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The English, Welsh and Scottish election results from Thursday, May 6, were mostly complete on Saturday, May 8.

Brief analyses of results

Various pundits gave analyses of the results.

However, before going into those, this is the change in voting among NHS and other health workers from Labour to Conservative. I’ve never seen anything like it:

Guido Fawkes says that Labour no longer represents the working class:

Andrew Neil of The Spectator summarised a Wall Street Journal article about the elections:

Andrew Neil himself says this is a ‘watershed’ moment:

Mark Wallace of Conservative Home says that, locally, even Labour councillors acknowledge that voters are bullish on Boris:

Dan Hodges interviewed several people in various towns in the North East. Most were bullish on Boris and the Conservatives. In Middlesbrough (emphases mine):

It’s here that one of the nation’s largest vaccination centres has been established, and the local residents filing out into car park E after receiving their jabs have a different perspective to the Prime Minister’s critics.

‘Boris is doing what he could,’ Louisa tells me. ‘It’s a very difficult situation. He’s been fantastic.’ 

Victoria Newell agrees: ‘I think he’s done a fantastic job. The whole vaccination programme has been really well managed.’

Some Labour strategists have been pointing to the vaccination success as the primary reason for Tory buoyancy in the polls

One Shadow Minister told me: ‘People are getting their jabs, the sun’s out and the pubs are open again. They’re going to do well.’

Dan Hodges visited Redcar, which used to have a huge steelworks, long gone. He then went to other parts of the Tees Valley:

The Redcar works may be gone but, as you head towards Stockton, the giant cooling towers of the Billingham manufacturing works punch up through the skyline, while the drive out of Darlington brings you face to face with the monolithic new Amazon warehouse that employs more than 1,000 staff. 

And this is what Boris – and [Tees Valley mayor Andy] Houchen – are betting their political lives on. That they can turn around decades of ‘managed decline’ under Labour and get the nation’s economic engine room motoring again.

Back in Hartlepool, the voters have started delivering their verdict. And again, another fashionable Westminster ‘narrative’ is running head-first into the British people.

You can’t currently buy a pint inside The Rossmere Pub on Balmoral Road, but you can cast a ballot.

And builder Geoff Rollinson is planning to deliver his for Boris. ‘He’s been amazing. I love him,’ he tells me. ‘What have Labour done for this town in over 50 years? Boris has pumped billions into furlough, he’s given people here a wage. Labour would never have done that.’

Outside Mill House Leisure Centre, Mark Robinson delivers the same message. ‘I voted Conservative,’ the charity worker tells me. ‘Boris is trying to get the job done.’

What about the furore over sleaze and bodies? ‘I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with Covid and all the stuff he’s had to deal with. I think he’s doing his best.’

English council wrap-up

Most of the English county council results were tabulated by Saturday night. There were big gains for the Conservatives:

The biggest news was the loss of a Labour majority of Durham County Council — the first in over a century:

English mayoral elections

I’m of two minds about regional mayors, a relatively recent development using up more taxpayer money.

Former Labour MP Andy Burnham won a comfortable re-election in Manchester.

In the Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen also won a decisive re-election:

Houchen told The Spectator in March that he was eager to rebuild the steel industry in the region but is finding a certain UK Government department difficult:

‘I’ve said to Boris himself, I’ve said to No. 10 and Rishi and the five new colleagues that I’ve got in Westminster: there’s nowhere left to hide now,’ he explains. ‘It’s a strong Tory government. Loads of Tory MPs in the region, a regional Tory mayor (at least for a couple of months), so there’s no one left to blame any more. We either really deliver something different in the next four years, or people will go back to voting for other parties.’

His re-election campaign is based on a new project: to ‘bring steelmaking back to Teesside’ with electric arc furnace technology. It’s seen in America and elsewhere as the future of the steel industry, he says — but not in Westminster, where he regards the Theresa May-created department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the problem, since it clings to the declinist view of the steel industry.

‘The biggest problem with the steel industry in the UK is Whitehall,’ he says. ‘The UK steel policy and the BEIS team are absolutely useless.’ Successive governments, he says, have failed British steelmaking for 40 years. ‘It has become a sticking plaster. Oh, British Steel’s fallen over, how do we rescue it? Oh, now south Wales is in trouble, how do we rescue it?’ There’s too much worrying about failure, he says, and not enough planning for success. ‘It’s never: what do we want the steel industry to look like? What can we do as a developed nation when we’re having to compete with places like China?’

… He admits that his various schemes have ‘raised eyebrows’ but puts it in part down to Teesside Tories being a slightly different breed. ‘This isn’t a one-size fits all,’ he says. ‘I would say Conservatives in this region are much more practical. I don’t remember having a discussion with any Tory in Teesside about free market economics and right-wing politics. It’s very much pragmatic.’

In the West Midlands, his Conservative counterpart Andy Street also won a second term, defeating former Labour MP Liam Byrne by 54% to 46%:

In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected for a second term, but by a narrower margin than expected. His first preference votes were down by 130,000 from 2016:

Given the fact that the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey got so little media coverage — and, oddly, no support from his own party — he did remarkably well, winning boroughs in the South West of the capital along with Labour-dominated Brent & Harrow as well as Ealing & Hillingdon (see map) in the North West. (In 2016, Khan won Brent & Harrow comfortably.) Bailey also won Croydon and Sutton to the South:

Bailey arrived at City Hall for the final count on Saturday evening:

Labour still dominate the London Assembly. Bailey will retain his seat there:

London is beginning to vote Conservative again because of the high crime rates under Sadiq Khan’s leadership. On the day the results were announced, there was a stabbing at Selfridges in Oxford Street. Unthinkable:

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Labour defeated the Conservatives:

Labour held on to Bristol, with Greens in second place:

Labour MP Tracy Brabin has been elected as the first mayor of West Yorkshire. I hope that she will have to resign her Parliamentary seat as a result.

Scotland

Scotland’s SNP are just one seat of an overall majority.

Nicola Sturgeon has been re-elected to Holyrood and remains First Minister.

Independence referendum redux

Naturally, the Sunday news shows raised the matter of a second independence referendum with UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has the rather grand political title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He plainly told Sophy Ridge of Sky News:

Gove, himself a Scot and being interviewed in Glasgow, rightly pointed out that, when the first independence referendum was held — the one that was supposed to be ‘once in a generation’ — the SNP had an overall majority in Holyrood under Alex Salmond:

Over to the east coast of Scotland, in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon, having campaigned this year on no second independence referendum because of coronavirus, is now game for one:

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers, someone with a Scottish surname, laid out his plan for the next independence referendum. This is excellent, especially the bit about stopping the Barnett formula three years before the referendum. Enough English financing of Scotland, especially as it was supposed to be a temporary measure — in 1979:

I would allow a referendum. On the date of my choosing. Voters must be over 18 and resident in Scotland for the previous 5 years. Why on earth Boris allowed Wales and Scotland to extend their franchises beats me, children vote, students vote TWICE. My referendum will be in 3 years time and to help voters decide I’m stopping the Barnett formula at midnight tonight and any English infrastructure spending in Scotland so they get a clear idea of their economic muscle. Scotland will leave the union with all the SNO’s own debts and 10% of the UK National debt. Scottish ‘ministers’ and council leaders will not be allowed to travel overseas or Zoom with foreign politicians without permission of my Secretary of State. English, Welsh and N Irish students will no longer qualify for grants or loans to attend Scottish universities and Scottish students will pay foreign student fees to study outside Scotland. The NHS in England and Wales will be closed to Scottish residents. Etc. Etc. Three years. Then Orkney and Shetland will be offered the chance to be UK dependant territories with tax haven and Freeport status. Etc. Etc.

