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This week was a bit of a barnstormer in the House of Commons: from Extinction Rebellion to coronavirus.

Last weekend, a man stabbed several people in Birmingham’s city centre, killing one. A stabbing also occurred in Lewisham (South London). On Monday morning, a shooting occurred in a small town in Suffolk.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) disrupted the distribution of most national newspapers’ weekend editions in England. They glued themselves to scaffolding outside some of the printing plants. Members of Extinction Rebellion also protested at a printing plant in Motherwell, Scotland. The Scottish protests were less severe.

Coronavirus testing has been problematic, with many people unable to find tests when they need them.

Big Christmas gatherings are likely to be cancelled because of new coronavirus legislation.

Grab yourself a cuppa and a sarnie. This week’s Parliamentary debates and reaction were compelling.

Monday, September 7

Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Crime and Policing, delivered a statement about the Birmingham stabbings and the Extinction Rebellion direct action. A debate followed.

An excerpt from Malthouse’s statement follows (emphases mine below):

On Friday night, Extinction Rebellion protesters used trucks and bamboo scaffolds to block roads outside the newsprinters works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire and Knowsley, near Liverpool. These presses print The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the London Evening Standard. The police reacted quickly on Friday night, arrested around 80 people nationally and worked throughout Saturday to clear the sites completely. In Broxbourne, approximately 100 protesters were reported in attendance. Assistance from neighbouring forces was required, with work long into the early hours to ease the disruption. Fifty one protesters were arrested for public nuisance and subsequently charged with obstruction of the highway. They were taken to three custody suites in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and London. Disruption concluded by midday on Saturday. All main roads remained open, including the nearby A10. However, there was disruption to the distribution of newspapers as well as for local businesses.

In Knowsley, a group of 30 protesters were reported in attendance alongside 10 observers, one legal adviser and one police liaison individual. Thirty protesters were arrested, with disruption concluding by 10.45 the next morning. These protesters were subsequently charged with aggravated trespass and bailed to appear before magistrates at a later date. Twenty four protesters also ​attended a print works in Motherwell, Lanarkshire in Scotland. In this instance there was no disruption caused and no arrests were made.

A free press is the cornerstone of a British society. The freedom to publish without fear or favour, to inform the public, to scrutinise our institutions and to stimulate debate on events that affect each and every one of us is indispensable. The actions of Extinction Rebellion were a direct challenge to this freedom and the values of liberty and tolerance that we hold dear. Extinction Rebellion claims to be an environmental campaign group, yet that worthy cause is undermined by its tactics. Its actions show that it is not interested in purely peaceful protest, dialogue and debate. Instead, it seeks to impose its view through this kind of direct action.

The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental tool of civic expression and will never be curtailed by the Government. Equally, it is unacceptable for groups such as XR to hide behind the guise of protest while committing criminal acts that prevent law-abiding citizens from going about their lives. All of us will remember the disruption caused last year as the group blocked roads and major transport routes. Police forces across the country were forced to divert resources away from tackling other crime in order to oversee those occupations. It is a terrible shame to see those counterproductive tactics revived in the midst of a pandemic, when we are only just recovering from the profound disruption of lockdown. Throughout the pandemic, our police officers have been on the streets every day working to keep the public safe and to stop the spread of coronavirus. In placing unnecessary pressure on our emergency services, the actions of the protesters are contemptuous not only of the police but of the public whom they seek to protect.

The irony is that the United Kingdom is already doing more to tackle climate change and decarbonise our economy than almost any other nation on earth. The UK is the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to climate change by 2050. Since 2000, we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other G20 country. The Prime Minister has set up two Cabinet Committees focused on tackling climate change—one for strategy and another for implementation—discussing how Departments can go further and faster in meeting our legally binding 2050 net zero target. We are also hosting the next UN climate change conference, COP26, which will take place in November in Glasgow. It would be far more productive if, rather than plotting disruption and chaos, those behind Extinction Rebellion put their efforts into working with the Government to tackle climate change and build the green economy. While they persist in their current course, however, our message to those individuals is clear: if you plan to curtail our freedoms through criminal acts, be in no doubt that you will face the full force of the law. As a Government, we will not stand by and allow the livelihoods of hard-working people to be undermined by a minority using the pretence of tackling climate change to impose an extremist world view.

Extinction Rebellion’s actions have shown how the tactics of disruptive protests are changing. The Home Office has been engaging with police chiefs to understand the challenges they face and to assess how they can facilitate peaceful protest while not causing significant disruption and infringing on the rights of others with differing views. The Home Secretary and I are committed ​to learning the lessons of recent protests and ensuring that the police have the powers required to deal with the disruption caused by groups such as XR. I will keep the tools available to tackle this behaviour under constant review. As always, our thanks go to the police for their tireless efforts to respond to all manner of incidents, and particularly at this time when so many have worked so hard during the pandemic. I hope that the leaders of Extinction Rebellion will issue an apology to them for actions that have been roundly condemned by all mainstream opinion in our country.

By its actions this weekend, XR has done nothing to bolster the cause of fighting climate change. Rather, it has reminded us of the value of a free press and free expression and made us think about what more we may need to do to protect those freedoms. I commend this statement to the House.

Sarah Jones (Croydon Central), responding for Labour, gave an excellent speech. An excerpt follows:

all Members of the House will be deeply concerned about the wider rise in violent crime that we are seeing. As the former chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime and violence reduction, I am all too aware of the seriousness of this issue. I know that West Midlands police, along with David Jamieson, the PCC, is taking this very seriously, and the violence reduction unit is doing some great preventive work in the west midlands. Does the Minister accept that over the past decade we have seen knife crime rise in every police force area in England and Wales, and ​that easing lockdown restrictions poses particular challenges? Does he further accept that rising violent crime must be urgently addressed?

Turning to the matter of Extinction Rebellion, I trust that the Minister will agree with me, rather than some members of his own party, in recognising that tackling climate change is the challenge of our generation. However, we also know that the free press is the cornerstone of democracy, and we must do all we can to protect it. As a result, actions that stop people being able to read what they choose are wrong. They will do nothing to tackle climate change. Those who break the law should be held to account. As the Leader of the Opposition said over the weekend, the actions of those who deliberately set out to break the law and stifle freedom of the press are completely unacceptable. Stopping people being able to buy the newspapers they choose and hitting small businesses in the process is hugely counterproductive. It does nothing to tackle the vital cause of tackling climate change. In fact, it sets it back.

On the policing response to the incidents, can the Minister confirm whether the authorities had any intelligence that these incidents might occur?

Today in the media, new laws have been mentioned by the Home Secretary. Can the Minister confirm what aspects of our current public order laws he believes are inadequate? Will he also confirm which aspects of the Coronavirus Act 2020 dealing with gatherings he believes leave gaps? Does he agree that we should not forget the many people who are concerned about climate change who wish to peacefully and lawfully protest, and that that right should be protected?

Malthouse did not answer her question about new legislation and said that the intelligence surrounding Extinction Rebellion’s actions at the printing plants was unclear.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham, Conservative) suggested giving the protesters fixed-penalty notices (fines). Malthouse said that, as those were new during the coronavirus pandemic, there aren’t enough data to measure their efficacy.

An SNP MP, Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) downplayed the Extinction Rebellion incident. As SNP MPs always do, they think only of Scotland. If this doesn’t spell out the SNP’s sympathies with Marxism, I don’t know what does:

The … group perpetrated no violence—random or otherwise—nor is it a criminal gang, terrorist ​group or a deranged individual. Any attempt to portray those people as that is wrong and a dangerous precedent in a democracy. The actions carried out by Extinction Rebellion, both in Scotland and in England, were a peaceful protest. That should not be forgotten, and that remains legitimate. It is a group of young people, although not always entirely young, who care about the environment. That is a legitimate position to take. This action was not an attempt to close down free speech, and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous. All they were seeking to do was to disrupt the outgoing of print for a period of time. There was no cessation of the print being published. Indeed, it appeared online and at most delivery was delayed to some shops.

Malthouse replied:

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has positioned the SNP outside mainstream opinion. [Interruption.] Well, you’re all expressing consternation, and speaking, smiling and laughing. I do not know why me expressing concern is worthy of derision. In truth, the vast majority of people in this country, and all mainstream parties in this country, have expressed alarm at the tactics of Extinction Rebellion over the weekend and its stated aim of disrupting newspapers’ ability to distribute their views and opinions because they do not agree with them. One of the first things that happens in extremist states and takeovers is an attempt to grip the television station, the radio station or the newspapers. Control of information is key so we need to take care with these things. I hope he will agree with me in time.

Antony Higginbotham (Burnley, Conservative) expressed concern at the cost of the Extinction Rebellion protest:

The unacceptable actions of Extinction Rebellion show a consistent disregard for the lives and livelihoods that they disrupt. Does my hon. Friend believe we should hold Extinction Rebellion to account, not just for the significant public sector costs that rack up with the action it undertakes, but for the significant lost income that businesses across the country have suffered as a result?

Malthouse said:

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. He is right that these protests are not costless. Aside from the costs to the businesses affected, there is a large overtime bill to be covered. Of all the costs, the most profound and alarming is the opportunity cost; those police officers who are spending time ungluing protesters and dismantling scaffolding are not spending time preventing knife crime, murder, rape or domestic violence. There are other much more vital activities that could be performed in the communities they serve.

