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My series on Boris Johnson’s downfall continues.

Those who missed them can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Also of interest are:

Developing news: how long can Boris last as PM? (July 5-6)

Boris stays as PM for now but stands down as Conservative leader: ‘When the herd moves, it moves’ (July 6-7)

On July 8, Bloomberg had an interesting article: ‘Boris Johnson’s Downfall: The Inside Story of How His Government Collapsed’.

It states:

This account of how the Johnson administration unraveled is based on conversations with senior members of his inner circle, cabinet ministers, political advisers, civil servants and Tory MPs who were present at the key moments and spoke to Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity.

The journalists who wrote it say (emphases mine):

the man that Johnson’s inner circle blame for his downfall is Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, who triggered that final, frantic act that ultimately forced the prime minister to quit.

Boris, being a survivor, stayed true to character. He survived a Conservative MP vote of confidence held the Monday after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations the first weekend in June 2022. Then the Chris Pincher groping scandal broke, but he was not worried. In early July:

Johnson had spent last weekend largely ignoring the latest scandal raging around him.

There was another slew of allegations in the newspapers, this time related to what Johnson had known about the claims of sexual harassment against an MP who the prime minister had promoted to a senior party post. 

But Johnson had grown accustomed to riding out controversy, from his efforts in November to extricate an ally who breached lobbying rules, to the lockdown parties, the investigation into whether he misled Parliament and the resignation of his own ethics adviser.

His judgment, and that of his No. 10 team, was that revelations relating to his former chief whip Chris Pincher, damaging and unseemly though they were, did not pose an existential threat

That Sunday evening, July 3, Boris headed next door:

to Sunak’s flat in No. 11 Downing Street for one of their regular weekend dinners.

Johnson’s team had been wary of a potential leadership challenge from Sunak for months and suspected that he would already have moved against the prime minister if he hadn’t been fined over lockdown parties himself.

That night was businesslike, focused on plans for a new economic strategy and a joint speech. Sunak briefly mentioned his unease at the handling of the Pincher situation, but people close to both men said the meeting was good-natured and there was no hint of the coming storm.

Meanwhile:

Elsewhere in London though, Health Secretary Sajid Javid was discussing his own concerns about the Pincher case with his own advisers and starting to think he might decide to resign.

The week began normally:

No. 10 remained bullish throughout Monday despite the growing furor as Javid watched and waited.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting took place (Bloomberg has a photo of it). There were signs that things could unravel quickly:

… there were ashen faces around the Cabinet table on Tuesday morning as ministers gathered to discuss Sunak’s plans for tackling rampant inflation. Johnson uber-loyalist [and Culture Secretary] Nadine Dorries told the room that the “dogs of hell” would be unleashed if Johnson was removed.

One Cabinet minister who spoke to Bloomberg that day warned that Johnson might be in real trouble. He had had an unspoken contract with the Conservative Party since surviving a confidence vote among his own MPs in early June, the minister said: he could remain in place only if the scandals stopped.

That compact had lasted barely a month.

Later that day:

Around 5 p.m., at a meeting in the prime minister’s office in Parliament, Javid told Johnson he was resigning. Johnson felt the announcement an hour later could be weathered by appointing a strong replacement.

But nine minutes after Javid published his resignation, Sunak also quit. And this blow came without warning.

Suddenly, Johnson was facing a rout.

A person with knowledge of Javid’s plans said that his team had had no meaningful contact with Sunak’s advisers before the double resignation, but they suspect that the then-chancellor got wind of what was coming and accelerated his own plans. A person with knowledge of Sunak’s thinking said there had been no collusion.

Sunak had worked in the Treasury for Javid when the latter was Chancellor from 2019 to February 2020. They were good friends.

The resignations became a game of whack-a-mole:

As the prime minister rushed to replace two key ministers, a wave of more junior officials announced that they too were abandoning his government.

Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor and Steve Barclay succeeded Javid as Health Secretary:

Nadhim Zahawi and Steve Barclay were recruited late on Tuesday to solve the most immediate problem and Johnson’s advisers believed that both men were determined to take their jobs seriously. They understood that they had buy-in from Zahawi, the chancellor, for a new tax-cutting agenda to be announced imminently, though a person close to Zahawi says he made no such commitment.

All the same, as Johnson and his advisers surveyed the damage on Wednesday morning, they could tell that the situation was critical

That’s when [Levelling-Up Secretary Michael] Gove demanded his meeting. To Johnson’s aides, the timing seemed designed to inflict maximum pain.

Boris sacked Gove later on Wednesday, the only firing he made. He did it via a telephone call.

At that point:

the number of officials quitting his government climbed past 50.

That evening must have been a long one for Boris:

He returned to No. 10 after 6 p.m. for a series of meetings with his senior ministers.

Chief Whip Chris Heaton Harris advised Johnson that he no longer had the numbers to prevent Tory MPs from removing him, but that he would remain loyal. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevalyan and arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg also made clear they would stay supportive. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Johnson he would not resign, changing for a formal white-tie event and then leaving via a side entrance.

Other meetings were more difficult.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had an emotional and teary meeting with the premier where she told him he had to go. A spokesman for Patel wasn’t able to comment on the details of the conversation. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who kept a spreadsheet of Johnson supporters, agreed that the numbers were against them. Policing minister Kit Malthouse delivered a long monologue about how it was over. An exasperated Johnson told Malthouse that if he was going to resign, he should just do it

Malthouse had worked for Boris ever since the latter was Mayor of London.

Also:

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart was the only one who threatened to quit, handing Johnson a resignation letter and telling him that if he was not gone by the morning it would be published.

The most difficult meeting was with Zahawi who looked visibly awkward, according to one witness, as he told the prime minister that he too thought he should quit. The meeting left Johnson’s aides suspecting that Zahawi had simply been preparing for his own tilt at the top job.

Correct. Zahawi did not get far with his campaign.

The meetings lasted into the night:

Towards the end of the night, Johnson gathered his closest aides in his office to assess the damage.

No. 10 policy chief Andrew Griffith was the most determined to battle on, along with Nigel Adams, a minister and old friend of Johnson. Heaton Harris, the party enforcer, had accepted the situation but was staying in the bunker to the end.

Together they rehearsed arguments for and against resigning, as they briefed the media that he would not quit and appoint a new Cabinet. The reality was that no one was accepting jobs.

Political commentators, eager for Boris to go, compared him with Donald Trump:

Johnson told his team that he didn’t want to spark a constitutional crisis by clinging to office.

“I can’t do this,” he told them. “It’s all too ghastly. It’s not me.”

Eventually, he went to the Downing Street flat to see his wife and retire for the night:

As he went up the stairs to his Downing Street flat to see his wife, Carrie, the decision was becoming clear in his mind. Carrie did not advise him either way and insisted it had to be his own decision, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation.

On Thursday, July 7:

Johnson woke early on Thursday and drafted a resignation speech to read out to his staff at their 7.30 a.m. meeting.

He announced his resignation in front of No. 10 early that afternoon.

That evening, The Spectator team held their annual garden party, a major highlight of the political year. Something always happens and this one was no different:

Johnson’s communications chief Guto Harri got into a blazing and public row with Gove adviser Josh Grimstone, who accused Harri of briefing against his boss.

A Sunak aide spotted Harri and went over for a hug. According to people present, a smiling Sunak, standing next to her, asked Harri: “Don’t I get one?”

“You want a hug?” Harri said in disbelief, knowing that the former chancellor had made no contact with Johnson since his shock resignation. Harri had spent his week fighting to save the prime minister, Sunak was aiming to replace him, and in front of London’s political elite, the two men shared an awkward embrace.

Guido Fawkes has more (Guto Harri is on the right and the magazine’s Katy Balls is in the background):

His post says the argument went all the way back to Gove’s desertion of Boris in the 2016 leadership election, leaving Boris out of the race that year (emphases in the original):

… Leadership candidates Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi and Tom Tugendhat worked the crowd. Later in the evening as things were winding down the Spectator’s Katy Balls mischeviously introduced Josh Grimstone, the newly unemployed former Special Adviser to Michael Gove, to soon-to-be unemployed Guto Harri, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications. Josh definitely had something to communicate to Guto about Gove’s late night sacking the night before…

Josh firmly protested that his boss had been loyal to the PM, that he personally loved Boris and that both Gove and himself had been nothing but loyal. He accused Guto of sacking Gove out of spite and attempting, unfairly, to make it look like Gove had been sacked for disloyalty. Guto was sceptical about Josh’s protestations of innocence and insistence that his boss had been loyal. The toing and froing went on in front of a silently listening audience that included Guido, Tim Shipman and Steve Swinford. Neither of the protagonists backed down from their position. Grimstone said Guto’s behaviour was a “f***ing disgrace”.

Guto eventually retorted that it was Gove’s fault that in 2016, when he betrayed Boris, the country was as a result put into 3 years of dismal turmoil under Theresa May. Guto’s stance seemed to be that even if it was true that he had been loyal of late, Gove had it coming to him for the 2016 trauma that he inflicted on the party and country. Unresolved and unreconciled Grimstone broke off leaving hushed onlookers uncertain that the summary justice of last night was entirely justified by recent events. Guto seemed relaxed and satisfied that it was amends for the sin of the past. 

But that wasn’t the only verbal dust-up that evening.

On the BBC’s Question Time, Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell and The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, who once ran for MP as a Labour candidate, argued about who was worse in terms of being economical with the truth, Tony Blair for the illegal war in Iraq or Boris Johnson with a piece of cake during lockdown. Campbell is on the left in the photo:

Guido has the video:

A few days later on July 11, Stanley wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘My TV encounter showed everything that is wrong with the Left’:

I’m not a friend of Boris Johnson: my most recent contact was a Christmas card that I’m sure was signed by someone else. This didn’t stop Alastair Campbell from calling me part of the same “corrupt class” on Question Time, a grim experience I didn’t enjoy but my editor says I’ve got to address.

Around the five-minute mark, I was invited to give my take on Boris’s resignation – and Campbell butted in with the first of many attacks on my profession and character. Afterwards, a producer said: “How long have you known Alastair?” I replied: “I’ve never met him before.” Given how he spoke to me, many people assumed we had a feud going back decades.

No, he was just horrible, and the nastiness was camera ready. Campbell was nice as pie before the recording; he gave me a cheery goodbye after. My conclusion is that he’s an act. When he launched his on-air assault, I was shocked and considered walking off; I couldn’t take a whole hour of this. Instead, I pulled a one-liner out of the bag, noting that the Blair government took us into a war that cost thousands of lives, while Boris ate some cake.

The point was that Boris might have been chaotic, but it’s often the best organised regimes that make the biggest mistakes.

The line was hardly Oscar Wilde; the audience was furious that I appeared to make light of the Downing Street parties. I thought my career was over, and was wondering if Lidl might be hiring. But what I couldn’t see till I watched the show back was that Campbell shrugged away the reference to Iraq as if it were mundane. It was an ugly moment. By not bursting into tears, I think I came out better.

What irritates me about some people on the Left is that they talk about mental health and kindness yet they treat their opponents like dirt, not giving a damn how it might make them feel – and if a Conservative hits back, they act like we have crossed a line that doesn’t apply to them

And I wasn’t trying to defend Boris on Question Time, just explain his thinking. I have my own views, of course; but in that format I try to put both sides of a story, so the audience can make up its mind. I often find that Left-wing panellists can’t process this. They claim to be empathetic yet have zero interest in how other people think. It will be the Tory party that will produce the first non-white prime minister and how will the Left respond? They’ll call them a “racist”.

That night on Dan Wootton’s GB News show, opinions about Boris’s successor flew in thick and fast.

Former Conservative Home Secretary and later Brexit Party MEP Anne Widdecombe was adamant that the next Party leader be firmly committed to completing the Brexit process. We still have the Northern Ireland Protocol and French fishing difficulties to deal with:

Opinions swirled around the time it should take Boris to vacate Downing Street.

Someone in the know told the Daily Mail that Theresa May — a Remainer — should be caretaker PM. GB News reported:

While Mr Johnson is expected to stay on until Prime Minister, he could choose to relinquish his duties with immediate effect.

In which case an interim Tory leader would be appointed, who would in turn also become the caretaker Prime Minister.

And former Prime Minister Ms May, who held office between 2016 and 2019, could reportedly make a dramatic return to No.10.

A report in the Daily Mail said: “She knows the ropes and the security stuff, she’s a party woman through and through, she’s definitely not interested in standing for it herself and would be credible.

“She is uniquely placed.”

Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Another Remainer, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, apparently told the 1922 Committee, headed by Sir Graham Brady, to get rid of Boris pronto. Edwina Currie, a former MP who served with him in Parliament at the same time and who was Major’s mistress between 1984 and 1988, said that the former PM was being ‘a bit of a prat’:

The 2021 Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, agreed. He would have made a great mayor, by the way:

However, biographer Tom Bower explained that Boris and Carrie had no other home, therefore, he would stay at Downing Street until such time as the couple buy a house:

And what about Carrie?

A lot of conservatives blame her for Boris going off the boil with a libertarian-Conservative manifesto to focus on damagingly expensive Net Zero policies, never mind the gaudy refurbishment of the Downing Street flat, allegedly paid for by a Party donor.

The day Boris resigned, The Telegraph‘s Celia Walden wrote ‘The Carrie conundrum: What next for the Prime Minister’s wife?’

Over the past two years and 11 months our outgoing First Lady has certainly garnered criticism – some unfair, some fair. And already commentators are saying that Carrie “helped blow it for Boris”. But it is surely her husband’s sociopathic behaviour over the past few days, weeks and months – and what has been described not as Boris’s downfall but his “clownfall” – that will have been most brand-damaging. So how easy will it be for Carrie to rid herself of that toxicity, and what next for the Prime Minister’s wife? …

Before Carrie became involved with Boris, and his special brand of bedlam, the daughter of Matthew Symonds, co-founder of the The Independent, and lawyer Josephine McAfee was described as “controlled” and “confident”.

