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It’s been a week full of news, which is unusual right before Christmas. Yet, here we are.

Omicron death

The person who died with Omicron was an unvaccinated man in his 70s:

I, too, would like those questions answered.

The man’s stepson called into Nick Ferrari’s LBC show to say that he was a germophobe. He had everything delivered to his door and never left the house unless he had to post a letter:

Guido Fawkes has more (emphasis in the original):

Speaking to Nick Ferrari, the stepson of the man who died earlier this week claimed that he had been taken in by “conspiracy theories”, and refused to take the vaccine despite being in his early 70s:

He thought it was a conspiracy. He was an intelligent man but it’s all these different things you are getting from online and different media things… He wasn’t vaccinated at all.

According to the latest figures, there are currently 15 people in hospital with Omicron, an increase of 5 since Tuesday…

Chris Whitty’s Omicron projections

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference with Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Prof Patrick Vallance.

Whitty predicted Armageddon with a chart showing unbelievably high projections of Omicron cases.

A good friend of mine said he hoped that chart would come back to bite Whitty in the proverbial. I couldn’t agree more.

However, when Whitty appeared before the Health and Social Care Select Committee on Thursday, December 16, he changed his tune when giving evidence to MPs.

The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

Britain may be “better off” with omicron than it was with the delta variant, thanks to the booster programme, Prof Chris Whitty has suggested.

Giving evidence at the Health and Social Care Select Committee, the Chief Medical Officer for England said that vaccines appeared to be holding up well against omicron and said boosters may even be preventing transmissibility and infection

“It is possible that with a boost, we’re better off with omicron than we are with two vaccines with delta for severe disease,” he told MPs.

Prof Whitty said he was expecting omicron to cause an “impressive” rise in cases, which could lead to daily peaks in admission bigger than seen in the January wave, when hospitalisations hit nearly 40,000 a day.

However, he said that cases may begin to fall quickly and that a milder illness may mean people would stay in hospital for a short period, reducing the overall burden on the health service. Fewer people may also need intensive care, he added

“I think most people think on the positive side, that there will be some preserved immunity, particularly on the non-antibody side, such as T-cells. Therefore it is likely someone who has one or two vaccines already will have some protection and with a booster considerably more protection against hospitalisation and death.

“It does look as if boosters restore some of the ability to actually reduce infection and transmission, at least for a period of time.”

Then he told MPs that he was reluctant to give the public projection numbers, yet he did just that at this week’s press conference:

I have resisted putting forward projection numbers into the public domain because I don’t think they are reliable and you can’t put enough caveats on them.”

We don’t think they are reliable either, Prof Whitty.

Health and Security Agency’s Omicron projections for England withdrawn

The UK Health and Security Agency also backtracked on their projections because of a change in public behaviour. I wonder:

If only they would lift Plan B …

… because it is really hurting the hospitality sector.

Michel Roux Jr has tweeted about his daughter Emily’s London restaurant Caractère, which is suffering from a rash of sudden cancellations:

Her restaurant is not the only one. Omicron has everyone running scared.

But, what if it ‘cases’ did double every two days and what if we all caught Omicron? Would it confer herd immunity? We’ll know if the following extrapolation is true by Twelfth Night:

The Queen cancels Windsor Castle pre-Christmas lunch

Because of the Omicron scare, our sovereign has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family lunch at Windsor Castle. ITV’s Chris Ship reports:

South Africa, however, remains relatively relaxed about Omicron, as the Daily Mail‘s Dan Hodges points out. Note the reply, which shows Chris Whitty contradicting himself yet again. Either boosters help immunity or they don’t. Which is it, Chris?

The elusive NHS GP can be seen — privately

Our NHS GPs have been elusive since last year. If you’re lucky, you can get a telephone or an online appointment. Very few patients are able to see them in person.

However, if one goes private, one can see one’s GP:

It looks as if the Mail on Sunday is investigating this situation. Good!

Killing off ivermectin as coronavirus prophylaxis

In more medical news, we discover how ivermectin was effectively killed off as a prophylaxis for coronavirus in the UK and the US.

Thanks to my reader dearieme for the Vox Day link, which leads to a World Tribune article summarising the incident from Robert Kennedy Jr’s New York Times Bestseller, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the global war on Democracy and Public Health.

Excerpts follow:

Andrew Hill, PhD, is a senior visiting Research Fellow in Pharmacology at Liverpool University. He is also an advisor for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. As a researcher for the WHO evaluating ivermectin, Hill wielded enormous influence over international guidance for the drug’s use.

Hill had previously authored an analysis of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 that found the drug overwhelmingly effective.

On Jan. 6 of 2021, Hill testified enthusiastically before the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidlelines Panel in support of ivermectin’s use. Within a month, however, Hill found himself in what he describes as a “tricky situation.” Under pressure from his funding sponsors, Hill then published an unfavorable study. Ironically, he used the same sources as in the original study. Only the conclusions had changed.

Shortly before he published, Dr. Tess Lawrie, Director of the Evidence-based Medicine Consultancy in Bath, England, and one of the world’s leading medical research analysts, contacted Hill via Zoom and recorded the call (transcript below). Lawrie had learned of his new position and reached out to try to rectify the situation.

In a remarkable exchange, a transcript of which appears on pages 137 – 143 in Kennedy’s book, Hill admitted his manipulated study would likely delay the uptake of ivermectin in the UK and United States, but said he hoped his doing so would only set the lifesaving drug’s acceptance back by about “six weeks,” after which he was willing to give his support for its use

The two scientists discussed ivermectin’s positive results in combating coronavirus:

… the number of preventable deaths incurred by such a delay would be staggering — as many as 504,000.

Hill declined being listed as Lawrie’s head author on the paper with the positive results. Instead, he published the negative findings.

This is why he did so:

Four days before publication, Hill’s sponsor Unitaid gave the University of Liverpool, Hill’s employer $40 million. Unitaid, it turns out, was also an author of the conclusions of Hill’s study

when pressed he admitted his sponsor, Unitaid, was an unacknowledged author of conclusions.

Unitaid has a say in the conclusions of the paper. Yeah,” he told Lawrie

Dr. Pierre Kory, of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, commented, “Andrew is apparently making a living now accusing the doctors and scientists who support ivermectin of medical fraud.”

Regulatory acceptance of ivermectin did not delay only six weeks. Instead, almost a year later, it has still not been approved by health agencies in the United Kingdom or in United States. Instead The WHO, CDC, NIH, and FDA have suppressed the drug’s use.

Instead, we are taking notional vaccines. Who knows what they are doing to our bodies?

Boris’s daughter’s name

Boris and Carrie Johnson have named their infant daughter Romy Iris Charlotte. She is shown with her brother Wilfred:

Romy is a ‘rainbow baby’ because she followed a miscarriage.

Best wishes to the Johnsons.

Conservatives lose safe seat for first time ever

In less cheery news for Boris, the Conservatives lost Owen Paterson‘s former North Shropshire constituency for the first time ever — nearly 200 years:

Paterson resigned a few weeks ago over sleaze allegations. He had a 23,000+ majority in the 2019 general election.

Failed candidate Neil Shastri-Hunt, who had been parachuted in from outside the constituency, said he planned to get some sleep and:

go and give my 8-week old a bit of a cuddle.

My commiserations to anyone who took this misguided betting advice:

The by-election took place on Thursday, December 16. The Liberal Democrats won by a landslide, as I thought they might:

Also note how low the vote for Labour was, despite party leader Sir Keir Starmer refusing to admit he is a socialist:

What does that mean?

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP admitted his party ‘got a kicking’ but added that such by-election results are not unusual when a Prime Minister is halfway through his or her term in office:

Therefore, this protest vote might be a one-off. Let us hope so.

However, in order for that to happen, Boris must be more of a Conservative and less of a Green Blairite.

Courier’s employees throw parcels against wall

And last, but hardly least, we have distressing news about some Christmas home deliveries.

Hermes is the UK’s worst courier company, but we have to put up with their delayed, sometimes damaged, deliveries.

A reporter from The Times did a brief stint with Hermes and found a group of disgruntled employees, some of whom threw parcels against a warehouse wall. The reporter is shown with his car boot open:

Hermes will investigate but says this is not typical behaviour of its employees. The company is at the bottom of the national delivery league table:

Meanwhile, I have been noting the rather downbeat Christmas notes we have received with our cards this year.

I hope that 2022 brings us far better tidings.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is quickly going from hero to zero.

Lately, he has been beset by scandals, some from other Conservative MPs but others which can be laid only at his door.

At least he has a new baby daughter to provide some distraction.

N.B. Some tweets below come from a Boris parody account, such as these:

Downing Street flat refurbishment

Carrie Johnson wanted to refurbish the Downing Street flat.

Most PMs’ wives have done it on a careful budget. Samantha Cameron redid the flat when her husband David was PM between 2010 and 2016. Unlike the other PMs’s wives, she spent £100,000, which included a brand new kitchen.

Theresa May was more prudent when she redecorated further.

According to Tatler, Theresa May’s taste was too ‘John Lewis’, so Carrie enlisted the help of interior designer Lulu Lytle.

On March 1, 2021, news emerged that, before Carrie Symonds married the Prime Minister, her fiancé wanted to set up a charity to fund the costs, as the White House does. The Daily Mail reported  (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson is secretly trying to set up a charity to help pay for a costly makeover of his official flat by his fiancée, it has been claimed.

The scheme is based on one used by the White House to raise millions of dollars for interior design, antiques and art.

The presidential charity is bankrolled by private donors – and the proposed Downing Street version is expected to be funded largely by wealthy Tory benefactors.

It runs the risk of claims of conflict of interest if it is seen as a back-door way of providing a financial benefit to the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson has complained the cost of the refurbishment by Carrie Symonds was ‘totally out of control’, the Daily Mail has been told. He reportedly said during one meeting that the sum amounted to ‘tens and tens of thousands’. On another occasion he said it was ‘over a hundred grand’.

He is said to have told one minister he was particularly alarmed by the cost of wallpaper chosen by Miss Symonds, saying she appeared to have ordered ‘gold wall coverings’.

Mr Johnson has asked multi-millionaire financier and Tory peer Lord Brownlow, who has close links with the Royal Family, to run the charity. It is believed that an application to register it with the Charity Commission is under way.

The official purpose of the charity is to raise funds to preserve No 10 and No 11 Downing Street for the nation on heritage grounds.

But insiders say the proposal stemmed from the soaring cost of a makeover of the No 11 flat, which is preferred by prime ministers with families because it is bigger than the No 10 flat …

The Charity Commission said it was not aware of any application to set up a Downing Street charity.

Conservative Party HQ, the Cabinet Office, Lord Brownlow and Miss Lytle declined to comment.

The article includes photos of the newly decorated room which looks as if it came out of a harem. What were they thinking?

The hallway is better but is still an acquired taste.

On March 12, the cost came up for discussion in the House of Lords. Journalist John Rentoul put together a graph from the figures that Lord True gave to the Lords:

When this came up earlier this year, it seemed like revenge at Boris for Brexit.

On Wednesday, April 28, the left-leaning Electoral Commission announced a formal investigation into the refurbishment.

Guido Fawkes reported that the Commission’s spokesperson said, in part (emphases in the original):

We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred. We will therefore continue this work as a formal investigation to establish whether this is the case.

“The investigation will determine whether any transactions relating to the works at 11 Downing Street fall within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether such funding was reported as required …

Guido pointed out that Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) took place that day:

Incredibly awkward timing ahead of PMQs…

Sure enough, it was awkward for Boris, facing Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer at the despatch box, as Guido later reported, complete with a video (emphases mine):

Boris ended his PMQs spar with Sir Keir visibly furious after four questions about who paid for the No. 10 flat renovation. The PM copied the CCHQ strategy of relying on the specifically-worded phrase “I paid for [the] Downing Street refurbishment personally”Asked whether Lord Brownlow paid the initial refurbishment invoice, Johnson dodged the question, saying “I think I’ve answered this question several times, the answer is I have covered the cost.”

The session finished with an incredible rant from the PM, which resulted in [Speaker of the House] Lindsay Hoyle having to ask him to Calm it down a little.”

Guido and his team discussed the issue on Friday, April 30.

Around that time, Tatler published the text of an email from Lord Brownlow regarding a donation:

The Mail claims that the email appears to prove that the Tories planned to claim the £58,000 was paid not by Lord Brownlow but by a ‘soon to be formed Downing St Trust’ that did not exist – and still doesn’t, officially.

The email, sent by wealthy donor Lord Brownlow last year, on 14 October was marked ‘Donation’ and reads: ‘Hi Mike … further to our conversation I am making a donation to the Party. It includes the £15,000 you and I have agreed – plus £58,000 to cover the payments the Party has already made on behalf of the soon to be formed “Downing Street Trust” – of which I have been made chairman, as you know.’

Prime Ministers typically receive about £30,000 of public money to redecorate but Johnson is reported to have complained to advisers about the high costs he incurred for his upmarket interior design project.

A Conservative spokeswoman told the Times : ‘All reportable donations to the Conservative Party are correctly declared to the Electoral Commission.’

