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ANDREW PIERCE: Harry Potter and the curse of the woke fan 


ANDREW PIERCE: Harry Potter and the curse of the woke fan

The BBC has invited a fan of author J.K. Rowling to present a 30-minute Radio 4 documentary called: ‘Can I still read Harry Potter?’

The BBC has invited a fan of author J.K. Rowling to present a 30-minute Radio 4 documentary called: ‘Can I still read Harry Potter?’

Well, all I can say is that if Aja Romano is a real fan of the author, then I’m a dangerously radical Corbynista.

A leading apologist for ‘cancel culture’ (the withdrawal of support for public figures deemed to have been politically incorrect), in June Romano accused Rowling of ‘pernicious hate’ after the author antagonised militants in the trans community by ridiculing an article which used the phrase ‘people who menstruate’.

Indeed, so incensed was Romano that she announced she was removing her Harry Potter books from her shelves.

Romano also finds the Potter books ‘guilty of fat shaming’ and ‘upholding patriarchal structures’, and accused Rowling of ‘repeated examples of bigotry’.

I think we know what Romano’s conclusion will be even before the programme is broadcast later this month.

Perhaps Radio 4 should use licence-fee payers’ money to investigate intolerant extremists behind cancel culture instead.

At a ‘virtual’ rally of the hard-Left group Momentum, Labour MP Diane Abbott paid tribute to her former boyfriend Jeremy Corbyn. Praising his work as a constituency organiser in Hornsey in the 1970s, she said: ‘He laid the basis for Hornsey now being one of the safest Labour seats in London.’

This will be news to Lynne Featherstone, who was the Lib Dem MP for Hornsey between 2005 and 2015.

Jenrick the Generous pays out 

Tory MP Philip Davies is asking Cabinet Ministers to reveal the biggest pay rise in their departments. The Treasury coughed to an £8,000 bump, worth an inflation-busting 7.3 per cent, which was not the result of a promotion.

Dominic Raab’s Foreign Office refused to say for fear of exposing the individual’s identity — so much for open government. It turns out that the place to be for civil servants on the make is Robert Jenrick’s Housing, Communities and Local Government department. It handed out a whopping 21.4 per cent rise for an employee just to continue in the same role.

Who says Jenrick only looks out for billionaire developers?

Labour MP Kevin Brennan has persuaded the Commons culture select committee to conduct an inquiry into the pennies paid to musicians by streaming giant Spotify. But does Brennan have an interest to declare? 

The frontman of Parliamentary band MP4, Brennan pockets £0.004 each time an unsuspecting listener streams a track from their album Cross Party on Spotify.

Perhaps they should learn Abba’s Money Money Money.

Figure of the week — 1,563: The number of days Keir Starmer served in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. On how many did he raise the party’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism? 

Two Tory MPs overheard in the Commons after Labour leader Sir Keir was involved in a prang in his car with a cyclist: ‘At least when Boris does a U-turn no one ends up in hospital.’

Hunt drops himself in the soup 

It probably seemed a good idea when Jeremy Hunt posted a receipt on social media ‘thanking’ the Chancellor for the £50 saving on a ‘delicious’ lunch on his Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

But the move backfired after the former Health Secretary, who made £14 million from the sale of a company two years ago, voted against extending free school meals for needy children out of term time. 

Constituents reacted with fury in letters to his local newspaper the Farnham Herald, with one saying: ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch, Mr Hunt — it’s the British taxpayer footing the bill, not Rishi Sunak, and I for one would rather subsidise hungry children than a self-serving career politician.’ Ouch.

The move backfired after the former Health Secretary, who made £14 million from the sale of a company two years ago, voted against extending free school meals for needy children out of term time

The move backfired after the former Health Secretary, who made £14 million from the sale of a company two years ago, voted against extending free school meals for needy children out of term time



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Pierce Brosnan calls Sir Sean Connery his ‘best Bond’ in sweet tribute


Pierce Brosnan has joined the flood of tributes to “one of the true greats of cinema”, Sir Sean Connery, declaring the Scottish actor as his ‘best Bond.

Sir Sean, seen in the eyes of many as the definitive James Bond, died “peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family” at home in the Bahamas on Saturday.

Over a glittering, five-decade career, the Scottish actor won an Oscar, two Baftas and three Golden Globes, and continued to find huge success after leaving Bond.

Acting legends including Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner, Sir Michael Caine and those who followed Sir Sean as 007, including Daniel Craig and George Lazenby joined the world of film and beyond in remembering the late actor.

Pierce Brosnan has paid a heartfelt tribute to the late Sean Connery

Original James Bond Sir Sean has died at the age of 90 ‘peacefully in his sleep’

Brosnan, who starred as the secret agent in four films, said each subsequent Bond looked to Sir Sean “with reverence and admiration”. in his tribute.

