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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.

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

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

David Cameron

Cameron fulfilled two Conservative pledges:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theresa May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boris Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

What voters thought

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

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

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

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

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

The fallout between 2015 and 2019

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

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

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

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

Does no one else see the division this has caused?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone had a solution to candidate selection:

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

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

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

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

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

If the Tories were lying I apologise.

One reader understood why people resented the metropolitan elite:

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

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

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

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

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

Also:

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

I did not know that!

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

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

On that topic:

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

Another said:

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

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

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

Another reader also noticed the lack of Britishness:

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

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

Globalism alienates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least voters know where they stand with the Conservatives:

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

Someone complimented Cameron’s approach to EVEL:

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

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

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

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

Interestingly, someone brought up Boris:

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

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

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

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

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

What voters want(ed)

One reader provided a profile of the ideal MP:

Here’s what we require of our politicians:

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

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

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

To be continued next week.

When Boris Johnson won the December 2019 general election, the Conservative theme of which was ‘Get Brexit Done’, he said that he was grateful for the votes from former Labour constituencies, noting that those votes were ‘on loan’ to his party.

How true and how wise of him to recognise that, a gift which gave him a stonking majority of 80, the highest for the Conservatives in 33 years.

Boris was Prime Minister prior to that election, having been elected as Conservative Party leader in July that year after Theresa May’s resignation.

He should have known the knives would be out for him. He had unsuccessfully tried to prorogue Parliament that September. He ended up having to apologise to the Queen after Baroness Hale, she of the spider brooch and a Remainer, ruled against it.

With all that in mind, one would have thought that Boris could be more aware of the optics surrounding his premiership moving forward. Remainers — the Left and the media — have had a beady eye on him and Downing Street.

Boris’s majority is now 74: whip withdrawn from three MPs, two by-election losses to the Liberal Democrats (Chesham and Amersham, North Shropshire), one win from Labour in Hartlepool last year and one defection (Christian Wakeford).

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Boris’s resounding popularity with the public (until recently) is not reflected in the parliamentary Conservative Party.

Unlike Labour, the Conservatives do not hesitate to depose their leader. They got rid of Margaret Thatcher in the autumn of 1990. The ‘wets’ she so roundly criticised for their lack of political backbone proved they had spines after all.

Therefore, a Conservative Prime Minister faces threats from without and within.

The Opposition and the media want the UK to re-enter the European Union. The Conservatives have disgruntled candidates, past and present, who want to lead the party in a more conventional, less maverick, style. None of these groups is friendly to Boris Johnson’s premiership and would love nothing more than to see it brought down.

On Friday, January 14, 2022, the veteran journalist and author Charles Moore wrote a perceptive column for The Telegraph on Boris’s travails with lockdown parties: ‘For all his faults, there is no other Tory politician who has Boris Johnson’s political reach’.

Moore’s editorial appeared two days after Boris apologised at the beginning of PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). He said (emphases mine):

Mr Speaker, I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives and unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love. I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

Though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things that we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility. No. 10 is a big department, with the garden as an extension of the office, which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. When I went into that garden just after 6 o’clock on 20 May 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event, but with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way—people who suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside—and to them, and to this House, I offer my heartfelt apologies. All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others, so that the full facts can be established. I will of course come back to this House and make a statement.

Sue Gray, an eminent civil servant, is still investigating the May 20, 2020 gathering and several others held in Downing Street during the lockdown periods in England. She could be some time.

On January 12, Opposition leaders and MPs piled on Boris. To an extent, I agree with them. Boris set the rules. Boris gave us the rules, either by himself or through his ministers, on television during the coronavirus briefings. Now he says he was unaware of them or should have been more mindful of them?

However, Downing Street is also a Crown property, meaning that it is exempt from certain laws that apply elsewhere across the country.

That said, the Queen scrupulously abided by the coronavirus restrictions during her husband’s funeral in April 2021. She sat alone. She was masked. It was tragic to see.