On August 26, Conservative Party headquarters provided an update. Guido reported that the following was buried in the footnote of page 25/26 of the annual report (emphases in the original):

The Conservative Party officially say they provided a “bridging loan” of precisely £52,802 “in relation to the renovation of the Prime Ministerial residence in Downing Street” in anticipation of the formation of the PM’s now-abandoned “Downing Street Trust”. Conservative Central Office was then invoiced by the Cabinet Office in June 2020. Lord Brownlow then reimbursed the party…

CCHQ continues, “In March 2021, the Prime Minister personally settled the costs incurred by Lord Brownlow”, before pointing to the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests review, which found the loan provided by CCHQ constituted financial support to the PM. The full stop at the end of the long-running row?

No, that was not the end of the matter. Yesterday, Thursday, December 9, Guido updated us with the news that the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative Party £17,800:

It just one thing after another for No. 10 this morning, as the Electoral Commission fines them £17,800 for failing to “accurately report a donation and keep a proper accounting record” in regards to the Downing Street flat refurb:

The investigation found that the party failed to fully report a donation of £67,801.72 from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020. The donation included £52,801.72 connected to the costs of refurbishment to 11 Downing Street. The full value of the donation was not reported as required in the party’s Q4 2020 donation report.

The Commission also concluded that the reference in the party’s financial records to the payment of £52,801.72 made by the party for the refurbishment was not accurate.”

It never rains but it pours…

Sleaze

A sleaze scandal involving Conservative MPs erupted in November, resulting in the resignation of Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire. A by-election for his successor will be held on Thursday, December 16.

However, as I was on the subject of flats, the Political Editor of The Sun reports that, even though it became an issue in 2012, it appears that MPs buy London flats to rent out then reclaim the expense for the flat:

Guido exposed the practice in 2012. It allegedly involved at least one Labour MP and the then-Speaker of the House John Bercow covering it up (emphasis in purple mine):

The first and most simple method of rent-swapping involves the MPs who make money renting out their own previously taxpayer-funded properties while claiming expenses to rent out homes nearby. According to The Telegraph Chris Bryant rents out his mansion flat in Bloomsbury while claiming £2,000 expenses for rent on another London property. We have repeatedly asked him for an explanation this morning without receiving any reply. The Speaker claims the truth cannot be released because it would pose a security risk. Laughable, Guido and anyone else who wants to know, already knows where he lives.

The second, far more serious, category of rent-swapping covers a handful of MPs suspected of renting out properties to each other, effectively an “I’ll pay yours if you pay mine” scheme. MPs are banned from renting homes to relatives but a loophole in the rules allows them to trouser huge sums of money by renting out properties to other current and former MPs. Bercow cites security reasons for not revealing the address or names of landlords, but there is absolutely no reason why he cannot release the names of the MPs involved in this form of rent-swapping. It is a cover up.

There is also potentially a third category: the so-called “phantom” rent swap. This involves the possibility of MPs telling the authorities they have moved when in reality they have not, and then swapping their rent on the quiet.

If these people were claiming housing benefit “Rent Swapping” like this would fall into the category of benefit fraud plain and simple, it is in the parlance of welfare fraud investigators a “contrived tenancy” punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

Now on to the big Opposition sleaze attacks from this year.

In April, Labour and Scotland’s SNP MPs accused the Conservatives of cronyism when obtaining last year’s emergency PPE and equipment contracts to fight the pandemic. On April 26, Michael Gove responded:

  • Only 0.5% of PPE wasn’t up to scratch …
  • The Dyson texts were about securing ventilators for the frontline …

In November, the Owen Paterson controversy broke. Paterson had been working for the Northern Irish healthcare company Randox, whilst he was Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary. That was before the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition took office in May 2010. In 2015, he began working as a consultant for the company. By 2019, he was earning £8,333 a month for a monthly commitment of 16 hours in that role.

In 2020, the Government awarded two contracts to Randox for producing coronavirus testing kits. The first contract, awarded in March, was worth £133 million. In April 2020, Paterson represented Randox in a call with Lord Bethell, the minister responsible for awarding contracts. Unusually, no minutes of the call were available. Later that year, Randox won another contract worth £347 million. In neither case were other companies allowed to bid for those contracts.

Owen Paterson also worked for another company based in Northern Ireland, Lynn’s Country Foods Ltd. They paid the then-MP £12,000 per annum for 24 hours of work.

In October 2021, on Political Correction, Nigel Farage interviewed Paterson on GB News. Paterson said that he had been under investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for many months. Paterson told Farage that, in June 2020, his wife, Rose, asked him one weekend how long the investigation would go on. He replied that he did not know. Little did he know that she was preparing to take her own life in the days that followed. She committed suicide on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. She had been so concerned for him that it was taking a toll on her mental health. Paterson and their three children were devastated.

In October 2021, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded her investigation. Wikipedia states:

The Commissioner said Paterson had “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute” and that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”.

Paterson told Farage that at no time was he allowed to present his case to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended that Paterson undergo a 30-day suspension from Parliament. That length of suspension could have triggered a recall of the MP from his constituency, resulting in a by-election.

In order to avoid that situation — and because some Conservative MPs thought Paterson had suffered enough through his wife’s suicide brought on because of the pressure of waiting for the investigation to conclude — Andrea Leadsom MP brought forward an amendment to the motion to suspend him. It involved delaying consideration of the suspension until a new proposed cross-party committee of MPs could investigate the disciplinary process for MPs. The Government supported Leadsom’s amendment and appointed a three-line Conservative whip, obliging the party’s MPs to vote for it.

The amendment passed: 250–232. Paterson was able to vote for it.

On November 3, Paterson thought he would be able to clear his name. The Guardian quoted him as saying (emphases mine):

The process I was subjected to did not comply with natural justice.

No proper investigation was undertaken by the commissioner or committee.

The standards commissioner has admitted making up her mind before speaking to me or any witnesses.

All I have ever asked is to have the opportunity to make my case through a fair process.

The decision today in parliament means that I will now have that opportunity.

After two years of hell, I now have the opportunity to clear my name.

I am extremely grateful to the PM, the leader of the house and my colleagues for ensuring that fundamental changes will be made to internal parliamentary systems of justice.

I hope that no other MP will ever again be subject to this shockingly inadequate process.

That night, there was outrage among MPs, including Conservatives, and in the media.

Early in the afternoon the following day, Boris Johnson reversed his support for Paterson.

The Guardian reported:

MPs are expected to get another vote “as soon as possible” on suspending the Conservative MP Owen Paterson from parliament, after Boris Johnson made a U-turn and ditched immediate plans to overhaul the standards system.

Following a wave of anger from within his own party and allegations of Tory sleaze, the prime minister retreated. He signalled that he would not go ahead with a new committee chaired by a Conservative MP to review the case and wider sanctions policy, given that opposition politicians had vowed to boycott it.

A motion trying to reverse Wednesday night’s vote is expected to be debated next week before the Commons goes into recess, when further details will be set out of how changes to the standards system will be taken forward on a cross-party basis.

Early that evening, Paterson announced that his resignation as MP for North Shropshire.

The Guardian said:

There is a Westminster joke about how eventually everyone gets let down by Boris Johnson, and the U-turn meant that Paterson – who yesterday enjoyed the full support of the No 10 machine – was today facing inevitable suspension from the Commons, and a possible recall election too … Johnson’s U-turn makes the government less vulnerable to the toxic charge of corruption and cronyism than it was, but the episode must have caused some reputational damage and Tory MPs who loyally defended what the government was doing yesterday are looking particularly exposed.

The Paterson controversy resonated with many Britons who remember the MPs’ expenses scandal that The Telegraph exposed more than a decade ago. Most of us have a dim view of Parliamentarians anyway, with the word ‘trough’ popping up more often than not in any mention of either House, Commons or Lords.

Interestingly, on November 30, Guido reported that Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, cleared another Conservative MP, Geoffrey Cox (purple emphases mine):

of using his Commons Office during a Zoom call for his second job , on the grounds there is insufficient evidence to justify beginning an inquiry. Despite screenshots and videos having him bang to rights…

Stone’s limp-wristed decision sets an alarming precedent, arguing the rules on the use of taxpayer-funded parliamentary offices should be operated with a degree of proportion. While this creates an absurdly subjective grey area, Guido confesses he worried this would be the outcome. As the scandal played out last month, he spotted that while the 2010 MP’s handbook had explicitly said Commons Offices must not be used for non-MP work, this rule had been written out of the guidelines come the 2017 update

Unfortunately, this means that Labour MPs using their offices and equipment to campaign for their candidates in by-elections are well in their rights to do so:

Far from this decision only impacting Geoffrey Cox, it also jettisons Guido’s campaign against five Labour MPs he’d caught using their parliamentary offices to campaign in by-elections: Matt Western and Catherine West for Batley & Spen; Helen Hayes and Vicky Foxcroft for Old Bexley & Sidcup; and Kate Green for both.

Guido wrote to all five last Friday asking why they thought it an appropriate and fair use of taxpayer-funded resources, unsurprisingly receiving no reply from any. Guido reckons Kathryn Stone must be one of the few taxpayers in the country happy to fork up her cash for MPs like Cox et al to abuse the system and let them get away with it…

Of course, Conservatives hardly have a monopoly on sleaze. There are Opposition MPs who are also raking it in with second jobs. That’s another subject for another day.

The result of the sleaze revelations was that Boris and his Government began slipping in the polls. In recent weeks, Labour have taken the lead in some of them.

Therefore, it was hard to see how Boris could manage to make things even worse for himself or the public.

On November 22, Patrick Christys of GB News said that Boris would be unlikely to survive anything further:

But what happened next?

Amazingly, Boris initiated Plan B coronavirus restrictions for England.

Find out why on Monday in Part 2.

Hint: his reason has nothing to do with health.

On Thursday, December 9, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie gave birth to a baby daughter in a London NHS hospital:

Their young son Wilfred now has a baby sister.

The Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson has left hospital after his wife Carrie gave birth to his seventh child today – a baby girl – in a tumultuous 24 hours where he triggered ‘Plan B’ on Omicron as the furore over illegal Christmas parties at No 10 rocked his premiership.

The couple walked into a central London NHS hospital at 7.40am this morning – around two hours after police officers turned up to secure the site ahead of Carrie’s arrival, MailOnline can reveal.

A masked Mrs Johnson, 33, was accompanied into a side entrance by a bodyguard carrying an overnight bag. Her husband, 57, wearing a mask and a trademark wooly hat, was flanked by two policemen as he followed her in carrying a suitcase and what appeared to be a bluetooth speaker.

The baby girl, a younger sister to their son Wilf, one, was born within a couple of hours with Mr Johnson at his third wife’s side throughout the labour and birth. The PM returned to Downing Street at lunchtime after leaving the maternity ward at around 11.45am. 

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the couple said: ‘The Prime Minister and Mrs Johnson are delighted to announce the birth of a healthy baby girl at a London hospital earlier today. Both mother and daughter are doing very well. The couple would like to thank the brilliant NHS maternity team for all their care and support.’ 

Mrs Johnson has called their newborn girl their ‘rainbow baby’ – a term used by parents having a child after losing a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death and coined to signify the arrival of something beautiful after a storm. 

The couple announced they were expecting at the end of July, as Carrie, an environmental campaigner and former director of communications for the Conservatives, described her own ‘heartbreak’ following a miscarriage in early 2021. 

It is unclear whether Boris has fathered seven or eight children.

This birth comes at a chaotic time for Boris’s premiership. Allegations of 2020 Christmas parties defying coronavirus rules have surfaced along with a £17,800 fine for his Downing Street flat refurbishment and the launching of a most authoritarian Plan B in light of the Omicron variant:

Boris’ happy news came after a day of bedlam in government where he is struggling to contain a Tory revolt today amid fury at ‘non-sensical’ new Covid restrictions and his handling of the No10 Christmas party debacle, which forced the tearful resignation of senior Government aide Allegra Stratton. 

Last night the PM dramatically triggered ‘Plan B’ measures to control the rampant Omicron strain at a press conference, with fears that infections are now doubling every few days and the NHS could be crippled.  But critics says the restrictions are ‘mental’ as he urged 66million Britons to work from home if they can to slow the spread of Omicron – but still head into town for Christmas parties as well as festive drinks and dinners. 

And amid more scandal at No 10, Baby Johnson entered the world just as the Conservatives were fined £17,800 over the controversial donation to help cover the lavish refurbishments to the couple’s Downing Street flat.  

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: ‘Congratulations to Carrie and Boris Johnson on the birth of their daughter. ‘Wishing your family health and happiness.’ 

Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson was born in April last year and was named in partly in tribute to two doctors, Nick Hart and Nick Price, who helped saved the Prime Minister’s life when he was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 earlier that month.

It is unclear whether the wheels on the Boris bus are coming off. Conservative MPs are angry about the alleged Christmas parties in 2020 and a further ramping up of coronavirus restrictions which go into effect on Friday, December 10. A vote will be held in the House of Commons after the fact next Tuesday, just before Christmas recess.

