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Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, 2022, were a time of fun and frolic, ending the four-day Platinum Jubilee holiday.

As delightful as it was, unfortunately, the first news item on Monday morning was that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would undergo a vote of confidence early that evening.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, the Conservative group of backbench MPs, made the announcement at 8 a.m.:

He gave a short press conference outside the Palace of Westminster:

Brady had already received 54 letters from Conservative backbenchers, the minimum number of no confidence letters needed — 15% of Conservative MPs — in order to trigger the vote:

He had received most of them before the Platinum Jubilee celebrations started. He probably has more than 54 letters; someone on GB News said that he had received 83.

Sir Graham arranged a time for Boris to have right of reply to his party’s MPs, scheduled for 4 p.m.

GB News interviewed a number of Conservative MPs during the day. Those supporting Boris said that MPs calling for him to stand down are either Remainers, those who never liked him, those who never received a Cabinet post and those who fell out with him and were reshuffled from Cabinet. Some of the MPs falling into the last three categories voted for Brexit.

It’s a pity that Boris’s premiership has been far from perfect, unlike the resplendent appearance of the Duchess of Cambridge:

Most of the viewers writing into GB News are Boris supporters. This was the result of Dan Wootton’s Monday night poll on whether Boris should lead the Conservatives into the next election (2023 or, more likely, 2024):

Jacob Rees-Mogg, former Leader of the House and current Minister for Brexit Opportunities, tweeted that rebel MPs should remember that voters elected Conservative MPs, i.e. Boris, therefore, for MPs to depose him implies that people’s votes do not count. As such, Conservatives could lose the next election largely for that reason:

UPDATE — The 1922 Committee announced the result of the vote at 9 p.m. Boris has won but not by as big a margin as John Major in the 1990s or Theresa May a few years ago:

Speaking after Sir Graham Brady announced the vote result, Boris said that the Government can move on and focus on the things that ‘really matter’:

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a monarchist, no doubt thoroughly enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee weekend and tweeted a Telegraph editorial which said that the Queen has increased the UK’s love of the monarchy:

Interestingly, the editorial is dated June 1, the day before the long weekend.

However, it was spot on, because Jubilees have united the nation like nothing else, other than the Olympics and Paralympics. This is why (emphases mine):

Since we have no national day in the United Kingdom, the four significant jubilees of the Queen’s reign have each served to reassert a patriotism that is always present but only occasionally allowed to flourish.

People need events such as these to feel a sense of belonging beyond our immediate family, neighbourhood or region. To manifest itself through the Queen, rather than a nebulous concept of nationhood, makes it more personal – a relationship that is never possible between citizens and an elected politician.

While a proportion of her subjects will recall the reign of her father, or even her uncle and maybe her grandfather, for the vast majority of the population the Queen is the only head of state we have known – a constant companion through our entire lives, the still point in an often turbulent world.

In a statement in February to mark her accession, the Queen signed off as “Your Servant”, which is how she has always seen herself. As the heir-presumptive in 1947, still not expecting to take the throne for many years, she gave a radio broadcast to declare: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Mercifully, it has turned out to be a long life and Her Majesty has more than lived up to the pledge she gave then

With that, let us look at the Jubilee events of Saturday, June 4.

The Queen did not attend one of her favourite racing events, the Epsom Derby. She watched it on television instead:

The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, represented her mother at Epsom. I do wish Anne could succeed her. She does so much unsung work for charity — and we have no idea what she thinks about climate change:

Forty jockeys wore the Queen’s silks in honour of her 70-year reign. She has met some of them:

Princess Anne was not the only member of the Royal Family representing the Queen in the UK that day.

Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, travelled to Northern Ireland for official engagements:

The following video shows the Queen on her previous visits to the province also known as Ulster:

The Cambridges had an equally busy day, especially the children.

The Countess of Cambridge, better known as Kate, made cupcakes with the children for a Sunday street party in Cardiff:

The family also visited Cardiff on Saturday:

In the evening, they attended the concert, the Platinum Party at the Palace:

Earlier, while in Cardiff, they were able to meet performers and planners for the Welsh contribution to the concert:

As happened during the Diamond Jubilee, the concert was a true son et lumière — sound and light — experience:

There was a terrific light show with drones. This bit with a corgi dropping a bone is amusing:

Although the Queen was in absentia, she opened the show with a brilliant comedy sketch she secretly recorded in March with Paddington Bear.

The Sunday Times has the story:

At 96, the Queen showed she has lost none of her humour, starring in a surprise televised sketch with the fictional bear from darkest Peru. The skit opened the Platinum Party at the Palace, a live concert at Buckingham Palace broadcast by the BBC.

It echoed the James Bond spoof at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, in which she and her corgis appeared with the actor Daniel Craig at the palace, and the Queen later appeared to jump out of a helicopter and parachute into the stadium.

During her encounter with Paddington in the crimson drawing room at Windsor Castle, the Queen laughed as the clumsy bear caused chaos, accidentally depriving her of a cup of tea, glugging directly from the spout of the teapot and spraying her footman with cream from a chocolate éclair.

As he showed Her Majesty the marmalade sandwiches he stores under his red hat, the Queen prised open her black Launer handbag, confiding, “I keep mine in here,” before closing her bag and wryly observing: “For later.”

Paddington, who is created with CGI and voiced by the actor Ben Whishaw, congratulated the Queen on her historic reign, wishing her a “happy jubilee, Ma’am” and adding: “And thank you. For everything.” The Queen replied: “That’s very kind.”

The Queen has worn Launer handbags since 1968. She awarded them with a Royal Warrant many years ago and visited their factory in 1992. A Launer is hardly a handbag in which one would store marmalade sandwiches.

The sketch had to segue perfectly into Queen’s — the band’s — performance:

Rosie Alison, of Heyday Films, which produced the two Paddington films and is making a third this year, said: “Filming Her Majesty’s tea party with Paddington Bear was such an emotional day for the entire crew. All of us were in awe of the Queen’s wit, warmth and radiant aura as she patiently engaged with a polite, clumsy but very well-intentioned bear. Of course, she shone, and put all of us at ease.”

Mark Sidaway, executive producer of the BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace, said: “We were thrilled and honoured when we learnt Her Majesty had agreed to run with this touching yet joyful idea the team had come up with — although it was slightly nerve-racking ensuring it all blended seamlessly with the live performance from Queen.”

One of my readers, Sylvia, sent in the link to a Mail article which has a link to the full video and terrific concert photos. Many thanks, Sylvia!

This version has the addition of the Monarch and Paddington Bear tapping their tea cups to Queen’s opening number. We also get a glimpse of the crowd as it was at that moment:

Here are more scenes from the concert, which featured much musical talent from past and present, including Rod Stewart, Elton John, Duran Duran and Diana Ross. The following video shows more of the drone light displays, which were amazing:

At the concert, Princes Charles and William paid tribute to the Queen.

What follows comes from The Sunday Times report.

William spoke first:

Earlier in the evening, Prince William, 39, an ardent environmentalist, used his tribute to hail his grandmother’s calls over the years to protect the planet and spoke of his “pride” that “my grandfather and my father have been part of those efforts”. Sir David Attenborough also gave a tribute praising the royal family’s commitment to conservationism.

Before William appeared on stage, the German composer Hans Zimmer and an orchestra performed a specially arranged version of the Planet Earth II Suite, followed by a performance by the Royal Ballet, as words from the Queen’s 1989 Christmas message, focusing on the environment, were broadcast: “The future of all life on Earth depends on how we behave towards one another and how we treat the plants and animals that share our world with us. We share the Earth as human beings. All of us. And together as the nations of the world will leave it to our children and children’s children. We must be kind to it for their sake.”

William called his grandmother the Queen ‘of hope’:

A clip from the Queen’s message to COP26 last year was also shown.

Charles said, in part:

Taking to the stage in front of Buckingham Palace, which was illuminated with images of the Queen personally chosen by Charles, the prince was cheered by a crowd of more than 20,000 as he addressed his mother, who was watching on television from Windsor Castle.

“Your family now spans four generations. You are our head of state. And you are also our mother … Looking back, we think of the countless state occasions that are milestones along this nation’s road. And you will think of red boxes, filled with government papers, at the end of the day … We think of all you have done to make the Commonwealth such an important force for good. You continue to make history” …

“I know what really gets my mother up in the morning is all of you, watching at home.

“You have met us and talked to us. You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us, for these 70 years. You pledged to serve your whole life — you continue to deliver. That is why we are here. That is what we celebrate tonight. These pictures on your house are the story of your life — and ours. So, your Majesty, that is why we all say thank you.”

He ended his tribute by calling for “three cheers for Her Majesty”.

Here is the video:

Members of the Royal Family were out in force. The Sussexes did not attend, however.

Many politicians also attended, including Boris and his wife Carrie, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband, the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The weather in London held out for Saturday. However, all changed overnight.

I’ll cover Sunday’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant tomorrow.

It came as no surprise that the Conservatives fared poorly in the 2022 local elections on Thursday, May 5.

England

In England, the major headline was that the Liberal Democrats lived up to their slogan of ‘Winning here’ for the first time in quite a while.

They were the big beneficiaries of English votes where local councillors stood this year (many councils held elections in 2021):

Labour’s big wins were in London, where they won three longstanding Conservative councils for the first time: Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet.

It will be interesting to see how these London boroughs fare under Labour. In Lambeth, council tax for a Band D property is £1,502 per annum. Under the Conservatives, Wandsworth’s was £800 per annum. Guido has a photo of a street in each of those council areas, where one can see a discernable difference in low-spend, high service council delivery.

Here’s a Twitter exchange on the subject, focusing on Wandsworth:

The Croydon Council mention is interesting. It went from Labour to Conservative on Thursday, something I thought I’d never see.

Outside of London, Labour had little traction, especially in Red Wall areas, with the exception of the newly created Cumberland council.

Guido Fawkes has a good analysis, excerpted below (emphases in the original):

Whilst it was obviously terrible for the Tories that they lost nearly 500 seats, now all the votes are in and the dust has settled, did Labour advance as the Tories retreated? They actually did relatively poorly.

Labour’s electoral performance outside their M25 enclave saw them gain just 22 councillors across England. That’s it. While the Tories’ results were obviously weak – although not at their worst expectations – any attempts to spin the numbers will have to contend with the fact that the LibDems, the Greens, and even independent candidates gained more net seats than Labour. Labour’s wins in London will be small beer when it comes to a general election …

Winning a net gain of just 22 councillors, and gaining control of the same number of councils as the LibDems, is not a strong showing. William Hague managed to do better in 2001, when the Tories won 120 seats and 5 councils – a consolation prize for getting pummelled in the general election the same day. 

Even within the capital, however, there are warning signs for Labour. While they pop champagne over wins in Westminster, Barnet, and Wandsworth, their losses in Croydon and Harrow to the Tories, and Tower Hamlets to Lutfur Rahman [Independent] should raise a few eyebrows. Losing Tower Hamlets to a man who was temporarily banned from office over corruption isn’t exactly promising…

For the Conservatives, the most damaging losses were in previously loyal areas now called the Blue Wall, e.g. the Home Counties just outside of London, the south coast and parts of the West Country.

Late on Friday, The Guardian reported (purple emphases mine):

Boris Johnson’s leadership is facing fresh peril after senior Conservatives blamed him for losing swaths of the party’s southern heartlands to the Liberal Democrats and flagship London boroughs to Labour.

In a punishing set of local elections for the Tories, the party lost about 400 council seats, ceding control of Westminster and Wandsworth in London to Labour for the first time since the 1970s, and plunging to its worst position in Scotland for a decade.

Conservative MPs and council leaders questioned Johnson’s leadership, demanding action to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild trust in the wake of the Partygate scandal after a damaging series of losses across the “blue wall” in Somerset, Kent, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

However, the scale of the Tory backlash was tempered by a mixed picture for Labour, which showed progress, but not enough yet to suggest a landslide for Keir Starmer in a general election. A BBC projection for a general election based on Friday’s results put Labour on 291 seats, the Conservatives on 253, the Lib Dems on 31 and others on 75.

Labour had a very strong result in London and took some southern councils such as Worthing, Crawley and Southampton

The Lib Dems also had a clearly successful election night in England, adding at least 189 seats. They took control of the new unitary authority in Somerset, previously a Tory stronghold, edged out the Conservatives in Portsmouth, and pushed them out of control in West Oxfordshire. The Greens also performed well, winning 81 seats – more than doubling their number of councillors – as voters also turned to independents and residents’ associations.

