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It is safe to say that the two most controversial British Prime Ministers of living memory are Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) and Tony Blair (Labour).

Baroness Thatcher has gone to her rest, so we are left with Tony Blair.

Blair’s knighthood of the Most Noble Order of the Garter made the news at the end of 2021. On Saturday, January 1, 2022, The Guardian reported (emphases mine below):

Appointments to this ceremonial order are made without prime ministerial advice and are usually announced on St George’s Day, on 23 April. Founded in 1348 by Edward III, it is the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry and a recognition of significant public service. Sir John Major [Conservative], Blair’s predecessor, was the last to receive the honour.

The monarch makes this appointment, supposedly independently, but one wonders.

Only a year ago, the media reported that the Queen had refused to appoint him to the Garter. Incidentally, Blair has been sticking his nose in everywhere, especially Brexit. From this, we can deduce that he dislikes the average Briton:

Over the weekend, Angus Scott launched a petition on Change.org to have Blair’s knighthood rescinded. By Tuesday, January 4, the petition had 500,000 signatures. Unfortunately, as the petition was not created on the parliamentary website, it is likely to be ignored. More importantly, as this appointment is the Queen’s, Parliament cannot do anything about it.

The petition reads:

Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.

The Government rejected the petition:

The aforementioned Guardian article says that the Iraq war is still an issue with many members of the public. Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle stepped in to defend his fellow Labourite. Not only that, he poured more oil on the flames by saying that every Prime Minister should be knighted, by virtue of their position. No, just no:

Sir Tony, rather than Sir Anthony, as he is now known, has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, 14 years after leaving Downing Street. But the honour has been criticised by Blair’s political opponents and those who argue the legacy of his invasion of Iraq in 2003 makes him unsuitable.

Speaking on Saturday morning Hoyle said he felt the honour, the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry, was “a fitting tribute” for a former prime minister, although he felt it was not a political decision.

“Whatever people might think, it is one of the toughest jobs in the world,” the Speaker said, “and I think it is respectful and it is the right thing to do, whether it is Sir David Cameron. They should all be offered that knighthood when they finish as prime minister.”

Hoyle was talking to Today programme presenter Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4 when he was asked if he believed all recent former prime ministers should now be knighted.

“If you have been prime minister of this country, I do believe the country should recognise the service given. Absolutely. You finish in the office and when you’ve finished it is the respect that we give to those prime ministers,” he replied.

I’m going off Lindsay Hoyle rather rapidly.

Other new appointees to the Garter include Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and to the former Labour cabinet member Lady Amos, the first black person to be honoured this way.

On Tuesday, January 4, The Guardian reported that Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Party leader, defended the knighthood on Good Morning Britain:

The Labour leader said Blair was a worthy recipient of the Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, received in the new year honour’s list.

“I don’t think it’s thorny at all. I think he deserves the honour. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views,” Starmer told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“I understand there are strong views on the Iraq war. There were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.”

Blair, who led Labour to three election victories, was prime minister during the allied military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Monday, January 3, Christine Hamilton, whose husband was a Conservative MP then a member of the Welsh Senedd (‘Senate’, Assembly), told Dan Wootton of GB News that there are reasons why Blair should not receive this honour: Iraq, Afghanistan, Brexit. She surmises that if Prince Philip were still alive, this appointment never would have happened:

Several years ago, The Telegraph had an article entitled ‘Tony Blair believed God wanted him to go to war to fight evil, claims his mentor’. Unfortunately, it has since been withdrawn from their website.

Another Telegraph gem that no longer exists is the former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit’s blog post, ‘Gordon Brown is not as vain or greedy as Tony Blair but he is in deep denial and must be removed from office’.

Money, money, money

Blair watchers know that he loves his money.

Unfortunately, this Telegraph article is also gone: ‘Tony Blair earned £680,000 for his foundation for 50 hours’ work’. That was about The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. You could not make this up.

In March 2010, the Daily Mail reported that Tony Blair needed £5 million a year just to get by. How many properties did he own by then? Six? How many properties does he own now? Eight?

The Mail says:

Tony Blair has told friends he needs to earn at least £5million a year just to break even.

The former prime minister has been heavily criticised for cashing in on his contacts for personal gain and is thought to have made around £20million since leaving office.

But last night his former election agent John Burton claimed Mr Blair needed the astonishing annual income – and possibly much more – to pay spiralling wage bills at his growing list of companies and charities.

The revelation about his finances came as the former premier returned to the political fray with a lukewarm televised endorsement of Gordon Brown.

Mr Burton, one of Mr Blair’s most loyal political friends, said: ‘What I asked him was, you know he gets this criticism about what he earns. I said how many people do you employ? And he said 130.

‘I mean it was 25 about two years ago and he said to me I have got to earn £5million a year to pay the wages, so God knows what he has got to earn now to pay the wages.’

2010 saw the Conservatives regain Government in May thanks to a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. David Cameron, mentioned below, became Prime Minister. The Mail‘s article appeared during the campaign:

The former prime minister was making a controversial intervention in the election campaign yesterday as he addressed the Labour Club in his old constituency.

It followed a warning from a former defence minister that his appearance could trigger a public backlash against Labour from those angry over the Iraq War as well as Mr Blair’s business dealings.

Sporting a bizarre orange tan, Mr Blair spoke in support of his long-time rival Gordon Brown and attacked the ‘ vacuous’ Tories – but stopped short of personally criticising David Cameron.

The Tories were relaxed about the appearance, with Mr Cameron taking a dig at the former premier’s lecture circuit earnings, joking: ‘It is nice to see him making a speech that no one is paying for.’

Security was tight as Iraq War protesters demonstrated outside the Trimdon Labour Club, in the Sedgefield constituency in County Durham …

But many senior Labour figures fear his involvement could harm the party. Chief among critics was former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, who warned that Mr Blair was now a ‘negative factor’.

He said: He evokes a strong antagonism, particularly because of the Iraq War, but not only that.

Also the kind of things going on with allegedly Blairite former ministers and their apparently venal approach to life. He epitomises everything people think is wrong about New Labour.

It is a mistake by the so-called strategists. It may seem a good idea to them, but to many people at the grassroots level it is not.’

Kilfoyle was not wrong.

On May 25, 2010, a few weeks after David Cameron became PM, The Telegraph reported, ‘Tony Blair hired by US billionaire Vinod Khosla for climate change advice’. What does Tony Blair know about climate change?

The billionaire thought Blair was an expert, apparently:

The agreement will see Tony Blair Associates give strategic advice to Khosla Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in companies pursuing green technologies. Mr Khosla, who made his fortune as co-founder of computing giant Sun Microsystems, is hoping that Mr Blair’s decade on the global stage helps unlock doors for the companies that California-based Khosla Ventures invests in

Mr Khosla said that “with Tony’s advice and influence’ we will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to devise practical solutions that can solve today’s most pressing problems.”

It wasn’t disclosed how much Mr Blair will be paid for the advice he gives to Khosla. He already has a £2m lobbying post with JP Morgan Chase and a £500,000 job with Zurich Financial.

Mr Blair also charges tens of thousands of pounds for public speaking, received a £4.5m advance for his memoirs and set up Tony Blair Associates to advise foreign countries including Kuwait. In total, he is estimated to have earned at least £15 million since leaving office two and a half years ago.

Good grief.

Let’s go back to Blair’s properties. Most of them are stately homes or properties out of the reach of most people in the UK.

Less than a year after Blair left office as Prime Minister, he was somehow able to buy his sixth property. How can that happen on a PM’s salary?

On May 4, 2008, the Mail reported (and included must-see photos):

Tony and Cherie Blair have added a £4million stately home once owned by Sir John Gielgud to their property portfolio.

The seven-bedroom mansion in Buckinghamshire is a few miles from Chequers, the prime ministerial retreat the Blairs gave up to Gordon Brown when he took over at No 10.

Mrs Blair was said to have longed for another historic home in the same area.

A source said: “It ticked all of Cherie’s boxes. She wanted a small stately home within a 20-mile radius of Chequers.”

The Grade I listed South Pavilion, in Wotton Underwood, brings to six the number of properties the couple now own.

They have two houses in London, two flats in Bristol and Mr Blair’s former constituency home in Durham

Since he left office last June Mr Blair is estimated to have signed deals worth nearly £10million.

Last month the former Prime Minister reportedly earned up to £240,000 for making a 90-minute speech to businessmen in Spain.

Theoretically Mr Blair could have written a cheque for £4million to buy the property outright, but it seems more likely the couple have taken out another mortgage.

If so it would double their mortgage debt to around £8million and push their payments to more than £30,000 a month, experts estimate.

Iraq War: Dr David Kelly’s death and apologies

On June 26, 2010, the Mail alleged a cover up in the death of Dr David Kelly, said to have been unmasked as the source of the claim that the Blair government had ‘sexed up’ claims for a war in Iraq. Dr Kelly’s case is still a mystery.

The Mail article says, in part:

The official story of Dr David Kelly is that he took his own life in an Oxfordshire wood by overdosing on painkillers and cutting his left wrist with a pruning knife …

A subsequent official inquiry led by Lord Hutton into the circumstances leading to the death came to the unequivocal conclusion that Kelly committed suicide.

Yet suspicions of foul play still hang heavy over the death of the weapons expert whose body was found seven years ago next month in one of the most notorious episodes of Tony Blair’s premiership.

Many believe the truth about the manner of Dr Kelly’s death has never been established properly. Some even fear that the 59-year-old, the world’s leading expert in biological and chemical weapons, was murdered

The blanket of secrecy thrown over the case by the last Labour Government has only fuelled the sense of mystery.

In January this year, it emerged that unpublished medical and scientific records relating to Dr Kelly’s death – including the post-mortem report and photographs of his body – had been secretly classified so as not to be made public for 70 years.

Lord Hutton, who had been appointed by Blair, was responsible for this extraordinary gagging order, yet its legal basis has baffled experts accustomed to such matters.

Against this shadowy background, we have conducted a rigorous and thorough investigation into the mystery that surrounds the death of David Kelly. And our investigation has turned up evidence which raises still more disturbing questions.

Our new revelations include the ambiguous nature of the wording on Dr Kelly’s death certificate; the existence of an anonymous letter which says his colleagues were warned to stay away from his funeral; and an extraordinary claim that the wallpaper at Dr Kelly’s home was stripped by police in the hours after he was reported missing – but before his body was found.

Until now, details of Dr Kelly’s death certificate have never been made public.

But the certificate was obtained by a group of leading doctors who have spent almost seven years investigating the case; doctors who believe it is medically implausible that he died in the manner Hutton concluded and are alarmed at the unorthodox way the death certificate was completed.

Near the top of all British death certificates is a box headed ‘Date and place of death’, in which a doctor or coroner should declare the exact location of a death, if it has been established.

Dr Kelly’s certificate gives his date of death as July 18, 2003. It then states in reference to place of death: ‘Found dead at Harrowdown Hill, Longworth, Oxon’.

Why was the word ‘found’ used? Why was the crucial question of ‘place of death’ not answered? The death certificate should be precise about the time, cause and location of death.

The doctors who have investigated the case believe the failure to answer this question leaves open the possibility that Dr Kelly died somewhere other than Harrowdown Hill, the wood where his body was discovered. If this was the case, they are concerned the law may have been subverted over Dr Kelly’s death

A full coroner’s inquest, which, by law, must be held following any sudden, unexpected or violent death, would have addressed these discrepancies.

But no full inquest was ever held.

Oxfordshire Coroner Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on July 21. But on August 13 the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, Tony Blair’s former flatmate, ordered it to be adjourned indefinitely.

Falconer used an obscure law to suspend proceedings, and for the first time in English legal history he replaced an inquest with a non-statutory public inquiry to examine a single death, seemingly without any public explanation.

On October 24, 2015, The Telegraph reported that Blair gave an interview to CNN in which he partially apologised for the war in Iraq:

Tony Blair has apologised for some of the mistakes that were made during the Iraq War, and says he recognises “elements of truth” behind opinion that the invasion caused the rise of Isil.

In a candid interview with CNN, the former prime minister was challenged by US political broadcaster Fareed Zakar who accused Blair of being George Bush’s ‘poodle’ over the conflict.

During the exchange, which will air on CNN Europe at 11am and 7pm on Sunday, Mr Blair says: “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence was wrong. I also apologise, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime. But I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam.”

When asked whether he thought the invasion led to the rise of Isil, he says: “I think there are elements of truth in that. Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

… Blair’s acknowledgement of responsibility, if not apology, for the rise of Islamic extremism, is aptly timed. 

In 2004, he told MPs: “I will not apologise for the conflict. I believe it was right” and in 2007, he repeated this sentiment, saying: “I don’t think we should be apologising at all for what we are doing in Iraq.”

Last week, The Telegraph reported the inquiry was facing more chaotic delays after a leaked memo signalled Blair had signed up to the war in Iraq a year before it started.

It has also been reported that former David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, has revealed that he challenged Blair before the war about how to avoid any chaos after Saddam’s downfall.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Mr Blair made a secret trip to the White House to broker a deal on behalf of Muammar Gaddafi that deprived British victims of Libyan terrorism of millions of pounds in compensation.

Mr Blair acted as a go-between in negotiations between Gaddafi and President George Bush over payments to terror victims, according to a senior source.

The disclosure was made as Mr Blair ignored a deadline to explain his role to a parliamentary committee investigating the deal. He was invited to respond by Friday but instead sent a letter at 6pm on the day of the deadline, asking when the deadline was.

The source said Mr Blair travelled to Washington to intervene on behalf of Gaddafi in February 2008, after first meeting the dictator in Libya.

The new evidence suggests Mr Blair, who had quit as prime minister less than a year earlier, had played an important role in negotiations between President Bush and Gaddafi.

At the time, Libya was being sued through the US courts for committing terror atrocities, and billions of pounds of Gaddafi’s assets were at risk of being frozen as part of the lawsuits.

