—

Russell-Moyle: No, he doesn’t!

Longhi: Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene?

Russell-Moyle: The hon. Member clearly does not know how Parliament works, but we often make sounds across the Chamber when we disagree with someone, and I disagree with him. I am happy to swap offices: I will take his office and he can have my office. Then there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either. Win-win!

Longhi: I am actually very comfortable for the hon. Member to come to Dudley North and make those very arguments, because he would be out of office completely. Please do come and make those very arguments. I am not going to allow this kind of behaviour from someone outside, who is a public nuisance, to force us to have to make changes for him.

Our police, whether in Dudley, the Met or elsewhere, need the tools to better manage and tackle the dangerous and highly disruptive tactics used by a small minority of selfish protesters to wreak havoc on people going about their daily lives. Our police already have enough to be doing without the unnecessary burden of a privileged few who seek to rinse taxpayers’ money.

It will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support the Public Order Bill. If that disruptive minority want to glue themselves to anything, maybe the Bill should make it easier for them to have their backsides glued to a tiny cell at Her Majesty’s pleasure. They would be most welcome.

Kit Malthouse MP, the minister for Crime and Policing, concluded the debate. Malthouse, incidentally, worked for Boris Johnson in a similar position when the latter was Mayor of London:

… We have had a variety of contributions this afternoon, falling broadly into three categories. First, there were the constructive contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) talked about antisocial behaviour in his constituency, a theme we heard from several hon. Members. The three graces—my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi)—expressed strong support for the Public Order Bill. The general theme was expressed pithily by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough:

“We want criminals to be scared of the law. We do not want the law-abiding majority to be scared of criminals”—

a sentiment with which the Government heartily agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) made his usual vigorous and wide-ranging contribution, illustrating neatly why his part of the world is becoming more of a Conservative stronghold with every month that passes

I wrote about Jonathan Gullis in April.

Malthouse ended with this. I do hope he is correct when he says:

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out earlier in this debate, the first job of any Government is to keep their people safe, which is why we are delivering ambitious reforms to do just that by cutting crime, delivering swifter justice and making our streets safer. We are backing the ever-growing numbers of police with the tools and support they need, making sentences tougher for violent and sexual crimes, strengthening victims’ rights and restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. We will ensure that we strike the right balance in our human rights framework so that it meets the needs of the public and commands their confidence, strengthens our traditions of liberty, particularly the right to free speech, adds a healthy dose of common sense and curtails abuses of our justice system. I commend the Government’s programme on crime and justice to the House.

In the beginning

Marco Longhi was born in the Midlands town of Walsall, Staffordshire, on April 22, 1967, to an Englishwoman and an Italian airline worker. He grew up in Rome.

He took after both parents in his personal choices.

Following his father’s interest in airlines, he trained as a pilot. Later, following the example from his mother’s family, he entered politics.

In between, he studied at Manchester University and worked in the oil and gas industry. Later on, he became interested in real estate and was the director of the lettings (rental) firm Justmove. He also owns ten houses in Walsall.

His grandfather Wilfred Clarke was mayor of Walsall in 1978. Longhi became a Conservative councillor for the town in 1999 and served two terms as its mayor, in 2017 and 2018.

Dudley North

Longhi ran successfully for election to Parliament in 2019, after the much-admired Labour MP, subsequently Independent, Ian Austin, stood down for Dudley North.

The constituency of Dudley North was created in 1997. Labour’s Ross Cranston served as its MP between 1997 and 2005. Afterwards, Ian Austin succeeded him until 2019. Austin became an Independent in February 2019. He resigned from Labour because he was troubled by its anti-Semitism, which prevailed in some factions of the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Austin’s adoptive father Fred was a Czech Jew who was adopted by an English family, hence the surname change from Stiller to Austin. Fred Austin was the headmaster of The Dudley School from its foundation in 1975 to his retirement in 1985.

In December 2019, Marco Longhi handily defeated Labour’s appropriately named Melanie Dudley with a majority of 11,533, a swing of 15.8 per cent.

Maiden speech

Longhi gave his maiden speech to the Commons on February 26, 2020, during the debate on the Environment Bill.

Although coronavirus was seeping into the news narrative, getting on with Brexit was still the main topic of discussion among Conservative MPs. The debates were marvellous, imbued with optimism.

Everyone was also happy with the relatively new Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor John Bercow who did so much to try and thwart Brexit.

Longhi’s speech tells us about Dudley and his hopes for the historic town:

Let me start by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to present my maiden speech today, and to thank your staff—and, indeed, all staff on the estate—for keeping us safe and looking after us so well and with such professionalism. I should like you to convey my more profound thanks, if that is possible, to Mr Speaker for the way in which he has signalled that he will carry out his office as Speaker of the House, in complete contrast to his predecessor. The conventions and integrity that he is restoring in such an unassuming way are having a much greater impact in restoring faith in our democracy than any commentators may be giving him credit for, which is why I want to do so today.

It is the convention to comment on one’s predecessor in a maiden speech. I shall do so, but not for that reason: I will because I want to. I am certain than many in this place will want to recognise Ian Austin for his integrity, and for the brave way in which he decided to stand up against antisemitism. There is not a person in my constituency to whom I have spoken who does not speak well of Ian, even when they disagreed with his politics. So I want to thank him for his efforts as a local MP, and for the example that he has set for many of us, on both sides of the House, in standing up to prejudice and hatred. I suspect that some of my colleagues on this side of the House—myself included—may wish to thank him for other reasons too.

I say with a degree of both pride and humility that I am the first ever Conservative Member of Parliament for Dudley North, the first ever Member called Marco, and the Member holding a larger majority than any of my predecessors in this seat. For that, I thank the people of Dudley, who, like the people in the rest of the country, decided to tell the House—yet again, at the umpteenth time of asking—what they wanted us to do.

The Dudley North constituency is made up of the town of Sedgley, the suburban areas of Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Gornal Wood, Woodsetton, and other conurbations around Dudley town itself. It has several attractions of national significance, including the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Castle and Dudley Zoo.

Dudley has been a market town since the 13th century, and its fortunes over the centuries have ebbed and flowed with the economic cycles of the heavy industry that its coal-rich mines supported. This also means that it has suffered much since the decline of the traditional industries, which is why a focus on skills and future jobs is crucial if the economic prosperity of the area and the wellbeing of Dudley people are to be secured for the coming decades.

Dudley is also credited with being the birthplace of the industrial revolution, with the advent of smelting iron ore using coal instead of charcoal, which is manufactured by burning trees and therefore much rarer and more costly to obtain. Abraham Darby introduced this revolutionary method, which meant that iron and steel could be made in much larger quantities and more efficiently and cheaply. He effectively kick-started the industrial revolution, so Dudley’s heritage and legacy are second to none—notwithstanding what other people in this House might say! However, I will say that competing with Magna Carta and perhaps alienating a doctor might not be my smartest move. Abraham Darby was born in Woodsetton in 1678 and is reported to have lived at Wren’s Nest, which is now a site of special scientific interest—I had to practise that—and, since 1956, one of only two national nature reserves assigned on geology alone because of the variety and abundance of fossils found on the site.

However, although the new industrial revolution brought wealth, it also resulted in the area being named the most unhealthy place in the country in the mid-19th century, because of the dreadful working and living conditions. That led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewerage systems. Dudley had the highest mortality rate in the country. In the 21st century we are faced with the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by a range of new advancements in the digital and biological worlds, but with a different impact on human wellbeing.