Politics may have seemed a world away from the creative fields she immersed herself in at the University of Warwick – where she studied theatre and art history – but after a stint working for Zac Goldsmith, who was MP for Richmond at the time, Carrie moved on to the Conservative party’s press office, where she quickly rose through the ranks, working on her future husband’s re-election campaign, when he ran for Mayor of London in 2012, before becoming the youngest director of communications for the party at just 29.

That a woman who forged a career in the business of public perception – and was credited with taking charge of the Prime Minister’s image (and weight) after they first got together in 2019 – could go on to make the series of missteps Carrie made at No 10 remains baffling today.

It may always have been strenuously denied that the PM’s wife played any part in the prioritising of dogs over humans for evacuation from Afghanistan, but it was without a doubt the First Lady who oversaw No 10’s controversial maximalist redesign. It was she who picked out the infamous gaudy wallpaper estimated to cost £840 a roll and, as I write, Twitter is alive with memes about the one “burning question” that remains: “Now that the Prime Minister has finally resigned what happens to Carrie’s gold wallpaper?”

Because of this, reports that the Johnsons planned to build a £150,000 treehouse for their son at Chequers (but were stopped when police raised security concerns) prompted some to interpret this as “yet more Carrie”. Which might have been unfair. But then there was Carrie’s involvement in partygate.

The Sue Gray inquiry was told that it was she who was keen to throw a party during the first lockdown and “offered to bring cake” – so these cannot be written off as “sexist”, “misogynistic” slurs along with the rest. And while other First Wives have been busy out in Ukraine, shaking Zelensky’s hand, Carrie has been notably low profile in recent months, presumably acting on advice from spin doctors.

according to Craig Oliver, former director of politics and communications for David Cameron: “Leaving No 10 could be the making of Carrie. She’s an intelligent woman, interested in a lot of issues. Being the PM’s wife has an inevitable chilling effect on what you can do and say. She’ll now be free to speak her mind.” 

Lord Ashcroft, whose biography, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson, was published in March, describes Carrie as “an impressive person – with a high-level career in politics and a record of campaigning on animal rights and the environment”. Another political writer, meanwhile, assures me that any toxicity will be shrugged off with characteristic ease both by Boris and his wife. “He will be a very successful ex-Prime Minister. His star quality is shoulders above any of the others and he will become very rich on the back of it. So very shortly, everything will settle down, and she will be glad to have left the fishbowl.”

… although Carrie is clearly a political animal, it seems likely that she’ll choose to concentrate next on animal rights campaigning, perhaps deepening her involvement with The Aspinall Foundation, for whom she has worked as head of communications since 2021 – which in itself is in a period of transition. Every PR knows that charity work is the best “brand rehab” there is, and her passion for the cause isn’t in doubt.

We can but see.

There was more to come with Mr and Mrs Johnson: their belated wedding celebration, which they weren’t able to have earlier because of the pandemic.

More to come tomorrow.

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Those who missed the first instalment of Boris Johnson’s downfall can read it here.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June cannot have been an easy one for the Prime Minister, who turned up with his wife Carrie at the public events.

Pressure was mounting for a vote of confidence by Conservative backbenchers.

On the morning of Sunday, June 5, the last day of the Jubilee weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that there would be no such vote, but even if one took place, Boris would win it (video):

By the time the Queen had celebrated her historic jubilee that weekend, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, had received the requisite number of letters from the Party’s backbench MPs to trigger such a vote.

The vote took place on Monday, June 6. Shapps was correct in saying that Boris would win it. Shapps went on to run for the Party leadership himself in July.

Unfortunately, after the confidence vote, more events occurred making Boris’s position as Party leader untenable.

Earlier, in May, the Conservatives had taken a drubbing in the local elections.

Then came the two by-elections on Thursday, June 23.

One was for Neil Parish’s seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. The farmer had stood down on April 30 after two fellow Conservative MPs saw him viewing tractor porn on his phone in the Palace of Westminster. Liberal Democrat Richard Foord won handily.

The second was further north, in Wakefield, where another disgraced Conservative-then-Independent MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, had to stand down for being convicted on April 11 of assault on a 15-year-old boy in 2008. On May 23, Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The West Yorkshire seat reverted to Labour, with the election of Simon Lightwood.

Then came the Chris Pincher groping scandal. Pincher was Deputy Chief Whip but resigned on Thursday, June 30, after a lubricious episode at the Carlton Club in St James. The Carlton is a private club for Conservatives. Pincher had allegedly groped two men at an event there.

Boris had to sign off on Pincher’s appointment as Deputy Chief Whip. However, even if Boris had objected, the Chief Whip could have appointed Pincher, anyway. As I explained on July 6, whoever the Chief Whip wants for a deputy, the Chief Whip gets.

However, the Party whip had not been withdrawn from Pincher, and MPs were incandescent.

On Friday, July 1, an article appeared in The Telegraph: ‘The “disturbing” call about Chris Pincher’s lurid behaviour that forced Boris Johnson to act’.

GB News interviewed Neil Parish, who was furious.

The Telegraph article says:

The low point of yet another chaotic 24 hours for Boris Johnson came when disgraced “tractor porn MP” Neil Parish popped up on the airwaves to give him a lecture on moral standards in government.  

As the Prime Minister and his aides were holed up in Number 10 deciding how to respond to the growing Chris Pincher scandal, the “very cross” former backbencher was giving them both barrels on television. 

“I can’t believe they haven’t done it,” he said incredulously, when asked why the whip had not been removed. Referring to his own punishment for watching pornography in the House of Commons, he added: “It’s double standards. Come on, let’s be fair.”

His righteous outrage encapsulated how untenable Downing Street’s insistence that Mr Pincher would be able to remain a Conservative MP, despite accusations he drunkenly groped two men, had become.

Someone must have been watching GB News that afternoon or the fury from MPs must have increased to the extent that the Chief Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, withdrew the Party whip:

Just over two hours later, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Chief Whip, put out a statement reversing that decision, following a day of growing anger amongst backbench Tories at the Prime Minister’s failure to act. 

However, there was a problem in that, the day before, Boris did not think things needed to go that far. He thought that Pincher’s resignation from the Deputy Chief Whip role sufficed (emphases mine):

Downing Street was bullish as the news broke at 8pm, with a Tory source insisting: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”

Even into Friday afternoon, Boris’s stance had not changed:

… at noon, No 10 still remained defiant – with the Prime Minister’s spokesman telling reporters he considered the matter closed, since Mr Pincher had resigned and that there was no investigation into his conduct.

Heaton-Harris and Boris received pushback for their inaction.

Finally, later on Friday Pincher became an Independent MP:

Early in the evening Downing Street was eventually forced to act and announced it had stripped Mr Pincher of the whip, given that a formal complaint had been made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

The question was how much did Boris know about Pincher — past and present — and when did he know it?

Regarding the Carlton Club:

The Prime Minister had also been “troubled” by a “disturbing” call from one of the MPs who witnessed the incident and relayed to him a detailed account of what had happened, according to a source close to him.

The article has the details of what happened with Pincher at the club.

One MP was so unnerved that he rang Heaton-Harris at 3 a.m.:

One Tory MP who was present at the scene told The Telegraph how they “threw out” a “very drunk” Mr Pincher after being told about one of the two sexual assaults and then called the chief whip at 3am to inform him.

Another waited until daylight to inform him:

A second MP who witnessed at least one of the groping incidents also informed Mr Heaton-Harris the following morning. “This is not something that should be brushed over,” the MP told The Telegraph.

That MP says Pincher’s reputation was known, and it is true that he did have to stand down from another post when Theresa May was Prime Minister:

“Given the nature of the behaviour and the seniority of the role he held, it was highly inappropriate behaviour. This is not the first time there have been conversations about this person either. Many of us were surprised when that appointment was made.”

It is the second time that Mr Pincher has been forced to resign from the whips’ office over allegations of sexual impropriety. In 2017, he quit a more junior position after being accused by a former Tory candidate of trying to chat him up.

Returning to Boris:

“Boris has set the level and now everyone else is trying to imitate him, it is a constant drip drip. It all adds up, doesn’t look good,” one former minister told The Telegraph.

“The worrying thing is this is beginning to shape up so much like sleaze in the 90s under Major, where it was a whole series of inappropriate and pretty seedy actions by ministers and Tory MPs that completely undermined him.”

Lord Hague, the former Conservative leader, said the Prime Minister had been too slow to act, with a “whole day of everybody speculating and talking”. He added: “These things need dealing with decisively.”

That day, The Telegraph had a related article, ‘Boris Johnson v John Major: How Tory sleaze scandals under the two leaders stack up’. The scores are pretty even. I remember reading it and thinking that things did not look good for Boris.

There were two other things that did not bode well for him that week: a proposed treehouse for his son and an upcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee over Partygate.

Let’s look at the treehouse first. Labour MPs were apoplectic that Boris wanted to have one built at Chequers for young Wilf.

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases his):

Eyebrows were raised in Downing Street over the weekend after the publication of a story in The Sunday Times that Boris had looked into having a £150,000 treehouse built for son Wilf at Chequers. The story – undisputed since publication – goes he had once again entered into discussions about Lord Brownlow forking out for the cost, however plans were eventually scuppered by police security concerns given the house would be visible from the road. Despite the design including bulletproof glass, which raised the cost significantly…

Guido was amused to learn that Downing Street’s eyebrows weren’t raised by the Sunday Times’s story, instead by Labour MPs’ attacking the plans on the grounds of Boris being out of touch. Vauxhall’s Florence Eshalomi, Rhondda’s Chris Bryant, Wallasey’s Angela Eagle, and Hull’s Karl Turner were all among those laying into the PM.

Guido points out Labour’s hypocrisy, because it was Tony Blair who had a tennis court complex installed at the Prime Minister’s weekend retreat (purple emphases mine):

No. 10 sources wryly note, however, that it wasn’t that long ago when it was a Labour PM splashing huge wads of cash to renovate Chequers – without a whimper of controversy. In 1999, one Tony Blair added a luxury tennis court complex to the PM’s Buckinghamshire residence, something since enjoyed by successive MPs including David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Sources in the know tell Guido that the courts weren’t built using public cash, nor did they come out of the Chequers Trust, implying the extortionate costs either came out of Blair’s personal pocket, or a private donor. Given Guido unfortunately can’t make it to Blair’s big centrist jamboree today, perhaps an on-hand hack might like to raise the question of who paid for the courts…

Labour: it’s okay when they do it.

The Privileges Committee are investigating Boris for Partygate, specifically on whether he deliberately lied to the House of Commons in saying he was unaware any coronavirus rules were breached. That was before he received his fine.

Labour’s Harriet Harman is leading the investigation. Labour’s Chris Bryant recused himself from that responsibility because he has made no secret of his dislike for Boris.

However, as Guido pointed out on June 17, Harman is hardly impartial:

It’s now emerged his replacement, Harman, has not been neutral on the question up until this point either. She has tweeted her views relating to allegations around the PM’s truthfulness, with one saying “If PM and CX admit guilt, accepting that police right that they breached regs, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons”. You wouldn’t favour your chances going to trial if the judge was on the record with such levels of preconceived bias…

Conservative MPs are also aware of her bias:

Yesterday in the Commons, Andrew Murrison asked Michael Ellis whether he agreed “that those placed in a position of judgment over others must not have a previously stated position on the matter in question”. The Cabinet Office minister replied:

It is, of course, an age-old principle of natural justice that no person should be a judge in their own court.

Where an individual has given a view on the guilt or innocence of any person, they ought not to then sit in judgment on that person. I know that point he is referring to, and I have no doubt that the right honourable lady will consider that.

It seems to be yet another own goal by Labour, mind-made-up Harman’s appointment totally undermines the impartiality of the privileges committee investigation…

The investigation formally began on June 29:

The problem with this investigation is that it has to prove intent on Boris’s part to mislead the House. How will Harman prove it?

If Boris is found guilty of deliberately misleading the House, it will have severe ramifications for parliamentary proceedings. Ministers might fear expanding on certain subjects in case they get a figure or another type of detail wrong.

We should find out the result in September.

What Labour are trying to do with this process is ensure that Boris loses his parliamentary seat for good, which is what will happen if he’s guilty. That way, he can never be an MP again.

Meanwhile, some Conservative MPs were disgruntled that Boris had won the confidence vote in June. Under the current 1922 Committee rules another one cannot be held until 12 months have elapsed. They wanted Sir Graham Brady to change the rules to allow another vote before then.

On Monday, July 4, Mail+ said that Boris was ‘still the best man to lead Britain’:

THE Prime Minister returns to his desk today after an impressive display of statesmanship on the world stage.

Following a Commonwealth conference in Rwanda aimed at building a common future, he returned to Europe to galvanise Nato and a wavering G7 into hardening their support for Ukraine.

Sadly, though, his achievements were overshadowed by yet another Tory sleaze row, leading to inevitable further attacks on his leadership. There are even reports that rebel backbenchers are plotting another attempt at regicide – just a month after the last one failed.

When will this self-mutilation end? Yes, the Chris Pincher affair is ghastly and should have been handled better. But there are far bigger issues at stake.

There’s a painful cost of living crunch, war in Europe and a migration crisis. Meanwhile, Tony Blair and his embittered Remainer chums are on a renewed mission to strangle Brexit.

Instead of dissipating energy on brainless infighting, the parliamentary Conservative Party needs to focus on the problems its constituents actually care about. They can only do that by getting behind their leader.

For all his recent troubles – some self-inflicted – this paper unequivocally believes Boris Johnson is the right man to lead the party and the country.

