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This is the final instalment of my long-running series, the Brexit Chronicles.

My previous post discussed the December 30 vote on the EU Future Relationship Bill which passed both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent in the early hours of the final day of Brexmas, December 31, 2020.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair in Britain, as we were in lockdown.

One week earlier, Boris said that he would not be dictating to Britons how they should celebrate our exit from the EU, which was a bit rich, because he had already put us into lockdown before Christmas:

What UK independence from the EU means for Boris

The UK negotiating team did some star turns with this agreement, which polished Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political reputation.

Boris’s ratings had taken an understandable hit during a year of coronavirus, which included a lot of flip-flopping on his part, however the trade agreement improved things considerably. Liz Truss, who has been negotiating our trade deals with more than 50 countries, deserves her place at the top:

According to an Opinium poll, an overwhelming majority of Britons — even Remainers — wanted MPs and the Lords to pass the deal:

Guido’s article noted:

Troublingly for the anti-deal SNP, the poll’s sub sample of Scottish voters shows that by 47% to 19%, Scots want their MPs to vote for the deal too…

The Norwegians said that the UK had negotiated a better deal with the EU than they had:

Guido Fawkes thinks that this could give Norway the impetus to renegotiate their terms with the EU. I hope so (emphases in the original):

Marit Arnstad, parliamentary leader of Norway’s Centre Party, argues that the UK deal is better than the Norwegian deal her country has as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). “The UK has now reached an agreement that gives them more freedom and more independence” she tells Klassekampen, Norway’s answer to the Guardian, “the British have a better agreement than the EEA. They get access to the internal market and the common trade that is desirable, but they do not have to be part of a dynamic regulatory development that places strong ties on the individual countries’ national policies. …The most difficult thing for Norway is that we are bound in areas that are national policy, and that it happens in more and more areas. The British have now taken back this authority, and it is extremely interesting”.

Arnstad is not the only politician complaining, the leader of the Norwegian Socialist Party’s EEA committee, Heming Olaussen, also believes that the British agreement with the EU is better than the EEA, “because the British escape the European Court of Justice. Then they are no longer subject to EU supremacy and must not accept any EU legislation in the future as we must. This agreement is qualitatively different and safeguards national sovereignty in a better way than the EEA does for us”.

Could we soon see Norway and the other EEA countries try to renegotiate their terms?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made sure that he got everything possible arranged by the end of the day, including Gibraltar. The first tweet has a statement from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab:

Remainers constantly brought up the future of the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. They can silence themselves now.

Chronicle Live reported:

Automotive giant Nissan has welcomed the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, which appears to have safeguarded the future of its Sunderland plant.

The plant has been at the centre of the Brexit debate over the last decade, with both Remain and Leave campaigners using it to back up their respective arguments.

A number of global Nissan executives have used visits to Sunderland to warn that its future was threatened by a no-deal Brexit, and two models either being made or due to be made at the plant have been cancelled since the 2016 referendum.

But the Christmas Eve agreement of a deal that appears to allow tariff-free access to EU markets for British-made goods has been welcomed by the company.

On Boxing Day, The Telegraph — Boris’s former employer — published an interview with him, excerpts of which follow (emphases mine):

“I think it has been a long intellectual odyssey for many people of this country,” he said, casting back to 1988, shortly before he, an up-and-coming journalist at The Telegraph, was dispatched to Brussels to report on the European Commission.

“The whole country has been divided about this issue, because we are European, but on the other hand we don’t necessarily want to feel that we’re committed to the ideology of the European Union.

“That’s been the problem and I think it is absolutely true that Margaret Thatcher … she did begin this period of questioning. Her Bruges speech was very, very important.”

Mr Johnson is referring to a speech that, to many Eurosceptics, formed the foundations of the bitter and protracted political struggle against ever closer union that ultimately set Britain on the path to Brexit.

At the height of her power and railing against Jacques Delors’ latest move towards deeper integration, in 1988 Baroness Thatcher urged the Commission to abandon aspirations of a “European super-state” which would infringe on the “different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one’s own country”.

Her warning went unheeded, however, and just four years later the UK signed up to the Maastricht Treaty and with it the creation of the European Union as it is constituted today.

And yet, even after she was toppled and replaced by John Major, an ardent Europhile, the seeds of discontent and the desire to reclaim British sovereignty had been sown in Bruges.

He explained that we will always be European, just not part of the huge project that seems to continually move the goalposts of membership obligations:

“I think this gives us a basis for a new friendship and partnership that should attract people who love Europe and want to have a great relationship with it, who want to feel close to it.

But it should also be something that is welcome to people who see the advantages of economic and political independence. I think the country as a whole has got itself into a new and more stable footing. It’s a better relationship and a healthier relationship.”

The tariff and quota-free deal covers £660bn worth of trade a year, which Mr Johnson said will still be “smooth” but with new customs procedures and paperwork which will mean things are “different and there will be things that businesses have to do”.

In particular, he is keen to stress that the UK will be free to diverge from EU standards.

This is particularly gratifying for Mr Johnson, who said that after being accused of “cakeism for so many years,” he has achieved what his critics said was impossible: “That you could do free trade with the EU without being drawn into their regulatory or legislative orbit.”

Boris enjoys his ‘cakeism’ references. He made one on Christmas Eve upon the announcement of the deal and he made yet another on January 1, which was Guido Fawkes’s Quote of the Day:

I hope I can be forgiven for reminding the world that many people used to insist that you couldn’t do both: you couldn’t have unfettered free trade with the EU, we were assured, without conforming to EU laws. You couldn’t have your cake and eat it, we were told. Maybe it would be unduly provocative to say that this is a cake-ist treaty; but it is certainly from the patisserie department.

The Spectator had an excellent article on the new treaty, ‘The small print of Boris’s Brexit deal makes for reassuring reading’. Brief excerpts follow. The article has much more:

The Brexit deal takes things back to where they were before Maastricht. The EU is limited now in any meddling to very specific areas indeed. It ends the oddity where because circa seven per cent of UK business trade with the EU, 100 per cent have their laws made by the EU (although that is a bit more blurred in supply chains)

There are parts of the deal that mean that, should Britain wish to diverge, then UK committees will have to talk to EU committees. Requiring the UK to ‘consult’ on implementation and change of the agreement etc. But how this is done in practice is left free and thus pretty non-enforceable and limited in scope. It is diplomacy now, not law

While there is a lot of hot air in the treaty, it does not go beyond that. Lord Frost and his team seem to have seen off the (no doubt many) attempts to get EU regulation in through the back door. The UK is leaving the European Union and the lunar orbit of its regulations. It depends on your politics whether you approve of concessions over fish and some aspects of trade. But the legal question – to take back control – has been accomplished.

In The Atlantic, Tom McTague, a balanced journalist, looked at Brexit from the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto policy of ‘levelling up’ all parts of the United Kingdom:

at root, Brexit was a rejection of the economic status quo, which too many had concluded was benefiting the country’s urban centers at the expense of its more rural regions. And not without evidence: Britain is the most unequal economy in Europe, combining a supercharged global hub as its capital with areas a three-hour drive away that are as poor as some of the least-developed parts of the continent.

