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Congratulations, Team GB, for a medals haul that equals that of London 2012’s.

NBC has an easily navigable medals table for those interested.

Before I get to Great Britain, however, below are highlights of the Tokyo Olympics.

Japanese opposition

The Japanese government lifted a state of emergency in mid-July so that the games could take place:

Not everyone in Japan was happy that the Olympics were going ahead, having been postponed from last year because of coronavirus. Protests took place when the games started.

Controversies from other nations

The decision to allow New Zealand’s Lauren Hubbard to participate was controversial.

Former British Olympian swimmer Sharron Davies said it was:

another kick in the teeth for female athletes.

In the end, Hubbard failed dismally and now wishes to lead a quiet life.

Another person of the same persuasion, Team USA’s Chelsea Wolfe, a BMX rider, posted on Facebook in 2020 that, if they won a medal, they wanted to:

burn the flag as a way of exacting retribution against the Trump Administration for hurting “trans children.”

Wolfe later deleted the post and said in a June 2021 interview:

“Anyone who thinks that I don’t care about the United States is sorely mistaken,” Wolfe told Fox News.

In the end, Wolfe, an alternate, did not compete in the games.

On August 5, President Trump criticised Team USA’s women’s soccer team (emphases mine unless otherwise stated):

If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of Leftist Maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the Gold Medal instead of the Bronze. Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has. There were, however, a few Patriots standing. Unfortunately, they need more than that respecting our Country and National Anthem. They should replace the wokesters with Patriots and start winning again. The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!

The Boss’s daughter

In brighter news, Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, equestrian Jessica Springsteen, participated for Team USA.

She made the Telegraph’s front page on August 6:

She proved to be The Boss’s daughter in winning silver, although she failed to qualify for a solo event.

On August 3, The Guardian reported (emphases mine):

Jessica Springsteen had no luck going solo in Tokyo.

The daughter of Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band wife, Patti Scialfa, failed to qualify for the Olympic individual jumping final at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park on Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old’s Olympic debut was off to a strong start on the 14-jump course before her horse got uneasy around the 11th obstacle, and the pair earned four penalty points for knocking down a rail. That put her on the bubble of the 73-horse field for one of 30 spots in the final. She was formally eliminated about an hour after riding.

She’ll ride again Friday night as part of America’s four-rider entry in the jumping team event.

“All in all, I’m thrilled with the round and I’m excited for the rest of the week,” she said.

Springsteen learned to ride on her family’s horse farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and she was an alternate for the London Games in 2012 but didn’t participate.

I am so happy that, even in a small way, I was able to help The Boss buy his horse farm. Take that as you will.

On August 7, The Guardian reported on Springsteen’s silver, again mentioning the horse farm:

Jessica Springsteen, Bruce’s daughter, earned an Olympic silver medal for the US but they lost in a thrilling jump-off with Sweden in the team showjumping. She rode alongside Laura Kraut and McLain Ward in the final equestrian event of the Tokyo Games.

The medal went some way to wiping away the disappointment of not qualifying for the individual jumping final but the US came agonisingly close to gold.

Springsteen, who rode Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion, is the second child of the Boss and his fellow musician Patti Scialfa, and began riding aged four – prompting “born to ride” headlines aplenty.

The 29-year-old grew up on the family’s horse farm in Colts Neck Township in New Jersey and she is the highest placed woman in the world rankings in 14th. She was an alternate for 2012 but failed to make the cut for Rio in 2016.

One wonders what the paper would have said if Donald Trump owned a horse farm.

EU wants EU participation

Britain’s medals haul must have struck a nerve with Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who thinks that the EU should participate as a bloc without individual European countries:

What Verhofstadt forgets is that, if he got his way, there would be fewer Europeans from EU states than at present.

Radek Sikorski, MEP and Chairman of the EU-USA Delegation in the EU Parliament, has forgotten that, too. This tweet was also from August 5, when the UK was still 6th in the medals table:

Tom Harwood of GB News explained the situation on August 6. It is also interesting that the EU tried to get their flag in the Olympics and failed:

Guido Fawkes had a slightly different take (emphases in the original):

Given this is the first Olympics since Brexit, Guido points out that were Britain still members the EU’s medal total would be a whopping 25% higher. We were always propping them up…

We’re also currently totaling the same number of gold medals as our nearest two EU medal table neighbours, France and Germany, combined. Guido will leave it up to Guy to tot up the Commonwealth…

Team GB’s success

This brings us nicely to Team GB’s medals haul, putting us in fourth place overall. Japan ended up in fifth.

On Sunday, August 8, the final day, The Express had a go at Verhofstadt, reporting Saturday’s medals. We won a few more on Sunday:

The former MEP and current MEP, an arch-critic of , caused a stir earlier this week with his bizarre suggestion that the European Union was “winning” the Tokyo Olympics – as well as suggesting in future, EU members should compete with an EU flag on their outfits. As evidence, Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative, pointed to the fact that as of August 5, the total number of gold medals won by members of the EU27 exceeded the combined sum of medals won by China and the United States.

However, as of Saturday, Great Britain’s total stands at 20 golds, fourth behind China (38), the USA (34) and hosts Japan (26).

The EU’s two most powerful nations Germany and France lag behind, with the former, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, in 7th place, with ten golds, and France, led by Emmanuel Macron, in 10th, with seven medals.

As for Mr Verhofstadt’s very own Belgium, they currently have three Olympic golds, and are 28th in the medal table.

