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A well known Catholic priest from Glasgow, the Revd James ‘Big Jim’ Doherty, died earlier this month.

On January 10, 2022, Tim Stanley, a Catholic and a columnist for The Telegraph, related one of his favourite anecdotes about Big Jim:

A tribute to another outspoken Catholic

Speaking of outspoken Catholics, I’d like to pay tribute to Fr James Doherty, AKA “Big Jim”, a Glasgow priest who died last week, of whom the stories are legendary. On one occasion, a man appeared at the presbytery with a notepad that read: “I am homeless, deaf and dumb. Please help.” The cleric had seen this trick before.

“Can you lip read?” asked Big Jim. The man nodded. “Well, I’ve nae money, honey, but if you’ll come into the house, I’ll make you a sandwich.” Thank you, the man nodded.

As they walked past the huge gong the house keeper would use to summon the clergy to lunch, Jim whacked it so hard it rang like Big Ben. “Good God!” cried the homeless man, “What the Hell did you do that for?!”

“Oh, it’s a double miracle!” said Big Jim. “Ye can hear and ye can speak!!”

“Aye well,” replied the man, rubbing his ears, “you’ve got to work bloody hard to get any money out of people nowadays.”

Jim made the man his sandwich.

That’s one of the best anecdotes I’ve read in some time.

Lying does not pay, especially to a priest. Priests have heard or seen everything under the sun. They are not to be underestimated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-isolation time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido concludes:

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

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

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

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

This tweet expresses the phenomenon well:

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

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

The end of mass vaccination?

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

The Observer reported:

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

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

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

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

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

Schoolchildren suffering

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

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

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

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

Vaccines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a clip from The Telegraph‘s article:

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

NHS is doing well

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

Socialist policies in Scotland and Wales do not work

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

More on that below.

Wales

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

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

Dan Wootton said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This exchange shows how complicated the situation is:

Scotland

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

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

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

She insists it’s to keep them safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sturgeon is criminalising people drinking and having a good time.

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

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

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

Guido Fawkes has an update from Wednesday, January 5:

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

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

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

Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scottish Daily Express reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scottish Conservatives are the main opposition party in Holyrood:

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

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

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

Labour are the next largest party in opposition:

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

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

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

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

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

The Liberal Democrat response was the best:

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

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

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

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

Too right!

Conclusion

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

Let those who wish to take precautions do so.

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

On Sunday, January 9, 2022, the Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known as Kate, turned 40:

Paolo Roversi took beautiful photographs of the Duchess to mark the occasion. They will be permanently displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Prior to that, they will be touring in three places that were pivotal to the Duchess’s life: Berkshire, the county where she grew up; St Andrews, where she went to university and Anglesey, where she and Prince William lived when they first married:

Paolo Roversi definitely brought out the best in his subject:

The portrait of the Duchess in her red dress made the cover of half the Sunday papers:

The third portrait can be seen in an article in The Sunday Times: ‘Kate Middleton at 40: how the Duchess of Cambridge is preparing to be Queen’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The paper’s Royal Editor, Roya Nikkhah, points out that Kate’s fit with the Royal Family is excellent:

From Diana to Fergie to Meghan, royal brides’ discontent with the institution is renowned. But more than ten years after marrying in, the Duchess of Cambridge celebrates her 40th birthday with a high level of the personal and professional happiness that has eluded some royal wives.

That is no mean feat for a young woman who has been so exposed for so long.

The past two years have been, to say the least, turbulent for Kate and her family …

How Kate copes

The Duchess has borrowed behaviours from the Queen and the late Queen Mother.

She eschews drama:

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, one of the Cambridges’ closest friends and advisers, their former principal private secretary who is godfather to Prince George, assesses Kate’s coping mechanism: “She has that almost old-fashioned, Queen Mother attitude to drama — she just doesn’t do it.”

An image of the duchess arriving at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April last year is telling. Taken a few weeks after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which included accusations of racism in the royal family, Kate appears composed but defiant.

The Queen must admire her granddaughter-in-law quite a lot, because she promoted her to:

Dame Grand Cross, the highest female rank in the Royal Victorian Order, awarded personally by the monarch for services to the sovereign — a sign of her gratitude to the woman on whose shoulders so much expectation rests. 

One source thinks that the Duchess takes a lot of her cues from the Queen:

A royal source who has known Kate from the start believes she has quietly observed Her Majesty’s game plan and successfully adopted many of her tactics: “She will be queen for a long time, and knowing her, she will have thought, ‘Who is my role model here, who has done this really well? Who do I learn from to lay down and build the foundations for the long game, to stay solid, strong, calm and confident, without giving up too much of myself?’ I think she has taken a lot from the Queen.”

