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Continuing my series on Red Wall MPs and, most recently, Lee Anderson, this post gives his positions on various topics in British life.

Those who missed previous instalments can read about his adventures and opinions in Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Rail strikes

This week, England has been crippled by a series of rail strikes, one every other day, which means that on the days there are no strikes, it is still fruitless trying to travel by rail.

On Monday, June 20, 2022, the House of Commons held a debate, Industrial Action on the Railway.

Lee Anderson was the last MP called to speak. He asked the following question of Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary (emphases mine):

This strike is a real kick in the teeth for hard-working taxpayers, who have dug deep over the past 18 months to keep this industry alive. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party—the spineless party opposite—should grow a backbone and condemn these strikes?

Grant Shapps replied:

That is an appropriate place to end. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. People have dug deep—that is exactly what they have done; it was £600 per household. People are furious. They paid out that money to make sure that nobody lost their jobs, and what thanks have they got? Where is the reward? Where is the “thank you” for keeping the railway going? It is a strike that will put people out of pay and hit people’s pockets once again, and Labour Members cannot even find their way to say, “We condemn the strikes.” It is a disgrace.

Immigration

On Wednesday, June 15, Home Secretary Priti Patel made a statement about the fact that the June 14 flight to Rwanda with scheduled deportees never took off. There were originally 37 people who were to be deported. Because of last minute legal delays, only a handful boarded the charter flight and, by 11 p.m., even they were taken off.

The Opposition parties hate the idea of sending illegals to Rwanda for processing. Strange that, as it is called the Switzerland of Africa.

Labour, the Lib Dems and Scotland’s SNP have all said during debates about illegal migration that people can legitimately come to the UK from France. Such a statement implies that France is not a safe country.

In the June 15 debate, Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, Lee Anderson asked Priti Patel:

Just when you think this place cannot get any dafter, you turn up and listen to the rubbish that the Opposition are coming out with today. Is the Home Secretary aware of the sniggering, smugness and delight shown on the out-of-touch Opposition Benches about the cancelled Rwanda flight? Will she please advise me? I need some travel advice—I am going away this summer. Is France a safe country to go to?

Priti Patel replied:

For the benefit of the British people, the public, I have in my hand just four pages with a list of Opposition Members making exactly that point with glee—basically wanting the policy to fail, condemning it and saying all sorts of things without coming up with alternative solutions.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about France as a safe country. This is a fundamental principle of working with our colleagues more broadly—[Interruption.] Those on the Opposition Front Bench have already had their chance to speak. These are safe countries and there are people who are effectively picking to come to the UK. That is something we have to stop by going after the people smugglers and breaking up their business model.

Moral failings of Tony Blair versus Boris Johnson

Also on June 15, Boris Johnson lost his latest ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, who suddenly resigned.

This month, for whatever reason, Tony Blair became a member of the prestigious Order of the Garter, an honour the Queen decides independently.

On GB News, Patrick Christys asked a panel who was less ethical, Boris or Blair. Lee Anderson was one of the participants. He said that he had canvassed his constituents in Ashfield, Northamptonshire, and all said that Blair was less ethical. Anderson said there is no comparison between a Prime Minister being presented with cake and one who got us into a highly costly war in Iraq. The second tweet shows Blair with his spin doctor Alastair Campbell at the time:

The full discussion follows:

Labour

Anderson was a member of the Labour Party until 2018, when he switched to the Conservatives.

He has no praise for Labour MPs, especially Deputy Leader Angela Rayner. On May 22, she was angry with Chancellor Rishi Sunak for giving more aid to Ukraine.

The Daily Mail reported:

The party’s deputy leader sparked outrage after she told the Chancellor on Twitter to ‘do one’ – a slang insult meaning ‘get lost’.

The message was posted in response to a weekly No 11 newsletter from Mr Sunak, in which he detailed an additional £40 million of aid for Ukraine.

It is not the first time the senior Labour figure has landed herself in hot water for her remarks about those on the other side of the Commons. The former care worker resorted to calling senior Conservatives ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile of… banana republic… Etonian … piece of scum’ in a foul-mouthed tirade at last year’s Labour party conference.

Lee Anderson made his views known:

Lee Anderson, Tory MP for Ashfield, accused Ms Rayner of behaving pathetically after the latest controversial outburst.

He said: ‘I don’t know what it is about Angela Rayner and the Left that have it in for successful people running the country, surely it’s much better for successful people who are successes in business to hold the purse strings of the country rather than somebody whose only claim to fame is dishing out insults.

‘She is someone throughout her career who has made childish insults against Conservative politicians and now she’s having a go at Rishi, who by the way is one of the most polite politicians you’ll ever wish to meet. He’s a real gentleman, regardless of your politics.’

Green energy policies

As is the case in most European countries, the prices of home fuel and petrol have gone through the roof.

On January 3, Nigel Farage asked Anderson for his views on what the UK should do. Anderson said that while it was imperative that we leave the planet in better shape for the next generation, he and his Ashfield constituents think that some of Boris’s Net Zero policies need to be wound back. Furthermore, he wants us, rightly, to use our own energy sources during our transition period to Net Zero:

Two months later, Anderson appeared on Farage’s Talking Pints segment of his show. They discussed the necessity of energy independence, which the UK can easily achieve. Instead, the Government prefers a policy of importing coal and gas from Russia:

You can see the full interview here, where Anderson says:

We should be selling gas to the rest of Europe!

The BBC

Anderson remains a firm supporter of Boris Johnson and wants him to be allowed to get on with his job. He accuses the BBC of conducting a witch hunt against the Prime Minister.

This interview took place the day after Boris survived a Conservative vote of confidence. Anderson laid his dislike of the BBC’s tactics on the line. This is short, sharp and to the point:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases in the original):

Lee Anderson provided daytime fireworks as he confronted the BBC over anti-Boris bias live on the channel. He also called them “quite sad” over their refusal to let the Boris leadership question drop, accusing them of spearheading a witchhunt. Agree or not, it was great TV…

Not surprisingly, it was Guido’s most popular post that day:

That night, the question of a BBC witch hunt popped up on Dan Wootton’s GB News show:

Wootton invited Anderson on to discuss the issue with left-wing pundit Nina Myskow, who defended the BBC. Anderson said that his constituents supported Boris. He invited Myskow to speak with his constituents to hear their views. She replied, although not in this clip, that she never travels north of Selfridges:

Russia

On April 27, Anderson was disappointed not to have made the list of 287 MPs that Russia sanctioned.

He wrote a letter to the Russian ambassador to the UK to ask that his name be added to the list:

Crime

Lee Anderson has been outspoken against crime. I posted some of his perspectives last week.

During his candidacy in the autumn of 2019, he proposed creating forced labour camps for noisy council tenants:

After Winston Churchill’s statue was desecrated in June 2020, during the pandemic and ‘mostly peaceful’ protests, Anderson gave a brief interview to a young independent reporter. He ended by saying:

You wouldn’t be stood here today, young man, talking to me if it wasn’t for Churchill.

On March 16, 2021, Anderson participated in the Crime Bill debate. Highlights follow:

Here’s another, courtesy of Guido:

Ashfield’s straight-talking MP Lee Anderson gave the Labour Party both barrels last night in the Crime Bill debate. Effusively supporting the Bill, no-nonsense Anderson took aim at what he sees as Labour’s hypocritical positions:

I find it strange that Labour are talking about tougher sentences for crimes against women, yet in December they were trying to stop us deporting foreign rapists. One Labour MP said we should not deport these criminals in December as it was too close to Christmas. I disagree. I thought it was a great Christmas present.

Guido is fairly sure that the residents of Ashfield will be in overwhelming agreement. For such a short speech, many shots were fired – rounding off on some Labour politicians’ attitude to the law…

Seven months later, his fellow Conservative MP Robbie Moore led a debate on the sexual exploitation of young girls by a certain demographic. Sadly, the ‘grooming gang’ phenomenon is growing to the extent that it is said to be present in every town in the UK.

Moore focused his attention on Bradford.

Guido points out that none of the three Labour MPs for Bradford bothered to show up for the debate.

Anderson contributed and, as one would expect, has strong views on what should happen to such politicians:

Away from the noise of the Budget, earlier this week Conservative MP Robbie Moore led a Commons debate on child sexual exploitation across Bradford, calling for a “Rotherham-style inquiry” into the scandal and claiming it had been “swept under the carpet” by the local authorities. Although the debate only attracted small number of MPs – none of the three Labour MPs for Bradford bothered to appear, despite two previously claiming they would – there was one booming voice lending his support to Moore’s campaign: the Honourable Member for Ashfield, Lee Anderson. Asking Moore to give way twice so he could give the Chamber a piece of his mind, Anderson said:

The only way that we know the full scale of these vile crimes in Bradford is for a full Rotherham-style… investigation, and would he also agree with me that certain local politicians on the council, and the mayor, should hang their heads in shame.

Once this inquiry takes place, and we get to the bottom of this, and these grooming gangs are put away where they rightly belong in prison, then the next call will be these lazy politicians – and they need locking up too.

Even Moore sounded a bit surprised by Lee’s fury…

Guido has the video:

Anderson’s no-nonsense speech might have been partly due to his appointment to the Women and Equalities Committee in May 2021:

Guido wrote:

Guido learns that parliament’s wokest committee – the Women and Equalities Committee – is to welcome two new, perhaps unexpected, members: Philip Davies and Lee Anderson. Philip Davies is making a, no doubt, welcome return after having served on it in 2016 – where he made headlines calling for the word “women” to be removed from the Committee’s name. Lee Anderson is a co-conspirator favourite: from saying nuisance tenants should be forced to live in tents; to recently ranting that he’s torn up his licence fee. Confirming the appointment, Lee told Guido:

The great women of Ashfield have been the backbone of my community for hundreds of years with barely any recognition.

Yes the men have worked down the pits and gone off to war but its our women that have kept everything together.

The women in communities like Ashfield need a voice in Parliament and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a firm believer in better rights for women. I am a modern man with a modern outlook who is keen to speak up for the women in my community.

They deserve to be on a level playing field with us men which is not always the case. I will still open doors for women and give up my seat on public transport as I am a gentleman first and a politician second, but you can be assured that I will be fighting on all fronts for the women of Ashfield.

Both men will no doubt relish the appointments, which they richly deserve. Guido sends his warmest congratulations to the pair. Chapeau to the 1922 Committee on the wit and wisdom of their appointments.

Returning to politicians, on November 9, he had a go at convicted Labour MPs and recommended that they should work as a condition of their licence:

This morning in Parliament, straight-talking Lee Anderson told Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab exactly how he thinks the government should solve labour shortages:

Prisoners and ex-offenders out on licence should help fill the labour shortage and […] on release, all prisoners – including ex-Labour MPs – should be ready for work and starting work should be a condition of their licence.

Guido has the video:

Nutritious meals on the cheap

As I wrote in my third post on Lee Anderson, he took a lot of unnecessary stick in May 2022 for saying that people can make nutritious meals for only 30 pence per portion.

He revealed that he, too, had been a single parent for many years and lived scrimping and saving. He still got pilloried.

