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It would be difficult to overstate how much England has been stomped on over the past 30 years and more.

Britons are told that England does not exist; it is merely a collection of regions.

The English are told there is ‘no appetite’ for an English Parliament.

Britons are taught in school to ignore and even hate England.

Right now, I am looking at one of my high school textbooks, an anthology. Its title? England in Literature.

I read it in a class called ‘English’, oddly enough.

England is the only nation of the four in the United Kingdom without its own Parliament, which many of us living here would love to have, just as the other three nations have their own assemblies. However, our notional betters have told us that this would be impossible. Years ago, it was reported there was ‘no appetite’ for it. Yet, the people living in England have never been asked to vote on such a proposition, unlike the inhabitants of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now, to borrow an English expression, we have a spanner in the works: the continued success of England in Euro 2020.

On July 4, the Telegraph‘s Nick Timothy wrote an opinion piece: ‘England has been denied the voice it deserves by elites who would rather Englishness didn’t exist’.

It has this subtitle:

England has its own unique and complex identity, and it should have a parliament of its own, too

I couldn’t agree more, although, these days, part of me thinks it would add a layer of bureaucracy and expense. That said, it would be worth the price.

For the past few weeks, England football fans have been singing the 1996 hit song Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, with music by the Lightning Seeds. Recalling England’s World Cup win 30 years earlier, it was written for the 1996 European Championships:

Nick Timothy encapsulates the mood of England supporters perfectly:

The football fans singing “it’s coming home!”, while anxiously anticipating the pain of another England disappointment, manage to reconcile two seemingly contradictory English traits: boisterous triumphalism and private self-doubt.

The way the English feel about not only football but the nation itself is at loggerheads with elites who live in this part of our Sceptred Isle.

Timothy elaborates (emphases mine):

the English do have traits and tendencies, just like any other nationality. And yet, for many English elites, England’s identity is something best denied. It is, they believe, too dangerous, too embarrassing, or too exclusive. Even those now debating what they call “Englishness” are doing so, they admit, with reluctance.

Among them, a common contrivance is to pretend that English culture is, as one commentator puts it, “thin”, an identity that “has arisen not because of a positive movement to adopt the identity, but scorn for other forms of collective belonging”. Another pundit asks, “what is England now, other than sports teams and Shakespeare?”

Englishness is very different to that of the distinct identities of the other three nations that make up the United Kingdom, but those who wish to suppress it are doing so successfully, thus far:

They seem to hope that if “Englishness” must be appeased, they can make sure that whatever follows is an elite-led project in which they can keep everything civilised.

I am not sure exactly where ‘civilised’ would be violated were Englishness to be celebrated. For years, we have been told to avoid any national pride, unlike the Welsh and the Scots. It is perfectly acceptable for nationally-oriented political parties such as Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (SNP) to exist. Yet, no such party currently exists in England.

Elites in England fear we would break out in violence. Perhaps this is a leftover from the tiny pockets of extremists from the 1970s and early 1980s. Those groups have since faded into history and hardly speak for 99.9% of the population of England which, today, is highly diverse, particularly in our big cities. However, it is not as if the other nations of the UK don’t have their extremist groups, although Wales might be an outlier there.

Looking back further, England has her own undeniable history and culture, as Timothy points out:

England is the mother of parliaments. It is the land of Shakespeare and Dickens, Elgar and Holst, the Beatles and Stones, the Cotswolds and Cumbrian hills, London and Liverpool, Oxford and Cambridge. It is Stonehenge and St Paul’s, football and cricket, the local church and village pub, Isaac Newton and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

It is cream teas and Cheddar cheese, a pint of bitter and a cup of tea, farms and factories, honest coppers and straight judges. It is the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation, Roundheads and Cavaliers, rebellions and strikes, Industrial Revolution and a Glorious Revolution. It is the home of Magna Carta, Locke and Burke, Churchill and Attlee, and long lines of kings and queens …

From philosophy to science, inventions to the arts, English culture is rich with significance.

Therefore:

It is needlessly destructive to ignore, denigrate or misrepresent it.

Sharing a common identity, as promoted in Scotland and Wales, can be healthy:

Shared identity is what allows us to recognise familiarity in strangers, and that familiarity, psychologists attest, encourages trust and solidarity and the willingness to make sacrifices for others. You and I might never have met, but we have language, places, habits, customs and shared history, culture and stories to help us to trust one another. This shared national identity means we can look beyond the narrower identities – racial, religious, regional, whatever – that can divide us.

The only time the English can truly celebrate their identity is when it comes to national sports teams — football, primarily, but also rugby and cricket. Contrary to what the elites say about national identity, it works remarkably well:

The English football team is multiracial and at ease with itself. The cricket team – who are world champions – are multiracial and multi-religious. And as the football song shows, it is collective memories (“’cause I remember…”) and our shared attachment to place (“it’s coming home”) that bring us together.

One aspect of the display of national identity during football tournaments is the flag. For England, this is the flag of St George, a red cross on a white background. The only time it is even vaguely acceptable in the eyes of the elites is during this time.

Through the past 30 years, England football fans have draped large ones outside the windows of their homes or flown smaller ones from their cars or vans. Ironically, in a year in which England has been so successful in football, I have only seen two or three so far. Perhaps those who used to fly the flag have been psychologically intimidated over the years by talking heads on the media.

Nick Timothy says it wasn’t always this way:

In the 1966 World Cup final, England fans held up the Union Flag; by the 1996 European Championships semi-final – played before Scottish devolution – England fans were flying the cross of St George without causing a stir.

Moving back to the original subject of an English parliament, Timothy points out the problem of not having one. The issue is that MPs from the devolved governments can end up determining English legislation:

Devolution to Scotland and Wales but not to England means Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters decide the government of England. A UK government elected by mainly English voters thinking of issues that are devolved elsewhere makes no sense to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If one day we end up with a UK government elected with no English majority, but expected to determine policies in England that are devolved elsewhere, we will face a constitutional crisis.

“English votes on English laws” does not resolve this issue.

In fact, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, who is Scottish, plans to abolish English votes on English laws, known as EVEL.

A June 16 post from a Scottish site, Jaggy.blog, explains how EVEL came to be:

The newly revealed plan by the Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, to scrap English Votes for English Laws will be welcomed by fellow Unionists who felt this ‘Evel’ act rubbed salt in Scottish rebels’ wounds after the 2014 referendum. Actually, it was more of a desperate ploy by David Cameron to counter the threat of UKIP before he could work up the courage to call a referendum on EU membership.

It would seem that the reason Gove is planning to revoke EVEL is because the Conservatives have a majority of 78 in the House of Commons, thereby enabling them to overrule any opposition from the SNP, the third largest party in Parliament.

Gove’s move is seen as something that would preserve the Union. This I personally doubt, but here is the reasoning:

Zealously spearheading the UK Government’s efforts to save the Union, Mr Gove told The Times today that Evel has outlived its usefulness:

Ultimately, it’s a convention which arose out of a set of circumstances after the 2014 [Scottish independence] referendum, where you had a coalition government and so on. We’ve moved on now, so I think it’s right to review where we are on it. The more we can make the House of Commons and Westminster institutions work for every part of the UK and every party in the UK, the better.

The less said about Michael Gove, the better. His reasoning is illogical, but he won’t care. He has no love for England, either.

Would the SNP be able to restrain themselves and not vote on English laws? Back in the 1990s, it used to be a matter of honour whereby they would not do so. After all, English MPs cannot vote on Scottish laws, because that legislation has been handled in Holyrood since 1999.

Therefore, as Nick Timothy says, the only way to resolve this is by creating an English Parliament:

… there can be no return to the unitary state of old. The only sustainable remaining solution is an English parliament and English government within a federal UK, supported by a political culture that respects and cherishes pride in England and shows a more serious commitment to the government of England’s regions. We have a lot to take pride in, and as the football team is showing, there are many more shared memories – of triumph, hopefully, rather than disaster – still to be made.

Sadly, a shared culture and geography is unlikely to make that happen anytime soon.

For now, we must lie back and consider the Three Lions — and the possibility that they could win Euro 2020.

In closing, there is nothing shameful about England or the English. They have given me the best years of my life.

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

Brief analyses of results

Various pundits gave analyses of the results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English council wrap-up

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

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

English mayoral elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Labour defeated the Conservatives:

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

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

Scotland

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

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

Independence referendum redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wales

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

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

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

This is their Senedd (Senate) result:

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

Guido Fawkes has a summary.