The Irish actor said: “Sir Sean Connery, you were my greatest James Bond as a boy, and as a man who became James Bond himself. You cast a long shadow of cinematic splendour that will live on forever.

“You led the way for us all who followed in your iconic foot steps. Each man in his turn looked to you with reverence and admiration as we forged ahead with our own interpretations of the role.

“You were mighty in every way, as an actor and as a man, and will remain so till the end of time. Your were loved by the world, and will be missed. God bless, rest now, be at peace.”

Pierce Brosnan was the fifth actor to play James Bond starring in four films from 1995 to 2002

Sir Sean’s wife, Micheline, told the Mail On Sunday the actor suffered from dementia.

She said: “At least he died in his sleep and it was just so peaceful. I was with him all the time and he just slipped away. It was what he wanted.

“He had dementia and it took its toll on him. He got his final wish to slip away without any fuss.”

Micheline, a 91-year-old Moroccan-French painter who married Sir Sean in 1975, added: “He was gorgeous and we had a wonderful life together. He was a model of a man. It is going to be very hard without him, I know that. But it could not last for ever and he went peacefully.”

De Niro, Costner and Sir Sean starred in 1987’s The Untouchables together, with the Scottish star earning a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as veteran policeman Jimmy Malone.

In a statement to the PA news agency, De Niro said: “I’m very sorry to hear about Sean’s passing. He seemed much younger than 90; I expected – and hoped – he’d be with us much longer. See you up there, Sean.”

Connery with Shirley Eaton in 1964’s Goldfinger

Costner tweeted: “I, like the rest of the world, was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Sean Connery this morning

Sean was a crafted actor who was enormously proud of his body of work, particularly his work on stage.

“And although he was a very no-nonsense person, he was incredibly inclusive with me professionally and personally. He was the biggest star that I ever worked with and I will be forever grateful to be linked with him on film. Sean Connery was a man’s man who had an amazing career.”

Current Bond star Daniel Craig hailed Sir Sean as “one of the true greats of cinema”.

Daniel Craig called Sean Connery one of cinema’s ‘true greats’

Craig, who is due to appear as 007 for the final time in the delayed No Time To Die, shared a tribute via the official Bond Twitter account.

The 52-year-old said: “It is with such sadness that I heard of the passing of one of the true greats of cinema. Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more. He defined an era and a style.

“The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster. He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.

“My thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course.”





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ANDREW PIERCE: How darkly ironic that free school meals were a TORY idea… shot down by the Left


Who dismissed a ground-breaking report on a new initiative to extend free school meals to Britain’s neediest children, saying it was greeted with ‘at best eye-rolling and at worst exasperation’?

Some hard-hearted member of the Tory Party for whom those living in poverty have only themselves to blame?

A diehard critic of the welfare state entirely lacking in compassion?

On the contrary, those words were written by a respected critic on the Left-leaning paper, The Observer. Possibly he was unable to stomach the fact that the author of the report, Henry Dimbleby, happened to be a privileged Old Etonian, Leave campaigner and close friend of senior Tory politicians.

Potentially, it blinded him and other paid-up members of the liberal commentariat to the content.

Henry Dimbleby (above) – a privileged Old Etonian, Leave campaigner and close friend of senior Tory politicians – wrote a ground-breaking report on a new initiative to extend free school meals to Britain’s neediest children

Thankfully, someone who had first-hand experience of childhood hunger took Dimbleby’s report seriously. Step forward football star turned food poverty campaigner, Marcus Rashford (pictured)

Take this other barb, for instance: ‘When you get someone from a rich, privately- educated background to comment on issues they’ve never experienced, then the outcome will always be the same. The UK’s poorest people no longer need blunt, crude and top-down measures to alleviate their suffering. They need a system change to banish the scourge of poverty for good.’

That was the view of the Left-wing website The Canary.

Thankfully, someone who had first-hand experience of childhood hunger did take Dimbleby’s report seriously.

   

More from Andrew Pierce for the Daily Mail…

Step forward football star turned food poverty campaigner, Marcus Rashford.

Rashford is once again making headlines, with the Government on the back foot over the emotive issue of free meals during the school holidays.

The 22-year-old Manchester United player has succeeded in making Boris Johnson and his party appear utterly indifferent to the plight of needy children this Christmas.

It is a row that is inflicting huge political damage on the Tories nationally — shades again of the ‘nasty’ party — and causing rebellion among backbenchers. And yet it could so easily have been avoided. Indeed, it could have been a positive for ministers if only they had had the wits to exploit an opportunity.

For the free school meals initiative really was Tory made and minted.

