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My series on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s downfall continues.

The first three instalments can be found here, here and here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022 must have been a sad day for him. By the end of it, 43 Conservative MPs had left Cabinet or ministerial posts.

The haemorrhage continued into Thursday, by which point the number was 51, all of which were resignations bar Michael Gove’s sacking, the subject of yesterday’s post:

BBC Newsnight rejoices

On Wednesday night, BBC’s Newsnight ended with a list of 43 MPs’ names, instead of the usual programme credits.

The Daily Mail posted the video along with this report (emphases mine):

A rolling list of names was presented on a black background in the style of an Oscars ‘in memoriam’ tribute, set to a cover of the Verve’s 1997 song by London Grammar.

A faded picture of Mr Johnson was shown behind the names as they were shown, before they finished with a gap, and then the line: ‘Boris Johnson – Prime Minister?’ 

But the editorial decision was criticised by some viewers on Twitter, who described it as ‘simply ludicrous’, ‘pretty wild’ and ‘giving up any shred of serious journalism’. 

Others labelled it a ‘total LOL-fest’ and ‘iconic behaviour from Newsnight’, while a third tweeted that the rolling list was ‘like it’s the obits at the Oscars’.

The Newsnight production team, presenter Kirsty Wark and guests must have had the time of their life that evening. They all wanted Boris gone:

Ahead of the list being shown, Wark concluded Newsnight by saying: ‘Well that is all from us tonight. On the evening that the resignations from the Johnson government threatened to become a flood, we leave you with the names of the first 43 of them.

‘As Nick (Watt) just said, there are already more since we came on air. See you tomorrow to find out who they are, if there are more to come. Goodnight.’

Newsnight and the rest of the BBC have been after Boris ever since his election as Party leader in 2019. The BBC were apoplectic on election night that year, barely able to say that he had won an 80-seat majority, the highest Conservative gain since 1987 under Margaret Thatcher.

Oh, our ‘values’!

Brandon Lewis, the then-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, resigned early Thursday morning.

His letter, like those of many others, played on morality and the violation of Conservative values:

Sorry, it all seems hypocritical to me.

Boris stood down as Conservative Party leader at lunchtime on Thursday.

However, he remains Prime Minister until the Conservative Party membership elects their new leader.

Therefore, he scrambled to fill vacant posts so that there would still be a functioning Government until September 5.

Michelle Donelan’s egregious resignation

In this regard, the most egregious resignation had to have been Michelle Donelan‘s. Boris asked her to be the new Education Secretary. She resigned 35 hours later, the shortest-serving Cabinet member in British history.

On Thursday night The Telegraph reported:

Ms Donelan was promoted to Education Secretary late on Tuesday evening after the shock resignation of Sajid Javid which began the revolt against the PM.  

But just 35 hours later, having failed to persuade Mr Johnson he should step aside for a new leader, she felt left with no choice but to quit herself in the national interest.

Oh, my!

A cynic might say that she took the role for extra taxpayers’ money:

She had previously served as universities minister for two years and would have been entitled to a redundancy payment of £7,920 upon leaving that role

But her temporary elevation to the Cabinet significantly boosted her pay, meaning she is now in line for a much larger sum of £16,876.

The MP for Chippenham, in Wiltshire, told The Telegraph she doesn’t want the money and has asked officials if there is any way they can stop the payment.

She added if that is not possible she will give it all to a local charity in her constituency, though she has not yet decided which one.

Ms Donelan was the shortest-serving Cabinet minister in British history, breaking a 239-year-old record of four days set during the government of Pitt the Younger.

She said quitting her dream job was “extremely difficult” and she was aware of the “moral imperative to prioritise young people as they are heading towards their exams”.

Hmm.

Guido Fawkes tweeted about her resignation:

He wrote, in part (emphases his):

Responding to Guido’s tweet about her impending pocket-lining, ex-Education Secretary Michelle Donelan has just said she will donate it in full to charity.

Fair play and just as well – £16,800 is around the average annual salary of a teaching assistant…

Good grief.

Remuneration off the charts

Returning to The Telegraph article, our principled Conservatives who resigned were raking in redundancy payments:

She [Donelan] is one of 28 former ministers who quit or were sacked in the coup against Boris Johnson and are set to earn a combined £240,000 in redundancy money

I agree with the Opposition MPs here, although they would have taken the money, too, were the shoe on the other foot:

Opposition MPs are urging those who will benefit to forgo the payments at a time when millions of families across the UK are facing a cost of living squeeze.

The remuneration is legitimate:

Members of the Government who leave their posts are automatically legally entitled to a golden goodbye worth a quarter of their ministerial salary.

This is how much was due to each MP who left:

Five Cabinet ministers walked out during the coup against Mr Johnson while a sixth, Michael Gove, was sacked. They will get £16,876 each.

Seven middle-ranking ministers who also quit are in line for £7,920 apiece while 15 from the most junior ranks are entitled to £5,594.

Nice work if you can get it. It reeks of hypocrisy to me.

Bear in mind that an independent board already gave MPs another salary rise. MPs also get their expenses paid. Their meals in Parliament are also subsidised. Who pays for this? The taxpayer.

They can also take advantage of hospitality from outside hosts for sporting and cultural events, which they must declare.

As we say in the UK, they’re ‘quids in’!

So, no more talk about morality, integrity and values, please!

Boris’s new Cabinet

The Telegraph told us about Boris’s new Cabinet and ministerial replacements:

Mr Johnson on Thursday appointed a flurry of new Cabinet and junior ministers despite having already announced he was stepping down as PM.

He brought several Tory moderates, including a former opponent over Brexit, into his top team to try and ease fears about him carrying on as a caretaker.

James Cleverly, a loyalist and foreign office minister, was drafted in to become the country’s third Education Secretary in just three days.

Kit Malthouse, policing minister, another staunch supporter, was also promoted to take up the vacant role as the Prime Minister’s de facto chief of staff.

The most surprising appointment came in the elevation of Greg Clark, a former arch-critic, to replace the sacked Mr Gove as the Levelling Up Secretary.

He was stripped of the Tory whip by Mr Johnson in September 2019 after voting with other rebels to give Parliament the power to block a No Deal Brexit.

Robert Buckland, who was sacked as Justice Secretary by the PM during his reshuffle last September, returns to the top table as Welsh Secretary.

The PM also promoted two junior ministers. Shailesh Vara became Northern Ireland Secretary, while Andrew Stephenson was given a Cabinet seat.

Andrew Stephenson was appointed co-chairman of the Conservative Party, replacing Oliver Dowden, one of the MPs who resigned:

Stephenson has been introducing each of the Party hustings taking place around the nation.

There were more appointments:

No 10 announced a dozen new appointments on Thursday night which included giving Will Quince, an education minister, his old job back less than 36 hours after he quit.

Former soldier Johnny Mercer also got his former role back as Veterans Minister, with the added promotion that he will now attend Cabinet.

I’m really happy about Johnny Mercer‘s reappointment. He is an ex-serviceman. No MP has worked more tirelessly for veterans than he. In 2021, he felt that the Government was not taking his concerns about veterans seriously enough. I saw him give a passionate speech in Parliament on the subject at the time. He told the Chief Whip that he was going to resign as Veterans Minister. When Boris got wind of the news, he sacked Mercer on April 20 that year.

Re Will Quince, is he getting redundancy cash, too, having resigned then being reappointed?

Boris pledged to be a good caretaker PM:

At a meeting of his new Cabinet on Thursday, the PM insisted he would respect his caretaker status and not try to introduce any radical new policies.

Guido posted a full list of Boris’s new team on Friday, July 8. It’s a long one. Well done, Boris.

I wasn’t the only one to harp on about redundancy payments:

Even if they are temporary, I was happy to see some of the appointments:

  • Richard Fuller MP to be Economic Secretary to the Treasury;
  • Brendan Clarke-Smith MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education;
  • Steve Double MP to be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs;
  • Peter Bone MP to be Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

Friday’s front pages

A dismal week ended on July 8 with Friday morning’s front pages, which focussed on Boris’s resignation the day before.

Most were negative, because these newspapers wanted Boris — the public face of Brexit — out ever since he got into Downing Street:

Even The Telegraph was ambivalent (Boris is pictured with his son Wilf):

Only two papers were supportive of the Prime Minister.

The Daily Mail was cross with Conservative MPs:

The Daily Express thanked Boris for getting us out of the EU:

Speaking of the EU, here’s Guy Verhofstadt’s reaction:

Would we have expected anything less?

I’ll end with a heartfelt thread from Red Wall MP Mark Jenkinson from Workington:

Jenkinson was also intent on ensuring that Conservative MPs would allow Party members to get their rightful vote on the next leader. Theresa May was the last candidate standing in 2016, so she automatically became PM:

Fortunately, Party members received their ballot papers earlier this month and two-hour hustings have taken place all across the nation, including Northern Ireland, which has a tiny Conservative group of around 300 members.

Meanwhile, Brexit supporters, especially those in Red Wall seats, wanted to know what would happen next. Ensuring that the next leader completes the Brexit process and keeps us out of the EU was a hot topic on the GB News shows that weekend.

More about that next week as the series continues.

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Those who missed the first instalment of Boris Johnson’s downfall can read it here.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June cannot have been an easy one for the Prime Minister, who turned up with his wife Carrie at the public events.

Pressure was mounting for a vote of confidence by Conservative backbenchers.

On the morning of Sunday, June 5, the last day of the Jubilee weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that there would be no such vote, but even if one took place, Boris would win it (video):

By the time the Queen had celebrated her historic jubilee that weekend, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, had received the requisite number of letters from the Party’s backbench MPs to trigger such a vote.

The vote took place on Monday, June 6. Shapps was correct in saying that Boris would win it. Shapps went on to run for the Party leadership himself in July.

Unfortunately, after the confidence vote, more events occurred making Boris’s position as Party leader untenable.

Earlier, in May, the Conservatives had taken a drubbing in the local elections.

Then came the two by-elections on Thursday, June 23.

One was for Neil Parish’s seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. The farmer had stood down on April 30 after two fellow Conservative MPs saw him viewing tractor porn on his phone in the Palace of Westminster. Liberal Democrat Richard Foord won handily.

The second was further north, in Wakefield, where another disgraced Conservative-then-Independent MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, had to stand down for being convicted on April 11 of assault on a 15-year-old boy in 2008. On May 23, Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The West Yorkshire seat reverted to Labour, with the election of Simon Lightwood.

Then came the Chris Pincher groping scandal. Pincher was Deputy Chief Whip but resigned on Thursday, June 30, after a lubricious episode at the Carlton Club in St James. The Carlton is a private club for Conservatives. Pincher had allegedly groped two men at an event there.

Boris had to sign off on Pincher’s appointment as Deputy Chief Whip. However, even if Boris had objected, the Chief Whip could have appointed Pincher, anyway. As I explained on July 6, whoever the Chief Whip wants for a deputy, the Chief Whip gets.

However, the Party whip had not been withdrawn from Pincher, and MPs were incandescent.

On Friday, July 1, an article appeared in The Telegraph: ‘The “disturbing” call about Chris Pincher’s lurid behaviour that forced Boris Johnson to act’.

GB News interviewed Neil Parish, who was furious.

The Telegraph article says:

The low point of yet another chaotic 24 hours for Boris Johnson came when disgraced “tractor porn MP” Neil Parish popped up on the airwaves to give him a lecture on moral standards in government.  

As the Prime Minister and his aides were holed up in Number 10 deciding how to respond to the growing Chris Pincher scandal, the “very cross” former backbencher was giving them both barrels on television. 

“I can’t believe they haven’t done it,” he said incredulously, when asked why the whip had not been removed. Referring to his own punishment for watching pornography in the House of Commons, he added: “It’s double standards. Come on, let’s be fair.”

His righteous outrage encapsulated how untenable Downing Street’s insistence that Mr Pincher would be able to remain a Conservative MP, despite accusations he drunkenly groped two men, had become.

Someone must have been watching GB News that afternoon or the fury from MPs must have increased to the extent that the Chief Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, withdrew the Party whip:

Just over two hours later, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Chief Whip, put out a statement reversing that decision, following a day of growing anger amongst backbench Tories at the Prime Minister’s failure to act. 

However, there was a problem in that, the day before, Boris did not think things needed to go that far. He thought that Pincher’s resignation from the Deputy Chief Whip role sufficed (emphases mine):

Downing Street was bullish as the news broke at 8pm, with a Tory source insisting: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”

Even into Friday afternoon, Boris’s stance had not changed:

… at noon, No 10 still remained defiant – with the Prime Minister’s spokesman telling reporters he considered the matter closed, since Mr Pincher had resigned and that there was no investigation into his conduct.

Heaton-Harris and Boris received pushback for their inaction.

Finally, later on Friday Pincher became an Independent MP:

Early in the evening Downing Street was eventually forced to act and announced it had stripped Mr Pincher of the whip, given that a formal complaint had been made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

The question was how much did Boris know about Pincher — past and present — and when did he know it?

Regarding the Carlton Club:

The Prime Minister had also been “troubled” by a “disturbing” call from one of the MPs who witnessed the incident and relayed to him a detailed account of what had happened, according to a source close to him.

The article has the details of what happened with Pincher at the club.

One MP was so unnerved that he rang Heaton-Harris at 3 a.m.:

One Tory MP who was present at the scene told The Telegraph how they “threw out” a “very drunk” Mr Pincher after being told about one of the two sexual assaults and then called the chief whip at 3am to inform him.

Another waited until daylight to inform him:

A second MP who witnessed at least one of the groping incidents also informed Mr Heaton-Harris the following morning. “This is not something that should be brushed over,” the MP told The Telegraph.

That MP says Pincher’s reputation was known, and it is true that he did have to stand down from another post when Theresa May was Prime Minister:

“Given the nature of the behaviour and the seniority of the role he held, it was highly inappropriate behaviour. This is not the first time there have been conversations about this person either. Many of us were surprised when that appointment was made.”

It is the second time that Mr Pincher has been forced to resign from the whips’ office over allegations of sexual impropriety. In 2017, he quit a more junior position after being accused by a former Tory candidate of trying to chat him up.

Returning to Boris:

“Boris has set the level and now everyone else is trying to imitate him, it is a constant drip drip. It all adds up, doesn’t look good,” one former minister told The Telegraph.

“The worrying thing is this is beginning to shape up so much like sleaze in the 90s under Major, where it was a whole series of inappropriate and pretty seedy actions by ministers and Tory MPs that completely undermined him.”

Lord Hague, the former Conservative leader, said the Prime Minister had been too slow to act, with a “whole day of everybody speculating and talking”. He added: “These things need dealing with decisively.”

That day, The Telegraph had a related article, ‘Boris Johnson v John Major: How Tory sleaze scandals under the two leaders stack up’. The scores are pretty even. I remember reading it and thinking that things did not look good for Boris.

There were two other things that did not bode well for him that week: a proposed treehouse for his son and an upcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee over Partygate.