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

Houses of Parliament

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

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

More on that this week.

Yesterday’s post detailed the first day of Brexmas — Christmas Eve 2020 — when the UK and the EU signed the deal to end the transition period and move on to a future outside of EU control.

MPs and the Lords were preparing to vote on the deal on Wednesday, December 30, in a special recall of both Houses of Parliament.

The Brexit referendum in 2016 attracted more voters and two of the largest campaign donations in British history.

The days between Christmas and December 30 seemed like a long wait. We were in lockdown, to various extents, at the time. However, Leavers were able to get an idea of how MPs thought about the new trade agreement, which is a treaty. A summary of practical considerations for Britons can be found here.

We also garnered snippets from journalists on some of the deal/treaty provisions.

Natasha Clark, who writes about politics for The Sun, tweeted:

Some pointed out a few downsides. There are concerns about British financial services operating overseas, the performing arts and, equally important, international security:

That said, Sir John Redwood MP was optimistic:

Even better, the hardline Brexit group, the European Research Group (ERG), was all in for the deal:

The ERG issued a three-page statement of support on Tuesday, December 29, concluding:

Our overall conclusion is that the Agreement preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties. The “level playing field” clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government. In any event they do not prevent the UK from changing its laws as it sees fit at a risk of tariff countermeasures, and if those were unacceptable the Agreement could be terminated on 12 months’ notice.

Even Labour — and Opposition — leader Sir Keir Starmer said that he would back the deal (starting at 1:30):

Sixty per cent of Conservative Home readers considered the deal a win.

On the morning of December 30, Graham Stringer, a Labour MP, said that Parliament should support the deal:

However, MPs from Northern Ireland thought differently. They have to abide by the EU rules because they border the Republic of Ireland. MSN Money published a fuller statement from the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), which reads in part (emphases mine):

Whilst we accept that this agreement does bring about zero tariff and quota arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union thus removing many goods from attracting tariffs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the fact remains that this agreement does not assist Northern Ireland in the context of having to operate under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

When Parliament is recalled on Wednesday we will vote against this agreement. We will do so as a point of principle and not because we supported a no deal option. A free trade deal is better than no deal but for Northern Ireland this deal does not undo the detrimental aspects of the Protocol.

Understandably many in Great Britain will be able to support these arrangements as applied to Great Britain but sadly for Northern Ireland we will be governed by the arrangements in the Protocol. While Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory and we are out of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy we will be aligned with the EU for manufactured goods and food and animal products alongside other EU imposed restraints.

The removal of a so-called cliff edge on 1 January will be welcomed but more work will be required to ensure that we can maintain free flowing business supply lines from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. To that end we will continue to work with the Government to mitigate against those damaging practical outcomes flowing from the Protocol.

It was a long day in the House of Commons. When bringing in the motion, Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, mistakenly referred to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, by his first name:

Leader of the Opposition Starmer said that not voting for the agreement was akin to voting ‘no deal’:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the new legislation. Scotland’s SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford stuck his oar in, but Boris wasn’t having it:

Even the Speaker of the House told Blackford to not intervene — not once, but twice — as time was short. However, Blackford, as always, persisted in interrupting with the same broken record he always plays. I enjoyed when Boris called Blackford’s party the Scottish Nationalist Party. It’s Scottish National Party, but Boris knew and said ‘nationalist … with a small “n”‘:

Blackford persisted, causing the Speaker to ask him a third time to stop intervening:

Not surprisingly, Scotland’s SNP voted against the agreement, the subject of the EU Future Relationship Bill. Gove, also a Scot, called them out in his summation speech before the vote. This is one for the archives. It was pointed yet witty. This was Gove at his best (even though I don’t trust the man):

The SNP’s Ian Blackford and Stuart O’Grady are on the far right in the video:

Going back to Boris’s introduction of the bill. After he spoke, Keir Starmer gave his response as Leader of the Opposition. When he urged his MPs to vote for the agreement, an indignant Theresa May rose to speak her mind. Labour and the other Opposition parties had opposed her deal throughout 2019, leading to her resignation as PM.

The second clip below — ‘May’s finest moment’ — is from 2019. Labour MP Rupa Huq had accused her of ‘parliamentary ejaculation’. May said that if Huq ‘looked more closely’ she would find that she (May) was incapable of such a thing:

On December 30, May was upset with Starmer for not having voted for her deal in 2019. Starmer had called Boris’s agreement ‘thin’ — meaning not enough integration with the EU. May pointed out that if he had voted for her deal the previous year, he would not have had that complaint, ‘so I will take no lectures from the Leader of the Opposition on this deal’:

When it came time for the vote, 37 Labour MPs rebelled, with three having to resign their shadow front bench posts. One of them, Helen Hayes, is pictured below:

The Mirror reported:

Moments after the result of the vote was declared, frontbencher Helen Hayes announced she had quit her role.

She tweeted: “I’m grateful to all who’ve contacted me on the EU Future Relationship Bill.

“I can’t vote for this damaging deal & have abstained today.

“With much sadness & regret I’ve offered my resignation as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister. It’s been a privilege to serve.”

MP for Gower, South Wales, Tonia Antoniazzi said it was “with the deepest regret” she was resigning as a parliamentary aide to the Shadow Scotland and Work and Pensions teams …

Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall, South London, quit as a whip – a frontbencher responsible for enforcing the leader’s power.

She said: “This Bill was rushed and a ‘no deal’ is the worst outcome for the country but I cannot support the bill and I have abstained.

“I have offered my resignation as an Opposition Whip.”

The resignations are a blow for Mr Starmer’s bid to reposition the party.

He ordered Labour MPs to back the agreement, believing Labour needed to show voters in its traditional heartlands – most of which overwhelmingly backed Leave in the 2016 referendum – that it has heeded the result.

Urging MPs to back the deal, Mr Starmer told the Commons: “This is a simple vote with a simple choice – do we leave the transition period with the treaty negotiated with the EU or do we leave with no deal?

“Labour will vote to implement this treaty today to avoid no-deal and to put in place a floor from which we can build a strong future relationship with the EU.”

It didn’t matter much in the end, because the EU Future Relationship Bill passed with ‘a stonking majority’, as Guido Fawkes put it:

AYES 521

NOES 73

The vote lists aren’t out yet, however we can assume around 40 rebels abstained.

PARLY had a further breakdown:

The Conservatives must have been relieved to be able to tweet this — after four and a half years:

The bill was quickly rushed to the House of Lords, which had to debate and vote on it.

Nigel Farage watched the proceedings on BBC Parliament:

A vast majority of the Lords are Remainers.

However, I hope that Farage did not miss Kate Hoey’s — Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim’s — tribute to him in the Lords. I saw it and couldn’t believe she mentioned him in the Valley of the Remainers, but she did. I was delighted:

The Lords debated for the rest of the night, then voted.

The Queen’s Royal Assent was the final step.

One reporter had a very long day:

Royal Assent was granted shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve:

Shortly afterwards, the Daily Mail carried a report with rare, behind-the-scenes photos:

Boris Johnson has heralded a ‘new beginning in our country’s history’ after his Brexit trade deal was signed into law, setting the stage for a smooth divorce from the EU tonight.

The Prime Minister thanked MPs and peers for rushing the Bill through Parliament in just one day so it could take effect at exactly 11pm this evening when the UK’s transition period ends.  

At 12.25am, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs that the EU (Future Relationship) Act 2020, had been granted royal assent by the Queen

It enshrines in legislation the trade agreement finally negotiated between London and Brussels last week following more than four years of wrangling since the referendum. 

Shortly before Her Majesty gave the Act her seal of approval, a bullish Mr Johnson marked out a new chapter for Britain, which first joined the bloc in 1973.

He said in a statement: ‘I want to thank my fellow MPs and peers for passing this historic Bill and would like to express my gratitude to all of the staff here in Parliament and across Government who have made today possible.

‘The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands.

‘We take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.

’11pm on December 31 marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally. This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it.’

More on that and what it means for Boris Johnson’s premiership tomorrow.

Last week proved to be another emotive and passionate one in the House of Commons with regard to coronavirus and Brexit.

This post concerns coronavirus.

On Monday, September 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Rule of Six, which he announced on September 9, came into effect. It sounds rather Chinese.