Going back to Tuesday, May 3, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP alleged that Labour and the Lib Dems had a ‘pact’, whereby Labour did not put forward a candidate in every council election, deferring to the Lib Dems in order to win against the Conservatives. This is because England uses FPTP (First Past The Post) voting.

Pictured are the Lib Dems’ Ed Davey on the left and Labour’s Keir Starmer on the right:

Guido has the story along with a video of a Lib Dem woman who confirms such a plan:

There are clearly tactical Lib-Lab stand downs going on around the country. Tory chairman Oliver Dowden claims that in the South West, Labour are standing candidates in 61% of seats compared to 97% in 2018. In the South East, Labour are standing candidates in 88% of seats compared to 99% in 2018.  In the North East, the LibDems are standing in just 56% of seats, down from 78% four years ago. Labour is standing in 99% of seats in the area. “These shifts”, claims Dowden, “are far too substantial to be a mere coincidence”. In response Starmer says “There is no pact, everybody knows there is no pact” …

This LibDem organiser in Cumbria gives the game away about what is happening at local level. Labour-supporting Neal Lawson and Clive Lewis have been arguing for years that an unfair ‘First Past the Post’ system splits the ‘progressive vote’ and prevents the ‘progressive majority’ from winning.

It stands to reason that the total left-of-centre vote will be split, given on average two candidates from Labour, the LibDems or the Greens are running against just one right-of-centre candidate in England.  According to new research from Electoral Reform Society front-group Politics for the Many, in 43.8% of wards there is one Tory standing against candidates from all three of the progressive ‘left’ parties. In 35.5% of wards where there is one Tory candidate, there are two ‘left’ candidates. According to the research, in almost 3,000 council seats up for grabs, there are only 15 wards in the whole of England where there are more right-of-centre parties standing than left parties.

Labour and LibDem strategists know this; they are looking on these locals as a trust-building exercise and a dry run for the general election…

The Telegraph confirmed this pact on Friday, May 6:

If Sir Keir is to get the keys to Number 10, it may be thanks to a deal struck after election day with another party – which is why the Liberal Democrat performance on Thursday is so interesting.

Seven years ago, the party was all but wiped out as voters punished Nick Clegg for his coalition with David Cameron. The political toxicity has clung on in the years since then.

But there were signs of real green shoots for the Lib Dems on Thursday. Their victory in Hull, taking the council from Labour, was the stand-out early result

The relentless targeting of Blue Wall Tory seatsoften in rural southern constituencies they believe have been “taken for granted” by the Conservatives – also achieved notable wins.

By now, Labour realisea that it is relatively easy for a Conservative area to go for the Lib Dems at some point, much more than it would be to vote in Labour candidates.

A good illustration of this is in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which, over the past several years, has gone from True Blue to Yellow-Orange, including their MP:

A lot of Lib Dem councils stay that way. This is largely because a) the Lib Dems know how to get out the vote and b) residents get to know the Lib Dem candidates better for that reason:

Conservatives would do well to study St Albans and find out where they’ve gone wrong.

On that note, one Conservative MP who does realise the value of getting out the vote is Bob Blackman, who has represented Harrow East since 2010.

On Sunday, May 8, he told GB News’s The Political Correction that Harrow became a Conservative council on Thursday because he and other Conservatives went out once a week to canvass residents on council services. Their dogged determination worked.

Blackman says that, as far as he is concerned, the next election campaign has already begun, hence more canvassing. Other Conservative MPs should follow his example.

Devolved nations

Each of the devolved nations has a form of proportional representation rather than FPTP. This is why they are very much left-of-centre.

This is how the Single Transferable Vote works:

Wales

Welsh Labour were highly successful. In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford runs his nation’s Labour Party, so there is no Keir Starmer influence.

As such, Welsh Labour wiped out the last council under Conservative control: Monmouthshire.

Scotland

Scottish Labour also performed well, placing the Conservatives in third place for the first time in ten years.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top party, however.

Late on Friday, the Daily Mail reported:

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is ‘thrilled’ with the results coming out of the local elections in Scotland after her party increased its share of councillors.

The leader of the SNP told Sky News that the results sent a ‘clear message’ to Boris Johnson and the Tories.

She said: ‘We are the largest party in more councils today than we were yesterday – we’ve won the election and we’ve won the election by a country mile.

‘I think it’s the eighth consecutive election win under my leadership of the SNP or after 15 years in government so it is a stupendous result for the SNP and sends the clearest possible message to Boris Johnson and the Tories.’

She said the SNP was still the largest party in Glasgow, despite some Labour gains.

However Sir Keir’s party came very close to taking the city council, adding five councillors for a total of 36.

The SNP, meanwhile, shed two seats for a total of 37.

Sturgeon said Labour benefited a lot from Tory’s Partygate scandal, adding: ‘Labour threw the kitchen sink at Glasgow… and yet they still can’t defeat the SNP, so I think there’s still some reflection perhaps needed on Labour’s behalf.’

All councils up for election in Scotland have now declared their votes.

The SNP gained the most new councillors with 23, followed by the Lib Dems with 20 and Labour 19.

The Green Party gained 15 while the Conservatives lost a total of 61.

Northern Ireland

For the first time in its 101-year history, the Northern Ireland Assembly now has a Sinn Féin majority, even though 58% of the votes in that nation went to Unionist parties. Here’s the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab (video here):

As with Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland’s Assembly is free to make its own laws in a number of areas. Oddly enough, that did not extend to abortion laws, which Westminster (the UK Government) imposed on the province by fiat in 2021:

But I digress.

Under the aforementioned Single Transferable Vote system, Sinn Féin won more first preference votes than did the Unionist parties.

This result propels Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to First Minister. She has been Vice President of Sinn Féin for a few years now.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which had control previously, now refuses to form a coalition government — power-sharing executive — unless and until Boris Johnson’s government rectifies the damaging anomalies in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

Until a power-sharing executive is formed, Michelle O’Neill cannot take up her duties as First Minister.

Most Britons associate Sinn Féin not only with past terrorism but also with Irish re-unification, which will surely be on the cards within the next five years.

On Thursday, the party played a blinder, as the Daily Mail reported last Friday:

Neither Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party or the Ulster Unionists have yet agreed to join a power-sharing executive in which Sinn Fein would be able to nominate the First Minister. 

They have argued that a win for Sinn Fein would lead to a referendum on Irish reunification. But Sinn Fein has run its campaign on the cost-of-living crisis.

Conclusion

The Conservatives are only now reacting after the horse bolted months ago.

They should have been out campaigning over the past few weeks, MPs included.

Only now are they coming up with possible solutions which should have been discussed on the hustings.

On Friday, May 6, the Daily Mail reported that Boris Johnson is considering a summer reshuffle to tackle the cost of living crisis. Hmm.

Over the weekend, a number of Conservative MPs began asking the Government for tax cuts.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promises to look ‘at all the options’.

Good luck with that. There isn’t much time before the 2024 elections.

Gales are a normal weather occurrence in the United Kingdom.

They occur between October and April every year.

Since 2015, they have been assigned names, as with hurricanes. Most people over 50 find this annoying: ‘It’s just a bit of wind, isn’t it?’

Why we have to name these gales is unclear. Everyone in Britain knows about high winds, flooding and the occasional structural damage that results. Northern England and Scotland are usually the areas the most severely affected.

The last major storm to devastate the South East was in 1987. Met Office weatherman Michael Fish made the mistake of his career by saying that nothing would happen. As it happened, there was a lot of damage in London, which usually escapes the worst. Transport was severely affected, preventing many Londoners from getting into work the next day, Friday. Amazingly, Michael Fish kept his job and continued presenting the weather until he retired. Incidentally, today, the 1987 storm is referred to as a hurricane.

Last Friday, February 18, 2022, a damaging storm tore through southern England, including London.

Storm Eunice was sandwiched between Storms Dudley and Franklin. These three ran back-to-back, from the middle of last week through Monday. This has not happened within living memory.

London

Eunice caused the first ever red weather alert for London:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post had a graphic on what to expect along with the following summary:

Overnight, the Met Office updated their Storm Eunice forecast, issuing their first ever red weather warning for London and the South East. While the South West is already being battered by winds of up to 100mph, London is now on course to be hit by the gale between 10am and 3pm.

Where I live, Eunice arrived in earnest around noon and lasted until well after 4:30 p.m.

Big Jet TV proved to be a popular YouTube channel last Friday, with well over 7 million views. It showed what was happening at Heathrow Airport. Some planes could not land immediately and had to resume flying:

Other transport systems were also affected: rail, road and ferries. GB News showed a large lorry that blew over on the motorway. Very few trains and ferries ran.

GB News showed videos of pedestrians blown to the ground in central London. The channel also reported other incidents (emphases mine):

London Ambulance Service (LAS) confirmed two people had been injured in separate incidents.

A man has been taken to hospital after being injured by falling debris in Waterloo, south London, at around midday.

LAS said he was “treated at the scene and taken to a hospital as a priority”.

Another man was taken to hospital with a head injury after being struck by a tree in Streatham, south London.

The incident happened shortly before 11am.

Eunice shredded the soft top roof of the O2 arena, built over 20 years ago for the Millennium. GB News has a video and the story:

The O2 Arena was damaged by Storm Eunice on Friday morning, sparking the evacuation of around 1,000 people.

Witness Mala Sharma told the PA news agency that “more and more parts are getting ripped off”, adding, “it’s going to be a safety issue for people around”.

She said it happened “right in front of my eyes” and that the damage “started off with a patch” but then a “chunk” of the dome roof ripped off.

South coast

South east of London, in Kent, one of the three chimneys at Grain Power Station had been blown down. The Telegraph has a photo.

The Isle of Wight, off the coast of Sussex, saw winds of 122 m.p.h., a record for that part of the nation.

Suffolk

The East of England was also affected severely, including Suffolk, which borders the North Sea.

One father in Suffolk had to deliver his own baby. There wasn’t time to get to the hospital.

The Times reported:

A few hours after Storm Eunice tore into Suffolk, Lauryn Vartan bolted awake at 4am, screaming in pain. The baby is coming, she told her husband, Josh. He grabbed what he could and soon the couple were hurtling through the seaside town of Felixstowe.

They had hoped to reach Ipswich Hospital, but their daughter had other ideas. Just 45 minutes after leaving home, Josh delivered baby Florence on the side of the road, as record-breaking winds rocked their car.

Despite the dramatic circumstances of their daughter’s arrival, Josh and Lauryn decided against a midwife’s suggestion to name their baby Eunice.

Good for them. Instead, they chose to name their daughter Florence.

Josh was euphoric:

Josh said he felt “total euphoria” after the birth. “It is such a lovely feeling — like something you see in a movie, but never think you’ll have to do anything like it. It’s a bit far-fetched but actually such a lovely experience.”

While debris flew along the road, Josh had to stop along a roundabout:

on the A14 at the edge of Felixstowe.

Ambulance staff guided him by telephone with instructions. He had to substitute Lauryn’s dressing gown for towels, which were in the boot (trunk) of the car:

“The only thing I had to hand was Lauryn’s dressing gown, which was freshly cleaned for the hospital stay, and I caught Florence in the dressing gown.

“With the storm just starting to brew, the paramedics were so chuffed we’d managed to keep her so warm in the dressing gown because a brand new baby in the middle of all the wind could have been awful.”

Fortunately, the paramedics were not far away:

Florence was delivered at 4.45am on Friday. Paramedics arrived five minutes later.

Lauryn said:

“They turned up and I had this purple little baby against my chest. I was shivering because during labour you’re so hot, but the wind was really picking up then and we were hanging out of the car. We all sat there shell-shocked.”

South West

The South West of England also saw much damage from Eunice.

GB News has a dramatic video of the top of a church spire which broke off in Wells, Somerset:

A church’s spire has come clean off in shocking footage due to Storm Eunice.

In the video clip, the top of the spire of St Thomas Church in Wells, is seen “quivering” in the strong winds before being blown off.

Another report gave more examples of damage in the region:

A spokesperson for the Severn crossings said staff had received verbal abuse from motorists over the decision to close the M4 and M48 bridges [to and from Wales].

“We understand the effect a dual bridge closure has on people wishing to travel,” they said.

“This is an extremely rare event for us. We have staff out in this storm ensuring action is taken to keep road users safe and they are being abused for it.

“Respectfully, stop. Thank you.”

The A303 is blocked near Grately due to a fallen tree, and a car and a lorry have been damaged by a tree in Bath Road, Atworth, Melksham.

A tree has come down near The Marlborough pub, in High Street, Marlborough, and brought down a stone pillar and street lamp.

