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As March blew in like a lion and with coronavirus vaccines being distributed, the UK and the US began looking towards a post-pandemic future.

UK

On Monday, March 2, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a statement and held a press conference later in the day to announce that schools would reopen on Monday, March 8.

He laid out what he calls a ‘roadmap’ for the next few months, with businesses reopening in stages from April through the summer.

It’s not worth detailing here, because this, as with everything else, is likely to be hijacked by SAGE scientists and psychologists.

Boris maintains that the Government, advised by SAGE, is relying on data not dates, yet, there are tentative dates associated with each stage, the next one being in early April.

Outside of school reopenings at this point, the rest is subject to change.

On the subject of schools, who could forget that schools in England opened the first Monday in January only to be closed by the end of that day? What a palaver!

Katherine Fletcher, one of the new Conservative MPs from 2019, representing the northern constituency of South Ribble, studied biology, qualified as a safari ranger in Africa, worked in banking and ran her own business before entering politics.

She opined on Budget Day, March 3, that her constituents were unhappy with the financial cost of lockdown. She also said they ‘get’ that they had to be locked down:

just because some bat in China got a nasty cough a couple of years ago.

This is Northern plain speaking at its best:

Also note the fairy lights at the top left of the video. Indoor fairy lights seem to be a post-Christmas lockdown trend. Bob Seely MP (Isle of Wight) has them, too.

She added (emphases mine):

this Government have done eye-wateringly massive things quickly to protect people, their families and their work from the consequences of bats and biology.

It is also honest to say that this help has cost us a fortune. This Conservative Government have been fair in protecting people when the awful things happened, but the sums of money required are—wow—massive. It is our money. When I say that it is costing us a fortune, I do mean “us”. It is not Government money or some nebulous concept; it is our money raised by our taxes on our hard work and our business innovation. At some point, we will have to pay this massive support backnot all in one go and not at any price. I commend the Chancellor’s honesty today in setting out two broad themes on how to keep us on an even keel with our money and the nation’s finances.

As individuals, we will have to push back some potential gains to future years, such as freezing salaries, paying a bit more tax, and asking the bigger businesses to contribute a bit more without making us as a country too different from our international peers in the G7. As the Government, we will have to continue to be careful about how we spend our money, but when we do spend money, we should spend it to invest. This statement shows that we will focus on areas that will help us grow our businesses and our communities. We are putting in place the foundations for a future economy to boing back, never mind bounce.

Today’s announcements of investments, super deductions and capital investment plans will boost business investment by enormous sums with world-leading measures. This Government are supporting people to invest to grow their business, creating good jobs across the country. Measures today such as the UK infrastructure bank in Leeds—it is the wrong side of the Pennines, but still amazing—and the levelling up fund will make the UK and Lancashire the best place in the world for innovative businesses to set up and grow. Freeports will help us get our goods to the world, and Help to Grow is brilliant. It will give everyone access to new skills and technologies and boost their businesses, no matter how small they are. I would have run with open arms to these measures when I was running my business.

On a personal note, the people of Leyland want me to thank the Chancellor hugely for the announcement today of the £25 million investment in our town …

That’s all for the UK this week.

United States

Two states — Texas and Mississippi — lifted their states’ mask mandates.

Alabama

It was thought that Alabama would join them, but on Thursday, March 4, Governor Kay Ivey said she would be extending it through April 9, then lift the order.

NBC reported:

Gov. Kay Ivey said the extension would give businesses time to implement their own policies and make any necessary adjustments before to the deadline.

The current order requires people to wear masks in public whenever they are within 6 feet of someone else from a different household. Face coverings are also required in schools and colleges for both employees and students in the second grade and above.

Once the order ends next month, masks will no longer be mandated.

“There’s no question that wearing masks has been one of my greatest tools in combatting the spread of the virus,” Ivey said at a news conference Thursday.

“And even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same thing. But at that time, it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate,” she added.

Ivey said the state had kept the mask order in place for a “generous amount of time.”

Texas

On Monday, March 2, Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas was opening up, mask-free, effective Wednesday, March 10:

Here is his announcement:

The Texan has a more nuanced view of what the lifting of the state’s mandate means. It will be left to individual counties, businesses and health-oriented places to mandate mask wearing:

Abbott said that his executive order will allow county judges to impose other restrictions if COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above 15 percent in the state trauma service area that covers their county — though not with a penalty of jail time or fines with any mask mandates

businesses may still require employees and customers to wear face coverings and request law enforcement to remove violators for trespassing.

“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for your family members,” said Abbott. “Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain [COVID-19]. It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”

… According to the New York Times, Texas follows 12 other states that currently do not have mask mandates.

Mississippi

The lifting of Mississippi’s mask mandate and reopening of all businesses went into effect on Wednesday, March 3.

Governor Tate Reeves announced his reasons:

Absolutely!

Joe Biden: ‘Neanderthal thinking’

Readers will not be surprised that the three aforementioned governors are Republican.

Before Texas and Mississippi lifted their mandates, the CDC warned that restrictions should remain in place (more here):

On Wednesday, mask-happy Joe Biden accused the governors of ‘neanderthal thinking’:

Thankfully, Daily Wire reported what Biden said, as it is somewhat difficult to hear his words:

“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody has realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden said. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way … we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms. We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every adult American to get a shot.”

“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything is fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters,” he continued. “As of yesterday, we have lost 511,874 Americans. We’re going to lose thousands more.”

“We will not have everybody vaccinated until sometime in the summer. We have the vaccine to do it; getting a shot in someone’s arm and [giving] them a second shot,” he concluded. “It’s critical – critical, critical, critical – that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck, some of our elected officials knew it.”

The Gateway Pundit offered this take:

Biden criticized the governors for allowing people to work and feed their families as “Neanderthal thinking.”

Dementia Joe knows that Florida, Texas and Mississippi will expose the big lie that lockdowns and masks slow the spread of Covid.

True. We’ve already seen proof of that in South Dakota and Florida.

Tate Reeves wasted no time in responding.

Shortly after Biden made his announcement, Reeves tweeted:

Reeves credited President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed for his decision. He said that over 700,000 people in Mississippi, with a population of 2.97 million, have now had the vaccine. He told Neil Cavuto that the number of positive cases in the state has dropped dramatically over the past two months. He also asked, ‘If not now, then when?’

On Thursday, March 4, he told Fox News that Joe Biden should get out of Washington DC once in a while to travel to middle America. He said that Biden’s message of ‘Neanderthal thinking’ reminded him of Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorables’:

Glad to see that these governors are sticking to their guns, especially Tate Reeves.

We have to learn to live with coronavirus, something I’ve maintained for nearly a year.

The other day, I posted a profile of Kemi Badenoch, an Englishwoman of Nigerian heritage, who is the UK’s Equalities Minister.

In that entry, I posted a link to an hour long interview she did in October 2020 with the editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson, on the politics of cultural grievance.

Having watched it, the interview deserves a post of its own, and I would commend it to all who have young people at home.

Regrettably, The Spectator did not have its own YouTube channel at the time, but the link plays perfectly well and the video is in full screen format.

Kemi Badenoch explains that black history in the United States is much different to that of black history in Britain. Most blacks in Britain are here because either they or their antecedents believed that Britain is a land of opportunity. As such, one cannot import black American history to the UK under a guise of universal historical experience.

Having lived in Nigeria during her youth, she says that most blacks are socially conservative and are not empathetic to grievances based on skin colour. Having travelled widely in other nations in Africa, she says that most blacks living there are concerned about what their governments are doing to them today.

As a mother of three, she tells Fraser Nelson that it is an uphill battle for her to reverse what her mixed-race children learn about grievance politics. She thinks that British schools should develop a black history curriculum that includes positive contributions by blacks throughout history, particularly during the 21st century with the Windrush generation that helped to rebuild the nation after the Second World War.

She says that she objects to the politics of skin colour, which she believes is an unpleasant and damaging development. Furthermore, she thinks it is unhealthy for a person to go through life imagining microaggressions where none exist. In other words, sometimes people are just rude to others regardless of skin colour — and everyone needs to learn to live with that.

She says that imagining that everyone not like them is automatically against them is not the right way to go through life and makes things in this world even more difficult.

Badenoch made similar comments in the House of Commons around the same time she did The Spectator interview.

On October 25, 2020, Patrick O’Flynn of The Express reported:

Like a batsman hitting every delivery straight off the middle, Ms Badenoch reduced the opposition rabble to rubble.

“We should not apologise for the fact that British children primarily study the history of these islands,” she said. “To make race the defining principle of what is studied is not just misguided but actively opposed to the fundamental purpose of education.”

Taking direct issue with [then-Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn over a pro-BLM speech he had just made, she added: “We are against the teaching of contested political ideas as if they are accepted fact.” She singled out for criticism the new fad among white Leftists such as Corbyn for socalled critical race theory. This ideology, she said, “sees my blackness as victimhood and their whiteness as oppression”.

“Black lives matter, of course they do,” added Ms Badenoch, “but we know the Black Lives Matter movement is political? we do not want to see teachers teaching their white pupils about inherited racial guilt. Any school that teaches partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering balanced treatment of opposing views is breaking the law.”

There was more, too. For the formidable Ms Badenoch also nailed the lie that America’s troubled history of slavery and shoot-from-the-hip policing had any echo in Britain, “Our history is our own, it is not America’s. Too often people who campaign against racial inequality import wholesale a narrative and assumptions that have nothing to do with this country’s history …

Then she gave Labour MPs a lesson about the slave trade in Africa, telling them about “the history of black slave traders who existed before and after the transatlantic slave trade”.

Ms Badenoch concluded by saying: “Black people from all over the world have found this to be a great and welcoming country.”

Perhaps the first thing we can learn in all of this is that American history is not British history.

This is the final instalment in my series about minority MPs from today’s modern Conservative Party.

Previous posts can be found here: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

This post looks at the new intake of MPs in the December 12, 2019 election during Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Saqib Bhatti (Meriden)

Saqib Bhatti represents Meriden in the West Midlands.

The ancient town of Meriden — known as Alspath in the Domesday Book — was historically considered to be the ‘centre of England’, until the 20th century, when an Ordnance Survey proved that claim to be incorrect.

Before he entered Parliament, Bhatti was well known in the West Midlands for being president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, a position he resigned upon becoming an MP. His philosophy is that business is a force for good. For his efforts, he received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2020 New Year Honours.

Bhatti was born in the West Midlands town of Walsall to Pakistani parents. His father founded a firm of chartered accountants, Younis Bhatti & Co. Saqib Bhatti serves on its board of directors.

Bhatti read Law at the London School of Economics, graduating with an LLB (Hons). He began working for Deloitte in 2007 as a chartered accountant and financial auditor. In 2010, he left to work for his father’s firm.

He is married and lives in the affluent village of Dorridge in the West Midlands.

Bhatti says that his father is his greatest inspiration (emphases mine below):

The biggest influence on me is my father who moved to the UK in the 60s in pursuit of the ‘Great British Dream’, he taught me the values of hard work, integrity and determination which have driven my life so far. [6]

Bhatti’s predecessor in Parliament was the redoubtable Dame Caroline Spelman, who had been Meriden’s MP since 1997.

He paid tribute to her in his maiden speech, delivered on Wednesday, February 26, 2020:

He said:

My predecessor, Dame Caroline Spelman, was a mightily impressive colleague and friend to many in the House. During her 22-year career, she held a number of important positions, such as party chairperson, several shadow Cabinet positions, Second Church Estates Commissioner and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She did all of these with distinction, while demonstrating an unrelenting dedication to her constituents—a dedication that I hope to emulate. I am sure the whole House will join me in congratulating her son David, who last month rowed across the Atlantic with a friend as part of the Talisker challenge and broke the world record.

He spoke of Meriden, which he still considers to be the centre of England:

My constituency takes its name from the village of Meriden, known as Alspath in the Domesday Book. It originally made up part of Lady Godiva’s estate and, as many Members of this House will know, Lady Godiva rode through the streets of Coventry naked in protest against her husband’s tax rises. Mr Deputy Speaker, I have a lot in common with Lady Godiva—[Laughter.] I do not know why they are all laughing: I love horses and, like Lady Godiva, I am a big advocate of low taxation. However, I am going to wait for the Budget this time, before I decide to what degree and how I protest any new taxes.