It means that people living in England cannot meet in groups of greater than six, indoors or outdoors. If we do, according to him, we ‘will be breaking the law’.

He also introduced a new platoon to keep us in line: COVID marshals, to remind us of existing coronavirus rules in England — ‘hands, face, space’.

Recall that Boris said after the December 2019 election that we now have the People’s Government. Hmm.

The UK government is copying a Belgian idea. The Rule of Six reduced their second spike.

Increasingly, Britons have been looking back at Sweden, which refused to lock down. Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. Chris Whitty is our Chief Medical Officer; in May, he said that coronavirus was harmless for most people and most of us would never get it:

Michael Gove MP, a Cabinet minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, made matters worse when he confirmed that under-12s were part of the Rule of Six, unlike in Scotland and Wales, where under-12s are not. With life getting back to normal as school has started again, this came as a blow to many families:

The Telegraph reported that the Cabinet was split on the proposals (emphases mine):

… one senior Tory source said that “half the Cabinet” had doubts about the so-called ‘rule of six’, and it was “pretty hard to find a Conservative member of Parliament who agrees with all of this”.

The COVID marshals are also a problem for police and local councils:

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s plan for coronavirus marshals to help enforce the six-person rule was unraveling as police derided them as “Covid Wombles” and councils said they were a “gimmick”.

Downing Street admitted councils would not be given any money to pay for the marshals, suggesting volunteers could do the job, and said it would be up to individual local authorities to decide whether they actually wanted them.

It got worse, as curfews were mooted:

The Government has discussed going even further with new lockdown restrictions, and has drawn up “a well-developed proposal” for a nationwide curfew which was discussed at ministerial level.

My head spun.

Then the ministerial snitch crowd appeared on weekend news programmes to say that people must tell on their neighbours if they are seen to be violating the Rule of Six:

Political journalist Isabel Oakeshott rightly responded:

I couldn’t agree more. This is supposed to be the People’s Government, isn’t it?

History will not look kindly on 2020 with regard to the measures taken to combat the virus:

I was wrong.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that people should not even talk when they see friends in the street, even at a distance (audio here, thanks to Guido Fawkes, and there’s video, too):

Yebbut, if you DO report what appears to be criminal activity, allegedly, the police do not want to know. Here is a printscreen of a set of comments on a Guido Fawkes thread. I call your attention to the last two. Police would rather pick on mums and their children. Ironically, that was posted on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Go figure.

A mild-mannered man from Buckingham called talkRADIO to say he would not comply with the Rule of Six because the Government had gone too far.

So did a lady from Brighton, saying that the Rule of Six was about:

control. They’re trying to see how much they can get away with.

Another talkRADIO host, Julia Hartley-Brewer, had a go at Roy Lilley, former NHS Trust chairman. She said:

We are being scared into thinking we have to give up our civil liberties when that won’t save lives. Being sensible will save lives.

The Telegraph‘s Salley Vickers wrote of the restrictions on her and her loved ones:

I would rather risk dying and have the joy of their company than lose that vital contribution to my own happiness.

With the festive season only several weeks away, the Daily Mail‘s Peter Hitchens told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham that the Rule of Six has:

made Christmas an arrestable offence.

Another Daily Mail journalist, Bel Mooney, wrote an editorial for Conservative Woman saying that she was surprised at the amount of resistance she received when she wrote that she would be defying the Rule of Six at Christmas:

in response to Matt Hancock’s sudden, arbitrary and illogical ‘rule of six’ diktat, I wrote a strong opinion piece (at the request of my newspaper) headlined ‘NO, NO, NO! I’m having Christmas for 14 – and no puffed-up Covid marshal will stop me’.

As you might expect, there was a huge response. I never look online, and am not on Twitter (I expect there was a lot of poison swilling around out there). I am talking about emails to me and the newspaper. What interested me was the fact that, if I am to be honest, the antis outnumbered the prosI didn’t expect that from Mail readers.

You can never tell with Mail readers, though. They’re a tricky lot.

Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan and honorary research fellow Tom Jefferson wrote an article for The Spectator against the Rule of Six, saying that Boris must bin it:

At Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, we have spent years trawling through the scientific evidence on the effects of measures such as distancing on respiratory viral spread. We are not aware of any study pointing to the number six. If it’s made up, why not five or seven?

Northern Ireland has taken a more measured approach and not announced any changes to how many people can meet. These disagreements in policy reveal how decisions are being made without evidence. It seems that somebody in government sat in a cabinet office room and said six is a good idea and nobody disagreed

The problems with policy stem from the current cabinet’s vast inexperience: the Health Secretary has been in post for just over two years now; the PM and the Chief Medical Officer a year. The Joint Biosecurity Centre is overseen by a senior spy who monitors the spread of coronavirus and suppresses new outbreaks. Add to this mix the new chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, who similarly has little or no background in healthcare. Our leaders amount to little more than a Dad’s Army of highly paid individuals with little or no experience of the job at hand.

This inexperience leads to rash decisions and arbitrary policies.

One example is that entire areas can be locked down if they have 50 cases per 100,000 people. Yet the recognised alert threshold for ‘regular’ acute respiratory infections is 400 cases per 100,000.

Lord Sumption, who has been speaking out against lockdown this year, said that the Rule of Six will be unenforceable. I hope he is right:

Tom Tugendhat (Tunbridge and Malling, Con) expressed his concerns about the new rule and rightly wanted MPs to vote on it and similar measures:

It’s unlikely that the House of Lords can help, either. They already have a full schedule. We should thank Lord Lamont for raising the issue of consulting the public, however. ‘SI’ means ‘statutory instrument’:

Monday, September 14

Behind the scenes and well outside of Parliament, an email emerged dated May 23, wherein Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stated he had pushed the most for March’s lockdown:

Guido Fawkes has the full text of the email. I am not sure how Sir Patrick thinks that a vaccine will achieve herd immunity, though.

In the first of the debates on the Brexit-related Internal Market Bill, Charles Walker MP (Broxbourne, Con) prefaced his comments by expressing his dismay about the Rule of Six, the lack of consultation with Parliament and the fining of Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers at the anti-lockdown rally on Saturday, September 12.

Thank you, Charles Walker:

This is short and well worth watching:

Tuesday, September 15

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock poled up to make a statement to MPs about the Rule of Six and testing.

Excerpts follow:

There are signs that the number of cases in care homes and the number of hospitalisations is starting to rise again, so last week we acted quickly, putting in place new measures—the rule of six, which came into force yesterday. We do not do this lightly, but the cost of doing nothing is much greater.

Testing also has a vital part to play. Everyone in this House knows that we are doing more testing per head of population than almost any other major nation, and I can tell the House that we have now carried out over 20 million tests for coronavirus in this country. As we expand capacity further, we are working round the clock to make sure that everyone who needs a test can get a test. The vast majority of people who use our testing service get a test that is close to home, and the average distance travelled to a test site is now just 5.8 miles —down from 6.4 miles last week; but the whole House knows that there are operational challenges, and we are working hard to fix them.

We have seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South, Lab/Co-op), speaking for the opposition, said:

I am grateful for advance sight of the Secretary of State’s answer. That was decent of him.

Yesterday LBC revealed that there were no tests available in covid hotspots, including Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford. Over the weekend in Bolton, where infections are the highest in the country, a mobile testing centre failed to turn up. Meanwhile, in Bury hundreds queued for five hours for a test. In Walsall, a father with his sick child travelled 76 miles to an appointment in Wales, only to find on arrival that tests had run out. Increasing numbers of teachers and pupils are not in school. In hospitals, operations are cancelled while NHS staff are stuck in limbo, waiting for tests.

The Secretary of State blames increased demand, but when tracing consistently fails to reach 80% of contacts, when less than 20% of those with symptoms self-isolate properly and there is a lack of financial security, infections rise. When schools reopen and people return to workplaces and social distancing becomes harder, infections rise. Extra demand on the system was inevitable. Why did he not use the summer to significantly expand NHS lab capacity and fix contact tracing?

Just as demand is increasing, the ability to process tests is diminishing. Post-graduate students working in the Lighthouse labs are returning to university, so why did the Secretary of State not plan for the inevitable staff shortages in the Lighthouse labs? Those commercial pillar 2 labs, The Sunday Times revealed at the weekend, have a huge backlog of 185,000 tests. Thursday’s data revealed that 65,709 test results were not returned by the end of the week. Care home residents now wait an average of 83 hours for their result. The Prime Minister promised us a 24-hour turnaround for results, so what is going on? What is the current backlog and what is the timeframe for clearing it?