Roofs have been damaged in Trowbridge and Swindon and a barn has been blown into the road in Lower Road, Edington.

“A number of outbuildings are said to be insecure so please avoid the area while the scene is dealt with,” a police spokesperson said.

In Wiltshire, fallen trees have caused one lane of the M4 to be closed between junctions 15 and 16 westbound.

In the popular Dorset tourist hotspot of Poole, Sandbanks Road and Shore Road are closed due to flooding.

GB News’s Paul Hawkins reported from the aforementioned bridges, near Bristol. He said:

Only idiotic reporters are going to be out in this weather.

Indeed, Eunice was more than ‘just a bit of wind’:

In Bude, Cornwall, Eunice uprooted an ancient tree that was a local landmark. The local resident who caught it on video was amazed. GB News has the video and the story:

A tree in Bude, Cornwall, is seen collapsing in a shocking moment as intense gusts hit the area.

Twitter users have reacted to the fall, with one user saying: “Such a sad sight to see. That tree is a great landmark and has stood strong for so many years.”

Another user said: “This is heartbreaking. Such a lovely feature of the high street gone.”

Wales

Eunice ravaged Wales and the South West in the morning.

Afterwards, a threesome living along the coast decided to investigate the waves. Two of the three are women in their autumn years. They said they were out for the fun of it, further proof that, for older generations, this was ‘just a bit of wind’:

GB News has a photo of a lighthouse in Porthcawl, Bridgend, Wales, where the waves were impressive indeed. The channel has another video of waves spilling over the sea wall in Amroth.

Some Welsh residents experienced power outages, although service was restored to most on Friday afternoon:

North West of England

Returning to England, the northern half of the country is generally the worst hit.

In Merseyside, three people took a dip in the Irish Sea before the Coastguard ordered them to get out and go home.

GB News has the story and a photo:

A man has been spotted swimming in the sea in New Brighton, Merseyside, as the whole of the UK battles with Storm Eunice.

The man and two others ignored safety warnings and went for a dip in the sea.

They were pictured stripping off to their trunks and getting into the water despite strong winds and high tides.

But after getting into the sea they were spoken to by the Coastguard, who asked them to get out of the water.

The swimmers then got back into their cars and headed away.

Coastguard officers were stationed by the coast of the Wirral seaside resort and moved people off the promenade as the waves got higher after midday.

The car park by Fort Perch Rock was closed as the storm hit and roads in the town were closed.

Merseyside is subject to a Met Office amber warning for wind, which is in place until 6pm.

Advice from the Coastguard is to avoid coastal and exposed areas.

The Midlands

GB News had a reporter on hand at Nottingham railway station. Things looked calmer there, but he said that the winds blew an umbrella out of woman’s hand. A few trains ran, but with delays. A roof also blew off a house in Derby:

North East

Residents in County Durham still remember Storm Arwen from last November.

Some were left without power last week after Dudley. No sooner had that been restored than Eunice arrived.

GB News said:

North East of England Reporter Rachel Sweeney said “this is the worst we’ve had in County Durham since November. In the last couple of hours the wind has drastically changed.”

GB New’s Rachel Sweeney fought to keep her hat on as she was hit by strong winds, saying “the strength is unreal and it’s bitingly cold.”

Updating on the changing situation in County Durham, she said “last time I checked on Northern Power Grid there were around 750 homes without power, which is very stressful for families here considering they have only just got their power back on from Storm Dudley.”

Here’s Rachel Sweeney’s report:

The aftermath

GB News’s Mark White has an excellent video showing material not captured above, including two Londoners being blown to the ground whilst walking:

Mark White estimates that the cost will be great:

The cost of the damage here and across large parts of the country will be measured in the millions.

On Monday, February 21, The Telegraph reported on a record number of power outages. Storm Franklin made recovery efforts difficult:

Around 56,000 people were still without power on Sunday afternoon after Storm Eunice caused what energy providers believe was a record national outage over a 24-hour period, with around 1.4 million homes losing power.

Ross Easton, director of external affairs at the Energy Networks Association, said Storm Franklin will hamper recovery efforts on Monday.

“We’re still making pretty good progress in terms of reconnections, but it’s certainly being hampered by the high winds,” he said.

After Storm Arwen ravaged the North and Scotland last November, residents rightly complained about the delay in recovery to their electricity service, which took more than 10 days in some areas.

Some living in that region complained on social media that, if Arwen had landed on the South, especially London, power would have been restored much more quickly.

However, that is not necessarily true.

Veteran journalist Charles Moore, who lives ‘down South’ in leafy Sussex, filed a report for The Telegraph on Tuesday, February 22, stating that power in his area was still out days later.

His story spells out the raw reality of power loss:

Escape from modernity is enjoyable, however, only if you can get back to it when you want to. We could not. The power was still off the next morning. I began to consider the facts.

They were not good – roads blocked, roofs smashed by trees, shops closed, unable to operate without computerised tills, freezers melting.

The Moore family were ill placed. Our son and daughter-in-law, she anyway suffering from flu, had to contend with an Aga growing tepid and two small children without baths or hot food. My sister’s two autistic sons and their carer all had Covid, so she and her partner had to isolate in their very cold, very old house, mobile-less.

My mother was worst placed. She is a former polio victim who is about to be 90, lives alone and is immobile. Helped by extremely kind neighbours, she survived the first night well, but began to get cold the next day. Because of her infirmity, she cannot light or tend a log fire

By Sunday, the situation began to feel like the plagues of Egypt. All power was still off. My wife had caught the local flu and was sick in the night. My mother woke to find she had no water of any kind, hot or cold. The whole town of Battle was in the same situation, we heard. Without power, the water pumping station was not working properly

As I write, 4,400 homes in Sussex are still without power. I have just left after giving my mother breakfast, still upstairs. She and I agreed that she should stay put, partly because she might fall coming down, mainly because of the ordeal of getting up the stairs again later. There is no solution until the power returns. A carer is with her, and my brother is nobly coming from London later. My poor sister has now tested positive for Covid.

My mother has gamely overcome many adversities in life, but even she is a bit shaken. We all feel slightly embarrassed. After all, the absence of electricity was something familiar to most people 70 years ago.

Yet it has become so embedded in daily life that we can barely live without it for more than 24 hours. The authorities need to acknowledge this, and find quicker ways of restoring heat and light.

I could not agree more. Private companies supply our electricity. We are always told that the private sector is more agile, responsive and proactive than the public sector. So why aren’t they stepping up to the plate? We get plenty of storms here in the UK. They must do better.

A lighthearted moment

There was a lighter moment during the storm as MPs on social media mixed up Eunice and Eustice, the surname of our Environment Minister:

Guido wrote:

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that the name of the storm battering the UK, Eunice, shares such a similarity with the name of the man who’ll be in the spotlight once the skies have cleared, DEFRA secretary George Eustice. It turns out plenty of MPs have failed to spot the difference.

Three of the four were Labour MPs; one was a Conservative, George Freeman.

Here is Ruth Jones’s helpful warning about Storm Eustice:

A storm to remember

For those living in the South, Eunice will be a storm to remember.

We still talk about the storm of 1987. Eunice will be a keeper, too.

Despite receiving more brickbats this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still standing as Parliament enters its February recess.

Former PM John Major had a go at Boris about Brexit in a speech he gave to the Institute for Government this week. Like another former PM, Theresa May — still a serving MP — Major is a staunch Remainer.

Writing for The Spectator, historian Nigel Jones discussed the Blob (our Swamp) on Thursday, February 11, 2022 (emphases mine throughout except for Guido Fawkes’s posts):

Still fighting their neverendum certain Blobbers, so used to having things go their way for the past half century, view the man who brought us Brexit as the one who betrayed the favourite cause of his caste. For that alone he must be punished. They seek not only Johnson’s removal from office but his total humiliation

The Mays and the Majors of this world, uniting with the legions of the left who have always loathed Johnson, cannot bear it that someone who sums up in his rumpled and hitherto popular persona all that they are not, is, after all the ordure that they have poured over him, like Elton John: still standing. After weeks of sustained bombardment with the most vicious projectiles his enemies can muster, the object of their righteous wrath is still withstanding the siege from the Downing Street bunker, even belting out ‘I will survive!’

… And those such as Johnson’s former editor Max Hastings, who has predicted the PM could be gone within weeks, could yet be proven wrong. But if Boris does go he will not have been brought down in a flood of booze but by the bile of ‘the Blob’ against the black sheep who dared, by accident or design, to stray from the flock.

The Spectator‘s Katy Balls says Boris is succeeding because he is buying himself time, putting forward his ‘red meat’ policies to win back MPs and those souls who voted Conservative in 2019:

After a difficult few weeks, Boris Johnson has made it to parliamentary recess. Given few expect a no confidence vote to be held during recess, time away from parliament gives the Prime Minister much-needed breathing space. After the seemingly never-ending parade of partygate stories, there have been times when MPs were sceptical he would make it this far.

Instead, the Prime Minister has succeeded in buying himself timetalking down would-be plotters and rushing out a string of red meat announcements to keep the right of his party on side. The announcement this week that all Covid restrictions could end a month early is a prime example of this. When MPs return from recess, Johnson will unveil his plan for living with the virus — which will include the guidance rather than law (self-isolation is expected to become just advice) and reduced access to tests.

Boris made his liberating announcement about lifting coronavirus restrictions to the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 9:

Guido Fawkes wrote:

Boris in the Chamber just now announcing that the final Covid restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test, are likely to be lifted after the February recess. The “living with Covid” plan will be revealed on 21st February. A full month ahead of schedule…

February 24 could be our third liberation day. We already had Independence Day on July 4, 2020, followed by Freedom Day on July 19, 2021 and now this. Let’s hope it is permanent.

In any event, the announcement made two front pages on Thursday, February 10, with the Daily Mail being more positive about this world leading move than The Star. I can empathise with both:

When SAGE’s scientists and the unions object, we know Boris is on the right track. Boris didn’t even bother consulting the former, as The Mail reported:

Unions are already digging their heels in after Boris Johnson revealed he intends to ditch all remaining Covid laws within a fortnight as a poll revealed that three in four workers ground down by almost two years of lockdowns and restrictions want to continue with self-isolation.

Unison, Britain’s largest union serving more than 1.3million members from swathes of the public sector, has accused the Prime Minister of going ‘too far, too soon’, insisting that the virus ‘hasn’t disappeared’ — despite a raft of data suggesting the worst is now over.

SAGE scientists have also warned of the ‘dangers’ of the PM’s plan to make England the first country in the world to scrap all Covid rules, after it emerged Mr Johnson had not discussed it with the committee which is now infamous for its gloomy predictions about the pandemic.

Boris appears to be placing more weight on what is actually happening rather than alarming data projections from SAGE:

The resistance comes despite Covid infections falling consistently, with even the gloomiest surveillance study now accepting that the country’s outbreak has peaked — mirroring the official numbers.

The milder nature of Omicron, coupled with sky-high immunity, mean the NHS never came under the levels of pressure that No10’s experts feared would happen, with hospitalisations and deaths both now in freefall.

People with fragile health should note that they will be free to continue self-isolating. That freedom is an individual choice rather than a mandate by law.

The same goes for masks.

Boris is no doubt trying to encourage the socialist governments in Wales and Scotland to do the same thing:

The announcement annoyed the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales – with Nicola Sturgeon’s administration calling it a publicity stunt to divert from the Partygate scandal that has left the PM fighting for his job.

The First Minister did this afternoon pledge to ditch face masks in Scotland’s classrooms from February 28 — keeping them in communal areas — but says she will wait for expert advice before following Boris’s lead on any other rules.

The Scottish Government is unlikely to go as far as dropping all rules when it publishes its strategy for living with Covid in the months ahead on February 22. The plans will be debated by MSPs, meaning any changes could be several weeks behind England. The Scottish Government is even set to extend its Covid powers until September 24.

Conservatives applauded Boris’s move:

Lord Frost, who dramatically quit Cabinet partly in protest at draconian curbs, was among the senior Tories praising the move. ‘The PM’s plan to end all Covid restrictions a month early is the right thing to do & is extremely welcome. I hope the government will also make clear we will not go down the road of coercive lockdowns ever again,’ he tweeted.

Tory MPs last night insisted that lockdowns should never be deployed again. ‘I am glad to see the emphasis on learning to live with Covid,’ said Bob Seely, who represents the Isle of Wight …

David Jones, a former Cabinet minister, welcomed the ‘very positive’ news, adding: ‘The PM deserves credit for this. We have locked down for too long and we now need a commitment that we will not lock down again, save for in the most exceptional of circumstances.’  