Even the BBC’s Andrew Marr, himself a Scot, knows that England helps to finance Scotland. Sturgeon refused to admit it on Sunday morning:

Apparently, now that the election is over, the SNP plan to put their case for independence forward in foreign capitals. I hope they will not be using Barnett consequentials to finance their flights:

Scottish blogger Effie Deans wonders how well other countries will receive Scotland’s plan for secession. It did not work well for Catalonia:

The UK Government has a plan to counteract the SNP’s independence goal — give money directly from London (Westminster) to Scottish councils, bypassing Holyrood:

There have been complaints of coronavirus funds going from Westminster to Scotland and not being allocated locally to ease the damage done by the pandemic. Furthermore, nearly £600,000 seems to be unaccounted for in SNP funds, as can be seen in the Private Eye article below:

Results

Now on to the results. The SNP needed 65 seats for a majority:

One of the regional BBC shows in Wales or Northern Ireland said on Sunday that this was the SNP’s ‘best ever result’, but it is not:

The fly in the ointment was Aberdeen West (see Balmoral below), which the Scottish Conservatives managed to hold on to with an increased majority from 900 to 3,000, probably thanks to George Galloway’s new All for Unity Party:

They were pleased with their wins, which also included re-election in constituencies along the border with England:

And what happened to Alex Salmond’s brand new Alba Party? There was no predicted ‘supermajority’. Alba won no seats:

Interestingly, a poll in the SNP’s favoured newspaper, The National, polled readers on May 4. Alba was mentioned favourably more than once in the polling. Forty-nine per cent of those polled were planning on voting for Alba on their list (peach coloured) ballot. Alex Salmond was also the most impressive independence campaigner next to Nicola Sturgeon (43% to 46%).

Wales

Last, but not least, is Wales, which everyone knew would largely vote Labour, as is their wont.

Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford won re-election.

Like the Scots, they are 1 seat short of a majority.

This is their Senedd (Senate) result:

That said, Labour’s vote share is up, and so is the Conservatives’, as predicted on Election Day:

Guido Fawkes has a summary.

It is unlikely Wales will push for independence any time soon.

Houses of Parliament

On Tuesday, the formal reopening of the Houses of Parliament will take place.

Her Majesty the Queen will give her speech which outlines the Government’s agenda in the House of Commons for the coming months.

More on that this week.

The major results of England’s local election — and Hartlepool’s by-election — are in.

The Conservatives had a few historic victories. The Greens won control of a few councils. Labour held steady in their strongholds but also lost a few of their lonstanding councils.

Highlights follow.

Hartlepool by-election

The other day, I wrote about Hartlepool in the North East of England. In that post was a poll from Survation, which turned out to be spot on.

Hartlepool ended up voting overwhelmingly for the Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer, overthrowing decades of Labour representation in that constituency since its creation in 1974. Prior to that, the constituency was known as The Hartlepools, and Conservatives won the seat once, in 1959.

Survation’s numbers were very accurate.

Here’s the poll from May 4 …

… and the actual result:

I watched Sky News into the early hours of the morning. They went back and forth to Labour MP Jim McMahon, who conceded Hartlepool before the results were known:

Congratulations to cattle farmer Jill Mortimer:

She said:

I look forward to her making her maiden speech in Parliament.

Sky’s Beth Rigby — back at work since being suspended for coronavirus violations — interviewed Boris, who had made three visits to Hartlepool, and now a fourth. The Guardian had a summary of the interview:

Johnson says people voted Tory in 2019 to get Brexit done. They have seen the government did get Brexit done. Now they want it to get on with other things.

He says he wants to move from “jabs, jabs, jabs to jobs, jobs, jobs”.

And he stresses his commitment to levelling up. No government in the past has been as serious about it, he claims.

It’s hardly a ‘claim’. It’s a fact.

Boris’s interview is in the next tweet. New MP Jill Mortimer is on the right:

This is what he said to the BBC:

By the way, Labour always complain about the shortage of women in the House of Commons. In reality, the Commons is well represented by women. Jill Mortimer will add to their number:

Voters do not care about Boris’s curtains

I caught the end of Sky’s coverage on Friday morning.

They interviewed Professor Tony Travers from the London School of Economics. He said that voters do not care about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment. He ended by saying that Boris Johnson is a ‘lucky’ politician.

I disagree that Boris is ‘lucky’. Boris is the type who, when told he cannot do something, will go ahead and achieve it.

The Opposition benches — from Labour to the Lib Dems to the SNP — told him that he could not get a Brexit deal and get us out of the European Union. Yet, he did.

The Opposition also said that Boris should have signed an agreement with the EU’s drugs agency during coronavirus. Thank goodness, he ignored them. We were able to be the first nation in the world to start rolling out the vaccines in December 2020. The EU nations are lagging behind, woefully.

On Election Day, Guido Fawkes reported on a YouGov poll about Boris’s refurb which shows the same lack of interest:

It seemed like an opportunistic pre-election play by Labour and the media to shrink Conservative votes. It did not work. People saw through it.

Oddly, the same people making a big deal out of the Downing Street flat never once asked why Tony Blair and later Gordon Brown — both Labour PMs — spent so much money on it over a period of years from 1997 to 2010. By the way, The Independent‘s John Rentoul is hardly a Boris supporter:

Local councils: notable big wins for Conservatives

The Conservatives have scored notable wins in England.

Not all the council elections are in yet. Counting continues over the weekend. However, we have a few results.

West Midlands

The Guardian reported on the West Midlands:

Early council results showed Labour losing a string of seats, among them 12 seats to the Conservatives in Dudley, giving the Tories control of the council. Of the first 14 seats declared for Nuneaton and Bedworth in Warwickshire, the Conservatives took 13, winning back control of the council from Labour.

In Redditch in Worcestershire, the first nine seats declared all went to the Conservatives, seven being taken from Labour, including Labour’s former council leader and deputy leader.

North East

The Conservatives took control of Northumberland council from no overall control.

South East

The Conservatives also won Harlow Council in Essex, not far from London.

The Guardian said:

A number of Conservative gains were aided by the party acquiring what was a significant Ukip vote from the last time they were contested, in 2016 or 2017, illustrating the scale of the long-term, structural issues facing Labour.

The UKIP factor had mostly to do with the fact that the party had no candidate in those elections. Therefore, there was no one to siphon away Conservative votes.

However, there is more to it than UKIP in the West Midlands and parts of the North. A number of Conservative MPs were elected to represent constituencies in those regions in 2019. They are local and they are serving the people of those areas on the ground and in Parliament. Two Conservative regional mayors, Andy Street of the West Midlands and Ben Houchen of Teesside, have been doing a great job in working with the UK Government on various local projects to revitalise those areas. 

Ultimately, via MPs and regional mayors, the Conservatives hope to build a solid voting base in previous Labour strongholds. Labour and the media said that the 2019 victories for the Conservatives were a one-off. I beg to differ. These election results are proving them wrong.

North West

An example of that is in the Audley and Queens’ Park ward of the unitary council of Blackburn with Darwen in the North West. It now has a Conservative councillor, a laudable result, for Tiger Patel (more here):

There was also a big Conservative win in the Royton North ward of Oldham Council in Lancashire:

Questions for Labour’s Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has been Labour leader only for a short period of time.

It would be easy, though unfair, to lay all the blame at his feet.

For 20 years, the small ‘c’ conservative working class has viewed Labour as a party of the big cities: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Labour does not speak for the working class in the rest of the nation. More voters are deserting the party with each election:

The Guardian has an interview with several prominent Labour Party members talking about ‘change’ and Starmer’s failure to ‘change’ quickly enough. However, Labour put their stake in the ground 20 years ago. Anyone watching BBC Parliament can see how radical some of their MPs are, especially the women. Several of those elected in 2019 gave their maiden speeches mentioning how much they believed in ‘socialism’. One went so far as to mention ‘Marxist ideals’. No one outside a major city is going to vote for a candidate like that.

It’s not Starmer’s fault Labour lost so many council seats, even if a number of those councils are still Labour controlled. The fact of the matter is that fewer voters like Labour. Labour don’t make it easy for themselves.

No cabinet reshuffle can fix their problem — radicalism:

Conclusion

The English are not a radical people.

They want to be able to work and bring up children in prosperity and safety.

They will vote for candidates best able to provide those conditions for them. This accounts for the gradual shift away from Labour towards the Conservatives.

More election news will follow next week, all being well.

By the way, that’s Jersey as in the Channel Islands, not New Jersey.

