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It came as no surprise that the Conservatives fared poorly in the 2022 local elections on Thursday, May 5.

England

In England, the major headline was that the Liberal Democrats lived up to their slogan of ‘Winning here’ for the first time in quite a while.

They were the big beneficiaries of English votes where local councillors stood this year (many councils held elections in 2021):

Labour’s big wins were in London, where they won three longstanding Conservative councils for the first time: Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet.

It will be interesting to see how these London boroughs fare under Labour. In Lambeth, council tax for a Band D property is £1,502 per annum. Under the Conservatives, Wandsworth’s was £800 per annum. Guido has a photo of a street in each of those council areas, where one can see a discernable difference in low-spend, high service council delivery.

Here’s a Twitter exchange on the subject, focusing on Wandsworth:

The Croydon Council mention is interesting. It went from Labour to Conservative on Thursday, something I thought I’d never see.

Outside of London, Labour had little traction, especially in Red Wall areas, with the exception of the newly created Cumberland council.

Guido Fawkes has a good analysis, excerpted below (emphases in the original):

Whilst it was obviously terrible for the Tories that they lost nearly 500 seats, now all the votes are in and the dust has settled, did Labour advance as the Tories retreated? They actually did relatively poorly.

Labour’s electoral performance outside their M25 enclave saw them gain just 22 councillors across England. That’s it. While the Tories’ results were obviously weak – although not at their worst expectations – any attempts to spin the numbers will have to contend with the fact that the LibDems, the Greens, and even independent candidates gained more net seats than Labour. Labour’s wins in London will be small beer when it comes to a general election …

Winning a net gain of just 22 councillors, and gaining control of the same number of councils as the LibDems, is not a strong showing. William Hague managed to do better in 2001, when the Tories won 120 seats and 5 councils – a consolation prize for getting pummelled in the general election the same day. 

Even within the capital, however, there are warning signs for Labour. While they pop champagne over wins in Westminster, Barnet, and Wandsworth, their losses in Croydon and Harrow to the Tories, and Tower Hamlets to Lutfur Rahman [Independent] should raise a few eyebrows. Losing Tower Hamlets to a man who was temporarily banned from office over corruption isn’t exactly promising…

For the Conservatives, the most damaging losses were in previously loyal areas now called the Blue Wall, e.g. the Home Counties just outside of London, the south coast and parts of the West Country.

Late on Friday, The Guardian reported (purple emphases mine):

Boris Johnson’s leadership is facing fresh peril after senior Conservatives blamed him for losing swaths of the party’s southern heartlands to the Liberal Democrats and flagship London boroughs to Labour.

In a punishing set of local elections for the Tories, the party lost about 400 council seats, ceding control of Westminster and Wandsworth in London to Labour for the first time since the 1970s, and plunging to its worst position in Scotland for a decade.

Conservative MPs and council leaders questioned Johnson’s leadership, demanding action to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild trust in the wake of the Partygate scandal after a damaging series of losses across the “blue wall” in Somerset, Kent, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

However, the scale of the Tory backlash was tempered by a mixed picture for Labour, which showed progress, but not enough yet to suggest a landslide for Keir Starmer in a general election. A BBC projection for a general election based on Friday’s results put Labour on 291 seats, the Conservatives on 253, the Lib Dems on 31 and others on 75.

Labour had a very strong result in London and took some southern councils such as Worthing, Crawley and Southampton

The Lib Dems also had a clearly successful election night in England, adding at least 189 seats. They took control of the new unitary authority in Somerset, previously a Tory stronghold, edged out the Conservatives in Portsmouth, and pushed them out of control in West Oxfordshire. The Greens also performed well, winning 81 seats – more than doubling their number of councillors – as voters also turned to independents and residents’ associations.

Going back to Tuesday, May 3, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP alleged that Labour and the Lib Dems had a ‘pact’, whereby Labour did not put forward a candidate in every council election, deferring to the Lib Dems in order to win against the Conservatives. This is because England uses FPTP (First Past The Post) voting.

Pictured are the Lib Dems’ Ed Davey on the left and Labour’s Keir Starmer on the right:

Guido has the story along with a video of a Lib Dem woman who confirms such a plan:

There are clearly tactical Lib-Lab stand downs going on around the country. Tory chairman Oliver Dowden claims that in the South West, Labour are standing candidates in 61% of seats compared to 97% in 2018. In the South East, Labour are standing candidates in 88% of seats compared to 99% in 2018.  In the North East, the LibDems are standing in just 56% of seats, down from 78% four years ago. Labour is standing in 99% of seats in the area. “These shifts”, claims Dowden, “are far too substantial to be a mere coincidence”. In response Starmer says “There is no pact, everybody knows there is no pact” …

This LibDem organiser in Cumbria gives the game away about what is happening at local level. Labour-supporting Neal Lawson and Clive Lewis have been arguing for years that an unfair ‘First Past the Post’ system splits the ‘progressive vote’ and prevents the ‘progressive majority’ from winning.

It stands to reason that the total left-of-centre vote will be split, given on average two candidates from Labour, the LibDems or the Greens are running against just one right-of-centre candidate in England.  According to new research from Electoral Reform Society front-group Politics for the Many, in 43.8% of wards there is one Tory standing against candidates from all three of the progressive ‘left’ parties. In 35.5% of wards where there is one Tory candidate, there are two ‘left’ candidates. According to the research, in almost 3,000 council seats up for grabs, there are only 15 wards in the whole of England where there are more right-of-centre parties standing than left parties.

Labour and LibDem strategists know this; they are looking on these locals as a trust-building exercise and a dry run for the general election…

The Telegraph confirmed this pact on Friday, May 6:

If Sir Keir is to get the keys to Number 10, it may be thanks to a deal struck after election day with another party – which is why the Liberal Democrat performance on Thursday is so interesting.

Seven years ago, the party was all but wiped out as voters punished Nick Clegg for his coalition with David Cameron. The political toxicity has clung on in the years since then.

But there were signs of real green shoots for the Lib Dems on Thursday. Their victory in Hull, taking the council from Labour, was the stand-out early result

The relentless targeting of Blue Wall Tory seatsoften in rural southern constituencies they believe have been “taken for granted” by the Conservatives – also achieved notable wins.

By now, Labour realisea that it is relatively easy for a Conservative area to go for the Lib Dems at some point, much more than it would be to vote in Labour candidates.

A good illustration of this is in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which, over the past several years, has gone from True Blue to Yellow-Orange, including their MP:

A lot of Lib Dem councils stay that way. This is largely because a) the Lib Dems know how to get out the vote and b) residents get to know the Lib Dem candidates better for that reason:

Conservatives would do well to study St Albans and find out where they’ve gone wrong.

On that note, one Conservative MP who does realise the value of getting out the vote is Bob Blackman, who has represented Harrow East since 2010.

On Sunday, May 8, he told GB News’s The Political Correction that Harrow became a Conservative council on Thursday because he and other Conservatives went out once a week to canvass residents on council services. Their dogged determination worked.

Blackman says that, as far as he is concerned, the next election campaign has already begun, hence more canvassing. Other Conservative MPs should follow his example.

Devolved nations

Each of the devolved nations has a form of proportional representation rather than FPTP. This is why they are very much left-of-centre.

This is how the Single Transferable Vote works:

Wales

Welsh Labour were highly successful. In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford runs his nation’s Labour Party, so there is no Keir Starmer influence.

As such, Welsh Labour wiped out the last council under Conservative control: Monmouthshire.

Scotland

Scottish Labour also performed well, placing the Conservatives in third place for the first time in ten years.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top party, however.

Late on Friday, the Daily Mail reported:

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is ‘thrilled’ with the results coming out of the local elections in Scotland after her party increased its share of councillors.

The leader of the SNP told Sky News that the results sent a ‘clear message’ to Boris Johnson and the Tories.

She said: ‘We are the largest party in more councils today than we were yesterday – we’ve won the election and we’ve won the election by a country mile.

‘I think it’s the eighth consecutive election win under my leadership of the SNP or after 15 years in government so it is a stupendous result for the SNP and sends the clearest possible message to Boris Johnson and the Tories.’

She said the SNP was still the largest party in Glasgow, despite some Labour gains.

However Sir Keir’s party came very close to taking the city council, adding five councillors for a total of 36.

The SNP, meanwhile, shed two seats for a total of 37.

Sturgeon said Labour benefited a lot from Tory’s Partygate scandal, adding: ‘Labour threw the kitchen sink at Glasgow… and yet they still can’t defeat the SNP, so I think there’s still some reflection perhaps needed on Labour’s behalf.’

All councils up for election in Scotland have now declared their votes.

The SNP gained the most new councillors with 23, followed by the Lib Dems with 20 and Labour 19.

The Green Party gained 15 while the Conservatives lost a total of 61.

Northern Ireland

For the first time in its 101-year history, the Northern Ireland Assembly now has a Sinn Féin majority, even though 58% of the votes in that nation went to Unionist parties. Here’s the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab (video here):

As with Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland’s Assembly is free to make its own laws in a number of areas. Oddly enough, that did not extend to abortion laws, which Westminster (the UK Government) imposed on the province by fiat in 2021:

But I digress.

Under the aforementioned Single Transferable Vote system, Sinn Féin won more first preference votes than did the Unionist parties.

This result propels Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to First Minister. She has been Vice President of Sinn Féin for a few years now.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which had control previously, now refuses to form a coalition government — power-sharing executive — unless and until Boris Johnson’s government rectifies the damaging anomalies in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

Until a power-sharing executive is formed, Michelle O’Neill cannot take up her duties as First Minister.

Most Britons associate Sinn Féin not only with past terrorism but also with Irish re-unification, which will surely be on the cards within the next five years.

On Thursday, the party played a blinder, as the Daily Mail reported last Friday:

Neither Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party or the Ulster Unionists have yet agreed to join a power-sharing executive in which Sinn Fein would be able to nominate the First Minister. 

They have argued that a win for Sinn Fein would lead to a referendum on Irish reunification. But Sinn Fein has run its campaign on the cost-of-living crisis.