Steve Baker hit the nail on the head. The lifting of restrictions is meaningful only if Boris reforms the Public Health Act of 1984 — and, may I add, scraps the Coronavirus Act of 2020:

Former minister Steve Baker added: ‘I welcome this announcement but we are not out of the woods until the Public Health Act has been reformed, we have new rules for better modelling, competitive, multi-disciplinary expert advice and wellbeing-based cost-benefit analysis covering the costs of lockdowns and restrictions. There is much to do!’

Earlier this week, Boris made another reshuffle involving the Cabinet Office and Downing Street, in line with the preliminary recommendations from Sue Gray’s report on Boris’s lockdown parties on January 31. Boris had met with Conservative MPs that evening:

Guido’s accompanying post reads in part:

It could be “imminent”.

Guido was also first to reveal the PM won over swathes of support from wavering MPs by promising to massively up their involvement in No. 10’s policy-making, saying he liked Graham Brady’s suggestion of 1922-organised MP policy committees.

In a sign of how the day had played out, in the evening Birmingham 2019 MP Gary Sambrook put out a gushing tweet about the PM:

Guido understands he’s now withdrawn his letter of no confidence to Graham Brady. After the vaccine rollout and Brexit, the new shadow whipping operation has to be one of the most impressive things Boris’s No. 10 has managed to organise…

On Tuesday, February 8, GB News gave us the details on the reshuffle:

Jacob Rees-Mogg will be the minister responsible for “Brexit opportunities” in the first move confirmed as part of Boris Johnson’s reshuffle.

The shake-up of the ministerial team follows the appointment of Stephen Barclay as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and comes as Mr Johnson seeks to relaunch his administration following the partygate row.

Mr Rees-Mogg, previously the Leader of the House of Commons, will still sit at the Cabinet table in his new role as Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency

Former Chief Whip Mark Spencer has been confirmed as the new Leader of the House of Commons to replace the vacant role left by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mark Spencer has been the MP for Sherwood since 2010 and has previously been Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

Stuart Andrew has been appointed as Minister of State (Minister for Housing) in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; he has been the MP for Pudsey since 2010, he has most recently been a deputy whip.

Chris Heaton-Harris has been confirmed as the Government’s new Chief Whip; he has served as MP for Daventry since 2010, he had most recently been Minister of State for Europe and is famed in Westminster for his use of Twitter to post one-liner jokes.

James Cleverly MP will become Minister of State (Minister for Europe) in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as part of the shake-up of the Government frontbench, Downing Street said.

Wendy Morton MP to be a Minister of State in the Department for Transport.

Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP to be Treasurer of HM Household (Deputy Chief Whip).

Samantha Jones, the Prime Minister’s adviser on the NHS and social care, has been appointed as the new No 10 permanent secretary and chief operating officer, Downing Street said.

Samantha Jones, who is a civil servant, is a former NHS trust executive.

She helped develop the plan to reduce hospital waiting lists, but it did not go down well in Parliament this week when Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced it. Even Conservative MPs thought it was weak, especially as a record high of 6.1 million patients are awaiting surgery or other medical procedures.

Samantha Jones will be both an interim No 10 permanent secretary and its COO, both new posts, as The Telegraph reported on February 9:

Boris Johnson has appointed a former NHS trust executive who advises him on health policy to the newly created position of No 10 permanent secretary.

In the latest move to shake-up his inner circle, the Prime Minister announced that Samantha Jones will take the role for six months on an “interim” basis.

Ms Jones had been Mr Johnson’s expert adviser on NHS transformation and social care, meaning she helped craft the newly announced plan to bring down NHS waiting lists.

The former nurse and NHS veteran will also hold the title of Chief Operating Officer for Downing Street as she helps shape the new civil service structure being created for the Prime Minister.

There was another appointment, that of Stuart Andrew MP as Levelling Up Minister:

Andrew Griffith, one of the MPs who was reshuffled in the first week of February, laid out his plans as Boris’s new Director of Policy:

You would not know it from the media headlines, but families want to hear about our plans to grow employment, tackle the NHS backlog, control our borders, make their streets safer, bring down the cost of living and return rapidly to the point when we can cut taxes to let everyone keep more of their own money – all policies that are rooted in strong Conservative values.

As the Prime Minister’s Director of Policy, these are my top priorities together with delivering the tangible opportunities from Brexit that will allow our economy to be more competitive and the reform of government to deliver better public services. Whilst the Policy Unit’s remit is to advise the Prime Minister across the widest breadth of government policy, we will be unafraid to ruthlessly focus on the key issues. It is ultimately outputs that matter.

Elected in 2019, he is far from the Sir Bufton Tufton brand of Conservative MP and has been against the EU since John Major’s time as PM:

From a comprehensive school in south-east London, I was the first in my family to go to university, where campaigning to keep the UK out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism turned me into a lifelong Conservative.

Jacob Rees-Mogg went further, asking Sun readers for suggestions on which EU regulations should be rolled back in the UK:

The opportunities in front of us are immense. Huge parts of our economy are no longer regulated by the EU.

Before Brexit, many of my constituents would write to me to complain about regulations that burdened them daily.

From farmers to electricians, on so many issues I had to tell them that even as an MP I could not help to solve their problems, as these rules were set by the EU, not the British Parliament.

Thanks to Brexit, that has all changed. Sun readers can hold their MPs accountable, as the buck truly stops with them …

You are the ones who know the red tape binds your hands, and to do my job I need your wisdom. Ronald Reagan rightly said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help’.” This needs to be turned on its head: Britain needs The Sun readers’ help instead.

I implore you all to write to me with the regulations you want abolished — those which make life harder for small businesses, which shut out competition, or simply increase the cost of operating. Through thousands of small changes, we can enact real economic change — which means The Sun’s readers will feel a real Brexit bonus in their pockets and in their lives  every day.

WRITE TO ME: Jacob Rees-Mogg, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

EMAIL: jacob.reesmogg.mp@parliament.uk

In other news, the UK economy grew 7.5% in 2021:

Guido has the quote from the ONS:

 Darren Morgan, ONS: 

“Despite December’s setback, GDP grew robustly across the fourth quarter as a whole with the NHS, couriers and employment agencies all helping to support the economy,” he said.

“Overall, GDP in December was in line with its level in February 2020, before Covid-19 struck, while in the fourth quarter as a whole, it was slightly below that of the fourth quarter in 2019.”

People are trying to cast shade on this achievement, but even The Spectator, hardly pro-Boris, has a compliment for his administration. Today, Katy Balls pointed out:

With prices soaring, interest rates rising and the cost of living crisis growing more acute by the day, we could do with some more positive news: and this morning’s GDP update has played a small part in providing it.

Despite suffering the largest economic contraction in 300 years in 2020 – and taking the biggest economic hit in the G7 – Britain had the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, boosting its GDP by 7.5 per cent.

It’s still a mixed story: looking at where the UK economy is now compared with pre-pandemic levels, it ranks average within the G7. But with one of the steepest hills to climb back to recovery, the UK’s relatively fast growth enabled the economy to get there several months before it was forecast to do so

while the economy did take a slight hit at the end of last year, it did not fall back below pre-pandemic levels. Britain can still boast that it made a full economic recovery – and hopefully recoup December’s losses fairly quickly, given how quickly fears about Omicron’s severity were put to bed.

Finally, with local elections coming up in May, Boris will be doing what he does best — campaigning around England (with one stop in Wales):

Guido notes that not all of Boris’s destinations will be holding an election this Spring, but the PM needs to turn things around for the Conservatives:

Boris has spent a lot of time on the road recently. Almost every day he seems to show up at another school, building site, or hospital somewhere outside SW1 – in just the last 5 weeks, he’s made 10 trips across the UK. Coincidentally, 7 of those trips happen to be in seats which are holding local elections in May …

With Labour and much of the media hammering away at Partygate since December inside the Westminster bubble, Boris obviously knows his best chance of turning things around is to get back into campaign mode. It is what he does best, after all…

Although Labour are still ahead in the polls, an amazing reversal that began when the Downing Street parties during lockdown came to light, a pollster from Savanta ComRes thinks that it will be easier for Boris to win his 2019 voters back than it will be for Starmer to encourage them to vote Labour:

This is what Savanta ComRes uncovered from their latest focus group — Starmer isn’t capturing their collective imagination, so Boris is still in with a chance:

I will have more next week on Boris’s attempt to survive at No. 10.

Following on from my post yesterday, Neil Oliver had more on coronavirus on his programme of Saturday, January 22, 2022, wherein he warned of ‘consequences coming’ and eroding trust in institutions we normally respect.

His commentary was much appreciated:

Here’s the YouTube version:

GB News has a transcript, excerpts from which follow. Emphases mine:

American money man, philosopher and billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffet said: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

He was talking about business models – how when times are good everyone might seem to be doing ok, but when times turn bad, and there are always bad times, the reckless and bad ideas get woefully exposed.

As soon as the virus arrived among us, our democratically-elected governments, eagerly abetted by their preferred scientific advisors, threw away all the plans they had had for dealing with a pandemic – plans laid down after years of preparation and discussion, plans in line with advice from the World Health Organisation – and replaced them overnight with tactics lifted straight – I can only assume – from the Chinese Communist Party’s Big Boy’s Book of totalitarian control. All over Europe and the developed West it was the same. Talk about Plan B – where had they kept this one hidden, a person might have asked, if questions had been allowed, but they were not.

They helped themselves, those elected representatives of the tax-paying, law-abiding public – to powers unprecedented in peacetime, the sort of powers indeed that might give dictators and emperors excited dreams. With the craven complicity of the so-called political opposition, they drafted and passed outrageously invasive laws with barely so much as a nod to discussion or debate in Westminster. Before we knew where we were, the old world of taken-for-granted freedom had been papered over with a dystopia.

It was around then, though – within weeks of the outbreak starting, and certainly within a few months – that the tide started to go out and the truth began to be revealed, made obvious for those looking the right way. The naked swimmers were clearly to be seen.

Long ago now – long ago in terms of policies that have ruined lives, destroyed livelihoods, lethally endangered the health prospects of uncountable numbers of people and compromised the educations and therefore the hopes and dreams, not to mention the mental health and general wellbeing, of a generation of children – there were all manner of voices saying how wrong it all was.

Among them, and worth listening to more than any others in the spectrum of dissenting voices, were those of other scientists and, perhaps most pertinently, medical professionals of unimpeachable expertise and experience, with lifetimes devoted to the treatment and care of respiratory viruses and battling courageously to be heard. Again and again, they sought to highlight and to explain the wrong-headedness of what was being done, allegedly in the name of public health. Always they were shouted down, shamed, ridiculed, humiliated, even ruined professionally for having had the temerity to raise doubts and offer alternative solutions.

And of course, our governments did not – absolutely and unequivocally could not – have done all this alone. For me, in many ways worst of all has been the complicity, in the reprehensible behaviour, indulged in by so much of the mainstream media

The governments, listening all the while to the psychologists in the Nudge Unit, decided to fire up the fear train and the mainstream media were at their side for the duration. We, the people, it was blatantly decided, were to be frightened out of our wits so that governments could have their way with us, all for the greater good. Whatever they wanted us to do, they would use the seemingly unstoppable momentum of the fear train to carry all of us where they wanted us taken.

First aboard, like ticket inspectors and guards – were faces made so familiar by their daily appearance in our homes courtesy of news broadcasts. All aboard went the BBC, Sky, ITV, C4 and the rest. High profile journalists and all manner of well-kent faces took turns shovelling coal into the firebox, making the train’s engine run faster and faster … the most prominent news providers in the land were instantly and always on the governments’ backs – demanding faster … faster … faster … more … more … more.

Two years later and here we are, wherever here actually is. Like many populations around the developed Western world we have arrived at a destination many of us struggle to recognise. The buildings and streets look the same, right enough, but everything else is altered. Society is riven with divisions – between vaxxed and unvaxxed; mask wearers and bare faces, those who were helped financially and those that were hung out to dry. Those divides are deep and feel permanent. Great Britain is half a trillion pounds in debt. It has been estimated that 50,000 people who might by now have had cancers diagnosed and embarked upon treatment are, as yet, unaware of the awful news coming their way sooner or later. Six million people await treatment by Our NHS.

In the past few days here on GB News we have highlighted the results of a freedom of information request made to the Office of National Statistics. Coverage of the reply has been absent from the mainstream media. The ONS was asked how many otherwise healthy people had died in England and Wales of Covid and nothing else. The answer was 17,371 across the two years, average age over 82. These figures are comparable, to say the least, with the death toll that might be expected from a typical flu season.

