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On the back of the highly successful televised daily coronavirus briefings, No. 10 Downing Street has taken the decision to broadcast weekday afternoon press briefings in October 2020.

At least 2 million people viewed the daily coronavirus briefings every day. Anyone who watched them regularly, as my far better half and I did, knew exactly what the latest on coronavirus was.

I used to tune into the BBC afterwards to get their ‘spin’ on the briefings. I felt as if I were living in a parallel universe, because the self-proclaimed ‘nation’s most trusted’ broadcaster twisted all the main messages.

Therefore, it is no wonder that press briefings are sure to be a ratings winner. Britons at home will be able to see and hear the government’s messages first hand without the spin.

Not surprisingly, the media do not want these briefings televised.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston is opposed:

Oh, having questions from the public would be great. They worked well on the coronavirus briefings.

Peston really loathes the idea of televised briefings:

Sky’s Beth Rigby also made her opposition clear:

The Press Gazette does not seem to like the plans, either. On July 3, they posted an article, ‘Televised press conference to permanently replace afternoon Downing Street press briefing’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

The briefings will commence in October, be hosted by a political appointee who expected to be an experienced broadcaster, and will take place in a room at Number 9 Downing Street to be converted into a media suite

Boris Johnson confirmed the news on LBC, saying people had liked hearing directly from the Government during the Covid-19 press briefings.

“People have liked a more direct, detailed information from the Government about what is going on – and I think that they’ve actually particularly liked our brilliant scientific and medical advisers, possibly more than the politicians to be frank,” he said.

“We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us, and so we’re going to have a go at that.”

The Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar, chair of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and the Mail’s Jason Groves, chair of the Lobby, said in a joint statement to Press Gazette that they hoped the changes weren’t being made to reduce transparency and Lobby journalists’ access to ministers

See, they care only about themselves. They do not care about the general public.

There was more negativity:

Their comments were echoed by Huffpost’s executive editor for politics Paul Waugh who said on Twitter that the success of the briefings would “depend on whether they lead to genuine scrutiny or propaganda/grandstanding”.

The Society of Editors shared a similar warning that the Government must not make the briefings too “stage-managed” or pick and choose who is allowed to take part.

Executive director Ian Murray said: “If the aim of the televised briefings is to enable greater transparency then it will be important that they are of sufficient length and inclusive in nature to ensure a broad cross section of the media is able to question the government.

“It is vital that the government gives assurances that journalists or media providers out of favour with the administration will not be barred from such briefings and will also be given the opportunity to pose questions.

“Briefings that are too stage-managed and favour the few will not be in the best interests of the public as a whole.”

Yeah, right.

The coronavirus briefings worked really well, so there is no reason to think these will be any different:

The daily Covid-19 press conferences often saw millions tune in to find out updates and see journalists from a wide range of publications grill ministers and scientists.

Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) was the only one who championed the briefings. He is the UK’s foremost political blogger. As early as January 9, he wrote ‘Live Stream the “People’s Briefings” from Downing Street’. He and his team used to report the highlights from the lobby briefings but perhaps coronavirus put an end to their attendance. In any event, this is what Guido said (red emphases in the original):

In a digital world where news happens in realtime, not to inky deadlines, it is time to just put the briefings out live, streamed to everyone on all platforms. During the election Boris livestreamed his “People’s PMQs” on Facebook, demonstrating there is no technological reason why the briefings can’t be broadcast via a free digital feed to everyone. Hacks will still get to ask the questions, they just won’t be able to spin off-camera, privately delivered answers as they do now. 

The reality is that it isn’t in the interests of hacks to open up the Lobby system or insist more often that quotes are on the public record. Intermediating allows them to more easily introduce their opinions into their new reports. Transparency will devalue their role because information scarcity makes their possession of a spokesman’s phone number so much more valuable. A start to improving and opening up the system would be to put the people’s briefings into the open, in realtime as it happens…

I couldn’t agree more.

On July 2, Guido declared victory when No. 10 announced the news:

He wrote (red emphases in the original):

Guido has won a big victory against the Lobby today, breaking open the Lobby’s preferred closed-style of briefings from Downing Street …

Boris Johnson has clearly listened to the argument for “a culture of transparency and openness’’ in Westminster by backing the broadcasting of the afternoon press briefings and reducing the number of spin doctors across Whitehall. After the success of the televised Covid briefings, Lee Cain plans to continue the on-camera afternoon government briefings. The role will be filled by a political appointee…

Expect an experienced broadcaster to get the job. No 9 Downing Street – where off-camera press briefings are currently held – will be turned into a modern media studio for briefings. A Downing Street source says: “For too long we’ve been running an analogue system in a digital age. People want to hear directly what the government is doing and to see it being held to account…”

Get this next bit, though. Who knew we had 4,000 communications people employed by the government?

The whole of government communications is being overhauled by Alex Aiken, the Executive Director for Government Communications – it will see departments ordered to reduce the 4,000 spin doctors employed by the government. Aiken and Cain believe the changes will lead to smaller, more agile communications operation. Officials have also been told of plans to plans to drastically reduce the government’s communications operation and the number of press officers across Whitehall. Guido’s happy that a decade-long campaign for government briefings unfiltered by Lobby journalists has finally been won…

Me, too.

Veteran broadcaster and journalist Alastair Stewart wrote a good article on this for The Spectator: ‘Boris’s TV briefings could end the lobby pantomime’.

The term ‘lobby’ in this particular context refers to the media.

Pantomime — ‘panto’ — in Britain refers to a Christmas play based on popular old fairy tales, e.g. Puss in Boots. They are fun, noisy performances, often featuring famous television actors in crazy costumes.

One thing we learned from the coronavirus briefings is that the top journalists often ask the same question in an attempt to trap the government. From Monday through Thursday, these journalists were often Laura Kuenssberg (BBC), Robert Peston and Beth Rigby.

I used to watch Laura Kuenssberg afterwards for her spin, which always put an unfavourable light on the government, even when they had something positive to report.

Alastair Stewart says:

Political correspondents often asked the same questions, most seeking a ‘gotcha’ moment in relation to something that should have been done sooner, or better. On occasion they would also use the event to ask questions about non-coronavirus matters.

True, very true.

I was delighted when the government opened up briefing questions to the public. Normally, they had one short video and one written question every day. The public asked useful questions.

The regional press journalists also asked pertinent questions.

Both the public and the regional press were streets ahead of Kuenssberg, Peston and Rigby.

Alastair Stewart thinks so, too:

While the local and regional press were often better still at asking specific, trickier questions which people actually wanted to know the answer to. Most interesting of all perhaps were the members of the public, allowed into the secret society in the closing phase of this farce which inevitably always included some hapless person struggling with the ‘mute’ button.

He is right about referring to the lobby as a secret society:

I am not, and never have been, a member of ‘the lobby’ but it is a sort of Masonic gathering of the political hacks with the Downing Street spokesperson. It is almost as ritualistic: steeped in secrecy, they use the language of ‘sources’, ‘unattributable’ or ‘off-the-record’ and other linguistic mysteries of the game. And, like a St James Club, only members are allowed in.

And, yes, there is ‘a line’ that these guys and gals want to pursue for their anti-government narrative of the day:

When I was a member of the lowly Industrial Correspondents’ lobby, we would gather after a briefing to discuss what ‘the line’ was. I understand a similar game is often played by the political corps, post the Number Ten gatherings. Johnson wants to bust this wide open by putting his man or woman in front of the camera, fielding questions from hacks who will doubtless be ready for their close-ups too.

