A Tory Said What: January 2021

Clearly more action is going to be needed. Absolutely we are prepared to bring tougher rules if they are needed on the public health advice. There is a very worrying data showing the virus continues to spread

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 4th January

The Health Secretary had the media rounds and was on BBC Breakfast when he seemed to suggest that the government would be willing to bring in tougher measures to try and bring down the virus. In hindsight, this could be easily seen as Mr Hancock foreshadowing or indicating that something might change.

However, it’s the fact he’s saying that ‘clearly more action is going to be needed’ rather than doing something that is needed. It is frustrating hearing Government Ministers talk like that when it is clear the situation was escalating to the point of being out of control. Where is the pro-activeness? To get on top of it, the countries that have done so have acted hard, fast and been proactive about it. Can the same be said of the UK Government?

‘...I know we get criticised for moving fast and changing things but that’s what you have to do in a pandemic...’

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 4th January

This is one of that spit whatever you’re drinking out moments. Is the Health Secretary seriously trying to gaslight the entire nation by claiming they have acted too quickly during the pandemic? By most estimations, they have been anything but. They did not act too quickly in imposing the first lockdown. They then sat n SAGE advice for a two-week circuit breaker in September for seven weeks before having to impose a month-long lockdown in November.

Mr Hancock said it just after speaking of saying they allowed Schools in Tier 4 London to stay shut until 18th January at the earliest. However, even that decision was not quick nor was it efficient as several London boroughs including Haringey were originally excluded before the Government were left with no choice but to allow them to close. They were also advised by SAGE to keep schools closed in general in advice dated to December 22nd but outside London, on January 4th, they were allowing them to re-open, but not for long…

It is down to people’s behaviour, frankly. What matters is, yes of course, the rules that we put in place, but it is also about how people act. And frankly what I would say is this: it is critical that everybody in the country does all that they can to reduce the spread of the virus

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 4th January

This was the moment where it appeared that the Home Secretary was blaming the public for the rising cases of Covid and by extension the rising numbers of hospitalisations and deaths. He seemed to suggest that the cause of the spread was more ‘down to people’s behaviour’ rather than Government policy.

The problem with this is, yes the government can make rules but if there is a gap between what the Government says you can do within the law and what is enough to have an impact on the virus then you cannot then blame the public. An example of this would be the Christmas relaxation. While outside of London and the South East, you could form Christmas bubbles. While at the same time, they were advising people to minimise the mixing, that was only advice and the law was not changed so technically mixing for more than just one day was permissible. You can make the argument that people are responsible for their actions in preventing the spread but people are entitled to feel like if they are acting within the rules that those rules are enough. That is the central issue.

This was a recurring theme in his Good Morning Britain interview when asked by Piers Morgan why he was waiting to impose a national lockdown and all that he could say, ‘it’s not just about the measures, it’s about how everyone responds’. It does feel like that with rules and restrictions not being enough combined with statements like this that they are setting the public up to fail.

Well, the staff across the NHS have done a great job…I’m very pleased that earlier in the year that we were able to give a significant pay rise to nurses across the board’.

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 4th January

This was Matt Hancock’s shameless response to a clip shown to him Good Morning Britain of ICU doctor Dave Carr where he stated, ‘We’re doing this understaffed, underpaid – I mean, the insult we got earlier on in the year with no pay raise for what we did in Covid really hurt us. But I just think that they need to be honest, the Government needs to be honest – they’re not handling the pandemic well and the impact that’s having on us and the NHS is ferocious.’

So, the health Secretary said it was a significant pay rise, the ICU Doctor says it wasn’t. Who is right?

The NHS pay rise given last April amounted to 1.7% as part of the three-year deal starting in 2018. So, it was not a new deal agreed more recently as the quote from the Health Secretary seems to suggest. Whether or not that is significant depends on inflation and at the time it was agreed inflation was 3.6%. Inflation was 0.8% in 2020. It was above inflation at the time the 1.7% was implemented at the end of April but after tax, I can’t imagine it would make much of a dent in personal finances. This is a profession that has been hit hard by the last decade of austerity and nurses are now £6,000 worse off in real terms than they were in 2010.

