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

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This map shows the landings in Normandy:

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

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

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

We will always remember those heroic men and women:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, most Britons disagree with Good Morning Britain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I, too, want my country back.

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

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

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

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

The English, Welsh and Scottish election results from Thursday, May 6, were mostly complete on Saturday, May 8.

Brief analyses of results

Various pundits gave analyses of the results.

However, before going into those, this is the change in voting among NHS and other health workers from Labour to Conservative. I’ve never seen anything like it:

Guido Fawkes says that Labour no longer represents the working class:

Andrew Neil of The Spectator summarised a Wall Street Journal article about the elections:

Andrew Neil himself says this is a ‘watershed’ moment:

Mark Wallace of Conservative Home says that, locally, even Labour councillors acknowledge that voters are bullish on Boris:

Dan Hodges interviewed several people in various towns in the North East. Most were bullish on Boris and the Conservatives. In Middlesbrough (emphases mine):

It’s here that one of the nation’s largest vaccination centres has been established, and the local residents filing out into car park E after receiving their jabs have a different perspective to the Prime Minister’s critics.

‘Boris is doing what he could,’ Louisa tells me. ‘It’s a very difficult situation. He’s been fantastic.’ 

Victoria Newell agrees: ‘I think he’s done a fantastic job. The whole vaccination programme has been really well managed.’

Some Labour strategists have been pointing to the vaccination success as the primary reason for Tory buoyancy in the polls

One Shadow Minister told me: ‘People are getting their jabs, the sun’s out and the pubs are open again. They’re going to do well.’

Dan Hodges visited Redcar, which used to have a huge steelworks, long gone. He then went to other parts of the Tees Valley:

The Redcar works may be gone but, as you head towards Stockton, the giant cooling towers of the Billingham manufacturing works punch up through the skyline, while the drive out of Darlington brings you face to face with the monolithic new Amazon warehouse that employs more than 1,000 staff. 

And this is what Boris – and [Tees Valley mayor Andy] Houchen – are betting their political lives on. That they can turn around decades of ‘managed decline’ under Labour and get the nation’s economic engine room motoring again.

Back in Hartlepool, the voters have started delivering their verdict. And again, another fashionable Westminster ‘narrative’ is running head-first into the British people.

You can’t currently buy a pint inside The Rossmere Pub on Balmoral Road, but you can cast a ballot.

And builder Geoff Rollinson is planning to deliver his for Boris. ‘He’s been amazing. I love him,’ he tells me. ‘What have Labour done for this town in over 50 years? Boris has pumped billions into furlough, he’s given people here a wage. Labour would never have done that.’

Outside Mill House Leisure Centre, Mark Robinson delivers the same message. ‘I voted Conservative,’ the charity worker tells me. ‘Boris is trying to get the job done.’

What about the furore over sleaze and bodies? ‘I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with Covid and all the stuff he’s had to deal with. I think he’s doing his best.’

English council wrap-up

Most of the English county council results were tabulated by Saturday night. There were big gains for the Conservatives:

The biggest news was the loss of a Labour majority of Durham County Council — the first in over a century:

English mayoral elections

I’m of two minds about regional mayors, a relatively recent development using up more taxpayer money.

Former Labour MP Andy Burnham won a comfortable re-election in Manchester.

In the Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen also won a decisive re-election:

Houchen told The Spectator in March that he was eager to rebuild the steel industry in the region but is finding a certain UK Government department difficult:

‘I’ve said to Boris himself, I’ve said to No. 10 and Rishi and the five new colleagues that I’ve got in Westminster: there’s nowhere left to hide now,’ he explains. ‘It’s a strong Tory government. Loads of Tory MPs in the region, a regional Tory mayor (at least for a couple of months), so there’s no one left to blame any more. We either really deliver something different in the next four years, or people will go back to voting for other parties.’

His re-election campaign is based on a new project: to ‘bring steelmaking back to Teesside’ with electric arc furnace technology. It’s seen in America and elsewhere as the future of the steel industry, he says — but not in Westminster, where he regards the Theresa May-created department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of the problem, since it clings to the declinist view of the steel industry.

‘The biggest problem with the steel industry in the UK is Whitehall,’ he says. ‘The UK steel policy and the BEIS team are absolutely useless.’ Successive governments, he says, have failed British steelmaking for 40 years. ‘It has become a sticking plaster. Oh, British Steel’s fallen over, how do we rescue it? Oh, now south Wales is in trouble, how do we rescue it?’ There’s too much worrying about failure, he says, and not enough planning for success. ‘It’s never: what do we want the steel industry to look like? What can we do as a developed nation when we’re having to compete with places like China?’

… He admits that his various schemes have ‘raised eyebrows’ but puts it in part down to Teesside Tories being a slightly different breed. ‘This isn’t a one-size fits all,’ he says. ‘I would say Conservatives in this region are much more practical. I don’t remember having a discussion with any Tory in Teesside about free market economics and right-wing politics. It’s very much pragmatic.’

In the West Midlands, his Conservative counterpart Andy Street also won a second term, defeating former Labour MP Liam Byrne by 54% to 46%:

In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected for a second term, but by a narrower margin than expected. His first preference votes were down by 130,000 from 2016:

Given the fact that the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey got so little media coverage — and, oddly, no support from his own party — he did remarkably well, winning boroughs in the South West of the capital along with Labour-dominated Brent & Harrow as well as Ealing & Hillingdon (see map) in the North West. (In 2016, Khan won Brent & Harrow comfortably.) Bailey also won Croydon and Sutton to the South:

Bailey arrived at City Hall for the final count on Saturday evening:

Labour still dominate the London Assembly. Bailey will retain his seat there:

London is beginning to vote Conservative again because of the high crime rates under Sadiq Khan’s leadership. On the day the results were announced, there was a stabbing at Selfridges in Oxford Street. Unthinkable:

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Labour defeated the Conservatives:

Labour held on to Bristol, with Greens in second place:

Labour MP Tracy Brabin has been elected as the first mayor of West Yorkshire. I hope that she will have to resign her Parliamentary seat as a result.

Scotland

Scotland’s SNP are just one seat of an overall majority.

Nicola Sturgeon has been re-elected to Holyrood and remains First Minister.

Independence referendum redux

Naturally, the Sunday news shows raised the matter of a second independence referendum with UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has the rather grand political title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He plainly told Sophy Ridge of Sky News:

Gove, himself a Scot and being interviewed in Glasgow, rightly pointed out that, when the first independence referendum was held — the one that was supposed to be ‘once in a generation’ — the SNP had an overall majority in Holyrood under Alex Salmond:

Over to the east coast of Scotland, in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon, having campaigned this year on no second independence referendum because of coronavirus, is now game for one:

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers, someone with a Scottish surname, laid out his plan for the next independence referendum. This is excellent, especially the bit about stopping the Barnett formula three years before the referendum. Enough English financing of Scotland, especially as it was supposed to be a temporary measure — in 1979:

I would allow a referendum. On the date of my choosing. Voters must be over 18 and resident in Scotland for the previous 5 years. Why on earth Boris allowed Wales and Scotland to extend their franchises beats me, children vote, students vote TWICE. My referendum will be in 3 years time and to help voters decide I’m stopping the Barnett formula at midnight tonight and any English infrastructure spending in Scotland so they get a clear idea of their economic muscle. Scotland will leave the union with all the SNO’s own debts and 10% of the UK National debt. Scottish ‘ministers’ and council leaders will not be allowed to travel overseas or Zoom with foreign politicians without permission of my Secretary of State. English, Welsh and N Irish students will no longer qualify for grants or loans to attend Scottish universities and Scottish students will pay foreign student fees to study outside Scotland. The NHS in England and Wales will be closed to Scottish residents. Etc. Etc. Three years. Then Orkney and Shetland will be offered the chance to be UK dependant territories with tax haven and Freeport status. Etc. Etc.

