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The Conservative Party leadership contest hustings ended in London’s Wembley Arena on Wednesday, August 31.

Did it last too long? We think so only because we are having a cost of living crisis with more Project Fear pumped into our brains every day. Critics should remember that Parliament is in summer recess anyway. If things were normal with the economy, crime levels and the NHS, we wouldn’t have minded so much.

Remember, if this had been a Labour leadership contest, no one would have moaned. The media would have bent over backwards justifying it.

What I do mind, however, is that Parliament will be meeting only for a short time in September then adjourning so that the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems can scuttle off to their respective Party conferences. Surely, parliamentary business can continue in the Chamber during September. Not every MP needs to be at a conference every day. Most of them are held on weekends, and Parliament does not meet on Fridays, so there is no reason why the Commons cannot meet during September.

Back to the hustings.

London

I’ll start with the last one in London, which was excellent:

Nick Ferrari, the host of the morning show on LBC (radio), was the moderator.

The sound quality was good as was the music. It was highly professional and everyone looked as if they enjoyed being there.

The Conservative audience was diverse: all ethnic groups and all age groups. There were even a few hipsters present.

The first hour was not filmed. Author, national wit, Celebrity Gogglebox star and former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth, 74, opened proceedings. I wish I could have seen him. Amazingly, he broke his elbow the day before in Fife, Scotland, but still showed up at Wembley Arena the next day.

In the video, Nick Ferrari comes on at 4:13 to introduce the format, which is consistent with the other Conservative Party hustings. 

At this point in the contest, Liz Truss was seen by pollsters and bookmakers to be way ahead of Rishi Sunak, so the introductory theme was one of unity, meaning: no hard feelings, folks, our next job is to defeat Keir Starmer’s Labour.

That is the message Iain Duncan Smith MP gave in his endorsement for Liz Truss (6:09), reminding the audience that:

she cut her political teeth in London.

Greenwich, to be precise.

Liz Truss’s campaign video followed (13:41), then she appeared on stage, coming out like a winner and invoking the England Lionesses’ ladies football win at the Euros, talking about an ‘aspiration nation’ and pronouncing London:

the greatest city on earth.

After Liz finished her speech, Michael Gove was next (26:08). He endorsed Rishi.

Gove also spoke about unity and had kind — penitential? — words for Boris, which met with a resounding wall of applause. He thanked Boris for ‘the biggest vaccine rollout in Europe’ and for being the first to support Ukraine at the end of February:

Boris, thank you for your service.

Rishi rushed on to the stage after his cringeworthy Underdog campaign video played (34:44).

The crowd went wild with cries of ‘Rishi, Rishi’ (36:00). His parents were in the audience and the cameras got several shots of them when their son was on stage. They sat between Rishi’s wife and Michael Gove.

He said:

We value who you are not what you are.

He paid Liz credit for being:

a proud and passionate Conservative.

In his speech, he mentioned tackling the decades-old problem of grooming gangs and said he would get to grips with public safety and illegal migration.

Then it was time for Liz to answer Nick Ferrari’s and the audience’s questions (51:33).

Afterwards came Rishi’s turn (1:25:00).

Andrew Stephenson, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party closed proceedings (1:58:26) and asked the two candidates back on stage for a final momentary appearance.

With that, the 12th and final hustings came to a close.

The Telegraph has a good recap. Emphases mine below.

Liz has had a good campaign:

… the past seven weeks have seen momentum firmly swing towards Liz Truss, and it would be a major political shock if Mr Sunak were be unveiled as the next prime minister on Monday.

Polling suggests the Foreign Secretary has a lead of around 30 points among Tory members, who have been drawn to her promises to immediately cut taxes and instigate radical economic reform.

By and large, she has also been better received at the hustings events that have taken place around the country, routinely winning applause for her positions on National Insurance, fracking and transgender issues.

Around 6,000 Conservative Party members attended the London hustings and heard Gyles Brandreth’s introduction:

Gyles Brandreth, the broadcaster and former Tory MP whose arm is in a sling, has just given a speech to the Wembley Arena crowd.

“How exciting it is that two people who are intelligent, committed, capable, passionate about their country are actually ready to give service,” he said.

“So whatever the result is it’s going to be a great result for the United Kingdom. And whatever the result is at the end of this election, we are going to come together and support whoever the victor is to the hilt! No question of that.”

He closed with a poem:

From quiet homes and first beginning
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There’s nothing worth the wear of winning
But laughter and the love of friends.

Peter Booth, the chairman of the National Convention, appeared next, giving the audience guidelines on asking their questions.

The video misses out a lone protester, angry about energy charges:

A protester has just run in front of the stage – a man in a dark suit holding a sign that said dontpay.uk, writes Tony Diver, our Whitehall Correspondent, from Wembley Arena.

He was escorted out immediately by two security guards as he ran in front of cameras.

Liz put a lot of blame for London’s woes on Mayor Sadiq Khan’s shoulders:

Liz Truss tells the hustings it is impossible for Britain to succeed with London but it has been “let down by Sadiq Khan”.

“Sadiq Khan is anti-everything – he’s anti-car, he’s anti-business, he’s anti-opportunity and he is holding London back. And I don’t believe those people who say London is a Labour city. No, it is not. London is a city where people opportunities and they want to get on in life.

“And that’s what we can deliver, and we can make London Conservative again.”

Sound familiar?

Nationally:

Ms Truss warns we all face dark times, vowing to reverse National Insurance and impose a moratorium on the green levy, while keeping corporation tax low.

These are her pledges:

I would be honoured to be your prime minister, first of all to deliver for the United Kingdom, to deliver an election victory for the Conservatives in 2024, and to make London a Conservative city again.

The applause for Rishi was greater than it was for Liz:

The cheers in the room are significantly louder and longer for Rishi than Liz. Audience members are on their feet and chanting his name, writes Tony Diver, our Whitehall Correspondent.

“Thank you! Thank you, Wembley!” Mr Sunak responds, after entering to The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights.

He pledged an ethical approach, if elected:

He promises to lead an administration “with integrity and decency at the heart of everything we do”.

Nick Ferrari tried to box Liz into a corner over domestic issues. She ably answered:

I’m the Foreign Secretary and my job is to focus on key foreign affairs issues.

She pledged that there would be no new taxes in her Government.

She also ruled out energy rationing.

She said that she would not refurbish the Downing Street flat:

Liz Truss responds that as a Yorkshirewoman, she believes in “value for money and not buying new things if you’ve got things that are perfectly good to use”.

“I don’t think I’m going to have time to think about the wallpaper or the flooring.”

The papers largely picked up on her possible moratorium for ‘smart motorways’, those without a hard shoulder for emergencies:

Asked if she will restore hard shoulders to motorways and change speed limits from mandatory to advisory, Ms Truss replies: “I absolutely think that we need to review them and stop them if they are not working as soon as possible.

“And all the evidence I have suggests they’re not working. We need to be prepared to look at that. I do believe that the smart motorways experiment hasn’t worked.”

Rishi defended his windfall tax, which the big companies can avoid if they prove they will invest more in the UK:

We’ve got it in place, but as I said in the situation that we’re in it was the right thing to do, and I’m glad I did it, to be honest.

He also said that his plan to tackle inflation was the correct one:

I can guarantee that it will fall far faster with my plan than it will with anyone else’s.

He, too, criticised Sadiq Khan:

Crime has become “intolerable” in London, adds Rishi Sunak, and “the first thing we need to do is hold to account Sadiq Khan for his failings”.

“If you are prepared as a Mayor to do the right things… For example, stop and search. It’s an effective policing tactic“.

Unlike Liz, who was relieved not to have to stand up for audience questions, Rishi stood up and worked the stage.

He brought up ethics again:

In a sentence, does he think Boris Johnson was hard done by? “When it comes to those ethical issues, we can’t be on the wrong side of them. We need to set a clear direction from the top, I would reappoint an ethics adviser because it sends a strong signal from the top.”

The Telegraph‘s article ends with:

Liz Truss seems like a dead cert to become prime minister on Tuesday, and elements of Rishi Sunak’s comments tonight shied away from the personal attacks that have characterised this bitter blue-on-blue campaign to lavish praise on his rival.

The cheers and chants at Wembley Arena tonight – far louder for Mr Sunak than the Foreign Secretary – told a different story from the grassroots polling, which suggests she has a lead of around 30 percentage points

Boris Johnson’s successor is likely to find themselves facing even greater challenges, and must also unite a party fractured by weeks of public division and disagreement.

Veteran political sketch writer Quentin Letts had this to say in The Times:

Surveying a throbbing crowd of 7,000 Tory activists, Sunak gasped “thank you!” nine times, the stage lights bouncing blindingly off his grinning ivories. He strode the large stage like an American presidential candidate and, for a man who must have seen predictions that he will be slaughtered when the result is announced on Monday, maintained an amazing level of pitch and thrust.

He even had an emotive card up his sleeve when he announced that his “two people who inspired me to go into public service are actually here tonight — my mum and dad”. Jolly proud they looked, too. Rishi thanked his “loving, kind wife — you know what you mean to me, you chose to give up your high heels and take a chance on the short kid with a backpack”. The crowd, audibly more pro-Sunak than some of the regional hustings, shouted: “Reeshi! Reeshi!”

Truss entered to strains of Taylor Swift’s Change but her tactics for the evening were more cautious, playing down the clock. She was less sprightly in the opening spiels but came to life more in the questions that followed. In her opening remarks she pushed her voice hard, making it sound more strident and bunged-up. A reply to a question on Israel flew off the bat and had a Sunak supporter clapping hard. She also dealt firmly with some fluff about what sort of limousine she wanted and how she might decorate the No 10 flat. Where her campaign has succeeded with Tory activists has been in its simplicity: the basic message, whacked time and again, of lower taxes and a smaller state.

And so the campaign ends. What a festival for SW1 wonks it has been, allowing for oodles of analysis and fake crossness. The rest of the country, enjoying (lucky devils) their August, has possibly taken less notice of the contest. Sunak, smoother, more fluent, more the establishment’s idea of a PM, started it as favourite. He ended last night by replaying that dreadful tough-Cockney video film about him being the underdog …

The Wembley crowd’s questions were about smart motorways and advisory speed limits , trans rights, gas prices for companies, corporate tax dodging, Ukraine, childcare costs, property prices and, commendably, the future of West End theatre.

Like Quentin Letts, I haven’t gone into too many policy proposals because whoever gets in will be hit hard with reality.

There is an illusion that Party members of any stripe are being let into an honest discussion about what they want to see in a new Government. I do not believe this is what actually happens:

As evidence, let’s cast our minds back to July 2019 and Boris Johnson’s campaign.

He was going to ask the Queen if she wanted a new yacht to replace Britannia, which is now moored as a museum:

He also said that Sadiq Khan needed to go. Khan was re-elected in 2021. The Conservatives, for whatever reason, gave no support to their candidate Shaun Bailey. I cannot fathom why not, since Boris was Khan’s predecessor. Shaun Bailey is a level-headed Conservative.

This is from the July 18, 2019 edition of The Express. Note the mention of housing and accompanying infrastructure, too. None of this happened, perhaps because of the pandemic. Even so, it shows how empty campaign promises are:

The Tory frontrunner savaged Mr Khan out of nowhere, branding him “useless” and “invertebrate” and “not a patch on the old guy.” The onslaught was woven into Mr Johnson’s wider solution to a question that had been posed on monocultural housing policies. A member of the audience asked the former London Mayor: “How will you ensure the Government’s housing policies don’t lend themselves into creating ethnic categories inadvertently?”

Without hesitation, Mr Johnson blasted: “You build fantastic housing in the right place.

“And you put in superb transport infrastructure so you can create mixed communities where there are high quality jobs.

“And if you look at the disasters of planning in the ‘60s and ‘70s where monocultural estates were built, it’s because there simply wasn’t the transport infrastructure.

“Look around London and look at the estates outside London – you can see exactly what went wrong.”

That said, in the end, Boris did deliver on these pledges:

Other hustings

I purposely didn’t cover half the hustings in separate posts, leaving off with the August 11 one in Cheltenham.

A summary of the others follows.

Perth

The next one took place in Perth, Scotland, on August 16. It was unfortunate that pro-independence supporters ruined it with verbally violent posters, throwing eggs and by spitting on older Scottish Conservative members. The SNP denied any involvement.

The Mail had a summary of what the candidates said:

Liz Truss tonight vowed to ‘never, ever let our family be split up’ as the Tory leadership frontrunner insisted she would not allow another Scottish independence referendum if she becomes prime minister.

Speaking at the latest Conservative hustings event in Perth, the Foreign Secretary promised to battle Nicola Sturgeon‘s ‘agenda of separatism’ as she condemned the First Minister and her SNP government for having ‘let down’ Scottish voters.

Ms Truss accused the SNP of ignoring issues such as schools, hospitals and public transport as they chase another Scottish independence referendum.

Her rival for the Tory leadership, Rishi Sunak, also used tonight’s hustings to take a swipe at Ms Sturgeon, as he vowed to ‘call out’ the Scottish Government’s record on drug and alcohol abuse.

He claimed it was ‘completely barmy’ for the SNP to be agitating for a ‘divisive and unecessary constitutional referendum’ amid the cost-of-living crisis. 

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak addressed Tory members inside Perth Concert Hall after reports of ugly scenes outside the hustings venue earlier in the evening.

Conservative Party co-chair Andrew Stephenson demanded Ms Sturgeon ‘unequivocally condemn’ the ‘vile behaviour’ of Scottish independence campaigners.