What Rashford has been calling for is simply the implementation of the main recommendations of the Government’s National Food Strategy report, commissioned in 2018 by then Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, one Michael Gove. It was published in July.

Gove asked his close friend Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, to write the report.

It was a considered choice, since Dimbleby had co-authored the 2013 government-backed School Food Plan, which led to the implementation of free school lunches for all children in reception and Years 1 and 2, and added practical cooking and nutrition to the National Curriculum.

After consulting with industry experts, academics and various government departments, Dimbleby came up with a succinct recommendation for this new report: the Government’s Free School Meal scheme should be extended to every child in a household where their parent or guardian is in receipt of state benefits during term time and in the holidays (by expanding the holiday clubs scheme).

The 22-year-old Manchester United player has succeeded in making Boris Johnson and his party appear utterly indifferent to the plight of needy children this Christmas. (Above, the PM in a cafeteria at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading yesterday)

The 22-year-old Manchester United player has succeeded in making Boris Johnson and his party appear utterly indifferent to the plight of needy children this Christmas. (Above, the PM in a cafeteria at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading yesterday)

Sound familiar? Currently, the meals are only available to the poorest children living in households with an income of less than £7,400-a-year. His recommendations would mean that 1.5 million more seven- to 16-year-olds could receive free school meals (taking the total to 2.6 million).

Rashford read Dimbleby’s report and re-tweeted the recommendations to his 3.7 million followers — and so a campaign to provide free meals during the summer was born.

He even contacted Dimbleby to praise him for his work and to seek advice on how to exploit the support he had ignited. The result was a government U-turn, an agreement to extend free school meals into the summer holidays and an MBE for Rashford.

Ever since, ministers have been on the defensive— attacked from all sides for appearing not to care about struggling families whose incomes have been hit by the new tiered Covid restrictions.

Last week, Labour was defeated by the Government in a vote to extend the provision of schools meals in the Christmas holidays.

So why on earth did the PM, Gove and co overlook its own recommendations and allow Rashford to seize the momentum — and, deservedly so, the glory — and to enable the Labour Party to champion the footballer as one of their own.

How ironic that those same critics of the Dimbleby report are hailing Rashford and his school meals policy that is rooted in the former’s recommendations.

Henry Dimbleby could hardly conceal his irritation on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: ‘I haven’t been backward in coming forward with ideas that I have been feeding into the Treasury, to [the Department for] Education and to No 10, ideas of how they could rapidly implement this by Christmas,’ he said. ‘But . . . the dark centre of government is invisible to me and I have no idea exactly what they’re working on as we speak.’

What Rashford has been calling for is simply the implementation of the main recommendations of the Government's National Food Strategy report, commissioned in 2018 by then Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, one Michael Gove. It was published in July. Gove asked his close friend Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, to write the report

What Rashford has been calling for is simply the implementation of the main recommendations of the Government’s National Food Strategy report, commissioned in 2018 by then Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, one Michael Gove. It was published in July. Gove asked his close friend Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, to write the report

In a withering denunciation of the official government line that needy children can be best helped through Universal Credit alone, he added: ‘This problem [of hunger] is real. It should go without saying that it’s serious. It’s immediate and it’s going to get worse.’

Later, he tweeted, ‘I’ve written a short note explaining why I recommended the three policies that are the focus of Marcus Rashford’s campaign’ and linked a seven-page precis of his National Food Strategy report. The row is the gift that keeps on giving for Labour, with its MPs reporting real ‘cut-through’ with voters in their constituencies.

And it seems that Labour leader Keir Starmer is preparing to embarrass the Government again by forcing a second Commons vote on whether to extend free school meals in the holiday period. While only six Tory MPs voted with Labour last time, the figure is likely to be far higher this time around.

More than 100 Tory MPs have complained that the issue has triggered a series of often unpleasant and violent threats from irate constituents. Many of them are privately seething with Downing Street after they were ordered to vote against the last motion.

At a time when Boris Johnson is at risk of his biggest internal threat — the newly created Northern Research Group of ‘Red Wall’ MPs who are rallying against the economic impact of the imposition of Tier Two and Tier Three restrictions — this fiasco could easily have been avoided if only someone at No 10 had realised what was in the report they had commissioned.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. This is an administration bereft of leadership in many areas, where incompetence is the order of the day and infighting preferable to action.

Cabinet ministers are taking chunks out of each other in an unseemly blame game over how Rashford ‘outsmarted’ them.

On the backbenches the atmosphere is dire, with Tory MPs lashing out. Mansfield MP Ben Bradley did his party few favours by suggesting some of the vouchers for free school meals would end up paying for crack dens and brothels but failed to produce any evidence to back up his claims.

Other Tory MPs argue that with public debt now at £2 trillion and counting, another £150 million for free school meals is surely not too big an ask.

