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My most recent post on Liz Truss explored the background to her final week in office as Conservative Party leader for 44 days.

She remained Prime Minister until Rishi Sunak took over and was in post for 50 days.

The book

On Thursday, November 24, 2022, Out of the Blue, the biography of Liz Truss by The Sun‘s Harry Cole (right) and The Spectator‘s James Heale (left), went on sale:

They had to frantically rewrite parts of it and add the sad denouement:

The Guardian‘s Gaby Hinsliff gave it a good review, considering that The Sun and The Spectator are not aligned with the paper’s politics:

More excerpts from Hinsliff’s review follow (emphases mine):

Liz Truss was also the first [Prime Minister] to unravel almost faster than a biographer can type. She quit eight days before the Sun’s political editor Harry Cole and Spectator diarist James Heale were due to deliver a portrait already being written at breakneck speed, and for a book to emerge at all in the circumstances arguably represents something of a heroic technical achievement. True, the writing is clunky in places. But nobody is going to be buying this book for its literary elegance; the point is to rubberneck at what remains of the crash site, and if that isn’t what Cole, Heale or most of their interviewees originally intended to deliver – well, life comes at you fast in British politics nowadays.

Then comes the bit in the tweet about the book being of two parts.

The review introduces tantalizing details into Liz’s life, past and present, that are in the book:

Most of the clues as to what went wrong however lie in the first part, a very readable gallop through Truss’s childhood as the daughter of Guardian-reading, mildly eccentric leftwing parents, via her political awakening at university – first as a free market Lib Dem, then as libertarian Conservativeright the way through to her stint as foreign secretary, careering round the world in pursuit of the perfect Instagram shot. (It was during this stage that her ministerial “rider” was said to include multiple espressos in a flat white-sized cup and a bottle of sauvignon blanc chilling at every overnight stay.)

I was intrigued by Truss’s mother, Priscilla, who briefly moved to eastern Europe in the 1970s to “try out life under the communists”, took her children on Greenham Common protests and made herself a bright yellow banana costume in which to promote fair trade back home in Leeds. When Truss recalls schoolmates shouting “saw your mum in Tesco’s dressed as a banana again”, other 70s children of free-thinking parents may understand her seeming obliviousness to criticism a little better. You don’t grow up with a banana-clad mother, I suspect, without developing a certain sturdiness.

The book shows Truss’s self-belief from the time she entered Parliament in 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister:

Obliviousness isn’t always a blessing in politics however, as becomes clear in her first job as early years minister under David Cameron. Truss had hatched a plan to cut childcare costs by slashing the number of adults required to supervise children, which unsurprisingly proved controversial. Instead of patiently trying to build public and political support for it, she simply put her head down and charged – much as she would a decade later with her mini-budget, and about as successfully. All young politicians make mistakes. What’s unusual about Truss is that the lesson she seemingly took from hers was to believe in herself even more, and listen to others even less

But it’s perhaps significant too that she had got away with so much in the past, leading to an overconfidence about her ability to wing it – as she did even in the early days of her leadership campaign.

Interestingly, a Conservative plan to expand the number of adults who can care for children was debated earlier this month. It would allow people to mind children in their own homes rather than at a day care centre.

As with anyone else, there are darker sides to Truss, most of which will never be fully known. Cole and Heale were unable to interview her a third time for the book:

The authors recount sympathetically the well-trodden story of how an earlier extramarital affair with the married former Tory MP Mark Field nearly wrecked Truss’s search for a parliamentary seat, rightly noting the double standard that it never seemed to damage Field. But they also touch on some of the more explosive smears circulated about her during the leadership contest – including claims of an affair with an aide, allegations of predatory behaviour towards staff, and even one wild suggestion that there might be a sex tape of her in circulation. The authors interviewed her twice but their planned third session was canned when she resigned, so perhaps they simply never got to put these to her.

As to how things went wrong, perhaps she should have listened a bit more to others:

Despite his professional closeness to Truss, Cole and his co-author strive to put some distance between them in their final reflections on where it all went wrong. Putting aside her own fear, reportedly expressed to a visitor to the Foreign Office, that “I am weird and I don’t have any friends”, plausible theories for her implosion include that vaulting self-belief (even in her post-resignation speech to staff, she was still insisting she’d been on the right track) and determination to put the wrong people in cabinet.

How to read the books on Boris and Liz

In addition to a book on Truss, there is also one about Boris Johnson, by the Financial Times‘s Sebastian Payne.

How can one read both in chronological order?

Harry Cole says to read the first ten chapters of Out of the Blue, then Payne’s biography of Boris, then end with the final four chapters of Liz’s biography:

An MP writes

Recently, Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland who served as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in Liz Truss’s Government, and before that as Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Boris Johnson, wrote an article for the December 2022/January 2023 edition of The Critic on Truss’s premiership: ‘How did it all go so wrong for Liz Truss?’

Simon Clarke is one of the better Conservatives, in my estimation. He is diligent, good at the despatch box and is self-effacing. He is also very tall and, as such, when pictured with Rishi Sunak, walked some distance behind him so as not to accentuate the difference in height between the two of them.

Clarke begins his article with a weekend at Chevening, the Foreign Secretary’s country residence, and concludes with Truss’s last one at Chequers, as she closed out her premiership:

From Chevening to Chequers. For me, two weekends, eight weeks apart, will forever bookend my friend Liz Truss’s time as prime minister. The first, a wash of August Bank Holiday sunshine over the Kent countryside. Walking the grounds of the Foreign Secretary’s home with her on one of the last days of a leadership contest she had already won, listening as she outlined her vision for government, stalking ahead impatiently through the yellowing grass.

The second, an October Sunday in Buckinghamshire, an afternoon of bruised clouds and close heat foreshadowing the storm which broke as we dispersed. A small circle of family, ministers and aides, gathered in the Great Hall to say goodbye. A day defined by the quiet dignity and absence of self-pity of its principal protagonist, entirely typical of our host.

These memories are appropriate, because so much of what happened in between was decided at Chevening in the dog days of August.

Clarke has read Out of the Blue, which he liked, calling it:

a brisk and insightful canter through Liz’s career and the forces that shaped her …

In four breathless chapters at the close of their book, Heale and Cole do a good job of unpicking what went wrong, and why.

However, Clarke is disappointed they did not reach the conclusion he did — that Truss was right all along:

they largely decline to address an inconvenient truth — a truth perceived by those much-maligned Tory members all summer. Namely that in her diagnosis of the situation at home and abroad and what should be done about it, Liz Truss was fundamentally and importantly right

He goes through the failed mini-budget from September but points out that some of the fallout would have happened anyway:

In the eyes of millions of British voters, the fallout from the mini-budget meant the Government alone took responsibility for sharp spikes in both interest and mortgage rates, even though the majority of those increases were already in motion independently

He admits his error in the mini-budget but adds that Truss had a different economic plan during the summer:

The whole package was an exercise in Reaganomics without, fatally, the support of a reserve currency. Indeed, it was launched at the very moment when the strength of the dollar left sterling desperately exposed. As one of her Cabinet ministers, I take my share of the responsibility. But it is important to note that for much of the summer, there was a different plan. 

In July, in the days following Boris Johnson’s resignation, I spoke with Liz about how best to implement her vision for a higher growth, lower tax economy. The role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury is to be a voice of caution, and speaking as the incumbent to a predecessor, I highlighted the need for credible savings options to accompany her tax cuts, warning that without these we would be monstered. She agreed.

We settled on a new spending review, the exercise by which departmental budgets and priorities are determined in conjunction with Number 10 and the Treasury. Events in Ukraine meant the review conducted in September 2021 now strays close to being a fiction: the world has changed. It was time for a reassessment.

We discussed the relative merits of requiring five and ten per cent reductions in expenditure, achievable given how far spending has soared in recent years, and capable of being cushioned by the size of so many Whitehall departments’ Covid-driven underspends. 

Her only caveat, quite reasonably, was that it would be better to identify specific saving plans in the run-up to a budget once safely in office, as opposed to in the heat of a brutal campaign. But the overall approach of securing those savings was not, I believed, in any doubt. 

There was, therefore, a conscious and spectacular change in her policy from mid-July to the end of August. The latter two weeks of August seem to have been pivotal. With an unassailable polling lead and most votes already safely cast by party members, Liz settled in at Chevening for a blizzard of meetings. Here her distaste for “abacus economics”, always present, won out over caution. 

She was well within her rights to point out that the guardians of Treasury orthodoxy are bad at conducting dynamic modelling of the positive impact of both lower taxes and supply side reforms. But this was not the time to try to test that weakness.

Clarke thinks that Truss should have brought on board some of Sunak’s people. Personally, I do not think they would have helped. Perhaps they would have if she were a man:

As the storm broke from the mini- budget, so a second fundamental error of the Chevening days was laid bare: Liz’s choice of personnel. It was a mistake to have excluded from government so many of those who had backed Rishi Sunak. Her administration had too few allies when its momentum faltered, while a pared-back Downing Street operation found itself fighting on too many fronts.

The opposition was real and it was destructive:

What Heale and Cole could acknowledge more clearly is that there was a sizeable group of MPs who were unpersuadable from the beginning. From those who shivered at the thought of making the case for lowering the top rate of income tax back to the level at which it had stood at for all but the last six weeks of New Labour’s 13 years in office, even if it would raise more revenue, to those who did little to hide their desire for revenge for the summer’s reversal, the kindling was dry

Clarke says it is now important for Conservatives to look ahead to the next general election or face a Labour government:

And so we return to the fundamental point: that for all the brickbats, the platform on which Liz was elected PM remains important and urgent, and still needs to be delivered

Who can dispute the need for a plan for growth, at a time of flagging living standards when the Bank of England is forecasting a two-year recession? Taxes are at a 70-year high, and she was right to ease the burden by cutting National Insurance.

The opportunity for further tax cuts may have passed with the mini-budget, but supply-side reform is now more important, not less. Growth since the 2008 crash has been sluggish, and some of the principal reasons for this are the result of policy challenges that a Conservative government with a majority of 70 ought to confront.

I disagree with his plan to build more houses on the green belt but agree that the Conservatives need to maximise Brexit opportunities:

Productivity matters. We need to curb the culture of judicial review that ensures major infrastructure projects take years longer to deliver than they should. We also need to grasp the opportunities of Brexit, rather than just talk about them. Reform of EU rules such as Solvency II, proceeding with painful slowness, desperately needs to be accelerated if the City is to succeed

Liz saw this with total clarity and planned a series of interventions this autumn. If we are to get our economy moving, it is essential that we should act. None of these problems will resolve themselves of their own accord.

If her instinct for action on the home front was sound, it was doubly so abroad. The Northern Ireland Protocol legislation, so vital to ensuring that all parts of our country get to leave the EU, is very much Liz’s legacy from her time as Foreign Secretary. She understood better than almost anyone in the senior ranks of Government that Brexit cannot be a partial or half-hearted endeavour. Delivering this will be a central test for the new Government. 

And then there’s China:

With regard to China, Liz again rose to the level of events. Too many in British and European politics still cling to the German dream of Wandel durch Handel, or inspiring change through trade. Liz did indeed aim to deliver change through trade, but of a different kind. In one of the boldest policies of recent years, she had set out plans to build a democratic alternative to the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative, not least by championing UK membership of the CPTPP trading bloc.

When she fell, she was poised to designate China officially as a threat to the UK. From the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong to the genocide being perpetrated against the Uighurs, we should be in no doubt as to the true nature of Xi’s regime. The West will only be able to resist this challenge if we readopt the Cold War trinity of moral confidence, economic dynamism and military strength, and Liz instinctively recognised this.

He concludes:

It was precisely because Liz’s sense of the kind of country we ought to be was so compelling that the Conservative party gave her their decisive backing this summer. It is her tragedy that the mistakes made at Chevening risk diminishing the vision she set out of a more successful Britain, walking tall abroad and better able to offer opportunity and dignity to her citizens at home …

In words which could be the epitaph for her short, extraordinary time as our prime minister, she reflected: “I think I could have gone out and done a better defence, and got on the front foot. On the other hand there is no point in doing these jobs unless you stand up for what you believe in.” 

Rishi laughs, but should he?

At last week’s Spectator Awards, everyone was there except Liz Truss.

The notional great and the good, politicians and journalists, gathered together. Pictured on the left is Grant Shapps MP and ex-BBC presenter Emily Maitlis:

Those who received awards and/or gave speeches, included witticisms:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace won Minister of the Year:

As we had four Chancellors this year, it must have been hard for the magazine to choose, so they opted for Labour’s Rachel Reeves for Chancellor of the Year:

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer won Politician of the Year:

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy won Parliamentarian of the Year. It looks like Transport Secretary Mark Harper gave the speech on his behalf:

During this annual starry schmoozefest, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak felt free to get a dig or two in about Liz Truss and the book:

Sunak quipped that the BBC turned down a request to make a television series about Cole and Heale’s book, because ‘it is hard to work with just one episode’. How they laughed:

Except things aren’t so funny for Rishi.

He had no honeymoon as Prime Minister and, within a month, Conservative backbenchers began rebelling.

On Wednesday, November 23, the aforementioned MP, Simon Clarke, tabled an amendment to relax the ban on onshore wind farms in England:

Late on Thursday, November 24, The Telegraph reported that Clarke’s proposed amendment was gaining traction. Furthermore, it had support from none other than Boris Johnson and Liz Truss:

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have launched a challenge to Rishi Sunak’s authority by joining a Tory rebellion backing wind farms to tackle the energy crisis.

In their first major interventions since leaving Downing Street, the two former prime ministers have demanded an end to the ban on new onshore wind farms.

They both signed an amendment to the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, just days after Mr Sunak’s government was derailed by a separate Tory revolt on the same legislation.

The bill is designed to speed up housebuilding, which is crucial to Mr Sunak’s growth agenda.

The two former prime ministers have had tense relationships with Mr Sunak.

Mr Johnson’s supporters view Mr Sunak as having dealt the fatal blow to his premiership by resigning as chancellor.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak clashed repeatedly during the leadership race.

It is unusual for former leaders to oppose their successors, with Theresa May choosing the issue of partygate to make a rare criticism of Mr Johnson

Mr Johnson signed the pro-onshore wind amendment, tabled by Simon Clarke, who was levelling up secretary under Ms Truss – even though he supported the ban, which has been in place since 2015, during his three years in office.

Ms Truss said she wanted to end the ban when she was in Number 10, because she believes the energy crisis means Britain needs more energy independence

The onshore wind revolt is the second blow to Mr Sunak’s bill. 

On Tuesday night, more than 50 Conservative MPs rebelled against his plans to impose centrally-dictated housebuilding targets – forcing the Prime Minister to delay the votes until December.

That revolt risked the prospect of Mr Sunak only being able to get the measure through with Labour support.

The latest rebellion looks set to be even more serious – not only because it has attracted the support of two former prime ministers, but because it is considered more likely that Labour would back measures to promote onshore wind.

By Thursday night, a total of 18 Conservative MPs had signed the amendment.

It demands that Michael Gove, the present Levelling Up Secretary, revises the National Planning Policy Framework to allow councils to grant new onshore wind applications.

The amendment would also force the Town and Country Planning Act to be amended to allow the installation of “new onshore wind sites not previously used for generating wind energy or for repowering existing onshore wind applications”.

On Monday, November 28, The Guardian reported that Sunak was likely to give in to Clarke, Boris, Liz and the other Conservative rebels:

Good morning. Rishi Sunak has only been prime minister for about a month, but already he is learning that a large part of his job consists of playing Whac-a-Mole with Tory party rebellions.

All party leaders face backbench rebellions from time to time but, with its poll ratings still in landslide defeat territory and MPs rushing for the post-parliament lifeboats, the Conservative party is more ungovernable than usual.

Sunak has had to postpone votes on the levelling up and regeneration bill (originally scheduled for today) because of two rebellions on it. One group of Tory MPs (the anti-growth coalition, as Liz Truss would call them), want to amend the bill to ban mandatory housebuilding targets, while another group of Tories (from the pro-growth coalition) are backing an amendment tabled by Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, that would lift the ban on onshore windfarms. Although only 25 Tories have signed the Clarke amendment (less than half the number backing the one on housebuilding targets), Clarke’s is more dangerous because it has Labour backing.

This morning Grant Shapps, the business secretary, was doing the morning interview round and he signalled that the Whac-a-Mole mallet is coming down on the Clarke rebellion. As my colleague Peter Walker reports, Shapps hinted that the government will avert the onshore windfarm rebellion by giving in.

In immigration news that morning, Conservative backbencher David Davis told Sky News that the easiest way to stop the influx of Albanians via the English Channel is to send them back home. Albania is classified as a safe country, therefore, claiming asylum should be discounted. Davis has the backing of 50 other Conservative MPs. He said:

[Legislation] would go through and basically we would say to the Albanian population, anybody else who comes across the Channel will be sent back. When that starts to happen, there is no bigger deterrent … than if somebody in your village pays thousands of pounds to a human trafficker and then ends up back in the village three weeks later.

We shall see what happens on both wind farms and immigration.

For now, the Conservatives will have to make the best of Sunak’s premiership, as they cannot reasonably have any more Prime Ministers before the general election, which, all being well, is some time away, either near the end of 2024 or early in 2025.

Returning to Liz Truss, there was no question that she had insurmountable enemies, a subject I will explore later this week. In some respects, if she were a man, she would have been allowed to remain in office. Perhaps men deal with contrarian men better than contrarian women.

Tomorrow’s post looks at Liz Truss’s life.

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Before going into Rishi’s win in last weekend’s leadership contest, a few items of current news follow.

Wednesday, October 26 saw Rishi at the despatch box for PMQs, which he handled well. Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer was still going around in circles with his six questions, achieving nothing, as usual.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s security breach dominated PMQs and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper asked an Urgent Question about it.

This morning’s Telegraph editorial said (purple emphases mine):

There is something about Mrs Braverman that seems to drive the Left borderline hysterical. Her robust views on issues such as controlling the borders and tackling crime put her in the mainstream of public opinion. Somehow that is enough to earn her the sobriquet “hard-Right” among her Leftist critics.

In the Commons, Mr Sunak defended Mrs Braverman’s return to the Home Office, saying that she had made an error of judgment but that she had recognised that and accepted her mistake. Her resignation last week also took place amid a row within government over immigration levels: Mrs Braverman is a firm advocate of cutting numbers.

Many Conservative voters will be reassured that she is back in office. Mrs Braverman has the right political instincts, taking a hard line for instance on the need to clamp down on disruptive climate protesters. In her previous roles, she has shown that she has the ability to master the details of complex policy areas, including on sensitive matters such as transgender rights. Now, she should be given the time and space to get on with the job.

A retired Squadron Leader wrote the Telegraph to say:

SIR – Congratulations to the new Prime Minister and to Suella Braverman on her return as the Home Secretary.

