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Following on from yesterday’s UK news in brief, the fallout continued into the weekend.

The Opposition

Some viewers of parliamentary proceedings thought that last Wednesday’s PMQs was tense.

Guido Fawkes said that Boris looked ‘rattled’ as Keir Starmer asked Boris some difficult questions:

Boris came across rather rattled at PMQs today as a calm Keir Starmer attacked the PM on a number of topics, including why Allegra Stratton resigned, Rwanda and his reported comments about the BBC during last night’s 1922 meeting.

When questioned by Labour’s Keir Starmer, at one point, Boris said:

He must be out of his tiny mind!

Guido has the video:

The day before, in responding to Boris’s second apology for the fine — for pedants, fixed penalty notice — for a Downing Street gathering, Starmer took the opportunity to mention a constituent of Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, who thought there should be a bar in Downing Street (see yesterday’s post).

Guido Fawkes has the story.

This is what Starmer said (emphases mine throughout, except for Guido’s in red):

This morning I spoke to John Robinson, a constituent of the hon. Member for Lichfield, and I want to tell the House his story.

When his wife died of covid, John and his family obeyed the Prime Minister’s rules. He did not see her in hospital; he did not hold her hand as she died. Their daughters and grandchildren drove 100 miles up the motorway, clutching a letter from the funeral director in case they were questioned by the police. They did not have a service in church, and John’s son-in-law stayed away because he would have been the forbidden seventh mourner. Does the Prime Minister not realise that John would have given the world to hold his dying wife’s hand, even if it was just for nine minutes? But he did not, because he followed the Prime Minister’s rules—rules that we now know the Prime Minister blithely, repeatedly and deliberately ignored. After months of insulting excuses, today’s half-hearted apology will never be enough for John Robinson. If the Prime Minister had any respect for John, and the millions like him who sacrificed everything to follow the rules, he would resign. But he will not, because he does not respect John, and he does not respect the sacrifice of the British public. He is a man without shame.

When I heard that, I couldn’t imagine what Starmer was going to say about Fabricant. Fortunately, he said nothing about the MP. Starmer used the constituent’s story to make a point about Boris’s breaking the rules during coronavirus restrictions.

However, it is not the done thing to interfere in or visit someone else’s constituency without letting the relevant MP know.

Guido discovered that John Robinson had his unfortunate lockdown experience published in The Guardian‘s letters page on April 14. His letter reads much the way Starmer presented it to the Commons, although it ended with this:

Johnson flouted his own laws and rules. He partied his way through them. Am I angry? Anger doesn’t even touch the sides of how I feel about this pathetic excuse for a man, and I suspect that the majority of us little people share my views, will never forget and will never forgive.

Even so, it seems to me that Starmer had some nerve to contact him.

Fabricant appeared on GB News on Wednesday, April 20. He said:

The saddest thing of all, I think, is the way Keir Starmer and other politicians have chosen to weaponise the personal tragedies endured by people like John Robinson and you know I would have thought, actually, that was pretty beneath them.

Me, too.

Imagine if a Conservative MP had done that. Labour would have banged on about it for weeks, if not months.

Migration and the Rwanda policy

The Archbishop of Canterbury used his Easter 2022 sermon to rail against the Home Office’s plan to transfer illegal immigrants, especially those crossing the English Channel from France, to Rwanda for processing.

The Archbishop may also take issue with Denmark, which is pursuing the same policy. We pipped them to the post, but, apparently, Rwanda can capably deal with any number of migrants and for more than one country:

Guido reminded readers that the EU were also considering Rwanda as far back as 2019:

An awkward moment this morning for all the lefty hacks and opposition MPs who’ve turned their noses at the government’s illegal migrant plans, as Denmark has announced it is also now outlining plans to send adult asylum seekers to Rwanda. The Archbishop of Canterbury will need to have a lie-down…

In a statement released this morning, Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye confirmed the country has entered discussions with the Rwandan government:

Our dialogue with the Rwandan government includes a mechanism for the transfer of asylum seekers… [the deal will] ensure a more dignified approach than the criminal network of human traffickers that characterises migration across the Mediterranean today …

In 2019 then-European Commissioner Neven Mimica also announced a similar plan for the EU:

While in #Rwanda, happy to announce a 10M€ project to support efforts of the Government to receive and provide protection to about 1500 #refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in #Libya.

