You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Guido Fawkes’ tag.

The first part of a review of last week in Parliament concerned coronavirus with a follow-on here.

The other big debates last week were about the Internal Market Bill, a legislative safeguard to preserve Britain’s sovereignty after the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of the year.

Talks with the EU have reached an impasse. Worse, the EU wants to take Northern Ireland hostage, as it were, with the possibility that food from other parts of Britain might be prohibited from reaching it. Absurd, but that is the state of play.

On Saturday, September 12, Steve Baker tweeted:

The Telegraph article in Steve Baker’s tweet explains (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson has accused the European Union of threatening to impose a food “blockade” in the Irish Sea that would destroy the “economic and territorial integrity of the UK”.

Writing in The Telegraph, the Prime Minister made a passionate defence of his decision to alter the Brexit divorce deal, saying he has to protect Britain from the “disaster” of handing Brussels the “power to carve up our country”.

He also issued a direct plea to Tory MPs threatening to rebel over his plans, telling them that, if they stand in his way, they will reduce the chance of getting a trade deal with the EU.

Mr Johnson insisted a Canada-style trade deal with the bloc is still possible and remains his goal, but that Brussels must “take their threats off the table” and rebel MPs must get into line. He also believes the UK will still “prosper mightily” under a narrower, Australia-style trade deal.

The Prime Minister claimed the EU could effectively impose a food blockade across the Irish Sea by refusing to grant the UK approved “third party” status for food exports, which officials say Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has “explicitly” threatened.

The Withdrawal Agreement gives the EU oversight over goods of animal origin being transported from the mainland to Northern Ireland for four years, meaning Brussels could use an “extreme interpretation” to impose tariffs or declare such trade illegal

The Government is trying to rush through legislation that would amend the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular its Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Johnson argues that he has been forced to act because of a “serious misunderstanding” in Brussels about the terms of the agreement, and must unilaterally make changes to it because it has become a “danger to the very fabric of the United Kingdom”.

The EU has told Mr Johnson that, unless he backtracks by the end of the month, the trade talks are over

That weekend, the news was full of MPs, senior legal experts and former Prime Ministers saying that Boris Johnson’s proposals were a ‘violation of international law’:

On Friday a group of more than a dozen MPs, among them former ministers, signalled that they would press ahead with attempts to bar the Government from overriding the Withdrawal Agreement without the support of Parliament

In the House of Commons, Sir Bob Neill, an avowed Remainer, led the rebel charge. Neill is:

the chairman of the Commons justice committee, who has already secured the backing of Damian Green, Theresa May’s former deputy, and ex-solicitor general Sir Oliver Heald.

The Remain media gave airtime to those who said this proposal violates international law, a distinctly Remainer stance. In 2018, Theresa May watered down an excellent Brexit plan — Canada ++. Boris pushed a stronger ‘deal’ last autumn. Now Boris sees what the EU could do next year if the UK doesn’t close this loophole.

In short, those who oppose Boris’s proposed legislation are Remainers. Those who support it are Leavers.

This became evident in Parliamentary debates last week and this week.

On Monday, talkRADIO interviewed two Leavers.

Sir Desmond Swayne gave an early morning interview:

Labour Peer — and Leaver — Kate Hoey went on the air later:

Guido Fawkes published the full text of the bill.

The second reading of the bill took place on Monday, September 14. Excerpts from the debate follow.

Boris introduced the second reading, emphasising its importance to the Union:

The creation of our United Kingdom by the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1801 was not simply a political event, but an act of conscious economic integration that laid the foundations for the world’s first industrial revolution and the prosperity we enjoy today. When other countries in Europe stayed divided, we joined our fortunes together and allowed the invisible hand of the market to move Cornish pasties to Scotland, Scottish beef to Wales, Welsh beef to England, and Devonshire clotted cream to Northern Ireland or wherever else it might be enjoyed.

When we chose to join the EU back in 1973, we also thereby decided that the EU treaties should serve as the legal guarantor of these freedoms. Now that we have left the EU and the transition period is about to elapse, we need the armature of our law once again to preserve the arrangements on which so many jobs and livelihoods depend. That is the fundamental purpose of this Bill, which should be welcomed by everyone who cares about the sovereignty and integrity of our United Kingdom.

We shall provide the legal certainty relied upon by every business in our country, including, of course, in Northern Ireland. The manifesto on which this Government were elected last year promised business in Northern Ireland “unfettered access to the rest of the UK”.

Sir Bob Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst, Con) spoke, asking about upholding ‘the rule of law’, a popular theme among Remainer MPs:

I have listened carefully to what the Prime Minister says, but does he accept that were our interlocutors in the EU to behave in such an egregious fashion, which would clearly be objectionable and unacceptable to us, there is already provision under the withdrawal agreement for an arbitrary arrangement to be put in place? Were we to take reserve powers, does he accept that those reserve powers should be brought into force only as a final backstop if we have, in good faith, tried to act under the withdrawal agreement and are then frustrated? The timing under which they come into force is very important for our reputation as upholders of the rule of law.

The PM responded:

there is the question of tariffs in the Irish sea. When we signed the protocol, we accepted that goods “at risk” of going from Great Britain into the EU via Northern Ireland should pay the EU tariff as they crossed the Irish sea—we accepted that—but that any goods staying within Northern Ireland would not do so. The protocol created a joint committee to identify, with the EU, which goods were at risk of going into Ireland. That sensible process was one achievement of our agreement, and our view is that that forum remains the best way of solving that question.

I am afraid that some in the EU are now relying on legal defaults to argue that every good is “at risk”, and therefore liable for tariffs. That would mean tariffs that could get as high as 90% by value on Scottish beef going to Northern Ireland, and moving not from Stranraer to Dublin but from Stranraer to Belfast within our United Kingdom. There would be tariffs of potentially more than 61% on Welsh lamb heading from Anglesey to Antrim, and of potentially more than 100% on clotted cream moving from Torridge—to pick a Devonshire town at random—to Larne. That is unreasonable and plainly against the spirit of that protocol

MPs on the Opposition benches were restive. The PM said:

To answer the questions that are being shouted at me from a sedentary position, last year we signed the withdrawal agreement in the belief, which I still hold, that the EU would be reasonable. After everything that has recently happened, we must consider the alternative. We asked for reasonableness, common sense, and balance, and we still hope to achieve that through the joint committee process, in which we will always persevere, no matter what the provocation.

Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam, Con) asked about violating international law:

When I was the Attorney General in the previous Government, I was happy to confirm that the ministerial code obliged Ministers to comply with international as well as domestic law. This Bill will give Ministers overt authority to break international law. Has the position on the ministerial code changed?

The PM replied:

No, not in the least. My right hon. and learned Friend can consult the Attorney General’s position on that. After all, what this Bill is simply seeking to do is insure and protect this country against the EU’s proven willingness—that is the crucial point—to use this delicately balanced protocol in ways for which it was never intended.

The Bill includes our first step to protect our country against such a contingency by creating a legal safety net taking powers in reserve, whereby Ministers can guarantee the integrity of our United Kingdom. I understand how some people will feel unease over the use of these powers, and I share that sentiment. I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy, and if we reach agreement with our European friends, which I still believe is possible, they will never be invoked. Of course, it is the case that the passing of this Bill does not constitute the exercising of these powers.

Ed Miliband (Doncaster North, Lab) moved an amendment on behalf of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who was not in the Chamber as he was self-isolating. Note ‘the rule of law’:

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

this House notes that the UK has left the EU; calls on the Government to get on with negotiating a trade deal with the EU; recognises that legislation is required to ensure the smooth, effective working of the internal market across the UK; but declines to give a Second Reading to the Internal Market Bill because this Bill undermines the Withdrawal Agreement already agreed by Parliament, re-opens discussion about the Northern Ireland Protocol that has already been settled, breaches international law, undermines the devolution settlements and would tarnish the UK’s global reputation as a law-abiding nation and the UK’s ability to enforce other international trade deals and protect jobs and the economy.”

There are two questions at the heart of the Bill and of why we will oppose it tonight. First, how do we get an internal market after 1 January within the UK while upholding the devolution settlements, which have been a vital part of our constitution for two decades and are essential to our Union? Secondly, will our country abide by the rule of law—a rules-based international order, for which we are famous around the world and have always stood up?

Those are not small questions. They go to the heart of who we are as a country and the character of this Government

After interventions from a few MPs, Miliband openly challenged the PM, which had to be seen to be believed, it was that bold:

there is also an irony here—the Prime Minister tried to slip this in; I do not know whether the House noticed—which is that this Bill does precisely nothing to address the issue of the transport of food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. It is about two issues where the Government are going to override international law: exit declarations, Northern Ireland to GB, and the definition of state aid relating to Northern Ireland. If the Prime Minister wants to tell us that there is another part of the Bill that I have not noticed that will deal with this supposed threat of blockade, I will very happily give way to him. I am sure he has read it; I am sure he knows it in detail, because he is a details man. Come on, tell us: what clause protects against the threat, which he says he is worried about, to GB-to-Northern Ireland exports? I give way to him. [Interruption.]

As the PM smouldered at Miliband’s arrogance, Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing intervened:

Order. The right hon. Gentleman cannot give way unless he is asked to.

Miliband carried on ranting, ending with:

I do not understand this. He signed the deal. It is his deal. It is the deal that he said would protect the people of Northern Ireland. I have to say to him, this is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue; it is on one of the most sensitive issues of all. I think we should take the word of two former Prime Ministers of this country who helped to secure peace in Northern Ireland.

An indignant Sammy Wilson (East Antrim, DUP) intervened:

Before the shadow spokesman lectures the Prime Minister about reading documentation or starts lecturing us about the Good Friday agreement, does he not recognise, first of all, that the Good Friday agreement talks about the principle of consent to change the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, which is what this protocol does? The Good Friday agreement has within it a mechanism to safeguard the minorities in Northern Ireland through a cross-community vote, which again the protocol removed. So before he starts talking about the threats to the Good Friday agreement, does he not recognise that the protocol was a threat to it in the first place?

Miliband replied to Sammy Wilson, then went on to invoke other Remainers, Theresa May and former PM John Major:

The right hon. Gentleman did not like the protocol at all. He would rather have not had the protocol. He and I just have a disagreement on this issue. I believe it was necessary to make special arrangements for Northern Ireland, or for the UK to be in the EU customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland. That is why the Prime Minister came along and said the protocol was the right thing to do

Let us just get this straight for a minute, because I think it is important to take a step back. The Prime Minister is coming to the House to tell us today that his flagship achievement—the deal he told us was a triumph, the deal he said was oven-ready, the deal on which he fought and won the general election—is now contradictory and ambiguous. What incompetence. What failure of governance. How dare he try to blame everyone else? I say to the Prime Minister that this time he cannot blame the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), he cannot blame John Major, he cannot blame the judges, he cannot blame the civil servants, he cannot sack the Cabinet Secretary again. There is only one person responsible for it and that is him. This is his deal. It is his mess. It is his failure. For the first time in his life, it is time to take responsibility. It is time to ’fess up: either he was not straight with the country about the deal in the first place, or he did not understand it.

Enough of Miliband.

Sir William Cash (Stone, Con) spoke on behalf of the bill:

There has never been a level playing field in the EU. Its cardinal objective in these negotiations from the outset has included preventing us from being able to compete fairly. That is not good faith. Under the protocol, the EU would even control our legal tax freedom to create freeports and enterprise zones. All of this would massively undermine our businesses and jobs and therefore our voters

He gave several examples of how the EU operates unfairly, then concluded:

The EU seeks to subject us to a foreign regulator, taking essentially political decisions and armed with undemocratic prohibition powers and authorisations. It would be unconscionable and utterly naive for us to allow that to happen. It would be contrary to our national interests at this time of economic instability generated by coronavirus.

You can watch his speech in full here:

Leavers thought it was an excellent performance:

Bill Cash is part of the pro-Brexit ERG (European Research Group), which issued a three-page briefing memo explaining the importance of passing the Internal Market Bill. Guido Fawkes published it in full.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) gave his ‘Scotland’ speech once again and made an egregious emotional appeal, invoking, like other Remainers, the rule of law:

Every Member has a choice. We know that the Bill breaks international law—so many learned individuals, including the previous Attorney General, have told us so. Tonight, this House can tell the Government that it is not on and that this House is not going to be complicit in a breach of international law. I venture that that is the responsibility that each Member has. Every Member—every Member, Madam Deputy Speaker—should examine their conscience. This is about a Bill that breaches the terms of a treaty, the ink of which is barely dry and on the delivery of which the governing party fought an election.

As is his wont, he spoke for ages, taking interventions from Labour MPs supporting his position.

Blackford said that the bill would hamper further devolution. Michael Gove, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, asked how.

Blackford replied:

I hear the Cabinet Office Minister shout, “How?” Perhaps he should go and talk to the General Teaching Council, and it will give him its views directly. [Interruption.] Really? We have the Business Secretary, who is supposed to be taking this Bill through, sitting laughing—laughing at the legitimate comments made by stakeholders in Scotland. It is little wonder that the Tories are rejected in the way they are at the polls in Scotland

Sir Bob Neill began to come around to see the positive points in the bill yet said he could still not support it without amendments being added.

Sammy Wilson responded, making an excellent point:

The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) said that we have obligations to the rule of law and obligations to the EU. What about the obligations to the people of the United Kingdom to ensure the provisions of the Act of Union? The economic basis of the Act of Union makes it quite clear that there shall be no barriers on trade between different parts of the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government are fulfilling, in part, their obligations to the people of Northern Ireland in this Bill, and that is why we will support it tonight.

There were many excellent contributions from Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs. Opposition MPs were feisty and the debate was lively.

That evening, the bill passed — 340 to 263:

Guido has the list of Conservative abstentions. Theresa May’s name was among those listed.

The Labour amendment to reject the bill entirely failed by 349 votes to 213. TalkRADIO has an analysis.

The bill then moved on to Committee Stage.

On Tuesday, September 15, MPs debated various clauses and amendments.

That might sound boring, but it made for excellent viewing on BBC Parliament. Sparks were flying left and right.

SNP MPs insisted that the bill would decrease their powers under devolution. This is an argument that Conservatives, rightly, find absurd.

