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This is my final instalment on the rise and fall of Matt Hancock, the former Health and Social Care Secretary.

Those who missed them — and the drama of the pandemic — can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

July 2021

Britons, including some Conservative MPs, were angry that Hancock was not-so-secretly embracing his female adviser while imposing draconian coronavirus restrictions on the rest of us. Thankfully, The Sun revealed the truth in a ‘world exclusive’.

On July 3, 2021, journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who recently co-authored Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries — now on sale — explained in The Spectator how she missed the scoop, even when presented with the evidence (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):

I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship — and I did not believe it was him

Here’s what happened. On the morning of 20 June I was leafing through the Sunday newspapers when I received a message from an important contact. ‘Good morning. This might brighten your day, I have a guy who says he has incriminating footage of Matt Hancock,’ he wrote breezily. Accompanying the text was a grainy image, no bigger than a postage stamp, of a man in a suit, leaning forward to embrace a raven-haired woman in a figure-hugging dress. ‘What to do next?’ the message asked …

I only had the one poor-quality screen grab (not the video that would later be released) and no information about the original source. The picture had been sent to my contact via an untraceable ProtonMail account. Moreover, the pandemic has sent all manner of conspiracy theorists and pranksters into overdrive, creating perilous working conditions for journalists …

My contact agreed that his source was ‘probably a chancer’, but said he would see what else he could get. ‘No rush,’ the original source said when they discussed arrangements for viewing the full video — and then he or she hotfooted it to the Sun.

A former counter-terror detective studied past photos of Hancock’s office and deduced that Hancock might have had his office extended by appropriating some of the corridor space. The corridor would probably have had a security camera:

On July 1, in Parliament, Labour Shadow Leader of the House Thangham Debbonaire took the then-Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg to task for having previously defended the Health Secretary throughout the pandemic:

That same day, Hancock was in his West Suffolk constituency to apologise to the locals.

The London Evening Standard reported that Conservatives there:

vowed to stick by him after he gave a “heartfelt apology”, despite calls for his deselection.

The former health secretary was on Wednesday told to “do the honourable thing” and stand down by a local Tory councillor …

Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the Standard he was “disgusted” by Mr Hancock’s behaviour and had written to his local association calling for him to be deselected before the next election.

However, after days of silence, the MP’s local association has spoken out in support of Mr Hancock saying he has “faced up to the mistakes” he made.

In a statement, the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, West Suffolk Conservative Association has taken soundings.

“We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our Constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.

“Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.

“We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as Health Secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world’s best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in Parliament.”

Councillor Houlder said the MP’s actions were “beyond the pale” and added: “It’s nothing to do with his sordid affair because otherwise you’d have an empty parliament wouldn’t you?

“It’s the very fact he stood up there for a year spouting, pontificating, ordering, browbeating, slagging off people who broke his rules.”

Mr Hancock’s constituency association was said to be divided in the wake of his decision to leave his wife of 15 years, Martha, who is a popular figure. He is said to have delegated much of the work of networking with local worthies to his wife.

One anonymous councillor told the Telegraph there was not “outrage” but a “sense of sadness” for the family. They added: “There is support for Matt as a constituency MP and that seems to be holding up.”

On July 3, The Sun accused Labour’s Shadow Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, a grandmother, of hypocrisy in slamming Hancock’s affair when she was allegedly having one herself, with a fellow Labour MP:

ANGELA Rayner has been accused of hypocrisy after calling out Matt Hancock over his affair — while keeping quiet on the nature of her relationship with a married MP.

The Labour deputy leader, 41, grew close to Shadow Minister Sam Tarry after being wed for a decade and it is understood his marriage is now in crisis.

Her bond with the father of two was revealed in The Sun on Sunday last October.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen declared: “The public deserves the same transparency from Angela Rayner as she has demanded of Matt Hancock.

“She’s taken the moral high ground on this matter on every occasion. You can always bank on the Left for their constant hypocrisy.”

Mrs Rayner, who has two children with estranged husband Mark, wrote to Boris Johnson demanding he sack Mr Hancock following the revelations.

The following day, the paper’s veteran columnist Trevor Kavanagh said that publishing Matt Hancock’s security camera photo and video was the right thing to do:

FREE at last! The Sun did Britain a huge favour last week with our “Hancock – The Movie” scoop.

Nothing else would have dislodged this limpet’s grip on our daily lives.

Since then, it’s been like waking from an anaesthetic to find test-and-trace manacles and Covid leg irons being unlocked and removed.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s comforting bedside ­manner and vow of freedom from July 19 are a relief from the teasing menace of his predecessor.

On July 5, former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit wrote in The Telegraph that this never would have happened in Margaret Thatcher’s day, although he did admit the Cecil Parkinson affair:

I see that Mrs Coladangelo is described as being an “non-executive director” at the Department of Health, but what are the duties of such a post? By whom was she appointed and to whom did she report? That I do not know.

In my time as a Secretary of State in the government of Margaret Thatcher, things were arranged rather differently. I had a Permanent Secretary who was a career civil servant responsible for all the officials throughout the Department and was in turn responsible to me. That was a clear and sensible arrangement which was wrecked by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s half-witted scheme to bring in outsiders from the private sector to take senior posts in the civil service.

Before then, had a minister begun to form an emotional or sexual relationship with one of his staff, she (or he) would have been promptly moved to another post before things became dangerous. It was not that politicians in those days had higher moral standards, but there was an effective way of stopping them from making fools of themselves and it generally worked well. However, even in those days there was nothing which could have saved my old friend Cecil Parkinson from his foolish affair with his constituency secretary, who was not a civil servant. The affair was exposed when she bore him a daughter.

On July 10, the Mail on Sunday reported that Hancock would need more money to fund his new life. Hmm. This seems to presage what happened late in 2022, with his appearance on I’m A Celebrity … Allegedly, the show paid him £400,000 to appear in the Australian jungle. Interesting:

Matt Hancock is already plotting how to salvage his political career – despite being urged by some former Cabinet colleagues to quit the Commons entirely.

The ex-Health Secretary has appealed to current and former Ministers for advice on how to fight back after his resignation, The Mail on Sunday can reveal …

They also warned that even if he stayed on, he could struggle to supplement his backbench MP’s salary of nearly £82,000 with outside jobs, which they say he would now need to.

One former Minister he has consulted said that Mr Hancock, who has left his wife for Ms Coladangelo, would need more money to ‘fund his new life’.

The Sun also reported the story.

On July 15, the Information Commissioner’s Office seized computers and other electronic equipment connected with the leak of the CCTV leak leading to Hancock’s resignation:

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

The statement just released goes on to say “Personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized as part of the operation”. The ICO’s Director of Investigations says it’s vital everyone, including government employees, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data. Victoria Newton recently said she’s “done everything I can to protect” The Sun’s source…

On July 31, the Mail reported, complete with photos, that Hancock and his girlfriend were still living apart:

Matt Hancock and his lover Gina Coladangelo are ‘together, apart’ as they try to build a relationship out of the public gaze, say friends.

The former Health Secretary is understood to be in regular contact with Ms Coladangelo – but they are not yet living together.

On Thursday, Mr Hancock was pictured collecting his belongings from his former marital home in London.

The father-of-three was handed a bin bag containing his clothes, along with ten boxes, two suitcases, a child seat and a coffee machine – and was watched at the garden gate by a confused-looking family dog.

August 2021

On August 1, The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner wrote:

It is a measure of the brutal nature of politics that scarcely a month has passed since Matt Hancock’s resignation, yet he already has the air of a figure from history.

The former Health Secretary risked everything to pursue an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, and four weeks after it was so humiliatingly exposed, the future of his relationship with her, as well as the future of his career, appears to be up in the air.

Mr Hancock has not given up hope of rescuing his ministerial career, and in recent days has begun to re-engage with fellow MPs via a backbenchers’ WhatsApp group in what colleagues interpreted as an attempt to test the water …

There was no sign of contrition, however, from Mr Hancock, who was blamed for the Tories’ narrow defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election, which came days after the scandal over his affair …

That night former Conservative/UKIP MP Douglas Carswell told GB News:

We must never be in a position where someone like Matt Hancock can tell us if we can hug our grandma.

On Tuesday, August 17, GB News reported that Hancock’s lack of action as Health Secretary might have worsened the pandemic. There was a point where the Test and Trace app was pinging people’s phones constantly, advising them to stay at home. It was called the pingdemic:

The article says:

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reportedly asked whether the NHS Covid-19 app should be amended to alert contacts of positive cases from two days back rather than five days, but no change was made.

The app was tweaked earlier this month amid the so-called “pingdemic”, which had seen hundreds of thousands of alerts sent out telling people to isolate because they had come into contact with someone who had the virus.

The high number of alerts caused disruption to several sectors as workers had to stay at home after being pinged.

It was announced on August 2 that fewer contacts would be notified in future after the app’s “logic” was updated to alert only those contacts two days prior to a positive test, rather than five days.

But the Guardian has reported an unnamed Whitehall source as saying Mr Hancock, who resigned on June 26 amid public outrage after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules, had previously been told that the app was working to five days, rather than two.

The person told the newspaper: “The standard definition of a contact in all the scientific and public stuff from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace is someone who has been in contact from two days before they have symptoms and if they don’t have symptoms but test positive, you go back two days from the test.

“But the app had five days in it. A submission was made to Hancock from Test and Trace people around the time of his resignation saying ‘it’s five days but it should be two days: should we change it now?’ And it didn’t happen.”

On August 17, The Spectator and Guido Fawkes got footage of Hancock travelling on the Tube’s District Line.

The Spectator reported:

the 42-year-old has become an unlikely star on TikTok after recently encountering a group of youthful commuters on the District Line. 

The group were apparently unaware of Hancock’s identity but delighted in teasing the poor ex-minister about his choice of hat wear and stealing the baseball cap to wear themselves. Videos recorded of the encounter detail how ‘The whole tube was singing… We love you Matt, we do!’ — something which ‘made our night’ according to the adolescent uploader.

Guido said:

He’s lost his wife, his job, his home and now his hat: footage has emerged of Matt Hancock being ribbed by members of the public on a tube. The video shows a lady stealing Matt’s headwear, before running off with it at Embankment station. He then appears to take his mask off as he shouts after her. Would SAGE approve, Matt?

On August 20, Guido Fawkes posted that the then-Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden pinched the fetching pop art portrait of the Queen for his own office. It’s not a Warhol, by the way. It’s by a British artist who paints in the same style:

Guido explained:

Oliver Dowden has posted a photo to social media with a notably redecorated Whitehall office, resplendent with some well-known pop-art of the Queen. Politicos will immediately recognise the artwork given it spent the entirety of the pandemic positioned behind Matt Hancock during interviews in his ex-DHSC office. One of Sajid’s first decisions in office was to replace the piece with an 1890s oil painting…

While Hancock wasn’t able to take home the prized painting, which belongs to the Government Art Collection, he thankfully didn’t leave his personalised ‘movie director‘ chair around for Dowden to pinch. With rumours of a reshuffle circulating, perhaps the painting isn’t the only thing from the DHSC office Dowden has his eye on…

Hat Tip: Hugo Gye

September 2021

On September 3, The Telegraph reported that a source told them Hancock was no gentleman:

Matt Hancock is “no gentleman” and has failed to apologise to his wife for cheating on her, according to a source close to the family.