The situation in the English Channel, with migrants entering Britain with impunity and without permission, at a cost of millions of pounds a day for hotel accommodation alone, cannot go on.

In 2021, 28,526 migrants landed in Britain without permission. This year, more than 38,000 migrants have arrived so far, with a projection of up to 50,000 by the new year.

Mrs Braverman would seem to have the answers to this problem. One can only hope that her return to the Home Office will make a difference, and quickly.

Another issue Braverman will have to deal with are alleged Chinese ‘police stations’ in two Glasgow restaurants.

Today — Thursday — the Times reported:

Ministers have been called on to intervene after China was accused of operating a “shadowy and chilling” secret police hub in the heart of Glasgow.

A report compiled by a human rights organisation claims that the Chinese government is operating a global network of undeclared “police stations”, which are being used to intimidate and silence dissidents.

The Home Office said the claims were “very concerning” and would be taken “extremely seriously”. A spokesman said: “Any foreign country operating on UK soil must abide by UK law. The protection of people in the UK is of the utmost importance and any attempt to illegally repatriate any individual will not be tolerated.”

Safeguard Defenders, a Madrid-based civil liberties group, alleges one of the outposts is running from 417 Sauchiehall Street in central Glasgow, alongside two others in London. The address houses the premises of Loon Fung, one of the city’s oldest and best-known Chinese restaurants …

A spokesman for Safeguard Defenders:

claimed the Scottish Fujian Chamber of Commerce, registered at the premises of Sichuan House, another Chinese restaurant based on Sauchiehall Street, also had links to the Chinese state.

The Times attempted to confirm the allegations:

The Chinese consulate in Edinburgh did not respond to a request for comment …

Loon Fung has strongly denied any involvement. “There’s no secret police here,” a spokesman said. Sichuan House did not respond to a request to comment. A man who answered a mobile number published online as being the contact for the Scottish Fujian Chamber of Commerce hung up when The Times introduced itself.

Returning to Braverman, on Wednesday night, Sir Jake Berry MP, the short-lived chairman of the Conservative Party under Liz Truss, gave an interview on TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored, on which Nadine Dorries MP was a guest host, Morgan being on holiday.

The Times reported what Berry said, in part:

From my own knowledge, there were multiple breaches of the ministerial code …

That seems a really serious breach. The cabinet secretary had his say at the time. I doubt he’s changed his mind in the last six days but that’s a matter for the prime minister.

Also:

Asked whether Braverman had rapidly owned up to the mistake as she claimed, Berry replied: “I wasn’t in the meeting but as I understand it the evidence was put to her and she accepted the evidence rather than the other way around” …

Berry’s comments are likely to prompt further questions about the circumstances of Braverman’s re-appointment as Sunak completes a reshuffle of the government’s junior ranks.

Hmm. Interesting.

Berry’s interview was up for discussion this morning in the House of Lords. Labour peer Baroness Smith of Basildon, leader of the Opposition, asked an Urgent Question about it. Baroness Neville-Rolfe, responding for the Government, gave a brief statement in support of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, which was met with audible groans from many of the peers. Several of them, including a Lord Spiritual (Anglican bishop), asked questions for several minutes.

Labour will continue to press this issue, it seems.

Guido Fawkes caught up with Sir Keir Starmer on Wednesday:

Guido wrote (emphases his):

Finding himself behind Keir Starmer in a coffee-queue this afternoon, Guido took the opportunity to ask the Leader of the Opposition about his future attack lines on the Government. The case of Suella Braverman, the Labour leader said, “wasn’t going away.”

It was a relatively inconspicuous item in his PMQs: “Have officials raised concerns about his decision to appoint her?” It caused a frisson among those who know how important process is, and how deadly the advice given by officials can be …

Obviously no PM is going to answer such questions, nor will he willingly surrender written advice given in ministerial confidence. However, there is a route to get it. By a Humble Address (a procedural device resurrected from ancient obscurity by the previous Speaker, John Bercow), documents of all sorts, including electronic, can be demanded by an Opposition Motion.

Labour has had next week’s Opposition Day nicked by the SNP. But the issue will probably fructify rather than decay over time. It may be a little early in the new administration for 35 Tories to defy the Whip and vote for the  documents to be revealed – but if recent history is anything to go by …

Questions about Braverman continued in the House of Commons on Thursday during Cabinet Office Questions and, later, Business Questions to Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt.

A Telegraph article by Gordon Rayner said that recent Home Secretaries ended up doomed from the start:

Almost as soon as Rishi Sunak reappointed Mrs Braverman as Home Secretary, the civil service was letting it be known that there were “concerns” about whether she could be trusted with sensitive information. Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service, was “livid” about her appointment, sources said.

If the ultimate goal of the poisonous briefings by civil servants was to suggest the department cannot function with Mrs Braverman in charge, it will be a familiar scenario to previous holders of the post.

Priti Patel only just survived a concerted campaign to force her out by civil servants who accused her of bullying. Amber Rudd lasted two years before she was forced to resign for misleading a Commons committee, having been wrongly briefed by her department on deportation targets. As far back as 2006 Labour’s John Reid declared the department “not fit for purpose”.

In 2006, Labour was in power, by the way.

Gordon Rayner rightly includes Braverman’s allies in his analysis:

Allies of Mrs Braverman say that her enemies in the Home Office, and on the Left, have used a technical breach of the ministerial code as a convenient excuse to attack a woman with whom their true battle lies over immigration.

Conservative Party members are likely to support Braverman:

As the current “queen of the Right” in the Government, every carping comment from a Labour MP or BBC commentator simply reinforces her popularity with Conservative Party members and a significant chunk of MPs.

Rishi Sunak reinstated her at the Home Office because he knows that to stand any chance of uniting his party, he needs a figurehead of the Right in a senior position, and in Mrs Braverman he has a former chairman of the European Research Group of Right-wing Eurosceptic Tories.

It is significant that Braverman backed Rishi last weekend:

If, as has been suggested, a return to the Home Office was the price she demanded for backing his leadership bid (and effectively killing off Boris Johnson’s attempted resurrection) it simply proves the clout she now has within the Party.

Other news from Wednesday included a confirmed ban on fracking, overturning Liz Truss’s decision to allow fracking in communities that overwhelmingly allow it.

——————————————————————————————————————

Now back to the leadership contest.

In the early hours of Friday, October 21, Boris Johnson was leading Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt:

I left off yesterday with Stanley Johnson saying that morning that his son Boris was ‘on a plane’.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss made a brief return to Downing Street, probably to collect something. The Guardian‘s photos show her in sportswear, a heretofore unseen Liz.

‘Bring Back Boris’

Express readers opened their Friday paper to find an article by one of Boris’s main backers, Sir James Duddridge MP, a champion of the Bring Back Boris, or BBB, campaign:

I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary and stayed with him right until the end. It was a mistake to force him out but now is the time to bring him back.

He is the only one who can unite the party after the turbulent last few weeks and I trust him to right the ship …

He always remained hugely popular with the party’s grassroots and with large parts of the country.

There will always be socialists and angry Twitter mobs who rail against him but he is an election winner, twice in London as well as nationally.

My constituents regularly tell me they want Boris back and he still has a mandate from the country …

He has the star quality and inspirational leadership the country needs during the challenging months ahead.

It’s time to Bring Back Boris.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Truss’s Business Secretary, declared his support for the former Prime Minister — ‘Boris or Bust’:

Pollster Matt Goodwin pointed out that while Rishi is more popular overall with British voters, Boris still leads those who voted in the 2019 election:

The video from 2012 showing Boris, who was then Mayor of London and promoting the Olympics that year, went viral:

https://image.vuukle.com/71283898-5747-4196-bef2-20ded1203630-45d7723c-546c-489e-907d-f89f9f0ab2ed

However, The Sun‘s Harry Cole reminded everyone that Boris still had the upcoming Privileges Committee investigation to deal with. If it goes badly, he might have to resign as an MP:

Conservative MPs could schedule a motion to cancel the investigation. That would have to be approved by the Commons, but as the Conservatives have a current majority of 71, it could still be overturned. This Sun reporter thinks it is unlikely, however:

Truss’s Deputy Chief Whip Craig Whittaker requested that his name be removed from Guido’s list of Boris supporters. His post requires impartiality:

Emily Maitlis, formerly of the BBC, reacted characteristically to news that Boris was running in the leadership contest:

Guido has the audio and reported:

Emily Maitlis meanwhile learnt the Boris news live on her News Agents podcast. You’ll never guess her reaction…

Shouldn’t hurt Boris’s chances…

Rishi takes the lead

Maitlis needn’t have worried.

By 11 a.m. on Friday, Rishi had just edged past Boris:

A half hour later, Rishi’s momentum was beginning to build:

Boris backers hadn’t lost hope, however. The fact that Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, supported him was an added fillip:

That afternoon, Opinium posted their snap poll on who the public supported. Rishi was the clear winner. Even Penny beat Boris:

Boris gained support from more of the Red Wall. Teesside mayor Ben Houchen is a Party member and not an MP. Simon Clarke was Truss’s Levelling Up Secretary:

Guido excerpted their letter to the Telegraph

Boris is the person we need to lead our country and our party. 

He won the greatest election victory for years on a mandate to unite and level up the UK, and inspired millions of people who had never voted Conservative before to get behind a generous, optimistic vision of what Britain can be.  

People on Teesside love Boris because he recognised that while talent is evenly distributed across the country, opportunity is not. Boris gave us that opportunity. 

Teesside has had difficult times and is now levelling up because of Boris. We know that for us, like Boris, the comeback will be greater than the setback.

… adding:

Houchen is a real loss for Rishi…

By 3:45, Rishi was well on his way to 100 backers. Boris was now lagging behind, and Penny was stuck:

In the early evening, an MP from the 2019 intake, Antony Higginbotham, representing the traditionally Labour constituency of Burnley, came out for Boris:

Two hours later, veteran MP Bill Cash also announced his support for Boris:

It seemed that most Boris backers were traditional Conservatives and Red Wall MPs.

Guido pointed out the Red Wall loyalty:

By contrast, Matt Hancock felt the need to produce a lengthy statement explaining why he was supporting Rishi:

Saturday’s papers

Saturday’s papers were a mixed bag.

Not surprisingly, the Financial Times said that investors were alarmed at the prospect of Boris’s return:

The Telegraph reported that Rishi was expected to pass the threshold of 100 MPs:

The Star came up with an aubergine motif for Boris and couldn’t resist featuring Lettuce Liz again:

Their Thought for the Day was:

Haven’t we all suffered enough?

The lead paragraph reads:

Just when you thought all salad-based puns had been exhausted, posh aubergine Bozo Johnson has emerged as one of the favourites to replace Lettuce Liz as PM.

Rumours began circulating about joint talks between Rishi and Boris:

Two papers played to Boris supporters — the Express

… and the Sun:

The paper’s veteran Trevor Kavanagh explored both sides of the Boris equation in ‘Boris Johnson is a political Humpty Dumpty with a giant ego who had such a great fall — but if he runs for PM, he’ll win’:

Boris Johnson, the political Joker who makes half the nation smile while the rest are spitting chips, is gearing up for another pitch at the premiership.

He needs 100 MPs’ votes and may well get more.

If he runs, he wins — that’s my prediction for what it’s worth in this tumultuous here-today, gone-tomorrow blur of Tory leaders, challengers and assassins.

And even if he doesn’t win, what a pleasure to hear the screams of fury from Labour, Lib Dems and Scot Nats — amplified through the impartial BBC’s 100-decibel speakers

These puce-faced wets don’t seem to realise they are fuelling the pro-Boris momentum which might propel him back into Downing Street and even produce another sensational election win.

Happily, their moans are drowned out by cheers from Red Wall Tory MPs who credit Boris with winning their seats in Parliament.

They want Boris back and so do millions of voters across the land.

It may be deeply irresponsible to say so, but this is diamond-studded 24-carat political entertainment and I for one am enjoying the ride.

Don’t get me wrong — I am not ­watching BoJo: The Movie through rose-coloured glasses, or even suggesting that it makes sense.

Boris Johnson must take much of the blame for the catastrophic mess the country is in, politically and economically.

But he won his 2019 80-seat landslide majority fair and square.

It was an almost entirely personal achievement beyond the reach of any other politician.

He used that majority to achieve great things, ramming Brexit through Parliament, the Covid vaccination triumph and leading global support for Ukraine.

He also blew it as the “Greased Piglet” PM who believes rules are for little people, not him …

It was such casual conduct that handed Labour grounds for a kangaroo court trial for lying to Parliament — a hurdle still to be cleared.

But for such careless affronts to good governance, Boris Johnson would still be Prime Minister right now.

The Pound would be steady, mortgages manageable, inflation past its peak.

We would not have seen the eye- popping political convulsions which turned Britain into a global laughing stock.

The soap opera is not over yet.

Whoever wins next week must choose a new Cabinet and pick a way through the ruins.

If it is Boris, it should at least end the clamour — choreographed yesterday across all BBC networks — for a snap General Election.

Boris won’t have to face the tricky ­question: “Who Voted for You?” …

Without Boris, the Conservative Party faces certain defeat by 2025.

Boris has the magical Heineken ability to reach voters other politicians cannot reach.

It’s a gamble, a glitterball Who Dares Wins test of luck and daring.

Even Netflix couldn’t make it up.

But for the Tories, it is the only game in town.

For the next 24 hours I had hope.

More on the contest will follow tomorrow.

In the United Kingdom, we had 12 days of wall-to-wall television coverage of the late Queen Elizabeth II and her family, which ended on Monday, September 19, 2022.

The commercial channels broadcast as usual but during the day BBC1, BBC2 and, throughout, the news channels covered her life and what the Royal Family were doing at this time.

GB News dropped all their advertising, substituting a memorial ident instead and, at other times, playing an instrumental version of the National Anthem accompanied by a photo montage of the Queen.

At first, it seemed unimaginable. Yes, our usual programmes were rescheduled for different days at different times, so we adjusted our video recorders to automatically catch up according to that day’s television guide.

Yet, the reality of it was that, by the day of the funeral, I’d become quite used to the coverage. GB News had part of their broadcasts showing the live queue — the Elizabeth Line — in Westminster Hall for viewers to watch while listening to interviews in the studio. The Elizabeth Line was never boring. There was always something to see.

By mandating 12 days of mourning, it seems the Queen wanted us to learn something about our constitutional monarchy as a national institution. It seems she wanted us to reset the way we think about it and how we pass that knowledge and history on to the next generation.

This post covers the two days before the Queen’s funeral on Monday, September 19, 2022, and looks at what Britons discovered throughout the days of mourning thus far.

What next for the monarchy?

If there were any lessons to be learned in the immediate aftermath of the Queen’s death, it was that the monarchy goes on.

Charles became King immediately and had his Accession Ceremony two days later. There were no obstacles. The crown passed to him automatically.

A relieved nation cried, ‘God save the King’ and ‘Hip, hip, hooray’.

On September 14, YouGov took a poll asking if the mourning period would change the way we perceive this ancient institution. Forty-four per cent said they thought it would change the UK in the long term for the better:

Bob Moran, The Telegraph‘s former cartoonist, was still upset that the Queen did not step in during the pandemic to call the Government to account over the sometimes fatal procedures at care homes, which are allegedy continuing in some of them:

Yet, most people interviewed on television and the clergy giving sermons at the church services remember with gratitude the Queen’s message on the night then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson went to St Thomas Hospital in London with coronavirus. Neither the Queen nor we knew it at the time her message was broadcast, but who can forget her closing words about lockdown, borrowed from the wartime Dame Vera Lynn song:

We’ll meet again.

The Queen was adamantly pro-vaccine and in 2021 said that people who didn’t get it should think of others instead of themselves. I have seen on Mark Steyn’s GB News show several people whose loved ones got the vaccine because of her words and later died of complications. The Government is giving each of those families £120,000 in compensation.

However, quibbles with the monarchy go much deeper than the pandemic. On September 15, The Telegraph addressed the issue of how monarchs attempted to stave off republicanism throughout the ages.

The 1990s were the worst years that the Queen saw during her reign. Princes Andrew and Charles divorced, Windsor Castle caught on fire and Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris.

Regardless, the Royal Family regrouped and returned to normality (emphases mine):

“Diana died at the end of August 1997 and by the time of the Queen’s golden wedding anniversary that November she was pretty much re-established,” says royal biographer Hugo Vickers. Fast forward 15 years, to the Diamond Jubilee, and the Royal family were popular as never before, enjoying a near 50-point lead in polls over anti-monarchists.

Though so much about the British monarchy can appear unchanging, it was a hard-won transformation, relying on careful reflection and updating after the calamities of the 1990s. In making such adjustments, the royal house showed it could learn not just from its own experience, but from the experience of centuries of fluctuating royal fortunes.

In order to keep republicanism at bay, it is essential for the Royal Family to remain visible:

“In this country,” says historian Andrew Roberts, author among others of a book on George III, “there are five areas that give Republicanism a chance to move from being a minority fetish into a mainstream threat.” The first four are disastrous relationships, religious meddling, political interference and money. But it is perhaps the last and simplest that is the most important: steadfast presence.

“Sheer visibility is tremendously important,” says Roberts. That enduring presence accounts for the astonishing popularity of Queen Elizabeth, he thinks, building on the legacy of her mother and father, who made such efforts to be visible to Britons even in the darkest days of the war. And absence has led perhaps to the darkest days of the monarchy, in the years following the death of Prince Albert, when Queen Victoria in her grief almost completely vanished from the public stage.

Centuries ago, money became a huge issue that still waxes and wanes today:

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is just the most notable example of a massed uprising at taxes levied by the king (in that case to support the Hundred Years’ War). But grumbling about paying for the royal house’s upkeep never went away. A key part of the rejuvenation of the House of Windsor’s popularity in the 1990s came after the Queen agreed to pay tax. “At one stroke it took away one of the main planks of republicanism,” says Roberts. Even today, some anti-monarchists are moaning about the cost of the Queen’s funeral, or the income the new Prince of Wales receives from the Duchy of Cornwall, but it has become far easier to defend the Crown on cash-terms. “It’s not the most gracious argument in favour of the monarchy,” says Roberts, “but the pocketbook is an important one.”

We all know what role religion played in British history as driven by Henry VII, Charles I and James II, so there is no need to elaborate further.

Another issue is — or was — the conflict between Parliament and the monarch. In 1649, Charles I made a fatal mistake:

He, though, committed the sin which would become unforgivable for his successors in the centuries to follow: disdaining parliament.

He was tried in Westminster Hall and executed on January 30, 1649, during the English Civil War:

Alienating, then suspending parliament was, of course, not the Stuart king’s only problem. But interfering with the nation’s political system was becoming an increasingly dangerous game to play. By the time James hot-footed it out of the country to be replaced by William of Orange, the era of kings by “divine right” had given way to kings approved by parliament. The constitutional monarchy had arrived.

