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As I close a week discussing Disroyalty starring the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, here are a few more views about their plans as well as a summary of what went on at Sandringham on Monday, January 13, 2020.

Before I get to those, however, it is important to remember that other Royals will have to pick up the Sussexes’ slack, leaving 200 engagements per year to divide among them.

Key points about the Sandringham summit

Here’s what to know about the Sandringham summit on Monday.

The Daily Mail says that Harry arrived at 11:20 a.m.

By then, Prince Philip had already left and was driven elsewhere on the estate. He was reportedly furious last week:

Philip was reportedly ‘spitting blood’ with anger when he found out last Wednesday and yelled at his aides: ‘What the hell are they playing at?’

If he left, he wasn’t feeling any calmer.

Prince Charles had arrived the day before. Prince William showed up 15 minutes before the meeting began at 2:00 p.m.

The meeting was held in the Long Library, which used to be a bowling alley. Princes William and Harry spent much time there as children.

It is located away from other rooms where the Royals might have been overheard.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, denied charges of racism (same link):

Ms Patel, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, said: ‘I’m not in that category at all where I believe there’s racism at all. 

‘I think we live in a great country, a great society, full of opportunity, where people of any background can get on in life.’

Asked if the media had been in any way racist, she replied: ‘I don’t think so, no… I certainly haven’t seen that through any debates or commentary or things of that nature.’

On January 14, the Mail reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson wisely refused to be drawn in on the controversy:

In his first major TV interview since the election, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am a massive fan of the Queen and of the Royal Family…

‘I am absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out.’

I was happy to read that Harry’s early arrival ensured that he could have a lengthy one-on-one conversation with his grandmother.

Bolter

In 2018, a few months before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, Germaine Greer gave an interview to Australia’s 60 Minutes in which she said she thought the bride would end up leaving.

The Cut posted the story on April 16. Prescient (emphases mine):

During an interview with 60 Minutes Australia this weekend, outspoken and controversial feminist author Germaine Greer said she thinks Markle “will bolt” as soon as she gets a sense of what life in the British royal family (which Greer refers to as “the firm”) is really like.

“Let’s hope they’re in love. If they’re not it’s going to be totally unbearable,” Greer told journalist Tara Brown. “She will see vistas of boredom that are unbelievable. I think the pressure to escape from the firm is crushing.”

When Brown asked what she predicted for the couple’s future, Greer answered, “I think she’ll bolt.”

“She bolted before. She was out the door,” she said, referring to Markle’s 2013 divorce from Trevor Engelson. “I think she’ll bolt. I hope in a way that she’ll bolt but maybe she’ll take Harry with her.”

When asked why Markle, already a successful television star, would give up her career to marry into the royal family, Greer quipped: “Why would a girl born in poverty marry a man with 53 million quid? I can’t think of single reason.”

It seems Harry might be worth less than that — possibly £30m, but the point stands.

There is also the status involved.

Opportunism

The deputy political editor at the Daily Mail, John Stevens, had this to say about the Sussexes’ announcement last week:

In fact, that is quite possible.

Allegedly, Justin Trudeau knew of their plans before the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. So did Elton John.

On January 11, the Daily Mail reported:

There was speculation last night that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have given a cryptic Twitter clue about the crisis that was about to engulf the Royal Family.

When news emerged that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had turned their back on Royal tradition and flown to Canada for Christmas, their powerful friend was one of the first to welcome them on social media.

He wrote: ‘You’re among friends, and always welcome here.’

Just weeks later, the Royal couple were looking to test that ‘always’ by announcing their move to Canada.

And the tweet has done little to dampen gossip in Embassy circles that Mr Trudeau was more aware of the Sussexes’ emigration plans than even their closest family.

Diplomatic sources claim Mr Trudeau and his wife Sophie were consulted about the decision late last year, before members of the Royal family and even the Queen.

The Trudeaus are friends with the Sussexes:

Last night, the Canadian government did not respond when confronted about the claims, but sources close to the Sussexes denied they had discussed the move with Prime Minister Trudeau.

The Canadian First Couple and the Sussexes have been close friends, with Meghan and Sophie even sharing a stylist – Meghan’s best friend and sometime babysitter for Archie, Jessica Mulroney.

Prince Harry, 35, and Mr Trudeau, 48, are two of the younger fixtures on the world stage, with both men appearing to enjoy each other’s company at events such as Commonwealth commemorations.

The two have also encountered each other on multiple occasions through Prince Harry’s Invictus Games for disabled servicemen.

I wonder if the Sussexes are aware that, many years ago, Trudeau once attended a fancy dress party in blackface. He thought nothing of it at the time. Terrible.

Returning to John Stevens’s tweet, here are a few responses:

Money

Although, technically, what Prince Charles does with his income from the Duchy of Cornwall is his business, the British would be annoyed if he continued to finance Prince Harry:

This YouGov poll shows similar results:

This Briton tweeted about the video of Harry touting Meghan to Disney’s Bob Iver for voiceover work:

Naturally, some of the money she would earn from such work would go to charity. Of course:

Trudeau said that his country will pay for the Sussexes’ security detail. Canadians won’t be too happy about that:

Another Daily Mail report said that Canada would pay half the Sussexes’ £1m annual security detail cost. We shall see. On January 14, the Mail published an article quoting Trudeau, who said:

I think most Canadians are very supportive of having royals be here, but how that looks and what kind of costs are involved, there are still lots of discussions to have.

Family

The young Anglican priest who tweeted the following has mistakenly said that the Sussexes are on the Civil List. They are not.

However, the larger point about their role in the Royal Family is what is important:

The Revd Giles Fraser, formerly Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral and now Rector of St Mary, Newington in South London, wrote a considered article on the topic that the Revd Philip Murray raised. The Bishop of Dorking (Surrey) complimented him on it:

Excerpts follow:

Do we still recognise moral obligations that exist prior to our having chosen them? That is, it seems to me, the question embedded within the whole Megxit scandal. It couldn’t have been better designed to drive a wedge between two very different ways of seeing the world

But this isn’t just about monarchy. For the same tension exists within the very idea of a family — the Windsors being, as well as royal, the most famous family in the world. How does liberalism — of which Meghan Markle feels like a supreme representative — deal with that age-old sense of moral obligation towards those who have brought you into life and have raised and nurtured you, without you having chosen them for the task. Of course, some families fail in this very basic duty. And most of us parents only get it half right, at best.

