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Isn’t it interesting that the media narrative has changed from wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage to Ukraine?

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It seems that there is never room for more than one media narrative at a time. Sadly, this is now true even on GB News.

Fortunately, I have a few coronavirus gems from last month.

We must never forget what our notional betters did to us over the past two years.

The UK will hold a formal inquiry, although we do not know when it will start.

On Saturday, February 5, GB News’s Neil Oliver delivered a five-star editorial on coronavirus measures in Scotland and other Western nations:

This was the theme:

Well, the narrative certainly changed by the end of the month.

Nonetheless, even as I write, coronavirus measures are still a thing in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has lifted some, with others to go this month. However, it might be some months before all of them disappear north of the border.

This was the state of play in Scotland in early February:

Somehow, Covid still manages to be in our faces – suffocating us bit by bit and all the time.

My children are still required to wear masks at school all day every day – rebreathing their own exhaust fumes for hours at a time.

In Scotland last week, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said her devolved assembly would spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds cutting the bottoms off classroom doors so as to improve air flow in schools.

Seriously – that’s what she said. Get this: she actually said there’s a worry about how much CO2 children are inhaling in improperly ventilated classrooms.

They have to keep the masks on – so that they exist in a permanent cloud of their own, self-generated CO2, held over their mouths and noses like a smothering hand, but rather than let them take off those masks and breathe air like free people should, Sturgeon’s proposed solution is to take a saw to the bottom of the classroom doors.

To say you couldn’t make it up is an insult to made up things.

The fact that you can open a door to increase ventilation, on account of its hinges, the fact that doors exist in schools at least in part to inhibit the spread of smoke and flames in the event of fire, significantly more of a threat to the lives of children and staff than Covid ever was, has apparently passed Sturgeon by.

But, hey-ho, if there’s one thing we’ve learned after two years, it’s that everything is all and only about Covid.

Some days it feels like it always will be.

Covid could and should be behind us, as I have already said, but the powers that be keep pulling it back around until it’s front and centre.

[Boris] Johnson announced some sort of an end to restrictions, but still, that air of lives limited, lives controlled, prevails, like the smirking grin that remains after the Cheshire Cat has otherwise disappeared.

And do you want to know why? Because after these two years like no others in our history, Covid is all they’ve got to explain and to justify everything else.

He took issue with Western governments:

Governments need Covid, and desperately

All the money we ever had and most of the money we might ever dream of having – they blew the lot on Covid.

And since Covid is all the Governments have got now, by God they’re determined to keep it.

Covid, as it turns out, is like a sort of Swiss Army knife, equipped with all sorts of useful little tools for all sorts of jobs, large and small. And meanwhile the evidence of manmade disaster is all around us.

He referred to the Johns Hopkins study that came out a few days beforehand:

A recently published study from the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, found lockdowns had had little to zero public health benefits and instead imposed enormous economic and social costs.

Like we didn’t know that already, having been there while it was actually happening – but anyway, let’s hear it again.

Researchers found lockdowns in Europe and the US lessened the Covid-19 mortality rate by just 0.2 percent.

The authors concluded that lockdown policies are ill founded and should be rejected in future.

Everywhere they were applied – everywherelockdowns caused enormous economic and social costs.

He went on to discuss how our various governments ‘blew it’:

Allow me to summarise those findings even more: Our governments blew it.

Faced with what they told us was the greatest threat to our civilisation in our lifetimes, for a hundred years or more, our governments took a bad thing and, through over-confidence, monumental incompetence and with the dull-eyed stubbornness of mules made it massively worse.

More importantly, when they must have known they were making it worse, they did it again. And again.

Now, rather than take responsibility and own up to their catastrophic failuresmaybe say sorry for all the lives ended, lives ruined, lives compromised, a generation of children used like sandbags to protect the vulnerable from a flood, like stab vests worn on the chests of adultsthey keep holding up the tattered rags of Covid, like the remnants of a curtain to stop us seeing the reality that lies behind it.

What lies behind that shabby curtain are consequences, and even now those powers that be don’t want us looking at them, far less talking about them and thereby understanding the crippling reality of them.

Isn’t it convenient that the TPTB now have Ukraine with which to distract us? Thanks, Putin. The news overkill on that is the ultimate distraction.

Oliver then talked about the horrors of quantitative easing:

What they did with money – your money, my money, everybody’s money – during the pandemic is what the banks have been doing with money for decades now, and it’s largely to blame for the bigger mess we’re in now.

Quantitative Easing, they called it – printing money, to you and me.

For decades the tactic applied by the banks, with governments in cahoots, was to print uncountable, unthinkable amounts of money.

“We don’t have any money left.”

“Well print more, then.”

“How much?”

“As much as you like – and keep it coming, I need another super yacht, and so does my mum. No one’ll notice. And if they do, say it was Covid.”

Imagine a glass of orange squash – a little bit of concentrate, topped up with water.

Tastes like orange, you know how it goes.

Then imagine tipping that glass-full into an empty swimming pool and turning on the taps.

By the time the pool is filled up with water, any orange in the mix is so diluted as to be utterly undetectable.

That, more or less, is what has happened to our money.

The value of our money has been so diluted it is quite literally not worth the paper it’s printed on – which probably explains why they don’t seem to want to actually print it on paper anymore.

They just add more zeros on their computer screens instead. Look at what they did with some of that pretend money: trillions of pounds worth of debt that will never, ever be repaid.

Billions blown on dodgy PPE, billions handed over as ‘Bounce Back Loans’ to companies that didn’t even exist. Gone.

Those gazillions are gone – and the truly troubling point is that in every way that matters, they didn’t really exist in the first place.

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson and the like have the gall to say they’ve got a way to fix the mess.

They might as well try to put out a factory fire by blowing on it.

On account of all that funny money, and then their use of Covid as a hammer to flatten business after business, the economic and financial model we’ve taken for granted for the last 50 years or more is finally done.

He looked at Covid measures in various countries:

Much of Europe is an interesting watch, to say the least. Austria is a police state now, in all but name, thanks to Covid.

Papers, please! Italy and Germany are much the same.

France would likely go the same way – except President Macron is too properly scared of too many of his own people to go all the way to vaccine mandates.

Instead, he remains committed to making the lives of the unvaccinated as miserable as possible. In Western Australia unvaccinated parents are barred from the hospitals where their children lie sick, dying.

In Canada the GoFundMe organisation has withheld millions of dollars raised in good faith, in support of the truckers protesting vaccine mandates.

What will become of that money, donated by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians, remains unclear.

More and more questions are being asked about the vaccines, all around the world.

Questions about efficacy, about safety, and yet governments like the US, Canada and Australia, as well as here and just about everywhere else continue to dig in, more and more determined to get a needle into every arm on the planet.

Israel is beavering away with injection number four – and the positive cases are spiking in what looks, on the graphs, like a vertical line pointed into space.

With the Covid narrative in tatters now, new weapons of mass distraction are being deployed to stop us thinking too much about the mess.

Enter Putin with his invasion of Ukraine. How timely. In early February, we knew it was coming:

I’d like to say, Don’t Mention the War, but of course there’s Russia and Ukraine to look forward to as well.

Oliver brought up non-Covid health issues:

There was a GP on the telly last week saying the stress of lockdown is causing heart attacks and strokes.

Well, I never.

He brought up the irony about the silence surrounding all the plastic face masks being dumped into the environment:

Climate crisis and environmental meltdown are back to the fore again – never mind the fact we’ve dumped trillions of filthy face masks, and Covid tests into that environment, that doesn’t seem to matter.

He concluded:

Weapons of mass distraction or not, there’ll be no hiding the fuel bills due in a few weeks’ time.

People forced to choose between eating and heating tend to behave differently than before.

Energy black hole, Net Zero and its consequences and only pretend money with which to pay for it all.

How much longer can our dear leaders hide behind Covid?

We do a lot of weather forecasting on this channel. I tell you this – there’s a storm coming.

Oliver then had Benjamin Loughnane (pron. ‘Loknayn’) from The Bow Group think tank to discuss the Johns Hopkins study about lockdown. This was also a very good segment:

Richard Tice from the Reform Party also appeared to talk about our leaders’ mistakes:

You can see the full show below. Almost all of it concerns coronavirus:

Later in the evening, Mark Dolan presented an excellent editorial on how the media and Government handled the pandemic:

The replies to the tweets were worthwhile, such as this one:

Some of us knew from the beginning that most of the coronavirus measures in Western countries were bogus, but anyone who mentioned that PCRs were picking up old viruses was dismissed as a crank.

Lo, it emerged last month that the intrusive PCR testing was proven to be ineffective in accurately diagnosing coronavirus.

Dolan said (emphases mine):

A major new study confirms that PCR tests are horribly inaccurate. There’s a surprise.

According to researchers at the University of Oxford, if you’ve heard of it, a third of people who tested positive for coronavirus via PCR tests were not contagious and did not need to self-isolate.

The study found that many laboratories are setting the positivity bar very low, meaning they’re picking up people, who are – quotes – “a danger to no one”.

Hand sanitising is also inconclusive:

Do you remember our blistered skin, in March 2020?

Sing happy birthday twice, as you wash your hands? After which a couple of scientists with half a brain cell, pointed out that the virus is transmitted through the air, via aerosols. No sugar, Sherlock.

Perspex screens in shops — or, in cars, as was the case in France — might not have been a good idea, either:

A report came out in August of last year, suggesting those environmentally catastrophic Perspex screens you see in shops, offices and on TV, may make matters worse.

The Environmental Modelling Group, a panel of 16 SAGE experts, said “There is some epidemiological and mechanistic evidence, that suggests screens could increase risks of aerosol transmission, due to blocking/changing airflow patterns or creating zones of poor air circulation behind screens.

Well done everyone.

The best masks couldn’t stop the rise in contagion:

Even where countries have demanded better N95 masks, like Austria, cases have sky rocketed nonetheless.

There was no evidence that vaccine passports stopped the spread:

What about vaccine passports? We’re saving lives aren’t we?

Except that cases have continued to soar in countries that have implemented these divisive measures, which link your medical status to certain basic rights, freedoms and privileges, including in particular in France and Italy.

The same held true for closing nightclubs:

What about closing nightclubs?

The Welsh first Minister Mark Drakeford, who likes a boogie himself, was able to demonstrate no evidence that closing nightclubs would have an impact on spread.

After two years, our health service is on backlog overload and probably will be until the end of the decade.

Some people’s lives are in ruins: closed businesses, relatives’ suicides, nervous breakdowns, missed diagnoses of terminal illness. I could go on.

Dolan said:

Two years in which we have incarcerated the healthy, stopped people from going out to work and making a living, closed once viable businesses, wrecked mental health and ignored worse diseases like cancer.

The Telegraph are reporting that up to 87,000 cancer diagnoses may have been missed. And the rest.

If you think Covid is worse than cancer, there is something wrong with you.

But that’s been the message of the pandemic response.

‘If it’s not Covid, they don’t care’ is something I’ve heard from so many of you over the last two years.

The famously deadly disease of cancer, that affects all age groups, has been relegated in importance for two years, with tragic consequences that will be with us for years to come, with cases like young mothers who didn’t get that lump checked or weren’t able to. Well done everyone.

There will be a day of reckoning for what Professor Jay Bhattacharya, one of the most respected medics in the world, has called the biggest public health mistake in history. He’s being polite.

Dolan rightly took issue with governments, modellers and the media:

So who’s to blame?

Well, weak politicians who panicked in March 2020 and discarded decades of pandemic planning

I blame the modellers like the randy professor, Professor Pants Down himself, Neil Ferguson, who predicted half a million deaths at the start of the pandemic, which spooked ministers into taking this ruinous path.

Some government scientific advisors predicted 6000 deaths a day if we didn’t cancel Christmas

I blame Sage, who failed to equate economic damage with death.

The University of Bristol have told me that half a million people will die as a result of creating the biggest recession in 300 years. And what about wrecked lives?

It’s a question no one has ever been able to answer me. Why is it okay to wreck lives? Of course, it isn’t. But wreck them we did. And it’s most reprehensible when you think of the needless impact on young people and children, who face vanishing threats from the virus. So who else do I blame?

Well I blame the media …

I blame the media for offering just one narrative. Lockdowns work, masks work and absolutely everybody’s got to have the vaccine.