Not that all monarchs understood. George III and prime minister Lord Bute impinged upon the supremacy of parliamentary power in the 1760s, drawing fierce criticism. “George became so unpopular in the 1760s that people pelted his carriage with dirt,” says Roberts.

George III learned how to recover the situation:

… he learned his lesson and, by the time of his descent into – and recovery from – madness, he had come to be loved for his personal qualities: fidelity to his wife, frugality and piety.

Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin insisted that Edward VIII abdicate. He got his way:

When it came to Wallis Simpson … Edward stayed by his woman and, on Stanley Baldwin’s insistence, lost the throne.

Fortunately, George VI and the Queen Mother resolved the constitutional crisis:

George VI and his own queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) were the ideal pair to succeed, setting the formula – visible, dutiful, steadfast – which so characterised their daughter’s long reign.

So far, Charles III has been doing the right things, says historian Hugo Vickers:

“of course King Charles will have to be very aware. But his first speech as King dealt immediately with many of them – his new role, what he can and can’t do [politically], about the Church of England, because there was talk about him wanting to be a defender of all faiths. It puts things to rest very quickly. It was very effective.” The result was an immediate bounce in popular support, with the number of those who think he will make a good king near doubling to 63 per cent.

While republicanism will never die, it is hoped that people will value the monarchy over an elected president:

… from today’s vantage point it seems unlikely that could be so serious as to prompt Britons to dispose of the monarchy altogether. Because ultimately, says Roberts, what makes us love it is not the individual, but the institution. “Even when individuals are unpopular, Britons recognise constitutional monarchy is a good idea, being a power above politics and therefore above politicians. And the British people like the idea of politicians not being at the top of the heap.”

Well said.

Funeral attire

To find out more about the traditions of the Royal Family’s funeral attire, I happened across a Telegraph article written in April 2021, after the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, died.

The Royal Family did not always wear black.

In fact, throughout the Middle Ages until 1560, at least, there was a convention of wearing white (emphases mine):

“white mourning” or deuil blanc … deployed by medieval royals and seen in portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots after she lost her father-in-law, mother and husband within months of each other in 1560 …

The modern convention of wearing black began three centuries later, with Queen Victoria upon the death of her husband Prince Albert. However, even she had gold thread spun into her dresses, as one can see in the photograph in the article:

“Mourning dress has been part of European royal culture for centuries, but it reached its peak in the 19th century with the influence of Queen Victoria, who set a standard for the rest of society to follow,” says Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, which holds the Royal Ceremonial Dress collection. “When her beloved husband died in 1861 she abandoned the colourful clothes of her married life and, with the rest of the royal court, adopted black clothing as an outward sign of grief. Her subjects duly followed suit, causing a rush on suppliers of mourning fabric up and down the country.”

That was a time when death was something of a societal obsession and there were strict rules around the wearing of “widows’ weeds”. “Widows were required to wear black, then either white or mauve, for at least three years before being able to return to richly coloured clothing. Victoria chose never to leave mourning and wore her now iconic black dresses and white widow’s caps for the rest of her life,” Storey continues. There was no concession even at moments of celebration: “She even insisted that her daughter, Princess Alice, had an all black trousseau when she married in 1862.”

The mood oscillated from the dour to the unexpectedly glamorous; Victoria often wore her bridal veil with her black dresses and took to wearing a necklace containing a lock of Albert’s hair, but she also popularised striking jet jewellery. “Her clothing was anything but dowdy,” Storey confirms. “Every example in the collection is exquisitely made and highly embellished, as befitted her status. Victoria may have been a widow, but she was always a queen.”

Queen Victoria died in January 1901. Her son, Edward VII, reigned until his death in 1910. His wife, Queen Alexandra, began wearing purple, although black was still the favoured colour:

After Victoria’s death, mourning dress became even more opulent. An exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2014, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, included two exquisitely beautiful embellished purple gowns worn by Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, in the year after her mother-in-law’s demise. You’d really only know they denoted mourning if you were familiar with the strict dress codes of grief. And when Edward died, weeks before Royal Ascot in 1910, there was no question of cancelling, but attendees wore magnificent black outfits instead. That year’s event is now remembered as Black Ascot.

In 1938, when the Queen Mother’s mother, the Countess of Strathmore died, the Queen Mother was weeks away from joining George VI on a state visit to France. At that time, war was looming and Britain was still getting over the abdication of the King’s brother, Edward VIII. Under the circumstances, black seemed too gloomy. Something had to be done, so the Queen Mother enlisted the help of her couturier, the incomparable Norman Hartnell:

A black wardrobe simply wouldn’t do, as it was imperative to come bearing optimism.

Hartnell was the one who researched earlier monarchs and found the aforementioned portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots:

Within weeks he had scrapped the original colourful outfits intended for the tour and crafted an entirely white set of looks in their place.

The Queen has taken with her on her state visit to Paris a superb white wardrobe consisting of 12 gowns, seven coats… one cape, eight hats – and a lace parasol,” the Telegraph’s report from July 20 1938 read. “Created by leading London designer Norman Hartnell, it symbolises the links between the two countries.”

The report went on to explain that Hartnell had referenced the French Pompadour look and pannier, as well as English garden florals and Victorian silhouettes. Hartnell had the idea to revive the crinoline after being shown Winterhalter’s portraits of Queen Victoria and her family by the new king.

The Queen Mother became a fashion sensation:

Though the reason for the Queen’s all-white dressing was sombre, the reception to the wispy, lacy creations was rapturous. “No wardrobe of modern times has created greater interest than the state wardrobe chosen by the Queen for the visit to Paris,” another glowing Telegraph review reported, going on to publish sketches of the gowns in glorious detail. The autumn fashion collections shown later that year were heavily influenced by the Queen’s “white wardrobe” and her style more generally – Schiaparelli and Molyneux both included tartan as a nod to her Scottish heritage.

The Queen loved her white collection and the style muse status it had bestowed upon her so much that the following year she commissioned Cecil Beaton to photograph her at Buckingham Palace wearing the designs, resulting in a romantically optimistic set of portraits that do little to suggest that the clothes they capture are a symbol of mourning, nor that the Second World War is months away. The floaty, delicate look of Hartnell’s designs influenced the Queen Mother’s style for the rest of her life.

The Queen Mother’s husband, George VI, died in 1952. Although he had a chronic illness, no one expected him to die while Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were on holiday in Kenya. The Queen had no black dress to wear once she got off the plane in London.

Reports differ as to how a black outfit reached her. One Royal historian told GB News that an attendant was on hand when the plane reached Rome for refuelling. The Telegraph has a different account, intimating that she received mourning attire in London:

when the plane landed, a black dress had to be taken on board for her to change into, an incident that means that no royal reportedly now travels without a black outfit in their luggage, just in case. On alighting the plane, the 25-year-old queen looked elegant yet solemn in her dark coat, brooch and neat hat.

On the day of the funeral, the Queen Mother, the Queen and Princess Margaret wore long silk veils. The Telegraph has a photo of them:

At her father’s funeral, eight days later, the new queen, her mother, grandmother Queen Mary and sister Princess Margaret cast ethereal figures in their long black veils, said to be around 18 inches over the face and one and a half yards down the back. “There is no court regulation with regards to them,” the Telegraph had written in 1936, “but the practice of wearing them has always been observed at the funeral of a Sovereign.”

By the time the former Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, died in 1972, only Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Windsor wore a veil. The Queen and her mother opted for the turban, the stylish hat of the day for women:

It was notable, then, that at the funeral of the Duke of Windsor in 1972, the Royal family refrained from wearing veils. The abdicated king’s wife, Wallis Simpson, however, sported a couture coat and chiffon veil that Hubert de Givenchy had reportedly stayed up all night to make for her … By contrast, the Queen wore a black version of the turban style hats she loved at the time, adding Queen Mary’s Dorset Bow brooch.

When it came time for Prince Philip’s funeral, the Royal Family wore black, but the Queen quickly reverted to wearing her usual clothes afterwards.

Who waited to pay respects to the Queen

For many gathering to pay their respects to the Queen, a family death brought back a deep seam of emotion.

Although The Telegraph‘s Lauren Libbert watched proceedings from the comfort of her home, what she experienced seemed to ring true for a goodly number of those camping outside in the cold:

For me, at 44 and then again at 49, I watched my parents being taken from their home in a coffin and transported to their final resting place at the nearby cemetery. Watching Queen Elizabeth’s coffin make its journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh transported me right back to that heart-wrenching, inexplicable gut-punch of a feeling, remembering how it felt to know my beloved parent was inside and I’d never enfold them in my arms again.

It’s a sadness that has not gone unnoticed at home. “But you didn’t even know the Queen,” said my teenage son, noting my smudged eyeliner and tears when watching the news earlier this week.

“I know,” I replied. “But I really miss my mum and dad.”

He held me, but he was a bit baffled at the connection. Admittedly, so am I.

Other people, whether in the Elizabeth Line, Parliament Square or near Buckingham Palace, were hardcore attendees of other Royal occasions, as The Times reported. Keep in mind that the nightly temperatures turned distinctly autumnal, in the 50s Fahrenheit:

Mary-Jane Willows loves the sound of metal barriers clattering onto the streets of Westminster. “It means everything is getting organised,” she says.

It is 10pm on Thursday and Willows, 68, is settling down for a night’s sleep in a camping chair just off Parliament Square. She and her crew of royal superfans are zipped into military bivvy bags and wrapped in foil blankets — at that point of the week they were not allowed to use tents or sleeping bags for security reasons.

It is a hardcore existence, but they will endure. Because on Monday, for the Queen’s funeral, they will be in the “best spot in the world”.

Just half a mile away there is another camp, also in the best spot in the world. They arrived “on site”, on the Mall and overlooking Buckingham Palace, the previous Thursday. And they came with “equipment”: bin liners and trolleys jammed with Union Jack flags, hand warmers, underwear, first-aid kits, torches, baby wipes, wine gums and corned beef sandwiches. They have been there since.

These two groups are the most dedicated royal watchers on the planet, bound by births, weddings, jubilees and deaths, and held together by WhatsApp groups and meme-sharing. They are always the first ones to arrive, pitching up on virgin pavement, knackered, cold and in it for the long haul.

John Loughrey, 67, and his friends on the Mall, Sky London, 62, and Maria Scott, 51, have done weddings together (Cambridge, Sussex, York, York), births (George, Charlotte, Louis), jubilees (Diamond, Platinum) and deaths (Diana, Princess of Wales; the Queen).

“If you want to be part of the gang you’ve got to be with the gang,” says London. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s seeing history and being part of it.”

However, whether remembering family losses or cadging the best seat in the house, as it were, how do these people view Britain?

Rob Johns, a politics professor at the University of Essex, claims to have the answer.

I’m not so sure.

He interviewed 400 mourners by the time The Guardian interviewed him on Saturday, September 17. Johns said:

… it is less a case of royalists simply wanting to mourn the Queen in person, and more “a collective gathering that is as much about the queue as it is about reaching the end of all the queueing”.

This is the part about which I have doubts:

Who would be willing to wait outdoors for as long as 24 hours , braving the elements along the Thames, for a few seconds alongside the Queen’s coffin – and why?

Now, as the Queen’s lying in state in Westminster approaches its final hours before Monday’s state funeral, researchers believe they have found the answer. A narrow majority vote Conservative, almost two-thirds backed remain and most of them are enjoying a feeling of “subdued positivity” as they wait in line for hours.

Really? I don’t know how one could wait outdoors in the cold for a day and support EU supremacy over our monarchy.

With history and contemporary background covered, let us move on to what happened last weekend.

September 17

On Saturday, September 17, the King was back at work.

He had successfully completed his visits to the component nations of the United Kingdom during the mourning period under a plan called Operation Spring Tide. It derives its name from a particularly high tide in springtime known as king tide.

ITV reports that there were sub-operations to Spring Tide:

Scotland (Operation Kingfisher), Wales (Operation Dragon) and Northern Ireland (Operation Shamrock).

In London, Operation London Bridge continued apace.

The Queen’s state funeral is the first such event to be held since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

However, unlike Churchill’s funeral, the Queen’s was mammoth by comparison. Police forces from around the UK travelled to London to participate in maintaining order. Only two were exempt.

The numbers of military engaged were also unprecedented.

Operation London Bridge required meticulous logistical planning to make sure everyone in the capital, including visiting heads of state and other dignitaries, were kept safe.

In the morning, the King visited members of the police and military working all hours to make this a success:

He went on a walkabout at the Elizabeth Line to express his appreciation of people’s willingness to pay tribute to his late mother. William Prince of Wales and Sophie Countess of Wessex met mourners in other parts of the queue:

Then it was time for the King to return to Buckingham Palace for more meetings and a reception:

Early that evening, the Queen’s grandchildren — The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Sussex, Princess Beatrice (Andrew), Princess Eugenie (Andrew), Lady Louise (Edward), Viscount Severn (Edward), Zara Tindall (Anne) and Peter Phillips (Anne) — held a Vigil of the Princes in Westminster Hall. I have added the relevant Royal parent’s name in parentheses for clarity.

The aforementioned ITV article says that the events taking place at Westminster Hall were run under Operations Marquee and Feather:

This covers the four days of the Queen’s lying-in-state, focusing on the arrangements inside Westminster Hall.

It’s expected to begin on Wednesday, September 14, ending on Sunday before her funeral the next day.

Senior royals are also expected to pay their respects once more here, standing guard in a tradition known as the Vigil of the Princes.

It is linked to Operation Feather, the arrangements for the public who are expected to queue in their thousands for an opportunity to see the monarch’s coffin as they did 20 years ago for her mother.

Here is the beginning of the grandchildren’s Vigil of the Princes. Members of the Royal Family watched from a viewing point on one side of the hall. Once again, the public could file past:

This video from the Royal Family’s YouTube channel has the full vigil, which was very moving indeed. Viscount Severn, who is only 14, was so composed for someone so young. As with other videos from this channel, click ‘Watch on YouTube’ and it should play, at least for the near future. If not, try the link in their tweet:

Here are some close-ups:

This video is of the young Royals filing out afterwards:

The days of mourning at Westminster Hall nearly passed without incident. On Friday, a man suddenly appeared in the queue outside and exposed himself to two women from behind. He jumped into the Thames but quickly got out. Police were on hand to arrest him. The Guardian reported:

… a man appeared at Westminster magistrates court following allegations that two women were sexually assaulted while they were waiting in the queue to see the Queen lying in state.

On Friday evening, a man inside Westminster Hall was arrested after lunging towards the Queen’s coffin. The Telegraph reported:

The individual was reportedly taken to the floor by Metropolitan Police officers and arrested.

The Met told ITV: “At 22:00hrs on Friday 16 September officers from the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command detained a man in Westminster Hall following a disturbance. He was arrested for an offence under the Public Order Act and is currently in custody”.

Viewers of the BBC’s live stream reported that the feed went down for 10 minutes.

The aforementioned Guardian article says:

Broadcasters showing the procession of mourners cut away from the scene and instead showed the view from outside parliament.

There are always simple ways to set things right. In this case, broadcasters were prepared with a still of the Palace of Westminster.

The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole looked at the bigger picture of the mourners and tweeted a poke at the anti-monarchist metropolitan elite:

September 18

Sunday, September 18, put the logistics of Operation London Bridge to the test as 500 heads of state and other dignitaries arrived in London for the Queen’s funeral.

As it would have been impossible for all of them to have been driven in separate cars to Buckingham Palace that day and to Westminster Abbey on Monday, the plan was to ‘pod’ the leaders into private coaches, painted in plain white.

Scheduled pickups of the great and the good at designated points in central London helped the plan run smoothly and safely.

Only Joe Biden was exempt. The Beasts — one operational and one decoy — were here along with his usual security motorcade.

France’s Emmanuel Macron arrived with his wife Brigitte early enough to do an incognito walkabout during the afternoon:

Meanwhile, somehow with the permission of Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Chinese were allowed into Westminster Hall. Hoyle had pledged to MPs that they would not be allowed anywhere on the parliamentary estate:

Conservative MPs were less than impressed:

That evening, after a brief shower, a beautiful rainbow appeared, just as a double rainbow did when the flags were lowered to half mast over Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle on the day of the Queen’s death. This must mean something, surely:

The King and Queen Consort held a formal reception for the dignitaries at Buckingham Palace that evening.

Meanwhile, soldiers participating in the funeral were busy polishing medals and sewing on badges:

A few newspapers printed the last photographic portrait of the Queen for Monday’s editions. Ranald Mackechnie took the photo in May, a few weeks before her Platinum Jubilee celebrations:

The Telegraph had an article about the portrait. As ever, the Queen’s choice of jewelry told the story:

The Queen, who is dressed in a dusky dove blue dress with her hair neatly curled, is wearing her favourite three-strand pearl necklace, pearl earrings and her aquamarine and diamond clip brooches which were an 18th birthday present from her father George VI in 1944.

The two art deco-style pieces, worn one below the other, were made by Boucheron from baguette, oval and round diamonds and aquamarines.

The Queen wore the brooches when she addressed the nation on the 75th anniversary of VE Day in 2020 and for her Diamond Jubilee televised speech in 2012.

The image was taken by photographer Ranald Mackechnie, who also took the Jubilee portrait of the Queen released to mark the start of national festivities of her milestone 70-year reign.

I cannot help but agree with The Star‘s ‘Kingdom United’. Thank you, your Majesty, for these 12 days of mourning:

The Independent was less sure about ‘Kingdom United!’ They wrote of a ‘turning point’:

The Guardian showed us a window of a house in Windsor and how the world was descending there and in London:

The i paper also focused on a world farewell:

The Financial Times took a final look at Westminster Hall:

In closing, The Metro published my favourite portrait of the Queen after she was inducted into the Order of the Garter. Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988) painted the portrait in 1955:

It is simply timeless, as is its subject.

I hope to cover the funeral and committal services in their entirety tomorrow.

It’s difficult winning against Andrew Neil, the longtime BBC political presenter who was the leading face of GB News for a month in 2021 and who currently has his own Friday evening show on Channel 4.

When it comes to grilling politicians, no one does it better than he.

Rishi Sunak agreed to subject himself to Neil’s unfailing command of the facts. So far, Liz Truss — as did Boris Johnson — has not committed to the same.

Neil’s interview

Sunak appeared with Neil on Friday, July 29, 2022, to put forth his case for becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party and, by extension, the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister.

Having watched the Q&A session, I thought that Rishi did a good job.

However, there was a real dissonance between what he said his policies involved and what Neil said they did.

As such, it made for awkward viewing. Who was telling the truth? I was left none the wiser.

At times, I was focusing on Neil’s hair, which he has dyed a dark brown. His natural colour is ginger.