The source said Mr Hancock’s wife, Martha, had been “crushed” and “shattered” by his infidelity and that he had shown a “lack of concern” for her and their three children. It has been reported that she is suffering from long Covid, having contracted the virus from her husband …

The ongoing upset and distress have prompted a source close to the family to speak out for the first time, saying they have been “appalled” by his behaviour … 

The source said: “Martha has been crushed by this, and Matt is only interested in his career and his mistress. He is a despicable individual.

“He has shown no concern for Martha or the children. He has been uncaring to Martha even though she backed him throughout his career and introduced him to the people that made his career. She has always defended him throughout.”

Hancock’s attempts at getting back in the public’s good books were failing dismally.

On September 4, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock’s bid to rebuild his reputation by running the London Marathon has hit the buffers after pranksters flooded his charity page with mocking taunts.

The former Health Secretary is running in next month’s event to raise funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care in his West Suffolk constituency – a decision that critics say is a crude bid at rehabilitating his reputation.

But the move already appears to have backfired, with his JustGiving page flooded by people donating the minimum sum and using the opportunity to write an accompanying message condemning his philandering and record in office.

By last night, 459 ‘supporters’ had pledged £3,653, but the majority of messages were critical.

Matt Reilly wrote: ‘If you break an ankle, I’ll donate another £100’

Dauda Bappa wrote: ‘Happy to donate to this hospice, but you are a truly terrible human being, Matt. I guess hate can be used for good. Break a leg xx.’

Another said: ‘You, sir, are the worst kind of over-privileged slug pretending to be a human.’

On September 6, Guido had an update:

Hancock’s attempted return back to the Tory fold isn’t going as smoothly as he may have liked. Back in recess he made his first appearance on the Commons’ backbenches, though didn’t make a speech as he instead attempted to schmooze colleagues in the tea room. At least one of his colleagues told Guido they found it pretty uncomfortable…

Last week, he made headlines after announcing his participation in a sponsored run for a local hospice, only to see plenty of online trolls pay money just to throw abuse at him in the donation comments section.

Matt clearly didn’t see the funny side to this; while he can’t stop the trolling entirely, he’s forced all donations to now come from ‘anonymous’. Meaning jokers can no longer pose as his mum or Gina Coladangelo.

His luck isn’t set to improve this week either. On Thursday he’s to be a Tory association’s guest of honour for the first time since The Sun turned him into a persona non grata. Tory members in Chipping Barnet will be the first to enjoy his company at venue. Guido hears the room can cater for up to 350 bodies. The number of ticket sales so far? Around 70…

October 2021

Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon as planned in order to raise money for the hospice in his constituency. The Mail included a video of him in their report of October 3.

On October 12, the Mail reported that there was good news for Hancock, at last:

Matt Hancock made a surprise comeback last night as he was given a United Nations role just four months after resigning as health secretary.

The former Cabinet minister will advise African nations on how their economies can bounce back from the pandemic.

The Daily Mail understands he won the unpaid job thanks to Nimco Ali, a campaigner against female genital mutilation who is a close friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie.

Guido has a copy of his acceptance letter.

Alas, Hancock’s good news was short-lived.

On October 16, The Telegraph reported that the UN rescinded his appointment:

Matt Hancock has lost his new job at the United Nations just four days after being appointed, following outrage from figures who condemned the “jaw dropping” decision to appoint him as a special envoy for Covid recovery in Africa.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said his appointment was “not being taken forward,” following days of criticism.

Mr Hancock, who resigned his job as Health Secretary in June after he was pictured on CCTV kissing an aide, had said he was “honoured” to take up the role of Special Representative for Financial Innovation and Climate Change.

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock was told by the United Nations that it cannot appoint sitting MPs to be special representatives, and that it was forced to rescind the appointment.

Mid-month, Hancock began getting his own back on the public.

His first article appeared in the Mail on Sunday, September 18, in which he called anti-vaxxers ‘blinkered and dangerous’. However, it was only in October when we found out how much he got paid for penning it. Guido’s Christian Calgie revealed that Hancock received £2,000:

His second that I know of, co-authored with Labour MP Rupa Huq — not a natural political pairing by any means — appeared in The Times on Wednesday, October 20. If the anti-vaxxer article infuriated me, this one took the biscuit. 

The two of them attempted to portray the two tragic assassinations of MPs David Amess, who had just been stabbed at his local surgery (to meet members of the public), and Jo Cox, slain a week before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, as results of online harassment. Neither was anything of the sort!

‘MPs need more protection online’ reads, in part:

The assassination of our kind friend and colleague Sir David Amess — he genuinely was a friend to so many — has shocked parliament to its core, but the aftermath, too, has not been a pretty sight. We were both disgusted to see Michael Gove harassed walking along the pavement. Coming so painfully soon after the murder it shows the urgent need for action. Tightening security at MPs’ surgeries addresses the symptoms not the cause.

There have been hecklers as long as there have been public meetings. But using online social media, keyboard warriors post accusatory, aggressive messages often based on conspiracy theories and lies. Our timelines and inboxes are awash with threats. Women, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, get it worst. But white men are not immune either. One user said, “just execute matt hancock live on bbc one i say”

The online harms bill is a good start, but it does not yet tackle anonymous abuse. It is a particular problem that libel laws don’t work in the internet age. It is hard to prove that a single post by a social media user with a few hundred followers causes significant damage, but when that post is shared and added to by hundreds or thousands of others, it has the same effect as a defamatory newspaper piece in days gone by.

A few days later, social media had captured Hancock and his friend on holiday in Split, Croatia:

On October 25, Guido wrote:

Matt Hancock treated his lover Gina Coladangelo to another romantic getaway over the weekend, this time in the port city of Split, Croatia. The pair were spotted sipping wine outside the Lvxor Café on Saturday night. Split? Cynics didn’t expect them to still be together…

Later that day, Guido posted that Hancock wrote to IPSO — the Independent Press Standards Organisation — demanding that images of him be removed from the public domain:

Guido’s post has the text of Hancock’s long letter and this comment:

That horse has bolted through the office doorway. As for the video of Matt and Gina in Split which was circulating widely on social media after a holidaying Briton spotted them and whipped their smartphone out, asking IPSO to intervene would not make any difference. More importantly, as Matt told parliament after the Leveson Inquiry, when he was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to our freedom as a nation.

The harm done to his children was, as he must know in his heart, a consequence of his own actions. The pictorial reminder disappearing from the papers won’t change that…

How true!

November 2021

Still smarting from public backlash, Hancock put out an advert for a Communications Officer. Oddly, the application dates ran from November 13 to November 14.

On November 15, Guido posted a screenshot of the ad and this commentary:

Over the weekend Guido noticed the former Health Minister looking for a new Communications Officer to undertake his media and press activities. The advert said he wants someone to be “pro-active and re-active communications with all media”, and to create content for social media and assist with wider communication activities. Possibly spurred on by yet more embarrassing headlines over the weekend that he is to write a £100,000 autobiography called entitled “How I Won the Covid War”?

Matt also wants the prospective hire to “Establish, monitor and update” social media, which is surely a mammoth and hardly heartening task.

Unusually, Hancock gave prospective applicants just 24 hours to apply after publishing the ad on Saturday, and closing it on Sunday. Was Matt actually offering fair competition for the job or did he already have a mate in mind? He’d surely avoid giving preferential contract treatment to mates…

The month’s Hancock news ended with The Spectator awards. Hancock’s successor Sajid Javid won the Comeback of the Year Award and thanked ‘the CCTV guy’ who leaked the incriminating visuals:

December 2021

December’s news was mercifully brief.

On December 11, Hancock attempted to get down with the kids at the Jingle Bell Ball held at London’s O2 Centre. Had he seen a fashion stylist? One wondered:

On December 8, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole won the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards and took a swipe at attempts to censor the images that brought about Hancock’s downfall.

On December 13, the Press Gazette reported:

Sun political editor Harry Cole has pledged “we will keep fighting on” amid a “continuing erosion of journalistic rights”.

Cole made the comments after The Sun picked up the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards on Wednesday night for revealing then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office affair with aide Gina Coladangelo while Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Cole collected the award alongside Sun head of news Alex Goss and executive news editor Ben O’Driscoll …

But he warned the aftermath of the Hancock scoop had demonstrated an ongoing “systematic decay of freedom of the press”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office raided the homes of two suspected whistleblowers in the case who may have leaked the CCTV footage of Hancock and Coladangelo’s incriminating office snog.

Cole said The Sun also witnessed threats from government officials and even heard accusations of involvement by Chinese and Russian agents and spies.

“Everyone in this room, whether they read The Sun or not, should know that this has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and we are really glad that public interest journalism is recognised in this way,” he said.

Cole said the Hancock story was a “really important scoop for us”, adding: “We pride ourselves on our reputation as protectors of free speech and democracy.

“There are sometimes stories you write that you have to make a public interest argument for. It was so clearly and obviously in the public interest we just knew it was a story that was going to leave everyone in our trail. As a journalist there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got one of those in the bag.”

As well as the ICO investigation, Cole pointed to the threat posed by proposed reform to the Official Secrets Act which could see journalists treated like spies for reporting on matters of public interest.

January 2021

On January 21, 2022, the Mail reported on the actual costs of MPs, which are much higher than one thinks: an average of £240,000 per MP per annum.

Hancock came in for special mention:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the most expensive MP in the Cabinet, with total costs of £225,305. This compared with £174,454 for Boris Johnson and £164,545 for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On January 18, the Evening Standard reported that Hancock took an icy dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park:

The 43-year-old Tory MP had been jogging in a foggy Hyde Park with members of the Parliamentary Running Club, including former Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and former junior health minister Lord Bethell.

On reaching the Serpentine, where other swimmers had broken a thin layer of ice on the surface, the trio stripped off and took to the murky waters.

Mr Hancock, who has only just emerged from isolation after testing positive for Covid for the second time last week, swam for about 20 metres in water chilled by a frosty winter’s night before deciding that was enough.

However, the Serpentine (Serps) Swimming Club was not impressed. Hancock was an interloper:

The Serps Swimming Club had tweeted a photo of him with a notice saying that only members were allowed — no guests:

February 2022

On February 21, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle called on Hancock to contribute to a debate. Hoyle quipped:

The man for the rules, Matt Hancock!

Guido commented:

He just can’t catch a break…

That month, Hancock decided to reveal more about his new relationship in a podcast.

On February 27, the Mail on Sunday‘s Emily Prescott reported:

Now the dust is settling, he is opening up about the romance. 

My pictures show Matt and Gina at the recording of a yet-to-be released podcast, The Diary of a CEO with Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett, which was recorded a couple of weeks ago.

My mole tells me Matt, 43, became very emotional talking about falling in love and said it was ‘totally out of his control’

Matt said it happened quite suddenly, despite knowing Gina since university at Oxford.

He conceded it had been the ‘most difficult year of his life’. 

But Gina was sitting behind the cameras offering loving and supportive glances throughout.

The Mail had more the next day, when the podcast aired. What he said was all very confusing:

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has denied he broke the law by having an affair with a close aide during lockdown that destroyed his political career …

Speaking to The Diary of a CEO podcast, released this morning, Mr Hancock said he ‘fell in love’ with Coladangelo after bringing her in to work with him. 

He told the podcast host, entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Steven Bartlett: ‘It actually happened after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place. I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines by then.