Prince William’s greatest support

Sources interviewed agree that the Duchess is her husband’s greatest source of support:

A close friend says: “Kate has a way of calming William down and knows how to be really affectionate and gentle. But she is 100 per cent loyal to him and has a shaft of steel running up her back when she needs to deal with stuff that’s unpalatable.” One of William’s closest friends puts it bluntly: “He has had a year from hell and she has been fantastic supporting him.”

William is the first to acknowledge his wife’s diplomacy. “Catherine is a peacemaker,” he told a friend. “She’s much better than me, she wants everyone to be aligned.” When the royal party emerged from St George’s Chapel in Windsor after Prince Philip’s funeral, Kate broke the ice chatting to Harry, leading William to follow suit. In July, when the brothers were briefly reunited again at Kensington Palace to unveil a statue of Diana, Kate did not join them publicly but worked her magic out of sight before the brothers emerged into the glare of the world’s media.

“William was still furious,” says a close friend. “He had taken the view that he’d only give so much. He just didn’t want to go there [with Harry].” An aide says: “[Catherine] was amazing behind the scenes when Harry came.” The event went off without a hitch.

’Twas ever thus, says a former courtier, who points to the royal trio’s Heads Together campaign launched in 2016 to raise awareness around mental health: “It was completely her idea. She was very keen for the three of them to do something powerful together equally. She cared a lot about William’s relationship with his brother.”

St Andrews days

Incredibly, Prince William and Kate Middleton managed to keep the early months of their relationship at university out of the eyes of the media. Throughout it all, Kate remained level-headed:

William and Kate met at the University of St Andrews in 2001, where they were initially in the same halls of residence and reading the same degree, although William switched from art history to geography. Kate briefly dated law student Rupert Finch in her first year. She and William became a couple in 2003, managing to stay under the radar until April 2004 when The Sun broke their cover, publishing photographs of them skiing. Kate’s world changed for ever. Yet she did not. “She was always the same, from when she didn’t know she was going to be William’s wife to after the engagement,” says a close friend of the couple. “She never changed her manner with anybody.”

She can credit her parents’ success in their own party-planning business for her composure:

she moved in upper-class circles that made the transition into royal life a relatively smooth one.

Enduring love

Those who know the couple say they are still very much in love and became good friends first:

That ease came from a solid friendship before romance blossomed. As William said in their engagement interview in 2010: “We ended up being friends for a while and that was a good foundation. Because I do generally believe now that being friends with one another is a massive advantage.”

One of their closest friends says a spark was there from the start. “He found her really attractive and they’re the couple that still really fancy each other, there’s still a strong attraction. She finds him hilarious, they’re very into each other.”

Handling the media

During the couple’s courtship, Kate had no police protection until her engagement:

Kate had a rough ride from the start. After their relationship became public she was hounded by the paparazzi, who camped outside her Chelsea home, chasing her down the street. When it emerged she was working as an accessories buyer for the fashion label Jigsaw, photographers followed her as she went to buy her lunch. A friend tells me Kate was even chased late at night by several men in a car, which she found “terrifying”.

William’s team did all they could to help, but until he put Diana’s ring on her finger Kate was on her own without police protection. “It was constant. She coped with it admirably, given how intrusive it was,” says a former royal aide. The onslaught continued for years. After her job at Jigsaw became too difficult with the paparazzi, she went to work for her parents’ party-planning business and was attacked for being a “Waity Katie” who was biding her time until William made an honest woman of her. Reports that some in William’s circle nicknamed her “Doors to Manual”, in a reference to her mother Carole’s former career as a flight attendant, are said to be an “urban myth” by those close to the prince, but the future queen did not have it easy.

“It was never water off a duck’s back, but she has extraordinary strength of character and resilience,” says the aide. “I’ve never once seen or heard of her losing her temper. She went into it with her eyes wide open and her brain engaged. She is a sound, grounded person who knows herself well.”

Kate displayed the same sang-froid at her wedding. She was composed throughout.

Early married life

The Cambridges spent their first few years of married life in Anglesey. The Prince was an RAF search and rescue pilot.

Kate found adjusting to life as a Royal daunting at times but wanted to do everything properly:

Kate carefully planned her approach to learning how to become a future queen. “She was absolutely daunted by it and it was overwhelming at times,” says one of her closest friends. “Everyone wanted her to be the next Diana — people had this Diana hole they wanted to put her into. There was constant ‘what are her [campaigning] issues going to be?’ William was protective in making sure she had time and space to acclimatise to public life and not feel pressured.”