Yet, the overall design of the demands for Boris to resign over the parties — remember, he is still innocent until proven guilty — is to banjax Brexit and get rid of his attempts to make Britain a better place to live. This includes the expiry of most of the remaining Plan B coronavirus restrictions, on schedule for January 26, 2022. Their expiry puts the UK on course to be the freest Western nation in this regard.

Moving on to Charles Moore’s editorial on the parties, the eminent journalist asks:

I wonder, once the righteous anger had passed, how good it would feel for the country if the head of government had been ejected on this issue.

We may now be moving nearer to normality in relation to Covid-19. The Government, which was too draconian earlier on, now seems broadly on the right track, pushing back against scientists and social engineers in love with semi-permanent lockdown. Isn’t it better to stick to this course, without the self-indulgence of political convulsion? The international comparisons are quite favourable to Britain. We are not facing the collapse of the Government’s main policy. If anything, we are beginning to see its success.

Then there is the question as to how the news about these parties leaked from No. 10 or elsewhere. Boris’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings, is behaving like a vengeful jilted lover, referring to the Prime Minister as ‘the trolley’, careering all around the place. Does he bear any responsibility for these leaks? We should be told.

Of Cummings, Moore says:

I have a lot of sympathy with Dominic Cummings’s frustrations with Boris when he worked for him in Downing Street, but none with his attempt to prove him unfit for office by waging a continuous media campaign

If the two fell out, there will be fault on both sides, but the benefit of the doubt must go to the executive who is elected, not to the adviser who no longer advises.

As for sitting MPs railing against Boris, Moore says they represented the party when they ran for office; in most cases, they were not elected on their personal merit.

Moore was not to know of Christian Wakeford’s crossing the aisle just before PMQs on Wednesday, January 19. Wakeford sat right behind Keir Starmer, in full view of Boris.

Bury South, Wakeford’s Red Wall constituency, now has a Labour MP, with no say from his voters about this.

Moore says:

In the age of Twitter, many MPs seem to think they are in Parliament because of their own sturdy independent-mindedness and bear no responsibility to the collective.

Actually, no. Almost all of them are there because of the party label they hold – the regiment, if you like, in which they have chosen to serve. They need to understand that the regiment will come under constant attack, and they cannot survive individually if they crumple under each bombardment.

Until Wakeford’s defection, which is a serious matter in the House of Commons, a growing group of Conservative MPs were moving actively against Boris, especially through writing letters to Sir Graham Brady, head of the 1922 Committee. If he receives 54 letters against Boris, he can hold a vote of no confidence. Fortunately, Wakeford’s perfidious crossing the aisle was so shocking that those MPs have settled down, deciding to lie low for the time being. It is rumoured that some have since withdrawn their letters to the 1922 Committee.

Moore recaps Boris’s political history from the time he served two terms as Mayor of London, a job he performed admirably. Boris has had similar successes since then, including being the face of the Brexit referendum in 2016:

For all Boris’s evident faults – so evident that Conservative MPs knew most of them when they chose him – his record of advancing his party is almost unspotted. Twice managing to become Mayor of London – a very unTory city – he then won the EU referendum, thus accumulating the electoral capital to lead his party when Mrs May failed. He won a commanding majority at the ensuing general election on the proposition that he would get Brexit done and crush Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. The May era proved that no one else could do that.

I realise that gratitude is not a strong emotion in politics, and the polls are bad now, but Tory MPs should at least recognise that such skills are not easily replicated. The leading contenders if Boris falls – Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Michael Gove – are all able politicians, but none has exhibited anything like Boris’s reach. This man has come close to political death before – when Michael Gove denounced him after the referendum and when he failed as Foreign Secretary.

He has also come close to actual deathwhen he got Covid in the early days of the plague. But he has a way of surviving and reviving. These skills deserve respect from the party he leads. If they try to kick him out, they create a definite split for an indefinite benefit, possibly provoking the third general election in five years. Who needs that?

Precisely. There is no other leader who has the reach with the general public like Boris Johnson.