Let’s look at the treehouse first. Labour MPs were apoplectic that Boris wanted to have one built at Chequers for young Wilf.

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases his):

Eyebrows were raised in Downing Street over the weekend after the publication of a story in The Sunday Times that Boris had looked into having a £150,000 treehouse built for son Wilf at Chequers. The story – undisputed since publication – goes he had once again entered into discussions about Lord Brownlow forking out for the cost, however plans were eventually scuppered by police security concerns given the house would be visible from the road. Despite the design including bulletproof glass, which raised the cost significantly…

Guido was amused to learn that Downing Street’s eyebrows weren’t raised by the Sunday Times’s story, instead by Labour MPs’ attacking the plans on the grounds of Boris being out of touch. Vauxhall’s Florence Eshalomi, Rhondda’s Chris Bryant, Wallasey’s Angela Eagle, and Hull’s Karl Turner were all among those laying into the PM.

Guido points out Labour’s hypocrisy, because it was Tony Blair who had a tennis court complex installed at the Prime Minister’s weekend retreat (purple emphases mine):

No. 10 sources wryly note, however, that it wasn’t that long ago when it was a Labour PM splashing huge wads of cash to renovate Chequers – without a whimper of controversy. In 1999, one Tony Blair added a luxury tennis court complex to the PM’s Buckinghamshire residence, something since enjoyed by successive MPs including David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Sources in the know tell Guido that the courts weren’t built using public cash, nor did they come out of the Chequers Trust, implying the extortionate costs either came out of Blair’s personal pocket, or a private donor. Given Guido unfortunately can’t make it to Blair’s big centrist jamboree today, perhaps an on-hand hack might like to raise the question of who paid for the courts…

Labour: it’s okay when they do it.

The Privileges Committee are investigating Boris for Partygate, specifically on whether he deliberately lied to the House of Commons in saying he was unaware any coronavirus rules were breached. That was before he received his fine.

Labour’s Harriet Harman is leading the investigation. Labour’s Chris Bryant recused himself from that responsibility because he has made no secret of his dislike for Boris.

However, as Guido pointed out on June 17, Harman is hardly impartial:

It’s now emerged his replacement, Harman, has not been neutral on the question up until this point either. She has tweeted her views relating to allegations around the PM’s truthfulness, with one saying “If PM and CX admit guilt, accepting that police right that they breached regs, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons”. You wouldn’t favour your chances going to trial if the judge was on the record with such levels of preconceived bias…

Conservative MPs are also aware of her bias:

Yesterday in the Commons, Andrew Murrison asked Michael Ellis whether he agreed “that those placed in a position of judgment over others must not have a previously stated position on the matter in question”. The Cabinet Office minister replied:

It is, of course, an age-old principle of natural justice that no person should be a judge in their own court.

Where an individual has given a view on the guilt or innocence of any person, they ought not to then sit in judgment on that person. I know that point he is referring to, and I have no doubt that the right honourable lady will consider that.

It seems to be yet another own goal by Labour, mind-made-up Harman’s appointment totally undermines the impartiality of the privileges committee investigation…

The investigation formally began on June 29:

The problem with this investigation is that it has to prove intent on Boris’s part to mislead the House. How will Harman prove it?

If Boris is found guilty of deliberately misleading the House, it will have severe ramifications for parliamentary proceedings. Ministers might fear expanding on certain subjects in case they get a figure or another type of detail wrong.

We should find out the result in September.

What Labour are trying to do with this process is ensure that Boris loses his parliamentary seat for good, which is what will happen if he’s guilty. That way, he can never be an MP again.

Meanwhile, some Conservative MPs were disgruntled that Boris had won the confidence vote in June. Under the current 1922 Committee rules another one cannot be held until 12 months have elapsed. They wanted Sir Graham Brady to change the rules to allow another vote before then.

On Monday, July 4, Mail+ said that Boris was ‘still the best man to lead Britain’:

THE Prime Minister returns to his desk today after an impressive display of statesmanship on the world stage.

Following a Commonwealth conference in Rwanda aimed at building a common future, he returned to Europe to galvanise Nato and a wavering G7 into hardening their support for Ukraine.

Sadly, though, his achievements were overshadowed by yet another Tory sleaze row, leading to inevitable further attacks on his leadership. There are even reports that rebel backbenchers are plotting another attempt at regicide – just a month after the last one failed.

When will this self-mutilation end? Yes, the Chris Pincher affair is ghastly and should have been handled better. But there are far bigger issues at stake.

There’s a painful cost of living crunch, war in Europe and a migration crisis. Meanwhile, Tony Blair and his embittered Remainer chums are on a renewed mission to strangle Brexit.

Instead of dissipating energy on brainless infighting, the parliamentary Conservative Party needs to focus on the problems its constituents actually care about. They can only do that by getting behind their leader.

For all his recent troubles – some self-inflicted – this paper unequivocally believes Boris Johnson is the right man to lead the party and the country.

None of the potential replacements has his almost unique ability to connect with voters across the social and political spectrum. Crucially, he is the only one capable of winning the next election

That Mail+ editorial has its finger on the pulse of the nation. I will come back to what voters think in a future post.

On Tuesday, July 5, Chris Pincher was in the news again after Baron McDonald of Salford — Simon McDonald — the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020, wrote about the MP’s past and what he thought Boris knew to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

I wrote about this at length on July 6, concluding that there was bad blood between the life peer and Boris. Boris sacked him when the Foreign Office was merged with the Department for International Development. To soften the blow, Boris elevated him to the House of Lords. It should be noted that Baron McDonald is also a Remainer.

Wikipedia has a summary of Pincher’s parliamentary history of appointments under Theresa May and Boris Johnson:

Pincher served as an Assistant Whip and Comptroller of the Household in 2017, before he resigned after being implicated in the 2017 Westminster sexual misconduct allegations, having been accused of sexual misconduct by Tom Blenkinsop and Alex Story. Two months later, in January 2018, he was appointed by Theresa May as Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household. After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, Pincher was appointed Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. In the February 2020 reshuffle, he was appointed Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he returned to his former role of Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household.

As to what the peer alleges Boris knew about Pincher, here are two possibilities:

The matter was discussed on that morning’s Today show on BBC Radio Four.

Guido has the dialogue, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab responding for the Government. Raab said:

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

McDonald was on next. He said:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

Guido said:

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

The Paymaster General, Michael Ellis, addressed the matter in Parliament, intimating that Boris forgot a prior briefing on Pincher:

From that point, the spiral turned ever downward.

That day, Sajid Javid resigned as Health and Social Care Secretary.

Shortly afterwards, Rishi Sunak resigned as Chancellor.

That evening, an article by Lord Frost appeared in The Telegraph: ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

No one is more downhearted than me at the events of the last few days. Over the years, I have worked as closely as anyone with Boris Johnson. I know, therefore, that he is a remarkable man and a remarkable politician. Only he could have cut through the mess left by Theresa May and delivered on the verdict of the people in the Brexit referendum. He took the country with him through the pandemic and has shown huge leadership on policy towards Ukraine.

But this country now faces formidable challenges. Facing them requires not just the ability to talk about a vision but the determination and steeliness to establish a credible pathway to it. It requires a leader who knows where he wants to take the country and can set out how he intends to get there, in a way that is consistent with the traditional Conservative vision.

I had hoped Boris Johnson could be that person, but I have realised that despite his undoubted skills he simply can’t be. As I have often said, his Government has drifted far too much to the Left on economic matters, not only on tax and spend but by being too quick to regulate and too willing to get captured by fashionable trivia. It is tax-raising while claiming to be tax-cutting, regulatory while claiming to be deregulatory. It purports to be Conservative while too often going along with the fashionable nostrums of the London Left

I can’t honestly see what this Prime Minister’s economic philosophy is, beyond the content-free concept of “levelling up”, and accordingly I no longer believe we will ever see a consistent drive towards low taxation, low spending, attractiveness to investment, and deregulation on the scale needed. 

But even more than that I have become worried by the style of government. The whole partygate affair could have been dealt with more straightforwardly and honestly by setting out right from the start what had gone wrong in No 10, taking responsibility, and explaining why it would not happen again. By the time those things had been said, they seemed to have been dragged unwillingly from the Prime Minister rather than genuinely meant. Accordingly they lacked credibility …

The Pincher affair then showed in a real-life case study that [reform of Downing Street] was not going to happen. Confronted with a problem which appeared to reflect badly on the Prime Minister’s judgment, we saw once again the instinct was to cover up, to conceal, to avoid confronting the reality of the situation. Once again that instinct, not the issue itself, has become the story and the problem. Worse, this time round, ministers have been sent out repeatedly to defend suspect positions that came apart under closer examination. This is no way to run a government

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

On Wednesday, July 6, all hell broke loose.

The Times reported:

The prime minister’s authority over his party is crumbling as three more ministers plus two parliamentary aides resigned this morning and a string of previously loyal MPs turned on his leadership.

Rebel MPs believe that a routine meeting of the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers this afternoon could be the trigger point for changing the rules that at present mean Johnson cannot be ousted for another 11 months.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, has told the 16 members of the executive to arrive promptly for the meeting, an instruction being taken by some of those on the executive as a sign that he wants to discuss options for ousting Johnson …

At midday he will take prime minister’s questions knowing that about half — perhaps more — of the Conservative MPs on the benches behind him want him gone

Rebel Conservatives have been contacting Brady today to demand a rule change that would allow Johnson to be ousted as soon as possible. “It is being made very clear to Graham that this needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said one …

One former minister said that there was a very strong feeling amongst MPs that the issue needed to be brought to a conclusion. “Boris has made very clear that it will take a forklift truck to get him out of Downing Street. So it’s now up to us to assemble the forklift truck.”

The article goes on to list the resignations which came in by 11:30 a.m. that day. More followed in the afternoon.

To make matters worse, Boris got a grilling during his appearance at the Liaison Committee, comprised of the heads of the Commons select committees.

That evening during a telephone call, Boris sacked Michael Gove, who was the Levelling-up Secretary.

Gove had contacted Boris that morning to tell him he should resign before PMQs at noon.

Somehow, the news reached the media.

The Times has the story:

Gove’s allies claimed it was Downing Street that had briefed the media that Gove had told Johnson to resign. They said it was an attempt to make him look disloyal and distract attention from the wider revolt.

“It did not come from us,” one said. “They want to paint Michael as the villain trying to orchestrate a revolt against the PM. Nothing could be further from the truth.” They added that the sacking had then come out of the blue in a call from Downing Street. “He just told Michael that given their conversation in the morning he had no choice but to sack him,” the ally said.

I wonder. Gove is incredibly untrustworthy and, according to the article, he and Boris have had a difficult relationship since their days at Oxford.

Before Boris sacked Gove, a number of Cabinet ministers had urged him to stand down, including Priti Patel and Kit Malthouse, who had worked with Boris during his time as Mayor of London:

Patel’s intervention was striking because of her longstanding support of Johnson, having been home secretary throughout his time as prime minister.

In a one-to-one meeting in No 10 she is understood to have conveyed to him the overwhelming views of the parliamentary party. She said there was no way he could continue to govern without the support of his party.

A similar message was conveyed by Malthouse, her deputy, who was also one of Johnson’s deputies when he was mayor of London.

[Brandon] Lewis travelled back from Belfast to tell the prime minister that he believed he should resign. On his flight a passenger heckled him, telling him: “You are complicit in the betrayal of this country by Boris Johnson,” the BBC said.

[Grant] Shapps told the prime minister that he stood little chance of commanding a majority in a second confidence vote. [Kwasi] Kwarteng told Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, that Johnson should resign for the good of the country.

I will have more on the resignations tomorrow.

Last weekend’s big news stories concerned freedom of speech.

The world was horrified to learn of the bloody and debilitating assault on Sir Salman Rushdie, who might lose his sight in one eye. He was off his respirator early this week, thankfully, but, unfortunately, still has a long recovery awaiting him.

Then, here in Britain, on Saturday, August 13, we awoke to the news that raunchy comedian Jerry Sadowitz, 60, had his Edinburgh Fringe gig cancelled at the city’s Pleasance Theatre.

Sadowitz gave only one performance before the Pleasance pulled the plug.

I’ve lived here as long as Sadowitz has been a comedian. For all that time, I have never met a man who liked his brand of comedy.

One could describe him as an equal-opportunity offender. He has appeared on television from time to time. I first saw him in the early 1990s on a comedy show. I couldn’t see what was funny. His jokes were gratuitously offensive and filthy.

Nearly everyone in the UK knows about Sadowitz’s humour, if one can call it that.

His show is not appropriate for a first date and certainly not for a blind date.

Being generous, I would say that, in terms of comedy, Jerry Sadowitz is the 21st century British version of Lenny Bruce.

Like Bruce, Sadowitz was born in the United States.

He moved to Scotland with his Glaswegian mother at the age of seven.

Let’s look at the facts surrounding his cancellation, keeping in mind that the month-long Edinburgh Fringe is supposed to be the bastion of comedic free speech. Its whole purpose is to shock and provoke.

Another thing worth keeping in mind is that Sadowitz actually said what sort of material his show at the Pleasance would include.

The show was called ‘Not for Anyone’.

That should have set people’s expectations, but it did not.

On Saturday, I read Guido Fawkes:

Guido posted Sadowitz’s tweet about how well he thought Friday night’s show went:

Guido tied the news in with that of Salman Rushdie (emphases in the original):

Here’s some news from the Edinburgh Fringe that Salman Rushdie might find amusing. In a statement announcing that they were cancelling further appearances by the comedian and magician Jerry Sadowitz, the venue said:

The Pleasance Theatre Trust have cancelled Jerry Sadowitz’s second and final show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with immediate effect. In today’s society, opinions such as those displayed on stage by Sadowitz are not acceptable and The Pleasance are not prepared to be associated with such material.

Anthony Alderson, Director of the Pleasance said:

The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material. While we acknowledge that Jerry Sadowitz has often been controversial, the material presented at his first show is not acceptable and does not align with our values. This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.

You couldn’t make it up….

No, you couldn’t.

Apparently, among other things, Sadowitz exposed himself to a woman in the front row.

The Scottish Daily Express reported (emphases mine):

Controversial Scots comedian Jerry Sadowitz has been cancelled by the Edinburgh Fringe after complaints from shocked audience members and venue staff.

The 60-year-old had two shows booked at the Pleasance called ‘Jerry Sadowitz: Not for Anyone’ which came with a warning of “strong language and themes some may find distressing”

However, the decision sparked fury from fellow comics such as Leo Kearse, who said: “If the Islamic fundamentalists don’t get you, the wokeists will.”

He added that Sadowitz, who was born in the US and moved to Glasgow with his Scottish/Jewish mother at the age of seven, was the “only comedian worth seeing” at the Fringe this year.

Good grief. Yet, judging from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and Festival reviews in The Times, he’s probably right.

Anyway:

The Pleasance said anyone who had booked a ticket for Saturday’s gig would receive refunds for their tickets and that they “won’t be working” with the entertainer again.

