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On Friday, I wrote that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was still standing; rumours of his political demise were premature.

On Thursday, February 10, The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson, who also writes for The Telegraph, wrote an article for the latter: ‘Whisper it, but I’m beginning to see how Boris just might survive this’.

That same day, two polling companies were conducting their polls for the weekend. Both YouGov and Opinium show that Boris’s Conservatives at 34% are closing the gap with Labour on 37%:

Opinium have revised their methodology, re-evaluating how ‘don’t know’ results are tabulated. Without that, Labour would have been ten points ahead.

Guido Fawkes explains (emphases in the original, purple one mine):

On Saturday Opinium – the most accurate 2019 pollster – also found this same lead with identical 37% and 34% poll ratings respectively. Opinium’s poll also came with a methodology change that claims most polls giving Labour a very large lead is because of Tory voters switching to ‘don’t know’ rather than Labour. The new methodology weights the Tory ‘don’t knows’ differently, giving a more accurate picture of voting intention.

Without the methodology shift, Opinium says their latest poll would have shown a ten-point Labour lead…

Returning to Fraser Nelson’s article, it details how Boris is returning to being the candidate of 2019. While we elect MPs rather than Prime Ministers, the Conservatives’ majority of 80 at the time showed that Boris was the winning factor.

Nelson says that, with the pandemic in decline, Boris is reversing big-state policies that were alienating voters, especially those who had voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 (emphases mine):

The Prime Minister we see before us now is a very different creature to the one who governed by diktat for the best part of two years. He’s humbly asking Tory MPs what to do, then doing it. It’s humiliating, but it’s greatly improving the quality of the Government. He has broken free from Sage (whose advice on omicron turned out to be bunkum) and didn’t seek its advice before deciding to abolish all remaining Covid restrictions a month early. Warming to his theme, he’s now referring to this as “freedom day”.

Some of his worst ideas are being abandoned. His plans to set up an all-powerful Animal Sentience Committee to judge government policy now look doomed. His anti-obesity strategy – whereby a Conservative government would tell shops what sort of food they could and could not promote – is being shelved.

“That was his personal idea,” says one minister, “so to see it abandoned showed how his personal power has vanished. But it helps him. People resent him less.”

As Parliament is in recess as I write, Boris has no immediate rivals for his leadership:

the rebellion is losing steam. Parliament is breaking up for half-term with no immediate threat to his leadership. He has been lucky in his enemies: when Christian Wakeford defected to Labour he revived the Tories’ sense of tribal loyalty. Being attacked by Sir John Major, who has never recovered from the Brexit referendum result, will also have helped him. An attempt to change the rules of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers – to make it easier to depose him – has also failed.

We can only hope the ‘old’ Boris returns and that this isn’t a temporary move out of panic:

This holds out the prospect – no more than that – of the big-state, bossy Boris giving way to the buccaneering, risk-taking and freedom-loving leader they thought they were getting when they first elected him. So far, it seems he’s prepared to do anything to survive. Even reform the NHS …

The Downing Street parties are still an issue. At the weekend, Boris received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police which he must complete within seven days:

The current obsession with the Met’s investigation into Partygate might, paradoxically, help the Prime Minister. If he is not fined, he can claim vindication – and move, straightaway, to focus on his great Covid reopening. If he keeps moving while his enemies are still, there’s every chance of his regaining momentum.

Still, if Boris can keep meeting the next departure deadline, he just might survive:

With an approval rating almost as low as John Major’s, the chances of a full Johnsonian recovery look slim. But as one of his loyalists puts it: “The aim is to make it to Valentine’s Day, then May Day, then summer. So far, so good.”

On Saturday, February 12, Steve Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Boris’s new Chief of Staff, wrote an article for The Telegraph: ‘We in No 10 know that cutting back the size of the state must be a priority’.

Barclay says, that, post-Covid:

it is a priority to restore a smaller state – both financially and in taking a step back from people’s lives. It’s time to return to a more enabling approach. To trust the people, return power to communities, and free up business to deliver.

