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Yesterday’s post introduced the significance of Scotland to Queen Elizabeth II.

In it, I mentioned that, after the 1707 Acts of Union, the history of Scotland began to be romanticised through the efforts of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert as well as Walter Scott’s novels.

Romantic history

A royal historian told GB News that Prince Albert was quite taken by the countryside in Aberdeenshire, which reminded him of his native Rhineland.

He and Victoria had an amazing love life, according to a television documentary I saw many years ago. In the early days, at least, he used to dress and undress her. Her silk stockings were a favourite part of the ritual.

After Albert died in 1861, Victoria moved up to Balmoral for a time and became close friends with one of his servants, John Brown, a Scot. A film about their relationship, Mrs Brown, made its debut in 1997.

In 1863, courtiers and the Royal Family thought that Brown could rehabilitate the mourning Queen. Instead, he began controlling her daily life at her holiday idyll.

In time, rumours about the extent of their relationship began circulating not only among her inner circle but also in London, where a republican sentiment began growing in her absence. Courtiers and the Royal Family changed tack, this time urging Brown to get the widowed Queen back to the capital to make public appearances.

Brown followed orders, although his and Victoria’s relationship was never the same afterwards.

On the other hand, her resumption of public appearances quelled restive republicans.

Brown remained a loyal servant, foiling an assassination attempt on the Royal Family. In 1883, he contracted pneumonia. Victoria visited him in his room and apologised for not having been a better friend. Brown died a short time later and left behind a diary, which, allegedly, has disappeared.

Victoria’s two main courtiers, Sir Henry Ponsonby and Sir William Jenner, found it and read it. Only they knew what happened to it afterwards. One of them said later on that the then-Prince of Wales — Edward VII — was so resentful of Brown that he threw a bust of the man over the palace wall in London after his death.

At Balmoral, John Brown is immortalised in two paintings which hang in the drawing room where Queen Elizabeth II received Boris Johnson and Liz Truss on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

On September 7, The Times helpfully told us more about the room’s features, including the paintings which flank the fireplace (emphases mine):

Victoria and John Brown, her servant and close friend after the death of Prince Albert, feature twice in the room’s paintings. To the left of the mantelpiece they appear in Sir Edwin Landseer’s chalk and pastel drawing Sunshine: Balmoral in 1860 or Death of the Royal Stag. Albert stands proudly in the foreground with a gun over his shoulder, dogs at his heel and a stag at his feet. In the background Victoria sits side-saddle on a horse led by Brown, her ghillie.

To the right is Gilbert Sprague’s copy of another Landseer painting of Victoria, in mourning as she sits on her pony Flora outside Osborne House, her retreat on the Isle of Wight. Victoria commissioned the original in 1861 after Albert’s death, telling Landseer that she wished to be depicted “as I am now, sad and lonely, seated on my pony, led by Brown, with a representation of Osborne”.

Queen Elizabeth also experienced the magic of Scotland that her forebears helped to create.

As a child, she remembered happy days at Glamis Castle then Balmoral. As an adult, she associated possibly her happiest memories with Balmoral. There, the love of her life, Prince Philip, proposed to her. The happy couple also spent their honeymoon there.

On September 8, The Times published an insightful article: ‘Balmoral gave Elizabeth the chance to feel “free”‘, excerpted below:

Scotland played a large and emotional part in Elizabeth’s life. Her happiest memories were of the childhood days she spent with “Granny Strathmore”— Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, who was also her godmother — at Glamis Castle.

At the family home in Angus she enjoyed parties, children’s theatre after tea, and visits to nearby Cortachy Castle, owned by Lord Airlie, where she once “borrowed” the young David Ogilvie’s little blue pedal car, much to his fury. At Balmoral, she felt she could be “normal” — almost a housewife, like ordinary people; it took her into another world. “Here I can be free,” she told a friend once.

Not that it was exactly ordinary; there were certain traditions. A piper played every morning before breakfast, and, when guests were staying, there would be pipers at dinner. The ladies would depart after the meal, leaving the men to talk over the brandy.

There were shooting parties, with the Queen and her dogs driving out to join the guns at lunch, then “picking up”: her dogs retrieving the birds they had shot. “She was an ace picker-up,” recalled one friend. Back at the house the first duty would be to feed the dogs.

She insisted on doing the washing-up after picnics, when Philip managed the barbecue and she did the rest. Those picnics — some of them in the evening, in one or other of the huts in the grounds of the estate, always kept open, and often used by members of the public — were famous occasions, remembered by guests long after for their combination of relaxed informality and perfectly organised routine.

Then it would be back to the castle. What one friend noticed, however, was that, as soon as Elizabeth walked through the door of Balmoral Castle, she became Queen again. This was the royal residence, and there was no mistaking who was in charge.

The Queen also enjoyed an annual week-long stay in Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The city’s Lord Provost would deliver the keys to the palace to her in the Ceremony of the Keys and a closing ceremony of her returning them to him took place upon her departure.

She would visit St Giles’ Cathedral, probably the only Presbyterian cathedral in existence, and, beginning in the late 1990s, Holyrood, the Scottish parliament.

The independence movement strengthened by an SNP government has grown leaps and bounds since I last visited Scotland 30 years ago.

It is difficult to pin down what exactly the SNP expect as an independent nation, including where they stand on the monarchy. Although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the Queen in death, she was less forthcoming in June during the Platinum Jubilee weekend:

After the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew, she said that there should be a “debate” about the future of the monarchy; she notably failed to deliver a message of loyalty at the time of the Platinum Jubilee; and she did nothing to contradict a statement from the Green Party, her allies in government, which accused the monarchy of “holding back” progress.

However:

None of that has diluted the Queen’s affection for Scotland, and her pride in her Scottish connections. As Sir Charles Fraser, who was purse bearer at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for nearly 20 years, commented: “Over many conversations with the Queen, she always spoke of her love for Scotland and her commitment to her Scottish ancestry. Throughout her reign she gave us leadership and hope, where others have failed.”

Incidentally, former Royal servants say that all of them enjoyed being at Balmoral and could hardly wait for their annual stay there. It seems that it was as delightful for them as it was for the Queen. 

Monday, September 12

In my preceding post, I wrote about a young woman getting arrested on Sunday, September 11, near St Giles’ Cathedral for an anti-monarchy poster with an obscenity written on it. This happened during the proclamation of Charles III as the new King.

People in England were upset about it, but Scotland has its own speech laws which are much stricter than ours:

Guido Fawkes thought that the arrest was overkill. I tend to agree but, then again, I don’t know anything about Scottish policing (emphases his):

The 22-year-old woman who was arrested after holding up this anti-monarchy placard at St Giles’ Cathedral has been charged “in connection with a breach of the peace” and is reportedly due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today. Amid the emotional royalist fervour, the country is feeling it is even more important to stand up for universal and enduring values. The Free Speech Union has expressed concern that the protester been arrested for voicing anti-monarchist views during the Proclamation of King Charles III yesterday.  Defenders of free speech know that if they don’t stand up for views with which they disagree or even find offensive, they’re not defending free speech. Whatever your views on the monarchy, this protester has a right to hers.

The Free Speech Union has already reached out to the protester to offer their assistance.

That day, Guido reported that the SNP’s deputy leader John Swinney expressed surprising pro-monarchy views. He sounded like a Conservative:

Guido said that, on Sunday, Swinney said he watched the broadcast of Charles III’s Accession Ceremony in London:

I thought that when I watched the accession council in London yesterday because right at the heart of it was the significance of Scotland’s place within the Union and the extraordinary significance that was attached to that and the declarations and commitments that the King made and the fact the Secretary of State for Scotland, the First Minister of Scotland, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland, were signatories to the documents which essentially facilitate the accession.

On Monday, Swinney went further:

This morning, Swinney went even further in irritating the most ardent of Scottish nationalists, stating the SNP would continue to have the UK monarch be Head of State in the event of independence, as they promised during the 2014 referendum:

The monarch should be the head of state of an independent Scotland. It’s what we argued in the referendum in 2014 and it’s what we will continue to argue.

Will the death of the Queen accidentally cause a cooling of temperatures in the Scottish independence debate?

That is part of what Operation Unicorn — the days of mourning in Scotland — was designed to do.

For much of Monday, the Queen continued lay in rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This allowed staff to pay their respects in quiet privacy from Sunday afternoon onwards.

Senior members of the Royal Family, such as Princess Anne, were there awaiting the arrival of King Charles. Upon his and the Queen Consort’s arrival, the Lord Provost would go to conduct the Ceremony of the Keys.

Meanwhile, in the morning, King Charles was in London, addressing both Houses of Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Hall was built by William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus (William II) in 1097. It is the largest hall of its kind in Europe. The beamed ceilings were added in 1399 when Richard II had the pillars removed so that everyone inside could see what was going on. On the two occasions when the Palace of Westminster caught on fire or when it was bombed during the Second World War, the first priority of firefighters is to save Westminster Hall over the parliamentary palace.

The building has been used throughout the ages as Parliament, as court for the trials of Charles I and the real Guido Fawkes (a traitor) but has also been the venue for coronation banquets. It is still used by both houses of Parliament and is open to the public on important occasions when it is used for the lying in state of distinguised politicians such as Winston Churchill (1965) and members of the Royal Family. The Queen Mother was the last person to lie in state there. I went to pay my respects to her in 2002. The Queen is lying in state there as I write.

The Queen also spoke there on her Silver Jubilee (1977), her Golden Jubilee (2002) and her Diamond Jubilee (2012). A beautiful stained glass window commemorating her Diamond Jubilee is installed on one side of the hall.

Charles’s visit was of historical significance and not only because he is the United Kingdom’s first King in 70 years.

Both Speakers — of the Lords and of the Commons — wore their dress robes, which are gilded. Their respective serjants of arms brought each House’s mace up to the appropriate Speaker and laid them down on a raised platform.

The Speakers stood across from each other below the raised platform on which Charles was due to speak. The maces were covered with a black cloth, indicating not only mourning but also that they were subservient to the Sovereign.

Peers and MPs, as well as staff members, were in attendance.

The Speaker of the Lords, Lord McFall spoke first to extend his and the Lords’ sympathy to the King.

The life peer, a Scot, is a testament to the progress people can make in modern Britain:

Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke next for the Commons, reminding the new monarch of the increased powers of Parliament since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The King smiled wryly:

Then it was time for the King to address the room:

The Telegraph‘s summary has the key points of his speech:

We gather today in remembrance of the remarkable span of the Queen’s dedicated service to her nations and peoples.

While very young her late Majesty pledged herself to serve her country and her people and to maintain the precious principles of constitutional government which lie at the heart of our nation.

This vow she kept with unsurpassed devotion. She set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.

The King had already met with senior Government ministers, including Liz Truss, over the weekend at Buckingham Palace. Shadow (Opposition) ministers also met with him:

After the event at Westminster Hall ended, a reception was held, but the King and Queen Consort did not attend as they were due to fly to Edinburgh.

While the Royal couple were on their way, people lined up along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile:

Once Charles and Camilla arrived at Holyroodhouse, they and other members of the Royal Family assembled to be led by members of Scottish regiments for the procession to St Giles’ Cathedral, for a service of remembrance.

I know from first hand experience that it is a long walk and did not envy the Royals who did walk behind the hearse, especially on the cobbled road.

The Royals who walked were the Queen’s children: the King, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and the Prince Edward. Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Princess Anne’s husband, also walked with them.

Prince Andrew was not allowed to wear his military uniform. He appeared in morning dress with his military medals.

A young heckler shouted at Prince Andrew in reference to sexual allegations with an underage girl, was quickly tackled by a member of the public, then police dragged him to his feet and arrested him:

He was arrested for breach of the peace:

The SNP had toughened up that law in 2010:

The procession up the ancient road was deeply moving, like something out of a film.

Prince Charles wore the green sash and star of the Order of the Thistle.

The Queen’s coffin was draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland.

The Guardian‘s diary for the day added:

The Queen’s coffin is … dressed with a wreath of flowers consisting of white spray roses, white freesias, white button chrysanthemums, dried white heather from Balmoral, spray eryngium, foliage, rosemary, hebe, and pittosporum.

The hearse is flanked by a bearer party found by the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the King’s Body Guard for Scotland.

The cortege arrived at St Giles’ shortly after 3 p.m. Watching the procession, I do not think they allowed enough time.

Heralds and Pursuivants of Scotland stood outside the cathedral door to receive the Queen for one last time. The Guardian has a magnificent photo of their uniforms.

The Crown of Scotland (see photo) was placed on the Queen’s casket before the service.

Here is a photo of the military bearer party dressed in kilts placing the casket on the catafalque in the cathedral.

The Guardian reported (emphases theirs):

At the beginning of the service of thanksgiving for the Queen, Reverend Calum MacLeod welcomed the royal family, “representatives of our nation’s life” and “people whose lives were touched by the Queen in so many unforgettable ways”.

Among those attending the service are the prime minister, Liz Truss, as well as Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Unfortunately, there is no video of the service, which was very well done and oecumenical.

The Order of Service is here.

Nicola Sturgeon read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15. We know the first several verses well but here are the next:

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

The Church of Scotland has a transcript of the sermon that the Right Revd Dr Iain Greenshields preached:

Excerpts follow:

Death has been overcome, these are the words of hope expressed and centered around Jesus who died and rose again.

And this is clearly something that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth acknowledged and personally embraced.

These last few days, as tributes to her Majesty have poured in and we have watched images of her on screen from her earliest years, capturing that remarkable life, yet now beginning to sink in that she is gone from us – “gone home” to express her own words.

