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Picking up from where I left off yesterday with Dan Wootton’s GB News poll on the next Conservative Party leader, 60,000 people responded and 49 per cent said that Boris Johnson should be the next one.

On Thursday, Wootton remarked:

The Prime Minister’s swashbuckling and energetic PMQs farewell today just emphasised that point further.

Boris participated in his final Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, just under three years since he first stood behind the despatch box as Prime Minister.

It was one of Boris’s best performances and can be viewed here. Hansard’s transcript is here.

Highlights follow, emphases mine.

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer had a go at the leadership contest, particularly last week’s debates and the refusal of a third debate on Sky News. The debates were a bit spiky at times, but pretty tame overall.

Boris replied:

I am not following this thing particularly closely, but my impression is that there has been quite a lot of debate already, and I think the public have ample opportunity to view the talent, any one of which—as I have said before—would, like some household detergent, wipe the floor with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Today happens to be just about the anniversary of the exit from lockdown last year, and do you remember what he said? He said—[Interruption.] No, I am going to remind him. He said it was “reckless”. It was because we were able to take that decision, supported by every single one of those Conservative candidates, opposed by him, that we had the fastest economic growth in the G7 and we are now able to help families up and down the country. If we had listened to him, it would not have been possible, and I do not think they will be listening to him either.

Starmer had a go at Rishi Sunak’s accusation of Liz Truss’s proposed tax cuts as ‘fantasy economics’.

Boris said:

Well, Labour know all about fantasy economics, because they have already committed to £94 billion of extra tax and spending, which every household in this country would have to pay for to the tune of about £2,100. It is thanks to the former Chancellor’s management of the economy—thanks to this Government’s management of the economy—that we had growth in May of 0.5%. We have more people in paid employment than at any time in the history of this country. I am proud to be leaving office right now with unemployment at or near a 50-year low. When they left office, it was at 8%. That is the difference between them and us.

Then Starmer quoted Liz Truss’s criticism of Rishi’s economic policy for its lack of growth.

Boris answered:

I think that everybody would agree that what we saw in the last two and a half years was because of the pandemic, with the biggest fall in output for 300 years, which this Government dealt with and coped with magnificently by distributing vaccines faster than any other European Government—faster than any other major economy—which would not have been possible if we had listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That is why we have the fiscal firepower that is necessary to help families up and down the country, making tax cuts for virtually everybody paying national insurance contributions. There is a crucial philosophical difference between Labour and the Conservatives: under Labour, families on low incomes get most of their income from benefits; under us, they get most of it from earnings, because we believe in jobs, jobs, jobs. That is the difference.

Starmer went on to quote Penny Mordaunt on Britain’s sluggish public services.

Boris said:

This is the Government who are investing £650 billion in infrastructure, skills and technology. He talks about public services; what really matters to people in this country right now is getting their appointments and their operations, fixing the covid backlogs—that is what we are doing—and fixing the ambulances. That is what he should be talking about. That is why we voted through and passed the £39 billion health and care levy, which Labour opposed. Every time something needs to be done, Labour Members try to oppose it. He is a great pointless human bollard. That is what he is.

Starmer referred to Kemi Badenoch’s criticism of Rishi’s handling of covid loans.

Boris replied:

This is one of the last blasts from Captain Hindsight, at least to me. They were the party, I remember, that was so desperate for us to be hiring their friends—they wanted a football agent and a theatrical costumier to supply personal protective equipment. Do you remember, Mr Speaker? We had to get that stuff at record speed. We produced £408 billion-worth of support for families and for businesses up and down the country. The only reason we were able to do it at such speed was that we managed the economy in a sensible and moderate way. Every time Labour has left office, unemployment has been higher. The Opposition are economically illiterate, and they would wreck the economy.

You can read more on Guido Fawkes about Labour’s hilarious — well, it would be were it not so tragic — attempts to get the Government to employ their friends for pandemic related equipment.

Starmer went on for another few minutes about the nation being an utter shambles at the moment.

That is true in many instances, but Boris cited the good things that the Conservatives have accomplished over the past three years:

What does it say about the right hon. and learned Gentleman that no one can name a single policy, after three years, of the Opposition apart from putting up taxes? He is one of those pointless plastic bollards you find around a deserted roadworks on a motorway. We got Brexit done; he voted against it 48 times. We got this country fast out of covid, in spite of everything, when he would have kept us in lockdown. We are fixing social care, when the Opposition have no plan and no ideas of their own. We are now bringing forward measures, in the face of strikes, to outlaw wildcat strikes.

I can tell the House why the Leader of the Opposition does that funny wooden flapping gesture—it is because he has the union barons pulling his strings from beneath. That is the truth—£100 million.

We have restored our democracy and our independence. We have got this country through covid. I am proud to say that when it comes to tackling climate change or sticking up for Ukraine, we have led the world on the international stage. I want to thank my friends and colleagues on these Benches for everything they have done.

Guido posted the video of that portion, which is Boris at his best. Viewers will also get the mood of the Chamber, which was very noisy indeed:

After Starmer had finished, it was the turn of Ian Blackford from the Scottish National Party (SNP). As ever, he criticised the Government and put in yet another plug for a second independence referendum:

Boris said:

That is not what I observe. The right hon. Gentleman talks about records; I point to the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, the lowest unemployment for at or near 50 years as I have said, the lowest youth unemployment, and the fastest growth in the G7 last year, in spite of everything. As for the Scottish nationalists’ record, look at where they are. I am afraid to say that Scottish school standards are not what they should be, because of the failure of the SNP. It is failing people who are tragically addicted to drugs in Scotland, and the people of Scotland are facing another £900 million in tax because of the mismanagement of the SNP.

True. All of it.

Blackford ranted once more on partygate. Incidentally, he is a multi-millionaire who likes to paint himself as a humble crofter.

Boris replied:

On the personal abuse stuff, I think the right hon. Gentleman is talking a load of tosh, but when he has retired to his croft—which may be all too soon—I hope that he will reflect on his long-running campaign to break up the greatest country in the world. I hope that he will reflect on the pointlessness of what he is trying to do, and think instead about the priorities of the people of Scotland, which are all the issues that he thought were trivial: education, crime, and the burden of taxation that the SNP is unnecessarily placing on the people of Scotland.

After Blackford sat down, Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, had his say. He indirectly accused Boris of being ambitious and ‘tyrannical’. He asked whether Boris would now be devoting time to completing his book on Shakespeare. He also said there should be a general election.

Boris answered:

Polonius—that’s who the right hon. Gentleman is; he needs more matter with less art. The only thing we need to know is that if there were to be a general election, the Liberal Democrats would rightly get thrashed, because that would be the moment when the public looked with horror at what the Liberal Democrats’ policies really are and all those rural voters would discover the massive green taxes that they would like to apply. The only risk is that there could be some kind of crackpot coalition between those guys on the Labour Benches, the Lib Dems and the Scottish nationalists to put that into effect. That is what we must prevent.

Felicity Buchan, a Conservative who represents London’s Kensington constituency, expressed her concerns about rising crime under the current Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan).

Referring to himself, Boris replied:

London once had a Mayor who cut crime by 25%, cut the murder rate by 30% and built twice as many affordable homes as the current incumbent. What London needs is another Conservative Mayor.

Another Liberal Democrat, Scotland’s Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) wanted a freeport in his Highlands constituency.

Boris said:

I can confirm that we are committed to funding two new green freeports in Scotland to the tune of £52 million. That would not be possible, of course, if the SNP got its way and we returned to the EU.

Boris defined levelling up:

It is not just inequality; it is inequality of opportunity, and that is what levelling up addresses.

A Labour MP moaned about the railways in the north of England.

Boris replied:

Actually, this Government are responsible for three new high-speed lines, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, which no previous Government have done.

Boris gave his advice with regard to hot weather when an MP asked about disposable barbeques and Chinese sky lanterns:

The key thing is for people to behave responsibly with the use of these things. It is clearly insane to take a disposable barbecue on to dry grass.

Another SNP MP, Dr Philippa Whitford, talked about poverty in Scotland, ending with a plug for independence.

Boris said:

Actually, we increased the living wage across the whole of the UK by £1,000, we made sure that people on universal credit got their tax bills cut by £1,000, and over the last couple of weeks we have cut national insurance contributions by an average of £330. It was because of the Union that we were able to support families up and down the country, in Scotland, with the furlough and other payments, to the tune of £408 billion.

One of the nicest contributions came from Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, who represents West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine:

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment to Scotland and the entire United Kingdom over his years in Downing Street? I also thank him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland for improving and increasing the visibility and involvement of the UK Government in Scotland over the past three years. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that whoever takes his job, and whatever comes next, the United Kingdom will always be stronger together than it ever would be apart?

Boris replied:

That was brilliantly put; I could not have put it better myself.

Then a young Labour MP asked about the slow compensation for Windrush victims.

Boris said:

Actually, I think more people have got compensation. I renew my apologies to the Windrush generation for what they have suffered, but we have greatly increased the compensation available. We have paid out, I think, more than £51 million. We are working with voluntary groups to ensure that people get what they are entitled to. I may say that Labour has never apologised for its own part in the Windrush scandal.

An MP from Northern Ireland accused the Government of ruining relationships between Ulster and the Republic.

Boris replied:

I completely disagree with that. The whole objective of the Northern Ireland (Protocol) Bill that we have passed is to support the balance and symmetry of the Belfast/Good Friday arrangements. I was very pleased that the Bill advanced to the House of Lords with no amendments.

GB News has more on the legislation:

A Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, is not my favourite. However, here is where I agree with him. He paid a splendid tribute to Boris:

In recalling the situation that the Prime Minister inherited in July 2019, of a Parliament with a majority determined to frustrate the result of the 2016 referendum, led by a Speaker who was just slightly partial—the seemingly impossible situation he found—does my right hon. Friend understand that he has the gratitude of my constituents, who can identify the wood from the trees, and of myself, for his leadership over the last three years?

Boris replied:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. There is a fair amount of wood on the Opposition Benches and I think that is why we will prevail at the next general election.

Another SNP MP banged on about a second independence referendum.

Boris said:

This is the country that secured furlough and that delivered the vaccine across the whole of the UK, while the SNP gets on with overtaxing to the tune of £900 million—that is how much they are overtaxing in Scotland. And we had a referendum in 2014.

Another SNP MP complained spitefully about Boris being a nobody and about the honours list he might draw up before he leaves office.

Boris answered:

I am sure that everybody who has served this Government loyally and well deserves recognition of some kind, but as for the honours list, I am afraid the hon. Gentleman will have to contain his excitement.

Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh was the last to speak. He, too, paid Boris tribute for the past three years:

On behalf of the House, may I thank the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] On behalf of the House, may I thank the Prime Minister for his three-year record of service? On behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the country, can I thank him for his insistence on rolling out the AstraZeneca jab, which has saved thousands of lives around the world? On behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted Brexit, may I thank him for restoring people’s faith in democracy? On behalf of northern towns, may I thank him for his commitment to levelling up? And most of all, on behalf of the people of Ukraine, may I thank him for holding high the torch of freedom and ensuring that that country is not a vassal state? For true grit and determination, keep going and thank you.