It will take some time for Boris to recover. This will be as difficult for him as recovering from coronavirus was in the Spring of 2020. It seemed to take him several months, even if he said otherwise that year. He looked and sounded tired and worn down for a long time.

The same will hold true now. The public didn’t mind when Boris tried to unconventionally foil opposition to Brexit, because we knew he was fighting on our behalf.

However, these parties took place at a time when we could not see other family members outside of our homes. We could not visit relatives in care homes. We could not be with them in hospital for any reason. We could not even get into some Accident & Emergency wards for urgent care. We were deprived of Christmas and other religious celebrations. We could not get married. We could not bury with the comfort of family around us. We could not sit on the grass in the park to soak up warm sunshine in May 2020. We couldn’t even sit on a park bench. Nor could we speak out against these restrictions or the ‘science’ behind them. We were ordered to stay at home and stay away from the workplace in order to save lives. We were constantly warned about ‘killing Granny’, a disgusting proposition and accusation.

The Government and advisers took us for fools, as if we were brainless. It is therefore amazing that we have the ability to hold down jobs and pay their overly inflated salaries and pensions. Then, at the end of last year, we found out that some of those advisers received New Year’s Honours for stopping us from living life in the way God intended, in a free society. It all stinks to high heaven.

Therefore, it is appalling to discover that, while we were cooped up at home, Downing Street was holding these parties.

Boris has betrayed the public the way he betrayed his wives. It was callous and cruel, in the same way that marital infidelity is.

That is what angers the public. Boris turned against us. How does a betrayed wife ever trust her husband again? This is what Boris will have to work on with us, ‘straining every sinew’, to borrow a favourite, albeit silly, Conservative turn of phrase.

Still, with all that in mind, we must keep in mind Charles Moore’s warning. If Boris goes, Brexit could be in trouble. Don’t believe Labour when they say that Brexit is a ‘done deal’ and they won’t try to reverse it:

One must ask who stands to benefit from the blond defenestration being talked of. Lord Adonis, the Remainer whose frankness is so helpful to the other side, tweeted this week: “If Boris goes, Brexit goes.” That is the idea. That is the constant motivation of a minority of unreconciled Tory MPs and a majority of the Great and the Good in the Civil Service, academia, the law, the House of Lords and the BBC, which is carefully managing this current story for the political effect it has always wanted.

Christian Wakeford is sure he’s done the right thing by moving to the Opposition benches, sidling up to Labour without a by-election. It will be interesting to see what his Jewish constituents make of his new alliance with an anti-Semitic party, supposedly cleaned up now. It will be just as interesting to see who the Labour candidate for Bury South is at the next general election. I won’t be putting any money on Wakeford’s selection.

What we need now is patience, watching Boris like a hawk in the coming months — especially with local elections this May — but giving him the space to repent through his actions by returning to One Nation Conservativism.

Yesterday’s post covered the intractable situation in Afghanistan from Alexander the Great through to America’s involvement as of 2018.

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

Lithium and other minerals

China’s involvement in Afghanistan will become much deeper. The country’s mineral deposits, lithium in particular, are much sought after. This is what the US withdrawal on August 15 means:

The tweeted article is by an Indian scientist, Ameya Paleja, writing for Interesting Engineering: ‘With Taliban, Is China Eyeing Afghanistan’s Mineral Deposits?’

Paleja writes (emphases mine):

The abrupt removal of the US forces has left a political vacuum that China seems eager to fill. The Week reported that Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a Taliban delegation earlier in July and the two have agreed on a bigger role for China in the “future reconstruction and economic development of the region.”

China had made some inroads in mining projects in 2008 with a plan to mine copper out of what is believed to be the second-largest copper reserve in the world. However, progress on the project had been slow. Its next target could be the rare earth elements like lithium that China currently mines and exports from its mainland to fuel the electric transformation of transportation in the US and Europe.

Lithium-ion batteries are now ubiquitous in almost all electronic appliances and even working as storage systems for grids powered by renewable energies.  However, China would be happy to move the operations to another country, given the environmental risks entailed in the process. 