In the Domesday Book, Meriden was known as the true centre of England. That was until the early 2000s, when an over-zealous team at the Ordnance Survey decided that the centre of England was in fact in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans), but since I am not a bitter man and I do not hold a grudge, Mr Deputy Speaker, let me tell you why Meriden is still the beating heart of this country

Meriden is unique and picturesque. It has more than 300 listed buildings and is steeped in history. It contains idyllic villages such as Hampton in Arden, Knowle, Dorridge, Catherine-de-Barnes, and Balsall Common, to name just a few. They capture the true character of the great British countryside like nowhere else, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer) earlier tried to tell the House. Meriden is home to Birmingham airport and the National Exhibition Centre. It has rail links to every part of the country, and will soon be home to a certain high-speed rail link and interchange station. It has a Jaguar Land Rover plant, the prestigious Blythe Valley business park, and Birmingham business park, which houses names such as Oracle, Arup, and Rolls-Royce, as well as new market disrupters such as Gymshark.

Saqib Bhatti ended his speech with a call for unity as MPs debated leaving Europe for the last time that year:

There is no “leave” or “remain”, Mr Deputy Speaker; there is only our great global Britainthe Britain that says it does not matter where somebody was born, where they come from, what they believe, who they love, or what anyone else says they are capable of achieving. Instead, as long as they share our values of respect, hard work, and they stand up for what is right, they can achieve anything. We live and serve in the best country in the world. Unwavering in our commitment to our values, we have remained faithful to our vision for a better world, and we have always stood tall and firm in the face of adversity.

We must now hold that vision more closely and dearly than ever before. As we embark on the final leg of our journey to new-found independence, it is now that we must remember our old friends and seek out new ones. It is now that we must speak up and act for those facing persecution and oppression across the world, and we must take seriously the threats to our environment and society. We must remember everything that we have in common, and everything that unites us. We must dare to believe.

Claire Coutinho (East Surrey)

Claire Coutinho was born and bred in London.

She represents East Surrey, a constituency just south of the capital.

Her parents are Christians who emigrated from Goa in the late 1970s. Her father Winston is a retired anaesthetist. Her mother Maria is a GP.

Coutinho attended the oldest independent school for girls in Greater London, James Allen’s Girls’ School, in Dulwich.

Afterwards, she read mathematics and philosophy at Exeter College, Oxford.

Upon graduation, she worked for four years at Merrill Lynch in the emerging markets equity team.

She took a two-year break in 2012 to devote herself to food. She started a literary-themed supper club, the Novel Diner, then appeared on the British version of The Taste in 2014. Nigella Lawson chose Coutinho for her team; unfortunately, the future MP was the second to be eliminated.

Coutinho worked for a conservative think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, and an industry group, the Housing and Finance Institute. She then returned to the corporate world, taking a position as Corporate Responsibility Manager with KPMG.

By then, the prospect of a Brexit referendum beckoned. David Cameron promised one in 2015, and it took place on June 23, 2016. Coutinho, passionate about leaving the EU, took a position as a special adviser to the Government so that she could help to deliver Brexit ‘from the inside’. She worked first for Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Julian Smith and then for Rishi Sunak when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

East Surrey has been a safe Conservative seat since 1918. Coutinho’s predecessor was Sam Gyimah, who was a strong Remainer. He had the Conservative whip removed for his anti-Brexit votes in 2019 and subsequently became a Liberal Democrat. (Gyimah is now working once again at Goldman Sachs, his first employer.) Coutinho was selected to be the Conservative candidate on November 11, 2019, one month before the election. She won with a comfortable majority of 24,040 (40.3%).

Coutinho gave her maiden speech in Parliament on Wednesday, January 15, 2020:

She paid tribute to her predecessor, as is customary:

I am proud to be here representing the beautiful constituency of East Surrey. I begin by paying tribute to my predecessor, Sam Gyimah. We have more in common than representing East Surrey: we are both the children of immigrant doctors, and I, too, am 5 feet 4½ inches. Although we may have slightly different views on Brexit, I know he is passionate about the prosperity of this country, which both our families now call home. I am sure the House will agree that he made many important contributions in this place as Childcare Minister, as Prisons Minister and as Universities Minister.

She spoke about her constituency, which is mandatory:

East Surrey is known for its local beauty. There are four local nature reserves, eight sites of special scientific interest and over a third of the constituency is in an area of outstanding natural beauty or of great landscape value. Those who walk through the North Downs or the High Weald are met with chalk downs, rolling hillsides, lowland meadows and woodlands

She talked about her time working for Rishi Sunak, who, at the time, was just a few weeks away from becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer:

I had the considerable pleasure of working with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), on the 2019 spending review, which saw record investment in schools, in the police and in the NHS. Now I am on the other side of the table, I wholeheartedly and unreservedly welcome the increased funding, particularly where those funds might land in East Surrey. I will be working hard to make sure that the initial groundwork of that national announcement makes a meaningful difference to classrooms, GP surgeries and police officers on the ground.

Coutinho closed with a tribute to her grandmother, who was her role model and inspiration:

I would like to mention my grandmother, who may be the single greatest emblem of Conservative values I know. She was a teacher in India who, in my memory, took her fashion lead firmly from the Queen. She raised seven children with little in terms of resources, but with a strong sense that you can achieve the impossible with hard work and determination. Her children were doctors, teachers and grade 8 musicians who are now scattered all across the globe. If she could see me here today, in “the noblest government in the world,” I am sure she would tell me to work hard, to be determined and to achieve the impossible.

Hear, hear!

Darren Henry (Broxtowe)

Darren Henry is the MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire.

Born in Bedford, he is the first Conservative MP of West Indian origin. His father Harry is from Jamaica and his mother Gloria is from Trinidad.

He and his wife are the parents of twins.

His predecessor for Broxtowe was Anna Soubry, who like the aforementioned Sam Gyimah, had the Conservative whip removed for not supporting Brexit in 2019. It is unclear what she is doing at the moment.

Henry had a long career in the Royal Air Force, which he discussed in his maiden speech of Thursday, June 25, 2020. I saw it on the day. It was excellent:

He gave his speech during not only Armed Forces Week but also Windrush Week, marking the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the ship, the Empire Windrush.

Excerpts follow:

I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor as the Member for Broxtowe, Anna Soubry. I may not have agreed with all that she said in this place, but I wish to set on record my acknowledgement of the good work she did for Broxtowe and for her constituents. I wish to thank her for her efforts on improving access at Beeston railway station. I admire her strong will and her determination to do what she felt was best for Broxtowe and for this country, and I wish her the best of British.

This week is the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush. The people of the Windrush generation came to Britain to help rebuild our great country, and my parents were among them. Dad, Harry, is from Jamaica, and Mum, Gloria, from Trinidad. Like many of that too long ignored generation, they worked hard to make a good life here. Dad worked double shifts, and Mum worked all day in a factory. They saved; they bought a house. They were ambitious, and they prospered. We were a traditional British working-class family: hard working, loyal, fiercely patriotic—and Conservative.

Opposition Members claim Windrush as their own, as if it is obvious that immigrants are somehow obliged morally and practically to be Labour supporters. Well, my family were not, and I am not. I stand here as evidence of what immigrants and their children can achieve in what my parents called the land of opportunity. I am proud to be the first Conservative MP of West Indian heritage—black, British with all my heart, immensely proud of my West Indian heritage and Conservative to my fingertips.

Before coming to this place, I spent 26 years in the Royal Air Force. Like others here, I knew that service to my country was the right and dutiful career for me. On my first day in the RAF, I had a splendid Afro hairstyle, and now, because of weeks of lockdown, I am delighted —my Afro is coming back!

The armed forces are known for getting things done, and that is what I will do for the people of Broxtowe. At Chilwell station, also known as Chetwynd barracks, we have seen service personnel assisting efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic as part of Op Rescript. As it is Armed Forces Week and Veterans Day today, I hope that this message is heard loud and clear by my fellow veterans: “If you are driven by public service, as I am, stand up and serve your community again.”

His special personal interests are the NHS and mental health:

During my election campaign, I pledged to support investment in our local hospitals as part of my six-point plan for Broxtowe. This is a cause that is close to my heart. My wife Caroline spent 25 weeks out of her 34-week pregnancy in hospital. It is to Caroline and the NHS staff at Nottingham City Hospital that I say thank you for the blessing that is my twin children

Parents do their best for their children. As the father of two children with autism, I recognise that those in Broxtowe who are on the autistic spectrum or suffer with mental health conditions have found it particularly difficult being cooped up during lockdown. In normal times, getting mental health support is a struggle. I am convinced that it does not have to be this way. The Government’s planned reform of the Mental Health Act 1983 must ensure that people subject to the Act receive better care and have a much greater say in that care. I will continue to fight to secure the needs of vulnerable people in Broxtowe. They will not be forgotten.

He also praised the various corporations in his constituency, such as Boots the Chemists and Fred Hallam, the grocers.

He ended by saying:

… Broxtowe will have a thriving future.

I will work to make that vision a reality for the people of Broxtowe—my constituency; my people. To paraphrase D. H. Lawrence, a local lad made good, I will be still when I have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves me, I will say, and say it hot.

Outstanding.

Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield)

Imran Ahmad Khan represents the constituency of Wakefield in West Yorkshire, which includes his home town, the Cathedral city of Wakefield.

He was born there in Pinderfields Hospital, where both his parents worked. His father, who emigrated from modern-day Pakistan, was a consultant dermatologist. His mother, who is English, was a State Registered Nurse and midwife. Her mother worked at the hospital as a staff sister. Her husband was a miner.

Khan attended the independent Silcoates School. Afterwards, he studied the Russian language at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow before earning a bachelor’s degree in war studies from King’s College London.

He worked for the United Nations as a special assistant for political affairs in Mogadishu and became a counter-terrorism expert. His brother, Karim Ahmad Khan QC, is an assistant secretary-general of the United Nations.

His other brother, Khalid Ahmad Khan, is a lawyer based in Oman, won the Middle East General Counsel of the Year Award in 2017 and was named one of the most influential lawyers in the Middle East in Legal 500’s GC Powerlist 2019.[27][28][29]

Imran Ahmad Khan gave his maiden speech on Monday, January 13, 2020:

Excerpts follow.

Khan’s predecessor was the well known Labour MP Mary Creagh. He won in 2019 largely because of his strong pro-Brexit stance:

As an Ahmadi Muslim belonging to a peace-loving minority community that suffers vicious persecution, discrimination and oppression in many parts of the world, I see perhaps more clearly than most the deep and enduring importance of core British values such as compassion, tolerance and fairness, especially at a time when those values are perceived as under threat in many parts of our world. We must continue to be a beacon of thoughtful, respected and innovative thinking born of years of accumulated learning and practice.

Before I launch into the rich history of Wakefield, one with which my own family story is intertwined, I want to pay tribute to my predecessor. In 2005 Mary Creagh became the first woman elected to represent Wakefield, a tenure that was to last for 14 years. I am not sure if the House is aware, but before Mary and I first met, she propelled me to new heights—approximately 13,000 feet. On a bright November morning last year, after reading Mary’s comments in The Yorkshire Post about her incoming Tory opponent being parachuted in, I put the protestations of my friends and family aside and performed a parachute jump. This had not been on any bucket list of mine, but it definitely got the adrenalin flowing, so thank you, Mary.

Later that day, with my feet firmly on the ground, I met Mary for the first time. We were both appearing on a BBC Radio Leeds drivetime debate, and I turned up still resplendent in my true blue jumpsuit. Mary accepted it with good grace, and during this first encounter set out her stall as a calm, concise and experienced advocate.

That first meeting was in one of Wakefield’s many good schools: Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. It was QEGS where my eldest brother went to school, and it is the arch rival of my own alma mater, Silcoates. QEGS is an independent school that has actively championed and supported its local state sector rivals, including the outstanding Pontefract College, and was a willing participant in the assisted places scheme. As the radio programme came to an end, the pupils in the audience immediately gravitated towards Mary. This was an example of the interest and affection that many constituents in Wakefield have for her.

I, like Mary, contend with a hearing impairment, something she referenced in her own maiden speech. Wakefield has within its dynamic business community a company that is currently accessing research funding to investigate tinnitus, a hearing condition for which there are more than a million GP referrals each year. This project has multiple international partners, including industry, government and academia.

I would also like to pay special tribute to Mary’s time and contribution while working on overseas aid and development. This resonates with me a lot owing to my previous work at the United Nations and elsewhere abroad. Our overseas aid and development is testament to British compassion, and it can be leveraged as a powerful agent for, and a real measure of, Britain’s reach and influence around the world. Mary was a public servant, and I hope she is able to continue her work in other places. Wakefield is fortunate to have had such a worthy Member of Parliament.

