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The coronavirus lockdown has certainly contributed to the rising ratings for BBC Parliament and parliamentlive.tv.

More people are tuning in and the BBC have restyled the chyron on their screen to make it more user friendly. We now know what the debate topic is as soon as we tune in.

However, ratings for televised coverage of Parliament began climbing in 2015, when David Cameron was Prime Minister.

On February 12, 2016, Total Politics reported (emphases mine, apart from the italics):

BBC Parliament has reported a record high of an average of two million viewers a month for the first time ever in 2015.

This is an increase of 150,000 viewers each month on the 2014 figures – and it marks the first time the BBC’s dedicated parliamentary channel has broken the two million viewers per month threshold.

The channel has more live coverage than ever before and covers proceedings from Westminster, the European parliament, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament.

BBC Parliament controller Peter Knowles told TP:

“Providing more live coverage of the key political debates and discussions has meant that during 2015, a dramatic year in politics, we’ve seen a surge in people using BBC Parliament to follow proceedings.

New camera positions are also giving our coverage a fresh feel as this parliamentary term is now in full flow.”

Apparently the new camera angles, brought in last year, represent the first such change since 1989. According to a BBC spokesman, the new camera angles “bring audiences closer to the key exchanges, debates and votes”.

So much for the public being turned off by politicians

In 2020, in a review of the 2017-2019 Parliament under Theresa May’s premiership and with John Bercow as egotistical Speaker of the House, The Institute for Government stated:

Members of the public can now view parliamentary proceedings on a variety of platforms. Run by the parliamentary Digital Service, parliamentlive.tv is the most comprehensive source of parliamentary video and audio, publishing recordings of all events – including meetings of select committees – taking place in public.[24] The site allows members of the public to watch events live, access video on demand and search archive footage going back to December 2007. It is also possible to download clips from parliamentlive.tv – with nearly one thousand clips downloaded on average each week between 5 March 2018 and 30 December 2019. These clips are often shared by MPs, interest groups and political parties on social media. BBC Parliament also carries live coverage of key parliamentary activity.

Parliamentary tensions over Brexit were a massive driver of viewers for Parliamentlive.tv

Average daily viewer numbers increased over 150% from 6,552 per day in 2017 to 16,607 per day in 2019. BBC Parliament also saw record viewing figures – the only BBC TV channel experiencing an increase in viewers. An average of one million adults tuned into the channel for at least three minutes each week during 2019, with viewing figures exceeding two million in several key weeks. One commentator described the channel as “the ratings hit that’s Big Brother meets 24 – with added Bercow”.[25]

Controversial and compelling Brexit debates continued when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, the Radio Times reported:

BBC Parliament hit an all-time ratings high on Tuesday as Boris Johnson suffered his first defeat as Prime Minister, with MPs voting to take control of the House of Commons in order to force a vote on a bill that will prevent a no deal Brexit.

Some 1.5m viewers tuned in across the course of the day, marking the biggest 24 hours for the channel on record.

The drama in Westminster continues into Wednesday, as opposition parties and Tory rebels lead a debate on Labour politician Hilary Benn’s bill to block a no deal Brexit …

The channel is providing live coverage from the House of Commons throughout the ongoing Brexit crisis, and it is captivating the nation – even drawing viewers away from the beloved Great British Bake Off, which aired its latest episode on Channel 4.

The Radio Times article included two tweets, the first of which is from British television’s most famous money pundit, Martin Lewis:

Last year:

Even on less contentious days, the debates can be absorbing, such as a recent closing debate about the threat to driving tests in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, not far from London. I watched it while preparing dinner when it aired, and it was compelling. Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges, who is actress/former MP Glenda Jackson’s son, tweeted:

Once one starts watching Parliament in action, it is difficult to stop. We get to know the MPs and predict what they will say. With coronavirus, we have the added bonus of seeing what the interiors of their houses look like.

The day’s order papers are on the PARLY and House of Commons Twitter feeds:

The most recent development in broadcasting from the Houses of Parliament is a new fit-for-purpose gallery, which Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle visited on Tuesday, March 2, 2021:

In a further development, Chancellor for the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will be giving the first-ever press conference about the budget on national television following his statement in Parliament on March 3. Guido Fawkes has more:

After presenting his budget in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Chancellor will scarper over to No. 10 to take questions on it from the public and journalists from 5pm. The televised event will be the first of its kind on Budget Day …

More on that and the budget tomorrow.

My series on minority MPs in the Conservative Party continues.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Today’s post covers the two minority MPs who were elected during Theresa May’s snap general election of June 2017.

Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Bim Afolami represents the leafy Hertfordshire constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden, far enough from London to be in the countryside yet a close enough for a daily commute to and from the capital.

I always enjoy hearing what Afolami has to say in Parliament. He speeches are eloquent, considered and, above all, sensible.

Afolami was born in the Home County of Berkshire to a Nigerian father, employed as a consultant physician for the NHS. His mother works as a pharmacist.

Afolami attended Eton College and University College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. While at Oxford, he worked as a librarian for the Oxford Union Society and played football for the university team.

He worked as a lawyer prior to entering politics. His employers included the prestigious law firm Freshfields and the banking corporation HSBC.

In 2017, Hitchin and Harpenden’s MP Peter Lilley stood down. Afolami was selected as the Conservative candidate.

Afolami was a Remainer, however, during his time in Parliament, he voted the Brexit line most of the time.

He has been a member of several parliamentary committees.

He has also had positions as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Transport, International Development, International Trade and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Currently, he chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions and is a Commissioner for the Financial Inclusion Commission.

Afolami is married with three children.

He describes Winston Churchill as his ‘biggest hero’.

Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden)

Kemi Badenoch also reveres Winston Churchill, along with Margaret Thatcher.

She, too, has Nigerian roots and spent her formative years there before returning to England.

She represents the constituency of Saffron Walden in Essex, which, not surprisingly, includes the ancient town of the same name. The town of Saffron Walden was known not only for its wool production but also for its cultivation of saffron in the 16th and 17th centuries. That happy combination of industry enabled the town to develop dyes as well as provide the condiment for use in food.

Olukemi Olufunto Adegoke was born in Wimbledon, London. Her father is a GP and her mother a professor of physiology. As her mother obtained teaching positions overseas, Kemi lived in both the United States and Nigeria. She returned to England at the age of 16 to complete her A levels and attend university.

She has worked in computing for most of her career. She obtained a law degree in 2009 and went on to work as an associate director of private bank and wealth manager Coutts and was a director for The Spectator.

Kemi joined the Conservative Party in 2005.

In 2012, she married Hamish Badenoch and took his surname.

In 2015, she served on the London Assembly after Suella Fernandes Braverman had to give up her seat, since she had just been elected to Parliament.

In 2017, Kemi Badenoch succeeded Sir Alan Haslehurst as MP for Saffron Walden with a healthy majority.

In her maiden speech, she explained how she became a conservative: failing nationalised electricity and water provision during her years in Nigeria. Wow.

She also said that Brexit was the ‘greatest vote ever’.

If you want to feel uplifted about Britain and conservatism, this video is definitely worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time:

She currently holds two positions, to which Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed her in 2020: Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) in the Department for International Trade.

The latter position has seen her come up against stiff opposition from the Opposition benches last year when it emerged that minorities were more affected by coronavirus. The protests in June exacerbated the issue.

On June 4, an SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, had the gall to intimate that Badenoch had little understanding of the black community.

Badenoch politely responded that she objected to Thewliss’s ‘confected outrage’.

As former Labour MP — now Baroness Hoey in the House of Lords — put it:

Guido Fawkes posted a video of the exchange and commented (emphasis in the original):

Today’s BAME Urgent Question was never going to be one Parliament’s more tranquil sessions given the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. Kemi Badenoch gave a feisty performance, scolding left-wing white MPs for telling her how to feel as a black person. Her slap down of SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who conflated all black Britons with recent immigrants, is worth a watch…

The BBC also attacked her response.

On June 6, Badenoch wrote an article for the Daily Mail, which said, in part (emphases mine):

The disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on black and minority ethnic people has been one of the most troubling aspects of the pandemic – and the Government was right to seek the expert guidance of Professor Kevin Fenton, an eminent black physician at Public Health England, to examine the issue

So when, as Equalities Minister, I stood up in the Commons to discuss his review and its conclusions, I expected tough questions

This, after all, has been a week of heightened emotion about racial divisions. Unfortunately, clumsy attempts at scrutiny by some MPs and commentators unintentionally risk inflaming racial tensions

Updating Parliament on the review, Labour MPs repeated racially charged claims such as: ‘Being black is a death sentence.’ 

One SNP MP conflated all black people with recent immigrants. This language does nothing to calm tensions at a time when politicians need to set an example

Far more irresponsible though, was the BBC’s coverage of the debate – with the headline: ‘Minister rejects systemic racism claims’. I did no such thing

In fact, the phrase ‘systemic racism’ was not used once in the debate. The BBC report was shared on social media thousands of times and believed because it was from a trusted source. This is incredibly harmful

By implying that a black Minister has, out of hand, rejected racism as a factor, the hard work done by many ethnic minorities in Government, the NHS and Public Health England is discredited, trust is lost and race relations become worse

Yes, there are gaps in PHE’s review. By its nature, it highlights what we don’t know and must investigate further

We will build on this work, engaging with individuals and organisations within communities, to protect lives in this pandemic … 

We need to be more circumspect; we need real journalism, not campaigning

We must address prejudice but this is impossible if our national broadcaster, politicians and commentators play a social media game to achieve outrage rather than enlightenment

We must combat the real inequities in society, but we do everyone a disservice if we give in to culture warriors whose relevance depends on inflaming tensions

By hijacking the Government’s work to improve the lives of BAME people, those spoiling for a fight are sacrificing the hope of so many young people for little more than clicks, likes and retweets

In October, Badenoch volunteered to take part in a vaccine trial:

Moving to the present day — February 2021 — issues have arisen with minorities reluctant to get vaccinated when the time comes. Personally, I do not blame them. There is a lot we do not know about their long-term effects, particularly the mRNA vaccines. So that minorities would feel more reassured, the Government appointed Nadhim Zahawi MP to oversee vaccine rollout in the UK. His brief includes visiting minority communities to encourage uptake:

In January, minority MPs from both sides of the aisle took part in a video to promote the vaccine programme.

Badenoch was criticised for not having taken part. She said it was because she was participating in the aforementioned vaccine trial:

Let’s return to last year.

In October 2020, Badenoch spoke in Parliament about Black History Month in the UK. She said that she was taken aback by something her daughter said:

That month, she participated in a Spectator discussion debunking various socio-political left-wing theories and promoting conservatism.

This triggered a severe reaction from the Left in November.

Several radical left-wing academics took issue with what she said:

Guido Fawkes provided the exhaustive list along with the radical positions of each academic, explaining the background (red emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sent Twitter’s wokesters and academia’s race baiters into meltdown a fortnight ago when her savaging of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) went viral, with 2.4 million views. Guido’s since picked up on an open letter doing the rounds in nutty left-wing academic circles, who – unable to take on the substance of what Badenoch argues – have chosen instead to misrepresent her words. Aside from their attacks on the substance of Kemi’s words – incorrectly claiming she wants “the banning of certain ideas or schools of thought” and that she misunderstands history and CRT – the mostly former-polytechnic-based academics now claim CRT has “scientific principles” behind their ideology. Eugenicists, phrenologists and Marxists have argued the same for decades...

Looks like Kemi’s on pretty sound ideological ground…

I wish Kemi Badenoch all the very best in holding her ground so consistently.

Tomorrow’s post concludes this series.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts in this series, here they are: parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The best known of the minority MPs from David Cameron’s premiership — 2010 to 2016 — is Rishi Sunak, who is Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He represents the Richmond constituency in Yorkshire.

Early years

Rishi Sunak’s grandparents moved from the Punjab province of India to East Africa. Rishi’s mother Usha was born in Tanzania. His father Yashvir was born in Kenya. Both are Hindus.

Both sets of grandparents migrated to the UK in the 1960s.

After marriage, Usha and Yashvir settled in Southampton, on the southern coast of England. Usha worked locally as a pharmacist. Yashvir was a general practitioner.

The couple have three children: Rishi, another son Sanjay, who is a psychologist, and a daughter Raakhi, who works on COVID-19 strategy for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Rishi Sunak went to the renowned public (private) school Winchester College, founded in 1382, where he was head boy and editor of the student newspaper.

He then went to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a First in 2001 in PPE, which is nothing to do with hospital gowns, rather Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Whilst at Oxford, he did a brief stint at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

During summer holidays he worked at a curry house in Southampton.

Sunak began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he worked as an analyst from 2001 to 2004.

He then decided to study for an MBA at Stanford University in California, where he met his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, the man behind Infosys. The couple married in 2005. Sunak, a Fulbright Scholar, completed his MBA in 2006.

Sunak and his wife settled in England and have two young daughters.

Prior to entering politics, Sunak worked for two hedge funds and was also the director of one of his father-in-law’s companies, Catamaran Ventures.

Political career

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague represented Richmond, which has been a safe seat for the party for over a century.

Rishi Sunak was elected comfortably to his first term with a majority of 19,550 (36.2%). Once in Parliament, he was appointed to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Sunak was also committed to Brexit and was an early advocate of free ports, having written a report on the concept in 2016, the year of the referendum.

In 2017, with Theresa May as Prime Minister, Sunak won re-election with an even greater majority of 23,108 (40.5%). In Parliament, he continued to support Brexit, voting for Theresa May’s deal and against a referendum on a final withdrawal agreement in 2019.

That year, Theresa May stood down as PM. Sunak supported Boris Johnson in the ensuing leadership contest.

That autumn, during the general election campaign, he appeared on a television debate, representing the Conservatives:

I am sure Sunak did better than Iain Dale gave him credit for:

He also participated in a seven-way debate on ITV.

On December 12, Sunak further increased his margin of victory at the polls to 27,210 (47.2%).

The coronavirus Chancellor — and some inside scoops

Then, in February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson replaced Sajid Javid with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor:

He gave his first budget less than a month later, on Wednesday, March 11, which I wrote about at the time.