Anthony Browne (South Cambridgshire, Conservative) pointed out that freer countries have fewer environmental issues:

I am a journalist and an environmentalist. I used to be environment editor of The Observer and The Times. I am currently chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the environment, and I have seen around the world that those countries that have a free press are far better at tackling environmental problems than those countries without a free press. Will my hon. Friend join me in condemning Extinction Rebellion’s assault on the free press, and does he agree that such attacks on free speech will ultimately do more harm to the environmental cause than help it?

Malthouse responded:

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, the paradox, or even the tragedy, of the protests is that I understand that the edition of The Sun that was prevented from being distributed contained an op-ed from David Attenborough—no less—extolling the virtues of climate change action and urging Sun readers to do their bit on global warming. Ten years ago, nobody would have dreamt of that opinion appearing ​in that newspaper, and it shows how far the argument has been advanced by peaceful means. This protest runs the risk of setting the debate back rather than moving it forward.

Dr Julian Lewis, who is now Independent (having had the Conservative whip removed), pointed out the contradiction of fining anti-lockdown spokesman Piers Corbyn £10,000 when XR were free to glue themselves to scaffolding with no fine:

It is true that various brands of Corbynism are a little less popular these days, but does my hon. Friend agree that fining a climate change denier £10,000 for an anti-lockdown protest sets a benchmark which should equally apply to those who break the law in pursuit of more fashionable causes?

Malthouse replied:

As the right hon. Gentleman may know, a number of fixed penalty fines have been handed out over the past few days for all manner of contraventions of the coronavirus regulations. No doubt some may be disputed, but we shall see in the end where the courts decide.

The SNP’s Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) asked if XR would be reclassified as a criminal group:

Does the Minister understand the genuine concerns about any plans to reclassify Extinction Rebellion as a ​criminal group and the implications that this may have for peaceful protest, especially given that last year the Prime Minister’s own father addressed an Extinction Rebellion rally and said that he backed their methods?

Malthouse said that such groups are being watched and are under review.

Richard Burgon (Leeds East, Labour) claimed that direct action was part of democracy:

Direct action is a proud part of our history and democracy. Through it, the Chartists and suffragettes helped secure the right to vote and trade unions won the eight-hour working day and paid holidays, and it played a key part in securing legislation for gay rights and for women’s and racial equality. If pursued, would not the Home Secretary’s suggestion of defining Extinction Rebellion as a criminal gang be a betrayal of our proud tradition of civil liberties?

Malthouse said:

Direct action is not the same thing as a crime. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that there are certain crimes that he wishes to ignore, then I am afraid the Opposition are in a very difficult place. I am the Minister for policing and crime, and when, under our current law as approved through this House, somebody commits a crime, I have no choice other than to condemn it.

Lee Anderson (Ashfield, Conservative) would like for XR to be designated a criminal organisation:

The people of Ashfield see no benefit in protesters gluing their ears to the pavement, spraying red dye on our monuments or camping out in trees on Parliament Square. Extinction Rebellion is now public nuisance No. 1 because of the disruption it causes, as well as the massive cost to our emergency services when, frankly, they have better things to do. Does my hon. Friend agree that this group should be ​classified as a crime group and feel the full weight of the law if it continues to disrupt members of the public going about their daily business?

Malthouse repeated his earlier answer about such groups being under continuing review.

Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk, SNP) did not want to see XR labelled as a criminal organisation:

Whatever we think about Extinction Rebellion’s tactics, be they right or wrong, its actions were peaceful, and such civil disobedience methods have been used throughout history, so any branding of the activists as criminals is certainly not acceptable. Does not the Minister agree that two wrongs do not make a right?

Malthouse gave this wise reply:

Not all crimes are violent.

Only one MP dared to connect Marxism with XR — Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield, Conservative). Well done:

It is with regret that, since Extinction Rebellion’s inception, we have witnessed it adopt increasingly radical measures, which masquerade upon an environmentalist platform. In truth, it is a considered ruse to gain support for its ​Marxist agenda, which attacks British values predicated on freedom and pluralism. Blocking ambulances and seeking to constrain press freedom are but two examples from a plethora of behaviours that demonstrate its devious agenda.

Her Majesty’s Government were elected with a mighty mandate from the British people to restore their ancient rights and freedoms, whether threatened from Brussels or from the barricade. The fine people of my constituency of Wakefield expect us to deliver on that. Will the Minister outline what steps the Government will take to neutralise XR’s disruptive and dangerous tactics?

Malthouse replied:

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s stentorian support. He is quite right that people want to see a sense of order in this country, and that is exactly what we will put in place and what we are beavering away to make happen across the country—in his constituency and elsewhere.

I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, September 8

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, gave a statement updating MPs on coronavirus and the situation in Bolton. New laws, he said, would apply only to Bolton.

He was economical with the truth …

Wednesday, September 9

On Wednesday morning, Steve Baker (Wycombe, Conservative), tweeted:

No one raised this topic at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock gave a morning interview (more here):

What does that even mean?

He explained his change of advice on testing to Sky News:

More on this follows below.

It was National Farmers Day, and many MPs wore ears of British wheat tied together with British wool. Labour’s Angela Rayner wasn’t the slightest bit interested:

Most of PMQs was about testing. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made this startling statement about daily coronavirus testing at home:

Just after PMQs, as Boris hurriedly scuttled out of the chamber, Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West, Conservative) raised a point of order about the coronavirus legislation.

I wonder if Boris knew about it in advance and got out of there as quickly as he could:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Had the Secretary of State for Health given notice of the Government’s intention to further restrict our liberty to meet with one another in his statement yesterday, at least some of us would have been able to question him about it. What remedy is there for those of us who enthusiastically support the Prime Minister, but nevertheless want to restrain the Government’s ability to govern by order without debate?

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle replied:

I thank the right hon. Member for giving me notice. I am very sympathetic to the main point he makes. I accept that decisions have been taken in a fast-moving situation, but timings for statements are known to Ministers. It is really not good enough for the Government to make decisions of this kind in a way that shows insufficient regard to the importance of major policy announcements being made first to this House and to Members of this House wherever possible. I have already sent a letter to the Secretary of State. I think the total disregard for this Chamber is not acceptable. I know that the Prime Minister is a Member of Parliament as well and that he will ensure that statements should be made here first, especially as this particular Secretary of State requests statements. To then ignore the major fact that he wanted to put to the country, and not put it before this House, is not acceptable and I hope he will apologise to Members.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South, Labour Co-op) had more information:

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Not only did we not get a convincing explanation yesterday from the Secretary of State on the ongoing testing fiasco, but in fact Mr Robert Peston of ITV wrote on Twitter, ahead of the Secretary of State’s statement, that the Government were planning to shift the regulations down from 30 people to six. There was no reason why the Secretary of State could not have told the House yesterday that that was the Government’s plan. Has the Secretary of State given you, Mr Speaker, notice that he is coming to the House to update MPs on that change in policy, or should we assume that Ministers do not know what they are doing from one day to the next?

Peston had tweeted this on Tuesday:

The Speaker was uncharacteristically incandescent:

What I would take on board is the fact that it was all over Twitter as this was going on. Obviously, somebody decided to tell the media rather than this House. What I would say is that I expect the Secretary of State to apologise to Members and make sure that this Chamber knows first. He was fully aware—fully aware—of what was going to be said later. Let me say that if this Minister wants to run this Chamber ragged, I can assure you now that I am sure an urgent question every day might just begin to run him ragged.

At 4 p.m., Boris gave a coronavirus press conference, announcing new coronavirus ‘marshals’ who will be appearing on our streets as of next week — so, not only in Bolton:

I agree 110% with this tweet:

Thursday, September 10

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg was unable to deliver his customary business statement to the Commons. One of his children developed coronavirus symptoms. Stuart Andrew, the Acting Leader, stood in for him:

Matt Hancock showed up to make a statement on new coronavirus regulations. He was taken to task over his confusing advice about getting a test. Earlier this year, he encouraged people to get tested. Now, with the system overwhelmed, he’s backtracked:

Guido Fawkes has quotes from Hancock documenting his about-face on the matter and concludes (emphases in the original):

Was Hancock’s advice wrong then or is it wrong now? The public will be getting pretty sick of the Department of Health’s cock-ups being the responsibility of anyone other than Hancock.

UPDATE: A government source tells Guido “The guidance is clear. If you think you have symptoms you should get a test. Today’s message is no different to that.” Apparently people in doubt about whether they have symptoms should still get a test…

Simon Dolan, a businessman who is taking the Government to court over lockdown, tweeted:

The Speaker of the House introduced the debate:

Before I call the Secretary of State, I would like to say that he and I had a conversation in a meeting last night, and I think we have some new arrangements coming forward to help the House.

That means that Hancock will be obliged to show up to present these developments to the House for debate in future.

He’s so disingenuous:

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Just to concur with what you have said, I do regard it as incredibly important to come to the House as often as possible. Sometimes these are fast-moving situations, and I will ensure that I give the House my full attention and, as I try to do, answer as many questions as fully as I can.

Excerpts follow:

… As the chief medical officer said yesterday, we must learn from the recent experience of countries such as Belgium that have successfully put in place measures to combat a similar rise in infections. So today, I would like to update the House on a number of new measures that will help us to get this virus under control and to make the rules clearer, simpler and more enforceable.

