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Even though we’re in the fallow period between Christmas and New Year, newspapers still have a few items of interest, especially when it comes to following up on stories from the past 12 months.

Theresa May supports Scottish trans law

On Tuesday, December 27, former Prime Minister Theresa May, the MP for Maidenhead, said she supports the Gender Recognition Reform bill that the Scottish parliament passed last week.

The Times reported:

The former prime minister broke ranks with fellow Tories in offering her support for the legislation, passed by Holyrood last week, which simplifies the process for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate without a medical diagnosis …

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, confirmed that his government was contemplating the “appropriate course of action”, claiming there were concerns about the bill’s impact on the safety of women and children …

“We have different legal systems,” she told Radio 4. “Obviously, there’s a different system in Scotland, but I think it is important when any part of the UK is looking at legislation that only affects that part of the UK, that thought is given to what the impact would be on the Union. At the end of the day it is about people, and it’s about the impact it would have on people.”

During her tenure May gave her support to allowing people to change gender without medical checks, stating: “Being trans is not an illness and it should not be treated as such.”

Her successors have distanced themselves from her stance. May said this week: “The very fact that I put the proposal forward shows that that was something that I thought was important to do, particularly to take some of the medical aspects out of this. But the [UK] government has looked again at it and has taken the decision that it has.”

It is difficult to understand why Theresa May does not understand why so many Scots object to this new law. Perhaps she needs to find herself in a changing room with a random man claiming to be a woman. Then again, she is quite tall so she probably would not feel intimidated. What about shorter women, though? And what about girls? Shouldn’t Mrs May want to protect her sisters?

British Heart Foundation upset at MP’s claims about coronavirus vaccine

On Tuesday, December 13, the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen was granted an adjournment debate in the House of Commons in which he stated why the coronavirus vaccine roll out should be halted.

On Wednesday, December 28, The Times reported that the British Heart Foundation is unhappy with Bridgen’s claims:

The British Heart Foundation has called on the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen to provide evidence for his claim that a senior member of the charity was suppressing data on vaccine harms …

Bridgen said he had information that someone in a “prominent leadership role” in the foundation was “covering up clear data that reveals that the mRNA vaccine increases inflammation of the heart arteries”.

The charity said in a statement that it strongly denied the allegations, adding that its advice on the safety of the vaccines was “based on rigorous scrutiny of the latest evidence” and “we would encourage those making these allegations to share specific, credible information with us that supports them” …

Some of the MP’s claims, including about senior figures in the foundation, seem to be based on analyses by Aseem Malhotra, a controversial cardiologist who opposes the vaccines and whose dietary advice has been criticised by the organisation in the past. When in 2016 Malhotra authored a report that claimed eating fatty foods did not make you fat, the foundation issued a rebuttal in which senior academics described the claims as “absurd and plain wrong”.

Bridgen told parliament that “the benefits of the vaccine are close to non-existent”, and there was a “clear case for complete suspension of these emergency use authorisation vaccines” …

In a statement to The Times, the foundation said: “The scientific consensus is that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination, including a reduced risk of severe illness or death, far outweigh the very small risk of rare side effects like myocarditis or pericarditis for the vast majority of people, especially as people get older.

“Scientific evidence shows that Covid-19 itself is much more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccine is, and people who are vaccinated have a much lower risk of getting other serious complications caused by Covid-19.

“We employ a small leadership team of senior scientists and cardiologists to oversee and administer our research funding programmes, who also continue to undertake some of their own research. We can categorically say that nobody within this leadership team has acted in the way claimed by Mr Bridgen.”

In time, Dr Malhotra and Andrew Bridgen will be found on the right side of history. Furthermore, Dr Malhotra is right in saying that eating fatty foods do not make you fat. What makes people fat is combining fat with carbohydrate. One imagines that the British Heart Foundation also push a carb-heavy diet, when one can live a perfectly healthy life without starches and sugars.

Former political prisoner misses being locked up in Iran

For years, Labour MPs asked the Leader of the House and the Foreign Secretary at least weekly about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a journalist and charity worker who had been imprisoned in Iran from 2016 until her release in March this year.

It always struck me as interesting that no Conservative MP ever asked about her.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe took British citizenship while retaining her Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognise dual nationality. She returned to visit her parents in 2016 and was arrested on her way back to the UK.

Liz Truss, then Foreign Secretary, managed to secure the woman’s release. Money was involved, compensation for an unrelated matter between the UK and Iran.

On March 16, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the move:

The following day, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released into her family’s care:

On March 21, having returned to the UK and reunited with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their seven-year-old daughter Gabriella, she gave a press conference. What mother voluntarily leaves a one-year-old to take a long-distance journey?

The Mail reported:

Freed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has today revealed her difficult path back to normality after being held captive in Iran for six years – while also taking aim at Government for taking more than half a decade to bring her home. 

In her first televised press conference since returning to the UK, the British-Iranian national admitted she was still getting to know her family ‘better’ again following ‘six years of hell’ in Tehran. 

In an emotional press conference, she praised her ‘amazing’ husband Richard’s tireless campaigning efforts and said her reunion with him and daughter Gabriella had been ‘precious’ and ‘glorious’.

Mr Ratcliffe meanwhile said their family needed time to ‘heal’ after a traumatic six years, but that he was ‘immensely pleased and proud’ that his wife was home.

He also joked with reporters that he was ‘negotiating’ with his wife about the pair sharing the same bed once again, revealing that she had been sleeping alongside their young seven-year-old Gabriella following her return on Thursday. 

The charity worker, 44, who has been held as a prisoner in Iran since 2016, was flown back to the UK last week after the Government settled a historical £400million debt owed to Iran over a cancelled 1970s order for British tanks. 

Mr Ratcliffe, who has campaigned tirelessly for her release over the last six years, praised the efforts of the Government in helping secure her return.

But sitting beside her husband, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who turned up to the media briefing wearing yellow and blue, the colours of Ukraine, questioned why it had taken so long.

‘The journey back was tough. I grant what Richard said about the Foreign Secretary, but I don’t really agree with him on that level,’ she told journalists.

‘I have seen five foreign secretaries over the course of six years. That is unprecedented given the politics of the UK.

‘I love you Richard, I respect what you believe. But I was told many many times: “Oh, we are going to get you home”. That never happened.

The Mail has a screenshot from BBC News of the press conference. It was clear that her husband really loves her. He gazed at her as he reached over to put his hand on hers. Check out the hateful look she gave him in return.

He said that:

it would be ‘baby steps’ for him and his family, revealing he was not yet ‘allowed’ to sleep alongside his wife and daughter Gabriella.

Mr Ratcliffe said: ‘It is baby steps for us. I’m super proud of her, he strength, her grace. 

We are still negotiating whether daddy is allowed in the same bed as Gabriella and Nazanin.

‘We’ll get there. I think we’ll do this (interview) and then we will disappear off and heal a bit.’

He also said it was ‘nice to be retiring’ from the public-eye after six years of campaigning, including a 21-day hunger strike.

On March 22, The Conservative Woman had a photo of Ratcliffe on the hunger strike for his wife and a post, ‘What aren’t we being told about petulant Nazanin’s release by Iran?’

Excerpts follow:

First, some facts. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was born in Iran. She lived there until she was 28, during which time she was employed by the World Health Organisation, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Japan International Co-operation Agency.  

She moved to the UK in 2007 to undertake a Master’s degree at London Metropolitan University. Having completed her degree, she worked for various British charities in London, including the Centre for Public Innovation, BBC Media Action and the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF). 

A legal opinion prepared in 2017 by Professor John Dugard and Tatyana Eatwell, of Doughty Street Chambers, and Alison Macdonald QC, of Matrix Chambers, claimed that her work for the TRF involved ‘managing journalism training abroad (not in Iran); managing TRF’s partnership with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other members of the Westminster Consortium, including the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), on a project aimed at strengthening the parliaments of other States, at those States’ invitation.  

‘Such States included Lebanon; fundraising for and managing FCO-funded projects in Morocco, Jordan and the Turks and Caicos Islands.’

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is clearly very bright, ambitious and well-connected. She met her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, in November 2007. They got engaged in June 2009 and married at Winchester Register Office in August 2009.  

She became a British citizen in March 2013, though she remains a citizen of Iran. She would make regular trips to Iran to visit her parents. During one such trip, on April 3, 2016, she was arrested and detained by the Revolutionary Guard at Tehran airport on security grounds

Iran does not recognise anybody with dual nationality – a fact Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe knew, because she entered the country of her birth using her Iranian passport, in keeping with Iranian law.

Presumably she knew the risk she was taking by going there. She also knew her status immediately made Britain’s negotiating position extremely challenging: Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, the British government, which has not enjoyed strong relations with Iran in recent years, was in no position to dictate terms to Iran over the release of a person whom the Iranian regime considered to be one of its own.  

I am surprised that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe did not acknowledge this more clearly yesterday. She has spent most of her life in Iran, after all, rather than in Britain

After much lobbying at an official level, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released after Britain agreed to repay a £400million debt for some tanks which were ordered by the Iranians in the 1970s but never delivered by the British.  

This is considered by some politicians to have been a bad move. For example, President Trump’s former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has called the debt repayment ‘blood money’

Lastly, I am struck by how well Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe looks. Indeed, while her husband appears pale and drained, she seems on the surface to be in pretty good health, perfectly strong and capable. This is to be welcomed, of course, but the contrast between her and her husband is noteworthy nonetheless

This episode sits uneasily with me. Something about it is not right. Certainly, it seems that we British are not being told something about this case, even while that £400million debt is repaid via public funds.  

I am certain that we will never learn the full truth of this matter and that no amount of inquiry by the Foreign Affairs select committee will bring us the truth. 

All I do know is that in years gone by, other hostages have been freed under very different circumstances and have not complained publicly about why it took so long within days of returning to Britain.  

Indeed, I know someone who was imprisoned by a dictatorship on trumped-up charges in the 1980s and held for longer than Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was. When he was eventually released, he never said a word against the British government. He was just glad to be home. 

A week later, Labour MPs appealed to have Zaghari-Ratcliffe made a peer in the House of Lords. Look at the love in her husband’s eyes:

Why? On what merits? In any event, it never happened.

On Wednesday, December 28, The Times reported that she told tennis star Andy Murray that she misses prison:

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe told an emotional Sir Andy Murray that she sometimes missed prison and the strong friendships she made during her six years of incarceration in Iran.

She was interviewing the two-time Wimbledon champion on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which she guest-edited today.

Sir Andy teared up and had to pause while the pair discussed her experiences and her joy at being able to watch him win Wimbledon in 2016.

When asked whether she did anything positive with her time in prison, she said: “When I came out, there were times when I felt like I really missed my friends and missed prison.

“It’s a very odd thing to say. But then you get used to your space in prison and then, I don’t know whether people can actually say they missed prison, but I sometimes think I miss the environment and my friendships.”

She told Sir Andy of the “joyful” feeling of being able to watch him win the Wimbledon title in 2016 on one of the only two channels she was allowed to watch from solitary confinement …

She told him that she taught other inmates his name while playing an Iranian version of charades and that watching him win felt like being “close to home all of a sudden” …

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 44, who has dual British-Iranian citizenship, was detained in 2016 as she was about to fly home after visiting family in Iran. She was released in March following a long campaign by her British husband, Richard Ratcliffe.

Oh, my days! Words fail me. Actually, they don’t. So I will think Pauline thoughts instead.

Mrs Sunak is on the cover of Tatler

The Sunaks opened the doors of No. 10 Downing Street to Britain’s oldest magazine, Tatler.

Akshata Murty is the cover lady for the society magazine’s February 2023 issue: ‘No. 10’s chatelaine: Inside the secret world of Mrs Sunak’.

It is a rather secret world, because the Prime Minister’s wife declined to give the magazine an interview. She authorised friends to speak on her behalf.

On December 28, The Times reported:

Murty, the daughter of an Indian billionaire who met the future prime minister at university in California, has never given an interview but authorised her friends to speak to Tatler. They describe a passionate Brexiteer who loves Yorkshire, rarely lets friends leave without food to take home and wants Downing Street to “open up”

Murty is said to want to bring “more of the north to Downing Street”. Allegra Stratton, Sunak’s ex-head of communications and the wife of James Forsyth, his new political secretary, said: “Yorkshire has looked after Akshata.” She added: “Over the summer, during the first leadership campaign, it was bruising for her, and the entire family hunkered down in the constituency, and it put its arm around them.”

There’s a lot about interiors in the article.

Of course, we want to know if they live in No. 10 or No. 11:

The couple have opted to live in the flat above 10 Downing Street, which they used when Sunak was chancellor, rather than the larger flat above No 11, used by prime ministers since 1997.

Sunak and Murty, both 42, carried out an extensive refurbishment of the flat when he was chancellor, spending their own money, in contrast to the convoluted arrangement that landed Johnson in trouble.

Could Boris make a comeback in 2023?

Speaking of Downing Street, could next year see a Boris comeback?

The Telegraph‘s political editor Ben Riley-Smith thinks so:

The former prime minister will take opportunities to push his case for being the best-placed Tory to win the next election.

What occasions will these be? There are expected to be plenty. Perhaps it will be one of the (many) paid speaking events Boris is likely to take on next year. He is attempting – as friends have said publicly – to put ‘hay in the loft’. A recent appearance for the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers in Washington, DC alone brought in £276,130. There will be speeches on the world stage, too. Johnson dropped into the COP27 UN climate change conference in October, joking unusual summer heat had played a part in his ouster, and has vowed to keep championing Ukraine. 

The news of his COP attendance dropped before Sunak, the victor of their leadership tussle, had announced he was attending. It was a sign he is happy to be a thorn in his successor’s side. Speeches from the Commons backbenches can be expected too. The former prime minister has indicated he is willing to defend his legacy. Translated: he will speak out if his policies and manifesto promises are watered down or ditched.

Could we also get an appearance at next autumn’s Tory conference? He sat this year’s one out, but that was just after he left office. A return would be like slipping on an old pair of slippers, Johnson re-adopting the role that helped make his political name – the darling of delegates, tweaking the nose of the current leader.

It’s unlikely that Labour MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, would relish it, however. He told BBC Radio 4 that 2022 has been a ‘disaster’. The Times has more:

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he had “never ever seen anything like it before” when reflecting on a tumultuous year in Westminster. He told PM on BBC Radio 4: “The whole thing has been the strangest of strangest of years.”

He added: “Brexit divided the country, divided families, and people’s respect for democracy has struggled — and of course we didn’t help this year with what went on.” Hoyle described as a “disaster” how the Conservatives were unable to unite round a prime minister. He said Boris Johnson had “the biggest majority we’ve seen for [the] Conservatives” but “it all fell apart”.

He said: “When you get to a point where one minister who’s meant to be answering questions has resigned, the next minister comes in . . . I’ve never seen anything like it, it was bizarre. We never knew who was going to be at the dispatch box.”

What a year it’s been. I hope that 2023 will be an improvement.

More news tomorrow.

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This is my final instalment on the rise and fall of Matt Hancock, the former Health and Social Care Secretary.

Those who missed them — and the drama of the pandemic — can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

July 2021

Britons, including some Conservative MPs, were angry that Hancock was not-so-secretly embracing his female adviser while imposing draconian coronavirus restrictions on the rest of us. Thankfully, The Sun revealed the truth in a ‘world exclusive’.

On July 3, 2021, journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who recently co-authored Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries — now on sale — explained in The Spectator how she missed the scoop, even when presented with the evidence (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):

I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship — and I did not believe it was him

Here’s what happened. On the morning of 20 June I was leafing through the Sunday newspapers when I received a message from an important contact. ‘Good morning. This might brighten your day, I have a guy who says he has incriminating footage of Matt Hancock,’ he wrote breezily. Accompanying the text was a grainy image, no bigger than a postage stamp, of a man in a suit, leaning forward to embrace a raven-haired woman in a figure-hugging dress. ‘What to do next?’ the message asked …

I only had the one poor-quality screen grab (not the video that would later be released) and no information about the original source. The picture had been sent to my contact via an untraceable ProtonMail account. Moreover, the pandemic has sent all manner of conspiracy theorists and pranksters into overdrive, creating perilous working conditions for journalists …

My contact agreed that his source was ‘probably a chancer’, but said he would see what else he could get. ‘No rush,’ the original source said when they discussed arrangements for viewing the full video — and then he or she hotfooted it to the Sun.

A former counter-terror detective studied past photos of Hancock’s office and deduced that Hancock might have had his office extended by appropriating some of the corridor space. The corridor would probably have had a security camera:

On July 1, in Parliament, Labour Shadow Leader of the House Thangham Debbonaire took the then-Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg to task for having previously defended the Health Secretary throughout the pandemic:

That same day, Hancock was in his West Suffolk constituency to apologise to the locals.

The London Evening Standard reported that Conservatives there:

vowed to stick by him after he gave a “heartfelt apology”, despite calls for his deselection.

The former health secretary was on Wednesday told to “do the honourable thing” and stand down by a local Tory councillor …

Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the Standard he was “disgusted” by Mr Hancock’s behaviour and had written to his local association calling for him to be deselected before the next election.

However, after days of silence, the MP’s local association has spoken out in support of Mr Hancock saying he has “faced up to the mistakes” he made.

In a statement, the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, West Suffolk Conservative Association has taken soundings.

“We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our Constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.

“Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.

“We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as Health Secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world’s best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in Parliament.”

Councillor Houlder said the MP’s actions were “beyond the pale” and added: “It’s nothing to do with his sordid affair because otherwise you’d have an empty parliament wouldn’t you?

“It’s the very fact he stood up there for a year spouting, pontificating, ordering, browbeating, slagging off people who broke his rules.”

Mr Hancock’s constituency association was said to be divided in the wake of his decision to leave his wife of 15 years, Martha, who is a popular figure. He is said to have delegated much of the work of networking with local worthies to his wife.

One anonymous councillor told the Telegraph there was not “outrage” but a “sense of sadness” for the family. They added: “There is support for Matt as a constituency MP and that seems to be holding up.”

On July 3, The Sun accused Labour’s Shadow Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, a grandmother, of hypocrisy in slamming Hancock’s affair when she was allegedly having one herself, with a fellow Labour MP:

ANGELA Rayner has been accused of hypocrisy after calling out Matt Hancock over his affair — while keeping quiet on the nature of her relationship with a married MP.

The Labour deputy leader, 41, grew close to Shadow Minister Sam Tarry after being wed for a decade and it is understood his marriage is now in crisis.

Her bond with the father of two was revealed in The Sun on Sunday last October.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen declared: “The public deserves the same transparency from Angela Rayner as she has demanded of Matt Hancock.

“She’s taken the moral high ground on this matter on every occasion. You can always bank on the Left for their constant hypocrisy.”

Mrs Rayner, who has two children with estranged husband Mark, wrote to Boris Johnson demanding he sack Mr Hancock following the revelations.

The following day, the paper’s veteran columnist Trevor Kavanagh said that publishing Matt Hancock’s security camera photo and video was the right thing to do:

FREE at last! The Sun did Britain a huge favour last week with our “Hancock – The Movie” scoop.

Nothing else would have dislodged this limpet’s grip on our daily lives.

Since then, it’s been like waking from an anaesthetic to find test-and-trace manacles and Covid leg irons being unlocked and removed.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s comforting bedside ­manner and vow of freedom from July 19 are a relief from the teasing menace of his predecessor.