Improving health and wellbeing and seeking to tackle mental ill health are some of the areas on which I wish to focus during my time in this House, for the benefit of everyone at home and in their workplaces. If we tackle the issue of poor mental health at its core and in its infancy, we can prevent crisis moments and the devastating consequences that they can have. That it is also why having an environment that we can all enjoy, which supports us in our own wellbeing and that we can leave as a positive legacy to our children and grandchildren, is so important. Mother Nature has been talking to us for some time, and it is time we did more than simply listen. It is time to take action as well, which is why the Bill is so welcome.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you ever come to Dudley, the capital of the Black Country, you will be warmly welcomed, because that is the nature of Dudley people. You will also feel a sense of expectation—a feeling that change is about to happen, a feeling of optimism—and this is another reason why I am so privileged to represent the town and its people. In the near future, we will be seeing the demolition of the infamous Cavendish House in the town centre to make way for many new homes, the metro extension and I hope—subject to consent—a very light rail system.

Like many high streets around the country, Dudley’s has suffered much. Nobody has a silver bullet to fix that, but increasing footfall by attracting more people feels like part of the solution. If attracting more people into the town centre is part of the solution, and if the focus on skills for future jobs is key, I would like to see our plans for a university campus on the edge of Dudley town centre finally being delivered. I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees with me on that. These game-changing plans were drawn up before my arrival, and some have been spoken about for many years. Now is the time to turn words into action and to deliver for Dudley. My pledge to all Dudley people is that I will fight every step of the way to make things happen and bring about the change that they want. It is Dudley’s turn now.

On May 12, 2021, he rightly objected to lefties trolling him over Brexit in the Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work debate, which followed that year’s Queen’s Speech:

“Your name isn’t English, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” That is a recent Facebook comment from an articulate but clearly limited left-wing activist, so I took some pleasure in replying in Italian “Che in realtà sono nato da un minatore di carbone del black country”—that I was in fact born to a Black Country coalminer.

More condescending left-wingers recently said this:

“You’d think Marco would understand why Brexit is bad. He’s lived in Italy and EVEN his Dad is Italian. Why is he such a strong Brexiteer? He must be stupid.”

Well, brownie points for working out that my dad is Italian. I did explain at length why Brexit is vital, but it became clear to me that there was a limit to their thinking, too—I mean Marco, Italian, therefore remainer, otherwise stupid is a bit of a “micro-aggression”, and is rather limited thinking isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Here is my suggestion for the Labour party: set up an internal limited-thinking focus group to eradicate it from among their ranks, because how can they represent people who are clearly not limited? They may want to start in Amber Valley where the Labour leader blamed voters for their election results; it might prove more useful than rearranging the deckchairs on their Front Bench.

So, yes, my name is Marco, and, yes, my father is Italian, but here I am. How did I get here? Two words: opportunità e lavoro—opportunity and graft. My grandfather’s story is one of rags to riches and my parents are examples of blue-collar workers who for years lived hand to mouth. They bent over backwards to give me opportunities, and I put in the work.

Opportunity and work are two pillars of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech. People out there do not want handouts; they want a hand getting back on their feet. More than anything, they want opportunities to do well. The lifetime skills guarantee is a massive investment in education and apprenticeships, readying people for the jobs coming their way. We may remember the Prime Minister—or “our Boris” as they say back home—visiting Dudley and going to the site of our new Institute of Technology, where he delivered his “jobs, jobs, jobs” vision. The pandemic has shown that fish can be necessary, but fishing rods are what people really need, and that institute will provide the rods.

The Queen’s Speech contained a vast array of steps that will take us out of the clutches of the pandemic, freeing us to be even stronger than when we entered it. The commitment to our NHS and continuing with our investment in the vaccination programme and in private sector life sciences are huge bonuses that this country will benefit from.

The roaring ’20s are upon us. Dio salvi la Regina—God save the Queen.

I hope he is right about the roaring ’20s being upon us.

One year on, and it’s hard to see. However, that is no fault of Marco Longhi’s.

I will have more on this gently witty and highly incisive Red Wall MP next week.

Continuing my series on Red Wall MPs, this week’s post is about Jacob Young, who represents Redcar in North Yorkshire, formerly Cleveland.

Redcar, by the way, is pronounced ‘Red-kr’.

Of the Redcar constituency, Wikipedia states (emphases mine):

The constituency was created in 1974 and was held by the Labour Party from then until 2019, except during a period between 2010 and 2015 when it was held by the Liberal Democrats. In the 2019 General Election, Redcar was the largest Labour majority overturned by the Conservatives, being represented since by a Conservative MP.

Well done, especially as he was only 26 at the time! He had a majority of 3,527, representing a swing of 15.4% from Labour to the Conservatives.

Incredibly, Jacob Young started running for Parliament at the tender age of 22, as Wikipedia tells us:

Young stood as the Conservative candidate in the Redcar constituency at the 2015 general election, but finished in fourth place behind the Labour Party, Liberal Democrat, and UKIP candidates.[8] He campaigned for Brexit prior to the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum.[4] At the 2017 general election, Young contested Middlesbrough, a safe seat for the Labour Party, and finished second to their incumbent MP, Andy McDonald.

Young’s story is a case of ‘If you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’.

Although he did not win Middlesbrough in 2017, he made local history by becoming the first Conservative councillor elected for the Coulby Newham ward in the city.

He stood down in 2019, as he had moved out of town to Saltburn-by-the-Sea. That year, he ran for the Saltburn ward on the Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council but came fourth.

Young joined the Conservative Party at university. He became interested in conservative philosophy by working at a food bank in his native Middlesbrough and the charity Christians Against Poverty.

Of the experience, he said:

“Christians Against Poverty was more about teaching people how to budget using the money that they had and how to pay back some of their debt over an extended period of time. That attitude drew me to the Conservatives – the idea that if you work hard and you want to succeed that you can.”[7]

Young holds a Higher National Certificate in chemical engineering and worked as a lead technician for a petrochemicals company.

It is always a pleasure to watch Jacob Young debate, as he expresses an enthusiastic love for his constituency.

After the 2019 election, it took months before all the new MPs could be slotted in to give their maiden speeches. According to the House of Commons rules, one is not allowed to participate in debates until the maiden speech is given.

Maiden speeches must graciously mention one’s predecessor regardless of party affiliation, provide a historical view of one’s constituency and contain the odd witticism or two.

Young delivered his maiden speech on March 9, 2020, most of which follows:

I am immensely proud to be in this place, representing my community. I have lived in Teesside my whole life, and Redcar is where I went to college, trained as an apprentice and cut my teeth in the chemical industry.

For a lad from Teesside to stand in the House of Commons is all a bit overwhelming. Most people down here think PPE is a degree course; where I come from, it is what you wear to work

I stand here by the grace of God. My constituents have put their trust in me and, like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I know that their votes are only lent. During my time here I will work hard to make my community proud to have elected its first Conservative Member of Parliament.

Our constituency is Redcar, but it is not just Redcar. It is Eston, South Bank, Marske, New Marske, Ormesby and Nunthorpe, to name but a few. Over the years the Redcar constituency has had many different names. From 1290 to 1832, it was part of the Yorkshire constituency. After that it was the North Riding of Yorkshire, and before it became Redcar it was Cleveland, but many of my hon. Friends will now know it as “Bluecar”.

