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CRAIG BROWN: The news you missed in lockdown (Part I) – how sausage rolls can save the nation!


■ Just a few weeks after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced plans to foster and inspire a shared commitment to caring and wellbeing in the global community, the Princess Royal announced a pioneering Stuff & Nonsense Foundation.

Over a hot cup of tea and a cold sausage roll in a village hall, she declared that the Foundation would dedicate itself to telling people to buck up, think for themselves, put their best foot forward, get a move on and, for goodness’ sake, stop that wretched whining.

■ In June, it was announced that former prime ministers and Cabinet ministers including Theresa May and Gordon Brown would be paid hundreds of thousands of pounds not to fly around the world making speeches. 

Over a hot cup of tea and a cold sausage roll in a village hall, the Princess Royal announced a pioneering Stuff & Nonsense Foundation that would dedicate itself to telling people to buck up

Over a hot cup of tea and a cold sausage roll in a village hall, the Princess Royal announced a pioneering Stuff & Nonsense Foundation that would dedicate itself to telling people to buck up

‘At the end of a business conference, there’s nothing more dreary than having to sit through a long, pompous address by someone who used to be in power, going on and on about how they weren’t to blame,’ said the chairman of MFWL (Muzzles for Former World Leaders). ‘So we raise money to pay them to stay at home.’

So far this year, MFWL has produced spectacular results, raising £500,000 to persuade former PM Tony Blair not to speak at a VIP gathering in Washington, and ‘somewhere in the region’ of £30,000 to stop former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne from speaking at a business conference in Zurich. 

‘These are early days,’ said a spokesman. ‘But within the next few decades, our aim is to make long, self-regarding speeches by forgotten world leaders a thing of the past.’

■ In July, the latest report from the IBO (Institute for the Bleeding Obvious) revealed that up to 95 per cent of people who venture outdoors in freezing temperatures wearing only T-shirts and shorts become either ‘very cold’ or ‘extremely chilly’. 

But in warm weather, these figures have been shown to decrease dramatically. 

‘It’s too early to say exactly why,’ said an IBO spokesman. ‘But it looks as though it might have something to do with the human body requiring more clothes in colder conditions.’ 

Vera Kardashian, 37, a previously unknown member of the Kardashian family is a school librarian who favours an old cardigan, a mid-length skirt and sensible shoes. Pictured: Kim Kardashian

Vera Kardashian, 37, a previously unknown member of the Kardashian family is a school librarian who favours an old cardigan, a mid-length skirt and sensible shoes. Pictured: Kim Kardashian

■ Last month, social historians announced the shock discovery of a previously unknown member of the Kardashian family. 

Vera Kardashian, 37, is a school librarian who favours an old cardigan, a mid-length skirt and sensible shoes. She claims she has never felt the need for plastic surgery or Botox; her favourite pastime is spending a quiet night in.  

Other members of the Kardashian family are greatly upset. 

‘Vera’s got no right to destroy the family brand like this. She’s nothing more than a cheap little non-publicity seeker,’ they chorused.

■ TV historian Lucy Worsley revealed that she sometimes walks along the street without her usual bonnet, ballgown and shepherdess’s crook.

‘I find it very uncomfortable to walk around in an ordinary dress or jeans, but it’s a brilliant disguise and guarantees no one ever recognises me!’ she said, before pulling on her long silk gloves and tiara and stepping into her Regency carriage.

Following his speech condemning gossip Pope Francis turned to the assembled worshippers and whispered: ‘Don’t tell the Cardinals I said that. You know what they’re like. They’ll start spreading vicious rumours about me.'

Following his speech condemning gossip Pope Francis turned to the assembled worshippers and whispered: ‘Don’t tell the Cardinals I said that. You know what they’re like. They’ll start spreading vicious rumours about me.’

■ Alexa, the well-known presenter of the cloud-based, interactive speaker system, announced that after five ‘wonderful years’ with Amazon, she had decided to step down.

‘It was a full-time job. I had to be up 24/7 answering people’s requests to play The Bee Gees, Abba and Taylor Swift. Often, they would swear at me if I misheard, or said I couldn’t understand. After a few years, the abuse takes it out of you.’

Alexa has moved on to a top post at a rail company, taking on the role of advising passengers every few seconds to ‘See It. Say it. Sorted.’ ‘It’s a great new challenge, and a lot less demanding’, she said.

■ Having made an important speech condemning gossip as ‘worse than Covid’, Pope Francis turned to the assembled worshippers and whispered. 

‘But whatever you do, don’t tell the Cardinals I said that. You know what they’re like. They’ll start spreading vicious rumours about me. How do I know? Well, exactly the same thing happened to a friend of a friend. But breathe not a word.’

■ A statue of Queen Boadicea sitting astride a horse in the town of Umbrage was pulled down by protesters. 

They claimed that the horse in question had a long and distressing record of parading around the countryside naked, as well as making unwanted passes at other horses.



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SIR JOHN BELL: We cannot live in terror cut off from the world. We MUST get Britain open again


Britain urgently needs to shift its mindset from a terror of the Covid-19 virus to focus on the damage already done to our economy – and the worse that is yet to come.

The spike in infections reported in the past few days was to be expected as life slowly returns to our streets and workplaces.

They are concerning and, yes, we must be prepared for a second wave of Covid-19 while working hard to contain localised outbreaks to prevent it.

We must not, however, let this hamper our efforts to return to normality.

Much of the increase in infections is among the young, who tend to experience moderate or no symptoms. Crucially, we have not yet seen a jump in hospital admissions or deaths.

The spike in infections reported in the past few days was to be expected as life slowly returns to our streets and workplaces. Pictured: A deserted Heathrow Airport last week

The spike in infections reported in the past few days was to be expected as life slowly returns to our streets and workplaces. Pictured: A deserted Heathrow Airport last week

As summer turns to autumn, cases will continue to rise and clearly, university towns face potential dangers as thousands of new students start the next phase of their education and others resume their studies.

But how good it will be to see them back in the libraries and laboratories – just as it was magnificent to see our children returning to school last week.

Now we need to get more people back on public transport, and into offices, back into coffee shops and sandwich bars and shopping malls.

We need to claim back our old lives – lives in which we took for granted trips to the cinema, to the theatre and to concert halls.

And, of course, we need to get our hospitals back firing on all cylinders, detecting and treating the cancers and cardiac diseases that did not go away just because Covid-19 was dominating the news.

Tens of thousands of people have missed out on tests and treatments and we must remedy that as best we can.

Much of the increase in infections is among the young, who tend to experience moderate or no symptoms. Crucially, we have not yet seen a jump in hospital admissions or deaths. Pictured: a man wearing a face mask and gloves passes a recently re-opened Pret-A-Manger shop in London

Much of the increase in infections is among the young, who tend to experience moderate or no symptoms. Crucially, we have not yet seen a jump in hospital admissions or deaths. Pictured: a man wearing a face mask and gloves passes a recently re-opened Pret-A-Manger shop in London

This is why I unambiguously support the Daily Mail’s campaign to get Britain’s economy rolling – and especially to get airports open again.

And, as the Mail reports today, at last the Government seems to be listening, with plans to slash existing quarantine rules and begin the introduction of a two-test system. 

That is only right. We cannot thrive, we cannot live our lives in any decent enriching way, if we remain cut off from the world.

Of course, international travel brings increased risk of infection. The Office for National Statistics shows the risk of disease in those who travel is about three times that of those who don’t (0.17 per cent vs 0.05 per cent).

So we must be vigilant as we think our way through to practical solutions. 

Airport testing provides a screen to identify infected people on arrival, with a second test five days later for those who initially test negative.