Now these views are valid, arguably the majority of people and perhaps most scientific professionals think exactly that. No problem. Let’s hope you’re right, because that’s the hell you’ve put us through.

As data come in from around the world, based upon different approaches, with no obvious difference from where I’m standing, I have my doubts. But remember those press conferences – the Beeb, Sky, ITV – why are we not locking down longer, tougher, harder?

By offering such one-sided coverage of the pandemic, by betting everything on the words of SAGE, and freezing out other scientific voices like Sunetra Guptha, Carl Henegan, Martin Kulldorf and Jay Bhattacharya, the media let us down.

To say that the media have lied to you is a bit strong. But they have not provided the full picture.

And any lawyer will tell you concealing information is tantamount, in its own way, to an untruth.

Shall we be polite and just call it government propaganda? I think that’ll do.

I shouldn’t name names, but I will. The Mail and the Telegraph are the only papers I can think of that have consistently balanced their reporting and have dared to offer a critique about these debatable lockdowns.

The Guardian is a paper I’ve always admired and read every day.

But where was their coverage of the Johns Hopkins University report, a meta analysis of 24 studies into lockdown, suggesting the measures saved 0.2% of lives, whilst of course exacting colossal harm.

Not peer reviewed and the study has been done by economists, but worth reporting?

I’d say so.

Sweden got it right. That was something that many of us were criticised for saying offline.

Dolan said:

Sweden have seen a fraction of the economic damage, the societal damage and have had fewer per capita deaths than so many countries that locked down hard.

He concluded:

In the end I think the media have got this wrong – they’ve backed the wrong horse and they are on the wrong side of history.

So there will be a day of reckoning for their one-sided coverage. But will we ever get an admission of guilt, or dare I say it, an apology? I doubt it.

There will be no contrition. And for all of those well paid and high profile figures in the media – we know who they are – the relentless cheerleaders for these disastrous and, in my view, failed measures, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Now to the present day.

On Wednesday, March 2, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee gathered oral evidence on coronavirus in a session called ‘UK Science, Research and Technology Capability and Influence in Global Disease Outbreaks’. Greg Clark (Conservative) chaired the session.

You can watch it here.

After the first hour, Prof Graham Medley — who exchanged tweets late last year with The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson on modelling — gave his oral evidence on SPI-M’s modelling of the pandemic. He is SPI-M’s chair.

Sorry seemed to be the hardest word for him, too, as he saw no need to apologise for Prof Neil Ferguson’s mad models which the Swedes described as ‘hysterical’.

Medley told MPs that SPI-M ‘didn’t have the time’ (his words) to calculate the probability or feasibility of their overblown scenarios. They plugged garbage in, and, lo, garbage came out. However, he defended everything. He had no regrets.

Three MPs gently took him to task for the modelling. Labour’s Graham Stringer came right out and said that he doesn’t trust modelling at all, none of it.

One of the MPs tried to press him on the Twitter exchange with Fraser Nelson. Medley replied:

I wish you wouldn’t do that.

In the end, he managed to get himself out of any controversy.

Most of the other MPs wanted to question the person from the behavioural part of SAGE, SPI-B. This person was to have sat along side Medley. However, the SPI-B representative cancelled. How convenient.

Dr Camilla Holten-Møller appeared in the final segment. She is the Chair of the Expert Group for Mathematical Modelling at Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Denmark. What a breath of fresh air she was.

She admitted that SSI did get one of their models woefully wrong, so they quickly regrouped, studied their mistakes and liaised more closely with university research and clinical groups who provide them with data.

It would be nice if Medley had showed the same candour. As it was, he didn’t even look bothered.

I can hardly wait for the formal coronavirus inquiry in the UK. The Science and Technology Select Committee will write a report on this evidence session, as they have with others, and submit it to the Government. The reports will be part of the inquiry process.

At least one Collins book can be found in nearly every English-speaking household in the UK.

Speaking personally, we have a Collins Bible, Book of Common Prayer and several dictionaries, including the incomparable Collins Robert French Dictionary. In the past, I also bought annual Collins calendar diaries.

What I did not know until reading the recent obituary of Jan Collins, one of the publishing house’s heirs, was that it was started by a Scottish Evangelical.

The Times published Jan Collins’s obituary on February 14, 2022. Jan, who died at the age of 92 on January 29, will be remembered as much for his tennis prowess as his publishing career.

Of Billy Collins, the publishing house’s founder, the obituary states (emphases mine):

Founded in 1819 by Jan Collins’s great-grandfather William Collins, an evangelical Christian, it was known primarily for its printing of Bibles, dictionaries and diaries. In the early Thirties, more than 600,000 Bibles were published annually. One sales jingle declared: “Satan trembles when he sees/Bibles sold as cheap as these.”

Jan Collins joined his family’s business, then called William Collins, after he graduated from Oxford in 1952. He was assigned to the Bible department, located in Glasgow:

At the time it was still the leading publishing house in Scotland, with some 2,500 people employed in its Glasgow printing presses in Cathedral Street, which could produce up to 15,000 books an hour.

The company’s fiction and non-fiction books were published in London:

The general fiction and non-fiction titles division was based in St James’s Place, London, meanwhile, and was being considerably expanded by Collins’s father, Billy Collins, with the addition of bestselling authors such as Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Alistair MacLean and Patrick O’Brian. In 1956 the firm’s last substantial British acquisition was Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly. In 1960, Collins published 576 new editions, the most in the UK.

Jan Collins was responsible for bringing us The Good News Bible. Love it or loathe it, I know several Americans who told me it was the only version of the Bible they could actually read and understand:

After a decade working in the Bible department he hit upon the money-spinning idea of teaming up with the American Bible Society to publish the New Testament in contemporary English, an edition known as Good News for Modern Man. A decade after that, the Old Testament was included and it was known under the title of the Good News Bible, which is still the most popular Bible currently published. More than a million copies were sold in the first year and subsequently nearly a billion copies have been printed throughout the world.

He then turned his attention to dictionaries and the printing presses in Scotland:

Jan Collins also rebuilt the Collins Dictionary business and spearheaded the modern bilingual dictionaries, forging partnerships with Robert in Paris and Mondadori in Italy. In 1971 he was appointed vice-chairman and by the mid-Seventies was in charge of the manufacturing side of the business. He was responsible for moving the entire printing department from Cathedral Street to a new site on the outskirts in Bishopbriggs, which employed 2,000 people.

When his father Billy Collins died in 1976, the atmosphere in the company became turbulent:

Collins was appointed executive chairman of the entire group but within a few years, boardroom tensions developed between the London and Glasgow-based divisions of the company, particularly because of the persistent losses in the print division and differing opinions about possible solutions. There were also questions raised regarding the management style of Jan Collins and, as a consequence, he stepped down in 1979 but remained as non-executive chairman until 1981. At this point, he and his mother sold their shares to Rupert Murdoch and he stepped down as non-executive chairman as well.

Rupert Murdoch ended up buying the company, which is now known as HarperCollins:

Murdoch held 41.7 per cent of the shares. He made a bid to take a controlling interest in William Collins, but was opposed by the new chairman Ian Chapman (obituary, November 30, 2019) and the rest of the board, which included a number of other Collins family members.

Murdoch finally succeeded in taking over the company in 1989, when he merged it with his other publishing holdings in the US and Australia to become HarperCollins, now one of the three biggest English-language book publishers in the world.

Jan Collins had a rareified upbringing in Scotland and England:

William Janson Collins was born in Great Western Terrace, Glasgow, in 1929, son of Sir William “Billy” Collins, who was head of William Collins and the grandson of the founder of the publishing house, and Priscilla Marian Lloyd. Billy Collins was considered one of the last of the benevolent despots in publishing, who scrutinised every aspect of the business. According to one employee, he combined “the necessary elements of the hustler and the showman with the more discreet and urbane attitudes of the worldly gentleman publisher”.

Shortly after Jan’s birth, the Collins family moved to a William Adam mansion on the outskirts of Troon, the favoured Ayrshire seaside resort of Glaswegian millionaires, thanks to its golf courses. The extended Collins family were all passionate sportsmen, which rubbed off on Jan, who apart from golf, took up shooting and tennis. His parents were both talented players and his uncle Ian Collins played at Wimbledon 12 times, making it to the final of the doubles and mixed doubles in the early Thirties. His father was on the All-England Club committee until late in life, while in the late Forties Jan came only one round short of making the championships at Wimbledon.

He was sent to prep school at Ludgrove, and then Eton, where he was All England Racquets champion at 14, in the first XI cricket team and president of Pop, the elite club of Eton prefects. When Collins was 15, he met his wife, Lady Sally Hely-Hutchinson, at the Eton and Harrow cricket match at Lord’s.

Being president of Pop is a huge deal. Allow me to digress for a while with an article by an Old Etonian, Bill Coles, who wrote about the exclusive club for The Express in 2011, the year of its bicentenary. Coles somewhat regretted that he was never elected to be a member:

The Eton Societyor Pop as it’s known – this year celebrates its 200th anniversary and though Prince William and his uncle Earl Spencer will both have been invited to the £250-a-head party in its honour, I will sadly not be among their number.

At first glance Pop looks like nothing more than a very posh sixth form club. But Eton (with fees of £30,000 a year) is still regarded by many as the top elite school in the country – one that has provided 19 prime ministers (not least our current one) as well as old boys ranging from George Orwell and James Bond author Ian Fleming to Boris Johnson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. And if Eton is an educational elite then Pop is an even smaller elite within it – one that elects its own members, who form not just an exclusive network but one that doesn’t always admit the members you might expect.

well they looked like peacocks strutting among a horde of black crows and to a stripling teenager it all seemed rather exotic. Here, in full, was the uniform of an Eton Popper: a black tailcoat with braid piping; spongebag trousers in a houndstooth check; and a starched wing collar with a white (hand-tied) bow tie.

The uniform would usually be capped off with a thick cow-lick of hair, spit-polished black lace-ups pickers), plus a gardenia or a rose in the button-hole. While the rest of us schoolboys had been shoe-horned into grubby black waistcoats the Poppers were allowed to wear any waistcoat they pleased, at least a dozen and you can only imagine the glorious oneupmanship that was involved.

I remember waistcoats of green leather, waistcoats spangled with Pearly King buttons, and even a hideous fur electric pink number. Prince William, when he was a Popper, tended towards the staid and I believe his most daring outfit was a patriotic Union Jack. To all intents and purposes the Poppers don exactly the same sort of clothes that the gentlemen will be wearing at next month’s royal wedding

When this article appeared, David Cameron was Prime Minister and Boris Johnson was Mayor of London:

Once you realise the sheer showiness of the Pop uniform it is all too easy to understand how David Cameron came to be quite so enamoured with the Bullingdon Club at Oxford. For, if he had been elected into Pop he might never had quite such an urge to dress like a foppish Bullingdon blue-blood (though London Mayor Boris Johnson was in both Pop and the Bullingdon Club). Within Eton, Pop was a self-electing club for the sports stars, which certainly did not include me, and the hearty good guys. There were about 25 of them and they were charged with keeping the 1,300 other boys for such misdemeanours as not being properly dressed, or even “socking” (eating) in the street.

I still recall how, when I was 13, an enormous Popper accosted me in the street for not wearing any cuff links. “Have a pound in my room by lock‑up,” he told me. Ostensibly all this loot went to charity, though doubtless the Poppers were just using it for extra beer money at the school pub, Tap. Speaking to contemporaries who were members, one is struck by the fact that while Pop is exclusive it does not necessarily bother itself with the most opulent surroundings.

It was a bit like a St James’s club in that boys were put up for election but if there was a single blackball against them then they weren’t in. Things have changed more recently and now the Eton masters have a right of veto. You probably don’t get quite so many bad eggs …

One can see how Jan Collins’s sporting prowess appealed to Pop members:

Pop was predominantly filled with sports buffs and swells and that’s still pretty accurate to this day. It appeals to people who like to dress up as a peacock.” Pop was founded in 1811 and it was originally a debating society and had the name “Popina”, from the Latin for “Tea-Shop” which is where the boys used to meet. In its heyday Pop was the ultimate networking tool and could open the most incredible doors. One can even see Pop’s shadow hanging over Prime Minister Harold Macmillan when he culled half his cabinet during “The Night of the Long Knives” in the late Fifties.

