A Tory Said What: March 2021

'I am sorry that the hon. Lady has taken the tone that she has. [Interruption.] Well, many people are cross, but she should recognise that this should never become a partisan or party political issue'.

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 22nd March

The first Minister into the House of Commons for the week was Home Secretary Priti Patel. This comment in particular was the start of the Home Secretary’s response to a line of questioning from Labour’s jess Phillips. I have not seen a clip of the exchange but I have read word for word what Jess Phillips said on Hansard, and I can not tell how she is trying to turn it into a political party or partisan issue.

She had asked the Home Secretary just why ‘only half of forces have undergone the necessary, proven training’ into helping to improve the outcomes of abused women in the UK. The training she is referring to is the Domestic Abuse Matters Training which is shown to improve arrest rates for coercive and controlling behaviour by 41% Again, I do not get what is partisan or party political about that line of questioning. As

It does seem that whenever a woman asks hard-hitting questions, a Government Minister will fall back to the now overused and patronising ‘tone’ line. I do not think I have heard such a remark being used towards a Conservative MP yet. Perhaps, this is a sign that she does not have an answer. The Labour MP responded with an article in The Independent where she responded that ‘My tone is the least of her worries’. The article, to be frank, was an eye-opening article about what she does as an MP but also a depressing image of what it must be like to be a victim of domestic abuse.

'I think the hon. Lady welcomed the step, notwithstanding everything she said that followed, but let me correct some of the—frankly—false statements she made. First, she said I talked up a free trade agreement with China—'

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary), 22nd March

After delivering his statement updating the House of Commons on the appalling treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and having listened to the response from Labour’s Lisa Nandy, the Foreign Secretary may have forgotten where he was. He accused her of making ‘false statements. That is something not allowed to happen in Parliament and speaker Sir Lyndsey Hoyle reprimanded the Foreign Secretary for making the suggestion. What’s more, it appears the Foreign Secretary may not have given his whole statement as Hoyle commented, ‘…I am not sure that all the script was read out either; certainly my pages did not match what was said‘. So, what did the Foreign Secretary not say?

'The hon. Gentleman raised the question of whether we would ever trade with countries that do not have ECHR-level human rights; I put it to him that neither he nor the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) has ever once suggested that we should tear up any of the free trade deals that we have with countries that still have the death penalty, which of course does not comply with the ECHR'

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary), 22nd March

In his response to the questioning from SNP International development spokesperson, Chris Law, the Foreign Secretary made a comment that appeared to suggest that comments that were leaked last week were accurate. These are the comments that he was recorded saying and that saw Jacob Rees Mogg label the HuffPost of ‘low-quality journalism’. Yet, here is the Foreign Secretary indeed suggesting that those comments are reflective of Government policy.

It was not lost on the Arj Singh, whose work was so publically discredited by the Leader of the House and had been dismissed as ‘either a knave or a fool’. Hopefully, he felt vindicated there.

'The Army’s increased deployability and technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people. I have therefore taken the decision to reduce the size of the Army from today’s current strength of 76,500 trained personnel to 72,500 by 2025'

Ben Wallace, (MP for Wyre and Preston North and Secretary of State for Defence), 22nd March

In the integrated defence review before Parliament, this was the moment the Secretary of Defence declared they were breaking a manifesto commitment. The Government were reducing the size of the army by 4,000 to 72,500. At the General Election, the Conservatives promised not to reduce the size of the armed forces. When launching the manifesto, Boris Johnson explicitly promised, ‘We will not be cutting our armed services in any form. We will be maintaining the size of our armed services‘. Yet, here they are, whether it is down to ‘increased deployability and technology’, at the end of the day, admitting to cutting the size of the armed forces.

'It’s always good to see the Union Jack flying but you’d think in a report that’s 268 pages about the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, my constituents would expect probably more than one flag appearing'

James Wild (MP for North West Norfolk), 22nd March

This is perhaps one of the strangest exchanges I have ever seen involving a Conservative MP. It comes from the Public Accounts Committee as James Wild, one of the 2019 intake of MPs asked the BBC’s new director-general, Tim Dowie, about why there were no union jacks in their annual report. I mean, seriously? I have watched this exchange and I could not believe what I was hearing. Surely, there must be more important things to ask about and the line of questioning perhaps caught Mr Davie out as he described it as a ‘strange metric’ to measure the British credentials of the BBC.

It is a strange metric.