For now, Boris has a happy distraction in his newborn daughter.

Congratulations to the Johnsons on their new bundle of joy.

The Conservative Party Conference took place in Manchester from Sunday, October 3 through Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was the first one since 2019, which was two months before their victory in the December 12 election that year.

UK in crisis

This year’s conference took place during the ongoing petrol supply problems and shock record-breaking hikes in gas futures on Tuesday and Wednesday:

On top of that, on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the UK’s petroleum regulator rejected Shell’s plans to redevelop the Jackdaw gasfield in the North Sea (emphases in purple mine):

“We’re disappointed by the decision and are considering the implications,” a Shell spokesperson said.

It was unclear on what grounds the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) refused to approve the environmental statement for the field’s development.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under whose umbrella OPRED operates, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Maddening.

The supply chain crisis for food continues. On Wednesday, The Times reported The National Pig Association warned retailers that 120,000 pigs would have to be slaughtered because of a lack of butchers. Some pig farmers are closing down altogether.

Some supermarkets are also suffering from empty shelves. Tesco, however, is bucking the trend. The Times reported that the supermarket chain is:

often highest up the pecking order when it comes to suppliers committing to make the business a priority …

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

The Conservatives riffed on this in a Bake Off-style event. Pictured with Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Home Secretary Priti Patel:

Having listened to some of the speeches and read excerpts from others, they were all light in content. Most of them were pep rally or visionary statements rather than what plans Cabinet ministers have for the nation.

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

Never at a Tory Conference has so little been said, by so many, to so few.

Sunday, October 3

As the conference opened, rumours circulated about three unnamed Labour MPs thinking of crossing the aisle to the Conservatives, as the Mail on Sunday reported:

Guido Fawkes had more on the story (emphases in red Guido’s):

… this is due to disillusionment with Starmer’s leadership, with the MPs already having opened up “lines of communication” with Tory whips. In related news, a senior Labour MP was spotted by a co-conspirator chatting with two Mail on Sunday hacks and three senior Tory advisors at a conference bar last night…

The day’s big event, according to The Spectator, was the drinks party that the 1922 Committee of backbenchers held, sponsored by ConservativeHome. Interestingly, a long-time Labour MP for north-west London — Barry Gardiner — was in attendance:

… the main focus of the night was the 1922 drinks with ConservativeHome in a room stuffed full of parliamentary talent and, for some reason, Barry Gardiner.

Strangely, Boris did not appear, leaving a gap which Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ably filled (video):

While Johnson was not scheduled to make an appearance here, Prime Ministers have traditionally done so in the past to pay tribute to their colleagues. His ‘disappointing’ absence – in the words of one disgruntled backbencher – left a vacuum for Sunak to fill, in a room full of MPs who will presumably one day decide who Johnson’s successor should be.

The Chancellor leapt to the stage to tell fellow Tories about what he was most looking forward too at conference: Michael Gove dancing, the PM running in a full suit (not just a shirt) and ‘machine like message discipline from every single one of you – and that means you too Cabinet.’ He added that ‘I’ve got your back’ to anxious MPs in the room and that ‘for the record I too am a low tax conservative’ – welcome words for those party donors who Mr S[teerpike, columnist] understands attended a ‘tense’ meeting earlier at the Midland, amid considerable unease at the recent NI [National Insurance] hike.

In such circumstances, perhaps it’s understandable that Boris would stay away.

According to The Telegraph, senior Conservatives have warned Boris not to dream up any more future tax hikes:

Earlier that day, Boris gesticulated wildly at the BBC’s Andrew Marr, saying, ‘You have no fiercer opponent to tax rises than me’. This probably means more tax rises are on the way:

The Spectator has more on the interview.

On tax hikes, Sir Desmond Swayne MP told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer the raw truth. He added that lower taxes will enable greater economic growth:

Another event that Boris avoided was the one by the Tory Reform Group (TRG), which wants the Conservatives to move closer to the centre politically. They are Remainers. The Spectator reported:

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

Green, a mainstay of various causes on the left-ish wing of the party over the past two decades, told activists that it was their task to ‘make sure that the voice of moderate conservatism, centre-right conservatism is as strong as possible within the party’ – a job ‘never more important than today because there are times when I slightly feel that it is only people like us that stop this party drifting back to being seen as the nasty party.’ A tacit rejoinder to Priti Patel perhaps?

But then it was time for the speaker and the great white hope of Tory moderation. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, took to the stage to ecstatic applause and, like Green, was under no illusions about the awesome responsibility he and his One Nation caucus members share – to keep the Conservative party effectively sane …

There was also ample time for several potshots at the current Tory leader Boris Johnson, with whom Tugendhat is said to enjoy a wary relationship.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, tipped to be a future Party leader, also made the rounds that day (video):

The fringes were packed last night as Tory ministers did the rounds. Liz Truss, the darling of the free market think tanks, appeared at the Think Tent equipped with a magnificent blow dry and an applause-winning speech which castigated cancel culture as ‘fundamentally wrong.’ That and other jibes at identity politics in her conference address lead the Daily Mail this morning to ask whether she is in fact the new Mrs Thatcher.

Several reporters wrote about her new hairdo, which, to me, didn’t look much different from the old one.

Returning to the mysterious Labour people who might want to change parties, here’s Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP, heaping praise on Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Boris’s levelling up programme. Burnham spoke to Trevor Phillips on Sky News that morning. Hmm:

Neither Andy Burnham nor Barry Gardiner is a Conservative. Crossing the aisle for ideals they don’t believe in seems a rather rash way of getting their own back at Keir Starmer.

Boris made four appearances at conference that day, including one for the Scottish Conservatives. Guido captured his wit along with audio:

The PM warned of a “crackpot coalition” between the SNP and Labour – “the only way they could” kick the Tories out.

He described the Labour conference as “a total rabble”, saying it had the air to him of “a seriously rattled bus conductor” facing an “insurrection on the top deck of the bus”, or the “captain of a Mediterranean cruise ship facing insurrection by a bunch of Somali pirates”.

Douglas Ross MP/MSP also addressed Scottish Conservatives. As party leader in Scotland, he wants to position the party as that of the nation’s working class. It’s a good move, as The Spectator reported:

Like all good fables, Douglas Ross’s speech at Tory conference had a beginning, middle and end. Act One detailed the many iniquities of the SNP, from their dysfunctional vaccine passport scheme to their Hate Crime Act, and most of all their agitation for Scotland to break away from the UK. Act Two took the sword to Labour, bemoaned its abandonment of working-class voters and its internal divisions over the constitution. Theirs was not the party to take on the SNP. Only one party was and it was the subject of Act Three, in which Ross deepened a theme begun under Ruth Davidson’s leadership: the Scottish Conservatives as the party of the Scottish working-class.

He hit all the familiar notes about the SNP’s failings in government, the ones that never seem to stick longer than two or three news cycles and are invariably forgotten about by the next election. He also hinted at an interesting theme that, if teased out carefully, could come into greater play. It is the perception, no longer wholly limited to unionists, that Nicola Sturgeon is a bit… off. Out of touch. Superior. Maybe even a bit of a snob.

In other news, last week, Labour’s Angela Rayner called Conservatives ‘Tory scum’. Feisty Dehenna Davison MP, representing Bishop Auckland as the constituency’s first Conservative, had ‘Tory Scum’ badges made.

This harks back to 1948, when Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan said the Conservatives were ‘lower than vermin’. Following that, the Conservatives formed the Vermin Club. Club member Margaret Roberts — who would become Margaret Thatcher — also had ‘Tory Vermin’ badges made, as Nigel Farage told Dehenna Davison on GB News:

Party chairman Oliver Dowden pledged that the Conservatives would do away with ugly new housing developments by strengthening planning laws.

He also assured the public that they would have turkeys for Christmas, referring to ongoing supply chain problems.

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

Liz Truss is at the top. Other MPs pictured are (left to right) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi:

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

The turn round in her fortunes from last year when she was being tipped to be sacked from the Cabinet is quite something. Liz is one of the increasingly rare consistently free market voices around the Cabinet table…

Rishi Sunak is down by some 10 points and moves from second to fifth place. Rishi’s tax hikes have clearly taken the gloss off him with the true blue believers. 

Grant Shapps [Transport] and Priti Patel are bumping along the bottom in barely positive approval territory. Shapps has been doing fairly well with the incredibly difficult transport brief. Patel is suffering because she has failed to do the seemingly impossible – stop the cross channel migrants. Tory activists are unforgiving, they don’t want excuses, they want results.

It was the turn of Rishi Sunak to address the party faithful.

A rise in council tax would not go down well. Meanwhile, protesters pelted Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP with a traffic cone:

Some at conference are disappointed with Sunak, whose budget comes up in a few weeks’ time. Steve Baker MP is pictured in the second tweet:

Boris was out and about in Greater Manchester. He spoke to an interviewer about policing and said that the Government needs to change its culture, which has become misogynistic, particularly in light of the Sarah Everard murder earlier this year, committed by … a policeman, who recently received a life sentence.

In other news, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab plans to reform UK human rights legislation and do away with the ties to EU human rights legislation we are still under.

With regard to the Labour mystery, Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, had a conversation with Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, whom he had praised the day before. The Mail reported that Burnham was also due to address Conservatives at a fringe event sponsored by Transport for the North the following day. Hmm.

The cervix question that appeared at Labour’s conference was also brought up with Conservatives. Dominic Raab responded by bringing up both misogyny and misandry in a highly confused way (video):

Two MPs decided to have a bit of fun with the issue as they drove to Manchester together:

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

Health-conscious Conservative MPs Marco Longhi and Lee Anderson don’t want to fanny about when it comes to their well-being. Marco, according to their road-trip video, made sure to receive a cervix exam before heading to conference this week. Always better to be safe than sorry…

Why is it that no one ever asks if women have a prostate gland?

On the subject of health, Desmond Swayne told Julia Hartley-Brewer why he is firmly against vaccine passports:

Lord Frost (pictured on the right) threatened the EU over the post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland. Outside of the conference, pig farmers protested over the inability to get their stock to market. Boris had said that government cannot solve every issue, referring to the supply chain problem. He also told British businesses to hike staff salaries, which did not go down well, either:

I think they should give the meat away. A lot of poor families would appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 5

Boris began the day with an interview to LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Extinction Rebellion offshoot Insulate Britain had blocked some of Britain’s roads for the ninth consecutive day.

Despite injunctions from Priti Patel’s Home Office, their human blockades continue.

Boris told Ferrari they are ‘irresponsible crusties’ (video). The question remains whether Extinction Rebellion gets any Government funding:

Dominic Raab confirmed in his speech that he would be reform the Human Rights Act to free it from EU hackles.

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

They will detach it from the ECHR, enabling quicker deportations of convicted criminals and swifter action on domestic abusers …

Raab’s successor at the Foreign Office, Liz Truss, confirmed a trip to India later this month, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Guido had a chat with her:

Among other topics, the foreign secretary confided in Guido she was finding the new department’s mandarins to be “a bit ‘Yes, Minister’”…

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

Sunak claimed that there is a “new age of optimism” in the north thanks to Red Wall Tories, and heaped them with praise for “helping to change our party and change our country“. “In me, you have a Chancellor who is going to be with you every step of the way,” he added.

See? I told you these speeches were content-free.

Later in the day, he appeared at a fringe event where he was asked about the cost of Net Zero. This was his alarming answer:

Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised another reform of the NHS, which mostly involves digitisation. I can think of more pressing NHS concerns and agree with Guido:

… pouring in taxpayers’ money without checking how it’s being spent isn’t enough. That cash needs to be put to good use. Reviewing the eye-watering pay packets of some NHS diversity managers would be a start…

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope interviewed Oliver Dowden, who is thinking about resurrecting the singing of the National Anthem at conference, calling it a ‘splendid idea’.

Hope also took the opportunity to present Dowden with a ‘Tory Scum’ badge, which he put on and said he would wear for the duration of the interview. Hope suggested he wear it until the end of conference.

This video shows the badge exchange. Hope gives us more information on the aforementioned Vermin Club:

Guido says that the badges were most popular. Dehenna Davison had to order more:

Many conference-goers have spent the last couple of days asking Davison for one of her badges, only to be disappointed upon being told she’d run out. Good news however, after Davison put in an emergency order for 400 more given their popularity…

The most outrageous session of the day — and a British first — was an address by the Prime Minister’s wife to Party faithful. No Prime Minister’s spouse — we’ve had two husbands in that role — has ever made a party political address until now:

Never mind the subject matter: was it the right thing for Carrie Johnson to do — even if she is a very good public speaker? Boris watched from a distance.

Polling stable

I’ll review Boris’s closing speech in tomorrow’s post.

