A Tory Said What: January 2021

some votes are stunts, so today Labour are pulling a stunt on Universal Credit

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-on-Avon and Vaccines Minister), 18th January

This was the message the Vaccines Minister wanted to press across when he was being asked on Good Morning Britain about the Free School Meals interview that Matt Hancock had done the previous week. Unlike the Health Secretary, he at least admitted in hindsight it was a mistake. That said, he wanted to accuse Labour of making the free school meals and the vote later that day on Universal Credit into a political stunt.

It was not lost on Susanna Reid that they would find themselves in the same position on that vote and would look like they are against poorer families keeping that £20 uplift. Surely, the way to avoid that appearance, especially if the vote is not binding on the government to at least support it to avoid having that as a potential weak spot when the next election comes around.

It is right that we’ve had the uplift to UC that is a lifeline along with the £280bn support of financial support that’s been put in across the economy for vulnerable communities…

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 18th January

The Home Secretary was out and about being interviewed by Sky News and as well as asking about the roughly 400,000 missing police records, she too was asked about the Universal credit uplift. True to form with her long-winded answers, she went on saying that it has helped so many people during the pandemic but then refuse to vote for the Labour motion to maintain it following the argument that it is a stunt. However, if it is a political stunt and it means nothing as several of them argued, I do not get why they do not call their bluff and vote in favour of the motion. They do that, then Labour has nothing to shout about. By abstaining, or even voting against then it gives Labour ammunition, much like the Conservatives do whenever Labour vote against anything or abstain.

As this is an Opposition day debate, let us reflect just for a moment on an Opposition who want to abolish the universal credit system without which our welfare system would have collapsed, let alone coped with 1 million more applicants.

Julie Marson (MP for Hertford and Stortford), 18th January

This brief extract from Julie Marson’s comments come from the Opposition day debate surrounding the £20 uplift and it potentially being scrapped by the Chancellor in April. Here, the MP for Hertford and Stratford is repeating the Conservative Party line that Labour wants to scrap it. This was not the first of such comments in the wider debate with the first one being from the MP for Winchester Steven Brine, who at least followed it up with the question of what they want to replace it with. In this case, that is not happening. She was also slapped down by Deputy Speaker Mr Nigel Evans for just seconds later referring to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell by their names (not allowed in the House of Commons chamber).

'There are some challenges in Northern Ireland, not related to the EU issues, but are related to COVID.'

Brandon Lewis (MP for Great Yarmouth and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland), 19th January

The Northern Ireland Minister was appearing on Times Radio when he claimed that the images of food shortages and empty shelves in Northern Ireland were not because of Brexit but because of the pandemic. In particular, he felt it was a knock-on effect from the French decision to close their borders. That was almost a full month ago from when he was speaking and lasted around a week. While it is possible, is it just convenient that the Brexit trade deal, while better than no deal outcome came into force around the same time. The two combined have contributed to it.

‘We cannot make international comparisons now'

Brandon Lewis (MP for Great Yarmouth and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland), 19th January

On Good Morning Britain, Brandon Lewis was asked about the startling fact that in figures compiled by Our World in Data that the UK, with an average of 935 deaths in the previous week (equivalent to 1 in 16 dying) had the worst death rate in the world!

That is a shockingly grim statistic. Piers Morgan asked the Northern Ireland Minister why that was the case and he brought out the tried and trusted line that you see above. You cannot make international comparisons because of the different way other countries record their data is a valid argument UNLESS you are also making international comparisons to show just how much more people you are vaccinating. Our World in Data had the UK in the top 4 globally. It does not make sense other than when you make the summary that they only like to make comparisons when they are favourable.

'Our proposals, which were informed by our extensive consultation and engagement with the UK’s cultural and creative industries, would have allowed UK musicians and other cultural touring professionals to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without the need for work permits. Regrettably, those mutually beneficial proposals were rejected by the EU.'

'The EU tabled texts regarding short-stay visa-free travel during the negotiations, and embedded in the proposal was a declaration that would have covered a very small number of paid activities. With regard to artists, it covered ad hoc performances. Of course, the declaration was non-binding and did not address things such as technical or support staff. Crucially, it did not cover work permits, which EU member states can put in place unilaterally. Furthermore, the proposals would have enshrined permanent visa-free short stays for all current and future EU citizens in the agreement, and that is not compatible with our manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.'