First, we are putting in place new rules on social contact … In England, from Monday, we are introducing the rule of six. Nobody should meet socially in groups of more than six, and if they do, they will be breaking the law. This will apply in any setting—indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub. It replaces both the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.

There will be some exemptions. For example, if a single household or support bubble is larger than six, they can still gather.

Guido Fawkes was no doubt relieved:

Hancock continued:

Places of education and work are unaffected. Covid-secure weddings, wedding receptions and funerals can go ahead up to a limit of 30 people. Organised sport and exercise is exempt.

These are not measures that we take lightly. I understand that for many they will mean changing long-awaited plans or missing out on precious moments with loved ones, but this sacrifice is vital to control the virus for the long term and save lives, and I vow that we will not keep these rules in place for any longer than we have to.

Secondly, we are putting in place stronger enforcement. Hospitality venues will be legally required to request the contact details of every party. They will have to record and retain those details for 21 days and provide them to NHS Test and Trace without delay when required. This system is working well voluntarily, with minimal friction, and it is very effective, but it is not in place in all venues. It is only fair that it is followed by all. We are supporting ​local authorities to make greater use of their powers to close venues that are breaking rules and pose a risk to public health, and fines will be levied against hospitality venues that fail to ensure their premises are covid-secure.

Our goal, as much as possible, is to protect keeping schools and businesses open, while controlling the virus …

Our ability to test and trace on a large scale is fundamental to controlling the virus, as we have discussed in the House many times. The latest data show that we are doing more testing per head than other European countries such as Germany and Spain, and we have record capacity. We have increased capacity by more than 10,000 tests a day over the last fortnight. While there have been challenges in access to tests, the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home. The average distance travelled to a test site is 6.4 miles, and 90% of people who book a test travel 22 miles or less. We already have more than 400 testing sites in operation. We added 19 last week and plan 17 more this week.

However, as capacity has increased, we have seen an even faster rise in demand, including a significant increase from people who do not have symptoms and are not eligible for a test. That takes tests away from people who need them. If you have symptoms of coronavirus or are asked by a clinician or local authority to get a test, please apply, but if you do not have symptoms and have not been asked, you are not eligible for a test.

At the same time, we are developing new types of test that are simple, quick and scalable. They use swabs or saliva and can be turned round in 90 minutes or even 20 minutes. So-called Operation Moonshot, to deploy mass testing, will allow people to lead more normal lives and reduce the need for social distancing. For instance, it could mean that theatres and sports venues could test audience members on the day and let in those with a negative result, workplaces could be opened up to all those who test negative that morning, and anyone isolating because they are a contact or quarantining after travelling abroad could be tested and released. We are piloting that approach right now and verifying the new technology, and then it can be rolled out nationwide. [Laughter.] …

This will not meet well with a great swathe of people living in England (see the replies):

Simon Dolan tweeted:

Incidentally, the wait until Monday is partly because the St Leger Festival is being run through this weekend:

As the debate progressed, MPs from both sides of the House said that their constitutents were told to drive hundreds of miles away for tests. Here are two examples:

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab)

Will the Secretary of State please explain the lack of availability of home testing kits, which has dropped dramatically in my area of West Lancashire? In the absence of home testing kits, very ill pensioners are being offered tests 80 or 100 miles away. The confusing message in the assurance that he is trying to give is that there are too many getting tested, but that, if in doubt, people should get tested. How does that deal with the asymptomatic carriers or spreaders? This is a huge hidden danger. In the light of the Secretary of State’s earlier comment, my constituents would genuinely love to get with the programme, get tested where necessary and stay safe—if only the Government’s words met their actual experience of the system.

Lucy Allan (Telford) (Con)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and very much welcome the exciting progress on developing saliva testing. Outstanding progress has already been made on expanding testing capacity, and he deserves our thanks for his tireless work. Inevitably, this is not without its challenges. On Tuesday evening, hundreds of cars from across the country—and I do mean hundreds—descended on Telford’s testing site, as they were directed to do by the booking system. Tests quickly ran out, roads became blocked, people who had travelled from as far away as Cornwall, Stockport and London were turned away, and my constituents were no longer able to access tests in the area and so in turn were sent elsewhere. What assurances can he give that the error in the booking system that directed so many people to Telford has now been corrected, and does he agree that people should not be criss-crossing the country and travelling for many hours to secure a test?

Harriet Baldwin (West Worcestershire, Conservative) asked about the infringement on civil liberties and whether the Government were moving the goalposts. I won’t bother with Hancock’s response, because he did not answer her question. He merely repeated the same old waffle:

We accepted massive restrictions on our liberty in March because we wanted to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, and we achieved that—indeed, not all the capacity was used. We are now imposing more restrictions on people’s liberty. Does the Secretary of State’s strategic goal for England continue to be to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, or has he now gone further and is aiming for zero covid in England?

Friday, September 11

Unusually, the House of Commons convened on a Friday.

The Speaker of the House opened the session with this:

We meet today on the 19th anniversary of 9/11. We remember all those who lost their lives due to terrorism on that day and all those who were injured, as well as those who were bereaved.

Then, Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch, Conservative) spoke, concerned about the new coronavirus rules coming in on Monday, September 14:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been looking at today’s Order Paper and particularly at the remaining orders, where I had expected to see the statutory instrument that the Government must lay for the draconian new rules they are bringing in on Monday to be lawful. It does not appear to have been laid, despite the Prime Minister making an announcement about it on Wednesday and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care having made a statement yesterday. I am very concerned about the lack of opportunity for the public to see the text of these new regulations and about the Government’s continuing reluctance to give any opportunity to Members to debate this. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) asked when we could have a debate on it, and he was told that he could apply for a Backbench Business debate. That hardly fits in with the sense of urgency about all this. When my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) then raised the matter with the Secretary of State yesterday, he was told that the Secretary of State would take it away and think about it. That is not satisfactory, as we are talking about the most draconian introduction of new restrictions on our liberty, with criminal sanctions. We need to be aware of what is happening and given the opportunity to debate it.

Mr Speaker replied:

May I say that I share your disappointment? I think that we should all be informed and the country should also know what is going on. The laying of this instrument is a matter for the Government, but I would say that you know and I know that other avenues could be taken on Monday to tickle this little item out, if required. So I will leave it with you to ponder what you want to do next. The Clerk has made a note, and we will come back with further information.

MPs debated the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill.

Earlier that morning, Steve Baker was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Today. He spoke his mind about the Government’s response to coronavirus:

Baker retweeted an item from Liberty’s feed:

Good. Finally. I hope this results in a solid Left-Right grouping of credible people speaking out against this bill, hastily rushed through the Commons and the Lords in March.

Meanwhile, in Sweden:

Sweden continues to operate fairly normally. The British Government, on the other hand, follows the rest of the Western lemmings.

Last Thursday, September 3, 2020, Spectator TV made its debut.

Anyone missing Andrew Neil’s piercing interviews on the BBC should definitely watch it:

You cannot ask for a better hour of interviews and analysis about the events of the past week: simply excellent.

It’s free to view.

Professor Carl Heneghan from Oxford was the guest. He described how the current cases of COVID-19 in the UK differ from the ones we had six months ago: less hospitalisation and very few deaths. He also said that the chances of contracting the virus in Britain now are very low overall.

The possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum was the next topic of discussion. James Forsyth (political editor of The Spectator) and Fraser Nelson (the magazine’s editor) laid out the complexity of the issue as it relates to the United Kingdom as a whole. The Scottish people view independence as a heartfelt emotional issue, hence the rise in the polls for an independent Scotland. Yet, the economic realities point to potential hardship should the nation become independent; the oil price is still very low and Scotland has the most debt of any Western nation. Therefore, it is hard to see how they would get by on their own.

James Forsyth said that the UK government should call Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff and start discussions with her on independence. There would be many issues to resolve: currency, trade, cross-border movement, to name but a few. Once the realities become clearer to the Scottish people, they might vote against it, as they did in their first referendum (2014) which was supposed to settle the question once and for all. Fraser Nelson took a different tack. He said that Unionists (those who want to preserve the United Kingdom) need to make a better — and positive — argument for the Union. Because they have never had to do that, it requires thinking differently and presenting a convincing case to Scots who favour independence.

Katy Balls, The Spectator‘s deputy political editor, described the mood on the Conservative benches in Parliament. One would think that with a majority of 79 (it was 80, until the party whip was withdrawn from Dr Julian Lewis), Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have an easy time of things. However, many MPs had a rough summer defending government policy on COVID-19 to their constituents. They also do not feel as if No. 10 wants them involved in anything useful. Some MPs told Balls that they think Boris is being ‘held prisoner’ in No. 10 and that his principal adviser Dominic Cummings is actually running the show. Furthermore, Boris’s appearances at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) have been a disaster since the House of Commons implemented social distancing. Boris performs much better with a large audience, and it will be some time before he gets one. On a deeper level, however, Conservative backbenchers do not think Boris prepares himself enough for PMQs, which they find insulting to their constituents.

The growing tension between No. 10 and Conservative backbenchers means that Boris has to be careful about what policy positions he puts up for a vote in Parliament. Some, e.g. planning laws, he will delay until local elections are held next year; they are too controversial to vote on now, as he could lose.

The programme ended with a 12-minute Q&A from those who registered to watch the programme live on Zoom. There were a few hiccups with the mute button, but some viewers did get to participate. We did not see their faces, just a black screen with their names to accompany the audio. The questions were intelligently expressed.