As well as being proud Yorkshiremen, we are proud Teessiders and sit as part of the Tees valley in England’s north-east. We are a people with an affinity for industry and an economy based on hard graft and global trade. Although the villages of Marske, Nunthorpe, Lazenby, Lackenby and Kirkleatham go back as far as the Domesday Book, life in the Redcar constituency as we know it today started in 1841 with the discovery of iron ore in the Eston hills. Suddenly, the sleepy fishing village of Redcar and its neighbour Coatham started to grow into the Redcar town that we know today. This discovery kick-started a housing crisis in the old hamlet of Eston, due to too much employment in our now booming industry. This prompted a new neighbouring settlement to be formed, named California. Perhaps it was a sunny day in Teesside.

A number of other new areas were formed at this time, including South Bank, Normanby, Grangetown and Dormanstown, which was named after the steelmaker and former Conservative candidate, Arthur Dorman. It was these thriving towns, alongside a growing Middlesbrough, that led the parliamentary titan and free trade pioneer William Gladstone to call us the “infant Hercules”. From the banks of the Tees came the industrial revolution, and Teesside became an exporting capital that built the world. From the Sydney harbour bridge to Lambeth bridge and from the Indian railways to the London underground, cities, towns and communities around the world exist today because of Teesside steel.

Our area has moved on from ironstone mining, and our steelworks closed in 2015, but industry remains our flesh and blood. Our chemical industry in Teesside still employs more than 7,500 people locally. The Wilton International site forms part of the largest chemical cluster in the UK and the second largest in Europe. At this point, Mr Deputy Speaker, I must declare an interest, having worked and trained in the Teesside chemical industry for the past nine years. I left a job as a single-use plastics producer to become a politician. I am not sure which is more popular right now, but I am sure I will find out.

We do not just make plastics. We are home to world-leading innovation centres, including the Materials Processing Institute and the Centre for Process Innovation. We are the largest producer of bioethanol in the UK, and we also notably produce more than half of the UK’s commercially viable hydrogen, which is why I am pleased to be chairing the all-party parliamentary group on hydrogen as we look to further the hydrogen economy in the UK. For the people of Redcar and Cleveland, industry is our past and our present, and it will be our future. It will not be coal-fired or carbon-heavy; it will be the clean, green industry of the 21st century.

In this decade, I want Redcar to become home to sustainable steelmaking again, and I am supporting Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s pledge to bring a clean electric arc furnace to Redcar so that the people who made steel for the World Trade Centre and the Shard can make steel for the world’s next great buildings … In this decade—indeed, in this parliamentary term—I want Redcar to become home to one of the UK’s first post-Brexit free ports

I would also like to thank my predecessor, Anna Turley, for the work that she did for our community and for this House. Her work to bring about tougher sentences for animal cruelty is particularly commendable, and I am pleased to be supporting the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder).

There is a lot more that I wanted to mention—parmos; lemon tops; Redcar racecourse; the Zetland, which is the UK’s oldest lifeboat; Winkie’s Castle, which is a cottage turned folk museum; and Ben Houchen saving Teesside airport—but I will have to save it for another time, as I want to use my final few moments to mention Redcar’s famous MP, Mo.

Dr Marjorie Mowlam was one of the political giants of our age. To this day she is well thought of in Redcar by people across the political spectrum—I cannot count the number of times I have been told, “Mo was the best MP we ever had.” She had an ability to see through the fog of partisan politics and recognise good intentions and great achievements on all sides. In fact, in the BBC’s “100 Greatest Britons” competition, it was her advocacy for a Conservative Prime Minister that gave Winston Churchill his rightful place as our greatest ever citizen. Her co-operative spirit is something that British politics is sorely lacking today, and something that I will do my hardest to emulate.

Therefore, to finish in the spirit of co-operation, I offer my new colleagues, of all parties, some slightly paraphrased advice from the great Mo herself. There is more hope than despair, and by working together we can overcome many obstacles, often within ourselves, and by doing so we can make the world a better place.

Jacob Young has made local news on several occasions, too many to include here. A few mentions follow.

In July 2020, he was thrilled to be able to return to the barber for a haircut.

He tweeted, including before and after photos:

More Tory cuts…before and after shots.

Across the country our #barbers and #hairdressers are back and #OpenForBusiness.

With new safety guidance, disposable gowns & towels and extensive new hygiene practices – we can safely go back to getting our mops chopped!

Unfortunately, Middlesbrough’s Labour MP Andy McDonald and a former Redcar and Cleveland Labour councillor did not find it funny, as the BBC reported:

Mr McDonald said: “It was a crass and insensitive comment and far from being funny for thousands of people in Redcar and across the Tees Valley who have suffered as a direct result of the political choice of his Tory party to impose austerity,” he added.

The tweet was also criticised by Labour’s former Redcar and Cleveland Council leader, Sue Jeffrey, who said: “I do wonder just how low these people will sink.  

“Did he really think it is okay to joke about Tory austerity policies that have ruined so many lives and left our NHS and care services so ill equipped to deal with the Covid-19 crisis?”

In April 2021, Young welcomed Home Secretary Priti Patel to Teesside. The announcement on his website said, in part:

The two sat down to discuss the Domestic Abuse Bill, immigration reform, rural crime (including the off-road bikes impacting local Eston Hills), extra funding for violent crime and the upcoming elections.

Since 2019, Cleveland Police have benefitted from 185 new police officers – with more on the way.

Thrilled by the visit, Jacob stated: “It was great to sit down and chat to Priti Patel about the people’s priorities here in Redcar and Cleveland.”

On January 12, 2022, when Boris was in trouble for his lockdown parties, The Northern Echo reported:

Calls of ‘resign’ and ‘go’ reverberated around the House of Commons earlier today leaving the Prime Minister, who repeatedly apologised and referred members to the official inquiry, looking deflated.

Just two North East Conservatives replied to our request, Peter Gibson and Jacob Young, who accepted the PM’s apology.

But the three County Durham Conservatives, Dehenna Davison, for Bishop Auckland, Paul Howell, for Sedgefield, and Richard Holden, for North-West Durham, failed to respond …

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said: “My grandad died without us on 16th April 2020. We held his funeral on the 1st May, where only 10 people attended. It was one of the hardest days of my life, and made worse because I didn’t hug my Mam and Dad.

“I understand the upset and anger felt by many in the country following the latest revelations from Downing Street.

“I’m grateful to the Prime Minister for his apology and his brief explanation. The inquiry should now be allowed to do its work and establish the full facts of what happened.

“We must never let our loved ones die alone again.”

Six weeks later, with the lockdown party scandal still making the news, The Northern Echo‘s poll from the end of January projected that Young would lose a re-election bid:

The latest constituency results show Labour has an 82 per cent chance of winning Redcar, while Mr Young has an 18 per cent chance.

A study has shown Mr Young is expected to win 32.7 per cent of the vote, while Labour is expected to win 47.1 per cent of the vote.

We shall see. A week is a long time in politics. The more that Boris leads the world with regard to the conflict in Ukraine, the better he looks, especially next to Labour’s Keir Starmer.