On July 5, former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit wrote in The Telegraph that this never would have happened in Margaret Thatcher’s day, although he did admit the Cecil Parkinson affair:

I see that Mrs Coladangelo is described as being an “non-executive director” at the Department of Health, but what are the duties of such a post? By whom was she appointed and to whom did she report? That I do not know.

In my time as a Secretary of State in the government of Margaret Thatcher, things were arranged rather differently. I had a Permanent Secretary who was a career civil servant responsible for all the officials throughout the Department and was in turn responsible to me. That was a clear and sensible arrangement which was wrecked by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s half-witted scheme to bring in outsiders from the private sector to take senior posts in the civil service.

Before then, had a minister begun to form an emotional or sexual relationship with one of his staff, she (or he) would have been promptly moved to another post before things became dangerous. It was not that politicians in those days had higher moral standards, but there was an effective way of stopping them from making fools of themselves and it generally worked well. However, even in those days there was nothing which could have saved my old friend Cecil Parkinson from his foolish affair with his constituency secretary, who was not a civil servant. The affair was exposed when she bore him a daughter.

On July 10, the Mail on Sunday reported that Hancock would need more money to fund his new life. Hmm. This seems to presage what happened late in 2022, with his appearance on I’m A Celebrity … Allegedly, the show paid him £400,000 to appear in the Australian jungle. Interesting:

Matt Hancock is already plotting how to salvage his political career – despite being urged by some former Cabinet colleagues to quit the Commons entirely.

The ex-Health Secretary has appealed to current and former Ministers for advice on how to fight back after his resignation, The Mail on Sunday can reveal …

They also warned that even if he stayed on, he could struggle to supplement his backbench MP’s salary of nearly £82,000 with outside jobs, which they say he would now need to.

One former Minister he has consulted said that Mr Hancock, who has left his wife for Ms Coladangelo, would need more money to ‘fund his new life’.

The Sun also reported the story.

On July 15, the Information Commissioner’s Office seized computers and other electronic equipment connected with the leak of the CCTV leak leading to Hancock’s resignation:

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

The statement just released goes on to say “Personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized as part of the operation”. The ICO’s Director of Investigations says it’s vital everyone, including government employees, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data. Victoria Newton recently said she’s “done everything I can to protect” The Sun’s source…

On July 31, the Mail reported, complete with photos, that Hancock and his girlfriend were still living apart:

Matt Hancock and his lover Gina Coladangelo are ‘together, apart’ as they try to build a relationship out of the public gaze, say friends.

The former Health Secretary is understood to be in regular contact with Ms Coladangelo – but they are not yet living together.

On Thursday, Mr Hancock was pictured collecting his belongings from his former marital home in London.

The father-of-three was handed a bin bag containing his clothes, along with ten boxes, two suitcases, a child seat and a coffee machine – and was watched at the garden gate by a confused-looking family dog.

August 2021

On August 1, The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner wrote:

It is a measure of the brutal nature of politics that scarcely a month has passed since Matt Hancock’s resignation, yet he already has the air of a figure from history.

The former Health Secretary risked everything to pursue an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, and four weeks after it was so humiliatingly exposed, the future of his relationship with her, as well as the future of his career, appears to be up in the air.

Mr Hancock has not given up hope of rescuing his ministerial career, and in recent days has begun to re-engage with fellow MPs via a backbenchers’ WhatsApp group in what colleagues interpreted as an attempt to test the water …

There was no sign of contrition, however, from Mr Hancock, who was blamed for the Tories’ narrow defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election, which came days after the scandal over his affair …

That night former Conservative/UKIP MP Douglas Carswell told GB News:

We must never be in a position where someone like Matt Hancock can tell us if we can hug our grandma.

On Tuesday, August 17, GB News reported that Hancock’s lack of action as Health Secretary might have worsened the pandemic. There was a point where the Test and Trace app was pinging people’s phones constantly, advising them to stay at home. It was called the pingdemic:

The article says:

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reportedly asked whether the NHS Covid-19 app should be amended to alert contacts of positive cases from two days back rather than five days, but no change was made.

The app was tweaked earlier this month amid the so-called “pingdemic”, which had seen hundreds of thousands of alerts sent out telling people to isolate because they had come into contact with someone who had the virus.

The high number of alerts caused disruption to several sectors as workers had to stay at home after being pinged.

It was announced on August 2 that fewer contacts would be notified in future after the app’s “logic” was updated to alert only those contacts two days prior to a positive test, rather than five days.

But the Guardian has reported an unnamed Whitehall source as saying Mr Hancock, who resigned on June 26 amid public outrage after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules, had previously been told that the app was working to five days, rather than two.

The person told the newspaper: “The standard definition of a contact in all the scientific and public stuff from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace is someone who has been in contact from two days before they have symptoms and if they don’t have symptoms but test positive, you go back two days from the test.

“But the app had five days in it. A submission was made to Hancock from Test and Trace people around the time of his resignation saying ‘it’s five days but it should be two days: should we change it now?’ And it didn’t happen.”

On August 17, The Spectator and Guido Fawkes got footage of Hancock travelling on the Tube’s District Line.

The Spectator reported:

the 42-year-old has become an unlikely star on TikTok after recently encountering a group of youthful commuters on the District Line. 

The group were apparently unaware of Hancock’s identity but delighted in teasing the poor ex-minister about his choice of hat wear and stealing the baseball cap to wear themselves. Videos recorded of the encounter detail how ‘The whole tube was singing… We love you Matt, we do!’ — something which ‘made our night’ according to the adolescent uploader.

Guido said:

He’s lost his wife, his job, his home and now his hat: footage has emerged of Matt Hancock being ribbed by members of the public on a tube. The video shows a lady stealing Matt’s headwear, before running off with it at Embankment station. He then appears to take his mask off as he shouts after her. Would SAGE approve, Matt?

On August 20, Guido Fawkes posted that the then-Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden pinched the fetching pop art portrait of the Queen for his own office. It’s not a Warhol, by the way. It’s by a British artist who paints in the same style:

Guido explained:

Oliver Dowden has posted a photo to social media with a notably redecorated Whitehall office, resplendent with some well-known pop-art of the Queen. Politicos will immediately recognise the artwork given it spent the entirety of the pandemic positioned behind Matt Hancock during interviews in his ex-DHSC office. One of Sajid’s first decisions in office was to replace the piece with an 1890s oil painting…

While Hancock wasn’t able to take home the prized painting, which belongs to the Government Art Collection, he thankfully didn’t leave his personalised ‘movie director‘ chair around for Dowden to pinch. With rumours of a reshuffle circulating, perhaps the painting isn’t the only thing from the DHSC office Dowden has his eye on…

Hat Tip: Hugo Gye

September 2021

On September 3, The Telegraph reported that a source told them Hancock was no gentleman:

Matt Hancock is “no gentleman” and has failed to apologise to his wife for cheating on her, according to a source close to the family.

The source said Mr Hancock’s wife, Martha, had been “crushed” and “shattered” by his infidelity and that he had shown a “lack of concern” for her and their three children. It has been reported that she is suffering from long Covid, having contracted the virus from her husband …

The ongoing upset and distress have prompted a source close to the family to speak out for the first time, saying they have been “appalled” by his behaviour … 

The source said: “Martha has been crushed by this, and Matt is only interested in his career and his mistress. He is a despicable individual.

“He has shown no concern for Martha or the children. He has been uncaring to Martha even though she backed him throughout his career and introduced him to the people that made his career. She has always defended him throughout.”

Hancock’s attempts at getting back in the public’s good books were failing dismally.

On September 4, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock’s bid to rebuild his reputation by running the London Marathon has hit the buffers after pranksters flooded his charity page with mocking taunts.

The former Health Secretary is running in next month’s event to raise funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care in his West Suffolk constituency – a decision that critics say is a crude bid at rehabilitating his reputation.

But the move already appears to have backfired, with his JustGiving page flooded by people donating the minimum sum and using the opportunity to write an accompanying message condemning his philandering and record in office.

By last night, 459 ‘supporters’ had pledged £3,653, but the majority of messages were critical.

Matt Reilly wrote: ‘If you break an ankle, I’ll donate another £100’

Dauda Bappa wrote: ‘Happy to donate to this hospice, but you are a truly terrible human being, Matt. I guess hate can be used for good. Break a leg xx.’

Another said: ‘You, sir, are the worst kind of over-privileged slug pretending to be a human.’

On September 6, Guido had an update:

Hancock’s attempted return back to the Tory fold isn’t going as smoothly as he may have liked. Back in recess he made his first appearance on the Commons’ backbenches, though didn’t make a speech as he instead attempted to schmooze colleagues in the tea room. At least one of his colleagues told Guido they found it pretty uncomfortable…

Last week, he made headlines after announcing his participation in a sponsored run for a local hospice, only to see plenty of online trolls pay money just to throw abuse at him in the donation comments section.

Matt clearly didn’t see the funny side to this; while he can’t stop the trolling entirely, he’s forced all donations to now come from ‘anonymous’. Meaning jokers can no longer pose as his mum or Gina Coladangelo.

His luck isn’t set to improve this week either. On Thursday he’s to be a Tory association’s guest of honour for the first time since The Sun turned him into a persona non grata. Tory members in Chipping Barnet will be the first to enjoy his company at venue. Guido hears the room can cater for up to 350 bodies. The number of ticket sales so far? Around 70…

October 2021

Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon as planned in order to raise money for the hospice in his constituency. The Mail included a video of him in their report of October 3.

On October 12, the Mail reported that there was good news for Hancock, at last:

Matt Hancock made a surprise comeback last night as he was given a United Nations role just four months after resigning as health secretary.

The former Cabinet minister will advise African nations on how their economies can bounce back from the pandemic.

The Daily Mail understands he won the unpaid job thanks to Nimco Ali, a campaigner against female genital mutilation who is a close friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie.

Guido has a copy of his acceptance letter.

Alas, Hancock’s good news was short-lived.

On October 16, The Telegraph reported that the UN rescinded his appointment:

Matt Hancock has lost his new job at the United Nations just four days after being appointed, following outrage from figures who condemned the “jaw dropping” decision to appoint him as a special envoy for Covid recovery in Africa.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said his appointment was “not being taken forward,” following days of criticism.

Mr Hancock, who resigned his job as Health Secretary in June after he was pictured on CCTV kissing an aide, had said he was “honoured” to take up the role of Special Representative for Financial Innovation and Climate Change.

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock was told by the United Nations that it cannot appoint sitting MPs to be special representatives, and that it was forced to rescind the appointment.

Mid-month, Hancock began getting his own back on the public.

His first article appeared in the Mail on Sunday, September 18, in which he called anti-vaxxers ‘blinkered and dangerous’. However, it was only in October when we found out how much he got paid for penning it. Guido’s Christian Calgie revealed that Hancock received £2,000:

His second that I know of, co-authored with Labour MP Rupa Huq — not a natural political pairing by any means — appeared in The Times on Wednesday, October 20. If the anti-vaxxer article infuriated me, this one took the biscuit. 

The two of them attempted to portray the two tragic assassinations of MPs David Amess, who had just been stabbed at his local surgery (to meet members of the public), and Jo Cox, slain a week before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, as results of online harassment. Neither was anything of the sort!

‘MPs need more protection online’ reads, in part:

The assassination of our kind friend and colleague Sir David Amess — he genuinely was a friend to so many — has shocked parliament to its core, but the aftermath, too, has not been a pretty sight. We were both disgusted to see Michael Gove harassed walking along the pavement. Coming so painfully soon after the murder it shows the urgent need for action. Tightening security at MPs’ surgeries addresses the symptoms not the cause.

There have been hecklers as long as there have been public meetings. But using online social media, keyboard warriors post accusatory, aggressive messages often based on conspiracy theories and lies. Our timelines and inboxes are awash with threats. Women, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, get it worst. But white men are not immune either. One user said, “just execute matt hancock live on bbc one i say”

The online harms bill is a good start, but it does not yet tackle anonymous abuse. It is a particular problem that libel laws don’t work in the internet age. It is hard to prove that a single post by a social media user with a few hundred followers causes significant damage, but when that post is shared and added to by hundreds or thousands of others, it has the same effect as a defamatory newspaper piece in days gone by.

A few days later, social media had captured Hancock and his friend on holiday in Split, Croatia:

On October 25, Guido wrote:

Matt Hancock treated his lover Gina Coladangelo to another romantic getaway over the weekend, this time in the port city of Split, Croatia. The pair were spotted sipping wine outside the Lvxor Café on Saturday night. Split? Cynics didn’t expect them to still be together…

Later that day, Guido posted that Hancock wrote to IPSO — the Independent Press Standards Organisation — demanding that images of him be removed from the public domain:

Guido’s post has the text of Hancock’s long letter and this comment:

That horse has bolted through the office doorway. As for the video of Matt and Gina in Split which was circulating widely on social media after a holidaying Briton spotted them and whipped their smartphone out, asking IPSO to intervene would not make any difference. More importantly, as Matt told parliament after the Leveson Inquiry, when he was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to our freedom as a nation.

The harm done to his children was, as he must know in his heart, a consequence of his own actions. The pictorial reminder disappearing from the papers won’t change that…

How true!

November 2021

Still smarting from public backlash, Hancock put out an advert for a Communications Officer. Oddly, the application dates ran from November 13 to November 14.

On November 15, Guido posted a screenshot of the ad and this commentary:

Over the weekend Guido noticed the former Health Minister looking for a new Communications Officer to undertake his media and press activities. The advert said he wants someone to be “pro-active and re-active communications with all media”, and to create content for social media and assist with wider communication activities. Possibly spurred on by yet more embarrassing headlines over the weekend that he is to write a £100,000 autobiography called entitled “How I Won the Covid War”?

Matt also wants the prospective hire to “Establish, monitor and update” social media, which is surely a mammoth and hardly heartening task.

Unusually, Hancock gave prospective applicants just 24 hours to apply after publishing the ad on Saturday, and closing it on Sunday. Was Matt actually offering fair competition for the job or did he already have a mate in mind? He’d surely avoid giving preferential contract treatment to mates…

The month’s Hancock news ended with The Spectator awards. Hancock’s successor Sajid Javid won the Comeback of the Year Award and thanked ‘the CCTV guy’ who leaked the incriminating visuals:

December 2021

December’s news was mercifully brief.

On December 11, Hancock attempted to get down with the kids at the Jingle Bell Ball held at London’s O2 Centre. Had he seen a fashion stylist? One wondered:

On December 8, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole won the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards and took a swipe at attempts to censor the images that brought about Hancock’s downfall.

On December 13, the Press Gazette reported:

Sun political editor Harry Cole has pledged “we will keep fighting on” amid a “continuing erosion of journalistic rights”.

Cole made the comments after The Sun picked up the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards on Wednesday night for revealing then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office affair with aide Gina Coladangelo while Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Cole collected the award alongside Sun head of news Alex Goss and executive news editor Ben O’Driscoll …

But he warned the aftermath of the Hancock scoop had demonstrated an ongoing “systematic decay of freedom of the press”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office raided the homes of two suspected whistleblowers in the case who may have leaked the CCTV footage of Hancock and Coladangelo’s incriminating office snog.

Cole said The Sun also witnessed threats from government officials and even heard accusations of involvement by Chinese and Russian agents and spies.

“Everyone in this room, whether they read The Sun or not, should know that this has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and we are really glad that public interest journalism is recognised in this way,” he said.

Cole said the Hancock story was a “really important scoop for us”, adding: “We pride ourselves on our reputation as protectors of free speech and democracy.

“There are sometimes stories you write that you have to make a public interest argument for. It was so clearly and obviously in the public interest we just knew it was a story that was going to leave everyone in our trail. As a journalist there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got one of those in the bag.”

As well as the ICO investigation, Cole pointed to the threat posed by proposed reform to the Official Secrets Act which could see journalists treated like spies for reporting on matters of public interest.

January 2021

On January 21, 2022, the Mail reported on the actual costs of MPs, which are much higher than one thinks: an average of £240,000 per MP per annum.

Hancock came in for special mention:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the most expensive MP in the Cabinet, with total costs of £225,305. This compared with £174,454 for Boris Johnson and £164,545 for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On January 18, the Evening Standard reported that Hancock took an icy dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park:

The 43-year-old Tory MP had been jogging in a foggy Hyde Park with members of the Parliamentary Running Club, including former Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and former junior health minister Lord Bethell.

On reaching the Serpentine, where other swimmers had broken a thin layer of ice on the surface, the trio stripped off and took to the murky waters.

Mr Hancock, who has only just emerged from isolation after testing positive for Covid for the second time last week, swam for about 20 metres in water chilled by a frosty winter’s night before deciding that was enough.

However, the Serpentine (Serps) Swimming Club was not impressed. Hancock was an interloper:

The Serps Swimming Club had tweeted a photo of him with a notice saying that only members were allowed — no guests:

February 2022

On February 21, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle called on Hancock to contribute to a debate. Hoyle quipped:

The man for the rules, Matt Hancock!

Guido commented:

He just can’t catch a break…

That month, Hancock decided to reveal more about his new relationship in a podcast.

On February 27, the Mail on Sunday‘s Emily Prescott reported:

Now the dust is settling, he is opening up about the romance. 

My pictures show Matt and Gina at the recording of a yet-to-be released podcast, The Diary of a CEO with Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett, which was recorded a couple of weeks ago.

My mole tells me Matt, 43, became very emotional talking about falling in love and said it was ‘totally out of his control’

Matt said it happened quite suddenly, despite knowing Gina since university at Oxford.

He conceded it had been the ‘most difficult year of his life’. 

But Gina was sitting behind the cameras offering loving and supportive glances throughout.

The Mail had more the next day, when the podcast aired. What he said was all very confusing:

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has denied he broke the law by having an affair with a close aide during lockdown that destroyed his political career …

Speaking to The Diary of a CEO podcast, released this morning, Mr Hancock said he ‘fell in love’ with Coladangelo after bringing her in to work with him. 

He told the podcast host, entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Steven Bartlett: ‘It actually happened after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place. I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines by then.

‘They weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point.

‘The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.’ 

People had to stay two metres apart from anyone outside their household or bubble, under the guidance at the time. 

Mr Hancock stressed that his relationship with Miss Coladangelo was serious, saying he hated that some had ‘got the impression somehow that this was [casual sex]’.

Mid-month Steven Bartlett tweeted that he had interviewed Hancock:

He said: ‘Matt Hancock x The Diary Of A CEO! Matt Hancock stopped by with his new partner Gina to speak to me.

‘It’s time to find out what really happened, it’s time to ask the questions we’ve not had answers to; Party gate? Where did the CCTV footage come from? What mistakes did he make?’

He added: ‘This is the first time in the history of The Diary Of A CEO that things got a little heated between me and a guest at one point.

‘However, Matt did answer all of the tough questions I asked him and nothing will be edited out. You will see it all.’

Mr Bartlett also tweeted pictures of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo at the interview, with the former health secretary wearing blue jeans and a navy roll-neck jumper.

Guido had more, along with a video clip. Hancock didn’t think Bartlett was being respectful enough:

Here’s the video clip:

Guido wrote:

Inevitably Hancock was uncomfortable with the topic, clearly unhappy at Bartlett referring to the affair as “casual sex”. He repeatedly asks Bartlett to restart the segment by asking the questions “in a little bit more respectful way”, and seems to think the moment would be edited out of the final interview. It wasn’t.

He advised:

Watch at your own discretion…

March 2022

On March 2, The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson commented on the podcast, saying that Hancock was ‘dressed as the Milk Tray man’:

Talking to Steve Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast, Hancock, dressed like the Milk Tray man, said he “fell in love” and “it all happened quite quickly. It actually happened… after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place… I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines. By then, they weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point. The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.