If the BBC made programmes like this, no one would be carping about the licence fee.

Roll on Spectator TV. I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

See Part 1 in this series about the anger in Britain over lockdown.

One or two tweets below might have salty language. The rest do not.

There is much anger by a proportion of the population at the government:

MPs, except for one, are largely silent on the subject. Luckily, John Redwood has been an MP for decades. He might be our only hope:

Most are like Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, however. She was one of the first MPs to get coronavirus. Her aged mother, who also had it, helped her recover. I was sorry to see her tweet this:

Yesterday, I left off on masks. On Thursday, June 4, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said they would be mandatory on all public transport in England. Health Secretary Matt Hancock repeated the order the following day:

Someone in the know saw this coming in April (never mind the reply):

This is so irrational. Earlier this year, the WHO advised against it:

Exactly.

I’m looking forward to the first lawsuit when someone is unable to breathe on public transport:

The above advice applies to England.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are on their own track.

However, Scotland is no better:

This is what they are doing in Singapore. Simon Dolan, incidentally, is suing the British government over lockdown. Good man:

It seems masks are only the beginning. In the UK, we haven’t fully got off the ground with the track-and-trace app.

More from Simon Dolan about Singapore:

Track-and-trace is also getting up people’s noses:

Then there’s the R rate that SAGE and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty discuss daily on the coronavirus briefings:

But that’s nothing compared to the wacky modelling from Imperial College’s Prof Neil Ferguson which brought about lockdown:

Yet, at least one London hospital is ignoring masks and social distancing:

Shouldn’t only the vulnerable be sheltered?

Picking up on the railway platform, here’s the latest on international transport …

… and the latest on public conveniences:

Why doesn’t any of this make sense?

Similar madness holds true for local buses:

Meanwhile, unlike protestors around the world complaining during coronavirus about the death of an American ex-convict thousands of miles away, when you’re Piers Corbyn (pictured with the policewoman in a mask), an eccentric weather forecaster as well as the brother of the last Labour leader, and say that climate change is caused by the sun’s activity and you’re protesting lockdown with like-minded people, you can be arrested twice at Hyde Park in London:

The sheer hypocrisy of it all is mind boggling.

More tomorrow.

On Saturday, May 16, 2020, a fractious protest against Britain’s coronavirus lockdown in Hyde Park ended with arrests.

Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was one of the speakers:

Corbyn is well known in the UK for his subscription-only weather forecasts. He also believes that changes in the sun are responsible for climate change, not mankind.

He makes a convincing argument for it, too.

It seems he also makes a convincing argument for the rather odd 5G-coronavirus theory, because after he appeared in protest in Glastonbury recently, that town’s council voted down 5G. David Kurten is a Brexit Party councillor serving on the Greater London Assembly:

However, although Piers Corbyn supports Brexit — as does his brother, allegedly — he is not a conservative.

This is what he thinks about coronavirus:

A Press Association reporter filmed what happened on Saturday, May 16, near Speaker’s Corner:

The police were out in force (pun intended). Isn’t there any crime fighting to do?

This was the scene from the centre of operations:

They social distanced by holding on to each other’s vests.

Shoulder to shoulder distance was less clear:

The Guardian reported (emphases mine):

The brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was one of 19 protesters arrested on Saturday, as small demonstrations against the coronavirus lockdown took place across the country.

Protesters gathered on green spaces across the UK holding placards describing the lockdown rules as unlawful and claiming that the government measures were suppressing civil rights.

In Hyde Park, London, about 50 people defied social distancing guidelines to gather close together at Speakers’ Corner holding placards with slogans including “anti-vax deserves a voice” and “freedom over fear”.

Dozens of police officers, including some on horseback, patrolled the protest, issuing 10 on-the-spot fines and making 19 arrests.

Corbyn’s brother, Piers, was taken away after using a megaphone to declare that 5G and the coronavirus pandemic were linked and branding the pandemic as a “pack of lies to brainwash you and keep you in order”.

He also said “vaccination is not necessary” and that “5G towers will be installed everywhere”, adding: “5G enhances anyone who’s got illness from Covid, so they work together.”

The article gave the reason for Piers Corbyn’s and others’ arrests:

Corbyn was taken away after declining to leave when asked by a police officer and refusing to give his details when asked.

A flyer advertising the protest called for “no to mandatory vaccines, no to the new normal, and no to the unlawful lockdown” …

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “With the easing of restrictions we fully expected open spaces to be busy this weekend.

“It was disappointing that a relatively small group in Hyde Park came together to protest the regulations in clear breach of the guidance, putting themselves and others at risk of infection.

“Officers once again took a measured approach and tried to engage the group to disperse.

“They clearly had no intention of doing so, and so it did result in 19 people being arrested, and a further 10 being issued with a fixed-penalty notice.”

The protest attracted a mixed social group:

David Samson, 50, a finance worker, who attended the protests told the Press Association news agency: “I never thought I’d see in my generation the suppressing of civil rights [over a] fake virus. This is nothing compared to what’s coming.”

There was a large round of boos whenever protesters were arrested, and repeated shouts of “jail Bill Gates”.

Another demonstrator, 62-year-old Catharine Harvey, said she was defying the rules to highlight the “devastation this lockdown has caused”.

The shop owner said: “Developing countries will have no trade, no tourism. I have had to close my shop on Columbia Road flower market. The effects of the lockdown are far, far worse than the virus – mental health, domestic violence, shops are closed, theatres, cinemas, restaurants. It’s unnecessary.”

Protests also took place on the southern coast of England in Southampton:

A separate protest in Southampton saw about a dozen protesters gather on Southampton Common, holding placards saying “Stop the Lies”, “Say no to tyranny” and “Fight 4 Freedom”.

One protester, Dee, who did not wish to give her surname, said her job in the hair and beauty industry had been hit by the crisis. She said: “I am here because I am worried about civil liberties being taken away.

“Reading the Coronavirus Act that has gone through parliament, it seems there are changes being made which infringe our freedom. And I am worried the media has run away with the Covid-19 thing and blown it all out of proportion.”

And in Belfast, where police monitored:

a crowd of about 20 people who had gathered in Ormeau Park to denounce the lockdown measures. Officers warned participants to socially distance and they complied. The gathering dispersed without incident after an hour.

Another took place in Glasgow:

… on Glasgow Green in Scotland, with estimates of about 40 to 50 people taking part. People at the event reportedly chanted “experts lie – people die”, “don’t listen to the media, listen to the people”, “Nicola Sturgeon is a traitor” and “we are not livestock”.

However, Britain was not the only European nation to see protests. They took place in other countries, too:

Demonstrations also took place across Europe. In Germany the death toll from the virus has been lower than most of its European neighbours with some lockdown measures already relaxed.

However, protests against the measures that Chancellor Angela Merkel insists are needed to slow down the outbreak have grown with demonstrations held for a second weekend.

I certainly hope that this is not the ‘new normal’.

Personally, I think it is a bit late to protest lockdown. We’re coming out of it now.

However, as it has often been said, attributed to Voltaire but probably more accurately to in Evelyn Beatrice Hall (pseud. S. G. Tallentyre) in the biography The Friends of Voltaire (1906):

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

By now, surely, with all the freedom of ‘lifestyle’ we currently have, we can still assemble to speak our minds when necessary?

Perhaps not, in the ‘new normal’. Heaven forfend.

After President Donald Trump met Britain’s two most powerful women and gave an exclusive interview to ITV’s Piers Morgan, he and First Lady Melania Trump headed to Scotland for what was to be a weekend of rest and relaxation.

Although his son Don Jr was in St Tropez, Eric was already at the Trump Turnberry golf resort to greet his father:

This video shows the presidential motorcade early that evening:

It was widely reported that protests would continue, which they did.

The best known of these was the Greenpeace paraglider. His message of ‘below par’ was a compliment in golfing terms. Greenpeace meant ‘below par’ as a president:

Then, there were protesters near the course itself:

The Scottish police protection for the president upset some Trump supporters. Yet, others thought the police did a good job:

On Saturday, July 14, Trump tweeted:

Meanwhile, the reaction to the Greenpeace paraglider from Trump supporters varied from bemusement to anger.

This is how close the man was to the US president and his entourage of administration officials:

That day, Gateway Pundit explained the potential danger, particularly in a no-fly zone:

As of this writing the flyer has not been caught. The flyer could very easily have had an IED on their person or built into their chair that could have been detonated over Trump and the dozens of guests and clueless security on the ground. Greenpeace reportedly alerted U.K. authorities about the flight ten minutes before. Even with warning the paraglider was not blown out of the sky but instead was allowed to make a mockery of the no-fly zone supposedly in place to protect Trump.

And, yes, snipers were nearby:

On Sunday — two days later — news emerged that Police Scotland had arrested the paraglider. The Express reported:

Police Scotland said in a statement: “Police Scotland can confirm that a 55-year-old man has been arrested in connection with an incident when a powered parachute was flown in the vicinity of the Turnberry Hotel around 9.45 pm on Friday, 13 July 2018.”

The force earlier said the incident was being treated as breach of the air exclusion zone that was in place.