The 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death was May 5, 2021.

A solemn commemoration was held at Les Invalides in Paris:

A number of Metro and railway stations in Paris are named after Napoleon’s victories:

French president Emmanuel Macron was always a keen student of history, particularly Napoleon.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also a keen student of history, especially of battles that took place in antiquity.

Now we have a post-Brexit situation. France is upset that their fishing boats cannot go in Jersey’s waters.

Sky News explains the new post-Brexit rules (emphases mine):

French fishing crews are demonstrating as part of a row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Under the Brexit trade deal, which came into force on 1 January, EU fishermen continue to have some rights to fish in UK waters as part of a transition period until 2026.

However, under the new rules, EU boats wanting to fish within 12 miles of the UK coast need to be licensed and prove they have a history of fishing in those waters in order to carry on operating.

This includes submitting evidence of their past fishing activities.

Jersey has not granted licences to some of the boats that have applied to fish in its waters.

Ian Gorst, the island’s external relations minister, said of the 41 boats which sought licences under the new rules last Friday, all but 17 had provided the evidence required.

“The trade deal is clear but I think there has been some confusion about how it needs to be implemented, because we absolutely respect the historic rights of French fishermen to fish in Jersey waters as they have been doing for centuries,” he said.

“I do think a solution can be found. I am optimistic that we can provide extra time to allow this evidence to be provided.”

The French government has also expressed its anger at what it said were unilaterally-imposed conditions on the fishing licences, including the time French fishing vessels could spend in Jersey’s waters.

Jersey said it had issued permits in line with the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal.

The Jersey Evening Post reported:

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fisherman’s Association, said Jersey had been ‘quite generous’ in its licensing scheme and described France’s response as an ‘over-reaction’.

He said: ‘The EU have signed up to the [post-Brexit] Trade and Co-operation Agreement which states that Jersey must recognise the extent of previous fishing in our waters. The restrictions on the new licences cover what the French were already doing in our waters and are only preventing them from expanding their fishing efforts, which is needed if we are going to have sustainability in our waters.

‘A point that is being missed is that Jersey boats do not have licences to fish in French waters – we are restricted to our own territorial waters while they can use ours, if any restrictions are placed on their own.’

Mr Thompson also highlighted how the approved 41 French vessels had been given a licence for free and urged Jersey’s government not to give in to the French.

‘Our boats would be charged £250,000 if they were to have something similar. Our advice to ministers is that they should not capitulate to these intimidation and bullying tactics that are being used,’ he said.

‘If we do capitulate now then they are just going to do the same thing every time we try to apply some form of management to make our waters sustainable.’

An oyster farmer from Jersey, mentioned in the headline, disagreed.

France threatened to cut off the electricity supply to Jersey. They have since backed down. Jersey Electricity said that customers did not have to worry:

On the evening of May 5, Guido Fawkes posted:

A reader responded:

These were the headlines on May 6:

They are armed fisheries protection vessels, or river class ships:

I wonder if the Royal Marines will use their new jetpack technology (videos here and here). It enables a Royal Marine to fly up to 12,000 feet in the air and up to 80mph:

As I write, these were the developments on Thursday, May 6. HMS Tamar, recently repainted with ‘dazzle’ camouflage, set sail for Jersey that morning:

We’re in 2021 and not 1588 (sinking of the Spanish Armada), but, even so, there is a frisson of excitement about this:

France responded by sending two of their ships:

Guido Fawkes has more on France’s reaction:

Guido’s post says (emphases in the original here):

The head of the joint Normandy-Brittany sea authority has declared they are “ready for war” and “can bring Jersey to its knees” as tensions continue to ramp up between the UK and France over Jersey at a dizzying pace. War with France can only help Boris’s 10 point poll lead…

Responding to two navy vessels being sent by Britain to patrol the situation last night, Macron has retaliated by sending one of his own military boats, to join 100 French fishing vessels blockading the harbour. A French minister has said the country “won’t be intimidated” by British manoeuvres

A military historian posted a thread about French fishermen protesting in Jersey:

This morning, a Jersey resident re-enacted an ancient battle with the French. He did this in safety, far from the port. Talk show host Jeremy Vine demonstrated how the blockade of the port was unfolding:

It’s hard to disagree with this:

Negotiations are now taking place on Jersey between their government and the French fishermen:

The Jersey Evening Post reported:

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst, said: ‘We are meeting with French fishing leaders this morning to listen to their concerns regarding fishing rights. There are continuing extensive political and operational efforts with both our local fishing community and French fishing associations, their regional representatives in France, and both the UK and French governments, in order to resolve the current dispute and resume previous good relations.’

A number of Islanders have turned up to watch and police are at the scene.

Although the crews have been setting off flares, the protest has so far remained peaceful.

One French fisherman complained that France has to go through the EU first for any resolution:

That could explain why Charles-Henri Gallois, president of Génération Frexit, is using this disagreement as an argument for France to leave the EU. He says:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-6f25fc75-eb83-47c2-9edb-760677cabdc4

Here’s his tweet, which met with an equally Frexit response:

Gallois also posted a link to an article in Les Echos, France’s leading business newspaper, which says that the UK was able to handle their coronavirus vaccine rollout with ‘great efficacy’. Gallois says that a free country which is independent is always more effective than one which is bureaucratic, slow and with divergent interests. He adds that, if one adds the totally antidemocratic aspect of the EU, one should not hesitate a single second to leave:

I wish Charles-Henri Gallois and Génération Frexit all the best in their pursuit of a France free from the EU.

Meanwhile, one wonders if the French are aware that today, Thursday, is England’s local election day. As Guido says, this can only help Boris and the Conservatives.

UPDATE: IT ENDED BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED.

By dinnertime, the French fishermen had left Jersey:

Boris declared victory:

This is Guido Fawkes’s version:

Guido reported:

The PM has hailed the end of the third battle of Jersey, understatedly calling the matter “resolved” after the 100 French fishing boats ran away earlier this afternoon.

The announcement comes as No. 10 says the two Royal Navy vessels will depart the island’s waters in the coming hours, though will remain on standby in case Jersey once again finds itself in an hour of need. In the words of Maggie, just rejoice at that news, and congratulate our forces and the marines…

Many thanks to all involved in resolving this situation quickly. Even a small nuisance can be a lingering irritant if left to fester.

Thursday, May 6, 2021, could be a historic day for the constituency of Hartlepool in the North East of England.

Labour MP Mike Hill had to stand down earlier this year because of allegations of sexual harassment and victimisation. Voters will elect his replacement on Thursday.

The by-election is principally between an NHS physician, Dr Paul Williams (Labour), and Jill Mortimer (Conservative), a cattle farmer who lives in the North East but not in Hartlepool, something of which the media make much ado. Dr Williams is a former MP for nearby Stockton South (2017-2019) and lost his 2019 bid to Matt Vickers, a Conservative. He was also the CEO of the Hartlepool and Stockton Health GP Federation, which oversees 37 practices in Hartlepool and Stockton.

Hartlepool would be a significant, and one of the last, bricks in the Red Wall (historically Labour constituencies in the North) to fall to the Conservatives since the 2019 general election. The Conservative MPs representing the former Red Wall constituencies are from the North, know the issues and are willing to fight for the people they represent. In Parliament, they are no-nonsense, feisty and spiky. They do not hesitate to call out Labour on their lies.

Furthermore, Teesside, where Hartlepool is located, has a popular Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, more about whom below.

Everyone wonders whether the constituency’s new MP will be a Conservative, ending decades of consecutive Labour victories:

On May 3, this is what polling showed over time once Hill stood down:

Guido Fawkes reported (emphases in the original):

Expectations management by both Labour and the Tories sees them both privately spinning that it is on a knife edge that they fear they could lose or expect to lose respectively. Betting markets were neck and neck until a few weeks ago. Punters seem to think the Tories could steal it. A second visit to Hartlepool by the PM does suggest he is happy to own the outcome…

UPDATE: A recount shows this is the PM’s third trip. Despite No. 10 doing expectation management, it sounds like Tories on the ground are gaining confidence …

Boris is being careful

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been careful to manage Conservatives’ expectations and to maintain the campaign momentum on the ground:

It was difficult for Liz Truss MP to contain herself in an interview with ITV News today:

What locals say

Guido Fawkes’s readers have been giving their views of what has been happening in Hartlepool over the years.