As for the feelings of his constituents, would they even be reading the BBC’s annual report? I don’t and frankly, I do not understand why it would be relevant for there to be a Union Jack flag in any of the reports. The BBC while partly state-funded as well as through the tv licence is an emblem of British known throughout the world, it is not a full state broadcaster such as you would expect in a dictatorship like North Korea. Is that where we are headed.

Take a look at the exchange for yourself. Do you think it is a crazy exchange? Am I making a fuss over nothing? You decide as guess what, the MP was so proud of his exchange he uploaded it to social media.

'No, I do not think that is right at all. I don't know what you read but I have not seen that'

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

On the anniversary of the first national lockdown and just the day after the Prime Minister’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings described his department as a ‘smoking ruin’, the Health Secretary appeared in the morning media rounds. This comment comes as he got into a bit of a feisty exchange with Ben Sheppard over the inevitable future public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. Sheppard had put it to the Health Secretary that the government appear keen to kick it into the grass after Mr Hancock had suggested it was best to wait until the pandemic has passed. Mr Sheppard asked,

What are you afraid of by having the inquiry sooner rather than later? It sounds like the Government is scared, we were reading yesterday that the inquiry could get kicked into the long grass so that we do not see the results until after the next general election. That of course would suit the Conservatives and suit the Prime Minister’.

That prompted the Health Secretary to question what he has been reading. I confess I had not heard of that potential news stories and the most relevant I could find was an article by Oldham Evening Chronicle. The ‘kicked into the long grass’ line came from Labour MP Debbie Abrahams when she questioned Leader of the House Jacob Rees Mogg the previous week. That is where that phrase of turn originated.

'There is another wave building in the European continent, amongst our friends, we will see it wash onto our shores. The extent to which it affects us will depend on the strength of the fortifications we’ve built against it via the vaccine programme'

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP and Prime Minister), 23rd March

The Prime Minister held a Downing Street Press Conference to mark the anniversary of the first lockdown, he also stressed that the UK should be ‘realistic’ about the possibility of a third wave given the rise in cases seen on the European continent. Paris went back into lockdown four days prior. This third, new wave of infections had been the narrative the Prime Minister had been pushing all day too.

The reason this comment is included is because of the way he presents the third wave as an inevitability. Just like the first wave and the second wave and we wonder why as we reached the first anniversary of the first national lockdown we have one of the worst global death tolls. After hearing that, the question on your lips would inevitably be, well, what are we going to be doing about that? The impression you get is absolutely nothing as the Prime Minister at the same Conference gave the impression we were still on course to reopen society alongside his roadmap as he closed his initial address with the insistence that ‘…cautiously but irreversibly, step by step, jab by jab, this country is on the path to reclaiming our freedoms.

The glaring difference in rhetoric was pointed out by a couple of experts. First, Dr Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine who felt that ‘Merely carrying on with the UK roadmap unchanged in light of these events is reminiscent of the blinkered attitudes from last summer that ultimately led to the resurgence in the autumn and repeated lockdowns. Prevention is better than cure.’ Second, Professor Lawrence Young of Warwick medical School stressed, ‘A third wave is not inevitable if we can keep up the pace of vaccinations, ensure strict border control and continue to operate an effective test, trace and isolate system. The importation of virus infections from Europe fuelled the previous waves of infection in the UK…If we do find ourselves in a situation with signs of a third wave starting in the UK we may need to revisit the timetable for easing out of lockdown’.

Additionally, given the rhetoric of the last election, I can’t help but find this all weird. The Conservatives fought the election on the back of getting Brexit done and ‘taking control of our borders’ yet here we are amid a pandemic where they probably have the greatest, legitimate reason to tighten our borders and they do not seem interested.

'On Croydon, I believe it is currently controlled by the Labour Party. I remember when I was Mayor of Croydon and everywhere else in London, building huge quantities of social housing and encouraging the development of all kinds in Croydon'

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP and Prime Minister), 23rd March

In the same Downing Street Press Conference, the Prime Minister was asked by Dan Hewitt of ITV News about the absolutely appalling conditions they had witnesses and reported on in council accommodation in Croydon. The journalist asked the Prime Minister what had he done in his role ‘to help people living in poor social housing conditions?’

Typically, the Prime Minister did not answer directly. He was asked what he had done and instead appeared to make a subtle attack on Labour. Croydon council is a Labour-controlled council and London has a Labour Mayor in Sadiq Khan. This is not to say Labour are blameless. The conditions exposed in the report were appalling. Nobody should have to live like that and those responsible need to be held to that.

