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Christmas has arrived in England.

On Saturday, November 27, 2021, the Parliament Christmas tree arrived from Northumberland and is standing in New Palace Yard:

Here’s the video of it being lifted and placed into position:

In other news, scaffolding around the Elizabeth Tower will be coming down over the next six weeks, revealing the newly restored Big Ben. The new colour scheme is actually the original from the Victorian era and will be more colourful:

Juxtaposed against this good news is the new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

Saturday press conference

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wasted no time in giving a press conference on Saturday evening, November 27 (start at 8:19), flanked by Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty:

Ahh, just like the old days of the near-daily coronavirus briefings …

Boris announced preliminary measures; the return of face coverings came into effect on Tuesday, November 30. These are for the next three weeks (emphases mine):

So yesterday we took steps to protect the UK against the variant coming here from southern African countries – and earlier today added four more countries to the red list.

But we now need to go further and implement a proportionate testing regime for arrivals from across the whole world.

So we are not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival, and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.

Second, we need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK.

Because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant, rather than stop it altogether.

So in addition to the measures we are already taking to locate those who have been in countries of concern over the last ten days, we will require all contacts of those who test positive – with a suspected case of Omicron – to self-isolate for ten days, regardless of your vaccination status.

We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant, by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport.

And third – and most importantly – we need to bolster our protections against this new variant.

We don’t yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron, but we have good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection.

And if you are boosted – your response is likely to be stronger.

So it’s more vital than ever that people get their jabs, and we get those boosters into arms as fast as possible.

So from today we are going to boost the booster campaign.

We are already planning to do 6 million jabs in England alone over the next three weeks.

The ten red list countries are all in southern Africa: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.

Omicron symptoms

Omicron’s symptoms are slightly different to those of the previous variants.

On Monday, The Sun reported more, citing Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association. She also has her own private clinic in Pretoria and has seen Omicron patients:

“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” she said.

“We had one very interesting case, a kid about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better.

What we have to worry about is older, unvaccinated people. If they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe form of the disease.”

The Omicron strain, or B.1.1.529, is feared to be more transmissible and may be able to avoid vaccines.

It has 50 genetic mutations, most of which have been identified in previous variants, along with three brand-new changes.

Prof Lawrence Young, of Warwick Medical School, said: “This new variant is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version we have seen to date.

“This variant carries some changes we’ve seen previously in other variants but never all together in one virus. It also has novel mutations that we’ve not seen before.

“Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we’ve seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity.

“We need laboratory studies to determine whether the antibodies induced by current vaccines are able to block infection with this variant.” 

Today, another case of the super-strain was identified in the UK – bringing the total to three.

The person tested positive after travelling to Britain from southern Africa where the variant originated.

The individual is no longer in the UK, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is carrying out urgent testing in areas they visited when they were likely to have been infectious.

This includes Westminster in central London, officials said.

Two of the original symptoms do not apply to Omicron: loss of smell/taste and breathing problems.

Reaction to restrictions

It is unclear how many people in England will comply with the face covering rules.

Richard Walker, the managing director of the Iceland supermarket chain, said that his staff will not be policing face coverings in their shops. Good man. Co-op have said the same thing with regard to their stores. Excellent news.

Saturday night’s GB News commentators had much to say about the return of restrictions.

Mark Dolan said that we comply with restrictions, believing they will end, but, in fact, our compliance only makes them easier to reinstate at the whim of government. He says that Boris wants to be seen to be doing something and is invoking politics rather than science:

Neil Oliver had much more to say, noting: ‘With that fear on the wane it was plainly time to cast another spell’. It’s an excellent editorial worth reading and sharing:

Oliver says that science and freedom have been consigned to the dustbin over the past 19 months. Excerpts follow:

… Let me put it this way – for a while there, those scientists given the spotlight and the microphone had a good go at driving a single narrative. It almost, almost made sense for a while, in a twisted, not quite right, something funny going on there, sort of a way. Not anymore, though. Now the cracks are starting to show, the wheels coming off the state-sponsored wagon.