Today, we gather in this place of worship and throughout the nation, to express our thanks to God, for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary life.

We are united in sorrow at the death of our Monarch, but we are also so aware that His Majesty King Charles and all his family are not just grieving the loss of their Queen, but their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother too.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth began her reign, like King Solomon by asking for wisdom, something that she demonstrated in large measure and to which was added duty, honour, commitment, and faith.

These are the words that we reach for today to describe the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth, whose passing is mourned not only in her native land but across the Commonwealth and the world, as has been so evident to us in recent days.

Most of us cannot recall a time when she was not our monarch.

Committed to the role she assumed in 1952 upon the death of her beloved father, she has been a constant in all of our lives for over 70 years.

She was determined to see her work as a form of service to others and she maintained that steady course until the end of her life.

People who were in her company always felt that they were being listened to carefully and attentively and with compassion.

She possessed a sharp, intelligent mind, with amazing recall, a kindly heart and a gentle sense of humour.

She understood the breadth of world affairs and also cared about what happened to all of her people.

And although sometimes buffeted by events around her, she continued resolutely and cheerfully fulfilled her responsibilities

Much has been said about the Queen’s contribution to the life of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth which meant so much to her.

But here in Scotland we acknowledge with gratitude her deep links with our land and its people.

Her love of the Balmoral estate is well known and being there latterly brought her great comfort.

There she was valued as a neighbour and a friend and there she drew strength and refreshment during the summer months.

She was active in the life of civic Scotland, travelling across the country to support numerous causes, entertaining guests at Holyrood Palace and presiding at ceremonial events, many of which took place in this Church.

Here she received the Scottish crown in 1953, an event vividly memorialised in the painting by the Orcadian artist Stanley Cursiter.

Her links with the Scottish churches were also deep and lasting.

She was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but she worshipped in the Church of Scotland here north of the border, at Canongate Kirk and especially at Crathie Kirk where she took her pew each Sunday morning, prevented from doing so latterly only by infirmity.

She perceived little difficulty in belonging to two Churches and appreciating the strength of each.

It is clearly evident and without doubt that the Queen’s Christian faith was genuine, and often gave clear and sincere expression in those remarkable Christmas broadcasts.

She spoke unashamedly of her trust in God and of the example and teaching of Jesus Christ whom she sought to follow as best she could – indeed, of that faith she said she had no regret

Today we mourn her passing but we also celebrate the long and happy reign that we experienced with her.

And we pray God’s blessing upon King Charles who will surely draw strength from his mother’s example and the many affectionate tributes of these days and from our assurance to him as a Church of our steadfast prayers at all times and of our unstinting support to him as was offered to his mother, the Queen.

The Cathedral’s website has more about the Queen’s visits.

The service lasted an hour and ended at 4:15.

The Royal party then returned to Holyroodhouse.

However, their day was far from over.

The King met with Nicola Sturgeon. He and the Queen Consort then went to Holyrood to visit the Scottish parliament where MSPs delivered a motion of condolence.

At 7:20 that evening, the senior Royals returned to St Giles’ for the Vigil of the Princes. It would be the first time that a female — Princess Anne — would take part.

More on that tomorrow.

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It is probably no coincidence that the Queen spent her final months at Balmoral in the north east of Scotland, near Aberdeen.

Scotland, especially the eastern half of the country, is romantic in all senses of the word.

The Queen had many fond memories of her summers there.

Therefore, she and the Princess Royal — Princess Anne — devised Operation Unicorn, to be activated in case she should die in Scotland. It was a great success not only for her Scottish subjects but for all of us watching in the United Kingdom and around the world.

A brief history

The last monarch to die in Scotland was James V in 1542.

He and his family were Catholic. His infant daughter Mary Queen of Scots succeeded him. Regents governed Scotland while she was young. She was forced to abdicate in 1567 and was beheaded in England in 1587.

Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, succeeded her in 1567. He, too, had regents until he reached majority age. Elizabeth I of England died in 1603 and, unmarried, had no successors. As James was the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, he had a rightful claim not only to the Scottish throne but also those in England and Ireland.

In the Union of England and Scotland Act 1603, the three kingdoms came under James’s rule. In England and Ireland, he was known as James I. His 22-year reign is known as the Jacobean era.

Interestingly, he returned to Scotland only once during that time, in 1617. He styled himself King of Great Britain and Ireland, only modified in the past century to replace Ireland with Northern Ireland.

Having the same monarch but the ability to maintain respective laws and customs allowed Scotland and England the flexibility to trade with each other without a complete union. Successive monarchs discussed union, but the two governments and the clergy vehemently disagreed on how to implement one.

By the 1690s, the whole of Europe was in a severe economic slump. In 1698, the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies received permission to raise capital through public subscription. The Company decided to invest in the Darién Scheme. This far-sighted investment involved establishing a trading post at Darién Bay on the Isthmus of Panama — where the Panama Canal is today — to engage in commerce with the Far East. The colony was to be called New Caledonia, or New Scotland.

Unfortunately, the Darién Scheme proved to be a disaster. The wealthy Scots who invested in it lost their money and Scotland’s economy collapsed.

The Act of Settlement 1701 decreed that the monarch of England and Ireland would be a Protestant member of the House of Hanover. This meant that no more descendants of Charles I could accede to the throne. Anne acceded to the throne in 1702, reigning over not only those two countries but also Scotland. In a speech to the English parliament, she said that a union was absolutely necessary.

England and Scotland continued to be divided on political union, which affected trade and the status of Scots living in England once the English parliament passed the Alien Act 1705, which made them ‘foreign nationals’.

That year, with Queen Anne pressing for a resolution, negotiations between the two countries’ respective parliaments and commissioners began anew. The Act of Union passed the Scottish parliament first on January 16, 1707. The Scottish peer Lord Queensberry was instrumental in its passage by 110 votes to 69. The English parliament passed the Acts shortly thereafter. This resulted in the Acts of Union 1707. Most of these 25 acts are economic in nature. One provided for the establishment of the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian. It is called the kirk. Another act guaranteed the continued practice of Scottish law north of the border.

While the English were happy about the new legislation, Scottish residents were somewhat angry with Lord Queensberry. This dissatisfaction carries on today with the independence movement, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the third largest party in the UK parliament in Westminster. Tony Blair wanted Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be devolved in order for his Labour Party to dominate politics in the first two of those nations. Little did he realise that the SNP would eclipse Labour in Scotland under the leadership of Alex Salmond and, afterwards, Nicola Sturgeon, the current First Minister.

Returning to 1707, however, Scotland began to flourish. Visitors to Edinburgh can clearly see that in New Town, where Princes Street is. Behind Princes Street are streets full of stately Georgian houses. Scotland began to contribute greatly to the good of the United Kingdom in medicine, architecture, philosophy and the arts.

During the Victorian era, between the Queen and Prince Albert and the romantic novels of Walter Scott, a mythological aura began to rest over the country, creating the romantic atmosphere we know today, whether in the capital city of Edinburgh or in the countryside.

This was the Scotland that Elizabeth II became acquainted with, thanks to her mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, whose father, Lord Glamis (pron. ‘Glahms’) and the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, was Scottish.

Therefore, it is no wonder that she would want to spend her last months and hours at her beloved Balmoral knowing that Operation Unicorn would proceed in all its glory.

And what a beautifully poignant few days they were this week.

September 9

On Friday, September 9, the day after the Queen’s death was announced, Scotland closed its courts and lowered its flags for their esteemed monarch.

The Times reported that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the Queen, saying:

“Millions around the world will share their grief but only they will feel the loss of a mother and grandmother,” she said.

“The Queen was unflinching in her dedication to duty, unwavering in her commitment to public service and unmatched in her devotion to the people of this country and the wider Commonwealth.

“We are all saddened by today’s news and will come together in the days ahead to mourn.

“But it is right and proper that we celebrate the unparalleled contribution she made in her 70 years as sovereign.”

The first minister added that Scotland “was special to her and she was special to Scotland” as she spoke of the Queen’s love of Balmoral, where she spent her final days.

The article goes on to say:

The Queen maintained a deep affection for Scotland throughout her life, having spent much time as a young princess with her parents at Balmoral or her maternal grandparents at Glamis Castle, Angus.

She gave her first public speech in Aberdeen in 1944, when she opened a home for the British Sailors’ Society while still a teenager.

After acceding to the throne in 1952, she maintained the royal family’s tradition of holidaying at Balmoral every summer.

Although most Scots support the monarchy, those who oppose it are hardly thin on the ground. As last weekend unfolded, I hoped that Operation Unicorn would help them understand more about the significance of the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II in particular.

September 10

On Saturday, the Royals at Balmoral were dressed semi-formally in black. The Mail reported that they viewed the tributes at the estate and at nearby Crathie Kirk. Their photo captions read:

Lady Louise Windsor, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Anne, Princess Royal wave to the public outside Balmoral Castle on Saturday

The teary-eyed Countess of Wessex, Sophie studies the floral tributes and loving messages left to her mother-in-law, the Queen, at Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral on Saturday

However, one Scottish businesswoman in the Highlands was happy when the Queen died. The Mail reported that the locals dealt with her before police arrived:

A fish and chip shop owner who celebrated the Queen‘s death with a bottle of champagne, shouting ‘Lizard Liz is dead’ has had her restaurant windows smashed in.

A photo of the vandalism was shared to Twitter on Saturday night showing the front of the shop with a shattered window and a hole in the middle. 

Angry locals also vandalised the property on Thursday evening when they pelted the store front with eggs and ketchup.

Jaki Pickett, who runs Jaki’s Fish and Chip Shop in Muir of Ord, Highlands in Scotland held up a chalkboard that read ‘London Bridge has fallen’ with a smiley face.

She posted the now-deleted clip of her happily celebrating the Queen’s death on Facebook, but it caused huge outrage with locals who blasted Ms Pickett for disrespecting the late monarch …

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Officers received a report of damage to a property in the Seaforth Road area of Muir of Ord, which is thought to have happened between 7.30pm on Friday, 9 September, and 10.30am on Saturday, 10 September, 2022.

‘Enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances.’

Police Scotland were also called to the shop on Thursday evening after it was targeted by angry residents in Muir of Ord who egged the windows.

Pictures showed broken eggshells on the ground and egg mess over the shop windows, while ketchup was splattered on a bench.

Videos circulating on social media show residents surrounding the restaurant on Thursday evening, where owner Ms Pickett was seen driving away from the area with a police escort while locals booed her for her shameless Facebook post.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Shortly after 8.30pm on Thursday, 8 September officers attended at a business in the Seaforth Road area of Muir of Ord following a report of a large crowd gathered in the area.

‘Officers remained at the scene to ensure the safety of all present and the group subsequently dispersed peacefully.

‘No further police action has been required.’

Earlier, in London, at the special session of the House of Commons, an SNP MP, Joanna Cherry KC, spoke of the Queen’s Scottish lineage (emphases mine):

It is very humbling to follow so many great speeches. On my own behalf and on behalf of my Edinburgh South West constituents, I too rise to honour the memory of our late Queen. Much has been said of her dedication and her service, but I want to concentrate on her love of Scotland and the love of many Scots for her.

As the Queen died at Balmoral, and is to be taken first to the palace of Holyroodhouse and then to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland will be the centre of the world’s attention over the next few days. That is breaking with tradition, but those were the Queen’s wishes, and Scotland is honoured by them. The last monarch to die in Scotland was James V, who died at Falkland in 1542. He was, of course, the father of Mary, Queen of Scots, and it was her son James VI who presided over the union of the Crowns. Mary, Queen of Scots is the ancestor of all the Stuarts and, indeed, all the Hanoverians who followed. Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James VI, married one of the German electors, and with the demise of the last Stuart monarch in 1714, Elizabeth’s grandson succeeded to the British throne. That is the Hanoverian line, and it can be traced directly back to Scotland’s Stuarts. Our late Queen was keenly aware of that—perhaps that is why she chose Stuart names for her first two children, Charles and Anne. And, of course, her mother was a Scot.

In 1953, after her coronation, the first place our late Queen visited was Edinburgh, and throughout her reign, she returned to Scotland for important events and, indeed, chose my country to be centre stage during state visits. In 1962, she chose Scotland for the state visit of the King of Norway; in 2010—very memorably for many people of my faith—she chose Holyrood for the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI; and, of course, she officially opened Scotland’s Parliament when it was reconvened in 1999.

Our late Queen embodied the union of the English and Scottish Crowns, which of course is quite different from the Union of the Parliaments and predates it by over 100 years. At a time of change, there are many in my country—particularly younger people—who might prefer a republic to a constitutional monarchy, but that did not in any way prevent the affection our late Queen held for Scotland from being returned in equal measure. Sadly, I never had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Scots, but earlier this year I did have the privilege of meeting our new King. We spoke of Scotland, and I was left in no doubt that he shared his mother’s abiding love of my country.

As such, before I resume my seat, in honour of his late mother, I want to recite just a few words of Burns’ poetry that I believe may be a favourite of the King:

“Farewell to the mountains, high-cover’d with snow,

Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;

Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.”

May she rest in peace.

Sunday, September 11

Princess Anne had the solemn duty of escorting her mother’s casket from Balmoral, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire, to Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official Royal residence in Scotland.

The cortege passed slowly through Ballater, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth. Many Scots lined the roads in silence to bow in respect.

The Queen’s casket was covered in her standard with a wreath of white flowers, her favourites. Among them were delicate sweet peas. It was a beautiful last memory for her subjects.