Boris replied, giving his closing remarks and advice for the future PM:

I thank my right hon. Friend, and I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.

No. 1: stay close to the Americans; stick up for the Ukrainians; stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is. I love the Treasury, but remember that if we had always listened to the Treasury, we would not have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel. Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror. And remember, above all, it is not Twitter that counts; it is the people that sent us here.

And yes, the last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life. It is true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years and a huge realignment in UK politics. We have transformed our democracy and restored our national independence, as my right hon. Friend says. We have helped—I have helped—to get this country through a pandemic and helped save another country from barbarism. Frankly, that is enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished—for now.

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to thank all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons. I want to thank all my friends and colleagues. I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford). I want to thank everybody here. And hasta la vista, baby. [Applause.]

Here’s the ‘Hasta la vista, ba-by’ video — a must-see:

The Conservatives gave him a standing ovation, with everyone applauding him, except for Theresa May, who merely stood.

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-427154d4-eeb2-4a2d-9b84-ae60e65c201a

The Opposition either sat in silence or walked out.

One of Guido’s readers wrote:

Lack of class from opposition MPs who can’t possibly give a polite round of applause for a political opponent.

I agree. On the other hand, they hate Boris because he represents Brexit.

In Guido’s comments on the same post, someone said that Boris was Britain’s ‘worst ever PM’, which garnered this response, rightly pointing out the greater moral failings of Tony Blair, John Major and Theresa May as well as today’s world leaders:

What, even worse than a Prime Minister who took the UK into an illegal war which resulted in the deaths of millions as well as thousands of UK soldiers and for which the UK is still feeling reverberations in the form of terrorist attacks? What a worse PM than a Prime Minister who signed the UK up to the Maastricht Treaty without putting it to the British people in the form of a referendum? What worse than a Prime Minister who put forward the idea of making the elderly sell their homes to pay for Health Care

But instead listened to the people and secured an 80 seat majority to leave the EU (admittedly still leaving a lot to do). Invested in Vaccine development and procurement to ensure the UK had enough supplies for every citizen, and that the UK was at the front of the queue, and didnt go overboard on Covid restrictions, not when you look at what other countries got up to, namely Canada, China and France with Macron’s “I want to punish those that won’t get vaccinated” this after he was responsible for sowing Vaccine doubt simply because the Vaccine was developed in the UK – but then Johnson commited a crime so heinous – he had a piece of Birthday cake brought to him buy his wife – and that’s ‘your’ worst Prime Minister, lol …

Journalist and former Conservative adviser Amanda Platell said she wept after PMQs:

Boris will be missed for his powerful performances at the despatch box …

… and Labour know it. One of their former advisers admits that’s why Boris had to go:

Keir Starmer was often petty and unpleasant towards Boris:

That is because he knows Boris can win elections. In fact, earlier this week, Starmer was so frustrated with the Prime Minister that he insulted him on a podcast.

Starmer’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Monday, July 18, that she would be happy with either Truss or Sunak as his successor. At the time she gave this interview, five candidates were still in the race:

I’m quite happy with any one of them. Because the one thing, and I kind of could see it… [Boris] had this, like, teflon coatingIt’s like a little magic. Where he was able to get through to the public and get through to the places that I actually don’t see any of the five candidates that are standing having at the moment… Boris had so much going for him. He got an 80-seat majority and the country was really behind him… the five that we’ve got now I don’t think have got that…

Here’s the video:

Boris’s former adviser Dominic Cummings thinks that Boris, like Arnie, will be back, if the next Conservative leader is too lacklustre:

As I wrote yesterday, thousands of voters do not want until then. Dan Wootton’s viewers think that Boris’s name should be on the ballot going out to Conservative Party members early in August:

Wootton’s poll follows on from the ongoing petition by Party members to have Boris’s name on the ballot:

The petition is being spearheaded by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the Tory donor, and David Campbell Bannerman, a former Conservative Euro MP:

The Mail also has a report on the petition.

GB News interviewed David Campbell Bannerman on Thursday, July 21:

However, Labour are planning a rearguard action to prevent Boris from ever being Party leader again.

They hope to depose him as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London:

On Thursday, July 21, GB News reported:

Boris Johnson could be forced to face a by-election if he is found to have lied to Parliament and is handed a suspension for 10 or more sitting days.

The Privileges Committee is examining whether the Prime Minister committed a contempt of Parliament by misleading MPs over the Partygate scandal.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle [Labour] confirmed that the committee’s findings would fall within the remit of the Recall of MPs Act, following advice from a leading lawyer.

That would mean that a suspension of 10 or more sitting days, or 14 calendar days, would trigger a recall petition.

If at least 10 percent of voters in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat demand a by-election he would lose his place as an MP, but would be eligible to stand again in the contest.

The cross-party committee also published advice from the Clerk of the Journals, Eve Samson, the Commons’ expert on parliamentary privilege, which suggested that whether or not Mr Johnson intended to mislead MPs was not a factor that needed to be considered.

But she said that intent could be seen as an “aggravating factor” when considering penalties

The MPs intend to call Mr Johnson to give oral evidence in public in the autumn, under oath.

The committee has already said that whistleblowers will be able to give evidence about the Prime Minister anonymously.

Mr Johnson has also been ordered to hand over a cache of documents to the MPs investigating whether he lied to Parliament with his partygate denials.

The committee wrote to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case demanding details relevant to its inquiry.

On Friday, July 22, Guido posted on the upcoming inquiry, saying (emphases in red his):

While the committee will now disregard the PM’s intent, the Clerk’s report does say that can feed into deciding a sanction. This is all, in the understated words of The Telegraph, “a departure from precedent”…

It seems the Speaker’s also got in on the act of changing rules. The Privileges Committee’s announcement yesterday said Hoyle has ruled that “any suspension of the requisite length (10 sitting days or 14 calendar days) ) following on from a report from that Committee will attract the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act”. Previously only recommendations of suspension from the Standards Committee would apply the recall act. Now the PM faces a by-election being forced by [Labour MP Harriet] Harman. Tory MPs are now having to fight back on his behalf, launching a petition to scrap the investigation altogether in light of his resignation…

For now, let’s remember the happier times of earlier this week.

Boris held his final Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 19:

Despite the heat, Guido reports that there were no refreshments or food:

… there were a few presents, and a round of applause for the PM. Nigel Adams also gave a speech commending Boris’s time in office, followed by a school photo.

Boris was gi[ven] a six-set first edition of Churchill’s war books; surprisingly not something the ex-PM’s biographer didn’t already own. Guido also learns Boris was given wines that reflected significant dates in his life and political career: 1964, 2008, 2012 and 2019. He also got wine from other countries that mean a lot to him, including Ukraine and Greece …

Here’s the Cabinet photo:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-8b23ce74-8a07-4e13-b24a-a9d4dc987cb8

I hope all goes well for the Prime Minister in the weeks to come.

No doubt if Labour try to get at him, he’ll find a way out.

All being well, I’ll have a post next week on what really happened leading to his ouster.

To my amazement, last week, I agreed with a Labour MP.

So did Andrew Billen, a serious veteran investigative journalist.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in response to a plea from Lisa Nandy MP to keep local nightclubs open, he wrote in The Times:

I find myself in agreement with Lisa Nandy when she says that nightclubs play an important role in the identity of a city.

During his youth, however, he didn’t care much for nightclubs:

To be honest, if I ended up in any one of them my evening had gone terribly wrong. Having a part missing from my soul, I could not see the point of places where the booze was too nasty and too pricey to drink, the music too loud to talk over, and as soon as you got anywhere with a girl, then a steel worker would ask them to dance. It would have helped, I supposed, if I had liked the music, but I don’t think I did, although with BBC Four and a glass of wine on Friday nights it now carries a ghostly appeal.

I agreed with the friend of a friend who one night surveyed what he could through the cigarette fog and declared that he would “rather be in a wood”.

Billen came of age in Sheffield. Below he answers a question which I have long pondered (emphases mine below):

Ah, it takes only a quick trawl through the website of my old paper The Star and the groovier looking Yorkshire Live, and the memories of 1980s Sheffield nightclubs come trickling back …

As a soft southerner I could not at first understand why on a freezing night South Yorkshire lads and lasses never wore a coat. It had to be carefully explained to me that if you left your anorak in the cloakroom by the time you had queued and collected it the bird or bloke you had been chatting up would have copped off with an opportunist predator whose outer layer was a T-shirt.

A “role in the identity” of Sheffield? On a February night, Sheffield nightclubs were definitional.

The Times article has more reminiscences from other journalists about their clubbing days.

In the late 1970s, I went to discos, one locally and others with university friends when we were on holiday together. This was in the US and once in Acapulco. The clubs were pretty tame, and, not surprisingly, the local one was great for meeting up with other classmates one saw less frequently.

They were great fun. I never had a bad time. If I did, it’s no longer in my memory bank.

Why are nightclubs important right now? In our post-pandemic era, it is said that young people have increasing mental health problems.

The same day that The Times article appeared, so did one in The Telegraph about mental health and combatting arthritis: ‘In self-pitying Britain, the greatest heresy is to say: Cheer up!’

Judith Woods writes:

We live in a changed world, however, where it is now considered emotionally coercive to tell anyone to lighten up, buck up or call time on the self-indulgent pity party. Instead of raising each other up with sarky humour (as is the British way), we are expected to defeat our demons solo. A striking feature of our age is the monetisation of low mood. Business is brisk for mindfulness courses, gratitude journals and wellness retreats. You can buy “You Got This” slogan t-shirts and even “optimistic” scented candles, if you think burning money would make you feel less glum.

Social media, which is built on narcissism, positively promotes the right to feel bleak, regardless of how self-defeating pessimism can be. The current mantra beloved of influencers and Love Islanders alike is “you do you”. Online, such language has the superficial ring of affirmation, but in truth it is an isolationist abdication of responsibility towards those in urgent need of a pep talk.

What really does help Eeyores isn’t the kindness of strangers in cyberspace but an injection of Tiggerishness from friends in real life. People need people, not pamphlets …

On July 3, Zoe Strimpel wrote a piece for The Telegraph on young people’s mental health issues: ‘Youth is no longer the best time of life’.

It appears that university students can no longer cope with the ups and downs of everyday life:

Young people are encouraged to view every aspect of their lives through the prism of mental health. A survey of students by the charity Humen, found that half felt that “mental health difficulties” had harmed their university experience; 57 per cent of students had sought out university mental health services.

This is astonishing. When I was a student in the early 2000s, I don’t recall anyone seeking help from the university, though presumably some did and good on them. We had ups and downs, sure, but the thought wouldn’t have occurred to us, partly because we assumed ups and downs were part of the package. Most of us, despite some challenges – I was sleepless, miserable and anxious during finals, which I therefore nearly fluffed – muddled through and had a great time.