Meanwhile, Sadowitz was soon busy on Twitter promoting his run of 14 gigs at venues south of the Border later in the year.

How could the Pleasance not have known about Sadowitz’s material when he’d performed there before?

On Sunday, the paper had an update:

The Pleasance has hit back at critics following the Jerry Sadowitz cancellation claiming the comedian made people “uncomfortable and unsafe” to remain in the theatre.

The Edinburgh Fringe venue slammed those who ripped into the “woke” decision as an attack on freedom of speech. The theatre claimed that Sadowitz crossed the line and that controversial comedians “need to be challenged” in a “changing world”

Fans say his unique brand of black comedy has to be viewed in context and questioned why the venue booked him in the first place, as well as asking why people bought tickets to the show if they were so easily offended.

I completely agree.

Whereas Sadowitz tweeted that he didn’t see anyone walk out, the Pleasance claimed that a number of people left during his act:

“A large number of people walked out of Jerry Sadowitz’s show as they felt uncomfortable and unsafe to remain in the venue. We have received an unprecedented number of complaints that could not be ignored and we had a duty to respond. The subsequent abuse directed to our teams is also equally unacceptable

“In a changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged. There is a line that we will not cross at the Pleasance, and it was our view that this line was crossed on this occasion.

“We don’t vet the full content of acts in advance and while Jerry Sadowitz is a controversial comedian, we could not have known the specifics of his performance. The Pleasance has staged his work numerous times over the years, but as soon as we received complaints from those in the building which caused us great concern, we knew we could not allow the final performance to go ahead.

“The arts and comedy in particular have always pushed the boundaries of social norms but this boundary is always moving. Our industry has to move with it. However, this does not mean that we can allow such content to be on our stages.”

I was heartened to read that a Scottish Conservative and a feminist were critical of The Pleasance:

Former Scots Tory strategy chief Eddie Barnes was among the critics of the decision. He tweeted: “The Pleasance’s statement is totally contradictory. But it’s that mealy-mouthed, morally vacuous phrase ‘not acceptable’ that really grates. To whom? And on what grounds? Who decided?

Feminist campaigner Lucy Hunter Blackburn added: “I first came to the Fringe in 1986. The cancelling of Jerry Sadowitz (who I’ve never seen – not my bag, I strongly assume I’d not enjoy his material) feels like an important moment – something to stop and look at hard.”

While discussing the furore on GB News on Saturday night, Scots comedian Leo Kearse said: “The Edinburgh Fringe is over, the SNP have put a nail in it by restricting the amount of accommodation so there’s not enough space for audiences and acts. Nobody wants to go and see woke comedy. It’s like women’s football, it gets written about by the Guardian but it’s rubbish.”

On Sunday evening, GB News’s Andrew Doyle, a former teacher who went into stand up and created Titania McGrath, emphasised that what the audience sees is Sadowitz’s ‘persona’, not the man himself. He added that while Sadowitz is lobbing his offensive material, he simultaneously performs magic tricks. (Sadowitz is accomplished at card tricks in particular. That’s how he got his start.)

Doyle, who has seen Sadowitz’s act, explains that the material is so out there that it makes people laugh:

He’s an equal opportunities offender. Think of the worst thing in your head and then say it.

Leo Kearse and Josh Howie, another British comedian, joined Doyle in slamming the manager of The Pleasance, the Fringe’s premier venue.

According to them, Sadowitz’s material this year was nothing new. Doyle also confirmed that Sadowitz circulated a promo video in which he said what would be in the show.

Kearse said that the people complaining are probably the types who would be okay with Drag Queen Story Hour for children:

Why are we treating children like adults and adults like children?

Howie and Doyle were annoyed to see that some comedians at the Fringe supported The Pleasance. Howie said:

They’re putting themselves out of a job.

Doyle added:

They’re making a rod for their own backs.

Howie pointed out that Sadowitz is ‘revered’ on the comedy circuit and that he has inspired many newer comedians’ material, which makes his cancellation a ‘flash point’. Every new boundary push in comedy today has been thanks to him.

Doyle closed by saying that he had heard most of the complaints had come from members of staff at The Pleasance. Howie said that most venue employees are ‘mostly students’, ergo, likely to be offended and to ‘feel unsafe’.

Doyle asked:

Why do people keep submitting to these brats?

Theirs is a great exchange about freedom of speech in comedy:

On Monday, August 15, BBC Scotland interviewed Russian emigré and free speech advocate Konstantin Kisin. Kisin, who hosts his own podcast, says that such censorship helps no one and that, ultimately, the Edinburgh Festival might become less appealing and lose its audience. The male BBC co-host implied that audience members went only so they could laugh at racism because they rarely get the chance to do so.

Kisin responded, beginning with:

If I were a mind reader like you …

and said:

I have more faith in human beings than you do …

The co-host doubled down:

I was there in the audience. You weren’t …

Kisin asked him how he would assess what was going on in people’s minds as they watched Sadowitz:

You can tell what someone thinks from their body language? … No, no, you did say that you knew from their body language. You said exactly that.

At which point, the co-host abruptly terminated the interview.

Here it is. I applaud GB News’s Colin Brazier for his scathing remark about our being forced to pay for the BBC and their bias:

The same comedians had another go on Monday’s Headliners show on GB News. By then, Sadowitz felt forced to explain his act, which disappointed Josh Howie. Sadowitz is also seeking an apology from The Pleasance. Nick Dixon, another comedian, said that today’s big names in comedy (many of whom probably got where they are today thanks to Sadowitz) need to stand up for him. The owner of The Assembly Rooms, another top Fringe venue, has rightly criticised The Pleasance for cancelling the act:

Earlier that evening, Dan Wootton asked comedy veteran Jim Davidson, whose style is the exact opposite of Sadowitz’s, for his opinion. Davidson got dragged into this because Sadowitz wrote ‘I am not J** D*******, folks’ and ‘a lot of thought goes into my shows’. Davidson was generous in defending a comedian who does not wish to be compared to him. Davidson criticised The Pleasance, saying they knew ‘exactly what act’ Sadowitz was going to do.

Davidson thinks someone within the local council complained, which has happened before in England. He also pointed out that The Pleasance said that even performing material ‘in character’ should not be allowed:

Isn’t every comedian in character?

Here’s the video:

There is a huge gulf between the author of The Satanic Verses and obscene, offensive comedy, however, it is important to defend both.

James Marriott wrote about this conundrum for The Times on Wednesday, August 17: ‘The grubby truth about freedom of speech’.

He gave an unintended plug for GB News. Remember that Murdoch owns The Times and TalkTV:

An honest defence of free speech acknowledges that it inflicts pain on vulnerable people, disperses power unequally and has no scientifically identifiable principles — but that it is precious nonetheless. It is a grubby, unfortunate truth.

Has there ever been a less glamorous time to support free speech? Because social media companies refuse to accept editorial responsibilities, the internet is overrun with the gory worst of what humans have to say.

The most vocal modern defenders of free speech are not artists or libertines but pimply “Enlightenment bros” and the talking heads of GB News. Of course, one’s principles should never be formed in accordance with what is and isn’t trendy. So we are left as the awkward, perhaps half-embarrassed, defenders of this unhappy, dysfunctional system which is nevertheless by far the best one we’ve yet devised.

That probably explains why GB News’s ratings are way ahead of TalkTV’s.

I’ll leave the last word to The Telegraph‘s theatre critic Dominic Cavendish:

Though I’ve seen a number of his shows over the years, I didn’t catch this one. His act – initiated in the 1980s, and bolstered since the 1990s by dexterous card tricks – is easy to summarise: misanthropic, unrelenting bile, awash with expletives and at war with political correctness. No one escapes his performative contempt, which springs from him, but qualifies too as an act.

His patter is knowingly extreme, and can be extremely funny, although the exhalation of laughter wars with the sharpest intakes of breath. His offence-giving once brought him celebrity but that has been on the wane – TV has barely touched him since the early 2000s. Sick-taste comedians have come up in his wake, most successfully Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, yet he has admirers across the spectrum; even Stewart Lee, the darling of the progressive Left.

As Lee wrote in the New Statesman in 2013, “because Sadowitz is one of the most complete and perfect stand-ups in history, his exact political position is complicated. By accident or design, he appears to be socially, sexually, culturally, physically and economically at the bottom of the pile. This gives him licence to attack everything and everyone, like a drowning rat swimming desperately up the U-bend. And this tells us a lot about the essence of stand-up.”

… It’s impossible to justify every line of Sadowitz’s sets but his worldview is to be suspicious of pleasantness and to detect phoneyness in progressivism. He confronts us with his viciousness and by extension, our own. Times have changed, have they? His pertinent thrust is that people haven’t.

The Pleasance can hardly say they didn’t know who they were booking, this time around.

That they de-platformed Sadowitz just after Salman Rushdie was attacked felt doubly uncomfortable. There’s a world of difference, of course, in being told that your show is cancelled, and being stabbed in the face. But how could the Pleasance feel on the right side of history? Though worlds apart in terms of finesse, and import – Rushdie is a highbrow culture hero, Sadowitz an increasing anachronism – are the two men not both flying the flag for freedom of expression?

Today, sure, cancel Sadowitz. But tomorrow? What about other less provocative but maybe also problematic acts? Take another fringe veteran, Arthur Smith, who gratuitously if comically has a naked woman walk across stage during his Pleasance show. Should he go next? The 2022 Fringe so far has been a sun-lit occasion – but dark clouds have gathered.

I don’t like Jerry Sadowitz’s comedy but I will defend his right to perform on stage.

Like him or loathe him, where freedom of speech is concerned, he’s every bit as important as Salman Rushdie.

‘No one is remotely indispensable’.

So were the words of Boris Johnson as he stood in front of Downing Street in the early afternoon of Thursday, July 7, 2022, to announce that he was standing down as Conservative leader. He said that he planned to stay on as Prime Minister until a new leader is chosen.

Boris’s resignation speech

The Prime Minister’s speech is just over six minutes long:

Knowing how quickly the leadership contests moved in 2016 (David Cameron to Theresa May) and in 2019 (May to Johnson), we are likely to see a new party leader in place before Parliament’s summer recess. Regardless of what news outlets say, it no longer takes two or three months. The timing — i.e. summer resignations in all three cases — will accelerate because of recess.

Guido has the transcript of Boris’s speech, excerpts of which follow (I’ve put in punctuation, paragraphs and emphases):

It is now clearly the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party and, therefore, a new Prime Minister and I have agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs [the 1922 Committee], that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.

And I have today appointed a cabinet to serve – as I will – until a new leader is in place.

So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019 – many of them voting Conservative for the first time — thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979.

And the reason I have fought so hard for the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019, and of course I am immensely proud of the achievements of this government …

He went on to list Brexit, the coronavirus vaccine rollout, coming out of lockdown the earliest of any other Western nation and showing leadership with regard to Ukraine.

He clearly regretted that he had to stand down:

If I have one insight into human beings it is that genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distributed throughout the population but opportunity is not, and that is why we need to keep levelling up, keep unleashing the potential of every part of the United Kingdom. And if we can do that in this country, we will be the most prosperous in Europe.

And in the last few days I have tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we are actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in mid term after quite a few months of pretty unrelenting sledging, and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally. And I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and, of course, it is painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.

But as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves and,
my friends, in politics no one is remotely indispensable.

And our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times, not just helping families to get through it but changing and improving our systems, cutting burdens on businesses and families and – yes – cutting taxes, because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay for great public services.

And to that new leader I say, whoever he or she may be, I will give you as much support as I can and, to you the British people, I know that there will be many who are relieved but perhaps quite a few who will be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to give up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks.

I want to thank Carrie and our children, to all the members of my family who have had to put up with so much for so long. I want to thank the peerless British civil service for all the help and support that you have given, our police, our emergency services and, of course, our NHS who at a critical moment helped to extend my own period in office, as well as our armed services and our agencies that are so admired around the world and our indefatigable Conservative Party members and supporters whose selfless campaigning makes our democracy possible.

I want to thank the wonderful staff here at Number Ten and, of course, at Chequers and our fantastic protforce detectives – the one group, by the way, who never leak.

And, above all, I want to thank you the British public for the immense privilege you have given me.

And I want you to know that from now until the new Prime Minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.

Being Prime Minister is an education in itself. I have travelled to every part of the United Kingdom and, in addition to the beauty of our natural world, I have found so many people possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways that I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.

Thank you all very much.

Boris delivered his speech in a normal, matter-of-fact way, which was good, especially given the circumstances.

Now that he has resigned from the Conservative leadership, some ministers are willing to come back into Government for the interim period.

As such, Boris held a Cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. today:

Those who read my post from yesterday will recall that I had not expected to cover this development until next week at the earliest.

However, yesterday afternoon into this morning was pure political carnage.

Wednesday, July 6

Junior ministerial resignations continued to pour in throughout the day, into the night.

Mid-afternoon, Boris held a second online meeting with Conservative MPs:

Guido has the story (emphases in red his):

In a sign of a continuing effort to hold on to his job, the PM has held a second meeting of Tory MPs in his parliamentary office, just 19 hours after his last meeting. Last night’s turnout was said to be around 80 – today’s turnout is said to have fallen to around 30. A loyalist MP spins that the PM was in a “buoyant mood and keen to get on with the job”. Presumably he was just happy his PMQs slagging was over and done with…

Boris apparently pointed to polls narrowing to “about five points” and left his reduced coterie of supporters under no doubt that “he’s going nowhere… no chance of stepping aside”. We’ll see what the 1922 Committee has to say about that this evening…

Guido’s mole concluded that “Basically the current challenge is all about personality and not policy. It’s a coup attempt before recess” The timetable observation is, at least, objectively correct…

At 3 p.m., Boris appeared for 90 minutes before the Liaison Committee, which is comprised of all the MPs who head Select Committees.

They grilled him on his performance and whether he would resign.

I’ve never seen anything like it. You can watch the proceedings using the link below:

These were the topics of discussion and the names of the MPs questioning him. Sir Bernard Jenkin chaired the session. Conservative MPs Tobias Ellwood and Jeremy Hunt might have their eyes on the leadership. Boris defeated Hunt in the 2019 contest:

All were brusque, including Bernard Jenkin, sadly.

That said, in May, Jenkin did write to the Leader of the House, Mark Spencer, to express his disappointment that some Government ministers were not appearing as scheduled before Select Committees:

The Liaison Committee were vipers. They were on the attack relentlessly.

Boris stood his ground. He reminded one MP that, in 2019, he had more than doubled the number of sitting Conservative MPs:

He also stated that he did not want another unnecessary general election when he had a clear mandate from the electorate to carry out. You can see how nasty Bernard Jenkin got in this short exchange:

Huw Merriman went so far as to send Sir Graham Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee, a letter of no confidence during the session:

Meanwhile, Guido Fawkes and his team were busy updating Wednesday’s list of resignations.

The 1922 Committee was — perhaps still is — considering a rule change allowing for more than a 12-month gap between votes of confidence in a Prime Minister. Pathetic.