Even the BBC’s Andrew Marr, himself a Scot, knows that England helps to finance Scotland. Sturgeon refused to admit it on Sunday morning:

Apparently, now that the election is over, the SNP plan to put their case for independence forward in foreign capitals. I hope they will not be using Barnett consequentials to finance their flights:

Scottish blogger Effie Deans wonders how well other countries will receive Scotland’s plan for secession. It did not work well for Catalonia:

The UK Government has a plan to counteract the SNP’s independence goal — give money directly from London (Westminster) to Scottish councils, bypassing Holyrood:

There have been complaints of coronavirus funds going from Westminster to Scotland and not being allocated locally to ease the damage done by the pandemic. Furthermore, nearly £600,000 seems to be unaccounted for in SNP funds, as can be seen in the Private Eye article below:

Results

Now on to the results. The SNP needed 65 seats for a majority:

One of the regional BBC shows in Wales or Northern Ireland said on Sunday that this was the SNP’s ‘best ever result’, but it is not:

The fly in the ointment was Aberdeen West (see Balmoral below), which the Scottish Conservatives managed to hold on to with an increased majority from 900 to 3,000, probably thanks to George Galloway’s new All for Unity Party:

They were pleased with their wins, which also included re-election in constituencies along the border with England:

And what happened to Alex Salmond’s brand new Alba Party? There was no predicted ‘supermajority’. Alba won no seats:

Interestingly, a poll in the SNP’s favoured newspaper, The National, polled readers on May 4. Alba was mentioned favourably more than once in the polling. Forty-nine per cent of those polled were planning on voting for Alba on their list (peach coloured) ballot. Alex Salmond was also the most impressive independence campaigner next to Nicola Sturgeon (43% to 46%).

Wales

Last, but not least, is Wales, which everyone knew would largely vote Labour, as is their wont.

Prif Weinidog (First Minister) Mark Drakeford won re-election.

Like the Scots, they are 1 seat short of a majority.

This is their Senedd (Senate) result:

That said, Labour’s vote share is up, and so is the Conservatives’, as predicted on Election Day:

Guido Fawkes has a summary.

It is unlikely Wales will push for independence any time soon.

Houses of Parliament

On Tuesday, the formal reopening of the Houses of Parliament will take place.

Her Majesty the Queen will give her speech which outlines the Government’s agenda in the House of Commons for the coming months.

More on that this week.

The United Kingdom has an ambitious delivery programme of coronavirus vaccines in the UK, reaching not only England but also the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Our armed forces are helping where necessary.

As of Monday, January 18, 2020, this was the state of play with regard to vaccines. See how far behind Scotland and Wales are in delivering injections:

It is worth noting that England has a majority of Conservative MPs.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister is a member of the centre-right DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).

Scotland has a majority Scottish National Party government, socialist.

Wales has a Labour-dominated government, also socialist.

Watching the proceedings in the assemblies of the devolved nations as broadcast on BBC Parliament, there is a stark contrast between what goes on in Northern Ireland’s compared with those in Scotland and Wales.

Even though the assembly in Northern Ireland’s Stormont also has a fair amount of left-leaning members, complaints about money and vaccine provision from the UK government in Westminster are few and far between.

In Scotland and Wales, however, the situation is quite the opposite. The UK government — Westminster — is always to blame for lack of money.

Scotland and Wales have enough vaccine, but delivery does not seem to be getting off the ground.

In Wales, Mark Drakeford, First Minister (Prif Weinidog, in Welsh) says that he wants to ration the vaccines so that vaccinators have something to do every day:

Guido Fawkes has the audio of an interview Drakeford gave to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, January 18, and I can vouch for the fact that he said the same thing before the Welsh Senedd (Senate) last week, having seen him on BBC Parliament.

Guido says (emphases in the original, the one in purple is mine):

Appearing on the Today Programme this morning, Mark Drakeford was asked why Wales has the lowest vaccination rate of any UK nation, which the First Minister merely passed off as “marginal differences” and “not the most important issue”. Drakeford is relying on the ‘supply’ excuse much more than any other leader in the UK, claiming Wales isn’t to receive its second doses of the Pfizer vaccine until the end of the month and therefore is slowing the deployment of Pfizer vaccine:

There would be no point and certainly it would be logistically damaging to try and use all of [the Pfizer vaccine] in the first week and have our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do.

Given Wales has proportionally suffered more than England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from Covid, Drakeford should have a strategy of getting as many jabs in as many arms as quickly as possible – if there’s a wait of 12 weeks for the second jab, so be it. At the weekend, Starmer called for an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic; Guido suggests Wales is much more in need of one…

UPDATE: According to ONS statistics just released, Covid was the leading cause of death for the month in Wales, accounting for 27.4% of all deaths in Wales, a third higher than in England where it accounts for 20.8% of all deaths.

Good grief.

In Scotland, vaccines are not being sent where they should be. Some areas receive the vaccine, others do not:

Lily of St Leonards, who writes about the state of Scotland under the SNP, has an excellent post that explains what is happening.

Her post of January 18, ‘SNP mismanagement is killing Scots’, is well worth reading in full. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

She lives with her mother, who is 87 years old, in the age bracket to be vaccinated first:

My mother is nearly 88. She has yet to receive an invitation for a Covid vaccination. I hope it comes soon. The risk to her comes entirely from me. She has hardly left the house since March, but I have to go shopping. If I caught Covid on one of those shopping trips, it would be difficult to stop her catching it too. We live in the same house and I care for her. If an 88-year-old catches Covid, there is a good chance she would end up in hospital and a good chance that she would die.

Meanwhile, south of the border in England, the over 80s have already received the first of two vaccine injections:

England is about to send out vaccine invitations to the over 70s. I am left to conclude that if my mother lived in England she would already have been vaccinated. If she catches Covid in the next few weeks and dies it will be because we live in Scotland under an SNP Government that prioritises independence over healthcare.

Last year, the SNP roundly criticised the UK Government — Conservative — for not waiting for an EU rollout of the vaccine. Thank goodness we didn’t, because we had one far sooner than they did and more flexibility in purchasing doses, and a large number of them at that:

We are doing better than nearly everyone else firstly because we left the EU. The EU managed the vaccine collectively and didn’t do it well. The British Government did better at ordering the various vaccines and also developed our own. We made these vaccines available before anyone else and the British vaccine is easier to deliver because it does not require ultra-low temperatures.

Being a part of Britain is therefore saving Scottish lives. This is not merely because the British Army is helping to organise and administer the vaccine, but because the British Government made the right choices which led to us buying effective vaccines and developing our own. The Scottish Government neither funded, nor ordered any vaccines. We are completely dependent on the supplies we are getting from Britain. The only thing the Scottish Government is responsible for is organising the rollout of the vaccine. Healthcare unfortunately is devolved. It is doing that job worse than England and Northern Ireland.