Brexit was not solely a vote of the “left behind”—much of the wealthy and suburban elite also voted to leave. But Brexit was a rejection of the direction the country was taking, a desire to place perceived national interests above wider European ones that too many Britons did not believe were also theirs. Is this entirely unreasonable?

The Revd Giles Fraser, rector of the south London church of St Mary’s, Newington — and co-founder of UnHerd — wrote an excellent article on Boris, Brexit and old Christmas traditions involving seasonal games of chaos and fools. He also delves into the Bible. ‘Why chaos is good for Boris — and Brexit’ is worth reading in full.

You will want to see the photo he includes in his article, which begins as follows:

Back in early December, after a dinner between the British negotiating team and their EU counterparts, a photograph was released that, it was said, “sums everything up”. A characteristically dishevelled Boris Johnson was unflatteringly contrasted with the smartly dressed Michel Barnier. “Johnson’s loose tie, shapeless suit and messy hair alongside Frost’s errant collar stood out somewhat beside an immaculately turned out Ursula von der Leyen and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier” reported the Huffington Post, while reproducing a series of damning twitter observations …

Fraser points out that Brexit is charting a new course. The old rules no longer apply. Boris seems to be the king of chaos, perhaps a ‘fool’:

The problem with an orderly approach to things such as Brexit is that most problems, especially the large ones, are always going to be imperfectly and incompletely specified. In such a context, it is not always a straightforward matter to argue in a linear way from problem to solution. Indeed, when situations seem to require some sort of paradigm shift, the rules of the old order present a block on the emergence of the new. Things will always seem chaotic when change does not travel according to pre-established ideas of how one thing follows from another.

In his fascinating book Obliquity, the economist John Kay describes the shortcomings of turning decision making within a complex environment into some sort of algebra. Often, he argues, “complex outcomes are achieved without knowledge of an overall purpose”. The importance of rational consistency is exaggerated. Some values are incommensurable, not plottable on a single system of reference. In such situations, neatness is overrated, distorting even.

That, I take it, is partly why Boris Johnson remains ahead in the polls, even now. Yes his shambolic manner, strongly contrasted with Keir Starmer’s orderly, lawyerly disposition, speaks to a refusal of some imposed authority. It’s a kind of trick, perhaps, given that he is the authority. And Old Etonians are not typically chosen as “the lowly” who are lifted up as per the Magnificat.

But the importance of Johnson “the fool” exceeds the fact that he has become an unlikely poster-boy of some unspecified insurgency against the established European rules based system of governance. The fool understands something the rationally wise does not. “Man plans, God laughs” goes an old Jewish proverb. Much to the deep frustration of its proponents, order can never be finally imposed upon chaos. And those who are comfortable with this, celebrate it even, are often better able to negotiate the complexities of life. Being chaotic might just turn out to be Johnson’s unlikely super-power.

Boris certainly has had a good track record over the past 12 years. The coronavirus crisis is the only obstacle remaining:

What independence from the EU means for Britons

The BBC website has a short but practical guide to changes that came into effect on January 1.

In addition, UK drivers licences will be recognised in EU member countries as they were before:

With regard to students and foreign study, we will no longer be part of the EU-centric Erasmus study programme beginning in September 2021. The UK government is developing the worldwide Turing programme, named for Alan Turing:

Guido explains:

… Unlike the Erasmus programme, which was founded in 1987 “to promote a sense of European identity* and citizenship among its participants”, the new scheme will have a global outlook, targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas boosting students’ skills and prospects, benefitting UK employers. It will be life changing for the student participants.

A year of Erasmus-funded reading of Sartre at the Sorbonne in Paris, or a year of Turing-funded study of Nano-engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras? It is a no-brainer to choose the exciting future that is beyond Little Europe.

*The EC in latter years funded a post-graduate exchange programme that offered opportunities outside Europe. Some 95% of the budget still focuses on Europe.

Women will be pleased that the EU tax — VAT — on sanitary products is no more.

How we celebrated, despite lockdown

On New Year’s Eve, I was cheered to see an article by The Guardian‘s economics editor Larry Elliott, ‘The left must stop mourning Brexit — and start seeing its huge potential’. YES! Every Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MP should read it.

He, too — like the aforementioned Tom McTague of The Atlantic — sees Brexit as an upending of the status quo. He tells his readers on the Left that they should be happy about this (emphases mine):

Many in the UK, especially on the left, are in despair that this moment has arrived. For them, this can never be the journey to somewhere better: instead it is the equivalent of the last helicopter leaving the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in 1975.

It marked the rejection of a status quo that was only delivering for the better off by those who demanded their voice was heard. Far from being a reactionary spasm, Brexit was democracy in action.

Now the UK has a choice. It can continue to mourn or it can take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit has provided. For a number of reasons, it makes sense to adopt the latter course.

For a start, it is clear that the UK has deep, structural economic problems despite – and in some cases because of – almost half a century of EU membership. Since 1973, the manufacturing base has shrivelled, the trade balance has been in permanent deficit, and the north-south divide has widened. Free movement of labour has helped entrench Britain’s reputation as a low-investment, low-productivity economy. Brexit means that those farmers who want their fruit harvested will now have to do things that the left ought to want: pay higher wages or invest in new machinery.

The part of the economy that has done best out of EU membership has been the bit that needed least help: the City of London. Each country in the EU has tended to specialise: the Germans do the high-quality manufactured goods; France does the food and drink; the UK does the money. Yet the mass exodus of banks and other financial institutions that has been predicted since June 2016 has not materialised, because London is a global as well as a European financial centre. The City will continue to thrive.

If there are problems with the UK economy, it is equally obvious there are big problems with the EU as well: slow growth, high levels of unemployment, a rapidly ageing population. The single currency – which Britain fortunately never joined – has failed to deliver the promised benefits. Instead of convergence between member states there has been divergence; instead of closing the gap in living standards with the US, the eurozone nations have fallen further behind.

I was especially pleased that he pointed out the coronavirus vaccine. We were the first in the world to approve one and get it rolled out:

The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of nation states and the limitations of the EU. Britain’s economic response to the pandemic was speedy and coordinated: the Bank of England cut interest rates and boosted the money supply while the Treasury pumped billions into the NHS and the furlough scheme. It has taken months and months of wrangling for the eurozone to come up with the same sort of joined-up approach.

Earlier in the year, there was criticism of the government when it decided to opt out of the EU vaccine procurement programme, but this now looks to have been a smart move. Brussels has been slow to place orders for drugs that are effective, in part because it has bowed to internal political pressure to spread the budget around member states – and its regulator has been slower to give approval for treatments. Big does not always mean better.

Later on — at 11 p.m. GMT, midnight Continental time — millions of us in Britain were only too happy to toast each other, confined in our own homes, and say:

Free at last!

Here’s Nigel Farage:

Baroness Hoey — formerly Kate Hoey, Labour MP — worked tirelessly for Leave in 2016.

She had a message for her late mother …

… and for Guy Verhofstadt, who is shown below a few years ago in London with the Liberal Democrats campaigning against Brexit:

In the days that followed …

On New Year’s Day, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer gave an optimistic message for 2021 — ‘the UK’s best years lie ahead’:

The Sun‘s political editor, Harry Cole, urged all of us to unite behind a new Britain:

Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, continues to pursue his quest for French citizenship, having researched his family tree.