And in a development which some might conclude suggest is Brexit-related, given the trade deal signed between London and Canberra earlier this year, Australia’s current gold medal total of 17 is equal to that of Germany and France added together.

Welsh Conservative MP David Jones told The Express:

I’m sure Mr Verhofstadt, as a well-known Anglophile (he drives an Aston Martin), will be the first to give generous credit to Team GB on their outstanding success.

He may also acknowledge that international sporting success to a large extent reflects a strong national identity, for which the dry-as-dust mega-bureaucracy of the European Union could never be a substitute.

On Friday, August 6, cyclist Laura Kenny — Laura Trott from London 2012 — became the first British Olympian to be a mother and the first to win gold at three consecutive Olympics. Hers and husband Jason Kenny’s son is now three years old. This photo shows her and her team-mates Katie Archibald and Kate French sporting gold after winning the madison:

Our Kate French won the modern pentathlon that day.

Our final gold was won by boxer Lauren Price, who defeated her Chinese opponent:

She was only the second British woman to win a gold in boxing.

We ended up in fourth place overall in the medals table:

Well done, everyone:

The Telegraph has a profile of each Team GB winner in chronological order.

On an individual level, if there were such a thing as Team GB royalty, surely, cyclist Jason Kenny and his wife Laura would be that couple:

The Telegraph reported that the Kennys are looking forward to a quiet night in to celebrate now that they are back in England:

Only one prize is now missing for Laura and Jason Kenny, the first couple of sport who have 12 Olympic titles between them: the inevitable Damehood and Knighthood.

Following a gold apiece at the Izu Velodrome last week, and with the Kennys now confirmed as Britain’s most successful male and female Olympians of all time, that will arrive in due course. But while the medals may sit comfortably for the Kennys, they are so far from flashy they would sooner swim back from Tokyo than be seen to be putting on airs. Posh ’n Becks they are not.

Asked how they would celebrate their record-breaking Games, Jason said a quiet night in with their three-year-old Albie was as rock n roll as it would get.

“Just being at home is the plan,” he said. “Just being together with Albie, we have not seen him for two weeks now. It is the longest we have ever been away from him. We haven’t left him for more than a day or two previously.”

Albie has been staying with his grandparents for the last two weeks, alternating between Laura’s parents Adrian and Glenda Trott and Jason’s parents, Michael and Lorraine Kenny. It is a familiar routine for them as they all pitch in to make Laura and Jason’s sporting lives manageable.

“It’s a huge team effort,” says Dani Rowe, who won the team pursuit with Laura at London 2012. “Laura’s parents even moved from Hertfordshire to Manchester to be nearer to them. They’ve all done so well to manage it.”

Do not expect the Team GB power couple to morph suddenly into A-list celebs. Adrian Trott is proud of the fact that his daughter squirms when she is described as a star. Trott told Telegraph Sport last week that he was happiest when people describe her as “a nice, normal person… because we feel we did something right”.

Jason Kenny has won seven gold medals in four consecutive Olympics:

Here’s the breakdown:

The Kennys have surpassed some longstanding Olympics achievements held by Americans …

… as well as past achievements for Team GB:

Another British Olympian who broke a Team GB record was Keely Hodgkinson, who broke Dame Kelly Holmes’s national record to win silver in the 800m on August 3, making the 11th day of the Games one of the nation’s most successful so far.

The Times reported her reaction:

Hodgkinson, who is a student at Leeds Beckett University, said: “It was such a good race, it was so open, I just wanted to put it all out there. It’ll take a couple of days to sink in. I’m so happy. I’m speechless right now, Kelly is a legend, I’ve looked up to her, I’ve spoken to her in the last couple of days. It means so much.”

It was another fantastic win for Team GB.

————————————————

In closing, hearty congratulations to Team USA who took top spot over China and the ROC (Russia). Well done!

The Paralympics — even better than the Olympics — begin on August 24 and end on September 5. Bring it on!

On Monday, July 12, the day after the Euro 2020 final, GB News presenter Guto Harri took the knee in solidarity with the cause.

His co-presenter, Mercy Muroki, looked on, silently embarrassed for him:

Fallout

That was the last the channel’s viewers saw of Guto Harri, a Welshman who used to work at the BBC and also advised Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

On July 13, Harri defended his gesture:

On Thursday, July 15, GB News tweeted:

That evening, The Guardian posted an article about the channel’s tanking ratings after the Harri incident (emphases mine, unless stated otherwise):

GB News attracted zero viewers during some of its broadcasts this week, according to official television audience figures produced by rating agency Barb, after a viewer boycott prompted by one of its presenters taking the knee in solidarity with the England football team …

Business editor Liam Halligan and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero attracted no measurable audience to their show between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon. During the same timeslot the BBC News channel attracted 62,000 viewers, while Sky News had 50,000 people watching.

GB News’ audience again briefly dipped to zero at 5pm, during a late-afternoon programme co-hosted by ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former Ukip spokesperson Alex Phillips.

The Guardian also acknowledged GB News’s aforementioned tweets.

On July 16, Guido Fawkes wrote that no one was sure whether Harri had been suspended for a time or whether he was fired.

In any event, Harri’s Twitter bio no longer mentions GB News.

Programming director quits

That same day, the channel’s programming director, John McAndrew, quit, something that management confirmed only on July 28:

Guido wrote that McAndrew was second in command and disagreed about the channel’s focus:

Apparently McAndrew had been in favour of more local reporting and open discussions rather than the Wootton-style culture war rants.