Watching her on television, I do not know how the Princess Royal managed to stay so stoic. The journey began mid-morning and lasted well into the afternoon.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, where the magnificent castle is, the proclamation of Charles III was declared.

Metro reported that a young green-haired woman held up an anti-monarchy sign with an obscenity on it and was arrested:

A woman was arrested holding an anti-monarchy sign in Edinburgh today, before the Queen’s cortege arrived in the city.

She was detained outside St Giles’ Cathedral, where the monarch’s coffin is due to be held from tomorrow after spending the night at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Moments before the proclamation of Charles III as new king this afternoon, a demonstrator appeared in the crowd opposite the Mercat Cross …

Officers appeared behind her and took her away, prompting the crowd to applaud.

One man shouted: ‘Let her go, it’s free speech,’ while others yelled: ‘Have some respect.’

A police spokesman said a 22-year-old woman was arrested ‘in connection with a breach of the peace’.

This started an online debate about whether protest of the monarchy is freedom of speech. Surely, it is, although others say it depends on how far it goes:

That narrow thoroughfare going down the Royal Mile from the castle was teeming with people and continued to be until the late afternoon of Monday, September 12.

Metro‘s article on the protest continues but with a focus on the proclamation and all who wanted to pay their respects:

It came on the day thousands lined the streets to watch the Queen’s coffin arrive in Edinburgh, where she will stay before continuing the journey to her final resting place.

Countless tearful well-wishers turned out to pay their respects to the late monarch as her hearse made the 175-mile journey from Balmoral.

But some hecklers were heard booing among the crowds gathered in Scotland’s capital to hear the proclamation of Charles.

The Lord Lyon King of Arms gave a speech before declaring ‘God save the King’, which the crowd repeated.

A Sunday Times article discusses the complex feelings Scots have about the monarchy: ‘She adored Scotland but the Union will wobble without her’.

Reading it made me appreciate why the Queen wanted Operation Unicorn to proceed.

Excerpts follow:

“She came here to die in the Highlands,” said Elizabeth Strachan, 69, who grew up near the Balmoral Estate. “This is her homeland. It is the place she knows.”

Over the long years of the Queen’s reign, the United Kingdom’s collective identity has changed markedly. Scottish independence went from a fringe cause to the centre of the political debate.

Some believed she gave people a feeling of Britishness, which hampered the vote for separation, that her soft power pushed together a fragmenting nation. Others believed she was viewed as being above the debate and the nationalist cause moved forward regardless.

A poll this May by British Future, a think tank, found that more than 36 per cent of Scots thought the end of the Queen’s reign would be the right time to abolish the monarchy.

How will the accession of King Charles III change things? Is the political union separate, in voters’ minds, to the monarchical one? And if it is, can it remain that way?

Alex Salmond, the former first minister and leader of the SNP during the 2014 referendum, thinks the impact of her death on politics will be “on the margins”. He said: “Her presence did not stop the rise of Scottish nationalism over the last 70 years of her great reign so her passing will not change its direction either.” Salmond, who is a privy counsellor and attended yesterday’s accession council, shared the Queen’s love of horseracing and has spoken warmly of her.

Still, the smallest remarks she made about the Union generated big headlines. In 1977, before a vote on the establishment of an assembly in Edinburgh, she made a speech emphasising how she was crowned Queen of all four nations. Ahead of the 2014 referendum vote, she said to a wellwisher: “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”

[Then-Prime Minister] David Cameron later told Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, that the Queen “purred down the line” when she found out about the “no” result. Salmond was invited for breakfast at Balmoral the next morning.

“The Queen was absolutely furious, the angriest I’d ever seen her,” said Salmond. “I don’t think she was trying to stop the rise of Scottish nationalism. She wasn’t dyed in the wool for the political union but I think she was dyed in the wool for the union of the Crown. She understood well the difference.”

Cameron has admitted his comments were “a terrible mistake” …

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, has been firm in her support of the Queen and the monarchy. In May of this year she reiterated that the royal family would continue to rule regardless of a “yes” or a “no” vote.

Scottish nationalists do not all agree. Chris McEleny, general secretary of the Alba Party, which Salmond now leads, said in a statement: “If the people of the rest of the UK wish to have King Charles as their head of state then good luck to them, but there should be zero countenance of that absurdity in an independent Scotland” …

Sandra Fagan, 66, drove to Balmoral from Perth with her mother, daughter, and grandson — four generations spanning four monarchs.

Sandra’s father was a “red-hot” SNP supporter, shouting at the television that it was “all about England”. “But when it came to royalty and the Queen it was different. He wanted different laws for Scotland but never a different head of state. Believing in the monarchy is spiritual, it has nothing to do with separatism, which you argue about over the dinner table”

Graham and Susan Cameron, their son, Callum, 27, and dog, “Her Royal Highness” Tia Cameron, drove 85 miles from Buckie to lay flowers at the Balmoral gates on Friday morning.

“I’m not a monarchist,” said Susan, 58, “but she was like a mother to all of us. She’s been a constant through a relentless period of change, tying us all together. It is a relief to have Charles — it means the monarchy goes on”

It was in Scotland that Prince Philip mooted the idea of their marriage, where the couple spent their honeymoon and later, where the family found out about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The royal property portfolio is sprawling, worth £261.5 million and including Charles’s Birkhall, the Queen’s beloved Craigowan Lodge, both on Balmoral, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Dumfries House in Cumnock and the Castle of Mey in Caithness.

Balmoral was said to be the Queen’s favourite. She was a “neighbour”, said David Cobban, 56, the owner of a gift shop in the nearby town of Ballater, who grew up on the Balmoral Estate. The Queen spoke with residents in Doric, the northeast Scots dialect, and wore country clothes much like their own.

“Up here the relationship with the royal family is more intimate,” said Cobban. “They come here so they can be as normal as they can be.”

I will continue with another post about Scotland tomorrow. The television coverage was compelling.

Last week I posted about the comedian Jerry Sadowitz, whose Fringe show was cancelled by Edinburgh’s Pleasance Theatre.

We have seen more examples of the demise of free speech, particularly in the UK, in 2022.

Restaurant’s help wanted ad

In February 2022, Steve Bothwell, who owns the 27-year-old Aberdeen restaurant Cafe 52, placed a no-nonsense advert online in an attempt to hire more staff:

The job advert went viral on Twitter

On February 28, Scotland’s Daily Record reported that the advert went viral and received much online how-dare-he criticism, included in its article.

However, the ad’s wording spells out what Steve Bothwell wants: a hard-working employee who is focused on continuing the excellent reputation of the restaurant rather than his or her social identity politics.

I admire a man who says he doesn’t want mask wearing Guardian readers, virtue signallers and self-testers. I wouldn’t, either. He was also right to say that hospitality works only when staff:

leave their egos in their lockers.

He gave an interview to the paper (emphases mine):

Speaking to the Daily Record he said: “I don’t regret the wording [of the job advert], but I wish people would get on their pins about more important issues.

“I’m not banning anyone. The advert was tongue in cheek.”

He added: “I’ve had three good applications this morning off the back of the advert.”

Some weeks later, one of The Guardian‘s restaurant critics, Grace Dent, had lunch at Cafe 52. Wow! If any of my readers are in Aberdeen, this place looks great. It’s right across the street from Aberdeen Market.

Dent’s review, complete with must-see close-up photos, appeared on April 1, but this was no April Fool’s joke:

The menu was full of delicious-sounding things such as cullen skink, hot smoked mackerel, and Normandy chicken casserole with leeks and tarragon. As I loitered by the door, something about the cafe’s name rang a bell, then, to my glee, I realised this was the place whose owner famously doesn’t like Guardian readers, and who earlier this year penned a job advert banning them. Perhaps I should have been offended, but there was a bread-and-butter pudding made with crumpets on the menu, plus, to quote Groucho Marx, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

… This charming, long, narrow strip of a bistro has survived for more than 25 years without the likes of me, and is these days serving a sort of boho, rustic, French-Scottish, casual-elegant menu to a unending stream of walk-ins. Cafe 52 has no need for my pronouncements.

Dent was complimentary about the servers as well as the food. So, the advert worked!

She described the food as follows:

I like Aberdeen a great deal, and spent three wonderful days there alone, talking to strangers and eating …

But Cafe 52 was my favourite. Proprietor Steve Bothwell … has created a place where glorious food matters, and I can say beyond doubt that my restorative bowl of Normandy chicken casserole will be one of the greatest things I’ll eat all year. Chicken soup – or stew, in this case – does touch the soul, and a good one is as close to a cuddle from Mother T herself as you can get. This one featured five or six chunks of soft, stewed breast, thigh and leg in a clear tarragon broth with the very occasional chunk of soft potato or slice of garlicky mushroom, and was way more than the sum of its parts. This stew, topped with a vivid pink bundle of pickled red cabbage, was a wonder, with fragrant tarragon the hero ingredient. I ate it with a side of kale, deep fried and laced with chilli, which is the only way to treat it – that is, mercilessly …

Steve Bothwell’s mother, who is in her 80s, makes all the desserts. Amazing:

Bothwell’s octogenarian mother makes all the puddings at Cafe 52, and just two spoons into her crumpet bread-and-butter pudding I felt the need to check with the staff if anyone had written down the recipes for her carrot and brandied fruit cake or her coffee cake with rum syllabub. The bread pudding is a fearsome, rib-sticking challenge of a dessert, with crumpet after crumpet smothered in sweet, eggy custard and served with vanilla ice-cream. It’s the sort of dish that makes guests at other tables wink and wish me luck, as if I was some sort of amateur at this game. The first four or five spoons were sublime, all sticky and compelling; I was living my best life.

The owner also asked if she had enjoyed her lunch:

“Yer stew all right?” he asked, semi-begrudgingly, as if he didn’t really care what the answer was going to be, but was curious anyway.

“Incredible,” I said. “I loved it.”

“Fine,” he said, and walked off without another glance in my direction. I have paved a way for all of us. Just don’t go in carrying this newspaper.

Edinburgh Fringe’s best jokes

Speaking of Scotland, the Edinburgh Fringe is supposed to be — and once was — the world’s edgiest comedy festival.

It was last held in 2019 and resumed again this year.

Each year, a series of comedy awards are bestowed upon the best talent. They were once sponsored by Perrier and propelled comedians to stardom. Now it seems that the UK comedy channel Dave has assumed the mantle.

On Monday, August 22, The Guardian gave us the top, award-winning jokes from the 2022 Fringe.

At best, these are Christmas cracker jokes, most of which a 10-year-old could tell:

1. I tried to steal spaghetti from the shop, but the female guard saw me and I couldn’t get pasta – Masai Graham (52%)

2. Did you know, if you get pregnant in the Amazon, it’s next day delivery? – Mark Simmons (37%)

3. My attempts to combine nitrous oxide and Oxo cubes made me a laughing stock – Olaf Falafel (36%)

4. By my age, my parents had a house and a family, and to be fair to me, so do I, but it is the same house and the same family – Hannah Fairweather (35%)

5. I hate funerals. I’m not a mourning person – Will Mars (34%)

6. I spent the whole morning building a time machine, so that’s four hours of my life that I’m definitely getting back – Olaf Falafel (33%)

7. I sent a food parcel to my first wife. FedEx – Richard Pulsford (29%)

8. I used to live hand to mouth. Do you know what changed my life? Cutlery – Tim Vine (28%)

9. Don’t knock threesomes. Having a threesome is like hiring an intern to do all the jobs you hate – Sophie Duker (27%)

10. I can’t even be bothered to be apathetic these days – Will Duggan (25%)

Dire.

On Sunday, the topic came up for discussion on Andrew Doyle’s Free Speech Nation show for GB News (54:43 to 58:00):

Doyle’s guests, fellow comedians, deplored the level of comedy at this year’s Fringe.

One said that there are ‘tastemakers’ who nominate comedians for an award and go on to nationwide shows.

Another said that, if this trend continues and edgy comedians like Jerry Sadowitz aren’t allowed back in, it will spell curtains for the top Fringe venue:

The Pleasance will die.

Another intimated that the establishment wanted to reshape comedy into something anodyne:

These big venues are getting large donations from the Scottish Government.

That might well be true. I read or heard somewhere that someone from the Scottish National Party owns a few comedy clubs in Edinburgh.

Hmm.

Censored television shows versus nudity

On the topic of censored comedy, British actress Vicki Michelle from the classic sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo! weighed in last week on the current preference for saucy reality shows over reruns of old family-oriented shows.

‘Allo, ‘Allo! satirised the Second World War and was a huge hit that ran for ten years. Until recently, it, and other classic sitcoms from the 1960s through to the 1980s, were often shown on the BBC.

Now they are all on a paid-subscription streaming platform called BritBox. It’s odd that the British paid in television tax to see these shows, now they are expected to pay again to see them.

BritBox has put content warnings on ‘Allo, ‘Allo! and other programmes from that era.

Television and streaming services are dictating what we can and cannot see.

On August 19, Vicki Michelle gave an interview to The Mirror, which The Telegraph reprised:

A string of content warnings for TV series was issued last year by streaming service BritBox – a collaborative venture between the BBC and other broadcasters – including one advisory note which told viewers that ‘Allo ‘Allo! featured “outdated” material.

Comedy is being neutralised – or nuked,” Ms Michelle said. “I think 80 per cent of this country would love comedy like ‘Allo ‘Allo! to be made again, so 20 per cent might take aversion to some of the content.”