In the 2021 local elections, three Conservatives were elected to Redcar and Cleveland Council. Tees Valley’s Conservative mayor Andy Houchen won re-election, and the Police Commissioner is also Conservative.

That said, this year’s cost of living is expected to explode, which might affect voting intentions accordingly when the next general election.

The much-vaunted levelling up plan for Teesside did not appear to offer much that was new, according to Teesside Live on February 2, 2022:

It’s been long awaited but the white paper on “Levelling Up” has now been published.

What’s in it for Teesside?

The region made it into the second line of Michael Gove’s foreword as seeing a “rebirth of a high-tech, high-growth, high wage economy”.

However, no new money was unveiled in the long-awaited report.

And mentions of the region were used more as examples of work which was going on – or had already started – rather than for the announcement of any new hallmark schemes based here …

Middlesbrough’s north-south divide was mapped out – showing its large disparity in income.

It was also named among badly performing ex-industrial towns with less than half of 16 to 64-year-olds having Level 3+ (A Level equivalent) qualifications alongside Redcar and Cleveland borough …

Levelling Up Funding for Yarm and Eaglescliffe, Towns Fund allocations for Darlington, Hartlepool, Thornaby, Redcar and Middlesbrough as well as Future High Streets cash for Stockton were also listed.

Some of the comments to the article, however, were much more positive, especially about Ben Houchen, who said:

he was “incredibly proud” of what they’d achieved across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool – referring to the new freeport and promises to bring 18,000 “good quality jobs” in the next five years.

One of the comments said:

As long as we have Ben we’re in a good place, done more than lefties in 60 years!

Let’s hope that good will extends to Jacob Young in two years’ time.

It should do, especially as EDF Renewables UK announced plans for a pioneering project, Tees Green Hydrogen, which includes a new solar farm to be built near Redcar.

On March 9, the Northern Echo reported Young’s enthusiasm. He said:

This is a fantastic investment from EDF Renewables which highlights just how new green technology can help create and secure jobs in existing industries, as well as enabling the UK to decarbonise.

Producing green hydrogen, using the power generated by off-shore wind, and then being able to offer that hydrogen to companies like British Steel is exactly the sort of investment we want here in Teesside.

And given the current uncertainties in gas prices, it’s vital that we see more projects like this which demonstrate diversity in our energy sector and embrace the fuels of the future, like hydrogen.

At this point, I cannot see why or how Jacob Young could not win another term in Parliament.

I wish him all the best in his career. He is one of the brightest — and most positive — MPs in the Commons.

My series on Red Wall MPs continues.

Last week’s post was about Mark Jenkinson, who represents Workington.

Today’s is about North West Durham’s MP, Richard Holden.

This is the first time ever that North West Durham has had a Conservative MP. The constituency has a long, albeit interrupted, history.

Between the years of 1885 and 1918, two Liberal MPs represented it. Liberals were very much about representing the people, focusing on mass appeal. Wikipedia says that this brand of politics:

was epitomised by David Lloyd George whose People’s Budget in 1909 led to the supremacy of the House of Commons over the House of Lords in 1911, [and] national pensions under a basic welfare state (but without a National Health Service).

When the constituency was recreated in 1950, voters elected Labour MPs exclusively. Between 1964 and 2010, two members of the Armstrong family served as MPs: Ernest from 1964 to 1987, then his daughter Hilary, beginning in 1987.

Pat Glass represented North West Durham between 2010 and 2017.

Laura Pidcock was the last in the line of the constituency’s Labour MPs, serving a short term between 2017 and 2019. She lost her seat to Richard Holden in 2019. He had a majority of 1,444, which was slim but significant.

On March 9, 2022, Guido Fawkes reported that Laura Pidcock will not be seeking a return to politics:

Guido has the content of her statement and additional commentary. She is on the far left of the Labour Party.

Guido concludes (red emphases in the original):

In 2015 Labour in her constituency had more than double the vote of the Tories, five years later Pidcock gifted Richard Holden a Tory majority. A stunning performance. The parliamentary road to socialism is not for her…

Richard Holden was born in 1985 and grew up in Lancashire. He attended the London School of Economics where he earned a BSc in Government and History in 2007. He worked in hospitality during his time at LSE.

He went to work at Conservative Campaign Headquarters in 2007 as a data entry officer. By the time he left in 2012, he had been in several other posts there, the last being Deputy Head of Press.

His first attempt at becoming an MP began in 2015, when he was the Conservative candidate for Preston, traditionally Labour. He lost to the present incumbent, Sir Mark Hendrick, who has been the city’s MP since 2000.

After his election loss, he worked for Lord Privy Seal as an adviser, then Leader of the House of Lords Baroness Stowell of Beeston and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park.

In 2016, he worked on Theresa May’s successful Conservative leadership campaign.

Afterwards, Holden worked for several MPs.  He was a special adviser to then-Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon. Then he worked in the same capacity for Chris Grayling, who was the Secretary of State for Transport. He worked on Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2019 and, before the election that year, he was a special adviser to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education at the time. Prior to his selection as Conservative candidate for North West Durham, Holden returned to CCHQ.

As an MP, Holden serves on several committees: the Public Accounts Committee, the European Statutory Instruments Committee, the Executive of the 1922 Committee and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm.

Holden also writes a fortnightly column for Conservative Home. On December 7, 2021, he expressed his disappointment in the slow recovery response following Storm Arwen, our first of the winter season. It hit the North of England badly. He wrote, in part (emphases mine):

The question being asked is: ‘would this have happened in the Home Counties’? In some ways, that’s a bit of an odd question to ask. Nowhere in the South East of England is as rural or as isolated in parts. Nor is it as hilly, as snowy, wet or cold. To put it in perspective, North West Durham and Bishop Auckland alone are roughly the same size in terms of land area as Greater London.

They’re not the same. And it’s true that people in our communities are more used to inclement weather; they are hardy and used to putting up with difficulties. But that’s too easy a get-out.

It also doesn’t explain how my constituents and those of my neighbours in Bishop Auckland, Hexham, Berwick and across the North East and Cumbria were left without power for not just a day or two, but for days on end. It doesn’t explain why it took five days for the local council to declare a major incident, and another day to request military assistance. The complaint of “This wouldn’t have happened down South” started to not just relate to the weather, but also the response from the authorities.

Storm Arwen hit hard – causing powerlines to be blown over on the coast or damaged by falling trees. In some inland areas – such as around St. John’s Chapel – [causing] freezing rain to form on the powerlines, turning the normal thin cable into something four inches in diameter.

In these circumstances, each 80-metre span of wire between wooden pylons weighed half a ton per inch of ice. The pylons snapped like matchsticks. Over 400 are having to be replaced across the North. An unprecedented number.

Northern Powergrid declared an internal major incident on the Friday night, but didn’t tell Durham County Council they’d done this until Wednesday. Five days after the storm. Would this have happened elsewhere? I doubt it. It’s unforgivable – and we’re lucky that people didn’t die as a result of it.

In Parliament, he has supported increased drugs testing in prisons, the bill for which passed in 2021. He campaigned successfully for the reversal of the increase in vehicle excise duty on motorhomes in 2020. He was also successful in cutting the draught beer duty rate in 2021.