Scotland is getting a proportional share of the vaccine. There are supply difficulties for everyone. England and Northern Ireland may have advantages because they are rather more densely populated than Scotland. It may be harder to administer the vaccine to very remote places in the Highlands and Islands. But this also makes it less likely that we will catch the virus in the first place.

Scotland may have decided to vaccinate care homes first, which given the difficulty of bringing ultra-low temperature vaccines to such places might be slowing us down. But why didn’t we use the Oxford-AstraZeneca in care homes, which requires only an ordinary fridge and use the Pfizer vaccine elsewhere. I hate to think that Sturgeon doesn’t want to use the English vaccine. She cannot even bear to say the word Oxford.

Covid is the defining event of our time, but the SNP’s handling of it has been poor since the start. With our low population density Scotland should have done much better than England in terms of Covid cases and deaths.

Scotland has had 1,492,656 cases with 7,704 deaths.

But this is worse than any other European country with a population of 5 million.

Denmark has had 189,000 cases and 1,775 deaths.

Slovakia has had 223,000 cases and 3,474 deaths.

Norway has had 58,651 cases and 517 deaths.

Finland has had 40,337 cases and 618 deaths.

If you compare like with like, then it becomes obvious that SNP Scotland has not merely done worse than anywhere else with a population of 5 million it has done more than ten times worse in terms of deaths than Norway and Finland.

She then addresses the issue of money. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is forever complaining about the lack of money going Scotland’s way, yet the UK government has continued to pump money in throughout the coronavirus crisis:

Scotland has been kept going this year because the UK Treasury has funded us. We are receiving the vaccine only because the UK is supplying it. We have done no better than the UK as a whole with regard to Covid cases and deaths and on care home deaths, which ought to have been avoidable, we have done considerably worse. Despite having the advantage of low population density, we have done massively worse than any European country of a similar size. It is staggering to believe that so many Scots believe that Nicola Sturgeon has done a good job.

Everything that has gone well this year, such as furlough and the vaccine has been provided by the British Government. Everything that has gone badly such as our failure to deliver the vaccine as quickly as England and Northern Ireland and our decision to send people sick with Covid back into care homes has been due to decisions made by the SNP.

This year has demonstrated that Scotland has depended on the British Government for paying our wages and for the vaccine that will end the pandemic.

She concludes, referring to the failed 2014 Scottish referendum on independence:

Scots who want independence should refuse their furlough money and refuse the vaccine, because if the SNP had won in 2014, we would have got neither.

I couldn’t agree more.

Be it Scotland or Wales, one thing is patently clear: socialism does not work.

Yesterday’s post summed up the week’s coronavirus news in the UK.

It was all rather interesting, ranging from vaccine distribution in Coventry to Sky News’s Kay Burley being sent to Coventry and back to London — for a six-month suspension. Gosh. Talk about ‘being sent to Coventry’, i.e. ostracised.

More snippets from this week follow in the coronavirus crisis.

Remember medical statistics history — Prof Carl Heneghan

Prof Carl Heneghan from Oxford warns that we should not forget statistics pre-Covid. Let us cast our minds back to one year ago, 2019:

Most respiratory infections have gone down from this time last year.

COVID-19 is the only new addition with a dramatic upward spike.

An American physician speaks out

Dr Brian Lenzkes, an internist from San Diego, California, offered an interesting thread on coronavirus censorship in the medical community.

But, first, let me begin with the following madness which he rightly exposed. Influenza has disappeared? Pull the other. A San Diego County health official says so — because people are wearing masks:

Yet, there are no tests for flu.

Dr Lenzkes has excellent tweets about diet and coronavirus, among them the following thread about censorship on the subject:

Note the fifth tweet:

Meanwhile, non-COVID patients are losing their well-being

In Britain, the National Health Service has become the National Covid Service (NCS).

Many patients with other serious conditions are losing out on critical care. This lady has lost her sight because of the NCS:

WHY?

Surely, after over 70 years, the NHS, sorry, NCS, can — and should — do much better.

Helen is only one of thousands who have gone without the care they needed.

The unvaccinated deserve nothing?

The chairman of the Oxted and Limpsfield (Surrey) RAFA — Royal Air Force Association — tweeted that those without the coronavirus vaccine should be denied service. In his opinion, there is no excuse:

Wow.

Many of us recall when the RAF fought for our freedom:

A London plumbing firm could mandate the vaccine for customers

Disappointingly, some service providers plan to discriminate against the unvaccinated.

This is Charlie Mullins, who heads London’s famous plumbing firm, Pimlico Plumbers. He gave this interview from his second home in Marbella:

Meanwhile, in Canada …

On Wednesday, December 9, the deputy premier of Ontario made a statement about coronavirus vaccines.

They are not mandatory, but if you don’t get vaccinated, your life will not return to normal:

However, the vaccine does not guarantee immunity

In any case, the vaccines do not guarantee immunity. They purport only to make the coronavirus episode less severe, much like the flu vaccine. Isn’t there a preventive solution, e.g. Vitamin D supplements, natural summer sunshine, a good diet, that could prevent the virus taking hold? I think we should be told:

In the US, overall death figures are low

Yes, despite what we read in the media, in 2020, the United States has a low overall death toll compared with previous years:

This woman is indignant over the lockdown(s) which have seen many shops in the Palisades Center in West Nyack, New York close (occasional language alert):

Londoners could be entering the dreaded Tier 3

The same nihilistic restrictions are going on in England, with the threat of London entering Tier 3.

This was yesterday’s headline in the London Evening Standard:

In conclusion

This is about the size of it. ‘Submit and obey’? Not on your Nelly:

Let’s remember:

In conclusion, the aforementioned Dr Lenzkes quoted the late Rod Serling from the original Twilight Zone:

It’s interesting that some did not think the warnings were strong enough:

Rod Serling and others warned the way they were able to do — based on their knowledge at the time.

Why do we ignore history?

What a week. It’s been full of coronavirus news here in the UK.

Vaccine

The UK was the first country in the world to distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

A 90-year-old grandmother, Margaret Keenan, was the first person to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock wept. He’s never openly cried about those made unemployed and destitute during the coronavirus crisis for which he is largely responsible. Sickening:

Good Morning Britain‘s physician, Dr Hilary Jones, explained that Mrs Keenan could still get COVID-19 and transmit it:

It seems to work the way that a flu vaccine does. If one gets the virus, the effects won’t be as bad as if one weren’t vaccinated.

I wouldn’t advise thinking about that too much, because it could lead down a rabbit hole:

The great scientists of SAGE also said life would not return to normal (see Select Committee section below). We are likely to be in the same situation well into next year, probably the autumn. This is what the ex-barrister and co-editor of Conservative Woman says:

Continuing down the rabbit hole re the vaccine:

Wales

Meanwhile, in Labour-controlled Wales, coronavirus hospitalisations are higher than they were early this year — despite a short, sharp lockdown, ‘firebreak’, that recently ended:

Guido Fawkes opined (emphases in the original):

Lockdowns, even short ones, evidently temporarily drop cases. Yet selling them on the promise that they enable more things to open once they end, as Welsh Labour did, appears to turbocharge case numbers far more than having simple, predictable and steady rules. The psychology of re-openings could well mean that in the long run, Wales’ “short sharp firebreak lockdown” – modelled on Keir Starmer’s demand – did more harm than good…

The Prif Weinidog — that’s First Minister in Welsh — Mark Drakeford blamed his own countrymen for the failure of his ‘firebreak’:

I couldn’t agree more. Lockdowns, firebreaks — whatever one calls them — do not work.