Paul Bristow (Peterborough, Con) asked the SNP’s Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey):

The hon. Gentleman called the Office for the Internal Market an unelected quango. Does he accept that, if he had his way, he would be handing powers back to unelected quangos in Brussels?

Drew Hendry replied:

This is the argument that Government Members try to propagate all the time—that if these powers came to Scotland, they would immediately be transferred to unelected people in the EU. Two things are wrong with that. First, nobody in the EU is actually unelected when they make decisions; they are all elected by either the Parliament or the people who go there. The second and most fundamental point is that, under these proposals, the UK Government are simply taking all control and overriding the ability of Members of the Scottish Parliament to do their job by representing the people who voted for them and their choices.

The SNP fear that the UK Parliament will make decisions that override the spending wishes of the Scottish Government. It’s possible but probably unlikely. Still, would that not be better than the EU making those decisions? According to the SNP, no, it would not.

Bill Cash intervened in an attempt to add reason to the debate:

The arguments that I have just heard from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) are, in my judgment, completely unjustified. [Interruption.] He might expect me to say that; it is hardly surprising. The reality is that the Bill is intended to provide for independent advice and monitoring through the creation of this internal market within the Competition and Markets Authority arrangements. What the provision clearly states—far from it being just a bunch of nodding donkeys, which is more or less what the hon. Gentleman is saying—is that it will be a non-ministerial department, albeit sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and it will have an enormous amount and range of experience and knowledge brought from its predecessor.

Hendry asked him who would be in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Cash replied, dryly:

What I can say for sure is that it will not be the European Union, and that summarises the argument in a nutshell.

Cash elaborated on the danger of EU interference:

We will need to be able to compete effectively throughout the world. This is a serious matter about a serious issue. What we cannot have, as I mentioned yesterday, is the situation that we have at the moment, which is where authorisations are given by the European Commission that either create discrimination against British businesses or have the perception or the potential for doing so. They will affect the voters in Scotland—and the voters in Sheffield, if I may say so. I was brought up in Sheffield. I saw what the European Coal and Steel Community did to the British steel industry. [Interruption.] I hear what the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) says. The reality is that those businesses were driven out of business by, in many cases, unfair subsidies and unfair state aids that were given to other member states. I can give an example. I happened to know many people who worked at the coalface—I used to play cricket with them when I played for Sheffield—and I can tell Members that the Sheffield steelworkers, whom I also played with on occasion, sometimes it was rugger, found that they were very severely jeopardised by the massive state aids that were given to the German coal industry—it was as much as £4 billion—and authorised by the Commission. For a variety of reasons, we did not get the same kind of treatment here in the United Kingdom. This is all part of the problem of how to have fair and reasonable competition.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West, SNP) directed her comment to Cash, unintentionally getting the soundbite of the day in his reply:

I am going to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Scottish National party wants Scotland to remain part of the European Union—a single market of more than 500 million consumers. The SNP does not wish to put up trade barriers with England. It is his party that wishes to enforce upon us trade barriers if we dare to exercise our democratic right of self-determination, which he has spent the last 40 years banging on about in this House for England.

Cash’s reply was brilliant:

If I may say so, not unsuccessfully.

Cherry was clearly irritated:

That remains to be seen.

There is too much to quote from this lively debate, so do read it here.

An Opposition amendment and a clause were defeated.

The debate in Committee Stage continued on Wednesday, September 16. The Opposition brought forward more amendments.

The theme of devolution continued. Discussion about a possible threat to Welsh devolution accompanied the concerns of Scottish SNP MPs.

John Lamont, a Conservative MP representing the Scottish constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk asked the SNP’s Alison Thewlis why she thought the UK government was working against Scotland’s interests:

The hon. Lady is giving a typically bitter speech around the role of the UK Government into Scotland. Does she not accept that the UK Government and the Scottish Government have worked very closely together on the growth deals and city deals in Scotland? They are very good examples of what can be achieved in Scotland with both Governments working together, rather than the attitude that she takes of opposing everything that this place does.

Thewliss replied:

I am very interested that the hon. Gentleman raises growth deals, because every single growth deal in Scotland has been short-changed by the UK Government. The Scottish Government have put in more than the UK Government to those growth deals and we are still waiting for the money for some of those growth deals to be realised.

Andrew Bowie, another Conservative MP representing a Scottish constituency (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) couldn’t change her mind, either.

The Conservatives brought logic to the debate, something Opposition MPs were unable to do.

A Labour amendment, brought forward by Ed Miliband, requiring financial assistance to be the subject of a framework agreement to be agreed by resolution of each House of Parliament was defeated: 330-208.

That day, Boris Johnson appeared before a Select Committee to explain why the Internal Market Bill was necessary:

He told Labour MP Hilary Benn that he thought the EU representatives were negotiating in bad faith:

It is always possible that I am mistaken. Perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong.

On Thursday, September 17, Guido Fawkes outlined the debates which took place this week (emphases in the original):

The Government will table two amendments to its own Bill on Tuesday, firstly a redrafted version of the Neill Amendment – setting in stone the need for a parliamentary vote beyond the requirements of ordinary statutory instruments, and secondly a clause to prevent significant litigation of the enactment of the controversial provisions. Tightening up the ability to deploy with the consent of the House.

Of course, the Government insists it still does not want to have to use these powers of last resort. But now it will have them in case the EU don’t offer concessions…

I’ll cover those tomorrow.

Last week proved to be another emotive and passionate one in the House of Commons with regard to coronavirus and Brexit.

This post concerns coronavirus.

On Monday, September 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Rule of Six, which he announced on September 9, came into effect. It sounds rather Chinese.

It means that people living in England cannot meet in groups of greater than six, indoors or outdoors. If we do, according to him, we ‘will be breaking the law’.

He also introduced a new platoon to keep us in line: COVID marshals, to remind us of existing coronavirus rules in England — ‘hands, face, space’.

Recall that Boris said after the December 2019 election that we now have the People’s Government. Hmm.

The UK government is copying a Belgian idea. The Rule of Six reduced their second spike.

Increasingly, Britons have been looking back at Sweden, which refused to lock down. Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. Chris Whitty is our Chief Medical Officer; in May, he said that coronavirus was harmless for most people and most of us would never get it:

Michael Gove MP, a Cabinet minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, made matters worse when he confirmed that under-12s were part of the Rule of Six, unlike in Scotland and Wales, where under-12s are not. With life getting back to normal as school has started again, this came as a blow to many families:

The Telegraph reported that the Cabinet was split on the proposals (emphases mine):

… one senior Tory source said that “half the Cabinet” had doubts about the so-called ‘rule of six’, and it was “pretty hard to find a Conservative member of Parliament who agrees with all of this”.

The COVID marshals are also a problem for police and local councils:

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s plan for coronavirus marshals to help enforce the six-person rule was unraveling as police derided them as “Covid Wombles” and councils said they were a “gimmick”.

Downing Street admitted councils would not be given any money to pay for the marshals, suggesting volunteers could do the job, and said it would be up to individual local authorities to decide whether they actually wanted them.

It got worse, as curfews were mooted:

The Government has discussed going even further with new lockdown restrictions, and has drawn up “a well-developed proposal” for a nationwide curfew which was discussed at ministerial level.

My head spun.

Then the ministerial snitch crowd appeared on weekend news programmes to say that people must tell on their neighbours if they are seen to be violating the Rule of Six:

Political journalist Isabel Oakeshott rightly responded:

I couldn’t agree more. This is supposed to be the People’s Government, isn’t it?

History will not look kindly on 2020 with regard to the measures taken to combat the virus:

I was wrong.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that people should not even talk when they see friends in the street, even at a distance (audio here, thanks to Guido Fawkes, and there’s video, too):

Yebbut, if you DO report what appears to be criminal activity, allegedly, the police do not want to know. Here is a printscreen of a set of comments on a Guido Fawkes thread. I call your attention to the last two. Police would rather pick on mums and their children. Ironically, that was posted on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Go figure.

A mild-mannered man from Buckingham called talkRADIO to say he would not comply with the Rule of Six because the Government had gone too far.

So did a lady from Brighton, saying that the Rule of Six was about:

control. They’re trying to see how much they can get away with.

Another talkRADIO host, Julia Hartley-Brewer, had a go at Roy Lilley, former NHS Trust chairman. She said:

We are being scared into thinking we have to give up our civil liberties when that won’t save lives. Being sensible will save lives.

The Telegraph‘s Salley Vickers wrote of the restrictions on her and her loved ones:

I would rather risk dying and have the joy of their company than lose that vital contribution to my own happiness.

With the festive season only several weeks away, the Daily Mail‘s Peter Hitchens told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham that the Rule of Six has:

made Christmas an arrestable offence.

Another Daily Mail journalist, Bel Mooney, wrote an editorial for Conservative Woman saying that she was surprised at the amount of resistance she received when she wrote that she would be defying the Rule of Six at Christmas:

in response to Matt Hancock’s sudden, arbitrary and illogical ‘rule of six’ diktat, I wrote a strong opinion piece (at the request of my newspaper) headlined ‘NO, NO, NO! I’m having Christmas for 14 – and no puffed-up Covid marshal will stop me’.

As you might expect, there was a huge response. I never look online, and am not on Twitter (I expect there was a lot of poison swilling around out there). I am talking about emails to me and the newspaper. What interested me was the fact that, if I am to be honest, the antis outnumbered the prosI didn’t expect that from Mail readers.

You can never tell with Mail readers, though. They’re a tricky lot.

Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan and honorary research fellow Tom Jefferson wrote an article for The Spectator against the Rule of Six, saying that Boris must bin it:

At Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, we have spent years trawling through the scientific evidence on the effects of measures such as distancing on respiratory viral spread. We are not aware of any study pointing to the number six. If it’s made up, why not five or seven?

Northern Ireland has taken a more measured approach and not announced any changes to how many people can meet. These disagreements in policy reveal how decisions are being made without evidence. It seems that somebody in government sat in a cabinet office room and said six is a good idea and nobody disagreed

The problems with policy stem from the current cabinet’s vast inexperience: the Health Secretary has been in post for just over two years now; the PM and the Chief Medical Officer a year. The Joint Biosecurity Centre is overseen by a senior spy who monitors the spread of coronavirus and suppresses new outbreaks. Add to this mix the new chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, who similarly has little or no background in healthcare. Our leaders amount to little more than a Dad’s Army of highly paid individuals with little or no experience of the job at hand.

This inexperience leads to rash decisions and arbitrary policies.

One example is that entire areas can be locked down if they have 50 cases per 100,000 people. Yet the recognised alert threshold for ‘regular’ acute respiratory infections is 400 cases per 100,000.

Lord Sumption, who has been speaking out against lockdown this year, said that the Rule of Six will be unenforceable. I hope he is right:

Tom Tugendhat (Tunbridge and Malling, Con) expressed his concerns about the new rule and rightly wanted MPs to vote on it and similar measures:

It’s unlikely that the House of Lords can help, either. They already have a full schedule. We should thank Lord Lamont for raising the issue of consulting the public, however. ‘SI’ means ‘statutory instrument’:

Monday, September 14

Behind the scenes and well outside of Parliament, an email emerged dated May 23, wherein Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stated he had pushed the most for March’s lockdown:

Guido Fawkes has the full text of the email. I am not sure how Sir Patrick thinks that a vaccine will achieve herd immunity, though.

In the first of the debates on the Brexit-related Internal Market Bill, Charles Walker MP (Broxbourne, Con) prefaced his comments by expressing his dismay about the Rule of Six, the lack of consultation with Parliament and the fining of Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers at the anti-lockdown rally on Saturday, September 12.

Thank you, Charles Walker:

This is short and well worth watching:

Tuesday, September 15

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock poled up to make a statement to MPs about the Rule of Six and testing.

Excerpts follow:

There are signs that the number of cases in care homes and the number of hospitalisations is starting to rise again, so last week we acted quickly, putting in place new measures—the rule of six, which came into force yesterday. We do not do this lightly, but the cost of doing nothing is much greater.

Testing also has a vital part to play. Everyone in this House knows that we are doing more testing per head of population than almost any other major nation, and I can tell the House that we have now carried out over 20 million tests for coronavirus in this country. As we expand capacity further, we are working round the clock to make sure that everyone who needs a test can get a test. The vast majority of people who use our testing service get a test that is close to home, and the average distance travelled to a test site is now just 5.8 miles —down from 6.4 miles last week; but the whole House knows that there are operational challenges, and we are working hard to fix them.

We have seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South, Lab/Co-op), speaking for the opposition, said:

I am grateful for advance sight of the Secretary of State’s answer. That was decent of him.

Yesterday LBC revealed that there were no tests available in covid hotspots, including Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford. Over the weekend in Bolton, where infections are the highest in the country, a mobile testing centre failed to turn up. Meanwhile, in Bury hundreds queued for five hours for a test. In Walsall, a father with his sick child travelled 76 miles to an appointment in Wales, only to find on arrival that tests had run out. Increasing numbers of teachers and pupils are not in school. In hospitals, operations are cancelled while NHS staff are stuck in limbo, waiting for tests.

The Secretary of State blames increased demand, but when tracing consistently fails to reach 80% of contacts, when less than 20% of those with symptoms self-isolate properly and there is a lack of financial security, infections rise. When schools reopen and people return to workplaces and social distancing becomes harder, infections rise. Extra demand on the system was inevitable. Why did he not use the summer to significantly expand NHS lab capacity and fix contact tracing?

Just as demand is increasing, the ability to process tests is diminishing. Post-graduate students working in the Lighthouse labs are returning to university, so why did the Secretary of State not plan for the inevitable staff shortages in the Lighthouse labs? Those commercial pillar 2 labs, The Sunday Times revealed at the weekend, have a huge backlog of 185,000 tests. Thursday’s data revealed that 65,709 test results were not returned by the end of the week. Care home residents now wait an average of 83 hours for their result. The Prime Minister promised us a 24-hour turnaround for results, so what is going on? What is the current backlog and what is the timeframe for clearing it?