‘They weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point.

‘The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.’ 

People had to stay two metres apart from anyone outside their household or bubble, under the guidance at the time. 

Mr Hancock stressed that his relationship with Miss Coladangelo was serious, saying he hated that some had ‘got the impression somehow that this was [casual sex]’.

Mid-month Steven Bartlett tweeted that he had interviewed Hancock:

He said: ‘Matt Hancock x The Diary Of A CEO! Matt Hancock stopped by with his new partner Gina to speak to me.

‘It’s time to find out what really happened, it’s time to ask the questions we’ve not had answers to; Party gate? Where did the CCTV footage come from? What mistakes did he make?’

He added: ‘This is the first time in the history of The Diary Of A CEO that things got a little heated between me and a guest at one point.

‘However, Matt did answer all of the tough questions I asked him and nothing will be edited out. You will see it all.’

Mr Bartlett also tweeted pictures of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo at the interview, with the former health secretary wearing blue jeans and a navy roll-neck jumper.

Guido had more, along with a video clip. Hancock didn’t think Bartlett was being respectful enough:

Here’s the video clip:

Guido wrote:

Inevitably Hancock was uncomfortable with the topic, clearly unhappy at Bartlett referring to the affair as “casual sex”. He repeatedly asks Bartlett to restart the segment by asking the questions “in a little bit more respectful way”, and seems to think the moment would be edited out of the final interview. It wasn’t.

He advised:

Watch at your own discretion…

March 2022

On March 2, The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson commented on the podcast, saying that Hancock was ‘dressed as the Milk Tray man’:

Talking to Steve Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast, Hancock, dressed like the Milk Tray man, said he “fell in love” and “it all happened quite quickly. It actually happened… after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place… I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines. By then, they weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point. The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.

Let us pause for a moment to unpick that knotty thicket of delusion and self-justification. Hancock clearly knew full well that what he was telling the British people they must do after a certain date was just guidance not regulation. As Lord Sumption has observed: “I think the Government knew people did not understand the difference and exploited their confusion.”

Now, Hancock has the brass neck to exploit that confusion to his own advantage. Hey, it was fine to be canoodling in his office because no law said that he couldn’t, even though lesser mortals stayed well away from their best beloved for a year in case they got caught. 

Unfortunately, such a realisation would require a degree of self-knowledge to which Hancock is a stranger. He is certainly in love – with himself mostly – and that fierce self-love leads him to think that, if he keeps bouncing up … then the public will forgive and forget.

We won’t, believe me. 

I’m not at the forgiveness point, either.

I have many more Matt Hancock pandemic bookmarks but will wait for the official inquiry before going into them.

The podcast was still a hot topic on March 6, as the Mail on Sunday had more about Hancock’s accusation that Bartlett wasn’t respectful enough:

During the two-hour interview for a podcast last week, Mr Hancock protested when Mr Bartlett mentioned ‘casual sex’ while questioning him about his extra-marital affair with aide Gina Coladangelo – in breach of his own Covid restrictions.

Mr Hancock raised his hand and asked Mr Bartlett to ‘ask the question in a little bit more respectful way’. He added: ‘I have not had casual sex with anybody, I fell in love.’

Mr Hancock asked the host if could ‘start this section again’, and this newspaper understands that the MP also told Mr Bartlett ‘this is off’ – meaning off the record – as they discussed rephrasing the question to remove the reference to casual sex.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘OK, let me ask the question and we can crack the question, all right?’ He then continued the interview.

Mr Hancock and his aides thought the brief exchange would be cut and were horrified to discover it had been left in when the podcast was posted online last week. But Mr Hancock’s words ‘this is off’ were not included.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Hancock feels ‘stitched up’ and that he had agreed to do the interview with Mr Bartlett on the basis that nothing would be left in that he considered to be ‘hurtful’ to his estranged wife, Martha, or their three children.

On March 25, Will Lloyd wrote a brilliant article for UnHerd listing all of Hancock’s best quotes before and during the pandemic in ‘The tragedy of Matt Hancock’, which is well worth reading.

Lloyd concluded with the fallout of the present day:

The number of children referred for specialist mental health help rises above one million for the first time in 2021. Cases involving those 18 and under increase by 26% during the pandemic. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns it is “becoming an impossible situation to manage”.

People, including Hancock, like to talk about learning the lessons of the pandemic. So we can prepare better for the next one. They don’t realise that between the million mentally hamstrung teenagers, the NHS waiting list hitting 9.2 million within two years, an endless backlog of cases in criminal courts, and inflation, that the pandemic hasn’t ended yet. It’s barely started.

April 2022

On April 13, the investigation into the leaked CCTV images ended with no charges brought:

Guido reported the text from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and his own summary:

The Information Commissioner’s Office closed their investigation into the Department for Health CCTV leak that saw Hancock’s snog with then-aide Gina Coladangelo splashed on the front page of The Sun. The ICO announced this afternoon that their investigation had found “insufficient evidence to prosecute two people suspected of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing CCTV footage from the Department for Health and Social Care”. They shouldn’t have been investigating anyway…

On April 24, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Hancock for 30 minutes about the pandemic policies:

Hancock justified himself throughout. I felt sorry for Wootton, who was — and still is — trying to get the truth:

May 2022

On May 5, Hancock opened his home to Ukrainian refugees.

The Telegraph reported:

Matt Hancock has welcomed seven Ukrainian refugees and their four dogs into his family home in Suffolk.

Mr Hancock, the former health secretary, first revealed that he would take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme last month after being contacted by a constituent.

The MP for Suffolk West has now housed the constituent’s mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and the nephew’s partner and grandmother.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ukrainian food and picking up the basics of the language,” he said. “It’s humbling living with three generations from one family who have escaped war with little more than the clothes on their backs. It brings perspective.”

Writing in The Spectator, he added that the teenagers staying with him had continued their studies through remote learning …

July 2022

On July 19, Hancock presented a guest phone-in on LBC.

A guest got the better of him and Hancock muted him:

Guido has the story and video, including an update from a friend of Hancock’s saying he was right to mute the man:

Matt Hancock is spending the day behind the LBC mic, presenting what should be a radio phone in, though it’s coming across as a prolonged party political broadcast on behalf of Rishi Sunak™. Matt was left hot under the collar at one point following some searing criticisms from a member of the public. John from Edinburgh called out Hancock’s legacy in dealing with the management of rare conditions, calling him a “totally useless health secretary”. Before too long Matt could clearly no longer take the barrage, angrily signalling for a producer to mute the call before launching into an uninterrupted rant. For the second time in recent history, Matt was unfortunately undermined by a camera he presumably forgot was running…

Here’s the video:

October 2022

On October 24, as Rishi Sunak received his coronation as Conservative Party leader, Matt Hancock was one of the Party’s MPs meeting at CCHQ to congratulate him.

Sunak brushed past him as if he weren’t there:

The Telegraph reported:

He was once the health secretary, at the helm of one of the most important government departments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Matt Hancock appeared to have slipped down the hierarchy on Monday, after being ignored by Rishi Sunak on his way into Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) as party leader for the first time.

The former health secretary, who nominated Mr Sunak for the Conservative Party leadership this week and sat next to him in Cabinet when the pair served under Boris Johnson, looked on as his old colleague greeted others.

On October 31, Guido told us that Hancock dropped his bid to run as the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee:

Matt Hancock’s campaign for the chairmanship of the Treasury select committee has come to a premature end. Passed over by Rishi, the former Health Secretary was keen to stress he was still in play, and that “a number of people suggested I should go for Chair”. The number just wasn’t large enough…

November 2022

Undoubtedly, November was Britain’s longest month of enduring Hancock since the pandemic.

If Parliament wouldn’t acquiesce to bringing him back into the fold, perhaps a television audience would do so.

On November 1, we discovered that the disgraced former Health Secretary was planning to go Down Under in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here:

Guido told us more:

Intent on proving his midlife crisis hasn’t yet peaked, Matt Hancock is jetting off to Australia to enter the jungle as the 12th campmate on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, the Sun has revealed. The new series kicks off on November 6th, with Hancock arriving as a late contestant soon after. Cabinet hopes dashed, he’s now off to become the King of the Jungle…

A political ally of Hancock’s sent Guido a lengthy justification for the decision, which includes promoting Hancock’s notional dyslexia campaign, of which we had never heard before this. Excerpts follow:

I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12million Brits who tune in every single night

There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether he’s in camp for one-day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.

Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV? …

Matt’s talked to the whips, in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time. As I say, Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, but he can support Rishi and the Government in different ways.

This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the public and talk about issues he really cares about – including his dyslexia campaign.

Hancock’s friend said he’d had discussions with the Whips Office and that everything was fine.

Well, it wasn’t fine at all. Hancock had the Conservative whip withdrawn and, to this day, still sits as an Independent:

Guido wrote, ending with the show’s familiar catchphrase:

… A statement from the Chief Whip Simon Hart:

Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.

He was a Tory MP… now he’s out of there.

The Sun also had the story:

The news of Hancock’s imminent television appearance for days on end did not please everyone in his West Suffolk constituency.

Guido posted:

Matt Hancock’s local constituency deputy chairman tells PA [the Press Association]:

I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper disagreed with that assessment but did think it was right that Hancock had the whip removed:

Guido had more:

In headlines Guido never thought he’d be writing, the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper told Sky News he is not looking forward to watching his now-ex colleague Matt Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis on I’m A Celebrity. As a former Chief Whip himself, Harper agrees with Simon Hart’s decision to sack Hancock and said it was correct given mincing off to the Jungle is not compatible with being an MP. Maybe eating kangaroo penis should be added to the list of potential Chief Whip punishments…

While Hancock denied that he’d lost his marbles for deciding to go on the reality television programme, his fellow Conservatives made a laughing stock out of him at PMQs on November 2, including Anthony Mangnall and Anne-Marie Trevelyan:

On November 8, some of his West Suffolk constituents were deeply unhappy, as The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner revealed:

After accusing him of abandoning his constituents, the council in the biggest town in Mr Hancock’s constituency has held a show of hands on his future – and decided that he should “do the honourable thing and resign”

Mr Hancock, 44, has been the MP for West Suffolk since 2010. However, there is speculation that he might stand down at the next general election after being overlooked for a Cabinet job by Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, and then leaving his post to appear alongside celebrities including [Princess Anne’s son-in-law] Mike Tindall, Boy George and [DJ] Chris Moyles … 

He has also filmed a series of another show, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, which will be shown next year.

In Haverhill, where around 27,000 of his constituents live, the town council has told him to “clear the pitch” after its members held a vote and decided by a majority that it should tell him to quit.

In a letter sent to his office, the 13-member authority, which has several Tory councillors, accused the MP of losing interest in his day job.

Written by Colin Poole, the council clerk, it said: “By a majority vote members of the council have directed me to express their displeasure at your decision to absent yourself from your duty to your constituents to join the cast of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! …

Currently there is no one to speak for West Suffolk in the House of Commons and your actions are unlikely to gain any sympathy for the area when all the other parliamentarians are in the chamber fighting their own corners.

“By your actions you have made it clear to everyone that you see your future outside of politics.”

On November 12, The Telegraph gave the previous day’s I’m a Celebrity … instalment three out of five stars. The other contestants grilled Hancock on his pandemic policies. Hancock pleaded for forgiveness:

On I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV), the skiving MP was voted by viewers to face his third Bushtucker Trial in as many days. This looks set to become a nightly occurrence.