He discussed Wakefield’s ancient history:

Edward the Confessor had an estate in Wakefield, hundreds of years after it was first settled by the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. In J. S. Fletcher’s “Nooks & Corners of Yorkshire”—a very good read—he describes Wakefield as the principal town along the banks of the Calder, and it has figured in history to no small extent. Indeed, it is just over 560 years ago to the day, on 30 December 1460, that Richard Neville, Duke of York, and his son Thomas met their deaths at the battle of Wakefield. The Lancastrians, led by Lord Clifford, defeated the Yorkists, only to suffer a major reverse months later in Britain’s bloodiest battle, at Towton, a site just down the road. Wakefield became yet another battlefield almost 200 years later, during the English civil war, when the parliamentarian forces fought an engagement with the royalists. Although I now find myself a parliamentarian, Madam Deputy Speaker, I confess to you to always having sympathised, in the round, with Cavaliers.

According to an old English ballad, Wakefield can claim fame as the location for some of Robin Hood’s shenanigans. It was at Stanley, later part of Wakefield’s deep historical roots in the coalmining industry, that Robin and his band of freebooters had their infamous encounter with the pinder of Wakefield. The pinder was a nominated townsman of Wakefield who went toe to toe with Robin and his merry men after they goaded him by trespassing with stray animals on Wakefield land. Robin was so impressed by the pinder’s nerve and prowess that he invited him to join his outlaw band. This may be a legend, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it aptly captures some of the characteristics of the proud, honest and plain-speaking constituents of Wakefield, and their continued willingness to fight for their rights. I humbly submit that when you come to visit our city, Madam Deputy Speaker, you keep your flock of geese under control—or perhaps even consider leaving them at home.

He praised the innovative companies in Wakefield, paying tribute to the aforementioned one investigating tinnitus:

… my constituency and the wider business community has within it other companies involved heavily in fields that may surprise some Members. There is a company working on supercomputer-generated models for predicting adverse weather patternsThere are also companies that are pioneering and improving new methods of high-tech manufacturing and recycling harmful plastics. I want to see these companies thrive, not only with their spirit of innovation but by employing skilled young people born and educated in the local area. Throughout my campaign, I heard the voices of hard-working parents who want the best for the most important thing in their lives: their children. I want to help to carry the torch, already lit by the individuals and organisations in my constituency, to foster confidence, aspiration and achievement.

He concluded:

Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you and Members present for listening to this maiden speech of mine. I owe my sincere thanks to the people of Wakefield, whom I am proud to serve. I seek a purposeful and confident future for our United Kingdom wherein people’s hopes and aspirations are realised and great achievements recorded—a future as brilliant as our past is glorious.

I last heard Imran Ahmad Khan speak earlier this week. He is always worth listening to, not only for his eloquence but also for his instructive speeches.

Gagan Mohindra (South West Hertfordshire)

Gagan Mohindra is the MP for the affluent constituency of South West Hertfordshire, within an easy commuting distance to London.

Mohindra’s predecessor was David Gauke, who, like Anna Soubry and Sam Gyimah, had the Conservative whip removed for voting against Brexit in 2019. Gauke ran as an Independent against Mohindra. He has returned to working at Macfarlanes, a large law firm, where he is their head of policy.

Mohindra was born in England in 1978 to parents who emigrated from Punjab, India. He was raised as a Hindu.

He read mathematics at King’s College London and worked in finance upon graduation. He later founded the Chromex Group, where he worked until 2015.

He then entered local and county politics in Essex and is the president of the Essex Conservatives.

In Parliament, he is a member of the Public Accounts Committee.

His wife is a privacy lawyer.

Unfortunately, I could not find a video of Mohindra’s maiden speech on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Excerpts follow:

I would like to start by paying tribute to my predecessor, the right hon. David Gauke. During his 14 and a half years of public service, David was a dedicated Member of Parliament, and he was highly respected by his constituents and colleagues alike. He was fiercely intelligent and famously cool under pressure. However, during the 2019 general election, the public got to know another side of David: his wicked sense of humour, which was already well known to his friends in this House. As I fought the election, I found I had to overcome the appeal of not one Gauke, but two, as Gauke senior, Jim, went viral in David’s videos. David ran one of the most engaging campaigns to be found during the general election, and I commend his enthusiasm and passion. Despite the difficult circumstances of his fighting against his former party, it was a civilised battle and I thank him for that.

As to David’s political career, he was a heavyweight of the Conservative Government over the last decade. He held many senior roles, including Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and, finally, Secretary of State for Justice. As I have said before, in different times we may well have been colleagues, and I would have been proud to work alongside him. I thank David for his commitment to the residents of South West Hertfordshire, and wish him, Rachel and the rest of his family well in their future endeavours …

He spoke of his constituency and his constituents:

My constituency offers an embarrassment of riches, from its historical market towns, such as Tring, to the Chiltern hills, which are rightly classed as areas of outstanding natural beauty. Further south lies the Colne Valley Regional Park, which is known as the first taste of countryside west of London and comprises some 60 lakes, among woodland, canals and farmland. You can pass many a peaceful afternoon walking here, or visiting the famous aquadrome, where you can water-ski, canoe or sail to your heart’s content.

Behind the thriving Berkhamsted High Street are found the ruins of Berkhamsted castle. It was in Berkhamsted that William the Conqueror received the surrender of the Crown of England in 1066. The castle was then built to assert control over the key supply route through the Chiltern hills from London to the Midlands. It is a constituency heaped with history, some of which cannot be retold, like the activities of Northwood HQ. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our armed services for continuing to keep us safe.

The visual beauty of my constituency is only outdone by the warmth and good nature of my constituents. Nowhere in the country better represents the open-minded, tolerant, progressive nature of the United Kingdom than South West Hertfordshire, and I am so grateful that I have been so warmly welcomed. Of course, there are also a number of local concerns and issues to which I will devote my energies. For our commuters, the issues of unreliable rail and underground transport are a repeated source of frustration. There is a lack of access to affordable housing, a concern that has to be balanced against the desire to protect the green belt and character of the area. There are pockets of poverty in a mostly affluent area, resulting in associated social issues, including crime. Of course, we also have many excellent schools in my constituency, including Merchant Taylors’ School and Berkhamsted School, but we need to ensure that good education is accessible for all, not only the affluent.

He fully supports the Government’s manifesto policy of ‘levelling up’:

I am dyslexic, so I understand the frustrations posed by learning difficulties, but I must acknowledge that I have also had the benefit of many advantages. I understand that, like many of us in this place, I have been blessed with the good fortune to have self-belief and ambition nurtured in me, both in the home and in the wider environment, from my earliest days. Many in our society are not afforded this most essential of luxuries, and the impact, compounded of course, by other inequalities, is far-reaching. I am passionate about our commitments, as a Government, to do our part to ensure that aspiration and self-belief are not luxury items. That, to me, is the true meaning of levelling up. I look forward to seeing more and more faces in this House who represent our great country in all its guises.

Conclusion

It is always a delight — and an education — to hear the perspectives from our new Conservative MPs on BBC Parliament.

Long may they prosper in serving their constituents — and the United Kingdom.

End of series.

My series on minority MPs in the Conservative Party continues.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Today’s post covers the two minority MPs who were elected during Theresa May’s snap general election of June 2017.

Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Bim Afolami represents the leafy Hertfordshire constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden, far enough from London to be in the countryside yet a close enough for a daily commute to and from the capital.

I always enjoy hearing what Afolami has to say in Parliament. He speeches are eloquent, considered and, above all, sensible.

Afolami was born in the Home County of Berkshire to a Nigerian father, employed as a consultant physician for the NHS. His mother works as a pharmacist.

Afolami attended Eton College and University College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. While at Oxford, he worked as a librarian for the Oxford Union Society and played football for the university team.

He worked as a lawyer prior to entering politics. His employers included the prestigious law firm Freshfields and the banking corporation HSBC.

In 2017, Hitchin and Harpenden’s MP Peter Lilley stood down. Afolami was selected as the Conservative candidate.

Afolami was a Remainer, however, during his time in Parliament, he voted the Brexit line most of the time.

He has been a member of several parliamentary committees.

He has also had positions as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Transport, International Development, International Trade and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Currently, he chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions and is a Commissioner for the Financial Inclusion Commission.

Afolami is married with three children.

He describes Winston Churchill as his ‘biggest hero’.

Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden)

Kemi Badenoch also reveres Winston Churchill, along with Margaret Thatcher.

She, too, has Nigerian roots and spent her formative years there before returning to England.

She represents the constituency of Saffron Walden in Essex, which, not surprisingly, includes the ancient town of the same name. The town of Saffron Walden was known not only for its wool production but also for its cultivation of saffron in the 16th and 17th centuries. That happy combination of industry enabled the town to develop dyes as well as provide the condiment for use in food.

Olukemi Olufunto Adegoke was born in Wimbledon, London. Her father is a GP and her mother a professor of physiology. As her mother obtained teaching positions overseas, Kemi lived in both the United States and Nigeria. She returned to England at the age of 16 to complete her A levels and attend university.

She has worked in computing for most of her career. She obtained a law degree in 2009 and went on to work as an associate director of private bank and wealth manager Coutts and was a director for The Spectator.

Kemi joined the Conservative Party in 2005.

In 2012, she married Hamish Badenoch and took his surname.

In 2015, she served on the London Assembly after Suella Fernandes Braverman had to give up her seat, since she had just been elected to Parliament.

In 2017, Kemi Badenoch succeeded Sir Alan Haslehurst as MP for Saffron Walden with a healthy majority.

In her maiden speech, she explained how she became a conservative: failing nationalised electricity and water provision during her years in Nigeria. Wow.

She also said that Brexit was the ‘greatest vote ever’.

If you want to feel uplifted about Britain and conservatism, this video is definitely worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time:

She currently holds two positions, to which Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed her in 2020: Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) in the Department for International Trade.

The latter position has seen her come up against stiff opposition from the Opposition benches last year when it emerged that minorities were more affected by coronavirus. The protests in June exacerbated the issue.

On June 4, an SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, had the gall to intimate that Badenoch had little understanding of the black community.

Badenoch politely responded that she objected to Thewliss’s ‘confected outrage’.

As former Labour MP — now Baroness Hoey in the House of Lords — put it:

Guido Fawkes posted a video of the exchange and commented (emphasis in the original):

Today’s BAME Urgent Question was never going to be one Parliament’s more tranquil sessions given the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Kemi Badenoch gave a feisty performance, scolding left-wing white MPs for telling her how to feel as a black person. Her slap down of SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who conflated all black Britons with recent immigrants, is worth a watch…

The BBC also attacked her response.

On June 6, Badenoch wrote an article for the Daily Mail, which said, in part (emphases mine):

The disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black and minority ethnic people has been one of the most troubling aspects of the pandemic – and the Government was right to seek the expert guidance of Professor Kevin Fenton, an eminent black physician at Public Health England, to examine the issue

So when, as Equalities Minister, I stood up in the Commons to discuss his review and its conclusions, I expected tough questions

This, after all, has been a week of heightened emotion about racial divisions. Unfortunately, clumsy attempts at scrutiny by some MPs and commentators unintentionally risk inflaming racial tensions

Updating Parliament on the review, Labour MPs repeated racially charged claims such as: ‘Being black is a death sentence.’ 

One SNP MP conflated all black people with recent immigrants. This language does nothing to calm tensions at a time when politicians need to set an example

Far more irresponsible though, was the BBC’s coverage of the debate – with the headline: ‘Minister rejects systemic racism claims’. I did no such thing

In fact, the phrase ‘systemic racism’ was not used once in the debate. The BBC report was shared on social media thousands of times and believed because it was from a trusted source. This is incredibly harmful

By implying that a black Minister has, out of hand, rejected racism as a factor, the hard work done by many ethnic minorities in Government, the NHS and Public Health England is discredited, trust is lost and race relations become worse

Yes, there are gaps in PHE’s review. By its nature, it highlights what we don’t know and must investigate further

We will build on this work, engaging with individuals and organisations within communities, to protect lives in this pandemic … 

We need to be more circumspect; we need real journalism, not campaigning

We must address prejudice but this is impossible if our national broadcaster, politicians and commentators play a social media game to achieve outrage rather than enlightenment

We must combat the real inequities in society, but we do everyone a disservice if we give in to culture warriors whose relevance depends on inflaming tensions

By hijacking the Government’s work to improve the lives of BAME people, those spoiling for a fight are sacrificing the hope of so many young people for little more than clicks, likes and retweets

In October, Badenoch volunteered to take part in a vaccine trial:

Moving to the present day — February 2021 — issues have arisen with minorities reluctant to get vaccinated when the time comes. Personally, I do not blame them. There is a lot we do not know about their long-term effects, particularly the mRNA vaccines. So that minorities would feel more reassured, the Government appointed Nadhim Zahawi MP to oversee vaccine rollout in the UK. His brief includes visiting minority communities to encourage uptake:

In January, minority MPs from both sides of the aisle took part in a video to promote the vaccine programme.