On May 26, however, the Mail profiled a partnered mother of three who makes meals for 29 pence a portion.

Was there any criticism of her from other media outlets, such as the BBC? No, there was not.

Such double standards. Such hypocrisy.

Conclusion

Regrettably, I have run out of Lee Anderson anecdotes.

He is my favourite MP. I would love to see him as the next Conservative leader, if not Prime Minister.

Sadly, that will not happen. He is not Establishment enough and never will be.

I hope that he is re-elected as MP for Ashfield and wish him all the best in his Parliamentary career.

We need more MPs like him.

A profile of another Red Wall MP will appear next week.

As one would have expected, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee brought out a number of snide republicans — anti-monarchists — on social media.

However, there is a reason why a constitutional monarchy is still a relevant form of government today.

On June 1, 2022, writing for The Telegraph, veteran columnist Allister Heath explained (emphases mine):

The 1,136 years of Royal continuity since Alfred the Great have been a remarkable story of evolution, a shift from absolutism to rule by consent, from feudalism to a form of capitalism, from Catholicism to a multi-faith society, from Anglo-Saxon kingdom to empire to Brexit. The monarchy, paradoxically, given what it was prior to Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, now protects the people against power. The monarch serves as a reminder to politicians that they are not, ultimately, in total control: there are forces and institutions above them.

Other methods exist to protect nations against extremism or tyranny, such as the division of powers at the heart of the US constitution. But the downside for America is constant paralysis and an inability to reform institutions that are broken. Thanks to our constitutional monarchy, we are able to evolve when necessary; others must raze everything if they are to change. This is no naive paean to a Whiggish view of history: plenty of the changes made to this country over time have been bad, with botched devolutions a case in point. But we can cope with and absorb damaging ideas or ideological revolutions without losing our souls; the French and Russians and even Americans cannot.

It used to be argued by republicans that meritocracy was incompatible with a monarchy: the huge changes of the past few decades, Big Bang in the City, the drastic progress made by the working classes in the 1980s and by minorities in the 2010s, has shown this not to be true. Anybody in Britain today can be prime minister or a billionaire.

Crucially, the monarchy’s central role in British life moderates our politics and society. It drastically reduces the threat of extremism, violence or ideological overreach, a quality that the rest of the world values hugely about Britain.

A monarchy, with its titles, palaces, carriages and servants, is obviously not compatible with communism, although it can coexist with pretty radical Left-wing governments. The Royal family is inherently internationalist, as is the Commonwealth: autarky or complete isolationism would be psychologically difficult. When military personnel sign up to the Armed Forces they swear an Oath of Allegiance not to the prime minister, but to the Queen: the threat of a coup organised by some hothead demagogue is vanishingly small

Monarchies’ time horizons are extremely long, a useful counterpoint to a social media-addled age where attention spans are diminishing, where senior roles turn over too quickly in the public and private sectors, where ministers come and go every year, and where wisdom and experience are undervalued. Western societies also tend to downplay the importance of the family: nepotism is rightly taboo in educational institutions, big firms and the public sector. But in the private sphere, in the real world, the family and blood ties matter, and often more than anything else. The Royal family reminds us of the continuity between the generations, even when there are tensions, disagreements and scandals. When millions are battling atomism, a demographic implosion, loneliness and a quest for meaning, anything that rebalances our perceptions of the good life is surely welcome

The monarchy has become a unifying focal point around which every group can coalesce without degenerating into identity politics: all can feel pride. It is an institution that reminds us of our unique history, of the extension of rights, individual and political freedoms and immense economic opportunity that has characterised British history. No honest reading of the past 1,000 years can remotely claim that we are uniquely bad – for all our flaws, all our mistakes, we have long been a beacon among nations, improving and developing before others and tackling injustices more quickly.

Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, perfectly captured Her Majesty’s remarkable qualities and dedication in his special Jubilee prayer: “Her crown is honour and majesty; her sceptre, law and morality. Her concern has been for welfare, freedom and unity, and in the lands of her dominion, she has sustained justice and liberty for all races, tongues and creeds.”

The monarchy, and the Queen in particular, have provided us with an in-built advantage in contending with the destabilising forces battering Western democracies. For that, and for everything else Her Majesty has given us during her 70 extraordinary years on the throne, we should be eternally grateful.

On April 21, 2021, the Queen’s real birthday, Mary Harrington, a contributing editor to UnHerd, also put forward the historical case for preserving the constitutional monarchy. This was just days after the Queen attended Prince Philip’s funeral.

Harrington wrote:

I was reminded of her iron self-control and bird-like fragility watching our Queen enter St George’s Chapel for the funeral of Prince Philip on Saturday. She stumbled momentarily as she approached the chapel door; inside, she sat alone. Born 12 years after my grandmother, she has been our Queen since 1952 and remains so today, her 95th birthday.

And yet despite the dignified pathos of last Saturday, we can be sure that some will celebrate the Queen’s birthday by calling for her deposition. For many progressives view the Queen as an unacceptable relic of the past. Never mind personal travails; monarchy, they say, is undemocratic, even if the Queen never wields her power. We should have an elected head of state.

But far from being a relic of despotism, constitutional monarchy is our best protection against its reappearance. The story we like to recall traces a thousand years of royal continuity — the same deep history which progressives say demonstrates the obsolescence of our monarchy. But in truth this story skates over a profound rupture: the end of absolute kingship

Just as the Reformation represented England’s secession from spiritual absolutism, the Glorious Revolution represented something similar in the political sphere. Having got rid of one absolute monarch, the statesmen who defenestrated James II set about making sure their new monarch, William, knew his place. A 1689 Bill of Rights set out constitutional principles we have to this day, including regular Parliaments, open elections and freedom of speech. The Bill also limited and specified the monarch’s powers.

The Reformation and Glorious Revolution produced an England in which both spiritual and temporal rule had the same figurehead: a head of both Church and Parliament. The change was subtle but profound, as the authority of England’s priest-kings now theoretically extended across moral and political domains. But in practice, they wielded no direct power.

This homeopathic dilution of theocratic tyranny proved exceptionally liberating. The new settlement drove the emergence of our parliamentary system, our two main political parties, and — as the monarchy sought a new role — many of the High Victorian institutions such as the Royal Societies, whose grand buildings form the majestic backbone of London today …

Two world wars, one collapsed empire and a de-industrialised North later, things look rather different. Today, younger adults widely believe the world has been getting worse throughout their lives, and are pessimistic about the capacity of science, government or their own agency to change this. In parallel, the freedom of speech first guaranteed in the 1689 Bill of Rights is increasingly regarded as a stalking-horse for hatred. Growing numbers believe that what’s right and wrong — especially where it concerns the rights of marginalised groups — are sufficiently self-evident they shouldn’t be up for debate.

But who decides on the exceptions to our post-Glorious Revolution norm of debate? It’s been nearly half a millennium since Henry VIII ended England’s official embrace of the Pope in this role. Progressives have yet to offer a clear alternative to either the Pope or the Defender of the Faith, though many assert that no hereditary ruler should be allowed such spiritual clout.

Unsurprisingly, then, progressives (such as Jeremy Corbyn) who support abolishing the monarchy, often also argue for disestablishment of the Church of England. Meanwhile a growing chorus of other progressive voices calls for a lengthening list of often self-contradictory articles of faith to be excluded from legitimate debate — a move that bears comparison with the religious ordinances of England’s Catholic and Anglican eras.

But what if the progressives are wrong and power can never truly be democratised? This was the argument advanced by political theorist Carl Schmitt. Schmitt argued that democracy is always compromised by absolutism, because no matter how flawless a set of rules you devise, and no matter how fair your electoral system, sooner or later a situation will crop up that doesn’t fit the rules.

When that happens, you have to break the rules: a situation Schmitt called the “state of exception”. Coronavirus lockdowns are a good example: of the past year, countless ordinary freedoms were abruptly suspended in the name of virus control. Schmitt argued that you can tell who’s really in charge by who gets to implement such a state: Sovereign is he who decides the exception.

Carl Schmitt was, of course, a Nazi. For him, exposing the traces of arbitrary rule that persist even in democratic government was part of a wider argument in favour of strongman rule

It wasn’t the Queen who decided to suspend our ordinary liberties for the pandemic, but Parliament, which is made up of our elected representatives.

The role of our Queen is to symbolise that tyrannical twitch we can’t wholly eradicate even in democracies, lest such twitches break out more regularly among our elected leaders. And she must do so without availing herself of actual power. As such, she acts as a kind of inoculation against real tyranny.

Our Queen has two birthdays: her actual birthdate, which is today, and her “official” birthday on the second weekend in June. This aptly reflects her double existence. On the one hand she’s a human individual with a family, a birthday and a recent, terrible bereavement. On the other, she’s an interchangeable cipher, a part not just replaceable but designed to be replaced by her heir apparent when the time comes. Her role is to act, with total self-effacement, as the fulcrum between tyranny and democracy. It’s a position that, once understood, is rightly seen as profoundly sacred.

On the topic of coronavirus, The Telegraph‘s French correspondent, Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, wrote of her fellow countrymen’s envy when the Queen addressed the United Kingdom on Sunday, April 5, 2020. It was a planned address but was aired — coincidentally — shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with coronavirus. Talk about serendipity.

Moutet wrote of French leftists who praised the Queen:

Three weeks into le confinement, the complete lockdown French authorities have imposed on the nation, TV viewers here tuned into the Queen’s address yesterday more out of curiosity than to find any kind of succour.

The nation is exhausted. A good deal of Emmanuel Macron’s response to the Covid-19 crisis has been deemed flawed. The President and the country’s health authorities simultaneously decreeing that masks were unnecessary for the general public and pledging to buy millions as soon as they could be sourced was rightly seen as inconsistent. So was the failure of the French health ministry’s bureaucracy, for weeks, to greenlight promising antiviral therapies while deaths rose by the thousands. Trust is at its lowest.

And yet, after a four minutes and thirteen seconds speech broadcast on all our news channels, France, a country that has forgotten neither Waterloo no Mers-el-Kébir, had been utterly won over. “Queen Elizabeth II Would Make Me a Monarchist,” Marion Van Renterghem, a seasoned former Le Monde reporter, who now writes for both L’Express and the Guardian, tweeted. “A model Chief of State. A class act”

“The entire world has just been given a masterly political communication lesson in a crisis by a 93-year-old grande dame,” tweeted one of France’s foremost spin doctors (and a professor at Sciences Po, Paris’ answer to Oxford’s PPE), Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet.

In a country where, since the day of Charles de Gaulle, the President has simultaneously tried to symbolise the Republic and manage current affairs hands-on, the Queen’s address has reminded everyone that there’s a lot to be said for an uncontested head of state, completely detached from the fluctuations of day-to-day politics — and from politicians’ vagaries. Most of Emmanuel Macron’s speeches here have been too long: in time (rarely less than 20 minutes); on posturing (“We’re at war,” repeated 6 times in an awkward televised speech three weeks ago); on insincere technocratic babble

“It was moving; it was subtle; it carried weight because instead of trying to instrumentalise war parallels, the Queen never even said the word, but let us all remember her and her father’s history. She had grace, she had authority, she had compassion,” says Moreau-Chevrolet.

