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Boris Johnson is now into his third year as Prime Minister.

On Wednesday and Thursday, September 15 and 16, he reshuffled some of his cabinet and ministerial posts, signalling that he is more than halfway through his premiership. In other words, this will be the major reshuffle to lead the Conservatives into the next general election.

I hope that Boris does not go for a 2023 election, unless it is late in the year. The coronavirus crisis will have put much of the Conservative manifesto agenda on hold for two years. As such, not much has been accomplished to date, as Andrew Neil, who recently resigned from GB News, says:

Boris has appointed more Leave ministers as well as more minority and female ministers, which will not matter to most small-c conservatives:

Highlights of the reshuffle follow.

Dominic Raab no longer Foreign Secretary

It looks as if dithering over Afghanistan while holidaying in Crete has finished Dominic Raab’s days as Foreign Secretary. He had to do the walk of shame after his demotion:

That said, Boris has found a new job for him as Justice Secretary.

Raab will also continue to be Deputy Prime Minister, a role he handled extremely well in April 2020, when Boris was hospitalised with coronavirus.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace defended his fellow MP and the move in an interview with BBC Breakfast:

Wallace said of Raab: “Dominic is by trade a lawyer, he started his life in the Foreign Office as a human rights lawyer and he’s gone to the Ministry of Justice, which is actually a very, very important role and a role he desperately understands.”

Liz Truss becomes new Foreign Secretary

Former Trade Secretary Liz Truss replaces Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary, with Anne-Marie Trevelyan taking her place.

Post-Brexit, Truss has made various trade deals with other nations, notably Australia and Japan.

She also remains minister for women and equalities.

Truss is popular with grassroots conservatives and her name has often been mentioned as a future party leader and Prime Minister.

She succeeded not only in trade but also in refusing wokery in 2020 …

… and in 2021, as Guido Fawkes reported on June 16 (emphases mine):

Liz Truss tells Times Radio most people aren’t interested in the culture war…

My role as equality minister is to make sure everybody in Britain is treated equally regardless of their sex, their sexuality and their race. What we have seen over the past few years is the development of identity politics where there has been division created. People are described as being members of a group rather than for their own personal, individual humanity and dignity… We have just launched for example a big data project looking where are the gaps in education, employment and enterprise across the country, and how we can fix those. That is the approach we need to take… I think some of the identity politics we have seen focus on symbolism over real results has been divisive… I think most people aren’t interested in this socalled culture war, what they’re interested in is, “Am I being given a fair chance? Do I have a good chance of getting a job? Am I treated fairly by public services?” And that’s why I think our equality agenda should focus onthose bread and butter issues that are of concern to everyone in the country.”

She is consistently among the most popular of the Cabinet members. This survey is from March 2021:

She can even ably dodge camera equipment during an interview:

Nadine Dorries moves from Health and Social Care to Culture Secretary

In what is hoped to please grassroots small-c conservative voters, Nadine Dorries now heads Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), replacing Oliver Dowden, who, as new co-chairman of the Conservative Party, will formulate a strategy for the next general election.

Most of these grassroots supporters are fed up with the BBC. Will Dorries take on Auntie Beeb?

I do not put much stock in that possibility. Resurrecting Dorries’s tweets from several years ago are no indication of her current willingness to oppose the BBC on anything much:

The BBC have just appointed a firmly left-wing executive editor of BBC News, Jess Brammar. At least one Conservative MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith, was unhappy about the possibility of her appointment back in August:

I will not be holding my breath for Dorries to take her on, although others in the left-wing and anti-Brexit political establishment are angry about Dorries’s appointment, as Guido Fawkes reports; he has screenshots of her past tweets (emphasis in the original):

She’s been in the job for 17 hours and is already annoying all the right people… 

John Whittingdale returns to backbenches

I have doubts about Dorries because one of the DCMS ministers, John Whittingdale, was supposed to take on the BBC in 2016 and never did. He also washed his hands of removing free TV licences for most over-75s, saying it was a decision for the BBC. Is this why he got the sack?

During the Euro 2020 soccer tournament this year, Whittingdale told Kay Burley of Sky News that travel restrictions were lifted for ‘important’ people associated with the matches:

Speaking on Sky News, John Whittingdale was asked why players, officials and others coming to London for the Euros final on 11 July should be allowed in without self-isolating.

He said: “We’ve always said that for some people who are important, players, for instance …”

The presenter, Kay Burley, interrupted him, saying: “So people who want to go on holiday are not important. Is that what you’re saying?”

Whittingdale’s last pronouncement, standing in for his boss Oliver Dowden, was about a proposed mandate to make all BBC and ITV output ‘distinctively British’. That was on September 16. It will be interesting to see whether Nadine Dorries will insist on it.

Newsnight argument over Dorries

Nadine Dorries was the subject of an argument between Conservative MP Charles Walker and former Conservative MP, Remainer Anna Soubry, who lost her seat in December 2019.

By the way, this was Anna Soubry with Nigel Farage either just before or just after the Brexit referendum in June 2016:

https://image.vuukle.com/53c514e6-2ea5-43ee-8d62-ab3605e89230-4b7901f5-a9d3-4364-8bc8-df6af8f09a3c

But I digress.

The discussion between Soubry and Charles Walker took place on the BBC’s Newsnight on September 15:

Here’s the video, with Labour MP Peter Kyle sitting at the desk with presenter Emily Maitlis:

Guido Fawkes has the highlights:

Nadine Dorries provided the biggest clash, as the eternally bitter Soubry ranted that her appointment “actually says everything that’s wrong and rotten about this prime minister’s stewardship of this country”. Charles Walker had some thoughts:

“Nadine Dorries has been a health minister, a minister of state, at an incredibly difficult time for the department of health; has been an extremely good minister for mental health; and really to come onto this programme and just trash her like that is just not a very nice thing to do to be perfectly honest”

Responding to Soubry’s claim that people don’t really care about reshuffles in the real world, Walker pointed out “Why is it the lead story on Newsnight, and why are you appearing on Newsnight?” Why indeed…

However, there is a personal reason why Anna Soubry is angry with Nadine Dorries.

On July 1, 2016, one week after David Cameron stood down as Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader because of the Brexit referendum result, tensions were running high not only in the Commons but also among the public.

Soubry went out near Parliament to address her fellow Remain supporters. Dorries tweeted that Soubry was under the influence. Soubry demanded that Dorries retract the tweet. The Times has the full story, which ends with this:

Update (25.07.2016): Following publication of this article, Nadine Dorries MP has withdrawn her tweet about passing Anna Soubry MP leaving the bar before she attended a rally of Remain supporters in central London. Ms Soubry has confirmed that she had not drunk any alcohol before speaking at the event.

Another reason why I am doubtful about Nadine Dorries is because she did not question the Government’s coronavirus restrictions when she was at Health and Social Care. Does she really believe everything she hears? Here she responds to Conservative Woman‘s co-founder Kathy Gyngell. Dorries and her mother had the virus at the same time, and her mother recovered first. Even so, not questioning lockdown earns her a black mark from me:

At least she supported Brexit.

Michael Gove moves to Housing, no longer Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Michael Gove, who is in the process of a divorce and was a recent party boy in an Aberdeen nightclub, is no longer the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Stephen Barclay, formerly Chief Secretary to the Treasury, replaces him in that post. Simon Clarke replaces Barclay in the Treasury role.

Michael Gove replaces Robert Jenrick at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and is in charge of Boris’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

A first attempt at a new acronym for the department has produced DULL:

Guido reports on the problems with acronyms for government departments in general:

The Sun’s Harry Cole reports the initial proposal for a new “Department for the Union and Levelling Up” is no longer a flyer after realisations its acronym, ‘DULU’, sounds too much like “Dull”. It’s a shame a change was needed, given it was pointed out yesterday that Michael Gove the first MHCLG Secretary with all the letters of the department in his name

Guido will leave it up to cleverer minds to work out an acronym that includes all the letters of Gove’s new remit (MHCLG + Union + Levelling Up + Elections) though it’s not the worst reshuffle acronym problem encountered by a PM. As Alan Johnson recounts, in 2005 Tony Blair came up with a plan to rename the department for Trade and Industry as the “Department of Productivity, Energy, Industry and Science”. Thankfully Johnson was used to it by that point however – he’d already been Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, and headed up the Sexual Health Advisory Group…

Although this looks like a demotion for Gove, it involves a hefty budget with pan-govermental reach, something that should definitely appeal to him:

New Education Secretary

Nadhim Zahawi, formerly in charge of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, is the new Education Secretary, replacing Gavin Williamson, who likely got the sack because of the school exams fiasco during the coronavirus crisis.

Zahawi has achieved the British dream, having arrived in the UK as a child refugee who could not speak English:

Other appointments

Guido Fawkes has full reshuffle information for September 15 and 16.

Some MPs have transferred to other departments:

Others will be returning to the backbenches:

Jesse Norman tweeted that he was happy to return to the backbenches:

The new role for Nigel Adams is said to be a ‘fixer’ appointment in order to get things done:

More information and analysis can be found at The Guardian, The Telegraph, GB News , The Spectator and The Times (here, here and here).

House of Lords

Reshuffles can affect the House of Lords, too.

Fortunately, two of the stars there are still in place.

Baroness Evans

Baroness Evans, composed and competent, will remain as Leader of the House of Lords.

Lord Frost

Lord Frost will remain Cabinet Office Minister for Europe, in charge of EU negotiations and changes to relevant legislation:

On September 16, Guido wrote about Frost’s plans to rid the UK of EU laws (emphases in the original):

Lord Frost has announced the government’s plans to finally capitalise on the freedoms of Brexit and remove the “special status” of all individual EU laws still on the UK’s statute books. There are also plans to invest heavily artificial intelligence, transport, and farming over the Parliament. Now if we just pair deregulation with lower taxes we may actually get somewhere…

Speaking on the reforms this afternoon, Lord Frost said:

“From rules on data storage to the ability of businesses to develop new green technologies, overbearing regulations were often conceived and agreed in Brussels with little consideration of the UK national interest.

“We now have the opportunity to do things differently and ensure that Brexit freedoms are used to help businesses and citizens get on and succeed.”

Lord Frost will begin with a review of so-called “retained EU law” – the huge amount of EU legislation still on the UK’s statute books; removing its special status so it’s no longer a distinct category of UK domestic law, and ensuring all courts have the full ability to depart from EU case law. He describes it as finalising the process of “restoring this sovereign Parliament”. There’s a reason he’s popular with the Tory membership…

Guido’s post has more detail, much of which involves digitalising everything from share (stock) certificates and driving licences.