Nigel Farage’s new campaign will be against dependence on China:

Our ports have been problem-free:

On that cheery note, after four and a half years, this completes my Brexit Chronicles! Onwards and upwards!

Andrew Neil, veteran BBC journalist and chairman of The Spectator worldwide, hosted Episode 7 of The Week in 60 Minutes on Thursday, October 15, 2020:

A summary follows.

Not surprisingly, given events of the past week, coronavirus led the news.

Andrew Neil began with England’s increasing number of regional lockdowns. It would seem that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no longer following the science. The Labour and official Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, wants another national lockdown. The political editor of The Spectator, James Forsyth, said that, whatever coronavirus crisis measures Boris Johnson takes, he’s ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ and has to deal with the damage of lockdowns.

Across the Channel in France, Emmanuel Macron has been following a similar strategy to that of Downing Street and is very concerned about COVID-19 in all respects. Neil asked about last week’s contretemps in Ireland. Forsyth said that Ireland’s dispute between their government and medical experts was played out in public; by contrast, in the UK, it was in private. In any event, he said that scientists are now in a position of ‘negotiation’.

The magazine’s deputy political editor, Katy Balls, was on next to discuss Labour’s position on coronavirus. Labour MPs disagreed with Keir Starmer behind the scenes, a move which she said has united the Conservatives. That said, it seems England could well be heading towards a short ‘circuit breaker’, although that would be very difficult for Conservative MPs to stomach.

Forsyth said that this is a very dangerous time for the Government. Starmer could even emerge victorious. (‘At some point’, I might add, as Boris has a majority of 79 [from 80], and no general election is due before 2024.) At this stage, it’s too soon to tell. He said that no one knows if a circuit breaker would actually work in England.

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson was up next. He said that Boris was pretty well on to the way to a national lockdown, adding that he lacks the way to fight off SAGE, having been  ‘outmanoeuvered’.

Neil asked about a recent poll showing approval for more coronavirus restrictions. Ben Page from IPSOS-Mori explained the polls, which showed that 62% of respondents thought that stricter measures should be taken. Page indicated that these were somewhat alarming results: ‘quite astonishing in some ways … across the piece’.

Forsyth noted that 19% of Conservative voters in England oppose increased restrictions, which poses a problem for Boris because it creates a North-South divide. Ben Page countered that the polling support for Labour and Conservative has been fairly stable this year. Labour haven’t been able to gain much ground since December 2019.

Jake Berry MP, a Conservative representing the northern constituency of Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, spoke next. He said that, although their regional lockdown had been relaxed recently, they are now on Tier 2. He said that people are largely ignoring the Government guidelines and will comply only with what they think is appropriate. He does not favour a national lockdown but supports a local circuit breaker ‘based on the data’, so that it becomes less political for the public. He believes that the Government could have ‘handled the North better’ and that recent weeks have proven a ‘very dangerous moment for Parliament and the North’. That said, he added that Labour ‘is in quite a lot of trouble over this as well’ and said Starmer committed quite a big mistake this week when calling for a national circuit breaker.

Berry further advised that we need to give this new two-week regional lockdown the benefit of the doubt which might lead for in-and-out local lockdowns.

Neil then changed tack, moving across the Channel to France, with its local 10 p.m. coronavirus curfews (some of which are now at 9 p.m.) and a campaign against extremism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, speaking to the latter point, was the next guest. She was sceptical about any success against extremism. She said that extremists have convinced French immigrants they are living within another type of state to which they do not feel they naturally belong. She added that this is enough to subvert the French nation. She also said that the same narrative is going on in other Western nations, because leaders remain silent and refuse to admit what is really going on.

Talk then turned to Brexit arrangements, which were to have been concluded that day. James Forsyth said that the EU threw the ball into the UK’s ‘court’. That leaves the situation whereby Michel Barnier wants to carry on talks but neither side wants to back down.

Forsyth expects there will be a deal to be done ‘but with a twist in the tail’. Fraser Nelson said that Boris and Macron communicate with each other quite closely and expected that Britain will budge over fishing rights. It will be, he predicted, one for revision: ‘a process rather than an event’.

Forsyth said there could be a November deadline, even though neither side wants an early deadline because they do not want any changes to the deal. He predicted a last minute November 15 deal.

The last part of the programme concerned protecting the triple lock pension with Katy Balls affirming that Boris is ‘committed to it’.

The panel noted Boris’s ‘unstrustworthiness’ problem with voters. Questions from listeners followed for the last ten minutes. Ben Page said that the Labour Party is very unpopular even if Keir Starmer is popular in the polls.

Viewers are grateful to Charles Stanley Wealth Managers for sponsoring the programme.

Linguists have found that young adults are triggered by the full stop (‘period’ to my American readers).

You could not make this up.

On August 23, The Telegraph, along with many other news outlets, published an article about it: ‘Generation Z feels intimidated by full stops, experts find’.

It says (emphases mine):

Full stops have become the latest casualty of youthful sensitivity as experts say they can be “intimidating”.

As teenagers and those in their early twenties, Generation Z, have grown up with phones in their hands, using short messages to communicate with one another, and the punctuation mark has fallen out of fashion and become a symbol of curt passive-aggression.

Linguists have been debating the use of the full stop and why some young people interpret a correctly punctuated text as a sign of annoyance.

Some argued that the full stop had become redundant, as a text was now ended simply by sending it, and the sentence did not need to be finished with a punctuation mark.

Linguist Dr Lauren Fonteyn tweeted “If you send a text message without a full stop, it’s already obvious that you’ve concluded the message. So if you add that additional marker for completion, they will read something into it and it tends to be a falling intonation or negative tone.”

What if you accidentally send a message before you’ve finished it, Dr Fonteyn?

This extends to more than texts. Another linguist says it also applies to emails:

Owen McArdle, a linguist at the ­University of Cambridge, said: “I’m not sure I agree about emails. I guess it ­depends how formal they are.

“But full stops are, in my experience, very much the exception and not the norm in [young people’s] instant messages, and have a new role in signifying an abrupt or angry tone of voice.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

However, in linguistic circles, a debate has been going on about the full stop since 2015! Get this:

Prof David Crystal, one of the world’s leading language experts, thinks the use of the punctuation mark is being “revised in a really fundamental way”.

In his 2015 book, Making a Point, he explains that instead of its original purpose, signifying the end of a sentence, it has become an “emotion marker”, signifying anger or annoyance.

He said: “You look at the internet or any instant messaging exchange – anything that is a fast dialogue taking place. People simply do not put full stops in, unless they want to make a point

This is also backed up by science. A 2015 study by Binghamton University in New York, involving 126 undergraduates, found that they perceived text messages ending in a full stop as being less sincere than the same message without a full stop.

Researchers also found that exclamation points did the opposite of full stops, making people seem more sincere and engaged.

Well, there you have it!

Most of us were taught to reserve our use of exclamation points. Too frequent a use undermines one’s written credibility.

I cannot imagine anyone being triggered by a full stop, especially university students.

In the words of the musical: ‘Stop the world — I want to get off’. This is too much.

Yesterday, I made a case for plastic carrier bags.