The deal struck by President Bush and Gaddafi led to US victims receiving £1  billion in compensation , but in exchange all court cases were dropped under an act of Congress.

But British victims, who had brought cases in the US, including almost 200 families of victims of IRA terrorist attacks, were not included in the deal. Mr Blair has always insisted he had “nothing whatever to do with any compensation legislation signed by President Bush”.

See? He does not like his own people.

On July 2, 2016, The Telegraph reported that Blair would not be investigated for war crimes in Iraq, although British soldiers could be:

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will examine the Chilcot report for evidence of abuse and torture by British soldiers but have already ruled out putting Tony Blair on trial for war crimes, The Telegraph can disclose.

The decision has outraged families of troops killed in Iraq who blame Mr Blair for engineering the war.

Sir John Chilcot’s report will finally be published on Wednesday and is expected to strongly criticise Mr Blair’s role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But in an official statement to the Telegraph, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said its prosecutors would comb through the 2.3 million word report for evidence of war crimes committed by British troops but that decision to go to war remained outside its remit.

It means individual soldiers could be prosecuted for war crimes but not Mr Blair.

The ICC, based in the Hague, has begun a ‘preliminary examination’ of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.

Brexit

In 1983, a young Tony Blair, running for MP in his first election standing in Sedgefield, pledged to support leaving the EU.

A campaign leaflet of his from that year surfaced, as a regional paper for the North East of England, The Chronicle, discovered:

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair hasn’t half changed his tune on Brexit since the heady days of 1983.

A campaign leaflet from Mr Blair’s first election standing in Sedgefield in 1983 has resurfaced online.

In the Labour literature, the bouffanted Oxford University graduate declares he wants to leave the European Economic Community, which later became the EU.

The pamphlet said: “We’ll negotiate a withdrawal from the E.E.C. which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs.”

On June 26, 2016, three days after the Brexit referendum, Blair pledged to seek a second referendum. Obviously, the British people are too stupid to handle such issues via the ballot box.

The Evening Standard reported:

When asked on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme about the possibility of another vote, he said: “As I’m looking at it here, I can’t see how we can do that.

But, you know, the point is, why rule anything out right now? As I say, you are going to have a reality to test yourself against.”

Blair said the nation needs to “see the consequences” of Brexit as they play out in the coming weeks and months.

“I can’t see how you would go through all of the mechanics of another referendum now,” he continued. I just can’t see it.

“But on the other hand I also think there will be a lot of people in the country who will say ‘well, let’s have a look at this and see what we are going to do’ and Parliament will want to look at it.”

Blair was still at it a year later, asking for a delay to Brexit negotiations:

In 2019, Blair asked for a second referendum, claiming it would be ‘healing’. Oh, my:

A month later, this Brexit poll appeared, which the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change conducted:

Hilarious!

It should be noted that Blair did not offer British voters a referendum on the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice during his time in office:

Do we need any further proof that Blair dislikes the British people? Perhaps we do.

Migration to UK unexpected

Then there was the issue of migration to the UK, which Blair facilitated during his time as PM.

On March 19, 2017, Tony Blair said he did not anticipate the number of migrants who would come to the UK when he opened the borders to European workers.

The Telegraph reported:

The former Labour leader relaxed immigration controls in 2004 after 10 new nations including Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, were admitted to the EU.

He tried to play down the significance of opening Britain’s borders, arguing that most EU migrants came to the UK after 2008.

However, official figures show that the number of EU migrants who came to Britain rose from just 15,000 in 2003 to 87,000 the following year. That figure increased to 104,000 in 2006 and 127,000 in 2007.

Mr Blair also made a factual error by suggesting that he could only have imposed transitional controls, temporarily barring migrants for four years.

In fact other EU nations including Germany introduced the measures for up to seven years.

Those numbers, which continued to increase through subsequent years, represent one small city per year in the UK.

——————————————————–

What has Tony Blair done to deserve the Order of the Garter? Nothing whatsoever.

With regard to Omicron, this is where we left off on Monday in the UK — one death:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post says (emphasis in the original):

Boris has claimed this morning that one hospital patient has died with the Omicron variant, telling cameras “Sadly yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations, and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.” It is not yet known whether the patient had comorbidities...

So far, it is believed that Omicron is a relatively mild variant. The Singaporean Ministry of Health has stated (H/T Guido Fawkes; emphasis mine):

Cases who have been detected around the world have mostly displayed mild symptoms, and no Omicron-related deaths have been reported so far. Common symptoms reported include sore throat, tiredness and cough.

The numbers hospitalised with Omicron are in single digits …

… never mind what Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said on this morning’s news round:

Dominic Raab doesn’t appear to know how many patients are in hospital with Omicron. Yesterday, Sajid Javid said it was “around ten”, with Raab this morning claiming on Sky News that the figure had now jumped up to 250, which would be an alarming leap in just 24 hours. Thirty minutes later on BBC Breakfast, however, Raab inexplicably slashed that number all the way down to 9. The new antiviral treatments are good – they aren’t that good.

Regardless, today, after the Government already implemented it last week, MPs voted on Plan B for England. There were four separate divisions (votes). One was on coronavirus passports.

When Tuesday’s parliamentary session began, Plan B involved wearing masks in enclosed spaces and public transport as well, working from home as well as a return to quarantine.

When Health Secretary Sajid Javid began his address, he mentioned that quarantine would be less severe. It would now involve daily testing instead of a mandated policy to stay indoors (emphases mine):

At the end of last month, this House passed regulations requiring all close contacts of a suspected or confirmed omicron case to self-isolate for 10 days, but given the increasing dominance of omicron, this approach no longer makes sense for public health purposes and nor is it sustainable for the economy. So we are drawing on the testing capacity that we have built to create a new system of daily testing for covid contacts that has started today. Instead of close contacts of confirmed cases or suspected cases having to self-isolate, all vaccinated contacts, irrespective of whether the contact was with an omicron case, will be asked to take lateral flow tests every day for seven days. Regulation No. 1415 allows us to put this plan into action by revoking the omicron-specific provisions for self-isolation.

Ahead of the official vote, The Telegraph‘s cartoonist Bob Moran took action on masks on Saturday, December 11:

Not surprisingly, Plan B has begun to wreak havoc with cancellations of international travel and Christmas gatherings in hospitality venues.

At least 80 Conservative MPs were expected to rebel and vote against the Government. On the day, 98 rebelled against the vaccine passport, along with three others spotted by Labour Whips. They included Sir Desmond Swayne and Bob Seely. I plan to discuss the results in another post:

Although a rebellion by Conservatives alone did not stop the Government winning the votes — thanks to Labour! — it should send a clear message to Boris.

Alicia Kearns tweeted that she would vote against coronavirus passports:

People living in England are concerned about the constant moving of goalposts with regard to coronavirus restrictions.

Conservative MPs became angry last week. In his press conference on Wednesday, December 8, when he announced Plan B, Boris mooted the idea of ‘a national conversation’ about mandatory vaccinations:

The rebel MPs’ reaction was immediate:

Guido began compiling his list on December 9. A selection of comments from MPs follows:

  • Alexander Stafford said “he cannot and will not support mandatory vaccinations“, adding that working from home “disproportionately negatively affects younger people and those starting out in their careers”.
  • Douglas Ross said “There is no evidence that vaccine passports stop the spread of Covid” and that since he didn’t vote for them in Holyrood, he wouldn’t vote for them in Westminster either.
  • Graham Brady said in the chamber last night that “it’s deja vu all over again, isn’t it?
  • Peter Bone slammed compulsory vaccinations on Newsnight, calling the idea “completely outrageous“, and even saying “I’d be the first to say the PM should go” if they were implemented.
  • Simon Jupp said “I don’t support Plan B”, called vaccine passports “divisive & discriminatory”, and made it clear that he “won’t vote for these measures.”
  • Steve Baker insisted it is “vital that the maximum number of Conservative MPs vote against Plan B, whatever our useless Opposition do”.

Over the weekend, Steve Baker tweeted that he would be relaunching his Conservative Way Forward movement, open to MPs and the general public. It is meant to restore the Conservative Party to its proper origins rather than a Boris-led Blairite/Labour-lite party:

Sir Edward Leigh MP stated his intention to vote against the Government for the first time during this Parliament:

Mark Harper MP pointed out:

“there is no exit strategy”, and asked “why should people at home…do things that people working in Number 10 Downing Street are not prepared to do?” 

The Spectator‘s Kate Andrews also noted the same thing, comparing the content of December 8’s press conference with the others that had preceded it. The Government and scientific advisers have made many poor contradictions and bad comparisons between the UK with a strongly vaccinated population versus one like South Africa’s:

The Spectator contrasts what our scientific experts from SAGE put forward compared with the real statistics. SAGE have a lot of explaining to do, yet Boris continues to court their shamefully extreme modelling.

Guido’s December 9 poll of the public shows that they are increasingly concerned about scope creep, especially with regard to Plan B:

Guido’s post reveals who led the press (‘lobby’) briefing that day. It was not the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC):

A poll of 3,170 Guido readers opened earlier has less than one-in-seven believing the government’s timing of Plan B yesterday was based on epidemiological reasons, and not politics.

Guido can’t say he’s surprised. Sources suggest that while a quad meeting was always scheduled for yesterday afternoon, Plan B was not on the table. During the morning the briefings were coming from Downing Street not DHSC, further suggesting the move was more politically than epidemiologically motivated.

William Wragg MP was the first to notice the political end to Plan B — a diversion from the Christmas party debacle — and actually challenged Boris on it last Wednesday at PMQs, only hours before the press conference. Tom Newton Dunn tweeted:

Senior Tory William Wragg challenges Johnson directly during PMQs over if he’s bringing in Plan B today, and says “few will be fooled by this diversionary tactic”. Johnson doesn’t deny, but says: “No decisions will be taken without consulting the Cabinet”.

It would have been even better if Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Opposition had said that, but, alas, he’s all on board with further restrictions. If he were Prime Minister, we would have never had Freedom Day on Monday, July 19. We would have been where Scotland and Wales continue to be, still restricted in many ways, with compulsory masks and vaccine passports.

On Monday evening, December 13, Sir Keir somehow got media outlets to televise his support for Plan B. The reason for this baffles me, as he is not in Government.

It does appear as if we have a coalition Conservative-Labour government, because the latter jumps on every coronavirus restriction bandwagon going. The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh told Nigel Farage that this is not a good thing:

According to a GB News poll for Dan Wootton Tonight, the public strongly disapprove of Plan B:

Sadly, we now have Plan B in England: face coverings in enclosed spaces, vaccine passports for large venues/events and mandatory vaccines for NHS/care home staff by April 2022. Self-isolation with daily testing was approved unanimously; there was no division on that motion.

The question remains: do we get another lockdown, i.e. Plan C, in the New Year?

Boris wouldn’t dare, would he?

Friday’s post provided the background to the current turmoil in Boris Johnson’s Government.

This is where we left off — a GB News tweet from November 22, before further events occurred:

The Christmas party — or parties

Last week, news emerged of an alleged Christmas party held on December 18, 2020, at No. 10 Downing Street.

Somehow, it took most of 12 months for this news to appear.

It surfaced with a video of Allegra Stratton, who was rehearsing for her new — ultimately unfulfilled — role as a televised press secretary, although she did remain press secretary.

On Tuesday, December 7, ITV News was able to obtain this video of her rehearsing for a press conference involving a fictitious Christmas party. The press corps are senior No. 10 employees:

According to this rehearsal, which Stratton did not take too seriously, we are looking at a party that never took place.

However, when one watches the video, one wonders: did it or did it not happen?

Allegra Stratton laughed and slumped over the podium. Hardly a professional look.

The Sun reported (emphases mine):

Senior members of the PM’s top team were filmed laughing and referring to “cheese and wine” in a mock press conference held by Allegra Stratton in the No9 briefing room …

In footage of the fake presser, obtained by ITV, one of the PM’s advisers asked: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”

Ms Stratton joked: “I went home!” before she paused to consider how to respond.

The aide added: “Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?”

Ms Stratton, who was due to lead daily political press briefings in the £2.5million press room before the plan was ditched earlier this year, laughed and replied: “what’s the answer?”

Another No10 staffer popped up to say: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”

Ms Stratton added: “Is cheese and wine alright? It was a business meeting…”

Business meetings were allowed under the restrictions at that time, as The Times explains:

People were allowed to gather if it was reasonably necessary for work purposes, but that would not have included holding a party.

The government’s advice from the time said: “Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”

The Telegraph‘s Christopher ‘Chopper’ Hope reported that Downing Street might have been exempt from the party rule because it was a Crown property. However, Guido Fawkes pointed out that the Queen wore a mask earlier this year at Prince Philip’s funeral on the grounds of Windsor Castle:

No. 10 responded to the Christmas party allegations. ITV News’s UK Editor Paul Brand tweeted:

By Thursday, December 9, 2021, The Times revealed a catalogue of seven Christmas parties allegedly taking place in or near Downing Street last year during a time when London was, for the most part, under lockdown.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The Times reports:

Insiders said that the No 10 Christmas party on December 18 began early, with officials and political advisers gathering in the press office shortly after 6pm.

Over the course of the evening some people made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts. By the time it ended shortly before 2am, several of those present were said to be “rat-arsed”.

A few rooms away Boris Johnson was working in his office, where after consulting once more with government scientists, he was coming to a critical realisation that Christmas, as planned, could no longer go ahead. Less than 24 hours later the prime minister broke the news that millions of people could not see friends and family over the festive period if they lived in other households

At the time London was under Tier 3 restrictions, banning indoor mixing with a narrow exemption for people whose jobs required them to be at work in the office. Was Johnson aware of the event, which included some of his most senior aides and was held yards from his office? …

The Christmas party, however, was different. A source said it had been organised days in advance on WhatsApp and with a follow-up email.