I know how frustrating the recent weeks of speculation about the workings of government have been – for the people of this country, and for political colleagues. But the Prime Minister has apologised for the things we simply did not get right, and for the way that some matters have been handled. And knowing the Prime Minister as I do, he is the best person to deliver the mission of renewal and recovery.

He outlined what will be happening in the coming weeks:

After this week’s Parliamentary recess, the Prime Minister will be bringing forward a plan for everyone to live with Covid. Last Friday’s move to relax travel restrictions further will encourage both business and leisure bookings and help kickstart the aviation sector. And in a fortnight – provided the data continues its encouraging trend – all Covid regulations in England are due to be abolished. That the Prime Minister can consider bringing this forward is thanks in part to the hard work of the British people, which has also contributed to our economic recovery.

We know that families are facing a rise in the cost of living, which is why the Prime Minister and Chancellor brought forward a support package earlier this month to help households with energy bills. The Prime Minister is raring to get the economy fully firing and determined to build more efficient and more responsive public services. He is the leader to capitalise on the benefits of Brexit – changing our laws to better reflect Britain’s needs. And, through the levelling up white paper, he aims to balance the UK more fairly. These are the core values of the Conservative Party.

The week ahead will see the Prime Minister getting out of Westminster and visiting Scotland, the North East, and other parts of the UK to focus on the people’s priorities and see how we are improving their communities. He’ll be championing important domestic policies – like the apprenticeships that spread opportunity to people who earn as they learn and gain experience on the job. And he will carry on working with our allies to maintain peace in Europe, as he did last week in Brussels with our Nato partners, and in Poland with our armed forces.

Boris spent the morning of Valentine’s Day in Scotland alone — with no Conservative support from north of the border.

The lockdown parties at No 10 have strained his relationship with the Scottish Conservatives, especially their leader Douglas Ross, who is both an MP at Westminster and an MSP at Holyrood.

Ross, the Scottish Parliament’s leader of the opposition, was so put off by the party controversy that he initially did not invite Boris to the Scottish Conservatives’ annual conference.

In the end, however, Ross relented and Boris will be appearing via video link.

On Monday, The Times reported further:

The prime minister also sent Ross a handwritten birthday card, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Conservatives at Holyrood are nervous about Boris:

Some MSPs are uncomfortable with Johnson’s appearance and worry about the impact of the present situation if he survives in office.

Yet, Downing Street has reason to believe Scottish Conservative voters are more open to Boris:

figures in No 10 believe Johnson is not as offputting to voters as his plunging poll ratings north of the border suggest.

“I think [Johnson’s critics in the Scottish Conservatives] sort of have this view that the prime minister is a bit like Mrs Thatcher in the Eighties, [that] she was so toxic in Scotland but actually it was only under John Major that the party went into really serious reversal in Scotland,” a Johnson ally said.

“With Boris’s so-called toxicity in Scotland, we didn’t do so badly at the last election in Scotland, relative to historic performances.”

In 2019 the Scottish Tories lost seven seats but retained six [in Westminster], having had only one seat between 1997 and 2017.

The article says that Scottish Conservatives insist there is no personal animosity on the part of Douglas Ross and point out that he supported Boris in the 2019 leadership contest, which preceded the general election that year.

Boris’s civil servants in Whitehall will be working more closely with Scotland’s SNP government, especially in a bid to avoid another independence referendum:

Whitehall sources also intend to work more collaboratively with SNP ministers as part of efforts to take the heat out of disputes between the administrations.

Some senior figures believe that if both governments can agree to schemes that benefit Scotland economically it will help stave off public pressure for a second independence referendum. “We are hugging them close,” said a source.

Earlier on Monday, the Daily Mail reported on Boris’s half-day trip:

The Prime Minister visited Scotland to announce an agreement with the Scottish Government on a plan to create new green freeports.  

He visited Rosyth shipyard this morning and will later head to an oncology centre tackling coronavirus backlogs in the north west of England. 