Shops in England were supposed to stop using single-use bags earlier this year and switch to paper. However, coronavirus has put paid to that because … getting a new plastic bag from the shop has next to no germs on it, compared with reusable totes.

On March 14, 2020, the New York Post published an article about the positives of plastic bags: ‘Using tote bags instead of plastic could help spread the coronavirus’.

The article appeared originally in City Journal, where the author, John Tierney, is a contributing editor.

Highlights follow, emphases mine.

Everyone’s going green not only with tote bags, but also reusable cups. I can’t think of anything more distasteful than asking for one’s reusable cup to be refilled. What is going through retailers’ and legislators’ minds? Talk about a disease multiplier!

This is what happened in New York State in March:

a new law took effect this month banning single-use plastic bags in most retail businesses, and this week Democratic state legislators advanced a bill that would force coffee shops to accept consumers’ reusable cups — a practice that Starbucks and other chains have wisely suspended to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

John Flanagan, the Republican leader of New York’s Senate, rightly objected. He:

has criticized the new legislation and called for a suspension of the law banning plastic bags. “Senate Democrats’ desperate need to be green is unclean during the coronavirus outbreak,” he said Tuesday, but so far he’s been a lonely voice among public officials.

No doubt everything is suspended for now. You can imagine how New York got such high infection rates. Perhaps this will be examined later when the pandemic has died off.

We’re supposed to wash our tote bags regularly — admittedly, I do not, but I consider myself to be very careful. No doubt everyone else with tote bags does, too!

The COVID-19 virus is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread unless they wash the bags regularly, which few people bother to do. Viruses and bacteria can survive in the tote bags up to nine days, according to one study of coronaviruses.

The risk of spreading viruses was clearly demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health. The researchers, led by Ryan Sinclair of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, sent shoppers into three California grocery stores carrying polypropylene plastic tote bags that had been sprayed with a harmless surrogate of a virus.

After the shoppers bought groceries and checked out, the researchers found sufficiently high traces of the surrogate to risk transmission on the hands of the shoppers and checkout clerks, as well as on many surfaces touched by the shoppers, including packaged food, unpackaged produce, shopping carts, checkout counters, and the touch screens used to pay for groceries. The researchers said that the results warranted the adaptation of “in-store hand hygiene” and “surface disinfection” by merchants, and they also recommended educating shoppers to wash their bags.

Another study found that single-use bags were hygienic at the time they were provided at the point of sale:

An earlier study of supermarkets in Arizona and California found large numbers of bacteria in almost all the reusable bags — and no contamination in any of the new single-use plastic bags. When a bag with meat juice on the interior was stored in the trunk of a car, within two hours the number of bacteria multiplied tenfold.

Yes, there are all sorts of dangerous bacteria lurking in reusable bags, including e. Coli:

The researchers also found that the vast majority of shoppers never followed the advice to wash their bags. One of the researchers, Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, said that the findings “suggest a serious threat to public health,” particularly from fecal coliform bacteria, which was found in half the bags. These bacteria and other pathogens can be transferred from raw meat in the bag and also from other sources.

An outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a reusable grocery bag that had sat on the floor of a hotel bathroom. In a 2012 study, researchers analyzed the effects of San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic grocery bags by comparing emergency-room admissions in the city against those of nearby counties without the bag ban. The researchers, Jonathan Klick of the University of Pennsylvania and Joshua Wright of George Mason University, reported a 25 percent increase in bacteria-related illnesses and deaths in San Francisco relative to the other counties.

And, as I said yesterday, the bags end up sitting everywhere before they pop on top of the supermarket counter:

New York’s state officials were told of this risk before they passed the law banning plastic bags. In fact, as the Kings County Politics Web site reported, a Brooklyn activist, Allen Moses, warned that shoppers in New York City could be particularly vulnerable because they often rest their bags on the floors of subway cars containing potentially deadly bacteria from rats — and then set the bag on the supermarket checkout counter. Yet public officials remain committed to reusable bags.

To get around this, New York has developed an elaborate set of shopping and packing guidelines which, oddly enough, include a greater use of plastic:

A headline on the Web site of the New York Department of Health calls reusable grocery bags a “Smart Choice”bizarre advice, considering all the elaborate cautions underneath that headline. The department advises grocery shoppers to segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside their tote bags; to wash and dry their tote bags carefully; to store the tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse the grocery tote bags for anything but food.

You couldn’t make it up.

I agree 110% with John Flanagan:

Disposable plastic is the cheapest, simplest, and safest way to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Instead, leaders in New York and other states are ordering shoppers to make a more expensive, inconvenient and risky choice — all to serve a green agenda that’s actually harmful to the environment. The ban on plastic bags will mean more trash in landfills (because paper bags take up so much more space than the thin disposable bags) and more greenhouse emissions (because of the larger carbon footprints of the replacement bags). And now, probably, it will also mean more people coming down with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s what partly accounted for New York State’s high COVID-19 rates. I hope we will find out one day.

Bottom line: disposable plastic is hygienic.

What on earth is going on?

Until the deplorable death of George Floyd, most of us were told we must social distance because of coronavirus.

Now a few Western countries have been breaking that rule to protest by the thousands as well as set fires and loot.

The media have their role to play in this, too.

From former reporter Adam Housley and his Twitter followers:

Incredibly, some — not all — nurses are the common point in the Venn diagram of coronavirus and protests. Don’t they have patients?

On the other end of the spectrum, we have General Mattis calling President Trump divisive because he wants to stop Washington DC from becoming an ashtray:

Remember the early days of the Trump administration? The Left didn’t like Mattis. Now he’s their best friend:

And what about the average guys and gals who aren’t doing triage or serving in the military?

They’re being told by their notional betters that they are wrong to want to hug their grandchildren, attend a funeral or go to church. Such people are called ‘Grandma Killers’.

Protesting, rioting, setting streets alight and looting during a pandemic are perfectly acceptable alternatives to these people. Here’s a great thread from journalist Drew Holden with a gimlet eye on his peers:

Drew Holden then brings in a few Dem governors before returning to journalists and political activists:

These are two of the replies he received. I fully agree with the sentiments:

Ian Miles Cheong, the managing editor of Human Events, is always worth a read.

Here’s footage of ‘peaceful’ demonstrators in Seattle:

He came to this conclusion:

However, people are afraid to not support the protests, possibly like the aforementioned nurses.

Mollie Hemingway from The Federalist highlighted this poll from Emerson:

Tucker Carlson tells us not to surrender to the mob. True.

On the other hand, we need to be aware that some looters and vandals are being released from police custody:

Incredible.

Equally incredible is that churches cathedrals were vandalised across the nation. Some cathedrals now require extensive repair, as the Catholic News Agency reported on Monday, June 1 (emphases mine):

Catholic churches and cathedrals in several cities were among the buildings damaged in the protests and riots that occurred nationwide over the past week.

Church buildings in California, Minnesota, New York, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado were attacked. Many of the defaced or damaged churches were cathedrals. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver sustained permanent damage.

Vandals repeatedly struck the Denver cathedral on multiple nights of the protests and riots over the weekend. The church building and rectory were spray painted with the slogans “Pedofiles” [sic], “God is dead,” “There is no God,” along with other anti-police, anarchist, and anti-religion phrases and symbols.