Rishi presented himself as the sensible, cautious candidate with regard to tax and the deficit:

Rishi defended raising taxes to fund the NHS. He did well in preventing his irritability from showing, but a vulnerability did slip out here:

Neil accused him of being ‘consistently inconsistent’ with regard to tax reform, but Rishi said that’s how it works:

Hmm.

Neil asked Rishi about his wife’s non-dom status. The former Chancellor gave a short reply, saying that she addressed it. This did not satisfy me, but then I don’t have a vote in this contest:

Yes, there are family obligations here, it would seem. Those appear to involve his in-laws.

Neil was surprised at Rishi’s answer about curbing the number of refugees. What Neil doesn’t realise is that legal immigrants and their children take a much different view on migration than the British metropolitan elite.

Neil also managed to squeeze in Rishi’s televised statement from his teenage years in 2001 in which he said he had no working class friends:

Neil concluded by reiterating that Liz Truss was still welcome to appear on his show.

I did not really know what to make of this half-hour broadcast.

Only the Mail had any commentary on it.

One article with more dialogue from the programme is ‘Sunak is forced to deny he has shown a “lack of consistency” on VAT to Andrew Neil’.

An excerpt follows:

Veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil said Mr Sunak’s approach of tightening fiscal policy risks recession in an interview on Channel 4.

The Tory leadership hopeful replied: ‘No, if you look at what’s happening around the world, it’s inflation that is slowing economies down. It’s rising interest rates that are already putting a brake on economic activity.

‘And my concern is that I want to get to grips with inflation as quickly as possible because inflation makes everybody poorer. It erodes people’s living standards.’

He also insisted his policy to hike national insurance thresholds was ‘undoubtedly, objectively progressive’ when Neil suggested it penalised workers.

‘It’s an entirely progressive measure,’ Mr Sunak said. ‘Raising thresholds means that those with the broadest shoulders contribute the most.’

The heated exchange resulted in Neil saying that the OECD has said that Mr Sunak’s plans will result in a recession for the UK economy – which the former Chancellor disputed. 

It came as Mr Sunak sat down with the fearless interviewer Mr Neil on Channel Four – after frontrunner Liz Truss refused to do the same.

Mr Neil once again extended the hand to come on his show to the Foreign Secretary – saying the ‘invitation is still open’.

The Southampton-born millionaire repeated his claims that tax rises were necessary for paying for Covid measures and said that he did not want to pass debt onto future generations.

He said that it would be the ‘easiest thing in the world’ to cut taxes to aide his leadership campaign but that he thought it was not the responsible thing to do.

Mr Neil hit out at Mr Sunak’s wife’s non-dom status which hit the papers earlier this year but the former Chancellor attempted to draw a line under the line of questioning, saying that he was the one running for office – not his partner.

The line of questioning made Mr Sunak visibly uncomfortable as he tried to move on from the scandal.

The tax cuts intended to fund the NHS were another line with Mr Neil used to attack Mr Sunak – as the interviewer quoted suggestions that the waiting lists on the NHS will reach 10 million in the next two years.

Mr Sunak attempted to distance himself from the Conservative’s record on health after the fierce Scot tried to pin the NHS’s problems on him – saying that he has left Government to change course on the NHS.

He added that he wanted to set up over 100 ‘elective surgery hubs’ to bring down the backlog. 

Henry Deedes examined the optics of the interview: ‘The ex-chancellor sat awkwardly, like a man about to undergo an enema’.

Excerpts follow:

We immediately saw Sunak sat behind a desk, his hands placed slightly awkwardly on top of each other. Across his mouth was smeared a distinctly uncomfortable grin. He looked like a man nervously waiting to undergo an enema …

Tax was the main topic, namely why Rishi as chancellor made us pay so much of it. Sunak said he wanted to pay down the cost of the pandemic rather than saddle our grandchildren with all that debt. ‘I’d like to give people all these nice things – don’t you think that’d make my life easier?’ he pleaded.

Rishi kept calling Neil by his first name. Most of his replies began with a chummy ‘look, Andrew’. Doubtless his spin doctors thought familiarity might soften the old brute. It didn’t.

Neil kept coming at him over tax rises. A Bren gun with ceaseless ammunition. Pop, pop, pop. 

Why had he frozen the income tax threshold? Why had he left comfortable pensioners alone? Why were so many people paying the top rate? Unfortunately for Sunak, Neil is that rare thing in journalism – someone who actually understands economics …

Talk turned toward the NHS. Neil pointed out that waiting lists were up, despite the gazillions of pounds which get thrown at the Health Service every year. ‘These are complex issues, Andrew,’ Rishi mansplained.

Yes, yes, said Neil. But it had gotten worse on the Government’s watch. ‘Andrew, I left the Government,’ pleaded Rishi. 

‘Yes, but only a few days ago,’ barked Neil. Sunak’s answer to the NHS backlog was to set up a task force. Yes, that should do it!

There was mention of a recent video which surfaced of Sunak in which he told an interviewer he didn’t know any working class people. 

Bit odd for someone who claims to come from such a modest background. ‘I grew up working in my mother’s pharmacy,’ Sunak reasoned. ‘We know all that,’ sighed Neil witheringly.

He seemed to think Sunak’s ’umble roots were a tad overplayed. Especially since he was schooled at Winchester. Neil’s intellect of course was forged and honed at Paisley Grammar.

A brief tit-for-tat developed over Lady Sunak’s non-dom tax status. ‘I’m the one running for office, not my wife,’ said Rishi. His voice lowered a bit at this point. He shot Neil a steely look as if to say ‘Let’s leave her out of this, shall we?’ Respect.

We were now out of time. To be fair to Sunak he was still standing. But only just.

Incidentally, his opponent Liz Truss had given Neil’s offer of an interview a wide swerve. ‘Her choice, of course,’ said Neil, voice laced with irritation. Chicken? Jolly wise, I’d say…

More scrutiny

Last week, Rishi’s policies and personal life came under more scrutiny.

A Mail headline from April 24 resurfaced about his lavish Yorkshire home, which has a heated pool and will soon have a new gym and tennis courts. Incidentally, he has other homes, including a pricey mews house in London:

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Just a little over a year ago, on July 2, 2021, Asia Financial reported that Rishi wanted more trade between the UK and China:

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak called for a “mature and balanced relationship” with China that helps British firms to exploit “the potential of a fast-growing financial services market with total assets worth £40 trillion” ($55 trillion) in a speech on Thursday July 1 …

Sunak set out alternative plans for an independent financial services policy for the UK and spent more time discussing opportunities in China than the US, which is the UK’s most important bilateral partner.

He attempted to frame the opportunity to sell financial services to China within a context of maintaining principles such as openness and commitment to a rules-based order.

“Too often, the debate on China lacks nuance,” Sunak said. “Some people on both sides argue either that we should sever all ties or focus solely on commercial opportunities at the expense of our values. Neither position adequately reflects the reality of our relationship with a vast, complex country, with a long history.”

Sunak highlighted the appeal of China’s financial services market for UK firms, as well as the need to cooperate on global issues like health, ageing, climate and biodiversity.

He seemed to effectively offer China the opportunity to agree different financial services terms with the UK than the EU, now that Brexit has arrived without a deal on mutual recognition of standards across Europe – which was the former target of “equivalence” of regulation.

Hmm. Interesting. His father-in-law’s Infosys has an office in China.

A year later, on July 25, after China’s Global Times endorsed him as the next Conservative Party leader, he walked back his support and claimed Liz Truss was the greater supporter of the Communist nation.

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

It’s unsurprising, given his tacit endorsement from the Chinese propaganda arm Global Times, that Rishi has decided to go in hard on the country’s security threat this morning. Declaring the Chinese Communist Party “the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century”, Sunak attacks Liz for “[rolling] out the red carpet” and turning “a blind eye to China’s nefarious activity and ambitions”. He calls for a new NATO alliance to be set up to counter it the threat, and pledges to close all 30 Confucius centres, which teach Mandarin in the UK and are thought to be used as fronts by the Chinese intelligence services.

In response Team Truss returned fire last night, using Iain Duncan Smith to call the policy “surprising” and asking where Sinophobe Sunak has been for the last two years. Her team points to the above Sunak’s endorsement by Global Times, and says he has been consistently soft on China …

In response, a Truss ally bluntly tells Guido that Sunak’s team are “moronic”, given not only was Truss responsible for childcare policy as an education minister, universities policy was run out of the business department at the time. David Willets was the BIS minister responsible, who – whilst yet to declare in this leadership election – has backed Sunak’s tax rises. 

Guido also exposed the fact that the Artichoke Trust received £1,234,682 through Cultural Recovery Grants during the pandemic, when Rishi was Chancellor.

The Artichoke Trust puts out ‘art’ like this:

Clearly, not much scrutiny took place during the pandemic. No doubt, the Treasury were all in a rush to send out grants — taxpayers’ money — to all and sundry.

On Tuesday, July 26, Rishi did a huge tax U-turn, imitating his rival Liz Truss.

Only days before, Rishi told Liz that it would be ‘immoral’ to lower taxes, yet, here he was at the beginning of last week reversing that to sound more like his rival:

Guido rightly asked why Rishi did not cut VAT on energy bills when he was Chancellor. Oddly, he now advocates the policy:

This is what the former Chancellor said in February 2022:

Guido has more on his February comments here.

On July 27, the Mail on Sunday had an article about his U-turn, saying he was ‘under pressure’ since the BBC debate of July 25 (emphases in purple mine):

This morning, Truss ally Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business secretary, welcomed Mr Sunak’s ‘late to the party’ change on taxes.

He told Times Radio: ‘I think he’s under a lot of pressure. That’s why we see all these statements: he was the person who said the VAT cut would disproportionately benefit rich families and now he’s saying that a VAT cut on energy bills is the right thing.

He was saying that tax cuts were a fairytale, now he is proposing an unfunded tax cut.

‘There comes a time in campaigns when people are under a lot of pressure, he clearly felt under a lot of pressure in the debate and he wanted to get out on the front foot and interrupt Liz.’

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, an ally of Rishi Sunak, defended the former chancellor’s plan. He rejected the suggestion that Mr Sunak is ‘flip-flopping’ and said the £4.3 billion policy is sensible as it would not add to inflation.

Put to him that it is a ‘flip-flop’, Mr Shapps said: ‘If he hadn’t produced £37 billion of support, about £1,200 to the hardest-up households already – if he hadn’t done any of that and then suddenly did it then you would have a point.

‘But he has, he has been providing all this support, now he is saying ”Here’s something that won’t add to inflation that would save every person watching your programme £160 off their energy bills” – I think that’s worthwhile.’

Last night No10 insiders told the Daily Mail that Mr Sunak’s plan was something Boris Johnson tried to implement to ease the burden on consumers – but was blocked by his then chancellor.

‘Boris begged him to do it – but he wouldn’t budge’, said the source. ‘It’s astonishing that he’s now claiming it as his own policy.’

Meanwhile new polling shows that the rising cost of living and handling of the NHS could cost the Tories the most votes at the next election.

The Mail on Sunday‘s Anna Mikhailova pointed out that Rishi hardly had a long-term career in business, despite his own claims.

Nigel Farage picked up on her tweet and called Rishi ‘a fraud’:

Farage had elaborated on his GB News show the day before, Monday, July 25. He pointed out that Rishi included a clip of him in his campaign video on immigration. He doubted Sunak’s sincerity on China and ended by saying, ‘Well, I guess that leaves us with Liz Truss’:

By July 27, the bookies gave Liz Truss an 83% chance of winning the leadership contest.

That night, Dan Wootton said that ‘Fishy’ Rishi’s tax U-turn was ‘too little, too late’:

John Sergeant, who reported for the BBC for decades, said that the former Chancellor appeared ‘rattled’:

Political commentator Patrick O’Flynn said that many intelligent politicians weren’t very good at politics, Rishi being a case in point:

On Thursday, July 28, Lord Ranger, a Rishi supporter, said that if the Conservative Party members do not choose the former Chancellor as leader, they are racists.

Dan Wootton responded by pointing out that this Conservative leadership contest has been the most diverse in history:

That includes Labour, too, by the way.

Wootton said, in part:

It was still only a matter of time before Team Rishi Sunak blamed his imploding campaign on racism.

Forget the fact that Kemi Badenoch was a surprise favourite among the party membership before being booted out by MPs for being too daring and different.

Forget the fact that Liz Truss is a woman who went to a Leeds comprehensive.

Nope, Sunak’s failure is nothing to do with his big state/high tax agenda, which saw him increase our tax burden to the highest it’s been in 70 years.

Nothing to do with his globalist posturing and desire to cosy up to China by making the Communist country our market of choice, as revealed in bombshell leaked Treasury documents reported in The Times today.

Nothing to do with the fact he backstabbed Boris Johnson – the man to whom he owes his career – plotting his leadership campaign, all the while pretending to be his loyal Chancellor.

No, no, no, no it’s down to racism.

Conservative donor and Fishy Rishi supporter Lord Ranger told Indian news network Bharat Tak: “If people reject him, it will be a bad name for the party and the country because this will be perceived as racist.

“And so there is pressure on them to prove that here race does not matter.

“Calibre matters, and Rishi’s calibre is above everyone. I am optimistic that people here will be fair and will not reject anyone on the basis of race.”

Lord Ranger, I can assure you the Conservative members are not rejecting Rishi based on race.

They’re rejecting him based on policies and a lack of loyalty too.

As my colleague and friend Calvin Robinson tweeted in response: “‘Vote for me because I am brown,’ is bad enough ‘if you don’t you’re a racist’ is even worse.

This divisive, toxic rhetoric is straight from the Leftist guidebook on Critical Race Theory and should have no place in the Conservative Party or the government of this great nation.”

Former Cabinet member Michael Gove’s ex-wife Sarah Vine, who writes for the Daily Mail, said that Rishi stabbed Boris in the front:

On Friday, July 28, a Techne poll showed that Liz was gaining ground over Rishi:

That morning, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace put the boot into Rishi’s decision to resign as Chancellor:

Wallace told Sky News:

Wallace: Let’s look at that Friday afternoon – I think it was a Friday – what if the markets had crashed? What if the Home Secretary had done that and there was a terrorist attack? What would the public think, they would never forgive us for that… I don’t think people needed to walk out, the public would see that as a government not thinking about the job in hand.

The multi-year settlement [for the Department of Defence] that we got was not what the Treasury had wanted, they wanted a one-year settlement – this was back in 2019 I think – and it was vital that we got a multi-year settlement, and the PM effectively asserted his authority and made all that to happen…

Interviewer: But Mr Sunak was not in support?

Wallace: Not that I remember.

Cut the right taxes like not proceed with corporation tax rises helps growth. When Rishi was Chancellor he cut entrepreneurial relief – he cut the relief we give to entrepreneurs who’ve invested in this country, invested in businesses – that’s not a way to help create either wealth or indeed growth.

Wallace had more to say. He said that, as Secretary of State for Defence, he did not have the ‘luxury’ of resigning, a pointed barb at Rishi, who, he intimated, should have stayed on as Chancellor:

Wallace pledged his support for Liz Truss.

Meanwhile, Rishi’s team claimed someone was leaking official documents:

Rishi allegedly asked Simon Case, the head of the civil service, to get involved.

Guido reported:

What leaks might Rishi be upset about? The Treasury documents which completely undermined his pledge to “scrap or reform EU laws in 100 days” is a strong bet. Earlier this month, just after promising to review all of the remaining 2,400 EU laws on the statute book, Bloomberg revealed the Treasury had – under Rishi’s leadership – written to Liz Truss to claim that reforming EU taxes was desirable but probably not deliverable until 2026. Last time Guido checked, that wasn’t quite within 100 days. Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg even responded by claiming it was “a surprising promise as the Treasury under his leadership was insisting that taxation was exempt from the removal of EU law.” What was it Rishi said about “fairytale promises”?

UPDATE: Now a spokesperson for Liz Truss says:

We condemn the leaking of Government documents and papers. Neither campaign condones leaks of material and will not use documents it receives. Furthermore, both campaigns will report any such leaks to the Cabinet Secretary who may take action directly, or via the Police, against the individuals involved in perpetrating such leaks or receiving and not reporting material. We understand leak investigations will be carried out without fear or favour.

Word around Whitehall is that Simon Case is livid, demanded both camps issue a statement and has called in police to investigate the China leaks.

On Saturday, July 30, things got worse for Team Rishi. He had to give away tickets to what had been a £20 per person hustings event:

Then, Tom Tugendhat, he of the military service, endorsed Liz Truss:

Oh, dear.

While all that was going on, staff at the Mail on Sunday (MoS) were preparing its copy.

Late on Saturday in one of the MoS pieces, Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries MP further reinforced the notion that Rishi is not a man of the people. She wrote about a tweet she’d sent out a few days before commenting on his expensive attire:

I wanted to highlight Rishi’s misguided sartorial style in order to alert Tory members not to be taken in by appearances in the way that happened to many of us who served with the Chancellor in Cabinet. The assassin’s gleaming smile, his gentle voice and even his diminutive stature had many of us well and truly fooled.

I wish to stress it’s not the case that I believe a rich man or woman – even if their father-in-law is one of the richest men on an entire continent – cannot be Prime Minister of this great country. But they do have to possess good judgment, understand the lives of others, have empathy, compassion and know how to fill a car with petrol and pay for it at a till.

Rishi’s father was a GP, his mother a pharmacist. He attended a public school where the annual fees are about £36,000. They were in the top two per cent income bracket of all earners in the UK. To describe his background as humble is yet another indication of poor judgment.

Rishi will never know what it is like to feel scared, broke and hopeless, without a safety net provided by wealthy parents. He has never had to lie awake at night, worrying about how to pay the bills. A bailiff will never knock on his door

Too right.

Dorries said that Boris was not best pleased when he found out that Rishi is now pledging to cut VAT on energy bills, something she said Boris begged him to do as Chancellor:

Rishi says he wants to cut VAT on energy bills. However, Boris had been pleading with him to introduce this measure for two years as the PM had been convinced that such a cut could provide immediate relief to families.

In a speech on Thursday, Boris commented with a hint of uncustomary sarcasm: ‘Turns out it was easier than we thought!’

Rishi was the classic dog in the manger as Chancellor. Whenever Boris sought him out to discuss serious issues, Rishi was always polite but unforthcoming. Never a team player.

Another MoS article revealed photos of a young Rishi Sunak at an exclusive nightclub in London’s fashionable Mayfair.

Reporter Michelle Bromley included photos, writing about the young man and his then-fiancée, now wife, the Infosys heiress Akshata Murty, who lived in California in 2008:

Despite living 5,400 miles apart, the couple regularly flew back and forth across the Atlantic.

These photographs show how they spent an evening with friends at the Whisky Mist nightclub in London.