All lives matter, including those 17,371. But there are nearly 70 million people in Britain. Around 700,000 of us die every year, of all manner of causes.

I look at these facts, these figures, and I cannot begin to imagine making sense of what has been done, apparently in the name of public health. Time will surely tell, as I and others have predicted before, that policies followed in these two years past will prove to have been the worst policy mistakes in peacetime – perhaps ever.

The tide I mentioned earlier, that revealing tide, is receding fast now. More and more naked swimmers – politicians, advisors and journalists among them – are to be seen running for cover behind the sand dunes, clutching at towels as they go. But we can see them. We know who they are. Some of them, more every day, have even had the unmitigated gall to think they could hurriedly get dressed again, without anyone noticing, so as to pretend they were never in the water in the first place.

Neil Oliver is not wrong. In fact, in the past few days, various vocal commentators in the public sphere have begun saying that they never supported the coronavirus policies. Really? Pull the other one.

He concludes:

There is still so much we don’t know – still so much we are not supposed to talk about, ask questions about … Maybe when talk of a new variant comes along, and it surely will, and the government tries to get us back in our boxes, some of those journalists might join the rest of us in saying Never Again. Or maybe they won’t. Anyway, as I say, the tide is well and truly out now and the naked swimmers are plain to see.

All drama aside, there are consequences coming, a great wave of them – economy, health, the as-yet unmeasured damage to our children and unanswered questions about which, if any, of our institutions we can trust. What has been done these last two years by those we had been encouraged to trust, will be hard to forgive, and impossible to forget.

I am incensed that England was locked down for 17,371 deaths.

Some of those deaths were in Wales, too, but the Welsh decided to vote Labour in May 2021 and remade their collective, socialist bed, thereby retaining Mark Drakeford as Prif Weinidog (First Minister). May they rest easy in it …

Guido Fawkes tells us that the title Prif Weinidog translates literally to Prime Minister (emphases in the original):

Speaking to BBC reporter Mark Hutchings, who asked Drakeford whether he planned to set a firm date for the lifting of Wales’ Covid restrictions, the First Minister said:

“No I won’t because I’m the Prime Minister of Wales, not a horoscope writer for a daily newspaper. And it’s simply impossible for anybody to peer into the future of coronavirus with the sort of definiteness you were suggesting.”

Hutchings later gave Drakeford the benefit of the doubt by suggesting it was just a “slip“. Probably, although Drakeford also changed his Twitter handle to “@PrifWeinidog” back in October – a direct Welsh translation of Prime Minister…

Returning to England, thank goodness that a rump of Conservative backbenchers rebelled against Boris late last year in voting against Plan B before Christmas. Even though Plan B passed, thanks to Labour, Boris did not push Plan C at the end of December.

Back in March 2020, MPs pledged not to make the pandemic about politics. It did not take long, however, for it to become purely political, especially in Wales and Scotland.

Thank goodness for Conservative MPs with backbone — and for the revelations about the Downing Street parties. Both prevented England from a sharper lockdown.

The Government lifted restrictions in England on Thursday, January 26. May they never return.

Neil Oliver is right: the fallout from the pandemic policies will be great.

For the past several weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have been lagging behind Labour in the polls.

Boris and the Conservatives held the top spot for most of 2021, apart from one week in January. Their ratings began to sink in November, if I recall correctly. Initially, this had to do with Net Zero policies (far out of reach from the normal Briton), a tax increase to help pay for the NHS and rumours of parties during lockdown at No. 10 Downing Street.

Later, around Christmas, news emerged of parties dating from late 2020. More recently, news leaked about a No. 10 gathering on May 20, 2020 (during lockdown), for which Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised during Prime Minister’s Questions on January 12, 2022:

Today, it is alleged that parties also took place in Downing Street the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.

For Keir Starmer and Labour to be ahead of Boris and Co for this long is a parlous state of affairs:

On January 8, 2022, GB News reported that the Conservatives were beginning to regain lost ground (emphases in purple mine throughout):

The Conservative Party has recovered some of its lost lead against the opposition Labour Party, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, but Boris Johnson’s personal ratings remain deeply negative as he faces ongoing ethics questions.

Polling company Opinium said Labour’s poll rating held at 39% in a January 5-7 survey, unchanged from late December, while support for the Conservatives rose two percentage points to 34%. The Liberal Democrats were on 11% and the Green Party was on 5% …

Johnson’s own net approval rating in the Opinium poll was minus 24%, up from minus 31% before Christmas but well behind Labour Party leader Keir Starmer at plus 3%.

Soaring inflation was also souring the public mood, with 86% of people saying their living costs had risen, the polling company said.

On Monday, January 10, the Conservatives continued to gain ground, although they still trail Labour:

Guido Fawkes noted that not moving to Plan C coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period probably helped:

Labour’s 8 point poll lead at the end of last year has halved in the latest YouGov poll. The plunged best PM rating for Boris has bounced 6 points and Starmer’s has eroded a point, though Boris still trails. Making the right call on Omicron appears to be paying off for Boris. Who knows, if the Tories get their act together and govern a bit more like Tories, they might even regain their lead…

Moving on to coronavirus measures, a number of news items broke since the New Year, some of which relate to England only; the devolved nations have their own measures, largely socialist in nature.

Self-isolation time

On Monday, Boris said he was considering lowering the number of days that people have to self-isolate:

Guido Fawkes reported that Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove said that the current Plan B measures are likely to expire as planned on January 26.

Boris’s comment followed Gove’s on Plan B:

This follows Michael Gove’s comments earlier today on the potential lifting of Plan B measures in a few weeks, provided the NHS continues to keep Omicron under control. Looking increasingly likely that pandemic measures will – finally – wind down sooner rather than later…

On self-isolation being reduced from seven days to five, as the US is doing, Boris said:

We’re looking at [it]… we will act according to the science as we always have. But what I would say to everybody is that Omicron is still out there, it’s incredibly contagious. Everyone will know somebody who has had it, it can be pretty unpleasant.

Boris was likely reconsidering because British scientific advisers ‘misread’ US self-isolation guidance. Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), is pictured:

Guido Fawkes showed the difference between the UKHSA guidance on January 1 and January 10.

Guido concludes:

The US Centres for Disease Control has now clarified their isolation periods do start after the first appearance of symptoms, giving further credence to Tory backbenchers’ calls for a cut. This country has had enough of experts…

Indeed, we have had enough of experts. Unfortunately, Jenny Harries is receiving a damehood, having been on the New Year’s Honours list.

The move for a shorter isolation period is to enable those with coronavirus to return to work as soon as possible.

It is a curious thing that, since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, I have seen the same shop assistants week after week. By contrast, when I watch the news, there is a plethora of public sector workers — the NHS and teachers, to name but two groups — who are constantly sick.

This tweet expresses the phenomenon well:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-52ee10ed-274e-4073-9d2f-c130beeed0cb

On Thursday, January 13, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced in the House of Commons that self-isolation will be reduced to five days beginning on Monday, January 17, provided that the person involved can provide two negative lateral flow test results on Days 4 and 5:

The end of mass vaccination?

On Sunday, January 9, Dr Clive Dix, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said that it was time to end mass vaccination and begin urgent research into antibodies as well as T-cells.

The Observer reported:

Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the booster campaign, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has said.

With health chiefs and senior Tories also lobbying for a post-pandemic plan for a straining NHS, Dr Clive Dix called for a major rethink of the UK’s Covid strategy, in effect reversing the approach of the past two years and returning to a “new normality”.

“We need to analyse whether we use the current booster campaign to ensure the vulnerable are protected, if this is seen to be necessary,” he said. “Mass population-based vaccination in the UK should now end.”

He said ministers should urgently back research into Covid immunity beyond antibodies to include B-cells and T-cells (white blood cells). This could help create vaccines for vulnerable people specific to Covid variants, he said, adding: “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

On Wednesday, Professor Jeremy Brown of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) echoed Dr Dix’s call for a post-pandemic plan. He rightly pointed out that we do not test for influenza:

Schoolchildren suffering

I do feel for children having to wear masks, undergo regular testing at school and for being persuaded — with parental consent — to get vaccinated. My commiserations also go to their parents.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the rate of children’s vaccinations must speed up:

The topic of mask-wearing, although confined to secondary school students, came up on a recent instalment of ITV’s This Morning programme. Author and television presenter Gyles Brandreth explained how difficult this is for children with learning difficulties:

I am glad to see that pupils are refusing to wear masks: sensible kids showing common sense.

Vaccines

Having watched all the coronavirus briefings on television, I remember when either then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock or one of our senior health advisers told us that not everyone would need to get vaccinated in order to put the pandemic at bay.

This historical example from the smallpox era shows that a only relatively small percentage of people need a vaccination in order to eradicate the disease. In the case of smallpox, this was 32%:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-3f958417-af3a-492b-8ba5-1295b96658d7

Yet, the UK is now jabbing children, mandating vaccine passports as well as threatening loss of employment in April 2022 to unvaccinated NHS and care home workers. WHY?

The biggest news story on this subject appeared on Friday, January 7.

The Telegraph reported that Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London told Health Secretary Sajid Javid that he had had coronavirus and has the antibodies. He said he had no intention of getting a vaccine.

He said that the science does not warrant a health worker vaccine mandate:

Here is a clip from The Telegraph‘s article:

https://image.vuukle.com/5a13d893-99ce-45cf-838a-4fee2a3447a2-d6bcf1df-87ae-419a-a99b-34db16fce297

NHS is doing well

On Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that the NHS is coping well. Eight Nightingale facilities will also be opened in the coming weeks:

Socialist policies in Scotland and Wales do not work

On Monday, January 10, talkRADIO’s Kevin O’Sullivan said that vaccine passports are not working in Scotland and Wales. He rightly wonders why Boris Johnson wanted to extend their reach in England.

Wales’s rate of infection is three times higher than England’s. Scotland recorded its highest ever number of coronavirus ‘cases’:

Dan Wootton of GB News also had plenty to say on the Welsh and Scottish approach to coronavirus:

He said:

The chilling reality of the United Kingdom under a Labour/SNP coalition was laid bare over the New Year period.

And it’s not something any of us should want to become a reality.

More on that below.

Wales

On Sunday, January 9, Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford (Labour) said that Welsh coronavirus rates are lower than England’s. Note that, at one point, he did specify Welsh rates were lower than those in England’s hotspots, not the whole country. In that sentence, he told the truth, less so overall:

Drakeford came up with a few more new rules before Christmas. People couldn’t work in an office, but they could go to the pub.

Dan Wootton said:

In socialist Wales, Mark Drakeford – seemingly so intent on smashing the economy to smithereens – has started to fine honest folk £60 for going to work in an office.

Genuinely. I’m not making that up. Doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly healthy, either.

But Drakeford is the man who forced supermarkets to cordon off aisles selling toys and clothes, remember. Now the Chief Medical Officer in Wales Sir Frank Atherton is hysterically proposing that we should all self-isolate for days on end if we have a common cold.

And, with Labour’s love of restrictions, circuit breakers and draconian laws controlling our behaviour, have Welsh Covid rates been any lower than the rest of the UK? Nope!

According to government data across the pandemic, Wales has had the second highest total rate of cases per 100,000 – just under Northern Ireland – at a rate of 20,386.2.

That compares to England’s 20,174.2 and Scotland’s 17,673.4.

In the last seven days, Wales remains the second highest, again just behind Northern Ireland.

The following tweet shows another absurd aspect of the situation, with an English non-league football (soccer) club, Chester, wondering how it can survive under Drakeford’s draconian rules. Chester’s stadium lies just over the border in Wales:

This exchange shows how complicated the situation is:

Scotland

North of the Border, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) has implemented some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the UK.

Dan Wootton says that these are a smokescreen for the lack of a second independence referendum. Nonetheless, he details how totalitarian they are:

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon prizes her role as a Covid dictator using press conferences broadcast to the nation by the BBC to spread fear and introduce harsh controls on poor Scots.

She insists it’s to keep them safe.

But in my opinion, it’s to keep the Covid crisis running for as long as possible, so she doesn’t have to face the fact her dream of a second independence referendum lies in tatters.

So to Sturgeon omicron has been a blessing, allowing her to impose new social controls essentially killing off the Scottish hospitality industry once more for months. Compare and contrast today’s [January 3] Times front pages.

The English edition reports that ministers in Westminster are confident new curbs won’t be needed, given Plan B has already been imposed and Omicron is a far less severe variant.

The Scottish edition, by contrast, reports that large public gatherings could be forbidden in Scotland well into the spring, with National Clinical Director Jason Leitch saying April will still be too early to host a postponed Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh.