Hmm. I hope that when his proposals reach MPs that they are not taken too far. First, not everyone is online. Secondly, think of the hacking opportunities this could provide. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, digitalisation can lead quickly to establishing a Chinese-style social credit score.

One thing I did like was this:

Permitting the voluntary printing of the Crown Stamp on pint glasses and reviewing the EU ban on markings and sales in imperial units and legislating in due course, none of which were possible within the EU.

Robert Peston’s misguided predictions

Sometimes, it is better to wait for the final outcome rather than tweet silly predictions:

On September 16, Guido noted witheringly of ITV’s Robert Peston:

While yesterday may not have been great for Dominic Raab, at least he can take solace in the fact he had a better reshuffle than Robert Peston. ITV’s senile senior political reporter spent all day tweeting every thought process, speculation and briefing with the acumen and insight of a first-year politics student.

Guido’s article lists Peston’s tweets. Perhaps ITV should buy him a new crystal ball.

Conclusion

I still think that most Conservative MPs are half-hearted. It’s a shame that Boris did not promote any of the 2019 intake, especially the feisty ones from the North of England.

Fortunately, last week’s horrible poll results have been reversed. Participants were polled during the reshuffle days of September 15 and 16:

Onwards and upwards to Boris’s promised ‘sunlit uplands’, I hope.

On Saturday, August 7, 2021, Mark Dolan of GB News interviewed a Scottish clergyman on his late night show.

The Revd Dr William Philip is the pastor of Tron Church in Glasgow. Earlier this year, he led a handful of other Scottish clergy in filing a successful lawsuit against the Scottish government for having closed churches in 2020 during lockdown.

In the 20-minute interview below, he explained why it is so important to be able to gather together to worship during the coronavirus crisis. Believers need to gather together in one place — church — for communal prayer and fellowship. His words were well received not only by Dolan and his guests but also on YouTube:

Philip, who worked as a hospital physician before ordination, also does not think that vaccine passports are necessary:

While churches in England and Wales re-opened in July 2020 and closed again for three weeks in October, Scotland took different measures. In January 2021, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government forbade — criminalised — public worship during new lockdown measures.

On January 6, Philip and five other Protestant clergy sent a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, which reads, in part (emphases in the original):

We write as ministers and leaders of churches in Scotland, supported by colleagues across the United Kingdom, to raise our profound concerns at the measures to suspend public worship in Scotland as part of the currently increased restrictions.

We understand entirely the exceptional difficulties of leading the country at the present time, and we and our churches have prayed for wisdom and clarity for your government repeatedly. But we strongly disagree with the decision to prevent the gathering of the Church at this time, which we believe is profoundly unhelpful and may be unlawful.

As pointed out by Sir Edward Leigh in his letter to you of 4 January, Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits governments from interfering with religious practice unless demonstrated as essential for public health because church services were proven a significant source of spread of disease. We know of no evidence of any tangible contribution to community transmission through churches in Scotland; to the contrary, since churches re-opened in July we have demonstrated that places of worship and public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission. It is for such reasons that legal challenges in other jurisdictions have overturned prohibitions of the freedom to gather for worship.

However, above all we are dismayed because there seems to be a failure in the Scottish Government to understand that Christian worship is an essential public service, and especially vital to our nation in a time of crisis …

In national times of crisis past, governments have looked to the church and sought leadership in a national call to prayer to the Living God. We urge you not to be the government which denies our nation the collective prayer of the churches of our land in days when it is most greatly needed.

We echo the words of the Archbishop [of Canterbury] and other leaders to the Prime Minister and call on the Scottish Government to recognise and support this, and enable us to continue to worship safely, as part of the essential fabric of the nation.

On February 9, Philip wrote an article for The Critic: ‘Meeting others to worship is a lifeline’. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

A group of Clergy taking government to court might seem a surprisingly ‘un-Christian’ thing to do, when closing churches is to ‘save lives’. In fact, the reason we have commenced action against Scottish Minsters is born of profound Christian love for our nation. We all recognise the challenges facing the government. But we believe that, however well-intentioned, criminalising corporate worship is both damaging and dangerous for Scotland

There is an urgent need for a message beyond that of health and safety: a message of hope and salvation. This is the calling of the Christian Church – especially in dark and difficult days: to ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering’ (Hebrews 10:23). Jesus Christ is the only hope that dispels all fear, death included.

That is not to say Christians don’t care about present physical threats. Indeed, it is this eternal perspective that liberates to love and serve neighbours truly, and fearlessly. As CS Lewis pointed out ‘those who want heaven most have served earth best’. This is what our society needs to witness, proclaimed boldly by Christian leaders and adorned visibly in the worshipping Church. So it is of great damage to Scotland that corporate worship is now illegal.

It also brings great danger.

Many in the world today brave huge threats to worship as Christ’s Church. We do not remotely claim such persecution; however, our situation is unprecedented in modern times. For centuries Scottish law has embedded the truth that both Church and Civil government are ordained by God and subject to Him, but their roles are distinct and government must not interfere in the Church. It was the Stuart monarchs seeking to undermine this ‘twa kingdoms’ doctrine that led to a century of conflict before religious toleration prevailed across Scotland and England with the Claim of Right Act 1689. Scots law reiterated then that Jesus Christ alone is head of the Church and this remained paramount in the Union of 1707, was reinforced again in the 1921 Church of Scotland Act, and is affirmed by each monarch in the Coronation Oath

I never imagined myself involved in action like this. But Scots would not have precious freedoms today had our Kirk forebears shrunk back in their time. I truly hope that our government will see what a grave incursion this ban on public worship is – to centuries-old Scots law as well as modern Human Rights protections – and also the suffering it is inflicting on many. The proper place of Christian worship must be restored so that, as Martin Luther said (amid a far more deadly epidemic), our people may ‘learn through God’s word how to live and how to die’.”

One week later, Lord Braid of the Scottish High Court granted permission for a hearing. By then, 27 clergy had pledged their support. Christian Today‘s article says:

Lord Braid has granted permission for a hearing which will take place remotely on 11 and 12 March after Scottish ministers rejected the arguments of 27 Scottish church leaders in a pre-action letter.

The church leaders argue that the “disproportionate” closures are a breach of human rights law and the Scottish constitution, and are preventing them from meeting the material, emotional and spiritual needs of their congregations and communities.

In their response, Scottish ministers said the state was within its rights to “regulate the secular activities of Churches…for the purposes of protecting public health”, and that churches were compelled to “comply with secular law.”

The church leaders come from a broad range of denominations, including the Free Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), Church of Scotland and a number of independent churches …

Rev Geoffrey de Bruin, leader at Christian Revival Church Edinburgh, said: “This is now a crucial moment for the freedom of the church in Scotland …

For Christians, spiritual health is more important than physical health.

Churches serve as lifelines of support to the most vulnerable during the toughest times and we pray that these important principles and beliefs will be recognised and upheld by the courts in March.”

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), founded in 2007, took the case on behalf of the clergy.

Fortunately, the clergy won their case in March. Christian Concern issued a statement on the outcome:

Permission for a judicial review was granted and heard at the Scottish High Court on 11 March 2021.

On 24 March 2021, judgment was handed down by Lord Braid, ruling that the Scottish Ministers’ decision to ban and criminalise gather church worship during lockdown was unconstitutional and disproportionate.

The Tron Church serves a diverse congregation in central Glasgow. In 2012, it broke away from the Church of Scotland, opposing its move to accept gay clergy, although it maintains a cordial relationship with the Kirk, as the state church is known. The Tron is now part of the West of Scotland Gospel Partnership.

In February 2020, the SSE Hydro stadium in Glasgow cancelled an appearance by the Revd Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, amid accusations of ‘homophobia’.

Philip joined several other clergy from the West of Scotland Gospel Partnership in signing a letter to The Herald, expressing their disappointment. Excerpts follow:

THE cancellation by the SSE Hydro in Glasgow of the Franklin Graham event is a deeply disturbing decision that is antithetical to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and to true democratic values.

Franklin Graham is being discriminated against for having on occasions expressed mainstream Judaeo-Christian views on sexuality. His views in this area are not religiously extreme, indeed they simply reflect the historic and orthodox teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England and countless other denominational groups. Like all mainstream Christian leaders Franklin Graham believes that every human being is a precious soul made in the image of God, and thus should be loved and treated with respect accordingly.

The planned event is one in a rich tradition of such Christian activity going back centuries in both Glasgow and the country at large. As Rev Graham has expressed himself his mission is not political but to make known the good news about Jesus Christ to every person regardless of their sexuality or any other characteristic

Christians disagree about many things, but Christians all agree that respect for religious freedom and freedom of speech is fundamental to a free society. Therefore, we ask that the SSE Hydro management, and those political leaders who have influence in such matters, reverse this decision.

A failure to do so would be an ominous move towards a less free society and one that will in time have serious repercussions for the civic liberties of all.

The Revd Dr Philip sounds like a good clergyman and one who refuses to stand by when the Church is discriminated against.

Congratulations, Team GB, for a medals haul that equals that of London 2012’s.

NBC has an easily navigable medals table for those interested.

Before I get to Great Britain, however, below are highlights of the Tokyo Olympics.

Japanese opposition

The Japanese government lifted a state of emergency in mid-July so that the games could take place:

Not everyone in Japan was happy that the Olympics were going ahead, having been postponed from last year because of coronavirus. Protests took place when the games started.

Controversies from other nations

The decision to allow New Zealand’s Lauren Hubbard to participate was controversial.

Former British Olympian swimmer Sharron Davies said it was:

another kick in the teeth for female athletes.

In the end, Hubbard failed dismally and now wishes to lead a quiet life.

Another person of the same persuasion, Team USA’s Chelsea Wolfe, a BMX rider, posted on Facebook in 2020 that, if they won a medal, they wanted to:

burn the flag as a way of exacting retribution against the Trump Administration for hurting “trans children.”

Wolfe later deleted the post and said in a June 2021 interview:

“Anyone who thinks that I don’t care about the United States is sorely mistaken,” Wolfe told Fox News.

In the end, Wolfe, an alternate, did not compete in the games.

On August 5, President Trump criticised Team USA’s women’s soccer team (emphases mine unless otherwise stated):

If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of Leftist Maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the Gold Medal instead of the Bronze. Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has. There were, however, a few Patriots standing. Unfortunately, they need more than that respecting our Country and National Anthem. They should replace the wokesters with Patriots and start winning again. The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!