Originally it was intended for members of the press office who work together in the same large room on the ground floor …

It was not, they said, a party that had been organised by senior members of staff or indeed political special advisers. But in the close world of Downing Street some members of Johnson’s media team were also invited. The most senior members were understood to be involved in the preparations for the impending new Christmas restrictions.

Other parties were alleged to have taken place:

At another point in December, sources say, a Christmas quiz was held for officials and Conservative advisers working in Downing Street. Invitations were sent out by email, with people asked to organise themselves into teams of about six. Many wore novelty Christmas jumpers on the day. One source said that the quiz took place in the “control centre” established in 70 Whitehall by Dominic Cummings, who had left his role as one of Johnson’s most senior advisers in November. Another source said that people stayed late drinking, and that there was much discussion the next day about the unexpectedly strong knowledge displayed by the victors.

No 10 sources were adamant that the quiz was “entirely virtual”, and denied that it took place in 70 Whitehall, but conceded that some people may have participated from desks in communal offices

One party allegedly took place at Conservative Party headquarters in central London:

Another event took place at CCHQ a few days before the Christmas party. At least two dozen party aides and volunteers, who had helped Shaun Bailey, the Tories’ London mayoral candidate, held a “raucous” bash involving drinking, Christmas hats and dancing that went on late into the night. Things were said to have got so rowdy that a door was damaged. London was in Tier 2 restrictions, with a ban on indoor mixing and the rule of six applying outdoors.

Some parties allegedly took place in November 2020:

Government staff are also said to have held informal leaving dos in November, when England was in a full lockdown, to mark the departures of the senior Downing Street aides Lee Cain and Cleo Watson. Christmas parties were also held at the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education.

Those are the seven alleged parties.

The timing of this leak could not have been worse for the Government.

At PMQs on Wednesday, December 8, Boris insisted that the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case would investigate the alleged December 18 party, which was the only known one at the time.

This is how he responded to Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer at the despatch box:

… I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken

I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to investigate exactly what happened, and I repeat that there will be consequences for those involved if the rules were broken.

I have been repeatedly assured that no rules were broken. I understand public anxiety about this and I understand public indignation, but there is a risk of doing a grave injustice to people who were, frankly, obeying the rules. That is why the Cabinet Secretary will be conducting an investigation and that is why there will be the requisite disciplinary action if necessary.

Starmer brought up the story of a woman who died in hospital over Christmas and her aggrieved daughter who was not allowed to see her because of coronavirus restrictions.

Boris responded:

The first thing to say is that, in common with everybody in this House, I extend my sympathies to Trisha and her family. I understand the pain of everybody who has suffered throughout this pandemic.

I know the implication that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to draw: that the case that we are now investigating should somehow undermine public confidence in the measures that we are taking. I think that is the point he is trying to make, but I say to him that I think it is a great mistake to try to play politics with this issue, and I think that is what he is doing. I do not think the public do want to see confidence in the measures undermined. We are taking—[Interruption.] I think they can see the difference. We are taking the steps necessary to protect the public, above all by rolling out the vaccinations. Rather than focusing on the events of a year ago, that is what we are focusing on and that is what I think the public will understand.

On the one hand, one could say that this is still a sour grapes ploy to get Boris, who got Brexit done.

On the other hand, The Times reported that the news caused some Cabinet ministers and backbench Conservative MPs to distance themselves from the allegations, especially as they were not directly involved with the events:

On Tuesday Sajid Javid, the health secretary, volunteered to do a broadcast round the next day to push the booster campaign. After a video was leaked in which Allegra Stratton, then a spokeswoman for Johnson, joked about the party, Javid is said to have made clear he would not defend the No 10 position.

One minister told The Times that the talk in the Commons tea room was of more letters of no confidence in Johnson going into Sir Graham Brady, the leader of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs. They said that the party looks “divided, hypocritical, out-of-control, out-of-touch and all the other things that voters despise”

A succession of Conservatives went on the record with concerns. Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Tories, suggested that Johnson should quit if it emerged that he knew about the party.

This is how some members of the public view the revelations. As seen last week by someone in England:

https://image.vuukle.com/f3eecb08-251a-4488-8ed6-566c515e74f7-f700773f-e508-4cce-b35d-f69a6d3b47e4

Allegra Stratton’s resignation

Allegra Stratton, who appeared so insouciant a year earlier, tendered her resignation shortly after PMQs on Wednesday, December 8.

Tearful — or almost — she gave a brief statement to the press that afternoon:

Guido Fawkes quotes part of her statement:

My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey. That was never my intention. I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and offer my profound apologies to all of you for them

[…]

To all of you who lost loved ones, endured intolerable loneliness and struggled with your business – I am truly sorry and this afternoon I have offered my resignation to Prime Minister.

This woman is media savvy and has a lot of important connections, shall we say. She’ll get another job somewhere else by the New Year, most probably:

Allegra Stratton’s televised daily press briefings, mimicking those of the White House, never saw the light of day. One wonders if someone informed on her after the aforementioned December 2020 dress rehearsal video:

She was never very good in No. 10, as our COP26 spokesperson, having explained at length why she didn’t own an electric car and why people should join the Green Party! What planet is she on?

Further coronavirus restrictions for England

On the day of her resignation, the Daily Mail reported that No. 10 was desperately searching for the person who leaked Stratton’s rehearsal video to ITV News.

But that was not all. Their article said that, in order to take the heat off the Christmas party story, Boris put England under Plan B — further coronavirus restrictions (masks, vaccine passports, travel quarantine) — in light of the Omicron variant, which he did on Wednesday, December 8, a few hours after PMQs and Allegra Stratton’s resignation. What was — is — he thinking?

Within 24 hours of its broadcast, the toxic footage of No 10 staff giggling about a lockdown-busting party had detonated a bomb under the Government and led to the tearful resignation of its ‘star’ Allegra Stratton.

It also sparked an immediate hunt for the leaker, whose decision to pass the film to ITV News may even have prompted Boris Johnson to fast-track plans for tighter Covid restrictions.

So, Boris might have a Christmas party scandal on his hands from last year, therefore, in order to rectify that with the largest swathe of the British public — those living in England — he puts them under Plan B just before Christmas.

How is that a future vote winner?

Furthermore, Boris did not present the initiation of Plan B to Parliament first, which he should do. He had Health Secretary Sajid Javid present it to Parliament at the same time he was giving a press conference to the nation about it.

Wrong!

According to Parliamentary procedure, MPs must be allowed to debate and, if necessary, vote on these proposals before they are made public or enacted into law.

However, Boris has been doing this consistently since 2020 with coronavirus restrictions.

These restrictions will be in place by Monday, December 13. The Parliamentary debate and vote do not take place until Tuesday, December 14. Outrageous.

Omicron relatively weak, yet we have Plan B

As far as we know, Omicron is relatively mild:

Guido points out that the Government is going overboard about a variant whose symptoms resemble a common cold (emphasis in the original):

As the UK government hits the ‘Plan B’ button in a moment of epidemiological stringency, in the past 24 hours both the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the EU Medicine Agency have both said cases remain mild.

15 hours ago the CDC Chief said that of the more-than-40 people in the US have been infected with Omicron, “nearly all of them were only mildly ill” and the “the disease is mild”. Just one person’s been hospitalised.

… Meanwhile the UK government is preparing to hit the UK economy with a stay-at-home order, based on no hospitalisation or death data suggesting it’s necessary.

In his press conference last Wednesday annoucing Plan B, to make things worse, Boris also said that we need to have ‘a national conversation’ as to whether the UK should implement mandatory vaccinations!

On December 9, The Telegraph‘s Andrew Lilico wrote (emphases mine):

… Omicron cases are currently doubling every two to two and a half days. Wearing a face mask in the cinema but not the pub isn’t going to make a lot of difference to that.

If omicron is really going to grow as explosively as the Government suggests, Plan B isn’t going to come remotely close to slowing it down or stopping it. Restricting people’s lives in a way that makes no difference whatever to a problem is just as authoritarian as restricting people’s lives when there is no problem at all. If the only point of restrictions is as a kind of virtual flag with “We’re doing something” written on it, it’d be better not to restrict people’s lives but instead to raise a literal physical flag saying that, outside 10 Downing Street …

There needs to be a high likelihood that some disaster will follow if restrictions are not imposed and a good chance that the restrictions would avert or at least mitigate that disaster.

The Government does not appear to believe it needs such a rationale. It seems to think that it’s legitimate to restrict millions of people’s lives on bases such as “on balance, that’s wise” or “to reduce pressure on the NHS” (not to avoid its collapse – just to make life a bit easier). That is a serious departure that MPs of good conscience should vote against. Otherwise it would be legitimate to introduce a curfew every evening to “reduce pressure on the police” or restrictions every time a new flu strain is identified “just in case” it might lead to a pandemic

We did our bit. We got vaccinated. That has meant that, since April, the infection fatality rate of Covid has only been perhaps 3 to 4 times that of flu. Covid will be with us forever, killing tens of thousands each year. But since April it has never again been possible for it to create the waves of 100,000 and more deaths at a time that we experienced last Winter and that would have been much worse had we not accepted restrictions from last Spring onwards.

… Everyone in the country was going to get delta over the next couple of years, as our immunity faded, unless we were willing to get boosters every few months forever. Why does it matter if we get omicron this Christmas instead? A vague sense that “Something must be done. This is Something. So let’s do This.” is not even close to an adequate basis on which to let Plan B proceed.

On Sunday evening, December 12, Boris gave a brief recorded address to those in the UK saying that there has been a ‘surge’ of hospital cases and that the coronavirus danger level has been ramped up to Stage 4 throughout the four nations. Again, he and his ministers just decided this with no input from MPs:

In a nutshell, this appears to be what is happening with Government policy and the media on Omicron:

That morning, Dr Susan Hopkins of the UK [England, actually] Health Security Agency was still among those experts waiting for something to happen with Omicron:

UPDATEMonday, December 13: One patient in the UK has died ‘with’ Omicron.

Sadly, the Government and their scientists will consider that a success.

————————————————————————-

People living in England wonder whether Plan B will proceed to another full lockdown in 2022 as punishment for celebrating Christmas.

On Friday, December 10, The Telegraph‘s Julia Samuel said that, in light of the Christmas party allegations, the Government no longer has the moral authority to impose yet another lockdown:

It seems almost inconceivable and yet it’s not. We could be headed for another lockdown, probably just after Christmas. No one really believes that the measures announced by Boris Johnson this week will stop the new Covid variant from spreading. The private reasoning of the officials recommending them and the ministers agreeing to them is that they need to prepare the public psychologically for the possibility of going back into lockdown

They might tell us to stay at home, but they don’t. They might have told us not to party, but Number 10 staffers clearly judged that since they had worked together in close quarters for weeks, a party couldn’t really hurt. What stinks is not the logic of this decision; it’s the rank hypocrisy of legislating for one thing and then doing another.

If the Government is considering another lockdown, then it needs to understand that it has exhausted consent for the type of policy it could enact before. It has no moral authority to ban fathers from being with their wives during childbirth or to confine people to their houses because an app says they shared a bus ride with a Covid case. If we are told to stay at home, it can only be conditional upon our nearest and dearest social obligations. If that makes enforcement difficult, so be it. Policing this mess fairly has been a fool’s errand from the start …

With any luck, this will all end up with a dramatic anti-climax. Scientists are starting to sound increasingly confident that omicron hails Covid’s transformation from a threat to a common cold.

By Christmas, we will know the score. But in the meantime, let’s recognise the government’s half-hearted and ineffective Covid measures for what they are: the start of a campaign to soften us up for another lockdown, if it’s deemed necessary.

If that is what’s coming down the track, we need to be clear: some things are too important to be sacrificed to Covid controls. The Government ought to recognise that and use the law sparingly.

But if it doesn’t, people will have to use their own judgement and make decisions they can live with afterwards. We would only be following Number 10’s example, after all.

Who can argue with that?

In Parliament, a rebellion has been brewing over the past week on coronavirus legislation. Although protest votes will not prevent Plan B from passing, they will send a signal to No. 10 that a growing number of Conservative backbench MPs are deeply unhappy.

More on that tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post recapped the horrific murder of Sir David Amess MP on October 15, 2021.

Today’s will cover more about this much admired man’s personal character and political causes.

Posthumous victory: Southend-on-Sea now a city

I was delighted to learn at dinner time last night that the Queen granted Southend-on-Sea city status. Sir David must have mentioned Southend at least once a week in Parliament. He had long campaigned for it and made 115 references to it. Here he is with his two French bulldogs, one of which is Vivienne. He was due to participate with her in the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event on October 28:

The GB News article says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement to MPs on Monday, October 18 (emphases mine):

The Prime Minister has notified the House of Commons that the Queen has agreed to confer city status upon Southend in tribute to Sir David Amess who was recently killed.

MPs cheered in the Commons as the Prime Minister announced Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”.

Mr Johnson said: “As it is only a short time since Sir David last put that very case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves …

That ‘short time’ was probably last Thursday, October 14:

In a three-hour debate on Monday, preceding a service of remembrance at St Margaret’s, the Parliamentary church next to Westminster Abbey, Boris noted that Amess was never an MP interested in climbing the greasy pole to a Cabinet or party leadership position:

“That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this House, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay.”

Boris Johnson, opening tributes to Sir David Amess, told the House of Commons: “The passing of 72 hours has done little to numb the shock and sadness we all felt when we heard of the tragic and senseless death of Sir David Amess.

This House has lost a steadfast servant, we’ve lost a dear friend and colleague, and Julia and her children have lost a loving husband and devoted father.

“Nothing I or anyone else can say can lessen the pain, the grief, the anger they must feel at this darkest of times.”