Badenoch was criticised for not having taken part. She said it was because she was participating in the aforementioned vaccine trial:

Let’s return to last year.

In October 2020, Badenoch spoke in Parliament about Black History Month in the UK. She said that she was taken aback by something her daughter said:

That month, she participated in a Spectator discussion debunking various socio-political left-wing theories and promoting conservatism.

This triggered a severe reaction from the Left in November.

Several radical left-wing academics took issue with what she said:

Guido Fawkes provided the exhaustive list along with the radical positions of each academic, explaining the background (red emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sent Twitter’s wokesters and academia’s race baiters into meltdown a fortnight ago when her savaging of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) went viral, with 2.4 million views. Guido’s since picked up on an open letter doing the rounds in nutty left-wing academic circles, who – unable to take on the substance of what Badenoch argues – have chosen instead to misrepresent her words. Aside from their attacks on the substance of Kemi’s words – incorrectly claiming she wants “the banning of certain ideas or schools of thought” and that she misunderstands history and CRT – the mostly former-polytechnic-based academics now claim CRT has “scientific principles” behind their ideology. Eugenicists, phrenologists and Marxists have argued the same for decades...

Looks like Kemi’s on pretty sound ideological ground…

I wish Kemi Badenoch all the very best in holding her ground so consistently.

Tomorrow’s post concludes this series.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The best known of the minority MPs from David Cameron’s premiership — 2010 to 2016 — is Rishi Sunak, who is Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He represents the Richmond constituency in Yorkshire.

Early years

Rishi Sunak’s grandparents moved from the Punjab province of India to East Africa. Rishi’s mother Usha was born in Tanzania. His father Yashvir was born in Kenya. Both are Hindus.

Both sets of grandparents migrated to the UK in the 1960s.

After marriage, Usha and Yashvir settled in Southampton, on the southern coast of England. Usha worked locally as a pharmacist. Yashvir was a general practitioner.

The couple have three children: Rishi, another son Sanjay, who is a psychologist, and a daughter Raakhi, who works on COVID-19 strategy for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Rishi Sunak went to the renowned public (private) school Winchester College, founded in 1382, where he was head boy and editor of the student newspaper.

He then went to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a First in 2001 in PPE, which is nothing to do with hospital gowns, rather Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Whilst at Oxford, he did a brief stint at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

During summer holidays he worked at a curry house in Southampton.

Sunak began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he worked as an analyst from 2001 to 2004.

He then decided to study for an MBA at Stanford University in California, where he met his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, the man behind Infosys. The couple married in 2005. Sunak, a Fulbright Scholar, completed his MBA in 2006.

Sunak and his wife settled in England and have two young daughters.

Prior to entering politics, Sunak worked for two hedge funds and was also the director of one of his father-in-law’s companies, Catamaran Ventures.

Political career

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague represented Richmond, which has been a safe seat for the party for over a century.

Rishi Sunak was elected comfortably to his first term with a majority of 19,550 (36.2%). Once in Parliament, he was appointed to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Sunak was also committed to Brexit and was an early advocate of free ports, having written a report on the concept in 2016, the year of the referendum.

In 2017, with Theresa May as Prime Minister, Sunak won re-election with an even greater majority of 23,108 (40.5%). In Parliament, he continued to support Brexit, voting for Theresa May’s deal and against a referendum on a final withdrawal agreement in 2019.

That year, Theresa May stood down as PM. Sunak supported Boris Johnson in the ensuing leadership contest.

That autumn, during the general election campaign, he appeared on a television debate, representing the Conservatives:

I am sure Sunak did better than Iain Dale gave him credit for:

He also participated in a seven-way debate on ITV.

On December 12, Sunak further increased his margin of victory at the polls to 27,210 (47.2%).

The coronavirus Chancellor — and some inside scoops

Then, in February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson replaced Sajid Javid with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor:

He gave his first budget less than a month later, on Wednesday, March 11, which I wrote about at the time.

The following Monday, March 16, Boris announced social distancing rules and the closure of pubs, restaurants and events venues. Rishi spoke at one of Boris’s televised coronavirus briefings with news of a generous financial package:

Guido Fawkes posted the full video and remarked (emphasis in the original):

You wouldn’t guess he’s only been in the job for five weeks…

Full details are here. Sunak also issued a Twitter thread with a summary:

Then lockdown came a week later on Monday, March 23.

A few days later, Boris was struggling with his bout of coronavirus, as was Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

The Conservatives soared to record approval ratings in the polls:

Early in April, Boris was quietly rushed to St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Rishi did another coronavirus briefing to reassure an anxious nation:

The well-spoken, gentle Sunak appealed greatly to the folks at home. The Independent did not like that one bit.

Society magazine Tatler began running articles on Sunak in March. They could see he would quickly become a cult personality.

On March 18, the magazine posted an article by Annabel Sampson, ‘Everything you need to know about Britain’s new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’.

It begins with this (emphases mine):

The virtues of 39-year-old Rishi Sunak have been extolled many times over; for his charming demeanour, his razor sharp brain and his acute financial sense. Now the man who has come to be recognised as the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’, thanks to his Indian ancestry and Yorkshire home, has been appointed to the highest office in the country, to Boris Johnson’s Cabinet in the role of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the second biggest government job; and the second youngest person ever to take the position.

The appointment follows the ‘Cabinet Reshuffle’ that occurred in February when Savid Javid, the former Chancellor, resigned when he was asked to get rid – reportedly a request linked to Dominic Cummings – of his closest aides. Rishi Sunak’s star has been rising for some time now, so his appointment to the position will have baffled few.

The article has several photos, including one of Sunak in the Yorkshire countryside and one with his dog, which resembles Boris Johnson’s Welsh rescue pup, Dilyn.

Sunak and his wife had a traditional Indian wedding:

Rishi and Akshata were married in her hometown of Bangalore, in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Akshata is a working mother:

Akshata runs her own fashion label Akshata Designs and is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010. Her designs are wonderful; she’s been profiled by Vogue India and been credited for creating clothes that are ‘vehicles to discovering Indian culture’ – comprised of chic silhouettes with bold, Indian design.

Did we know that the Sunaks throw great parties? We do now:

With their combined wealth, they understandably have a generously sized home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire (in Sunak’s constituency). The Daily Mail reports that their annual summer garden party is a county highlight; where uniformed staff loft around serving ice cold champagne and canapés (no doubt prepared by the prestigious Yorkshire Party Company).

Sunak is a natural at politics:

According to the Daily Mail, ‘While many MPs stutter and trundle their way through their maiden speech in the Commons, Mr Sunak’s at-ease manner provided a glimmer of what was to come’. One ally in parliament told the Telegraph: ‘He’s ferociously intelligent and thoroughly decent at the same time’

He was one of the few Conservatives who were let loose on the air waves (14 times in total) and allowed to make public appearances during the election campaign last year. He has even been dubbed the ‘Prime Minister-in-waiting’, we’ll see. His first big challenge was the March budget; and now he is juggling the unprecedented complexity of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. The UK are in safe hands.

The article also has a photo of him supporting Yorkshire County Cricket at Edgbaston.

Early in July, Tatler‘s Ben Judah travelled to Sunak’s home town of Southampton and reported his findings in ‘Inside the world of Rishi Sunak’.

Naturally, Judah went to the curry house where Sunak worked during his summer holidays:

The kitchen at Kuti’s Brasserie, not far from Southampton docks, was not the sort of place, in August 1998, you would have gone looking for a future hedge funder, son-in-law of a billionaire and Conservative chancellor.

That summer – the summer of the France 98 World Cup and the Omagh bombing – Kuti Miah, the eponymous restaurateur behind the curry house, went to have a word with one of his waiters. ‘You’re going to be someone, Rishi,’ he said. The future UK chancellor flashed his famous smile. He was, adds Miah, ‘a brilliant talker’. Rishi Sunak, then 18, was about to go to Oxford, but that holiday he waited tables for Miah, a close family friend, to earn some pocket money. ‘I saw him grow up,’ says Miah. ‘His father used to bring him in his carry cot.’

Miah was fast friends with Yashvir and Usha Sunak, both Hindu Punjabis born in colonial Kenya and Tanzania respectively, whose parents had migrated from India. After India’s independence, both families left East Africa for Southampton in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yashvir and Usha met in Britain and married. He became a local GP and she ran a pharmacy. They were ‘brilliant conversationalists’ and ‘very strong believers’ who ‘worked very, very hard’, according to Miah, who also recalls that they were ‘passionately British’.

Rishi, the eldest of their three children, was cut from the same patriotic cloth. Not only did the young Sunak fall in love with the game of cricket, he fervently supported England over India at any opportunity. His career, too, has followed one of the most traditional and storied of England’s paths to power. Like five chancellors of the exchequer before him, Sunak was schooled at the ancient and distinguished Winchester College; and like three of those same Wykehamist chancellors, he went on, as was expected, to study at Oxford.

The article includes a photo of Sunak with his wife and in-laws.

Ben Judah had met Rishi Sunak before, in 2015, just before the general election that year. They met up in Northallerton, North Yorkshire:

We were a long way from London – from where Sunak had been ‘parachuted in’ for the seat. During the interview, I had a distinct sense of being the only person in the cafe who knew that this slight man in a Barbour jacket was running for parliament. ‘I tell this story when I’m out and about,’ he said, coffee in hand, ‘that you can come to this country with very little… My grandparents came with very little from a village in northern India, and two generations on, their grandson has this enormous privilege of running as a candidate for parliament. For my family, the route was education.’

Well said.

Sunak’s candidacy in 2015 raised some eyebrows:

He was vying for a seat once presided over by Tory grandees William Hague and Leon Brittan. But I had spent days in Richmond and the surrounding area, reporting on the resentment his sudden arrival had stirred up among certain local Tory notables, who felt the seat in the Dales was rightfully theirs. ‘There was a very acrimonious constituency battle,’ claimed one source, with a lot of hostility to an outsider coming in.

Sunak’s wife had also met with some resistance on the campaign trail, says Judah.

However, Sunak’s father-in-law enthusiastically flew to England where he helped to campaign:

Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, NR Narayana Murthy, however, has been so enthusiastic about Sunak’s parliamentary career that he’d flown in, and had even been leafleting on his behalf, wearing a Rishi sweatshirt. ‘To be honest,’ said Sunak in Costa Coffee that day, ‘I think it’s patronising to assume minorities should only run in minority seats.’

The article discusses Sunak’s property profile:

On 7 May 2015, Sunak won, with more than 50 per cent of the vote (a Ukip vote of 15 per cent had appeared from nowhere). He put down roots in his new constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, augmenting a £10 million property portfolio (metropolitan digs in London – a Kensington mews house, a flat on Old Brompton Road – and a place in California) with a £1.5 million Georgian manor in Yorkshire set across 12 acres, including an ornamental lake. Here, he now entertains the constituency membership with lavish summer parties at which uniformed staff serve champagne and canapés. He has been repeatedly dubbed by newspapers the ‘Maharajah of the Yorkshire Dales’.

The general public know less about those details. Nonetheless, Rishi Sunak has become a household name:

In a swift few years, Sunak has become known as many things: Dishy Rishi to the tabloids; one of the richest MPs in Westminster; the second-youngest-ever chancellor of the exchequer, presiding over a £350 billion package to boost the economy (the largest ever recorded in peacetime); and a former hedge funder whose profile has risen faster than stocks in a vaccine manufacturer.

However dazzling all of this is now, things were very different when Sunak entered Winchester College as an adolescent:

… Winchester would come at a price for the Sunaks. No sooner was he accepted than Rishi’s good fortune immediately foundered: he missed out on the expected scholarship. Desperate not to let the opportunity go to waste, his parents decided to take on the high fees themselves, picking up extra work and making what the chancellor has called considerable ‘sacrifices’. His brother would later follow.