The Boss’s daughter

In brighter news, Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, equestrian Jessica Springsteen, participated for Team USA.

She made the Telegraph’s front page on August 6:

She proved to be The Boss’s daughter in winning silver, although she failed to qualify for a solo event.

On August 3, The Guardian reported (emphases mine):

Jessica Springsteen had no luck going solo in Tokyo.

The daughter of Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band wife, Patti Scialfa, failed to qualify for the Olympic individual jumping final at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park on Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old’s Olympic debut was off to a strong start on the 14-jump course before her horse got uneasy around the 11th obstacle, and the pair earned four penalty points for knocking down a rail. That put her on the bubble of the 73-horse field for one of 30 spots in the final. She was formally eliminated about an hour after riding.

She’ll ride again Friday night as part of America’s four-rider entry in the jumping team event.

“All in all, I’m thrilled with the round and I’m excited for the rest of the week,” she said.

Springsteen learned to ride on her family’s horse farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and she was an alternate for the London Games in 2012 but didn’t participate.

I am so happy that, even in a small way, I was able to help The Boss buy his horse farm. Take that as you will.

On August 7, The Guardian reported on Springsteen’s silver, again mentioning the horse farm:

Jessica Springsteen, Bruce’s daughter, earned an Olympic silver medal for the US but they lost in a thrilling jump-off with Sweden in the team showjumping. She rode alongside Laura Kraut and McLain Ward in the final equestrian event of the Tokyo Games.

The medal went some way to wiping away the disappointment of not qualifying for the individual jumping final but the US came agonisingly close to gold.

Springsteen, who rode Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion, is the second child of the Boss and his fellow musician Patti Scialfa, and began riding aged four – prompting “born to ride” headlines aplenty.

The 29-year-old grew up on the family’s horse farm in Colts Neck Township in New Jersey and she is the highest placed woman in the world rankings in 14th. She was an alternate for 2012 but failed to make the cut for Rio in 2016.

One wonders what the paper would have said if Donald Trump owned a horse farm.

EU wants EU participation

Britain’s medals haul must have struck a nerve with Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who thinks that the EU should participate as a bloc without individual European countries:

What Verhofstadt forgets is that, if he got his way, there would be fewer Europeans from EU states than at present.

Radek Sikorski, MEP and Chairman of the EU-USA Delegation in the EU Parliament, has forgotten that, too. This tweet was also from August 5, when the UK was still 6th in the medals table:

Tom Harwood of GB News explained the situation on August 6. It is also interesting that the EU tried to get their flag in the Olympics and failed:

Guido Fawkes had a slightly different take (emphases in the original):

Given this is the first Olympics since Brexit, Guido points out that were Britain still members the EU’s medal total would be a whopping 25% higher. We were always propping them up…

We’re also currently totaling the same number of gold medals as our nearest two EU medal table neighbours, France and Germany, combined. Guido will leave it up to Guy to tot up the Commonwealth…

Team GB’s success

This brings us nicely to Team GB’s medals haul, putting us in fourth place overall. Japan ended up in fifth.

On Sunday, August 8, the final day, The Express had a go at Verhofstadt, reporting Saturday’s medals. We won a few more on Sunday:

The former MEP and current MEP, an arch-critic of , caused a stir earlier this week with his bizarre suggestion that the European Union was “winning” the Tokyo Olympics – as well as suggesting in future, EU members should compete with an EU flag on their outfits. As evidence, Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative, pointed to the fact that as of August 5, the total number of gold medals won by members of the EU27 exceeded the combined sum of medals won by China and the United States.

However, as of Saturday, Great Britain’s total stands at 20 golds, fourth behind China (38), the USA (34) and hosts Japan (26).

The EU’s two most powerful nations Germany and France lag behind, with the former, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, in 7th place, with ten golds, and France, led by Emmanuel Macron, in 10th, with seven medals.

As for Mr Verhofstadt’s very own Belgium, they currently have three Olympic golds, and are 28th in the medal table.

And in a development which some might conclude suggest is Brexit-related, given the trade deal signed between London and Canberra earlier this year, Australia’s current gold medal total of 17 is equal to that of Germany and France added together.

Welsh Conservative MP David Jones told The Express:

I’m sure Mr Verhofstadt, as a well-known Anglophile (he drives an Aston Martin), will be the first to give generous credit to Team GB on their outstanding success.

He may also acknowledge that international sporting success to a large extent reflects a strong national identity, for which the dry-as-dust mega-bureaucracy of the European Union could never be a substitute.

On Friday, August 6, cyclist Laura Kenny — Laura Trott from London 2012 — became the first British Olympian to be a mother and the first to win gold at three consecutive Olympics. Hers and husband Jason Kenny’s son is now three years old. This photo shows her and her team-mates Katie Archibald and Kate French sporting gold after winning the madison:

Our Kate French won the modern pentathlon that day.

Our final gold was won by boxer Lauren Price, who defeated her Chinese opponent:

She was only the second British woman to win a gold in boxing.

We ended up in fourth place overall in the medals table:

Well done, everyone:

The Telegraph has a profile of each Team GB winner in chronological order.

On an individual level, if there were such a thing as Team GB royalty, surely, cyclist Jason Kenny and his wife Laura would be that couple:

The Telegraph reported that the Kennys are looking forward to a quiet night in to celebrate now that they are back in England:

Only one prize is now missing for Laura and Jason Kenny, the first couple of sport who have 12 Olympic titles between them: the inevitable Damehood and Knighthood.

Following a gold apiece at the Izu Velodrome last week, and with the Kennys now confirmed as Britain’s most successful male and female Olympians of all time, that will arrive in due course. But while the medals may sit comfortably for the Kennys, they are so far from flashy they would sooner swim back from Tokyo than be seen to be putting on airs. Posh ’n Becks they are not.

Asked how they would celebrate their record-breaking Games, Jason said a quiet night in with their three-year-old Albie was as rock n roll as it would get.

“Just being at home is the plan,” he said. “Just being together with Albie, we have not seen him for two weeks now. It is the longest we have ever been away from him. We haven’t left him for more than a day or two previously.”

Albie has been staying with his grandparents for the last two weeks, alternating between Laura’s parents Adrian and Glenda Trott and Jason’s parents, Michael and Lorraine Kenny. It is a familiar routine for them as they all pitch in to make Laura and Jason’s sporting lives manageable.

“It’s a huge team effort,” says Dani Rowe, who won the team pursuit with Laura at London 2012. “Laura’s parents even moved from Hertfordshire to Manchester to be nearer to them. They’ve all done so well to manage it.”

Do not expect the Team GB power couple to morph suddenly into A-list celebs. Adrian Trott is proud of the fact that his daughter squirms when she is described as a star. Trott told Telegraph Sport last week that he was happiest when people describe her as “a nice, normal person… because we feel we did something right”.

Jason Kenny has won seven gold medals in four consecutive Olympics:

Here’s the breakdown:

The Kennys have surpassed some longstanding Olympics achievements held by Americans …

… as well as past achievements for Team GB:

Another British Olympian who broke a Team GB record was Keely Hodgkinson, who broke Dame Kelly Holmes’s national record to win silver in the 800m on August 3, making the 11th day of the Games one of the nation’s most successful so far.

The Times reported her reaction:

Hodgkinson, who is a student at Leeds Beckett University, said: “It was such a good race, it was so open, I just wanted to put it all out there. It’ll take a couple of days to sink in. I’m so happy. I’m speechless right now, Kelly is a legend, I’ve looked up to her, I’ve spoken to her in the last couple of days. It means so much.”

It was another fantastic win for Team GB.

————————————————

In closing, hearty congratulations to Team USA who took top spot over China and the ROC (Russia). Well done!

The Paralympics — even better than the Olympics — begin on August 24 and end on September 5. Bring it on!

Below are snippets from this week’s news, involving coronavirus and the Tokyo Olympics.

Coronavirus

TikTok is looking for a ‘GP’ to deliver TikTok scripts on coronavirus.

Presumably, the popular Chinese-owned video platform wants to dispel what they consider to be myths and conspiracy theories about the virus and the vaccines.

However, it is unclear whether TikTok are seeking an actual general practitioner — licensed physician — or someone who can impersonate a GP. The pay is £100 per diem.

Here’s the advert, which I saw online in a comments section on another website:

https://image.vuukle.com/f3eecb08-251a-4488-8ed6-566c515e74f7-200525d3-8284-4167-b270-090a30359e17

Then there are the mask snitches. Since July 19, the Government has told us to use common sense in densely populated enclosed spaces, such as trains. There is no longer a Government mandate to wear masks, although transport companies and retailers can request them. They are also a given in clinical environments and in some pharmacies.

One chap tweeted the London Metropolitan Police about the lack of masks on his train the other day. Surely, one would have tweeted the British Transport Police in the first instance. That said, the Met asked for more information. Many Londoners wish they were as responsive to crime reports as they are to missing muzzles:

On the other side of the coronavirus debate, Neil Oliver of GB News voiced his call for freedom from coronavirus restrictions in a powerful broadcast last weekend. He got a lot of criticism from Twitter users:

His colleague Dan Wootton asked him about the blowback. Oliver said that only 20% of the UK population are on Twitter, so they are a minority. He said that the YouTube of his editorial garnered many positive comments. He has also received letters thanking him for his stance, as the average Briton has no public voice. Oliver spoke from his home in Stirling, Scotland:

Meanwhile, in England, former Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson dispensed common sense in voicing his opinion on SAGE to the Radio Times. The magazine interviewed him for a lockdown edition of his popular Amazon series, The Grand Tour. Clarkson also hosts another well-received Amazon programme, Clarkson’s Farm, in which he is learning how to become a farmer.

The Guardian was horrified at Clarkson’s views on coronavirus: ‘Jeremy Clarkson criticises Covid scientists, saying “if you die, you die”‘.

Excerpts follow from the August 3 article. Emphases mine below (unless stated otherwise):

Now Jeremy Clarkson has opened himself up to more anger after he criticised “those communists at Sage” preventing opening up because, he argues, “if you die, you die.”

The paper could not resist editorialising:

In an interview with the Radio Times, Clarkson gives his views on the pandemic and what should happen next. Many will find his thoughts typically boorish and insensitive.

In his interview with the Radio Times, Clarkson said:

“When it started, I read up on pandemics and they tend to be four years long,” he said.