Conclusion

The Conservatives are only now reacting after the horse bolted months ago.

They should have been out campaigning over the past few weeks, MPs included.

Only now are they coming up with possible solutions which should have been discussed on the hustings.

On Friday, May 6, the Daily Mail reported that Boris Johnson is considering a summer reshuffle to tackle the cost of living crisis. Hmm.

Over the weekend, a number of Conservative MPs began asking the Government for tax cuts.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promises to look ‘at all the options’.

Good luck with that. There isn’t much time before the 2024 elections.

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

One would be very wrong indeed.

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

Labour’s 2021 do in Durham

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

April 30 was its one year anniversary:

I couldn’t agree more.

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

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

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

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

One might ask is this QC holding an almighty grudge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So whatever happened in Downing Street was legal. 

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

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

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

But, butand it’s a BIG BUT:

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido Fawkes posted the following on Friday, April 29:

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

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

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

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

Also:

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

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

Neil Parish stands down as MP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spokesperson from the Chief Whip’s office said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” said Mrs Parish, without hesitation.

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

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

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

By Saturday afternoon, Parish had resigned:

People did not believe the tractor excuse …

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

Guido wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukraine loves Boris

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

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

It did not go well …

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

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

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

On Wednesday, April 27, at the last Prime Minister’s Questions before prorogation, viewers saw Boris Johnson at his campaigning best, saying that Labour have no policy plan. They merely oppose the Conservative ones:

Perhaps this is why Labour are not fielding many candidates in the May 5 local election this year, preferring to leave the contest to the Liberal Democrats. The Chairman of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden MP, has written to Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer for answers:

Of course, the Left say that the Brexit Party did the same thing in the 2019 general election, but the Brexit Party was acting as an anti-Conservative spoiler. At least one media outlet that year was the first to ask the party to stand down their candidates so that Conservatives would win, enabling Boris to get us out of the EU:

In any event, regardless of what party — whether Conservative or Liberal Democrat — wins council elections this year in crucial seats, the Tories should take note of what is happening on the ground and act on it in order to be better prepared for the general election in 2024.

Best of luck to the Conservatives, but I won’t be holding my breath this year.

By chance, last week I read an article from May 20, 2015 in The Guardian about the general election result earlier that month: ‘The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class’.

Labour lost, leaving the metropolitan elite scratching their heads and wondering why.

Zoe Williams’s article has three pages of comments, which are illuminating. The general public revealed why Conservatives won not only in 2015 but even more convincingly with an 80-seat majority in 2019.

Of course, in between those two elections was the one held in 2017, whereby Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May barely scraped by with a slim majority which caused her major problems in getting Brexit legislation passed in the first half of 2019. She resigned during the summer, and Boris Johnson became party leader, thereby succeeding her as PM. He held an election on December 12 that year, primarily to break the Brexit deadlock. It was one of the best things he ever did.

What is the metropolitan elite?

Zoe Williams, who has been writing for The Guardian for decades, defines the metropolitan elite through interviews with other people which makes up the article.

The characteristics that tie the metropolitan elite together are working in London, living in an upper-middle class bubble, going to a public (private boarding) school; having an Oxford degree (especially in Philosophy, Politics and Economics); making a close network of friends from school and university; finding employment in politics, the civil service, law, the media and academia. They ensure their children follow the same route.

No one’s definition is perfect. Each needs another element added to it.

Williams concludes that an exact definition doesn’t really matter, because it is fluid, but the reality is that this group has caused the ethos of Parliament to change through the years (emphases mine):

The meaning of “metropolitan elite” is not fixed. It will change in the mouth of whoever says it, and it will take on the shape of the person to whom, for whatever combination of reasons, it is thrown at and sticks. But the anger is real: parliament, as the last century understood it, represented the people to the state. Parliament now represents the state to the people. And maybe “metropolitan” is a way to say that, and to give it a face.

Background to the 2015 election

Below is a summary of the highlights of the 2015 election.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

David Cameron was PM at the time, part of a coalition government with the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg was deputy PM.

Clegg ran as the Lib Dem candidate as he was party leader at the time.

Cameron was getting a lot of heat about holding a Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP at the time, piled on the pressure. Referenda are not a British thing and Cameron could have happily ignored it were it not for the fact that a Conservative victory depended upon granting voters a Brexit referendum.

There was also much talk at the time about English Votes for English Laws, or EVEL: the inappropriateness of allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English laws when English MPs have not been able to vote on Scottish laws since devolution in 1999. MPs from Wales and Northern Ireland can also vote on English laws, but the issue mainly concerns Scotland, since many laws apply equally to England and Wales. EVEL — arising from the West Lothian Question of 1977 — was another issue Cameron had to address in the campaign. As such, it became part of the Conservative manifesto that year.

Labour

Ed Miliband was Labour’s leader at the time.

Emily Thornberry

The snobbish aspect of the metropolitan elite, which Labour embodies so well, came to light during the World Cup in 2014. Emily Thornberry MP experienced a combination of bemusement and outrage upon seeing that someone would have the audacity to display St George’s flags, representing England, outside their home. What’s more, there was a white van parked in the driveway. Oh, the horror!

She tweeted a photo of the house and captioned it: ‘Image from #Rochester’

The offending home was in Rochester, Kent, where a by-election was being held in November that year. The owner of the house said that he put three St George’s flags up during the World Cup and decided to leave them flying from an upstairs window.

On November 14, the BBC reported that Thornberry resigned from the shadow front bench as a result of the tweet (bold in the original here):

Emily Thornberry has resigned from Labour’s front bench after sending a tweet during the Rochester and Strood by-election which was branded “snobby”.

The shadow attorney general apologised for the message, which showed a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside.

UKIP said she had “sneered, and looked down her nose at a white van in Strood with the cross of St George on it”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband was “angry” at her, a senior figure told the BBC.

The resident of the house, Dan Ware, said Ms Thornberry – the MP for Islington South and Finsbury – was a “snob”.

“I’ve not got a clue who she is – but she’s a snob,” he told the Sun. “We put the flags up for the World Cup (in 2014) and will continue to fly them.”

Even today, everyone who loves England remembers Thornberry’s attitude towards our nation’s flag. Ed Miliband was right to have been angry at the time. It must have lost Labour votes in certain constituencies:

The Independent had more:

Three hours later she apologised, after Ed Miliband intervened and the Labour leader made it “very clear” that he believes people should be able to fly the England flag without feeling ashamed.

Following her resignation, Labour has revealed that Thornberry had spoken to Mr Miliband a second time.

“Ed and Emily had a second conversation. She thought the right thing to do was to resign. Ed agreed,” the source said.

Her tweeted apology received strong reactions, among them the following:

Simon Danczuk, who was the Labour MP for Rochdale at the time, could see the elitist London-centric outlook at work:

Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view.

In the end, Mark Reckless won the by-election which was held because he wanted to change party affiliation from Conservative to UKIP. Nigel Farage had told him to do the right thing by asking his constituents. Reckless became the second UKIP MP to serve in the House of Commons when he joined Douglas Carswell that year. Carswell also had to hold a by-election in his constituency before Farage would allow him into UKIP.

Ed Miliband

Returning to Labour, a month before the by-election, Ed Miliband proposed a mansion tax, aimed primarily at Londoners.

However, a Londoner from Dartmouth Park in Kentish Town, Dan Carrier, wrote an article for The Guardian in October 2014, saying that not everyone living in a house in North London was necessarily wealthy: ‘My house in the middle of Ed Miliband’s street’.

It so happens that Ed Miliband and his family moved into the street where Mr Carrier grew up. In 2014, his parents still lived in the same house and he had the good fortune to be able to buy a home just a few doors down.

The Carriers and the Milibands are two very different classes of people:

In many ways our road is a typical London street: a mixture of Victorian terraces, some grand double-fronted villas and a postwar apartment block. More recently, however, it has had national media attention, prompted by the arrival a few years ago of Ed Miliband and his family. When they decamped from Primrose Hill, the move produced a swathe of articles describing my neighbourhood as a place of leafy-lefty-intellectual-middle-class types. The road I grew up on, and moved back to, has become shorthand for the gentrification of north London. The gap between the property haves and have-nots has never been starker, and housing is set to be a defining issue of the next general election. Ours is just one street, but it could be anywhere in the capital.

Carrier described many of his neighbours, who were working- or middle-class, hardly of the metropolitan elite. As such, a mansion tax would have been devastating:

Under the proposed system, many of Ed’s neighbours could face large bills.

The newcomers, however, were flush with cash:

One recently arrived couple, both on six-figure salaries, asked not to be named. Being able to buy a property in this neighbourhood these days, it seems, is enough to single you out for unwanted attention.

They say they moved here because of “the large houses, and the fact it’s not chi-chi like Hampstead or Primrose Hill. You see neighbours at the weekends, they’re not all out at their country homes. You don’t see Fortnum’s vans pull up.” Dartmouth Park is not yet Mayfair, in other words – not a comparison my parents’ generation would have felt compelled to make. “It feels like a real street, with real people.”

In the end, there was no mansion tax because Labour lost the election, thankfully.

By the way, Ed’s house has two kitchens in it. One is for the nanny and the children. The other is for Ed and his wife.

Ed Miliband could have taken some advice on the PR front. The lesser of his campaign sins was jamming a bacon sandwich into his mouth, further proof that no one should be photographed eating. The greater sin, however, was imitating Moses by erecting a stone listing five Labour Party goals, dubbed the Ed Stone. Oh, my, how we laughed at such hubris.

The election was held on Thursday, May 7.

Miliband resigned as Labour Party leader on Friday, May 8, a position he had held since September 2010.

By May 10, the Ed Stone was nowhere to be seen.

That day, The Guardian reported:

A case of champagne is among the rewards being offered by tabloids and rightwing pundits in return for the whereabouts of the so-called “Ed Stone”.

The 10 commandments-style tablet, engraved with five promises and unveiled in the final days before the election, was meant to symbolise how Ed Miliband would keep his pledges and restore trust in politics.