That direct link between the sovereign and her people, above politics, has often been mocked in Britain as in France; but faced with it, we all recognise it. A politician who had to campaign for the job, and has to look to his numbers the following days — Blair, Sarkozy, Macron — simply can’t manufacture that.

Even more notable: patriotism, a word too often used pejoratively, came spontaneously to describe the strange experience of hearing Britain’s great-grandmother praising and encouraging her people in adversity. We were, to be honest, more than a little envious.

The day the Queen delivered her coronavirus message to millions of Britons …

… Tony Blair’s odious spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, wrote an editorial for The Telegraph, ‘From her sense of humour to sense of duty, The Queen is the most remarkable person on earth’.

I am hardly a fan of Campbell’s, but he explains how he shifted from being a republican to becoming a monarchist. The Queen’s example showed him the way:

My first political row, aged six or seven, was about The Queen, when my mother said I had to sit with her and the rest of the family to watch the traditional Christmas message. ‘Why?’ I protested. ‘Why should I care what some rich woman says, just because she lives in a big posh house, wears a crown and has a silly voice?’

That was more than half a century ago, and the beginnings of fairly persistent Republicanism. My mother, born in the same year as the Queen, and with the same first name, Elizabeth, is alas no longer with us. The Queen, very much, is. How I wish my mother was here to see me write this: that in common with millions around the world, I was keen to see and hear The Queen as soon as it was announced she would be broadcasting a special message to the nation about the coronavirus crisis.

I would go further… I think it is possible to make the case that The Queen is one of, if not the, most remarkable people on the planet. Below are just ten among many reasons.

Campbell praised Her Majesty’s longevity:

She has ‘done the same job’ for almost 70 years … 70 years; there is nobody else, in any other walk of life, who has done that.

He praised her ‘enduring excellence’:

her standing with the public has never been below 60 per cent approval in the polls, and often in the 80s and 90s, because of the way she has performed her role.

He pointed to her universal fame:

Her face is perhaps the most reproduced image in the world (300 billion stamps and counting, hundreds of millions of coins and banknotes throughout the Commonwealth.) She is universally known, and near universally admired. Say ‘The Queen’ in conversation anywhere in the world, and she, the Monarch of all Monarchs, is the one people assume you are talking about. Her death, when it comes, will be one of the defining moments of our times, globally.

He praised her humility:

Despite that fame, and the authority that comes with her constitutional position, she wears both lightly. As one of her advisers once explained to me, ‘she knows that she did nothing to deserve the privileged position she holds. She was just plonked there, an accident of birth.’ Not for one second, he said, does she ever forget that.

He recalled her ability to handle a crisis, specifically Princess Diana’s horrible death on August 31, 1997. Princes William and Harry were with the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral at the time. Tony Blair was Prime Minister then, and Campbell was working for him:

… There was considerable reluctance among many at the Palace, her included, to lowering the flag at Buckingham Palace, to returning from Balmoral, to the Queen speaking to the nation. But when she and Prince Philip decided it all needed to be done, it was all systems go, and her walkabout outside the Palace, as I recorded in my diary at the time, dramatically changed the public mood, instantly. ‘The Queen,’ says historian Tristram Hunt, ‘will become a business-school case study in the management technique of rebooting.’

Campbell recalled her resilience when Windsor Castle caught fire in 1992, the same year when Charles and Diana’s marriage was breaking down:

There have been periods when the Republican movement has felt wind in its sails, and sensed the possibility of the whole Royal edifice crumbling. She has survived them all. Her annus horribilis, 1992, amid the grisly soap opera her family had become, with the Windsor Castle fire the tipping point to tears, was the only time her courtiers feared she was losing her capacity to endure whatever life threw at her. From that too though, she emerged stronger.

He admired her humanity:

I have met a fair few of her staff, at various levels, and have yet to meet one who doesn’t like as well as respect herAnother of her advisers told me that the reason she loves horses so much is that when she rides, ‘she feels like an ordinary human being, not a Head of State.’ 

He said she has a sense of humour, citing a quip of hers from 2002:

At the time of her Golden Jubilee, Tony Blair hosted a dinner for The Queen and all surviving Prime Ministers at Downing Street – Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher and Jim Callaghan – and descendants of the Prime Ministers who had died. As they all gathered somewhat nervously, she said: ‘Isn’t it just marvellous not to have to be introduced to anyone?’

On the subject of Prime Ministers, Campbell said the Queen has a certain mystique:

Even those who see her regularly, like her fourteen Prime Ministers with their weekly audiences, do not really know what she thinks about many of the major issues they discuss. She never puts a foot wrong on the political front, and though she is one of the most written about people on earth, we don’t really know much about her beyond what we see.

He praised the Queen’s sense of duty, performing the same rituals time and time again:

This defines her, really. She would not be human, if she did not occasionally think, ‘oh no, not another garden party/investiture/State opening/Trooping the Colour/regional visit/Commonwealth trip/State banquet for me to read platitudes drafted by the Foreign Office.’ Whatever it is, she just does it, again and again and again. Because it is her duty

Campbell ended by noting the change through which the Queen has lived. Yet she remains a constant presence in our lives:

She has seen so much change, and helped to drive change too. But she just is; ‘show not tell’ at its best. The Queen of 1953 would not have had a rock star like Brian May playing the national anthem on the roof of Buckingham Palace, as happened at the Golden Jubilee. The Queen of 2002 would not have appeared in a film for an Olympic and Paralympic Games opening ceremony, with Daniel Craig as James Bond, and a Queen lookalike jumping from a helicopter, as she did in 2012.

There is so much change in those different scenarios, but the only thing different about her is her clothing, and the colour of her hair. She just is, that’s it, and her latest broadcast, just being The Queen, will further add to the legend, and the history, of a truly remarkable human being.

That is the one time when Alastair Campbell and I have agreed on something.

That said, the year before, in September 2019, The New York Post published the results of a Sunday Times poll on Labourites’ — Campbell’s fellow travellers’ — views of the Queen. Who knew there were so many republicans among their number?

Only 29% of party members polled believe in keeping the British monarchy, the Sunday Times of London reported. And only one in five would be “happy” or “proud” to sing the national anthem, “God Save the Queen”

Even more shocking in a country that’s in the midst of leaving the European Union in part because of immigration issues, almost half of the poll’s respondents agreed that nations “should remove borders and people should decide where they want to live.”

I had forgotten about that poll, but everything remains true today. Few Labour MPs attended the Commons debate on the upcoming Platinum Jubilee. Furthermore, with regard to illegal immigration, most of them say that there is no such thing. In other words: come one, come all, no matter how.

Speaking of Labour, in 2005, Keir Starmer had just been made a Queen’s Counsel (QC). This was before he was made Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 2008.

Guido Fawkes unearthed this video, in which Starmer said he was against the monarchy:

Guido posted the video on February 3, 2021.

This begs the question: as the current leader of the Labour Party and desperate to appear as a safe pair of hands, is Starmer still a republican?

Guido offered this analysis about Sir Keir, as he now is (red emphasis in the original):

The 2005 interview … shows Sir Keir smugly boasting about his long-held republican views. Sir Keir, reflecting modestly on his other achievements, brags “I also got made a Queen’s Counsel, which is odd since I often used to propose the abolition of the monarchy” before smirking …

UPDATE: Owen Jones et al [more leftists] are blabbering on about the past tense of “I often used to propose the abolition of the monarchy”. That strictly reads as he used to propose the abolition, now he does not. Doesn’t necessarily mean Starmer has changed his mind, just his campaigning priorities. As he embarks on his patriotic makeover, it is reasonable to ask; is that a tactical change or has he truly converted to the merits of a constitutional monarchy? If so, what was it about becoming a knight of the realm that converted him?

I have much more to write about the merits of a constitutional monarchy and the Queen’s role within it.

For now, I will close with the thoughts of Alexandra Marshall, an Australian who contributes to that country’s edition of The Spectator.

Marshall was on Mark Steyn’s GB News show prior to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations and made a solid case for a constitutional monarchy, which she also summed up in a tweet:

Precisely.

Paradoxically, today’s monarchies safeguard their citizens from tyranny.

More to come on this topic next week.

On Thursday afternoon and evening, I watched GB News’s wall-to-wall commentary on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It has been excellent.

GB News is available worldwide, live and on video.

Nigel Farage was in London for Trooping the Colour and said that the parade and the enthusiasm of everyone he met elsewhere was very moving, indeed:

Retired Royal correspondent Michael Cole, who had watched the Coronation in 1953 as a little boy on his family’s brand new television set, told Farage that he felt the same way:

Continuing on from Thursday’s post on the Platinum Jubilee, likely to be a one-off event in British history, here is the marvellous flypast that took place after Trooping the Colour:

That evening, the Queen symbolically set off the beacon lighting around the UK and Commonwealth nations:

This video shows how the lighting unfolded at Windsor Castle …

… and here we can see them lit up around the world:

On Friday morning, June 3, a Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 70-year reign took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.

The evening before, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen would not be attending, having suffered ‘discomfort’ after Trooping the Colour. She made a second appearance on the balcony to acknowledge the military personnel and officers participating.

However, the BBC commentators told us that she was watching the broadcast as it unfolded on television.

Interestingly, Queen Victoria arrived for her Diamond Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1897 only to find out that she could not exit her carriage because of ill health. When everyone inside found out, they all — clergy included — went outside to conduct the service there:

The Times‘s Valentine Low wrote the following about Elizabeth II:

The Queen may not have been able to take part in the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards, but she takes her role as Colonel-in-Chief very seriously. Her decision to make that extra appearance was prompted by the same motivation that saw her make a last-minute appearance at the opening of the Elizabeth line: her unwavering sense of duty.

The Queen will be extremely disappointed at not going to St Paul’s. She has a sincere religious belief, and takes her role as head of the Church of England seriously too …

For the moment, the jubilee remains all about the Queen: wherever she is.

Personally, I would have had the Service of Thanksgiving at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Queen returned to the castle after lunch with the Royal Family following Trooping the Colour.

The Sussexes attended the lunch at Buckingham Palace. They did not appear on the balcony as they are not working members of the Royal Family.

However, once at Windsor, where Archie and Lilibet stayed while their parents were in London, the Queen finally got to meet her newest great-grandchild:

The Daily Mail article has the order of the Service of Thanksgiving, which was traditional and dignified in all the best Church of England ways. Why can’t more C of E services be like that?

St Paul’s Cathedral also has the Order of Service as it was printed for those attending:

Crowds had gathered outside by 6 a.m. in the limited space Paternoster (Our Father) Square affords:

Attending these services as invited guests or military guard requires a bladder of steel and optimum decorum. Waiting for everyone to arrive takes longer than the actual service.

Today’s service welcomed as guests the charity sector, military cadets, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Commonwealth dignitaries, the military, politicians past and present as well as the extended Royal Family.

The public sector were there, too:

Outside were a military guard as well as military representatives from the Commonwealth nations. They had to stand perfectly still as the guests filed into the cathedral.