The biggest insult is that during the times we are experiencing, these people are fighting day and night to try and save as many lives as possible and the best the Health Secretary could do more recently was announced on December 18th that the announcement of their next pay rise, to be implemented in 2022 (12 months away!) would be delayed until May 2021. Quite frankly, they deserve better!

I don’t want to go back into the fact that we’ve got this commitment for 50,000 more nurses in our manifesto

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 4th January

This might start to look like bullying going straight into another comment from the Health Secretary but in terms of being truthful and not saying anything controversial, he had a bit of a nightmare. This is from the same Good Morning Britain interview and he came round to this ‘commitment’ for 50,000 more nurses.

The commitment was indeed included in the Conservative manifesto for the 2019 manifesto but it was a lie in itself. His wording indicates that these 50,000 nurses are new. They were not. As exposed at the time, the real number of new and full trained recruits would be 31,000 with 19,000 were staff already in the NHS and they would hopefully be persuaded to stay. The Prime Minister was forced to admit that himself on 8th December 2019.

After what has gone on this year, it saddens me to say that I can’t really blame anyone for wanting to leave.

It’s about how everyone responds to [the vaccine] and on Good Morning Britain, you have been unbelievably responsible throughout this crisis in explaining to people how important it is. Because it’s on all of us. Ultimately, the reason this virus gets from one person to another is when you come into close, physical proximity. That’s why just staying apart and staying at home, [these measures] are so important for controlling the virus'

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care),4th January

It is safe to say that at large parts of the pandemic, Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain has probably speaking for the vast majority of people screaming out for some effective leadership from government and really pressing Ministers for answers. That was the line of questioning the journalist was taking as he told the Health Secretary, ‘The vaccines are here, but in terms of doing our bit, you guys in Government need to provide firm leadership and clarity, It seems to me there is no logic left on the table that does not spell out loudly and clearly, national lockdown immediately’. As Morgan told Mr Hancock that the situation felt scarily like it did in March when we waited before going into lockdown which he felt was the only tool left to get on top of the new variant, the quote above was his response.

Instead of taking on effective leadership, the government seem intent on emphasising personal responsibility and to be honest, it did not answer the question at all. It’s a none response perhaps aimed more at using up the tv time. Yes, everyone has a degree of personal responsibility in keeping themselves safe. Go to shops less, less socialising etc. Fair enough, however, if Government decisions like a lack of testing at the borders or opening things up, allowing people to mix like they did at Christmas or sending children to school under the impression it is safe then that is on the Government. Someone could argue back you don’t think you should do so then don’t but when your Government tell you something is safe, it is not ‘nanny state’ to assume that they are telling you the truth.

That’s not right, schools are safe and huge numbers of schools have opened and I thank them for what they are doing. The issue is not he Safety of the schools, it’s very important to get this across., this issue is the extent of which the mingling of kids in schools by putting lots of households together causes the epidemic to spread…

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 4th January

The day after his Marr interview, the Prime Minister was still following his line that Schools were safe. He was being interviewed by Sky News and they put the video of this interview up at 15.32. The Prime Minister’s justification for saying schools in this quote appears odd. It is as if he is arguing that the schools themselves are safe but the household mixing is the issue but that is what naturally happens at Schools. In each classroom, there are around 30 kids and one teacher or even a teaching assistant as well in rooms at any one time, altogether. That is 31 or 32 households mixing. Some of their families may have support bubbles. As someone who works in hospitality, it is like saying pubs are safe but it’s the mingling between groups that make them unsafe.

Remember, the clip of this interview was published by Sky News at 15.32 on January 4th. The interview may have happened sooner but in less than five hours, he would be addressing the nation in a live address putting the country into full lockdown and closing schools as part of it after allowing them to open for one day. Boris Johnson can argue the advice changed in the intervening time or whatever, but he must have known after the SAGE advice from December 22nd that schools help transmission that it was extremely risky and schools were not safe.

And there is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work. But we now have a new variant of the virus. It has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 4th January

This comes directly from the Prime Minister’s live address to the nation as he put England into a third national lockdown and it is the only real bone of contention in that announcement. The Prime Minister insisted that the UK everything under control with the Tier system before the new variant came about and spread through the country. That is questionable. In the three months before December 1st, the UK had experienced 17,556 deaths; more than Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China, Thailand and Vietnam put together in that time.

