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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.

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

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

Here are two other ways that MPs can be suspended.

Grabbing the mace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet another SNP rant about rights, democracy and independence.

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

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

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

Dame Rosie Winterton was the Deputy Speaker for the debate.

This was the exchange between her and Hendry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question agreed to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accusing an MP of lying

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not only is that not true but it is dangerous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing Order No. 43 was invoked:

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

Guido’s team posted the video:

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

This attention-seeking stunt will work as desired…

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

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

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

Of Dawn Butler, he said:

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

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

PARLY picked up on it:

Later that afternoon, Butler tweeted:

She tweeted again that evening with another video:

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

John Rentoul — and Guido — were correct.

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

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

The monetary fine was negligible:

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

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

This week’s coronavirus debates in both houses of Parliament are proof that only the Left want masks and lockdown to stay.

Below are revealing excerpts from debates in the Commons and the Lords.

Emphases mine.

House of Commons

Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared twice in the House of Commons this week.

Monday, July 5

He delivered his statement about lifting all restrictions, including those for masks, on Monday, July 5.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) objected:

He will be aware that Israel has reintroduced its mask mandate because of the delta variant, so why is he planning to bin ours? Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic when so much virus is circulating. They ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or who takes public transport can do so safely, because wearing a mask protects others. If nobody is masked, covid risk increases and we are all less safe. He must understand that those in the shielding community are particularly anxious. Why should they feel shut out of public transport and shops because he has abandoned the mask mandate? That is no definition of freedom that I recognise.

Who else suffers when masks are removed? It is those working in shops, those who drive the buses, those who drive taxis and those who work in hospitality—it is the low-paid workers who have also been without access to decent sick pay. Many of them live in overcrowded accommodation. It is those who have been savagely, disproportionately impacted by the virus from day one and now the Secretary of State is asking them to bear the brunt of the increased risk again. Will he explain why he thinks abandoning masks is a sensible proposal to follow?

Dr Philippa Whitford (SNP) also objected:

Why is he planning to end even simple measures such as mask wearing?

As did Caroline Lucas (Green):

Failing to mandate mask-wearing in stuffy crowded places such as public transport, where people are often pressed together for much longer than 15 minutes, risks high costs, and allowing people to choose whether or not to put others at risk is both reckless and unfair. If the freedom to pelt down the motorway at 100 mph is restricted because it poses risks to others, why, with millions still unvaccinated, with some immunosuppressed and with the risk of long covid rising, does the Health Secretary not apply the same logic to mask-wearing?

Patrick Grady (SNP) wants masks to become ‘routine’ in the notional new normal:

Given that masks help to reduce the spread of not just covid, but all kinds of respiratory diseases, is it not important to avoid mixed messages and encourage everyone to continue that kind of practice and the likes of good hand hygiene as a relatively routine part of a new normal, to stop coughs and sneezes from spreading diseases?

Paul Blomfield (Lab) said:

We all want to unlock the economy, but surely we should maintain barriers to infection where we can. The Secretary of State has said that wearing masks would be a good thing, so will he accept that requiring them on public transport, in essential shops and in similar locations would make sense and would reassure people?

Tuesday, July 6

On Tuesday, July 6, Javid delivered a statement on self-isolation and vulnerable people.

By way of response, Jonathan Ashworth had more to say on masks:

Getting back to normal, which we all want to do, depends on people feeling safe. Does the Secretary of State appreciate that those who are immunocompromised, or for whom the vaccination is less effective, will have their freedoms curtailed by ditching masks on public transport? Blood Cancer UK warned yesterday that people with blood cancer will feel like their freedoms have been taken away when mask wearing lifts. What is his message to those with blood cancer? It is not good enough simply to say that people should travel or go to the shops at less busy times.

Of course, the Secretary of State understands the importance of masks. I have now read his Harvard pandemic paper, to which he likes to refer. He praises the use of masks in this paper, but he also warns:

“Changing course in policy making…is an essential feature of good policy making. Yet, politicians find it hard”

because of—

“the tendency for decisions to become psychologically and emotionally anchored.”

Well, I agree with him, and I hope he still agrees with himself. Let us have a U-turn on mask wearing. Yes, let us have freedom, but not a high-risk free for all. Keep masks for now, fix sick pay and let us unlock in a safe and sustainable way.

Martyn Day (SNP) agreed:

In a poll by New Scientist, a majority of disease experts said that some form of mask-wearing would be required until 2022. Others thought that 2023 or later was the correct time to lift mask requirements—more than agreed with the Government’s position of ending the requirements this year. For the sake of clarity and honesty, can the Secretary of State confirm that the UK Government have stopped listening to the science on their covid policy? Tragically, we have 150,000 people dead already, and the Prime Minister has said that we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from covid, so perhaps the Secretary of State can enlighten us as to how many more deaths the UK Government think acceptable.

Tulip Siddiq (Lab) brought up public transport:

The flu season that we have just been through was the mildest on record, thanks in no small part to the fact that we have all been wearing masks to protect against coronavirus. Public Health England has warned that we could see a flu surge in winter, as we have not had much recent exposure to and therefore immunity from other respiratory viruses. What is the Secretary of State doing to prepare for this? Does he agree that we should keep the wearing of masks compulsory on public transport to keep covid cases down and prepare for the flu season?

Matt Western (Lab) wants England to emulate the Far East:

Case rates are currently eight or nine per 100,000 in Korea and Japan, yet those countries—certainly Korea—are still mandating the wearing of masks. In the light of that, what does the Secretary of State think we should be doing, because those places are clearly having success?

House of Lords

The House of Lords held debates on Sajid Javid’s vaccine-driven strategy for Freedom Day on July 19.

The Left-leaning among the noble lords were furious.

Tuesday, July 6

Below are excerpts from Tuesday’s debate.

The Lords direct their questions to a Government minister, in this case, Lord Bethell (Con).

Baroness Thornton (Lab) had a lot to say about masks. She is old enough to have had both ‘jabs’, therefore, in theory, she should not be worried:

We have government Ministers saying different things about what they personally intend to do; last night, we had a clear message from the CMO [Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty] about the circumstances under which he intends to wear a mask. So I think that we have every right to be concerned that the debate may cause confusion and compromise crucial safety.

Let us look at public transport, for example. I have been using public transport throughout. I started wearing a mask long before it became mandatory. I still do not feel safe on a very crowded Tube, and I still do not want anyone to sit next to me. I test twice a week, and I have self-isolated twice since January when I got pinged. I do not think that I am unusual or nervous, but I feel strongly that I have a duty not to unwittingly spread the virus, and I do not want people to infect me. In a recent travel study, a majority of passengers said that they would lose confidence if the use of face masks were reduced. Many people, especially those who are more vulnerable, may become more anxious about using public transport if face masks become voluntary.

What is the Minister’s answer to these legitimate concerns? Does it go with the view that we let the virus rip and take the consequences? Given that we know that bus and taxi drivers experience Covid and death, what does the Minister have to say to them about their safety in these circumstances? Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic when so much virus is circulating; they ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or takes public transport can do so safely. Who suffers most when masks are removed? It is those working in the shops, those driving the buses and taxis, and low-paid workers without access to decent pay, many of whom live in overcrowded housing and have been savagely, disproportionately impacted by this virus from day one.

We know that masks are effective when a virus is airborne. Given that high circulations of virus can see it evolve and possibly escape vaccine, what risk assessment have the Government done on the possibility of a new variant emerging? Will the Minister publish that assessment?

Baroness Brinton (Lib Dem) followed her, also with much to say on masks, putting forward the example in the Far East:

We on these Benches want to start with a return to normal and to lift restrictions. We desperately need to kick-start the economy, to start to socialise again and, as my noble friend Lord Scriven said last month, to live with Covid as it is now endemic and will be with us for some years to come. However, that means providing the safety net needed to ensure that people are as safe as possible. Asian countries that managed their pandemic well learned from SARS. The use of face masks became routine and a matter of personal and wider social responsibility, allowing life to continue in the flu season and in the pandemic. They also maintain strong and effective test, trace and isolate systems all the time. We will be discussing test, trace and isolate in detail following the Statement that is due to come to your Lordships’ House on Thursday, but the proposed reductions in test, trace and isolate will remove the UK’s ability to manage outbreaks swiftly, during which time others will catch and pass on Covid.

