A Tory Said What: February 2021

On 8 March which is 3 weeks after the middle of April where we will have offered the vaccine to all over 50s we will see schools reopening

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-upon Avon and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Covid-19 Deployment), 22nd February

The Vaccines Minister had the first media round of the week on the day the Prime Minister was expected to announce his pathway out of lockdown. However, he seems to have gotten himself into a bit of a muddle here. 8th March is not three weeks after the middle of April, Three weeks after the middle of April would be early May.

Mr Zahawi did it twice though. It happened in his interview with BBC breakfast and again in his interview with Sky News. On the latter with Niall Patterson, the Minister argues that if you take all over 50s being given one dose and argued they were opening schools after that. That is not the case. All over 50s would not have been given the first dose, it is hoped by the end of April but Schools are reopening before then on March 8th. As Professor Brian Cox shared, did he just make an argument there that he was not meant to be making?

Now we have left EU & creating exceptionally strong global economic partnerships with key non European partners, the time has come for a debate as to which languages are taught to children in schools. I feel the almost total domination of French, Spanish & German needs review’.

Daniel Kawczynski (MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham), 22nd February

The MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham made this Tweet calling for a debate as to what languages should be taught in schools. Ok, he comments about wanting a debate on a social media platform that he blocks anyone that has not been mentioned by him from Tweeting responses. Where is the debate?

When you look into his background too, this Tweet is a bit odd. Mr Kawczynski studied Business Studies and French at University. So, why is he trying to open a debate about whether a language he has studied and other closely related languages (English is a Germanic language after all with lots of borrowings from French) should be taught in schools? I do not understand it.

As the modelling released today by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies shows, we cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalisations, and sadly more deaths. This will happen whenever lockdown is lifted, whether now or in six or nine months, because there will always be some vulnerable people who are not protected by the vaccines. There is therefore no credible route to a zero-covid Britain or indeed a zero-covid world, and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life chances of our children That is why it is so crucial that this road map should be cautious but also irreversible.'

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

22nd February was the date everyone was looking to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson to set out his roadmap out of the current lockdown. In this section of his speech, he totally dismisses the idea of ‘zero-covid’.

Ideally, we want as few cases as possible. As few cases as possible, the fewer hospitalisations and the fewer deaths. Additionally, I feel that would also lead to more confidence in the economic recovery if there were fewer cases. However, this section I particularly found unsettling. Boris Johnson has gone from a Prime Minister in just a matter of weeks from saying he did everything he could to save lives on the day the UK hit the grim 100,000 death milestone, to effectively asking us to embrace potentially many thousands more avoidable deaths. It felt eerily like last March when inside Downing Street he warned, ‘many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time’.

I get we have to open up the economy sometime, I do. However, I would prefer to see cases lower first before we did it and hope that with numbers lower like they are in New Zealand, Australia and even the Isle of Man, that we can enjoy reopening more of our economy knowing there is far less Covid around. I fear the Prime Minister is rushing it again.

'In England, everyone in the top four priority groups was successfully offered a vaccine by the middle of February. We now aim to offer a first dose to all those in groups five to nine by 15 April, and I am setting another stretching target: to offer a first dose to every adult by the end of July.'

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

This was in the next few sentences into the Prime Ministers roadmap out of the lockdown announcement in the House of Commons. It was selected for several reasons.

Firstly, not everyone in the top four priority groups had been successfully offered a vaccine dose by the middle of February. That was by virtue of the latest research asking 1.7m extra people to shield. I was one of those individuals and even by the time the Prime Minister was speaking, was still yet to be offered a vaccine. Yes, I am nitpicking but it is health we are talking about during a pandemic. If you cannot nitpick in that context, when can you?

Secondly, he set himself some very ambitious targets; offering everyone in JCVI 5-9 the first dose by 15th April and a first does to every adult by the end of July. Targets are good things to have. They give focus. Hopefully, for everyone’s sake, it is not an over-ambitious target that he later comes to regret.

'I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his overall support for the road map. Indeed, I also welcome his support for the vaccine roll-out. I am sure that many people will be glad to hear what he says. I cannot help but remind you, Mr Speaker, that he did vote to stay in the European Medicines Agency, which would have made a vaccine roll-out of this speed impossible.'