It’s not that I think students are making up their anxieties; they’ve also had to cope with the pandemic. But I can’t help but feel that the world is conspiring to make, and then keep, them low. Rather than urging them to test their powers – we are often more resilient than we think – their environment tells them to monitor any mental ill-health zealously, promising that it is waiting, poised, to help …

But perhaps the answer does not lie in ever-more “awareness”. Perhaps it lies in encouragement, positivity and expressing confidence in young people’s estimable – but currently downtrodden – powers.

I couldn’t agree more.

Although young people who are truly suffering mental health problems would be the last to want to — or should — go to a nightclub, perhaps it’s an idea for those who are just feeling a bit down, the sort of whom one would enquire, ‘Why so glum, chum?’

Returning to The Times article, clubbing teaches us valuable life skills — and challenging rituals — as Sean O’Neill, who grew up in Northern Ireland, recalls:

… in provincial Mid Ulster at the beginning of the 1980s, entertainment options for 17-year-olds were in short supply. So every weekend we trekked 11 miles to Clubland in Cookstown. There really was nowhere else to go.

There was a ritual. We cadged a lift and headed first to the Black Horse pub for a couple of underage pints of lager and lime before joining the queue in the rain (in my mind it was always raining) for the club.

A cursory frisk from the doorman and in we went, straight to the bar where we necked rum and black or Bacardi and Coke to pluck up courage for the next phase. As boys, that involved circling the dancefloor — quite literally lap after lap — while the girls danced to the hits of the day, from Shakin’ Stevens, Ottawan, Imagination and, worst of all in my book, Duran Duran.

I was an NME reader. I might be tempted on to the floor by the Human League or Soft Cell, but generally I regarded myself as above this barbarian mating ritual

Much of the great Saturday night out was spent securing a lift home. In between trying to speak to girls and inquire if they wanted a) a dance and b) a Pernod (which according to local legend had aphrodisiac qualities), you had to spot people who had a car and were sober enough to drive it.

If we failed to find a driver, closing time had us thumbing. With the Troubles still raging, that required some preplanning. As Catholics we had to have a cover story in case the lift was offered by “the other side”. In an instant you might have to switch from being Sean O’Neill to Ashley Robinson.

Wherever you got your lift there was one more problem: the police checkpoints. It wasn’t a question of police brutality but the perils of smartarsery when stopped.

“Can I have your name please?” a policewoman asked one night of a stotious friend in the back seat.

“Why, have you not got one of your own?” came the retort.

“Right, lads, everybody out of the vehicle.”

From that account, we can see that clubbing involves learning about life and other people. It takes one’s mind off oneself, even if only for an evening once a week.

If I had children, I would have definitely encouraged them to go clubbing. I’d probably even have given them spending money to do so. Mating rituals — including the highs and lows of acceptance and rejection — are important.

On June 29, The Telegraph‘s Ed Cumming filed a report, ‘In praise of the sticky, sweaty local nightclub’.

Unfortunately, many nightclubs have closed, especially during the pandemic:

How to revive Britain’s struggling towns? Investment in property or infrastructure? Some urban beautification, perhaps? No. The answer has been under our feet all along, covered in sticky carpet. That is what Lisa Nandy thinks, anyway. Yesterday, the shadow secretary of state for levelling up suggested that the key to unlocking the country’s economic potential could be reopening its nightclubs.

“Every town has lost a nightclub that they feel strongly about, that was part of our history and our heritage,” Nandy, 42, told Times Radio. These are the engines of culture, she said. Without the music clubs in Wigan, where she is MP, bands like the Verve might never have got started.

… the Bad Provincial Nightclub is a cornerstone of British identity. And according to the ONS, more than 30 per cent of Britain’s registered clubs have shut since 2010, from 10,000 down to fewer than 7,000.

This is a precipitous rate of decline. Rising prices and stricter licensing laws have made it harder for clubs to operate. They have become housing, shops or offices, or other businesses that reflect a more expensive and less hedonistic era. In some cases, they have been demolished brick by brick, and exist only as a ghostly Google listing and in the collective memory of people who went there.

These clubs form a vital societal function. Stop anyone in the street in Britain and they will have a memory of a now-defunct venue from their childhood

While the names varied, these places had much in common. They were fundamentally naff, usually pretentious, where the aspiration to provide a chic night out was at odds with reality

It is curious that some of the most memorable experiences of our adolescence take place in such unpromising surroundings. In the gathering dusk of your life, you may be borne back to a long-defunct pit called something like Freddy’s or Brooklyn, where you drank three-for-a fiver alcopops and enjoyed an amorous fumble.

Cumming says that young people learn a lot from clubbing:

These clubs were training grounds for other vital adult skills: how to lie about your age, how to manage limited resources for drinks, food and transport, how to deal with people who looked a bit fighty. How to dress, or not, depending on your desired effect. They were masterclasses in rejection

Letting in a few underage punters has always been core to the provincial nightclub’s appeal. Unlike the flailing on the dancefloor, getting in was a delicate tango. The venues needed the business; you needed the access. Longing, preparation and disappointment, punctuated by a few moments of euphoria and terror: life in miniature.

True — all of it. On the other hand, there were also lots of laughs, another element of ‘life in miniature’.

It is sad that we are encouraging our young people to turn in on themselves and avoid the unknown:

One of the theories behind their demise is that supermarkets offer even cheaper deals on booze. But there’s no jeopardy in getting wrecked at home. A night out at one of these clubs was a play in miniature. There was hubris and catharsis

Too right.

Feeling glum, chum?

Get out and enjoy a nightclub. That’s my advice to the young.

Last week, I posted the first part of my defence of a constitutional monarchy.

Today’s post concludes that defence of the UK’s system of government, the Queen being our Head of State.

Longest reigning monarch?

Since I wrote the first part of this series, the Queen became one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs.

On June 12, 2022, the Mail on Sunday reported (emphases mine):

The Queen has reached an incredible new milestone after becoming the world’s second longest reigning monarch.

Her Majesty, 96, will overtake Thailand‘s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years and 126 days between 1946 and 2016, from today.

Earlier this month, the Queen surpassed Johan II of Liechtenstein, who reigned for 70 years and 91 days, until his death in February 1929

Louis XIV of France remains the longest-reigning monarch, with a 72-year and 110-day reign from 1643 until 1715, while the Queen’s stint on the throne now stands at 70 years and 126 days, equal to King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s.

The milestone comes as Her Majesty celebrated her Platinum Jubilee last week, with four days of parades, street parties, and other events, after officially reaching the milestone on February 6 this year.

But — and it’s a BIG BUT — two days later, on June 14, the Daily Mail posted an article proclaiming, ‘Queen is the world’s longest actively reigning monarch, royal expert claims’:

Although it’s widely reported she holds little interest in breaking records, her astonishing reign would only be beaten in length by King Louis XIV of France.

Known as Louis the Great, the French ruler became king at the tender age of four following the death of his father Louis XIII, and he ruled from 14 May 1643 to 1 September 1715.

According to the record books, only Louis XIV, or ‘The Sun King’, ruled for longer than the Queen.

But royal biographer Hugo Vickers says Her Majesty may be able to lay claim to being the world’s longest actively serving monarch by virtue of the fact the French monarch did not fully ascend the throne when he was aged four.

Although he was crowned King Louis XIV from May 1643, he technically served under his mother Queen Anne’s regency for eight years, owing to his tender age

In a letter sent to the Times, Mr Vickers writes: ‘In Louis XIV’s reign, there was a regency between May 14, 1643, and September 7, 1651, until he reached the age of 13.

‘Hence, while he may have been king the longest, our Queen is unquestionably the longest actively reigning monarch in the world.’

Sour republicanism

Republicans, i.e. anti-monarchists, are a dour lot.

Cromwell had Charles I beheaded and banned Christmas celebrations, so it was a relief when, after England’s Civil War, Charles II ascended the throne in 1660. That period in British history is called the Restoration.

The anniversary of the Restoration is on May 29:

Maypoles, music and gaiety were also banned. The Calvinistic Puritans were the Taliban of their time.

Like the Taliban, they ruled for the people’s ‘own good’:

The article that barrister Francis Hoar cites says, in part:

The seventeenth century Puritans did not impose their austere rules purely for the sake of it … Their banning of Maypoles and Christmas and football was ultimately about top-down, rationalistic social control to the end of spiritual and ethical purity, an attempt to eliminate anything untidy, spontaneous, and in particular to impose their own (extremely unpopular) ideas within the cultural and social vacuum thereby created.

Moving to the present day, in 1977, pundits predicted that few in Britain cared about the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, especially with the Sex Pistols’ caustic God Save the Queen being banned from the airwaves but purchased in record stores such that the single sold out.

Columnist Rod Liddle remembered the mood well. That year, he, too, was caught up in punk and republicanism. On June 5, 2022, he wrote an article for The Sunday Times: ‘As a teenage punk, I sneered at the Queen. Sadly, the music is almost over’:

I enjoyed the Queen’s Silver Jubilee immensely, shouting out horrible things about our monarch on stage with my punk band at a “Stuff the Jubilee” gig in a pleasant suburb of Middlesbrough. We were in a tent, erected with great magnanimity by the organisers slap bang in the middle of the proper, official Silver Jubilee celebration, with its stalls of cakes and beer wagons and plates bearing pictures of her Maj.

It may have been HM’s Silver Jubilee, but 1977 was also the year of punk, even if its impact on the charts was marginal. It is often suggested that punk was a left-wing phenomenon, but in truth it was far from it — even if one or two of the bands, such as the Clash, later proclaimed their left-wing credentials for the benefit of the very liberal hippy music press. In truth, punk at its core was energetically poujadist. It was lower-middle-class kids who were tired of, or bored with, the sclerotic institutions in our country — the big record companies, the civil service, the BBC, the aristocracy and so on.

It was individualistic, not communitarian. It had no great quarrel with capitalism, only with capitalism done badly. It saw Great Britain as stagnating and it wanted change. It had no time for the unions either — it was the unions that boycotted the pressing of the Sex Pistols’ second single, God Save the Queen.

The Queen represented continuity, much as did Jim Callaghan’s hobbled government. We didn’t want that and nor did the newish leader of the opposition [Margaret Thatcher], who was also lower middle class, despised outdated institutions such as the trade unions and the BBC, and was for individualism

As for 2022, with age, Liddle has had a change of heart:

This weekend’s celebrations are very different. Never before have we craved continuity quite as much as we do now, faced with an array of existential threats from which you can take your pick as to which is the most pressing: newly belligerent Russia, China’s quest for world domination, radical Islam, climate change, weird viruses …

Under a lesser monarch our disaffection with the royal institution — and, as a corollary, with our own history as a nation — might have spilt over long before. But she ruled with a dignity, duty and dexterity that precluded such an eventuality.

I wish I’d remembered, while standing on stage in that tent 45 years ago, the words of an old hippy: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

Returning to 1977, in a retrospective for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Telegraph pointed out that people turned out in the millions to celebrate her Silver Jubilee, proving that republicanism was as unpopular then as it is now:

Elizabeth II has demonstrated that, in fact, the monarchs do possess a power: an unactivated power, one that a partisan, career-politician president would hastily trigger – and divide us – but which the Queen handles judiciously. She uses the authority of her office to carry out and promote public duty. And, refreshingly, she simply gets on with things – no grumbling, no complaint.