We were promised a world-beating system, so why are we sending tests to Germany and Italy for processing? But, most importantly, people want to know when they will get a test and when this mess will be fixed. Today there will be thousands of ill people trying to book a test, only to be told none is available. When will people be able to book a test online again, or has the online booking system been deliberately disabled? When will ill people no longer have to travel hundreds of miles for a test that should be available on their doorstep? When will pupils and teachers out of school get access to testing, so they can get back to school? When will NHS staff have access to regular testing, so they can focus on their patients and not be sitting at home?

We are at a perilous moment. Imperial College estimates the virus is doubling every seven to eight days. We all want to avoid further restrictions or another national lockdown, but when testing and contact tracing break down, the growth of the virus cannot be tracked. The Prime Minister promised us whack-a-mole, but instead his mallet is broken. The Secretary of State is losing control of the virus; he needs to fix testing now.

Many MPs — from both Opposition and Conservative benches — said that their constituents could not get tests.

Even the Speaker of the House tweeted that his constituents were having similar problems:

The testing situation is shocking — as Terry-Thomas used to say in the Boulting Brothers films: ‘An absolute shower!’

On the upside, the British coronavirus jobs situation is improving, thank goodness (more from Guido here):

Wednesday, September 16

Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) stood at the Opposition despatch box for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), as Sir Keir Starmer was self-isolating:

She did a good job.

She began by saying:

Many people in the Chamber will think that the battle of Britain is today, but actually we marked the 80th anniversary of those veterans yesterday, and I want to put on record our thanks to all those who fought for our country in the past.

I want to start by reading to the Prime Minister a message that I have received from a man called Keir. Keir was not able to go to work today and his children could not go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results, despite the Prime Minister’s promise of results within 24 hours. Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people are not in this position, and many of them are the very people who were getting us through this crisis, such as the care workers, who I used to work alongside before I was elected to this House. The Prime Minister once earned £2,300 an hour; can he tell us the average hourly rate of a care worker in this country?

Boris was singularly unimpressed, although he had a neutral expression on his face, even when discussing Starmer:

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her elevation. She speaks of the constituent Keir, and I can tell her that—allegedly, apparently—he has had a negative test, and I do not know quite why he is not here. But 89% of those who have in-person tests get them the next day, and we are working very fast to turn around all the test requests that we get. I think that most people looking at the record of this country in delivering tests across the nation will see that that compares extremely well with any other European country. We have conducted more testing than any other European country, and that is why we are able to deliver tests and results in 80% of cases where we know the contacts.

The hon. Lady asks about care homes, and I can tell the House that today we are launching the winter care home action plan. She is right to raise the issue of care homes, and we are concerned about infection rates in care homes, but we will do everything we can to ensure that care homes and their workers are protected.

On the hon. Lady’s final point, I am proud that it is this Government who have instituted the national living wage to ensure that every worker in this country, including care home workers, is paid substantially more, thanks to the care and the work of the people of this country.

Boris listened attentively and responded sensitively to all the points that Angela Rayner raised until this point, which came several minutes in, when she said:

Infections are rising. The testing system is collapsing. When you are the Prime Minister, you cannot keep trying to blame other people for your own incompetence. We have the highest death toll in Europe, and we are on course for one of the worst recessions in the developed world. This winter, we are staring down the barrel of a second wave, with no plan for the looming crisis. People cannot say goodbye to their loved ones. Grandparents cannot see their grandchildren. Frontline staff cannot get the tests that they need. And what was the top priority for the covid war Cabinet this weekend? Restoring grouse shooting.

I suppose that is good news for people like the Prime Minister’s friend who paid for a luxury Christmas getaway to a Caribbean island and funded his leadership campaign, and just so happens to own two grouse moor estates. So Prime Minister, is this really your top priority?

The Prime Minister answered:

While the Labour Opposition have been consistently carping from the sidelines throughout this crisis and raising, frankly, issues that are tangential, if not scare stories about what is going on, we are getting on with delivering for the British public. We are not only massively ramping up. She has not contested any of my statistics today about the extent to which this country is now testing more than any other European country.

She has not disputed the massive acceleration in our programme. [Interruption.] I will answer the substance of her question, thank you very much. We are getting on with delivering on the priorities of the British people: getting us through this covid crisis; delivering on making our country safer, bringing forward measures to stop the early release of dangerous sexual and violent offenders, which I hope she will support; strengthening our Union, which in principle Opposition Front Benchers should support; and building more homes across this country and more affordable homes across this country, which she should support. That is in addition to recruiting more doctors and more nurses, and building more hospitals.

I do not think anybody is in any doubt that this Government are facing some of the most difficult dilemmas that any modern Government have had to face, but every day we are helping to solve them, thanks to the massive common sense of the British people, who are getting on with delivering our programme and our fight against coronavirus. It is with the common sense of the British people that we will succeed, and build back better and stronger than ever before.

If only.

That day, news of an upcoming curfew in London emerged.

Apparently, the British people don’t have much common sense, after all.

Currently, London has some of the fewest new coronavirus cases (i.e. positive tests, little hospitalisation):

Guido rightly wrote (emphases in the original here):

If this afternoon’s splash from the Evening Standard is true, it is a step too far. The London director of Public Health England (yes, the organisation is still limping on for now, despite the Health Secretary announcing its abolition back in August) has issued a “curfew alert” to the capital through the newspaper, saying residents could face a mandatory curfew if Covid cases continue to rise. A ridiculous suggestion that should be forcefully opposed.

Shutting pubs, bars, restaurants, and just about everything else at an arbitrary hour will obviously do nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus. If anything, the move will be counter-productive – compressing the same number of customers into a shorter time and making social distancing harder still. Or pushing social gatherings into homes not bars, which are thought to be more likely to spread the virus. This no doubt ineffective PHE [Public Health England] nannying should have been dumped when the organisation was. The government need to remember there is a limit to people’s compliance. This might just hit it.

As I write early on Tuesday, September 22, Boris is planning to bring in an England-wide curfew for pubs and restaurants on Thursday. As if the virus will know the difference between a 10 p.m. closing time versus the usual one of 11 p.m. The mind boggles.

Thursday, September 17

Matt Hancock appeared again with another update on coronavirus.

This time, it was about measures taken on lockdown in the North East of England. This includes strict adherence to household bubbles, table service only in hospitality venues and a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.:

Once again, he was straining every sinew, an expression he has been using since March:

The battle against coronavirus is not over, and while we strain every sinew to spring free of its clutches, with winter on the horizon we must prepare, bolster our defences and come together once again against this common foe.

Then he announced upcoming plans to make everyone using A&E (Accident and Emergency) departments to make a booking! Good grief:

… we are working to get patients the right care in the right place, by expanding the role of NHS 111. During the peak of this pandemic, we saw millions of people using NHS 111, on the phone or online, to get the best possible advice on coronavirus, helping them to stay safe and, where possible, to stay out of hospital, where they could have unknowingly spread the virus. It is crucial that, ahead of winter, we use this window of opportunity to seek out what worked and build on it, so we provide a better service for patients and protect the NHS. Of course, no one will ever be turned away from our emergency departments in the most serious of cases; however, we have worked with the royal colleges, the NHS and others to develop a better, quicker and more clinically appropriate service for patients by using NHS 111 first.

This is how it works. We will invest £24 million to increase call-handling capacity and to make sure there are more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance, and we will build on our trials to make NHS 111 a gateway to the emergency care system, providing a first port of call for patients. In future, rather than having to queue in an emergency ward, we are testing that people should call NHS 111 first to book an appointment with whoever can give them the most appropriate care, whether it is a GP, a specialist consultant, a pharmacist, a nurse or community services. Of course if they need to go to the emergency department, NHS 111 will be able to book them into an appropriate time slot. We want to see this approach lead to shorter waiting times and better availability of appointments for patients. We will consult on how its performance is best measured, and, with successful pilots, we will roll out NHS 111 First to all trusts from December.