Hancock’s latest challenge was this year’s first eating trial: “La Cucaracha Cafe”, a Mexican-themed dinner-à-deux with campmate Boy George.

For pudding, Hancock got a long overdue grilling about his pandemic blunders and wound up weeping for forgiveness. This was the much-maligned minister’s day of reckoning and the reason ITV gambled on signing him up. They will surely be rewarded with big ratings and copious column inches …

When he trotted out the same “falling in love” excuse, newsreader Charlene White rightly gave him short shrift: “My aunt died from Covid in the first wave. We couldn’t visit her in hospital. I had to sit by myself at her funeral. We couldn’t hug each other because we were following guidance. I get that you fell in love but for a lot of families like mine, sorry doesn’t really cut it.”

When White tackled him on PPE procurement and the care homes fiasco, you could almost hear viewers nationwide cheering her on. Referring to the impending public inquiry, England Lioness Jill Scott wondered whether “Bushtucker Trials are practice for your big trial”. DJ Chris Moyles was more succinct, calling Hancock a “b***end”.

Hancock eventually admitted: “What I’m really looking for is a bit of forgiveness.” When he became tearful – marginally more believably than when he pretended to blub on breakfast TV – White surprised herself by hugging him. Moyles was less convinced: “He’s pulled the mask slightly off his chin but I still think he’s not telling us the full truth.” The majority at home were equally unmoved by Hancock’s brazen bid for sympathy …

Just 18 months since he resigned in disgrace, Hancock trousering £400,000 for larking around on a light entertainment show left a sour taste in many mouths. At least Friday night’s bestial buffet was equally tough to stomach. That campfire interrogation also made for vital viewing. Nearly three years since the start of the pandemic, it’s high time that politicians were answerable to the people who lived through their failures. Strange how it happened 9,000 miles away on reality TV but these are the times we live in.

On November 13, The Sunday Times told us more about the decisions behind Hancock’s appearance in Australia:

When Matt Hancock eventually leaves the I’m A Celebrity … jungle, his girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo, will be waiting for him on the TV show’s wooden bridge.

The former health secretary has said that seeing her will be the “best thing about being kicked out”, but friends say he also sought her public relations wisdom before agreeing to appear on the ITV show. “He consulted her at length,” said a friend of the couple. “They are very much a team.”

Before he entered the jungle, Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, sought the advice of his family, friends, his Westminster staff and colleagues, although sources say he kept the circle tight to prevent the news leaking.

“I told him there were pros and cons to it, and it basically depended on what he wanted to do career-wise over the next decade,” said a friend he consulted in the summer. “If he wanted to climb the greasy pole, play the Westminster game, sit around waiting for a call to be a cabinet minister again, and otherwise just be a Tory backbencher for the next 20 years, that he shouldn’t do it.

“But if he wanted a platform to engage with millions of viewers, push a lot of the campaigns he cares about, show what he’s actually like as a person, and didn’t mind probably not serving in government again, then it could be a good opportunity … It was obviously very high risk.”

Friends say Hancock, 44, was torn. When he was forced to resign as health secretary in June 2021, he told acquaintances that he was expecting to be back in the cabinet “by Christmas”. While that did not happen, friends say he still believed he could be back on the front bench one day. He turned down the show twice before agreeing to take part

sources close to Hancock say his children were keen for him to go on the show, and he was there to raise awareness of dyslexia

On that night’s episode, viewers voted Hancock in as camp leader. The Guardian reported:

Matt Hancock has said being voted leader of the I’m a Celebrity campsite “more than makes up for” losing the 2019 Tory party leadership election.

Talk about selling one’s soul for a mess of pottage!

There was more:

Sunday’s episode of I’m A Celebrity saw Hancock receive enough votes from the public to enter a head-to-head with former England rugby star Mike Tindall for control of the campsite …

After their win, Hancock said: “Obviously, it’s a great honour and privilege to be camp leader. I want to thank everybody who voted for me.”

[Fellow contestant Christine] White said: “Does this win feel sweet, especially after you lost to Boris? Do you feel like you have been vindicated?” Prompting him to reply: “This more than makes up for it.”

On November 15, Guido kept his readers up to date. The previous day — Day 6 — Hancock was in a snake-filled coffin and had to:

hunt for keys in the dark to unlock stars … He managed a middling 7 of 11, though did stay surprisingly calm considering snakes had been one of his major fears. To be fair, as an MP he should be used to snake-infested spaces.

Meanwhile, back home, The Telegraph reported on the complaints flooding in to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary standards commissioner:

Rules for MPs would need to be changed to investigate Matt Hancock’s I’m A Celebrity appearance, the standards commissioner said on Tuesday, despite suggesting he had brought the Commons “into disrepute”.

Kathryn Stone, who will step aside from her post in January, revealed her office received dozens of complaints about Mr Hancock, the former health secretary who lost the Tory whip after flying to Australia to take part in the ITV reality show.

But Ms Stone admitted it was not something she had the power to investigate, adding his appearance had raised “really important questions” about the activities of parliamentarians.

“There is no job description for MPs but we have to think very carefully about the conflict between public and private interests, about bringing the House into disrepute, and so on,” she told the standards committee …

She recalled one member of the public who contrasted “the dignity of veterans on Remembrance Sunday with a former secretary of state”, and said Mr Hancock’s “buffet of animal genitalia” during an eating challenge prompted them to question the dignity of public office.

It came as Rishi Sunak condemned Mr Hancock for his I’m A Celebrity stint, telling reporters at the G20: “I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble.

“Everyone is going to do it in a slightly different way but I think it’s important that we have our constituents and our country and the forefront of what we do when we go around our day-to-day lives.”

On November 16, Guido told us that on Day 7, Hancock discussed politics but not dyslexia, as promised:

In a first for Matt’s time in the jungle, he hasn’t had to do the daily trial, and he’s certainly been making the most of his free time. Not only did he wake up well rested, he found the time to have his say on Westminster politics. Matt revealed he had called Boris as he was mulling another stab at the leadership, urging him to hold off and “back Rishi”. He also said Liz’s [Truss’s] political career was “totally finished… no ambiguity at all”. That makes two of them.

… At least one public servant is enjoying himself while the country suffers double-digit inflation. With all this free time on his hands, you’d think he might have mentioned his dyslexia campaign. Alas, no.

On Friday, November 18, The Times said that Hancock shared a beach barbecue reward with another contestant. He was also getting on Boy George’s nerves:

While on the other side of the world Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement, attempting to sort out the nation’s dire economic situation, Matt Hancock was sipping drinks on a beach, one of three lucky contestants in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! to be flown by helicopter to enjoy a barbecue.

The former health secretary was gloriously oblivious of his colleague’s plans to confront the nation’s woes

Ofcom said on Wednesday it had received 1,968 complaints about the ITV show, with about 1,100 people protesting about Hancock being in the jungle. Other viewers expressed concerns about his treatment by other contestants …

On Wednesday viewers saw Boy George, 61, the pop singer, become increasingly frustrated with his camp mates. He appeared to be irritated by a growing friendship between Hancock and Scarlette Douglas, the property expert.

Guido also recapped the episode — Day 9 — noting the absence of the dyslexia campaign:

… Hancock received the privilege of a surf and turf barbecue, which he described as “one of the best meals of your life”. The experience was won in a lucky dip at the expense of his campmates, who plotted in his absence. Finally, Hancock sung his heart out to some pop classics with his campmates around the fire. Matt’s now showcased his singing ability three times on the show. His dyslexia campaign… not once.

Guido also featured Hancock’s tweet urging viewers to vote for him:

On Saturday, November 19, one of Hancock’s former special advisers (Spads), Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, wrote a puff piece for The Times on how great it was working for him. I’ll let readers delve into it for themselves. Was this product placement? One wonders.

On November 20 — Day 11 — Hancock was still surviving the jungle. He mentioned dyslexia for the first time. He also received a letter from his girlfriend.

On November 22 — Day 13 — Hancock outlasted Boy George, but the two sang a duet together beforehand:

On Day 15, November 24, Hancock saw off DJ Chris Moyles. Guido commented:

His constituents must surely agree that would make up for his dereliction of duty as their Member of Parliament…

Hancock ended up being one of the finalists on the last episode, broadcast on Sunday, November 27:

Guido said:

Fair play Matt, it was a surprisingly decent run. Now get back to Blighty and do your job…

Incredibly, Hancock outlasted rugby player Mike Tindall, Princess Anne’s son-in-law. Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner came second and England Lioness Jill Scott won the contest: Queen of the Jungle. It is fitting that she did win, given that the Lionesses won the UEFA — European — Women’s Championship on July 31, the first time England won a major football championship since the 1966 World Cup.

Gina was there to meet her beau.

The Telegraph told us how Hancock’s 21 days in the jungle boosted ratings and changed his perception among the public:

ITV pulled off a coup by signing up the controversial minister. The broadcaster has been amply rewarded for its gamble. Hancock made this series far more talked about than usual. Ratings rose from 8m to 11m. It’s been a resounding return to form for the khaki-clad franchise.

In the process, Hancock went from whipping boy to team player. His success can be seen as two fingers up to the bullies and backbiters, humanising him more than anyone thought possible.

Another Telegraph article reported that Transport Secretary Mark Harper still thought Hancock’s participation was wrong:

Mr Hancock recognised entering the I’m A Celebrity jungle was “controversial” as a former health secretary and MP while Parliament is sitting after leaving the jungle.

He told I’m A Celebrity presenters Ant and Dec: “I know that it was controversial me coming here, I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations.

“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it.”

He stressed: “We are normal people.”

It comes after cabinet minister Mark Harper said Mr Hancock should not have gone into the jungle – regardless of how well he did.

The former chief whip told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If you are a member of Parliament and Parliament is sitting, I think your job is to be representing your constituents, either in your constituency or in Parliament. I don’t think serving members of Parliament should be taking part in reality television programmes.

“However well they do on them, I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary – which is representing their constituents.”

Good man.

Unfortunately, that same day, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers told Sophy Ridge of her votes for Hancock (video here).

On Monday, November 28, The Times featured another puff piece about Hancock’s humanity and brilliance. Again, I leave that for readers to decide and wonder if it was a second PR-instigated article.

That day, his Pandemic Diaries, co-authored with the aforementioned Isabel Oakeshott, was on Amazon’s best seller list. Guido revealed that the Mail would be serialising it.

However, that day, storm clouds were brewing.

Guido revealed that Hancock’s people denied that he would be leaving Parliament to pursue life as a celebrity:

This morning, his team is having to firefight allegations from The Sun that he’s planning on leaving politics to pursue celebritydom. The paper’s morning splash reports that Gina contacted “PR pal Mayah Riaz” last week to discuss “a change of career for him… They’re aware they need to act fast and capitalise on the huge interest in him post-jungle.” In response his team shot out a denial:

… They added: “Gina hasn’t even heard of Mayah Riaz”. 

For good measure, Guido asked his office if they could provide a precise date when he’d be back. Apparently, it’s up in the air at the moment. Though his dyslexia bill – of which he made no mention during his stint in the jungle – is up for its second reading on Friday…

Deeper trouble came from Newmarket, the famous racing town in his West Suffolk constituency. The Times reported:

Newmarket town council voted last night officially to call for Hancock to resign. Twelve councillors backed the motion for him to resign, one abstained, and none voted against.