I’ve said all along that this would prove, when all was said and done, to be a tragic lesson in the hubris of some humans – the sort that wear white coats, or that like to give press conferences – which is to say overconfidence from those that said they had all the answers and that everyone else should just shut up and do what they’re told. As the months go by, hubris seems more and more like the explanation for so much that has gone awry.

But enough about the virus – whatever it is, wherever it came from and whatever it’s doing right now while I speak. Tragically, this process of unlearning science, forgetting, replacing true with false, did not begin with Covid-19. Strange to say, Covid is just a symptom of something much more dangerous – and that is the deliberate dismantling of so much that our ancestors learned and built and handed on to us, in trust. It enabled an acceleration of something we really should have been aware of for years – the taking apart of so much of the world of science and reason and enlightenment, by those who might have been expected and trusted to be its inheritors. Over the last few months, in their efforts to craft a narrative with the power to dupe the unwary, governments, scientists, academics and others have, at best, lost their way, and at worst they have knowingly vacated, walked away from the vast cathedral that has been the home of history, science, culture, beauty, indeed all that is good and worth preserving.

In their hell for leather scramble to grab and then secure powers previously undreamed of, our leaders and their advisors have turned their backs on decades, centuries in fact, of wisdom carefully acquired by the ancestors. Some of those that went before them – in the age of reason, the age of enlightenment – laid the foundations for the civilisation with which we have been blessed.

Those that came after built upon the foundations, carefully and painstakingly furthering our understanding of the world, and of our own species.

They learned many things – the ancestors – by observation, by careful development and application of the scientific method

All of this learning and wisdom was raised up like a cathedral, or the grandest colosseum. But cathedrals and colosseums depend upon solid foundations. When the power of Rome waned, their great structures fell into disuse. The barbarians, for the most part hardly knew what to make of them, those towering edifices, and so ignored them as they fell into decline – amphitheatres, great bridges, viaducts, aqueducts, entire cities.

It is up to those of us who care to conserve and to maintain the wonders raised by our ancestors, to re-occupy the space made of reason and enlightenment and left vacant by those who have, on account of wishing to push a new ideology that mocks and seeks to undo the past, wandered away into the wilderness of the social justice warriors, of the so-called woke. They have turned their backs on so much that was learned after great effort and often at great cost. That grand and lofty space, that cathedral of our culture and our civilisation, is still there, at least for now, but it requires constant maintenance, and love. Those of us who care should go about the business of looking after the old place. Only then might we continue to benefit from the shelter it has long provided from the cold, confusing world outside.

The full two-hour long show is on YouTube:

The first 45 minutes are devoted to Oliver’s editorial and a discussion about Omicron, coronavirus and the vanishing of civil liberties.

The next hour is reminiscent of the classic Oliver from his Coast days on the BBC. There is a new Yorkshire Atlantis, a coastal city that was washed away in a tidal storm in 1362. Sonar images have recently been done and more investigation will take place in the months to come. A number of the structures still exist, so this will be a fascinating discovery.

Another story concerns a farmer in Rutland who discovered a large Roman floor mosaic of the Greek legend, The Iliad, a rather rare cross-cultural find. Archaeologists have uncovered most of it, which is in a field.

From this, one can understand Neil Oliver’s respect of our history and our past.

Let’s not allow politicians and scientists to obliterate it or our freedoms for the sake of a virus that has a 99.9% recovery rate for the most part, even in the unvaccinated.

On Sunday evening, November 21, 2021, I watched a GB News interview featuring former Royal butler and etiquette expert, Grant Harrold, on whether Prince Charles should abdicate for Prince William when the time comes.

Mark Dolan interviewed Harrold, who took the traditional side of the argument, affirming that Prince Charles should become King. Former Labour MP Stephen Pound from London said that the Prince should abdicate.

Short clips follow:

The full interview, which is 20 minutes long, follows:

In other Royal news, the Queen has recovered from her sprained back which prevented her from attending London’s Remembrance Sunday ceremony last week.

Last week, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, visited Jordan and brought back with them several vials of holy water, a customary gift to the Royal Family from Jordan. The holy water is used for christenings.