With charities clamouring for her attention, Rebecca Priestley, a confidante and adviser from 2011 and her private secretary from 2012 to 2017, helped Kate shape her new role. “Catherine knows every decision is for the rest of her life, everything is for the long game,” Priestley says. “She was aware she wasn’t an expert in any one field and she wanted to educate herself first, then shine a spotlight where needed. It was a ‘listen and learn’ approach rather than immediately becoming patron of a charity. We did a lot of under-the-radar visits before the public engagements.”

Some of the media’s obsession with her style over the substance of her work is a source of frustration, one that cut deep when she was starting her public life. A close friend says: “When she goes to the Bond premiere or is at Trooping the Colour, of course she puts on the ‘uniform’ of the role. But what was enormously frustrating and difficult for her, especially in the early days, was she was going out and doing the work she was interested in and was hugely important to her, and people just talked about what she was wearing.”

When Kate made her first public speech in March 2012, at the Treehouse hospice in Suffolk, she wore a high-street dress that her mother, Carole, had previously worn to Royal Ascot. “There she was meeting with hugely vulnerable children and families, and the dress was the story,” says the friend. “She said she found it ‘a bit demoralising’.”

Motherhood

The Duchess does what is best for her family:

Another close adviser says: “How she operates is not reactive. She has stuck to the path that she knows is right for her and her family. It’s not about the quick win.”

She says that she had a happy childhood, which the Prince says has made home life a pleasure:

Family is everything to Kate and she remains close to her parents and siblings. “I had a very happy childhood,” she has said. “It was great fun — I’m very lucky, I’ve come from a very strong family — my parents were hugely dedicated to us.” That stable family unit was a big draw for William when they met, and continues to be his compass. William has told a friend: “Catherine has made me realise the importance of family. As you know, family hasn’t always been an easy thing for me.”

In interviews, the Duchess, mother of three, admits to having the same challenges as any other mum:

Kate has always presented the unflappable demeanour of a mother who seamlessly balances the demands of a very public role with the challenges of raising George, eight, Charlotte, six, and Louis, three. But in February 2020 she let the mask slip a little, in a frank admission of wrestling with “mum guilt” and how parenthood had “pulled” her to the “toughest and most unknown places”. On the Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast she admitted struggling with “the juggle” of being “such a hands-on mum”, being riddled with “doubts and questions about the guilty element of being away for work” and always “questioning your own decisions and judgments”. It took her time to shed the guilt of having a nanny and housekeeper to share the load: “It was a real weight off my shoulders [to realise] that actually it’s not totally my responsibility to do everything because, you know, we all have good days and bad days.”

It was rare to hear Kate nattering away unscripted, and an unusually candid insight into what matters to her: “Is it that I’m sitting down trying to do their maths and spelling homework over the weekend? Or is it the fact we’ve gone out and lit a bonfire and sat around trying to cook sausages that hasn’t worked because it’s too wet?” Kate revealed she adopted hypnobirthing techniques and had “really quite liked labour”, but found the prospect of emerging on to the steps of the Lindo Wing for a photo call hours after giving birth a “slightly terrifying” but necessary part of the job. “We’re hugely grateful for the support the public had shown us, and for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public I felt was really important,” she said.

A close friend gives the unvarnished take on how Kate really feels about sharing the most personal moments of her life with the nation. “She accepts and understands that in their position this stuff needs to happen. But it’s not easy for her, particularly with the babies. Standing there after just having a baby, feeling exhausted, those moments take a huge amount out of her. It’s hard work because she’s a normal woman with all the vulnerabilities and realities all women have. It is part of their life, she doesn’t resent it but it takes a lot of effort.”

What an exceptional woman. I wish there were more women just like her.

Many happy returns to the Duchess of Cambridge!

England had a relatively better coronavirus Christmas season than Wales or Scotland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided against moving from the current Plan B restrictions, in place until January 26, 2022, to Plan C, which would have resembled the approach our socialist mainland neighbours have imposed on their residents.

As such, a number of Scots visited Newcastle and Carlisle to celebrate Hogmanay, the last day of the old year: New Year’s Eve. The Scots celebrate through to January 2, an annual bank holiday there. Edinburgh has the best Hogmanay celebrations, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cancelled them this year.

The Welsh also journeyed across the border to England to ring in the New Year.

We were happy to have both nations share in our fun.

On January 2, The Sunday Times reported (emphases mine):

Several hours before the famous new year countdown in Times Square, New York, young Scottish revellers were counting down the seconds to midnight at bars in Times Square, Newcastle.

Party-goers fled Scotland, where nightclubs were shut and tougher socialising restrictions were in place, desperate for a big blowout. In the west of England, a similar exodus of young people from Wales boosted the numbers of clubbers in Chester, Bristol and other towns and cities across the border.

In the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, groups of friends spilled out of Newcastle station, dragging wheelie cases behind them, girls freshly spray-tanned, hair in rollers, and boys clutching plastic bags full of cans.