When the country celebrated her Silver Jubilee, in 1977, the cynics predicted a washout: what was the relevance of royalty in an age of strikes and national decline, they asked? In the end, one republican rally, on Blackheath, attracted just five people and was cancelled. Millions turned out to celebrate the Queen, with such passion that it surprised even her: I had “no idea”, she told a lady in waiting, that the people valued her so much.

On May 30, 2022, the left-wing New Statesman tried to rally its readers around republicanism, but the magazine’s Twitter thread was unimpressive:

The magazine suggests eco-warrior David Attenborough as someone around whom we could all rally — heaven forfend! Ugh!

There can never be a charismatic republican leader, because that is an oxymoron.

And, no, we can’t have Boris, either. Although he’s probably not much of a republican, when he was a boy, he announced to his family:

he would be “world king” one day. 

On Friday, June 3, some broadcasters picked up booing outside of St Paul’s Cathedral as he and his wife arrived for the Queen’s Service of Thanksgiving:

Boris was booed only on one side of the cathedral’s exterior. This is why the BBC did not pick up the sound on the day, whereas some other networks did. It depended on where their film and sound crews were located:

The culprit was a Frenchman:

I do hope that M. Jacquemin did not have the bad grace to take advantage of Boris’s Special Status scheme, granting — to as many EU citizens as cared to apply — official leave to remain in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

Finally, let none of us think that doing away with the British monarchy will resolve child poverty — or even pay for the NHS:

All we would get would be President Blair — UGH:

How awful that would be.

Ireland loves our Queen

Given Britain’s fractious relationship over the centuries which caused the Emerald Isle to achieve independence in 1921, one would expect that the Irish would want no further reminders of the monarch.

In another retrospective for the Platinum Jubilee, The Times published a series of historic milestones about the Queen.

Regarding an independent Ireland, the article says:

Northern Ireland has been a key feature of her reign, during which the Troubles have erupted, calmed and simmered. This conflict hit close to home in 1979 with the IRA’s murder of her cousin, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Time heals many wounds but forgiveness is a choice. So it was, in 2012, she shook the hand of Martin McGuinness, the former IRA man who was then deputy first minister in the province. Queen or not, it was an act of which many would not have been capable.

It came as a direct consequence of her successful state visit to Ireland the year before, the first by a reigning British monarch since independence. The events were examples of where she has perhaps done her greatest work: as a stateswoman.

The Irish were indeed delighted to have the Queen visit in 2011. A 2010 article from the Irish Independent reported that many towns and villages requested that she pay them a visit:

THE British Ambassador to Ireland has revealed he has received dozens of letters from towns and villages across the country inviting Queen Elizabeth to various events.

As speculation grows over a visit by the British monarch, the ambassador Julian King said his government was committed to a visit.

He said he was encouraged by the response among Irish people. Mr King was speaking to reporters in Muckross House during a visit to Killarney, Co Kerry, after accepting an invitation from the chairman of the board of trustees, Marcus Treacy.

Her popularity in Ireland continues. On her Platinum Jubilee weekend, an Irish poll showed that the Queen was more popular than past or present Irish presidents. The Queen scored a 50% approval rating compared to everyone else who scored 40+ per cent or lower.

Unfortunately, this clip from Mark Steyn’s GB News show doesn’t show the poll graphic, but the aforementioned Royal expert Hugo Vickers explained the Queen’s enduring popularity and the hope he has for her successor:

The enduring Commonwealth

The Queen is credited for creating the Commonwealth of Nations affiliated with Britain and/or the Crown.

Any of these nations can pull out of the Commonwealth voluntarily. Neither the Queen nor the British Government can forbid them from doing so.

Australia is once again considering renouncing the Queen as their Head of State. However, we must remember that they have important ties with China that might be persuading them in that direction. The same is happening in the West Indies. Money talks.

Similarly, a nation that has not been part of the British Empire may apply successfully to become a member of the Commonwealth. Rwanda is one such country. It was originally a Belgian trust territory that had been a German colony until the First World War.

A nation can also leave the Commonwealth and rejoin at a later date. The Gambia left in 2013 and rejoined in 2018.

In November 2021, Barbados removed the Queen as its head of state but remains a Commonwealth member.

A Forbes article from December 2021 explains the permutations of this group of nations:

… Queen Elizabeth II currently serves as the Head of State of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

These Queen-led nations are known as “Commonwealth Realms,” which are distinct from the broader 54-nation Commonwealth of nations that have some connection to Great Britain, but do not necessarily have the Queen as Head of State.

The Queen’s role as Head of State is largely ceremonial, and she is represented in each country by a governor-general who carries out the Queen’s day-to-day duties.

In addition to Barbados:

The last country to remove the Queen as Head of State was Mauritius in 1992, and other Caribbean countries that have removed the Queen are Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica, which all removed the Queen in the 1970s.

Participation in the Commonwealth is voluntary, and in response to Barbados’s decision to remove the Queen, Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.”

Monarchy — an eminently sensible way forward

The Revd Marcus Walker, whose thoughts have graced my ‘What’s on Anglican priests’ minds’ series, wrote a thoughtful piece for The Critic this month.

In it, he points to the great strengths of the British monarchy:

He begins by giving us the sour republican narrative:

The State Opening of Parliament last month saw three narratives promulgated at the same time by very different people, all of which (deliberately or not) betray a fundamental lack of understanding of monarchy.

The first, by the Left, saw an attempt to heap ridicule on the rituals of the ceremony: of the procession of the Imperial State Crown, of the uniforms worn by those involved.

The second, by a more centrist kind of commentator, asked whether it was fair or just to have as our Head of State a woman of 96 who is no longer able physically to take part in major ceremonies.

The third, by the pro-Putin end of the Right, saw continued attacks on Prince Charles, whom they seem to have anathematised because he likes the environment. The political categorisation is a tad crude, and I’m sure you’ve seen overt and covert republicans using all of these lines over the last few years.

He explains why those narratives are so misguided:

What’s interesting about these attacks is that they unintentionally highlight the strength of monarchy, not its weakness. The ritual is not meaningless; it unveils layers of history. The Commons slamming the door in the face of Black Rod tells of the struggles between Parliament and the King which have been settled in our constitutional framework of the Crown in Parliament.

The Crown has the history of the nation woven into it, bearing within its frame St Edward the Confessor’s sapphire, the Black Prince’s ruby, the Stuart sapphire, and the Cullinan diamond.

Each tells a little bit of the past that brought us to today. In the chamber we have elected parliamentarians, peers, senior judges, bishops: an interweaving of the different perspectives and professions which collectively set the political culture. This will change over the years as the nation changes, and this too will be good.

Ritual is not empty; it tells a story, and all nations have their rituals and their stories. If you are embarrassed by monarchical ritual, I caution you not to cross the Channel and find yourself in Paris for Bastille Day or Moscow for Victory Day. Losing your monarch does not remove your need for ritual and story. What you lose, though, is an embodiment of that story.

He asks us to consider the life cycle that the monarchy represents. A life cycle is something all of us can understand and appreciate:

The human realities of life, death, love, marriage, childbirth (and betrayal, hurt, and divorce) are at the core of the strength of monarchy. They are experiences we all share.

Monarchy, no matter how set-up in trappings of ritual, is a profoundly human institution. Its rhythms are human, as are its failings …

So why not be rid of the Crown and its rituals? Because they hold the space at the centre of our national life, preventing it from being held by a politician. No Trumps for us, no preening Macrons, no sour-faced Putins, no German Steinmeier with his terrible legacy of appeasing Russia. The centre holds, while the political world swirls around it.

Over this month we will be celebrating the Queen’s personal achievements across her 70-year reign, but we will also be celebrating the institution which she has embodied these many years, and doing so by marking in great state that most natural and human of all things: the passing of time.

I will have more on how society has changed over the past 70 years next week and how the Queen has adapted to those changes during her marvellous reign.

Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, 2022, were a time of fun and frolic, ending the four-day Platinum Jubilee holiday.

As delightful as it was, unfortunately, the first news item on Monday morning was that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would undergo a vote of confidence early that evening.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, the Conservative group of backbench MPs, made the announcement at 8 a.m.:

He gave a short press conference outside the Palace of Westminster:

Brady had already received 54 letters from Conservative backbenchers, the minimum number of no confidence letters needed — 15% of Conservative MPs — in order to trigger the vote:

He had received most of them before the Platinum Jubilee celebrations started. He probably has more than 54 letters; someone on GB News said that he had received 83.

Sir Graham arranged a time for Boris to have right of reply to his party’s MPs, scheduled for 4 p.m.

GB News interviewed a number of Conservative MPs during the day. Those supporting Boris said that MPs calling for him to stand down are either Remainers, those who never liked him, those who never received a Cabinet post and those who fell out with him and were reshuffled from Cabinet. Some of the MPs falling into the last three categories voted for Brexit.

It’s a pity that Boris’s premiership has been far from perfect, unlike the resplendent appearance of the Duchess of Cambridge:

Most of the viewers writing into GB News are Boris supporters. This was the result of Dan Wootton’s Monday night poll on whether Boris should lead the Conservatives into the next election (2023 or, more likely, 2024):

Jacob Rees-Mogg, former Leader of the House and current Minister for Brexit Opportunities, tweeted that rebel MPs should remember that voters elected Conservative MPs, i.e. Boris, therefore, for MPs to depose him implies that people’s votes do not count. As such, Conservatives could lose the next election largely for that reason:

UPDATE — The 1922 Committee announced the result of the vote at 9 p.m. Boris has won but not by as big a margin as John Major in the 1990s or Theresa May a few years ago:

Speaking after Sir Graham Brady announced the vote result, Boris said that the Government can move on and focus on the things that ‘really matter’:

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a monarchist, no doubt thoroughly enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee weekend and tweeted a Telegraph editorial which said that the Queen has increased the UK’s love of the monarchy:

Interestingly, the editorial is dated June 1, the day before the long weekend.

However, it was spot on, because Jubilees have united the nation like nothing else, other than the Olympics and Paralympics. This is why (emphases mine):

Since we have no national day in the United Kingdom, the four significant jubilees of the Queen’s reign have each served to reassert a patriotism that is always present but only occasionally allowed to flourish.

People need events such as these to feel a sense of belonging beyond our immediate family, neighbourhood or region. To manifest itself through the Queen, rather than a nebulous concept of nationhood, makes it more personal – a relationship that is never possible between citizens and an elected politician.

While a proportion of her subjects will recall the reign of her father, or even her uncle and maybe her grandfather, for the vast majority of the population the Queen is the only head of state we have known – a constant companion through our entire lives, the still point in an often turbulent world.

In a statement in February to mark her accession, the Queen signed off as “Your Servant”, which is how she has always seen herself. As the heir-presumptive in 1947, still not expecting to take the throne for many years, she gave a radio broadcast to declare: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Mercifully, it has turned out to be a long life and Her Majesty has more than lived up to the pledge she gave then

With that, let us look at the Jubilee events of Saturday, June 4.