The following Monday, March 16, Boris announced social distancing rules and the closure of pubs, restaurants and events venues. Rishi spoke at one of Boris’s televised coronavirus briefings with news of a generous financial package:

Guido Fawkes posted the full video and remarked (emphasis in the original):

You wouldn’t guess he’s only been in the job for five weeks…

Full details are here. Sunak also issued a Twitter thread with a summary:

Then lockdown came a week later on Monday, March 23.

A few days later, Boris was struggling with his bout of coronavirus, as was Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

The Conservatives soared to record approval ratings in the polls:

Early in April, Boris was quietly rushed to St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Rishi did another coronavirus briefing to reassure an anxious nation:

The well-spoken, gentle Sunak appealed greatly to the folks at home. The Independent did not like that one bit.

Society magazine Tatler began running articles on Sunak in March. They could see he would quickly become a cult personality.

On March 18, the magazine posted an article by Annabel Sampson, ‘Everything you need to know about Britain’s new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’.

It begins with this (emphases mine):

The virtues of 39-year-old Rishi Sunak have been extolled many times over; for his charming demeanour, his razor sharp brain and his acute financial sense. Now the man who has come to be recognised as the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’, thanks to his Indian ancestry and Yorkshire home, has been appointed to the highest office in the country, to Boris Johnson’s Cabinet in the role of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the second biggest government job; and the second youngest person ever to take the position.

The appointment follows the ‘Cabinet Reshuffle’ that occurred in February when Savid Javid, the former Chancellor, resigned when he was asked to get rid – reportedly a request linked to Dominic Cummings – of his closest aides. Rishi Sunak’s star has been rising for some time now, so his appointment to the position will have baffled few.

The article has several photos, including one of Sunak in the Yorkshire countryside and one with his dog, which resembles Boris Johnson’s Welsh rescue pup, Dilyn.

Sunak and his wife had a traditional Indian wedding:

Rishi and Akshata were married in her hometown of Bangalore, in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Akshata is a working mother:

Akshata runs her own fashion label Akshata Designs and is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010. Her designs are wonderful; she’s been profiled by Vogue India and been credited for creating clothes that are ‘vehicles to discovering Indian culture’ – comprised of chic silhouettes with bold, Indian design.

Did we know that the Sunaks throw great parties? We do now:

With their combined wealth, they understandably have a generously sized home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire (in Sunak’s constituency). The Daily Mail reports that their annual summer garden party is a county highlight; where uniformed staff loft around serving ice cold champagne and canapés (no doubt prepared by the prestigious Yorkshire Party Company).

Sunak is a natural at politics:

According to the Daily Mail, ‘While many MPs stutter and trundle their way through their maiden speech in the Commons, Mr Sunak’s at-ease manner provided a glimmer of what was to come’. One ally in parliament told the Telegraph: ‘He’s ferociously intelligent and thoroughly decent at the same time’

He was one of the few Conservatives who were let loose on the air waves (14 times in total) and allowed to make public appearances during the election campaign last year. He has even been dubbed the ‘Prime Minister-in-waiting’, we’ll see. His first big challenge was the March budget; and now he is juggling the unprecedented complexity of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. The UK are in safe hands.

The article also has a photo of him supporting Yorkshire County Cricket at Edgbaston.

Early in July, Tatler‘s Ben Judah travelled to Sunak’s home town of Southampton and reported his findings in ‘Inside the world of Rishi Sunak’.

Naturally, Judah went to the curry house where Sunak worked during his summer holidays:

The kitchen at Kuti’s Brasserie, not far from Southampton docks, was not the sort of place, in August 1998, you would have gone looking for a future hedge funder, son-in-law of a billionaire and Conservative chancellor.

That summer – the summer of the France 98 World Cup and the Omagh bombing – Kuti Miah, the eponymous restaurateur behind the curry house, went to have a word with one of his waiters. ‘You’re going to be someone, Rishi,’ he said. The future UK chancellor flashed his famous smile. He was, adds Miah, ‘a brilliant talker’. Rishi Sunak, then 18, was about to go to Oxford, but that holiday he waited tables for Miah, a close family friend, to earn some pocket money. ‘I saw him grow up,’ says Miah. ‘His father used to bring him in his carry cot.’

Miah was fast friends with Yashvir and Usha Sunak, both Hindu Punjabis born in colonial Kenya and Tanzania respectively, whose parents had migrated from India. After India’s independence, both families left East Africa for Southampton in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yashvir and Usha met in Britain and married. He became a local GP and she ran a pharmacy. They were ‘brilliant conversationalists’ and ‘very strong believers’ who ‘worked very, very hard’, according to Miah, who also recalls that they were ‘passionately British’.

Rishi, the eldest of their three children, was cut from the same patriotic cloth. Not only did the young Sunak fall in love with the game of cricket, he fervently supported England over India at any opportunity. His career, too, has followed one of the most traditional and storied of England’s paths to power. Like five chancellors of the exchequer before him, Sunak was schooled at the ancient and distinguished Winchester College; and like three of those same Wykehamist chancellors, he went on, as was expected, to study at Oxford.

The article includes a photo of Sunak with his wife and in-laws.

Ben Judah had met Rishi Sunak before, in 2015, just before the general election that year. They met up in Northallerton, North Yorkshire:

We were a long way from London – from where Sunak had been ‘parachuted in’ for the seat. During the interview, I had a distinct sense of being the only person in the cafe who knew that this slight man in a Barbour jacket was running for parliament. ‘I tell this story when I’m out and about,’ he said, coffee in hand, ‘that you can come to this country with very little… My grandparents came with very little from a village in northern India, and two generations on, their grandson has this enormous privilege of running as a candidate for parliament. For my family, the route was education.’

Well said.

Sunak’s candidacy in 2015 raised some eyebrows:

He was vying for a seat once presided over by Tory grandees William Hague and Leon Brittan. But I had spent days in Richmond and the surrounding area, reporting on the resentment his sudden arrival had stirred up among certain local Tory notables, who felt the seat in the Dales was rightfully theirs. ‘There was a very acrimonious constituency battle,’ claimed one source, with a lot of hostility to an outsider coming in.

Sunak’s wife had also met with some resistance on the campaign trail, says Judah.

However, Sunak’s father-in-law enthusiastically flew to England where he helped to campaign:

Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, NR Narayana Murthy, however, has been so enthusiastic about Sunak’s parliamentary career that he’d flown in, and had even been leafleting on his behalf, wearing a Rishi sweatshirt. ‘To be honest,’ said Sunak in Costa Coffee that day, ‘I think it’s patronising to assume minorities should only run in minority seats.’

The article discusses Sunak’s property profile:

On 7 May 2015, Sunak won, with more than 50 per cent of the vote (a Ukip vote of 15 per cent had appeared from nowhere). He put down roots in his new constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, augmenting a £10 million property portfolio (metropolitan digs in London – a Kensington mews house, a flat on Old Brompton Road – and a place in California) with a £1.5 million Georgian manor in Yorkshire set across 12 acres, including an ornamental lake. Here, he now entertains the constituency membership with lavish summer parties at which uniformed staff serve champagne and canapés. He has been repeatedly dubbed by newspapers the ‘Maharajah of the Yorkshire Dales’.

The general public know less about those details. Nonetheless, Rishi Sunak has become a household name:

In a swift few years, Sunak has become known as many things: Dishy Rishi to the tabloids; one of the richest MPs in Westminster; the second-youngest-ever chancellor of the exchequer, presiding over a £350 billion package to boost the economy (the largest ever recorded in peacetime); and a former hedge funder whose profile has risen faster than stocks in a vaccine manufacturer.

However dazzling all of this is now, things were very different when Sunak entered Winchester College as an adolescent:

… Winchester would come at a price for the Sunaks. No sooner was he accepted than Rishi’s good fortune immediately foundered: he missed out on the expected scholarship. Desperate not to let the opportunity go to waste, his parents decided to take on the high fees themselves, picking up extra work and making what the chancellor has called considerable ‘sacrifices’. His brother would later follow.

One of his classmates discussed Sunak and described Winchester in the mid- to late 1990s:

Tim Johnson, now a lawyer, was in the boarding house next door. ‘Rishi was a good chap, in boarding-school idiom,’ he recalled. Sunak, he said, was a ‘reasonable cricketer’, who stood out in friendliness; and he was a solid, but never number one, student. ‘Rishi was always expected to do something,’ Johnson remembered. But exactly what, beyond Winchester, was vague. ‘He was always expected to be head boy as he was clever enough, reasonable enough and well behaved enough.’ This became Sunak’s thing – hard work and attainment, becoming the first Winchester head of school from an Indian background.

Sunak was different to other sixth formers in Winchester: a lifelong nondrinker, he wasn’t distracted by the allure of the pub. But there was something else that marked him out from the herd. He was a conservative in every sense: not only in his outlook and demeanour but in his religious attitudes, too – a practising Hindu who avoided beef. At school, where few boys were political, Sunak was clearly ‘associated with the Tories’, said Johnson. It was 1997, The Chemical Brothers were topping the charts and the mood was rebellious. Counterculture, New Labour and ripped jeans were in; the Conservatives were out. ‘That wasn’t his intellectual jam. Rishi didn’t play that game,’ Johnson explained.

‘Everyone was chipper about it when Blair won,’ Johnson said. But not Rishi. His family’s story was closer to Margaret Thatcher’s than that of his bourgeois Labourite classmates. Watching the early results of the landslide on election night 1997, Sunak sat down to write a gloomy article for the school magazine, The Wykehamist, lamenting the news. His main complaint: Europe. ‘He revels in the label of a patriot,’ he complained of Tony Blair, ‘but has plans for the possible break-up of the United Kingdom and membership of an eventual European Superstate.’ The seeds of Brexit were already in his mind.

‘Already,’ fretted Sunak, ‘the New Labour rhetoric sounds worryingly pro-European and avid pro-Europeans are being sent to Brussels’

Later, at Oxford, Sunak had a low profile, unlike his predecessor as MP, William Hague:

He was nothing like the young William Hague, who arrived at Oxford fêted and almost a Tory celebrity, or the young Boris Johnson, the blond beast who tore apart the Oxford Union. At Oxford, Sunak was a nobody, much like Tony Blair.

He continued to eschew strong drink:

Oxford acquaintances remember him as a nerdy teetotaller who was ‘just very clearly going into business’. He would ‘make this big thing’ out of drinking Coke in the pub. ‘Rishi was unknown to the student politicians, that gossipy overlapping world, who all knew each other,’ said Marcus Walker, then-president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, now a clergyman. Sunak was never a member.

It is hard to remember how irrelevant and demoralised Tory circles felt after 1997, but some do recall Sunak as a ‘Thatcherite’ and ‘Eurosceptic’. ‘That was absolutely par for the course,’ said Walker. ‘If you were still a Tory after 1997, you were a Eurosceptic. That was all you had left.’

Nevertheless, Sunak did develop a network from his Winchester College and Oxford days. Graduates from Winchester are called Old Wykehamists:

These days, socially, Sunak has been placed by some in Westminster’s Spectator set. He was best man to his lifelong friend and fellow Old Wykehamist James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, at Forsyth’s politician-studded wedding in 2011, to Allegra Stratton, the national editor at ITV Newsand gave what one guest recalled was ‘one of the most touching best man’s speeches I’ve ever heard’. (In fact, Stratton has recently announced she’s leaving ITV News for a job with Sunak at the Treasury. Some have seen this as very Cameron-esque in its ‘chumocracy’.)

Allegra Stratton, also a good friend of ITV’s Robert Peston, now works for Boris Johnson as his notional press secretary, although she has not yet begun to give press briefings, probably because of coronavirus.

Imagine the son of immigrants having ties to Britain’s two oldest — ancient — magazines: The Spectator and Tatler. Wow.

Tatler‘s Ben Judah also spoke with people who had worked with Sunak during his hedge fund days. They painted a similar character portrait of the Chancellor:

After two years in California completing a CV-topping MBA, he returned to London and Mayfair in 2006, where a new type of boutique finance was booming: hedge funds. He was hired by Sir Chris Hohn at The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI). It was a dream job: a big role at an activist firm off Berkeley Square at the peak of their fame. ‘He appears to have been trusted,’ said a source. Indeed, Sunak was made a partner two years later. Contemporaries remember him ever-ready to meet and greet; a mixture of a junior, deputy and a bag carrier; the perfect foil to Hohn’s bolshy swagger. ‘Ridiculously nice.’ ‘Affable.’ ‘Approachable.’ ‘Charming.’ These are the words that come up again and again among Mayfair types who knew Sunak. The charm was of a particular kind: ‘There are two kinds of people at hedge funds,’ said one source. ‘Handsome and thin smooth-talkers who are always on the phone or going out to lunch with clients, getting them to part with their money. And then quants in the back room with their shirts buttoned up badly.’

Sunak was one of the smooth-talkers, his charm honed on calls to investors, getting them on board with whatever drastic moves the fund wanted to make. The kind of charm that prizes clarity and persuades people to part with their money. It worked: but hedge-fund charm is designed to hide as much as it reveals. The atmosphere at TCI was buccaneering and bold; it both led and profited from a controversial banking raid that eventually meant a £45.5 billion public bailout of the Royal Bank of Scotland. (The Treasury and TCI say Sunak was not involved in the deal.) He left when TCI split in 2009, and joined the breakaway hedge fund Theleme Partners. His new firm’s reputation took a knock when its founder was revealed to have used a notorious tax avoidance scheme. The Labour Party researched Sunak’s past during the 2019 election. ‘But he was too little known for us to use it,’ said one source

His reasons for entering Parliament are equally obscure. Those who know him have different opinions as to why. One thing that everyone agrees on is his penchant for order:

Many in Westminster see his motivation as status. ‘He’s not an ideologue,’ said one Tory source. ‘He wanted to enter politics in that old-fashioned way, because it was seen as the good thing to do.’ Good, as in socially ambitious. Whether that’s true is another matter, because first came a stint at Policy Exchange, leading a unit researching black and minority ethnic attitudes. The scruffy but influential Conservative think tank world is seen as a de facto holding pen for future special advisers, but it was nonetheless an unexpectedly technical way into Westminster for someone with means.