None of the potential replacements has his almost unique ability to connect with voters across the social and political spectrum. Crucially, he is the only one capable of winning the next election

That Mail+ editorial has its finger on the pulse of the nation. I will come back to what voters think in a future post.

On Tuesday, July 5, Chris Pincher was in the news again after Baron McDonald of Salford — Simon McDonald — the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020, wrote about the MP’s past and what he thought Boris knew to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

I wrote about this at length on July 6, concluding that there was bad blood between the life peer and Boris. Boris sacked him when the Foreign Office was merged with the Department for International Development. To soften the blow, Boris elevated him to the House of Lords. It should be noted that Baron McDonald is also a Remainer.

Wikipedia has a summary of Pincher’s parliamentary history of appointments under Theresa May and Boris Johnson:

Pincher served as an Assistant Whip and Comptroller of the Household in 2017, before he resigned after being implicated in the 2017 Westminster sexual misconduct allegations, having been accused of sexual misconduct by Tom Blenkinsop and Alex Story. Two months later, in January 2018, he was appointed by Theresa May as Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household. After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, Pincher was appointed Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. In the February 2020 reshuffle, he was appointed Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he returned to his former role of Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household.

As to what the peer alleges Boris knew about Pincher, here are two possibilities:

The matter was discussed on that morning’s Today show on BBC Radio Four.

Guido has the dialogue, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab responding for the Government. Raab said:

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

McDonald was on next. He said:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

Guido said:

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

The Paymaster General, Michael Ellis, addressed the matter in Parliament, intimating that Boris forgot a prior briefing on Pincher:

From that point, the spiral turned ever downward.

That day, Sajid Javid resigned as Health and Social Care Secretary.

Shortly afterwards, Rishi Sunak resigned as Chancellor.

That evening, an article by Lord Frost appeared in The Telegraph: ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

No one is more downhearted than me at the events of the last few days. Over the years, I have worked as closely as anyone with Boris Johnson. I know, therefore, that he is a remarkable man and a remarkable politician. Only he could have cut through the mess left by Theresa May and delivered on the verdict of the people in the Brexit referendum. He took the country with him through the pandemic and has shown huge leadership on policy towards Ukraine.

But this country now faces formidable challenges. Facing them requires not just the ability to talk about a vision but the determination and steeliness to establish a credible pathway to it. It requires a leader who knows where he wants to take the country and can set out how he intends to get there, in a way that is consistent with the traditional Conservative vision.

I had hoped Boris Johnson could be that person, but I have realised that despite his undoubted skills he simply can’t be. As I have often said, his Government has drifted far too much to the Left on economic matters, not only on tax and spend but by being too quick to regulate and too willing to get captured by fashionable trivia. It is tax-raising while claiming to be tax-cutting, regulatory while claiming to be deregulatory. It purports to be Conservative while too often going along with the fashionable nostrums of the London Left

I can’t honestly see what this Prime Minister’s economic philosophy is, beyond the content-free concept of “levelling up”, and accordingly I no longer believe we will ever see a consistent drive towards low taxation, low spending, attractiveness to investment, and deregulation on the scale needed. 

But even more than that I have become worried by the style of government. The whole partygate affair could have been dealt with more straightforwardly and honestly by setting out right from the start what had gone wrong in No 10, taking responsibility, and explaining why it would not happen again. By the time those things had been said, they seemed to have been dragged unwillingly from the Prime Minister rather than genuinely meant. Accordingly they lacked credibility …

The Pincher affair then showed in a real-life case study that [reform of Downing Street] was not going to happen. Confronted with a problem which appeared to reflect badly on the Prime Minister’s judgment, we saw once again the instinct was to cover up, to conceal, to avoid confronting the reality of the situation. Once again that instinct, not the issue itself, has become the story and the problem. Worse, this time round, ministers have been sent out repeatedly to defend suspect positions that came apart under closer examination. This is no way to run a government

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

On Wednesday, July 6, all hell broke loose.

The Times reported:

The prime minister’s authority over his party is crumbling as three more ministers plus two parliamentary aides resigned this morning and a string of previously loyal MPs turned on his leadership.

Rebel MPs believe that a routine meeting of the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers this afternoon could be the trigger point for changing the rules that at present mean Johnson cannot be ousted for another 11 months.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, has told the 16 members of the executive to arrive promptly for the meeting, an instruction being taken by some of those on the executive as a sign that he wants to discuss options for ousting Johnson …

At midday he will take prime minister’s questions knowing that about half — perhaps more — of the Conservative MPs on the benches behind him want him gone

Rebel Conservatives have been contacting Brady today to demand a rule change that would allow Johnson to be ousted as soon as possible. “It is being made very clear to Graham that this needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said one …

One former minister said that there was a very strong feeling amongst MPs that the issue needed to be brought to a conclusion. “Boris has made very clear that it will take a forklift truck to get him out of Downing Street. So it’s now up to us to assemble the forklift truck.”

The article goes on to list the resignations which came in by 11:30 a.m. that day. More followed in the afternoon.

To make matters worse, Boris got a grilling during his appearance at the Liaison Committee, comprised of the heads of the Commons select committees.

That evening during a telephone call, Boris sacked Michael Gove, who was the Levelling-up Secretary.

Gove had contacted Boris that morning to tell him he should resign before PMQs at noon.

Somehow, the news reached the media.

The Times has the story:

Gove’s allies claimed it was Downing Street that had briefed the media that Gove had told Johnson to resign. They said it was an attempt to make him look disloyal and distract attention from the wider revolt.

“It did not come from us,” one said. “They want to paint Michael as the villain trying to orchestrate a revolt against the PM. Nothing could be further from the truth.” They added that the sacking had then come out of the blue in a call from Downing Street. “He just told Michael that given their conversation in the morning he had no choice but to sack him,” the ally said.

I wonder. Gove is incredibly untrustworthy and, according to the article, he and Boris have had a difficult relationship since their days at Oxford.

Before Boris sacked Gove, a number of Cabinet ministers had urged him to stand down, including Priti Patel and Kit Malthouse, who had worked with Boris during his time as Mayor of London:

Patel’s intervention was striking because of her longstanding support of Johnson, having been home secretary throughout his time as prime minister.

In a one-to-one meeting in No 10 she is understood to have conveyed to him the overwhelming views of the parliamentary party. She said there was no way he could continue to govern without the support of his party.

A similar message was conveyed by Malthouse, her deputy, who was also one of Johnson’s deputies when he was mayor of London.

[Brandon] Lewis travelled back from Belfast to tell the prime minister that he believed he should resign. On his flight a passenger heckled him, telling him: “You are complicit in the betrayal of this country by Boris Johnson,” the BBC said.

[Grant] Shapps told the prime minister that he stood little chance of commanding a majority in a second confidence vote. [Kwasi] Kwarteng told Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, that Johnson should resign for the good of the country.

I will have more on the resignations tomorrow.

Candidates for the Conservative Party leadership race began putting their hats in the ring last weekend.

Many of those MPs are promising everything, and pundits are having a field day in the press:

While it is true to say that a lot of them are alike — yet not all — in policies, let us look at the diversity among the original 11 candidates:

Among those original 11, we had five women and six minority candidates.

No one can say today, as Theresa May did many years ago, that the Conservatives are the ‘nasty party’:

The Conservatives had no quotas. These MPs merely had to come forward and declare their interest in the leadership contest.

As I write in the early afternoon of Wednesday, July 13, we now have eight candidates.

Four are women and four are from racial minorities:

Brexit Leaver and former Labour MP Kate Hoey, now an unaffiliated Baroness in the House of Lords, told Mark Steyn of GB News how pleased she is that the Conservatives managed to accomplish what Labour only talk about:

How the winner is chosen

Late on Monday, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, announced the Conservative Party leadership rules. The loud voice heard in the background is none other than the daily disrupter, Steve Bray:

Darren McCaffrey of GB News has more:

The goal is to have a new Prime Minister in place by September 5, when Parliament returns from summer recess.

Conservative MPs will participate in a series of voting rounds between now and July 21, when Parliament goes into summer recess. The final two MPs on the list will then spend the next several weeks going around the country to campaign to Conservative Party members.

Party members will receive a ballot with the final two names and vote for their choice.

GB News has more on how the voting will proceed, beginning on Wednesday, July 13:

Sir Graham said the first ballot will be conducted on Wednesday with candidates required to obtain backing from a minimum of 20 MPs.

In the second ballot, on Thursday, MPs are required to obtain support from 30 MPs in order to progress to the next round, accelerating to the final two as soon as possible.

Disillusionment and a wish for Boris to return

Conservative voters, including those who are not Party members, are disillusioned about this contest.

Many wish that Boris Johnson’s name were on the ballot. This petition to ‘reinstate’ him ‘as Prime Minister’ has garnered 15,000 signatures in only a few days. However, Boris is still Prime Minister, just not the leader of the Conservative Party.

Neil Oliver, not a Boris supporter, by the way, tweeted that the leadership decision has already been made:

It is rumoured that Bill Gates arrived in England just before Boris resigned. If true, that would not come as a surprise:

Bob Moran, the former Telegraph cartoonist, hit the nail on the head as he expressed the sentiment of many of those who voted Conservative in 2019. We also need an outsider to win so that we have some fresh thinking in Downing Street:

A number of the candidates have ties with the World Economic Forum. One is known to be friends with Bill Gates. Ideally, we would have transparency in this area:

Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been in the lead since the contest began. He was one of the first two main Cabinet members to announce his resignation last week. Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid was the first.

It has come to light that the photo of the Downing Street drinks party held during lockdown in 2020 was taken from No. 11, where Rishi Sunak worked. Some people think that Boris’s then-adviser Dominic Cummings played a part in getting those photos released to the press. Did Rishi know?

Sajid Javid declared his candidacy, possibly taking a pop at Rishi Sunak’s slick candidacy operation.

On Monday, July 11, GB News reported:

Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid addressed media gathered at Westminster this afternoon, outlining his leadership bid.

Mr Javid said “I don’t have a ready made logo or slick video ready to go”, adding: “I have a passion and desire to get Britain on the right course.”

Acknowledging his resignation last week, Mr Javid said “Five days ago I stood up in Parliament and I spoke from the heart and I believe I spoke in the national interest.”

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson endured a series of scandals throughout his premiership, most recently Partygate and the allegations against Chris Pincher.

Addressing the ongoing investigations, the former Health Secretary said: “We need a leader who makes credible promises.”

He added that “our party has lost its way”.

Javid bowed out late on Tuesday. No one was disappointed:

Rishi, on the other hand, seems to have had his candidacy in mind for some time, since 2020. Interesting:

Note his professional campaign logo in the upper left hand corner of this tweet:

Guido Fawkes has a critique of the various logos, some of which have been rushed to market, as it were.

To make matters worse, rumours have circulated about infighting and dirty tricks among Conservative MPs. The public have taken note:

The Sun‘s political editor, Harry Cole, tweeted:

On that note, is it possible that Conservative Party members might not even get a vote should one of the final two winners concede to the other? That is what happened in 2016, when Theresa May became PM. Andrew Bridgen MP thinks this is a possibility:

Voting records

This graphic (credit here) shows how the candidates have voted in Parliament on various issues:

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Candidates who bowed out

Let us look at the candidates who have bowed out thus far.

Sajid Javid

Conservative voters thought that Sajid Javid was a safe pair of hands as Health Secretary until he started laying out his coronavirus wish list. Only last month, Desmond Swayne MP pointed out the online job advert for a national manager of coronavirus passports:

On July 10, Javid appeared on a Sunday news programme.

He promised tax cuts. No surprise there. It was also unconvincing, considering the tax burden we have been under the past several months, possibly higher than we would have had under Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn:

Javid also discussed his non-dom status, which is curious, as he was born in Rochdale:

On Tuesday, July 12, broadcasting from Northern Ireland, Mark Steyn said this about Javid’s bowing out of the race:

Rehman Chishti

Rehman Chishti had an even more lacklustre campaign.

He was still on the fence last Saturday, proving that dithering gets one nowhere quick:

He declared on Sunday. Unfortunately, the photo is not a good one:

He dropped out on Tuesday:

Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps declared his candidacy on Saturday, making much of his loyalty to Boris (Nadhim Zahawi is pictured below):

He appeared on Sky News on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, viewers and voters rooted round to find out more about Shapps’s parliamentary career.

Cabinet of Horrors has a fascinating profile of him, the first half of which follows (emphases mine):

Grant Shapps resigned as a minister in 2015 following revelations of his involvement with a bullying scandal that had led to a young Conservative Party activist taking their own life. Few would have imagined he could ever be reappointed to cabinet, still less to a more senior role. But in July 2019 Boris Johnson replaced the hapless and incompetent Chris Grayling as Transport Minister with someone even more discredited: Grant Shapps.

Then again, Shapps is no stranger to the art of reinvention. Indeed, he has proved remarkably inventive with his own identity.

In 2012, one of his constituents noticed that, while working as an MP, Shapps had also been peddling get-rich-quick-schemes online under the assumed names ‘Michael Green’ and ‘Sebastian Fox’. The schemes, marketed by Shapps’ company How To Corp under such titles as ‘Stinking Rich 3’, promised unwary punters that they could make large amounts of money very rapidly if they followed ‘Michael Green’s’ instructionsThese included the instruction to recruit more punters to sell get-rich-quick schemes to the public – a classic feature of pyramid-selling schemes.

Shapps at first attempted to deny this, saying: ‘Let me get this absolutely clear… I don’t have a second job and have never had a second job while being an MP. End of story.’ He also threatened to sue the constituent who had uncovered what he had been up to. Days later, he was forced to admit the truth, though he did this in a characteristically slippery manner, saying that he had ‘over-firmly denied’ the story.

One might think that being exposed as a liar, a huckster and a bully would have led to an immediate end to Shapps’ career in politics. Instead, he was demoted from cabinet but handed a more junior ministerial portfolio and allowed to continue as co-chair of the Conservative Party.