The Queen did not attend one of her favourite racing events, the Epsom Derby. She watched it on television instead:

The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, represented her mother at Epsom. I do wish Anne could succeed her. She does so much unsung work for charity — and we have no idea what she thinks about climate change:

Forty jockeys wore the Queen’s silks in honour of her 70-year reign. She has met some of them:

Princess Anne was not the only member of the Royal Family representing the Queen in the UK that day.

Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, travelled to Northern Ireland for official engagements:

The following video shows the Queen on her previous visits to the province also known as Ulster:

The Cambridges had an equally busy day, especially the children.

The Countess of Cambridge, better known as Kate, made cupcakes with the children for a Sunday street party in Cardiff:

The family also visited Cardiff on Saturday:

In the evening, they attended the concert, the Platinum Party at the Palace:

Earlier, while in Cardiff, they were able to meet performers and planners for the Welsh contribution to the concert:

As happened during the Diamond Jubilee, the concert was a true son et lumière — sound and light — experience:

There was a terrific light show with drones. This bit with a corgi dropping a bone is amusing:

Although the Queen was in absentia, she opened the show with a brilliant comedy sketch she secretly recorded in March with Paddington Bear.

The Sunday Times has the story:

At 96, the Queen showed she has lost none of her humour, starring in a surprise televised sketch with the fictional bear from darkest Peru. The skit opened the Platinum Party at the Palace, a live concert at Buckingham Palace broadcast by the BBC.

It echoed the James Bond spoof at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, in which she and her corgis appeared with the actor Daniel Craig at the palace, and the Queen later appeared to jump out of a helicopter and parachute into the stadium.

During her encounter with Paddington in the crimson drawing room at Windsor Castle, the Queen laughed as the clumsy bear caused chaos, accidentally depriving her of a cup of tea, glugging directly from the spout of the teapot and spraying her footman with cream from a chocolate éclair.

As he showed Her Majesty the marmalade sandwiches he stores under his red hat, the Queen prised open her black Launer handbag, confiding, “I keep mine in here,” before closing her bag and wryly observing: “For later.”

Paddington, who is created with CGI and voiced by the actor Ben Whishaw, congratulated the Queen on her historic reign, wishing her a “happy jubilee, Ma’am” and adding: “And thank you. For everything.” The Queen replied: “That’s very kind.”

The Queen has worn Launer handbags since 1968. She awarded them with a Royal Warrant many years ago and visited their factory in 1992. A Launer is hardly a handbag in which one would store marmalade sandwiches.

The sketch had to segue perfectly into Queen’s — the band’s — performance:

Rosie Alison, of Heyday Films, which produced the two Paddington films and is making a third this year, said: “Filming Her Majesty’s tea party with Paddington Bear was such an emotional day for the entire crew. All of us were in awe of the Queen’s wit, warmth and radiant aura as she patiently engaged with a polite, clumsy but very well-intentioned bear. Of course, she shone, and put all of us at ease.”

Mark Sidaway, executive producer of the BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace, said: “We were thrilled and honoured when we learnt Her Majesty had agreed to run with this touching yet joyful idea the team had come up with — although it was slightly nerve-racking ensuring it all blended seamlessly with the live performance from Queen.”

One of my readers, Sylvia, sent in the link to a Mail article which has a link to the full video and terrific concert photos. Many thanks, Sylvia!

This version has the addition of the Monarch and Paddington Bear tapping their tea cups to Queen’s opening number. We also get a glimpse of the crowd as it was at that moment:

Here are more scenes from the concert, which featured much musical talent from past and present, including Rod Stewart, Elton John, Duran Duran and Diana Ross. The following video shows more of the drone light displays, which were amazing:

At the concert, Princes Charles and William paid tribute to the Queen.

What follows comes from The Sunday Times report.

William spoke first:

Earlier in the evening, Prince William, 39, an ardent environmentalist, used his tribute to hail his grandmother’s calls over the years to protect the planet and spoke of his “pride” that “my grandfather and my father have been part of those efforts”. Sir David Attenborough also gave a tribute praising the royal family’s commitment to conservationism.

Before William appeared on stage, the German composer Hans Zimmer and an orchestra performed a specially arranged version of the Planet Earth II Suite, followed by a performance by the Royal Ballet, as words from the Queen’s 1989 Christmas message, focusing on the environment, were broadcast: “The future of all life on Earth depends on how we behave towards one another and how we treat the plants and animals that share our world with us. We share the Earth as human beings. All of us. And together as the nations of the world will leave it to our children and children’s children. We must be kind to it for their sake.”

William called his grandmother the Queen ‘of hope’:

A clip from the Queen’s message to COP26 last year was also shown.

Charles said, in part:

Taking to the stage in front of Buckingham Palace, which was illuminated with images of the Queen personally chosen by Charles, the prince was cheered by a crowd of more than 20,000 as he addressed his mother, who was watching on television from Windsor Castle.

“Your family now spans four generations. You are our head of state. And you are also our mother … Looking back, we think of the countless state occasions that are milestones along this nation’s road. And you will think of red boxes, filled with government papers, at the end of the day … We think of all you have done to make the Commonwealth such an important force for good. You continue to make history” …

“I know what really gets my mother up in the morning is all of you, watching at home.

“You have met us and talked to us. You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us, for these 70 years. You pledged to serve your whole life — you continue to deliver. That is why we are here. That is what we celebrate tonight. These pictures on your house are the story of your life — and ours. So, your Majesty, that is why we all say thank you.”

He ended his tribute by calling for “three cheers for Her Majesty”.

Here is the video:

Members of the Royal Family were out in force. The Sussexes did not attend, however.

Many politicians also attended, including Boris and his wife Carrie, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband, the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The weather in London held out for Saturday. However, all changed overnight.

I’ll cover Sunday’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant tomorrow.

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

England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Telegraph confirmed this pact on Friday, May 6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devolved nations

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

This is how the Single Transferable Vote works:

Wales

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

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

Scotland

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

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

Late on Friday, the Daily Mail reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern Ireland

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Sunday, December 19, 2021, the Revd Will Pearson-Gee gave a heartfelt extemporaneous sermon at his church in Buckingham, England, part of the Diocese of Oxford.

Last weekend, it was unclear whether some sort of Yuletide lockdown would be implemented in England, possibly including churches. In 2020, churches were closed for months. The Government deemed them to be ‘non-essential services’. The Church of England hierarchy were complicit in that decision.

If lockdown were reimposed the way it had been last year, Mr Pearson-Gee clearly stated that he would not be playing that game again at Buckingham Parish Church.

This short must-see video went viral:

High Churchman Calvin Robinson responded:

I saw it on Wednesday, December 22, on GB News, thanks to Mark Steyn who was filling in for Nigel Farage. Steyn’s introduction could be a sermon, too, as it directs us to the transcendent, the living God, something the Church of England should have done last year:

Steyn also interviewed Pearson-Gee (from 12:21 to 20:00). I highly recommend watching it:

The vicar said that Zoom worked well in the early months of the pandemic, but it was only ever a temporary solution.

Once churches were allowed to reopen, he said that the elderly spearheaded a renewed fellowship in the congregation.

He graciously did not criticise the Archbishop of Canterbury for last year’s spiritual failings in the Church of England, saying that Justin Welby has a very hard job to do.

He also said that he knew Christians in Iraq who risked their lives going to worship, but they took that risk because their faith was so important:

If only we felt the same way.

Pearson-Gee has a lot going on at Buckingham Parish Church, including three different Sunday services — something to suit everyone’s liturgical tastes:

His daughter helps him out with Twitter:

Was Will Pearson-Gee always a devout Christian?

No.

Incredibly, he returned to the Church after his first wife and son were killed in a car accident. Mark Steyn mentioned this after his interview with the vicar ended.

Such a tragic event would have put most people off church and God forever, but Pearson-Gee saw things differently.

In March 2014, he discussed his testimony with Premier Christianity. I would highly recommend that unbelievers and agnostics read about his journey of faith which led him to seek ordination.

Excerpts follow, emphases in purple mine:

It was back in 1996 that my world fell apart. My wife, Anna, had gone out with our two children, Eleanor (two) and Jamie (three). It was a really hot summer’s day in July and she took them down to Bournemouth to the seaside.

On the way back (for reasons that we’ll never know) her car crossed over the centre white line on a narrow bit of a road, and was hit head on by an articulated lorry carrying 40 tonnes of very large rocks. Anna and Jamie, who were on the same side of the car, were crushed and killed instantly. My daughter Eleanor, quite amazingly, was able to be removed from the car wreckage by a Royal Marine Officer travelling in the car behind. She was literally unmarked, which I’ve always thought was a little bit of a miracle considering the combined collision was about 90 miles an hour. But she survived. Obviously it was a devastating shock for me, but I had my little girl to look after.

I was confronted by their bodies in the mortuary some hours later. They were in quite a mess and it took the mortician a while to make them presentable for identification. They pulled back the white sheets and I ranted, and I screamed, and I wept. Then I looked at them, and I thought, ‘This cannot be the end.’ There was so much life, particularly in my little boy ? he was such a handful. I just couldn’t believe it was the end of him and so I thought, ‘Where have they gone? Where are they now?’

At the time I was definitely a ‘nominal’ Christian. I believed there was some higher power, some greater being beyond myself that I could call upon and might listen to me, but I really had no idea about God’s character or whether he cared about me

Then my eye was drawn to a very simple crucifix on the wall of the mortuary. It was a sign of the Christian faith to which I had been exposed since I was a child. It’s like a penny dropped, and it suddenly became not just a cross, but a sign of hope for me. I then realised that if there was all this talk about resurrection and life after death, I needed to find out more about it. I managed to meet up with a Christian, also with my local vicar, and there was a Catholic priest who came into my life who had real expertise in helping people recover from child death. It was this cumulative effect that opened my eyes to the fact my wife and child were somewhere better, they were in heaven, and therefore if I wanted to see them again I needed to get myself right with God. That was a long process in itself.

This is why Pearson-Gee is not angry with God. It is an interesting perspective:

People sometimes ask me if I felt like blaming God. During my early time of grief, through counselling groups, I came across a lot of other people who were suffering and mainly they just blamed God. But to me it didn’t make sense that God had just got out of bed one morning and said, ‘Who am I going to strike down today?’Where do you draw the line with him intervening and stopping things going on? In a way, you’d be expecting him to upturn the laws of nature every single nanosecond of the day around the world, and then what kind of world would we be living in? So I don’t blame God.

I think God permitted that crash to take place, but ‘in all things God works for the good’, and I’ve really clung on to that. … in a funny sort of way the fact it has happened has brought me huge blessingsI’ve got a lovely wife, I’ve got three more kids including another son, I’ve got the most wonderful faith, my wife is a Christian. We know that whatever the world throws at us now, we have this wonderful eternal life waiting for us. Life is good. I know it’s not always going to be great and there will be trials and tribulations, but following Jesus is just such an amazing adventure.