Why would anyone trust a government to dictate their lives? This is a photo of Grenfell Tower (public housing) in London, which burned in June 2017 because of faulty cladding:

And that brings me neatly to the next topic.

PCR versus Lateral Flow testing

The UK Government rejected a petition about PCR (swab) testing because they said they are not responsible for it. Hmm:

This is the nub of the problem. The Government absolves itself of responsibility. So do the scientists. People actually believe this guff.

Where do Government ministers get the idea for lockdown and excuse potentially faulty test results if it weren’t for the scientists and health organisations working with them?

But I digress.

Returning to testing, a few weeks ago, nearly all of Liverpool’s residents took the Lateral Flow test in a pilot programme. The Lateral Flow test works similarly to a pregnancy test and could be used on a daily basis as an ‘all clear’ strategy to give people more freedom and certainty to go about their lives. If successful, its use could allow visits to patients in care homes.

Very few of the Lateral Flow results were positive. If I remember rightly, the figure was 0.3%.

No doubt if those same people had taken the PCR test, the results would have been very different.

Therefore, this is interesting:

I’m just posting it to show there is a huge question over which test is more accurate.

PCR could work, provided the cycle thresholds were lowered from 40 to 35. But that is not happening.

The scientists of SAGE: Susan Michie

Anyone who reads Guido Fawkes regularly will know that SAGE has some questionable members, including this woman who appeared regularly on BBC News during the first lockdown. She might still be appearing on the BBC. I only watched between March and June to watch the spin they put on the Government’s coronavirus briefings:

Michie’s mother was worth a fortune:

The Daily Mail said the owners of the painting were a mystery, until all was revealed (emphases mine):

The painting was in fact sold by 30-year-old Ms Murray’s mother, Professor Susan Michie. She and her two siblings had been left the picture by their mother, the celebrated IVF pioneer Dame Anne McLaren.

When she died in 2007 she left an estate valued at £52,105,910. The vast bulk of that sum represented the value of the painting.

In her will, the Mail can reveal, she stated that if her children chose to sell then ‘if possible it should be sold to an art gallery or museum in the United Kingdom’.

According to a source, family members were ‘disappointed’ at the decision to put the painting on the market. While the sale attracted a tax bill of £20million, that would have left the trio about £10million each — more than enough to share around other members of their extended family.

Three SAGE members appear before Select Committee

Moving on to other SAGE members, Sir Patrick Vallance, Prof Chris Whitty and Dr Jenny Harries appeared once more before the Science and Technology Select Committee on Wednesday, December 9, for a year-end review of lessons learned during the pandemic. Greg Clark MP, who heads that Select Committee, and MPs from both Conservative and Opposition parties asked probing questions. You can watch the three-and-one-half hour session here.

Unfortunately, Vallance, Whitty and Harries were no clearer about lessons learned. In fact, they were vaguer than they were in earlier sessions:

– The vaccine will not be a fix for coronavirus. Not everyone will be able to take the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine because it will not be suitable for them.

– Human behaviour (Harries’s speciality) is very hard to predict. Harries admitted that.

Hospitality has been the scapegoat because that is where alcohol can be consumed.

– Conclusions on BAME communities’ susceptibility to the virus are unclear.

– Lockdown restrictions will be with us well into next year.

The worst admission — and I have been saying this to my far better half for at least a month — was when Vallance said that self-isolation is better for the person who has a steady job and can work from home. Self-isolation, he said, is not suitable for someone in precarious employment who has to show up to work every day! (Who knew?) Good grief!

They have no real answers, yet they’re still ruling our lives via the Government!

Sky News suspends newsreader

Kay Burley, one of Sky News’s star newsreaders, celebrated her 60th birthday on Saturday, December 5, in London.

Unfortunately, the celebrations did not take place in an entirely COVID-compliant way.

Ms Burley was suspended until early January 2021. (See update below.)

Guido Fawkes has the story:

Some people won’t see that as big news, but it is.

It points out the hypocrisy of the media, who were clamouring for a lockdown in March then flout the rules when we are still in one via the tier system. London is in Tier 2.

This was Kay Burley’s apology:

The Guido Fawkes team delved deeper. This is what they discovered (emphases in the original). Guillaume Depoix (point 5 below) owns the Folie restaurant:

The trouble for Kay is that this statement does not address the whole story, and contradicts what the owner of the restaurant told Guido about the event yesterday. Either the restaurant owner was not telling the truth to Guido, or Kay has been fibbing…

    1. Her party at the “Covid compliant” club was made up of ten people, split across two tables. Yet the ‘Rule of Six’ apples to social events like birthday parties inside or outside. The only other gatherings such as business meetings can exceed it...
    2. Kay’s statement presumes she walked all the way to the restaurant Folie to spend her penny. Despite it being not exactly next door to the club she came from.
    3. Kay does not mention the other people who came with her into the second restaurant. Yet the owner admitted to Guido yesterday that “several people” came in to the restaurant.
    4. Guido was initially told by the restaurant owner that Kay and her friends had gone in to the second restaurant after curfew “to pay a bill, that was it”. Not to go to the loo…
    5. When Guido put to restaurant owner Guillaume Depoix that Kay and company had been in the restaurant for quite a while, “a couple of hours”, this was not denied. Guido certainly got the impression the group were there for a considerable amount of time.
    6. Kay does not mention the other people who came back to her home. Yet she didn’t deny it.

Whilst Kay’s statement tries to take all the blame, Guido has yet to hear what her Sky News colleagues and party guests Beth Rigby, Inzamam Rashid, and Sam Washington have to say …

On Tuesday, December 8, i reported (emphases mine):

Sky News presenter Kay Burley has been taken off air after she admitted to breaching coronavirus restrictions, i understands. She has been replaced on the breakfast show for her remaining shows this week and is already due on annual leave until 4 January …

The TV host is facing an internal inquiry for what she described as “an error of judgment”.

Sources told i the presenter was called into Sky’s headquarters in Osterley, west London, for an urgent meeting with bosses on Tuesday morning. The channel’s most senior staff, John Riley, head of news, and Christina Nicoletti Squires, director of content, were seen entering the newsroom at the time the meeting was due to be held.

Burley will be replaced by early morning presenter Niall Paterson on Wednesday and other presenters will cover her programme for the remainder of the week. Burley was already set to be on annual leave from next Monday until 4 January 2021.

A source close to the presenter said she “doesn’t have a leg to stand on” after breaking the Government’s rules, while being employed to grill politicians over the need to follow guidelines.

It is not clear if she has been removed from air as part of formal disciplinary proceedings.

When the news of the breach broke on Monday night, Burley was in Coventry, where she was due to anchor the news channel as the first Covid vaccines were administered. She was hastily replaced and ordered back to London for Tuesday’s meeting

Too funny.

Burley, along with colleague and birthday guest Beth Rigby, were among the media stars who endlessly criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advisor Dominic Cummings, who is staying on until the end of the year, for his lockdown breach during the first lockdown during the Spring:

Burley, who presents a daily breakfast show on Sky News, has grilled politicians on lockdown throughout the pandemic.

In May, she questioned cabinet minister Michael Gove on the controversy over Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle.

A Sky News spokesman said: “We place the highest importance on complying with the Government guidelines on Covid, and we expect all our people to comply.