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

The Prime Minister started with this after listening to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s response to his Covid-19 roadmap out of lockdown. AS he often likes trying to remind everyone who will listen, Sir Keir Starmer advocated remaining in the European Medicines Agency which he argues would not have made the vaccine rollout go as quickly as it has done in the UK. That is a false assumption.

It is like the comments in December where Conservative politicians were saying we were only rolling out the vaccine so quickly because of Brexit as if it was a Brexit win. Does the Prime Minister need reminding that we were still in the EU when the vaccine rollout started on 8th December and it was all possible under EU law? The argument is redundant.

'As for the contracts that the hon. Lady just mentioned, all the details are on the record, and of course it was right to work as fast as we possibly could to get the PPE that this country so desperately needed.'

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

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked the Prime Minister to respond to the High Court ruling that the Health Secretary had broken the law in not publishing the Covid contracts within the legal timeframe and who benefited from the VIP lane. Boris Johnson for his part insisted everything was on the record and nothing wrong had occurred. He defended it as acting as fast as we could but no one has ever suggested that was not the case.

I think even Ms Lucas was surprised by the response she received. The High Court though over a week later would rule that the Prime Minister ‘misled Parliament‘ with this comment.

'If severe quarantine measures had from the very start been as effective as in Australia, and, equally, if tough local lockdowns had been as effective as those in China, does that not rather beg the question—why we did not do it over a year ago?'

Sir Edward Leigh (MP for Gainsborough), 22nd February

I cannot quite believe I am saying this, but Sir Edward Leigh the MP for Gainsborough was probably speaking for a vast part of the country when he uttered this sentence as he questioned the Prime Minister. I can’t quite believe I am agreeing with him. Even more, Boris Johnson agreed saying the same thing, ‘I think my right hon. Friend speaks for many people in the country when he says that’.

'This is one of those moments when I sympathise very much with the Leader of the Opposition because there speaks the authentic voice of the union-dominated Labour left. I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right in what he says. I think most people in this country understand that schools need to go back.'

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

This was the beginning of the Prime Minister’s response to the question posed to him by Labour MP Richard Budgen. Mr Budgen advocated for a ‘zero covid’ and attacked the Prime Minister for his earlier comments on that subject. He asked if Schools were ‘vectors of transmission’ when we went into Lockdown in January, what was being done to avoid that being the case again? An answer to that was not coming as he tried to argue some petty political point about Labour and Trade Unions.

'...And we will be led at every stage by data, not dates...'

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

After almost three hours talking about it in the House of Commons, it was to a Downing Street briefing as the Prime Minister addressed the public flanked by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance. I want to pick up on this because it is one of the two main slogans to go with the roadmap out of lockdown, we will be led by data, not dates.

Just to look at the official document for the roadmap and as pointed out by Anushka Asthana on ITV’s Peston, there was an awful lot of dates. There are 33 mentions of dates in the document.

As for how the roadmap was received, and the emphasis is on the dates. By setting these dates, albeit, with the caveat of if the data allows it, you have a lot of people excited. My social media feed has been full of hope and expectation of being able to go to the pub and forgetting that it might not happen. I point it out in a group chat and I get told to bore off! People want that hope and I want the Prime Minister to get be right with everything going to plan but I fear people will be in for a disappointment if it is not all possible.

'Yes there were individual shortages of logistics of getting PPE to the front line [back in Spring last year] - and when demand goes up 10 times, that's what happens - but as the NAO investigated and found, there was never a national shortage.'

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

On the BBC Today Programme, the Health Secretary made these comments which caught the attention of independent fact-checkers Full Fact. You guessed it because he was potentially misleading there.

Mr Hancock insisted that the National Audit Office concluded ‘there was never a national shortage’ of PPE when they returned their report in November. That is not strictly speaking true as revealed by Full Fact. The report did not say there was a national shortage, they could not say there wasn’t either as there was other evidence pointing towards shortages such as images on social media.

A spokesperson for the NAO told Full fact, ‘provider organisations we spoke to told us that while they were concerned about the low stocks of PPE, they were always able to get what they needed in time. However, this was not the experience reported by many front-line workers. Feedback from care workers, doctors and nurses show that significant numbers of them considered that they were not adequately protected during the height of the first wave of the pandemic.”

Last April, the Chief executive of NHS providers wrote in The Times that there were ‘national supply shortages’ and shockingly ‘some trusts have reached the point where they cannot provide gowns to all staff who need them in line with existing national guidance’. In anyone’s book, that sounds like running out, so not the picture that the Health Secretary wants to paint.