Sunak quickly made an impression. ‘He’s got that Blair-like ability to hold your eye,’ says Nick Faith, who worked with him there. Sunak cut a snappy figure amid slovenly suits. ‘He’s into his clothing.’ His is not the fusty establishment Rees-Mogg or Nicholas Soames style, but more the wiry Emmanuel Macron look. Everything Sunak wears, many remarked, is immaculate, even at the end of a Treasury work day, and fits perfectly. Faith says that ‘everything, from how Rishi dresses to how he structures his life, is very well organised’. Sunak’s elegant house in London, with a touch of Indian decor, reflects that. ‘Nothing is out of place. For someone with two small kids, that’s quite an achievement.’

Having learned from his background in finance, Sunak also knows how and when to place his bets:

‘His mind works in Excel,’ said one City contemporary. But like all hedge funders, it also works in bets: and the two biggest bets that Sunak has made in his career have paid off spectacularly – Brexit and Boris. David Cameron knew the gravity of his predicament when Sunak came out for Leave. ‘If we’ve lost Rishi, we’ve lost the future of the party,’ he reportedly said. The same thing played out in reverse in June 2019 when Sunak came out for Boris in The Times with two other MPs during the party leadership elections. This was widely seen in Westminster as a decisive turning point: the one where Johnson won over ‘the sensibles’ and pivoted the backbenchers. The PM seems to agree: all three have been handsomely rewarded.

In Parliament, he keeps a low profile but, to those who know him, is loyal:

‘He’s unknown in parliament,’ said one MP. ‘He doesn’t play the parliamentary game at all.’ Tory Remainers are sceptical of him. ‘It’s Star Wars,’ said one MP, referring to the chancellor’s strange and classically ‘geek-chic’ hobby for minutely detailed models of spaceships and video games. ‘Most of his political philosophy comes out of the Star Wars trade wars that are about the independence of various kingdoms from the Empire. He’s not someone intellectual.’ Loyalty has been his strongest suit. Sunak is a No 10 man. ‘He’s a grown-up,’ said one MP. ‘The only grown-up in Downing Street, despite him being 20 years younger than them.’

At the height of tensions over Brexit last year, he was cheerfully going around Westminster saying he would back ‘no deal’ if push came to shove. He struck the right note, in the right place, at the right time. Tensions between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid’s teams exploded in February, when the then-chancellor resigned after refusing to fire his own special advisers and submit to an unprecedented joint team with Downing Street, effectively under the stewardship of Dominic Cummings. It was Sunak, with high skills and no clear agenda or faction behind him in parliament, whom Downing Street turned to. He quickly agreed to the joint team, once again becoming the perfect foil for an outsized boss

Even now, it’s still too early to say whether Rishi Sunak will become a future leader of the Conservative Party and, as such, a possible prime minister. A week is a long time in politics.

When Boris’s erstwhile special adviser Dominic Cummings broke coronavirus rules in travelling from London to Durham and back during Boris’s time in hospital, Sunak tried to calm the ever-turbulent waters surrounding Cummings, who was never popular with the Remainer media. He tweeted this after Cummings’s lengthy press conference in May:

In June, Sunak was tactful about the reopening of shops and businesses in Britain after the first coronavirus lockdown:

He also warned that his generous financial package could not go on indefinitely:

A few weeks later, in early July, pubs were allowed to reopen:

The Government launched the Enjoy Summer Safely campaign. Pictured below is Piccadilly Circus:

On July 8, he issued a Summer Economic Update, with financial help continuing (more here):

This included the launch of his Eat Out To Help Out plan, which lasted to the end of August:

A lot of Labour MPs didn’t like the plan. I don’t know why. Leftists own restaurants, too.

He cut VAT for the hospitality industry, too.

He also issued a detailed jobs plan, including an apprentice scheme:

Some men in the media were taking a shine to Dishy Rishi, including the leftist Owen Jones of The Guardian and Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine:

At that time, the attention being given to Sunak and Boris Johnson got the better of Conservative MP Caroline Dineage, a Culture minister, who was questioned on masks, which were strongly suggested (mandatory only on public transport) but still optional in what now look like heady days. This was from a BBC interview:

asked why the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had not worn one in public, she snapped: “You’d have to ask the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that, with respect.

“But it is something that is advised and we keep it under review.”

At the end of September 2020, the coronavirus crisis dragged on. Talk intensified about a winter lockdown.

On September 24, Sunak issued a Winter Economy Plan, about which I wrote at the time. When he presented it in the House of Commons, he advised all MPs to live ‘without fear’.

By October 6, Sunak was being blamed for an uptick in coronavirus ‘cases’ (positive test results, not necessarily hospital admissions) for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme:

A US study, which did not cover Britain, showed that hospitality venues were shown to be responsible. However, the study did not cover workplaces or hospitals. Nonetheless, it is still a contentious point even to this day.

The Sun‘s Harry Cole rightly, in my opinion, defended the Chancellor’s restaurant promotion.

Then talk of hospitality curfews emerged. Fellow Conservative MP Matt Vickers defended the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out programme, which had come to an end five weeks earlier.

The calls for a winter lockdown grew. The Chancellor rightly opposed them:

By then, more areas of England had moved into tiers, indicating more coronavirus cases. Sunak increased financial support to those cities and counties. He also offered more help to businesses, including the self-employed.

By November, some thought a storm was truly brewing between Boris and Rishi. Despite all the talk from the Government about people being able to meet loved ones at Christmas — for the first time in months, for many — a pessimistic undercurrent, which turned out to be accurate, seemed to be part of every news cycle.

Rumours circulated that Sunak was ready to resign. However, on November 1, the Daily Mail reported:

A source said there was a ‘collective decision’ to back a second lockdown, and that Mr Sunak ‘accepted it’ – and he did not threaten to resign, as some whispers around Westminster were suggesting yesterday.

The November lockdown was supposed to prevent a Christmas lockdown, but that was not to be. There was a brief re-opening before Christmas, and on December 19, the hammer fell once more.

Interestingly, the minority MPs in Cabinet shared Sunak’s concerns.

By the middle of December, Sunak was clearly worried about how long the borrowing could go on. On Saturday, December 19, the day when Boris announced Christmas was cancelled, The Spectator reported what the Chancellor said about borrowing and quantitative easing (QE):

‘Are you or anyone else going to guarantee me that, for the duration of this parliament, rates might not go back to 1 per cent?’ he asks, pointing out that this almost happened in March, before the Bank of England started printing money to bring rates back down. There is this very large QE thing that’s going on. No one has done that before. There are plenty of smart investors who are also thinking about the risks of inflation over the next 12 months. Because we are now so levered, small changes have huge cash implications. If I have to come up with £10-£20 billion a year in a few years’ time because things have changed — well, that’s a lot of money.’

To Sunak, it’s not just an economic problem but a political one. ‘If we [Tories] think borrowing is the answer to everything, that debt rising is fine, then there’s not much difference between us and the Labour party,’ he says.

The media criticised him for going to his constituency of Richmond for Christmas. To be fair, he did work while he was there, visiting a local hospital and a vaccine centre. He did not rush back to London.

On February 3, 2021, Sunak rightly accused scientists advising the Government of shifting the goalposts regarding lockdown:

This might be causing a rift in Boris’s Cabinet:

On a brighter note, Time magazine has included Rishi Sunak on its list of 100 ’emerging leaders’. On February 17, the Daily Mail reported:

Under the ‘leaders’ category, Chancellor Rishi Sunak landed a spot on the list, being described as the ‘benevolent face of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic’ by Times reporter Billy Perrigo.

The Chancellor’s profile piece discussed the furlough scheme, describing how he approved ‘large handouts’ for people whose jobs had been affected by coronavirus.

The piece also paid respect to Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which the magazine described as an attempt to ‘revive the economy’ by subsidizing dining out at restaurants.  

Although his profile acknowledges that Sunak bears more responsibility than most for his calls to ease lockdown restrictions, Time’s profile for the Chancellor admits he has earned himself a ‘legion of fans’.

Sunak’s accompanying profile points to a YouGov poll showing him to be the nation’s most popular politician and even tips him to be the bookmakers’ favourite as the next Prime Minister.  

Again, a week is a long time in politics. We shall see about the future as and when it happens.

For now, Sunak is focussing on the budget, to be delivered on March 3. He is asking industry leaders for their thoughts.

Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay was one of those leaders:

If Rishi Sunak ever tires of being an MP or Chancellor, a job in media awaits.

He is an excellent interviewer and researched Gordon Ramsay well. The 15-minute video is worth watching.

The list of minority Conservative MPs continues. All being well, more tomorrow.

Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series show what a diverse party the Conservatives have become in England.

More black and ethnic minority Conservatives entered Parliament during the years when David Cameron was Prime Minister between May 2010 and June 2016.

The list continues.

James Cleverly (Braintree)

James Cleverly is a Londoner, born and bred.

He has served the Essex constituency of Braintree since 2015. He also was the London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley between 2008 and 2016, during which time Boris Johnson was Mayor of London.

Prior to entering politics, Cleverly worked in publishing, both print and digital.

He has also been a member of the Territorial Army since 1991 and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel.

James Cleverly’s father is white British. His mother is originally from Sierra Leone. In 2020, at the height of last summer’s protests, to which he firmly objected, Cleverly told a BBC Question Time panel that he grew up at a time when interracial marriages were unusual. He said that the early 1970s for him were unpleasant and hurtful as a child as people sometimes made open remarks to or about his parents as they walked down the street.

One of his pet peeves is the biased BBC:

Cleverly is the first black to be appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party (2018-2019) and Co-Chariman (2019-2020). Ben Elliot was the other Co-Chairman:

He laid out the Party manifesto in this short video:

Prior to that appointment, he worked on Brexit as a junior minister for the Department for Exiting the European Union:

Later that autumn, he campaigned tirelessly for the Conservatives before the December 12 general election, in which they routed Labour …

… including in constituencies that had never before had a Conservative MP, such as Bishop Auckland (near Durham) and North Stoke (Stoke on Trent):

Early in 2020, he enjoyed posting this video in which Prime Minister thanked Labour voters for their support:

He was also able to get his Brexit countdown clock back on the wall:

Cleverly is currently the Minister for State for the Middle East and North Africa, to which he was appointed on February 13, 2020.

He is married and has two children.

Nus Ghani (Wealden)

Nus Ghani has served the constituency of Wealden, East Sussex, since 2015.

She was born in Kashmir to Pakistani parents in 1972. Her parents later moved to Birmingham, where she grew up.

Ghani worked in the charity sector before becoming an MP.

Since 2015, she has held a variety of posts on parliamentary committees and all-party groups.

She was Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, serving under Theresa May (2019) and was also Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Aviation and Maritime under May and Boris Johnson (2018-2020).

Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire)

Ranil Jayawardena is the son of a Sri Lankan father and Indian mother.

He has served the North East Hampshire constituency since 2015. He knows Hampshire well, having spent most of his life there. His parents moved there from London when he was a boy.

He graduated from the London School of Economics and worked as a senior manager for Lloyds Banking Group in capital markets, corporate banking and group executive functions.

Between 2008 and 2015, Jayawardena was a councillor of the borough of Basingstoke and Deane.

Since becoming an MP in 2015, he has held a number of positions on All-Party Parliamentary Groups. He has also served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Work and Pensions as well as to the Ministry of Justice.

He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in the early part of 2020.

Jayawardena is currently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Trade and helped to formulate Britain’s new trade deal with Japan:

He is now working on enhancing Britain’s trade with India:

Jayawardena is a Christian and was a trustee/director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

He is married and has two daughters.

Alan Mak (Havant)

Alan Mak has been the MP for Havant, Hampshire, since 2015.

His parents were born in Guangdong then lived in Hong Kong before moving to England. Alan was born in Leeds in 1983.

He is the first MP of Cantonese and Asian origin. However, he wants to be known for representing all of Havant, as he told the South China Morning Post‘s Post Magazine:

It’s a stupid story. I am not standing for the Chinese population of Britain. I am standing for the people of Havant and my country.

Mak is a high achiever. He read Law at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he won the coveted ECS Wade Prize for Administrative Law. He then completed a post-graduate law and business diploma at Oxford, where he was runner-up for the Oxford Leadership Prize.

Before entering politics, he practised law as a solicitor for a large firm in the City of London and, in 2010, won the award of Young City Lawyer of the year in Square Mile magazine’s 30 under 30 awards.

Suella Braverman (Fareham)

Suella Braverman was first elected in 2015 to represent the constituency of Fareham in Hampshire.

Born in 1980, she is the daughter of Christie and Uma Fernandes, both of Indian origin, who migrated to England from Kenya and Mauritius.

Suella Fernandes grew up and attended schools in North West London.

She read Law at Queens’ College Cambridge, where she was Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association.

Afterwards, she completed a master’s degree in European and French Law at Pantheon-Sorbonne University. She was an Entente Cordiale Scholar.

She was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 2005 and was a barrister until 2015.

She married Rael Braverman in 2018 and took his name. The couple have one child and are expecting a second this year.

Braverman is a practising Buddhist.

A firm Brexiteer, she came to prominence in 2018, being one of the MPs who objected to Theresa May’s Chequers agreement with the EU:

She also said that Britain could survive a no-deal Brexit:

She further objected to May’s deal in early 2019, when it went through a series of unsuccessful votes:

During that time, she came under fire for using the term ‘C u l t u r a l  Marxism’. It turned out that many of her critics thought she was white because she was a ‘Conservative Brexiteer’:

It took some time for the dust to settle.

Suella Braverman is currently Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

I wish her and all the aforementioned MPs continued success.

——————————————————————————

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor to the Exchequer, who also began his term as an MP in 2015, will be the subject of a post next week.

In case you haven’t read them, don’t miss Parts 1 and 2 of my series on today’s modern Conservative Party.

Part 1 includes a glimpse on one of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ancestors, a Muslim from Turkey.

Today’s post focuses solely on another MP who was elected in 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister: Sajid Javid.

Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove)

Sajid Javid’s life story is a true lesson on the wrong type of education.

Not all school guidance advisers are good ones.

One can only hope that Sajid Javid’s are having difficulty swallowing their respective lunches. Even if they vote Labour, I hope they follow Conservative Party news.

How many of Javid’s teachers and advisers got far enough in life to work at JPMorgan and serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer? None of them!

The beginning

Although Sajid Javid was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, to a Pakistani family, he grew up in Bristol, in the south-West of England.

Today, Bristol is a very leftist city, sadly, as is the city’s university.

Perhaps it wasn’t when Sajid Javid was growing up.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer (July 2019 – February 2019), succeeded by Rishi Sunak, is sure to make a comeback sooner rather than later.