He then went on to talk about building ‘huge quantities of social housing’ while he was Mayor of London. As Mayor, the average number of homes built in London overall was 26,144 per year according to Minister for Housing, Community and Local Government’s net additional dwelling data. That is lower than Ken Livingston (26,474) and Sadiq Khan (35,747). In terms of social housing, the funding for social housing fell from 1,687 homes in 2012 to 336 by the time he left office.

'The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends'

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP and Prime Minister), 23rd March

The Prime Minister was attending a private Zoom meeting with the influential 1922 Committee of the Conservative Party when he is reported to have made these remarks regarding the vaccine rollout. According to reports, he withdrew the remark straight away realising what he had just said and joked that the minutes of the committee are often leaked. Well, he wasn’t wrong there then.

The comments were indeed reported on and to be honest, it made me feel genuinely sick. You are seeing someone supposedly joking about being greedy, during a global pandemic when thousands of people are dying. Is that the right thing to be joking about? When you consider it, the idea of our country being ‘greedy’ in terms of vaccines, how does that make you feel? Yes, we are vaccinating a lot of people and that is good but what about elsewhere? If it doesn’t make you take a hard think about the way our country is being run then I am lost.

'This overhaul is very welcome - the current system allows endless legal game playing and is unfair to those who have played by the rules'

Neil O’Brien (MP for Harborough, Oadby & Wigston), 24th March

I am slightly disappointed to be adding Neil O’Brien to this list after so much he has done in battling lockdown sceptics and general Covid-idiots at the start of the year. However, here he is sharing an article from The Times that covered the Home Secretaries attempts to cut illegal immigration.

He was cut down by Professor of Human Rights Law, Steve Peers as ‘An MP who fails to grasp the basics’ and ‘The Refugee Convention is explicitly not limited to those who enter the territory legally.’ Just a quick google of the Refugee Convention will show that the Government’s plans are not quite compatible with its international obligations under this Convention even though there is no one body monitoring its implementation. Under the Refugee Convention, countries are not allowed to discriminate between refugees and they are also not allowed to impose penalties on people who have entered illegally through Article 31 (1). By focusing on those who in the MPs words ‘played by the rules’ that is discriminating. 

'No, our system is broken on asylum and it’s broken for a range of reasons. Sixty per cent of people that have come to the country illegally are within that system'

Priti Patel, (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 24th March

The Home Secretary was appearing on the BBC Today Programme discussing her ‘new plan for immigration’. Having been asked if changes to the UK’s immigration system were necessary she made this claim. It was investigated by Independent checkers Full Fact. When they asked the Home Office for a comment on it, they were directed to the policy document which included the claim ‘For the year ending September 2019, more than 60% of those [asylum] claims were from people who are thought to have entered the UK illegally…’. However, they could not assess if the data it was based on is reliable or the most recent as the Home Office did not provide it.

Therefore, there is no way of knowing how that figure was arrived at and the Home Secretary is pushing through policy based on unverifiable data.

'Yes, because there will be no redundancies in our armed forces and, as I said to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if we include reserves, we are even keeping the Army at 100,000. On top of that, we are doing what is necessary to modernise our armed forces, taking them into the 21st century'

Boris Johnson (Mp for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 24th March

The Government’s decision to cut the number of troops by 4,000 was a key focal point to the final PMQs of the month. It was central to Keir Starmer’s questioning and the Prime Minister seemed to be in denial that he had broken a manifesto commitment in doing so. At the launch of the manifesto, Johnson stated,We will not be cutting our armed forces in any form. We will be maintaining the size of our armed forces because we are increasing funding for them’. That was quoted back to him by Keir Starmer who also presented with an interview he gave in the lead up to the election in which he quotes said, ‘to maintain numbers at their current level, including the Army’s 82,000’.

Amazingly, the Prime Minister could not bring himself to admit that he had broken that pledge. Instead, he insists that there is no cut because there are no planned redundancies and that with the reserves the army is still at 100,000. That 100,000 incidentally is still 20,000 fewer than was aimed for by the then Conservative Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox when he set out the ‘Future Reserves 2020 Plan’. So, there is another Conservative policy that has not quite been met. It would also suggest that the UK reservists are around half the number of where they expected it to be as well.