We were promised a world-beating system, so why are we sending tests to Germany and Italy for processing? But, most importantly, people want to know when they will get a test and when this mess will be fixed. Today there will be thousands of ill people trying to book a test, only to be told none is available. When will people be able to book a test online again, or has the online booking system been deliberately disabled? When will ill people no longer have to travel hundreds of miles for a test that should be available on their doorstep? When will pupils and teachers out of school get access to testing, so they can get back to school? When will NHS staff have access to regular testing, so they can focus on their patients and not be sitting at home?

We are at a perilous moment. Imperial College estimates the virus is doubling every seven to eight days. We all want to avoid further restrictions or another national lockdown, but when testing and contact tracing break down, the growth of the virus cannot be tracked. The Prime Minister promised us whack-a-mole, but instead his mallet is broken. The Secretary of State is losing control of the virus; he needs to fix testing now.

Many MPs — from both Opposition and Conservative benches — said that their constituents could not get tests.

Even the Speaker of the House tweeted that his constituents were having similar problems:

The testing situation is shocking — as Terry-Thomas used to say in the Boulting Brothers films: ‘An absolute shower!’

On the upside, the British coronavirus jobs situation is improving, thank goodness (more from Guido here):

Wednesday, September 16

Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) stood at the Opposition despatch box for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), as Sir Keir Starmer was self-isolating:

She did a good job.

She began by saying:

Many people in the Chamber will think that the battle of Britain is today, but actually we marked the 80th anniversary of those veterans yesterday, and I want to put on record our thanks to all those who fought for our country in the past.

I want to start by reading to the Prime Minister a message that I have received from a man called Keir. Keir was not able to go to work today and his children could not go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results, despite the Prime Minister’s promise of results within 24 hours. Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people are not in this position, and many of them are the very people who were getting us through this crisis, such as the care workers, who I used to work alongside before I was elected to this House. The Prime Minister once earned £2,300 an hour; can he tell us the average hourly rate of a care worker in this country?

Boris was singularly unimpressed, although he had a neutral expression on his face, even when discussing Starmer:

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her elevation. She speaks of the constituent Keir, and I can tell her that—allegedly, apparently—he has had a negative test, and I do not know quite why he is not here. But 89% of those who have in-person tests get them the next day, and we are working very fast to turn around all the test requests that we get. I think that most people looking at the record of this country in delivering tests across the nation will see that that compares extremely well with any other European country. We have conducted more testing than any other European country, and that is why we are able to deliver tests and results in 80% of cases where we know the contacts.

The hon. Lady asks about care homes, and I can tell the House that today we are launching the winter care home action plan. She is right to raise the issue of care homes, and we are concerned about infection rates in care homes, but we will do everything we can to ensure that care homes and their workers are protected.

On the hon. Lady’s final point, I am proud that it is this Government who have instituted the national living wage to ensure that every worker in this country, including care home workers, is paid substantially more, thanks to the care and the work of the people of this country.

Boris listened attentively and responded sensitively to all the points that Angela Rayner raised until this point, which came several minutes in, when she said:

Infections are rising. The testing system is collapsing. When you are the Prime Minister, you cannot keep trying to blame other people for your own incompetence. We have the highest death toll in Europe, and we are on course for one of the worst recessions in the developed world. This winter, we are staring down the barrel of a second wave, with no plan for the looming crisis. People cannot say goodbye to their loved ones. Grandparents cannot see their grandchildren. Frontline staff cannot get the tests that they need. And what was the top priority for the covid war Cabinet this weekend? Restoring grouse shooting.

I suppose that is good news for people like the Prime Minister’s friend who paid for a luxury Christmas getaway to a Caribbean island and funded his leadership campaign, and just so happens to own two grouse moor estates. So Prime Minister, is this really your top priority?

The Prime Minister answered:

While the Labour Opposition have been consistently carping from the sidelines throughout this crisis and raising, frankly, issues that are tangential, if not scare stories about what is going on, we are getting on with delivering for the British public. We are not only massively ramping up. She has not contested any of my statistics today about the extent to which this country is now testing more than any other European country.

She has not disputed the massive acceleration in our programme. [Interruption.] I will answer the substance of her question, thank you very much. We are getting on with delivering on the priorities of the British people: getting us through this covid crisis; delivering on making our country safer, bringing forward measures to stop the early release of dangerous sexual and violent offenders, which I hope she will support; strengthening our Union, which in principle Opposition Front Benchers should support; and building more homes across this country and more affordable homes across this country, which she should support. That is in addition to recruiting more doctors and more nurses, and building more hospitals.

I do not think anybody is in any doubt that this Government are facing some of the most difficult dilemmas that any modern Government have had to face, but every day we are helping to solve them, thanks to the massive common sense of the British people, who are getting on with delivering our programme and our fight against coronavirus. It is with the common sense of the British people that we will succeed, and build back better and stronger than ever before.

If only.

That day, news of an upcoming curfew in London emerged.

Apparently, the British people don’t have much common sense, after all.

Currently, London has some of the fewest new coronavirus cases (i.e. positive tests, little hospitalisation):

Guido rightly wrote (emphases in the original here):

If this afternoon’s splash from the Evening Standard is true, it is a step too far. The London director of Public Health England (yes, the organisation is still limping on for now, despite the Health Secretary announcing its abolition back in August) has issued a “curfew alert” to the capital through the newspaper, saying residents could face a mandatory curfew if Covid cases continue to rise. A ridiculous suggestion that should be forcefully opposed.

Shutting pubs, bars, restaurants, and just about everything else at an arbitrary hour will obviously do nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus. If anything, the move will be counter-productive – compressing the same number of customers into a shorter time and making social distancing harder still. Or pushing social gatherings into homes not bars, which are thought to be more likely to spread the virus. This no doubt ineffective PHE [Public Health England] nannying should have been dumped when the organisation was. The government need to remember there is a limit to people’s compliance. This might just hit it.

As I write early on Tuesday, September 22, Boris is planning to bring in an England-wide curfew for pubs and restaurants on Thursday. As if the virus will know the difference between a 10 p.m. closing time versus the usual one of 11 p.m. The mind boggles.

Thursday, September 17

Matt Hancock appeared again with another update on coronavirus.

This time, it was about measures taken on lockdown in the North East of England. This includes strict adherence to household bubbles, table service only in hospitality venues and a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.:

Once again, he was straining every sinew, an expression he has been using since March:

The battle against coronavirus is not over, and while we strain every sinew to spring free of its clutches, with winter on the horizon we must prepare, bolster our defences and come together once again against this common foe.

Then he announced upcoming plans to make everyone using A&E (Accident and Emergency) departments to make a booking! Good grief:

… we are working to get patients the right care in the right place, by expanding the role of NHS 111. During the peak of this pandemic, we saw millions of people using NHS 111, on the phone or online, to get the best possible advice on coronavirus, helping them to stay safe and, where possible, to stay out of hospital, where they could have unknowingly spread the virus. It is crucial that, ahead of winter, we use this window of opportunity to seek out what worked and build on it, so we provide a better service for patients and protect the NHS. Of course, no one will ever be turned away from our emergency departments in the most serious of cases; however, we have worked with the royal colleges, the NHS and others to develop a better, quicker and more clinically appropriate service for patients by using NHS 111 first.

This is how it works. We will invest £24 million to increase call-handling capacity and to make sure there are more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance, and we will build on our trials to make NHS 111 a gateway to the emergency care system, providing a first port of call for patients. In future, rather than having to queue in an emergency ward, we are testing that people should call NHS 111 first to book an appointment with whoever can give them the most appropriate care, whether it is a GP, a specialist consultant, a pharmacist, a nurse or community services. Of course if they need to go to the emergency department, NHS 111 will be able to book them into an appropriate time slot. We want to see this approach lead to shorter waiting times and better availability of appointments for patients. We will consult on how its performance is best measured, and, with successful pilots, we will roll out NHS 111 First to all trusts from December.

This is the bit that galled me the most:

The purpose of 111 First is to improve access, including in terms of inequalities in the NHS, by ensuring that people get the right treatment in the right place and easier access if they do need to go to an emergency department, because the emergency department will know that they are coming. It is commonplace now in almost every part of our life to let people know that we are coming. If we are going to do something as important as visit an emergency department, it will help both the patient seeking treatment and the NHS to let them know that they are coming first. That is the principle behind 111 First. It sits alongside 999, which anybody should call in a serious incident.

‘People’s government’, my eye.

Nor is the NHS the people’s health service.

If you have a serious injury, you or your loved ones could be losing life- or limb-saving time by calling 111 or 999.

Based on what I read during the March lockdown, calling 111 was life-threatening. Children calling on behalf of elderly parents were told, ‘If your relative is not turning blue, do the best you can.’

Calling the ambulance service on 999 generally produced this result: ‘We’re overloaded. If you can take your relative to hospital yourself, please do so.’

Over the past few months, I have heard NHS senior executives give testimony to Select Committees. They do not want patients coming in to a hospital, to a GP surgery — anywhere on NHS property.

An absolute shower!

Speaking of absolute showers, Baroness Harding — Dido Harding, a former jockey and failed business consultant/corporate director — gave testimony to a Select Committee, the Commons Science and Technology Committee, led by Greg Clark MP (Tunbridge Wells, Con).

Wow. It was car-crash television on BBC Parliament.

Baroness Harding is, inexplicably, the director of NHS Test and Trace programme.

Greg Clark is no slouch. He pressed and pressed the same question. Did she not anticipate the increase of demand for tests after lockdown lifted?

Finally, she gave the answer.

The Independent reported:

Demand for coronavirus tests is three to four times the number available, the director of NHS test and trace has admitted.

Baroness Dido Harding, who told MPs there was capacity to carry out 242,817 tests a day, said the “sizeable” rise in demand had been unexpected.

Boris Johnson has pledged to raise capacity to 500,000 by next month – but Baroness Harding’s estimates suggest that even that figure would not be enough to satisfy demand.

Even then:

despite images of queues outside Covid-19 drive-in centres, the testing tsar said: “I strongly refute that the system is failing.”

She put the blame on SAGE …

Baroness Harding insisted current capacity had been based on modelling provided by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and suggested that around a quarter of those seeking tests did not have symptoms.

… and the testing laboratories:

Quizzed by the committee chair and former Tory minister Greg Clark on the current issues in the system, she said that the “constraint” in the testing was in processing and laboratories.

On Friday, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a SAGE member and director of the Wellcome Trust, hit back.

The Telegraph reported:

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, who sits on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the body had given “clear advice” that a fully functioning test, track and trace system should be in place

Responding to her comments on social media, Sir Jeremy said he had personally warned that a growing testing crisis was looming.

“Interesting to be blaming Sage,” he wrote on Twitter. “Has been clear, and in the advice, that the UK faced an inevitable increase in community transmission and cases after the summer and needed a fully functional and trusted test, track and trace in place.”

Sir Jeremy posted his comments from a BBC interview with Andrew Marr in June, in which he warned of a “nasty rebound” if steps were not taken to improve testing. He also re-posted an article from May in which he warned that lifting restrictions was difficult even with a fully working testing programme in operation.

The testing crisis deepened on Friday when it emerged that children at four out of five schools are staying at home because they cannot get a test

This coronavirus business will only get worse. Watch and wait.

Part 2 concerns the Brexit-related Internal Market Bill.

This week was a bit of a barnstormer in the House of Commons: from Extinction Rebellion to coronavirus.

Last weekend, a man stabbed several people in Birmingham’s city centre, killing one. A stabbing also occurred in Lewisham (South London). On Monday morning, a shooting occurred in a small town in Suffolk.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) disrupted the distribution of most national newspapers’ weekend editions in England. They glued themselves to scaffolding outside some of the printing plants. Members of Extinction Rebellion also protested at a printing plant in Motherwell, Scotland. The Scottish protests were less severe.

Coronavirus testing has been problematic, with many people unable to find tests when they need them.

Big Christmas gatherings are likely to be cancelled because of new coronavirus legislation.

Grab yourself a cuppa and a sarnie. This week’s Parliamentary debates and reaction were compelling.

Monday, September 7

Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Crime and Policing, delivered a statement about the Birmingham stabbings and the Extinction Rebellion direct action. A debate followed.

An excerpt from Malthouse’s statement follows (emphases mine below):

On Friday night, Extinction Rebellion protesters used trucks and bamboo scaffolds to block roads outside the newsprinters works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire and Knowsley, near Liverpool. These presses print The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the London Evening Standard. The police reacted quickly on Friday night, arrested around 80 people nationally and worked throughout Saturday to clear the sites completely. In Broxbourne, approximately 100 protesters were reported in attendance. Assistance from neighbouring forces was required, with work long into the early hours to ease the disruption. Fifty one protesters were arrested for public nuisance and subsequently charged with obstruction of the highway. They were taken to three custody suites in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and London. Disruption concluded by midday on Saturday. All main roads remained open, including the nearby A10. However, there was disruption to the distribution of newspapers as well as for local businesses.

In Knowsley, a group of 30 protesters were reported in attendance alongside 10 observers, one legal adviser and one police liaison individual. Thirty protesters were arrested, with disruption concluding by 10.45 the next morning. These protesters were subsequently charged with aggravated trespass and bailed to appear before magistrates at a later date. Twenty four protesters also ​attended a print works in Motherwell, Lanarkshire in Scotland. In this instance there was no disruption caused and no arrests were made.

A free press is the cornerstone of a British society. The freedom to publish without fear or favour, to inform the public, to scrutinise our institutions and to stimulate debate on events that affect each and every one of us is indispensable. The actions of Extinction Rebellion were a direct challenge to this freedom and the values of liberty and tolerance that we hold dear. Extinction Rebellion claims to be an environmental campaign group, yet that worthy cause is undermined by its tactics. Its actions show that it is not interested in purely peaceful protest, dialogue and debate. Instead, it seeks to impose its view through this kind of direct action.

The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental tool of civic expression and will never be curtailed by the Government. Equally, it is unacceptable for groups such as XR to hide behind the guise of protest while committing criminal acts that prevent law-abiding citizens from going about their lives. All of us will remember the disruption caused last year as the group blocked roads and major transport routes. Police forces across the country were forced to divert resources away from tackling other crime in order to oversee those occupations. It is a terrible shame to see those counterproductive tactics revived in the midst of a pandemic, when we are only just recovering from the profound disruption of lockdown. Throughout the pandemic, our police officers have been on the streets every day working to keep the public safe and to stop the spread of coronavirus. In placing unnecessary pressure on our emergency services, the actions of the protesters are contemptuous not only of the police but of the public whom they seek to protect.