However, his teachers and advisors clearly missed his potential in the late 1980s. He was born in 1969.

Perhaps they relied only on the background of his Pakistani parents. His father had been a bus driver in Rochdale and his mother did not speak English until she had lived in England for ten years.

Once the family moved to Bristol, his parents bought a shop. The family lived in a flat above it.

Yet, that was not good enough for Sajid’s teachers and advisors at school.

Adolescence

At the age of 14, while attending a state comprehensive school — an average high school, in American terms — near Bristol, Sajid Javid developed an interest in the stock market and The Financial Times.

Incredibly, at that age, he was able to borrow £500 from a bank in order to invest in stock market shares.

However, his teachers and guidance counsellors took little notice and advised him to become … a TV repairman!

Good grief.

Young adulthood

Javid duly went on to further his studies at Filton Technological College in Stroud (South Gloustershire). From there, he went on to complete his education at the University of Exeter from 1988 to 1991, where he read economics and politics.

During that time, he joined the Conservative Party.

At the age of 20, he campaigned against the Thatcher government’s decisions to join the ERM (Exchange Rate Mechanism), joining the UK to the EU.

Early career

Javid left the UK in the early 1990s for New York City.

In 1992, he not only rose to become the youngest vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank, but also served as an aide to Rudy Giuliani’s successful mayoral campaign in 1993.

So much for his career as a TV repairman!

Banking career

Savid Javid, destined by his school to become a TV repairman, worked for Chase Manhattan Bank in South America.

Upon his return to London in 1997, he relocated to Singapore, where he became head of Deutsche Bank’s credit trading, equity convertibles, commodities and private equity businesses in Asia,[24] and was appointed a board member of Deutsche Bank International Limited.

Political career

In 2009, Javid decided to pursue a career in politics.

He was selected to succeed Julie Kirkbride, a Conservative who was standing down from her seat in the Bromsgrove constituency, located in Worcestershire.

He won the May 2010 election by a comfortable margin. He won again in 2015 and 2017. In 2019, he further increased his lead over Labour.

During his early years in Parliament, he served as Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2012-2013) and Financial Secretary to the Treasury (2013-2014).

After that, he served as Secretary of State to three different departments: Culture, Media and Sport (2014-2015); Business, Innovation and Skills (2015-2016) and Housing, Communities and Local Government (2016-2018).

Britons know Javid best as Home Secretary under Theresa May (2018-2019) and as Boris Johnson’s first Chancellor of the Exchequer (2019-2020). He was replaced in February 2020 by Rishi Sunak. Today, Javid is on the Conservative backbenches, still working hard for the people of Bromsgrove.

During his time as Home Secretary, Javid spoke out against ‘sick’ paedophiles who had finally been brought to justice; he said such men would find no favour with him.

He was also committed to reducing harms to children online. The Online Harms white paper was issued in April 2019:

An Online Harms bill is expected to pass Parliament sometime in 2021.

In 2019, Javid’s popularity was such that he was one of those running for Conservative Party leader to replace Theresa May. Boris Johnson won the contest.

In August 2019, as Chancellor, he promoted a no-deal Brexit:

However, Boris’s top adviser at the time, Dominic Cummings, did not seem to like some of Javid’s advisers. In August 2019, Cummings appeared to have been behind the sacking of Javid’s media person, Sonia Khan. She was sacked without Javid’s knowledge, leaving him understandably furious.

In the House of Commons, Javid had to put up with the odious then-Speaker of the House, John Bercow, who interrupted his spending review statement:

This was the substance of Javid’s 2019 spending review, covering a variety of areas:

Things were going so well at the time:

However, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings didn’t like Javid’s spending plans. They did not think Javid was spending enough.

On September 20, 2019, not long after the spending review statement and just before the annual Party conference, the Daily Mail reported that No. 10 was looking at Rishi Sunak as a replacement (emphases mine):

The animosity between No 10 and No 11 Downing Street is over a serious of announcements Mr Johnson wants to make at the Conservative Party Conference at the end of the month.

No 10 is furious at attempts by former leadership challenger Mr Javid to water down some of Mr Johnson’s plans to open the cash taps with a series of announcements to the party faithful in Manchester, the Guardian reported.

Team Javid is said to be furious at the central role being played by divisive Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings, and efforts to bypass the Chancellor in favour of his more accommodating deputy, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak.

A Whitehall source told the website: ‘There is no sign of change, in fact it has got worse

‘Saj [Javid] remains furious because he is not part of the decision-making process on government expenditure. 

‘It all comes from Cummings and a small number of No 10 people. A lot of people are saying that Saj’s days are numbered. No 10 is much happier with Rishi.’ 

Mr Johnson is believed to want to make domestic spending announcements in areas like housing, the NHS and social care, with Mr Javid wanting to take a more cautious, longer-term approach.

It makes one wonder how Javid would have handled the coronavirus crisis spending were he still Chancellor. That’s an interesting question.

At the 2019 Party conference, Javid made another forceful case for the Brexit mandate:

He had planned on having special 50p commemorative coins minted for Brexit that year:

The minting had to wait until the end of January 2020:

I have never seen this coin in real life. Apparently, a limited number were minted, with more to follow later in the year. Coronavirus probably put paid to that plan. What a shame.

Returning to the end of 2019, things were really looking up for Britain:

Boris launched another Brexit campaign for the snap general election held on December 12 that year. He had pledged to negotiate a new Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels, which he did accomplish:

During the campaign, Javid pressed home Conservative values, particularly where the economy and taxes were concerned:

It was a wonderful moment when the election programmes announced early on that Conservatives won by a landslide, even in Northern constituencies that had always voted Labour.

While the first weeks of 2020 left Conservatives heady with excitement, Sajid Javid’s days were far less happy.

At the end of January 2020, a comedian, Shazia Mirza, insulted Javid, and, sadly, a BBC news presenter found it funny (more here):

More importantly, No. 10 continued to plot against the Chancellor.

Boris had a reshuffle planned. On February 13, he told Javid that he (Javid) would have to sack all his advisers and accept those that No. 10 would choose for him.

Not surprisingly, Javid refused to accept those conditions.

I had read that people at No. 10, probably Dominic Cummings, suspected that some of Javid’s advisers were leaking confidential information about government policy to the media. I don’t know how true that is.

Sajid Javid resigned that day and wrote an excellent letter to the Prime Minister:

The BBC pressed him on Dominic Cummings, but he said that the conditions came from the Prime Minister himself, adding:

I don’t believe any self-respecting minister would accept such conditions so therefore I felt the best thing to do was to go.

Of course, he was obliged to give a resignation speech before Parliament, which he did a fortnight later on February 26:

Guido Fawkes urged readers to view it (emphasis in the original):

Watch his properly Conservative, spending restraining, tax cutting resignation speech in full…

At that time, our domestic airline, FlyBe, was in deep trouble financially. Javid had never promised a bailout, nor had his successor Rishi Sunak:

As lockdown took hold, having begun on Monday, March 23, 2020, Sajid Javid’s thoughts turned towards abused children.

On May 30, the Telegraph reported that he would be leading an investigation into sexual abuse of children:

The economic impact of the lockdown will pale by comparison to the “perfect storm” leaving vulnerable children “isolating alongside their abusers”, Sajid Javid has warned.

Writing for The Telegraph, the former Home Secretary said the current restrictions appeared to be facilitating a “surge” in sexual abuse of children which he predicted would be reflected in figures later this year.

Mr Javid is to lead a new “no holds barred” investigation into child sexual abuse in Britain, along with the Centre for Social Justice think tank. Mr Javid said the inquiry would not be impeded by “cultural and political sensitivities” after the men convicted in recent high-profile cases were disproportionately of Pakistani, Kashmiri, Bangladeshi and Bengali heritage.

His intervention follows repeated warnings by children’s charities about the increased risks of child abuse while children are being kept at home during the lockdown.

Last month The Telegraph disclosed that the number of vulnerable children “out of contact” as a result of the lockdown was causing alarm among ministers studying the cost of measures designed to halt the spread of coronavirus.

As we are still in lockdown, with a brief reprieve for a few months last year, this investigation will probably take some time to complete.

On August 17, 2020, although Sajid Javid is still an MP, he began serving as a senior adviser to his former employer JPMorgan, on the bank’s European Advisory Council.

The Financial Times reported:

His role at the bank will be “strictly ringfenced” from his political position and has been signed off by the UK government’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, according to a person briefed on the details.

Among other members of the council are Esko Aho, the former Finnish prime minister, and Vittorio Grilli, the former Italian finance minister, who has taken over as chair.

The council is made up of senior business and political leaders from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and meets periodically throughout the year.

“We are delighted to welcome Sajid back to JPMorgan as a senior adviser, and we look forward to drawing upon his in-depth understanding of the business and economic environment to help shape our client strategy across Europe,” the bank said in a statement to the Financial Times.

JPMorgan declined to provide details on how much Mr Javid would be paid.

Conclusion

I am grateful we have Sajid Javid on the Conservative benches.

One wonders what his school teachers think of him now.

I hope that whoever told him that he should be a television repairman has been eating a lot of humble pie over the past few years.

More on Conservative MPs from minority backgrounds will follow tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post detailed the first day of Brexmas — Christmas Eve 2020 — when the UK and the EU signed the deal to end the transition period and move on to a future outside of EU control.

MPs and the Lords were preparing to vote on the deal on Wednesday, December 30, in a special recall of both Houses of Parliament.

The Brexit referendum in 2016 attracted more voters and two of the largest campaign donations in British history.

The days between Christmas and December 30 seemed like a long wait. We were in lockdown, to various extents, at the time. However, Leavers were able to get an idea of how MPs thought about the new trade agreement, which is a treaty. A summary of practical considerations for Britons can be found here.

We also garnered snippets from journalists on some of the deal/treaty provisions.

Natasha Clark, who writes about politics for The Sun, tweeted:

Some pointed out a few downsides. There are concerns about British financial services operating overseas, the performing arts and, equally important, international security:

That said, Sir John Redwood MP was optimistic:

Even better, the hardline Brexit group, the European Research Group (ERG), was all in for the deal:

The ERG issued a three-page statement of support on Tuesday, December 29, concluding:

Our overall conclusion is that the Agreement preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties. The “level playing field” clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government. In any event they do not prevent the UK from changing its laws as it sees fit at a risk of tariff countermeasures, and if those were unacceptable the Agreement could be terminated on 12 months’ notice.

Even Labour — and Opposition — leader Sir Keir Starmer said that he would back the deal (starting at 1:30):

Sixty per cent of Conservative Home readers considered the deal a win.

On the morning of December 30, Graham Stringer, a Labour MP, said that Parliament should support the deal:

However, MPs from Northern Ireland thought differently. They have to abide by the EU rules because they border the Republic of Ireland. MSN Money published a fuller statement from the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), which reads in part (emphases mine):

Whilst we accept that this agreement does bring about zero tariff and quota arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union thus removing many goods from attracting tariffs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the fact remains that this agreement does not assist Northern Ireland in the context of having to operate under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

When Parliament is recalled on Wednesday we will vote against this agreement. We will do so as a point of principle and not because we supported a no deal option. A free trade deal is better than no deal but for Northern Ireland this deal does not undo the detrimental aspects of the Protocol.

Understandably many in Great Britain will be able to support these arrangements as applied to Great Britain but sadly for Northern Ireland we will be governed by the arrangements in the Protocol. While Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory and we are out of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy we will be aligned with the EU for manufactured goods and food and animal products alongside other EU imposed restraints.

The removal of a so-called cliff edge on 1 January will be welcomed but more work will be required to ensure that we can maintain free flowing business supply lines from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. To that end we will continue to work with the Government to mitigate against those damaging practical outcomes flowing from the Protocol.

It was a long day in the House of Commons. When bringing in the motion, Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, mistakenly referred to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, by his first name:

Leader of the Opposition Starmer said that not voting for the agreement was akin to voting ‘no deal’:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the new legislation. Scotland’s SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford stuck his oar in, but Boris wasn’t having it:

Even the Speaker of the House told Blackford to not intervene — not once, but twice — as time was short. However, Blackford, as always, persisted in interrupting with the same broken record he always plays. I enjoyed when Boris called Blackford’s party the Scottish Nationalist Party. It’s Scottish National Party, but Boris knew and said ‘nationalist … with a small “n”‘:

Blackford persisted, causing the Speaker to ask him a third time to stop intervening:

Not surprisingly, Scotland’s SNP voted against the agreement, the subject of the EU Future Relationship Bill. Gove, also a Scot, called them out in his summation speech before the vote. This is one for the archives. It was pointed yet witty. This was Gove at his best (even though I don’t trust the man):

The SNP’s Ian Blackford and Stuart O’Grady are on the far right in the video:

Going back to Boris’s introduction of the bill. After he spoke, Keir Starmer gave his response as Leader of the Opposition. When he urged his MPs to vote for the agreement, an indignant Theresa May rose to speak her mind. Labour and the other Opposition parties had opposed her deal throughout 2019, leading to her resignation as PM.

The second clip below — ‘May’s finest moment’ — is from 2019. Labour MP Rupa Huq had accused her of ‘parliamentary ejaculation’. May said that if Huq ‘looked more closely’ she would find that she (May) was incapable of such a thing:

On December 30, May was upset with Starmer for not having voted for her deal in 2019. Starmer had called Boris’s agreement ‘thin’ — meaning not enough integration with the EU. May pointed out that if he had voted for her deal the previous year, he would not have had that complaint, ‘so I will take no lectures from the Leader of the Opposition on this deal’:

When it came time for the vote, 37 Labour MPs rebelled, with three having to resign their shadow front bench posts. One of them, Helen Hayes, is pictured below:

The Mirror reported:

Moments after the result of the vote was declared, frontbencher Helen Hayes announced she had quit her role.

She tweeted: “I’m grateful to all who’ve contacted me on the EU Future Relationship Bill.

“I can’t vote for this damaging deal & have abstained today.

“With much sadness & regret I’ve offered my resignation as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister. It’s been a privilege to serve.”

MP for Gower, South Wales, Tonia Antoniazzi said it was “with the deepest regret” she was resigning as a parliamentary aide to the Shadow Scotland and Work and Pensions teams …

Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall, South London, quit as a whip – a frontbencher responsible for enforcing the leader’s power.