He would not admit it was a broken pledge despite some of the comments made by former Chief of Defence Staff Lord Richards that ‘we almost certainly…would not be able to retake the Falklands…and stop genocides’. The Chair of the Defence Select Committee is also quoted as saying ‘dramatic cuts to our troop numbers, tanks, armoured fighting vehicles and more than 100 RAF aircraft…cuts that, if tested by a parliamentary vote, I do not believe would pass’. That is Conservative MP, Tobias Ellwood. Keir Starmer presented these quotes to the Prime Minister and he was in pure denial of what the Government were doing in terms of that manifesto commitment. Just a reminder, this is what Ben Wallace told the Commons just two days prior…

I have therefore taken the decision to reduce the size of the Army from today’s current strength of 76,500 trained personnel to 72,500 by 2025.’

That is not as Boris Johnson said in the election campaign ‘maintaining the size of our armed forces’.

'We are building more frigates and investing in cyber-warfare. We are doing all the difficult things that Labour shirked during its time in office'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 24th March

In his exchange with Keir Starmer concerning defence and the size of the army, the Prime Minister made this attack remark towards the leader of the opposition. He accused Labor of shirking on the issue of defence in their time in office. I’m sorry, I don’t know if this is part of the Prime Minister trying to distance himself from the record of his own party over the last decade but Labour has not been in power since 2010. It has been almost 11 years since they were still in power. If that is the best he can do, then what have the Conservatives been doing in this area? As even maintaining the army at 100,000 including the reserves is still 20,000 less than the Tories hoped it would be when setting out their aims 10 years ago.

'My hon. Friend the Member for Moray is doing an excellent job of holding the Scottish National party to account for their manifold failings, not least on education—failing to deliver on crime and failing, in my view, to deliver for the people of Scotland, so caught up as they are in their desire for independence and another referendum for separation. I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman has not mentioned that so far, but perhaps he will now'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 24th March

There is nothing controversial in the above comment but it is included for one reason and one reason only; he failed to directly answer the question. He had just been asked by SNP leader in Westminster Iain Blackford if Scottsh Tory leader, Douglas Ross should resign from his Westminster seat as he is currently seeking election to the Scottish Parliament in May. SNP Neil Grey, who is also seeking election to the Scottish Parliament did resign his Westminster seat. If successful, he would have a dual mandate and saving the taxpayer £175,000 in holding a separate by-election. Does he address the question he was asked about? I don’t think he does.

That is why, as soon as it is right to do so, as soon as it would not be an irresponsible diversion of the energies of the key officials involved, we are of course committed to an inquiry, to learn the lessons, to make sure that something like this can never happen again'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 24th March

Again, this is not so much a controversial comment (well, potentially controversial when you consider the style of language used) and is included purely to trigger and cover a debate. When is the right time to hold a public inquiry into what has happened in the management of the pandemic?

The Prime Minister was responding to a question from the Labour MP for Manchester, Gorton; Afzal Khan who asked him to commit to holding such an inquiry. The Prime Minister does commit to holding such an inquiry. He says it is the right thing to do and should be done as soon as practical to do so.

The argument for holding it when the pandemic is over is an understandable one. You do not want to distract people if there is a resurgence if they are answering questions in an inquiry. It is an argument I understand the logic to. However, I also understand the counter-argument. The counter-argument is that if we held one as soon as possible then lessons from this wave and the waves before it could be learnt before there are any future waves. To me, there is sound logic behind both viewpoints so if there is any criticism of the Prime Minister’s words is on his insistence that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to hold an immediate inquiry.

Looking at the question asked by Mr Khan, he did not ask the Prime Minister to commit to an immediate inquiry but as ‘as soon as current restrictions are lifted’. That you would imagine, at this point, is when the Government hope the pandemic will be over. Of course, they cannot guarantee that and the endpoint he believes is the right time could be years away, hence the fear from opposition parties that they are trying to kick the inevitable mother of all inquiries into the long grass as far as possible. The fact he feels it is an ‘irresponsible diversion’ does not sway from that impression.

'For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful'

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 24th March

Here is the Home Secretary openly saying that the means of how an asylum seeker reached the UK will have an impact on their asylum application. In effect, that is discriminating between refugees which is a breach of the Refugee Convention also by imposing penalties on those who have entered illegally; Article 31 (1). The Home Secretary insists her plans are within the conventions but to my understanding, even if they were not, there is no one to police its implementation.

Let us also think about some examples of what these policies would mean. It would mean that Jewish people trying to flee Nazi Germany would not have been allowed to stay in the UK because of the means they entered the country. What about vulnerable men, women and children facing similar circumstances? Are they seriously going to have backs turned on them by this Government?

The case of Nicholas Winton was also raised during this session by Anne McLaughlin of the SNP. Nicholas Winton rescued hundreds of children from the Nazis, smuggling them away from the Nazis through forging passports and other means. It was put to the Home Secretary that while we rightly see him as a hero, under these rules he would be a criminal smuggler and the children deemed illegal. The Home Secretary perhaps tellingly did not respond directly to those remarks.