As one senior figure told me: ‘If the Treasury can find £522 million for the Eat Out To Help Out scheme to support restaurants, why can’t it find the £150 million to feed kids to help out?’

Why indeed.



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ANDREW PIERCE: Attacked by all sides, Rishi Sunak is paying price of popularity 


ANDREW PIERCE: Attacked by all sides, Rishi Sunak is paying price of popularity

From the tour de force of his first ‘coronavirus Budget’ last March to his ruthless determination to save jobs and revitalise what’s left of the economy post-pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is accustomed to winning plaudits.

The events of the past 48 hours and the brutal attacks unleashed on social media will have bemused the former Goldman Sachs banker – but they certainly won’t have fazed him. 

If anything, they add yet more lustre to the legend that Sunak and his team are nurturing.

Few voters had heard of Sunak when Boris Johnson promoted him to the second most powerful job in Government last February.

The events of the past 48 hours and the brutal attacks unleashed on social media will have bemused former Goldman Sachs banker Rishi Sunak – but they certainly won’t have fazed him, writes ANDREW PIERCE

Indeed, he was dismissed as the ‘Chino Chancellor’ – a No 10 puppet or stooge, a Chancellor In Name Only.

Yet within a month, he had established himself as his own man – a future Tory leader, according to observers – with a stellar Budget performance that had Government benches roaring with approval and left Labour with nothing to say.

As the pandemic took hold, he proved to be a steady hand on the Treasury tiller while having to do what no Tory Chancellor could ever imagine – repeatedly shake a forest full of money trees to limit the damage caused by Covid by extending the furlough scheme and coming up with packages to support those subjected to localised lockdowns.

‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was Dishi Rishi’s brilliant wheeze that delighted voters on both sides of the political divide and staved off disaster in some parts of the hospitality sector. 

His City career makes Sunak one of the wealthiest members of the Cabinet in his own right ¿ with a £7 million London home, a £1.5 million estate in Yorkshire and a holiday home in California

His City career makes Sunak one of the wealthiest members of the Cabinet in his own right – with a £7 million London home, a £1.5 million estate in Yorkshire and a holiday home in California

At the same time, he was reassuring his party that balancing the books would be his priority.

It was little wonder that in successive polls he emerged as the most trusted minister in a Cabinet beset by accusations of incompetence. 

On the ConservativeHome website this month, his approval rating was 82 per cent – 12 per cent ahead of his nearest rival. What is intriguing is exactly where these online attacks are coming from.

His City career makes Sunak one of the wealthiest members of the Cabinet in his own right – with a £7 million London home, a £1.5 million estate in Yorkshire and a holiday home in California. 

He is also married to billionaire’s daughter Akshata Murthy.

That makes him an easy target for Labour apparatchiks such as Adam McNicholas with his One Rule For Them campaign – although portraying Sunak as a champagne-swigging party boy is stretching the actuality somewhat, given the Chancellor is a teetotaller and workaholic who’s barely taken a day off since the pandemic hit.

He is also married to billionaire's daughter Akshata Murthy. He is therefore is an easy target for Labour apparatchiks such as Adam McNicholas with his One Rule For Them campaign. Pictured: Sunak with his wife in a still taken from McNicholas's attack video

 He is also married to billionaire’s daughter Akshata Murthy. He is therefore is an easy target for Labour apparatchiks such as Adam McNicholas with his One Rule For Them campaign. Pictured: Sunak with his wife in a still taken from McNicholas’s attack video

There are others, though, who seek to damage Sunak for different reasons – for his poise and ever-growing political clout and those claims that he is tipped for the top job when the beleaguered Boris Johnson chooses to throw in the towel or is seen off by his own party, depending on which rumour is doing the Westminster rounds this week. 

Just a few weeks ago, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was accused by Treasury insiders of briefing journalists that the ‘traffic light’ lockdown system was a fait accompli when in reality Sunak was fighting it tooth and nail.

Now an acrimonious dispute has broken out with the Department for Education over who is to blame for the school meals row. 

Sunak was furious to read in the Sunday newspapers that the Treasury was responsible for blocking the £20million-a-week extension of free school meals. 

One headline reported it as ‘Rishi vs Rashi’ – a reference to footballer Marcus Rashford who is demanding the scheme continue. 

A member of Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s team is suspected of briefing the story.

No 10, of course, thoroughly disapproves of the attacks on its next-door neighbour – but one can only wonder just how whole-hearted the condemnation is.



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ANDREW PIERCE: Claudia Webbe casts her net wide with second role


Elected MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, a hard-Left Corbynite, is staying close to her former leader in more ways than one.

Figures from the MPs’ Register of Interests show she is working 15 hours a month as a councillor in Islington — where Corbyn is an MP and which is 100 miles from Leicester — and claiming payments from the council for it.