Here is another set of guards inside:

Musicians played traditional music. The Royal Marines provided the brass accompaniment. The Royal Air Force played the closing fanfare introducing the National Anthem, which concluded the service. Everyone sang his/her heart out. I’ve never heard anything like it:

Former Prime Ministers were in attendance: Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Brown and Cameron brought their respective wives, Sarah and Samantha.

Members of the Cabinet, including Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Home Secretary Priti Patel, attended.

Opposition leaders Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey were there, along with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his wife also attended.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson got a huge and prolonged cheer when he arrived at the cathedral, accompanied by wife Carrie.

These photos show Boris and Carrie in the main photo. On the top right are the Camerons and on the bottom right are the Blairs, Tony and Cherie:

The only others who got louder cheers were the Sussexes …

… and the Cambridges:

I have read media reports that the Johnsons and the Sussexes were booed. I watched the proceedings on television. What I heard were most definitely cheers for both couples.

A royal expert commenting on the service said that, where the Queen is concerned:

nothing happens by chance.

Therefore, we can conclude that the fact that the Sussexes arrived by private car and got their own mini-procession down the aisle of St Paul’s was an instruction from the Queen (see second tweet):

The couple sat near the front, next to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who were with their husbands.

The minor Royals arrived in a large black coach (bus). It took ages for them to file in, as they shook hands with a long line of Anglican clergy, including the Bishop of London, the Right Revd and Right Hon Dame Sarah Mulally, who had a lucrative career prior to entering the priesthood.

The clergy wore elaborate crimson and gold copes which were created for George V’s Silver Jubilee service in 1935. Most of them looked as good as new.

Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) from the Tower of London stood behind them. They were on official duty guarding those inside the cathedral.

You can see both below:

Prince Edward and the Duchess of Wessex brought along their children. I really like Sophie. So does the Queen:

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were the last to arrive:

By now, readers might be wondering who the gentleman wearing ermine is.

He is the Lord Mayor of London — the City of London, that is. This is a rotating one-year position and the new Lord Mayor assumes his responsibilities beginning every autumn at the Lord Mayor’s Show, a parade in the City, which is the oldest part of London and still serves as the financial district.

The Lord Mayor of London is in charge of the City and, in that district, is second in power only to the Queen. Therefore, Prince Charles is subordinate to him while within those boundaries.

For centuries, until the Great Fire of 1666, that part of London was the capital, outside of Westminster, which was some distance away.

Everyone lived and worked there unless they had responsibilities at the heart of government in Westminster, which was most easily accessed by boat along the Thames.

Everywhere else that is now very much a part of the capital was a rural suburb until a few hundred years ago.

From that, we can better understand the importance of the Lord Mayor of London’s historical role.

The Lord Mayor has several swords, now ceremonial, that he uses. However, each sword has its own role. Today’s was the sword of state. If the Queen had been in attendance, he would have worn his most important sword.

The Lord Mayor’s assistant also carries a sword and wears a mink hat for ceremonial occasions:

You can see him outside the cathedral, hands resting on the sword, just immediately to the left of the main entrance:

Returning to the service, these chairs were for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall:

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge sat right next to them in ordinary chairs:

Here is a view of what the congregation saw — the main altar, the choirmaster and the men and boys choir:

Boris Johnson delivered the New Testament reading, Philippians 4:4-9, which one can imagine that the Queen selected personally, as it truly gave us a message about our present circumstances and the transition of the monarchy. We are to think on higher things — and not worry:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, gave the sermon, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has coronavirus, along with Prince Andrew.

The Archbishop of York’s sermon began with a brief discourse on how seriously the Queen took her Christian duties and ended on a lighter note with references to her favourite pastime, horse racing, particularly apposite as the Derby is on Saturday. Her Majesty is not expected to attend:

Children from the Commonwealth took turns in giving the prayer intercessions.

After the service, guests went to the Guildhall for lunch:

Meanwhile, Britons up and down the land gathered for street parties:

Thankfully, it was another reasonable day in London, dry and partly cloudy.

On Saturday evening, another spectacular concert in the style of those for the Golden and Diamond Jubilees will take place in front of Buckingham Palace.

On Sunday, a celebratory pageant will take place in the same location.

I plan to have more posts next week on the importance of the Queen’s 70-year reign as well as the many social and political changes during that time.

It is safe to say that the two most controversial British Prime Ministers of living memory are Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) and Tony Blair (Labour).

Baroness Thatcher has gone to her rest, so we are left with Tony Blair.

Blair’s knighthood of the Most Noble Order of the Garter made the news at the end of 2021. On Saturday, January 1, 2022, The Guardian reported (emphases mine below):

Appointments to this ceremonial order are made without prime ministerial advice and are usually announced on St George’s Day, on 23 April. Founded in 1348 by Edward III, it is the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry and a recognition of significant public service. Sir John Major [Conservative], Blair’s predecessor, was the last to receive the honour.

The monarch makes this appointment, supposedly independently, but one wonders.

Only a year ago, the media reported that the Queen had refused to appoint him to the Garter. Incidentally, Blair has been sticking his nose in everywhere, especially Brexit. From this, we can deduce that he dislikes the average Briton:

Over the weekend, Angus Scott launched a petition on Change.org to have Blair’s knighthood rescinded. By Tuesday, January 4, the petition had 500,000 signatures. Unfortunately, as the petition was not created on the parliamentary website, it is likely to be ignored. More importantly, as this appointment is the Queen’s, Parliament cannot do anything about it.

The petition reads:

Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.

The Government rejected the petition:

The aforementioned Guardian article says that the Iraq war is still an issue with many members of the public. Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle stepped in to defend his fellow Labourite. Not only that, he poured more oil on the flames by saying that every Prime Minister should be knighted, by virtue of their position. No, just no:

Sir Tony, rather than Sir Anthony, as he is now known, has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, 14 years after leaving Downing Street. But the honour has been criticised by Blair’s political opponents and those who argue the legacy of his invasion of Iraq in 2003 makes him unsuitable.

Speaking on Saturday morning Hoyle said he felt the honour, the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry, was “a fitting tribute” for a former prime minister, although he felt it was not a political decision.

“Whatever people might think, it is one of the toughest jobs in the world,” the Speaker said, “and I think it is respectful and it is the right thing to do, whether it is Sir David Cameron. They should all be offered that knighthood when they finish as prime minister.”

Hoyle was talking to Today programme presenter Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4 when he was asked if he believed all recent former prime ministers should now be knighted.

“If you have been prime minister of this country, I do believe the country should recognise the service given. Absolutely. You finish in the office and when you’ve finished it is the respect that we give to those prime ministers,” he replied.

I’m going off Lindsay Hoyle rather rapidly.

Other new appointees to the Garter include Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and to the former Labour cabinet member Lady Amos, the first black person to be honoured this way.

On Tuesday, January 4, The Guardian reported that Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Party leader, defended the knighthood on Good Morning Britain:

The Labour leader said Blair was a worthy recipient of the Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, received in the new year honour’s list.

“I don’t think it’s thorny at all. I think he deserves the honour. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views,” Starmer told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“I understand there are strong views on the Iraq war. There were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.”

Blair, who led Labour to three election victories, was prime minister during the allied military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Monday, January 3, Christine Hamilton, whose husband was a Conservative MP then a member of the Welsh Senedd (‘Senate’, Assembly), told Dan Wootton of GB News that there are reasons why Blair should not receive this honour: Iraq, Afghanistan, Brexit. She surmises that if Prince Philip were still alive, this appointment never would have happened:

Several years ago, The Telegraph had an article entitled ‘Tony Blair believed God wanted him to go to war to fight evil, claims his mentor’. Unfortunately, it has since been withdrawn from their website.

Another Telegraph gem that no longer exists is the former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit’s blog post, ‘Gordon Brown is not as vain or greedy as Tony Blair but he is in deep denial and must be removed from office’.

Money, money, money

Blair watchers know that he loves his money.

Unfortunately, this Telegraph article is also gone: ‘Tony Blair earned £680,000 for his foundation for 50 hours’ work’. That was about The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. You could not make this up.

In March 2010, the Daily Mail reported that Tony Blair needed £5 million a year just to get by. How many properties did he own by then? Six? How many properties does he own now? Eight?

The Mail says:

Tony Blair has told friends he needs to earn at least £5million a year just to break even.

The former prime minister has been heavily criticised for cashing in on his contacts for personal gain and is thought to have made around £20million since leaving office.

But last night his former election agent John Burton claimed Mr Blair needed the astonishing annual income – and possibly much more – to pay spiralling wage bills at his growing list of companies and charities.

The revelation about his finances came as the former premier returned to the political fray with a lukewarm televised endorsement of Gordon Brown.

Mr Burton, one of Mr Blair’s most loyal political friends, said: ‘What I asked him was, you know he gets this criticism about what he earns. I said how many people do you employ? And he said 130.

‘I mean it was 25 about two years ago and he said to me I have got to earn £5million a year to pay the wages, so God knows what he has got to earn now to pay the wages.’

2010 saw the Conservatives regain Government in May thanks to a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. David Cameron, mentioned below, became Prime Minister. The Mail‘s article appeared during the campaign:

The former prime minister was making a controversial intervention in the election campaign yesterday as he addressed the Labour Club in his old constituency.

It followed a warning from a former defence minister that his appearance could trigger a public backlash against Labour from those angry over the Iraq War as well as Mr Blair’s business dealings.

Sporting a bizarre orange tan, Mr Blair spoke in support of his long-time rival Gordon Brown and attacked the ‘ vacuous’ Tories – but stopped short of personally criticising David Cameron.

The Tories were relaxed about the appearance, with Mr Cameron taking a dig at the former premier’s lecture circuit earnings, joking: ‘It is nice to see him making a speech that no one is paying for.’

Security was tight as Iraq War protesters demonstrated outside the Trimdon Labour Club, in the Sedgefield constituency in County Durham …

But many senior Labour figures fear his involvement could harm the party. Chief among critics was former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, who warned that Mr Blair was now a ‘negative factor’.

He said: He evokes a strong antagonism, particularly because of the Iraq War, but not only that.

Also the kind of things going on with allegedly Blairite former ministers and their apparently venal approach to life. He epitomises everything people think is wrong about New Labour.

It is a mistake by the so-called strategists. It may seem a good idea to them, but to many people at the grassroots level it is not.’

Kilfoyle was not wrong.

On May 25, 2010, a few weeks after David Cameron became PM, The Telegraph reported, ‘Tony Blair hired by US billionaire Vinod Khosla for climate change advice’. What does Tony Blair know about climate change?

The billionaire thought Blair was an expert, apparently:

The agreement will see Tony Blair Associates give strategic advice to Khosla Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in companies pursuing green technologies. Mr Khosla, who made his fortune as co-founder of computing giant Sun Microsystems, is hoping that Mr Blair’s decade on the global stage helps unlock doors for the companies that California-based Khosla Ventures invests in

Mr Khosla said that “with Tony’s advice and influence’ we will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to devise practical solutions that can solve today’s most pressing problems.”