'We will tackle the practice of meritless claims that clog up the courts with last-minute claims and appeals…Our new plan sets out a one-stop process to require all claims to be made upfront—no more endless, meritless claims to frustrate removal; no more stalling justice. Our new system will be faster and fairer and will help us better support the most vulnerable'

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 24th March

As part of the Home Secretary’s new plan for immigration, Priti Patel told Parliament she wanted to tackle last-minute claims and appeals that aim to keep people in the country. She may well have been referring to instances in the past where planes with people set to be deported have seen people given a last-minute reprieve due to the action of lawyers.

I cannot find the comments later referred to by blogger Kerry Underwood but the Home Office’s plans to achieve ‘no more endless, meritless claims’ would be to transfer the legal costs to the solicitors through something that is called a Wasted Costs Order. As Underwood argues, it ‘In effect, lawyers risk being penalised and disciplined for making an application where their client’s life may be at stake if they are deported back to their own country‘ or even worse, a country they have no roots or connections to. How does that help justice? If anything, if it were to deter lawyers from making these applications where there is a case to be answered or an error has been made in the asylum application process, then that is not justice. Is it?

Of course, if I have misunderstood the argument being made by the Home Secretary then comments and feedback are greatly appreciated and I would correct this where applicable.

'In terms of putting France on the red list, which is what you are talking about, and the consequences that would have for UK supplies and cross-channel movements—just remember, 75% of our medicines and 50% of our food come through the short straits, so there are consequences—that is something that we will have to look at. We will have to look at tougher measures'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 24th March

Later in the day, the Prime Minister was in front of the Liaison Committee and he had a particularly gruelling exchange with Yvette Cooper who chairs the Home Select Committee. Ms Cooper had asked the Prime Minister why the government had yet to take additional measures in regards to the border with France or even put them on the red list. After a lengthy exchange, the Prime Minister came to this answer.

Yes, he really did say it.

Just seeing those comments, you would not have thought this was the Prime Minister given how closely dependent we are on the Dover-Calais crossing for trade, who had campaigned for Brexit and then led a Government that negotiated what has been the worst of all scenario’s with Brexit, And in the final comments of there exchange, the Prime Minister repeated this line as to why the UK could not have followed a Covid strategy similar to Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore as apparently, ‘those countries don’t depend on other countries for 75% of their medicines and 50% of their food’.

'That has to be balanced against the current ambiguity about the effectiveness of the vaccines on the variants…I think we now, in all seriousness, need to look at the situation at the channel. I am afraid we can’t rule out tougher measures and we will put them in if necessary'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 24th March

During their exchange, Ms Cooper also asked the Prime Minister, ‘We have tougher measures going in the other direction, with testing arrangements in place for hauliers going to France, and those arrangements work, so why do you not have them coming back in the other direction?’.

To be honest, having read the minutes of the Committee meeting, my first impression was that the Prime Minister’s answer was just a lengthy load of waffle. On a serious note, the Prime Minister stressed that he could not rule out further action and it is this sort of dithering and delaying that has probably annoyed me more than anything else this year. You know more is going to be needed to be done but they have to pulled the whole way to do it. France had been testing haulier drivers coming into their shores but have seen a resurgence. At this point, I can’t help but feel that the strategy was relying on the French doing the testing and not taking proactive action to protect our borders.

It is this lack of being proactive with the borders or controlling the situation in general that has annoyed me.

'The report identifies multiple apparent failures by Liverpool City Council in complying with its best value duty. This includes: a failure of proper and due process across planning and regeneration, including a worrying lack of record keeping—indeed, documentation had sometimes been created retrospectively…and the awarding of dubious contracts…As a whole, the report is unequivocal that Liverpool City Council has failed in numerous respects to comply with its best value duty'

Robert Jenrick (MP for Newark and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Social Housing), 24th March

There had been reports since the weekend that the Government were set to take control of Liverpool City Council in the wake of what had happened in the city. Mayor John Anderson had been arrested on charges of bribery and witness intimidation in December. He denies the charges but since then, a review by the government had been conducted. That review arrived at the Communities Secretary’s desk over the weekend and it was here that he announced his intentions to do so to the House of Commons.

He outlined to Parliament that the report found multiple failures by Liverpool City Council which justified intervention. His decision to intervene is to be decided on May 24th, after the city had held their local elections and the newly elected body can have an input into proceedings.