Belfast

The candidates converged on Belfast the next day, Wednesday, August 17:

I felt very sorry for the Northern Ireland Conservatives gathered there. The party only has 300 members, and they have no voice in Westminster.

A clear disconnect emerged between the candidates and the Party members. Everyone looked uncomfortable.

For that reason, this hustings is well worth watching.

It became apparent that neither Liz nor Rishi understands the Conservative Northern Ireland mindset. I’m no expert, but even I could have dealt with some of those issues better than they did.

The moment that sticks in my mind was when someone asked why Westminster is foisting abortion clinics on Northern Ireland. Liz matter-of-factly — and rather coldly — responded that the rest of the UK has them, so Northern Ireland has to have them, too.

Abortion is far from being the norm there, and, as Northern Ireland has a devolved government, it should have been their decision, not Parliament’s.

Madeline Grant summarised the disconnect in The Telegraph:

Some English Conservatives might be surprised to learn of the existence of their fellow party members across the Irish Sea, let alone that they had a vote in the leadership contest. Yet seatless and marooned from CCHQ – and perhaps because of this – Ulster Tories are the ultimate Tories. This wasn’t your average Home Counties cakewalk, there were questions on more intractable subjects than you’d get elsewhere – abortion, China, the perils of a cashless society. Some of the questioners began with a little intro about how long they’d been party members, reminiscent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A flamboyant chap in a maroon vest had made a journey almost as ponderous as Truss’s own political leap from Lib Dem republican to Tory monarchist – he’d moved to South Antrim after heading up ‘Conservatives Abroad’ in South Korea. Making a similarly unexplained leap, he proceeded to compare the fight against abortion in Northern Ireland to Britain’s fight against the slave trade in the 19th century. Would Liz “be a modern day William Wilberforce, and end abortion and infanticide in Northern Ireland?” he asked. Truss politely declined to take up the mantle.

Unlike Madeline Grant, I did not find the Belfast hustings amusing in the slightest. It was the saddest one of the lot.

Verdict: Must do better.

Manchester

On Friday, August 19, our candidates were back on the mainland for the hustings in Manchester, which Alastair Stewart from GB News moderated (start at 6:30):

Alastair Stewart is a television veteran and knows what questions to ask:

He won high praise from Liz:

Rishi’s campaign team launched his second campaign film, The Underdog, at this hustings. It was so awful, I wanted to slip through the floor in embarrassment for him.

He told his family story and said that Conservative values were ‘patriotism, family, service, hard work’:

He turned defensive (again) when he told Stewart that he was winning the war on inflation and being responsible with borrowing:

He told an audience member, ‘We’re standing up to Russian aggression’:

Liz said that the police must fight crime, not patrol tweets:

She also said that left-wing politics dominates today’s socio-political debates:

Rishi, too, was tired of leftist dominance — and Manchester’s mayor, former Labour MP Andy Burnham. GB News reported:

Rishi Sunak has vowed to take on the “lefty woke culture that seems to want to cancel our history, our values and our women.”

… Speaking to the audience, Mr Sunak pledged to “restore trust by delivering on the things that matter to people”.

He continued: “That’s why I’ve set out a plan to finally start reforming the NHS so that we can talk less about how much money we can put into it and more in the healthcare that we want to get out of it.

“It’s why I want to take on this lefty woke culture that seems to want to cancel our history, our values and our women.

“And it’s why we need to restore trust of communities right here by calling out the failures of the Labour mayor Andy Burnham because it simply isn’t good enough.

“Just look at the record, a police force that was put into special measures, the highest rates of knife crimes almost across the UK.”

He also talked about illegal migration, details of which are available on his website:

“… I’ve set out a radical plan to finally get to grips with illegal migration.

“Because for too long we’ve turned on our TV screens and seen the scenes of people coming here on boats illegally and it is wrong.”

His comments come days after the number of migrants to have crossed the Channel so far this year passed 21,000.

Another GB News article about the hustings has more:

He said: “I want to move away from the European definition of what an asylum seeker is, because it is too broad and it gets exploited by lefty lawyers.

“When people shouldn’t be here we must be able to send them back, it’s as simple as that.

Was the next bit a dig at Liz, our Foreign Secretary and former Secretary of State for International Trade?

“We’ve got to toughen up our foreign policy. At the moment we have a situation, I found it bonkers, we will go to a country, we’ll talk to them about a trade deal we want to do with them, but also potentially be giving them actual foreign aid.

“But at the same time we don’t say to them ‘hang on, you need to take back your failed asylum seekers’, that’s clearly wrong.”

Liz also had something to say about illegal immigration:

Promoting the much maligned Rwanda policy, which saw its first planned flight grounded on the tarmac, Ms Truss vowed to expand the scheme to other countries if she was elected as Prime Minister.

She said: “What we need to find is a permanent home for those people.

“The way to solve this issue is to find a way of making sure there is a long term home for people who are involved in illegal immigration.

“The real issue is at present people are able to get on the phone to their lawyers when they get on a plane and evade being sent to Rwanda and that is the issue we have to fix, that is about the ECHR.”

The candidates are not miles apart.

Liz also discussed her vision for the North:

What I want to see is a successful north of England where everyone has opportunities and we link up the great cities of the north.

From Liverpool to Manchester to Leeds and beyond and also of course Bradford.

And that’s why I want to build Northern Powerhouse rail and I want those opportunities to be powered by enterprise and business unleashing investment right across the country.

I want us to make the M62 the superhighway to success.

Unfortunately for Rishi, his attempts at being a man of the people failed, as the Mail reported:

Asked at the hustings event how, as a Southampton football club fan, he could get back to ‘winning ways’ in the battle to become Boris Johnson‘s replacement, Mr Sunak attempted to make light of his woes.

But his effort at friendly banter with the Manchester audience saw him blunder in his football knowledge.

‘I’m going to be unpopular for saying it here – starting by beating United this weekend!,’ Mr Sunak told the event.

It was quickly noted how Southampton are not due to play Manchester United until 27th August and would, in fact, be playing Leicester City this weekend.

Mr Sunak’s own goal came just two days after he was mocked for claiming to always enjoy a McDonald’s breakfast wrap when out with his daughters – despite the item having not been on sale since March 2020.

Yet, the former chancellor’s campaign was handed a boost tonight when Michael Gove backed him to be the next Conservative leader.

Mr Gove, the former Levelling Up secretary who was sacked by Mr Johnson last month, accused Ms Truss of taking a ‘holiday from reality’ with her vow to tackle the cost-of-living crisis by prioritising tax cuts.

Birmingham

On August 23, Times Radio’s John Pienaar, formerly of the BBC, moderated the hustings in Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city:

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi went on stage to endorse Liz.

Liz then went on stage (5:36) and embraced him to big applause and cheers from the audience.

Andrew Mitchell followed her by announcing his support for Rishi (16:34). Rishi’s newer campaign film, The Underdog, was played.

Rishi then pledged to continue levelling up the Midlands, as he has been doing (21:47).

Of his speech, Pienaar said (33:01):

That was punchy!

Someone in the audience booed when Liz took to the stage for her Q&A (33:49).

Pienaar gave her a hard time in the beginning, but she got a huge round of applause from the audience. 

Recall that The Times came out for Rishi almost immediately in July.

However, Rishi also had his beefs with Pienaar. He looked irritated (yet again) and said (1:06:00):

John, you’re acting as if this is already over.

He went on to explain how well his furlough programme worked during the pandemic (1:18:00).

On the subject of Scottish independence, he said that nationalism (1:34:00):

is a romantic ideal.

Then he complained:

There’s not been a single question about tax!

He then expanded on corporation tax and the largest companies. He became really agitated in an oddly friendly way.

This tells us tax is his main consideration, nothing else, no matter what he says.

The man is a technocrat.

Guido Fawkes had an excellent round up of sound bites, starting with Liz (emphases his):

If you want a flavour of the current state of Tory hustings, last night in Birmingham Liz Truss came out with the following two statements within 60 seconds of each other: “I’m not a massive fan of mice”, and asked how she’d feel in the event of having to launch a nuclear weapons strike, “I think it’s an important duty of the PM and I’m ready to do that.” A casually blasé statement committing the UK to potential nuclear armageddon…

Also:

Suggesting she won’t replace the government ethics adviser, saying: “The PM needs to take responsibility – you cannot outsource ethics to an adviser”

Suggesting she would redirect this year’s £12 billion extra funding for the NHS into social care

Asked why she cut funds to the Environment agency as DEFRA secretary she said “I think there’s a way with the way utilities are regulated. We were one of the first countries to regulate and privatise utilities but the world has moved on since then… some of those regulators get mission creep, they don’t necessarily keep the market as properly as they should. I certainly think it’s the case that water companies need to be better are stopping leaks, I think they should be better at dealing with pollution and we need to sort that out.” Sounds a lot like Guido’s story last Friday that she believes in a single utilities regulator

As for Rishi:

Rishi’s answers last night were less alarming albeit equally newsworthy. Primarily, he refused to commit to voting for Liz’s proposed emergency budget should he lose, saying it is a hypothetical question. He reiterated his belief that her tax cut plans will result in “millions of people facing destitution.”

Rishi suggested UK aid programmes should be cut in countries that refuse to accept deportations of “failed asylum seekers” from Britain.

Rishi spoke movingly of yesterday’s horrific shooting of a nine-year-old in Liverpool, saying he reacted by calling his wife, and daughter who is the same age as the victim. Rishi says the government needs to finish the Tories’ 2019 policy of recruiting 20,000 policemen.

Let’s go to the Rishi-supporting Times for their journalists’ verdicts.

Daniel Finkelstein said:

Liz Truss is far better speaking without notes and, having delivered the same remarks over and over, she no longer needs them. Both her opening remarks and her answers to what will have been familiar questions were much better than in the early stages of the campaign. There were even flashes of the humour she shows in private …

But, however good Truss may now be, she still trails Sunak, who is just a better performer. Particularly in his answers, he was fluent, tough and compelling. His opening comments about the flaws in the Truss plan — suggesting it would leave many people destitute — were particularly arresting.

… Whoever wins, their policies have to appeal to those who are not Conservatives and need to actually work.

Winner: Rishi Sunak

Katy Balls said:

The state of the Tory leadership contest can be summed up in the video that welcomed Rishi Sunak to the stage. Last week, his team changed it from the montage played in the earlier hustings. It now has a Ray Winstone-style gangster voice boom that the former chancellor is the underdog — and the country loves an underdog. It points to Sunak’s dilemma: if the polls are correct, only something drastic can change the state of play.

Although he was well received in the hall, with some of the loudest cheers, it’s hard to pinpoint a “change moment” from the display. He again depicted himself as the only candidate willing to tell people hard truths about the economy. He tried again to invoke the spirit of Thatcher by pointing out that many of those who had worked with the late prime minister were backing his plan …

It helped Truss that she focused on her own plans. She came across as confident and assured. This also played well to a party growing tired of blue-on-blue. As the frontrunner, she needs only to hold the line — and she did that.

Winner: Liz Truss

Patrick Maguire said that both won but in different ways:

So how did Truss fare? As a rubber-chicken circuit speaker, just fine. They loved the answers on grammar schools, wokery and nukes. But as a prospective PM? On the biggest question — what to do about rampant inflation and crippling energy costs — Truss was revealingly unrevealing. Cagey, even. Asked how pensioners and the poor would be shielded from the coming storm, she said only that she would “look at” helping them. How to fund social care once Sunak’s £13 billion national insurance hike is scrapped? “General taxation.” Her cure for the mouse infestation in the Commons — “more cats” — was more detailed and offered with a good deal more enthusiasm.

Sunak attacked her economics with the kamikaze self-confidence that is likelier than not to lose him this race. It’s telling. He is as sure as Ted Heath was that he will, in time, be vindicated by his rival’s demise. Sunak is embracing the inevitable. Has Truss? She sounded as if she could not admit to herself — let alone the country — that compromise is coming.

Winner: on the clapometer, Truss. But Sunak won the argument.

Norwich

On Thursday, August 25, talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer moderated the TalkTV hustings in Norwich in East Anglia.

Hartley-Brewer had a great set of questions for the candidates. One wonders if some came from her and TalkTV’s listeners:

While she was preparing her questions, Guido says that some Conservative MPs were annoyed with Rishi:

Allies of Liz’s have slammed Rishi over his “scorched earth” policy, saying it risks destroying chances of bringing the party back together again when the contest is over. They accuse him of “behaving like a wounded stoat” and “framing us as Tory scum” over the course of the campaign. Given he said the likely next PM’s plans would lead to mass homelessness, they’re arguably correct…

Guido also included a photo of Rishi at his mother’s former pharmacy in Southampton. Stefan Rousseau is an incomparable photographer:

His mother was a chemist you know…

I just checked Rousseau’s Twitter feed, and here’s the exterior of the pharmacy:

The Telegraph had a running commentary on the candidates’ day and the hustings.

This was the day after Rishi’s criticism of coronavirus policy appeared in The Spectator:

Rishi Sunak’s interview with The Spectator magazine – in which he revealed that he was told not to talk about the “trade offs” of lockdown – has prompted a row with former Downing Street employees.

He had more difficulties when he went on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One:

On whether he will quit if he loses the leadership vote, Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s World at One earlier today: “Absolutely not. Of course not.

“And I would dispute the characterisation. I’m working incredibly hard going around the country talking about my ideas for the future, and actually having a very positive reception where I’m going, and I think there’s everything left to play for.

“There’s still weeks to run in this campaign, and that’s why I’m continuing to give it everything I’ve got.”