“We were disappointed to learn that a small number of Sky News staff may have engaged in activity that breached the guidelines.

“Although this took place at a social event in personal time, we expect all our people to follow the rules that are in place for everyone. An internal process is under way to review the conduct of the people involved.”

Sky News declined to comment on Burley being taken off air.

This tweet shows Beth Rigby having a go at Dominic Cummings in May during his press conference:

The Guardian had more on the story:

All of the Sky staff are facing a review of their conduct by their employer, which said it was “disappointed” by the incident.

Burley’s usual 7am breakfast programme was presented from Coventry University hospital on Tuesday by Sarah Hewson. Burley is understood to have already been in the city, where the UK’s first vaccine dose was administered, when the decision was made. There was no mention of the reason for Burley’s absence when the show began

Burley is understood to have blamed the situation on misunderstandings in planning and organising the event. But she did not address why a group of four people, including Rashid and former Sky News royal correspondent and Huawei PR executive Paul Harrison, returned to her home after the dinner, a claim that is not believed to be in dispute. Other Sky News staff are understood to be irritated by details of the event.

Under the tier 2 restrictions in London, indoor social gatherings of any kind are barred except among those who live together or have formed a support bubble. Groups of up to six can socialise outdoors. Police can impose fines of £200 for a first-time breach.

Under the rules, Burley’s initial gathering would only have been allowed if the two tables remained separate throughout and sat outside. It is not clear how many of the group went to the second venue, but Burley’s tweets suggested that the rules were broken during this part of the evening. A group of four gathering at her home would be against the rules unless they remained outside throughout.

Burley has been a stern interrogator of politicians who have been perceived as making excuses over lockdown breaches this year.

In May, she conducted a widely shared interview with the cabinet minister Michael Gove about the Dominic Cummings affair, repeatedly asking him to clarify what the government advice would be for a member of the public “struggling with Covid-19 and you think you’ve got a problem with your eyesight”, in reference to Cummings’ explanation of his trip to Barnard Castle.

She also interviewed the health secretary, Matt Hancock, after Prof Neil Ferguson was forced to resign as a government adviser and asked: “What did you think when you read it? Did you bang your head on the desk?”

Burley’s colleague Adam Boulton, the other star of Sky News, was deeply unhappy with her. The Guardian told us all about it in ‘Kay Burley row could undermine Sky News, warns Adam Boulton’:

The Sky News presenter Adam Boulton has warned that the row over a breach of coronavirus restrictions by his colleague Kay Burley has raised concerns over “the credibility of our journalism”.

With executives at the broadcaster weighing their decision over what sanctions are merited by the actions of Burley and three colleagues who attended her 60th birthday party last weekend, Boulton retweeted several posts about the story on Wednesday, including one that read: “Look at the state of Sky News. The morons spent all summer preaching to us and now look at them!”

Speaking to the Guardian, Boulton noted that his retweets did not necessarily constitute endorsements. But he went on: “That said, I retweet things because I think they’re of public interest, and certainly my feed has reflected a lot of people who are very concerned about the credibility of Sky News, and that I think is the important issue: the credibility of our journalism.”

The intervention from the station’s editor-at-large and former political editor is the first significant comment on the situation from a senior broadcaster at Sky News, where executives have been considering how to deal with the fallout from Burley’s celebrations since Monday.

Boulton said: “My view is that Sky has worked very hard during the whole Covid crisis and has taken a very clear line about public safety, and obviously something like this perhaps underlines [the importance of] that.” And he noted that he believed the matter to be “of widespread concern” to colleagues at the station.

Since Guido Fawkes broke the story on Monday, December 7, Burley’s fellow colleagues who celebrated her birthday have also been suspended:

Beth Rigby, Inzamam Rashid and Sam Washington have all been taken off air during discussions over what sanctions will be imposed. On Tuesday, Burley was withdrawn from consideration for a prestigious TV award, while two of the group signed non-disclosure agreements as Sky sought to limit damage from the row.

Other staff at Sky share Adam Boulton’s consternation:

“The situation is just excruciating,” one producer said. “The longer it goes on, the worse it gets and the harder it is to see this ending without serious punishment.”

Boulton noted that he viewed Burley as a “remarkable” journalist who deserved her success on the station. And he added: “Whatever happens next is not my decision and obviously it’s not up to me to criticise colleagues.”

Nonetheless, his comments will be viewed with alarm by executives hoping to keep staff concerns under wraps until they reach a decision, which is expected to be this week.

It appears that Burley had a safari holiday booked:

Burley herself deleted a tweet saying she was going on holiday on Friday to go “sit with lions”, adding: “They kill for food, not sport” – a possible reference to the media coverage of the situation.

Well, she can take her time and enjoy an extended safari holiday.

————————————

UPDATE: Early this evening, news emerged that Sky News has suspended Burley for six months! Excellent.

Furthermore, Beth Rigby has been suspended for three months; Sam Washington and Inzamam Rashid have also been suspended pending an internal Sky News enquiry. Result!

How pleased Kay and Beth were with themselves only a few days earlier …

————————————

It is a bit rich to defy coronavirus regulations then pole up to a hospital, especially one giving COVID-19 vaccinations:

I’m really glad this has come to light:

Agree. I don’t understand why people give these hypocrites any credibility.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Over the past two weeks, retail shops were allowed to open in England and in Wales.

Shops in Wales opened a week later than in England’s because of the devolved government. Scotland and Northern Ireland are also operating their own reopening timetables for the same reason.

England

The government encouraged shops to remove as much risk from COVID-19 as possible. Certificates are available for shops that do so.

On Monday, June 15, a number of retail shops reopened.

Primark was the biggest draw.

These were the scenes in Birmingham:

It was the same in Liverpool …

… and Bristol …

… and Hull:

These are Primark’s in-store guidelines:

If you need a laugh, this is a great video about Primark’s guidelines:

Oxford Street in London was the same. There is obviously something about Primark, as can be seen from this photo of Berlin:

Here’s a shop in Oxford Circus. Also note that some secondary schools reopened and that face masks became compulsory on public transport in England:

Oxford Street was busy in places:

These were Selfridge’s first shoppers on that beautiful Monday morning:

More waited in the queue outside:

For some, social distancing was so last month:

Grandparents still cannot hug their grandchildren, but there was a workaround for that. I believe this was outside the Nike Store:

Apparently, not everyone was happy with non-essential retail shops opening for the first time since March:

How true:

Mandatory face masks on public transport have been causing concern for some:

Transport for London trusts passengers who say they cannot wear face coverings:

Public transport was a mixed bag with regard to masks:

Things were more relaxed in Bristol:

I had to wear a mask indoors today for a while. I walked home in it just to see what would happen. While the mask was comfortable, I was getting short of breath after my five-minute walk home. Was it hypoxia? I would not recommend walking the streets with a mask for that reason:

We have more reopenings to look forward to on Saturday, July 4, which will be an Independence Day of sorts for us, too.

Wales

Shops in Wales reopened on Monday, June 22.

Everything was much quieter there.

Wales Online reported that shops had made a lot of adjustments.

Cardiff has redesignated thoroughfares in the main shopping area:

Some shops did not reopen until Friday, June 26. Here’s Primark in Cardiff:

Schools in Wales can reopen next week, with social distancing measures in place:

We had a splendid week of warm and sunny weather. Unfortunately, it brought out the worst in some people:

Even the First Minister Mark Drakeford remarked on unauthorised mass gatherings and the lack of social distancing:

In brighter news, an online #IAmOpen campaign kicked off today:

Just another step forward to normality:

More reopening updates will follow in the weeks ahead.