A spokesman for the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “We are still waiting to hear from Matthew Hancock. There is increasing disappointment about the situation”

A West Suffolk source told The Times: “There would appear to be effectively no support for him to remain as a MP. I think if I put it this way, if you look up the definition of narcissist . . . it’s been endless publicity of the things he has done. It’s about living up to responsibilities, doing the right thing.”

Hancock still had (and has) the Conservative whip suspended. Even his fellow Conservative MP, Business Secretary Grant Shapps, put the boot in:

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said yesterday it would be “for the whips to decide what to do”. He told Times Radio: “Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in parliament? I’m only speculating.”

He added: “I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done.”

December 2022

On Thursday, December 1, things were becoming painfully clear about Matt Hancock’s future.

Early that morning, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock ‘underestimated’ the scale of the backlash at his decision to star on I’m A Celebrity, his girlfriend Gina Coladangelo will say today … 

During the post-series Coming Out Show today, he will be seen exiting the campsite to be reunited with his partner and attending a wrap party. 

The episode also sees Ms Coladangelo saying: ‘I think it’s fair to say that Matt underestimated the scale of the reaction to him coming into the jungle

Sir Desmond Swayne, an MP I’d previously highly respected, lauded his colleague in Parliament that day for his ‘sheer spunk’ in the jungle and appealed for the Conservative whip to be restored (video here).

Hancock graced the House of Commons on Friday, December 2, to put forward his Private Members Bill on dyslexia (video here). It was the third bill of the day, prompting Deputy Speaker of the House Nigel Evans to quip:

The third Bill of the day and I know that Mr. Hancock, you appear to be making a habit of coming third these days.

There seemed to be good news on Wednesday, December 7, when Guido received the text of Hancock’s letter saying he would stand down at the next general election:

As one would expect, it’s a lengthy letter. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs (emphases Guido’s):

I am writing to tell you that I do not intend to stand for the Conservatives at the next General Election. I am very grateful for my conversation with the Chief Whip last week, in which he made clear he would restore the whip in due course, but that is now not necessary.

It has been an honour to serve in Parliament and represent the people of West Suffolk. I will play my part in the debate about the future of our country and engage with the public in new ways.

Shortly afterwards, Conservative MPs snubbed him as he sat down for PMQs. Guido’s Simon Carr has the report:

He turned into the fourth bench up, and began the long trek across to an open seat at the end. Sidling, he touched knees and patted the backs of the locals, the indigenous representatives. Some looked up and others didn’t. One or two spoke to him. What were they saying? They’re politicians so it will have been different from what they were thinking. That can only have been: “What on earth are you doing here, you nob? This bench is for Conservative MPs. You lost the whip. You’re not one of us. You don’t exist.”

When Matt got to the furthest space above the gangway he stopped and squeezed himself in beside actual Conservative MPs. One of them, James Gray, didn’t look up from his phone. As far as it’s possible to do while sitting down, Gray turned his back on the interloper, the migrant, the illegal alien.

Hancock smiled, he beamed, he laughed it all off. In his mind, he was blending back in. Acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, that he had never been away. That being thought of as a nob was actually a compliment.

The great thing about celebrity is that being thought of as a nob counts as recognition, and recognition is the only currency of that happy land. Alas, it is not negotiable coin in the tropical Commons. He was, as far as decently possible, ignored.

Unfortunately, for those of us who want to see the back of Matt Hancock sooner rather than later, that afternoon his team denied that his letter announcing he would stand down had any merit.

Guido explained:

… A close ally of Hancock tells Guido:

This letter is irrelevant. It hasn’t been sent on behalf of the Association, and the chief whip told Matt he was going to get the whip back. Matt had already decided not to stand again when it came to light.

In theory, a no-confidence vote would need to come after an executive council meeting, rather than an Officers’ Group. Guido understands that Hancock’s decision to step down in 2024 doesn’t change the government’s existing line that any decision to return the whip is still entirely within the gift of Simon Hart, something a source refused to deny could still happen. Bizarrely, he could still return to the parliamentary party within the next two years… even with senior members of his own association declaring him unfit for the job.

It would be salutary for everyone in the UK if Hancock’s local Conservative Association keeps piling on the pressure for him to resign. We can cope with another by-election, even if the Conservative candidate loses to a Lib Dem, a possible outcome.

Matt Hancock is not fit for public office. As for what he did to us during the pandemic, well, I don’t have the words for what I’d like to see happen to him in terms of justice.

End of series

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Sometimes things are not as they appear.

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

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

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

Heseltine said:

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

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

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

Police investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– May 15 2020: Downing Street garden party …

– May 20 2020: BYOB garden party …

– June 19 2020: Birthday party for Boris Johnson …

– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide …

– November 13 2020: Johnsons’ flat party …

– November 25 2020: Treasury drinks …

– November 27 2020: Second staff leaving do …

– December 10 2020: Department for Education party …

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

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

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

– December 15 2020: Downing Street quiz …

– December 16 2020: Department for Transport party …

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

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

December 18 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

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

– Run-up to Christmas 2020 …

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

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

Strangely, at the time, no one cared:

Now everyone does.

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

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

This was the UQ:

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

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

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

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

The verbal attacks were many and vicious.

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

Wishart asked:

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

Ellis responded:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sue Gray had been looking forward to a holiday.

It is unclear why the Met intervened when they did:

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

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

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

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

Or is he?

Sue Gray ‘update’

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

Guido Fawkes has the update in full.

Gray concluded:

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

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

He concluded with this:

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

“have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands”

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

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

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

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

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

Theresa May was deeply unhappy:

She said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackford doubled down, concluding:

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

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

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

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

Another MP said:

He has left anyway!

Here’s the video:

Hoyle concluded:

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, Labour MPs and the media hit the bar:

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

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

Labour’s Chinese spy story ignored

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

Subplots

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

Metropolitan Police

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

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

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

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

Sir Jimmy Savile

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boris replied:

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

The Speaker objected:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido posted part of Mirza’s resignation letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too right.

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

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

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

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

Of the three additional resignations, GB News reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those people live in their own bubble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday’s post discussed the vote on coronavirus measures — Plan B — for England, which saw a sizeable Conservative rebellion, while most Labour MPs voted with the Government.

Labour is supposed to be the main Opposition party. Yet, their MPs, along with most Conservative MPs, seem to be in lockstep. How sad.

In a late-breaking development to Plan B, self-quarantine rules have been changed to daily testing for seven days. On Tuesday, December 14, Sajid Javid told MPs the following before the Plan B votes, which were split into four divisions (emphases mine below):

Instead of close contacts of confirmed cases or suspected cases having to self-isolate, all vaccinated contacts, irrespective of whether the contact was with an omicron case, will be asked to take lateral flow tests every day for seven days. Regulation No. 1415 allows us to put this plan into action by revoking the omicron-specific provisions for self-isolation.

That’s good news.

As for the other three provisions, sadly, all passed.

This is one of the few times when tellers for the divisions — votes — were from the same party:

Here’s what happened:

1/ Masks are once again compulsory in public, enclosed spaces, including houses of worship:

2/ Coronavirus vaccines will be required for NHS and social care, including care home, staff by April 2022:

3/ Coronavirus passports will be mandatory for large gatherings and venues:

That said, note the big opposition votes for mandatory vaccines and the vaccine passports. Guido Fawkes has a list of 98 Conservatives who voted against the Government on vaccine passports. Well done, rebels!

Labour Party whips spotted three more, including Sir Desmond Swayne and Bob Seely:

The number of Conservative rebels far exceeded the predicted 81. A few Labour MPs joined in as well as ten of 11 Liberal Democrats. Sir Ed Davey, Lib Dem party leader, was self-isolating with coronavirus. As there is no more remote voting by proxy, as there was during hybrid Commons proceedings this year, he could not register his votes.

Labour’s Mary Kelly Foy couldn’t vote, either, for the same reason:

By the way, this is how the voting is done as of the middle of 2021. The Commons is modernising with card readers that record votes:

Beware of dubious interpretations of these new rules, as much as millions of us disagree with them.

We need to read the full headlines. The Telegraph says that vaccine passports do not apply to MPs — but, if we read carefully, we see that is only in the House of Commons. They will be subject to the law elsewhere, just like everyone else:

On that story, Scotland’s The Herald reports:

Recent social distancing rules in the chamber ended this week

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, raised a point of order about busy sessions in the chamber being regulated.

He said: “It seems to me, particularly on a Wednesday when we get back to normal, that definition could equally apply to this House of Commons.

“It’d be outrageous if the executive were to attempt to prevent any Member of Parliament attending this House to represent our constituents without first undergoing a medical procedure.”

He added: “Your 17th century predecessor, Speaker Lenthall, stood up very effectively against an overmighty executive and it didn’t end well for the overmighty executive.”

Sir Lindsay replied: “It did lead to the end of the monarchy as well, I might add, for a short period so let’s hope we’re not quite going back that far.”

“There is nothing to stop a member coming in to here, you have the right to come to this House unless this House otherwise says so.

“The Government’s not been in touch, I don’t expect them to be in touch because, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t apply to members.”

The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson would disagree with my calling Conservative rebels ‘rebels’.

She — perhaps rightly — calls them ‘the true Conservatives’:

Please don’t call the MPs who voted against vaccine passports ‘Tory rebels’. In my book, those upstanding men and women are the true Conservatives. Rather, it is those who pushed through this repellently un-British measure, with the help of the Labour Party, who are the traitors to our philosophy

From head boy of the old school, Sir Graham Brady, to 28-year-old blonde bombshell of the Red Wall Dehenna Davison, via former Royal Air Force engineer Steve Baker (more sense than the entire Cabinet combined) through that lioness Esther McVey, keenly compassionate Sir Charles Walker and Miriam Cates (both rightly devastated by the collateral damage of lockdown) to fearless, principled Nus Ghani and the swashbuckling Sir Desmond Swayne… These are my heroes – and all the rest who dug in their heels on the slippery slope to authoritarianism.

As Cates put it: “The new measures threaten to cement a permanent shift in the balance of power between the Government and the British people that has been brought about by two years of ‘hokey-cokey’ restrictions on our freedom. This is a shift that is no doubt being celebrated by those on the Left, but it should chill Conservatives to the core.”

Unfortunately, after the vote, new, positive data came out about the Omicron variant:

As I was writing this, there landed a fresh blow to the Government’s campaign of fear. The first major study found that omicron was likely to be 23 per cent less severe than the delta variant, with those of us who are double-jabbed still enjoying good protection. Far fewer people needed intensive care for omicron, with just five per cent of cases admitted to ICU compared with 22 per cent of delta patients.

Pearson sees this as good news:

By catching and shrugging off the omicron “cold”, we could be minimising the risk to those who will always be vulnerable.

Things could always be worse for England. At least it’s not Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has put the screws on for Christmas. On Tuesday, The Herald reported Sturgeon as saying there was a ‘tsunami’ of coronavirus cases in Scotland:

Nicola Sturgeon is urging Scots to limit socialising to a maximum of three households at a time …

The first minister said: “We are not banning or restricting household mixing in law as before. We understand the negative impact this has on mental health and wellbeing.”