The series which ran from 1982 to 1992 was set at the Cafe Rene in the town of Nouvion and followed the comic troubles of proprietor Rene Artois – played by Gorden Kaye – as he juggled the dangers posed by British airmen, the French resistance and Nazi occupiers.

The humour stemmed from innuendo and mockery of national stereotypes and accents, and in 2021 Britbox warned modern audiences about the supposedly dated content of the decades-old programme, with a note stating: “This classic comedy contains language and attitudes of the time that may offend some viewers.”

BritBox explained at the time that certain classic programmes required advice on the “potentially sensitive language or attitudes of their era”.

The actress objects, pointing out the near-obscene content of some of our reality television shows, both visually and orally:

Michelle argued that contemporary television is far more offensive than the comedy now deemed worthy of content warnings, telling the Daily Mirror: “People eff, blind and use the c-word on telly and that’s considered fine.

“And on reality TV people make love under a sheet, and that’s fine. There was none of that in ‘Allo ‘Allo!. I don’t think there’s anything in there that would upset a normal person.

She added: “‘Allo ‘Allo! didn’t send up anyone in particular – we sent up everyone.

“It was a family show where the adults got the double entendres and the children just thought the situations were funny. You can see someone on telly in a bikini and their boobs out.”

Let’s look at it another way. If Blazing Saddles were shown on television now, it would only be seven minutes long:

https://image.vuukle.com/7be2fc3b-e0e9-40d3-9ac0-27c21ba272b2-04dc70c2-ca8f-4962-a68e-f88f450a7770

Free speech, Salman Rushdie and the average Twitter user

Along with many millions, I hope that Sir Salman Rushdie is making a steady recovery from his attack less than a fortnight ago.

Conservative commentator Emma Webb told Andrew Doyle on his show last night (see video above) that no publisher would dare print anything like Satanic Verses today. Publishing houses are self-censoring, as if there were a blasphemy law in place:

This year, a few high-profile arrests have been made in the UK with regard to tweets that have caused other Twitter users ‘anxiety’. Not long ago, a middle-aged man was pinned down by five police officers in his garden, so it is a bit rich of Boris Johnson to come across as a big supporter of free speech in Salman Rushdie’s case when the average Joe is being arrested for lesser offences:

https://image.vuukle.com/63ebaa37-331d-4dc2-90ad-c81b2ee54efe-cafde0c8-a6fc-4408-83c4-e703a8da3b2c

On that subject, lefty lawyer Jolyon Maugham rightly condemned the attack on Rushdie, then asked who has a platform on which to speak.

Well, I do wonder.

A reply to Maugham’s tweet told the raw truth of the matter. The Left used to advocate free speech when they thought theirs was censored. Now that the leftist point of view is ubiquitous, they censor any opposing view:

https://image.vuukle.com/42c85f62-4bbb-4aff-b15a-100d5034d7aa-1ad7eb2a-b8f4-4af7-8869-fd9bce9ea47c

Scarily, this clampdown extends to health issues now.

Censorship of coronavirus vaccine opposition

The truckers’ protest in Ottawa in February showed how draconian censorship can get.

The men and women were protesting against the Canadian government for mandating coronavirus vaccines as a condition of employment. Justin Trudeau took the extraordinary action of freezing some protesters’ — and contributors’ — bank accounts.

On March 8, The Spectator‘s Jane Stannus wrote an excellent article about this, just as Premier Justin Trudeau visited the UK: ‘Where’s the outrage over Trudeau’s trip to Britain?’

She wrote:

Trudeau used the Emergencies Act to allow banks to unilaterally freeze accounts and assets, not only of participants in the peaceful Ottawa freedom convoy but also of anyone who supported the protest financially – all without a court order and legal immunity. And insurance policies of participants were subject to cancellation. Nothing says ‘free country’ like being able to freeze the assets of your political opponents without notice, judicial oversight, or possibility of legal recourse, on suspicion of having donated $25 to a trucker who parked in front of Canada’s parliament because he didn’t want the government to take away his job

Perhaps this seems unfair. Trudeau may have invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act to resolve a parking problem. An error in judgement, but in the end he rescinded it.

Quite true. But not before he suspended Canadians’ rights to due process and to peaceful assembly. Or delayed the Act’s debate in the Canadian House of Commons until after the protestors were forcibly removed by police. Or cynically strong-armed its approval through the House of Commons via a confidence vote – cleverly changing the subject of the vote to whether or not MPs wanted to call an election. And remember too that he hinted that the Act would be needed for months to come. Can the country ever be considered truly safe when – at any time – a truck driver apparently going about his business might approach the heart of Canada’s capital city and run up the Canadian flag, thereby magically metamorphosising into a terrorist?

Trudeau lifted the Emergencies Act on 23 February when it became apparent that the Canadian Senate was likely to vote against it. The next day, Russia attacked Ukraine and both national and international attention turned elsewhere – doubtless to the Liberal government’s great relief.

But anyone who thinks Trudeau has learned his lesson is sadly naïve. In a speech to the Toronto Ukrainian community on 4 March, he had the audacity to deplore the ‘slippage in our democracies’ and express concern about countries around the world ‘turning towards slightly more authoritarian leaders’. Why is this happening? According to Trudeau, it’s because ‘misinformation and disinformation’ are allowed to be shared on social media, thus ‘turning people against the values and the principles of democracies’. Right. To preserve democracy, what we need is censorship?

For all Trudeau’s talk, the real threat to Canadian democracy is not the truckers’ movement, whose actions revealed that large numbers of Canadians just want a return to normal life. No: the real threat to democracy is Canada’s ideologically driven leadership, seizing more and ever more unchecked power so as to force Canadian society into the mould of a collectivist utopia. It would be nice if the British parliament cared enough to discuss it.

Lord Ridley — Matt Ridley — pointed out that it was quite the opposite for the British parliament with regard to President Donald Trump. MPs wanted to ban Trump for ‘hate speech’:

When Trump came to the UK, neither House of Parliament extended him an invitation.

Yet, when Trudeau uttered real hate speech against people who did not want to be vaccinated, that was A-okay with our parliamentarians:

Fortunately, he was not invited to address Parliament.

He did, however, address EU parliamentarians in Brussels. A German MEP, Christine Anderson, took strong exception to Trudeau’s actions over the truckers’ protest and pointed out his love of Chinese coronavirus policies.

This very short video is a must-watch. Anderson’s English is flawless in every respect:

I don’t know what the reaction was, but at least she said it and he was there to hear it.

GB News’s Mark Steyn has been interviewing British family members of those who have died from the coronavirus vaccine and have been receiving compensation (£100,000) from the British Government.

Unfortunately, many are heartbroken as they share their stories on Twitter and other social media platforms. Not only do they get harsh feedback from readers accusing them of lying, but the social media moderators accuse these people of peddling mis- or disinformation.

This has been going on not only in the UK, but also in other Western countries.

Alexandra Marshall, the editor of the online edition of The Spectator in Australia, says the censorship is taking place because the push to get people to take potentially harmful vaccines has been a ‘global error’, one that, in some countries, could result in class action lawsuits. This catastrophic failure is too big to fail and no politician wants to jeopardise his or her career by facing a legitimate pushback from citizens. This video is from May 11:

The Online Safety Bill

Meanwhile, our Conservative Government has put forward a potentially damaging Online Safety Bill, notionally designed to protect the most vulnerable but which, in reality, will ‘protect’ — restrict — everyone else.

Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that she wanted to stop social media ‘pile-ons’. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Guido Fawkes explains in a Twitter thread:

Who is going to define what a ‘pile-on’ actually is?

And will different rules apply online and offline? Think of newspapers:

On May 11, Kathy Gyngell, editor of The Conservative Woman, wrote:

YESTERDAY marked a black day in British history. It was the most repressive Queen’s Speech ever. A reversal of Britain’s centuries-long march to freedom. 

It contained not one, but a number of ‘innovative’ measures that threaten to curtail our basic rights, including our freedom of speech and movement, under the guise of what are, I am afraid, spurious claims to reform the law and protect us.   

The proposed new Bill of Rights and a series of other state interventionist and regressive measures will make it harder for any who ‘dissent’ the official narrative – whether on ‘pandemic’ policy, vaccine risks or further lockdowns – to air and share their critiques and evidence, or to publicly protest against such curtailing of our rights. 

The Bill of Rights is set to replace current Human Rights law in the name of curbing an incremental rights culture. However, it will quite specifically undermine, if not take away, individual choice and responsibility when and where it is deemed to conflict with the State’s definition of the common good.  

Back in March, I asked whether this was the reform of human rights we need? My answer was that it emphatically was not. I argued that the proposed legislation is a perversion of the traditional notions of rights and duties, and a mendacious and threatening one at that.  

Who will decide what those broader interests of society may be? The Government, the World Health Organisation, or any other international public health body with undue influence over our political masters? The last two years of irrational lockdown and all but compulsory vaccination, all in the name of the higher public good, fills me with foreboding. 

The proposed Online Safety Bill is also deeply worrying. Under its terms, ‘major social media firms will face fines worth up to ten per cent of their global turnover if they fail to tackle illegal content getting on to their sites under reintroduced duty of care plans to protect users from online harms’.

At the rate we at TCW are already being censored, under the notion of ‘harms’, this also bodes very ill for us and any other dissenting or free speech site

The proposed Public Order Bill and its additional police powers, also in yesterday’s speech, again would be welcome if it was restricted to stopping eco-protesters blocking roads and inflicting fuel shortages on motorists, and not used against peaceful protest against government policy.  

However, it will allow police to ban suspected troublemakers from attending specified events. Does that mean Piers Corbyn, for example? I defend his right to protest and so should anyone. Does it mean in fact any government critic or opponent could be singled out? How will it be interpreted? The degree to which the police are already politicised and discriminate does not augur well … 

All this proposed new legislation needs to have a bright torch shone on it. We need to protest against it and remember those of centuries past who gave their lives for today’s, now to be curtailed, freedoms.

I could not agree more. It is difficult to believe that Conservatives have come up with this unholy intrusion into our lives and thoughts.

Labour have since said that they would take these laws even further once — or if — they are ever in power. We would do well to take them at their word.

On June 27, Lord Frost urged Conservatives to scrap the Online Safety Bill. The Daily Mail reported:

The Tory peer claims the Online Safety Bill contains so many flaws ‘it is hard to know where to start’.

He singles out for criticism the fact that it will outlaw comments on social media that would be legal in the real world.

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, says the move will be ‘highly damaging’ to free speech and will benefit only the ‘perennially offended’ who want to be protected from anything they disagree with.

He says: ‘A Conservative Government should not be putting this view into law. The best thing the Government could do would be to slim down the Bill so they can proceed rapidly with the genuinely uncontroversial aspects, and consign the rest where it belongs – the wastepaper basket.’

It is hoped that a new Prime Minister will sink this bill once and for all in September.

I certainly hope so. We have bigger worries right now.

My advice to social media users? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The 150th birthday of Speaker’s Corner

In late June, advocates of free speech gathered at London’s Speaker’s Corner to celebrate its 150th birthday.

The day before, police arrested a female Christian apologist at Speaker’s Corner because she wore a tee shirt with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon featuring an image many think should not see the light of day.

I do not know if this was the same lady who was brutally attacked with a knife there some months earlier for giving a defence of the Christian faith.

Toby Young, the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, was at Speaker’s Corner on its 150th birthday and gave Mark Steyn his report, including one about the Christian lady:

Young pointed out that, in Victorian times — certainly leading up to the founding of Speaker’s Corner in 1872 and beyond — people were much more able to speak their minds than they are today.

Young lamented the fact that not many people were present at the 150th birthday celebration. Nor did the mainstream media cover such an important event.

He said that, if people want to read or hear free speech, they now have to go online.

Conclusion

The great irony in all of this censorship is that it took a Russian emigré to the UK to point it out.

Author, comedian and podcaster Konstantin Kisin is putting his views, personal and historical, into a book on the subject: An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.

On July 10, he discussed free speech with Andrew Doyle and told him that, right now:

We are in the late Soviet stage …

He went on to describe how his grandfather fell foul of this in Stalin’s Soviet Union. He lost his job and ended up in a gulag as a result.

Here’s the video:

It is sad that it takes an emigré to point out how far down the rabbit hole we are.

That said, thank goodness for Konstatin Kisin. I hope that people listen to him and read his book.

We must defend free speech at all costs.

Yesterday’s post was about the August 5 Conservative Party leadership hustings at Eastbourne’s Winter Garden Theatre.

This seems to be the first leadership contest hustings this time around when there were protesters outside. A few managed to infiltrate proceedings indoors and took some time to be removed.

All of the protesters stand firmly against the Conservative Party.

Niall McCrae, an officer of the Workers of England Union, was one of the outdoor protesters. He was there to protest coronavirus lockdowns.

McCrae wrote about his experience for The Conservative Woman.

An excerpt follows, emphases mine:

ON Friday I went to the Conservative Party leadership hustings at the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne with a number of other members of the local resistance against the Covid regime which has removed fundamental freedoms over the past two and half years. We found ourselves outnumbered by those do not have any interest in the enlightenment value of liberty – as most Conservative Party members do at least nominally. Of 150 anti-Tory campaigners, about half were bearing Socialist Worker Party placards and chanting ‘refugees are welcome’, while the other half were hard-core Extinction Rebellion ‘terrorists’ with their accompanying flags and banners who proceeded to disrupt the meeting.