One, with his arms around the shoulders of a group of friends, declared they were here for “a party”. Hailing from towns and cities across Scotland, most were in their late teens and early twenties. Many had spent successive birthdays in lockdown and were not prepared to do the same for a second New Year’s Eve.

While the UK government had allowed new year celebrations to continue, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, ordered nightclubs to shut for three weeks to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, and Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay celebrations were cancelled.

“It’s boring in Scotland, all the nightclubs are shut — what are we going to do in Scotland?” said Brian, 25, from Edinburgh. Lily Owen, 19, a student from Edinburgh, was visiting Newcastle for the first time with a group of friends. “There’s clubs here, it’s open, it’s a no-brainer: we’re going to go,” she said.

Aimee Stuart, 22, had also come to England with friends, “because Nicola Sturgeon has banned us from going out”. They had paid about £200 each for the trip — and they were not worried about Covid. “I’ve just had it, so it’s fine,” Stuart said. “And we’re all double-vaccinated.”

It has been interesting to note how the media narrative is beginning to change from a pro-restriction one to a more Swedish-style one.

On January 2, news emerged that epidemiologist Prof Mark Woolhouse OBE from the University of Edinburgh once again advocated a Swedish-style approach, which he had done in September 2020.

The Guardian obtained excerpts from Woolhouse’s forthcoming book, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir, and published them:

Rather than imposing blanket lockdowns across the nation, the government should have adopted measures designed to make contacts safe, Woolhouse maintains. “You can see from the UK data that people were reducing their contacts with each other as cases rose and before lockdown was imposed. That, coupled with Covid-safe measures, such as masks and testing, would have been sufficient to control spread.”

Largely voluntary behaviour change worked in Sweden and it should have been allowed to progress in the UK, argues Woolhouse. Instead, we plumped for an enforced national lockdown, in part because, for the first time in history, we could. Enough business is now done online to allow large parts of society to function fairly well – through video conferences and online shopping. “But it was a lazy solution to a novel coronavirus epidemic, as well as a hugely damaging one,” he adds.

However, Woolhouse is at pains to reject the ideas of those who advocated the complete opening up of society, including academics who backed the Barrington Declaration which proposed the Covid-19 virus be allowed to circulate until enough people had been infected to achieve herd immunity.

“This would have led to an epidemic far larger than the one we eventually experienced in 2020,” says Woolhouse. “It also lacked a convincing plan for adequately protecting the more vulnerable members of society, the elderly and those who are immuno-compromised.”

Instead, the country should have put far more effort into protecting the vulnerable. Well over 30,000 people died of Covid-19 in Britain’s care homes. On average, each home got an extra £250,000 from the government to protect against the virus, he calculates. “Much more should have been spent on providing protection for care homes,” says Woolhouse, who also castigates the government for offering nothing more than a letter telling those shielding elderly parents and other vulnerable individuals in their own homes to take precautions.

The nation could have spent several thousand pounds per household on provision of routine testing and in helping to implement Covid-safe measures for those shielding others and that would still have amounted to a small fraction of the £300bn we eventually spent on our pandemic response, he argues. Indeed, Woolhouse is particularly disdainful of the neglect of “shielders”, such as care home workers and informal carers. “These people stood between the vulnerable and the virus but, for most of 2020, they got minimal recognition and received no help.”

Britain spent a fortune on suppressing the virus and will still be servicing the debt incurred for generations to come, he adds. “By contrast, we spent almost nothing on protecting the vulnerable in the community. We should and could have invested in both suppression and protection. We effectively chose just one.”

And Woolhouse is emphatic that further lockdowns are not the way to deal with future waves of Covid-19. “Lockdowns aren’t a public health policy. They signify a failure of public health policy,” he states.

Instead, the country needs, very quickly, not to be surprised by new variants and not to respond each one in an ad hoc fashion. “We should agree a sliding scale of interventions and trigger points for implementing them. With omicron it all feels a bit chaotic. We need better planning and preparation for when the next variant arrives, as it surely will.”

Woolhouse is having a poke at the Conservatives there. He would be better off posting that to Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford (Wales’s First Minister). They have maintained much more stringent restrictions than England from 2020 to the present.

Another piece about adopting a Swedish-style strategy appeared in The Guardian on January 2. Larry Elliott wrote about Boris’s new change of tack in an attempt to reduce his current hero to zero reputation.

Elliott writes:

Government policy towards Covid-19 has come full circle. For now, at least, England has returned to the Swedish way of dealing with the pandemic. Tough, officially imposed lockdowns are out. Trusting the people to do the sensible thing is back in.