“I think the politicians should sometimes tell those communists at Sage to get back in their box. Let’s just all go through life with our fingers crossed and a smile on our face. I can see Boris doesn’t want to open it up and shut us back down again. But if it’s going to be four years … and who knows, it could be 40 years.”

Or it could be for ever. “Well, if it’s going to be for ever, let’s open it up and if you die, you die.”

Guido Fawkes saw the coverage …

… and opined (emphasis in the original):

Guido can’t see anything objectionable about his usual no-nonsense, factual, appraisal…

Tokyo Olympics

Clarkson also voiced his views on the Olympics:

Clarkson’s comments come as he was on Monday labelled the “Grand Bore” by, of all publications, the Daily Star. It published on its front page an unflattering photograph of a topless Clarkson and asked: “Why is it the tubs of lard who are so critical of our Olympic heroes?”

That backlash came after a newspaper column in which he dismissed shot putting, diving and dressage as pointless fringe sports. Why do we care, he asked. “Nothing marks out a country’s minor-league standing more effectively than its pride in things that really don’t matter.”

Any MP would tell Clarkson that he is missing the point, because the Olympics are about ‘soft power’. Team GB is currently sixth in the medals table in terms of gold and fourth overall.

These are the first Games in which a trans person, Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand, has participated. You can read all about Hubbard, offspring of a former mayor of Auckland, in the Daily Mail.

Hubbard’s speciality is weightlifting, but that proved to be a damp squib. You can see the short video at Guido Fawkes. Hubbard now wishes to slink into obscurity.

GB News commentator and author Paul Embery, who describes himself as Blue Labour, tweeted about the fact that Hubbard’s participation had to be handled as if one were walking on eggshells:

Guido’s article on Hubbard discusses the sensitivity of the topic of sexual identity and how activists want the media to report it (emphases in the original):

Guido appreciates the BBC has the freedom to be biased towards Team GB, though spots the corporation’s sports voiceover chose to wish the first trans Olympian “all the success” before Laurel Hubbard crashed out of the competition, having failed to lift in any round. They also pityingly said that she’d given her “absolute all”. 

It seems the BBC had been reading from the Olympics’ official guide to wokery; taking their seats, sports reporters found every desk adorned with a “Guide for journalists covering LGBTQ athletes & issues at the summer Olympics and Paralympics”. The guide’s “terms to avoid” section included “Born male/born female. No one is born with a gender identity”. The Telegraph’s Chief Sports Writer Oliver Brown asks how it was allowed to be disseminated at an Olympic venue as a supposedly balanced document…

Guido posted the document, which one can read in full.

I feel sorry for the female New Zealand weightlifter who was next in line and could not participate.

In closing, outside of the rowing, Team GB did a fantastic job in Tokyo. Congratulations!

Although the late comedian Jackie Mason thought that the UK’s House of Commons was akin to a ‘sanitarium’, there are inviolable rules for suspension from the Chamber.

Criminal charges or sexual harassment will do the trick. Often, the party whip is removed from the MP in question, rendering them Independent unless the whip is restored.

Here are two other ways that MPs can be suspended.

Grabbing the mace

When the Commons is in session, the mace sits atop the desk in front of the Speaker.

Only the Serjeant at Arms is allowed to handle it. He/She puts it in place before the session and removes it afterwards.

On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, the SNP’s Drew Hendry was vexed about the Internal Market Bill, which is part of the post-Brexit legislation.

He claimed that it would interfere with Scottish devolution because Parliament would be taking decisions he believed the Scottish government should take.

Excerpts of his speech and the debate follow, emphases mine (unless otherwise stated):

Westminster Ministers will still have the right to impose lower food, environmental and other devolved standards on Scotland, regardless of the view of Holyrood. This Bill is the biggest assault on devolution in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It undermines devolved policy making, grabs spending powers, and removes state aid from being a devolved responsibility. The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly refused to give this Bill consent, and it is outrageous that the UK Government are once again ignoring the wishes of the people of Scotland as well as Wales …

The only reason for this Bill as it now stands is to demolish devolution. If the Government take this Bill forward today, as they obviously will, that is what they will be doing. Any pretence thereafter by the Scottish Tory MPs that they respect the democratic rights of the people of Scotland will be blown apart if they support this today. In fact, they have already supported it, because it seems that it will go through. They have done nothing to protect the democratic rights of the Scottish people.

People in Scotland are watching. People in Scotland, when they see the effects of this Bill, will be angry about the fact that their rights are being taken away by these Tory Ministers, aided by their Labour bedfellows. They will be furious about the fact that their rights are being stripped from them. They are listening, they are watching, and they are seeing developments in this place. They are understanding, now, that the only way to protect their Parliament, their rights and their democracy in Scotland is to go forward as an independent nation—and they will be voting for that, I am sure, in due course.

Yet another SNP rant about rights, democracy and independence.

The debate went on for some time. At the end, the presiding minister responding for the Government — Conservative MP, Paul Scully — concluded:

I welcome the contributions and the constructive discussions that we have had in recent days with Opposition Members in both Houses that have got us to this place. We have had some passionate debates on the Bill, because of the importance of the issues. However, the Bill will ensure that UK businesses can trade across the four parts of the UK in a way that helps them to invest and create jobs, just as they have for hundreds of years. I am therefore delighted to ask the House to agree to the amendments, and to complete our scrutiny and consideration of the Bill.

At that point, Drew Hendry stood up and walked towards the centre of the Chamber, a big no-no. Then he grabbed the mace:

Dame Rosie Winterton was the Deputy Speaker for the debate.

This was the exchange between her and Hendry:

Hendry: This is an outrage to Scotland. It is not acceptable.

Winterton: Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat, and he knows that. [Interruption.] This is just showing off. He should resume his seat, otherwise I will name him and order him to leave. [Interruption.] Does he want to be named? Is that what is happening? [Interruption.] If that is what is happening, we can do it. [Interruption.] Okay—I will name him. I know what he is doing. [Interruption.] Oh, for goodness’ sake! Very childish.

Hansard records that the suspension took place under Standing Order No. 44:

Drew Hendry, Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was named by the Deputy Speaker for disregarding the authority of the Chair (Standing Order No. 44).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 44),

That Drew Hendry be suspended from the service of the House.—(David T. C. Davies.)

Question agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker directed Drew Hendry to withdraw from the House, and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Guido Fawkes posted the BBC video the next day. His readers were appalled:

It was a costly move on Hendry’s part. One of Guido’s readers recalled that Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also grabbed the mace. That was on December 18, 2018, also in a Brexit-related debate; he was suspended only for the rest of the day:

Guido’s report explained the £7,000 (emphases in the original):

SNP MP Drew Hendry made a bit of a fool of himself last night, shouting to disrupt proceedings and then seizing the mace – all over the passage of the Internal Market Bill. As a result of his actions he was officially ‘named’ and suspended from the House for five working days. Despite some news outlets claiming the suspension is just 24 hours, Guido’s well placed source says they have got it wrong.

Two aspects of the suspension that have gone unreported are that; firstly it is without pay and secondly it covers five working days. Meaning that after today and tomorrow, the House will have to sit for three more days before Hendry can be paid again. Even if the Commons returns for an extraordinary day or two to ratify a potential Brexit deal, it is unlikely there will be a third sitting day until well into January. It’s possible therefore that Hendry’s five sitting days suspension could end up lasting for a calendar month – costing the MP almost £7,000 in lost salary. A very expensive mace grab.

It’s hard to know what happened in the end, but a £7,000 penalty would have been fitting.

Accusing an MP of lying

Another way of getting suspended from the Commons is to accuse an MP of lying, which is what Labour’s Dawn Butler did on the final day before this year’s summer recess.

On Thursday, July 22, 2021, in the Summer Adjournment debate, she said, in part:

While the NHS was coping with 130,000 people dying from the pandemic, the Prime Minister was making his mates rich. Cronyism is rife and old chums are given jobs regardless of their skillset—some a little bit on the side. This has been one big experiment for this corrupt, authoritarian, racism-laden Government, and I am not scared of saying it like it is

Poor people in our country have paid with their lives because the Prime Minister spent the last 18 months misleading this House and the country.

Peter Stefanovic from the Communication Workers Union has a video with more than 27 million views online. In it he highlights that the Prime Minister says: that the economy has grown by 73%—it is just not true; that he has reinstated nursing bursaries—just not true; that there is not a covid app working anywhere in the world—just not true; and that the Tories invested £34 billion in the NHS—not true. The Prime Minister said

“we have severed the link between infection and serious disease and death.”

Not only is that not true but it is dangerous.

It is dangerous to lie during a pandemic, and I am disappointed that the Prime Minister has not come to the House to correct the record and correct the fact that he has lied to this House and the country over and over again.

Having watched enough of these debates and all of Boris’s coronavirus briefings, he did not say any of those things.

Judith Cummins MP (Lab) was Deputy Speaker while Dame Rosie Winterton was self-isolating with the virus. She did a great job in handling the situation:

Cummins: Order. I am sure the hon. Lady will reflect on her words and perhaps correct the record.

Butler: What would you rather, Madam Deputy Speaker, a weakened leg or a severed leg? At the end of the day, the Prime Minister has lied to this House time and time again. It is funny that we get in trouble in this place for calling out the lie rather than for lying.

Cummins: Order. Can you please reflect on your words and withdraw your remarks?

Butler: Madam Deputy Speaker, I have reflected on my words. Somebody needs to tell the truth in this House that the Prime Minister has lied.

Standing Order No. 43 was invoked:

The Deputy Speaker ordered Dawn Butler, Member for Brent Central, to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of the day’s sitting (Standing Order No. 43), and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Guido’s team posted the video:

The accompanying post had this sentence (highlight in the original):

This attention-seeking stunt will work as desired…

Unfortunately, Butler left the Commons at 3:49 p.m., and summer recess began around 5 p.m., so any salary deductions were minimal.

Even so, the left-leaning PARLYappteam thought Judith Cummins did the right thing:

But there was more. Stuart Andrew MP responded to the debate on behalf of the Government. I really like him. He came from humble circumstances and is now the Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household.

Of Dawn Butler, he said:

I cannot ignore the disappointing tone of the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler). It was disappointing to hear the constant accusation of cronyism and corruption. I took particular offence at being described as a member of a racism-enabling Government. I have faced prejudice in my life, and I have ended up in hospital, as did my father, because of my sexuality. I took offence at being told that I do not believe in the NHS, as I spent most of my working life working for the hospice movement, and at being told that we do not care about poorer families, as my dad spent a lot of time in unemployment—I had to have free school meals. I take exception to such accusations.