I disagree with Stewart on the follow-up questions. They became irritating, because the most prominent reporters were grandstanding. He, however, sees it differently:

One precedent that surely will endure from the Covid-19 events will be the supplementary question. It was an error for Johnson to drop these when he was the host. Others, like [health secretary] Matt Hancock, often used them to great effect. What’s more, they added to the public cut and thrust of an exchange between a reporter and a minister. It could be enlightening and, at times, entertaining.

As we do not know yet who will front these briefings on most days, Robert Peston has a suggestion:

Of course, occasionally, a government minister or Boris himself will be at the podium.

Stewart reminds us that past press secretaries had been journalists during their careers:

Churchill had his Brendan Bracken, an FT man. Wilson, Joe Haines, a Mirror man to his finger tips. Thatcher’s Bernard Ingham served the Yorkshire Post and, ironically, the Guardian with distinction. TV has less of a role of honour today but the former Sky News man, the excellent Joey Jones, had a spell in May’s Downing Street.

Who knows what effect this will have on today’s journalism. It is likely to step up a notch. One hopes so, anyway.

In any event:

There is more merit in having a free and frank exchange between press and politicians, in the full glare of the TV lights, than in continuing with the semi-secretive pantomime of the lobby.

The public has a right to know what is really going on in government, without the filter of agenda-driven journalists who by definition oppose conservatives and Conservatives.

It’s great that, post-coronavirus, Boris has resurrected the notion of the ‘People’s Government’.

My word, has this year been bizarre. You couldn’t make it up: Brexit, absurd attacks on Trump, followed by coronavirus and protests.

Now we have a British journalist’s attack on the platform known as Twitter.

Except that Tim Stanley calls Twitter a ‘website’. Never mind. He objects to ordinary people using it.

One cannot help but agree that another media behemoth — the BBC — is a huge problem here:

As to referring to Twitter as a ‘website’ (so last century):

Tim Stanley writes for The Telegraph. No complaint against him personally, but:

True enough.

Within the next few months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government will be televising daily press briefings to the public, as the United States has been doing for several years.

The British daily coronavirus briefings were a big draw, with at least 2 million Britons viewing per day. As such, it makes sense to televise what are called ‘Lobby’ (media) briefings.

To be fair, only the afternoon sessions from No. 9 Downing Street will be televised, not the morning ones. Nonetheless, opposition is already mounting. Cheers to Guido Fawkes for getting the ball rolling earlier this year:

Then someone posted the following. British readers will recognise the blast from the past (second tweet), Chris Morris’s Brass Eye, which ran during 1997 and once more in 2001:

At the time, British television had a number of hard-hitting documentaries, all of which Chris Morris and his capable team of actors satirised.

In many ways, they also foresaw today’s 24-hour news in Britain, which ranges between sensational and psychotic.

Even more important, Morris and Co. managed to get actual public figures to take part in their series. Who knows how they did it, but in the ‘Crime’ episode below, they interviewed the late Conservative MP Rhodes Boyson (no fool he), the gangster ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser and the then-newspaper owner David Sullivan.

It’s unbelievable that they took it all seriously.

My apologies if this full episode is geo-localised. It really is a triumph of its time:

My point is that showing us the daily press briefings from Downing Street will show us what a scam the media truly are.

More to come once the briefings begin.

Meanwhile, I do miss Brass Eye. Long may it be remembered.

Thank you, Chris Morris. Even watching this episode of ‘Crime’ that I’d seen when it first premiered, I nearly ruined a keyboard while laughing.

You made news imitate art.

This is why the Downing Street press briefings will be greatly anticipated in our household.

Thank you, Boris Johnson. Thank you, Dominic Cummings. I can hardly wait.

The following British coronavirus version of Rudyard Kipling’s If– (original full text here) with regard to coronavirus brought a smile. I hope it does the same for you.

It’s a comment that Steven Brook left on a Spiked column by Brendan O’Neill: ‘What Neil Ferguson’s booty call tells us about modern politics’.

I’ve added a few grammatical edits to this witty take on the virus:

If – by Mr Kipling

If you can lose your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you for not panicking sooner.
If you can hide your doubt, judgement and perspective and put your faith in experts like Piers Morgan
If you make no allowance for other considerations, the economy or unintended consequences.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting for a vaccine that is unlikely to turn up.
Or meekly accept being lied about, because the mainstream media don’t deal in facts any more.
Or being hated, don’t even think of cutting the public funding to the hatemongers.
And yet don’t look too normal, nor talk too wise, just put your critical faculties on one side and show you care …

If you can dream of a multicultural paradise but ignore the reality of a fragmented rudderless society
If you can think, then, for God’s sake, hide those thoughts, or you will look cold and heartless.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, having beaten the virus but wrecked the economy.
And treat those two impostors just the same; who needs a healthy economy anyway?
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by the BBC to make a trap for fools, but you’re too scared to deal with that nest of vipers.
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, the family, freedom of speech, education.
And stoop and failed to build ’em up because you imported third rate tools from China:

If you can make one heap of all our national wealth
And risk it on Prof Ferguson’s model which forecast that 121% of the British population would be dead by Easter.
And lose, because Imperial College has a long history of getting things completely wrong and start again at the beginnings.
And never breathe a word about our loss because no one takes responsibility for previous panics (and, for goodness sake, don’t publish the grooming report).
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew not to strangle Robert Peston even though he richly deserves it.
To keep having press conferences long after they have become utterly pointless.
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘You do realise that Common Purpose runs the UK?’

If you can talk with the public while selling out your nation to the globalists
Or walk with the Davos crowd — but still pretend to have the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you because you burnt the photos of you with the lady boy.
If all men count with you, but George Soros particularly;
If you can fill the unforgiving news cycle
With sixty seconds’ worth of calm reassurance,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, which, sadly, is a lot less than it used to be.
And—which is more—you’ll be a modern politician, old chum.

It nicely sums up the past two (and a bit) months here in England.

Last week, a number of essays and interviews about lockdown appeared in Britain.

There are still people who think that it can be lifted as quickly as it was imposed in so many countries. As we have seen across much of the Free World, as it used to be called, lifting lockdown must be done in stages, otherwise, we might have a second spike in coronavirus cases.

Here in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed the Swedish model until the evening of Monday, March 23, when he announced lockdown.

Was it because of Professor Neil Ferguson’s (dodgy) numbers? Was it media pressure as they asked daily for a lockdown ‘like Germany, like Italy’? In time, we will find out why. Perhaps Boris did not want to be labelled a mass murderer, as he surely would have, if he did not succumb.

Here are the British fatality figures from COVID-19 compared with other pandemics over the past 112 years:

Did we lockdown in 1918 and 1919 for the Spanish Flu with 200,000 deaths when our population was smaller? No.

Did we do it for the Hong Kong flu in 1968 and 1969 with 80,000 deaths, again when the population was smaller than today? No.

Therefore, it makes little sense that we did so in 2020 with a larger UK population and 43,479 projected deaths.