She said: “This Bill was rushed and a ‘no deal’ is the worst outcome for the country but I cannot support the bill and I have abstained.

“I have offered my resignation as an Opposition Whip.”

The resignations are a blow for Mr Starmer’s bid to reposition the party.

He ordered Labour MPs to back the agreement, believing Labour needed to show voters in its traditional heartlands – most of which overwhelmingly backed Leave in the 2016 referendum – that it has heeded the result.

Urging MPs to back the deal, Mr Starmer told the Commons: “This is a simple vote with a simple choice – do we leave the transition period with the treaty negotiated with the EU or do we leave with no deal?

“Labour will vote to implement this treaty today to avoid no-deal and to put in place a floor from which we can build a strong future relationship with the EU.”

It didn’t matter much in the end, because the EU Future Relationship Bill passed with ‘a stonking majority’, as Guido Fawkes put it:

AYES 521

NOES 73

The vote lists aren’t out yet, however we can assume around 40 rebels abstained.

PARLY had a further breakdown:

The Conservatives must have been relieved to be able to tweet this — after four and a half years:

The bill was quickly rushed to the House of Lords, which had to debate and vote on it.

Nigel Farage watched the proceedings on BBC Parliament:

A vast majority of the Lords are Remainers.

However, I hope that Farage did not miss Kate Hoey’s — Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim’s — tribute to him in the Lords. I saw it and couldn’t believe she mentioned him in the Valley of the Remainers, but she did. I was delighted:

The Lords debated for the rest of the night, then voted.

The Queen’s Royal Assent was the final step.

One reporter had a very long day:

Royal Assent was granted shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve:

Shortly afterwards, the Daily Mail carried a report with rare, behind-the-scenes photos:

Boris Johnson has heralded a ‘new beginning in our country’s history’ after his Brexit trade deal was signed into law, setting the stage for a smooth divorce from the EU tonight.

The Prime Minister thanked MPs and peers for rushing the Bill through Parliament in just one day so it could take effect at exactly 11pm this evening when the UK’s transition period ends.  

At 12.25am, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs that the EU (Future Relationship) Act 2020, had been granted royal assent by the Queen

It enshrines in legislation the trade agreement finally negotiated between London and Brussels last week following more than four years of wrangling since the referendum. 

Shortly before Her Majesty gave the Act her seal of approval, a bullish Mr Johnson marked out a new chapter for Britain, which first joined the bloc in 1973.

He said in a statement: ‘I want to thank my fellow MPs and peers for passing this historic Bill and would like to express my gratitude to all of the staff here in Parliament and across Government who have made today possible.

‘The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands.

‘We take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.

’11pm on December 31 marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally. This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it.’

More on that and what it means for Boris Johnson’s premiership tomorrow.

While much of the UK is in some sort of coronavirus lockdown — England is now in the new Tier 5 — let’s cast our minds back to Christmas Eve 2020.

An imminent announcement was rumoured by news channels from the early morning.

Christmas Eve morning — in our household, at least — provided more excitement than Christmas Day, particularly since our area were in Tier 4 at the time, forbidding anything but the briefest of visits.

As December 24 unfolded, there was no final trade agreement enabling the United Kingdom to terminate the Brexit transition phase, scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Brussels time, on December 31.

Mid-afternoon, Sky News announced that there would be no statement that day. We stayed tuned in, which was just as well, because a short time later, they changed tack and said that that EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be making separate statements about a deal having been struck.

Amazingly, as Sky News announced there would be no announcement, this independent journalist called it correctly. Well done:

Guido Fawkes’s team, who run the best British political website, had been primed for this from the week before. Tom Harwood went the furthest and had worn his Merry Brexmas jumper (pullover sweater) in their news wrap up video on December 18:

Around 3 p.m., Ursula von der Leyen made her announcement from Brussels. Boris made his from No. 10. While Ursula and our chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier were downbeat, Boris was positively euphoric:

His tie had a fish motif:

Fishing was the sticking point that caused the delay to an agreement being reached:

In the end:

Leavers are very grateful to Lord David GH Frost for his tireless efforts in negotiating on the UK’s behalf. Words cannot describe how hard he has worked on our behalf:

This was Boris’s announcement about the new trade deal with the EU beginning on January 1, 2021. Guido Fawkes has a written summary (ignore the photo, which was not one from December 24):

It was on as even terms as possible. Both von der Leyen and Barnier acknowledged that we were ‘tough’ in our negotiations. Good.

Michel Barnier is in the first video:

Michel Barnier spoke after von der Leyen. Thank you, Michel:

Here he says that the UK has chosen to leave the European Union and the single market. The new agreement is the basis of a new partnership, one that is fair and equitable:

The woman on the right in that photo moderated the session, which included a press conference.

More highlights follow.

Journalist Dave Keating has an excellent thread, which he introduced with the reference to white smoke appearing at the Vatican when there is a new pope:

Boris’s usual critics doubted the ‘Canada-style’ description, until they began analysing the text. Some admitted on air and in print that it was, indeed, a Canada-style agreement.

The Telegraph had more on the agreement:

Boris sent a three-page letter to each MP and peer.

Contrary to what Boris said, the agreement was 1,246 pages long. Annexes and footnotes probably accounted for the extra length. You can read the full text here, using the links at the bottom of that page:

I couldn’t agree more with the poll results.

I also fully agree with the PM that Brexit dragged on long enough:

Agree.

We will always be European.

We love our European friends and family.

However, the EU construct, as it evolved from a common trading area to a common army (developing) and lack of national autonomy, were steps too far for 52% of the British public. Here’s a case in point: the EU Parliament — individual MEPs — won’t even be voting on this deal until early 2021. We left at the last minute of 2020. This proves further that the only EU decisions that matter come from the EU Commission.

After the announcement of the new EU-UK trade agreement, reactions poured in.

First, here’s a reaction from a member of the general public, a Leaver. I felt the same way:

Nigel Farage — without whom we never would have had a referendum (thanks again, Nigel!) — approved, even though the deal isn’t perfect:

David Cameron, who was PM at the time of the July 23, 2016 referendum, said:

Theresa May, Cameron’s successor and MP for Maidenhead, who ended up resigning over her poor handling of Brexit within Parliament, must have tweeted this through gritted teeth:

Conservative MP Mark Harper was unique in thanking Lord David GH Frost — Barnier’s British counterpart — who negotiated so well. Harper — one of the good guys — said that he would look forward to reading through the agreement over Christmas ahead of the December 30 vote.

Another Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, said, that contrary to negative reports circulating in the media, no MP objected to studying the agreement over Christmas.

The leaders of the devolved nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — also reacted to the news.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said that Brexit is happening ‘against Scotland’s will’ and issued yet another plea for Scottish independence.

Another socialist, Mark Drakeford, the First Minister — Prif Weinidog — of Wales, offered a more balanced assessment. Perhaps he recalled that most Welsh voters wanted Brexit. Drakeford said that it wasn’t the deal hoped for (probably not enough links with the EU) but was workable.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster (DUP), said that, provisionally, the agreement looked like ‘good news’ and issued a full statement on it.

Kate Hoey, the former Labour MP for Vauxhall (London) and the current Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim, was a staunch supporter of Brexit and was one of the main Leavers in 2016 on the public stage. Even though her heart is in Northern Ireland, her homeland, she participates actively in the House of Lords. She had this to say about the agreement:

Her friends at Labour Leave were equally relieved:

Emmanuel Macron, France’s petit président, played the tough guy. In one tweet, he said that European unity and firmness paid off; the agreement with the UK had to protect France’s citizens, fishermen and producers. He assured them that this was the case, pointing towards a Europe that is sovereign and strong. In a second tweet, he thanked Michel Barnier for his tenacity and engagement in defending European interests and unity. He also said that, thanks to von der Leyen, European solidarity showed its force.

That evening, Boris posted his Christmas message. The first half is about coronavirus. The second part is about Brexit:

That day, all 52% of us wanted to focus on was this great achievement — a happy one, brightening a coronavirus-dominated Christmas:

The second day of Brexmas will follow tomorrow.

On the evening of October 31, 2020, the English received a Halloween trick rather than a treat.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference to announce that England would be going into a second nationwide lockdown on Thursday, November 5.

How ironic that the Government chose November 5, Guy Fawkes Night, when, in 1605, Fawkes and group of his mates tried to blow up Parliament. This is England’s night for fireworks and bonfires remembering that Fawkes and his pals were imprisoned and that traitors will never succeed. But I digress.

The Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, accompanied Boris. They showed yet another alarming set of statistics, an incomplete set of hospitals (showing 29 out of a total of 482) and updated heat maps showing that even regions of England with low rates of ‘infection’ were in potential danger if ‘no action’ were taken:

At the time of the press conference, half of the country, including London, had been in either one of the two new designations, Tier 2 or Tier 3. People in those tiers were told that it would take a few weeks to see any tangible decrease in the R (‘infection’) rate. Action was being taken.

Yet, Boris — urged by SAGE, of which Whitty and Vallance are members — did not bother to wait to see if the numbers in Tiers 2 and 3 were decreasing. He went straight for another national lockdown.

Once again, Boris circumvented presenting the plan to Parliament first for scrutiny. He claimed it was so urgent that he had no time for that.

What made matters worse is that an unknown someone leaked the lockdown plan to the media. MPs were in recess at the time. They returned to the Commons on Monday, November 2.

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle was not happy.

No. 10 launched a enquiry with regard to the leak. The police might get involved, if necessary.

The Daily Mail has a full timeline of events from Friday, October 30. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Furious Speaker Lindsay Hoyle today demanded a personal apology if a Cabinet minister is found to have leaked the PM’s lockdown plan.

The Commons chief read the riot act to the government after the bombshell news spilled over the weekend, rather than being announced to Parliament first

‘I expect the Prime Minister to keep the House updated on his leak inquiry,’ he said.

‘I also hope that if the leaker is identified and if a member of this House, that member will make a full apology to the House for the discourteous and unacceptable behaviour.’

Separately, science chief Patrick Vallance is facing a backlash over a grim off-the-record briefing to reporters on Friday afternoon, in which he underlined SAGE’s push for an immediate lockdown – alongside figures suggesting more than 85,000 people could die this winter.

Sir Patrick’s office insist his briefing on Friday afternoon was just a regular off the record discussion with journalists, and dismiss the idea he was pre-empting any government move

Sir Patrick suggested to reporters that it was too late for a two-week circuit breaker, and a four-week lockdown similar to that introduced in France was the best way to control the R number.  

Mr Johnson had still been wavering on the issue that morning, when Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was sent out to defend the local ‘Tiers’ system on the airwaves.

But, confronted with Sir Patrick and Chris Whitty’s dire predictions he set the wheels in motion on a month-long lockdown

Within hours the tentative decision taken by the elite group was leaked to the Daily Mail and Times – before the full Cabinet had been informed – in an apparent effort to prevent the PM changing his mind. 

By Saturday morning the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg was giving details of two key documents that were shown to the ‘quad’ [core group of decision makers], a controversial prediction that the daily death toll would hit 4,000 a day and that NHS hospitals would be overwhelmed

There has since been criticism that the 4,000 a day projection was already out of date. It was produced by experts from the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths

Nevertheless, both slides formed a key part of the data finally officially presented on Saturday night, when a livid Mr Johnson brought forward his announcement after a call with his clueless wider Cabinet.

A formal leak inquiry has now been launched to find the culprit – with claims that just 15 people, including Sir Patrick, chief medical officer Chris Whitty and NHS England head Sir Simon Stevens were in the meeting.

There have even been dark threats that the police could be called in to find who undermined the PM’s approach …

A former Cabinet minister told MailOnline that the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring over the lockdown was ‘very odd’.

They suggested that the intervention from Sir Patrick could have been part of an effort to ‘bounce’ the PM. ‘It does sound like a bounce. If he was briefing people in advance he was obviously trying to build up a head of steam behind the notion of a lockdown,’ they said …

The MP said the figures being used to support the lockdown move, including claims that deaths could hit 4,000 a day, were questionable

‘The figures don’t appear to have been updated to reflect the true state of affairs,’ they said …

Mr Johnson will today try to head off a mounting Tory revolt against his nationwide lockdown by warning coronavirus deaths this winter could otherwise by double the first wave. MPs have been raging at the ‘evil’ new rules, likening them to something from a ‘totalitarian regime’.

On Tuesday, November 3, Whitty and Vallance appeared before the Science and Technology Select Committee, headed by the estimable MP, Greg Clark.

The Telegraph details the reasons why they were asked to appear at such short notice: spurious statistics given at Saturday’s press conference used to justify a second lockdown.

The two physicians faced questions not only from Clark but also the other MPs who sit on that committee:

That link is still working, so, while there is no transcript, you can watch the proceedings, which last a little over two hours.

It was an engrossing session and, based on the replies to that tweet, no doubt many lockdown sceptics tuned in to watch:

What follows are highlights of the Select Committee hearing. MPs asked good questions:

An MP was able to get Whitty and Vallance to admit that they had not taken the effect of the tier system into account before the press conference last Saturday:

Greg Clark did an excellent job of chairing the hearing:

The duo explained that the reason they pushed for a lockdown was because R >1 across England, even in regions which are in the Medium (no tier) range. I disagree that this means ‘cases are doubling’; they are not:

Graham Stringer (Lab) is one of my favourite MPs. He said that Saturday’s alarmist graphs scared the public. Vallance’s response follows:

Jeremy Hunt (Con) also asked about the projected 4,000 deaths:

The duo were also asked about the subtle blame they were putting on university students as being part of the cause of the increase in R. They quickly walked back the insinuation:

The duo were asked whether it might be a good idea to have an economist on SAGE to present the economic damage of lockdowns. Whitty seemed more open to this than Vallance, who was vehemently opposed. He said that SAGE were not responsible for economic modelling and said that was the remit of the Treasury:

The replies to the next tweet mention soundbites on other questions:

Around halfway through, it was apparent that the duo were uncomfortable with the probing nature of MPs’ questions. Vallance glared at one point.