On Sky News’s Sunday news programme, Shapps presented his credentials.

He was squeaky clean. Hmm:

He took credit for Boris’s resignation as party leader. Really?

He promised a tax cut:

He said he was relaxed about identity issues:

And he was sure he had the numbers:

Then, suddenly, he didn’t.

Oh, well. Too bad.

Conservative Party voters name their candidates

Since the weekend, various polls have been conducted of rank and file Party members.

The results go against the MPs’ wishes.

This is where MPs are as voting opens on Wednesday afternoon. I’ll post results tomorrow:

A Conservative Home poll (image credit here) shows that Party members want either Penny Mordaunt or Kemi Badenoch to win. Rishi Sunak is a distant third on 12.1% support:

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The next poll shows the wishes of Conservative members in Mrs Thatcher’s birthplace of Grantham, part of the Grantham and Stamford constuency. They are not fans of Rishi Sunak, either:

However, Rishi does top another poll of Conservative and other voters. Note the Don’t Know (read Boris?) percentage:

Some dispute the results. However, as someone points out, this could have to do with name recognition from news programmes and the papers:

I’ll have more on today’s vote tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 proved to be a memorable day for Boris Johnson for all the wrong reasons.

Last weekend, details emerged of Conservative MP Chris Pincher’s inebriated groping of another man at the Carlton Club in London’s St James. The Carlton Club is the private members club for Conservatives. Chris Pincher had been a Government minister and Deputy Chief Whip.

Lest anyone think the furore about Chris Pincher and blaming Boris for it is about cleaning up government, the end goal remains: get rid of Boris because Boris represents Brexit.

Chris Pincher

Chris Pincher has been a Conservative MP since 2010, the year David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Theresa May gave him his first ministerial role, that of Comptroller of the Household, in 2017. A few months later, she appointed him Treasurer of the Household, the next move up from Comptroller of the Household. In 2018, he then became Deputy Chief Whip, which is a role given by the Chief Whip, not the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson gave Pincher other ministerial roles. I watched him at the despatch box regularly as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas and Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he once again became Treasurer of the Household, a Boris appointment, and Deputy Chief Whip, a Chief Whip appointment.

Then the Carlton Club scandal broke, with Pincher freely admitting in writing what he had done. He has had the Conservative Party whip removed, although he remains an MP for now.

The question from Boris’s enemies is how much blame should the Prime Minister carry.

It looks to me as if it all started with Theresa May, especially as he resigned his 2017 appointment as Comptroller of the Household when sexual misconduct allegations involving MPs swirled into a scandal that year. Pincher was accused of misconduct at the time by then-MP Tom Blenkinsop and Olympic rower Alex Story.

Shortly afterwards, in January 2018, Pincher became Deputy Chief Whip, so the Whip’s office is partly responsible, too.

On July 5, the veteran journalist and columnist Charles Moore explained in The Telegraph how the Whips Office selection process works (purple emphases mine):

The coverage of the row about Chris Pincher, the allegedly groping and confessedly drunk former deputy chief whip, suffers from a false premise. It is said that Boris Johnson appointed him. This is true only in a formal sense. I feel that lobby [press corps] journalists should have made this clear.

This custom is not just a reflection of the fact that any prime minister pays less attention to junior appointments than to Cabinet-level ones. It is also – and mainly – because the whips are a law unto themselves. The idea is that they will know best how to achieve the necessary geographical and ideological spread to look after all sections of the party. The Chief Whip is therefore free – “100 per cent” in the words of one former chief to me – to appoint whoever he thinks fit. This seems sensible: how on earth would a prime minister know that level of detail about who’s who in the parliamentary party? Backbenchers would be suspicious of a whips’ office filled with a prime minister’s favourites.

Each prime minister sees the government chief whip’s list before it is announced and is free to comment on it, but the chief decides. So Boris Johnson would have been breaking the unwritten rules if he had either forbidden or insisted on Mr Pincher’s appointment. If it can be shown that he did the latter, he is in a bit of trouble on the issue. If not, then not.

Lord McDonald

Until July 5, I had never heard of the life peer Baron McDonald of Salford, or Simon to his friends.

Lord McDonald was the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020.

On July 5, he wrote to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

Guido Fawkes posted a copy of the letter, which takes issue with a BBC report of complaints made against Pincher and says that, indeed, allegations had been raised against the MP in 2019.

Two brief excerpts of his letter follow.

In the summer of 2019, after Pincher received his first ministerial appointment (at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) under Boris Johnson:

… a group of officials complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour. I discussed the matter with the relevant official at the Cabinet Office … An investigation upheld the complaint; Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour. There was no repetition at the FCO before he left seven months later.

The BBC had changed the text of their present-day article about whether Boris knew or not.

Lord McDonald’s letter says:

Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a “formal complaint”. Allegations were “resolved” only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as “unsubstantiated” is therefore wrong.

I am aware that it is unusual to write to you and simultaneously publicise the letter. I am conscious of the duty owed to the target of an investigation but I act out of my duty towards the victims. Mr Pincher deceived me and others in 2019 …

He tweeted the text of his letter:

Hmm.

Could there be any bad blood between McDonald and Boris?

Downing Street claims that Boris forgot about the investigation into Pincher.

A commenter on Guido’s post about this claim makes pertinent points:

I find it strange that the criticism is of the appointment of Pincher as Deputy Chief Whip in February. He wasn’t promoted from the backbenches, he was already a minister in the Dept of Levelling Up. If he was unsuitable for ministerial office in Feb, he must have been unsuitable in Jan, so why the focus on the Feb appointment?

Lord MacDonald is another nasty CS mandarin in the Philip Ruttnam mould. His letter is very carefully phrased but disingenuous. If he was unhappy for Pincher to continue as a minister in the FCO for seven months after the 2019 complaint, what did he do about it? If he was content with the arrangement, then clearly the matter was indeed resolved.

Pincher was first appointed to the Whips’ Office by Theresa May. Is anyone in the MSM questioning her judgement?

Gordon Rayner’s Telegraph article, ‘Lord McDonald: The former civil servant who “never saw eye to eye” with Boris Johnson’ has an account of what happened between the peer and Boris, the then-Foreign Secretary during Theresa May’s premiership:

A former civil servant publicly accusing a Prime Minister of lying is a rare event, but Baron McDonald of Salford is unlikely to have had any pangs of guilt about calling out the man who effectively ended his career.

During his time as Boris Johnson’s Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Lord McDonald – or Sir Simon, as he was thenwas suspected by Mr Johnson of running a spying operation and orchestrating damaging leaks about the then foreign secretary.

Mr Johnson believed that media stories accusing him of being lazy and failing to attend properly to his red boxes of ministerial papers were being briefed by Lord McDonald’s department. When the Foreign Office merged with the Department for International Development, Mr Johnson, by then Prime Minister, saw to it that Lord McDonald was squeezed out.

So when he had the chance to expose Mr Johnson’s Downing Street operation for what he says is a lie over the Chris Pincher affair – an undeniably important intervention – he is unlikely to have spent much time wrestling with his conscience.

Does Brexit enter into this? You bet it does:

“They never saw eye to eye,” said one former minister. “Simon never made a secret of the fact that he was a strong Remainer and he has always had big issues with Brexit.”

Another insider said:

“So it does feel a little bit as though Simon has been waiting three years to get his revenge, and has finally had his chance, notwithstanding the fact that what he says may well be true.”

Lord McDonald took early retirement in September 2020. Since then, he has spoken freely:

In March last year Lord McDonald, 61, was interviewed by the think tank UK In a Changing Europe, when he said he was one of three senior civil servants on a Downing Street “s— list” who were “all for the high jump”.

He said that he was “one of those that were soaked” by former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings’ threat of a “hard rain” falling on Whitehall

Mr Johnson softened the blow by giving Lord McDonald a peerage, not an automatic appointment for retiring civil servants. But it has not prevented him from criticising the Prime Minister since then.

So now we know.

It is unlikely that Gordon Rayner’s article will be getting any traction in the media. Will GB News pick it up? I hope so.

McDonald’s letter sends Conservative MPs flying in all directions

Note that McDonald tweeted his letter at 7:30 a.m., just the right time to dictate the news narrative for the day.

And so it proved.

For those in the political bubble, BBC Radio 4’s Today show is required listening.

Guido has a summary of what happened. Deputy PM and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab gave an interview, followed by Lord McDonald (emphases in the original):

… Following ex-Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Sir Simon McDonald’s bombshell letter this morning, Dominic Raab had the task once again of spinning the latest unsustainable No.10 line to the press. Through plenty of coughing and spluttering, Raab insisted on the Today Programme that 

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

Just minutes later, McDonald appeared on Today himself to once again take a sledgehammer to No.10’s line that Boris wasn’t briefed on Pincher’s behaviour in person in 2019, and Raab’s claims that since no “further disciplinary action” was taken, the matter was resolved:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

In Downing Street that morning, a Cabinet meeting took place. Why cameras were allowed, I have no idea. What a silly thing to do, especially when all hell was breaking loose:

At lunchtime in the House of Commons, Michael Ellis, Minister for the Cabinet Office, had to answer an Urgent Question (UQ) from Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner about what Boris knew of Pincher:

This is the most succinct quote from Ellis:

As I have articulated, there was an exercise in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the matter, which I believe went on for several weeks. I need to confirm the details, because I had insufficient time to do so this morning, but as I say, there was an exercise, and it concluded to the satisfaction of all involved. That was within the Department and, it appears to me, before the Prime Minister was made aware.

One of Guido’s readers sums the matter up as follows:

1. Pincher’s conduct in 2019 was investigated and did not result in disciplinary action in 2019.

2. Independent advice was sought from Simon McDonald and the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team, which also did not result in any form of disciplinary action.

3. The victim in 2019 DID NOT WANT aany disciplinary action against Pincher.

4. Pincher’s appointment to government had followed all set procedures, including oversight by an independent QC. Until this point, as Pincher had kept a clean disciplinary record up, there was no reason to block his appointment to government.

Boris would have no grounds to refuse Pincher’s appointment as there were no official disciplinary action against him up to that point, which is in line with the rules set out in Westminster.

All this drama over whether Boris knew of Pincher’s indescretions would not have changed anything in terms of his appointment to government as he had satisfied all the requirements in terms of pedigree (appointed by two PMs and vetting).

The Opposition benches were full for Ellis and the UQ.

Watching at home, I nearly applauded when Peter Bone got his chance to speak:

Recently, at a Brexit opportunities debate here, there were no Liberal Democrats and virtually no Labour Members. The only time they turn up here is to bash Boris. Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that our constituents in Northamptonshire, which we both represent, are more concerned about an MP they have never heard about, or the biggest tax reduction in decades, which will happen tomorrow?

Ellis replied:

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head, as usual. As he points out, Labour Members have made frequent requests for business in this House to be about not what our constituents primarily care about, but personalities. They do not raise the issue of policies, because when they do, they lose. Instead, they focus on personalities, and that has been the drive of the past six months.

Guido covered MPs’ reaction to the events of the day:

Number 10’s spin operation today after the McDonald letter has, unsurprisingly, gone down like a cup of cold sick with the Tory benches, including amongst Boris loyalists. Guido’s spoken to several MPs following the lobby briefing and Michael Ellis’s Urgent Question response, and they all agreed it was a “disaster“. One said it was “the last days of Rome”…

There were also raised eyebrows – and that’s putting it mildly – over No.10’s decision to allow cameras in to the Cabinet meeting this morning …

Where, one might ask, is the counter-attack? What is Downing Street doing to get on the front foot? What is CCHQ doing? MPs who are hardcore supporters of the Prime Minister are fed up. Trying to push the “biggest tax cut” talking point today won’t work to set the agenda when you put up the same taxes only a few months ago. If the government wants to shift the media’s focus on to the economy, what will they do that Starmer won’t? Tory MPs want a sense of purpose and direction, rather than constantly ricocheting at the hands of the media from one minor negative process story to another, that the general public doesn’t really care about… 

Chancellor and Health Secretary resign

Worse was to come later that afternoon.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tendered his resignation, followed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak minutes later.

Some pundits say there was no connection between the resignations.

Others say that the two men are friends and agreed on a plan.

GB News covered the resignations and analysis all evening long. It was a good move. The shows were excellent.

In other news, Theresa May was at the opera with her husband Philip and friends:

Returning to GB News, the resignations happened just before Nigel Farage’s show at 7 p.m. Not surprisingly, Farage thinks that Boris should resign, something he has said many times before and will continue to say for weeks, if not months:

Farage used Guido’s video of that day’s Cabinet meeting:

Discussion continued on Mark Steyn’s show at 8 p.m. By the end of the show one hour later, Boris had appointed Steve Barclay as the new Health Secretary:

Dan Wootton came on at 9 p.m.:

By the time his show was halfway through, Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. The conversation between him and Boris in No. 10 was a long one. Apparently, Zahawi was eager to relinquish his role as Education Secretary and really wanted the No. 11 job. Michelle Donelan is the new Education Secretary, having been Minister of State for Higher and Further Education from 2020 to 2022.

Boris deflected a crisis within three hours.

Guido has an ongoing list of other Cabinet resignations, which are, as I write, for minor posts. Red Wall MP Jonathan Gullis, once a staunch Boris supporter, was among that number. It should be noted that the main Cabinet appointees are still in place.

Unfortunately, during that time, Lord Frost, usually a voice for sanity, fell for the McDonald bait. He wrote an article for The Telegraph, ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

I resigned from the Government on a matter of principle. On Tuesday, Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak did the same. Other Cabinet Ministers now need to consider whether they are truly happy with the current direction of travel.