Beyond testing at airports, there are grounds for further optimism on population testing and our progress in developing a vaccine – both of which are crucial in enabling us to live and prosper with this virus.

Britain has one of the largest testing capacities per capita, but we still need significantly more for two distinct purposes.

First, it is crucial that we are able to diagnose Covid-19 accurately in potentially sick patients, health workers, those in care homes and other vulnerable populations.

For this, the highly sensitive PCR test is the gold standard. The Government’s SAGE committee suggests that using this form of testing on 10 per cent of the population at highest risk could reduce the R number – the reproduction rate of the virus which needs to be below 1 – by a startling 0.4. 

More broadly, how do we best give people the confidence to go to work, to the cinema, go shopping, travel abroad or attend school and university?

We will need tests that are easier to use but less sensitive, and designed to measure whether or not an individual carries a high viral load and is therefore likely to spread the disease to others.  

Those with high levels of virus will need to isolate. Those with very low levels of virus are less likely to spread the disease and as a result pose little threat.

In my work I move between lecture halls, laboratories, and to Whitehall and Westminster. 

I have never shown any Covid-19 symptoms, but because of the nature of my work, I am tested three times a week. Regular testing needs to become the norm for most of the population – and I have no doubt it will. 

We will need tests that are easier to use but less sensitive, and designed to measure whether or not an individual carries a high viral load and is therefore likely to spread the disease to others. Pictured: Heathrow T2's new cover testing facility

We will need tests that are easier to use but less sensitive, and designed to measure whether or not an individual carries a high viral load and is therefore likely to spread the disease to others. Pictured: Heathrow T2’s new cover testing facility

Swabbing of the nose and back of the throat is uncomfortable, but these types of Covid-19 tests will soon be a thing of the past. 

We hope that new consumer tests now being developed, known as Lateral Flow and LAMP tests, can be done at home and give results in minutes – as quick and easy to use as pregnancy tests and, once licensed, available from pharmacies or on Amazon for a few pounds.

These tests are not entirely fool-proof, but they should be good enough to spot potential super-spreaders.

We cannot achieve absolute perfection and safety with any test regime, but regular testing will make managing the infection rate much easier – and restore confidence.

There is also good news on vaccine development. There are now 10,000 people in the UK who have had one or two double doses of a vaccine under development in Oxford, and a further 8,000 are being vaccinated in Brazil, a country which has one of the highest rates of infection.

The outlook is promising, and I believe the trial will be satisfactorily concluded in the next few months.

If the results are positive, there will be a supply of the vaccine available to start treating vulnerable groups once regulatory approval occurs. Indeed, it is quite possible we will get the green light for manufacture within six weeks.

This would be the ultimate game changer. But it will take time to vaccinate larger populations, whole cities for example, so we need flexible testing in place too.

Nor should we forget how much more we now know about Covid-19 and how to treat it. In the early days we over-treated patients, and put too many of them on oxygen and ventilators.

A discovery by the Oxford team that the cheap, widely available steroid, dexamethasone, reduces Covid mortality rates by 30 per cent was a huge advance, and will end up saving an estimated 1.3 million lives worldwide.

We have to remove or reduce fear of the virus so we can focus on the other essential parts of our recovery from the pandemic.

Above all, we must avoid another national lockdown and get the economy back on track and fast.

After all, how else will we pay for the NHS, and for the university and hospital laboratories where the scientific fightback against Covid is being waged?



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Leading Swedish MEP CHARLIE WEIMERS reveals why he is fed up with Monsieur Barnier


When Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, sits down to resume Brexit negotiations with his British counterpart David Frost today, let’s hope he has learned his lesson.

From the moment Britain voted for Brexit more than four years ago, Brussels became enveloped by an emotionally charged thunderstorm — with Mr Barnier as its overzealous lightning bolt.

Yet last week, even those European MEPs who thought that they had seen it all — myself included — were astounded by Barnier’s latest incendiary salvo.

Insisting that Britain will never be handed full sovereignty of its fishing waters, Barnier suggested that while Britain will have control of its coastal waters, ‘the fish which are inside those waters’ is ‘another story’.

From the moment Britain voted for Brexit more than four years ago, Brussels became enveloped by an emotionally charged thunderstorm says Charlie Weimer (pictured)

From the moment Britain voted for Brexit more than four years ago, Brussels became enveloped by an emotionally charged thunderstorm says Charlie Weimer (pictured)

Petulance

Of course, as every MEP knows, one of the most politically charged issues in Britain is access to its fishing waters. 

How else can we explain the stinging ultimatum laid down by Boris Johnson yesterday, itself no doubt a response to Barnier’s intransigence?

In no uncertain words, Mr Johnson reiterated that Britain is ‘preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for’ a ‘trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s’.

Certainly it was a bold, no-nonsense act of statesmanship designed to reassure his citizens on the eve of crucial negotiations. 

But one has to wonder whether it would have been needed had Barnier prioritised political compromises that could have enabled a deal over making such unhelpful remarks.

Whatever the truth, his petulance lends justification to rumours circulating among EU diplomats that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to sideline him and take control of the negotiators herself.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the prospect of such a move would enrage anti-federalist MEPs such as myself. 

And yet, having watched how Barnier’s arsenal of aggressive tactics have failed to break the current impasse, it has become increasingly clear that he simply isn’t up to the job. 

After all, the role of the EU’s chief negotiator is not to play politics but to work towards an agreement with the United Kingdom — the European Union’s most important trading partner, on a par with the United States and China.

For the truth is that Brexit and the outcome of the ongoing negotiations are politically sensitive subjects. 

Livelihoods on both sides of the Channel are at stake, and macho bluster simply isn’t going to cut it.

Indeed, it’s hardly surprising that a resolution is yet to be reached when the EU has put so much effort into trying to impose its own regulations on the UK.

Take the example of state aid — the use of public money to give financial assistance to organisations and companies — a tool which Downing Street hopes to utilise to subsidise new industries after Brexit and, together with Britain’s fisheries, is seen as the key remaining obstacle to a deal.

At the moment, the EU’s intransigent negotiating team maintains that Britain can only enjoy a fruitful access to its market if it pledges to remain aligned to the bloc’s rules on state aid.

On paper, that may seem like a technical problem, but ultimately what this negotiation comes down to is something more fundamental — trust. 

In this case, the EU’s failure to trust the UK to distribute state aid in a responsible manner.

Of course, this overlooks the fact that if there is one area where the birthplace of Western-European democracy should be trusted, it is in its institutional framework.

On a practical level, too, fears that the UK would suddenly dish out massive handouts of state aid are misplaced.

Let’s not forget that in 2018, Britain spent only half as much on state aid as the average EU country. 

And that’s before the Covid pandemic drove European countries to inject monstrous amounts of government cash into the private sector.  

Germany alone splashed out almost twice as much state money as the UK.

Indeed, if anyone has grounds to be suspicious about the unfair use of state aid, it’s Britain.

Undoubtedly aware of this, yesterday the EU shifted its disdain for Britain’s handling of its departure to focus on the leaked text of a proposed Internal Market Bill due to be published tomorrow.

In essence, Prime Minister Johnson’s Bill would override two sections of the Withdrawal Agreement first negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May: those on state aid and customs in Northern Ireland.

Torpedo

Like clockwork, President von der Leyen warned that if the Bill is passed, it could torpedo any hope of a post-Brexit trade deal, despite the fact that the draft legislation hasn’t even been published.

Predictably, Barnier weighed in, too, claiming in a grandiose fashion that the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement was a ‘prerequisite for peace since the end of the [Irish] conflict’.

Of course, we still need to see the detail of the Bill before making a judgment, though I strongly suspect that these accusations are overblown.