Guido has the story (purple emphases mine):

There are some reports that the 1922 Committee may move in the next 24 hours-or-so to dispose of the PM. Bloomberg is reporting that “The Tory backbench 1922 Committee will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will discuss changing the rules to allow another party-leadership ballot. If there is a majority opinion in favor, a ballot could be held as soon as next week.” James Forsyth of the Spectator reports rule change or not, a senior committee member tells him “they now favour a delegation going to Johnson to tell him that it is over and that they will change the rules to allow another vote if he doesn’t quit”.

Guido’s post has a list the 1922’s executive members and whether or not they favour this rule change.

Later on, the 1922 decided not to change the rules — for now — because they will be holding their executive election on Monday, July 11:

Guido reported:

Surprisingly the 1922 executive has decided against changing the rules to allow a second vote of no confidence in the PM. Instead executive elections will go ahead on Monday, 2pm to 4pm. 

The Times had more:

Critics of the prime minister are organising a slate of candidates who are expected to win a majority of places, given most backbenchers voted to oust Johnson in last month’s vote. They are then expected to endorse a rule change.

During the afternoon, it was rumoured that the Chief Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, was going to tell Boris that time was up.

Boris was hemhorrhaging support. The resignations were coming thick and fast from junior ministers. This is how it is done. The same thing happened when Labour wanted rid of Jeremy Corbyn as leader:

I used to like most of the Conservative MPs. Given what happened yesterday, I am not so sure anymore.

Those who have gone down in my estimation include former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch; Lee Rowley; Liam Fox; Red Wall MPs Dehenna Davison, Jacob Young and Jo Gideon; Ed Argar and former Welsh Secretary Simon Hart.

And that’s not counting the rest of them that Guido has named, including those from Tuesday.

The only one I’m willing to give a pass to is Lee Anderson.

The hubris and hypocrisy got worse.

Attorney General Suella Braverman appeared on Robert Peston’s show on ITV that night to announce her withdrawal of support for Boris. I really had expected better of her, especially as Peston has been anti-Boris for years. To add insult to injury, she went on to announce on his show that she would be running for leader:

Cabinet members visit Boris

Just before 5 p.m. a small Cabinet delegation visited Boris in Downing Street.

Guido wrote:

A Cabinet delegation of Nadhim Zahawi, Grant Shapps, Brandon Lewis, Simon Hart and Michelle Donelan are currently waiting in Downing Street to tell Boris the jig is up, and it’s time for him to step down. Kwasi Kwarteng has also reportedly lost confidence. Beginning of the end…

Note Michelle Donelan’s name in that list. Boris had just made her Education Secretary after Nadhim Zahawi moved into the Chancellor’s role.

What did Michelle Donelan do? She resigned after 36 hours in the role:

Yes, of course, she got a pay out — one of £16,876.25:

The others got pay outs, too. I read that the total for ministers who resigned is over £120,000.

That’s not a Conservative plan, by the way.

That’s how the system works.

The caboose

Just before midnight, the final resignation of the day rolled in, that of Gareth Davies, making him the 35th that day. There were ten more from Monday as well as Michael Gove, summarily sacked. It’s hard to disagree with the person comparing this to Trump:

Michael Gove

It was time for this duplicitous man to go. I never trusted him and never will.

When he turned from supporting Boris in the 2016 leadership campaign to start his own before supporting Theresa May, he stabbed him in both the front and the back.

One thing we have learned during Boris’s premiership is that he — Boris — is one to forgive.

He made Gove part of his Cabinet in various high profile roles.

On Wednesday, Gove decided to tell Boris to resign:

Gove, most recently the Levelling Up minister, was conspicuous by his absence in the House of Commons. He missed Prime Minister’s Questions:

News emerged at 9:30 that Boris sacked Gove — via a telephone call:

I will be very disappointed if Gove returns to a Government role. He is a Scot who, in my opinion, is too young at the age of 54 to appreciate the Union fully, and he does not have the Englishman’s best interests at heart.

I’ve never heard him say anything about England other than to do away with English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) in 2021. As the then-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he deemed it unnecessary in Parliament. It was a quick, quiet moment in the Commons. I do wonder why it went unchallenged by English MPs.

Yet, the English are the ones who have been overlooked the most over the past 25 years, beginning with Tony Blair, a quasi-Scot who pumped our Government and media full of many more Scots, e.g. Gordon Brown, to name but one. My apologies to Scottish readers, whom I admire greatly, but it is true.

Christian Calgie from Guido’s team explains that Boris might have sacked Gove because, unlike the Cabinet secretaries who had descended upon him earlier, Gove allegedly told Boris to resign:

By the end of Wednesday, it became clear that Boris was not about to leave:

Guido reported:

Guido has had it confirmed by a PM ultra loyalist that Boris Johnson is not resigning tonight, and is understood to be planning a reshuffle. The news will spark further senior cabinet resignations…

According to reports, Boris sat down individual members of the Cabinet – including those involved in the coup – and cited his 2019 mandate, as well as the belief the government needs to spend the summer focusing on the economy and not a leadership election …

I watched four hours of analysis on GB News on Wednesday, beginning with Nigel Farage …

… and concluding with Dan Wootton, who had a great interview with Boris’s father Stanley Johnson (see the 1 hour 15 mark, or, if the GB News clock shows, 10:21). Stanley is a big supporter of his son, which was heartening to see:

Thursday, July 7

Conservative ministers continued to resign en masse on Thursday morning, July 7.

Guido has a timeline of resignations and other events of the day.

Just before 9 a.m., Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi sent Boris a formal letter requesting his resignation.

Just after 9 a.m., Defence Secretary Ben Wallace — also thought to be a candidate for Conservative leader — tweeted MPs to say that they should make use of the 1922 Committee to get rid of Boris:

At 9:07 a.m., news emerged that Boris agreed to resign as Conservative Party leader. I agree that the next demand from the braying hypocrite hyenas in the media will be a call for a general election. Disgusting:

Guido reported:

Chris Mason has been told the PM has agreed with Graham Brady that he will resign, allowing a Tory leadership race to take place ahead of the Tory Party conference in October. A letter has been written. He’ll quit as Tory leader today. Guido’s frankly not sure how Boris can stay on for the summer with so many ministerial holes in his government…

Perhaps we can get by with fewer ministers, as someone said in Parliament this morning.

I hope that Boris’s Cabinet meeting at 3 p.m. went well.

Not everyone has been happy with the coup so far. Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major is fuming. It’s interesting he never reacted like that about David Cameron or Theresa May:

In brighter news, Boris’s loyal friend from Ukraine rang him with his condolences and thanks:

1457: PM has spoken to Zelensky on the phone. Finished the call by praising him: “You’re a hero, everybody loves you.”

Yes, well, I wished our MPs loved Boris as much as President Zelenskyy does.

Ladies and gentlemen, this was a coup.

It was for a ridiculous reason, too:

https://image.vuukle.com/42c85f62-4bbb-4aff-b15a-100d5034d7aa-f9083ab0-35b3-43b1-82cf-0e95a9739d29

Don’t forget: this was ALL ABOUT BREXIT.

More to follow next week.

Last week, Mark Steyn had excellent coverage of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.

Neil Oliver also had a round-up of Davos news on his GB News show on Saturday, May 28, 2022. One of his guests was Sophie Corcoran, who went to the Swiss resort with Rebel News. She then went on to cover the WHO meeting.

Most of the tweets below are hers, although there are also some from Mark Steyn’s correspondent.

Sophie, a British university student and regular GB News commentator, left for Switzerland on Saturday, May 21:

Here’s the Rebel News team and a cartoon insight of the elites at play:

The summit started on Sunday, May 22. Apparently, attendees had to be treble-vaxxed in order to get in:

Employees had to be masked:

One wonders if the masked woman was able to enter the Equality Lounge. Probably not, because she would not have had a badge:

A small anti-WEF protest about the planet took place:

There was also an anti-coronavirus restriction protest:

On a lighter note, Sophie met a Swiss GB News fan:

Cars were heavy on the ground:

The great and the good relied on cars throughout their stay:

I saw the following video on Mark Steyn’s show. It’s short and to the point. The Rebel News reporter, Avi Yemini, was gentle and polite when he asked the New York Times journo to answer a brief question, but she refused. This has been going on for decades at these events, as the quote from David Rockefeller shows:

Day 1 left Sophie singularly unimpressed:

The next day did not change her mind as she saw all the private jets. There was a record number of them this year:

Yes, they are hypocrites:

TalkTV — and former GB News presenter — Tonia Buxton agreed:

This is yet another case of ‘for thee but not for me’:

British television presenter (and GB News guest) Carol McGiffin approved of Sophie’s coverage:

Another security measure was the WEF’s own police force. Interesting:

So many questions — and no answers:

Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the conference proceedings. If only:

Avi Yemini of Rebel News had the good fortune of running into UN Special Envoy for Climate Change Mark Carney, a Canadian who used to head the Bank of England. When asked about the huge carbon footprint of those few days, Carney replied jovially, ‘Drop it! Drop it!’ The two ran into each other again the next day:

WEF co-founder and head Klaus Schwab proclaimed, ‘The future is built by us’:

Mark Steyn picked up on that for his show:

Here’s a bit more about Klaus:

Freedom of speech will have to be curtailed, according to this WEF panel:

Twitter, it has been reported, even suspended the account of the person who first tweeted that video.

Natalie Winters from National Pulse said that the woman calling for a curb on freedom of speech used to work for Twitter. Hmm. Interesting, in light of the aforementioned account suspension:

Some journalists ran into trouble:

This video is about one of them, Jack Posobiec:

Here’s his video account of the incident:

Here is Sophie’s coverage of Day 2:

It received this reply:

On Day 3, Sophie visited the shops:

Keeping in mind the aforementioned David Rockefeller quote, here is the Wall Street Journal stand:

On a happier note, she was looking forward to discussing her trip with Neil Oliver on his Saturday evening show:

Bill Gates spoke on Day 3, about — surprise, surprise — preparing for the next pandemic:

He also thought that vaccine passports were useless. That’s easy to say after the fact:

That day, Dr Tedros was re-elected as the head of WHO. We hope that the UK does not sign up to the WHO treaty about global management of the next pandemic:

On a related topic, National Pulse‘s Natalie Winters discovered alleged deletions of certain attendees’ names:

The next video comes from Sav Hernandez for Rebel News. This is one of the few times I’ve agreed with a left-winger:

Meanwhile, Reuters was busy fact-checking independent journalists:

On Mark Steyn’s show, True North journalist Andrew Lawton discussed Metaverse’s Nick Clegg, the one-time Deputy Prime Minister, and his hefty security entourage:

The next day, Lawton reported on the head of Oxfam who spoke about how profitable the pandemic was for some. From what Lawton said, it was not meant as a criticism:

The next video is of Albert Bourla, head of Pfizer, moaning with Klaus Schwab about people who disagreed with coronavirus vaccines:

Meanwhile, Sophie spoke with a Colombian who said that lockdowns were so helpful during the coronavirus crisis that they should be implemented for the climate crisis. He said that the climate could renew itself while people stayed at home:

Who is going to argue with a military officer, though?

Lockdowns only work if people are getting paid to do nothing. Perhaps that’s part of the plan, but where will the money come from?

As Sophie points out, if they’re so concerned about the planet, perhaps Zoom would have been a better vehicle than a private jet, helicopter and limo:

They’re lording it all over the rest of us:

Ironically, this year’s WEF summit theme was regaining public trust:

It seems the WEF lost world leaders’ trust, too, as very few heads of state attended.

It also seems that, to the WEF, everyone else is a problem. The theme of their 2017 summit was populism.

On May 25, the Rebel News team gave their conclusions of the summit. Concerning the reply, I agree that the WEF is what happens when a majority of people lose their religious faith, and more than just the global elites:

Sav Hernandez said that Davos is a microcosm of the world as WEF would like to see it, with the great unwashed (my words) looking in from a very safe distance outside. Another reporter said that he was shocked to see how small the WEF bubble is and how isolated it is from society. Someone also remarked at the shock of WEF attendees in being confronted by independent journalists. 

And they wonder why they have lost the public’s trust:

Rebel News boss Ezra Levant was proud of his team:

He is looking for more talent to join Rebel News:

Then it was time for Sophie Corcoran and Sav Hernandez to travel to Geneva for the WHO assembly, where the new global treaty for pandemic response was discussed. One pandemic, as mentioned above, could be climate change:

They went straight to the WHO upon arrival:

Although there are no mask mandates in Switzerland, isn’t there an irony in the WHO support for masked children during the pandemic. Did this lady wear a mask at the height of the pandemic?

Here’s the thing about the WHO. We will never truly learn what goes on there outside of what we read in mainstream media:

Sophie was delighted to have been able to make the trip from Thurrock, Essex, to the WEF and WHO:

She appeared on Neil Oliver’s show on May 28:

Her segment was excellent.

Oddly enough, although most people do not pay any attention to what the WEF does at Davos, it is possible that what they discuss does have an impact on our daily lives.

What about this experiment in Wales with serving schoolchildren protein-rich bugs for lunch?

Just below is a charming film from the WEF about eating less meat.

Keep in mind that Welsh farmers produce some of the world’s best lamb.

Why then should Welsh schoolchildren be eating locusts? First Minister Mark Drakeford (Labour) has much for which to answer:

But, wait, there’s more in store for children — and not just in Wales:

In conclusion, it’s hard to disagree with Sophie when she explains the WEF post-pandemic slogan:

I fully agree — let’s get back to normal:

In closing, I’ll leave you with Neil Oliver’s excellent opening editorial from last Saturday on Davos. It’s a must-watch and is just under ten minutes long:

The full transcript of his editorical can be found here.

These are his last three paragraphs about our being frogs in an ever warming pot:

Now a handful of frightened billionaires and their enablers seek to make the pot a prison. By the manipulation of fear and the application of propaganda, they want us to be and to remain forever as frightened as they are.

They tell those of us who’ve noticed that we are being silly, that nothing of the sort is happening. This is gaslighting – and that is the gas that’s already lit under the pot. But look at what they’ve done. Having slipped and shouldered their way further and further into our lives, every aspect of our lives, they’ve only made a mess of everything. For all their wealth and their so-called wisdom we’re all about to get poorer, colder and hungrier. Already millions have had their health – physical mental or both – hopelessly compromised. It is increasingly hard not to see this as having been the plan all along. After all, surely no one in authority is stupid enough to have caused all this harm by accident.

As far as I am concerned, the social contract has been broken – not by we the many law-abiding, tax-paying majority, but by the few of the State.

Of course, an analogy only goes so far. We are not frogs. We are human beings. This is our country, our world. In the moment we decide collectively that we have nothing to fear from those who would take advantage of our good nature … in that moment the fear is gone. And somewhere in their hearts, and somewhere in their heads, the billionaires in Davos must know it too.

One can only hope so.

When is the wool going to drop from everyone’s eyes about the WEF?

Their next meeting is likely to be in December.