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

PMQs on July 6 could have been worse. It was more of the same from the Opposition. On the Conservative benches, which were packed, only Tim Loughton, Gary Sambrook and David Davis (once again) rebelled, all saying that Boris should resign.

After PMQs, Sajid Javid was granted a statement about his resignation. Boris remained seated behind the despatch box. Javid put a big emphasis on ‘integrity’. He said that, for him, ‘loyalty and integrity’ were at loggerheads over the past few months, hence his resignation. He could no longer defend the indefensible, from Partygate to Pincher, especially to his constituents. He told his former Cabinet colleagues that not doing ‘something’ — i.e. resigning — would look bad. Boris left immediately afterwards to jeers of ‘Byeee, Boooris’ from the Opposition benches.

Lee Anderson withdraws support

In an unexpected development, Red Wall MP Lee Anderson has withdrawn his support for Boris:

Guido has the full text of Anderson’s letter, excerpted below:

With A Heavy Heart.

I have remained loyal to the Prime Minister since being elected in 2019.

However my position has changed over the past few days since the incident which led to the Deputy Chief Whip losing the party whip

I do not hold a position I can resign from so the only thing I can do is make my feelings known to my constituents and party members. This statement may upset some people and I am sure some people will be delighted with the demise of our PM but I have a job to do and I must do it with a clear conscience.

My focus has always been my constituents many of whom are friends, family and neighbours and my loyalty to them is paramount.

Finally, I will do all I can to make sure our party wins the next election to form a Government of low taxation and who will be tough on illegal immigration as I feel we could have done better, that said the thought of a Labour Government terrifies me so please keep the faith.

I hope that explains my position.

Perhaps he will throw his hat into the ring when the leadership contest begins in due course.

Meanwhile, Conservative voters are fuming

At home, Conservative voters are perplexed by the actions of what is supposed to be an orderly, no-nonsense Government. Most do not know who Chris Pincher is. They are interested in what Boris and his team are doing to improve our lives which, at the moment, isn’t much.

This is what we have at present, ably stated by a Guido Fawkes reader:

80 seat majority

1: Thousands of illegals being transported across the channel and housed in 4* hotels.

2: Petrol prices through the roof and unexploited known reserves in the North Sea

3: Hundreds of years of coal under our feet, coal fired power stations demolished

4: Fracking abandoned yet we could easily extract sufficient gas for our needs

5: Brexit Done! You’re having a laugh

6: Net zero! The future is frightening

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera

Guido, thanks for the Muppet Show extract.

I couldn’t agree more.

The story continues. More to follow next week, no doubt.

On Monday, February 28, 2022, The Telegraph released the findings of their Freedom of Information request concerning modelling that SAGE and other scientists in the UK used to promote the case for 2020’s initial lockdown.

The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

Scientists did not have accurate Covid case numbers, and were unsure of hospitalisation and death rates when they published models suggesting that more than 500,000 people could die if Britain took no action in the first wave of the pandemic, it has emerged.

On March 16 2020, Imperial College published its “Report 9” paper suggesting that failing to take action could overwhelm the NHS within weeks and result in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Before the paper, the UK coronavirus strategy was to flatten the peak rather than suppress the wave, but after the modelling was made public, the Government made a rapid u-turn, which eventually led to lockdown on March 23.

However SPI-M (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) minutes released to the Telegraph under a Freedom of Information request show that by March 16, modellers were still “uncertain” of case numbers “due to data limitations”.

The minutes show that members were waiting for comprehensive mortality data from Public Health England (PHE) and said that current best estimates for the infection fatality rate, hospitalisation rates, and the number of people needing intensive care were still uncertain.

They also believed that modelling only showed “proof of concept” that lockdowns could help, and warned that “further work would be required”.

The team was also encouraged to look for collaborators and resources outside of the infectious diseases network.

Well, that never happened. They stayed within their closely knit group and never ventured outside of it for data sources from other scientists and clinicians.

For the millions of us around the world who had been looking at the data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Asia and thinking that coronavirus was no big deal, it was a shock to find that those data had not been considered in the Government’s strategy.

Those waiting for a certain hapless modeller’s name to appear need wait no longer:

Imperial College held a press briefing about its model on the afternoon of March 16, and on the same day, Boris Johnson ordered the public to avoid pubs, restaurants and non-essential contact and work from home if possible.

At the briefing, Prof Ferguson told journalists that the new conclusions had been reached because “the last few days” had provided “refinements” in the estimates of intensive care demand and hospital surge capacity.

But the minutes now show that SPI-M did not believe the data were complete

Minutes from the following day, March 17, also show that the Department of Health wanted to know whether Prof Neil Ferguson had referenced other papers in the Imperial model.

And both Imperial and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) were asked to renew modelling ahead of a Sage meeting on March 18 which would “include reviewing the commonality of assumptions” and look specifically at a London lockdown, where cases were rising more quickly.

All of Neil Ferguson’s predictions, going back to the Millennium, have been wildly wrong. How the Government could not have questioned these figures is beyond me. To make matters worse, the modelling went around the world, including to the US and to Sweden.

Good grief. What a global shambles.

Furthermore, Ferguson couldn’t even keep to the rules himself, having visited his mistress who lived on the other side of London to him and his wife.

These modelling inaccuracies went on through 2021. The article has more, but, in short, the minutes recorded that blame for incomplete data belonged to NHS Test and Trace on one occasion, to NHS England on another and Public Health England (PHE) on a third.

Last year, the Government planned to lift the post-Christmas lockdown on June 21 but waited another month. Modellers:

did not use the most up-to-date figures, which was criticised by MPs at the Science and Technology Select Committee.

That means that June 21’s Freedom Day could have gone ahead! Instead, we had to wait until July.

Two scientists who have never been invited to share their views on coronavirus with SAGE or the modellers told The Telegraph what they thought. Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson are colleagues at the University of Oxford:

Prof Carl Heneghan, the director of the centre for evidence based medicine (CEBM) at the University of Oxford, said: “This has always concerned me about the modelling. Throughout the two years there has been systematic error, consistent over-estimation and a tendency to go directly to the media with conclusions, without validation or peer review.

“It’s clear from the SPI-M minutes there were issues with the data, it wasn’t robust. And it shows that they should have been looking for additional outside expertise.

“What concerns me is if we don’t fix these problems we will end up being bounced back into restrictions or end up spending money in ways that detracts from the healthcare problems at hand.”

Dr Tom Jefferson of the CEBM at Oxford branded the early pandemic modelling “irresponsible”.

“They should have said ‘I’m sorry, we do not have the data,” he said. “Any forecast based on limited data is just a guess, it’s unethical and reckless, and we can now see the consequences of this behaviour with people dying because of the destruction of our services.”

One of the people just as upset, if not more so, with Neil Ferguson and the other modellers is the MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely.

He has been sounding off on this in Parliament for a few months now. My guess is that he wants modelling to be included in the UK’s coronavirus inquiry.

He told The Telegraph:

The arguments for and against lockdown are complex, but what is becoming clear is that the evidence that the Government saw was incomplete and potentially inaccurate.

This is a national scandal. No question about it. The data that petrified politicians was inaccurate.

The Daily Mail also covered this story. The blue sidebar discusses Ferguson’s modelling:

The scientific paper published by Professor Ferguson and his colleagues on the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team was credited for persuading Boris Johnson’s Government to ramp up their response to the coronavirus.

The paper, released on March 17, and titled Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand, predicted that the Government’s original plan to ‘mitigate’ the outbreak instead of trying to stop it could have led to a quarter of a million people dying.

Using data from Italy and China, the scientists predicted how different Government measures would have different impacts on the outbreaks. 

If no action at all had been taken against the coronavirus it would have claimed 510,000 lives, the team’s report saidHad the Government stuck with their strategy of trying to ‘mitigate’ the spread – allowing it to continue but attempting to slow it down – with limited measures such as home isolation for those with symptoms this number would be roughly halved to 260,000

If the strictest possible measures are introduced, the number of deaths over a two-year period will fall below 20,000, the scientists said.

Even reading those numbers in a newspaper report is dumbfounding. They do not make sense.

Returning to Bob Seely, he first started mentioning Ferguson’s modelling on December 14, 2021, when MPs were asked to vote on a few new coronavirus measures, including a Christmas lockdown in England because of Omicron, already known to be mild. Fortunately, 101 Conservative rebels voted against the lockdown. As news was emerging about Boris’s Christmas party during the previous year’s seasonal lockdown and the fact that the Conservatives were tanking in the polls, another year of Yuletide misery would not have gone down well with the public.

This is what Bob Seely said on December 14, 2021, when Health Secretary Savid Javid was at the despatch box during the debate:

I strongly support getting vaccinated. I had my booster jab two weeks ago. I thank all Islanders who are engaged in the vaccination process in my constituency. I congratulate the Government on an ambitious booster programme. When it comes to the vote tonight, I will accept and trust what they say on face masks and on the daily tests, which seem infinitely more sensible than locking people down in hotels. I will not support them on passports or mandatory jabs. Threatening the jobs of 73,000 NHS staff seems an odd way to support the NHS.

I want to raise a wider issue with those on the Front Bench, which has somewhat coloured my judgment. I have heard nothing to reassure me on the following points. I am fed up with dubious forecasts and ridiculous extrapolations the kind of which many hon. Members have talked about. Academics—I am not quoting myself—have talked about Imperial College London’s forecast being “hysterical”, “inflated”, “consistently over-confident”, “lurid”, “flawed” and “spectacularly wrong”. What do the Government have to say about the incredibly questionable extrapolations that they have used?

I am tired of all the leaks. It was leaked that omicron could kill 75,000. It could, but it may not. All these doomsday forecasts, leaked at critical moments, erode public trust.

Thirdly, we are told we have to follow the science. Of course we have to follow the science, but it is a misleading statement as science is shaped by the inputs and by the desired outcome. For example, we had 70 pages of evidence from Scotland on vaccine passports, but there was no evidence to support their value for uptake, so why are we introducing them? We are doing so because of the precautionary principle. That is not science.

One of the most disturbing things is the lack of context for the statistics that have been used. Was that to increase knowledge or to increase fear? My right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) said that between 500 and 1,000 people die each day in this country, and people die of flu all the time. It is about putting this information in context, and I fear that the result of too much of this has been to scare people, especially the old and now the young. They are petrified of covid without taking account of more genuine and potentially more damaging threats such as the appalling impact on education.

I will vote against the Government on two of the motions tonight, but my decision to do so has been coloured by the past 18 months of policy, which we need to improve.

On January 5, 2022, Boris Johnson gave Parliament an update on the Omicron variant’s effect on health in England.

Seely said:

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his balanced approach, unlike that of others in this House. There is increasing concern among epidemiologists, modellers, oncologists and scientists about the use of modelling and forecasts. Among the comments are that the forecasts we may have been using over the past two years are “almost hysterical,” “lurid,” “spectacularly wrong,” “consistently overconfident” and “substantially inflated.” Those comments are from scientists, not journalists or politicians. Does the Prime Minister trust the modelling he is getting, and will the Government consider an inquiry into the use of modelling and forecasts, many of which have been found to be unrelated to reality?

Boris did not like that one bit. I saw the debate.

He replied:

It is important for everybody to understand the limitations of models; they are not forecasts, but mathematical projections based on the data the modellers currently have, particularly when it came to Omicron, about the severity of the disease. That is why, when we feed assumptions about severity that are excessive into the models, we get results that are excessive; that is what my hon. Friend is driving at. Some of the models or calculations are much closer to what is happening now, and models are useful and cannot be dispensed with as we need to have projections, and we in this House should not in any way try to undermine or attack the independent scientists, whose independence is absolutely vital for our ability to handle this disease.

Oh, please!

On January 18, Seely led a motion at a Select Committee chaired by Sir Edward Leigh MP:

I beg to move,

That this House has considered forecasting and modelling during covid-19.

This was a rather heated debate, not so much by Conservatives but by the left-wing MPs responding to Seely’s lead contribution.

Excerpts follow:

Thanks to some questionable modelling that was poorly presented and often misrepresented, never before has so much harm been done to so many by so few based on so little questionable and potentially flawed data.

I believe that the use of modelling is pretty much getting to be a national scandal. That is not just the fault of the modellers; it is how their work was interpreted by public health officials and the media—and yes, by politicians, including the Government, sadly. Modelling and forecasts were the ammunition that drove lockdown and created a climate of manipulated fear. I believe that that creation of fear was pretty despicable and unforgivable. I do not doubt that modelling is important or that there has been some good modelling, but too often it has been drowned out by hysterical forecasts. I am not, as Professor Ferguson implied, one of those with an “axe to grind”. I do, however, care about truth and believe that if someone influences policy, as the modellers and Imperial College London have done, they should be questioned. Frankly, they have not been questioned enough.

Above all, I want to understand why Government, parts of the media and the public health establishment became addicted to these doomsday scenarios, and then normalised them in our country with such depressing and upsetting consequences for many. I do not pretend to be an expert; I am not. I defended my own PhD at the end of last year, but it is not in epidemiology and I do not pretend to be particularly knowledgeable about that. But depending on time—I know others want to come in as well—I will quote from 13 academic papers and 22 articles authored by a total of approximately 100 academics.

Seely went into Neil Ferguson’s history of poor modelling over the past 20+ years, which had disastrous results for British farmers in earlier epidemics, then the greater populace during coronavirus:

This is a story of three scandals, and the first one took place 21 years ago. In 2001, we faced the foot and mouth emergency. We reacted drastically by slaughtering and burning millions of animals, and farmer suicides and bankruptcies followed. That policy was allegedly heavily influenced by Imperial College modelling and Professor Ferguson. Since foot and mouth, two peer-reviewed studies examined the method behind that particular madness. I quote from them now to show there are practical and ethical questions over modelling going back two decades.