Ms Murty is seen with a cocktail while Mr Sunak (who says he’s teetotal and ‘a total Coca-Cola addict’) generously bought all the drinks that night for the couple’s friends.

At the time, the club off Park Lane was popular with the young Prince Harry and celebrities such as Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. Many years later, Tesla tycoon Elon Musk met his second wife, actress Talulah Riley, there.

Whisky Mist was apparently named after an incident during which a tipsy Queen Victoria thought she’d spotted a stag in the fog from the window of Balmoral Castle.

Friends with Mr Sunak and his girlfriend that night recall how many of the guests were focused on Ms Murty because of her family’s fabulous wealth.

Her father founded global IT giant Infosys.

Mr Sunak was described by a female reveller as ‘the most attentive boyfriend you have ever seen’ and as ‘someone who would ask a lot of questions but not give too much away about himself’.

Not long before, he had been to Africa where he met some of Barack Obama’s relatives. He was photographed with them while holding a copy of the future US president’s book, Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance.

The picture was posted on Mr Sunak’s Facebook page. Mr Obama used his book as a primer to introduce himself to the American people as he campaigned in 2008 to become the first black US president.

Fourteen years on, the young Briton captivated by that book is campaigning to become Britain’s first Prime Minister of Asian heritage – and of America’s greatest ally.

Nadine Dorries is right. Rishi Sunak will never have to worry about anything significant in his life.

The Sunday Telegraph said that Conservative MPs criticised Dorries for retweeting a photoshopped image showing Rishi as Brutus wielding a knife at Johnson’s Julius Caesar’s back. The original tweet is at the link.

The MoS also reported that some of the MPs supporting Rishi have serious doubts about his campaign:

Conservative MPs backing Rishi Sunak have privately admitted ‘It’s over’ as panic sets into his leadership campaign.

Insiders told The Mail on Sunday that some supporters were refusing to do campaigning events for the former Chancellor.

MPs are said to be getting cold feet after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and former leadership rival Tom Tugendhat threw their support behind Liz Truss in quick succession.

However, other MPs backing Mr Sunak insisted he was doing well with Tory members, and said private polling showed Ms Truss’s supporters had been easily convinced to switch their support to him.

As this week opened, Dan Wootton’s Monday poll showed that GB News viewers thought that his tax U-turn was still too little, too late:

That polling ran while Rishi and Liz were at a hustings in Exeter, more about which tomorrow.

I hope the former Chancellor, whose mother owned a pharmacy, does not get anywhere near Downing Street, except as a visitor:

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Why anyone wants Rishi to be the next occupant of No. 10 escapes me. Convince me — someone, anyone — why he should be our next Prime Minister.

Before I get into Thursday’s voting results in the Conservative Party leadership contest, readers should note that Labour are no longer afraid of losing the next election.

Please, someone, bring back Boris:

The only candidate who could put the frighteners on Labour is Kemi Badenoch, who is excellent at the despatch box when facing the Opposition.

Thursday’s vote result

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, announced yesterday’s result promptly at 3 p.m.

Unfortunately, Suella Braverman had the lowest votes and had to drop out of the race. She had only 27 MPs backing her.

Going into the weekend, we have the following five candidates:

Guido Fawkes has a summary of Thursday’s activity, excerpted below.

Rishi Sunak has received over 100 votes, but overall, he is not doing as well as candidates in past leadership elections:

Rishi is one of the weakest first-place candidates in recent Tory leadership elections, comparing leads in the second round of MP ballots:* … *Hat-tip: Tom Harwood

Penny Mordaunt’s work ethic was slammed on Thursday. I covered Lord Frost’s damning comments in yesterday’s post.

Mordaunt also ran into trouble over past statements she has made on gender identity:

    • Ran into problems and heightened scrutiny over her trans stance, not least with a blow from newly-eliminated Suella Braverman, who accused her of not standing up for women when pushing for gender-neutral language in the ministerial maternity leave bill
    • Accused of lying about her trans stance by Team Truss

Kemi Badenoch is, happily, still in the race and is ahead of Tom Tugendhat, who is likely to be the next to be dropped when voting resumes on Monday.

Badenoch received 49 votes and Tugendhat 32, a decrease of five votes for him.

Early news on Friday

Much happened overnight, which I will review in recent campaign activity below.

Suella Braverman is now supporting Liz Truss.

There is likely to be increasing pressure put on Kemi Badenoch to bow out of the race. If anything, pressure should be brought to bear on Tom Tugendhat, who is in last place.

Guido calls our attention to three debates this weekend. One will be online and two will be televised (red emphases his, those in purple mine):

Today things get really interesting: it’s debate time. So far candidates have taken lumps out of each other from their respective trenches, today they finally have to go over the top – a special metaphor just for Penny and Tom. Things kick off at ConservativeHome at 1pm, and continue over to Channel 4 at 19.30, where all candidates have confirmed their attendance. Followed by ITV on Sunday and Sky on Monday. 

Debates can make or break candidates at this stage, especially when there are a decent number of votes up for grabs and no one knows who’s going to win. In 2019, one debate made Rory Stewart – securing his place in the next round – and the subsequent debate 24 hours later broke him, as he decided to get undressed live on air. In a sign of how febrile things are, even Rishi’s agreed to join tonight’s Channel 4 debate, an unedifying challenge the frontrunners are sometimes able to duck out of. Will some MPs finally have to recognise that their candidate makes Theresa May’s public speaking look relaxed and charismatic? Guido looks forward to finding out…

Let’s see what is going on with the various candidates.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman, Attorney General for England and Wales, is a committed Conservative, especially when it comes to social issues.

In 2019, along with Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs and several other Conservative MPs, she voted to keep abortion illegal in Northern Ireland. However, the Government has since legalised abortion there.

Last Sunday, Danny Kruger, a thoughtful MP and Prue Leith‘s son, gave his reasons for backing Braverman:

Two days later, on July 12, a Conservative Home poll showed that Rishi Sunak would lose were Braverman the second remaining candidate on the ballot going to Party members:

Were Braverman up against Liz Truss, the vote would have been tied.

This was Braverman’s platform — lower taxes, border control, no identity politics and commitment to the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto:

What’s not to like?

She also would have taken us out of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), which is preventing us from deporting faux refugees and serious foreign criminals:

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She refused to engage in ‘blue on blue’ sniping. Here she is with Kemi Badenoch, my other favourite:

Braverman was gracious in defeat:

She swiftly began a media round on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to Tom Harwood of GB News, she expressed her gratitude for being able to run in the leadership contest, saying it was a real privilege. I agree that she would make an excellent Home Secretary:

She said that she sees both Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt as being on the left. So true:

She criticised Penny Mordaunt’s stance on gender identity and accused her of being a ‘false Brexiteer’:

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Braverman pointed out that Hansard has a record of what Mordaunt has said in past debates on the Maternity Bill:

She told TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn why she has decided to support Liz Truss:

I hope that whoever wins will retain Braverman in their Cabinet. She is a true asset to the Conservatives.

Rishi Sunak

Could the wheels be about to fall off for Rishi Sunak, our erstwhile Chancellor?

On Friday, July 15, news emerged that the Chinese government hopes Rishi will be our next Prime Minister:

Guido reported:

This morning Rishi Sunak has successfully won the leadership endorsement none of the candidates wanted: from the Chinese Government’s propaganda outfit. Global Times has published an article entitled “China-UK ties ‘might improve’ with arrival of new PM”; subheading, “Most candidates are tough on Beijing, but ‘pragmatic’ one wins first round”. In the piece, Beijing’s mouthpiece notes concern that, despite Rishi winning among MPs, party members might vote for a rival candidate because of tax policy…

Former chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) Rishi Sunak, the one candidate with a pragmatic view of developing balanced ties with China, has won the first round of voting by MPs.

When Sunak was the finance minister in July 2021, he used his annual Mansion House speech to insist that Britain should beef up its trading relationship with China

Apart from Sunak, almost all of the other candidates hold a very tough stance on China

As I write, mid-day, Guido is awaiting comment from Rishi’s team.

In other news, Rishi is losing traction with the bookmakers. He’s now in third place:

Guido tells us:

Rishi has fallen from hot favourite to his chances being third rated, with Penny as favourite and an overnight re-evaluation by punters seeing Liz move into the second favourite spot.

Allow me to repeat myself with the aforementioned Conservative Home poll from July 12. According to their readership, likely all Conservative Party members, Rishi could only beat Sajid Javid, who is no longer in the running and Tom Tugendhat, who is currently in last place:

Tom Tugendhat

I do not think that Tom Tugendhat’s candidacy will last beyond Monday’s vote.

I formed my opinion of him through his participation in House of Commons debates.

He is chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Last August, he spoke about Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, where he served with the Army. His contribution gained him a round of applause, which is normally forbidden in Parliament:

He wryly noted:

America’s back – back home.

In 2020, he wrote an editorial on terrorism for the Mail, calling for a return of treason laws, which Tony Blair got rid of:

In 2020, he was critical of China’s lockdown policy:

Last year, when there was a suspicion that vaccine passports could be turned into digital identity cards, Tugendhat rightly opposed such a development. talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed him on the subject:

Tugendhat announced his candidacy for Conservative leadership on July 7, via an editorial for The Telegraph:

It seems to me that he makes more of his military career than perhaps he should. In one recent interview, he made himself out to be a general (H/T to my reader dearieme):

‘What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?’

‘Invaded two countries.’

Guido thinks so, too:

He has the relevant clip:

Anyway, his campaign, increasingly weak, calls for ‘a clean start’:

A clean start:

On July 8, the Sun featured a profile of him, including his French connection:

Tugendhat is married to Anissia Tugendhat (née Morel).

She is a French judge and civil servant and Tugendhat holds dual citizenship for France and Britain.

According to a tweet from journalist Richard Eden, the pair got engaged in 2013.

Together they have two children, a boy and a girl.

Tugendhat’s mother Blandine de Loisne is also French.

Anissia comes from a family of diplomats and her brother has worked in the Foreign Ministry and the French embassy.

We did not know that before, did we? At least Tobias Ellwood told Parliament that he has dual US/UK nationality.

That’s probably why he voted Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

He would not be drawn on the subject of whether he regretted his vote. Probably not, then:

The public are suspicious. As he is currently in last place, MPs must be, too:

He launched his campaign on July 12. To calm his nerves, he had a crafty ciggie on the tiny balcony outside his office, forbidden on the parliamentary estate. This, in my opinion, is the only decent thing about him:

I hope he was smoking a Gauloise …

At his launch, he took only two questions from the media:

Perhaps he feared questions about his Frenchness, such as this one:

Candidates, including those running for a position as MP, should declare their nationality or nationalities:

———————————————————————————

I will have more on the leadership contest next week.

For now, I am looking forward to the debates. It will be interesting to see how Rishi and Tugendhat, both of whom are short, look next to Penny Mordaunt, much taller than either of them. Optics are important.

Yesterday’s post introduced the ongoing Conservative Party leadership contest.

Today’s post will discuss what happened on Wednesday and lead up to Thursday afternoon’s vote, the result of which will appear tomorrow.

Before Wednesday’s vote

Guido Fawkes wrote the following on the morning of Wednesday, July 13, before the first round of voting (red emphases his, purple ones mine):

Good morning. Six of the eight remaining Tory leadership candidates face an uphill battle throughout the day, as they attempt to reach the 30-MP threshold required in the first knockout round of the contest at 6pm. Rishi now has 48 backers, meaning he can basically sit back and relax for at least the next two rounds, though that hasn’t stopped him adding Steve Barclay to his list of supporters this morning. Penny Mordaunt also has the 30 required. The other six, not so much…

All eyes are on Jeremy Hunt and Suella Braverman as the ones most likely not make it, though one of Hunt’s backers told Guido last night they believe they have the requisite support. They also described rumours that Gavin Williamson is instructing Rishi backers to temporarily support other candidates like Hunt and Kemi, so Rishi doesn’t have to face Liz in the final two, as utter rubbish, though members of other campaign teams believe it is absolutely happening. With Sajid, Shapps and Priti now out of the race, there are 30 newly floating MPs up for grabs…

News overnight includes a policy-light interview with Rishi in The Telegraph, who’s trying to get the press back onside after yesterday’s scenes at his campaign launch. He says he’ll run the economy like Thatcher if he wins. Tom Tugendhat committed to spending 3% of GDP on defence last night.  Penny has used a Times op-ed to commit to supporting families as PM. Stay tuned for her campaign launch at 10.30 this morning…

And:

from now on candidates can also vote for themselves…

Candidates experienced highs and lows, as covered below.

Nadhim Zahawi

When Boris Johnson appointed Nadhim Zahawi as Chancellor of the Exchequer on July 5, it was remarked that he is the first Chancellor with facial hair in 65 years:

Before Harold Macmillan, we have to go back another few decades to find another bearded Chancellor:

Zahawi appears to be the man who convinced Boris that he should stand down as leader of the Conservative Party. On Thursday, July 7, the Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson will finally announce his resignation today – but is lining up a ‘unity Cabinet’ as he battles to stay in Downing Street for months longer.

The PM admitted defeat in the wake of a shattering intervention from Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed on Tuesday night following Rishi Sunak’s departure. He told Mr Johnson that his situation is ‘not sustainable’.

Two days later, on Saturday, news emerged that HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) were investigating Zahawi’s tax situation. Hmm:

Zahawi said on a Sunday morning news programme that, if elected Party leader, he would release his tax returns. He complained of being set upon, something Boris knows only too well:

On Tuesday, July 12, he launched his campaign video in which he tells his life story. He arrived in England from Iran with his parents. He started school not knowing a word of English. Fast forward to the past two years and he was able to live his dream. He headed the coronavirus vaccine rollout and went on to become Education Secretary. Today, he is Chancellor. Amazing:

On Wednesday morning, he told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that, if elected leader, he would give Boris a Cabinet post:

Guido has the video and concluded:

He’s the second leadership contender to make such a pledge after Suealla Braverman. Clearly Zahawi sees some benefit in associating himself with Boris. A swift change of tone considering he was calling for Boris’s resignation just a few days ago…

Agreed, but there is no way that a former Prime Minister would take a Cabinet post.

Later on Wednesday morning, someone hacked Zahawi’s campaign website and redirected it to Penny Mordaunt’s. Penny’s website also seemed to have issues:

They are not the only ones, however, as Guido reported that Rishi Sunak’s site is banned on the Parliamentary estate:

Website woes are a common theme throughout the leadership campaign, Rishi’s site is blocked in Parliament as “insecure” and candidates have had their domain registration timings scrutinised. Turns out this stuff is hard to do right…

Jeremy Hunt

Conservatives either love or loathe Jeremy Hunt.

He served as Health Secretary and then as Foreign Secretary, until Boris sacked him in July 2019.

Hunt ran against Boris in the 2019 leadership contest. In one appearance during that campaign, he said his wife was Japanese. She quickly corrected him and reminded him that she is Chinese.

I wonder if he said that on purpose, because …

During the pandemic, as a backbencher, Hunt proposed Chinese-style lockdowns and mandatory vaccines for healthcare staff.

Nadine Dorries MP recalled a conversation with Hunt in July 2020:

On Christmas Day in 2021, the Mail reported that Hunt’s wife presents Chinese state-sponsored television programmes, broadcast on Sky TV from London:

The wife of former Cabinet Minister Jeremy Hunt presents a TV show for China’s state-run media that has been accused of ‘whitewashing’ the Communist Party’s human rights abuses.

Lucia Guo, who has three children with the former Health Secretary and Foreign Secretary, appears on China Hour, a series broadcast on Sky TV that showcases Chinese culture to a UK audience.

It is made by the state-owned China International TV Corporation and British-based Dove Media, in partnership with the Communist regime’s tourist office in London.

The programme has featured reports on the effectiveness of China’s pandemic response and about the beauty of the Xinjiang region without mentioning it is the site of ‘re-education’ camps for its persecuted Muslim Uighur population. 

Ms Guo, who is originally from the city of Xi’an in central China, hosts a feature on the show called Signature Flowers of China

It has been broadcast since September and is also available on YouTube.

Human rights campaigners at the US research institute Freedom House last year accused China Hour of being part of the Chinese Communist Party’s international media web.

The programme has been praised in Beijing for its viewing figures while its reports on the pandemic have been credited with ‘playing a unique role in communicating the Chinese narration of the epidemic to the world’.

On March 13, 2020, three days before the UK’s first lockdown, Hunt wanted all British schools closed.

Although Hansard has all of Jeremy Hunt’s contributions to parliamentary debates, in May 2022, he tried to walk back his promotion of Chinese-style pandemic measures.

Someone put this graphic together around May 21, a significant date for Hunt, as you will see below:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-c4c6b24c-6016-418c-aeb4-a5db26a4495c

The next day, May 22, he appeared on Sophy Ridge’s Sky News programme to say that he did not want to see a Conservative leadership contest:

Guido posted the video and this comment:

Maybe Hunt is one of these Tories who thinks it might be good to lose the next election? He could become leader of the opposition…

That day, a number of letters to the editor appeared in The Sunday Times. The week before, he had written an article for the paper outlining how he would reform the NHS.

A retired GP wrote the Times to point out that Hunt had ample time as Health Secretary some years before, yet he took no action:

What a nerve! Jeremy Hunt tells us “How I would fix the NHS” (News Review, last week) — but he was the longest-serving health secretary in British history and has a huge responsibility for the NHS being in this parlous state.

He did nothing to increase the capacity of our hospitals, which has resulted in ambulances queueing outside A&E departments, unable to discharge their patients. He pledged that by 2025 we would be self-sufficient in “homegrown” doctors, but a lack of planning has resulted in a huge shortage of NHS staff in all sectors. He went out of his way to alienate junior doctors, causing the unprecedented strike of 2014. He did nothing to integrate the NHS with social care.

This is the man who could replace the fool we now have as prime minister. Heaven help us.

One week later, on May 28, an article in the Mail suggested that Hunt had a plan to topple Boris:

Boris Johnson‘s Cabinet allies have accused supporters of former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of mounting a secret pub plot to oust the Prime Minister.

They suspect MPs who attended a dinner at an upmarket bar in West London called The Surprise last week were scheming to trigger a Tory leadership challenge.

The event, held the night before Sue Gray’s report into Partygate was published, was hosted by Devon MP Mel Stride, a former campaign chief for Michael Gove who is seen by the Johnson camp as a rebel ringleader.

Also in attendance was long-serving Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, a key ally of Mr Hunt.

The article has two familiar names, in addition to Hunt’s. Those MPs entered the current leadership contest:

Of the 16 MPs known to have been there and who voted in the 2019 leadership election, just three backed Mr Johnson.

Five backed Mr Hunt, who is widely expected to mount a leadership bid if a contest is called, while six supported Mr Gove, who is not expected to enter another contest …

Politicians at the dinner strongly denied they were scheming against Mr Johnson and accused his allies of ‘paranoia’.