Let us pause for a moment to unpick that knotty thicket of delusion and self-justification. Hancock clearly knew full well that what he was telling the British people they must do after a certain date was just guidance not regulation. As Lord Sumption has observed: “I think the Government knew people did not understand the difference and exploited their confusion.”

Now, Hancock has the brass neck to exploit that confusion to his own advantage. Hey, it was fine to be canoodling in his office because no law said that he couldn’t, even though lesser mortals stayed well away from their best beloved for a year in case they got caught. 

Unfortunately, such a realisation would require a degree of self-knowledge to which Hancock is a stranger. He is certainly in love – with himself mostly – and that fierce self-love leads him to think that, if he keeps bouncing up … then the public will forgive and forget.

We won’t, believe me. 

I’m not at the forgiveness point, either.

I have many more Matt Hancock pandemic bookmarks but will wait for the official inquiry before going into them.

The podcast was still a hot topic on March 6, as the Mail on Sunday had more about Hancock’s accusation that Bartlett wasn’t respectful enough:

During the two-hour interview for a podcast last week, Mr Hancock protested when Mr Bartlett mentioned ‘casual sex’ while questioning him about his extra-marital affair with aide Gina Coladangelo – in breach of his own Covid restrictions.

Mr Hancock raised his hand and asked Mr Bartlett to ‘ask the question in a little bit more respectful way’. He added: ‘I have not had casual sex with anybody, I fell in love.’

Mr Hancock asked the host if could ‘start this section again’, and this newspaper understands that the MP also told Mr Bartlett ‘this is off’ – meaning off the record – as they discussed rephrasing the question to remove the reference to casual sex.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘OK, let me ask the question and we can crack the question, all right?’ He then continued the interview.

Mr Hancock and his aides thought the brief exchange would be cut and were horrified to discover it had been left in when the podcast was posted online last week. But Mr Hancock’s words ‘this is off’ were not included.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Hancock feels ‘stitched up’ and that he had agreed to do the interview with Mr Bartlett on the basis that nothing would be left in that he considered to be ‘hurtful’ to his estranged wife, Martha, or their three children.

On March 25, Will Lloyd wrote a brilliant article for UnHerd listing all of Hancock’s best quotes before and during the pandemic in ‘The tragedy of Matt Hancock’, which is well worth reading.

Lloyd concluded with the fallout of the present day:

The number of children referred for specialist mental health help rises above one million for the first time in 2021. Cases involving those 18 and under increase by 26% during the pandemic. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns it is “becoming an impossible situation to manage”.

People, including Hancock, like to talk about learning the lessons of the pandemic. So we can prepare better for the next one. They don’t realise that between the million mentally hamstrung teenagers, the NHS waiting list hitting 9.2 million within two years, an endless backlog of cases in criminal courts, and inflation, that the pandemic hasn’t ended yet. It’s barely started.

April 2022

On April 13, the investigation into the leaked CCTV images ended with no charges brought:

Guido reported the text from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and his own summary:

The Information Commissioner’s Office closed their investigation into the Department for Health CCTV leak that saw Hancock’s snog with then-aide Gina Coladangelo splashed on the front page of The Sun. The ICO announced this afternoon that their investigation had found “insufficient evidence to prosecute two people suspected of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing CCTV footage from the Department for Health and Social Care”. They shouldn’t have been investigating anyway…

On April 24, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Hancock for 30 minutes about the pandemic policies:

Hancock justified himself throughout. I felt sorry for Wootton, who was — and still is — trying to get the truth:

May 2022

On May 5, Hancock opened his home to Ukrainian refugees.

The Telegraph reported:

Matt Hancock has welcomed seven Ukrainian refugees and their four dogs into his family home in Suffolk.

Mr Hancock, the former health secretary, first revealed that he would take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme last month after being contacted by a constituent.

The MP for Suffolk West has now housed the constituent’s mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and the nephew’s partner and grandmother.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ukrainian food and picking up the basics of the language,” he said. “It’s humbling living with three generations from one family who have escaped war with little more than the clothes on their backs. It brings perspective.”

Writing in The Spectator, he added that the teenagers staying with him had continued their studies through remote learning …

July 2022

On July 19, Hancock presented a guest phone-in on LBC.

A guest got the better of him and Hancock muted him:

Guido has the story and video, including an update from a friend of Hancock’s saying he was right to mute the man:

Matt Hancock is spending the day behind the LBC mic, presenting what should be a radio phone in, though it’s coming across as a prolonged party political broadcast on behalf of Rishi Sunak™. Matt was left hot under the collar at one point following some searing criticisms from a member of the public. John from Edinburgh called out Hancock’s legacy in dealing with the management of rare conditions, calling him a “totally useless health secretary”. Before too long Matt could clearly no longer take the barrage, angrily signalling for a producer to mute the call before launching into an uninterrupted rant. For the second time in recent history, Matt was unfortunately undermined by a camera he presumably forgot was running…

Here’s the video:

October 2022

On October 24, as Rishi Sunak received his coronation as Conservative Party leader, Matt Hancock was one of the Party’s MPs meeting at CCHQ to congratulate him.

Sunak brushed past him as if he weren’t there:

The Telegraph reported:

He was once the health secretary, at the helm of one of the most important government departments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Matt Hancock appeared to have slipped down the hierarchy on Monday, after being ignored by Rishi Sunak on his way into Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) as party leader for the first time.

The former health secretary, who nominated Mr Sunak for the Conservative Party leadership this week and sat next to him in Cabinet when the pair served under Boris Johnson, looked on as his old colleague greeted others.

On October 31, Guido told us that Hancock dropped his bid to run as the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee:

Matt Hancock’s campaign for the chairmanship of the Treasury select committee has come to a premature end. Passed over by Rishi, the former Health Secretary was keen to stress he was still in play, and that “a number of people suggested I should go for Chair”. The number just wasn’t large enough…

November 2022

Undoubtedly, November was Britain’s longest month of enduring Hancock since the pandemic.

If Parliament wouldn’t acquiesce to bringing him back into the fold, perhaps a television audience would do so.

On November 1, we discovered that the disgraced former Health Secretary was planning to go Down Under in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here:

Guido told us more:

Intent on proving his midlife crisis hasn’t yet peaked, Matt Hancock is jetting off to Australia to enter the jungle as the 12th campmate on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, the Sun has revealed. The new series kicks off on November 6th, with Hancock arriving as a late contestant soon after. Cabinet hopes dashed, he’s now off to become the King of the Jungle…

A political ally of Hancock’s sent Guido a lengthy justification for the decision, which includes promoting Hancock’s notional dyslexia campaign, of which we had never heard before this. Excerpts follow:

I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12million Brits who tune in every single night

There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether he’s in camp for one-day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.

Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV? …

Matt’s talked to the whips, in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time. As I say, Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, but he can support Rishi and the Government in different ways.

This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the public and talk about issues he really cares about – including his dyslexia campaign.

Hancock’s friend said he’d had discussions with the Whips Office and that everything was fine.

Well, it wasn’t fine at all. Hancock had the Conservative whip withdrawn and, to this day, still sits as an Independent:

Guido wrote, ending with the show’s familiar catchphrase:

… A statement from the Chief Whip Simon Hart:

Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.

He was a Tory MP… now he’s out of there.

The Sun also had the story:

The news of Hancock’s imminent television appearance for days on end did not please everyone in his West Suffolk constituency.

Guido posted:

Matt Hancock’s local constituency deputy chairman tells PA [the Press Association]:

I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper disagreed with that assessment but did think it was right that Hancock had the whip removed:

Guido had more:

In headlines Guido never thought he’d be writing, the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper told Sky News he is not looking forward to watching his now-ex colleague Matt Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis on I’m A Celebrity. As a former Chief Whip himself, Harper agrees with Simon Hart’s decision to sack Hancock and said it was correct given mincing off to the Jungle is not compatible with being an MP. Maybe eating kangaroo penis should be added to the list of potential Chief Whip punishments…

While Hancock denied that he’d lost his marbles for deciding to go on the reality television programme, his fellow Conservatives made a laughing stock out of him at PMQs on November 2, including Anthony Mangnall and Anne-Marie Trevelyan:

On November 8, some of his West Suffolk constituents were deeply unhappy, as The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner revealed:

After accusing him of abandoning his constituents, the council in the biggest town in Mr Hancock’s constituency has held a show of hands on his future – and decided that he should “do the honourable thing and resign”

Mr Hancock, 44, has been the MP for West Suffolk since 2010. However, there is speculation that he might stand down at the next general election after being overlooked for a Cabinet job by Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, and then leaving his post to appear alongside celebrities including [Princess Anne’s son-in-law] Mike Tindall, Boy George and [DJ] Chris Moyles … 

He has also filmed a series of another show, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, which will be shown next year.

In Haverhill, where around 27,000 of his constituents live, the town council has told him to “clear the pitch” after its members held a vote and decided by a majority that it should tell him to quit.

In a letter sent to his office, the 13-member authority, which has several Tory councillors, accused the MP of losing interest in his day job.

Written by Colin Poole, the council clerk, it said: “By a majority vote members of the council have directed me to express their displeasure at your decision to absent yourself from your duty to your constituents to join the cast of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! …

Currently there is no one to speak for West Suffolk in the House of Commons and your actions are unlikely to gain any sympathy for the area when all the other parliamentarians are in the chamber fighting their own corners.

“By your actions you have made it clear to everyone that you see your future outside of politics.”

On November 12, The Telegraph gave the previous day’s I’m a Celebrity … instalment three out of five stars. The other contestants grilled Hancock on his pandemic policies. Hancock pleaded for forgiveness:

On I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV), the skiving MP was voted by viewers to face his third Bushtucker Trial in as many days. This looks set to become a nightly occurrence.

Hancock’s latest challenge was this year’s first eating trial: “La Cucaracha Cafe”, a Mexican-themed dinner-à-deux with campmate Boy George.

For pudding, Hancock got a long overdue grilling about his pandemic blunders and wound up weeping for forgiveness. This was the much-maligned minister’s day of reckoning and the reason ITV gambled on signing him up. They will surely be rewarded with big ratings and copious column inches …

When he trotted out the same “falling in love” excuse, newsreader Charlene White rightly gave him short shrift: “My aunt died from Covid in the first wave. We couldn’t visit her in hospital. I had to sit by myself at her funeral. We couldn’t hug each other because we were following guidance. I get that you fell in love but for a lot of families like mine, sorry doesn’t really cut it.”

When White tackled him on PPE procurement and the care homes fiasco, you could almost hear viewers nationwide cheering her on. Referring to the impending public inquiry, England Lioness Jill Scott wondered whether “Bushtucker Trials are practice for your big trial”. DJ Chris Moyles was more succinct, calling Hancock a “b***end”.

Hancock eventually admitted: “What I’m really looking for is a bit of forgiveness.” When he became tearful – marginally more believably than when he pretended to blub on breakfast TV – White surprised herself by hugging him. Moyles was less convinced: “He’s pulled the mask slightly off his chin but I still think he’s not telling us the full truth.” The majority at home were equally unmoved by Hancock’s brazen bid for sympathy …

Just 18 months since he resigned in disgrace, Hancock trousering £400,000 for larking around on a light entertainment show left a sour taste in many mouths. At least Friday night’s bestial buffet was equally tough to stomach. That campfire interrogation also made for vital viewing. Nearly three years since the start of the pandemic, it’s high time that politicians were answerable to the people who lived through their failures. Strange how it happened 9,000 miles away on reality TV but these are the times we live in.

On November 13, The Sunday Times told us more about the decisions behind Hancock’s appearance in Australia:

When Matt Hancock eventually leaves the I’m A Celebrity … jungle, his girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo, will be waiting for him on the TV show’s wooden bridge.

The former health secretary has said that seeing her will be the “best thing about being kicked out”, but friends say he also sought her public relations wisdom before agreeing to appear on the ITV show. “He consulted her at length,” said a friend of the couple. “They are very much a team.”

Before he entered the jungle, Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, sought the advice of his family, friends, his Westminster staff and colleagues, although sources say he kept the circle tight to prevent the news leaking.

“I told him there were pros and cons to it, and it basically depended on what he wanted to do career-wise over the next decade,” said a friend he consulted in the summer. “If he wanted to climb the greasy pole, play the Westminster game, sit around waiting for a call to be a cabinet minister again, and otherwise just be a Tory backbencher for the next 20 years, that he shouldn’t do it.

“But if he wanted a platform to engage with millions of viewers, push a lot of the campaigns he cares about, show what he’s actually like as a person, and didn’t mind probably not serving in government again, then it could be a good opportunity … It was obviously very high risk.”

Friends say Hancock, 44, was torn. When he was forced to resign as health secretary in June 2021, he told acquaintances that he was expecting to be back in the cabinet “by Christmas”. While that did not happen, friends say he still believed he could be back on the front bench one day. He turned down the show twice before agreeing to take part

sources close to Hancock say his children were keen for him to go on the show, and he was there to raise awareness of dyslexia

On that night’s episode, viewers voted Hancock in as camp leader. The Guardian reported:

Matt Hancock has said being voted leader of the I’m a Celebrity campsite “more than makes up for” losing the 2019 Tory party leadership election.

Talk about selling one’s soul for a mess of pottage!

There was more:

Sunday’s episode of I’m A Celebrity saw Hancock receive enough votes from the public to enter a head-to-head with former England rugby star Mike Tindall for control of the campsite …

After their win, Hancock said: “Obviously, it’s a great honour and privilege to be camp leader. I want to thank everybody who voted for me.”

[Fellow contestant Christine] White said: “Does this win feel sweet, especially after you lost to Boris? Do you feel like you have been vindicated?” Prompting him to reply: “This more than makes up for it.”

On November 15, Guido kept his readers up to date. The previous day — Day 6 — Hancock was in a snake-filled coffin and had to:

hunt for keys in the dark to unlock stars … He managed a middling 7 of 11, though did stay surprisingly calm considering snakes had been one of his major fears. To be fair, as an MP he should be used to snake-infested spaces.

Meanwhile, back home, The Telegraph reported on the complaints flooding in to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary standards commissioner:

Rules for MPs would need to be changed to investigate Matt Hancock’s I’m A Celebrity appearance, the standards commissioner said on Tuesday, despite suggesting he had brought the Commons “into disrepute”.

Kathryn Stone, who will step aside from her post in January, revealed her office received dozens of complaints about Mr Hancock, the former health secretary who lost the Tory whip after flying to Australia to take part in the ITV reality show.

But Ms Stone admitted it was not something she had the power to investigate, adding his appearance had raised “really important questions” about the activities of parliamentarians.

“There is no job description for MPs but we have to think very carefully about the conflict between public and private interests, about bringing the House into disrepute, and so on,” she told the standards committee …

She recalled one member of the public who contrasted “the dignity of veterans on Remembrance Sunday with a former secretary of state”, and said Mr Hancock’s “buffet of animal genitalia” during an eating challenge prompted them to question the dignity of public office.

It came as Rishi Sunak condemned Mr Hancock for his I’m A Celebrity stint, telling reporters at the G20: “I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble.

“Everyone is going to do it in a slightly different way but I think it’s important that we have our constituents and our country and the forefront of what we do when we go around our day-to-day lives.”

On November 16, Guido told us that on Day 7, Hancock discussed politics but not dyslexia, as promised:

In a first for Matt’s time in the jungle, he hasn’t had to do the daily trial, and he’s certainly been making the most of his free time. Not only did he wake up well rested, he found the time to have his say on Westminster politics. Matt revealed he had called Boris as he was mulling another stab at the leadership, urging him to hold off and “back Rishi”. He also said Liz’s [Truss’s] political career was “totally finished… no ambiguity at all”. That makes two of them.

… At least one public servant is enjoying himself while the country suffers double-digit inflation. With all this free time on his hands, you’d think he might have mentioned his dyslexia campaign. Alas, no.

On Friday, November 18, The Times said that Hancock shared a beach barbecue reward with another contestant. He was also getting on Boy George’s nerves:

While on the other side of the world Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement, attempting to sort out the nation’s dire economic situation, Matt Hancock was sipping drinks on a beach, one of three lucky contestants in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! to be flown by helicopter to enjoy a barbecue.

The former health secretary was gloriously oblivious of his colleague’s plans to confront the nation’s woes

Ofcom said on Wednesday it had received 1,968 complaints about the ITV show, with about 1,100 people protesting about Hancock being in the jungle. Other viewers expressed concerns about his treatment by other contestants …

On Wednesday viewers saw Boy George, 61, the pop singer, become increasingly frustrated with his camp mates. He appeared to be irritated by a growing friendship between Hancock and Scarlette Douglas, the property expert.

Guido also recapped the episode — Day 9 — noting the absence of the dyslexia campaign:

… Hancock received the privilege of a surf and turf barbecue, which he described as “one of the best meals of your life”. The experience was won in a lucky dip at the expense of his campmates, who plotted in his absence. Finally, Hancock sung his heart out to some pop classics with his campmates around the fire. Matt’s now showcased his singing ability three times on the show. His dyslexia campaign… not once.

Guido also featured Hancock’s tweet urging viewers to vote for him:

On Saturday, November 19, one of Hancock’s former special advisers (Spads), Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, wrote a puff piece for The Times on how great it was working for him. I’ll let readers delve into it for themselves. Was this product placement? One wonders.

On November 20 — Day 11 — Hancock was still surviving the jungle. He mentioned dyslexia for the first time. He also received a letter from his girlfriend.

On November 22 — Day 13 — Hancock outlasted Boy George, but the two sang a duet together beforehand:

On Day 15, November 24, Hancock saw off DJ Chris Moyles. Guido commented:

His constituents must surely agree that would make up for his dereliction of duty as their Member of Parliament…

Hancock ended up being one of the finalists on the last episode, broadcast on Sunday, November 27:

Guido said:

Fair play Matt, it was a surprisingly decent run. Now get back to Blighty and do your job…

Incredibly, Hancock outlasted rugby player Mike Tindall, Princess Anne’s son-in-law. Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner came second and England Lioness Jill Scott won the contest: Queen of the Jungle. It is fitting that she did win, given that the Lionesses won the UEFA — European — Women’s Championship on July 31, the first time England won a major football championship since the 1966 World Cup.

Gina was there to meet her beau.

The Telegraph told us how Hancock’s 21 days in the jungle boosted ratings and changed his perception among the public:

ITV pulled off a coup by signing up the controversial minister. The broadcaster has been amply rewarded for its gamble. Hancock made this series far more talked about than usual. Ratings rose from 8m to 11m. It’s been a resounding return to form for the khaki-clad franchise.

In the process, Hancock went from whipping boy to team player. His success can be seen as two fingers up to the bullies and backbiters, humanising him more than anyone thought possible.

Another Telegraph article reported that Transport Secretary Mark Harper still thought Hancock’s participation was wrong:

Mr Hancock recognised entering the I’m A Celebrity jungle was “controversial” as a former health secretary and MP while Parliament is sitting after leaving the jungle.

He told I’m A Celebrity presenters Ant and Dec: “I know that it was controversial me coming here, I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations.

“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it.”

He stressed: “We are normal people.”

It comes after cabinet minister Mark Harper said Mr Hancock should not have gone into the jungle – regardless of how well he did.

The former chief whip told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If you are a member of Parliament and Parliament is sitting, I think your job is to be representing your constituents, either in your constituency or in Parliament. I don’t think serving members of Parliament should be taking part in reality television programmes.