But the gimmick was perhaps the greatest gift Miliband gave to his opponents – and the mockery shows no signs of letting up even after his resignation and the quiet disappearance of the stone.

An 8ft 6in-high, two-ton limestone hulk is not the easiest thing to hide. But the stone, which was rumoured to have cost up to £30,000, is proving remarkably elusive and Labour sources are staying tight-lipped.

The Mail has offered a case of champagne to any reader who has information that “leads to the discovery of the Ed Stone”. The Sun has set up a dedicated “Ed Stone hotline” for tips about the stone’s whereabouts.

But without any apparent success in locating the real thing, the Sun also offered its readers a chance to win a full-size replica of “the Labour loser’s laughable slab”.

It was only on January 16, 2016, that we found out what happened to the slab. The Guardian reported:

The Ed Stone was broken up shortly after the general election, it has been revealed, putting an end to eight months of speculation about its whereabouts.

Two party officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg News that the stone had been destroyed in the weeks following 7 May 2015.

Shortly before the election, David Cameron tweeted that there would be chaos with Ed Miliband (pictured with Ed Balls on the left):

Miliband is still an MP.

The Ed Stone might not have survived, but one of his lasting legacies as Energy Minister from Labour’s time in power has: the green levy on home heating fuel, which is more than the VAT. The Conservatives should scrap the levy. Perhaps they will when the cost of gas for the home reaches breaking point and people get sufficiently irritated with Net Zero.

I wrote two posts about the 2015 election. In the second, I wrote about the ‘historic upset the pollsters missed’:

Even the most accurate poll — the exit poll — slightly underestimated the final total. The Conservatives won a clear majority of seats, surpassing the magic number of 326 to end up with 331!

David Cameron no longer needed a coalition government.

Today, Nick Clegg works in California for Facebook and has just received a huge promotion as president of global affairs for parent company Meta, taking on some of Mark Zuckerberg’s former responsibilities.

What the public thought

In 2015, the public made it abundantly clear that they preferred a Conservative government.

The readers’ responses to Zoe Williams’s article about the metropolitan elite made some excellent points. I read them all.

One person said that the Conservatives’ policies appeal more to the average Briton:

The election was won by the Tories less because they represent the views of more people than any other party than because their policies offended fewer people than those of any other party. The widespread and insidious disenchantment with politicians stems from this disconnect and it just happens that at the moment the Tory message is marginally less unpopular than a whole range of unpopular messages – probably because the Tory demographic is a currently a bit wider than that of Labour.

Another said that Labour had deserted the working class for the middle class:

A large section of the working class of this country still can’t box their way out of this ingrained deference to the ruling class. The existence of the royal family and the institution of the monarchy is the guarantor of that deference. But they do not feel the same deference to the ‘metropolitan elite’ and this fact has been nicely used by right wing media to undermine urban liberalism and split the working class vote. The Labour party will have difficulty fighting its way out of this conundrum so long as they exclude working class representatives in favour of middle-class ones, black or white.

The working class feel ignored:

Labour are more and more removed from working class people … The divide is growing -hence the growth in UKIP in traditional labour areas. The metropolitan elite – useless Ed is one of them – have failed to understand and address the concerns of their traditional voting base in far too many areas.

Someone said that the Labour Party was synonymous with the metropolitan elite:

If the Labour Party (or the metropolitan elite that provides it`s talking heads) thinks that simply stealing the Conservatives`s clothes or repositioning themselves on Europe is going to work – forget it. At the moment the terms “Labour Party” and “metropolitan elite” are interchangeable and are synonymous with what us plebs would call “being out of touch”. Can the Labour Party learn how to talk to us again?….They`d better, and quickly because at present we`re all listening to the Tories and UKIP

Another reader said the same thing:

I say this as a northern working class boy

Until we have a left wing party led and organised by the working class, I’m a Tory. All you people still voting Labour when these people are in charge of the party are fools – they’ve tricked you into believing they represent you, but actually you’re just useful to them to legitimise their marginal differences compared to their blue friends in the next street.

Two people even had a go at Zoe Williams:

Zoe Williams. Godolphin and Latymer School, Oxbridge, lives in Camberwell, brays, wrote a tedious feminist piece about why she married the father of her kids after a decade as if anyone cared, spouts by-numbers liberal-lefty discourse every week in the Graun.

I don’t loathe the metropolitan elite. It’s just a shame there are so many of them clogging up the national media, the political scene, academia, the arts, public policy, etc. when they represent such an infinitesimal cadre of people. So much for the ‘diversity’ they so often chirrup about.

Also:

YOU, Zoe W, are most certainly a member of that elite. How else do you get on What The Papers Say on Sky television?

This comment seemed to unknowingly say the most about what would happen in December 2019. Britain was — and is — becoming more nationalistic, but not as a Union, only as separate parts:

Events in Scotland and the victory of the SNP and the rise of UKIP, particularly in Northern heartlands, have raised questions about the leadership of a working class party by a group of North London academics and politicians. However the real event is the battle of ideas about what a Labour Party should represent as the North London hegemony over policy has dissolved. The Blairites are in the news on the TV every day attempting to solve the problem of hegemony by a return to the centre. Both the SNP and UKIP have shown that there is no way back as both Scotland and large swathes of England are staunch nationalist. The rest of England, with the collapse of Lib Dems, is dark and lite tint blue Tory, and as such a distinct Englishness has temporarily been established. This Englishness is different from that of the UKIP North and certainly different from that of the Scottish nationalism of the SNP. The hegemonic moment of North London has in the words of Tom Nairn come face to face with the break up of Britain. Dr. Eamon O’Doherty

And, lo, it turned out to be …

More to come tomorrow.

It’s been a week full of news, which is unusual right before Christmas. Yet, here we are.

Omicron death

The person who died with Omicron was an unvaccinated man in his 70s:

I, too, would like those questions answered.

The man’s stepson called into Nick Ferrari’s LBC show to say that he was a germophobe. He had everything delivered to his door and never left the house unless he had to post a letter:

Guido Fawkes has more (emphasis in the original):

Speaking to Nick Ferrari, the stepson of the man who died earlier this week claimed that he had been taken in by “conspiracy theories”, and refused to take the vaccine despite being in his early 70s:

He thought it was a conspiracy. He was an intelligent man but it’s all these different things you are getting from online and different media things… He wasn’t vaccinated at all.

According to the latest figures, there are currently 15 people in hospital with Omicron, an increase of 5 since Tuesday…

Chris Whitty’s Omicron projections

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference with Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Prof Patrick Vallance.

Whitty predicted Armageddon with a chart showing unbelievably high projections of Omicron cases.

A good friend of mine said he hoped that chart would come back to bite Whitty in the proverbial. I couldn’t agree more.

However, when Whitty appeared before the Health and Social Care Select Committee on Thursday, December 16, he changed his tune when giving evidence to MPs.

The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

Britain may be “better off” with omicron than it was with the delta variant, thanks to the booster programme, Prof Chris Whitty has suggested.

Giving evidence at the Health and Social Care Select Committee, the Chief Medical Officer for England said that vaccines appeared to be holding up well against omicron and said boosters may even be preventing transmissibility and infection

“It is possible that with a boost, we’re better off with omicron than we are with two vaccines with delta for severe disease,” he told MPs.

Prof Whitty said he was expecting omicron to cause an “impressive” rise in cases, which could lead to daily peaks in admission bigger than seen in the January wave, when hospitalisations hit nearly 40,000 a day.

However, he said that cases may begin to fall quickly and that a milder illness may mean people would stay in hospital for a short period, reducing the overall burden on the health service. Fewer people may also need intensive care, he added

“I think most people think on the positive side, that there will be some preserved immunity, particularly on the non-antibody side, such as T-cells. Therefore it is likely someone who has one or two vaccines already will have some protection and with a booster considerably more protection against hospitalisation and death.

“It does look as if boosters restore some of the ability to actually reduce infection and transmission, at least for a period of time.”

Then he told MPs that he was reluctant to give the public projection numbers, yet he did just that at this week’s press conference:

I have resisted putting forward projection numbers into the public domain because I don’t think they are reliable and you can’t put enough caveats on them.”

We don’t think they are reliable either, Prof Whitty.

Health and Security Agency’s Omicron projections for England withdrawn

The UK Health and Security Agency also backtracked on their projections because of a change in public behaviour. I wonder:

If only they would lift Plan B …

… because it is really hurting the hospitality sector.

Michel Roux Jr has tweeted about his daughter Emily’s London restaurant Caractère, which is suffering from a rash of sudden cancellations:

Her restaurant is not the only one. Omicron has everyone running scared.

But, what if it ‘cases’ did double every two days and what if we all caught Omicron? Would it confer herd immunity? We’ll know if the following extrapolation is true by Twelfth Night:

The Queen cancels Windsor Castle pre-Christmas lunch

Because of the Omicron scare, our sovereign has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family lunch at Windsor Castle. ITV’s Chris Ship reports:

South Africa, however, remains relatively relaxed about Omicron, as the Daily Mail‘s Dan Hodges points out. Note the reply, which shows Chris Whitty contradicting himself yet again. Either boosters help immunity or they don’t. Which is it, Chris?

The elusive NHS GP can be seen — privately

Our NHS GPs have been elusive since last year. If you’re lucky, you can get a telephone or an online appointment. Very few patients are able to see them in person.

However, if one goes private, one can see one’s GP:

It looks as if the Mail on Sunday is investigating this situation. Good!

Killing off ivermectin as coronavirus prophylaxis

In more medical news, we discover how ivermectin was effectively killed off as a prophylaxis for coronavirus in the UK and the US.

Thanks to my reader dearieme for the Vox Day link, which leads to a World Tribune article summarising the incident from Robert Kennedy Jr’s New York Times Bestseller, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the global war on Democracy and Public Health.

Excerpts follow:

Andrew Hill, PhD, is a senior visiting Research Fellow in Pharmacology at Liverpool University. He is also an advisor for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. As a researcher for the WHO evaluating ivermectin, Hill wielded enormous influence over international guidance for the drug’s use.

Hill had previously authored an analysis of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 that found the drug overwhelmingly effective.