Meanwhile, Liz visited a food manufacturing plant:

Liz Truss has been out and about in Norwich today, visiting Condimentum Ltd at the Food Enterprise Park in Norwich. 

Ms Truss told reporters at the factory near the Norfolk city that tax cuts and boosting energy supply were the key to addressing the cost-of-living crunch.

I think they make Colman’s Mustard there.

Now on to the hustings.

The co-chairman of the Conservative Party defended the length of the leadership campaign:

Andrew Stephenson, chairman of the Conservative Party, addresses the Norwich audience. He defends the leadership contest amid criticism that it has dragged on for too long. 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay came out in support of Rishi.

Rishi said that levelling up is for all corners of the UK:

Levelling up is not just about big cities and the north – it is for everyone, including right here in east Anglia, he says and receives a round of applause.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey declared her support for Liz:

She ends her introduction by saying: “Back Liz for leader, you can trust her to deliver.”

As Liz, the MP for South West Norfolk, was on home turf, she got a standing ovation:

Huge applause and a standing ovation for Liz Truss as she takes the stage, who is the MP for South West Norfolk so this is very much home turf for her. 

“We have travelled around the entire United Kingdon but there is nothing better than being back in my adopted county of Norfolk,” she says, and the audience break out into applause once again.

Rishi had to answer a question about lockdown:

Rishi Sunak defends his interview in the Spectator, saying one of the most “tragic” aspects of lockdown was the damage to children of school closures

He said it is always important to have an honest discussion about “trade-offs”, adding: “If something sounds too good to be true it probably is”.

Hartley-Brewer presented each candidate with the same series of quick-fire questions.

These were Rishi’s answers:

Can you name a single public service that works well? The furlough scheme.

Macron, friend or foe? Friend

Mask mandates or no mask mandates? No mask mandates

Is a trans woman a woman? No

Who would you rather be stuck in a lift with, Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon? Take the stairs

If not you, who would be a better PM, Boris Johnson or Liz Truss? Liz Truss

Hartley-Brewer had to get tough with a heckler:

Rishi Sunak is heckled by an audience member and Julia Hartley-Brewer intervenes telling him to “Sit down, Sir!”

Meanwhile another audience member asks about housing supply. Rishi Sunak says we need to overcome our aversion to “flat pack” housing.

He says he wants to help young people get on the housing ladder much faster by “turbo-charging” a scheme that allows first time buyers to purchase a home with a small deposit.

I can’t believe he still peddles his daughters’ concern for the environment when he’s just had a full-size swimming pool installed at his home. Egregious:

Rishi Sunak tells the audience that the only thing his daughters ask him about is: “Daddy, what are you going to do for the environment?”

Then it was Liz’s turn.

Hartley-Brewer asked her about lockdown:

I did question lockdown, Liz Truss says. 

“Clearly in retrospect, we did do too much. It was too draconian. I don’t think we should have closed schools,” she said. “A lot of children have ended up suffering.”

She adds: “I can assure you that I would never impose a lockdown if I am selected as PM.”

These were Liz’s answers to the quick-fire questions:

Name me a single public service that works well: Our education system has got a hell of a lot better in the last ten years. 

Macron, friend or foe? The jury’s out. If I become PM I will judge him on deeds not words

Mask mandates or no mask mandates? No mask mandates

Is a trans woman a woman? No

Who would you rather be stuck in a lift with, Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon? I think Nicola Sturgeon. I’d hope to persuade her to stop being a separatist by the time we got to the ground floor.

If not you, who would be a better PM, Boris Johnson or Liz Truss? Boris Johnson

Hartley-Brewer asked her about unisex changing rooms at Marks & Spencer:

“M&S is a shop, they can decide their policies as they see fit,” Ms Truss said. “I have been to the bra fitting service in M&S and it is behind a curtain. No one has ever tried to open the curtain while I am in there.”

Liz explained why she does not want asylum seekers to work:

The Foreign Secretary says we also have huge numbers of people who are “economically inactive” and it should be our “first port of call” to get those people into work.

The reason why we don’t allow asylum seekers to work is because the UK will become “even more of a magnate” for people to travel here illegally, she adds.

Good answer.

Liz reiterated her support for Net Zero.

Media outlets picked up on the candidates’ responses to the ‘stuck in a lift’ question:

https://image.vuukle.com/af49e1b0-abd8-4147-a73a-be8ab0fdccee-3e389bcd-aee7-410a-99bc-6316b427958c

Their divergent answers on Emmanuel Macron also made the news.

Liz got both barrels, from Labour and Conservatives alike. The BBC reported:

… she was asked if Mr Macron was a “friend or foe” of the UK at a Tory leadership hustings.

She added that if elected PM she would judge him on “deeds not words”.

But Labour’s David Lammy accused Ms Truss of “a woeful lack of judgement”, saying she had insulted one of “Britain’s closest allies”.

Ms Truss, widely seen as the clear front-runner to be the next Conservative leader and prime minister, made the remark at the penultimate leadership hustings in Norwich, to loud applause.

Her comment came at the end of the hustings during a series of “quickfire questions” posed by the host, TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer.

When asked the same question Mr Sunak said Mr Macron was a “friend”.

One Conservative minister said Ms Truss’s comments had “completely undermined our relationship with France”, calling her a “faux Thatcher”, a reference to the infamously Eurosceptic former Tory prime minister.

In a tweet, former foreign minister Alistair Burt said Ms Truss has made a “serious error” and should have struck a more diplomatic tone.

Former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell also questioned Ms Truss’s comment saying: “You would have thought the foreign secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France.”

Guido reported Macron’s reaction:

Macron replies to Liz’s comments on the French President at last night’s husting:

“The United Kingdom is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, sometimes in spite of its leaders”

As for the ‘better Prime Minister’ question, Guido says:

When asked whether Rishi or Boris would be a better PM, Liz emphatically shot back “Boris”. Not unsurprising, though rather awkward given Rishi was asked the same question of Liz and graciously chose his opponent…

Conclusion

So, here we are, at long last.

At 12:30 p.m, on Monday, September 5, Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee announced that Liz Truss will be our new Prime Minister. She will meet the Queen at Balmoral on Tuesday, at which point she will form a new Government. More on that later this week.

Liz Truss is our third Party leader in six years.

Conservative MPs must stop the regicide and support her premiership.

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At the weekend, it seemed as if more and more people began waking up to the fact that coronavirus policies of lockdowns and forced ‘vaccines’ did more harm than good.

Sweden was right

First, let’s go back to the end of July 2022 to an article in City Journal: ‘The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize’.

Its author, John Tierney, says that if anyone merits the Nobel it’s Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

Journalists pilloried him for not joining in the hysteria, but he has been proven right. In Sweden, the overall rate of excess mortality—a measure of the number of deaths more than normal from all causes—during the pandemic is one of the lowest in Europe. Swedish children kept going to school and did not suffer the learning loss so common elsewhere. Swedish children and adults went on with their lives, following Tegnell’s advice not to wear masks as they continued going to schools, stores, churches, playgrounds, gyms, and restaurants. And fewer of them died than in most of the American states and European countries that delayed medical treatments, bankrupted businesses, impoverished workers, stunted children’s emotional and cognitive growth, and stripped their citizens of fundamental liberties.

If it hadn’t been for Tegnell and a few other heretics in places like Florida, we would not have clear evidence to prevent a similar catastrophe when the next virus arrives …

Tegnell was aided by another worthy candidate to share the Nobel, Johan Giesecke, who had formerly held Tegnell’s job and served during the pandemic as an advisor to the Swedish public health agency. Decades earlier, he had recruited Tegnell to the agency because he admired the young doctor’s willingness to speak his mind regardless of political consequences

Politicians in Sweden were ready to close schools, too, but Tegnell and Giesecke insisted on weighing costs and benefits, as Tegnell had done in a 2009 article reviewing studies of school closures during pandemics. The article had warned that the closures might have little or no effect on viral spread and would cause enormous economic damage, disproportionately harm students and workers in low-income families, and create staff shortages in the health-care system by forcing parents to stay home with young children. Given all those dangers, plus early Covid data showing that schoolchildren were not dangerously spreading the virus, Tegnell and Giesecke successfully fought to keep elementary schools and junior high schools open—without masks, plastic partitions, social distancing, or regular Covid tests for students

The virus would eventually spread to other countries despite their lockdowns and mask mandates, Tegnell warned in July 2020 as he advised his colleagues and critics to take the long view. “After next summer,” he said, “then I think we can more fairly judge what has been good in some countries and bad in other countries.”

Sure enough, by summer 2021, Sweden was a different sort of “cautionary tale.” Without closing schools or locking down or mandating masks, it had done better than most European countries according to the most meaningful scorecard: the cumulative rate of excess mortality. Critics of Tegnell’s strategy were reduced to arguing that Sweden’s rate was higher than that of several other nearby countries, but this was a weak form of cherry-picking because two of those countries—Norway and Finland—had also avoided mask mandates and followed policies similar to Sweden’s after their lockdowns early in the pandemic …

With the possible exception of the Great Depression, the lockdowns were the costliest public-policy mistake ever made during peacetime in the United States. The worst consequences of lockdowns have been endured by people in the poorest countries, which have seen devastating increases in poverty, hunger, and disease. Yet the WHO has refused to acknowledge these errors and wants to change its pandemic planning to promote more lockdowns in the future. It has even proposed a new global treaty giving it the power to enforce its policies around the world—thereby preventing a country like Sweden from demonstrating that the policies don’t work.

The last thing the WHO deserves is encouragement from the Nobel jurors. The prize should reward those who protected the lives and liberties of millions of citizens during this pandemic, and whose work can help protect the rest of the world during the next pandemic …

Now let’s move on to last weekend’s news and views.

Lockdown and excess deaths

On Friday, August 19, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey discussed lockdown, the effective closure of the NHS and excess British deaths in ‘Lockdown fanatics can’t escape blame for this scandal’.

She began with the story of Lisa King, a bereaved widow whose husband died an agonising death at home because he was not allowed to see his GP:

The father of two, 62, did not catch coronavirus. He died on October 9, 2020 because he was repeatedly denied a face-to-face GP appointment during the pandemic – only to be told that an urgent operation to remove his gallbladder had been delayed because of spiralling NHS waiting lists.

His sudden death, in agonising pain, was completely avoidable.

As Mrs King told me at the time: “To the decision makers, he is nothing more than ‘collateral damage’, but to me, he is the love of my life.”

Tominey points out that several doctors and journalists in the UK opposed lockdown but were told in no uncertain terms how hateful they were:

we were accused of being mercenary murderers intent on prioritising the economy ahead of saving lives.

Scientists who dared to question the severity of the restrictions were, as Lord Sumption put it at the time, “persecuted like Galileo”. Falsely branded “Covid deniers” simply for questioning some of the “science” that was slavishly followed, they were subjected to appalling online abuse by a bunch of armchair experts who claimed to know better.

Two years later, those who objected to lockdowns and an effective closure of the NHS, all the way down to GP practices, have been proven right:

… they were right to raise their concerns in the face of pseudo-socialist Sage groupthink.

Official data now suggests that the effects of lockdown may be killing more people than are currently dying of Covid.

An analysis by the Daily Telegraph’s brilliant science editor Sarah Knapton (another figure who was pilloried for questioning the pro-lockdown orthodoxy) has found that about 1,000 more people than usual are dying each week from conditions other than coronavirus.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed that excess deaths are 14.4 per cent higher than the five-year average, equating to 1,350 more deaths than usual in the week ending August 5. Although 469 deaths were linked to Covid, the remaining 881 have not been explained. Since the start of June, the ONS has recorded almost 10,000 more deaths than the five-year average – about 1,086 a week – none of them linked to coronavirus. This figure is more than three times the number of people who died because of Covid over the same period – 2,811.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked for an investigation into the data amid concern that the deaths are linked to delays and deferment of treatment for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease …

The horror stories are everywhere you look: from people dying needlessly at home like Mr King, to elderly patients waiting 40 hours for ambulances, to cancer sufferers now dying because they didn’t get appointments during lockdown, or didn’t want to be a burden.

It’s tempting to blame this on the NHS being in urgent need of reform – and that’s surely part of the explanation. We all know how staff shortages – again, exacerbated by the pandemic – are crippling the system.

But this isn’t simply a result of a lack of resources. Healthcare spending has risen sharply as a percentage of GDP in recent years.

The nettle that needs to be grasped is that these figures suggest that the country is facing a growing health crisis that has been caused by our overzealous response to the pandemic – scaremongering policies that kept people indoors, scared them away from hospitals and deprived them of treatment.

These excess deaths may well turn out to be a direct consequence of the decision to lock down the country in order to control a virus that was only ever a serious threat to the old and the vulnerable.

Had a more proportionate approach been taken, akin to Sweden’s, then would we be in this mess right now? Perhaps only a government inquiry will be able definitively to answer that question, but what’s certain now is the debate over the severity of lockdown was never about the economy versus lives – as pro-shutdown fanatics would have it – but over lives versus lives

Lest we forget that in the last quarter of 2020, the mean age of those dying with and of Covid was estimated to be 82.4 years, while the risk of dying of it if you were under 60 was less than 0.5 per cent. Who wouldn’t now take those odds compared to being diagnosed with cancer, circulatory or cardiovascular related conditions and being made to wait months for post-pandemic treatment?