Lionel Shriver, an American author (We Need to Talk about Kevin), who lives in the UK, provides current worldwide death statistics from other causes in ‘This is not a natural disaster, but a manmade one’, which she wrote for The Spectator on May 16. Emphases mine below:

For maintaining a precious sense of proportion, check out some other annual global fatalities: influenza, up to 650,000. Typhoid fever, up to 160,000. Cholera, up to 140,000. Malaria, 620,000 in 2017, almost all in Africa (so who cares, right?). In 2018, tuberculosis, developing treacherous antibiotic resistance, killed 1.5 million people. Why haven’t we closed down the whole world for TB?

I couldn’t agree more.

She expresses my deepest reservations here:

I am steeped in dread. I foresee months, if not years, of inane gesturing towards ‘safety’ that makes no appreciable difference to the nation’s health, but does manage to 1) ruin everyone’s enjoyment; 2) perpetuate the socially poisonous notion that one’s neighbour is a threat to one’s very life; 3) maintain an atmosphere of the extraordinary, in which the state may violate civil rights at will; 4) lay waste to what little might otherwise have remained of this country’s economy. The lockdown has been bad enough. Post-lockdown could be worse.

Shriver understands. Forget ‘science’, this will be the reality:

With narrow profit margins, restaurants can’t survive serving a fraction of their previous clientele. Half of all UK pubs are already kaput, and the other half will soon go under if lone customers self-isolate over their drinks like sullen alcoholics. Plenty of manufacturing won’t function with employees so far apart. The arts are finished.

What she says about London is bang on the button:

West End theatres with audiences a third their former size will close. The Albert Hall is also looking at social-distancing bankruptcy, as well as considering the banning of intervals because the loos will have to be shut (sounds relaxing). The Royal Opera House’s streaming of Swan Lake without a live audience makes no money.

Oh, and transport! In London, social distancing is expected to reduce Tube passenger numbers by 90 per cent. Five million people daily ride the Tube, or used to, so how are the other 4.5 million meant to get around? By bicycle. Right. Now, I can assure you that pre-Covid it was already a nightmare to cycle in the capital, as chocka with two-wheelers as the old Shanghai. But forget buses, allowed to carry 15 per cent of their previous ridership. We’re told that to get into a sparsely populated lift, we may have to make a reservation on an app. But never fear. I guess we could always throw ourselves off the balcony instead. Why, with the masky, glovey, get-away-from-me future we’re all facing, taking that shortest route to the pavement starts to appeal.

Then there is the 14-day quarantine of incoming air passengers from other countries. France is implementing the same policy and, oddly, the French think it’s a good idea:

Worst of all, lest some sector somewhere still struggles back to solvency, we’ll now order air passengers from abroad to ‘quarantine’ for a solid fortnight straight off the plane. Because passengers can promise to quarantine themselves in a particular location, this policy comes with obvious enforcement problems. Quarantines will either be roundly ignored (so what’s the point?), or they’ll require extravagant police resources to keep rapping on doors to ensure some visiting Canadian didn’t nip out for a litre of milk. What this policy is guaranteed to achieve is the total devastation of both the British tourist industry and British airlines, especially since the business travel on which aviation depends will evaporate.

On Sunday, May 17, The Spectator posted another article: Claire Fox’s ‘My fears about the “new normal”‘. It explores how we are beginning to view the return to freedom in England during our partial lockdown lift as well as at the resistance to lockdown lifting:

The present lifting of restrictions – despite being mild to the point of mealy-mouthed – is opposed with similar howls of caution; each minor freedom we are granted is treated as a dangerous act of rashnessThis approach indicates a deeper estrangement from freedom than merely a pragmatic shrug of acceptance of short-term measures.

In this context, I fear that the ‘new normal’ will involve a new attitude to freedom. Already, culturally, you can feel a shift. I find myself grateful to be given access to public parks, to be allowed to take more exercise (when normally I would take none). Going to the shop for a non-essential birthday present last week, I was as furtive as a would-be criminal. And in all the discussions on post-Covid life, basic freedoms are treated as something that we need permission for: a piecemeal, rules-based, government allowance, handed down and punitively policed if we dare over-step the mark, whether it is by a clandestine meeting with mates or a sly assignation with a lover.

The left are more worried about lifting lockdown than conservatives are. Who gets nearly all the media attention? The left.

Fox rightly points out that we are going to have to wean ourselves off the overriding concern over COVID-19 deaths and start looking at what else has been going on in our society over the past two months: serious health conditions and suicide among them.

The tension between the left and conservatives reveals how each group views God-given liberties, which Western governments are supposed to defend. Instead, we are now experiencing discussions in the media about freedom versus safety. Fox says:

My nervousness is that for many the value du jour is safety rather than freedom.

The state’s role in keeping its citizens safe has historically created familiar tensions in weighing freedom versus security. Most recently, civil liberties activists internationally raised concerns that policies introduced to keep people safe from the threat of jihadi terrorism have resulted in widescale illiberal incursions into the rule of law, privacy and free expression. But in dealing with Covid, there’s an added element. When those who resist lifting lockdown cite what-if doomsday scenarios, they posit freedom itself as the enemy of safety: liberty itself is presented as threatening lives

Is it really such a stark choice as: dead or safe? Alive or free? In fact, we owe our own freedoms to others who put their safety and lives on the line. Every freedom fighter – whether Hong Kong democracy activists, Kurdish fighters who defeated Isis, or those we remembered on the VE Day anniversary – all took on totalitarian states and risked their lives and safety in the fight for free societies.

…reorganising life around safety as an end goal feeds on subjective, free-floating feelings of insecurity and can rob us of the confidence to live free lives. And that is my greatest dread: that we lose the habit of living freedom. Like the apocryphal released prisoner who misses the routine and security of jail so much that he contrives to be re-arrested, is there a danger that we become institutionalised into withdrawing from the undoubted demands that freedom makes of us?

The government has made physical exercise almost mandatory during this lockdown. But freedom, too, is a muscle that needs to be exercised, or it will atrophy. But exercising freedom is no easy ride, and can be as painful metaphysically as the most strenuous workout. To exercise our freedom as autonomous citizens we have to make difficult decisions, use our judgement, live with the uncertainty of knowing there are no preordained outcomes. It’s a risky business: we will invariably make mistakes that we’ll be held responsible for; we will sometimes take the wrong road and have to live with the consequences, with no-one to blame but ourselves. Relieved of many of these dilemmas during this extraordinary period of having our liberty curtailed, it is perhaps understandable that many of us rather dread entering the fray of freedom.

Several weeks ago, I saw a BBC interview of a Chinese family coming out of lockdown. The mother said that they valued a draconian lockdown because the State was protecting their health. She said that safety trumped liberty (as much as can be had in China). How soon will it be until we have a sizeable number of Britons saying the same thing?

But who wants to be cooped up — accomplished in a five-minute announcement on television — when it robs our lives of meaning?

Fox concludes:

So if we are to have a ‘new normal’, can it aim to embed within it freedom’s historic role as a virtue worth dying for, and make its clarion call the joyous rewards of a free society that makes life worth living. Being able to love who we want; read, write and think what we want; associate with who we want; vote for what we want – all this and so much more allows us to be agents of our own destiny, to write our own life story rather than being bit part characters in someone else’s story.

If the Covid narrative insists on a new normal, let’s ensure the script contains Goethe’s quote that ‘freedom and life are earned by those alone who conquer them each day anew’. Despite the grim tragedy of recent months, we need to make freedom central to the Covid storyline to ensure that there’s at least some chance of a happy ending to this tragedy.