The Trumps left for Finland on Sunday, July 15:

However, there was a sad ending to their weekend in Scotland, as a Secret Service agent suffered a fatal stroke:

The White House issued a statement on Wednesday, July 18, which reads in part:

Earlier this week, United States Secret Service Special Agent Nole Edward Remagen suffered a stroke while on duty in Scotland. Yesterday, he passed away, surrounded by family and fellow Secret Service agents. Our hearts are filled with sadness over the loss of a beloved and devoted Special Agent, husband, and father. Our prayers are with Special Agent Remagen’s loved ones, including his wife and two young children. We grieve with them and with his Secret Service colleagues, who have lost a friend and a brother.

A five-year veteran of the United States Marines, Special Agent Remagen spent 19 years with the Secret Service. At the time of his passing, he was among the elite heroes who serve in the Presidential Protection Division of the Secret Service. Melania and I are deeply grateful for his lifetime of devotion, and today, we pause to honor his life and 24 years of service to our Nation.

Homeland Security also issued a statement:

His fellow Secret Service agents also mourned:

The Daily Mail reported that the Americans were most grateful for the medical care Special Agent Remagen received in Scotland:

It is during his stay at Turnberry that the secret service agent became ill and was taken to hospital.

A spokesman for the Secret Service said before the agent’s death: ‘We are incredibly grateful for the emergency medical service providers and physicians in Scotland who are providing much needed critical care.’  

More than 150 US agents were brought in for the visit to protect Trump during his stay in the UK.

President and Mrs Trump visited Joint Base Andrews that day:

Whilst at Joint Base Andrews, President Trump gave a brief address in Special Agent Remagen’s memory:

The Daily Mail reported:

‘Our hearts are filled with sadness over the loss of a beloved and devoted Special Agent, husband, and father,’ President Trump said. ‘Our prayers are with Special Agent Remagen’s loved ones, including his wife and two young children. We grieve with them and with his Secret Service colleagues, who have lost a friend and a brother.’

President Trump commended his military service, commenting that he served for five years in United States Marines.

‘At the time of his passing, he was among the elite heroes who serve in the Presidential Protection Division of the Secret Service,’ he said. ‘Melania and I are deeply grateful for his lifetime of devotion, and today, we pause to honor his life and 24 years of service to our Nation.’

Trump added: ‘The incredible men and women of the United States Secret Service travel wherever they are needed around the world, spend long periods of time away from their families, and make tremendous sacrifices for our safety and security. They make up the most elite protective agency in the world, universally admired for their extraordinary skill, devotion, and courage. We are forever in their debt.’

Interestingly, on July 18, CNN reported that he died on July 15:

The 42-year-old agent, who is now being identified as Special Agent No[le] E. Remagen, was working on protection for national security adviser John Bolton on the midnight shift when he was found to be unresponsive by colleagues at Trump’s Turnberry resort Saturday night.

Remagen was quickly attended to by a White House doctor and Secret Service colleagues before being rushed to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where he passed away on Sunday, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Remagen is survived by a wife and two small children, and was the son of a retired Secret Service employee.

The President and first lady Melania Trump departed for Joint Base Andrews Wednesday afternoon to see Remagen’s family, the White House said.

Some Trump supporters wonder if whatever happened to cause Remagen’s stroke was intended for the president himself.

Others thought the paraglider was sending an ominous message to Trump.

This, whilst unrelated, is the predominant narrative among the Left. This issue of the New Yorker hit the news stands on July 19 (image courtesy of 8chan):

https://media.8ch.net/file_store/63e6225c4e4c3c21bac64b035ebb86505602d14ee2d4adfa347912d66ac3c416.png

Sick.

Depraved.

The guys on the Qresearch boards at 8chan are analysing the events of that weekend, because the death of a Secret Service agent during the course of active duty is rather rare. One wrote:

… So now we have:

1) Trump arrives at his golf course. Glider enters POTUS airspace and comes extremely close to POTUS (20 yards approx) at exact time of POTUS arrival (speculation – had to have spotter who relayed arrival to make it at exact time at the very least).

2) Green Peace UK claims that local PD and air tower authorized it before hand yet neither notified Secret Service

3) Secret Service rush POTUS into proshop at course.

4) Scotland begins manhunt for glider flyer. Why if he had “permission”?

5) Secret Service Agent dies of stroke at golf course “surrounded by fellow agents” and claim also of “by family” (?).

6) Eight hours after “manhunt” begins the glider flyer is arrested. Is it really hard to track a fucking glider?

7) Flyer released an hour later.

8) Green Peace UK releases statement that they “Hit Trump where it hurts”

I am convinced this was an attempted hit and that agent took a poison round or some delivery system.

Someone responded with criticism of local police.

Another received information that has not been substantiated at this time. If true, the number of blood clots in Remagen’s brain was shockingly serious:

I received this this morning.

>Agent was taken to the hospital and brain surgery was performed where they discovered multiple (double digit) blood clots in the brain. The White House docs apparently never left the hospital until after he was deceased. The .mil flight bringing this Patriot home is on its way at this time – landing at Andrews.

How horrible.

Meanwhile, former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino has set up a GoFundMe account for the Remagen family.

In closing, my deepest condolences and prayers go to the Remagen family. May they find comfort at this difficult time.

Sadiq Khan.jpgOn Thursday, May 5, 2016, England, Wales and Scotland held local elections.

(Photo credits: Wikipedia)

New London mayor

London now has a Labour mayor who is also a Muslim, Sadiq Khan. As French radio station RMC put it in their newscasts that day (translated):

London, Europe’s most cosmopolitan city, is on course to elect its first Muslim mayor.

The next day, one of RMC’s talk shows took a listener’s poll asking if they could envisage French voters doing the same. One woman rang in to complain that the question was ‘racist’. In any event, 78% voted ‘yes’ and 22% ‘no’.

Khan, the son of a bus driver and born in Tooting (South London), won largely on the housing issue. London property is frightfully expensive and many people are forced out of the market, either as buyers or renters. Although I did not follow the campaign closely, when I did pick up a copy of the London Evening Standard, the Khan soundbites of the day were about affordable and available housing. And ‘son of a bus driver’ was in every article.

It is unlikely that anything will change in a significant way immediately, however, over time, who knows? It is possible that we will see a certain amount of vocal social polarisation popping up in the coming weeks with a mayor whom a significant percentage of London’s population sees as one of their own.

Zac Goldsmith MP at 'A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change'.jpgKhan’s opponent was Zac Goldsmith, the highly popular Conservative MP for Richmond Park. Goldsmith’s sister Jemima was married for several years to the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. During that time she lived in Pakistan and still holds dual nationality with that country and the UK. One of their sons helped Goldsmith campaign in Muslim neighbourhoods. Imran Khan’s name still has a lot of pull and meeting his son went down well but, in the end, not quite well enough. Nor did questions about some of Sadiq Khan’s associations.

Jemima Goldsmith tweeted her congratulations to the new mayor and, in a separate tweet, wrote:

When Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson won re-election as Mayor of London in 2012, pundits predicted that it was highly unlikely that another Conservative would be elected to that post in 2016. And so it happened. One reason is the natural political cycles from right to left and back again. Another is demographic; the city has many more Labour voters who are diluting what used to be the doughnut of outer boroughs which voted overwhelmingly Conservative.

Scotland

A dramatic reversal of fortune for Labour took place in Scotland. For the first time in years, the Conservatives have become the second most prominent party, knocking Labour off that spot. The SNP, representing independence, also no longer has an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Incidentally, it is interesting that these three political parties are headed by women.

Wales

Incredibly, UKIP — the UK Independence Party — won seven seats in the Welsh Assembly.

One of the newly elected UKIP Assembly Members has blamed Cardiff’s increased litter on Eastern European immigrants, although he was unable to back up his assertions with any data.

Labour still hold the majority of seats (29), and Plaid Cymru (pron. ‘Plied Come-ree’) have 12, nudging the Conservatives into third with 11.

England

Despite doubts over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, their mayoral and council losses were not as dramatic as some pundits predicted.

That said, UKIP managed to win six council seats in Thurrock, Essex (east of London), sapping the Labour vote. This puts them on level pegging with the Conservatives. Each party has 17 seats. Labour have 14 seats and an Independent councillor has one.

Our next national election will be on June 23, as we vote whether to leave or remain in the European Union.

The French news site L’Internaute has a fascinating photo collection of Queen Elizabeth showing us how they view her.

Most of the photos were taken last year. Below is my translation of the text, photo by photo. Her life is so instructive that I’ve highlighted significant events and routines:

1/ The incredible Elizabeth II will celebrate her 90th birthday on April 21, 2016. She has seen nine French presidents during her reign and remains very active in spite of her advanced age. The Queen sets the example. Here she is behind the wheel of a Jaguar on July 19, 2015, driving through Windsor Great Park on her way to church. Elizabeth II is the only person in Great Britain who is allowed to drive without a driving licence.

2/ A great traveller with more than 300 state visits to 130 different countries, Elizabeth II has never had a passport, although all British passports bear her name. Although she has reduced her engagements, she still travels regularly. In this photo, taken on June 26, 2015, the Queen was in Berlin for a state visit lasting several days.

3/ The photo was taken on November 2, 2015. At the age of 89, the Queen still rides horses, here around Windsor Castle, along the Thames (Berkshire). The Queen has always been passionate about horseriding and is an excellent horsewoman.

4/ Here during a horse race organised at Windsor in 2013, the Queen follows the progress of her horse First Love under a headscarf that renders her unrecognisable.

5/ Having become the longest reigning British monarch on September 9, 2015, she has been on the throne for 63 years and counting. In this photo taken a few months ago, handbag on her arm, she inspects a battalion of Welsh Guards outside Windsor Castle.