We all saw the social media posts. Pictures of nurses and doctors having to use bin bags because they could not get access to the necessary PPE at the beginning of the pandemic. While it was hard in those earlier days of the pandemic, we were not prepared. Who remembers when they desperately scrambled about trying to get PPE from Turkey in April/May only for when it eventually arrived a few days late, it was not fit for purpose?

I sound exasperated for two reasons Piers, one because I think we should be on this programme thanking my team, they work so hard.'

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

On to Good Morning Britain and this was the interview I was looking forward to…after being found to have acted unlawfully the Health Secretary was in for a grilling off Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain. It did not disappoint.

The Health Secretary though felt we should be thankful for the efforts of his team instead of being hammered in interviews. To be honest, I know Piers Morgan is a divisive interviewer. He is not everyone’s cup of tea but he was speaking for most of the country when he laid into the Health Secretary following this remark…

Let’s just analyse that, shall we? I’m sorry, if you want to play that game with us, you and your team have presided over a woeful handling of this pandemic that has led to us having the worst death toll in Europe. So I’m sorry if my first thought when you come on, health secretary, is not to thank you and your team for your brilliant handling of the pandemic. Because I don’t think 130,000 deaths shows that you handled it well.

What should we be thanking them for? I am going to assume that the Health Secretary thinks we should be thanking them for supplying PPE and avoiding a national shortage As discussed in dissecting his comments on his BBC breakfast interview, that is false too. Additionally, the following day on Good Morning Britain, Palliative Care Doctor, Dr Rachel Clarke described such an assertion as ‘That was literally an example of Matt Hancock looking the entire country in the eye and lying to them. And I know this because I was one of the thousands of doctors experiencing for myself a shortage of PPE’.

'I won’t apologise because to apologise would imply that I’d do something differently. And given the choices we were faced with in April and May when there were very serious problems with access to PPE and some people were going without and the team were working so hard… to have taken some of the team off that life-saving work in order to complete the paperwork on time instead of just over a fortnight late, that would have been wrong.'

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

Earlier in the Good Morning Britain interview, Matt Hancock made the stunning statement that he would not apologise for being found to have acted unlawfully in failing to publish contracts issued for PPE within the legal limit. In other words, he broke the law. Does he believe he has anything to apologise for? No.

It is brazenly arrogant from the Health Secretary as he seems to genuinely believe he did nothing wrong. In principle, you can make the argument that he is making, that they were addressing big problems with supply and doing their best and mistakes were made. Apologising for the mistakes adds integrity. In that instance, I think it would have come across better had the Government just held their hands up and say, under the immense pressure we were under we were unable to meet these deadlines. I think people would have responded more favourably to it had they not spent £200,000 of taxpayer money trying to defend the indefensible.

The next day, Good Morning Britain had Palliative Care Doctor Dr Rachel Clarke on the show. She thought his comments were ‘disgustingly disrespectful to the families of over 130,000 people who have died of Covid’. I couldn’t agree more! It is also disrespectful to the hundreds of healthcare workers who have died during the pandemic as well, including those who could not access PPE at the start of the pandemic. She also added, ‘We all know that’s one of the worst death tolls in the entire world. And the fact is, if you are not willing to apologise for the things you have got wrong then that must mean you think you have nothing to learn and that’s really, really worrying because he if he thinks he’s got nothing to learn then how do we ever stop making the same mistakes again’.

'While of course there were individual instances that we all know about and that highlight how important it was to buy PPE, there was, as the National Audit Office has confirmed, no national level shortage, and that was because of the incredible work of my team and the amount of effort they put into securing the PPE and doing the right thing.'

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

This is the first instance the Health Secretary was asked directly about the High Court case in Parliament. It came in a question from Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth asking Mr Hancock if he would ‘commit to recovering every penny piece of taxpayers’ money from those companies that provided us with duff PPE?’

In his response, Mr Hancock referred to the National Audit Office (NAO) supposedly confirming again that they concluded there had been no national shortage. That as has already been established, is false, not to mention the social media posts that circulated of nurses using bin liners because they were unable to get hold of sufficient PPE. Or the countless stories of staff being urged to reuse PPE after Public Health England issued advice that ‘Compromise is needed to optimise supply in times of extreme shortages.