When the PM announced the Rwanda policy he predicted many other countries will soon follow suit – this is much sooner than expected though…

Our deal with Rwanda isn’t due to start for another few weeks, but it’s already had an effect on the Channel-crossers, as some Red Wall MPs have noticed:

Correct, but it’s working before it’s even started.

Bassetlaw’s MP tweeted:

The Daily Mail article about migrant men in France is a must-read:

Standing beside a row of shabby, small shelters amid a hum from massive industrial units and passing lorries, Hamid Karimi, 34, sums it up: ‘I’m not going to the UK if afterwards I’m sent to Rwanda. I’m staying here. I’m not going to Rwanda.’

Others in the group nod in agreement. Referring to the Prime Minister, one jokes: ‘Johnson go to Rwanda!’

Boris Johnson has said the scheme drawn up by Home Secretary Priti Patel will serve as a ‘very considerable deterrent’ – and that appears to be the case here.

Announcing the Rwanda scheme on April 14, the PM said tens of thousands of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK by ‘irregular routes’, such as small boats or hiding in lorries, will be sent 4,000 miles to the African nation.

Arrivals will be processed and screened in the UK, with those deemed suitable flown to Rwanda on planes chartered by the Government

They will be then given accommodation and the opportunity to apply for asylum there – but cannot return to the UK. The change in tack from Hamid and his fellow Iranians is one adopted by many migrants in northern France since the announcement.

A few miles away, near another camp in Calais, a group of mostly Sudanese men told of their fear of being beaten or even killed if they are sent to Rwanda.

‘We came from Africa – we don’t want to go back,’ said Mohammed Noor, 34. ‘Nobody wants to go to Rwanda. If I go, I will finish my life. In Rwanda I won’t get a good life. I have come here for Europe and for the UK.’

… The Government wants the first flights to leave next month. Channel crossings have continued in their hundreds since the announcement, but early indications show that numbers are in decline. On April 14, 562 crossed in small boats. On Tuesday, the figure was 263.

It is too early to say if the apparent decline is a result of the plan, but ministers will certainly hope so. They say the policy is intended to ‘take back control of illegal immigration’ and undermine people traffickers who profit from it. 

The decline continues:

Yes, it is possible that the weather — wind — could have been a factor, but the Mail‘s article supports the premise that the deterrent is working.

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel has run into trouble with civil servants — ‘mandarins’ — assigned to her department. They do not want to implement the Rwanda plan:

Guido has an exclusive on the ‘rebellion’, complete with screenshots of anonymous tweets from upset civil servants:

Home Office civil servants used an officially organised online consultation this afternoon to discuss the recently-announced Rwanda policy, asking how to potentially block the move, comparing themselves to Nazis “only obeying orders”, proposed going on strike and questioned how to deal with their mental health in light of the policy. It shows conclusive evidence of the scale of left-wing opposition facing Patel and the government from within the civil service. It follows news from the weekend that Patel had to issue a ministerial direction to force the policy through …

This is the scale of opposition Priti Patel is facing at the moment from the enemies within, despite her and her fellow ministers being the only people in the department with democratic mandates. While Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Clarke are publicly promising to cull the number of civil servants, Guido can see a very obvious place the start…

On April 21, The Guardian reported that Matthew Rycroft, permanent secretary to the Home Office, attempted to reassure civil servants that they will not be breaking international law or be guilty of racism if they send migrants with unsuccessful refugee status claims to Rwanda:

Amid growing anger from the department’s workforce, Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary, faced questions at an online staff meeting asking if the home secretary’s policy of giving people a one-way ticket to Kigali was racist, while others demanded to know if the new policy was within international law.

Rycroft told staff they had to implement ministers’ decisions, and reminded them of the civil service’s neutral role, sources said.

The scheduled online meeting was held the day after it emerged that Home Office staff had threatened to strike and had drawn comparisons to working for the Third Reich over Patel’s plan.

One source said Rycroft was “bullish” about the government’s claim that the nationality and borders bill would not have to be passed into law before the policy could be implemented.