Yesterday, a rare double christening of the monarch’s two great-grandsons took place at Windsor Royal Lodge. Fortunately, the Queen was able to attend:

Returning to the Royal butler, I was struck by his courtesy in the face of a difficult subject. An abdication is a fraught subject and Edward VIII’s was a difficult period for the British when it took place in the 1930s. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining. George VI’s accession to the throne resulted in Elizabeth II succeeding him in 1952.

GB News host Mark Dolan emphasised Grant Harrold‘s expertise in etiquette. Investigating his Twitter feed reveals that he gives etiquette courses in person and online.

With the holidays around the corner, it seemed apposite to share a few of his insights. Some of them are quite British, but some aspects are worth adopting elsewhere, as they do exhibit courtesy.

When staying at someone’s home, it is worth keeping in mind the hosts’ schedule and those who work for them. This is the traditional breakfast rule for houseguests:

This is a gentleman’s breakfast attire when he is a houseguest:

Turning now to the hosts, anyone giving a dinner party should send out invitations six weeks in advance:

In Britain, there is a certain etiquette at formal dinner parties as to when one can leave the table to use the loo. Obviously, if it’s an emergency, one can leave the table.

‘Pudding’ is the traditional British word for ‘dessert’:

Sometimes, when we are together with friends, it is tempting to pass along another friend’s personal details. However, we should not do that unless we’ve asked the friend’s permission first:

Sometimes, the holidays are the time for romantic commitment. Harrold explains why men get down on one knee to propose. This is a mediaeval, chivalric holdover that should be respected:

A woman’s handbag is one of the most personal items of property she owns. Avoid the temptation to look inside:

Harrold also has advice regarding office life. Despite coronavirus, the rules remain the same.

This is where one should stand in a lift, depending on how many people are in it:

Once in the office, if someone else has boiled the kettle, let them fill their mugs before helping yourself. Be sure to refill it afterwards:

It is also paramount to wash one’s own utensils and crockery. As one of my former bosses said to my then-colleagues, ‘Your mother doesn’t work here’:

Regarding coffee, I fully agree with Harrold’s advice on drinking cappucino, which is a morning drink, not an all-day one:

This next tip was the only point of etiquette with which I disagree, the notional hazards of making friends in public places:

I would have had a very lonesome time had I adopted that rule, especially on my Scottish holidays decades ago. I met several men and women who stayed in touch with me for years afterwards. Be careful, be alert. Assess accordingly, then take a decision. I always prayed to the Holy Spirit before and after a social situation whilst on holiday. He guided me to and through them, and for those blessings of friendship, I will be forever grateful.

In closing, The Royal Butler, as he styles himself, gives us a glimpse into his work in media over the years:

I haven’t watched the video yet, but here it is:

What struck me about Grant Harrold was his inner calm, something of a rarity these days.

His peaceful demeanour would appear to indicate that etiquette and good manners do work!

Yesterday’s post was about the opening of COP26 in Glasgow and its attendant hypocrisy.

What our notional betters have done with coronavirus they will most certainly do with climate change.

Examples follow.

Coronavirus

On Monday, November 1, the day COP26 opened, Mark Dolan of GB News had an excellent editorial which bridged the gap between coronavirus and climate change tactics:

At around 5:15 in the full version of Dolan’s editorial (just over ten minutes long), he tells us of the mask theatre used with public appearances of politicians. They wear them for the photo op — outdoors — then take them off when they go indoors. Similarly, social distancing is also ignored:

Yes, the elites are laughing at us: ‘for thee but not for me’.

Climate change

Another commentator, Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill, also says that the elites are laughing at us.

In writing about COP26 on Monday, he says (emphases mine):

It feels like the elites are just laughing in our faces now. So the other day we had the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, saying everyone will have to eat less meat and fly less if we are going to get a handle on this climate-change thing. A little later it was reported that around 400 private jets will fly into COP26, carrying world leaders and big-business execs to the plush surrounds in which they’ll wring their manicured hands over mankind’s carbon crimes. Ordinary people are guilt-tripped for taking one poxy flight a year to escape the trials and vagaries of life in capitalist society for a couple of weeks, while those who quaff champagne on airplanes that it costs $10,000 an hour to hire out get to pose as hyper-aware defenders of poor Mother Nature.