'When you're a journalist it's a great, great job, it's a great profession. But the trouble is, sometimes you find yourself always abusing people or attacking people. Not that you want to abuse them or attack them, but you are being critical, when maybe you feel sometimes a bit guilty about that, because you haven't put yourself in the place of the person you're criticising. So I thought I'd give it a go'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 23rd February

Well, that is certainly not a great advertisement for journalism as a career. The Prime Minister was giving careers advice to schoolchildren as he visited an online class when he made these remarks reflecting on his experiences. Perhaps it is not the best idea to get someone discussing journalism as a career choice when they had been sacked by The Times for falsifying quotes and his writing as a columnist has also drawn criticism for offensive comments. One may well think he was deliberately trying to put people off journalism as a career.

'Deeply regret it, yes'

Gavin Williamson (MP for South Staffordshire and Secretary of State for Education), 24th February

The Education Secretary was the next Minister to have the media round and when it came to Good Morning Britain, it was excruciatingly painful. With Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid hosting, it took six minutes and 11 questions, there it was eventually. A Government Minister admitting that they regretted being found to have broken the law regarding the Covid-19 procurement contracts.

'The permanent secretary is absolutely right in terms of following the advice from Public Health England, to mitigate the risks of contracting or spreading Covid, but at the same time, you will recognise that within contingency accommodation, initial accommodation for asylum seekers, people do mingle. People were also not following the rules, and that we also have to bear in mind that Covid being as contagious as it is spreads.'

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

The Home Secretary was appearing virtually providing evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee. The Committee had just been informed that Lord Mathew Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Home office to reveal how many Covid cases had been recorded at the now notorious Napier barracks since it started to house asylum seekers in September. The answer…there had been 197 cases in 2021 alone, 178 of those in January.

Napier barracks had seen protests at the end of January which the Home Secretary had dismissed as being insulting to the armed services who used to be housed in those barracks. In that same month, they had recorded 178 cases. No wonder they were protesting with the virus circulating that rampantly! They insisted they were following Covid safety guidelines ‘at every stage’. Even then, given this damning argument from Yvette Cooper, those guidelines may not have been fit for purpose…

‘Well, that looks pretty clear evidence to me that those dormitories were not Covid-safe if you managed to generate within them 178 positive cases, presumably that would have affected staff who live in the local community as well. On what planet did you think in the middle of a Covid crisis it was safe or sensible to put over 20 people in a dormitory so they’re all sleeping together in the same room with the same air overnight each night?’

When pointed out that the measures may not have been sufficient, that is when the Home Secretary came into the discussion and appeared to blame the asylum seekers themselves for the outbreak because they ‘mingle’. These asylum seekers are put into dormitories of 28 people per room, sleeping two metres apart every night (does the virus respect 2m?) and then she has the astonishing audacity to blame them for the fact so many contracted Covid? Who facilitated it by putting them in these conditions? It is astonishing!

'There has been no such cut, and we intend to invest massively in Northern Powerhouse Rail, and in railways in the north and across the entire country.'

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

In Prime Ministers Questions, the Prime Minister was asked by Dame Diane Johnson, the MP for Kingston upon Hull North if the 40% cut to the Transport for the North’s budget was part of his plans for levelling up. The Prime Minister insisted there was no such cut taking place. That is not true. Board papers at the Transport for the North show that they received a letter from the Department of Transport informing them there funding would be cut from £10m in 2020/21 to £6m in 2021/22, effectively a 40% cut.

Later on, his spokesperson insisted he was ‘Specifically he was pointing to the range of investment that we are making to transport in the North’. So, was this a divert tactic away from the question because the cut is real, it exists and is happening? Or, is it because the decision is being reversed behind the scenes to be announced in the budget? I wouldn’t hold your hopes up for the latter option.

Independent Fact-checkers Full Fact have also looked at this exchange. They concluded that the figure cited by the Labour MP was the ‘core funding’ for Transport for the North. That is being cut by 40% but they are able to charge £2.5m costs to the Northern Powerhouse Rail Programme, making it an effective 15% cut. It may not be a 40% cut but either way, the Prime Minister’s words were ‘no such cut’. That is clearly a cut. 

Yesterday, the former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, accused the Scottish Government of “the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law.” That would be a damning indictment in a tinpot dictatorship, but this is happening in a part of the United Kingdom. Given that the Scottish Parliament derives its authority from legislation passed in this Parliament, what mechanisms do we have to ensure that the conduct of the Scottish Government does not bring politics in the whole of the United Kingdom into international disrepute?'