The irony is that the United Kingdom is already doing more to tackle climate change and decarbonise our economy than almost any other nation on earth. The UK is the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to climate change by 2050. Since 2000, we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other G20 country. The Prime Minister has set up two Cabinet Committees focused on tackling climate change—one for strategy and another for implementation—discussing how Departments can go further and faster in meeting our legally binding 2050 net zero target. We are also hosting the next UN climate change conference, COP26, which will take place in November in Glasgow. It would be far more productive if, rather than plotting disruption and chaos, those behind Extinction Rebellion put their efforts into working with the Government to tackle climate change and build the green economy. While they persist in their current course, however, our message to those individuals is clear: if you plan to curtail our freedoms through criminal acts, be in no doubt that you will face the full force of the law. As a Government, we will not stand by and allow the livelihoods of hard-working people to be undermined by a minority using the pretence of tackling climate change to impose an extremist world view.

Extinction Rebellion’s actions have shown how the tactics of disruptive protests are changing. The Home Office has been engaging with police chiefs to understand the challenges they face and to assess how they can facilitate peaceful protest while not causing significant disruption and infringing on the rights of others with differing views. The Home Secretary and I are committed ​to learning the lessons of recent protests and ensuring that the police have the powers required to deal with the disruption caused by groups such as XR. I will keep the tools available to tackle this behaviour under constant review. As always, our thanks go to the police for their tireless efforts to respond to all manner of incidents, and particularly at this time when so many have worked so hard during the pandemic. I hope that the leaders of Extinction Rebellion will issue an apology to them for actions that have been roundly condemned by all mainstream opinion in our country.

By its actions this weekend, XR has done nothing to bolster the cause of fighting climate change. Rather, it has reminded us of the value of a free press and free expression and made us think about what more we may need to do to protect those freedoms. I commend this statement to the House.

Sarah Jones (Croydon Central), responding for Labour, gave an excellent speech. An excerpt follows:

all Members of the House will be deeply concerned about the wider rise in violent crime that we are seeing. As the former chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime and violence reduction, I am all too aware of the seriousness of this issue. I know that West Midlands police, along with David Jamieson, the PCC, is taking this very seriously, and the violence reduction unit is doing some great preventive work in the west midlands. Does the Minister accept that over the past decade we have seen knife crime rise in every police force area in England and Wales, and ​that easing lockdown restrictions poses particular challenges? Does he further accept that rising violent crime must be urgently addressed?

Turning to the matter of Extinction Rebellion, I trust that the Minister will agree with me, rather than some members of his own party, in recognising that tackling climate change is the challenge of our generation. However, we also know that the free press is the cornerstone of democracy, and we must do all we can to protect it. As a result, actions that stop people being able to read what they choose are wrong. They will do nothing to tackle climate change. Those who break the law should be held to account. As the Leader of the Opposition said over the weekend, the actions of those who deliberately set out to break the law and stifle freedom of the press are completely unacceptable. Stopping people being able to buy the newspapers they choose and hitting small businesses in the process is hugely counterproductive. It does nothing to tackle the vital cause of tackling climate change. In fact, it sets it back.

On the policing response to the incidents, can the Minister confirm whether the authorities had any intelligence that these incidents might occur?

Today in the media, new laws have been mentioned by the Home Secretary. Can the Minister confirm what aspects of our current public order laws he believes are inadequate? Will he also confirm which aspects of the Coronavirus Act 2020 dealing with gatherings he believes leave gaps? Does he agree that we should not forget the many people who are concerned about climate change who wish to peacefully and lawfully protest, and that that right should be protected?

Malthouse did not answer her question about new legislation and said that the intelligence surrounding Extinction Rebellion’s actions at the printing plants was unclear.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham, Conservative) suggested giving the protesters fixed-penalty notices (fines). Malthouse said that, as those were new during the coronavirus pandemic, there aren’t enough data to measure their efficacy.

An SNP MP, Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) downplayed the Extinction Rebellion incident. As SNP MPs always do, they think only of Scotland. If this doesn’t spell out the SNP’s sympathies with Marxism, I don’t know what does:

The … group perpetrated no violence—random or otherwise—nor is it a criminal gang, terrorist ​group or a deranged individual. Any attempt to portray those people as that is wrong and a dangerous precedent in a democracy. The actions carried out by Extinction Rebellion, both in Scotland and in England, were a peaceful protest. That should not be forgotten, and that remains legitimate. It is a group of young people, although not always entirely young, who care about the environment. That is a legitimate position to take. This action was not an attempt to close down free speech, and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous. All they were seeking to do was to disrupt the outgoing of print for a period of time. There was no cessation of the print being published. Indeed, it appeared online and at most delivery was delayed to some shops.

Malthouse replied:

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has positioned the SNP outside mainstream opinion. [Interruption.] Well, you’re all expressing consternation, and speaking, smiling and laughing. I do not know why me expressing concern is worthy of derision. In truth, the vast majority of people in this country, and all mainstream parties in this country, have expressed alarm at the tactics of Extinction Rebellion over the weekend and its stated aim of disrupting newspapers’ ability to distribute their views and opinions because they do not agree with them. One of the first things that happens in extremist states and takeovers is an attempt to grip the television station, the radio station or the newspapers. Control of information is key so we need to take care with these things. I hope he will agree with me in time.

Antony Higginbotham (Burnley, Conservative) expressed concern at the cost of the Extinction Rebellion protest:

The unacceptable actions of Extinction Rebellion show a consistent disregard for the lives and livelihoods that they disrupt. Does my hon. Friend believe we should hold Extinction Rebellion to account, not just for the significant public sector costs that rack up with the action it undertakes, but for the significant lost income that businesses across the country have suffered as a result?

Malthouse said:

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. He is right that these protests are not costless. Aside from the costs to the businesses affected, there is a large overtime bill to be covered. Of all the costs, the most profound and alarming is the opportunity cost; those police officers who are spending time ungluing protesters and dismantling scaffolding are not spending time preventing knife crime, murder, rape or domestic violence. There are other much more vital activities that could be performed in the communities they serve.

Anthony Browne (South Cambridgshire, Conservative) pointed out that freer countries have fewer environmental issues:

I am a journalist and an environmentalist. I used to be environment editor of The Observer and The Times. I am currently chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the environment, and I have seen around the world that those countries that have a free press are far better at tackling environmental problems than those countries without a free press. Will my hon. Friend join me in condemning Extinction Rebellion’s assault on the free press, and does he agree that such attacks on free speech will ultimately do more harm to the environmental cause than help it?

Malthouse responded:

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, the paradox, or even the tragedy, of the protests is that I understand that the edition of The Sun that was prevented from being distributed contained an op-ed from David Attenborough—no less—extolling the virtues of climate change action and urging Sun readers to do their bit on global warming. Ten years ago, nobody would have dreamt of that opinion appearing ​in that newspaper, and it shows how far the argument has been advanced by peaceful means. This protest runs the risk of setting the debate back rather than moving it forward.

Dr Julian Lewis, who is now Independent (having had the Conservative whip removed), pointed out the contradiction of fining anti-lockdown spokesman Piers Corbyn £10,000 when XR were free to glue themselves to scaffolding with no fine:

It is true that various brands of Corbynism are a little less popular these days, but does my hon. Friend agree that fining a climate change denier £10,000 for an anti-lockdown protest sets a benchmark which should equally apply to those who break the law in pursuit of more fashionable causes?

Malthouse replied:

As the right hon. Gentleman may know, a number of fixed penalty fines have been handed out over the past few days for all manner of contraventions of the coronavirus regulations. No doubt some may be disputed, but we shall see in the end where the courts decide.

The SNP’s Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) asked if XR would be reclassified as a criminal group:

Does the Minister understand the genuine concerns about any plans to reclassify Extinction Rebellion as a ​criminal group and the implications that this may have for peaceful protest, especially given that last year the Prime Minister’s own father addressed an Extinction Rebellion rally and said that he backed their methods?

Malthouse said that such groups are being watched and are under review.

Richard Burgon (Leeds East, Labour) claimed that direct action was part of democracy:

Direct action is a proud part of our history and democracy. Through it, the Chartists and suffragettes helped secure the right to vote and trade unions won the eight-hour working day and paid holidays, and it played a key part in securing legislation for gay rights and for women’s and racial equality. If pursued, would not the Home Secretary’s suggestion of defining Extinction Rebellion as a criminal gang be a betrayal of our proud tradition of civil liberties?

Malthouse said:

Direct action is not the same thing as a crime. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that there are certain crimes that he wishes to ignore, then I am afraid the Opposition are in a very difficult place. I am the Minister for policing and crime, and when, under our current law as approved through this House, somebody commits a crime, I have no choice other than to condemn it.

Lee Anderson (Ashfield, Conservative) would like for XR to be designated a criminal organisation:

The people of Ashfield see no benefit in protesters gluing their ears to the pavement, spraying red dye on our monuments or camping out in trees on Parliament Square. Extinction Rebellion is now public nuisance No. 1 because of the disruption it causes, as well as the massive cost to our emergency services when, frankly, they have better things to do. Does my hon. Friend agree that this group should be ​classified as a crime group and feel the full weight of the law if it continues to disrupt members of the public going about their daily business?

Malthouse repeated his earlier answer about such groups being under continuing review.

Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk, SNP) did not want to see XR labelled as a criminal organisation:

Whatever we think about Extinction Rebellion’s tactics, be they right or wrong, its actions were peaceful, and such civil disobedience methods have been used throughout history, so any branding of the activists as criminals is certainly not acceptable. Does not the Minister agree that two wrongs do not make a right?

Malthouse gave this wise reply:

Not all crimes are violent.

Only one MP dared to connect Marxism with XR — Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield, Conservative). Well done:

It is with regret that, since Extinction Rebellion’s inception, we have witnessed it adopt increasingly radical measures, which masquerade upon an environmentalist platform. In truth, it is a considered ruse to gain support for its ​Marxist agenda, which attacks British values predicated on freedom and pluralism. Blocking ambulances and seeking to constrain press freedom are but two examples from a plethora of behaviours that demonstrate its devious agenda.

Her Majesty’s Government were elected with a mighty mandate from the British people to restore their ancient rights and freedoms, whether threatened from Brussels or from the barricade. The fine people of my constituency of Wakefield expect us to deliver on that. Will the Minister outline what steps the Government will take to neutralise XR’s disruptive and dangerous tactics?

Malthouse replied:

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s stentorian support. He is quite right that people want to see a sense of order in this country, and that is exactly what we will put in place and what we are beavering away to make happen across the country—in his constituency and elsewhere.

I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, September 8

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, gave a statement updating MPs on coronavirus and the situation in Bolton. New laws, he said, would apply only to Bolton.

He was economical with the truth …

Wednesday, September 9

On Wednesday morning, Steve Baker (Wycombe, Conservative), tweeted:

No one raised this topic at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock gave a morning interview (more here):

What does that even mean?

He explained his change of advice on testing to Sky News:

More on this follows below.

It was National Farmers Day, and many MPs wore ears of British wheat tied together with British wool. Labour’s Angela Rayner wasn’t the slightest bit interested:

Most of PMQs was about testing. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made this startling statement about daily coronavirus testing at home:

Just after PMQs, as Boris hurriedly scuttled out of the chamber, Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West, Conservative) raised a point of order about the coronavirus legislation.

I wonder if Boris knew about it in advance and got out of there as quickly as he could:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Had the Secretary of State for Health given notice of the Government’s intention to further restrict our liberty to meet with one another in his statement yesterday, at least some of us would have been able to question him about it. What remedy is there for those of us who enthusiastically support the Prime Minister, but nevertheless want to restrain the Government’s ability to govern by order without debate?

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle replied:

I thank the right hon. Member for giving me notice. I am very sympathetic to the main point he makes. I accept that decisions have been taken in a fast-moving situation, but timings for statements are known to Ministers. It is really not good enough for the Government to make decisions of this kind in a way that shows insufficient regard to the importance of major policy announcements being made first to this House and to Members of this House wherever possible. I have already sent a letter to the Secretary of State. I think the total disregard for this Chamber is not acceptable. I know that the Prime Minister is a Member of Parliament as well and that he will ensure that statements should be made here first, especially as this particular Secretary of State requests statements. To then ignore the major fact that he wanted to put to the country, and not put it before this House, is not acceptable and I hope he will apologise to Members.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South, Labour Co-op) had more information:

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Not only did we not get a convincing explanation yesterday from the Secretary of State on the ongoing testing fiasco, but in fact Mr Robert Peston of ITV wrote on Twitter, ahead of the Secretary of State’s statement, that the Government were planning to shift the regulations down from 30 people to six. There was no reason why the Secretary of State could not have told the House yesterday that that was the Government’s plan. Has the Secretary of State given you, Mr Speaker, notice that he is coming to the House to update MPs on that change in policy, or should we assume that Ministers do not know what they are doing from one day to the next?

Peston had tweeted this on Tuesday:

The Speaker was uncharacteristically incandescent:

What I would take on board is the fact that it was all over Twitter as this was going on. Obviously, somebody decided to tell the media rather than this House. What I would say is that I expect the Secretary of State to apologise to Members and make sure that this Chamber knows first. He was fully aware—fully aware—of what was going to be said later. Let me say that if this Minister wants to run this Chamber ragged, I can assure you now that I am sure an urgent question every day might just begin to run him ragged.

At 4 p.m., Boris gave a coronavirus press conference, announcing new coronavirus ‘marshals’ who will be appearing on our streets as of next week — so, not only in Bolton:

I agree 110% with this tweet:

Thursday, September 10

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg was unable to deliver his customary business statement to the Commons. One of his children developed coronavirus symptoms. Stuart Andrew, the Acting Leader, stood in for him:

Matt Hancock showed up to make a statement on new coronavirus regulations. He was taken to task over his confusing advice about getting a test. Earlier this year, he encouraged people to get tested. Now, with the system overwhelmed, he’s backtracked:

Guido Fawkes has quotes from Hancock documenting his about-face on the matter and concludes (emphases in the original):

Was Hancock’s advice wrong then or is it wrong now? The public will be getting pretty sick of the Department of Health’s cock-ups being the responsibility of anyone other than Hancock.