Post-conference polling is stable. YouGov’s was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Sir Desmond Swayne explained to Julia Hartley-Brewer that Boris’s popularity and the lack of ideas from the Opposition have buoyed the Conservatives:

What Government should do next

Health Secretary Sajid Javid needs to keep a gimlet eye on NHS spending, especially on things like this:

Guido says:

The NHS is recruiting a supplier to deliver “compassionate conversations training” to 14,000 front facing NHS staff in a publicly funded contract worth a mind-boggling £3 million. The contract tender, which was published yesterday and closes on 5 November 2021, says the aim is to equip NHS staff with “the skills they need to handle challenging situations with compassion whilst ensuring they feel able to look after their own wellbeing if needed”. Guido assumed that doctors were already taught about the importance of a good bedside manner…

It’s almost ludicrous to think that this weekend Javid promised a forensic review of the NHS’s management and leadership whilst the NHS continues to recklessly splash cash on diversity roles. Just six months ago Guido revealed that the NHS was hiring eight more ‘diversity, equality and inclusion managers’ across the country, with salaries up to as much as a whopping £62,000. If Javid is going to cut down those waiting list times he needs to focus taxpayers’ money on the clinical front line, not nonsense make-work contracts and diversity roles…

Guido says it is also time for Boris to reconsider the current Government moratorium on fracking:

If Boris wants to energise Britain, domestic gas production should be part of that mix; it would provide energy security when Britain’s energy needs are being threatened by the Russians and the the French. Boris is now in a position to do something glorious, to stop pussy-footing around and leave no stone unturned or unfracked. So get on with it…

This is what Boris had to say on the subject while he was Mayor of London:

I won’t be holding my breath on either of those propositions.

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

On the evening of Saturday, June 26, many Britons were relieved that Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed a new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care so soon after Matt Hancock’s resignation.

Although lockdown supporters say that Sajid Javid has no experience in health, that is why many of us think he is a good choice. He will give the department a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective, one that isn’t tied to SAGE or ‘our NHS’, which has become a cult religion over the past 16 months (March 2020 – June 2021).

Since the pandemic began, it has become very difficult being able to see a general practitioner (GP) in person.

The Telegraph‘s Ross Clark wrote (emphases mine):

… many patients struggle to get a doctor to see them even at the surgery. Hancock’s vision of us all consulting medical staff via smartphone app doesn’t allow for the fact that, according to Ofcom, only 55 percent of the over-65s – ie those who need the NHS the most – use a smartphone. Even if it did, it ignores the views of cancer specialists who have warned that cancer is often diagnosed via subtle changes in a patient’s appearance – something you can’t capture by uploading a photograph of a spot.

Hopefully, the new health secretary will bring a keen eye to Hancock’s failures and won’t shy away from tackling vested interests so that we can a real doctor, in real life, when we need to.

GB News covered the appointment on their Sunday morning programme:

TalkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer also thought Javid’s appointment was good news:

Mark Harper MP of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) in Parliament tweeted his congratulations:

The Sunday Times said that Carrie Johnson, who once worked for Javid in government, was influential in getting him the job:

The Mayor of London appeared on Andrew Marr’s show on Sunday to congratulate a fellow son of a bus driver (video here):

This confused Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner, who also said ‘fragrant’ instead of ‘flagrant’ in an interview this week:

Later that day, Times journalist Steven Swinford was told that the security camera in Hancock’s former office — now Javid’s — had been turned off:

Monday’s front page of the Telegraph reported a positive outlook from the new Health Secretary:

That morning, Javid gave an interview to Sky News expressing his desire for a quick lifting of coronavirus restrictions:

However, as Guido Fawkes pointed out, Javid has voted with the Government on continuing restrictions (emphasis in the original):

Co-conspirators will be relieved to hear that given hitherto he has voted in favour of every lockdown. Javid also confirmed the notorious camera lurking in his new office has now been disabled, though not by him personally…

Late Monday afternoon, Javid delivered his first statement in Parliament as Health Secretary. Excerpts from Hansard follow, emphases mine.

He stated the positives about the vaccine rollout, beginning with a brief tribute to Hancock:

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), who has worked hard throughout all these testing times. He achieved a great amount in the work that he did, and I know that he will have more to offer in public life. I wish him the very best.

There remains a big task ahead of us to restore our freedoms—freedoms that, save in the gravest of circumstances, no Government should ever wish to curtail. My task is to help to return the economic and cultural life that makes this country so great, while, of course, protecting life and our NHS. That task has been made all the more difficult by the delta variant, which we now know makes up some 95% of new cases in the UK. Not only does it spread more easily, but the evidence points to a higher risk of those who have not been vaccinated needing hospital treatment, compared with the previously dominant alpha variant.

This narrowing of the race between the virus and the vaccine led to this Government’s difficult decision to pause step 4 on our road map until 19 July. We are using this extra time to protect as many people as we can. When the Government took that decision on 14 June, more than 4.3 million over-40s had had a first dose but not a second. The figure is now down to 3.2 million people over 40. We can all be reassured by how many more people are getting the life-saving opportunity that a vaccine offers.

At this two-week review point, I want to update the House on our progress on our road map to freedom. Our aim is that around two thirds of all adults in this country will have had both doses by 19 July. We are bringing forward second doses, and bringing forward our target for first doses too, so we can meet that 19 July goal. Vaccine uptake remains sky-high. We have seen that age is no barrier to enthusiasm for getting the jab: as of this weekend, more than half of adults under 30 have taken up the chance to be vaccinated—including, in the past couple of weeks, all three of my own adult children.

Our vaccines are working, including against the delta variant. The latest modelling from Public Health England shows that they have saved more than 27,000 lives and have prevented more than 7 million people from getting covid-19. We know that, after a single dose of vaccine, the effectiveness is lower against the new delta variant, at around a 33% reduction in symptomatic disease, but two doses of the vaccine are just as effective against hospital admission with the delta variant as with the alpha variant.

The jabs are making a difference in our hospitals, too. In January, people over 65 who were vaccinated earlier in our programme made up the vast majority of hospital admissions; the latest data shows that that group now makes up less than a third. While cases now are ticking up, the number of deaths remains mercifully low, and we will continue to investigate how our vaccines are breaking that link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths. I am also encouraged by new data just today from Oxford University’s mix and match trial, which shows that a mixed schedule of jabs, such as getting the AstraZeneca jab first and the Pfizer second, could give our booster vaccination programme more flexibility and possibly even some better immune responses

I spent my first day as Health Secretary—just yesterday—looking at the data and testing it to the limit. While we decided not to bring forward step 4, we see no reason to go beyond 19 July because, in truth, no date we choose comes with zero risk for covid. We know we cannot simply eliminate it; we have to learn to live with it. We also know that people and businesses need certainty, so we want every step to be irreversible. Make no mistake: the restrictions on our freedoms must come to an end. We owe it to the British people, who have sacrificed so much, to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can, and not to wait a moment longer than we need to.

With the numbers heading in the right direction, all while we protect more and more people each day, 19 July remains our target date. The Prime Minister has called it our terminus date. For me, 19 July is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country. At this crucial moment in our fight back against this pandemic, we must keep our resolve and keep on our road map to freedom so that together we can beat this pandemic and build back better. It is a task that I am deeply honoured to lead and one I know will succeed. I commend this statement to the House.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) responded for the Opposition, pointing out that Javid’s optimism might be misguided:

Can I just say at the outset that, despite our fierce political differences, my dealings with the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), were always courteous, respectful and professional, and I wish him well in resolving his personal difficulties.

I welcome the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) to his place and thank him for advance sight of his statement. He will find working with the NHS and social care staff both inspirational and rewarding, and I hope he will agree to make arrangements for them to receive a fair pay rise and not the real-terms pay cut that is currently pencilled in.

Today, the Secretary of State has let it be known that the 19 July reopening will effectively go ahead. He told the news this morning that there is “no going back” and that lifting restrictions will be “irreversible”. A word to the wise: I have responded to a lot of these statements these past 15 months, and I remember Ministers telling us there was “nothing in the data” to suggest that 21 June would not go ahead. I remember children returning to school for one day before the January lockdown. I remember, “It will all be over by Christmas”. I remember, “We will send it packing in 12 weeks”.

Well, we have seen around 84,000 cases in the past week—an increase of around 61%. Today, we have seen the highest case rate since January. If these trends continue, we could hit 35,000 to 45,000 cases a day by 19 July. That will mean more long covid—the Secretary of State did not mention more long covid—and it will mean more disruption to schooling. For some, it will mean hospitalisation, and we know that even after two doses, someone can catch and transmit the virus, so what is he going to do to push infections down? Vaccination will do it eventually, but not in the next four weeks.

I want to see an end to restrictions and our constituents want to see an end to restrictions, but I hope the Secretary of State’s confidence today about 19 July does not prove somewhat premature or even, dare I say it, hubristic. Can he confirm that by “irreversible” he is ruling out restrictions this winter? Has he abandoned the plan that the previous Secretary of State and officials were drawing up for restrictions this winter? …

Javid responded, without addressing possible winter restrictions:

With all the data I saw yesterday—I sat down and discussed it with the experts and my colleagues—it is very clear that we are heading in the right direction, and I am very confident about that date of 19 July

Lucy Allan (Con), who has voiced her scepticism about coronavirus restrictions before, asked about the terminus date:

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that 19 July will mark the end of the road map out of lockdown, that “terminus” means the end of the line, not an interchange, and that it is his intention that all restrictions will be lifted on that date?

Javid replied:

… As she will have heard in my statement, it is absolutely our intention to have step 4 commence on 19 July and to remove restrictions and start returning to normal. She asked me specifically about all restrictions, or which restrictions. It is certainly our intention to remove restrictions, but as we follow the data in the coming days, we will set out more in due course.

Jim Shannon (DUP), a staunch Anglican, asked about loosening restrictions on church worship:

… If we are aiming for progression and moving away from restrictions such as the wearing of masks, may I ask when people will be able to attend worship and sit in churches self-distanced, without wearing a mask, just as diners can sit in a restaurant self-distanced without a mask? If we are going to have parity, then I believe that churches should have parity with restaurants.

Javid gave a reassuring reply:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I agree with him that as we move towards removing restrictions and step 4, we should take seriously into account what he said about people attending churches and the restrictions that they currently face. That is certainly my intention.

John Redwood (Con) asked whether Javid would look into improvements in ventilation and cleaning for various types of establishments to improve the air flow. Javid said that he would do so.

Theresa Villiers (Con) also asked about church, specifically singing hymns:

Now that thousands of people are allowed to gather together at a football match to shout and cheer as much as they want, is it not time that we allowed congregations in church to sing hymns together?

Javid responded positively, which is more than Hancock ever did when asked similar questions:

I can tell my right hon. Friend that that is certainly what I would like to see and it is certainly my intention to allow that to happen as soon as possible. When it does, I hope we can sing a hymn together.

Richard Drax (Con) asked how long it would take before people could see their GPs in person again.

It looks as if Javid will address that issue, which Hancock did not much care about, insisting that phone and video conferences were highly successful:

My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. Even before I had this job, that issue came up again and again when I was a constituency MP just like him, and I absolutely understand it. It has especially been raised by older members of my constituency; people have brought this issue up where they are perhaps not as familiar with technology and they want that face-to-face meeting. I have already asked for advice on that and I will write to him on it, if I may.

Liam Fox (Con) asked for more data to be made public:

As for the data we get, it is not just about the number of infections—it is about who is infected, what age they are, whether they have pre-existing conditions, and whether they have been offered a vaccine, but have refused. It is not just about hospitalisations and how many people are in hospital. How long have they been hospitalised compared with the figures for previous parts of the pandemic? How many of them require extra care and how many are in intensive care units? We need to understand much better how the Government are reaching their decisions. The British people are not stupid, and Parliament needs to be taken into the Government’s confidence much more. I trust, given the previous examples of how he has conducted himself, that my right hon. Friend can do that.

Javid replied:

… On his important point about data, I saw the data in the Department for the first time yesterday. I saw the detail that it provides and how granular it is. I was impressed with that data, so I can give my right hon. Friend reassurance that the Government are looking at the data, and are absolutely taking it into account. I would also like to find a way to make sure that we can share as much of that data as possible so that others can benefit from it, and I will certainly look at ways in which we can do just that.

Dr Ben Spencer (Con) asked about winter measures:

… Does he share my concerns regarding this winter, when we predict that an increase in covid hospitalisations may be superimposed on normal NHS winter pressures? Can he confirm that plans and preparations are being put in place now to support our NHS in what may be a very difficult winter indeed?

Javid responded in the affirmative:

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. I can absolutely confirm that plans are being put in place. A huge amount of work was done by my predecessor and, of course, I will continue that work—just yesterday, I had meetings on winter plans. I can give my hon. Friend the absolute assurance, not just on vaccinations but on dealing with the backlog, that there are plans in place, and in due course I will come to the House and set them out.

Huw Merriman (Con) asked about a return to international travel, especially for those who have had two vaccinations.

Javid said:

First, my hon. Friend will know that, in terms of 19 July and the restrictions that will be removed, we are focusing on domestic restrictions. He knows that, separately, we also take very seriously the border controls, the border restrictions and the so-called traffic light system. In terms of making any further decision on that, he will know that it is kept under constant review on a very regular basis, and it is something that I intend to sit down and discuss with my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary as soon as I can.