One says (emphases mine):

Labour have done nothing for the north east especially Teesside. Remember when that slimeball Mandelson was parachuted in to Hartlepool to give him a safe seat? Great example of how Labour took their voters for granted (holding them in contempt more like) and no wonder they lost the red wall. The Tories are much more likely to deliver for this area and the locals know it. Boris has many faults but he realizes that the future of the Conservative Party rests in places like Hartlepool. Credit to him for recognizing this.

Another says:

Dr Williams being exposed as a sexist first with him deleting naughty tweets after being caught. Then he and Labour campaigned AGAINST the closure of Hartlepool Hospitals A & E and the transfer of essential services to North Tees in Stockton. They tried to portray as a Tory closure when it was proposed by none other than Dr Williams himself, and it was Peter Mandelson who wanted to close the entire hospital down.

Add that to the sitting Labour MP forced to resign because of sexual assault accusations and Labour promising an all FEMALE shortlist but parachuting Dr Williams in instead.

Plus a few other things such as Hartlepool being a 68% LEAVE voting town and Williams being an arch Remainer who wanted to overturn the EU referendum result.

This comment explains why the town voted Leave in the Brexit referendum:

Hartlepool’s trawler fleet devastated by the much bigger French and Spanish boats that destroyed our fisheries when we joined the EU, and the EU Commissioner NEIL KINNOCK [Labour] who refused to allow the government to supply British steel with cheap or free energy for the blast furnaces, and, of course, the EU edict that ordered the closure of the Tees shipyards in order to address over capacity in Europe, with the Labour party at the time saying the closures were the price we had to pay for European harmonisation.

That’s why Hartlepool voted LEAVE, because the EU, not the Tories, ruined the region.

Tanya Gold went to Hartlepool for UnHerd and filed a report: ‘How the Left lost Hartlepool’.

Incidentally, Hartlepool once made ships; it had 43 ship-owning companies in 1913. Now it has nothing.

She talked to the locals, one of whom is a pub landlord and an independent councillor. He said that the local council election is just as important as the parliamentary by-election:

There are two Hartlepools: the Headland (“The Heugh”), an ancient fishing village, and the newer West Hartlepool (Hartlepool means “stag pool”). I go to the Headland. There is a fabulous Norman church, St Hilda’s, built on the site of a 7th century abbey, named for the patron saint of poetry. Its bells cannot be rung, due to weakness of the tower. What a metaphor! There are fine Georgian and Victorian houses on the sea, but they are crumbling, and in the gaps when others have fallen, modern housing: a history of English architecture, in mistakes …

I eat roast beef in the Cosmopolitan pub — the name is a gag — on the Headland, and I meet the landlord, the independent councillor Tim Fleming. Fleming says: “We’ve had enough of people just getting dumped on us, ‘oh that’s a safe seat, put him there’. It’s the London Labour Party where it [the rot] started.”

For Fleming, some voters have passed beyond despair to cynicism. “If you have a Tory up as mayor in Teesside [Ben Houchen] and a Tory in Hartlepool — all the Tories in all the towns they’ve took over — they might do [something] because they might be looking to build a new power base that’s longer lasting than the one they’ve had. They’ve never had anything in the North so who knows? If he [Houchen] gets re-elected, there’ll be nothing if we have a Labour MP and a Labour council in Hartlepool. No money will come here, never has done”.

2019 election result

The Independent‘s John Rentoul points out that a Conservative victory on Thursday might be a logical eventuality. Note the number of their votes and the number of Brexit Party votes in 2019, when Labour’s Mike Hill was elected:

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer looked a bit worried in this interview with Sky News:

Mayoral election

The Conservatives have two popular mayors running for re-election on Thursday. Andy Street represents the West Midlands and, as mentioned above, Ben Houchen represents the Tees Valley. Their polling results look healthy:

On May 4, The Financial Times featured a profile of Ben Houchen: ‘Tories’ red wall shows no signs of crumbling on Teesside’. He is young, dynamic and gets things done in a part of England that has lost much of its proud industry: shipbuilding, steel making and fishing, to name but a few.

Excerpts follow:

As a close ally of Boris Johnson, Houchen’s plans were unlocked when Johnson became prime minister in 2019. After freeport status was granted in the Budget in March, GE announced a new wind turbine factory on Teesside, creating 1,000 new roles. Although economists question the value of freeports, Houchen believes the status is vital for the area.

“People can talk about displacement, they can talk about additionality, GE were going to expand their factory in France if we didn’t get the freeport . . . it has cost the exchequer nothing,” he said. “If we can do what we want to deliver on that site, as well as across Teesside, you are getting dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of new employers.”

Houchen is up for re-election on May 6, when the 34-year-old hopes to gain a second term representing a conurbation of several of England’s post-industrial towns. From Stockton to Middlesbrough, this corner of England once had deep connections to the opposition Labour party — ties that were cut when the region’s heavy manufacturing industries entered inexorable decline.

In 2017, he delivered an electoral shock by winning the Tees Valley mayoralty for the Conservatives. His victory represented the first brick to be chipped out of the so-called “red wall”: Labour’s traditional heartland areas of England which have defected to the Tories over Brexit. Now he hopes to prove that the victory was not a one-off.

In 2017, he made an incredible campaign promise, which he kept:

His election pitch then was unconventional for a Tory: Houchen pledged to renationalise the small Teesside airport and reinstate more flights. If the plan failed, he would sell off the land to recoup the costs. It now has 18 flights a day, compared to two before, and with 1.4m passengers passing through its doors, is on track to turn a profit within a decade.

As part of the Conservatives’ ‘levelling up’ agenda for the North, the Government has sent a lot of money to that part of England:

Chancellor Rishi Sunak chose the former railway town of Darlington in Tees Valley to be home for the Treasury’s new northern economic campus. The government has also granted £52m for a carbon capture project as part of Teesside’s burgeoning renewable sector.

Even Houchen’s opponent, Labour’s Jessie Joe Jacobs sounded discouraged, a situation not helped by the fact that she got coronavirus during the final days of the campaign:

Struck down with coronavirus in the final 10 days before polling day, Jacobs acknowledged the campaign has been difficult for Labour, given its wider decline in Teesside, and described the fight with Houchen as a “David and Goliath scenario”.

The FT reporter went to Darlington to interview people there. One was particularly bullish on Boris:

Tony Law, a taxi driver waiting for customers, predicted Houchen would “win by a landslide” and praised his improvements to the area. He voted for him in 2017 and would back him again. “He’s done a hell of a lot to change the area. He’s clearly had an impact,” he said.

Law felt the recent row about Johnson’s use of donations to redecorate the Downing Street flat was irrelevant. “He deserves nice curtains given what he’s been through with Covid. Boris has done a great job, especially with the vaccines.”

The article ended with the Hartlepool by-election:

As well as the mayoralty, Tees Valley will be especially important on May 6 because of the Hartlepool by-election in the region. The town was such a Labour stronghold that the Conservatives did not target it in the 2019 election.

Were the Tories able to take it for the first time in 62 years, it would add credence to the view that a realignment among England’s working class is taking place. According to a new YouGov poll this week, the Conservatives have a 19 point lead among working class voters.

The biggest danger for Labour is what one red wall Tory MP described as the “Houchen factor”: voters will double tick to re-elect the mayor and Jill Mortimer to be Hartlepool’s first Conservative MP. One of Labour’s shadow cabinet ministers who has visited the seat cautioned that “it’s not looking good”.

It’s hard to recall a local election as exciting as this one, especially with the Hartlepool by-election. I hope to have more later this week or early next week after the results are in and analysed.

One wonders if Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has Conservatives on his PR team.

He certainly has not had a good campaign for his party’s candidates in the run up to England’s local elections on Thursday, May 6.