I will stand up to anyone who discriminates against any single person for who or what they are, or for who they love. I will defend the NHS for as long as I am alive. I believe that the best way to help our poorest families is to give them the opportunity to have a job that pays well, because being able to support themselves is their best opportunity for a better life.

PARLY picked up on it:

Later that afternoon, Butler tweeted:

She tweeted again that evening with another video:

In between those tweets, The Independent‘s Chief Political Commentator, veteran journalist John Rentoul, hardly a conservative, appeared on GB News to say that Butler’s actions were ‘a cheap political stunt’. Someone replied with a news story about Butler from 2012:

John Rentoul — and Guido — were correct.

On Friday, July 23, Guido reported on the great social media results for the MP:

Dawn Butler’s Commons hissy fit yesterday went exactly as planned: her own Twitter clip is currently on 1.4 million views, though she’s retweeted various other uploads of the clip which total 6.3 million in about half a day. She even had a speedily filmed and produced Byline TV interview out on the strop stunt…

The monetary fine was negligible:

It turns out Dawn’s stunt came very close to backfiring. Thankfully for her she was only suspended for the remainder of the day’s sitting – if she’d been thrown out using a similar standing order, and been suspended until the next sitting day, she would have remained a suspended MP going into the Summer recess, thereby being unable to draw a salary for over six weeks. Six weeks of an MP’s salary would have come to £9453. Commons sources suggest Dawn’s dodging of this unlucky outcome was unlikely to have been deliberate after a careful reading of Parliamentary procedure…

There is much more to write about her, but that will have to wait for another day.

On Monday, July 12, the day after the Euro 2020 final, GB News presenter Guto Harri took the knee in solidarity with the cause.

His co-presenter, Mercy Muroki, looked on, silently embarrassed for him:

Fallout

That was the last the channel’s viewers saw of Guto Harri, a Welshman who used to work at the BBC and also advised Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

On July 13, Harri defended his gesture:

On Thursday, July 15, GB News tweeted:

That evening, The Guardian posted an article about the channel’s tanking ratings after the Harri incident (emphases mine, unless stated otherwise):

GB News attracted zero viewers during some of its broadcasts this week, according to official television audience figures produced by rating agency Barb, after a viewer boycott prompted by one of its presenters taking the knee in solidarity with the England football team …

Business editor Liam Halligan and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero attracted no measurable audience to their show between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon. During the same timeslot the BBC News channel attracted 62,000 viewers, while Sky News had 50,000 people watching.

GB News’ audience again briefly dipped to zero at 5pm, during a late-afternoon programme co-hosted by ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former Ukip spokesperson Alex Phillips.

The Guardian also acknowledged GB News’s aforementioned tweets.

On July 16, Guido Fawkes wrote that no one was sure whether Harri had been suspended for a time or whether he was fired.

In any event, Harri’s Twitter bio no longer mentions GB News.

Programming director quits

That same day, the channel’s programming director, John McAndrew, quit, something that management confirmed only on July 28:

Guido wrote that McAndrew was second in command and disagreed about the channel’s focus:

Apparently McAndrew had been in favour of more local reporting and open discussions rather than the Wootton-style culture war rants.

To be fair, the local reporters appear on the daytime shows. The evening programmes, such as Dan Wootton’s, discuss socio-political issues.

The channel was quick to implement schedule changes last weekend:

TalkRADIO’s Mark Dolan hired

Mark Dolan’s Saturday night show aired for the first time on July 24. Nana Akua, the former presenter in that slot, has been moved to a daytime show.

Nana Akua has no time for wokery, as her last show in the Saturday night slot proved. The Express had the story on Sunday:

A GB News clash erupted last night after host Nana Akua urged Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to “just stop talking please”. This prompted a defence from Tonight Live guests Nicola McLean and Martin Offiah, who argued that Meghan and Harry “were connecting with people”. The trio had discussed reports of new details about Prince William’s rift with his brother Harry.

Mark Dolan was a top-rated host on talkRADIO. The Express reported:

Mark is best known for hosting his own Drivetime show on TalkRadio for the past two years but he is jumping ship to join GB News from Friday, July 23, 2021. With 20 years of broadcasting experience behind him, he will be taking Nana‘s Friday and Saturday night slots to oversee proceedings on his chat show, Late Night Live. It will run from 9pm until 12am and he will speak to numerous guests about topical matters making the headlines.

On joining the network, Mark said: “I’ve had a wonderful time at TalkRadio but the opportunity to shake up the current affairs broadcasting with GB News is just too good to miss.

“My show will tackle the issues that really matter to people across the United Kingdom in a stimulating, informative but entertaining way.

“My one promise is that I won’t be boring,” he concluded …

He certainly was not boring. His is a good show.

Nigel Farage to the rescue — five days a week

The biggest catch of all is Nigel Farage, who is now on GB News five days a week: Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday mornings:

Farage had the Sunday morning show since GB News launched, but the addition of the 7 p.m. slot, which premiered on Monday, July 19, has been a real fillip for the channel’s ratings.

On July 19, Freedom Day, an anti-lockdown protest took place outside of Downing Street. Political correspondent Tom Harwood, who used to work for Guido Fawkes, tried to file a report but Nigel had to cut him off because of all the obscenities being shouted at him. The Express reported:

Spotting the difficulties in the broadcast, Nigel quickly took action and decided to end Tom’s report there.

Cutting him off, Nigel said: “Okay, Tom, I’m sorry, I don’t want to cut you off, I really don’t.”

The camera then cut to Nigel in the studio as he continued: “11 people have been arrested so far,

“But you can see, talk about don’t shoot the messenger, there’s Tom Harwood reporting for us and there are obscenities being shouted at Tom because he’s a member, he’s part of the media

One of the big features of Farage’s weeknight show is the ‘Talking Pints’ segment.

He has had an eclectic assortment of guests in that slot, beginning with Sir Graham Brady MP, who heads the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers:

On Tuesday, July 27, former Conservative MP, Brexit Party MEP and devout Catholic, Ann Widdecombe, who was drinking cola, as she is teetotal. She disparaged Boris as PM but said that he is still ‘100 times stronger’ than Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. I always look to see how much drink both host and guest consume. In this episode, Farage downed the most ever — half a pint:

By Monday, July 26, Farage’s show was climbing in the ratings, beating Sky News’s show in the 7 p.m. slot:

Guido has the ratings from Monday-Thursday last week. Farage’s show beat Sky News Tonight every evening.

On Tuesday, July 27, Farage’s ratings took over the BBC’s in that slot (emphases in the original):

UPDATE 28.07: Nige beat both the BBC and Sky News last night –

    • Farage – 90.8k
    • Sky News Tonight – 55.1k
    • BBC Outside Source – 89.1k

Congratulations…

It happened again on Wednesday, with an even greater figure — 107.7k to 93.3k:

Well done, Nigel!

Digital ratings

Rebecca Hutson, Head of Digital and occasional co-presenter, is keen to target younger audiences via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and — incredibly — TikTok. GB News is the only British broadcasting channel to use the Chinese-owned social media video platform.

On July 21, Hutson explained her strategy to Press Gazette:

the fledgling brand said social media engagement figures show it is resonating with younger audiences to a perhaps surprising extent.

Head of digital and presenter Rebecca Hutson … said GB News is really a “digital media business that has a TV channel attached”

Hutson told Press Gazette: “We know that traditional linear consumption has really changed. People don’t sit at home for three hours and watch a show. Instead they want to snack on the best bits for them on the platforms that they’re already using.

“So that’s why we publish natively across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and we tailor the content specifically for the platform that it’s on so we’re pretty agnostic in terms of how the content looks and feels across the different destinations that we have and the website.”

For example, she added, the brand is more likely to put an eight-minute monologue on YouTube and short snippets on Twitter which is a “much quicker platform”.

“Rather than trying to turn all of our platforms into a homogenous output, we spend a lot of time looking at the analytics and amending how the content appears on there and that’s really paying off,” Hutson said …

TikTok has been useful in attracting younger viewers:

On TikTok GB News has had 24,500 likes and more than 350,000 views across 30 videos and 4,000 followers so far.

Hutson said the numbers may be “quite surprising for people who would maybe think that we don’t have relevance or resonance to that younger audience when we clearly do”.

Hutson said explainer videos decoding the news are proving to work best for TikTok. The most-watched GB News TikTok so far explains who Sajid Javid is after he replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary …

Almost a third (31%) of 18 to 24-year-olds use TikTok, and 9% get news on it.

As for demographics:

On TV only, excluding the likes of TikTok and Instagram, almost a third (32%) of GB News’ audience is aged between 18 and 34. Some 39% are aged 55 and above.

Some 62% of the TV audience is in the middle class ABC1 demographic – a drop from the 82% ABC1 demographic thought to have tuned in for Andrew Neil’s opening show on 13 June.

The new shows, higher ratings and digital strategy are welcome developments for GB News, which is an excellent channel. Now that Parliament is in summer recess, I have been watching quite a lot of their output. The shows present alternative viewpoints, from libertarian to left-wing: a good thing.

Freedom Day did go ahead on Monday, July 19, in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was told at the weekend to self-isolate. Boris went to Chequers and broadcast from there.

At 5 p.m., Boris gave a remote coronavirus briefing while Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Sir Patrick Vallance were in the Downing Street press conference room.

Nightclubs

It looks as if Covid passports are coming in September for nightclubs and music venues.

As Dan Wootton said on GB News, Freedom Day will be remembered as the day when the Government took more of our freedoms away:

Note that tweet about the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone: no vaccine cards accepted, only the NHS app. No smart phone, no entry. That, to me, is also wrong. The Government should not force people to have smart phones.

GB News took a poll on vaccine passports. They had omitted their earlier question on dictatorship:

Reporter Ellie Costello returned to her favourite nightclub, Faces in Essex. She had a ball. She pulled an all-nighter as she gave this update to the GB News breakfast show. She interviewed the owner of Faces who said he was concerned about his obligation to check vaccine passports in future and the possibility they could be faked:

I hope there are enough Conservative MPs to put pressure on Boris not to go down this route:

Travel

Journalist Isabel Oakeshott spoke to Wootton about the draconian self-isolation one has to go when returning from a nearby country such as France, which is on the Amber list. During that 10-day period, one is not allowed to leave one’s house — at all. Police or a third party representative of the Government can go to a person’s home to make sure he is there:

Supermarkets

Yesterday, on Freedom Day, I did a recce of my high street. Mask wearing was 50/50.