So far, in the ten months since she was elected to Parliament in December, she has pocketed £8,765 from this extra role, topping up her £82,000 MP’s salary.

Elected MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, a hard-Left Corbynite, is staying close to her former leader in more ways than one (pictured with Jeremy Corbyn)

Webbe was due to stand down as a councillor in April but the by-election for her Bunhill Ward has been put off until next May because of the pandemic.

Matt Vickers, who was elected Tory MP for Stockton South in December, has also retained his place on his local council but does not claim any allowances.

The former Lib Dem leader of Islington Council, Terry Stacy, said: ‘The people of Leicester East are being short-changed, as are the residents of Islington. 

‘She should do the honourable thing and at least donate the thousands she has claimed to a worthy Islington charity. 

‘She has become an embarrassment to the borough.’

Last month, Webbe lost the Labour whip after she was charged with harassment of another woman. She denies any wrongdoing.

After Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham’s grandstanding over government aid to move into Tier Three Covid restrictions, the ITV programme Loose Women debated the question: Is Andy Burnham the new Brad Pitt? The answer? A resounding no.

Oh put a stopcock in it, Rishi!

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak speaks during a virtual briefing outlining new Covid-19 rules that are due to be imposed across the nation at Downing Street on October 12

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak speaks during a virtual briefing outlining new Covid-19 rules that are due to be imposed across the nation at Downing Street on October 12

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s absurd advice to thespians struggling to find work to retrain as plumbers has cut little ice with Elaine Paige. 

The award-winning singer has rewritten the lines from Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita, the show which catapulted her to international stardom.

‘Don’t cry for me, Rishi Sunak,

The truth is it was, your sump pump,

I’ve cleared my, vent stack,

And fixed the, power flush

I kept my promise, Now pay your invoice.’

In an attempt to burnish his man of the people credentials, Business Secretary Alok Sharma revealed he was a fan of Reading football club when he was interviewed by Nick Ferrari on LBC. 

‘Which division are they in?’ asked Ferrari.

Sharma, the MP for Reading West, replied: ‘Division One.’ 

Ferrari corrected the minister: ‘They are in the English Football League Championship. 

‘English football is clinging to life and you don’t even know what division they’re in.’ 

It got worse when Ferrari asked what position Reading were in. 

Sharma replied. ‘I think they are doing ok.’ Reading are in fact top of the table.

Mrs T and a crockery monsieur 

John Sergeant was famously bulldozed in front of the TV cameras by Mrs Thatcher when she emerged from the Paris embassy after the first round of voting in the 1990 Tory leadership contest. 

Sergeant, the ITN political editor, has recalled another bruising encounter with the Iron Lady on a flight to Moscow in 1987.

The press were served a big meal and Sergeant recollects the moment when Mrs T appeared: ‘I stood up like a gentleman and to my embarrassment all the food and crockery hit the floor.‘

Sergeant, the ITN political editor, has recalled another bruising encounter with the Iron Lady on a flight to Moscow in 1987

Sergeant, the ITN political editor, has recalled another bruising encounter with the Iron Lady on a flight to Moscow in 1987 

Mrs T bent down to clear up the mess saying: ‘You stay where you are. I’ll sort this out.’ 

Her meaning was clear. 

Sergeant says: ‘I was the idiot male. She loved that.’

When it comes to the muddled UK flight quarantine rules, one of the loudest critics on the Tory benches is former Prime Minister Theresa May. 

May will now have even more reason to be cross. 

She was due to be made a Dame of the Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of St Agatha in San Marino, but the tiny Italian principality has been added to the quarantine list. 

This means her trip is off. 

The ceremony has been rescheduled for January, unless of course the daft quarantine rules are still in place.



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ANDREW PIERCE: Pope Francis has declared support for same-sex civil partnerships…


The champagne was flowing freely, the dancefloor filling as Abba’s Waterloo boomed from the speakers, and two silver-haired men in their 60s mingled happily at a party to mark my civil partnership.

Unlike my other guests, however, these friends were sipping fruit juice.

The next day — Sunday — was the busiest of their working week and they couldn’t risk a hangover.

Jon and Peter are Roman Catholic priests who have been in a celibate relationship for at least two decades.

Today they, like me, are celebrating a landmark in the Church’s history as Pope Francis offers his clearest support to date for gay rights by endorsing same-sex civil partnerships.

‘Homosexual people have the right to be in a family,’ the 83-year-old Pope says in Francesco, a newly released documentary film. ‘They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.’

Pope Francis has offered his clearest support to date for gay rights by endorsing same-sex civil partnerships

The Pope’s pronouncement goes some way to repairing his reputation as a progressive pontiff. Indeed, for liberal and younger Catholics, any reform has been a long time coming.

