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

Quelle surprise!

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

However, the reality is more like this:

Incredibly, Britons support the delay:

Protest at Downing Street

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

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

Coronavirus briefing

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

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

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

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

Some restrictions have been lifted for weddings and funerals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s exactly what they said in April.

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

Matt Hancock’s statement in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

Hancock said:

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

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

Now it seems to be about zero COVID.

That’s quite a leap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hancock replied:

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

Steve Brine was, rightly, unhappy:

Last week, the Secretary of State told me:

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

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

Hancock replied (in part):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also retweeted the following:

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

I hope I am wrong. I truly do.

On Monday, as I went out to run an errand, I saw that life appeared to be getting back to normal on our high (main) street, post-coronavirus.

The local cafés had opened to allow customers indoors for a sit-down service. The inviting aromas of hot lunches perfumed the air.

I silently rejoiced that, after three months, normality was finally returning to our streets.

I no sooner returned home when I learned through the media that Health Secretary Matt (‘I’m from Newmarket’) Hancock planned to announce an anti-normality measure on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 — mandatory face coverings effective July 24:

The nightly newscasts confirmed this — at 6 p.m. …

… and 10 p.m.:

Hancock was not alone in choosing July 14 to make that announcement. France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran made a similar announcement that day: mandatory face coverings in all enclosed spaces effective August 1.

Returning to England, Matt Hancock made his announcement from the despatch box in the House of Commons early in the afternoon on Tuesday.

There were two dissensions.

The first came from Peter Bone MP (Conservative, Wellingborough and Rushden). He rightly asked why Hancock’s department provided information to the media about the new mandate before the health secretary presented it to Parliament.

Hancock gave a brusque answer, replying that he (Hancock) was doing it right then.

One can assume only that Peter Bone approves of mandatory face coverings, as he retweeted a government video about it:

The second dissension came from the flamboyant Sir Desmond Swayne (Conservative, New Forest West). He said everything necessary:

Parliamentary sketch writer Michael Deacon filed this report for The Telegraph (emphases mine):

Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping,” erupted Sir Desmond, “than the thought of having to mask up!

Too right.

Just when my far better half and I were ready to venture out to shops, including the garden centres, this mad rule comes in. We are now rethinking our long-anticipated sorties.

Swayne continued:

“Was this consultation with the police force,” he fumed, “and in particular with the chief constable of Hampshire? For it is she who will have to enforce this monstrous imposition – he spat out this phrase as if it were a maggot in a mouthful of apple – “this monstrous imposition against myself, and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents!”

I felt like applauding him as I watched him on BBC Parliament.

Hancock found this amusing. One wonders if he was bullied at school. He has made the most authoritarian pronouncements from his appearances in the government’s daily coronavirus briefings to those at the despatch box in Parliament.

This was his reply:

Mr Hancock, meanwhile, told Sir Desmond that it had been “a difficult balance to strike” between the need to defeat the virus, and “the ancient liberty of a gentleman to go shopping”. But in the end, said the Health Secretary, the Government had decided that this ancient liberty could be protected by “requiring the gentleman to wear a mask”.

Pah.

Swayne was unimpressed:

To judge from his expression, Sir Desmond was neither persuaded nor amused. He was smouldering like a dragon’s nostril.

Note that this is being brought in when England’s coronavirus deaths are at their lowest point since the first week of March:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original image — not mine — is here.

On Wednesday, Hancock reiterated his resolve (a favourite word of his). The Telegraph reported that we might have cover up until summer 2021:

Rules requiring members of the public to wear face masks in shops and on public transport could remain in place until next summer, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted, as he warned they will be required for the “foreseeable future”.

Asked whether the rules may be in place into next year, Mr Hancock refused to rule it out, instead insisting that the UK needs to “see how we are doing on getting a vaccine”.

Oh, the vaccine, the vaccine! Words fail me.

But, wait. There could be more to come.

That Telegraph piece has this as a subhead:

Next stop, masks in offices

I would not doubt it.