Caroline Dinenage, (MP for Gosport and Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport).19th January

Caroline Dinenage was called to parliament to face an urgent question regarding reports that had circulated over the weekend that the UK had turned down proposals that would have allowed unrestricted visa-free travel for musicians in the post-Brexit trade deal.

In her initial statement, the Minister for Digitial and Culture appeared to blame on to the EU. She argued that the UK put forward mutually beneficial proposals but they were rejected. By definition of the proposals being rejected, they must not have been mutually beneficial.

Later in the debate, it the Minister said something that seemed to contradict her earlier suggestion. The earlier comments seemed to put the entire blame on the EU as if they had offered nothing. Instead, it transpires that the EU made an offer. However, that the EU made an offer that would have covered artists but the UK government did not feel like it went far enough in covering support staff etc. Then comes the key bit, the proposal surrounding visas she argued was rejected because it was not compatible with their aims of taking control of the borders.

A cynic would argue that the support staff argument was just a rouse and the real reason it was turned down was the political motives of the Conservative party. So, she went from starting her statement in the debate as blaming the Eu then admitted that the EU proposed something they were unwilling to accept. If true, it sounds like neither side were willing to come to an agreement and blame for that and what it will mean for the music and performing arts industries when they have already taken a hammering because of Covid, should be equally attributed.

I think the view was that we wanted to look at the whole range of issues relating to our EU membership and examine what we wanted to keep, if you like…

Kwasi Kwarteng (MP for Spelthorne and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), 19th January

Just over four days after insisting that workers rights were not under discussion in a review, the Business Secretary was in front of the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and confirmed that such a review, or rather consultation with business leaders was underway. Wow, that did not last long.

In fairness to Mr Kwarteng, he had only been in the job a couple of weeks but was involved in the department under Alok Sharma before he was moved to a different post. At the time, it felt like we had just moved on to the second stage of managing leaks in this Tory Government. They had moved from the outright denial stage to the second, confirming that such a thing may happen but nothing to worry about; the third being that it happens. Thankfully, that was not the case and 10 days later he would confirm that the review was scrapped.

I should not have to rebel against my own Government to support the international moral high ground. It should be our default position.'

Tobias Ellwood (MP for Bournemouth East), 19th January

The Defence Select Committee chair was rather damning in his verdict after the Government survived what was deemed as a Tory revolt in regards to the genocide amendment proposed by Lord Alton. The amendment would have forced the government to consider trade deals with a country found by the high court through a preliminary determination to be committing genocide.

The amendment was rejected by the government because they felt it could give the high court power to revoke trade deals that the government had agreed to. So, they are putting trade ahead of lives against such genocides as what we are currently seeing in China against the Uighur community. To that end, the government insist there is no intention of signing a trade deal with China but as I said, they put trade ahead of peoples lives.

33 Conservative MPs had a conscience and voted in favour of the amendment and they were all named by ConservativeHome. Mr Ellwood was among those 33 and this tweet was I included because he is absolutely right and it is indicative of where our Government is taking this country. Supporting the international moral high ground on such issues as genocide is what the UK should stand for and the fact the government would not commit to it for the sake their estranged relationship with the judiciary it is a stain on the reputation of our country.

'Well, we don't know that. And we had said repeatedly in the run-up to that Christmas period to reduce Christmas contact, to have very restrictive Christmases, we were not telling people to get together in mass gatherings.'

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 20th January

The Home Secretary had the media round on the day that Joe Biden was inaugurated as US president. The start of the discussion on Good Morning Britain was on the handling of the pandemic, especially after news of the new variant strain became public. So, that includes the Christmas period and the build-up to this third national lockdown that we are all currently in.

Here, the Home Secretary is trying to suggest that the government attempted to discourage people from meeting and mixing over the festive period. I think most people can remember Boris Johnson saying enjoy a ‘small, merry Christmas’. However, the hosts saw through this as Morgan pointed out that they did not tell people they could not mix over Christmas. The Home Secretaries attempt to gaslight the nation into believing they did everything they reasonably could was brutally pointed out by Susanna Reid

It’s exactly what we knew you were going to do back in December. You were going to allow people to do it, allow people to mix and in January you were going to blame people who did – who knew it was legitimate under the rules – you were going to blame them for what then happened. Even though it was in the government’s control to change that‘.