UPDATE: A government source tells Guido “The guidance is clear. If you think you have symptoms you should get a test. Today’s message is no different to that.” Apparently people in doubt about whether they have symptoms should still get a test…

Simon Dolan, a businessman who is taking the Government to court over lockdown, tweeted:

The Speaker of the House introduced the debate:

Before I call the Secretary of State, I would like to say that he and I had a conversation in a meeting last night, and I think we have some new arrangements coming forward to help the House.

That means that Hancock will be obliged to show up to present these developments to the House for debate in future.

He’s so disingenuous:

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Just to concur with what you have said, I do regard it as incredibly important to come to the House as often as possible. Sometimes these are fast-moving situations, and I will ensure that I give the House my full attention and, as I try to do, answer as many questions as fully as I can.

Excerpts follow:

… As the chief medical officer said yesterday, we must learn from the recent experience of countries such as Belgium that have successfully put in place measures to combat a similar rise in infections. So today, I would like to update the House on a number of new measures that will help us to get this virus under control and to make the rules clearer, simpler and more enforceable.

First, we are putting in place new rules on social contact … In England, from Monday, we are introducing the rule of six. Nobody should meet socially in groups of more than six, and if they do, they will be breaking the law. This will apply in any setting—indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub. It replaces both the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.

There will be some exemptions. For example, if a single household or support bubble is larger than six, they can still gather.

Guido Fawkes was no doubt relieved:

Hancock continued:

Places of education and work are unaffected. Covid-secure weddings, wedding receptions and funerals can go ahead up to a limit of 30 people. Organised sport and exercise is exempt.

These are not measures that we take lightly. I understand that for many they will mean changing long-awaited plans or missing out on precious moments with loved ones, but this sacrifice is vital to control the virus for the long term and save lives, and I vow that we will not keep these rules in place for any longer than we have to.

Secondly, we are putting in place stronger enforcement. Hospitality venues will be legally required to request the contact details of every party. They will have to record and retain those details for 21 days and provide them to NHS Test and Trace without delay when required. This system is working well voluntarily, with minimal friction, and it is very effective, but it is not in place in all venues. It is only fair that it is followed by all. We are supporting ​local authorities to make greater use of their powers to close venues that are breaking rules and pose a risk to public health, and fines will be levied against hospitality venues that fail to ensure their premises are covid-secure.

Our goal, as much as possible, is to protect keeping schools and businesses open, while controlling the virus …

Our ability to test and trace on a large scale is fundamental to controlling the virus, as we have discussed in the House many times. The latest data show that we are doing more testing per head than other European countries such as Germany and Spain, and we have record capacity. We have increased capacity by more than 10,000 tests a day over the last fortnight. While there have been challenges in access to tests, the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home. The average distance travelled to a test site is 6.4 miles, and 90% of people who book a test travel 22 miles or less. We already have more than 400 testing sites in operation. We added 19 last week and plan 17 more this week.

However, as capacity has increased, we have seen an even faster rise in demand, including a significant increase from people who do not have symptoms and are not eligible for a test. That takes tests away from people who need them. If you have symptoms of coronavirus or are asked by a clinician or local authority to get a test, please apply, but if you do not have symptoms and have not been asked, you are not eligible for a test.

At the same time, we are developing new types of test that are simple, quick and scalable. They use swabs or saliva and can be turned round in 90 minutes or even 20 minutes. So-called Operation Moonshot, to deploy mass testing, will allow people to lead more normal lives and reduce the need for social distancing. For instance, it could mean that theatres and sports venues could test audience members on the day and let in those with a negative result, workplaces could be opened up to all those who test negative that morning, and anyone isolating because they are a contact or quarantining after travelling abroad could be tested and released. We are piloting that approach right now and verifying the new technology, and then it can be rolled out nationwide. [Laughter.] …

This will not meet well with a great swathe of people living in England (see the replies):

Simon Dolan tweeted:

Incidentally, the wait until Monday is partly because the St Leger Festival is being run through this weekend:

As the debate progressed, MPs from both sides of the House said that their constitutents were told to drive hundreds of miles away for tests. Here are two examples:

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab)

Will the Secretary of State please explain the lack of availability of home testing kits, which has dropped dramatically in my area of West Lancashire? In the absence of home testing kits, very ill pensioners are being offered tests 80 or 100 miles away. The confusing message in the assurance that he is trying to give is that there are too many getting tested, but that, if in doubt, people should get tested. How does that deal with the asymptomatic carriers or spreaders? This is a huge hidden danger. In the light of the Secretary of State’s earlier comment, my constituents would genuinely love to get with the programme, get tested where necessary and stay safe—if only the Government’s words met their actual experience of the system.

Lucy Allan (Telford) (Con)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and very much welcome the exciting progress on developing saliva testing. Outstanding progress has already been made on expanding testing capacity, and he deserves our thanks for his tireless work. Inevitably, this is not without its challenges. On Tuesday evening, hundreds of cars from across the country—and I do mean hundreds—descended on Telford’s testing site, as they were directed to do by the booking system. Tests quickly ran out, roads became blocked, people who had travelled from as far away as Cornwall, Stockport and London were turned away, and my constituents were no longer able to access tests in the area and so in turn were sent elsewhere. What assurances can he give that the error in the booking system that directed so many people to Telford has now been corrected, and does he agree that people should not be criss-crossing the country and travelling for many hours to secure a test?

Harriet Baldwin (West Worcestershire, Conservative) asked about the infringement on civil liberties and whether the Government were moving the goalposts. I won’t bother with Hancock’s response, because he did not answer her question. He merely repeated the same old waffle:

We accepted massive restrictions on our liberty in March because we wanted to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, and we achieved that—indeed, not all the capacity was used. We are now imposing more restrictions on people’s liberty. Does the Secretary of State’s strategic goal for England continue to be to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, or has he now gone further and is aiming for zero covid in England?

Friday, September 11

Unusually, the House of Commons convened on a Friday.

The Speaker of the House opened the session with this:

We meet today on the 19th anniversary of 9/11. We remember all those who lost their lives due to terrorism on that day and all those who were injured, as well as those who were bereaved.

Then, Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch, Conservative) spoke, concerned about the new coronavirus rules coming in on Monday, September 14:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been looking at today’s Order Paper and particularly at the remaining orders, where I had expected to see the statutory instrument that the Government must lay for the draconian new rules they are bringing in on Monday to be lawful. It does not appear to have been laid, despite the Prime Minister making an announcement about it on Wednesday and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care having made a statement yesterday. I am very concerned about the lack of opportunity for the public to see the text of these new regulations and about the Government’s continuing reluctance to give any opportunity to Members to debate this. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) asked when we could have a debate on it, and he was told that he could apply for a Backbench Business debate. That hardly fits in with the sense of urgency about all this. When my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) then raised the matter with the Secretary of State yesterday, he was told that the Secretary of State would take it away and think about it. That is not satisfactory, as we are talking about the most draconian introduction of new restrictions on our liberty, with criminal sanctions. We need to be aware of what is happening and given the opportunity to debate it.

Mr Speaker replied:

May I say that I share your disappointment? I think that we should all be informed and the country should also know what is going on. The laying of this instrument is a matter for the Government, but I would say that you know and I know that other avenues could be taken on Monday to tickle this little item out, if required. So I will leave it with you to ponder what you want to do next. The Clerk has made a note, and we will come back with further information.

MPs debated the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill.

Earlier that morning, Steve Baker was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Today. He spoke his mind about the Government’s response to coronavirus:

Baker retweeted an item from Liberty’s feed:

Good. Finally. I hope this results in a solid Left-Right grouping of credible people speaking out against this bill, hastily rushed through the Commons and the Lords in March.

Meanwhile, in Sweden:

Sweden continues to operate fairly normally. The British Government, on the other hand, follows the rest of the Western lemmings.

The British government did not request a Brexit negotiation extension in June 2020.

On Friday, June 12, our chief negotiator from No. 10 tweeted:

On June 25, David Frost updated us as follows:

As of July 1, we were on our way out.

Talks continued in London on July 8:

As of the end of June, despite coronavirus, the International Monetary Fund predicts that, post-Brexit, Britain’s growth could surpass that of the EU next year:

Guido Fawkes summarises the details (red emphases in the original):

The International Monetary Fund’s new growth projection shows a global contraction of 4.9%, with every region of the world simultaneously in recession for the first time in human history. Advanced economies are projected to be hit particularly harshly by this crisis, with double digit contractions for the UK and Euro area this year at -10.2% each. Notably, however, is that in 2021 (after the UK will have left the economic orbit of the EU) the UK is set to fall by as much, then grow back faster than the cumulative Euro area.

Of course the projected 2021 growth will not make up for the 2020 recession. All advanced European countries’ economies are set to be smaller at the end of 2021 than they were at the end of 2019.  If we can believe IMF forecasting, individually over 2020 and 2021, Germany’s economy will have shrunk by 2.8%, the UK by 4.5%, France by 6.1%, and Italy and Spain both by 7.3%…

On July 1, Parliament voted to end free movement of EU citizens when the transition period ends on December 31. This is the advantage the Conservatives have with their 80-seat majority:

Guido Fawkes points out:

If he wasn’t having to deal with a deadly global pandemic, this year would be going pretty well for Boris…

Millions of EU nationals already resident in Britain are eligible for settled status, allowing them to live and work here among family and friends. The scheme opened last year and has already registered 3.3 million individuals.

The Settlement Scheme for EU nationals expires on June 30, 2021:

As for our freedom of movement in Europe, we always had it — even before joining the EU:

Last week’s UK-EU negotiations produced a win for clearing houses in the City of London, the capital’s financial centre.

On Thursday, July 9, The Telegraph reported, in part (emphases mine):

Brussels did not confirm how long the arrangement will last. It will kick in if the UK and the European Union fail to reach a Brexit deal.
The decision is likely to be seen as a climbdown by EU chiefs, who have long resented Britain’s dominance in clearing.

A power grab was launched shortly after the Brexit vote to try and force Continental firms to clear trades through hubs within the bloc, but this stalled when it became clear no other financial centre could handle the volume of activity done in the City.

Clearing houses such as LCH, ICE Clear Europe and LME Clear perform a vital role in greasing the wheels of international finance, standing between buyers and sellers to settle trades and ensure sellers get paid.

Access to London’s clearing houses for financial contracts such as swaps and futures is a key issue for European firms because the UK dominates the continent’s €735 trillion (£658 trillion) annual market. It was feared they could be denied access to crucial finance and face serious stability risks if frozen out.

In a further boost, Liam Fox, the Conservative MP for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for International Trade under Theresa May, is one of the nominees for becoming the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Fox is on the right in the photo below. Pictured with him is his former adviser, Adam Werritty:

On July 10, Guido Fawkes reported:

Speaking to a Chatham House event last night, the US Trade Secretary Robert Lighthizer told the audience Fox was “one of the favourites”, lavishing praise:

“I’m an admirer of his … I’ve had many a conversation with him. I’ve even had the occasional cocktail with him. He’s smart, he knows the area, he has a good philosophy.”

Last month Lighthizer told lawmakers the US is looking to back “someone who understands the nature of the problem of free economies dealing with China”, which may not be too difficult a manifesto for Fox to get on board with, given the UK’s shift away from warm relations over Hong Kong, and an impending u-turn on Huawei.

Incidentally, Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the u-turn on Huawei today, Tuesday, July 14.

On Sunday, July 12, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (prime minister, pron. ‘Tee-sock’) Micheál (pron. Mee-hull) Martin was hopeful of a transition deal between his country and Britain:

Home Secretary Priti Patel is working with the French to stop the boat people coming to the south east coast of England every day:

The UK government has launched a new transition period scheme for businesses — Check, Change, Go:

We have a lot to look forward to next year for business, and, in the case of the European Space Agency, research and exploration:

An exciting new era awaits just around the corner.

On the back of the highly successful televised daily coronavirus briefings, No. 10 Downing Street has taken the decision to broadcast weekday afternoon press briefings in October 2020.

At least 2 million people viewed the daily coronavirus briefings every day. Anyone who watched them regularly, as my far better half and I did, knew exactly what the latest on coronavirus was.

I used to tune into the BBC afterwards to get their ‘spin’ on the briefings. I felt as if I were living in a parallel universe, because the self-proclaimed ‘nation’s most trusted’ broadcaster twisted all the main messages.

Therefore, it is no wonder that press briefings are sure to be a ratings winner. Britons at home will be able to see and hear the government’s messages first hand without the spin.

Not surprisingly, the media do not want these briefings televised.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston is opposed:

Oh, having questions from the public would be great. They worked well on the coronavirus briefings.

Peston really loathes the idea of televised briefings:

Sky’s Beth Rigby also made her opposition clear:

The Press Gazette does not seem to like the plans, either. On July 3, they posted an article, ‘Televised press conference to permanently replace afternoon Downing Street press briefing’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

The briefings will commence in October, be hosted by a political appointee who expected to be an experienced broadcaster, and will take place in a room at Number 9 Downing Street to be converted into a media suite

Boris Johnson confirmed the news on LBC, saying people had liked hearing directly from the Government during the Covid-19 press briefings.

“People have liked a more direct, detailed information from the Government about what is going on – and I think that they’ve actually particularly liked our brilliant scientific and medical advisers, possibly more than the politicians to be frank,” he said.

“We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us, and so we’re going to have a go at that.”

The Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar, chair of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and the Mail’s Jason Groves, chair of the Lobby, said in a joint statement to Press Gazette that they hoped the changes weren’t being made to reduce transparency and Lobby journalists’ access to ministers

See, they care only about themselves. They do not care about the general public.

There was more negativity:

Their comments were echoed by Huffpost’s executive editor for politics Paul Waugh who said on Twitter that the success of the briefings would “depend on whether they lead to genuine scrutiny or propaganda/grandstanding”.

The Society of Editors shared a similar warning that the Government must not make the briefings too “stage-managed” or pick and choose who is allowed to take part.