In a 2006 paper, and I apologise for these wordy, long titles, titled “Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in the United Kingdom”—they are not that catchy—the authors confirmed that Ferguson’s model

“probably had the most influence on early policy decisions”

and

“specifically, the introduction of the pre-emptive contiguous culling policy”.

That is the mass slaughter of animals near infected farms. The authors said that the consequences were “severe” and

“the models were not fit for the purpose of predicting the course of the epidemic”

—not a good start. They remain “unvalidated”. Their use was “imprudent” and amounted to

“the abuse of predictive models”.

Devastatingly, the authors wrote

“The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism.”

It is difficult to find a more damning criticism of one group of scientists by another.

A 2011 paper, “Destructive tension: mathematics versus experience—the progress and control of the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in Great Britain”—bit of a mouthful—by four academics said the models that supported the culling policy were “severely flawed” and based on flawed data with “highly improbable biological assumptions”. The models were

“at best, crude estimations that could not differentiate risk”.

That is not a very good “at best”. At worst, they were “inaccurate representations”.

Sadly, the paper said, impatience for results

“provided the opportunity for self-styled ‘experts’, including some veterinarians, biologists and mathematicians, to publicise unproven novel options.”

Some of the scientific work—some of it modelling, some of it not, with some modelling by Ferguson and some not—was cited as “unvalidated” and “severely flawed”, with inaccurate data on “highly improbable assumptions” leading to “scientific opportunism”. Is anybody reminded of anything more recent that would suggest the same?

I scroll forward 20 years. As with foot and mouth, with covid we had a nervous Government presented with doomsday scenarios by Imperial—the 500,000 dead prediction—that panicked them into a course of profound action with shocking outcomes. After the lockdown had gone ahead, Imperial publicised on 8 June a study by, I think, seven of them arguing the justification for lockdown. It claimed that non-pharmaceutical interventions saved more than 3 million lives in Europe. Effectively, Imperial marked its own homework and gave itself a big slap on the back.

That work is now being challenged. Because of time, I will quote only a small selection. In a paper entitled, “The effect of interventions on COVID-19”, 13 Swedish academics—Ferguson ain’t popular in Sweden, I can tell Members that much—said that the conclusions of the Imperial study were not justified and went beyond the data. Regensburg and Leibniz university academics directly refuted Imperial College in a paper entitled “The illusory effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe”, which said that the authors of the Imperial study

“allege that non-pharmaceutical interventions imposed by 11 European countries saved millions of lives. We show that their methods involve circular reasoning. The purported effects are pure artefacts, which contradict the data. Moreover, we demonstrate that the United Kingdom’s lockdown was both superfluous and ineffective.”

I am not saying that this stuff is right; I am just saying that there is a growing body of work that is, frankly, taking apart Imperial’s. Remember, we spent £370 billion on lockdown that we will never get back. I could continue with other quotes, but I think Members get the flavour.

Moreover, a substantial number of other papers now question not Imperial per se but the worth generally of lockdowns. A pre-print article by four authors, “Effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19: A Tale of Three Models”, said:

“Claimed benefits of lockdown appear grossly exaggerated.”

In another paper, three authors found no clear, significant benefit of lockdowns on case growth in any country. Other papers continue that theme. I will quote one more, on adults living with kids. Remember: we shut schools because we were scared that kids would come home and infect older people, who would then die. This paper, in The BMJ, found

“no evidence of an increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.”

We shut down society and schools just in case, doing extraordinary harm to people’s lives, especially young people. I am not a lockdown sceptic, as Ferguson casually describes some of his critics, but I am becoming so. Do you know why, Sir Edward? Because I read the evidence, and there is a growing body of it. In fact, there is one quote that I did not read out. There was a study of lots of countries that had lockdowns and lots that did not, and the data was inconclusive.

The third element of the scandal is the recent modelling. Swedish epidemiologists looked at Imperial’s work and compared it with their own experience. Chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said of Imperial’s work that

“the variables…were quite extreme…We were always quite doubtful”.

Former chief epidemiologist Johan Giesecke said Ferguson’s model was “almost hysterical”. In the House of Lords, Viscount Ridley talked of a huge discrepancy and flaws in the model and the modelling. John Ioannidis from Stanford University said that the “assumptions and estimates” seemed “substantially inflated”.

There was a second example last summer. In July 2021, the good Professor Ferguson predicted that hitting 100,000 cases was “almost inevitable”. He told the BBC that the real question was whether we got to double that or even higher. That is where the crystal ball starts to fail: we got nowhere near 200,000, and we got nowhere near 100,000. There was nothing inevitable about Professor Ferguson’s inevitability, and his crystal ball must have gone missing from the start. In The Times, he blamed the Euros for messing up his modelling because—shock horror—people went to pubs a lot to watch the games during the competition. When the tournament finished—shock horror—they did not. That seems to be the fundamental problem: where reality comes up against models, reality steamrollers them because models cannot cope with the complexity of real life. To pretend that they can and even that they are useful, when so many of them have proved not to be, is concerning.

Ferguson is only one of many people in Independent SAGE especially, but also SAGE, who did not cover themselves in glory. Raghib Ali—a friend of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), who I am delighted is present—is one of the heroes of covid. He noted that many left-wing SAGE members

“repeatedly made inaccurate forecasts overestimating infections”.

Very often, they were falsely described on the BBC.

After a brief intervention of thanks from another Conservative MP, Seely continued, mentioning another member of SAGE who seemed to appear regularly on the BBC:

Just for the record, the communist Susan Michie, who is quoted quite often by the BBC, is not a medical doctor, a virologist or an epidemiologist. She is a health psychologist, so why on earth is she talking about epidemiology?

The third scandal took place this winter. Imperial, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and others—I think they included Warwick—predicted 5,000 daily covid deaths, with 3,000 daily deaths as the best-case scenario. They were hopelessly inaccurate, and at this point the tide really begins to turn. Dr Clive Dix, a former vaccine taskforce head, said:

“It’s bad science, and I think they’re being irresponsible. They have a duty to reflect the true risks, but this just headline grabbing.”

As I say, the tide is turning. Oncology professor Angus Dalgleish describes Ferguson’s modelling as “lurid predictions” and “spectacularly wrong”. The great Carl Heneghan, another scientist who has emerged with great credit for his honesty and fairness of comment, says:

“it’s becoming clearer all that ministers see is the worst-case scenario”.

Professor Brendan Wren says:

“Dodgy data and flawed forecasts have become the hallmarks of much of the scientific establishment”

what a damning quote!—

“which has traded almost exclusively in worst-case scenarios…this must stop now.”

I agree.

I will wind up in the next two to three minutes—I will speak for no longer than 15 minutes because other people wish to get in, and I am always mindful of that. What is the result of all this? The result, as UCL’s Professor Francois Balloux notes, is a

“loss of trust in government and public institutions for crying wolf.”

That is just it. We have had hysterical forecasts, models taken out of context, and worst-case scenarios normalised.

In the Army, there is something called the most dangerous course of action, and there is something called the most likely course of action. To sum up in one sentence how we got this wrong, we have effectively taken the most dangerous course of action and collectively—the politicians, media, scientists and health professionals—presented that as the most likely course of action, but it was not. Why did politicians say, “Follow the science” as a way of shutting down debate, when we know that science is complex and that our outputs are dependent on our inputs? It was down to public-health types, whose defensive decision making would only ever cost other people’s jobs, other people’s health, other people’s sanity, other people’s education and other people’s life chances.

We know that the Opposition supported lockdown from the word go, but a little more opposing might have been helpful. The BBC and the Guardian have been salivating at state control and doomsday scenarios. Against this tsunami of hysteria and fear, thank God for The Spectator, The Telegraph and, yes, the Daily Mail for keeping alive freedom of speech and putting forward an alternative, which is now being increasingly scientifically vindicated. I accept that lockdown was understandable at first—I get that—but I believe the continuation of lockdown after that first summer was an increasingly flawed decision.

In wrapping up, I have some questions. To Professor Ferguson and the doomsday modellers: why are so many of your fellow academics disputing your work and your findings? To the BBC, as our state broadcaster: why did you so rarely challenge Ferguson, SAGE or Independent SAGE? Why did we misrepresent experts, and why did the BBC allow itself to become the propaganda arm of the lockdown state? To the Government: how could we have been so blinkered that we thought that following the science meant shutting down scientific debate? Why did we never use other datasets in contexts with the British people, or even in contexts in which these profound and enormous decisions were made? Why did we think that it was in our nation’s interests to create a grotesque sense of fear to manipulate behaviour? SAGE and Independent SAGE kept on getting it wrong. To the public health types, I quote from Professor Angus Dalgleish again:

“Flailing around, wallowing in hysteria, adopting impractical policies and subverting democracy, the Chief Medical Officer is out of his depth. He has to go if we are ever to escape this nightmare.”

He is not a journalist; he is an oncologist—a senior oncologist.

Twice in 20 years, we have made some pretty profound and significant errors of judgment, using modelling as a sort of glorified guesswork. I suggest respectfully to the Government that, after foot and mouth and covid, never again should they rely on dubious modelling, regardless of the source and regardless of the best intent. I am sure that Imperial and all these other people do the best that they can, and am very happy to state that publicly. However, why has so much of their work been described—and I will use the words of other academics—as “unvalidated”, “flawed”, “not fit for purpose”, “improbable”, “almost hysterical”, “overconfident”, “lurid”, “inflated”, “pessimistic”, “spectacularly wrong”, “fraudulent” and as “scientific opportunism”?

On January 26, the Daily Mail published his speech as an article, which was a great idea. Only political geeks, myself included, watch Parliament in action. This is information the public need to know.

I read the comments following the article. This one caught my eye:

The only accurate data analysis of Covid19 remains the Diamond Princess incident where an entire population were analysed and it showed that Covid19 was not the severe threat to all population that it was made out to be and even more interesting now is that if you rerun the incident again yet pressure that cruise ship population was vaccinated, you get statistically the same results.

Hmm.

To think that millions of ‘ordinary’ people knew about the Diamond Princess early in 2020, yet very few ‘important’ people ever brought it up in the media — or in political settings.

It’s no wonder that many of us think that we were severely taken advantage of over the past two years.

For the past several weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have been lagging behind Labour in the polls.

Boris and the Conservatives held the top spot for most of 2021, apart from one week in January. Their ratings began to sink in November, if I recall correctly. Initially, this had to do with Net Zero policies (far out of reach from the normal Briton), a tax increase to help pay for the NHS and rumours of parties during lockdown at No. 10 Downing Street.

Later, around Christmas, news emerged of parties dating from late 2020. More recently, news leaked about a No. 10 gathering on May 20, 2020 (during lockdown), for which Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised during Prime Minister’s Questions on January 12, 2022:

Today, it is alleged that parties also took place in Downing Street the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.

For Keir Starmer and Labour to be ahead of Boris and Co for this long is a parlous state of affairs:

On January 8, 2022, GB News reported that the Conservatives were beginning to regain lost ground (emphases in purple mine throughout):

The Conservative Party has recovered some of its lost lead against the opposition Labour Party, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, but Boris Johnson’s personal ratings remain deeply negative as he faces ongoing ethics questions.

Polling company Opinium said Labour’s poll rating held at 39% in a January 5-7 survey, unchanged from late December, while support for the Conservatives rose two percentage points to 34%. The Liberal Democrats were on 11% and the Green Party was on 5% …

Johnson’s own net approval rating in the Opinium poll was minus 24%, up from minus 31% before Christmas but well behind Labour Party leader Keir Starmer at plus 3%.

Soaring inflation was also souring the public mood, with 86% of people saying their living costs had risen, the polling company said.

On Monday, January 10, the Conservatives continued to gain ground, although they still trail Labour:

Guido Fawkes noted that not moving to Plan C coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period probably helped:

Labour’s 8 point poll lead at the end of last year has halved in the latest YouGov poll. The plunged best PM rating for Boris has bounced 6 points and Starmer’s has eroded a point, though Boris still trails. Making the right call on Omicron appears to be paying off for Boris. Who knows, if the Tories get their act together and govern a bit more like Tories, they might even regain their lead…

Moving on to coronavirus measures, a number of news items broke since the New Year, some of which relate to England only; the devolved nations have their own measures, largely socialist in nature.

Self-isolation time

On Monday, Boris said he was considering lowering the number of days that people have to self-isolate:

Guido Fawkes reported that Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove said that the current Plan B measures are likely to expire as planned on January 26.

Boris’s comment followed Gove’s on Plan B:

This follows Michael Gove’s comments earlier today on the potential lifting of Plan B measures in a few weeks, provided the NHS continues to keep Omicron under control. Looking increasingly likely that pandemic measures will – finally – wind down sooner rather than later…

On self-isolation being reduced from seven days to five, as the US is doing, Boris said:

We’re looking at [it]… we will act according to the science as we always have. But what I would say to everybody is that Omicron is still out there, it’s incredibly contagious. Everyone will know somebody who has had it, it can be pretty unpleasant.

Boris was likely reconsidering because British scientific advisers ‘misread’ US self-isolation guidance. Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), is pictured:

Guido Fawkes showed the difference between the UKHSA guidance on January 1 and January 10.

Guido concludes:

The US Centres for Disease Control has now clarified their isolation periods do start after the first appearance of symptoms, giving further credence to Tory backbenchers’ calls for a cut. This country has had enough of experts…

Indeed, we have had enough of experts. Unfortunately, Jenny Harries is receiving a damehood, having been on the New Year’s Honours list.

The move for a shorter isolation period is to enable those with coronavirus to return to work as soon as possible.

It is a curious thing that, since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, I have seen the same shop assistants week after week. By contrast, when I watch the news, there is a plethora of public sector workers — the NHS and teachers, to name but two groups — who are constantly sick.