Mark Harper (Con) pressed Javid with a question on winter restrictions:

… I welcome my right hon. Friend’s tone and his intent to get us back to normal, but let me pick up on his earlier answer to our hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer). There are those in government, from documents that I have seen, who are preparing the ground for the return of restrictions in the autumn and the winter. Will he rule out the use of lockdowns and restrictions in the winter as a mechanism for managing covid, and look at alternatives to ensure that the NHS is able to deal with us getting back to normal?

Javid answered:

I am very happy to meet with him to discuss the issues in more detail and listen to his views. He should know that it is my intention, and the Government’s intention, as I have said from day one on this job, to remove all restrictions as quickly as possible.

Steve Brine (Con) asked about the disruptive self-isolation rules following positive test results, especially for schoolchildren:

I am looking for a change in policy as much as a change in tone. I return him to the subject of education. Estimates suggest that a quarter of a million children are missing school today due to precautionary isolations, the vast majority of them sequential due to the bubbles that they are caught in. Under the current rules, 10 days of isolation is then unavoidable, even with a negative PCR test. Have our young people not suffered enough? Are we really going to continue to do this to ourselves? Is this not an area, given the availability and reliability of testing now, where I might find the change of policy that I am looking for?

Javid replied:

Other hon. Members have rightly raised this very important issue, and my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to it once again. It is something that I have focused on from day one on the job. That is why I have asked for fresh advice on it. As he knows, that decision was made with the data that was available at the time. Clearly, data is changing all the time, and we must ensure that we keep that under review for exactly the reasons that he has just set out. As I say, I have asked for advice on that and will hopefully be able to say more on it as soon as possible.

This is what journalists and the public picked up from that debate.

The Sun‘s Deputy Political Editor Kate Ferguson tweeted about the terminus date …

… and singing in church:

GB News was a bit more cautious:

The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson gave Javid five suggestions for improvement, including sacking SAGE and publishing COVID-19 recovery data with the public:

It was pure speculation by Sage that led to the cancellation of Freedom Day on June 21. Subsequent figures have shown that we are not seeing any sign of hospitalisations for Covid “rocketing” or “surging” as we were warned two weeks ago. On the contrary, NHS England currently has just 1,445 Covid patients (one per cent of all beds). The rolling seven-day average of deaths after a positive test with Covid is 17. Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, says the vaccines are holding up really well against variants. Asked about the large number of “cases”, he said, “This is trivial, actually. Most who test positive are under 30 and they don’t get very sick.” Sir John is clearly far too sane to qualify as a government adviser. Maybe have a word with him?

As for publishing the recovery data:

Matt Hancock promised he would last summer; the slippery eel never did. We are among the only countries in the world not to trust its people with positive information from which they can calculate their own risk. Please stop infantilising us.

The Telegraph‘s Jeremy Warner has hope that, by working together, Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak can turn this parlous situation around:

Like the new Health Secretary, Sunak has always been at the libertarian end of the debate on lockdown, as he must given his interest in a functioning, tax generating economy. So unusually, we for now have a Chancellor and a Health Secretary who are actually on the same page. The Prime Minister should enjoy the harmony while it lasts. The Treasury and Health department are not natural bedfellows.

On the other hand, Bob Moran, the Telegraph‘s cartoonist and a coronavirus sceptic, was unimpressed:

Someone picked up on ‘Build Back Better’:

However, author Carl Vernon, also a coronavirus sceptic, was positive:

I tend to agree with him.

As Sajid Javid has worked for some of the world’s greatest investment banks, I hope that he will cast a gimlet eye over all of the data and ask probing questions of SAGE when they make recommendations on continuing restrictions.

I wish our new Health Secretary all the best.

Last Friday’s post was about Matt Hancock’s fall from grace as Health Secretary as featured on the front page of The Sun.

The Queen had lost confidence in him before then, as my post explains, covered in another front page feature, in The Times.

Hancock’s final 48 hours as health secretary were pivotal, not only for his political but also his personal life.

Thursday, June 24

The Sun allegedly contacted Hancock to ask him if he had any comment before they published the compromising photo of him in a steamy embrace with a female aide.

Hancock went home that evening and dropped a life-changing bombshell on his wife and youngest child. 

On Sunday, the Mail reported (emphases mine):

Mother-of-three Martha was reportedly blissfully unaware of her husband’s infidelity until he broke the news to her on Thursday night when it became clear the footage would be published the next day.  

And he reportedly even woke up the couple’s youngest child, aged eight, to tell him he was leaving

How unspeakably cruel.

My commiserations to both — as well as to his two other children.

Apparently, Hancock is serious:

Friday, June 25

On Friday, YouGov and Savanta ComRes took snap polls to test public opinion on The Sun‘s revelations about Hancock.

It was clear that this representative portion of the public were deeply unhappy and thought he should resign.

These were YouGov’s results:

Savanta ComRes found that 46% of Conservative voters thought Hancock should resign:

The full video of Hancock’s illicit embrace became available online.

A number of newspaper columnists expressed their disgust with Hancock’s hypocrisy.

The Telegraph‘s Emily Hill wrote:

Four days after Freedom Day failed to dawn, what fun it is for the masses who must continue to abide by the Minister’s absurd rules to see this! Dancing inside at a wedding – verboten. Nightclubs – verboten. Standing at the bar in a pub talking to perfect strangers – verboten. It’s as if they don’t want the young and fit and healthy to mate anymore. Sex privileges, it seems, are reserved for middle-aged men in Westminster while the rest of us can only watch, helpless, wondering how much their cheating is costing the taxpayer.

But it is now the afternoon and Hancock has merely cancelled his appearance at a vaccine centre while Grant Shapps [Secretary of State for Transport] was sent out to inform us: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.” Seconds later he stated: “whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed” in relation to the ministerial code. This makes hypocrites of much of the Government, not to mention every world leader who flouted social distancing rules so publicly at the G7 summit.

The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson pointed out how much the British public has sacrificed in personal relationships over the past year and a bit because of Hancock’s restrictions:

Thousands of people posted reactions on social media. Some were bitterly mocking the official mantras: “Hands, Face, Back to My Place”. “Saving Lives, Shagging Wives”.

Others were simply devastating: “I wasn’t even allowed to kiss my dying father because of Hancock.”

The anger and disbelief were palpable. Was this really the minister who told us on the 17th May that, after fourteen months of physical and emotional self-denial, we were free to hug our loved ones, when, a fortnight earlier, he’d been giving mouth-to-mouth to some glamorous chum he’d put on the public payroll? Knowing Hancock, he’d call it First Aide.

We are all humble sinners and a man or woman’s private peccadillos shouldn’t disqualify them from doing their job. But no such understanding or humanity – not a sliver of mercy – has been shown by the Secretary of State or this Government to members of the public who have broken often cruel and arbitrary rules. Remember how we watched in horror as police arrested a retired nurse as she tried to drive her 97-year-old mother away from a care home. Hundreds of thousands of people have departed this life without a last touch or kiss from their best beloveds because the restrictions forbade it so relatives sobbed in the carpark because Matt Hancock said it must be so. Almost 30,000 children have been put on anti-depressants yet just one positive test (without any Covid symptoms) can still send an entire year group home to self-isolate for ten lonely days. Parents know this is insanity, but they must suck it up because that prating popinjay Hancock tells them it’s vital to keep us “safe”

If I had a gasket left to blow it would have exploded when Culture and Sports minister John Whittingdale explained this week how up to 3,000 Uefa officials will be allowed to arrive in the UK, without quarantine, for the Euro semis and finals. “We’ve always said that for some people who are important…”, said the hapless minister, accounting for the fact that normal people would be held to different standards.

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” I never ever thought George Orwell’s satirical take in Animal Farm on an arrogant, unaccountable elite patronising the masses would apply in our country. More fool me. We’re all in this together, eh, Matt?

Trust me, it’s not closed. There are millions of us, and we are raging now, and we will not allow it to be closed. If the Government permits one law for Hancock and “important people” and another for the rest of us then it is morally bankrupt. Boris must act this very day to restore the people’s faith, to prove that we haven’t been mugs.

Fraser Nelson, also writing for the Telegraph, pointed out how Hancock insisted on following his draconian rules, therefore, he should not expect privacy now:

Mr Hancock has always been one of the most emphatic for the rules. In internal government debates, he has invariably pushed for the toughest restrictions and wanted 10-year jail sentences as a penalty for trying to dodge draconian quarantine rules. “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures,” he said: they’d target a “minority who don’t want to follow the rules.” Who, presumably, he thinks, deserve everything coming their way. When two women were fined by police for walking together, Mr Hancock was unforgiving. “Every time you try to flex the rules,’ he said, “that could be fatal”

This is the irony in his request on Friday for “privacy for my family on this personal matter” now. There is no doubt his family deserves it. But a great many other families would have been grateful for more privacy over the last 15 months. Instead, the Tory Government decided to legislate for what people do in their own homes. And in so doing, set up a system where people came to worry that they’d be reported to the police – perhaps by their neighbours – if they stretched the rules by inviting children over to play in their back gardens. Greater Manchester Police issued a statement boasting that they had raided a family home to break up a child’s birthday party.

Sweden managed to fight back two Covid waves while respecting privacy and civil liberty. There are bans on mass gatherings, and a rule of eight for public places. But no rules would apply inside anyone’s property, where they had sovereignty. Government would not come through your front door: in Sweden, your home is your castle. It wasn’t so long ago when this respect for privacy summed up civic life in Britain.

When Mr Hancock started issuing advice on where we should hug (embracing outside, he said, was better than inside) alarm bells ought to have been ringing in Number 10. It was a sign that the Government machine had gone way out of control, losing any sense of its remit or boundaries. Number 10 should have stepped in, and perhaps asked for a study on the efficacy of the intrusions or work of Project Fear: the blood-curdling posters showing Covid victims on their deathbeds. If there was no proof that the campaign was making a difference, they could have been told to change tack …

Paul Waugh of HuffPost dug up a quote from April 2020 (and a 2021 photo), showing how dictatorial Hancock was:

Conservatives in Parliament began complaining about Hancock. Christopher Hope, writing for the Telegraph, reported:

Baroness Foster of Oxton, a Tory peer, accused Mr Hancock on Twitter of having “used emergency powers to impose these punitive restrictions leading to horrendous consequences across society without debate yet ignored them himself & at work!”

Backbench Conservative MPs contacted their whips about the Health Secretary. One texted: “You don’t need me to tell you what I think.” Another said that “children have missed out in so many ways” and that Mr Hancock’s behaviour was “so hypocritical”, while a third MP said the Government “is looking ridiculous now, I am sorry to say”.

Oddly, the Shadow (Opposition) Health Minister Jonathan Ashworth was silent.

The day ended with The Sun‘s Harry Cole appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight:

Saturday, June 26

The Telegraph had running live coverage of the Hancock debacle. Excerpts follow.

Coverage began at 9:01 a.m.:

Tory MPs urged Boris Johnson to “pull the plug” on Mr Hancock and expressed their frustration to party whips over the Health Secretary’s “hypocritical” behaviour …

A senior government source said public reaction was being monitored and could determine Mr Hancock’s fate.

At 9:30:

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock had no idea the camera existed when it captured him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo, and government sources said it was “unheard of” for cameras to be installed in ministers’ offices.

It raises the possibility that the camera was deliberately placed by someone with access to his office with the intention of catching the pair cheating on their spouses and breaking Covid rules. It is the first time a Cabinet minister has been filmed in their own office without their knowledge.

In a further twist, the Department of Health and Social Care’s offices use CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision, which is banned in the US because of national security concerns.

At 10:20:

A healthcare company which employs as a senior director the brother of the aide Matt Hancock was pictured kissing has insisted it had never benefited from the connection to the Health Secretary.

Reports suggested Roberto Coladangelo, strategy director at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), was the brother of Gina Coladangelo, a familial connection later confirmed.

At 11:06:

The Health Secretary is under mounting political pressure this morning after a video was published of him hugging and embracing Gina Coladangelo, a non-executive director in his department, in early May.

At the time, hugging and socialising indoors with people outside one’s household was banned.

But according to The Sun, they have been “all over each other” again this week in the same ninth-floor office of the Department of Health and Social Care.

At 11:19:

Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, has called for Matt Hancock to resign.

Mr Baker, who was elected in 2019, is believed to be the first Tory MP to openly call for Mr Hancock to go and told his local newspaper the Eastern Daily Press: “In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role …

“I will not in any shape condone this behaviour and I have in the strongest possible terms told the Government what I think.”

Duncan Baker was not alone. Three other Conservative MPs spoke out against Hancock — Esther McVey, William Wragg and Sir Christopher Chope:

Sir Christopher told the Dorset paper, the Daily Echo:

“I think that he should resign rather than be sacked because this should actually be an issue for him and his conscience.

“One of the benefits of having been around for a long time is that I’ve seen this sort of thing before and the strength of feeling is such, within the party and outside,  that this will not simply go away. 