On the day, the UK came out of the second lockdown on December 2nd, the 7 day rolling average of cases was 14,607. On the day Matt Hancock told Parliament about the new variant that had jumped to 18,815 with over 20,000 cases that day and on the day they introduced Tier 4 measures the weekend before Christmas 27,052 cases. On January 4th, there were 58,784 recorded cases. Cases sky-rocketed after the November lockdown but even when we came out of that and back into the tier system, cases were still far higher than they had been in the then April peak.

It does not stack up that the UK had control of the virus before the new variant. We had already allowed it to spread to high levels and cases were rising before that time.

I take your point. Primary schools will remain open for key workers and the children from vulnerable circumstances. And they will be safe in those schools. Primary schools across the south - where the new strain is most prevalent - remained closed yesterday, is the first point I would make."

Michael Gove (MP for Surrey Heath and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), 5th January

It was Michael Gove’s turn to do the media round on the day after Boris Johnson plunged the country into another national lockdown. This comes from his exchange on Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. The Duchy of Lancaster was shown footage of Boris Johnsons’ interview with Andrew Marr as he insisted Schools were safe and then asked why did so many go to school which he said ‘seems to me – to a complete dimbo – it was the completely worse thing to be doing. And yet we did it. We sent millions back into the classroom to mingle with each other. It is the worst possible thing to be doing. That is why confidence is so low in your government right now’.

The response was that it forced Michael Gove to effectively admit that Mr Morgan was right and the government had potentially got something wrong. That is how you hold Government to account!

'I refer to the experts on this and it is we have followed the advice on what the safest method is of how we can isolate and quarantine people'

Michael Gove (MP for Surrey Heath and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), 5th January

The answer is you don’t take a test on the border because it’s pointless

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-on-Avon and Vaccines Minister), 6th January

The Vaccines Minister made his first media round of the year and while we are in the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the UK, it is safe to say it will not be his last. This comes from Good Morning Britain and amidst reports that a negative test may soon be required to gain entry into the UK. His comment is included here with those from Michael Gove the day before who was also asked a similar line of questioning. The obvious question that Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid wanted to ask in both interviews was, why didn’t we do it sooner?

Mr Zahawi eventually answered that it would not have made any difference and cited the arguments the Government were presented with Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Professor Jonothan Van-Tam who told them testing at the borders would be near pointless and that efforts were better spent on quarantining arrivals. Perhaps the most unnerving thing of this exchange was that he appeared to laugh as he said the quoted comment above. The issue with that so far has been that enforcing it with an estimated 75% not following it due to various reasons. Plus by relying on that method, people are still coming out of planes and using public transport, mixing with people and going home; potentially infecting people along the way without knowing.

However, as Piers Morgan rightly said to him, it just makes no sense as he grilled Gove, ‘If you do now bring in a requirement to have testing before you get to this country, is that an acceptance by the British Government that you were simply wrong about this? That we should have had this requirement as almost every other country [has done]. We should have protected our borders better from the start. Because that’s what everyone is baffled by as why have we just allowed our island to just let anyone in without any real controls?

That is the big question, why we were not doing it while other countries, that have been more successful in their handling of the pandemic have required tests before arrival. What did they know what we didn’t? It was another two days after Mr Zahawi’s interview that the policy was eventually announced officially. It was not implemented until the following Monday.

What he has said, speaking so far forward without any sense of knowledge of what’s going to happen next spring is very unhelpful to the public, I think it’s a great shame he’s done that but of course we have freedom of speech, he can say as he wants but if that’s his professional opinion but I would…if he was here to challenge him over what make him so certain that he should come out and put that on the front page of every newspaper

Andrea Leadsom (MP for South Northamptonshire), 6th January

The former Leader of the House of Commons was appearing on BBC Politics Live when they were discussing the front page of that day’s Daily Mail which focused on the dire warning made by Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty. That there may need to be more restrictions next winter.

Taking her comments apart, because language is important, it was not Chris Whitty who put those comments on the front page. Yes, he said it but it was the editor of the Daily Mails choice to put it on their front page. Second, is she really saying she would want to challenge Chris Whitty on his professional opinion? No one is going to get everything right at every point and as she said in her earlier comments in this show, no one has a crystal ball. So, what makes her more confident?