On Jan. 6 of 2021, Hill testified enthusiastically before the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidlelines Panel in support of ivermectin’s use. Within a month, however, Hill found himself in what he describes as a “tricky situation.” Under pressure from his funding sponsors, Hill then published an unfavorable study. Ironically, he used the same sources as in the original study. Only the conclusions had changed.

Shortly before he published, Dr. Tess Lawrie, Director of the Evidence-based Medicine Consultancy in Bath, England, and one of the world’s leading medical research analysts, contacted Hill via Zoom and recorded the call (transcript below). Lawrie had learned of his new position and reached out to try to rectify the situation.

In a remarkable exchange, a transcript of which appears on pages 137 – 143 in Kennedy’s book, Hill admitted his manipulated study would likely delay the uptake of ivermectin in the UK and United States, but said he hoped his doing so would only set the lifesaving drug’s acceptance back by about “six weeks,” after which he was willing to give his support for its use

The two scientists discussed ivermectin’s positive results in combating coronavirus:

… the number of preventable deaths incurred by such a delay would be staggering — as many as 504,000.

Hill declined being listed as Lawrie’s head author on the paper with the positive results. Instead, he published the negative findings.

This is why he did so:

Four days before publication, Hill’s sponsor Unitaid gave the University of Liverpool, Hill’s employer $40 million. Unitaid, it turns out, was also an author of the conclusions of Hill’s study

when pressed he admitted his sponsor, Unitaid, was an unacknowledged author of conclusions.

Unitaid has a say in the conclusions of the paper. Yeah,” he told Lawrie

Dr. Pierre Kory, of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, commented, “Andrew is apparently making a living now accusing the doctors and scientists who support ivermectin of medical fraud.”

Regulatory acceptance of ivermectin did not delay only six weeks. Instead, almost a year later, it has still not been approved by health agencies in the United Kingdom or in United States. Instead The WHO, CDC, NIH, and FDA have suppressed the drug’s use.

Instead, we are taking notional vaccines. Who knows what they are doing to our bodies?

Boris’s daughter’s name

Boris and Carrie Johnson have named their infant daughter Romy Iris Charlotte. She is shown with her brother Wilfred:

Romy is a ‘rainbow baby’ because she followed a miscarriage.

Best wishes to the Johnsons.

Conservatives lose safe seat for first time ever

In less cheery news for Boris, the Conservatives lost Owen Paterson‘s former North Shropshire constituency for the first time ever — nearly 200 years:

Paterson resigned a few weeks ago over sleaze allegations. He had a 23,000+ majority in the 2019 general election.

Failed candidate Neil Shastri-Hunt, who had been parachuted in from outside the constituency, said he planned to get some sleep and:

go and give my 8-week old a bit of a cuddle.

My commiserations to anyone who took this misguided betting advice:

The by-election took place on Thursday, December 16. The Liberal Democrats won by a landslide, as I thought they might:

Also note how low the vote for Labour was, despite party leader Sir Keir Starmer refusing to admit he is a socialist:

What does that mean?

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP admitted his party ‘got a kicking’ but added that such by-election results are not unusual when a Prime Minister is halfway through his or her term in office:

Therefore, this protest vote might be a one-off. Let us hope so.

However, in order for that to happen, Boris must be more of a Conservative and less of a Green Blairite.

Courier’s employees throw parcels against wall

And last, but hardly least, we have distressing news about some Christmas home deliveries.

Hermes is the UK’s worst courier company, but we have to put up with their delayed, sometimes damaged, deliveries.

A reporter from The Times did a brief stint with Hermes and found a group of disgruntled employees, some of whom threw parcels against a warehouse wall. The reporter is shown with his car boot open:

Hermes will investigate but says this is not typical behaviour of its employees. The company is at the bottom of the national delivery league table:

Meanwhile, I have been noting the rather downbeat Christmas notes we have received with our cards this year.

I hope that 2022 brings us far better tidings.

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.

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.

Continuing on Scotland’s upcoming election, I have been astonished by some of the articles and social media messages appearing north of the border.

Scottish women — and sensible Scotsmen — are increasingly concerned by the encroaching activism of a small minority of Scots with regard to certain aspects of gender recognition, including self-identification.

The SNP do not seem to care, and no one knows how the new Hate Crime legislation will work against anyone who is worried about a man wandering into a ladies’ room or a women’s changing room.

In a guest post for Wings Over Scotland on March 31, 2021, Margaret Lynch a long-time activist, first for Labour, then for the SNP and now for the Alba Party, wrote about the topic in ‘Why women want Alba’ (emphases mine):

The inability of the SNP leadership to accept the simple distinction between sex and gender has led them into very troubled waters and has done real harm. It has led to vulnerable women in prisons being subjected to sexual assault by men who “identify” as women, to a local authority adopting a “gender neutral” approach to domestic violence which saw funding removed from Women’s Aid groups because they refused to admit men to refuges or work with perpetrators.

Lastly and perhaps most ludicrously it’s seen a situation arise where crossdressers – but not real women – are protected by a Hate Crimes Bill which omits misogyny from the list of prejudices it seeks to prohibit.

The response of the SNP leadership to those women who did try and constructively engage within the SNP around these issues was genuinely shocking. They stood by and watched prominent female SNP elected representatives be hounded and abused, and said nothing. They colluded in attempts to prevent the selection of gender critical candidates using all manner of chicanery.

Alex Salmond of the new Alba Party has spent the past few years defending his reputation against SNP smears, so there is a certain irony that a man falsely accused of preying on women now appears to be their defender in Scotland, at least where pro-independence parties are concerned:

The irony of Alex Salmond presenting a solution to our problems has not escaped me. Some feminists think this is a bridge too far. But what I know is that Alex Salmond’s political survival now depends on him demonstrating at all times and to all people that he can be trusted in women’s company and to defend women’s rights.

Nicola [Sturgeon], who I have long admired and liked, has demonstrated over and over again that she CANNOT be trusted to defend women’s rights – and in fact would throw them under a bus in a heartbeat to gain the support of the fanatical youth wing of the party, and the Greens who appear to care less about the environment than they do about bedding down Queer Theory in Scotland’s political institutions.

What drew me to join Alba was the tactical opportunity it presented:

to ensure that there’s a party which will protect women’s rights in Scotland, and provide a safe harbour for those of us who want independence to cast our votes in the coming election without betraying our sex.

to act as a countermeasure to the malign forces which have propelled the SNP leadership towards an agenda which is dismantling women’s rights, to speak out on the matters which affect us, and to retain safe spaces and representation.

That same day, Wings Over Scotland featured another guest post by a former SNP member, Morag Kerr, who explains why she has cancelled her party membership. Her article is called ‘To the National Secretary’. Excerpts follow:

During the first 25 years of my membership I made many friends and had many wonderful experiences. I never imagined for a moment that I would leave the party before independence day.

However the past four years have been an entirely different experience and that time has now come. I cannot remain a member of the SNP for the following reasons.

1. Lack of any progress towards independence since 2015, including the lack of preparation of the infrastructure that will be needed by an independent country.

2. Failure to capitalise on the very real opportunities which arose between 2016 and 2019 in the run-up to Brexit.

3. The explicit ruling-out of viable routes to independence, and the imposition of conditions which would stand in the way of viable routes to independence.

4. The insulting dangling of “vote SNP for a new indyref” when an election was at hand, followed by the inevitable kick into the long grass soon afterwards.

5. The lack of rebuttal of unionist attacks and talking-points, combined with currying favour with the unionist mainstream media while attacking and indeed monstering pro-independence online media. The donation of a substantial sum of public money to prop up the Unionist print press was absolutely inexplicable.

6. The fitting-up of Alex Salmond on false allegations of sexual assault intended to prevent his returning to politics to do something about points 1 to 5

9. The appalling Hate Crime Bill which will criminalise simple disagreement if someone simply chooses to take offence at it, and the exclusion of women as a protected category while including men in drag on their way to a stag night.

(I can’t believe I’m even writing that, and [Justice Secretary] Humza Yusuf’s sneering jibe that a woman would be protected in the event she were mistaken for a transwoman was simply the last straw.) …

13. The rewriting of the rules with the obvious express purpose of preventing Joanna Cherry from being considered as a candidate in the Holyrood election

20. Promotion of highly unsuitable sex education material to young children.

On April 6, an Edinburgh blogger, Calton Jock — hardly a political conservative — wrote about the close alliance between certain gender/lifestyle identity organisations and the Scottish government:

LGBT Youth Scotland was formerly called the Stonewall Youth Project and is mainly funded by the state (in other words us), with over 75% its annual income coming from the Scottish Government, local councils and the National Health Service. (Scottish schools to get updated guidance on supporting transgender pupils).

Bear in mind that the co-founder of Stonewall, Simon Fanshawe, broke away from the organisation and condemned its “extreme” position on transgender rights. Yet we have the Scottish Government determined to change the Gender Reform Act (GRA) and to continue to permit children to be given permanently damaging puberty blockers, despite a ruling in the English courts that this has to stop. (Letters to the Times) …

The Scottish Government and opposition parties have agreed to continue talks about freedom of expression elements of the hate crime bill.

It follows concern about the impact of some of the amendments proposed to the legislation on the transgender community.

The Justice Committee considered stage two amendments to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill’.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf had originally proposed an amendment seeking to protect “discussion or criticism of matters relating to transgender identity”, provided the behaviour was not threatening or abusive …

People are questioning the influence of “Stonewall” on Scotland’s civil service after it emerged that controversial policies have been introduced in alignment with Stonewall’s political aims. These include a compulsory “Diversity Objective” for all staff to make the Scottish Government “a more diverse and inclusive place to work”, training on “intersectionality” and “unconscious bias”, and the use of gender-neutral language. The Civil Service is also included on Stonewall’s “Diversity Champions Index” …

The Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute said:

“The extent of Stonewall’s influence on the Civil Service is alarming, particularly given the controversial nature of some of its political aims. Stonewall’s stance on trans issues is strongly opposed by women’s organisations, medics and faith groups. Yet, the Civil Service appears to endorse it wholesale. How does this fit with the Service’s duty to remain politically impartial? Staff are encouraged to attend training sessions on “intersectionality” and “unconscious bias”. These controversial ideas are disputed in wider society. So it’s concerning that they are written into the training schedule for Civil Service employees. The compulsory “Diversity Objective” also raises questions. What happens to staff members who hold religious beliefs which differ from those championed by Stonewall? Are they marked down? This could constitute direct discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.”

