A Tory Said What: January 2021

'Well look Piers you're right, we need to review everything because we've got to make sure we get this new variant under control because we need to vaccinate the most vulnerable people.'

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-on-Avon and Vaccines Minister), 11th January

The Vaccines Minister had the first media round of the week and this is when he was forced into a corner by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain that he could not rule out reports that had first arisen from the Daily Telegraph that support bubbles could be scrapped. It is saddening that he had to make that admission but it was not his fault. Fault lies with whoever gave the story to the media which helped cause so much uncertainty.

'If you're getting coffee on your way to do exercise, or as part of your acquiring food, or one of those reasons you're allowed to be out of the house, then that is legitimate. This is one of those Scotch egg moments, where it's very hard for us legislators to legislate for every single nuance of human behaviour. What we are relying on is people having a common sense of themselves of what they think is appropriate.'

Kit Malthouse (MP for North West Hampshire and Minister of State (Home Office), 12th January

The next Minister to do the media rounds was Police Minister Kit Malthouse and just two days after the story of two women being fined for having a coffee in a Derbyshire park, it was perhaps an opportune appearance. Mr Malthouse was correct in saying it is ‘one of those Scotch egg moments’ because it is about what makes sense within the rules.

The Minister later said that it is hard to legislate for every possible scenario. That is understandable, especially when making rules quickly to prevent the spread of a pandemic when speed is of the essence. However, relying on ‘common sense’ results in passing responsibility away from the Government onto the public and the businesses serving that coffee and if cases don’t go down quickly enough, it’s the fault of the public. How are they to know everyone asking for coffee is out of the house for one of those ‘legitimate reasons’. Are they going to ask every customer? As for the public themselves, the whole episode in Derbyshire perhaps brings to attention that rules are confusing for the public to understand and even for the police to enforce. The fine handed out by Derbyshire Police was withdrawn.

'When a friend of mine in Switzerland called this morning to say that the covid debate in the UK had become extremely polarised, it made me think about the need for rationality and proportionality in reporting. I was therefore appalled when I switched on the BBC and saw: Covid: 2020 saw most excess deaths since World War Two. In fact, further down the report it says that, when the age and size of the population is taken into account, 2020 saw the worst death rate since the mid-2000s. We do not need sensationalist reporting like that, particularly from national broadcasters, because there are real questions to be asked about mortality'

Dr Liam Fox (MP for North Somerset), 12th January

On a debate on Covid-19 in the House of Commons, Dr Liam Fox opened his speech with an attack on the BBC with his aim being what he saw as sensationalist reporting by the BBC. It was concerning the article that ‘2020 saw most excess deaths since World War Two.’ The report stated that deaths were at the highest rate in 2020 were above average for the past five years and while Dr Fox felt it was sensationalist, it was based in fact.

As discussed on independent Fact-checkers Full Fact, deaths were 14% higher than the average for the last five years and pointed to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) who reported something similar, Looking at individual years, the number of deaths [in 2020] was 77,161 higher than the number registered in 2019, the biggest year-on-year increase since 1940’. They also stressed that what Dr Fox said about later down the article was also accurate they, concluded that the numbers were unprecedented in peacetime and linked to life expectancy increased over time combined with population increases. That said, while he may see it as ‘sensationalist’, it was founded in fact.

'There is no clear way to measure covid mortality. We measure excess death rates, those who died within 28 days of a positive test and those who have covid on their death certificate, but that does not tell us what we really need to know: who actually died of covid as the primary infection, who died with covid—died of something else but was diagnosed as being positively exposed—and who died as a result of covid, either because of the lack of access to healthcare during the lockdown or because of the diminution of healthcare capacity because of high infection rates.'

Dr Liam Fox (MP for North Somerset), 12th January

Dr Fox’s next claim was what brought the attention of fact-checkers FullFact to his comments. He appeared to suggest that while we know excess deaths (that is a really horrible phrase but refers to the number of deaths above what you would expect on average) and the number of people who died within 28 days of a test (not a full indicator), we don’t know how many people died of Covid as the ‘primary infection’.

FullFact also contacted Dr Fox for clarification on his comments because there was data available to measure mortality which he appeared to suggest there was not. At this time of writing, it appears they were still awaiting a response. On top of what Dr Fix says of knowing how many had Covid-19 on their death certificates but also know that 73,444 in England and wales had Cvoid-19 put down as an underlying cause.