However, his big campaign has been for a ban of virginity testing and hymenoplasty, a subject he became interested in after hearing a radio report on BBC Radio 1. He has been working on this since he entered Parliament and, most recently, tabled two amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill in the current 2021-2022 session. He has overwhelming support not only from MPs across the house but also several charities as well as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives. The Government has pledged to outlaw both practices.

Currently, Holden is working on the prohibition of allowing people without driving licences to purchase motor vehicles. This followed the tragic death of one of his constituents, Andrew Rowlands. Holden debated on this topic in January 2022, with members of the Rowlands family in the public gallery. He vows to continue the campaign until legislation is enacted and passed.

So far, so good.

However, it hasn’t been all plain sailing for Richard Holden.

In July 2020, after the first wave of coronavirus — and Dominic Cummings’s dubious trip to County Durham during lockdown — Holden was not allowed to become a Friend of the Durham Miners Gala. The tweets below discuss the impressions that people in Durham had of Cummings, whose family lives in the county:

Perhaps Durham’s miners saw an early television appearance of Holden’s from January 2020, wherein he pointed out that the Labour PM Harold Wilson closed the local mine in Consett in 1967; it was excluded from the renationalisation programme. Labour MP Thangam Debonnaire said that it was the Conservatives who closed the mine. Not so:

Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in purple mine):

New Conservative MP for North West Durham Ric Holden wiped the floor with Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire on today’s Politics Live. When she claimed Consett steel works were closed by the Tories, Holden explained that it was Harold Wilson’s 1967 renationalisation plan that excluded Consett. For good measure he added more coal pits closed under Wilson’s governments than Thatcher’s. Sounds like Holden understands his area better the metropolitan Labour MPs who occasionally make the trip up for the gala…

In July 2020, Guido posted on the Durham Miners’ snub regarding their gala. Excerpts follow:

A culture war of an entirely different kind is raging in the North East as new-intake Tory MP Richard Holden has been blocked from becoming a registered Friend of the Durham Miners’ Gala after a personal intervention from the head of the organisation blocking his application. In rare socialist behaviour, he at least got his money back…

A few months ago, new-intake Durham MPs made headlines when they were told by Union Secretary Alan Marghum there was “no chance” they would be welcomed and he would “rather die in a ditch” than see them turn up. Difficult to enforce given there are now more Tory voters in County Durham than Labour…

Regardless, Holden applied to become a ‘Marras’ — a Friend — of the parade and sent in his £24 fee.

The Chair of the group wrote to Holden, refusing his application:

It is very much a ‘by the people, for the people’ event and has been since 1871 when the nascent Miners’ Association held the first on in the City of Durham… It is on this point I write to you personally. It was felt that you should have the opportunity to fully acquaint yourself with the founding principles of the organisation … I am returning your £24 donation (cheque enclosed).

Holden posted his disappointment on Facebook, objecting to the Chair’s

high-handed and patronising prose.

He requested that his application be reconsidered:

It appears that you fail to understand that I couldn’t have been elected without the widespread support of both Trade Union members and their families.

Guido mentioned the aforementioned video about Harold Wilson closing the Consett mine:

After Holden dared point out more mines were closed under Labour than the Conservatives, Guido can understand why the left-wing jamboree might want to keep his heresy away from its remaining attendees…

Holden ruffled a few feathers on Twitter with his defence of the Immigration Bill in 2020. I’m of two minds about it, particularly the preferred salary levels and education qualifications:

Returning to Consett, on Tuesday, March 8, Holden had the Adjournment Debate, opposing a new waste incineration plant in the town. Stuart Andrew, responding for the Government, pointed out that local opposition continues, so there’s still a chance that Holden and his constituents will succeed:

I know that an appeal against Durham County Council’s refusal of planning permission for the scheme has been lodged with the Planning Inspectorate, and there will now be a public inquiry into the proposal overseen by an independent planning inspector.

I hope they win.

Best wishes to Richard Holden in his parliamentary career.

Recently, I’ve been writing about Red Wall MPs in England.

Mark Jenkinson, who represents the Workington constituency in the north west of Cumbria, is among their number.

The constituency was established in 1918.

Until Jenkinson’s victory in December 2019’s general election, Workington had only one Conservative MP, Richard Page, who, thanks to a by-election, held his seat between 1976 and 1979. In the 1979 general election, a Labour candidate reclaimed the seat.

Therefore, Mark Jenkinson is the first Conservative to represent Cumbria as the result of a general election. He defeated Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman by a majority of 4,136 votes.

Jenkinson’s campaign in 2019 saw the creation of a new name for working class voters turning Conservative: Workington man. Wikipedia explains:

Workington man describes the stereotypical swing voter who it was believed would determine the election result.[1][2] Their support of the Conservatives in the 2019 election helped the party break the Labour Party’s Red Wall of safe seats.[2]

And:

Going into the 2019 general election, it was seen as a key marginal seat for the Conservatives to win from Labour. On a 9.7% swing, it fell to the Conservatives on election night, marking the first time the seat had elected a Conservative at a general election.

In his youth, Jenkinson attended a Catholic high school and, afterwards, an agricultural institution, Newton Rigg College in Penrith.

However, he joined British Steel as an apprentice. Before becoming an MP, he was a self-employed contractor in the nuclear supply chain.

Politically, Jenkinson is rather libertarian in outlook. He was the UKIP candidate in the 2015 general election.

He was a founding member of UKIP’s West Cumbria branch but left in 2016, having been concerned about the party’s approach to the EU referendum that year and what his Wikipedia profile describes as ‘internal democracy’.

2019 was a big year for Jenkinson. Having joined the Conservative Party, he was elected to the Seaton and Northside Ward of Allerdale Borough Council, where he became deputy leader. In addition, he was the chairman of Seaton Parish Council, a position he relinquished after having been elected MP in December that year.

Jenkinson is married and has four children.

Despite Boris Johnson’s troubles with lockdown parties, Jenkinson remains enthusiastic about the Prime Minister.

On January 13, 2022, he told GB News’s Gloria De Piero, a television presenter and former Labour MP, that his constituents also like Boris and appreciate his upbeat messages. He says that he reads every email in his inbox. At that time — the height of Partygate, days before Boris’s apology to the House of Commons — he said he received fewer messages about that than he did the Policing and Crime Bill which Parliament was debating.

However, he did say that both he and Boris promised a lot to Workington and there is now a shorter timeframe in which to make those promises a reality. Again, the pandemic put paid to quick action in short order:

De Piero asked Jenkinson about his Private Member’s Bill on careers advice to school students. He said that, as a father of four, he was concerned about students receiving good advice on what to do with their lives, particularly when it comes to training and apprentice programmes. The reply to the following tweet goes to the heart of the issue:

This aspect of education does need to be strengthened, something on which all parties agree, as proved during the debate on Jenkinson’s bill the following day.

I saw the debate, which was heartwarming, as all sorts of little details popped up, not all of which were germane to the proposed legislation.

Private Member’s Bill days are held on a Friday, from mid-morning until 2:30 p.m. The atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and both sides of the House are able to agree on most of the legislation.

I will share some of Jenkinson’s contributions made on January 14 then go into other heartwarming aspects.

Jenkinson said (emphases mine):

I am delighted to present the Bill to the House for its Third Reading. It heralds a sea change in how we prepare the next generation to meet the career challenges that lie ahead. It will serve to embed careers advice throughout the secondary phase of education through the provision of regular and ongoing support for students every step of the way. In short, it is designed to give our young people the best start and to maximise their opportunities.