Gender identity activism also affects the Liberal Democrats as Calton Jock explained in an April 6 post, ‘The Threat to Women is a Real and Present Danger’. He discovered that this goes back to 2019 when then-party leader Jo Swinson put gender identity into the party manifesto before the general election that December. To think that most of us saw her — and her party’s candidates — as being anti-Brexit. No, there was much more.

Calton Jock has an image of one of Swinson’s tweets before the election. It reads, in part:

Introduce an ‘X’ gender option on passports and extend equality law to cover gender identity and expression …

Thank goodness she lost her seat as an MP. So did many other Lib Dems. There are only 11 of them now in the House of Commons.

Calton Jock explains why the Lib Dems have these policies:

Assisting their efforts with donations exceeding £1.3million, is Ferring Pharmaceuticals a company that markets drugs used in gender-identity clinics to delay puberty.

The party has already upset feminists, who worry that the “extreme trans-ideological” policies in its manifesto will put vulnerable women at risk.

The company is owned by the Swedish billionaire Frederik Paulsen and markets the drug, which is used to block puberty among adolescents.

The Lib Dem manifesto pledges “complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrapping fees and recognition of non-binary gender identities”

A Drugs company owned by a Swedish billionaire philanthopist and explorer, who is an honorary Russian consul and lives in Switzerland, has given nearly £500k to the Liberal Democrats.

Frederik Paulsen, who lives in Lausanne, is worth an estimated £3bn and owns Ferring Pharmaceuticals. The company is ultimately controlled from Curacao, a Caribbean tax haven.

Electoral Commission records show that the British arm of the company, based in West Drayton, west London, gave four donations to the Liberal Democrats between December 2013 and June 2014. Three of them exceeded £100,000.

The British arm of Ferring Pharmaceuticals was set up in 1975. Ferring said the company had made the donations because it supported Liberal Democrats policy on Europe. (Sunday Times)

Comment: And the Lib/Dems had the hard neck to criticise Alex Salmond for broadcasting his show on RT!!!

Paulsen was personally awarded an “Order of Friendship” medal by Putin himself. The Vlad acolyte who has poured huge amounts of cash into Russia, was given the gong by the Russian Foreign ministry, and is an honorary Russian citizen

On April 9, an Alba Party member, Denise Findlay, wrote about the lack of political will in standing up for protecting women: ‘Life begins on the other side of despair’, a guest post on Yours For Scotland.

An excerpt follows:

It has been a hard few years for the women who support Scottish independence. The women have endured vicious bullying, name calling, doxing and rape threats simply for trying to stand up for their rights. All from those who are meant to on the same side in the independence debate. Women have now struggled for years against their own party and movement. Many honourable men have joined the debate giving women their support but still truckloads of abuse are heaped on the women’s heads every day.

Women’s concerns have not been heard. All parties in the Scottish Parliament are signed up in varying degrees to gender ideology.

The Greens and LibDems are irretrievably anti-women in hock to an ideology which is dangerous to the health and well being of women and girls. Andy Wightman resigned from the Greens due to their intolerance of any discussion of women’s rights claiming party leader Patrick Harvie is captured by Queer Theory.

Labour is unfortunately losing three MSPs who actually backed women; Johann Lamont, Jenny Marra and Elaine Smith and Anas Sarwar the new Labour leader is unwilling to take on the gender ideologues within his own party.

The Conservatives although they voted against the Hate Crimes Bill that was because of its general infringement of the right to freedom of expression and it is a sad day when it is the Conservatives who are our only slim hope.

The SNP leadership is fully signed up to the gender ideology and have a number of policies that are dangerous to women.

Just before recess the Scottish Parliament passed the Hate Crimes Bill (HCB). This bill does not give protection to women who as a sex have been ignored by this bill. A man dressed as a woman has more protection against hate than a woman. But it does pose significant danger and risk to women.

The bill introduces a new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ which requires that behaviour must be judged “abusive or threatening” by a “reasonable” person.

Define ‘Reasonable’ when using the word ‘female’ can be judged transphobic. When our own justice secretary can’t say if there are two sexes and a judge in England ruled that belief in two sexes was ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’. When many women’s accounts have been suspended or banned from social media for stating biological fact.

During the passage of the bill amendments that would have given women a small measure of protection, were withdrawn due to an outcry by the trans lobby.

There is little doubt that women arguing on the basis of sex will be reported to the police, this coupled with doubts over the independence of the crown office will have a chilling effect of women’s freedom of expression.

One would have thought that, with all the equality legislation in the UK, including Scotland, these issues should not have arisen. But, no. Things have become worse:

In the new parliament the SNP intends to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which would allow a man to legally change his sex to female purely on his own say-so. The GRA was introduced prior to same sex marriage, it was to allow people who suffer from gender dysphoria – which at that time was a mental illness – and have changed their bodies to legally become the opposite sex in order to marry.

At the time it was understood that it impacted women’s rights because women’s sex-based rights are necessarily exclusive as they exclude males. But the European Court of Human Rights decided that the numbers were so small women could just accommodate them.

Over time same sex marriage was made legal which negated the original need for a GRA. A further ruling of the European Court of Human Rights meant that people would not have to change their bodies to obtain a GRA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) determined that gender dysphoria was not a mental illness.

This greatly increased the number of men who could claim to be women and the trans umbrella is now large, it includes men with gender dysphoria who have changed their bodies but also cross-dressers, men who have a sexual fetish about being a woman or being accepted as a woman, exhibitionists and men who believe they have a lady brain. As well as the increase in the number of men now considered trans and who feel they are entitled to access women only spaces and services there is also an issue of abuse of the system.

With self-id there is no gate-keeping so this opens it up to the risk of predatory men taking advantage. Male sexual offenders are identifying as women and being housed in women’s prisons, this is already happening in Scottish prisons.

The ramifications of self-id for women’s sex-based rights are considerable, already mixed sex toilets in schools are causing teenage girls to miss school in particular when they have their period, there are mixed sex changing rooms, mixed sex hospital wards, women’s refuges and rape crisis centres. All places where women are vulnerable and predatory men or men indulging their sexual fetishes can take advantage.

Denise Findlay concludes:

The very real prospect of the complete loss of women’s rights in Scotland and the risk of a criminal prosecution if we complain.

Then into this hopeless situation strode hope.

Hope in the form of the Alba Party who just might save the rights of Scottish women and girls, while gaining us our independence.

This weekend it is the Alba Party Women’s Conference. Women will have a voice. All is not yet lost. We still have Hope.

The Alba Party Women’s Conference was held online. It was well attended and watched by hundreds of women in Scotland.

One of the more disturbing revelations from the Women’s Conference was news from a guest speaker that gender activists in Scotland want the age of consent lowered to the age of 10.

The Rev. Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland has more on this development in ‘The Paedophile Charter’:

ILGA World –  the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – is an organisation that we hadn’t heard of until today. Just over a year ago they released, as part of a 200-member caucus of other groups, something called “The Feminist Declaration”. It’s a mostly-innocuous document of demands about women’s rights, but buried in the middle of it is a very disturbing section.

The section, a screenshot of which is in his post, encourages a de-stigmatisation of adolescent sexuality.

Campbell continues (emphases his):

The World Health Organisation defines “adolescents” as people aged from 10 to 19.

So the only possible interpretation of “end the criminalization of adolescents’ sexuality” is a reduction in the age of consent to 10 years old. Indeed, a slightly earlier paragraph of the Declaration is more explicit about it:

”Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex

While it doesn’t go into more detail, one would like to imagine that the intent would be to remove laws limiting capacity for consent only within that age group, ie to make it legal for all adolescents to have sex with each other, rather than to let older people have sex with them. But it doesn’t actually say that anywhere.

Even if it did, alert readers will note that that would still make it legal for 19-year-olds to have sex with 10-year-olds, and to put it very mildly that seems a somewhat controversial position.

So who are the organisations signing up to this “feminist” demand under the ILGA umbrella? On its list of member organisations, sure enough, appear the names of LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland.

Just 12 years ago LGBT Youth Scotland was at the centre of Scotland’s biggest ever paedophile scandal, with its chief executive James Rennie sentenced to life imprisonment for a string of offences …

It appears that it’s entirely true – the SNP are indeed paying lobby groups with your money to try to reduce the age of consent in Scotland to 10.

We wish we could be confident that the danger of that actually happening was only theoretical.

Stonewall Scotland disputed the Wings Over Scotland claims, but Rev. Stuart Campbell stood by his post and responded in ‘If it hit you in the eye’:

So the only possible thing about adolescent sexuality that could currently be decriminalized in Scotland, England or Wales is the requirement for both of the participants to be at least 16, or at a minimum over 12. Or put more simply, the reduction of the age of consent.

(It offers no alternative definition of the word to the widely-agreed ones already in existence saying it starts at 10.)

And as Stonewall Scotland are (through ILGA) signatories to that declaration, then there is simply no interpretation possible other than that they’re calling for a reduction in the age of consent. If they didn’t MEAN to do that, they need to withdraw their membership of ILGA, or get ILGA to withdraw its signature from the Declaration, or immediately have the document rewritten to remove that sentence. Because that is unambiguously and unequivocally what it demands.

But notably, they haven’t done that. They’ve just angrily asserted that it doesn’t say what it says. That isn’t a denial of the material facts, it’s a denial of language and a denial of the entire concept of reality.