This is the bit that galled me the most:

The purpose of 111 First is to improve access, including in terms of inequalities in the NHS, by ensuring that people get the right treatment in the right place and easier access if they do need to go to an emergency department, because the emergency department will know that they are coming. It is commonplace now in almost every part of our life to let people know that we are coming. If we are going to do something as important as visit an emergency department, it will help both the patient seeking treatment and the NHS to let them know that they are coming first. That is the principle behind 111 First. It sits alongside 999, which anybody should call in a serious incident.

‘People’s government’, my eye.

Nor is the NHS the people’s health service.

If you have a serious injury, you or your loved ones could be losing life- or limb-saving time by calling 111 or 999.

Based on what I read during the March lockdown, calling 111 was life-threatening. Children calling on behalf of elderly parents were told, ‘If your relative is not turning blue, do the best you can.’

Calling the ambulance service on 999 generally produced this result: ‘We’re overloaded. If you can take your relative to hospital yourself, please do so.’

Over the past few months, I have heard NHS senior executives give testimony to Select Committees. They do not want patients coming in to a hospital, to a GP surgery — anywhere on NHS property.

An absolute shower!

Speaking of absolute showers, Baroness Harding — Dido Harding, a former jockey and failed business consultant/corporate director — gave testimony to a Select Committee, the Commons Science and Technology Committee, led by Greg Clark MP (Tunbridge Wells, Con).

Wow. It was car-crash television on BBC Parliament.

Baroness Harding is, inexplicably, the director of NHS Test and Trace programme.

Greg Clark is no slouch. He pressed and pressed the same question. Did she not anticipate the increase of demand for tests after lockdown lifted?

Finally, she gave the answer.

The Independent reported:

Demand for coronavirus tests is three to four times the number available, the director of NHS test and trace has admitted.

Baroness Dido Harding, who told MPs there was capacity to carry out 242,817 tests a day, said the “sizeable” rise in demand had been unexpected.

Boris Johnson has pledged to raise capacity to 500,000 by next month – but Baroness Harding’s estimates suggest that even that figure would not be enough to satisfy demand.

Even then:

despite images of queues outside Covid-19 drive-in centres, the testing tsar said: “I strongly refute that the system is failing.”

She put the blame on SAGE …

Baroness Harding insisted current capacity had been based on modelling provided by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and suggested that around a quarter of those seeking tests did not have symptoms.

… and the testing laboratories:

Quizzed by the committee chair and former Tory minister Greg Clark on the current issues in the system, she said that the “constraint” in the testing was in processing and laboratories.

On Friday, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a SAGE member and director of the Wellcome Trust, hit back.

The Telegraph reported:

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, who sits on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the body had given “clear advice” that a fully functioning test, track and trace system should be in place

Responding to her comments on social media, Sir Jeremy said he had personally warned that a growing testing crisis was looming.

“Interesting to be blaming Sage,” he wrote on Twitter. “Has been clear, and in the advice, that the UK faced an inevitable increase in community transmission and cases after the summer and needed a fully functional and trusted test, track and trace in place.”

Sir Jeremy posted his comments from a BBC interview with Andrew Marr in June, in which he warned of a “nasty rebound” if steps were not taken to improve testing. He also re-posted an article from May in which he warned that lifting restrictions was difficult even with a fully working testing programme in operation.

The testing crisis deepened on Friday when it emerged that children at four out of five schools are staying at home because they cannot get a test

This coronavirus business will only get worse. Watch and wait.

Part 2 concerns the Brexit-related Internal Market Bill.

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, the Government announced that a No Deal Brexit is still being considered.

It should be noted that the Government does not use the words ‘No Deal’ anymore. However, for the sake of simplicity, I will continue to do so.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, took questions in the Commons yesterday, principally on trade talks with the EU:

Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, was meeting with Robert Lighthizer, trade representative from the United States that day.

On February 26, an article in The Telegraph (paywall) said that the parameters of negotiations between the EU and the UK have been changing. The Guardian has an excerpt from the article, further excerpted below (emphases mine):

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson said “early progress” on agreements over financial services and personal data protection would be “a test of the constructive nature of the negotiating process”.

But pledges in the political declaration to reach an agreement on financial services by June 2020, and on data by the end of December, were dropped by Brussels when the EU’s negotiating mandate was published.

Government sources said that meant Mr Johnson was fully entitled to ignore elements of the political declaration. Britain will refuse to sign up to EU rules on state aid, and will not build any infrastructure to deal with customs declarations on goods crossing from the mainland to Northern Ireland despite EU demands that they must exist.

Yesterday (Thursday), Michael Gove announced the publication of a new, 30-page document, The Future Relationship with the EU: The UK’s Approach to Negotiations.

Left-leaning politicians and pundits are dismayed and critical, however, it appears to be consistent with what Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government have been saying since last year:

– Michael Gove confirmed that the UK will not be under the control of the EU Court of Justice when implementing state aid.

– The Government could walk away from talks with the EU as early as June, if they are not productive. If so, at that point, the Government would focus on domestic arrangements to leave the EU in an orderly manner as possible.

– There is particular concentration on the part of the UK to avoid any alignment with or subjugation to the EU or EU institutions, especially the EU Court of Justice.

The last point is critical when it comes to the EU Arrest Warrant. The Guardian reported this exchange in Parliament (emphases in the original):

Gove was vague when discussing the forthcoming customs arrangements in Northern Ireland, so, no change there.

This was EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s response to the UK’s new document:

The Guardian reported that another EU official said that the planned June reassessment of talks is in line with the EU’s expectations (emphases in purple mine):

Responding to the government’s announcement that it may abandon trade talks with the EU if there is not enough progress by June, the European commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant told reporters at a briefing:

In relation to any timeline that was referred to by the UK side today, there is a mid-year rendezvous in June to assess where we are with the negotiations.

So this is probably a very fair timeline to take by the UK prime minister for a rendezvous in which we take stock of the future and chances for a deal, what type of deal.

Asked whether the EU was preparing for the failure to reach a deal, she said it would be “premature to speculate” about the result of those negotiations.

The following Twitter thread, excerpted, comes from the man who heads the Eurasia Group consultancy. He also teaches at the prestigious Sciences Po. His analyses have been quite reliable, so far. ‘Bxl’ means Brussels:

David GH Frost is one of Boris Johnson’s chief advisers:

As anticipated, there will not be enough time to negotiate specific, line-by-line agreements:

It is unclear at this time how damaging this will be to the future of the European Union:

He concludes that the UK will have to align with another nation.

We’ll see what happens.

Ultimately, the UK would like to finalise a deal by September 2020.

For my British readers, a documentary well worth watching is the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg’s one on Brexit and Boris.

The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story is very well made, indeed:

Laura gives us behind the scenes footage of herself with the press corps, her BBC colleagues and, best of all, leading Conservative and Labour politicians discussing Boris’s first 100 days.

There is some amazing and interesting footage, including a few seconds of the Prime Minister’s bare shins. He wears short socks. Perhaps it is time for Carrie Symonds to buy him a few pairs of knee-length ones for televised interviews.

It is obvious that the BBC loathe Boris and it looks as if Laura is no different. They were all rather nasty to top adviser Dominic Cummings at No. 10 in preparing for an interview with Boris.

Speaking more broadly, Laura seemed to think Boris was taking foolhardy gambles with Brexit and the election. Well, we know how the election turned out. We’ll find out about Brexit in the New Year.

Contrary to the negative replies from Labour supporters to her tweet above, she is neither a Conservative nor a conservative. She’s a canny journalist doing her job, and it’s paying off. This documentary bears her name.

All of that aside, viewers will be able to see the offices of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove as they welcome Laura for interviews. They will also be able to watch short exchanges with Steve Baker. I enjoyed the little snippet of the BBC trailing Baker and fellow MP Mark Francois after the Saturday, October 19 session in the House. As it was all a bit hard going, Baker asks Francois if he would fancy a drink. The cameras stop just before the two cross the road to repair to a pub.

I am not a BBC news fan, and I don’t trust any of their reporters or presenters, but for anyone missing politics over the holiday period, this documentary is well worth watching.

The past seven days in Britain have proven further the old adage that a week is a long time in politics.

Last Saturday, September 7, Conservative MP Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) resigned from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet. Her resignation is not a huge loss, as she is a Remainer, however, the optics were potentially damaging to the new PM.