Returning to Southend-on-Sea, having city status will help to increase its profile and encourage outside investment, as the leader of the city’s council explains below. Incidentally, having a cathedral, the traditional marker of an English city, is no longer necessary. City status is now a symbolic designation:

On Friday night, this Southend business owner said that Amess was dedicated to making his town a city:

Everything I know about Southend I learned from David Amess’s contributions in the House of Commons:

‘Community man’

There are MPs and there are MPs.

Sir David was the type of MP who will be sorely missed by his constituents, who called him a ‘community man’. GB News interviewed several over the weekend, some of whom were in tears or close to it, including men, such as this Leigh-on-Sea councillor:

This councillor from Southend says that Sir David, whose mother lived to the age of 104, used to throw parties for constituents over 100 years old. He also used to ask about local issues in Southend and resolve them with the help of councillors:

Another councillor remembers that Sir David would check on certain constituents to see if they had transport for important meetings, probably related to issues of theirs he was dealing with as an MP. The man says that Sir David would personally drive those constituents to the places they needed to go. And, yes, there were right to life issues he campaigned for:

The Chairman of Leigh-on-Sea council recalls Sir David’s selflessness:

This lady from Leigh-on-Sea, the Essex town where Sir David was stabbed to death (17 times), discusses his dedication to his constituency. Like many other people, she had the pleasure of meeting him at work in nearby Southend:

As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, a man interviewed (at 2:35 in the next video) said that people used to see Amess in the local Lidl, where he took time to chat with fellow shoppers. The man said that he did not vote for him but said that the MP was always available and accessible to everyone:

Vigil Mass

On Friday evening, the Revd Jeffrey Woolnough conducted a vigil Mass at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea.

This is the church the Amess family attend.

The video below has a few photos from the Mass. Starting at the 40-second point, notice how traditional it is. The priest stands with his back to the people, as in days of yore. He also wears a short chasuble that is very pre-Vatican II, a fiddleback. How fortunate for the Amess family to have found such a church:

At 1:50 in the video above, two ladies expressed their grief on Friday night following the vigil Mass. One of them said that Amess ‘knew everybody’. As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, one of ladies said that people used to see him in the supermarket.

GB News was on hand to cover the Mass:

 

A service at Saint Peter’s Church in Eastwood Lane, close to where Sir David was killed, was held on Friday evening to remember him – where he was described by a priest as “Mr Southend”.

The church fell silent as Father Jeffrey Woolnaugh paid tribute to the Conservative MP and invited his constituents to remember him.

He placed a photograph of Sir David at the front of the church, and said: “This liturgy is one I was not expecting to lead today.

“The whole world grieves. In this Mass we pray for the repose of the soul of dear David.

“Have you ever known Sir David Amess without that happy smile on his face? Because the greeting he would always give you was that happy smile.

He carried that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.”

Around 80 people attended the service and listened as Father Woolnough recounted his own memories of Sir David.

He said: “When you can speak to your MP and you can talk and get on like a house on fire, that’s when you can talk to them later about things that are important to your area.

“What can we say? He died doing the thing he loved, meeting his constituents, his local people.”

Father Woolnough added that his constituents could “count on” Sir David, and said: “He was always available. We don’t have the words tonight.

“Dear Sir David, rest well.”

The priest also said that Amess’s smile is ingrained on everyone’s hearts:

On Saturday night, a secular candlelit vigil took place near where Sir David was murdered. The Daily Mail has many moving photographs of the gathering.

Biography

Most Britons think that all Conservatives were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

Not so.

David Amess was born in humble circumstances in London’s East End.

The Telegraph recounted his life:

David Anthony Andrew Amess was born on March 26 1952 in working-class Plaistow, East London, to James Amess, an electrician, and Maud, née Martin, a dressmaker. As Amess recalled, “we were very poor and lived in a small terraced house with no bathroom, an outside toilet and a tin bath hanging on the wall”. In 2014 he would compile and publish a pamphlet, Party of Opportunity, containing short biographies of Tory MPs with working-class origins.

David’s mother was a Roman Catholic who brought him up in the faith and he remained a staunch Catholic throughout his life, his commitment reflected in his opposition to abortion and to the broadening of LGBT rights. “Confession,” he once said, “is very important to me.”

He attended St Antony’s Junior School, Forest Gate, where he was “often in classes of 50, and the teachers still gave us excellent tuition and kept order to a high standard”, and St Bonaventure’s Grammar School, Newham, where he remembered being “quite bossy and pushy” and was rumoured to have once hit a fellow pupil over the head with a bicycle pump.

Until the age of five, Amess said, he had the nickname of “Double Dutch” on account of a bad stutter: he could not make the sounds “st” or “the” and saw a speech therapist for three years, which also had the effect of virtually eliminating his Cockney accent.

He had a varied career prior to entering politics:

He took a degree in Economics and Government at Bournemouth College of Technology. Then, after 18 months’ teaching at a primary school (“I specialised in teaching children who were described as ESN”), and a short stint as an underwriter, he became a recruitment consultant.

One wonders if he met his wife Julia while he was an underwriter:

In 1983 he married Julia Arnold, a former underwriter, who survives him with their four daughters and a son.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister during Amess’s early years in politics:

A dedicated Thatcherite, Amess contested the safe Labour seat of Newham North West in 1979, and in 1982 became a councillor in the London borough of Redbridge.

During those years, Essex went from electing Labour MPs to Conservative ones. The county is still Conservative-dominated in Parliament.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the media coined expressions for Essex voters, many of whose families had been moved out of London after the Second World War had ended. The next generation of voters became known collectively as ‘Basildon man’ and ‘white van man’.

Amess rode the crest of that wave, as The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh explains:

Basildon was the first constituency he served, beginning in 1983:

When the incumbent Tory MP for Basildon, the Right-wing Harvey Proctor, moved to safer Billericay for the 1983 general election, Amess was chosen to fill his shoes and was duly elected. Three years later he stood down from the council to concentrate on his Westminster seat.

Basildon was regarded as a bellwether seat, and when Amess won it again in 1992, albeit with a tiny majority, it provided the first indication that despite the pundits, and the triumphalism of Labour’s leader Neil Kinnock, the Tories were on course for a fourth successive election victory. He would later describe his campaign in a short pamphlet entitled 1992: Against All Odds! (2012).

Boundary changes prior to the 1997 general election meant that Basildon was almost certain to go Labour, so Amess decided to look elsewhere, and in 1995 was selected to fight Southend West after the retirement of Paul Channon. Returned to Westminster again, he held the seat until his death.

Amess focused on his constituents, first and foremost:

Assiduous and likeable, Amess built a strong personal following by concentrating on constituency issues: the Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley once suggested that the secret of his electoral success was that “he never completed a sentence without mentioning his constituency”.

This was also reflected away from Parliament:

Amess … was a lifelong supporter of West Ham United, and also followed Basildon United …

Even after he left Basildon, he still returned to visit, as this former Basildon councillor remembers:

He had many accomplishments with regard to charity, earning him a knighthood. He:

was knighted in 2015 and received several awards for his contributions in parliament, including the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award of the 2011 Dods Charity Champion Awards, and the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the same event the following year, in recognition of his lifetime commitment to charitable work.

This was how the newly knighted Sir David celebrated:

He did not always follow the Conservative line in Parliament:

he incurred the wrath of many fellow Conservatives by consistently voting to ban foxhunting and hare coursing (though he was in favour of capital punishment), and supporting numerous other animal welfare campaigns.

Many MPs will remember his staunch support of Brexit, however.

They will also remember him for supporting animal causes and an end to fuel poverty:

The most significant of these were the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988), and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (2000) …

The animal-related Act, supported by the NFU, banned the tethering of “any horse, ass or mule under such conditions or in such manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering”.

The second piece of legislation, following on from the death of a constituent from cold, required the Secretary of State to “publish and implement a strategy for reducing fuel poverty”. The measure was credited with pushing fuel poverty to near the top of the political agenda, contributing to a dramatic fall in the problem in England from 5.1 million households in 1996 to 1.2 million in 2004.

Another cause that Amess supported, thanks to a Leigh-on-Sea constituent, Carla Cressy, was that of endometriosis. 

The Telegraph has the story:

“I first approached Sir David Amess when I’d just found out I had endometriosis five years ago,” says Carla Cressy, 30, an accounts manager from Leigh-on-Sea. “I didn’t know much about it, and realised there was very little awareness, support and education around it. He’s my local MP so I visited him at his surgery. I had no expectations of what would happen. I just knew I wanted to share my story with him, about how I’d suffered with endometriosis for an entire decade before I was diagnosed.

He was so lovely – genuinely concerned and upset about what I’d been through. He said we need to do something about it, and he then really did. He went above and beyond to champion this community like a beacon of light. It was incredible. I am devastated that he’s gone.”

This is what happened:

“Sir David recognised the significant impact endometriosis could have, and really wanted to make a difference to help those with the disease,” says Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, a charity that was working closely with an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) that Sir David set up in 2018 to raise awareness in Parliament of the condition …

One of Sir David’s goals when he created the APPG was for the government to provide education on endometriosis in schools. It’s something the group achieved over a year later, meaning menstrual wellbeing is now included on the English curriculum. “We made so much progress together,” says Cressy, who worked closely with Sir David on the campaign. “He really has changed so many lives, including my own.”

One of Sir David’s upcoming tasks, had he lived, was to ask for further research funding, as a Labour MP explains:

“He really wanted that debate,” says Labour MP Emma Hardy, vice-chair of the APPG on endometriosis. “We’d published a report last year, collecting evidence from women around the country with their experience of endometriosis, and Sir David wanted to draw attention to our recommendations.”

Their key goals are to reduce the time it takes for people to be diagnosed, ensure GPs have enough information to make them aware of the condition, raise public awareness, and fund more research into non-invasive ways of diagnosis …

“The main thing that comes from women is not being listened to, not being believed, taking ages to be diagnosed and then when they are, there’s not much change. Sir David wanted to change that. Endometriosis isn’t party politics, but he was really passionate about trying to do something about this condition. I don’t want him to be remembered as the person this tragedy happened to, but the person who worked so hard to improve the lives of people with endometriosis. We can’t replace him, but I hope we can find another Conservative MP to champion his work and continue with the APPG.”

This GB News video covers Sir David’s public life from the time he entered politics:

MPs paid respects

On Friday afternoon, Union flags were lowered to half-mast over government buildings, including No. 10:

On Saturday morning, prominent Conservative and Labour MPs laid flowers near the Methodist church hall where Sir David was murdered:

Government whips have reminded MPs that there is an Employee Assistance Programme for anyone among them who wants counselling after Sir David’s senseless murder.

Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, was deeply sorry to lose this man:

This was because he befriended MPs from both sides of the aisle and found ways to work constructively with them:

One of the things I found moving in watching and reading these tributes was the recollection made by more than one MP, regardless of party affiliation, on his befriending of new Parliamentarians. He introduced himself, asked how they were getting on and enquired if they had any issues with which he could help.

Conservative MPs

These are some of the Conservative MPs’ tributes, beginning with Boris’s:

Long-time friend David Davis paid tribute to Amess’s career of service, rather than ambition:

Stuart Anderson remembers Amess helping him settle into the job:

Andrew Rosindell, another Essex MP, lamented the loss of his oldest friend in the Commons:

Another long-time friend, David Jones, called him ‘frankly irreplaceable’:

I agree with Mike Wood. Forthcoming Adjournment debates will never be the same. That said, Southend is now a city:

The folks running PARLY agree on the adjournment debates, during which Sir David addressed more issues than Southend:

Labour

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer emphasised Amess’s Christian faith and the fact that he was well liked across the House:

Hilary Benn remembered Amess’s dogged campaigning and dedication:

Siobhain McDonagh will forever connect Amess with Southend, and who can blame her?

Steve McCabe will remember Amess’s cheerful nature:

John Cryer was a former neighbour:

Liberal Democrat

The most moving tribute, however, came from Lembit Öpik, a former Liberal Democrat MP, who spoke to Mark Dolan on GB News Saturday night:

The former MP was so moved that he had to sit down and recover after that interview. Mark Dolan’s producer was with him during that time.

Conclusion

It was serendipitous that the Gospel reading for Sunday, October 17, was about service (Mark 10:35-45):

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

What apposite verses for Sir David Amess, who gave his all in service to his constituents.

May his place in Heaven be an exalted one.

Yesterday’s post discussed the first three days of the Conservative Party Conference.

Today’s entry will look at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was still content-light, but at least he explained what ‘levelling up’ is. More on that below.

But first, let’s look at what happened the night before, the last opportunity for MPs and the party faithful to get together on the dance floor.

Tuesday, October 5, after hours

Pensions minister Thérèse Coffey had a great time as the temporary £20 Universal Credit boost came to an end.

A cold fish at the despatch box at the best of times, Coffey showed us a different side of herself as she, a chemist by training, belted out ‘Time of My Life’ from Dirty Dancing (video credit to the Daily Mail):

The Mail reported (emphases mine):

The cabinet minister in charge of Universal Credit was slammed today for belting out Time of My Life at a boozy Conservative party Conference karaoke bash hours before cutting payments to six million people.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey enthusiastically belted out the 1987 power ballad from the film Dirty Dancing in a duet with fellow Will Quince – a former welfare minister.

It came as a £20-per-week Covid uplift payment was removed from UC for families across the UK.

The Government has pressed ahead with the cut despite concerns – including from Tory backbenchers – that hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged into poverty.

From today, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no payments will be received that include the extra money.

I don’t know what I think about removal of the £20 uplift. The Government always said in Parliament that it was temporary and stated months ago that it would end in October 2021. I feel for those families. On the other hand, the last thing I want to see is Universal Basic Income, and if this £20 were maintained, it would have been a slippery slope along that road.