On May 17, the BBC interviewed a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Sumption, who offered similar, salient arguments against lockdown, which he said should be lifted now, as there is no need for it. He said that he has been obeying lockdown rules, because the law obliges it, but, if the pubs were open — even crowded ones — he would go to one. Similarly, he said, if theatres were open, he would attend a performance. He spoke of the many negatives of lockdown to health and civil liberties. At the end, the interviewer asked him what he had been doing during lockdown. He replied that he would not say because he did not want to be verbally attacked by the BBC!

This is definitely worth watching (eight minutes in length):

There was a time, back in early March, when I thought the Conservatives were on our side.

I hope I am wrong in doubting them. We’ll see what happens in the weeks to come.

Last week, a few British polling companies took the pulse of the nation with regard to coronavirus.

But first, let’s look at an international poll from Morning Consult of G7 countries and their leaders’ popularity during the pandemic. Congratulations, Boris Johnson — far above the others in popularity!

Returning to Britain, here are the results from a YouGov/Sky News poll. Keir Starmer, incidentally, is Labour’s new leader:

This is the poll in more detail. Dr Chris Whitty is the UK’s chief medical adviser; Sir Patrick Vallance is the chief scientific adviser; Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is Boris’s deputy; Matt Hancock is Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; Sir Keir Starmer is the new leader of the Labour Party:

The next one is Survation’s poll on trusted sources of information during the coronavirus crisis. Note that the media come lowest, well below that of despised politicians and local government, regardless of the fact that most Britons get their information from broadcast and print media:

Here is a poll from YouGov for Reuters Institute and Oxford University:

Here’s one from a Twitter user. Comments follow (DM is the Daily Mail):

One radio talk show host thinks the British public are too stupid to understand media. I try not to use the word delusional, but this is delusional:

The British government are actually doing a great job in managing the coronavirus outbreak. The NHS has not been overwhelmed.

Before the crisis started, according to the Global Health Security Index, the US was rated first in the world for handling a pandemic. The UK was rated second:

Have both the US and the UK been too scrupulous in recording deaths, as — according to some graphs — both countries have the world’s highest fatalities? We shall see, once this is over.

Otherwise, sure, there have been ongoing issues with obtaining PPE, BUT is that the government’s fault? Aren’t NHS procurement managers in charge of that? Ditto care homes, which are either privately owned or council run.

Never mind that, though. Obtaining PPE has been a problem for nearly every nation during this pandemic.

Below are photos of German medics. The BBC often asks, ‘Why can’t the UK be like Germany?’

Hello, BBC. Germany has a PPE shortage, too:

Despite that and despite lockdown, the British support Boris and his team. This was as of April 21, published on April 26:

Regardless of the government’s careful managing of this crisis, the media dig deep every day to report only bad news. Largely, they are still hurting over Brexit, which will no doubt dominate media narratives once coronavirus is over. The negative coronavirus stories are an extension of anti-Brexit narratives:

The BBC is the only channel to broadcast the government’s daily coronavirus briefings. As is customary in other nations doing these daily updates, reporters from across the country are allowed to ask questions afterwards:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, other government ministers and the medical officers have to face a lot of awful questions. Last week, the BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym asked whether the government was ‘ashamed’ of its coronavirus response:

People like Pym, who smile and smirk simultaneously, are the lowest of the low. They use their gotcha questions on early evening newscasts:

On Monday, April 27, Hancock got fed up with ITV’s political editor Robert Peston’s continuous, verbose questions. Hancock replied with a terse ‘No’:

Here’s the deal with Peston:

Here’s another example, this time from the BBC:

And another:

And another. This is BBC Newsnight‘s Emily Maitlis with Labour’s Peter Mandelson — Baron Mandelson — who held several cabinet positions under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they were Prime Minister:

But I digress. Back now to the daily coronavirus briefings.

On Monday, April 27, the government began taking at least one question a day from the general public:

Robert Peston does not like this:

Actually, Robert, the first question chosen and read out on April 27 was relevant to many Britons.

That day, the independent polling company the government uses to select the questions chose one from a grandmother who wanted to know how much longer she would have to wait to kiss and hug her grandchildren. Honestly, I nearly welled up. Much better than taking questions from Peston, Pym and the like.

On Tuesday, April 28, they had two enquiries from the public — one read out loud from another grandmother about childminding her grandchildren and a short video from a mother asking when her son on the coronavirus isolation list could return to school. The lad has cystic fibrosis and autism:

Unfortunately, Matt Hancock had to let all three ladies down gently. It was/is still too early to say.

Interestingly, Peston didn’t ask a question on Tuesday. Perhaps he’s miffed that Britons are getting their own very real concerns aired? As is said in the news trade: ‘Developing …’

News emerged several days ago that human testing began at Oxford University on a vaccine for COVID-19. Suppose it succeeds, which we all hope it will. Will this be the sort of questioning the government will receive? Although humorous, it’s not far off the mark. Click on image to enlarge:

Actually, something just as strange happened when the vaccine news was announced. A woman with a PhD, whom the media referred to as Doctor — implying a medic — appeared in the media. She said she would be ashamed if Oxford succeeded!

She was made to appear as if she were from the university, when, in fact, she’s at what used to be the city’s polytechnic, now called Oxford Brookes. They are two very different institutions:

It is not unusual for the BBC to interrupt any Conservative politician, whether on television or radio. On Friday, April 24, Matt Hancock appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme:

The clip below shows ITV’s Piers Morgan, co-host of Good Morning Britain, having a go at Matt Hancock, not even allowing him to finish a sentence. Breathtaking arrogance, and worth a watch:

Piers should clam up — and tone down his tweets. Good Morning Britain‘s ratings have been tanking during the coronavirus crisis (more here):

On April 16, during the daily coronavirus briefing, Channel 4’s Alex Thomson asked if the government was trying to kill the elderly. Sitting at home viewing, my far better half and I were astonished. Guido Fawkes has the story:

At the more serious end of broadcasting, Channel 4 News’ Alex Thomson last night was on a quest for culpability. His crass question at the Downing Street briefing basically accused Hancock and his advisers of choosing to kill off old people to prioritise protecting the young.

We stopped watching Channel 4 News years ago. It got too left-wing in its bias. Here’s another example from Guido’s article, involving Home Secretary Priti Patel (emphasis in the original):

Earlier in the week, Channel 4 News’ reporter repeatedly demanded from Priti Patel an apology. This type of performance isn’t holding power to account or about purely eliciting information. It is gotcha journalism and because journalists at the press conferences are asking their questions through the prism of establishing political culpability, they are getting defensive responses. It would be better to leave that to the opposition in parliament and leave the made-for-social-media infotainment to Piers. It might also arrest the dramatic drop in public confidence in the news media…

Therefore, is it any wonder that former Labour MP for Vauxhall in London tweeted:

Yes, there should be a root and branch review and reform of the alleged ‘nation’s most trusted’ broadcaster. The annual licence fee per household is £145. It is a mandatory charge. As such, some Britons call it a tax.

I have a lot more to say about the media’s handling of coronavirus. More to follow at some point.

On Friday April 18, a news story from the BBC about an NHS procurement director circulated on the BBC news channel.

The man, unnamed, wanted to contact Burberry and Barbour directly to obtain much-needed PPE.

I heard it reported more than once. The story even popped up on the national coronavirus briefing at the weekend.