Every word Ms Reid said is perfectly right. They could have controlled the situation a lot better and ordered an earlier lockdown but they chose not to.

Well I think we have to put much of this into context. Every single death is just deeply tragic and this pandemic has affected and blighted all our lives. There are too many families that have lost loved ones - but now, if I may, I do not think there has been a single factor or cause as to why so many people have died in the United Kingdom. There is not one single factor or reason why we have seen such pressure on the NHS. There will be no single reason as to why the numbers are so high. It includes certain ethnicities being more susceptible to coronavirus, people with certain disabilities too. And we have seen this repeatedly, you know?

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 20th January

Just the day after Brandon Lewis failed to answer the question of why it is the UK had the highest death rate in the pandemic and insisted that international comparisons were pointless at this stage, you can imagine what question the Home Secretary would eventually be asked as well.

True to form, it was a long-winded response from the Home Secretary and amidst the answer, she suggests that it is down to down certain ethnicities and disabilities or co-morbidities. Piers Morgan did not buy it and rightly pointed out that those are factors that are not exclusive to the UK. Other countries also have obesity issues and are multicultural societies but that is not the defining factor, it is perhaps more than likely to be government incompetence. She also seemed to suggest that other countries were recording their data in the same way as a potential means to deflect from that fact.

'They could still be in the police national computer, we don’t know for sure… there are other systems…there are multiple records…

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 20th January

Towards the end of the Good Morning Britain interview, the Home Secretary was asked about what happened with the National Police database as 400,000 crime records including fingerprints, DNA and arrest history records were unaccounted for. She had explained that this happened due to a coding error in the weekly routine ‘weeding’ session to remove surplus data which it is believed happened due to ‘defective code’ and ‘human error’ which Home Office engineers were working on trying to recover.

As the discussion went on, it became clear that they were still none the wiser as to where the records have gone as Ms Patel seemed to suggest. This is serious It is huge It is a huge issue for the Home Secretary as it puts us all at risk

…Captain Hindsight has changed his tune to suit events…

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 20th January

Just four days after the Prime Minister sent out a message urging for a more ‘civil and kind politics’, he could not help himself by returning to his favourite retort towards Sir Keir Stamer. Of course, this is the same man who has such a colourful past with inflammatory language describing Theresa May’s Brexit deal as a ‘suicide vest’ and attempts at avoiding a No Deal outcome in 2019 as a ‘surrender act’. Downing Street defended Johnson’s language saying ‘In the Prime Minister’s opinion, Captain Hindsight is not an unpleasant name.’ and that the message from two days prior was concerning ‘the bad, unpleasant treatment that Conservative MPs received’ in regards to the Free School Meals issue.

It seems like this is just one rule for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and one rule for the rest then…

'That is why we have instituted one of the toughest border regimes in the world. That is why we insist that people get a test 72 hours before they fly. They have to provide a passenger locator form, and they have to quarantine for 10 days, or five days if they take a second test.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 20th January

Later in the PMQs, the Prime Minister made this audacious claim when facing a question from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer regarding some of the claims made by the Home Secretary. Priti Patel told a Conservative Party event,On ‘should we have closed our borders earlier?’, the answer is yes, I was an advocate of closing them last March.’ Of course, we didn’t and the Prime Minister overruled her.

The Prime Minister then insisted that the UK has one of the toughest border regimes in the world which is not the case. The requirement of a negative test result 72 hours before travel was only brought into place two days prior. Other countries, such as Japan, China, New Zealand and Australia just to name four; have tested people when they arrived in their country and even if the result is negative have insisted on a mandatory quarantine period in a hotel. The Uk had yet to introduce anything as strict as that.

It's up to the courts to decide what is and isn't genocide but I'm very clear there are heinous Human Rights abuses in China. We're not negotiating a free trade deal with China and parliament has the ability to block any free trade deal.