Chris Whitty is shown below:

When asked about the test and trace system in place, they said that it works best at the beginning of a pandemic when cases are just beginning to climb rather than later on. The Government has put a huge emphasis on our test and trace system. As such, it is viewed as being essential by MPs and the public:

They were asked about excess deaths taking place because of all the emphasis being put on COVID-19:

There is doubt that much of the NHS was overrun, even at the height of the pandemic:

Later on, talk turned to the ban on public worship and outdoor sports for children which come into effect today. The two admitted that their ‘evidence’ about closing houses of worship was ‘anecdotal’. When pressed, Whitty said that he would not answer theological questions. When Greg Clark pursued the subject of outdoor sports for children, Whitty refused to say it was a low-risk activity that would help keep youngsters in better health.

Not everyone was happy with the line of questioning, although it was much better than I’d expected.

Barrister Francis Hoar had submitted questions to the select committee which were not asked. I, too, would like answers to these but think the discussion would have taken up much of the two hours:

The following day, Chris Whitty sent a letter to Greg Clark retracting a statement he had made earlier about infection rates in the over-60s in Liverpool:

The following statement is correct:

Based on the admittedly bogus data, it seems incongruous that we should have a second England-wide lockdown:

Nonetheless, after a debate in Parliament on Wednesday, October 4, MPs voted overwhelmingly — 516-38 — for a second lockdown:

I am pleased to say that, during the debate, several MPs from both sides of the aisle pressed the Government for a change of tack on banning public worship and certain outdoor sports, including for children. Unfortunately, the Government refused to budge.

Guido Fawkes has a list of the MPs who voted No. Four of those were from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP); sadly, I did not see Jim Shannon’s name among their number.

Clearly, there weren’t enough rebels, but I am most grateful for those who stood up for their principles — and for us.

On November 5, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered a statement to Parliament announcing an extension to his original furlough scheme:

Lockdown ends on December 2, at which point the Government with local officials, including the NHS, will decide what regions need to return to the Tier system.

This week in Parliament was another exciting and contentious one.

I wrote about Conservative MPs’ responses to the new coronavirus measures a few days ago. Two MPs spoke up at the end of Wednesday’s debate (see the end of this post).

I will cover Rishi Sunak’s new funding plans for individuals and businesses early next week.

To follow up on angry Conservative MPs, Guido Fawkes reports that Sir Graham Brady (right) and Steve Baker (left) are confident that they can get Brady’s amendment to the Coronavirus Act 2020 passed:

On Thursday, September 24, Guido wrote (emphases in the original):

MPs have been growing increasingly concerned with the Government imposing new restrictions with no debate in, or assent from Parliament. Increasing scepticism meant the Government leant away from as harsh measures as many were expecting earlier this week. This being said, the curfew measures for example are baffling many, and they want the opportunity to have their say over new measures in the future. All this led to a proposed amendment from Graham Brady which, if selected by the Speaker, would require Parliamentary approval for new measures.

Around 40 Tory MPs backing his amendment, which would be enough to overturn the Government’s 80 seat majority if opposition MPs back it too. Last night Steve Baker told Robert Peston that he is “absolutely, 100% certain it will pass if Labour and the SNP vote for it. But I’m afraid Labour and the SNP have been missing in action on civil liberties…”

One potential snag is that, as The Times’ Steven Swinford revealed yesterday, House Clerks have advised the motion on extending coronavirus powers is “binary” – and can only be approved or rejected, not amended. Rebel MPs do not see this as a problem as they believe if the amendment is selected and passed, it does not need to carry legal authority. The theory is the moral authority of the will of the Commons will be enough to brow beat the Government into finally putting new measures before Parliament for debate before being enacted…

It’s all good news — but only if Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle allows Brady to bring the proposed amendment forward for debate.

Yesterday, I wrote about last week’s progress on the Internal Market Bill.

On Monday, September 21, the bill entered its third day at Committee stage. Debate on amendments and clauses continued. This time they centred on Part 5 of the bill which relates to the Northern Ireland protocol.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Robert Walker, Minister of State for the Northern Ireland Office, said:

Through this Bill, we are acting to uphold those priorities and deliver the commitments we made in our election manifesto that we would provide unfettered access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and

“maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.”

The protocol also explicitly depends on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for its continued existence. As we implement the protocol, that must be kept in mind. Those commitments are, of course, entirely in accord with the protocol itself, which makes it clear that, among other things, Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory, that nothing in the protocol prevents unfettered access from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK market, and that in its application the protocol should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Walker received a lot of interventions from both sides of the House after that introduction.

Theresa May (Maidenhead, Con) tried to stick the knife in:

My hon. Friend has been setting out throughout his speech that the Government want clauses 41 to 45 because of the bad consequences that could come from an interpretation of the withdrawal agreement. If the potential consequences of the withdrawal agreement were so bad, why did the Government sign it?

Walker responded:

As my right hon. Friend knows well, the withdrawal agreement was negotiated by the UK and the EU and agreed with a view that certain elements would be resolved by the Joint Committee. I think there was a reasonable expectation on both sides that the Joint Committee would have made more progress on those issues, but unfortunately we have heard some harmful interpretations over the past few months. The point of these Government clauses is to ensure that we can rule those out and put in place the appropriate legal default.

After allowing further interventions, Walker resumed a detailed set of provisions and reasons why the Government was rejecting others:

Clause 45 completes the all-purpose safety net for regulations made under clauses 42 and 43, so that there can be no confusion about the position in domestic law for our courts, businesses and public bodies

Finally, clause 50 disapplies certain provisions of the UK Internal Market Bill in the scenario that Northern Ireland’s representatives resolve, under the protocol’s consent mechanism, that articles 5 to 10 of the protocol should cease to apply. This is a practical step to account for and respect the principle of consent enshrined in the protocol. The protocol itself is not codified as a permanent solution for Northern Ireland, and neither should it be in the domestic legislation that implements it. Taken together, these clauses deliver on our commitments to Northern Ireland

I turn to two amendments regarding the commencement of these provisions that have been subject to much debate and attention, including a number of powerful and persuasive speeches on Second Reading. Amendment 4, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Bob Neill), the Chair of the Justice Committee, and is signed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, seeks to provide in essence that break-glass mechanism on the key safety net provisions in relation to the protocol by stating that clauses 42, 43 and 45 of the Bill may not come into force until a motion in this House is passed. Since that amendment was tabled, I am pleased that there have been constructive talks between my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and Ministers, and the Government have tabled amendment 66, which provides for substantially the same break-glass mechanism, with the additional requirement for a take-note debate in the other place (House of Lords). I hope that that amendment will demonstrate to hon. Members, including the Chair of the Justice Committee, that we are committed to ensuring that any decision to use the powers is explicitly approved by Parliament.

Neill was satisfied:

I thank my hon. Friend for the constructive tone that he and members of the Government have adopted in these matters. It enables some of us who otherwise would not have been able to support these clauses to proceed, on the understanding that there is a specific parliamentary lock that bad faith on the counter-party’s side must be proven to the House before these powers are brought into operation, which of course all of us hope will never be the case. I welcome that, and it enables us to support the Government’s amendment.

Walker replied:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. A fundamental principle of our constitution, and one that lies at the very heart of our exit from the EU, is that this Parliament is sovereign. As set out in clause 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, that means that it can choose to legislate to deliver an interpretation of the protocol consistent with our understanding, while recognising that to do so is a significant step. The parliamentary procedure set out in amendment 66 recognises that, and provides a clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of the powers. I therefore commend amendment 66 to the Committee, and urge my hon. Friend and all Members to support it and not to press amendment 4.

He continued:

Amendments 64 and 65, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary, make it clear that any regulations made under clauses 42 or 43 would, of course, be subject to judicial review, contrary to some of the claims that have been made over recent weeks, while ensuring that any claims must be brought within a three-month period. That ensures that any challenge to the regulations will be subject to a timely resolution before the courts, which is essential to ensure that Northern Ireland businesses and investors in Northern Ireland have the certainty that they need, which is at the heart of the Bill. I commend those amendments to the House. As they clarify the position on judicial review, amendment 44 is not necessary.

Amendments 61 to 63, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary, are targeted technical amendments to ensure that the Government are able to maintain the integrity of the UK’s VAT and excise systems and can deal with any threats to biosecurity in Great Britain in response to changes required in Northern Ireland under the protocol.

In particular, the amendments ensure that the Government can act to address cases of double taxation and non-taxation created by the Northern Ireland protocol, as well as to close down opportunities for tax evasion.

The amendments will also ensure that both the UK Government and the devolved Administrations can continue, as they do now, to respond to specific biosecurity threats arising from the movement of animals and high-risk plants. The principle of facilitating actions to protect biosecurity on an ongoing basis between England, Scotland and Wales is already reflected in schedule 1 to the Bill. The amendments simply clarify that similar processes can also apply with regard to Northern Ireland where there is a genuine risk of a biosecurity threat that poses a serious threat to the health of humans, animals or plants.

I commend those amendments to the Committee …

Amendment 41 seeks, among other things, to add a paramount duty to clause 40, requiring authorities to act without prejudice to international and domestic law. Amendment 53 similarly seeks to prevent authorities from exercising functions in a way that is incompatible or inconsistent with relevant domestic or international law. Amendment 52 appears to require the Government to follow the process agreed in the withdrawal agreement as the only mechanism for dispute resolution. Amendments 54 and 55 seek to prevent regulations made under clause 42 from having effect, notwithstanding international and domestic law. Amendment 46 would remove the Northern Ireland protocol from the list of international law that may be set aside, undermining the intent of clauses 42 and 43.

Amendments 57 and 59 would prevent regulations under clause 43 from interpreting, disapplying or modifying the effect of article 10 of the protocol. Clause 43 is a necessary provision that will ensure that the Secretary of State’s interpretation will achieve the correct effect in domestic law.

I repeat that the Government are committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol; however, as a responsible Government we cannot accept any amendments that would undermine the provisions in the Bill and render them no kind of safety net at all, thereby risking the compromising of the UK internal market’s economic integrity by unintended consequences or harmful defaults contained in some interpretations of the protocol, or creating confusion or uncertainty about the position in domestic law. I therefore urge right hon. and hon. Members to withdraw the amendments.

I recognise the spirit behind amendments 67 and 68. The Government have been clear that, as we set out in the Command Paper, we will ensure that there are no tariffs on any goods that remain within the UK customs territory. I hope Members will welcome the further relevant measures that will be set out in the Finance Bill.

There will not be any new customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland. We have always accepted that there will be some limited, streamlined processes for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, building on what already happens at existing points of entry and limited to electronic declarations for businesses in Great Britain to confirm that their products are for the Northern Ireland market.

We have outlined our commitment to providing extensive support for businesses, including through the new trader support service, which will provide an end-to-end service and guide traders through all import processes at no additional cost. This is a unique intervention, backed by £200 million in Government funding to ensure that businesses of all sizes can draw on the support that it provides. Given those assurances, I hope that Members will feel able to withdraw the amendments.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East, DUP) was unhappy at being asked to withdraw the amendments without seeing any specifics as to why.

Walker tried to reassure him:

I absolutely hear the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. I have made the point about what we have said in the Command Paper and what the Prime Minister has referred to in respect of the Finance Bill.

Amendment 69 seeks to ensure that there would be no new costs for a Northern Ireland business to access or sell in the market. The UK Government have already committed in legislation to delivering unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses, including through the Bill, which will apply the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination to qualifying Northern Ireland goods, thereby ensuring that they can continue to be sold in the Great Britain market in the same way as now. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.

Amendment 70 seeks to ensure that goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain through Ireland will benefit from unfettered access. I reassure Members that we recognise the importance of trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain that moves via Dublin to Holyhead. We are currently engaging with businesses and the Northern Ireland Executive on the long-term means for delivering qualifying status for unfettered access. It would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of that consultation, so the Government cannot accept the amendment.

On amendment 71, the Government have been working and will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive on the implementation of the protocol, including on unfettered access, but we do not agree that a restriction on the Government’s powers to make regulations effectively would be justified.

We resist amendment 72 on the basis that it is legally unnecessary. The current wording already encompasses distortions of competition between persons supplying goods or services in the course of a business within the UK internal market. Such wording is already sufficient to cover the regulation of subsidies that would have the effect of making Northern Ireland businesses less competitive in the Great Britain market.

Although the Government agree with the spirit of amendment 78, the whole Government are acutely aware of the need to maintain Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK internal market, which is already referenced many times elsewhere in the Bill, so we do not believe the amendment is necessary.

On amendment 79, I understand Members’ concerns and support mutual recognition and the non-discrimination principle, but the exception to mutual recognition that we have introduced for chemicals is there to allow the relevant authorities to respond to local factors. Authorisations granted by the EU after the end of the transition period will not take local conditions into consideration. I emphasise that the authorisations relate to the use of substances of very high concern. It is important that the Government and devolved Administrations can take local factors into account when they decide how to protect human health or the environment from the significant risks posed by such chemicals. I therefore urge Members to withdraw or vote against the amendment.

On new clause 7 and amendment 45, I want to reassure Members that the Bill includes provisions that are there precisely to protect the essential basis of the peace process, by ensuring that, regardless of whether further agreement is reached in the negotiations, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and that Northern Ireland businesses will continue to benefit from unfettered access to the rest of the UK market when the transition period ends.

I can also reassure hon. Members that our commitment to protecting the Belfast/ Good Friday agreement of course includes protecting north-south co-operation in areas specified under that agreement, and the protocol is clear on that. That commitment is already enshrined in UK legislation: in section 10 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and through our continued support for this strand of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement throughout the process of exiting the European Union …

Walker then covered several other amendments which the Government deemed unnecessary.

Debate centred around the possible violation of international law.

Sir William Cash intervened during Paul Blomfield’s (Sheffield Central, Lab) speech with this:

I am actually going to look briefly at a simple point, which is that, apart from our own judges, the German federal constitutional court in December 2015 clearly stated that international law leaves it to each state to give precedence to national law. International law gives effect in that way. How does the hon. Gentleman answer that?

In his defence Blomfield quoted Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who said on September 8 that the Internal Market Bill would ‘break international law’ in a ‘specific and limited way’.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West, SNP) cited the Gina Miller court case against Brexit, wherein our Supreme Court ruled that international law, not domestic law, governs international treaties.

Blomfield continued, casting doubt on the bill.