“However well they do on them, I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary – which is representing their constituents.”

Good man.

Unfortunately, that same day, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers told Sophy Ridge of her votes for Hancock (video here).

On Monday, November 28, The Times featured another puff piece about Hancock’s humanity and brilliance. Again, I leave that for readers to decide and wonder if it was a second PR-instigated article.

That day, his Pandemic Diaries, co-authored with the aforementioned Isabel Oakeshott, was on Amazon’s best seller list. Guido revealed that the Mail would be serialising it.

However, that day, storm clouds were brewing.

Guido revealed that Hancock’s people denied that he would be leaving Parliament to pursue life as a celebrity:

This morning, his team is having to firefight allegations from The Sun that he’s planning on leaving politics to pursue celebritydom. The paper’s morning splash reports that Gina contacted “PR pal Mayah Riaz” last week to discuss “a change of career for him… They’re aware they need to act fast and capitalise on the huge interest in him post-jungle.” In response his team shot out a denial:

… They added: “Gina hasn’t even heard of Mayah Riaz”. 

For good measure, Guido asked his office if they could provide a precise date when he’d be back. Apparently, it’s up in the air at the moment. Though his dyslexia bill – of which he made no mention during his stint in the jungle – is up for its second reading on Friday…

Deeper trouble came from Newmarket, the famous racing town in his West Suffolk constituency. The Times reported:

Newmarket town council voted last night officially to call for Hancock to resign. Twelve councillors backed the motion for him to resign, one abstained, and none voted against.

A spokesman for the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “We are still waiting to hear from Matthew Hancock. There is increasing disappointment about the situation”

A West Suffolk source told The Times: “There would appear to be effectively no support for him to remain as a MP. I think if I put it this way, if you look up the definition of narcissist . . . it’s been endless publicity of the things he has done. It’s about living up to responsibilities, doing the right thing.”

Hancock still had (and has) the Conservative whip suspended. Even his fellow Conservative MP, Business Secretary Grant Shapps, put the boot in:

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said yesterday it would be “for the whips to decide what to do”. He told Times Radio: “Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in parliament? I’m only speculating.”

He added: “I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done.”

December 2022

On Thursday, December 1, things were becoming painfully clear about Matt Hancock’s future.

Early that morning, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock ‘underestimated’ the scale of the backlash at his decision to star on I’m A Celebrity, his girlfriend Gina Coladangelo will say today … 

During the post-series Coming Out Show today, he will be seen exiting the campsite to be reunited with his partner and attending a wrap party. 

The episode also sees Ms Coladangelo saying: ‘I think it’s fair to say that Matt underestimated the scale of the reaction to him coming into the jungle

Sir Desmond Swayne, an MP I’d previously highly respected, lauded his colleague in Parliament that day for his ‘sheer spunk’ in the jungle and appealed for the Conservative whip to be restored (video here).

Hancock graced the House of Commons on Friday, December 2, to put forward his Private Members Bill on dyslexia (video here). It was the third bill of the day, prompting Deputy Speaker of the House Nigel Evans to quip:

The third Bill of the day and I know that Mr. Hancock, you appear to be making a habit of coming third these days.

There seemed to be good news on Wednesday, December 7, when Guido received the text of Hancock’s letter saying he would stand down at the next general election:

As one would expect, it’s a lengthy letter. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs (emphases Guido’s):

I am writing to tell you that I do not intend to stand for the Conservatives at the next General Election. I am very grateful for my conversation with the Chief Whip last week, in which he made clear he would restore the whip in due course, but that is now not necessary.

It has been an honour to serve in Parliament and represent the people of West Suffolk. I will play my part in the debate about the future of our country and engage with the public in new ways.

Shortly afterwards, Conservative MPs snubbed him as he sat down for PMQs. Guido’s Simon Carr has the report:

He turned into the fourth bench up, and began the long trek across to an open seat at the end. Sidling, he touched knees and patted the backs of the locals, the indigenous representatives. Some looked up and others didn’t. One or two spoke to him. What were they saying? They’re politicians so it will have been different from what they were thinking. That can only have been: “What on earth are you doing here, you nob? This bench is for Conservative MPs. You lost the whip. You’re not one of us. You don’t exist.”

When Matt got to the furthest space above the gangway he stopped and squeezed himself in beside actual Conservative MPs. One of them, James Gray, didn’t look up from his phone. As far as it’s possible to do while sitting down, Gray turned his back on the interloper, the migrant, the illegal alien.

Hancock smiled, he beamed, he laughed it all off. In his mind, he was blending back in. Acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, that he had never been away. That being thought of as a nob was actually a compliment.

The great thing about celebrity is that being thought of as a nob counts as recognition, and recognition is the only currency of that happy land. Alas, it is not negotiable coin in the tropical Commons. He was, as far as decently possible, ignored.

Unfortunately, for those of us who want to see the back of Matt Hancock sooner rather than later, that afternoon his team denied that his letter announcing he would stand down had any merit.

Guido explained:

… A close ally of Hancock tells Guido:

This letter is irrelevant. It hasn’t been sent on behalf of the Association, and the chief whip told Matt he was going to get the whip back. Matt had already decided not to stand again when it came to light.

In theory, a no-confidence vote would need to come after an executive council meeting, rather than an Officers’ Group. Guido understands that Hancock’s decision to step down in 2024 doesn’t change the government’s existing line that any decision to return the whip is still entirely within the gift of Simon Hart, something a source refused to deny could still happen. Bizarrely, he could still return to the parliamentary party within the next two years… even with senior members of his own association declaring him unfit for the job.

It would be salutary for everyone in the UK if Hancock’s local Conservative Association keeps piling on the pressure for him to resign. We can cope with another by-election, even if the Conservative candidate loses to a Lib Dem, a possible outcome.

Matt Hancock is not fit for public office. As for what he did to us during the pandemic, well, I don’t have the words for what I’d like to see happen to him in terms of justice.

End of series

As I write, the latest Conservative Party leadership contest came to a close at 2 p.m. on Monday, October 24, 2022.

Once he meets with the King, Rishi Sunak, the new Party leader, becomes the next Prime Minister.

The other candidate, Penny Mordaunt, pulled out of the race earlier today. She had far fewer MPs backing her than did Sunak. Boris Johnson declined to run last night, even though he had the numbers. I’ll write about the contest in another post.

Picking up from last Friday’s post, Liz Truss’s last day as Conservative Party leader started with a storm over the fracking vote and the resignation of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.

Both events took place within hours on Wednesday, October 19, 2022.

Sir Charles Walker MP

On Wednesday night, the Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker gave an explosive interview in the Palace of Westminster on the dire state of the Government under Liz Truss.

It should be noted that on February 2, he stated that he would not be standing for re-election in his constituency, Broxbourne. The BBC reported (emphases in purple mine):

He will remain an MP until the next general election, due in May 2024.

Speaking on Channel 4, Sir Charles said that after 17 years as an MP he was “juiced out”.

“It’s just very difficult, the public are demanding and they’re becoming more demanding,” he said,

“They’re becoming quite angry, some of them cross the line and at times I feel like it’s a pretty toxic environment.”

On March 26, in a debate on extending coronavirus laws for another six months, he said he would protest by carrying around a milk bottle to show his displeasure. To this day, many of us have no idea what he was talking about, but you can read more in The Independent.

In May, Walker said he was wrong for thinking Boris could survive Partygate:

He only had to wait another several weeks.

On July 28, after Boris Johnson resigned as Conservative Party leader, he said that Party members should not be able to vote for Boris’s successor. The Times reported:

About 180,000 Tory members will choose between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss over the summer, before casting their votes over who will lead the party and therefore the country …

Sir Charles Walker, a former vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, which sets the rules of the race, said that the electorate should be narrowed to just allow fellow politicians to vote to prevent the bitter blue-on-blue attacks seen so far.

He told The Guardian that the contest “should have got nowhere near” the members, adding: “It’s a view shared by many of my colleagues privately who wouldn’t dare say it publicly.”

He added: “MPs should be left to pick party leaders because we know the strength and weaknesses of the candidates far better than the membership because we serve and work with them every day in Westminster.”

On October 11, Walker became a member of two select committees, the one for Standards and the one for Privileges. Both focus on MPs’ conduct:

That brings us up to his explosive interview of October 19, when Walker announced he’d ‘had enough’:

He said he was angry with his colleagues, but, watching it, I wonder if he was angrier at Party members for electing Liz Truss over Rishi Sunak.

I was completely put off when he said that he was worried for his fellow MPs paying off their mortgages. They’re in a much better position to do so than their constituents are. Good grief. That says a lot about the man:

You can see the full version here:

He was angry that Liz Truss was Prime Minister:

Speaking to reporters on BBC News, the Tory MP said: ‘To all those people that put Liz Truss in number 10, I hope it was worth it to sit round the cabinet table’. He went on to say, ‘the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary’, admitting he was ‘livid’ and ‘furious’.

Although he was presumably talking about his fellow MPs, he was probably also angry with Conservative Party members for getting Truss into No. 10. It bears repeating.

The Telegraph had more:

Charles Walker branded the Truss Government “an absolute disgrace” and her ministers a group of “talentless people” on Wednesday night …

“I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it’s in the national interest but because it’s in their own personal interest to achieve ministerial position. And I know I speak for hundreds of backbenchers who right now are worrying for their constituents all the time but are now worrying for their own personal circumstances because there is nothing as ex as an ex-MP” …

“A lot of my colleagues are wondering, as many of their constituents are wondering, how they are going to pay their mortgages if this comes to an end soon,” he added …

“But unless we get our act together and behave like grown-ups I’m afraid many hundreds of my colleagues, perhaps 200, will be leaving at the behest of their electorate.

“Patience reached the limit.”

The Guardian has another quote, relating to Suella Braverman:

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, he added: “Let’s not beat around the bush here. And I expect the prime minister to resign very soon because she’s not up to her job eitherI will shed no tears for either of them.”

When asked when Truss should quit, he replied: “Well, I hope, by tomorrow … She needs to go. She shouldn’t have been made prime minister.”

Walker got his wish.

Wendy Morton

As I wrote on Friday, the vote on Labour’s motion on fracking was a complete disaster in the No lobby, where Conservative MPs were expected to vote.

After the vote, as I said, Labour’s Chris Bryant alleged that bullying occurred there.

At the opening of the Commons session on the morning of Thursday, October 20, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened with this statement:

I wish to say something about the reports of behaviour in the Division Lobbies last night. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms and other senior officials to investigate the incident and report back to me. I will then update the House.

I remind Members that the behaviour code applies to them as well as to other members of our parliamentary community. This gives me another opportunity to talk about the kind of House that I want to see, and that I believe the vast majority of MPs also want to see. I want this to be a House in which—while we might have very strong political disagreements—we treat each other courteously and with respect, and we should show the same courtesy and respect to those who work with and for us. To that end, I will be meeting senior party representatives to seek an agreed position that behaviour such as that described last night is unacceptable in all circumstances.

Earlier that morning, photographs of the situation outside the No lobby had appeared online.

No photographs are allowed in the voting lobbies, yet here they were.

Chris Bryant had appeared on Sky News. He tweeted a still of himself from the interview, with the comment:

Yesterday was utter chaos!

Someone replied with a photo of Conservative MPs all over one of their own. A professional photographer, so it would appear, took a photo of them and someone else took a photo of that scene:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-6cab07d2-e5b1-49dc-82ba-1c540bdd5d6b

Here is another photo with Conservatives clustered in the middle of the room outside the voting lobbies. Labour MPs are standing off to the right. The No lobby is off to the left:

https://image.vuukle.com/d6718ef0-c713-4dc5-929b-331f544a659c-62158683-215f-46ab-bc69-f19303e15d61

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, tall with spectacles, is in the middle of both photographs. Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey is the woman in front of Rees-Mogg’s left shoulder.

Returning to the Speaker’s statement, which I watched on BBC Parliament, Chris Bryant said that he had taken the photographs as evidence. Although Hansard does not record any responses to the Speaker, Bryant asked if photographs could be allowed in order to document these incidents in future. The Speaker said that it would be a matter for the House to decide together.

Confusion still reigned on the Conservative benches, particularly as some of their MPs strongly object to fracking.

And was Wendy Morton still Chief Whip at the time the vote took place? It was all a mystery, including to Conservative MP Ruth Edwards:

Edwards wrote about her experience in the voting lobby for ConservativeHome: ‘Ruth Edwards: Why I am now calling on the Prime Minister to quit’.

Excerpts follow:

Shouting, confusion, allegations of bullying. Last night chaos reigned in the Commons. Anyone watching from the outside must have wondered what on earth was going on. It wasn’t much clearer for those of us in the chamber either, but here is one bit-player’s view from the benches.Labour had tabled an Opposition Day motion that linked a bill to ban fracking to what was supposedly a confidence motion in the Government. If it passed it would have allowed the Labour party to take control of Parliamentary business in Government time.Like many colleagues, I don’t think we should be reneging on our manifesto commitment to lift the moratorium on fracking. Why? Because I think it’s poor energy policy and because I believe that manifesto commitments are there to be kept unless there is no other choice.

Edwards is against fracking. However, she did not want to vote with Labour, yet, this was supposed to be a three-line whip vote on Liz Truss’s premiership:

None of us wanted to vote with Labour last night but some of us did want to abstain …

All day we were told by the whips that this was not just a strong three-line whip but a confidence vote. Voting against the government or abstaining would result in the whip being removed. That was very clear from the message sent to all Conservative MPs by the Deputy Chief Whip and confirmed by my whip when I messaged him to check.That’s why colleagues were in tears in the division lobbies and their offices. We were being told we had to choose between voting to lose the whip or voting against a manifesto commitment we believed in. For the front bench to allow the Opposition to put their MPs in this position is a special type of incompetence. But the tactic worked. The vast majority of colleagues, even the disillusioned and distressed, were prepared to go through the Government lobby.

I cited Edwards in my Friday post. In the debate wind up by the Government minister, she asked for clarification of a whipped vote after he said that it wasn’t:

… the Minister lobbed a verbal hand grenade into the assembled crowd. By announcing at the despatch box that it wasn’t in fact a confidence vote after-all. There was a sharp intake of breath. No one could believe what they had just heard. Surely he had misspoken?

So I bobbed up and down, asking him to ‘give way’. That’s the Parliamentary equivalent of putting your hand up in class to ask a question. After repeated efforts and a chorus of support from equally perplexed colleagues, he did so. But was unable to give a clear answer to my question.

That’s when the chaos descended, because we now had no idea about the basis of the vote. MPs gathered in groups asking each other ‘what are you going to do?’

Edwards spotted Chief Whip Wendy Morton in the lobbies and approached her:

I walked up to the Chief Whip to try and clarify what was going on. She cut me off mid-sentence ‘I don’t have to talk to you, I’ve resigned’.The Deputy came through the lobby reiterating that it was a confidence vote and that the Minister would do a Point of Order to confirm that. So, eventually, we swiped our cards and shuffled back to the chamber.But no Point of Order came.Why is this even important? Because if you want to maintain trust and a good working relationship with your Parliamentary party, you can’t lie to your MPs about the terms on which they are voting.

So what happened? It was still unclear:

I believe the whips office did act in good faith. I saw their faces as the Minister announced that it wasn’t a confidence vote. One of them looked like she wanted to clobber him with the mace.To be fair to the Minister I have it on good authority that he was relaying a message which had just come in from Number 10. This morning we are being asked to believe [by Jacob Rees-Mogg] it was a misunderstanding caused by a junior official. Anyone who believes that must be smoking something rather exotic.

Edwards had decided that Liz Truss should go and conveyed her sentiments formally to Sir Graham Brady, head of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers:

The trust between the Parliamentary Party and the Prime Minister no longer exists. You can only pull a stunt like that once. And you can’t work as a team if the foot soldiers are treated with contempt by the general.On Monday night the Prime Minister stood in front of the One Nation Caucus and promised to improve the communication between Number 10 and the party. Last night showed how deeply disingenuous that commitment was.I made my views known to Sir Graham Brady earlier this week. The Prime Minister has shown breath-taking economic and political incompetence during her short tenure in office. It is not responsible for the party to allow her to remain in power. Not when her actions can have such detrimental consequences for our constituents.So I add my small voice to the groundswell of others. Step aside, go, and let someone who is up to the task take on the great privilege and responsibility of leading our great country and party.

On October 20, The Sun‘s Political Editor Harry Cole wrote:

Within hours the government went into freefall as an extraordinary night of Commons drama saw claims that tearful Tory MPs were being physically manhandled by party enforcers.

During the carnage Chief Whip Wendy Morton threatened to resign – only to un-resign in a chaotic few hours where No10 could not confirm if she was in post.

Ms Truss could only watch on ashen-faced as she saw her authority drain away and more Tory MPs break cover calling for her to quit.

On Wednesday [at PMQs] Truss had insisted “I’m a fighter, not a quitter”, but after scenes of Commons carnage that night after a botched confidence vote, it was clear her administration was on life support.

The Telegraph had much more:

The motion, which was defeated, would have guaranteed Commons time to debate a new law to ban fracking once and for all.

The vote meant that Ms Truss faced a showdown with rebellious MPs, many of whom have openly expressed their opposition to her plans to lift the moratorium on fracking

On Wednesday morning, Tory MPs were told by the whips’ office that the vote was a “100 per cent hard three line whip”.

The message from Mr [Craig] Whittaker [Deputy Chief Whip] went on to say: “This is not a motion on fracking. This is a confidence motion in the Government.

“I know this is difficult for some colleagues, but we simply cannot allow this. We are voting no and I reiterate, this is a hard three line whip with all slips withdrawn.”

If a vote is being treated as a matter of confidence in the Government, it usually means that MPs who vote against it would be expelled from the Conservative Party and have to sit as independent candidates …

But by Wednesday evening, the Government’s position appeared to have changed. As the debate on fracking drew to a close, Graham Stuart, the climate minister, told the Commons that it was, in fact, “not a confidence vote”.

Asked by Tory MPs whether they would lose the whip if they abstain, he said that it was a “matter for party managers”.

Truss went to vote:

Ms Truss was reportedly yelled at by rebel MPs as she went through the lobby. Meanwhile, Mr Whittaker was reportedly overheard saying: “I am f***ing furious and I don’t give a f*** any more.”

According to some reports, Ms Morton resigned and left the Chamber as the voting was taking place, with Ms Truss grabbing her arm in an attempt to persuade her to reconsider

What an unholy mess.

The Government won the vote, but:

It was unclear how many of the 40 abstentions were because MPs were unavoidably away from Parliament – Boris Johnson, for example, is currently on holiday – or because they were abstaining as a point of principle.

The Telegraph mentioned Bryant’s Sky News interview implicating Rees-Mogg and Truss’s confidante Thérèse Coffey:

Mr Bryant told Sky News that Cabinet ministers Therese Coffey and Mr Rees-Mogg were among a group of senior Tories who were putting pressure on Conservative MPs to vote against the Labour motion on fracking.

“There was a bunch of Conservative Members obviously completely uncertain whether they were allowed to vote with the Labour or against it,” he said.

“There was a group including several Cabinet ministers who were basically shouting at them. At least one member was physically pulled through the door into the voting lobby. That is completely out of order.

“I know that Therese Coffey was in the group. I know that Jacob Rees-Mogg was in the group and there were others as well. The group all moved forward with one member.”

One furious MP said they felt the Government had deliberately tried to trick backbenchers into supporting it with the mix-up over whether the vote was a confidence matter. They said this amounted to a “breach of trust” between No 10 and MPs that would be almost impossible to repair.