To follow this series, it is helpful to read parts 1 and 2.

We left off on Sunday, May 8, 2022. That day, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had cancelled an appearance at an Institute for Government event on Monday in advance of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

Labour’s campaign beer and curry event took place on April 30, 2021. The Sun made it public soon afterwards, but it did not get traction from other papers, namely The Telegraph and the Mail, until January 2022. Durham Constabulary only decided to really investigate it on Friday, May 6, 2022. Starmer took legal advice and cancelled his public appearance on Monday, May 9.

Journalists and pundits noted the length of time between the event, its wider coverage, the internal memo about the event leaked to the Mail on Sunday and Starmer’s reaction to the press coverage it received. No one forgot Starmer’s spending from December 2021 to May 2022 calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation over Downing Street events:

With the shoe being on the other foot, Labour supporters wanted Starmer’s event, held in Labour MP Mary Foy’s Durham office, to disappear from the public consciousness. Didn’t we know there was a war on in Ukraine? Didn’t anyone care about the cost of living crisis? Suddenly, breaking coronavirus restriction rules was something no one should care about unless it had to do with Boris and Downing Street.

Mail on Sunday journalist Dan Hodges noted the hypocrisy:

A YouGov poll published on Monday showed that the public thought Starmer should stand down if he gets a fine:

Guido Fawkes has YouGov’s breakdown of the public’s opinion on both Starmer and Boris. Not surprisingly, more people think that Boris should resign. That said, Conservative voters are more forgiving of Starmer than are Labour voters. That’s because most Conservatives believe in repentance.

Guido says a majority of the public think that Starmer broke the rules:

The general public is firmly of the view that Starmer should resign, at 46% agreeing versus 32% opposing. They also comfortably believe Starmer either did definitely or probably break the rules (54%) to probably didn’t or definitely didn’t (21%).

Guido conducted his own poll on Monday, May 9. Just under 50 per cent thought that the Labour leader — and Leader of the Opposition (LOTO) — should resign using the same standards that he applied to Boris:

Earlier on Monday, Starmer decided to issue a short statement to the media at 4 p.m. that day. By the time Guido closed his poll, there was a half hour left before that small, select event took place.

Guido’s post on the poll says (emphases in the original):

With Sir Keir expected to make a statement on Beergate at 4pm today, Guido asked co-conspirators how they’d advise Starmer if they were by his side in the LOTO office over the weekend. Resign right away? Wait for the police investigation? Tough it out…?

Thousands voted, and it turns out readers are divided. Half (49.6%) think Starmer should resign at the podium today – given he called for Boris’s resignation the moment the police launched their inquiry – 28.9% think he should resign only if fined, with a further 21.5% saying he should tough it out regardless of the police outcome. Guido’s own view is that the latter choice is politically impossible given his approach to Partygate. Demanding Boris and Rishi resign over a birthday cake set the bar incredibly high for his own behaviour – a bar he hasn’t met. If he’s not going to resign today, then his only real option is to promise he’ll go if Durham Police whack him with a fine…

Starmer invited only three journalists to hear his statement.

He said he would resign if fined.

Guido analysed that statement and said there was more to it than one might think:

Seeing as Charles — now Lord — Falconer is advising Starmer, Blairite tactics could come into play:

Sir Keir has just confirmed he will resign in the event of being given a fine, an unprecedented announcement from a Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition … Guido can see another obvious tactic at play from the pound shop Blair wannabee

In 2007, when under investigation for the Cash For Honours scandal, Tony Blair’s team warned the Metropolitan Police that the PM would have to resign if interviewed under caution, forcing them to back off under such immense political pressure:

Sources close to the inquiry said that there were difficult discussions before a political intermediary made senior detectives aware of the serious implications of treating the Prime Minister as a suspect.

“Make no mistake, Scotland Yard was informed that Mr Blair would resign as Prime Minister if he was interviewed under caution,” said a source. “They were placed in a very difficult position indeed.”

On Saturday, when Guido exclusively revealed Lord Falconer has been tasked with putting together out Sir Keir’s legal defence, he didn’t expect Blair’s Justice Secretary to copy the tactic used by his old party boss so like-for-like. Unfortunately for Starmer one of his team accidentally explained the quiet bit out loud to ITV’s Daniel Hewitt, briefingit puts some pressure on Durham Police who are being leant on in one direction”. Former DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] Sir Keir knows a thing or two about letting police forces fudge an investigation and letting the culprit get away…

Hmm:

It will be interesting to see how a campaign team can justify alcohol at a notional working event, especially as a few overdid it:

Guido was referring to a Politico article by Alex Wickham, who wrote that he received no denials of the following account containing mentions of drunkenness:

On Tuesday, May 10 — Day 13 of Beergate — the Mail led with Starmer’s alleged piling of pressure on Durham police:

That day, fallout followed Starmer’s cosy Monday afternoon session with only three journalists.

The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole was left out in the cold. ‘Lobby’ refers to the media:

Guido said this was but another episode in a long-running period in which Labour have not been transparent with the media:

Guido has been tracking this issue for some time:

Guido’s campaign to get Labour to publish their shadow cabinet meetings with media proprietors and editors, as pledged following Leveson, seems to be going nowhere, despite repeated promises from Labour HQ to pull their finger out. Yesterday Labour’s relationship with press transparency got colder, when Sir Keir invited just three tame broadcasters into the room, blocking any hacks who may have asked difficult questions from attending. GB News’ Tom Harwood was told this was due to “limited space”. Guido is old enough to remember when the Lobby was collectively outraged when only selected broadcasters were invited by Lee Cain [Boris’s former Downing Street Director of Communications] for a briefing… 

Now Guido’s spotted another press frontier on which Labour’s dropping the ball: publishing press releases. Labour’s website hasn’t published a press release in over 40 days, the most protracted period of policy publishing paralysis since Starmer took over …

Perhaps not a good look when even the Labour-supporting press is starting to suggest Sir Keir needs some policies to win, not just claims of personal sainthood…

That day, YouGov published a new poll taken on May 5 and 6 that shows the Conservatives were one point below Labour. Other polls still show Labour in the lead, but here is YouGov’s take:

Guido wrote:

Margin of error territory as the public no longer perceives Sir Keir as “Mr Rules”. One poll so far so will be intrigued to see if this is a trend…

Prince Charles delivered the Queen’s Speech that morning for the State Opening of Parliament.

In the afternoon, both the Commons and the Lords began separate debates on the 38 proposed bills in the Queen’s Speech.

In the Commons, at least, the week-long debate, called the Humble Address, begins jovially, and it is an honour to be the MP selected to open it.

The lucky MP was Graham Stuart (Conservative), who represents Beverley and Holderness.

He cracked a joke about Keir Starmer as he reviewed Labour’s dominance in the North of England prior to the Conservatives’ breaking through the Red Wall in 2019 (emphases in purple mine):

Robert [Sir Robert Goodwill], of course, won selection in Scarborough. He then went on to overturn Lawrie Quinn’s 3,500 majority, and was, I think, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), the only Conservative candidate in the whole of the north of England to take a seat from the Labour party at that election. The Leader of the Opposition must wish it was so today. Instead the only thing opening up for him in the north is a police investigation. [Laughter.]

Guido has the video. Look at Starmer’s painfully forced smile:

Stuart had another go when discussing the corruption in his constituency in the 18th and 19th centuries:

Obviously the law did change. Free beer and cash inducements were the electoral controversies then, rather than, say, beer and curry today. Never in the history of human conflict has so much karma come from a korma.

Some time later, it was Boris’s turn to speak, introducing the important bills. Labour MPs intervened until he put a stop to them.

Of the energy bill, he said:

The energy Bill will create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs, taking forward this Government’s energy security strategyit is about time this country had one—with £22 billion—[Interruption.] Labour did not want a single nuclear power station. Come on, be honest. Look at them, the great quivering jellies of indecision that they are. Our £22 billion UK Infrastructure Bank is supporting the transition to net zero and vast new green industries, in which our United Kingdom will again lead the world.

Boris quickly moved on to the economy and the Channel crossings of illegal migrants, during which he added a quip:

We are using our new freedoms to control our borders, with a new plan for immigration so that we can fix our broken asylum system, tackle the illegal immigration that undermines the legal immigration that we support and crack down on the vile people smugglers. I know that the Leader of the Opposition—perhaps I should, in deference to his phrase, refer to him as the Leader of the Opposition of the moment—likes to claim he opposes these plans …

Guido has the video, which is much more entertaining than reading the transcript. Boris was at his best:

That evening, The Guardian reported that Labour MPs were already talking about a change in leadership. Speaking personally, so far, Wes Streeting is the strongest candidate they have:

The majority of shadow ministers said they were grimly resigned to Starmer’s pledge – but said there were likely to be internal consequences. “I think once you start talking up the prospect of your own resignation you are on dangerous ground,” one said.

Another veteran MP, a Starmer loyalist, said they suspected ulterior motives from some shadow cabinet members. “If you fancy Keir’s job, this is win-win,” they said.

Rule changes pushed through at last year’s Labour conference mean a fifth of MPs must nominate any candidate for the party leadership in order for them to be put to a members’ postal vote – a higher threshold than under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and a move that was seen by those on the left as intending to disadvantage their candidates.

One MP said a snap leadership contest would put ascendant shadow cabinet ministers such as Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, in an advantageous position. “[Starmer’s] disappearance now would obviously benefit the Blairite right – [the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy] Burnham couldn’t stand, Sadiq Khan [the London mayor] couldn’t stand, Angela would be out of the picture for the same reason as Keir because if he goes on this she has said she will go too.”

If both Starmer and Rayner are forced to resign, there is no obvious interim leader. The most senior members of Starmer’s shadow cabinet – Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor; Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary; David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary; Streeting; and Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary – are all potential candidates in a contest. The party’s national executive committee would have to vote to designate an alternative member of the shadow cabinet.

A source close to Starmer said he was relaxed about the ambitions of his shadow cabinet. “I don’t think anyone is actively trying to undermine him. It says a lot about our party that there are so many potential candidates – look at the contrast again with the Tories. If people are ambitious, let them be.”

An ally of Streeting said: “Wes was on the media batting for Keir three times over the weekend and into Monday. He’s one of Keir’s most loyal and vocal supporters. After a great set of a local election results there is everything to play for at the next general election thanks to Keir’s leadership. This is no time for introspection.”

Senior figures in the Labour leader’s team are understood to have felt reluctant to advise Starmer he should raise the prospect of his own resignation.

On Wednesday, May 11, The Sun criticised Keir Starmer’s response to the Queen’s Speech. When responding to Boris on Tuesday, Starmer had no Labour policies to present. He merely criticised the Government at length and ended with this:

It does not have to be this way; it will not always be this way. A Labour Government would tackle the cost of living crisis head on, get Britain growing again after 12 years of failure, and improve public services so that they deliver for the people paying for them. A Labour Government would rise to the moment where this Government have badly failed.

The Sun‘s editorial, ‘Holey agenda’, said (bold in the original):

IS Keir Starmer chasing the wrong job?

He has no ideas anyone can detect, as his vacuous response to the Queen’s Speech proves. He clearly thinks it’s enough to be ‘decent’ and ‘honourable’.

Tribal Labour voters may lap up his preening sanctimony. Millions of others prefer leaders with vision and drive.

You’re auditioning for PM, Mr Starmer. Not Archbishop of Canterbury.

That day, digging around, Guido raised the matter of an early pandemic violation in Durham: that of Boris’s then-adviser Dominic Cummings at Barnard Castle in the Spring of 2020.

Durham Constabulary said at the time that there was nothing to investigate. They also stated that they did not issue retrospective fines.

As punishment, Boris made Cummings hold a lengthy televised press conference to explain himself. It lasted well over an hour and was most peculiar. At the end, after having asked many questions, one by one, reporters and broadcasters walked up individually to Cummings’s table to tell him what they thought of him.

Cummings’s press conference was his public penance.

Then again, parts of it were theatre for the public, most of whom didn’t know he is friends with many of those journalists, as is his wife. He addressed only one by his full name: Gary Gibbon from Channel 4 News.

Two years on with Starmer — and other Labour MPs in the frame — the Party’s ire was rising in Durham.

Mary Foy MP, who hosted the Durham gathering in 2021, had written a lengthy letter to Boris on May 28, 2020 about Cummings, who is pictured below in the background. The letter beneath it is recent. It is from the leader of Durham’s Labour Party to Red Wall Conservative MP Richard Holden, who had written to Durham Constabulary a few weeks ago to enquire as to whether they would investigate the 2021 Starmer event:

Mary Foy’s letter would have been better addressed to Durham Constabulary. It was up to them, not Boris, to take action against Cummings.

However, Foy took issue with Boris’s refusal to sack Cummings. In the event, he resigned a few months later for other reasons and was gone by the end of 2020.

Guido wrote about Foy’s letter, which can be viewed in its entirety on his post:

Now that Sir Keir is feeling the heat from his boozy lockdown curry night, Labour MPs are bending over backwards to explain why their leader’s Covid rule-breaking is somehow completely different to Boris’s, and why it’s right that Starmer remains in post provided he isn’t fined. One particular MP who might have some trouble with this is none other than the Honourable Member for Durham, Mary Foy…

Foy is probably best known for hosting the Beergate bhuna session in her constituency office, laughing and drinking merrily with her colleagues while the country was still in stage two of lockdown. She then went on to scream at Richard Holden for his asking Durham Police to reinvestigate the event. It turns out, however, that when Durham Police announced they wouldn’t fine Dominic Cummings over the infamous Barnard Castle trip, Foy had a few ideas about what should happen next. None of which involved Cummings keeping his job…

Here’s what Foy wrote in a public letter to Boris after the Cummings story:

The vast majority of constituents who have contacted me have expressed the view that Mr Cummings’ actions have been insensitive and unacceptable at best, and many feel that they warrant further investigation by the police.

While I understand today’s decision by Durham Police to take no further action, many of the constituents who have written to me would like Mr Cummings to resign or be sacked. Clearly, whether you stick by him or not is a matter for you, but the perception from my constituents, and I would hazard a guess that this is a common view across the North East, is that you are currently putting the interests of your chief adviser above that of the people of the region and the country as a whole.

Even though Cummings received no fixed penalty, and the police decided they’d take no further action, Foy still took the time to write a two-page letter informing the Prime Minister how upset her constituents are, and politely suggested Cummings lose his job. Presumably her office is inundated with similar letters now, all demanding Sir Keir does the honourable thing…

Labourites criticised Times Radio’s Lucy Fisher for mentioning Cummings and Starmer in the same tweet:

However, it would be wrong to think that Durham Constabulary never issued any fines — fixed penalty notices — for coronavirus violations.

On Thursday, May 12, The Times informed us of a fine Durham Constabulary issued to a bereaved woman in November 2020:

Some of Starmer’s supporters have assumed that detectives would not issue a fixed-penalty notice because they decided not to take retrospective action against Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former adviser.

However, the force’s approach appeared to harden later in the pandemic and it issued a £10,000 fine to a woman who organised a balloon release in memory of her father-in-law, who died of Covid.