Furthermore, there are plenty of job vacancies and salaries are going up. Note the decrease in people clicking on the vacancies, however. Hmm:

Two other MPs, Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, in the process of divorcing his wife, and Tom Tugendhat, danced together. Guido referred to this season’s Strictly Come Dancing:

It was only a few weeks ago that Gove spent the early hours of one morning dancing in a nightclub in Aberdeen, his home town.

The Mail reported:

Michael Gove has been spotted rocking the dance floor again – this time busting moves to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and belting out Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart at the Tory party conference. 

One hilarious clip shows the Levelling Up Secretary, 54, arm in arm with Tom Tugendhat as he throws his finest shapes to a cover of the 1987 hit while wearing a suit and tie – just a month after his infamous night out in Aberdeen.  

Newly-single Mr Gove, and Mr Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, are seen taking turns to spin each other as they go all out at the gathering – which is not usually known as a hotbed of hedonism

In a second clip shared by The Sun, Gove can be seen passionately singing along to Bonnie Tyler’s hit 1983 anthem with his mouth wide open, hands interlocked with an unidentified woman in front of him.

Meanwhile, at another Conference party event, Liz Truss danced to Beyonce (video credit to Guido Fawkes):

Wednesday, October 6

Wednesday was Boris’s big day.

He abandoned his diet temporarily:

Guido Fawkes has the calorific coffee order:

Sat in the conference exhibition hall ahead of Boris’s speech Guido was astonished to overhear the Speccie’s Katy Balls being told by a barista that Boris’s aides turned up at his stall yesterday to fetch the boss a coffee. The coffee order in question was a stomach-churning triple shot flat white, with extra caramel syrup with three sugars – an astonishing departure from the diet Carrie supposedly put him on after his Covid hospital trip.

Later, an appreciative crowd gave their Party leader a standing ovation:

Guido has the full text of Boris’s speech, which was not much shorter than Keir Starmer’s last week but was delivered in half the time: 45 minutes compared with 90.

Before going into Boris’s speech, Keir Starmer’s speechwriter dived in to say that his went on ‘absolutely’ too long:

Guido reported that Philip Collins, Starmer’s speechwriter (and Tony Blair’s), said the policy sections were ‘a bit baggy’ (red emphases in the original, purple one mine):

Philip Collins, the man who drafted Sir Keir’s epic 90-minute address at Labour Conference last week, has admitted the speech “absolutely” went on too long – and even claimed the sections on policy (such that they were) were “a little bit baggy” and yes, “boring“. This is a speech he wrote only a week ago…

Speaking on Politico’s Westminster Insider Podcast, Collins said:

“It’s always the same bits […] the policy bits are very, very difficult to bring to life. If you don’t include them, everybody will write that you have nothing to say, that you’re empty […] those bits, if I’m critical, could have been tighter, could have been more compressed. I think they were a bit long, a little bit baggy.”

Which in view of criticisms of Boris that his conference speech was light on policy detail, suggests he made the right call. Collins, who was also Tony Blair’s wordsmith, goes on to say that while he thought Starmer handled the inevitable heckles well, the interruptions and subsequent applause (“people enjoyed it far too much!“) contributed to the running time, claiming Starmer “was getting standing ovations for things that were just basically boring lines that were meant to just take you to the next stage of the speech“. “It got ridiculous”, Collins said…

Returning to Boris, Guido also has videos of his speech.

It was clear that Boris, a former journalist, penned the words himself.

He opened with an amusing put-down of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, recalling the 2019 election:

Isn’t it amazing to be here in person, the first time we have met since you defied the sceptics by winning councils and communities that Conservatives have never won in before – such as Hartlepool. In fact it’s the first time since the general election of 2019 when we finally sent the corduroyed communist cosmonaut into orbit where he belongs

Then he threw in a joke about Michael Gove:

The Mail was on hand to give us Gove’s reaction:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson later referenced Mr Gove’s disco moves at his conference speech today, branding him ‘Jon Bon Govi’ – prompting the minister to turn bright red.

Here’s Guido’s video:

Boris said:

… for months we have had one of the most open economies and societies and on July 19 we decided to open every single theatre and every concert hall and night club in England and we knew that some people would still be anxious, so we sent top government representatives to our sweatiest boîtes de nuit to show that anyone could dance perfectly safely and wasn’t he brilliant my friends? Let’s hear it for Jon Bon Govi, living proof that we, you all, represent the most jiving, hip, happening and generally funkapolitan party in the world.

Tom Harwood, a Guido alum now working for GB News, gives us tweeted highlights.

Despite the rise in National Insurance tax, Boris insisted that Britain would move towards a low-tax economy:

Boris then had a go at Labour:

He then went on to slam Insulate Britain, which had blocked the roads for ten consecutive days at that point (12 as I write):

He discussed immigration from Afghanistan and Hong Kong …

… adding:

We are doing the right and responsible thing and, speaking as the great grandson of a Turk who fled in fear of his life, I know that this country is a beacon of light and hope for people around the world, provided they come here legally, provided we understand who they are and what they want to contribute, and that is why we took back control of our borders and will pass the borders bill, because we believe there must be a distinction between someone who comes here legally and someone who doesn’t, and, though I have every sympathy with people genuinely in fear of their lives, I have no sympathy whatever with the people traffickers who take thousands of pounds to send children to sea in frail and dangerous craft. And we must end this lethal trade. We must break the gangsters’ business model.

He made reference to 2022’s general election in France and the newly-conservative outlook on the EU and immigration from our Brexit negotiator:

And is it not a sublime irony that even in French politics there is now a leading centre right politician calling for a referendum on the EU. Who is now calling for France to reprendre le controle?? It’s good old Michel Barnier. That’s what happens if you spend a year trying to argue with Lord Frost, the greatest frost since the great frost of 1709.

Boris then illustrated what he means by ‘levelling up’. Different areas of England will get solutions to their specific needs:

I will tell you what levelling up is. A few years ago they started a school not far from the Olympic park, a new school that anyone could send their kids to in an area that has for decades been one of the most disadvantaged in London. That school is Brampton Manor academy and it now sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton. And if you want proof of what I mean by unleashing potential and by levelling up, look at Brampton Manor, and we can do it.

There is absolutely no reason why the kids of this country should lag behind, or why so many should be unable to read and write or do basic mathematics at the age of 11. And to level up – on top of the extra £14 bn we’re putting into education and on top of the increase that means every teacher starts with a salary of £30k – we are announcing a levelling up premium of up to £3000 to send the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them most.

And above all we are investing in our skills, skills, folks. Our universities are world beating. I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy, but we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain – and some of the best paid people in Britain – did not go to university. And to level up you need to give people the options, the skills that are right for them. And to make the most of those skills and knowledge and to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back.

As I’ve been saying over this wonderful conference to you when I became leader of this party, there were only, can you remember, what percentage of households had gigabit broadband when you were so kind as to make me leader? 7 percent, only 7 percent, and by the new year that will be up to 68 per cent. Thanks to Rishi’s super-deduction the pace is now accelerating massively as companies thrust the fibre-optic vermicelli in the most hard to reach places.

On that topic, he had a witty go at Scotland’s Ian Blackford MP, a multi-millionaire who gives the impression he has nothing. This bit is about the remote video connections Parliament had during the pandemic:

It’s wonderful, for years SNP leader Ian Blackford has been telling the Commons that he is nothing but a humble crofter on the Isle of Skye. Well, now we have fibre optic broadband of very high quality that we can inspect the library or is it perhaps the billiard room of Ian Blackford’s croft. And that is levelling up in action.

Boris wants to get Britons back in the office:

And my friends it is not good enough just to rely on Zoom. After decades of ducked decisions, our national infrastructure is way behind some of our key competitors.

It is a disgrace that you still can’t swiftly cross the Pennines by rail, a disgrace that Leeds is the largest city in Europe with no proper metro system, a waste of human potential that so many places are not served by decent bus routes. Transport is one of the supreme leveller-uppers and we are making the big generational changes shirked by previous governments.

We will do Northern Powerhouse rail. We will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North. We will restore those sinews of the union that have been allowed to atrophy: the A1 north of Berwick and on into Scotland, the A75 in Scotland that is so vital for the links with Northern Ireland and the rest of the country, the North Wales corridor. And we will invest in our roads, unblocking those coagulated roundabouts and steering-wheel-bending traffic lights, putting on 4000 more clean green buses made in this country, some of them running on hydrogen.

And as we come out of Covid, our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.

If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must, we will and must see people back in the office. And that is why we are building back better with a once in an a century £640bn pound programme of investment.

And by making neighbourhoods safer, by putting in the gigabit broadband, by putting in the roads and the schools and the healthcare, we will enable more and more young people everywhere to share the dream of home ownership, the great ambition of the human race that the left always privately share but publicly disparage.

And we can do it.

He discussed rewilding Britain:

We are going to re-wild parts of the country and consecrate a total of 30 per cent to nature. We are planting tens of millions of trees.

Otters are returning to rivers from which they have been absent for decades. Beavers that have not been seen on some rivers since Tudor times, massacred for their pelts, and now back. And if that isn’t conservatism, my friends I don’t know what is.

Build back beaver.

And though the beavers may sometimes build without local authority permission, you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country.

He talked about the housing crisis and the importance of home ownership, especially for the young:

He praised the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the contribution of private enterprise:

He wittily criticised Labour’s reluctance to accept the Government’s pandemic strategy:

Boris discussed the Labour Party conference and Sir Keir Starmer. This is classic Boris:

Did you see them last week, did you watch them last week in Brighton? Hopelessly divided I thought they looked.

Their leader looked like a seriously rattled bus conductor, pushed this way and that by, not that they have bus conductors any more, unfortunately, like a seriously rattled bus conductor pushed this way and that by a Corbynista mob of Sellotape-spectacled sans-culottes or the skipper of a cruise liner that has been captured by Somali pirates desperately trying to negotiate a change of course and then changing his mind.

He discussed getting a trade deal with the United States, especially our export of British beef:

He touched on AUKUS …

… and Labour’s opposition to that alliance:

He also addressed political correctness, which, frankly, has only worsened under this Government. He really does need to tackle it, so I hope he means what he says here. On a lighter note, he mentioned Michael Gove again:

We are led by our values, by the things we stand for. And we should never forget that people around the world admire this country for its history and its traditions. They love the groovy new architecture and the fashion and the music and the chance of meeting Michael in the disco. But they like the way it emerges organically from a vast inherited conglomerate of culture and tradition. And we Conservatives understand the need for both and how each nourishes the other. And we attack and deny our history at our peril. And when they began to attack Churchill as a racist I was minded to ignore them. It is only 20 years ago since BBC audiences overwhelmingly voted him the greatest Briton of all time, because he helped defeat a regime after all that was defined by one of the most vicious racisms the world has ever seen.

But as time has gone by it has become clear to me that this isn’t just a joke. They really do want to re-write our national story starting with Hereward the Woke. We really are at risk of a kind of know-nothing cancel culture, know-nothing iconoclasm. And so we Conservatives will defend our history and cultural inheritance, not because we are proud of everything, but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia, and its a betrayal of our children’s education.

He closed by paying tribute to England footballers, Emma Radacanu and Team GB’s Olympians and our Paralympians, who did so well this year:

The spirit of our Olympians. It is an incredible thing to come yet again in the top four, a formidable effort for a country that has only 0.8 per cent of the world’s populationbut when we come second in the Paralympics as well – that shows our values, not only the achievement of those elite athletes but a country that is proud to be a trailblazer.

To judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit and by what is inside them.

That is the spirit that is the same across this country, in every town and village and city that can be found. That can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere.

And that is the spirit we are going to unleash.

The crowd loved every minute:

Tom Harwood interviewed party members afterwards, all of whom gave Boris’s speech rave reviews:

I could go into the pundits’ analyses, but why bother? So many are disgruntled Remainers, still licking their wounds over Brexit, which means that they will attack any Conservative policy.

As a former boss of mine used to say: ‘Onwards and upwards!’

The only consolation for the Labour Party is that, while their party conference was a disaster, the Conservative government experienced one of its worst weeks in living memory.

Brutal fights broke out at a handful of petrol stations while the fuel shortage raged on, ginned up by the media, led by the BBC, as one can see in this poll from YouGov:

Government ministers were few on the ground, leaving the public wondering who was in charge. Dan Wootton of GB News gave this scathing editorial on Tuesday, September 28:

It’s a disaster, especially the lorry driver shortage:

While all of this was going on, Labour Party members descended on the seaside resort of Brighton last weekend for their annual conference, which began on Saturday.

The first few days were taken up with party governance and policy issues. Tuesday and Wednesday featured the big-hitter speeches from shadow cabinet members, culminating with a speech from party leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

The big speeches are what most of the media will pay attention to, however, the early days of the conference revealed the most about who and what defines Labour.

Guido Fawkes and GB News kept a gimlet eye on proceedings throughout.

Fair wages

First of all, there was the question of how much Labour’s conference stewards were being paid. Labour continually talk about raising the minimum wage, but fall far short from implementing it themselves:

Guido’s accompanying post concludes (emphases in the original):

Stewards will be made to work everyday from 25 September through to 29 September from 8:00am to 20:00. Short changing the low paid stewards who will be working the conference floor as they debate a motion calling for £10 per hour minimum wage… 

UPDATE: Richard Holden MP says “This is utter hypocrisy from Labour. As usual, they demand one thing in public but can’t even practice what they preach behind closed doors with their own staff.”

Not only can Labour not implement their own policy, but Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds does not even know what the minimum wage is, as the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday:

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds was left red-faced today as he floundered over the current level of the minimum wage.

The frontbencher struggled as he was asked for the figure – £8.91 per hour – during a round of interviews.  

Pushed by LBC radio host Nick Ferrari, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: ‘It’s… certainly it’s below £10 er, Nick, I don’t know off the top of my head.’

Challenged that he probably should have checked the figure amid a row with left-wingers who are calling for it to be hiked to £15 an hour, the MP said: ‘Er, perhaps yes. I’m just being quite honest with you.’