On Sunday, July 29, 2018, Geraint Thomas made history as the first Welshman to win the Tour de France.

Once again, Team Sky triumphed. They have now won six out of the past seven Tours de France!

Meanwhile, no Frenchman has won since 1985: the legendary Bernard Hinault.

The love-hate attitude towards Team Sky and Chris Froome

The French have been angry with Team Sky ever since Chris Froome began winning.

Odd that they fawned all over Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins — without the ‘Sir’ — when he won in 2012. Back then, I wrote (emphases mine below):

The Telegraph had a roundup of media reactions, beginning with a front-page splash on France’s L’Equipe, which also devoted pages 2 to 11 to Wiggins.  Christian Prudhomme, race director, told the sports daily that cycling has truly taken root in English-speaking countries, which are taking their place alongside Continental countries as victors of the world’s great races.

L’Equipe was not alone. Le Monde also had multiple photo spreads and articles on Wiggins’s sartorial style and tastes in music: ‘so British!’

When Froome raced to victory the following year — he had been Wiggins’s domestique (helper) in 2012 — no one in French media liked him.

Chris Froome did all the right things: readily granted interviews, was polite to the media, represented Team Sky well and showed grace under pressure on and off the road. This year, people actually booed him. Why?

Similarly, the French saw Team Sky as a phenomenon in 2012. Now they hate the team. Even Thomas was booed on the penultimate time trial stage this year, when it was clear he would win the Tour. It was an anti-Sky gesture.

Team Sky has done everything correctly. They train throughout the year, not just part of it. They have a phalanx of trainers and nutritionists who fine tune each rider to deliver the best for the team in a low-key, professional way. There was one stage in the 2018 Tour where one of the ITV4 commentators said that the team’s nutritionist and trainer were regulating Froome’s food and water intake every two hours so that he would deliver his best performance. No doubt, they did the same thing with Geraint Thomas, who performed brilliantly.

In any event …

Chris Froome is the Donald Trump of cycling.

Team Sky is the Donald Trump of cycling.

On RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules, the mid-morning political talk show, Team Sky came in for a lot of criticism. In the last half of the Tour, the panellists moaned about Team Sky winning a sixth Tour, calling it a mockery of cycling. Today, the day after Thomas won, the panel complained that Sky has a budget of €40m, substantially more than any other Tour de France team. What they forget is that money can be frittered away. Sky, led by Sir Dave Brailsford, knows how to use that big budget to produce big results.

The Independent gave an insight from a French newspaper along the same lines:

An article in Le Parisien this weekend compared the Tour de France to an episode of Columbo, “where the killer was known from the first minutes. In this edition, the killer was English,” the paper wrote, perhaps not aware that Thomas is Welsh. It has been a theme throughout the Tour: that Sky are suffocating the peloton, and that no one wants to watch its slow death.

The writer suggested a list of measures to tackle the problem. Cap wages, because Team Sky are like Paris Saint-Germain; unplug earpieces, because they undermine the advantage of instinctive riders like Philippe Gilbert and favour meticulous planners like Sky; invent new routes, because the team time trial played into Sky’s hands. They are desperate measures for what is becoming a desperate cause.

Well, in response to those suggested measures: a) every team has had earpieces for the past few years and b) there were new — punishing — routes this year.

Sky wins because Sky is meticulous.

Why aren’t other teams analysing how Sky does it and emulate them?

This is Team Sky today. From The Independent:

It is now six wins in seven Tours for Team Sky, four grand tour victories in a row, and there is a growing fear that they might never lose a three-week race again, slowly disbanding the idea of competition in favour of 21 days sipping champagne on an elaborate vineyard tour. They are the richest team with the strongest riders and the shrewdest management, the giant at the front of the peloton, and one that is still evolving.

How Thomas won

Another article from The Independent explains Geraint Thomas’s victory:

Geraint Thomas – who now joins the fabled list of Tour de France winners – did it with unabating pressure. He snatched every available second, each a small but significant psychological blow, never taking his foot off the throttle. He took time from his closest rival Tom Dumoulin on seven separate stages, and that gradual accumulation of wealth also helped him to seamlessly usurp Chris Froome as Team Sky’s de facto leader, not by bloody coup but instead by a gentle undermining of power.

The end result was so effective that you wondered whether a team as meticulous as Sky might have planned it all along. Was Froome the Trojan Horse from which the unassuming Thomas sprang? Perhaps that’s reading a little too deeply into what can be such a chaotic and unpredictable sport, but there is no doubt Dave Brailsford and his management team thought the Welsh rider could win this Tour from the beginning.

His victory will go down as a surprise to many, but there were plenty of signs. He showed pedigree in recent Tours, challenging in the top 10 and wearing yellow during last year’s race, and in June he won the Dauphiné, always a strong indicator of who will challenge in July.

Tom Dumoulin, who finished in second place, said it wasn’t about Sky’s vast coffers of money as much as it was Thomas’s riding skill:

Asked to reflect on whether he had been beaten by Team Sky’s riches, Dumoulin was clear. “Of course having more money to spend makes life easier, but in this tour it didn’t really make a difference. We couldn’t control the race like Sky, but they had the strongest guy in the bunch. It’s too easy to say that Geraint Thomas had a big advantage with his team. He was the absolute strongest rider over the last three weeks.”

Thomas won the stage at Alpe d’Huez:

The Independent described how gruelling the stage was for him:

“Alpe d’Huez was probably the most I suffered,” Thomas said. “To win there in the yellow jersey was just insane. I didn’t expect it. That day was just about following the guys in front. That will always stay with me, it was incredible.”

The win on the Alpe was stylish, capped by the image of Thomas throwing his head back and roaring into the sky, the photo he’ll probably have framed at the top of the stairs.

Then there was the Col de Portet, when it became clear a Froome victory this year was no longer a possibility:

… his third-place on the Portet was even grittier and more definitive, the moment any lingering notion of Thomas as a rider who cannot stand three hard weeks on the front line of a grand tour was extinguished.

There, on one of the hardest climbs you could possibly dream up, Froome cracked and suddenly Thomas was exposed, both in the sense that he was now without question the team’s leader and that he was out on the mountain without his Sky brigade. He coped brilliantly, shaking off furious attacks of Dumoulin and Roglic before escaping at the finish to extend his lead.

Thomas has had his share of upsets in cycling, but his time has come:

Thomas’s nod to his own run of bad luck was qualified by an insistence that he has worked “super hard” for this triumph, meticulously preparing his season to peak in the Alps and the Pyrénées, where this Tour was ultimately won. “I’m glad it’s finally paid off,” he said with a sense of palpable relief. It really has, culminating in his relentless pursuit of the yellow jersey, and on the ride to the Champs-Élysées he finally took his foot off the throttle.

Thomas’s demeanour is similar to that of Sir Bradley Wiggins: self-effacing. He speaks like Wiggins, like ‘a regular bloke’, some might say. The Independent covered his victory speech on the Champs Elysées in Paris:

I’ve not got a good track record with speeches so I’ll keep it short,” Thomas said on the podium. “I just want to say thanks to the team, they’ve just been incredible for the whole three weeks. Big respect to Froomey, obviously it could have got awkward, there could have been tension, but you’ve been a great champion and I’ll always have respect for you.