Masks are known to cause hypoxia and hypercapnia. Healthy people can deprive themselves of oxygen by wearing unnecessary face coverings. Hypercapnia — having too much CO2 in one’s blood — is another hazard that results from improper breathing because one’s mouth is covered.

A small upside is that face coverings will become a means of self-expression.

Here is the svelte, slim health minister of Belgium. I wouldn’t take her health advice on anything. Furthermore, her mask is unfortunate, to say the least:

On Monday night, I read a lot of readers’ comments to the Telegraph articles concerning mandatory face coverings.

The hostility of the pro-mask people reminded me of that of Remainers’ during the run-up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. Scary. All emotion, very little fact.

Anti-maskers, on the other hand, pointed to civil liberties and the likelihood that we will be objectifying each other in the coming months because we cannot see each others’ faces.

Personally, I think crime will go up because of it. All it takes is a masked bandit or two robbing small shops.

There is also a Left-Right split on masks.

A left-wing organisation, Masks4All, is promoting homemade face coverings. Its founders include Greens and an Extinction Rebellion activist.

The University of Edinburgh’s Linda Bauld is also a mandatory face covering advocate. Linda Bauld made her name in Tobacco Control.

Bauld disapproves of visors — allowing people to breathe under a transparent barrier — because they do not allow enough protection. On May 18, The Guardian quoted her:

Bauld said she was sceptical. “The reason for having a visor which would cover the upper half of your face would be if you’re regularly coming into contact with the public at closer range, and you might be exposed to somebody who is emitting those small droplets that we’re all aware are very efficient at carrying the virus,” she said.

“So I could see how in some retail settings and other environments they wish to do that, but I don’t think there’s any strong evidence that they’re something the public should be wearing on a routine basis. The key thing is to cover the mouth and the nose.

“The face coverings that people are being encouraged to use, for example, on public transport is not to protect the wearer, but to protect other people. Whereas the visor and harder material is clearly to protect the wearer from coming into contact with others at those droplets.”

On July 13, she advocated the dreaded ‘nudge’:

Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, said: “Requiring it just gives that little extra nudge and it’s much clearer for the public.”

Anyone who wants people such as this controlling their lives — control being the operative word, as it has been with tobacco — can have at it. Smokers have said for years that Tobacco Control can use their blueprint for any other ‘health’ advocacy issue, from bans on salt and sugar to … well, we’d never have guessed it … mandatory face coverings.

We will just have to play by the rules rather than risk a police-enforceable £100 fine (half-off if one pays within 14 days).

If more people shop online than in the high street, I hope that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will bring that to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attention. We need shops and personal discretion, not a useless policy from Matt Hancock, who, at the best of times, sounds like a second-rate headmaster.

I will have more on the dubious efficacy of masks soon.

A little over a year ago, in January 2019, this was the state of play with Brexit. Theresa May was Prime Minister and Parliament was in rebellion:

That was around the time I began watching BBC Parliament in earnest. I went from being an occasional viewer to a regular one over the next several months.

With Boris Johnson’s clear victory for the Conservative Party in December that year, ‘Get Brexit Done’ became a reality.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 was Britain’s last day in the EU Parliament. I watched the debate on the Brexit bill, which went up for the definitive vote that afternoon.

Earlier that day, then-Brexit Party MEP Nigel Farage tweeted that he was ready:

A Dutchwoman offered her support:

That afternoon, Farage — the man who strove so diligently for 25 years to get the UK out of the EU — gave his final speech as an MEP:

When he finished, he and the other Brexit Party MEPs waved small Union flags:

Mairead (‘Mary’) McGuinness, the Irish minister presiding over the session as the EU Parliament’s First Vice-President, told them in no uncertain terms to ‘please remove the flags’. (MEPs are no longer allowed to display national flags in the EU Parliament.)

Farage retorted, ‘That’s it. It’s all over. Finished.’ The Brexit Party MEPs, the largest British bloc, gave their party leader a standing ovation.

