A Tory Said What: December 2020

Yes, A Tory Said What is making a return. For those of you new to this blog, I attempted to from late 2018 to try, where I could, to fact check comments made by Tory MP’s that were false or alarming. These posts stopped not long after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, as I just could not keep pace with the amount of false and/or potentially misleading claims they were making.

I was going to restart the posts in 2021 but once I had made that decision the urge of wanting to point out their lies and my head just exploding whenever I heard these comments on the news made me start early. These posts are basically, me trying to get this stuff off my chest.

So, what on earth happened in December?

I don’t think you could write it. We saw a mutant strain/new variant of the Coronavirus Pandemic announced in the South East of England and spreading. As if that wasn’t enough, two days before Christmas the government announced that a second strain/variant had been imported from South Africa as they plunged more of Southern England into Tier 4 restrictions. Even a then, a few days before this Education Secretary Gavin Williamson threatened several London boroughs with legal action for trying to close doors a few days early and utilise remote learning. Baffling!

The government started the month with debates over whether a scotched egg constitutes a substantial meal to be served in a pub. Yes, a scotched egg. Yes seriously, this is where our discourse and national conversation has ended up. Our politicians also tried to make political gain out of the approval of a vaccine against Covid-19. It was revealed through a Belgian Minister that Britain had grossly overpaid for the Moderna vaccine compared to the EU.

Speaking of the EU…Brexit. Christmas Eve delivered a Free Trade Agreement meaning that the UK did not leave the Brexit transition agreement with no deal. It came after weeks of Boris Johnson and co emphasising that Britain would still ‘prosper mightily’ with no deal or as he sugarcoated it….Australian terms and after just four and a half hours of scheduled debate, the 1,246-page Agreement was ratified by Parliament and he did not need Labour support for that.

As someone who does not like Brexit and detests everything about it, it was underwhelming. A relief that NO Deal outcome was avoided but that is about it.

I don’t claim this to be every single example where a Conservative MP has either demonstrably lied or said something misleading, stretching the truth or something I found absolutely shocking (these are a selection of all of the above). However, you will find a total of 48 entries from 26 MPs and Cabinet Ministers at an average of 1.55 per day.

* The images next to each of the quotes is sourced from the MPs profile on their respective profiles on the UK Parliament website where possible. The feature image above is from The Manchester Evening News…

I love to scoff a couple of scotched eggs and they would certainly count as a substantial meal

Michael Gove (Surrey Heath MP and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), December 1st

The Duchy of Lancaster made this comment in an interview with ITV’s Paul Brand and even he couldn’t believe this was still a topic of conversation.

This was part of the idiotic debate about what counted as a substantial meal for pubs and restaurants open under the new Tier 2 to serve alongside alcohol. Environment Secretary George Eustace had given his belief that scotched eggs did count as a substantial meal but Gove had earlier suggested to LBC that they did not. Now, they do.

Ok, Mr Gove but seriously was this the sort of discussions our politicians and the country as a whole should have been having when people were dying?

We could only approve the vaccine so quickly because we have left the EU. Last month we changed the regulations so a vaccine did not need EU approval which is slower

Jacob Rees Mogg (North Somerset MP and Leader of the House of Commons), 2nd December.

Twitter started fact-checking the tweets of Donald Trump after claiming he won the US election and that it was rigged. If only they could do the same with Jacob Rees Mogg as he peddled further the same Brexit untruths made by the Health Secretary who claimed, ‘We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they’re done because of Brexit.’

Anyway, back to Mr Rees Mogg and everyone’s favourite minister of the 19th Century celebrated the announcement the UK confirming the approval of Pzifer/BioNTech vaccine in our fight against COVID-19 by taking a quite unnecessary Brexit related stance. However, Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) disagreed insisting, ‘we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law, which exists until 1 January’. Unlike Rees Mogg, Dr Raine would have been involved in the process so she should know what she is talking about.

Independent fact Checkers Full Fact also weighed in concluding that the UK could only approve the use of the vaccine quickly ‘only’ because of Brexit was false. The MHRA also issued a statement a few days later further underlining that regulation 174 of the Human Medicine Regulations 2012 which are compliant with European law and will still be in place after Brexit. In other words, it had absolutely nothing to do with Brexit and even Boris Johnson didn’t want to associate himself with this argument when he was asked in the Downing Street Press briefing that day.

The UK was the first country to sign a deal with Pzifer/BioNTech-now we will be the first to deploy their vaccine. To everyone involved in this breakthrough: thank you. I years to come, we will remember this moment  as the day the UK led the charge against this disease

Alok Sharma (MP for Reading West and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), 2nd December.

It’s the final bit of this Tweet from Business Secretary Alok Sharma that raises some eyebrows. Just, what exact role has the UK played in this success?

The Pzifer jab is the result of work by German scientists of Turkish descent with an American pharmaceutical company and is produced in Belgium. Someone had to be first to announce they had authorised the vaccine and that is certainly a big milestone but the UK has had no involvement in its production. Instead, the UK government gave its backing to the Astra Zeneca/Oxford University efforts and concerning Pzifer, it’s hard to say we are anything but a customer. Yet, here’s Business Secretary seemingly trying to bask in the achievements of someone else.