I am delighted that, through the Bill, I will make a positive difference to the lives of young people in my Workington constituency and across England. As a father of four, it is an issue that is close to my heart. The changes that the Bill will help to bring about are important and overdue, and I have no doubt that its effects will be positive and far-reaching.

At present, the statutory duty to provide careers guidance falls on maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units but not academies. The Bill seeks to address that anomaly by placing the same requirement on all types of state-funded secondary schools, which will help to create a level playing field. I hope that that will encourage a culture where young people, regardless of social background, can advance through merit and hard work.

It is essential that the advice available to our young people is consistent, of the highest quality and accessible to everyone. As a blue-collar Conservative from a working-class community, I am a staunch believer in the value of meritocracy. The standard of careers guidance should not be a postcode lottery—we cannot leave the education of the next generation to chance—and must be based on a set of clear principles that are clearly focused on the best interests of children.

It is also important to develop a more joined-up system in which careers advisers, education providers and employers work together to share information and signpost young people to the opportunities available. I know how frightening it can be for a young person to make momentous and life-changing decisions about his or her future career, and that process becomes even more stressful if they are not in possession of the information that they need to make the choices that work for them.

In previous stages of the Bill, I joked that I am 39 and remain undecided about what I want to be when I grow up. At the end of the month, I will hit the big four-o and I am even less decided than I was. On a more serious note, it is easy for young people to find themselves on the wrong path or facing the wrong direction, and without the proper guidance, the risk of that happening becomes even greater.

That is why it is important to give our young people the best careers advice we can at the earliest opportunity. Such a crucial decision cannot be determined on the basis of an occasional meeting, but must be part of a long-term process that is continually reviewed in the light of changes in the labour market and the child, and of the developing aspirations of the young people themselves.

He received support from the few Labour MPs who showed up for the debate.

Jenkinson recognised the existing problems plaguing young people. Coronavirus measures made these issues worse:

The Bill is particularly timely given the disruption and disorientation caused by covid-19. It is hardly surprising that young people are worried about their education and employment prospects in these unprecedented times. Uncertainty and change inevitably fuel anxiety, and covid-19 has forced many young people to reconsider their options and look again at their career paths

In my constituency, as in others across England, there are pockets of deprivation, unemployment and sometimes, I have to say, hopelessness. I am acutely aware of the stark disadvantages faced by so many young people. They have so much to contribute, but so often they are written off too soon. If we are serious about “levelling up”—if it is to be more than just a slogan or a soundbite—giving all children access to good-quality careers advice is one of the most important weapons in our fight against poverty and despair. We must leave no child behind.

Providing this enhanced careers education and guidance makes economic sense too, as it will contribute to a high-skills and high-productivity recovery. The Bill will help all young people to develop the skills and attributes that will enable them to succeed in the workplace, and in some cases it will nurture the community leaders of the future.

He went on to discuss the work in this area being done nationally and in Cumbria:

… As a direct result of the Bill, approximately 650,000 year 7 pupils across England will become entitled to independent careers guidance, and we are bringing 2,700 academies into scope. The Bill puts into statute the Government’s commitment in the “Skills for jobs” White Paper for the UK’s post-pandemic recovery. It builds on the important work that is already being done nationally to develop a coherent and well-established careers system—a sector in which Cumbria is a leading light.

As Members will know, the Government are already committed to the national roll-out of careers hubs, and have taken action to support the careers of young people through schemes such as kickstart. As I said earlier, the Careers & Enterprise Company is increasing young people’s exposure to the world of work, and helping schools and colleges to deliver world-class careers guidance for their students in line with the Gatsby benchmarks. The National Careers Service provides careers information, advice and guidance through a website and a telephone helpline. More than 3,300 business professionals are now working as enterprise advisers with schools and colleges, doing a lot of the face-to-face guidance that strengthens employer links with schools. The result is that 3.3 million young people are now having regular encounters with employers, up 70% in just two years.

Education providers, training providers and careers services in my Workington constituency continue to rise to the challenge in the face of often large socioeconomic challenges. The Cumbria careers hub was launched in January 2019 to deliver the Government’s careers strategy for Cumbria after the local enterprise partnership’s skills investment plan identified a significant challenge in developing skills in our county.

The process is accelerating, with 100% of schools in the hub matched with an enterprise adviser from a pool of senior business volunteers. It has been successfully replicated across the country, with 45% of secondary schools and colleges now in careers hubs. We are seeing rapid improvements in hubs, with disadvantaged areas among the best performers. The link between careers and career pathways is essential for developing and attracting talent to Cumbria, owing to the area’s declining working-age population, and their success is to be celebrated.

It is therefore critical that we nurture homegrown talent by giving young people the skills and confidence they need to make the most of the opportunities within a forward-looking global Britain, to help close the skills gaps in areas like Cumbria and to attract investment. It is simply not enough to nurture talent; we must also work to retain it and attract it. Furthermore, careers advice, in line with the Gatsby benchmarks, must be tailored to the jobs market in a local area, which is why conversations and relationships between employers, schools and careers advisers are so important. This Bill ensures that those channels of communication are built upon. The Bill helps to ensure young people are aware of the opportunities that lie on their doorstep, as well as those that exist further afield. Young people often tell us that one of the biggest barriers is not knowing what careers exist

Careers advice has to start at a young age, he said:

We need to start setting out to children, as soon as possible, the options that will be available to them—not just sixth form and university but further education, apprenticeships, T-levels and other technical education qualifications. The earlier our young people start to consider these options and receive the appropriate guidance, the greater their chance of making the best possible choice.

University technical colleges—I have a fantastic one in my constituency—form an important part of the offer, but that could mean changing schools at 14. This option should not be put in front of a child at 13. It should be talked about from a much earlier age. Although it is important that young people are aware of their options, the last thing we want is for them to get to year 9 and feel like options are being imposed on them or, worse still, are non-existent, which is why flexibility must also be built into the guidance.

Engaging with employers from an early age can inspire young people and help them relate to the career opportunities to which their circumstances, abilities and interests are suited. The Bill recognises and makes use of the work already undertaken as part of the national careers system and, more importantly, it continues to raise young people’s aspirations through regular and meaningful engagement with employers and workplaces.

Having spoken in depth with education providers, parents and guardians, careers advisers, employers and, most importantly, young people themselves, I am more convinced than ever that this Bill will help to unlock the potential of generations to come. It is difficult to imagine a more worthy cause than to give our children the confidence and skills they need to be able to fulfil their dreams.

I am grateful to everyone who has worked on the Bill and helped to shape it. Their research, knowledge and observations have been invaluable and have created something that will serve our young people well. This Bill is about helping young people navigate through obstacles and avoid blind alleys, and it will prevent them from ending up in a career cul-de-sac.

Alex Burghart, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, replied on behalf of the Government:

What a pleasure it has been to take part in this debate. We have had some medieval history from me, some family history from my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) and some personal and socialist history from Opposition Members—or the Opposition Member, I should say.

We all thank my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) for this excellent Bill, which will improve a lot of young people’s lives. That is what we are all here to do. The Government are fully committed to education and to careers education and guidance, which is an essential underpinning of our reforms. It has been clear at every stage that the Bill has cross-party support and co-operation, and I genuinely thank the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) for his party’s support during the Bill’s progress.