Without this very basic idea that we are born into some fundamental unit of existential solidarity, something towards which we owe an allegiance long before we are able to choose it, human life is released from its moorings and we are all deeply lost. This is where liberalism flounders. For when it comes to the most important basis of human flourishing, family life, liberalism has nothing useful to say, other than to remind us that some families are destructive and dysfunctional and best escaped from. Be your own person, it advises. Break free. But this is to cut off the branch on which nests are built.

Sense of duty

A Theology graduate from Cambridge University has the ultimate analysis of the Duchess and her outlook on a sense of duty.

This is a must-read:

So true — especially the closing thought about helping minority Britons!

When they got married, I thought she might look forward to such a role. I was wrong.

Poll on the monarchy

Between Thursday and Friday, January 9 and 10, Deltapoll conducted a survey on the monarchy. This was after the Sussexes’ announcement.

The favourable results were lower than I’d expected:

A Pole responded to that tweet, encouraging us to keep the Royal Family:

Good or bad? It’s important. I come originally from Poland. I read Polish papers and monarchy issues make front page headlines there. The monarchy is ‘s trademark, as it were, recognised worldwide. Try and lose it to see how good it actually is to have it.

I fully agree.

This is a breakdown of the question by age group:

I also agree with these replies:

I do not think that most of our Prime Ministers would have made great Presidents.

The Royal Family are good for Britain. Let’s not discard them because of the actions of a few bad apples.

Boris Johnson issued a brief but rousing address to the nation on New Year’s Eve.

He looks forward to an ‘exhilarating decade’ ahead as we enter the 2020s:

People admire his enthusiasm, gumption and optimism, so lacking in the past few Prime Ministers — and Britain as a whole.

I wish him all the best as he attempts to unite the nation, particularly post-Brexit.

I am also pleased that protecting Christians is on his agenda, dating back to his days as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May. The following tweet is from last July, when the Conservative leadership race was going on:

He also mentioned the subject in his first Christmas address to the nation, which is more than the Archbishop of Canterbury managed in his New Year’s greeting.

May God bless our Prime Minister in 2020!

Happy New Year!

Happy new decade!

I enjoy, albeit with trepidation at times, looking back at the decades I’ve lived through and charting the change from beginning to end.

O tempora, o mores!

1960s

In 1960, growing up in the United States, I remember that things were still quite formal. Most people took care in the way they spoke and in their appearance. They were careful to conduct their households in a respectable manner. By the middle of the decade, that began to change but not too noticeably.

By 1968, a social revolution was underway, including sexually. What was once private became public. Attire reflected that. Women began wearing skirts above the knee. Men’s clothes became more form-fitting.

Sloppiness and drugs became fashionable with the advent of hippies. Even though they were a small minority, they received a lot of media coverage. A slogan connected with them — ‘If it feels good, do it’ — began to pervade society at large.

Cinema and television reflected this change.

At home, Americans moved from watching westerns to tuning into a zany comedy hour. In 1960, Gunsmoke was the most viewed programme. In 1969, it was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Gunsmoke had moved to sixth place in the Nielsen ratings.

Film genres and themes also shifted. In 1960, the great epics were popular, with Spartacus the highest grossing film and Exodus coming third. Psycho was second. In 1969, while Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was in the top slot, Midnight Cowboy was at No. 3, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was No. 6 and an X-rated movie, I Am Curious (Yellow) was No. 12. It would have been unthinkable in 1960 that an urban drama about homosexuality, a movie about swingers and one that was pornographic would have been so popular nine years later.

1970s

The cultural shift continued in the 1970s. American magazines and newspapers devoted many column inches to social drop-outs experimenting with communal living. Swingers were becoming popular in suburbia. Again, those were two small sub-groups of society, but everyone — even the most respectable — knew about these two phenomena.

Pop music got bolder, more sexualised. I remember in high school that we talked a lot about sex and could hardly wait to start dating so that we could experiment. Our parents wondered what was wrong with us. The idea of sin and the forbidden went out the window. ‘If it feels good, do it’ had spread to the middle classes. Previously forbidden carnal acts were encouraged as being completely ‘natural’. This furthered the evolution of a shame-free society. Today, I read that some teenagers don’t kiss on a first date; instead they engage in oral sex.

Interestingly, one of the most suggestive singers of the decade, Eric Carmen of the Raspberries, laments where this has led today:

I remember neighbours of ours getting divorced. The wife said that she could earn her own living now, thank you very much. The husband was heartbroken. We felt sorry for their two children. Until then, my family and I personally did not know any couples who got divorced. It just didn’t happen to everyday individuals. However, divorce rates continued to rise and, these days, no one bats an eyelid.

More women started working. What began as a liberating elective would turn out to be a mandatory means of survival in marriage in the years that followed. Few of us knew that then, though.

Returning to music, it was a great decade for youngsters. FM radio produced rather excellent stations devoted to little known genres that never reached Top 40 AM stations. Through them, we discovered prog rock from Britain: Yes, Rick Wakeman, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, to name but three musical greats. There were many more, too numerous to mention here.

Near the end of the decade we had disco. Saturday Night Fever was a huge box office hit and propelled John Travolta from television (Welcome Back Kotter) to cinema fame.

The most popular television sitcoms, such as Welcome Back Kotter, were all set in metropolitan areas. In terms of television in general, The Waltons was probably the only show with a rural setting.

Halfway through the decade, I spent a year in France, which was much quieter than the US socially and still quite formal, even though the more leftist state university students were generally unkempt and unwashed. In many respects, the country was a bridge between the 1960s and the 1970s in the nicest possible way.