But for traditionalists among the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, Francis’s words are seismic.

They threaten a schism with the Vatican like no other — and nowhere more so than in Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in many countries.

The continent is home to almost 200 million Catholics and the Church is growing strongly.

Between 1980 and 2012 (the last year for which data is available), the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 283 per cent, compared with just 6 per cent in Europe (with 277 million Catholics and an ageing population).

Bishops in Africa are predominantly social authoritarians who have made plain their feelings on homosexuality.

Take the words of Cardinal Robert Sarah, of Guinea, who in 2015 declared that ‘Western homosexual and abortion ideologies, and Islamic fanaticism’ are to the 21st century what the twin ‘beasts’ of Nazi and communist ideology were to the 20th century.

He is unlikely to agree with Pope Francis’s new stance.

Nor are the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, who last year decreed that ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) were disordered sexual orientations that could not be accepted as a normal way of life’.

In fact, the Pope’s words have already sparked a bitter row — and not just in Africa.

In the United States, which has about 51 million Catholics, Church leaders have lost no time in making their feelings known.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, yesterday said the Pope’s statement ‘clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions’.

And in South America, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of the global Catholic population (including Argentinian Pope Francis), homophobia is no less widespread. There, Catholic priests have combined with Evangelical churches to organise anti-gay marches in countries including Colombia and Peru.

In the Philippines, with 75 million Catholics and growing, Bishop Arturo Bastes said yesterday that he had ‘very serious doubts about the moral correctness’ of the Pontiff’s position.

Seasoned Vatican observers are already asking whether a fragmented Church globally will be Pope Francis’s legacy, although his supporters argue that this was a carefully considered intervention.

Even on his own doorstep, he faces a battle with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Even on his own doorstep, he faces a battle with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. (The pair pictured together in 2013)

Even on his own doorstep, he faces a battle with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. (The pair pictured together in 2013)

Catholicism and homosexuality have long had a troubled relationship. In 1986, when the Church was under the stewardship of the popular but deeply conservative Polish John Paul II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith described homosexuality as ‘a strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil… marriage is holy while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law’.

For traditionalists, little has changed since that hardline edict.

In 2003, the Congregation updated its teaching on whether there should be legal recognition for gay people, saying same-sex marriage was ‘deviant’.

The document added: ‘Respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.’

As for gay men and women adopting children, the document described this simply as ‘violence’ against children.

Those harsh words were drafted by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — who, two years later, became Pope Benedict XVI.

After resigning in 2013, Benedict indicated that he would live in quiet seclusion in the Vatican as the Pope Emeritus. But he soon emerged as a backseat driver and arch-critic of his successor’s attempts to modernise.

In a biography published this year, 93-year-old Benedict accused opponents of wanting to silence him, while associating gay marriage with the Antichrist. Now, by speaking out in favour of civil partnerships, Pope Francis is directly challenging his predecessor.

In the past, he has tried to make his sympathies clear but in a less high-profile fashion. A decade ago, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he opposed same-sex unions in Argentina — but five years ago, when asked about gay priests, he responded: ‘Who am I to judge?’

He continued: ‘A person once asked me… if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?”.’

There was more of the same in the final draft of the 2014 Synod on the Family in the Vatican, which contained, at the Pope’s instigation, a reference to the ‘gifts and qualities’ of homosexuals.

Predictably, traditionalists launched a fightback against what they called the Lavender Mafia in the Vatican, shamefully using the revelations about paedophile Catholic priests to conflate child sex abuse with homosexuality.

The sin of ‘homosexuality itself’, not paedophilia, they argued, lay at the ‘root of the scandal’.

In August 2018, American Cardinal Raymond Burke declared: ‘There is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root.’

The new papal view seems certain to stretch Burke’s loyalty to breaking point.

Some Vatican critics are cynical about the timing of the new documentary, seeing it as a ploy to divert attention from a growing financial scandal in the Holy See.

Last month, the Pope effectively fired Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, the powerful head of the office that oversees the canonisation of saints. He has been accused of embezzlement of Vatican funds, which he denies. Last week, a 39-year-old Italian woman linked to the Cardinal was also arrested.

Francis, his critics say, is a shrewd political operator who knows a controversy over civil partnerships will overshadow the stench of financial corruption at its heart.

The real test for gay Catholics such as me will be if Pope Francis one day permits civil partnerships to be blessed in church. That might drive traditionalists from the faith — but we can do without their hatred for ‘deviants’ who simply wish to have our loving relationships recognised by the Church to which we belong.



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ANDREW PIERCE: Sadiq Khan’s policies add up to a lot of wasted cash 


London Mayor Sadiq Khan may have gone cap in hand to the Government for another £1 billion taxpayer bailout for Transport for London but he shows no inclination to rein in his own wasteful spending.