To be fair, the local reporters appear on the daytime shows. The evening programmes, such as Dan Wootton’s, discuss socio-political issues.

The channel was quick to implement schedule changes last weekend:

TalkRADIO’s Mark Dolan hired

Mark Dolan’s Saturday night show aired for the first time on July 24. Nana Akua, the former presenter in that slot, has been moved to a daytime show.

Nana Akua has no time for wokery, as her last show in the Saturday night slot proved. The Express had the story on Sunday:

A GB News clash erupted last night after host Nana Akua urged Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to “just stop talking please”. This prompted a defence from Tonight Live guests Nicola McLean and Martin Offiah, who argued that Meghan and Harry “were connecting with people”. The trio had discussed reports of new details about Prince William’s rift with his brother Harry.

Mark Dolan was a top-rated host on talkRADIO. The Express reported:

Mark is best known for hosting his own Drivetime show on TalkRadio for the past two years but he is jumping ship to join GB News from Friday, July 23, 2021. With 20 years of broadcasting experience behind him, he will be taking Nana‘s Friday and Saturday night slots to oversee proceedings on his chat show, Late Night Live. It will run from 9pm until 12am and he will speak to numerous guests about topical matters making the headlines.

On joining the network, Mark said: “I’ve had a wonderful time at TalkRadio but the opportunity to shake up the current affairs broadcasting with GB News is just too good to miss.

“My show will tackle the issues that really matter to people across the United Kingdom in a stimulating, informative but entertaining way.

“My one promise is that I won’t be boring,” he concluded …

He certainly was not boring. His is a good show.

Nigel Farage to the rescue — five days a week

The biggest catch of all is Nigel Farage, who is now on GB News five days a week: Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday mornings:

Farage had the Sunday morning show since GB News launched, but the addition of the 7 p.m. slot, which premiered on Monday, July 19, has been a real fillip for the channel’s ratings.

On July 19, Freedom Day, an anti-lockdown protest took place outside of Downing Street. Political correspondent Tom Harwood, who used to work for Guido Fawkes, tried to file a report but Nigel had to cut him off because of all the obscenities being shouted at him. The Express reported:

Spotting the difficulties in the broadcast, Nigel quickly took action and decided to end Tom’s report there.

Cutting him off, Nigel said: “Okay, Tom, I’m sorry, I don’t want to cut you off, I really don’t.”

The camera then cut to Nigel in the studio as he continued: “11 people have been arrested so far,

“But you can see, talk about don’t shoot the messenger, there’s Tom Harwood reporting for us and there are obscenities being shouted at Tom because he’s a member, he’s part of the media

One of the big features of Farage’s weeknight show is the ‘Talking Pints’ segment.

He has had an eclectic assortment of guests in that slot, beginning with Sir Graham Brady MP, who heads the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers:

On Tuesday, July 27, former Conservative MP, Brexit Party MEP and devout Catholic, Ann Widdecombe, who was drinking cola, as she is teetotal. She disparaged Boris as PM but said that he is still ‘100 times stronger’ than Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. I always look to see how much drink both host and guest consume. In this episode, Farage downed the most ever — half a pint:

By Monday, July 26, Farage’s show was climbing in the ratings, beating Sky News’s show in the 7 p.m. slot:

Guido has the ratings from Monday-Thursday last week. Farage’s show beat Sky News Tonight every evening.

On Tuesday, July 27, Farage’s ratings took over the BBC’s in that slot (emphases in the original):

UPDATE 28.07: Nige beat both the BBC and Sky News last night –

    • Farage – 90.8k
    • Sky News Tonight – 55.1k
    • BBC Outside Source – 89.1k

Congratulations…

It happened again on Wednesday, with an even greater figure — 107.7k to 93.3k:

Well done, Nigel!

Digital ratings

Rebecca Hutson, Head of Digital and occasional co-presenter, is keen to target younger audiences via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and — incredibly — TikTok. GB News is the only British broadcasting channel to use the Chinese-owned social media video platform.

On July 21, Hutson explained her strategy to Press Gazette:

the fledgling brand said social media engagement figures show it is resonating with younger audiences to a perhaps surprising extent.

Head of digital and presenter Rebecca Hutson … said GB News is really a “digital media business that has a TV channel attached”

Hutson told Press Gazette: “We know that traditional linear consumption has really changed. People don’t sit at home for three hours and watch a show. Instead they want to snack on the best bits for them on the platforms that they’re already using.

“So that’s why we publish natively across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and we tailor the content specifically for the platform that it’s on so we’re pretty agnostic in terms of how the content looks and feels across the different destinations that we have and the website.”

For example, she added, the brand is more likely to put an eight-minute monologue on YouTube and short snippets on Twitter which is a “much quicker platform”.

“Rather than trying to turn all of our platforms into a homogenous output, we spend a lot of time looking at the analytics and amending how the content appears on there and that’s really paying off,” Hutson said …

TikTok has been useful in attracting younger viewers:

On TikTok GB News has had 24,500 likes and more than 350,000 views across 30 videos and 4,000 followers so far.

Hutson said the numbers may be “quite surprising for people who would maybe think that we don’t have relevance or resonance to that younger audience when we clearly do”.