This tweet expresses the phenomenon well:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-52ee10ed-274e-4073-9d2f-c130beeed0cb

On Thursday, January 13, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced in the House of Commons that self-isolation will be reduced to five days beginning on Monday, January 17, provided that the person involved can provide two negative lateral flow test results on Days 4 and 5:

The end of mass vaccination?

On Sunday, January 9, Dr Clive Dix, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said that it was time to end mass vaccination and begin urgent research into antibodies as well as T-cells.

The Observer reported:

Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the booster campaign, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has said.

With health chiefs and senior Tories also lobbying for a post-pandemic plan for a straining NHS, Dr Clive Dix called for a major rethink of the UK’s Covid strategy, in effect reversing the approach of the past two years and returning to a “new normality”.

“We need to analyse whether we use the current booster campaign to ensure the vulnerable are protected, if this is seen to be necessary,” he said. “Mass population-based vaccination in the UK should now end.”

He said ministers should urgently back research into Covid immunity beyond antibodies to include B-cells and T-cells (white blood cells). This could help create vaccines for vulnerable people specific to Covid variants, he said, adding: “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

On Wednesday, Professor Jeremy Brown of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) echoed Dr Dix’s call for a post-pandemic plan. He rightly pointed out that we do not test for influenza:

Schoolchildren suffering

I do feel for children having to wear masks, undergo regular testing at school and for being persuaded — with parental consent — to get vaccinated. My commiserations also go to their parents.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the rate of children’s vaccinations must speed up:

The topic of mask-wearing, although confined to secondary school students, came up on a recent instalment of ITV’s This Morning programme. Author and television presenter Gyles Brandreth explained how difficult this is for children with learning difficulties:

I am glad to see that pupils are refusing to wear masks: sensible kids showing common sense.

Vaccines

Having watched all the coronavirus briefings on television, I remember when either then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock or one of our senior health advisers told us that not everyone would need to get vaccinated in order to put the pandemic at bay.

This historical example from the smallpox era shows that a only relatively small percentage of people need a vaccination in order to eradicate the disease. In the case of smallpox, this was 32%:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-3f958417-af3a-492b-8ba5-1295b96658d7

Yet, the UK is now jabbing children, mandating vaccine passports as well as threatening loss of employment in April 2022 to unvaccinated NHS and care home workers. WHY?

The biggest news story on this subject appeared on Friday, January 7.

The Telegraph reported that Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London told Health Secretary Sajid Javid that he had had coronavirus and has the antibodies. He said he had no intention of getting a vaccine.

He said that the science does not warrant a health worker vaccine mandate:

Here is a clip from The Telegraph‘s article:

https://image.vuukle.com/5a13d893-99ce-45cf-838a-4fee2a3447a2-d6bcf1df-87ae-419a-a99b-34db16fce297

NHS is doing well

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the NHS is coping well. Eight Nightingale facilities will also be opened in the coming weeks:

Socialist policies in Scotland and Wales do not work

On Monday, January 10, talkRADIO’s Kevin O’Sullivan said that vaccine passports are not working in Scotland and Wales. He rightly wonders why Boris Johnson wanted to extend their reach in England.

Wales’s rate of infection is three times higher than England’s. Scotland recorded its highest ever number of coronavirus ‘cases’:

Dan Wootton of GB News also had plenty to say on the Welsh and Scottish approach to coronavirus:

He said:

The chilling reality of the United Kingdom under a Labour/SNP coalition was laid bare over the New Year period.

And it’s not something any of us should want to become a reality.

More on that below.

Wales

On Sunday, January 9, Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford (Labour) said that Welsh coronavirus rates are lower than England’s. Note that, at one point, he did specify Welsh rates were lower than those in England’s hotspots, not the whole country. In that sentence, he told the truth, less so overall:

Drakeford came up with a few more new rules before Christmas. People couldn’t work in an office, but they could go to the pub.

Dan Wootton said:

In socialist Wales, Mark Drakeford – seemingly so intent on smashing the economy to smithereens – has started to fine honest folk £60 for going to work in an office.

Genuinely. I’m not making that up. Doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly healthy, either.

But Drakeford is the man who forced supermarkets to cordon off aisles selling toys and clothes, remember. Now the Chief Medical Officer in Wales Sir Frank Atherton is hysterically proposing that we should all self-isolate for days on end if we have a common cold.

And, with Labour’s love of restrictions, circuit breakers and draconian laws controlling our behaviour, have Welsh Covid rates been any lower than the rest of the UK? Nope!

According to government data across the pandemic, Wales has had the second highest total rate of cases per 100,000 – just under Northern Ireland – at a rate of 20,386.2.

That compares to England’s 20,174.2 and Scotland’s 17,673.4.

In the last seven days, Wales remains the second highest, again just behind Northern Ireland.

The following tweet shows another absurd aspect of the situation, with an English non-league football (soccer) club, Chester, wondering how it can survive under Drakeford’s draconian rules. Chester’s stadium lies just over the border in Wales:

This exchange shows how complicated the situation is:

Scotland

North of the Border, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) has implemented some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the UK.

Dan Wootton says that these are a smokescreen for the lack of a second independence referendum. Nonetheless, he details how totalitarian they are:

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon prizes her role as a Covid dictator using press conferences broadcast to the nation by the BBC to spread fear and introduce harsh controls on poor Scots.

She insists it’s to keep them safe.

But in my opinion, it’s to keep the Covid crisis running for as long as possible, so she doesn’t have to face the fact her dream of a second independence referendum lies in tatters.

So to Sturgeon omicron has been a blessing, allowing her to impose new social controls essentially killing off the Scottish hospitality industry once more for months. Compare and contrast today’s [January 3] Times front pages.

The English edition reports that ministers in Westminster are confident new curbs won’t be needed, given Plan B has already been imposed and Omicron is a far less severe variant.

The Scottish edition, by contrast, reports that large public gatherings could be forbidden in Scotland well into the spring, with National Clinical Director Jason Leitch saying April will still be too early to host a postponed Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh.

And it’s these draconian policies propagated by Sturgeon that resulted in ridiculous police overreach and brutality in Scotland that you won’t see reported in the mainstream media.

Case in point: police raiding the Avant Garde gastropub in Glasgow on New Year’s Eve, where there were around 50 folk, most of them over 60-years-old, simply trying to enjoy their night.

Then, for some reason, two large police vans carrying more than 20 officers, according to witnesses, turned up because they were suspected of breaking Sturgeon’s outrageously over the top Covid rules.

The pub may have been targeted because it displays this poster on its door saying

“We have no discrepancy over whether you want to wear a mask or not.” This is what happened when multiple cops stormed the pub…

The footage is included with this interview of the man who filmed it:

What a despicably unnecessary show of force from Scottish police who routinely fail to investigate muggings and burglaries.

But it’s not their fault, it’s Sturgeon’s for introducing such authoritarian laws, banning bar service and enforcing social distancing between groups.

Sturgeon has implemented these measures despite only ONE patient with omicron having been admitted to intensive care in Scotland. Only one!

The police claim they were simply making a ‘routine visit’, but, come on, it should never have come to this.

Sturgeon is criminalising people drinking and having a good time.

This month — and we’re less than two weeks in — she has had to backtrack on her stringent restrictions.

When the editor of the Scottish Daily Mail, Mike Blackley, asked her on December 17 if she could reduce the number of self-isolation days, she turned caustic:

Yeah, because that’d really help ’cause that would spread infections even further and that would not be doing any favours to businesses.

Guido Fawkes has an update from Wednesday, January 5:

On 22nd December, England’s Covid rules changed so infected individuals can stop isolating after seven days rather than ten, so long as they test negative on day six and seven. Six days ago Wales followed suit, and a day later Northern Ireland copied the change. Leaving one obvious outlier…

It now looks like Sturgeon will confirm the cut, with a statement expected later today and her deputy John Swinney saying yesterday that their administration is “actively considering” reducing the self-isolation period. There’s just one problem with the move if it goes ahead – it’ll be a very embarrassing U-turn on Sturgeon’s part…

So, will she now apologise to the Scottish Mail‘s Mike Blackley?

Unlikely.

Late last week, SNP MP Stewart Hosie appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that Scotland had a lower number of coronavirus cases than England.

The SNP then tweeted this news, which was based on out of date statistics:

Guido Fawkes rightly called out the SNP, including a graphic of the updated statistics.

Not only does England have a lower prevalence than Scotland, it has the lowest prevalence of all four UK nations despite having almost no legal restrictions. The lockdown lovers always say they’re following the science… except when they aren’t.

Last weekend, England still had a lower prevalence of coronavirus than Scotland, which demands mask wearing and vaccine passports:

Last week, Sturgeon took exception to Boris Johnson’s idea to scrap free lateral flow tests. He wants to reserve them for ‘high-risk settings’:

On Monday, January 10, Sturgeon apparently decided Scotland will have to live with the virus. We’ll see:

The Scottish Daily Express reported:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on the latest Covid-19 situation on Tuesday

Nicola Sturgeon is under mounting pressure to scrap crippling Coronavirus restrictions after she admitted for the first time that Scots will need to “learn to live” with the virus.

The First Minister is due to announce whether an extension to Scotland’s restrictions will occur in Holyrood today, with critics claiming they have made little difference to infection rates.

Currently the rules put in place on Boxing Day to rein in the Omicron Covid-19 variant include curbs on spectator sports, the closure of nightclubs and the resumption of table service in pubs.

But speaking ahead of her statement to MSPs, the First Minister said that Scots would have to ask themselves “what adaptations to pre-pandemic life” would be required in the longer-term to “enable us to live with it [the virus] with far fewer protective measures.”

Ms Sturgeon also warned the NHS would need to be managed differently to cope with Covid in the long term with more patients treated away from hospitals.

In an interview with STV Scotland Tonight, she added: “Covid will change all of our considerations of how we manage our health service, and that will be part of the way in which we all learn to live with it over the months and years to come.

“We are in a position where we all want to get to as much normality as possible. All of us, me included, really crave that.

“But we need to recognise that this virus, although we hope Omicron is milder than previous variants, this virus still takes lives and it still causes significant health impacts for people.

“So we have got to treat it seriously and not underestimate the damage that it can do.”

It comes after Ms Sturgeon last week said the SNP-led Scottish Government would unveil a blueprint for Scots to live with the virus in the long term that would be “more proportionate and sustainable and less restrictive”.

Opposition parties in Scotland are particularly keen for these restrictions to end.

The Scottish Conservatives are the main opposition party in Holyrood:

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish public need to see some light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s time for the First Minister to produce a timetable on the new strategic framework that she promised.

“People want reassurance that restrictions won’t stay in force for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

“After almost two years of sacrifice, the public need to see a bold timetable from the Scottish Government that will enable us to live safely with Covid.”

Labour are the next largest party in opposition:

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader added: “Almost two years into the pandemic, I don’t think we have yet built the resilience in the system in order to respond appropriately to Covid.

“I think we accept that Covid is a risk to people’s health and wellbeing and we’ve also got to accept that how we respond to Covid is also a risk to people’s health and wellbeing particularly their mental health.

“I think this day by day decision making and waiting to see what may and may not be said at a press conference is not actually a good way of responding to the pandemic.

“I would like to see a framework in place that builds resilience, that sets quite clearly what the trigger mechanisms for any potential restrictions are and what those restrictions maybe and also then what the trigger mechanisms are for financial support for individual businesses …

“I don’t think the government has done that work here in Scotland and across the UK and I think we urgently need to do that work.”

The Liberal Democrat response was the best:

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, said: “I’ve been concerned at the absence of data offered to Parliament by the SNP.

“We still don’t have a firm idea of those who are in hospital because of Omicron or who just test positive when they go in for something else.

“Without that information, Parliament can’t take a view on whether restrictions are appropriate.

“There’s no clear evidence that the enhanced restrictions in Scotland have reduced the rates of infection compared to other parts of the UK.”

Too right!

Conclusion

If Boris can return to a rational outlook on coronavirus measures, England can be the first to exit the dystopia we have found ourselves in since March 16, 2020, with lockdown implemented one week later on March 23.

Let those who wish to take precautions do so.

Let those of us who wish to live and work again do so freely, without hindrance.

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

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

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

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

That’s good news.

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

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

Here’s what happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that story, Scotland’s The Herald reports:

Recent social distancing rules in the chamber ended this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearson sees this as good news:

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

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

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

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

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

Sturgeon advised businesses as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two videos of interest follow concerning coronavirus vaccines, including boosters.

On Monday, December 13, 2021, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in Parliament that NHS work would be largely paused to focus on the booster programme, with which the British Army will help administer.

An oncologist, Prof. Angus Dalgleish from St George’s Hospital, London, told GB News that the booster programme was ‘a waste of time’, because the new Omicron variant is so infectious. He is concerned that many other ailments, cancer, in particular, will go untreated. He says that a relatively mild cancer which goes undetected can become Stage 4 cancer, bringing about more fatalities from non-COVID illnesses. As for the vaccines, he says that the focus should be on T-cells rather than antibodies, which can disappear over time.

This is around six minutes in length and well worth watching:

A longer video about the vaccines is on Parliamentlive.tv. I recommend the first 40 minutes with Dame Kate Bingham, Former Chair, UK Vaccine Taskforce. (Scroll through the first 10 minutes or so, as the start was delayed.) On December 14, 2021, Dame Kate told the Science and Technology Select Committee how the vaccine programme, which was her big success last year, has begun to falter.

She has been out of the taskforce for a year now. She told the Select Committee that she left a detailed plan behind of how to proceed: staying ahead of the curve both with variants and vaccine supply. She surmises that her plan has not been followed, for whatever reason, because the vaccine rollout has become inefficient.

The most eye-opening part was her discussion of the Valneva lab in Livingston, Scotland. Dame Kate said that the Government recently withdrew funding from the facility because they wanted booster shots only; Valneva produces whole-virus vaccines, which are seen to be more adaptable in the long run.