That said, not even the experts but, the very best in their field (Chris Whitty by definition of being a Professor is THE expert in his field). So, odds are if it was his professional opinion then the favourite to be proven right in the end would be Professor Whitty. My money would not be on Ms Leadsom being proven right. That said, it was a prediction and not all predictions come to pass, they are possibilities based on someones expert knowledge. That is the key to what Professor Whitty said, he did not say measures WILL happen next winter, but that it MIGHT. The difference is important.

In terms of the public, what would be better? Giving false hope that everything will be back to normal next winter when it may not be. It is in my view being realistic. I get that it is not what people will want to hear especially if they are struggling mentally but in the long run, would the promise of false hope be an even worse evil?

'Amazing to think the UK has already vaccinated more people than the entirety of the European Union’.

Robbie Moore (MP for Keighley), 6th January

When I saw this tweet from Robbie Moore my instant thought was why does everything have to be a competition and what do the high numbers of vaccinations have anything to do with Brexit? Mr Moore has not been alone in this comparison but if they want comparisons, why is it when they only want to use them when the numbers are favourable to them. Why aren’t they honest?

We’re in a pandemic and now that there are now multiple vaccines then surely the most important thing is to save as many lives as possible and the progress the UK has made is a big positive step. They deserve praise for that. However, it is also telling that while Mr Moore wants to compare how many people the UK has compared to the EU. Why does he not want to compare it with the rates seen in Israel which has been impressive? And, why does he not want to look at the case and death rates I wonder?

If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education, they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher, and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted. Ofsted will inspect schools of any grade where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided.'

Gavin Williamson (MP for South Staffordshire and Secretary of State for Education), 6th January

With the announcement of a new national lockdown and schools forced to close, it was natural the Education Secretary would have to address Parliament. Within in his statement, just short of the halfway point, was this slightly surprising remark. If parents are not satisfied with the home learning their child is receiving they should take that matter up with Ofsted.

Ordinarily, I would agree with that. However, this was two days after Schools in some areas opened for a day only to be told that evening that would need to close by Boris Johnson and required to move all but children of key workers to learning from home. Here, Gavin Williamson seems to be suggesting that if parents aren’t happy with a system that is barely two days old with minimal preparation time. If one was cynical, you may well feel the Education Secretary was setting teachers up to fail.

If that was the aim, it did not go the way the Education Secretary expected. Ofsted were inundated with over 11,000 emails from parents praising teachers to the extent they had to bring in extra staff.

'Our delivery of laptops and tablets continues apace: we have purchased more than 1 million laptops and tablets and have already delivered more than 560,000 of them to schools and local authorities. With an extra 100,000 being distributed this week alone, by the end of next week, we will have delivered three-quarters of a million devices. We are also working with all the UK’s leading mobile network operators to provide free data for key educational sites. We are grateful to EE, 3, Tesco Mobile, Smarty, Sky Mobile, Virgin Mobile, O2 and Vodafone for supporting this offer. We have also been delivering 4G routers to families who need to access the internet.'

Gavin Williamson (MP for South Staffordshire and Secretary of State for Education), 6th January

This is slightly later in the Education Secretary’s address regarding the educational provision during the lockdown. It is undoubtedly good that laptops and broadband support are being provided to help children in their remote education during the lockdown but the comment is included though it is crazy how times change. I accept this is a bit of a whataboutery but who remembers when something similar was proposed by Labour in the 2019 general Election and it was dismissed as ‘broadband communism’? Yet, here we are. Perhaps, this is one of those topics where Jeremy Corbyn really did ‘win the argument’.

Getting the provision is crucial during these times so it will also be embarrassing that thousands of these were discovered to have been hit by a malware issue. It is also embarrassing that the taxpayer may well have been over-charged for them. I thought the Tories were meant to be the party of fiscal responsibility and Labour the ones who can’t be trusted. How times have changed.

‘I don’t really understand why it is we couldn’t have taken this decision last week when I think all the data was there. But, I have to say he acted a lot more quickly this time than he did when we went into the first lockdown’

Jeremy Hunt (MP for South West Surrey), 6th January

The former Health Secretary was an interviewee on ITV’s Peston and on the final question, Robert Peston asked if the Prime Minister should have acted quicker to do it. Jeremy Hunt is no longer in the Cabinet but holds a powerful position as chair of the Health Select Committee. In that capacity, he has been one of the sound voices in regards to this pandemic even though he will have questions to answer in the inevitably public inquiry.

