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This week, Big Brother Watch’s Ministry of Truth exposé states how UK Government agencies tracked social media accounts of certain well-known Britons during the coronavirus pandemic to monitor opinions.

One of the Twitter accounts involved belongs to a publican who had not yet begun appearing on television.

2020: online dissent, abuses of power

Before going into that story, here are bookmarks I had filed under ‘Ministry of Truth’. It would seem that the name relates to a Twitter account which has since been renamed. This person has nothing to do with the aforementioned exposé, but the tweets reflect what was already on people’s minds.

Interestingly, all of these relate to the pandemic.

Looking back to April 2020, three weeks after the UK locked down, people were already discussing the egregious nature of lockdown and suspicion about any vaccine.

This is an informal poll asking what percentage of global deaths justifies a lockdown:

Nearly 80% of people did not wish to take a coronavirus vaccine, should one be developed:

By April 13, police were already entering people’s properties. In this case, there was no party going on, but the abuse of power was shocking:

The video went viral:

On April 24, 2020, Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change suggested that state surveillance was ‘a price worth paying’ to stop coronavirus. Shocking:

By the end of April, we discovered that the WHO had coined the expression ‘New Normal’ on June 7, 2019:

In June 2020, despite lockdown in force, protests took place. In London, Metropolitan Police officers ran away from protesters after being pelted with objects:

2023: Ministry of Truth

On Saturday, January 28, 2023, Big Brother Watch sent an advance copy of their report to the Mail, which reported (emphases mine):

A shadowy Army unit secretly spied on British citizens who criticised the Government’s Covid lockdown policies, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Military operatives in the UK’s ‘information warfare’ brigade were part of a sinister operation that targeted politicians and high-profile journalists who raised doubts about the official pandemic response.

They compiled dossiers on public figures such as ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modelling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Toby Young. Their dissenting views were then reported back to No 10.

Documents obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, and shared exclusively with this newspaper, exposed the work of Government cells such as the Counter Disinformation Unit, based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Rapid Response Unit in the Cabinet Office.

But the most secretive is the MoD’s 77th Brigade, which deploys ‘non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of adversaries’.

According to a whistleblower who worked for the brigade during the lockdowns, the unit strayed far beyond its remit of targeting foreign powers. 

They said that British citizens’ social media accounts were scrutinised – a sinister activity that the Ministry of Defence, in public, repeatedly denied doing.

Papers show the outfits were tasked with countering ‘disinformation’ and ‘harmful narratives… from purported experts’, with civil servants and artificial intelligence deployed to ‘scrape’ social media for keywords such as ‘ventilators’ that would have been of interest.

The information was then used to orchestrate Government responses to criticisms of policies such as the stay-at-home order, when police were given power to issue fines and break up gatherings. 

It also allowed Ministers to push social media platforms to remove posts and promote Government-approved lines.

The Army whistleblower said: ‘It is quite obvious that our activities resulted in the monitoring of the UK population… monitoring the social media posts of ordinary, scared people. These posts did not contain information that was untrue or co-ordinated – it was simply fear.’

Last night, former Cabinet Minister Mr Davis, a member of the Privy Council, said: ‘It’s outrageous that people questioning the Government’s policies were subject to covert surveillance’ – and questioned the waste of public money.

Mail on Sunday journalist Mr Hitchens was monitored after sharing an article, based on leaked NHS papers, which claimed data used to publicly justify lockdown was incomplete. An internal Rapid Response Unit email said Mr Hitchens wanted to ‘further [an] anti-lockdown agenda and influence the Commons vote’. 

Writing today, Mr Hitchens questions if he was ‘shadow-banned’ over his criticisms, with his views effectively censored by being downgraded in search results. 

He says: ‘The most astonishing thing about the great Covid panic was how many attacks the state managed to make on basic freedoms without anyone much even caring, let alone protesting. 

Now is the time to demand a full and powerful investigation into the dark material Big Brother Watch has bravely uncovered.’

The whistleblower from 77 Brigade, which uses both regular and reserve troops, said: ‘I developed the impression the Government were more interested in protecting the success of their policies than uncovering any potential foreign interference, and I regret that I was a part of it. Frankly, the work I was doing should never have happened.’

The source also suggested that the Government was so focused on monitoring critics it may have missed genuine Chinese-led prolockdown campaigns.

Silkie Carlo, of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This is an alarming case of mission creep, where public money and military power have been misused to monitor academics, journalists, campaigners and MPs who criticised the Government, particularly during the pandemic.

‘The fact that this political monitoring happened under the guise of ‘countering misinformation’ highlights how, without serious safeguards, the concept of ‘wrong information’ is open to abuse and has become a blank cheque the Government uses in an attempt to control narratives online.

‘Contrary to their stated aims, these Government truth units are secretive and harmful to our democracy. The Counter Disinformation Unit should be suspended immediately and subject to a full investigation.’

A Downing Street source last night said the units had scaled back their work significantly since the end of the lockdowns.

The Mail‘s article also has the 77th Brigade member’s full disclosure as well as Peter Hitchens’s first-hand experience from that time.

It is ironic that a Conservative MP, Tobias Ellwood, is part of the 77th Brigade, which monitored another Conservative MP, David Davis:

Toby Young, also monitored, featured the Mail‘s articles on his website in ‘The 77th Brigade Spied on Lockdown Sceptics, Including Me’.

He pointed us to a Twitter thread from Dr Jay Bhattacharya, one of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration, which the Establishment panned worldwide:

On Sunday, January 29, Spiked had a tongue-in-cheek title to their article on the exposé, ‘Warning: sharing a spiked article could get you in trouble with the government’:

Today, a report by Big Brother Watch has revealed the alarming lengths the UK government went to in order to hush up its critics. We now know that three government bodies, including a shady Ministry of Defence unit tasked with fighting ‘information warfare’, surveilled and monitored UK citizens, public figures and media outlets who criticised the lockdown – and spiked was caught up in that net.

This mini Ministry of Truth was composed of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) in the Cabinet Office, the Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the army’s 77th Brigade. The 77th Brigade exists to monitor and counter so-called disinformation being spread by adversarial foreign powers. But, as a whistleblower from the unit told Big Brother Watch, ‘the banner of disinformation was a guise under which the British military was being deployed to monitor and flag our own concerned citizens’. The other bodies worked together to monitor ‘harmful narratives online’ and to push back on them, by promoting government lines in the press and by flagging posts to social-media companies in order to have them removed.

The public figures targeted by these shadowy units included Conservative MP David Davis, Lockdown Sceptics founder Toby Young, talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. All of whom had warned about the consequences of lockdown and had raised questions about the UK government’s alarmist modelling of the virus.

Documents obtained by Big Brother Watch, using subject-access requests, reveal that Peter Hitchens was flagged for, among other things, sharing a spiked article. A cross-Whitehall disinformation report from the RRU in June 2020 notes that, ‘The spiked article was shared on Twitter by Peter Hitchens, which led to renewed engagement on that specific platform’. The RRU also monitored the level of public agreement, noting that ‘some highly engaged comments’ agreed with the article, while others were critical …

We desperately need a reckoning with lockdown, and with the lockdown on dissent that accompanied it.

Big Brother Watch announced their report with a summary of highlights, ‘Inside Whitehall’s Ministry of Truth — How secretive “anti-information” teams conducted mass political monitoring’.

Read that if you do not have time to peruse their full report.

Guido Fawkes also summarised the report on Monday, January 30:

Millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money went into this egregious surveillance. Imagine inadvertently paying to have yourself monitored by the state:

Unbelievable.

Will anything come of this? I certainly hope so, but I doubt it.

On Thursday, February 2, David Davis asked about Peter Hitchens during Cabinet Office questions:

David Davis: In 2020 we have evidence that the Cabinet Office monitored the journalist Peter Hitchens’ social media posts in relation to the pandemic. In an internal email the Cabinet Office accused him of pursuing an anti-lockdown agenda. He then appears to have been shadow- banned on social media. Will the Minister confirm that his Department did nothing to interfere with Hitchens’ communications, either through discussion with social media platforms or by any other mechanism? If he cannot confirm that today, will he write to me immediately in the future to do so? (903428)

Mr Speaker: Who wants that one?