Liz Truss (MP for South West Norfolk and Minister for Women and Equalities, and Secretary of State for International Trade), 20th January

Liz Truss was appearing on ITV’s Peston show when she made these remarks after they discussed the genocide amendment vote. The first sentence had me bemused slightly after hearing some of the arguments for turning down the amendment; that the courts could potentially overrule parliament in regards to trade deals. However, here she is saying the courts will decide what is and is not genocide? Am I reading too much into this but which courts? As they seem to have already decided it is not the role of the UK Courts to say so.

The second claim is that the UK is not negotiating and is not interested in negotiating a trade deal with China. So the situation with the Uighur community in China is only viewed by the UK government in terms of trade. If that is her mindset, then perhaps Tobias Ellwood is right that we are not standing up for the international moral high ground and that is sickening.

There is also something else to be considered with that claim on not negotiating with China. The UK, as of December 2020 was reportedly ‘gaining momentum’ in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). That trading block currently has 11 members: Japan, Singapore, Mexico Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Peru and Chile. The UK formally announced its application on January 30th. China are reportedly not in any rush to join that partnership but if the UK signed up and China did decide to, then this issue would arise as the UK would then technically be negotiating with China. That was a point Ed Balls alluded to on the show as well.

'Well, I think it’s down to both of those issues. We were always clear that we are leaving the single market, we are leaving the customs union, there would be processes to be undertaken.'

Liz Truss (MP for South West Norfolk and Minister for Women and Equalities, and Secretary of State for International Trade), 20th January

Sticking with Liz truss’s interview on ITV’s Peston, the Minister appeared to disagree with Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis on what was causing the issues of shortages in Northern Ireland that had seen some shelves in supermarkets empty. The Northern Ireland secretary had insisted it was more to do with Covid, an assertion Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney disagreed with. Mr Coveney made the articulate argument that ‘I don’t think it’s only to do with Covid-19, though certainly, that doesn’t help. The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains. So that’s clearly a Brexit issue and it’s part of the reality of the United Kingdom now being outside not only the European Union but of the customs union and the single market as well’. I would be hard-pressed to disagree with Mr Coveney’s assessment and I imagine it was the same for Ms Truss.

We're dealing with a global pandemic where we've had to make decisions at an incredible pace, decisions that none of us would have wanted to take.

Gavin Williamson (MP for South Staffordshire and Secretary of State for Education), 21st January

The Education Secretary was next up to do the morning media rounds and he was in for one excruciating ride with Good Morning Britain from both Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan. The same interview has prompted 320 complaints to OfCom of ‘perceived bullying and and a biased interview’. I do not believe it to be bullying holding someone to account for their record, especially when it is as appalling as Gavin Willamsons…

As listed by Susanna Reid, the education secretary had overseen the a-level and GCSE exam fiasco last year which unfairly cost students places at Universities. He then oversaw the return of Schools and Universities in one swoop which in the case of certain Universities did not go well at all. With cases rising rapidly in December, he threatened to sue Greenwich council for closing their schools a few days early, almost botched up the closure of schools in tier 4 London by insisting some boroughs remain open wich was nonsensical all while going along with the Prime Minister insisting schools were generally safe.

That is quite a rap sheet and it prompted Piers Morgan to ask why he had not resigned yet? The above quote is the best he could muster in response to multiple questions of the same nature as he repeatedly attempted to swerve the question. I can’t imagine it being a nice question to be asked but there’s not even a principled sort of ‘I have not because I want to take ownership of my mess and sort it out or correct my mistakes etc’ type of answer.

For most people from the outside though, it does appear that the Education Secretary is out of his depth as he appears reluctant to accept responsibility, learn from his mistakes and own it!

No

George Eustice (MP for Cabrone and Redruth and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 21st January

Ok, seeing a Government Minister, or anyone for that matter saying ‘no’ needs some context so here goes. This was George Eustice’s response to a question posed by SNP MP Deidre Brock. Her question was about the impact of the Brexit trade deal on fishing and particularly referenced the images circulating of Peterhead dock being deserted. This was the full question the Minister faced…

‘Europe’s biggest fish market in Peterhead is empty. An industry has collapsed because this Government’s ideological blinkers meant they made a mess of the negotiations and Ministers think it is a teething problem or a paperwork problem or it is not their fault. Will Ministers tell us how they intend to sort this out? Will the Government go back to the EU to seek a grace period and new negotiations on market access, as many in the sector are asking for, even if that means accepting some regulatory alignment?