The first sentence is startling. He believes that the figures were there to put the country into lockdown the previous week. Scotland did not do it until the afternoon of January 4th but with the hotspots in the south-east, it would surely have been the prerogative of Boris Johnson to act quicker and not be seen as trailing Nicola Sturgeon. But what did Boris Johnson do when he had those numbers? He urged parents to send kids back to school for a day in parts of the country, insisting schools were safe when he knew they were vectors for transmission while adamant in persisting with the tier system.

He may well have acted quicker than the previous lockdowns (it was not seven weeks as was the case for the November lockdown) but that delay will have cost lives.

The scene’s from Washington are unbelievably saddening and distressing. I have faith that America’s strong institutions will see them through this turbulent times, but seeing an assault on democracy is painful to watch’.

James Cleverly (MP for Braintree), 7th January

James Cleverly was criticising the shocking events that were witnessed in Washington DC the day Congress voted to ratify Joe Biden’s election victory. He is entirely right to do so as the scenes were terrible and anyone who believes in democracy would condemn them.

He describes the ‘assault on democracy’ as painful to watch but he was Chairman of the Conservative Party when Boris Johnson, the freshly elected Prime Minister by 130,000 Conservative embers illegally prorogued Parliament because he did not agree with Parliament. He described it at the time as simply ‘something all new governmenet’s do’. By misleading the Queen, he stood by while Boris Johnson attacked the institutions of the UK and then stood on an election manifesto committed to overhauling those same institutions that ruled they had abused their power.

I think absolutely, the violence, you know, should stop and he should condemn everything that has taken place. There's no question about that at all. Someone was shot, people have died. This is terrible. Terrible beyond words, quite frankly. And there is no justification for it.’

Priti Patel (MP for Witham and Home Secretary), 7th January

The day after those appalling scenes on Capitol Hill in Washington DC saw Home Secretary Priti Patel doing the media rounds. In her Sky News interview with Niall Paterson, she was asked what it would take for her to condemn Donald Trump’s actions in all this. The answer was underwhelming as she appeared to be unwilling to call him out or blame him for his role. It is beyond doubt he had a role to play in inciting it but the Home Secretary seemed more interested in attributing personal responsibility to those involved. That is only part of the answer and you have to consider who inspired them, who incited them into such a rage and the answer was Donald Trump holding a gathering before the riot started.

In the interview, it was almost excruciating as she tried to avoid blaming the President. However, the tune changed later on when she was on BBC Breakfast where she did call Trump out where she said his words ‘directly led to the violence and so far he’s failed to condemn that violence’. Why did it take her so long to say it?

Perhaps, it should also be a lesson to the Home Secretary in the use of inflammatory language and where it can lead to. After all, she has spent the past few months attacking ‘lefty do-goody’ lawyers for fighting deportations of criminals in court. Some of these comments were attributed to an attack on an immigration lawyer in October.

'If all goes well, these should have the capacity to deliver hundreds of thousands vaccines per day by January 15th'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 7th January

It was another Downing Street Briefing for Boris Johnson and he made this bold target. I have criticised them for getting it wrong with setting targets and underdelivering on them. When he said it, I could imagine a lot of people were pessimistic and with good reason. Therefore, it feels only fair to include this one on the basis that he delivered. Looking at the Daily vaccination data held by the NHS, on January 14th, 2,910,027 vaccine doses had been administered. The next day, 3,189,674 doses were delivered. So, by January 15th, the NHS delivered 279,647 doses in 24 hours and that was just in England. It is fair to say, even with the questionable decision regarding the gap between doses, he had kept to the promise of his stated ambition.

The kind of people who stand outside hospitals and say covid is a hoax…really need to grow up

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 7th January

The Prime Minister was leading another Downing Street Press Conference when he made these comments towards covid-deniers. It also came just days after Channel 4 journalist Victoria McDonald was shouted at by people claiming Covid is a hoax. That was not an isolated incident with several clips circulating on social media of people shouting it outside of hospitals.