I did not wear a face covering.

I won’t be going to the supermarket until later in the week, so cannot speak to that for now.

However, Guido Fawkes’s readers compared notes on what their Freedom Day experience was like.

One wrote:

… let me report the depressing experience of shopping in Morrisons this morning. Less than 1% unmasked amongst the customers (2 apart from me). Plenty of staff unmasked, though, behind the checkouts. And I could see they were happy, as their smiling faces were visible.

Another Morrisons shopper said (emphasis mine):

I was also in a Morrisons this morning, ignoring the pleas over the tannoy to ‘Be kind and show [you] care’. I decided to be kind to myself and abandon the mask. At first I couldn’t see anyone else unmasked, but finally in the milk aisle there was a guy coming the other way, also unmasked. We smiled at each other and nodded like we had just completed a Freemasonry ritual, and went on our way. I wasn’t challenged and no-one seemed to care, not that I care what they think anyway.

A Tesco shopper wrote in:

I’ve just done my start-of-the-week shop at Tesco: normal crowd levels. Most people are still doing their cleaning routines at the entrance. About 75%, including all at the check-outs, remain masked-up. The other 25% were mainly the twenty-somethings with no fear of Covid, either short or long …

And, finally, there was a report about Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s Chesterfield 9am -ish today.

All screens gone staff scraping up the floor markings and unmasked. 😍

Was worried when I read they “REQUIRED” customers to mask up and had decided that if it was the case to boycott.

They keep my business.

Moving goalposts

Presenter Neil Oliver (the bearded gentleman in the video below) appeared on Wootton’s show to say that the Government is controlling the people, when, in fact, this is our country, not theirs.

Wootton pointed out that the Government is continually moving the goalposts in this coronavirus fiasco. Last year, they told us that when we got the vaccines, we would be able to, in Matt Hancock’s words, ‘Cry Freedom!’ Now that we have the vaccines and a majority of the adult population has had the ‘jabs’, we’re still not out of the woods:

In fact, we have less freedom now than we did a year ago.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I hope that all dads reading had a good day with their children, communicating in some sort of significant way, either in person or by phone.

As ours is a childless household, I was interested to follow coverage of the day on GB News.

Alastair Stewart

Alastair Stewart got a pleasant surprise on his afternoon show, as his daughter, a headmistress, rang in with her good wishes and thanks on behalf of herself and her siblings as well as Mrs Stewart:

Stewart said that he has good relationships with all of his children, but that he and they relate to each other in a very individualised way, making fatherhood that much more special.

He said that he was taken aback that his daughter rang in to the show, at the suggestion of the production team. He wiped away a little tear after the call ended.

Neil Oliver

Archaeologist and television presenter Neil Oliver, also a member of the GB News team, appeared in the studio on Stewart’s show and the one that followed, where Father’s Day was the main topic.

Riding lessons for a young daughter

Oliver told Stewart that some children have an instinctive attraction to loving certain animals. He told Stewart how his daughter wanted riding lessons because she loved horses. Oliver and his wife thought the girl was too young. One day when the three of them were out, the girl saw horses in a field and spontaneously ran towards them. Oliver and his wife were worried for her safety, but the horses lowered their heads as she approached so that she could hug them. Riding lessons followed shortly afterwards.

His daughter will be entering Edinburgh University this autumn.

The awe of holding a newborn

On the show that followed Alastair Stewart’s, Oliver said that holding his children as newborns was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences he could have. He said that holding his tiny babies turned him to jelly. He said that he felt as if his ribcage were floating around in his body, it was such a tremendous experience.

Celebrating together

As Oliver was in London in the studio and his children at home in Scotland, he told them they could celebrate Father’s Day together once he returned to Stirling.

He said that he enjoys all the days that most of us regard as greeting card holidays, saying that any day that brings families closer together is worth celebrating.

Proudest accomplishments

Oliver said that his proudest accomplishments in life are being a husband and a father.

He said he knew from a young age that he wanted a wife and children. They make his life complete.

—————————–

I did search on Twitter to see if GB News had posted any of these clips. Alas, no.

Furthermore, Neil Oliver no longer has a Twitter feed.

He deleted his Twitter account in 2016, after harassment from people who want Scottish independence. The Express carried the story in August that year (emphases mine):

The archaeologist, writer and broadcaster, who presents BBC’s Coast, said he was forced off social media by the so-called cybernats, disappointing his 40,000 followers.

Mr Oliver says he became a target for abuse and received scores of hate-filled messages after deciding to speak out in favour of the Union

The Renfrewshire-born broadcaster said: “A great chunk of the response was not just negative but very personal and filled with bile and vicious loathing.

“People made it clear they wished the worst for me. They wished that I would develop cancer and said I deserved to be burnt as a traitor. It was one or two positive comments accompanied by hundreds of hate-fuelled messages” …

I realised that by having a Twitter identity I had opened a door into my personal life in which strangers could pass at will. The minute I deactivated my account I felt like I had brought my head out of deep water and could breathe easily. It was an almost instantaneous fix.”

Mr Oliver said that he was now worried about his three young children being targeted.

In an earlier article from January 2016, Oliver revealed his favourite personal photo to The Express, one of him and his wife as students at Glasgow University.

He told the reporter:

This is a picture of me and my wife Trudi at Glasgow University. l graduated with an MA in archaeology in 1988, and this was at Trudi’s graduation in 1990. We were together for a long time, then broke up in our twenties.

It was nothing particularly dramatic, but we were apart for eight years and met again by chance in 2002 after I bumped into her brother. It was as if we’d never been apart and we’ve been together ever since.

Our daughter Evie and sons Archie and Teddy were all present when we married in Solsgirth, Kinross-shire, on October 10, 2009, exactly 23 years after we first met.

We’re very similar people from similar backgrounds. We each had a happy and normal working-class childhood. Trudi grew up in Falkirk mostly, and I was raised in Ayr and Dumfries where my family still live. After several years working as an archaeologist, then I became a newspaper journalist – like Trudi.

Oliver is known for his shoulder-length hair, which he has had since he was 15.

He doesn’t dare get it cut:

I’ve basically had the same haircut since I was 15. When I was at university, quite a lot of men were scruffy with long hair, and I fell into that and fossilised. But Trudi was taken with my long hair. She is my number one fan and likes the way I look.

We’d end up in the divorce courts if I got my hair cut short now! But I’ve always had people telling me I should get it cut. A TV reviewer from The Guardian recently wrote that whenever I appear on screen she wants to scream, “Get your hair cut, laddie!” Any review I get for a TV show always starts with something like “the Scottish archaeologist with the long flowing locks…”

He missed his family when he was away filming his series:

I miss Trudi and the children when I’m away from our home in Stirling. My job is not onerous in any way, and I enjoy it thoroughly, but being away is the hardest part by far. I’ve missed a lot of birthdays, school concerts… just family time. I try and minimise how long I’m away. When I’m home I do the school run and I go in from time to time to talk about history.

Although I’m away for long chunks of time, the kids have always had their mum with them 24/7. She has the toughest gig, operating as a single mum for half the year. But, when I am home, it’s often for periods of about two months.

He wrote books when at home:

I spent five months of the last year writing my first novel Master Of Shadows in the spare bedroom at home. I had previously had eight non-fiction works published, but I was more nervous about the reaction to this.

Now Neil Oliver has a weekly show on GB News. He told Alastair Stewart that this was a career move he had not anticipated but feels that now is the time, because he has much to say about British society today.

He added that doing a show live is much different from doing a television series, where something can be redone, if necessary. He said he is always nervous before filming. He and Stewart agreed that any presenter who isn’t nervous beforehand should probably stop broadcasting.

In closing, it was fascinating to hear Oliver’s thoughts on fatherhood, especially as his children are teenagers now.

And who doesn’t like a good love story?

On Monday, June 14, 2021, I posted about the launch of GB News, a channel that offers balanced content.

On June 15, Guido Fawkes posted the new channel’s preliminary ratings demographics — 70% male viewers and 62% middle and upper middle class viewers:

Guido wrote (emphasis in the original):

According to BARB figures for the first full day on air, GB News averaged over the 18-hour day 74,000 viewers, just behind Sky News’ 78,000. BBC News was well ahead with 138,000. Andrew Neil’s show drew 150,000 for his hour, down from Sunday’s opening 262,000.  Let’s see how things settles down in a few weeks. Today the audio technical problems were noticeably fewer… 

GB News has been taking some flak over the past few days. It must be over the target.

Someone in the media sniped at Andrew Neil, the channel’s chairman, who has a weekday evening news roundup:

Unfortunately, advertisers are beginning to withdraw their sponsorship, claiming they had no idea their adverts were being shown on GB News. How can that be?

Kopparberg Cider (never heard of it) was the first:

Guido’s post says that Koppaberg pulled their ads because of an appearance by Nigel Farage on Dan Wootton’s first nightly show:

In a bizarre business move, Swedish cider company Kopparberg has suspended all their GB News advertising after a left-wing Twitter user complained they’d hosted Nigel Farage as a guest. Guido has no doubt Kopparberg will also be suspending ads for … ITV and Sky, who have all interviewed Nige’ on numerous occasions… 

Nivea is another former sponsor:

Nivea has also apparently announced a boycott, though Guido’s altogether less familiar with brands of moisturiser. Imperial Leather moisturiser seems an appropriate alternative brand…

Guido has contacted Kopparberg for comment.

Then came Ovo Energy:

The thread received this reply:

ITV News must have been rubbing their hands with glee. It’s hard to discount the possibility that the main channels want GB News to fail:

ITV’s article listed more former sponsors (emphases mine):

An Ikea spokesperson told iNews the company “has not knowingly advertised on GB News” and has suspended all paid display advertising while it investigates.“We have safeguards in place to prevent our advertising from appearing on platforms that are not in line with our humanistic values and vision to side with the many people,” they added.

We are in the process of investigating how this may have occurred to ensure it won’t happen again in future, and have suspended paid display advertising in the meantime.”

Beer producer Grolsch said in response to a message from a campaigner it would “do everything we possibly can” to stop its adverts appearing on the channel.

The controversy comes from the channel’s aims to fight “cancel culture” and present news to audiences that in their view are not reflected in the current British broadcast media landscape.

ITV says that a left-wing campaigning organisation is behind the boycott:

Stop Funding Hate, which has been campaigning to get businesses to pull adverts from GB News said OVO Energy, Ikea, Nivea, the Open University and Grolsh have also all reportedly stopped working with the channel.