Gates surrounding the cathedral were damaged, and tear gas that was fired to disperse the protests leaked into the rectory. The doors to the cathedral are believed to have been permanently damaged by the vandalism and will reportedly need to be replaced.

Three bags of rocks were collected from the parking lot, but the cathedral’s most valuable windows were unharmed. Other windows on the cathedral’s campus were shattered.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was tagged with various graffiti, including profanities, “No justice, no peace,” “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) “NYPDK.” The name of George Floyd was also written on the stairs outside the cathedral …

Sickening.

One of the strangest journalistic twists was the invitation from the New York Times to Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) to write an editorial about the riots. He nails it:

Yes, they did apologise for it, in a way:

Ultimately:

The Federalist‘s Sean Davis had a go at their reporters. The responses are good, too:

In 2019, only 10 blacks died at the hands of the police. The United States has approximately 325 million people. Meanwhile, 48 police officers were fatally wounded, according to FBI data.

In 2015, under Obama’s presidency, the number of blacks dying at the hands of the police was three times higher.

Tucker Carlson has the details of the ten deaths in the video below. The details of the cases come from the Washington Post. In only two of the cases, an officer was criminally charged. In the other cases, the suspects had attacked or assaulted police officers in various ways, including firing a taser and driving at full speed after them.

In 2018, over 7,000 blacks in America were murdered — no police involvement. So, that’s one police murder for every 700 committed by civilians, often people they knew.

I would encourage everyone — especially those living outside of the United States — to watch Tucker run through the statistics and share them with their friends and family:

Bottom line: factually, there’s no need to riot.

As a final thought, here are two great videos from a Trump supporter, who says it’s time for Americans to put away their divisions and, together, embrace patriotism. Language warning, but well worth watching:

Yet, despite all this — coronavirus and riots — maybe America is poised for a swift economic recovery this year:

As the president is so fond of saying: ‘The best is yet to come’.

I certainly hope so, for America’s — and Donald Trump’s — sake.

The coronavirus lockdown has been a blessing for Church of England clergy who want to re-do worship.

At the end of March, shortly after lockdown began, the Church’s archbishops — led by Canterbury (Welby) and York (Sentamu) — forbade clergy or congregants going into church to clean or check on its condition from praying while they were there.

This did not meet with universal approval from Anglican clergy:

There is a question as to whether this prohibition is actually legal:

Quite!

Not every diocese has adopted such stringent rules, although the congregation are not allowed inside:

Therefore, services are online. Most are live-streamed and require registering as well as being able to access the right platform, in some cases:

I realise that church closures aren’t a huge deal to people who don’t attend church, but for those of us who do, it is. We were brought up to worship and that needs to be done regularly in what we knew as children as ‘God’s house’. That is an entirely different matter from a collective church comprised of people who evangelise when they are not worshipping.

This year, we missed out on worship on the Church’s greatest feast, Easter. We missed Pentecost 50 days later. We missed Trinity Sunday, which was June 7.

Churches might not open in England until July 4. A Conservative MP asked Boris Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday, June 3, if the reopening could occur sooner. He burbled a bit and said he completely understood the desire to worship in church. Personally, I doubt anything will happen before July but am grateful that the MP asked the question.

On May 14, the Church Times reported that some Anglican vicars’ priorities are different to their congregants’ (emphases mine):

Far from rushing to unveil plans for opening up their premises, individual churches showed a marked reluctance this week to embark on any kind of detailed planning. Most acknowledge themselves to be too busy and have simply ‘parked’ the issue of return for the time being.

On May 29, the Church Times had an article about church after lockdown has been lifted:

Such rejuvenation may help to release us from the prison of our church building, which, for many, have become shrines to the past which not only soak up energy and resources, but also perpetuate concepts of division and hierarchy harmful to a mature understanding of who we are.

Right.

So, all of a sudden, after nearly two millennia of gathering to worship in church buildings, we should abandon them. Apparently, those who went before us and have worshipped in churches had an ‘immature’ understanding of Christianity and themselves.

Okay, sure (not).

The article also accuses people who enjoy attending church of:

over-indulgence in churchiness

Wow.

The article advocates a strong emphasis on online services.

Are we supposed to consecrate our own hosts for Communion, too? Probably. Wrong, on so many levels!

This is the cartoon that accompanied the article. How true:

On May 23, Catherine Pepinster wrote an excellent article for the Telegraph: ‘Whisper it, but the C of E might not mind that much if the Covid crisis leads to church closures’.

She provided an insight into Pentecost Sunday, traditionally known as Whitsun, which was May 31 this year:

Could there be a quainter title for a poem than The Whitsun Weddings? Philip Larkin’s 1955 work harks back to a once familiar tradition for church weddings to take place on what was known as Whit Saturday, the day before Whit Sunday. Today, most people will have absolutely no idea that next Sunday [May 31] is Whit Sunday and that it is a Christian feast to equal Christmas and Easter, marking the moment when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles after Christ had ascended to heaven. But this year on Whit Sunday, like Ascension Day which should have been marked two days ago, the churches will be empty as if Whitsun is indeed now a quaint festival, a throwback to Larkin’s England. There will be no choirs, no readings, no congregation.

She has spoken with vicars during lockdown, and the news is not good:

Anglican vicars around the country, from London to Liverpool, Buckinghamshire to Lincolnshire, have been telling me how fearful they are of their parish churches going bust. Reserves are being spent. They know they are storing up more financial headaches the longer they are in lockdown. Nobody has recently crossed ecclesiastical thresholds to carry out any repairs or refurbishment, storing up costly maintenance problems in historic buildings that need regular care.

It was bad even before coronavirus:

Just a few weeks before lockdown, a report with a startling statistic dropped onto the desks of church officials: that the greatest reduction in the Church of England’s stock of churches since the 16th century is under wayStruggling, Closed and Closing Churches  – produced by the Church Buildings Council – said that in the past 50 years 2,000 churches have closed, which is about 10 per cent of the stock. Now vicars fear plenty more could be shut for good.

Yes, the C of E has made loans to churches during this time, but that will not be enough:

Given the Church Commissioners have huge amounts of money tucked away this might be surprising, and they have lent the dioceses £75 million to pay salaries during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet it’s not enough to keep every church going. Liverpool diocese, for example, has already furloughed some of its curates. But it’s the money that comes in via the parishes themselves that normally props up the whole system, especially those dioceses without big endowments. That is what is lacking now.

Bishops, she says, will be eager to get rid of local churches in favour of larger ones requiring transportation to get to:

Some bishops are already saying they will bring forward decisions they have been putting off and will close some churches for good. That will be popular with the accountants – but also with the people in the Church of England who like talking about ‘hubs’ and ‘places of strength’. The jargon is used about a slimmed-down Church of England that focuses on buildings that can house large congregations to which people drive from miles around while everything else goes online.

I fully agree with her conclusion:

a church isn’t just a Facebook singalong. It’s a place that evokes those who went before us and are now remembered in plaques on the wall, in the stained glass, and in the adjoining graveyard. It’s a building that connects us to the present, that acts as the beating heart of a neighbourhood, even for those who do not attend on a Sunday. And if Covid-19 means some churches never re-open, that beating heart will be stilled.