The sooner he resigns the better so we can have a new secretary for health who commands public respect.

Hancock is finished.

The sooner he goes the sooner he can be rehabilitated.”

That afternoon, Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a conversation. Hancock wrote a letter of resignation. Boris responded with a written reply:

Around 6 p.m., Hancock announced his resignation via a personal video:

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that Boris should have sacked Hancock:

However, given Boris’s philandering, that would have been hypocritical.

Also, Hancock will now return to the backbenches. Boris will want to keep him sweet. Even I can figure that out.

Around two hours later, it was announced that Sajid Javid would be Hancock’s replacement. Javid has been Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, so he will be comfortable with another post in the Cabinet.

This means that Boris’s expected reshuffle will not now take place until perhaps later in the year. A smart move:

This thread summarises Javid’s career. He is the son of a bus driver. His teachers told him that he should pursue television set repair as a career. Were they ever wrong:

Dominic Cummings was quick to react, blaming Boris’s wife Carrie for the appointment. She had at one time worked for Javid. Cummings said he himself had ‘tricked’ Boris into firing Javid from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT):

Sky News’s Beth Rigby appeared outside of No. 10 late on Saturday:

Beth has some nerve. She was suspended from Sky News for a few months for having revelled in a non-coronavirus-compliant way at her colleague Kay Burley’s 60th birthday party evening in central London:

Sunday, June 27

Newspaper editors must have been pulling out their hair in changing their front pages for Sunday.

The Sun went for a play on words (matt paint):

The Mirror had the same idea, adding that his aide has quit her job, too:

The Times had a front page article adding that Hancock used a personal Gmail account to conduct Department of Health business. Apparently it’s done now, but any of those emails are subject to FOIA requests with regard to Government business. It also means that the Government might not be able to get a trail of all of his activity with regard to contracts:

The Express said that Conservative donors threatened to stop contributions if Hancock stayed in office:

I will stop there for now.

The Sunday articles and news programmes had much more to explore.

For now, it looks as if Sajid Javid has a more libertarian approach to handling the virus and wants restrictions lifted as soon as practicable.

Last week at this time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was preparing for the G7 summit at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.

Prior to that, meetings between G7 foreign ministers and finance ministers took place earlier in London.

This is the family photo of the foreign ministers from their meeting in May. The eighth man is an EU representative:

One of the outcomes of the finance ministers’ meetings in early June was a tax on profits from the largest multinational tech giants, to be continued when the G20 meet in July:

Joe Biden

It was amazing to see Joe Biden last the full course of the G7, especially without Kamala Harris hovering over him:

I am still puzzling over this photo of Dr Jill prepping for the G7 and the text ‘United States government official’. She is the First Lady, not a government official:

Joe Biden successfully triggered a post-Brexit storm around the EU trading arrangements with Northern Ireland, which are crucial to maintaining the peace agreement between that part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland:

Biden’s opinion is important, because the UK wants to make a trade deal with the US, which would have been much easier were President Trump still in the White House:

Nigel Farage rightly tweeted:

The sad truth is that no one in government cares about Trump. Boris has made it pretty clear in Parliament that he prefers dealing with Biden.

On Thursday, June 10, the US and the UK signed The New Atlantic Charter to promote common interests between the two nations, including technology, health pandemics and climate change.

The original Atlantic Charter was signed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941.

This new charter is hardly as ground breaking as the original.

The Daily Mail reported:

The major focus of Mr Johnson and Mr Biden’s new charter is defeating the coronavirus crisis and preventing further global health crises.

To achieve these goals, the two men agreed to ‘scale up joint work on genomic sequencing and variant assessments’ and to work together on a new global surveillance system. 

This will see the UK Health Security Agency’s new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness establishing a working relationship with its US counterpart, the proposed National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics.

The new charter states: ‘We recognise the catastrophic impact of health crises, and the global good in strengthening our collective defences against health threats. 

‘We commit to continuing to collaborate to strengthen health systems and advance our health protections, and to assist others to do the same. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘While Churchill and Roosevelt faced the question of how to help the world recover following a devastating war, today we have to reckon with a very different but no less intimidating challenge – how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.’

While the men met, Carrie Johnson, young Wilfred Johnson and Jill Biden took a walk along the beach. That evening, the Bidens enjoyed a drink at the Tregenna Castle Hotel in St. Ives.

On Sunday, June 13, the Bidens left Cornwall and were guests of the Queen at Windsor Castle where they enjoyed tea together. The Express has more.

On Monday and Tuesday, Biden met with NATO leaders and held a private meeting with the president of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan.

The Bidens flew to Geneva on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Biden met with Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

Sausage war

On the topic of Biden’s beef over Northern Ireland, he wants the UK to move closer to the EU and had the diplomat at the American Embassy in London issue Boris with a démarche, a reprimand normally reserved for enemy nations.

On Wednesday, June 9, the Telegraph reported:

Joe Biden ordered US officials to rebuke Boris Johnson for jeopardising the peace process in Northern Ireland due to its stand-off with the European Union, it emerged on Wednesday night. 

In a significant diplomatic intervention which now threatens to overshadow the G7 summit in Cornwall, America’s most senior diplomat in Britain told the Brexit minister Lord Frost that the UK’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol was “inflaming” tensions in Ireland and Europe. 

Yael Lempert is said to have issued Lord Frost with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – at a meeting on June 3 in London, during which she relayed to him the US President’s “great concern” over the UK’s approach to the protocol, which was established to prevent a hard Irish border.

The protocol is causing difficulty in shipping sausages, hence ‘sausage war’. You could not make this up.

Lord David Frost is attempting to negotiate with the EU:

During “frank” discussions in London, the Brexit minister Lord Frost said he would not rule out acting unilaterally to prevent a ban on the sale of British sausages in the province from coming into force at the end of the month.

It came despite Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, warning that the EU could ultimately suspend parts of the Brexit trade deal and hit British products with tariffs should the UK choose to extend the grace period on chilled meats.

In a clear show of defiance, one insider involved in the joint committee that oversees the Northern Ireland Protocol told The Telegraph: “David very clearly said he wasn’t taking that off the table.”

Lord Frost also rebuffed EU calls for the UK to solve the row by signing up to a Swiss-style veterinary agreement which would require it to follow the bloc’s food safety rules as they change over time in a process known as “dynamic alignment”.

Over the years, British food and veterinary standards have become more strict than those of the EU, so it is no surprise that Lord Frost is sticking to his guns.

The démarche from the United States upset the DUP leader in Northern Ireland — Edwin Poots — and some Conservative MPs in Westminster.

On Thursday, June 10, the Daily Mail reported:

New DUP leader Edwin Poots laid into Joe Biden today after the US president intervened in Northern Ireland politics with a rebuke for Boris Johnson over the EU ‘sausage war’.

Hardliner Mr Poots accused the Democrat of  trying to drive ‘a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement’ that guarantees sectarian peace in Northern Ireland.

The US President instead used his diplomats to express ‘great concern’ over the conflict centred on post-Brexit trade rules agreed last year by both sides, which the UK is now seeking to change, the Times reported today.  

The UK is now at loggerheads with the EU over rules governing the import of chilled goods like sausages into Ulster under the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed six months ago

The US is said to have issued a ‘demarche’ to Britain, an official diplomatic censure not normally used against allies, especially those as close as the two nations. 

The United States was said to have ‘strongly urged’ Britain to ‘stay cool’ and reach an agreement, even if that meant making ‘unpopular compromises’. 

The White House tried to row back from the row today, insisting the bust-up had been overplayed, but not before the president was branded ‘senile’ by a Tory Brexiteer …

an anonymous Tory MP told Politico:  ‘America should remember who their allies are… unfortunately he’s (Biden) so senile that he probably won’t remember what we tell him anyway

‘Unless an aide is listening I’m not sure he’s going to remember for very long.’

The Express had more from anonymous Conservative MPs:

One told Express.co.uk: “The cognitive decline of the American President appears to mirror the decline of the special relationship.

“I don’t actually believe this is Biden doing this.

“He’s lost the plot again. Somebody is pulling his strings because he’s senile and just hasn’t got it – if he ever had it.”

Another angry Conservative told this website the US was picking fights with the wrong people.

They said the Biden administration had issued a rebuke to the UK, one of America’s oldest allies, quicker than it had taken action against Iran or China.

“He’s talking to the wrong people on this one I’m afraid,” the MP said.

The Gateway Pundit picked up on the story:

Joe Biden’s first trip abroad is turning into an utter disaster as the senile sock puppet offends our closest allies and endangers the peace process in Northern Ireland with his incompetent dementia

On June 10, the Prime Minister and Biden met privately at St Michael’s Mount, a 17th-century castle on an island just off the coast of Cornwall.

The Daily Mail reported that Boris downplayed the disagreement:

Boris Johnson tonight insisted Joe Biden did not rebuke him over the Northern Ireland situation during their first face-to-face talks – as the White House tried to cool a furious row.

The PM revealed that the US president avoided reading the riot act over the Brexit standoff when they met in Cornwall this afternoon.

But he said there is ‘common ground’ between the UK, America and the EU that solutions must be found to the Northern Ireland protocol issues.

The Express quoted him as saying:

So it’s a relationship, you can call it the ‘deep and meaningful relationship’, whatever you want, the ‘indestructible relationship’.

It’s a relationship that has endured for a very long time, and has been an important part of peace and prosperity in Europe and around the world.

Emmanuel Macron’s gaffe

Emmanuel Macron ruffled British feathers when he said that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom.

The Express reported on Macron’s reaction to the sausage war:

Britain has been left frustrated by the EU’s implementation of the mechanism, warning excessive customs checks are having a detrimental impact on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

During talks with Mr Macron at the G7 summit, Boris Johnson tried to explain the problems with the Protocol, comparing it to the hypothetical introduction of checks on goods between Toulouse and Paris.

Mr Macron responded by saying there was a difference because Northern Ireland is a separate country to the rest of the UK.

The comments enraged Boris Johnson and led to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab blasting the EU for a lack of “respect”.

According to the newspaper, Macron also threatened a reset of British and French relations:

Emmanuel Macron was among the leaders who visited Cornwall this week for the G7 summit. Mr Macron told Prime Minister Boris Johnson the two countries had common interests, but ties could only improve if he kept his word on Brexit. One source told the Guardian: “The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship. This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans.”

Meanwhile, Carrie Johnson took Brigitte Macron and Jill Biden to a performance at the Minack Theatre. Mrs Macron wore espadrilles.

The Queen’s reception

On Friday, June 11, the Queen held a reception at the futuristic green Eden Project for G7 leaders and their spouses. Prince Charles (pictured) and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also attended:

A family photo was taken, where the Queen cracked a joke:

She also hosted G7 leaders in 1977. Among them was Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, on the far left in the photo below. Valery Giscard d’Estaing and the Queen engaged in conversation. It is unclear why the Queen Mother and Jimmy Carter were holding hands:

Other members of the Royal Family also attended this year’s reception.

The Queen has met nearly every US president since Dwight D Eisenhower. The only one she never met was Lyndon B Johnson.

The Duchess of Cambridge took Jill Biden for a visit to Connor Downs Academy, a primary school in Hayle:

Jill Biden revealed that she knows Prince Harry well, thanks to the Invictus Games.

In a separate event, the Duchesses of Cambridge and Cornwall accompanied the Queen to an event in St Austell, where the monarch cut a cake with a ceremonial sword. This video is a must:

Lighter moments

The G7 security costs were eye-watering:

In addition, the Daily Mail reported that the Royal Navy’s giant new aircraft carrier sailed past the summit venue where the G7 leaders are staying to prove Britain’s power.

A beach party was held on Saturday, June 12. The weather was good:

The G7 family photo this year was socially distanced because of coronavirus:

Elbow bumps replaced handshakes:

However, social distancing disappeared for the flypast by the Red Arrows:

Conclusion

The G7 summit ended on Sunday, June 13.

The French tried to clarify Macron’s remark about Northern Ireland:

Boris announced that the UK would build back better in a ‘gender neutral’, possibly even ‘more feminine’, way.

The nations’ leaders also agreed to counter China’s belt and road policy:

Meanwhile, the sausage war rages on.

The next big British event will be COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

Yesterday’s post discussed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s third marriage and Catholic Canon Law.

Today’s post looks at the way Boris and Carrie Symonds — now Carrie Johnson — were able to keep their plans secret, which is not easy in No. 10, well known for its leaks.

Although his former special adviser Dominic Cummings gave scathing testimony about Boris and Carrie to a parliamentary Select Committee on Wednesday, May 26, by the end of the week, the Prime Minister’s fortunes had improved.

Although we are not that happy with aspects of Boris’s handling of the pandemic, more of us trust him than we do Cummings:

On Friday, the Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests Lord Geidt concluded that Boris’s renovations on his Downing Street flat did not break the ministerial code:

That day, he was also photographed running for a train. When was the last time any Prime Minister in living memory ran for a train? Scenes like these endear Boris to the British public:

He even waved to a woman who called out, ‘Hi, Boris’:

Guido Fawkes posted the video. One of Guido’s readers responded with a lyric from My Fair Lady:

“Girls come and kiss me, say that you’ll miss me

But get me to the church on time

Little did anyone know how true that was.