Jeremy Quin (Cabinet Office Minister): It is a pleasure to take it, Mr Speaker. I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He referred to the rapid response unit; what it was doing during the course of the pandemic was entirely sensible—trawling the whole of what is available publicly on social media to make certain we as the Government could identify areas of concern particularly regarding disinformation so that correct information could be placed into the public domain to reassure the public. I think that was an entirely reasonable and appropriate thing to do. I do not know about the specifics that my right hon. Friend asks about; I would rather not answer at the Dispatch Box, but my right hon. Friend has asked me to write to him and I certainly will.

They have an answer for everything.

Let no one think that Labour would have done anything differently. Labour fully supported the Government on everything coronavirus-related and said they would have gone further.

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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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 proved to be a memorable day for Boris Johnson for all the wrong reasons.

Last weekend, details emerged of Conservative MP Chris Pincher’s inebriated groping of another man at the Carlton Club in London’s St James. The Carlton Club is the private members club for Conservatives. Chris Pincher had been a Government minister and Deputy Chief Whip.

Lest anyone think the furore about Chris Pincher and blaming Boris for it is about cleaning up government, the end goal remains: get rid of Boris because Boris represents Brexit.

Chris Pincher

Chris Pincher has been a Conservative MP since 2010, the year David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Theresa May gave him his first ministerial role, that of Comptroller of the Household, in 2017. A few months later, she appointed him Treasurer of the Household, the next move up from Comptroller of the Household. In 2018, he then became Deputy Chief Whip, which is a role given by the Chief Whip, not the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson gave Pincher other ministerial roles. I watched him at the despatch box regularly as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas and Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he once again became Treasurer of the Household, a Boris appointment, and Deputy Chief Whip, a Chief Whip appointment.

Then the Carlton Club scandal broke, with Pincher freely admitting in writing what he had done. He has had the Conservative Party whip removed, although he remains an MP for now.

The question from Boris’s enemies is how much blame should the Prime Minister carry.

It looks to me as if it all started with Theresa May, especially as he resigned his 2017 appointment as Comptroller of the Household when sexual misconduct allegations involving MPs swirled into a scandal that year. Pincher was accused of misconduct at the time by then-MP Tom Blenkinsop and Olympic rower Alex Story.

Shortly afterwards, in January 2018, Pincher became Deputy Chief Whip, so the Whip’s office is partly responsible, too.

On July 5, the veteran journalist and columnist Charles Moore explained in The Telegraph how the Whips Office selection process works (purple emphases mine):

The coverage of the row about Chris Pincher, the allegedly groping and confessedly drunk former deputy chief whip, suffers from a false premise. It is said that Boris Johnson appointed him. This is true only in a formal sense. I feel that lobby [press corps] journalists should have made this clear.

This custom is not just a reflection of the fact that any prime minister pays less attention to junior appointments than to Cabinet-level ones. It is also – and mainly – because the whips are a law unto themselves. The idea is that they will know best how to achieve the necessary geographical and ideological spread to look after all sections of the party. The Chief Whip is therefore free – “100 per cent” in the words of one former chief to me – to appoint whoever he thinks fit. This seems sensible: how on earth would a prime minister know that level of detail about who’s who in the parliamentary party? Backbenchers would be suspicious of a whips’ office filled with a prime minister’s favourites.

Each prime minister sees the government chief whip’s list before it is announced and is free to comment on it, but the chief decides. So Boris Johnson would have been breaking the unwritten rules if he had either forbidden or insisted on Mr Pincher’s appointment. If it can be shown that he did the latter, he is in a bit of trouble on the issue. If not, then not.

Lord McDonald

Until July 5, I had never heard of the life peer Baron McDonald of Salford, or Simon to his friends.

Lord McDonald was the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020.

On July 5, he wrote to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

Guido Fawkes posted a copy of the letter, which takes issue with a BBC report of complaints made against Pincher and says that, indeed, allegations had been raised against the MP in 2019.

Two brief excerpts of his letter follow.

In the summer of 2019, after Pincher received his first ministerial appointment (at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) under Boris Johnson:

… a group of officials complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour. I discussed the matter with the relevant official at the Cabinet Office … An investigation upheld the complaint; Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour. There was no repetition at the FCO before he left seven months later.

The BBC had changed the text of their present-day article about whether Boris knew or not.

Lord McDonald’s letter says:

Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a “formal complaint”. Allegations were “resolved” only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as “unsubstantiated” is therefore wrong.

I am aware that it is unusual to write to you and simultaneously publicise the letter. I am conscious of the duty owed to the target of an investigation but I act out of my duty towards the victims. Mr Pincher deceived me and others in 2019 …

He tweeted the text of his letter:

Hmm.

Could there be any bad blood between McDonald and Boris?

Downing Street claims that Boris forgot about the investigation into Pincher.

A commenter on Guido’s post about this claim makes pertinent points:

I find it strange that the criticism is of the appointment of Pincher as Deputy Chief Whip in February. He wasn’t promoted from the backbenches, he was already a minister in the Dept of Levelling Up. If he was unsuitable for ministerial office in Feb, he must have been unsuitable in Jan, so why the focus on the Feb appointment?

Lord MacDonald is another nasty CS mandarin in the Philip Ruttnam mould. His letter is very carefully phrased but disingenuous. If he was unhappy for Pincher to continue as a minister in the FCO for seven months after the 2019 complaint, what did he do about it? If he was content with the arrangement, then clearly the matter was indeed resolved.

Pincher was first appointed to the Whips’ Office by Theresa May. Is anyone in the MSM questioning her judgement?

Gordon Rayner’s Telegraph article, ‘Lord McDonald: The former civil servant who “never saw eye to eye” with Boris Johnson’ has an account of what happened between the peer and Boris, the then-Foreign Secretary during Theresa May’s premiership:

A former civil servant publicly accusing a Prime Minister of lying is a rare event, but Baron McDonald of Salford is unlikely to have had any pangs of guilt about calling out the man who effectively ended his career.

During his time as Boris Johnson’s Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Lord McDonald – or Sir Simon, as he was thenwas suspected by Mr Johnson of running a spying operation and orchestrating damaging leaks about the then foreign secretary.

Mr Johnson believed that media stories accusing him of being lazy and failing to attend properly to his red boxes of ministerial papers were being briefed by Lord McDonald’s department. When the Foreign Office merged with the Department for International Development, Mr Johnson, by then Prime Minister, saw to it that Lord McDonald was squeezed out.

So when he had the chance to expose Mr Johnson’s Downing Street operation for what he says is a lie over the Chris Pincher affair – an undeniably important intervention – he is unlikely to have spent much time wrestling with his conscience.

Does Brexit enter into this? You bet it does:

“They never saw eye to eye,” said one former minister. “Simon never made a secret of the fact that he was a strong Remainer and he has always had big issues with Brexit.”

Another insider said:

“So it does feel a little bit as though Simon has been waiting three years to get his revenge, and has finally had his chance, notwithstanding the fact that what he says may well be true.”

Lord McDonald took early retirement in September 2020. Since then, he has spoken freely:

In March last year Lord McDonald, 61, was interviewed by the think tank UK In a Changing Europe, when he said he was one of three senior civil servants on a Downing Street “s— list” who were “all for the high jump”.

He said that he was “one of those that were soaked” by former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings’ threat of a “hard rain” falling on Whitehall

Mr Johnson softened the blow by giving Lord McDonald a peerage, not an automatic appointment for retiring civil servants. But it has not prevented him from criticising the Prime Minister since then.

So now we know.

It is unlikely that Gordon Rayner’s article will be getting any traction in the media. Will GB News pick it up? I hope so.

McDonald’s letter sends Conservative MPs flying in all directions

Note that McDonald tweeted his letter at 7:30 a.m., just the right time to dictate the news narrative for the day.

And so it proved.

For those in the political bubble, BBC Radio 4’s Today show is required listening.