Whether this approach will survive the expected surge in hospitalisations from Christmas and New Year revelries remains to be seen. Boris Johnson is the master of the screeching U-turn and with the number of infections hitting new records pressure on Downing Street to act is growing. We have been here before.

Back in the early days of the pandemic the prime minister was minded to copy Sweden, a country that imposed few restrictions and decided early on that it needed to learn to live with the virus.

The prime minister’s flirtation with the “Swedish experiment” was brief, and at the end of March 2020 a draconian lockdown was imposed. Ministers knew this would have a dire impact on the economy but felt the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed left them no choice.

A paper published in the online journal Scientific Reports last year examined what would have happened had Britain followed the Swedish approach. Even assuming the public here would have been as willing to adhere to non-mandatory recommendations as the Swedes (a pretty big assumption) the UK death rate would have at least doubled.

This time, the decision is a lot less clearcut, not least because vaccines are providing protection from the virus. The news from South Africa, one of the countries where Omicron first surfaced, has also been encouraging. While more transmissible, the new variant has resulted in fewer hospitalisations and deaths. Case numbers, after rising rapidly, have started to decline.

A degree of caution is needed when comparing the two countries, because South Africa has a much younger population than Britain, and it is summer rather than the middle of winter there. Even so, it is clear the government has set a high bar for imposing further restrictions.

The prime minister’s weakened political position is one reason the government has gone Swedish. The risk of causing serious damage to the economy when it is looking particularly vulnerable is another, because this is going to be a tough year for the British public. Inflation is rising, interest rates are going up, and energy bills are expected to rocket in the spring just as Rishi Sunak’s increase in national insurance contributions comes into force.

The cumulative effect is a whopping cut to living standards. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank the average household is going to be £1,000 a year worse off. Those on the lowest incomes will be especially hard hit by soaring gas and electricity bills.

In the circumstances, it is easy to see why the government is reluctant to add to the economic pain by imposing tougher restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. Fresh curbs mean slower growth and a hit to the public finances. They would also test the resilience of the labour market.

Good news. I, like many others of a libertarian bent, foresaw these disasters nearly two years ago in March 2020.

Let Scotland and Wales continue mired in socialist control, which is doing little to alleviate coronavirus numbers.

Meanwhile, may England lead the way out of this pandemic.

In a few months’ time, we’ll find out which approach was the correct one. I suspect England’s, provided it turns out to be a more libertarian one, will have been proven the right thing to do.

I suspect that Omicron is providential. Whilst I would not advocate throwing drinks and nibbles parties, how many people have had it and not know it?

In that respect, it could be good for building up herd immunity the old fashioned way.

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

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

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

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

That’s good news.

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

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

Here’s what happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that story, Scotland’s The Herald reports:

Recent social distancing rules in the chamber ended this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearson sees this as good news:

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

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

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

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

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

Sturgeon advised businesses as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One wonders how many other stories there are like this.

Please, someone, stop Project Fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the bit on travel and our civil liberties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell:

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

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

This is the effect of booster shots:

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. I hope that their day is full of food and fun.

This is an important day, recalling the first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts featuring English Pilgrims and the indigenous people who taught them how to plant and grow regional crops.

Alternatively, some prefer to celebrate the first Thanksgiving in Florida decades before.

Whatever the case, the day is also apposite for giving thanks to God for personal blessings, past and present.

This summer, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the trajectory of my life and those many blessings from the past that made my present days possible. It was a prayerful exercise, full of remembered pleasant surprises from the past. As I looked back, it seemed to be God’s plan for me. How thankful I am.

Those weeks of reflection while doing gardening were a useful exercise. They also helped to lift the gloom of lockdown prior to England’s mid-July reopening. I still feel elated.

The other day, I wrote about Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler.

My post ended with an autobiographical video about his life:

He describes the trajectory of his life, from being a youngster who persuaded one of his teachers to allow him to start an after-school drama club in Scotland. At that time, he wanted to be an actor but also a butler.

After he finished school, he gave tours of a Scottish estate. From there, he went on to work for the then-Duke and Duchess (now Dowager Duchess) of Bedford, in England. A few years later, he became butler to Prince Charles. He ended up being a guest on television shows, not only in Britain but also the United States and Australia, discussing various aspects of etiquette. His demonstrations of afternoon tea have been particularly popular. Clearly, he has achieved both of his childhood ambitions.

Grant Harrold’s life appears to have the hand of God upon it, even if he did not say so.

Currently, The Royal Butler gives courses on etiquette, both in person and online. He ended his video by saying how grateful he was to the people along the way who made that possible, beginning with his schoolteacher who allowed him to set up a drama club three decades ago.

Each of us has much for which to be grateful. Thanksgiving Day is a good time to reflect on our many blessings.

COP26 ended last weekend.