The full verdict from FullFact can be found here including everything he was right on saying such as we don’t know how many people died as a result of people not being able to access healthcare as a result of Covid.

Our ability to get through the coming weeks and months depends on each and every one of us contributing to what is truly a national effort but a minority of people are putting the health of the nation at risk by not following the rules’.

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 12th January

The Home Secretary led the Downing Street briefing as it seemed the government wanted to out the attention onto enforcement after the coffee incident in Derbyshire. She supported the police in this and to be honest, interpreting the lockdown restrictions and trying to enforce them is not a job I envy them. However, the cynic amongst us may think that they were trying to focus on enforcement to try and divert away from other issues that were emerging such as the horrific images of free school meals being provided to children in schools by private company Chartwells and also not to mention the horrific death toll.

Ms Patel also disclosed that 45,000 people had been fived fixed penalty notices as if to build up further on her tough on crime credentials. I am sure it is a tiny minority that are following the rules as best they can

…this isn’t about rules being more relaxed, we have clear rules and I would urge everyone across the country to follow those rules

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 12th January

Given Kit Malthouse the Police Minister exposed in his media round the fact the rules were difficult to understand, it was a fitting theme of the Home Secretaries Downing Street briefing was also fixed on ensuring the ‘rules are clear’. She was twice asked why the rules in this lockdown are not as tight as they were last spring given that we also have the additional factor of a new, more transmissible variant. It is a perfectly legitimate question.

The Home Secretary was asked this sort of question twice; once by a member of the public and by BBC’s Mark Easton. She did not give a straight answer to either question or any question both times she insisted the rules were clear. The message of stay home is very clear but if the rules were crystal clear or fitting for where we are, then there would not be so many questions. I think the vast majority can reasonably conclude that the rules are laxer than they were last March and given there is the new variant and SAGE put us on Covid alert level 5 (March lockdown was level 4) it just makes no sense. One could argue the fact so many notices being handed out would indicate that the rules are far from clear but the biggest indicator of all is how the Home Secretary had to keep looking down at her notes when saying it after being asked by Mark Easton…

There’s over 100 pages of law now, statutory instrument, not all in one place you know loads and loads of documents…not easy to read and it isn’t very simple and what the government has in effect done is hand over a lot of power to individual police officers to make judgements of their own

David Davis (MP for Haltemprice and Howden), 13th January

It is perhaps safe to say that the rules are not as clear as the Home Secretary made out and not even her fellow Conservative MPs are on the same page with this as David Davis demonstrated on Good Morning Britain the next morning…

I am really glad it has been resolved and we’ve sorted it out and I’m going to use my own words to describe my own feelings on this

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 13th January

This comes from THAT excruciating interview the Health Secretary had with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain. They were discussing the shameful images of hamper packages that had been sent out to children receiving free school meals and shared on social media. This part of the discussion began with Mr Hancock commenting he was glad to get this particular issue sorted prompting Piers Morgan to ask a very difficult question, why did he vote against the extension of free school meals last October?

The health Secretary refused to say if regretted it and while the Conservatives can claim it meant nothing as it was an opposition day or as Deheena Davson said the following week, a statement of intent then even if it meant nothing the Conservatives could still have voted in favour to put it as a statement of intent. They did not and that is the major point here. How can you be glad to have put something in place when you voted against it in the first place and had to be shamed into it by footballer Marcus Rashford, something that wasn’t lost on Morgan as he concluded, ‘Let’s hope that we don’t have to rely on in the future, Marcus Rashford to expose the iniquity of the system.’ Even when put to him yes or no question if he regretted it, the Health Secretary still refused to change his tune insisting he was glad to put it in place. Quite pathetic really!

It is crazy and the whole exchange hit 25m hits on Youtube within three days and has become the most viewed clip in the history of the show. That is how you do it! That is how you hold them to account!

I am afraid that the hon. Lady seems to have completely misunderstood the report. I encourage her to re-read it. There is no evidence to suggest that structural or institutional racism is the cause of the higher infection rate for ethnic minority groups…We need to understand that this is a health crisis, and it is really sad that Opposition Members continue to politicise the issue and to look for racism, when medical experts have supported our report and shown what is driving these disparities.