They pointed to the fact that Boris arch-loyalist Grant Shapps – who has himself been tipped as an outside bet for the leadership –addressed the meeting.

But a Cabinet ally of Mr Johnson said: ‘Mel Stride is a Goveite looking for a new horse to hitch his wagon to. Many of the people he invited to the pub backed Gove or Hunt last time – including Dunne, who is running Hunt’s latest bid.

‘Any MP considering backing Hunt must be a masochist yearning for the kind of thrashing we sustained in 2017 and longing for the humiliation of a very long spell on the Opposition benches.

‘Without Boris, we will be handing the next Election to a Labour-SNP coalition. But then, some of our pro-Remain MPs and those who think they were naturally destined for high office, are too bitter to care’ …

Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, considered a potential future Tory leadership contender, condemned behaviour at No 10 as ‘shameful’, telling the Portsmouth News she was ‘angry’ that people blocking ‘reasonable requests to relax [Covid] restrictions, were at the same time ignoring the rules’.

I agree with whoever said that without Boris, the next election will go to a Labour-SNP coalition. Yet, here we are, sadly.

By June 6, the story of Hunt’s yearning to be the next Conservative Party leader grew traction, especially with GB News presenters.

Neil Oliver threw his characteristic diplomacy away in this tweet:

Bev Turner shared a Hunt anecdote, wherein he advocated paying domestic staff low salaries:

Someone from Hong Kong confirmed the Chinese way of paying peanuts to domestic staff:

A Conservative Party member chimed in with disgust:

Adam Brooks, the publican who appears on Dan Wootton’s show was grateful that Boris was at the helm during the pandemic:

Now let’s look at what Jeremy Hunt told Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, back in July 2020:

Ben Leo, who works on Dan Wootton’s show, tracked Hunt down in front of his house on July 9 to follow up. This is an excellent video. Readers won’t be surprised to find out that Hunt said absolutely nothing:

Now let us fast forward to last weekend.

GB News viewers were aghast to find out that Esther McVey, an MP many of us admired up to that point, cast her support for Hunt, as did her husband Philip Davies:

Why would a no-nonsense, straight-talking Conservative back Jeremy Hunt?

The answer came on Sunday, July 10, when Hunt announced that, if elected leader, Esther McVey would become Deputy Prime Minister.

Guido posted the video:

She must be stupid if she believes that, I thought. It’s like a would-be Romeo trying to seduce a girl. Promise her anything to get her to submit …

Just look at the man’s eyes. He often looks like this:

Guido tweeted:

That’s me done with McVey and Davies. I liked him, too. No longer.

On Monday, July 11, Dan Wootton warned that Conservative MPs could destroy the Party if either Rishi Sunak or Jeremy Hunt become leader:

He is not wrong in that assessment.

First round voting results

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, declared the results of the first round of voting shortly after 5 p.m.

Nadhim Zahawi, the new Chancellor, and Jeremy Hunt were eliminated from the contest:

Conservatives around the nation breathed a sigh of relief at Hunt’s elimination from the race.

Perhaps Hunt should have taken a cue when the top of the bell he was ringing flew off, nearly hitting a bystander:

Bell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

As for Zahawi, he posted a lengthy letter:

Image

He has a lot on his plate, so perhaps it is best that he focuses on recovering some of the millions that fraudsters took during the pandemic. Those people stole taxpayers’ money:

He should also do something about road fuel tax:

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt pledged his support for front runner Rishi Sunak:

And then there were six

As Wednesday closed, we were left with six candidates going into Thursday:

Kemi Badenoch, someone around whom most Conservatives could rally, had just over 50 MPs supporting her.

Tom Tugendhat, rather surprisingly, considering that he has a high profile, had fewer than 50.

Suella Braverman, another candidate who makes most Conservative Party members happy, has just over 40.

I think that Braverman and/or Tugendhat will lose on Thursday. Tugendhat is another one who deserves to go.

Guido summed up Wednesday’s activity. Highlights follow.

Rishi Sunak could be losing momentum:

  • … After hogging the limelight with his campaign launch yesterday, today he resumed being the punching bag of choice for all other candidates.
  • Faced some horrible polling from all quarters, which shows he basically stands no chance of winning among the members if he gets through to the final two.

Penny Mordaunt did well:

  • A great day for Penny – if she wins the contest, today will undoubtedly be viewed as the day she secured the victory
  • Received a major boost from YouGov polling that shows, should she get through to the final two, she’d smash every other candidate.
  • Remains a comfortable second among MP backers.

Liz Truss survives another day:

  • Vowed to halt green levies
  • Continued her campaign as the ‘Boris continuity candidate’.

Suella Braverman is unlikely to make it through past Thursday’s voting.

Kemi Badenoch does not want tax cuts but has gained support:

  • Continues to gain support, not least with her former employers at The Spectator.

Kemi is also opposed to the current form of the dreaded Online Safety Bill, the debates on which could not be completed before summer recess, as the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, quite rightly, took priority. There is also the debate on confidence in the Government on Monday, which should be interesting:

https://image.vuukle.com/d7c6fe0e-9619-4565-bd5c-842da1c18a99-40de4d4b-e1d3-4501-8f54-42d4cc2b50f2

Thursday, before the vote

Guido summed up the state of play on Thursday, July 14. An excerpt follows:

In a few months’ time, what will people remember of Jeremy Hunt’s 2022 leadership campaign? Nothing, obviously. Seemingly just 18 MPs realised he was running one at all, which is odd as he needed 20 to get on the ballot in the first place. As Sky’s Sam Coates asked last night: what exactly does Rishi gain from being endorsed by this competition’s biggest loser? He certainly won’t gain all of Hunt’s supporters – many of them are now angry that Hunt went with Rishi, and not Tugendhat. Mind you, there was already anger towards Hunt from Team Penny, who endorsed him in 2019, as it was very clear he was never considering returning the favour this time around. Et tu, Jeremy…

Today should, in theory, be Truss’s day in the spotlight. Her campaign launches bright and early in Smith Square, in two hours’ time. They’ll be delighted with The Mail splash this morning, which is blatantly campaigning for Liz and telling the right to unite behind her to defeat Rishi. The same front page carries a briefing from someone in the Truss camp accusing Penny of telling lies about her trans stance. Lord Frost has also just taken to the airwaves to slam Penny’s record in government, saying she was so rubbish as his deputy he had to ask the PM to move her during the Northern Ireland negotiations…

Yes, this was a damning moment for Penny.

Guido has the video …

… and the quote:

To be honest I’m quite surprised that she is where she is in this leadership race. She was my deputy, notionally more than really, in the Brexit talks last year… I felt she did not master the detail that was necessary in the negotiations last year. She wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the European Union when that was necessary… she wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was. I’m afraid this became such a problem that after six months I had to ask the Prime Minister to move her on… from the basis of what I saw I would have grave reservations about [Mordaunt].

Guido says that Lord Frost isn’t the only one critical of her, either:

On Tuesday, CityAM published damning claims from Department for International Trade sources alleging Penny was “missing for months” as a trade minister and wasn’t reliable something Guido’s ministerial sources later confirmed themselves…

As the day unfolded, Rishi tried to make his resignation and leadership candidacy appear sudden, failing to mention that he had his website domain registered in 2020:

On a lighter note, Tom Tugendhat will rue this photo of ‘Tom a tart’:

Oh, well, he’s likely to be out by the end of the day, anyway.

It is unfortunate that so many members of the public cannot identify the next Conservative leader:

Meanwhile, among the party membership, here’s the latest from Grantham & Stamford Conservative Association. I am surprised that Mordaunt is doing so well. At least Badenoch is in second place:

Today’s vote began at 11:30 and closed at 3 p.m. All being well, I will have an analysis of the results tomorrow.

This is a follow-up to my post of Friday, February 4, on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to placate his fellow Conservative MPs.

After he met with MPs on Monday, January 31 following his statement on the Sue Gray party report, Boris committed himself to reforming the way Downing Street works.

Several MPs whom I’ve seen interviewed on television have said that Boris does not communicate with them at all. This is especially true for the Red Wall MPs from 2019.

Boris now has to woo every one of his backbench MPs or risk letters of no confidence from them about his premiership.

Sir Graham Brady MP chairs the 1922 Committee for Conservative MPs who are not in the Cabinet.

Disgruntled MPs send their no confidence letters to him. If he receives 54 such letters, he can hold a vote of no confidence among all Conservative MPs. Should the vote not go in Boris’s favour, the MPs can run for party leadership. MPs select a short list of those candidates. The party members across the nation vote on the short list, and whoever wins would become the new Prime Minister.

With the resignation of five civil servants last Thursday and Friday, Boris realises he has to get moving — now.

On Friday, he sent a letter to backbench Conservative MPs telling them of his proposal to involve them more. He has asked them to engage with him in the process of re-establishing backbench policy committees:

Guido Fawkes posted about this development on Friday. Boris says he is now willing to communicate more with MPs (emphases mine):

It is vital that we harness all the energy. experience, and insight from our Members of Parliament. This won’t just help improve existing policy, it will help us deal with the many challenges we will face together in the future.

One of the ways I want to achieve this is by working with Sir Graham Brady MP, and colleagues on the Executive of the 1922 Committee, to re-establish backbench policy committees. I want these policy committees to play an important role in generating ideas and discussion and so I encourage colleagues from across the party to get involved.

Sir Graham Brady MP will write to you with specific details on how the process of forming these committees will work. For them to be a success it is vital that government departments and ministers engage with them properly, and I will ensure that the Cabinet understand the importance of taking them seriously. I will also ask Conservative Campaign HQ to link this work up with the work of the Conservative Policy Forum.

I understand the deep importance of engaging with colleagues in Parliament and listening to your views and that is why I want colleagues to have a direct line into 10 Downing Street. With the appointment of Andrew Griffith MP as Director of Policy we will provide whatever engagement and support is necessary to make this a success.

I promised change and that is what we will now deliver together.

However, it came too late for Aaron Bell who had already made up his mind to write to Sir Graham Brady. Bell had spoken up to Boris last Monday in Parliament about a family funeral he attended during lockdown. He asked if Boris took him for a fool for having obeyed all the rules:

Around the same time as Boris’s letter reached MPs on Friday afternoon, Guido reported on Bell’s letter. Some people replying to Guido’s tweet say that he had allegedly submitted it in late January:

Bell wrote that he had consulted with his constituency’s councillors and council candidates running in May’s local elections. He says he wrote the letter on January 12 after that day’s Prime Minister’s Questions:

The Daily Mail gave the names of seven other MPs who have sent letters to Brady: Sir Gary Streeter, Anthony Mangnall, Andrew Bridgen, Peter Aldous, Tobias Ellwood, Douglas Ross (Scottish Conservative leader) and the long-serving Sir Roger Gale.

Former education minister Nick Gibb followed, filing his letter on Friday.

The Mail says that Brady could have received many more letters:

The true number of letters to have been submitted is thought to be several times higher the eight figure because most MPs do not publicly divulge writing to Sir Graham

The threshold for triggering a vote of no-confidence is currently set at 54 letters and many Tory MPs believe it is now ‘inevitable’ the figure will be reached.   

Mr Johnson’s position in Number 10 is increasingly precarious and some Cabinet ministers believe there is a strong chance he will be forced to quit. 

One Cabinet minister told The Times: ‘It feels like the end, it’s all falling apart. It’s 50/50 in my view at the moment’ …

But a Cabinet minister told Politico: ‘He promised action on Monday night and the action has begun. There’s more planned. The restructuring is on its way. It will unfold over the next 48 hours. He’ll move things up a gear and get some discipline.’

LBC’s article on Bell’s letter refers to what is known as the Pork Pie Plot, involving the new 2019 intake of Red Wall MPs who represent former Labour seats:

He is the latest Red Wall Conservative to turn on the PM amid what has been dubbed the Pork Pie Plot – so-called because one of the ringleaders hoping to oust Mr Johnson is reportedly Leicestershire MP Alicia Kearns, whose constituency includes Melton Mowbray, the town famous for baking the pastry.

Hmm. Alicia Kearns. I hope that is not true. She rather reminds me of the women MPs who turned against Theresa May over Brexit in 2019 and had the whip removed. They were not re-elected in the general election that year and faded into obscurity.

On Saturday, January 5, Downing Street announced changes at No. 10. The Welsh journalist Guto Harri (pron. ‘Gitto Harry’), Boris’s director of external affairs during the first four of his eight years as London mayor, will be joining the team:

Unfortunately, most conservative-minded people outside of London only know Harri — real name Guto Pritchard-Jones — for taking the knee during his brief tenure at GB News last summer on the day of the Euro final in solidarity with the England team. His co-presenter, Mercy Muroki, a staunch conservative, could not believe her eyes:

He was roundly criticised on Twitter and GB News never brought him back on air.

Harri’s Wikipedia entry says:

On 13 July 2021 Harri took the knee on GB News to show support for the England football team‘s kneeling for anti-racism; following backlash from viewers, GB News suspended him indefinitely for failing to maintain the editorial standards expected by the network.[22][23] Shortly afterwards he resigned from GB News,[24] having written in The Sunday Times that the channel was “becoming an absurd parody” that was replicating cancel culture on the far right.[25][26]

In 2018, Harri lashed out at both Brexit and Boris:

Harri is a critic of Brexit.[17][18] After Johnson likened Prime Minister Theresa May‘s Chequers Brexit agreement to a “suicide vest” around the British constitution in September 2018,[19] Harri said: “Unfortunately he is now dragging us into a place where we think that we can joke about suicide vests and that we can be sexually incontinent. Somebody needs to take the spade out of his hand or it looks to me like he’s digging his political grave.” He also said Johnson had become “more tribal, and tribal within the tribe, so that he would now be—if he were to become leader—a hugely divisive figure”.[20]

Hmm. Although that was two-and-a-half years ago, how can Boris have the confidence to welcome him to No. 10?

Some conservatives think that Boris hired him because he will be a dab hand at handling the media, lefty to lefty.

But there is something else, a link to Huawei. On Sunday, February 6, the Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole reported:

NEW No10 spin chief Guto Harri lobbied the Government on behalf of toxic Chinese tech giant Huawei, The Sun can reveal.

The controversial firm was banned from building the UK’s 5G network in 2020 because of its links to the Chinese Communist Party and spying fears.

But top-level Whitehall sources have confirmed Mr Harri was directly involved in talks with senior ­officials trying to head off the landmark ban.

Last night Mr Harri resigned from Hawthorn Advisers to become Downing Street’s Director of Communications.

The lobbying firm included Huawei as a major client in the two years that the former BBC journalist worked there. Sources say he had “a hands-on role”.

Friends last night insisted there was no problem with his work for the Chinese company, due to its previous key role providing 3G and 4G coverage to the UK.

And a Downing Street source said: “This is separate to his new role in No10. This Government is committed to removing Huawei from UK 5G networks by 2027.”

Labour will have a field day with this:

Labour said: “We can’t have the revolving door from lobbying to Government see potential ­national security issues arise.”

Deputy leader Angela Rayner demanded answers.

I’m also concerned about Steve Barclay, one of the good guys, being able to handle three jobs: MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (formerly Michael Gove’s role) and now Chief of Staff, integrating the new Office of the Prime Minister with the Cabinet Office.

Since everyone is putting names into the hat for the next Conservative Party leader, I’ll add Steve Barclay’s. He has the gravitas and the presence. He could win over the party faithful. You read it here first.

Boris, as ye sow, so shall ye reap. Good luck. You’ll need it.

Sometimes things are not as they appear.

Badgering Boris Johnson to resign over the Downing Street parties during lockdown is an attempt to overturn Brexit.

It is also a sign of envy on the part of the journalists, most of whom are Remainers, attacking him verbally. What journalist — and Boris was one of them for many years — doesn’t have an ‘If I ruled the world’ fantasy? Boris has achieved that dream. They have not.

Here is former Conservative MP Michael Heseltine, a prominent Remainer, saying that Boris’s departure could reopen the possibility of re-entering the European Union:

Heseltine said:

It’s misleading the house, it’s misleading the people and it’s misleading the whole country in a general election because if it were to be established that the PM has been lying then that is going to open a can of worms because very large numbers of people – now the majority of people – believe that the Brexit case was actually a pack of lies… now if he proves to be a liar – to the public, to parliament – what does that do for the very large numbers of people who think it is a catastrophic misjudgement to have severed our good relationships with our European neighbours.

Meanwhile, the general public doesn’t care about the parties, especially his birthday party:

https://image.vuukle.com/2f466225-fc3c-4fc0-bb60-c369b7787913-9ec71789-1d4d-4480-91bf-1846d4f638fe

Police investigation

The eminent civil servant Sue Gray had been preparing a report on the Downing Street parties.

Then, the Metropolitan Police stepped in. On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told the London Assembly, headed by Mayor Sadiq Khan of the news. As such, the Met informed Sue Gray to issue only a summary report so as not to interfere with their own investigation.

GB News has a summary of the social events. Most but not all of them took place at Downing Street, nor did Boris attend all of them (emphases mine):

The Metropolitan Police will investigate a “number of events” alleged to have taken place in Downing Street, Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has said.

Dame Cressida declined to say which alleged parties are being investigated, nor would she put a timeline on when officers could detail their findings.

The gatherings were already under investigation by senior official Sue Gray, and the Cabinet Office said her work continues.

Here is a list of the alleged gatherings, which in several cases have been admitted to.

– May 15 2020: Downing Street garden party …

– May 20 2020: BYOB garden party …

– June 19 2020: Birthday party for Boris Johnson …

– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide …

– November 13 2020: Johnsons’ flat party …

– November 25 2020: Treasury drinks …

– November 27 2020: Second staff leaving do …

– December 10 2020: Department for Education party …

– December 11 2020: Wine fridge delivered to Downing Street for staff’s ‘wine-time Fridays’ …

Mr Johnson was said to have attended a “handful” of these gatherings.

– December 14 2020: Party featuring Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and staff …

– December 15 2020: Downing Street quiz …

– December 16 2020: Department for Transport party …

– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office “Christmas party” …

– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head …

December 18 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference.

– Run-up to Christmas 2020 …

April 16 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The Telegraph quoted a No 10 spokesman as saying Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.

Strangely, at the time, no one cared:

Now everyone does.

Downing Street has not helped. They are now denying there was a cake:

On January 25, the Paymaster General, Michael Ellis MP, drew the short straw and had to answer an Urgent Question (UQ) from Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner (pictured in the top left photo):

This was the UQ:

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make a statement on the status of the investigation into Downing Street parties following the statement from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

I felt very sorry for Ellis, who had to reply for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, absent from the chamber. The transcript makes for grim reading.

Sir Edward Leigh, one of the first MPs to speak, tried to put things into perspective but to no avail:

When Europe stands on the brink of war and there is a cost of living crisis, can we please have a sense of proportion over the Prime Minister’s being given a piece of cake in his own office by his own staff?