This is a harsh inclusion as the sentiment of what the Prime Minister was saying was the right one. Those sort of people do need to grow up. It is included because he was flanked by NHS Chief Sir Simon Stevens who did not mince his words saying, ‘When people say that it is a lie…it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical’. The more forceful language made the Prime Minister appear weak and less authoritative as it just pales in comparison.

'...I think we were told about the new variant and the way it was taking off on 18th December and we went into T4 across the vast bulk of the country pretty much in the next 24 hours...'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 7th January

The Prime Minister was asked why the Government did not act earlier before putting the country into lockdown on January 4th. This was his response. It was brutally analysed as not entirely true by BBC Policy Editor Lewis Goodall on Twitter. It is assumed he was referring to the advice the new variant was more transmissible on December 18th. Tier four was announced the next day but it was not the vast majority of the country; only London and the South East. It was only on December 30th the vast majority of the country could be said to have been put into tier 4 as the thread embedded below shows…

'The justification is really clear and straightforward, which is that it saves more lives, and ultimately, that is the public health justification. The data shows that there is a significant protection from both the Oxford and the Pfizer jabs after the first dose.'

Matt Hancock (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 7th January

The Health Secretary was defending the Government’s decision to delay the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccines to 12 weeks; a policy change that saw people having their second appointments cancelled from December 30th. The explanation of it was more understandable when listening to Professor Jonothan Van-Tam explanation of it made it make sense. The problem is that there was minimal trial data to suggest that it will work. It is a major risk and in the case of Pzifer, there is no data on it as they never spaced the doses out more than three weeks. There is also the risk that in the meantime it could help aid the virus becoming more resistant to the vaccines. The worry comes from the 12-week gap being untried and unknown whether it will pay off.

A week into Brexit and Dover port working fine. Still no apologies from the Project Fear commentators and media forecasters’.

John Redwood (MP for Wokingham), 7th January

It is the case that in the weeks ahead, we expect that there will be significant additional disruption…particularly on the Dover-Calais route

Michael Gove (MP for Surrey Heath and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), 8th January

These two quotes are included together for an obvious reason. They cannot both be right. One of them has to be wrong. The point was not lost on former Tory MP David Guake either as you can see below. The question is, who?

At the time these comments were made, Government figures had put the number of lorries being turned away at the borders as being around 700 and 150 fines handed out for non-compliance at the border in Kent. That is despite the number of lorries making the crossing about the Channel at this point being thought to be 40% of historical norms. One of the biggest shipping companies in Europe DFDS warned,We are experiencing a high volume of vehicles being refused and delayed at the Ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Dover, due to incorrect paperwork being presented at check-in’. Major supermarkets Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys also wrote to the Duchy of Lancaster urging him they need a more sustainable solution. There were also the images of deliveries taking that long to get to Northern Ireland that that fresh produce was arriving late and rotting, effectively going to waste.

That alongside Michael Gove’s claims would make John Redwood look rather silly indeed. Of course, in the case of the Duchy of Lancaster, he cannot claim at any point that they were always warning about it. Yes, he began warning of disruption in November of 2020 but when before that, he was easily dismissing such warnings during the election as scaremongering. So, is it now also a case of Project Fear becoming Project Reality and could it be a sign that they are worried that worse is to come?

'And testing also creates some revealing anomalies: the virus seems to understand the soft border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for example, crediting those to the north with a far higher rate of infection. Our mortality rate – dreadful though it is - remains much the same as others

David Warburton (MP for Somerton and Frome), 8th January

The MP for Somerset and Frome had an interview published in the Somerset Country Gazette outlining why he voted against the new lockdown restrictions. The article and his comments were littered with inaccuracies that he became only the second Tory MP after Dr Liam Fox to be investigated by independent fact-checking charity Full Fact. I could find no Labour, Lib Dem or SNP MPs being investigated by them.

The first part of this claim has some truth to it as the UK has one of the highest testing rates in Europe and the Republic of Ireland do not test as much relative to their population as the UK and its positivity rate is higher than the UK’s. I do not think he is arguing for less testing with these comments, or at least I hope not. Testing allows us to find as many cases as possible and I would shout down anyone who argues that if we test less then we’ll find fewer cases as is often pushed by covid-deniers. I would say this though, just because you test fewer does not mean the issue would go away, it would still be there.