The great Glasgow conference ended with an agreement to phase ‘down’ coal rather than phase ‘out’ coal.

This left COP26 chairman Alok Sharma MP (Conservative) in tears.

More on that below.

Let’s start at the beginning of the year and work from there.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg declared early in April that she would not be attending COP26:

The budding epidemiologist (irony alert) said that the conference should be cancelled until global vaccination rates had risen.

Odd that she did not mention carbon emissions from 30,000 prospective attendees, which the Global Warming Policy Forum did in May, strongly suggesting that the conference take place virtually. Guido Fawkes said that having done so would have saved British taxpayers £200m.

The UK Government stuck to the plan, however. A spokesman said:

We are working on the basis of COP26 being held in person this November, while closely monitoring the covid situation.

The summit team is working closely with all partners and exploring what different scenarios might mean for COP26 and how we plan for that, whilst putting the health of the participants and the local community first.

We are not looking to postpone the summit.

During COP26, Greta led a rally in central Glasgow, attracting hundreds of fellow admirers in the streets.

Mixed messages from No. 10’s COP26 spokeswoman

On April 20, No. 10 decided to scrap the plan for American-style press conferences which Downing Street’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton was supposed to lead. Stratton became the Government’s COP26 spokeswoman instead.

What a mistake that was.

On July 27, she told Britons not to rinse their plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Good news for plumbers, then:

The next day, she — working for a Conservative government — advised Britons to join the Green Party:

This seemed to be an attempt to walk back her dishwasher advice from the day before.

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphasis in the original):

In an unexpected turn of events, Boris Johnson’s COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton told The Independent that people should “join the Green Party” if they want to tackle climate change. When asked why organisations were critical of her advice to consider not rinsing plates“ before putting them in the dishwasher, Allegra responded by saying:

“When people say to me, ‘What can they do?’, they can do many things, they can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.”

A highly quotable if somewhat unusual endorsement… 

On August 2, Stratton explained to Times Radio why she still drove a diesel car rather than buy an electric one (emphases mine, unless otherwise stated):

I have a diesel Golf. It’s third hand and I’ve had it for 8 years. I don’t drive it very much because I live in London, and it wouldn’t be right. I cycle, I’ve hurt my leg at the moment, but usually we cycle or get on the bus or walk most places. The car we use to go to granny’s and grandad’s who are  mostly 200, 250 miles away. I should be moving to another car, before I hurt my leg I was thinking about getting another carMy son would really like me to buy an electric car. I think it is the idea that right now, if I had one, any of those journeys to my dad in South Scotland, my mum in Gloucestershire, my in-laws in the Lake District and my Gran in North Wales, they’re all journeys, that I think would be at least one quite long stop to charge. And my kids are seven and four and I don’t fancy it just yet. That’s not to say that very soon, that technology, the charging points, we’re already seeing an increase in numbers, we’re seeing the cost come down, and we are seeing the range go up. So the direction of travel is great, and is swift. So I am optimistic that at some point, like so many families around the country, I’ll go for it. But right now, I have hurt my leg and I’ve been told I can’t drive ...You know, sometimes when you’ve got a four year old in the car, they’re asleep, and you just want to keep going to get there, because you know, if they wake up, you know, they’ll want the loo, they’ll want food, they might be feeling carsick and so on. So you want to be in control of that journey ... And included in that might be that the stop times for recharging improve so much that it’s half an hour.

Stratton gave all the best reasons for not buying an electric car.

Commenting on Stratton’s quote, Emily Carver, Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs, pointed out:

Of course, when polled, the majority of the public support addressing climate change. Who wouldn’t want a greener, more sustainable planet? However, as is the case with so many policies, it is far easier to support a rosy abstract goal than it is to face its real-life consequences.

Furthermore, very few in the media mention the African slave labour involved in mining cobalt for car batteries in general:

How did Stratton get a position as press secretary then Britain’s COP26 spokeswoman?

Breitbart provided some clues:

Stratton became the first official White House-style press secretary for the prime minister last year. She is a former journalist who had worked with establishment outlets The Guardian, the BBC, and ITV. Despite spending £2.6 million on furnishing a press room, the government scrapped the plans in April, moving Stratton to the role of the Cop26 spokeswoman, with the conference taking place in November of this year.

The Times claimed in May that Johnson appointed the former journalist at the insistence of his then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, herself a keen environmentalist.

The newspaper of record alleged the hiring took place despite the interview panel recommending against it, with leaked remarks calling Stratton a “risky appointment” and voters allegedly preferring Ellie Price, the panel’s first-choice candidate.

“The PM said it would make his life too difficult. Carrie won’t accept it if it’s anyone else. He said, ‘I’ve promised this to her’,” a Whitehall source told The Times, with a second source saying: “Boris said Carrie would go bananas if she didn’t get her way.”