However, is strange seeing the Communities Secretary talking to us all about morals. Yes, I accept something has gone wrong at Liverpool and something is needed to be done but it just sounds odd coming from Robert Jenrick. This is coming from a Minister of the same government that has handed out countless numbers of dodgy contracts for PPE during the pandemic and even brought to court and found to have broken the law over not publishing them in time. Additionally, is this not the same Housing Secretary who saved a Tory donor Richard Desmond from having to pay the Labour-controlled Tower Hamlets Council £45m as ‘we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing!’ Now, do you see the irony of Robert Jenrick criticising anyone on corruption?

'No, it is not actually Susanna, I had extended the free school meals to more groups of children right at the beginning of this lockdown than the eligibility for free school meals.'

Vicky Ford (MP for Chelmsford and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families), 25th March

The Children’s and Families Minister had the morning media round and this comes from her interview on Good Morning Britain. It certainly got a bit heated between the Minister and presenters Adil Ray and Susanna Reid as it appeared in the comments above that she was seemingly and unashamedly trying to rewrite history.

The question was put to the Minister, why did it take a footballer in Marcus Rashford to get the Government to extend free school meals during the pandemic? She denied that was the case but we all saw the public pressure Rashford put the Government under on this issue and when it came to a vote on it in parliament, the Conservatives voted against it for what I can gather is because it was an opposition day motion which they deemed meaningless.

It prompted Mr Ray to come in with this question, ‘Are you saying you would have been doing this anyway regardless of what Marcus Rashford did and the call with the Prime Minister? Twice he had to intervene, are you saying he was wasting his time and you were doing it already? Surely not, surely you are not saying that are you?

To be honest, it is an incredible exchange and I just cannot believe the brass neck on some of these Ministers.

'This is why I encourage all journalists to ensure that quotes fully reflect the audio available. I hope that the right hon. Lady agrees with that and would do the same. Let them huff and puff, but they will not blow this particular House down'

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 25th March

The final Business of the House session before Parliament broke up for their Easter recess, saw this comment from Jacob Rees Mogg carrying over from his comments from the previous week where he accused HuffPost’s Arj Singh of ‘low-level journalism’. Mr Rees Mogg had retracted some of the statement during his podcast during the week. However, he stopped short when asked to correct the record in the House and whether he would apologise directly to Mr Singh by Labour’s Valerie Vaz as he didn’t do so in the podcast.

In the event. Mr Rees Mogg failed to do so. Instead, he insisted he was referring to comments from the Foreign Office indicating that the clip had been distorted. So, despite retracting his comments on his podcast he would not do the honourable thing and do the same on the record in parliament.

'We have to be realistic - if the EU will not change their position, we may need to adjust the model and seek other markets'

George Eustice (MP for Camborne and Redruth and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), 25th March

The Environment Secretary made these comments as he presented evidence to the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, in which he described the EU’s shellfish ban as ‘indefensible‘. The UK thought the ban on shellfish would only temporary but the EU declared that the ban would be indefinite.

That is the situation and the comments are included for one reason only. Imagine if that had been on the side of a red bus in 2016. ‘Vote Brexit , take back control but you will have to totally remodel your business as you won’t be able to sell your stock as before’. Would as many people have voted for it? It is also a case of a part of the deal where the Government, despite having negotiated the deal did not understand it. Yet, all Conservative MPs voted it through with little debate or scrutiny.

The vote itself is what’s called a opposition day debate in parliament which doesn’t change government policy, its an opportunity for other political parties to make a statement’.

Robert Jenrick (MP for Newark and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Social Housing), 26th March

The Communities Secretary was appearing on Good Morning Britain being interviewed by Kate Garraway and Alex Beresford. Mr Jenrick was talking up the ‘Supporting Families’ scheme which ‘helps thousands of families across England to get the help they need to address multiple, complex problems through whole family working‘. This prompted a discussion about Free School Meals. After denying voting against extending the in October, it was pointed out to the Minister that he did and the Government eventually u-turned on this in the wake of public pressure and one footballer called Marcus Rashford.

Instead, the Minister tried to paint the picture that because it was an opposition day debate and had no impact on policy it was seemingly ok to vote against it. At that stage, Ms Harraway pointed out that as he says it is an opportunity for opposition parties to make a statement, they too could have made a statement by supporting the notion and voting for it. They did not. They could have said, yes we should do that. They did not and it was an opportunity missed for the Government. If they really wanted to extend the free school meals, they could have done it easily without being dragged into it, they did not and leaves them open to this criticism no matter how they attempt to spin it.

