Scottish Nationalist MP Margaret Ferrier Given 270 Hour Community Service Order

Glasgow Sheriff Court has whacked ex-SNP MP Margaret Ferrier with a 270-hour community payback order for boarding a long-distance train during the pandemic while knowing she had Covid. The MP pleaded guilty last month, having already lost the SNP whip and been sitting as an independent. Given she’s only been given community service, this doesn’t necessarily mean a by-election is on the cards after all...

mdi-timer 13 September 2022 @ 10:53 13 Sep 2022 @ 10:53 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Rishi on Lockdown: “I Wasn’t Allowed to Talk About the Trade-Off”

Rishi Sunak has finally managed to grab the agenda during the leadership race, and finally not for a u-turn or a strategic cock up.  Interviewed in The Spectator Sunak argues SAGE made bad predictions based on botched modelling and No. 10 never allowed a debate to be had on the cost-benefit of lockdown measures – particularly on closing schools. A culture of fear was decided on by the top of government and their scientific advisors, which was then set in stone. “Dissenting voices were filtered out and a see-no-evil policy was applied.”

While lockdown was known to be “by necessity, a gamble”, Rishi, echoing Steve Baker, says cost-benefit analyses were never made:

“I wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off,’ says Sunak. ‘The script was not to ever acknowledge them. The script was: oh, there’s no trade-off, because doing this for our health is good for the economy.”

The main problem, he appears to diagnose, was in elevating SAGE to “a committee that had the power to decide whether the country would lock down or not.” The problem was even more concentrated than the entire SAGE committee, however. Rishi observes that, whoever wrote their meetings’ minutes – deciding what discussions and facts to include – was essentially setting the nation’s entire public health policy.

“For a year, UK government policy – and the fate of millions –was being decided by half-explained graphs cooked up by outside academics.”

Rishi concludes “This is the problem… If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed… We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did.” He concludes had we not done so, and had we acknowledged trade-offs from the beginning “we could be in a very different place… it could have been shorter. Different.  Quicker.”

He doesn’t name names when accusing fellow cabinet colleagues of not speaking out, which is probably why those in the know aren’t calling him out for rose-tinted hindsight. Guido asked a source close to discussions happening around the first lockdown, who said the above is indeed what Sunak was saying internally at the time.  The source also agreed with the problem of giving unelected officials so much power in deciding what ministers saw and what options they were given:

“There were often times the officials would do a “pre-meeting”, decide what they wanted to push through, then ram it through in the main meeting with the PM/ministers”

This process wasn’t helped when, on occasion, ministers would go into the key Covid meeting and be handed a set of 100 papers by officials, with no chance of being able to ingest them before a decision was taken. Guido can barely wait for tonight’s Julia Hartley-Brewer-hosted husting in East Anglia…

Read the full account on the Spectator here.

mdi-timer 25 August 2022 @ 09:08 25 Aug 2022 @ 09:08 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Ashworth Gets F in Lockdown History

Now that Nadhim Zahawi has said the government made “a mistake” in closing schools during the pandemic, the Labour frontbench is confused over how to oppose them given their own record throughout the last two years. Appearing on Sunday Morning, Ashworth was asked whether, in hindsight, he agrees with Zahawi that schools should have stayed open throughout the lockdowns:

“We were always very clear that school closures had to be absolutely the last resort. We never wanted to see schools closed… we always wanted schools to stay open where they could.”

A brief history lesson for Jon: just hours before the third January 2021 lockdown was introduced, Sir Keir told both Sky and ITV in January 2021 that while school closures “should be a last resort”, it was “inevitable” that they would and “[their] closure should be part of the national restrictions… as soon as possible”. For Sir Keir, that meant primary schools too.

Both Ashworth and Starmer claimed closures should be a last resort, yet now the dust has settled, the party doesn’t seem willing to say if they made the right call – especially during the third lockdown. Zahawi’s admitted he thinks it was a mistake. What does Starmer think?

mdi-timer 28 March 2022 @ 10:57 28 Mar 2022 @ 10:57 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Roll Call: Who Opposed Restrictions Yesterday?