So we found ourselves protesting not only against the Truss and Sunak supporters entering the venue, but also counter-protesting against the shrill sanctimony of people who want more fear and more control. Between their parroted chants led by a man with a megaphone, we asked these middle-class Trotskyists and carbon nihilists whether they cared about older people struggling to heat their homes, or that billions of taxpayers’ money was being splurged not on public services but on missiles for Ukraine. Answers came there none

Earlier, before the rabble appeared, we had taken pole position outside the hall entrance. The queue was a captive audience for our satirical utterances: ‘Welcome to the World Economic Forum puppet show’, and ‘If the answer is Truss or Sunak, you’re asking the wrong question.’ 

Eastbourne’s Tory MP Caroline Ansell came out, concerned at us being allowed so close to respectable party members and clearly embarrassed by our ‘conspiracy’ theories about a new world order. Tory MPs would have us pretend that the WEF doesn’t exist, despite both candidates for next prime minister having unashamedly signed up to a globalist organisation which is developing a technocracy of digital surveillance and resource rationing. 

The atmosphere remained good-natured and good-humoured. That was until the SWP/XR followers arrived We were trying to appeal to the Tory members, to talk and to make them aware of our concerns. The SWP mob had nothing but contempt for them. Though police officers were positioned at the entrance, and joined by more, a female XR protester with a flag still got into the building and sat in the doorway. Before she could use glue to cement herself, two security guards managed to drag her out. This did not stop her from another successful dodge through the police line, while we later heard that other XR activists had infiltrated the audience where they disrupted Liz Truss by shouting ‘shame on you’.

On Saturday, August 6, The Telegraph reported on the protesters who got indoors. Interestingly, only Liz Truss faced their ire. They did not disturb Rishi Sunak during his time on stage.

This was a case of Truss Derangement Syndrome:

Liz Truss on Friday vowed to crack down on “militant activists” after six Green New Deal Rising protesters disrupted the fourth Tory leadership hustings in Eastbourne.

The Foreign Secretary said she would pass new laws to stop hardline unions and activists “who try and disrupt our democratic process and our essential services”.

She had just taken to the stage at The Winter Garden theatre when a female protester interrupted her opening remarks, yelling “shame on you Liz Truss”.

As the first woman was collared and led out by security staff, four other demonstrators shouted out from a stage area calling for a “Green New Deal”.

One, still clutching an “In Liz We Truss” placard, screamed “we just want fair trade” and “good jobs” at the former trade secretary, insisting “we will win”.

A sixth demonstrator turned up during Truss’s Q&A session. The Foreign Secretary took his interruption in her stride:

a young man in a suit, stood up and berated the Foreign Secretary about her climate policies.

He accused Ms Truss of “killing people by licensing new oil and gas” – a reference to her plan to boost North Sea energy to help Britain through the energy crisis.

“I take it as a compliment that I’m so popular with Extinction Rebellion”, she said to applause from the audience as he was also ejected by security. It has since been confirmed the group was not Extinction Rebellion but Green New Deal Rising.

She later added: “I’m a believer in freedom to do as you want so long as you don’t harm others. One person’s freedom should not mean that other people suffer misery.”

The host of the hustings joked that the protesters had all “paid their £25 Conservative tax” given that they would have had to sign up as members to enter the venue.

GB News’s Dan Wootton happened to be in Eastbourne and interviewed several of the leftist protesters for his show on Monday, August 8:

In his opening Digest, he said that the protesters were trying to scupper democracy and threaten ordinary Britons with whom they disagree.

He deplored the fact that the media ignored the protests. Indeed they did. The first I’d seen how many there were was on his show. I was amazed to see scores of people of all ages with placards, shouting. At least one group was multi-generational: a grandmother, her daughter and her grand-daughter, a baby. You’ll see them in the clip below.

One young woman from Green New Deal Rising told Wootton that she was ‘fed up’. She seemed angry and said she was there because she was ‘a young person’. Wootton asked her how she got in to the Winter Gardens Theatre, and she refused to answer. One of her fellow protesters, a comely lass, politely asked Wootton to leave them alone, if he wouldn’t mind. He asked her if she was glad she wasn’t arrested but received no reply.

He managed to get a fuller interview with a young man from Just Stop Oil. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt and a tie. Wootton told him, ‘You’re essentially a Communist’.

Wootton was rightly appalled that the police did nothing to stop the heated protest. While it did not turn physically violent, it could have done so quite easily.

Wootton closed his Digest by showing an interview with local Conservative MP Caroline Ansell, who told him that this was not the Eastbourne she represented. She was wearing a ‘Ready for Rishi’ badge on her jacket lapel. No doubt, protesters came in from elsewhere on the south coast.

Wootton also spoke with Liz Keegan MP, a Truss supporter. She downplayed the protest and said it was nothing like those one experiences when attending the annual Conservative Party conferences. It is not unusual for people to spit at Conservatives.

Greg Smith MP was less understanding, saying that the protesters disturb the democratic process. He said that the protesters cannot win on the arguments so they try to win on disruption. An excellent point.

Here’s Wootton’s Digest, which can also be seen on YouTube:

Afterwards, Wootton asked his panel for their thoughts. Daily Express columnist Carole Malone rightly pointed out that the media are always going on about far-right groups but ignore or make excuses for the much more visible radical left, who have taken to the streets regularly since lockdown in 2020, beginning with the protests in June that year — when no one was supposed to be gathering in groups. She said that politicians from all parties need to get tougher with protesters and applauded Liz Truss’s proactive stance:

On a brighter note, a number of Boris supporters were in Eastbourne lamenting the loss of the Conservative Party leader. Wootton interviewed several of them who will miss Boris dearly:

As I write, there is no verdict yet from CCHQ as to whether Boris’s name will appear on the leadership ballot. If it were, the rules would have to be changed overnight to allow it to happen. More on that once a decision has been made.

Liz Truss must be over the target.

She’s been attracting a lot of flak.

On Wednesday, August 3, 2022, The Telegraph‘s Allister Heath wrote an excellent editorial, ‘Truss Derangement Syndrome is lulling our failed elite into a fatal miscalculation’.

Truss is quickly becoming a hate figure, again showing that she is the continuity candidate to Boris, whom the metropolitan elite hounded out of leadership via a sizeable group of self-interested Conservative MPs.

Allister Heath tells us (emphases mine):

My enemy’s enemy is my friend, so it is no wonder that Liz Truss is ahead in the race to be our next prime minister. She is driving all of the right people mad, and their increasingly unhinged contempt is proving her best recruiting sergeant among a Tory membership desperate to sock it to the Left.

Her critics cannot understand her appeal, and are displaying all of the classic signs of a delusional ruling class that no longer likes or understands half their country. The Twitter mob is already exhibiting the full symptoms of Truss Derangement Syndrome, as an even cursory scroll through the rantings of our cultural elites immediately reveals …

There were several stages to the onset of TDS. First, when it became obvious that Truss was emerging as the frontrunner, the reaction was bafflement, hilarity and joy: those stupid Tories have really done it this time, handing the election to Labour! Then, as she started to unveil her offering, there was an outpouring of support for Rishi Sunak from people who would never dream of voting Tory.

We are now at the third stage, with anger, fury and extreme, disproportionate rage at her temerity, her audacity, her anti-orthodox positions, combined with almost staggering levels of complacency: how dare she call for more grammar schools or for an improved remit for the Bank of England? How stupid! Doesn’t she know that clever people have already looked into, and dismissed, this? The electorate will hate such ideas, won’t it? Won’t it?

There will undoubtedly be an even uglier, nastier fourth stage, triggered if and when she starts to score higher than Labour in the polls, and especially if she is able to break the 40 per cent support threshold. This will be met by total war and a hysterical, never-ending commitment to annihilate her, reminiscent of the scorched earth campaigning that accompanied the Brexit battles in the dying days of the May government …

TDS is closely connected to a series of bizarre emotional pathologies to which the British centre-Left has succumbeda feeling among some of the latter that Britain doesn’t deserve to succeed. We need to be punished: we voted for Brexit and then for Boris, and so failure is our just desserts. That is why we are told that hiking corporation tax would make no difference to our competitiveness – though, of course, it would supposedly be demagogic to cut taxes to attract capital.

Then there is the closely related “Candide fallacy”, after Voltaire’s satirical novella: the idiotic idea, first aired by Treasury Remainers in 2016, that everything is already for the best in this best of all possible worlds

Last but not least, our self-consciously egalitarian, progressive London elites make an exception when it comes to Right-wing Tory women: the over-the-top nature of some of the attacks on Truss are clearly partly driven by a despicable misogyny laced with anti-Northern snobbery. Even Johnson wasn’t treated with such disdain, such derision, such snootiness.

I disagree with that last sentence. Boris got similar treatment but it revolved around the metropolitan elite’s notional moral superiority and his Etonian education.

The question remains, if elected leader, does Truss have the stamina and enough good advisers to succeed as Prime Minister?

Heath says:

I’ve known Truss since 2008 and I’m cautiously optimistic. Comparisons with the Iron Lady can be inappropriate, but there is one enlightening historical parallel. Many dismissed Margaret Thatcher in the early 1970s; as education secretary, her opposition to comprehensivisation was disappointingly soft. She ensured that it was no longer compulsory for councils to turn all schools into comprehensives, but that only slowed the massacre. She didn’t defeat the Blob, and only saved 94 grammar schools, allowing hundreds to be vandalised. She wasted too much political capital ending free school milk, a minor cost cut.

A similar performance today would have seen centre-Right critics write Thatcher off in despair. Few would have predicted how much she would grow into the role, and Truss’s supporters hope that she too will eventually turn into a formidable leader. Her critics, blinded by Truss Derangement Syndrome, cannot even conceive of the possibility that this could be right. They will rue the day they so completely underestimated her.

On Friday, August 5, the Conservatives held a hustings in Eastbourne on the south coast (Sky News also has a video):

The audience was comprised of active Conservative Party members, some of whom were selected to ask questions of the candidates.

Jimmy McLoughlin, creator of the podcast Jimmy’s Jobs of the Future and a Party adviser during the time when David Cameron was leader, moderated the Q&A session.

Nus Ghani, MP for the nearby constituency of Wealden, approached the dais and was the first to pledge her support for Liz Truss.

At the 10-minute point in the video, Liz took the stage to introduce herself and elaborate on her achievements in Parliament.

As she was talking, a group of noisy climate protesters started shouting at Truss. One grabbed a microphone saying, ‘We are the majority’ (15:00):

Guido borrowed a Trumpism in describing the infiltrators — ‘low energy’:

It took a few minutes for security guards to remove them from the hall. Meanwhile, Conservatives in the audience chanted, ‘Out, out, out!’

After decorum was restored and Truss finished her introduction, Dominic Raab presented his reasons for supporting Rishi Sunak.

Sunak then introduced himself (32:00) and said he was the first to suggest that the Government implement freeports; he said he had written a paper on them in 2016, which would have been at the time of the Brexit referendum campaign.

Then it was time for Truss to return for her Q&A session (44:00).

She was happily answering questions when another protester barged in yelling, ‘Shame on you, shame on you’ and was summarily removed (1:00:00).

Rishi took his place to answer audience questions (1:15:00). He came across as a real technocrat.

I got the feeling that he viewed the British public as numbers rather than people.

He would continue to avoid us as much as he could.

To Sunak, we are the great unwashed. The next day, I saw a clip of him in his hometown of Southampton — standing on a pier with yachts swanning past him.

He talked a lot about new technology. A young Conservative asked him about smart phone use (1:28:00). Jimmy McLouglin asked jovially if the man asking the question was a plant.

Sunak talked about bringing in workers from overseas — ‘the best and the brightest’ — to implement new technology. Infosys, anyone?

Why did he not talk about training young Britons for this role? We have successful gaming start-ups in the West Midlands.

At one point, Sunak spoke about the importance he places on family, which for him, comes before everything else. Hmm. In normal circumstances, I would praise that but, given his billionaire in-laws, I wonder whether this indicates a personal agenda someone has asked him to fulfil for a future goal.

McLoughlin asked Sunak if he would have gone into banking today, were he 22 years old. Sunak replied that, in 2022, he would have become an entrepreneur.

Sunak closed by saying that, although Truss can explain Conservative values well (a bit condescending?), the Party needs someone who can beat Labour, meaning himself.

No one heckled Sunak.

Let’s go back to Truss’s bright moment during the hustings.

The Mail reported on that and on the protesters, complete with photographs:

Liz Truss made light of her Liberal Democrat past last night at the leadership hustings in Eastbourne – declaring that ‘we all had teenage misadventures’ and that joining the party was her version of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ in an assured performance.

In a question regarding climate change and young people, Truss unprompted decided to tackle the issue head on by adding that she made a childish decision to join the party when she was a teenager.

Speaking in a Q&A section of the evening on the south coast, the Foreign Secretary said: ‘We all made mistakes. We all had teenage misadventures. That was mine.

‘Some people had sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I had the Liberal Democrats.’

The quip came despite numerous attempts by eco-protesters to disrupt the hustings while the frontrunner Ms Truss was making her case to become the next Prime Minister. 

Ms Truss was left fuming by six protesters who stormed yesterday’s hustings in Eastbourne before being removed by security.

The Foreign Secretary snapped back at the eco-warriors who could be heard shouting ‘shame’ and calling for a Green New Deal to be implemented by a new Prime Minister.

I did not see her fuming or hearing her snap at them. If anything, she stood back and looked at them patiently, waiting for them to finish their antics.