Therefore, it is curious that Joe Biden abruptly ended US involvement in Afghanistan, known to be the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’.

Where was that expression coined? In the United States, by their own defence department:

Yet, for whatever reason, Ameya Paleja points out that the 2020 United States Geological Survey (USGS) report:

does not even mention Afghanistan in the list of global lithium reserves

Newsweek invited Nigel Farage to write an editorial on Biden’s perilous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Farage wrote about the lithium deposits:

A commentator on GB News this week said that China plays the long game. Western countries think four or five years ahead. China looks 10 to 20 years ahead.

In reading Farage’s article, one might be forgiven for thinking that China started putting the pieces together some years ago, even before electric cars became a thing:

Afghanistan’s lithium reserves were first identified during geological studies carried out in the 1980s by the Soviet Union. At that time, the discovery did not resonate with most people because demand for the mineral was fairly low. After the Americans arrived in Afghanistan 20 years ago, they sought to back up the work done decades earlier and, in 2007, the United States Geological Survey discovered vast deposits of iron, gold, copper, cobalt and lithium. This discovery remained largely unknown until 2010. Yet media reports from that year confirmed its significance to modern industry, saying that Afghanistan was on course to be one of the most important mining centers in the world. An internal Pentagon memo that was unearthed at the time even stated that the country could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It should be noted that Joe Biden was vice president when that memo became widely known.

Almost 15 years after that survey, most of these mineral deposits remain unexploited as a result of the various problems which have overshadowed Afghanistan. Recently, however, rapidly rising commodity prices have proved just how vital lithium has become. This development makes Biden’s irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan even more difficult to comprehend.

Farage discussed China’s strategy in Africa, which clearly works for the continent’s leaders:

Despite its great size, China is surprisingly short on many of the vital minerals it needs to support its modern industrial revolution. To date, its Belt and Road initiative has used Africa to ensure vital supplies for the future, successfully securing the rights to mineral mining in many countries in that continent. In return, African administrations receive revenue for opening up their countries to the Chinese. The fact that some individual African politicians seem to have become extremely wealthy very quickly in recent years is not a coincidence.

Therefore, he says, China can use the same strategy with the Taliban, despite the Uighur situation:

I predict that exactly the same thing will happen in Afghanistan. True, there will almost certainly have to be a compromise over the appalling treatment of the 12 million-strong Muslim Uighur minority living in Xinjiang, but I have no doubt that China and Afghanistan will reach an understanding. China is desperate to forge links with the Taliban in order to obtain Afghanistan’s assets as quickly as possible.

Arguably, it has already begun to do so. It was announced this week that a Chinese consortium intends to reopen the Mes Aynak copper mine near Kabul, which is believed to contain some of the largest copper deposits in the world. The consortium, consisting of the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC Group) and another Chinese company, Jiangxi Copper, was awarded a 30-year, $2.9 billion contract in 2008 but halted work because of the pandemic. According to an unnamed source at the state-owned Global Times “We would consider reopening [Mes Aynak] after the situation is stabilised and international recognition, including the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban regime, take place.”

Farage concludes:

Although guaranteeing the future availability and price of any commodity is difficult, in this particular situation one thing seems certain: the West’s green revolution has been dealt a major blow. In strategic terms, this underlines the madness of Biden’s withdrawal decision. Was the president poorly briefed, or simply not up to the job? Whatever the answer, the green revolution that has been planned by every G7 nation has suffered a setback. The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of blundering Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, August 17, Cynthia Chung of Canada’s Rising Tide Foundation wrote an article for Strategic Culture: ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

Chung wrote about the Chinese government’s interest in the Wakhan Corridor, about which I wrote yesterday. It is a slim tongue-shaped piece of eastern Afghanistan that borders China. Among other projects:

Beijing is also building a major road through the Wakhan Corridor, which would connect China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang to Afghanistan.

The Wakhan Corridor project is fraught with risk, but the Chinese have been negotiating with the Taliban since 2019. From what Chung reports, the Taliban might sacrifice any concern for the Uighurs for the good of Chinese investment:

China has been undergoing negotiations with the Taliban since 2019.