It’s said that Macmillan sacked half his friends from Pop – only to replace them with the other half. Fagging at Eton is now a distant memory but in my time in the Eighties a Popper could fag off any boy on the street, sending him off to do any chore he pleased. I still remember my outrage when a Popper took offence at my smirking face and sent me to Windsor to buy him a postcard for his mother. Another extraordinary aspect of the society was that 50 years ago Poppers were empowered to deliver a “Pop tan” – where reprobate boys would be flogged by every member of Pop

One Old Etonian told Bill Coles:

One of the strange things about Pop is that it never goes away. You find it cropping up in a lot of Etonians’ obituaries. These are people who may well have won VCs or who are captains of industry – and yet for some reason the fact that they were a member of Pop is seen to be on a par with anything else that they’ve done.

And, lo, we discover that Jan Collins was not only in Pop but also one of its presidents.

Now, back to the rest of the publisher’s life.

He did his National Service as a young officer in the Coldstream Guards. The obituary has a stunning photograph of him in dress uniform.

Jan Collins married Lady Sally Hely-Hutchinson while he was reading English at Magdalen College, Oxford:

while his sporting prowess continued, winning blues in tennis, squash, cricket and fives. Later in life, he said that his family were “all frightful sporting bores”.

In 1952, they moved to Scotland:

The newly married couple moved to Troon in 1952, and he remained in Ayrshire for the rest of his life.

Lady Sally had a career as a novelist:

Under the pen name of Harriet Martyn, Lady Sally wrote three girls’ boarding school works of fiction — the Balcombe Hall stories — which were inspired by the escapades of her daughter Jane at St Mary’s, Wantage; and as Sara Healy, three historical novels including a Second World War evacuee story inspired by her own experiences. She died in 2013. He is survived by their four children, Noel, an entrepreneur, Jane who runs her own publishing company in Ireland, Tiffany, a company director, and Bryony who is in technology.

Meanwhile, apart from owning and operating three restaurants that closed in relatively short order, Jan devoted the rest of his life to tennis:

After retiring, he became a fully qualified tennis coach. He was appointed MBE for services to tennis in 2004, after raising nearly £2 million to create the largest junior tennis programme in Scotland. He was the oldest surviving member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, having first joined 70 years ago, in 1952. In fact, he had attended every Wimbledon tennis tournament since then, including last year. He was especially proud of winning the over-85 category of the British veterans’ grass court championship at Wimbledon in 2014.

During lockdown in 2021, Jan Collins raised money for charity:

In the summer of 2021, when lockdown regulations meant no golf clubs were open throughout the UK, a private five-hole course was suddenly created in the rear garden of a 90-year-old golfer in Troon. Inspired by the story of Captain Sir Tom Moore, Jan Collins raised £8,000 by playing 1,000 holes of golf in his back garden.

But his was not a totally serious life of work and tennis. Privately, he was known for his wit and harmless pranks.

There was no mention of any religious aspect to his life, but Jan Collins lived quite the life. May he rest in peace.

To commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Accession Day on Sunday, February 6, The Telegraph republished its front page of Thursday, February 7, 1952:

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The text of the lead article in the left hand column reads as follows:

HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE VI DIED IN HIS SLEEP AT SANDRINGHAM HOUSE IN THE EARLY HOURS OF YESTERDAY MORNING. A SERVANT FOUND HIM DEAD IN BED AT 7:30 A.M. AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM SANDRINGHAM REPEATED IN A SPECIAL EDITION OF THE LONDON GAZETTE LAST NIGHT, SAID:

The King, who retired last night in his usual health, passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning.

Princess Elizabeth, who immediately became Queen, was informed of her father’s death while she was at the Royal hunting lodge near Nyeri in Kenya. A thunderstorm delayed for two hours the departure of the plane which is to bring her to London, where she is expected at 4:30 p.m. to-day.

The Accession Council, which consists of members of the Privy Council summoned with others, “notables of the Realm” such as the Lord Mayor of London, to act on the demise of the Crown, met at 5 p.m. yesterday to decide on the accession proclamation. This will be read at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. James’s Palace, at Temple Bar and on the steps of the Royal Exchange in the City.

The Queen, who is 25, is expected to take the Royal oath before a second meeting of the Council to-day. She was proclaimed Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa yesterday. Prince Charles automatically becomes Duke of Cornwall.

Mr. Churchill will broadcast on all B.B.C. wavelengths at 9 o’clock to-night for 15 minutes.

OUT SHOOTING ON PREVIOUS DAY

The King, who was 56 and in the 14th year of his reign, was born at Sandringham. During what proved to be his last stay there he was out shooting on Tuesday morning and afternoon, and appeared to be in good health. In the evening, he walked in the grounds.

The Queen-Mother and Princess Margaret accompanied him when he went to Sandringham last Friday. On the previous day he had gone to London Airport to see his elder daughter and the Duke of Edinburgh leave for Nairobi.

Queen Mary was informed at Marlborough House of her son’s death. The Duke of Gloucester, who was at his home in Barnwell Manor, Northants, went to Sandringham on hearing the news. The Princess Royal was told at St. James’s Palace. The Duchess of Kent returned from Germany last night and the Duke of Windsor leaves New York in the Queen Mary to-day.

The Prime Minister and Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Home Secretary, were given the news by telephone. A Cabinet meeting was held. The House of Commons and the House of Lords met formally for two minutes and adjourned until after the Accession Council, when M.P.s and Peers began to take the Oath of Allegiance to the new monarch. The two Chambers are expected to meet on Monday for addresses of condolence and then adjourn until Feb. 19.

Subject to the wishes of the new Queen, the body of King George will lie in state in Westminster Hall from Monday until the funeral, the date for which has not been fixed. Carpenters at Sandringham finished midday the coffin of oak from the estate last night. 

CINEMAS AND THEATRES CLOSED

The effect of the news from Sandringham was felt immediately throughout the nation. All cinemas were closed and the Lord Chamberlain directed that theatres should be shut for the day and also on the day of the funeral of the King. B.B.C. programmes were cancelled except for news bulletins. There will be a restricted programme from to-day until after the funeral. The Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s closed, courts adjourned and a number of public dinners and other functions were postponed. Flags in every town were at half-mast.

All sport stopped except for the four Football Association Cup ties. Saturday’s Rugby Union International between England and Ireland at Twickenham has been postponed. Football League and Rugby League fixtures will be played as arranged. National Hunt racing was suspended.

As soon as the news became known a crowd began to gather outside Buckingham Palace and was there until late at night. Ambassadors were calling throughout the day to sign the visitors’ book as an official expression of their sorrow, and messages of sympathy flowed in from every quarter.

Mr. Churchill issued a statement from 10, Downing Street last night, asking that there should be no public gathering at London Airport when the Queen arrives from Kenya.

A few historical notes follow:

London Airport became Heathrow Airport in 1966.

– The Lord Chamberlain is the most senior officer of the Royal Household.

– The Duke of Gloucester at the time was Prince Henry, the King’s brother; he, too, was born at Sandringham.

– The BBC programmes at the time were exclusively on the radio — or wireless, as the British say.

The Telegraph‘s article about their front page from 1952 has a lot of photos and more news items from the days before and after the King’s death. History lovers will find them fascinating.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne were young children at the time; the family lived at Clarence House:

On 31 January 1952, 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth bid farewell to her children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, at Clarence House as she departed for a tour of the Commonwealth that was planned to include visits to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Princess Elizabeth and her consort were standing in for her father, who had been in poor health from lung cancer:

The couple were standing in for the King, who had been battling illness for some time as they aimed to strengthen the relationship between the Commonwealth. Little did they know that they would not meet him again …

Final farewell: Against medical advice King George VI – along with Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother – sees off the young princess on her first royal tour of the Commonwealth. The Telegraph reports that the “King looks well.”

The Commonwealth tour began in Nairobi and ended in Kenya:

Greetings from England: The young Princess – in a mauve, blue and pink calf-length frock – greets citizens of Nairobi alongside the Duke of Edinburgh at a garden party on the first afternoon of the Commonwealth tour.

Calm Before the Storm: The couple explores the grounds of the lodge, gifted to them from the people of Kenya. The day’s highlights include seeing a herd of 30 elephants.

Winston Churchill said that the Queen was ‘just a child’:

A face that reflects the nation: Churchill in top hat returns from the Accession Council at St James’ Palace, summoned automatically on the death of the monarch. The Prime Minister was brought to tears upon the news of the King’s passing, remarking that the new Queen was “just a child”.

I read elsewhere that he was sceptical about meeting regularly with her to discuss affairs of state but was pleasantly surprised at her mastery of the subject matter.

Churchill, his deputy Prime Minister (and eventual successor) Anthony Eden and the previous Prime Minister Clement Attlee met the Queen at London Airport:

Left a Princess, returns a Queen: Queen Elizabeth II lands at London (Heathrow) airport at 4:30pm, greeted by Churchill, Eden and Attlee, among others. The Queen was brought suitable mourning clothes by an aide before alighting from the plane.

The Royal couple returned briefly to Clarence House before leaving for Sandringham:

Returning to Clarence House: The Queen is met by silent crowds as she travels from the Mall to her residence with her husband. The royal standard is unfurled for the first time over Clarence House as she approaches her home …

Through the gates: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are saluted by a policeman as they arrive at the Jubilee Gate of Sandringham House, two days after the King’s death. After greeting her mother and sister, she and the Duke head to the room where her father lay.

This is how the King’s coffin was transported to London:

Taken to the church: George VI’s body, guarded by keepers from his estate, lies in the Church of St Mary Magdalene in the grounds of Sandringham. He was taken from the House at dusk with his family following in procession.

Final journey begins: Five days after arriving in Sandringham, Elizabeth makes her way to Wolferton Station to take the King’s body to London. Crowds gather to watch the new Queen and her sister pass by.

Last stop: People line the streets in the rain to see the coffin in the capital. George’s body is carried from the train at King’s Cross Station and taken on a three-mile journey to Westminster Hall. On the coffin rests the Imperial State Crown and a wreath from the Queen Mother …

Lying in state: George VI lies in Westminster Hall. Over the next few days, 300,000 people would come to pay their respects, braving the February snow and a queue that backed up to Vauxhall Bridge.

Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster and is attached to the main building which houses both chambers of Parliament.

The Queen Mother lay in state there; I was one of 200,000 Britons who paid their respects in 2002.

The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret went to Buckingham Palace:

Day of mourning: The Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, clad in veils, travel down from Sandringham. They watch the procession at King’s Cross Station, before ending their journey at Buckingham Palace.

London’s streets were lined with mourners:

Packed London streets: Members of the public pay their respects as the procession bearing George VI’s coffin enters New Palace Yard from Parliament Square. The coffin was carried on a gun-carriage by the Royal Horse Artillery.

Three hundred thousand people paid their respects at Westminster Hall:

Lying in state: George VI lies in Westminster Hall. Over the next few days, 300,000 people would come to pay their respects, braving the February snow and a queue that backed up to Vauxhall Bridge.

The King’s funeral was held in Windsor. The funeral train left from Paddington Station.

The funeral service was brief:

Three Queens in mourning: Wearing black veils, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary and The Queen Mother at the King’s funeral. The service took place at St George’s Chapel in the walls of Windsor Castle, lasting less than half an hour.

George VI lies buried beneath St George’s Chapel:

Homecoming: The funeral procession arrives at Windsor Castle. Around 1,400 people were present to watch George’s coffin descend into the Royal Vaults beneath St George’s Chapel.

That concludes the story of the death of the Queen’s father, much loved by his subjects.

I am grateful to The Telegraph for that walk through history.

Following on from my post yesterday, Neil Oliver had more on coronavirus on his programme of Saturday, January 22, 2022, wherein he warned of ‘consequences coming’ and eroding trust in institutions we normally respect.

His commentary was much appreciated:

Here’s the YouTube version:

GB News has a transcript, excerpts from which follow. Emphases mine:

American money man, philosopher and billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffet said: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

He was talking about business models – how when times are good everyone might seem to be doing ok, but when times turn bad, and there are always bad times, the reckless and bad ideas get woefully exposed.