Another senior Tory MP put the confusion down to a “cock up” between No 10 and the whips office and said the confidence vote was in fact meant to be attached to the Government’s motion, and not the one tabled by Labour.

Speaking to Sky News after the vote had ended, Mr Rees Mogg said he did not know whether Ms Morton was still in post or not, saying: “I am not entirely clear on what the situation is with the Chief Whip.”

He explained that the confusion arose over whether the Commons vote on fracking was a confidence vote because of a message sent by a “junior official in 10 Downing Street”, suggesting they did not have the authority to do so.

As for the two main whips, The Guardian reported:

Amid chaotic scenes in the Commons, it was reported that Wendy Morton, the chief whip, and her deputy, Craig Whittaker, had left the government. However, after hours of confusion Downing Street released a statement saying the two “remain in post”.

The Mail+ reported that Truss had always wanted Coffey to be Chief Whip, but Coffey wanted to be able to stand up to the media for her friend:

A source said: ‘We also had trouble finding a Chief Whip. Therese [Coffey] turned it down because she wanted to be free to defend the PM in the media, so we ended up with Wendy [Morton]. The whole thing became an absolute mess, Downing Street was cobbled together on compromise.’

Suella Braverman

At 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, an Urgent Question (UQ) was raised about the circumstances of Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s departure the preceding day:

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper (Labour) raised the question.

Ably answering and clearly staying within his boundaries as Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office was the brilliant Brendan Clarke-Smith.

He replied, beginning with this:

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman) resigned yesterday, following a contravention of the ministerial code relating to a breach of Cabinet confidentiality and the rules relating to the security of Government business. The Prime Minister has made clear the importance of maintaining high standards in public life, and her expectation that Ministers should uphold those standards, as set out in the ministerial code. All Ministers are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in the light of the code, and for justifying their actions and conduct to Parliament and the public. However, Ministers remain in office only so long as they retain the confidence of the Prime Minister. She is the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a Minister, and the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards. My right hon. and learned Friend has explained her decision to resign, and to be clear, the information that was circulated was subject to Cabinet confidentiality and under live discussion within the Government. In the light of that, it would not be appropriate to discuss the specifics of the matter further in the House, but the Prime Minister is clear that the security of Government business is paramount, as is Cabinet responsibility.

Cooper was unhappy with Clarke-Smith’s answer, referencing Braverman’s statement of ‘tofu-eating wokerati’ from her Tuesday debate and the Star‘s front page campaign of comparing Truss to a lettuce, implying a short shelf life:

… We have a third Home Secretary in seven weeks. The Cabinet was appointed only six weeks ago, but the Home Secretary was sacked, the Chancellor was sacked and the Chief Whip was sacked and then unsacked. We then had the unedifying scenes last night of Conservative MPs fighting like rats in a sack. This is a disgrace …

Has a check been made of whether she sent other documents through personal emails, putting security at risk? Was there a 90-minute row about policy between the Prime Minister and the former Home Secretary? Given the huge disagreements we have seen in the last few weeks between the Prime Minister and the former Home Secretary on drugs policy, Rwanda, the India trade deal, seasonal agriculture, small boats—and with a bit of tofu thrown in over the lettuce for good measure—is anything about home affairs agreed on in the Cabinet?

… who is taking decisions on our national security? It is not the Prime Minister, nor the past or current Home Secretaries. Borders, security and policing are too important for that instability, just as people’s livelihoods are too important for the economic instability that the Conservative party has created. It is not fair on people. To quote the former Home Secretary, this is indeed a total “coalition of chaos”. Why should the country have to put up with this for a single extra day?

Clarke-Smith replied:

I am mindful that it is not usual policy to comment in detail on such matters, but, if some background would be helpful—I appreciate that much of this is already in the public domain—the documents in question contained draft Government policy, which remained subject to Cabinet Committee agreement. Having such documents on a personal email account and sharing them outside of Government constituted clear breaches of the code—under sections 2.14 and 2.3, if that is helpful to look at. The Prime Minister is clear that the security of Government business is paramount, as is Cabinet responsibility, and Ministers must be held to the highest standards.

He took questions from other MPs, mostly from the Opposition. He did not cave in.

Guido Fawkes‘s sketch writer Simon had high praise for Clarke-Smith and was still hopeful at that point that Truss could survive:

The Home Secretary had been fired for infringing the ministerial code. The ministerial code was the responsibility of the Cabinet Office. He was from the Cabinet Office and had no view on migrants, boats, flights to Rwanda or pigs’ ears, come to that.

It was a rare display of governmental competence. They managed to say nothing of interest, and say it convincingly. It’s a low bar but they cleared it comfortably. Is this the start of a Conservative revival? There’s a wee way to go, if it is. 

Liz Truss resigns

On Wednesday night, The Sun‘s Harry Cole said:

We are watching a hostile takeover of the government.

A short while later, the new Home Secretary — formerly the Transport Secretary until Truss sacked him — Grant Shapps said in an interview that Truss’s chances of leaving Downing Street were high:

Guido reported that Shapps said, in part (emphases in the original, with the full quote here):

I think the 80% [chance of failure] is closer to where we’ve got to… she needs to thread the eye of a needle with the lights off

For weeks, the Star had been running with their lettuce campaign, showing a photo of Truss next to an iceberg lettuce on the front page. They had also a webpage.

On Wednesday, The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote, ‘The Liz Truss lettuce lives to wilt another day’:

Contrary to any number of rumours, where Westminster gets its kicks is the scent of blood – and most of all when there’s a resignation in the air. The Tory WhatsApp groups pinged mutinously. Hastily-assembled spreadsheets did the rounds, detailing who’d called for the PM to resign, and when. The Daily Star outdid the competition; hosting a live stream of a lettuce to see if it outlives Liz Truss’s premiership.

Then came Suella Braverman’s resignation and the lettuce claimed its first victim …

For now, the lettuce lives to wilt another day.

But only one more day.

The Mail+ had an insightful piece on October 22 about what went on with the Prime Minister between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. The article also recaps how disastrous Truss’s choices were from the beginning of her brief tenure:

WHEN LIZ Truss finally accepted that her Premiership was over, late on Wednesday evening, she went to the fridge in the No10 flat and pulled out a bottle of sauvignon blanc to share with her husband, Hugh

As she nibbled on a pork pie, the couple agreed that it was now a matter of when, not if, she resigned. One of the main considerations was the impact of the growing turmoil on their two teenage daughters.

Ms Truss then slept fitfully until 4.30am, when she started messaging aides for advice. Later that morning, No10 asked Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, to come in to see the Prime Minister.

When she asked him if the situation was retrievable, he replied: ‘I don’t think so Prime Minister.’ The game was up.

As she delivered her resignation statement, her former No10 consigliere, Jason Stein, was watching the live feed on his phone at a table in The Ivy in London’s Marylebone …

Until his suspension on Wednesday pending an investigation by the Government’s Propriety and Ethics Team over claims of unauthorised briefings against colleagues, Mr Stein had been at the centre of the doomed Truss premiership as an all-purpose fixer and adviser.

He has told friends that the Downing Street operation was ‘dysfunctional from the outset’, and blames ‘muddled lines of command’ for the single greatest error – the mini-Budget which even the Prime Minister herself now privately describes as ‘a colossal f***-up’.

Sources also describe fractious meetings in the run-up to the mini-Budget, which led to the sacking of her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and the reversal of the vast majority of its measures, with Ms Truss being so enraged by one member of her staff on one occasion that she talked about ‘stabbing him in the leg’.

The sources are scathing about the role played by Ms Truss’s Chief of Staff Mark Fullbrook, describing his appointment as ‘a disaster’.

One said: ‘Liz offered that job around everywhere, but no one would take it. We were left with no option but to give it to Fullbrook. He was part of a secret meeting in the Downing Street flat on September 13, during the official mourning period for the Queen, when the Budget was drawn up behind the back of Kwasi.

It was just Liz, Fullbrook and a couple of other aides eating sushi takeaways and coming up with that brilliant plan to cut the top 45p rate of tax.

‘The Treasury and the Cabinet Secretary [Simon Case] warned against it’

The sources also claimed that Mr Stein had warned Ms Truss against appointing Mr Fullbrook in August, describing him as ‘a trickster’, but that Ms Truss had ‘gone ballistic’ at him in return.

Another source claimed that Ms Truss had regretted appointing Matthew Sinclair, the former chief executive of The TaxPayers’ Alliance think-tank, as her Chief Economic Adviser, adding: ‘He was always talking over her in meetings and “mansplaining”. She said on one occasion that if he kept it up she would stab him in the leg. He never shut up’

It would appear that Truss lacked a close coterie of people she could trust:

Another source also claimed that Mr Case had been concerned about Ms Truss’s morale, telling colleagues that ‘while all Prime Minister’s end up lonely in office, it has happened at warp speed to Liz.

‘He grew very, very concerned,’ the source said.

On Thursday, she reportedly felt relieved she was leaving:

Downing Street staff were in tears as Ms Truss prepared her resignation, but she reassured them, ‘Don’t worry, I’m relieved it’s over,’ before adding, ‘At least I’ve been Prime Minister.’

At least her staff were in tears, meaning that she must have been nice to them, which is vital.

Guido kept us apprised of the morning’s events, beginning with Graham Brady’s arrival:

Guido said there were different versions of who called the meeting:

Graham Brady has just been escorted into the back door of No. 10, with Downing Street confirming that he’s meeting the Prime Minister. The Telegraph reports there was no meeting planned in her diary. The meeting of the two comes as ITV’s Paul Brand reports One Nation Tory MPs have been meeting this morning “to try and coalesce around a single candidate to replace Liz Truss.” May just be a lot more noise without any movement. Eyebrow-raising nonetheless…

UPDATE: Downing Street saying Truss requested the meeting herself…

UPDATE 12:25 – Therese Coffey enters Downing Street

UPDATE 12:49 – Jake Berry [MP, chairman of the Conservative Party] enters Downing Street

Just after 1:15 came the news that Truss would make a statement:

And then, at 1:25 p.m., Truss announced her resignation as leader of the Conservative Party (video here):

It was brief and to the point. Her husband was out of shot by a front window.

Thankfully, there were no tears as there were with Theresa May who broke down while giving her speech in 2019.

Because it is an afternoon newspaper, London’s Evening Standard was the first out of the traps with the historic headline:

Let’s have a look at the victorious lettuce:

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or to cry.

Truss remains Prime Minister until Rishi Sunak meets with the King. In her final message on Monday, October 24, she sent her wishes for a happy Diwali, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness. We certainly could do with that. More importantly, what a memorable Diwali it will be for the Sunaks — and Rishi’s in-laws:

I wish Liz Truss and her family all the very best for the future.

I had so much hope for her, but that’s all gone by the wayside.

More analysis on the leadership contest and what happens next will follow this week.

Charles III’s coronation is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2023.

The project is called Operation Golden Orb.

It will not be like his late mother’s coronation on June 2, 1953.

On October 8, the Mail on Sunday (MoS) reported (emphases mine):

The MoS can reveal that under a blueprint known as Operation Golden Orb:

    • The Coronation ceremony is set to be dramatically cut in length from more than three hours to just over an hour;
    • The guest list for the ceremony is likely to be slashed from 8,000 to 2,000, with hundreds of nobles and parliamentarians missing out;
    • Discussions have been held about a more relaxed dress code, with peers possibly allowed to wear lounge suits instead of ceremonial robes;
    • Ancient and time-consuming rituals – including presenting the monarch with gold ingots – will be axed to save time;
    • Prince William is likely to play an important role in helping to plan the ceremony.

Hmm.

The language is likely to be more modern, too:

It will be more religiously and culturally diverse. While the 1953 Coronation required the Queen to make various outfit changes, a source said: ‘King Charles is unlikely to do the same and the language will be adapted so as to be understandable to a more modern audience.’

However, traditional elements will remain:

Some key rituals will be retained, including the anointing of the monarch, who will swear to be the ‘defender of the faith’, not ‘defender of faith’ as previously speculated. The 1762 Gold State Coach, which was refurbished at great expense for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, will also once again be part of the Coronation procession.

That is reassuring.

The MoS article has a splendid selection of photos from the Queen’s coronation.

Reportedly, the King does not wish to cause hard feelings among members of the public, whose taxes will pay for the ceremony. Hence his desire to make it a low-key affair.

Many of us can see his point, but, on the other hand, the economy was still on a post-war footing when his mother was crowned. No expense was spared.

Most monarchists would enjoy seeing splendour and pageantry.

This is part of what will probably go by the wayside:

In the final weeks of 1952, the ancient Court of Claims was set up in Westminster to assess which members of the gentry had the right to perform certain roles.

Over a period of several weeks the court, led by senior judges in England and Scotland, heard 21 claims.

The Earl of Shrewsbury was appointed to carry a white wand as a symbol of his office, while the Dean of Westminster was allowed to instruct the Queen in the rites and ceremonies. Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a ceremonial position dating back to the 12th Century, presented claims from various barons of the ports to carry the canopy over the head of the Queen.

The MoS understands that the Court of Claims is set to be scrapped in the run-up to the ceremony, likely to be in the summer.

The traditional presentation of gold to the monarch is also likely to disappear. In 1952, it was reported that ‘an ingot or wedge of gold of a pound weight’ was presented to the monarch by the Lord Great Chamberlain before being placed upon the altar. A source said: ‘In an age where people are feeling the pinch, this is not going to happen.’

Velvet chairs made especially for the 1953 Coronation are likely to be replaced by standard seating.

Diplomats and other male guests invited to the 1953 Coronation were instructed that ‘knee breeches’ were in order, while women were advised to wear headgear, preferably tiaras.

The dress code next year will be less prescriptive.

Discussions had taken place on relaxing the requirement for peers to wear so-called coronation robes. A cloak of crimson velvet, the rank of the peer is indicated by rows of ermine – a stoat’s white winter fur and black tail end – on the cape. Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Mather, who started the plan for King Charles’s Coronation – which has since been updated – told The Mail on Sunday: ‘No Coronation robes. Give them to a museum where they belong. It’s not going to be a tweed jacket and pair of jeans – but morning suit or lounge suit.’

Other experts speculated that peers could don their ermine-trimmed parliamentary robes instead.

Outlining how the guest list will be reduced, Lt Col Mather added: ‘‘There are about 700 peers, well they won’t all be there,’ he said. ‘The same with MPs: they won’t all be present because he’s not being crowned for them. He’s being crowned for the people.’

If Lt Col Mather’s name sounds familiar, it is because he was the man who planned Operation London Bridge, the Queen’s funeral:

Lt Col Mather worked alongside the Duke of Norfolk who, as Earl Marshal, has formal oversight of coronations and Royal funerals. But it was Lt Col Mather who drew up the detailed plans for London Bridge. He led a team of 300 who met at least once a year to revise the Queen’s funeral plans and co-ordinate with courtiers.

It’s hard to disagree with this comment to the article:

An hour ceremony isn’t worth showing up for! We WANT to see people dressed in ceremonial garb! Just update the wording that could be offensive, and some of the guest list, but what’s on the table now is a mistake!

On Tuesday, October 11, Valentine Low, The Times‘s correspondent on the Royal Family and author of Courtiers, reported:

King Charles and Queen Camilla will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on Saturday May 6, Buckingham Palace has said.

The Palace’s PR machine is clearly at work:

Buckingham Palace said the ceremony would “reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry”.

This led to complaints that Charles would have a “cut-price coronation”. However, palace insiders said it reflected how Britain had changed and the fact that many people are facing hardship. It will still, they said, be “a festival in the best traditions of a thousand years of history”

Charles will be anointed with holy oil, receive the orb, coronation ring and sceptre, and be crowned with St Edward’s Crown, which was made for Charles II in 1661

Sources close to the King have said that he will want to reflect multicultural, modern Britain. It is expected to be more inclusive of other faiths than past coronations but will at heart still be an Anglican service. In his first address to the nation on acceding to the throne, the King went out of his way to emphasise his Christian faith.

The anointing of the monarch is part of the coronation and was not televised in 1953 because it is a religious ceremony:

During the ceremony the sovereign is “anointed, blessed and consecrated” by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The anointment of Queen Elizabeth was one of the few elements of her coronation which was not televised.

A golden canopy is placed over the monarch during the anointing and removed afterwards.

These are the six phases of the coronation:

At the heart of the ancient ceremony are six basic phases: the recognition, the oath, the anointing, the investiture (which includes the crowning), the enthronement and the homage.

Also:

As a palace source said: “The ceremony has retained a similar structure for over a thousand years, and next year’s coronation is expected to include the same core elements while recognising the spirit of our times.”

Camilla will also be anointed with holy oil and crowned, just as the Queen Mother was at the coronation of her and George VI in 1937.

For the past 900 years every coronation has taken place at Westminster Abbey. Since 1066 the service has almost always been conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Camilla’s coronation will likely follow Charles’s enthronement:

At George VI’s coronation in 1937 Queen Elizabeth — later known as the Queen Mother — was crowned and anointed in a smaller and simpler ceremony which followed the enthronement of the king. She was anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury before being handed her own regalia — the Sceptre with the Cross and the Ivory Rod with the Dove — and then sitting next to the king on her own throne. Queen Camilla’s involvement is likely to follow a similar format.

The King will sign a formal proclamation of his upcoming coronation later this year when the Privy Council meets.

May 6 was chosen so as not to conflict with sporting events:

such as the FA Cup Final and the Derby. The palace wanted a spring or summer coronation, and there is a feeling that the weather in May is often better than in June. The availability of Westminster Abbey and the Archbishop of Canterbury was also vital.

Perhaps the King is erring on the side of caution with his modest plans to see what the public reaction would be. If enough journalists think it should be more elaborate, he could change his mind.

The Telegraph‘s Melanie McDonagh thinks that the King’s coronation should reflect all of the pomp and circumstance of the British monarchy. I think so, too.

On October 9, she wrote:

Scarlet robes. Gold carriage. Ermine. Heralds. Crowns, coronets and tiaras. Anything not to like? The thing about pomp and circumstance is that it’s terrifically popular. Remember the (diverse) crowds that came to witness the solemn procession of the late Queen’s coffin and the lying in state? Think of the pageantry of the funeral – the marshals’ scarlet, the dress of the little choirboys in Westminster Abbey, the trumpets. All fabulous.

She wants to see hereditary peers:

I’m all for reducing the boring life peers – but very keen to see the hereditary ones.

She objects to a modernisation of the ceremony:

But what’s all this about cutting back on the fun bits? No presentation of gold ingots? A “more relaxed” dress code? What that means, apparently, is that diplomats won’t have to wear knee breeches or tiaras. And peers won’t wear their coronation robes – scarlet velvet trimmed with ermine. Instead, it could be “lounge suits”.

Come again? Business suits at the coronation? I don’t think so. The point about the scarlet and gold and knee breeches and ermine is that it’s meant to celebrate the institution. It’s meant to be solemn and splendid. And what’s solemn or splendid about a sea of grey?

She says that the coronation is meant to be grand, very grand — for the public’s delight and delectation:

the coronation is about exalting the monarchy and, through it, the country. So, whatever your feelings about Charles or Camilla, we can all enjoy the pageantry. Pomp and display – scarlet, gold and tiaras – are meant to cheer up the onlookers, and they do. The last coronation, held in far bleaker times, was an occasion for celebration by a battered population, who enjoyed the spectacle.