6/ At the Garden Party on June 3, 2014, at Buckingham Palace, the colour-coordinated Queen and her umbrella welcomed a myriad of guests. An event that is routine for her as she receives, on average, 50,000 guests a year at garden parties and dinners.

7/ Linked from the beginning with the world of show business, ‘Lizzie’ [really? must be a French thing?] has always been accustomed to shaking the hands of the most famous people at the time. On December 7, 2009, at the end of the Royal Variety Performance — a charity gala sponsored by the Royal Family since 1912 — she met American singer Lady Gaga, herself an unwavering fan of the monarch.

8/ In spite of her advanced age, Queen Elizabeth continues to give the Queen’s Speech to the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster, although the Prime Minister writes the text. Here in London on May 27, 2015, she announces the government’s legislative projects for the upcoming parliamentary year.

9/ Here Her Majesty examines pieces of the set for Game of Thrones, of which she is a huge fan, during her visit to Titanic Studios in Belfast on June 24, 2014 …

10/ Every Sunday after church (and before lunch), Her Majesty drinks gin with her son and grand-daughters. Could this be the secret to her longevity? In this older photo, she toasts the Duke of Edinburgh to usher in the year 2000.

11/ Every year, rain or shine, and despite the effect of the cold on rheumatism, the Royal Family attends the Highland Games …

12/ And she’s still very happy! The Highland Games present opportunities for plenty of Royal laughs.

13/ Her Majesty and her corgis meet members of the New Zealand All Blacks XV rugby team at Buckingham Palace on November 5, 2002 …

14/ On November 22, 2006, the Queen met members of the Mohican tribe at Southwark Cathedral in London. The monarch was there for the funeral benediction of a Mohican chief who died in London in 1736. At that time, no foreigner who died in the city was allowed to be buried there. The chief was buried in an anonymous plot in the cathedral grounds.

15/ Visiting a factory in 2009, Elizabeth II presses a button to start a brand new cardboard box assembly plant. This was nothing new as the Queen was a mechanic during the Second World War and loves anything mechanical, especially automobiles.

16/ … For the opening of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 a double of Queen Elizabeth made a parachute jump at the stadium in Stratford …

17/ Visiting a Canadian factory in Ontario in July 2010, Elizabeth II discovered the latest functionality of the Blackberry. New technology does not faze the Queen; she sent her first tweet in 2014 (after having officially launched in 1997, the Crown website and been the subject of a hologram portrait earlier this century).

There are several more photos, but I’m running out of time!

However, there is enough material here to give us an idea of the very modern, active person that Queen Elizabeth is. What a great example she is to us all!

On Maundy Thursday — March 24, 2016 — a Christian-friendly Muslim was brutally murdered in a district of Glasgow.

There was little reporting after Easter weekend. Move along, there’s nothing to see.

Asad Shah, 40, was a newsagent who owned his own shop in Shawlands, Glasgow. He moved from Pakistan to Scotland in the 1990s and, by all accounts, was a happy, outgoing man who had many friends and acquaintances.

Asad was an Ahmadiyya (Ahmadi). They are among the most peaceful Muslim groups. Because the Ahmadis reject violence and jihad, they are also among the most persecuted. Fundamentalist Muslims do not consider Ahmadis to be true Muslims.

They have high respect for Jesus. They believe that, after His death, He was transported to Pakistan and was buried there. His notional tomb is a site of Ahmadi veneration. (See Jean Devriendt comment to Le Monde‘s article.)

This is an important detail, because Asad had a Facebook account on which he posted his final message at 5:10 p.m. on Maundy Thursday:

Good Friday and a very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation … Let’s follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds.

One cannot help but hope that Asad’s soul is with our Lord and that he has found ‘success’ in the world to come.

Scotland’s Daily Record reported on March 29 that Asad also posted his own videos with peaceful messages on his Facebook page. In November 2014, a London-based Muslim group opposed to Ahmadi teachings posted them on Daily Motion, a video hosting site, and accused him of being a ‘false prophet’.

Hours after Asad posted his Easter message, he was stabbed in the head with a kitchen knife then was stomped on outside his shop. The Daily Record reported that a man from Bradford (northern England) named Tanveer Ahmed was charged with his murder on March 29 in Glasgow Sheriff Court and remanded in custody. He is due to appear in court again this week.

The case is being rightly treated by authorities as ‘religiously prejudiced’.

Of course, when it was initially reported and few details were available, author Douglas Murray noted:

Most of the UK press began by going big on this story and referring to it as an act of ‘religious hatred’, comfortably leaving readers with the distinct feeling that – post-Brussels – the Muslim shopkeeper must have been killed by an ‘Islamophobe’.

Indeed. And:

Had that been the case, by now the press would be crawling over every view the killer had ever held and every Facebook connection he had ever made. They would be asking why he had done it and investigating every one of his associates.

You bet.

The truth turned out to be something quite different. Consequently, the media lost interest. The last reports that I could find are dated March 29, 2016.

On Easter Sunday, The Guardian reported that Scotland’s only Muslim minister Humza Yousaf tweeted:

No ifs, no buts, no living in denial – vile cancer of sectarianism needs stamped out wherever it exists – including amongst Muslims.

The paper also reported the statement which was issued on behalf of the Ahmadi community:

In any society, all members of the public have a right to safety and it is up to the government and police to protect members of the public as best they can. It is up to the government to root out all forms of extremism and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has been speaking about the importance of this for many years.

Friends and acquaintances of Asad have generously raised more than £90,000 pounds to help his family.

The Guardian reported that Asad’s younger sister, who lives in England and travelled to Scotland to be with family members, expressed her deep gratitude to the donors. Of her late brother, she extolled his humble, gentle nature and said he was:

A real gentleman. He embraced Scotland and Glasgow. He was so proud to be a Glaswegian and so loyal to the city. He knew so many people.

May Asad rest in peace. My condolences to his family and friends who will miss him greatly.

Tboston.jpgThomas Boston (1676-1732) spent most of his life in the Scottish Borders in ministry.

His parents were Covenanters, meaning that they bound themselves in various covenants to ensure Presbyterianism was the only Christianity practised in Scotland. In the 16th century, these men and women resisted the return of Roman Catholicism and, in the 17th century, the religious reform from the Anglicans in England.

Boston earned a degree in Arts from Edinburgh University and, for a short time, was a schoolmaster. He spent one term at theological college before being assigned to active ministry, which he began in 1697.

He spent much of his spare time educating himself and was well known for his knowledge of Hebrew. Jonathan Edwards considered Boston:

a truly great divine.

He also wrote several books and shorter works about Christianity and human nature. In 1704, having read a controversial book called The Marrow of Modern Divinity, he became a Marrowman, which meant that he emphasised the doctrine of grace and the free offer of the Gospel. The book is a collection of dialogues from Reformation divines on the nature of Christ’s atonement and was a middle way of Christian practice, intended to guide believers from antinomianism (disregard for the Law) without embracing legalism.

The legalistic Calvinist hierarchy of the day disapproved of this perspective, yet it proved very popular among Scottish congregations. Indeed, the Marrowmen were effective, heartfelt preachers. Boston himself revived the church in Ettrick, where he ministered for 25 years. When he arrived in 1707, the number of members was around 60. By the time he retired, there were 777.

Boston not only preached in church, he had an active ministry at home, where he regularly held classes for his congregation.

Despite family deaths which touched him to the core, his wife Catherine was his loving companion and source of emotional support.

Boston’s written works had a profound effect not only on his congregation, but many poor, hard-working Scots.

One of his essays is entitled, simply, ‘Hell’. It describes the certainty, the nature and the eternity of it.

Excerpts and summaries follow, emphases mine (except for the first line, the titles and subtitles).

He introduces his essay with:

Then He shall say unto those on the left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” Matthew 25:41

and reminds us in the Introduction that:

The last thing which our Lord did, before He left the earth, was, ‘He lifted up his hands, and blessed his disciples’ (Luke, 24:50,51). But the last thing He will do, before He leaves the throne, is to curse and condemn His enemies; as we learn from the text which contains the dreadful sentence wherein the everlasting misery of the wicked is declared.

He then summarises the body of the essay before examining the doctrine of hell.

DOCTRINE– THE WICKED SHALL BE SHUT UP UNDER THE CURSE OF GOD, IN EVERLASTING MISERY, WITH THE DEVILS IN HELL!

In this section, Boston discusses the ‘curse’ of the ‘damned’, their misery, their society and their eternity.

I. THE “CURSE” UNDER WHICH THE DAMMED SHALL BE SHUT UP IN HELL–

By nature all men are under the curse. But it is removed from the elect by virtue of their union with Christ. It abides on the rest of sinful mankind, and by it they are devoted to destruction, and separated to evil …

As in heaven grace comes to its perfection, so in hell sin arrives at its highest pitch; and as sin is thus advancing upon the man, he is the nearer and likelier to hell.

There are three things that have a fearful aspect here
1. When everything that might do good to men’s souls, is blasted to them; so that their blessings are cursed– sermons, prayers, admonitions, and reproofs, which are powerful towards others, are quite ineffectual to them.

2. When men go on in sinning still, in the face of plain rebukes from the Lord, in ordinances and providences. God meets them with rods in the way of their sin, as it were striking them back; yet they rush forward. What can be more like hell, where the Lord is always smiting and the damned always sinning against Him?