Executive director Ian Murray said: “If the aim of the televised briefings is to enable greater transparency then it will be important that they are of sufficient length and inclusive in nature to ensure a broad cross section of the media is able to question the government.

“It is vital that the government gives assurances that journalists or media providers out of favour with the administration will not be barred from such briefings and will also be given the opportunity to pose questions.

“Briefings that are too stage-managed and favour the few will not be in the best interests of the public as a whole.”

Yeah, right.

The coronavirus briefings worked really well, so there is no reason to think these will be any different:

The daily Covid-19 press conferences often saw millions tune in to find out updates and see journalists from a wide range of publications grill ministers and scientists.

Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) was the only one who championed the briefings. He is the UK’s foremost political blogger. As early as January 9, he wrote ‘Live Stream the “People’s Briefings” from Downing Street’. He and his team used to report the highlights from the lobby briefings but perhaps coronavirus put an end to their attendance. In any event, this is what Guido said (red emphases in the original):

In a digital world where news happens in realtime, not to inky deadlines, it is time to just put the briefings out live, streamed to everyone on all platforms. During the election Boris livestreamed his “People’s PMQs” on Facebook, demonstrating there is no technological reason why the briefings can’t be broadcast via a free digital feed to everyone. Hacks will still get to ask the questions, they just won’t be able to spin off-camera, privately delivered answers as they do now. 

The reality is that it isn’t in the interests of hacks to open up the Lobby system or insist more often that quotes are on the public record. Intermediating allows them to more easily introduce their opinions into their new reports. Transparency will devalue their role because information scarcity makes their possession of a spokesman’s phone number so much more valuable. A start to improving and opening up the system would be to put the people’s briefings into the open, in realtime as it happens…

I couldn’t agree more.

On July 2, Guido declared victory when No. 10 announced the news:

He wrote (red emphases in the original):

Guido has won a big victory against the Lobby today, breaking open the Lobby’s preferred closed-style of briefings from Downing Street …

Boris Johnson has clearly listened to the argument for “a culture of transparency and openness’’ in Westminster by backing the broadcasting of the afternoon press briefings and reducing the number of spin doctors across Whitehall. After the success of the televised Covid briefings, Lee Cain plans to continue the on-camera afternoon government briefings. The role will be filled by a political appointee…

Expect an experienced broadcaster to get the job. No 9 Downing Street – where off-camera press briefings are currently held – will be turned into a modern media studio for briefings. A Downing Street source says: “For too long we’ve been running an analogue system in a digital age. People want to hear directly what the government is doing and to see it being held to account…”

Get this next bit, though. Who knew we had 4,000 communications people employed by the government?

The whole of government communications is being overhauled by Alex Aiken, the Executive Director for Government Communications – it will see departments ordered to reduce the 4,000 spin doctors employed by the government. Aiken and Cain believe the changes will lead to smaller, more agile communications operation. Officials have also been told of plans to plans to drastically reduce the government’s communications operation and the number of press officers across Whitehall. Guido’s happy that a decade-long campaign for government briefings unfiltered by Lobby journalists has finally been won…

Me, too.

Veteran broadcaster and journalist Alastair Stewart wrote a good article on this for The Spectator: ‘Boris’s TV briefings could end the lobby pantomime’.

The term ‘lobby’ in this particular context refers to the media.

Pantomime — ‘panto’ — in Britain refers to a Christmas play based on popular old fairy tales, e.g. Puss in Boots. They are fun, noisy performances, often featuring famous television actors in crazy costumes.

One thing we learned from the coronavirus briefings is that the top journalists often ask the same question in an attempt to trap the government. From Monday through Thursday, these journalists were often Laura Kuenssberg (BBC), Robert Peston and Beth Rigby.

I used to watch Laura Kuenssberg afterwards for her spin, which always put an unfavourable light on the government, even when they had something positive to report.

Alastair Stewart says:

Political correspondents often asked the same questions, most seeking a ‘gotcha’ moment in relation to something that should have been done sooner, or better. On occasion they would also use the event to ask questions about non-coronavirus matters.

True, very true.

I was delighted when the government opened up briefing questions to the public. Normally, they had one short video and one written question every day. The public asked useful questions.

The regional press journalists also asked pertinent questions.

Both the public and the regional press were streets ahead of Kuenssberg, Peston and Rigby.

Alastair Stewart thinks so, too:

While the local and regional press were often better still at asking specific, trickier questions which people actually wanted to know the answer to. Most interesting of all perhaps were the members of the public, allowed into the secret society in the closing phase of this farce which inevitably always included some hapless person struggling with the ‘mute’ button.

He is right about referring to the lobby as a secret society:

I am not, and never have been, a member of ‘the lobby’ but it is a sort of Masonic gathering of the political hacks with the Downing Street spokesperson. It is almost as ritualistic: steeped in secrecy, they use the language of ‘sources’, ‘unattributable’ or ‘off-the-record’ and other linguistic mysteries of the game. And, like a St James Club, only members are allowed in.

And, yes, there is ‘a line’ that these guys and gals want to pursue for their anti-government narrative of the day:

When I was a member of the lowly Industrial Correspondents’ lobby, we would gather after a briefing to discuss what ‘the line’ was. I understand a similar game is often played by the political corps, post the Number Ten gatherings. Johnson wants to bust this wide open by putting his man or woman in front of the camera, fielding questions from hacks who will doubtless be ready for their close-ups too.

I disagree with Stewart on the follow-up questions. They became irritating, because the most prominent reporters were grandstanding. He, however, sees it differently:

One precedent that surely will endure from the Covid-19 events will be the supplementary question. It was an error for Johnson to drop these when he was the host. Others, like [health secretary] Matt Hancock, often used them to great effect. What’s more, they added to the public cut and thrust of an exchange between a reporter and a minister. It could be enlightening and, at times, entertaining.

As we do not know yet who will front these briefings on most days, Robert Peston has a suggestion:

Of course, occasionally, a government minister or Boris himself will be at the podium.

Stewart reminds us that past press secretaries had been journalists during their careers:

Churchill had his Brendan Bracken, an FT man. Wilson, Joe Haines, a Mirror man to his finger tips. Thatcher’s Bernard Ingham served the Yorkshire Post and, ironically, the Guardian with distinction. TV has less of a role of honour today but the former Sky News man, the excellent Joey Jones, had a spell in May’s Downing Street.

Who knows what effect this will have on today’s journalism. It is likely to step up a notch. One hopes so, anyway.

In any event:

There is more merit in having a free and frank exchange between press and politicians, in the full glare of the TV lights, than in continuing with the semi-secretive pantomime of the lobby.

The public has a right to know what is really going on in government, without the filter of agenda-driven journalists who by definition oppose conservatives and Conservatives.

It’s great that, post-coronavirus, Boris has resurrected the notion of the ‘People’s Government’.

My word, has this year been bizarre. You couldn’t make it up: Brexit, absurd attacks on Trump, followed by coronavirus and protests.

Now we have a British journalist’s attack on the platform known as Twitter.

Except that Tim Stanley calls Twitter a ‘website’. Never mind. He objects to ordinary people using it.

One cannot help but agree that another media behemoth — the BBC — is a huge problem here:

As to referring to Twitter as a ‘website’ (so last century):

Tim Stanley writes for The Telegraph. No complaint against him personally, but:

True enough.

Within the next few months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government will be televising daily press briefings to the public, as the United States has been doing for several years.

The British daily coronavirus briefings were a big draw, with at least 2 million Britons viewing per day. As such, it makes sense to televise what are called ‘Lobby’ (media) briefings.

To be fair, only the afternoon sessions from No. 9 Downing Street will be televised, not the morning ones. Nonetheless, opposition is already mounting. Cheers to Guido Fawkes for getting the ball rolling earlier this year:

Then someone posted the following. British readers will recognise the blast from the past (second tweet), Chris Morris’s Brass Eye, which ran during 1997 and once more in 2001:

At the time, British television had a number of hard-hitting documentaries, all of which Chris Morris and his capable team of actors satirised.

In many ways, they also foresaw today’s 24-hour news in Britain, which ranges between sensational and psychotic.

Even more important, Morris and Co. managed to get actual public figures to take part in their series. Who knows how they did it, but in the ‘Crime’ episode below, they interviewed the late Conservative MP Rhodes Boyson (no fool he), the gangster ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser and the then-newspaper owner David Sullivan.

It’s unbelievable that they took it all seriously.

My apologies if this full episode is geo-localised. It really is a triumph of its time:

My point is that showing us the daily press briefings from Downing Street will show us what a scam the media truly are.

More to come once the briefings begin.

Meanwhile, I do miss Brass Eye. Long may it be remembered.

Thank you, Chris Morris. Even watching this episode of ‘Crime’ that I’d seen when it first premiered, I nearly ruined a keyboard while laughing.

You made news imitate art.

This is why the Downing Street press briefings will be greatly anticipated in our household.

Thank you, Boris Johnson. Thank you, Dominic Cummings. I can hardly wait.

It is tempting to refer to the day the UK is leaving the EU as an active partner as Brexmas.

The Sun coined the name during the 2019 election period in the run-up to Christmas. Today, however — the day it will actually take place — feels more like Brexmas to me.

That said, the suffix ‘-mas’ is an ancient one referring to a Mass being said on an important feast day, e.g. Christmas and Michaelmas, the feast of St Michael (September 29).

The Wikipedia entry on Mass explains how the word entered common parlance centuries ago. From there, ‘-mas’ was used for certain feast days:

The English noun mass is derived from Middle Latin missa. The Latin word was adopted in Old English as mæsse (via a Vulgar Latin form *messa), and was sometimes glossed as sendnes (i.e. ‘a sending, dismission’).[8] The Latin term missa itself was in use by the 6th century.[9] It is most likely derived from the concluding formula Ite, missa est (“Go; the dismissal is made”); missa here is a Late Latin substantive corresponding to classical missio.

Historically, however, there have been other explanations of the noun missa, i.e. as not derived from the formula ite, missa est. Fortescue (1910) cites older, “fanciful” etymological explanations, notably a latinization of Hebrew matzâh (מַצָּה) “unleavened bread; oblation”, a derivation favoured in the 16th century by Reuchlin and Luther, or Greek μύησις “initiation”, or even Germanic mese “assembly”.[10] The French historian Du Cange in 1678 reported “various opinions on the origin” of the noun missa “mass”, including the derivation from Hebrew matzah (Missah, id est, oblatio), here attributed to Caesar Baronius. The Hebrew derivation is learned speculation from 16th-century philology; medieval authorities did derive the noun missa from the verb mittere, but not in connection with the formula ite, missa est.[11] Thus, De divinis officiis (9th century[12]) explains the word as a mittendo, quod nos mittat ad Deo (“from ‘sending’, that which sends us towards God”),[13] while Rupert of Deutz (early 12th century) derives it from a “dismissal” of the “enmities which had been between God and men” (inimicitiarum quæ erant inter Deum et homines).[14]

But I digress!

This is how the week unfolded rather quietly — considering that, at 11 p.m. GMT (12 a.m. on the Continent), the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will become a non-participative member of the EU until our transition period is complete. We hope that will be at the end of December 2020.

Boris answers burning Brexit questions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made time to answer several Brexit questions from the British public. This short video is as factual as it is entertaining.

Please watch:

British MEPs leave Brussels

The last British MEP (Member of the European Parliament) to attend an EU Council meeting was Chris Pincher on Tuesday, January 28:

Nigel Farage cleared his office:

On Wednesday, January 29, political pundit Guido Fawkes posted a run-down of the closing days of British MEPs’ participation, ‘The Final Day of Brexit’. They got one final vote that day, on the Withdrawal Agreement (emphases in the original):

Most importantly, MEPs will formally approve the Withdrawal Agreement this afternoon, marking the final legal hoop needed to jump through to secure Brexit on Friday. Remain MEPs will vote against the deal, failing to understand they’re voting in favour of a no-deal exit…

MEPs’ final day in Brussels will seemingly be occupied by a lot of singing; with a Green Party MEP planning to encourage a rendition of Auld Lang Syne after British MEPs’ final vote, socialist MEPs meeting up for a family picture and a rendition of the EU’s ‘anthem’, and MEP Magid Magid hosting a party in the Place du Luxembourg featuring live music and DJs. No word on whether, given it’s their last day, MEPs will be signing each other’s shirts…

The vote took place in the early evening:

The week before, the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission signed the UK Withdrawal Agreement for the EU …

… and Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed it for the UK …

… therefore, it was recommended that the EU Parliament approve the Withdrawal Agreement:

Guy Verhofstadt’s tweets

Over the past week, Guy Verhofstadt has tweeted about our exit. He is keeping the door open for our return.

I’ve also included a few replies to his tweets:

He waxed sentimental over a Liberal Democrat MEP:

Michel Barnier visits the Emerald Isle

The UK’s chief negotiator representing the EU, Michel Barnier, spent Monday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

He visited Dublin first …

… then travelled north to Belfast:

Perhaps now is the moment to remind everyone that we will always be European. Our beef is with Brussels:

UK to become economic powerhouse?

According to The Express (article link in tweet), Barnier is worried that we could become an economic powerhouse, threatening the prosperity of EU member countries. British commenters say that he has only himself to blame:

Signs look good, at least at this juncture, particularly since the election on December 12:

Going back to Tuesday, January 21, The Express cited findings from the IMF at the time of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Provided our negotiations go well this year (emphasis in the original):

BRITAIN’S economy is set to power ahead after Brexit, outpacing the eurozone and other major European countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

The findings of two studies published by the the body show the UK is on track for two years of growth and is anticipated to outperform Germany, France and Italy. The economy is expected to expand by 1.4 percent this year and by 1.5 percent in 2021, it said. It marks an optimistic outlook for the UK’s post-Brexit future after last year’s growth was recorded at 1.3 percent.

Celebrations in the UK

Celebrations will be very low-key on January 31.

Big Ben silent

Unfortunately, Big Ben will not be bonging to mark our Brexit.