Andrew Neil had a go at Ikea, as did one of his followers:

What is wrong with the content and ‘values’ of GB News?

Did advertisers object to the Who’s Roger Daltrey’s take on today’s culture?

Were they upset with Andrew Neil’s ‘Woke Watch’ which explored the new culture at the National Trust?

Neil did take issue with the anti-lockdown protesters who chased the BBC’s Nick Watt in London on Monday afternoon:

The following are Wednesday’s stories on GB News. What is objectionable?

There is a story on council tax hitting those in northern England more than those in London:

A Labour MP criticised the Home Secretary Priti Patel for not helping legal immigrants more:

Liz Truss MP talked about Britain’s new trade deal with Australia:

Sajid Javid MP, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and former Home Secretary, explained why he would like to see the increase of the legal marriage age to 18:

Where is the problem?

Guido Fawkes alleges that an ex-BBC producer could be behind the advertising boycott:

Her company has allegedly created a website, Boycott GB News.

Guido’s post says:

The website BoycottGBNews.org, which has spent the last 24 hours celebrating various corporate boycotts, says it is a “campaigning website from Ripples”. A quick search of Companies House shows Ripples Campaigning was co-founded, and is run, by Louise Wikstrom. Louise, who appears to be their only employee, was a senior content producer at BBC Worldwide for three years.

He included a photo from her Facebook page indicating that she is a supporter of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Guido adds (emphases in the original):

Co-conspirators may have theories as to why someone closely linked to the BBC’s commercial arm might want GB News to fail?

… Whilst Guido hadn’t heard of Ripples, it’s clearly a petition site exclusively for left-wingers and FBPEers. They laughably claim that due to their petitions, they prevented: a cut to universal credit; MPs receiving a £3,000 pay rise; an extension of the furlough scheme; and preventing the government from “breaking international law” on Brexit. These past claims are clearly absurd. Their latest busy-bodying attempt is far more malicious…

In closing, I have bought print advertising in the past. There is no way that anyone buying advertising doesn’t know what is going on. It isn’t done independently. I was told what publication to contact for my employer’s ad and how to negotiate the price.

It is disingenuous for these sponsors to say that advertising was placed without their permission. That cannot happen. Yet, if you read their statements, they all claim they did not know they were advertising on GB News. 

No doubt Andrew Neil will know how to deal with this. I wish him all the best.

On Sunday evening, June 13, 2021, Andrew Neil’s GB News channel (Freeview 236) launched in the UK.

Andrew Neil has had a long career in broadcast and print journalism, having helped launch Sky News in the UK. He presented political programmes for the BBC for many years and is also chairman of The Spectator.

The satirical magazine Private Eye refers to him as Brillo because of his hair.

The channel began broadcasting at 8 p.m., with a one-hour introduction from Neil laying out the agenda and introducing the viewing audience to its presenters and regional reporters:

Neil was broadcasting from London, rather than his home in the south of France, as he has done during the pandemic for Spectator TV.

My far better half and I watched this and one hour of Dan Wootton’s show, which followed at 9 p.m.:

Dan Wootton’s show had a few glitches, with guests’ online connections dropping and a synch problem between video and audio.

Nonetheless, the channel’s first night ratings were good:

Their audience share was treble that of Sky News:

Guido Fawkes posted a summary of the reviews in the press. Incidentally, Guido’s Tom Harwood resigned a few months ago to become the Westminster correspondent for GB News.

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases in the original):

It’s all systems go for GB News. Opening with a one hour mission statement from Chairman Brillo (from a tiny, under-lit set which someone on Twitter described as looking like “the inside of a PlayStation“), the fledging news channel finally started broadcasting at 8pm last night. Inevitably, there were teething problems: dodgy cuts, out of sync audio, odd camera angles etc etc. Dark clothes against a dark set just doesn’t work visually. Television is hard.

The aesthetic problems will undoubtedly be ironed out over time. For now, the initial reaction from social media and the punditry went about as you’d expect; Owen Jones tried to dunk on it, the Telegraph gave it four stars. Here’s the full round-up:

    • The Guardian wasted no time in writing it off. No doubt reviewer Stuart Jeffries beamed ear-to-ear as he called it “utterly deadly stuff”, and declared he “give[s] it a year” before it’s taken off-air. He gave it one star, obviously.
    • The Times were more generous: three stars for a channel which “may yet bite“, though marking it down for the obvious technical shortcomings. A running theme amongst most reviews…
    • The Telegraph’s four star review praised its “no sneering” attitude, and that in spite of the glitches, “GB News is already speaking [the] language” of those frustrated by lockdown. They also made the point that opening with Dan Wootton was probably a mistake, given his opening diatribe about lockdown: “What the channel cried out for was the firmest hand on the tiller from the go. If you were unsure about GB News’s claims of impartiality, you needed Brazier or McCoy to take your hand on the first night. Wootton will have scared a few nervous horses” …

GB News were pleased to say launch night saw them average 164,400 viewers with Sky News garnering only 57,000 viewers. Can they surpass Sky News regularly?

I hope so. My better half thought it was too amateurish. As Guido says, ‘Television is hard’, especially on launch night. I will definitely be tuning in when BBC Parliament is showing a rerun.

Speaking of Parliament, Conservative MP David Jones liked it:

The channel also has half-hourly weather forecasts from the Met Office:

A live stream is on their website. Selected videos are posted there and on YouTube.

GB News took well over a year to reach its launch:

Their signature tune came first:

Investors had to be found:

Britons were eager for a news channel that represents their interests:

On January 28, 2021, Dan Wooton left talkRADIO for GB News.

A week later, people were attempting to boycott a channel that hadn’t even launched, including Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project:

This was Andrew Neil’s response:

At that time, Neil wrote an article for The Express explaining why he was launching a new channel (emphases mine):

I’m proud to be the chairman of GB News and, as you may have read, I have left the BBC after 25 years to host a nightly programme on the channel.

I’m doing it because I believe the direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people.

I believe our national conversation has become too metropolitan, too southern and too middle-class.

Some journalists and commentators seem too confident that their liberal-left assumptions must surely be shared by every sensible person in the land.

But many of those same sensible people are fed up.

They feel left out and unheard.

There’s a restlessness, a sense that they’re being talked down to; that much of the media no longer reflects their values or shares their concerns.

GB News is aimed squarely at those people.

The Mail‘s Michael Crick empathised and had a go at Jolyon Maugham:

The channel began attracting broadcasting talent: Sky News’s Colin Brazier, Channel 4’s Liam Halligan, the BBC’s Simon McCoy, conservative commentator Mercy Muroki and Times Radio’s Gloria De Piero (also a former Labour MP and presenter on an ITV breakfast show).

By April 27, Rupert Murdoch decided not to launch a similar rival channel, News UK:

At least one journalist is rankled that GB News has overseas funding:

On May 21, Press Gazette revealed more about GB News:

The channel’s director of news, John McAndrew, is a 25-year industry veteran who has worked for the BBC, Sky News, ITN and NBC.

Interviewed by Press Gazette three days ahead of the channel’s launch, he said: “My view of our channel, and certainly how it’s going to be, is that it will be a very warm, inclusive channel where disagreements will be had, tough subjects will absolutely be taken on, but they’ll be taken on in a classy and courteous fashion.

What this won’t be is a hate-filled divisive shout-fest that some people seem to have characterised it as, which is 180 degrees away from where we want to be.”

Speaking to the FT Future of News conference Neil revealed that GB News plans to launch in other countries after the UK and has been looking at Spain and Eastern Europe. He said: “They will be distinctive news channels for distinctive markets. We still believe news is national.”

On May 25, Ryan Bourne from the Cato Institute wrote a column for Conservative Home about the channel:

it’s perfectly within the Ofcom rules to build a news channel that will run different stories or perspectives – and Neil wants to run “good news” stories and shift away from assuming every problem has a government solution. You are allowed to hire, as GB News has, card-carrying conservatives, ex-Labour MPs or people from outside of London with very different assumptions in thinking about what news is important. And, yes, you are free to have colourful presenters with attitude to liven up discussions, provided you still showcase various perspectives.

Why, then, are some on the left so afraid of this pluralism? Maybe they don’t accept biases exist on other news channels (Channel 4 News, really?), and so think any stated attempt to counter them is retrogressive. Perhaps they simply fear a politically strengthened  conservatism. For others, no doubt, there is a concern that the Government’s mooted appointment of Paul Dacre to Ofcom is a precursor to watering down impartiality rules as well.

But given that no such policy has been signalled, and we have not yet seen GB News in action, we must judge them at their word. Neil himself thinks, rightly, that a “British Fox” riding roughshod over Ofcom rules just wouldn’t be successful. “Overwhelmingly, Brits value impartiality and accuracy and, during recent years, in fact, the proportion of Brits thinking the BBC and ITV provide an impartial service has fallen.” GB News is keen to harness that particular audience, yes. But having spoken to numerous staffers, they are determined to avoid political bias, and to be robust in providing respectful disagreement more broadly too.

The Evening Standard‘s Insider posted an in-depth article on June 10. Susannah Butter’s piece covers a lot of ground, including on the channel’s investors.

This seems to have been the initial title (h/t Guido Fawkes reader who posted it):

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-716e6930-ce55-4715-b47e-1910e025a9f2

Susannah Butter interviewed Andrew Neil, who had returned from France and was quarantining:

Neil is speaking to me from quarantine in West London, having recently returned from his house in the Cote d’Azur where he has been for the past year with his wife, Swedish engineer and communications executive Susan Nilsson, 52. They married in 2015 and Neil has 14 godchildren but no children of his own. He is straight-talking if occasionally gently cantankerous, saying he only agreed to speak because I “caught him at a weak moment” – and he wants to get one thing clear: GB News is not the British Fox News. “That is an easy, inaccurate shorthand for what we are trying to do. In terms of format we are like Fox but we won’t be like Fox in that they come from a hard right disinformation fake news conspiracy agenda. I have worked too long and hard to build up a journalistic reputation to consider going down that route.” There is a “strong editorial charter written into everybody’s contracts saying that if they spread fake news and conspiracy theories they will face disciplinary action”. Neil’s hope is not to destroy the other channels, more to provide variety and raise the bar. “We are in a competitive environment they know that. I suspect [our rival TV channels] will up their game, that’s fine, the only winner is the viewer.”