Kemi Bedenoch (MP for Saffron Walden and Minister for Equalities), 13th January

Clips of this exchange have been shared on YouTube as the Minister for Equalities was responding to a question from Newcastle upon Tyne Central MP Chi Onwurah essentially asking if the Ministers reluctant to acknowledge the role of structural racism in the disparities of Covid-19. The Minister, true to form of denying any structural or institutional racism in the way the pandemic has had an impact on the way the pandemic has adversely impacted on ethnic minority groups.

The comment is included though because on top of accusing the Labour MP of politicising the issue and taunting her that she needs to go back and re-read the report. Well, she did just that and raised it the following week on a point of order. Clips of this were not well shared but the record of it is there on Hansard where Chi Onwurah pointed at the exact phrase in the report that proved her point,

Further data, research and analysis on the above factors is needed to fully understand the disparities from COVID-19 to ethnic minorities.” That is the point that I was making. It continues: In summary, the evidence shows an increased risk for Black and South Asian ethnic groups.

The Minister will be aware of the point of order and as alluded to by Dame Rosie Winterton, Madam Deputy Speaker she is within her rights to ‘come to the House as quickly as possible if they felt that any information had inadvertently been given that was inaccurate.

As of the time of writing, I can find nothing of a response from the Conservative Minister…

'Of course, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman fails to point out is that on 18 December, two days later, the Government were informed about the spread of the new variant and the fact that it spreads roughly 50% to 70% faster than the old variant.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

The Equalities debate was followed by Prime Ministers Questions of 2021 as Boris Johnson faced off against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. It did not take him long either to say something that may not have been true.

Here the Prime Minister is responding to Starmer’s criticisms from the last PMQ’s on December 16th that infections were reducing. Since then there was the creation of tier 4, Christmas and the imposition of a third national lockdown. The Prime Minister is blaming that all on the new variant of the Virus which he seems to be pinpointed to the advice he received on 18th December. Even if it is true that this is when the Prime Minister found out about the 50% to 70% transmissibility rate of the new variant (3.15 pm that afternoon the told Marr), the variant was known about at the time of the last PMQs in December. Health Secretary Matt Hancock had informed the Commons of the variant two days prior on Monday 14th December, telling MPs….

Over the past few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus, which may be associated with the faster spread in the south-east of England. Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants. We have identified over 1,000 cases with this variant, predominantly in the south of England, although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas and numbers are increasing rapidly.

They may not have known the 50-70% figure then but it is clear they knew the new variant was potentially more infectious, Yet, the Prime Minister waited until the weekend to do anything different, to try and take different measures…

I must disagree very profoundly with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said. He knows very well that within 24 hours of getting the advice on 18 December about the spread of the new variant, we acted to put the vast part of the country into much, much tougher measures.

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

Sir Keir Starmer than accused the Prime Minister of sitting on his fingers for 17 days after receiving the advice from SAGE on 18th December. Boris Johnson insisted, not for the first time, that he pt the vast majority of the country into tougher measures within 24 hours of receiving that advice. Within 24 hours, the government introduced a new tier 4 which covered only London and parts of the South East. No other restrictions were changed and as demonstrated in the Twitter thread by Lewis Goodall on January 7th, such a claim is not entirely accurate and can only be considered such by December 30th.

'I repeat my gratitude to all those involved, because they have now vaccinated 2.4 million people and delivered 2.8 million doses, which is more than any other country in Europe.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

Later into his response, the Prime Minister brought up these numbers from the UK’s Vaccination Programme. The Vaccine rollout has so far been one of the successes of the pandemic but something does not add up in this comment. Firstly, if 2.4 million people have been vaccinated from 2.8 million doses then there has been a waste of around 400,000 doses. However, if the vaccine requires a two-dose regime then while the first dose is still said to offer significant protection, do you consider yourself to be properly vaccinated after the first or the second dose? I would imagine the majority would not. In reality, then, it is around 400,000 people who have been properly vaccinated to the required dosage.

'It is because we want to see our kids properly fed throughout this very difficult pandemic that we have massively increased the value of what we are providing—another £170 million in the covid winter grant scheme…This Government will do everything we can to ensure that no child goes hungry as a result of the privations caused by this pandemic.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

This was I assume a pre-written line that Boris Johnson wanted to get into PMQs as Downing Street put a clip of it onto Twitter. It came after Sir Keir Starmer pressed him on those shocking food parcels when he made this claim.