The article says that Rycroft did not sign off the plan initially, hence, as Guido wrote, Patel’s ministerial direction to do so:

It emerged on Sunday that Rycroft had refused to sign off Patel’s plans, claiming that he could not be sure it would provide value for money to the taxpayer. However, sources said he was “fully supportive” of the policy in the online meeting while flanked by other officials. He criticised leaks of the questions posed by staff, saying it was a breach of the civil service code.

This is the principal sentence from the ministerial direction:

I am therefore formally directing you as Accounting Officer to take forward this scheme with immediate effect, managing the identified risks as best you can.

Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, tweeted his empathy for the Home Secretary:

On Monday, April 26, during Home Office questions in Parliament, Marco Longhi, Conservative (and Red Wall) MP representing Dudley North, asked for the Rwanda plan to proceed. Tom Pursglove MP assured him that it would.

The human traffickers must be stopped. By the way, Labour have no alternative plan. They just don’t like this one:

There is another wrinkle to this saga. Guido reports that the Home Office is fending off criticism that some journalists were not allowed to be part of the press corps on the Government’s recent trip to Rwanda:

Guido’s post says, in part:

Guardian, Mirror and Financial Times hacks are complaining in Press Gazette that they were “blocked” from attending Priti’s Rwanda trip this month, with the Guardian going as far as to accuse the Home Office of trying to “avoid public scrutiny“ …

Strangely, however, Guardian hacks were actually invited on the trip… their reporter just happened to fall ill right before leaving.

The Guardian put forward a substitute journalist, but the Home Office declined the offer.

Ultimately, only so many reporters can go:

Guido’s departmental co-conspirator says the whole row is “silly“, as they can’t offer tickets to everyone, everywhere, at all times. They also point out how both the BBC and PA were on-hand throughout the entire trip – so those that couldn’t attend could get straight wire copy. In fact, even the picture used in the Press Gazette report came from PA…

It’s ‘get Boris’ time

It is becoming painfully obvious for those who voted Conservative in 2019 that the police are not applying the coronavirus rules equally.

As I have said before, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the only government leader in the UK to receive a fixed penalty notice for his birthday ‘party’ — if you can call a 10-minute gathering of staff and a closed Tupperware container of cake a party.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also received a fixed penalty notice for being at the same gathering.

Meanwhile, no one in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland has received anything more than a polite reminder from the police.

So, let’s look at Labour.

In May 2021, we had a local election in England along with regional elections in Wales and Scotland. We will be having local elections this May as well, including a regional election in Northern Ireland.

Going back to last year, there were coronavirus-specific campaign requirements and restrictions. Pictured is Labour leader Keir Starmer at the Labour offices in Durham at the end of April 2021:

On May 1, 2021, The Sun reported on Starmer’s visit:

LABOUR have dismissed an election ‘booze row’ after Sir Keir Starmer enjoyed a beer after a day on the campaign trail.

He was seen mixing with party workers in a constituency office in Durham on Friday night …

Tory co-chair Amanda Milling said: “Keir Starmer has continually and rightly called for people to follow the rules designed to keep us safe, but it’s now in question whether he is following them himself.

“People will rightly be asking questions about this.”

But a Labour source tonight said: “This is pathetic. The Tories’ clearly haven’t read their own rules.”

The local police concluded that there was nothing to investigate. Last weekend, some people wondered whether Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner was present at the gathering:

Richard Holden, the Red Wall MP who represents Durham North, wrote to the Chief Constable of the Durham Constabulary to ask whether the coronavirus restrictions during the campaign had been followed in this particular instance:

Last Sunday morning, Starmer told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth that he had nothing more to add about the gathering.

On Monday, April 25, Guido contacted the press officer for Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen. The response he received did not put the matter to rest in his opinion:

Following Holden’s letter, multiple social media users began questioning whether Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen – a longstanding Starmer supporter – was at the event, and whether that could have played a role in the police force’s decision to find in the Labour leader’s favour. Following the rumours, Guido contacted her press office…

The Office of the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner has been informed that neither Joy Allen, the then candidate for Durham PCC, or Nigel Bryson, attended the event involving Kier [sic] Starmer during his visit to Durham at the last local election.