He returned to the subject in ‘What you find under rocks’. He concluded as follows, issuing an important disclaimer (purple highlight mine):

Paedophiles have a long and well-documented history of trying to infiltrate and hijack LGBT groups, and Scotland is no exception. Indeed, it has very disturbing recent history. Observing that fact does not amount to an accusation and it absolutely certainly does NOT imply any intrinsic link between homosexuality and paedophilia. Wings is not aware of any statistical predilection of homosexual people towards paedophilia compared to heterosexual people.

But anyone who reacts with outrage and evasion and deflection to a basic minimum of scrutiny and vigilance about the safeguarding of 10-year-olds (and especially if, as with ILGA and LGBT Youth Scotland, they’ve had previous and very severe problems with paedophile infiltration) is probably someone over whom there should be rather MORE scrutiny and vigilance, not less.

The prospect of a lower age of consent was also a topic among some Unionists. George Galloway of Scotland’s fledgling All For Unity party is a married father of six. On April 11, he tweeted about the possibility of home schooling:

An article from 2020 in Scottish Review discusses Scotland’s education curriculum in this regard. Bruce Scott’s article, ‘The crisis of consent in Scottish schools’ is detailed and well worth reading. He made Freedom of Information requests of the Scottish government, which he said were not answered satisfactorily. With regard to faith groups and home schooling he says (emphases mine):

I also enquired what faith groups had been consulted as part of their working group/implementation group (e.g., Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, etc). So far, it seems that the wide variety of faith groups in Scotland have not been consulted on the Scottish Government’s LGBT Inclusive Education proposals.

One thing I have gleamed from my inquiries is that contrary to some reports, the LGBT Inclusive Education in Scotland is not mandatory; parents are within their rights to withdraw their children if they wish. Further, all schools have to implement the LGBT Inclusive Education curriculum in consultation with parents of children at the school and tailor it to their needs. This is not common knowledge. But, and it is a big but, as the LGBT focus is going to be disseminated throughout all aspects of the curriculum, the only option for parents who object to this curriculum would be withdraw their child from the school completely; a fait accompli on the part of the Scottish Government. I predict they will come for those who decide to home school next.

A supporter of gay and lesbian rights also spoke out against a lower age of consent:

She is not wrong. This Twitter thread — which contains photos not to be shared with children or the vulnerable — explains how Scotland arrived where it is today. The gender issue started in 1974 in Edinburgh. Less than 20 years later, ILGA was an international NGO recognised by the United Nations and remains so today. Graham Linehan, creator of several hit sitcoms in the UK, wrote an article based on the Twitter thread: ‘If you say so’. Linehan is also deeply concerned about protecting women’s and children’s rights.

In closing, The Scotsman reported that the speaker at the Alba Party Women’s Conference came under fire for discussing the possibility of a lower age of consent (emphases mine):

Responding to a request for comment, an Alba spokesperson said the women’s conference was a “great success” and defended Ms Lynch’s statement.

They said: “The organisations referenced have both signed up to this demand, and both have received substantial amounts of Government funding. These are reputable organisations that make a positive impact on the lives of many in Scotland.

If the organisations do not support what they have signed up to it is for them to say or provide clarification, it is not for women that attended our women’s conference to defend concerns that women have raised based on fact.“

The Alba Party manifesto makes a clear commitment to protecting women’s rights (item 8):

One wonders if this situation will have an impact on Scottish voters next Thursday, May 6.

Once again, coronavirus measures featured strongly in this week’s debates in the House of Commons.

Yesterday’s post explained that a compromise was reached over the proposed Brady Amendment and covered the subsequent debate on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

In the end, only a handful of MPs voted against the extension. Congratulations to them and to the Liberal Democrats, all of whom voted No:

The Labour MPs were Dawn Butler, Kevan Jones, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John Spellar, Graham Stringer and Derek Twigg. I do have a particular admiration for Graham Stringer who adds lucidity in every discussion in which he participates. I’ve seen him in Select Committee hearings and he’s brilliant.

Below is a review of coronavirus debates from the other days.

Monday, September 28

Steve Baker (Con) was in rebel mode on his way to the Commons that morning:

In the afternoon, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock appeared at the despatch box for a debate on COVID-19 measures.

He received several interventions (interruptions).

Sir Edward Leigh (Con) was the first. He also mentioned Sir Graham Brady of the eponymous amendment (emphases mine below):

If the first duty of Government is to keep people safe, will the Secretary of State remember that the first duty of Parliament is to hold Government to account? I know that he wants to take public opinion with him, but will he therefore reassure us that he is also determined to take Parliament with him? In that respect, may I urge him to meet with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) and come to a compromise to ensure that, if there are further national lockdowns, Parliament will be fully involved in the process?

He agreed, but note the ‘where possible’ in his reply:

We are looking at further ways to ensure that the House can be properly involved in the process—in advance, where possible. I hope to provide the House with further details soon. I will take up the invitation to a further meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady), whom I have already met to discuss this matter, to see what further progress can be made. I hope that that, for the time being, satisfies my right hon. Friend.

Mark Harper and Steve Baker, both Conservatives, hit the nail on the head.

Harper said:

To develop the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), I accept the points about scrutiny that the Secretary of State makes, but it is about not just scrutiny but the laws we are making. The laws that came in at midnight, for example, were 12 pages of laws, with lots of detail, criminal offences and duties not mentioned when they were set out in a statement last week. That includes duties on employers, directors and officers, with serious criminal penalties. We need to scrutinise the detail of the legislation before it comes into force and give our assent, and not, I am afraid, just allow the Secretary of State to put it into force by decree.

Hancock batted that away, as if it were nothing:

Of course, sometimes in this pandemic we have to move fast. Sometimes we have had to move fast, and we may need to do so again. The challenge we have in this House is how to ensure proper scrutiny while also being able, when necessary, to move fast in response to the virus. That is the challenge that collectively we all face.

Steve Baker dismissed that answer with facts but had to couch it, knowing how thin-skinned Hancock is:

I reassure my right hon. Friend that I am going to praise him later, but the Constitution Unit at University College London tweeted earlier about the regulations mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) that

this policy was briefed to the media 8 days ago. Was it really not possible to schedule proper, detailed parliamentary debate during that time, given the far-reaching consequences?”

It added:

“Given the current mood, it seems very likely MPs will ask this.”

Well, I am asking. Surely it was possible, in eight days, to have the debate that my right hon. Friend has called for.

Hancock replied that both he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had made statements about the new laws the week before.

Labour’s John Spellar, who voted against the extension of the Coronavirus Act 2020, pressed Hancock on the issue:

It is nice to be informed, nice to be consulted and nice to be able to scrutinise, but in the end it is about who decides. Can the Secretary of State explain why he is so against Parliament’s making the decision, even if he argues for urgency and immediacy —within two days, for example—to either confirm or revoke those regulations? Why is he against Parliament’s being the one that finally decides on this? It is quite clear that this is not even being decided in Cabinet, but just by one or two Cabinet members. Let Parliament decide.

Hancock said he hoped to find a way forward.

Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary, replied on behalf of Labour.

This was an excellent debate, one worth reading in full. A few more highlights follow.

John Spellar pointed out that a vaccine would give no guarantees:

There has been much mention of the success of a vaccine, but, first, it is unclear when that is likely to be and, secondly, surely even if we have a vaccine, it will not be 100% effective.

Sir Desmond Swayne (Con) gave the best speech of the debate — a must-watch at just under two minutes:

He took exception to Chief Medical Officer Dr Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance’s televised presentation the week before with a graph that strained credulity. They took no questions from the press. No government minister was present, either, even though they sat in front of a No. 10 backdrop.

Swayne rightly railed about it and them:

Less than a year ago, I celebrated what I thought was the election of a sceptical and liberal Conservative Administration. Now, I am left wondering if the Prime Minister has not been abducted by Dr Strangelove and reprogrammed by the SAGE over to the dark side.

The purpose of politicians is to impose a sense of proportion on science and not to be in thrall to it. I will make myself very unpopular, but I believe that the appearance of the chiefs last week should have been a sacking offence. When they presented that graph, it was with the caveat that it was not a prediction, but nevertheless it was clear that they presented it as a plausible scenario, with its 50,000 cases per day by mid-October based on the doubling of infections by the week. Not on one day since March have there been infections on a day that were double that of the same day of the week preceding—not once. Where did this doubling come from? What was their purpose in presenting such a graph? It was the purpose of the fat boy in “The Pickwick Papers”:

“I wants to make your flesh creep.”

It was “project fear”. It was an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they had not been terrified enough.

I have been banging on about this since March, and with every criticism I have made, I have been told that the Government were relying on the best possible science. So I was delighted by the letter one week ago today with the nuanced criticism of Professors Heneghan, Gupta and Sikora. I believe that the Government now have to answer that criticism. I am glad that the consensus in the scientific community is broken and the critics are speaking out.

I do not underestimate for one moment the horrible nature of this disease and its post-viral syndrome, but in terms of the United Kingdom’s killers, it is 24th in the league, accounting for only 1.4% of deaths. As a consequence, I believe the Government’s policy has been disproportionate. By decree, they have interfered in our private and family lives, telling us whom we may meet, when we may meet them and what we must wear when we meet them. We have the cruelty of elderly people in care homes being disoriented, unable to see the faces of their loved ones or to receive a hug. We have the tsunami of deaths that we may experience shortly as a consequence of undiagnosed cancers and heart disease, and the discontinuation of clinical trials.

He praised Sweden’s lack of lockdown and compared the Government’s warning about Christmas celebrations to Cromwell, who, as Lord Protector, also banned the holiday:

All sorts of criticisms are levelled against the Swedish Government that, on examination of the data and comparing like for like, are without foundation. I certainly hold up the Swedish model as an alternative.

We have seen the eye-watering costs that we must now all face for a generation, having closed down our economy for all those months as a consequence of the Government’s policy. We face the crushing of enterprises, the destruction of livelihoods, and unemployment among young people, all as a consequence of an overreaction. I understand that there is now some question as to whether students will be allowed to return from university at Christmas. I say most gently to the Minister that the last Administration that sought to restrain celebrations at Christmas was during the Commonwealth, when the Lord Protector was left musing in public whether, if he were to arm one in 10, that would be enough. How many marshals will be required?