As soon as the virus arrived among us, our democratically-elected governments, eagerly abetted by their preferred scientific advisors, threw away all the plans they had had for dealing with a pandemic – plans laid down after years of preparation and discussion, plans in line with advice from the World Health Organisation – and replaced them overnight with tactics lifted straight – I can only assume – from the Chinese Communist Party’s Big Boy’s Book of totalitarian control. All over Europe and the developed West it was the same. Talk about Plan B – where had they kept this one hidden, a person might have asked, if questions had been allowed, but they were not.

They helped themselves, those elected representatives of the tax-paying, law-abiding public – to powers unprecedented in peacetime, the sort of powers indeed that might give dictators and emperors excited dreams. With the craven complicity of the so-called political opposition, they drafted and passed outrageously invasive laws with barely so much as a nod to discussion or debate in Westminster. Before we knew where we were, the old world of taken-for-granted freedom had been papered over with a dystopia.

It was around then, though – within weeks of the outbreak starting, and certainly within a few months – that the tide started to go out and the truth began to be revealed, made obvious for those looking the right way. The naked swimmers were clearly to be seen.

Long ago now – long ago in terms of policies that have ruined lives, destroyed livelihoods, lethally endangered the health prospects of uncountable numbers of people and compromised the educations and therefore the hopes and dreams, not to mention the mental health and general wellbeing, of a generation of children – there were all manner of voices saying how wrong it all was.

Among them, and worth listening to more than any others in the spectrum of dissenting voices, were those of other scientists and, perhaps most pertinently, medical professionals of unimpeachable expertise and experience, with lifetimes devoted to the treatment and care of respiratory viruses and battling courageously to be heard. Again and again, they sought to highlight and to explain the wrong-headedness of what was being done, allegedly in the name of public health. Always they were shouted down, shamed, ridiculed, humiliated, even ruined professionally for having had the temerity to raise doubts and offer alternative solutions.

And of course, our governments did not – absolutely and unequivocally could not – have done all this alone. For me, in many ways worst of all has been the complicity, in the reprehensible behaviour, indulged in by so much of the mainstream media

The governments, listening all the while to the psychologists in the Nudge Unit, decided to fire up the fear train and the mainstream media were at their side for the duration. We, the people, it was blatantly decided, were to be frightened out of our wits so that governments could have their way with us, all for the greater good. Whatever they wanted us to do, they would use the seemingly unstoppable momentum of the fear train to carry all of us where they wanted us taken.

First aboard, like ticket inspectors and guards – were faces made so familiar by their daily appearance in our homes courtesy of news broadcasts. All aboard went the BBC, Sky, ITV, C4 and the rest. High profile journalists and all manner of well-kent faces took turns shovelling coal into the firebox, making the train’s engine run faster and faster … the most prominent news providers in the land were instantly and always on the governments’ backs – demanding faster … faster … faster … more … more … more.

Two years later and here we are, wherever here actually is. Like many populations around the developed Western world we have arrived at a destination many of us struggle to recognise. The buildings and streets look the same, right enough, but everything else is altered. Society is riven with divisions – between vaxxed and unvaxxed; mask wearers and bare faces, those who were helped financially and those that were hung out to dry. Those divides are deep and feel permanent. Great Britain is half a trillion pounds in debt. It has been estimated that 50,000 people who might by now have had cancers diagnosed and embarked upon treatment are, as yet, unaware of the awful news coming their way sooner or later. Six million people await treatment by Our NHS.

In the past few days here on GB News we have highlighted the results of a freedom of information request made to the Office of National Statistics. Coverage of the reply has been absent from the mainstream media. The ONS was asked how many otherwise healthy people had died in England and Wales of Covid and nothing else. The answer was 17,371 across the two years, average age over 82. These figures are comparable, to say the least, with the death toll that might be expected from a typical flu season.

All lives matter, including those 17,371. But there are nearly 70 million people in Britain. Around 700,000 of us die every year, of all manner of causes.

I look at these facts, these figures, and I cannot begin to imagine making sense of what has been done, apparently in the name of public health. Time will surely tell, as I and others have predicted before, that policies followed in these two years past will prove to have been the worst policy mistakes in peacetime – perhaps ever.

The tide I mentioned earlier, that revealing tide, is receding fast now. More and more naked swimmers – politicians, advisors and journalists among them – are to be seen running for cover behind the sand dunes, clutching at towels as they go. But we can see them. We know who they are. Some of them, more every day, have even had the unmitigated gall to think they could hurriedly get dressed again, without anyone noticing, so as to pretend they were never in the water in the first place.

Neil Oliver is not wrong. In fact, in the past few days, various vocal commentators in the public sphere have begun saying that they never supported the coronavirus policies. Really? Pull the other one.

He concludes:

There is still so much we don’t know – still so much we are not supposed to talk about, ask questions about … Maybe when talk of a new variant comes along, and it surely will, and the government tries to get us back in our boxes, some of those journalists might join the rest of us in saying Never Again. Or maybe they won’t. Anyway, as I say, the tide is well and truly out now and the naked swimmers are plain to see.

All drama aside, there are consequences coming, a great wave of them – economy, health, the as-yet unmeasured damage to our children and unanswered questions about which, if any, of our institutions we can trust. What has been done these last two years by those we had been encouraged to trust, will be hard to forgive, and impossible to forget.

I am incensed that England was locked down for 17,371 deaths.

Some of those deaths were in Wales, too, but the Welsh decided to vote Labour in May 2021 and remade their collective, socialist bed, thereby retaining Mark Drakeford as Prif Weinidog (First Minister). May they rest easy in it …

Guido Fawkes tells us that the title Prif Weinidog translates literally to Prime Minister (emphases in the original):

Speaking to BBC reporter Mark Hutchings, who asked Drakeford whether he planned to set a firm date for the lifting of Wales’ Covid restrictions, the First Minister said:

“No I won’t because I’m the Prime Minister of Wales, not a horoscope writer for a daily newspaper. And it’s simply impossible for anybody to peer into the future of coronavirus with the sort of definiteness you were suggesting.”

Hutchings later gave Drakeford the benefit of the doubt by suggesting it was just a “slip“. Probably, although Drakeford also changed his Twitter handle to “@PrifWeinidog” back in October – a direct Welsh translation of Prime Minister…

Returning to England, thank goodness that a rump of Conservative backbenchers rebelled against Boris late last year in voting against Plan B before Christmas. Even though Plan B passed, thanks to Labour, Boris did not push Plan C at the end of December.

Back in March 2020, MPs pledged not to make the pandemic about politics. It did not take long, however, for it to become purely political, especially in Wales and Scotland.

Thank goodness for Conservative MPs with backbone — and for the revelations about the Downing Street parties. Both prevented England from a sharper lockdown.

The Government lifted restrictions in England on Thursday, January 26. May they never return.

Neil Oliver is right: the fallout from the pandemic policies will be great.

On Monday, November 15, 2021, Winston Churchill’s niece, Clarissa Eden, the Countess of Avon, died at the age of 101.

The Times published an obituary. What a fascinating life she led.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

A life well lived

Anne Clarissa Spencer-Churchill was born in London on June 28, 1920. She was the daughter of Jack Spencer-Churchill, Winston Churchill’s younger brother, and grand-daughter of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Randolph Churchill. Her mother was Lady Gwendoline (“Goonie”) Bertie, a daughter of the 7th Earl of Abingdon. According to The Times, the Earl’s family thought that Lady Gwendoline married beneath herself, because Jack, even though he was a Major from the Great War, earned his living as a stockbroker, something that true gentlemen did not do in that era.

Perhaps they were not wrong. Money was tight, so much so that Jack’s family lived with Winston’s in South Kensington, overlooking the Natural History Museum.

Childhood holidays were spent at Blenheim itself and later at Churchill’s home, Chartwell in Kent. They also included visits to Normandy where family friend Consuelo Vanderbilt, formerly Duchess of Marlborough, lived.

Clarissa had two older brothers. Despite her mother’s devoted attention to her, she grew up to be independently minded. She left a fashionable Essex boarding school, Downham, because she felt she did not fit in with the other girls.

At the age of 16, her family sent her to Paris to study art. This was the beginning of her adulthood and sent the tone for her life over the next several years:

There she was taken up by the younger members of the embassy staff, including Fitzroy Maclean. At 17, she had her first love affair, visited nightclubs run by White Russians and saw Josephine Baker dance clad only in a circlet of bananas. It was no surprise that when she returned to London she found her contemporaries to be lacking in sophistication. In imitation of Marlene Dietrich, she had a man’s suit made. Deborah Mitford, her fellow debutante, recalled the blue-eyed Clarissa as having “a whiff of Garbo” about her.

By the time the Second World War broke out, Clarissa had moved from London to Oxford, attracting the attention of men:

There she unofficially attended philosophy lectures and persuaded AJ Ayer to give her tutorials. “She was a don’s delight,” Lady Antonia Fraser recalled. Her circle included Lord David Cecil and Isaiah Berlin, who told her how as a small boy in Russia he had buried his mother’s pearls in the snow to save them from the Bolsheviks.

She inspired a fictional character called Emmeline:

The composer and writer Lord Berners, a noted wit — a notice at the top of a folly on his estate read: “Members of the public commit suicide here at their own risk” — left a portrait of her as the heroine of his novel Far From the Madding War.

Emmeline, who has “hair reminiscent of a cornfield at daybreak”, looks like “a nymph in one of the less licentious paintings of Fragonard”. She is not the sort of girl to whom one makes improper suggestions without encouragement. Reflecting on their acquaintance at the time, and on his more humble origins, the historian Raymond Carr noted: “I got no encouragement.”

The Times has a photo of her as a young woman, stately looking with fine, yet angular, features, so characteristic of the British upper class.

Clarissa’s life as a young adult, The Times says, resembled that of Anthony Powell’s series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time. I’ve read all of them and recommend them to anyone interested in British society. What held true then still holds true today.

Anthony Powell became one of her friends along with many others in the arts. There were also two spies, who came to be infamous:

Other names of the era who flow through her memoir include Cyril Connolly, Cecil Beaton, Greta Garbo, Orson Welles, Peter Brook, Lucian Freud, John Pope-Hennessy, Emerald Cunard, Nancy Mitford, Moura Budberg, the Marchesa Casati and Donald Maclean, the spy, who danced with her.

She worked with Guy Burgess at the Ministry of Information after a spell decoding messages at the Foreign Office.

Working for the Government during the war was not without its glamour:

Clarissa was at the time living on the top floor of the Dorchester hotel in central London, which had cheap rates during the Blitz; in the next room was Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela. When she later got a flat, she shared it briefly with the writer Elizabeth Bowen after she had been bombed out of hers. And when she made parts for submarines, she found herself on the production line next to Lillie Langtry’s daughter.

After the war ended, Clarissa went to work for film maker Alexander Korda, who made the iconic movie The Third Man:

Clarissa Churchill worked as a writer for Vogue and in the publicity department of Korda Films, then producing The Third Man. Subsequently, she joined a magazine owned by George Weidenfeld, Contact, persuading Elizabeth David, then little known, to contribute recipes to it.

Her life changed forever when she met Conservative politician Anthony Eden, remembered for the Suez Crisis of 1956.

During the war, he was the Secretary of State for the Foreign Office from 1940 to 1945. The two did not meet until after the war, however.

Eden’s first marriage had collapsed. He was single when they made each other’s acquaintance:

Despite their close relations to Churchill, the pair had not met properly until soon after the war. Eden was living as a bachelor, his first wife, Beatrice, finally having left their troubled marriage after the death in 1945 in Burma of their elder son, an RAF pilot.

They had a common interest — art:

“Like many Englishmen, he hadn’t known intimacy,” Clarissa observed of the Eton-educated Eden, whose mother had been beautiful but selfish. They brought happiness to each other, sharing a love of art and, arguably, a political outlook. “I’m not really a Conservative,” he told her, “I’m an old-fashioned Liberal.” A more certain influence was that “he offered me a taste of another side of life”, far removed from the more bohemian circles in which she moved.

Eden was 23 years older than his girlfriend. Some of Clarissa’s admirers disapproved of the relationship, especially when it resulted in marriage:

Indeed, their engagement in 1952 had astonished their two very different sets of friends

… betraying their lack of worldliness, both were surprised by the excitement that their wedding generated. The crowds who gathered outside the register office at Caxton Hall in Westminster were almost as large as those for Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage there a few months earlier. The reaction of others, however, was less friendly.