First of all, it is quite ingenious to say that you will do everything  to make sure that no child goes hungry as a result of the pandemic but when presented with an opportunity to do so as they did in October with the Labour motion to provide Free School Meals during the October half-term, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives failed to do so. They can argue it was pointless but as a stamen of intent, they could have given their support to it and they didn’t. Instead, they had to be shamed into a u-turn by Marcus Rashford.

Additionally, the implication that the Covid Winter Grant could be used to help feed children is misleading. It is not in the guidance that is what that £170m fund is meant to be used for as revealed by Channel 4 FactCheck. They revealed the guidance for the Covid Winter Grant is ‘not intended to replicate or replace free school meals’.

'The right hon. and learned Gentleman’s words would be less hypocritical and absurd if it were not for the fact that the—'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

The Prime Minister began his answer to Keir Starmer’s final question by calling him a hypocrite for his comments in regards to the free school meal guidelines. It caught the attention of speaker Sir Lindsey Hoye who reprimanded him for such language and also Starmer for calling the Prime Minister ‘Mr Johnson’ (you cannot call someone by their name in the House of Commons). The Prime Minister also earned the Speakers wrath again at the second attempt at answering the question for taking too long and going off course…

'I totally understand the logic of your argument, but the problem is that it is a very, very long-standing provision in this country that NRPF conditions should apply for those who, for instance, are here illegally or unlawfully, and I think that it would not be the right way forward to change that.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

The Prime Minister’s other duty on 13th January was to be in front of the Commons Laison Committee. This Committee meets twice a year and is between the Prime Minister and the heads of the other parliamentary select committees. The first glaring thing to pick up on from the Prime Minister’s appearance is this in response to Stephen Timms; the Labour MP for Rhonda and Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee.

Mr Timms asked about those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) situation should at least be suspended for the duration of the pandemic as he cited it as a reason behind the surge in cases in his constituency. The Prime Minister refused to move on this although is knowledge on this issue seems shaky as he appeared surprised in May that some migrants could not access benefits. However, his ignorance goes further in this response as he seemed to hint it only applies to migrants here ‘illegally or unlawfully’ and the fact it is a ‘long-standing provision’ as justification.

NRPF is a condition applied to the visas of all migrants with temporary immigration status and are eligible to live and work in the UK which impacts around 1.4 million people according to Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Not as the Prime Minister suggested as here illegally. The 1.4 million people subject to this condition have been faced with having to choose between financial hardship and their health and in times of a pandemic the health of others, they may come into contact with. The Priem Minister suggested they were eligible for furlough as it is not deemed a public fund for immigration purposes but that only covers those who have been fortunate enough to have been kept on company payrolls.

'No. We are taking steps to stop the Brazil variant being imported into this country as we have taken steps to stop the South African variant being imported into this country as, indeed, the French took steps to stop the Kent variant being imported into France. That is what countries do.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

When Yvette Cooper’s first question in the Laison Committee session included this: ‘I wanted to travel here from South Africa today, I could still get a flight via Dubai or Istanbul with no test before I left, no test during and no test on arrival. I could go straight on to the tube from Heathrow, and then on to a train to travel home across the country. You said that tough measures were being brought in to protect the country, but why on earth have you allowed this to happen legally for the past four weeks?’ You knew Boris Johnson was in for an absolute grilling…

The Prime Minister insisted that we were putting measures in place to check people arriving from Brazil and South Africa. Nearer the end of her questioning, he diverted away from talking about the borders to talking about the vaccines. Vaccines had not been previously mentioned in her line of questioning.

Ms Cooper pushed the Prime Minister repeatedly about what steps we were taking to protect the UK against new variants; an issue more pressing after Japan confirmed it had identified the Brazilian strain having arrived there and the fact one of the two had also already been identified in the UK. When asked as to what these steps were he referred to the fact that negative test to enter the country on three separate occasions but that had yet to be introduced (it was due on Friday 15th) but then backtracked to the 10-day guaranteeing policy when that was pointed put.

It was all a bit of a mess from the Prime Minister.

'No. We wanted to have reciprocal rights for musicians to tour, but before everybody worries about this I should stress that what we have is the right for UK musicians to go and play in other European countries—in EU countries—for 90 out of 180 days.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 13th January

The Prime Minister was asked by Hilary Benn about the reports that had surfaced suggesting that the UK rejected an offer from the EU for a 90 days visa-free period for musicians to go and tour in Europe. Boris Johnson denied that was offered and insisted that UK musicians have the right to play in EU countries for 90 out of 180 days.