The verbal attacks were many and vicious.

Ellis was able to put one Scottish MP, Pete Wishart (SNP), in his place.

Wishart asked:

Does the Paymaster General not think that it would be a good idea to set up a police special operations unit room in No. 10 Downing Street, because, while the police are looking at this case, they could perhaps look at cash for honours, cash for access, personal protective equipment for pals, paid advocacy, breaking the ministerial code, and all the other general Tory badness?

Ellis responded:

I have to say that a quick Google analysis of the SNP would not be particularly edifying. Despite noises off, this Prime Minister is focused on what matters to the British people and it is right that those matters conclude in an orderly way.

On Friday, January 28, news emerged that the Met told Sue Gray not to publish her report in full:

That day, The Guardian reported that a comedian issued a fake Sue Gray report:

The comedian Joe Lycett, who apparently caused chaos and “mass panic” in government when he tweeted a fake version of Sue Gray’s “partygate” report, has said his social media stunt was motivated by anger after the death of a close friend during the first lockdown.

Lycett tweeted a parody Gray report with a fake Cabinet Office letterhead, titled: “A summary of my main findings”, captioning his tweet: “BREAKING: Leaked Sue Gray report reveals shocking abuse of rules. Hard to see how the PM can cling on after this.”

He later shared a message that he said came “from someone who works for a cabinet minister. Source verified.”

The message, purportedly from someone who works in parliament, read: “Your tweet this morning was read as an actual serious leak from Sue Gray’s report. U had MP staff literally running around panicking from what it said. Panic dialling MPs like we need to discuss this right now.”

On Saturday, January 29, Steven Swinford of The Times reported that Sue Gray was just putting the finishing touches on her report when the Metropolitan Police intervened.

Swinford’s first sentence drew me in. It’s hard not to like an article that begins with this:

Sue Gray had been looking forward to a holiday.

It is unclear why the Met intervened when they did:

The timing of her intervention is said to have surprised Gray and her team of investigators. She had been in discussions with the Met for weeks, sharing information as she went along. Yet the force had declined to get involved until the point when her report was almost completed and ready for publication

“She’s in a horrible position,” a Whitehall source said. “The delay just creates an air of conspiracy. Sue’s integrity is at risk here. If a partial report is produced it will look like she’s been got at. She just wants a holiday, she feels like she’s had enough of it. Very few people could do what she does but she just wants to be on the other side of this one.”

Some think that the Met’s intervention could be good news for Boris:

Johnson’s critics and supporters agreed that the Met’s intervention strengthened his position. One cabinet minister said: “Sue Gray cannot prejudice the Metropolitan Police’s investigation. It would be insane if she went ahead and published the details. The longer this goes on, the more ridiculous it looks. The prime minister is out of the danger zone, the worst is over.”

Or is he?

Sue Gray ‘update’

On Monday, January 31, Sue Gray issued a summary — termed an ‘update’ — of her report.

Guido Fawkes has the update in full.

Gray concluded:

a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did. There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.

At 3:30, Boris addressed MPs (see full transcript of the session). He said that he was sorry and that changes would be made in Downing Street.

He concluded with this:

First, it is time to sort out what Sue Gray rightly calls the “fragmented and complicated” leadership structures of Downing Street, which she says

“have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands”

of the expansion of No. 10. We will do that, including by creating an Office of the Prime Minister, with a permanent secretary to lead No. 10.

Secondly, it is clear from Sue Gray’s report that it is time not just to review the civil service and special adviser codes of conduct, wherever necessary, to ensure that they take account of Sue Gray’s recommendations, but to make sure that those codes are properly enforced. Thirdly, I will be saying more in the coming days about the steps we will take to improve the No. 10 operation and the work of the Cabinet Office, to strengthen Cabinet Government, and to improve the vital connection between No. 10 and Parliament.

Mr Speaker, I get it and I will fix it. I want to say to the people of this country: I know what the issue is. [Hon. Members: “No!”] Yes. [Hon. Members: “You!”] It is whether this Government can be trusted to deliver. And I say yes, we can be trusted—yes, we can be trusted to deliver. We said that we would get Brexit done, and we did. We are setting up freeports around the whole United Kingdom. I have been to one of them today that is creating tens of thousands of new jobs. We said we would get this country through covid, and we did. We delivered the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe and the fastest booster programme of any major economy, so that we have been able to restore people’s freedoms faster than any comparable economy. At the same time, we have been cutting crime by 14%, building 40 new hospitals and rolling out gigabit broadband, and delivering all the promises of our 2019 agenda, so that we have the fastest economic growth of the G7. We have shown that we have done things that people thought were impossible, and that we can deliver for the British people. [Interruption.] I remind those on the Opposition Benches that the reason we are coming out of covid so fast is partly because we doubled the speed of the booster roll-out.

I can tell the House and this country that we are going to bring the same energy and commitment to getting on with the job, to delivering for the British people, and to our mission to unite and level up across this country. I commend this statement to the House.

It did not go down well with the Opposition benches, nor some of the Conservative MPs.

Theresa May was deeply unhappy:

She said:

The covid regulations imposed significant restrictions on the freedoms of members of the public. They had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules—and, indeed, those around them him to have done so, too—and to set an example in following those rules. What the Gray report does show is that No. 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right hon. Friend had not read the rules, or did not understand what they meant—and others around him—or they did not think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, followed the former Prime Minister. He cited two of Boris’s contradictions and ended with this:

Nobody—nobody—believed him then, and nobody believes you now, Prime Minister. That is the crux. No ifs, no buts; he has wilfully misled Parliament.

Blackford broke two rules there. First, he said ‘you’. Secondly, he said ‘wilfully misled’.

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, interrupted him:

Order. It would be acceptable to say “inadvertently misled the House”, but “misled the House” is not acceptable. The right hon. Member must withdraw that comment.

Blackford doubled down, concluding:

… the public know that this is a man they can no longer trust. He is being investigated by the police. He misled the House. He must now resign.

The exchange between him and the Speaker continued for some time. Blackford refused to withdraw his remark.

At that point, the Speaker was ready to suspend him, but Blackford left voluntarily:

Order. Under the power given to me by Standing Order No. 43, I order the right hon. Member to withdraw immediately from the House

Another MP said:

He has left anyway!

Here’s the video:

Hoyle concluded:

It’s all right; we do not need to bother. Let us move on.

Aaron Bell MP spoke later on. Although he is Conservative, he made a good point, asking if Boris was trying to make a fool of him for obeying the restrictions at a family funeral:

Not surprisingly, the Mirror (Labour) picked up on it:

Boris was at the despatch box for a little over two hours.

That evening, he met with a group of Conservative MPs, wherein he pledged to reform how Downing Street operates. Guido’s colleague Christian Calgie said it went well:

Meanwhile, Labour MPs and the media hit the bar:

Incidentally, while Boris was giving his afternoon statement to Parliament, one of the bars there re-opened for business.

The next day, Mark Harper MP gave a good interview to Julia Hartley-Brewer at talkRADIO:

Labour’s Chinese spy story ignored

In mid-January, news emerged that a Chinese operative had donated £500,000 over a period of several years to a Labour MP. Yet, apart from GB News, no one in the media was — or is — talking about that (Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is pictured, not the MP involved):

Subplots

There are two important subplots running through this sorry saga: Boris’s mention of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s record as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with regard to Jimmy Savile (a celebrity paedophile) and the revelation of ghastly text messages by members of London’s Metropolitan Police, casting doubt on the force’s investigation of the Downing Street parties.

Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police are investigating the Downing Street parties, which is interesting, since the organisation said initially that they would not be doing so, as the events happened too long ago.

One wonders, however, how credible any investigation would be since Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has come under fire for her leadership. Some constables in the Met have been texting violent and vicious messages that are misogynistic and hateful.

Although Dame Cressida cannot be expected to know everything that her constables are doing, these text messages could cast doubt on the credibility of the investigation.

Furthermore, it is interesting that Dame Cressida announced the Met’s investigation of Downing Street at a meeting of the London Assembly, headed by the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan (Labour).

Sir Jimmy Savile

On Monday, January 31, Boris gave the House of Commons an update on Sue Gray’s inquiry into the Downing Street parties.

The Metropolitan Police allowed the civil servant to write a summary report pending their own inquiry, which is still ongoing.

As such, there is no conclusion as to whether Boris should resign.

However, Labour and the other Opposition parties have been pushing for Boris to stand down for weeks now.

On Monday, in response to Boris’s statement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said:

Conservative Members can heap their reputation, the reputation of their party, and the reputation of this country on the bonfire that is the Prime Minister’s leadership, or they can spare the country a Prime Minister totally unworthy of his responsibilities. It is their duty to do so. They know better than anyone how unsuitable he is for high office. Many of them knew in their hearts that we would inevitably come to this one day and they know that, as night follows day, continuing his leadership will mean further misconduct, cover-up and deceit. Only they can end this farce. The eyes of the country are upon them. They will be judged by the decisions they take now.

Boris replied:

There is a reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman said absolutely nothing about the report that was presented by the Government and put in the Library of this House earlier today. That is because the report does absolutely nothing to substantiate the tissue of nonsense that he has just spoken—absolutely nothing. Instead, this Leader of the Opposition, a former Director of Public Prosecutions—although he spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out—chose to use this moment continually to prejudge a police inquiry. That is what he chose to do. He has reached his conclusions about it. I am not going to reach any conclusions, and he would be entirely wrong to do so. I direct him again to what Sue Gray says in her report about the conclusions that can be drawn from her inquiry about what the police may or may not do. I have complete confidence in the police, and I hope that they will be allowed simply to get on with their job. I do not propose to offer any more commentary about it, and I do not believe that he should either.

The Speaker objected:

Boris’s mention of Starmer’s failure to get the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to investigate Savile ran all week long. Conservative MPs also objected to it. It is unclear why that is; after all these years, someone needed to speak up:

Boris’s opponents call it a ‘far-right conspiracy theory’, although Starmer was in charge of the CPS at the time Savile’s activities came to light. Starmer even issued an apology for the oversight at the time:

More recently, when Starmer ran for the Labour leadership, he said:

Hear me out: I had 8,000 staff for five years as the director of public prosecutions. And I acted, I hope, in the right way with them, which is when they had victories I celebrated victories on their behalf, I picked up awards on their behalves. When they made mistakes, I carried the can. I never turn on my staff and you should never turn on your staff… I will carry the can for mistakes of any organisation I lead.

Starmer’s biography states he was responsible for all criminal prosecutions in England and Wales:

Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg rightly defended Boris’s remark on Thursday, February 3:

In any event, that day, four Downing Street staffers resigned.

Munira Mirza, who had worked for Boris for 14 years — since he was Mayor of London — was the most prominent. The former policy chief said that she took strong objection to her boss’s mention of Savile:

Guido posted part of Mirza’s resignation letter:

I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice. There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. This was not the usual cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse. You tried to clarify your position today but, despite my urging, you did not apologise for the misleading impression you gave.

In a second post, Guido said that Boris asked Mirza to hold off until he gave a briefing to the media. The briefing only caused her to confirm her resignation:

When the pool clip came without an apology, more of a clarification, she confirmed her resignation via an email which concluded:

Even now, I hope you find it in yourself to apologise for a grave error of judgement made under huge pressure. I appreciate that our political culture is not forgiving when people say sorry, but regardless, it is the right thing to do. It is not too late for you but, I’m sorry to say, it is too late for me.

The public do not understand what the problem is with the mention of Starmer’s indirect failure to investigate Savile:

Furthermore, we all understand that Boris wasn’t implying that Starmer was personally responsible. However, he was the head of the CPS, so he bore responsibility for it, as Boris told the media:

Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the Leader of the Opposition’s personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions. I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.

Too right.

One of Guido’s readers summarised what Boris was saying in Parliament and to the press. It concerns double standards, wherein Starmer expects the Prime Minister to take responsibility for Downing Street activities but not for his own sins of omission at the CPS. This is a good get-out rationale from Guido’s reader paraphrasing Boris:

I was not aware of event X being organised or taking place, and so while I apologise it happened under my watch and plan to change systems to avoid such events in future, it is not reasonable for me to resign over it. That is entirely consistent with the Leader of the Opposition’s own behaviour while DPP over the Savile issue.

In any event, three more Downing Street staffers resigned after Mirza did, including Martin Reynolds, who issued the email about one of the parties, requesting that people bring their own alcoholic beverages:

It is unclear why the other three left. Some say that they are afraid of being investigated. Others say it was an excuse for Boris to clean house.

Of the three additional resignations, GB News reported:

Martin Reynolds is one of the most senior officials in No 10 but had largely avoided the limelight until the emergence of his email inviting colleagues to “socially-distanced drinks” during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.

As Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, he played a key role advising the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues, but resigned from the role on Thursday alongside three other senior Downing Street aides …

Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings previously said the influence wielded by the principal private secretary within Downing Street was not widely appreciated.

“The PPS exercises far more influence and actual power over many issues than Cabinet ministers,” Mr Cummings said.

“He can nudge policy, he can nudge vital appointments (real power). He can and does walk into the PM’s office and exclude all political people ‘on security grounds’.”

A leaked photograph of the Prime Minister and officials drinking in the No 10 garden on May 15 2020 – five days before the “bring your own booze” event that Mr Reynolds invited colleagues to – showed the PPS sitting at the same table as Mr Johnson …

Mr Reynolds offered his resignation on Thursday alongside Downing Street chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, hours after policy aide Munira Mirza and director of communications Jack Doyle both quit.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “Dan Rosenfield offered his resignation to the Prime Minister earlier today, which has been accepted.

“Martin Reynolds also informed the Prime Minister of his intention to stand down from his role as principal private secretary and the Prime Minister has agreed to this.

“He has thanked them both for their significant contribution to government and No 10, including work on the pandemic response and economic recovery.

“They will continue in their roles while successors are appointed, and recruitment for both posts is under way.”

As I write on Friday morning, an aide to Munira Mirza has also resigned:

Tom Harwood adds that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been keeping his distance from the Prime Minister and did not defend the remark about Keir Starmer and the Jimmy Savile case.

One of the commenters makes an excellent point about civil servants finding the Savile remark more offensive than what happened to 60+ million people for … a virus:

Those people live in their own bubble.

Interestingly, Boris has appointed an MP rather than a civil servant to succeed Mirza. Andrew Griffith represents the Arundel constituency on the south coast of England. He seems to have a truly Conservative voting record.

Therefore, it seems as if Boris is cleaning house, which can only be a good thing for him. The civil servants do not seem to have been doing him many favours.

In more positive news for the Conservatives, Anna Firth won the by-election in Southend West, served by Sir David Amess until he was stabbed to death last October:

Because of the nature of Sir David’s death, Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not put up candidates to run against Anna Firth, although minor political parties did.

Therefore, although she won 86% of the vote, only 24% of the electorate went to the polls.

The party debacle is far from over. This will run and run and run.

COP26 ended last weekend.

The great Glasgow conference ended with an agreement to phase ‘down’ coal rather than phase ‘out’ coal.

This left COP26 chairman Alok Sharma MP (Conservative) in tears.

More on that below.

Let’s start at the beginning of the year and work from there.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg declared early in April that she would not be attending COP26:

The budding epidemiologist (irony alert) said that the conference should be cancelled until global vaccination rates had risen.

Odd that she did not mention carbon emissions from 30,000 prospective attendees, which the Global Warming Policy Forum did in May, strongly suggesting that the conference take place virtually. Guido Fawkes said that having done so would have saved British taxpayers £200m.

The UK Government stuck to the plan, however. A spokesman said:

We are working on the basis of COP26 being held in person this November, while closely monitoring the covid situation.

The summit team is working closely with all partners and exploring what different scenarios might mean for COP26 and how we plan for that, whilst putting the health of the participants and the local community first.

We are not looking to postpone the summit.

During COP26, Greta led a rally in central Glasgow, attracting hundreds of fellow admirers in the streets.

Mixed messages from No. 10’s COP26 spokeswoman

On April 20, No. 10 decided to scrap the plan for American-style press conferences which Downing Street’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton was supposed to lead. Stratton became the Government’s COP26 spokeswoman instead.

What a mistake that was.

On July 27, she told Britons not to rinse their plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Good news for plumbers, then:

The next day, she — working for a Conservative government — advised Britons to join the Green Party:

This seemed to be an attempt to walk back her dishwasher advice from the day before.

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphasis in the original):

In an unexpected turn of events, Boris Johnson’s COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton told The Independent that people should “join the Green Party” if they want to tackle climate change. When asked why organisations were critical of her advice to consider not rinsing plates“ before putting them in the dishwasher, Allegra responded by saying:

“When people say to me, ‘What can they do?’, they can do many things, they can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.”

A highly quotable if somewhat unusual endorsement… 

On August 2, Stratton explained to Times Radio why she still drove a diesel car rather than buy an electric one (emphases mine, unless otherwise stated):

I have a diesel Golf. It’s third hand and I’ve had it for 8 years. I don’t drive it very much because I live in London, and it wouldn’t be right. I cycle, I’ve hurt my leg at the moment, but usually we cycle or get on the bus or walk most places. The car we use to go to granny’s and grandad’s who are  mostly 200, 250 miles away. I should be moving to another car, before I hurt my leg I was thinking about getting another carMy son would really like me to buy an electric car. I think it is the idea that right now, if I had one, any of those journeys to my dad in South Scotland, my mum in Gloucestershire, my in-laws in the Lake District and my Gran in North Wales, they’re all journeys, that I think would be at least one quite long stop to charge. And my kids are seven and four and I don’t fancy it just yet. That’s not to say that very soon, that technology, the charging points, we’re already seeing an increase in numbers, we’re seeing the cost come down, and we are seeing the range go up. So the direction of travel is great, and is swift. So I am optimistic that at some point, like so many families around the country, I’ll go for it. But right now, I have hurt my leg and I’ve been told I can’t drive ...You know, sometimes when you’ve got a four year old in the car, they’re asleep, and you just want to keep going to get there, because you know, if they wake up, you know, they’ll want the loo, they’ll want food, they might be feeling carsick and so on. So you want to be in control of that journey ... And included in that might be that the stop times for recharging improve so much that it’s half an hour.

Stratton gave all the best reasons for not buying an electric car.

Commenting on Stratton’s quote, Emily Carver, Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs, pointed out:

Of course, when polled, the majority of the public support addressing climate change. Who wouldn’t want a greener, more sustainable planet? However, as is the case with so many policies, it is far easier to support a rosy abstract goal than it is to face its real-life consequences.

Furthermore, very few in the media mention the African slave labour involved in mining cobalt for car batteries in general:

How did Stratton get a position as press secretary then Britain’s COP26 spokeswoman?