One of his classmates discussed Sunak and described Winchester in the mid- to late 1990s:

Tim Johnson, now a lawyer, was in the boarding house next door. ‘Rishi was a good chap, in boarding-school idiom,’ he recalled. Sunak, he said, was a ‘reasonable cricketer’, who stood out in friendliness; and he was a solid, but never number one, student. ‘Rishi was always expected to do something,’ Johnson remembered. But exactly what, beyond Winchester, was vague. ‘He was always expected to be head boy as he was clever enough, reasonable enough and well behaved enough.’ This became Sunak’s thing – hard work and attainment, becoming the first Winchester head of school from an Indian background.

Sunak was different to other sixth formers in Winchester: a lifelong nondrinker, he wasn’t distracted by the allure of the pub. But there was something else that marked him out from the herd. He was a conservative in every sense: not only in his outlook and demeanour but in his religious attitudes, too – a practising Hindu who avoided beef. At school, where few boys were political, Sunak was clearly ‘associated with the Tories’, said Johnson. It was 1997, The Chemical Brothers were topping the charts and the mood was rebellious. Counterculture, New Labour and ripped jeans were in; the Conservatives were out. ‘That wasn’t his intellectual jam. Rishi didn’t play that game,’ Johnson explained.

‘Everyone was chipper about it when Blair won,’ Johnson said. But not Rishi. His family’s story was closer to Margaret Thatcher’s than that of his bourgeois Labourite classmates. Watching the early results of the landslide on election night 1997, Sunak sat down to write a gloomy article for the school magazine, The Wykehamist, lamenting the news. His main complaint: Europe. ‘He revels in the label of a patriot,’ he complained of Tony Blair, ‘but has plans for the possible break-up of the United Kingdom and membership of an eventual European Superstate.’ The seeds of Brexit were already in his mind.

‘Already,’ fretted Sunak, ‘the New Labour rhetoric sounds worryingly pro-European and avid pro-Europeans are being sent to Brussels’

Later, at Oxford, Sunak had a low profile, unlike his predecessor as MP, William Hague:

He was nothing like the young William Hague, who arrived at Oxford fêted and almost a Tory celebrity, or the young Boris Johnson, the blond beast who tore apart the Oxford Union. At Oxford, Sunak was a nobody, much like Tony Blair.

He continued to eschew strong drink:

Oxford acquaintances remember him as a nerdy teetotaller who was ‘just very clearly going into business’. He would ‘make this big thing’ out of drinking Coke in the pub. ‘Rishi was unknown to the student politicians, that gossipy overlapping world, who all knew each other,’ said Marcus Walker, then-president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, now a clergyman. Sunak was never a member.

It is hard to remember how irrelevant and demoralised Tory circles felt after 1997, but some do recall Sunak as a ‘Thatcherite’ and ‘Eurosceptic’. ‘That was absolutely par for the course,’ said Walker. ‘If you were still a Tory after 1997, you were a Eurosceptic. That was all you had left.’

Nevertheless, Sunak did develop a network from his Winchester College and Oxford days. Graduates from Winchester are called Old Wykehamists:

These days, socially, Sunak has been placed by some in Westminster’s Spectator set. He was best man to his lifelong friend and fellow Old Wykehamist James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, at Forsyth’s politician-studded wedding in 2011, to Allegra Stratton, the national editor at ITV Newsand gave what one guest recalled was ‘one of the most touching best man’s speeches I’ve ever heard’. (In fact, Stratton has recently announced she’s leaving ITV News for a job with Sunak at the Treasury. Some have seen this as very Cameron-esque in its ‘chumocracy’.)

Allegra Stratton, also a good friend of ITV’s Robert Peston, now works for Boris Johnson as his notional press secretary, although she has not yet begun to give press briefings, probably because of coronavirus.

Imagine the son of immigrants having ties to Britain’s two oldest — ancient — magazines: The Spectator and Tatler. Wow.

Tatler‘s Ben Judah also spoke with people who had worked with Sunak during his hedge fund days. They painted a similar character portrait of the Chancellor:

After two years in California completing a CV-topping MBA, he returned to London and Mayfair in 2006, where a new type of boutique finance was booming: hedge funds. He was hired by Sir Chris Hohn at The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI). It was a dream job: a big role at an activist firm off Berkeley Square at the peak of their fame. ‘He appears to have been trusted,’ said a source. Indeed, Sunak was made a partner two years later. Contemporaries remember him ever-ready to meet and greet; a mixture of a junior, deputy and a bag carrier; the perfect foil to Hohn’s bolshy swagger. ‘Ridiculously nice.’ ‘Affable.’ ‘Approachable.’ ‘Charming.’ These are the words that come up again and again among Mayfair types who knew Sunak. The charm was of a particular kind: ‘There are two kinds of people at hedge funds,’ said one source. ‘Handsome and thin smooth-talkers who are always on the phone or going out to lunch with clients, getting them to part with their money. And then quants in the back room with their shirts buttoned up badly.’

Sunak was one of the smooth-talkers, his charm honed on calls to investors, getting them on board with whatever drastic moves the fund wanted to make. The kind of charm that prizes clarity and persuades people to part with their money. It worked: but hedge-fund charm is designed to hide as much as it reveals. The atmosphere at TCI was buccaneering and bold; it both led and profited from a controversial banking raid that eventually meant a £45.5 billion public bailout of the Royal Bank of Scotland. (The Treasury and TCI say Sunak was not involved in the deal.) He left when TCI split in 2009, and joined the breakaway hedge fund Theleme Partners. His new firm’s reputation took a knock when its founder was revealed to have used a notorious tax avoidance scheme. The Labour Party researched Sunak’s past during the 2019 election. ‘But he was too little known for us to use it,’ said one source

His reasons for entering Parliament are equally obscure. Those who know him have different opinions as to why. One thing that everyone agrees on is his penchant for order:

Many in Westminster see his motivation as status. ‘He’s not an ideologue,’ said one Tory source. ‘He wanted to enter politics in that old-fashioned way, because it was seen as the good thing to do.’ Good, as in socially ambitious. Whether that’s true is another matter, because first came a stint at Policy Exchange, leading a unit researching black and minority ethnic attitudes. The scruffy but influential Conservative think tank world is seen as a de facto holding pen for future special advisers, but it was nonetheless an unexpectedly technical way into Westminster for someone with means.

Sunak quickly made an impression. ‘He’s got that Blair-like ability to hold your eye,’ says Nick Faith, who worked with him there. Sunak cut a snappy figure amid slovenly suits. ‘He’s into his clothing.’ His is not the fusty establishment Rees-Mogg or Nicholas Soames style, but more the wiry Emmanuel Macron look. Everything Sunak wears, many remarked, is immaculate, even at the end of a Treasury work day, and fits perfectly. Faith says that ‘everything, from how Rishi dresses to how he structures his life, is very well organised’. Sunak’s elegant house in London, with a touch of Indian decor, reflects that. ‘Nothing is out of place. For someone with two small kids, that’s quite an achievement.’

Having learned from his background in finance, Sunak also knows how and when to place his bets:

‘His mind works in Excel,’ said one City contemporary. But like all hedge funders, it also works in bets: and the two biggest bets that Sunak has made in his career have paid off spectacularly – Brexit and Boris. David Cameron knew the gravity of his predicament when Sunak came out for Leave. ‘If we’ve lost Rishi, we’ve lost the future of the party,’ he reportedly said. The same thing played out in reverse in June 2019 when Sunak came out for Boris in The Times with two other MPs during the party leadership elections. This was widely seen in Westminster as a decisive turning point: the one where Johnson won over ‘the sensibles’ and pivoted the backbenchers. The PM seems to agree: all three have been handsomely rewarded.

In Parliament, he keeps a low profile but, to those who know him, is loyal:

‘He’s unknown in parliament,’ said one MP. ‘He doesn’t play the parliamentary game at all.’ Tory Remainers are sceptical of him. ‘It’s Star Wars,’ said one MP, referring to the chancellor’s strange and classically ‘geek-chic’ hobby for minutely detailed models of spaceships and video games. ‘Most of his political philosophy comes out of the Star Wars trade wars that are about the independence of various kingdoms from the Empire. He’s not someone intellectual.’ Loyalty has been his strongest suit. Sunak is a No 10 man. ‘He’s a grown-up,’ said one MP. ‘The only grown-up in Downing Street, despite him being 20 years younger than them.’

At the height of tensions over Brexit last year, he was cheerfully going around Westminster saying he would back ‘no deal’ if push came to shove. He struck the right note, in the right place, at the right time. Tensions between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid’s teams exploded in February, when the then-chancellor resigned after refusing to fire his own special advisers and submit to an unprecedented joint team with Downing Street, effectively under the stewardship of Dominic Cummings. It was Sunak, with high skills and no clear agenda or faction behind him in parliament, whom Downing Street turned to. He quickly agreed to the joint team, once again becoming the perfect foil for an outsized boss

Even now, it’s still too early to say whether Rishi Sunak will become a future leader of the Conservative Party and, as such, a possible prime minister. A week is a long time in politics.

When Boris’s erstwhile special adviser Dominic Cummings broke coronavirus rules in travelling from London to Durham and back during Boris’s time in hospital, Sunak tried to calm the ever-turbulent waters surrounding Cummings, who was never popular with the Remainer media. He tweeted this after Cummings’s lengthy press conference in May:

In June, Sunak was tactful about the reopening of shops and businesses in Britain after the first coronavirus lockdown:

He also warned that his generous financial package could not go on indefinitely:

A few weeks later, in early July, pubs were allowed to reopen:

The Government launched the Enjoy Summer Safely campaign. Pictured below is Piccadilly Circus:

On July 8, he issued a Summer Economic Update, with financial help continuing (more here):

This included the launch of his Eat Out To Help Out plan, which lasted to the end of August:

A lot of Labour MPs didn’t like the plan. I don’t know why. Leftists own restaurants, too.

He cut VAT for the hospitality industry, too.

He also issued a detailed jobs plan, including an apprentice scheme:

Some men in the media were taking a shine to Dishy Rishi, including the leftist Owen Jones of The Guardian and Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine:

At that time, the attention being given to Sunak and Boris Johnson got the better of Conservative MP Caroline Dineage, a Culture minister, who was questioned on masks, which were strongly suggested (mandatory only on public transport) but still optional in what now look like heady days. This was from a BBC interview:

asked why the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had not worn one in public, she snapped: “You’d have to ask the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that, with respect.

“But it is something that is advised and we keep it under review.”

At the end of September 2020, the coronavirus crisis dragged on. Talk intensified about a winter lockdown.

On September 24, Sunak issued a Winter Economy Plan, about which I wrote at the time. When he presented it in the House of Commons, he advised all MPs to live ‘without fear’.

By October 6, Sunak was being blamed for an uptick in coronavirus ‘cases’ (positive test results, not necessarily hospital admissions) for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme:

A US study, which did not cover Britain, showed that hospitality venues were shown to be responsible. However, the study did not cover workplaces or hospitals. Nonetheless, it is still a contentious point even to this day.

The Sun‘s Harry Cole rightly, in my opinion, defended the Chancellor’s restaurant promotion.

Then talk of hospitality curfews emerged. Fellow Conservative MP Matt Vickers defended the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out programme, which had come to an end five weeks earlier.

The calls for a winter lockdown grew. The Chancellor rightly opposed them:

By then, more areas of England had moved into tiers, indicating more coronavirus cases. Sunak increased financial support to those cities and counties. He also offered more help to businesses, including the self-employed.

By November, some thought a storm was truly brewing between Boris and Rishi. Despite all the talk from the Government about people being able to meet loved ones at Christmas — for the first time in months, for many — a pessimistic undercurrent, which turned out to be accurate, seemed to be part of every news cycle.

Rumours circulated that Sunak was ready to resign. However, on November 1, the Daily Mail reported:

A source said there was a ‘collective decision’ to back a second lockdown, and that Mr Sunak ‘accepted it’ – and he did not threaten to resign, as some whispers around Westminster were suggesting yesterday.

The November lockdown was supposed to prevent a Christmas lockdown, but that was not to be. There was a brief re-opening before Christmas, and on December 19, the hammer fell once more.

Interestingly, the minority MPs in Cabinet shared Sunak’s concerns.