She was upset about the 21 Conservative MPs who had the whip removed last week. (The PM’s brother Jo had resigned from Cabinet days before for the same reason.) Fair enough. However, she allegedly told The Sunday Times about her resignation before she notified the PM, according to Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham:

On Monday, September 9, talk revolved around Boris’s ‘unfair’ prorogation. A few weeks ago, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan reminded us of the facts:

Before prorogation took place, however, former Conservative-now-rebel MP Dominic Grieve put forward a Humble Address procedure in Parliament on Monday afternoon. He wants every detail of correspondence behind prorogation as well as the emergency Brexit procedures contained in Project Yellowhammer. The Guardian has this summary of this extraordinary measure with regard to prorogation correspondence (emphases mine):

Grieve’s demand for the release of all written and electronic contact about the temporary suspension of Parliament and Operation Yellowhammer documents since July 23 to be released was approved by MPs by 311 votes to 302 on Monday.

It asked for all correspondence and communications, formal or informal, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger, private email accounts, text messages, iMessage and official and personal mobile phones connected to the present Government since July 23 relating to prorogation.

It listed key individuals of Mr Johnson’s Government, including senior adviser Dominic Cummings and director of legislative affairs Nikki da Costa.

Grieve was Attorney General just a few years ago, so, apparently, this move is legal, even though one wonders about the legality of requesting private correspondence given EU data protection rules. An update follows below.

That was followed by Speaker of the House John Bercow’s announcement that he would be relinquishing his post by October 31. A standing ovation from Opposition MPs followed, at which point most Conservative MPs left the chamber. Then, a 90-minute verbal floral tribute followed to the Remainer from a variety of Opposition MPs, also Remainers. And these are the people who complain they lack adequate time to debate Brexit!

That evening, as MPs continued to sit in session, the PM once again put forward his motion to hold a general election. His prior attempt had been defeated a week earlier.

Once again, Boris was defeated. Those who voted Aye were in the majority, but he needed two-thirds of all sitting MPs to vote for it.

Still, no one can rightly call him a dictator.

Recalcitrant MPs should have listened to Gina Miller. This is probably the one time I agree with her — and that is only with the second sentence in this tweet:

Gina’s case on illegal prorogation was rejected, but it goes before the Supreme Court next week on appeal. Former Conservative PM John Major (pictured in the background) piggybacked his own anti-prorogation case onto Miller’s:

It’s a bit rich for Sir John to complain about Boris’s prorogation:

Around the time Parliament was preparing for prorogation, a poll was released saying that the British public do not want another extension to Brexit:

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, all hell broke loose in the House of Commons.

Black Rod, the Lady Usher in the House of Lords and Queen’s representative for the prorogation ceremony, entered the House. She was there to prorogue Parliament and summon all MPs to the House of Lords where they had to listen to a very long list of all the achievements of their Parliament. It took ages.

I stayed up to watch everything on BBC Parliament, but the following video has better views of a few other scenes in the Commons. The noise that Opposition MPs made was terrible. Then, a vexed Black Rod, who stood on the red line designating the governing party’s boundary in the House, glared at the Speaker as he made some great peroration, to borrow the word he uses against those with whom he disagrees. He then barked at two Conservative MPs telling him to get on with it and leave the chamber. One Labour MP climbed on top of Speaker Bercow to prevent him leaving!

This video is around six and one half minutes long and is well worth watching:

Here is a potted version with subtitles of the proceedings:

It was part of Bercow’s job to silence the chamber and allow Black Rod to speak.

Here are a few more scenes:

The ‘SILENCED’ signs were rich, considering these MPs are thwarting Brexit at every turn. A Leave supporter did a nice Photoshop of the Speaker’s chair:

All of the MPs were supposed to follow Black Rod to the House of Lords, but only the Conservatives and a handful of Opposition MPs did.

The rest stayed behind to film themselves in the Commons — not allowed — and to sing songs, such as The Red Flag!

The Labour MP crawling on top of Bercow was re-enacting a similar prorogation scene in Parliament from 1629:

After Bercow returned from the House of Lords, he received a second standing ovation, largely from the Opposition:

On Wednesday, September 11, The Guardian reported that Cabinet minister Michael Gove wrote Dominic Grieve in response to his aforementioned Humble Address procedure requesting private correspondence on prorogation. The government — rightly — will not hand over said documents:

A letter from Michael Gove addressed to former Attorney General Dominic Grieve states that the request would breach the rights of those named in the communications – including civil servants and special advisers.

This is an unprecedented, inappropriate, and disproportionate use of [the Humble Address] procedure. To name individuals without any regard for their rights or the consequences of doing so goes far beyond any reasonable right of Parliament under this procedure.

These individuals have no right of reply, and the procedure used fails to afford them any of the protections that would properly be in place. It offends against basic principles of fairness and the Civil Service duty of care towards its employees.

Excellent move, excellent reasoning.

However, the government did release more information about Operation Yellowhammer, which looks a lot like what we saw reported in the media earlier this year in anticipation of the original March 29 departure date:

We have enough to go on at this time. Why release procedures that could compromise national security?

Michael Gove explained that Yellowhammer details what to do in a worst case scenario. Those scenarios might never happen. They are contingency plans:

That day, three Scottish Appeal Court judges declared that the PM’s prorogation is unlawful, as they believe it is intended to stymie Parliament:

The case goes to the UK’s Supreme Court next week. The Guardian reported:

The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the power to interfere in the prime minister’s political decision to prorogue parliament.

Lawyers acting for 75 opposition MPs and peers argued Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks was illegal and in breach of the constitution, as it was designed to stifle parliamentary debate and action on Brexit.

The judges failed to issue an interdict, or injunction, ordering the UK government to reconvene parliament, prompting a row over whether the decision meant MPs could go back to the House of Commons.

The court issued an official summary of its decision declaring the prorogation order was “null and of no effect”, but Carloway said the judges were deferring a final decision on an interdict to the UK supreme court, which will hold a three-day hearing next week.

Conservative MP Nigel Evans reiterated the PM’s position:

A hypocritical Labour MP showed up alone for PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) late that morning, following the Scottish judges’ declaration. Too bad he did not spend that energy in a vote for a general election:

On Thursday, a High Court judge in Belfast dismissed a legal challenge against a No Deal Brexit. A BBC article says:

One of the three cases brought was by the victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord who plans to appeal the decision.

The court heard arguments that a no-deal would have a negative effect on the peace process and endanger the Good Friday Agreement.

But the judge said the main aspects of the case were “inherently and unmistakeably political”.

Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey also excluded a challenge against the suspension of Parliament because the issue formed the “centrepiece” of proceedings in England and Scotland.

As the week draws to a close, a reporter for The Times (paywall) says that the EU regrets alliances with Labour and other Remainers over their incoherent policies on Brexit. Labour’s Keir Starmer is on the left in the photo, with party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the right:

As far as the government’s negotiations in the EU, Boris has made a largely favourable impression, although his negotiator David Frost is seen to be driving a hard bargain in some areas. This thread comes from the Director of the Centre for European Reform, who confirms that, to date, no firm proposals have been presented to the EU. That said, he says some EU nations believe that Boris wants to make a deal before October 31:

Elsewhere in Brussels news, Guy Verhofstadt’s wine from his estate in Tuscany is reportedly very good. Perhaps that was what he poured in this documentary clip about the EU’s Brexit Steering Group:

On Monday, September 16, the PM will meet over lunch for Brexit talks with Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.

More to follow anon as this sorry saga continues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be visiting our European neighbours this week before the G7 conference in Biarritz:

Reuters reports (emphases mine):

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Westminster parliament cannot stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one.

In his first trip abroad as leader, Johnson is due to meet his European counterparts ahead of a G7 summit on Aug. 24-26 in Biarritz, France.

He will say that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, and that the British parliament cannot block that, according to a Downing Street source.

Despite Parliament’s summer recess, Remain MPs have been in various discussions as to how to stop our leaving, deal or no deal, on October 31:

It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the British parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 – likely to be the United Kingdom’s most significant move since World War Two.

Sky News reports that No. 10 says Brexit will be but a small part of Boris’s discussions with France and Germany:

… Number 10 said it expects there to be “very little discussion” of Brexit during the visit to Berlin on Wednesday and Paris on Thursday, with other topics to be the focus.

Discussions are expected to centre around the next G7 summit in Biarritz, France, next weekend, with trade, foreign policy, security and the environment set to be on the table.

Number 10 said Mr Johnson would discuss issues such as climate change with his fellow leaders, adding: “The EU are our closest neighbours and whatever happens we want a strong relationship after we leave.”