Hopeless.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner calls Conservatives ‘scum’

The most memorable event of conference was a fringe event on Saturday, September 25, where deputy leader Angela Rayner called the Conservatives ‘scum’:

I’m sick of shouting from the sidelines, and I bet youse lot are too. We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile … of banana republic…Etonian…piece of scum…and I held back a little…that I have ever seen in my life…

She later tried to defend the remark, claiming that calling people ‘scum’ was a term of endearment used in the north of England. However, many Northerners have since said that it is not.

On Sunday, she claimed she was talking only about Boris Johnson:

However, as you can see from the quote above, she used the words ‘bunch of’, indicating that she meant the whole party. In the video above, Trevor Phillips says that she is implicating Conservative voters as well.

He has a point, one with which the new Conservative Party chair, Oliver Dowden MP, agrees:

By Monday, Guido had unearthed more from Saturday night (language alert):

Guido’s post on the subject says:

Presumably Keir will want to have another ‘private conversation’ explaining how Labour getting into government requires them to win over Tory voters, not insult them…

On Monday, Rayner’s colleague Emily Thornberry MP told BBC Politics Live that drink might have been involved:

However, this is not the first time Rayner has called Conservatives scum. On October 21, 2020, she called Conservative MP Chris Clarkson ‘scum’, which, fortunately, he brought to the Deputy Speaker of the House’s attention at the time. I watched the proceedings on television when it happened. Here’s the video:

Rayner later apologised, but outside of the Commons.

Gender identity politics

Another dismal conference memory will be the lingering gender identity controversy. Rosie Duffield MP said she did not feel that the conference would be safe for her to attend. Only three years ago, then-MP Luciana Berger did not attend because of anti-Semitism:

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg once needed a bodyguard at conference.

Hmm. All three are women:

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Lab) was appalled that Duffield felt she could not attend, but Keir Starmer did not stand up for her:

The gender identity question ran and ran throughout the week.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves clearly did not want to go there, burbling to LBC’s Nick Ferrari when he asked her an anatomical question about women:

Deputy leader Angela Rayner, who became a grandmother at the age of 35, was not afraid of the topic and clearly does not see the world the way Rosie Duffield does:

Six other MPs took the same line as Rayner, which should ring alarm bells with every woman. David Lammy, pictured below, told the BBC that women insisting on their own spaces were ‘dinosaurs’ wanting to ‘hoard rights’. Here’s the image in full:

Meanwhile, looking on from outside the scenes, a man who transitioned to a woman agrees with Duffield:

By Tuesday, September 28, ministers speaking at related fringe events left early:

Guido pointed out that this did not happen at other fringe events:

Labour LGBT+ have held packed fringe events for the past two days at Conference, and Guido’s noticed a bit of a pattern: the high-profile shadow cabinet panelists (Rayner, Thomas-Symonds, Dodds) have all conveniently left their respective sessions early. Usually just before they’re confronted with awkward questions about Rosie Duffield…

Busy as no doubt they are, this sort of behaviour doesn’t appear to be happening as much at other fringe events; Guido noticed Anneliese Dodds had plenty of time to field questions with the Fabian Society yesterday, and Angela Rayner is, of course, perfectly happy to spend her hours calling the Tories “scum” in front of Labour activists. When it comes to acknowledging the transphobia row in their own party, though, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Thomas-Symonds did at least offer an anodyne soundbite about standing for trans rights in response to one question yesterday, though he soon left afterwards – the Q&A continued for about another 15 minutes.

Stephen Daisley, writing for The Spectator, has more on how this played out at conference, including a women’s meeting that had to held in secret because of a related protest. Terrible.

Labour staff redundancies on hold

A few months ago, Keir Starmer planned to make 90 workers at Labour HQ redundant. That did not go down well with their union, which threatened a picket at conference.

Starmer backed down …

… as Guido reported on September 3:

Labour general secretary David Evans has avoided the prospect of a picket line at Labour conference, after telling staff this afternoon, “I am pleased to say that at this stage we see no need to consider compulsory redundancies as part of this process”. Many are picking up on the key phrase being “at this stage”. Guido doubts there’s been any notable uptick in Labour’s finances in recent months, suggesting the required 90 sacking are still necessary in the near future – i.e. post-conference. For now, at least, it seems their biggest Brighton headache will be the membership, not the staff…

We’ll see what happens in early October.

Labour members allying with Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn lost the 2019 election with the worst results for Labour since 1935.

Keir Starmer succeeded him as party leader in 2020.

Nonetheless, Labour has been divided between Corbynites and Blairites (Starmer).

On Saturday, General Secretary Dave Evans boldly stated that he became a party member because he likes Corbyn:

This is problematic for Starmer.

That same day, The Times reported on solidly middle class Putney in south-west London, which voted Labour in 2019. The paper’s reporter had trouble finding Starmer supporters (emphases mine):

as he embarks on his first party conference at the head of Labour this weekend, with the pandemic finally beginning to fade from the headlines, Starmer is determined to command the nation’s attention.

If the view from Putney is anything to go by, he has a long way to go. It took me three hours on the streets of the southwest London constituency on Thursday afternoon to find anything resembling a Starmerite. Most responses ranged from unmoved to profoundly unimpressed.

“Starmer is just middle of the road,” said Nick Godfrey, 68, a retired brewery operator and lifelong Labour voter. “He gives Boris and his clowns an easy ride. He gets in a few jabs at Prime Minister’s Questions and thinks he’s won the war” …

“A bright light on a dark night” was how the victorious Labour MP Fleur Anderson described Putney in 2019. That was putting it mildly: the seat was the only one Labour managed to wrestle from the Tories in the entire country. As the working-class fiefdoms of the red wall crumbled, Putney showed that metropolitan Labour is alive and well. So if Starmer can’t do well here, he’s probably toast.

That’s certainly the view of Helen and Gemma, two self-described “typical Putney mums” I found chatting over a cappuccino at Hudsons, a popular café. “I had high hopes for him but I think he’s a bit ineffectual,” Gemma said. “This should be Labour’s time really, with a lot going wrong in the country. But I think they need somebody a bit more charismatic. He’s bland, a bit nasal.”

Helen voted Conservative at the last election, but she could be tempted by the right Labour leader. “I thought Starmer might have something to offer, but I don’t think he does,” she said. “He’s weak and a bit insipid. I thought he might be charismatic and he’s not.”

On Monday, World Transformed held a fringe event entitled, ‘Starmer Out?’

It appears to have attracted a lot of Jeremy Corbyn supporters:

Starmer’s Shadow Employment minister quits

On Monday, Starmer’s Shadow Employment minister, Andy McDonald, tendered his resignation:

Guido has the full text of McDonald’s letter, in which the MP expresses his disappointment that Starmer has not done anything to further a £15 minimum hourly wage, neglected his ten pledges as Leader of the Opposition and broke a commitment to socialist policies.

Labour are socialist to the core. This is what McDonald wrote:

I joined your frontbench team on the basis of the pledges that you made in the leadership campaign to bring about unity within the party and maintain our commitment to socialist policies.

That’s all you need to know about Labour, comrade.

McDonald also wrote an article for The Tribune about the reasons for his resignation:

It was rumoured that Jeremy Corbyn had a hand to play in this badly-timed resignation for Starmer, but Corbyn denied it:

Corbyn’s advice on winning an election

Amazingly, on Tuesday at a fringe meeting, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader with the worst election results for the party since 1935, was allowed to advise on winning an election:

He was coy when asked about running as an independent candidate for MP.

Some long-time Blairite MPs, such as Barry Gardiner, want Starmer to bring Corbyn back into the party for unity’s sake:

Starmer told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that Corbyn would have to apologise and remove an offensive online post of his:

Getting rid of Starmer is a real preoccupation. Several Corbynite MPs sit in the Commons, such as Zara Sultana:

Keir Starmer’s speech

On Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer gave a closing speech to conference.

Starmer is a lawyer. In the old days, they were paid by the word, so they were verbose.

Times have not changed. Starmer’s speech lasted 90 minutes:

This is most of what one needs to know:

Other words that did not make the speech were ‘comrade’, ‘solidarity’ and ‘Corbyn’:

Starmer’s speech came the day after a union broke away from Labour …

… and the day after The Mirror‘s party for delegates featured Tony Blair’s 1997 campaign song, D:Ream’s 1993 hit, Things Can Only Get Better:

Guido thought that should have been the tune played as Starmer walked up to the podium; it would have driven the Corbynistas mad and boosted Labour five points in the polls.

However, the song played was Fat Boy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now, possibly because he and Starmer took violin lessons together at secondary school.

Starmer was heckled from the get go:

Here’s another, with Sir Keir responding with a joke about Prime Minister’s Questions:

It won a stammering Starmer a standing ovation. He stopped stammering after that, having found his footing.

He delivered a weak one-liner about his father and Boris’s:

Starmer likes to say that his father was a tool maker, making him sound working class. In reality, Starmer’s father owned a tool making company. A working class boy’s parents cannot afford a violin, let alone the lessons.

Tool making was a big theme:

The heckling continued:

Here’s another:

This is the woman:

In addition to the heckling, there was also a silent red card protest:

Starmer’s detractors might have made him look better in the eyes of most delegates — and the public, assuming anyone watched the speech:

Guido has all nine on a short video:

Starmer channelled his inner Blair, who famously said ‘Education, education, education’ in 1997:

Kevin Maguire, a Labour-supporting journalist, rationalised the length of the speech, as last year’s was cancelled because of coronavirus:

I feel sorry for anyone who had to listen to the whole thing:

Regardless of what Starmer said on Wednesday before the party faithful (here’s the full 7,286 word transcript), below is an excerpt of an article he wrote when he was younger (also see page 21 of the July-August 1986 edition of Socialist Alternatives). He discusses revolutionary movements, saying that an economic downturn coalesces young people and the working class in a move away from conservatism:

https://image.vuukle.com/981fa537-b148-41d5-b2e6-01cd1327508e-62e7b38b-c1dd-4faa-83a7-52f2cf87cc39

It is unlikely he has moved too far from that view over the years.

More identity politics

In addition to the sexual identity politics discussed above, there were other issues that popped up during conference, including that of race.

On Sunday, September 26, Mark Ferguson, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee and of mixed race, told his audience that too many white men had their hands up waiting to ask a question:

Ferguson stated that his instruction pertained to all conference debates, not just that particular one, as GB News reported:

“But I do not want white men to exclusively dominate this or any other debate at this conference and following on from my comrade in the chair this morning, I do wish to see the diversity of the hall reflected.

“I’m not putting anybody on the spot here, but if you want to speak do not be afraid to put your hand up, we want to hear from you, this is an inclusive conference.”

GB News asked for the eminently sensible opinion of Graham Stringer MP, who would make a great party leader. Stringer said that it is the role of the chairman at the podium to regulate the balance, not the delegates themselves:

Yet more identity politics

This lady gave a speech deploring flash photography, a mainstay of party political conferences. It’s always there.

I was waiting for a mention of jazz hands. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one:

She even complained about a clock near the stage. She said it should have been on the left rather than the right:

The young radicals

The media never say that some Labour members are outright Marxists.

I am posting these two speeches because the young radicals making them could one day be sitting in the House of Commons.

Hannah from Edinburgh was raised in Middlesbrough, England, and was upset about her impoverished upbringing. Therefore, she advocates socialism with full enthusiasm:

This chap gave an equally impassioned speech about climate change and an internationalist, socialist approach:

On Monday, conference delegates passed a motion from Young Labour condemning Israel.

LabourList reported:

Delegates at the Labour Party annual conference in Brighton have today passed by a show of hands a composite motion on Israel and Palestine put forward by Young Labour that condemns “Israel’s continuing illegal actions”.

Moving the motion, Young Labour’s Jawad Khan said that the motion would “bring us one step closer to finally ending the shameful century of British complicity and the denial of the right to self-determination, liberation and return”.

Also addressing the annual party gathering ahead of the vote this afternoon, Labour Friends of Israel chair Steve McCabe argued that the motion was “too shouty, too angry, too one-sided and not at all focused on the search for peace”.

He told the conference delegates that it was “completely hostile to the people of Israel”, adding: “If Labour had adopted this approach in Northern Ireland, we would never have got to the Good Friday agreement.”

Guido has more on what Steve McCabe MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said about the motion:

Former MPs the public do not want to see

The conference saw the re-emergence of former MPs the public no longer want to see.

Keith Vaz

Leicester’s Keith Vaz, who, in darker aspects of his private life claimed to be a washing machine salesman, spoke at a Hindus for Labour fringe event on Monday. What were they thinking?

Vaz’s successor is no better, by the way:

Guido’s post on Vaz’s appearance says:

Vaz’s presence comes just four days after a parliamentary investigation found his bullying behaviour to have been “hostile, sustained, harmful and unworthy of a member of parliament”, writing that he “should be ashamed”…

Not only is Keith Vaz still allowed to remain a Labour member, he recently took up a role on the party’s local government committee in Leicester. Not a good look…

John Bercow

John Bercow was Speaker of the House at the time the Brexit debate in Parliament was at its worst. He always took the side of the Remainers. He only stood down once Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

Bercow came in as Speaker as a notional Conservative, then disavowed himself from the party.

After standing down as Speaker, he joined the Labour Party and spoke at a fringe meeting on Tuesday.

The Daily Mail reported:

Political turncoat John Bercow shamelessly hailed his new Labour ‘comrades’ last night – but insisted he had not quit the Tories in search of a safe Commons seat.

The former right wing Tory MP made his debut at the opposition party’s conference in Brighton by offering advice on how to defeat the ‘worst Government of his lifetime’ at a fringe meeting …

On what the party should do next, he said: ‘The Labour Party has got to excite people. It has got to excite people. It is not good enough to just have a good set of good policies.