Dr Liam Fox (MP for North Somerset), 24th February

The former Brexit Secretary brought up the accusations made by former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond against the Scottish Government and the SNP. Mr Salmond had accused Nicola Sturgeon of misleading parliament and breaking the ministerial code. As well as that, he accused the Scottish Government of unfairly investigating him and that there was a concerted and malicious effort to damage is reputation. Press coverage of this felt immense.

I find it ironic really that any Conservative MP would want to draw comparisons to ‘tinpot dictatorships’ or bringing politics into ‘international dispute’ as he says. This is a government that openly wanted to break international law and voted to do so last year in a ‘very specific and limited way’ when it came to the proposed Internal market bill. This is a government that had within the last week been found to have acted unlawfully in the publication of Covid-19 contracts and a Hoe Secretary who was found to have broken the ministerial code in bullying accusations.

I agree if someone has broken the Ministerial code, they should either resign or be sacked. That means Priti Patel, that means Matt Hancock and if it is proven because she actually hadn’t had the chance to defend herself yet in this case, that too would mean Nicola Sturgeon. By standing by their people who have broken the law or ministerial code, and if misleading parliament is such an offence then the Conservatives have absolutely no moral right to dictate the discussion on this.

'This infamous fox murderer involved with the Good Law Project is not somebody I am particularly interested in. He is fussing and wasting time over the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was getting on with ordering PPE rather than getting officials to spend time filling out forms to keep the fox murderer happy. I really do not think that is a good use of Government time. As my right hon. Friend has said, it was a technical breach that was going to be put right in due course anyway. He was a fortnight late at a time when very pressing business was being attended to.'

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

Business of the House time in the Commons where Jacob Rees Mogg sets out the agenda for Parliament for the coming weeks. He was asked the following question by Labour’s Valerie Vaz

I want to thank the Good Law Project for upholding the rule of law. It seems that only your friends, those in your social circle or in your economic circle need apply. You could have no previous experience like the new chair of office of students. Why does it take a judgement to publish the names? What is a technical breach? I don’t think the judge actually mentioned technical breach. The Health Secretary has been found to have acted unlawfully so could you please come to the house and explain it?

That’s right, despite all of the press interviews he had done on the matter in the 6 days prior, the Health Secretary had yet to discuss it in Parliament. I think he had faced one direct question from Jonathan Ashworth but there had been no wider discussion dedicated to it in Parliament with the Health Secretary present. Instead, the response from Mr Rees Mogg is equally shocking. Not only does he dismiss the fact the Health Secretary had acted unlawfully, but he also went to discredit Jo Maugham QC of the Good Law Project concerning an incident last year where Mr Maugham killed a fox after it became trapped in the netting protecting a hen house in his garden.

Is this what it has come to; personal attacks to try and discredit anyone who wants to hold the government to account? As Justice Camerbalin declared in the High Court, ‘the public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded’. Mr Maugham responded by branded Rees Mogg a hypocrite online citing an article from the Mirror in 2019 revealing that his estate hosted fox hunting parties. While he did not take part in the hunt, his estate facilitated it and Mr Rees Mogg is also quoted as saying hunting ‘is the most humane way of controlling the fox population’.

'I used to have a wonderful job as a journalist, which I loved. Then, when I was about 35 years old, I had the beginnings of a midlife crisis. I knew that I had to do something. I felt I had to sort of start to contribute more and so I went into politics.'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 25th February

The Prime Minister was visiting Accrington Academy when he made the comments that he got into politics as the result of a mid-life crisis and wanting ‘to contribute more’. I am sure we all have that sort of stage in life but characteristically, a midlife crisis can hit any time but typically, they tend to hit around the ages of 45-65.

The Prime Minister was first elected as MP for in the retiring Michael Heseltine’s safe seat of Henley in 2001 at the age of 35 before standing down to fight the Mayor of London election in 2008. Unsurprisingly, he made no mention of the fact he was sacked from The Times for falsifying quotes in his early career but was perhaps referring to his editorship of The Spectator which he held while still an MP until 2005. It is hard to tell if he is just making it up as he goes along.

'We will no doubt be told that the EU will never renegotiate the protocol – just as we were repeatedly assured they would never reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, or indeed abandon the dreaded ‘backstop’, which the protocol eventually replaced when they subsequently did both.'