The PM had been due to stay overnight in Cumbria but is now expected to return to Downing Street because of the Ukraine crisis …

The UK and Scottish governments have agreed there will be two ‘green freeports’ north of the border

Freeports – special economic zones offering tax breaks and lower tariffs for businesses – are being promoted by the UK Government as part of its ‘levelling up’ agenda …

Mr Johnson will have been bracing for a frosty welcome given the Tory civil war over the Partygate scandal. 

Mr Ross has said that Mr Johnson’s position is ‘no longer tenable’ and has called for him to resign

The Scottish Tory leader is understood to have sent a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs.     

The comments from Mr Ross prompted a slap down from Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg who described the Moray MP as a ‘lightweight’, fuelling rising tensions.

Six months from now we will look at Boris’s travails and they will seem trivial. Everything will be water under the bridge, including partygate.

There will be bigger issues in the months to come — and Boris, rightly or wrongly, will still be at the helm.

For the past several weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have been lagging behind Labour in the polls.

Boris and the Conservatives held the top spot for most of 2021, apart from one week in January. Their ratings began to sink in November, if I recall correctly. Initially, this had to do with Net Zero policies (far out of reach from the normal Briton), a tax increase to help pay for the NHS and rumours of parties during lockdown at No. 10 Downing Street.

Later, around Christmas, news emerged of parties dating from late 2020. More recently, news leaked about a No. 10 gathering on May 20, 2020 (during lockdown), for which Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised during Prime Minister’s Questions on January 12, 2022:

Today, it is alleged that parties also took place in Downing Street the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.

For Keir Starmer and Labour to be ahead of Boris and Co for this long is a parlous state of affairs:

On January 8, 2022, GB News reported that the Conservatives were beginning to regain lost ground (emphases in purple mine throughout):

The Conservative Party has recovered some of its lost lead against the opposition Labour Party, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, but Boris Johnson’s personal ratings remain deeply negative as he faces ongoing ethics questions.

Polling company Opinium said Labour’s poll rating held at 39% in a January 5-7 survey, unchanged from late December, while support for the Conservatives rose two percentage points to 34%. The Liberal Democrats were on 11% and the Green Party was on 5% …

Johnson’s own net approval rating in the Opinium poll was minus 24%, up from minus 31% before Christmas but well behind Labour Party leader Keir Starmer at plus 3%.

Soaring inflation was also souring the public mood, with 86% of people saying their living costs had risen, the polling company said.

On Monday, January 10, the Conservatives continued to gain ground, although they still trail Labour:

Guido Fawkes noted that not moving to Plan C coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period probably helped:

Labour’s 8 point poll lead at the end of last year has halved in the latest YouGov poll. The plunged best PM rating for Boris has bounced 6 points and Starmer’s has eroded a point, though Boris still trails. Making the right call on Omicron appears to be paying off for Boris. Who knows, if the Tories get their act together and govern a bit more like Tories, they might even regain their lead…

Moving on to coronavirus measures, a number of news items broke since the New Year, some of which relate to England only; the devolved nations have their own measures, largely socialist in nature.

Self-isolation time

On Monday, Boris said he was considering lowering the number of days that people have to self-isolate:

Guido Fawkes reported that Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove said that the current Plan B measures are likely to expire as planned on January 26.

Boris’s comment followed Gove’s on Plan B:

This follows Michael Gove’s comments earlier today on the potential lifting of Plan B measures in a few weeks, provided the NHS continues to keep Omicron under control. Looking increasingly likely that pandemic measures will – finally – wind down sooner rather than later…

On self-isolation being reduced from seven days to five, as the US is doing, Boris said:

We’re looking at [it]… we will act according to the science as we always have. But what I would say to everybody is that Omicron is still out there, it’s incredibly contagious. Everyone will know somebody who has had it, it can be pretty unpleasant.

Boris was likely reconsidering because British scientific advisers ‘misread’ US self-isolation guidance. Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), is pictured:

Guido Fawkes showed the difference between the UKHSA guidance on January 1 and January 10.

Guido concludes:

The US Centres for Disease Control has now clarified their isolation periods do start after the first appearance of symptoms, giving further credence to Tory backbenchers’ calls for a cut. This country has had enough of experts…

Indeed, we have had enough of experts. Unfortunately, Jenny Harries is receiving a damehood, having been on the New Year’s Honours list.