'Transparency drives everything that the Government do—that and a commitment to levelling up and ensuring that our Union is stronger'

Michael Gove (MP for Surrey Heath and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), 26th March

I first heard of this comment online and to be honest, on its own I could not help but let out a little laugh. Transparency drives everything this government does? Now, I know they are taking the p***. It even drew a chorus of laughs from MPs sat in Parliament. Is this not the same Government that was found not to have been transparent enough to publish the Covid contracts within the legal time limit and still have not done so? I mean, seriously?

In the Commons, he had been asked by Rachael Maskall if he would commit to releasing a framework for how they decide which central government jobs go where as part of their levelling up, ‘…so that we can all understand whether transparency or cronyism is driving this Government?’ He promised Cabinet office jobs in York would be increasing by 50% in the coming months. Time will be the jury on that one.

In the remaining days of this lockdown, I am going to allow myself an act of defiance—my own protest, which others may join me in. I am going to protest about the price of milk. I am not sure whether I think the price is too high or too low—I shall come to that decision later—but for the next few days, I am going to walk around London with a pint of milk on my person, because that pint will represent my protest'

Sir Charles Walker (MP for Broxbourne), 26th March

The legislation underpinning the Coronavirus restrictions was up for renewal again in Parliament; a year on after they were first voted on. 35 Conservative MPs voted against the extension and in his remarks on the record, he spoke of the inevitability that MPs will be voting to extend this legislation in six months. Given no one knows how events will pan out with the pandemic nothing can be ruled out and in this argument, over lockdowns, I do have some sympathy with the Health Secretary who was reluctant to give a guarantee but the MP for Broxbourne’s comments took a bit of a bizarre turn.

Yes, he committed himself to walking around London with a pint of milk in his hands as a form of protest. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Was this also a subtle hint that he does not know the price of a pint of milk?

'Workers could quit if forced to stay at home'

Rishi Sunak (MP for Richmond-Yorkshire- and Chancellor of the Exchequer), 25th March

'The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 27th March

The Coronavirus Pandemic has opened up the idea of more flexible working for businesses with organisations working from home to keep each other safe. Some may well prefer it and want to keep such arrangements if they deem it best for them, others won’t and will be going back to the office as soon as it is safe to do so. On that side of the debate is the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview. Some of his other comments are relatable and whether you agree with him or not, you can relate t them.

You can’t beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture that you create in a firm or an organisation from people actually spending physical time together’. When you are working somewhere, you want to know who you are working with and bond with them. If you don’t then that is a big part of the enjoyment and the culture of a company you are missing out on. I could not imagine it. That said, it has to be at the right time in terms of the pandemic.

His comments are joined by those of the Prime Minister, who two days later was speaking at the Conservative Party spring conference when he made these remarks.He was branded irresponsible for them. He had just been asked about the prospect at a special bank holiday when the pandemic ends. This is perhaps telling of what the Prime Minister’s view on what people who have been working from home have been doing…they have all been slacking. It feels like a totally disrespectful comment towards those who have been working from home especially if people working from home have also had to balance their work with homeschooling during lockdowns.

If I had been working from home, I would find such comments deeply insulting and I can imagine that would be the thoughts of many who have been. For anyone asking about my experiences, I have not been working from home. I was fortunate enough to be have been furloughed as I cannot work from home.

They both made these comments while the Government advice was to work from home. That advice has not changed. However, on a day that the UK reached the grim milestone of 150,000 coronavirus fatalities, you cannot help but feel that they have not learnt their lessons from last summer when the Government attempted to push a similar ‘back to the office’ push.

'HAULIER NEWSL From April 6, lorries visiting England from outside UK (and the Common Travel Area) for more than 2 days will need t take a #Covid test within 46hrs + one every 72hrs after. This is to ensure we may track of any future £Coronavirus Variants of Concern

Grant Shapps (MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Transport Secretary), 28th March

Do you remember earlier in the week when the Prime Minister was given a grilling by Yvette Cooper at the Liaison Committee about not having enough measures in place regarding hauliers coming in at the borders?

You do? Great! Just five days later, and only 413 days after the UK recorded its first case of Coronavirus, the Government was announcing they were going to be doing just that! Oh, but it would not be starting until April 6th. Why the delay? And Government cannot say they are constantly evolving and putting stuff in place. Why don’t they do that work in the background before making the announcement?