The incoming Archbishop of York denies a Sunday newspaper report that he will begin closing churches. I bet he is considering it:

On June 2, the Church Times posted an article about the delay in reopening churches: ‘If shops, why not churches? Government challenged over restrictions’.

Based on what I’ve written above, I think it’s rather disingenuous to put all the blame on the government.

Churchgoers want an earlier opening than July:

A Savanta ComRes opinion poll commissioned by the National Churches Trust and published on Sunday suggested that the public backed the early reopening of churches and chapels, provided they could maintain social distancing. Forty-six per cent of the adults polled supported reopening earlier than 4 July: a tentative date mentioned at the start of May. This figure rose to 66 per cent among respondents who attended regularly.

At least one Anglican bishop has written to MPs asking for churches to reopen:

In an open letter sent on Monday to MPs whose constituencies lie in his diocese, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, writes: “I hope that you would lobby for an urgent review of the continued closure of our church buildings to individuals who seek solace in such places [church buildings]. . . 

“At a time when tensions run high, I believe that there is a deep thirst for access to churches and cathedrals as places of prayer for people of committed faith, or for anyone who is in search of space in which to find peace.

“I am fortunate to live near to Chichester cathedral. Each day I see individuals peering in through its glass doors. I know from personal experience what pressing and intimate needs find expression in the prayers that they write down and leave behind.

“We urgently need places and experience that build hope, trust, and endurance. The capacity of the Christian Church to engender those virtues through prayer and stillness in its buildings should not be underestimated.” 

Another bishop has been resorting to Twitter. After the daily coronavirus briefing on Pentecost Sunday:

the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, suggested: “I think we should be arguing (a) that it is too soon to open other buildings; or (b) that our churches should be allowed to open alongside them. To suggest that our churches should remain closed while other ‘non-essential’ shops and buildings open is to condone secularism.”

The benefits of prayer were “not generally of such direct economic benefit”, but that did not mean that they didn’t matter, he observed. “The risk to a person sitting quietly to pray in a church which is properly cleaned and supervised is surely not greater than a trip to the supermarket?”

He was joined by Bishop Tom Wright, who wrote in The Times:

Absolutely!

Here’s a Episcopal priest’s view from across the pond in Cincinnati:

You can take a Church Times survey, for a limited time, on the state of the Church in England. It’s got plenty of room for extended replies.

If you love the Church and live in England, please make your voice heard.

They might be small in number right now, but a growing number of doctors involved in the coronavirus outbreak are wondering about the wisdom of nationwide lockdowns.

In some countries, lockdown did not make much difference to the number of deaths.

On May 14, France’s Prof Didier Raoult posted a study from Spain which showed that those who kept working outside the home were less at risk of falling victim to COVID-19. Replies follow:

Why we were told the world over to stay indoors, I do not understand. It runs counter to everything we’ve been taught over 120 years with regard to fighting epidemics:

This chart comes from another source and has more testimony about New York’s lockdown:

A doctor from Paris can corroborate that households staying indoors did get COVID-19 more often than those who did not. People were already infected before lockdown and did not show symptoms until later on.

On Tuesday, May 26, RMC — France’s talk radio station — interviewed Dr Robert Sebbag, a specialist in infectious diseases, who works at the famous Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. The interview is a little over 19 minutes long.

Sebbag worked on the COVID-19 ward and said that if one family member was admitted to hospital with coronavirus, others from the same households were also infected days later.

He said that this led him and his colleagues to believe that general lockdowns are a bad idea. He explained that politicians were afraid of the number of deaths from this novel (new) coronavirus and decided to impose blanket lockdowns:

He said that the hospital, in the early days of the outbreak, was very gloomy indeed, with a seemingly endless number of COVID-19 patients being admitted. He, his colleagues and hospital staff were worried that they would be completely overwhelmed:

He thinks that an assessment needs to be done of how COVID-19 was handled in the first half of this year. While he personally thinks masks are a good idea, he objects to the restriction on nursing and care home visits, which he says are essential for patient well being, especially among the elderly:

Presumably, care home administrators can work out a system for visiting, perhaps requiring that healthy family members and friends make an appointment before visiting.

The greater question there surrounds infected patients being discharged from hospitals into care homes. This happened in the US, the UK, France and Germany. The very real pressure on the hospitals meant that they had to discharge elderly patients before they were fully recovered to make room for new COVID-19 patients. As such, care homes were overwhelmed with infection in some cases.

People rightly wonder if we will get a second wave. Some medical experts say no. Some say yes. Others say that we have to find a way of treating patients effectively so that coronavirus is no longer a fatal disease. The honest answer at this point is that we do not know whether there will be a second wave of infections.

As lockdowns are fully lifted in the coming weeks, we will all have to take greater responsibility for our own behaviour in a COVID-19 world. I dislike referring readers to the BBC, but they did have a good article on Sunday, May 24: Health Correspondent Nick Triggle’s ‘Coronavirus: How scared should we be?’ It is well worth reading.

For a start, we do not live in a risk-free world:

Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, says the question we should be asking is whether we are “safe enough”.

“There will never be no risk. In a world where Covid-19 remains present in the community it’s about how we reduce that risk, just as we do with other kinds of daily dangers, like driving and cycling.”

We might become more dependent on our ‘least worst’ options in managing that risk:

Statistician Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in risk from Cambridge University and government adviser, says it has, in effect, become a game of “risk management” – and because of that we need to get a handle on the magnitude of risk we face.

There are two factors that influence the risk we face from coronavirus – our risk of becoming infected and, once infected, our risk of dying or becoming seriously ill.

We should also keep in mind that, for most people, coronavirus is relatively mild:

… only one in 20 people who shows symptoms is believed to need hospital treatment …

Think of it this way:

If your risk of dying was very low in the first place, it still remains very low.

As for children, the risk of dying from other things – cancer and accidents are the biggest cause of fatalities – is greater than their chance of dying if they are infected with coronavirus.

During the pandemic so far three under 15s have died. That compares to around 50 killed in road accidents every year.

In the months to come, there will likely be tests and tools, such as this one from University College London, that can help us assess our individual risk of catching this unpredictable and sometimes fatal disease.

The most important aspect, even more than the dreaded mask, is hand hygiene. Wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap or soap gel, then dry them well. Damp or wet hands create a good atmosphere for viruses and bacteria.

Also keep hands away from the face, the best receptor for infections.

Last week, a few British polling companies took the pulse of the nation with regard to coronavirus.

But first, let’s look at an international poll from Morning Consult of G7 countries and their leaders’ popularity during the pandemic. Congratulations, Boris Johnson — far above the others in popularity!

Returning to Britain, here are the results from a YouGov/Sky News poll. Keir Starmer, incidentally, is Labour’s new leader:

This is the poll in more detail. Dr Chris Whitty is the UK’s chief medical adviser; Sir Patrick Vallance is the chief scientific adviser; Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is Boris’s deputy; Matt Hancock is Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; Sir Keir Starmer is the new leader of the Labour Party:

The next one is Survation’s poll on trusted sources of information during the coronavirus crisis. Note that the media come lowest, well below that of despised politicians and local government, regardless of the fact that most Britons get their information from broadcast and print media:

Here is a poll from YouGov for Reuters Institute and Oxford University:

Here’s one from a Twitter user. Comments follow (DM is the Daily Mail):

One radio talk show host thinks the British public are too stupid to understand media. I try not to use the word delusional, but this is delusional:

The British government are actually doing a great job in managing the coronavirus outbreak. The NHS has not been overwhelmed.