“I’m pretty tired. The whole team was incredible, the staff as well. I got into cycling because of this race. I remember running home from school to watch it. The dream was always just to be a part of it. Now I’m here in the yellow jersey it’s just insane. I just want to say a final thanks to the crowd, you’ve just been amazing. Oh, and my wife.

Kids, just dream big. If people tell you it can’t be done, keep going and believe in yourself. With hard work, everything pays off in the end. Thank you very much and vive le Tour.”

Here are a few tweets from Team Sky:

And from the Tour de France:

Next year’s Tour will begin in Brussels:

Thanks to ITV4 and ITV1

In closing, many Tour de France fans in the UK will have appreciated the even longer coverage ITV4 was able to broadcast — entire stages, start to finish. That was a welcome televisual first!

Also, this was the first time that the ITV1 showed final, iconic stage, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Long may both broadcasts continue. Many thanks, ITV!

Sadiq Khan.jpgOn Thursday, May 5, 2016, England, Wales and Scotland held local elections.

(Photo credits: Wikipedia)

New London mayor

London now has a Labour mayor who is also a Muslim, Sadiq Khan. As French radio station RMC put it in their newscasts that day (translated):

London, Europe’s most cosmopolitan city, is on course to elect its first Muslim mayor.

The next day, one of RMC’s talk shows took a listener’s poll asking if they could envisage French voters doing the same. One woman rang in to complain that the question was ‘racist’. In any event, 78% voted ‘yes’ and 22% ‘no’.

Khan, the son of a bus driver and born in Tooting (South London), won largely on the housing issue. London property is frightfully expensive and many people are forced out of the market, either as buyers or renters. Although I did not follow the campaign closely, when I did pick up a copy of the London Evening Standard, the Khan soundbites of the day were about affordable and available housing. And ‘son of a bus driver’ was in every article.

It is unlikely that anything will change in a significant way immediately, however, over time, who knows? It is possible that we will see a certain amount of vocal social polarisation popping up in the coming weeks with a mayor whom a significant percentage of London’s population sees as one of their own.

Zac Goldsmith MP at 'A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change'.jpgKhan’s opponent was Zac Goldsmith, the highly popular Conservative MP for Richmond Park. Goldsmith’s sister Jemima was married for several years to the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. During that time she lived in Pakistan and still holds dual nationality with that country and the UK. One of their sons helped Goldsmith campaign in Muslim neighbourhoods. Imran Khan’s name still has a lot of pull and meeting his son went down well but, in the end, not quite well enough. Nor did questions about some of Sadiq Khan’s associations.

Jemima Goldsmith tweeted her congratulations to the new mayor and, in a separate tweet, wrote:

When Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson won re-election as Mayor of London in 2012, pundits predicted that it was highly unlikely that another Conservative would be elected to that post in 2016. And so it happened. One reason is the natural political cycles from right to left and back again. Another is demographic; the city has many more Labour voters who are diluting what used to be the doughnut of outer boroughs which voted overwhelmingly Conservative.

Scotland

A dramatic reversal of fortune for Labour took place in Scotland. For the first time in years, the Conservatives have become the second most prominent party, knocking Labour off that spot. The SNP, representing independence, also no longer has an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Incidentally, it is interesting that these three political parties are headed by women.

Wales

Incredibly, UKIP — the UK Independence Party — won seven seats in the Welsh Assembly.

One of the newly elected UKIP Assembly Members has blamed Cardiff’s increased litter on Eastern European immigrants, although he was unable to back up his assertions with any data.

Labour still hold the majority of seats (29), and Plaid Cymru (pron. ‘Plied Come-ree’) have 12, nudging the Conservatives into third with 11.

England

Despite doubts over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, their mayoral and council losses were not as dramatic as some pundits predicted.

That said, UKIP managed to win six council seats in Thurrock, Essex (east of London), sapping the Labour vote. This puts them on level pegging with the Conservatives. Each party has 17 seats. Labour have 14 seats and an Independent councillor has one.

Our next national election will be on June 23, as we vote whether to leave or remain in the European Union.

Whilst the Great War raged on in 1915, on the home front, Britain’s first Women’s Institute was founded in Anglesey, Wales, in an attempt to keep families better fed.

Inspired by Canada

Our Women’s Institutes (WI) took their inspiration and organisational structure from Canada, where Adelaide Hoodless had founded that nation’s WI in 1897 as a way for wives of Farmers Institute members to share domestic science skills and foster friendship. By 1905, Ontario alone had 130 WI branches.

A Canadian lady and enthusiastic WI member, Madge Watt, moved to Wales in 1913. Two years later, she met John Nugent Harris. Harris was Secretary of the AOS — Agricultural Organisations Society. The Development Commission, a government body, funded the AOS, the purpose of which was to create farmers’ co-operatives for wartime food production.

Watt told Harris about the WI in Canada. Harris, aware that the AOS needed more people, asked her to establish the WI in Britain. Watt’s first meeting took place in Anglesey in September 2015. However, despite her enthusiasm and persuasion beforehand, only a handful of women attended. Those who were reluctant to take part felt uncomfortable being around others of different social classes.

The Great War years

Before long, however, Watt’s organisational and persuasive skills attracted more women. At the time, it was unusual for women to leave the house other than to run errands. Housework, cooking and tending a garden or part of the farm took up most of the day. Those who attended Watt’s meetings enjoyed the friendships they were forming with other housewives. One woman told another and a movement was born: one that not only helped the individual, but also the nation at a time when food was essential.

By the end of 2015, Wales had several chapters of the WI — and Watt had already branched out into England, where the organisation was established in Dorset, Sussex and Kent. Watt had taken the WI from one coast to another — Wales to Kent — within three months!

In October 2016, the WI chapters were so numerous that the AOS set up a subcommittee to oversee them. The AOS appointed Lady Gertrude Denman as head of this subcommittee. In September 2017, the Treasury decided that funding for the the growing WI movement should be transferred from the AOS to the Women’s Branch of the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture (which also organised the Women’s Land Army). At that point, Lady Denman, not wishing for the WIs to come under government control, was able to negotiate an agreement with the Board of Agriculture whereby the Board would fund the establishment of new chapters which would then become self-financing via members’ dues.

On October 16, 1917, delegates from 137 WI chapters and Lady Denman set up a central committee of management and created a constitution as well as set of rules. She was elected to head the WI.

The WI stipulated from the beginning that it was not to be politically or religiously aligned. That meant — and still means — that every woman can join. The objectives are to:

a) Study home economics; b) Provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and for all local activities; c) Encourage home and local industries; d) Develop co-operative enterprises; e) Stimulate interest in the agriculture industry.

A Scottish WI was established in 1917, known as the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute. Catherine Blair had a harder time there than Madge Watt in Wales. Women in East Lothian (outside Edinburgh) only met up with other ladies once a year at the local fête.

Although home economics has always been central to the WI, other topics discussed at early meetings varied by region. In England and Wales, lessons and tips on resoling boots from old tyres were popular. In Scotland, women were more interested in learning how to butcher pig’s carcasses.

During the Great War, the WI helped to bring new methods of food conservation to British housewives. Incredible as it might seem, conserving fruit at home was virtually unknown in 1916. The WI was able to get new American sterilising equipment shipped across the Atlantic. All 199 chapters expressed an interest in receiving and giving lessons on this new preserving technique.