Leaving aside the phrase “has been informed” rather than a first-person denial, Guido’s intrigued by the formal implication this is being considered a local election event, rather than a business meeting. As the rules stated at the time, campaigners could only go indoors “to meet the committee room organiser in order to collect election literature or drop off telling slips…”

It is against the law to meet socially indoors with anyone not in your household or support bubble.

Did Starmer’s own Police and Crime Commissioner just accidentally dob him in?

Nothing more will happen. Apart from Richard Holden’s constituency, Durham is Labour, through and through.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer is deeply disappointed that London’s Metropolitan Police will not issue further fixed penalty notices until after local elections in early May:

What does the average Briton think about what has been dubbed ‘partygate’? A co-presenter of GB News’s The Political Correction said on Sunday that people were tired of hearing about it:

If we’re fed up with it, imagine the confusion in Ukraine where, believe it or not, a Times reporter asked a woman there what she thought about Boris’s birthday party plight.

On Monday, April 25, Guido reported:

From today’s Times:

The details of Carrie Johnson’s birthday cake “ambush” were explained to them slowly, and when they understood the full extent of the scandal, they said they did not much care.

“Niet. niet.” Raisa said. “I don’t know about this birthday party. That seems to be normal human behaviour. But he was the first man who stood with us and helped us in our struggle. He is the best, I tell you, the best, the best, the best.”

Conclusion

Opposition MPs have been railing against Boris since he became Prime Minister in 2019, generally attaching some superlative such as ‘worst’ to their opinions.

Veteran reporter and broadcaster Colin Brazier, who presents an excellent show on GB News, suggests that we could always have had a worse leader. What about Oliver Cromwell, who was born on April 25, 1599?

Local elections take place on Thursday, May 5. We’ll see what the fallout looks like then.

St George Paolo Uccello Musee Andre Jacquemart Paris

The painting above is by Paolo Uccello and can be viewed at the Musée André Jacquemart in Paris. You can read more about it and the legend it depicts here.

St George‘s Day is April 23, but you’d never know it in most parts of England.

Saturday came and went, as have other St George’s Days. This year it seemed as if only GB News and the Conservative Party remembered our patron saint.

On Friday, April 22, Patrick Christys had harsh words for self-loathing Englishmen. His is an excellent editorial. Not surprisingly, he got a lot of nasty comments:

Red Wall MP Brendan Clarke-Smith of Bassetlaw started Saturday with a happy greeting:

On Saturday afternoon, GB News’s Nana Akua said she is proud to be English. She also pointed out that Britons seem to know the date of all the UK’s patron saints’ feast days except for St George’s. How true. Hers was also an excellent editorial. Fortunately, she got a lot of compliments:

That evening, Neil ‘The Coast Guy’ Oliver, a Scot, discussed the overall malaise that the British have over their nationality:

Why this is I cannot figure out, but it’s been around for decades. I encountered it when I first moved here. It’s a pernicious disgrace that gets worse by the year.

Excerpts of Oliver’s editorial follow, emphases mine:

Personally, I’ve had more than enough of the message.

It is no accident that our past, our shared past, is being used as the stick with which to beat us. To seek to do as much is a well-worn tactic. If a people can be made ashamed of the figures from their past – those who, by their efforts and endeavours, brought us to where we are today – then the moral legitimacy of the present is undermined and then destroyed. It is in this way that those of us who take pride in Britain and Britishness are made to keep our heads down and to shut up.

Today is St George’s Day, of course. St George, patron saint of England, was from territory we know now as Turkey. He died in Palestine and is also the patron saint chosen by the people of Georgia, the Lithuanians, the Maltese, the Portuguese and the Venetians.

He was a Christian martyr but most clearly he stands for the necessity to face adversity in defence of the innocent and helpless. Symbols matter, and as a symbol, George is a good one. I like to see all of the patron saints remembered and celebrated – Andrew, Patrick and David too.

I am a Scot, but a British Scot. I have said this many times and I will keep on saying it. Because it is the whole of Britain that I love most dearly of all. It is all one place to me, united and made whole by a history that is deep beyond the reach of memory. Long before there was an England, or a Scotland, or a Wales there was a long island called Britain, or at least a name that sounded a lot like Britain.