Note, there is no mention of Visas or visa-free in his response. It is a deflection from the Prime Minister as the EU27 member’s states have the right to insist on Visas for each country that musicians tour in.

The clarity is exercising on your own and not socialising. The point to make about any exercise – yes, it should be local, people exercise differently. But exercise on your own and don’t use it for a social meeting. Cycling is fine, because you are on your own, you should not be cycling with other cyclists. Running, exactly in the same way because you are on your own, walking on your own

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 14th January

The Home Secretary made the comments in an effort to clarify the lockdown rules surrounding exercise after being asked on This Morning in the wake of reports of the Prime Minister going 7 miles for a bike ride. For the Government Minister who spent an entire press briefing in Downing Street barely 48 hours prior saying the rules are clear, she got it wrong. Government advice rightly or wrongly depending on your view, permits outdoor exercise with one other person from another household. That is not what the Home Secretary said in regards to cyclists though I get where she is coming from in regards to doing our best to reduce the transmission. It got worse for her as she was later publicly contradicted by the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson

We’ve been clear that if people exercise they can do so with one other person from another household but we’re asking them to socially distance while they’re doing that’

we’ve got our fish back, they’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 14th January

A clip of this did the rounds on social media and when I first heard it, I was perplexed. What the actual **** did he just say? It was one of those comments you hear someone say and worry about them.

The Leader of the House was responding to a question from Tommy Shepard, the SNP MP for Edinburgh East and this I believe was in response to his questions around what Government might do compensate a fishing industry he claimed was losing £1 million a day. This was his closing remarks and it’s just bonkers really.

What makes fish British? Is it as soon as they enter British waters and if so, odd that is not the case for people too? Where do they draw the line as do fish know where such a line exists? Are Fish happy? I could hazard a guess that fish do not want to be caught and die. Who knows? It’s why it is absolutely bonkers and Sir Lindsey Hoyle had to remark that ‘Obvously, there is no overwhelming evidence of that’.

No, the agreement came when we were all very busy on Christmas Eve, in my case organising the local nativity trail…

Victoria Prentis (MP for Banbury and Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). 14th January

The Fisheries Minister was in front of the Lords EU Environment Committee and was asked if her draw had dropped when she saw what was within the Brexit Trade Agreement. We all know the deal was reached on Christmas Eve (not an ideal time of the year) and was then passed into law unanimously just six days later for it to come into force before the end of the transition period at 11 pm on New Year’s Eve.

That is a lot of reading to get through but guess what, the Fisheries Minister did not read it!

Christmas is perhaps not the best time of the year for an agreement of 1,200 pages to come through and you have to read it to approve it within six days. The fault for that narrow timescale comes down to the negotiators. However, despite the time of the year, when it is the biggest trade agreement that the UK has conducted in generations and its impact will be felt for generations, you would have thought she would read through to see what it entails for the areas that she is responsible for in government.

There were plenty of people who did try to go through the trade agreement when it was published and granted the time window was short and if you’ve been waiting on something to come for days it can be seen as rotten luck it arrives when you’re pre-occupied but that is no excuse for not looking through i. It is sheer incompetence and staggeringly Downing Street when asked said Bors Johnson maintained confidence in the Minister.

What the country needs is the complete success of Boris Johnson, with his excellent EU deal, a successful vaccination programme and a #Road2Recovery back to freedom. I am clear Boris is the only person to lead us out of these difficulties and I support him in that endeavour

Steve Baker (MP for Wycombe), 14th January

Steve Baker, one of the members of the influential ERG group that toppled Theresa May in 2019 was forced into this backtrack after appearing to have suggested doing the same to Boris Johnson over the lockdown rules. In a letter sent to fellow backbench MPs, he suggested that the Prime Minister’s position ‘could inevitably be on the table’ if he did not set out a plan to lift lockdown restrictions.

Given he backtracked within 24 hours of evidence of the letter coming to light in the press may suggest that not many agreed with him so the time was not right. Either that, or he was given a ticking off by Downing Street but Downing Street refused to comment on this. I would imagine it being the former after one of the 12 MPs who voted against the lockdown was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying, There is no chance of the PM facing a leadership challenge at present. He has just delivered Brexit…I share Steve’s concerns about the impact of the lockdown, but this looks ill-judged’.