It wasn’t disclosed how much Mr Blair will be paid for the advice he gives to Khosla. He already has a £2m lobbying post with JP Morgan Chase and a £500,000 job with Zurich Financial.

Mr Blair also charges tens of thousands of pounds for public speaking, received a £4.5m advance for his memoirs and set up Tony Blair Associates to advise foreign countries including Kuwait. In total, he is estimated to have earned at least £15 million since leaving office two and a half years ago.

Good grief.

Let’s go back to Blair’s properties. Most of them are stately homes or properties out of the reach of most people in the UK.

Less than a year after Blair left office as Prime Minister, he was somehow able to buy his sixth property. How can that happen on a PM’s salary?

On May 4, 2008, the Mail reported (and included must-see photos):

Tony and Cherie Blair have added a £4million stately home once owned by Sir John Gielgud to their property portfolio.

The seven-bedroom mansion in Buckinghamshire is a few miles from Chequers, the prime ministerial retreat the Blairs gave up to Gordon Brown when he took over at No 10.

Mrs Blair was said to have longed for another historic home in the same area.

A source said: “It ticked all of Cherie’s boxes. She wanted a small stately home within a 20-mile radius of Chequers.”

The Grade I listed South Pavilion, in Wotton Underwood, brings to six the number of properties the couple now own.

They have two houses in London, two flats in Bristol and Mr Blair’s former constituency home in Durham

Since he left office last June Mr Blair is estimated to have signed deals worth nearly £10million.

Last month the former Prime Minister reportedly earned up to £240,000 for making a 90-minute speech to businessmen in Spain.

Theoretically Mr Blair could have written a cheque for £4million to buy the property outright, but it seems more likely the couple have taken out another mortgage.

If so it would double their mortgage debt to around £8million and push their payments to more than £30,000 a month, experts estimate.

Iraq War: Dr David Kelly’s death and apologies

On June 26, 2010, the Mail alleged a cover up in the death of Dr David Kelly, said to have been unmasked as the source of the claim that the Blair government had ‘sexed up’ claims for a war in Iraq. Dr Kelly’s case is still a mystery.

The Mail article says, in part:

The official story of Dr David Kelly is that he took his own life in an Oxfordshire wood by overdosing on painkillers and cutting his left wrist with a pruning knife …

A subsequent official inquiry led by Lord Hutton into the circumstances leading to the death came to the unequivocal conclusion that Kelly committed suicide.

Yet suspicions of foul play still hang heavy over the death of the weapons expert whose body was found seven years ago next month in one of the most notorious episodes of Tony Blair’s premiership.

Many believe the truth about the manner of Dr Kelly’s death has never been established properly. Some even fear that the 59-year-old, the world’s leading expert in biological and chemical weapons, was murdered

The blanket of secrecy thrown over the case by the last Labour Government has only fuelled the sense of mystery.

In January this year, it emerged that unpublished medical and scientific records relating to Dr Kelly’s death – including the post-mortem report and photographs of his body – had been secretly classified so as not to be made public for 70 years.

Lord Hutton, who had been appointed by Blair, was responsible for this extraordinary gagging order, yet its legal basis has baffled experts accustomed to such matters.

Against this shadowy background, we have conducted a rigorous and thorough investigation into the mystery that surrounds the death of David Kelly. And our investigation has turned up evidence which raises still more disturbing questions.

Our new revelations include the ambiguous nature of the wording on Dr Kelly’s death certificate; the existence of an anonymous letter which says his colleagues were warned to stay away from his funeral; and an extraordinary claim that the wallpaper at Dr Kelly’s home was stripped by police in the hours after he was reported missing – but before his body was found.

Until now, details of Dr Kelly’s death certificate have never been made public.

But the certificate was obtained by a group of leading doctors who have spent almost seven years investigating the case; doctors who believe it is medically implausible that he died in the manner Hutton concluded and are alarmed at the unorthodox way the death certificate was completed.

Near the top of all British death certificates is a box headed ‘Date and place of death’, in which a doctor or coroner should declare the exact location of a death, if it has been established.

Dr Kelly’s certificate gives his date of death as July 18, 2003. It then states in reference to place of death: ‘Found dead at Harrowdown Hill, Longworth, Oxon’.

Why was the word ‘found’ used? Why was the crucial question of ‘place of death’ not answered? The death certificate should be precise about the time, cause and location of death.

The doctors who have investigated the case believe the failure to answer this question leaves open the possibility that Dr Kelly died somewhere other than Harrowdown Hill, the wood where his body was discovered. If this was the case, they are concerned the law may have been subverted over Dr Kelly’s death

A full coroner’s inquest, which, by law, must be held following any sudden, unexpected or violent death, would have addressed these discrepancies.

But no full inquest was ever held.

Oxfordshire Coroner Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on July 21. But on August 13 the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, Tony Blair’s former flatmate, ordered it to be adjourned indefinitely.

Falconer used an obscure law to suspend proceedings, and for the first time in English legal history he replaced an inquest with a non-statutory public inquiry to examine a single death, seemingly without any public explanation.

On October 24, 2015, The Telegraph reported that Blair gave an interview to CNN in which he partially apologised for the war in Iraq:

Tony Blair has apologised for some of the mistakes that were made during the Iraq War, and says he recognises “elements of truth” behind opinion that the invasion caused the rise of Isil.

In a candid interview with CNN, the former prime minister was challenged by US political broadcaster Fareed Zakar who accused Blair of being George Bush’s ‘poodle’ over the conflict.

During the exchange, which will air on CNN Europe at 11am and 7pm on Sunday, Mr Blair says: “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence was wrong. I also apologise, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime. But I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam.”

When asked whether he thought the invasion led to the rise of Isil, he says: “I think there are elements of truth in that. Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

… Blair’s acknowledgement of responsibility, if not apology, for the rise of Islamic extremism, is aptly timed. 

In 2004, he told MPs: “I will not apologise for the conflict. I believe it was right” and in 2007, he repeated this sentiment, saying: “I don’t think we should be apologising at all for what we are doing in Iraq.”

Last week, The Telegraph reported the inquiry was facing more chaotic delays after a leaked memo signalled Blair had signed up to the war in Iraq a year before it started.

It has also been reported that former David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, has revealed that he challenged Blair before the war about how to avoid any chaos after Saddam’s downfall.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Mr Blair made a secret trip to the White House to broker a deal on behalf of Muammar Gaddafi that deprived British victims of Libyan terrorism of millions of pounds in compensation.

Mr Blair acted as a go-between in negotiations between Gaddafi and President George Bush over payments to terror victims, according to a senior source.

The disclosure was made as Mr Blair ignored a deadline to explain his role to a parliamentary committee investigating the deal. He was invited to respond by Friday but instead sent a letter at 6pm on the day of the deadline, asking when the deadline was.

The source said Mr Blair travelled to Washington to intervene on behalf of Gaddafi in February 2008, after first meeting the dictator in Libya.

The new evidence suggests Mr Blair, who had quit as prime minister less than a year earlier, had played an important role in negotiations between President Bush and Gaddafi.

At the time, Libya was being sued through the US courts for committing terror atrocities, and billions of pounds of Gaddafi’s assets were at risk of being frozen as part of the lawsuits.

The deal struck by President Bush and Gaddafi led to US victims receiving £1  billion in compensation , but in exchange all court cases were dropped under an act of Congress.

But British victims, who had brought cases in the US, including almost 200 families of victims of IRA terrorist attacks, were not included in the deal. Mr Blair has always insisted he had “nothing whatever to do with any compensation legislation signed by President Bush”.

See? He does not like his own people.

On July 2, 2016, The Telegraph reported that Blair would not be investigated for war crimes in Iraq, although British soldiers could be:

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will examine the Chilcot report for evidence of abuse and torture by British soldiers but have already ruled out putting Tony Blair on trial for war crimes, The Telegraph can disclose.

The decision has outraged families of troops killed in Iraq who blame Mr Blair for engineering the war.

Sir John Chilcot’s report will finally be published on Wednesday and is expected to strongly criticise Mr Blair’s role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But in an official statement to the Telegraph, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said its prosecutors would comb through the 2.3 million word report for evidence of war crimes committed by British troops but that decision to go to war remained outside its remit.

It means individual soldiers could be prosecuted for war crimes but not Mr Blair.

The ICC, based in the Hague, has begun a ‘preliminary examination’ of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.

Brexit

In 1983, a young Tony Blair, running for MP in his first election standing in Sedgefield, pledged to support leaving the EU.

A campaign leaflet of his from that year surfaced, as a regional paper for the North East of England, The Chronicle, discovered:

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair hasn’t half changed his tune on Brexit since the heady days of 1983.

A campaign leaflet from Mr Blair’s first election standing in Sedgefield in 1983 has resurfaced online.

In the Labour literature, the bouffanted Oxford University graduate declares he wants to leave the European Economic Community, which later became the EU.

The pamphlet said: “We’ll negotiate a withdrawal from the E.E.C. which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs.”

On June 26, 2016, three days after the Brexit referendum, Blair pledged to seek a second referendum. Obviously, the British people are too stupid to handle such issues via the ballot box.

The Evening Standard reported:

When asked on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme about the possibility of another vote, he said: “As I’m looking at it here, I can’t see how we can do that.

But, you know, the point is, why rule anything out right now? As I say, you are going to have a reality to test yourself against.”

Blair said the nation needs to “see the consequences” of Brexit as they play out in the coming weeks and months.

“I can’t see how you would go through all of the mechanics of another referendum now,” he continued. I just can’t see it.

“But on the other hand I also think there will be a lot of people in the country who will say ‘well, let’s have a look at this and see what we are going to do’ and Parliament will want to look at it.”

Blair was still at it a year later, asking for a delay to Brexit negotiations:

In 2019, Blair asked for a second referendum, claiming it would be ‘healing’. Oh, my:

A month later, this Brexit poll appeared, which the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change conducted:

Hilarious!

It should be noted that Blair did not offer British voters a referendum on the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice during his time in office:

Do we need any further proof that Blair dislikes the British people? Perhaps we do.

Migration to UK unexpected

Then there was the issue of migration to the UK, which Blair facilitated during his time as PM.

On March 19, 2017, Tony Blair said he did not anticipate the number of migrants who would come to the UK when he opened the borders to European workers.

The Telegraph reported:

The former Labour leader relaxed immigration controls in 2004 after 10 new nations including Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, were admitted to the EU.

He tried to play down the significance of opening Britain’s borders, arguing that most EU migrants came to the UK after 2008.

However, official figures show that the number of EU migrants who came to Britain rose from just 15,000 in 2003 to 87,000 the following year. That figure increased to 104,000 in 2006 and 127,000 in 2007.

Mr Blair also made a factual error by suggesting that he could only have imposed transitional controls, temporarily barring migrants for four years.

In fact other EU nations including Germany introduced the measures for up to seven years.

Those numbers, which continued to increase through subsequent years, represent one small city per year in the UK.

——————————————————–

What has Tony Blair done to deserve the Order of the Garter? Nothing whatsoever.

Many years ago, Chicago’s PBS station ran a late-night show on Saturdays featuring newspaper columnist Irv Kupcinet, who was its host.