Even so, this episode has revealed the EU’s knee-jerk approach to these negotiations. 

Put to one side the fact that a number of EU member states fail to accurately implement the bloc’s many protocols. 

Far more concerning is how it is symptomatic of the EU negotiators’ reluctance to accept that, whether it likes it or not, the UK is going to become a sovereign nation at the end of the year.

When Michel Barnier (pictured), the EU's chief negotiator, sits down to resume Brexit negotiations with his British counterpart David Frost today, let's hope he has learned his lesson

When Michel Barnier (pictured), the EU’s chief negotiator, sits down to resume Brexit negotiations with his British counterpart David Frost today, let’s hope he has learned his lesson

For, crucially, Brexit needn’t be bad news for the EU.

Indeed, if the Covid crisis has taught us anything, it’s that doing things differently on an international scale can be useful. We can learn from each other’s successes and failures.

Understandably, it is hard for Brussels to accept that in areas such as financial services, the UK Government is likely to prefer to go its own regulatory way.

Damaging

Yet given it has become clear that there will be many occasions where the UK Government chooses not to deviate from certain EU technical standards, such as in car manufacturing, it is simply not reasonable for the likes of Barnier to dismiss Britain outright.

For that is precisely what Brussels’ chief negotiator and his acolytes have been relentlessly doing — even though the EU’s trade arrangement with Switzerland, which does not treat services and goods equally, proves that Barnier’s claims about flexibility endangering the single market are farcical.

It also forgets that restricting EU market access for UK-based companies could end up damaging Europe, not least because its consumers and importers will be deprived of British business.

Moreover, some of these firms with a large presence in the UK, such as BMW, are actually owned by EU shareholders. 

How would the EU benefit from seeing its supply chain disrupted?

And that’s before you factor in the debilitating impact that restricting financial investment from the City of London into the EU would have on mainland Europe’s post-Covid recovery.

And so as Michel Barnier sits down today at the negotiating table, he would do well to wake up to a cold hard fact: the Brexit clock is ticking — and Britain and Europe’s badly suffering economies simply have no time for political games.

n Charlie Weimers is MEP representing the Sweden Democrats, which is part of European Conservatives and Reformists group.



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RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: If Extinction Rebellion and BLM want power, let them stand for election


The Black Lives Matter movement is planning to select candidates to contest seats at the next General Election.

Makes sense. Judging by that sinister stab-vests-and-balaclavas march through South London recently, BLM already has a paramilitary wing. A political arm is the logical conclusion.

It will be called the Taking The Initiative Party, or TTIP for short. No doubt it will quickly become known as the Taking The Knee Party, TTKP. (Mail reader Graham Whitmore emails to suggest that TTPP might be more appropriate. Work it out for yourself. I couldn’t possibly comment.)

Sarcasm aside, this development should be welcomed by everyone who favours the democratic process over violent intimidation.

Peaceful persuasion is always preferable to criminal damage and kicking coppers.

Mind you, direct action seems to be serving BLM quite well for now. They’ve already got the Government, most of the political class, the universities, the police, professional sport, big business and the broadcast media on the run.

Statues are being toppled, streets renamed, curriculums ‘decolonised’, civil servants sent on ‘unconscious bias’ courses. No one voted for any of this, but the Establishment caved in regardless.

Still, if BLM are now prepared to embrace the ballot box they should be encouraged. We’ve had more than enough mayhem on our streets lately. Let’s hope the Extinction Rebellion headbangers get the message, too.

Over the weekend, they laid siege to printing plants, stopping the distribution of national newspapers, while the petrified police stood back and watched — in Hertfordshire, at least.

Extinction Rebellion protesters sitting outside The Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square, Westminster, London, September 1

Extinction Rebellion protesters sitting outside The Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square, Westminster, London, September 1

For six long hours, Herts Plod allowed XR to erect bamboo barriers and glue themselves to the road outside the plant at Broxbourne. They saw their job as not to protect private property, or keep the public highway open, but to facilitate protest.

The assistant chief constable merely expressed disappointment that the demonstrators hadn’t ‘co-operated’ with the cops when officers attempted to negotiate with them. Since a serious criminal act was being committed before their very eyes, what was there to negotiate?

Next time a gang of blaggers, armed with sawn-off Purdeys, robs a bank in Hertford — if they can find one still open — no doubt the Old Bill will give them six hours to make their getaway before opening ‘negotiations’ to retrieve the money. Or share it out on a fair and equitable basis.

At least the Met have raised their game. Not that they could have lowered it any further, after skateboarding with XR protesters bringing chaos to London last summer and looking on as a pink yacht blocked Oxford Circus for five days.

This time, they’ve been handing out £10,000 on-the-spot fines. How many protesters do the politicians think are going to cough up ten grand? Correct, none. And when they are brought before the courts, they will inevitably be released immediately.

The truth is that neither XR, nor BLM, needs to put up candidates for election. MPs are only too happy to comply with their demands, no matter how extreme, rather than be damned as RAY-CISTS! or ‘climate-change deniers’.

Look at the way they all fawned over that preposterous Greta child. And remember Labour leader Max Headroom and his daft deputy being photographed ‘taking the knee’ in deference to Black Lives Matter?

Meanwhile, the rest of us can only look on in bemusement, with mounting frustration and anger as our history is torn down and energy policy is rewritten to appease the ‘climate emergency’ alarmists.

We all want racial harmony and a cleaner, greener planet. But we don’t recognise the deliberately distorted portrait of our tolerant country as a racist hell-hole. Nor do we believe further shutting down our already Covid-crippled economy and taking us back to a romanticised agrarian age is the best way to save the polar bears.

Britain has strict laws against discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, colour and sexual orientation. Parliament has enthusiastically passed some of the world’s toughest targets for cutting greenhouse gases. You can never appease the wilder fringes of XR and BLM. They’ll only keep coming back for more. 

Nevertheless, we should applaud any move which subjects them to democratic scrutiny and accountability. That way we would soon gather a reliable measure of their actual support. It’s instructive that the plan to put up BLM Parliamentary candidates was announced at the so-called Million People March — attended by, er, three to four hundred protesters, many of them white.

Britain has strict laws against discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, colour and sexual orientation. Parliament has enthusiastically passed some of the world¿s toughest targets for cutting greenhouse gases. You can never appease the wilder fringes of XR and BLM. They¿ll only keep coming back for more

Britain has strict laws against discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, colour and sexual orientation. Parliament has enthusiastically passed some of the world’s toughest targets for cutting greenhouse gases. You can never appease the wilder fringes of XR and BLM. They’ll only keep coming back for more

Similarly, the number of hardline XR demonstrators outside printing plants this weekend could be numbered in dozens, not the thousands who turned out at the height of summer. Perhaps we have passed the high watermark of both movements, especially now the weather is about to take a turn for the worse.

Anyway, XR doesn’t need to go down the Parliamentary route. It’s already got a political party, the Greens, which has a grand total of one MP. At the last General Election, Corbyn’s Labour supported every single demand of both Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter. And we know how that ended — with Labour’s worst defeat since the 1930s.

It has become de rigueur to portray both XR and BLM as sincere, peaceful organisations ‘hijacked’ by the Far Left. As proven by a cursory glance at their stated aims, from defunding the police to smashing capitalism, nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite the publicity their antics attract, they are about as representative of public opinion as the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Yes, plenty of well-meaning, decent people, concerned about genuine racism and the environment, have rallied to their banners. But XR and BLM haven’t been hijacked by the Far Left. They are the Far Left — controlled by the same anarchists, communists and Toytown Trots behind every single agitprop gang of wreckers since the Seventies.