Marc Francois (MP for Rayleigh and Wickford), 25th February

The European Research Group (ERG) resurfaced. Yes, they’re still a thing. Within two months of getting what they wanted with Brexit, they were complaining that the Northern Ireland Protocol had to go as Marc Francois also stressed if it did not go, ‘we will not let matters rest there’.

I thought this was what the ERG wanted? They did not want a physical border on the island of Ireland. They also voted for the Brexit deal, they campaigned a General Election on a manifesto committed to that deal and then voted for the free trade agreement including the Northern Ireland protocol that now just under two months later they want rid. As Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louisa Haigh reminded them, “The ERG – and this cannot be stressed enough – voted for this. This was the deal they demanded, for the Brexit they chose. Now they would rather tear things down, and provoke further instability, than show even a hint of responsibility.’

We are therefore urging you to consider a ban on the importation of bottled water products from the EU. This could all be replaced with domestic products and would also have significant environmental benefits.'

Andrew Bridgen (MP for North West Leicestershire), 27th February

The Brexiteers was one of 12 signatories to a letter sent to Sir David Frost urging him to respond to the EU not allowing the importation of shellfish from the UK after Brexit. The other signatories include Steve Baker, Michael Fabricant, Peter Bone, Phillip Hollobone and Philip Davies but it is Bridgen being attributed with the quote from the letter as he is the first signatory on it and he shared the contents of the letter to his Twitter feed. They urged Sir Frost to consider banning the importation of…bottled water.

Is that going to make a difference? What difference will an import ban on bottled water make for the people involved in the shellfish industry that has been so heavily impacted?

On another point, he seems to forget that the only reason the EU have not been taking the UK ‘on trust’ as they argue in the letter is because the UK is now no longer a member of the single market and customs union. That is something Mr Bridgen and the rest of the ERG argued passionately for. Now they have got what they wanted and they seem unhappy with the consequences. Might I suggest they start to own it?

'No, I don’t think he should – that’s a union doing their best for their members and you can’t blame them but 12.5% is far in excess of being realistic and certainly one for the fairies.'

Karl McCartney (MP for Lincoln), 28th February

Karl McCartney makes his A Tory Said What debut with this comment made on BBC Politics North. Is Lincoln even in the North? It’s below the traditional north-south divide but ok.

Anyway, he was responding to calls from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) for a 12.5% pay rise. His response is dismissive and almost insultingly labelling it as ‘one for the fairies’. These nurses have been our heroes during the past year in battling the pandemic and this is the thanks they get? They have experienced a £6,144 pay cut in real terms in the past 10 years. In other words, their pay does not go anywhere near what it did 10 years ago as they have failed to keep up with the rate of inflation (ROF) and now pay-rises are dismissed as ‘for the faires’.

In the same period, MPs have had 8 pay rises and the heroes who have kept the health service running the unprecedented last 12 months? They are not set to get any pay rise at all in the budget. It was a nice gesture of appreciation at the time, but they deserve more than our applause on a doorstep on a Thursday night for 8 weeks

That is why I talk about levelling with people about the public finances and our plans to address them. All of us as Conservative MPs … are elected by the British people because people trust us with the nation’s public finances, they trust us with their money, they trust us to run the economy responsibly

Rishi Sunak (MP for Richmond-Yorkshire and Chancellor of the Exchequer), 28th February

With the budget just a few days away, it was Chancellor Rishi Sunak who had the media rounds on Sunday. The Chancellor made these comments in his interview with Andrew Marr on The Marr Show. Other than that, he largely refused to answer questions on whether he would be raising taxes.

I find the comments slightly amusing because in parts, what they have done over the past year has not been responsible. The support packages have undoubtedly helped businesses and keep people in employment through the furlough scheme. They are not under the microscope here.

What is, is stuff like track and trace and contracts. Why did we spend £22bn on track and trace when the equivalent in Ireland was budgeted for €700m whereas the track and trace apps were respectively costed at £773,000 and £25m for England and Wales. Then there are the dodgy PPE contracts that saw Matt Hancock found to have been acting unlawfully in failing to publish them in time. You can argue they were struggling under the circumstances of the national emergency that has been this pandemic but has every penny been spent wisely? I don’t think so.

As for some of his other questionable claims, I will leave the below Tweet from Lawyer Peter Stefanovic…

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