Guido has a summary of what happened. Deputy PM and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab gave an interview, followed by Lord McDonald (emphases in the original):

… Following ex-Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Sir Simon McDonald’s bombshell letter this morning, Dominic Raab had the task once again of spinning the latest unsustainable No.10 line to the press. Through plenty of coughing and spluttering, Raab insisted on the Today Programme that 

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

Just minutes later, McDonald appeared on Today himself to once again take a sledgehammer to No.10’s line that Boris wasn’t briefed on Pincher’s behaviour in person in 2019, and Raab’s claims that since no “further disciplinary action” was taken, the matter was resolved:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

In Downing Street that morning, a Cabinet meeting took place. Why cameras were allowed, I have no idea. What a silly thing to do, especially when all hell was breaking loose:

At lunchtime in the House of Commons, Michael Ellis, Minister for the Cabinet Office, had to answer an Urgent Question (UQ) from Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner about what Boris knew of Pincher:

This is the most succinct quote from Ellis:

As I have articulated, there was an exercise in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the matter, which I believe went on for several weeks. I need to confirm the details, because I had insufficient time to do so this morning, but as I say, there was an exercise, and it concluded to the satisfaction of all involved. That was within the Department and, it appears to me, before the Prime Minister was made aware.

One of Guido’s readers sums the matter up as follows:

1. Pincher’s conduct in 2019 was investigated and did not result in disciplinary action in 2019.

2. Independent advice was sought from Simon McDonald and the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team, which also did not result in any form of disciplinary action.

3. The victim in 2019 DID NOT WANT aany disciplinary action against Pincher.

4. Pincher’s appointment to government had followed all set procedures, including oversight by an independent QC. Until this point, as Pincher had kept a clean disciplinary record up, there was no reason to block his appointment to government.

Boris would have no grounds to refuse Pincher’s appointment as there were no official disciplinary action against him up to that point, which is in line with the rules set out in Westminster.

All this drama over whether Boris knew of Pincher’s indescretions would not have changed anything in terms of his appointment to government as he had satisfied all the requirements in terms of pedigree (appointed by two PMs and vetting).

The Opposition benches were full for Ellis and the UQ.

Watching at home, I nearly applauded when Peter Bone got his chance to speak:

Recently, at a Brexit opportunities debate here, there were no Liberal Democrats and virtually no Labour Members. The only time they turn up here is to bash Boris. Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that our constituents in Northamptonshire, which we both represent, are more concerned about an MP they have never heard about, or the biggest tax reduction in decades, which will happen tomorrow?

Ellis replied:

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head, as usual. As he points out, Labour Members have made frequent requests for business in this House to be about not what our constituents primarily care about, but personalities. They do not raise the issue of policies, because when they do, they lose. Instead, they focus on personalities, and that has been the drive of the past six months.

Guido covered MPs’ reaction to the events of the day:

Number 10’s spin operation today after the McDonald letter has, unsurprisingly, gone down like a cup of cold sick with the Tory benches, including amongst Boris loyalists. Guido’s spoken to several MPs following the lobby briefing and Michael Ellis’s Urgent Question response, and they all agreed it was a “disaster“. One said it was “the last days of Rome”…

There were also raised eyebrows – and that’s putting it mildly – over No.10’s decision to allow cameras in to the Cabinet meeting this morning …

Where, one might ask, is the counter-attack? What is Downing Street doing to get on the front foot? What is CCHQ doing? MPs who are hardcore supporters of the Prime Minister are fed up. Trying to push the “biggest tax cut” talking point today won’t work to set the agenda when you put up the same taxes only a few months ago. If the government wants to shift the media’s focus on to the economy, what will they do that Starmer won’t? Tory MPs want a sense of purpose and direction, rather than constantly ricocheting at the hands of the media from one minor negative process story to another, that the general public doesn’t really care about… 

Chancellor and Health Secretary resign

Worse was to come later that afternoon.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tendered his resignation, followed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak minutes later.

Some pundits say there was no connection between the resignations.

Others say that the two men are friends and agreed on a plan.

GB News covered the resignations and analysis all evening long. It was a good move. The shows were excellent.

In other news, Theresa May was at the opera with her husband Philip and friends:

Returning to GB News, the resignations happened just before Nigel Farage’s show at 7 p.m. Not surprisingly, Farage thinks that Boris should resign, something he has said many times before and will continue to say for weeks, if not months:

Farage used Guido’s video of that day’s Cabinet meeting:

Discussion continued on Mark Steyn’s show at 8 p.m. By the end of the show one hour later, Boris had appointed Steve Barclay as the new Health Secretary:

Dan Wootton came on at 9 p.m.:

By the time his show was halfway through, Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. The conversation between him and Boris in No. 10 was a long one. Apparently, Zahawi was eager to relinquish his role as Education Secretary and really wanted the No. 11 job. Michelle Donelan is the new Education Secretary, having been Minister of State for Higher and Further Education from 2020 to 2022.

Boris deflected a crisis within three hours.

Guido has an ongoing list of other Cabinet resignations, which are, as I write, for minor posts. Red Wall MP Jonathan Gullis, once a staunch Boris supporter, was among that number. It should be noted that the main Cabinet appointees are still in place.

Unfortunately, during that time, Lord Frost, usually a voice for sanity, fell for the McDonald bait. He wrote an article for The Telegraph, ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

I resigned from the Government on a matter of principle. On Tuesday, Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak did the same. Other Cabinet Ministers now need to consider whether they are truly happy with the current direction of travel.

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

PMQs on July 6 could have been worse. It was more of the same from the Opposition. On the Conservative benches, which were packed, only Tim Loughton, Gary Sambrook and David Davis (once again) rebelled, all saying that Boris should resign.

After PMQs, Sajid Javid was granted a statement about his resignation. Boris remained seated behind the despatch box. Javid put a big emphasis on ‘integrity’. He said that, for him, ‘loyalty and integrity’ were at loggerheads over the past few months, hence his resignation. He could no longer defend the indefensible, from Partygate to Pincher, especially to his constituents. He told his former Cabinet colleagues that not doing ‘something’ — i.e. resigning — would look bad. Boris left immediately afterwards to jeers of ‘Byeee, Boooris’ from the Opposition benches.

Lee Anderson withdraws support

In an unexpected development, Red Wall MP Lee Anderson has withdrawn his support for Boris:

Guido has the full text of Anderson’s letter, excerpted below:

With A Heavy Heart.

I have remained loyal to the Prime Minister since being elected in 2019.

However my position has changed over the past few days since the incident which led to the Deputy Chief Whip losing the party whip

I do not hold a position I can resign from so the only thing I can do is make my feelings known to my constituents and party members. This statement may upset some people and I am sure some people will be delighted with the demise of our PM but I have a job to do and I must do it with a clear conscience.

My focus has always been my constituents many of whom are friends, family and neighbours and my loyalty to them is paramount.

Finally, I will do all I can to make sure our party wins the next election to form a Government of low taxation and who will be tough on illegal immigration as I feel we could have done better, that said the thought of a Labour Government terrifies me so please keep the faith.

I hope that explains my position.

Perhaps he will throw his hat into the ring when the leadership contest begins in due course.

Meanwhile, Conservative voters are fuming

At home, Conservative voters are perplexed by the actions of what is supposed to be an orderly, no-nonsense Government. Most do not know who Chris Pincher is. They are interested in what Boris and his team are doing to improve our lives which, at the moment, isn’t much.

This is what we have at present, ably stated by a Guido Fawkes reader:

80 seat majority

1: Thousands of illegals being transported across the channel and housed in 4* hotels.

2: Petrol prices through the roof and unexploited known reserves in the North Sea

3: Hundreds of years of coal under our feet, coal fired power stations demolished

4: Fracking abandoned yet we could easily extract sufficient gas for our needs

5: Brexit Done! You’re having a laugh

6: Net zero! The future is frightening

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera

Guido, thanks for the Muppet Show extract.

I couldn’t agree more.

The story continues. More to follow next week, no doubt.

Yesterday’s post recapped the horrific murder of Sir David Amess MP on October 15, 2021.

Today’s will cover more about this much admired man’s personal character and political causes.