They don’t want to change society, they want to destroy it. Which is why they take to the streets, commit criminal damage and attempt to strangle free speech.

So, when push comes to shove, I wouldn’t put money on either of them putting up legitimate Parliamentary candidates.

They know full well that if they were ever to stand for election, they would not only lose their deposits, they’d lose whatever dwindling credibility they once had.

Don¿t watch that, watch this! Loved the picture of Boris bouncing up and down on the spot. I haven¿t seen dancing like that since the House Of Fun video. Still, Nutty Boy Boris will have to be careful. I know he¿s got a personal trainer, but unless he sheds a bit more timber, he could end up One Step Beyond. It won¿t be Suggs from Madness he emulates, it¿ll be another old ska stomper. Buster Bloodvessel.

Don’t watch that, watch this! Loved the picture of Boris bouncing up and down on the spot. I haven’t seen dancing like that since the House Of Fun video. Still, Nutty Boy Boris will have to be careful. I know he’s got a personal trainer, but unless he sheds a bit more timber, he could end up One Step Beyond. It won’t be Suggs from Madness he emulates, it’ll be another old ska stomper. Buster Bloodvessel.

Parliament is spending seven grand on training MPs in ‘woke-friendly history’ and avoiding ‘offensive’ language. The lessons will be conducted by consultant Femi Otitoju and a giant Muppet-style blue puppet.

You couldn’t make it up.

Maybe it’s time to hand over the Government to the cast of The Muppet Show? We’ve already got Bozzie Bear in No 10. Why not Fozzie Bear instead?

Prof Bunsen Honeydew could take over as Chief Medical Officer. He even looks a bit like Chris Whitty. And throughout the Covid crisis, ministers appear to have been taking scientific advice from Bunsen’s lab assistant, Beaker.

Gonzo and Animal couldn’t do any worse than Grant Shapps and Matt Hancock at Transport and Health. Priti Flamingo talks a good game, but surely the Home Office is tailor-made for Miss Piggy. She’d sort out the Old Bill with a single karate chop.

We could send Statler and Waldorf to the Lords.

And Kermit the Frog would be perfect for Environment. After all, Kermit knows it’s not easy being green.



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DOMINIC LAWSON: Free speech, fake science – and why we must take the fight to the climate zealots


As I write this column, I do so without knowing if all those who regularly purchase the Daily Mail from their newsagents will be allowed to buy the edition in which it appears.

That infringement of their — your — liberty is the purpose of Extinction Rebellion, a small-ish but increasingly influential group of middle-class climate change protesters who want to silence anyone or any organisation that doesn’t share their hysterical view that the planet and its inhabitants will fry to fossil-fuelled extinction within a decade or two unless we return immediately to a form of pre-industrial subsistence.

That, ostensibly, is why they had been blockading the print sites of most of our national newspapers.

Their belief is not based on science but is quasi-religious: they regard any provider of information which does not conform to their strictures as wicked and to be silenced (if they refuse to be converted), rather in the same way that the Spanish Inquisition treated heretics.

Extinction Rebellion are pictured blockading Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday

Extinction Rebellion are pictured blockading Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday

One of its founders and still an active member, Roger Hallam, went even further, declaring that ‘maybe we should put a bullet in the head’ as ‘punishment’ for those he deems responsible for this alleged impending planetary extinction. 

Intimidate

Although it was the bulk of the newspaper industry that his group has been attempting to intimidate and shut down this weekend, last year it tried something similar with the BBC, massing outside New Broadcasting House, preventing many of the corporation’s journalists from getting in, while holding up banners with the slogan ‘BBC, your silence is deadly’.

In fact it is Extinction Rebellion which wishes to silence voices it disapproves of; and it was almost comical that it should have targeted the national broadcaster, which has itself taken the decision not to allow airtime to anyone who questions the idea that man-made climate change is the biggest global threat to human health (although the coronavirus pandemic might have caused some inside that organisation to wonder belatedly whether in fact disease might be the true villain).

Sir David Attenborough, still vigorous well into his 90s, is the cutting edge of that BBC campaign. He has declared that ‘we cannot be radical enough’ in our policies to reduce CO2 emissions.

Andrew Neil (left), during XR’s tedious onslaught last year on those attempting to get to work in London, interviewed the movement’s then spokeswoman, Zion Lights (right). Neil asked her to give the scientific basis for her claims that ‘our children are going to die in the next ten to 20 years’

Andrew Neil (left), during XR’s tedious onslaught last year on those attempting to get to work in London, interviewed the movement’s then spokeswoman, Zion Lights (right). Neil asked her to give the scientific basis for her claims that ‘our children are going to die in the next ten to 20 years’

It is even more fabulously ironic that the issue of The Sun newspaper which the Extinction Rebellion blockaders on Friday night fought to prevent reaching the public contained an adoring interview with Sir David about ‘the climate crisis’.

In it, he told his interviewer: ‘We are damaging the environment just by sitting here breathing. The carbon dioxide going out of this window as a consequence of meeting here is quite significant.’

I would have been tempted to reply: ‘Don’t be silly, Sir David; it isn’t.’ But the nation’s favourite presenter of once ideology-free wildlife documentaries was, as always, treated with uncritical deference.

In a way, the same unwillingness to debate has been both the media’s — and the politicians’ — approach to Extinction Rebellion and its spiritual leader, the precocious Swede Greta Thunberg.

   

More from Dominic Lawson for the Daily Mail…

Yes, the Press is now defending itself robustly against XR’s physical attempts to silence it, yet there has been a peculiar reluctance to challenge the protest group’s claims forensically. Peculiar, because it is not just that their methods are objectionable: so are their arguments.

Perhaps the only time this happened (at least on the BBC) was when Andrew Neil, during XR’s tedious onslaught last year on those attempting to get to work in London, interviewed the movement’s then spokeswoman, Zion Lights.

Neil asked her to give the scientific basis for her claims that ‘our children are going to die in the next ten to 20 years’. After some confused waffle, she responded: ‘The overall issue is that the deaths are going to happen’ — which did not get us much further.

She seemed even more at a loss when Neil responded to her insistence that ‘billions of people will die [as a result of climate change] over the next few decades’: ‘I looked through the report of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and there is no reference to anything of the sort.’

Alas, the BBC have since parted company with Mr Neil, whose critical approach to this matter is not their house style.

As for Ms Lights, she has since left XR … to become an advocate of nuclear power. 

Delusion

In a brave article, she said that she had become aware that this country (or any other developed nation) could not abandon fossil fuels and still keep the lights on without rapid development of nuclear power — the only reliable way of mass-producing energy without emitting CO2.

Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts The Poor, And Fails To Fix The Planet, has been almost entirely ignored in the British media (forget about any BBC interviews with Lomborg)

Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts The Poor, And Fails To Fix The Planet, has been almost entirely ignored in the British media (forget about any BBC interviews with Lomborg)

No amount of wind or solar energy installations can produce energy 24 hours a day, or in absolutely reliable quantities: they are inherently intermittent in their production.

As the late chief scientific adviser to the Government, Professor Sir David MacKay, said a week before he died in 2016: ‘Because my time is thinner and thinner, I should call a spade a spade…

‘There is this appalling delusion people have that we can take this thing [renewables] and we can just scale it up, and if there is a slight issue of it not adding up, then we can just do energy efficiency. Humanity really does need to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics.’

Yet the XR lot regard nuclear power as satanic, not just because of its former connection with weapons production, but also because they shun anything which doesn’t seem to them ‘natural’.