Saturday, May 29, began with a good poll, in spite of Cummings’s testimony:

Downing Street confirmed wedding day after it happened

There were no announcements from Downing Street of the wedding on Saturday, May 29.

On Sunday, the BBC’s political correspondent Nick Eardley wrote (emphases mine):

It can’t have been easy to keep yesterday’s wedding – between a former journalist and someone who works in public relations – under wraps.

But it seems to have taken almost everyone in Westminster by surprise.

Such was the desire to keep it quiet, Downing Street only officially confirmed it had happened on Sunday morning – the day after the wedding.

The accompanying article stated:

The marriage took place in a “small ceremony” on Saturday afternoon, a Downing Street spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the couple would celebrate again with family and friends next summer, with their honeymoon also delayed until then …

Downing Street did not reveal any details of who was invited and whether any of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet colleagues were among the guests …

Musicians were pictured leaving No 10 on Saturday night.

At Westminster Cathedral that day, visitors were asked to leave in the early afternoon:

Members of the public were asked to leave Westminster Cathedral just after 13:30 BST, the Sun reported.

The Telegraph reported:

shortly after 1.30pm, confused tourists were ushered out of the building on the basis that it was going into lockdown.

This is a photo of the Johnsons at Downing Street afterwards (another made the front page of The Telegraph). Look at Boris’s tie:

Guido Fawkes wrote ‘Amoris Laetitia‘ in his post. This is Latin for ‘The Joy of Love’ and the title of Pope Francis’s exhortation on love in family life.

How events unfolded at Westminster Cathedral

The Telegraph reported that, around 2 p.m. on Saturday:

Miss Symonds, who has since taken her husband’s name, swept into the piazza in front of the cathedral in a limousine, wearing a £2,870 embroidered tulle gown but no veil.

Close friends and family and the couple’s one-year-old son, Wilfred, were in attendance as they were married by Father Daniel Humphreys, the head of the cathedral.

He was the priest who had baptised their son six months earlier in the same Lady Chapel, an ornately decorated room which hosts morning and evening prayer.

The couple had been instructed by him to ensure that they were both prepared for the marriage “over many months”, sources told the Telegraph.

After the ceremony, the guests – understood to include Mr Johnson’s siblings Rachel, Jo and Leo Johnson, his father, Stanley, and half-sister Julia – were whisked back to Downing Street.

The first official photograph was released on Sunday morning and showed the couple embracing in the garden. Mr Johnson even appeared to have brushed his famously unruly hair for the occasion, though his tie remained askew.

They opted to hire an external photographer, Rebecca Fulton, rather than using Andrew Parsons, a special adviser who takes pictures of Mr Johnson on official visits. Her prices begin at around £2,300 for a day’s wedding shoot – although it is possible the Prime Minister received a bargain rate as the ceremony was so short.

Downing Street reception

The same Telegraph article says that a marquee was already in the Downing Street garden for a prior event:

It had been used days earlier to host a meeting between the Prime Minister and small businesses that had made a net zero commitment.

The atmosphere was relaxed:

the garden decked out with lanterns, bunting and hay bales, which it appeared were being used as seats as well as table legs to hold up a tray of drinks.

Also:

After much speculation about their nuptials, and a save-the-date for July 30, 2022 card sent just six days before they married, people were expecting an elaborate affair. But in the end Mr Johnson’s third marriage was a low-key celebration which saw guests dancing to Don McLean’s American Pie played by a wandering acoustic fiddle band.

Top secret

The article says that Saturday’s wedding took six months of secret planning:

The event was planned in secret over the last six months, and even the small number of guests allowed under Covid restrictions were only told at the last moment, it is understood.

The Daily Mail reported:

The premier is understood to have picked his closest brother Leo – co-presenter of Radio 4 series Future Proofing –to stand by his side as his best man and provide moral support on his big day. 

Fellow Johnson siblings Jo, Julia and Rachel were also in attendance at the small wedding, the premier’s third.

Both the bride and groom’s mothers joined the summer festival-themed party in the Downing Street garden, but Carrie’s father Matthew Symonds was not presentIt is not known if he was invited by the couple.

It is also thought that none of Mr Johnson’s four grown-up children from his second marriage to the QC Marina Wheeler were there to see their father remarry.

No Cabinet ministers or Tory MPs were thought to have been invited to the top-secret wedding either, the Sun reports.

The couple were expected to spend the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire.

They have chosen to delay their honeymoon until summer 2022, when they will also hold a bigger wedding celebration, according to the Telegraph.

The article says that Carrie rented her dress:

The bride, who hired her £2,870 wedding dress by designer Christos Costarellos for just £45 from MyWardrobeHQ for the day, said she was ‘very, very happy’.

In order to keep arrangements low-key, she hired three decoy dresses. The Daily Mail describes her plan:

Carrie Symonds hired three decoy dresses to throw snoops off the scent before her secret marriage to Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new blushing bride hired the dresses from eco fashion business My Wardrobe HQ and returned the one she settled on for £45 today from Greek designer Christos Costarellos …  

The new Mrs Johnson, 33, often orders clothes to the couple’s Downing Street home so wanted to throw snoops off the scent by hiring three other bridal frocks.   

The company she ordered the dresses from only found out they had supplied the wedding dress for the UK’s first lady when they saw pictures of the secret wedding

Co-founder Sacha Newall told The Times: ‘We didn’t know what it was for. We were just asked to supply some items. Then we saw what happened this weekend. It was all a bit of a surprise.’

They revealed that Mrs Johnson has asked for four dresses in a variety of shades.  

And it’s not the first time Mrs Johnson has worked with the company – she used their services when she was finding a dress to meet the Queen at Balmoral in 2019

Ms Newall added that while Carrie isn’t particularly into fashion she is making an effort to take an interest. 

She said: ‘There is an awareness that as the prime minister’s wife she needs to be dressed in a certain way… She doesn’t want to feel that she is letting the side down.’  

And the first time Carrie was spotted standing next to Mr Johnson on the steps of Downing Street in her iconic pink Ghost dress, she had rented the frock from My Wardrobe HQ.  

My Wardrobe HQ’s business will be going through the roof now. I wish them every success.

How Boris met Carrie

It wasn’t only the wedding that was kept under wraps. Even the development of their relationship is rather private.

The first the public had heard of Carrie Symonds was in the summer of 2019, when she and Boris had a row at her home in London, more about which below.

The Telegraph reported that the two have known each other since 2012:

For a relationship that began under the shroud of rumour and has been conducted largely in private, it was only fitting that the marriage of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds included the element of secrecy.

The world now knows that the Johnsons’ wedding anniversary will forever be May 29 2021. But precisely when their relationship started is a little harder to pin down.

Miss Symonds, a Warwick University graduate who instantly progressed through the ranks of the Conservative Party, is thought to have got to know Mr Johnson when she worked on the 2012 Back Boris campaign for his re-election to become mayor of London. After that experience, she developed a habit of praising his speeches on social media.

It was six years later, in 2018, when Mr Johnson was serving as foreign secretary and Miss Symonds as the party’s head of communications, when whispers about their escalating friendship emerged. In February of that year, a ruddy-faced Mr Johnson, then 51, was photographed chatting playfully with a glamorous-looking Miss Symonds, then 29, outside the Tories’ Black and White Ball at the Natural History Museum.

A week later, it was reported that the pair enjoyed a Valentine’s Day meal at one of Mr Johnson’s favourite haunts, Rules, in Covent Garden. The next month there were cocked eyebrows all around Westminster when social media chatter revealed that Mr Johnson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, at that time all Cabinet heavyweights, were spotted gyrating to Abba in a room full of drunk millennials at Miss Symonds’s 30th birthday party in north London.

“The feeling inside Number 10 at the time was very much along the lines of: ‘What on earth were they doing there?’” one former Downing Street aide told The Telegraph later that year …

Another source cattily remarked that, “Carrie is not what you’d describe as a girly girl. She’s more of a man’s woman. And by that I mean an older man’s woman.” Yet of the three older, married Cabinet ministers at the party, the rumour mill was only concerned with one.

By September, both Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds moved on from their respective roles – she took up a role with a conservation organisation, while he resigned from the Cabinet in protest at Theresa May’s handling of Brexit – and Mr Johnson had announced his divorce from his second wife, Marina Wheeler, after 25 years of marriage.

By now, that rumour mill was churning wildly, and given grist in the form of one particularly juicy morsel of Westminster chatter suggesting Mr Johnson sent a car to collect Miss Symonds from a colleague’s wedding when he was still foreign secretary.

The car, it was said, brought her to his grace-and-favour residence, Chevening, and to top it off, the wedding was held at Penshurst Place, Kent, which used to play host to King Henry VIII while he secretly courted his mistress, Anne Boleyn.

Despite an almost 24-year age gap, the burgeoning relationship appeared to make some sense: both were metropolitan and sociable, both had backgrounds in the media (in Miss Symonds’s case it was in the family – her estranged father is Matthew Symonds, the co-founder of The Independent; her mother is Josephine Mcaffee, once one of the paper’s lawyers), both were on the green side of the Tory party with their mutual friend Zac Goldsmith, and both were undeniably ambitious.

Just how they managed – and still manage – to keep their relationship so private puzzled some observers. But Miss Symonds was well-positioned to ensure discretion: she has friends and connections all over Fleet Street, as well as countless powerful Tory allies.

In 2019, Symonds began getting closer to Boris and his father:

The drip-feed of gossip continued to find its way into the public domain, however. That Miss Symonds had been showing friends mischievous texts she’d received from Mr Johnson. That she called him “Bozzie Bear”, and he called her his “otter”. That his photograph was her phone screensaver. That Stanley Johnson, Boris’s father, joining Miss Symonds on an anti-whaling march in January 2019 was proof things were serious. That Mr Johnson was losing weight and keeping his hair trim not for the electorate but for her. That he and Miss Symonds were “very much in love”, and had moved in together in her flat in Camberwell, south London

Locals in Camberwell, who weren’t overcome with joy at the news, remember seeing “the unmistakable, hunched blonde figure of Boris” cycling to and from Miss Symonds’ home each day.

They were rarely seen together at public events, however:

The closest thing to an official confirmation, in fact, was Miss Symonds’ appearance at Mr Johnson’s campaign launch for Conservative leader in June 2019. In a deep red Karen Millen dress, Miss Symonds entered the public eye just months before her partner was favourite to become prime minister.

I read at the time that the dress sold out immediately.

Then came the row:

The pressure clearly told. A few weeks later, police were called to the Camberwell flat after neighbours heard an argument taking place. Helpfully, they had recorded the row and told a newspaper that Miss Symonds could be heard telling Mr Johnson: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.”

However, that blew over quickly.

Shortly afterwards, she moved into Downing Street with him. I have no objection to people living together except when it involves a high-profile person in a high-profile setting. Call me old-fashioned, but it is just wrong. Unfortunately, Boris has now set a precedent:

When Mr Johnson secured the keys to 10 Downing Street, Miss Symonds joined him. Not literally – she stood watching his victory speech on the other side of the camera, rather than just behind him, as Philip May and most other prime ministers’ spouses had – but she moved in, and quickly gained a reputation as an influential figure in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

As if to mark the start of a new family, Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds adopted Dilyn, a Jack Russell cross, shortly after taking residence in Downing Street.

Carrie became pregnant. Weeks before she was due to deliver, Boris was hospitalised with coronavirus. He was close to death:

It was to prove not only a national crisis for the Prime Minister, but also a terrifying personal battle. After testing positive for Covid-19, Mr Johnson was taken to intensive care at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, in April 2020.

Afterwards, stories circulated about Boris’s affair with an American during the 2010 Olympics held in London. Then came Wallpaper-gate. And, now, the couple have married. Carrie Symonds is now officially Carrie Johnson.

History in the making

The last Prime Minister to get married while in office was also a Conservative: Robert Banks Jenkinson — Lord Liverpool. He remarried in 1822.

The Daily Mail stated:

Mr Johnson is the first premier to marry in office in 199 years. He follows in the footsteps of Lord Liverpool, who married Mary Chester in 1822 and was prime minister for 15 years.

Mary Chester was a close friend of his wife Louisa, who died at the age of 54.

One wonders if Boris’s original date of July 30, 2022 was planned to deliberately coincide with this 200-year anniversary.

On Saturday, May 29, Prime Minister Boris Johnson married for the third time, on a date kept secret, largely away from the prying eyes of the media.

He and his fiancée — some would say concubine — Carrie Symonds were married in a Catholic ceremony at Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey) in central London.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, only 30 people were in attendance.

The happy couple are pictured here at their reception in the garden of No. 10. James Cleverly MP was not in attendance, by the way:

The wedding provoked controversy regarding Canon Law.

It turns out that Boris was baptised a Catholic in his infancy but was confirmed as an Anglican during his schooldays at Eton.