Posthumous victory: Southend-on-Sea now a city

I was delighted to learn at dinner time last night that the Queen granted Southend-on-Sea city status. Sir David must have mentioned Southend at least once a week in Parliament. He had long campaigned for it and made 115 references to it. Here he is with his two French bulldogs, one of which is Vivienne. He was due to participate with her in the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event on October 28:

The GB News article says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement to MPs on Monday, October 18 (emphases mine):

The Prime Minister has notified the House of Commons that the Queen has agreed to confer city status upon Southend in tribute to Sir David Amess who was recently killed.

MPs cheered in the Commons as the Prime Minister announced Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”.

Mr Johnson said: “As it is only a short time since Sir David last put that very case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves …

That ‘short time’ was probably last Thursday, October 14:

In a three-hour debate on Monday, preceding a service of remembrance at St Margaret’s, the Parliamentary church next to Westminster Abbey, Boris noted that Amess was never an MP interested in climbing the greasy pole to a Cabinet or party leadership position:

“That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this House, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay.”

Boris Johnson, opening tributes to Sir David Amess, told the House of Commons: “The passing of 72 hours has done little to numb the shock and sadness we all felt when we heard of the tragic and senseless death of Sir David Amess.

This House has lost a steadfast servant, we’ve lost a dear friend and colleague, and Julia and her children have lost a loving husband and devoted father.

“Nothing I or anyone else can say can lessen the pain, the grief, the anger they must feel at this darkest of times.”

Returning to Southend-on-Sea, having city status will help to increase its profile and encourage outside investment, as the leader of the city’s council explains below. Incidentally, having a cathedral, the traditional marker of an English city, is no longer necessary. City status is now a symbolic designation:

On Friday night, this Southend business owner said that Amess was dedicated to making his town a city:

Everything I know about Southend I learned from David Amess’s contributions in the House of Commons:

‘Community man’

There are MPs and there are MPs.

Sir David was the type of MP who will be sorely missed by his constituents, who called him a ‘community man’. GB News interviewed several over the weekend, some of whom were in tears or close to it, including men, such as this Leigh-on-Sea councillor:

This councillor from Southend says that Sir David, whose mother lived to the age of 104, used to throw parties for constituents over 100 years old. He also used to ask about local issues in Southend and resolve them with the help of councillors:

Another councillor remembers that Sir David would check on certain constituents to see if they had transport for important meetings, probably related to issues of theirs he was dealing with as an MP. The man says that Sir David would personally drive those constituents to the places they needed to go. And, yes, there were right to life issues he campaigned for:

The Chairman of Leigh-on-Sea council recalls Sir David’s selflessness:

This lady from Leigh-on-Sea, the Essex town where Sir David was stabbed to death (17 times), discusses his dedication to his constituency. Like many other people, she had the pleasure of meeting him at work in nearby Southend:

As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, a man interviewed (at 2:35 in the next video) said that people used to see Amess in the local Lidl, where he took time to chat with fellow shoppers. The man said that he did not vote for him but said that the MP was always available and accessible to everyone:

Vigil Mass

On Friday evening, the Revd Jeffrey Woolnough conducted a vigil Mass at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea.

This is the church the Amess family attend.

The video below has a few photos from the Mass. Starting at the 40-second point, notice how traditional it is. The priest stands with his back to the people, as in days of yore. He also wears a short chasuble that is very pre-Vatican II, a fiddleback. How fortunate for the Amess family to have found such a church:

At 1:50 in the video above, two ladies expressed their grief on Friday night following the vigil Mass. One of them said that Amess ‘knew everybody’. As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, one of ladies said that people used to see him in the supermarket.

GB News was on hand to cover the Mass:

 

A service at Saint Peter’s Church in Eastwood Lane, close to where Sir David was killed, was held on Friday evening to remember him – where he was described by a priest as “Mr Southend”.

The church fell silent as Father Jeffrey Woolnaugh paid tribute to the Conservative MP and invited his constituents to remember him.

He placed a photograph of Sir David at the front of the church, and said: “This liturgy is one I was not expecting to lead today.

“The whole world grieves. In this Mass we pray for the repose of the soul of dear David.

“Have you ever known Sir David Amess without that happy smile on his face? Because the greeting he would always give you was that happy smile.

He carried that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.”

Around 80 people attended the service and listened as Father Woolnough recounted his own memories of Sir David.

He said: “When you can speak to your MP and you can talk and get on like a house on fire, that’s when you can talk to them later about things that are important to your area.

“What can we say? He died doing the thing he loved, meeting his constituents, his local people.”

Father Woolnough added that his constituents could “count on” Sir David, and said: “He was always available. We don’t have the words tonight.

“Dear Sir David, rest well.”

The priest also said that Amess’s smile is ingrained on everyone’s hearts:

On Saturday night, a secular candlelit vigil took place near where Sir David was murdered. The Daily Mail has many moving photographs of the gathering.

Biography

Most Britons think that all Conservatives were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

Not so.

David Amess was born in humble circumstances in London’s East End.

The Telegraph recounted his life:

David Anthony Andrew Amess was born on March 26 1952 in working-class Plaistow, East London, to James Amess, an electrician, and Maud, née Martin, a dressmaker. As Amess recalled, “we were very poor and lived in a small terraced house with no bathroom, an outside toilet and a tin bath hanging on the wall”. In 2014 he would compile and publish a pamphlet, Party of Opportunity, containing short biographies of Tory MPs with working-class origins.

David’s mother was a Roman Catholic who brought him up in the faith and he remained a staunch Catholic throughout his life, his commitment reflected in his opposition to abortion and to the broadening of LGBT rights. “Confession,” he once said, “is very important to me.”

He attended St Antony’s Junior School, Forest Gate, where he was “often in classes of 50, and the teachers still gave us excellent tuition and kept order to a high standard”, and St Bonaventure’s Grammar School, Newham, where he remembered being “quite bossy and pushy” and was rumoured to have once hit a fellow pupil over the head with a bicycle pump.

Until the age of five, Amess said, he had the nickname of “Double Dutch” on account of a bad stutter: he could not make the sounds “st” or “the” and saw a speech therapist for three years, which also had the effect of virtually eliminating his Cockney accent.

He had a varied career prior to entering politics:

He took a degree in Economics and Government at Bournemouth College of Technology. Then, after 18 months’ teaching at a primary school (“I specialised in teaching children who were described as ESN”), and a short stint as an underwriter, he became a recruitment consultant.

One wonders if he met his wife Julia while he was an underwriter:

In 1983 he married Julia Arnold, a former underwriter, who survives him with their four daughters and a son.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister during Amess’s early years in politics:

A dedicated Thatcherite, Amess contested the safe Labour seat of Newham North West in 1979, and in 1982 became a councillor in the London borough of Redbridge.

During those years, Essex went from electing Labour MPs to Conservative ones. The county is still Conservative-dominated in Parliament.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the media coined expressions for Essex voters, many of whose families had been moved out of London after the Second World War had ended. The next generation of voters became known collectively as ‘Basildon man’ and ‘white van man’.

Amess rode the crest of that wave, as The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh explains:

Basildon was the first constituency he served, beginning in 1983:

When the incumbent Tory MP for Basildon, the Right-wing Harvey Proctor, moved to safer Billericay for the 1983 general election, Amess was chosen to fill his shoes and was duly elected. Three years later he stood down from the council to concentrate on his Westminster seat.

Basildon was regarded as a bellwether seat, and when Amess won it again in 1992, albeit with a tiny majority, it provided the first indication that despite the pundits, and the triumphalism of Labour’s leader Neil Kinnock, the Tories were on course for a fourth successive election victory. He would later describe his campaign in a short pamphlet entitled 1992: Against All Odds! (2012).

Boundary changes prior to the 1997 general election meant that Basildon was almost certain to go Labour, so Amess decided to look elsewhere, and in 1995 was selected to fight Southend West after the retirement of Paul Channon. Returned to Westminster again, he held the seat until his death.

Amess focused on his constituents, first and foremost:

Assiduous and likeable, Amess built a strong personal following by concentrating on constituency issues: the Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley once suggested that the secret of his electoral success was that “he never completed a sentence without mentioning his constituency”.