He continues:

According to one report, the private jets landing in Glasgow will spew out around 13,000 tonnes of carbon. That’s the same amount of CO2 that 1,600 Scots get through in a yearJohn Kerry, Joe Biden’s climate envoy, will be in Glasgow to pull pained faces for the cameras over the possible heat death of the planet. Three months ago he flew in a private jet to Martha’s Vineyard for Barack Obama’s lavish 60th-birthday celebrations. It was the 16th private-jet jaunt his family had taken this year. Prince Charles, from one of his palaces, says COP26 is the ‘last-chance saloon’ for the planet. The royal family has collectively flown enough air miles over the past five years to get to the Moon and back. And then around the Earth’s equator three times. In short: 545,161 miles. Reader, they’re taking the piss.

O’Neill moves on to cars and Joe Biden:

Driving is viewed by greens, and by eco-virtuous political leaders like Sadiq Khan [London’s mayor], as one of the stupidest, most Gaia-destroying activities indulged in by the plebs. The Home Counties irritants of Insulate Britain have been winning plaudits from the commentariat over the past few weeks for blocking the paths of such terrible eco-criminals as mums driving their kids to school and deliverymen trying to deliver food and other essentials. And yet there’s Joe Biden in Rome for the G20 being whisked around in an 85-car convoy. His own armoured limousine, and its decoy version, generates 8.75 pounds of carbon per mile driven – 10 times more than normal cars. And greens want us to feel angry about the working-class bloke driving an HGV full of groceries and fuel? It’s insane.

When he’s done with Rome, Biden will fly to Glasgow in Air Force One. Four jets will accompany him. Combined, they’ll emit an estimated 2.16million pounds of carbon over five days.

O’Neill gives us other examples:

This is getting ridiculous. People will be perfectly within their rights over the next few days to ask why it is that those who live in the lap of luxury, who jet to every corner of the globe, who experience more luxury in a week than most of us can expect in a decade, should get to hold forth on humanity’s alleged suffocation of the planet with carbon and pollution. Like Joanna Lumley, famed, well-paid traveller of the planet, saying travel should be rationed. Or Dame Emma Thompson literally flying first-class from LA to London to take part in an Extinction Rebellion protest about the evils of CO2. Or Harry and Meghan attending a concert focusing on the ‘urgent need’ for climate action and then leaving on a private jet. What the green oligarchy lacks in moral consistency it more than makes up for with brass neck.

Ultimately, O’Neill concludes that, obvious hypocrisy aside, climate change has become the new orthodoxy of people rolling in money:

It’s the perfect ideology for our at-sea elites. It allows them to magic up a sense of urgent moral purpose – they’re saving the planet, no less! It lends itself beautifully, or, rather, terrifyingly, to the project of social engineering: lower your horizons, learn to live with less, reconceive of yourself as a destructive creature in need of top-down control rather than a creative being who might help to push humanity forward. It naturalises the limitations of capitalism, encouraging people to make their peace with austerity and downturn on the basis that economic growth is a bad, nature-exploiting idea. And it is a very difficult ideology to challenge. The marshalling of The Science to buoy up this ruling-class ideology means that anyone who questions it – anyone who demands more growth, more ambition, a bigger human footprint – can swiftly be written off as an anti-scientific scourge, as a ‘denier’ of the revealed truths of climatology. Its social engineering, its social control and its strict, censorious management of social aspirations are what make the green ideology so attractive to the new elites.

Oddly, the Left find this attractive. Then again, they have always been about control:

COP26 will help to consolidate this neo-aristocracy. And, bizarrely, the left will cheer it on. The left once said: ‘We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance… We do not call for a limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.’ (Sylvia Pankhurst.) Now it pleads with the super-rich to come up with more and more creative ideas for how to rein in the filthy habits and material dreams of the masses. What a disaster. It isn’t climate change that poses the largest threat to humanity in the early 21st century. It’s the bourgeoisie’s loss of faith in its historic project, and its arrogant generalisation of that loss of faith into a new ‘green’ ideology we must all bow down before. A revolt against environmentalism is arguably the most necessary cause of our age. Who’s in?