‘In fact, I would go as far as to say, that my feeling is that the Labour Party in the next election doesn’t need to have a a vastly, detailed, lengthy manifesto with dozens and dozens of commitments.’

The former Commons Speaker added: ‘The Labour Party has got to thrust to the fore alongside Keir who is a formidable prosecutor, a formidable advocate, and other personalities part of the leadership team, which can reach out to people and persuade people that they are different from and preferable to this shower, which frankly represents the worst government of my lifetime.’

On Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Bercow said he is a ‘good guy’ but that the Labour Party has got to develop a ‘narrative’ and clear policies’.

When asked about Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, who recently described senior Tories as ‘scum’, Mr Bercow said he would have not chosen that term but insisted people should not get on their ‘moral high horses’ about it.

What Bercow really wants is a seat in the House of Lords. Fortunately, Boris has not deigned to give him that privilege.

Coronavirus caution out the window

On Monday, the conference organisers went against their earlier pledge for a safe environment with regard to coronavirus, especially with vaccine passes.

I went out that day. Although the morning was rainy, the sun shone in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, Labour ditched coronavirus passes, required for large gatherings:

Guido posted a copy of the Labour Party email on the subject and said:

Having spent the weekend insisting attendees show either a vaccine pass or a negative lateral flow result upon entry to the conference, it looks like Labour have now decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. As of this morning, security is no longer checking for passes, instead conducting random spot checks on those already in the venue – long after attendees could have spread Covid around the conference centre. In an email to members they claim “adverse weather conditions” mean it’s just easier to let everyone in and check a few once they’re inside…

When Labour announced the measures last month, they insisted checks were necessary to “reduce risk and to provide reassurance to those attending“, and that they were “working hard” to make sure everyone was safe. Sir Keir even claimed “passports on their own aren’t enough […] It’s got to be passports plus testing.” Mother nature has seemingly put a stop to that – although it’s currently 18 degrees and sunny in Brighton…

If they continue to be holier than thou about mask wearing in the Commons when they return in October, I hope the Conservatives will give them some grief for their hypocrisy:

Conclusion

It is hard to disagree with this summation from Patrick Christys of GB News on the disaster this party conference was:

The ordinary member of the public finds party conferences boring. The main speeches are a lot of hot air. However, what is worth noting are the fringe meetings and the other less significant events, because those reflect the party’s true identity.

Labour have not changed a bit. The socialists still want to run this country down.

It had to happen at some point.

For the first time since January, a poll has shown that Labour is more popular than the Conservatives.

YouGov took the following poll on September 8 and 9. September 8 was the day of the parliamentary vote on an increase in National Insurance to fund the NHS and, from 2025, social care.

YouGov are also pro-Conservative.

This is a warning to Boris and his team:

The full results are here. They reveal that a high percentage of respondents — 19% — do not know for whom they would vote. That figure was 20% in the previous week’s poll.

Those who would not vote in the next election, some years away, rose from 9% to 12%.

Boris Johnson is keen on polls. He should take this to heart and tell his new wife to stop running the country.

LBC’s Nick Ferrari interviewed Conservative MP and Cabinet member Oliver Dowden, who said that polls go up and down:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post says (emphases in the original):

It will have been nigh on impossible for co-conspirators not to have already seen last night’s bombshell YouGov poll that sees the Tories end their 149 consecutive leads over Labour, slipping back five points down to 33% versus Labour’s 35%. Dowden unsurprisingly put on a brave face, saying “polls go up, they go down”. How much further down is the main question…

Meanwhile it’s not just the polls that see the Tories in the mud. Guido learns that even a Tory bigwig fundraiser on Wednesday, at Mayfair’s Wallace Collection, couldn’t get hands reaching into pockets for the party, despite cajoling from both Boris and Rishi. Who knew Tory donors weren’t keen on an enormous tax hike?

Guido’s readers listed a litany of complaints against the Conservatives — and rightly so:

  • too much taxation and spending;
  • too green — also at the cost of the taxpayer, including electricity and gas bills going up dramatically this year and next;
  • too many economic migrants crossing the Channel from France;
  • too woke.

Guido also received a lot of comments to this tweet:

The public will not appreciate that Downing Street is defending the NHS in hiring more managers with outrageously high salaries:

Guido quoted a spokesperson who briefed the press (Lobby):

The public will rightly expect every penny raised by the levy to be spent on cutting Covid waiting times and finally fixing the care crisis … NHS England is already working to be more efficient and cut waste.

The spokesperson said that the NHS was already being more efficient. Guido’s post says:

… there were initially “211 commissioning organisations”, so the 42 executives running the new Integrated Care Services ‘significantly reduce[s]’ the total number of managers.

And, no, Downing Street said these managers are not ‘bureaucrats’:

No. 10 also pushed back on calling these managers “bureaucrats“, claiming “these individuals will be responsible for a population of around a million people with billion pound budgets, and so we want highly qualified people who can deliver for the public.” A reminder that some will earn 80% more than Boris himself…

Guido spotted another YouGov poll on how the imminent rise in National Insurance is going down with the public:

Here are the poll results:

Opinium’s results on the same question showed that a clear majority oppose the rise:

In related news, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is suspending the triple-lock on pensions for one year, meaning that state pensions will not rise with inflation. That has not gone down well, either. Admittedly, nearly half of those polled do not know what the triple lock involves. Maintaining the triple lock was also part of the Conservative manifesto, as was the commitment not to raise National Insurance:

Boris is fortunate that Labour’s Keir Starmer is so unpopular:

Boris polls way above Starmer:

That said, his popularity might not hold out in the long run.

Some pundits are beginning to refer to the Conservatives as Blue Labour.

However, Paul Embery, who really is Blue Labour, a Labour party member who likes aspects of conservatism, explains how pundits are misusing the label (emphases mine):

There is little sense either that the government understands the value that Blue Labour attaches to relationships and community. Where is the recognition of the family as the bedrock of society and the plan to strengthen that institution? How does the government propose to revitalise our disempowered local and relational institutions — the little platoons that fill the space between market and state and are the lifeblood of our civil society: credit unions, friendly societies, faith groups, co-operatives, and other voluntary or campaigning groups.

All of this stuff matters, and any government genuinely concerned about fostering the deepest social solidarity, reinvigorating democracy and restoring a true sense of community, while making our nation more just and equal, would place these questions front and centre.

But it won’t happen under a Boris Johnson government. That’s because, at heart, the prime minister, economically and socially, remains an instinctive libertarian. Blue Labour’s “socialism with a small ‘c’” runs counters to this. Johnson may have the nous to recognise that the movement’s message plays well. But he doesn’t really believe in it.

I agree with Paul Embery that a Conservative emphasis on family would be a good start, but Boris cannot espouse that without looking hypocritical.

As for Boris being ‘an instinctive libertarian’, I disagree. He’s about as instinctively libertarian as he is Blue Labour.

In any event, Boris should consider these polls a wake-up call. He did say in December 2019 that the overwhelming Conservative votes were ‘on loan’. Now he has to find a way to keep them.

It’s been quite apparent that the BBC were anxious to attack the Conservative government at every turn prior to May’s elections.

Other media outlets also promoted the same stories.

Some accounts were reported inaccurately. They weren’t exactly fake news, but either details were omitted or added, with any corrections placed on less visited web pages.

The Sir James Dyson story from the BBC is a case in point.

In early 2020, when coronavirus had every Western country in a tailspin, the Government were negotiating with British vacuum machine and hand dryer company owner/founder Sir James Dyson on the manufacture of ventilators. Dyson said that his company could develop the technology and do the job. Dyson is based in Singapore, so he wanted to make sure that, if his employees had to come to the UK, their wages would not incur tax in Britain.

By April 24, 2020, new ventilators were no longer needed. The Government no doubt thanked Dyson for his kind offer, and that was the end of the story.

However, the media resurrected the story one year later. This is how it was seen by a Twitter user in April 2021. Dyson is pictured with one of his amazing hand dryers, which really work:

On April 21, Guido Fawkes reported on the handling of the story and recalled that MPs — including Labour, especially Sir Keir Starmer — agreed that taxation of foreign companies’ employees who manufactured critical clinical equipment, such as ventilators, would be waived during the first few months of the pandemic:

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

This morning the BBC reveal texts between the PM and James Dyson, in which Boris promised to “fix” a tax issue to prevent Dyson’s employees having to pay extra if they came here to make Covid ventilators during what was a national emergency. The Treasury changed the rules to mean any days worked by foreign employees towards the national Covid effort wouldn’t be counted by HMRC between March and June 2020. Only an hysterical partisan would take issue with this, here’s Labour’s line this morning:

These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.”

A gigantic volte-face given Labour repeatedly praised the ventilator response – a response the tax changes aimed to bolster. The changes were openly put to parliament and applied to non-tax-resident doctors and engineers who would otherwise have had negative tax implications for helping in the fight against Covid. VAT and customs duties on vital medical equipment were also waived. In April 2020, Rachel Reeves said the government needed to “strain every sinew and utilise untapped resources in UK manufacturing, to deliver essential equipment to frontline workers”. A week later, Starmer praised everyone involved in the effort to get ventilators:

Even Tony Blair (Labour) thought that this year’s furore was a load of cobblers:

Last year, Dyson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had exchanged text messages about the taxation issue. Boris defended the texts. On April 23, this was Guido’s Quote of the Day. Boris said:

If you think that there’s anything remotely dodgy, or rum, or weird, or sleazy about trying to secure more ventilators at a time of a national pandemic, and doing everything in your power to do that…then I think that you’re out of your mind.

On April 26, the BBC had to issue a retraction. They had added fake news to the story (emphases in purple mine):

Various outlets, Wednesday 21 April 2021

In our coverage of texts he had sent to the Prime Minister we referred in various outlets to Sir James Dyson as a prominent Conservative supporter or said he backed the Conservatives.

Sir James says this is factually incorrect.

We are happy to set the record straight.

26/04/2021

However, for some, the story did not end there. It is unclear whether the BBC reported the next item or where it originated. On Tuesday, May 4, two days before the UK’s local and regional elections, some Scots were angry to find out that Boris’s brother is a company director for Dyson Technical Training Limited. Perhaps it was a coincidence, perhaps not. In any event, plenty of people on the Left have their high-status connections, too.

Jo Johnson was appointed to that post on February 18, 2020:

But I digress.

Returning to the BBC, on Wednesday, May 12, the broadcaster was forced to make a further retraction of its Dyson coverage:

Guido has the full story.

The BBC stated (emphases mine):

We accept that Sir James Dyson is not a prominent Conservative supporter as was stated in some of our coverage of his text messages with the Prime Minister. The James Dyson Foundation made a charitable gift to support the Wiltshire Engineering Festival for school children. We accept that this does not signal affiliation to any political party and we would like to put the record straight. Sir James also raised concerns about the accuracy of other aspects of our reporting. We wish to make clear that Sir James contacted Number 10 in response to the Prime Minister’s direct request to him for assistance in relation to the urgent need for ventilators and incurred costs of £20 million which his company voluntarily absorbed in trying to assist in the national emergency. His text messages to the Prime Minister were also later sent to officials. We are sorry that these facts were not always reflected in our coverage, and we apologise for not doing so.

Dyson responded:

The BBC now acknowledges that it was wrong and has issued an apology – which I accept. To justify its claim that I am a “prominent Conservative supporter” the BBC shamefully twisted our charitable gift to school children to suit their political narrative. The Prime Minister asked Dyson to help at a time of crisis, in the national interest, and we did just that. We dropped everything and focused on the national effort. Far from any gain, the project cost us £20 million – a sum we voluntarily bore. I am proud of the efforts of every Dyson person who contributed and we would do precisely the same again. It was deeply disappointing, for me and for the hundreds of Dyson people who gave it their all, to have our efforts developing an emergency ventilator mischaracterised and used for political mudslinging.

To think that everyone in Britain with a television set is forced to pay annually for the BBC’s fake news or be fined — perhaps even sentenced to jail, as has happened in the past — is shameful.

I have several more examples of the Beeb’s ‘stories’ to explore in future posts.

The major results of England’s local election — and Hartlepool’s by-election — are in.

The Conservatives had a few historic victories. The Greens won control of a few councils. Labour held steady in their strongholds but also lost a few of their lonstanding councils.

Highlights follow.

Hartlepool by-election

The other day, I wrote about Hartlepool in the North East of England. In that post was a poll from Survation, which turned out to be spot on.

Hartlepool ended up voting overwhelmingly for the Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer, overthrowing decades of Labour representation in that constituency since its creation in 1974. Prior to that, the constituency was known as The Hartlepools, and Conservatives won the seat once, in 1959.

Survation’s numbers were very accurate.

Here’s the poll from May 4 …

… and the actual result:

I watched Sky News into the early hours of the morning. They went back and forth to Labour MP Jim McMahon, who conceded Hartlepool before the results were known:

Congratulations to cattle farmer Jill Mortimer:

She said:

I look forward to her making her maiden speech in Parliament.

Sky’s Beth Rigby — back at work since being suspended for coronavirus violations — interviewed Boris, who had made three visits to Hartlepool, and now a fourth. The Guardian had a summary of the interview:

Johnson says people voted Tory in 2019 to get Brexit done. They have seen the government did get Brexit done. Now they want it to get on with other things.

He says he wants to move from “jabs, jabs, jabs to jobs, jobs, jobs”.

And he stresses his commitment to levelling up. No government in the past has been as serious about it, he claims.

It’s hardly a ‘claim’. It’s a fact.

Boris’s interview is in the next tweet. New MP Jill Mortimer is on the right:

This is what he said to the BBC:

By the way, Labour always complain about the shortage of women in the House of Commons. In reality, the Commons is well represented by women. Jill Mortimer will add to their number:

Voters do not care about Boris’s curtains

I caught the end of Sky’s coverage on Friday morning.