This was also reflected away from Parliament:

Amess … was a lifelong supporter of West Ham United, and also followed Basildon United …

Even after he left Basildon, he still returned to visit, as this former Basildon councillor remembers:

He had many accomplishments with regard to charity, earning him a knighthood. He:

was knighted in 2015 and received several awards for his contributions in parliament, including the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award of the 2011 Dods Charity Champion Awards, and the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the same event the following year, in recognition of his lifetime commitment to charitable work.

This was how the newly knighted Sir David celebrated:

He did not always follow the Conservative line in Parliament:

he incurred the wrath of many fellow Conservatives by consistently voting to ban foxhunting and hare coursing (though he was in favour of capital punishment), and supporting numerous other animal welfare campaigns.

Many MPs will remember his staunch support of Brexit, however.

They will also remember him for supporting animal causes and an end to fuel poverty:

The most significant of these were the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988), and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (2000) …

The animal-related Act, supported by the NFU, banned the tethering of “any horse, ass or mule under such conditions or in such manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering”.

The second piece of legislation, following on from the death of a constituent from cold, required the Secretary of State to “publish and implement a strategy for reducing fuel poverty”. The measure was credited with pushing fuel poverty to near the top of the political agenda, contributing to a dramatic fall in the problem in England from 5.1 million households in 1996 to 1.2 million in 2004.

Another cause that Amess supported, thanks to a Leigh-on-Sea constituent, Carla Cressy, was that of endometriosis. 

The Telegraph has the story:

“I first approached Sir David Amess when I’d just found out I had endometriosis five years ago,” says Carla Cressy, 30, an accounts manager from Leigh-on-Sea. “I didn’t know much about it, and realised there was very little awareness, support and education around it. He’s my local MP so I visited him at his surgery. I had no expectations of what would happen. I just knew I wanted to share my story with him, about how I’d suffered with endometriosis for an entire decade before I was diagnosed.

He was so lovely – genuinely concerned and upset about what I’d been through. He said we need to do something about it, and he then really did. He went above and beyond to champion this community like a beacon of light. It was incredible. I am devastated that he’s gone.”

This is what happened:

“Sir David recognised the significant impact endometriosis could have, and really wanted to make a difference to help those with the disease,” says Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, a charity that was working closely with an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) that Sir David set up in 2018 to raise awareness in Parliament of the condition …

One of Sir David’s goals when he created the APPG was for the government to provide education on endometriosis in schools. It’s something the group achieved over a year later, meaning menstrual wellbeing is now included on the English curriculum. “We made so much progress together,” says Cressy, who worked closely with Sir David on the campaign. “He really has changed so many lives, including my own.”

One of Sir David’s upcoming tasks, had he lived, was to ask for further research funding, as a Labour MP explains:

“He really wanted that debate,” says Labour MP Emma Hardy, vice-chair of the APPG on endometriosis. “We’d published a report last year, collecting evidence from women around the country with their experience of endometriosis, and Sir David wanted to draw attention to our recommendations.”

Their key goals are to reduce the time it takes for people to be diagnosed, ensure GPs have enough information to make them aware of the condition, raise public awareness, and fund more research into non-invasive ways of diagnosis …

“The main thing that comes from women is not being listened to, not being believed, taking ages to be diagnosed and then when they are, there’s not much change. Sir David wanted to change that. Endometriosis isn’t party politics, but he was really passionate about trying to do something about this condition. I don’t want him to be remembered as the person this tragedy happened to, but the person who worked so hard to improve the lives of people with endometriosis. We can’t replace him, but I hope we can find another Conservative MP to champion his work and continue with the APPG.”

This GB News video covers Sir David’s public life from the time he entered politics:

MPs paid respects

On Friday afternoon, Union flags were lowered to half-mast over government buildings, including No. 10:

On Saturday morning, prominent Conservative and Labour MPs laid flowers near the Methodist church hall where Sir David was murdered:

Government whips have reminded MPs that there is an Employee Assistance Programme for anyone among them who wants counselling after Sir David’s senseless murder.

Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, was deeply sorry to lose this man:

This was because he befriended MPs from both sides of the aisle and found ways to work constructively with them:

One of the things I found moving in watching and reading these tributes was the recollection made by more than one MP, regardless of party affiliation, on his befriending of new Parliamentarians. He introduced himself, asked how they were getting on and enquired if they had any issues with which he could help.

Conservative MPs

These are some of the Conservative MPs’ tributes, beginning with Boris’s:

Long-time friend David Davis paid tribute to Amess’s career of service, rather than ambition:

Stuart Anderson remembers Amess helping him settle into the job:

Andrew Rosindell, another Essex MP, lamented the loss of his oldest friend in the Commons:

Another long-time friend, David Jones, called him ‘frankly irreplaceable’:

I agree with Mike Wood. Forthcoming Adjournment debates will never be the same. That said, Southend is now a city:

The folks running PARLY agree on the adjournment debates, during which Sir David addressed more issues than Southend:

Labour

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer emphasised Amess’s Christian faith and the fact that he was well liked across the House:

Hilary Benn remembered Amess’s dogged campaigning and dedication:

Siobhain McDonagh will forever connect Amess with Southend, and who can blame her?

Steve McCabe will remember Amess’s cheerful nature:

John Cryer was a former neighbour:

Liberal Democrat

The most moving tribute, however, came from Lembit Öpik, a former Liberal Democrat MP, who spoke to Mark Dolan on GB News Saturday night:

The former MP was so moved that he had to sit down and recover after that interview. Mark Dolan’s producer was with him during that time.

Conclusion

It was serendipitous that the Gospel reading for Sunday, October 17, was about service (Mark 10:35-45):

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

What apposite verses for Sir David Amess, who gave his all in service to his constituents.

May his place in Heaven be an exalted one.

This week, the UK government’s scientific advisers and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that new, stricter coronavirus measures would come into effect on Thursday, September 24.

On Monday morning, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance presented their latest figures, which looked as if they must have come (once again) from Prof Neil Ferguson, they are that exaggerated. You can see the graph further down in my post:

This is utter madness, reminiscent of the WMD days when Tony Blair told us that a WMD could reach our shores within 45 minutes:

Their presentation, given against a No. 10 backdrop, had the purpose of preparing the public for Boris Johnson’s announcements on Tuesday. They took no questions.

They showed graphs of where Spain and France are, with an uptick in ‘cases’. Again, that means positive test results, most of which do not require hospitalisation.

Strangely enough, the Rule of Six only came in on Monday. Let’s let it bed in for a few days, fellas, before taking more measures. They’re doing exactly what they did in March, though. On March 16, new measures came in. On March 23, we had lockdown.

The Rule of Six is a Belgian tactic that SAGE thought would work in England. As such, they recommended it to the Government.

Perhaps this is the reason the two scientists did not mention Belgium once in their presentation:

I am glad someone will be tracking the progress of the projections over the next few weeks:

On Tuesday, Boris addressed Parliament and gave a short address that evening, televised to the nation.

In short:

– Pubs and restaurants must close by 10 p.m.

– They must offer table service only.

– All retail workers in hospitality settings must wear masks, along with customers, unless they are eating or drinking.

– Fines for breaking the Rule of Six or not wearing a face covering will result in an initial fine of £200, up from £100, for a first offence.

– Indoor five-a-side football matches have been banned.

– Wedding attendance has been reduced from 30 to 15; funeral attendance remains capped at 30.

– Police are allowed to call the military to fulfil office duties and/or to guard protected sites, leaving the police more capacity to fight crime.

– The plan to return a limited number of fans to sports stadia on October 1 is now postponed indefinitely.

The Daily Mail has a comprehensive article, including Boris’s transcript, on the scathing reactions from police and business owners, particularly publicans. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber said that this could sound the death knell for commercial theatre.

The Telegraph‘s Matt has this take on Army assistance:

The chances of that happening are very low:

The sad thing is that only five per cent of COVID-19 infections occur in a hospitality environment!

The Government and SAGE know this — yet they pressed on with restrictions!

The Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Public Health England data reveals that of the 729 outbreaks in the week to September 13only five per cent occurred in food outlets such as restaurants and pubs – 45 per cent were in care homes, 21 per cent in schools and 18 per cent in places of work.

Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin said: ‘The curfew doesn’t even stand up to five minutes consideration by an intelligent person because if you look at the stats… there are relatively few transfers of infections in pubs.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, urged the Government to heed its own statistics because the curfew could take a sledgehammer to the industry which is already ‘on its knees’.

She said this morning: ‘People will think it’s not that significant, but it really will have a big economic impact on jobs, not just on pubs, but also for cafes and restaurants.’   

Martin Wolstencroft, head of Arch Inspirations, which runs 17 bars and restaurants in Leeds, Manchester, York and Newcastle, said the curfew will not make it viable to open some of his venues.

Ironically, August was the month of discount lunches in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s successful initiative, Eat Out to Help Out, which the hospitality industry welcomed.

The Government’s new restrictions will largely destroy any uplift participating restaurants received from it.

What on earth is going on?

Toby Young, who was at Oxford with Boris, says that something has changed — and not for the better. Note that Prince Charles approves of military intervention for climate change. Scary:

It’s entirely possible that these ruinous measures have no basis in scientific fact, devastating people’s livelihoods and families:

Conservative backbench MPs sounded off.

On Tuesday, Sir Desmond Swayne, who has commented both in and outside the House of Commons, tweeted:

His blog post states, in part:

Flu kills all year round – In the last weeks of July it killed 1000 of us (where Covid-19 killed only 200)- but it is seasonal: it certainly kills a lot more of us in the winter. Equally, we should stop talking about another wave of Covid-19 and instead, like flu, start expecting its annual season.

Having peaked in April Covid-19 abated over the summer. Inevitably it will get worse in winter. It may also be worse this winter than might otherwise have been the case. This is because we carried on with a number of restrictions on normal social life during the summer, reducing our ability to acquire and share herd immunity and wasting the opportunity provided by the weakest period for the virus.

My contention remains, as I have said many times over the last months, that our over-reaction to the disease has done much more lasting economic damage, and, counter-intuitively, even more damage to our health than the disease itself.

The current strategy merely kicks the can down the road. If the measures work and reduce the spread, the virus will simply reappear later.

Of course, we could be lucky and get a vaccine or a cure, or even ‘moon-shot’ daily tests to enable us to return to normality, but none of these are certain.

One day there may be a virus that threatens our whole way of life – but this isn’t it, even if we are behaving as if it were.

Sir Desmond retweeted a neurologist’s comment on the outrageous graph of projected ‘cases’ this autumn — in reality, positive tests:

Today, Sir Desmond gave an interview to the BBC about the continuing and questionable restrictions on civil liberties:

Richard Drax rightly predicted economic disaster, ruining the lives of millions:

Lucy Allan also spoke out on Twitter.

She tweeted Monday’s graph from SAGE:

She rightly opposes putting everyone on restrictions when we should be protecting those most at risk:

She retweeted an open letter from Profs Sikora, Heneghan and several other leaders in British medicine:

She also called for the precise definition of a ‘case’:

That’s probably why Whitty and Vallance didn’t take questions.

Sir Edward Leigh also had a lot to say on this week’s announcements:

He is rightly concerned about the blind faith we place in authority and the gradual erosion of civil liberties:

I couldn’t agree more:

At least 1,000 people die in the UK every day.

Below are the causes of death per day in September.

Note where COVID-19 is: second from the bottom, dwarfed by heart disease and cancer.

There were nearly twice as many suicides than deaths from the Chi-vi:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-d1e24630-3f46-4d99-920d-a243660a26ea

Steve Baker is also concerned about the restrictions bypassing Parliament:

Wow. Sir Graham Brady could pit a load of Tory rebels against the government. Good show:

The article from The Critic says:

Unless Matt Hancock finds a workable accommodation with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs, the government faces the prospect of defeat next Wednesday when the Coronavirus Act 2020 comes up for its six-monthly renewal in the House of Commons.

The scale of backbench unhappiness is such that according to Steve Baker, who is working alongside Sir Graham, “the magic number was exceeded with 24 hours” of his beginning to canvas support for an insurrection among fellow Conservative MPs. Victory would require Labour and SNP MPs to seize on the opportunity to inflict a humiliating defeat on the government by voting with the Tory rebels. Indications increasingly suggest that this could happen. An increasingly dispirited Whips Office, which feels ignored and disrespected by Downing Street, is especially concerned at the sight of the former ERG “Spartans” leader, Baker, at Westminster furiously tapping away on his phone – a colliery canary of trouble ahead.

The government is equally concerned that the rebellion is being led by Sir Graham Brady, whose role as chairman of the 1992 Committee makes him the most authoritative channel of backbench opinion. In a sign of how seriously Downing Street management is taking the senior shop steward’s challenge, on Monday evening the prime minister privately went to see the 1922’s executive committee.

The primary complaint is that the government is using powers granted to it under the 1984 Public Health Act and 2020 Coronavirus Act to enact previously unconscionable measures without any prior debate in the Commons. Brady has condemned ministers who “have got into the habit of ruling by decree.”

MPs were prepared to cede considerable authority to the government in March in a period of acute crisis when there appeared to be only weeks if not days to “flatten the sombrero” to save the NHS from being overwhelmed. But Boris Johnson’s admission in his statement to Parliament today that the latest curtailments (which include further restrictions on hospitality opening hours and the number of people who can congregate at weddings, funerals and other public, private and sporting functions), would likely last at least six months has alerted MPs to the reality that government by decree may last until a vaccine is approved. If, indeed, a vaccine is approved. This is a war that will not be over by Christmas.

Far from persuading potential rebel MPs that a new crisis is looming, the performance of the government’s chief medical and scientific officers, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, at their press conference yesterday has heightened consternation that the government is over-reliant on advice predicated upon worst case scenarios that is trumping competing economic and civil liberty considerations.

The likelihood of executive mission creep was foreseen back in March by David Davis and Steve Baker who pushed the government into adopting an amendment reducing from two years to six months the period in which the powers of the Coronavirus Act must be renewed by parliament. That renewal debate will now take place next Wednesday.

I remember that debate from March and also wondered if the Government were as good as their word.

Whilst they are unlikely to call for a wholesale repeal of the Coronavirus Act, Sir Graham Brady could call for a scrutiny clause appended to the Act so that every new statutory instrument connected to the legislation would have to go through Parliament first. To date, many of them have not. Therefore:

Rebels are pinning their hopes on this prospect. They may find a friend in the The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who has already made clear his intense irritation with Matt Hancock’s disregard for informing parliament first of major legal changes like the “rule of six” and for the government’s brusque imposition of restrictions in his own Chorley constituency

The appeal of such a mechanism is obvious to Tory backbenchers concerned that laws are being made without scrutiny and are difficult to repeal. But there is no in-principle reason why Opposition parties need object to such a parliamentary safeguard either. Hence the likelihood of a rebellion having the numbers to succeed next Wednesday.

I can hardly wait.

Iain Duncan Smith is also airing his views. Note what he says and compare it to the death graph above:

Brexit better be more than BRINO, otherwise that prediction about the Conservatives could come true.

Former Brexit Party MEP and owner of England’s greatest smoked salmon business, Forman’s, said:

How true.

Unfortunately, at today’s PMQs, Boris said that restrictions will continue until a vaccine is found! Dangerous.

Before I get to the main story, October has been Theresa May’s best month this year.

Her birthday was October 1:

During the extraordinary parliamentary session of Saturday, October 19, 2019, she stood firm with Boris on his new Brexit deal. That was principled, considering that David Cameron didn’t stand with her when she was PM. In fact, he resigned as the MP for Witney (Oxfordshire):

She gave an excellent speech that day:

Now, let us cast our minds back to 1961. Theresa Brasier was nearing her fifth birthday. Her parents, the Revd Hubert Brazier and Zaidee ‘Mary’ Brasier, played host to a 16-year-old German teenager from Bonn that summer at the vicarage in Church Enstone, Oxfordshire.