The historic bell is under renovation at present and unnamed ‘Parliamentary officials’ said it would cost £500,000. Boris and Conservative MP Mark Francois urged the public to stump up with private contributions. This they promptly did, raising £272,000. That still was not enough — I detect overall resistance from our notional betters here — so the money is going to the veteran’s charity, Help for Heroes:

Lights and Union flags in London

On January 22, Guido Fawkes posted the government’s plans to mark Brexit Night in central London (emphases in the original):

The Government has already announced its official plans to commemorate Britain leaving the EU at 11pm on 31st January, however a new victory has been won after minister Nigel Adams signed off on the Union Jack being flown down the Mall to celebrate Brexit. Her Majesty will be delighted given her support for the cause

In addition to the Union Jack flying in Parliament Square, a light display in Downing Street and a countdown clock being projected against No. 10, new intake Tory MP, Dehenna Davison, has spoken of her delight at securing the victory, saying “After discussing this with the Minister multiple times over the past few weeks, I am delighted that he has today instructed officials to ensure the Union Jack is flown down the Mall on Brexit Day”, also highlighting the minimal cost to the taxpayer from the move. Unlike getting Big Ben to bong again…

The flags went up on January 28:

British flags will be flown in Parliament Square.

A red, white and blue light display is expected to be shone on Westminster Palace.

The No. 10 digital countdown clock will be illumined in Downing Street.

New 50p coin

The new 50p commemorative Brexit coin, which was ready for our predicted exit on October 31, 2019, had to be melted down. That was quite expensive.

However, they have been reminted and began appearing this week:

More will appear beginning in March.

The text on the reverse of the coin includes the date January 31, 2020 and reads as follows:

A number of Remainers have tweeted their disapproval and said they would not accept them as change.

Radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer of TalkRADIO gave her own riposte to diehard Remainers pining for Brussels. Priceless:

Brexit Party celebration

The Brexit Party is holding a special celebration in Parliament Square between 9 and 11:15 p.m. All are welcome:

Brexit merchandise

There are at least three different types of Brexit-related merchandise on sale now.

Forman’s smoked salmon

Lance Forman was a Brexit Party MEP then switched to the Conservative Party before December’s election.

In real life, he runs his family’s smoked fish business in East London, best known for smoked Scottish salmon. I have eaten Forman’s fish before and it is excellent. His Brexit offer runs until February 29:

T-shirts

Leave.EU are selling commemorative Brexit t-shirts. Wear at your own risk.

They also have mugs:

Tea towel

The Conservative Party is offering a special tea towel with Boris’s election slogan, ‘Get Brexit done’, in past tense:

————————————————————————-

Whatever way my fellow Britons choose to celebrate Brexit Day, I hope they have fun!

I will continue Brexit Chronicles until we are fully out of the EU.

Since the early hours of Friday morning, I have said many prayers of thanksgiving for Boris Johnson’s overwhelming Conservative Party victory.

The new Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, which has always voted Labour in living memory, spent the weekend giving thanks, too. God is good:

When I wake up now, this is one of my first thoughts:

This is another:

As is this. What a lovely scene of London, especially with the Christmas tree in the middle:

I am amazed at how the Conservatives were able to demolish the impenetrable ‘red wall’, as they called it, by winning in constituencies that had not voted Conservative ever or for a very long time. Their novice candidates beat long-standing Labour MPs.

This is incredible:

Ballots from St Ives were the last to arrive because of a storm:

This was the result (note the Father Christmas sweater):

Thursday’s election result was truly historic, the best since Margaret Thatcher 40 years ago:

See how true blue the electoral map of England has become post-election (second tweet):

Guido Fawkes has more detail (emphases in the original):

The Tories lost seven seats to the SNP and one to Labour, but won enough new seats to make up for those and more, particularly in the Midlands, Wales, and the North. The one seat Labour managed to take off the Tories was typically metropolitan Putney…

Big names to lose their seats included:

    • Jo Swinson
    • Laura Pidcock
    • Dennis Skinner
    • Chris Williamson
    • Emma Dent Coad
    • Caroline Flint
    • David Gauke
    • Antoinette Sandbach
    • Dominic Grieve
    • Anna Soubry
    • Nigel Dodds
    • Zac Goldsmith

Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, and Sam Gyimah also failed to win new ones.

The Tories won so evenly across the country that Michael Gove was able to triumphantly declare in the Tories’ victory event this morning that “Next year both the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Notting Hill Carnival will take place in seats held by the Conservatives.” The Tories won back Kensington which includes Notting Hill, and astonishingly Laura Pidcock was defeated in her seat of North West Durham…

Commiserations to Nigel Dodds and Zac Goldsmith. I will miss them. UPDATE (Dec. 17): Apparently, there could be plans to elevate Zac Goldsmith to the House of Lords, enabling him to keep his cabinet position.

Guido posted another list later that day, based on the BBC’s research. This one concerns all the MPs who ran as independents, so some of the same names will appear. Explanatory notes in purple are mine:

Research by the BBC’s Laurence Sleator has shown that all 18 MPs who defected in the last Parliament then stood again for this one failed in their endeavours to be re-elected to the House of Commons. Two even lost their deposits…

Liberal Democrat Losers

    • Angela Smith  (ex-Labour)
    • Chuka Umunna  (ex-Labour)
    • Phillip Lee  (ex-Conservative)
    • Luciana Berger   (ex-Labour)
    • Sarah Wollaston  (ex-Conservative)
    • Antoinette Sandbach  (ex-Conservative)
    • Sam Gyimah   (ex-Conservative)

Independent Losers

    • Frank Field  (ex-Labour; elderly, has served Birkenhead well over the years)
    • David Gauke  (ex-Conservative)
    • Dominic Grieve  (ex-Conservative)
    • Anne Milton (ex-Conservative)
    • Chris Williamson (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Ivan Lewis (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Gavin Shuker  (ex-Labour)
    • Roger Godsiff  (ex-Labour)

Tigger Losers  (TIG — The Independent Group)

    • Anna Soubry  (ex-Conservative)
    • Mike Gapes  (ex-Labour)
    • Chris Leslie  (ex-Labour)

Turns out voters don’t take too kindly to party-hopping democracy dodgers when their time comes…

I’m sorry about Frank Field, but as far as the others in that list are concerned, good riddance. Many have commented online that this is evidence of ‘draining the swamp’. True.

The ex-Conservative rebels, e.g. Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Antoinette Sandbach and Anna Soubry, were so certain they would win. Ha!

The Press Association has a great recap of how the early hours of Friday morning unfolded. Note the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon making a fool out of herself when she found out that the then-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her Scottish constituency to the SNP. Shameful. Furthermore, the big-hitting Conservatives predicted to lose their seats WON. The media were WRONG:

Only Tom Harwood, 23, who works with Guido Fawkes, predicted a Conservative landslide. Guido posted a compilation of Harwood’s appearances on the BBC’s Newsnight where presenter Jo Coburn sneered dismissively, ‘And we’ll live happily ever after’. The media were wrong AGAIN.

Congratulations, Tom. Highly recommended viewing:

It was Tom’s idea to use ‘stonking’ at Guido Fawkes in describing the Conservatives’ majority. Now Boris is using the word, too, as did Sky News’s Kay Burley and Labour’s Ian Lavery:

Another point worth making is that we now have a record number of women MPs!

Before the election, media pundits said the rough and tumble of Parliament would be too much for them. The media were WRONG about this, too:

Here’s another thing the media got WRONG: Boris Johnson was going to be turfed out of the last Parliament.

Let us look at Boris’s Friday the 13th — an excellent day for him:

Late that morning, he went to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen invited him to form a new government:

Then he returned to 10 Downing Street:

Shortly after 3 p.m., he addressed the nation. This video is subtitled. The press await on the opposite side of the street:

This version from the Press Association (PA), also subtitled, is a bit longer:

Meanwhile:

WEDDING RING UPDATE (Dec. 21) — owner found, ring a family heirloom:

On Saturday, December 14, the PA reported that a grateful Boris was visiting some of the constituencies that had voted Conservative for the first time (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson will meet with newly-elected Conservative MPs as part of a celebratory victory lap after winning a “stonking mandate” at the General Election.

The Prime Minister secured an 80-seat majority and many of his gains came in Labour’s heartland areas across the North and the Midlands.

Some areas, such as Bishop Auckland in the North East, had never elected a Tory MP before Thursday.

Mr Johnson, speaking outside Number 10, said he would “work round the clock” to repay the trust of those who “voted for us for the first time” – including those whose “pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and their grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears” …

Mr Johnson will make the first move to show newly-elected MPs that the concerns of their constituents will be heard with a visit on Saturday to some of those who overturned a Labour majority.

Later that day, the PA reported that Boris poled up in Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency, which voted overwhelmingly Conservative:

Boris Johnson has vowed to repay the trust of former Labour supporters whose votes helped deliver him victory in the General Election.

The Prime Minister made a symbolic visit to Tony Blair’s old Sedgefield constituency in County Durham – which fell to the Tories on Thursday night – to pledge his commitment to spreading opportunity across the country.

“We believe in giving opportunity to everyone,” he told a crowd of cheering supporters and newly-elected MPs from the region packed into the local cricket club.

“We believe that talent is evenly distributed throughout our country, but opportunity is unfairly distributed.

“We are going to rectify that as a One Nation Conservative government, as a people’s government, that is what we are going to do.”

Sedgefield was one of a swathe of seats across the North, Midlands and north Wales in Labour’s hitherto impregnable “red wall” to go blue as the Tories stormed to an 80-seat majority in the new House of Commons.

Sedgefield residents were over the moon:

We have a lot to look forward to once we ‘get Brexit done’, as Boris says, and begin trade negotiations. That said, I will not be buying chlorinated chicken, especially as free range British chicken is the real thing and so, so tasty. Let’s hope our Conservative victory does augur a landslide victory for President Trump in 2020:

Today heralded a glorious return to Parliament!

Congratulations to Boris Johnson!

Congratulations to everyone in Britain who voted Conservative!

Congratulations to all Conservative MPs, especially the novices!

Onwards and upwards for what Conservatives are calling The People’s Government!

The charges of anti-Semitism that have dogged Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015 beggar belief.

Labour has the highly dubious distinction of being the only other political party than the BNP to be formally investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for anti-Semitism.

It is unclear why anti-Semites within Labour have felt so free to be so open with their hatred.

The front page article in The Sunday Times from December 8 has chilling content (click on image to read it in full):

Few are saying Jeremy Corbyn himself espouses the same hate, but he seems to be doing little about it. This is what he said on the last debate of the campaign on Friday, December 6:

Yet, the diversity campaign video that Labour issued on Saturday, November 30, mentions every ethnic and religious group in some way — except the Jews!

The Daily Mail has the story along with the video (emphases mine below):

Mr Corbyn posted the one minute and eight second video about diversity on Twitter on Saturday with the words ‘this is our strength’. 

The video uses a speech by shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler as a voice over in which she lists various different groups and insists ‘a Labour government will value you’.

But the video does not refer to British Jewish people in a move which has sparked fury and risks worsening Labour’s existing anti-Semitism crisis

The party remains under formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over its handling of allegations of anti-Semitism …  

Ms Butler said in her speech: ‘If you are in social housing, if you are LGBT+, if you are straight, if you are a traveller, if you struggle to pay the rent, if you wear a hijab, turban, cross, if you are black, white, Asian, if you are disabled, if you are old, if you are young, if you don’t have a trust fund.

‘If you didn’t go to Oxbridge, if you are working class, if you are under 18, if you are aspirational, if you work, if you are a carer, if you feel you won’t live beyond 25, if you have ever ticked the ‘other box’. 

‘You have a future and you are worthy. Worthy of equality, worthy of dignity and worthy of respect and a Labour government will value you. Just be your authentic self.’

The video ends with a statement on screen which reads: ‘Our diversity is our greatest strength. Let’s unite and unleash the potential of all our people’.

The situation has been serious for at least a year. Yet, it would appear as if most of our main media outlets are purposely ignoring it.

Imagine if the Conservatives had this problem. It would have been headline news, front and centre, all year long.

How did I find out about it earlier this year? Via Guido Fawkes.

In looking through my bookmarks, however, I found a few Press Association articles from 2018:

‘Corbyn sorry for “pain and hurt” caused by anti-Semitism in Labour’ prior to a protest by Jewish leaders in front of Parliament (March 25)

‘Corbyn faces renewed calls to tackle Labour anti-Semitism’ (April 1)

‘Shadow minister “frustrated” over Labour’s slowness to tackle anti-Semitism’ which features a protester holding a sign saying ‘For the many, not the Jew’ and mentions Labour MP Thangham Debbonaire being criticised by her Bristol constituency Labour Party for attending the aforementioned rally against anti-Semitism (April 8)

Things went quiet until July 2019, when the BBC’s Panorama investigated charges of anti-Semitism against Labour. This was just after the the Equality and Human Rights Commission had begun their formal investigation. Guido Fawkes‘s team distilled the hour-long documentary into a video just under nine minutes long:

Labour’s Disputes team, comprised of a handful of people, was in charge of investigating claims of anti-Semitism. Then, Corbyn appointed a new party General Secretary. Under her leadership, few suspensions were issued. Instead, letters were sent reminding offending members of the party’s code of conduct. One by one, the longer-serving members of the Disputes team resigned. One had a nervous breakdown. Another seriously considered committing suicide.

One Labour MP interviewed said that things started to go downhill once Corbyn made his pro-Palestinian views more widely known. It appears that pro-Palestinian party members thought they had licence to abuse the notional enemy, with Jewish members suffering verbal abuse for their faith.

On August 2, Guido Fawkes posted ‘Labour Anti-Semitic Incidents Hit Record Numbers’, which says in part (emphasis in the original):

A damning report published by the Community Security Trust – the charity set up to protect Jews from antisemitism – has shown that there have already been 100 incidents of anti-Semitism which are “examples of, or related to arguments over, alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party” in the first half of this year alone …

Alarmingly, there was a spike of 55 incidents in February and March alone – when several Labour MPs including Luciana Berger left the party over its endemic anti-Semitism. Almost 20% of anti-Semitic incidents across the whole UK were linked to the Labour Party in March, with the CST report noting that Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis “clearly has an important bearing” on the record-high number of incidents recorded. All the while Corbyn continues to dismiss it as just a case of a few members occasionally ‘dipping’ into antisemitic language…

The MP mentioned, Luciana Berger, joined the Liberal Democrats.