On Monday, April 19, he got off to a rocky start with a visit to a pub in Bath in the West Country, shortly after pubs were allowed to reopen for outdoor service after our winter lockdown. Publican — and Labour voter — Rod Humphris of The Raven gave Starmer a piece of his mind, saying that he did a lousy job of opposing the Government’s coronavirus restrictions:

I have been a Labour voter my entire life. You have failed to be the Opposition … You have failed this country.

Pub customers must remain outdoors unless they need to use the loo. Humphris and other publicans could be doing better business if they were allowed to have customers indoors. He showed Starmer a chart with ONS statistics showing coronavirus is no longer the threat it was a year ago. He also gave the Labour leader a brief talk about other statistics on the harm lockdown has done to Britain, from children to the economy.

Starmer dismissed it and told Humphris he did not need any ‘lectures’ from him — then proceeded to enter the pub.

The nerve of Starmer. He knows the rules.

Humphris tried to push Starmer’s security man away from the door but failed. The burly security man held on to Humphris on the staircase. Shouting about being assaulted, Humphris tried to break free. Meanwhile, Starmer was having a look around the pub’s interior.

Humphris shouted:

Get out of my pub!

Somewhere along the line, Humphris’s spectacles fell off. Starmer had them in his hand. On his way out the door, he quietly returned them to Humphris. Starmer and his two security men then left, telling people to get out of their way, adding a stern ‘please’.

This is the electioneering video of the year — and the full version:

I’ve watched that video several times and would encourage others to see it at least once.

It paints a perfect portrait of what another Labour government would be like, barging in wherever they like with burly security detail.

Heaven forfend.

Rule No. 1 of pubgoing: the publican is in charge of his/her public house — ‘My gaff, my rules’.

Here is the late Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell, the publican on BBC’s EastEnders, ordering customers to ‘get out of my pub’:

Meanwhile, elsewhere in England that day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a pleasant conversation with two pubgoers:

As questions mounted about Boris’s Downing Street flat refurbishment, Starmer paid a visit to a John Lewis store to look at wallpaper last Thursday:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases in the original):

Guido’s interested to see Starmer arrive at John Lewis this afternoon for a smug photoshoot amid flat-gate. It’s undoubtedly a smirk-raising photo-op, though it’s undermined by Starmer’s own words at PMQs yesterday, who ranted at Boris:

This is a Prime Minister who, during the pandemic, was nipping out of meetings to choose wallpaper

Now the Tories are able to accuse Starmer of playing party politics, and doing so during a pandemic. 

On Friday, May 30, the former Director of Public Prosecutions found himself trolled by a young Conservative in Manchester:

Guido Fawkes had the story:

He may have thought a trip to Labour’s Manchester heartland would have been a safe choice after his infamous Bristol pub confrontation, however Sir Keir was once again caught out. Posing with Twitter user Jordan Hutchinson he smiled and gave a thumbs-up, only to have Hutchinson tell viewers “Vote Conservative”. It’s appropriate Starmer spent yesterday in John Lewis’s home furnishings section, as it’s looking curtains for him…

Jordan Peterson’s video amused James Cleverly MP, Minister for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. A member of the public replied to say that Labour have only themselves to blame:

Starmer ended the week with a visit to a gym. Oh, dear. The late Margaret Thatcher was more adept with a handbag:

Actor and musician Laurence Fox of the libertarian Reclaim Party is running for Mayor of London. He posted an interesting video on May 1 showing Starmer and other Labour Party members, including at least one other MP, enjoying drinks together indoors, something we are not allowed to do at present because of the pandemic:

Laurence Fox stands by the video and his tweet:

Starmer’s Labour seems to be all about rules for ‘thee but not for me’. Who would want that, even at a local level?

The UK’s local elections will take place on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Labour have been casting shade on Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the past few weeks over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. As one would expect, the left-leaning media are having a field day.

On Wednesday, April 28, after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer verbally attacked Boris at the despatch box during PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), Boris let rip by listing all the Conservative government’s achievements on Brexit and coronavirus over the past 16 months. The fact that he could rattle everything off in just under two minutes is impressive. Even better, it looks as if our pre-COVID Boris is back. The Conservative MP for West Bromwich East in the West Midlands tweeted:

Here are two more Conservative achievements:

The media are dead wrong when they say that ‘Boris is on the ropes’:

Here is a more recent poll, taken earlier this week:

Last weekend, the papers were full of stories about what Boris allegedly said before reluctantly announcing a third lockdown around Christmas. He denies having spoken these words, and Labour made a big deal about this earlier this week in Parliament. The public, however, view it in a more nuanced way:

Then we come to the refurbishment of the flat in Downing Street. It is alleged that Boris received funds from a Conservative Party donor to top up the statutory £30k maximum from the taxpayer. The public aren’t that interested:

I’ve seen photographs of one of the redecorated rooms. It looks very Turkish, including the pictures. Although some might find a deep red patterned wallpaper with matching sofa agreeable, it’s not the sort of room most people could stay in for long because it is too ‘busy’. There is no solid pastel shade anywhere. The next occupant will be busy redecorating it, at taxpayers’ expense, to look more neutral.

That has been the work of First Fiancée Carrie Symonds (the ‘y’ is a long ‘i’, as in ‘Simon’), who does not strike most of us as a true Conservative. If Conservatives have any complaint, it’s been that she seems to be running the Government via Boris.

Douglas Murray wrote a great article which appeared today in The Spectator: ‘Carrie Symonds and the First Girlfriend problem’.

Unlike the United States, European countries have a tradition whereby leaders’ spouses take a back seat where politics is concerned. They stay out of the limelight. This is probably the first time in living memory where a British partner of a Prime Minister has been involved in decision making.

Murray explains:

There is no getting around the fact that there is a problem with Carrie Symonds, which it is probably best to have out now.

In 2019 our Prime Minister came in with a significant and clear mandate. Covid has added significantly to his workload. But for many of us he seemed the perfect — even the only — man for the hour. Yet as that hour has gone on, problems of his own creation keep appearing. Too many of them originate from the sway — even terror — his younger companion seems to exert over him.

Carrie Symonds herself is a perfectly nice, intelligent person who successfully worked her way through Conservative campaign headquarters. But she is having too great an impact on the course of government. There are issues the Prime Minister avoids because she does not favour them. And there are others — principally green issues — which he appears to adopt to satisfy her. The feeling is growing that the First Girlfriend wants political power without the trouble of having to run for office, and to wield it without any resulting criticism. This is not a sustainable state of affairs …

It is not just policy she seeks to influence. The First Girlfriend seems to have a desire to be involved in all personnel issues. Her principal ambition seems to be for her friends to make up all the central control flanks around the Prime Minister. This was one of the main causes of Dominic Cummings’s exit from Downing Street last year …

It seems no Carrie-related issue is ever too minor to distract the PM. Last year she made him stop a Cobra meeting at the height of the Covid crisis. The urgent cause was her demand that the PM make an official complaint to the Times newspaper over a story claiming that Carrie’s affections for the couple’s Jack Russell, Dilyn, had cooled in the year since the couple adopted him …

the trap laid by Carrie and her defenders is clear. Say that Carrie has gained political influence only because of who her boyfriend is, and you will be accused of being envious of powerful, successful women who have made it in their own right. ‘Carrie is an expert in politics,’ one well-briefed source recently told the media. And she may well be. But that is not why she is sleeping in No. 10.

In the UK anyone who wishes to have political power should run for elected office. The emergent Office of First Lady is clearly a source of tension in Downing Street, and is already responsible for an unprecedented number of interventions in policy areas that affect our country. We hear nothing from the Prime Minister on issues he was elected on, and far too much on ones that Carrie happens to favour. The Prime Minister may have need of a First Girlfriend, but the country does not.

A year ago, I was wondering why Boris’s priorities were changing. Was it because of coronavirus or Carrie?

Twelve months on, I have my answer.

As far as local elections go, however, the Carrie problem is unlikely to affect voters’ opinions. Those determined to vote Conservative will carry on regardless of Carrie.