1980s

Leaving university, I recall that many of my friends latched onto the Reagan zeitgeist and became conservatives.

They turned into their parents and lost the fun-loving verve they once had. I stayed single the longest, so was more acutely aware of a shift into respectability and suburban living.

I lived in a major US city then, earning my own way in life. For relaxation, I used to go to matinees at the weekend. The price of admission was cheaper and the cinemas were nearly empty, giving me the impression I had the big screen all to myself.

I saw a lot of world films in the first part of that decade, some from Brazil and Australia but mostly Britain and France. French film became a passion. Even one of the UHF television channels showed French films from the 1950s. Bliss.

As far as music was concerned, my favourite FM station played British and European singles apart from reggae on Sunday afternoons. More bliss.

Then, around 1986, something began to change. Although my favourite radio station stayed the same, the movie theatres weren’t showing as many foreign films. Within a couple of years, they stopped showing them altogether. One of my lifelines had vanished, sadly. The American films that replaced them were not very good, either, so I stopped going to the cinema.

Everything became very one-dimensional. America, somehow, had lost the link with the zeitgeist of European culture, which it never recovered. It used to be that people in the 1960s and early 1970s made a two- or three-week trip to western Europe to see the historic sites they learned about in school. It was what we today would call a bucket list item.

Fortunately, by the end of the decade, employment events intervened — and further improved — for me.

1990s

Living in England, I realised that I had an insatiable appetite for history and politics. I learned a lot about both thanks to a gift subscription to The Spectator, which I had read about in English lit class in high school. It’s been around since 1828.

In 1990s, my in-laws told me that Margaret Thatcher’s time was up. She had become too full of herself. We had high hopes for John Major.

I remember the 1992 election, which Major won handily. I could not understand the rage of my female colleagues who expected Neil Kinnock to win. They stayed up all night drinking, waiting for a Labour government that never came. The next day, at work, they were hungover, tearful — and, above all, angry. Why did they think he stood a chance? Perhaps I had been reading too much of The Spectator, but I had no doubt that Major would continue as Prime Minister.

By 1997, most of us felt change was needed. The Conservative MPs on the front bench seemed like tired, bloated bureaucrats. None of them had an original idea. Most seemed to be lining their own pockets. I was most consterned by Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley, who started closing A&E (Accident and Emergency) services at local hospitals. What was she thinking?

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, nearly everyone I knew rejoiced. Change was coming.

And how …

2000s

The first few years of Labour were fine. I was enjoying my work too much to pay any attention.

By 2005, I longed for a Conservative government, especially when Gordon Brown became PM with no general election.

After that, Labour became unbearable, banging on about people’s personal lives and habits. The smoking ban came into force in the summer of 2007. Ministers assured us in television interviews that private members clubs and hotels would be exempt. No, not at all. It was a blanket ban everywhere.

It was during this decade that London elected its first mayor, Ken Livingstone. He served two terms and introduced the city-wide congestion charge for motor vehicles, which we called the Kengestion Charge. My colleagues at the time reminded me that, as head of the old GLA (Greater London Authority), he was known as Red Ken.

Boris Johnson succeeded him, also serving two terms. His administration made the streets tidy again and also lowered crime.

By 2006, I started looking more closely at the EU and the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels who seemed to rule our lives. I agreed with those disgruntled Britons who wanted a referendum on our membership.

Most of all, however, I was sick and tired of Labour, to the point of despair.

I also asked my far better half to cancel my gift subscription to the The Spectator, as it had changed its editorial line considerably after Boris Johnson left as editor. Although more people now read it, it is a former shadow of itself. I would not call it neither conservative nor traditional at all any more.

2010s

Hope came in the May 2010 general election.

The Conservatives had to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. It was the David Cameron and Nick Clegg Show, but at least Labour were out of the picture after 13 years.

David Cameron referred to himself as the ‘heir to Blair’. It took me some time to see it, but he was not wrong.

He set out to reform the Conservative Party and alienated older, faithful members in their local associations. CCHQ suddenly did not need their help.

On a broader level, Cameron will probably be best remembered for opening up marriage to same-sex couples and for offering us the EU referendum, billed by all parties as a ‘once in a lifetime’ choice which they all pledged to implement.

A number of televised debates took place in 2016. I watched them all. Some of my friends were less than convinced by the Leave proposition. The one clincher was Brexit The Movie, which is an hour-long eye-opener about the Brussels gravy train and better than any of the debates, no matter how good:

I stayed up until the early hours of the morning of Friday, June 24, 2016 to watch the result. When it was clear that Leave had won, I went to bed. The next day, my far better half and I woke up to Cameron resigning because he did not like the result. We had a celebratory lunch in London and went to a party that evening that had been planned months earlier. I remember the apprehension we both felt about sounding out the other party guests as to their views on the EU. We later discovered that were not alone. Finally, someone there broke the ice upon his arrival by exclaiming:

Is everybody HAPPY? I certainly am!

At that point, we were free to talk about Brexit.

Theresa May became Prime Minister later that summer.

Across the pond, another sea change was happening: Donald Trump’s candidacy. It was even more of a shock when he won. A startled nation awoke to find that Hillary Clinton was not their president.

The conflicts about Brexit and Trump continue today. Opponents to both have grown ever more vehement.

On September 20, 2019, the British website Spiked issued a thought-provoking documentary on Trump and Brexit. It’s 26-minutes long and well worth watching. To cover Brexit, their reporters interviewed residents of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. To cover the Trump phenomenon, they interviewed Pennsylvania journalist Salena Zito and residents of Erie, which was once a major industrial powerhouse in that state. It has fallen on very hard times, indeed:

The major theme running through both is, as they put it, ‘change’, which I believe they should have called ‘self determination’ and ‘recovering the aspirational dream’.

One thing that struck me was the interview with the owner of a gym in Erie. He said that his father raised seven children on a janitor’s salary:

You couldn’t do that now.