Theresa May spoke next, again having a go at Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was not present for the debate. She and the Opposition were in agreement on breaking international law:

Today, we are focusing on the parts of the Bill that relate to the Northern Ireland protocol, part of the withdrawal agreement—the withdrawal agreement that was signed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister less than a year ago. I can say to the Minister that, in my view, clauses 41 to 45 have no place in this Bill. We are told that they are there because the EU either is acting in bad faith, or might act in bad faith. This is because the withdrawal agreement put a border down the Irish sea and the Government cannot accept that—but the Government did accept that when they signed the withdrawal agreement with the European Union, and I assume that, when they did so, the Government signed that in good faith. Yet here we have clauses 41 to 45 saying that the Government should have the ability to renege on parts of the withdrawal agreement to break international law.

There are three reasons why I believe that these clauses have no place in the Bill. The first, which has been referred to in earlier interventions, is that it is unnecessary. There is an arbitration process available. Under article 175, the ruling of the arbitration panel should be binding on the UK and the EU. The Government have acknowledged the existence of the arbitration procedure, but they are saying that they would enter into that in parallel with the operation of the elements of this Bill. The message, it seems to me, is very clear, which is, if we do not like the outcome of the arbitration panel, then we will break international law and we will not accept it. Yet, again, that is breaking the international treaty—an agreement that UK Government signed—because it is breaking article 175, which says that the view of the arbitration panel shall be “binding” on both parties. However, there is not just an arbitration process available. As the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) referred to, article 16 says:

If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures.”

Clauses 41 to 45 are not necessary …

She continued, then concluded:

I cannot emphasise enough how concerned I am that a Conservative Government are willing to go back on their word, to break an international agreement signed in good faith and to break international law.

Later, at least one MP on the Opposition benches acknowledged her warmly for that.

Bill Cash was able to intervene:

Is she aware that the EU itself and indeed many other states throughout the world, including many democratic countries, have persistently broken international law, and that this applies not only to other countries, but to the United Kingdom? There are many overrides of international treaties by the UK itself.

May persisted:

Let me get this right. My hon. Friend seems to be saying, “If somebody else does something wrong, it’s okay for us to do something wrong.” I am sorry, I do not agree with him on that point.

I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) has taken every effort to ameliorate the impact of these clauses, and the Government have accepted and put down their own amendment. But, frankly, my view is that to the outside world, it makes no difference whether a decision to break international law is taken by a Minister or by this Parliament; it is still a decision to break international law. This can only weaken the UK in the eyes of the world. One of the great strengths we have as a country is our commitment to the rule of law, and this will have been damaged. Our reputation as a country that stands by its word will have been tarnished, and the willingness of other countries to trust the United Kingdom and its values will have been reduced. So much for global Britain!

I consider that, in introducing clauses 41 to 45, the Government are acting recklessly and irresponsibly, with no thought to the long-term impact on the United Kingdom’s standing in the world. It will lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation and puts its future at risk. As a result, with regret I have to tell the Minister that I cannot support this Bill.

May had the support of the next speaker, the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire):

It is a privilege to follow such a thoughtful and considered speech

Bill Cash spoke next:

There are many essential reasons, in our national interest and on constitutional and legal grounds, and grounds of practical necessity, for the clear, unambiguous “notwithstanding” clauses in the Bill that have been discussed in the context of clauses 42 to 45.

I mentioned in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) that this was a question not just of whether the Euro pot was calling the British kettle black, but of whether, in the United Kingdom, we had ourselves overridden clear treaties. There are too many—they are far too numerous—to mention in this short debate. Of course, there is also an enormous number of examples of international law breaches by foreign states—not only, in Europe, by member states but by the EU itself, egregiously. Furthermore, there are examples of other countries, every one of them democratically elected, having done so. This question of values and reputation, and the issues that have arisen, has to be weighed against that context

There is no argument about it; it is there in black and white in the treaties and in the sections of various enactments that have overtaken and overridden international law.

The debate went on for some time — fascinating and fractious.

In the end, the Government won in the divisions.

On Tuesday, September 22, the bill was at Committee stage for the fourth day. The debate centred on rewording of certain clauses and amendments.

The day’s theme was ‘power grab’ and the lowering of animal welfare among other standards.

The SNP are terrified that the UK parliament will attempt to reduce the Scottish government’s powers under devolution.

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) led the charge:

This Cummings-directed Tory UK Government are breaking international law, and they are breaking devolution. Behind the innocent-sounding mutual recognition mechanism, the Bill simply starts a race to the bottom on standards with the UK Government imposing it against our will in Scotland.

The Bill will see the Tories mount an assault on devolution with the biggest power grab since the Scottish Parliament was re-established. People in Scotland are seeing through the contempt that the Tory Government and Westminster have for their democratic choices. They are not daft. They know that this shabby, illegal, dogmatic Bill is not designed to fix anything, but it is designed to game the system for vested interests.

It is a fact that existing mechanisms and simple changes to Standing Orders could have worked with consensus instead, but this Government do not believe in consensus, just in getting their own narrow ideological way.

The UK Government’s approach—the diktat—is the opposite of the democratic European single market approach. The development of the EU single market has been based on the principles of equality, co-operation, co-decision, subsidiarity and, of course, consent. Crucially, it sets a baseline of minimum agreed standards with which all member states’ own rules must be compatible. What a contrast with this hasty, badly written, contemptuous Bill. The Government are even having to amend their own Bill as they go along, so shabby is it. Government amendment 109 is necessary to remove clause 20—how slapdash is that?

On the mutual recognition mechanism, clauses 2 to 9 contain sweeping powers to compel Scotland to accept lower standards, set elsewhere in the UK, on animal welfare, food safety and environmental protections, among a host of other areas.

I do not think that is the case.

Liz Saville Roberts from Wales (Dwyfor Meirionnyd, Plaid Cymru) agreed:

… policies that already exist under the auspices of the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government, if they were to be adapted, might then fall within the scope of this Bill. These are popular policies that we have made to cut our own path in the past, and yet this now threatens their future.

Bill Cash got into an exchange with Drew Hendry over whether the EU interferes. Cash said that EU policies have done serious damage to British industry. Hendry disagreed.

Cash said (in part):

The hon. Gentleman puts forward capable arguments. I notice how he weaves his way round these subjects. That is a compliment, in a way, but it does not alter the fact that the people in Scotland will suffer grievously if they continue to have EU regulatory arrangements inflicted on them. The Bill ensures that they will not. I dare say that the Minister is noting what I am saying—I hope that he is—because it is important to understand the damage that has been done.

Liz Saville Roberts expressed her concern over a halt to devolution in Wales and state aid.

Cash replied:

I am always extremely aware of other points of view—I have been subjected to them for the past 35 years in this House, but so far they have not prevailed. I am clear in my mind about the benefits of the United Kingdom as a whole, on all these matters—there are so many aspects that we do not have time to go into today—but state aid is central to the whole question of maintaining our spirit of enterprise. It is central to the degree to which we can provide tax incentives to facilitate and encourage UK jobs for the whole UK, including Scotland. It is central to our ability to encourage competitiveness, based on our own laws, and level up throughout the entire country, including Scotland. This is fundamental stuff

This is not a small matter; this is monumental. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey to talk about this in terms of independence, but people will not thank him, and they will not thank the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) or anyone from any other part of the United Kingdom when the truth comes home to roost, which is that the EU will not allow us to compete favourably or at all. Its cardinal principle is to make sure that we cannot compete with it, and that is a reason in itself why we have to stand firm on the whole question of the notwithstanding clauses.

The debate was lengthy: more here.

The SNP MPs talked, seemingly at length, about Scotland’s minimum alcohol pricing, which they lauded — one of the great achievements of devolution, in their minds. They fear that the UK government will want to change the policy. Unlikely. Wales adopted it, too.

The Government won on the ensuing votes.

Debate on the bill concludes on Tuesday, September 29.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has tabled the following for debate that day:

Wednesday’s session ended with two Conservative MPs raising a point of order about coronavirus legislation rushed through without proper debate in the Commons.

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest) said:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Some of the orders that we are about to deal with are quite dated, but I assume that they have been debated in a Committee upstairs. They touch on very intimate parts of our liberty and our choice. Is there any protocol on the circumstances in which they could be debated on the Floor of the House, rather than upstairs in a Committee stitched up by the Committee of Selection?

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans replied:

The default procedures of the House, as the right hon. Member knows, are designed such that these measures are not debated on the Floor of the House. Of course, any Committee stages upstairs could have been attended. If any of these measures do not quite fit with his understanding as to what is acceptable, he is able to shout “Object”. I will take that objection, and he will have the opportunity to have his name recorded in a deferred Division tomorrow.

Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) spoke:

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to raise the issue of the inconsistency between quite a few of these remaining orders. Because of the delay in introducing these orders, some of them amend orders that are earlier on the Order Paper. We know that members of the public find it increasingly difficult to comprehend the changing scene of regulation on criminality and restriction of liberty. Surely if a regulation is amended by a subsequent statutory instrument, there should not be a need for the original statutory instrument to be approved by the House. For example, there are two separate statutory instruments relating to the north of England, one dated 25 August and one dated 2 September, and they are inconsistent with each other. Can you explain the reason for this confusion? Would it not be much better if—as I thought the Government had already promised—every regulation brought forward was debated at the earliest opportunity, before the Government had a chance to change their mind?

Nigel Evans repeated his answer to Desmond Swayne.

No objection was raised.

The first part of a review of last week in Parliament concerned coronavirus with a follow-on here.

The other big debates last week were about the Internal Market Bill, a legislative safeguard to preserve Britain’s sovereignty after the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of the year.

Talks with the EU have reached an impasse. Worse, the EU wants to take Northern Ireland hostage, as it were, with the possibility that food from other parts of Britain might be prohibited from reaching it. Absurd, but that is the state of play.

On Saturday, September 12, Steve Baker tweeted:

The Telegraph article in Steve Baker’s tweet explains (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson has accused the European Union of threatening to impose a food “blockade” in the Irish Sea that would destroy the “economic and territorial integrity of the UK”.

Writing in The Telegraph, the Prime Minister made a passionate defence of his decision to alter the Brexit divorce deal, saying he has to protect Britain from the “disaster” of handing Brussels the “power to carve up our country”.

He also issued a direct plea to Tory MPs threatening to rebel over his plans, telling them that, if they stand in his way, they will reduce the chance of getting a trade deal with the EU.

Mr Johnson insisted a Canada-style trade deal with the bloc is still possible and remains his goal, but that Brussels must “take their threats off the table” and rebel MPs must get into line. He also believes the UK will still “prosper mightily” under a narrower, Australia-style trade deal.

The Prime Minister claimed the EU could effectively impose a food blockade across the Irish Sea by refusing to grant the UK approved “third party” status for food exports, which officials say Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has “explicitly” threatened.

The Withdrawal Agreement gives the EU oversight over goods of animal origin being transported from the mainland to Northern Ireland for four years, meaning Brussels could use an “extreme interpretation” to impose tariffs or declare such trade illegal

The Government is trying to rush through legislation that would amend the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular its Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Johnson argues that he has been forced to act because of a “serious misunderstanding” in Brussels about the terms of the agreement, and must unilaterally make changes to it because it has become a “danger to the very fabric of the United Kingdom”.

The EU has told Mr Johnson that, unless he backtracks by the end of the month, the trade talks are over

That weekend, the news was full of MPs, senior legal experts and former Prime Ministers saying that Boris Johnson’s proposals were a ‘violation of international law’:

On Friday a group of more than a dozen MPs, among them former ministers, signalled that they would press ahead with attempts to bar the Government from overriding the Withdrawal Agreement without the support of Parliament

In the House of Commons, Sir Bob Neill, an avowed Remainer, led the rebel charge. Neill is:

the chairman of the Commons justice committee, who has already secured the backing of Damian Green, Theresa May’s former deputy, and ex-solicitor general Sir Oliver Heald.

The Remain media gave airtime to those who said this proposal violates international law, a distinctly Remainer stance. In 2018, Theresa May watered down an excellent Brexit plan — Canada ++. Boris pushed a stronger ‘deal’ last autumn. Now Boris sees what the EU could do next year if the UK doesn’t close this loophole.

In short, those who oppose Boris’s proposed legislation are Remainers. Those who support it are Leavers.

This became evident in Parliamentary debates last week and this week.

On Monday, talkRADIO interviewed two Leavers.

Sir Desmond Swayne gave an early morning interview:

Labour Peer — and Leaver — Kate Hoey went on the air later:

Guido Fawkes published the full text of the bill.

The second reading of the bill took place on Monday, September 14. Excerpts from the debate follow.

Boris introduced the second reading, emphasising its importance to the Union:

The creation of our United Kingdom by the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1801 was not simply a political event, but an act of conscious economic integration that laid the foundations for the world’s first industrial revolution and the prosperity we enjoy today. When other countries in Europe stayed divided, we joined our fortunes together and allowed the invisible hand of the market to move Cornish pasties to Scotland, Scottish beef to Wales, Welsh beef to England, and Devonshire clotted cream to Northern Ireland or wherever else it might be enjoyed.

When we chose to join the EU back in 1973, we also thereby decided that the EU treaties should serve as the legal guarantor of these freedoms. Now that we have left the EU and the transition period is about to elapse, we need the armature of our law once again to preserve the arrangements on which so many jobs and livelihoods depend. That is the fundamental purpose of this Bill, which should be welcomed by everyone who cares about the sovereignty and integrity of our United Kingdom.

We shall provide the legal certainty relied upon by every business in our country, including, of course, in Northern Ireland. The manifesto on which this Government were elected last year promised business in Northern Ireland “unfettered access to the rest of the UK”.

Sir Bob Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst, Con) spoke, asking about upholding ‘the rule of law’, a popular theme among Remainer MPs:

I have listened carefully to what the Prime Minister says, but does he accept that were our interlocutors in the EU to behave in such an egregious fashion, which would clearly be objectionable and unacceptable to us, there is already provision under the withdrawal agreement for an arbitrary arrangement to be put in place? Were we to take reserve powers, does he accept that those reserve powers should be brought into force only as a final backstop if we have, in good faith, tried to act under the withdrawal agreement and are then frustrated? The timing under which they come into force is very important for our reputation as upholders of the rule of law.

The PM responded:

there is the question of tariffs in the Irish sea. When we signed the protocol, we accepted that goods “at risk” of going from Great Britain into the EU via Northern Ireland should pay the EU tariff as they crossed the Irish sea—we accepted that—but that any goods staying within Northern Ireland would not do so. The protocol created a joint committee to identify, with the EU, which goods were at risk of going into Ireland. That sensible process was one achievement of our agreement, and our view is that that forum remains the best way of solving that question.