The move for a shorter isolation period is to enable those with coronavirus to return to work as soon as possible.

It is a curious thing that, since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, I have seen the same shop assistants week after week. By contrast, when I watch the news, there is a plethora of public sector workers — the NHS and teachers, to name but two groups — who are constantly sick.

This tweet expresses the phenomenon well:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-52ee10ed-274e-4073-9d2f-c130beeed0cb

On Thursday, January 13, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced in the House of Commons that self-isolation will be reduced to five days beginning on Monday, January 17, provided that the person involved can provide two negative lateral flow test results on Days 4 and 5:

The end of mass vaccination?

On Sunday, January 9, Dr Clive Dix, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said that it was time to end mass vaccination and begin urgent research into antibodies as well as T-cells.

The Observer reported:

Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the booster campaign, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has said.

With health chiefs and senior Tories also lobbying for a post-pandemic plan for a straining NHS, Dr Clive Dix called for a major rethink of the UK’s Covid strategy, in effect reversing the approach of the past two years and returning to a “new normality”.

“We need to analyse whether we use the current booster campaign to ensure the vulnerable are protected, if this is seen to be necessary,” he said. “Mass population-based vaccination in the UK should now end.”

He said ministers should urgently back research into Covid immunity beyond antibodies to include B-cells and T-cells (white blood cells). This could help create vaccines for vulnerable people specific to Covid variants, he said, adding: “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

On Wednesday, Professor Jeremy Brown of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) echoed Dr Dix’s call for a post-pandemic plan. He rightly pointed out that we do not test for influenza:

Schoolchildren suffering

I do feel for children having to wear masks, undergo regular testing at school and for being persuaded — with parental consent — to get vaccinated. My commiserations also go to their parents.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the rate of children’s vaccinations must speed up:

The topic of mask-wearing, although confined to secondary school students, came up on a recent instalment of ITV’s This Morning programme. Author and television presenter Gyles Brandreth explained how difficult this is for children with learning difficulties:

I am glad to see that pupils are refusing to wear masks: sensible kids showing common sense.

Vaccines

Having watched all the coronavirus briefings on television, I remember when either then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock or one of our senior health advisers told us that not everyone would need to get vaccinated in order to put the pandemic at bay.

This historical example from the smallpox era shows that a only relatively small percentage of people need a vaccination in order to eradicate the disease. In the case of smallpox, this was 32%:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-3f958417-af3a-492b-8ba5-1295b96658d7

Yet, the UK is now jabbing children, mandating vaccine passports as well as threatening loss of employment in April 2022 to unvaccinated NHS and care home workers. WHY?

The biggest news story on this subject appeared on Friday, January 7.

The Telegraph reported that Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London told Health Secretary Sajid Javid that he had had coronavirus and has the antibodies. He said he had no intention of getting a vaccine.

He said that the science does not warrant a health worker vaccine mandate:

Here is a clip from The Telegraph‘s article:

https://image.vuukle.com/5a13d893-99ce-45cf-838a-4fee2a3447a2-d6bcf1df-87ae-419a-a99b-34db16fce297

NHS is doing well

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the NHS is coping well. Eight Nightingale facilities will also be opened in the coming weeks:

Socialist policies in Scotland and Wales do not work

On Monday, January 10, talkRADIO’s Kevin O’Sullivan said that vaccine passports are not working in Scotland and Wales. He rightly wonders why Boris Johnson wanted to extend their reach in England.

Wales’s rate of infection is three times higher than England’s. Scotland recorded its highest ever number of coronavirus ‘cases’:

Dan Wootton of GB News also had plenty to say on the Welsh and Scottish approach to coronavirus:

He said:

The chilling reality of the United Kingdom under a Labour/SNP coalition was laid bare over the New Year period.

And it’s not something any of us should want to become a reality.

More on that below.