I conclude by saying that the policy of the Government has been disproportionate in response to this threat. There may be a virus one day that threatens our very way of life, but this is not it, even if we are behaving as if it were.

In other news, people in England were deeply unhappy to discover that, while they are under 10 p.m. closing time for pubs and restaurants, Parliament’s bar and restaurant were allowed to stay open past that hour.

Guido Fawkes reported that a U-turn took place. The exemption was initially made because both are considered as a ‘workplace canteen’, as sittings in both the Commons and the Lords occasionally run into the night. Now, at least, alcohol will not be served after the witching hour:

Tuesday, September 29

The 10 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants in England has rankled both proprietors and the public to the extent that the Mojo Bar in Manchester has banned all MPs until the curfew is cancelled:

Guido Fawkes had more details (emphasis in purple mine):

After five days of the disastrous mandatory 10 pm closing time policy for bars, pubs, and restaurants, Mojo Bar in Manchester is taking matters into its own hands. Clearly fuming at the counterproductive curfew order imposed this week, the bar took to social media to share pictures of all MPs – declaring none of them will be served until the curfew is cancelled. Clearly the management know which strings to pull to get the attention of MPs…

Managing Director Martin Greenhow tells Guido that the eye catching policy came about “from frustration and fear”. Before the curfew the bar had bounced back pretty strongly from lockdown, back up to 85% of normal turnover. After the curfew was imposed it’s down to just 20%.

Good grief! Stop the madness.

The coronavirus restrictions in England became so complicated that ministers, including Boris, could not keep them straight any more.

Gillian Keegan, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, had a rough start in the morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today:

Guido had more (emphases in the original):

… she was unable to clarify the newly-imposed rules in the northeast on meeting other families, squirming “no, I’m sorry I can’t clarify that… no I don’t know the answer to that question”, claiming she couldn’t answer the ever-increasingly complex regulation question because she’s “not from the northeast”. Mishal Husain correctly pointed out Keegan, as a minister, couldn’t understand the new rules, what hope does the general population have of being able to stick to them…

Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, also appeared on BBC radio that morning. He took issue with their ‘gotcha’ tactics:

Boris, too, got tripped up around lunchtime. He was asked to clarify Gillian Keegan’s answer on Today:

Guido reported:

Responding to a Channel 5 question, Boris said:

“Outside the areas such as the North East where extra measures have been brought in, it’s six inside and six outside, in those areas such as the North East where extra tight measures have been brought in you should follow the guidance of local authorities, but it’s six in a home or in hospitality but as I understand it, not six outside. That’s the situation there.”

Which is precisely the opposite of what the new restrictions say, as the Government announced last night:

“Measures will be brought into law restricting inter-household mixing in indoor settings, including pubs and restaurants”

So in indoor settings no household mixing. Outdoor can see household mixing. Something the PM got 180 degrees the wrong way round…

He quickly issued an erratum early in the afternoon:

Wednesday, September 30

In the debate on extending the Coronavirus Act 2020, another highlight was Conservative MP Charles Walker’s speech. He was on fire:

He said:

I first thank the Secretary of State for everything he has done to get us to this stage tonight, but 90 minutes to debate the renewal of an Act that has fundamentally changed the nature of the relationship between the state and citizens is not good enough. If this is the portent of the promises to come, it is not good enough. I need, at some stage, more than three minutes to discuss the fundamental hardships that are going on in my constituency—the jobs that are being lost, the opportunities that are being lost, the young people struggling to find work, to get back to university and to come back from university. Ninety minutes is an utter, utter disgrace. It is actually disrespectful to this House and it is disrespectful to colleagues.

I am sorry, Secretary of State, if I sound—actually, I am not sorry that I am angry, because a lot of people in this place are angry. We want to see this virus beaten, of course we do, but it would be nice—just nice—if this House were shown some respect.

Charles Walker is the vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee, which Sir Graham Brady chairs. It represents backbench Conservative MPs.

Walker’s righteous anger has been building since September 10:

I note that Steve Baker did not vote against the extension of the Coronavirus Act 2020, despite a bold interview days before on Sky News.

Despite that, he still has his eye on the ball. He retweeted this from Italy:

And he’s doing more interviews:

We really do need to reopen the economy in full — now.

Next week, I’ll have a wrap-up of the final debates of the Brexit-oriented Internal Market Bill.

Last week, I wrote about the Brady Amendment, brought by Sir Graham Brady MP to stop the Government ruling ‘by decree’ when it comes to local coronavirus lockdowns and other measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have been appearing at the despatch box to announce these lockdowns and measures without allowing MPs to debate them in the Commons first.

As I wrote then, because Sir Graham and Steve Baker MP were confident they had the numbers for it to pass on Wednesday, September 30:

It’s all good news — but only if Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle allows Brady to bring the proposed amendment forward for debate.

In the end, conversations took place behind closed doors and the Speaker did not table it for debate.

Here is what happened in the meantime.

On Thursday, September 24, Guido Fawkes posted a copy of it (emphases in the original):

Prior parliamentary scrutiny of major national coronavirus regulations

Line [1], leave out from “expire” to end and add “provided Ministers ensure as far as is reasonably practicable that in the exercise of their powers to tackle the pandemic under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and other primary legislation, including for example Part 2A of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, Parliament has an opportunity to debate and to vote upon any secondary legislation with effect in the whole of England or the whole United Kingdom before it comes into effect.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment appends to the statutory motion, Section 98.2 of the Coronavirus Act, a provision that Parliament shall have the opportunity to debate and vote upon secondary legislation of major national importance before it comes into effect. The amendment makes clear Parliament’s intent to renew the powers of the Coronavirus Act with this provision.

Dr Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society, wrote an analysis of it: ‘Building on the Brady Amendment: how can Parliament scrutinise Coronavirus regulations more effectively?’

At that point, 46 MPs had signed the amendment. Forty of the MPs are Conservatives.

On Sunday, September 27, the BBC’s Andrew Marr interviewed the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, who said he was ‘hugely sympathetic’ to the amendment, would ‘almost certainly’ vote for it and said it doesn’t go far enough:

On Monday evening, Steve Baker tweeted to say that the Conservative Whip invited him and other signatories to discuss the matter with Matt Hancock and Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg:

William Wragg (Con) is also one of the good guys. His tweet below met with mixed reactions from the British public:

Bloomberg’s economics editor tweeted …

… as did The Spectator‘s deputy political editor:

Katy Balls’s article, ‘Is No. 10 about to move on the Brady amendment?’

She wrote, in part (emphases mine):

The critical conversations … have been going on out of sight. As Tory support grows for the Brady amendment — which seeks to give parliament a say on changes to coronavirus restrictions currently covered by emergency laws — government chief whip Mark Spencer has spent his afternoon meeting with would-be Tory rebels.

While it’s still unclear whether the amendment will even be selected on Wednesday for a vote (the expectation in government is that it will be ruled out of scope by the Speaker), the size of the potential rebellion has been enough to focus minds …

Former ERG chair Steve Baker described the meeting online as ‘cordial and constructive’. The expectation among those rebels who attended today’s meeting is that the government is in ‘listening mode’ and will come back with a proposal in due course. However, while there is room for negotiation here, a red line among many of the leading rebels is that it isn’t enough to be given more time for speeches, MPs need a say — they need votes. Up until now, that’s something No. 10 has been reluctant to give.

On Tuesday, Guido tweeted:

By that time, 80 Conservative rebels had signed the amendment.

Guido’s accompanying post was, as usual, accurate in predicting what would happen on Wednesday. ITV’s Robert Peston was spot on (emphases in the original):

By all accounts a deal is close to being struck before Wednesday’s vote. Robert Peston reckons Hancock will acquiesce at the Despatch Box tomorrow, and allow MPs to vote on national coronavirus measures – albeit reserving the power to delay the vote until a few days after the imposition of a new restriction in the case of “an emergency“. Rebels are holding what specific procedure they would agree to close to their chest, although Steve Baker described yesterday’s meeting as “cordial and constructive”…

While the Brady Amendment could still be ruled out of scope by the Speaker on Wednesday instead of being put to a vote, Number 10 has been at pains to communicate that it understands the swelling sense of feeling on its back benches. Guido is told by one senior rebel that they are “confident a solution will be found”…

On Wednesday, September 30, the Speaker sympathetically announced why he rejected the Brady Amendment. However, he also rebuked the Government:

I will now look the the Government to rebuild trust with this house and not treat it with the contempt it has shown.

Here’s the video:

He allowed a 90-minute debate that afternoon, followed by a vote, on renewing the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The first part of his statement pertains to the Government and the latter half to the Brady Amendment (emphases mine):

I wish to make a statement about this House’s scrutiny of delegated powers during the pandemic, and on the selection of amendments to the motion relating to the Coronavirus Act 2020 later today.

The way in which the Government have exercised their powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory. All too often, important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force, and some explanations why important measures have come into effect before they can be laid before this House have been unconvincing; this shows a total disregard for the House.

The Government must make greater efforts to prepare measures more quickly, so that this House can debate and decide upon the most significant measures at the earliest possible point. The use of made affirmative statutory instruments under the urgency procedure gives rise to particular concern. I will give very sympathetic consideration to applications for urgent questions or emergency debates in such cases, requiring Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box to justify the use of such powers.

That last sentence means that Matt Hancock will have to appear at the despatch box to answer questions and allow debate.

Moving along to the debate held that afternoon and to the Brady Amendment:

I hope that all hon. Members will have a chance to express their views through substantive amendable motions on scrutiny of delegated powers, or on the operation of the Coronavirus Act 2020, or both.

I turn now to the motion to be considered later today, which invites the House to make a narrow, binary choice as to whether the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 should or should not expire. Unfortunately, as it is only a 90-minute debate as a proceeding under an Act under Standing Order No. 16, I am disappointed that I cannot give additional time to discuss the issues. I know some Members will be disappointed.