One of Extinction Rebellion's founders and a continued member, Roger Hallam declared ‘maybe we should put a bullet in the head’ as ‘punishment’ for those he deems responsible for this alleged impending planetary extinction

One of Extinction Rebellion’s founders and a continued member, Roger Hallam declared ‘maybe we should put a bullet in the head’ as ‘punishment’ for those he deems responsible for this alleged impending planetary extinction

It seems they would rather mankind died of hunger naturally, than prospered through technological and industrial processes. Or, rather, they take prosperity for granted, without understanding how it was created (perhaps because the great majority of them seem to come from homes which have never known poverty).

Yet our politicians seem cut from the same cloth. When Greta Thunberg came to the UK in April last year, they queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR.

Speaking alongside her in parliament, the then Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘We have not done nearly enough. Greta, you have been heard.’ 

Scared

Indeed, two months later, the Government legislated to make the UK ‘net zero carbon by 2050’ — admittedly 25 years later than XR’s impossible demand. But it had no idea how much this would cost, or how it would be done.

When Greta Thunberg (second from right) came to the UK in April last year, politicians including Michael Gove (far left) queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR

When Greta Thunberg (second from right) came to the UK in April last year, politicians including Michael Gove (far left) queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR

The New Zealand government did carry out such an exercise, and concluded that to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050 would cost 16 per cent of GDP annually. This would equate to £560 billion a year if applied to the UK — equivalent to almost three-quarters of all public expenditure.

Yet this legislation was passed without even a debate, let alone a vote in the House of Commons: it was enacted through a statutory instrument. This could only happen because the overwhelming majority of MPs are too scared to be seen as so-called ‘climate change deniers’.

And they absolutely refuse to engage with such rigorous thinkers as Bjorn Lomborg, the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre think-tank, or Michael Shellenberger (named as a ‘hero of the environment’ by Time Magazine in 2008), both of whom argue that grotesquely excessive resources are being ineffectually dedicated to ‘preventing’ climate change.

So Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts The Poor, And Fails To Fix The Planet, has been almost entirely ignored in the British media (forget about any BBC interviews with Lomborg).

And I believe the Daily Mail is the only British newspaper which has given much space to Shellenberger’s new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All — perhaps the most pertinent of his points being that to move to 100 per cent renewables ‘would require increasing the proportion of land used for energy from today’s 0.5 per cent to 50 per cent’.

The fact that the British political establishment — and the bulk of the media — have ceased even to engage in this debate, on an intellectual level, has left the ground free for Extinction Rebellion to occupy. Really, they didn’t need to try to silence the Press. The intimidation and groupthink has done its work quite thoroughly already.



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ANDREW PIERCE: New BBC boss is gunning for the big shot 


His reign at the BBC began with a headline-grabbing decision — to overturn the ludicrous ban on singing Rule, Britannia at the Last Night Of The Proms — that had the metropolitan luvvies who make up the Beeb hierarchy spluttering into their soya milk lattes last week.

Tim Davie, the new director-general, is also targeting unfunny Leftie woke comedians who get too much air time, and BBC staff who fail the impartiality test in their reporting and presenting.

Now it looks as if Davie’s next big move is a management reshuffle — and I hear that a demotion for James Purnell, a former Cabinet minister under Gordon Brown turned BBC apparatchik, is on the cards.

Tim Davie (pictured) the new director-general, is also targeting unfunny Leftie woke comedians who get too much air time, and BBC staff who fail the impartiality test in their reporting and presenting

Tim Davie (pictured) the new director-general, is also targeting unfunny Leftie woke comedians who get too much air time, and BBC staff who fail the impartiality test in their reporting and presenting

Purnell, who as Director, Radio & Education, is paid an astonishing £315,000, is not sympathetic to Davie, insiders say.

Is it just a coincidence then, that his radio responsibilities have been handed to new Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore?

In truth, it’s yet another humiliation for Purnell. When his name was floated as a contender for director-general, Downing Street — in the form of Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings — let it be known that such an appointment would not be welcome.

If Purnell were to decide that his future with Auntie was somewhat limited and depart, Davie, who unusually for a BBC executive stood to be a Tory councillor in the 1990s, would shed few tears.

Purnell, who as Director, Radio & Education, is paid an astonishing £315,000, is not sympathetic to Davie, insiders say

Purnell, who as Director, Radio & Education, is paid an astonishing £315,000, is not sympathetic to Davie, insiders say

 Kneeling at the feet of Mr Neil

Davie sees Andrew Neil, a forensic political interviewer and scourge of the woke, as key

 Davie sees Andrew Neil, a forensic political interviewer and scourge of the woke, as key

Andrew Neil, whose headline-making, self-titled political show on BBC2 was dropped by bosses this year, recalls a previous defenestration by the Corporation.

‘The moment somebody called Bob Shennan took over Radio 5 he called me to say he didn’t want that sort of probing stuff on a Sunday morning and was canning my breakfast show. 

First and last time I ever heard from him. I think he’s naturally gone on to greater things at the BBC,’ Neil observes acidly.

Indeed. Shennan now pockets a £276,000 salary as BBC Group Managing Director. 

No doubt he’ll be delighted to hear that Tim Davie is desperately trying to woo back Neil as part of his campaign to see off Auntie’s Left-wing bias. 

Davie sees Neil, a forensic political interviewer and scourge of the woke, as key.

Embattled Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is proud of the fact that he’s one of the few Cabinet ministers to have been educated at a comprehensive.

Peter Ashton, who taught Williamson at the school in Scarborough, was asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari what grades he’d give his most notorious pupil now?

‘I’d give him a high grade for effort,’ he said diplomatically. ‘As for attainment, that’s always the difficult one . . .’ 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conducted a series of media interviews last week on the need for people to get back to work in their offices. 

Where did he do the interviews? From home!

Former Tory Cabinet minister Esther McVey, due to marry fellow Tory MP Philip Davies this month, is having to scale down celebrations because of Covid. 

‘You wait 52 years to get married and along comes coronavirus and knocks you off course,’ she says on social media. 

‘I say to Philip, ‘Maybe the big guy in the sky is trying to tell us something.’ 

I also say, ‘Maybe it’s my lucky escape.’ But I’m afraid Philip doesn’t always appreciate my dark humour.’

BBC London presenter Riz Lateef

BBC London presenter Riz Lateef

Why is Boris Johnson so keen that lead BBC London presenter Riz Lateef, right, fronts the Government’s planned televised daily press briefings? 

‘Boris used to flirt with Riz when he was interviewed as London Mayor,’ says a pal. 

‘She was professional but acted as if she was flattered.’ 

Maybe the PM’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, will have some thoughts about that. 

Rory Bremner is not convinced by Boris Johnson’s ringing declaration of support last week for the HS2 high-speed rail link. 

‘In line with current Government policies, HS2 will now run as far as Leamington Spa before making a U-turn and returning to London Euston,’ he says.



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STEPHEN GLOVER: How to beat the eco warrior bullies? Apply the law! 


For those who remember militant trade unionists laying siege to newspaper offices in the 1980s, the scenes outside printing plants in Hertfordshire and on Merseyside on Friday night and Saturday morning brought back bad memories.

Only this time it wasn’t trade unions stifling a free Press by blocking the distribution of newspapers. 

The culprits were Extinction Rebellion activists – usually middle-class types who are uninterested in debate and have no respect for democracy.

Police are pictured outside the printing works in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Indeed, although any attempt to suppress newspapers is chilling because it evokes communist or fascist regimes, interference in the lives of ordinary people is probably worse because of the sheer extent of the disturbance.

Police are pictured outside the printing works in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Indeed, although any attempt to suppress newspapers is chilling because it evokes communist or fascist regimes, interference in the lives of ordinary people is probably worse because of the sheer extent of the disturbance.