When we drive into our towns and cities, we rely on local authorities to set up traffic systems, including traffic lights, to help to guide us on safe journeys, regulate movement and reduce harm and damage. But it is as if “freedom day” is getting rid of all our traffic lights.

Proportionate responses are needed, and these include face masks. Early last year, even the WHO was equivocal on the use of face masks but, as the world became aware that this is a respiratory disease passed on through droplets, most countries moved to face mask mandates. On 19 July we switch to rules that make it only the responsibility of individuals. Thankfully, most people have taken that responsibility seriously, but not everyone has. That is important because, despite what the Minister said in response to my question yesterday about the clinically extremely vulnerable, there is no direct reference to the CEV in this Statement—unless he meant the passing reference to them being part of the priority group that will get the third jab. They need to know where they stand. There is no new advice, just the burning of the remaining rules that keep them safe.

I’m including part of Lord Bethell’s reply, because I have not covered the Lords as much as I have the Commons:

I have four children—who are vectors of infection, to put it politely—and I attend a large number of business meetings, including here in the House, and I regard myself as a high-risk candidate for carrying the disease.

I have never caught it myself and I have been vaccinated but when I sit on a Tube train I wear my mask, not to protect myself but to protect the person next to me. That is my personal assessment and my personal decision. That is the spirit in which we are inviting people to step forward and make their own decisions and to be considerate to each other.

We cannot have laws on all these matters for the rest of time. At some point we have to ask the country to step up and take responsibility and to have personal agency in these decisions. If we do not put that challenge to the country in the summer months, when our hospitals are relatively safe and the virus has the right conditions, when will we be able to make those decisions?

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) put forward a case for the vulnerable, a tiny proportion of the English population:

My Lords, is it not obvious that if you reduce mask wearing on public transport and in public places, those who believe they are more exposed to the virus will then reduce their use of public transport and avoid public places? People who are fearful of more liberated environments will avoid them, leading to a slowdown in the return to work that the Government want. Indeed, it is the reverse of what the Government want. Why remove those restrictions that offer the only way of securing public confidence in the new regime that is being proposed?

Lord Bethell replied:

I applaud the noble Lord for his advocacy of mask wearing, but of course this issue cuts both ways. He is right that we need to build back trust in sharing space with one another, but I am not sure that mandatory mask wearing either builds trust or erodes it. If we give people the impression that wearing masks is somehow a panacea that protects everyone on a tube train or in a lift, that is a false impression. Masks are not a panacea. In fact, for some people, they can be a source of grave concern and be enough to send them back home to seek safety. I take the noble Lord’s point that we have to be clear about this, but I am not sure that mandatory mask wearing, or even ubiquitous mask wearing, is either a universal antidote to the spread of the disease or necessarily builds trust in the manner he describes.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (Lib Dem) spoke next:

My Lords, continuing on this theme: “masks work” is the clear message from Public Health England. Both Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have said that they will continue to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, primarily because it protects others. Critically, it does not hold back the opening up of the economy, but rather provides a safeguard as social distancing rules are relaxed. Can the Minister tell me why there is so little in the Statement about our social responsibility to others, including front-line transport and shop workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable? In this scrapping of masks, we are condemning millions with poor immune systems to be trapped in their homes, too afraid to go to the shops or their workplace or to use public transport.

Lord Bethell responded, saying that people who are ill should stay at home:

Since this is the second question on masks, I hope the noble Baroness will not mind if I go off on a tangent. Masks do work a bit; they are not a panacea. What is really important is that when you are ill, you stay at home. That is the big behavioural change that will make a big difference in the year to come. That is where Britain has got it wrong in the past. Too often we have put our workmates, fellow travellers and school friends at risk by heroically going into crowded indoor places and coughing all over them. I hope that is one habit that will stop and that that will be a legacy of this awful pandemic.

Baroness Donaghy (Lab) said that not enough people were being penalised for ignoring the mask mandate:

My Lords, one person’s choice is another’s imposition. Even when mask wearing was mandatory on the tube, some broke the law and there was no policing. So-called choice will cause conflict and confusion. Can the Minister assure me that the Government are not reverting to type and their original herd immunity policy based not on the science but on “let us see how it falls”? Although he does not accept any deaths, as he said, what assessment has been made of the impact of this new policy on death rates and long Covid rates?

Lord Bethell countered, saying that a lot of fines had been issued:

My Lords, I do not have the figures to hand, but I reassure the noble Baroness that the policy on masks was very diligently imposed and a large number of people did get fined. We have to ask ourselves as a society whether we really want to live in a country where simple behavioural habits, such as wearing a mask or not, make you susceptible to arrest or fines. That is a very uncomfortable place for a country to find itself. The noble Baroness is right: that does introduce ambiguity, but we are sophisticated people and can live with a degree of ambiguity. We need to learn how to live not only with this disease but with each other. The dilemma that the noble Baroness points out is one that we will all have to debate, understand and learn to live with. We are not in any way letting this disease get on top of us. We are fighting it through the vaccine, we are supporting the vaccine with test and trace, and we have a tough borders measure. We are taking the battle to the virus and will continue to do so.

Only one Conservative peer spoke out in favour of masks, Lord Bellingham, who said:

My Lords, as a strong supporter of the Government’s policy on the coronavirus, I was nevertheless critical of them being very slow to enunciate a clear policy on masks over a year ago—so I have a lot of sympathy with those noble Lords who have expressed concern about the imminent lifting of compulsion regarding masks. Surely one possible compromise might be to keep masks where you have passengers on public transport sitting or standing next to each other?

Lord Bethell replied, saying that it would be up to local councils and transport companies, rather than the Government:

My Lords, I hear my noble friend’s words loud and clear. The Government have indicated that we will leave it to those who run the transport systems themselves and to local politicians. There is a good case for a degree of devolvement and subsidiarity in this matter. He is right that masks do perform an important role, but they are not a catch-all, and it is therefore reasonable to leave those who run the transport systems to make decisions for themselves.

Thursday, July 8

On Thursday, July 8, another debate on the Government’s new coronavirus strategy took place.

Once again, Baroness Thornton (Lab) had a lot to say. With regard to masks, she mentioned the tiny minority of people living in England with poor health:

Does the Minister appreciate that those who are immunocompromised or for whom the vaccine is less effective will have their freedoms curtailed by ditching masks on public transport? Blood Cancer UK warned yesterday that people with blood cancer will feel that their freedoms have been taken away from them.

Baroness Brinton (Lib Dem) followed her. She was horrified by what she saw on television following the England-Denmark match:

Wonderful as yesterday’s England victory was, the sight of 60,000 fans walking down Wembley Way in very close proximity with hardly a mask in sight was concerning. As with the England-Scotland match, we must expect a surge in cases. Yesterday, the BBC asked Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization about the UK proposals to lift all restrictions on 19 July. He replied:

“The logic of more people being infected is better is, I think, logic that has proven its moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity”.

The letter in today’s Lancet from 100 senior medics and scientists echoes the WHO view. What are the Government doing to explain to the experts why their strategy is safe? …

Last night, Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times reported the re-election of Sir Graham Brady MP as chairman of the 1922 committee, and tweeted:

“Brady’s re-election is … a reminder of why Johnson is dropping masks and nearly all other … restrictions on July 19: ministers privately say the government no longer had the … votes to keep the measures in place. Relying on Labour would have been … difficult for the PM.”

Are the Prime Minister and the so-called Covid Recovery Group now putting health and lives at risk for their own principles?