… “However, if you do plan on socialising – either at home or in indoor public places – we are asking that you limit the number of households represented in your group to a maximum of 3. And make sure you test before you go.” 

Sturgeon advised businesses as follows:

For retail, it will include “a return to the kind of protections from the start of the pandemic – like measures to avoid crowding and bottlenecks. This will include physical distancing, measures to control the flow of customers, and protective screens.”

For hospitality, “it will mean for example, measures to avoid crowding at bars and between tables, and a reminder of the requirement to collect contact details of customers to help with contact tracing.”

The article said that only two people have been hospitalised in Scotland with the Omicron variant, yet:

The first minister said: “The R number associated with Delta is around 1. But the R number for Omicron appears to be well over 2, and possibly above 4.”

She added that this was why Scotland was facing a “tsunami” of cases.

Okay. I remain to be convinced. I hope that most Scots are also unconvinced.

This saga will roll on into the New Year, no doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

The numbers hospitalised with Omicron are in single digits …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alicia Kearns tweeted that she would vote against coronavirus passports:

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

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

The rebel MPs’ reaction was immediate:

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

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

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

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

Mark Harper MP pointed out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boris wouldn’t dare, would he?

Omicron has British politicians reaching for the Control button yet again.

On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly for new face-covering restrictions: 434 to 23. The new self-isolation rules also passed: 431 to 36.

I watched the three-hour debate that afternoon. Apart from the dissenters — all Conservative MPs — it was soul destroying, particularly since there were only three Labour MPs in attendance!

The debate transcript is on Hansard. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Maggie Throup was the minister who laid out the restrictions on face coverings for the next three weeks and new self-isolation rules for the next three months. She also closed the debate prior to the division (vote).

This debate concerned the wearing of masks for the next three weeks on public transport, including taxis, and in shops, post offices, banks, beauty salons, takeaways, veterinary clinics and driving instruction vehicles.

Throup did not list all of those. She did add that exemptions are in place:

Given the potential severity of the consequences of not responding swiftly to this new variant, the Government have taken decisive action to bring back compulsory face-covering wearing in an array of settings. Face coverings are again compulsory in shops and on public transport, unless an individual has a medical exemption or a reasonable excuse.

It is illegal for anyone to query why or what the exemption/excuse is.

As many organisations are now cancelling large Christmas celebrations in light of the Omicron variant, Sir Desmond Swayne was rightly concerned about the hospitality industry, which has only started recovering from a long lockdown during the first half of this year:

Will the Minister deprecate those public appointees who, notwithstanding the clear proportionate advice of the chief scientific adviser, have been on the airwaves telling people that they should not socialise, to the huge detriment of people’s wellbeing and of an industry struggling to recover from earlier lockdowns?

Throup replied saying that the restrictions were:

proportionate, precautionary and balanced, and are being made in response to the specific threat.

These restrictions will expire in three weeks’ time, at which point Parliament will be in Christmas recess. Therefore, if they need to be extended, the Government could automatically do so without another vote.

The Shadow (Opposition) Health Minister, Alex Norris (Labour), said that he was grateful the restrictions were brought forward for a vote.

Mark Harper, a doughty opponent of coronavirus restrictions, intervened in Norris’s speech, saying that Parliament should be recalled during Christmas recess if there were an extension or a strengthening of these restrictions:

I am very pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman say that about parliamentary scrutiny. He will know that yesterday I asked the Government for assurances if they were to want to extend or strengthen these measures after the House has risen for the Christmas recess, as I feel that if that is the case the House should either continue sitting or be recalled. In answer to my question, the Leader of the House suggested that it would be up to the House. I therefore ask this of the hon. Gentleman speaking for the Opposition: if the Government were to bring forward strengthened measures or want to extend them after the House has risen, would the Opposition support the House being recalled so that we can debate and vote on the matters in advance, or is he prepared to give the Government a blank cheque?

Another Conservative MP, Karl McCartney, asked Norris whether he preferred a recall before or after Christmas.

Norris refused to commit a preference for either time period.

Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, asked why the Government’s regulations had become effective at 4 a.m. on the day of the debate, which was held in the afternoon:

Why on earth did the regulations come into force at 4 am today when we are here now, at 20 minutes to 2 in the afternoon, debating them? Surely it would have been possible to have a debate yesterday, or indeed to delay their implementation until this afternoon. I think that indicates a rather casual attitude to parliamentary scrutiny that persists in Government.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) has asked important questions about what will happen if the regulations are renewed after the three-week period, when the House is not sitting. We still have no clarity as to whether the House would be recalled or whether the regulations would simply be extended for a period of weeks without the House having the opportunity to comment.

Mark Harper noted that there was plenty of time for the debate on Monday evening, since the House of Commons had adjourned early:

It is also worth saying that one of the things we get from Ministers when we press them on these things is about parliamentary time, but my hon. Friend will know that the House normally sits until 10.30 pm on a Monday. Looking at yesterday’s performance, the House got to the Adjournment debate at about quarter past 7. There were hours yesterday when the House could easily have debated both these measures, which means we could have debated them before they came into force. Even the Opposition agree that that is invariably the better solution when it is at all possible.

Sir Graham Brady agreed:

Absolutely. As a former Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend knows very well that there is always parliamentary time available when the Government want to do something; it is only when they are reluctant to do something that parliamentary time becomes elusive.

There is a further question as to why only one of the instruments before us has an expiry date in the regulations. Surely it would have been better to put an expiry date in place, which would have required some positive action to renew or extend the regulations if that was deemed necessary.

A few minutes later he said:

In the summer of 2020, the Prime Minister said that it was time to move on and time to start to trust people to make decisions for themselves. I rejoiced at that and thought what a wonderful thing it was that we were moving to a point where we would advise people, inform people and make sure they had the best evidence to make decisions in their own lives. Now, however, we see the first instinct of the Government when we do not even have any evidence that the omicron variant is worse in its effects. There is some suggestion from South Africa that it might be less severe, but the Government’s first instinct is to introduce further compulsory measures and regulations relating to self-isolation and to face coverings in some settings but only until 20 December, plus measures that affect the travel industry, particularly the move back to PCR tests on day two.

He added:

We cannot move, as we appear to have done, to an environment in which the Government simply assume they can instruct us whenever there is the first small evidence from anywhere in the world of a new strain that might behave in a different way, and new and potentially swingeing public health measures are put in place. I ask Ministers to consider the implications of that and for looking at other diseases. Will we start to treat other diseases and viruses in the same way, assuming the best thing to do is to compel people and instruct them on what actions they need to take?

He was clearly disappointed with the new regulations and the continuing Coronavirus Act 2020:

We have now lived it for 18 months and we can see this reaching ahead. We think back to when the Coronavirus Act 2020 was renewed again, taking us through to spring next year, and the assurances we were given that that would be the last time. I thought we would not need this kind of legislation again, but we see the Government’s immediate assumption that they should reach for new controls, new compulsion and new rules to inflict on the British people. We need to move away from that and back to a world where we trust people, engage with the public and recognise that the Government are there to serve the people, not the other way around.

Steve Brine pointed out the lack of MPs on the Opposition benches:

It was bad enough when the extension of the Coronavirus Act 2020 was nodded through without a vote. There has been lots of excitement and flurry recently about Members of Parliament and the work that we do. There is now one Labour Back Bencher, one Liberal Democrat—albeit that she is one twelfth of the parliamentary party—and one Democratic Unionist party Member in the Chamber. I understand why SNP Members are not here in force, because they rightly do not vote on English matters, but I think that this is something that the public should be concerned about. We are making an impact on their lives today, and it is a disgrace that this House is so empty.

Is anybody other than the Minister going to speak in favour of the regulations today? In the House of Commons, in my experience of 11 and a half years, you do not just have to win the vote; you have to win the argument as well. Of course the Government will win the vote today, because the Opposition—who always say “How high do you want us to jump?” when the Government propose new restrictions on our lives—will pretend to ask difficult questions while voting for the restrictions anyway. They said that they would vote for them before they had even seen the published regulations. Frankly, I think that that is a derogation of duty from Her Majesty’s Opposition.

He questioned the way the new self-isolation text was worded:

Under new regulation 2B(1)(ba)—I know; how are the public meant to follow this?—of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020, if one child in a class of 30 has had close contact with someone who

“is suspected of, or confirmed as, having an Omicron variant”,

presumably the other 29 are out. We are not just looking at a pingdemic in our economy and in our businesses; we are looking at a pingdemic that will devastate education again. After everything that we have learned—everything that I have felt in my own family—are we really, seriously, going to do that to our children again?

He deplored the fact that schools are cancelling Nativity plays and that big Christmas celebrations are being cancelled:

What concerns me is the chilling effect that this is having on the rest of our society. The fact that No. 10 Downing Street, the centre of government, has taken to the national newspapers today to ask head teachers not to cancel nativity plays because of the announcement that we made on Saturday night makes me ask, “What on earth are we doing?”

We should think of the effect that this is having on confidence, on society and on hospitality. Those in hospitality have put everything into this Christmas in order to survive and to save their year. There is nothing in these regulations that says Christmas parties must be cancelled—unless, of course, Dr Harries [head of the new Health Security Agency] is in charge—but there is everything in the language and the narrative coming out of the Government right now that is causing Christmas parties to be cancelled left, right and centre. I have seen organisations in my constituency cancel events that were due to happen within the next few weeks, on a “just in case” basis. These regulations will have a chilling effect, and we should not underestimate that just because it is not written in black and white.

Brine questioned whether the Department for Health and Social Care consulted other government departments before coming up with these restrictions. Travel reservations will decrease once again. Travel agencies are also adversely affected.

Mark Harper intervened to say that the Government has not been involving other departments in coronavirus legislation:

My hon. Friend has touched on an important point about the process within Government to ensure that all aspects are considered. What normally happens is that regulations are thought about and there is a right-round process—which, for the benefit of those listening to the debate, means that all Government Departments have the opportunity to provide an input. One thing we have discovered is that in the case of covid regulations, that right-round process does not operate in the normal way. Through my hon. Friend, I ask the Minister to clarify in her winding-up speech whether, as these regulations were being drafted, other Departments were consulted and given the usual opportunity to provide an input, or whether this was done purely in the Department of Health and No. 10 Downing Street.

Sir Christopher Chope gave a long but excellent speech.

He noted that most people who wear masks are not wearing them correctly, rendering them useless:

Very few people wear their face mask correctly. The World Health Organisation’s advice says that people should wash their hands as soon as they take off their face mask, that they should discard temporary face masks and that they should wash their hands again when they put on a fresh face mask.

I had a discussion with Mr Speaker on this subject some months ago and, while we were having that discussion, one of our colleagues came into the Tea Room wearing a mask, took it off and put it on the breakfast table. I said to Mr Speaker that it really makes my point. Frankly, if we are talking about public hygiene and public health, the Government should be saying, “If you think you want to wear a mask, go and wear a mask but, for crying out loud, make sure you don’t contaminate yourself and others by not wearing it correctly.”

He said that he could not vote in favour of the restrictions:

I cannot support these oppressive, authoritarian and dictatorial regulations, which are neither necessary nor desirable. They will have an adverse effect on lives, livelihoods and the mental health of our constituents. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care considers that

“the requirements imposed by these Regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to the threat.”