Vicky Hutchinson held the gathering on November 11, 2020, in a field opposite a church in Horden, Co Durham, where Ian Stephenson’s funeral was due to take place a few days later. Her £10,000 fine was reduced to £500, based on her ability to pay, when she attended Peterlee magistrates’ court on April 23 last year, a week before the Starmer incident.

A court report by The Northern Echo revealed that Hutchinson, in her mid-thirties, had urged friends and family to wear masks and stay socially distanced at the balloon release. It said that police did not attend the gathering of about 30 people and there was no disorder.

However, it appears that there was a retrospective investigation after a complaint. Durham police analysed a livestream video of the event before issuing the fine, the report said.

The approach to Hutchinson’s case raises fresh questions about how the Durham force might handle the case of Starmer, who has denied wrongdoing …

Durham police did not respond to requests for comment.

Also on Thursday, Guido returned to Dominic Cummings, specifically what Keir Starmer said about the incident in 2020:

Guido has the quote:

Here’s what he said of Cummings back in 2020 – before the police had even launched their investigation:

This was a huge test of the Prime Minister, and he’s just failed that test. He hasn’t sacked Dominic Cummings, he hasn’t called for an investigation, and he’s treating the British public with contempt… that’s not a reasonable interpretation of the rules, and the Prime Minister knows it. One rule for the Prime Minister’s advisers, another rule for everyone else… If I were Prime Minister, I’d have sacked Cummings.

One rule for the Prime Minister’s advisers, another for Sir Keir…

And finally, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have now issued more than 100 fines for Downing Street events. Neither Boris nor his wife Carrie received one in this tranche:

Guido wrote:

A month on from their last update on Partygate, paused thanks to the local elections, the Met’s confirmed “more than 100″ fixed penalty notices have now been handed out. Downing Street say Boris has not received another fine…

Later that afternoon, GB News’s Colin Brazier and his guests discussed the Met’s issuing of fines to people who were at Downing Street gatherings.

It’s a bit rich for Brazier’s contributors to say that the Met want to channel their resources elsewhere. There are few police forces these days, including the Met, who want to investigate actual crime. This massive dispensing of fines also looks rather selective:

There is also the issue of double standards which irritate many members of the public:

Personally, I think the way the pandemic was handled was dystopian. I don’t know what to think about these fines. Part of me wants to see all of them refunded and any related criminal record for violations erased.

On the other hand, it seems only right that, if Labour have done wrong, they, too, should be fined.

So far, only the Conservatives have been. The Met have made them look positively criminal. Well, that’s par for the course in Labour-controlled London.

I’ll update this in due course.

End of series

Yesterday’s post reviewed events surrounding Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and other MPs connected with 2021’s campaign meeting, forbidden under that year’s coronavirus rules:

Keir Starmer defended Labour’s indoor beer and korma event by saying that no other venue was serving food.

Well, they were. However, the problem was that service was outdoors only at that time.

The hotel where Starmer was staying, the Radisson Blu, provided room service, but that would have precluded any other persons gathering in an individual’s room.

On the evening of Election Day, Thursday 5, 2022, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Red Wall MP Richard Holden, who had written to Durham Constabulary about properly investigating the event:

Holden said that the students who took the videos and photos offered to give Durham police a statement, but their kind offer was refused.

Holden suggested that evidence was being suppressed. He also questioned the fact that people involved had forgotten their diary details for that day.

As for dining, Holden said that, in order to comply with the rules, he had been part of a group eating a fish and chips supper outdoors in Hartlepool in windy conditions.

On Friday, May 6, Durham Constabulary finally issued a statement saying they would investigate the event held on April 30, 2021:

Labour MP Emily Thornberry dismissed the news and said all would be ‘fine’:

The BBC reported that Durham Constabulary waited until after the election to make an announcement (emphases in purple mine):

The force initially decided that no offence had occurred on 30 April last year, but said it had since received “significant new information”.

It added that it had delayed announcing the investigation until after Thursday’s local elections.

Sir Keir said he was confident he hadn’t broken any Covid rules.

He has faced criticism since he was filmed drinking a bottle of beer while in the constituency office of City of Durham MP Mary Foy.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, he said he had “stopped for something to eat” during meetings, and there was “no party”.

“The police obviously have go their job to do – we should let them get on with it,” he added.

Starmer took no questions on the matter:

Guido Fawkes resurrected a Starmer tweet from January 31:

Priceless:

The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant made an eloquent observation …

… which received these replies:

Later that day, Guido posted about the concerns that Starmer’s advisers had with the upcoming investigation:

Guido’s post says that a journalist, Ava Evans, heard that Labour MPs would not be doing media rounds for a few days (emphases in the original):

Ava also reports that one Labour MP told her they would not be participating in any media interviews for the next few days, for fear of being asked to defend Sir Keir. His actions were “indefensible” she reports them as saying. Which explains why we are only seeing Emily Thornberry abasing herself in studios…

On Saturday morning, news emerged that Starmer was taking legal advice from Lord Falconer, Tony Blair’s close friend who served as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from 2003 to 2007:

Guido reported on the development, an exclusive:

An extremely worried Keir Starmer has tasked Charlie Falconer with putting together a Beergate legal defence team. Labour lawyers have told Starmer that there is a 60% chance that he will escape a fine, however the fining of Sunak over a cake has spooked Starmer that he too could be fined over a beer and curry. The irony of the legal and political situation is exquisitely painful for the barrister politician.

Guido later added an update:

UPDATE:  In another irony, Falconer has publicly opined on the situation of politicians breaching laws they voted for in the Guardian:

… true accountability means facing justice in a criminal court. But not in this case – a fixed penalty notice does not bring any sense of justice done to those who paid what was very often a high price for obeying the rules.

Which appears to be a demand that Boris be tried in court for his birthday cake….

One of Guido’s readers wondered if Falconer’s involvement presented a conflict of interest, given his strong opinions on the matter:

That isn’t the only conflict of interest, either. There’s also Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen. Starmer campaigned for her and she won her election to that post:

The Mail on Sunday was able to obtain a leaked memo, Starmer’s itinerary for April 30, 2021:

This was the paper’s front page:

https://image.vuukle.com/d2e3e5f0-03e2-4996-96e8-9384b7dac96b-0da32b8d-68bf-4cdd-95d9-e35b4a28c113

Glen Owen’s exclusive for the MoS says:

The bombshell document, marked ‘private and confidential’, also calls into serious doubt Sir Keir’s claim that he returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries.

After the entry recording the ‘dinner in Miners Hall’ – which includes a note to ‘arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’, a local curry house – the document simply says: ‘End of visit.’

Spice Lounge did not supply food for the event. Another curry house, The Capital, did.

The paper received the memo from a whistleblower. The itinerary reveals that Angela Rayner MP was scheduled to be present:

The memo – which was passed to this newspaper by a whistleblower – also further undermines Labour’s claims that it made ‘an honest mistake’ when it denied that Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was at the event: it lists ‘AR’ alongside ‘KS’ as the two senior politicians anchoring the day’s proceedings.

Labour had denied that this was a planned event, but the memo’s existence proves that wrong:

the note – a forward-planning logistics document which is referred to as an ‘op note’ – makes clear the beer and curries had been planned in advance.

The note says that after a day’s campaigning in Hartlepool, Sir Keir’s team were due to arrive at the Radisson Blu hotel in Durham at 6.31pm, leaving by 7pm to walk to the Miners Hall.

After recording clips for the media, the note says a 1hr 20mins slot was set aside for ‘dinner in Miners Hall with Mary Foy’, the local Durham MP. A side note reads: ‘YS to arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’. YS is the acronym for a member of Sir Keir’s private office.

The Spice Lounge curry house was closed at the time, with callers being referred to the nearby Capital Indian restaurant. Last week, the Daily Mail spoke to one of the restaurant’s delivery drivers, who said he had dropped off a ‘big’ order of food for at least 15 people, including four bags of curries, rice and naan bread

The Mail on Sunday has established that the Radisson Blu was serving food when Sir Keir and his party checked in at 6.31pm and continued to do so until 9pm …

The document also refers to four members of the ‘MPL’ – Met Police Liaison – who were included in the trip, suggesting they are likely to have information useful to the investigation.

Also included on the op note is the line ‘Covid Alert Level: National Lockdown’, and ‘important note: please maintain social distancing of 2m and wear face coverings whilst indoors at all time’.

The leaked document makes clear that Ms Rayner was to play a central role in the day’s events

A Labour source said: ‘During a fast-moving campaign, the op note doesn’t always keep up with events so it would be wrong to assume that activities occurred at the times originally planned. For example, it’s been documented that the takeaway was late’.

This was Starmer’s previous denial that the gathering had been planned:

The Sunday Times also had an incriminating article. A source told the paper that some staffers were there only to party and that no work was done afterwards. Pictured below is Mary Foy MP:

It is expected that the investigation will take between four and six weeks:

Allegedly, pictures from the event circulated on Twitter. Those have since been deleted.

Interesting, to say the least:

The aforementioned Sunday Times article said that the Durham Constabulary have opened a major incident room. Angela Rayner’s presence appears to have triggered the investigation:

It was the discovery that Rayner had been at the event, despite Labour’s original claims, that prompted Durham police to open their investigation. A source close to the force said: “It raises the question about what else we might not have been told the entire truth about.”

Officers have set up a major incident room, and up to six detectives will spend the next four to six weeks looking at the potential lockdown breach. They are expected to use questionnaires — similar to the ones used by Scotland Yard to investigate Johnson and the Downing Street scandals — to interrogate those present at the event.

The force said, however, that it did not issue fines retrospectively. When Dominic Cummings was found to have made a 260-mile trip to Barnard Castle in 2020, the force said to take action against him would “amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public”.

It is unclear whether Scotland Yard’s decision to issue retrospective fines over the Downing Street gatherings could force a change of stance.

Mary Foy said:

“Me and my team were working during a very busy period, including facilitating the leader’s visit,” she said. “I do not believe either I or my office broke any rules, and I will of course fully engage with any police investigation.”

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, said:

“It’s the rank double standards that drive people crazy,” Raab told Sky News. “He needs to fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer-and-curry event in Durham.

Keir Starmer looks like, I’m afraid, someone who is engaged in complete hypocrisy, complete double standards and I don’t think he is going to get past that until he gives a proper account of what happened in Durham.”

Here’s the video of Raab talking to Sky News:

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, in charge of Brexit efficiency, told Channel 4’s Andrew Neil that one should be extremely careful with hoisted petards:

He does have a way with words.

Guido took a look at what Lord Falconer might say in Starmer’s defence:

That said, in February, The Mirror reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hired lawyers over ‘Partygate’:

The Prime Minister has hired hot shot lawyers to deal with the Met’s questions on Partygate.

The Mail reported that Starmer had cancelled his appearance on Monday, May 9, at an Institute for Government event in advance of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

Guido tweeted:

Guido’s post says:

The public event was scheduled to have included questions from the press and public. This morning, when door-stepped outside his North London home by journalists, a grim faced Starmer refused to say anything and was bundled into a waiting Range Rover. Keir clearly realises that “the police have already investigated this matter and found nothing” will no longer work as a line.

The Institute for Government is funded by the billionaire David Sainsbury, a former Labour minister under Tony Blair, who has backed centrist Labour politicians financially in the past. A statement on the website says only that the event is cancelled, with no explanation given.

The cancellation made the front page of Monday’s Daily Mail:

It was the start of another tense week for the Labour leader.

Meanwhile, Boris focused on the Queen’s Speech and historic agreements between the UK, Sweden and Finland in case of Russian aggression as a knock-on effect of the Ukraine conflict.

More to follow tomorrow.

My last post on Labour’s 2021 election campaign meeting in Durham is a week old.

The intrigue continues and so much more has happened.

It is important to reiterate that while many on social media say it did not break the coronavirus rules …

… there were specific rules for the 2021 election campaign, some of which differed from regulations for households.

Indoor campaign meetings were banned in 2021:

Let’s recall how Labour told an untruth about Angela Rayner’s not being at the April 30, 2021 event in Durham when she clearly was. Labour had to own up:

The Daily Mail reported that Labour claimed it was an honest mistake (emphases in purple mine):

Labour last night admitted it had lied about an event at which Sir Keir Starmer is alleged to have broken lockdown rules. 

In a sensational U-turn, Labour acknowledged that Angela Rayner was also at the event on April 30 last year at which Sir Keir was filmed enjoying a beer with officials at a time when indoor socialising was banned.

A Labour spokesman said last night: ‘Angela was present.’ A party source claimed the previous denials had been ‘an honest mistake’. 

It directly contradicts assurances given to the Daily Mail over the past three months that Mrs Rayner was ‘not there’

The admission came only after this newspaper confronted Labour officials with video evidence that Mrs Rayner had joined Sir Keir at an online rally for activists filmed in the Durham offices of Labour MP Mary Foy where the party leader was later seen drinking

The extraordinary revelation raises questions about whether Labour’s deputy leader also broke lockdown rules.

Recall that, for months, Labour, including Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, have been braying for Boris Johnson to resign:

Incidentally, once given a fixed penalty notice (fine) for one of the Downing Street events, Boris paid his promptly as did Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

With regard to Durham, their only Conservative MP, Richard Holden, wrote to Durham Constabulary to enquire about Labour’s indoor event.

Durham MP Mary Foy, who appears to have hosted the event in her office, took strong exception to Holden’s letter. She accosted him in Parliament’s Strangers’ Bar at the end of April:

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

The pressures of beergate are obviously getting to Labour MPs more than they’d like to admit: Labour MP Mary Foy launched into a furious drunken tirade against Richard Holden in the Strangers’ Bar on Tuesday night, after Holden asked Durham Police to reinvestigate Starmer for his lockdown beer drinking. Which isn’t exactly surprising, given the infamous event took place in Foy’s own constituency office…

Foy allegedly grabbed Holden’s arm and hurled so much abuse at him that her staff had to pull her away. Having had a skinful, she growled “how dare you name me and my office in this?” as apologetic staffers tried to calm her down. A witness told the Daily Mail she was “feeling the pressure”. Guido can’t imagine this morning’s revelations about Angela Rayner will do much to soothe her…

Holden threatened to take the matter to the Speaker unless she apologised the following morning. Lo and behold, on Wednesday morning Holden found “I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour on the terrace last night” in his inbox. Holden tells Guido she then went on to talk about how they could work together as Durham MPs …

The Daily Mail reported:

Three witnesses told the Daily Mail that Mary Foy vented her fury at Richard Holden on the Commons terrace on Tuesday night.

She is said to have verbally abused him for asking Durham Police to reopen the investigation into footage of the Labour leader having a beer with officials in her office on April 30, 2021.

Witnesses claim the City of Durham MP grabbed Mr Holden by the arm with both hands and tried to drag him across the terrace before staff restrained her.

Each witness said the former charity worker, 54, appeared to have been drinking heavily when the incident took place at around 10pm as MPs waited for late-night votes.