By the middle of December, Sunak was clearly worried about how long the borrowing could go on. On Saturday, December 19, the day when Boris announced Christmas was cancelled, The Spectator reported what the Chancellor said about borrowing and quantitative easing (QE):

‘Are you or anyone else going to guarantee me that, for the duration of this parliament, rates might not go back to 1 per cent?’ he asks, pointing out that this almost happened in March, before the Bank of England started printing money to bring rates back down. There is this very large QE thing that’s going on. No one has done that before. There are plenty of smart investors who are also thinking about the risks of inflation over the next 12 months. Because we are now so levered, small changes have huge cash implications. If I have to come up with £10-£20 billion a year in a few years’ time because things have changed — well, that’s a lot of money.’

To Sunak, it’s not just an economic problem but a political one. ‘If we [Tories] think borrowing is the answer to everything, that debt rising is fine, then there’s not much difference between us and the Labour party,’ he says.

The media criticised him for going to his constituency of Richmond for Christmas. To be fair, he did work while he was there, visiting a local hospital and a vaccine centre. He did not rush back to London.

On February 3, 2021, Sunak rightly accused scientists advising the Government of shifting the goalposts regarding lockdown:

This might be causing a rift in Boris’s Cabinet:

On a brighter note, Time magazine has included Rishi Sunak on its list of 100 ’emerging leaders’. On February 17, the Daily Mail reported:

Under the ‘leaders’ category, Chancellor Rishi Sunak landed a spot on the list, being described as the ‘benevolent face of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic’ by Times reporter Billy Perrigo.

The Chancellor’s profile piece discussed the furlough scheme, describing how he approved ‘large handouts’ for people whose jobs had been affected by coronavirus.

The piece also paid respect to Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which the magazine described as an attempt to ‘revive the economy’ by subsidizing dining out at restaurants.  

Although his profile acknowledges that Sunak bears more responsibility than most for his calls to ease lockdown restrictions, Time’s profile for the Chancellor admits he has earned himself a ‘legion of fans’.

Sunak’s accompanying profile points to a YouGov poll showing him to be the nation’s most popular politician and even tips him to be the bookmakers’ favourite as the next Prime Minister.  

Again, a week is a long time in politics. We shall see about the future as and when it happens.

For now, Sunak is focussing on the budget, to be delivered on March 3. He is asking industry leaders for their thoughts.

Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay was one of those leaders:

If Rishi Sunak ever tires of being an MP or Chancellor, a job in media awaits.

He is an excellent interviewer and researched Gordon Ramsay well. The 15-minute video is worth watching.

The list of minority Conservative MPs continues. All being well, more tomorrow.

Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series show what a diverse party the Conservatives have become in England.

More black and ethnic minority Conservatives entered Parliament during the years when David Cameron was Prime Minister between May 2010 and June 2016.

The list continues.

James Cleverly (Braintree)

James Cleverly is a Londoner, born and bred.

He has served the Essex constituency of Braintree since 2015. He also was the London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley between 2008 and 2016, during which time Boris Johnson was Mayor of London.

Prior to entering politics, Cleverly worked in publishing, both print and digital.

He has also been a member of the Territorial Army since 1991 and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel.

James Cleverly’s father is white British. His mother is originally from Sierra Leone. In 2020, at the height of last summer’s protests, to which he firmly objected, Cleverly told a BBC Question Time panel that he grew up at a time when interracial marriages were unusual. He said that the early 1970s for him were unpleasant and hurtful as a child as people sometimes made open remarks to or about his parents as they walked down the street.

One of his pet peeves is the biased BBC:

Cleverly is the first black to be appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party (2018-2019) and Co-Chariman (2019-2020). Ben Elliot was the other Co-Chairman:

He laid out the Party manifesto in this short video:

Prior to that appointment, he worked on Brexit as a junior minister for the Department for Exiting the European Union:

Later that autumn, he campaigned tirelessly for the Conservatives before the December 12 general election, in which they routed Labour …

… including in constituencies that had never before had a Conservative MP, such as Bishop Auckland (near Durham) and North Stoke (Stoke on Trent):

Early in 2020, he enjoyed posting this video in which Prime Minister thanked Labour voters for their support:

He was also able to get his Brexit countdown clock back on the wall:

Cleverly is currently the Minister for State for the Middle East and North Africa, to which he was appointed on February 13, 2020.

He is married and has two children.

Nus Ghani (Wealden)

Nus Ghani has served the constituency of Wealden, East Sussex, since 2015.

She was born in Kashmir to Pakistani parents in 1972. Her parents later moved to Birmingham, where she grew up.

Ghani worked in the charity sector before becoming an MP.

Since 2015, she has held a variety of posts on parliamentary committees and all-party groups.

She was Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, serving under Theresa May (2019) and was also Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Aviation and Maritime under May and Boris Johnson (2018-2020).

Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire)

Ranil Jayawardena is the son of a Sri Lankan father and Indian mother.

He has served the North East Hampshire constituency since 2015. He knows Hampshire well, having spent most of his life there. His parents moved there from London when he was a boy.

He graduated from the London School of Economics and worked as a senior manager for Lloyds Banking Group in capital markets, corporate banking and group executive functions.

Between 2008 and 2015, Jayawardena was a councillor of the borough of Basingstoke and Deane.

Since becoming an MP in 2015, he has held a number of positions on All-Party Parliamentary Groups. He has also served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Work and Pensions as well as to the Ministry of Justice.

He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in the early part of 2020.

Jayawardena is currently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Trade and helped to formulate Britain’s new trade deal with Japan:

He is now working on enhancing Britain’s trade with India:

Jayawardena is a Christian and was a trustee/director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

He is married and has two daughters.

Alan Mak (Havant)

Alan Mak has been the MP for Havant, Hampshire, since 2015.

His parents were born in Guangdong then lived in Hong Kong before moving to England. Alan was born in Leeds in 1983.

He is the first MP of Cantonese and Asian origin. However, he wants to be known for representing all of Havant, as he told the South China Morning Post‘s Post Magazine:

It’s a stupid story. I am not standing for the Chinese population of Britain. I am standing for the people of Havant and my country.

Mak is a high achiever. He read Law at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he won the coveted ECS Wade Prize for Administrative Law. He then completed a post-graduate law and business diploma at Oxford, where he was runner-up for the Oxford Leadership Prize.

Before entering politics, he practised law as a solicitor for a large firm in the City of London and, in 2010, won the award of Young City Lawyer of the year in Square Mile magazine’s 30 under 30 awards.

Suella Braverman (Fareham)

Suella Braverman was first elected in 2015 to represent the constituency of Fareham in Hampshire.

Born in 1980, she is the daughter of Christie and Uma Fernandes, both of Indian origin, who migrated to England from Kenya and Mauritius.

Suella Fernandes grew up and attended schools in North West London.

She read Law at Queens’ College Cambridge, where she was Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association.

Afterwards, she completed a master’s degree in European and French Law at Pantheon-Sorbonne University. She was an Entente Cordiale Scholar.

She was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 2005 and was a barrister until 2015.

She married Rael Braverman in 2018 and took his name. The couple have one child and are expecting a second this year.

Braverman is a practising Buddhist.

A firm Brexiteer, she came to prominence in 2018, being one of the MPs who objected to Theresa May’s Chequers agreement with the EU:

She also said that Britain could survive a no-deal Brexit:

She further objected to May’s deal in early 2019, when it went through a series of unsuccessful votes:

During that time, she came under fire for using the term ‘C u l t u r a l  Marxism’. It turned out that many of her critics thought she was white because she was a ‘Conservative Brexiteer’:

It took some time for the dust to settle.

Suella Braverman is currently Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

I wish her and all the aforementioned MPs continued success.

——————————————————————————

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor to the Exchequer, who also began his term as an MP in 2015, will be the subject of a post next week.

Yesterday’s post looked at the beginning of today’s modern Conservative Party in the late 20th and early 21st century, including Boris Johnson’s diverse family history.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have added to their number of accomplished MPs, people who have really achieved something in their lives before they entered Parliament.

The list of MPs whose immediate ancestry includes parents from Asia and Africa continues below.

The Cameron years: May 2010 – June 2016

In the 2010 election, when David Cameron became Prime Minister, several more Conservative MPs of colour took their places in Parliament.

Most are still serving today, listed below.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)

Rehman Chishti was born in Pakistan on October 4, 1978.

At the time, his father, Abdul Rehman Chishti, was Federal Adviser on religious affairs to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, the region where the Chishtis lived. This was during the time when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Pakistan’s prime minister. In 1978, Chishti’s father left Pakistan for the UK, where he became an imam. Shortly afterwards, a military coup overthrew the Bhutto government. General Zia-uk-Haq led the coup and later executed Bhutto.

It was not until 1984 that Mrs Chishti was able to join her husband in Kent, taking with her their elder daughter and young Rehman. From that point, life resumed a sense of normality for the family. Rehman Chisti attended local schools, then read law at University of Wales Aberystwyth. He supplemented his income by working summer jobs in retail in Kent.

In 2001, he became a barrister, having been called to the Bar of England and Wales by Lincoln’s Inn in London. He prosecuted and defended cases in Magistrates’ and Crown courts.

During the years when Labour was in power, he worked as an advisor for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir Bhutto, after her tumultuous term as Pakistan’s prime minister had ended. Chishti held this position between 1999 and 2007.

In 2006, he decided to switch his affiliation from Labour to Conservative and served as advisor on diversity to Francis Maude, who led the Conservatives at that time.

He won his first election as MP for Gillingham and Rainham in 2010, having been lauded by both Labour and Conservative publications as being a rising star in Parliament.

Since then, he has held three notable appointments: Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Communities (2018), Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Pakistan (2017-2018) and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2019-2020).

Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald)

Another MP serving Kent is Helen Grant.

Helen Grant was born in Willesden (London) in 1961. Her mother is English and her father a Nigerian, an orthopaedic surgeon.

Helen’s parents split up when she was a young child. Her father later emigrated to the United States. Helen and her mother moved to Carlisle, in the north-West of England, where she was raised by her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother. They lived on a council estate.

She excelled in sports at secondary school and decided to read law at university. She later opened her own law practice, Grants Solicitors, which specialises in family law.

She was a member of the Labour Party between 2004 and 2006, but quickly grew disillusioned:

It was almost looking in the biscuit barrel, not liking the look of the biscuits, and slamming the lid shut.[6]

In 2006, she joined the Conservative Party. That year, she helped the Conservatives devise a policy on family breakdown, co-authoring the Social Justice Policy Group Report ‘State of the Nation – Fractured Families’ published in December 2006, and the follow-up solutions report ‘Breakthrough Britain’ published in July 2007.[8]

Grant became the first mixed-race/black female MP, succeeding the formidable Anne Widdecombe, who stood down for the 2010 election.

Helen Grant married her husband Simon in 1991. They have two sons, one of whom served in the Royal Marines.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne)

Kwasi Kwarteng, who represents Spelthorne in Surrey, is familiar to anyone who has followed Brexit and the Government department BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).

Kwasi Kwarteng’s parents emigrated from Ghana in the 1960s when both of them were students. His mother became a barrister and his father an economist in the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Kwarteng was a brilliant student. As a boy, he attended Colet Court, the feeder school for St Paul’s School. Kwarteng went one better. He attended Eton.

At Eton, he was a King’s Scholar and received the school’s most prestigious award: the Newcastle Scholarship. He read classics and history at Trinity College, Cambridge, earning a First in both subjects.

During his time at Cambridge, he appeared on University Challenge during the first season when the BBC resurrected the show in 1994. I saw it. The episode that he was on aired in 1995 and raised eyebrows. Kwarteng pressed the buzzer to answer the question, then forgot the answer. Exasperated, he spontaneously uttered the ‘f-word’. The production team was unable to censor it in time.

Guido Fawkes has the details:

This photo of a resulting newspaper article comes from Guido. Moderator Jeremy Paxman is pictured:

After earning his degree at Cambridge, Kwarteng was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship from Harvard. After studying there, he returned to Cambridge to earn a PhD in economic history.

He then had a busy career, combining work with journalism. He was a columnist for The Daily Telegraph and worked at investment banks, among them JPMorgan Chase. He also wrote and co-authored books on history and business.

At the time he won his first election as MP for Spelthorne, a local paper described him as a:

black Boris.

Kwarteng was an ardent supporter of Brexit and Boris Johnson. He also thinks that Britain’s welfare state needs to be pared back.

Kwarteng has held a variety of positions in Government and is the first black MP — and the first Conservative MP — to be appointed as a Secretary of State.

He is also a member of the Privy Council.

Priti Patel (Witham)

Priti Patel has been Home Secretary since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in 2019.

She held various Government posts prior to that appointment.