He is correct in this Tweet to say the nation needs Boris Johnson (or whoever the Prime Minister of the day) to be successful otherwise we all suffer but the judgement of Johnson being the ‘only person to lead us out of these difficulties’ is surprising. He just attempted to sound out for a coup and backtracking. On the wider issues of the past year, it is hard to imagine that Boris Johnson is the right person to have been Prime Minister. This is the man who missed five COBRA meetings at the beginning of the crisis and seems to have been reluctant to follow advice to lockdown on several instances in the Autumn just to name two of the catalogue of errors on his rap sheet.

We are not going to lower the standard of workers rights. The UK has one of the best workers rights records in the world going further than the EU in many areas. We want to protect and enhance workers rights going forward, not row back on them

Kwasi Kwarteng (MP for Spelthorne and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), 14th January

Kwasi Kwarteng had only been appointed Business Minister just over a week before he was forced to issue a quick rebuttal of an alarming story on the front page of the Financial Times. The story claimed that the government were in the process of sounding out reducing red tape such as scrapping the EU 48 hour working time directive, holiday pay and sick pay. I mean seriously, during the middle of the pandemic I can’t help but think this should not have been near the top of the government’s to-do list and that there would have been more pressing things.

The question here is, is he trustworthy in saying he wants high standards? Mr Kwarteng was one of four authors of a certain Brittanica Unchained that hold Cabinet positions. Published in 2012, the book claims that Brits are amongst some of the ‘worst idlers in the world’. This is one of those quotes that would only time would reveal if it was accurate or not. It is safe to say, it was not.

I’m Minister for Children and Families, I spend my time thinking about how I can support vulnerable children and families

Vicky Ford (MP for Chelmsford and Minister for Children and Families), 14th January

This was from Vicky Ford outlining her Cabinet position and role in government on Question Time. This was her opening remark to answering a question regarding the unacceptable parcels that had done the rounds on social media. However, making such a statement leaves her open to criticism from any opponents as was demonstrated on social media by Labour Deputy leader Angela Rayner. Did the Minister for Children and Families do her best to ‘support vulnerable children and families; when it came to the vote on Free School meals back in October? No.

I’m the last person you should take travel advice from…don’t take travel advice from me’.

Grant Shapps (MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Transport Secretary), 15th January

This comment is included for some amusement. On its own, without any context, it is a shocking comment. It comes across as something someone would say to their friends in conversation and that is perhaps what Mr Shapps was aiming for. However, it is an alarming way to phrase something when you are Transport Secretary when traffic, transport and getting people and goods from A to B is essentially your job.

The comment came concerning a question on whether individuals should be booking holidays for the summer. It is going to be extremely hard to predict if that will be feasible in the summer due to the pandemic. Nobody knows for sure. Perhaps phrasing his response differently may have helped the Transport Secretary at least sound more credible.

'Am increasingly concerned by the extreme behaviour shown by EU customs agents. I have heard about a gun being drawn on one driver for not having documentation for empty boxes in his van. Completely against the UK-EU trade deal is severely impacting our exports, including fish’.

Anthony Mangnall (MP for Totnes), 15th January

There have been clips circulating on social media of Dutch custom agents confiscating ham sandwiches from British hauliers because the personal import of meat is not allowed as part of the agreement. This MPs tweet though is full of doubt.

He claims ‘I have heard’ but the question is obviously, heard from who? It could be any tom dick and harry that said it and they may not be a credible source. It could easily have been said by someone who was not there. For all we know, it could just be based on rumour and not rounded, at worst, it is made up. It is not from a credible source.

Then, there are his claims he is completely against the UK-EU agreement. Is this an indication he did not read it properly? Just 17 days before posting this tweet he voted alongside his Conservative Party colleagues, their government, of course, negotiated said agreement that he now claims to be completely against through Parliament. Incredible really. Is he trying to re-write history here? I am not so sure yet but this is something he will always be asked when he claims to not like the agreement so it is something he needs to own.

…to protect us from the risk of as of yet unidentified new strains we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 04.00 hours on Monday'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 15th January

The principal reason for this Downing Street briefing was the Prime Ministers announcement that all travel corridors would be closed in a bid to protect us from potential unidentified new strains of the virus. That is fair enough but it begs the question, why now?