None of this has come as a surprise to those running organisations like the British Heart Foundation or the Stroke Foundation, which had predicted a sharp rise in deaths because “people haven’t been having their routine appointments for the past few years now” …

The World Health Organisation said at the time that the Great Barrington Declaration “lacked scientific basis”, but nearly three years on from the start of the pandemic there has been precious little analysis of whether the raft of Covid restrictions either served the collective good – or actually saved lives in the round – compared with the lives that are now being lost as a result.

These numbers aren’t just statistics – they are people’s husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. The appalling truth is that a lot of these people would probably still be here today were it not for the lockdowns; lockdowns which seemingly did little to stop tens of thousands of people dying of Covid in the UK.

We stayed at home to “protect the NHS”. It turns out the NHS isn’t there now to protect us.

The ambulance waits are a horrorshow. This is going on throughout the UK. Scotland and Wales experienced long waiting times before England did.

This photo shows a recurring scene outside a London hospital and explains the situation. Ambulances are backed up because the patients inside cannot be accommodated in the hospital:

Here’s a chart of the UK’s excess deaths this year:

Blame belongs on both sides of political spectrum

Who can forget how the media, especially the BBC, ramped up Project Fear over the past two years?

Although the media don’t legislate, judging from the response to the pandemic, they heavily influence what our MPs do.

So, who is to blame?

Someone thinks it is Michael Gove, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 2019 until September 2021. He was also a Minister for the Cabinet Office at the same time.

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer says Gove bears a lot of the blame for coronavirus policy. Interesting:

What about the Left? Labour’s Keir Starmer held Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford as a paragon of wisdom during the pandemic. Drakeford’s government made ‘non-essential’ shops close and supermarkets put tape over the aisles the Welsh were forbidden to shop in. That meant they could not buy greeting cards, party favours, toys, books or shoes. That’s only a partial list, by the way. That lasted for a few months.

Following Drakeford’s example, Keir Starmer wanted earlier and longer lockdowns in England. So did other Labour MPs.

They voted for every Government restriction in Westminster. Boris must have been relieved.

However, this brings up the definition of ‘liberal’. How I wish that we had not adopted this American perversion of the word. ‘Liberal’ in its original definition is akin to ‘libertarian’. It certainly isn’t ‘leftist’.

Rapper and podcast host Zuby brought up the subject last Saturday:

Here comes the conflict of blaming, because both sides of the House of Commons voted in unison on pandemic policy:

Vaccine harm

Then there is the vaccine harm done to young hearts via myocarditis.

Dr Aseem Malhotra is opposed to vaccines being given to children. Here he links to a study from Thailand about the adverse effect a second Pfizer dose can have on one in six teenagers:

Apparently, the Thailand study did not get much publicity at home:

Neil Oliver’s editorial on coronavirus

On Saturday, Neil Oliver delivered an excellent opening editorial on pandemic policy, which he said should be a sacking or resigning offence:

He rightly pointed out that those responsible feel no remorse.

Dan Wootton’s coronavirus hour

Dan Wootton had a blockbuster coronavirus hour in the first half of his GB News show on Monday, August 22. It was marvellous:

His opening Digest was brilliant:

The transcript is here:

The damage, both to our health, our economy and our future way of life, has been obvious to me since the first national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, following the playbook of communist China.

My overarching mission on this show has been to have the important conversations about the most damaging public health policy of all time, which the vast majority of the media, the establishment and our so-called leaders want to avoid at almost any cost.

This was my opening night monologue on the first night of this channel in June 2021 that, at the time, sparked total outrage from all the usual suspects, who campaigned to see me reprimanded by Ofcom for daring to question the efficacy of lockdowns on a national news channel.

I said then: “Lockdowns are a crude measure. Mark my words, in the years to come we will discover they have caused far more deaths and devastation than the Government has ever admitted.

“They should be wiped from the public health playbook forever more. But, tragically, the doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control.

“They’re addicted to the power and the Government are satisfied its 15-month-long never-ending scare campaign has suitably terrified the public into supporting lockdowns.

“But if we don’t fight back against this madness, some of the damage will be irreversible.”

It was always going to take some time to get the devastating statistics to back-up the idea that a policy of lockdowns was catastrophically wrong – but it was obvious to me what was just around the corner.

Those statistics are now coming in thick and fast; the conclusions are unavoidable and undeniable.

This striking front page of the Daily Telegraph, suggesting the effects of lockdown may now be killing more people than are dying of Covid, should be leading every news bulletin in the country.

Here’s the front page to which he refers:

He discussed the statistics I cited above and rightly pointed out that The Telegraph is the only media outlet (besides GB News) talking about it:

Instead, our dramatic excess death toll is virtually ignored by the BBC, ITV News and Sly News, which used to trumpet Covid death figures on an almost hourly basis

The officials who terrified the public on a daily basis, backed up by a crazed media and gutless politicians, have blood on their hands.

A small group of honourable folk – many of whom now appear regularly on this show, like Professor Karol Sikora – shouted from the rooftops that delays and deferment of treatment for a host of conditions like cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease were going to be responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in years to come.

We tried to warn people and wake up the rest of the population, while being dismissed as Covidiots, deniers and the anti-vaxx brigade.

And yet, there’s still no apology. Still no acceptance of a gigantic error.

In fact, the same irresponsible and evil idiots who got us into this mess want lockdowns, mass vaccination and muzzling to return this winter.

We cannot and will not rest until the true damage of lockdowns is exposed and accepted so we learn the mistakes of our recent history.

A panel discussion followed:

Cardiologist Karl Sikora gave his view and found it astonishing that health experts, including former SAGE member, behaviourist Susan Michie, whom they did not name, want everlasting masks and lockdowns:

Susan Michie, by the way, has just taken up a plum job with the WHO. Says it all, really.

Neil Oliver told Wootton that he was not optimistic about no future lockdowns, which is one of Liz Truss’s proposed policies:

And, finally, the Fairbrass brothers from Right Said Fred presented their scepticism over coronavirus policies. They’ve lost a few gigs because of it but also picked up a new set of fans:

Conclusion

This past weekend really gave me a lot of encouragement about examining coronavirus policies more closely.

For once, it seemed as if a lot of news items and editorials hit at the same time.

I do hope this augurs well for the future.

Before I get into Thursday’s voting results in the Conservative Party leadership contest, readers should note that Labour are no longer afraid of losing the next election.

Please, someone, bring back Boris:

The only candidate who could put the frighteners on Labour is Kemi Badenoch, who is excellent at the despatch box when facing the Opposition.

Thursday’s vote result

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, announced yesterday’s result promptly at 3 p.m.

Unfortunately, Suella Braverman had the lowest votes and had to drop out of the race. She had only 27 MPs backing her.

Going into the weekend, we have the following five candidates:

Guido Fawkes has a summary of Thursday’s activity, excerpted below.

Rishi Sunak has received over 100 votes, but overall, he is not doing as well as candidates in past leadership elections:

Rishi is one of the weakest first-place candidates in recent Tory leadership elections, comparing leads in the second round of MP ballots:* … *Hat-tip: Tom Harwood

Penny Mordaunt’s work ethic was slammed on Thursday. I covered Lord Frost’s damning comments in yesterday’s post.

Mordaunt also ran into trouble over past statements she has made on gender identity:

    • Ran into problems and heightened scrutiny over her trans stance, not least with a blow from newly-eliminated Suella Braverman, who accused her of not standing up for women when pushing for gender-neutral language in the ministerial maternity leave bill
    • Accused of lying about her trans stance by Team Truss

Kemi Badenoch is, happily, still in the race and is ahead of Tom Tugendhat, who is likely to be the next to be dropped when voting resumes on Monday.

Badenoch received 49 votes and Tugendhat 32, a decrease of five votes for him.

Early news on Friday

Much happened overnight, which I will review in recent campaign activity below.

Suella Braverman is now supporting Liz Truss.

There is likely to be increasing pressure put on Kemi Badenoch to bow out of the race. If anything, pressure should be brought to bear on Tom Tugendhat, who is in last place.

Guido calls our attention to three debates this weekend. One will be online and two will be televised (red emphases his, those in purple mine):

Today things get really interesting: it’s debate time. So far candidates have taken lumps out of each other from their respective trenches, today they finally have to go over the top – a special metaphor just for Penny and Tom. Things kick off at ConservativeHome at 1pm, and continue over to Channel 4 at 19.30, where all candidates have confirmed their attendance. Followed by ITV on Sunday and Sky on Monday. 

Debates can make or break candidates at this stage, especially when there are a decent number of votes up for grabs and no one knows who’s going to win. In 2019, one debate made Rory Stewart – securing his place in the next round – and the subsequent debate 24 hours later broke him, as he decided to get undressed live on air. In a sign of how febrile things are, even Rishi’s agreed to join tonight’s Channel 4 debate, an unedifying challenge the frontrunners are sometimes able to duck out of. Will some MPs finally have to recognise that their candidate makes Theresa May’s public speaking look relaxed and charismatic? Guido looks forward to finding out…

Let’s see what is going on with the various candidates.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman, Attorney General for England and Wales, is a committed Conservative, especially when it comes to social issues.

In 2019, along with Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs and several other Conservative MPs, she voted to keep abortion illegal in Northern Ireland. However, the Government has since legalised abortion there.

Last Sunday, Danny Kruger, a thoughtful MP and Prue Leith‘s son, gave his reasons for backing Braverman:

Two days later, on July 12, a Conservative Home poll showed that Rishi Sunak would lose were Braverman the second remaining candidate on the ballot going to Party members:

Were Braverman up against Liz Truss, the vote would have been tied.

This was Braverman’s platform — lower taxes, border control, no identity politics and commitment to the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto:

What’s not to like?

She also would have taken us out of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), which is preventing us from deporting faux refugees and serious foreign criminals:

https://image.vuukle.com/cabc9665-07dd-4e59-b5c4-201e96b27098-eb89d071-c031-42bc-bbbb-b39e220f0ca5

She refused to engage in ‘blue on blue’ sniping. Here she is with Kemi Badenoch, my other favourite:

Braverman was gracious in defeat:

She swiftly began a media round on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to Tom Harwood of GB News, she expressed her gratitude for being able to run in the leadership contest, saying it was a real privilege. I agree that she would make an excellent Home Secretary:

She said that she sees both Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt as being on the left. So true:

She criticised Penny Mordaunt’s stance on gender identity and accused her of being a ‘false Brexiteer’:

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Braverman pointed out that Hansard has a record of what Mordaunt has said in past debates on the Maternity Bill:

She told TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn why she has decided to support Liz Truss:

I hope that whoever wins will retain Braverman in their Cabinet. She is a true asset to the Conservatives.

Rishi Sunak

Could the wheels be about to fall off for Rishi Sunak, our erstwhile Chancellor?

On Friday, July 15, news emerged that the Chinese government hopes Rishi will be our next Prime Minister:

Guido reported:

This morning Rishi Sunak has successfully won the leadership endorsement none of the candidates wanted: from the Chinese Government’s propaganda outfit. Global Times has published an article entitled “China-UK ties ‘might improve’ with arrival of new PM”; subheading, “Most candidates are tough on Beijing, but ‘pragmatic’ one wins first round”. In the piece, Beijing’s mouthpiece notes concern that, despite Rishi winning among MPs, party members might vote for a rival candidate because of tax policy…

Former chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) Rishi Sunak, the one candidate with a pragmatic view of developing balanced ties with China, has won the first round of voting by MPs.

When Sunak was the finance minister in July 2021, he used his annual Mansion House speech to insist that Britain should beef up its trading relationship with China

Apart from Sunak, almost all of the other candidates hold a very tough stance on China

As I write, mid-day, Guido is awaiting comment from Rishi’s team.

In other news, Rishi is losing traction with the bookmakers. He’s now in third place:

Guido tells us:

Rishi has fallen from hot favourite to his chances being third rated, with Penny as favourite and an overnight re-evaluation by punters seeing Liz move into the second favourite spot.

Allow me to repeat myself with the aforementioned Conservative Home poll from July 12. According to their readership, likely all Conservative Party members, Rishi could only beat Sajid Javid, who is no longer in the running and Tom Tugendhat, who is currently in last place:

Tom Tugendhat

I do not think that Tom Tugendhat’s candidacy will last beyond Monday’s vote.

I formed my opinion of him through his participation in House of Commons debates.

He is chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Last August, he spoke about Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, where he served with the Army. His contribution gained him a round of applause, which is normally forbidden in Parliament:

He wryly noted:

America’s back – back home.

In 2020, he wrote an editorial on terrorism for the Mail, calling for a return of treason laws, which Tony Blair got rid of:

In 2020, he was critical of China’s lockdown policy:

Last year, when there was a suspicion that vaccine passports could be turned into digital identity cards, Tugendhat rightly opposed such a development. talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed him on the subject:

Tugendhat announced his candidacy for Conservative leadership on July 7, via an editorial for The Telegraph:

It seems to me that he makes more of his military career than perhaps he should. In one recent interview, he made himself out to be a general (H/T to my reader dearieme):

‘What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?’

‘Invaded two countries.’

Guido thinks so, too:

He has the relevant clip:

Anyway, his campaign, increasingly weak, calls for ‘a clean start’:

A clean start:

On July 8, the Sun featured a profile of him, including his French connection:

Tugendhat is married to Anissia Tugendhat (née Morel).

She is a French judge and civil servant and Tugendhat holds dual citizenship for France and Britain.

According to a tweet from journalist Richard Eden, the pair got engaged in 2013.

Together they have two children, a boy and a girl.

Tugendhat’s mother Blandine de Loisne is also French.

Anissia comes from a family of diplomats and her brother has worked in the Foreign Ministry and the French embassy.