Wales

On Sunday, January 9, Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford (Labour) said that Welsh coronavirus rates are lower than England’s. Note that, at one point, he did specify Welsh rates were lower than those in England’s hotspots, not the whole country. In that sentence, he told the truth, less so overall:

Drakeford came up with a few more new rules before Christmas. People couldn’t work in an office, but they could go to the pub.

Dan Wootton said:

In socialist Wales, Mark Drakeford – seemingly so intent on smashing the economy to smithereens – has started to fine honest folk £60 for going to work in an office.

Genuinely. I’m not making that up. Doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly healthy, either.

But Drakeford is the man who forced supermarkets to cordon off aisles selling toys and clothes, remember. Now the Chief Medical Officer in Wales Sir Frank Atherton is hysterically proposing that we should all self-isolate for days on end if we have a common cold.

And, with Labour’s love of restrictions, circuit breakers and draconian laws controlling our behaviour, have Welsh Covid rates been any lower than the rest of the UK? Nope!

According to government data across the pandemic, Wales has had the second highest total rate of cases per 100,000 – just under Northern Ireland – at a rate of 20,386.2.

That compares to England’s 20,174.2 and Scotland’s 17,673.4.

In the last seven days, Wales remains the second highest, again just behind Northern Ireland.

The following tweet shows another absurd aspect of the situation, with an English non-league football (soccer) club, Chester, wondering how it can survive under Drakeford’s draconian rules. Chester’s stadium lies just over the border in Wales:

This exchange shows how complicated the situation is:

Scotland

North of the Border, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) has implemented some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the UK.

Dan Wootton says that these are a smokescreen for the lack of a second independence referendum. Nonetheless, he details how totalitarian they are:

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon prizes her role as a Covid dictator using press conferences broadcast to the nation by the BBC to spread fear and introduce harsh controls on poor Scots.

She insists it’s to keep them safe.

But in my opinion, it’s to keep the Covid crisis running for as long as possible, so she doesn’t have to face the fact her dream of a second independence referendum lies in tatters.

So to Sturgeon omicron has been a blessing, allowing her to impose new social controls essentially killing off the Scottish hospitality industry once more for months. Compare and contrast today’s [January 3] Times front pages.

The English edition reports that ministers in Westminster are confident new curbs won’t be needed, given Plan B has already been imposed and Omicron is a far less severe variant.

The Scottish edition, by contrast, reports that large public gatherings could be forbidden in Scotland well into the spring, with National Clinical Director Jason Leitch saying April will still be too early to host a postponed Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh.

And it’s these draconian policies propagated by Sturgeon that resulted in ridiculous police overreach and brutality in Scotland that you won’t see reported in the mainstream media.

Case in point: police raiding the Avant Garde gastropub in Glasgow on New Year’s Eve, where there were around 50 folk, most of them over 60-years-old, simply trying to enjoy their night.

Then, for some reason, two large police vans carrying more than 20 officers, according to witnesses, turned up because they were suspected of breaking Sturgeon’s outrageously over the top Covid rules.

The pub may have been targeted because it displays this poster on its door saying

“We have no discrepancy over whether you want to wear a mask or not.” This is what happened when multiple cops stormed the pub…

The footage is included with this interview of the man who filmed it:

What a despicably unnecessary show of force from Scottish police who routinely fail to investigate muggings and burglaries.

But it’s not their fault, it’s Sturgeon’s for introducing such authoritarian laws, banning bar service and enforcing social distancing between groups.

Sturgeon has implemented these measures despite only ONE patient with omicron having been admitted to intensive care in Scotland. Only one!

The police claim they were simply making a ‘routine visit’, but, come on, it should never have come to this.

Sturgeon is criminalising people drinking and having a good time.

This month — and we’re less than two weeks in — she has had to backtrack on her stringent restrictions.

When the editor of the Scottish Daily Mail, Mike Blackley, asked her on December 17 if she could reduce the number of self-isolation days, she turned caustic:

Yeah, because that’d really help ’cause that would spread infections even further and that would not be doing any favours to businesses.