Sadly, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died on Friday, April 9, 2021, exactly two months short of his 100th birthday:

The Queen has lost her best friend. My deepest sympathies to her for the unimaginable loss of her long-time husband and daily confidant. My condolences also go to the Royal Family in their grief.

Young love

The couple first met in 1934, and began corresponding when the Prince was 18 and a cadet in the Royal Navy. Princess Elizabeth was 13 at the time.

She was smitten with him from the start.

Prince Philip served with distinction during the Second World War in the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets.

After the war ended, he could have had a stellar career in the Royal Navy. His superiors praised his clear leadership skills.

However, love intervened and the rest was history.

Born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, he renounced his foreign titles and took British citizenship before he and Princess Elizabeth were engaged. He took the surname of his maternal grandparents: Mountbatten.

He and Princess Elizabeth were engaged in July 1947. They married on November 20 that year. Shortly before the wedding, George VI gave him the titles of Duke of Edinburgh (created for him), Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

Prince Philip remained in the Royal Navy until July 1951. He retired with the rank of Commander.

Royal succession — and surname

In January 1952, he and the Queen began a tour of the Commonwealth countries. They were in Kenya when news reached them that the Queen’s father, George VI, died on February 6 that year.

Although she became Queen immediately upon her father’s death, her coronation took place in 1953, as it had to be planned meticulously.

On Coronation Day, he knelt before her, clasped her hands and swore an oath of allegiance to her:

He also had to touch her crown and kiss her on the cheek.

He never had a constitutional role, nor was he ever formally given the title of Royal Consort. The courtiers did not like him, nor did they trust him. They believed his personality to be brash and unbecoming of the Royal household. They shut him out of as much decision making as possible.

When Elizabeth became Queen, the question about her family name arose. Prince Philip suggested that the Royal Family be known as the House of Edinburgh. Upon discovering that suggestion, Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s grandmother, wrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who advised the young monarch to issue a royal proclamation saying that the Royal Family would continue to be known as the House of Windsor.

In his inimitable style, Prince Philip complained privately:

I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children. [57]

The Queen did nothing until eight years later, in 1960, 11 days before she gave birth to Prince Andrew. She issued an Order in Council declaring that the surname of her and her husband’s male-line descendants who are not styled as Royal Highness or titled as prince or princess would be Mountbatten-Windsor.

Pater familias

Prince Philip had to carve a role out for himself. He became the pater familias and, through the years, his role expanded to cover not only his four children but his grandchildren. He listened to their concerns, shared their joys and gave them advice. He knew everything that went on in their lives.

Although the public knew him for speaking as he saw — rather bluntly, on occasion — behind closed doors Prince Philip was known to be a warm, loving man.

He also favoured a more transparent Royal Family. According to the BBC, it was he who encouraged the Queen to make a multi-episode documentary on their daily lives, including those of their four children. It was broadcast in the late 1960s. I remember seeing it in the United States.

When Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, Prince Philip was the one who kept an eye on the public mood that fateful week. He, the Queen and Princes William and Harry were at Balmoral in Scotland for their summer holiday. When the young princes wanted to attend church, their grandparents took them to the Sunday service on the day of their mother’s death. Later in the week, it was Prince Philip who encouraged the boys to walk behind the funeral procession the following Saturday. He said:

If you don’t walk, I think you’ll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me? [93]

One cannot imagine what he thought of Prince Harry’s departure for the United States to live a life separate from his closely knit family. I did read that the Royal Family shielded information about the Oprah interview from him.

John F Kennedy’s funeral

Prince Philip was in Washington for John F Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.

He had a friendly encounter with John Jr, who was still a toddler and known as John-John at the time. The child wondered where his father was, as he had no one with whom to play. The Prince stepped in to fill that gap. In 1965, the British government gave an acre of land at Runnymede to the United States for use as a memorial to JFK:

Funeral arrangements

Prince Philip was self-effacing and did not like a fuss to be made over him.

Therefore, the funeral arrangements will respect his wishes, which is rather convenient, as coronavirus restrictions are still in place. Up to 30 people will be allowed at his funeral, in line with legislation across the nation:

The funeral is scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 17:

It is interesting that Prince Harry will be able to attend when we have a 10-day quarantine in place for arrivals into the UK under coronavirus regulations.

The Sunday Mirror reported on Prince Harry’s return to the UK:

He could also be released from quarantine if he gets a negative private test on day five, under the Test to Release scheme.

Given his status as a member of the Royal Family travelling to support the Queen, Harry might be considered exempt from travel restrictions.

Wow. It’s nice to know we have a two-tiered quarantine system in place /sarc.

A championship boxer remembers the Prince

Former WBC Heavyweight Champion Frank Bruno MBE posted his memories of meeting Prince Philip. He is at the top left in the following photo:

An Anglican priest remembers the Prince

The Revd Peter Mullen, an Anglican priest, recalled his encounters with Prince Philip for Conservative Woman on April 10 in ‘A personal recollection’.

He first met the Prince during his schooldays:

The first time I met the Prince was in connection with his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme which gave a leg up to youngsters from what would now be called the less privileged parts of the country. He paid a visit to the Leeds branch of the Church Lads’ Brigade of which, aged fourteen, I was a member. We were in the church hall making things. My task was to make a table lamp. I was hopeless at it.

The Duke got hold of my half-finished creation, held it up to one eye and said, ‘I suppose this hole is where the flex goes?’

‘I think so, Sir.’

‘You think so? I was never any good at this sort of thing either!’

And he was off . . . 

As an adult, Mullen met him on more than one occasion thanks to the Honourable Company of Air Pilots. The Prince was its Grand Master. Mullen served as chaplain.

He recalls:

The Company gave a lunch for him to mark his 80th birthday and I recall how jovial he was, making light of his years: ‘I believe I have lasted so long because you people are always toasting my good health, but I don’t want to live to be a hundred. Things are dropping off already!’

At another luncheon one of our Liverymen who had his own port wine business presented the prince with Bottle Number One, the first fruits, so to speak. As he left, the duke handed the bottle to me: ‘You have this, Peter. Our house floats on the bloody stuff.’

‘Well, Sir, now I don’t know whether to drink it or frame it.’

‘Gerrit down ya neck!’

Prince Philip on MPs

Guido Fawkes came up with a good quote from one of the Prince’s trips to Ghana. It concerns MPs. His Ghanaian hosts told him the country had 200 MPs. Prince Philip replied:

That’s about the right number. We have 650 and most of them are a complete bloody waste of time.

Incidentally, Parliament will be recalled one day early from Easter recess. On Monday, April 12, MPs and Lords paid tribute to the Prince in their respective Houses:

That afternoon, the House of Commons reconvened to pay their tribute — from 2:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. (good grief).

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke first:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had this to say:

Boris Johnson, who was invited to the funeral but declined so that another member of the Royal Family can attend, said that he would forego a pint when pub gardens reopen on April 12, out of respect for the Prince. Guido Fawkes, however, thinks that the Duke of Edinburgh would have wanted us to toast his memory, especially at a pub that bears his title in Brixton, south London:

Guido had a second tweet on the subject with another quote from the Prince:

Agreed.

Prince Philip on Australia

This is too funny. For those who are unaware, Australia was established as a place where Britain could send convicts. That was a long time ago, but the nation’s original purpose was to serve as a prison:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-dd97fb07-388d-4ddb-91b8-ccf8a88d5905

Prince Philip on civil liberties

On a serious note, the 12-minute interview below from 1984 is well worth watching, especially in the coronavirus era.

Prince Philip firmly supported the rights of the individual and believed that the state should serve the individual, not, as in our times, the other way around.

This is from a Thames Television programme originally broadcast on ITV:

I have posted the video below in case the tweets are deleted:

The Prince also said that certain subjects are out of bounds, such as the media and the NHS.

He said that the media are incapable of taking a joke about themselves and, as for the NHS, well, one cannot say anything against it. He didn’t necessarily dislike the NHS but thought it was held in too high a regard. Nothing is perfect in this world.

We have been travelling a long road towards the point where we are at present: ruled by the media (they clamoured for coronavirus restrictions) and worship of the NHS. This is how Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and SAGE have been able to rule our lives. It’s been at least 40 years in the making.