They interviewed Professor Tony Travers from the London School of Economics. He said that voters do not care about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment. He ended by saying that Boris Johnson is a ‘lucky’ politician.

I disagree that Boris is ‘lucky’. Boris is the type who, when told he cannot do something, will go ahead and achieve it.

The Opposition benches — from Labour to the Lib Dems to the SNP — told him that he could not get a Brexit deal and get us out of the European Union. Yet, he did.

The Opposition also said that Boris should have signed an agreement with the EU’s drugs agency during coronavirus. Thank goodness, he ignored them. We were able to be the first nation in the world to start rolling out the vaccines in December 2020. The EU nations are lagging behind, woefully.

On Election Day, Guido Fawkes reported on a YouGov poll about Boris’s refurb which shows the same lack of interest:

It seemed like an opportunistic pre-election play by Labour and the media to shrink Conservative votes. It did not work. People saw through it.

Oddly, the same people making a big deal out of the Downing Street flat never once asked why Tony Blair and later Gordon Brown — both Labour PMs — spent so much money on it over a period of years from 1997 to 2010. By the way, The Independent‘s John Rentoul is hardly a Boris supporter:

Local councils: notable big wins for Conservatives

The Conservatives have scored notable wins in England.

Not all the council elections are in yet. Counting continues over the weekend. However, we have a few results.

West Midlands

The Guardian reported on the West Midlands:

Early council results showed Labour losing a string of seats, among them 12 seats to the Conservatives in Dudley, giving the Tories control of the council. Of the first 14 seats declared for Nuneaton and Bedworth in Warwickshire, the Conservatives took 13, winning back control of the council from Labour.

In Redditch in Worcestershire, the first nine seats declared all went to the Conservatives, seven being taken from Labour, including Labour’s former council leader and deputy leader.

North East

The Conservatives took control of Northumberland council from no overall control.

South East

The Conservatives also won Harlow Council in Essex, not far from London.

The Guardian said:

A number of Conservative gains were aided by the party acquiring what was a significant Ukip vote from the last time they were contested, in 2016 or 2017, illustrating the scale of the long-term, structural issues facing Labour.

The UKIP factor had mostly to do with the fact that the party had no candidate in those elections. Therefore, there was no one to siphon away Conservative votes.

However, there is more to it than UKIP in the West Midlands and parts of the North. A number of Conservative MPs were elected to represent constituencies in those regions in 2019. They are local and they are serving the people of those areas on the ground and in Parliament. Two Conservative regional mayors, Andy Street of the West Midlands and Ben Houchen of Teesside, have been doing a great job in working with the UK Government on various local projects to revitalise those areas. 

Ultimately, via MPs and regional mayors, the Conservatives hope to build a solid voting base in previous Labour strongholds. Labour and the media said that the 2019 victories for the Conservatives were a one-off. I beg to differ. These election results are proving them wrong.

North West

An example of that is in the Audley and Queens’ Park ward of the unitary council of Blackburn with Darwen in the North West. It now has a Conservative councillor, a laudable result, for Tiger Patel (more here):

There was also a big Conservative win in the Royton North ward of Oldham Council in Lancashire:

Questions for Labour’s Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has been Labour leader only for a short period of time.

It would be easy, though unfair, to lay all the blame at his feet.

For 20 years, the small ‘c’ conservative working class has viewed Labour as a party of the big cities: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Labour does not speak for the working class in the rest of the nation. More voters are deserting the party with each election:

The Guardian has an interview with several prominent Labour Party members talking about ‘change’ and Starmer’s failure to ‘change’ quickly enough. However, Labour put their stake in the ground 20 years ago. Anyone watching BBC Parliament can see how radical some of their MPs are, especially the women. Several of those elected in 2019 gave their maiden speeches mentioning how much they believed in ‘socialism’. One went so far as to mention ‘Marxist ideals’. No one outside a major city is going to vote for a candidate like that.

It’s not Starmer’s fault Labour lost so many council seats, even if a number of those councils are still Labour controlled. The fact of the matter is that fewer voters like Labour. Labour don’t make it easy for themselves.

No cabinet reshuffle can fix their problem — radicalism:

Conclusion

The English are not a radical people.

They want to be able to work and bring up children in prosperity and safety.

They will vote for candidates best able to provide those conditions for them. This accounts for the gradual shift away from Labour towards the Conservatives.

More election news will follow next week, all being well.

Thursday, May 6, 2021, could be a historic day for the constituency of Hartlepool in the North East of England.

Labour MP Mike Hill had to stand down earlier this year because of allegations of sexual harassment and victimisation. Voters will elect his replacement on Thursday.

The by-election is principally between an NHS physician, Dr Paul Williams (Labour), and Jill Mortimer (Conservative), a cattle farmer who lives in the North East but not in Hartlepool, something of which the media make much ado. Dr Williams is a former MP for nearby Stockton South (2017-2019) and lost his 2019 bid to Matt Vickers, a Conservative. He was also the CEO of the Hartlepool and Stockton Health GP Federation, which oversees 37 practices in Hartlepool and Stockton.

Hartlepool would be a significant, and one of the last, bricks in the Red Wall (historically Labour constituencies in the North) to fall to the Conservatives since the 2019 general election. The Conservative MPs representing the former Red Wall constituencies are from the North, know the issues and are willing to fight for the people they represent. In Parliament, they are no-nonsense, feisty and spiky. They do not hesitate to call out Labour on their lies.

Furthermore, Teesside, where Hartlepool is located, has a popular Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, more about whom below.

Everyone wonders whether the constituency’s new MP will be a Conservative, ending decades of consecutive Labour victories:

On May 3, this is what polling showed over time once Hill stood down:

Guido Fawkes reported (emphases in the original):

Expectations management by both Labour and the Tories sees them both privately spinning that it is on a knife edge that they fear they could lose or expect to lose respectively. Betting markets were neck and neck until a few weeks ago. Punters seem to think the Tories could steal it. A second visit to Hartlepool by the PM does suggest he is happy to own the outcome…

UPDATE: A recount shows this is the PM’s third trip. Despite No. 10 doing expectation management, it sounds like Tories on the ground are gaining confidence …

Boris is being careful

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been careful to manage Conservatives’ expectations and to maintain the campaign momentum on the ground:

It was difficult for Liz Truss MP to contain herself in an interview with ITV News today:

What locals say

Guido Fawkes’s readers have been giving their views of what has been happening in Hartlepool over the years.

One says (emphases mine):

Labour have done nothing for the north east especially Teesside. Remember when that slimeball Mandelson was parachuted in to Hartlepool to give him a safe seat? Great example of how Labour took their voters for granted (holding them in contempt more like) and no wonder they lost the red wall. The Tories are much more likely to deliver for this area and the locals know it. Boris has many faults but he realizes that the future of the Conservative Party rests in places like Hartlepool. Credit to him for recognizing this.

Another says:

Dr Williams being exposed as a sexist first with him deleting naughty tweets after being caught. Then he and Labour campaigned AGAINST the closure of Hartlepool Hospitals A & E and the transfer of essential services to North Tees in Stockton. They tried to portray as a Tory closure when it was proposed by none other than Dr Williams himself, and it was Peter Mandelson who wanted to close the entire hospital down.

Add that to the sitting Labour MP forced to resign because of sexual assault accusations and Labour promising an all FEMALE shortlist but parachuting Dr Williams in instead.

Plus a few other things such as Hartlepool being a 68% LEAVE voting town and Williams being an arch Remainer who wanted to overturn the EU referendum result.

This comment explains why the town voted Leave in the Brexit referendum:

Hartlepool’s trawler fleet devastated by the much bigger French and Spanish boats that destroyed our fisheries when we joined the EU, and the EU Commissioner NEIL KINNOCK [Labour] who refused to allow the government to supply British steel with cheap or free energy for the blast furnaces, and, of course, the EU edict that ordered the closure of the Tees shipyards in order to address over capacity in Europe, with the Labour party at the time saying the closures were the price we had to pay for European harmonisation.

That’s why Hartlepool voted LEAVE, because the EU, not the Tories, ruined the region.

Tanya Gold went to Hartlepool for UnHerd and filed a report: ‘How the Left lost Hartlepool’.

Incidentally, Hartlepool once made ships; it had 43 ship-owning companies in 1913. Now it has nothing.

She talked to the locals, one of whom is a pub landlord and an independent councillor. He said that the local council election is just as important as the parliamentary by-election:

There are two Hartlepools: the Headland (“The Heugh”), an ancient fishing village, and the newer West Hartlepool (Hartlepool means “stag pool”). I go to the Headland. There is a fabulous Norman church, St Hilda’s, built on the site of a 7th century abbey, named for the patron saint of poetry. Its bells cannot be rung, due to weakness of the tower. What a metaphor! There are fine Georgian and Victorian houses on the sea, but they are crumbling, and in the gaps when others have fallen, modern housing: a history of English architecture, in mistakes …

I eat roast beef in the Cosmopolitan pub — the name is a gag — on the Headland, and I meet the landlord, the independent councillor Tim Fleming. Fleming says: “We’ve had enough of people just getting dumped on us, ‘oh that’s a safe seat, put him there’. It’s the London Labour Party where it [the rot] started.”

For Fleming, some voters have passed beyond despair to cynicism. “If you have a Tory up as mayor in Teesside [Ben Houchen] and a Tory in Hartlepool — all the Tories in all the towns they’ve took over — they might do [something] because they might be looking to build a new power base that’s longer lasting than the one they’ve had. They’ve never had anything in the North so who knows? If he [Houchen] gets re-elected, there’ll be nothing if we have a Labour MP and a Labour council in Hartlepool. No money will come here, never has done”.

2019 election result

The Independent‘s John Rentoul points out that a Conservative victory on Thursday might be a logical eventuality. Note the number of their votes and the number of Brexit Party votes in 2019, when Labour’s Mike Hill was elected:

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer looked a bit worried in this interview with Sky News:

Mayoral election

The Conservatives have two popular mayors running for re-election on Thursday. Andy Street represents the West Midlands and, as mentioned above, Ben Houchen represents the Tees Valley. Their polling results look healthy:

On May 4, The Financial Times featured a profile of Ben Houchen: ‘Tories’ red wall shows no signs of crumbling on Teesside’. He is young, dynamic and gets things done in a part of England that has lost much of its proud industry: shipbuilding, steel making and fishing, to name but a few.

Excerpts follow:

As a close ally of Boris Johnson, Houchen’s plans were unlocked when Johnson became prime minister in 2019. After freeport status was granted in the Budget in March, GE announced a new wind turbine factory on Teesside, creating 1,000 new roles. Although economists question the value of freeports, Houchen believes the status is vital for the area.

“People can talk about displacement, they can talk about additionality, GE were going to expand their factory in France if we didn’t get the freeport . . . it has cost the exchequer nothing,” he said. “If we can do what we want to deliver on that site, as well as across Teesside, you are getting dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of new employers.”

Houchen is up for re-election on May 6, when the 34-year-old hopes to gain a second term representing a conurbation of several of England’s post-industrial towns. From Stockton to Middlesbrough, this corner of England once had deep connections to the opposition Labour party — ties that were cut when the region’s heavy manufacturing industries entered inexorable decline.

In 2017, he delivered an electoral shock by winning the Tees Valley mayoralty for the Conservatives. His victory represented the first brick to be chipped out of the so-called “red wall”: Labour’s traditional heartland areas of England which have defected to the Tories over Brexit. Now he hopes to prove that the victory was not a one-off.

In 2017, he made an incredible campaign promise, which he kept:

His election pitch then was unconventional for a Tory: Houchen pledged to renationalise the small Teesside airport and reinstate more flights. If the plan failed, he would sell off the land to recoup the costs. It now has 18 flights a day, compared to two before, and with 1.4m passengers passing through its doors, is on track to turn a profit within a decade.

As part of the Conservatives’ ‘levelling up’ agenda for the North, the Government has sent a lot of money to that part of England:

Chancellor Rishi Sunak chose the former railway town of Darlington in Tees Valley to be home for the Treasury’s new northern economic campus. The government has also granted £52m for a carbon capture project as part of Teesside’s burgeoning renewable sector.

Even Houchen’s opponent, Labour’s Jessie Joe Jacobs sounded discouraged, a situation not helped by the fact that she got coronavirus during the final days of the campaign:

Struck down with coronavirus in the final 10 days before polling day, Jacobs acknowledged the campaign has been difficult for Labour, given its wider decline in Teesside, and described the fight with Houchen as a “David and Goliath scenario”.

The FT reporter went to Darlington to interview people there. One was particularly bullish on Boris:

Tony Law, a taxi driver waiting for customers, predicted Houchen would “win by a landslide” and praised his improvements to the area. He voted for him in 2017 and would back him again. “He’s done a hell of a lot to change the area. He’s clearly had an impact,” he said.

Law felt the recent row about Johnson’s use of donations to redecorate the Downing Street flat was irrelevant. “He deserves nice curtains given what he’s been through with Covid. Boris has done a great job, especially with the vaccines.”

The article ended with the Hartlepool by-election:

As well as the mayoralty, Tees Valley will be especially important on May 6 because of the Hartlepool by-election in the region. The town was such a Labour stronghold that the Conservatives did not target it in the 2019 election.

Were the Tories able to take it for the first time in 62 years, it would add credence to the view that a realignment among England’s working class is taking place. According to a new YouGov poll this week, the Conservatives have a 19 point lead among working class voters.

The biggest danger for Labour is what one red wall Tory MP described as the “Houchen factor”: voters will double tick to re-elect the mayor and Jill Mortimer to be Hartlepool’s first Conservative MP. One of Labour’s shadow cabinet ministers who has visited the seat cautioned that “it’s not looking good”.

It’s hard to recall a local election as exciting as this one, especially with the Hartlepool by-election. I hope to have more later this week or early next week after the results are in and analysed.

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