Too right. Both parents now have to work — unlike in the 1960s — and few households can support more than two or three children.

People in Britain and the United States want to work and save more of their hard-earned cash. They also want good job opportunities for their children.

A fisherman in Southend said that, because of EU rules, he is restricted to an ever-smaller part of waters in which to fish. The number of fishing boats has continued to decline, he added, and the number of fisherman has also dropped dramatically. That is why he, and many others in Southend, voted Leave in 2016.

The decade closed with Boris Johnson’s landslide victory on December 12. Historian David Starkey explores what this means for the nation in this 57-minute documentary from The Sun, ably conducted by a young reporter:

Starkey explores the evolution of Parliament since Victorian times, when it became the institution we know today. As many Northern constituencies flipped from Labour to Conservative, Starkey says that Boris’s pledge to revitalise the North will mean little unless he espouses their values of patriotism, which, he says, has been a dirty word for many years.

He says that Boris could well become a figure like Charles II, who restored the monarchy beginning in 1660. Many of their personality traits are similar, he notes, particularly their penchant for bringing a nation together and reforming it at the same time. It is well worth watching when you have the opportunity.

There is much more to Starkey’s interview than summarised here. He talks about the people of the North, Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, David Cameron, Tony Blair and, significantly, Benjamin Disraeli. Starkey hopes that the PM will study his Victorian predecessor’s successes closely.

With that, I must close for now. There are many developments over the past 60 years that I have not mentioned. This is merely to give an idea about the direction that Western society took as the decades rolled on.

Welcome to 2020. Let’s hope it brings many good tidings. I wish all of us the very best.

This year, Boris Johnson spent his Christmas as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

On Christmas Eve, the Conservative Party released this entertaining video of Boris and his father Stanley making mince pies. Boris explains how mince pies are a perfect metaphor for Brexit. There’s nothing ‘sensitive’ about this video. In fact, ‘Mince pies (with Boris)’ is great fun. Watch:

Boris has a lot of support:

Shortly before Christmas, the Prime Minister spent a day in Estonia and served a festive lunch to British troops stationed there. The Express reported:

The Prime Minister dished out turkey and Yorkshire puddings to servicemen at the Tapa military base near the capital Tallinn on a one-day trip to the Baltic state.

The base is home to 850 British troops from the Queen’s Royal Hussars who lead the Nato battlegroup along with personnel from Estonia, France and Denmark.

He said the troops were the “most vivid and powerful possible symbol and expression” of Britain’s commitment to the security and stability of the whole of Europe.

He said: “It’s an incredible thing for me to come to Estonia because when I was a kid – when I was your age – Estonia was part of the Soviet Union and we’re now here helping to protect Estonia’s security.

On Christmas Eve, Boris issued a Christmas message that only he could deliver in such a natural way, partly humorous and partly serious. This is another must-see, especially as he made a firm point about opposing the persecution of Christians (subtitled version here):

He said (emphases mine):

Today of all days, I want us to remember those Christians around the world who are facing persecution.

For them, Christmas Day will be marked in private, in secret, perhaps even in a prison cell.

As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend your right to practise your faith.

On Christmas Eve, The Express explained:

A source from No 10 said the Prime Minister wishes to “look at how we can lead on the issue around the world”.

They revealed: “It’s something he came across a lot when he was foreign secretary.

“It has been an issue he has taken seriously personally since he left [the Foreign and Commonwealth Office].”

In May, a report from the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt found that the persecution of Christians in some parts of the world was a near “genocide” levels.

The review was led by the Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen.

It is estimated that one in three people suffered from religious persecution, with Christians being the most persecuted group.

According to the review, Christianity faced being “wiped out” from regions of the Middle East.

Figures show that Christians in Palestine represent less than 1.5 percent of the population.

These figures drop even more critically in Iraq where numbers have fallen from 1.5 million in 2003, to less than 120,000.

The Prime Minister thanked NHS staff, police and other first responders for being on the front lines during the Christmas period, sacrificing time with family and friends.

On a lighter note, he began his video with this:

Hi folks, Boris Johnson here, taking a moment to wish you all a merry little Christmas.

He ended with this:

Mr Johnson signed off breezily, urging people to enjoy the next few days, adding: “Try not to have too many arguments with the in-laws – or anyone else.”

Brilliant!

The Express reported that Boris and serious girlfriend Carrie Symonds spent Christmas at No. 10 with their Welsh rescue dog Dilyn. The article says that, according to The Times, the couple will be jetting off to Mustique for the New Year as guests of the Von Bismarck family who have a home there.

The State Opening of Parliament on Thursday, December 19, 2019 is the last we will see for a while.

We had a State Opening of Parliament on Monday, October 14, after the last prorogation.

Two State Openings in one year — and so close together — is a highly unusual situation.

I watched both on television. The symbols and pageantry are tremendous.

Parliament’s website states:

The Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the next session of Parliament and outlines proposed policies and laws …

State Opening is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar, drawing a significant audience online, on television and in person.

In the days preceding the State Opening, both Houses of Parliament — the Lords as well as the Commons — swore in all members individually for this new session following the General Election of Thursday, December 12:

Once complete, the State Opening could take place.

It is the only time the three elements of British government are brought together in one place, in the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Commons and the Lords:

Yeoman warders from the Tower of London do a symbolic inspection — centuries ago, it was a real inspection — to ensure there are no saboteurs or explosives lurking:

This recalls the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, involving a handful of rebellious Catholics, the most famous of which was Guy (Guido) Fawkes, although Robert Catesby was their leader. They attempted to blow up the House of Lords. The explosives were already there.

Today, after the inspection, each of the Yeoman Warders (‘Beefeaters’) is rewarded with half a pint of port.