The Wakhan Corridor is regarded as a rather risky endeavour having the potential to act as a corridor for terrorism rather than development.

Just a few weeks ago, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview that “China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan…if [the Chinese] have investments, of course we will ensure their safety.

On the issue of whether the Taliban might support alleged Uyghur militants against China in neighboring Xinjiang, Shaheen responded, “We care about the oppression of Muslims, be it in Palestine, in Myanmar, or in China, and we care about the oppression of non-Muslims anywhere in the world. But what we are not going to do is interfere in China’s internal affairs.

This may seem like empty talk meant to impress Beijing and earn more brownie points, but the Wakhan Corridor is narrow and will not be difficult to monitor. Thus Beijing is offering this in good faith but it is also an easy test to see how much substance is indeed behind such words, and the Taliban know this.

On July 28th, Taliban representatives met with Chinese officials in Tianjin. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi statedThe Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction there.

This is sending a clear message, that so long as the Taliban agrees to defend Afghanistan against terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and serves to increase stability in the region, it will continue to have a seat at the negotiation table.

Trump’s withdrawal plan had wide approval

President Donald Trump presented his plan for American withdrawal from Afghanistan on February 29, 2020: ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’.

It placed a certain degree of trust in the Taliban to negotiate with the then-Afghan government.

It also met with wide approval from not only the UN Security Council but also Russia and China. Chung gives us an outline of Trump’s strategy. It included:

provisions including the withdrawal of all regular American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge that they would oppose al-Qaeda in their zones of influence and open up talks with the Afghan government. This peace agreement was also supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.

Under this peace agreement there was to be an initial reduction from 13, 000 to 8, 600 troops in July 2020, followed by a full withdrawal by May 1st 2021 if the Taliban kept its commitments during this downscaling of U.S. military presence.

This agreement looked promising under the Trump Administration, and it was thought that it would be possible to work with the Taliban in securing peace and stability in Afghanistan, to counter al-Qaeda, and to allow for American troops to finally leave a country they had been occupying for two decades. And again, this was a proposal that was supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and the UN Security Council.

Even Gen. Nick Carter, the UK chief of the General Staff stated in an interview, “I think that the Taliban is not the organization it once was, it is an organization that has evolved significantly in the 20 years that we have been there…They recognize that they need some political legitimacy and I would not be surprised if a scenario plays out that actually sees it not being quite as bad as perhaps some of the naysayers at the moment are predicting.

Trump was already discussing his plan the year before, in January 2019. On January 31, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) agreed, saying that it was not in any way ‘precipitous’. Who at the time could have imagined Biden’s precipitous move 17 months later?

The following day, February 1, Trump tweeted:

I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the “Endless Wars” of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end. We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace

However, the Senate disagreed with a proposed withdrawal. Jesse Kelly, a Marine Corps veteran, wrote about it on February 4 for The Federalist: ‘Congress’s Vote To Keep War In Afghanistan Sells Out American Soldiers’.

It began:

The U.S. Senate cannot agree on anything. They are so mired in partisan gridlock, a resolution declaring the sky to be officially the color blue would fail along party lines. But there is one thing and one thing only they agree on: 17 years of our troops dying in Afghanistan isn’t long enough.

By a 68-23 margin, the Senate decided we haven’t spilled enough blood, broken enough soldiers (mentally and physically), or spent enough money. All for a now-aimless conflict in a part of the world Americans don’t even care about.

What began as an attempt to hunt down Osama bin Laden has now become a generational conflict where sons are patrolling the same areas as their fathers did. This no longer a war. This has become a hopeless mission to tame a part of the world that has never been and will never be tamed.

Afghanistan is a rugged, tribal nation with different interests than ours. As with so many parts of the world, the strong will rule over the weak there, and there is precious little America can do about that. That is why we’re now resigned to negotiating a peace deal with the very Taliban we’ve been fighting for 17 years.

He cited three Founding Fathers, none of whom thought that America should be the world’s policeman.