Does the response provided by Mr Eustice enough or sufficient for the question put to him? In this writer’s view, it is not. If the question posed was purely the last part then no is an answer of sorts, that is what they won’t do but the wider question was ‘what will Ministers tell us how they intend to sort this out’. In that regard, no is not good enough. No, does not give an indicator of what the Government will do to help Scottish fisheries and fisheries elsewhere with what issues they now face. It needs elaboration and just saying no just gives off an impression that they do not seem to care.

Judging by the clip of this exchange that went around social media, I think even the Speaker Sir Lindsey Hoyle was slightly surprised at just how brief the answer was.

'The position on musicians is extraordinarily clear. Her Majesty's government said during negotiations, we made proposals that would have allowed musicians to travel and perform in the UK and the EU easily without work permits based on input from UK music and the musicians union. The EU rejected these proposals, therefore musicians are in the position they are in because the EU rejected those proposals.'

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 21st January

During his weekly Business of the House session, leader of the House Jacob Rees Mogg as he answered one of Valerie Vaz’s line of questioning regarding the visa situation for musicians. Unlike Caroline Dinenage in her debate two days prior, where she went from blaming the EU for the situation in turning down proposals to later be suggesting the UK rejected proposals there is no doubt who Jacob Rees Mogg blames.

The blame lies entirely with the EU and none at all with the UK. It does after all take two to negotiate, does it not?

…as of today, four million, nine hundred and seventy-three thousand, two hundred and forty-eight people have been vaccinated across the United Kingdom.

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 21st January

On the day that Joe Biden said, ‘if…I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect…I will fire you on the spot’ it was perhaps fitting that the Home Secretary, who would not have lasted five minutes in Bidens administration would be leading the Downing Street briefing as one of the holders of a great office of state. She opened it with the statistics and I am picking up on her use of language surrounding the vaccination programme.

I will not tire of doing this when I hear it. The Covid vaccines approved to this point are a two-dose regime so do you really consider yourself to have been properly vaccinated if you have only had the initial dose? No. The number the Home Secretary used is more accurate for inoculations and in doing so misrepresents the numbers and makes the government look better. It is a massaging of figures. If you consider two doses as properly vaccinated then that number is 439,182 in England, not 4,973,248 across the UK as she claimed.

Another thing I want to bring attention to here is that worryingly, the numbers for vaccinations through NHS England are being stored on Excel spreadsheets that literally anyone can edit. It is a dream for anyone who would want to manipulate the numbers!

From next week we will be introducing a new £800 fine for those attending house parties which will double foreach offence to a maximum level of £6,400. Thee fins will apply to anyone attending illegal gatherings of more than 15 peoples in homes’.

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 21st January

The announcement from the Home Secretary (I still have no idea how she is still in post) of a new fine came off the back of reports from the previous weekend of a house party in Basingstoke where none of the attendees bizarrely claimed to know there was a pandemic going. However, these stories seem to be given more headlines than the vast majority who are doing the best they can to follow the rules.

So, what do we have? A new fine that makes us look like we are clamping down on rule-breakers, check. Deflecting away from what was another atrocious day for the UK in the pandemic by talking about the ‘minority breaking the rules, check. Does it create more rules that just do not make sense and creates more questions than answers but I am going to back as crystal clear so we can blame the public, check.

What sort of message does this give out other than her looking good at cracking down on crime? For starters, why 15 people? Does that mean any gatherings in houses of under 15 people is acceptable? 14 people in the same house are fine but 15 is not? It just makes no sense, surely it should have been meetings of different households indoors other than support bubbles if the message was to make any sense?

…that was very much about the transmissible nature of the virus and I think it os worth speaking about right now, we’re speaking about the virus and the variants of the virus we are now seeing it is now right to say that within schools and schools setting that all the measures that are in place with regards to teachers and pupils being in school, are all subject to coronavirus restrictions

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 21st January

Into the Question and Answers part of the Downing Street briefing and the Home Secretary was faced with a question from a teacher, Robert from Norwich. His question was basically if the new variant is more transmissible then why has the definition of key works been broadened should the protections in place in schools be not the same as in march or more?

The Home Secretaries answer to that question above does not really answer the question, does it? Is she even engaging with the question in detail or even directly?