Where is the evidence? The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup), adduced no evidence whatsoever, and there is no regulatory impact assessment—the excuse is that the regulations will be in force for less than a year. Why is there no regulatory impact assessment? Why are we being asked to support a policy for which there is no evidence?

If there had been a regulatory impact assessment, there would be a requirement on the Government under the regulation rules of the Cabinet Office to put forward the possible alternatives to these regulations. We need goal-setting requirements, rather than prescription. More and more prescription seems to be the Government’s recipe.

To take an example, why is a shopkeeper not allowed to permit people to shop without wearing a face covering, provided those people have had a proper vaccination? Why is the keeper of a small shop not allowed to keep their front door open and allow people to go in and out without the need to wear a face covering—there would be adequate ventilation—or perhaps, as some small shops in my constituency do, have a one-in, one-out rule so that there is only one person in the shop with them? Why are we not allowing shops to have that freedom?

If we want to have a consistent policy, why are we treating those who have been fully vaccinated in the same way as those who have not been fully vaccinated? That seems to be wholly inconsistent with the regulations introduced by the Government in relation to people who work in care homes, and they propose to bring in similar restrictions for those working in the health service. If, having required those people to be double-vaccinated, we are saying that they are not in a privileged position when it comes to going into their local shop, what is the point of depriving those who have not been double-vaccinated of their right to work? There does not seem to be any consistency.

He also pointed out an inconsistency on mask wearing exemptions which Maggie Throup said will be corrected.

He concluded:

Obviously, people out there will be wondering about exemptions and reasonable excuses. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), who chairs the Select Committee on Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, drew attention in his intervention to the fact that young people are going around in shopping centres saying that they have a reasonable excuse for not complying with the regulations and for not wearing face masks. What is the problem with that? If people have a reasonable excuse for not wearing face coverings, let us not get too fussed about it. That is why these regulations are part of a scaremongering propaganda campaign on the part of the Government that is designed to try to stop or restrict social interaction between social animals who happen to be living in the United Kingdom. That is potentially the most damaging aspect of the regulations before us today: they are designed to suppress freedom of the individual and to suppress social contact and they are doing that through unreasonable fearmongering.

Craig Mackinlay said there were too many absurdities in the regulations for him to support them:

We are, though, left with a gross absurdity that will perhaps face everyone in the House over the next few weeks. When someone goes to the off-licence on the way to a party later, it might take them only 45 seconds to get their tipple of choice but they will have to wear a mask on pain of a fine. They can then make their way to a house party, with 100 people or perhaps more—perhaps an infinite number of people—where it will be enclosed, warm, cosy and friendly and they can take that same face mask off. Really? It is an infantile proposal and we are in danger of falling down the same absurdities as we fell down before, with the madness of the couple who could walk across a golf course but dare not play on it. This is the absurdity that I have voted against previously and will vote against again.

Let me move on to the self-isolation requirements. I am afraid that the proposals mean we are going to fall into a new pingdemic. There is nothing in the regulations, in anything the Minister has said or in anything else I have heard to date to say that the testing regime will be backed up with proper genome sequencing at the right rate, so we can get back to a situation in which people can be told, “No, your contact was not omicron. You’re fine.” My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester picked up on a very dangerous phrase in the regulations, and that is “suspected of”. I do not know what that means. I know what “confirmed as” means—to be confirmed through a proper genome-sequence test—but what about “suspected of”? When people get that phone call, text, email or ping from the NHS—if they have been daft enough to have the app on their phone—are they now going to hear, just because the words “suspected of” have been added, “Thou shalt be held indoors for 10 days”? This is where we end up with mission creep and the chilling effect that my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester mentioned.

I am going to be somewhat concerned about going to that Christmas party or that pub, because I have friends and family coming round for Christmas day. This legislation is going to have a dangerous pingdemic effect, either through a proper pingdemic or just through the effect of fear. I asked the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who spoke for the SNP and is knowledgeable on these matters, whether we might be able to get a new lateral flow test that is specific to omicron, but I think the answer is possibly no. We are in a confused state and I am concerned that the regulations will shatter businesses that are getting ready for Christmas. With the support of Opposition parties, sadly the regulations are likely to go through.

Mark Harper gave another excellent speech.

First, he pointed out that the NHS was not under strain from coronavirus patients, the usual rationale for restrictions, but rather a backlog of patients who could not be treated during the pandemic:

… it is not facing pressure from the number of patients in hospital because of covid, which is around 6% of total bed capacity. The NHS is under enormous pressure dealing with the significant number of patients who were both unable to be treated and scared away from the national health service during the pandemic. We must be careful not to repeat the mistake and scare away a whole new set of patients, as it will take the NHS another very significant period of time to deal with them. There is nothing about the measures that she suggested that will deal with those pressures; they will just make them worse.

He deplored the lack of evidence for the Government’s coronavirus decisions:

I listened carefully to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady), and I agree that it is disappointing that we have moved away from a model where the Government lay out the evidence and the arguments and allow people to make their own decisions. That was a big choice that the Government made last year, and I am very disappointed that they have moved away from it. Weighing against that—this was set out very clearly by the Chairman of the Transport Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), and my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), a distinguished former public health Minister—is that at least those regulations have quite a tight expiry date, and they will expire in three weeks’ time. Although I do not like the move back to mandating, I am prepared on this occasion—balancing up the pressures, and because there is an expiry date—not to oppose the regulations, but I will not support them either.

In the end, he voted against the self-isolation regulations.

He was also concerned about the expiry date occurring during Christmas recess, favouring a recall, if necessary:

My final point is the one that I made yesterday. Ministers have said that they will review the measures in three weeks’ time, as of yesterday. That would be 20 December, when the House will have risen for the Christmas recess—I touched on this in my intervention on the Opposition spokesman. If any of the measures are to be extended, or if further measures are to be brought in, it would be unacceptable for Ministers to do it by decree, which is effectively what the Minister at the Dispatch Box did with these two orders. They should be brought forward to this House for a debate in advance of their coming in. If we have to sit in the days running up to Christmas, so be it. Many people in this country work over the Christmas period in many industries serving the public. We are better paid than most of those people, so if we have to come here and do our jobs, working on behalf of the public, to scrutinise the laws that affect their lives, then I for one am very happy to do so. It would be a failure of the responsibilities that Ministers have if they do not seek to keep the House sitting or recall it if they wish to take those powers. Ministers are accountable to the House and to our constituents through us, and they would be wise never to forget it.

You can watch his speech here:

Steve Baker followed Mark Harper.

He has been consistently concerned about the erosion of civil liberties:

the issue is that we are taking away the public’s right to choose what they do, based on flimsy and uncertain evidence. We do not know the extent to which this new variant will escape the vaccines and we do not know how harmful it would be. This debate goes to the heart of the nature of the society that we are creating.

… now that we have got the case fatality rate down to a comparable level with that of flu, we should be living with coronavirus like we live with flu. As my hon. Friend asked, are we going to manage other diseases like this?

Let me turn to the point that I really want to flesh out. The Government’s approach seems to be to say, “Better safe than sorry. You can’t be too careful.”. The trouble is that we really can be too careful. There is a problem that I call tunnel vision and my friend, Professor Paul Dolan from the London School of Economics, calls situational blindness, whereby we end up looking only at the disease. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester [Steve Brine] has set out brilliantly the harm that will be done to children. I cannot begin to understand the psychological harm to children of being in masks all the time; we cannot go back and repeat the experience of a missed nativity play, and so on …

Where is the hope from the Government? I know young people who are demoralised and depressed, and who have been telling me that we will go back into lockdown, and I have been saying, “No, because the vaccines are working and I do not believe that Conservative Ministers will do this to us”, but we have already started to see the scope creep, the mission creep, and the goalposts perhaps being slightly unshackled from the ground, ready to be moved.

Today’s debate is not about face coverings or the coming pingdemic through self-isolation measures. It is about how we react and the kind of nation and civilisation that we are creating in the context of this new disease. What is the relationship between the state and the individual? Are we to be empty vessels or mere automata—things to be managed, as if a problem? Or are we free spirits with, for want of a better term, a soul? We are free spirits with a soul—people who deserve the dignity of choice and the meaning in our lives that comes from taking responsibility. It is possible that meaning in our lives comes from little else. This is a fundamental choice between heading towards heaven and heading towards hell. If we continue to react to these fears and uncertainties by taking the authoritarian course, without impact assessments—because the regulations are only temporary, you know—we are embarked on that downward course.

Even loneliness shortens lives. Again, Paul Dolan has been very clear with me that loneliness cuts lives short, and yet we find an official going beyond Government policy to say that we should not have unnecessary socialising. The most extraordinary set of choices are being taken because of an overwhelming, narrow focus on the one issue of coronavirus. It falls on Ministers to provide the lead, the breadth of thinking, the vision and the values to set out what broad kind of society we are trying to create. Where are we going as a society and civilisation? What will be our redemption and salvation? How will we provide that hope for our future? I believe that it will be by having faith in one another. The public are not fools. We are not here to govern idiots. I have faith in the British public that they can choose for themselves to do the right thing: to wear a mask when it is sensible, to pay attention to the level of cases, to choose for themselves whether they go to a restaurant, and, indeed, to choose whether they visit vulnerable relations in care homes—I could tell a sad story about that point …

He then told the story of a constituent who is currently stuck in South Africa without accommodation and badly needs a refill of his anti-anxiety medication.

Steve Baker concluded:

There is no plausible path set out before us that leads to a genuine public health emergency, yet the Government are choosing to react in this way. As a result, I am afraid that the Government are choosing that downward path towards, frankly, hell—the hell of minute management of our lives by edict, with nothing that we can do about it and not even a say in advance in Parliament—and, incredibly, a clear majority of this House is going along with it. Some of us today have to take a decision to vote no to everything. I, for one, intend to chart a course towards heaven, and I hope that hon. Members will come with me.

You can see his speech here:

Bob Seely’s speech criticised Neil Ferguson’s deeply flawed modelling over the past 20 years:

I want to look particularly at Imperial College and Professor Ferguson. I have a great deal of respect for them and I will be careful how I phrase this, but I am concerned that some of the forecasting we have had has had a track record in, frankly, getting it wrong repeatedly. In 2001, Professor Ferguson predicted 150,000 human deaths from foot-and-mouth; under 200 died. In 2002, he predicted between 50 and 50,000 deaths from BSE; in the end, 177 died. In 2005, he said that 150 million people could be killed by bird flu; 282 died. In 2009, a Government estimate based on his advice said that a “reasonable worst-case scenario” for swine flu would lead to 65,000 British deaths; in the end, 457 people died. I am happy to be corrected on any of those points, but that is the publicly available information.

Moving forward to covid, Ferguson predicted 85,000 deaths in Sweden; in fact, 6,000 Swedes have died. Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, said in September 2020:

“We looked at the”

Imperial

“model and we could see that the variables that were put into the model were quite extreme…Why did you choose the variables that gave extreme results?

I love experts—don’t get me wrong; I know we sometimes have our issues with them—but it is helpful if they are right, if only very occasionally. Johan Giesecke, Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist, said that Ferguson’s models were “not very good”. The Washington Post quoted Giesecke as saying that Imperial’s forecasts were “almost hysterical”. This is the forecasting that has been, in part, driving Government action.