In 2020, Stratton worked for Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In January 2021, TCW told us that Stratton is married to The Times‘s James Forsyth, who also works for The Spectator:

It’s time for the journalist James Forsyth – who also writes a column in the Times – to reveal the truth about Sunak’s plans. Forsyth and Sunak are close friends. They attended Winchester College together in the 1990s. Sunak was best man at Forsyth’s wedding and they are godparents to each other’s children. In April 2020, Sunak hired Forsyth’s wife, Allegra Stratton, to be his media chief (though it’s not clear if this job was ever advertised and I don’t remember any of the above being declared publicly). Since then she has moved on to be No 10 press secretary.

The conference, the hypocrisy

Guido Fawkes looked through Government contracts for COP26 to see what taxpayers’ money was financing.

The filming costs were exhorbitant:

The government has splashed a whopping £36,083,135.81 on a production services contract with Identity Holdings Limited which includes a supply of production and media services.

Glasgow teemed with prostitutes for the first two weeks of November. So much for women’s rights and the Left’s virtue signalling moral compass.

Guido reported:

The 25,000 delegates who have flooded into Glasgow have brought protestors by the thousands and, according to Guido sources, untold sex workers from around the world who are advertising their services online. In the interests of research for this story Guido has been doing research on various “adult work” websites which filter by city. According to one of the website operators, business has really hotted up, with the number of hookers advertising their services tripling from the normal three hundred or so in the city, to upwards of a thousand

Former Labour MP David Miliband told BBC’s Newsnight that the cost of net zero would be at least £100t of ordinary people’s money:

For whatever reason, a Green councillor from Brighton not only attended the conference, but flew to get there:

On November 9, Guido wrote (emphases in the original, the one in purple mine):

Why it is really necessary for a local council leader to attend a UN conference Guido doesn’t know given they have absolutely no locus or input into the COP process. To make matters worse Brighton’s Green council leader has been caught with his fly open and forced to apologise after jetting to COP26 in Glasgow. Just days after Caroline Lucas moaned Rishi’s Budget was a joke because of its tax cuts on domestic flights…

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty took a plane from London to Glasgow, a 460-mile journey after which he made a speech at a protest march led by Greta Thunberg on the importance of cutting carbon emissions. He also chair’s Brighton and Hove council’s carbon neutral working group. According to the LNER website, the train journey from Brighton to Glasgow would have created 26.68kg of CO2 – Cafferty’s plane journey created 169.94kg…

Having been found out, the councillor issued a grovelling apology to a Brighton newspaper, The Argus.

In sharp contrast, former Scottish Conservative MP Ruth Davidson spotted the Royal Train at Carlisle station:

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s security minister Tô Lâm left Glasgow to journey to London for an eye-wateringly expensive gold leafed tomahawk steak at the newly opened Salt Bae Knightsbridge restaurant.

Guido has the video …

… and a post about the Communist enjoying a taste of capitalism:

And where had he just come from prior to his luxury dining experience? A flower-laying exercise at Karl Marx’s grave…

This absurd spectacle should surely call into question the millions the UK’s given to the corrupt, communist state. Since 2001, £481 million of UK taxpayers’ cash has been given in aid to Vietnam, and they are set to get another £7 million bung in 2021/22. Based on the video, Guido calculates the three steaks alone cost the table £2,550…

His colleagues back home are clearly displeased. The #SaltBae tag on Facebook was blocked in Vietnam to prevent people seeing the video –  something the social media giant is now investigating. Presumably if he is sacked for his typically corrupt communist antics, he can expect a golden handshake and a gold-plated pension…

One supposes he flew there and back.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has been a stickler for wearing masks in the coronavirus era, but look what she did at COP26. She dropped her mask:

The Daily Mail reported that Joe Biden had an emission problem of his own which left the Duchess of Cornwall highly amused. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is on the left, with Camilla on the right:

Brand Scotland

More than halfway through the conference it became clear that Glasgow’s hospitality sector was not reaping the post-coronavirus benefits that COP26 promoters promised.

On November 10, The Times reported (emphases mine):

While hotels across Glasgow are fully booked to accommodate the thousands of delegates, the hospitality trade is understood not to have seen any uplift in trading since the event began on October 31.

There are even suggestions the event has led to a reduction in trade for some operators. Footfall in the city centre is said to have been affected as people try to avoid the demonstrations.

There is also thought to be a number of delegations which have stayed outside of the city, with Edinburgh hotels among those which are busy.

Oli Norman, whose Ashton Properties owns venues such as Brel and Sloans, said he had heard of some publicans and restaurant owners who have seen their trading fall by up to 50 per cent, and added: “It should have signified a resurgence in the local economy but if anything it has been a damp squib.”