Remember, when it was on the other foot in December, when it was France imposing measures at the border over the initial fears over the Kent variant? Grant Shapps then did not want to be testing haulier drivers suggesting it was unnecessary and hoped France would stop testing hauliers ‘as soon as possible’. However, here we are, a little over three months later and here he is.

And for Ms Cooper, she was not impressed as she slated the Government for the delay to April 6th but also their months of delay in implementing it.

…on the imports of new variants from abroad and our border provision, we have one of the tougher regimes in the world, many European countries don’t have the hotel quarantine that we have in the UK. there are 35 countries already on the red list, we are looking very closely at what’s going in in France happening I France and we keep it under constant review of course. As I've explained to people there is the issue that our trade-in medicines and food does depend very much on those short straits'.

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 29th March

In the first Downing Street Press Conference in the quite frankly ridiculous looking £2.6m new press conference (It does not look worth £2.6m), the Prime Minister delivered a press conference on the day more of the coronavirus restrictions were being lifted. After delivering his statement, it was the press question and answer segment. He was asked amongst other things by Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe of the Financial Times just why France had not been added to the red list of countries?

The Prime Minister wanted to stress that as he had done with Yvette Cooper at the Liaison Committee the previous week, was the reliance on trade. It is a valid point as recognised online by BBC Newsnight Policy Editor Lewis Goodall but also not a constraint he gave much credence to when it came to negotiating Brexit.

"yes but with at least two very important provisos".

'I'm hopeful. I don't see anything in the data right now that would cause us to deviate from the roadmap but we need to remain humble in the face of nature and be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the British public'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 28th March

The next question in the Press Conference came from Sophia Sleigh of The Evening Standard. She asked the Prime Minister if he could rule out any further lockdowns in the future. These two statements above are included because of their slight contradictory nature.

The Prime Minister is hopeful that there will not be a further lockdown and there is nothing wrong with that on its own. However, as he admitted earlier when he said that yes, as in yes there will be no further lockdown is that it comes with ‘two very important provisions’. In other words, it depends on people following the rules and the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout. They are both statements an admission of the fact that he cannot rule anything out and not the sort of full-blooded cast-iron guarantee that Boris Johnson likes to deliver and has so often in the last year been made to regret.

‘What Dom was actually doing was scouting out the complex

Boris Johnson, (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 30th March

The Prime Minister was reportedly on a call with Business Cheifs as part of his ‘Build Back Better’ council when he made the joke about Dominic Cummings trip to Barnard Castle. Just the day prior, the Government announced the GlaxoSmithKline would be bottling the Novovax vaccine that was being developed in the North East. Guess where GSK’s main site is? Barnard Castle where the Prime Minster’s former chief advisor took a very controversial trip during the first national lockdown.

The only amazement is that it took 24 hours for him to make this ill-humoured jibe given how much anger it caused last year and potentially costly as it seemed at the time more and more announcements of things allowed to be reopened as the Government tried to get away from the start.

'Remember what my job is and what everyone's job in the cabinet is to provide the prime minister with the best advice that they can in their area of expertise In the same way that you'd expect the education secretary to feed in about this; the impact on children's education and learning, you'd expect me in my job to talk about the impact on people's jobs and livelihoods and ultimately things that are bad for the economy are bad for our long term health as well and our ability to fund things like the NHS.'

all these decisions are ultimately ones the Prime Minister made and they’re impossibly hard

Rishi Sunak (MP for Richmond-Yorkshire-and Chancellor of the Exchequer), 31st March

The Chancellor of the Exchequer was giving an interview with ITV Political Editor Robert Peston when he was asked if he regretted pushing against the SAGE recommendations for a circuit break lockdown last September. He confirmed that he did not by presenting it in terms that you would understand. He is Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s brief is the economy and if there is anyone in the cabinet who will push the economic arguments and impacts of certain policies it is the Chancellor.

As the interview progressed, when asked if he played a decisive role, the Chancellor stressed that at the end of the day it was the Prime Minister who made the decision. Given how there seemed to be a complete vacuum in Government when the Prime Minister was unwell with Covid last April, that is believable that absolutely nothing happens without the say-so of Boris Johnson. Nothing is delegated. That said, while the decision was ultimately made by the Prime Minister, whatever the Chancellor said must have been convincing enough to help sway the direction he took.

Based on that, there is a shared responsibility between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor for what followed. What followed was the discovery of a Kent variant that the increased mixing of people as opposed to a circuit breaker, which as he pointed out in the interview did not work so well in Wales (not the point) allowed to happen, a second wave during the winter that proved to be even more deadly than the first and one of the worst death rates of Coronavirus around the world.

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