Well, we in the UK have just been silenced on any revolt.

Recently, The Telegraph ran two editorials proposing a referendum on climate change legislation from COP26. Today, November 3, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Commons at PMQs that there will be no referendum because the public haven’t the appetite for it.

Disgusting

At the VIP reception in the centre of Glasgow on Monday evening — which prevented people living nearby from entering their own homes — we saw that there were no masks and no social distancing. But these people are super clean and elite, so it’s okay for them.

Here’s the Duchess of Cambridge — Kate — laughing as she holds a jar of larvae for livestock feed:

Hilarious. This is the sort of thing that they want us to eat for dinner, along with insects:

Last week, Boris went one step further. He told a classroom of nine-year-olds that humans could be used as animal food:

Guido Fawkes has the video and two quotes, the relevant one of which follows:

recycling “doesn’t work“, he “wouldn’t put beetroot in lasagne“, and even that feeding human beings to animals might be a decent idea.

One thing is certain: neither Kate nor Boris will ever be deprived of meat on their dinner plates.

As for the rest of us, the jury’s out.

The elites despise us. They really do.

On Saturday, August 7, 2021, Mark Dolan of GB News interviewed a Scottish clergyman on his late night show.

The Revd Dr William Philip is the pastor of Tron Church in Glasgow. Earlier this year, he led a handful of other Scottish clergy in filing a successful lawsuit against the Scottish government for having closed churches in 2020 during lockdown.

In the 20-minute interview below, he explained why it is so important to be able to gather together to worship during the coronavirus crisis. Believers need to gather together in one place — church — for communal prayer and fellowship. His words were well received not only by Dolan and his guests but also on YouTube:

Philip, who worked as a hospital physician before ordination, also does not think that vaccine passports are necessary:

While churches in England and Wales re-opened in July 2020 and closed again for three weeks in October, Scotland took different measures. In January 2021, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government forbade — criminalised — public worship during new lockdown measures.

On January 6, Philip and five other Protestant clergy sent a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, which reads, in part (emphases in the original):

We write as ministers and leaders of churches in Scotland, supported by colleagues across the United Kingdom, to raise our profound concerns at the measures to suspend public worship in Scotland as part of the currently increased restrictions.

We understand entirely the exceptional difficulties of leading the country at the present time, and we and our churches have prayed for wisdom and clarity for your government repeatedly. But we strongly disagree with the decision to prevent the gathering of the Church at this time, which we believe is profoundly unhelpful and may be unlawful.

As pointed out by Sir Edward Leigh in his letter to you of 4 January, Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits governments from interfering with religious practice unless demonstrated as essential for public health because church services were proven a significant source of spread of disease. We know of no evidence of any tangible contribution to community transmission through churches in Scotland; to the contrary, since churches re-opened in July we have demonstrated that places of worship and public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission. It is for such reasons that legal challenges in other jurisdictions have overturned prohibitions of the freedom to gather for worship.

However, above all we are dismayed because there seems to be a failure in the Scottish Government to understand that Christian worship is an essential public service, and especially vital to our nation in a time of crisis …

In national times of crisis past, governments have looked to the church and sought leadership in a national call to prayer to the Living God. We urge you not to be the government which denies our nation the collective prayer of the churches of our land in days when it is most greatly needed.

We echo the words of the Archbishop [of Canterbury] and other leaders to the Prime Minister and call on the Scottish Government to recognise and support this, and enable us to continue to worship safely, as part of the essential fabric of the nation.

On February 9, Philip wrote an article for The Critic: ‘Meeting others to worship is a lifeline’. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

A group of Clergy taking government to court might seem a surprisingly ‘un-Christian’ thing to do, when closing churches is to ‘save lives’. In fact, the reason we have commenced action against Scottish Minsters is born of profound Christian love for our nation. We all recognise the challenges facing the government. But we believe that, however well-intentioned, criminalising corporate worship is both damaging and dangerous for Scotland

There is an urgent need for a message beyond that of health and safety: a message of hope and salvation. This is the calling of the Christian Church – especially in dark and difficult days: to ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering’ (Hebrews 10:23). Jesus Christ is the only hope that dispels all fear, death included.