Meanwhile, the Queen prepares to leave Buckingham Palace for the short ride to the Palace of Westminster. Prince Charles accompanied his mother for both State Openings this year, as Prince Philip has retired from public duties:

October’s State Opening was much more formal. The Queen wore a crown and was dressed in a full length white gown with an ermine cape:

This time, she wore a dressy coat and a hat. Her mode of transport was a Bentley rather than a carriage. The photo on the left shows her walking with Prince Charles in the Royal Gallery in the Palace of Westminster, eventually into the House of Lords to deliver her speech, written by her government:

While the Queen is preparing to give the speech, Black Rod walks from the House of Lords to the House of Commons to summon MPs to the Lords to hear the monarch. We have seen quite a lot of Sally Clarke, the first female Black Rod, this year.

This video explains Black Rod’s duties, which are more than ceremonial:

When Black Rod arrives at the House of Commons, the door is slammed in her face. This symbolises:

the Commons’ independence from the monarchy. Black Rod then strikes the door loudly three times with his ebony staff, or rod, before it is opened, and the 250 Members of the House of Commons follow him back to the Lords Chamber, to stand at the opposite end to The Queen’s Throne.

The video in the second tweet shows the route MPs take to the House of Lords, with Black Rod leading them. The first video dispels the myth that the Lords wear their ceremonial robes every time they meet:

MPs stand in the back of the House of Lords to listen to the Queen’s Speech, which the Lord Chancellor presents to her in a special silk pouch.

During the State Opening, one MP is ‘held hostage’ at Buckingham Palace. I do not know who the two MPs were this year:

Afterwards, MPs return to the Commons:

When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work. Members of both Houses debate the content of the speech and agree a reply, known as the ‘Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech’.

Each House continues to debate the planned legislative programme for several days, looking at different subject areas. The Queen’s Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.

Friday, December 20, was MPs’ last day in session before Christmas recess. Brexit was at the top of the agenda.

They approved the second reading of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal from October:

They also approved the timetable — programme motion — for the second reading:

They meet again on Tuesday, January 7, 2020:

We have much to look forward to in the New Year.

For my British readers, a documentary well worth watching is the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg’s one on Brexit and Boris.

The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story is very well made, indeed:

Laura gives us behind the scenes footage of herself with the press corps, her BBC colleagues and, best of all, leading Conservative and Labour politicians discussing Boris’s first 100 days.

There is some amazing and interesting footage, including a few seconds of the Prime Minister’s bare shins. He wears short socks. Perhaps it is time for Carrie Symonds to buy him a few pairs of knee-length ones for televised interviews.

It is obvious that the BBC loathe Boris and it looks as if Laura is no different. They were all rather nasty to top adviser Dominic Cummings at No. 10 in preparing for an interview with Boris.

Speaking more broadly, Laura seemed to think Boris was taking foolhardy gambles with Brexit and the election. Well, we know how the election turned out. We’ll find out about Brexit in the New Year.

Contrary to the negative replies from Labour supporters to her tweet above, she is neither a Conservative nor a conservative. She’s a canny journalist doing her job, and it’s paying off. This documentary bears her name.

All of that aside, viewers will be able to see the offices of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove as they welcome Laura for interviews. They will also be able to watch short exchanges with Steve Baker. I enjoyed the little snippet of the BBC trailing Baker and fellow MP Mark Francois after the Saturday, October 19 session in the House. As it was all a bit hard going, Baker asks Francois if he would fancy a drink. The cameras stop just before the two cross the road to repair to a pub.

I am not a BBC news fan, and I don’t trust any of their reporters or presenters, but for anyone missing politics over the holiday period, this documentary is well worth watching.

Since the early hours of Friday morning, I have said many prayers of thanksgiving for Boris Johnson’s overwhelming Conservative Party victory.

The new Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, which has always voted Labour in living memory, spent the weekend giving thanks, too. God is good:

When I wake up now, this is one of my first thoughts:

This is another:

As is this. What a lovely scene of London, especially with the Christmas tree in the middle:

I am amazed at how the Conservatives were able to demolish the impenetrable ‘red wall’, as they called it, by winning in constituencies that had not voted Conservative ever or for a very long time. Their novice candidates beat long-standing Labour MPs.

This is incredible:

Ballots from St Ives were the last to arrive because of a storm:

This was the result (note the Father Christmas sweater):

Thursday’s election result was truly historic, the best since Margaret Thatcher 40 years ago:

See how true blue the electoral map of England has become post-election (second tweet):

Guido Fawkes has more detail (emphases in the original):

The Tories lost seven seats to the SNP and one to Labour, but won enough new seats to make up for those and more, particularly in the Midlands, Wales, and the North. The one seat Labour managed to take off the Tories was typically metropolitan Putney…

Big names to lose their seats included:

    • Jo Swinson
    • Laura Pidcock
    • Dennis Skinner
    • Chris Williamson
    • Emma Dent Coad
    • Caroline Flint
    • David Gauke
    • Antoinette Sandbach
    • Dominic Grieve
    • Anna Soubry
    • Nigel Dodds
    • Zac Goldsmith

Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, and Sam Gyimah also failed to win new ones.

The Tories won so evenly across the country that Michael Gove was able to triumphantly declare in the Tories’ victory event this morning that “Next year both the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Notting Hill Carnival will take place in seats held by the Conservatives.” The Tories won back Kensington which includes Notting Hill, and astonishingly Laura Pidcock was defeated in her seat of North West Durham…

Commiserations to Nigel Dodds and Zac Goldsmith. I will miss them. UPDATE (Dec. 17): Apparently, there could be plans to elevate Zac Goldsmith to the House of Lords, enabling him to keep his cabinet position.