Before the crisis started, according to the Global Health Security Index, the US was rated first in the world for handling a pandemic. The UK was rated second:

Have both the US and the UK been too scrupulous in recording deaths, as — according to some graphs — both countries have the world’s highest fatalities? We shall see, once this is over.

Otherwise, sure, there have been ongoing issues with obtaining PPE, BUT is that the government’s fault? Aren’t NHS procurement managers in charge of that? Ditto care homes, which are either privately owned or council run.

Never mind that, though. Obtaining PPE has been a problem for nearly every nation during this pandemic.

Below are photos of German medics. The BBC often asks, ‘Why can’t the UK be like Germany?’

Hello, BBC. Germany has a PPE shortage, too:

Despite that and despite lockdown, the British support Boris and his team. This was as of April 21, published on April 26:

Regardless of the government’s careful managing of this crisis, the media dig deep every day to report only bad news. Largely, they are still hurting over Brexit, which will no doubt dominate media narratives once coronavirus is over. The negative coronavirus stories are an extension of anti-Brexit narratives:

The BBC is the only channel to broadcast the government’s daily coronavirus briefings. As is customary in other nations doing these daily updates, reporters from across the country are allowed to ask questions afterwards:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, other government ministers and the medical officers have to face a lot of awful questions. Last week, the BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym asked whether the government was ‘ashamed’ of its coronavirus response:

People like Pym, who smile and smirk simultaneously, are the lowest of the low. They use their gotcha questions on early evening newscasts:

On Monday, April 27, Hancock got fed up with ITV’s political editor Robert Peston’s continuous, verbose questions. Hancock replied with a terse ‘No’:

Here’s the deal with Peston:

Here’s another example, this time from the BBC:

And another:

And another. This is BBC Newsnight‘s Emily Maitlis with Labour’s Peter Mandelson — Baron Mandelson — who held several cabinet positions under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they were Prime Minister:

But I digress. Back now to the daily coronavirus briefings.

On Monday, April 27, the government began taking at least one question a day from the general public:

Robert Peston does not like this:

Actually, Robert, the first question chosen and read out on April 27 was relevant to many Britons.

That day, the independent polling company the government uses to select the questions chose one from a grandmother who wanted to know how much longer she would have to wait to kiss and hug her grandchildren. Honestly, I nearly welled up. Much better than taking questions from Peston, Pym and the like.

On Tuesday, April 28, they had two enquiries from the public — one read out loud from another grandmother about childminding her grandchildren and a short video from a mother asking when her son on the coronavirus isolation list could return to school. The lad has cystic fibrosis and autism:

Unfortunately, Matt Hancock had to let all three ladies down gently. It was/is still too early to say.

Interestingly, Peston didn’t ask a question on Tuesday. Perhaps he’s miffed that Britons are getting their own very real concerns aired? As is said in the news trade: ‘Developing …’

News emerged several days ago that human testing began at Oxford University on a vaccine for COVID-19. Suppose it succeeds, which we all hope it will. Will this be the sort of questioning the government will receive? Although humorous, it’s not far off the mark. Click on image to enlarge:

Actually, something just as strange happened when the vaccine news was announced. A woman with a PhD, whom the media referred to as Doctor — implying a medic — appeared in the media. She said she would be ashamed if Oxford succeeded!

She was made to appear as if she were from the university, when, in fact, she’s at what used to be the city’s polytechnic, now called Oxford Brookes. They are two very different institutions:

It is not unusual for the BBC to interrupt any Conservative politician, whether on television or radio. On Friday, April 24, Matt Hancock appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme:

The clip below shows ITV’s Piers Morgan, co-host of Good Morning Britain, having a go at Matt Hancock, not even allowing him to finish a sentence. Breathtaking arrogance, and worth a watch:

Piers should clam up — and tone down his tweets. Good Morning Britain‘s ratings have been tanking during the coronavirus crisis (more here):

On April 16, during the daily coronavirus briefing, Channel 4’s Alex Thomson asked if the government was trying to kill the elderly. Sitting at home viewing, my far better half and I were astonished. Guido Fawkes has the story:

At the more serious end of broadcasting, Channel 4 News’ Alex Thomson last night was on a quest for culpability. His crass question at the Downing Street briefing basically accused Hancock and his advisers of choosing to kill off old people to prioritise protecting the young.

We stopped watching Channel 4 News years ago. It got too left-wing in its bias. Here’s another example from Guido’s article, involving Home Secretary Priti Patel (emphasis in the original):

Earlier in the week, Channel 4 News’ reporter repeatedly demanded from Priti Patel an apology. This type of performance isn’t holding power to account or about purely eliciting information. It is gotcha journalism and because journalists at the press conferences are asking their questions through the prism of establishing political culpability, they are getting defensive responses. It would be better to leave that to the opposition in parliament and leave the made-for-social-media infotainment to Piers. It might also arrest the dramatic drop in public confidence in the news media…

Therefore, is it any wonder that former Labour MP for Vauxhall in London tweeted:

Yes, there should be a root and branch review and reform of the alleged ‘nation’s most trusted’ broadcaster. The annual licence fee per household is £145. It is a mandatory charge. As such, some Britons call it a tax.

I have a lot more to say about the media’s handling of coronavirus. More to follow at some point.

It’s bad enough being laid off during the coronavirus outbreak.

Imagine how bad it is when the emergency paycheck funding pot is empty and the Democrat-dominated House won’t vote to replenish it. Here is the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky):

So do I.

The following video from James Corden’s show features Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) at home around Easter. It’s a must watch. She has brand new, gleaming stainless steel freezers full of ice cream. I cannot believe she had the nerve to post this herself, yet she did:

That photo was taken at the Pelosi family estate in California.

How nice for them.

President Trump had a go at her over the inaction with regard to emergency paycheck funding:

He reminded people that Pelosi encouraged Californians to go to San Francisco for Chinese New Year celebrations:

There was intense Democrat reaction to Trump’s closing the border with China, where air traffic was concerned:

Also:

On the other side of the world, and related to this, an Australian MP points out what China was doing with regard to airspace:

And remember this from the WHO a week before?

Whatever is going on with the WHO, President Trump was right to withhold funds for the time being.

But Pelosi isn’t having any of it.

On April 17, Moonbattery reported:

Confirming yet again that the Democrat Party is not on America’s side, Nancy Pelosi set aside her designer ice cream long enough to rage over Trump sensibly suspending funding to the malign World Health Organization:

“This decision is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged,” Pelosi said. …

Pelosi’s comments come after the president announced Tuesday that the United States would immediately halt funding for the health organization, saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures,” noting that the U.S. would undertake a 60-to-90 day investigation into why the “China-centric” WHO had caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus spread.

The United States is the world’s largest donor to the WHO, a UN organisation (emphases mine):

The United States is the WHO’s largest single donor, and the State Department had previously planned to provide the agency $893 million in the current two-year funding period. Trump said the United States contributes roughly $400 million to $500 million per year to WHO, while China offers only about $40 million.