‘I just reckon we've got the very best people in this country and we've obviously got the best medical regulator, much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. That doesn't surprise me at all, because we're a much better country than every single one of them."

Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire MP and Secretary of Education), 3rd December.

It really is a shame we don’t have better politicians then isn’t it? At first watch, without the volume on, it looks like he’s joking but when you watch it with the volume on and realise the tone of voice doesn’t change it hits you that he might have been serious here. The approval of a vaccine was a significant moment but is it a competition?

Seriously, this is something I would have expected to have been said by a child or Donald Trump if it had been the US! The comments also helped spark a backlash from the EU and the United States with Dr Anthony Fauci suggested that the UK ‘just took the data from the Pfizer company and instead of scrutinizing it really, really carefully, they said: ”OK, let’s approve it, that’s it.’ And they went with it.’ Dr Fauci later backed down but it arose a question of did the UK Government rush to approve it to be the first and how could that perceived hastiness have on the uptake of the vaccine?

Are we a much better country though? We all have different ideas of what makes a country great but I don’t understand why he even felt the need to say this because we did not have any involvement in the production of this vaccine. The UK was a customer. It’s like a school kid being happy saying I’m better than you because I got the latest games console first. Just embarrassing.

New Business Traveller exemption: From 4am on Sat 5th Dec high value business travellers will no longer have to self0isolate when returning to ENGLAND from any country NOT in a travel corridor allowing more travel to support the economy and jobs. Conditions apply

Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield MP and Secretary of State for Transport), 3rd December

This was an absolutely bonkers policy announcement from the Transport Secretary. Completely bonkers and perhaps why it only applied to England and was not a UK wide policy. It felt bonkers at the time and even more so after what came out about mutant strains of Covid in the weeks that followed. You can’t help but wonder if he was trying to outdo Gavin Williamson for must stupid thing said of the day.

Why is it bonkers? Does the virus really care about the reasons for travelling? Of course not! It doesn’t care if you a rich person or not but removing the need to self-isolate for ‘business travellers’ is dangerous and goes against any other advice for needing to self-isolate if you are travelling from countries that were not deemed safe by the government. What do they think would happen? It was potentially allowing more virus to come into the country unchecked because ‘it’s business’. It also stank of hypocritical double standards, another case of one rule for us and one rule for them. You plebs must self-isolate but ‘business’ people don’t.

They were putting the economy before health here and during the pandemic, it just does not make sense to me. Once you are on top of the health situation then the economy may pick up but putting the economy first like this is only going to do more damage. It’s like putting a bet on in the bookies and instead of cutting your losses for another day, you put more and more on in a desperate state to make up for what you’ve lost until you lose even more.

Look, there have been problems obviously with racism in football in the past. It is right that that’s called out and challenged when we see it, it doesn’t have any place in society today. And if people choose to express their view in a particular way, that should always be respected.

George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth MP and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), 6th December

The Environment Minister was appearing on Sophy Ridge when he made these comments after discussing the scenes the previous day where Millwall fans allowed to watch their team for the first time since March booed their players for taking a knee before kick-off. This comment was chosen ahead of his comments moments earlier as it appears he was suggesting racists should be respected.

Moments earlier he had urged people to remember that ‘Black Lives Matter, Capital B, L and M’ was a political movement and doesn’t reflect most peoples views. There is a Black Lives Matter political party which but the organisers deny any involvement in that so it would seem to be a different organisation entirely. Not everyone will agree with the stated political aims such as defunding the police. I can’t support that without a viable alternative but you don’t have to align with all of an organisations goals to support the general message they are presenting. For some people, if you support the general message of an organisation you support all of it.

On the knee, the gesture itself is not synonymous with Black Lives Matter. They do not own the gesture and the gesture precedes the organisation and not everyone who will take the gesture as a show of solidarity will agree with all the Black Lives Matters aims The only people trying to tie the gesture to the organisation as a way of delegitimising it. However, apart from that, saying that if people want to ‘express their view in a particular, that should always be respected’ indicates that racists should be respected too. No!

This is completely right. Racism is an evil that demands our common determination to defeat. But the BLM movement had a specific and controversial political agenda as they themselves have declared. We cannot conflate one with the other and it’s time this was said clearly

Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP), 6th December

Simon Clarke was clearly following the party line in defending the comments made by George Eustice on Sophy Ridge. This tweet then triggered a debate between him and Anna Turley, who’s Twitter bio states she is involved in the Redcar Book Club but she is the former Labour MP for the area before losing the Redcar seat last year.

Predictably, the discussion eventually moved to Mr Clarke asking if Anna Turley defends the notion of defunding the police and foreign criminals as that’s all that counts. Again, assuming that someone who supports the wider message of Black Lives Matter message towards racial equality must support ALL of the political aims.

Somewhere along the line, he was then caught tweeting at a respondent in the twitter dialogue to ‘Get.Stuffed.’ Yes, he did. I had to dig out for it after seeing it retweeted by James O’Brian but yes he did. That’s so professional!

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