Anyway:

Five protesters were kicked out of the Tory leadership hustings in Eastbourne after shouting ‘shame on you’ to Liz Truss during her opening remarks, calling for a ‘Green New Deal’ and claiming to be the majority. Tory members in the audience could be heard chanting ‘out, out, out!’

Another was ejected during the Q&A section shouting similar slogans at Ms Truss.

During the initial incursion, Ms Truss said that she would legislate to stop the likes of these protesters from disrupting ordinary people’s lives and vowed to clamp down on them immediately if she wins the leadership.

She said: ‘I would legislate immediately to make sure that we are standing up to militant trade unions who stop ordinary commuters getting into work.

‘And I would legislate to protect our essential services. I will make sure that militant activists such as Extinction Rebellion are not able to disrupt ordinary people who work hard and do the right thing and go into work.

‘And I will never ever ever allow our democracy to be disrupted by unfair protests.’

After the initial wave of protesters, another disruptor infiltrated the arena and was removed.

The frontrunner then quipped that she was ‘popular with Extinction Rebellion’ after the eco-warriors did not heckle Mr Sunak. 

The protesters were from Green New Deal Rising, a youth climate group, and they said: ‘This is a critical moment for our country. Our next Prime Minister should be responding to what the majority wants, which is good wages, secure jobs and a safe climate.

‘But Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are clogging up the airwaves with policies that will make things worse, not better.

‘Energy bills are set to rise to over £3000 a year and nothing they have announced will come anywhere near putting that money back in people’s pockets.

‘We disrupted the hustings tonight to send a clear message that we are the majority and we are rising up.’

However, Sunak was not without his own problem.

Conveniently, on the morning of the Eastbourne hustings, the pro-Labour New Statesman magazine issued a video of Sunak in the traditionally upmarket town of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in which he told Conservatives that, as Chancellor, he was able to reverse a Labour policy of targeting deprived areas in England’s major cities and put taxpayers’ money to work in their own areas instead:

That evening, in Eastbourne, he had some explaining to do.

On Saturday, the Mail reported that someone had asked him about it in his Q&A session:

Rishi Sunak came under fire from Tories and Labour yesterday after he was recorded saying he had been working to divert funding from ‘deprived urban areas’ towards prosperous towns.

Responding to the furore, Mr Sunak said: ‘I wanna level up everywhere, and as you may have seen from a video clip that is online, I don’t believe that’s just about our very large urban cities.

‘I believe that’s about investing in and leveling up small towns in rural communities, in coastal communities like those here in the south-east.’

The intervention garnered applause from the watching Conservative members despite widespread backlash to his earlier remarks. 

The former chancellor was filmed bragging that he had started changing public funding formulas when he was chancellor to ensure places like Tunbridge Wells receive ‘the funding they deserve’.

The New Statesman magazine, which obtained video revealing Mr Sunak’s remarks, said they were made to grassroots Tories in the Kent town on July 29.

It promoted criticism, with Foreign Office minister Lord Zac Goldsmith – a close ally of Boris Johnson – saying: ‘This is one of the weirdest – and dumbest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician.’

Jake Berry, the chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said that in public Mr Sunak ‘claims he wants to level up the North, but here, he boasts about trying to funnel vital investment away from deprived areas’.

‘He says one thing and does another – from putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now levelling up,’ the Truss supporter said

But, and it’s a big but:

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said, ‘Strangely enough, most Red Wall areas that voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 – who have been left behind for decades – aren’t urban/city areas. Exactly the whole point of levelling up.

‘They should post the full clip, which would show Rishi Sunak talk about the local council funding formula and how it discriminated against non-metropolitan areas in favour of cities – by giving them less money for things like adult and children services, highways and fire.’

At the weekend, conservative broadcaster André Walker was on GB News. He said that he lives in Windsor, which has its tax money taken away to benefit more deprived parts of Berkshire, yet Windsor has its own needs that also require additional expenditure.

This is what Sunak said in the video:

I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone.

I started the work of undoing that.

Fair enough.

In Eastbourne, Truss said that, despite forecasts, a recession is not inevitable.

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, agrees with Truss. He wrote about Eastbourne the following day:

‘Forecasts are not destiny,’ said Liz Truss in last night’s debate: a remark that has drawn alarm in some quarters …

… I’d go further and say that the approach to economic forecasts is one of the biggest differences between the candidates. Rishi Sunak’s campaign is rather fatalistic: he seems to think we cannot really avoid a big-state, high-tax, low-growth future described by these forecasts. Under his plan then he’d need seven long years to reverse only half of his tax rises – and still leave us with the highest tax burden since the 1950s. Truss says there is another way, but she hasn’t said much about how she’d finance it.

… This dismal science has had a mixed record of late. A 2019 Bloomberg study looked at 469 downturns in national economies in the previous three decades and found only four had been predicted by the International Monetary Fund. In the UK, a recession was widely predicted after the Brexit vote. It didn’t materialise. Then we had the 2009 crash that, as the Queen pointed out, no one saw coming.

… And who saw inflation coming? As Niall Ferguson recently observed, if you go back to Easter last year only a handful of economic commentators were warning about what was in store

Does the above mean the experts are stupid? No, it just underlines the problem with economic models. They are a mixture of maths and subjective assumptions: if one of the many assumptions is wrong, the whole picture changes.

After the Eastbourne hustings, Team Truss released an open letter from the Foreign Secretary’s most prominent backers suggesting that Rishi Sunak should stand down.

Early Saturday morning, the Mail reported:

Liz Truss called last night for the Conservative Party to ‘unite’ to take on Keir Starmer‘s Labour as 21 current and former Cabinet ministers issued a declaration of support for her.

The Foreign Secretary, firm favourite to succeed Boris Johnson, appeared to put pressure on her rival Rishi Sunak to stand down as she shared the open letter from some of her prominent backers, including Lord Frost, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

The signatories, which include ten sitting and 11 past Cabinet ministers, argued that only Miss Truss ‘has what it takes’ and would break from the ‘tired economic managerialism of the past’ in a thinly veiled swipe at the former chancellor

… in their open letter, the 21 senior Tories say Miss Truss’s record as Foreign Secretary and low-tax promises should see her become prime minister.

They wrote: ‘For us, there is only one candidate who has what it takes: Liz Truss. She has shown she will do what is necessary and right, even in the face of great adversity.

‘In challenging times, Britain needs a prime minister who can be trusted to deliver. Liz has a clear plan to grow our economy, founded on true Conservative principles of aspiration, enterprise and freedom, which will help fund our public services and NHS.

‘She will unleash the huge opportunities of Brexit, break from the tired economic managerialism of the past and challenge failed groupthink.’

The backers include Tories from all regions of the country and wings of the party, such as Northern Research Group chairman Jake Berry, current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and former leadership rival Penny Mordaunt.

Miss Truss responded by saying, ‘it’s time to unite’, and said she would ‘unite our party, beat Keir Starmer, and… deliver for Britain’.

For his part, Mr Sunak has repeatedly insisted he will not quit the contest even if he falls further behind his rival.

I agree with Sunak. As much as it pains me to watch that technocrat doing his Tony Blair impersonation, it is only fair — even with another three weeks of this contest — that he stay in it. Many Conservative Party members are rankled enough that Boris was taken from them. To see a Theresa May-style coronation (her opponent dropped out in 2016) would upset them further.

Again, I do not have a vote. I’m merely an interested bystander.

In closing, here are the latest polls from Monday, August 8.

Only Liz Truss has a chance of beating Labour’s Keir Starmer:

Guido Fawkes says (emphases his):

Opinium’s latest polling puts Liz far ahead of Rishi amongst Tory voters, with 2019 Tories now giving her 26-point lead at 48% to 22%. The previous survey had Rishi ahead on “looking like a Prime Minister in waiting“. That lead has now evaporated: Truss is leading on all measures with the Tories.

Even worse for Rishi is his polling against Starmer. In head-to-head polling, Liz beats Starmer amongst all voters by 1 point at 29% to 28%. Rishi, meanwhile, trails Starmer at 28% to 24%. Rishi and his supporters are still pushing the polls from last month showing him best placed to beat Sir Keir. That’s looking like a pretty weak claim now…

UPDATE: Redfield & Wilton find the same outcomes; Liz beats Keir, Keir beats Rishi.

I will have more on the protesters in a separate post.

News events from the past ten days have been strange, indeed.

That they are happening all at the same time shows that truth is stranger than fiction.

This is like something out of a dystopian film.

Neil Oliver’s editorial

On Saturday, July 2, Neil Oliver presented his weekly editorial on GB News:

He said that the supposed new world utopia is not working. He discussed possible Chinese social credit scores coming to the West and the increasing government control over our lives. He talked about racism from progressives towards their perceived ‘wrong kind’ of minorities who believe in conservatism, such as Justice Clarence Thomas on the overturning of Roe v Wade. He showed us the clip of Boris Johnson and Justin Trudeau joking about the size of their jets at a time when Western governments are discouraging their citizens from flying — anywhere. He looked at the hypocrisy of the Glastonbury music festival, with environmentalist youths leaving behind them a load of plastic rubbish all over the massive field where it was held. He talked about how people were increasingly unable to put food on the table and asked why this was in the 21st century, a time when we have never been so advanced as a society:

It makes no sense.

He said that the elites want:

the poor to become poorer, the hungry to become hungrier and the cold to become colder.

He concluded:

… here’s the hardest pill to swallow: it’s not supposed to make sense. This is planned, done on purpose. It’s supposed to make us do what we are told. It’s supposed to make us stop asking impertinent questions and just submit to The Man. It’s supposed to divide us, one from another, until everyone feels alone. It’s supposed to make us scared, angry, cold, hungry and sick to death. 

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has turned into a dystopia, the kind that Neil Oliver spoke of in his editorial.

The Express summarised the situation, caused by a debt crisis (emphases mine):

Unrest has been ongoing for several months over a debt crisis that has crippled the economy.

Reserves have been drained to minimum levels and the country has defaulted on several debts, meaning it is now struggling to secure essential imports like medicines and fuel.

The south Asian nation has been plagued by sky-high inflation, rolling blackouts and mile-long queues to secure essential goods.

Sporadic protests began in late March, but have since galvanised huge support from the wider public.

Last week, after months of shortages of nearly everything in the country, protesters stormed the presidential palace and the prime minister’s residence, both of which are in the capital Colombo:

The homes of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have been occupied by local people furious with their leadership for throwing them into a staggering economic crisis …

They have since occupied the building, making themselves at home by using the pool and kitchen.

Sri Lankan police had attempted to use tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds, but they have remained defiant and are still refusing to leave.

The Express has several pictures of protesters occupying the presidential palace.

Although the president and prime minister have since resigned, protesters remain sceptical:

some are sceptical of the legitimacy of the resignations.

In a late-night announcement on Saturday, President Rajapaksa said he will step down on Wednesday.

But under Sri Lanka’s constitution, his resignation can only formally be accepted when he resigns by letter to the Speaker, which has not happened yet.

Protesters have said they will continue to occupy official buildings until both have officially stepped down.

The country’s political parties have resolved that, once both the president and the prime minister formally step down, the speaker would take the role of acting president before parliament votes for a new president on July 20.

On Monday, July 11, Dan Wootton discussed the situation, saying that much of the unrest had been sparked by green policymaking. The president’s drive to turn Sri Lanka into an organic-only country with no fertiliser has led to widespread food shortages. The pertinent part is in the first minute and a bit of this video:

Dutch farmers

Meanwhile, another chilling news story emerged, this time from the Netherlands, that of farmers protesting against possible confiscation of their land.

This, too, bears out what Neil Oliver discussed on July 2.

The EU has decreed that nitrogen emissions must be cut. They blame farmers.

Dutch farmers have been protesting against their government’s latest policy on nitrogen emission reductions, which, if Prime Minister Mark Rutte gets his way will put many of them out of business.

This was the scene on Friday, July 8:

Below are some of the replies to that tweet:

The Dutch, like most European peoples, are unarmed. The authorities prefer it that way:

Imagine if the government took away the land that you and generations before you had farmed, with either dairy cows or crops. It’s unthinkable, but it is a real threat for these men and women:

In reality, there is no emissions problem in the Netherlands. This is about something else — control:

How interesting that the BBC hasn’t covered it:

On July 7, Tucker Carlson interviewed the Dutch lawyer Eva Vlaardingerbroek, who is also a regular guest on GB News.

The Vigilant Fox has the video of her talking to Tucker as well as a transcript.

She said:

what this is about is the Dutch government stealing our farmers’ land, and they’re doing this under the guise of the made-up nitrogen crisis. And that is basically going to put most of these farmers completely out of business.

And thankfully, the Dutch farmers aren’t having it. So they’re going out in the streets, they’re blocking distribution centers, they’ve blocked the high roads, they are fighting back! And they’re right to do so; this is their life’s work. They’re really at their wit’s end. They’re devastated by what the government is doing, and it’s very clear that the government is not doing this because of a nitrogen crisis, they’re doing this because they want these farmers’ land, and they want it to house new immigrants.

They also want it because the farmers are obviously standing in their way of The Great Reset plans that they have for us. Farmers are hard-working, God-fearing, and especially self-sufficient people that are just standing in the way of their globalist agenda. And it’s driving a lot of these farmers even to something like suicide. So really, there’s only one term that we can use for the things that our government and their Premier Mark Rutte is doing right now, and that is communism.

Scary.

Tucker, like most of us, tried to wrap his head around this:

So messing with the food supply tends to cause food crises and then famines. You’re seeing this in the developing world, thanks to climate activism and the war in Ukraine. Are normal Dutch citizens who aren’t farmers worried about what happens when you shut the farms down?