We did not know that before, did we? At least Tobias Ellwood told Parliament that he has dual US/UK nationality.

That’s probably why he voted Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

He would not be drawn on the subject of whether he regretted his vote. Probably not, then:

The public are suspicious. As he is currently in last place, MPs must be, too:

He launched his campaign on July 12. To calm his nerves, he had a crafty ciggie on the tiny balcony outside his office, forbidden on the parliamentary estate. This, in my opinion, is the only decent thing about him:

I hope he was smoking a Gauloise …

At his launch, he took only two questions from the media:

Perhaps he feared questions about his Frenchness, such as this one:

Candidates, including those running for a position as MP, should declare their nationality or nationalities:

———————————————————————————

I will have more on the leadership contest next week.

For now, I am looking forward to the debates. It will be interesting to see how Rishi and Tugendhat, both of whom are short, look next to Penny Mordaunt, much taller than either of them. Optics are important.

Sometimes things are not as they appear.

Badgering Boris Johnson to resign over the Downing Street parties during lockdown is an attempt to overturn Brexit.

It is also a sign of envy on the part of the journalists, most of whom are Remainers, attacking him verbally. What journalist — and Boris was one of them for many years — doesn’t have an ‘If I ruled the world’ fantasy? Boris has achieved that dream. They have not.

Here is former Conservative MP Michael Heseltine, a prominent Remainer, saying that Boris’s departure could reopen the possibility of re-entering the European Union:

Heseltine said:

It’s misleading the house, it’s misleading the people and it’s misleading the whole country in a general election because if it were to be established that the PM has been lying then that is going to open a can of worms because very large numbers of people – now the majority of people – believe that the Brexit case was actually a pack of lies… now if he proves to be a liar – to the public, to parliament – what does that do for the very large numbers of people who think it is a catastrophic misjudgement to have severed our good relationships with our European neighbours.

Meanwhile, the general public doesn’t care about the parties, especially his birthday party:

https://image.vuukle.com/2f466225-fc3c-4fc0-bb60-c369b7787913-9ec71789-1d4d-4480-91bf-1846d4f638fe

Police investigation

The eminent civil servant Sue Gray had been preparing a report on the Downing Street parties.

Then, the Metropolitan Police stepped in. On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told the London Assembly, headed by Mayor Sadiq Khan of the news. As such, the Met informed Sue Gray to issue only a summary report so as not to interfere with their own investigation.

GB News has a summary of the social events. Most but not all of them took place at Downing Street, nor did Boris attend all of them (emphases mine):

The Metropolitan Police will investigate a “number of events” alleged to have taken place in Downing Street, Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has said.

Dame Cressida declined to say which alleged parties are being investigated, nor would she put a timeline on when officers could detail their findings.

The gatherings were already under investigation by senior official Sue Gray, and the Cabinet Office said her work continues.

Here is a list of the alleged gatherings, which in several cases have been admitted to.

– May 15 2020: Downing Street garden party …

– May 20 2020: BYOB garden party …

– June 19 2020: Birthday party for Boris Johnson …

– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide …

– November 13 2020: Johnsons’ flat party …

– November 25 2020: Treasury drinks …

– November 27 2020: Second staff leaving do …

– December 10 2020: Department for Education party …

– December 11 2020: Wine fridge delivered to Downing Street for staff’s ‘wine-time Fridays’ …

Mr Johnson was said to have attended a “handful” of these gatherings.

– December 14 2020: Party featuring Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and staff …

– December 15 2020: Downing Street quiz …

– December 16 2020: Department for Transport party …

– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office “Christmas party” …

– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head …

December 18 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference.

– Run-up to Christmas 2020 …

April 16 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The Telegraph quoted a No 10 spokesman as saying Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.

Strangely, at the time, no one cared:

Now everyone does.

Downing Street has not helped. They are now denying there was a cake:

On January 25, the Paymaster General, Michael Ellis MP, drew the short straw and had to answer an Urgent Question (UQ) from Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner (pictured in the top left photo):

This was the UQ:

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make a statement on the status of the investigation into Downing Street parties following the statement from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

I felt very sorry for Ellis, who had to reply for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, absent from the chamber. The transcript makes for grim reading.

Sir Edward Leigh, one of the first MPs to speak, tried to put things into perspective but to no avail:

When Europe stands on the brink of war and there is a cost of living crisis, can we please have a sense of proportion over the Prime Minister’s being given a piece of cake in his own office by his own staff?

The verbal attacks were many and vicious.

Ellis was able to put one Scottish MP, Pete Wishart (SNP), in his place.

Wishart asked:

Does the Paymaster General not think that it would be a good idea to set up a police special operations unit room in No. 10 Downing Street, because, while the police are looking at this case, they could perhaps look at cash for honours, cash for access, personal protective equipment for pals, paid advocacy, breaking the ministerial code, and all the other general Tory badness?

Ellis responded:

I have to say that a quick Google analysis of the SNP would not be particularly edifying. Despite noises off, this Prime Minister is focused on what matters to the British people and it is right that those matters conclude in an orderly way.

On Friday, January 28, news emerged that the Met told Sue Gray not to publish her report in full:

That day, The Guardian reported that a comedian issued a fake Sue Gray report:

The comedian Joe Lycett, who apparently caused chaos and “mass panic” in government when he tweeted a fake version of Sue Gray’s “partygate” report, has said his social media stunt was motivated by anger after the death of a close friend during the first lockdown.

Lycett tweeted a parody Gray report with a fake Cabinet Office letterhead, titled: “A summary of my main findings”, captioning his tweet: “BREAKING: Leaked Sue Gray report reveals shocking abuse of rules. Hard to see how the PM can cling on after this.”

He later shared a message that he said came “from someone who works for a cabinet minister. Source verified.”

The message, purportedly from someone who works in parliament, read: “Your tweet this morning was read as an actual serious leak from Sue Gray’s report. U had MP staff literally running around panicking from what it said. Panic dialling MPs like we need to discuss this right now.”

On Saturday, January 29, Steven Swinford of The Times reported that Sue Gray was just putting the finishing touches on her report when the Metropolitan Police intervened.

Swinford’s first sentence drew me in. It’s hard not to like an article that begins with this:

Sue Gray had been looking forward to a holiday.

It is unclear why the Met intervened when they did:

The timing of her intervention is said to have surprised Gray and her team of investigators. She had been in discussions with the Met for weeks, sharing information as she went along. Yet the force had declined to get involved until the point when her report was almost completed and ready for publication

“She’s in a horrible position,” a Whitehall source said. “The delay just creates an air of conspiracy. Sue’s integrity is at risk here. If a partial report is produced it will look like she’s been got at. She just wants a holiday, she feels like she’s had enough of it. Very few people could do what she does but she just wants to be on the other side of this one.”

Some think that the Met’s intervention could be good news for Boris:

Johnson’s critics and supporters agreed that the Met’s intervention strengthened his position. One cabinet minister said: “Sue Gray cannot prejudice the Metropolitan Police’s investigation. It would be insane if she went ahead and published the details. The longer this goes on, the more ridiculous it looks. The prime minister is out of the danger zone, the worst is over.”

Or is he?

Sue Gray ‘update’

On Monday, January 31, Sue Gray issued a summary — termed an ‘update’ — of her report.

Guido Fawkes has the update in full.

Gray concluded:

a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did. There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.

At 3:30, Boris addressed MPs (see full transcript of the session). He said that he was sorry and that changes would be made in Downing Street.

He concluded with this:

First, it is time to sort out what Sue Gray rightly calls the “fragmented and complicated” leadership structures of Downing Street, which she says

“have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands”

of the expansion of No. 10. We will do that, including by creating an Office of the Prime Minister, with a permanent secretary to lead No. 10.

Secondly, it is clear from Sue Gray’s report that it is time not just to review the civil service and special adviser codes of conduct, wherever necessary, to ensure that they take account of Sue Gray’s recommendations, but to make sure that those codes are properly enforced. Thirdly, I will be saying more in the coming days about the steps we will take to improve the No. 10 operation and the work of the Cabinet Office, to strengthen Cabinet Government, and to improve the vital connection between No. 10 and Parliament.

Mr Speaker, I get it and I will fix it. I want to say to the people of this country: I know what the issue is. [Hon. Members: “No!”] Yes. [Hon. Members: “You!”] It is whether this Government can be trusted to deliver. And I say yes, we can be trusted—yes, we can be trusted to deliver. We said that we would get Brexit done, and we did. We are setting up freeports around the whole United Kingdom. I have been to one of them today that is creating tens of thousands of new jobs. We said we would get this country through covid, and we did. We delivered the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe and the fastest booster programme of any major economy, so that we have been able to restore people’s freedoms faster than any comparable economy. At the same time, we have been cutting crime by 14%, building 40 new hospitals and rolling out gigabit broadband, and delivering all the promises of our 2019 agenda, so that we have the fastest economic growth of the G7. We have shown that we have done things that people thought were impossible, and that we can deliver for the British people. [Interruption.] I remind those on the Opposition Benches that the reason we are coming out of covid so fast is partly because we doubled the speed of the booster roll-out.

I can tell the House and this country that we are going to bring the same energy and commitment to getting on with the job, to delivering for the British people, and to our mission to unite and level up across this country. I commend this statement to the House.

It did not go down well with the Opposition benches, nor some of the Conservative MPs.

Theresa May was deeply unhappy:

She said:

The covid regulations imposed significant restrictions on the freedoms of members of the public. They had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules—and, indeed, those around them him to have done so, too—and to set an example in following those rules. What the Gray report does show is that No. 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right hon. Friend had not read the rules, or did not understand what they meant—and others around him—or they did not think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, followed the former Prime Minister. He cited two of Boris’s contradictions and ended with this:

Nobody—nobody—believed him then, and nobody believes you now, Prime Minister. That is the crux. No ifs, no buts; he has wilfully misled Parliament.

Blackford broke two rules there. First, he said ‘you’. Secondly, he said ‘wilfully misled’.

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, interrupted him:

Order. It would be acceptable to say “inadvertently misled the House”, but “misled the House” is not acceptable. The right hon. Member must withdraw that comment.

Blackford doubled down, concluding:

… the public know that this is a man they can no longer trust. He is being investigated by the police. He misled the House. He must now resign.

The exchange between him and the Speaker continued for some time. Blackford refused to withdraw his remark.

At that point, the Speaker was ready to suspend him, but Blackford left voluntarily:

Order. Under the power given to me by Standing Order No. 43, I order the right hon. Member to withdraw immediately from the House

Another MP said:

He has left anyway!

Here’s the video:

Hoyle concluded:

It’s all right; we do not need to bother. Let us move on.

Aaron Bell MP spoke later on. Although he is Conservative, he made a good point, asking if Boris was trying to make a fool of him for obeying the restrictions at a family funeral:

Not surprisingly, the Mirror (Labour) picked up on it:

Boris was at the despatch box for a little over two hours.

That evening, he met with a group of Conservative MPs, wherein he pledged to reform how Downing Street operates. Guido’s colleague Christian Calgie said it went well:

Meanwhile, Labour MPs and the media hit the bar:

Incidentally, while Boris was giving his afternoon statement to Parliament, one of the bars there re-opened for business.

The next day, Mark Harper MP gave a good interview to Julia Hartley-Brewer at talkRADIO:

Labour’s Chinese spy story ignored

In mid-January, news emerged that a Chinese operative had donated £500,000 over a period of several years to a Labour MP. Yet, apart from GB News, no one in the media was — or is — talking about that (Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is pictured, not the MP involved):

Subplots

There are two important subplots running through this sorry saga: Boris’s mention of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s record as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with regard to Jimmy Savile (a celebrity paedophile) and the revelation of ghastly text messages by members of London’s Metropolitan Police, casting doubt on the force’s investigation of the Downing Street parties.

Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police are investigating the Downing Street parties, which is interesting, since the organisation said initially that they would not be doing so, as the events happened too long ago.

One wonders, however, how credible any investigation would be since Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has come under fire for her leadership. Some constables in the Met have been texting violent and vicious messages that are misogynistic and hateful.

Although Dame Cressida cannot be expected to know everything that her constables are doing, these text messages could cast doubt on the credibility of the investigation.

Furthermore, it is interesting that Dame Cressida announced the Met’s investigation of Downing Street at a meeting of the London Assembly, headed by the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan (Labour).

Sir Jimmy Savile

On Monday, January 31, Boris gave the House of Commons an update on Sue Gray’s inquiry into the Downing Street parties.

The Metropolitan Police allowed the civil servant to write a summary report pending their own inquiry, which is still ongoing.

As such, there is no conclusion as to whether Boris should resign.

However, Labour and the other Opposition parties have been pushing for Boris to stand down for weeks now.

On Monday, in response to Boris’s statement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said:

Conservative Members can heap their reputation, the reputation of their party, and the reputation of this country on the bonfire that is the Prime Minister’s leadership, or they can spare the country a Prime Minister totally unworthy of his responsibilities. It is their duty to do so. They know better than anyone how unsuitable he is for high office. Many of them knew in their hearts that we would inevitably come to this one day and they know that, as night follows day, continuing his leadership will mean further misconduct, cover-up and deceit. Only they can end this farce. The eyes of the country are upon them. They will be judged by the decisions they take now.