London Assembly Conservatives have revealed the bill for TfL staff working on trade union activities has nearly doubled under Khan to £8.7 million in 2019/20. 

In comparison, the entire civil service spends £10 million on so-called ‘facility time’, despite the fact that it has more than 400,000 staff, compared to TfL’s 27,000.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured) may have gone cap in hand to the Government for another £1 billion taxpayer bailout for Transport for London

The Tories are also pressing for the abolition of ‘nominee passes’, a TfL staff perk since 2002, which gives them and a person they live with free travel.

Susan Hall, Tory leader on the London Assembly, told ConservativeHome it costs an estimated £44 million. 

She says: ‘The Mayor argues the perk costs nothing because trains would be running regardless, which is ridiculous.’

TfL says: ‘There is no cost because the number of journeys, historically, has been a tiny proportion of the 11 million Tube and bus journeys made per day, meaning no additional services need to be operated.’

No wonder TfL is broke.

After former Tory chancellor George Osborne was linked with the post of BBC chairman, the actor John Cleese snapped: ‘I wonder if there’s any chance that the person who is chosen as BBC chairman might know something about how to make good programmes for the British public. Or is that irrelevant?’ Quite. 

Pistol Mrs T would be proud oF 

Former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten made his name as a thorn in the side of the Establishment but could teach Lefties a thing or two. 

‘Communism kills ideas and thoughts,’ says Rotten, now plain John Lydon. 

‘I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no choice. At least with capitalism, I can have the thought in my mind that one day I might be able to buy a Ferrari.’ 

Mrs T would be proud — how long before the ageing punk takes ermine as a Tory peer?

'Communism kills ideas and thoughts,' says former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten, now plain John Lydon

‘Communism kills ideas and thoughts,’ says former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten, now plain John Lydon

Sir Oliver Letwin, who quit at the last election after 22 years as an MP, says he doesn’t miss the ‘unending’ 365-day correspondence of 20,000 emails and letters a year.

Responding to it all involved dictating ‘two to three hours a day to a highly accomplished secretary,’ he told Dorset Magazine. 

‘If anyone wrote individually I tried to reply personally — that is what my constituents deserved.’ 

That’s the Oliver Letwin who — as a minister — was photographed dumping 100 documents, including constituents’ letters, in bins in St James’s Park.

Juicy? Not Portillo’s ribena role

Former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo is on his 11th series of Great British Railway Journeys but the biggest platform of his career is long behind him.

Portillo was just eight when he fronted a Ribena TV commercial in 1961. 

‘It was shown during Coronation Street, which had 15 million viewers,’ he says. ‘Easily the biggest audience I’ve ever had.’

Former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo (pictured) is on his 11th series of Great British Railway Journeys but the biggest platform of his career is long behind him

Former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo (pictured) is on his 11th series of Great British Railway Journeys but the biggest platform of his career is long behind him

Not that he got rich on it. ‘The fee was five guineas, with two guineas travelling expenses,’ he told the BBC. 

‘I say this with a certain bitterness.’

The Queen unveiling a plaque to open a new £35 million centre at Porton Down last week reminded broadcaster Gyles Brandreth of a similar ceremony at a GP surgery in Chester when he was the local MP. 

He recalls: ‘It didn’t go so well. The curtains parted and I read the words: “This plague was unveiled by Gyles Brandreth MP”.’

TV historian Lucy Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces at Hampton Court, responded to Rishi Sunak’s idea that those facing unemployment should consider new careers. 

‘I tried the government test which said I should be an office manager which is actually . . . what I am,’ she tweeted. 

‘Though the office is 500 years old. Had been hoping for trapeze artiste, though.’ 

TV historian Lucy Worsley (pictured) responded to Rishi Sunak's idea that those facing unemployment should consider new careers

TV historian Lucy Worsley (pictured) responded to Rishi Sunak’s idea that those facing unemployment should consider new careers



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Andrew Pierce finds hotel heaven in five-star Cornish gem The Idle Rocks run by a motorsport legend


As one of the leading figures in British motor racing, I was intrigued to know what car David Richards would send to pick me up to take me to his Idle Rocks hotel on Cornwall’s glorious Roseland Peninsula.

He did not disappoint.

I had my first ride in an electric Tesla car, which glided through the Cornish countryside from Truro railway station to the hotel in St Mawes, which was voted the seaside resort of 2020. It had even been charged by wind turbines earlier that morning.