Eva said that the Dutch public understand what is happening:

Absolutely! They understand it. ‘No farmers, no food,’ and that’s why the farmers have blocked these distribution centers because within a matter of a couple of hours, we saw that the supermarkets were empty, and ordinary citizens understand this.

She says the Dutch government either doesn’t understand the consequences of what is happening or they really do want to destroy farming:

The problem is that the state doesn’t seem to understand this, or it’s what they want. And the police have responded in an incredibly violent way. So as you guys have seen, now, they have even shot at a 16 year-old-boy. These are not things that you should see in free Western countries, especially not targeted towards peaceful protesters, but it’s happening.

She explained the red handkerchief she was wearing and said that similar nefarious events could happen in other Western nations:

Everyone around the world, and especially you in America, should be supporting our Dutch farmers because this could be happening to you. It’s actually the very reason why I’m wearing this handkerchief right now. It’s become the symbol of these farmers’ resistance, and they’re doing it so courageously, and they have the manpower to do it, so they really deserve your full support.

This Dutch farmer agrees with the assessment that the Dutch government wants the land. He says that it is in order to make the whole of the Netherlands one urban sprawl. You could not make this up:

It seems this is a World Economic Forum idea:

Eva gave an interview to Rebel News and confirmed the link with the WEF:

Once farmland is built on, it cannot easily be reclaimed for crops or grazing:

It sounds like fascism — corporations aligning with governments for control over the people:

Unfortunately, the British government — Conservative! — is trying the same thing in England by politely offering to buy farmers’ land. Amazing, at a time when we have so little food security:

On Monday, June 11, Neil Oliver appeared on Dan Wootton’s GB News show to discuss the unrest both the Netherlands and Sri Lanka.

Oliver said that Sri Lanka has also been affected by green policies which have been responsible for shortages plunging the country into crisis. He surmises that the governments have been told what to do. He doubts whether politicians will listen to the people and referenced Canada’s trucker protests earlier this year as a case in point. Trudeau froze some protesters’ bank accounts in response. Wootton responded by saying that the media were ignoring what has been going on in both Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. Oliver said that this will become so big in time that the media can no longer ignore it.

To be fair, the replies to this tweet do indicate that the BBC and Sky News have been covering these stories for the past few days.

Allow me to point out that the World Economic Forum had big plans for Sri Lanka, predicting an economic boom by 2025:

These green policies are hurting people, and it is time they were stopped:

On Monday, June 11, Patrick Christys of GB News spoke to Jeroen Van Maanen of the Dutch Dairy Farmers’ Association. Van Maanen has been on GB News a lot over the past few days. He said that the government has different emissions targets, depending on the region. If this law is not stopped, he, for one, will not be able to continue farming. He also said that the government forbids using technological innovations to reduce emissions. Unbelievable. Like Eva, he stated that this is about the government buying land to house refugees:

Christys then spoke to energy analyst Andy Mayer, who said that misguided green policies are going to become problematic across Europe first, then other Western nations. Mayer said that the EU law on emissions originated in the UN. Like Tucker Carlson, Christys had a hard time wrapping his head around governments that seemingly wanted their farmers to go out of business. Mayer said that political leaders are so obsessed with reaching environmental targets that they are making terrible decisions. He said that the Netherlands exports £100m of farm products per year. Here in the UK we get a lot of produce from the Dutch all year round. Mayer says the grand plan is to have food in the West grown in other countries. Sheer madness, when we can see the result of this right now in Ukraine as Putin has prevented their grain from being harvested:

Returning to the Netherlands, it is heartening to see the farmers protest into the night:

Eva also spoke with Mark Steyn on Monday evening. Well done, GB News, for keeping this story going:

Shinzo Abe assassination

When it wasn’t governments controlling their people, it was a madman settling an imagined score last week.

On Friday, July 8, Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, 67, was campaigning for a political candidate in his party and was shot in the city of Nara:

He died soon afterwards:

What happened with security at the event?

Donald Trump’s supporters remember how close he was to Abe:

Boris Johnson also admired Abe:

When Abe’s death was announced, Boris sent a message of condolence in English and Japanese:

Abe had a long relationship with the UK. Here are photos of him with our past three Prime Ministers:

The gunman had served in the Japanese navy.

The Express reported:

A number of makeshift weapons were said to have been discovered at the home of Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who was arrested after the attack.

The navy veteran was thought to have had improvised devices, including the one used in Friday’s killing, by taping steel pipes together.

The gunman held Abe responsible for his (the gunman’s) mother’s bankruptcy. She happened to belong to South Korea’s Unification Church, the Moonies, and gave them a large donation. The gunman believed that Abe had connections to the same group. Apparently, he thought that Abe somehow influenced his mother to give her large donation.

Hmm. There is no information about security at the event, only about it being heightened in the days that followed, culminating on July 10:

The assassination has shaken Japan – a country where political violence is rare and gun ownership tightly controlled.

Mr Abe was speaking during an event for his former party, the Liberal Democrats, ahead of upper house elections.

Security was heightened as voters went to the polls yesterday and party leaders avoided mingling with crowds during their final hours of campaigning.

Abe’s traditional funeral ceremony, the tsuya, was held on Monday, July 11. It was a small gathering, led by his tearful widow Akie, 60, and attended by former prime ministers and American officials.

Boris Johnson’s ousting

Finally, at the beginning of last week, Boris Johnson was abruptly and unexpectedly ousted as leader of the Conservative Party, although he remains Prime Minister for now.

On Saturday, July 10, Neil Oliver had a pertinent editorial on Boris, saying that our MPs do not care about us, we the people. We are in their way. We count for nothing in their eyes. He was appalled by the party atmosphere surrounding Boris’s resignation and took exception with former Prime Minister John Major’s suggestion that Boris should be removed immediately from No. 10. He also criticised another former Conservative MP, Michael Heseltine, for saying that, with Boris’s departure, Brexit is now over. (Brexit was the largest plebiscite in British history.) He then went on to rightly criticise MPs for the damage done to British society with lockdown and Net Zero policies. They are now our masters, no longer our servants:

I will have more on what allegedly happened to Boris and profiles of Conservative MPs who are campaigning to succeed him as leader.

Dystopian events

That so many strange events could happen at the same time strikes me as dystopian.

I’ve never experienced a news cycle like last week’s.

Let us hope this is not a regular occurrence.

It is apposite to follow my posts about Lee Anderson with a series on his fellow Red Wall MP Marco Longhi.

Among other things, they have in common a dislike of Steve Bray, the noisy anti-Brexit protester who had his amplifying equipment taken by police this week.

Steve Bray

This is where I left off yesterday:

I’ll get to the debate in which Marco Longhi said those words.

First, however, Steve Bray reappeared in the area around Parliament on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, with a new boombox:

Guido Fawkes had the story and a video:

His post says (emphases in the original):

Just when you thought it was all over, Steve Bray’s back for an encore. With his boombox ripped from his hands yesterday by a swarm of Met officers, it looked like it was finally time to say bye, bye Bray-by. Not so much.

Undeterred, and as promised during a BBC interview yesterday afternoon, Bray is back on his island outside Parliament, having found a new boombox to blast his tunes at full volume as MPs walk past. He’s also picked up a gang of new supporters to chant along with him. Presumably they don’t have jobs to go to either. Chopper [The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope] even claims he’s seen pedestrians hand Bray some cash in solidarity. It’s not like Met officers have far to commute given New Scotland Yard’s just metres away…

On May 11, Marco Longhi mentioned Steve Bray, although not by name, in a parliamentary debate, Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice.

Guido covered the bit about Bray:

Guido wrote:

… Speaking in the Chamber yesterday afternoon alongside Bray’s arch nemesis Lee Anderson, Longhi said:

I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever… This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met really should deal with him.

Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle intervened to offer swapping offices with Longhi so that “there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either”…

Guido concluded by saying that, like Lloyd Russell-Moyle, he has no problem with Bray’s braying as it shows we tolerate free speech.

Personally, I disagree. After six years of his daily noise, the Met should put a stop to it.

Returning to the debate, which took place after the Queen’s Speech in May, Longhi discussed the people from his constituency, Dudley North, and their concerns, among them Brexit and re-establishing law and order (emphases mine):

I was going to confine my speech to the Public Order Bill, but I will follow up on a few comments that the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) made. The more I listen to him, the more I think he speaks a good deal of common sense. I would like him to know that I for one, and a number of my colleagues, agree with much if not everything of what he says, and we have a steely resolve to make sure that we are one United Kingdom. That is what we voted for when we voted for Brexit.

My daughters, for some unfathomable reason, sometimes describe me as a grumpy old man. I really do not know why. However, there are a few things that can make me a little bit miserable, and one thing that has really grated on me in recent years is the minority of protesters who have pretty much used guerrilla warfare to disrupt the everyday lives of the vast majority of our constituents—not just mine, but everybody’s.

The good people of Dudley North are ordinary folk, working hard to make a living, a living that is increasingly harder to make in the current climate. I cannot fathom how the privileged and entitled few think it is acceptable to stop our carers and nurses from being able to get to work to care for our sick and elderly, or to blockade a fire appliance from getting to a serious fire burning a local business to the ground—or, more tragically, perhaps preventing people inside the burning building from being saved. Of course, that applies to any blue light service, not just the fire service. That minority of criminals truly disgust me. They have no concept of the real world out there. They have no concept of the misery they bring to those less fortunate than themselves.

I hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and those on the Front Benches will join me in making working here more bearable for our staff, myself and my colleagues. I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever.

Lee Anderson intervened:

I know the character my hon. Friend alludes to, and I have witnessed some ferocious verbal attacks on my hon. Friend from that character, who patrols Whitehall like a public nuisance. May I suggest telling him that, if he is interested in changing things in this country, he should come to Dudley North and stand against my hon. Friend at the next general election?

Longhi replied:

In fact, that invitation has already been made. I am going to print off a set of nomination papers, but I wonder about the 10 people this person might need for the form to be valid.

My staff cannot hear distressed constituents on the phone through the awful racket he causes. All our staff who have offices in 1 Parliament Street suffer considerable stress and anxiety from the disruption he causes to their, and our, work. I doubt that staff in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the buildings opposite, would say anything different—[Interruption.] Is someone wanting to intervene? I do not know. I heard some noises. It is like a Hoover—an irritating thing in the background. I do not know what it is.

This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met Police really should deal with him. He is causing misery to hundreds of staff, he is intimidating many

Then Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is quite the leftie, intervened for a bit of to-ing and fro-ing:

Russell-Moyle: No, he’s not!

Longhi: I think someone wants to intervene, Mr Deputy Speaker. This person intimidates many who are passing by, going about our business and representing our constituents—

Russell-Moyle: No, he doesn’t!

Longhi: Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene?

Russell-Moyle: The hon. Member clearly does not know how Parliament works, but we often make sounds across the Chamber when we disagree with someone, and I disagree with him. I am happy to swap offices: I will take his office and he can have my office. Then there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either. Win-win!

Longhi: I am actually very comfortable for the hon. Member to come to Dudley North and make those very arguments, because he would be out of office completely. Please do come and make those very arguments. I am not going to allow this kind of behaviour from someone outside, who is a public nuisance, to force us to have to make changes for him.

Our police, whether in Dudley, the Met or elsewhere, need the tools to better manage and tackle the dangerous and highly disruptive tactics used by a small minority of selfish protesters to wreak havoc on people going about their daily lives. Our police already have enough to be doing without the unnecessary burden of a privileged few who seek to rinse taxpayers’ money.

It will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support the Public Order Bill. If that disruptive minority want to glue themselves to anything, maybe the Bill should make it easier for them to have their backsides glued to a tiny cell at Her Majesty’s pleasure. They would be most welcome.

Kit Malthouse MP, the minister for Crime and Policing, concluded the debate. Malthouse, incidentally, worked for Boris Johnson in a similar position when the latter was Mayor of London:

… We have had a variety of contributions this afternoon, falling broadly into three categories. First, there were the constructive contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) talked about antisocial behaviour in his constituency, a theme we heard from several hon. Members. The three graces—my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi)—expressed strong support for the Public Order Bill. The general theme was expressed pithily by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough:

“We want criminals to be scared of the law. We do not want the law-abiding majority to be scared of criminals”—

a sentiment with which the Government heartily agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) made his usual vigorous and wide-ranging contribution, illustrating neatly why his part of the world is becoming more of a Conservative stronghold with every month that passes

I wrote about Jonathan Gullis in April.

Malthouse ended with this. I do hope he is correct when he says:

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out earlier in this debate, the first job of any Government is to keep their people safe, which is why we are delivering ambitious reforms to do just that by cutting crime, delivering swifter justice and making our streets safer. We are backing the ever-growing numbers of police with the tools and support they need, making sentences tougher for violent and sexual crimes, strengthening victims’ rights and restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. We will ensure that we strike the right balance in our human rights framework so that it meets the needs of the public and commands their confidence, strengthens our traditions of liberty, particularly the right to free speech, adds a healthy dose of common sense and curtails abuses of our justice system. I commend the Government’s programme on crime and justice to the House.

In the beginning

Marco Longhi was born in the Midlands town of Walsall, Staffordshire, on April 22, 1967, to an Englishwoman and an Italian airline worker. He grew up in Rome.

He took after both parents in his personal choices.

Following his father’s interest in airlines, he trained as a pilot. Later, following the example from his mother’s family, he entered politics.