Guido posted another list later that day, based on the BBC’s research. This one concerns all the MPs who ran as independents, so some of the same names will appear. Explanatory notes in purple are mine:

Research by the BBC’s Laurence Sleator has shown that all 18 MPs who defected in the last Parliament then stood again for this one failed in their endeavours to be re-elected to the House of Commons. Two even lost their deposits…

Liberal Democrat Losers

    • Angela Smith  (ex-Labour)
    • Chuka Umunna  (ex-Labour)
    • Phillip Lee  (ex-Conservative)
    • Luciana Berger   (ex-Labour)
    • Sarah Wollaston  (ex-Conservative)
    • Antoinette Sandbach  (ex-Conservative)
    • Sam Gyimah   (ex-Conservative)

Independent Losers

    • Frank Field  (ex-Labour; elderly, has served Birkenhead well over the years)
    • David Gauke  (ex-Conservative)
    • Dominic Grieve  (ex-Conservative)
    • Anne Milton (ex-Conservative)
    • Chris Williamson (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Ivan Lewis (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Gavin Shuker  (ex-Labour)
    • Roger Godsiff  (ex-Labour)

Tigger Losers  (TIG — The Independent Group)

    • Anna Soubry  (ex-Conservative)
    • Mike Gapes  (ex-Labour)
    • Chris Leslie  (ex-Labour)

Turns out voters don’t take too kindly to party-hopping democracy dodgers when their time comes…

I’m sorry about Frank Field, but as far as the others in that list are concerned, good riddance. Many have commented online that this is evidence of ‘draining the swamp’. True.

The ex-Conservative rebels, e.g. Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Antoinette Sandbach and Anna Soubry, were so certain they would win. Ha!

The Press Association has a great recap of how the early hours of Friday morning unfolded. Note the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon making a fool out of herself when she found out that the then-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her Scottish constituency to the SNP. Shameful. Furthermore, the big-hitting Conservatives predicted to lose their seats WON. The media were WRONG:

Only Tom Harwood, 23, who works with Guido Fawkes, predicted a Conservative landslide. Guido posted a compilation of Harwood’s appearances on the BBC’s Newsnight where presenter Jo Coburn sneered dismissively, ‘And we’ll live happily ever after’. The media were wrong AGAIN.

Congratulations, Tom. Highly recommended viewing:

It was Tom’s idea to use ‘stonking’ at Guido Fawkes in describing the Conservatives’ majority. Now Boris is using the word, too, as did Sky News’s Kay Burley and Labour’s Ian Lavery:

Another point worth making is that we now have a record number of women MPs!

Before the election, media pundits said the rough and tumble of Parliament would be too much for them. The media were WRONG about this, too:

Here’s another thing the media got WRONG: Boris Johnson was going to be turfed out of the last Parliament.

Let us look at Boris’s Friday the 13th — an excellent day for him:

Late that morning, he went to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen invited him to form a new government:

Then he returned to 10 Downing Street:

Shortly after 3 p.m., he addressed the nation. This video is subtitled. The press await on the opposite side of the street:

This version from the Press Association (PA), also subtitled, is a bit longer:

Meanwhile:

WEDDING RING UPDATE (Dec. 21) — owner found, ring a family heirloom:

On Saturday, December 14, the PA reported that a grateful Boris was visiting some of the constituencies that had voted Conservative for the first time (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson will meet with newly-elected Conservative MPs as part of a celebratory victory lap after winning a “stonking mandate” at the General Election.

The Prime Minister secured an 80-seat majority and many of his gains came in Labour’s heartland areas across the North and the Midlands.

Some areas, such as Bishop Auckland in the North East, had never elected a Tory MP before Thursday.

Mr Johnson, speaking outside Number 10, said he would “work round the clock” to repay the trust of those who “voted for us for the first time” – including those whose “pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and their grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears” …

Mr Johnson will make the first move to show newly-elected MPs that the concerns of their constituents will be heard with a visit on Saturday to some of those who overturned a Labour majority.

Later that day, the PA reported that Boris poled up in Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency, which voted overwhelmingly Conservative:

Boris Johnson has vowed to repay the trust of former Labour supporters whose votes helped deliver him victory in the General Election.

The Prime Minister made a symbolic visit to Tony Blair’s old Sedgefield constituency in County Durham – which fell to the Tories on Thursday night – to pledge his commitment to spreading opportunity across the country.

“We believe in giving opportunity to everyone,” he told a crowd of cheering supporters and newly-elected MPs from the region packed into the local cricket club.

“We believe that talent is evenly distributed throughout our country, but opportunity is unfairly distributed.

“We are going to rectify that as a One Nation Conservative government, as a people’s government, that is what we are going to do.”

Sedgefield was one of a swathe of seats across the North, Midlands and north Wales in Labour’s hitherto impregnable “red wall” to go blue as the Tories stormed to an 80-seat majority in the new House of Commons.

Sedgefield residents were over the moon:

We have a lot to look forward to once we ‘get Brexit done’, as Boris says, and begin trade negotiations. That said, I will not be buying chlorinated chicken, especially as free range British chicken is the real thing and so, so tasty. Let’s hope our Conservative victory does augur a landslide victory for President Trump in 2020:

Today heralded a glorious return to Parliament!

Congratulations to Boris Johnson!

Congratulations to everyone in Britain who voted Conservative!

Congratulations to all Conservative MPs, especially the novices!

Onwards and upwards for what Conservatives are calling The People’s Government!

Thursday, December 12, 2019 was the day the Conservatives won their biggest victory since 1987, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

By contrast, Labour suffered their worst drubbing since 1935.

Even though he was re-elected in London’s Islington, Jeremy Corbyn will be resigning — at some point:

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, lost her seat in Scotland:

As such, she had to resign:

In Northern Ireland, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds lost his seat to, of all parties, the polar opposite: Sinn Fein.

As for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, they got 2.0% of the vote and no parliamentary seats. The man is a spent force now, and he should retire from political life.

So, on to Boris’s big night out. He defeated his Labour opponent comfortably in the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London:

Contrary to what the leftist media predicted, he increased his majority over Labour:

He returned to central London to give a speech there:

He thanked everyone who voted Conservative as well as volunteers and candidates:

Nationwide, the Conservatives won some traditional Labour seats:

London, meanwhile, largely remained Labour, although Felicity Buchan managed to return Kensington to the Conservatives:

The biggest news was Conservative Mark Fletcher’s defeat of Labour’s Dennis ‘Beast of Bolsover’ Skinner. Even Margaret Thatcher couldn’t do that:

Another huge Conservative win was Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency:

Boris now has a comfortable majority not only to stave off calls for a second Brexit referendum but also to leave the EU early next year.