That is not to say Christians don’t care about present physical threats. Indeed, it is this eternal perspective that liberates to love and serve neighbours truly, and fearlessly. As CS Lewis pointed out ‘those who want heaven most have served earth best’. This is what our society needs to witness, proclaimed boldly by Christian leaders and adorned visibly in the worshipping Church. So it is of great damage to Scotland that corporate worship is now illegal.

It also brings great danger.

Many in the world today brave huge threats to worship as Christ’s Church. We do not remotely claim such persecution; however, our situation is unprecedented in modern times. For centuries Scottish law has embedded the truth that both Church and Civil government are ordained by God and subject to Him, but their roles are distinct and government must not interfere in the Church. It was the Stuart monarchs seeking to undermine this ‘twa kingdoms’ doctrine that led to a century of conflict before religious toleration prevailed across Scotland and England with the Claim of Right Act 1689. Scots law reiterated then that Jesus Christ alone is head of the Church and this remained paramount in the Union of 1707, was reinforced again in the 1921 Church of Scotland Act, and is affirmed by each monarch in the Coronation Oath

I never imagined myself involved in action like this. But Scots would not have precious freedoms today had our Kirk forebears shrunk back in their time. I truly hope that our government will see what a grave incursion this ban on public worship is – to centuries-old Scots law as well as modern Human Rights protections – and also the suffering it is inflicting on many. The proper place of Christian worship must be restored so that, as Martin Luther said (amid a far more deadly epidemic), our people may ‘learn through God’s word how to live and how to die’.”

One week later, Lord Braid of the Scottish High Court granted permission for a hearing. By then, 27 clergy had pledged their support. Christian Today‘s article says:

Lord Braid has granted permission for a hearing which will take place remotely on 11 and 12 March after Scottish ministers rejected the arguments of 27 Scottish church leaders in a pre-action letter.

The church leaders argue that the “disproportionate” closures are a breach of human rights law and the Scottish constitution, and are preventing them from meeting the material, emotional and spiritual needs of their congregations and communities.

In their response, Scottish ministers said the state was within its rights to “regulate the secular activities of Churches…for the purposes of protecting public health”, and that churches were compelled to “comply with secular law.”

The church leaders come from a broad range of denominations, including the Free Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), Church of Scotland and a number of independent churches …

Rev Geoffrey de Bruin, leader at Christian Revival Church Edinburgh, said: “This is now a crucial moment for the freedom of the church in Scotland …

For Christians, spiritual health is more important than physical health.

Churches serve as lifelines of support to the most vulnerable during the toughest times and we pray that these important principles and beliefs will be recognised and upheld by the courts in March.”

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), founded in 2007, took the case on behalf of the clergy.

Fortunately, the clergy won their case in March. Christian Concern issued a statement on the outcome:

Permission for a judicial review was granted and heard at the Scottish High Court on 11 March 2021.

On 24 March 2021, judgment was handed down by Lord Braid, ruling that the Scottish Ministers’ decision to ban and criminalise gather church worship during lockdown was unconstitutional and disproportionate.

The Tron Church serves a diverse congregation in central Glasgow. In 2012, it broke away from the Church of Scotland, opposing its move to accept gay clergy, although it maintains a cordial relationship with the Kirk, as the state church is known. The Tron is now part of the West of Scotland Gospel Partnership.

In February 2020, the SSE Hydro stadium in Glasgow cancelled an appearance by the Revd Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, amid accusations of ‘homophobia’.

Philip joined several other clergy from the West of Scotland Gospel Partnership in signing a letter to The Herald, expressing their disappointment. Excerpts follow:

THE cancellation by the SSE Hydro in Glasgow of the Franklin Graham event is a deeply disturbing decision that is antithetical to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and to true democratic values.

Franklin Graham is being discriminated against for having on occasions expressed mainstream Judaeo-Christian views on sexuality. His views in this area are not religiously extreme, indeed they simply reflect the historic and orthodox teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England and countless other denominational groups. Like all mainstream Christian leaders Franklin Graham believes that every human being is a precious soul made in the image of God, and thus should be loved and treated with respect accordingly.