In this country, oncology professor Angus Dalgleish, in this country, described Ferguson’s modelling as “lurid predictions”. He said that Ferguson and his colleagues were getting it “spectacularly wrong”. He said:

“Unfortunately, we have a Sage committee advising a government that is devoid of any scientific expertise, on speculative concepts such as the R number”

which we now all know is the reproductive rate—

“and the need for everyone to stay indoors, even though the evidence strongly suggests that people are less likely to catch Covid-19 outside.”

So some of the scientific evidence may have actually driven the rising covid rates in the same way that going into hospital may have been the place that people caught covid and died from it.

Viscount Ridley has criticised Ferguson’s modelling. Lund University has applied Ferguson’s models and found a massive difference between his predictions and what actually happened. Professor Michael Thrusfield from Edinburgh University said that Ferguson’s previous modelling of foot-and-mouth was “severely flawed”.

Bob Seely gave many more examples. He then said:

Every time Professor Ferguson’s forecasts have been verifiable, they have been seen to be very badly flawed, and this is a serious man and a serious university.

He concluded:

We need a precautionary principle, but we need a sense of balance so that we do not overstep the mark, damage our society, damage our young people and damage poorer people by seeking to control when we need to learn to live with this. My final question to the Minister is: will the Government look into forecasting and perhaps hold an inquiry into the success of forecasting and what we can learn from it, so that we do it less badly in future?

Dr Andrew Murrison, who is a practising physician, voted for the mask restrictions but against the isolation ones.

He remains concerned about the long term effects of these measures on the public and businesses:

While they have been happy to go along with some of the impositions that we have had over the past 18 months, they are now coming to the point where they are thinking, “This could basically be the new normal. This will go on and on, and on what basis will we continue to invest in our businesses if every few months we have these kinds of things and goodness knows what else that may follow?” I am worried about that.

I am also deeply worried, as other hon. and right hon. Members have pointed out, about this “suspected of” bit. That seems to me to be rather clumsy and I am not comfortable with it. Presumably, anybody showing any coronavirus symptoms could be “suspected of” having the omicron variant

The Government are right to be cautious—of course they are—but we also need a sense of proportion. We need to understand that everything we do in this place with regard to regulation has a consequence for liberty and livelihoods, for the economy in general and for young people in particular. I made that point in connection with the apparent suggestion of the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper) that it was a no-cost measure. We need to be careful about the impact that it all has on young people and especially on mental health.

This is so depressing. It is hard to predict how this will affect Boris in polling. Surprisingly, many people in England support the restrictions.

Tomorrow’s post will look at the reaction around England to the new restrictions.

Without a vote on October 19, 2021, in the House of Commons, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has been renewed again until March 24, 2022.

Not enough MPs rebelled to trigger a division (vote):

Interestingly, Bill Gates was in London on Monday. The Queen shook hands with him and he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

As usual, Mark Harper (Conservative) was the only MP who has continued to push back against this questionable piece of legislation. He rightly pointed out that this is the first time that Labour have complained about lack of scrutiny:

Labour have never opposed the Coronavirus Act.

A few other MPs, mostly Conservative, spoke up at Tuesday’s debate. This was probably the only time I’ve agreed with Labour’s Dawn Butler:

The Act has always been presented on the Floor of the House as an all-or-nothing Bill; MPs never have an opportunity to change, amend or scrutinise it, so I think that the Secretary of State is just a little misleading in how he is presenting it to the House today …

Unintentionally misleading.

It would appear that MPs did not clamour for a vote because some of the Act’s provisions have expired.

However, the driver behind the powers of the Coronavirus Act 2020 lie in a separate public health act from 1984 (oddly enough).

The Mirror, a Labour paper, explains (emphases mine):

Facing pressure from Tory MPs, Boris Johnson announced that the vast majority of Coronavirus Act powers – including on detention, events, gatherings, shops and restaurants and schools – would expire last month.

The means only a few of the more draconian powers – including the power to suspend port operations – now remain in the Act.

However, the Act also includes laws designed to improve the state’s response to the pandemic.

Those include the temporary registration of social workers, paramedics and other NHS staff if trainees or retirees need to surge into the system, and the ability to pay sick pay from day one of absence.

Labour MP Dawn Butler said the “authoritarian” Act had been passed with “no scrutiny” and “it was never proportionate”.

She added she was “pleased” that the most draconian powers – including detention powers – had been removed.

No one blamed Sajid Javid, still newish in his role as Health Secretary. It was the principle of the legislation and the way it was rolled out last year.

Of course, every Briton expects the NHS to be under pressure again this year. It’s been under pressure every winter since I moved here decades ago.

Sajid Javid said:

We do certainly expect more pressure as we head into winter, we’ve been very open about that and that is why the vaccination programme, both the Covid vaccination programme, the boosters and the flu vaccination programme remain important.

“But there are provisions in this Act which are still, I believe, still necessary and proportionate to help with the pressure … “

At the end of the debate, Deputy Speaker Rosie Winterton (Labour) took the mood of the Commons. Too few Noes spoke — to much laughter — in a near-empty House. Sickening, as if this were an in-joke. It probably is:

What an insult to the taxpayers who pay MPs’ salaries and expenses.

Meanwhile, it will come as no surprise that various scientists have been pressing the Government to quickly implement ‘Plan B’, which would mean a return to masks and more restrictions.

It looks as if we will be stuck in this downward spiral for some time to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zahawi replied:

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

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

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

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

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

An SNP MP hoped there would be proportionality:

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

Zahawi said that more details would be forthcoming.

Zahawi’s voice faltered several times during the debate:

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

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

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

Zahawi answered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Harper MP welcomed the news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Quelle surprise!

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

However, the reality is more like this:

Incredibly, Britons support the delay:

Protest at Downing Street

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

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

Coronavirus briefing

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

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

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

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

Some restrictions have been lifted for weddings and funerals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s exactly what they said in April.

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

Matt Hancock’s statement in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

Hancock said:

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

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

Now it seems to be about zero COVID.

That’s quite a leap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hancock replied:

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

Steve Brine was, rightly, unhappy:

Last week, the Secretary of State told me:

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

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

Hancock replied (in part):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also retweeted the following:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

I hope I am wrong. I truly do.

While much of the UK is in some sort of coronavirus lockdown — England is now in the new Tier 5 — let’s cast our minds back to Christmas Eve 2020.

An imminent announcement was rumoured by news channels from the early morning.

Christmas Eve morning — in our household, at least — provided more excitement than Christmas Day, particularly since our area were in Tier 4 at the time, forbidding anything but the briefest of visits.

As December 24 unfolded, there was no final trade agreement enabling the United Kingdom to terminate the Brexit transition phase, scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Brussels time, on December 31.

Mid-afternoon, Sky News announced that there would be no statement that day. We stayed tuned in, which was just as well, because a short time later, they changed tack and said that that EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be making separate statements about a deal having been struck.

Amazingly, as Sky News announced there would be no announcement, this independent journalist called it correctly. Well done:

Guido Fawkes’s team, who run the best British political website, had been primed for this from the week before. Tom Harwood went the furthest and had worn his Merry Brexmas jumper (pullover sweater) in their news wrap up video on December 18:

Around 3 p.m., Ursula von der Leyen made her announcement from Brussels. Boris made his from No. 10. While Ursula and our chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier were downbeat, Boris was positively euphoric:

His tie had a fish motif:

Fishing was the sticking point that caused the delay to an agreement being reached:

In the end:

Leavers are very grateful to Lord David GH Frost for his tireless efforts in negotiating on the UK’s behalf. Words cannot describe how hard he has worked on our behalf:

This was Boris’s announcement about the new trade deal with the EU beginning on January 1, 2021. Guido Fawkes has a written summary (ignore the photo, which was not one from December 24):

It was on as even terms as possible. Both von der Leyen and Barnier acknowledged that we were ‘tough’ in our negotiations. Good.

Michel Barnier is in the first video:

Michel Barnier spoke after von der Leyen. Thank you, Michel:

Here he says that the UK has chosen to leave the European Union and the single market. The new agreement is the basis of a new partnership, one that is fair and equitable:

The woman on the right in that photo moderated the session, which included a press conference.

More highlights follow.

Journalist Dave Keating has an excellent thread, which he introduced with the reference to white smoke appearing at the Vatican when there is a new pope:

Boris’s usual critics doubted the ‘Canada-style’ description, until they began analysing the text. Some admitted on air and in print that it was, indeed, a Canada-style agreement.

The Telegraph had more on the agreement:

Boris sent a three-page letter to each MP and peer.

Contrary to what Boris said, the agreement was 1,246 pages long. Annexes and footnotes probably accounted for the extra length. You can read the full text here, using the links at the bottom of that page:

I couldn’t agree more with the poll results.

I also fully agree with the PM that Brexit dragged on long enough:

Agree.

We will always be European.

We love our European friends and family.

However, the EU construct, as it evolved from a common trading area to a common army (developing) and lack of national autonomy, were steps too far for 52% of the British public. Here’s a case in point: the EU Parliament — individual MEPs — won’t even be voting on this deal until early 2021. We left at the last minute of 2020. This proves further that the only EU decisions that matter come from the EU Commission.

After the announcement of the new EU-UK trade agreement, reactions poured in.

First, here’s a reaction from a member of the general public, a Leaver. I felt the same way:

Nigel Farage — without whom we never would have had a referendum (thanks again, Nigel!) — approved, even though the deal isn’t perfect:

David Cameron, who was PM at the time of the July 23, 2016 referendum, said:

Theresa May, Cameron’s successor and MP for Maidenhead, who ended up resigning over her poor handling of Brexit within Parliament, must have tweeted this through gritted teeth:

Conservative MP Mark Harper was unique in thanking Lord David GH Frost — Barnier’s British counterpart — who negotiated so well. Harper — one of the good guys — said that he would look forward to reading through the agreement over Christmas ahead of the December 30 vote.

Another Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, said, that contrary to negative reports circulating in the media, no MP objected to studying the agreement over Christmas.

The leaders of the devolved nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — also reacted to the news.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said that Brexit is happening ‘against Scotland’s will’ and issued yet another plea for Scottish independence.

Another socialist, Mark Drakeford, the First Minister — Prif Weinidog — of Wales, offered a more balanced assessment. Perhaps he recalled that most Welsh voters wanted Brexit. Drakeford said that it wasn’t the deal hoped for (probably not enough links with the EU) but was workable.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster (DUP), said that, provisionally, the agreement looked like ‘good news’ and issued a full statement on it.

Kate Hoey, the former Labour MP for Vauxhall (London) and the current Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim, was a staunch supporter of Brexit and was one of the main Leavers in 2016 on the public stage. Even though her heart is in Northern Ireland, her homeland, she participates actively in the House of Lords. She had this to say about the agreement:

Her friends at Labour Leave were equally relieved:

Emmanuel Macron, France’s petit président, played the tough guy. In one tweet, he said that European unity and firmness paid off; the agreement with the UK had to protect France’s citizens, fishermen and producers. He assured them that this was the case, pointing towards a Europe that is sovereign and strong. In a second tweet, he thanked Michel Barnier for his tenacity and engagement in defending European interests and unity. He also said that, thanks to von der Leyen, European solidarity showed its force.

That evening, Boris posted his Christmas message. The first half is about coronavirus. The second part is about Brexit:

That day, all 52% of us wanted to focus on was this great achievement — a happy one, brightening a coronavirus-dominated Christmas:

The second day of Brexmas will follow tomorrow.

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