Boris replied:

There is a reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman said absolutely nothing about the report that was presented by the Government and put in the Library of this House earlier today. That is because the report does absolutely nothing to substantiate the tissue of nonsense that he has just spoken—absolutely nothing. Instead, this Leader of the Opposition, a former Director of Public Prosecutions—although he spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out—chose to use this moment continually to prejudge a police inquiry. That is what he chose to do. He has reached his conclusions about it. I am not going to reach any conclusions, and he would be entirely wrong to do so. I direct him again to what Sue Gray says in her report about the conclusions that can be drawn from her inquiry about what the police may or may not do. I have complete confidence in the police, and I hope that they will be allowed simply to get on with their job. I do not propose to offer any more commentary about it, and I do not believe that he should either.

The Speaker objected:

Boris’s mention of Starmer’s failure to get the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to investigate Savile ran all week long. Conservative MPs also objected to it. It is unclear why that is; after all these years, someone needed to speak up:

Boris’s opponents call it a ‘far-right conspiracy theory’, although Starmer was in charge of the CPS at the time Savile’s activities came to light. Starmer even issued an apology for the oversight at the time:

More recently, when Starmer ran for the Labour leadership, he said:

Hear me out: I had 8,000 staff for five years as the director of public prosecutions. And I acted, I hope, in the right way with them, which is when they had victories I celebrated victories on their behalf, I picked up awards on their behalves. When they made mistakes, I carried the can. I never turn on my staff and you should never turn on your staff… I will carry the can for mistakes of any organisation I lead.

Starmer’s biography states he was responsible for all criminal prosecutions in England and Wales:

Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg rightly defended Boris’s remark on Thursday, February 3:

In any event, that day, four Downing Street staffers resigned.

Munira Mirza, who had worked for Boris for 14 years — since he was Mayor of London — was the most prominent. The former policy chief said that she took strong objection to her boss’s mention of Savile:

Guido posted part of Mirza’s resignation letter:

I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice. There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. This was not the usual cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse. You tried to clarify your position today but, despite my urging, you did not apologise for the misleading impression you gave.

In a second post, Guido said that Boris asked Mirza to hold off until he gave a briefing to the media. The briefing only caused her to confirm her resignation:

When the pool clip came without an apology, more of a clarification, she confirmed her resignation via an email which concluded:

Even now, I hope you find it in yourself to apologise for a grave error of judgement made under huge pressure. I appreciate that our political culture is not forgiving when people say sorry, but regardless, it is the right thing to do. It is not too late for you but, I’m sorry to say, it is too late for me.

The public do not understand what the problem is with the mention of Starmer’s indirect failure to investigate Savile:

Furthermore, we all understand that Boris wasn’t implying that Starmer was personally responsible. However, he was the head of the CPS, so he bore responsibility for it, as Boris told the media:

Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the Leader of the Opposition’s personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions. I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.

Too right.

One of Guido’s readers summarised what Boris was saying in Parliament and to the press. It concerns double standards, wherein Starmer expects the Prime Minister to take responsibility for Downing Street activities but not for his own sins of omission at the CPS. This is a good get-out rationale from Guido’s reader paraphrasing Boris:

I was not aware of event X being organised or taking place, and so while I apologise it happened under my watch and plan to change systems to avoid such events in future, it is not reasonable for me to resign over it. That is entirely consistent with the Leader of the Opposition’s own behaviour while DPP over the Savile issue.

In any event, three more Downing Street staffers resigned after Mirza did, including Martin Reynolds, who issued the email about one of the parties, requesting that people bring their own alcoholic beverages:

It is unclear why the other three left. Some say that they are afraid of being investigated. Others say it was an excuse for Boris to clean house.

Of the three additional resignations, GB News reported:

Martin Reynolds is one of the most senior officials in No 10 but had largely avoided the limelight until the emergence of his email inviting colleagues to “socially-distanced drinks” during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.

As Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, he played a key role advising the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues, but resigned from the role on Thursday alongside three other senior Downing Street aides …

Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings previously said the influence wielded by the principal private secretary within Downing Street was not widely appreciated.

“The PPS exercises far more influence and actual power over many issues than Cabinet ministers,” Mr Cummings said.

“He can nudge policy, he can nudge vital appointments (real power). He can and does walk into the PM’s office and exclude all political people ‘on security grounds’.”

A leaked photograph of the Prime Minister and officials drinking in the No 10 garden on May 15 2020 – five days before the “bring your own booze” event that Mr Reynolds invited colleagues to – showed the PPS sitting at the same table as Mr Johnson …

Mr Reynolds offered his resignation on Thursday alongside Downing Street chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, hours after policy aide Munira Mirza and director of communications Jack Doyle both quit.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “Dan Rosenfield offered his resignation to the Prime Minister earlier today, which has been accepted.

“Martin Reynolds also informed the Prime Minister of his intention to stand down from his role as principal private secretary and the Prime Minister has agreed to this.

“He has thanked them both for their significant contribution to government and No 10, including work on the pandemic response and economic recovery.

“They will continue in their roles while successors are appointed, and recruitment for both posts is under way.”

As I write on Friday morning, an aide to Munira Mirza has also resigned:

Tom Harwood adds that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been keeping his distance from the Prime Minister and did not defend the remark about Keir Starmer and the Jimmy Savile case.

One of the commenters makes an excellent point about civil servants finding the Savile remark more offensive than what happened to 60+ million people for … a virus:

Those people live in their own bubble.

Interestingly, Boris has appointed an MP rather than a civil servant to succeed Mirza. Andrew Griffith represents the Arundel constituency on the south coast of England. He seems to have a truly Conservative voting record.

Therefore, it seems as if Boris is cleaning house, which can only be a good thing for him. The civil servants do not seem to have been doing him many favours.

In more positive news for the Conservatives, Anna Firth won the by-election in Southend West, served by Sir David Amess until he was stabbed to death last October:

Because of the nature of Sir David’s death, Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not put up candidates to run against Anna Firth, although minor political parties did.

Therefore, although she won 86% of the vote, only 24% of the electorate went to the polls.

The party debacle is far from over. This will run and run and run.

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

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

UK in crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Maddening.

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

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

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

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

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

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

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

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

Sunday, October 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spectator has more on the interview.

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

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

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

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

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 5

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

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

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

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

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

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

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

Guido had a chat with her:

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

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polling stable

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

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

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

What Government should do next

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

Guido says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

On Thursday, September 9, the Scottish parliament voted in a motion to implement vaccine passports for the nation, beginning October 1:

Patrick Harvie’s Greens, who are in a new alliance with the governing SNP, changed their minds about vaccine passports and decided to vote in favour of them:

Some of the MSPs lost their internet connection during the vote. That does not matter, because they, along with MSPs voting from home, can let the moderator know and she will allow them to cast their vote in person or over the telephone. Those votes are broadcast in the chamber.

The incident gives me a chance to show you the interior of Holyrood, where MSPs meet:

The day before the Holyrood vote, MPs in Westminster debated the implemention vaccine passports for England.

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, gave a statement about the plans. It did not go well for him.

MPs — including his fellow Conservatives — quoted his previous statements in which he said the passports would not be implemented domestically.

William Wragg (Con), a member of the awkward squad of backbenchers, chided Zahawi (emphases mine):

What a load of rubbish. I do not believe that my hon. Friend believes a word he just uttered, because I remember him stating very persuasively my position, which we shared at the time, that this measure would be discriminatory. Yet he is sent to the Dispatch Box to defend the indefensible. We in this House seem prepared to have a needless fight over this issue. It is completely unnecessary. We all agree that people should be encouraged to have the vaccine, and I again encourage everybody to do so, but to go down this route, which is overtly discriminatory, will be utterly damaging to the fabric of society.

Zahawi replied:

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made his view clear to me on many occasions. It pains me to have to take a step like this, which we do not take lightly, but the flipside to that is that if we do not and the virus causes super-spreader events in nightclubs and I have to stand at the Dispatch Box and announce to the House that we have to close the sector, that would be much more painful to me.

Mark Harper, another Conservative who has opposed coronavirus restrictions, voiced his disapproval:

I have to say that I agree with the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg). The Minister set out earlier this year that this policy was discriminatory. He was right then and that remains the case. It is a discriminatory policy. The vaccines are fantastically effective at reducing hospitalisation and death. They are very much less effective in reducing transmission of the Delta variant. This is a pointless policy with damaging effects. I am afraid that the Minister is picking an unnecessary fight with his own colleagues. I say to him that the Government should think again. The Leader of the House has been clear that we do not believe—the Government do not believe—that this policy is necessary for us to meet here in a crowded place. Let us not have one rule for Members of Parliament and another rule for everybody else. Drop this policy.

Zahawi replied, saying he hoped the vaccine passports would be temporary:

This is not something that we enter into lightly, but it is part of our armoury to help us transition over the winter months from pandemic to endemic status. I hope to be able to stand at this Dispatch Box very soon after that and be able to share with the House that we do not need to do this any more as we will be dealing with the virus through an annual vaccination programme.

An SNP MP hoped there would be proportionality:

I pay tribute to all those involved in the vaccination programme. It has been extraordinary. In Scotland, we have 4.1 million adults with a first dose and almost 4 million with a second dose, which means that north of 90% of all adults have had at least one dose. It is a fantastic result across the UK since last December, but the pandemic is not over. Lives are still at risk and the pressures on the NHS are very real, so we in Scotland are introducing a vaccine passport, but, broadly, it will be limited to nightclubs, outdoor standing events with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people. While the rules in England may be slightly different, I hope that they are as proportionate as that.

Zahawi said that more details would be forthcoming.

Zahawi’s voice faltered several times during the debate:

It pains me to have to stand at the Dispatch Box and implement something that goes against the DNA of this Minister and his Prime Minister, but we are living through difficult and unprecedented times. As one of the major economies of the world, our four nations have done an incredible job of implementing the vaccination programme. This is a precautionary measure to ensure that we can sustainably maintain the opening of all sectors of the economy.

A Liberal Democrat MP, Munira Wilson, picked up on Zahawi’s delivery:

I almost feel sorry for the Minister because he really is struggling to defend this policy. However, he has failed to answer the fundamental question posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) about this deeply illiberal, discriminatory and unnecessary policy: will this House get a vote on the implementation of covid vaccine passports—yes or no?

Zahawi answered:

There will be appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, as I have said today and in the past.

Not one MP approved of the proposed policy measure in the debate.

On Friday, September 10, news emerged that, if implemented, vaccine passports could open the way for sweeping powers. They could eventually become a national ID ‘card’. The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant tweeted:

The Telegraph‘s news that day cited an article from The Sun saying that we might have to have a vaccine passport to go to the pub:

Britons could be required to show vaccine passports at more businesses, the Culture Secretary has suggested amid reports the Prime Minister is preparing to unleash a “toolbox” of contingency measures

The Government is set to push ahead with mandatory Covid certification for nightclubs at the end of the month.

But The Sun reports that this will be widened to include other venues such as stadiums and pubs, which will be announced next week by Boris Johnson as part of plans to control the virus through the autumn and winter. 

Oliver Dowden told Sky News: “We will be looking at bringing in certification for nightclubs at end of the month.

“If there is a need to further extend that certification according to the public health need, we will look at doing so but we’re always reluctant to impose more restrictions on businesses unless we really need to.”

However, having voted in the unpopular increase in National Insurance contributions and the poll result showing a Labour lead for the first time since January, the Government reconsidered their stance on vaccine passports.

On Sunday, September 12, Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to say that vaccine passports in England will not be going ahead. I would add ‘for now’, because this Government is on a right merry-go-round with regard to coronavirus policies:

Mark Harper MP welcomed the news:

Even Public Health England (PHE) statistics show two inoculations (I use the term advisedly) offer little protection:

TalkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer points out that vaccine passports cannot save lives and are discriminatory:

Yet, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insists the decision to implement them north of the border is the right thing to do:

However, one of Scotland’s coronavirus advisers, behavioural psychologist Stephen Reicher implied that England, not Scotland, made the right decision:

Guido Fawkes has a quote from Reicher (emphases in the original):

They are a double edged sword. Passports accelerate uptake in the willing but accentuate opposition in the sceptical. They increase safety but can increase complacency.

Quite a departure from Sturgeon’s claim that they “have part to play“. At least she insisted they were “a very limited scheme”…

Scotland could still backtrack on vaccine passports, as their September 9 vote was on a motion only, not legislation:

It is good to see that politicians are taking note of the public mood — for once.

Freedom Day — Monday, July 19 — in England is turning out to be a damp squib with the exception of nightclubs — for now.

Everyone’s preoccupation now is vaccine passports, which France is already rolling out with a grace period of six weeks.

Here in England, vaccine passports are likely to be rolled out in September not only for nightclubs and music venues but anywhere else that can be deemed as a ‘crowded space’.

Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed the owner of a group of entertainment venues, who said that this is a ‘very dangerous step’ for the Government to take:

She also interviewed a spokesman for the Night Time Industries Association who says that random security guards will be checking people’s health status, something that should be private information:

It is the thin end of a very nasty wedge, indeed.

Oxford’s Prof Carl Heneghan rightly wonders if he will need a vaccine passport if he takes the Tube in London:

Here’s Julia Hartley-Brewer’s opening editorial on the danger such a policy presents:

She interviewed the Conservative MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. He is not one of my favourite politicians by a long shot, but he gave a considered 10-minute interview and said that we need a balance of risk, otherwise we could end up like China, where you cannot leave the house without the government knowing about it:

Lord Sumption wrote an editorial for The Telegraph on Monday. He says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has no coronavirus plan:

We are squandering our vaccination success, which is the best in Europe. Lord Sumption concludes:

Vaccination is an impressive achievement. It represents the best that humanity can do about Covid. If it is not enough, then there are only two options. One is to impose total and permanent restrictions on human interaction, something which even governments realise is impossible. The other is to recognise defeat and allow their populations to live with Covid-19 – just as humanity had learned to live with worse pathogens for centuries before governments embarked on their current unprecedented and ill-advised experiment.