McGuinness quickly attempted to regain control: ‘Please sit down’, followed by ‘Please take your flags with you — if you are leaving now’. With that, the Brexit Party MEPs left the chamber.

The debate included a tearful farewell from a Green MEP and an angry one from a Liberal Democrat MEP. They received standing ovations and hugs from their colleagues.

The brightest moment came when Jaak Madison, a Eurosceptic MEP from Estonia stood to speak. This is an excellent video. He supports Britain and also warns the EU not to be complacent when it comes to the economy:

One Briton clearly appreciated Madison’s speech:

The week before, Madison tweeted that the Remain camp had lied to the people:

He, quite rightly, cannot understand how anyone could support communism and made it clear on January 15 by recapping 20th century Polish history:

When the Conservative Party dominated the election on December 12, 2019, he was delighted:

Last October, Madison was eager for Britain to leave the EU by the then-October 31 deadline.

Before Boris got his new deal, Madison said that the EU’s ‘antics’ were driving Britain further and further away:

I’m posting this video of his, because MEPs were, at that time, allowed to display their national flags:

But I digress!

When it came time for MEPs to vote on January 29, 13 abstained (Brexit Party). The result was clear:

MEPs then held hands and sang all three verses of a famous farewell song to their British counterparts:

Some MEPs held up large red, blue and white scarves which read ‘United in Diversity’ and ‘Always United’:

Farage met with the media outside the EU Parliament. The lady with him is Ann Widdecombe, who was a long-serving Conservative MP before she was elected as a Brexit Party MEP last year:

He later broadcast his LBC radio show from Brussels. The whole show is available in the tweet:

The SNP (Scottish National Party) MEPs, meanwhile, were morose:

The replies to the tweet display the ongoing tension in the UK:

That subsidy is called the Barnett formula. The English pay Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a subsidy. We should get rid of it. They have had devolved governments for several years now. As such, they should be able to fend for themselves.

One thing that struck me about the MEPs during the debate was exemplified by one of the senior ministers who spoke. He said that European citizenship takes priority over national citizenship. A majority of the British public believes the exact opposite.

In London the following day, Conservative MP Peter Bone, who has also wanted Britain out of the EU for nearly 30 years, gave a speech in the House of Commons. He was an MP during the early 1990s when John Major was Prime Minister and told his fellow Parliamentarians that Major actively disapproved of his anti-EU sentiment. (Major signed the Maastricht Treaty). Bone ended his speech by proposing a national holiday to mark Brexit. He suggested that it fall near the time of the 2016 referendum, held on June 23:

The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, politely dismissed the proposal, which he termed ‘republican’ (anti-monarchy). Rees-Mogg, who is probably the foremost Commons authority on how our unwritten constitution works, said that our national holidays honour the monarch, not the Union.

Oh, well. It was worth a try.

Returning to Brussels, one might wonder if English will still be spoken, seeing as nearly everyone there speaks the language.

It will, but Irish English will be the working language. On Tuesday, February 4, Wurst.lu reported (emphases mine):

The change, effective immediately, was announced on Monday by European Commission president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, who says the unity of the 27 remaining countries is “grand” despite Brexit and the years of the UK “foostering about.” 

The British are just after leaving, and fair play to them for getting what they wanted,” she said. “They’ve been part of this union for donkey’s years, so I amn’t saying that we won’t miss them.”

“But we’ll be needing an English that’s more reflective of what now be our biggest English-speaking country, the Republic of Ireland,” she continued. “Starting today, all of yous will switch to Hiberno-English for all meetings and the drafting of documents, translations, and the like.”

The difference can be seen in a statement that was published on the EU homepage in late January, which referred to the UK leader as “Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” but by Feb.1 the words had been changed to “your man.”

All of those terms are straight out of the pub and, from my experience in working with the Irish, are not used in formal discourse.

Oh, dear.

The EU’s standards continue to slip. I’m so happy we’re in the transition phase now.

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