Pelosi has her own interests at heart:

Why should Americans pay for a Chinese propaganda platform when we have our own urgent needs? Maybe because Pelosi is heavily invested in China.

Readers might also be interested in this:

The World Health Organization in Europe is asking government officials to restrict access to alcohol as citizens continue widespread lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As Moonbattery points out:

Even Stalin let his slaves drink vodka. The technocrats of the WHO make the communist dictator look like a libertarian.

Enough said.

However, it isn’t only Democrats opposing President Trump’s pandemic policies.

The Bushes are at it, too:

President Trump called it correctly then and he continues to take correct decisions now.

Given the current circumstances, this is probably the right thing to do, especially as an April 13 Ipsos poll found that eight out of ten Americans want a moratorium on immigration:

As for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic:

Even New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo had to give the federal government credit:

By the way, if you’ve ever wondered how CNN and MSNBC know exactly when to pull the plug on the daily coronavirus briefings, a reporter explains all:

Returning to Nancy Pelosi, the Trump campaign team have made a short advert about her and her ice cream:

Excellent work.

Medical experts from various governments around the world have told us that coronavirus is here to stay for the immediate future.

The UK, France and the US took additional steps this week to delay its spread.

I did not have time to write about those developments today, or my last two trips into London, so will delay those until next week.

For me — and for the government — the 2020 budget was the highlight of an otherwise rather grim week.

Budget speech

On Wednesday, March 11, Britain’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Patel, delivered his first budget and the first one that the UK has had since the autumn of 2018.

Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury Boris Johnson appointed Rishi only four weeks ago. He is our first Hindu Chancellor.

Rishi’s predecessor, Sajid Javid — the first Muslim Chancellor — has the sad distinction of having served the shortest period of time of any Chancellor in the past 50 years. He was asked to fire his special advisers, which he refused to do, so he resigned. Under normal circumstances, he would have delivered the 2019 budget last November 6; as an election was taking place on December 12, it was postponed to 2020. He came up with a budget, much of which Rishi Patel presented on Wednesday in the House of Commons.

Funds will go towards the work required after the ravages of the winter floods and, now, coronavirus:

On a subject that has been raging among left-wing women for the last few years in papers such as The Guardian, the Chancellor announced that tax on sanitary products will be abolished once the UK leaves the EU at the end of this year. Former Labour MP Paula Sherriff should be happy.

I watched the Chancellor’s presentation, which was excellent, every bit as good as Ken Clarke’s in the early 1990s and Dominic Lawson’s in the late 1980s:

He even worked in a joke or two. When he announced that he would be removing VAT from books, he quipped about the Shadow Chancellor’s — John McDonnell’s — ‘little-read’ (little red) book on economics. Even McDonnell had to laugh:

The Chancellor ended a ten-year-long period of austerity under the Conservatives, freezing almost all existing duties, except for tobacco, and pledged spending hikes. Labour should be happy:

Analysis

Political pundit Guido Fawkes gave his view of the budget, ‘Big State “One Nation Toryism” is Back’, which refers to the Prime Minister’s top adviser Dominic Cummings (emphasis in the original):

The headlines will focus on the £30 billion debt-fuelled stimulus package, “only” £12 billion of which is in response to the coronavirus. The coronavirus gives cover for the big state ‘One Nation Toryism’ that many in Downing Street have always wanted. Dominic Cummings is not a tax-cutting, free market loving, state shrinking, right-winger.

It appears that most voters who opted for Conservative candidates last December do not mind an increase in spending. David Jeffery, writing for UnHerd, examined the British Election Study which canvassed 32,177 participants who responded after last December’s election.

As Jeffery, a lecturer in British Politics at the University of Liverpool, says, voters are saying No to the post-Brexit aspiration of making the UK Singapore-on Thames. Last December saw a surprising number of Labour constituencies going Conservative. Those previously impenetrable constituencies are known as the Red Wall.

One would think that this study would show a stark difference between Red Wall and more conventional Conservative voters. Not so.

Both groups are rather close — with minimal percentage differences (from less than one point to four points) — with regard to self-identifying on the political spectrum, concern for the working classes, spending and national debt. Jeffery concludes (emphases mine):

For all the talk of the Red Wall budget, Red Wall Conservatives are not so different from other Tories. Although they are slightly more wary of environmental regulation and take a more favourable view of redistribution, Conservative voters as a whole think austerity has gone too far, want to see more money spent on key services and accept that this means fewer tax cuts and no budget deficit. This is not what we’re typically told Conservatives want, and with his first budget Sunak should show he’s listening.

The Chancellor got that memo loud and clear.

Paul Goodman, who heads the website Conservative Home, says that the Chancellor adopted much of what Labour wanted in the budget. That said, the main difference is this:

we’re not in hoc to a hateful ideology; are more pragmatic; more business-friendly; more sensible; better – at least as politicians …

A People’s Budget from a People’s Government,” the Chancellor perorated. There you have it. Not a Thatcherite one from a Conservative one – or even a plan that is recognisably Tory at all, at least by the standard of recent years. The voice was the voice of Sunak, but the hands were those of Vote Leave.

John Glen MP (Salisbury), also writing for Conservative Home, provided more details about the intended spending plans this year. He said they are achievable:

The ambitious capital budget announced yesterday by the Chancellor can be achieved with relatively modest increases to the deficit as a percentage of GDP. And at a time of record low interest rates with no sign of increases on the horizon, it is an appropriate moment to avail ourselves of this opportunity to upgrade the country’s infrastructure and to make the economy more productive.

We do not yet know what the full impact of coronavirus will be. But the Budget leaves us well prepared to tackle its short-term challenges as well as helps shape the long-term trajectory of the economy through capital investment and the reduction of regional imbalances.

And, finally, Robert Halfon MP (Harlow) wrote in his article for Conservative Home that we desperately need to start upgrading our ‘social infrastructure’:

The immediate goal? Aside from addressing the economic challenges presented by the coronavirus, there will be a commitment to ‘level up’ across the country. Manifesto pledges on rail, roads, energy, broadband and freeports; all are enormously welcome and will go some way to connecting left behind places to the opportunities that others routinely enjoy.

But, if this cash injection is to get the UK going again, we must also invest in ‘social infrastructure’. It is the people of the UK that will bind physical infrastructure to economic growth, not the other way around.

In its broadest sense, social infrastructure is investment in people. In its most transformative form, it allows disadvantaged individuals to overcome entrenched social challenges and turn their lives around.

I had no idea the UK had so many social problems until I started watching BBC Parliament on a regular basis. Even Conservative MPs agree that additional money must be given to various social programmes for retraining, improving education and fighting drug addiction. Of course, the NHS comes into this equation, too.

Additional information

You can read the Budget in full here. My fellow Britons might wish to check out the Budget 2020 calculator to find out how they will be affected.

In another historic moment, Dame Eleanor Laing, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee and Senior Deputy Speaker, was the first woman to preside over the budget presentation. In this short and interesting video she explains her role and the purpose of the budget presentation:

Afterwards, in giving the response for the opposition, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, looking characteristically grumpy, read his poorly-written text which referred to Ms Laing as Mr Speaker instead of Madam Deputy Speaker. Sad.

More on the coronavirus developments next week.

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