On Saturday, April 19, the Mail on Sunday‘s deputy political editor Harry Cole exposed the BBC story as FAKE NEWS.

Click on the image below or here to read the article in full:

Incidentally, Sarah Smith (pictured), who presented the story is the daughter of the late Labour leader John Smith, who died in May 1994. (Tony Blair succeeded him.) Her mother is a life peer: Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill. But I digress.

As Harry Cole says, the story got several airings on the BBC News channel, then, suddenly, there was nothing more. A newsreader read a retraction at 7:10 a.m. on Saturday.

Unbeknownst to Cole — and most of the viewing public, myself included — the BBC retracted the story on its website late on Friday, the same day it appeared:

The ‘correction’ says, in part:

We should clarify that the person concerned is not the boss of an NHS trust but is part of a network of organisations helping to source personal protective equipment for some NHS trusts.

The mistake was caused by a misunderstanding of the person’s role in the fight against the pandemic.

Cole was able to find out the identity of the mystery man, who works at The Oxford Academic Health Science Network, which is currently helping to source PPE:

He was later identified by the BBC News at One as ‘senior health expert’ Paul Durrands. Mr Durrands, who has a doctorate in philosophy and molecular plant pathology …

Since 2011:

he has been the chief operating officer of the Oxford Academic Health Science Network, a publicly funded ‘innovation exchange’.

It is understood he has been helping NHS trusts seek PPE, but is not and never has been a major NHS trust boss. He did not respond to requests for comment last night.

The BBC are not on the government’s side unless it’s a Labour one.

They have really pushed the boat out in their anti-Conservative coronavirus coverage, which never covers anything good the government has done thus far.

One gets only noxious narratives from the BBC and, now, fake news. Yet, they have a special segment a few afternoons a week wherein a reporter debunks various online fake news items about the coronavirus. They should take a close look at themselves in the mirror first.

It is a pity that every British household is obliged to pay an annual licence fee to keep this broken outfit going.

There is a fascinating thread on Guido Fawkes, posted on Sunday, March 29.

The subject of the post is cabinet minister Michael Gove saying we don’t need ventilators from the EU, but the comments are on Britons’ personal coronavirus experiences.

I found them vastly more informative and interesting than Big Media’s panicky news. I hope you do, too.

Unfortunately, Guido’s new comment system does not have hyperlinks to comments, so I cannot provide direct links.

A dash denotes a single comment, even with an additional paragraph.

I purposely didn’t edit the comments too much in order to preserve their spontaneity.

Emphases below are mine.

PPE, ventilators and the EU

These days, PPE stands for Personal Protection Equipment, not the degree known as Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

This pertains to Gove’s comments in Guido’s post. A few of Guido’s readers discussed France. One had sources:

On March 3, France confiscated all protective masks made in the country. “We will distribute them to healthcare professionals and to French people affected by the coronavirus,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. On March 6, the French government forced Valmy SAS, a face mask manufacturer near Lyon, to cancel an order for millions of masks placed by the UK’s National Health Service.

In general, however, re the EU:

We wouldn’t get any ventilators. They’d be sent straight to the other member states.

We would pay for them, though.

More about ventilators on the Continent. I think the first comment comes from a lady in the Netherlands:

– Too right. Netherlands has 1110 ventilators, it has as of today over 1k in icu and not a sniff of any new ventilators being provided, in fact they had to fight tooth and nail to purchase gloves and masks, they managed to purchase just over 620k of them last week from outside the EU and Dutch companies who wanted up to 300% on top of the usual costs, the Dutch companies not the ones outside, including a Dutch crowdfunding initiative that purchased over 200k of them on top of the 620k these are the only medical supplies to have arrived, unless I’m mistaken they are both EU members and party to the EU ventilator scheme. The EU can’t even share basic supplies amongst its members … much needed ventilators, Germany and France even refused to send medical supplies stating their needs could be greater, not where “could be” when Italy asked for help. Note the only help currently acceptable to mutti [Angela Merkel] is for all member states that accrue financial debts over and above the EU budgetary allowance is to sign financial agreements the same as Greece did, in other words so that Germany and the IMF benefit on interest accrued on bonds, even the Spanish, and Polish governments, some Dutch MEPs are publicly declaring the lack of help coming from Ursula [von der Leyen] of any kind, note the border issue of the Greeks is disappearing from headlines at a rate of knots at the same time.

Salvini called the EU “a nest of snakes and jackals” the other day, that Italy would “get past the virus and say goodbye to the EU without thanking them”. An understandable sentiment.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty:

Mr Dyson probably could, he has an engineering center of excellence (both design and manufacturing) down there in Malmsbury, and also a mothballed production facility that until recently used to make high quality goods out of injection-moulded plastic components and electric motors. With resources like that in this country, I don’t think we’ll be short of ventilators for long.

The Italians are pissed off that Germany is refusing to sell them any ventilators, maybe we’ll soon be in a position to help them out.

More testing = more coronavirus cases

The number of coronavirus cases is increasing in many countries, because they, including the UK, are now being able to test for the virus (emphasis in the original):

– The latest data from the German Robert Koch Institute show that the increase in test-positive persons is proportional to the increase in the number of tests, i.e. in percentage terms it remains roughly the same. This may indicate that the increase in the number of cases is mainly due to an increase in the number of tests, and not due to an ongoing epidemic.

– Actually a proportionate increase in cases would be nearer to proving that the virus was everywhere anyway.

Coronavirus deaths

As of Sunday, March 29 (emphases in the original in this section):

– 2433 new cases and 209 new deaths

– Of ALL the UK Coronavirus fatalities to date, ONLY 13 had NO pre-existing conditions.

Without being insensitive, the vast majority of the fatalities to date would probably have died from “typical” seasonal ‘Flu anyway. Obviously, things could rapidly change if people ignore social distancing, but we aren’t at crisis levels for the moment.

Other deaths

Coronavirus notwithstanding, sadly, other people leave this mortal coil, too:

How many other deaths today?

– About 50,000 deaths a month is the average I believe. About 12,500 a week.

– Meanwhile other people die in less than acceptable circumstances.

A neighbour’s mother was ill in hospital and visiting was not allowed. She was discharged to a nursing home last week, where she died yesterday. Her daughter was unable to visit or comfort her. She died effectively alone in the company of presumably masked and protected strangers.

This is not humane.

The weekly death toll gets rather confusing, because some are referencing flu/respiratory deaths per week, while others are looking at the bigger picture:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EUSFPnoXgAAAEh8?format=jpg&name=large

See more here.

Dr Neil Ferguson

Dr Neil Ferguson OBE (!) of the dodgy Imperial College London numbers on coronavirus — as well as for the equally dodgy strategy on the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak — came in for criticism. This is the best of the comments about him (emphases mine):

What was never reported after the disastrous foot and mouth case modelled by Ferguson, were the depressions and suicides by farmers who not only had to watch whole herds of healthy cattle being slaughtered but losing three or four generations of their family farms. Many ended up selling to rich property developers to survive and thousands more turned their farms into industrial units.

Why wasn’t Ferguson sacked? How did he manage to survive to work on the Swine Flu … and again on Covid19?

Just goes to show the public sector are never accountable and always protected. At least Mr Trump is from a business background and knows how to disseminate good advice and bad advice wherever it comes from.