And it’s these draconian policies propagated by Sturgeon that resulted in ridiculous police overreach and brutality in Scotland that you won’t see reported in the mainstream media.

Case in point: police raiding the Avant Garde gastropub in Glasgow on New Year’s Eve, where there were around 50 folk, most of them over 60-years-old, simply trying to enjoy their night.

Then, for some reason, two large police vans carrying more than 20 officers, according to witnesses, turned up because they were suspected of breaking Sturgeon’s outrageously over the top Covid rules.

The pub may have been targeted because it displays this poster on its door saying

“We have no discrepancy over whether you want to wear a mask or not.” This is what happened when multiple cops stormed the pub…

The footage is included with this interview of the man who filmed it:

What a despicably unnecessary show of force from Scottish police who routinely fail to investigate muggings and burglaries.

But it’s not their fault, it’s Sturgeon’s for introducing such authoritarian laws, banning bar service and enforcing social distancing between groups.

Sturgeon has implemented these measures despite only ONE patient with omicron having been admitted to intensive care in Scotland. Only one!

The police claim they were simply making a ‘routine visit’, but, come on, it should never have come to this.

Sturgeon is criminalising people drinking and having a good time.

This month — and we’re less than two weeks in — she has had to backtrack on her stringent restrictions.

When the editor of the Scottish Daily Mail, Mike Blackley, asked her on December 17 if she could reduce the number of self-isolation days, she turned caustic:

Yeah, because that’d really help ’cause that would spread infections even further and that would not be doing any favours to businesses.

Guido Fawkes has an update from Wednesday, January 5:

On 22nd December, England’s Covid rules changed so infected individuals can stop isolating after seven days rather than ten, so long as they test negative on day six and seven. Six days ago Wales followed suit, and a day later Northern Ireland copied the change. Leaving one obvious outlier…

It now looks like Sturgeon will confirm the cut, with a statement expected later today and her deputy John Swinney saying yesterday that their administration is “actively considering” reducing the self-isolation period. There’s just one problem with the move if it goes ahead – it’ll be a very embarrassing U-turn on Sturgeon’s part…

So, will she now apologise to the Scottish Mail‘s Mike Blackley?

Unlikely.

Late last week, SNP MP Stewart Hosie appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that Scotland had a lower number of coronavirus cases than England.

The SNP then tweeted this news, which was based on out of date statistics:

Guido Fawkes rightly called out the SNP, including a graphic of the updated statistics.

Not only does England have a lower prevalence than Scotland, it has the lowest prevalence of all four UK nations despite having almost no legal restrictions. The lockdown lovers always say they’re following the science… except when they aren’t.

Last weekend, England still had a lower prevalence of coronavirus than Scotland, which demands mask wearing and vaccine passports:

Last week, Sturgeon took exception to Boris Johnson’s idea to scrap free lateral flow tests. He wants to reserve them for ‘high-risk settings’:

On Monday, January 10, Sturgeon apparently decided Scotland will have to live with the virus. We’ll see:

The Scottish Daily Express reported:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on the latest Covid-19 situation on Tuesday

Nicola Sturgeon is under mounting pressure to scrap crippling Coronavirus restrictions after she admitted for the first time that Scots will need to “learn to live” with the virus.

The First Minister is due to announce whether an extension to Scotland’s restrictions will occur in Holyrood today, with critics claiming they have made little difference to infection rates.

Currently the rules put in place on Boxing Day to rein in the Omicron Covid-19 variant include curbs on spectator sports, the closure of nightclubs and the resumption of table service in pubs.

But speaking ahead of her statement to MSPs, the First Minister said that Scots would have to ask themselves “what adaptations to pre-pandemic life” would be required in the longer-term to “enable us to live with it [the virus] with far fewer protective measures.”

Ms Sturgeon also warned the NHS would need to be managed differently to cope with Covid in the long term with more patients treated away from hospitals.

In an interview with STV Scotland Tonight, she added: “Covid will change all of our considerations of how we manage our health service, and that will be part of the way in which we all learn to live with it over the months and years to come.

“We are in a position where we all want to get to as much normality as possible. All of us, me included, really crave that.

“But we need to recognise that this virus, although we hope Omicron is milder than previous variants, this virus still takes lives and it still causes significant health impacts for people.

“So we have got to treat it seriously and not underestimate the damage that it can do.”

It comes after Ms Sturgeon last week said the SNP-led Scottish Government would unveil a blueprint for Scots to live with the virus in the long term that would be “more proportionate and sustainable and less restrictive”.

Opposition parties in Scotland are particularly keen for these restrictions to end.

The Scottish Conservatives are the main opposition party in Holyrood:

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish public need to see some light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s time for the First Minister to produce a timetable on the new strategic framework that she promised.

“People want reassurance that restrictions won’t stay in force for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

“After almost two years of sacrifice, the public need to see a bold timetable from the Scottish Government that will enable us to live safely with Covid.”

Labour are the next largest party in opposition:

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader added: “Almost two years into the pandemic, I don’t think we have yet built the resilience in the system in order to respond appropriately to Covid.

“I think we accept that Covid is a risk to people’s health and wellbeing and we’ve also got to accept that how we respond to Covid is also a risk to people’s health and wellbeing particularly their mental health.

“I think this day by day decision making and waiting to see what may and may not be said at a press conference is not actually a good way of responding to the pandemic.

“I would like to see a framework in place that builds resilience, that sets quite clearly what the trigger mechanisms for any potential restrictions are and what those restrictions maybe and also then what the trigger mechanisms are for financial support for individual businesses …

“I don’t think the government has done that work here in Scotland and across the UK and I think we urgently need to do that work.”

The Liberal Democrat response was the best:

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, said: “I’ve been concerned at the absence of data offered to Parliament by the SNP.

“We still don’t have a firm idea of those who are in hospital because of Omicron or who just test positive when they go in for something else.

“Without that information, Parliament can’t take a view on whether restrictions are appropriate.

“There’s no clear evidence that the enhanced restrictions in Scotland have reduced the rates of infection compared to other parts of the UK.”

Too right!

Conclusion

If Boris can return to a rational outlook on coronavirus measures, England can be the first to exit the dystopia we have found ourselves in since March 16, 2020, with lockdown implemented one week later on March 23.

Let those who wish to take precautions do so.

Let those of us who wish to live and work again do so freely, without hindrance.

On Sunday, January 9, 2022, the Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known as Kate, turned 40:

Paolo Roversi took beautiful photographs of the Duchess to mark the occasion. They will be permanently displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Prior to that, they will be touring in three places that were pivotal to the Duchess’s life: Berkshire, the county where she grew up; St Andrews, where she went to university and Anglesey, where she and Prince William lived when they first married:

Paolo Roversi definitely brought out the best in his subject:

The portrait of the Duchess in her red dress made the cover of half the Sunday papers:

The third portrait can be seen in an article in The Sunday Times: ‘Kate Middleton at 40: how the Duchess of Cambridge is preparing to be Queen’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The paper’s Royal Editor, Roya Nikkhah, points out that Kate’s fit with the Royal Family is excellent:

From Diana to Fergie to Meghan, royal brides’ discontent with the institution is renowned. But more than ten years after marrying in, the Duchess of Cambridge celebrates her 40th birthday with a high level of the personal and professional happiness that has eluded some royal wives.

That is no mean feat for a young woman who has been so exposed for so long.

The past two years have been, to say the least, turbulent for Kate and her family …

How Kate copes

The Duchess has borrowed behaviours from the Queen and the late Queen Mother.

She eschews drama:

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, one of the Cambridges’ closest friends and advisers, their former principal private secretary who is godfather to Prince George, assesses Kate’s coping mechanism: “She has that almost old-fashioned, Queen Mother attitude to drama — she just doesn’t do it.”

An image of the duchess arriving at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April last year is telling. Taken a few weeks after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which included accusations of racism in the royal family, Kate appears composed but defiant.

The Queen must admire her granddaughter-in-law quite a lot, because she promoted her to:

Dame Grand Cross, the highest female rank in the Royal Victorian Order, awarded personally by the monarch for services to the sovereign — a sign of her gratitude to the woman on whose shoulders so much expectation rests. 

One source thinks that the Duchess takes a lot of her cues from the Queen:

A royal source who has known Kate from the start believes she has quietly observed Her Majesty’s game plan and successfully adopted many of her tactics: “She will be queen for a long time, and knowing her, she will have thought, ‘Who is my role model here, who has done this really well? Who do I learn from to lay down and build the foundations for the long game, to stay solid, strong, calm and confident, without giving up too much of myself?’ I think she has taken a lot from the Queen.”

Prince William’s greatest support

Sources interviewed agree that the Duchess is her husband’s greatest source of support:

A close friend says: “Kate has a way of calming William down and knows how to be really affectionate and gentle. But she is 100 per cent loyal to him and has a shaft of steel running up her back when she needs to deal with stuff that’s unpalatable.” One of William’s closest friends puts it bluntly: “He has had a year from hell and she has been fantastic supporting him.”

William is the first to acknowledge his wife’s diplomacy. “Catherine is a peacemaker,” he told a friend. “She’s much better than me, she wants everyone to be aligned.” When the royal party emerged from St George’s Chapel in Windsor after Prince Philip’s funeral, Kate broke the ice chatting to Harry, leading William to follow suit. In July, when the brothers were briefly reunited again at Kensington Palace to unveil a statue of Diana, Kate did not join them publicly but worked her magic out of sight before the brothers emerged into the glare of the world’s media.

“William was still furious,” says a close friend. “He had taken the view that he’d only give so much. He just didn’t want to go there [with Harry].” An aide says: “[Catherine] was amazing behind the scenes when Harry came.” The event went off without a hitch.

’Twas ever thus, says a former courtier, who points to the royal trio’s Heads Together campaign launched in 2016 to raise awareness around mental health: “It was completely her idea. She was very keen for the three of them to do something powerful together equally. She cared a lot about William’s relationship with his brother.”

St Andrews days

Incredibly, Prince William and Kate Middleton managed to keep the early months of their relationship at university out of the eyes of the media. Throughout it all, Kate remained level-headed:

William and Kate met at the University of St Andrews in 2001, where they were initially in the same halls of residence and reading the same degree, although William switched from art history to geography. Kate briefly dated law student Rupert Finch in her first year. She and William became a couple in 2003, managing to stay under the radar until April 2004 when The Sun broke their cover, publishing photographs of them skiing. Kate’s world changed for ever. Yet she did not. “She was always the same, from when she didn’t know she was going to be William’s wife to after the engagement,” says a close friend of the couple. “She never changed her manner with anybody.”

She can credit her parents’ success in their own party-planning business for her composure:

she moved in upper-class circles that made the transition into royal life a relatively smooth one.

Enduring love

Those who know the couple say they are still very much in love and became good friends first:

That ease came from a solid friendship before romance blossomed. As William said in their engagement interview in 2010: “We ended up being friends for a while and that was a good foundation. Because I do generally believe now that being friends with one another is a massive advantage.”

One of their closest friends says a spark was there from the start. “He found her really attractive and they’re the couple that still really fancy each other, there’s still a strong attraction. She finds him hilarious, they’re very into each other.”

Handling the media

During the couple’s courtship, Kate had no police protection until her engagement:

Kate had a rough ride from the start. After their relationship became public she was hounded by the paparazzi, who camped outside her Chelsea home, chasing her down the street. When it emerged she was working as an accessories buyer for the fashion label Jigsaw, photographers followed her as she went to buy her lunch. A friend tells me Kate was even chased late at night by several men in a car, which she found “terrifying”.

William’s team did all they could to help, but until he put Diana’s ring on her finger Kate was on her own without police protection. “It was constant. She coped with it admirably, given how intrusive it was,” says a former royal aide. The onslaught continued for years. After her job at Jigsaw became too difficult with the paparazzi, she went to work for her parents’ party-planning business and was attacked for being a “Waity Katie” who was biding her time until William made an honest woman of her. Reports that some in William’s circle nicknamed her “Doors to Manual”, in a reference to her mother Carole’s former career as a flight attendant, are said to be an “urban myth” by those close to the prince, but the future queen did not have it easy.

“It was never water off a duck’s back, but she has extraordinary strength of character and resilience,” says the aide. “I’ve never once seen or heard of her losing her temper. She went into it with her eyes wide open and her brain engaged. She is a sound, grounded person who knows herself well.”

Kate displayed the same sang-froid at her wedding. She was composed throughout.

Early married life

The Cambridges spent their first few years of married life in Anglesey. The Prince was an RAF search and rescue pilot.