Hutson said explainer videos decoding the news are proving to work best for TikTok. The most-watched GB News TikTok so far explains who Sajid Javid is after he replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary …

Almost a third (31%) of 18 to 24-year-olds use TikTok, and 9% get news on it.

As for demographics:

On TV only, excluding the likes of TikTok and Instagram, almost a third (32%) of GB News’ audience is aged between 18 and 34. Some 39% are aged 55 and above.

Some 62% of the TV audience is in the middle class ABC1 demographic – a drop from the 82% ABC1 demographic thought to have tuned in for Andrew Neil’s opening show on 13 June.

The new shows, higher ratings and digital strategy are welcome developments for GB News, which is an excellent channel. Now that Parliament is in summer recess, I have been watching quite a lot of their output. The shows present alternative viewpoints, from libertarian to left-wing: a good thing.

On Sunday evening, June 13, 2021, Andrew Neil’s GB News channel (Freeview 236) launched in the UK.

Andrew Neil has had a long career in broadcast and print journalism, having helped launch Sky News in the UK. He presented political programmes for the BBC for many years and is also chairman of The Spectator.

The satirical magazine Private Eye refers to him as Brillo because of his hair.

The channel began broadcasting at 8 p.m., with a one-hour introduction from Neil laying out the agenda and introducing the viewing audience to its presenters and regional reporters:

Neil was broadcasting from London, rather than his home in the south of France, as he has done during the pandemic for Spectator TV.

My far better half and I watched this and one hour of Dan Wootton’s show, which followed at 9 p.m.:

Dan Wootton’s show had a few glitches, with guests’ online connections dropping and a synch problem between video and audio.

Nonetheless, the channel’s first night ratings were good:

Their audience share was treble that of Sky News:

Guido Fawkes posted a summary of the reviews in the press. Incidentally, Guido’s Tom Harwood resigned a few months ago to become the Westminster correspondent for GB News.

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases in the original):

It’s all systems go for GB News. Opening with a one hour mission statement from Chairman Brillo (from a tiny, under-lit set which someone on Twitter described as looking like “the inside of a PlayStation“), the fledging news channel finally started broadcasting at 8pm last night. Inevitably, there were teething problems: dodgy cuts, out of sync audio, odd camera angles etc etc. Dark clothes against a dark set just doesn’t work visually. Television is hard.

The aesthetic problems will undoubtedly be ironed out over time. For now, the initial reaction from social media and the punditry went about as you’d expect; Owen Jones tried to dunk on it, the Telegraph gave it four stars. Here’s the full round-up:

    • The Guardian wasted no time in writing it off. No doubt reviewer Stuart Jeffries beamed ear-to-ear as he called it “utterly deadly stuff”, and declared he “give[s] it a year” before it’s taken off-air. He gave it one star, obviously.
    • The Times were more generous: three stars for a channel which “may yet bite“, though marking it down for the obvious technical shortcomings. A running theme amongst most reviews…
    • The Telegraph’s four star review praised its “no sneering” attitude, and that in spite of the glitches, “GB News is already speaking [the] language” of those frustrated by lockdown. They also made the point that opening with Dan Wootton was probably a mistake, given his opening diatribe about lockdown: “What the channel cried out for was the firmest hand on the tiller from the go. If you were unsure about GB News’s claims of impartiality, you needed Brazier or McCoy to take your hand on the first night. Wootton will have scared a few nervous horses” …

GB News were pleased to say launch night saw them average 164,400 viewers with Sky News garnering only 57,000 viewers. Can they surpass Sky News regularly?

I hope so. My better half thought it was too amateurish. As Guido says, ‘Television is hard’, especially on launch night. I will definitely be tuning in when BBC Parliament is showing a rerun.

Speaking of Parliament, Conservative MP David Jones liked it:

The channel also has half-hourly weather forecasts from the Met Office:

A live stream is on their website. Selected videos are posted there and on YouTube.

GB News took well over a year to reach its launch:

Their signature tune came first:

Investors had to be found:

Britons were eager for a news channel that represents their interests:

On January 28, 2021, Dan Wooton left talkRADIO for GB News.

A week later, people were attempting to boycott a channel that hadn’t even launched, including Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project:

This was Andrew Neil’s response:

At that time, Neil wrote an article for The Express explaining why he was launching a new channel (emphases mine):

I’m proud to be the chairman of GB News and, as you may have read, I have left the BBC after 25 years to host a nightly programme on the channel.

I’m doing it because I believe the direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people.

I believe our national conversation has become too metropolitan, too southern and too middle-class.

Some journalists and commentators seem too confident that their liberal-left assumptions must surely be shared by every sensible person in the land.

But many of those same sensible people are fed up.

They feel left out and unheard.

There’s a restlessness, a sense that they’re being talked down to; that much of the media no longer reflects their values or shares their concerns.

GB News is aimed squarely at those people.

The Mail‘s Michael Crick empathised and had a go at Jolyon Maugham:

The channel began attracting broadcasting talent: Sky News’s Colin Brazier, Channel 4’s Liam Halligan, the BBC’s Simon McCoy, conservative commentator Mercy Muroki and Times Radio’s Gloria De Piero (also a former Labour MP and presenter on an ITV breakfast show).

By April 27, Rupert Murdoch decided not to launch a similar rival channel, News UK:

At least one journalist is rankled that GB News has overseas funding:

On May 21, Press Gazette revealed more about GB News:

The channel’s director of news, John McAndrew, is a 25-year industry veteran who has worked for the BBC, Sky News, ITN and NBC.