Few places have histories longer than ours, histories as rich and complex. This has been a consequence of how much our predecessors achieved. Few nations even attempted to reach so far around the world. British history is long and convoluted on account of how much was accomplished. There is no denying the dynamism of Britain and the British. That those who went before us did so much to shape the modern world means our history is, inevitably, riven with good and with bad – with achievements and with mistakes. So much has been done in our name. And there has, let us not forget, long been a substantial and necessary body of opinion heartily and enthusiastically criticising our own past behaviour. This has been appropriate, but it is worth pointing out that we were rightly critical of ourselves long before the present campaign to tear the old place down in its entirety.

More by luck than good judgment, and mostly by means of the magic carpet provided by making television, I have seen a great deal of Britain. I have been around the coast many times. I have been back and forth across the interior. I have seen the landscape from the sky, from the cockpit of fighter jets, vintage biplanes and microlights. I have been on its encircling waters in kayaks, battleships and just about anything in between that floats, and under its waters in scuba gear and a nuclear submarine.

I have had a thorough look around. Long before the end I realised it was all one place, that the national borders drawn across it had no meaning for me and were invisible anyway.

I love this place. But I also believe in it

Those whose agenda it is to run down Britain want nothing less than that it might cease to exist in any recognisable form, so that it might be replaced with something utterly different. It’s worth noting that those those who demand a national apology from Britain, are not in the business of accepting apologies and moving on. To apologise to those who hate what Britain has been is only to offer our throats to the wolf.

As well as the place, I love the people of Britain. In my travels around the place, I have experienced nothing but welcome – in England, Ireland, Wales and at home in Scotland. The British people I love are those whose voices have been silenced and ignored of late – those who want only to go honestly about their business, paying their dues and trying to make something good of themselves and of the patch of the world in which they live. That Britain has fostered people like those – millions of them, silent witnesses all – is, on its own, the justification for the continued celebration of Britain.

Every day I meet people like that – unsung and, most recently, told that they are products of something innately bad, that they need to feel ashamed of themselves and of their sense of themselves.

The world plainly needs Britain – or at least the idea of Britain. Every day now, more and more people arrive on our shores – invited and uninvited. Britain is still a bright light in a darkening world and attracts those who can see a better life is available for the taking here. In fact, Britain is so strong at heart that she even weathers the incompetent leadership with which she is burdened from time to time.

In order to love someone, or someplace, completely, it is necessary to accept the good and the bad. I love this place – and in loving it I accept our history is shot through with dark as well as light. The time for crawling on our knees to those unforgiving individuals and organisations that seek only to punish, without any hope of redemption, is past.

Let’s lift up our chins and look the rest of the world straight in the eye, as is our right, and our hard won inheritance from the ancestors.

Well said!

About 20 years ago, there was an informal online campaign to get a new patron saint for England. Why? What is wrong with St George? These were left-leaning individuals politically. Ironically, they said that George wasn’t ‘English enough’. They took issue with his Turkishness. Most strange.

On Sunday morning, The Political Correction had on Dr Gavin Ashenden, who used to be one of the Queen’s chaplains. He has since become a Roman Catholic and is a layman.

He told presenter (and former politician) Arlene Foster that England’s original patron saint was St Edmund, king and martyr.

He was England’s patron saint until the 14th century and died defending the English people valiantly from the Vikings.

However, around the time that the Royal Family instituted the Order of the Garter, they were looking for another saint, for whatever reason.

St George was chosen, he said, for his chivalric virtues. Ashenden explained that the dragon is a symbol for evil. The devil is depicted as a dragon in Revelation. Therefore, through his brave, virtuous life of faith, George was slaying evil in a way. George died a martyr under Diocletian.

Ashenden said the fact that George was from Anatolia was immaterial. It was his bravery, character and faith that the English loved.

Ashenden said that people took Christianity very seriously in the Middle Ages. They loved God and they respected the law, which they considered was God-given through their rulers.

He added that one of the popes of that era reduced violence and war by decreeing that battle could take place only on days when no prominent saint’s day was celebrated. At the time, holy days comprised about 30 per cent of the year. What a great idea that was. We should devise something similar today.

You can see Dr Ashenden’s interview on his website. The first segment is about St George and is around four minutes long.

Incidentally, April 23 is also Shakespeare’s birthday.

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