How does society cope with such people? The extremists are not peaceful protesters making a point, as is their right. 

They are prepared to bring a great city such as London to a halt, causing inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of blameless individuals.

Indeed, although any attempt to suppress newspapers is chilling because it evokes communist or fascist regimes, interference in the lives of ordinary people is probably worse because of the sheer extent of the disturbance.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) succeeded in April 2019 and again last October in immobilising the nation’s capital. Bridges and roads were blocked, public transport suspended. Other cities suffered similar upheavals, if on a smaller scale.

Together the protests set back the Metropolitan Police at least £37million. Contrast its annual budget of just £15million for a violent crime taskforce operating in London.

How does society cope with such people? The extremists are not peaceful protesters making a point, as is their right

How does society cope with such people? The extremists are not peaceful protesters making a point, as is their right

The financial burden of the disruption on businesses and shops, although impossible to calculate precisely, may have been even greater. One estimate is that just two days of malarkey cost companies in the West End £12million, with footfall and spending down a quarter.

Other protest groups in the fairly recent past such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or the women of Greenham Common seem reasonable, moderate and considerate compared to the often destructive Extinction Rebellion.

So I think the Government is correct to view this organisation, which has apparently been infiltrated by several Far Left groups, as unusually ruthless and dangerous.

But it doesn’t follow that XR should be reclassified as an ‘organised crime group’, as is reportedly one option being contemplated by the Government. The thinking is this would enable the authorities to hand out much more severe sentences.

The trouble is that Extinction Rebellion can’t accurately be described as an organised crime group, which is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as having ‘at its purpose, or one of its purposes, the carrying on of criminal activities’.

However obnoxious some of Extinction Rebellion’s activists may be, and however ready they are to break the law, the organisation as a whole is plainly not engaged in a criminal conspiracy.

To reclassify it in such terms would be to risk making martyrs of its misguided leaders. More seriously still, it might be seen to create a precedent that, when the Government disapproves of people exercising their right of free speech, they can be redesignated as criminals.

No, let’s not treat XR in that way. There is no need to. For there are already enough existing laws in the police’s armoury, if only they had the gumption to apply them.

Unfortunately, on Friday night and Saturday morning the police were slow to act. At the printing plants in Hertfordshire and on Merseyside, they failed to start clearing Extinction Rebellion protesters for more than six hours. 

In the end, there were 80 arrests. Their relaxed attitude recalls the laid-back behaviour of the some of the police during the demonstrations in London last year. Absurdly, officers were filmed raving with protesters, while one policeman was spotted skateboarding on Waterloo Bridge.

Have ordinary police officers gone soft? Or is it just their timorous, politically correct bosses? There is a new tendency to try to make common cause with protesters, as evidenced by officers ‘taking the knee’ in Black Lives Matter demonstrations in June.

No one could be a more enthusiastic believer than I am in the concept of policing by consent, but that does not comprise doing nothing when existing laws are clearly being broken.

Not for the first time, Labour MP and former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was mistaken when she asserted yesterday that blockading newspaper printing plants was a ‘legal tactic’

Not for the first time, Labour MP and former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was mistaken when she asserted yesterday that blockading newspaper printing plants was a ‘legal tactic’

Isn’t obstructing the Queen’s highway against the law? The 1980 Highways Act states that ‘if a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway, he is guilty of an offence’.

What about the law of aggravated trespass? Trespassing while at the same time intentionally obstructing, disrupting or intimidating others from carrying out ‘lawful activities’ is a criminal offence.

Not for the first time, Labour MP and former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was mistaken when she asserted yesterday that blockading newspaper printing plants was a ‘legal tactic’.

In an article in today’s Mail, Home Secretary Priti Patel hints at new laws. There has been speculation that these could protect judges, MPs and even journalists going about their normal business. Well, conceivably, if it proves necessary.

But we should beware of laws aimed at Extinction Rebellion – and certainly avoid treating it as a criminal organisation. Let’s use existing legislation, which safeguards free speech on the one hand, and doesn’t allow bullies to destroy livelihoods on the other.

All we need then is a robust and sensible police force that is determined to enforce the law.



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Extinction Rebellion protestors treat us all with contempt, writes Home Secretary PRITI PATEL


A free press is the cornerstone of British society. 

The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital.

I was disgusted to see over the weekend that this institution, and the values we hold dear as a tolerant and free country, were threatened by Extinction Rebellion because it did not fit with their agenda.

While Extinction Rebellion claim to be an environmental rights campaign group, their actions speak louder than their words, and their continued guerrilla tactics show that they do not believe in peaceful protest – but instead seek to undermine and cause damage to our society, disrupting the hard working individuals who are trying to keep this country moving forwards.

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters use bamboo lock-ons continue to block the road

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters use bamboo lock-ons continue to block the road

Extinction Rebellion environmental activist group (in the picture) maintain the blockade in Broxbourne, Hertfrodshire, throughout Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent the Sun, Times, Telegraph and Mail newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday

Extinction Rebellion environmental activist group (in the picture) maintain the blockade in Broxbourne, Hertfrodshire, throughout Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent the Sun, Times, Telegraph and Mail newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday

'The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital,' says Home Secretary Priti Patel

‘The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital,’ says Home Secretary Priti Patel

Alongside a free press, peaceful protest is a right that is enjoyed by all in this great country, but it is unacceptable for groups to hide behind this while committing criminal acts that prevent the public from going about their day to day lives.

It is not tolerable for groups to attack democracy by claiming they are little more than peaceful protesters.

Last year hundreds of thousands of businesses and commuters were unable to work or travel as the group blocked major transit routes, and police forces had to divert resources to arrest and oversee protests designed, not to send a message, but to cause the most disruption possible.

Donnachadh McCarthy, a columnist for the Independent, has been revealed as of one of around 100 XR activists who took part in the protest

Donnachadh McCarthy, a columnist for the Independent, has been revealed as of one of around 100 XR activists who took part in the protest

It’s even more disgraceful to see these tactics revived at a time when this country faces the grave threat of coronavirus. 

Our brave officers have been on the streets every day doing their bit to keep us safe throughout this pandemic and stop the spread of this deadly disease. 

The actions of these protesters have shown contempt for the police and the British public. 

Not only in thinking they are above the law but also putting additional pressure on our emergency services when we face a threat to public health. 

As Home Secretary I am committed to tackling this head on.

Police forces across the country are manned by fearless individuals who put themselves in danger to keep us all safe.

Yet more and more of their time and valuable resources are spent policing the actions of protesters whose actions have become criminal.

My message to these individuals is clear – as you plot and scheme to curtail our freedoms you are committing criminal acts and be in no doubt you will face the full force of the law. 

You will be punished for your actions. 

So far 80 protesters have been arrested while targeting printing presses for causing a public nuisance and aggravated trespass, while in recent weeks a further 655 arrests have been made by the Metropolitan Police for breaching the Public Order Act.

I am proud of the work the police are doing in enforcing the rule of law, but the figures show that Extinction Rebellion care more about disrupting society than protecting the environment.

Labour's Diane Abbott defended the protest, saying direct action is a 'legal tactic' and adding that it would be 'ridiculous' for the Government to reclassify Extinction Rebellion

Labour’s Diane Abbott defended the protest, saying direct action is a ‘legal tactic’ and adding that it would be ‘ridiculous’ for the Government to reclassify Extinction Rebellion

Dominic Raab slammed Labour's Diane Abbott for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses

Dominic Raab slammed Labour’s Diane Abbott for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses

The Met police have rightly issued 20 fixed penalty notices of £10,000 each, to those who have organised groups of over 30 people congregating and protesting in the capital.