Guido Fawkes has an update from Wednesday, January 5:

On 22nd December, England’s Covid rules changed so infected individuals can stop isolating after seven days rather than ten, so long as they test negative on day six and seven. Six days ago Wales followed suit, and a day later Northern Ireland copied the change. Leaving one obvious outlier…

It now looks like Sturgeon will confirm the cut, with a statement expected later today and her deputy John Swinney saying yesterday that their administration is “actively considering” reducing the self-isolation period. There’s just one problem with the move if it goes ahead – it’ll be a very embarrassing U-turn on Sturgeon’s part…

So, will she now apologise to the Scottish Mail‘s Mike Blackley?

Unlikely.

Late last week, SNP MP Stewart Hosie appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that Scotland had a lower number of coronavirus cases than England.

The SNP then tweeted this news, which was based on out of date statistics:

Guido Fawkes rightly called out the SNP, including a graphic of the updated statistics.

Not only does England have a lower prevalence than Scotland, it has the lowest prevalence of all four UK nations despite having almost no legal restrictions. The lockdown lovers always say they’re following the science… except when they aren’t.

Last weekend, England still had a lower prevalence of coronavirus than Scotland, which demands mask wearing and vaccine passports:

Last week, Sturgeon took exception to Boris Johnson’s idea to scrap free lateral flow tests. He wants to reserve them for ‘high-risk settings’:

On Monday, January 10, Sturgeon apparently decided Scotland will have to live with the virus. We’ll see:

The Scottish Daily Express reported:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on the latest Covid-19 situation on Tuesday

Nicola Sturgeon is under mounting pressure to scrap crippling Coronavirus restrictions after she admitted for the first time that Scots will need to “learn to live” with the virus.

The First Minister is due to announce whether an extension to Scotland’s restrictions will occur in Holyrood today, with critics claiming they have made little difference to infection rates.

Currently the rules put in place on Boxing Day to rein in the Omicron Covid-19 variant include curbs on spectator sports, the closure of nightclubs and the resumption of table service in pubs.

But speaking ahead of her statement to MSPs, the First Minister said that Scots would have to ask themselves “what adaptations to pre-pandemic life” would be required in the longer-term to “enable us to live with it [the virus] with far fewer protective measures.”

Ms Sturgeon also warned the NHS would need to be managed differently to cope with Covid in the long term with more patients treated away from hospitals.

In an interview with STV Scotland Tonight, she added: “Covid will change all of our considerations of how we manage our health service, and that will be part of the way in which we all learn to live with it over the months and years to come.

“We are in a position where we all want to get to as much normality as possible. All of us, me included, really crave that.

“But we need to recognise that this virus, although we hope Omicron is milder than previous variants, this virus still takes lives and it still causes significant health impacts for people.

“So we have got to treat it seriously and not underestimate the damage that it can do.”

It comes after Ms Sturgeon last week said the SNP-led Scottish Government would unveil a blueprint for Scots to live with the virus in the long term that would be “more proportionate and sustainable and less restrictive”.

Opposition parties in Scotland are particularly keen for these restrictions to end.

The Scottish Conservatives are the main opposition party in Holyrood:

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish public need to see some light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s time for the First Minister to produce a timetable on the new strategic framework that she promised.

“People want reassurance that restrictions won’t stay in force for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

“After almost two years of sacrifice, the public need to see a bold timetable from the Scottish Government that will enable us to live safely with Covid.”

Labour are the next largest party in opposition:

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader added: “Almost two years into the pandemic, I don’t think we have yet built the resilience in the system in order to respond appropriately to Covid.

“I think we accept that Covid is a risk to people’s health and wellbeing and we’ve also got to accept that how we respond to Covid is also a risk to people’s health and wellbeing particularly their mental health.

“I think this day by day decision making and waiting to see what may and may not be said at a press conference is not actually a good way of responding to the pandemic.

“I would like to see a framework in place that builds resilience, that sets quite clearly what the trigger mechanisms for any potential restrictions are and what those restrictions maybe and also then what the trigger mechanisms are for financial support for individual businesses …

“I don’t think the government has done that work here in Scotland and across the UK and I think we urgently need to do that work.”