Carrie Symonds has been a lifelong Catholic. Their son, Wilfred, was baptised a Catholic in 2020.

Catholics in Britain wonder how the couple could be married under Canon Law at Britain’s most famous Catholic cathedral.

On Sunday, May 30, a Telegraph article discussed the consternation expressed by British Catholics (emphases mine):

Disgruntled congregants at Westminster Cathedral have asked the resident priest to clarify how the twice-divorced Prime Minister was able to remarry in Catholic church.

Speaking outside the cathedral on Sunday, churchgoers said that they were “confused” over Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’s wedding on Saturday and said that “doesn’t look very well for us” given his history.

One member of the congregation, named only as Maria, who was baptised in the cathedral and has been attending for 70 years, said that she asked the priest for clarification on the rules surrounding divorcees.

Catholic canon law does not permit the marriage of a divorcee whose former spouse is still alive.

Both of Boris’s ex-wives are still alive.

This was the response the Telegraph received:

the church confirmed that as neither his six-year first marriage to Allegra Mostyn-Owen, nor his second 27-year marriage to Marina Wheeler were Catholic ceremonies they are not recognised in the eyes of the church

A spokesman for Westminster Cathedral said: “The bride and groom are both parishioners of the Westminster Cathedral parish and baptised Catholics.

All necessary steps were taken, in both Church and civil law, and all formalities completed before the wedding.

“We wish them every happiness.”

Hmm.

The article discussed the couple’s relationship with the Revd Daniel Humphreys, one of the priests at the cathedral and the officiant at their marriage:

Father Humphreys also baptised their son Wilfred in the chapel where they wed (the Lady Chapel) just six months ago.

The couple were both baptised Catholics, though the Prime Minister renounced his mother’s Catholicism when he was confirmed in the Anglican faith whilst at Eton.

It is understood that the couple had been “under instruction” with the priest for “many months” before the ceremony.

On Monday, May 31, the Daily Mail carried the cathedral’s statement on the wedding and reported more dissatisfaction among British Catholics, including the following:

On Twitter another user asked: ‘If Boris marrying is Westminster Cathedral is true then, as a Catholic, I would like to know why a twice divorced adulterer was able to and my practising Catholic friend who divorced a husband who battered hell out of her had to re-marry in a registry office.’

Conservative Woman had a good article on Canon Law and Boris’s wedding written by Roger Watson, a professor of nursing and practising Catholic: ‘Johnson’s Catholic marriage: How to have your wedding cake and eat it’.

He says:

The unexpected timing was one thing, but when I recognised the portal from which he and his bride emerged after the wedding as that of Westminster Cathedral, I uttered a few words that will extend my time in Purgatory.

I had read a report and was sure that the journalist made a mistake and meant Westminster Abbey. But no, it really was the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Diocese of Westminster. The newlyweds are both Roman Catholics, apparently. Who knew?

As a Roman Catholic, I was taken aback. Boris, no stranger to matrimony, is twice divorced, and my Church famously and uniquely forbids the remarriage of divorcees in the Church.

I am genuinely surprised that this marriage was permitted under Canon Law. It seems to have nothing to do, as some commentators have said, with ‘changing times’, ‘the need for Catholics to move on’ – the ‘conservative’ Catholics that is – and how, under the populist Pope Francis, we are becoming a different church.

I sense a great deal of sacramental sophistry in arriving at the conclusion that it was acceptable for two adulterers to marry according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

The bottom of the canonical barrel must have been scraped clean. By whatever loophole this marriage is deemed legal, I have known of no another example.

Of course, forgiveness is a significant pillar of the Christian faith. But forgiveness is an aspect of God’s justice, and justice is possible only following judgement.

It is largely none of my business but, while a decision has clearly been taken to permit the marriage of Johnson and Symonds, to what extent were they judged suitable candidates to proceed to matrimony under the auspices of the Church of Rome, and what amends did they make for their sins? Sin, of course is not a popular word these days, but sin they did. The facts speak for themselves.

Having ‘renounced’ his Catholic faith at school, Johnson has sinned by marrying outside the Church, he has sinned by committing adultery and having sex outside marriage. The Church does not formally recognise renouncement of faith, and this was, in fact, his ecclesiastical get-out clause.

It transpires that Ms Symonds often spoke about her Catholic faith. If so, she has sinned by having sex outside marriage and persisting in that relationship.

If the couple were to marry legitimately under Church law, they would both have had to make a confession of these sins and promised to sin no more. That would have meant them living ‘as brother and sister’ until they were married. Maybe that happened. Who knows?

Watson says there is a larger issue here, one with the Catholic Church in general:

Notwithstanding the legality of the Prime Ministerial wedding, I worry about the marital message this sends to young Catholic men, and men are always the winners where infidelity is concerned.

It suggests to me that they are being given permission to sow their wild oats at liberty; even to try out a few marriages outside the auspices of the Church first. Have some kids, see how that goes. If these fail and you fancy a return to the fold, no impediments will be put in your way.

Ultimately:

There is always great rejoicing at the return of sinners to the fold. I wish the Johnsons well and pray they bring up their son in the Catholic Church.

Agreed.

The comments to the article included several anecdotes about people being unable to marry in the Catholic Church. I have a distant relative who was unable to marry his fiancée in a Catholic ceremony. She was divorced, he was a bachelor and the priest refused them because her ex-husband was still alive. As she was an Episcopalian — who was willing to become Catholic — they married in the Episcopal Church.

As for Canon Law and the rather unorthodox relationship of Symonds living with Johnson at No. 10, one commenter wrote:

I agree and disagree with this article.

With respect to the legality and the question of the divorces; there is not a problem here. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Catholic Church values its own marriages and its own laws. It would be a major concession to the secular order if it started giving too much credence to Johnson’s previous “marriages”. The fact is that marriage – Catholic and non-Catholic – involve a legal form and Johnson’s previous marriages simply did not comply with it from a Catholic perspective. The Catholic Church should no more consider them valid than the British courts should have considered Mick Jagger’s wedding on the Bali beach valid (which they didn’t). We wouldn’t expect wedding vows exchanged on a door step in front of a postman to be valid and so there is no reason for the Catholic Church to consider marriages that break its laws to be valid.

Two points should be made clear – the Catholic church does consider Church of England marriages to be valid when they involve non Catholics. The problem is that when Johnson was baptised a Catholic it meant that legal responsibilities came with it from the point of view of the Catholic Church including the need to follow its marriage laws.

I do agree with the article when it states that the wrong marital message is being sent out. Johnson has created scandal by installing a concubine in Downing Street. I am pleased he has now married her and brought this to an end. But the nation has been left with the impression that he simply tumbled out of their shared bed into a taxi to the most prestigious Catholic Church in England and married her just like that. Even if this was not so (who knows), it should have been seen to not have been so with Symonds moving out for a period of time, a public statement or similar. Even now the Catholic Church should be using the opportunity as a teaching moment. Cheating on women, breaking church law are all sins

The Johnson-Symonds union in a Catholic ceremony seems to be a matter of the Church kowtowing to the powerful.

There can be no other explanation.

I’ll have more tomorrow on how the Johnsons kept their wedding plans a secret.

On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, Dominic Cummings, former special adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared before the Science and Technology Select Committee for an inquiry that lasted over seven hours.

The full session is on Parliamentlive.tv.

As one might expect from someone the media portrayed as the power behind the throne between July 2019 and November 2020, this was a highly gripping interview conducted by a number of MPs.

Cummings discussed Boris, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the coronavirus situation. With regard to the pandemic, he said that the Government, including himself, let the nation down at a time when Britons needed them the most. He apologised for not having insisted on urgent action sooner early in 2020.

Highlights follow.

Boris

Cummings’s opinion of Boris is not the highest at the moment. Cummings wondered whether to tender his resignation several times but decided to stay on to implement the reforms he thought would make No. 10 work better.

One of their big bones of contention was the way No. 10 — especially Boris — liaised with the media, especially during the coronavirus crisis.

According to Cummings, Boris wanted to please the media only to end up contradicting coronavirus policy.

At one point, Boris opposed parts of Cummings’s plan to reform the way No. 10 worked, admitting that he preferred the ‘chaos’ (his word) to giving Cummings the power to resolve said chaos and make it run more efficiently.

Cummings said that he does not think that Boris Johnson is a good Prime Minister.

The media

The media outlets, Cummings said, gave him a hard time because he wanted to manage — and perfect — the way that No. 10 interacted with them.

Cummings’s reforms would have distanced the media contact with the Prime Minister, something that they clearly do not want.

Cummings’s trip to Barnard Castle

Last Spring, Cummings and his family went to Barnard Castle (a town and a castle) in County Durham. It was a huge deal. Boris even made him hold a press conference to explain his actions around a year ago at this time.

Naturally, MPs wanted to find out why Cummings went so far from London when people were told to stay at home.

Cummings confessed that there was something he did not mention during last year’s press conference. He said that staying in his home in north London had become untenable for him, his wife Mary Wakefield (a Spectator journalist) and their little boy. People were outside their home threatening Cummings’s life.

He said that he had spoken to Boris about decamping to Barnard Castle, where his father lives. Boris said that he could either go there or to a Government-owned property in London. Boris then went into hospital with coronavirus and Cummings himself also had the illness.

Cummings and his wife spent a few weeks deciding what to do. Then a newspaper article alleged that Cummings said something about coronavirus deaths that was patently false. Once again, people appeared outside his home.

The couple decided to go to Barnard Castle by car. Cummings wanted to get back to work, even though he had not recovered from the virus. Cummings’s wife did not want him to go back alone, so the family left Barnard Castle to return to London.

The story ran and ran in the news, agitating an already distressed general public cooped up at home. Cummings said that, once Boris returned to Downing Street, he said, ‘This cannot stand’ and told his adviser to hold a press conference, which one MP at the inquiry described as a ‘witch hunt’.

Carrie Symonds

Cummings was also frustrated with Boris’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds, who, on one occasion when coronavirus was critical, wanted Boris to have someone complain to a newspaper about a story involving the couple’s dog.

He also said that Symonds had too much say in hiring No. 10 staff.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

On more than one occasion during the session, Cummings called Health Secretary Matt Hancock a liar for his lack of coronavirus plan.

Cummings said that Hancock should have been fired early last year for claiming that patients leaving hospital for care homes last year would be tested before discharge and for saying that a ‘protective’ (Hancock’s word) ring was placed around care homes.

Cummings said that neither claim was true. The Select Committee have asked Cummings to provide them with specific evidence for such serious allegations.

Barbara Keeley (Labour) was one of the MPs asking Cummings about the care home debacle:

The Science and Technology Select Committee will be interviewing Matt Hancock in a fortnight.

Afterwards, they will file their report from their many sessions on coronavirus. This can be used as evidence in a general inquiry into the Government’s handling of coronavirus, scheduled to begin sometime in 2022.

Coronavirus

Cummings answered a lot of questions about the 2020 coronavirus policy.

He said that a plan for lockdown should have been developed in January 2020. The general consensus in No. 10 was that it was a new type of SARS and that everything would blow over soon.

Cummings thought that air travel should be stopped, but that No. 10 and a number of Conservative MPs thought that would be seen as a ‘racist’ policy, therefore, nothing happened.

The idea of doing nothing was mooted and let people have ‘chicken pox parties’ so that there would be a natural herd immunity by September 2020.

By February, Cummings became increasingly concerned and wanted a southeast Asian style lockdown. In early March, he began consulting academics who had strong quantitative (number-crunching algorithmic) skills to project what would actually occur if there were no lockdown. Cummings referred to this as Plan B:

A specialist in the NHS who was also good with numbers advised Cummings that ‘chicken pox parties’ were out of the question. Coronavirus was too deadly.

Cummings said that he was reluctant to press for a lockdown at the end of January or in February because he was worried that his assumptions might have been wrong.

In any event, the scenario given to him in March helped him persuade No. 10 that a lockdown was necessary. Yet, even then, he said that SAGE members disagreed among themselves as to whether lockdown was a good idea.

After the first lockdown, he said, Boris had deep regrets as to whether it was the right thing to have done. He was worried about the economic impact on people’s lives at the same time he regretted the loss of so many Britons to the disease.

When autumn rolled around, Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty alerted Cummings that a second lockdown was needed. Boris disagreed, because he did not want any more distress inflicted on the public or the economy. In the end, we had a very lengthy lockdown from Christmas 2020 through to April 2021.

Conclusion

Cummings said that many things need to change in No. 10 and Whitehall (civil servants).

Too few people want emergency processes that would streamline procurement, for example. Cummings managed to get some reforms in that area in times of crisis. He also managed to get a special situation room set up at No. 10, which he said that Downing Street officials like because electronic equipment can be taken in for meetings. The COBR room does not allow that option.

Cummings is also frustrated that civil servants cannot be fired easily. Some, he said, clearly need to go.

He also says that our political system needs a rethink. He said that the 2019 choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn was not good.

Although I do not agree — even now — about Cummings’s views on lockdown and masks, I am sorry that he will not be able to implement his changes in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Those interested can read detailed live coverage from The Guardian.

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