Kelly concluded:

Let us stop this. Let us revert back to an originalist foreign policy that lets America worry about America and Americans.

That’s not isolationism, as America must remain ever vigilant and ready to take on the evils of this world should they threaten her interests. Instead, it’s a foreign policy that focuses on neutrality, trade, and places high value on the life of the American soldier. Let us finally send neoconservative interventionalism to the death it wishes upon our troops.

With regard to the Senate vote, Rand Paul told Fox News:

He also suggested that it was time for the Senate to stop using US troops to further a prevailing narrative in politics and the media:

On September 7, Trump was ready to meet a Taliban delegation at Camp David, but the meeting fell through. He tweeted:

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to…

I don’t know what the next tweet said.

On Thanksgiving Day that year, while the media accused him of being on holiday, Trump travelled to Afghanistan to meet with American troops:

He was at Bagram Airfield:

On February 20, 2020, just nine days before Trump issued his ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,’ Mike Pompeo and his negotiators met with the Taliban in Doha and arrived at an agreement to further the Afghan Peace Process:

How was this going to work? Trump said that the US would keep an eye on the Taliban:

Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said the Taliban had been trying to reach an agreement with the US for a long time

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time,” Mr Trump added. “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no-one’s ever seen.”

The agreement, fragile though it was, was signed on Saturday, February 29, 2020:

Trump expressed his gratitude for the support he received from the UN and NATO. Dr Fauci is there because coronavirus press conferences in the United States had already begun:

On March 1, however, Afghanistan was reneging on the release of prisoners. President Ghani said at the time that the release was a decision for the Afghan government, not the United States.

Nevertheless, by March 9, US troops began going home. American Military News reported:

Hundreds of U.S. troops have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan in line with the U.S. commitments announced in the recent U.S.-Taliban peace deal.

American service members are leaving Afghanistan, with no troops planned to replace them in the country, the Associated Press reported Monday following conversations with an unnamed U.S. military official. The withdrawal comes even as uncertainty persists around the Taliban peace agreement, as well as political upheaval within the Afghan government.

On November 16, several days after the hotly-contested election, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) sided with Joe Biden and again said that Trump’s plan was premature:

However, freshman senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) urged Trump to press ahead in his final weeks in the White House:

The Concerned Veterans for America also urged Trump to act before he left office:

Unfortunately, by January 2021, President Trump’s hands were tied and, on Inauguration Day morning, as planned, he left the White House.

Biden and Afghanistan

On April 14, 2021, Joe Biden made an announcement about further troop withdrawals:

Biden said that he spoke with Obama and Bush before taking a decision:

The then-Afghan president Ashraf Ghani confirmed a conversation with Biden:

By July 8, however, the wheels were falling off the bus, even though Biden insisted there was no threat of Taliban takeover:

On July 9, the Taliban were already on their way to retaking control of Afghanistan, as you can see from this BBC map:

https://www.strategic-culture.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/sc17082101.jpg

By the time Biden created chaos on August 14 and 15, the Taliban had triumphed.

More on Afghanistan to follow next week.

Last week, the United Kingdom saw three significant developments curbing freedom of expression.

This post explores the first incident.

On the morning of Monday, March 8, 2021, the nation received snippets of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex interview with Oprah Winfrey.

ITV broadcast the interview in full that evening.

ITV is also home to Good Morning Britain (GMB), the rival programme to BBC Breakfast.

Until last week, Piers Morgan was a co-host on the show with Susanna Reid. Weatherman Alex Beresford also sits down to join in the conversation.

ITV recruited Piers several years ago to help prop up the show’s sagging ratings. The strategy worked. Regardless of what one thinks of him, he is a polemicist sans pareil.

On September 25, 2019, the show welcomed then-MP Rory Stewart (Conservative) to talk about the court case against Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament and Brexit. It was a dismal time for the Government.

Piers noted that Stewart had won the award from GQ: Politician of the Year.