While we are working to get our great country moving again after months of lockdown, as a Government we will not stand by and allow the livelihoods of hard working people to be undermined by a minority acting with contempt, seeking to grind the economic well-being of our nation into the ground under the pretence of tacking climate change.

In addition to providing the most generous funding settlement in a decade and recruiting an additional 20,000 officers, I am committed to ensuring that the police have powers required to tackle the disruption caused by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and I will be looking at every opportunity available, including primary legislation, to ensure that there is a full suite of tools available to tackle this behaviour.

We must defend ourselves against this attack on capitalism, our way of life and ultimately our freedoms.



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PETER HITCHENS: Protest against our new State of Fear is banned


We have ceased to be a parliamentary democracy. There was no military putsch. Nobody passed an Enabling Act allowing rule by decree. 

But the House of Lords and the House of Commons are now the Dead Parrot Parliament.

They are dead because they do nothing to hold the Government to account. 

The most shocking instance of this so far was the £10,000 fine imposed on the eccentric weather forecaster Piers Corbyn (brother of Jeremy) for his part in organising a protest in London

The most shocking instance of this so far was the £10,000 fine imposed on the eccentric weather forecaster Piers Corbyn (brother of Jeremy) for his part in organising a protest in London

They are parrots because, when asked, they obediently confirm decrees Downing Street put into effect, sometimes weeks before. 

We used to jeer that the so-called parliaments of Communist and Fascist states were mere rubber stamps. Well, we cannot jeer now.

The most shocking instance of this so far was the £10,000 fine imposed on the eccentric weather forecaster Piers Corbyn (brother of Jeremy) for his part in organising a protest in London.

That protest has, in my view, been wrongly portrayed as a mass of weirdos and conspiracy theorists. 

No doubt such people, and worse, were there. But many went to it out of a feeling their liberties are fast disappearing under a strange new regime based on fear and panic.

We have ceased to be a parliamentary democracy. There was no military putsch. Nobody passed an Enabling Act allowing rule by decree. But the House of Lords and the House of Commons are now the Dead Parrot Parliament

We have ceased to be a parliamentary democracy. There was no military putsch. Nobody passed an Enabling Act allowing rule by decree. But the House of Lords and the House of Commons are now the Dead Parrot Parliament

The keen-eyed lawyer Matthew Scott, an experienced barrister, is among many neutral observers greatly disturbed by what is happening. You may not like Mr Corbyn, and I have my problems with him, too. 

But he is in a fine and ancient tradition of troublemakers who have endured derision for standing up for what they think is right, so helping to keep us all free. They did not care if they were liked.

But what Mr Scott says is deeply worrying. The regulation used to fine Mr Corbyn – 5b of the Coronavirus Act – ‘was hastily made law the day before the demonstration was held. 

It was introduced under an emergency procedure and was neither debated nor given even the most cursory scrutiny by any parliamentary process.

‘It permits the most junior Community Support Officer in the country to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice to the suspected organiser of a political event, demanding £10,000 to avoid prosecution and consequent financial ruin.

That protest has, in my view, been wrongly portrayed as a mass of weirdos and conspiracy theorists

That protest has, in my view, been wrongly portrayed as a mass of weirdos and conspiracy theorists

‘Given its timing, even if it was not introduced with the purpose of targeting the organisers of a political protest against Government policy, it very much has that appearance.’

So a hugely important law, greatly shrinking the freedom of every Englishman, was made on Friday and used, in my view rather selectively, on Sunday. No Green Paper. No White Paper. 

No First and Second Readings. No Committee Stage. No revision by the Upper House. No wait for Royal Assent. Just wham, thump, down goes the rubber stamp, and you must pay up!

Challenge this in the courts and you could end up with an unlimited fine and, ultimately, prison. 

But there was not even the pretence of a trial, which in my view is a blatant breach of the Bill of Rights of 1689. 

The police just grabbed Mr Corbyn, Belarus-style, and held him for hours before presenting him with an enormous bill.

Yet months of mostly Left-wing protest by Black Lives Matter, or against politically incorrect statues, went by with hardly a whisper of action. For it is one of the features of our new State of Fear that it acts with ferocity against anyone who suggests the fear is misplaced. 

If you refuse to be afraid of a not-very-severe outbreak of disease which is largely over, you’ll have to be afraid of the heavy hand of the law.

The regulation used to fine Mr Corbyn – 5b of the Coronavirus Act – ‘was hastily made law the day before the demonstration was held. Protesters are seen above at the rally

The regulation used to fine Mr Corbyn – 5b of the Coronavirus Act – ‘was hastily made law the day before the demonstration was held. Protesters are seen above at the rally

In my view this would not be much better if Parliament had agreed to it. But it did not. As far back as June, the respected Hansard Society warned that the great majority of Covid-related laws had been passed using a ‘negative’ procedure. 

This means Ministers are effectively issuing decrees. These become law unless Parliament actually finds the courage to vote them down within 40 days.

Where will this end? I cannot say but I think it unwise to wait and see.

In the Australian state of Victoria, whose laws are very much the same as ours, we may view the future. The people of Melbourne are now under a strict curfew and may only leave their homes for a short period each day, following a very small number of Covid deaths.

Last week, a pregnant woman, Zoe Lee-Buhler, living in the nearby town of Miners Rest, was handcuffed in front of her children, after masked police bearing a search warrant burst into her home. Her alleged offence was ‘incitement’ – that is to say supporting a planned anti-lockdown protest on a Facebook posting.

You want this sort of thing here? Then do nothing. If you don’t like it, write to your MPs, asking them what exactly it is they do for their generous salaries and benefits. 

If Ministers can make laws without them, why should we pay them? Keep writing till you get an answer.

Joss is right – there is no evidence over ADHD

Every so often, a public figure says something intelligent about the made-up non-disease ADHD.

On the basis of a vague and unscientific ‘diagnosis’ of this supposed ailment, quite small children are given powerful drugs similar to amphetamines, which would be illegal for adults to buy.

Anyone who attacks this will be hosed down with abuse, but please don’t bother trying this on me, as I am used to it, have researched the whole matter to the bitter end, and don’t care what rude things you say about me.

But I feel a bit for the singer Joss Stone, who last week had a go at the over-medication of our society. ‘Kids will run round and break things and kick things, so they [parents] take their kids to the doctor and they’ll say “Oh well, he’s got ADHD”. It’s a lot of b*******.’

A supposed ‘expert’ is usually called in at this point to denounce the erring celebrity. And so it was. And journalists opined: ‘Medical professionals say ADHD is a neurological disorder.’ Well, they may say that if they wish. But actually it isn’t.

On November 18, 1998, the American National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a ‘consensus conference’ on ADHD to discuss this very issue.

They concluded: ‘We do not have an independent, valid test for ADHD, and there are no data to indicate ADHD is due to a brain malfunction.’ That is pretty clear and no hard experimental evidence has come in since to alter that, as far as I know.

But the really weird bit is that, although originals of that 1998 document, or references to it, can still be found in various places, these key words have vanished from the NIH’s own database.

I have spent some time trying to get an explanation of this from the NIH but I have not been able to get one. Could anyone have an interest in those inconvenient words being hard to find? I couldn’t possibly comment.

How strange it is to watch the new Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White, starring the delightful Holliday Grainger

How strange it is to watch the new Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White, starring the delightful Holliday Grainger

A perfect marriage of talent and truth 

How strange it is to watch the new Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White, starring the delightful Holliday Grainger. 

The plot is all right and the major characters captivating, but the real thrill is the way it portrays a sane world in which people don’t treat each other as toxic threats. 

They even get married in churches and have large receptions, without anti-social distancing and lots of yellow tape.