Evelyn Waugh, who had been in love with Clarissa, wrote her an intemperate letter (after lunch at White’s) about the state of her soul — she had been raised a Roman Catholic. Duff Cooper, another disappointed admirer of hers, confided to his diary his view that Anthony Eden had no friends and his only interest was in becoming the Tories’ leader.

Clarissa’s cousin Randolph Churchill, who in the press had repeatedly attacked Eden, his father’s political heir, said at the wedding reception that he would give her two years to “knock him into shape” before recommencing his criticisms. He kept his word.

Eden’s health was poor. Shortly after he and Clarissa married, he had a serious problem with his gall bladder, which took some time to resolve. He nearly died:

Stomach pains that he had had for some time were, at Clarissa’s prompting, found to require an operation in 1953 on his gall bladder. When this was botched, it necessitated two more, the last in America and with Eden close to death.

A bad health experience so soon after marriage drives some couples apart. Not so with the Edens, who became ever closer. Clarissa’s infertility was the next blow. Yet again, their love grew for each other to the extent that Clarissa stopped seeing many of the friends she made as a young adult during this period:

He recovered but the experience of nursing him, Clarissa recalled, “bound us together in a situation of emotional dependence”. It perhaps promoted a siege mentality in both of them, and it was a further sadness that Clarissa was unable to have children after a miscarriage in 1954. She admitted that she had never had women friends with whom she exchanged confidences. After her marriage, she lost touch with her other friends, dismissed by her husband as “café society”.

The couple spent their spare time alone with each other. By now, Eden’s star was in the ascendant; he was a popular Foreign Secretary. He was irked that his rival, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did not stand aside to allow him to lead the Conservative Party and enter No. 10:

Clarissa emphasised her disinclination to cultivate strategic friendships by retreating alone with her husband as often as possible to her cottage, Rose Bower, near Salisbury. These were halcyon days for Anthony Eden as foreign secretary. His diplomacy saved Europe’s fledgling defence pact and brought peace to Indo-China, and in 1954 he was made a Garter knight. Yet he became increasingly irked by Churchill’s disinclination to step aside for him — a dozen times a date was set and then revoked — with Clarissa feeling bound to side with her husband against her uncle. The couple were not mollified by the gift of Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire as an official residence, arriving to find its late owner’s much-used hairbrushes still on their dressing table.

A general election took place in 1955. Anthony Eden finally became Prime Minister. The Edens were Britain’s most sought-after couple outside of the Queen and Prince Philip:

When in May 1955 she walked into Downing Street with her husband Anthony, the newly elected prime minister, the wind could not have stood fairer for them. After the young Queen and Prince Philip, they were the most glamorous and powerful couple in the land.

Lady Eden was only 34, her youth and good looks a refreshing contrast to the exhaustion exuded by the previous premier, her octogenarian uncle Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Anthony Eden was 23 years older than his wife yet still handsome, a natural performer in the new age of television, and genuinely popular. Foreign secretary during the war years and since 1950, he had just become the first leader of a government in a century to increase its majority.

The UK does not have a position of ‘first lady’. That said, some wives of prime ministers do undertake improvements in No. 10 Downing Street. Mrs Eden was one of them, although her first goal of refurbishment was thwarted by the shortage of government funds post-war. She settled on the catering instead:

After moving in, she planned a refurbishment that would have restored much of the original interior, but this fell victim to cutbacks. She had more success with the bland official catering. At one dinner she heard John Foster Dulles, the US secretary of state, bet a fellow guest that he could predict exactly what each course would be. That he had to pay out showed the potential strengths of the team that she and Eden made.

Anthony Eden had one immediate drawback, which was his relationship with the press. Churchill knew how to feed reporters stories. His successor did not.

This might have influenced press coverage of the Suez crisis in 1956, which ended his premiership:

This lack of support in the press may not have influenced Anthony Eden’s thinking when in July 1956 President Nasser of Egypt abruptly nationalised the Suez Canal, hitherto owned by Britain and France. But it meant there was less sympathy when, come November, Eden’s response misfired. After a secret agreement with France, British troops were sent to regain control of the canal on the pretext of halting fighting between Egypt and the other conspirator, Israel. Yet Eden was forced to withdraw humiliated when the Americans, describing Britain’s actions as colonial, threatened to impose oil sanctions and began to sell sterling.

Eden’s policy had sharply divided public opinion and Lady Eden was curious enough to attend a rally in Trafalgar Square against the invasion, although she walked away after being recognised. She herself placed much of the blame on Harold Macmillan, then foreign secretary. He had told Eden that President Eisenhower would not demur at an attempt to oust Nasser, and she thought that he had then exaggerated the gravity of the measures announced by Washington.

It was Macmillan who gained the prime ministership when in December 1956 Eden’s health gave way under the strain.

After leaving Downing Street, the Edens travelled to Jamaica and New Zealand for his health purposes:

He tried first to remedy it with a stay of three weeks at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica, Fleming’s wife, Ann, being a friend of Lady Eden’s. When the break failed to improve matters, and with support for him failing in the cabinet and the Conservative Party, he resigned on January 10. He and Lady Eden then sailed for New Zealand. Over the horizon with them disappeared Britain’s remaining pretensions to be a world power, and the tradition of reposing trust in the ruling class; among the Edens’ stewards aboard the Rangitata was a young trades union activist named [future Labour MP] John Prescott.

Upon their return to England, the Edens settled in Wiltshire. Clarissa devoted herself to gardening. Her husband bred pedigree Hereford cattle.

In 1961, the former Prime Minister became the 1st Earl of Avon. His wife became Countess of Avon, or Lady Avon.

The Earl died in 1977 and his surviving son from his first marriage, Nicholas Eden, who was working in Margaret Thatcher’s government at the time, became the 2nd Earl of Avon. Nicholas died of AIDS in 1985 and, as there was no heir, the title of Earl of Avon died with him.

After her husband’s death, Lady Avon divided her time between Oxfordshire and London. She was careful to preserve her husband’s memory and guarded about guests referring to the Suez Crisis:

All the while she continued to guard her husband’s memory with what her acquaintances regarded as characteristic vigour and her friends as her essential integrity.

At one lunch party when a guest referred in embarrassed and halting tones to “the events of 1956”, she said firmly: “We call it Suez at this end of the table.”

On November 16, Conservative History posted photos of Lady Avon and one of Greta Garbo. Lady Avon had captioned each one (click on the image to see them in full):

Final interview

In 2018, when Lady Avon was 98, she gave her final interview to Spear’s, a financial investment magazine.

The magazine’s then-editor Alec Marsh met with the Countess in her Bryanston Square home in Marylebone, central London:

Three tall windows overlook the square, and the sage-green walls of what she calls a ‘salon’ are coated with beautiful artworks, including one painting by the French cubist Marie Laurencin that catches my eye. ‘It’s a painting that my husband liked,’ Lady Avon explains. ‘He had a very good eye. He was always buying paintings.’ Was that something he had in common with Churchill? ‘My uncle didn’t have a good eye,’ she chuckles genially. ‘He did painting; they were quite nice. But he wasn’t an aesthete, but my husband certainly was.’

That year, Churchill was the most popular Briton. A film of his life as Prime Minister during the Second World War, Darkest Hour, was playing in the cinemas:

Like millions of others, she has seen Darkest Hour and was enthralled by it – including Gary Oldman’s portrayal of her uncle. Would Churchill, I ask, be surprised by the public adoration being heaped upon him today, more than seven decades after the moment of his greatest triumph? ‘I don’t think so,’ she says shrewdly, ‘because by the end of his life he was very great, wasn’t he? It would be very difficult not to realise that he would be remembered.’ Would he be pleased about it? ‘Yes he would, of course.’ She smiles. ‘Naturally.’

Alec Marsh asked what her impressions of her uncle were. Before he became Prime Minister during the war, he had largely failed at several points in his career:

We all think we know something of her uncle, but how does she describe him? ‘That’s very tricky,’ she starts, ‘because I always knew him as a great man who hadn’t been appreciated. Most of my [early] life he was a failure. He was out of a job, out of work and not right in anything he believed in. He was in exile, so to speak. Going to Chartwell [the Churchills’ home in Kent] before the war was going to a place in exile – a place where people were not doing anything. It was all rather frustrating and sad.’

She described her frequent visits to see her uncle when he was PM and she was working in the Foreign Office decoding documents:

‘There was always a crisis, a tension, but one knew that that’s what he lived on; the fuel that got him going. Which it did with any good politician,’ she adds, noting that the same was true for her husband. Did Churchill wear the pressure with equanimity? ‘Oh yes. Of course,’ she insists, as though nothing else would be possible. ‘Certainly.’ How did he cope? ‘I don’t know. But he had always done it.’ Did he drink too much? ‘No, not more than most men,’ she fires back.

I ask about her wartime visits to Chartwell: ‘I didn’t particularly like it, but it was interesting always because Winston was so interesting,’ she recalls. ‘One always wanted to know what he was thinking and doing.’ Whatever the house itself lacked in aesthetic quality (‘Have you ever seen it?’ she asks), its host more than made up for its architectural shortcomings. ‘It was just him,’ Avon states emphatically. ‘One went and there was him and nothing else. They had the lunch or whatever it was, and he would talk and one would listen; that was the important part.

‘But he was not interested in what anybody else had to say,’ Avon recalls, laughing fondly. That said, she insists that he was ‘very polite’. ‘If somebody famous was at lunch he would listen to them, but on the whole he didn’t pay any attention to anybody.’

Was he entertaining company, I ask; funny? ‘He was certainly witty…’ And somewhat terrifying at times? ‘Not in the least, no. But,’ she breaks into laughter, ‘I could see he was terrifying, but not to me, no.’ Avon also recalls that he was ‘very conscious about things like nieces and nephews’.

Marsh asked what her abiding memories of her uncle were:

All these years on, how does she remember him? ‘He was exceptional, certainly,’ she punctuates this with a frank chuckle. ‘I think I realised he was very great in spite of the fact that everyone kept telling one that he was.’ She raises her eyebrows. ‘I did realise that he was exceptional. You couldn’t not.’ The greatest prime minister of the twentieth century? ‘Who was greater?’ she answers.

Then he ventured into present-day issues:

What does she think Winston would make of modern Britain? Lady Avon looks over towards the tall windows momentarily. ‘Not much,’ she chirps. ‘I don’t know. He was very, very old-fashioned in his approach to life.’ That comment sits a moment; the quiet of the square seeps into the salon.

Where would Churchill be on Brexit, I ask? ‘I think he would probably not [be] very much for staying in Europe,’ she announces after some consideration. ‘But he was a good politician,’ she adds, ‘so I don’t know what he would have said.’ Which is rather a good answer when you think about it.

Then questions turned towards her late husband and the Suez Crisis:

I wonder how he saw it all; was he proud of his career?

‘I suppose so,’ she replies doubtfully. ‘Absolutely.’ Does she think people have the wrong sense of Suez – that it was a mistake? There’s a long pause. ‘A mistake because it took place at all?’ she asks. ‘I don’t know,’ she states at last. (At the time she famously said that she ‘felt as if the Suez Canal was flowing through my drawing room’.) I wonder if memories of this crisis have fallen prey to time, as she explains: ‘I’m not good at politics, I’m afraid.’ I’m still not sure as the silence of Bryanston Square returns.

How would Eden have liked to be remembered? ‘You mean as a success or failure?’ she responds. ‘Certainly [he] was a success at the beginning,’ she says, referring to his three spells as foreign secretary – covering ten years between 1935 and 1955 – before the disappointing period of highest office. ‘At the end, I suppose not. I never thought about it,’ she adds absently. She reaches forward to the plate and nudges a biscuit towards me. ‘Have that one,’ she says.

While being photographed for the article, she asked Marsh about his tie. So many British ties represent private club membership and other associations:

‘What does your tie represent?’ asks Lady Avon, looking over. It’s decorative, I say. ‘That’s disappointing. Right,’ she chirps, addressing Greg. ‘Where am I looking?’

May Lady Avon rest in peace.

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.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Sir David Amess MP (Conservative), posted the following tweet promoting his upcoming constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex:

These surgeries are an opportunity for constituents to present their problems to their MP. They might be seeking help with schooling, crime or health, among other things. Meetings are face-to-face, one-on-one. One’s MP then cuts through bureaucracy to achieve a successful resolution to the problem.