Goodness me. Being boozed up while waiting to vote on legislation? Unbelievable.

Anyway:

Mr Holden confirmed he had received a written apology from Mrs Foy the following morning. He said: ‘Mary has apologised for her totally unacceptable, drunken behaviour on the terrace and I want to leave it at that.’

A Tory source said Mrs Foy’s behaviour suggested the ‘pressure is showing’ on Labour as Durham Police face calls to finally launch a proper investigation into Sir Keir.

Mrs Foy declined to comment on the allegations when contacted yesterday and referred all questions to Labour’s press office. A party source confirmed she issued a personal apology.

The source said the pair had been drinking together in a group where there was ‘a bit of back and forth on politics generally’.

They added that it was ‘incorrect’ to say Mrs Foy had grabbed Mr Holden’s arm, but did not comment on claims she was drunk.

But several witnesses said they were shocked by the ferocity of her tirade.

More happened that day, Friday, April 29.

BBC Breakfast‘s review of the newspapers left out the Daily Mail‘s aforementioned front page with Angela Rayner on it, although reporter Iain Watson later soft-pedalled Labour’s claim that it was an honest mistake:

Guido rightly observed that the nation’s broadcaster had not afforded the Conservatives such gracious treatment:

When they finally got around to discussing the exposé, political correspondent Iain Watson was at pains to emphasise Labour’s absurd line that it was just an “honest mistake”, incredibly kind framing Guido’s sure Downing Street would not receive. The Metropolitan Police decided to U-turn and investigate No. 10’s parties after months of media pressure; now Labour’s been caught out, the establishment media is doing its best to downplay the rule-breaking. Labour must be thanking their lucky stars…

At lunchtime, Guido posted Sir Keir’s detailed timeline, complete with photos and videos, up North in Hull and Durham:

At the end of the timeline, Guido reminded us of what Angela Rayner had said only a week earlier:

April 20, 2022: Angela Rayner is asked “If Keir Starmer, had been fined for the beer and sandwiches that he had or was perhaps it was just beer. Should he have resigned?” Rayner replies “If Keir Starmer had broken the law, then Yes.”

This was the Mail‘s front page on Saturday, April 30. It was a newsy day, especially with disgraced now-former Conservative MP Neil Parish:

That was also the first anniversary of the event in Durham:

The next day, the Mail on Sunday called Starmer a hypocrite, something a Sky News presenter quizzed him about (video here):

Keir Starmer avoided the BBC that morning. Instead, one of his MPs, David Lammy, went on to chat with Sophie Raworth (videos here and here). By now, the public were catching on that Labour had been obfuscating for nearly five months:

On Tuesday, May 3, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole reported that Starmer’s security detail from London’s Metropolitan Police were in Durham on the night in question. Hmm:

Cole wrote, in part:

Witnesses suggest dozens of MPs and aides gathered at Miners’ Hall, with the police car still there late into the evening.

One bystander who walked past at 11pm said: “The place was still lit up and busy and Keir’s car was still outside.”

The Sun has also revealed that £200 was spent on takeaway curry for dozens of MPs and aides at the bash.

That day, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn wrote that Starmer should be careful about his situation, given he has been running roughshod over Boris, clamouring constantly for his resignation:

Starmer called for both Johnson and Sunak to quit over their fixed penalty notices despite knowing that the full truth about his own campaign-trail gathering had not come out.

For starters, Labour said its deputy leader Angela Rayner was not at the event when she was. This according to Starmer was a simple ‘mistake’ made in good faith. But has he ever conceded Johnson could have made simple mistakes in good faith about what constituted unlawful gatherings? Of course not

Can Starmer be said to have ‘come clean’ about his own lockdown socialising? Hardly. He is still being evasive now about what exactly the ‘work’ was that his team supposedly returned to after beer and pizza had been consumed around 10 p.m. on a Friday night …

When Starmer was first questioned about beergate, back in January, he told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth: ‘If you’re trying to persuade anyone that stopping to have some food when you’re in the office all day working is a breach of the rules, it’s just not going to wash.’ Yet hasn’t such thinking been at the heart of his own relentless attacks on Johnson?

Starmer the lawyer may think he has winning answers to these questions. Were he a better politician, he would see immediately that he does not. He has been hoisted by his own petard and may soon crash land against some particularly unforgiving ramparts.

The Mail‘s Stephen Pollard also posted an editorial on Starmer. Pollard, by the way, is a member of the Labour Party. However, he abhors the hypocrisy of Starmer’s handling of the Durham event compared with his verbal harassment in the Commons of Boris and Rishi:

the holes in his story get bigger by the day. Sir Keir also says he had no choice but to eat with his colleagues because he couldn’t get a meal at the hotel he was staying in.

The Mail has shown this is nonsense – the hotel made a point of offering room service for law-abiding guests who were following the rules by eating alone in their room. Sir Keir could remove all doubt about the truth of his story if he gave a full account of what happened backed up by evidence. In the absence of such evidence, however, it looks to be no more and no less than a social meal and a drink with colleagues after work – and so not remotely ‘necessary’. In other words, illegal under the Tier 2 rules.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was fined for turning up to a scheduled work meeting in the Cabinet room to find that a gathering was taking place, and not walking out. For that, Labour demanded his resignation. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Sir Keir plainly thinks he can keep saying nothing and the fuss will die down. But the one thing voters cannot stomach is a politician who lies – so Sir Keir needs to come clean. It is difficult to imagine why he would let this story fester if he really has done nothing wrong and can prove it by answering questions, so it may well be he is covering up his own lawbreaking.

If that is the case then – on his own merciless standards – surely he must resign.

Or does he believe that the rules don’t apply to him?

Also on that day, we found out who took the videos and photos of the Durham event — students at Durham University. The Mail reported that the Met’s vehicle piqued their curiosity:

Students who filmed the Labour leader drinking in the office of one of his MPs while indoor socialising was banned also photographed an unfamiliar black Land Rover Discovery parked outside.

If it was one of the official police protection vehicles issued to Sir Keir in his role as a senior politician, it would raise the prospect that officers guarding him can help definitively solve the questions which continue to swirl around the night’s events.

One of the students who filmed the gathering at Durham Miners Hall on April 30 last year said: ‘We had never seen a black Land Rover parked there before, it really stuck out. We took a picture of it because we were convinced it was the car in which he had been driven there.’

Last night a Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on protection matters.’ Labour did not respond to requests for comment.

Former Scotland Yard Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was previously forced to defend officers on duty in Whitehall as questions were raised on how potentially lockdown-breaching gatherings were able to take place at a site with a heavy police presence.

Speaking in February, she said the officers were there to provide ‘protective security’ but refused to be drawn on ‘anything they may have seen or heard’.

The Leader of the Opposition is one of a small number of senior politicians given round-the-clock protection by police

Officers would know everywhere the ‘principal’ is going during a visit and have a rough idea of timings, a source said last night.

The Mail did not name the students, but Guido knew who one of them was back in January 2022:

On January 18, Guido revealed the student’s identity once the images of the Durham event had reached The Sun, The Telegraph and The Mail:

… the person who snapped the incriminating footage – James Delingpole’s son, Ivo – is just as angry with the Tories as anyone else. Taking to Instagram yesterday he reacted to the Mail’s splash with pleasant surprise:

Bit strange to have a video I filmed… on the front cover of a newspaper. I didn’t make any money from it and didn’t send it to them, but glad the hypocrisy was outed nonetheless

However he followed up:

It was last year and just outside my university house… I hope this in no way helps the Prime Minister defend himself from critics, and that he gets no respite from the questioning and criticism [he] deserves …

But even that splash in three newspapers didn’t stop Starmer. In fact, he doubled down, as we can see in this tweet from January 31:

Returning to last week, Wednesday, May 4, the day before the election, the Mail had the following front page on the seventh day of Beergate. Someone should write a song …

Starmer appeared on ITV1’s Good Morning Britain that day. Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley interviewed him. Things did not go spectacularly well, even if Reid is left-of-centre politically:

Guido had the story and video:

For the seventh consecutive day, Starmer is battling the headlines over Beergate. This morning the Sun reports Starmer and Labour aides spent £200 on takeaway food on the night the infamous photo was taken – enough curry to feed 30 people for what Labour still insists was just a quick meal during important campaign work. That line is becoming increasingly untenable, as Starmer’s appearance just now on Good Morning Britain attests…

Speaking to Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley, Starmer trotted out the boilerplate excuses Labour have been using for a week, much of which was irrelevant waffle about how many camera pieces he recorded that day. Not once did he deny reports it turned into a £200, 30-person feast …

He recorded some video messages on a laptop – doesn’t require 30 people, beer and curry late on a Friday night to do that. When Susanna Reid asked why any of this was actually relevant, Starmer claimed:

We were on the road, at the end of the day, we were in the office preparing. Now, that evening, from memory, we were doing an online event for members… at some point, this was in the evening, everyone is hungry. A takeaway was ordered… in Durham all restaurants and pubs were closed.

Of course, that last part is untrue: hospitality reopened for outdoor service on April 12, and the Durham event took place on April 30. Still, at least Starmer confirmed the police haven’t been in touch yet, something he couldn’t say yesterday for some reason. If Starmer’s finding all this scrutiny unnecessary, Guido would just remind him he called for Rishi to resign last month for singing ‘happy birthday’. Or was that just pointless mudslinging?

Guido’s tweet about Good Morning Britain had a response about why Labour might not have wanted to put Angela Rayner in the frame until they were forced to:

That day, the Mail‘s Andrew Pierce looked at the possible people helping Starmer obfuscate. We already know about Mary Foy MP and I covered Joy Allen, the head of Durham Constabulary, in a previous post. She was not at the event.

The others follow — Allen’s deputy, the curry house and the other Labour MP for Durham:

PCC Allen’s second-in-command is Nigel Bryson, who happens to be a long-standing friend of hers. They met, inevitably, through the Labour Party and she has attracted criticism for appointing him without advertising. Challenged over this failure to vet anyone else, she said: ‘I’ve got somebody who knows everything about me as a candidate… I could go through the process but it would just be possibly going through the motions.’ So that’s all right then.

The Capital is one of Durham’s finest Indian restaurants and this week it emerged its delivery driver had dropped off a ‘£200’ feast for the gathering, including biryanis, tikka masalas, rice and naan breads. The driver initially told the Daily Mail there were ’30 or so people’ inside – but bizarrely later insisted he had no recollection of making the delivery.

Yet the curry house has been known to have friendly relations with Durham’s Labour machine.

In May 2020, during the first lockdown, local MP Foy hailed it for supplying meals to NHS workers and posed for photographs with head chef Syed Islam.

Bordering Foy’s constituency is North Durham, with MP Kevan Jones. He has also remained silent about the night in question – and this isn’t surprising.

A leading figure in the local Labour community, Jones himself has broken lockdown laws – not once, but twice. The first breach came on May 7, 2020, when he took part in a group photo shoot in his constituency, promoting artwork in praise of the NHS. A noble cause – but the rules about socialising were clear. Jones committed another breach three days later.

A video shows him attending an indoor party for 100-year-old veteran Frederick Herron, allegedly attended by about 40 people. Who would begrudge a hero centenarian a fitting celebration? Nobody – except Starmer and Labour have consistently claimed that the law should have been upheld.

Asked yesterday about his lockdown breaches, Jones said he would ‘rather not comment’.

The plot thickened and the intrigue continued.

More tomorrow, beginning with what the papers said on Election Day.

Considering that Parliament is currently prorogued and that this past weekend was the May bank holiday, one would think that nothing political happened.

One would be very wrong indeed.

In fact, a Conservative MP stood down and Labour’s indoor 2021 election campaign meeting in Durham attracted more attention.

Labour’s 2021 do in Durham

My April 29 post has the background to Labour’s 2021 election campaign do in Durham.

April 30 was its one year anniversary:

I couldn’t agree more.

The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges agrees on Labour’s hypocrisy:

Many Labour supporters say that the Durham do did not break any rules, however, it probably did. Below are the rules for the 2021 election campaign:

Furthermore, it is possible that, despite the fines (fixed penalty notices), the Downing Street gatherings did not break the rules, as the address is part of the Crown Estates.

On April 27, the Conservative Post published an article on the lefty activist QC (Queen’s Counsel) advising senior civil servant Sue Gray in her report on the gatherings. The article says that they were perfectly legal (emphases in the original):

One might ask is this QC holding an almighty grudge?

Is this why Sue Gray / the Met Police haven’t looked at section 73 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984? Do they even know about it?

Surely a bipartisan advisor would have pointed out this important law of the land?

The Act clearly states that pandemic regulations, at all times, never applied to Crown Land (which includes No.10). 

Granted, one rule for them and another for the rest of us seems a bit unfair but it also makes sense.

Steven Barrett, a leading barrister at Radcliffe Chambers who read law at Oxford and taught law at Cambridge explains:

In the eighties lawmakers decided that it would be better to allow the government to function during any future national pandemic without having to worry about being caught up in quarantine regulations. The thinking was that by making the government effectively exempt in law, the government could continue to function.

In addition to the 1984 Act, there were also specific regulations that applied at the time of the alleged “parties” the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.

According to these rules, gatherings were allowed in all public buildings, or parts of them ‘operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.’

So whatever happened in Downing Street was legal. 

How has a QC / Civil Service Advisor not made this clear to Sue Gray? If he had surely no-one at Downing Street would have received a fine at all.  

One would also have thought the Civil Service would check who is advising them.

Can someone let Sue Gray and the Met Police know please before any more incorrect fines are issued out? It’s important rules of the land are adhered to. 

But, butand it’s a BIG BUT:

The matter came up in the House of Lords on December 14, 2021, shortly after the controversy broke. Good grief, that is now six months ago.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Jenny Jones, Green Party) asked:

whether Number 10 Downing Street is a Crown property; and, if so, whether regulations made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 apply there.

Lord True, replying for the Cabinet Office, said that the regulations would have applied to Downing Street, despite its being part of the Crown Estates (emphases mine below, except for Guido Fawkes posts):

No 10 Downing Street is a Crown property. Regulations under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 which relate to the activities of people, apply regardless of whether those activities took place on Crown property or not.

Hmm.

Back to Labour’s Durham do, which has been trending online as Beergate and Currygate:

Durham Constabulary said a long time ago that there was nothing to investigate. Durham is a Labour area, so no surprise there.

However, the clamour over the weekend thanks to Conservative MP Richard Holden’s letter to them was such that perhaps the police have decided to have another look.

On Tuesday, May 3, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Martha Kearney, Keir Starmer refused to say (audio here):

This leads pundits to assume that Durham Constabulary might have been in touch:

Another development over the weekend was confirmation that Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, was also in attendance.

Guido Fawkes posted the following on Friday, April 29:

After months of questioning, it can finally be confirmed Angela Rayner was present at Starmer’s lockdown beer party in Durham. Despite refusals to confirm, video evidence dug out yesterday morning reveals Angie’s attendance, who shared a chair with Sir Keir for a “Get out the vote rally”  on Facebook an hour before the video of Starmer’s unlawful socialising was filmed. Oh. Dear.