'People must see light at the end of the tunnel and feel hope for the future and businesses need to be able to plan our recovery'

Mark Harper (MP for Forest of Dean), 21st January

Leader of the Covid Recovery Group, Mark Harper was quoted the above in the Daily Mail as his 70 MP strong group as they urged the Prime Minister to set a target of the beginning of March to start easing restrictions. I have the greatest sympathy with the above quote from Mr Harper. However, trying to get the Prime Minister to commit to a dated timeline is potentially dangerous. If the restrictions have not lowered the infection levels to a low enough level (in my view, preferably as close to zero as possible) and of course we have vaccines but they are not a silver bullet as warned by the WHO, then is the risk not that we could go back to square one by putting the money motive before lives?

This is wrong, Yorkshire’s allocation this week is 13pc, next week it’s 13pc. We have less vaccine because supply remains a challenge. Yorkshire, as I said to local BBC tonight, will get its allocation to be able to meet the target of offering the most vulnerable 1-4 categories by mid February.

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-on-Avon and Vaccines Minister), 21st January


'To call a Minister coordinating the roll-out of a lifesaving vaccine a liar when he provides the figures for our region is to stretch even your obvious partisanship to breaking point’.

Simon Clarke (MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland), 21st January



Nice headline. Unfortunately, it is untrue. Never did I think the Yorkshire Post would ever come down to this. Never'.

Philip Davies (MP for Shipley), 21st November

'This headline is not true. And it is disappointing that @NHSuk colleagues are now firefighting a false story when they need to be focused on key communications around priority groups for vaccination

Alec Shelbrook (MP for Elmet and Rothwell), 21st November


'Irresponsible and sad to see from @yorkshirepst as was the reply by its editor when the vaccine minister explained why the story was inaccurate

Nigel Adams (MP for Selby and Ainsty and Minister for Asia at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office), 21st January

All these comments come in response to a front-page story on The Yorkshire Post as several Tory MPs attempted a pile on towards editor James Mitchensen after a story by writer Robyn Vinter was published on the front page. The story claimed that vaccine supplies would be redistributed from areas that had vaccinated more of their over 80s to areas that were not quite at the same pace.

The story was originated after Matt Hancock suggested in the House of Commons that ‘we do have to make sure that the vaccination programme is fair everywhere, so that everyone in the top four groups can receive that offer of the vaccine by the 15th of February. We will deliver on that.’

The Vaccines Minister was first from the Government to respond insisting that the allocation in Yorkshire would be remaining the same the following week. Mr Mitchensen did not agree and said he would trust the people he works with more than the Vaccines Minister, which he took personally. I can’t say I blame him but at the same time, if it were you, who would you trust more? The people you work with every day or someone you may not know that well. If it comes to my attention the pair are that closely familiar and it is something else, I will edit that comment.

The exchange prompted a pile on from other Yorkshire passed MPs ranging from Simon Clarke in Middlesbrough and Cleveland to the likes of Phillip Davies (Shipley). It seems they all got behind Mr Zahawi, perhaps in an attempt to discredit the Yorkshire Post and their story. Ms Vinter took to social media too to defend herself…

‘A lot of people have checked on me after Tory MPs tried to discredit a story last night. I suspect they were trying to instigate a pile-on but sadly for them I had about five notifications from people who went away when they actually read the story. So needless to say I’m fine. When you know your story is right and you’ve done everything you can to stand it up, it’s just annoying more than anything else to have to deal with this performative stuff. And just to add, if you ever publish anything that’s actually wrong, government press officers ring you at the speed of light, they don’t send fringe MPs to call you a liar on Twitter at 11pm.’

As it happens though, these MPs appear to have been less than honest. Dr Nikki Kanini confirmed on BBC Radio 4 that the redistribution of vaccines was happening! Then, barely a week later, Tom Clarke of ITV news said it was happening on Thursday 28th. I never noticed The Evening Chronicle nor Tom Clarke being subject to such messages from Government Ministers, by the way, giving off the impression they were seeking to punish The Yorkshire Post for revealing the story…

As part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland is going to have this unique competitive advantage in the world

Brandon Lewis (MP for Great Yarmouth and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland), 21st January

For not the first time in January, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis was determined to express just how great a position Northern Ireland were in as a result of Brexit. This time, the Government Minister was on Question Time when he pushed this argument.