On July 24, 2019, Detlev J Piltz wrote a fascinating article about his four weeks with the Brasiers for The Oldie magazine, outstanding reading for anyone over the age of 40. He learned invaluable lessons about the English during his time in the Cotswolds.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The Brasiers took young Detlev everywhere:

The four weeks I spent there enriched my life. Not only did I improve my schoolboy English and become more fluent, but the family took me with them on their shopping trips in their plush Morris Minor, usually to Chipping Norton.

On Sundays, the family and I attended the village church together. We all went to watch the motor racing at Silverstone, picnicked in the country, and the vicar showed me Oxford University and explained about its colleges.

He especially appreciated his time with the vicar:

What impressed me most were the many conversations that the Reverend Hubert, to call him by his first name, then in his mid-forties, carried on with a rather wet-behind-the-ears teenager.

The vicar, as folk in the village referred to him, was a good-hearted soul: clever, educated, helpful and gentle, yet quite clear about his moral and ethical principles. Perhaps this was also partly due to his slight stoop which, as he himself put it, had focused his concentration more on the spiritual than on the physical.

The parishioners – who visited us, or whom we visited – and the congregation in church always displayed an aura of love and devotion, but also respect, for their vicar.

I still admire him today for how he and his wife managed the not-so-easy duties of an English country clergyman. During my stay, I also learned something about Englishness and even about the English class system, although this knowledge was more sensed and intuited than consciously understood.

The Brasiers had just purchased a television set. A Test Match between England and Australia was being broadcast, so the vicar explained the rules of cricket to Detlev. Detlev also learned a lesson about the English. Only they can criticise their country. Foreigners cannot.

This is very true — and anyone coming here should remember it. It’s just how things are:

He straightforwardly concluded that the Australians would win, as they were both bowling and batting better than the English, an assessment with which I dutifully agreed.

This proved to be a mistake. My host took me to one side and explained, ‘You are quite right, Detlev. Australia is playing better than England. But perhaps I can give you a piece of advice for the future. As a foreigner, you would do well not to say so. Leave it to us.’

In a few words, the vicar had borne out a rule of English interaction with foreigners, summarised succinctly by George Orwell, ‘We spend our lives in abusing England but grow very angry when we hear a foreigner saying exactly the same things.’

Fortunately, comments in the opposite direction are allowed. If a foreigner praises certain features of England, the English are pleased, although they will immediately play down the merits of what has been admired and claim that it is actually not so great.

The bishop of the diocese visited the Brasiers on the last Sunday that Detlev was there. The couple made a point of impressing upon the young German the importance of manners:

something they had never previously done.

They told him to stay silent unless the bishop spoke to him:

I was also kindly advised not to engage the bishop in conversation myself, but to wait until he spoke to me, and to address him as ‘Bishop’, rather than Mr Johnson, or whatever his name might be.

They impressed upon him the finer points of tea drinking — always two cups:

a single cup was deemed impolite, as not enough; three cups were considered impolite, as too many.

Detlev did not like the special tea that Mrs Brasier served but refrained from commenting until later. It was probably Lapsang Souchong, a smoky tea:

‘It was Chinese tea,’ the vicar’s wife explained. When I asked why it was different from the tea we otherwise always drank, I heard for the first time in my life that it was ‘because of the bishop’.

The high point of his visit was when he accompanied the Brasiers to the local landowner’s for tea. Detlev had a keen interest in historic Royal Navy battles. When they arrived at Sir John’s house, Detlev could not contain his enthusiasm:

When we arrived in the entrance hall of the large and rather grand residence, I spotted on the opposite wall a painting of a scene from the 1916 Battle of Jutland, details of which were well known to me.

Without thinking, I stopped in front of the picture and said, ‘Oh, the famous manoeuvre of crossing the T [when a line of warships crosses in front of a line of enemy ships at right angles] by Admiral Jellicoe.’

Sir John treated his guests to tea and scones. Then he turned his attention to the young German:

Afterwards, Sir John asked me how I recognised the scene in the picture, and I told him about my interest in the Royal Navy. He signalled to me to follow him and we entered a room full of English naval memorabilia.

It transpired that Sir John had fought in the Battle of Jutland. For nearly a whole hour, he described the events and his role. I was eager to know whether he had known the English admirals, Jellicoe and Beatty, personally. It was an hour suffused with mutual affection between old and young, with never a word out of place, and certainly no nationalistic undertones. I remember it clearly and vividly to this day.

On the way home, Mrs Brasier expressed her disappointment that Sir John had not spent more time with them. The vicar responded:

Well, it may be years since he had such an admirer, let alone such a young one – and, by the way, he can do whatever he thinks fit.

Detlev’s stay with the Brasier family fostered in him a lifelong love of England.

In 2015, he and his wife visited the Cotswolds and passed through Church Enstone, where they stopped.

Detlev Piltz did not want to bother the present occupants of the vicarage, but he asked at the church what happened to the Brasiers:

… in the church, someone showed us a roll of past vicars, and there was the name of ‘my’ vicar, and his dates in office, from 1959 to 1971.

Piltz thought nothing more about it until the following year, which featured that momentous summer of the Brexit referendum and David Cameron’s immediate resignation, which was completely unnecessary but was perhaps for the better, given his Remainer views.

Lo, Theresa May won the Conservative leadership contest that summer:

The candidacy of Theresa May spawned widespread reporting about her background and early life. And only then did it become clear to me how small the world really can be.

For the idyllic village in the Cotswolds was Church Enstone, and the vicar and his wife were Hubert and Zaidee Brasier, although he always called her Mary. Sadly, I then learned that Hubert Brasier had been killed in a car accident in 1981, and his wife died the following year.

And I also learnt what had happened to their young daughter. She was called Theresatoday known to every Englishman and woman as Prime Minister Theresa May.

I thought that was such a terrific anecdote.

People have either made fun of Theresa May or criticised her mercilessly. We still don’t know what fully took place between her people and Angela Merkel’s regarding Brexit. Certainly, May’s downfall began when she put forward that London-Berlin Brexit deal in July 2018 at Chequers, when her own Brexit team, lead by David Davis, was putting together a proper exit plan (Canada ++), working together with Michel Barnier from the EU. May told a shocked assembly of her own ministers that it was her deal or the highway. The Evening Standard reported that she told ministers they could pay for their own transport back to London if they wanted to leave early. Brexit minister David Davis tendered his resignation afterwards as did Boris Johnson, who was Foreign Minister at the time.

My, how much water has passed under the dam since then. I hope that our former PM continues to vote in support of our present one, Boris Johnson.

I regret to report that our new exit deadline is January 31, 2020.

Interestingly, whilst the Conservatives were at their annual party conference, the opposition benches were largely empty.

Strange. Last week, they voted against proroguing Parliament from Monday through Wednesday because they had serious work to get on with.

Or so they said.

As it turned out, only a handful of the diligent, hardworking opposition MPs showed up on those days.

On Tuesday, October 1, a Brexit-related session headed by George Eustice, the minister for DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) covered the draft Common Agricultural Policy from July 24 which would be used for Brexit. The end of the debate is here. It’s a pity that only the opposition agricultural ministers and a couple of other MPs attended:

On Wednesday, October 2, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab headed PMQs — Prime Minister’s Questions — as Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his rousing speech in Manchester to the party faithful.

That morning, the Labour Whips issued a directive to their MPs not to ask Urgent Questions that day:

It was even worse when the afternoon’s proceedings began.

Recall — as if we could forget — that the opposition claim to be the champions of the vulnerable, especially women.

So, it was particularly galling to see that very few of them turned up for the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill:

Only a few Liberal Democrat MPs attended that afternoon. Labour produced more, but could have done much better.

Good grief.

Apparently, this bill and some others have been carried over post-Queen’s Speech on October 14:

Therefore, if this is true, the opposition knew full well that they could have easily prorogued for three days during the Conservative Party Conference but chose not to out of sheer spite. Ditto the Supreme Court when they cancelled Boris’s prorogation.

The main and most moving speech of the debate was that of Labour MP Rosie Duffield. Her testimony of a recent relationship is well worth sharing with your daughters or nieces.