Pearson-Gee wrote a brief autobiography for the Buckingham Parish Church website, which is also interesting (emphases mine):

I arrived in Buckingham just in time for Easter 2010 having moved from Oxford where I did my theological training (at Wycliffe Hall) and served my curacy (at St Andrew’s Church).

I enjoyed a full career in the Army serving all over the world as an infantry officer in the Coldstream Guards before leaving to join my brother’s printing company where I spent 6 happy years.  During this time I started to go to a newly planted church which showed me something that I had never seen before: an Anglican church pulsating with life and growing in size and depth.  Intrigued, I became more and more involved in its incredibly exciting mission and began to sense that ordination might be what God wanted me to pursue.  I think I was the most surprised of all when I arrived at Wycliffe Hall to start my training!

He mentioned the fatal car accident, adding:

That dreadful event really did change my life in more ways that I could have imagined and illustrates the truth in Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  My story surrounding this tragedy is here if you’d like to read it – if you do, I hope you find it an encouragement. Also, here is an article in Christianity Magazine that tells the story.

I am now married to Lucia and between us we have 4 children – Eleanor from my first marriage – and 3 of our own. I must say that I feel a little like Job who lost so much but was then restored by the Lord and had even more. We even called one of our daughters Jemima (as did Job).

Jemima — Mimi — helps her father with Twitter.

This is what motivates Pearson-Gee’s ministry:

I suppose what really motivates me in my ministry is sharing the good news that is Jesus Christ. It was this same, unchanging good news that pulled me out of the mire and gave me so much hope after my tragedy. I am passionate about making this good news accessible to everyone and will do all I can to make the Church (that is the people of God – Christians) welcoming to those who are – like I was once – lost.

That’s so moving, especially as we approach Christmas.

————————————————————————————–

Normally, I would have ended the post there.

However, the next few posts will involve Christmas readings, so I will close with two secular news items.

The first concerns Northern Ireland, which will reimpose coronavirus restrictions on December 27. Sammy Wilson MP (DUP) is none too happy but turned his disappointment into a little take on ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’:

“Hark the herald angels ping,” the East Antrim MP tweeted.

“Robin Swann won’t let us do a thing. No more parties, work at home. In the streets you cannot roam

“Omni is far worse than the delta curse. Stay at home. Or they’ll be far worse to come.”

It upset a number of politicians in Northern Ireland, who branded him a ‘moronic fool’:

The second item is Neil Oliver’s take on our covidian Christmas this year, wrapping lockdown and economic ruin into ‘Twas the Night before Christmas and Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Wry, witty and pointed, it’s worth watching:

With that — the spiritual and the secular — may I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas. May you be blessed despite State restrictions.

Please, someone, stop Project Fear.

Last week, a new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529 — initially named Nu and now changed for whatever reason to Omicron — hit the headlines, having been discovered in South Africa.

How worried should we be? I’ve been ignoring the news hysteria pumped out by Britain’s main channels and have been focusing on the views of scientists who have offered good information in the past.

A senior scientist in vaccine research and development advises ignoring the media hysteria:

The scientist notes that full vaccination rates in South Africa are very low:

There is no need to panic, especially before Christmas. Note that the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association says the symptoms are ‘extremely mild’:

We cannot extrapolate whether ‘cases’ will spike in countries where most of the population is fully ‘vaccinated’. According to another scientist who tracks viruses, it could be that the variant will not take hold quite as easily or with devastating effect:

Sir John Bell, an adviser to the UK government, agrees that the symptoms are like that of a cold. Our T-cells can probably deal with it:

Read further on for what this means for travel and our civil liberties.

First, here is confirmation that Nu was renamed Omicron in the Greek alphabet:

It seems that a Greek letter — Xi, coincidentally — was skipped:

Omicron is under the microscope not because of overflowing hospitals but rather genomic monitoring by clinicians:

As with the other variants, Delta included, Omicron would have been discovered months before now:

In fact, despite what the WHO says, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported on it back in July:

Now for the bit on travel and our civil liberties.

As expected, travel restrictions to and from six African countries are now in place in Britain

Travel to and from South Africa and five other southern African countries was banned from noon on Friday. Malawi and Mozambique are expected to be added to Britain’s travel red list imminently and there is acceptance in Whitehall that further bans are likely while scientists attempt to assess whether Omicron evades vaccines or spreads faster.

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, described travel bans as “precautionary” and said it might be possible to lift them once the variant had been better assessed.

Travel industry bosses warned that the introduction of the red list was a “hammer blow to consumer confidence” in before the peak winter sun window.

… and in the United States. It’s okay when the Democrats do it, but not when Trump did it in 2020:

https://image.vuukle.com/bc54e186-eef4-45e2-afa4-a98d98408671-a5d7cc88-d773-4816-bb46-14fcf94c773a

No doubt politicians will attempt to restrict our movements but, as this pathologist explains, human activity has little to do with viral transmission, which appears to be caused by seasonal activity:

Keep that in mind if there is a push for England to implement Plan B for the winter months. Plan B includes vaccine passports, something we have been able to evade, unlike Scotland and Wales (both socialist-governed nations):

On that subject, here is a coronavirus passport poster from Ireland. The Irish government now refers to freedom as ‘privileges’:

Journalist Julia Samuel reminds us of what the situation looked like a year ago. Remember when the vaccine rollout was nearly ready and we were told we would get our freedom back? One year on, and the Government is telling us that we will now need boosters. Who thought then that we would have vaccine passports? Northern Ireland’s Assembly will be voting this week on whether to have them and where:

Julia Samuel says that the Government now considers freedom to be on loan and can be rescinded whenever our notional leaders see fit:

I deeply deplore this state of affairs but am not surprised by it.

Meanwhile, vaccine efficacy has raised a few questions. Last week on RMC (French talk radio), the mid-morning show had a heated discussion as to whether the vaccines were working.

Gibraltar has had huge problems with new cases, yet 100% of its population is fully vaccinated.

On November 17, The Express reported that The Rock has cancelled Christmas:

The Rock has urged people to “limit mixing as much as possible”, in new guidance published last Friday. The Gibraltar government has also cancelled all functions across departments, including Christmas parties, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ministers have not yet ordered the public and businesses to follow suit, but the decision had sparked anger in the hospitality sector …

Gibraltar, which has a population of around 33,000, also boasts an impressive rate of vaccination.

Gibraltar has administered 94,019 vaccine doses – meaning most of its citizens have received three jabs …

The Government of Gibraltar has nevertheless reiterated masks should be worn in shops, hospitals and public transport.

People are also encouraged to meet in outdoor spaces, where possible, despite winter drawing in.

At that point, two people were hospitalised, with one in intensive care.

Malta has the same problem in case rises. Unlike Gibraltar, many of these people are ending up in hospital:

On the other hand, a study from Northwestern University near Chicago has reported that the booster has dramatically increased antibody levels:

In a nutshell:

Data from England appear to corroborate the same findings, with lower hospital admission rates for older people:

The peer-reviewed study appeared in The Lancet (yes, I know):

This is the effect of booster shots:

The only question now is how long the 93% and 94% efficacy lasts. The public will soon tire of getting covid booster shots every six to eight months, that is for certain.

In the meantime, we must continue to keep a gimlet eye on our governments, especially where civil liberties and our God-given freedoms are concerned.

I will cover England’s restrictions in a separate post.

Last week at this time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was preparing for the G7 summit at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.

Prior to that, meetings between G7 foreign ministers and finance ministers took place earlier in London.

This is the family photo of the foreign ministers from their meeting in May. The eighth man is an EU representative:

One of the outcomes of the finance ministers’ meetings in early June was a tax on profits from the largest multinational tech giants, to be continued when the G20 meet in July:

Joe Biden

It was amazing to see Joe Biden last the full course of the G7, especially without Kamala Harris hovering over him:

I am still puzzling over this photo of Dr Jill prepping for the G7 and the text ‘United States government official’. She is the First Lady, not a government official:

Joe Biden successfully triggered a post-Brexit storm around the EU trading arrangements with Northern Ireland, which are crucial to maintaining the peace agreement between that part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland:

Biden’s opinion is important, because the UK wants to make a trade deal with the US, which would have been much easier were President Trump still in the White House:

Nigel Farage rightly tweeted:

The sad truth is that no one in government cares about Trump. Boris has made it pretty clear in Parliament that he prefers dealing with Biden.

On Thursday, June 10, the US and the UK signed The New Atlantic Charter to promote common interests between the two nations, including technology, health pandemics and climate change.

The original Atlantic Charter was signed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941.

This new charter is hardly as ground breaking as the original.

The Daily Mail reported:

The major focus of Mr Johnson and Mr Biden’s new charter is defeating the coronavirus crisis and preventing further global health crises.

To achieve these goals, the two men agreed to ‘scale up joint work on genomic sequencing and variant assessments’ and to work together on a new global surveillance system. 

This will see the UK Health Security Agency’s new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness establishing a working relationship with its US counterpart, the proposed National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics.

The new charter states: ‘We recognise the catastrophic impact of health crises, and the global good in strengthening our collective defences against health threats. 

‘We commit to continuing to collaborate to strengthen health systems and advance our health protections, and to assist others to do the same. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘While Churchill and Roosevelt faced the question of how to help the world recover following a devastating war, today we have to reckon with a very different but no less intimidating challenge – how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.’

While the men met, Carrie Johnson, young Wilfred Johnson and Jill Biden took a walk along the beach. That evening, the Bidens enjoyed a drink at the Tregenna Castle Hotel in St. Ives.

On Sunday, June 13, the Bidens left Cornwall and were guests of the Queen at Windsor Castle where they enjoyed tea together. The Express has more.

On Monday and Tuesday, Biden met with NATO leaders and held a private meeting with the president of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan.

The Bidens flew to Geneva on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Biden met with Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

Sausage war

On the topic of Biden’s beef over Northern Ireland, he wants the UK to move closer to the EU and had the diplomat at the American Embassy in London issue Boris with a démarche, a reprimand normally reserved for enemy nations.

On Wednesday, June 9, the Telegraph reported:

Joe Biden ordered US officials to rebuke Boris Johnson for jeopardising the peace process in Northern Ireland due to its stand-off with the European Union, it emerged on Wednesday night. 

In a significant diplomatic intervention which now threatens to overshadow the G7 summit in Cornwall, America’s most senior diplomat in Britain told the Brexit minister Lord Frost that the UK’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol was “inflaming” tensions in Ireland and Europe. 

Yael Lempert is said to have issued Lord Frost with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – at a meeting on June 3 in London, during which she relayed to him the US President’s “great concern” over the UK’s approach to the protocol, which was established to prevent a hard Irish border.

The protocol is causing difficulty in shipping sausages, hence ‘sausage war’. You could not make this up.

Lord David Frost is attempting to negotiate with the EU:

During “frank” discussions in London, the Brexit minister Lord Frost said he would not rule out acting unilaterally to prevent a ban on the sale of British sausages in the province from coming into force at the end of the month.

It came despite Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, warning that the EU could ultimately suspend parts of the Brexit trade deal and hit British products with tariffs should the UK choose to extend the grace period on chilled meats.