The WI promoted the notion of foraging, although that was not what it was called then. Women understood the value of fruits growing in the wild and how they could be used for food. Some of this produce was conserved in the new American style. Other fruits were made into jam.

If there is one thing Britons identify the WI with is jam making. The WI demonstrated how to increase the yield of jam:

… for those women who had access to a ‘copper’, the quantities that could be made were enormous. Mrs Dunstan, writing in the WI’s own magazine, Home and Country in July 1919, recalled ‘We could make nearly one hundred pounds of jam in it at a time, and as the fire would burn anything such as rubbish, peels etc. our fuel bill for making six and a half tons of jam was less than two pounds.’

Also:

War time also brought out the best of women’s craftwork skills and ability to ‘make do and mend’.

In the summer of 1917, the WI opened a crafts stall at the National Economy Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. The public saw how experienced and creative members were in making rugs, toys, baskets as well as fur and leather accessories.

Today, the WI is Britain’s largest voluntary women’s organisation with 212,000 members in 6,600 local groups. Men are also welcome to attend. Although the focus is very much on domestic science, a number of chapters are also career-oriented, as many members work outside the home.

Centenary banquet

On October 10, 2015, a centenary banquet at the Drapers’ Hall in London was held to honour the WI.

Chefs, some of them Michelin-starred, competed to prepare winning dishes for the four-course meal. The competition was shown from start to finish on the BBC’s Great British Menu, which started in August with weekly regional heats around the country.

We watched every episode. What surprised us is that so many of the chefs attempted to reproduce WI recipes. Time and time again, the chefs judging their efforts warned them about trying to do something the WI members are all expert at — jams, cakes and bread! Friday’s episodes, which determined a regional winner, were judged by three other notables in the food world — as well as a WI member.

This is an indicative comment from one of the WI judges when it came time to select the chefs cooking at the banquet:

… guest judge Mary Quinn turned up and said that the WI has no time for drizzles or smears.

If I had been competing, I would have taken more of a classic approach and prepare dishes outside of the WI’s purview, rather than cheap cuts of meat and Scotch eggs. It was a banquet, not Sunday lunch. Yet, on the day, every dish looked breathtaking! The WI members and supporters attending loved every bite.

Best wishes to the WI for their continuing work in promoting British produce, especially dairy, as well as their campaigns for wildlife, particularly bees.

During the tenth month of the year, the NHS runs an anti-smoking campaign called Stoptober.

For the past few years the smoking community in the UK has written essays against the demonisation of tobacco under the hashtag #octabber, ‘tab’ being British slang for ‘cigarette’.

Although Octabber might not be running this year — I am using the tag for my own reference — plenty of us are unhappy with the endless denormalisation and demonisation of smokers in Britain and elsewhere.

Tactics

Non-smokers are probably unaware of all the anti-smoking campaigns that take place under the banner of ‘public health’ — financed by smokers through sin tax on their pack of 18 (no longer 20 for many manufacturers). Never mind that only a fifth of Britons smoke today. The fight here for Tobacco Control, as elsewhere in the West, must continue until no one smokes.

Dick Puddlecote succinctly described how it worked in 2014 — ‘How Stoptober Really Views Smokers’:

The UK’s first state-funded anti-smoking organisation ASH (motto: “denormalising you with your money since 1972”) claim that they “do not attack smokers or condemn smoking”. It’s a debatable point, but the huge tax sponging industry they have spawned don’t seem to share the same mission statement, it appears.

https://churchmousec.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/174a6-stoptober.png

My three aunts — two nurses and one personal assistant (executive secretary, for my US readers) — smoked 20 a day. All stopped when they retired. Two are still alive and one died a few years ago, a great grandmother who outlived her non-smoking husband. They all had children. All the children are healthy. Half of them are grandparents. All have led responsible lives.

More from Dick Puddlecote:

I’m sure you’re very reassured that {cough} highly-respected politicians believe ‘professionals’ who post like this on Twitter are model citizens and should be shovelled skiploads of your hard-earned cash.

He ended his post with another 2014 tweet from the NHS’s #Stoptober:

Remember, if you’re doing Stoptober, everyone is behind you! And this time it isn’t because your breath smells like Fireman Sam’s jockstrap.

Rather crude, wouldn’t you say?

However, people will always smoke.

Attack on vaping

Countless numbers of ex-smokers around the world have taken up vaping.

Some of these people wanted to stop smoking cigarettes. Vaping gives them the same inhaling experience and they can often enjoy a few puffs in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited.

Not surprisingly, vaping has been gaining in popularity.

However, vaping has been under attack by health ministries around the world. A China Daily Hong Kong article from October 13, 2015 states that Brazil banned e-cigarettes in 2009, although they are still readily available on the black market. Canada followed suit in the same year but restricted the ban to e-cigarettes containing nicotine. In 2013, Spain banned vaping devices from public places.

The China Daily article describes the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people. In the United States, vaping among high school students increased exponentially between 2013 and 2014. The US National Youth Tobacco Survey data showed that, in 2013, approximately 660,000 secondary school students vaped. In 2014, their number increased to 2 million. Among middle school students a similar increase occurred; there were 450,000 young vapers in 2014 versus 120,000 in 2013.

In Britain — as in France — health ministries wish to minimise vaping altogether and not just for young people. Never mind that thousands of adults have been able to stop or switch from cigarettes to vaping, which, as the name implies, involves vapour not smoke.

In the UK, the government is openly against vaping. For their efforts, vapers are under attack, as Christopher Snowdon wrote recently in The Spectator. With an indoor ban to come in Wales, he writes (emphases mine):

Banning vaping indoors is such a criminally stupid and negligent idea that even the prohibitionists at Action on Smoking and Health are opposed to it. The unintended consequences are utterly predictable. Once people who have switched from smoking to vaping are thrown outside, they may come to the conclusion that they might as well smoke. Meanwhile, smokers who might switch to vaping have one less incentive to do so. The negative effect on health is plain to see, even if we ignore the glaring fact that none of this is the government’s business.

Also:

Vapers have every right to be outraged by this evidence-free attack on a habit that is not only harmless to bystanders but positively beneficial to them personally as erstwhile smokers. This is the important point to remember about so-called ‘e-cigarette campaigners’. They used to be smokers. You know how some ex-smokers can seem a little self-righteous and pleased with themselves? Vapers have taken that sense of triumph and channelled it into promoting – or, at least, protecting – the product that helped them quit.

Vapers did the notionally correct thing, obeying Public Health, only to find themselves on the wrong side now:

As smokers, vapers spent years being taxed, demonised and kicked into the street. Anti-smoking campaigners would never put it in such blunt terms, but their objective is to make smokers’ lives so miserable that they decide to quit smoking. Vapers did quit smoking, often to their own surprise. They did exactly what was asked of them, but instead of being embraced by their old tormentors, they found themselves with another battle to fight.

Our media and medical communities are full of warnings about the ‘dangers’ of e-cigarettes. Whilst Britain’s ASH might side with vapers, however, the daddy of Tobacco Control, Stanton Glantz

has helped bring about the banning of not only the use, but also the possession, of e-cigarettes on his campus in San Francisco.

Many smokers and vapers predicted this backlash a few years ago. It was only a matter of time.

It’s odd that ex-smokers inhaling vapour can cause such ill feeling. Under such restrictions, we should not be surprised if they take up tobacco again.

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