Interviewed by Press Gazette three days ahead of the channel’s launch, he said: “My view of our channel, and certainly how it’s going to be, is that it will be a very warm, inclusive channel where disagreements will be had, tough subjects will absolutely be taken on, but they’ll be taken on in a classy and courteous fashion.

What this won’t be is a hate-filled divisive shout-fest that some people seem to have characterised it as, which is 180 degrees away from where we want to be.”

Speaking to the FT Future of News conference Neil revealed that GB News plans to launch in other countries after the UK and has been looking at Spain and Eastern Europe. He said: “They will be distinctive news channels for distinctive markets. We still believe news is national.”

On May 25, Ryan Bourne from the Cato Institute wrote a column for Conservative Home about the channel:

it’s perfectly within the Ofcom rules to build a news channel that will run different stories or perspectives – and Neil wants to run “good news” stories and shift away from assuming every problem has a government solution. You are allowed to hire, as GB News has, card-carrying conservatives, ex-Labour MPs or people from outside of London with very different assumptions in thinking about what news is important. And, yes, you are free to have colourful presenters with attitude to liven up discussions, provided you still showcase various perspectives.

Why, then, are some on the left so afraid of this pluralism? Maybe they don’t accept biases exist on other news channels (Channel 4 News, really?), and so think any stated attempt to counter them is retrogressive. Perhaps they simply fear a politically strengthened  conservatism. For others, no doubt, there is a concern that the Government’s mooted appointment of Paul Dacre to Ofcom is a precursor to watering down impartiality rules as well.

But given that no such policy has been signalled, and we have not yet seen GB News in action, we must judge them at their word. Neil himself thinks, rightly, that a “British Fox” riding roughshod over Ofcom rules just wouldn’t be successful. “Overwhelmingly, Brits value impartiality and accuracy and, during recent years, in fact, the proportion of Brits thinking the BBC and ITV provide an impartial service has fallen.” GB News is keen to harness that particular audience, yes. But having spoken to numerous staffers, they are determined to avoid political bias, and to be robust in providing respectful disagreement more broadly too.

The Evening Standard‘s Insider posted an in-depth article on June 10. Susannah Butter’s piece covers a lot of ground, including on the channel’s investors.

This seems to have been the initial title (h/t Guido Fawkes reader who posted it):

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-716e6930-ce55-4715-b47e-1910e025a9f2

Susannah Butter interviewed Andrew Neil, who had returned from France and was quarantining:

Neil is speaking to me from quarantine in West London, having recently returned from his house in the Cote d’Azur where he has been for the past year with his wife, Swedish engineer and communications executive Susan Nilsson, 52. They married in 2015 and Neil has 14 godchildren but no children of his own. He is straight-talking if occasionally gently cantankerous, saying he only agreed to speak because I “caught him at a weak moment” – and he wants to get one thing clear: GB News is not the British Fox News. “That is an easy, inaccurate shorthand for what we are trying to do. In terms of format we are like Fox but we won’t be like Fox in that they come from a hard right disinformation fake news conspiracy agenda. I have worked too long and hard to build up a journalistic reputation to consider going down that route.” There is a “strong editorial charter written into everybody’s contracts saying that if they spread fake news and conspiracy theories they will face disciplinary action”. Neil’s hope is not to destroy the other channels, more to provide variety and raise the bar. “We are in a competitive environment they know that. I suspect [our rival TV channels] will up their game, that’s fine, the only winner is the viewer.”

This is how the channel began:

GB News was not Neil’s idea – the founders are Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider who both come from a business background – but Neil has been wanting to do something like this for a long time

Cole and Schneider contacted Neil last summer when he was “in the middle of rather, err, meandering negotiations with the BBC”. His interview show had been cancelled and Politics Live was taken off air; he has said that “what [the BBC] did was unnecessary and I left with a heavy heart… but what’s done is done.” By September he was convinced because he “rather liked the idea of being chairman as well as prime time presenter. At The Spectator, my pride and joy, I have a business angle too, as chairman”.

Early hires include former Associate Editor of The Sun Dan Wootton and The Apprentice’s Michelle Dewberry, who was a vocal Brexit supporter.

Piers Morgan will not be joining the GB News lineup, at least for now:

“It would be nice to have him,” says Neil who is in discussions with Morgan about joining and adds diplomatically: “But he’s got his own idea of what he is worth and we have a slightly different idea of what he’s worth. He is in a lucky situation because ITV are continuing to pay him a tonne of money so he doesn’t have to do anything in the short run. I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere else in the UK. If he has a huge American offer that’s a different matter. No one in the UK can compete with that but if he’s going to do more UK news TV I hope it will be with us.”

The channel will have a regular five-minute feature called ‘Woke Watch’:

Neil enjoys its alliterative title and says while he is “poking fun”, he is seriously concerned about its implications. “Cancel culture is insidious, it stands against everything we have stood for since the enlightenment onwards and that is why it is serious,” he says. “The original meaning of woke was somebody who was aware of social justice issues and who can complain about that? But it is not about social justice anymore, it is about conformity of thinking and it exists in many of our elite institutions from NGOs to the National Trust and parts of our media. Of course it is making huge inroads into our places of higher education. It is not the view of the British people but if it is the view of all these elites in favour of it could become very powerful.”

… He takes a breath. “Look this is a five minute segment in an hour long show but it will be an important part of the output. Humour is a good weapon especially when you are up against po-faced people who take themselves too seriously.”