The Liberal Democrat response was the best:

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, said: “I’ve been concerned at the absence of data offered to Parliament by the SNP.

“We still don’t have a firm idea of those who are in hospital because of Omicron or who just test positive when they go in for something else.

“Without that information, Parliament can’t take a view on whether restrictions are appropriate.

“There’s no clear evidence that the enhanced restrictions in Scotland have reduced the rates of infection compared to other parts of the UK.”

Too right!

Conclusion

If Boris can return to a rational outlook on coronavirus measures, England can be the first to exit the dystopia we have found ourselves in since March 16, 2020, with lockdown implemented one week later on March 23.

Let those who wish to take precautions do so.

Let those of us who wish to live and work again do so freely, without hindrance.

With regard to Omicron, this is where we left off on Monday in the UK — one death:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post says (emphasis in the original):

Boris has claimed this morning that one hospital patient has died with the Omicron variant, telling cameras “Sadly yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations, and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.” It is not yet known whether the patient had comorbidities...

So far, it is believed that Omicron is a relatively mild variant. The Singaporean Ministry of Health has stated (H/T Guido Fawkes; emphasis mine):

Cases who have been detected around the world have mostly displayed mild symptoms, and no Omicron-related deaths have been reported so far. Common symptoms reported include sore throat, tiredness and cough.

The numbers hospitalised with Omicron are in single digits …

… never mind what Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said on this morning’s news round:

Dominic Raab doesn’t appear to know how many patients are in hospital with Omicron. Yesterday, Sajid Javid said it was “around ten”, with Raab this morning claiming on Sky News that the figure had now jumped up to 250, which would be an alarming leap in just 24 hours. Thirty minutes later on BBC Breakfast, however, Raab inexplicably slashed that number all the way down to 9. The new antiviral treatments are good – they aren’t that good.

Regardless, today, after the Government already implemented it last week, MPs voted on Plan B for England. There were four separate divisions (votes). One was on coronavirus passports.

When Tuesday’s parliamentary session began, Plan B involved wearing masks in enclosed spaces and public transport as well, working from home as well as a return to quarantine.

When Health Secretary Sajid Javid began his address, he mentioned that quarantine would be less severe. It would now involve daily testing instead of a mandated policy to stay indoors (emphases mine):

At the end of last month, this House passed regulations requiring all close contacts of a suspected or confirmed omicron case to self-isolate for 10 days, but given the increasing dominance of omicron, this approach no longer makes sense for public health purposes and nor is it sustainable for the economy. So we are drawing on the testing capacity that we have built to create a new system of daily testing for covid contacts that has started today. Instead of close contacts of confirmed cases or suspected cases having to self-isolate, all vaccinated contacts, irrespective of whether the contact was with an omicron case, will be asked to take lateral flow tests every day for seven days. Regulation No. 1415 allows us to put this plan into action by revoking the omicron-specific provisions for self-isolation.

Ahead of the official vote, The Telegraph‘s cartoonist Bob Moran took action on masks on Saturday, December 11:

Not surprisingly, Plan B has begun to wreak havoc with cancellations of international travel and Christmas gatherings in hospitality venues.

At least 80 Conservative MPs were expected to rebel and vote against the Government. On the day, 98 rebelled against the vaccine passport, along with three others spotted by Labour Whips. They included Sir Desmond Swayne and Bob Seely. I plan to discuss the results in another post:

Although a rebellion by Conservatives alone did not stop the Government winning the votes — thanks to Labour! — it should send a clear message to Boris.

Alicia Kearns tweeted that she would vote against coronavirus passports:

People living in England are concerned about the constant moving of goalposts with regard to coronavirus restrictions.