3. When everything in one’s lot is turned into fuel for one’s lusts. Thus, adversity and prosperity, poverty and wealth, the lack of ordinances and the enjoyment of them, do all but nourish the corruptions of many. Their vicious stomachs corrupt whatever they receive, and all does but increase noxious humors.

But the full harvest follows, in that misery which they shall forever lie under in hell; that wrath which, by virtue of the curse, shall come upon them to the uttermost– which is the curse fully executed. This black cloud opens upon them, and the terrible thunderbolt strikes them, by that dreadful voice from the throne, ‘Depart from me, you cursed’, which will give the whole wicked world a dismal view of what is in the bosom of the curse …

II. THE MISERY OF THE DAMNED, under that curse–

It is a misery which the tongues of men and angels cannot sufficiently express. God always acts like Himself– as no favors can be compared to His, so also His wrath and terrors are without a parallel.

As the saints in heaven are advanced to the highest pitch of happiness, so the damned in hell arrive at the height of misery.

Two things here I shall soberly inquire into– the punishment of ‘loss’, and the punishment of ‘sense’, in hell. But since these also are such things as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, we must, as geographers do, leave a large void for the unknown land, which that day will discover.

A. THE PUNISHMENT OF ‘LOSS’ WHICH THE DAMNED SHALL UNDERGO IS SEPARATION FROM THE LORD. ‘Depart from me, you cursed.’ This will be a stone upon their grave’s mouth, as ‘the talent of lead’ (Zech 5:7,8), that will hold them down forever …

They cannot indeed be locally separated from God, they cannot be in a place where He is not; since He is, and will be present everywhere– ‘If I make my bed in hell,’ says the psalmist, ‘behold you are there’ (Psalm 139:8). But they shall be miserable beyond expression, in a ‘relative’ separation from God. Though He will be present in the very center of their souls, (if I may so express it), while they are wrapped up in fiery flames, in utter darkness– it shall only be to feed them with the vinegar of His wrath, and to punish them with the emanations of His revenging justice.

1. This separation will be AN INVOLUNTARY SEPARATION. ‘Now’ they depart from Him. They will not come to Him, though they are called and entreated to come.

But ‘then’ they shall be driven away from Him, when they would gladly abide with Him …

2. IT WILL BE A TOTAL AND UTTER SEPARATION. Though the wicked are, in this life, separated from God, yet there is a kind of interchange between them– He gives them many good gifts, and they give Him, at least, some good words; so that the peace is not altogether hopeless.

But ‘then’ there shall be a total separation, the damned being cast into utter darkness, where there will not be the least gleam of light or favor from the Lord; which will put an end to all their fair words to Him.

3. IT WILL BE A FINAL SEPARATION. They will part with Him, never more to meet, being shut up under everlasting horror and despair. The match between Jesus Christ and unbelievers, which has so often been carried forward, and put back again, shall then be broken up forever; and never shall one message of favor or goodwill go between the parties anymore.

This punishment of loss, in a total and final separation from God, is a misery beyond what mortals can conceive, and which the dreadful experience of the damned can only sufficiently unfold …

Wherefore, a total separation from God, wherein all comfortable communication between God and a rational creature is absolutely blocked up, must of necessity bring along with it a total eclipse of all light of comfort and ease whatever. If there is but one window, or open place, in a house, and that be totally shut up, it is evident there can be nothing but darkness in that house …

All joy goes, and unmixed sorrow settles in them. All quiet and rest separate from them and they are filled with horror and rage. Hope flies away, and despair seizes them. Common operations of the Spirit, which now restrain them, are withdrawn forever, and sin comes to its utmost height. Thus we have a dismal view of the horrible spectacle of sin and misery, which a creature proves when totally separated from God and left to itself; and we may see this separation from God to be the very hell of hell.

Being separated from God, they are deprived of all good. The good things which they set their hearts upon in this world are beyond their reach there. The covetous man cannot enjoy his wealth there; nor the ambitious man his honors; nor the sensual man his pleasures– no, not a drop of water to cool his tongue (Luke 16:24,25).

No food or drink there to strengthen the faint; no sleep to refresh the weary– and no music, or pleasant company, to comfort and cheer up the sorrowful. And as for those holy things they despised in the world, they shall never more hear of them, nor see them.

No offer of Christ there, no pardon, no peace; no wells of salvation in the pit of destruction. In one word, they shall be deprived of whatever might comfort them, being totally and finally separated from God, the fountain of all goodness and comfort.

(3) Man naturally desires to be happy, being conscious to himself that be is not self-sufficient. He forever has a desire of something outside of himself, to make him happy; and the soul being, by its natural make and constitution, capable of enjoying God, and nothing else being commensurable to its desires, it can never have true and solid rest until it rests in the enjoyment of God. This desire of happiness the rational creature can never lay aside, no, not even in hell …

So the doors of earth and heaven both are shut against them at once. This will create them unspeakable anguish, while they shall live under an eternal gnawing hunger after happiness, which they certainly know shall never be in the least measure satisfied, all doors being closed on them.

(4) The damned shall know that some are perfectly happy, in the enjoyment of that God from whom they themselves are separated; and this will aggravate the sense of their loss– that they can never have any share with those happy ones …

It is the opinion of some, that every person in heaven or hell shall hear and see all that passes in either state. Whatever is to be said for this, we have ground from the Word to conclude that the damned shall have a very accurate knowledge of the happiness of the saints in heaven; for what else can be meant of the rich man in hell seeing Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom?

It would be a mighty torment to a hungry man, to see others liberally feasting, while he is so chained up as not to have one crumb to stop his gnawing appetite …

(5) They will remember that time was when they might have been made partakers of the blessed company of saints, in their enjoyment of God– and this will aggravate their sense of the loss. All will remember that there was once a possibility of it; that they were once in the world, in some corners of which the way of salvation was laid open to men’s view– and may wish they had gone round the world, until they had found it out.

Despisers of the Gospel will remember, with bitterness, that Jesus Christ, with all His benefits, was offered to them– that they were exhorted, entreated, and pressed to accept, but would not; and that they were warned of the misery they now feel, and exhorted to flee from the wrath to come, but they would not hearken.

The Gospel offer slighted will make a hot hell, and the loss of an offered heaven, will be a sinking weight on the spirits of unbelievers in the pit …

Others will remember that they thought themselves sure of heaven, but, being blinded with pride and self-conceit, they were above ordinances, and beyond instruction, and would not examine their state– which was their ruin. But then they will in vain wish that they had reputed themselves the worst of the congregation, and curse the fond conceit they had of themselves, and that others had of them too …

(6) They will see the loss to be irrecoverable– that they must eternally lie under it, never, never to be repaired.

Might the damned, after millions of ages in hell, regain what they have lost, it would be some ground of hope; but the prize is gone, and never can be recovered …

B. THE DAMNED SHALL BE PUNISHED IN HELL WITH THE PUNISHMENT OF ‘SENSE’ AS THEY MUST DEPART FROM GOD INTO EVERLASTING FIRE.

I am not disposed to dispute what kind of fire it is into which they shall depart, to be tormented forever, whether a material fire or not. Experience will more than satisfy the curiosity of those who are disposed rather to dispute about it, than to seek how to escape it.

Neither will I meddle with the question, Where is it? It is enough that the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched, will be found somewhere by impenitent sinners.

1. But, first, I shall prove that, whatever kind of fire it is– it is more vehement and terrible than any fire we on earth are acquainted with …

(a) As in heaven, grace being brought to its perfection, profit and pleasure also arrive at their height there. So sin, being come to its height in hell, the punishment of evil also arrives at its perfection there …

(b) Why are the things of another world represented to us in an earthly dress, in the Word, but because the weakness of our capacities in such matters, which the Lord is pleased to condescend unto, requires it. It being always supposed, that the things of the other world are in their kind more perfect than those by which they are represented.

When heaven is represented to us under the notion of a city, with gates of pearl and the street of gold, we do not expect to find gold and pearls there, which are so mightily prized on earth, but something more excellent than the finest and most precious things in this world.

When therefore, we hear of hell-fire, it is necessary we understand by it something more vehement, piercing, and tormenting, than any fire ever seen by our eyes.

And here it is worth considering, that the torments of hell are held forth under several other notions than that of fire alone. And the reason of it is plain– namely, that hereby what of horror is lacking in one notion of hell, is supplied by another

Therefore, we hear also of ‘the second death’, for the damned in hell shall be ever dying

(c) Our fire cannot affect a spirit, but by way of sympathy with the body to which it is united. But hell-fire will not only pierce into the bodies, but also go directly into the souls of the damned, for it is ‘prepared for the devil and his angels,’ those wicked spirits, whom no fire on earth can hurt …

(d) The preparation of this fire proves the inexpressible vehemency and dreadfulness of it. The text calls it, ‘prepared’ yes, ‘the prepared fire,’ by way of eminence.

As the three children were not cast into ordinary fire [Daniel 3], but a fire prepared for a particular purpose which therefore was exceeding hot, the furnace being heated seven times more than ordinary, so the damned shall find in hell a prepared fire, the like to which was never prepared by human are

2. As to the second point proposed, namely, the properties of the fiery torments in hell–
(a) They will be universal torments, every part of the creature being tormented in that flame. When one is cast into a fiery furnace, the fire makes its way into the very heart, and leaves no member untouched.