In a clear show of defiance, one insider involved in the joint committee that oversees the Northern Ireland Protocol told The Telegraph: “David very clearly said he wasn’t taking that off the table.”

Lord Frost also rebuffed EU calls for the UK to solve the row by signing up to a Swiss-style veterinary agreement which would require it to follow the bloc’s food safety rules as they change over time in a process known as “dynamic alignment”.

Over the years, British food and veterinary standards have become more strict than those of the EU, so it is no surprise that Lord Frost is sticking to his guns.

The démarche from the United States upset the DUP leader in Northern Ireland — Edwin Poots — and some Conservative MPs in Westminster.

On Thursday, June 10, the Daily Mail reported:

New DUP leader Edwin Poots laid into Joe Biden today after the US president intervened in Northern Ireland politics with a rebuke for Boris Johnson over the EU ‘sausage war’.

Hardliner Mr Poots accused the Democrat of  trying to drive ‘a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement’ that guarantees sectarian peace in Northern Ireland.

The US President instead used his diplomats to express ‘great concern’ over the conflict centred on post-Brexit trade rules agreed last year by both sides, which the UK is now seeking to change, the Times reported today.  

The UK is now at loggerheads with the EU over rules governing the import of chilled goods like sausages into Ulster under the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed six months ago

The US is said to have issued a ‘demarche’ to Britain, an official diplomatic censure not normally used against allies, especially those as close as the two nations. 

The United States was said to have ‘strongly urged’ Britain to ‘stay cool’ and reach an agreement, even if that meant making ‘unpopular compromises’. 

The White House tried to row back from the row today, insisting the bust-up had been overplayed, but not before the president was branded ‘senile’ by a Tory Brexiteer …

an anonymous Tory MP told Politico:  ‘America should remember who their allies are… unfortunately he’s (Biden) so senile that he probably won’t remember what we tell him anyway

‘Unless an aide is listening I’m not sure he’s going to remember for very long.’

The Express had more from anonymous Conservative MPs:

One told Express.co.uk: “The cognitive decline of the American President appears to mirror the decline of the special relationship.

“I don’t actually believe this is Biden doing this.

“He’s lost the plot again. Somebody is pulling his strings because he’s senile and just hasn’t got it – if he ever had it.”

Another angry Conservative told this website the US was picking fights with the wrong people.

They said the Biden administration had issued a rebuke to the UK, one of America’s oldest allies, quicker than it had taken action against Iran or China.

“He’s talking to the wrong people on this one I’m afraid,” the MP said.

The Gateway Pundit picked up on the story:

Joe Biden’s first trip abroad is turning into an utter disaster as the senile sock puppet offends our closest allies and endangers the peace process in Northern Ireland with his incompetent dementia

On June 10, the Prime Minister and Biden met privately at St Michael’s Mount, a 17th-century castle on an island just off the coast of Cornwall.

The Daily Mail reported that Boris downplayed the disagreement:

Boris Johnson tonight insisted Joe Biden did not rebuke him over the Northern Ireland situation during their first face-to-face talks – as the White House tried to cool a furious row.

The PM revealed that the US president avoided reading the riot act over the Brexit standoff when they met in Cornwall this afternoon.

But he said there is ‘common ground’ between the UK, America and the EU that solutions must be found to the Northern Ireland protocol issues.

The Express quoted him as saying:

So it’s a relationship, you can call it the ‘deep and meaningful relationship’, whatever you want, the ‘indestructible relationship’.

It’s a relationship that has endured for a very long time, and has been an important part of peace and prosperity in Europe and around the world.

Emmanuel Macron’s gaffe

Emmanuel Macron ruffled British feathers when he said that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom.

The Express reported on Macron’s reaction to the sausage war:

Britain has been left frustrated by the EU’s implementation of the mechanism, warning excessive customs checks are having a detrimental impact on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

During talks with Mr Macron at the G7 summit, Boris Johnson tried to explain the problems with the Protocol, comparing it to the hypothetical introduction of checks on goods between Toulouse and Paris.

Mr Macron responded by saying there was a difference because Northern Ireland is a separate country to the rest of the UK.

The comments enraged Boris Johnson and led to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab blasting the EU for a lack of “respect”.

According to the newspaper, Macron also threatened a reset of British and French relations:

Emmanuel Macron was among the leaders who visited Cornwall this week for the G7 summit. Mr Macron told Prime Minister Boris Johnson the two countries had common interests, but ties could only improve if he kept his word on Brexit. One source told the Guardian: “The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship. This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans.”

Meanwhile, Carrie Johnson took Brigitte Macron and Jill Biden to a performance at the Minack Theatre. Mrs Macron wore espadrilles.

The Queen’s reception

On Friday, June 11, the Queen held a reception at the futuristic green Eden Project for G7 leaders and their spouses. Prince Charles (pictured) and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also attended:

A family photo was taken, where the Queen cracked a joke:

She also hosted G7 leaders in 1977. Among them was Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, on the far left in the photo below. Valery Giscard d’Estaing and the Queen engaged in conversation. It is unclear why the Queen Mother and Jimmy Carter were holding hands:

Other members of the Royal Family also attended this year’s reception.

The Queen has met nearly every US president since Dwight D Eisenhower. The only one she never met was Lyndon B Johnson.

The Duchess of Cambridge took Jill Biden for a visit to Connor Downs Academy, a primary school in Hayle:

Jill Biden revealed that she knows Prince Harry well, thanks to the Invictus Games.

In a separate event, the Duchesses of Cambridge and Cornwall accompanied the Queen to an event in St Austell, where the monarch cut a cake with a ceremonial sword. This video is a must:

Lighter moments

The G7 security costs were eye-watering:

In addition, the Daily Mail reported that the Royal Navy’s giant new aircraft carrier sailed past the summit venue where the G7 leaders are staying to prove Britain’s power.

A beach party was held on Saturday, June 12. The weather was good:

The G7 family photo this year was socially distanced because of coronavirus:

Elbow bumps replaced handshakes:

However, social distancing disappeared for the flypast by the Red Arrows:

Conclusion

The G7 summit ended on Sunday, June 13.

The French tried to clarify Macron’s remark about Northern Ireland:

Boris announced that the UK would build back better in a ‘gender neutral’, possibly even ‘more feminine’, way.

The nations’ leaders also agreed to counter China’s belt and road policy:

Meanwhile, the sausage war rages on.

The next big British event will be COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

As I wrote last week, the fawning media coverage of Prince Philip’s death, especially by the BBC, was appalling in its hypocrisy.

They were rarely nice and respectful to him during his long life. It was disgusting to see BBC reporters suddenly in black, notionally fighting back tears. For decades, they and other media outlets treated this man terribly, so much so that, for many years, I wondered why the Queen had married the Prince. No one I knew could explain why. Eventually, I had to do my own research to learn more about him.

Re media knavery, here’s a case in point. In 2019, the BBC’s veteran radio presenter and, more recently, host of Mastermind, John Humphreys told of his slanging match with Prince Philip in 1975 during a Royal visit to Mexico. There was a mix-up over what vehicle each was to have been travelling in. That’s what he remembered about Prince Philip.

Humphreys then proceeded to voice his regret about not having an exclusive interview with the Queen. The Sun (link above) reported (emphases mine):

John, who left Radio 4’s Today last month, was speaking to BBC colleague Justin Webb at an event organised by Intelligence Squared.

The retired newshound, famous for his tough grillings, also admitted he twice begged the Queen, 93, to do an interview — but said she replied: “Nope.”

She also told him that if she was ever to do such a chat, it would “certainly not be with you”.

John said: “I have wanted to sit there and say, ‘With me this morning is Her Majesty The Queen.’

“She has probably met more powerful people than anyone else. And there’s the gossip, you know what I mean?”

Good for the Queen for seeing through John Humphreys. Such an interview would have been all about him.

Last week, MPs and Peers in Westminster spent time remembering Prince Philip. So did representatives in the devolved assemblies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

One young MLA from Northern Ireland said that she ‘never really appreciated’ Prince Philip until he died, at which point she discovered all sorts of interesting details about his life that she had never heard before.

Well, yes, the media hid all that from the British public.

The only time Prince Philip was in the news was when he made one of his famous ‘gaffes’ on a trip. News presenters would ask the royal reporters if said gaffes would cause a diplomatic incident or harm trade relations with the country in question.

The satirical magazine Private Eye referred to the Prince as Phil the Greek. One would expect that from a satirical magazine. However, the news media were no better.

Even on May 4, 2017, when the 95-year-old Prince announced he would be standing down from public life, coverage was lukewarm, including in The Telegraph.

These are the principal facts from the article, mixed in with the usual negatives:

The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron, President or a member of over 780 organisations, with which he will continue to be associated, although he will no longer play an active role by attending engagements …

The Duke of Edinburgh has spent 25 days so far this year carrying out public engagements – more than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Queen.

Philip’s appearances out and about with the monarch in the public eye since the start of 2017 have ranged from feeding an elephant at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to attending the unveiling of a national memorial on Horse Guards Parade.

Solo engagements by the 95-year-old also included opening the new Warner Stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on Wednesday and meeting actor Tom Cruise at a Buckingham Palace dinner to mark the 75th anniversary of the Outward Bound Trust in March.

The article also had a section called ‘The Prince in numbers’:

Here are some facts about Prince Philip:

Total number of solo engagements – 22,191

Total number of solo overseas visits – 637 (Commonwealth countries – 229 visits to 67 countries / other countries 408 visits to 76 countries)

Total number of speeches given – 5,493

Total number of patronages – 785 organisations

Presentation of colours – 54

Number of service appointments – 32

Number of books authored – 14

Oddly, the best tribute that day came from Jeremy Corbyn MP, who led the Labour Party at that time. Corbyn is hardly known for his royalist sentiments, but he recognised the Prince’s service over so many decades:

I would like to pay tribute to Prince Philip following his decision to retire from public service.

He has dedicated his life to supporting the Queen and our country with a clear sense of public duty.

His Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme has inspired young people for more than 60 years in over 140 nations.

We thank Prince Philip for his service to the country and wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.

On July 8, 2020, CheatSheet listed the Prince’s most famous ‘gaffes’ and pointed the finger at him for his globalist perspectives regarding overpopulation, complete with a video:

Back in 1988, the duke brought up overpopulation when speaking to the German news agency Deutsche Press Agentur about reincarnation.

“In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation,” The Telegraph quoted Philip saying at the time.

A few different versions of the quote have circulated during the coronavirus outbreak. Another published version claims the queen’s husband said: “If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”

Prince Philip has never shied away from his feelings about overpopulation. In 2008, he said he believed it was one of the biggest challenges in conservation before offering his thoughts on what should be done about it.

And prior to that, the Duke of Edinburgh told People Magazine: “Human population growth is probably the single most serious long-term threat to survival. We’re in for a major disaster if it isn’t curbed–not just for the natural world, but for the human world. The more people there are, the more resources they’ll consume, the more pollution they’ll create, the more fighting they’ll do…If it isn’t controlled voluntarily, it will be controlled involuntarily by an increase in disease, starvation, and war.”