Kate found adjusting to life as a Royal daunting at times but wanted to do everything properly:

Kate carefully planned her approach to learning how to become a future queen. “She was absolutely daunted by it and it was overwhelming at times,” says one of her closest friends. “Everyone wanted her to be the next Diana — people had this Diana hole they wanted to put her into. There was constant ‘what are her [campaigning] issues going to be?’ William was protective in making sure she had time and space to acclimatise to public life and not feel pressured.”

With charities clamouring for her attention, Rebecca Priestley, a confidante and adviser from 2011 and her private secretary from 2012 to 2017, helped Kate shape her new role. “Catherine knows every decision is for the rest of her life, everything is for the long game,” Priestley says. “She was aware she wasn’t an expert in any one field and she wanted to educate herself first, then shine a spotlight where needed. It was a ‘listen and learn’ approach rather than immediately becoming patron of a charity. We did a lot of under-the-radar visits before the public engagements.”

Some of the media’s obsession with her style over the substance of her work is a source of frustration, one that cut deep when she was starting her public life. A close friend says: “When she goes to the Bond premiere or is at Trooping the Colour, of course she puts on the ‘uniform’ of the role. But what was enormously frustrating and difficult for her, especially in the early days, was she was going out and doing the work she was interested in and was hugely important to her, and people just talked about what she was wearing.”

When Kate made her first public speech in March 2012, at the Treehouse hospice in Suffolk, she wore a high-street dress that her mother, Carole, had previously worn to Royal Ascot. “There she was meeting with hugely vulnerable children and families, and the dress was the story,” says the friend. “She said she found it ‘a bit demoralising’.”

Motherhood

The Duchess does what is best for her family:

Another close adviser says: “How she operates is not reactive. She has stuck to the path that she knows is right for her and her family. It’s not about the quick win.”

She says that she had a happy childhood, which the Prince says has made home life a pleasure:

Family is everything to Kate and she remains close to her parents and siblings. “I had a very happy childhood,” she has said. “It was great fun — I’m very lucky, I’ve come from a very strong family — my parents were hugely dedicated to us.” That stable family unit was a big draw for William when they met, and continues to be his compass. William has told a friend: “Catherine has made me realise the importance of family. As you know, family hasn’t always been an easy thing for me.”

In interviews, the Duchess, mother of three, admits to having the same challenges as any other mum:

Kate has always presented the unflappable demeanour of a mother who seamlessly balances the demands of a very public role with the challenges of raising George, eight, Charlotte, six, and Louis, three. But in February 2020 she let the mask slip a little, in a frank admission of wrestling with “mum guilt” and how parenthood had “pulled” her to the “toughest and most unknown places”. On the Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast she admitted struggling with “the juggle” of being “such a hands-on mum”, being riddled with “doubts and questions about the guilty element of being away for work” and always “questioning your own decisions and judgments”. It took her time to shed the guilt of having a nanny and housekeeper to share the load: “It was a real weight off my shoulders [to realise] that actually it’s not totally my responsibility to do everything because, you know, we all have good days and bad days.”

It was rare to hear Kate nattering away unscripted, and an unusually candid insight into what matters to her: “Is it that I’m sitting down trying to do their maths and spelling homework over the weekend? Or is it the fact we’ve gone out and lit a bonfire and sat around trying to cook sausages that hasn’t worked because it’s too wet?” Kate revealed she adopted hypnobirthing techniques and had “really quite liked labour”, but found the prospect of emerging on to the steps of the Lindo Wing for a photo call hours after giving birth a “slightly terrifying” but necessary part of the job. “We’re hugely grateful for the support the public had shown us, and for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public I felt was really important,” she said.

A close friend gives the unvarnished take on how Kate really feels about sharing the most personal moments of her life with the nation. “She accepts and understands that in their position this stuff needs to happen. But it’s not easy for her, particularly with the babies. Standing there after just having a baby, feeling exhausted, those moments take a huge amount out of her. It’s hard work because she’s a normal woman with all the vulnerabilities and realities all women have. It is part of their life, she doesn’t resent it but it takes a lot of effort.”

What an exceptional woman. I wish there were more women just like her.

Many happy returns to the Duchess of Cambridge!

England had a relatively better coronavirus Christmas season than Wales or Scotland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided against moving from the current Plan B restrictions, in place until January 26, 2022, to Plan C, which would have resembled the approach our socialist mainland neighbours have imposed on their residents.

As such, a number of Scots visited Newcastle and Carlisle to celebrate Hogmanay, the last day of the old year: New Year’s Eve. The Scots celebrate through to January 2, an annual bank holiday there. Edinburgh has the best Hogmanay celebrations, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cancelled them this year.

The Welsh also journeyed across the border to England to ring in the New Year.

We were happy to have both nations share in our fun.

On January 2, The Sunday Times reported (emphases mine):

Several hours before the famous new year countdown in Times Square, New York, young Scottish revellers were counting down the seconds to midnight at bars in Times Square, Newcastle.

Party-goers fled Scotland, where nightclubs were shut and tougher socialising restrictions were in place, desperate for a big blowout. In the west of England, a similar exodus of young people from Wales boosted the numbers of clubbers in Chester, Bristol and other towns and cities across the border.

In the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, groups of friends spilled out of Newcastle station, dragging wheelie cases behind them, girls freshly spray-tanned, hair in rollers, and boys clutching plastic bags full of cans.

One, with his arms around the shoulders of a group of friends, declared they were here for “a party”. Hailing from towns and cities across Scotland, most were in their late teens and early twenties. Many had spent successive birthdays in lockdown and were not prepared to do the same for a second New Year’s Eve.

While the UK government had allowed new year celebrations to continue, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, ordered nightclubs to shut for three weeks to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, and Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay celebrations were cancelled.

“It’s boring in Scotland, all the nightclubs are shut — what are we going to do in Scotland?” said Brian, 25, from Edinburgh. Lily Owen, 19, a student from Edinburgh, was visiting Newcastle for the first time with a group of friends. “There’s clubs here, it’s open, it’s a no-brainer: we’re going to go,” she said.

Aimee Stuart, 22, had also come to England with friends, “because Nicola Sturgeon has banned us from going out”. They had paid about £200 each for the trip — and they were not worried about Covid. “I’ve just had it, so it’s fine,” Stuart said. “And we’re all double-vaccinated.”

It has been interesting to note how the media narrative is beginning to change from a pro-restriction one to a more Swedish-style one.

On January 2, news emerged that epidemiologist Prof Mark Woolhouse OBE from the University of Edinburgh once again advocated a Swedish-style approach, which he had done in September 2020.

The Guardian obtained excerpts from Woolhouse’s forthcoming book, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir, and published them:

Rather than imposing blanket lockdowns across the nation, the government should have adopted measures designed to make contacts safe, Woolhouse maintains. “You can see from the UK data that people were reducing their contacts with each other as cases rose and before lockdown was imposed. That, coupled with Covid-safe measures, such as masks and testing, would have been sufficient to control spread.”

Largely voluntary behaviour change worked in Sweden and it should have been allowed to progress in the UK, argues Woolhouse. Instead, we plumped for an enforced national lockdown, in part because, for the first time in history, we could. Enough business is now done online to allow large parts of society to function fairly well – through video conferences and online shopping. “But it was a lazy solution to a novel coronavirus epidemic, as well as a hugely damaging one,” he adds.

However, Woolhouse is at pains to reject the ideas of those who advocated the complete opening up of society, including academics who backed the Barrington Declaration which proposed the Covid-19 virus be allowed to circulate until enough people had been infected to achieve herd immunity.

“This would have led to an epidemic far larger than the one we eventually experienced in 2020,” says Woolhouse. “It also lacked a convincing plan for adequately protecting the more vulnerable members of society, the elderly and those who are immuno-compromised.”

Instead, the country should have put far more effort into protecting the vulnerable. Well over 30,000 people died of Covid-19 in Britain’s care homes. On average, each home got an extra £250,000 from the government to protect against the virus, he calculates. “Much more should have been spent on providing protection for care homes,” says Woolhouse, who also castigates the government for offering nothing more than a letter telling those shielding elderly parents and other vulnerable individuals in their own homes to take precautions.

The nation could have spent several thousand pounds per household on provision of routine testing and in helping to implement Covid-safe measures for those shielding others and that would still have amounted to a small fraction of the £300bn we eventually spent on our pandemic response, he argues. Indeed, Woolhouse is particularly disdainful of the neglect of “shielders”, such as care home workers and informal carers. “These people stood between the vulnerable and the virus but, for most of 2020, they got minimal recognition and received no help.”

Britain spent a fortune on suppressing the virus and will still be servicing the debt incurred for generations to come, he adds. “By contrast, we spent almost nothing on protecting the vulnerable in the community. We should and could have invested in both suppression and protection. We effectively chose just one.”

And Woolhouse is emphatic that further lockdowns are not the way to deal with future waves of Covid-19. “Lockdowns aren’t a public health policy. They signify a failure of public health policy,” he states.

Instead, the country needs, very quickly, not to be surprised by new variants and not to respond each one in an ad hoc fashion. “We should agree a sliding scale of interventions and trigger points for implementing them. With omicron it all feels a bit chaotic. We need better planning and preparation for when the next variant arrives, as it surely will.”

Woolhouse is having a poke at the Conservatives there. He would be better off posting that to Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford (Wales’s First Minister). They have maintained much more stringent restrictions than England from 2020 to the present.

Another piece about adopting a Swedish-style strategy appeared in The Guardian on January 2. Larry Elliott wrote about Boris’s new change of tack in an attempt to reduce his current hero to zero reputation.

Elliott writes:

Government policy towards Covid-19 has come full circle. For now, at least, England has returned to the Swedish way of dealing with the pandemic. Tough, officially imposed lockdowns are out. Trusting the people to do the sensible thing is back in.

Whether this approach will survive the expected surge in hospitalisations from Christmas and New Year revelries remains to be seen. Boris Johnson is the master of the screeching U-turn and with the number of infections hitting new records pressure on Downing Street to act is growing. We have been here before.

Back in the early days of the pandemic the prime minister was minded to copy Sweden, a country that imposed few restrictions and decided early on that it needed to learn to live with the virus.

The prime minister’s flirtation with the “Swedish experiment” was brief, and at the end of March 2020 a draconian lockdown was imposed. Ministers knew this would have a dire impact on the economy but felt the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed left them no choice.

A paper published in the online journal Scientific Reports last year examined what would have happened had Britain followed the Swedish approach. Even assuming the public here would have been as willing to adhere to non-mandatory recommendations as the Swedes (a pretty big assumption) the UK death rate would have at least doubled.

This time, the decision is a lot less clearcut, not least because vaccines are providing protection from the virus. The news from South Africa, one of the countries where Omicron first surfaced, has also been encouraging. While more transmissible, the new variant has resulted in fewer hospitalisations and deaths. Case numbers, after rising rapidly, have started to decline.

A degree of caution is needed when comparing the two countries, because South Africa has a much younger population than Britain, and it is summer rather than the middle of winter there. Even so, it is clear the government has set a high bar for imposing further restrictions.

The prime minister’s weakened political position is one reason the government has gone Swedish. The risk of causing serious damage to the economy when it is looking particularly vulnerable is another, because this is going to be a tough year for the British public. Inflation is rising, interest rates are going up, and energy bills are expected to rocket in the spring just as Rishi Sunak’s increase in national insurance contributions comes into force.

The cumulative effect is a whopping cut to living standards. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank the average household is going to be £1,000 a year worse off. Those on the lowest incomes will be especially hard hit by soaring gas and electricity bills.

In the circumstances, it is easy to see why the government is reluctant to add to the economic pain by imposing tougher restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. Fresh curbs mean slower growth and a hit to the public finances. They would also test the resilience of the labour market.

Good news. I, like many others of a libertarian bent, foresaw these disasters nearly two years ago in March 2020.

Let Scotland and Wales continue mired in socialist control, which is doing little to alleviate coronavirus numbers.

Meanwhile, may England lead the way out of this pandemic.

In a few months’ time, we’ll find out which approach was the correct one. I suspect England’s, provided it turns out to be a more libertarian one, will have been proven the right thing to do.

I suspect that Omicron is providential. Whilst I would not advocate throwing drinks and nibbles parties, how many people have had it and not know it?

In that respect, it could be good for building up herd immunity the old fashioned way.

Please, someone, stop Project Fear.

Last week, a new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529 — initially named Nu and now changed for whatever reason to Omicron — hit the headlines, having been discovered in South Africa.