Priti Patel was born in London in 1972. Her paternal grandparents were from Gujurat, India, then emigrated to Uganda. They owned a shop in Kampala.

In the 1960s, the Patels’ son and his wife — Priti’s parents — emigrated to England, settling in Hertfordshire, where they built up a successful chain of newsagents. The family are Hindu.

Unlike a few of the other MPs profiled above, Priti never flirted with the Labour Party. She was a firm fan of Margaret Thatcher, who, in her words:

had a unique ability to understand what made people tick, households tick and businesses tick. Managing the economy, balancing the books and making decisions—not purchasing things the country couldn’t afford”.[8]

Patel was always interested in politics. After completing her degree in economics at Keele University in Staffordshire, she studied British government and politics at the University of Essex.

She began her career working in the Conservative Central Office. As she was interested in seeing the UK leave the EU, she left for two years to head the office of the Referendum Party, headed by the late tycoon Sir James Goldsmith. That was between 1995 and 1997. Goldsmith’s party did not win many votes. We still have the campaign video tape, which Goldsmith’s campaigners sent to certain constituencies he had hoped to carry. Goldsmith died two months after the election.

Patel returned to the Conservatives, working for party leader William Hague in his press office.

In 2006, she became the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the staunchly Conservative constituency of Witham in Essex. By 2010, she was well known and won election handily.

She became part of the ‘class of 2010’, also known as ‘the new Right’. She and her fellow ‘classmates’ Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss, Dominic Raab and Chris Skidmore co-authored Britannia Unchained, which took strong exception to the welfare state. One of the book’s more controversial statements is:

once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world.

I don’t fully agree with that, but I do worry about the effect that lockdown and furlough are having on our collective psyche in that regard.

Priti Patel is married and has one child, a son.

Alok Sharma (Reading West)

In 2010, Alok Sharma won Reading West with a majority of 6,004 after Labour MP, Martin Salter retired.

Alok Sharma was born to a Hindu family in Agra, India, in 1967. Five years later, he and his parents settled in Reading, Berkshire, where Alok’s father became very involved in Conservative Party politics and helped to establish the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India.

The Sharmas sent their son to local schools, including the well-respected Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning, Berkshire. Alok moved to the north-West for university, earning a BSc in Applied Physics with Electronics in 1988.

However, Alok’s interests extended beyond science. He later qualified as a chartered accountant with Deloitte, Haskins & Sells in Manchester. He went on to work as a corporate financial advisor for other firms, leading to posts not only on London but also in Stockholm and Frankfurt. He advised clients on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, listings and restructurings.[8]

Sharma has held several posts as Minister of State and Secretary of State.

He is currently the President for the climate change conference COP26, which the UK will host in 2021. Sharma is currently a full member of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Office.

Sharma married a Swedish lady, with whom he has two daughters.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon)

Nadhim Zahawi is best known for his current post as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment in the UK.

He is second-best known for co-founding the international polling company YouGov with Stephan Shakespeare. Zahawi served as YouGov’s CEO from 2005 to 2010.

Zahawi was born to Iraqi Kurdish parents in Bagdad in 1967. In 1976, when Saddam Hussein began his rule over Iraq, the Zahawis moved to London, where Nadhim attended independent day schools.

Nadhim earned a BSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of London.

However, immediately after university, Zahawi’s interests lay with the Kurds. He worked on their behalf from 1991 to 1994.

In 1994, he was elected as a local Conservative councillor for Putney in south-West London. He held that post until 2006.

In 2010, he gained the attention of the local Conservative association in Stratford-on-Avon and became their prospective parliamentary candidate. He has been re-elected three times since: 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Zadawi has held two Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State posts, the first for Children and Families and the second for Business and Industry.

Zadawi and his wife are keen horse riders. They co-own a riding school. Their children attend university in the United States.

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid was also among the 2010 intake. I will cover his life story this week, as it is worth a separate post.

Conclusion

Had I not been watching BBC Parliament so often, I would not have read the life experiences of many of our MPs.

I had watched the maiden speeches of those who entered Parliament in 2019, however, I had missed those of the MPs who came before them.

One can imagine that Boris, given that his paternal great-grandfather was lynched in Turkey, would appreciate every element of life experience and intelligence that this intake of MPs brings to the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative MPs are a wonderfully eclectic and feisty lot.

They give back to Labour as good as they get.

I remember when William Hague was the Conservative Party leader during the Labour years, specifically when Tony Blair was PM. Hague, who was the Conservative leader between 1997 and 2001, never ceased referring to ‘today’s modern Conservative Party’.

Well, today’s modern Conservative Party is no longer the Anglican faithful at prayer, as it was when I first moved to the UK. They are now from several nationalities and backgrounds, going right up to the Prime Minister. The Party is much the better for the variety of influences on it.

On January 30, 2021, The Economist‘s Bagehot — a pseudonym paying homage to Walter Bagehot (pron. BAJ-ut), a businessman and journalist whose father-in-law James Wilson founded and first owned the publication — wrote an article called ‘How the Conservative Party got diverse’.

‘Got diverse’ rubs me the wrong way. I am glad I gave my subscription up 15 or so years ago.

Although The Economist is focused on economics and geopolitics, it has not been a friend of the Conservative Party for a very long time, decades at least.

Bagehot’s article is accompanied by jarring photos of Conservative MPs of colour with parts of their faces cut off, an insulting graphic, as if they are not entirely human for being Conservatives.

The opening sentence also illustrates why The Economist so often gets it wrong about conservatism in today’s Britain:

BORIS JOHNSON is such a vivid embodiment of white privilege that it is easy to forget how diverse his cabinet is.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is, in fact, Turkish on his father’s side.

Why didn’t Bagehot bother to do a bit of simple research on a fact that London commuters know. On Friday, July 26, 2019, Metro, the free newspaper available at every railway and Tube station in greater London — as well as throughout transport networks in England’s biggest cities — reported on Boris’s family history: ‘Turkish town where Boris traces his roots celebrates him becoming PM’ (emphases mine):

A village in central Turkey, where Boris Johnson traces his ancestry to, is buzzing with excitement and pride after a man they see as one of their own became the new Prime Minister of the UK. Residents of the farming village of Kalfat, in Cankiri province, 62 miles north of the Turkish capital Ankara, gathered at its main assembly place on Tuesday to celebrate, after Mr Johnson won the Conservative Party leadership contest triggered by the resignation of Theresa May, according to town administrator, Bayram Tavukcu.

Mr Johnson took office as Prime Minister on Wednesday …

Mr Johnson’s paternal great-great-grandfather, Haci Ahmet Riza Efendi, was born there in 1813 and the house he lived in is still standing.

Family members were known as the ‘Sarioglangiller’ which roughly translate as ‘of the family of the blond boy’, Mr Karaagac said, though it was not known if Mr Johnson inherited his blond hair from his Turkish ancestry

During a Conservative Party leadership debate in June, he defended himself against accusations of Islamophobia.

‘When my Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of generosity and openness and a willingness to welcome people from around the world,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘I think my Muslim great-grandfather would have been astonished to have found that his great-grandson had become foreign secretary. ‘But he would have been very proud and I think it would be a tribute to this country.’ Mr Johnson explored his Turkish roots in a 2008 episode of the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?

On April 29, 2020, The Algemeiner carried a story on Boris’s great-grandfather, Ali Kemal: ‘Why Was Boris Johnson’s Ottoman Great-Grandfather Murdered?’

An excerpt follows. The details might indicate why Boris pursued a career in journalism before entering politics:

On April 10, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter to Boris Johnson, prime minister of the United Kingdom, informing him that Turkey “would like to welcome you in our country, which is your ancestral land.”

It is true that the Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s predecessor, is where Johnson’s paternal great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, was born. It is also where he was brutally murdered by Turkish nationalists in 1922 for wanting to bring to account the perpetrators of the 1915 Armenian genocide, and for criticizing the nationalist movement that would establish the Turkish Republic in 1923.

However, Turkey is denying the history behind the persecution and lynching of Kemal — just like it still denies the genocide itself.

Ali Kemal was a leading Ottoman journalist, editor, poet, novelist, and politician who served for some three months as the Minister of Education and then as the Minister of the Interior of the Ottoman Empire in 1919.

Because of his dissident writings and political speeches, Kemal had a hard life. He was a severe critic of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), also known as the Young Turks, which was the political party in power in the Ottoman Empire, and which made the decision to exterminate the Armenians in 1915. Kemal also publicly denounced the subsequent Turkish nationalist movement for its massacres against Christians.

As arrests and bans on his writings were an inevitable part of his life in the Ottoman Empire, Kemal lived in exile in Europe, Syria, and Egypt for much of his adult lifeIn 1909, he fled to Britain, where his first wife, a British woman named Winifred Brun, gave birth to their son, Osman Kemal Wilfred Johnson. Boris Johnson, born in 1964, is Wilfred’s grandson.

Kemal then returned to Turkey in 1912 and became a member of the Freedom and Accord Party, also known as the Liberal Union, which advocated for government decentralization, constitutionalism, and the rights of ethnic minorities.

When Ottoman Turkey was defeated in the first World War and the CUP party leaders fled the country, Kemal briefly became a cabinet minister of the Ottoman administration in 1919, and relentlessly demanded prosecution of the CUP leaders responsible for the massacres against Christians.

“He fiercely criticized the ruling party for entering the war, and for committing ‘war crimes and massacres’ against its own Armenian citizens,” according to author Raffi Bedrosyan.

As a staunch liberal and an Anglophile, Kemal regarded Britain as a model for democratic reform and industrial growth. He joined the Anglophile Society and advocated British protectorate status for TurkeyBut Kemal then found himself in danger again, ultimately lynched and “torn apart limb by limb while still alive,” as Bedrosyan explains.

“Ali Kemal was vilified by Turkish nationalists at the time for his condemnations of the Armenian massacres,” said Professor Armen T. Marsoobian, the First Vice President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. “In some quarters of Turkey, calling someone an Armenian is the equivalent of a curse.”

A 2008 article from the aforementioned BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? explains how the Johnson name replaced the family’s Turkish name. Boris was Mayor of London at the time. I remember that episode well. Boris has all sorts of interesting bloodlines, some of them royal:

Boris wanted to find out the truth about what happened to his Turkish paternal great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, who was a journalist and politician in the early 1900s. He knew that Ali Kemal had been lynched by a mob in the 1920s, but didn’t really know anything about the context of his life and death …

At the start of the investigation into Ali’s story, Stanley Johnson showed Boris his grandfather Wilfred’s birth certificate

Wilfred’s birth certificate showed that he was actually born Osman Wilfred Kemal, and that sadly Wilfred’s mother, Winifred, had died giving birth to him.

Through examining the birth certificate we also found out that Winifred’s mother, Margaret Johnson, was present at the birth. Boris’ father, Stanley, was then prompted to describe how, after her daughter’s death, Margaret, known as ‘Granny Johnson’, raised Wilfred and his older sister, Celma. Stanley was also able to provide further evidence of Granny Johnson’s formidable character, and the way in which she went on to change the identity and character of the family forever.

Once we had discovered that Boris’ apparently quintessentially English grandfather had been born with such an exotic name, we wanted to know how, why and when the family name had been changed so dramatically.

A short letter from the Home Office, found amongst papers belonging to Stanley, was the key. Seemingly innocuous business letters can provide a way of working out the events and relationships that have defined a family’s identity or an individual’s life story. Stanley’s Home Office letter responded to a query from Margaret Johnson in 1916. Margaret was told by the Home Office that no permission was needed to change Wilfred Kemal’s surname to Johnson, as he was a British subject (and we had already seen on his birth certificate that Wilfred was born in Britain). Margaret had clearly been trying to work out the appropriate procedure for changing the names of her half-Turkish grandchildren.

We wondered whether Margaret might have wanted to do this because Wilfred was growing up during the First World War, when Britain was fighting Turkey as well as Germany, and at a time when a young boy with a Turkish name might have become a target at school and in society.

Whatever the reason, this is the moment when Boris’s great-great-grandmother, Margaret Johnson, changed the family surname forever. Had she not, the current Mayor of London would be Boris Kemal!

The Economist on how the Conservatives diversified

Bagehot’s editorial gives the credit for the Conservatives’ diversity to David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher:

Two figures deserve much of the credit for the Tories’ transformation. David Cameron’s decision to introduce an A-list of female and ethnic-minority candidates back in 2005 allowed Conservative Central Office to force local parties to consider fast-tracked candidates without removing their prized sovereignty. Though Margaret Thatcher didn’t have much interest in race, she is an icon to the current generation of ethnic-minority MPs because she believed in self-reliance and breaking open closed shops.