It was left to ordinary people — not journalists — to tell the world about the Prince and his life. Did you know, for example, that Prince Philip held the Queen’s hand while she gave birth to Prince Edward in 1964? Very, very few fathers did that in the 1960s.

This is an excellent Twitter thread about his life on the occasion of his 99th birthday last June:

Last Monday, a number of MPs said that they had participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme when they were young. A few of them said that the programme — comprised of arduous Bronze, Silver and Gold levels — gave them the confidence to run for public office. It also encouraged physical activity and spurred Lady (Tanni) Grey-Thomas to become an award-winning Paralympian — now a crossbench life peer in the House of Lords. She explains the programme in more detail in this short video:

The residents of the South Pacific island of Tanna must have been sad to know that the man whom they viewed as their messiah had departed this mortal coil. They believed that he would settle among them:

What we did not know was that Prince Philip, once he found out he was so revered, kept in touch with the islanders, sent them gifts and also met privately with a delegation of them at Windsor Castle.

On Sunday, April 18, The Telegraph reported on this unusual story, excerpted below:

In the Sixties, when Vanuatu was an Anglo-French colony known as the New Hebrides, it is believed that tribesmen would have set eyes on a portrait of Prince Philip alongside the Queen (whom he had married in 1947) hanging in various official buildings – and decided that this handsome young man in the Naval uniform was the very same ancestor of their god.

This belief that the Duke was a prodigal son of the island was reinforced when coincidentally he and the Queen made an official visit to the New Hebrides in 1974. A warrior named Chief Jack Naiva, who died in 2009, was one of the paddlers of a war canoe that greeted the Royal Yacht Britannia.

“I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform,” Chief Jack is on record as saying. “I knew then that he was the true messiah.”

Ever since, villagers have prayed to the British monarch daily. They ask for his blessing on the banana and yam crops they grow in the fertile volcanic soil and have held on to the fervent belief that one day he will return to the island and unite the nations of England and Tanna

Largely cut off from the world with limited electronic communications, the islanders were only made aware of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death last Friday when a worker from a nearby spa resort made a journey on Saturday afternoon to break the news to them. It was reported that one tribeswoman immediately burst into tears, while the men fell silent as they tried to comfort their children.

When the Duke retired from public duties in May 2017, villagers only found out several days later after a visit by a Reuters journalist. The village chief Jack Malia said then that the islanders were still holding on to the hope that the Duke would visit.

“If he comes one day, the people will not be poor, there will be no sickness, no debt and the garden will be growing very well,” he said through an interpreter at the local Nakamal – a traditional meeting place where the tribesman gather at night to swap stories and drink highly intoxicating kava.

The same drink was cracked open to celebrate the 89th birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh on June 10, 2010 – the date he was initially prophesied to return to the island and live alongside villagers in a straw hut, hunting the wild pigs that are abundant on the island and adopting the local traditional dress which, for males, is nothing but a large grass sheath …

Discovered in 1774 by Captain James Cook, in 1906 the islands became the New Hebrides, jointly administered by Britain and France until independence in 1980. Even after his visit in 1974, the Prince was not aware of the legend surrounding him until John Champion, the British Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides, told him a few years later.

Ever since, he has always taken the esteem with which he is held by the people of Tanna extremely seriously. Over the years he has exchanged various gifts with the islanders. Tanna elders once sent Prince Philip a “nal nal” wooden hunting club. He in turn sent them back a photograph of himself holding the club – which has become a cherished religious icon on the island alongside other photographs of the Duke.

In 2007, a delegation of five islanders visited Britain in the hope of an audience with Prince Philip as part of a Channel 4 documentary called Meet the Natives. The filmmakers took the men to stay with Prince Philip’s friend Sir Humphrey Wakefield at Chillingham castle in Northumberland. Sir Humphrey, whose daughter Mary Wakefield is married to Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings, took the Tanna tribesmen on a hunting trip and invited them to various black tie dinners.

At one of the dinners where another friend of the Duke, Lord Haddington, was in attendance, he assured the visitors: “If he had a moment, he would love to meet you, I’m sure.”

The Duke was good to his word and eventually hosted the men for a private reception at Windsor Castle, which the film crew was not invited to attend. Once they had returned to Tanna, the delegation relayed the somewhat cryptic message they said they had been given by the Duke of Edinburgh to their chief – “When it is warm, I will send a message. At the moment, it is cold in England.”

In 2018, the Prince of Wales followed in his father’s footsteps and visited Vanuatu where he was made an honorary high chief. During the ceremony, he was presented with local gifts and garlands of flowers and took a sip of specially brewed Royal Kava, which had last been consumed when Prince Philip visited in 1974.

In the tradition of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs, the heir to the throne took part in a series of rituals before being given the high chief name of Mal Menaringmanu.

In closing, on April 18, the leader of Sinn Féin apologised for the IRA’s assassination of Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, in 1979. He is shown on the left in this photo, standing next to his nephew:

The Independent reported that party leader Mary Lou McDonald told Times Radio:

My job, and I think that Prince Charles and others would absolutely appreciate this, my job is to lead from the front, now, in these times.

I believe it is all our jobs to ensure that no other child, no other family, no matter who they are, suffers the same trauma and heartbreak that was all too common on all sides of this island and beyond.

I have an absolute responsibility to make sure that no family faces that again and I am happy to reiterate that on the weekend that your Queen buried her beloved husband.

Better late than never, but not surprising in timing.

One does wonder if this apology — take it for what it is — would have been made sooner had media coverage of the Prince been more positive while he was alive.

Nonetheless, even left-leaning nationalists in the Stormont assembly in Northern Ireland praised the Queen and Prince Philip for their visits and for helping to reconcile both sides of the political aisle to bring peace to what is still a troubled nation.

Tomorrow’s post, all being well, will cover the highlights of the Prince’s funeral.

After a slow news period post-‘inauguration’, everything accelerated again to the point where there is too much to cover in one week.

At the end of January 2021, the EU tried to block the UK’s coronavirus vaccine supply, specifically to the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in Oxford!

The EU poked at the softest, most vulnerable part of the UK-EU agreement post-Brexit: not to create division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, covered by Article 16.

However, the EU, being short of coronavirus vaccines, briefly invoked the sacrosanct Article 16 on Friday, January 29, 2021, despite Jean-Claude Juncker’s old commitment to Ireland that there would be no hard border with a post-Brexit EU-UK trade agreement. This debate in the Irish parliament took place long before coronavirus. What a sloppy dress code:

Then, just less than a month after the UK made a full Brexit with a trade agreement, the EU did this:

On Friday, January 29, Guido Fawkes reported (emphases in the original):

As part of its plot to block vaccine exports to the UK, the EU has invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This has effectively removed Northern Ireland from the EU’s customs. In plain English, Article 16, the so-called safeguard clause, allows both the EU and the UK to unilaterally suspend part of the Northern Ireland Protocol (which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs territory) in specific circumstances.

Most discussion around this particular article had been how or whether the UK would use it. The fact that the EU has implemented it less than a month after coming into effect could set a big precedent.

Practically this new EU-imposed hard border won’t make a huge difference as Northern Ireland will receive their jabs via Great Britain, but this political move is extraordinary, after a week of terrible news for the Union. After years of arguing to keep Northern Ireland in its customs territory, the EU has just merrily kicked it out.

However, such an action threatened the long-standing peace agreement between North and South.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s action managed to unite Britain’s — and Ireland’s — Right and Left for the first time in years:

Guido’s article says of the centre-right Democratic Unionist Party:

UPDATE: The DUP have, not unsurprisingly, slammed the EU’s decision as “an incredible act of hostility”. Arlene Foster says:

“This is an incredible act of hostility. By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner — over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives.

At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.

With the European Union using Article 16 in such an aggressive and most shameful way, it is now time for our Government to step up. I will be urging the Prime Minister to act and use robust measures including Article 16 to advance the interests of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

As for Labour:

UPDATE II: Labour join in with the EU condemnation: Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, commenting on the European Union’s decision to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol:

“This move is deeply destabilising and undermines the huge efforts being made to make the Protocol work.

Unilateral actions like this do nothing to aid the stability in Northern Ireland which the Protocol was designed to preserve.

The European Union must remember the Protocol depends on joint working and they share a responsibility to uphold that. They must think again, and revoke this action.”

Later that day, Guido recapped the previous five days of hassle for AstraZeneca and vaccine supply. CEO Pascal Soriot insisted that the company never made a hard and fast commitment to the EU. AstraZeneca made what are contractually known as best reasonable efforts to supply to the EU. Guido’s article has a copy of the contract, which you can read at the link:

AstraZeneca has committed to use its Best Reasonable Efforts (as defined below) to build capacity to manufacture 300 million Doses of the Vaccine, at no profit and no loss to AstraZeneca, at the total cost currently estimated to be [REDACTED] Euros for distribution within the EU [REDACTED] (the “Initial Europe Doses”), with an option for the Commission, acting on behalf of the Participating Member States, to order an additional 100 million Doses (the “Optional Doses”).

The ball was then in von der Leyen’s court:

Guido reported von der Leyen’s response:

No. There are binding orders and the contract is crystal-clear. AstraZeneca has expressly assured us in this contract that no other obligations will stand in the way of fulfilling the contract.

However, Guido explained:

The key obligation in the agreement is in Section 5.1, which “silos” production for the doses to go to the EU, making clear that the AZ obligation is only to use best reasonable efforts to manufacture the initial doses within the EU. If they are manufacturing doses outside the EU that’s irrelevant to that obligation. Has the EU just shot itself in the foot?

Guido’s founder Paul Staines is based in Waterford, Ireland. He thinks that, for the good of relations between North and South, the UK should share their AstraZeneca doses with the Republic:

He was not alone. The Scotland editor for The Spectator agreed:

Fine. Let’s make sure that Britons get their share first. That’s why the deal was set up in the first place.

By the end of last Friday, right, left, centre and the Church of England opposed the EU action:

The Archbishop’s intervention seemed to have a huge impact in Britain, which is surprising for such an atheistic nation:

The strange thing about Article 16 is that the British EU-lovers assumed that the UK Government would implement it first against the EU. That was the big stink around the Internal Market Bill, which gives the UK leeway to back out of parts of the trade agreement if the EU becomes threatening.

In the end:

Late that evening, the EU president conceded:

Boris made no mention of it on his Twitter feed.

More on the UK’s coronavirus vaccine success will follow on Monday.

For now, here’s the next EU-UK drama, which also started on Friday, January 29 — international travel:

Macron’s probably upset because the Institut Pasteur vaccine failed this week. Because of that failure, he rubbished the AstraZeneca vaccine:

As Guido said:

The French haven’t been able to produce a vaccine, and the Germans couldn’t do it without American corporate help. No wonder voices in the EU were so keen to hit out, falsely, at the success of Brexit Britain’s Oxford vaccine. Poor Little EU.

Oh, boy. Politics, politics.

2021 will be a doozy of a year.

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