In between, he studied at Manchester University and worked in the oil and gas industry. Later on, he became interested in real estate and was the director of the lettings (rental) firm Justmove. He also owns ten houses in Walsall.

His grandfather Wilfred Clarke was mayor of Walsall in 1978. Longhi became a Conservative councillor for the town in 1999 and served two terms as its mayor, in 2017 and 2018.

Dudley North

Longhi ran successfully for election to Parliament in 2019, after the much-admired Labour MP, subsequently Independent, Ian Austin, stood down for Dudley North.

The constituency of Dudley North was created in 1997. Labour’s Ross Cranston served as its MP between 1997 and 2005. Afterwards, Ian Austin succeeded him until 2019. Austin became an Independent in February 2019. He resigned from Labour because he was troubled by its anti-Semitism, which prevailed in some factions of the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Austin’s adoptive father Fred was a Czech Jew who was adopted by an English family, hence the surname change from Stiller to Austin. Fred Austin was the headmaster of The Dudley School from its foundation in 1975 to his retirement in 1985.

In December 2019, Marco Longhi handily defeated Labour’s appropriately named Melanie Dudley with a majority of 11,533, a swing of 15.8 per cent.

Maiden speech

Longhi gave his maiden speech to the Commons on February 26, 2020, during the debate on the Environment Bill.

Although coronavirus was seeping into the news narrative, getting on with Brexit was still the main topic of discussion among Conservative MPs. The debates were marvellous, imbued with optimism.

Everyone was also happy with the relatively new Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor John Bercow who did so much to try and thwart Brexit.

Longhi’s speech tells us about Dudley and his hopes for the historic town:

Let me start by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to present my maiden speech today, and to thank your staff—and, indeed, all staff on the estate—for keeping us safe and looking after us so well and with such professionalism. I should like you to convey my more profound thanks, if that is possible, to Mr Speaker for the way in which he has signalled that he will carry out his office as Speaker of the House, in complete contrast to his predecessor. The conventions and integrity that he is restoring in such an unassuming way are having a much greater impact in restoring faith in our democracy than any commentators may be giving him credit for, which is why I want to do so today.

It is the convention to comment on one’s predecessor in a maiden speech. I shall do so, but not for that reason: I will because I want to. I am certain than many in this place will want to recognise Ian Austin for his integrity, and for the brave way in which he decided to stand up against antisemitism. There is not a person in my constituency to whom I have spoken who does not speak well of Ian, even when they disagreed with his politics. So I want to thank him for his efforts as a local MP, and for the example that he has set for many of us, on both sides of the House, in standing up to prejudice and hatred. I suspect that some of my colleagues on this side of the House—myself included—may wish to thank him for other reasons too.

I say with a degree of both pride and humility that I am the first ever Conservative Member of Parliament for Dudley North, the first ever Member called Marco, and the Member holding a larger majority than any of my predecessors in this seat. For that, I thank the people of Dudley, who, like the people in the rest of the country, decided to tell the House—yet again, at the umpteenth time of asking—what they wanted us to do.

The Dudley North constituency is made up of the town of Sedgley, the suburban areas of Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Gornal Wood, Woodsetton, and other conurbations around Dudley town itself. It has several attractions of national significance, including the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Castle and Dudley Zoo.

Dudley has been a market town since the 13th century, and its fortunes over the centuries have ebbed and flowed with the economic cycles of the heavy industry that its coal-rich mines supported. This also means that it has suffered much since the decline of the traditional industries, which is why a focus on skills and future jobs is crucial if the economic prosperity of the area and the wellbeing of Dudley people are to be secured for the coming decades.

Dudley is also credited with being the birthplace of the industrial revolution, with the advent of smelting iron ore using coal instead of charcoal, which is manufactured by burning trees and therefore much rarer and more costly to obtain. Abraham Darby introduced this revolutionary method, which meant that iron and steel could be made in much larger quantities and more efficiently and cheaply. He effectively kick-started the industrial revolution, so Dudley’s heritage and legacy are second to none—notwithstanding what other people in this House might say! However, I will say that competing with Magna Carta and perhaps alienating a doctor might not be my smartest move. Abraham Darby was born in Woodsetton in 1678 and is reported to have lived at Wren’s Nest, which is now a site of special scientific interest—I had to practise that—and, since 1956, one of only two national nature reserves assigned on geology alone because of the variety and abundance of fossils found on the site.

However, although the new industrial revolution brought wealth, it also resulted in the area being named the most unhealthy place in the country in the mid-19th century, because of the dreadful working and living conditions. That led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewerage systems. Dudley had the highest mortality rate in the country. In the 21st century we are faced with the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by a range of new advancements in the digital and biological worlds, but with a different impact on human wellbeing.

Improving health and wellbeing and seeking to tackle mental ill health are some of the areas on which I wish to focus during my time in this House, for the benefit of everyone at home and in their workplaces. If we tackle the issue of poor mental health at its core and in its infancy, we can prevent crisis moments and the devastating consequences that they can have. That it is also why having an environment that we can all enjoy, which supports us in our own wellbeing and that we can leave as a positive legacy to our children and grandchildren, is so important. Mother Nature has been talking to us for some time, and it is time we did more than simply listen. It is time to take action as well, which is why the Bill is so welcome.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you ever come to Dudley, the capital of the Black Country, you will be warmly welcomed, because that is the nature of Dudley people. You will also feel a sense of expectation—a feeling that change is about to happen, a feeling of optimism—and this is another reason why I am so privileged to represent the town and its people. In the near future, we will be seeing the demolition of the infamous Cavendish House in the town centre to make way for many new homes, the metro extension and I hope—subject to consent—a very light rail system.

Like many high streets around the country, Dudley’s has suffered much. Nobody has a silver bullet to fix that, but increasing footfall by attracting more people feels like part of the solution. If attracting more people into the town centre is part of the solution, and if the focus on skills for future jobs is key, I would like to see our plans for a university campus on the edge of Dudley town centre finally being delivered. I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees with me on that. These game-changing plans were drawn up before my arrival, and some have been spoken about for many years. Now is the time to turn words into action and to deliver for Dudley. My pledge to all Dudley people is that I will fight every step of the way to make things happen and bring about the change that they want. It is Dudley’s turn now.

On May 12, 2021, he rightly objected to lefties trolling him over Brexit in the Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work debate, which followed that year’s Queen’s Speech:

“Your name isn’t English, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” That is a recent Facebook comment from an articulate but clearly limited left-wing activist, so I took some pleasure in replying in Italian “Che in realtà sono nato da un minatore di carbone del black country”—that I was in fact born to a Black Country coalminer.

More condescending left-wingers recently said this:

“You’d think Marco would understand why Brexit is bad. He’s lived in Italy and EVEN his Dad is Italian. Why is he such a strong Brexiteer? He must be stupid.”

Well, brownie points for working out that my dad is Italian. I did explain at length why Brexit is vital, but it became clear to me that there was a limit to their thinking, too—I mean Marco, Italian, therefore remainer, otherwise stupid is a bit of a “micro-aggression”, and is rather limited thinking isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Here is my suggestion for the Labour party: set up an internal limited-thinking focus group to eradicate it from among their ranks, because how can they represent people who are clearly not limited? They may want to start in Amber Valley where the Labour leader blamed voters for their election results; it might prove more useful than rearranging the deckchairs on their Front Bench.

So, yes, my name is Marco, and, yes, my father is Italian, but here I am. How did I get here? Two words: opportunità e lavoro—opportunity and graft. My grandfather’s story is one of rags to riches and my parents are examples of blue-collar workers who for years lived hand to mouth. They bent over backwards to give me opportunities, and I put in the work.

Opportunity and work are two pillars of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech. People out there do not want handouts; they want a hand getting back on their feet. More than anything, they want opportunities to do well. The lifetime skills guarantee is a massive investment in education and apprenticeships, readying people for the jobs coming their way. We may remember the Prime Minister—or “our Boris” as they say back home—visiting Dudley and going to the site of our new Institute of Technology, where he delivered his “jobs, jobs, jobs” vision. The pandemic has shown that fish can be necessary, but fishing rods are what people really need, and that institute will provide the rods.

The Queen’s Speech contained a vast array of steps that will take us out of the clutches of the pandemic, freeing us to be even stronger than when we entered it. The commitment to our NHS and continuing with our investment in the vaccination programme and in private sector life sciences are huge bonuses that this country will benefit from.

The roaring ’20s are upon us. Dio salvi la Regina—God save the Queen.

I hope he is right about the roaring ’20s being upon us.

One year on, and it’s hard to see. However, that is no fault of Marco Longhi’s.

I will have more on this gently witty and highly incisive Red Wall MP next week.

Finally, after six years, the Metropolitan Police took away noise-enhancing equipment from Steve Bray, the well known anti-Brexit protester.

Earlier this month, I wrote about his confrontations with Conservative MP Lee Anderson.

Metro posted the following Twitter thread on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

I find it incredulous that police had to wait for the new Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act in order to do anything. Surely, his daily, disruptive noise was already a breach of the peace, an ancient offence:

Naturally, those who oppose Brexit and Conservatives believe that the Met’s reaction was overkill.

However, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom supported the move:

She makes an excellent point about ‘fulfilling the democratic decision of the UK to leave the EU’, the largest plebiscite in British history.

Leadsom received bouquets and brickbats in equal measure for using the words ‘violent protest’:

I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to work day in and day out with Bray’s braying through a loudhailer:

The area around Parliament also has permanent residents, such as the Speakers of the House, Commons and Lords:

Guido Fawkes has another video of the police with Bray:

Guido’s post has a photo of the Territorial Support Group who confiscated Bray’s boombox (emphases his):

20 or so Met police officers have now swarmed Steve Bray to confiscate his loudspeaker and threaten his arrest. This is all a result of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which comes into force today. Here’s what Section 73 of the Act says regarding noisy protests:

Section 73 amends section 12(1) of the 1986 Act allowing a senior police officer additionally to impose conditions on a public procession where they reasonably believed the noise generated by that procession may result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation in the vicinity, or have a significant, relevant impact on people in the vicinity.

They even threw his boom box into the back of a police van…

Hat-tip: Charlotte Lynch and Ellie Varley

Another Conservative MP who will be breathing a sigh of relief at the confiscation of Bray’s equipment will be Marco Longhi, who represents Dudley North in the Midlands:

I’ll have more on Longhi — and Bray — tomorrow in my next Red Wall MP profile.

In the autumn of 2021, a weeks-long protest by Insulate Britain, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, took place on Greater London’s roads.

A bemused nation looked on as police a) did nothing, b) asked protesters if they needed anything and c) focused on members of the public who tried to remove human obstructions.

This was the scene on September 15:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

The idiotic M25 Extinction Rebellion protestors are back this morning, once again bringing cars to a standstill, pumping out their fumes in an environmentally-friendly traffic jam. Pathetically, a solitary policeman is there and has been filmed asking them to kindly move on. In the most surprising news of the week, they didn’t listen to him…

The next day, another sit-in took place on the M25 near the South Mimms services in Hertfordshire, just north of London.

Motorists took the law into their own hands. The police reacted quickly — against them, not the protesters:

And, yes, blocking a road, even part of it, is against the law:

On October 13, motorists continued to do battle with protesters, because the police certainly weren’t. This took place in southeast London at the Dartford Crossing, going into Kent:

Guido wrote:

Insulate Britain has once again clashed with fed-up commuters this morning after blocking a road near the Dartford Crossing. The 40-something eco-activists prompting drivers to rip posters from the protestors and drag the insolent mob out the road. In other scenes, a lorry driver was filmed coming within inches of running a couple of them over.

On October 25, a man named Matthew, who was clearly old enough to know better, glued his head to an unspecified road. He expressed concern for his face:

Guido had more on the story:

The activist explained from his roadside position that he decided to glue his head to the road because the government is not treating the climate crisis as an “emergency”, despite Insulate Britain admitting it was when they announced a pause in their campaigning a fortnight ag. When asked whether he’d “snipped himself” by the Mirror, a grimacing-in-pain Matthew said “…you’ll find out if there’s blood coming out.” Someone clearly wasn’t thinking with their head when they made this decision…

Interestingly, on the Continent, the police have no problem stepping in and restoring order.

On January 24, 2022, Extinction Rebellion Deutschland found that German police weren’t nearly as kind and accommodating as their British counterparts:

Guido had the story:

German police demonstrated a no-nonsense approach to dealing with climate road-blockers this morning – the kind that’s sorely lacking here in the UK. Dozens of protestors from “Aufstand der letzten generation” – which translates to “Last Generation Uprising”, a branch of Extinction Rebellion Deutschland – blocked motorway exits in Berlin and demanded a new anti-food waste law, including the implementation of measures for a sustainable agricultural turnaround by 2030″. Police quickly hauled them all off the road to inevitable accusations of police violence (“Polizeigewalt”). If only Germany were as willing to stand up to Putin with the same verve they do with eco-loons…

And, on Monday, June 27, French police didn’t hesitate in ripping protesters’ hands from tarmac in Paris. Don’t worry. There’s no blood, just pain:

The long-haired chap wailed. The young policeman told him, ‘It’s nothing. Stop making a drama out of it’ (‘Il n’y a rien. Ce n’est pas de cinéma’).

Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to glue one’s face to the road in France.

Why can’t our police act with authority, the way they do with law-abiding citizens who want to get to work or drive their children to school?

The Extinction Rebellion protests stopped months ago in the UK, but our police need to get tougher with those who actively break the law by sitting in or gluing themselves to roads.

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.

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