Irv Kupcinet invited a variety of guests on to sit around a table for 90 minutes to discuss current events.

He mentioned ‘the lively art of conversation’ in every show. Despite the controversial topics, his guests managed to engage with him and each other in an intelligent and considered way. Perhaps that was because Kupcinet set the tone with his own conversational style. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall anyone ever walking off the show or being told to calm down.

Nearly 50 years on, things have changed drastically.

We’re at the point where we cannot discuss much, even around the relative safety of the dinner table.

On November 22, 2021, The Times‘s India Knight discussed this unfortunate state of affairs in ‘Our children are losing the ability to argue’. She means making a reasoned, fact-based argument for or against something, e.g. climate change.

I fully appreciated her experience as a youngster, because it paralleled my own (emphases mine):

When I was growing up, the kitchen table was a place of frequent and sometimes shouty political and cultural debate. I would acquire an opinion, usually from something I’d read or watched but sometimes from someone I thought was cool, and then I would express it, often with half an eye to provocation, in the self-important teenage manner. I didn’t have the sort of parents who smile vaguely and say, “That’s nice, dear”, so I would be expected to explain why my opinion was my opinion and to defend it as it was dismantled and sometimes demolished.

My father was excellent at that: ‘If you’re going to take a stance, you’ll have to defend it a lot better than that. Come back with some facts.’

And I could also relate to India Knight’s reaction as an adolescent:

I did occasionally go off to my room in a huff, there to boil with fury at the great injustice of not being given a standing ovation every time I aired a view. But eight times out of ten the conversation was lively and thought-provoking, even enlightening (because I was a child, and children know less than adults, having lived less life). The conversations/arguments were sometimes fiery, but because I was treated as an intellectual equal, I didn’t feel belittled. I found it intriguing and satisfying to learn what the opposing point of view to mine was on any given topic, and why it was held. It taught me that people who hold different opinions from yours can still be clever, likeable and interesting; that they hold their views just as dearly as you hold yours, and that this is fine.

These days, I look back on my late parents’ viewpoints on life and politics. I consider them geniuses, because I now hold those same perspectives.

However, today’s adolescents and twenty-somethings really don’t know how to put forward their side of an argument:

Woke young people are amazing. They do care about important things in a laudable way and are indeed awake to social justice. All that is great. But you really can’t say anything any more. The kitchen table scenario I describe above is now often a fraught and tentative affair, involving many eggshells and much tiptoeing. The anxiety is all on the part of the parents. Even the gentlest, most thoughtful and cotton-woolly discussion can result in young people feeling aggressed and disrespected. The parent’s only permissible answer to, “The sky is green,” is, “Yes, that’s right.” This is never truer than in the context of gender, in which expressing the previously uncontroversial view that biology is real can instantly mark you out as a bigot, a fascist or a phobe.

Sometimes, too, big, insulting, very loaded accusations are chucked carelessly about by the children. As a result, many parents of teenagers I know — and by “many” I mean “nearly all” — feel it’s just not worth the hassle of having these conversations. And, as a result of that, an awful lot of young people don’t know how to argue their case when faced with views that differ from their own. They are able to air an opinion but not to defend it objectively or intellectually at any level.

India Knight says:

Parents must gird their loins and persevere, I think, in tiny, manageable increments. It is vital for children to understand that disagreement is not a personal attack, that holding a topic up to the light is not sinister and that saying, “You’ve just completely contradicted yourself, darling,” isn’t abusive.

I couldn’t agree more, and if more parents, like hers and mine, did that, the world would be a better place.

Unfortunately, a growing number of adults are also unable to accept differing points of view.

Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill discussed this sad phenomenon on GB News with Patrick Christys on Wednesday, December 22. He said that people are too afraid to say anything that goes against the accepted narrative. He’s right:

That was an apposite interview just before Christmas, when Britons were preparing to host family and friends around the dinner table.

Earlier that day, another GB News host, Michelle Dewberry, explored the horrid nature of the division appearing between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Tony Blair called the unvaxxed ‘idiots’ and the Archbishop of Canterbury called them ‘immoral’. Blair later walked back his use of ‘idiots’. I’m not sure the Archbishop did likewise.

In any event, Michelle Dewberry discussed this divisive controversy at the beginning of her show (from 8:25 to 11:20):

There are many reasons why people are rightly suspicious of the vaccinations. I’ve had my two shots and the booster but fully understand why others don’t want them. Most of those people can cogently explain their reasons for not doing so.

It is disappointing to see a former Prime Minister and the spiritual head of the Church of England labelling people with whom they disagree in such a parlous way. Were he alive, Irv Kupcinet would have been appalled.

Surely, they should be leading by example.

It is time to return to the lively art of conversation, but that also requires an ability to accept other perspectives, whether we’re teens or grandparents.

We know where the blame lies. We have to try and stop damaging division and emotional arguments in the best way we can. Unfortunately, it is much easier said than done, and I do not have a solution.

Sunday, June 6, 2021, was the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the Longest Day:

https://image.vuukle.com/22960bff-3d6b-4a49-a432-932c3bcb0216-0b634bbf-66d0-4fa6-87f7-d50f45ed7cf5

This map shows the landings in Normandy:

https://image.vuukle.com/42c85f62-4bbb-4aff-b15a-100d5034d7aa-ef9ba589-c623-406a-8fba-3ce6e0827859

While preparing Sunday dinner, I listened to C-SPAN’s Sunday morning show, broadcast on BBC Parliament. Sarah Rose, the author of D-Day Girls, was the guest. Her book is a novel, but she did a lot of historical research showing the intelligence work that women did behind the scenes as part of a carefully-managed international network.

The phone-in included many sons and daughters of Second World War veterans. Nearly all said that those veterans were, understandably, highly reluctant to talk about their war experiences. However, some said that their fathers or grandfathers opened up in their later years. One caller said that she has several hours of memories that she has recorded for posterity, particularly for younger family members.

With more and more of those veterans passing from this mortal coil, now is the time for children and grandchildren to record and catalogue those memories, if they can. One person who has done so is the author of Pacific Paratrooper, remembering Everett A Smith, their father. It’s an excellent website, which also documents much history about the battles and conditions in the Pacific theatre. I am delighted to have the author as one of my regular readers.

We will always remember those heroic men and women:

Incidentally, the Houses of Parliament were bombed in 1941 and had to be reconstructed authentically in the 19th century manner. Both were faithfully restored. The next tweet shows the House of Commons:

Seventy-seven years later, we are still in the grip of the coronavirus crisis and a loss of freedom the troops involved in D-Day would have found unthinkable.

In Britain, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (Labour) appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to say that Britons who have had two vaccinations should be allowed greater freedoms, thereby creating a two-tier society:

If a Conservative had said that, Marr would have heaped criticism all over him or her.

It is mystifying that Tony Blair even gets airtime on this topic. He isn’t in government, nor is his party.

It appears I am not alone, judging from the replies to this tweet:

On the topic of vaccines, Tony Blair has never said if his son Leo, born when he was in No. 10, had the MMR vaccine, which was highly controversial at the time. So, it was okay for him to refuse to give his son a vaccine that every other child born in Britain had/has to have. It is very difficult to get separate children’s vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. One imagines that Blair managed to get them for his son.

Tony Blair also wanted national ID cards. The debate raged for a few years in Parliament. Fortunately, nothing happened.

On Monday, Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist Rich, recalling the ID card debate from the Blair years, posted this:

On the topic of vaccines, the Government is talking about giving them to children. Highly dangerous, one would have thought. The Telegraph‘s Bob Moran was moved to create this cartoon a week ago:

ITV’s Good Morning Britain stoked the flames by asking whether the vaccinated should refuse to associate with the unvaccinated:

Fortunately, most Britons disagree with Good Morning Britain:

June 21 is supposed to be Freedom Day, according to the Government, with the caveat that full reopening of Britain will be based on data rather than dates.

It should come as no surprise that the Government could now backtrack on that date:

On June 1, we had no coronavirus deaths, but that did not make the news:

TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer is fed up with the delays. In fact, as the chart below from Peston shows, the UK’s actual coronavirus stats are much better than SAGE’s models:

On June 3, Portugal, the only European country on the UK’s green list for travel, was moved to the amber list, yet these charts tell a different story:

One suspects that it was only ever on the green list for the Champions League final in Porto:

Oddly, we had more freedom a year ago — with no masks and no vaccines — than we do now:

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford (Labour) says that social distancing will not be disappearing any time soon:

Data for the UK should be available on June 14, at which point the Government will announce their decision regarding June 21:

The Government have paid for coronavirus advertising and COVID marshals, extending to 2022. Former London Assembly member David Kurten tweeted a reminder:

I, too, want my country back.

In Germany, scientists from Munich University say that lockdown had no effect on the virus spread:

Something is very wrong when, in a five-minute speech on television, a prime minister or a president can remove everyone’s civil liberties at a stroke.

Monday, March 23, 2020, will be etched on my memory forever. That was the date of the UK’s first lockdown.

D-Day. Freedom Day. What has happened to us — and for a ‘pandemic’ with fatality rates no worse than influenza? We are in a very bad way, not only in the UK, but also elsewhere in the West.

This is my final post on Prince Philip, as the Queen and Princess Anne returned to work last week, just days before his funeral, but more importantly because of his own views:

The Queen

The Queen turned 95 today, Wednesday, April 21. May she have many happy returns. Prayers continue for God’s comfort to her at this difficult time:

The funeral commentators on Sky News remarked at how the Queen’s eyes always lit up when Prince Philip entered a room, even after 73 years of marriage:

She posted this photograph of herself with Prince Philip in Scotland, a nation which they loved. Muick, by the way, is pronounced ‘mick’:

The Countess of Wessex said that the Queen regarded him as her protector:

He also kept a gimlet eye on public opinion for her. One wonders how much he influenced the Queen to return to Buckingham Palace with Princes William and Harry after Princess Diana died in August 1997. As dictated by the media, we were under the impression that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair was responsible for the return of the Royal couple and their grandsons to London, but, now, one wonders:

The Queen will treasure the many memories of her husband — and his pragmatism.

Prince Philip’s practical wisdom

Prince Philip had straightforward views on various aspects of everyday life.

Attire

The Prince was probably the best dressed British man for decades. Who could top his effortless, yet classic, style of dress and accessories?

He also kept himself in trim throughout his life, which helped him maintain his sense of impeccable style:

The Daily Mail has an article with a retrospective of photos of him through the years. Although the Prince had his clothes made by top Savile Row tailors, all any man has to do is adopt the classics (emphases mine):

According to [celebrity stylist] Rochelle [White], the Duke’s suits were ‘impeccably’ tailored, with the royal selecting classic, handsome suiting; most often single-breasted jackets in navy. 

Meanwhile off-duty, the royal would often relax in a cool polo shirt and button-down linen shirts which made him ‘eye-catching’ …

Becky French, creative director of one of his preferred tailors Turnbull & Asser, told The Telegraph:Prince Philip was quite simply one of the best dressed men in the world, ‘Up until the age of 99, he always looked impeccable, with his naval blazer, shirt and tie.