Bob Moran, a cartoonist for The Telegraph, has been concerned about coronavirus restrictions for a long time.

On Monday, July 12, he tweeted:

He had quite the Twitter thread on Tuesday. Politicians, he says, do not like solving difficult problems:

Yes, but Labour MPs, except for a handful, have actually voted with the Government on continuing coronavirus restrictions.

Moran has no love for Labour leader Sir Keir ‘Keith’ Starmer, either:

Bob Moran is genuinely concerned about what is happening:

Also:

If only we could remove the boot on our collective necks.

The next discussion point in England will be vaccinations for children. Even other conservatives, such as James Delingpole, are sounding the alarm:

I have no words for how awful this is.

Although I’m writing about England, Scotland and Wales are no better with their restrictions. I despair.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, could well experience the worst weekend of his life.

The Queen has her say

On Thursday, June 24, The Times featured an article on its front page about Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting the Queen in person for their weekly meeting for the first time since lockdown in March 2020.

It says (emphases mine):

Matt Hancock has had a difficult few weeks. And while his line manager may have contributed to his woes, his ultimate boss has seemingly taken pity on him.

The Queen told Boris Johnson, at their first in-person meeting in 15 months: “I’ve just been talking to your secretary of state for health — poor man. He came to privy council. He’s full of . . .”

“Full of beans!” the prime minister interjected, in the clip filmed by broadcasters in the private audience room at Buckingham Palace yesterday.

“He thinks that things are getting better,” said the Queen, to which Johnson responded: “They are.”

… In a 1992 documentary to mark her 40th year on the throne she said that by meeting prime ministers she helped to take a weight off their shoulders. “They unburden themselves or tell me what is going on . . . and sometimes I can help in some way as well,” she said.

The media were allowed to film the first few minutes of their meeting. This was shown on BBC Breakfast:

It’s telling that the Queen chose to say that on camera.

Hancock’s affair

On Friday, The Sun featured a worldwide exclusive featuring Hancock, husband and father of three:

Normally, I would not comment on extramarital affairs, however, Hancock has left us in lockdown for 16 months and counting. Yet, here he is violating his own rules. For thee, but not for me.

The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole broke the story:

Excerpts from Cole’s article follow:

He cheated on his wife with Gina Coladangelo, 43, who he hired last year with taxpayers’ money, as Covid gripped Britain.

Mr Hancock, 42, and millionaire lobbyist Gina were caught on camera in a steamy clinch at his Whitehall office.

Whistleblowers revealed the Health Secretary had been ­spotted cheating on his wife of 15 years with married Ms ­Coladangelo.

He was seen kissing her at the Department of Health’s London HQ during office hours last month as the mutant strain began spreading.

And today, Mr Hancock apologised for his actions, saying: “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.

“I have let people down and am very sorry.

Is Hancock going to resign? No, he is not:

I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.

There should be no mercy shown for this egregious hypocrisy.

A year ago, Prof Neil ‘Dodgy Modelling’ Ferguson entertained his mistress, who travelled across London to spend an afternoon with him at the height of the pandemic. Ferguson resigned from SAGE, although he has been readmitted as a member.

At the time of Ferguson’s resignation, Hancock said that it was the right thing to do:

Guido Fawkes has the dialogue from Hancock’s interview with Kay Burley of Sky News. She, too, was a coronavirus restrictions violator and was suspended from Sky News for several months:

Matt Hancock: “I think he took the right decision to resign”

Kay Burley: “You wouldn’t have fought to keep him?”

Hancock: “That’s just not possible in these circumstances”

Guido also said that Hancock supported a police investigation:

Guido notes that when government Covid advisor Neil Ferguson broke the government’s social distancing rules to hook up at the start of lockdown, Hancock said he was both right to resign, and backed any police action necessary.

Returning to Harry Cole’s article:

Last night, a friend of the Health Secretary said: “He has no comment on personal matters. No rules have been broken.”

Mr Hancock was pictured embracing his aide. The image was from just after 3pm on May 6 — as the rest of Westminster was engrossed by the local elections.

We did not yet have a relaxation on hugging at that time. That happened 13 days later.

A whistleblower tipped off Cole. Hancock:

is seen in his distinctive ninth-floor office inside the sprawling Department of Health building, which is a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament.

During the pandemic, the office has provided the backdrop to his Zoom appearances on TV — including the Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Hancock is seen checking the corridor is clear before closing the door and then leaning on it to ensure he cannot be disturbed.

Ms Coladangelo then walks towards him and the pair begin their passionate embrace.

According to a whistleblower, who used to work at the department, the pair have regularly been caught in clinches together.

The source said: “They have tried to keep it a secret but everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that

“I’m just amazed he was so brazen about it as he was the Secretary of State.

“It has also shocked people because he put her in such an important, publicly-funded role and this is what they get up to in office hours when everyone else is working hard.”

The office where the tryst happened is where Mr Hancock famously hangs his Damien Hirst portrait of the Queen.

Unfortunately, the Government is defending Hancock:

The lunchtime press briefing on Friday indicated that Boris:

considers the matter closed.

By the way, Hancock has an Instagram account. This was one of his posts:

You couldn’t make it up:

One wonders if this woman has any involvement in keeping us in restrictions:

It also emerged she had accompanied Mr Hancock to confidential meetings with civil servants and visited No10. Sunday Times sources revealed at the time: “Before Matt does anything big, he’ll speak to Gina. She knows everything.”

She began working for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in September 2020:

In September, Mr Hancock appointed her as a non-executive director at DHSC, making her a powerful member of the department’s oversight board.

It hit the headlines as there was no public record of the appointment, which was set to see her earn at least £15,000 of taxpayers’ money, potentially rising by a further £5,000.

The role makes her responsible for “overseeing and monitoring performance” — in effect, scrutinising matters of concern to Mr Hancock.

A DHSC spokesman said the appointment was “made in the usual way and followed correct procedure”.

It is also understood that since April, she has had a parliamentary pass, giving her unregulated access to the Palace of Westminster.

It bears her husband’s surname, which she does not use professionally, and is sponsored by Lord Bethell, the hereditary peer, health minister and former lobbyist.

I am sorry to read about Lord Bethell’s involvement. Until now, I respected him. I hope the House of Lords asks questions of him next week.

However, she also worked for Hancock in the early stages of the pandemic:

Mr Hancock secretly appointed her to his department as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March last year.

It appears that, six months later, her appointment became official.

Both the woman and Hancock studied together at Oxford, where they read PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics):

The pair first met at Oxford University in the early 2000s but Mr Hancock went on to wed Martha Hoyer Millar in 2006.

Chumocracy

There is an interesting history behind the associations Hancock has in this affair.

Many call it ‘chumocracy’.

Hancock

This is a biography from Hancock’s website:

Before entering politics he worked as an economist at the Bank of England, and for his family tech industry.

Matt is married to Martha and has three young children. He is the first MP in modern times to win a horse race, having raced to victory at the Newmarket July Course in August 2012. He is an avid cricketer and plays for the Lords & Commons Cricket team. Matt once played the most northerly game of cricket on record, and succumbed to frostbite en route to the Pole. He retains all his fingers.

He certainly has retained all of his fingers.

A lengthy article in the Daily Mail tells us about his formative years:

Mr Hancock was born in Chester where he went to the exclusive private school the King’s School.

He did his A-levels in maths, physics, computing and economics before doing computing at West Cheshire College.

Like numerous Conservative MPs before him, he studied PPE at Exeter College, Oxford – where he graduated with a first.

It was at the elite university that he realised he had dyslexia, which he only opened up about in recent years.

He later did an MPhil in economics at Christ’s College, Cambridge, before turning to politics in 1999 when he joined the Tories.

Hancock’s woman and her husband

The Sun‘s article says:

Mother-of-three Ms Coladangelo is communications director at Oliver Bonas, the fashion and lifestyle store founded by her husband Oliver Tress.

She is also a director and major shareholder at lobbying firm Luther Pendragon, which offers clients a “deep understanding of the mechanics of government”.

The Daily Mail has more:

Mr Bonas opened his first store on London’s Fulham Road in 1993 with handbags and jewellery he had brought from Hong Kong where his parents lived

Speaking to the Independent in September 2015, he said: ‘I’d been bringing presents back for friends and they were really popular so I thought, ‘I wonder if I can make a go of this?’ And to my amazement it just worked.’ Bonas was the surname of his then girlfriend Anna Bonas, who is the cousin of Prince Harry’s former girlfriend Cressida Bonas, and he told how ‘she very kindly hasn’t demanded that I changed it’.

Hancock’s wife

Mrs Hancock’s family history is one of privilege:

Mrs Hancock works as an osteopath and is believed to practice at a clinic in Notting Hill, West London. 

She is the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra – a British diplomat and Ambassador to West Germany

Mrs Hancock is also the great granddaughter of the 1st Viscount Camrose, a Welsh newspaper publisher.

Her father, Alastair Millar, was Secretary of The Pilgrim Trust between 1980 and 1996.  

The trust is responsible for supplying grants, predominately to preservation projects for historically significant buildings or artifacts. Nowadays, around £2million is divvied out by the trust each year. 

Conclusion

Matt Hancock has annoyed me greatly for the past 16 months.

This parody of his testing regime is not far from the truth:

https://image.vuukle.com/f3eecb08-251a-4488-8ed6-566c515e74f7-606ff8d0-161d-412b-b81c-6de12d73b633

In England, we have lost billions of days of our normal lives:

This was the daily death total for June 23, 2021 (Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty is pictured):

Here are the death statistics from the past 16 months. Note that most coronavirus deaths are not ‘from’ the virus but ‘with’ it:

1. Heart Disease 205,000 (0.31% of the population)

2. Cancer 182,000 (0.25%)

3. Covid 128,000 (0.18%)

4. Dementia 82,000 (0.12%)

5. Stroke 46,000 (0.07%)

6. Diabetes 32,000 (0.05%)

An article on Reaction‘Hypocritical Hancock: Don’t hug your granny but you can hug Gina’ — makes the following points about the Secretary of State’s affair:

We don’t know if anyone was taking morality lessons from Hancock back in September. But the question raises itself once again – is it one rule for you, Matt Hancock, and another for everyone else?

The government has been using its draconian Covid social distancing and travel restrictions to restrict and police morality. While the public may well overlook his private relationships as none of their business, voters are unlikely to stomach hypocrisy.

Number 10 is, so far, silent on the Hancock scandal. The Prime Minister hates morality plays and the invasion of private lives. That’s not what this is about though. It’s about a leading figure in the government imposing extraordinary restrictions on the rest of us while carrying on inside the Department of Health.

I look forward to an Urgent Question or two in the House of Commons next week.

On Monday, June 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed Freedom Day from Monday, June 21 to Monday, July 19.

Quelle surprise!

Although the data for hospitalisations and deaths look better than ever thanks to the vaccine rollout, SAGE modelling shows that if figures of cases — positive tests — continue to increase ‘exponentially’, then we could be in for a big problem:

However, the reality is more like this:

Incredibly, Britons support the delay:

Protest at Downing Street

Earlier in the afternoon, when it became clear that Boris was going to delay England’s reopening, a protest took place outside of Downing Street.

The BBC’s Nick Watt got caught up in it on his way to the mid-afternoon press briefing for journalists. I have no idea why the crowd harassed him, but the Metropolitan Police did not seem bothered:

Coronavirus briefing

Boris held his televised coronavirus briefing at 6 p.m.

Boris should have had Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, go to Parliament first to make this announcement, then give his press conference. Hancock poled up in the House of Commons two hours after Boris’s press conference. More on that below.

At the coronavirus briefing, Boris was accompanied by Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty. Here are the highlights:

Sure, just as he announced June 21 would be a few months ago. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Some restrictions have been lifted for weddings and funerals:

The delay is partly because of the Delta variant from India:

Sure thing, Chris. By July, there could be another variant:

Even though Boris is trying to keep us hopeful, there is no way we would open in two weeks’ time instead of four:

This is because — as has been explained at previous coronavirus briefings — it takes four weeks for a full cycle of effects to complete before a decision can be made: cases, hospitalisations, deaths.

Keep in mind that our vaccination programme has been wildly successful. The elderly and vulnerable have had their second shot and 18-24 year olds are now invited to get their first inoculation.

The vaccines used thus far — AstraZeneca and Pfizer — are said to be highly effective against the virus, especially after two injections:

One of the three men said that we would have to ‘learn to live with this virus’. We know that, fellas, so open up.

We know that people are going to die, just as they do from flu:

That’s exactly what they said in April.

Labour are quite happy with an extension of restrictions. No surprise there:

Matt Hancock’s statement in the House of Commons

Matt Hancock announced the delay in the Commons that evening at 8:30.

Once again, the Government evaded going to Parliament first, followed by the media and public.

The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, was not happy. This is not the first time Hoyle has reprimanded Hancock:

Sir Lindsay said that he is ready to arrange a private meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss these continuing evasions of Parliament:

Hancock said:

That tweet is spot on. In March 2020, it was about ‘squashing the sombrero’ of hospital admissions, as Boris put it.

Then we had the rest of the list in that tweet.

Now it seems to be about zero COVID.

That’s quite a leap.

Hancock’s statement and the subsequent debate are available on Hansard. Excerpts follow. All MPs below are Conservative.