The Express reported (emphases mine below):

“You’ve had the old GQ curse,” Morgan added. “Because I was made GQ’s Editor of the Year and later GQ’s TV Personality of the Year, both cases I lost my job that I got it for within several months.

Rory Stewart became confused and walked off the set, by mistake. For whatever reason, he thought the interview was over.

However, although Piers Morgan’s remark was blunt, it ended up being true. Not only did Stewart not stand for re-election in December 2019, he also packed in his campaign to run for Mayor of London in 2020.

On November 18, Morgan rightly took issue with Prince Andrew’s interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis. The Express reported about Morgan’s tweet, which read:

“Brilliant forensic dissection by @maitlis – desperate, toe-curling bulls*** from Prince Andrew.

“Why on earth did he do this? Insane.”

Morgan is known for his continuous tweeting. One wonders how he manages to find time to do anything else.

On Friday, December 13, there was a right royal row on GMB after Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour lost in the worst drubbing since 1935. I watched this and it was magic. The Conservative pundit Iain Dale, who was part of the mostly female panel, actually walked off the set. This was pure ratings heaven, partly thanks to Piers Morgan:

The Sun has more about Morgan’s scathing views of Labour and celebrity Remainers from that day.

Here’s one of his tweets, which, like it or not, is spot on:

In 2020, just after the New Year, the Sussexes announced they would be pursuing their life together away from the Royal Family.

Morgan tweeted furiously on January 8, replying to cricketer Kevin Pietersen:

He tweeted about their announcement, his dislike of the Duchess, his disappointment in the Duke, the couple’s hypocrisy, their media rules, the shabby way they treated the Queen and his criticism of people who know nothing about the Royal Family.

The following day, Morgan wrote a column for the Daily Mail railing against the couple. The newly elected Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis was so taken aback that he invited the Duchess to his constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North to see the sights:

Guido Fawkes has more on the story.

By the middle of January 2020, the couple were living in Canada. Piers’s column for the Daily Mail on January 15 criticised the Duchess for visiting a homeless women’s shelter. He tweeted like mad that day, too.

The Mail promoted his article:

One week later, Morgan and weatherman Alex Beresford had a discussion about the backlash against the Duchess. Both points of view are understandable, but you can see Morgan’s skill as a polemicist in play, thanks to his long background as a journalist and tabloid editor:

The perspectives in that exchange resurfaced in March 2021.

On Monday, March 8, before the interview was aired, GMB had ITV’s royal correspondent Chris Ship on to discuss the snippets that had appeared so far from Oprah’s interview broadcast in the US on Sunday:

Already, there were calls for Piers to go:

Tuesday, March 9, proved to be the final straw. Here he is with Alex Beresford discussing the interview which ITV had aired the night before. Piers had enough and walked off:

He later returned to finish the show:

Remember that a big part of a polemicist’s role is to attract attention. In the case of GMB, Morgan was after ratings. He was not wrong.

Like it or not, his strategy worked:

Hours later, he and ITV agreed he should leave GMB (more here):

Here is a short version from the Daily Mirror‘s Showbiz Editor Mark Jefferies:

The next day, Chris Ship tweeted that the Duchess had complained about Morgan’s polemics:

In his farewell tweet to his colleagues, Morgan mentioned ratings. Job done!

A lot of people seriously dislike Piers Morgan. I am in complete disagreement with his support of the Government’s coronavirus damaging strategy. Americans dislike him for his views on gun control. Millions of Britons are angry with him about his views on the Sussexes.

However, there is something important for us to bear in mind, in Piers Morgan’s own words:

We have to get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable.

I fully agree. We used to be able to have civilised debates on television. Sadly, we have lost the ‘lively art of conversation’, as the late Chicago talk show host Irv Kupcinet used to say.

In closing, Piers Morgan encouraged the participation of his son in last summer’s protests and tweeted about it at the time.

So, rather than censor, let’s have the maturity to discuss and listen to all points of view, few of which are as binary as censors — official or unofficial — like to claim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC Parliament controller Peter Knowles told TP:

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

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

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

So much for the public being turned off by politicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on that and the budget tomorrow.

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