Thanks to Boris’s leadership thus far, the Conservative Party once again leads in the polls:

British voters believe that Boris would make the best PM:

Nevertheless, Labour MPs think they can overturn triggering of Article 50. Whether this can be done is of some debate:

The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, is supposed to be impartial, yet, he, too, is said to be plotting against No Deal:

Boris’s government tied up one loose end at the weekend:

This was something Theresa May was supposed to instruct Stephen Barclay (pictured) to do — but didn’t:

There were two significant leaks in the past few days.

One was Boris’s Brexit ‘script’, left behind in a London pub, allegedly by a civil servant. Tell me this was not deliberate:

The other was a copy of Operation Yellowhammer, which contains all the worst case scenarios in case of No Deal:

The Sunday Times made this look like news, but Yellowhammer first surfaced on Wednesday, March 20 in preparation for our original March 29 exit date.

That day, the Express reported:

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Cabinet ministers in a letter the plan will be implemented on March 25 unless a new exit date is agreed. Operation Yellowhammer is the UK Treasury’s contingency plan for no deal exit from the bloc. The plan drafts what would happen for factors such as money, citizens, trade and customs.

According to the Daily Telegraph, if no date is set by Monday Operation Yellowhammer will be implemented.

In a letter to Cabinet ministers, Mr Barclay wrote: “Operation Yellowhammer command and control structures will be enacted fully on 25 March unless a new exit date has been agreed between the UK and the EU.”

The Guardian‘s story, also published that day, had more information:

With the country placed on a knife-edge by Theresa May’s latest Brexit crisis, the government is preparing for “any outcome” with a decision on Monday on whether to roll out the national Operation Yellowhammer contingencies for food, medicine and banking.

Some measures have already swung into place, including Operation Fennel’s traffic management in Kent.

The Europe minister, Alan Duncan, has also said the Foreign Office staff deployed to its Brexit “nerve centre” are working to help UK citizens in the EU in the event they get caught up in a Brexit mess.

The Department of Health was due to activate emergency supply chain operations, with instructions to medicines suppliers to book space on ferries to ensure they are not caught up in queues from next weekend in the event of no-deal.

They are just two of the 12 Operation Yellowhammer areas of risk the government has planned for in the event of a crash-out, according to a National Audit Office report [pdf]. It will decide next Monday if they should all become operational, enacting no-deal plans in 30 central government departments and 42 local councils, two devolved governments and in Northern Ireland.

Yellowhammer also had measures in place for Gibraltar. Fortunately, the government there was quick to point out that Yellowhammer as published is now out of date:

Interestingly, the week before, the island’s government reminded residents to prepare for a No Deal Brexit:

But I digress.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, tweeted:

Sky News had more about Gove’s explanation:

Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times tweeted:

Boris is also displeased with Theresa May’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has been predicting all manner of Project Fear disasters if No Deal comes about on October 31:

However, Germany had an important leak of its own at the same time as Yellowhammer resurfaced in the UK:

Good. I was also heartened to see the view of Boris from Berlin:

Absolutely correct.

I wish Boris Johnson all the best in his meetings this week with our European partners.

When I was a nipper, I was very grateful when plastic straws first appeared on the market and in restaurants.

That was in the mid- to late 1960s.

Finally, I could suck as hard as I wanted to on my soft drink.

Paper straws are upsetting for children. They are unaware how quickly paper straws become soggy.

Kids love to see how hard they can suck on a straw whilst drinking a beverage. They also like blowing into a straw and watch their milk bubble up.

Children need plastic straws.

I am proud to say that, as an adult, I have a surfeit of plastic straws: three or four boxes purchased over the past few decades, totalling 900+.

It is just as well, because, following the example of America’s loony-tune West Coast (apologies to the sensible souls there), England will ban plastic straws — as well as stirrers — from April 2020.

What is wrong with our once great nation?

On May 22, The Guardian reported:

Plastic straws and drink stirrers, and cotton buds with plastic stems will be banned from sale and use in England from next April, the government has confirmed.

The move, which has been in the offing for more than a year, is hoped to vastly reduce the litter and other environmental impacts of the nearly 5bn plastic straws currently used each year in the UK, along with more than 300m plastic stirrers and close to 2bn cotton buds with plastic stems.

Huge numbers of these items, particularly cotton buds, are flushed down toilets or otherwise end up in litter – surveys have recently found waterways across the UK teeming with plastic, putting wildlife at risk.

I have seen a lot of rubbish in my time, but I have rarely seen a plastic straw discarded as litter.

Only the disabled or someone with a medical need will be allowed a plastic straw. The government must add children to that list!

Think of the children!

This is especially irritating. It is shameful for Theresa May’s office to be putting out a tweet like this when she should have given us Brexit on March 29, 2019. Ironically, the day this tweet came out was a very difficult one for her regarding Brexit. Never mind plastic straws. She could be out of office shortly for not delivering as pledged:

It doesn’t matter how many plastic straws are used. What matters is how they are disposed of.

Furthermore, we are not talking about a UK-wide ban — only one in what used to be Merrie Olde England!

I have not finished writing about the humble and useful plastic straw. At least another post will appear on that great invention at some point.

In closing, as if that were not enough, eco-warriors also want to ban balloons:

… the items expected to be banned were only part of the plastic problem, said Emma Priestland, campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “These three items are just a fraction of the single-use nasties that are used for a tiny amount of time before polluting the environment for centuries to come,” she said.

“Ultimately, we need producers to take responsibility for the plastic pollution caused by all their products, whether it’s bags, balloons, packets, containers or otherwise. That’s why we’re campaigning for legislation to cut back on pointless plastic across the board.”

These people are joyless. That includes our Scottish-born environment secretary Michael Gove.

They say that a week is a long time in politics.

This week has certainly proven that dictum true.

Party leader shake-up

Now that we have Brexit, who will see it through?

UKIP

On July 4, Nigel Farage stood down as UKIP leader, saying he had accomplished his objective of getting us the EU Referendum. He will continue as MEP.

It’s an interesting development. Was family pressure the overriding factor in his decision?

His absence raises the question of who will police the Brexit process from the sidelines and make sure we actually go through with it. Farage is a man with dogged determination and passion for UK independence. Therefore, it is surprising that he is relying on pro-Remain Conservatives to follow through with it.

Labour

Labour continue in disarray, although party leader Jeremy Corbyn is still in place, much to the frustration of many of his MPs and party members.

Conservatives

The Conservatives — Tories — held their first rounds of voting to replace outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron.

I still maintain that Cameron resigned in haste early in the morning of June 24 because he was in a fit of pique. Yes, he was also tired and, yes, the PM role was taking its toll on his family, but he had pledged to stay on regardless of the result. The current issue of Private Eye features a little soundbite of his from March 2016. Would he resign if Leave won? ‘No,’ he replied. The problem was that he was quietly certain the result would be Remain. Had the result been Remain, no doubt Cameron would have stayed on as PM until 2020.

I will have another post next week on where this cross-party turmoil is going.

Conservative Party leadership election

For now, I will focus on the election of the next Prime Minister.

Pray God that whoever is elected will stay in until 2020 and win the next general election.

Earlier this week

This week began with five MPs put up for nomination. They were Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb. Each had a proposer, prominent MPs’ support and a list of other supporting MPs.

Tory MPs except for David Cameron, who wants to remain neutral, voted on Tuesday, July 5, in the first round of candidate eliminations. Liam Fox, despite having been a shadow Cabinet (2005-2010) and Cabinet minister (2010-2011), received the smallest number of votes. His name was eliminated. Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, dropped out that night of his own accord. He had the next least number of votes that day.

That left May, Leadsom and Gove in the running for the second round of voting on Thursday, July 7.

Crabb announced he would support May. As Fox is one of May’s dining partners, it is likely he will also back her.

Michael Gove

Immediately after Brexit, everyone assumed that the Leave campaign’s main man MP and two-term former Mayor of London Boris Johnson would mount a bid to become the next party leader.

As I explained last week, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Justice, scuppered that plan and publicly betrayed his friend.

Incidentally, Johnson is backing Leadsom.

On Wednesday, July 6, Gove’s campaign manager, MP Nick Boles, urged MPs backing May to block Leadsom winning in the second round of voting on July 7. The Telegraph reported:

Nick Boles, the Justice Secretary’s campaign manager, has sent a text to MPs telling them that it would be in the “national interest” for them to stop Mrs Leadsom getting to the final run-off because she may win the vote of party members.