When I became Speaker, I made it clear that I would take decisions on matters relating to procedure guided by professional advice. I have concluded, on the basis of advice that I have received, that any amendment to the motion before the House risks giving rise to uncertainty about the decision the House has taken. This then risks decisions that are rightly the responsibility of Parliament ultimately being determined by the courts. Lack of clarity in such important matters risks undermining the rule of law. I have therefore decided not to select any of the amendments to the motion.

As I hope my earlier comments show, I have not taken this decision lightly. I am looking to the Government to remedy a situation I regard as completely unsatisfactory. I now look to the Government to rebuild the trust with this House and not treat it with the contempt that they have shown.

Matt Hancock introduced the debate of the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and said:

This has been an unprecedented time. This House has had to do many unprecedented things, many of which have been uncomfortable. I have listened to the concerns raised about scrutiny. As you pointed out earlier, Mr Speaker, there have been times when this pandemic has challenged us all and we have not been able to do this as well as we would have liked. I therefore propose that we change the approach to bringing in urgent measures. I am very grateful to all colleagues we have worked with to come forward with a proposal that will allow us to make decisions and implement them fast, yet also ensure that they are scrutinised properly.

Today, I can confirm to the House that for significant national measures with effect in the whole of England or UK-wide, we will consult Parliament; wherever possible, we will hold votes before such regulations come into force. But of course, responding to the virus means that the Government must act with speed when required, and we cannot hold up urgent regulations that are needed to control the virus and save lives. I am sure that no Member of this House would want to limit the Government’s ability to take emergency action in the national interest, as we did in March.

We will continue to involve the House in scrutinising our decisions in the way my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out last week, with regular statements and debates, and the ability for Members to question the Government’s scientific advisers more regularly, gain access to data about their constituencies and join daily calls with my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General. I hope these new arrangements will be welcomed on both sides of the House, and I will continue to listen to colleagues’ concerns, as I have tried my best to do throughout.

That said very little. I remain unconvinced.

Sir Graham Brady was the first to respond:

I thank my right hon. Friend for being prepared to listen and for the constructive conversations that we have had over the last couple of weeks. As he said, Members on both sides of the House understand the importance of Ministers having the freedom to act quickly when it is necessary, but we are grateful that he and other members of the Government have understood the importance of proper scrutiny in this place and the benefits that that can bring for better government.

Steve Baker also expressed his thanks.

A few minutes later, Steve Brine (Con) pointed out that some of these dangers to civil liberties come from older legislation:

I thank the Secretary of State very much for the sensible measures the Government have taken today on the involvement and ongoing consent of this House. There is widespread public concern out there about consent and the measures we are imposing on their lives. Just to be clear for the public, and some sectors of the media, watching this debate: many of the restrictions that we are reluctantly having to place on our constituents’ lives do not come through the Coronavirus Act 2020; they come through many other pieces of legislation, but primarily the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

Mark Harper (Con) asked for more detail on how this new rapprochement would work:

May I just press the Secretary of State? He said in his remarks that the Government will bring forward votes in advance of the measures coming into force on national measures covering the whole of England or the whole of the UK. Obviously, some of the measures that have come into force so far have been quite significant, covering large parts of the country and millions of people. I accept there is a judgment to be made here; can he say a little more about where the line will be drawn about what is brought to this House in advance?

Hancock gave a slippery answer:

In a way my right hon. Friend, who has huge experience in these matters, answers his own question, because of course there is a judgment to be made. We have made a very clear commitment to the process that we will follow, and I hope that over the weeks to come we will demonstrate through our actions and through what we bring forward that we are true to that commitment, which essentially will become a new convention.

‘A new convention’! It is standard parliamentary procedure.

Tim Farron (Lib Dem) asked about the seeming inconsistency of social distancing and the harm to certain businesses:

Will he agree, though, that the inconsistent and sometimes nonsensical application of some of the rules is doing damage to some of the businesses that he talks about? In particular, I am thinking of the wedding industry and the many families who have been affected by that. The rule of six surely can apply so that a place that can take many multiples of six could host weddings and give people their special day, and so that it does not kill a vital industry not just in the lakes and the dales, but across the country.

Hancock gave a stock answer about following public health evidence.

Andrew Mitchell (Con) also asked about weddings as well as the events industry:

I have a lot of sympathy with what the Secretary of State is saying, but may I also support what was said by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), not only about the wedding industry but about the exhibitions and events industry? Will my right hon. Friend at least bear in mind that good sense from careful people who seek to be covid-sensible and compliant would enable him to exercise some flexibility in the very inflexible rules that currently govern those two important industries, which are flat on their backs?

Edward Timpson (Con) was also concerned about wedding venues:

On the 15-person limit at wedding venues, it would help a lot of those in the industry, which is struggling desperately, if they could see the public health evidence and anything else taken into consideration in coming to that judgment. The difference between them and the rest of the hospitality industry does stand out, and they are going to be in a further desperate state for the next six months.

Hancock referred him to the Business Secretary!

Nick Thomas-Symonds responded on behalf of Labour to Hancock’s statement.

Sir Graham Brady rose to speak:

Mr Speaker, may I begin by thanking you? Although you gave your reasons earlier for not selecting the amendments in my name and that of 80 other colleagues across the House, you also made your expectations of Government crystal clear. No one could doubt your commitment to upholding the Standing Orders of this House, Mr Speaker, and nor have you left any doubt about your resolve in defending parliamentary democracy and the right of this House to scrutinise and hold Ministers to account.

I am also pleased to be able to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Throughout my discussions with him, he has accepted the need to find a better approach to scrutiny and parliamentary approval of coronavirus measures. The new procedure that he has committed the Government to follow shows a genuine understanding of what has been wrong in the past and a real promise of transparency and engagement in the future. I believe the outcome we have reached is in the interests of Parliament, in the interests of better government and, most importantly, it gives the British people reassurance that measures that restrict their liberty, interfere with their family life, and very often threaten their livelihoods will not be implemented without important questions being asked and answers given in advance.

This video is a must watch as Hancock looks absolutely petulant:

Chris Bryant (Lab) asked Brady:

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what this new procedure is?

Brady replied:

The hon. Gentleman is an expert on procedure, and he will soon get to grips with it. It is the made affirmative procedure, which entails the setting of a commencement date in the future for measures, which will allow for a debate and vote to take place in advance of commencement. The House will therefore have that crucial ability to refuse consent.

It isn’t often that I agree with Chris Bryant, but I did here. He came back with this:

But the Government decide.

Brady said:

These things will be brought forward. We have had the assurance, and we will hold the Government to it. The hon. Gentleman will see it very soon.

I will close by thanking those Members across the House who, by supporting my amendment publicly or privately, have helped to achieve what I believe will be an important step forward for all of us.

The Speaker set a three-minute time limit on the rest of the speeches, in order to fit everyone in:

Scotland’s Ian Blackford (SNP) banged on for 20 minutes, beginning as follows:

I regret the fact that this is only a 90-minute debate. The Government should have ensured that a more appropriate amount of time was given. In that context, I will not do what I normally do; I apologise to Members, but because of time, I will not be taking interventions. [Hon. Members: “Hooray!“] That is utterly pathetic.

Jim Shannon (DUP) asked about a future vaccine, hoping that its uptake would be voluntary:

Very quickly, one of the issues that has come to my attentionthe number of emails has been enormousis to do with the enforcement of vaccines on those people who do not wish to have them. I personally would take such a vaccine, but others will not. Does my hon. Friend agree that when it comes to vaccines, it should be by choice only?

I couldn’t agree more.

Sammy Wilson (DUP) had the best speech, because he wanted to find out more specifics of this ‘new convention’ of Hancock’s. He began by replying to Jim Shannon:

Well, of course, that is an issue that the Government will have to address in the future, if ever a vaccine is found.

The important thing is the frustration that many in the public are experiencing at present. It might not have been totally wiped out, but I believe there certainly would have been far more scrutiny if this House had not just had the ability to listen to statements or ask questions, but had actually had the real sanction that if the Minister did not make a consistent and competent case for the measures that he was introducing, they could be voted down. That is why the demand that there be effective scrutiny by this House is important.

We have listened to what the Minister has said, but I am not convinced that we will see that effective scrutiny; because if I heard him right, first, it would only be for matters that are significant. Now, who will make the judgment on whether the issue is significant? I can tell the Minister that, if I own a business and it is decided that it could be closed down, that is significant; yet we do not know who will make that final decision.

The scrutiny will only be for issues that are national. Sixteen million people are currently affected by a range of local decisions and local restrictions. That, to me, is as bad—half the nation, half the country, is affected—yet according to the Minister’s definition today that would not be covered because it would not be a national decision. And, of course, scrutiny will happen where possible. I suppose if the Government wished to escape scrutiny they could always say, “But this has suddenly emerged,” even though the data could have been collected days and days before. So who will decide whether it is possible to have the time to do this?

Hancock gave him a deathly stare.

After an intervention, he continued and concluded:

It certainly should not be left to those who have wanted to rush through decisions and those who in the past have wanted to escape scrutiny because the decisions have been illogical and inconsistent, and people cannot understand them, and even some of those who have made the decisions do not understand them and sometimes have a different interpretation.

This is not just about MPs having a sense of their own importance. This is important if the measures are to have acceptance among the public, because with that kind of scrutiny, with a final vote, at least if we were not convinced that the measures were necessary, if we were not convinced that they would not have disproportionately damaging effects, if we were not convinced that they would actually work, if we were not convinced that the public would understand them, we would have the right to say, “Minister, you cannot proceed with them,” and have the opportunity to vote them down. I do not think we have had a convincing assurance from the Secretary of State today about when we would have that kind of role, and if we do not have that kind of role, I do not think that we should support the continuation of these kinds of measures.

In the end — because of Ian Blackford:

Shameful.

After a few more MPs spoke, it was time for Hancock to wrap things up prior to the vote on the extension of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

He gave a very watery response to Sammy Wilson:

I listened with care to the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson). I urge him to support the Coronavirus Act this evening, not least because he knows, from the commitments I have given, that there will be further chances for both scrutiny and votes on measures in future thanks to the discussions we have had today.

Unfortunately, the Act was renewed: 330-24.

More on this to follow tomorrow.

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