I am afraid that some in the EU are now relying on legal defaults to argue that every good is “at risk”, and therefore liable for tariffs. That would mean tariffs that could get as high as 90% by value on Scottish beef going to Northern Ireland, and moving not from Stranraer to Dublin but from Stranraer to Belfast within our United Kingdom. There would be tariffs of potentially more than 61% on Welsh lamb heading from Anglesey to Antrim, and of potentially more than 100% on clotted cream moving from Torridge—to pick a Devonshire town at random—to Larne. That is unreasonable and plainly against the spirit of that protocol

MPs on the Opposition benches were restive. The PM said:

To answer the questions that are being shouted at me from a sedentary position, last year we signed the withdrawal agreement in the belief, which I still hold, that the EU would be reasonable. After everything that has recently happened, we must consider the alternative. We asked for reasonableness, common sense, and balance, and we still hope to achieve that through the joint committee process, in which we will always persevere, no matter what the provocation.

Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam, Con) asked about violating international law:

When I was the Attorney General in the previous Government, I was happy to confirm that the ministerial code obliged Ministers to comply with international as well as domestic law. This Bill will give Ministers overt authority to break international law. Has the position on the ministerial code changed?

The PM replied:

No, not in the least. My right hon. and learned Friend can consult the Attorney General’s position on that. After all, what this Bill is simply seeking to do is insure and protect this country against the EU’s proven willingness—that is the crucial point—to use this delicately balanced protocol in ways for which it was never intended.

The Bill includes our first step to protect our country against such a contingency by creating a legal safety net taking powers in reserve, whereby Ministers can guarantee the integrity of our United Kingdom. I understand how some people will feel unease over the use of these powers, and I share that sentiment. I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy, and if we reach agreement with our European friends, which I still believe is possible, they will never be invoked. Of course, it is the case that the passing of this Bill does not constitute the exercising of these powers.

Ed Miliband (Doncaster North, Lab) moved an amendment on behalf of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who was not in the Chamber as he was self-isolating. Note ‘the rule of law’:

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

this House notes that the UK has left the EU; calls on the Government to get on with negotiating a trade deal with the EU; recognises that legislation is required to ensure the smooth, effective working of the internal market across the UK; but declines to give a Second Reading to the Internal Market Bill because this Bill undermines the Withdrawal Agreement already agreed by Parliament, re-opens discussion about the Northern Ireland Protocol that has already been settled, breaches international law, undermines the devolution settlements and would tarnish the UK’s global reputation as a law-abiding nation and the UK’s ability to enforce other international trade deals and protect jobs and the economy.”

There are two questions at the heart of the Bill and of why we will oppose it tonight. First, how do we get an internal market after 1 January within the UK while upholding the devolution settlements, which have been a vital part of our constitution for two decades and are essential to our Union? Secondly, will our country abide by the rule of law—a rules-based international order, for which we are famous around the world and have always stood up?

Those are not small questions. They go to the heart of who we are as a country and the character of this Government

After interventions from a few MPs, Miliband openly challenged the PM, which had to be seen to be believed, it was that bold:

there is also an irony here—the Prime Minister tried to slip this in; I do not know whether the House noticed—which is that this Bill does precisely nothing to address the issue of the transport of food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. It is about two issues where the Government are going to override international law: exit declarations, Northern Ireland to GB, and the definition of state aid relating to Northern Ireland. If the Prime Minister wants to tell us that there is another part of the Bill that I have not noticed that will deal with this supposed threat of blockade, I will very happily give way to him. I am sure he has read it; I am sure he knows it in detail, because he is a details man. Come on, tell us: what clause protects against the threat, which he says he is worried about, to GB-to-Northern Ireland exports? I give way to him. [Interruption.]

As the PM smouldered at Miliband’s arrogance, Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing intervened:

Order. The right hon. Gentleman cannot give way unless he is asked to.

Miliband carried on ranting, ending with:

I do not understand this. He signed the deal. It is his deal. It is the deal that he said would protect the people of Northern Ireland. I have to say to him, this is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue; it is on one of the most sensitive issues of all. I think we should take the word of two former Prime Ministers of this country who helped to secure peace in Northern Ireland.

An indignant Sammy Wilson (East Antrim, DUP) intervened:

Before the shadow spokesman lectures the Prime Minister about reading documentation or starts lecturing us about the Good Friday agreement, does he not recognise, first of all, that the Good Friday agreement talks about the principle of consent to change the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, which is what this protocol does? The Good Friday agreement has within it a mechanism to safeguard the minorities in Northern Ireland through a cross-community vote, which again the protocol removed. So before he starts talking about the threats to the Good Friday agreement, does he not recognise that the protocol was a threat to it in the first place?

Miliband replied to Sammy Wilson, then went on to invoke other Remainers, Theresa May and former PM John Major:

The right hon. Gentleman did not like the protocol at all. He would rather have not had the protocol. He and I just have a disagreement on this issue. I believe it was necessary to make special arrangements for Northern Ireland, or for the UK to be in the EU customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland. That is why the Prime Minister came along and said the protocol was the right thing to do

Let us just get this straight for a minute, because I think it is important to take a step back. The Prime Minister is coming to the House to tell us today that his flagship achievement—the deal he told us was a triumph, the deal he said was oven-ready, the deal on which he fought and won the general election—is now contradictory and ambiguous. What incompetence. What failure of governance. How dare he try to blame everyone else? I say to the Prime Minister that this time he cannot blame the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), he cannot blame John Major, he cannot blame the judges, he cannot blame the civil servants, he cannot sack the Cabinet Secretary again. There is only one person responsible for it and that is him. This is his deal. It is his mess. It is his failure. For the first time in his life, it is time to take responsibility. It is time to ’fess up: either he was not straight with the country about the deal in the first place, or he did not understand it.

Enough of Miliband.

Sir William Cash (Stone, Con) spoke on behalf of the bill:

There has never been a level playing field in the EU. Its cardinal objective in these negotiations from the outset has included preventing us from being able to compete fairly. That is not good faith. Under the protocol, the EU would even control our legal tax freedom to create freeports and enterprise zones. All of this would massively undermine our businesses and jobs and therefore our voters

He gave several examples of how the EU operates unfairly, then concluded:

The EU seeks to subject us to a foreign regulator, taking essentially political decisions and armed with undemocratic prohibition powers and authorisations. It would be unconscionable and utterly naive for us to allow that to happen. It would be contrary to our national interests at this time of economic instability generated by coronavirus.

You can watch his speech in full here:

Leavers thought it was an excellent performance:

Bill Cash is part of the pro-Brexit ERG (European Research Group), which issued a three-page briefing memo explaining the importance of passing the Internal Market Bill. Guido Fawkes published it in full.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) gave his ‘Scotland’ speech once again and made an egregious emotional appeal, invoking, like other Remainers, the rule of law:

Every Member has a choice. We know that the Bill breaks international law—so many learned individuals, including the previous Attorney General, have told us so. Tonight, this House can tell the Government that it is not on and that this House is not going to be complicit in a breach of international law. I venture that that is the responsibility that each Member has. Every Member—every Member, Madam Deputy Speaker—should examine their conscience. This is about a Bill that breaches the terms of a treaty, the ink of which is barely dry and on the delivery of which the governing party fought an election.

As is his wont, he spoke for ages, taking interventions from Labour MPs supporting his position.

Blackford said that the bill would hamper further devolution. Michael Gove, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, asked how.

Blackford replied:

I hear the Cabinet Office Minister shout, “How?” Perhaps he should go and talk to the General Teaching Council, and it will give him its views directly. [Interruption.] Really? We have the Business Secretary, who is supposed to be taking this Bill through, sitting laughing—laughing at the legitimate comments made by stakeholders in Scotland. It is little wonder that the Tories are rejected in the way they are at the polls in Scotland

Sir Bob Neill began to come around to see the positive points in the bill yet said he could still not support it without amendments being added.

Sammy Wilson responded, making an excellent point:

The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) said that we have obligations to the rule of law and obligations to the EU. What about the obligations to the people of the United Kingdom to ensure the provisions of the Act of Union? The economic basis of the Act of Union makes it quite clear that there shall be no barriers on trade between different parts of the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government are fulfilling, in part, their obligations to the people of Northern Ireland in this Bill, and that is why we will support it tonight.

There were many excellent contributions from Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs. Opposition MPs were feisty and the debate was lively.

That evening, the bill passed — 340 to 263:

Guido has the list of Conservative abstentions. Theresa May’s name was among those listed.

The Labour amendment to reject the bill entirely failed by 349 votes to 213. TalkRADIO has an analysis.

The bill then moved on to Committee Stage.

On Tuesday, September 15, MPs debated various clauses and amendments.

That might sound boring, but it made for excellent viewing on BBC Parliament. Sparks were flying left and right.

SNP MPs insisted that the bill would decrease their powers under devolution. This is an argument that Conservatives, rightly, find absurd.

Paul Bristow (Peterborough, Con) asked the SNP’s Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey):

The hon. Gentleman called the Office for the Internal Market an unelected quango. Does he accept that, if he had his way, he would be handing powers back to unelected quangos in Brussels?

Drew Hendry replied:

This is the argument that Government Members try to propagate all the time—that if these powers came to Scotland, they would immediately be transferred to unelected people in the EU. Two things are wrong with that. First, nobody in the EU is actually unelected when they make decisions; they are all elected by either the Parliament or the people who go there. The second and most fundamental point is that, under these proposals, the UK Government are simply taking all control and overriding the ability of Members of the Scottish Parliament to do their job by representing the people who voted for them and their choices.

The SNP fear that the UK Parliament will make decisions that override the spending wishes of the Scottish Government. It’s possible but probably unlikely. Still, would that not be better than the EU making those decisions? According to the SNP, no, it would not.

Bill Cash intervened in an attempt to add reason to the debate:

The arguments that I have just heard from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) are, in my judgment, completely unjustified. [Interruption.] He might expect me to say that; it is hardly surprising. The reality is that the Bill is intended to provide for independent advice and monitoring through the creation of this internal market within the Competition and Markets Authority arrangements. What the provision clearly states—far from it being just a bunch of nodding donkeys, which is more or less what the hon. Gentleman is saying—is that it will be a non-ministerial department, albeit sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and it will have an enormous amount and range of experience and knowledge brought from its predecessor.

Hendry asked him who would be in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Cash replied, dryly:

What I can say for sure is that it will not be the European Union, and that summarises the argument in a nutshell.

Cash elaborated on the danger of EU interference:

We will need to be able to compete effectively throughout the world. This is a serious matter about a serious issue. What we cannot have, as I mentioned yesterday, is the situation that we have at the moment, which is where authorisations are given by the European Commission that either create discrimination against British businesses or have the perception or the potential for doing so. They will affect the voters in Scotland—and the voters in Sheffield, if I may say so. I was brought up in Sheffield. I saw what the European Coal and Steel Community did to the British steel industry. [Interruption.] I hear what the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) says. The reality is that those businesses were driven out of business by, in many cases, unfair subsidies and unfair state aids that were given to other member states. I can give an example. I happened to know many people who worked at the coalface—I used to play cricket with them when I played for Sheffield—and I can tell Members that the Sheffield steelworkers, whom I also played with on occasion, sometimes it was rugger, found that they were very severely jeopardised by the massive state aids that were given to the German coal industry—it was as much as £4 billion—and authorised by the Commission. For a variety of reasons, we did not get the same kind of treatment here in the United Kingdom. This is all part of the problem of how to have fair and reasonable competition.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West, SNP) directed her comment to Cash, unintentionally getting the soundbite of the day in his reply:

I am going to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Scottish National party wants Scotland to remain part of the European Union—a single market of more than 500 million consumers. The SNP does not wish to put up trade barriers with England. It is his party that wishes to enforce upon us trade barriers if we dare to exercise our democratic right of self-determination, which he has spent the last 40 years banging on about in this House for England.

Cash’s reply was brilliant:

If I may say so, not unsuccessfully.

Cherry was clearly irritated:

That remains to be seen.

There is too much to quote from this lively debate, so do read it here.

An Opposition amendment and a clause were defeated.

The debate in Committee Stage continued on Wednesday, September 16. The Opposition brought forward more amendments.

The theme of devolution continued. Discussion about a possible threat to Welsh devolution accompanied the concerns of Scottish SNP MPs.

John Lamont, a Conservative MP representing the Scottish constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk asked the SNP’s Alison Thewlis why she thought the UK government was working against Scotland’s interests:

The hon. Lady is giving a typically bitter speech around the role of the UK Government into Scotland. Does she not accept that the UK Government and the Scottish Government have worked very closely together on the growth deals and city deals in Scotland? They are very good examples of what can be achieved in Scotland with both Governments working together, rather than the attitude that she takes of opposing everything that this place does.

Thewliss replied:

I am very interested that the hon. Gentleman raises growth deals, because every single growth deal in Scotland has been short-changed by the UK Government. The Scottish Government have put in more than the UK Government to those growth deals and we are still waiting for the money for some of those growth deals to be realised.

Andrew Bowie, another Conservative MP representing a Scottish constituency (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) couldn’t change her mind, either.

The Conservatives brought logic to the debate, something Opposition MPs were unable to do.

A Labour amendment, brought forward by Ed Miliband, requiring financial assistance to be the subject of a framework agreement to be agreed by resolution of each House of Parliament was defeated: 330-208.

That day, Boris Johnson appeared before a Select Committee to explain why the Internal Market Bill was necessary:

He told Labour MP Hilary Benn that he thought the EU representatives were negotiating in bad faith:

It is always possible that I am mistaken. Perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong.

On Thursday, September 17, Guido Fawkes outlined the debates which took place this week (emphases in the original):

The Government will table two amendments to its own Bill on Tuesday, firstly a redrafted version of the Neill Amendment – setting in stone the need for a parliamentary vote beyond the requirements of ordinary statutory instruments, and secondly a clause to prevent significant litigation of the enactment of the controversial provisions. Tightening up the ability to deploy with the consent of the House.

Of course, the Government insists it still does not want to have to use these powers of last resort. But now it will have them in case the EU don’t offer concessions…

I’ll cover those tomorrow.

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