Potentially dangerous lockdown

If this lockdown extends far beyond Easter into late spring or early summer, Guido’s readers fear problems not only for Britons’ health but also for the economy. Their fears are not misplaced:

– There are many doctors saying the results of a long lockdown will be far worse than any mortality rate from this virus.

– And the tragedies arising from the ensuing economic depression will dwarf both of them put together.

– Exactly. I’m in the ‘over 60’s’ bracket but would rather risk getting a fec kin bad case of flu than see a lifetime of work pensions and savings go down the swanny because of some unhealthy eaters from China.

I agree. I’m not wasting 6 months of my life at my age under house arrest.

What, the ‘lockdown’ that the government tried to warn everyone not to do too early so that we weren’t asking the people to do too much for too long, but that the media wouldn’t listen and screamed like spoilt brats until they got their way?

That lockdown?

That leads us nicely to the next section.

BBC

BBC reporters are everywhere, not only across Britain but around the world:

– It is very important to stay at home. I know because we have just been told by a BBC reporter standing outside the Palace of Westminster.

– Have you ever wondered about all the ‘reporters’ wondering around in places like Lombardy etc. without any protection…Are they immune?

– Yes, the ghastly Mark Eaton was doing that last week. Walking the streets of London, stopping people and demanding to know why they were walking the streets of London.

It is OK for him though because he thinks he is important.

BBC news continues its Trump Derangement Syndrome:

– When will the BBC stop saying that the USA is the country with the fastest growing number of infections and deaths? It’s a bloody continent!

– They won’t stop, the BBC is anti US/UK and although the US isn’t a continent its scale and population make it comparable to Western Europe which has a far bigger problem.

– So true. If you check on some of their reporters (Twitter etc.) you will see that there is an obsession with Trump but little interest in some of the despots elsewhere. Are they afraid of the repercussions?

Andrew Marr, presenter of the BBC’s Sunday morning news show, came in for particular criticism. No surprise there:

– Marr has an anti-government agenda that is clear to everyone I hope. How this guy is still working is beyond me.

– He is a Marxist with an anti government agenda. The only surprise is the BBC has not made him Director General yet.

– There’s a fine line between questioning the government to find out information and questioning to discredit. Marr is in the second camp.

Socialist celebrities

Most people are fed up with wealthy socialist celebrities:

I’ll tell you why I’m a socialist: poverty. Poverty is what makes you a socialist. When you know poverty then you know about how we have to take care of people.” Actor Brian Cox.

Actually Brian, I’ll tell you why I’m NOT a socialist: poverty. Poverty is what results from socialism. When you know poverty then you know about how we have to take care of people and as history and experience shows, socialism is not the answer. I will go further and suggest you are actually a believer in a mixed economy which is underpinned by a healthy capitalism required for creating the wealth necessary for the public services you and me both desire. You are not really a socialist, you just don’t understand.

Someone replied:

If Cox is so keen why doesn’t he go and live in the socialist heaven of Venezuela rather than the capitalist hell of New York City?

Actors aren’t the only ones, either:

Same with singers (‘Bonio’ springs to mind). Just sing yer song and shut yer gob. Your fame does not make you an expert and your loud pronouncements are meaningless in the scheme of things.

Hospitals

There were many interesting anecdotal reports about hospitals. I have separated the A&E comments into a separate section.

This one came from Scotland:

Are we getting the true news about how the NHS and nurses/docs are coping? I see a lot of interviews and quotes from medics saying they are making life and death decisions due to ‘lack of equipment’.

However last Thursday I had to take my good lady into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for a rather serious examination (she has risk of cancer down below). Apart from a guy at the main entrance making sure everyone used the hand gel, once at the ward we were allocated I had to wait outside in the main corridor and beside the 6 lifts in a colour red zone. One of the wards in this zone is ICU and further down the corridor it was into the Sick Childrens Hospital section. However it amazed me to see how much the nurses/docs/porters didn’t seem to have any concerns about walking around the corridors, mobile phone checking, 5 into a lift, porters not wearing protective gloves, leaving wheelchairs without wiping down the handles etc. Before anyone gets on to me I am not criticising those people just the media panic. As far as I could tell, apart from the multi storey car park being less busy with visitors the hospital was to all intents and purposes ‘as normal’.

As I say don’t berate me for posting this and I rather like the way all those staff were laughing, joking as they always do but it did seem a different world in there than what I expected.

Someone replied, saying the media were not interested in hospitals operating as usual:

There are over 300 hospitals in Scotland with 8 in Aberdeen and 11 others in the surrounding county. There are 1245 cases in Scotland (4 per hospital if shared out equally) and chances are that they would likely try and isolate COVID19 patients as much as possible so whilst the number of cases are fairly low I imagine they would try to place the COVID19 patients in as few hospitals as possible so it could be that there weren’t any CV cases at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

That will be different to London (over 5,000 cases) and the Midlands (2,500 cases) where I know that the number of cases far and away outstrips the number of vacant beds that those NHS regions reported last quarter end (Dec 31).

So I very much think it depends on whether you are in a hotzone or not and if you are not you can guarantee the national media just ain’t interested. There is no news in ‘business as usual’ in the middle of a crisis

PS You’re right its good that there is still significant normality out there and presumably the lock down will see a fall off in certain types of hospitalisations but the media are never going to try and sell that narrative. Good news is no news.

Ventilators

Ventilators came up for discussion:

I don’t think the public have understood how long you stay on a ventilator with this SARS2. It is 2-3 weeks, not the 2-3 days with normal winter ailments.

You go on to a ventilator with this she hit you’re 50/50 at best with perma damage.

– … people who need to go onto ventilators for this virus would have to for other reasons as well.

– If you go onto Conservative Woman website there is an interesting article about Matt Strauss saying that ventilators are the least necessary thing. The people who have to go onto a ventilator because of Covid19 would already need it.

Long term forced ventilation has issues of its own.

A&E (Accident & Emergency) wards

There were reports about quiet A&E wards.

This one came from one of the Home Counties, just outside London:

I might have said this once or twice before- but my wife works in A&E (for a hospital that was recently in the news) and it is very quiet in there and there is no shortages or panic.

The hospital in question is set up for the worst.

But at the moment they are dealing with the usual real emergency cases and very few suspected cases.

That is not to say some have supposedly died from Covid- but the 21 year old didn’t- despite press reports (which the Guardian has since removed). Kudos to them for once.

Here’s another from somewhere else in the UK:

My wife passed me this posted on her Military Wives Facebook group by an NHS Paramedic member of the same group. It makes amazingly good sense…

Small rant… Having spent at least 12 hours per day for the last 8 out of 9 days in and out of A&E I have noticed one thing. The waiting rooms have been MASSIVELY less busy than normal.

There is a major health emergency going on and suddenly everyone can manage to deal with their little booboo themselves. Whilst I, as a paramedic, am extremely grateful for this, please as a nation get a grip and realise this is what you should have been doing anyway for years.

You would have saved the NHS literally billions of pounds, so once this hell is over please continue to be a brave little soldier and deal with these non-emergencies yourselves!

WELL SAID & HOW TRUE

Are A&Es empty because of fear or a sudden dawning of common sense?

Most of the departments of my local General Hospital are quiet which allows their staff to be redeployed where needed. The specialist A&E a few miles up the road is also reporting almost a complete lack of people attending with trivial injuries and the ambo service aren’t getting the usual 80/20 split of unnecessary/justified 999 calls. Could it be that the time wasters are actually getting some common sense?