It does sound perfect for Northern Ireland doesn’t it? Northern Ireland does seem to have the best of both worlds being able to trade freely and have unfettered access within both the UK and the EU. What a fantastic position! Does Brandon Lewis want reminding that the whole of the UK had these same benefits this time last month before the Brexit transition period concluded

Because the vote on Monday was a political power play Tom. It would’ve had absolutely no impact and this is king of my problem with Opposition Day motions in general. They’re kind of a statement of intent that have actually no impact on policy itself, it is just a great way to shout and get some headlines without actually having a tangible impact on peoples lives

Dahenna Davison (MP for Bishop Aukland), 21st January

Dahenna Davison, the first Tory MP for Bishop Auckland was on the North East version of Around the House on ITV when she made this remark. She had just been asked by Tom Sheldrick why she had abstained on the vote regarding the £20 uplift to Universal Credit after saying she was in favour of keeping it.

Opposition Day debates and motions voted on are symbolic. The Government are not bound to honour the outcome of the votes. That much is true so the direct impact will vary from issue to issue but with the arithmetic in Parliament as it is with the Tories having an 80 seat majority, they are unlikely to have much of an impact. They would need significant Tory rebellions to make that happen. However, to say they have no impact at all is erroneous.

That is something that the other guests on the show, Andy MacDonald and Lord Purvis disagreed with. McDonald was disappointed in the way she just dismissed the role of parliament arguing opposition day is an important part of bringing issues to the floor while Lord Purvis argued that such votes that she may dismiss as ‘power play’ in 2017 in the Hosue of Lords in 2017, as well as the public backlash to George Osborne’s plans to cut universal credit, forced him to change his hand. That is a direct contradiction of what Ms Davison argued that they are pointless.

Watching it live, my instant thought was, is she suggesting that the only way for people’s views to be heard in Parliament is to vote for the winning party? That the opposition parties shouldn’t be allowed to bring motions to the floor? Then, how to MP’s representing the other 50% who did not vote Tory get heard? The implication of what she would prefer is that they wouldn’t.

If I have misinterpreted what she meant by that then I will by all means apologise.

'Yesterday in Parliament I called for Government urgency in giving us more of the Brexit wins. Bring on the policies to boost home grown food, increase our fishing fleet, set up freeports and Enterprise Zones, cut VAT.'

John Redwood (MP for Wokingham)), 22nd January

John redwood did indeed ask for these issues to be addressed more in Parliament as he suggested on Twitter by asking Leader of the House in his business statement for the following week. However, a bit more anxious and desperate…

…The complication we’ve got now is the new vaccine makes things better here, but the new variants put that at risk. Because If you have a variant that gets around the vaccine-and there’s evidence in the public domain, although we are not sure of this data so I wouldn't say this in public-that the south African variant reduces by about 50 per cent the vaccine efficacy

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 22nd January

It is unclear when he said it but the date given is when it became public knowledge and how embarrassing it must be for the Health Secretary that something he admitted he wouldn’t have made publicly was leaked into the public domain by the Daily Mail of all papers. They obtained the footage from the online webinar after it surfaced on a private Facebook page for travel agents. Matt Hancock was on a conference call with business leaders of the travel industry discussing plans for the summer holiday season when making these comments.

It is embarrassing that he was caught on record saying something like that. Claims that the South African variant, in particular, maybe more resistant to the vaccines have been circulating in the media for this week but those claims come with a caveat. Mr Hancock’s comments seem to lack that caveat, ‘may’ and appear to be presented as fact that they are 50% less effective. However, it earned the wrath of Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance who criticised Mr Hancock for claiming without any clear evidence.

'In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant - the variant that was first identified in London and the south east - may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. It's largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS is under such intense pressure.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 22nd January

The Prime Minister saw it as his duty to inform the nation that the new Covid strain that had first been identified in London and the South East may be a more potent killer than the previous strain. Several doctors were uneasy at the Prime Ministers revelation of this given the confidence in the findings was between 40 and 50%. There were also several huge caveats to the findings such as ‘There are several limitations to these datasets including representativeness of death data, power, potential biases in case ascertainment and transmission setting’.