We are at an important juncture for skills reform in this country, and I thank my hon. Friends for supporting the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which will soon return to the House on Report. The careers work we are pleased to be doing with my hon. Friend the Member for Workington underpins a lot of that Bill, and it is wonderful to hear my hon. Friends cite great examples from their constituencies for us to dwell on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) made a powerful speech on what happens in alternative provision settings. These young people, on whom so much rests, have too often been forgotten. The most important piece of careers advice I ever heard was on a visit to an alternative provision setting in Wandsworth [south London] about 12 years ago. It was a fantastic setting in which the headteacher had created a number of studios for practical vocational education: a car mechanic’s workshop; a hairdressing salon; a cookery school; and a bricklaying studio. The headteacher said to the gentleman who taught bricklaying, “Will you tell our visitor what your last job was? This is what you tell all the pupils.” And the bricklayer said, “I was an armed robber. I earned £10,000 on my last job and now I earn nearly £30,000 a year working here.” That was an extraordinarily valuable and inspiring careers lesson for young people to hear in such a setting.

We want to make sure that young people in all settings, regardless of their background, have access to high-quality careers education, which is what our reforms will do. We want to level up opportunity, and the reforms set out in our skills for jobs White Paper will give a genuine choice between high-quality technical and academic routes. It is vital that everyone has access to careers guidance of the highest standards so that they are well informed on what will happen afterwards.

We cannot overstate the importance of careers advice, and I thank all hon. Members for their contributions at this and previous stages. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Workington again on bringing this Bill to the House.

Jenkinson responded by thanking all the MPs who supported his bill. He ended by quoting a famous Prime Minister from the 19th century:

It was Benjamin Disraeli who said:

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

This Bill is true to the spirit of those words.

Now to other heartwarming moments, beginning with ancient English history.

Sir Christopher Chope (Conservative) participated in the debate. He represents Christchurch constituency in Dorset.

Alex Burghart, the Government’s Under-Secretary of State for Education, said earlier in the debate:

I often think of my hon. Friend when I am reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is one of my favourite early medieval texts. As you will know well, Mr Speaker, after King Alfred the Great died, his nephew, a nobleman, tried to seize the throne. He did so by starting at Tweoxneam, which is the archaic name for Christchurch. Whenever I think of that noble rebel of old, my mind sometimes flits to my noble friend from Christchurch today.

We also had a workhouse story from another Conservative MP, Julie Marson:

I want to give a little bit of perspective from my own background. In my maiden speech, I referred to my family background as moving from workhouse to Westminster. My great grandmother was born in a workhouse in the east end of London. She was a foundling and she met my great grandfather in the Foundling Hospital, so they had very modest beginnings. The emphasis in the Foundling Hospital was not on a choice of careers but on set career paths. All the boys who were put into the Foundling Hospital were trained to become Army bandsmen, and all the girls were trained to become maternity nurses—midwives. They did not have a choice in that.

My great grandparents went on to have great careers, in the Army and as a midwife. They met each other in the hospital, and it absolutely changed their lives. They had rewarding careers and their own family, and—workhouse to Westminster—I managed to get here, for some reason. I think that shows the fundamental need for a career and a job to make our lives what we want them to be. That opportunity, which is fundamental to levelling up and everything that we stand for

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, cut her off at that point and asked her to stick to the legislation.

However, I’m glad it is on the record. Other MPs had equally moving examples of career development, so interested readers might be moved to skim through the debate.

Returning to Mark Jenkinson, his libertarian side came through when he said that he did not want to attend the 2021 Conservative Party Conference if vaccine passports were mandatory:

In the end, I recall that they were made optional.

In November 2021, he wrote an article for Conservative Home about his concerns regarding sexual identity, a hot topic at the time when the question of cervices came up: ‘My Twitter monstering. I never thought that saying there are two biological sexes would cause such a stir’.

It’s a long and considered article. A few excerpts follow:

I never considered that making a statement of indisputable scientific fact – that there are only two biological sexes, each with their own set of immutable characteristics – would cause such a stir. And then I see the Labour Party eating themselves alive over it, trying hard to lose the votes of the 51 per cent of the electorate that are female.

Gender Recognition Certificates, some based on self-identification, were a topic of discussion in Parliament last year:

I am an instinctive libertarian. Everyone should be free to live their lives, as fully as possible and in a way that makes them happy. Free to live with, sleep with and love whomever they wish. Neither the state or I have any business intervening, other than to stop serious harms. But when I see the direction we’re sleepwalking in, I can no longer stay quiet …

As it is only this year that we’ll start to track prisoners with GRCs, we don’t know how many male-bodies there are in the female prison estate, where some of our most vulnerable women are housed.

We do know that at the latest datapoint in 2019, there were 129 males who identified as transgender held in the male estate, and that 57 per cent of them had at least one previous conviction for sexual offences, compared to 17 per cent of men and two per cent of women convicted of the same.

Despite exemptions for single sex spaces in the equality act, the NHS allows access to same-sex wards depending on how you present not your biological sex. Despite exemptions for necessarily same-sex services, hospital trusts are referring to ‘birthing people’ and ‘cervix havers’ – while also referring to only men having prostates.

The Scottish Government is set to introduce gender self-identification, significantly speeding up legal recognition of gender in all spheres while reducing to the age requirement to 16 – meaning those transgender prisoners can move more easily to the female estate.

Meanwhile, the UK government is toughening up on the recording of statistics around sex and gender, but is also seeking to ban conversion therapy, on the back of an unprecedentedly-short six week consultation.

As Conservatives, it’s time we stopped staying silent because it’s the nice thing to do: emotion cannot trump biological reality.

That debate will run and run.

In closing, Mark Jenkinson was pleased to host the Prime Minister along with four other Conservative MPs during the recent February recess. He took them on a quick tour of Workington and events around Cumberland on Valentine’s Day. Judging from his tweet, all appeared to have had a grand day out.

That month, he was made a parliamentary private secretary for DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA needs some common sense, so his appointment is most welcome.

It is good to have Red Wall MPs in the House. I wish Mark Jenkinson every success in his Parliamentary career.

As I discussed in Parts 1 and 2 last week, it is no accident that the Conservatives won the general elections of 2015 and 2019 thanks to the left-leaning metropolitan elite.

In 2015, this is what people wanted from MPs (emphases mine):

Here’s what we require of our politicians:

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

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

The comment came from a Guardian article from May 20, 2015 on the metropolitan elite. It was published two weeks after the general election, which David Cameron won comfortably.

In my first two instalments of this series, I posted several comments from the article.

Here is one more of note, remarking that the metropolitan elite are driving Labour supporters into voting Conservative, or Tory:

The left just suffered the biggest defeat in a generation. A left largely run– in fact almost exclusively run- by university educated professional metropolitan people or “metropolitan elites”.

You would have thought this would be a time for humility a moment of reflection on why they lost. Nope, just back to banging the same drum we were right everyone else was wrong. This is the kind of attitude that drives people into the arms of the Tory party, the under current of contempt for the people the left claim to speak out for.

And you call other people narrow minded.

It’s this astonishing hubris which will drive the left into the ground over the coming years. If this election hasn’t taught them a lesson nothing will.

By December 12, 2019, those two comments proved to be prophetic.

Something revolutionary happened: the transformation of the Red Wall (former Labour) seats, or constituencies, in England.