She concludes by remembering a little-known fact about Edward VII’s coronation on August 9, 1902:

My favourite coronation was Edward VII’s, as described by the Irish Countess of Fingall in her riveting memoir, Seventy Years Young. She recalls all the earls and countesses putting their coronets on, all at once. Synchronised donning of the coronets? Yes, please.

I could not agree more.

Let’s hope that the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, will ride in his own ceremonial state coach on the day, too:

Bring on the big, the bold and the beautiful.

After more than 70 years, the world will want to see our monarchy in its full glory in a dazzling coronation.

In the United Kingdom, we had 12 days of wall-to-wall television coverage of the late Queen Elizabeth II and her family, which ended on Monday, September 19, 2022.

The commercial channels broadcast as usual but during the day BBC1, BBC2 and, throughout, the news channels covered her life and what the Royal Family were doing at this time.

GB News dropped all their advertising, substituting a memorial ident instead and, at other times, playing an instrumental version of the National Anthem accompanied by a photo montage of the Queen.

At first, it seemed unimaginable. Yes, our usual programmes were rescheduled for different days at different times, so we adjusted our video recorders to automatically catch up according to that day’s television guide.

Yet, the reality of it was that, by the day of the funeral, I’d become quite used to the coverage. GB News had part of their broadcasts showing the live queue — the Elizabeth Line — in Westminster Hall for viewers to watch while listening to interviews in the studio. The Elizabeth Line was never boring. There was always something to see.

By mandating 12 days of mourning, it seems the Queen wanted us to learn something about our constitutional monarchy as a national institution. It seems she wanted us to reset the way we think about it and how we pass that knowledge and history on to the next generation.

This post covers the two days before the Queen’s funeral on Monday, September 19, 2022, and looks at what Britons discovered throughout the days of mourning thus far.

What next for the monarchy?

If there were any lessons to be learned in the immediate aftermath of the Queen’s death, it was that the monarchy goes on.

Charles became King immediately and had his Accession Ceremony two days later. There were no obstacles. The crown passed to him automatically.

A relieved nation cried, ‘God save the King’ and ‘Hip, hip, hooray’.

On September 14, YouGov took a poll asking if the mourning period would change the way we perceive this ancient institution. Forty-four per cent said they thought it would change the UK in the long term for the better:

Bob Moran, The Telegraph‘s former cartoonist, was still upset that the Queen did not step in during the pandemic to call the Government to account over the sometimes fatal procedures at care homes, which are allegedy continuing in some of them:

Yet, most people interviewed on television and the clergy giving sermons at the church services remember with gratitude the Queen’s message on the night then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson went to St Thomas Hospital in London with coronavirus. Neither the Queen nor we knew it at the time her message was broadcast, but who can forget her closing words about lockdown, borrowed from the wartime Dame Vera Lynn song:

We’ll meet again.

The Queen was adamantly pro-vaccine and in 2021 said that people who didn’t get it should think of others instead of themselves. I have seen on Mark Steyn’s GB News show several people whose loved ones got the vaccine because of her words and later died of complications. The Government is giving each of those families £120,000 in compensation.

However, quibbles with the monarchy go much deeper than the pandemic. On September 15, The Telegraph addressed the issue of how monarchs attempted to stave off republicanism throughout the ages.

The 1990s were the worst years that the Queen saw during her reign. Princes Andrew and Charles divorced, Windsor Castle caught on fire and Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris.

Regardless, the Royal Family regrouped and returned to normality (emphases mine):

“Diana died at the end of August 1997 and by the time of the Queen’s golden wedding anniversary that November she was pretty much re-established,” says royal biographer Hugo Vickers. Fast forward 15 years, to the Diamond Jubilee, and the Royal family were popular as never before, enjoying a near 50-point lead in polls over anti-monarchists.

Though so much about the British monarchy can appear unchanging, it was a hard-won transformation, relying on careful reflection and updating after the calamities of the 1990s. In making such adjustments, the royal house showed it could learn not just from its own experience, but from the experience of centuries of fluctuating royal fortunes.

In order to keep republicanism at bay, it is essential for the Royal Family to remain visible:

“In this country,” says historian Andrew Roberts, author among others of a book on George III, “there are five areas that give Republicanism a chance to move from being a minority fetish into a mainstream threat.” The first four are disastrous relationships, religious meddling, political interference and money. But it is perhaps the last and simplest that is the most important: steadfast presence.

“Sheer visibility is tremendously important,” says Roberts. That enduring presence accounts for the astonishing popularity of Queen Elizabeth, he thinks, building on the legacy of her mother and father, who made such efforts to be visible to Britons even in the darkest days of the war. And absence has led perhaps to the darkest days of the monarchy, in the years following the death of Prince Albert, when Queen Victoria in her grief almost completely vanished from the public stage.

Centuries ago, money became a huge issue that still waxes and wanes today:

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is just the most notable example of a massed uprising at taxes levied by the king (in that case to support the Hundred Years’ War). But grumbling about paying for the royal house’s upkeep never went away. A key part of the rejuvenation of the House of Windsor’s popularity in the 1990s came after the Queen agreed to pay tax. “At one stroke it took away one of the main planks of republicanism,” says Roberts. Even today, some anti-monarchists are moaning about the cost of the Queen’s funeral, or the income the new Prince of Wales receives from the Duchy of Cornwall, but it has become far easier to defend the Crown on cash-terms. “It’s not the most gracious argument in favour of the monarchy,” says Roberts, “but the pocketbook is an important one.”

We all know what role religion played in British history as driven by Henry VII, Charles I and James II, so there is no need to elaborate further.

Another issue is — or was — the conflict between Parliament and the monarch. In 1649, Charles I made a fatal mistake:

He, though, committed the sin which would become unforgivable for his successors in the centuries to follow: disdaining parliament.

He was tried in Westminster Hall and executed on January 30, 1649, during the English Civil War:

Alienating, then suspending parliament was, of course, not the Stuart king’s only problem. But interfering with the nation’s political system was becoming an increasingly dangerous game to play. By the time James hot-footed it out of the country to be replaced by William of Orange, the era of kings by “divine right” had given way to kings approved by parliament. The constitutional monarchy had arrived.

Not that all monarchs understood. George III and prime minister Lord Bute impinged upon the supremacy of parliamentary power in the 1760s, drawing fierce criticism. “George became so unpopular in the 1760s that people pelted his carriage with dirt,” says Roberts.

George III learned how to recover the situation:

… he learned his lesson and, by the time of his descent into – and recovery from – madness, he had come to be loved for his personal qualities: fidelity to his wife, frugality and piety.

Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin insisted that Edward VIII abdicate. He got his way:

When it came to Wallis Simpson … Edward stayed by his woman and, on Stanley Baldwin’s insistence, lost the throne.

Fortunately, George VI and the Queen Mother resolved the constitutional crisis:

George VI and his own queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) were the ideal pair to succeed, setting the formula – visible, dutiful, steadfast – which so characterised their daughter’s long reign.

So far, Charles III has been doing the right things, says historian Hugo Vickers:

“of course King Charles will have to be very aware. But his first speech as King dealt immediately with many of them – his new role, what he can and can’t do [politically], about the Church of England, because there was talk about him wanting to be a defender of all faiths. It puts things to rest very quickly. It was very effective.” The result was an immediate bounce in popular support, with the number of those who think he will make a good king near doubling to 63 per cent.

While republicanism will never die, it is hoped that people will value the monarchy over an elected president:

… from today’s vantage point it seems unlikely that could be so serious as to prompt Britons to dispose of the monarchy altogether. Because ultimately, says Roberts, what makes us love it is not the individual, but the institution. “Even when individuals are unpopular, Britons recognise constitutional monarchy is a good idea, being a power above politics and therefore above politicians. And the British people like the idea of politicians not being at the top of the heap.”

Well said.

Funeral attire

To find out more about the traditions of the Royal Family’s funeral attire, I happened across a Telegraph article written in April 2021, after the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, died.

The Royal Family did not always wear black.

In fact, throughout the Middle Ages until 1560, at least, there was a convention of wearing white (emphases mine):

“white mourning” or deuil blanc … deployed by medieval royals and seen in portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots after she lost her father-in-law, mother and husband within months of each other in 1560 …

The modern convention of wearing black began three centuries later, with Queen Victoria upon the death of her husband Prince Albert. However, even she had gold thread spun into her dresses, as one can see in the photograph in the article:

“Mourning dress has been part of European royal culture for centuries, but it reached its peak in the 19th century with the influence of Queen Victoria, who set a standard for the rest of society to follow,” says Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, which holds the Royal Ceremonial Dress collection. “When her beloved husband died in 1861 she abandoned the colourful clothes of her married life and, with the rest of the royal court, adopted black clothing as an outward sign of grief. Her subjects duly followed suit, causing a rush on suppliers of mourning fabric up and down the country.”

That was a time when death was something of a societal obsession and there were strict rules around the wearing of “widows’ weeds”. “Widows were required to wear black, then either white or mauve, for at least three years before being able to return to richly coloured clothing. Victoria chose never to leave mourning and wore her now iconic black dresses and white widow’s caps for the rest of her life,” Storey continues. There was no concession even at moments of celebration: “She even insisted that her daughter, Princess Alice, had an all black trousseau when she married in 1862.”

The mood oscillated from the dour to the unexpectedly glamorous; Victoria often wore her bridal veil with her black dresses and took to wearing a necklace containing a lock of Albert’s hair, but she also popularised striking jet jewellery. “Her clothing was anything but dowdy,” Storey confirms. “Every example in the collection is exquisitely made and highly embellished, as befitted her status. Victoria may have been a widow, but she was always a queen.”

Queen Victoria died in January 1901. Her son, Edward VII, reigned until his death in 1910. His wife, Queen Alexandra, began wearing purple, although black was still the favoured colour:

After Victoria’s death, mourning dress became even more opulent. An exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2014, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, included two exquisitely beautiful embellished purple gowns worn by Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, in the year after her mother-in-law’s demise. You’d really only know they denoted mourning if you were familiar with the strict dress codes of grief. And when Edward died, weeks before Royal Ascot in 1910, there was no question of cancelling, but attendees wore magnificent black outfits instead. That year’s event is now remembered as Black Ascot.

In 1938, when the Queen Mother’s mother, the Countess of Strathmore died, the Queen Mother was weeks away from joining George VI on a state visit to France. At that time, war was looming and Britain was still getting over the abdication of the King’s brother, Edward VIII. Under the circumstances, black seemed too gloomy. Something had to be done, so the Queen Mother enlisted the help of her couturier, the incomparable Norman Hartnell:

A black wardrobe simply wouldn’t do, as it was imperative to come bearing optimism.

Hartnell was the one who researched earlier monarchs and found the aforementioned portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots:

Within weeks he had scrapped the original colourful outfits intended for the tour and crafted an entirely white set of looks in their place.

The Queen has taken with her on her state visit to Paris a superb white wardrobe consisting of 12 gowns, seven coats… one cape, eight hats – and a lace parasol,” the Telegraph’s report from July 20 1938 read. “Created by leading London designer Norman Hartnell, it symbolises the links between the two countries.”

The report went on to explain that Hartnell had referenced the French Pompadour look and pannier, as well as English garden florals and Victorian silhouettes. Hartnell had the idea to revive the crinoline after being shown Winterhalter’s portraits of Queen Victoria and her family by the new king.

The Queen Mother became a fashion sensation:

Though the reason for the Queen’s all-white dressing was sombre, the reception to the wispy, lacy creations was rapturous. “No wardrobe of modern times has created greater interest than the state wardrobe chosen by the Queen for the visit to Paris,” another glowing Telegraph review reported, going on to publish sketches of the gowns in glorious detail. The autumn fashion collections shown later that year were heavily influenced by the Queen’s “white wardrobe” and her style more generally – Schiaparelli and Molyneux both included tartan as a nod to her Scottish heritage.

The Queen loved her white collection and the style muse status it had bestowed upon her so much that the following year she commissioned Cecil Beaton to photograph her at Buckingham Palace wearing the designs, resulting in a romantically optimistic set of portraits that do little to suggest that the clothes they capture are a symbol of mourning, nor that the Second World War is months away. The floaty, delicate look of Hartnell’s designs influenced the Queen Mother’s style for the rest of her life.

The Queen Mother’s husband, George VI, died in 1952. Although he had a chronic illness, no one expected him to die while Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were on holiday in Kenya. The Queen had no black dress to wear once she got off the plane in London.

Reports differ as to how a black outfit reached her. One Royal historian told GB News that an attendant was on hand when the plane reached Rome for refuelling. The Telegraph has a different account, intimating that she received mourning attire in London:

when the plane landed, a black dress had to be taken on board for her to change into, an incident that means that no royal reportedly now travels without a black outfit in their luggage, just in case. On alighting the plane, the 25-year-old queen looked elegant yet solemn in her dark coat, brooch and neat hat.

On the day of the funeral, the Queen Mother, the Queen and Princess Margaret wore long silk veils. The Telegraph has a photo of them:

At her father’s funeral, eight days later, the new queen, her mother, grandmother Queen Mary and sister Princess Margaret cast ethereal figures in their long black veils, said to be around 18 inches over the face and one and a half yards down the back. “There is no court regulation with regards to them,” the Telegraph had written in 1936, “but the practice of wearing them has always been observed at the funeral of a Sovereign.”

By the time the former Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, died in 1972, only Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Windsor wore a veil. The Queen and her mother opted for the turban, the stylish hat of the day for women:

It was notable, then, that at the funeral of the Duke of Windsor in 1972, the Royal family refrained from wearing veils. The abdicated king’s wife, Wallis Simpson, however, sported a couture coat and chiffon veil that Hubert de Givenchy had reportedly stayed up all night to make for her … By contrast, the Queen wore a black version of the turban style hats she loved at the time, adding Queen Mary’s Dorset Bow brooch.

When it came time for Prince Philip’s funeral, the Royal Family wore black, but the Queen quickly reverted to wearing her usual clothes afterwards.

Who waited to pay respects to the Queen

For many gathering to pay their respects to the Queen, a family death brought back a deep seam of emotion.

Although The Telegraph‘s Lauren Libbert watched proceedings from the comfort of her home, what she experienced seemed to ring true for a goodly number of those camping outside in the cold:

For me, at 44 and then again at 49, I watched my parents being taken from their home in a coffin and transported to their final resting place at the nearby cemetery. Watching Queen Elizabeth’s coffin make its journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh transported me right back to that heart-wrenching, inexplicable gut-punch of a feeling, remembering how it felt to know my beloved parent was inside and I’d never enfold them in my arms again.

It’s a sadness that has not gone unnoticed at home. “But you didn’t even know the Queen,” said my teenage son, noting my smudged eyeliner and tears when watching the news earlier this week.

“I know,” I replied. “But I really miss my mum and dad.”

He held me, but he was a bit baffled at the connection. Admittedly, so am I.

Other people, whether in the Elizabeth Line, Parliament Square or near Buckingham Palace, were hardcore attendees of other Royal occasions, as The Times reported. Keep in mind that the nightly temperatures turned distinctly autumnal, in the 50s Fahrenheit:

Mary-Jane Willows loves the sound of metal barriers clattering onto the streets of Westminster. “It means everything is getting organised,” she says.

It is 10pm on Thursday and Willows, 68, is settling down for a night’s sleep in a camping chair just off Parliament Square. She and her crew of royal superfans are zipped into military bivvy bags and wrapped in foil blankets — at that point of the week they were not allowed to use tents or sleeping bags for security reasons.

It is a hardcore existence, but they will endure. Because on Monday, for the Queen’s funeral, they will be in the “best spot in the world”.

Just half a mile away there is another camp, also in the best spot in the world. They arrived “on site”, on the Mall and overlooking Buckingham Palace, the previous Thursday. And they came with “equipment”: bin liners and trolleys jammed with Union Jack flags, hand warmers, underwear, first-aid kits, torches, baby wipes, wine gums and corned beef sandwiches. They have been there since.

These two groups are the most dedicated royal watchers on the planet, bound by births, weddings, jubilees and deaths, and held together by WhatsApp groups and meme-sharing. They are always the first ones to arrive, pitching up on virgin pavement, knackered, cold and in it for the long haul.

John Loughrey, 67, and his friends on the Mall, Sky London, 62, and Maria Scott, 51, have done weddings together (Cambridge, Sussex, York, York), births (George, Charlotte, Louis), jubilees (Diamond, Platinum) and deaths (Diana, Princess of Wales; the Queen).

“If you want to be part of the gang you’ve got to be with the gang,” says London. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s seeing history and being part of it.”

However, whether remembering family losses or cadging the best seat in the house, as it were, how do these people view Britain?

Rob Johns, a politics professor at the University of Essex, claims to have the answer.

I’m not so sure.

He interviewed 400 mourners by the time The Guardian interviewed him on Saturday, September 17. Johns said:

… it is less a case of royalists simply wanting to mourn the Queen in person, and more “a collective gathering that is as much about the queue as it is about reaching the end of all the queueing”.

This is the part about which I have doubts:

Who would be willing to wait outdoors for as long as 24 hours , braving the elements along the Thames, for a few seconds alongside the Queen’s coffin – and why?

Now, as the Queen’s lying in state in Westminster approaches its final hours before Monday’s state funeral, researchers believe they have found the answer. A narrow majority vote Conservative, almost two-thirds backed remain and most of them are enjoying a feeling of “subdued positivity” as they wait in line for hours.

Really? I don’t know how one could wait outdoors in the cold for a day and support EU supremacy over our monarchy.

With history and contemporary background covered, let us move on to what happened last weekend.

September 17

On Saturday, September 17, the King was back at work.

He had successfully completed his visits to the component nations of the United Kingdom during the mourning period under a plan called Operation Spring Tide. It derives its name from a particularly high tide in springtime known as king tide.

ITV reports that there were sub-operations to Spring Tide:

Scotland (Operation Kingfisher), Wales (Operation Dragon) and Northern Ireland (Operation Shamrock).

In London, Operation London Bridge continued apace.

The Queen’s state funeral is the first such event to be held since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

However, unlike Churchill’s funeral, the Queen’s was mammoth by comparison. Police forces from around the UK travelled to London to participate in maintaining order. Only two were exempt.

The numbers of military engaged were also unprecedented.

Operation London Bridge required meticulous logistical planning to make sure everyone in the capital, including visiting heads of state and other dignitaries, were kept safe.

In the morning, the King visited members of the police and military working all hours to make this a success:

He went on a walkabout at the Elizabeth Line to express his appreciation of people’s willingness to pay tribute to his late mother. William Prince of Wales and Sophie Countess of Wessex met mourners in other parts of the queue:

Then it was time for the King to return to Buckingham Palace for more meetings and a reception:

Early that evening, the Queen’s grandchildren — The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Sussex, Princess Beatrice (Andrew), Princess Eugenie (Andrew), Lady Louise (Edward), Viscount Severn (Edward), Zara Tindall (Anne) and Peter Phillips (Anne) — held a Vigil of the Princes in Westminster Hall. I have added the relevant Royal parent’s name in parentheses for clarity.

The aforementioned ITV article says that the events taking place at Westminster Hall were run under Operations Marquee and Feather:

This covers the four days of the Queen’s lying-in-state, focusing on the arrangements inside Westminster Hall.

It’s expected to begin on Wednesday, September 14, ending on Sunday before her funeral the next day.

Senior royals are also expected to pay their respects once more here, standing guard in a tradition known as the Vigil of the Princes.

It is linked to Operation Feather, the arrangements for the public who are expected to queue in their thousands for an opportunity to see the monarch’s coffin as they did 20 years ago for her mother.