When you see the backgrounds of the minority MPs that follow, it is unlikely they needed all-minority candidate lists to win their seats in the House of Commons. All are high achievers.

Therefore, I doubt Bagehot’s editorial, especially when he takes a swipe at Republicans in the United States, who, thanks to President Trump, have become equally diverse with more blacks and Hispanics entering at grass roots level — and winning seats — than ever before (see my post from yesterday):

The Republican Party has only a handful of prominent ethnic-minority politicians, such as Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Tim Scott, a senator from South Carolina and Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida. Several ethnic-minority Republican politicians have Americanised themselves. Ms Haley has dropped her first name, Nimrata, and converted from Sikhism to Christianity.

What lazy journalism.

Today’s modern Conservative Party

As a regular viewer of BBC Parliament, the Conservative benches have changed a lot since Margaret Thatcher’s era.

Wikipedia’s entry, ‘List of ethnic minority politicians in the United Kingdom’, makes for fascinating reading.

Early history

The first ethnic Conservative MP, Mancherjee Bhownagree, served Bethnal Green North East (London) for nine years between 1895 and 1906.

Labour and the Liberals followed with two more during the early 20th century, but there were no more MPs of colour until 1987, when Labour candidates Diane Abbott, Keith Vaz, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant took their seats in the Commons. Of those four, only Diane Abbott is still serving.

Labour years: 1997-2010

Two Conservative MPs of colour, Sebastian Coe (Lord Coe of the 2012 London Olympics) and Nirj Deva were elected in 1992, only to lose re-election in 1997, when Tony Blair’s Labour swept the board. What an election night that was.

After that, more Labour MPs of colour were elected. Some lost their re-elections, others are still sitting MPs.

During the Labour era — 1997-2010 — two Conservative MPs were elected in 2005 and are still in the House of Commons: Adam Afriyie and Shailesh Vara.

Adam Afriyie (Windsor)

Adam Afriyie is the son of an Englishwoman and a Ghanaian. He says that he never knew his father until he was an adult. Therefore, he had a close relationship with his mother Gwen.

He is the first Conservative MP of mixed race, although he describes himself as ‘post racial’. He grew up on a council estate in Peckham (south London).

His accomplishments in the business world are too many to mention. He has worked in IT, media and political consulting. Some of these companies he has owned or had an ownership stake in, such as Axonn Media. He has risen from public housing to being a multi-millionaire, owning not only a large home in Westminster, near Parliament, but also a former 17th century monastery in Old Windsor.

Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire)

Shailesh Vara, a Hindu, was born in Uganda to Gujarati Indian immigrants. The family moved to England in 1964, when young Shailesh was four years old.

Vara is a qualified solicitor (lawyer) who has worked in the City of London and Hong Kong.

He has held numerous positions in the Conservative Party, including the post of Vice-Chairman, and in government. His government posts began in 2006, when he was appointed as Shadow (Opposition) Deputy Leader in the House of Commons. He has also held the post of Minister of State for Northern Ireland when Theresa May was Prime Minister.

Many more Conservative MPs of colour took their places in Parliament in 2010, when everyone had finally had enough of 13 years of Labour rule.

More on their careers next week.

So far, Israel, the UK and the United States (President Trump) have had the greatest success in procuring and distributing coronavirus vaccines.

This must have been painful for a German newspaper to publish:

Guido Fawkes has more from the article that appeared in Bild and additional commentary about Germany (emphases in the original):

The loss of German confidence was not helped when the first German vaccinated was vaccinated in England. This humiliation is reconfirmed in the breathless copy of Peter Wilke, Bild’s UK reporter, exclaiming that whilst he had not received a vaccination appointment in his home town of Mühlheim, he was shocked to get an SMS text from the NHS, “Suddenly I got a vaccination appointment in England!”

Guido has not seen any British media reporting of the Kremlin’s statement that on a call this week between Putin and Merkel “Cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic was discussed , with particular attention to the possible prospects for joint vaccine production”.  Desperate times make allies of necessity…

Here’s the message that the Bild‘s journalist received for a vaccination (and a response):

Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more.

Kelsall, by the way, is in Cheshire, in the north-West of England.

United States

President Trump’s business acumen and America First policies made vaccine procurement and distribution to individual states a given.

Unfortunately, not all states are rolling out their vaccines as quickly as they should be. Massachusetts, despite its Republican governor Charlie Baker, is among them. Baker, incidentally, is an anti-Trump RINO, which explains a myriad of things, including his lockdown and mask policies.

Never let it be said that President Trump did not do the right thing. From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, he made sure states had funding and equipment as soon as it was available. Every nation suffered from a PPE shortage until after the first wave. After that, it was — rightly — up to the governors to make sure their states used the distributions responsibly and promptly.

Israel

Israel also puts its own people first, and rightly so.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared his vaccine strategy with those attending Davos virtually:

Netanyahu adopted practical policies, including telling his ‘bureaucrats’ (his word) to ‘cut the c—‘ (which he was at pains to leave unspoken) and get on with it. Pricing, supply, efficacy and payment were all part of what has turned out to be a truly world-beating strategy:

As Guido Fawkes commented:

Essentially, pay up, move fast. Whereas the EU haggled about the price, moved slow and did not sign contracts. Political vanity which will cost European lives…

Guido is referring to the EU, which is now trying to interfere with the UK’s long-agreed upon supplies from Belgium, although a Belgian lawyer disputes that move:

Fernand Keuleneer, Brussels attorney, tweets…

“From the published contract between the EU Commission and AstraZeneca I cannot conclude that the Commission has the contract and therefore the right on its side. Rather the opposite.”

More here, from Guido.

United Kingdom

Being halfway out the door of the EU in 2020 made a huge difference to the United Kingdom’s ability to procure and distribute vaccines.

Although I am deeply dismayed with Boris Johnson’s and Matt Hancock’s handling of coronavirus restrictions, one cannot fault the Conservatives for seizing the opportunity to be independent of EU policies and become self-sufficient.

James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, wrote an excellent article for The Times, dated January 28: ‘Covid has taught the UK the importance of self sufficiency’.

An excerpt about the British strategy towards coronavirus follows (emphases mine):

The last year has shown that even in this globalised age the nation state trumps the market. You could see this in the scramble for personal protective equipment (PPE) last spring when countries stopped firms from honouring contracts until they were sure their domestic needs had been met. The same dynamic is beginning to assert itself on vaccines.

Just look at how the German government is pushing for EU export controls on vaccines. Today the EU will set out how companies must provide notification before exporting vaccine out of the bloc. It is expected that these rules will allow exports to be blocked in certain, supposedly rare circumstances. The British government remains confident there will still be vaccine deliveries from the Pfizer factory in Belgium.

These new headwinds pose a particular risk for Brexit Britain, a country stuck between two large economies with protectionist tendencies, the United States and the European Union.

When Oxford came to the government last year to make sure it was happy with arrangements for production of its vaccine, Whitehall said it wanted the NHS to have first access. But when ministers saw Oxford’s proposed contract with a non-UK pharmaceutical firm they saw it went little further than promising best efforts. Alok Sharma, the business secretary, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, insisted on a legally binding promise to serve Britain first. They eventually received such a pledge from the UK-headquartered AstraZeneca.

Hancock’s worry was over waiting for imports, which raised the prospect of delay, even expropriation. There was particular concern about Trump invoking the Defence Production Act to secure all the vaccine supply for the US. This was why billions were spent helping various British-based companies to buy the facilities needed to mass-produce vaccines.

There are only a few dozen large-scale bioreactors in the world. Six are now based here, which is what is allowing vaccines to be made at such pace.

At the time it was a bet: huge sums were being spent on a vaccine that had not been approved. Even more was being spent to protect Britain against the theoretical risk of vaccine nationalism. But both bets paid off.

Too often in modern British history industrial strategy has meant trying to keep a dying industry or company going for a few more years. Even in this crisis the government’s attempt to develop a contact tracing app that didn’t use Google or Apple technology failed spectacularly.

Nor has the £22 billion test and trace scheme been a resounding success. But the vaccine was an example of the government successfully bringing together academia and business and using taxpayers’ money to help seed a new industry in Britain.

In the same way that the Second World War left politicians with a desire for food security, the Covid crisis has prompted a desire for self-sufficiency in medical supplies. Already around two thirds of PPE is being manufactured domestically; a dramatic change from the situation pre-pandemic when only 1 per cent was produced here.

And another UK vaccine is on its way, albeit somewhat delayed. Nonetheless, there is every reason to be happy:

Guido Fawkes has more:

A clearly delighted Kate Bingham, chair of the UK’s vaccine task force, appeared on the Today programme this morning following last night’s brilliant news of a new vaccine from Novavax showing 90% efficacy against the new Kent variant; the UK having ordered 60 million doses, all of which will be made in Teesside.

While there’s lots to be excited about, government sources emphasised to Guido last night that the jab will not roll out until the latter half of the year, with MHRA approval set to take weeks. Bingham explained to Today listeners that scale-up is already underway in Teesside and going well “but it just takes time, we are growing up mammalian cells from low volumes up to the high thousand-litre volumes and it’s very complicated”.

Novavax, a single-dose vaccine, is made by America’s Johnson & Johnson in the US, but Janssen handles European production in Belgium. The UK has already purchased doses:

Furthermore, Livingston, Scotland, has opened a new vaccine production facility for the international pharmaceutical company Valneva that Boris visited on January 29 (start at 1:08):

Conclusion

Self sufficiency is the way forward.

No nation — including an EU nation — can fully rely on another to supply its needs in a time of crisis.

Well done to the three countries who put their own people first. Long may it continue.

Britain’s coronavirus hero, Sir Captain Tom Moore, 100, died in hospital in England on Tuesday, February 2, 2021.

He entered hospital with pneumonia but, sadly, contracted coronavirus whilst there:

It proved fatal for the centenarian who tirelessly raised tens of millions of pounds for the NHS and, in the process, became a Guinness World Record fundraiser (see photo):

Bedford Hospital issued the following statement:

His family were more than satisfied with the care he received in Bedford Hospital.

Guido Fawkes posted their statement in its entirety:

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear father, Captain Sir Tom Moore.

We are so grateful that we were with him during the last hours of his life; Hannah, Benjie and Georgia by his bedside and Lucy on FaceTime. We spent hours chatting to him, reminiscing about our childhood and our wonderful mother. We shared laughter and tears together.

The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of.

Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.

The care our father received from the NHS and carers over the last few weeks and years of his life has been extraordinary. They have been unfalteringly professional, kind and compassionate and have given us many more years with him than we ever would have imagined.

Over the past few days our father spoke a great deal about the last 12 months and how proud he felt at being able to leave behind the growing legacy of his Foundation.

We politely ask for privacy at this time so we can grieve quietly as a family and remember the wonderful 100 years our father had.

Thank you.

Sir Captain Tom Moore received many warm tributes:

It was on July 17, 2020, that the Queen bestowed a socially-distanced knighthood upon him at Windsor Castle.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a statement expressing his condolences:

The British Army posted a short video remembering one of their most energetic veterans:

The Royal Navy issued a final naval wish:

The Royal Air Force expressed condolences:

The Ministry of Defence also issued a statement:

The Americans also expressed their condolences:

I found out about Captain Sir Tom Moore’s death on BBC Parliament:

Last Spring, the 99-year-old veteran raised money for the NHS by walking around his garden 100 times in anticipation of his upcoming birthday. He had no idea how his efforts would capture the nation’s imagination:

He far surpassed his initial £1000 goal tens of millions of times over:

He completed his 100th lap of his garden well in time for his birthday (click on tweet to see video):

When he turned 100, he received a memorable flypast from pilots based at RAF Coningsby. It featured a Hawker Hurricane and a Spitfire of the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (click on tweet to see video):

On VE Day last year, ITV showed a documentary of Sir Captain Tom’s memories of his wartime service in Burma.

When Dame Vera Lynn died last year, he said that her beautiful songs kept up his morale:

On New Year’s Eve in London, he was celebrated in the capital’s fireworks display:

Now he can rejoin his beloved Pamela, who predeceased him:

In closing, here is Captain Sir Tom Moore reading from his book, One Hundred Steps, with his grandson. Note how he wanted everything to be perfect, a lesson many of us can learn, myself included:

As he was so fond of saying:

Tomorrow will be a good day.

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

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