Was the Prime Minister right to say this? I like to think that as citizens we are entitled to know as much information about what is happening as possible. I do believe that. However, when the scientists that conducted the study are not relatively confident (under 50% is certainly not confident) in their findings then, it does bring into question how much of it is really what is going on? And left questioning why is such data being discussed publicly? The fault for that I do not think lies with the Prime Minister as the paper had been reported on by certain journalists on social media so did he feel compelled to try and reassure the public? 13 in 1,000 deaths in the over 60s as opposed to 10 in 1,000 doesn’t sound as scary does it

'Really encouraging progress on vaccination. Each first dose saves lives. THANK YOU to everyone playing their part to vaccinate across the UK.'

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 23rd January

The Health Secretary sent this tweet out to mark the UK surpassing administering 5 million doses. That is a fantastic start, it is! I am also not aiming any of this towards everyone involved but to the claims of the Heath Secretary. This is included this (perhaps harshly) for two reasons. First, it is a two-dose vaccine and there is no mention of the second dose which after the Foreign Secretary’s reluctance to commit to the 12-week gap between doses may be a worry.

The second, the graphic reads, ‘Over 5 million people vaccinated in our world leading roll out, 1 in 10 adults now vaccinated, 285 jabs a minute, over 1200 active sites, over 2 million doses a week’ and is accompanied by a graphic showing the UK having ‘vaccinated’ 5.38m people, more than France, Germany, Italy and Spain altogether.

I may be getting this wrong, but I’m not sure the maths adds up. If you are doing 285 jabs a minute then that would be 17,100 an hour. 24 hours, none stop over 5 days would get you past the 2 million marks and that may be what they are referring to in averages but it is not clear from the graphic. They may also have come to these figures just based off the average of how they have performed since vaccinations began but that does not match the graphic either. At 5.38m doses, in the 46 days to that point since the first Covid vaccines were administered on December 8th, that would average out as 116,957 vaccine doses per day and 81.22 per minute.

At that 17,100 per hour, it would require a vaccine site to be open over 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to make it happen and at this time 24/7 vaccination sites to my knowledge were not in operation. So, again, at this point, I could not understand where they got these figures from. If anyone can provide that information then I will take the appropriate action to rectify it.

The vaccine roll out here is going so well. Over 5 million people have been vaccinated. As of this morning, three quarters of all over 80s in the Uk have been vaccinated which is absolutely brilliant progress. Similar numbers around care homes, around three quarters, and in fact we’ve vaccinated more people in just the past three days than in France for instance has in the entire history of this disease

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 24th January

The Health Secretary was doing the Sunday media rounds when he made this comment on Sky News, a comment he was so proud of he shared on Twitter.

First off, getting that many doses administered is a fantastic start and getting 75% of over 80s and care home residents, the most vulnerable the first layer of protection is also fantastic but he claims they are ‘vaccinated’. I am losing my mind how many times I’ve said it in this post but it is a two-dose vaccine and you are not properly vaccinated until the second dose has been administered You are not and that was a point also made on Sky News by Dr Rosie Shire.

Then, there is the comparison to France. Why? To get the headlines?  We are in a pandemic and the health of everyone relies on everyone else regardless of borders. If France struggle in vaccination people then it will have a knock-on effect on the health of people in the UK as well as less developed countries who do not have as much access to vaccines. This attempt to try and score points is just pathetic.

What makes it worse was that he repeated this line with Andrew Marr later on and the Conservative Party Press account also got involved…

'There is plenty of support for growing more of our own food. Tell your local supermarket we want more U.K. produce. I am pressing the government to get behind our farmers and fishing industry. Not much choice of U.K. cheeses, fruit and veg in some shops.'

John Redwood (MP for Wokingham), 24th January

Is the North Shropshire MP getting more desperate in trying to find ‘Brexit wins’? His plea to get more choice of UK cheeses, fruit and veg in shops may be hampered by the seasons.

According to the Vegetarian Society, the following are grown in the UK at this time of year: Apples, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Red Cabbage, Salsify, Savoy Cabbage, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Squash, Swedes, Turnips and White Cabbage. Does John Redwood not see ‘not much choice’ of some of these items in UK Supermarkets? Granted this could also be interpreted as a cause of whataboutery but what about the British fisheries who cannot sell their stock?

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