The planned event is one in a rich tradition of such Christian activity going back centuries in both Glasgow and the country at large. As Rev Graham has expressed himself his mission is not political but to make known the good news about Jesus Christ to every person regardless of their sexuality or any other characteristic

Christians disagree about many things, but Christians all agree that respect for religious freedom and freedom of speech is fundamental to a free society. Therefore, we ask that the SSE Hydro management, and those political leaders who have influence in such matters, reverse this decision.

A failure to do so would be an ominous move towards a less free society and one that will in time have serious repercussions for the civic liberties of all.

The Revd Dr Philip sounds like a good clergyman and one who refuses to stand by when the Church is discriminated against.

On Monday, July 12, the day after the Euro 2020 final, GB News presenter Guto Harri took the knee in solidarity with the cause.

His co-presenter, Mercy Muroki, looked on, silently embarrassed for him:

Fallout

That was the last the channel’s viewers saw of Guto Harri, a Welshman who used to work at the BBC and also advised Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

On July 13, Harri defended his gesture:

On Thursday, July 15, GB News tweeted:

That evening, The Guardian posted an article about the channel’s tanking ratings after the Harri incident (emphases mine, unless stated otherwise):

GB News attracted zero viewers during some of its broadcasts this week, according to official television audience figures produced by rating agency Barb, after a viewer boycott prompted by one of its presenters taking the knee in solidarity with the England football team …

Business editor Liam Halligan and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero attracted no measurable audience to their show between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon. During the same timeslot the BBC News channel attracted 62,000 viewers, while Sky News had 50,000 people watching.

GB News’ audience again briefly dipped to zero at 5pm, during a late-afternoon programme co-hosted by ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former Ukip spokesperson Alex Phillips.

The Guardian also acknowledged GB News’s aforementioned tweets.

On July 16, Guido Fawkes wrote that no one was sure whether Harri had been suspended for a time or whether he was fired.

In any event, Harri’s Twitter bio no longer mentions GB News.

Programming director quits

That same day, the channel’s programming director, John McAndrew, quit, something that management confirmed only on July 28:

Guido wrote that McAndrew was second in command and disagreed about the channel’s focus:

Apparently McAndrew had been in favour of more local reporting and open discussions rather than the Wootton-style culture war rants.

To be fair, the local reporters appear on the daytime shows. The evening programmes, such as Dan Wootton’s, discuss socio-political issues.

The channel was quick to implement schedule changes last weekend:

TalkRADIO’s Mark Dolan hired

Mark Dolan’s Saturday night show aired for the first time on July 24. Nana Akua, the former presenter in that slot, has been moved to a daytime show.

Nana Akua has no time for wokery, as her last show in the Saturday night slot proved. The Express had the story on Sunday:

A GB News clash erupted last night after host Nana Akua urged Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to “just stop talking please”. This prompted a defence from Tonight Live guests Nicola McLean and Martin Offiah, who argued that Meghan and Harry “were connecting with people”. The trio had discussed reports of new details about Prince William’s rift with his brother Harry.

Mark Dolan was a top-rated host on talkRADIO. The Express reported:

Mark is best known for hosting his own Drivetime show on TalkRadio for the past two years but he is jumping ship to join GB News from Friday, July 23, 2021. With 20 years of broadcasting experience behind him, he will be taking Nana‘s Friday and Saturday night slots to oversee proceedings on his chat show, Late Night Live. It will run from 9pm until 12am and he will speak to numerous guests about topical matters making the headlines.

On joining the network, Mark said: “I’ve had a wonderful time at TalkRadio but the opportunity to shake up the current affairs broadcasting with GB News is just too good to miss.

“My show will tackle the issues that really matter to people across the United Kingdom in a stimulating, informative but entertaining way.

“My one promise is that I won’t be boring,” he concluded …

He certainly was not boring. His is a good show.

Nigel Farage to the rescue — five days a week

The biggest catch of all is Nigel Farage, who is now on GB News five days a week: Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday mornings:

Farage had the Sunday morning show since GB News launched, but the addition of the 7 p.m. slot, which premiered on Monday, July 19, has been a real fillip for the channel’s ratings.