Here is the beginning of the grandchildren’s Vigil of the Princes. Members of the Royal Family watched from a viewing point on one side of the hall. Once again, the public could file past:

This video from the Royal Family’s YouTube channel has the full vigil, which was very moving indeed. Viscount Severn, who is only 14, was so composed for someone so young. As with other videos from this channel, click ‘Watch on YouTube’ and it should play, at least for the near future. If not, try the link in their tweet:

Here are some close-ups:

This video is of the young Royals filing out afterwards:

The days of mourning at Westminster Hall nearly passed without incident. On Friday, a man suddenly appeared in the queue outside and exposed himself to two women from behind. He jumped into the Thames but quickly got out. Police were on hand to arrest him. The Guardian reported:

… a man appeared at Westminster magistrates court following allegations that two women were sexually assaulted while they were waiting in the queue to see the Queen lying in state.

On Friday evening, a man inside Westminster Hall was arrested after lunging towards the Queen’s coffin. The Telegraph reported:

The individual was reportedly taken to the floor by Metropolitan Police officers and arrested.

The Met told ITV: “At 22:00hrs on Friday 16 September officers from the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command detained a man in Westminster Hall following a disturbance. He was arrested for an offence under the Public Order Act and is currently in custody”.

Viewers of the BBC’s live stream reported that the feed went down for 10 minutes.

The aforementioned Guardian article says:

Broadcasters showing the procession of mourners cut away from the scene and instead showed the view from outside parliament.

There are always simple ways to set things right. In this case, broadcasters were prepared with a still of the Palace of Westminster.

The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole looked at the bigger picture of the mourners and tweeted a poke at the anti-monarchist metropolitan elite:

September 18

Sunday, September 18, put the logistics of Operation London Bridge to the test as 500 heads of state and other dignitaries arrived in London for the Queen’s funeral.

As it would have been impossible for all of them to have been driven in separate cars to Buckingham Palace that day and to Westminster Abbey on Monday, the plan was to ‘pod’ the leaders into private coaches, painted in plain white.

Scheduled pickups of the great and the good at designated points in central London helped the plan run smoothly and safely.

Only Joe Biden was exempt. The Beasts — one operational and one decoy — were here along with his usual security motorcade.

France’s Emmanuel Macron arrived with his wife Brigitte early enough to do an incognito walkabout during the afternoon:

Meanwhile, somehow with the permission of Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Chinese were allowed into Westminster Hall. Hoyle had pledged to MPs that they would not be allowed anywhere on the parliamentary estate:

Conservative MPs were less than impressed:

That evening, after a brief shower, a beautiful rainbow appeared, just as a double rainbow did when the flags were lowered to half mast over Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle on the day of the Queen’s death. This must mean something, surely:

The King and Queen Consort held a formal reception for the dignitaries at Buckingham Palace that evening.

Meanwhile, soldiers participating in the funeral were busy polishing medals and sewing on badges:

A few newspapers printed the last photographic portrait of the Queen for Monday’s editions. Ranald Mackechnie took the photo in May, a few weeks before her Platinum Jubilee celebrations:

The Telegraph had an article about the portrait. As ever, the Queen’s choice of jewelry told the story:

The Queen, who is dressed in a dusky dove blue dress with her hair neatly curled, is wearing her favourite three-strand pearl necklace, pearl earrings and her aquamarine and diamond clip brooches which were an 18th birthday present from her father George VI in 1944.

The two art deco-style pieces, worn one below the other, were made by Boucheron from baguette, oval and round diamonds and aquamarines.

The Queen wore the brooches when she addressed the nation on the 75th anniversary of VE Day in 2020 and for her Diamond Jubilee televised speech in 2012.

The image was taken by photographer Ranald Mackechnie, who also took the Jubilee portrait of the Queen released to mark the start of national festivities of her milestone 70-year reign.

I cannot help but agree with The Star‘s ‘Kingdom United’. Thank you, your Majesty, for these 12 days of mourning:

The Independent was less sure about ‘Kingdom United!’ They wrote of a ‘turning point’:

The Guardian showed us a window of a house in Windsor and how the world was descending there and in London:

The i paper also focused on a world farewell:

The Financial Times took a final look at Westminster Hall:

In closing, The Metro published my favourite portrait of the Queen after she was inducted into the Order of the Garter. Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988) painted the portrait in 1955:

It is simply timeless, as is its subject.

I hope to cover the funeral and committal services in their entirety tomorrow.

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

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

Romantic history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However:

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

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

Monday, September 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Monday, Swinney went further:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was arrested for breach of the peace:

The SNP had toughened up that law in 2010:

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

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

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

The Guardian‘s diary for the day added:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian reported (emphases theirs):

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

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

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

The Order of Service is here.

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

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

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

Excerpts follow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Royal party then returned to Holyroodhouse.

However, their day was far from over.

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

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

More on that tomorrow.

Although the results of the Conservative Party leadership contest were not announced until Monday, September 5, 2022, it was widely believed that Liz Truss would emerge the victor.

So, on Sunday, September 4, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg interviewed Truss on her morning current events show.

It was as much as a debut for Truss as it was for Kuenssberg. Although Kuenssberg has been on our television screens for several years, it was the first time in this format.

No longer much of a viewer of the regular BBC output outside of BBC Parliament, I only watched a short clip that Guido Fawkes posted:

Truss was polite and constructive. She explained that her policies were based on growth rather than redistribution:

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases his):

The goal of Liz Truss’s government should be to provide the framework for economic growth, growth that provides high paying jobs, not optimises universal credit. The Treasury has been trapped in the logic of Gordon Brown for too long, tinkering with taxes and benefits instead of turbo-charging the economy. We can’t tax or redistribute our way to prosperity, Liz Truss knows this and has the drive to reform government policy. It is a positive, optimistic agenda on which she needs to move fast, starting this week…

Kuenssberg acted like the cool girl from school. (How did her hair grow so much in such a short space of time, one wonders.) She asked Truss:

You will come and see us again, won’t you?

A Telegraph review of the new show mentioned that Kuenssberg couldn’t interview Truss in detail because she had to move on to an interview with Ukraine’s Olena Zelenska (emphases in purple mine):

One hopes … that the busy format can be slimmed down when the need arises, to allow for longer-form interviews and tougher interrogation. Kuenssberg did not, for example, have time to ask Truss about crime, immigration or education, because the programme also had to fit in an interview with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska (unfortunately, interviews conducted via a translator rarely make for riveting TV), fleeting discussions of Nasa’s Artemis launch and the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert, plus some banter with the panel.

It is just like the BBC to give priority to foreign nations over our own citizens’ needs and concerns.

Another mistake might be the addition of notional comic Joe Lycett, who insulted the then-future Prime Minister and made the Mail‘s front page on Monday:

The British public received more insight from Mark Littlewood, the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Littlewood (H/T to Guido Fawkes) was up at Oxford with Truss in the early 1990s and said she would be:

the most radical British Prime Minister in over a century.

Excerpts from Littlewood’s article for The Sunday Telegraph follow:

The first myth that needs to be laid to the rest is that Liz Truss is some sort of wily, calculating chameleon who changes her political colours, depending on prevailing political circumstances, to suit her own narrow ends.

I first met Liz Truss over twenty-five years ago at Oxford University and have detected no shift in her underlying political philosophy in that time. She has not jumped from left to right or from radical to reactionary – she is, and has always been, a market liberal with a deep suspicion of entrenched, vested interests. She instinctively believes that the state has a greater propensity to do harm than to do good.

How then to reconcile her record as a pro-EU, Liberal Democrat at university with her Tory policy platform today? You only need to appreciate how politics have changed so markedly since the mid-1990s to understand that while the world itself might not be very consistent, Liz Truss very much is

I would argue that Liz Truss’s changing position on the EU reflects a consistent application of her underlying principles to changing circumstances. To go right back to the 1990s, the single market had just come into being. On the face of it, the European project was on an exciting, liberalising trajectory. It was about removing barriers erected by nation states in order to facilitate trade and free exchange. Over many years – and only incrementally – did the EU’s obsession with regulatory conformity oblige free market liberals to seriously question whether the European Union was now more of a socialist than a liberal enterprise

Although she was hostile to the EU’s heavy-handed intervention, she also recognised that many of the problems afflicting Britain were homegrown. Most of the policy reforms she craved could be carried out whether or not we were a member of the European Union.

In wishing to move Britain in a liberalising, more market-orientated direction, Liz Truss would have judged Brussels to have been bad, but probably Whitehall to be worse

Her approach to date on the energy crisis is a classic example of this. Whilst politicians of all stripes seem to want the government to take even more action to fix the price of energy, Truss’s starting position would be to allow the price mechanism to operate freely and then consider how one might mitigate the effects. She would rather offset the soaring price of utility bills through meaningful tax cuts, than appoint a central committee to pronounce on the exact price we should all be paying per kilowatt hour.

But it’s not merely the underlying instincts of Liz Truss that has led so many free marketeers to get excited about her upcoming premiership. We can also expect her to act decisively. This doesn’t mean she is a dogmatic individual although, for sure, she is guided by an underlying ideology in a way our last three Conservative Prime Ministers have not been …

I suspect we are about to bear witness to the most radical British Prime Minister in over a century.

We can expect to see a whirlwind of activity and announcements from the very first minutes of her entering Downing Street. Given the speed she is going to have to operate at, there inevitably will be missteps. But the overall direction of travel in the Truss administration will be crystal clear – to move power and money away from the state bureaucracy and into the hands of ordinary men and women.

It remains to be seen exactly how far she can move Britain in that direction in the limited time she has available to her, but I can’t wait to find out.

The Sunday Telegraph granted Truss an editorial that day which bear out what Littlewood wrote:

My plan for growth is built on Conservative ideas: tax cuts, supply-side reform and deregulation. I will grasp the nettle on the ambitious reforms needed to get our economy growing, including working with local communities to create low-tax, opportunity-rich investment zones and make Britain the home of innovation and start-ups …

We will break with the same old tax and spend approach by focusing on growth and investment. The heaviest tax burden in 70 years cannot go on. We will change the Treasury investment rules to drive opportunity across every part of our United Kingdom. As Prime Minister, I will terminate the technocratic excesses that have crept into government and our economy.

I will be on the side of the people who drive Britain forward: from our hard-working taxpayers to our dynamic businesses and the self-employed. In the same spirit, I will take on whatever holds us back.

Too often, people face a morass of bureaucracy to get things done. It cannot be right that the last reservoir or new nuclear power station was over a quarter of a century ago. It’s time to get Britain building and liberate our enterprising spirit.

At this critical moment, we can shape the future of our economy through the decisions we make. I am prepared to be bold in order to transform our economy into the powerhouse I know it can be. That is how we will deliver a better future for the British people and ensure together that our best days lie ahead.

On the morning of Monday, September 5, Red Wall MP Lee Anderson (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) reacted to Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday show.

Guido reported:

Speaking to Mike Graham on TalkTV this morning, he’s just called for the whole BBC to be shipped off to a desert island, because “they do not represent what this country wants.”

One minute before the leadership contest results were announced, Guido tweeted about an extravagant bet he made on a Truss victory:

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, announced the result promptly at 12:30 in the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, not far from Parliament.

Guido could rest easy. Truss won and would become our new Prime Minister:

Sir Graham read out the results from the Party members’ ballots in full. Rishi Sunak did better than most pundits and pollsters predicted.

We also discovered the true number of Conservative Party members, heretofore unknown:

Rishi Sunak received 60,399 votes (42.4%)

Liz Truss received 81,326 votes (57.1%)

There were 172,437 eligible electors. Turnout was 82.6%.

There were 654 rejected ballots – probably mostly write ins for Boris. Which means 142,379 votes were returned.

58,378 electors voted by post and 84,001 electors voted online.

Before the result was announced, Conservative Home‘s Paul Goodman tweeted his expecations based on conversations with Party MPs and activists:

Guido agreed.

He found that Opinium was the most accurate polling company in the contest:

Look how far off the mark Conservative Home was.

Opinium readily acknowledged that doing party-specific polls were much more challenging than those from the general public:

Opinium has once again won the crown for most accurate poll during the Tory leadership election. After winning the same accolade at the 2019 election, Opinium were closest to the final result. They add the usual caveats that polling political parties is much trickier than the general public…

Truss and Sunak were seated next to each other as the votes were announced. Whe she got up to give her speech she rushed past Sunak without a glance or a handshake. Oh, well.

Her short speech didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know:

Guido has the video, in which she was emphatic about one thing:

I campaigned as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative.

She also paid tribute to Boris Johnson:

Guido reported that Boris quickly congratulated Truss and said that the two had met before the contest was over:

Boris has congratulated Liz Truss on a “decisive win” in the leadership race:

I know she has the right plan to tackle the cost of living crisis, unite our party and continue the great work of uniting and levelling up our country. Now is the time for all Conservatives to get behind her 100 per cent.

It’s not like Boris stayed neutral throughout the race. This morning the BBC’s Chris Mason reported that Liz visited Boris at Chequers to ask his advice on how to be PM. 

Rishi has tweeted, through obviously gritted teeth, “It’s right we now unite behind the new PM, Liz Truss, as she steers the country through difficult times.”

Meanwhile, Carrie took to Instagram to wish Liz and her family well, alongside a photo of her, Boris, Wilf and Romy stepping through the No. 10 door into Downing Street for the last time.

I expect Wilf and Romy won’t remember it but they’ve had an incredibly happy start to their lives growing up here.

Let’s hope the garish wallpaper didn’t leave a permanent imprint on their young minds.

Unfortunately for Truss and the Conservatives, the longstanding co-chairman of the Party, Ben Elliot, resigned that evening:

Ben Elliot is an entrepreneur, not an MP. He has incredible social connections and has raised a lot of money for the Conservatives.

Elliot is best known for his personal concierge subscription service which he started many years ago.

The Mail+‘s Glen Owen wrote:

Ben Elliot, a close ally of Boris Johnson, announced he was stepping down from the role – leaving Miss Truss with the headache of trying to find a powerful replacement.

Mr Elliot spearheaded the drive to amass a £56millon war chest in the run-up to the 2019 election, of which £23million was raised in the four weeks prior to polling day.

Controversially, Mr Elliot used donor clubs to generate funds – including the use of an ‘advisory board’ for £250,000-a-head contributors – which attracted allegations that he was deploying ‘cash-for-access’ techniques.

But it also allowed the party to comprehensively outgun Labour in the income stakes.

One of Mr Elliot’s friends said that ‘Ben’s own initiative and contacts’ had been responsible for more than one third of donor income.

The friend said:

He is going because he recognises that Liz will want the freedom to appoint her own chair, and wants to spend more time concentrating on his businesses.

Hmm.

Elliot thanked the groups he worked with in the Party, adding:

I would like to thank Boris Johnson for appointing me, and wish Liz Truss every success in leading our great country, particularly given the challenges of the winter ahead.

The article concludes with this:

Darren Mott, chief executive of the Conservative Party said: ‘The whole Conservative Party wants to thank Ben Elliot for his tireless service over the past three years. Without his incredible efforts, the 2019 landslide would not have been possible. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.’

Moving on to Parliament, which resumed sitting on Monday afternoon, changes were afoot.

Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries’s Online Safety Bill was scheduled to be debated further that day, but was suddenly pulled from the Order Paper.

Mark Spencer, still in post at that point as Leader of the House, announced:

With permission, Mr Speaker, it may help if I inform the House that, following the election of the new leader of the Conservative party, the business managers have agreed that the Government will not move the Second Reading and other motions relating to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill today to allow Ministers to consider the legislation further. The remainder of this week’s business is as I announced on 21 July.

That was one piece of good news, as it is draconian.

The other good news was that Home Secretary Priti Patel resigned that day, after giving her last Q&A session on Home Department progress over the summer. She had a lot to say but not much to report, which was typical of her performance since 2019:

I had such high hopes for her, but, between civil servants and lingering EU laws to which we are still subject, she couldn’t get anywhere, internationally with migration or domestically with policing.

Returning to Liz Truss, the Russians were not happy that she is now Prime Minister. One Russian broadcaster said:

Elizabeth Truss wants to achieve something entirely different — the end of the world.

Good. Truss is right over the target.

More flak came Truss’s way here in the UK from the usual suspects:

As for Boris, was he as bad a Prime Minister as all the Remainers said? No. Not at all.

Labour’s Gordon Brown is still our most unpopular PM of living memory:

Guido wrote:

The usual blowhards like Alastair Campbell and James O’Brien like to claim that Boris was the worst Prime Minister of all time. That’s not a view reflected by the public. According to data compiled by Britain Elects and published by the New Statesman, during his premiership Boris never reached the depths of unpopularity reached by most of his recent predecessors as PM. Tony Blair was more unpopular before he left office, Gordon Brown was far more unpopular during his tenure and Theresa May sunk lower in popular esteem than ever Boris did. Of recent PMs only David Cameron was less negatively perceived at his lowest point. Dave didn’t have the almost universal and unforgiving disdain of the europhile chattering classes against him though…

Tuesday, September 6, was a busy day and, unfortunately, too much for the Queen, who, as I write on Thursday, is gravely unwell at Balmoral.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, interrrupted the energy debate to make a brief announcement, asking for thoughts and good wishes for the Queen and her family at this time.

Tomorrow’s post will discuss Boris’s and Liz’s respective trips to Balmoral to meet with the Queen.

In the meantime, my prayers go to our monarch for her recovery and to the Royal Family.

Picking up from where I left off yesterday with Dan Wootton’s GB News poll on the next Conservative Party leader, 60,000 people responded and 49 per cent said that Boris Johnson should be the next one.

On Thursday, Wootton remarked:

The Prime Minister’s swashbuckling and energetic PMQs farewell today just emphasised that point further.

Boris participated in his final Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, just under three years since he first stood behind the despatch box as Prime Minister.

It was one of Boris’s best performances and can be viewed here. Hansard’s transcript is here.

Highlights follow, emphases mine.

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer had a go at the leadership contest, particularly last week’s debates and the refusal of a third debate on Sky News. The debates were a bit spiky at times, but pretty tame overall.

Boris replied:

I am not following this thing particularly closely, but my impression is that there has been quite a lot of debate already, and I think the public have ample opportunity to view the talent, any one of which—as I have said before—would, like some household detergent, wipe the floor with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Today happens to be just about the anniversary of the exit from lockdown last year, and do you remember what he said? He said—[Interruption.] No, I am going to remind him. He said it was “reckless”. It was because we were able to take that decision, supported by every single one of those Conservative candidates, opposed by him, that we had the fastest economic growth in the G7 and we are now able to help families up and down the country. If we had listened to him, it would not have been possible, and I do not think they will be listening to him either.

Starmer had a go at Rishi Sunak’s accusation of Liz Truss’s proposed tax cuts as ‘fantasy economics’.

Boris said:

Well, Labour know all about fantasy economics, because they have already committed to £94 billion of extra tax and spending, which every household in this country would have to pay for to the tune of about £2,100. It is thanks to the former Chancellor’s management of the economy—thanks to this Government’s management of the economy—that we had growth in May of 0.5%. We have more people in paid employment than at any time in the history of this country. I am proud to be leaving office right now with unemployment at or near a 50-year low. When they left office, it was at 8%. That is the difference between them and us.

Then Starmer quoted Liz Truss’s criticism of Rishi’s economic policy for its lack of growth.