The channel’s output will target those living outside Britain’s metropolitan areas:

GB News aims to attract two kinds of viewers, people who already watch the news and “may be a bit unhappy with the existing channels” and people who have stopped watching or don’t. “GB News will be more non-metropolitan than existing channels, more provincial which is a good thing. The provincial voice has not been powerful enough in Britain. We are for people who think the existing channels don’t quite represent how they see things.”

Neil discussed the channel’s investors:

Neil says they were overwhelmed with offers of funding but were selective about which ones they accepted. He wants to talk about their leading investor, the Discovery Channel, but money has also come from Sir Paul Marshall, a Brexiteer hedge fund manager and founder of the Right-leaning opinion site UnHerd, and Legatum, a Dubai-based investment firm. Legatum’s chairman Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born billionaire and international financier, is a partner of Legatum Group, a funder of the separate Legatum Institute, a Mayfair-based think tank which is dedicated to finding “pathways to prosperity” and was one of the most prominent advocates for a hard Brexit.

Neil will only say that he “didn’t want any sovereign wealth fund money”. “I didn’t want stuff from Abu Dhabi or Qatar. I said I’d take Norwegian wealth fund money because I don’t think we would be worrying about them but they weren’t offering. And I was reluctant to take money from investors who see themselves as the next Rupert Murdoch because I have already had one Rupert Murdoch in my life. That ended 26 years ago and I have never seen him since. At this stage in my life I am not having another one.”

Neil, quite rightly, does not understand why people would object to the name GB News:

“I am not sure why calling it GB News would be awkward,” he says, responding to those who have objected to the name. “We are British, I am British; I don’t think there is any embarrassment in it. Indeed it is the opposite, we are proud to be British. We will be fair and accurate but we won’t start out from that default position among the incumbents that whatever Britain does must be useless. That was heightened by the Brexit debate and we don’t want to reflect that. We will report all the faults and weaknesses of this country but we also take a certain pride in being British and our successes, the vaccine rollout being one example.”

All this patriotism is well and good but doesn’t Neil now live mainly in France? “This is my country, just because I don’t live here full time anymore doesn’t mean I don’t care,” he says.

Neil’s regular one-hour show will also have a segment called ‘Media Watch’:

“All journalists get things wrong and it is important that we move to put them right quickly and put our hands up and apologise. We have a go at politicians for not admitting their mistakes and then we do the same thing.” GB News will not be immune from Media Watch.

The channel will not be featuring a blockbuster interview immediately:

They have actually decided against launching with a big interview, “because then the story becomes the interview and I would much rather the story becomes the channel, we will get to the interview”. “Times Radio launched with a big interview with Boris Johnson. We’ve decided not to go down that route.”

Neil is not yet ready to retire:

It all sounds like a lot of work – does Neil ever want to retire? “You are right. Lockdown has made me appreciate the virtues of retirement or at least semi-retirement more than I thought I might. I thought I had one more big gig in me and this is it. If we can make a success of GB News that’s when I’ll declare victory and go home.” I doubt he would disappear though. He says: “I would continue to do the odd bit of TV and writing and I certainly want to keep going with The Spectator. It’s quite good at some stage to get to a situation where you can do whatever you want to do from wherever you want to be.”

I ask Neil, one of the best interviewers in the business, if I have left anything out? “I think you know more than enough,” he says. “Can I go now?”

Although Neil very much enjoyed his 25 years at the BBC and was particularly grateful to the help and support from the staffers there, he has objected to some of the recent programming output. On May 30, The Express reported:

Mr Neil has never shied away from controversy on or off screen during his time at the broadcaster.

Never was this more clear than when he called the BBC out – while working for the broadcaster – for airing a specially crafted version of Horrible Histories, using archive episodes to create a song to mark the day the UK left the EU

Mr Neil commented: “This is anti-British drivel of a high order.

“Was any of the licence fee used to produce something purely designed to demean us?”

On June 11, Simon McCoy discussed his departure from the BBC and revealed that he voted Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The Telegraph reported:

“People had whiplash by 2 o’clock. Because for three hours it was: ‘Oh, he’s leaving, the A4 Royal watcher, how sad.’ And then, ‘The b—–’s going to GB News! What a right-wing gammon.’” He gives a mock sigh. “I was rather enjoying a couple of hours of adulation.”

Some valiantly tried to give McCoy the benefit of the doubt, but hang on: “I think it’s interesting that people think: ‘He’s gone to GB News to balance it out because he’s a leftie BBC journalist.’ I’m certainly not.” He’s even willing to lay his cards on the table: yes, Simon McCoy voted Leave

When he talks about Brexit, it’s in measured tones. “We’re a Brexit country. I do think we need to embrace it and, for all its faults, we’ve got to make it work.”

He joined GB News partly because he fancied the challenge: “I loved the BBC; the job was great, but I just thought, ‘Here I am, nearly 60 – do I want to stay here, probably not getting any further? Or do I want to try something new?’”

And he also has a conviction, after 15 years at Sky News and 17 years at the BBC, that those news providers are focusing on the wrong things. “If you watch other bulletins you’ll know very much what’s happening in Idlib or Tel Aviv or Washington. This is about the UK,” he says.

“Rather than obsessing with what’s happening abroad, let’s just look at what’s happening within the UK. While I don’t want to sound jingoistic or insular or Little Englander, I think we could all benefit from just knowing about our own country a little more.”