363 days after the first COVID-19 case was detected in the UK, why is it only now they were taking steps to effectively close our borders. It is hard to imagine that this was the same government elected to power on the back of a commitment to getting Brexit done which was all about controlling the borders. What is worse? It did not come into immediate effect. Why the delay until Monday 4 am?

ICU capacity has not yet been overwhelmed in any way perhaps as much as we’ve feared

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 15th January

The Prime Minister made this claim in the same Downing Street briefing. To be honest, I think the message intended to reassure the public that the UK was managing. However, the picture that implied was far from the truth. If palliative care doctor Dr Rachel Clarke’s response is representative of other NHS embers, then I can imagine they were enraged that Prime Minister said this.

I have not been on any of the Covid wards and I cannot imagine what it is like. However, the press coverage from hospitals was not of an NHS that was coping. Patients had been sent to hospitals in Bristol since the end of December as hospitals in London and the South East could not cope and the Prime Ministers comments came the day after it was reported patents were being sent as far as Newcastle. That is not the picture of hospitals coping and if that is not the Prime Ministers worst-case scenario, I don’t think anyone would want to know.

Fantastic that over 3.2 million people have now been vaccinated across the UK, including almost 45% of over 80s & almost 40% of care home residents. THANK YOU to everyone playing your part in our national effort to stay at home as we accelerate the COVID vaccine roll-out.

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 15th January

The Health Secretary sent this tweet out regarding the process of vaccinations in the UK. It all sounds look good news because so many people getting their first doses is good news. The only reason it is included is that he claims ‘3.2million have now been vaccinated’. The vaccines are a two-dose regime so cannot consider someone to have been properly vaccinated until they have had that second dose. As pointed out by palliative care doctor, Dr Rachel Clarke, that number is around 400k. The use of language does matter Health Secretary!

we cannot and should not try to edit or censor our past

Robert Jenrick (MP for Newark and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government), 16th January

The Communities Secretary wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph with the headline, ‘we will save Britain’s statues form the woke militants who want to censor our past’. It came a bit out of the blue as far as I was aware as he repeated Boris Johnson’s argument from last year that removing statues would be ‘to lie about our history’. As someone who studied History at University, that is something I don’t agree with at all. Surely these discussions about our past are opportunities to broaden and can only serve to en-richen our history (something that editing would not allow but History is always being rewritten so he cannot stop that) and our understanding of the past; not lying about it as the Conservatives would have us believe.

It is almost as if the Government are intent on creating a culture war? There may have been some developments in January I was not aware of but none of the events he referenced in the article had happened in the month preceding it. The most recent was from December 2020; the story Birmingham Council considering street names such as ‘Diversity Grove’. So nothing immediately prompted the article. Was this a method to distract from the atrocious handling of the pandemic then I wonder?

Not content with ripping down heritage Labour in London has raised the prospect of removing tombs of those now seen as offenders

Robert Jenrick (MP for Newark and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government), 16th January

Some of his claims in this article are questionable. With the above claim, I have been unable to find any evidence that it even happened. A Google search of ‘london raised prospect removing tombs’ showed a rather embarrassing top result for the Government. Ahead of the Community Secretaries article was a story of graves being exhumed as work began on HS2 near Euston. HS2 did not exist before the Coalition Government so it has nothing to do with Labour…

*If someone can point me to what the Communities Secretary was referring to then I will add it to this post.

We absolutely are aiming for that We should be able to deliver it… We’re quietly confident

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton and Foreign Secretary), 17th January

What is Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab quietly confident of delivering? Only that everyone will receive their second jab of the Covid vaccines at the 12-week gap. Seriously? Are they taking the p***?

This occurred during his interview with Sophy Ridge on Sunday and was asked if he could guarantee the supply to ensure that those waiting 12 weeks for the second jab could get it. The answer is shocking really. The UK has already diverted against the advice of the manufacturers and the WHO to extend the gap between those doses from three or four weeks to 12 in a bid to give as many of the most vulnerable the initial dose of protection as possible. Now, they could not even guarantee to keep to that timetable. Imagine you were one of those who were set to have their second dose just before New Year, had it cancelled, you’ve then heard that serial rule-breaker Stanley Johnson got the second dose within three weeks then you hear this from the Foreign Secretary? How would you feel?