Jeremy Hunt MP, the chair of the Health and Social Care Committee and former Health Secretary, said (emphases mine):

May I start by saying that I totally agree with your expression of disappointment, Mr Speaker, that in a parliamentary democracy Parliament heard about this news after the media, and much as I respect my right hon. Friend it should be the Prime Minister who is here this evening?

I happen to support these measures and the caution the Government are showing, but may I suggest to my right hon. Friend that one of the reasons for the disappointment many people feel is the use of words like “irreversible”? Tonight, Sir Patrick Vallance said that we will be living with covid for the rest of our lives. If there is a vaccine-busting variant that threatens another 100,000 lives, these measures will not be irreversible, and we have a duty to be completely honest with people about the bumpiness of the road ahead. So may I urge the Health Secretary to be as cautious with the language we use as he rightly is with NHS bed capacity?

Mark Harper is one of the few MPs who wants England to open up now. He said:

Before I ask the Secretary of State my question, I should just say—as a former Government Chief Whip, it does not give me any great pleasure to do so—that I wholly associate myself with your remarks earlier, Mr Speaker. This statement should have been made to this House by the Prime Minister before it was made to the media. I hope that we do not see a recurrence of it and I wish you well in your meeting with him.

The Secretary of State has set out that it is not the Government’s policy to get to zero covid—indeed, that is not possible. Can he say whether it is the Government’s policy to maintain a low prevalence of this virus? If it is not, can he confirm the Prime Minister’s sentiments today that 19 July is a terminus date, and can he rule out bringing back restrictions in the autumn and winter when we see an inevitable rise in what is a respiratory virus?

Hancock replied:

Well, it is not inevitable—I do not think it is inevitable. It may happen, but it is not inevitable because we also have the planned booster programme to strengthen further the vaccination response. But it is absolutely clear, based on all the clinical advice that I have seen, that a goal of eradication of this virus is impossible. Indeed, there is one part of this country that tried it for a bit in the summer and found it to be impossible. Therefore, we must learn to live with this virus and we must learn how we can live our normal lives with this virus, so I reflect the Prime Minister’s words, which, of course, I concur with entirely, on 19 July. Our goal is to make sure that we get as much vaccination done between now and then—especially those second doses—to make sure that we can open up safely, even if there is a rise in cases, by protecting people from hospitalisation and especially from dying of this awful disease.

Steve Brine was, rightly, unhappy:

Last week, the Secretary of State told me:

“Our goal…is not a covid-free world…the goal is to live with covid”.—[Official Report, 7 June 2021; Vol. 696, c. 678.]

Well, you could have fooled me, and many of our constituents. There is dismay out there tonight. The reopening of the wedding industry is not a meaningful reopening and I think it is cruel the way some are being misled. The Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend have been very clear today that 19 July is not a new “not before” date but an end to all this, so will the Secretary of State tell the country his assessment of risk and personal responsibility and whether he feels that as a country we remotely have that right at this time?

Hancock replied (in part):

Once we have the offer of a vaccine to everybody, and once we have protected and mitigated the large part of that risk, we do need to move back to a world based on personal responsibility. That is right, and that is where we intend to go. I think that we have made steps already in that direction in steps 1, 2 and 3. This country is freer than almost any other in Europe in terms of our economy and of our society. That is partly because of the very rapid vaccination effort here, but I hope that my hon. Friend can take from that the direction we intend to go.

Peter Bone made excellent points on the Government’s disrespect for the Commons:

I am sure, Mr Speaker, that the Secretary of State for Health heard what you said at the beginning of this statement. May I ask the Secretary of State how we got ourselves into this position? He has been very good at coming to the House and making statements on covid, but on the biggest, most important day, the press were given an embargoed statement at 3 o’clock and the Prime Minister had a big showy press conference at 6, yet he could not be bothered to turn up until 8.30. This is a clear breach of the ministerial code. How did it happen? Who thought it was a good idea, and who actually broke the ministerial code?

Hancock had little to say in response but said he would continue answering questions.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown asked on what basis the decision to delay was made. Hancock said:

Central to the judgment today is the fact that we are seeing a rise in hospitalisations, especially over the past week, and especially among those who are unvaccinated or have just had a single jab. Those people are not largely those who are unvaccinated out of choice; it is those who are unvaccinated because they have not yet had the opportunity because they are younger.

Until about a week ago, hospitalisations were basically flat. We thought that the link might have been completely broken between cases and hospitalisations or that it might be a lag. Sadly, hospitalisations then started to rise. For deaths, we have not yet seen that rise, which I am very pleased about; hopefully they will never rise, in which case the future will be much easier. It may still be that there is an element of it that is a lag, and we will be looking out for that very carefully over the couple of weeks ahead, but nevertheless our goal is to get those vaccines done in the five weeks between now and 19 July in order to make sure that this country is safe. I will commit to publishing anything further that we can that underpinned the decision, but I can honestly say to my hon. Friend that most of it is already in the public domain.

The morning after with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer and guests

On Tuesday, June 15, Israel ditched its mask mandate:

They vaccinated quicker than the UK, which they could do as a much smaller country:

TalkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed three interesting guests, whose videos are all worth watching.

Clearly frustrated by this delay, she asked her audience about their mood:

She opened her show with an editorial on selfishness, because many people say that her civil liberties stance is ‘selfish’. She turned the tables on her accusers:

She interviewed David Paton, the Professor of Industrial Economics Nottingham University Business School. He has been running his own models and studying the national statistics since the early days of the pandemic last year.

This is his take. He observes that we are doing much better than SAGE models suggest:

He also told Julia that we are doing much better than the SAGE models purport:

Next up was Hugh Osmond, the founder of the Punch Taverns chain. He said that the medical experts wanted to remove all joy from our lives. He also pointed out that hundreds of pubs have closed because of the government’s handling of the pandemic and that if the pub summer season is short this year, hundreds more will go to the wall by the end of 2021:

Julia’s next guest was Mark Harper MP, chairman of the parliamentary Covid Recovery Group, quoted in the aforementioned Hansard excerpt. I agree with him in that these restrictions might never end:

He cannot understand why the Government is not more positive about the success of the vaccine rollout. He also discussed the negative fear-mongering from the media. Note the reply tweet which is spot on re the G7 get-togethers:

Julia’s third guest in her coronavirus segment was barrister Francis Hoar, who has been anti-lockdown from the start:

Before his interview, he reiterated his concern about increased government control via a (Chinese style) social credit system:

He also retweeted the following:

This appears to be a quote from Sir Charles Walker MP (Conservative), who is also against lockdowns:

It is hard to disagree with him as the Government keeps moving the goalposts:

Francis Hoar told Julia Hartley-Brewer that Boris looked as if he had been taken hostage at last night’s coronavirus briefing and that he is deeply concerned about the future of young people today because of continuing restrictions. He is very much a supporter of having our personal freedoms restored yesterday:

Conclusion

I really do hope that England reopens on July 19. I wanted the nation to reopen on June 21.

However, if it does not, then it is unlikely to reopen until Spring 2022. That could be June 2022.

My reasoning is as follows. September is the month when schools reopen, so that is a risk factor. Then comes flu season when coronavirus will worsen. The experts and the Government will say that we shouldn’t have big Christmas celebrations at home, in the pub or in a restaurant because it’s just too risky. Winter is always a bad time for illness, and we don’t want to overburden the NHS, so we have to wait until sometime during the springtime.

Therefore, if reopening does not take place on July 21, 2021, then the next possible date is between mid-March (after the Cheltenham Festival, likely to be a ‘pilot’ event) and June 2022.

I hope I am wrong. I truly do.

Weeks ago, the UK government announced that June 21 could well be Freedom Day, with confirmation coming on June 14.

This week, not surprisingly, the government and SAGE began backtracking.

Matt Hancock’s testimony

Yesterday, Matt Hancock gave four and a half hours’ worth of testimony to the Health and Social Care Select Committee.

Today, Friday, June 11, talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer picked up on the same lockdown point as I did in my post. They will not hesitate to use it again:

The vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi defended Matt Hancock’s claim that there was never a PPE shortage. Good grief. I watched the debates in Parliament at the time. There definitely WAS a PPE shortage (and not just in the UK):

Dominic Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former special adviser and Matt Hancock’s nemesis, surfaced as expected:

SAGE

Members of SAGE and Independent SAGE want lockdown to stay.

SPI-M is SAGE’s modelling committee, the one with all the dodgy numbers:

Publican Adam Brooks makes an excellent point, although he meant to write ‘without culpability’. The modellers will continue to rake in their salaries:

Here’s another tweet about the dodgy data modelling — disgraceful:

To top it off, card-carrying Communist Susan Michie, a behavioural psychologist and member of SAGE’s SPI-B committee, says that masks and social distancing should be with us forever:

Michie gave the interview to Channel 5 News (the Daily Mail has more):

Carl Vernon analyses it:

Now, Michie is backtracking:

On April 24, the Daily Mail posted a profile of Susan Michie by Peter Hitchens. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

The super-rich Communist Susan Michie is so militant that her fellow Marxists once searched her baby’s pram for subversive literature

They lifted the tiny infant out of the way, to check that the future Professor of Psychology was not smuggling ultra-hardline propaganda into a crucial conference.

No wonder that fellow students at Oxford a few years before had called her ‘Stalin’s nanny’.

The 1984 pram-searching incident, disclosed in 2014 by a far- Left website called The Weekly Worker, is far from being the oddest thing about this interesting person. 

The oddest thing about her is that she is a senior adviser to Boris Johnson’s Tory Government, a regular participant in the official Sage committee and the SPI-B committee, which have had such influence over the handling of Covid.

Yet despite, or perhaps, because of being very wealthy indeed, she has been a fervent Communist since 1978, and still clings to the Hammer and Sickle long after the collapse of her creed’s regimes from East Berlin to Moscow.

Her favourite place in the world is Havana, infested with secret police spies and one of the last tottering strongholds of Leninist rule.

It is quite possible to argue that Britain has undergone a revolution in the past year: a cultural revolution in which we have put health and safety above liberty in an astonishing way; a political revolution in which Parliament has become an obedient rubber-stamp and opposition has evaporated, while Ministers rule through decrees; and an economic revolution in which millions of previously independent people have become wholly dependent on the state for their wellbeing.

Perhaps, then, we should look for some revolutionaries. For what an opportunity they have been given by the Covid crisis.

Widespread fear of a mysterious plague led millions to seek safety in the arms of the state. But was this just a natural reaction, or was there any encouragement?

A now-notorious document was issued in March 2020 by Sage, called ‘Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures’. It concluded that we were not yet frightened enough.

It said: ‘A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened.’ So we needed to be scared a bit more. It recommended: ‘The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.’

Well, most of us can recall such messaging. Wherever can it have come from?

The Government, supposedly led by a liberty-loving conservative, deployed intense and repeated propaganda, about the overwhelming of the NHS. It united us around a sort of worship of care workers. 

It cleverly portrayed quarantine measures, from house arrest to mask-wearing, as selfless and generous, so making nonconformists and dissenters appear stupid, selfish and mean

Susan Michie has not responded to my requests for an interview, either directly to her email or through the press office of University College London, where she works. So I cannot say whether her lifelong belief in Communism, apparently inherited from her equally militant scientist parents and shared with her ex-husband, the former Jeremy Corbyn aide Andrew Murray, has had any influence on her advice.

Hitchens says that Michie advocates a zero-COVID policy, which means we’ll die in penury from permanent lockdown and be told by the state — Chinese style — when we can leave the house:

Vaccines reduce illness, and hence death rates, for all variants. Most young and healthy people are safe from Covid-19, and always have been. Most of the old are now protected from serious illness via the vaccine.

But can it overwhelm the idealists – Utopians in fact – of Zero Covid, a well-organised and active lobby who believe that the virus needs to be eliminated completely?

Susan Michie seems to be a supporter of this idea. On July 30, 2020, she tweeted: ‘To get people out & about, schools back, workplaces open, economy recovering we need #ZeroCOVID.’

On February 24, perhaps recognising that Zero Covid might put some people off, she tweeted: ‘ ‘Maximum suppression’ seems to be a good way of expressing the goal of ZeroCOVID (without getting side tracked into wilful or other misinterpretation).’

Where does this desire for elimination of the virus actually lead? Many people have praised China’s response to Covid. But in reality China still has Covid outbreaks, and responds to them with measures of extraordinary ruthlessness.

It has also used Covid to speed up and strengthen its worrying ‘social credit’ system, which puts everyone under surveillance, rewards conformity and punishes misbehaviour by denying access to the small joys of life.

Freedom is conditional, and the gift of the state and the Communist Party. In Peking, which is virtually Covid-free, citizens must use a smartphone to scan a QR code for every mode of transport. Contact-tracing is constant

Anyone who leaves or arrives in the city must be tested. As David Rennie, Peking bureau chief of The Economist, recently observed: ‘It’s very hard to know where Covid containment starts and a Communist police state with an obsession with control kicks in.’

The government

The Indian variant is being used as the excuse for not reopening on Freedom Day, June 21:

Julia Hartley-Brewer has exposed the government’s new zero-COVID strategy:

It is thought that restrictions on weddings could be lifted:

Adam Brooks has this to say about Freedom Day:

Travel is still a no-no:

Conclusion

I could write more, but knowing that a Communist is controlling our behaviour and is advising a Conservative government makes me nauseous.

Therefore, in conclusion, there is no good reason for the government to refuse to reopen the nation on June 21. Deaths, even from 2020, are still average. This year, so far, they are below average:

We will find out the government’s latest excuse on Monday, June 14. More to follow.

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