What part, then, can have ease, when the damned ‘swim’ in a lake of fire, burning with brimstone? There will their bodies be tormented and scorched forever …

Hence, no pleasant affection shall ever spring up in their hearts any more; their love of comfort, joy, and delight, in any object whatever, shall be plucked up by the root. They will be filled with hatred, fury, and rage against God, themselves, and their fellow-creatures, whether happy in heaven, or miserable in hell, as they themselves are.

They will be sunk in sorrow, racked with anxiety, filled with horror, galled to the heart with fretting, and continually darted with despair– which will make them weep, gnash their teeth, and blaspheme forever …

Conscience will be a worm to gnaw and prey upon them; remorse for their sins shall seize them and torment them forever, and they shall not be able to shake it off, as once they did; for ‘in hell their worm does not die.’ (Mark 9:44,46) …

(b) The torments in hell are manifold. Imagine the case that a man were, at one and the same time, under the violence of the gout, stone, and whatever diseases and pains have ever met together in one body– the torment of such a one would be but light in comparison to the torments of the dammed

(c) They will be most intense and vehement torments, causing ‘weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt 13:42, 22:13). They are represented to us under the notion of pangs in childbirth, which are very sharp and acute …

It is true, there will be degrees of torments in hell– ‘It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for Chorazin and Bethsaida’ (Matt 11:21,22). But the least load of wrath there will be insupportable; for how can the heart of the creature endure, or his hands be strong, when God Himself is a consuming fire to him?

When the tares are bound in bundles for the fire, there will be “bundles” of covetous persons, of drunkards, profane sweaters, unclean persons, formal hypocrites, unbelievers, and despisers of the Gospel, and the like.

The several “bundles” being cast into hell-fire, some will burn more vehemently than others, according as their sins have been more heinous than those of others– a fiercer flame shall seize the bundle of the profane, than the bundle of unsanctified moralists.

(e) They will be unpitied. The punishments inflicted on the greatest malefactors on earth draw forth some compassion from the spectators. But the damned shall have none to pity them.

God will not pity them, but laugh at their calamity (Prov 1:26). The blessed company in heaven shall rejoice in the execution of God’s righteous judgment, and sing while their smoke rises up forever and ever (Rev 19:3), ‘And again they said, Hallelujah! And her smoke rose up forever and ever.’

No compassion can be expected from the devil and his angels, who delight in the ruin of the children of men, and are and will be forever void of pity. Neither will one person pity another there, where every one is weeping and gnashing his teeth, under his own insupportable anguish and pain.

There, natural affection will be extinguished– parents will not love their children, nor children their parents; the mother will not pity the daughter in these flames, nor will the daughter pity the mother; the son will show no regard to his father there, nor the servant to his master, where every one will be groaning under his own torment.

(f) To complete their misery, their torments shall be eternal! ‘And the smoke of their torments ascends up forever and ever.’ Ah! what a frightful case is this– to be tormented in the whole body and soul, and that not with one kind of torment, but many; all of these most acute, and all this without any intermission, and without pity from any!

What heart can conceive those things without horror? Nevertheless, if this most miserable case were at length to have an end, that would afford some comfort.

But the torments of the damned will have no end!

The final sections discuss being with the company of devils and the everlasting nature of hell.

Boston concluded with an exhortation to unbelievers to receive Christ ‘as He is offered in the Gospel’ and prayed that the Lord would be ‘effectual’ in accomplishing this.

—————————————————————————-

This concludes a series on hell, available on my Christianity/Apologetics page under ‘Hell’. Previous posts include:

John MacArthur on hell

Hell on low — or no — heat (20th century history)

Christian views on hell: moving back to Origen

J C Ryle on hell (19th century, first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool)

Our inability to comprehend hell — and God

Archibald G Brown’s tour of hell that happened on earth

Whilst the Great War raged on in 1915, on the home front, Britain’s first Women’s Institute was founded in Anglesey, Wales, in an attempt to keep families better fed.

Inspired by Canada

Our Women’s Institutes (WI) took their inspiration and organisational structure from Canada, where Adelaide Hoodless had founded that nation’s WI in 1897 as a way for wives of Farmers Institute members to share domestic science skills and foster friendship. By 1905, Ontario alone had 130 WI branches.

A Canadian lady and enthusiastic WI member, Madge Watt, moved to Wales in 1913. Two years later, she met John Nugent Harris. Harris was Secretary of the AOS — Agricultural Organisations Society. The Development Commission, a government body, funded the AOS, the purpose of which was to create farmers’ co-operatives for wartime food production.

Watt told Harris about the WI in Canada. Harris, aware that the AOS needed more people, asked her to establish the WI in Britain. Watt’s first meeting took place in Anglesey in September 2015. However, despite her enthusiasm and persuasion beforehand, only a handful of women attended. Those who were reluctant to take part felt uncomfortable being around others of different social classes.

The Great War years

Before long, however, Watt’s organisational and persuasive skills attracted more women. At the time, it was unusual for women to leave the house other than to run errands. Housework, cooking and tending a garden or part of the farm took up most of the day. Those who attended Watt’s meetings enjoyed the friendships they were forming with other housewives. One woman told another and a movement was born: one that not only helped the individual, but also the nation at a time when food was essential.

By the end of 2015, Wales had several chapters of the WI — and Watt had already branched out into England, where the organisation was established in Dorset, Sussex and Kent. Watt had taken the WI from one coast to another — Wales to Kent — within three months!

In October 2016, the WI chapters were so numerous that the AOS set up a subcommittee to oversee them. The AOS appointed Lady Gertrude Denman as head of this subcommittee. In September 2017, the Treasury decided that funding for the the growing WI movement should be transferred from the AOS to the Women’s Branch of the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture (which also organised the Women’s Land Army). At that point, Lady Denman, not wishing for the WIs to come under government control, was able to negotiate an agreement with the Board of Agriculture whereby the Board would fund the establishment of new chapters which would then become self-financing via members’ dues.

On October 16, 1917, delegates from 137 WI chapters and Lady Denman set up a central committee of management and created a constitution as well as set of rules. She was elected to head the WI.

The WI stipulated from the beginning that it was not to be politically or religiously aligned. That meant — and still means — that every woman can join. The objectives are to:

a) Study home economics; b) Provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and for all local activities; c) Encourage home and local industries; d) Develop co-operative enterprises; e) Stimulate interest in the agriculture industry.

A Scottish WI was established in 1917, known as the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute. Catherine Blair had a harder time there than Madge Watt in Wales. Women in East Lothian (outside Edinburgh) only met up with other ladies once a year at the local fête.

Although home economics has always been central to the WI, other topics discussed at early meetings varied by region. In England and Wales, lessons and tips on resoling boots from old tyres were popular. In Scotland, women were more interested in learning how to butcher pig’s carcasses.

During the Great War, the WI helped to bring new methods of food conservation to British housewives. Incredible as it might seem, conserving fruit at home was virtually unknown in 1916. The WI was able to get new American sterilising equipment shipped across the Atlantic. All 199 chapters expressed an interest in receiving and giving lessons on this new preserving technique.

The WI promoted the notion of foraging, although that was not what it was called then. Women understood the value of fruits growing in the wild and how they could be used for food. Some of this produce was conserved in the new American style. Other fruits were made into jam.

If there is one thing Britons identify the WI with is jam making. The WI demonstrated how to increase the yield of jam:

… for those women who had access to a ‘copper’, the quantities that could be made were enormous. Mrs Dunstan, writing in the WI’s own magazine, Home and Country in July 1919, recalled ‘We could make nearly one hundred pounds of jam in it at a time, and as the fire would burn anything such as rubbish, peels etc. our fuel bill for making six and a half tons of jam was less than two pounds.’

Also:

War time also brought out the best of women’s craftwork skills and ability to ‘make do and mend’.

In the summer of 1917, the WI opened a crafts stall at the National Economy Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. The public saw how experienced and creative members were in making rugs, toys, baskets as well as fur and leather accessories.

Today, the WI is Britain’s largest voluntary women’s organisation with 212,000 members in 6,600 local groups. Men are also welcome to attend. Although the focus is very much on domestic science, a number of chapters are also career-oriented, as many members work outside the home.

Centenary banquet

On October 10, 2015, a centenary banquet at the Drapers’ Hall in London was held to honour the WI.

Chefs, some of them Michelin-starred, competed to prepare winning dishes for the four-course meal. The competition was shown from start to finish on the BBC’s Great British Menu, which started in August with weekly regional heats around the country.

We watched every episode. What surprised us is that so many of the chefs attempted to reproduce WI recipes. Time and time again, the chefs judging their efforts warned them about trying to do something the WI members are all expert at — jams, cakes and bread! Friday’s episodes, which determined a regional winner, were judged by three other notables in the food world — as well as a WI member.

This is an indicative comment from one of the WI judges when it came time to select the chefs cooking at the banquet:

… guest judge Mary Quinn turned up and said that the WI has no time for drizzles or smears.

If I had been competing, I would have taken more of a classic approach and prepare dishes outside of the WI’s purview, rather than cheap cuts of meat and Scotch eggs. It was a banquet, not Sunday lunch. Yet, on the day, every dish looked breathtaking! The WI members and supporters attending loved every bite.

Best wishes to the WI for their continuing work in promoting British produce, especially dairy, as well as their campaigns for wildlife, particularly bees.

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