Whilst it is too early to wish everyone a happy Brexmas, yesterday might as well have been called Boris Day. Guido Fawkes has a montage of Boris’s greatest video clips. Some of these go back to when he was Mayor of London. He admirably hosted the 2012 Olympics:

I wish Boris Johnson all the best as he continues his stay in No. 10 presiding over what he now calls The People’s Government.

May his vision last summer of ‘sunlit uplands’ come true for all of us in Great Britain.

This is my last post on British politics before the December 12 election.

I have already written about Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Like the Britons in the video below, 17.4 million of us would like to finally see Brexit delivered so that we can move on to trade negotiations with the EU and the world at large. Only one person can lead Parliament to bring this to fruition — Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

Voters have confidence in his leadership thus far (130 days and counting):

Contrary to the misinformation the media have been ramming down our throats, many British voters would be perfectly happy with a no deal or a Boris Brexit:

Although Labour have been promising households in Britain everything except a free puppy, the harsh reality would mean more — and higher — taxes for nearly everyone, ‘the many, not the few’, to borrow their slogan:

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calls Labour’s spending plans ‘colossal’! Venezuela, here we come:

Labour’s proposed higher corporation tax would not only stifle innovation but consumer prices would go up in order to compensate for those taxes:

However, under the Conservatives — even with Parliament’s prolonging Brexit uncertainty — Britain has record employment and buoyant wages:

Our currency recently rallied, too. The Boris effect?

The Leader of the House is entirely correct in his assessment of the Prime Minister’s support of free enterprise:

Those worried about the NHS should keep in mind that a healthy economy promotes a healthy population.

Since November 6, Conservatives have been campaigning across the country.

The Prime Minister has made several campaign stops every day to factories, schools and hospitals. In November, he visited his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London with his father Stanley, a television celebrity in his own right:

Last week, he made another stop in London: Grodzinski’s bakery in Golders Green. The video of Boris piping ‘Get Brexit Done’ on doughnuts is subtitled. This must be the friendliest and most heart-warming video of the campaign for any party:

Another Conservative of note is Jacob Rees-Mogg, most recently Leader of the House, and current incumbent candidate for North East Somerset:

His sister, Annunziata, is one of four Brexit Party MEPs who, last week, urged voters to back the Conservatives:

Rees-Mogg has been campaigning in North East Somerset since Parliament was dissolved in November. It is a delightful part of England, even when cooler temperatures and rain dominate the landscape:

There is always room for humour in a political campaign. For those unfamiliar with British English, ‘moggy’ is slang for ‘cat’:

This is my favourite photo, and it is hard to disagree with the reply:

Conclusion

Only a majority Conservative government can break the Brexit logjam by the time of our next deadline:

Once post-Brexit trade negotiations start in earnest during the transition period, MPs can then begin to focus on what matters to the British:

Are these sensible policies important to you?

While our other political parties, especially the Scottish National Party (SNP), want to break up the Union which has held strong since 1707, the Conservatives will continue to hold it together, because:

On Thursday, December 12, a Conservative vote makes sense:

I’m borrowing this GIF to say …

Back Boris.

Watford, England, a quick ride from London, was the setting for the 70th anniversary of NATO.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the host and, despite a few squabbles, everything went well.

Watford residents were probably the most consterned, not to mention inconvenienced.

On November 13, Hertfordshire Police began warning about the residents’ inability to circulate fully between Monday and Wednesday this week. The BBC reported (emphases mine):

Police in Hertfordshire are suggesting people work from home to avoid disruption caused by a meeting of world leaders in Watford next month.

Heads of state will congregate at the Grove Hotel on Wednesday, 4 December as part of Nato’s 70th anniversary summit.

Several roads and footpaths will be shut and the Grand Union Canal will be closed to both boats and pedestrians.

The force said it aimed to keep the impact to an “absolute minimum”.

The meeting is part of the London anniversary summit which Nato said will be “an opportunity for leaders to address current and emerging security challenges”.

Hertfordshire Constabulary has been liaising with the Metropolitan Police and other agencies to take measures to “minimise the impact on the community”.

Closures will be in place for all, or some, of the time between 06:00 GMT on 2 December and 20:00 GMT on 4 December but there will be access for emergency and essential services.

I heard from someone who has friends there that Watford ‘looked like a war zone’ with concrete bollards at the end of certain streets. Thankfully, it’s all over now.

On Monday, December 2, the Watford Observer reported on the road closures in town and included photos of security at The Grove, where Bilderberg met a few years ago in June. The Grove was once home to the Earls of Clarendon. Today, it is a pricey hotel and conference centre with a golf course.

One Observer reader commented:

I hope Herts tax payers aren’t paying for the extra security. The Bilderberg meeting cost us half a million.

The skies were busy:

As Conservative Party leader, Boris is in the midst of an election campaign. Voting day is Thursday, December 12. Therefore, given President Donald Trump’s universal unpopularity here, journalists believed that Boris would minimise his appearances and private meetings with him.

President Trump had his own concerns, as Democrats continued impeachment hearings on December 4:

This week it is the turn of the House Judiciary Committee:

Returning to NATO, The Sun has a good summary of the participants in and schedule for this year’s summit.

Boris interrupted his attendance with a few election campaign appearances:

This is a great photograph from Wednesday, December 4:

Before the summit began, The Spectator encapsulated the contentious tone that French president Emmanuel Macron had established:

This week is seminal for Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron. Boris, in Watford, is hosting one of the most important Nato summits for years. Its significance is not because it marks the Alliance’s 70th anniversary, but because of President Macron’s ‘disruptive’ and trenchant criticism of the Atlantic Alliance as close to ‘brain dead’, which has touched a nerve. The French President went on to reiterate his remarks at an Elysée press conference, with a visibly uncomfortable Nato Secretary General, three weeks later. Macron attacked the ‘strident and unacceptable disconnection’ from world threats during the last two Nato summits as being ‘uniquely devoted’, in his sarcastic words, ‘to finding solutions to how to lighten the United States’ financial costs’. All this, says Macron, while major strategic questions such as relations with Russia, Turkey and ‘who is the enemy?’ remain unanswered.