That transformation gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson a most unexpected 80-seat majority in the House of Commons.

It was so stunning that it caught the eye of at least one American commentator:

On Friday, December 13, the day after the election, the Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson hailed the political ‘earthquake’ that has given him a ‘mandate to get Brexit done’ today as he marched his new blue-collar Tory army towards a staggering election landslide.

After laying waste to Labour’s ‘red wall’ of Leave-backing strongholds, the PM said he had been given a ‘powerful’ vote of confidence by the British people and vowed to ‘rise to the challenge’ …

In England the Conservatives polled 47.1 per cent to Labour’s 34.3 per cent, and in Wales they were supported by an impressive 36.1 per cent.

By contrast Mr Corbyn [Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader] looks to have stewarded his party to its worst performance since 1935 and plunged it into a seething civil war – despite his allies vainly claiming earlier that high turnout might have helped him pull off a surprise. 

In an address to staff at CCHQ afterwards, Mr Johnson said: ‘We must understand now what an earthquake we have created. 

‘The way in which we have changed the political map in this country

‘We have to grapple with the consequences of that. We have to change our own party. We have to rise to the level of events. We have to rise to the challenge that the British people have given us.’ 

The Conservatives pulled off a massive coup by securing the symbolic swing constituency of Workington, overturning a 3,000 majority to triumph by 4,000 votes with a 10 per cent swing

They also overturned an 8,000 majority to rip the former mining area of Blythe Valley in Northumberland from Labour’s grip for the first time ever. The party’s candidate won by 700 votes after securing an incredible 10.2 per cent swing in what was theoretically only 85th on the target list. 

There were jaw-dropping gains in Bishop Auckland – which had never elected a Conservative MP in 134 years – and Tony Blair’s old stronghold of Sedgefield.

Left-wing ‘Beast of Bolsover’ Dennis Skinner was ejected from the seat he has held since 1970, as Mr Johnson flipped huge swathes of the country from deep red to Tory blue.  

Other fortresses to fall included Leigh, Darlington, Wakefield, Stockton South, Redcar – which saw a 15.5 per cent swing – Peterborough, Wrexham and the Vale of Clywd

As the political map was redrawn in a few tumultuous hours, places like Jarrow, Houghton & Sunderland South, Sunderland Central, and Newcastle Upon-Tyne Central saw enormous movements from Labour to the Conservatives – although the party clung on. 

A pattern was emerging of Brexit Party candidates draining votes from Labour in its northern heartlands, while Tory support held steady

After the Blythe Valley result was declared, flabbergasted ex-chancellor George Osborne said: ‘We never thought we’d get Blythe Valley

‘There’s a Conservative candidate in Hexham who I heard a couple of days ago saying ‘we are going to win Blythe valley’ and I thought he was always a bit optimistic, this guy. But he was right and that is a pretty spectacular win.’ 

Ian Levy, the mental health worker who won the seat for the Tories, said in his victory speech: ‘I would like to thank Boris.’ 

The first big Labour scalp claimed by the Tories was shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman, who lost Workington

Labour’s Gareth Snell predicted his own defeat ahead of the result in another former stronghold, Stoke-on-Trent Central, saying: ‘I’m going to lose badly and this is the start of 20 years of Tory rule.’ 

All the Tory Remainer rebels who stood as independents, including David Gauke and Dominic Grieve, failed to win seats.

And Labour defectors to the Lib Dems Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger fell short. 

Former Labour MP John Mann was correct when he said that his party had lost because they did not listen to their supporters. This is from The Sun:

Mr Mann said the Labour leader had “arrogantly” taken for granted Labour voters in the Red Wall of its traditional strongholds in the North and Midlands

He said what happened in his old seat of Bassetlaw, a Labour seat since 1935 that now has a Tory MP, sums up what he claimed was the “arrogance” of those around Corbyn.

“They didn’t let a local candidate stand, they then removed candidate that was selected, they imposed their own Corbynite candidate and he got humiliated – incredibly predictable.

“That sums up their arrogance – they’ve taken working class voters in the North and Midlands for granted.”

Mr Mann said it was time for Labour to start listening and to elect a leader who understands the party’s traditional voters.

“People have made their mind up and if Labour doesn’t learn their lesson, the Labour party might as well not exist,” he said.

“It’s going to require a leader that understands where people are coming from and understands the issues and then starts talking to those people.

“If that doesn’t go Labour is finished as a political force in this country and it needs a leader who understands that.”

Very true. It is unclear as to whether Sir Keir Starmer is that leader.

Former Labour party member and current Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges — the son of actress and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson — predicted a strong Conservative majority, even though pollsters had not. Hodges said, ‘Labour lost because the Corbynites hated working Britain’:

On Tuesday, December 17, a new electoral map appeared. Its caption says, ‘The “Red Wall” is now a pile of rubble’:

From the start, many of the Red Wall MPs showed how different they are from the conventional Conservative backbenchers. They are feisty, prepared to speak out and have a good memory for Labour disasters — local, regional or national.

Some of these new MPs grew up on council estates. None has an Oxbridge degree. Some were the first in their families to attend university.

Some have prior experience of running a business. Similarly, others worked in the private sector. Unlike the metropolitan elite, they did not go into politics or the civil service straight from university.

One thing has been clear from 2019 onward: they want to help their constituents by responding to their needs and concerns. Furthermore, they are local — not parachuted in from London.

One of the Red Wall MPs, Ben Bradley, who represents Mansfield — and was elected in the 2017 general election — explained why the Conservatives won so handily:

Bradley says that Labour have turned their attention from working for a living to giving handouts to their constituents, something that a lot of Britons don’t want to see happen. Bradley is correct, because this is the line that Labour take in Parliament — nothing about jobs, only money:

Bradley is correct to say that people want hope — and, may I add, the dignity that goes with being self-sufficient in working for a living:

He also points out that Labour criticised Leavers in the Brexit referendum:

Bradley concludes by saying the Conservatives have a lot of work ahead of them to hold onto these votes:

The Red Wall seats defined a new source of Conservative support, more evidence that the English are moving away from Labour. A 2021 Intelligence Squared debate put forward the following proposal (H/T to one of my readers):

‘We’ve lost the trust of working people.’ Those were the words of Labour leader Keir Starmer in early May, neatly summing up the reason his party lost the Hartlepool by-election as well as many of the local elections across the country. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood promptly quit the front bench, complaining that the party has been captured by ’a London-based bourgeoisie’. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair joined in the chorus of despair, saying that the party is being ‘defined by the ”woke” Left’. Labour, it is clear, is now completely out of touch with its traditional voters – older, working-class people without degrees, who live in small towns and industrial heartlands and want to see a more robust defence of their country, its history and culture. They feel Boris Johnson and the Tories better understand their values and concerns. Without the support of these voters Labour can never win power again.

Although Labour have been more popular in the polls over the past three months with Boris’s lockdown parties at Downing Street, there is still no guarantee that people will actually vote for them in the next general election.

Voters should not forget this photo from June 2, 2020, showing Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner:

Millions of us would do well to remember that photo in future. Bookmark it and save it for the day when the next general election is declared in a couple of years’ time.

Although this series ends here, I will have a separate set of posts on the most dynamic Red Wall MPs.

Stay tuned. They don’t do boredom.

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