Lord Bethell replied, saying that it was better to reopen England now rather than wait until autumn or winter, when the NHS would be under pressure:

… the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, half-answered her own question, because she is entirely right: we need to focus on getting the NHS back to speed in order to address the very long waiting lists and to get elective surgery back on track. It is very difficult to find an answer to the question, “If not now, when?” That has been tackled by the CMO and a great number of people. It must surely be right that we take the inevitable risks of restarting the economy and getting people back to their normal lives at the moment of minimum risk from the virus, which has to be in the middle of summer. Assessing those risks precisely is incredibly complex. Impact assessments of the kind that we would normally associate with legislation are the product of months of analysis. They often identify one relatively straightforward and simple policy measure. We are talking here about a machine of a great many moving parts.

I cannot guarantee that any model anywhere could give us accurate projections of the exact impact of what is going to happen this summer. We are, to a certain extent, walking into the unknown: the Prime Minister made that extremely clear in his Statement. As such, we are ready to change and tweak our policy wherever necessary in reaction to events. However, what we know very well now on the basis of our assessment of the data, and because of the pause we put in place to give ourselves breathing time to assess and additional time to roll out the vaccinations, is that that direct correlation between the infection rate and severe disease, hospitalisation and death has massively diminished. There is a relationship, but it is a fraction of what it used to be.

We can therefore look at a period where those who are at extremely low risk of any severe disease may see an increase in the infection rate, because we know that those in the highest-risk groups have been protected by two doses of the vaccine, and two weeks, and because we are working incredibly hard to get as many in the high-risk groups vaccinated as possible—half a million a day—and to roll out the vaccine to younger cohorts. That is the balance. I cannot deal in certainty here, because certainty does not exist. Balance is key, and I believe the balance we have here is the right one.

A Cross-bencher, Baroness Bull, cited the editor-in-chief of The Lancet — another leftist, as we saw last summer — which called the Government’s new policy ‘libertarian’:

My Lords, 120 scientists have written to the Lancet and today come together in an emergency summit to ask the Government to rethink their plans. The editor in chief warned against

“a plan driven more by libertarian ideology than prudent interpretation of the data”

and called for continued mask-wearing, distancing and increased vaccine coverage. A YouGov survey found that two-thirds of people want to continue with masks and an ALVA survey found that three-quarters of people did. So why have the Government decided to end this simple yet effective measure? It costs the economy nothing, but it would be life-changing for the clinically extremely vulnerable, who will be forced back into lockdown by this shift from a public health approach to so-called personal responsibility.

Lord Bethell said that the policy was not at all ‘libertarian’:

I am always grateful for the challenge of medics in the Lancet and elsewhere. I would like to reassure them that this is not a question of libertarian ideology but a question of assessing the risks faced by the country. We have discussed masks several times in the Chamber. I would like to reassure the noble Baroness that masks simply are not a panacea; were the whole country to wear masks for the rest of their lives, we would still have pandemics because they offer only marginal protection.

One peer voiced his disapproval:

Nonsense!

Lord Bethell replied:

I am afraid we cannot have in place laws on the intimate practicalities of people’s lives for the long term. We do not have a law on sneezing. I would not think of sneezing in the presence of noble Lords, but I do not accept that I should be given a fine for doing so.

I’ll leave it at that.

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear, with only one Conservative peer speaking in favour of masks and many Left-leaning MPs and peers supporting continued muzzling, that they do not trust the general public — the great unwashed who pay their salaries.

We, the great unwashed, however, do have the brains, the intellect and the discernment to think for ourselves and do the right thing.

If that is libertarianism, count me in.

Last Friday’s post was about Matt Hancock’s fall from grace as Health Secretary as featured on the front page of The Sun.

The Queen had lost confidence in him before then, as my post explains, covered in another front page feature, in The Times.

Hancock’s final 48 hours as health secretary were pivotal, not only for his political but also his personal life.

Thursday, June 24

The Sun allegedly contacted Hancock to ask him if he had any comment before they published the compromising photo of him in a steamy embrace with a female aide.

Hancock went home that evening and dropped a life-changing bombshell on his wife and youngest child. 

On Sunday, the Mail reported (emphases mine):

Mother-of-three Martha was reportedly blissfully unaware of her husband’s infidelity until he broke the news to her on Thursday night when it became clear the footage would be published the next day.  

And he reportedly even woke up the couple’s youngest child, aged eight, to tell him he was leaving

How unspeakably cruel.

My commiserations to both — as well as to his two other children.

Apparently, Hancock is serious:

Friday, June 25

On Friday, YouGov and Savanta ComRes took snap polls to test public opinion on The Sun‘s revelations about Hancock.

It was clear that this representative portion of the public were deeply unhappy and thought he should resign.

These were YouGov’s results:

Savanta ComRes found that 46% of Conservative voters thought Hancock should resign:

The full video of Hancock’s illicit embrace became available online.

A number of newspaper columnists expressed their disgust with Hancock’s hypocrisy.

The Telegraph‘s Emily Hill wrote:

Four days after Freedom Day failed to dawn, what fun it is for the masses who must continue to abide by the Minister’s absurd rules to see this! Dancing inside at a wedding – verboten. Nightclubs – verboten. Standing at the bar in a pub talking to perfect strangers – verboten. It’s as if they don’t want the young and fit and healthy to mate anymore. Sex privileges, it seems, are reserved for middle-aged men in Westminster while the rest of us can only watch, helpless, wondering how much their cheating is costing the taxpayer.

But it is now the afternoon and Hancock has merely cancelled his appearance at a vaccine centre while Grant Shapps [Secretary of State for Transport] was sent out to inform us: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.” Seconds later he stated: “whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed” in relation to the ministerial code. This makes hypocrites of much of the Government, not to mention every world leader who flouted social distancing rules so publicly at the G7 summit.

The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson pointed out how much the British public has sacrificed in personal relationships over the past year and a bit because of Hancock’s restrictions:

Thousands of people posted reactions on social media. Some were bitterly mocking the official mantras: “Hands, Face, Back to My Place”. “Saving Lives, Shagging Wives”.

Others were simply devastating: “I wasn’t even allowed to kiss my dying father because of Hancock.”

The anger and disbelief were palpable. Was this really the minister who told us on the 17th May that, after fourteen months of physical and emotional self-denial, we were free to hug our loved ones, when, a fortnight earlier, he’d been giving mouth-to-mouth to some glamorous chum he’d put on the public payroll? Knowing Hancock, he’d call it First Aide.

We are all humble sinners and a man or woman’s private peccadillos shouldn’t disqualify them from doing their job. But no such understanding or humanity – not a sliver of mercy – has been shown by the Secretary of State or this Government to members of the public who have broken often cruel and arbitrary rules. Remember how we watched in horror as police arrested a retired nurse as she tried to drive her 97-year-old mother away from a care home. Hundreds of thousands of people have departed this life without a last touch or kiss from their best beloveds because the restrictions forbade it so relatives sobbed in the carpark because Matt Hancock said it must be so. Almost 30,000 children have been put on anti-depressants yet just one positive test (without any Covid symptoms) can still send an entire year group home to self-isolate for ten lonely days. Parents know this is insanity, but they must suck it up because that prating popinjay Hancock tells them it’s vital to keep us “safe”

If I had a gasket left to blow it would have exploded when Culture and Sports minister John Whittingdale explained this week how up to 3,000 Uefa officials will be allowed to arrive in the UK, without quarantine, for the Euro semis and finals. “We’ve always said that for some people who are important…”, said the hapless minister, accounting for the fact that normal people would be held to different standards.

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” I never ever thought George Orwell’s satirical take in Animal Farm on an arrogant, unaccountable elite patronising the masses would apply in our country. More fool me. We’re all in this together, eh, Matt?

Trust me, it’s not closed. There are millions of us, and we are raging now, and we will not allow it to be closed. If the Government permits one law for Hancock and “important people” and another for the rest of us then it is morally bankrupt. Boris must act this very day to restore the people’s faith, to prove that we haven’t been mugs.