Conservative MPs became angry last week. In his press conference on Wednesday, December 8, when he announced Plan B, Boris mooted the idea of ‘a national conversation’ about mandatory vaccinations:

The rebel MPs’ reaction was immediate:

Guido began compiling his list on December 9. A selection of comments from MPs follows:

  • Alexander Stafford said “he cannot and will not support mandatory vaccinations“, adding that working from home “disproportionately negatively affects younger people and those starting out in their careers”.
  • Douglas Ross said “There is no evidence that vaccine passports stop the spread of Covid” and that since he didn’t vote for them in Holyrood, he wouldn’t vote for them in Westminster either.
  • Graham Brady said in the chamber last night that “it’s deja vu all over again, isn’t it?
  • Peter Bone slammed compulsory vaccinations on Newsnight, calling the idea “completely outrageous“, and even saying “I’d be the first to say the PM should go” if they were implemented.
  • Simon Jupp said “I don’t support Plan B”, called vaccine passports “divisive & discriminatory”, and made it clear that he “won’t vote for these measures.”
  • Steve Baker insisted it is “vital that the maximum number of Conservative MPs vote against Plan B, whatever our useless Opposition do”.

Over the weekend, Steve Baker tweeted that he would be relaunching his Conservative Way Forward movement, open to MPs and the general public. It is meant to restore the Conservative Party to its proper origins rather than a Boris-led Blairite/Labour-lite party:

Sir Edward Leigh MP stated his intention to vote against the Government for the first time during this Parliament:

Mark Harper MP pointed out:

“there is no exit strategy”, and asked “why should people at home…do things that people working in Number 10 Downing Street are not prepared to do?” 

The Spectator‘s Kate Andrews also noted the same thing, comparing the content of December 8’s press conference with the others that had preceded it. The Government and scientific advisers have made many poor contradictions and bad comparisons between the UK with a strongly vaccinated population versus one like South Africa’s:

The Spectator contrasts what our scientific experts from SAGE put forward compared with the real statistics. SAGE have a lot of explaining to do, yet Boris continues to court their shamefully extreme modelling.

Guido’s December 9 poll of the public shows that they are increasingly concerned about scope creep, especially with regard to Plan B:

Guido’s post reveals who led the press (‘lobby’) briefing that day. It was not the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC):

A poll of 3,170 Guido readers opened earlier has less than one-in-seven believing the government’s timing of Plan B yesterday was based on epidemiological reasons, and not politics.

Guido can’t say he’s surprised. Sources suggest that while a quad meeting was always scheduled for yesterday afternoon, Plan B was not on the table. During the morning the briefings were coming from Downing Street not DHSC, further suggesting the move was more politically than epidemiologically motivated.

William Wragg MP was the first to notice the political end to Plan B — a diversion from the Christmas party debacle — and actually challenged Boris on it last Wednesday at PMQs, only hours before the press conference. Tom Newton Dunn tweeted:

Senior Tory William Wragg challenges Johnson directly during PMQs over if he’s bringing in Plan B today, and says “few will be fooled by this diversionary tactic”. Johnson doesn’t deny, but says: “No decisions will be taken without consulting the Cabinet”.

It would have been even better if Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Opposition had said that, but, alas, he’s all on board with further restrictions. If he were Prime Minister, we would have never had Freedom Day on Monday, July 19. We would have been where Scotland and Wales continue to be, still restricted in many ways, with compulsory masks and vaccine passports.

On Monday evening, December 13, Sir Keir somehow got media outlets to televise his support for Plan B. The reason for this baffles me, as he is not in Government.

It does appear as if we have a coalition Conservative-Labour government, because the latter jumps on every coronavirus restriction bandwagon going. The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh told Nigel Farage that this is not a good thing:

According to a GB News poll for Dan Wootton Tonight, the public strongly disapprove of Plan B:

Sadly, we now have Plan B in England: face coverings in enclosed spaces, vaccine passports for large venues/events and mandatory vaccines for NHS/care home staff by April 2022. Self-isolation with daily testing was approved unanimously; there was no division on that motion.

The question remains: do we get another lockdown, i.e. Plan C, in the New Year?

Boris wouldn’t dare, would he?

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

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

UK in crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Maddening.

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

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

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

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

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

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

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

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

Sunday, October 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spectator has more on the interview.

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

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

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

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

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 5

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

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

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

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

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

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

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

Guido had a chat with her:

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

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polling stable

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

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

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

What Government should do next

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

Guido says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

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