The second part of the claim is what FullFact pulled him on. Mr Warburton claims that despite the UK death rate being dreadful, it ‘remains much the same as others’. At the time that was wrong. In the week to 11th January, the UK had the fourth-highest death rate in the world behind the likes of Liechtenstein, Czech Republic and Lithuania as well as being 8th in the world to date according to data from John Hopkins University at 127.21 per 100,000.

'As I’ve said before, the ONS have estimated that the restrictions across 2020 will have resulted in 200,000 non-Covid excess deaths.'

David Warburton (MP for Somerton and Frome), 8th January

The Somerset and Frome MP also referenced an ONS paper estimating that the restrictions will have resulted in 200,000 non-Covid excess deaths (I hate that phrase, excess deaths). While it is true the ONS did make that prediction it was based over the next 50 year period as summarised by Full Fact, ‘in addition to around 12,000-25,000 excess non-Covid deaths due to additional pressure on the health service, there could be 185,000 deaths in the medium or long term in a scenario where 75% of elective care was cancelled for six months.’.

Full Fact also discloses that a report was published after the one the MP cited and downgraded that prediction from 185,000 to 12,500 as well as also estimating that having restrictions as opposed to no restrictions could cost even more lives. So, the MP was not using the most recent ONS paper.

'Given that – even when including those with pre-existing conditions - for the under 60s, there is a 1 in 300,000 chance of death, or the over 60s, there is a 99% survival rate and for the over 80s, it’s still 90%, there is a clear alternative to hand – based on individual responsibility that we exercise in our own lives anyway'

David Warburton (MP for Somerton and Frome),, 8th January

Coming from the same interview, David Warburton made further claims that Full Fact investigated. They felt that the figure he provides on the survival rate for over 80s (90%) is accurate based on Imperial College modelling. They did however pick apart his other numbers.

FullFact demonstrated the 1 in 300,000 chance of death for over 60s figure he gives is entirely wrong. It is impossible! This is why. In the week to January 8th, 89% of death certificates had Covid-19 as an underlying cause according to the ONS. There had been 5,370 deaths under the age of 60 in England and Wales to January 8th. If the chance of death is 1 in 300,000 then that would have meant around 1.6 billion people being infected under the age of 60. That is impossible as not to mention that 54.5million are actually under the age of 60 in the UK, that figure is also 25 times the entire population number of the UK!

A lot of people like to talk about New Zealand- but it looks like vaccines won’t start getting rolled out until second half of the year

Robbie Moore (MP for Keighley), 9th January

Robbie Moore was sharing a Reuters article when he decided to try and make a criticism of the way New Zealand are handling the Pandemic. His mode of attack was vaccines; one area where on the numbers it must be said the UK is doing well at initially but New Zealand would not be starting to roll out until the Autumn.

However, at the time of writing New Zealand only recorded 31 new cases and just 25 deaths throughout the whole of the pandemic, recording not a single death since 16th September thanks to their elimination strategy. By contrast, the UK recorded 1,035 deaths that day and surpassed 80,000 for the pandemic. New Zealand’s is a strategy I think most people would now agree to have been the right one and given their approach they are perhaps one country who could afford to wait that long for vaccines.

Needless to say, this was not well thought through by the MP and the post was deleted within four hours.

@RoyalFamily have been vaccinated. A good day becomes a great day’.

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-on-Avon and Vaccines Minister), 9th January

Saturday 9th January brought news that the Royal Family had been vaccinated against Coronavirus. It was not clear from the press release whether they had just received their first jab or the second. I would believe it to be the second as surely Stanley Johnson could not have got both jabs before the Queen even got her first. Either way, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi wanted to celebrate that fact.

I am not begrudging the Royal Family. It is good news for them. However, the tweet was extremely poorly worded. Tweeting ‘A good day becomes a great day’ when this was also the same day that the UK recorded 80,868 deaths, surpassing the 80,000 mark and four times the total number of deaths once given by Sir Patrick Vallance as a good outcome. As well as this, the UK also passed 3 million cases. That in anyone’s estimation is a terrible day.

'I think Gavin’s been doing a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances And, actually, it’s incumbent on all of us – frankly, the whole country – to pull together as much as possible.'