Fraser Nelson, also writing for the Telegraph, pointed out how Hancock insisted on following his draconian rules, therefore, he should not expect privacy now:

Mr Hancock has always been one of the most emphatic for the rules. In internal government debates, he has invariably pushed for the toughest restrictions and wanted 10-year jail sentences as a penalty for trying to dodge draconian quarantine rules. “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures,” he said: they’d target a “minority who don’t want to follow the rules.” Who, presumably, he thinks, deserve everything coming their way. When two women were fined by police for walking together, Mr Hancock was unforgiving. “Every time you try to flex the rules,’ he said, “that could be fatal”

This is the irony in his request on Friday for “privacy for my family on this personal matter” now. There is no doubt his family deserves it. But a great many other families would have been grateful for more privacy over the last 15 months. Instead, the Tory Government decided to legislate for what people do in their own homes. And in so doing, set up a system where people came to worry that they’d be reported to the police – perhaps by their neighbours – if they stretched the rules by inviting children over to play in their back gardens. Greater Manchester Police issued a statement boasting that they had raided a family home to break up a child’s birthday party.

Sweden managed to fight back two Covid waves while respecting privacy and civil liberty. There are bans on mass gatherings, and a rule of eight for public places. But no rules would apply inside anyone’s property, where they had sovereignty. Government would not come through your front door: in Sweden, your home is your castle. It wasn’t so long ago when this respect for privacy summed up civic life in Britain.

When Mr Hancock started issuing advice on where we should hug (embracing outside, he said, was better than inside) alarm bells ought to have been ringing in Number 10. It was a sign that the Government machine had gone way out of control, losing any sense of its remit or boundaries. Number 10 should have stepped in, and perhaps asked for a study on the efficacy of the intrusions or work of Project Fear: the blood-curdling posters showing Covid victims on their deathbeds. If there was no proof that the campaign was making a difference, they could have been told to change tack …

Paul Waugh of HuffPost dug up a quote from April 2020 (and a 2021 photo), showing how dictatorial Hancock was:

Conservatives in Parliament began complaining about Hancock. Christopher Hope, writing for the Telegraph, reported:

Baroness Foster of Oxton, a Tory peer, accused Mr Hancock on Twitter of having “used emergency powers to impose these punitive restrictions leading to horrendous consequences across society without debate yet ignored them himself & at work!”

Backbench Conservative MPs contacted their whips about the Health Secretary. One texted: “You don’t need me to tell you what I think.” Another said that “children have missed out in so many ways” and that Mr Hancock’s behaviour was “so hypocritical”, while a third MP said the Government “is looking ridiculous now, I am sorry to say”.

Oddly, the Shadow (Opposition) Health Minister Jonathan Ashworth was silent.

The day ended with The Sun‘s Harry Cole appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight:

Saturday, June 26

The Telegraph had running live coverage of the Hancock debacle. Excerpts follow.

Coverage began at 9:01 a.m.:

Tory MPs urged Boris Johnson to “pull the plug” on Mr Hancock and expressed their frustration to party whips over the Health Secretary’s “hypocritical” behaviour …

A senior government source said public reaction was being monitored and could determine Mr Hancock’s fate.

At 9:30:

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock had no idea the camera existed when it captured him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo, and government sources said it was “unheard of” for cameras to be installed in ministers’ offices.

It raises the possibility that the camera was deliberately placed by someone with access to his office with the intention of catching the pair cheating on their spouses and breaking Covid rules. It is the first time a Cabinet minister has been filmed in their own office without their knowledge.

In a further twist, the Department of Health and Social Care’s offices use CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision, which is banned in the US because of national security concerns.

At 10:20:

A healthcare company which employs as a senior director the brother of the aide Matt Hancock was pictured kissing has insisted it had never benefited from the connection to the Health Secretary.

Reports suggested Roberto Coladangelo, strategy director at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), was the brother of Gina Coladangelo, a familial connection later confirmed.

At 11:06:

The Health Secretary is under mounting political pressure this morning after a video was published of him hugging and embracing Gina Coladangelo, a non-executive director in his department, in early May.

At the time, hugging and socialising indoors with people outside one’s household was banned.

But according to The Sun, they have been “all over each other” again this week in the same ninth-floor office of the Department of Health and Social Care.

At 11:19:

Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, has called for Matt Hancock to resign.

Mr Baker, who was elected in 2019, is believed to be the first Tory MP to openly call for Mr Hancock to go and told his local newspaper the Eastern Daily Press: “In my view people in high public office and great positions of responsibility should act with the appropriate morals and ethics that come with that role …

“I will not in any shape condone this behaviour and I have in the strongest possible terms told the Government what I think.”

Duncan Baker was not alone. Three other Conservative MPs spoke out against Hancock — Esther McVey, William Wragg and Sir Christopher Chope:

Sir Christopher told the Dorset paper, the Daily Echo:

“I think that he should resign rather than be sacked because this should actually be an issue for him and his conscience.

“One of the benefits of having been around for a long time is that I’ve seen this sort of thing before and the strength of feeling is such, within the party and outside,  that this will not simply go away. 

The sooner he resigns the better so we can have a new secretary for health who commands public respect.

Hancock is finished.

The sooner he goes the sooner he can be rehabilitated.”

That afternoon, Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a conversation. Hancock wrote a letter of resignation. Boris responded with a written reply:

Around 6 p.m., Hancock announced his resignation via a personal video:

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that Boris should have sacked Hancock:

However, given Boris’s philandering, that would have been hypocritical.

Also, Hancock will now return to the backbenches. Boris will want to keep him sweet. Even I can figure that out.

Around two hours later, it was announced that Sajid Javid would be Hancock’s replacement. Javid has been Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, so he will be comfortable with another post in the Cabinet.

This means that Boris’s expected reshuffle will not now take place until perhaps later in the year. A smart move:

This thread summarises Javid’s career. He is the son of a bus driver. His teachers told him that he should pursue television set repair as a career. Were they ever wrong:

Dominic Cummings was quick to react, blaming Boris’s wife Carrie for the appointment. She had at one time worked for Javid. Cummings said he himself had ‘tricked’ Boris into firing Javid from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT):

Sky News’s Beth Rigby appeared outside of No. 10 late on Saturday:

Beth has some nerve. She was suspended from Sky News for a few months for having revelled in a non-coronavirus-compliant way at her colleague Kay Burley’s 60th birthday party evening in central London:

Sunday, June 27

Newspaper editors must have been pulling out their hair in changing their front pages for Sunday.

The Sun went for a play on words (matt paint):

The Mirror had the same idea, adding that his aide has quit her job, too:

The Times had a front page article adding that Hancock used a personal Gmail account to conduct Department of Health business. Apparently it’s done now, but any of those emails are subject to FOIA requests with regard to Government business. It also means that the Government might not be able to get a trail of all of his activity with regard to contracts:

The Express said that Conservative donors threatened to stop contributions if Hancock stayed in office:

I will stop there for now.

The Sunday articles and news programmes had much more to explore.

For now, it looks as if Sajid Javid has a more libertarian approach to handling the virus and wants restrictions lifted as soon as practicable.

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed Freedom Day from June 21 to July 19, 2021.

Although a vote on this passed comfortably on Wednesday, June 16 — 489 to 60 — the number of rebel MPs, mostly Conservative, increased compared with previous votes on coronavirus restrictions. This page shows who voted No.

Boris and Matt Hancock might want to rethink their dependence on the lefty scientists of SAGE, but will they?

SAGE are effectively running this nation … into the ground.

Chesham & Amersham by-election upset

In addition, on Thursday, June 17, the Conservatives lost a by-election in Chesham & Amersham in leafy Buckinghamshire, not far from London. It had been a safe Conservative seat since the 1970s. A journalist from the Financial Times tweeted that he was sure they would win it once again:

In reality, it was a hat made out of fabric. Jim Pickard took three small bites of it, washed down with water. Sensible, as it could have been made in the world’s largest manufacturing country (no prizes for guessing correctly). H/T Guido Fawkes:

Now they have a Liberal Democrat MP, the lady pictured below standing next to party leader Ed Davey MP. The reply to the tweet blames the win on local opposition to a high speed railway (HS2) and to extending lockdown:

However, the Lib Dems never really opposed HS2:

The by-election took place because Dame Cheryl Gillan MP died on April 4. Despite a long term illness, she was an active participant in parliamentary debates until the end.