This longer gap carries the risk that the level of protection may not hold over the extended gap between doses. It was not tested in clinical trials so the Uk was already taking a risk and the gap also increases the risk that the virus may mutant into a new vaccine-resistant strain which would put us back to square one. They’re taking a massive gamble with our health here!

I’m not convinced that is the result of the agreement…The agreement we have struck, both short term and medium-term and long term, will create huge sustainable opportunities. Of course, we’ve always said as we leave the transition period with a deal – but even more, if we hadn’t had a deal – there will be some teething problems.'

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton and Foreign Secretary), 17th January

It was onto the Andrew Marr Show next for the Foreign Secretary and the part I am focusing on here is when Marr pressed him on the impact the Brexit Agreement was having on fisheries. Marr put to the Foreign Secretary comments from Jamie McMillan, managing director of Loch Fyne Langoustines, that if ‘If we go another week without that [sales to the EU], we are finished’ and the concerns of Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland that, ‘Some businesses, which may have been run by families for generations, are now days away from collapse as a result of the agreement.’

The Foreign Secretary refused to agree that was a result of the agreement and insisted what they were experiencing were simply teething issues that they had always warned about. I do not get the insistence of Ministers in this government who refuse to accept the consequences of what they signed up for and dismissive of the experiences of those within the industries that are being impacted by the red tape that has been imposed on them.

It raises the question of was it all a game to them? If it is not Brexit then, what is it Foreign Secretary? No one heard stories of Scottish fisheries struggling with red-tape before the transition period for Brexit expired? Or, does he think that it is just a coincidence?

'We can be proud of what we are doing to tackle all the consequences of the pandemic and if labour decides to stop playing politics and to stop inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying (of a kind seen sadly across the Atlantic) then I may think again about legislatively vacuous opposition debates.

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 17th January

It feels almost wrong including private WhatsApp messages on this post but the contents of the Prime Ministers noon message to Conservative MPs were well publicised. He urged his colleagues not to vote on the opposition day motions the next day surrounding the need for vouchers on free school meals and bid to prevent the £20 uplift in Universal Credit being cut by the Chancellor.

While the votes themselves do not have a direct input on government policy, the language the Prime Minister used was alarming as he accused Labour of ‘inciting the worst kind of hatred and bullying’ and even comparing it to the scenes that happened in the United States with pro-trump supporters. That is unbelievable! What happened in the United States was a right-wing coup, something the UK is not immune to. It was only last summer that the far-right were giving the Nazi salute in front of the cenotaph or murdered a Labour MP in 2016. But, no, the real danger is from the left as the Prime Minister would have you believe. It is false and a clear deflection from the right.

In the event, six Tory MPs defied this instruction and voted in favour of the motion. They are: Peter Aldous, Stephen Crabb, Robert Halfon, Jason McCartney, Anne Marie Morris and Matthew Offord.

Keir Starmer wants to scrap Universal credit, withdrawing vital support from millions of people. Experts say Labour’s plans would be disruptive and cause chaos. Conservatives are investing £7.4bn to help those who need it most

Conservative Party Twitter Account, 17th January

I try to avoid mentioning just the Conservative Party Twitter Account but this Tweet needs talking about. It was sent out accompanied with a video showing the Labour Party leader in his interview with Andrew Marr a week earlier.

The accompanying footage shows Starmer say, ‘Yes, Universal Credit needs to be scrapped’ without any context. It is then followed with comments from various think thanks with the Centre for Social Justice, founded by Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith claiming it would be ‘welfare destruction’ as well as other comments from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Centre for Fiscal Studies has a further comment before they return to Starmer’s comments. However, the clip of Starmer is edited and cuts off his whole response.

Starmer had been asked by Marr if he could scrap Universal credit and his full response was, ‘Yes, Universal Credit needs to be scrapped and a new scheme put in place. In the immediate future, what I’m determined to do is to persuade the government to stop the cut to Universal Credit that’s due to come in April. That’s going to hurt millions of people and they shoudn’t be doing it’. That is the full comment of what Starmer said. That is what the Conservative Party Twitter Account thought to cut off.

This editing of the clip was ingenious. This misrepresentation of what Starmer actually said is designed to make people scared of the official opposition. The presentation of Starmer and Labour in this way, that they will rip up the safety net and ruin people’s lives is a gross misrepresentation of what was said and whoever edited the clip for this Tweet will know that and so too will whoever authorise the Tweet.

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