This is how the channel began:

GB News was not Neil’s idea – the founders are Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider who both come from a business background – but Neil has been wanting to do something like this for a long time

Cole and Schneider contacted Neil last summer when he was “in the middle of rather, err, meandering negotiations with the BBC”. His interview show had been cancelled and Politics Live was taken off air; he has said that “what [the BBC] did was unnecessary and I left with a heavy heart… but what’s done is done.” By September he was convinced because he “rather liked the idea of being chairman as well as prime time presenter. At The Spectator, my pride and joy, I have a business angle too, as chairman”.

Early hires include former Associate Editor of The Sun Dan Wootton and The Apprentice’s Michelle Dewberry, who was a vocal Brexit supporter.

Piers Morgan will not be joining the GB News lineup, at least for now:

“It would be nice to have him,” says Neil who is in discussions with Morgan about joining and adds diplomatically: “But he’s got his own idea of what he is worth and we have a slightly different idea of what he’s worth. He is in a lucky situation because ITV are continuing to pay him a tonne of money so he doesn’t have to do anything in the short run. I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere else in the UK. If he has a huge American offer that’s a different matter. No one in the UK can compete with that but if he’s going to do more UK news TV I hope it will be with us.”

The channel will have a regular five-minute feature called ‘Woke Watch’:

Neil enjoys its alliterative title and says while he is “poking fun”, he is seriously concerned about its implications. “Cancel culture is insidious, it stands against everything we have stood for since the enlightenment onwards and that is why it is serious,” he says. “The original meaning of woke was somebody who was aware of social justice issues and who can complain about that? But it is not about social justice anymore, it is about conformity of thinking and it exists in many of our elite institutions from NGOs to the National Trust and parts of our media. Of course it is making huge inroads into our places of higher education. It is not the view of the British people but if it is the view of all these elites in favour of it could become very powerful.”

… He takes a breath. “Look this is a five minute segment in an hour long show but it will be an important part of the output. Humour is a good weapon especially when you are up against po-faced people who take themselves too seriously.”

The channel’s output will target those living outside Britain’s metropolitan areas:

GB News aims to attract two kinds of viewers, people who already watch the news and “may be a bit unhappy with the existing channels” and people who have stopped watching or don’t. “GB News will be more non-metropolitan than existing channels, more provincial which is a good thing. The provincial voice has not been powerful enough in Britain. We are for people who think the existing channels don’t quite represent how they see things.”

Neil discussed the channel’s investors:

Neil says they were overwhelmed with offers of funding but were selective about which ones they accepted. He wants to talk about their leading investor, the Discovery Channel, but money has also come from Sir Paul Marshall, a Brexiteer hedge fund manager and founder of the Right-leaning opinion site UnHerd, and Legatum, a Dubai-based investment firm. Legatum’s chairman Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born billionaire and international financier, is a partner of Legatum Group, a funder of the separate Legatum Institute, a Mayfair-based think tank which is dedicated to finding “pathways to prosperity” and was one of the most prominent advocates for a hard Brexit.

Neil will only say that he “didn’t want any sovereign wealth fund money”. “I didn’t want stuff from Abu Dhabi or Qatar. I said I’d take Norwegian wealth fund money because I don’t think we would be worrying about them but they weren’t offering. And I was reluctant to take money from investors who see themselves as the next Rupert Murdoch because I have already had one Rupert Murdoch in my life. That ended 26 years ago and I have never seen him since. At this stage in my life I am not having another one.”

Neil, quite rightly, does not understand why people would object to the name GB News:

“I am not sure why calling it GB News would be awkward,” he says, responding to those who have objected to the name. “We are British, I am British; I don’t think there is any embarrassment in it. Indeed it is the opposite, we are proud to be British. We will be fair and accurate but we won’t start out from that default position among the incumbents that whatever Britain does must be useless. That was heightened by the Brexit debate and we don’t want to reflect that. We will report all the faults and weaknesses of this country but we also take a certain pride in being British and our successes, the vaccine rollout being one example.”

All this patriotism is well and good but doesn’t Neil now live mainly in France? “This is my country, just because I don’t live here full time anymore doesn’t mean I don’t care,” he says.

Neil’s regular one-hour show will also have a segment called ‘Media Watch’:

“All journalists get things wrong and it is important that we move to put them right quickly and put our hands up and apologise. We have a go at politicians for not admitting their mistakes and then we do the same thing.” GB News will not be immune from Media Watch.

The channel will not be featuring a blockbuster interview immediately:

They have actually decided against launching with a big interview, “because then the story becomes the interview and I would much rather the story becomes the channel, we will get to the interview”. “Times Radio launched with a big interview with Boris Johnson. We’ve decided not to go down that route.”

Neil is not yet ready to retire:

It all sounds like a lot of work – does Neil ever want to retire? “You are right. Lockdown has made me appreciate the virtues of retirement or at least semi-retirement more than I thought I might. I thought I had one more big gig in me and this is it. If we can make a success of GB News that’s when I’ll declare victory and go home.” I doubt he would disappear though. He says: “I would continue to do the odd bit of TV and writing and I certainly want to keep going with The Spectator. It’s quite good at some stage to get to a situation where you can do whatever you want to do from wherever you want to be.”

I ask Neil, one of the best interviewers in the business, if I have left anything out? “I think you know more than enough,” he says. “Can I go now?”

Although Neil very much enjoyed his 25 years at the BBC and was particularly grateful to the help and support from the staffers there, he has objected to some of the recent programming output. On May 30, The Express reported:

Mr Neil has never shied away from controversy on or off screen during his time at the broadcaster.

Never was this more clear than when he called the BBC out – while working for the broadcaster – for airing a specially crafted version of Horrible Histories, using archive episodes to create a song to mark the day the UK left the EU

Mr Neil commented: “This is anti-British drivel of a high order.

“Was any of the licence fee used to produce something purely designed to demean us?”

On June 11, Simon McCoy discussed his departure from the BBC and revealed that he voted Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The Telegraph reported:

“People had whiplash by 2 o’clock. Because for three hours it was: ‘Oh, he’s leaving, the A4 Royal watcher, how sad.’ And then, ‘The b—–’s going to GB News! What a right-wing gammon.’” He gives a mock sigh. “I was rather enjoying a couple of hours of adulation.”

Some valiantly tried to give McCoy the benefit of the doubt, but hang on: “I think it’s interesting that people think: ‘He’s gone to GB News to balance it out because he’s a leftie BBC journalist.’ I’m certainly not.” He’s even willing to lay his cards on the table: yes, Simon McCoy voted Leave

When he talks about Brexit, it’s in measured tones. “We’re a Brexit country. I do think we need to embrace it and, for all its faults, we’ve got to make it work.”

He joined GB News partly because he fancied the challenge: “I loved the BBC; the job was great, but I just thought, ‘Here I am, nearly 60 – do I want to stay here, probably not getting any further? Or do I want to try something new?’”

And he also has a conviction, after 15 years at Sky News and 17 years at the BBC, that those news providers are focusing on the wrong things. “If you watch other bulletins you’ll know very much what’s happening in Idlib or Tel Aviv or Washington. This is about the UK,” he says.

“Rather than obsessing with what’s happening abroad, let’s just look at what’s happening within the UK. While I don’t want to sound jingoistic or insular or Little Englander, I think we could all benefit from just knowing about our own country a little more.”

Neil Oliver, a Scot who presents television programmes on archaeology, is fiercely pro-Union and a vocal critic of the SNP’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. He will have his own GB News show. The Express carried the story:

Last month, the BBC’s veteran presenter of a string of history shows, Mr Oliver, was announced as having joined the lineup.

The archaeologist and historian has become a central voice in Scottish politics and, like Andrew Neil who he will work alongside, is a fierce critic of Nicola Sturgeon.

He has previously accused the Scottish First Minister of “making a fool of Scotland” and said she had made him “sick to my stomach”

He talked of history being viewed as the lifetime of a person, and that people today are the children of this person, in this case, the British Isles.

This was vital to understanding how interwoven the devolved nations are, he argued, and explained: “More and more we dare to patronise the place, treat the person like a doddery old soul who cannot cope alone, who might even need to be taken into care.

“To me, the truth is altogether different. This place, these islands have taken care of us since a time beyond the reach of memory. Treated properly, they will continue to do so

“The story of the British Isles is one every single one of us should know and give thanks for.”

On June 2, The Express reported:

The freelance archaeologist will host a new weekly current affairs and interview programme. Mr Oliver’s show will focus on “the people from all walks of life who make Britain great”, according to the announcement put out by the broadcaster …

Commenting on joining GB News, Mr Oliver said: “My career has always been driven by my fascination with people, whether it’s trying to understand ancient people through archaeology or living ones through journalism.

“Debate in this country has been stifled for so long that GB News feels like opening a window and letting some fresh air, fresh perspectives and fresh voices.

“I never imagined my career would take this turn but I’m hugely excited that it has”

Before the 2014 independence referendum, Mr Oliver stated in an interview with The Herald, that he was “proud of Britain”.

He also noted his dislike of the forthcoming referendum, saying he found “this kind of internecine squabbling puts my teeth on edge. I would rather that it would just go away – or that it had never happened”.

He went on to say that he “liked the status quo”.

As a result of his comments, when he was appointed President of the National Trust for Scotland, thousands signed petitions calling on him to resign.

In December 2020, Mr Oliver reasserted his apparent personal opposition to Scottish independence, describing the uncertainty caused by the prospect of a second referendum as a “cancerous presence”.

Neil Oliver appeared on Sunday:

On the launch day of GB News, The Express reported that a spokesman for the channel alleged that the BBC was trying to restrict their access to news footage:

Britain’s public service broadcaster was attempting to “ambush” and “damage” Sunday’s launch of the right-leaning television channel, a spokesperson for GB News has claimed. A GB News spokesman said: “This is an ambush by the BBC designed to damage the launch of GB News. It is an attempt to protect their dominance of UK news broadcasting.

“We will fight it.

“And our launch continues.”

This has happened before when the Press Association said in 2010 it was unable to access footage from “single-camera assignments” that were categorised as coming under the ownership of the UK Broadcast Pool.

The UK Broadcast Pool comprises the BBC, Sky News and ITN.

The launch was successful.

True to their pledge, GB News is focusing on what matters to Britons, such as this lady from Birmingham:

In closing, Tom Harwood says that GB News are aware of enhancements that need to be made, including the addition of a live stream on YouTube:

I’m thrilled to bits for GB News and do intend to become a regular viewer.

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http://martinscriblerus.com/

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