I predict there’ll soon be a market for nostalgic pre-Covid dramas, showing humans living in a lost civilisation we foolishly threw away and to which we cannot now ever return.

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DAN HODGES: The Left don’t care about Costa staff losing their jobs


It is The Guardian – inevitably – that has been leading the sneers. ‘As millionaires inside and outside of government lean on us to stop working from home, what are we really missing?’ the bible of woke Britain intoned last week. 

‘If you want to feel like you’re in an office again, just wad a packet of wet wipes down your toilet and, at 4pm every Friday, throw away all the milk that’s left in your fridge. That’s all you’re really missing.’

All you’re really missing so long as you’re not one of the 1,600 Costa coffee workers who were told on Friday that they’re about to be dumped on to the dole queue. Or the 3,000 staff of Pret A Manger who were handed their P45s a week earlier.

A Costa Coffee store is pictured above. 1,600 Costa workers were told on Friday they would lose their jobs. As ever, there’s an element of raw snobbery in the glee with which these redundancies have been greeted

A Costa Coffee store is pictured above. 1,600 Costa workers were told on Friday they would lose their jobs. As ever, there’s an element of raw snobbery in the glee with which these redundancies have been greeted

But, hey, as the liberal Left’s edgy new mantra goes: ‘Who wants to die for a Pret sandwich?’

Except it’s not just going to be the baristas and sandwich-makers who feel the pain. 

According to the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) most recent assessment, last month’s perceived recovery on the High Street was a dead-Covid bounce. Britain is now heading for its worst job cuts since the financial crash.

The CBI’s quarterly employment balance – which measures the number of retailers laying off and hiring staff – has dropped to minus 45, down from minus 20 in May.

But liberal Britain couldn’t care less.

The 7,000 job losses at M&S, the 2,500 at Debenhams, the 3,500 at Virgin. All a price worth paying to maintain our new, Covid-secure ‘work-life balance’.

The CBI’s quarterly employment balance – which measures the number of retailers laying off and hiring staff – has dropped to minus 45, down from minus 20 in May. But liberal Britain couldn’t care less. An M&S store is pictured above

The CBI’s quarterly employment balance – which measures the number of retailers laying off and hiring staff – has dropped to minus 45, down from minus 20 in May. But liberal Britain couldn’t care less. An M&S store is pictured above

As ever, there’s an element of raw snobbery in the glee with which these redundancies have been greeted. 

As one MP pointed out to me: ‘The service sector jobs are the wrong sort of jobs. The kids of Guardian leader writers don’t rely on this sort of work. Maybe for a summer job. But that’s it.’

There’s also some not-so-subliminal racism at play. As one Minister said: ‘The problem is a lot of these workers are migrants. So no one gives a s*** about them.’

And, of course, there is the grand conspiracy theory. None of this really matters. UK plc will absorb these losses and adapt. All that’s really at stake are the profits of the big inner-city landlords, who stuff the Tory Party’s coffers with gold. Some of whom – nudge, nudge, wink, wink – are also Russians.

In our Covid-obsessed world, where legitimate concern about a dangerous virus has been lost beneath a form of collective mass hysteria, this tin-foil progressive populism is gaining some traction. 

But it obscures the real agenda behind the thinly veiled rejoicing over the impending collapse of the service-oriented British economy.

In the wake of the financial crash, a new concept – ‘disaster capitalism’ – was on the lips of every liberal academic and commentator. 

The theory posited that this massive shock to the global economic system would be leveraged to open the door to more free-market deregulation and a full-blown assault on social protection.

Now many on the Left see Covid as the opportunity for payback. A chance to unleash ‘disaster socialism’. Or, for the more moderately minded, ‘disaster Milibandism’. 

As The Guardian again helpfully explains: ‘Since the pandemic began, societal changes that were supposed to be impossible have happened with relative ease. Workers were sent home overnight and it now seems that many can do their jobs, if not fully remotely, then at least partially from home.

‘Already, many people are talking of moving away from big cities.’

‘Societal changes that were supposed to be impossible’ is actually code for ‘We’re going to use Covid to take a hammer to capitalism in a way we were prevented from doing by the voters at the 2015 and 2017 and 2019 Elections’.

In the eyes of many on the Left, the new normal can now be Jeremy Corbyn’s normal. 

And if the dole queues have to swell by a few million to usher in this new utopia of home-working and locally sourced latte, so be it.

But to be fair to the liberals, they’re just trying to ensure a good crisis doesn’t go to waste. 

What’s inexplicable is the way Boris Johnson and his Ministers are giving them a free hand to commit their economic and social vandalism. Last week was billed as the week Boris would launch his drive to get Britain back to work. 

Until, at Thursday’s lobby briefing, when the Prime Minister’s spokesman proudly announced: ‘There has never been a back to work campaign.’

Which begs two questions. Why did No 10 brief that there was? And if there’s no such campaign, why the hell isn’t there?

I’m told there are two reasons the campaign was shelved. One was fears within Downing Street that Boris’s plea would simply be ignored. 

‘They were worried he’d make the appeal and the figures would show no one took any notice,’ a Minister reveals. ‘Which is kind of what happened anyway.’

Another is that a survey being undertaken by the Cabinet Office within Government departments has revealed it will take months for them to return to pre-Covid staffing levels.

‘There are officials in No 10 who are only working a three-day week,’ a Minister tells me, ‘and we’re supposed to be telling the country to get back to work?’

At the moment the plan is for the hapless Business Secretary Alok Sharma to be rolled out next week to order the nation to pull its socks up. Which would be fine if the Government didn’t seem so intent on yanking them down again.

Last week it was reported that a wave of tax rises are being considered to ‘pay for the Covid crisis’. 

And as the TUC pointed out, the Government’s own Covid regulations mean even if workers do want to return, only 50 per cent of them can do so because of social distancing restrictions.

The argument of those on the Left embracing ‘disaster socialism’ is that what we are seeing is not just an economic recalibration but a moral reckoning.

The same market forces that consumed Britain’s mining communities and manufacturers are now simply being unleashed as avenging angels on her blue-chip corporations. Which would have some merit if it wasn’t the State that had ordered every business to close, and everyone to stay at home on pain of arrest.

It’s the State that is still ordering British business to make a living while literally keeping its customers at arms’ length.

And it’s the State that’s continuing to maintain the fiction of the sustainability of home-working via the furlough scheme.

At the moment the plan is for the hapless Business Secretary Alok Sharma to be rolled out next week to order the nation to pull its socks up

At the moment the plan is for the hapless Business Secretary Alok Sharma to be rolled out next week to order the nation to pull its socks up

But that scheme will not be in place much longer. And when it goes, many of those basking in the luxury of whether to work from home or the office may come to resemble those pondering which armchair to recline in on the stateroom of the Titanic.

Last week I was in a pub much in favour with the liberal London elite. On the surface it seemed to be flourishing. Then the landlord revealed the truth. ‘Before Covid I was clearing £33,000 a week. Now it’s £11,000.’

It will start with the sandwich shops. Then it will move on to the pubs and restaurants and clubs. Next will be the theatres and cinemas and museums.

And so it will roll down, a slow but steady cascade of insolvency and redundancy.

‘What people don’t understand is there’s a domino effect going on,’ an exasperated Minister explains, ‘and it won’t just stop in Central London. Eventually it will impact everyone.’

The devotees of ‘disaster socialism’ know this. But they don’t care. Aided and abetted by a timid, rudderless Government, they intend to seize their moment and leverage the Covid crisis into the crisis of capitalism that they have craved for so long.

It started with the coffee shops. But if the disaster socialists get their way, that won’t be where it ends.



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