According to a Guido Fawkes reader, this was the vote tally on Thursday compared with 2019’s general election:

2019 results:

Conservative 30,850

Lib Dems 14,627

Labour 7,166

2021 Votes:

Conservative 13,489

Lib Dems 21,517

Labour 622

The only consolation is that the Labour vote sank like a stone:

Coronavirus cases rise in Cornwall after G7 summit

The virus lives and is on the rise in Cornwall:

In addition to the G7 and half term, another factor could be the warm weather last Sunday, attracting people to beaches.

Guido Fawkes has maps and the figures (emphasis in the original):

Last week, both St. Ives and the Carbis Bay area had two positive cases respectively. Now, St. Ives has 36 cases, and Carbis Bay has 15. That’s a 1,700% increase in the former, and a 650% rise in the latter…

One of Guido’s readers replied that a hotel and university are responsible (emphases mine below):

Tosh. The rise in St Ives/Carbis Bay happened before G7 kicked off and was down to the staff in one hotel and is linked back to the plastic University at the top of Penryn.

Cases, however, are only positive tests. Not all should require hospitalisation.

Wednesday’s vote in Parliament

On Wednesday, June 16, Matt Hancock opened the debate on coronaivirus restrictions in the House of Commons.

He said, in part:

Thanks to the protection of the vaccination programme, huge advances in treatments like dexamethasone, which was discovered a year ago today, and the resolve of the British people in following the rules that this House has laid down, we have been able to take the first three steps on our road map, removing restrictions and restoring colour to the nation, but we have always said that we would take each step at a time and look at the data and our four tests before deciding whether to proceed. The regulations before the House today put into effect our decision to pause step 4 on our roadmap until 19 July. Before outlining the regulations that will put this into effect, I would like to set out why we made this difficult but essential decision.

Unfortunately, there has been a significant change since we started on our journey down the road map in February. A new variant has given the virus extra legs, both because it spreads more easily and because there is some evidence that the risk of hospitalisation is higher than for the alpha variant, which was, of course, previously dominant in this country. The delta variant now accounts for 96% of new cases. The number of cases is rising and hospitalisations are starting to rise, too—they are up 48% over the past week. The number of deaths in England is thankfully not rising and remains very low, but, as I told the House on Monday, we do not yet know the extent to which the link between hospitalisations and deaths has been broken, so we propose to give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.

Mark Harper (Con) intervened:

Can I just ask my right hon. Friend what we expect to achieve in the four weeks? I think I am right in saying that there are 1.3 million people in priority groups one to nine who have yet to have a second dose of the vaccination. The good point is that that means we have vaccinated 96% of people in those groups, but I just wonder—after four weeks, I doubt that we will get to 100%, so there will still be a significant number of people in those groups not vaccinated with two doses, and at that point, there is still going to be some risk. My worry, and the worry of others, is that we are going to get to this point in four weeks’ time and we will just be back here all over again extending the restrictions. That is what we are concerned about.

Hancock said he was sure that four weeks would be sufficient. He’s said that before.

Steve Baker (Con) also intervened:

Is not the problem with the two-week checkpoint that it creates another moment of hope for people who still feel even these restrictions very acutely, and that if we create hope and then shift the goalposts again, people will continue to deepen their despair? What will he say to those people?

Hancock said the public understood the reasons for the delay.

After Hancock finished speaking, it was the turn of the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) to respond.

Ashworth largely agreed with the Government’s extension to Freedom Day, but he rightly posed questions, such as this one:

Will we continue wearing masks?

At which point, Desmond Swayne (Con), who wears a silk scarf instead of a mask, shouted:

No!

Steve Brine (Con), former Public Health minister, intervened, recalling a bad flu year:

The right hon. Gentleman is right: we had a battle royal with influenza in the first year that I was in the job, but the difference was that we did not have any non-pharmaceutical interventions. Our interventions were about the take-up of the vaccine—yes, for children as well as for adults, especially the vulnerable. One of our chief advisers, the deputy chief medical officer then, one Professor Chris Whitty, never suggested masks, let alone closing schools—just a really good roll-out of the flu vaccine. We lost 22,000 people that year. Never were those numbers rolled on BBC News; never did we know the R number, but there was a point where we accepted an element of risk in society. I guess that was the point of my earlier intervention on the hon. Gentleman: what element of risk is he prepared to accept? Because that is what it comes down to—our own mortality is part of the human condition.

Ashworth replied, in part:

I do not want to see it done by some of the wider restrictions and lockdowns that we have heard about. That is why I would be interested to know whether the Department has developed plans for restrictions this winter and whether the Secretary of State has been discussing that with Whitehall colleagues.

Mark Harper intervened again:

On the point about the restrictions, I know that those discussions are going on because I have seen documents from within Government with very detailed suggestions about what measures may continue. I asked the Secretary of State about this when he was in the Commons earlier this week, and he did not rule out bringing in restrictions this winter. That is partly why some Conservative Members are very concerned and why we are not going to vote for these regulations today. However, I want to take the right hon. Gentleman back to his comments on what Chris Hopson said about the fact that the NHS is very busy at the moment. There is a danger here. I am very sympathetic to colleagues who work in the NHS, who have done a fantastic job, but we cannot get to a point where we restrict and manage society in order to manage NHS waiting lists. That is not the right way round. The NHS is there to serve society. If we need to enable it to do that, we have to think of a way of doing it other than putting restrictions on the rest of society. That is not a sustainable or a desirable position, but it is the logical consequence of what Chris Hopson was saying earlier this month.

Here’s the video, which begins with Ashworth sitting down to give way to Harper:

Ashworth replied, beginning with this:

Even though we will find ourselves in different Lobbies this evening, I think there is more in common between us than perhaps one might expect. I do not want restrictions to remain in place for any longer than they need to. I want to move to a system where we are trying to push down covid infection rates by, yes, rolling out vaccination as far and as fast as possible to everybody, but also putting in place the proper framework so that those who are ill or a contact of someone who has been ill with covid is able to isolate themselves.

He took more interventions from Conservative MPs, then concluded:

The House is being asked to extend these restrictions, but there are a number of pressing issues. First, many of us have been contacted by business people in our constituencies who are deeply concerned about the extension of these restrictions. For my constituency in Leicester, which has been living under a form of restrictions more severe than other parts of the country, other than perhaps parts of Greater Manchester, this has been particularly devastating. I hope that the Government will be putting in place full support for businesses such as mine in Leicester and Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

The second issue, which we have touched on a little bit, is whether these restrictions will ever end, or whether the Prime Minister has trapped us in Hotel California, where we can never leave. He has talked about 19 July as the terminus date, but the explanatory notes themselves say that the four tests will apply on 19 July, and that these four weeks will be used to gather more data.

Hancock said later on that July 19 is still the terminus date and that data would be examined in two weeks’ time.

The general debate took off from there, with Sir Desmond Swayne (Con), the original rebel, the first to speak. He criticised SAGE and one of its members, Susan Michie, the Communist:

I never believed that it was proportionate, even from the outset, for Ministers to take such liberties with our liberty. I always thought that it was wrong for them to take our freedoms, even though they believed that they were acting in our best interests in an emergency, but by any measure that emergency has now passed and yet freedoms are still withheld and the Government will not allow us to assess for ourselves the risks that we are prepared to encounter in our ordinary, everyday lives. The Government do not trust the people whom they govern.

Many members of SAGE—a misnomer if ever there was one—have been out busily undermining public morale. One of them even shared her dystopian vision that we must all remain masked and distanced in perpetuity—a shocking, horrible prospect. The fact is that once the consequences of this virus in terms of their financial and health impacts have long been addressed, the moral impact will remain. The Government have set a disastrous precedent in terms of the future of liberty on these islands. I could understand it if we were a communist party, but this is the party that inherited the true wisdom of the Whig tradition. This is the party of Margaret Thatcher, who said that liberty was indivisible. This is the party that only recently elected a leader whom we believed was a libertarian. There is much on which we are going to have to reflect.