On July 19, Freedom Day, an anti-lockdown protest took place outside of Downing Street. Political correspondent Tom Harwood, who used to work for Guido Fawkes, tried to file a report but Nigel had to cut him off because of all the obscenities being shouted at him. The Express reported:

Spotting the difficulties in the broadcast, Nigel quickly took action and decided to end Tom’s report there.

Cutting him off, Nigel said: “Okay, Tom, I’m sorry, I don’t want to cut you off, I really don’t.”

The camera then cut to Nigel in the studio as he continued: “11 people have been arrested so far,

“But you can see, talk about don’t shoot the messenger, there’s Tom Harwood reporting for us and there are obscenities being shouted at Tom because he’s a member, he’s part of the media

One of the big features of Farage’s weeknight show is the ‘Talking Pints’ segment.

He has had an eclectic assortment of guests in that slot, beginning with Sir Graham Brady MP, who heads the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers:

On Tuesday, July 27, former Conservative MP, Brexit Party MEP and devout Catholic, Ann Widdecombe, who was drinking cola, as she is teetotal. She disparaged Boris as PM but said that he is still ‘100 times stronger’ than Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. I always look to see how much drink both host and guest consume. In this episode, Farage downed the most ever — half a pint:

By Monday, July 26, Farage’s show was climbing in the ratings, beating Sky News’s show in the 7 p.m. slot:

Guido has the ratings from Monday-Thursday last week. Farage’s show beat Sky News Tonight every evening.

On Tuesday, July 27, Farage’s ratings took over the BBC’s in that slot (emphases in the original):

UPDATE 28.07: Nige beat both the BBC and Sky News last night –

    • Farage – 90.8k
    • Sky News Tonight – 55.1k
    • BBC Outside Source – 89.1k

Congratulations…

It happened again on Wednesday, with an even greater figure — 107.7k to 93.3k:

Well done, Nigel!

Digital ratings

Rebecca Hutson, Head of Digital and occasional co-presenter, is keen to target younger audiences via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and — incredibly — TikTok. GB News is the only British broadcasting channel to use the Chinese-owned social media video platform.

On July 21, Hutson explained her strategy to Press Gazette:

the fledgling brand said social media engagement figures show it is resonating with younger audiences to a perhaps surprising extent.

Head of digital and presenter Rebecca Hutson … said GB News is really a “digital media business that has a TV channel attached”

Hutson told Press Gazette: “We know that traditional linear consumption has really changed. People don’t sit at home for three hours and watch a show. Instead they want to snack on the best bits for them on the platforms that they’re already using.

“So that’s why we publish natively across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and we tailor the content specifically for the platform that it’s on so we’re pretty agnostic in terms of how the content looks and feels across the different destinations that we have and the website.”

For example, she added, the brand is more likely to put an eight-minute monologue on YouTube and short snippets on Twitter which is a “much quicker platform”.

“Rather than trying to turn all of our platforms into a homogenous output, we spend a lot of time looking at the analytics and amending how the content appears on there and that’s really paying off,” Hutson said …

TikTok has been useful in attracting younger viewers:

On TikTok GB News has had 24,500 likes and more than 350,000 views across 30 videos and 4,000 followers so far.

Hutson said the numbers may be “quite surprising for people who would maybe think that we don’t have relevance or resonance to that younger audience when we clearly do”.

Hutson said explainer videos decoding the news are proving to work best for TikTok. The most-watched GB News TikTok so far explains who Sajid Javid is after he replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary …

Almost a third (31%) of 18 to 24-year-olds use TikTok, and 9% get news on it.

As for demographics:

On TV only, excluding the likes of TikTok and Instagram, almost a third (32%) of GB News’ audience is aged between 18 and 34. Some 39% are aged 55 and above.

Some 62% of the TV audience is in the middle class ABC1 demographic – a drop from the 82% ABC1 demographic thought to have tuned in for Andrew Neil’s opening show on 13 June.

The new shows, higher ratings and digital strategy are welcome developments for GB News, which is an excellent channel. Now that Parliament is in summer recess, I have been watching quite a lot of their output. The shows present alternative viewpoints, from libertarian to left-wing: a good thing.

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