‘Never a slave to fashion, he knew how he wanted to dress and perfected that style over almost a century.’ 

Brevity in public speaking

On Monday, April 12, both Houses of Parliament met to pay tribute to the Prince.

Ian Blackford (SNP) cited an excellent piece of advice from the Prince on public speaking. It is ironic that it was Blackford who found the following quote, as he speaks endlessly.

This is excellent — and so true:

What the backside cannot endure, the brain cannot absorb.

Fools

Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, a former MP, told Freddie Sayers of UnHerd that Prince Philip did not suffer fools gladly:

Honesty

A former Royal butler said much the same thing as Sir Nicholas Soames, adding that the Prince spoke as he found. As such, he enjoyed working for the Prince, because he told one exactly what he wanted, politely but succinctly:

Stiff upper lip

Prince Philip was a ‘stiff upper lip’, ‘old school’ gentleman:

However, as the generations pass, personal conduct changes:

Spiked‘s Tim Black referred to the interview with Sir Nicholas Soames above, writing (emphases mine):

As Tory grandee Nicholas Soames put it this week, Philip was ‘the epitome of the stiff upper lip’.

But so were many others of Philip’s generation. Because maintaining a stiff upper lip, remaining in control of one’s emotions, especially in public, was long considered by many to be a mark of one’s character. It was something to be cultivated, worked on. Because it meant that one was able to act according to something beyond one’s own impulses. It meant that one was committing oneself to something – a duty to others, perhaps, or to an idea or a cause – over and above one’s feelings. To not be in control of one’s emotions, to succumb easily to tears or anger, was the mark of a lack of character, a sign of immaturity.

Tim Black is right. Maintaining a stiff upper lip is hard work: no two ways about it.

Sense of duty

Tim Black pointed out that the Prince was devoted to duty:

You don’t have to be a fan of the monarchy – and we at spiked are not – to mourn the passing of the character represented by Prince Philip. ‘Everyone has to have a sense of duty’, he told an interviewer in 1992. ‘A duty to society, to their family.’ Too many in high places, it seems, only have a duty to themselves.

I think it is incumbent upon us to rediscover this lost virtue.

Some of Prince Philip’s duties involved recognising others for their achievements. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recalled the Prince giving his father an award in 1970:

Interviews: never discuss yourself

Gyles Brandreth, a former Conservative MP, has written two books about the Royal Family. After the Prince’s death, the Daily Mail asked him what the Queen’s consort thought of Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah.

The Sun reported:

Gyles Brandreth told the Daily Mail the fact the interview was aired while Philip was is in hospital “did not trouble him”.

But he added: “What did worry him was the couple’s preoccupation with their own problems and their willingness to talk about them in public.

Give TV interviews by all means,’ he said, ‘but don’t talk about yourself.

That was one of his rules. I know he shared it with his children. I imagine he shared it with his grandchildren, too.”

The royal biographer revealed Philip, who died on Friday aged 99, thought the interview was “madness”.

Mr Brandeth also said Philip believed his grandson was a “good man” but regretted his decision to step down as a senior royal.

Prince Philip gave many interviews. In the following one from 1995, he discussed his memories of the Second World War. Remarkably, revealing little about himself, he spoke of the various ships on which he served and the tension surrounding battle. Whilst conversational, he speaks so well in recalling so many details that might as well be narrating a documentary. This is a marvellous video, especially for people interested in the war in the Pacific:

Food

Probably the only time Prince Philip and the Queen disagreed was when it came to their meals.

A former Royal chef, Darren McGrady, who now works in the United States, says that the Queen ate to live, whereas the Prince lived to eat. As such, the Prince did not mind if the Queen had a dinner engagement elsewhere, because he could request what he wanted from the kitchen.

The Queen doesn’t like garlic. Prince Philip did. Sometimes McGrady prepared the same dinner two different ways: garlic-free for the Queen and extra garlic for the Prince. McGrady discusses the subject here:

Both were known to bring back recipes from their international tours for the Royal chefs to prepare once they were back in the UK.

In the next video, McGrady relates his first meeting with the Prince, whom he mistook for the gardener because of his scruffy, well-worn clothes. Here he prepares one of the Prince’s favourite dishes, salmon coulibiac, a Russian form of salmon en croute:

In this next video, McGrady said that the Prince did not suffer fools gladly. He was no stranger to the Royal kitchens, stopping in to ask what was being served and, during the summer, what fruit was ripening. McGrady said that the Prince already knew what was in the gardens, therefore, the staff had to know, too. Prince Philip taught McGrady how to remove mango fruit with a spoon. Another favourite dish of his was Icelandic pancakes, filled with jam and folded in half. The recipe is at the 6:47 mark:

Those who knew him, including Darren McGrady, said that the Prince enjoyed barbecuing — whatever the weather. One of the Sky News funeral commentators said that the Prince held a barbecue in freezing weather one January. The Prince loved it; his guests were polite — and cold.

The Prince also went in for fancier meats to grill outdoors, such as lamb noisettes. He found steaks rather ordinary, McGrady says.

Gordonstoun

On April 12, the Daily Mail revealed previously undisclosed details about Prince Philip’s schooldays at Gordonstoun (pron. ‘Gordons-town’) in Scotland. The article comes complete with photographs. He was Prince Philip of Greece at the time, with no surname.

Although he could be mischievous, he always wanted to do better in his studies and school activities:

The Duke of Edinburgh‘s old boarding school has released his report cards which reveal ‘he was naughty, but never nasty’.

The report from the £40,000-per-year Gordonstoun in Moray was written for the Duke’s marriage to The Queen in 1947.

Headmaster Kurt Hahn’s notes also reveal a comical incident when the young prince nearly knocked over a young woman with a pram – but his apology was ‘irresistible’.

The school has educated three generations of the UK Royal Family – including Prince Philip, who joined at the age of 13. 

Gordonstoun – which featured in Netflix’s hit series ‘The Crown’ – was founded by Dr Hahn, who fled Nazi Germany and became an inspiring mentor to Philip. 

When Philip came to Gordonstoun ‘his marked trait was his undefeatable spirit, he felt deeply both joy and sadness, and the way he looked and the way he moved indicated what he felt’

Dr Hahn noted of the young pupil: ‘He had grown impatient of what for short may be called Royalty nonsense. After matches and theatrical performances, people often asked him for an autograph. He found this ridiculous and on one occasion signed himself ”The Earl of Baldwin”, to the bewilderment of the autograph-hunter.’ 

He also reveals Philip had ‘meticulous attention to detail’ and was ‘never content with mediocre results’ … 

Sarah Ferguson

It seems that the only person the Prince was not keen on was Sarah Ferguson.

While the Queen is quite fond of her — Andrew being her favourite child — the Prince preferred to keep her at arm’s length.

My older readers might remember when, in 1992, photos of her lover sucking her toes circulated around the world. Prince Philip decided that was the moment she was persona non grata.

On April 13, Gyles Brandreth wrote an article for the Daily Mail on the Prince’s views of Fergie:

On the whole, Prince Philip was reasonably circumspect when talking about his children and their relationships — except in the case of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

He spoke with real affection of their daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, but he made no secret of the fact that he regarded Sarah, Duchess of York, as ‘simply beyond the pale’.

One day in the summer of 1992, while she was staying at Balmoral with the Queen and Prince Philip, photographs had appeared in a daily newspaper of Sarah topless and having her toes sucked by a lover in the South of France.

The Duke of Edinburgh decided that, as far as he was concerned, ‘enough was enough’. He did not want — or need — to have anything more to do with her.

For the remainder of Sarah’s stay at Balmoral, his actions spoke louder than words. ‘It was ridiculous,’ she told me. ‘As soon as I came in through one door, he’d be falling over the corgis to get out of the other. It was very funny. Except, of course, it wasn’t.’

After Sarah’s separation from Prince Andrew, the Queen continued to have tea with her from time to time.

But Prince Philip was resolute: he had no desire to see her again.

This Sarah knew and it pained her. ‘Of course I want to see him,’ she told me after her divorce. ‘I am the mother of his granddaughters, after all.’

I raised this with Prince Philip, but he just shrugged and said: ‘But the children come and stay.’

When I asked him why he wouldn’t see Sarah, he said: ‘I am not vindictive.’ Then, looking at me directly, he added emphatically: ‘I am not vindictive, but I don’t see the point.’ That Andrew and Sarah appeared to remain friends after their separation — and that they shared a home even after their divorce — seemed to him ‘truly bizarre’.

‘I don’t pretend to understand it,’ he said.

Sarah, however, kept trying to mend bridges … 

I’m with Prince Philip on that. I could never understand Fergie and Andrew’s relationship. I still don’t.

On April 15, The Sun reported that both Sarah and Andrew have been seen with the Queen:

They have been making the short drive from Royal Lodge to Windsor Castle, sometimes twice a day, to walk with the Queen and her new corgis.

However, Andrew has been warned to forget plans to use his public appearances as a springboard back into royal duty.

Royal watchers believe Philip’s passing aged 99 boosts the chances of Fergie making a comeback after years in the wilderness.

Now her husband has departed, the Queen, who has a soft spot for her former daughter-in-law, might be more open to the idea of her and Andrew returning to a more prominent role within the Firm.

Princess Anne

Prince Philip was closest to his daughter Anne.

Princess Anne’s own children have praised her as a mother. She gave her father full credit:

The Prince might have been no-nonsense, but he had fun, especially with three generations of Royal children.

This is a priceless little video:

He also kept his children amused on car trips:

Princess Anne survived a kidnapping attempt in 1974:

Prince Philip was no stranger to Royal weddings. On the right hand side of the photo montage, he walked Princess Margaret down the aisle (George VI had died a few years beforehand) and, in 1973, Princess Anne:

So that Anne would smile walking down the aisle, the Prince cracked one of his usual jokes, which made her laugh:

This was the happy result:

Here’s a close up of her gown, which has attracted much favourable comment.

After her father’s death, Princess Anne released a statement, along with a photo:

Three days later, she was back at work:

Great-grandchildren

Members of the Royal Family have posted some splendid photos of Prince Philip with his great-grandchildren.

Here he is taking Prince George for a carriage ride:

The next photo shows the Prince sharing a bite to eat with Princess Anne’s granddaughter. Click to see it in full — absolutely charming:

This group photo was taken in 2018 and made the front page of the Daily Express on Thursday, April 15:

More tributes

The Daily Mail has an article recapping pre-recorded interviews with Prince Philip’s children. These were broadcast after he died. ITV has more, complete with longer clips.

The Royal Family also posted a multi-generational photo montage.

Prince William wrote that his grandfather shared his life at all times:

both through good times and the hardest days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and fellow MPs paid tribute on Monday, April 12, as did members of the House of Lords. A number of their anecdotes are not only interesting but also amusing. In the devolved assemblies, including Northern Ireland, the only person who had anything negative to say was Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens.

Conclusion

In closing, I do wish that the general public had known more about Prince Philip while he was alive. We could have had an even fuller recollection of his life and service, not only to the UK but also to the Commonwealth.