Here’s the reply:

Unfortunately, no.

The muppets are more frightened of being with other people than their headache.

Another account rolled in:

I can substantiate that. Over the last couple of weeks I had to go to the hospital for pre-arranged but necessary scans. On both occasions the A&E waiting area was virtually deserted apart from staff.

Truth:

The amount of money wasted on hypochondria in the NHS is huge.

Supermarkets

Online deliveries have not improved since the panic buying nearly a month ago. This holds true even for the elderly, whom, the government says, supermarkets have prioritised:

A mate of mine who is over 70 enquired last weekend about a home delivery from either Sainsburys or Tesco (I forget which one) and was told it would be delivered on 19th April. He said no thanks and drove to the shop himself.

Shelves seem to be restocked. A return to normality — for now:

We went shopping in Aldi Friday morning 8am, 30 people in the queue ahead of us but we all went straight in at 8. Bought everything we wanted including a small joint of beef, perhaps people have stopped panic buying at last. But if the Govt bring in more restrictions on movement expect the panic buying/hoarding to take off again.

Another Aldi customer concurs:

Likewise at Aldi, Whitby last Thursday, and everyone behaving sensibly.

Elsewhere:

Just been out to M&S and Lidl. Both fully stocked.

A few have installed a one-metre distance between customer and the person behind the till. Others have installed perspex shields:

Much easier to clean perspex shields and they are further away from the cashier. It’s better solution than face a mask for that particular purpose.

On the lighter side …

There were a few jokes, too.

We had tennis …

– I just got back yesterday after going to my mate’s funeral. Sadly he got hit on the head with a tennis ball. It was a great service.

– Are your tennis racket jokes free or do they come with strings attached?

… a plumber with a marital problems …

He went home recently and said to his wife, It’s over Flo.

… and the lockdown:

Wife: Are you going to sit on that sofa all day?

Me: No, I shall be sitting on the other sofa shortly.

Conclusion

I shall conclude with this comment:

If the MSM hadn`t created the panic, the authorities wouldn`t have had a population willing to have their civil liberties curtailed.

I fully agree.

Please be very careful when listening to the news and reading newspapers. There was no need, no need at all, for a shutdown or the Coronavirus Bill.

On January 21, 2020, the BBC’s radio and television presenter Victoria Derbyshire interviewed a Briton who lived as a woman for four years before returning to manhood.

Richard Hoskins tells his story here (two weeks left to view, probably geolocalised) and says of his life as a transsexual (emphasis in the original):

‘I used gender transition as a form of escape’

For four years, Richard Hoskins lived as a woman.

But he now believes it was a reaction to the trauma of losing three children, rather than relating to his gender identity.

He has now detransitioned, and tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire that more must be done by the NHS to ensure others are properly assessed before treatment begins.

In the clip below, he explains that he had PTSD after the loss of his three children and from earlier sexual trauma as a child. Derbyshire, whose television news and chat show has recently been cancelled, kept showing him national guidelines saying that medical practitioners are following them to the letter. He counters her arguments by saying that what is needed before any of that takes place is one-on-one therapy, which he had after he had become a woman and felt increasingly uncomfortable.

Please watch this two-minute video (‘or’ in line two should read ‘of’):

In Britain, it is very difficult for medical practitioners not to eventually sign off on transsexual procedures. There is legal and professional pressure so to do.

The comments following that tweet are enlightening and show just how wrong ‘following the procedures’ can be:

It turns out that Richard Hoskins is actually Dr Richard Hoskins, a lecturer in theology and present-day criminologist.

He helped police in a horrific murder case that took place in London in 2001. A little boy, known only as ‘Adam’, had been mutilated and thrown into the Thames by Tower Bridge. He was close to being swept away into the North Sea. After Hoskins became involved, more similar cases in London came to light.

Hoskins wrote an award-winning book about it called The Boy in the River, available on Amazon, from which an excerpt of the synopsis follows:

Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city.Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.

According to the highly interesting readers’ comments, in the book, Hoskins discusses his experiences as a missionary in the Congo. He seems to have spent part of his earlier life there before returning as an adult to spend six years there. His Wikipedia entry gives brief details about his life, mostly focussing on his career as a lecturer and, later, as a criminologist.

One reader wrote, in part:

Through this well written book, Dr Richard Hoskins takes us from his happy times in the Congo marked by devastating personal tragedy whilst living under the rule of an autocratic dictator and contrasts it with the Congo many years later, free of the dictator but with a disintegrating social fabric providing a void for new churches to fill using their corrupted fusion of Christianity with a brutalised version of previously benign traditional beliefs. The Congo that he used to know is not the one in which he is almost killed years later.

When Adam is pulled from the river the Police come to him seeking guidance in a belief system which seems so alien. Dr Hoskin’s personal story run’s parallel with the cases he provides help on, fighting to maintain his sanity and marriage in the face of the case reports he must read and interpret for the benefit of Police and Courts to make sure all understand this is not an Africa problem steeped in tradition but a terrible corruption by a minority in recent years of a faith that has lasted hundreds of years with the victims being dreadfully abused before, in the most extreme, death.

The Evening Standard‘s review said, in part:

As well as being an important book for all sorts of reasons, The Boy in the River is a remarkable one. The horror it evokes will be matched by a sense of disbelief that such appalling things are happening, now, in London. What makes it all the more powerful is the deliberately measured manner in which it is written. Throughout, there s a sense that Hoskins is struggling to maintain his own equilibrium, his own sanity even, as he explores what he calls, with ample justification, the darkest underbelly of human nature.

It is worth emphasising that only a small percentage of the Congo’s Christians practice such brutal syncretism involving ritual child abuse and sacrifice.

Yet, from this, it is understandable why Hoskins was traumatised.

From this we can see that the urge to change one’s sexuality or remove body parts is complex. Not everyone has as involved a past as Dr Hoskins, however, therapy should be strongly advised in such cases before further action is taken.

There are other ways to come to terms with one’s highly personal conflicts:

I hope that Hoskins and others in the same situation continue to speak openly.

For at least 20 years, populism has been popular in the Netherlands.

Former Labour MP Ed Balls has a BBC Two television series called Travels in Euroland with Ed Balls.

In his episode in the Netherlands, he asks at the end how populism can be stopped.

Yet, he missed the most important point of his own interviews.

Populism is not the R-word.

On the contrary. Populism asks that immigrants assimilate into their new culture. It also asks for orderly borders.

He meets a man named Willem, who talks about his girlfriend in the Gambia. Her name is Jojo. When Ed Balls goes to Willem’s house for lunch, the Dutchman speaks affectionately of her and says he bought her a bicycle — her new, preferred mode of transport (two-minute mark):

So, we can say that populists are, in the main, multiracial. They do not, however, want their own culture erased out of history.

The clip shows that Balls missed the whole of Willem’s message.

But, then again, Balls is Labour and he is making this series for the BBC. What else can one expect?

On Thursday, January 16, 2020, the BBC’s Question Time (QT) had an unusual guest: an actor.

He was no ordinary actor, as the presenter, panel and live audience were to discover.

Laurence Fox, co-star of the popular Detective Morse-spin-off series Lewis, spoke his mind cogently and calmly.

What he said was controversial to half the people who heard it and common sense to the other half.