Women cannot be too careful when getting involved in a long-term relationship. If this can happen to an MP, it can happen to anyone. Please watch:

This bill is Theresa May’s. She brought it forward as a backbencher, therefore, before she became Prime Minister in 2016. How slowly the wheels of legislation turn.

Theresa May also gave an impassioned speech for the bill near the end.

Debate continues after October 14.

Attendance improved when Boris appeared on Thursday, October 3, to discuss a new proposal for Brussels, sent to Jean-Claude Juncker the day before:

Note the final paragraph about the Northern Ireland backstop on the first page:

This is the European Commission’s announcement about the letter (click on the image to enlarge text):

Many MPs who offered comments following Boris’s address commented positively. Even most Remainers accepted the proposal, albeit with a request for more details, which will be forthcoming. Only two or three diehard Remainers spoke out against it.

Several MPs hoped that the EU commissioners were watching the positive reaction.

Guido Fawkes has more, including this video of Boris’s speech:

Guido gives us the transcript of Boris’s five elements concerning the abolition of the proposed backstop, the crux of the leaving date delay thus far (italics in the original):

  1. In the first place all our actions are based on our shared determination to sustain the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the fundamental basis of governance in Northern Ireland the protection of which is the highest priority of all.

  2. And from this follows the second principle – namely that we shall of course uphold all the longstanding areas of co-operation between the UK and our friends in Ireland including the rights of all those living in Northern Ireland, North/South co-operation and the Common Travel Area, which predates both the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union itself.

  3. Third, we propose the potential creation of a regulatory zone on the island of Ireland covering all goods, including agri-food. For as long as it exists, this zone would eliminate all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

  4. But fourth, unlike the so-called backstop, such a regulatory zone would be sustained with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, as expressed through the Assembly and Executive. They will give their consent during the transition period as a condition for these arrangements entering into force. Thereafter, the Assembly will vote again every four years – and if consent were withheld, these arrangements would then lapse after one year.

  5. Fifth, it has always been a point of principle for this government that at the end of the transition period, the UK should leave the EU Customs Union whole and entire restoring sovereign control over our trade policy and opening the way for free trade deals with all our friends around the world.

In short: no hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Instead, there would be a regulatory zone covering all goods, including foodstuffs. Northern Ireland’s Assembly and Executive would vote on the arrangements in the near future and every four years after that. (I do not know how that will work if Stormont is not sitting, but, no doubt, the government can find a way.)

I’m guardedly hopeful that Boris is onto something positive with this. It won’t please Brexit Party members, but we were never going to get an absolute No Deal. I’m hoping that David Davis’s Canada ++ arrangement can be revived. Theresa May insisted that his plans be superseded by her Withdrawal Agreement in July 2018, no ifs, ands or buts. Davis resigned as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on July 8 that year. It was all downhill from there.

Davis has not tweeted his reaction, but another staunch Leave MP, John Redwood, offered his thoughts on Boris’s proposal:

Unfortunately, the Twitter replies to that were very angry, indeed.

It is essential to keep in mind that trade and other agreements will be in transition once we leave the EU.

It’s not as if everything will change dramatically on November 1 (God willing) or whenever we leave.

The transition period is likely to last anywhere from two to four years, depending on negotiations.

As for prescription drug shortages, some of which are occurring now in the UK and being blamed on Brexit: several EU countries have been experiencing similar shortages of essential medication for several months now. France and the Netherlands are among those nations. We cannot blame Brexit for that.

This past week was another disappointing one in Parliament, to say the least.

The vaunted date of departure from the EU — Friday, March 29, 2019 — came and went with no change in Britain’s EU membership. For those who voted Leave in the June 23, 2016 referendum, it was a sad day indeed. Journalist Tim Montgomerie’s tweet of a man crying summed up the situation perfectly:

Conservative MP Bill Cash correctly assessed the situation, sadly, to no avail:

Another prominent Conservative MP, David Davis, also spoke up. He resigned from Theresa May’s Brexit team last summer because of her faulty plan drawn up at Chequers (the prime ministerial weekend residence). This plan, her plan which has now had three unsuccessful meaningful votes (MV3 was on Friday), appeared out of the blue. She forced her Brexit team to accept her plan rather than No Deal. Hence, Davis’s and others’ resignations from her Brexit team.

Davis confirms that the referendum result is being ignored but could still be saved if enough MPs do the ‘right thing’:

David Davis is a great MP, and it is a shame that he will never be party leader. That is probably because he a) has a discernible moral compass and b) is outside the Oxbridge clique that dominates today’s party politics in Britain.

Whilst he did end up voting for Theresa May’s (Chequers) Plan on Friday, he did so hoping that Britain would leave the EU that day, as scheduled.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister May has changed her tune from ‘No deal is better than a bad deal (hers)’ to ‘My deal or no deal’.

In the aforementioned editorial for The Sun, Davis wrote (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

THE Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement has been voted down three times. It’s had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra

Despite this I voted for it twice but with great reluctance as the alternative is so much worse.

If unreconciled Remainers in Parliament are allowed to hijack negotiations, we will get Brexit in name only, or no Brexit at all.

It’s a terrible state of affairs and I wish the Government had had the courage to maintain the possibility of a No Deal exit.

It would have given leverage to our negotiating position and delivered a better deal.

Frankly what we face now is a crisis of democracy. Record numbers of Britons voted in their droves to leave the EU.

Subsequently both the main parties and others, too, promised at the 2017 General Election that we would leave on time and exit the single market and customs union.

Now that is threatened. Those who wish to thwart Brexit have captured Parliament and will exert a terrible price by forcing the UK to remain in the customs union in complete contradiction of their election manifestos.

It is a mystery why May did not push for a No Deal on World Trade Organization terms. That was what Leave voters had in mind when they cast their ballots in 2016: a clean break with the EU and full autonomy for the UK.

Last Sunday, I wrote that MPs would be voting on alternative measures to a no deal Leave plan or Theresa May’s in the last week of March. These are called indicative votes.

None of the indicative votes from Wednesday, March 27 passed, making the churning Brexit waters much murkier:

Except for Motions B (No Deal) and O (Contingent preferential arrangements), those are all bad proposals. Revocation — Motion L — overturns the referendum result. Confirming Parliament’s decision by public vote — Motion M — similarly would overturn the referendum result. The customs union proposals would cost the UK more in loss of autonomy than full EU membership. They would also be costly financially, especially compared with the trade benefit we would receive in turn:

According to David Davis, PM May will not enact anything that does not resemble Brexit:

We can only hope that this continues to be the case as we enter April.

As Davis explains in his Brexit Central article of March 27 (emphases mine):

The British people knew exactly what they were voting for – and they rightly expect Parliament to deliver it.

And the more that the people hear that they did not know what they voted for, the more their opinion crystallises. We need only look at yesterday’s ComRes poll, which shows the largest yet recorded support for a no-deal Brexit. Over 40% of people believe we should leave on WTO rules, a number that grows every week. The idea that Leave voters did not vote to leave the Customs Union or the Single Market has no grounding in fact. It is patronising, and dismissive of their views.

So the Prime Minister is right to listen to Parliament, but she is also right to rule out any options that do not meet the democratic decision of the British people. Yesterday’s ComRes poll showed that a clear majority of people believe that attempts by Remain-supporting MPs and other Establishment figures to block Brexit were undermining the UK’s negotiation position. More than half believe that if MPs go against the 2016 decision it will irreversibly damage democracy. So the Prime Minister’s first democratic duty is to the electorate directly, to deliver a proper Brexit as soon as practically possible.

In the final analysis, the Prime Minister is the servant, not of Party, nor of Parliament, but of the people, and that should be her guiding principle throughout the Brexit process. Otherwise the British people will lose faith in their democracy, and the United Kingdom will face its Trump moment.

‘Trump moment’ is a dog-whistle, as most Britons believe that to be the worst thing that could ever happen in British politics.

The indicative votes are set to be debated on Monday, April 1. How apposite.

More on Brexit will follow in the days ahead.

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday.

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http://martinscriblerus.com/

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