It seems this type of in-person connection between a member of the public and an elected constituency politician is unique to the UK. Long may it continue.

Two days later, Sir David posted a photo of himself and the Emir of Qatar. Amess was the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Group fostering good relations between Britain and Qatar:

That same day, the MP for Southend West tweeted his gratitude for the government aid to Southend-on-Sea, no longer a smallish, seaside resort, but a town with a population of 160,000. Sir David has been campaigning tirelessly in Parliament for it to have city status. Winter fuel poverty was another of his big causes:

Little did he realise those would be his final tweets.

Just before noon on Friday, October 15, I was watching a heart-warming segment on GB News about the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event, to be held on October 28 in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Isabel Oakeshott was interviewing Matt Vickers MP (Conservative) and his dog Karen. Karen was paying attention to the conversation. As soon as it turned to dog-napping, she began barking.

The public can vote up for their favourite MP-dog pairing until October 27. Sir David had already registered with his French bulldog Vivienne. Recently, he said:

If I am feeling down, the dog lifts my spirits as she is always pleased to see me and she makes me smile.

Little did I know watching the GB News segment with Matt Vickers and Isabel Oakeshott that Sir David was minutes away from his last breath.

Amess’s last meeting was a Zoom call about the Children’s Parliament, which pairs up an MP with a young member of the public. The meeting ended at 12:02 p.m.

At 12:05, Sir David was gasping his final breaths, having been stabbed multiple times in the church hall.

The Times reported:

It was just moments after midday on Friday when Sir David Amess had his last appointment.

Richard Hillgrove, a PR professional, shared a call with Amess to discuss the Children’s Parliament, an event where kids are matched with members of parliament to debate the important issues of the day.

As usual, the MP for Southend West was firing on all cylinders, full of buzz and ideas for the event: the running order, the voting system, what software they should use. Hillgrove’s daughter, Lola, 11, had been matched with Amess, who visited her at school so they could have their picture taken.

Hillgrove says he ended the Zoom call at 12.02pm, so that Amess could host a constituency surgery at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. It was his final farewell. By 12.05pm, Amess had been stabbed to death.

A few minutes later, Hillgrove saw the first reports of the murder on television. “I didn’t even realise it was Sir David at first,” he recalled. “I was absolutely horrified, every minute that came passed seemed like an hour, the longer it went, the more concerning it got.”

Eventually the unimaginable news filtered through. Lola came home from school in tears. “I was honoured to have known him,” said Hillgrove. “He was such an inspiration, his engagement was incredible. He made sense of a crazy world.”

The events of Friday afternoon have pierced the quiet provincial calm of Leigh-on-Sea, leaving the tight-knit Essex community fearful and furious. A deep, heavy sadness hangs over this seaside town. Yesterday, the flower bins were empty at the Co-op on Eastwood Road, just 100 yards from where Amess was stabbed 17 times by a 25-year-old man. Every tulip, rose and pansy had been scooped up and deposited at the tribute for the man alternately known as “Sir David” or simply “Dave”.

The Telegraph reported that Amess’s staff, women, witnessed his horrifying murder. Paramedics from an air ambulance worked in vain for two hours trying to stabilise him:

Sir David was attacked seconds later, stabbed repeatedly in front of his horrified staff.

Sir David’s wounds were so many and severe that paramedics were unable to stabilise him sufficiently for a transfer to hospital. After two hours of vain struggle to stem his injuries, the air ambulance took off empty.

The Telegraph spoke with the aforementioned Richard Hillgrove:

Mr Hillgrove recalled how, during their conversation, Sir David had periodically glanced to his right.

He assumes this was towards trusted assistant, Rebecca Hayton, upon whom Sir David, not being the most technologically savvy parliamentarian, relied for help when making video calls.

It was she who witnessed at close quarters the full ferocity of the knife attack, running from the Belfairs Methodist Church hall screaming. Her screams alerted Sir David’s other assistant, Julie Cushion, who was positioned in the church hall lobby.

Shortly after the attack, Stephan Aleyn, a former Southend Conservative councillor, spoke to Ms Cushion.

“She is in absolute bits,” he said. “What she saw is going to stick with her for the rest of her life.

“It was a normal surgery and they were assisting Sir David in helping his constituents.

Julie and Rebecca thought this man was just another constituent who needed help from their MP, when suddenly he launched his attack on Sir David.

“For anyone to witness that sort of shocking, unprovoked assault is awful. It was a lovely, normal, sunny day – then this.”

After stabbing Sir David several times, his assailant sat down next to his body, making no effort to evade police, it has emerged.

A Southend Conservative Party source said: “One of Sir David’s office staff was in the hall with him, and it now appears that after attacking Sir David, this man sat down and waited for police to arrive. It’s absolutely chilling.”

The article says that 999 calls were made at 12:05 p.m. Police, including an armed response unit, and the air ambulance responded immediately. The suspect went quietly with the police:

The 25-year-old suspect was detained inside the church hall and led out to a police van. A knife was recovered.

Amess’s staff must have also contacted a Catholic priest he knew. The Revd Jeffrey Woolnough showed up shortly afterwards and asked police to be admitted to administer Last Rites — or Extreme Unction, as it used to be known. However, he was refused entry:

He was denied entry, however, and so stood on the street with another man reciting the rosary. He described it as a “great disappointment” for a Roman Catholic not to be able to receive the last rites.

“It was remarkably calm by the time I arrived,” Fr Woolnough told The Telegraph.

“I prayed from outside and I just hope David received those. I know he would have done, because any prayer said that is sincere is received by the recipient.

“I was praying the rosary – it’s a half hour prayer going through all of those intentions, asking that whatever was going on in there, for God’s will to be done. That’s all I could pray at that point in time.”

I did not know until he died that Sir David was a devout Catholic, but, given his serene demeanour, sincere smile and gentle wit, it does not surprise me that he was a churchgoer.

The Spectator‘s Melanie McDonagh, also a devout Catholic, expressed her displeasure with the police response regarding Last Rites:

It’s not known whether Sir David was alive when the priest arrived at the scene, but he still should have been there. Nothing should come between a dying man and the mercy of the Church. Of course the police were dealing with a tremendously difficult situation and would have been shocked and confused – how could they not have been? – but it doesn’t excuse this failure of judgment, which we can assume stems from a failure of training.

Essex Police sent The Spectator a statement, which says, in part:

As with any police incident, it is of the utmost importance that we preserve the integrity of a crime scene and allow emergency services to tend to those in need. A cordon is put in place to secure and prevent contamination of the area. Access into a scene is at the discretion of the investigating officers. This is a fundamental part of any investigation to ensure the best possible chance of securing justice for any victim and their family.

McDonagh says that the priest was ‘an emergency service’. I cannot disagree:

The most troubling element of the statement is that the police wanted to ‘allow the emergency services to tend to those in need.’

A priest is an emergency service. In the case of Sir David, the priest was someone who could help see him into the next world, not just keep him in this one. You don’t have to share a belief in the efficacy of confession to go along with this; you just need a very elementary knowledge of and respect for the faith to refrain from standing between a confessor and a dying man. As for the reference to the ‘emergency services administering potentially life-saving treatment,’ Catholic priests are used to operating together with medics for precisely this reason.

You might like to know that Essex police recently engaged in that exercise in cultural conformity, Hate Crime Awareness Week. Perhaps in future, some awareness of Christianity might be part of the training.

Monsignor Kevin Hale, who knew Sir David, told GB News how Catholicism informed the MP’s life. Amess’s mother was a Catholic and she brought him up in the faith:

Monsignor Hale said that Sir David had grown up in the East End of London and attended St Bonaventure’s Roman Catholic School in Newham. It is a secondary school for boys.

The Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Anglican Archbishop of York, lived for a time in Amess’s constituency and paid a warm, faith-filled tribute to his former MP and friend in The Telegraph:

It was said of Sir David Amess that though he had opponents, he didn’t have enemies. As we come to terms with the horror of his murder on Friday, this is a distinction worth pondering.

I think of David Amess as a friend. Leigh-on-Sea is my home town and, for ten glorious years as Bishop of Chelmsford, part of the diocese I served. We often met: in parliament, but usually in his constituency, Southend West.

He was, as we have heard over the weekend, a dedicated, zestful, persevering constituency MP. He loved Southend, as I do. He rooted for it. He exemplified that vital, but overlooked, root of our democracy that Members of Parliament may get elected on a party ticket, but, once elected, serve everyone

David Amess was a kind man. The word kind is related to the word kin. When we are kind to someone, it doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with them, or even like them, but that we recognise a kinship, a common humanity and treat them accordingly; or as we sometimes say, “treat them in kind”.

David’s robust kindness came from his Christian faith. He was a devout Christian, a Roman Catholic. But the idea that we human beings belong to one another and have a responsibility to each other is not self-evident. Observation of our behaviour and attitudes shows us the opposite. Our worst desires can be seen everywhere, leading us to separation, fuelled by selfishness, and bearing fruit in hatefulness and the possession of each other.

The picture of humanity that God gives us in Jesus Christ offers something else. In this regard, perhaps the most radical words Jesus ever spoke are the ones most of us know and many of us say every day: “Our Father.” In saying these words we don’t just acknowledge we belong to God, we acknowledge our belonging to each other as kith and kin

David Amess, the friend with whom I sometimes disagreed, had the same values and the same vision. It shaped his life and it is what made him such a loved and effective constituency MP and an exemplar of what our democracy can be.

He was always very kind to me. He supported the Church. He cared. He liked to build coalitions of goodwill so that people could work together. Kindness and kinship, it turns out, gets things done.

My heart goes out to his wife and family and the constituents of Southend West. I am praying for them …

David Amess didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. He wore it in his heart. That’s the best place for it. It means it runs through your very being.

Late on Friday, the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command took over the case from Essex Police:

Early on Saturday, October 16, it was established that the suspect is a Briton of Somali parentage.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, Dominic Casciani, downplayed the suspect’s parental origins:

The BBC‘s home affairs correspondent was accused yesterday of trying to downplay the suspect’s reported Somali origins …

Although every national newspaper with the exception of the Financial Times mentioned that the suspect had Somali ‘origins’, ‘heritage’ or ‘descent’ yesterday, Casciani appeared to wrestle with the issue on Radio 4’s Today programme.

Presenter Nick Robinson asked him: ‘The suspect is a British citizen, but he’s also of Somali origin. Is that regarded as significant?’

Casciani replied: ‘The Somali element – erm, no. The reason why some reporters have established this fact is that there has been some misreporting …’

Twelve hours earlier, he had tweeted: ‘We have learnt from official sources that detectives have established the individual is a UK national, seemingly of Somali heritage. We report this in the interests of accuracy’ …

The BBC says Casciani ‘focuses on stories relating to law, order, society and belonging – including immigration, ethnicity’.

The Telegraph reported on the Met’s discoveries made on Saturday. The suspect lived in London, far from Sir David’s constituency:

On Saturday, officers from the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism team, which is leading the investigation into his death, were searching three addresses in London – at least two of which were believed to be in the east of the capital. One search had ended but the others remained ongoing on Saturday night. The suspect, a British national of Somali origin, is thought to have acted alone and travelled by train from his north London home to Essex to carry out the attack.

The Daily Mail told us that the suspect lives among at least one celebrity in London, the rest of his neighbours clearly well-heeled, and might have spent a week planning the bloody attack:

Ali, who is thought to have been targeted by the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme, may have lived in Sir David’s Southend West constituency in Essex in the past.

His most recent residence is believed to be in London. Officers have been carrying out searches at three addresses.

The security services are providing assistance to Scotland Yard, which is leading the investigation. Last night, detectives were granted a warrant of further detention, allowing them to keep Ali in custody until Friday.

Police officers were yesterday standing guard outside the North London council house where Ali lives. It is in a street of £2 million three-storey townhouses where the late actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, used to live.

That day, news emerged that Sir David had received a menacing threat just days before his murder. However, police believe that the two events are unconnected, according to The Telegraph:

The threat to the veteran MP was made in the past few days and reported to police …

It is understood that Essex Police received a report of the threat, but they are not connecting it with Friday’s attack.