Here is the video of his remarks:

Smoking also came up in the debate:

Sir Charles Walker (Con), another early rebel, spoke. He wants a reform of SAGE. Excerpts follow:

I wish to try to be constructive about how we can improve SAGE. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, SAGE has huge power over our lives. It has power over whom we hug and hold. It has power over which businesses open and which businesses close. In essence, it has power over who keeps their job and who loses their job. We, too, in this place have great power, but our power is matched by accountability.

Accountability is very important in the exercising of power, so I want to suggest some reforms to SAGE—some quite technical reforms. First, there is a need for greater financial transparency from members of SAGE in line with that expected of Members of Parliament. For example, I think when we look at SAGE members, we should be able to see what their annual income is—not only from their substantive job, but from their pensions accrued or the pensions they might well be in receipt of. This is something that is freely available for all Members of Parliament. I think we should also know and constituents should know if they have any significant shareholdings in companies, in the same way that our constituents know if we have significant shareholdings in companies. We could also look at whether they get other forms of income—from rent, for example

in the case of young people, many SAGE experts say that young people should be working from home. We know that young people are now tied to their small kitchen table or in their bedroom in miserable environments—the new dark satanic mills—and working endless hours in appalling circumstances, because people with nice gardens and comfortable homes think that is what they should be doing.

There should also be far greater personal accountability. There should be no more, “Here is Sir Mark Walport—of SAGE, but here in a personal capacity”. Nonsense! He is there because he is a member of SAGE. We should also have elections to SAGE, so we could see Sir Mark Walport, Professor Susan Michie, John Edmunds and regular talking heads in our TV studios challenged by people with a different perspective—people such as Professor Karol Sikora, Professor Paul Dolan, who is an expert on human behaviour and quality of life, and Professor Ellen Townsend, who has a huge interest in the welfare of children and adolescents who are now being plagued by anxiety and eating disorders …

So here it is: full financial disclosure from members of SAGE and full elections, or they advise the Government, and if they do not want to do that, but want to advise TV studios, they do that, but they do not do both.

Here is the video of his speech in full:

Graham Stringer (Lab), also a rebel, spoke next. He rightly said that MPs do not have enough scientific data to make an informed decision about restrictions. Excerpts follow:

As ever, it is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker). On his interesting point about SAGE, we could do with full disclosure from the Government about all the facts that they have available to them on covid. In the Science and Technology Committee this morning, we were told that vaccinations have saved 14,000 lives. I have no doubt that that is an accurate figure, but there are many figures that have not been given. As we said the last time we debated this issue, only one side of the equation is given. Let me ask this question: how many lives have been lost in order to save capacity in the NHS? When it comes to looking at people untested and untreated for cancer, heart disease and other diseases, we will find that the figures are of a similar, if not greater, magnitude than the number of people who have died from covid …

There is a great deal more information that we require in order to make a rational decision about whether the lockdown should continue. I agree with the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) that what we have here is the Government asking for emergency powers when there is no longer an emergency

The Government have refused on a number of occasions to give out that information. They have run a campaign to scare people into accepting their decisions

One of the things that has annoyed me most in the last 15 months is when the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care say, “We instruct you”—meaning the population—“to do various things,” when there is nothing in the legislation that would give the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister the ability to instruct individuals. We live in a liberal democracy in which we pass laws that are enforced by the police, and then the courts make a decision if there is a prosecution, not one in which the Secretary of State acts like some kind of uniformed Minister of the Interior.

I will vote against the regulations today. We need a more direct debate on the issue and we need what Members have searched for—a straightforward comparison, with real statistics, of what risks everybody faces.

Steve Baker (Con) agreed with Mark Harper about society and the NHS:

I refer the House to the declarations that I have made relating to the Covid Recovery Group.

No one can deny the brilliance of the Government’s—the NHS’s—vaccination programme. By mid-April, the over-50s and the vulnerable had had their first vaccination, and overwhelmingly they have now had their second. That is reflected in the Office for National Statistics antibody data, which shows extraordinary levels for anyone over 50. Antibodies are there in that population, which is vulnerable to the disease.

That brings me to the best case that the Government could make for the regulations before the House, which is that the ability of the NHS to provide other healthcare could be compromised by admissions from a younger population, because a small percentage of a big number is still a big number. But the huge problem with that is that it concedes the point that our liberties can be used to manage the capacity of the NHS. I cannot concede that. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) said, that is not the way in which we should be going as a society. If the restrictions that we are extending had been proposed for that purpose in the past, we would never have accepted them.

In Wycombe, people have of course been dutifully washing their hands, covering their faces and keeping social distancing rules, yet early in this pandemic, I remember one dear, sweet, older lady was beside herself with anxiety at the thought of having to go about her ordinary life with her face covered, and look at us now, taking it for granted. This is not normal. This is the dystopia that I stood here and forecast on the day we went into lockdown

One of the most important things that we have learned from Mr Cummings’ leaked WhatsApp messages is that it seems that the Government have been significantly influenced by polling. I fear we have had a real doom loop here between polling and policy making, which has driven us into a disastrous position. We now must not tolerate lockdowns being perpetually on the table. We must not tolerate a situation going on where we and the police are unclear about what the law is and how it should be applied. Imagine that you can hug but not dance—what madness is this? We cannot tolerate a situation any more in which a Government social scientist told the author of the book “A State of Fear” that the Government had used unethical techniques of behavioural science to deliver a policy which he said, in his own words, “smacks of totalitarianism”.

We have transformed this society for the worst. We have it put in place a culture and habits that will take years to shake off and that distance people from one another and diminish their quality of life and the quality of relationships that they have with one another. High streets are in danger of becoming haunted alleyways. We are in danger of hollowing out and destroying the entertainment industry—much of what makes life worth living. Today’s vote will go through—it is a foregone conclusion—but as my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) implied, if the Conservative party does not stand for freedom under the rule of law, in my view, it stands for nothing. We have got to have a turning point. We have got to recapture a spirit of freedom.

Mark Harper spoke later on, at which point the Labour benches were empty. It is important for Britons reading this post to look at what he has uncovered. The Government continue to be dishonest not only with MPs but also the public:

Well said!

Please also note the following about winter. Meanwhile, Democrat-run New York and California are now open:

May our merciful God help the UK out of this unholy mess.

The English, Welsh and Scottish election results from Thursday, May 6, were mostly complete on Saturday, May 8.

Brief analyses of results

Various pundits gave analyses of the results.

However, before going into those, this is the change in voting among NHS and other health workers from Labour to Conservative. I’ve never seen anything like it:

Guido Fawkes says that Labour no longer represents the working class:

Andrew Neil of The Spectator summarised a Wall Street Journal article about the elections:

Andrew Neil himself says this is a ‘watershed’ moment:

Mark Wallace of Conservative Home says that, locally, even Labour councillors acknowledge that voters are bullish on Boris:

Dan Hodges interviewed several people in various towns in the North East. Most were bullish on Boris and the Conservatives. In Middlesbrough (emphases mine):

It’s here that one of the nation’s largest vaccination centres has been established, and the local residents filing out into car park E after receiving their jabs have a different perspective to the Prime Minister’s critics.

‘Boris is doing what he could,’ Louisa tells me. ‘It’s a very difficult situation. He’s been fantastic.’ 

Victoria Newell agrees: ‘I think he’s done a fantastic job. The whole vaccination programme has been really well managed.’

Some Labour strategists have been pointing to the vaccination success as the primary reason for Tory buoyancy in the polls

One Shadow Minister told me: ‘People are getting their jabs, the sun’s out and the pubs are open again. They’re going to do well.’

Dan Hodges visited Redcar, which used to have a huge steelworks, long gone. He then went to other parts of the Tees Valley:

The Redcar works may be gone but, as you head towards Stockton, the giant cooling towers of the Billingham manufacturing works punch up through the skyline, while the drive out of Darlington brings you face to face with the monolithic new Amazon warehouse that employs more than 1,000 staff. 

And this is what Boris – and [Tees Valley mayor Andy] Houchen – are betting their political lives on. That they can turn around decades of ‘managed decline’ under Labour and get the nation’s economic engine room motoring again.

Back in Hartlepool, the voters have started delivering their verdict. And again, another fashionable Westminster ‘narrative’ is running head-first into the British people.