Guido Fawkes promptly posted Fox’s ‘best of’ moments early Friday morning (emphasis in the original):

Few knew who Laurence Fox was before last night’s Question Time appearance. After this barnstorming performance Guido reckons his appearances will be more keenly anticipated.

Most viewers would make time to watch QT were Fox on it again. However, unlike Guido, I doubt whether he will be invited again. Although his views are centrist, that’s too balanced for the programme, known for its overwhelmingly left-wing panel and presenter (Fiona Bruce) as well as the blunt, emotional discussions, if one can call them that.

No one with any common sense watches QT unless there’s someone on they want to see. I only watched the programme in full after seeing Guido’s post.

This was one of the best QTs ever, because of Fox.

One wonders if the programme researcher who booked him still has a job. I hope so, because ratings on the online replays of the show must have gone through the roof over the past week.

This is what Spiked‘s columnist, Patrick West, wrote about the actor only a few weeks ago in November 2019 (emphases mine below):

We need more Laurence Foxes

Most intelligent grownups don’t pay attention to the political opinions of actors. The film Team America summed it up. Their opinions are usually shallow and conformist. Not so the actor Laurence Fox.

He is decidedly un-luvvie in his opinions and pastimes. The Lewis actor told The Sunday Times the other week that he recently walked around south London in a MAGA hat. He’s fine about multiracialism, but hates multiculturalism: ‘You have to be a Somewhere person. If you’re in England, be English.’

He openly doesn’t hate Donald Trump. He doesn’t think there should be 50-50 gender quotas for scriptwriters at RADA. He calls his fellow thesps ‘hypocrites’ for supporting Extinction Rebellion while leading ‘high-carbon lives’. He is irked most by today’s culture of conformity. ‘Our parents taught us to think for ourselves and then stayed out of the way. Now our kids turn up with a preconceived idea which they’re getting from school.’

Research by King’s College London’s privacy institute published last month showed that young people today had much more liberal views on soft drugs, homosexuality and abortion than they did 20 years ago

This is the great paradox of our day: young people are more tolerant than they used to be, except towards those who question the consensus.

You can see an interview here from December 1 in which he describes his MAGA hat experience in London and the Trump Derangement Syndrome he received:

This is the full 27-minute interview:

The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant was also on the QT panel last Thursday. She wrote about it on Friday morning, including a clip of the show when the Sussexes departure from the Royal Family was discussed:

The woman attempting to take Fox on over his views on the topic turned out to be a BBC plant, a lecturer at Edge Hill University (a former teacher training college):

Now on to Madeline Grant’s article, most of which lies behind a paywall:

To say I was in a state of panic on the way to Liverpool for my maiden Question Time outing on Thursday would be an understatement. I imagined vomiting onstage, trying to speak and croaking, wardrobe malfunctions, furious audience members throwing tomatoes, and more. I considered pulling a sickie or emigrating.

Yet the experience defied my expectations; with a rare Right-leaning panel, a terrific audience posing intelligent questions, a generally polite and enjoyable conversation without the point-scoring tedium that often accompanies such shows.

Perhaps the most astonishing revelation, however – the needle in the haystack, the flying pig, the blue moon – was the presence of a non-woke actor on the panel. My new friend Laurence Fox, who perfectly captured public resentment of stifling identity politics and the culture of permanent offence. He skewered the hypocrisies of pontificating celebrities and disconnected politicians. And, like Ricky Gervais’s tirade against the Hollywood elite at the Golden Globes, his words found a receptive audience

The aforementioned lecturer, Rachel Boyle, accused Fox of being ‘privileged’ in his comments about the Duchess of Sussex. The Telegraph‘s Jamie Johnson wrote an article, free to view, which recapped some of what the actor said:

Responding to a claim from an audience member that the media’s treatment of Meghan amounted to “racism”, Mr Fox responded: “It’s not racism… we’re the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe.

“It’s so easy to throw the charge of racism and it’s really starting to get boring now,” he continued.

The audience member then described Fox as a “white, privileged male”, to which he responded: “I can’t help what I am, I was born like this, it was an immutable characteristic.

“To call me a white privileged male is to be racist,” he claimed.

You can read an analysis of Boyle and QT here. She tweeted on Saturday, January 18, and got a number of pro and con responses, including this one:

Fox believes that the media turned on the Sussexes when they decided they did not want to put in the hard work as Royals yet still get paid a salary:

Further discussing Meghan and Harry’s decision to quit as senior royals, he told host Fiona Bruce: “When you’re younger you do want to make a life for yourselves.

“So I do empathise with them, but I do think there’s a little bit of having your cake and eating it which I don’t enjoy.”

Absolutely! The more one reflects on this, the more one can see the British public’s indignation at the indirect insinuation by the Sussexes that we’re just not good enough for them. They cannot bear the idea of pressing our oh-so-common flesh on a regular basis. They’re far too good for the likes of us. What snobs.

Returning to QT, the first of Fox’s brilliant comments came on the subject of climate change and frequent flights. He willingly admitted to flying a lot:

Joking about the hypocrisy of celebrities who fly regularly, Fox said: “The carbon footprint’s huge.

But we make up for it by preaching to everyone how they should change their life.”

Yes! (Looking at you, Sussexes — along with dozens of others!)

Fox received lots of praise from QT viewers:

The Mail on Sunday has more reactions from Twitter on Fox’s views as expressed on QT.

In this interview with journalist and polemicist James Delingpole from January 16, Fox discusses his attitude towards dating:

The aforementioned Mail on Sunday article reported some of what Fox, 41, said on the topic:

Laurence Fox has revealed he once broke up with a girlfriend because she liked a pro-#MeToo TV advert

The actor, 41, told his ex-lover: ‘Bye. Sorry I can’t do this with you,’ after she praised Gillette for their TV campaign on ‘toxic masculinity’

He also said he no longer dates women under 35 as they are ‘too woke’ and most of them are ‘absolutely bonkers’

The controversial Gillette advert subverted the razor brand’s famous ‘The Best A Man Can Get’ slogan by challenging traditional views of what it means to be a successful man. 

It featured news clips of reporting on the #MeToo movement, as well as images showing sexism in films, in boardrooms, and of violence between boys. 

In an interview with the Delingpod podcast, Mr Fox, who has two children with actress Billie Piper, 37, said of his Gillette argument: ‘I don’t know how we ended up together. It was a very short relationship

‘We were walking down the road together and she was talking about how good the Gillette advert was. I just looked at her and went, ‘Bye. Sorry I can’t do this with you.’

It is not clear which former girlfriend Mr Fox was referring to.  

He told the podcast that before his current relationship began, he was put off dating women under 35 because they are ‘primed to believe they are victims’

Mr Fox’s previous girlfriends include DJ Lilah Parsons, Sky Sports News presenter Kirsty Gallcher, 43, and Vogue Williams, 34. 

Asked what his former flame would think about him sharing the unusual reason for their break-up he told the podcast: ‘She will probably sit there and say, ‘See I told you he was patriarchal. He’s abusing me and I’m offended.’  

That same day, Fox gave an interview to Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, an ex-leftist who is now centrist and/or libertarian. This is a good discussion, just a little over an hour long. O’Neill clearly agrees with Fox:

Fox said, among other things, that he was very grateful that people were beginning to be more open about their views in the face of political correctness. As a result, he believes the tide is beginning to turn.

Millions of us are grateful to Laurence Fox for going on national television and unreservedly voicing his opinions in a calm, civilised manner.

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