Breitbart provided some clues:

Stratton became the first official White House-style press secretary for the prime minister last year. She is a former journalist who had worked with establishment outlets The Guardian, the BBC, and ITV. Despite spending £2.6 million on furnishing a press room, the government scrapped the plans in April, moving Stratton to the role of the Cop26 spokeswoman, with the conference taking place in November of this year.

The Times claimed in May that Johnson appointed the former journalist at the insistence of his then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, herself a keen environmentalist.

The newspaper of record alleged the hiring took place despite the interview panel recommending against it, with leaked remarks calling Stratton a “risky appointment” and voters allegedly preferring Ellie Price, the panel’s first-choice candidate.

“The PM said it would make his life too difficult. Carrie won’t accept it if it’s anyone else. He said, ‘I’ve promised this to her’,” a Whitehall source told The Times, with a second source saying: “Boris said Carrie would go bananas if she didn’t get her way.”

In 2020, Stratton worked for Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In January 2021, TCW told us that Stratton is married to The Times‘s James Forsyth, who also works for The Spectator:

It’s time for the journalist James Forsyth – who also writes a column in the Times – to reveal the truth about Sunak’s plans. Forsyth and Sunak are close friends. They attended Winchester College together in the 1990s. Sunak was best man at Forsyth’s wedding and they are godparents to each other’s children. In April 2020, Sunak hired Forsyth’s wife, Allegra Stratton, to be his media chief (though it’s not clear if this job was ever advertised and I don’t remember any of the above being declared publicly). Since then she has moved on to be No 10 press secretary.

The conference, the hypocrisy

Guido Fawkes looked through Government contracts for COP26 to see what taxpayers’ money was financing.

The filming costs were exhorbitant:

The government has splashed a whopping £36,083,135.81 on a production services contract with Identity Holdings Limited which includes a supply of production and media services.

Glasgow teemed with prostitutes for the first two weeks of November. So much for women’s rights and the Left’s virtue signalling moral compass.

Guido reported:

The 25,000 delegates who have flooded into Glasgow have brought protestors by the thousands and, according to Guido sources, untold sex workers from around the world who are advertising their services online. In the interests of research for this story Guido has been doing research on various “adult work” websites which filter by city. According to one of the website operators, business has really hotted up, with the number of hookers advertising their services tripling from the normal three hundred or so in the city, to upwards of a thousand

Former Labour MP David Miliband told BBC’s Newsnight that the cost of net zero would be at least £100t of ordinary people’s money:

For whatever reason, a Green councillor from Brighton not only attended the conference, but flew to get there:

On November 9, Guido wrote (emphases in the original, the one in purple mine):

Why it is really necessary for a local council leader to attend a UN conference Guido doesn’t know given they have absolutely no locus or input into the COP process. To make matters worse Brighton’s Green council leader has been caught with his fly open and forced to apologise after jetting to COP26 in Glasgow. Just days after Caroline Lucas moaned Rishi’s Budget was a joke because of its tax cuts on domestic flights…

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty took a plane from London to Glasgow, a 460-mile journey after which he made a speech at a protest march led by Greta Thunberg on the importance of cutting carbon emissions. He also chair’s Brighton and Hove council’s carbon neutral working group. According to the LNER website, the train journey from Brighton to Glasgow would have created 26.68kg of CO2 – Cafferty’s plane journey created 169.94kg…

Having been found out, the councillor issued a grovelling apology to a Brighton newspaper, The Argus.

In sharp contrast, former Scottish Conservative MP Ruth Davidson spotted the Royal Train at Carlisle station:

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s security minister Tô Lâm left Glasgow to journey to London for an eye-wateringly expensive gold leafed tomahawk steak at the newly opened Salt Bae Knightsbridge restaurant.

Guido has the video …

… and a post about the Communist enjoying a taste of capitalism:

And where had he just come from prior to his luxury dining experience? A flower-laying exercise at Karl Marx’s grave…

This absurd spectacle should surely call into question the millions the UK’s given to the corrupt, communist state. Since 2001, £481 million of UK taxpayers’ cash has been given in aid to Vietnam, and they are set to get another £7 million bung in 2021/22. Based on the video, Guido calculates the three steaks alone cost the table £2,550…

His colleagues back home are clearly displeased. The #SaltBae tag on Facebook was blocked in Vietnam to prevent people seeing the video –  something the social media giant is now investigating. Presumably if he is sacked for his typically corrupt communist antics, he can expect a golden handshake and a gold-plated pension…

One supposes he flew there and back.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has been a stickler for wearing masks in the coronavirus era, but look what she did at COP26. She dropped her mask:

The Daily Mail reported that Joe Biden had an emission problem of his own which left the Duchess of Cornwall highly amused. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is on the left, with Camilla on the right:

Brand Scotland

More than halfway through the conference it became clear that Glasgow’s hospitality sector was not reaping the post-coronavirus benefits that COP26 promoters promised.

On November 10, The Times reported (emphases mine):

While hotels across Glasgow are fully booked to accommodate the thousands of delegates, the hospitality trade is understood not to have seen any uplift in trading since the event began on October 31.

There are even suggestions the event has led to a reduction in trade for some operators. Footfall in the city centre is said to have been affected as people try to avoid the demonstrations.

There is also thought to be a number of delegations which have stayed outside of the city, with Edinburgh hotels among those which are busy.

Oli Norman, whose Ashton Properties owns venues such as Brel and Sloans, said he had heard of some publicans and restaurant owners who have seen their trading fall by up to 50 per cent, and added: “It should have signified a resurgence in the local economy but if anything it has been a damp squib.”

Dan Hodges from the Mail interviewed self-employed Glaswegians in Easterhouse, a poor district away from the city centre:

Thomas is disillusioned with COP26. ‘I’ve missed my chance,’ the Glaswegian barber tells me. ‘My friend rented his flat at two grand a week. He’s making £6,000 and using the money to jet off for a holiday.’

I’m in Easterhouse, a few miles from where the global elite are gathering to save the world from itself. But few of them have ventured out to what was once the most deprived housing estate in Scotland. ‘I’m not sure why,’ Angus, the local butcher, laughs. ‘Perhaps Joe Biden got lost on the M8.’

What does he think about calls for us all to go vegan to protect the planet? ‘Well, I’m a butcher,’ he replies. ‘And my dad was a butcher and my grandad was a butcher. I grew up on pig’s feet soup. So I think people round here are still going to want to eat meat.’

Angus’s views could be ascribed to self-interest. The same can’t be said for local cabbie Andy. He’s made a small fortune shuttling delegates between Glasgow and Edinburgh at £120 a time. ‘Sorry, but the whole thing is a pile of crap,’ he tells me. They’ve been driving round in big convoys telling everyone else to get the bus.

‘It all feels like a millionaire’s party.’

While a Scottish government minister caught coronavirus at COP26 …

… First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did her best to market at least one Scottish product, Irn Bru, a popular soft drink. She gave some to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Sturgeon also marketed herself through a series of selfies:

This short yet amusing video tells the story perfectly:

One senior Scot noted Sturgeon’s contradictory position on mask wearing:

Sturgeon had no policy mandate at COP26. She was invited only as Scotland’s political leader. It was a courtesy.

Still, as such, one can understand why she wanted selfies with world leaders. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, even though she denied it:

How it ended

Not surprisingly, much socialism was on display at COP26.

Harry Wilkinson discussed it with Tom Harwood of GB News on the last official day, November 12. This was an excellent interview:

China and the United States signed a bilateral deal thought to be a big deal. We’ll see. That said, India is the second greatest polluter after China:

Nicola Sturgeon wants a ban on nuclear fuel in Scotland, but if she does ban it too soon, the nation will not have the energy supply it needs:

In the end, coal would be phased down rather than phased out. This is because too many developing countries need it to supply energy to their citizens.

Britain’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, nearly broke down in tears, explaining why to Times Radio:

It was an emotional moment. I understood the disappointment. And six hours sleep in 3 days probably didn’t help.

The Times reported:

Before he banged down the gavel on the pact, the tearful Sharma told delegates: “I apologise for the way this process has unfolded. I am deeply sorry.” The representatives of 197 countries at the summit responded with a standing ovation …

Sharma said the summit had kept “1.5 alive” but added “its pulse is weak” and described it as “a fragile win”.

Nonetheless, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the agreement is a ‘historic achievement’:

Even Angela Rayner, the Labour MP who recently referred to ‘Tory scum’, praised Sharma for a ‘tremendous job’:

Sharma received many more compliments in Parliament early this week.

Those interested in combating climate change — largely impossible, in my opinion — should know that COP26 picked up from the Paris Agreement to flesh it out with specifics and COP27, to be held in Egypt in 2022, is thought to go even further with better pledges from participating nations.

From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, anyone who doubted Big Media’s narrative was branded a conspiracy theorist.

Strangely, most of what notional conspiracy theorists spoke and wrote about in 2020 has come true.

Last week, I read two articles of interest about the virus, the New York Times (NYT) and China.

The NYT, China and the virus

On August 2, 2021, Ashley Rindsberg, the author of The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’ Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History, wrote an article for UnHerd: ‘Did the New York Times stifle lab leak debate?’

What an eye-opener it is. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Rindsberg has done a lot of research into the history of the paper, nicknamed The Gray Lady in the United States.

He says that the paper’s relationship with China has been going on for over a decade and explores its dubious ties with totalitarian regimes of the 20th century:

Researching and writing my new book, I discovered that the Times has a dark history of inadvertently helping authoritarian regimes with its reporting, including the Nazis, the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro.

In the case of China, this appears true to an alarming degree. For over a decade, the Times has nurtured a special relationship with the CCP — though we can only speculate as to whether this influenced its editorial output. Still, the Times certainly appeared unconcerned about the appearance of impropriety as it took millions of dollars from Chinese propaganda outlets, most prominently China Daily. In exchange for this badly needed revenue, the Times has published hundreds of “advertorials” written by Chinese propaganda outlets, including China Daily, which promote CCP messaging on the most serious topics, such as a double-page spread on the hotly contested Diaoyu Islands brazenly titled: “Diaoyu Islands Belong to China.

But the paper’s advertising relationship with Chinese state outlets is only the visible part of the iceberg. In 2012, seeking to capitalise on China’s burgeoning middle and upper classes, the Times launched a Chinese edition of its daily paper followed by the launch of a luxury lifestyle magazine. “The appetite for New York Times journalism in Chinese has never been stronger,” a company press release stated at the time.

In investing so heavily in China, the Times unintentionally handed the rapacious CCP an editorial lever to sway coverage. The Times learned this first-hand when, in 2012, the CCP blocked Chinese access to the Times online in retaliation for an unfavourable article on the family finances of China’s outgoing premier, Wen Jiabao. The Times set out on a year-long “lobbying” effort to restore coverage that included meetings with Xinhua, the parent of China Daily.

In early 2020, the lab leak hypothesis was roundly condemned in Big Media, especially the NYT.

Rindsberg leads us through the timeline and the narrative:

Of course, over the past year newspapers across the world have fallen for the CCP’s distorted Covid-19 narrative. And there is no evidence to suggest that the CCP did put pressure on the Times. But when it came to the lab leak debate, the Times was relentless. Starting in early 2020, when little was known about the virus — and nothing about its origins — the Times adopted a stridently anti-lab leak stance. In its first report on the topic, a February 17, 2020 article covering comments made by Sen. Tom Cotton, the Times stigmatised lab leak as a “fringe theory”. Once the story was published, its reporter took to Twitter to describe it as “the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters”.

Only one week prior, another outlet made strikingly similar claims. In an editorial, the CCP-owned China Daily thundered that Cotton’s decision to spread “malicious rumors” shows “how irresponsible some are in their haste to attack China”. The Times, echoing China Daily, also cast the lab leak hypothesis as a “rumor”.

Over the months, the Times’s coverage grew even more strident — and more in line with Chinese propaganda. In February 2020, it gave a platform to zoologist Peter Daszak, publishing an opinion piece by him which claimed that the pandemic was caused by “road-building, deforestation, land clearing and agricultural development”. Daszak argued that “discovering and sequencing” viruses like Covid-19 in labs like the one in Wuhan should be a priority.

The Times, which used Daszak as a key source in over a dozen articles, has never mentioned that Daszak’s organisation funded the Wuhan lab, in particular research into bats and coronaviruses, a flagrant conflict of interest. Crucially, there was no mention of this when a reporter interviewed Daszak this February, following his return from a heavily criticised WHO investigation into the virus’s origins. (Danszak later recused himself from the investigation because of the conflict of interest.)

But the Times also never revealed that Daszak was a favoured source for another outlet: China Daily. The state-owned media organisation, along with Xinhua and sister outlet Global Times, repeatedly quoted Daszak to assure readers of China’s full cooperation in the search for the virus’s origins — and to discredit the possibility of a lab leak.

The NYT‘s coverage was so supportive of China that Chinese publications began quoting it:

In April 2020, for instance, the Times published an article claiming the Trump Administration’s investigation into a lab leak “has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assessments saying that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruction.” Within minutes, a China Daily columnist retweeted the story and parroted its central claim.

With more information coming out about a possible lab leak, the NYT has changed tack:

Today, however, just as the tide is turning on the lab leak debate, so too is the Times’s approach to the subject. Last summer, the Times abruptly ended its advertising relationship with Chinese state media outlets and scrubbed all trace of the advertorials from its archive. And in recent months, it has published a handful of articles quoting scientists who believe we should take seriously the prospect of a lab leak.

But does this excuse the paper’s behaviour at the start of the pandemic?

I do not think so. The NYT is one of the world’s most influential newspapers. Everyone takes what it says as gospel truth. It is hard to disagree with Ashley Rindsberg on his conclusion:

Only time will tell whether the lab leak hypothesis is true or false. But whatever the result, what a tragedy it would be if the Times’s coverage delayed that verdict.

Lab leak update

On Friday, September 10, 2021, UnHerd posted the latest on a possible lab leak in Ian Birrell’s article, ‘Is this proof of lab leak lies?’ Birrell is an award-winning foreign reporter and columnist.

Over the past several years, the United States, Britain’s Peter Daszak and France were all involved at some point with the Wuhan labs.

Birrell tells us:

we do know one thing now beyond debate: speculative “gain-of-function” experiments on mutant bat viruses were taking place in Wuhan laboratories.

This research, carried out in labs that did not have maximum level of biosafety, was increasing the infectivity of laboratory-created diseases by constructing chimeric coronaviruses — despite strong denial of such practices by the key Chinese scientists. And the bio-engineering was being funded by United States taxpayers — channelled through a charity run by a British scientist — despite similar denials from America’s most senior public health officials that they supported such science fiction activities in Chinese labs.

This information was uncovered via freedom of information requests made in the United States by The Intercept, which is devoted to investigative reporting:

The Intercept obtained 900 pages of documents detailing two research grants in 2014 and 2019 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to EcoHealth Alliance. This is the charity headed by Peter Daszak, the controversial Briton who led efforts to squash “conspiracy theories” about a possible lab incident after spending years hunting viruses with Shi Zhengli, the now-famous “Batwoman” expert at Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

While some of this information was already circulating, The Intercept was able to obtain updates on the relevant projects:

… these documents include the original proposals along with project updates, so significantly flesh out what we knew. They highlight how US funding bodies outsourced risky gain-of-function research to China, even over a three-year period between 2014 and 2017 when it was banned in their own nation. They also show, with new clarity, the kind of work taking place in secretive Wuhan labs. These disclosures fuel the mystery over the pandemic origins, while also sparking fresh concerns over top scientists in both China and the West who sought to suppress inquiries into the lab leak hypothesis.

The NYT had a role to play here in defending the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV):

A $3.1m grant, according to the documents, was awarded to understand “the risk of bat coronavirus emergence” through screening thousands of samples collected from the nocturnal creatures. This included a chunk of funding worth $599,000 for WIV. Bear in mind that three months ago, Shi, director of its Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, angrily protested over the world “pouring filth on an innocent scientist” when emphatically refuting that they carried out gain-of-function work. “My lab has never conducted or co-operated in conducting GOF experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses” she told the New York Times.

Birrell gives us the NIH’s definition for ‘gain of function’ (GOF):

the term gain-of-function research describes a type of research that modifies a biological agent so that it confers new or enhanced activity to that agent.

The following are real life examples of GOF:

Analysis of these papers show US funds supported construction of new chimeric Sars-related coronaviruses, which combined a spike gene from one with genetic material from another — and then showed the resulting creation could infect human cells and mice engineered to display human-type receptors on their cells.

One new virus had increased pathogenicity over the original virus and three new viruses increased viral load in lung tissues up to ten thousandfold, which is most definitely “enhanced activity.” As scientists pointed out to me, these results demonstrated increased pathogenicity of SARSr-CoVs with different spike proteins in humanised mouse models. And similar construction work was proposed to be done with another type of deadly pathogen — the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, which first flared up in Jordan nine years ago after spilling over from camels and has since cropped up in 27 countries, causing 858 deaths.

Dr Fauci is also involved:

Anthony Fauci, the US infectious diseases expert and presidential adviser, insisted earlier this year that his country “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology”. His stance led to a furious clash in Congress with Senator Rand Paul, who gleefully tweeted after The Intercept published its article on the papers: “Surprise surprise – Fauci lied again. And I was right about his agency funding novel coronavirus research at Wuhan.”

Paul was backed by Richard Ebright, the bio-security expert and professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, who has long been a fierce critic of such work since he argues that the risks of creating new diseases in laboratories vastly outweigh any potential benefits. The documents make it clear that assertions by Anthony Fauci and the NIH Director, Francis Collins that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful,” he said.

Birrell discusses France’s involvement with Wuhan:

Buried in the documents are two more intriguing details. First, the experimental work creating mutant chimeric coronaviruses was carried out at WIV’s biosafety level 2 lab and then the work analysing them in humanised mice performed at the biosafety level 3 Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment, not at the new maximum level 4 WIV lab built with French assistance. The cluster of labs at the university hospital, incidentally, includes a breeding centre that created at least 1,000 types of genetically engineered animals from mice to monkeys. So this means the details in the papers accord with a previous statement by Shi that their coronavirus research is “conducted in BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories” — although a level 2 lab has, some say, barely higher safety standards than a dental clinic and certainly few safeguards against an lethal airborne virus.

As for Daszak, while he defended China, his charity warned about viral infections from animals encountered in fieldwork:

while Daszak has been condemning supposed conspiracy theories and defending his friends in China with whom he has collected thousands of samples, his own charity was pointing out the major risk of accidental infection faced by researchers when collecting such specimens in a project he led. “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled. There is also some risk of exposure to pathogens …while handling bats, civets, rodents or other animals, their blood samples or their excreta.”

Accidental viral infection via animals was another point mentioned early last year which the media summarily dismissed.

The story of the origins of COVID-19 continues to unfold.

I look forward to reading more in future and covering it here.

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