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 10th January

On the Sunday media round was Health Secretary Matt Hancock. He was asked about the performance of Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary by Sophy Ridge after former Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw told a BBC Radio 4 interview that he had got an ‘awful lot wrong’ ad that headteachers lacked confidence in him.

This is the man who was sacked as defence Secretary by Theresa May for leaking secrets. As Education Secretary in the past few months, he oversaw the exam fiasco in the summer. More recently, despite the knowledge, a new variant that seemed more transmissible (before they got the figure) threatened to sue Greenwich Council for closing schools three days early, failed to take to accept an offer of free broadband for families with struggling n order to aid homeschooling (he has not been questioned on this in the House of Commons). I could go on.

While you would expect a Minister to defend one of their colleagues but to claim that someone with his impressive rap sheet has done an ‘excellent job’ maybe a bit too far fetched.

These rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit of what everyone should be doing

every time you try to flex the rules that could be fatal

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 10th January

This is ingenious from the Health Secretary who deployed this phrase on both his Sunday interviews with Sly News on the Sophy Ridge Show and the Marr Show with Andrew Marr.

The thing here is that the Health Secretary is pressing a very serious message and is right to do so but he lost his authority on that a long time ago. There was the defending of Dominic Cummings lockdown trip to Durham and Barnard Castle as following his paternal instincts and something he saw as ‘entirely right’. Then, there was the story that broke days earlier of Jacob Rees Mogg not following rules by attending a service in a tier 4 Glastonbury St Mary’s Church the day before the new lockdown was announced despite living in a tier 3 area. Crossing tiers in this way was not permitted in the rules. No one wonder a Glastonbury resident at the time was ‘fed up of this hypocritical approach from the people setting these rules’.

I think that if I may say so only a partial way of looking at it because we have the £500 support payment for people on low incomes

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 10th January

This comes from the interview the Health Secretary had with Andrew Marr. He had been presented with comments from the TUC that the average loss of earnings for someone having to self-isolate was £690. The Health Secretary pointed to the Government’s £500 support for people on low incomes; the Test and Trace Support Payment.

The issue here is that £500 support payment is not available to everyone. The eligibility for that payment is that you must be working and claiming Universal Credit. In most instances, people who would qualify would be working part-time hours. Now, someone working full-time who does not claim Universal Credit and has not been furloughed is not eligible. So, if they are told to isolate they lose earnings.

Mr Hancock was told by Marr that 7 in 10 do not qualify and suggested a more targeted approach. This is something at least, the Health Secretary appeared to take on board as evidenced by the papers describing an expansion of that as ‘Cash for Covid’…

we’ve done over 60 trade deals with countries around the world in the last 12 months. And that will open up export opportunities to local businesses. I was talking to farmers in my constituency who were looking forward to being able to export their beef to Singapore for the first time.'

Maria Caulfield (MP for Lewes and Assistant Whip), 10th January

Maria Caulfield was on BBC Politics South East when she made these remarks. The first issue to clarify and just to avoid any potential confusion, is that these trade deals in which there have been over 60 are not entirely new as they seem to be presented when spoken about. They are trade deals that have been rolled over from trade deals that the UL had when we were still in the EU.

Ms Caulfield also seems to imply that farmers in her constituency could not trade with Singapore before Brexit. That is false. Singapore agreed a free trade deal with the EU (the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement) which came into force on 21st November 2019. Yes, by then Article 50 had already been triggered and the UK was leaving the EU. However, until 21st January 2020 when the transition period came to an end, it was still a free trade agreement the UK benefited from and as it is one of the rolled over deals, it is not exactly a win of Brexit. We didn’t need Brexit for farmers to be able to trade with Singapore.

If 2 million are going to be vaccinated each week-then there’s no reason for lockdown restrictions no to be lifted sooner rather than later’.

Esther McVey (MP for Tatton), 10th January

Esther McVey’s tweet above was accompanied by an article from The Daily Express that the year anniversary of going into lockdown would be difficult for Boris Johnson. The lockdown sceptic voted against the third national lockdown in the House of Commons; one of 12 Tory MPs to do so. I get the clamour for a lot of people wanting to return to some form of normality but it feels as if she is relying on the vaccines to be a form of a silver bullet; something the World Health Organisation has previously advised against.

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