Valneva was supposed to be 2021’s big success story. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the facility earlier this year.

Although Valneva is a French company, in February, they were willing to ship their vaccines to the UK first, because the EU had not yet signed a letter of intent:

Guido Fawkes reported that the vaccine would be ready in 2022 (emphasis in the original):

This morning it was revealed that the UK has exercised its option to purchase a further 40 million doses of a promising new vaccine from Valneva SE, a French vaccine developer with its product still in stage 1/2 trials. While the vaccine would not be available until next year it could prove vital in defending against new strains as the UK deploys what will likely be an annual vaccination effort similar to the massive flu jabs programme. The UK had already ordered 60 million doses, bringing the total to 100 million…

Valneva SE CFO David Lawrence told the Today Programme that whilst the UK has been in discussions and had signed deals since the summer of 2020, the EU is yet to sign even a letter of intent with the firm, which is headquartered in Paris.

In April, The Scotsman reported that Valneva was searching for Phase 3 trial volunteers for their promising vaccine, being developed ahead of schedule for delivery at the end of 2021 (emphases mine; sorry about the font size, which I was unable to change):

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, which are set to be delivered at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022.

With all adults due to have been vaccinated by the end of the summer, Valneva hopes its vaccine will be used as a booster jag or as a modified vaccine which is more effective against new variants of Covid-19.

The phase 3 trial will run in 24 sites across the UK, with two in Scotland. It is open to healthy adults who have not already had a vaccine.

Around 3,000 people over 30 will be given either two doses of the Valneva vaccine or two doses of the AstraZeneca jag.

Following JCVI guidance not to offer AstraZeneca to under 30s, around 1,000 younger participants in the study will be given only the Valneva option.

Volunteers will be given two doses, 28 days apart, starting at the beginning of May.

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva chief executive, said: “This Phase 3 initiation marks a significant milestone in the development of the only inactivated vaccine candidate against Covid-19 in clinical trials in Europe.

“As Covid-19 continues to impact people’s daily lives, we remain fully focused on developing another safe and efficacious vaccine solution.

“We believe that VLA2001 has an important role to play including boosters or potential modifications to the vaccine to address variants.”

Valneva’s candidate is an inactivated whole virus vaccine, which contains virus that has been destroyed so cannot infect cells, but can still trigger an immune response.

The technology is used in flu, polio and rabies vaccines, and it’s a more traditional approach than the Pfizer (mRNA) and AstraZeneca (adenoviral) vaccines.

Because the vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus, it may be especially suitable for vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those with weaker immune systems.

On November 31, Daily Business reported that the UK Government might return to the negotiating table with Valneva, which they had accused of breach of contract:

UK Government ministers may be about to return to the negotiating table with French vaccine developer Valneva two months after cancelling a contract to supply Covid vaccines from its plant in Livingston.

A source close to the situation says it is hoped the UK Government will “seek an amicable resolution” and at least partially reinstate the £1.2bn order to help combat the new Omicron variant.

Westminster terminated the deal in September, claiming breach of contract, a move that drew criticism from business leaders, senior academics and politicians.

The government had placed an order for 100 million doses of its VLA2001 vaccine after increasing its request by 40 million last February. Then, without warning, it pulled the plug.

It placed a question mark over the future of the firm’s new West Lothian factory, a globally-qualified manufacturing site for viral vaccines including VLA2001.

The company is currently supplying, or is in discussion, with other countries about potential deals for the vaccine.

For once, I agree with Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs; they rightly deplore the Government’s withdrawal of the Valneva order.

Dame Kate Bingham pointed out that, because Valneva’s vaccine is a whole virus one rather than one with just the protein spikes, e.g. Moderna’s, it can be modified quickly to attack new variants. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s, on the other hand, require months of work.

Dame Kate called Valneva ‘nimble’. She added that, even if the UK were not interested in the vaccine, other countries around the world would want it, which can only be a positive for Britain.

One wonders how many other stories there are like this.

People in England are ready to comply with Government measures on the new Omicron variant.

The measures went into effect at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, November 30 and include compulsory face coverings in shops and on public transport:

Most Britons would like to see more mask mandates in secondary schools:

On that basis, one wonders if theatre and cinema audiences will stay at home over Christmas:

Most of us are following Omicron news:

Mixed public opinion

Despite the uniformity of YouGov’s survey results, opinion is more mixed, as GB News discovered when discussing the new measures on Carnaby Street in the heart of London. Everyone had a different opinion:

Mixed messages from Government ministers and advisers

Government ministers are trying to be measured in their assessment of the new variant.

On Wednesday, December 1, the Daily Mail had a round-up of the mixed messaging.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid held a press conference on booster shots the afternoon before.

Boris wants people in England to carry on with Christmas plans (emphases mine):

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people not to cancel Christmas parties or school nativity plays. He also promised to ‘throw everything’ at the booster vaccination campaign to tackle the virus’s spread.

Sajid Javid is cautious:

There are ‘no guarantees’ that there won’t be a lockdown this Christmas, the Health Secretary warned today.

In an ominous shift in tone from recent days, Sajid Javid insisted another festive shutdown was ‘not the plan’, but said: ‘We can’t rule out any particular measure at this point in time because we always have to look at the data and do what we need to protect people.’

He even urged people to take Covid tests before going to Christmas parties and wear facemasks while partying amid mounting fears about the so-called ‘Omicron’ variant … 

Asked if he would wear a mask if he was at a Christmas party, Mr Javid told Sky News’s Kay Burley: ‘It depends if I am walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating. People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.’

Elsewhere, Dr Jenny Harries, who heads the ominous sounding UK Health Security Agency, is not keen on group celebrations:

Dr Jenny Harries recommended people reduce the extent to which they socialise this winter – in a hint that restrictions could go further.

Last year, Harries discouraged going to pubs in one of the televised coronavirus briefings, so this comes as no surprise.

Another NHS bigwig also issued a warning to health staff:

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said some NHS organisations had asked staff ‘not to mix in big groups’ in the run-up to Christmas owing to fears off staff absences.

Understandably, the hospitality industry is concerned about the reaction to Omicron:

Hospitality leaders now fear another hammering to their industry this December. Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, told Radio 4’s Today programme that Saturday’s press conference had had a ‘chilling effect on consumer confidence’. She warned against ‘the threat of a stop-start to the economy again’ in the run up to Christmas

‘I think it’s driven largely by consumer confiden[ce]. I think there’s also a sense of trepidation that their plans might be disrupted again, and so that irrespective of whether there are government controls imposed on the economy, that is having a cooling effect undoubtedly on hospitality.

We already saw that bookings were subdued this year compared to pre-pandemic levels. And this will clearly have a further adverse impact on our businesses.’

Trouble started for the travel industry almost immediately after last Saturday’s press conference:

New curbs on global travel including the addition of 10 countries to the UK’s so-called ‘red list’, a return of testing rules, and quarantine hotels have also spooked travellers – and sparked a wave of cancellations of bookings at airport hotels

The Arora Group said travellers who stay at hotels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports before catching early morning flights are axing their December bookings. They are even suspending corporate events at the four-star Fairmont in Windsor in January due to mounting uncertainty about the spread of the Covid variant, group chairman Surinder Arora said.

He told the Today programme: ‘It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Obviously we had the quarantine hotels at the beginning of this year, and then over the past few weeks as we’ve been trying to return to some kind of normality, most of the hotels have gone back to operating normal commercial hotels.

‘And then of course last week we were hit with this new virus, so sadly that’s all changed again and the Government’s obviously introduced 10 new countries on the red list which means they need a few hotels to go on the quarantine programme.

‘Over the last few weeks, when the quarantine finished we were thankful for getting back to some kind of normality. Since this latest news, instead of getting new bookings the guys are getting a lot of cancellations

‘And not just the leisure business, we’re getting quite a few bookings cancelled for meetings and events. I know, for instance, some of the larger bookings – we just recently opened our new flagship at the Fairmont in Windsor, and they actually had big large corporates who had bookings in January who are saying ”actually, we may want to push it back to further, later in the year to get some more clarity on where we’re heading”.’

It’s all so sad. If only the Government were less cowed by health advisers.

Behavioural scientist Susan Michie and the BBC

Speaking of health advisers, SAGE and Independent SAGE member Susan Michie, an avowed Communist, has been making the rounds on the BBC once again.

In July, one week before our Freedom Day on the 19th — already delayed from June — she disparaged scientists who wanted to lift lockdown:

To behavioural scientists, we are things to be manipulated:

On Monday, November 29, The Times had a scathing, yet accurate, article: ‘The BBC has a blind spot over the bias of its Covid expert Susan Michie’.

Excerpts follow:

Professor Susan Michie, of University College London, a super-rich longstanding member of the Communist Party of Britain, was lined up as a main expert to pass judgment on the prime minister’s announcement of measures to tackle the new Omicron variant.

Michie, dubbed “Stalin’s nanny” when she was a student at Oxford, is often simply introduced as someone who sits on the Sage committee, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

This doesn’t tell the whole story: Michie is part of the Covid-19 Scientific Pandemic Influenza Behaviour team (SPI-B), a sub-group of Sage made up of almost 50 people from many disciplines and backgrounds. In other words, Michie is one voice — and not necessarily the most important — in the room.

She is not a medical doctor or a virologist but a health psychologist. What overarching qualifications she has to pass judgment on air — and so often — on a range of pandemic policies is open to question

She has tweeted that “China has a socialist, collective system … not an individualistic, consumer-oriented, profit-driven society badly damaged by 20 years of failed neoliberal economic policies”.

Michie’s revolutionary viewsshe is said to be dedicated to establishing a socialist order in the UKare surely relevant when evaluating her critique of pandemic policies.

However, by Wednesday, Susan Michie had appeared three times on the BBC, which every household in Britain has to pay for via the licence ‘fee’ (tax?):

Guido Fawkes had a video and an article:

Guido cites The Times‘s second article on the BBC’s invitations to Michie (purple emphases mine):

It’s not just Guido criticising the corporation’s attitude here. In a Times article yesterday, senior Cambridge University clinical research associate Raghib Ali said:

“I think it would have been helpful to say to the viewers there may have been a conflict of interest. I also think scientists’ track record should be taken into account. For example Professor Michie’s organisation Independent Sage has repeatedly made inaccurate forecasts overestimating infections since July.”

Professor Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at Reading University, also said:

“I see nothing wrong with Professor Michie being given air time, but it should be in a more balanced way. But that’s not her responsibility to ensure, it’s the BBC’s.”

Only ITV’s Good Morning Britain has told the truth about Michie:

So far the only prime time presenter to call out Michie’s hardline beliefs for the transparency of viewers is Richard Madeley

Coronavirus cousins could help combat Covid variants

In better news, a London consortium of scientists posits that the common cold, also a type of coronavirus in some cases, could help fight COVID-19 variants.

On November 30, The Times reported:

Professor James Moon, a consultant cardiologist who last week was named on a list of the world’s most influential researchers, is chief investigator of the Covidsortium, a group of researchers from University College London (UCL) and St Bartholomew’s Hospital that was assembled before the start of the first UK pandemic wave in March 2020. Showing remarkable foresight and, in research terms, unprecedented speed, Moon and his colleagues recruited 400 hospital staff working with infected patients in a bid to find out how and why some of the health workers might be more susceptible to infection than others. Funding was sourced — initially through a JustGiving campaign, then boosted with a significant contribution from the investment bank Goldman Sachs — in a matter of days.

Within a week they had collected blood, saliva and nasal samples and continuing data from the participants, and produced findings that informed policy from very early in the pandemic. “It is information that has proven impossibly valuable,” Moon says. “It provides the only cohort of samples taken before anyone had been infected or had a vaccination or booster.”

To date the team has published more than 20 papers, with more in the pipeline, and its attention is turning to Omicron and whether revisions to vaccines will be necessary to defy it …

clues to how new vaccines might be developed could evolve from the most recent published findings of the Covidsortium, which identified “parts of the virus that might make for a very good vaccine that may be effective against different variants”.

Reporting in the journal Nature, the team discovered that blood samples taken from about one in ten of their participants revealed markers that showed they had been exposed to Covid, yet didn’t fall ill. Unlike people who are asymptomatic — those infected with Covid but who don’t develop symptoms — this small group appeared to evade it altogether, remaining uninfected and without symptoms or a positive test.

What their blood samples did show, however, was that a subset of T-cells known to recognise and react to coronavirus appeared to have been present and poised for action even before the pandemic took hold. And the reason these people seemed to be super-protected could be down to the common cold

However, this is more complex than catching a cold and thinking that it offers protection against coronavirus:

There are more than 200 cold viruses — none is exactly the same and only about 10 per cent are caused by coronaviruses. The chances of you catching the right cold at the right time to prime your defences is minimal. And even if you did catch the right sort of cold early on, any added resistance it may have provided has probably waned.

Omicron might have been a blessing in disguise, because Covidsortium was planning on disbanding in April 2022. They now plan to continue their research:

Moon says that the team had planned to wind down their research programme next April because immunity would be waning — until last week when Omicron scuppered that. “We are clearly going to have to keep going as our research still has so much relevance,” he says. “We have samples from so many people stored in our freezers and they contain so much unique information about their antibodies and T-cells, and the questions that only we can answer are not running out.”

I wish them every success.

Let there be light

In further happier news, Parliament’s Christmas tree is casting light in the darkness.

The Lord Speaker — John McFall, Lord McFall of Alcluith — is delighted to make up for lost time:

We must make the best of this time, knowing our restrictions could be far worse. We only have to look at the EU to see that: full lockdowns in some countries, with the possibility of mandatory vaccinations in all EU nations.

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

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

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

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

Labour have never opposed the Coronavirus Act.

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

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

Unintentionally misleading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sajid Javid said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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