How worried should we be? I’ve been ignoring the news hysteria pumped out by Britain’s main channels and have been focusing on the views of scientists who have offered good information in the past.

A senior scientist in vaccine research and development advises ignoring the media hysteria:

The scientist notes that full vaccination rates in South Africa are very low:

There is no need to panic, especially before Christmas. Note that the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association says the symptoms are ‘extremely mild’:

We cannot extrapolate whether ‘cases’ will spike in countries where most of the population is fully ‘vaccinated’. According to another scientist who tracks viruses, it could be that the variant will not take hold quite as easily or with devastating effect:

Sir John Bell, an adviser to the UK government, agrees that the symptoms are like that of a cold. Our T-cells can probably deal with it:

Read further on for what this means for travel and our civil liberties.

First, here is confirmation that Nu was renamed Omicron in the Greek alphabet:

It seems that a Greek letter — Xi, coincidentally — was skipped:

Omicron is under the microscope not because of overflowing hospitals but rather genomic monitoring by clinicians:

As with the other variants, Delta included, Omicron would have been discovered months before now:

In fact, despite what the WHO says, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported on it back in July:

Now for the bit on travel and our civil liberties.

As expected, travel restrictions to and from six African countries are now in place in Britain

Travel to and from South Africa and five other southern African countries was banned from noon on Friday. Malawi and Mozambique are expected to be added to Britain’s travel red list imminently and there is acceptance in Whitehall that further bans are likely while scientists attempt to assess whether Omicron evades vaccines or spreads faster.

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, described travel bans as “precautionary” and said it might be possible to lift them once the variant had been better assessed.

Travel industry bosses warned that the introduction of the red list was a “hammer blow to consumer confidence” in before the peak winter sun window.

… and in the United States. It’s okay when the Democrats do it, but not when Trump did it in 2020:

https://image.vuukle.com/bc54e186-eef4-45e2-afa4-a98d98408671-a5d7cc88-d773-4816-bb46-14fcf94c773a

No doubt politicians will attempt to restrict our movements but, as this pathologist explains, human activity has little to do with viral transmission, which appears to be caused by seasonal activity:

Keep that in mind if there is a push for England to implement Plan B for the winter months. Plan B includes vaccine passports, something we have been able to evade, unlike Scotland and Wales (both socialist-governed nations):

On that subject, here is a coronavirus passport poster from Ireland. The Irish government now refers to freedom as ‘privileges’:

Journalist Julia Samuel reminds us of what the situation looked like a year ago. Remember when the vaccine rollout was nearly ready and we were told we would get our freedom back? One year on, and the Government is telling us that we will now need boosters. Who thought then that we would have vaccine passports? Northern Ireland’s Assembly will be voting this week on whether to have them and where:

Julia Samuel says that the Government now considers freedom to be on loan and can be rescinded whenever our notional leaders see fit:

I deeply deplore this state of affairs but am not surprised by it.

Meanwhile, vaccine efficacy has raised a few questions. Last week on RMC (French talk radio), the mid-morning show had a heated discussion as to whether the vaccines were working.

Gibraltar has had huge problems with new cases, yet 100% of its population is fully vaccinated.

On November 17, The Express reported that The Rock has cancelled Christmas:

The Rock has urged people to “limit mixing as much as possible”, in new guidance published last Friday. The Gibraltar government has also cancelled all functions across departments, including Christmas parties, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ministers have not yet ordered the public and businesses to follow suit, but the decision had sparked anger in the hospitality sector …

Gibraltar, which has a population of around 33,000, also boasts an impressive rate of vaccination.

Gibraltar has administered 94,019 vaccine doses – meaning most of its citizens have received three jabs …

The Government of Gibraltar has nevertheless reiterated masks should be worn in shops, hospitals and public transport.

People are also encouraged to meet in outdoor spaces, where possible, despite winter drawing in.

At that point, two people were hospitalised, with one in intensive care.

Malta has the same problem in case rises. Unlike Gibraltar, many of these people are ending up in hospital:

On the other hand, a study from Northwestern University near Chicago has reported that the booster has dramatically increased antibody levels:

In a nutshell:

Data from England appear to corroborate the same findings, with lower hospital admission rates for older people:

The peer-reviewed study appeared in The Lancet (yes, I know):

This is the effect of booster shots:

The only question now is how long the 93% and 94% efficacy lasts. The public will soon tire of getting covid booster shots every six to eight months, that is for certain.

In the meantime, we must continue to keep a gimlet eye on our governments, especially where civil liberties and our God-given freedoms are concerned.

I will cover England’s restrictions in a separate post.

It would be difficult to overstate how much England has been stomped on over the past 30 years and more.

Britons are told that England does not exist; it is merely a collection of regions.

The English are told there is ‘no appetite’ for an English Parliament.

Britons are taught in school to ignore and even hate England.

Right now, I am looking at one of my high school textbooks, an anthology. Its title? England in Literature.

I read it in a class called ‘English’, oddly enough.

England is the only nation of the four in the United Kingdom without its own Parliament, which many of us living here would love to have, just as the other three nations have their own assemblies. However, our notional betters have told us that this would be impossible. Years ago, it was reported there was ‘no appetite’ for it. Yet, the people living in England have never been asked to vote on such a proposition, unlike the inhabitants of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now, to borrow an English expression, we have a spanner in the works: the continued success of England in Euro 2020.

On July 4, the Telegraph‘s Nick Timothy wrote an opinion piece: ‘England has been denied the voice it deserves by elites who would rather Englishness didn’t exist’.

It has this subtitle:

England has its own unique and complex identity, and it should have a parliament of its own, too

I couldn’t agree more, although, these days, part of me thinks it would add a layer of bureaucracy and expense. That said, it would be worth the price.

For the past few weeks, England football fans have been singing the 1996 hit song Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, with music by the Lightning Seeds. Recalling England’s World Cup win 30 years earlier, it was written for the 1996 European Championships:

Nick Timothy encapsulates the mood of England supporters perfectly:

The football fans singing “it’s coming home!”, while anxiously anticipating the pain of another England disappointment, manage to reconcile two seemingly contradictory English traits: boisterous triumphalism and private self-doubt.

The way the English feel about not only football but the nation itself is at loggerheads with elites who live in this part of our Sceptred Isle.

Timothy elaborates (emphases mine):

the English do have traits and tendencies, just like any other nationality. And yet, for many English elites, England’s identity is something best denied. It is, they believe, too dangerous, too embarrassing, or too exclusive. Even those now debating what they call “Englishness” are doing so, they admit, with reluctance.

Among them, a common contrivance is to pretend that English culture is, as one commentator puts it, “thin”, an identity that “has arisen not because of a positive movement to adopt the identity, but scorn for other forms of collective belonging”. Another pundit asks, “what is England now, other than sports teams and Shakespeare?”

Englishness is very different to that of the distinct identities of the other three nations that make up the United Kingdom, but those who wish to suppress it are doing so successfully, thus far:

They seem to hope that if “Englishness” must be appeased, they can make sure that whatever follows is an elite-led project in which they can keep everything civilised.

I am not sure exactly where ‘civilised’ would be violated were Englishness to be celebrated. For years, we have been told to avoid any national pride, unlike the Welsh and the Scots. It is perfectly acceptable for nationally-oriented political parties such as Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (SNP) to exist. Yet, no such party currently exists in England.

Elites in England fear we would break out in violence. Perhaps this is a leftover from the tiny pockets of extremists from the 1970s and early 1980s. Those groups have since faded into history and hardly speak for 99.9% of the population of England which, today, is highly diverse, particularly in our big cities. However, it is not as if the other nations of the UK don’t have their extremist groups, although Wales might be an outlier there.

Looking back further, England has her own undeniable history and culture, as Timothy points out:

England is the mother of parliaments. It is the land of Shakespeare and Dickens, Elgar and Holst, the Beatles and Stones, the Cotswolds and Cumbrian hills, London and Liverpool, Oxford and Cambridge. It is Stonehenge and St Paul’s, football and cricket, the local church and village pub, Isaac Newton and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

It is cream teas and Cheddar cheese, a pint of bitter and a cup of tea, farms and factories, honest coppers and straight judges. It is the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation, Roundheads and Cavaliers, rebellions and strikes, Industrial Revolution and a Glorious Revolution. It is the home of Magna Carta, Locke and Burke, Churchill and Attlee, and long lines of kings and queens …

From philosophy to science, inventions to the arts, English culture is rich with significance.

Therefore:

It is needlessly destructive to ignore, denigrate or misrepresent it.

Sharing a common identity, as promoted in Scotland and Wales, can be healthy:

Shared identity is what allows us to recognise familiarity in strangers, and that familiarity, psychologists attest, encourages trust and solidarity and the willingness to make sacrifices for others. You and I might never have met, but we have language, places, habits, customs and shared history, culture and stories to help us to trust one another. This shared national identity means we can look beyond the narrower identities – racial, religious, regional, whatever – that can divide us.

The only time the English can truly celebrate their identity is when it comes to national sports teams — football, primarily, but also rugby and cricket. Contrary to what the elites say about national identity, it works remarkably well:

The English football team is multiracial and at ease with itself. The cricket team – who are world champions – are multiracial and multi-religious. And as the football song shows, it is collective memories (“’cause I remember…”) and our shared attachment to place (“it’s coming home”) that bring us together.

One aspect of the display of national identity during football tournaments is the flag. For England, this is the flag of St George, a red cross on a white background. The only time it is even vaguely acceptable in the eyes of the elites is during this time.

Through the past 30 years, England football fans have draped large ones outside the windows of their homes or flown smaller ones from their cars or vans. Ironically, in a year in which England has been so successful in football, I have only seen two or three so far. Perhaps those who used to fly the flag have been psychologically intimidated over the years by talking heads on the media.

Nick Timothy says it wasn’t always this way:

In the 1966 World Cup final, England fans held up the Union Flag; by the 1996 European Championships semi-final – played before Scottish devolution – England fans were flying the cross of St George without causing a stir.

Moving back to the original subject of an English parliament, Timothy points out the problem of not having one. The issue is that MPs from the devolved governments can end up determining English legislation:

Devolution to Scotland and Wales but not to England means Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters decide the government of England. A UK government elected by mainly English voters thinking of issues that are devolved elsewhere makes no sense to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If one day we end up with a UK government elected with no English majority, but expected to determine policies in England that are devolved elsewhere, we will face a constitutional crisis.

“English votes on English laws” does not resolve this issue.

In fact, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, who is Scottish, plans to abolish English votes on English laws, known as EVEL.

A June 16 post from a Scottish site, Jaggy.blog, explains how EVEL came to be:

The newly revealed plan by the Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, to scrap English Votes for English Laws will be welcomed by fellow Unionists who felt this ‘Evel’ act rubbed salt in Scottish rebels’ wounds after the 2014 referendum. Actually, it was more of a desperate ploy by David Cameron to counter the threat of UKIP before he could work up the courage to call a referendum on EU membership.

It would seem that the reason Gove is planning to revoke EVEL is because the Conservatives have a majority of 78 in the House of Commons, thereby enabling them to overrule any opposition from the SNP, the third largest party in Parliament.

Gove’s move is seen as something that would preserve the Union. This I personally doubt, but here is the reasoning:

Zealously spearheading the UK Government’s efforts to save the Union, Mr Gove told The Times today that Evel has outlived its usefulness:

Ultimately, it’s a convention which arose out of a set of circumstances after the 2014 [Scottish independence] referendum, where you had a coalition government and so on. We’ve moved on now, so I think it’s right to review where we are on it. The more we can make the House of Commons and Westminster institutions work for every part of the UK and every party in the UK, the better.

The less said about Michael Gove, the better. His reasoning is illogical, but he won’t care. He has no love for England, either.

Would the SNP be able to restrain themselves and not vote on English laws? Back in the 1990s, it used to be a matter of honour whereby they would not do so. After all, English MPs cannot vote on Scottish laws, because that legislation has been handled in Holyrood since 1999.

Therefore, as Nick Timothy says, the only way to resolve this is by creating an English Parliament:

… there can be no return to the unitary state of old. The only sustainable remaining solution is an English parliament and English government within a federal UK, supported by a political culture that respects and cherishes pride in England and shows a more serious commitment to the government of England’s regions. We have a lot to take pride in, and as the football team is showing, there are many more shared memories – of triumph, hopefully, rather than disaster – still to be made.

Sadly, a shared culture and geography is unlikely to make that happen anytime soon.

For now, we must lie back and consider the Three Lions — and the possibility that they could win Euro 2020.

In closing, there is nothing shameful about England or the English. They have given me the best years of my life.

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