You can’t currently buy a pint inside The Rossmere Pub on Balmoral Road, but you can cast a ballot.

And builder Geoff Rollinson is planning to deliver his for Boris. ‘He’s been amazing. I love him,’ he tells me. ‘What have Labour done for this town in over 50 years? Boris has pumped billions into furlough, he’s given people here a wage. Labour would never have done that.’

Outside Mill House Leisure Centre, Mark Robinson delivers the same message. ‘I voted Conservative,’ the charity worker tells me. ‘Boris is trying to get the job done.’

What about the furore over sleaze and bodies? ‘I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with Covid and all the stuff he’s had to deal with. I think he’s doing his best.’

English council wrap-up

Most of the English county council results were tabulated by Saturday night. There were big gains for the Conservatives:

The biggest news was the loss of a Labour majority of Durham County Council — the first in over a century:

English mayoral elections

I’m of two minds about regional mayors, a relatively recent development using up more taxpayer money.

Former Labour MP Andy Burnham won a comfortable re-election in Manchester.

In the Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen also won a decisive re-election:

Houchen told The Spectator in March that he was eager to rebuild the steel industry in the region but is finding a certain UK Government department difficult:

‘I’ve said to Boris himself, I’ve said to No. 10 and Rishi and the five new colleagues that I’ve got in Westminster: there’s nowhere left to hide now,’ he explains. ‘It’s a strong Tory government. Loads of Tory MPs in the region, a regional Tory mayor (at least for a couple of months), so there’s no one left to blame any more. We either really deliver something different in the next four years, or people will go back to voting for other parties.’

His re-election campaign is based on a new project: to ‘bring steelmaking back to Teesside’ with electric arc furnace technology. It’s seen in America and elsewhere as the future of the steel industry, he says — but not in Westminster, where he regards the Theresa May-created department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the problem, since it clings to the declinist view of the steel industry.

‘The biggest problem with the steel industry in the UK is Whitehall,’ he says. ‘The UK steel policy and the BEIS team are absolutely useless.’ Successive governments, he says, have failed British steelmaking for 40 years. ‘It has become a sticking plaster. Oh, British Steel’s fallen over, how do we rescue it? Oh, now south Wales is in trouble, how do we rescue it?’ There’s too much worrying about failure, he says, and not enough planning for success. ‘It’s never: what do we want the steel industry to look like? What can we do as a developed nation when we’re having to compete with places like China?’

… He admits that his various schemes have ‘raised eyebrows’ but puts it in part down to Teesside Tories being a slightly different breed. ‘This isn’t a one-size fits all,’ he says. ‘I would say Conservatives in this region are much more practical. I don’t remember having a discussion with any Tory in Teesside about free market economics and right-wing politics. It’s very much pragmatic.’

In the West Midlands, his Conservative counterpart Andy Street also won a second term, defeating former Labour MP Liam Byrne by 54% to 46%:

In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected for a second term, but by a narrower margin than expected. His first preference votes were down by 130,000 from 2016:

Given the fact that the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey got so little media coverage — and, oddly, no support from his own party — he did remarkably well, winning boroughs in the South West of the capital along with Labour-dominated Brent & Harrow as well as Ealing & Hillingdon (see map) in the North West. (In 2016, Khan won Brent & Harrow comfortably.) Bailey also won Croydon and Sutton to the South:

Bailey arrived at City Hall for the final count on Saturday evening:

Labour still dominate the London Assembly. Bailey will retain his seat there:

London is beginning to vote Conservative again because of the high crime rates under Sadiq Khan’s leadership. On the day the results were announced, there was a stabbing at Selfridges in Oxford Street. Unthinkable:

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Labour defeated the Conservatives:

Labour held on to Bristol, with Greens in second place:

Labour MP Tracy Brabin has been elected as the first mayor of West Yorkshire. I hope that she will have to resign her Parliamentary seat as a result.

Scotland

Scotland’s SNP are just one seat of an overall majority.

Nicola Sturgeon has been re-elected to Holyrood and remains First Minister.

Independence referendum redux

Naturally, the Sunday news shows raised the matter of a second independence referendum with UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has the rather grand political title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He plainly told Sophy Ridge of Sky News:

Gove, himself a Scot and being interviewed in Glasgow, rightly pointed out that, when the first independence referendum was held — the one that was supposed to be ‘once in a generation’ — the SNP had an overall majority in Holyrood under Alex Salmond:

Over to the east coast of Scotland, in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon, having campaigned this year on no second independence referendum because of coronavirus, is now game for one:

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers, someone with a Scottish surname, laid out his plan for the next independence referendum. This is excellent, especially the bit about stopping the Barnett formula three years before the referendum. Enough English financing of Scotland, especially as it was supposed to be a temporary measure — in 1979:

I would allow a referendum. On the date of my choosing. Voters must be over 18 and resident in Scotland for the previous 5 years. Why on earth Boris allowed Wales and Scotland to extend their franchises beats me, children vote, students vote TWICE. My referendum will be in 3 years time and to help voters decide I’m stopping the Barnett formula at midnight tonight and any English infrastructure spending in Scotland so they get a clear idea of their economic muscle. Scotland will leave the union with all the SNO’s own debts and 10% of the UK National debt. Scottish ‘ministers’ and council leaders will not be allowed to travel overseas or Zoom with foreign politicians without permission of my Secretary of State. English, Welsh and N Irish students will no longer qualify for grants or loans to attend Scottish universities and Scottish students will pay foreign student fees to study outside Scotland. The NHS in England and Wales will be closed to Scottish residents. Etc. Etc. Three years. Then Orkney and Shetland will be offered the chance to be UK dependant territories with tax haven and Freeport status. Etc. Etc.

Even the BBC’s Andrew Marr, himself a Scot, knows that England helps to finance Scotland. Sturgeon refused to admit it on Sunday morning:

Apparently, now that the election is over, the SNP plan to put their case for independence forward in foreign capitals. I hope they will not be using Barnett consequentials to finance their flights:

Scottish blogger Effie Deans wonders how well other countries will receive Scotland’s plan for secession. It did not work well for Catalonia:

The UK Government has a plan to counteract the SNP’s independence goal — give money directly from London (Westminster) to Scottish councils, bypassing Holyrood:

There have been complaints of coronavirus funds going from Westminster to Scotland and not being allocated locally to ease the damage done by the pandemic. Furthermore, nearly £600,000 seems to be unaccounted for in SNP funds, as can be seen in the Private Eye article below:

Results

Now on to the results. The SNP needed 65 seats for a majority:

One of the regional BBC shows in Wales or Northern Ireland said on Sunday that this was the SNP’s ‘best ever result’, but it is not:

The fly in the ointment was Aberdeen West (see Balmoral below), which the Scottish Conservatives managed to hold on to with an increased majority from 900 to 3,000, probably thanks to George Galloway’s new All for Unity Party:

They were pleased with their wins, which also included re-election in constituencies along the border with England:

And what happened to Alex Salmond’s brand new Alba Party? There was no predicted ‘supermajority’. Alba won no seats:

Interestingly, a poll in the SNP’s favoured newspaper, The National, polled readers on May 4. Alba was mentioned favourably more than once in the polling. Forty-nine per cent of those polled were planning on voting for Alba on their list (peach coloured) ballot. Alex Salmond was also the most impressive independence campaigner next to Nicola Sturgeon (43% to 46%).

Wales

Last, but not least, is Wales, which everyone knew would largely vote Labour, as is their wont.

Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford won re-election.

Like the Scots, they are 1 seat short of a majority.

This is their Senedd (Senate) result:

That said, Labour’s vote share is up, and so is the Conservatives’, as predicted on Election Day:

Guido Fawkes has a summary.

It is unlikely Wales will push for independence any time soon.

Houses of Parliament

On Tuesday, the formal reopening of the Houses of Parliament will take place.

Her Majesty the Queen will give her speech which outlines the Government’s agenda in the House of Commons for the coming months.

More on that this week.

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.

One wonders if Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has Conservatives on his PR team.

He certainly has not had a good campaign for his party’s candidates in the run up to England’s local elections on Thursday, May 6.