Boris answered:

I think that everybody would agree that what we saw in the last two and a half years was because of the pandemic, with the biggest fall in output for 300 years, which this Government dealt with and coped with magnificently by distributing vaccines faster than any other European Government—faster than any other major economy—which would not have been possible if we had listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That is why we have the fiscal firepower that is necessary to help families up and down the country, making tax cuts for virtually everybody paying national insurance contributions. There is a crucial philosophical difference between Labour and the Conservatives: under Labour, families on low incomes get most of their income from benefits; under us, they get most of it from earnings, because we believe in jobs, jobs, jobs. That is the difference.

Starmer went on to quote Penny Mordaunt on Britain’s sluggish public services.

Boris said:

This is the Government who are investing £650 billion in infrastructure, skills and technology. He talks about public services; what really matters to people in this country right now is getting their appointments and their operations, fixing the covid backlogs—that is what we are doing—and fixing the ambulances. That is what he should be talking about. That is why we voted through and passed the £39 billion health and care levy, which Labour opposed. Every time something needs to be done, Labour Members try to oppose it. He is a great pointless human bollard. That is what he is.

Starmer referred to Kemi Badenoch’s criticism of Rishi’s handling of covid loans.

Boris replied:

This is one of the last blasts from Captain Hindsight, at least to me. They were the party, I remember, that was so desperate for us to be hiring their friends—they wanted a football agent and a theatrical costumier to supply personal protective equipment. Do you remember, Mr Speaker? We had to get that stuff at record speed. We produced £408 billion-worth of support for families and for businesses up and down the country. The only reason we were able to do it at such speed was that we managed the economy in a sensible and moderate way. Every time Labour has left office, unemployment has been higher. The Opposition are economically illiterate, and they would wreck the economy.

You can read more on Guido Fawkes about Labour’s hilarious — well, it would be were it not so tragic — attempts to get the Government to employ their friends for pandemic related equipment.

Starmer went on for another few minutes about the nation being an utter shambles at the moment.

That is true in many instances, but Boris cited the good things that the Conservatives have accomplished over the past three years:

What does it say about the right hon. and learned Gentleman that no one can name a single policy, after three years, of the Opposition apart from putting up taxes? He is one of those pointless plastic bollards you find around a deserted roadworks on a motorway. We got Brexit done; he voted against it 48 times. We got this country fast out of covid, in spite of everything, when he would have kept us in lockdown. We are fixing social care, when the Opposition have no plan and no ideas of their own. We are now bringing forward measures, in the face of strikes, to outlaw wildcat strikes.

I can tell the House why the Leader of the Opposition does that funny wooden flapping gesture—it is because he has the union barons pulling his strings from beneath. That is the truth—£100 million.

We have restored our democracy and our independence. We have got this country through covid. I am proud to say that when it comes to tackling climate change or sticking up for Ukraine, we have led the world on the international stage. I want to thank my friends and colleagues on these Benches for everything they have done.

Guido posted the video of that portion, which is Boris at his best. Viewers will also get the mood of the Chamber, which was very noisy indeed:

After Starmer had finished, it was the turn of Ian Blackford from the Scottish National Party (SNP). As ever, he criticised the Government and put in yet another plug for a second independence referendum:

Boris said:

That is not what I observe. The right hon. Gentleman talks about records; I point to the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, the lowest unemployment for at or near 50 years as I have said, the lowest youth unemployment, and the fastest growth in the G7 last year, in spite of everything. As for the Scottish nationalists’ record, look at where they are. I am afraid to say that Scottish school standards are not what they should be, because of the failure of the SNP. It is failing people who are tragically addicted to drugs in Scotland, and the people of Scotland are facing another £900 million in tax because of the mismanagement of the SNP.

True. All of it.

Blackford ranted once more on partygate. Incidentally, he is a multi-millionaire who likes to paint himself as a humble crofter.

Boris replied:

On the personal abuse stuff, I think the right hon. Gentleman is talking a load of tosh, but when he has retired to his croft—which may be all too soon—I hope that he will reflect on his long-running campaign to break up the greatest country in the world. I hope that he will reflect on the pointlessness of what he is trying to do, and think instead about the priorities of the people of Scotland, which are all the issues that he thought were trivial: education, crime, and the burden of taxation that the SNP is unnecessarily placing on the people of Scotland.

After Blackford sat down, Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, had his say. He indirectly accused Boris of being ambitious and ‘tyrannical’. He asked whether Boris would now be devoting time to completing his book on Shakespeare. He also said there should be a general election.

Boris answered:

Polonius—that’s who the right hon. Gentleman is; he needs more matter with less art. The only thing we need to know is that if there were to be a general election, the Liberal Democrats would rightly get thrashed, because that would be the moment when the public looked with horror at what the Liberal Democrats’ policies really are and all those rural voters would discover the massive green taxes that they would like to apply. The only risk is that there could be some kind of crackpot coalition between those guys on the Labour Benches, the Lib Dems and the Scottish nationalists to put that into effect. That is what we must prevent.

Felicity Buchan, a Conservative who represents London’s Kensington constituency, expressed her concerns about rising crime under the current Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan).

Referring to himself, Boris replied:

London once had a Mayor who cut crime by 25%, cut the murder rate by 30% and built twice as many affordable homes as the current incumbent. What London needs is another Conservative Mayor.

Another Liberal Democrat, Scotland’s Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) wanted a freeport in his Highlands constituency.

Boris said:

I can confirm that we are committed to funding two new green freeports in Scotland to the tune of £52 million. That would not be possible, of course, if the SNP got its way and we returned to the EU.

Boris defined levelling up:

It is not just inequality; it is inequality of opportunity, and that is what levelling up addresses.

A Labour MP moaned about the railways in the north of England.

Boris replied:

Actually, this Government are responsible for three new high-speed lines, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, which no previous Government have done.

Boris gave his advice with regard to hot weather when an MP asked about disposable barbeques and Chinese sky lanterns:

The key thing is for people to behave responsibly with the use of these things. It is clearly insane to take a disposable barbecue on to dry grass.

Another SNP MP, Dr Philippa Whitford, talked about poverty in Scotland, ending with a plug for independence.

Boris said:

Actually, we increased the living wage across the whole of the UK by £1,000, we made sure that people on universal credit got their tax bills cut by £1,000, and over the last couple of weeks we have cut national insurance contributions by an average of £330. It was because of the Union that we were able to support families up and down the country, in Scotland, with the furlough and other payments, to the tune of £408 billion.

One of the nicest contributions came from Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, who represents West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine:

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment to Scotland and the entire United Kingdom over his years in Downing Street? I also thank him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland for improving and increasing the visibility and involvement of the UK Government in Scotland over the past three years. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that whoever takes his job, and whatever comes next, the United Kingdom will always be stronger together than it ever would be apart?

Boris replied:

That was brilliantly put; I could not have put it better myself.

Then a young Labour MP asked about the slow compensation for Windrush victims.

Boris said:

Actually, I think more people have got compensation. I renew my apologies to the Windrush generation for what they have suffered, but we have greatly increased the compensation available. We have paid out, I think, more than £51 million. We are working with voluntary groups to ensure that people get what they are entitled to. I may say that Labour has never apologised for its own part in the Windrush scandal.

An MP from Northern Ireland accused the Government of ruining relationships between Ulster and the Republic.

Boris replied:

I completely disagree with that. The whole objective of the Northern Ireland (Protocol) Bill that we have passed is to support the balance and symmetry of the Belfast/Good Friday arrangements. I was very pleased that the Bill advanced to the House of Lords with no amendments.

GB News has more on the legislation:

A Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, is not my favourite. However, here is where I agree with him. He paid a splendid tribute to Boris:

In recalling the situation that the Prime Minister inherited in July 2019, of a Parliament with a majority determined to frustrate the result of the 2016 referendum, led by a Speaker who was just slightly partial—the seemingly impossible situation he found—does my right hon. Friend understand that he has the gratitude of my constituents, who can identify the wood from the trees, and of myself, for his leadership over the last three years?

Boris replied:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. There is a fair amount of wood on the Opposition Benches and I think that is why we will prevail at the next general election.

Another SNP MP banged on about a second independence referendum.

Boris said:

This is the country that secured furlough and that delivered the vaccine across the whole of the UK, while the SNP gets on with overtaxing to the tune of £900 million—that is how much they are overtaxing in Scotland. And we had a referendum in 2014.

Another SNP MP complained spitefully about Boris being a nobody and about the honours list he might draw up before he leaves office.

Boris answered:

I am sure that everybody who has served this Government loyally and well deserves recognition of some kind, but as for the honours list, I am afraid the hon. Gentleman will have to contain his excitement.

Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh was the last to speak. He, too, paid Boris tribute for the past three years:

On behalf of the House, may I thank the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] On behalf of the House, may I thank the Prime Minister for his three-year record of service? On behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the country, can I thank him for his insistence on rolling out the AstraZeneca jab, which has saved thousands of lives around the world? On behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted Brexit, may I thank him for restoring people’s faith in democracy? On behalf of northern towns, may I thank him for his commitment to levelling up? And most of all, on behalf of the people of Ukraine, may I thank him for holding high the torch of freedom and ensuring that that country is not a vassal state? For true grit and determination, keep going and thank you.

Boris replied, giving his closing remarks and advice for the future PM:

I thank my right hon. Friend, and I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.

No. 1: stay close to the Americans; stick up for the Ukrainians; stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is. I love the Treasury, but remember that if we had always listened to the Treasury, we would not have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel. Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror. And remember, above all, it is not Twitter that counts; it is the people that sent us here.

And yes, the last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life. It is true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years and a huge realignment in UK politics. We have transformed our democracy and restored our national independence, as my right hon. Friend says. We have helped—I have helped—to get this country through a pandemic and helped save another country from barbarism. Frankly, that is enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished—for now.

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to thank all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons. I want to thank all my friends and colleagues. I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford). I want to thank everybody here. And hasta la vista, baby. [Applause.]

Here’s the ‘Hasta la vista, ba-by’ video — a must-see:

The Conservatives gave him a standing ovation, with everyone applauding him, except for Theresa May, who merely stood.

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-427154d4-eeb2-4a2d-9b84-ae60e65c201a

The Opposition either sat in silence or walked out.

One of Guido’s readers wrote:

Lack of class from opposition MPs who can’t possibly give a polite round of applause for a political opponent.

I agree. On the other hand, they hate Boris because he represents Brexit.

In Guido’s comments on the same post, someone said that Boris was Britain’s ‘worst ever PM’, which garnered this response, rightly pointing out the greater moral failings of Tony Blair, John Major and Theresa May as well as today’s world leaders:

What, even worse than a Prime Minister who took the UK into an illegal war which resulted in the deaths of millions as well as thousands of UK soldiers and for which the UK is still feeling reverberations in the form of terrorist attacks? What a worse PM than a Prime Minister who signed the UK up to the Maastricht Treaty without putting it to the British people in the form of a referendum? What worse than a Prime Minister who put forward the idea of making the elderly sell their homes to pay for Health Care

But instead listened to the people and secured an 80 seat majority to leave the EU (admittedly still leaving a lot to do). Invested in Vaccine development and procurement to ensure the UK had enough supplies for every citizen, and that the UK was at the front of the queue, and didnt go overboard on Covid restrictions, not when you look at what other countries got up to, namely Canada, China and France with Macron’s “I want to punish those that won’t get vaccinated” this after he was responsible for sowing Vaccine doubt simply because the Vaccine was developed in the UK – but then Johnson commited a crime so heinous – he had a piece of Birthday cake brought to him buy his wife – and that’s ‘your’ worst Prime Minister, lol …

Journalist and former Conservative adviser Amanda Platell said she wept after PMQs:

Boris will be missed for his powerful performances at the despatch box …

… and Labour know it. One of their former advisers admits that’s why Boris had to go:

Keir Starmer was often petty and unpleasant towards Boris:

That is because he knows Boris can win elections. In fact, earlier this week, Starmer was so frustrated with the Prime Minister that he insulted him on a podcast.

Starmer’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Monday, July 18, that she would be happy with either Truss or Sunak as his successor. At the time she gave this interview, five candidates were still in the race:

I’m quite happy with any one of them. Because the one thing, and I kind of could see it… [Boris] had this, like, teflon coatingIt’s like a little magic. Where he was able to get through to the public and get through to the places that I actually don’t see any of the five candidates that are standing having at the moment… Boris had so much going for him. He got an 80-seat majority and the country was really behind him… the five that we’ve got now I don’t think have got that…

Here’s the video:

Boris’s former adviser Dominic Cummings thinks that Boris, like Arnie, will be back, if the next Conservative leader is too lacklustre:

As I wrote yesterday, thousands of voters do not want until then. Dan Wootton’s viewers think that Boris’s name should be on the ballot going out to Conservative Party members early in August:

Wootton’s poll follows on from the ongoing petition by Party members to have Boris’s name on the ballot:

The petition is being spearheaded by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the Tory donor, and David Campbell Bannerman, a former Conservative Euro MP:

The Mail also has a report on the petition.

GB News interviewed David Campbell Bannerman on Thursday, July 21:

However, Labour are planning a rearguard action to prevent Boris from ever being Party leader again.

They hope to depose him as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London:

On Thursday, July 21, GB News reported:

Boris Johnson could be forced to face a by-election if he is found to have lied to Parliament and is handed a suspension for 10 or more sitting days.

The Privileges Committee is examining whether the Prime Minister committed a contempt of Parliament by misleading MPs over the Partygate scandal.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle [Labour] confirmed that the committee’s findings would fall within the remit of the Recall of MPs Act, following advice from a leading lawyer.

That would mean that a suspension of 10 or more sitting days, or 14 calendar days, would trigger a recall petition.

If at least 10 percent of voters in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat demand a by-election he would lose his place as an MP, but would be eligible to stand again in the contest.

The cross-party committee also published advice from the Clerk of the Journals, Eve Samson, the Commons’ expert on parliamentary privilege, which suggested that whether or not Mr Johnson intended to mislead MPs was not a factor that needed to be considered.

But she said that intent could be seen as an “aggravating factor” when considering penalties

The MPs intend to call Mr Johnson to give oral evidence in public in the autumn, under oath.

The committee has already said that whistleblowers will be able to give evidence about the Prime Minister anonymously.

Mr Johnson has also been ordered to hand over a cache of documents to the MPs investigating whether he lied to Parliament with his partygate denials.

The committee wrote to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case demanding details relevant to its inquiry.

On Friday, July 22, Guido posted on the upcoming inquiry, saying (emphases in red his):

While the committee will now disregard the PM’s intent, the Clerk’s report does say that can feed into deciding a sanction. This is all, in the understated words of The Telegraph, “a departure from precedent”…

It seems the Speaker’s also got in on the act of changing rules. The Privileges Committee’s announcement yesterday said Hoyle has ruled that “any suspension of the requisite length (10 sitting days or 14 calendar days) ) following on from a report from that Committee will attract the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act”. Previously only recommendations of suspension from the Standards Committee would apply the recall act. Now the PM faces a by-election being forced by [Labour MP Harriet] Harman. Tory MPs are now having to fight back on his behalf, launching a petition to scrap the investigation altogether in light of his resignation…

For now, let’s remember the happier times of earlier this week.

Boris held his final Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 19:

Despite the heat, Guido reports that there were no refreshments or food:

… there were a few presents, and a round of applause for the PM. Nigel Adams also gave a speech commending Boris’s time in office, followed by a school photo.

Boris was gi[ven] a six-set first edition of Churchill’s war books; surprisingly not something the ex-PM’s biographer didn’t already own. Guido also learns Boris was given wines that reflected significant dates in his life and political career: 1964, 2008, 2012 and 2019. He also got wine from other countries that mean a lot to him, including Ukraine and Greece …

Here’s the Cabinet photo:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-8b23ce74-8a07-4e13-b24a-a9d4dc987cb8

I hope all goes well for the Prime Minister in the weeks to come.

No doubt if Labour try to get at him, he’ll find a way out.

All being well, I’ll have a post next week on what really happened leading to his ouster.

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

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

Steve Bray

This is where I left off yesterday:

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

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

Guido Fawkes had the story and a video:

His post says (emphases in the original):

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

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

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

Guido covered the bit about Bray:

Guido wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee Anderson intervened:

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

Longhi replied:

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

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

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

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

Russell-Moyle: No, he’s not!

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

Russell-Moyle: No, he doesn’t!

Longhi: Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote about Jonathan Gullis in April.

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

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

In the beginning

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

He took after both parents in his personal choices.

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

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

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

Dudley North

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

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

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

Maiden speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More condescending left-wingers recently said this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UK Parliament was prorogued early Thursday afternoon, April 28, 2022.

The new session will begin on Tuesday, May 10, with the Queen’s Speech. One wonders if she will be there in person or delegate Prince Charles to deliver it for her.

We will have one news story to watch, however, besides local elections on Thursday, May 5. Durham Constabulary is said to be reconsidering re-examining their decision not to investigate Keir Starmer, who appeared indoors at the Labour offices at the end of April 2021 after election campaigning, when indoor election meetings were forbidden because of coronavirus.

This decision by the Durham Constabulary is in response to Conservative Red Wall MP Richard Holden’s letter to the Chief Constable about the matter. Holden represents Durham North.

On Wednesday, April 26, Guido Fawkes tweeted about the re-examination and someone helpfully posted a video of Starmer, MP Mary Foy and other Labourites enjoying beer one evening:

And there’s this further down in response to Guido’s tweet about Starmer, whom his detractors call Keith rather than Keir, for whatever reason:

The letter from Durham Constabulary to Richard Holden is below. Based on the wording, one wonders exactly how much will be reconsidered:

If it weren’t for Guido and Holden, this issue probably would have never resurfaced.

Guido has a great GIF compilation of Starmer on the campaign trail. It alleges that he might have committed as many as seven violations of the campaign restrictions last year. The second tweet features Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner MP. Hmm:

Twitter has a new trending topic, #durhampartygate :

Here is a selection of tweets on #durhampartygate :

In other Labour MP news, Liam Byrne has been suspended for two days, meaning he will lose pay for those days:

Now onto the prorogation. Thanks to Boris Johnson’s premiership, I have seen three since 2019:

The order paper for the House of Commons was brief, in expectation of a Royal Commission, whereby Black Rod would officially summon the Commons to go to the House of Lords. All of that takes place in rather elegant language:

The mood around 11:30 a.m. was light, almost festive. Even the Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, fluffed his lines:

One part of the proceedings is spoken in Norman French: ‘La Reyne le veult’, or ‘The Queen wills it’. This tweet shows the five most senior Lords entering their chamber in formal robes:

Until 1967, every time a law was passed, proceedings in the Lords were briefly suspended to allow for an announcement of new legislation, followed by ‘La Reyne le veult’:

Since 1967, a simple announcement has been made to the Lords of Royal Assent to new legislation:

The King or Queen used to preside over prorogations in person. Queen Victoria was the last monarch to do so. That was in 1854:

You can see Black Rod coming in to summon the Commons at 12:27 p.m. on this video. The prorogation in the Lords starts at 12:30 p.m. on this video. Afterwards, MPs return to the Commons. Go back to the first video to find the Commons Speaker confirm to MPs what was read out in the Lords, even though they had heard everything there themselves minutes earlier. When he finishes, he instructs MPs to leave the chamber:

True. It finished at 12:52 p.m.

The Lords’ business was thin on the ground. Their session began at 11:07 a.m.:

This thread summarises a prorogation:

In a time of emergency, the monarch can recall Parliament during prorogation.

It’s a highly formal ceremony and well worth watching.

Now on to the May 5 council and Northern Ireland Assembly elections, which should be interesting.

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