BBC coverage on Friday

I was watching BBC Parliament early Friday afternoon, around 1:15, when the programme was interrupted by a broadcast from the BBC News Channel.

I checked the schedule an hour later, which said that the programme would last until 4 p.m. It was still going when I was preparing dinner at 5 p.m.

The final of MasterChef was to have been broadcast that night on BBC1. This was a clip from Thursday’s programme:

Pictured are the hosts and judges, chef/restaurateur John Torode on the left and former greengrocer, now television presenter, Gregg Wallace on the right:

BUT:

The BBC News channel was simulcast all afternoon and all night long, not only on BBC Parliament but also on BBC1, to the dismay of MasterChef fans (myself included), and BBC2. BBC4 was suspended for the evening.

I read on social media that the BBC also broadcast continuous coverage of Prince Philip on their radio stations, including Radio 2, knocking out Steve Wright’s drive-time show on Friday afternoon.

A friend of mine said that most of the BBC’s employees were probably rubbing their hands with glee because it meant an early weekend for them. It’s a cynical perspective that could well turn out to be true. We’ll find out when someone writes his or her memoirs.

Everyone with a television set receives the BBC News channel. It comes into our homes at no extra charge. There was no need for the BBC to take over every channel for hours on end. By the way, if one had watched two hours of the Prince Philip coverage, as I did, one would have seen and heard everything in its entirety.

The BBC braced themselves for a plethora of complaints; they took the relevant page down on Sunday. Good. I am sure Prince Philip would have objected, too.

As much as I love the Queen, I hope they do not try this when her day comes. God willing, may it be long into the future.

Record-beating prince

Prince Philip established two records as consort to the Queen. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history. He was also the longest-lived male member of the British royal family.

May he rest in eternal peace with his Maker.

May our gracious Lord grant the Queen, Defender of the Faith, His infinite peace and comfort in the months ahead. May He also bless the Royal Family during this difficult time.

Parliament is entering Easter recess on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

A few notable news items follow from both Houses — and the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament — MSPs standing down

A number of MSPs are standing down from their seats in Holyrood. Scots will elect new MSPs in May.

The Scotsman has a useful list, complete with photos, cited below. Emphases mine:

While all 129 of Holyrood’s seats will be contested at this year’s ballot, more than a quarter of the current crop of MSPs are standing down – including high profile figures like Ruth Davidson, Iain Gray and Jeane Freeman.

Highlights follow.

Independent

I will miss Ken Macintosh, who was a faultless convener presiding over fractious debates during the past year:

Ken Macintosh has been an MSP since the opening of the parliament in 1999, before unsuccessfully seeking the Labour leadership twice. He was elected as the parliament’s fifth presiding officer in 2016, but announced in September that he would not be seeking re-election as an MSP.

Scottish Conservatives

Ruth Davidson will be elevated to the House of Lords:

The former Scottish Tories leader took over the party’s reins at Holyrood once more when MP Douglas Ross was elected as the new leader last year. Ms Davidson will now take up a seat in the House of Lords.

Scottish Labour

Iain Gray is ending a long career as an MSP:

Former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and is currently Labour’s education spokesman at Holyrood.

SNP

Here is the list of SNP MSPs who are standing down. Many have been in Holyrood for a number of years:

Jeane Freeman was in charge of health during the coronavirus crisis. Many residents of Scottish care homes died during that time.

One wonders what she will do next:

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed she will not seek re-election. The Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP said she had “more she wanted to do” outside of politics.

The Scotsman has an interesting article from 2018 about her career history at that time:

Jeane Freeman, for it was she, has moved on to greater things as Health Minister in the Scottish Government. In the first half of this decade, she was a useful cog in the SNP machine as a former Labour apparatchik who, when the wind changed, discovered she was really a Nationalist.

Long a habituée of the quango circuit, Ms Freeman’s new appointments included the disastrous Scottish Police Authority. In her peak year of 2013-14, she pulled in £57,000 from that source alone. There were a couple of NHS roles, not forgetting the Judicial Appointments Board.

All this added up to 376 paid days in the financial year. One might have thought the Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments (for such a person exists) might have done the arithmetic and asked questions but that is to over-estimate the vigilance of our non-barking watchdogs.

At the same time, Ms Freeman fronted “Women for Independence” and ran a lobbying firm which targeted the public sector. When a member of the public tabled a Freedom of Information request in 2015 about her business meetings with Scottish Ministers and officials, he was given the classic brush-off – the question would cost too much to answer.

Not unreasonably, he then wondered how lobbying activity could be monitored if ministers refused to provide information about their contacts on such implausible grounds. Another of our civic protectors, the Freedom of Information Commissioner, dismissed his complaint. Scotland really is a village …

There are still individuals floating around the Scottish quango circuit who were being put up for every chairmanship that occurred 20 years ago. The qualifications are that they challenge nothing, remain anonymous and nod their heads when directed by ministers. Political influence is as prevalent as it ever was – just much less transparent. Ask Ms Freeman.

This all fits into the wider pattern of centralisation which has systematically downgraded every other centre of influence within Scotland – public bodies, local government, police boards, funding-dependent third sector organisations – in order to create a closely integrated structure which brooks no challenge.

There is a powerful political agenda waiting to be created around the need to restore diversity and scrutiny within Scotland in order to challenge the power of the centre. Some might see that requirement as a paradoxical outcome of devolution while others recognise it as depressing – but largely predictable.

Linda Fabiani was the convener for the Holyrood inquiry examining the way Alex Salmond’s case was conducted. Hmm. Interestingly, The Scotsman makes no mention of this:

Ms Fabiani was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as an MSP for Central Scotland, but since 2011 she has represented East Kilbride.

Then there’s Mark McDonald:

The Aberdeen Donside MSP resigned from the SNP after sending a woman an inappropriate text message which referenced a sex act.

House of Commons news

Historic Westminster by-election in Scotland

A historic by-election will be taking place in Scotland as the SNP’s Neil Gray announced he would be standing down. He made his final speech in Westminster — the mother of all Parliaments — on Tuesday, March 23:

An arcane parliamentary point needs to be explained:

Although the actual Manor of Northstead in Yorkshire no longer exists, the estate has been redeveloped as a park.

In political terms, this is a temporary position for MPs who have resigned and is given out at the pleasure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Wikipedia explains:

By virtue of the fact that it became and was retained as a Lordship of the Crown beyond the sale and eventual disappearance of the estate, since the nineteenth century the post of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead has played a role in the procedure for effecting resignation from the British House of Commons by Members of Parliament (MPs). While no longer having any actual role or responsibility, it remains a nominal paid office of the Crown, a sort of sinecure, appointment to which is one of the things that by law disqualify an MP from the House. This principle goes back to the Act of Settlement 1701, and is now regulated by the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Since 1624, MPs have not been permitted to resign their seats directly. While several such offices have been used for this purpose in the past, in the present day only two are used: the Northstead post and that of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.[1][2]

Appointments to the posts are made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Using two posts allows more than one MP to resign simultaneously, although more commonly, single resignations are effected by alternating appointments to the Northstead and Chiltern Hundreds offices. One of the most recent MPs to be appointed to the Northstead office was former Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his decision to resign from his Parliamentary seat of Witney on 12 September 2016.[5]

Neil Gray was praised again in the House of Commons today during Business Questions, including by Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg. Here are more compliments from Tuesday:

This means there will be a by-election in Gray’s former constituency of Airdrie and Shotts:

This is the first time there will be a Commons by-election in an SNP-held seat:

Boris reasserts his position as Prime Minister

On March 24, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared before the Liason Committee, comprised of heads of the parliamentary Select Committees.

The session lasted around 90 minutes and covered several topics, one of which was devolution.

Scotland and Wales are trying to whittle away the significance of the UK government.

Stephen Crabb (Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire) asked Boris how he saw his position. He confirmed that he is the Prime Minister of Scotland as well as the United Kingdom:

Part of the answer is to employ civil servants with the ability to accommodate the interests of the United Kingdom as well as those of the devolved nations:

House of Lords news

Two notable things happened in the House of Lords this week.