Dan Hodges from the Mail interviewed self-employed Glaswegians in Easterhouse, a poor district away from the city centre:

Thomas is disillusioned with COP26. ‘I’ve missed my chance,’ the Glaswegian barber tells me. ‘My friend rented his flat at two grand a week. He’s making £6,000 and using the money to jet off for a holiday.’

I’m in Easterhouse, a few miles from where the global elite are gathering to save the world from itself. But few of them have ventured out to what was once the most deprived housing estate in Scotland. ‘I’m not sure why,’ Angus, the local butcher, laughs. ‘Perhaps Joe Biden got lost on the M8.’

What does he think about calls for us all to go vegan to protect the planet? ‘Well, I’m a butcher,’ he replies. ‘And my dad was a butcher and my grandad was a butcher. I grew up on pig’s feet soup. So I think people round here are still going to want to eat meat.’

Angus’s views could be ascribed to self-interest. The same can’t be said for local cabbie Andy. He’s made a small fortune shuttling delegates between Glasgow and Edinburgh at £120 a time. ‘Sorry, but the whole thing is a pile of crap,’ he tells me. They’ve been driving round in big convoys telling everyone else to get the bus.

‘It all feels like a millionaire’s party.’

While a Scottish government minister caught coronavirus at COP26 …

… First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did her best to market at least one Scottish product, Irn Bru, a popular soft drink. She gave some to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Sturgeon also marketed herself through a series of selfies:

This short yet amusing video tells the story perfectly:

One senior Scot noted Sturgeon’s contradictory position on mask wearing:

Sturgeon had no policy mandate at COP26. She was invited only as Scotland’s political leader. It was a courtesy.

Still, as such, one can understand why she wanted selfies with world leaders. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, even though she denied it:

How it ended

Not surprisingly, much socialism was on display at COP26.

Harry Wilkinson discussed it with Tom Harwood of GB News on the last official day, November 12. This was an excellent interview:

China and the United States signed a bilateral deal thought to be a big deal. We’ll see. That said, India is the second greatest polluter after China:

Nicola Sturgeon wants a ban on nuclear fuel in Scotland, but if she does ban it too soon, the nation will not have the energy supply it needs:

In the end, coal would be phased down rather than phased out. This is because too many developing countries need it to supply energy to their citizens.

Britain’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, nearly broke down in tears, explaining why to Times Radio:

It was an emotional moment. I understood the disappointment. And six hours sleep in 3 days probably didn’t help.

The Times reported:

Before he banged down the gavel on the pact, the tearful Sharma told delegates: “I apologise for the way this process has unfolded. I am deeply sorry.” The representatives of 197 countries at the summit responded with a standing ovation …

Sharma said the summit had kept “1.5 alive” but added “its pulse is weak” and described it as “a fragile win”.

Nonetheless, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the agreement is a ‘historic achievement’:

Even Angela Rayner, the Labour MP who recently referred to ‘Tory scum’, praised Sharma for a ‘tremendous job’:

Sharma received many more compliments in Parliament early this week.

Those interested in combating climate change — largely impossible, in my opinion — should know that COP26 picked up from the Paris Agreement to flesh it out with specifics and COP27, to be held in Egypt in 2022, is thought to go even further with better pledges from participating nations.

A new book, Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn, discusses how various parts of the world abandoned by humans regenerate or deteriorate afterwards.

The Times featured a review of the book on Sunday, November 14, 2021.

I was most struck by the opening description of an abandoned herd of cattle in Orkney, which Cal Flyn visited in researching for the book. The animals reverted to feral ways (emphases mine):

The island of Swona in Orkney, Scotland, was a tiny community of nine families. In 1974 its two remaining inhabitants left, letting loose their herd of cattle, hoping they would fend for themselves until they returned. But they never did. When Cal Flyn spent a night on the island, she was told to sleep inside the abandoned cottage (not a tent) and lock the door. The cattle might trample her or break in. In fact they were defensive in Flyn’s presence, but the feral herd were far from “dim-witted, cud-chewing automaton[s]”. They had chosen a succession of alpha bulls and alpha cows, and banished unsuccessful males to the edges of the island. When one of the herd was dying, they would provide what comfort they could, and even introduced rituals to deal with dead bodies, which lay where they had fallen.

The Swona cows are one example of nature’s inextinguishable power to carry on despite the damaging impact of humanity. In beautiful, evocative prose, Flyn explores places that have been left behind by humans, and the ways in which nature has reasserted itself.

What fascinated me was their instinct to promote the fittest bulls and cows and juxtaposing that with death rituals.

Dumb animals? Far from it. God’s creation never fails to amaze.

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