One month later, a Brexit-supporting Labour MP stood down to work for the Conservative government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

On September 12, Guido Fawkes posted a schedule of fringe meetings for the Labour Party conference, ‘Labour’s Anti-Semitic Conference Line-Up’, which ends with this:

The problem for Labour is surely within their party these views are no longer fringe…

On October 16, a Labour MP from Liverpool, Dame Louise Ellman, resigned her party membership. She is featured in the BBC Panorama video above:

More former Labour MPs began to denounce Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The next was Ian Austin, who was an independent MP before Parliament dissolved on November 6:

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett — now Lord Blunkett — was next:

Charles Falconer — Baron Falconer — served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain under Tony Blair. On November 26, he gave the BBC his thoughts on the Chief Rabbi’s condemnation of Labour:

Britain’s former most senior civil judge is also deeply concerned about anti-Semitism in Labour:

Former Labour MP Ivan Lewis is calling on voters to back Boris:

Yet, the anti-Semitism continues. The bookmarks I have are too numerous to include here.

Going back to The Sunday Times of December 8, referenced above, little is actually being done about anti-Semitism at Labour HQ (paywall):

Moving on to other topics, it has been said that Jeremy Corbyn wants to do away with MI5 and specialist law enforcement.

This happens to be true, as evidenced by these photos of the December 1979 issue of the Socialist Organiser featuring Jeremy Corbyn. Click on any of the tweets below to see the full thread. Click on any of the images themselves to see the full text:

Former leftist and veteran political pundit Rod Liddle succinctly summarised historical reasons not to vote Labour — Corbyn in particular — on Thursday. This is from a recent BBC Question Time programme in Bishop Auckland:

Reports have emerged saying that Hamas are actively supporting Corbyn’s election on Thursday:

Then there is Brexit. Corbyn has been very non-committal on where he personally stands. Historically, he has been thought a Leaver, but, as his party supports either Remain or Leave as a member of the Customs Union — worse than remaining as a full EU member — interviewers could not get him to make a commitment either way.

We also have the outrageous spending pledges from Labour.

This is a long but interesting thread debunking them. Highly recommended:

A shorter thread follows. Even this leftist says that we can’t take these pledges seriously:

Kate Hoey, a Brexit supporter and, most recently, Labour MP for Vauxhall in south west London, urges Bournemouth West voters to back Boris by voting for the Conservative candidate, Conor Burns:

These are only some of the many reasons not to support Labour, especially on Thursday, November 12.

Once upon a time I really liked Britain’s Liberal Democrat Party.

They worked hard on local issues, opposing lazy Conservative and Labour councillors.

I knew one of them fairly well. We commuted into London together. Another Lib Dem councillor who lived nearby also took the same train. These were accessible people.

That was when Charles Kennedy led the party. Unfortunately, because of a personal issue that was becoming painfully obvious in public, he had to stand down.

When Menzies ‘Ming’ Campbell took over the party, it began to change. I remember going off them when they overwhelmingly voted to give convicts the right to vote. I have always felt very strongly that convicts have sacrificed their ‘right’ to vote. Harming someone, either physically or through property damage and theft, is inexcusable. They have broken the social contract. Even if they have done their time, that is the price they pay — forever, in my opinion.

Under Ming Campbell, the Lib Dems moved further leftward. Even the late Paddy Ashdown said at one of their party conferences a few years ago that they were a left-wing party. I was shocked to see someone I’d viewed as sensible say such a thing.

What follows is a recap of their 2019 party conference in Bournemouth — along with an update.

Kirsten Johnson resigns as PPC for North Devon

Yesterday, I wrote about Kirsten Johnson, the PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for Devon. She has US/UK dual nationality and insulted the county’s Leave voters in a Radio 4 interview on Sunday, September 15, 2019.

Every party, from the Greens to the Conservatives, criticised her. What she said about the citizens of her adopted country was shameful.

Fortunately, the backlash was so great that she has since stood down as the Lib Dem PPC for North Devon:

In fact, she’s even deleted her Twitter account.

The following tweet is from the Conservative Party chairman and the current MP for North Devon. I like the North Devon resident’s response:

Guido Fawkes has an excerpt of her resignation statement:

It is with the deepest regret that I resign as the Parliamentary Candidate for North Devon Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.

I am acutely aware that my comments in the recent Radio 4 interview caused offence, and I reiterate my sincere apologies. Whilst I have had many very good interviews, on this occasion I totally lost the thread of what I was saying, which was interpreted in ways that I certainly did not intend or believe about the people of North Devon.

Uh huh.

At least the mask slipped now, rather than later.

Party conference unsettling

I caught probably two hours’ worth of the Lib Dem conference this year.

That was quite enough. What these MPs and councillors said was startling.

Each time I tried to watch BBC Parliament’s coverage at length, I had to turn off the television.

Did you ever have the experience growing up when you said or did something outrageous and a parent or grandparent said, ‘Stop it! You’re scaring me!’

Well, that was my reaction to the Lib Dems this year. What makes it even scarier is that many Britons think that they are still the reasonable political party they were in the 1990s. No, they are not.

See the lengthy list of conference motions that passed. Three of them follow.

Deprivation of citizenship

In the debate on Motion F34, Lib Dems said that the Home Secretary Sajid Javid was wrong to revoke ISIS bride Shamima Begum’s British nationality.

They want any future Home Secretary to go through the courts first!

On September 15, The Guardian reported that Christine Jardine, responsible for leading Lib Dem positions on home affairs, said:

The decision to strip someone of their citizenship is a very serious one and should only be taken when absolutely necessary. Instead, we have seen Conservative home secretaries abuse this power for political gain with tragic results.

“These are people brought up, often born here, with families and loved ones who deserve a government that will take responsibility when they are radicalised and go abroad to join terrorists. They should be prosecuted in the UK for their crimes and interrogated to learn exactly how this happens and prevent terrorists from recruiting more young Brits.

“Liberal Democrats demand better. We will introduce new safeguards so that home secretaries must show good reasons for revoking someone’s citizenship. We will also ensure that the best interests of any children involved are taken into account, and that no one is left stateless.

I watched a half hour of the debate on this and had to turn it off. Sajid Javid did the right thing. One of the talking points was discussing radicalisation with young people. Sorry, but there is no ‘educating’ people who want to be terrorists. Nothing and no one can stop them.

Climate crisis

I watched part of the debate about keeping data on everyone taking a trip on commercial aircraft. I had to turn that off, too.

While much data is gathered, part of Motion F29 concerned tabulating how many times an individual flew on a plane per year.

Fortunately, someone had the wisdom to say that a number of people who fly frequently on business would be adversely affected.

That said, Motion F29 passed. It calls for, among other things, a national Citizen’s Climate Assembly. Anything with ‘citizen’ in it should raise an alarm.

Music venues

I had to turn this debate off, too.

A musician and the PPC for Hove and Portslade, Beatrice Bass, moved Motion F25 on music venues.

Watching her, I sensed she felt quite angry towards England. I also noted a hint of a foreign accent. It turns out she was born in Davos, Switzerland, and has dual Swiss/UK nationality.

So, like the aforementioned failed American PPC, she, too, comes from abroad. They weren’t the only two, either. Several others from abroad also spoke at conference. I wonder if putting forward so many foreign PPCs is a good idea. Will they have England at the heart of their policies? I doubt it. But, I digress.

Beatrice Bass said that England is the only British country to have restrictive laws on music venues, especially with regard to noise. She wants those laws relaxed. Many of us do not. We are grateful for noise abatement laws. Some of us have to get up for school or work in the morning.

Glee Club

Speaking of music, every year, their party conference has a private evening session called Glee Club. Members make up songs ridiculing public figures.

This year’s stand out was the take on Tony Blair. I’m no fan of the former PM, but this is too much:

Guido Fawkes says that the song is a Glee Club oldie from 1995, now a party classic:

Lib Dems took part in their annual conference sing-a-long last night, and despite the referendum, their new recruits, and support from Alastair Campbell, Mrs Blair, and probably the Former Prime Minister too, they launched into the Lib Dem classic: “Tony Blair can f*ck off and die

The song, originally written in 1995 about rejecting the idea about coalition with the Labour Party, became a Lib Dem Glee Club favourite in the post-Iraq era. Guido brings you the lyrics so you can sing along at home:

So bye, bye to the great Lib-Lab lie
That it’s made in heaven
‘cos that’s pie in the sky
Us Lib Dems will take courage and cry
“Tony Blair can f*ck off and die”
“Tony Blair can f*ck off and die

Jo Swinson

This year, Jo Swinson made her first speech as party leader.

It is interesting that she wears red a lot. Is it because it’s her colour, or is she trying to send a message?

She probably considered the photo op as a team building exercise.

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases in the original):

Jo Swinson staged what is set to be the oddest photo op of party conference season when she walked her MPs into the Bournemouth sea. There are honestly easier ways to get to Europe, guys…

Whilst there was a decent turnout for the photoshoot, some Lib Dem MPs not shore about the visuals chose not to cave into pier pressure. It really will be sink or swim for the Lib Dems over the next few months…

Some people have investigated Jo Swinson’s voting record when she was an MP both before and after the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government (2010-2015). She voted more often with the Conservative government positions than Conservative MPs did:

Then there’s this, as seen on Twitter:

That editorial about a monument to Margaret Thatcher rings a definite bell. However, Swinson was a young MP at the time and I didn’t think any more about it. She was on some of the Sunday political television programmes around that time, too.

Jo Swinson not only did a dramatic turnaround on her conservative views as a Lib Dem, she also did a 180-degree turnaround on EU membership.

Adam Heilbron unearthed vintage footage of Swinson criticising the EU and proposing a referendum on the UK’s membership:

From that, Guido Fawkes’s team put together two videos:

reminding Guido of a time when the Lib Dems were both liberal and democratic… 

Guido concludes:

Give it another decade and she might have flopped back to being a eurosceptic again!

One cannot help but wonder if there is some sort of incentive behind these ginormous flip flops.

Article 50 revocation

Anyone fence-sitting on Brexit should be aware that voting for Lib Dems in a general election will lead to revocation of Article 50 straightaway.

It is unlikely that Jo Swinson will become PM. There is no way the Lib Dems could win a majority or even an overwhelming minority to form a government.

That said, they have firmly established themselves as the Remain party in Britain.

In her maiden conference speech as party leader, she invoked the memory of past party leader, the late Paddy Ashdown:

I wish he could see our party now.

However, Paddy Ashdown said he was firmly committed to following through with the Leave result:

On September 14, she wrote a piece for The Guardian which says:

The Liberal Democrats are the strongest Remain party in the UK, and we continue to grow, adding members, councillors and MPs. When a general election comes, we will be ready for it and ready to take our clear, pro-European message to the country. We want to stop Brexit, and if the Liberal Democrats win the general election then we will revoke article 50.

Our country deserves better than Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. The Liberal Democrats are the positive, hopeful alternative that the country needs.

That’s democracy in action (not).

At the same time, she calls out the new facial recognition surveillance:

I’m not a fan of it myself … but it’s a lot less dangerous than revoking Article 50!

In any event, the Lib Dems’ position on revocation of Article 50 without a second referendum has the cross-party People’s Vote campaign wondering about the party’s participation.

On September 17, Guido Fawkes had this:

His article says, in part:

One unexpectedly joyous by-product of the change of policy by the LibDems, to ignoring the referendum result totally, is that over at the People’s Vote campaign Tom Baldwin wants to purge LibDem MPs. James McGrory, the former LibDem SpAd for Clegg, is trying to keep them on board. Anna Soubry is saying they must be purged. So much for plurality and a new kind of centrist politics. Chaos….

Tom Baldwin has tweeted that our story is bollocks. Am assured that the question of the LibDem’s status with the campaign is being actively discussed in the office.

The day before, The Guardian published a pointed editorial on Swinson’s position. It ends with this:

The winner-takes-all mentality behind Ms Swinson’s policy is troubling. The lack of a democratic mandate for revoke means it could entrench a permanent divide in British life that will be impossible to bridge. Politicians ought to think about their policy’s consequences. If the Lib Dems’ idea is accepted, then why couldn’t the SNP be permitted to hold a second independence vote if it won the next Holyrood election? Then there are the accusations of inconsistency. In 2008 Ms Swinson wanted a referendum on EU membership. Two years later she campaigned on a manifesto that committed the Lib Dems to an in/out EU referendum. She was a minister in an austerity government that did so much to create the pain and division behind the leave howl. In 2016 an EU referendum took place. The country voted out. Three years later, Ms Swinson won’t accept the outcome of a plebiscite she had said she wanted.

The Lib Dems are positioning themselves to tap future popular revulsion against the major parties. Yet the politics of protest only works if there is something to protest about. If Boris Johnson strikes a Brexit deal with the EU, where does this leave Ms Swinson? The Lib Dem policy also gives Labour a clear run at a second referendum. Ms Swinson’s offer is just to permanently polarise the electorate around Brexit. The Lib Dems still have no distinctive pitch for issues beyond leaving the EU. This is the party of ideas, home to Keynes and Beveridge. But there’s no sign of a middle way being plotted by the party between the extremes. Unless Ms Swinson can do so, the odds will be stacked against the Lib Dems in a general election.

Even Polly Toynbee noted ‘Swinson’s remain extremism’.

Scottish PPC sacked

On September 16, Guido Fawkes reported that a Scottish Lib Dem PPC was given the heave-ho.

Galen Milne has made menacing remarks, to say the least, about prominent Conservatives — including the PM and Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg:

A Lib Dem parliamentary candidate who called for Boris Johnson and other top ministers to be h[anged], drawn and quartered before being burned at the stake, has been axed by Jo Swinson.

Galen Milne – who was due to stand in the Scottish seat of Banff and Buchan – made the comments on Facebook, where he also called Tory MPs “rats” and advocated a “final solution” to split the Tory Party.

Taking the graphic comments in his stride, earlier Jacob Rees-Mogg Tweeted:

True! Being hanged, drawn and quartered was for plebs.

For more information …

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,486 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

September 2020
S M T W T F S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,618,319 hits