John Lamb, the former Mayor of Leigh-on-Sea and a close colleague of the murdered MP, said Sir David had received the “upsetting” threat in the past few days …

Mr Lamb said it had been Sir David’s idea to hold his surgeries in places like the Methodist church, so he could be more accessible to his constituents, rather than in the local Conservative Party offices in Southend.

It is understood this came despite concerns being expressed by some of his staff over the potential security risk at more open venues.

Mr Lamb said: “Sir David used to hold them at the Conservative Association, but that made it hard for older people to see him so around a year ago he started going out into the community. He didn’t want to hide away, he wanted to be visible and accessible. He told me: ‘I want them to be able to see me in their local area’.

Before this, the last time an MP was murdered was in June 2016, just days before the Brexit referendum. A white male fatally stabbed Labour MP Jo Cox outside her own surgery. He was said to have had mental health problems, aggravated by the threat of eviction. His mother was also in poor health. That is not in any way to excuse his horrific crime of murdering a young wife, mother and MP. However, at the time, the media said the motive was because he was pro-Brexit and she was not.

Sir David, along with every other MP, was deeply affected by her death. He mentioned it and attendant security issues in his 2020 book, In Ayes and Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, published last November.

He wrote:

The British tradition has always been that Members of Parliament regularly make themselves available for constituents to meet them face to face at their surgeries. Now advice has been given to be more careful when accepting appointments. We are advised to never see people alone, we must be extra careful when opening post and we must ensure that our offices are properly safe and secure. In short, these increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians.

He also said that he had to check the locks on his property and that certain ‘nuisance’ (his word) members of the public occasionally showed up outside his home. Other MPs have installed CCTV cameras on their properties.

Jo Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, is now an MP in her former constituency, Batley & Spen. She tweeted her condolences:

The Emir of Qatar also sent a message of sympathy. Last week, he and Sir David were discussing Afghanistan refugees who are currently living in Qatar, awaiting settlement in other countries:

On Sunday, October 17, the father of the suspect in custody spoke. The Sunday Times reported:

The father of the suspected killer of Sir David Amess said he had been left “traumatised” by his son’s arrest after the stabbing of the veteran Tory MP.

Harbi Ali Kullane, a former adviser to the prime minister of Somalia, confirmed that his British-born son, Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was in custody. Kullane said that anti-terrorist police from Scotland Yard had visited him.

Speaking at his sister’s home in north London last night, Kullane said: “I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or even dreamt of.”

The suspect was a “self-radicalised” lone operative known to counterterrorist police, according to Whitehall sources. He is believed to have been referred to Prevent, the government’s deradicalisation programme, before allegedly stabbing Amess on Friday

Investigators are examining the theory that he was radicalised online during lockdown.

Officers were yesterday granted a further warrant to detain him until Friday under terrorism laws. Scotland Yard said that early inquiries had uncovered “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.

Amess, 69, an MP for almost 40 years, was a devout Roman Catholic who was guided in his daily life by his strong faith

Intelligence sources said the suspect had not been on the radar of MI5, which is monitoring more than 3,000 people who it is feared could be plotting a terrorist attack. However, he is believed to be one of thousands of extremists who have been referred to the voluntary Prevent programme after displaying potentially disturbing behaviour such as inflammatory postings on social media.

More than 6,000 people were referred by police and other agencies to the programme in the year ending March 31, 2020.

By the way, referral to the Prevent programme does not include monitoring by police and/or security services.

That day, the Amess family issued a statement thanking the public for their messages of support and urged the Government to grant Southend-on-Sea city status.

The Times reported:

Sir David Amess’s family have said that achieving city status for Southend would be a way of paying tribute to a “patriot and man of peace”.

In their first public comments since the MP’s murder, his family thanked people for the “wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death. It truly has brought us so much comfort.”

Amess, 69, was married with five children and in a statement tonight they said: “The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming. As a family it has given us strength.”

They urged people “to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all” so that some good might come from their father’s death. His family said there was “still so much David wanted to do” insisting: “This is not the end of Sir David Amess MP. It is the next chapter and as a family we ask everyone to support the many charities he worked with.”

They cited his efforts to raise money for a statue of Dame Vera Lynn and said: “Closer to home, David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign.”

As I write on Monday, no known motive for Sir David’s gruesome murder has emerged.

Some of his friends believe it was because he was a devout Catholic. I’m not sure about that. I did not know he was one until he died, and I’m a political junkie and frequent viewer of BBC Parliament.

A radical Islamist preacher says it was because Sir David was pro-Israel, as the MP had been an honorary secretary of the Conservative Friends of Israel since 1998.

However, let us not forget Qatar and the current tensions in Somalia.

In Monday’s Times, speculation arose over whether Amess was murdered because he headed the APPG fostering relations between the UK and Qatar. Qatar supports the current regime in Somalia:

Meanwhile, members of the public are calling for those voting for the Westminster Dog of the Year to choose Sir David and Vivienne as a fitting posthumous tribute to the tireless yet cheerful MP, who will be sorely missed.

I will have more on Sir David’s life in tomorrow’s post.

My deepest condolences go to the Amess family, Sir David’s staff and his many friends. May the good Lord grant them His infinite grace and comfort in the days and months ahead.

Eternal rest grant unto your servant David, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in your eternal mercy and peace. Amen.

As I write, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on holiday in Spain.

He, his wife Carrie and their young son Wilfred left for Lord Goldsmith’s holiday villa after the Conservative Party Conference ended on Wednesday, October 6.

It is a well-deserved break. His stay in Cornwall in August lasted 24 hours before he had to return to Downing Street to deal with the fallout from Joe Biden’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Despite Britain’s crises of fuel and food, he needed a break before Parliament resumes next week.

However, a pivotal personal event also occurred during this time: the death of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, whose funeral was held on September 28.

A Remainer campaigner sent a nasty tweet asking who was in charge of the Government:

Boris’s sister replied:

Boris has not taken any bereavement leave until now.

However, with every lamented death comes new life. Carrie Johnson will be giving birth again in a few weeks’ time, which will be a consolation to the Prime Minister.

Budding artist

Charlotte Maria Offlow Fawcett was born in 1942 in Oxford to Frances (née Lowe) — ‘Bice’ — Fawcett.

Her father, James Fawcett, was a barrister. Three decades later, Sir James Fawcett assumed the presidency of the European Commission for Human Rights.

Years later, Charlotte described her childhood family and friends as ‘rich socialists’. She never voted Conservative, although she told Boris that she did vote ‘Leave’ in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Charlotte’s mother, Bice, was close friends with a woman from another prominent family, Elizabeth Pakenham. Elizabeth and her husband had a baby girl, Rachel.

In a tribute to her friend which she wrote for The Times, Rachel Billington said (emphases mine):

In May 1942 our mothers, Bice Fawcett and Elizabeth Pakenham, both had babies in Oxford and walked our prams side by side. Her family, the Fawcetts, were clever, artistic and international; the Pakenhams were political and literary. Charlotte and I were fat little girls together, waving our Peace in Europe flags and trying to keep up with our siblings. She ended up with four siblings, while I had seven. When both families were in London, I was jealous of music in her house and the sense of an intellectual world beyond my grasp. And she was jealous of my rumbustious life, with a house in the country and horses. Not that she had any wish to ride.

Rachel Billington says that Charlotte attended Catholic school and said her prayers every night, kneeling at her bedside. This religious education might well have imparted the wisdom she gave to Boris, who remembers her talking about ‘the equal value of every human life’.

The Fawcetts moved to the United States for a time. Billington recalls:

When her family went to live in America and her youngest brother acquired an American accent, I realised she inhabited a wider world.

The family returned to England. By then, Charlotte was interested in painting and pursued her artistry at Oxford, the university that Billington also attended. Charlotte was reading English:

At Oxford, her intensity was reflected in her small college room where the objects were ordered as if already in a painting. She was painting and drawing complicated faces and patterns. Her essays were remarkably short and there was never anything regurgitated from “further reading”. She discovered her views from the text and from her imagination.

Meeting Stanley at Oxford

Charlotte met her first husband, Stanley Johnson, at Oxford.

In a 2015 interview, she recalled how they met at a university dinner:

… she told Tatler magazine in 2015: ‘I was engaged to somebody called Wynford Hicks, who was extraordinarily beautiful to look at but actually quite boring.

‘Anyway, [after the dinner] Stanley sent me a note asking if he could come to tea and go for a walk. 

‘So a few days later we went for a walk and he suddenly said, ‘Love is sweet. Revenge is sweeter far. To the Piazza. Ah ha ha har!”, which made me laugh so much I fell in love with him.’

When he earned a scholarship to study in America, Charlotte accompanied him. They married in 1963 and their first child, Alexander Boris, was born a year later.

Billington explained his middle name. Stanley and Charlotte were on holiday in Mexico City at the time:

The name Boris, incidentally, arose when they ran out of money at the airport on the way to New York where Charlotte was to have the baby, and an impatient passenger in the queue offered to pay what they needed. “That’s terrific,” Stanley said gratefully, “We’ll call the baby after you if it’s a boy. What’s your name?” “Boris,” answered the gentleman. In fact it is our prime minister’s second name; while he was at Eton Alexander was dropped in its favour.

However, Boris is still known to his nearest and dearest, Billington included, as Al or Alexander.

Charlotte painted a portrait of her son as a young boy, who grew up with shoulder-length hair:

The casually dressed, floppy-haired boy looks up from his painting. He is relaxed but serious, his complexion fair.

The Johnsons returned to England for a time. Charlotte and Rachel resumed their friendship:

Nothing seemed impossible to this glittering couple and Charlotte returned to resume her degree with Stanley and Alexander while also pregnant with her daughter Rachel. Through these perambulations and my own, Charlotte and I remained close; I was Al’s godmother and later Charlotte was my eldest son, Nat’s. Friendship was very important for Charlotte and she had the kind of loving warmth that made even newer friends bond to her for life. And tell her their stories and listen to their jokes and laugh. Lots of laughter.

It seems likely that Charlotte named her daughter Rachel in honour of her friend.

Charlotte completed her degree at Oxford as the first married female undergraduate at her college, Lady Margaret Hall.

Ruined marriage

Stanley received a transfer back to the US to work at the World Bank in Washington DC.

Billington was also in the US, working for ABC television in New York.

She remembers meeting up with her friend, the mother of four:

With the Johnsons living in Washington, where Stanley was working at the World Bank, enjoying a highly sociable life, plus now having four children, it seemed extraordinary that Charlotte’s painting life could continue. Yet when I visited from New York where I was working for ABC TV, she still had the energy to go down to Rehoboth Beach [Delaware] and bebop with the rest of us.

In the 1970s, the Johnsons’ marriage began to break down once the family returned to London.

The Mail alleges:

Mrs Johnson Wahl had an unhappy marriage to Boris’ father Stanley, who was accused of breaking her nose in the 1970s.

Charlotte’s mental state disintegrated, to the point where she had to be admitted to the Maudsley Hospital in London.

Billington visited her:

… suddenly I was visiting my brilliant friend in the Maudsley Hospital suffering from the problems that pressure and an obsessional nature can bring, properly called obsessive compulsive disorder. While the children ran round in the garden, Charlotte and I talked and I discovered that every day she was painting for hours at a time. Eventually, nearly 80 paintings were exhibited in the hospital, terrifying pictures of people in despair, agony or just misery. Yet also implying hope in the vibrant beauty of the colours and quite often a kind of wry humour, as if saying, “This is my life at the moment.”

The Times obituary notes:

She had already become “extremely phobic . . . terrified of all forms of dirt”. Eventually she had a breakdown and spent eight months at the Maudsley hospital in south London as a patient of Hans Eysenck, the influential psychologist.

While Charlotte was in the Maudsley, Stanley was transferred to Brussels. He took the children with him.

Charlotte discussed the difficult marriage in a 2008 interview:

“My husband and I were not making each other happy, to put it mildly. It was ghastly, terrible,” she told the Daily Telegraph in 2008, tears filling her bespectacled eyes. “The children used to come over from Brussels to see me in hospital. They’d run down the passage and it was sickeningly painful because then they’d go away again. It took me a long time to recover.”