Following yesterday’s three-hour Cabinet meeting that decided nothing, details are now emerging of who opposed and supported the SAGE-desired lockdown. The Times and Telegraph have the most comprehensive write-ups, reporting Rishi, Steve Barclay and Grant Shapps were those leading the sceptics’ charge. The Times reports Jacob Rees-Mogg had a prolonged argument with Vallance about their modelling, telling Boris to trust the people rather than the scientists. Truss, Kwarteng, Alister Jack, Nadhim Zahawi and Nigel Adams are all also reportedly sceptical about the threat of Omicron…

On the other side of the divide backing restrictions, according to The Telegraphare (unsurprisingly) Javid and Gove; Nadine Dorries and Chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke. We can only presume the PM also errs towards this group. There’s set to be one more Cabinet before Christmas day that could still decide to recall MPs before New Year. The one Cabinet meeting it could be acceptable to have wine and cheese at…

mdi-timer 21 December 2021 @ 08:57 21 Dec 2021 @ 08:57 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Cabinet Secretary’s Office Hosted Christmas Parties Last December

Earlier this week, we were told to expect the findings of the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s Downing Street party investigation today – that’s now been pushed back. On the media round this morning, Oliver Dowden boldly said the investigation will “vindicate” the PM. Guido questions how Simon Case can credibly be expected to conclude anything different, given according to widespread rumours, now confirmed to Guido by a source who attended them, parties were held in Case’s own 70 Whitehall office on two occasions last December. You read that correctly…

Rumours of such an event have been doing the rounds in SW1. According to the whistleblower the party on December 17th was planned and organised in advance by staff in Case’s Private Office, it featured copious booze and music. While Case wasn’t actively participating, they claim to have spotted the Cabinet Secretary sticking his head into the room to call staff out at various points during the party to talk with them. The source remembers “at least 15 people including his actual office people in the room”…

A second event last December also saw staff drinking in Case’s office before departing for drinks elsewhere. Both events took place in the days before the notorious party of December 18th in Downing Street – now under investigation– as revealed by The Mirror. If Case expands his inquiry to cover these ‘gatherings’, Guido can’t imagine it’ll take very long to gather the facts.

Guido doesn’t doubt Oliver Dowden’s forecast that Case’s investigation will “vindicate” the Prime Minister will come true. While any findings will be made public, the names of those involved and potentially sanctioned won’t be. Slaps on the wrists all round.

The press has been solemnly briefed that Civil Servants have had to comply with the investigation and hand over their phones. It should, however, be noted that they’ve only given over work phones – not private mobiles more likely to include party photos, calendar entries or WhatsApps. Guido has been told only senior Civil Servants are being asked to hand over personal phones, and they are unlikely to have been involved in the practical organisation of the parties or the sending of invites. Case’s investigation has all the hallmarks of a classic Civil Service sham inquiry, which will surely lead to calls from the opposition for the PM to hand it over to someone truly independent. Or at least to someone who wasn’t illegally hosting parties last December…

UPDATE: Rayner responds to the allegations, now also followed up by a joint Politico/Independent investigation:

“Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has set the tone for the civil service and the rest of government. 

“Which each new revelation there is growing evidence of a culture of turning a blind eye to the rules.

“Labour made it clear when the investigation was launched that the person in charge should be uncompromised and able to make a fair and independent judgement. These fresh revelations put that into question.”

mdi-timer 17 December 2021 @ 12:35 17 Dec 2021 @ 12:35 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Germany Announces Lockdown for Unvaccinated

Germany is set to introduce a full, nationwide lockdown for all unvaccinated citizens as of this afternoon, with masks also reintroduced in schools and nightclubs shut down for everyone – including the double-jabbed – in areas with the highest infection levels. Which means Germany now joins Austria and the Netherlands in pushing forward with Christmas lockdowns…

Merkel and her incoming successor Olaf Scholz have met with regional leaders to thrash out the details, with the unvaxxed to be banned from virtually all hospitality venues, including restaurants, pubs, and non-essential shops. Vaccines will also become mandatory for all from February. Meanwhile Ursula von der Leyen continues mulling EU-wide mandatory vaccinations…

mdi-timer 2 December 2021 @ 14:07 2 Dec 2021 @ 14:07 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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