The Trumps arrived early Monday morning at Stansted Airport in Essex, not far from London. The Daily Mail has several photos of the Trumps’ arrival.

Ambassador Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson hosted the couple at Winfield House in Regent’s Park, the US ambassador’s palatial residence. American heiress Barbara Hutton had the neo-Georgian mansion custom built in 1936. After the Second World War, she sold it to the US Government for one dollar.

This was the scene on Monday night as the Trumps returned to Winfield House after a reception at No. 10 Downing Street. Amazingly, an NHS lorry just beat the motorcade. The ongoing false accusations of Labour against Boris planning on ‘selling the NHS’ to the United States made this all the more ironic:

President Trump has been rightly exercised over the refusal of nearly all NATO nations to pay their share, leaving the US to largely foot the bill:

In January, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg agreed with Trump’s strategy:

Even James Mattis, who left the Trump administration as he and the president did not see eye to eye, admits that his former boss has improved NATO:

On Tuesday morning, the US president hit the ground running, beginning by co-hosting a breakfast at Winfield House with Jens Stoltenberg for principal NATO leaders and cabinet members:

He gave an extensive interview afterwards, covering 17 topics. Sky News has a good summary, some of which is excerpted below.

On the upcoming British election, he said:

On the NHS, he said:

I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly.

I don’t even know where that rumour started.

We have absolutely nothing to do with it, and we wouldn’t want to. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we’d want nothing to do with it.

On Jeremy Corbyn:

I know nothing about the gentleman.

On France and, indirectly, Emmanuel Macron:

Nobody needs NATO more than France.

France is not doing well economically at all, they are struggling. It’s a tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France.

You look at what happened with the Yellow Vests, they’ve had a rough year, you can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.

That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they do about NATO that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.

On upcoming US and French taxes:

Well look, I’m not in love with those companies – Facebook, Google and all of them, Twitter – though I guess I do pretty well with Twitter on the other side – but I’m not necessarily in love with those companies. But they’re our companies, they’re American companies, I want to tax those companies.

They’re not going to be taxed by France. So France is going to put a tax on, it was totally out of the blue, they just had an idea, Emmanuel had an idea, let’s tax those companies, well they’re American companies. I’m not going to let people take advantage of American companies because if anyone’s going to take advantage of American companies it’s going to be us, it’s not going to be France.

And so we’re taxing, as you know, we’re taxing their wines, and everything else and we have a very, very big tax to put on them. Plus we have a tax going on on Airbus and that would be a good thing for Boeing but we’re only going to do that if it’s necessary.

But they’re American companies. I don’t want France taxing American companies. If they’re going to be taxed it’s going to be the United States that will tax them.

On North Korea and Kim Jong-Un:

Likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him rocket man.

We have a very good relationship and we’ll see what happens. It may work or not. But in the meantime, it’s been a long time. President Obama said it’s the number one problem and it would have been war. You’d be in a war right now if it weren’t for me.

If I weren’t president, you’d be in a war right now in Asia. And who knows where that leads? That brings in a lot of other countries.”

On Mr Kim, he added: ‘You know my relationship with Kim Jong Un is really good but that doesn’t mean he won’t abide by the agreement we signed. You have to understand, you have to go look at the first agreement that we signed. It said he will denuclearise. That’s what it said. I hope he lives up to the agreement but we’re going to find out.’

ZeroHedge had another remark from the US president on his French counterpart:

‘I do see France breaking off. I’m looking at him and I’m saying he [Macron] needs protection more than anybody and I see him breaking off, so I’m a little surprised at that,’ Trump said.

Returning to the NHS, here’s a video of Trump saying he’s not interested:

Labour supporters continue to circulate an old video saying he is. If the video you see does not look like the one immediately above, then it’s old — and obsolete.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall welcomed the Trumps to Clarence House for tea.

They then went to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen hosted a reception for NATO leaders:

The Daily Mail has extensive photos of both the reception and tea at Clarence House.

I cannot help but feel sorry for Her Majesty being squashed by Jens and Boris. Why could they not have given her some breathing room?

During the reception, Justin from Canada made his views known about Trump. He later admitted that he was talking about his meeting with the US president, which ended up being 40 minutes late because of the extended press conference:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also in attendance, hoped to corner Trump to tell him not to engage in any trade negotiations regarding the NHS. In the event, Corbyn was on one side of the room and Trump on the other. They never met.

Meanwhile, several dozen radical protesters demonstrated outside:

Then it was on to No. 10, where Boris hosted a reception for NATO leaders. Some news reports said that Boris wasn’t there to greet them, but other news accounts said that he had been delayed by ten minutes in returning from Buckingham Palace.

In any event, since when does the Prime Minister personally open the door? It’s always a policeman or woman who handles that.

The Trumps looked ill at ease when they arrived, despite a choir singing Christmas carols in the background. Had they already found out about Justin from Canada’s hot mic moment at Buckingham Palace?

On Wednesday morning, Trump arrived at The Grove for the final day of the summit:

It is said that the president left early. He was there for the photo op. Perhaps he simply cancelled a second press conference. What more did he have to say?

The US president had his own hot mic moment that day:

In another NATO hot mic moment, President Donald Trump was recorded saying it was “funny” when he called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced.”

Interestingly, Boris’s key adviser, Dominic Cummings, was spotted sitting on the sidelines that day:

No doubt the residents of Watford were happy to see the sun go down that day, heralding a return to normality for them:

The summit went well, as the Estonian and Dutch prime ministers respectively tweeted:

President Trump was happy, too:

Back in the UK, later that day, questions for Boris still persisted about the NHS:

Politics aside, our Prime Minister can be pleased with his role in hosting the 70th NATO summit, which took place without incident.

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