Rayner can be heard saying “And being here at the Miners Hall in Durham, I’ve got to start with, you know, the past we inherit, the future we build.” She and Starmer sit in front of a window identical to that Starmer was filmed through an hour later swigging beer, contrary to Covid rules.

Earlier this week, Guido forced a denial from local Police & Crime Commissioner Joy Allen, who said she wasn’t present at the ‘essential campaign event’ after social media rumours began circulating that the female head seen at the bottom of the Starmer beer frame was hers.

Labour claim that there was no other place to go for food and drink, however:

Also:

On Sunday evening, May 1, Mark Dolan of GB News rightly took aim at Labour’s sanctimonious and hypocritical posturing:

However, things weren’t going well for the Conservatives, either.

Neil Parish stands down as MP

Neil Parish stood down as MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon after admitting he was looking at indecent images on his phone while in the Palace of Westminster.

He claimed that he had been searching for tractors on the first occasion and accidentally arrived at an indecent website. On the second occasion, he confessed that he deliberately visited the same website again.

I was somewhere between surprised and shocked. He always seemed like such a level-headed individual.

This video clip is from March 14, 2019, around the time I began watching BBC Parliament regularly. Tension about Brexit had been ramping up since January that year:

In June 2020, he led a debate on the BBC’s axeing of local and regional political coverage:

More importantly, he had headed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee since 2015. He came from a farming family and left school at the age of 16 to help run his family’s farm.

Last week, rumours had been circulating about a Conservative MP looking at indecent images during parliamentary proceedings.

On Friday, April 29, Guido reported that the Conservatives removed the whip from Parish:

The hunt is over: Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, has lost the whip this afternoon after being revealed as the Commons’ mystery porn viewer. Following conversations with the Whips’ office today, Parish has reported himself to the Standards Committee of the House of Commons for investigation. The Tories had previously referred the claims to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, so Parish is now under investigation by both bodies…

A spokesperson from the Chief Whip’s office said:

Having spoken to the Chief Whip this afternoon, Neil Parish MP is reporting himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Mr Parish has been suspended from the Conservative Whip pending the outcome of that investigation.

Guido included an interview Parish had given to GB News that afternoon. It was clear Parish had no intentions of resigning at that time:

I think the whips’ office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result… I think you’ve got some 650 Members of Parliament in what is a very intense area, you are going to get people that step over the line. I don’t think there’s necessarily a huge culture here, but I think it does have to be dealt with, and dealt with seriously. And that’s what the whips will do in our whips’ office.

There was a time when someone could be sacked on the spot for looking at indecent images at work. Granted, this was in the private sector.

I knew of one such individual in the mid-1990s. His dismissal was also shocking, as he was the last person I would have expected to engage in such activity and was a senior manager who was very good at what he did.

However, it seems that such behaviour is becoming normalised, according to The Telegraph. It extends to viewing such things on public transport. Ugh.

Early on Saturday, The Telegraph posted an exclusive interview with Parish:

Suspended from his party and facing public ridicule, Mr Parish is at the centre of a maelstrom. But now that the accusation is “out in the open,” Mr Parish said on Friday night, “it’s almost as if a weight is lifted off me” …

Over the course of the interview, conducted in Mr and Mrs Parish’s sitting room in front of a warm hearth, the MP confirmed he had referred himself to the parliamentary standards committee, apologised to his constituents, and suggested that, even if cleared, he might step down.

It was late on Friday night when The Telegraph called. The couple’s eight-year-old labrador, Kitty, was dozing in front of the fire. Mr Parish, after a long day, was wearing a dressing gown. The MP is a farmer by trade, and the couple’s home is the family farmhouse. Their sitting room is bedecked with books and family photos. It is typical for MPs embroiled in scandal to flee their homes, but the Parishes, who have two adult children and two grandchildren, have stayed put …

Earlier in the day, Mr Parish, 65, said he had opened pornographic material “in error”, but he declined to give further details. Asked what happened, Mr Parish said: “I think it’s all going to have to go through the inquiry, and then I will give them all the evidence I have, and it’ll be for them to make the decision. And then I will make my mind up as to what I do, whether I remain in Parliament or whether I leave.”

He had not spoken to the Prime Minister, he said. Asked if he had a comment for his constituents, Mr Parish said: “That I very much enjoy being their MP, I’ve worked very hard, and I will continue working for them. I apologise for the situation – the whip is withdrawn – but I am still their MP. And at the moment I’m still the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, and I take that job very seriously. And I will carry it on for as long as I have it.”

Mr Parish faces an ignominious end to a 12-year parliamentary career in which he has won increasingly large majorities and worked on a broad set of issues within farming and rural affairs. Local elections are coming up and he is now seen as a liability, with fellow MPs calling for his resignation

Mrs Parish, 66, said she had first learnt of the allegations from a journalist who rang her for comment. “I didn’t know anything about it until he rang and said, ‘Oh, you know what I’m ringing about…’

“I didn’t know who was more embarrassed, actually, me or him!” said Mrs Parish. “Poor chap.”

It seemed that the couple had discussed the matter between them and that it had been explained to Mrs Parish’s satisfaction.

“Yes,” said Mrs Parish, without hesitation.

“My wife is amazingly loyal and better than I deserve,” said Mr Parish.

“That’s for sure,” said Mrs Parish, chuckling.

At the end of the interview, Mr Parish took a phone call from his brother, Rod. They chatted briefly, with Mr Parish thanking his brother for what sounded like a supportive call. Mr Parish, having swapped his dressing gown for a shirt and jacket, then politely assented to having his picture taken …

By Saturday afternoon, Parish had resigned:

People did not believe the tractor excuse …

… but there is good reason to accidentally see something indecent when searching for tractors:

Guido wrote:

Neil Parish has told the BBC he’s quitting after being accused of watching porn on two occasions while performing his MP duties in Parliament. With bizarre detail he claims “the first time was accidental after looking at tractors, but the second time was deliberate”. 

24,239 majority in his seat of Tiverton and Honiton. If this by-election ends up being remotely interesting, the Tories are in deep trouble…

A by-election upset in a similar constituency took place in the staunchly Conservative North Shropshire which now has a Liberal Democrat MP after Owen Paterson was forced to stand down late last year.

On May 1, The Sunday Times confirmed that two female MPs had seen Parish looking at indecent material online:

Parish, 65, said the first time he had watched pornography was accidental, insisting he had been looking at tractors on his mobile phone before straying onto a website with a “very similar name”. He said he watched the video “for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done”.

On the second occasion, however, the married father of two admitted he had looked at porn deliberately while waiting to vote at the side of the chamber. “What I did was absolutely wrong,” he told the BBC.

Parish, who chaired the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, issued a “full apology” to the two female MPs who had seen him watching the pornography, but insisted it was “not my intention to intimidate”.

It marked a significant U-turn in 24 hours. At first he had defied calls to quit and said he would await the findings of a parliamentary investigation. A growing number of Conservative MPs made clear that his position was untenable, however, and that he should resign immediately rather than prolong the controversy days before the local elections on Thursday

His departure means that the Conservatives are now facing the prospect of having to defend two by-elections in short succession.

Imran Ahmad Khan, who was elected MP for Wakefield in 2019, tendered his resignation last week after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Labour is widely expected to win back the seat.

Conservative Party insiders are also braced for a third by-election. They are awaiting the outcome of the investigation into David Warburton, who had the Tory whip withdrawn last month after it was alleged that he sexually harassed three women.

Although Parish’s constituency has returned a Conservative at every election since its creation in 1997 — and the party has a majority of 24,000 — Tory insiders fear that it shares parallels with North Shropshire, the seat lost to the Liberal Democrats in December after the resignation of the disgraced MP Owen Paterson.

Last night a Lib Dem source said: “As we saw in North Shropshire, there is a real backlash against Boris Johnson from rural communities who are fed up with being taken for granted.”

What a shame.

Also on Sunday, The Telegraph confirmed rural communities’ disillusionment with the Conservatives. One woman running for the local council in North Frome, Somerset, says that locals are tearing down her campaign posters and handing leaflets back to her.

The paper refers to these communities and counties as the Blue Wall, historically Conservative areas:

The election is a key test for Boris Johnson, who is facing a difficult mid-term contest after months of criticism of his leadership from Tory quarters over partygate, tax rises and the cost of living crisis.

Many of the English council areas, including Somerset, Hertfordshire and Hampshire, are places the Conservatives have traditionally considered to be strongholds.

Now, they are increasingly thought of as part of the “Blue Wall” – containing millions of wavering Tory voters who are disgruntled with Mr Johnson and could “flip” to Labour or the Liberal Democrats

Voters in Somerset demonstrate what strategists in all parties have identified – that there has been a shift away from the Conservatives among people who live in the countryside.

New research from Parliament’s all-party group for rural business and the “rural powerhouse” suggests the Government has a “chronic under-appreciation for the economic and social potential of the countryside,” and that businesses in rural areas are on average 18 per cent less productive than the country at large.

Many voters who have always lent the Tories their trust feel that southern rural areas have suffered at the expense of “levelling up” – the Government’s plan to improve high streets and fortunes in neglected Northern areas traditionally represented by Labour.

Meanwhile, a Conservative promise to deliver next-generation broadband speed by 2025 is unlikely to be met, the parliamentary spending watchdog has said.

Countryside voters, who are often keen to protect the natural beauty of their homes, say plans to rip up the planning system to build more houses and erect new onshore wind farms are a direct attack on their way of life.

Paul Moody, an antiques dealer who lives near Shepton Mallet, said his faith in the Conservatives’ commitment to the countryside is being challenged by “horrendous” new “T pylons” near his home and the threat of solar panels carpeting the fields.

“They march across the countryside and stand out all across the Somerset Levels” he said.

“I would prefer more nuclear power stations than ruining the countryside.”

Answering a survey conducted for The Telegraph by Redfield and Wilton Strategies this week, just 19 per cent of voters said the Conservatives cared about rural areas, while 28 per cent said Labour did. Almost half of voters (46 per cent) say “levelling up” does not inspire them.

Other national polling shows Labour has increased its lead over the Conservatives by three points since April 12, when Mr Johnson was fined over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

While ministers have repeatedly suggested that the public does not care about partygate and would prefer to see the Government focus on making domestic policy, Tory sources admit privately that the polling shows that idea is “for the birds”.

It’s all falling apart for Boris at the moment.

Ukraine loves Boris

On Tuesday, May 3, Boris made history by becoming the world’s first leader to address Ukraine’s parliament:

Also on Tuesday morning, he gave an interview to Left-leaning Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

It did not go well …

… and not knowing who ITV’s queen of breakfast television, Lorraine Kelly, is unforgiveable. She’s only been on the network for over three decades:

Maybe the man has a point, but it still helps to play to the audience, most of whom probably stay tuned for Lorraine’s show, which follows Good Morning Britain.

It’s a shame that Ukraine’s enthusiasm for Boris doesn’t translate here at the moment, but I cannot blame Conservative voters for being disillusioned.

Over the past month, Neil Oliver has had some exceptionally good Saturday night programmes on GB News.

While his shows are a must in my household, for those who haven’t been tuning in, his shows over the past month have contained even more insight than usual.

This video is from February 26, 2022, the week when Russia invaded Ukraine:

Oliver’s editorial begins at the 5:00 point. He rightly wonders what the invasion is really about. He says that he cannot rely on mainstream media to tell the truth.

However, he also discusses the situation in the West and says that we do not realise how exceptional our era of individual liberty and freedom over the past few decades has been.

He points out that we are taking it for granted.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has seen Western governments become authoritarian. He points to Justin Trudeau, who condemns Putin when he himself has had the bank accounts of protesting truckers frozen because they protested against mandatory vaccinations. Oliver says that the sheer hypocrisy of it all is stunning.

He also lambastes the leaders in New Zealand and Australia for authoritarian measures during the pandemic, making the point that, given mankind’s natural inclination towards dictatorial policies, Western leaders are happily following along. Therefore, we need to keep an eye on what they are doing and call them out accordingly.

He says that we need to get serious: stop worrying about identity politics and pronouns. Instead, we have our freedoms to defend.

At the 21:00 point, he interviews a journalist to discuss what is really happening in Ukraine. The journalist said that China is also a player in this situation. Although it looks to most people as if Russia and China are enemies, they have a common goal: to bring down the West.

At the 23:00 mark, welcomes Sebastian Gorka to give his views.

Gorka says that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would not have happened had Joe Biden not pulled out of Afghanistan last year. He says that President Trump would have managed Afghanistan much differently and that, consequently, the Ukraine invasion would not have happened.

Gorka also brings up energy independence, which Trump initiated in the United States and warned Europe about in 2017. (Everyone laughed. They’re not laughing now.) Gorka said that it was ‘moronic’ for Biden to reverse Trump’s energy policy in the US.

On Biden, I was heartened to see another article in The Telegraph which has been critical of him.

On March 28, the paper’s Nile Gardiner asked, ‘Will Europe finally wake up to the truth about Joe Biden now?’

He writes (emphases mine):

It is amateur hour on the world stage from the Biden Presidency. His visit last week to Europe was a train wreck, from his bizarre press conference in Brussels to the ad-libbed final words of his speech in Warsaw. 

At times Mr. Biden looked dazed and confused, struggling to command his sentences, and drifting into incoherence. The messaging was muddled, forcing even the president’s top officials to disown their own leader’s comments.

In 20 years in Washington, I have not seen a White House more disorganised, incompetent or mismanaged, in both the president’s and vice president’s office. It has a distinctly Monty Python-esque feel to it. Having visited the Trump White House on multiple occasions, and met with the former president several times, I can attest it was a model of efficiency compared to what we’re seeing now.

On no fewer than three separate occasions, Biden’s own staff had to clarify or even refute the words of their commander in chief. Biden officials had to explain to the world’s media that he was not calling for US troops to go into Ukraine, that the United States would not respond to Russia with chemical weapons if Moscow used them, and that the Biden administration was not seeking regime change in Moscow. These are big misstatements, not minor gaffes, with major global ramifications, and a direct impact on the war in Ukraine

There is a major lack of discipline in messaging from the Biden administration, and clearly deep-seated divisions as well among policy staff. Biden himself has been stung by the charge from political opponents that he has been weak over Ukraine, as well as by sinking poll numbers, and is trying to overcompensate with tough rhetoric on Putin. His own aides are trying to rein him in. As a result, confusion reigns

By contrast:

Donald Trump used to come under heavy fire from the French, Germans and European elites at Nato summits, and his message was not always popular. But he was far more effective than Joe Biden at getting results, increasing defence spending, and shaking up the complacent status quo in Europe

True!

As Neil Oliver says, our leaders are not up to scratch.

Furthermore, we, the general public, must also stop being complacent about civil liberties and our Western freedoms. As we saw in the pandemic, our leaders can take them away instantly, without any qualms. Restoring them will take much longer.

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