Neil Oliver, a Scot who presents television programmes on archaeology, is fiercely pro-Union and a vocal critic of the SNP’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. He will have his own GB News show. The Express carried the story:

Last month, the BBC’s veteran presenter of a string of history shows, Mr Oliver, was announced as having joined the lineup.

The archaeologist and historian has become a central voice in Scottish politics and, like Andrew Neil who he will work alongside, is a fierce critic of Nicola Sturgeon.

He has previously accused the Scottish First Minister of “making a fool of Scotland” and said she had made him “sick to my stomach”

He talked of history being viewed as the lifetime of a person, and that people today are the children of this person, in this case, the British Isles.

This was vital to understanding how interwoven the devolved nations are, he argued, and explained: “More and more we dare to patronise the place, treat the person like a doddery old soul who cannot cope alone, who might even need to be taken into care.

“To me, the truth is altogether different. This place, these islands have taken care of us since a time beyond the reach of memory. Treated properly, they will continue to do so

“The story of the British Isles is one every single one of us should know and give thanks for.”

On June 2, The Express reported:

The freelance archaeologist will host a new weekly current affairs and interview programme. Mr Oliver’s show will focus on “the people from all walks of life who make Britain great”, according to the announcement put out by the broadcaster …

Commenting on joining GB News, Mr Oliver said: “My career has always been driven by my fascination with people, whether it’s trying to understand ancient people through archaeology or living ones through journalism.

“Debate in this country has been stifled for so long that GB News feels like opening a window and letting some fresh air, fresh perspectives and fresh voices.

“I never imagined my career would take this turn but I’m hugely excited that it has”

Before the 2014 independence referendum, Mr Oliver stated in an interview with The Herald, that he was “proud of Britain”.

He also noted his dislike of the forthcoming referendum, saying he found “this kind of internecine squabbling puts my teeth on edge. I would rather that it would just go away – or that it had never happened”.

He went on to say that he “liked the status quo”.

As a result of his comments, when he was appointed President of the National Trust for Scotland, thousands signed petitions calling on him to resign.

In December 2020, Mr Oliver reasserted his apparent personal opposition to Scottish independence, describing the uncertainty caused by the prospect of a second referendum as a “cancerous presence”.

Neil Oliver appeared on Sunday:

On the launch day of GB News, The Express reported that a spokesman for the channel alleged that the BBC was trying to restrict their access to news footage:

Britain’s public service broadcaster was attempting to “ambush” and “damage” Sunday’s launch of the right-leaning television channel, a spokesperson for GB News has claimed. A GB News spokesman said: “This is an ambush by the BBC designed to damage the launch of GB News. It is an attempt to protect their dominance of UK news broadcasting.

“We will fight it.

“And our launch continues.”

This has happened before when the Press Association said in 2010 it was unable to access footage from “single-camera assignments” that were categorised as coming under the ownership of the UK Broadcast Pool.

The UK Broadcast Pool comprises the BBC, Sky News and ITN.

The launch was successful.

True to their pledge, GB News is focusing on what matters to Britons, such as this lady from Birmingham:

In closing, Tom Harwood says that GB News are aware of enhancements that need to be made, including the addition of a live stream on YouTube:

I’m thrilled to bits for GB News and do intend to become a regular viewer.

Since the early hours of Friday morning, I have said many prayers of thanksgiving for Boris Johnson’s overwhelming Conservative Party victory.

The new Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, which has always voted Labour in living memory, spent the weekend giving thanks, too. God is good:

When I wake up now, this is one of my first thoughts:

This is another:

As is this. What a lovely scene of London, especially with the Christmas tree in the middle:

I am amazed at how the Conservatives were able to demolish the impenetrable ‘red wall’, as they called it, by winning in constituencies that had not voted Conservative ever or for a very long time. Their novice candidates beat long-standing Labour MPs.

This is incredible:

Ballots from St Ives were the last to arrive because of a storm:

This was the result (note the Father Christmas sweater):

Thursday’s election result was truly historic, the best since Margaret Thatcher 40 years ago:

See how true blue the electoral map of England has become post-election (second tweet):

Guido Fawkes has more detail (emphases in the original):

The Tories lost seven seats to the SNP and one to Labour, but won enough new seats to make up for those and more, particularly in the Midlands, Wales, and the North. The one seat Labour managed to take off the Tories was typically metropolitan Putney…

Big names to lose their seats included:

    • Jo Swinson
    • Laura Pidcock
    • Dennis Skinner
    • Chris Williamson
    • Emma Dent Coad
    • Caroline Flint
    • David Gauke
    • Antoinette Sandbach
    • Dominic Grieve
    • Anna Soubry
    • Nigel Dodds
    • Zac Goldsmith

Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, and Sam Gyimah also failed to win new ones.

The Tories won so evenly across the country that Michael Gove was able to triumphantly declare in the Tories’ victory event this morning that “Next year both the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Notting Hill Carnival will take place in seats held by the Conservatives.” The Tories won back Kensington which includes Notting Hill, and astonishingly Laura Pidcock was defeated in her seat of North West Durham…

Commiserations to Nigel Dodds and Zac Goldsmith. I will miss them. UPDATE (Dec. 17): Apparently, there could be plans to elevate Zac Goldsmith to the House of Lords, enabling him to keep his cabinet position.