Unusual tie vote

The Lords voted on an amendment to a Government bill, only to find the result was tied. As such, the amendment failed, meaning that the Government won that round:

Hereditary peer says old biscuits perfectly edible

The House of Lords still has 90 hereditary peers.

One of them is Lord Palmer, whose family part owns the famous biscuit manufacturing firm Huntley and Palmers Ltd.

If anyone in the Lords should know when a biscuit is past its best, it would be he.

I’m bookmarking this for future reference:

With Parliament in recess, I’ll be able to do some springtime projects around the house. If I find a stale biscuit, I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021, marks the first anniversary of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown and restrictions, many of which are still in place as I write.

We had a brief reprieve during the summer, but everything closed again on Saturday evening, December 19, 2020, just in time to put a stop to the promised Christmas family get-together.

I was and continue to be a lockdown and restriction sceptic. Others are free to decide for themselves.

The Telegraph has a lengthy Twitter thread on the past year. Excerpts follow:

Two areas of England have been locked down since July 2020:

Today, a number of commemorative events took place across the nation:

Still under COVID-19 house arrest, my far better half and I have not left our town since March 18, 2020.

Of course, Boris and the two most senior members of SAGE, Vallance and Whitty, gave a 5 p.m. coronavirus briefing.

When is one of the reporters going to ask one of the following questions?

I am too angry to write any more about this subject right now. I never imagined Western countries would become police states.

My previous posts in this series covered Piers Morgan’s pontifications and the new Hate Crime Bill in Scotland.

Today’s post looks at the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common on Saturday, March 13.

On March 3, 2021, 33-year-old Sarah Everard disappeared from the streets of south London while walking home from a friend’s house. A week later a woman’s remains were found in the eastern part of Kent. Because of the extraordinary nature of the case, the UK Government have since placed a D notice on coverage of the details which have emerged thus far.

The case moved women across the UK to express their grief.

Women were also angered when, last week, after Ms Everard was missing for six days, officers from London’s Metropolitan Police advised women not to go out alone at night.

Interestingly, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told a radio station that London’s streets are not safe for women and girls:

The same advisory went out many years ago in England when Peter ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ Sutcliffe was on the prowl for his latest victim. Julie Bindel recalled her memories of that time in an article for The Spectator: ‘Why are London police telling women to stay at home?’

Bindel wrote (emphases mine):

I moved to Leeds in 1979, during the hunt for serial killer Peter Sutcliffe. I was 17-years old and had been raised, as had most girls, being warned that our safety was our own responsibility. ‘Don’t go out alone at night’, ‘don’t talk to strange men’, ‘cover your flesh if you don’t want to get yourself raped’. Men were rarely told that they were to blame for the fact that we constantly looked over our shoulder whenever we were out alone in case a predator was looking to strike.

As a response to West Yorkshire police issuing what was effectively a curfew on women, feminists organised the first Reclaim the Night marches which occurred simultaneously across 12 English towns and cities, from Manchester to Soho.

Women on these marches carried placards reading ‘No curfew on women — curfew on men’ as they shouted about their anger at being kept off the streets — the supposedly public highways, after all — by the threat of male violence.

I recall feeling very angry at being told by police to ‘stay indoors’ and ‘Do not go out at night unless absolutely necessary, and only if accompanied by a man you know.’ Ironically, Sutcliffe himself gave the same advice to his sister.

Bindel provides other instances where police forces across England gave women the same advice.

She concludes:

Women should be able to go for a walk without fear or a male chaperone. We feel scared not because we are pathetic, weak creatures but because so many men target us. Feminism exists because women are sick and tired of being in danger in both the home and on the streets. They should be the ones to lose their freedom of movement, not us.

Perhaps Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford read her article of March 10. Two days later he told the BBC’s Charlie Stayt that he might consider a curfew on men in Wales:

Alternatively, perhaps Mark Drakeford saw Baroness Jones (Green) advocate such a measure the day before in the House of Lords:

Guido Fawkes saw a potential problem with that (emphasis in the original):

The Green Party also backs gender self-identification for all so Guido can already think of one loophole in Jenny’s plan…

Some of Sarah Everard’s friends had the idea of organising a vigil for her at Clapham Common, through which she walked on her way home on March 3. They decided to cancel it.

However, a vigil did take place there, at the bandstand, on Saturday, March 13. People could pay their respects and place flowers at the bandstand.

The Duchess of Cambridge went to pay her respects with a bouquet that afternoon.

As the sun set, what was a quiet day of reflection and grief turned into something else. Protesters gathered, as did the Metropolitan Police.

The BBC’s Charlie Haynes tweeted:

Independent journalist Ahmed Kaballo tweeted his footage:

The London correspondent from the Washington Post was there and posted her footage:

Here is a photo:

Then police arrested a young woman. Reports say she is petite — 5’2″:

I am surprised that a woman of her small stature had to be held to the ground in order for an arrest to take place. Couldn’t four policemen do that standing up?

Reports say she was later released, but the point still stands.

With coronavirus lockdown still in place, everyone who is everyone was at home. Those people saw it online or on the telly.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, March 14, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, who reports to Commissioner Cressida Dick — two women! — issued a statement, which says, in part:

“Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.

“At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.

“Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.

“Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.

“After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left. Four arrests have been made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.

Part of the reason I am speaking to you tonight is because we accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.

“We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.

“Let me end by saying that across the Met, we review every single event that we police to see if there are lessons that can be learnt. This one will be no different.”

The Sunday morning news shows were only hours away. Not surprisingly, this was a huge story.

The Safeguarding Minister (?!) told Sky’s Sophie Ridge that the events were ‘very upsetting’:

The Victims’ Commissioner told Ridge that police had made a bad situation worse:

The Met’s Commissioner defended her men:

But the story and the emotion didn’t go away. On Sunday, demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square to protest the Met’s handling of the vigil.

Two other British cities held peaceful vigils. Birmingham’s police worked well with organisers, as local MP Jess Phillips explained to the BBC. Glasgow held a quiet ribbon vigil. Elsewhere, such events took place online.

On Monday morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced his disapproval:

However, Boris voiced his support for Dame Cressida in her role (Guido Fawkes has the story and a video).

Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist, Rich, posted his weekly cartoon:

The public, however, thought that the vigil should not have taken place, probably because of coronavirus restrictions:

A retired Metropolitan Police officer posed these questions:

On Monday afternoon in Parliament, Home Secretary Priti Patel gave a statement and paid tribute to Ms Everard:

She also said:

women and girls must feel safe while walking our streets“, and cited the Domestic Abuse Bill which is going through the Lords this evening as the action the Government is continuing to take.

During the debate that followed, Sir Charles Walker said that what happened at the vigil was the fault of the overwhelming majority of MPs who voted for the Coronavirus Act 2020:

He said (emphases mine):

This House criminalised the freedom of protest. This House. Us. Not Dame Cressida. Not the Metropolitan Police. We did. We criminalised freedom to protest collectively. We are up to our eyeballs in this.

I couldn’t agree more.

Walker wanted to amend the law that afternoon to allow protests again. That did not happen.

Tom Harwood, who writes for Guido Fawkes, asked whether police took advantage of a soft target:

Really difficult situations provoke a different response from the Met, such as last summer’s protests. They walk away:

Incidentally, skin colour is irrelevant. Last autumn, the Met bought sandwiches for Extinction Rebellion who were occupying Smithfield Market.

On Monday night, Boris tweeted a statement about women’s safety:

Even if the general public objected to the vigil, conservative and libertarian columnists took strong objection to the Met’s handling of it as well as to the law against protests.

UnHerd posted ‘The police have a woman problem’.

Conservative Woman featured ‘Police at Sarah vigil were trying to enforce a rotten law’. They also posted ‘I hate what is being done to my country’.

Spiked remembered the reason the vigil took place: ‘This is not what Sarah would have wanted’.

The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said on Thursday, March 18, that the coronavirus laws will most likely stay in place until the end of June, when the furlough programme expires.

That said, they will be debated next week.

In conclusion, illiberal laws bring illiberal — and inconsistent — enforcement.

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