Once Charlotte recovered, she was able to move to Brussels and, during holidays, welcome guests at the family farm in Exmoor in Devon. Billington remembers her stays with the Johnsons:

As Charlotte recovered, the family moved to Brussels, but when they were in England I would join them in the house on Exmoor that Stanley inherited from his father. It was a glorious cold comfort farm, but friends, if they survived the long pot-holed driveway, were fed hugely and taken on challenging treks that usually included river swimming and mountain climbing. Well, hills. It was hard for Charlotte to paint there, yet the pictures of her children and her friends’ children prove she was still managing. I have three from that period.

The renowned journalist and author Tom Bower has written a biography of Boris, The Gambler. The Mail‘s obituary of Charlotte recaps how Stanley treated her:

A biography of the Prime Minister claimed her marriage became ‘irredeemably fractured’ due to her husband’s ‘neglect and philandering’.

The Gambler, by Tom Bower, alleged that doctors spoke to Stanley ‘about his abuse’ while the couple’s children were told a car door had hit their mother’s face.

The most shocking claim was that in the 1970s Stanley hit the Prime Minister’s mother in a domestic violence incident that broke her nose and left her requiring hospital treatment.

Mr Bower describes Stanley’s first marriage, to Mr Johnson’s mother Charlotte, as violent and unhappy, quoting her as saying: ‘He broke my nose. He made me feel like I deserved it.’

It was claimed that the incident took place in the 1970s when Mrs Johnson Wahl was suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and had ‘flailed’ at Stanley, who broke her nose when ‘flailing back’.

Stanley, now 81, is said to have deeply regretted the incident and denied he had been violent on any other occasion

By the end of the decade, the couple separated. They divorced in 1979.

Billington lived five minutes away from Charlotte, once she separated and could really throw her energies into painting:

After her separation from Stanley, paintings poured out from her flat at the top of a large building in Elgin Crescent in Notting Hill, London, happily just five minutes’ walk from me.

The Mail says Charlotte refused financial support from Stanley:

After moving to a flat following her divorce, she refused to accept money from her ex-husband and made a living selling paintings. She later recalled she was ‘very hard up’.

Dr Nick Wahl, second husband

Charlotte found happiness with her second husband, Dr Nick Wahl, an American professor. They married in 1988.

The Times obituary tells us how they met in 1982 and summarises their life together:

… she met Nick Wahl, an American academic. “We were at a dinner party in Brussels given by [the diplomat] Crispin Tickell and Nick asked could he see my paintings,” she told Tatler. “He was on a trial separation from his wife. There was an immediate connection. I flew out to see him and he came to see me. There were an incredible number of crossings of the Atlantic.” They married in 1988, by which time her youngest son was in his final year at Eton, and lived on Washington Square, New York. Wahl died from cancer in 1996 and she returned to London, settling in Notting Hill in a flat that, according to one visitor, resembled “an Aladdin’s cave with exotic carpets, a dolls’ house, flowers, cherubs on the wall and oil paintings everywhere, including several of the flaxen-headed children”.

Billington recalls those years:

That was a great period of creativity that was reinforced by her marriage to Nick Wahl and a double life in London and Washington Square, New York where Nick was professor at the university. It gave her a chance to play with the Manhattan skyline and the sardine tin of the subway to dazzling effect, sometimes on giant canvases. In London, she modestly remarked, “I just paint what I see”, but Elgin Crescent had never looked so dramatic. My son Nat snapped up one, which I visit just to see what she made of a fairly ordinary London street.

As her beloved children grew up and made their own paths, and she no longer had the constant responsibilities of motherhood, I saw a painter at the peak of her powers. Now when I visited Manhattan, we ate out for every meal, feeling young and independent, both of us with four adored children, but free to do what we wanted. She painted, I wrote, and of course Charlotte had a whole lot of fascinating New York friends.

Unfortunately, around the time Charlotte met her second husband, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That was in 1982, when she was only 40 years old.

Her quality of life diminished until 2013, when she underwent state of the art treatment in London.

The Times obituary says:

A cocktail of drugs helped to slow the progress of the disease, but the quality of her life was impeded. “The worst thing is a terrible stiffness,” she said. “When you want to walk you can’t — you freeze and your feet become attached to the ground.” In 2013 she achieved something of a medical breakthrough when Ludvic Zrinzo at the National Hospital in Bloomsbury introduced two electrodes into her brain and linked them to a battery in her chest. “It means I don’t jerk any more and I can go to the cinema and the theatre again. It’s bliss,” she said.

Political opposites

The Mail‘s obituary states that Charlotte was amazed to be the mother of four children who are all Conservatives:

She was described in a 2015 article in the Evening Standard as ‘left-wing’.

Boris Johnson’s sister, Rachel, said in the article, about two-party families, ‘We are a very mixed-race family politically and my father tends to marry socialists.

She later described her mother as ‘the only red in the village when we lived on Exmoor’And she herself once admitted that she had never voted Conservative, despite two of her sons being Tory MPs.

She told the Radio Times in 2015: ‘I find it extraordinary that I should have married a Tory and have four Tory children.

‘I’ve never voted Tory in my life. My parents were very socialist – rich socialists with three cars and two houses, but they were socialists in the days when that happened’

Along with Boris Johnson, she was also the mother of former Conservative MP Jo Johnson, journalist Rachel Johnson, and entrepreneur Leo Johnson.

The Prime Minister’s son Wilfred was her 13th grandchild. 

Charlotte had several exhibitions of her paintings, and she sold many. She was also commissioned to paint celebrity portraits, which were equally well received.

May Charlotte Johnson Wahl rest in peace. Hers was a life well lived. Most importantly, she was able to overcome adversity.

Sources:

Boris Johnson’s mother Charlotte Johnson-Wahl dies “suddenly and peacefully” at the age of 79, Daily Mail (includes family photos)

‘Charlotte Johnson Wahl was my best friend’, The Times

‘Charlotte Johnson Wahl, the prime minister’s mother, dies aged 79’, The Times

It used to be that vaccines prevented infection.

Coronavirus has changed all that. The double-vaxxed are ending up infected:

Andrew Doyle, who hosts Free Speech Nation for GB News, has it, and he’s taken his shots.

ITV’s Robert Peston, also double-vaxxed, has it, too:

Peston was supposed to be in Aberdeenshire in Scotland but had to cancel:

I hope he recovers soon.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the debate rages on as to whether children over the age of 12 should receive the vaccine and whether older adults should have a booster shot this autumn.

British supporters of vaccines for children say that such programmes in the United States and France have been highly successful. Hmm.

Dr Robert W Malone is an American physician as well as an inventor of mRNA vaccines and RNA as a drug. He directs his readers to an article in LifeSiteNews about possible coercion being used in high schools:

Meanwhile, the WHO is urging countries wishing to vaccinate their children to donate those doses to Covax instead for wider use around the world. The reply to this tweet includes a statement from Britain’s JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation) which recommended against children’s vaccinations on Friday, September 3:

The WHO also disagrees with booster shots in Western countries, again recommending donating those doses to poorer countries:

The UK also wants to roll out vaccine passports by the end of the month. If we can catch the virus despite two jabs, what is the point? It seems as if we are all back at Square One, only that we are susceptible to milder cases rather than death.

Speaking of deaths, the UK figures for 2021 are on a par with other years since the vaccine rollout began. I saw this graphic on another site with no attribution. Note the bright green line up to Week 33:

https://image.vuukle.com/ed685e8a-908f-4503-badc-e6b31ad2d2c9-ce96d61c-073c-4c3f-bbe6-76ad654e3b52

Moving to poorer countries now, not every nation has shown signs of infection or deaths:

Dr Malone says that Peru had a preventive programme of giving its citizens doses of ivermectin until a new president scrapped it. At that point, fatal infections began rising dramatically:

Since the pandemic began, ivermectin for humans has been taken off the market in several Western countries or is restricted on a prescription-only basis for certain conditions, excluding the virus. In many first-world countries, ivermectin is now used solely on animals for various diseases. The current formulation is made for their consumption.

Yet, in Peru and Africa, the formulation for humans is still available. It is inexpensive and is used to cure a variety of diseases as the following Twitter thread about Africa tells us.

The countries in blue are where ivermectin is used on humans. Note the differences in coronavirus cases and deaths:

Ivermectin, sold under the trade name Mectizan, is used to treat river blindness, a common and highly painful disease. It is not unusual to see people with a pair of eyebrow tweezers on a chain around their necks. Among other things, river blindness inflames the eyelash follicles. The only way to relieve the intense pain is to carefully pluck the offending eyelash. It is an ongoing pain until the disease is cured:

The Japanese have looked at sub-Saharan data and have recommended ivermectin to the government as a treatment for coronavirus:

It seems that the Japanese government rejected the use of ivermectin in combatting coronavirus. The updated statistics for Africa are in the second tweet:

Another big supporter of ivermectin is Karl Denninger of The Market Ticker.

On December 18, 2020, he wrote that by giving Americans two tablets of ivermectin, coronavirus could be stopped in one week in the United States. Two tablets in total is all it would take (emphases in the original):

… Why the hell are you not only letting them get away with it but willing to stand in line and take a not-fully-tested shot when a $2 alternative that does the same thing and has been proved safe over more than 30 years of time is available, and it also has a remarkable record of preventing serious disease and death.   This has been known for months.

We can stop Covid-19 in ONE WEEK.

One.  Not five, six, eight or ten as promised by Dr. Redfield with his “masks” who, I remind you, lied.  Covid-19 did not stop even though he got what he wanted.

The science and the CDC’s own data says this will work in ONE WEEK.

And the risk if it doesn’t work as the science and math says it will?

STATISTICALLY NONE; the drug in question has had over 3.5 billion doses dispensed worldwide and, on the data, is safer than Tylenol and the number of pills you must take is two.

Not two per day.

Two.

Ivermectin will receive broad media coverage only when it’s too late. What a pity.

Most of us know instinctively that the Taliban have not changed.

Unfortunately, our leaders probably do not.

A few days ago, a musician was murdered and women’s voices have been banned from the airwaves.

On Sunday, August 29, the Times reported on both (emphases mine):

Taliban fighters have shot dead an Afghan folk singer after it outlawed music and women’s voices on television and radio in the bellwether province of Kandahar, laying the ground for a nationwide ban in an echo of the brutal Islamist regime of 20 years ago.

When the Taliban come calling, it’s not for a friendly chat:

Fawad Andarabi was dragged from his home and shot in the head in the village of Andarab, north of Kabul on Friday, his family said. The murder has provoked an outcry and fuelled fears of a return to the repressive regime of the 1990s since Taliban fighters overran Kabul two weeks ago.

Andarabi was famed for playing the ghichak, a bowed lute, to accompany folk songs about the mountains that surrounded his home, which lies near the Panjshir Valley, the last bastion of resistance to the Taliban takeover.

I wrote about the Panjshir Valley, the home of the new National Resistance Front, on Wednesday, August 25, two days before Fawad Andarabi’s murder. No doubt, this will give the resistance movement added momentum:

Masoud Andarabi, the former interior minister, condemned the singer’s murder. “Taliban’s brutality continues in Andarab. Today they brutally killed folk singer, Fawad Andarabi who simply was bringing joy to this valley and its people,” he wrote on Twitter. “As he sang here ‘our beautiful valley . . . land of our forefathers’ will not submit to Taliban brutality.”

As for ‘female sounds’ on television and radio:

The order from Kandahar also confirms fears that women will be forced out of the media and off the airwaves, crushing a vital opportunity for educated, professional women that has flowered in the 20 years since the first Taliban regime was overthrown

One female reporter in the province said: “The Taliban’s ban of female journalists from TV and radio is not a surprise for me. It was expected as the Taliban started stopping women from work in media, banks, activism and other jobs before they took Kabul. Today, no female presenter or anchor were seen on TV in Kandahar. It’s very sad. I know many female journalists who are in hiding or have fled. There is no space left at all for working women in Afghanistan.”

How terribly sad.

I wonder if the Taliban will still allow kite flying, which they had banned until Western troops began their occupation.

An American author and physician, Dr Khaled Hosseini, who was born in Afghanistan, even wrote a book about it. The Kite Runner developed into a play and a film. Hosseini says the plot is fiction, but it does draw on other Afghans’ memories of growing up under a regime of religious brutality, including male sexual assault.

It looks as if the bad old days are here again. Perhaps they never truly disappeared, despite the West’s best efforts.

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