The message prompted anger among MPs because it appears to attack the Conservative grassroots for potentially backing Mrs Leadsom

Mr Boles also claimed that he will “sleep easy at night” if Mrs May becomes the next prime minister, adding that Mr Gove is prepared to spend “two months taking a good thrashing from Theresa, if that’s what it takes”. 

In the end, Gove became the next candidate to be eliminated. On July 7, May received 199 votes, Leadsom 84 and Gove a paltry 46.

The Telegraph rounded up reaction to Gove’s loss. Emphases mine below:

Tory backers of the Justice Secretary said his decision to betray the former London Mayor by unexpectedly withdrawing his backing, causing Mr Johnson to pull out of the race, had infuriated MPs

They also blamed a leaked message showing his campaign was urging MPs to vote Gove to stop Andrea Leadsom had “kiboshed” his chances of becoming Prime Minister

Critics said his behaviour during the leadership race over the last fortnight has left him “humiliated” in the eyes of colleagues and decreased his chances of winning a cabinet post in the next reshuffle

Confirmation that he would not be the next prime minister triggered supporters and critics to blame his decision to pull support for Mr Johnson just hours before he formally launched his leadership bid, leading to claims of “back-stabbing” … 

A second Tory MP who backed Mr Gove said a candid text message sent by his campaign manager Nick Boles urging people to support him to stop Mrs Leadsom which leaked to the media was “very damaging”

The MP told The Telegraph: “The Nick Boles text [ha]s kiboshed Gove’s chances. It undermined people’s confidence in him. It made it look as if he’s been conspiring all along. It did more damage to his reputation than anything else.” 

There were also suggestions that Mr Gove could struggle to remain in the cabinet given alleged animosity between himself and Mrs May and after his campaign’s attempted to undermine Mrs Leadsom. 

Ben Wallace, the Tory MP who managed Mr Johnson’s campaign, told this newspaper on Thursday that it was Mr Gove’s apparent lack of trust that led to his defeat

The winning candidate knew that this competition was all about trust. Unfortunately it seemed Michael didn’t.

“The Tory Party and the country want a Prime Minister they will trust to deliver on the referendum result and bring a divided parliamentary party together.  You don’t achieve that by playing political parlour games.”

Mr Gove has not yet revealed who he will vote for to become the next Tory leader after dropping out of the race. 

Let that be a lesson to future schemers and plotters.

That is a providential development.

Gove’s equally ambitious wife, columnist Sarah Vine, is taking a break from her job at the Daily Mail. The paper has assured The Spectator that she will return in due course.

What happens next for Conservative members

Candidates May and Leadsom will now tour Conservative associations around the country to campaign.

Fully paid-up party members, estimated to be 150,000, will be able to vote for either lady. These members will have also joined the Conservatives three months prior to September 8, when voting ends.

Anyone who bets that May is a dead cert could lose money. The wiser political pundits will say they wouldn’t even begin to predict what the result will be.

Members have voted against MPs’ favourites before. This could be another instance.

We’ll find out who the next Prime Minister and party leader will be on September 9.

MPs’ distrust of party faithful

The number of Conservative Party members has been declining over the past 50 years.

David Cameron’s stances alienated some existing members in the shires. These people view him as living in a London bubble and not in the slightest bit interested in their concerns.

In 2013, Cameron’s close friend Andrew Feldman — Lord Feldman — denied he called the grassroots ‘swivel-eyed loons’. The Guardian reported:

No 10 was particularly sensitive because the alleged remarks revived criticism of the Tory leadership for being aloof and out of touch

The unease across the party was highlighted yesterday when 35 current or former Conservative associations handed in a letter to Downing Street that accused the prime minister of showing “utter contempt” for the grassroots activists after pressing ahead with legislation for equal marriage. But Cameron came under fire from another wing when Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former chancellor, warned that he was losing control of the party on Europe.

Ben Harris-Quinney, the chairman of the Bow Group and director of Conservative Grassroots, which drummed up support for the letter, said of Feldman’s alleged remarks: “It doesn’t matter who made these comments, the problem is that it comes as no surprise and is representative of a wider malaise in the party – the disconnect between the leadership and the grassroots, between conservatism and the leadership of the Conservative party. The tail cannot continue to wag the dog.”

The Bow Group, which was founded in 1951, intervened in the wake of Feldman’s alleged remarks on Wednesday night, said to have been made shortly after 116 Tory MPs showed their unease with David Cameron over Europe and voted in favour of an amendment regretting the absence of a EU referendum in the Queen’s speech.

On July 5, 2016, the chairman of the Countryside Alliance and serving MP Simon Hart warned that Conservatives in rural areas could upset the Conservative establishment come September 9:

… our own research suggests that there are at least 26,000 Conservative Party members on the Alliance’s database of members and supporters – that’s 20% of the entire Conservative Party. They are politically active, they vote and they are watching this political saga unfold with a keen eye.

These people may not represent a key constituency of swing voters in a General Election, but in a Conservative leadership election they just might …

This huge rural constituency is not swivel-eyed about these things. They know that the country is in flux, pulled in numerous directions in an uncertain world.

Conservative Home bills itself as ‘the home of conservativism’. Yet, in many ways, it is one of the most arrogant, anti-Conservative grassroots sites around. I only started reading it again after six years for additional details on the leadership campaign. Once that is over, I’ll be finished with it for good.

Former MP Paul Goodman wrote two columns there this week which elicited lively comments, not all of which supported his views.

On July 6, he set the torchpaper alight with this provocative title, ‘May has half the vote. If Tory MPs clearly want her, should party members defy them?’

‘Defy them’!

Good grief. The party members serve as a check and balance against party MPs.

Goodman plays the paternalistic role for the good and the great:

Party members have the right to vote for whichever of the two candidates put before them they wish.  But what one has a right to do is not necessarily what it is wise to do

He ends with Tory Leadership Project Fear:

If May emerges during the coming days as the clear choice of a majority of Conservative MPs, should Party members really throw their weight behind another candidate – especially at what is the biggest moment in our national life certainly since Suez, and perhaps since 1940?

Panic stations!

This man clearly takes party members for fools.

On July 8, he had another go with ‘For Brexit’s sake and for Britain’s, Theresa May should be the next Prime Minister’.

The man is frightened. After all, look how the people defied the establishment on June 23.

He is scared. The first paragraph states that Brexit must happen because:

if it does not the mainstream parties risk a Italian-style revolt against the entire political class. 

Goodman is not wrong. However, he is part of the problem with his fearmongering and condescension:

The British political system is ultimately a Westminster-based one. 

He’s not only stating the obvious. He is telling the grassroots to obey their betters! This is why voters are angry. Parliament does not represent them.

Parliament — both houses — represents itself and its own interests. Lady Oona King, a life peeress, said that the public did not understand what they were voting for in the EU Referendum. I can assure her that, to the contrary, we most certainly did.

Again, he says party members should not vote in their own interests, but in MPs’ interests:

Some Party members will doubtless insist that it is their decision, thank you very much, and that if they want Leadsom, then Tory MPs must put up with it.  It is their right to do so, and one this site unflichingly supports – and campaigns for.  None the less [sic], what one has a right to do is not always what it’s right to do.

Never was this more applicable than now

Because we are in crisis, man, crisis! Once more, Project Fear has lift off:

The circumstances are unique.  The Conservative Party has held leadership elections in government before.  But never has it done so with a Prime Minister retiring from office.  His replacement will come to office at a supreme national moment

the most dramatic, the scale of the challenge is scarcely comprehensible: bigger than that which faced Margaret Thatcher in 1979, almost as great as that which faced Attlee in 1945 – or Churchill six years earlier

Waaaahhh!!!

If I were a Conservative Party member and my postal ballot had arrived, I’d be voting for Leadsom after reading that.

Goodman describes May as

honourable if cunning

An interesting choice of words and one which does not — or should not — inspire confidence that she will do right by voters. However, the campaign is only just starting and we can but see.

The spotlight will be on Leadsom and it may well be that, as May’s 199+ MPs believe, she cannot deliver.

However, scaremongering on the level that the Remain campaign so ably showed so recently will not work.

People rightly vote in their interests just as MPs vote in theirs. Why should the Tory faithful vote to further MPs’ privileged priorities?

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