Guido posted another list later that day, based on the BBC’s research. This one concerns all the MPs who ran as independents, so some of the same names will appear. Explanatory notes in purple are mine:

Research by the BBC’s Laurence Sleator has shown that all 18 MPs who defected in the last Parliament then stood again for this one failed in their endeavours to be re-elected to the House of Commons. Two even lost their deposits…

Liberal Democrat Losers

    • Angela Smith  (ex-Labour)
    • Chuka Umunna  (ex-Labour)
    • Phillip Lee  (ex-Conservative)
    • Luciana Berger   (ex-Labour)
    • Sarah Wollaston  (ex-Conservative)
    • Antoinette Sandbach  (ex-Conservative)
    • Sam Gyimah   (ex-Conservative)

Independent Losers

    • Frank Field  (ex-Labour; elderly, has served Birkenhead well over the years)
    • David Gauke  (ex-Conservative)
    • Dominic Grieve  (ex-Conservative)
    • Anne Milton (ex-Conservative)
    • Chris Williamson (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Ivan Lewis (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Gavin Shuker  (ex-Labour)
    • Roger Godsiff  (ex-Labour)

Tigger Losers  (TIG — The Independent Group)

    • Anna Soubry  (ex-Conservative)
    • Mike Gapes  (ex-Labour)
    • Chris Leslie  (ex-Labour)

Turns out voters don’t take too kindly to party-hopping democracy dodgers when their time comes…

I’m sorry about Frank Field, but as far as the others in that list are concerned, good riddance. Many have commented online that this is evidence of ‘draining the swamp’. True.

The ex-Conservative rebels, e.g. Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Antoinette Sandbach and Anna Soubry, were so certain they would win. Ha!

The Press Association has a great recap of how the early hours of Friday morning unfolded. Note the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon making a fool out of herself when she found out that the then-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her Scottish constituency to the SNP. Shameful. Furthermore, the big-hitting Conservatives predicted to lose their seats WON. The media were WRONG:

Only Tom Harwood, 23, who works with Guido Fawkes, predicted a Conservative landslide. Guido posted a compilation of Harwood’s appearances on the BBC’s Newsnight where presenter Jo Coburn sneered dismissively, ‘And we’ll live happily ever after’. The media were wrong AGAIN.

Congratulations, Tom. Highly recommended viewing:

It was Tom’s idea to use ‘stonking’ at Guido Fawkes in describing the Conservatives’ majority. Now Boris is using the word, too, as did Sky News’s Kay Burley and Labour’s Ian Lavery:

Another point worth making is that we now have a record number of women MPs!

Before the election, media pundits said the rough and tumble of Parliament would be too much for them. The media were WRONG about this, too:

Here’s another thing the media got WRONG: Boris Johnson was going to be turfed out of the last Parliament.

Let us look at Boris’s Friday the 13th — an excellent day for him:

Late that morning, he went to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen invited him to form a new government:

Then he returned to 10 Downing Street:

Shortly after 3 p.m., he addressed the nation. This video is subtitled. The press await on the opposite side of the street:

This version from the Press Association (PA), also subtitled, is a bit longer:

Meanwhile:

WEDDING RING UPDATE (Dec. 21) — owner found, ring a family heirloom:

On Saturday, December 14, the PA reported that a grateful Boris was visiting some of the constituencies that had voted Conservative for the first time (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson will meet with newly-elected Conservative MPs as part of a celebratory victory lap after winning a “stonking mandate” at the General Election.

The Prime Minister secured an 80-seat majority and many of his gains came in Labour’s heartland areas across the North and the Midlands.

Some areas, such as Bishop Auckland in the North East, had never elected a Tory MP before Thursday.

Mr Johnson, speaking outside Number 10, said he would “work round the clock” to repay the trust of those who “voted for us for the first time” – including those whose “pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and their grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears” …

Mr Johnson will make the first move to show newly-elected MPs that the concerns of their constituents will be heard with a visit on Saturday to some of those who overturned a Labour majority.

Later that day, the PA reported that Boris poled up in Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency, which voted overwhelmingly Conservative:

Boris Johnson has vowed to repay the trust of former Labour supporters whose votes helped deliver him victory in the General Election.

The Prime Minister made a symbolic visit to Tony Blair’s old Sedgefield constituency in County Durham – which fell to the Tories on Thursday night – to pledge his commitment to spreading opportunity across the country.

“We believe in giving opportunity to everyone,” he told a crowd of cheering supporters and newly-elected MPs from the region packed into the local cricket club.

“We believe that talent is evenly distributed throughout our country, but opportunity is unfairly distributed.

“We are going to rectify that as a One Nation Conservative government, as a people’s government, that is what we are going to do.”

Sedgefield was one of a swathe of seats across the North, Midlands and north Wales in Labour’s hitherto impregnable “red wall” to go blue as the Tories stormed to an 80-seat majority in the new House of Commons.

Sedgefield residents were over the moon:

We have a lot to look forward to once we ‘get Brexit done’, as Boris says, and begin trade negotiations. That said, I will not be buying chlorinated chicken, especially as free range British chicken is the real thing and so, so tasty. Let’s hope our Conservative victory does augur a landslide victory for President Trump in 2020:

Today heralded a glorious return to Parliament!

Congratulations to Boris Johnson!

Congratulations to everyone in Britain who voted Conservative!

Congratulations to all Conservative MPs, especially the novices!

Onwards and upwards for what Conservatives are calling The People’s Government!

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