On Monday, April 19, he got off to a rocky start with a visit to a pub in Bath in the West Country, shortly after pubs were allowed to reopen for outdoor service after our winter lockdown. Publican — and Labour voter — Rod Humphris of The Raven gave Starmer a piece of his mind, saying that he did a lousy job of opposing the Government’s coronavirus restrictions:

I have been a Labour voter my entire life. You have failed to be the Opposition … You have failed this country.

Pub customers must remain outdoors unless they need to use the loo. Humphris and other publicans could be doing better business if they were allowed to have customers indoors. He showed Starmer a chart with ONS statistics showing coronavirus is no longer the threat it was a year ago. He also gave the Labour leader a brief talk about other statistics on the harm lockdown has done to Britain, from children to the economy.

Starmer dismissed it and told Humphris he did not need any ‘lectures’ from him — then proceeded to enter the pub.

The nerve of Starmer. He knows the rules.

Humphris tried to push Starmer’s security man away from the door but failed. The burly security man held on to Humphris on the staircase. Shouting about being assaulted, Humphris tried to break free. Meanwhile, Starmer was having a look around the pub’s interior.

Humphris shouted:

Get out of my pub!

Somewhere along the line, Humphris’s spectacles fell off. Starmer had them in his hand. On his way out the door, he quietly returned them to Humphris. Starmer and his two security men then left, telling people to get out of their way, adding a stern ‘please’.

This is the electioneering video of the year — and the full version:

I’ve watched that video several times and would encourage others to see it at least once.

It paints a perfect portrait of what another Labour government would be like, barging in wherever they like with burly security detail.

Heaven forfend.

Rule No. 1 of pubgoing: the publican is in charge of his/her public house — ‘My gaff, my rules’.

Here is the late Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell, the publican on BBC’s EastEnders, ordering customers to ‘get out of my pub’:

Meanwhile, elsewhere in England that day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a pleasant conversation with two pubgoers:

As questions mounted about Boris’s Downing Street flat refurbishment, Starmer paid a visit to a John Lewis store to look at wallpaper last Thursday:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases in the original):

Guido’s interested to see Starmer arrive at John Lewis this afternoon for a smug photoshoot amid flat-gate. It’s undoubtedly a smirk-raising photo-op, though it’s undermined by Starmer’s own words at PMQs yesterday, who ranted at Boris:

This is a Prime Minister who, during the pandemic, was nipping out of meetings to choose wallpaper

Now the Tories are able to accuse Starmer of playing party politics, and doing so during a pandemic. 

On Friday, May 30, the former Director of Public Prosecutions found himself trolled by a young Conservative in Manchester:

Guido Fawkes had the story:

He may have thought a trip to Labour’s Manchester heartland would have been a safe choice after his infamous Bristol pub confrontation, however Sir Keir was once again caught out. Posing with Twitter user Jordan Hutchinson he smiled and gave a thumbs-up, only to have Hutchinson tell viewers “Vote Conservative”. It’s appropriate Starmer spent yesterday in John Lewis’s home furnishings section, as it’s looking curtains for him…

Jordan Peterson’s video amused James Cleverly MP, Minister for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. A member of the public replied to say that Labour have only themselves to blame:

Starmer ended the week with a visit to a gym. Oh, dear. The late Margaret Thatcher was more adept with a handbag:

Actor and musician Laurence Fox of the libertarian Reclaim Party is running for Mayor of London. He posted an interesting video on May 1 showing Starmer and other Labour Party members, including at least one other MP, enjoying drinks together indoors, something we are not allowed to do at present because of the pandemic:

Laurence Fox stands by the video and his tweet:

Starmer’s Labour seems to be all about rules for ‘thee but not for me’. Who would want that, even at a local level?

The UK’s local elections will take place on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Labour have been casting shade on Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the past few weeks over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. As one would expect, the left-leaning media are having a field day.

On Wednesday, April 28, after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer verbally attacked Boris at the despatch box during PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), Boris let rip by listing all the Conservative government’s achievements on Brexit and coronavirus over the past 16 months. The fact that he could rattle everything off in just under two minutes is impressive. Even better, it looks as if our pre-COVID Boris is back. The Conservative MP for West Bromwich East in the West Midlands tweeted:

Here are two more Conservative achievements:

The media are dead wrong when they say that ‘Boris is on the ropes’:

Here is a more recent poll, taken earlier this week:

Last weekend, the papers were full of stories about what Boris allegedly said before reluctantly announcing a third lockdown around Christmas. He denies having spoken these words, and Labour made a big deal about this earlier this week in Parliament. The public, however, view it in a more nuanced way:

Then we come to the refurbishment of the flat in Downing Street. It is alleged that Boris received funds from a Conservative Party donor to top up the statutory £30k maximum from the taxpayer. The public aren’t that interested:

I’ve seen photographs of one of the redecorated rooms. It looks very Turkish, including the pictures. Although some might find a deep red patterned wallpaper with matching sofa agreeable, it’s not the sort of room most people could stay in for long because it is too ‘busy’. There is no solid pastel shade anywhere. The next occupant will be busy redecorating it, at taxpayers’ expense, to look more neutral.

That has been the work of First Fiancée Carrie Symonds (the ‘y’ is a long ‘i’, as in ‘Simon’), who does not strike most of us as a true Conservative. If Conservatives have any complaint, it’s been that she seems to be running the Government via Boris.

Douglas Murray wrote a great article which appeared today in The Spectator: ‘Carrie Symonds and the First Girlfriend problem’.

Unlike the United States, European countries have a tradition whereby leaders’ spouses take a back seat where politics is concerned. They stay out of the limelight. This is probably the first time in living memory where a British partner of a Prime Minister has been involved in decision making.

Murray explains:

There is no getting around the fact that there is a problem with Carrie Symonds, which it is probably best to have out now.

In 2019 our Prime Minister came in with a significant and clear mandate. Covid has added significantly to his workload. But for many of us he seemed the perfect — even the only — man for the hour. Yet as that hour has gone on, problems of his own creation keep appearing. Too many of them originate from the sway — even terror — his younger companion seems to exert over him.

Carrie Symonds herself is a perfectly nice, intelligent person who successfully worked her way through Conservative campaign headquarters. But she is having too great an impact on the course of government. There are issues the Prime Minister avoids because she does not favour them. And there are others — principally green issues — which he appears to adopt to satisfy her. The feeling is growing that the First Girlfriend wants political power without the trouble of having to run for office, and to wield it without any resulting criticism. This is not a sustainable state of affairs …

It is not just policy she seeks to influence. The First Girlfriend seems to have a desire to be involved in all personnel issues. Her principal ambition seems to be for her friends to make up all the central control flanks around the Prime Minister. This was one of the main causes of Dominic Cummings’s exit from Downing Street last year …

It seems no Carrie-related issue is ever too minor to distract the PM. Last year she made him stop a Cobra meeting at the height of the Covid crisis. The urgent cause was her demand that the PM make an official complaint to the Times newspaper over a story claiming that Carrie’s affections for the couple’s Jack Russell, Dilyn, had cooled in the year since the couple adopted him …

the trap laid by Carrie and her defenders is clear. Say that Carrie has gained political influence only because of who her boyfriend is, and you will be accused of being envious of powerful, successful women who have made it in their own right. ‘Carrie is an expert in politics,’ one well-briefed source recently told the media. And she may well be. But that is not why she is sleeping in No. 10.

In the UK anyone who wishes to have political power should run for elected office. The emergent Office of First Lady is clearly a source of tension in Downing Street, and is already responsible for an unprecedented number of interventions in policy areas that affect our country. We hear nothing from the Prime Minister on issues he was elected on, and far too much on ones that Carrie happens to favour. The Prime Minister may have need of a First Girlfriend, but the country does not.

A year ago, I was wondering why Boris’s priorities were changing. Was it because of coronavirus or Carrie?

Twelve months on, I have my answer.

As far as local elections go, however, the Carrie problem is unlikely to affect voters’ opinions. Those determined to vote Conservative will carry on regardless of Carrie.

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