Will there ever be another like him? We might be waiting a century or more. The only other Royal consort who was mentioned in the many tributes was Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. He died in 1861.

With that in mind, it will be up to us to emulate the best of Prince Philip’s example. Adopting a stiff upper lip would be a great start. So would feeling a sense of duty towards others.

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.

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.

Happy New Year!

Happy new decade!

I enjoy, albeit with trepidation at times, looking back at the decades I’ve lived through and charting the change from beginning to end.

O tempora, o mores!

1960s

In 1960, growing up in the United States, I remember that things were still quite formal. Most people took care in the way they spoke and in their appearance. They were careful to conduct their households in a respectable manner. By the middle of the decade, that began to change but not too noticeably.

By 1968, a social revolution was underway, including sexually. What was once private became public. Attire reflected that. Women began wearing skirts above the knee. Men’s clothes became more form-fitting.

Sloppiness and drugs became fashionable with the advent of hippies. Even though they were a small minority, they received a lot of media coverage. A slogan connected with them — ‘If it feels good, do it’ — began to pervade society at large.

Cinema and television reflected this change.

At home, Americans moved from watching westerns to tuning into a zany comedy hour. In 1960, Gunsmoke was the most viewed programme. In 1969, it was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Gunsmoke had moved to sixth place in the Nielsen ratings.

Film genres and themes also shifted. In 1960, the great epics were popular, with Spartacus the highest grossing film and Exodus coming third. Psycho was second. In 1969, while Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was in the top slot, Midnight Cowboy was at No. 3, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was No. 6 and an X-rated movie, I Am Curious (Yellow) was No. 12. It would have been unthinkable in 1960 that an urban drama about homosexuality, a movie about swingers and one that was pornographic would have been so popular nine years later.

1970s

The cultural shift continued in the 1970s. American magazines and newspapers devoted many column inches to social drop-outs experimenting with communal living. Swingers were becoming popular in suburbia. Again, those were two small sub-groups of society, but everyone — even the most respectable — knew about these two phenomena.

Pop music got bolder, more sexualised. I remember in high school that we talked a lot about sex and could hardly wait to start dating so that we could experiment. Our parents wondered what was wrong with us. The idea of sin and the forbidden went out the window. ‘If it feels good, do it’ had spread to the middle classes. Previously forbidden carnal acts were encouraged as being completely ‘natural’. This furthered the evolution of a shame-free society. Today, I read that some teenagers don’t kiss on a first date; instead they engage in oral sex.

Interestingly, one of the most suggestive singers of the decade, Eric Carmen of the Raspberries, laments where this has led today:

I remember neighbours of ours getting divorced. The wife said that she could earn her own living now, thank you very much. The husband was heartbroken. We felt sorry for their two children. Until then, my family and I personally did not know any couples who got divorced. It just didn’t happen to everyday individuals. However, divorce rates continued to rise and, these days, no one bats an eyelid.

More women started working. What began as a liberating elective would turn out to be a mandatory means of survival in marriage in the years that followed. Few of us knew that then, though.

Returning to music, it was a great decade for youngsters. FM radio produced rather excellent stations devoted to little known genres that never reached Top 40 AM stations. Through them, we discovered prog rock from Britain: Yes, Rick Wakeman, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, to name but three musical greats. There were many more, too numerous to mention here.

Near the end of the decade we had disco. Saturday Night Fever was a huge box office hit and propelled John Travolta from television (Welcome Back Kotter) to cinema fame.

The most popular television sitcoms, such as Welcome Back Kotter, were all set in metropolitan areas. In terms of television in general, The Waltons was probably the only show with a rural setting.

Halfway through the decade, I spent a year in France, which was much quieter than the US socially and still quite formal, even though the more leftist state university students were generally unkempt and unwashed. In many respects, the country was a bridge between the 1960s and the 1970s in the nicest possible way.

1980s

Leaving university, I recall that many of my friends latched onto the Reagan zeitgeist and became conservatives.

They turned into their parents and lost the fun-loving verve they once had. I stayed single the longest, so was more acutely aware of a shift into respectability and suburban living.

I lived in a major US city then, earning my own way in life. For relaxation, I used to go to matinees at the weekend. The price of admission was cheaper and the cinemas were nearly empty, giving me the impression I had the big screen all to myself.

I saw a lot of world films in the first part of that decade, some from Brazil and Australia but mostly Britain and France. French film became a passion. Even one of the UHF television channels showed French films from the 1950s. Bliss.

As far as music was concerned, my favourite FM station played British and European singles apart from reggae on Sunday afternoons. More bliss.

Then, around 1986, something began to change. Although my favourite radio station stayed the same, the movie theatres weren’t showing as many foreign films. Within a couple of years, they stopped showing them altogether. One of my lifelines had vanished, sadly. The American films that replaced them were not very good, either, so I stopped going to the cinema.

Everything became very one-dimensional. America, somehow, had lost the link with the zeitgeist of European culture, which it never recovered. It used to be that people in the 1960s and early 1970s made a two- or three-week trip to western Europe to see the historic sites they learned about in school. It was what we today would call a bucket list item.

Fortunately, by the end of the decade, employment events intervened — and further improved — for me.

1990s

Living in England, I realised that I had an insatiable appetite for history and politics. I learned a lot about both thanks to a gift subscription to The Spectator, which I had read about in English lit class in high school. It’s been around since 1828.

In 1990s, my in-laws told me that Margaret Thatcher’s time was up. She had become too full of herself. We had high hopes for John Major.

I remember the 1992 election, which Major won handily. I could not understand the rage of my female colleagues who expected Neil Kinnock to win. They stayed up all night drinking, waiting for a Labour government that never came. The next day, at work, they were hungover, tearful — and, above all, angry. Why did they think he stood a chance? Perhaps I had been reading too much of The Spectator, but I had no doubt that Major would continue as Prime Minister.

By 1997, most of us felt change was needed. The Conservative MPs on the front bench seemed like tired, bloated bureaucrats. None of them had an original idea. Most seemed to be lining their own pockets. I was most consterned by Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley, who started closing A&E (Accident and Emergency) services at local hospitals. What was she thinking?

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, nearly everyone I knew rejoiced. Change was coming.

And how …

2000s

The first few years of Labour were fine. I was enjoying my work too much to pay any attention.

By 2005, I longed for a Conservative government, especially when Gordon Brown became PM with no general election.

After that, Labour became unbearable, banging on about people’s personal lives and habits. The smoking ban came into force in the summer of 2007. Ministers assured us in television interviews that private members clubs and hotels would be exempt. No, not at all. It was a blanket ban everywhere.

It was during this decade that London elected its first mayor, Ken Livingstone. He served two terms and introduced the city-wide congestion charge for motor vehicles, which we called the Kengestion Charge. My colleagues at the time reminded me that, as head of the old GLA (Greater London Authority), he was known as Red Ken.

Boris Johnson succeeded him, also serving two terms. His administration made the streets tidy again and also lowered crime.

By 2006, I started looking more closely at the EU and the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels who seemed to rule our lives. I agreed with those disgruntled Britons who wanted a referendum on our membership.

Most of all, however, I was sick and tired of Labour, to the point of despair.

I also asked my far better half to cancel my gift subscription to the The Spectator, as it had changed its editorial line considerably after Boris Johnson left as editor. Although more people now read it, it is a former shadow of itself. I would not call it neither conservative nor traditional at all any more.

2010s

Hope came in the May 2010 general election.

The Conservatives had to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. It was the David Cameron and Nick Clegg Show, but at least Labour were out of the picture after 13 years.

David Cameron referred to himself as the ‘heir to Blair’. It took me some time to see it, but he was not wrong.

He set out to reform the Conservative Party and alienated older, faithful members in their local associations. CCHQ suddenly did not need their help.

On a broader level, Cameron will probably be best remembered for opening up marriage to same-sex couples and for offering us the EU referendum, billed by all parties as a ‘once in a lifetime’ choice which they all pledged to implement.

A number of televised debates took place in 2016. I watched them all. Some of my friends were less than convinced by the Leave proposition. The one clincher was Brexit The Movie, which is an hour-long eye-opener about the Brussels gravy train and better than any of the debates, no matter how good:

I stayed up until the early hours of the morning of Friday, June 24, 2016 to watch the result. When it was clear that Leave had won, I went to bed. The next day, my far better half and I woke up to Cameron resigning because he did not like the result. We had a celebratory lunch in London and went to a party that evening that had been planned months earlier. I remember the apprehension we both felt about sounding out the other party guests as to their views on the EU. We later discovered that were not alone. Finally, someone there broke the ice upon his arrival by exclaiming:

Is everybody HAPPY? I certainly am!

At that point, we were free to talk about Brexit.

Theresa May became Prime Minister later that summer.

Across the pond, another sea change was happening: Donald Trump’s candidacy. It was even more of a shock when he won. A startled nation awoke to find that Hillary Clinton was not their president.

The conflicts about Brexit and Trump continue today. Opponents to both have grown ever more vehement.

On September 20, 2019, the British website Spiked issued a thought-provoking documentary on Trump and Brexit. It’s 26-minutes long and well worth watching. To cover Brexit, their reporters interviewed residents of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. To cover the Trump phenomenon, they interviewed Pennsylvania journalist Salena Zito and residents of Erie, which was once a major industrial powerhouse in that state. It has fallen on very hard times, indeed:

The major theme running through both is, as they put it, ‘change’, which I believe they should have called ‘self determination’ and ‘recovering the aspirational dream’.

One thing that struck me was the interview with the owner of a gym in Erie. He said that his father raised seven children on a janitor’s salary:

You couldn’t do that now.

Too right. Both parents now have to work — unlike in the 1960s — and few households can support more than two or three children.

People in Britain and the United States want to work and save more of their hard-earned cash. They also want good job opportunities for their children.

A fisherman in Southend said that, because of EU rules, he is restricted to an ever-smaller part of waters in which to fish. The number of fishing boats has continued to decline, he added, and the number of fisherman has also dropped dramatically. That is why he, and many others in Southend, voted Leave in 2016.

The decade closed with Boris Johnson’s landslide victory on December 12. Historian David Starkey explores what this means for the nation in this 57-minute documentary from The Sun, ably conducted by a young reporter:

Starkey explores the evolution of Parliament since Victorian times, when it became the institution we know today. As many Northern constituencies flipped from Labour to Conservative, Starkey says that Boris’s pledge to revitalise the North will mean little unless he espouses their values of patriotism, which, he says, has been a dirty word for many years.

He says that Boris could well become a figure like Charles II, who restored the monarchy beginning in 1660. Many of their personality traits are similar, he notes, particularly their penchant for bringing a nation together and reforming it at the same time. It is well worth watching when you have the opportunity.

There is much more to Starkey’s interview than summarised here. He talks about the people of the North, Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, David Cameron, Tony Blair and, significantly, Benjamin Disraeli. Starkey hopes that the PM will study his Victorian predecessor’s successes closely.

With that, I must close for now. There are many developments over the past 60 years that I have not mentioned. This is merely to give an idea about the direction that Western society took as the decades rolled on.

Welcome to 2020. Let’s hope it brings many good tidings. I wish all of us the very best.

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