The Idle Rocks is owned by David Richards, a former world rally champion, who was principal of two Formula One teams and ran classic sports car company Aston Martin

The Idle Rocks is in St Mawes, pictured, which sits in a bay on Cornwall’s glorious Roseland Peninsula

The Idle Rocks is in St Mawes, pictured, which sits in a bay on Cornwall’s glorious Roseland Peninsula

Andrew writes: 'Drinking a gin cocktail on the sun terrace in the early evening, as the waves crashed on the rocks, I wondered why I’d spent so many years holidaying in over-priced Mykonos and Santorini'

Andrew writes: ‘Drinking a gin cocktail on the sun terrace in the early evening, as the waves crashed on the rocks, I wondered why I’d spent so many years holidaying in over-priced Mykonos and Santorini’

Richards – a former world rally champion, who was principal of two Formula One teams and ran classic sports car company Aston Martin – bought the hotel, which was dowdy, depressing, and in serious decline, with his interior designer wife Karen in 2010.

The 19-bedroom whitewash-and-slate waterfront hotel reopened three years later.

St Mawes sits amid green rolling hills, secluded beaches and is surrounded on three sides by water, producing a mild year-round microclimate.

St Mawes is surrounded on three sides by water - and guests can watch the comings and goings of the local boats in comfort

St Mawes is surrounded on three sides by water – and guests can watch the comings and goings of the local boats in comfort

Rooms at The Idle Rocks are 'individually designed; classic luxury meets seaside chic', says the hotel's website

Rooms at The Idle Rocks are ‘individually designed; classic luxury meets seaside chic’, says the hotel’s website

Your Christian names are chalked on the door of your room,' writes Andrew, 'which is fine as long as you’re not there with your mistress or someone else’s husband'

Your Christian names are chalked on the door of your room,’ writes Andrew, ‘which is fine as long as you’re not there with your mistress or someone else’s husband’

Drinking a gin cocktail on the sun terrace, shaded with white parasols, in the early evening, as the waves crashed on the rocks, I wondered why I’d spent so many years holidaying in over-priced Mykonos and Santorini, with two days of each holiday lost in airports.

As the second gin arrived, I was still leafing through the dinner menu, and was undecided. I realised I was taking a lot longer to choose than in my last hotel, on a clifftop in Santorini. After all, no one goes to Greece for the food or especially the retsina, which as wine writer Oz Clarke famously said ‘tastes of turpentine’.

The reason I was so immersed in what to eat was the fact that Idle Rocks headhunted Dorian Janmaat after eight years at Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat‘Saisons – the final three of which he spent as head chef. Blanc was his mentor.

The interior is decorated with a theme of nautical blue, antiques vie with contemporary art, and curtains that could have come straight out of a Homes & Garden set, writes Andrew

The interior is decorated with a theme of nautical blue, antiques vie with contemporary art, and curtains that could have come straight out of a Homes & Garden set, writes Andrew

The ground floor of the five-star hotel is an extended sea-facing room with a roaring log fire at one end and the dining room, pictured, at the other

The ground floor of the five-star hotel is an extended sea-facing room with a roaring log fire at one end and the dining room, pictured, at the other

The chef explains why my charred mackerel starter, with avocado, followed by the ‘best end of lamb’, all locally produced, added up to just about the best meal I’ve had in a hotel. Ever.

The ground floor of the five-star hotel is an extended sea-facing room with a roaring log fire at one end and the dining room at the other. The interior is decorated with a theme of nautical blue, antiques vie with contemporary art, and curtains that could have come straight out of a Homes & Garden set.

Your Christian names are chalked on the door of your room, which is fine as long as you’re not there with your mistress or someone else’s husband. You can almost touch the water from the full height bedroom windows.

Andrew tells of the joy of falling asleep to the sound of water rippling gently over rocks below

Andrew tells of the joy of falling asleep to the sound of water rippling gently over rocks below

Idle Rocks' supremely talented head chef, Dorian Janmaat

Idle Rocks’ supremely talented head chef, Dorian Janmaat

There is something reassuring about drifting off to sleep, after a relaxing spa treatment, listening to the water rippling gently over the rocks below.

David and Karen, who have lived in the fishing village for years, are discreet but hands-on proprietors who have brought in a great team.

Next time I visit I might ask David, who is chairman of Motorsport UK and was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame in 2017, to pick me up in his Aston Martin Rapide S.

I’ll do my bit for the environment, I promise, by returning to the railway station in the Tesla.

TRAVEL FACTS 

The Idle Rocks, Harbourside, Tredenham Rd, St Mawes, Truro, TR2 5AN. Call 01326 270270 or visit idlerocks.com for more information. Rooms are priced between £150 and £475. 

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ANDREW PIERCE: Can Nick Candy get the Tories to cough up the sweets? 


ANDREW PIERCE: Can Nick Candy get the Tories to cough up the sweets?

Property developer Nick Candy is the more flamboyant half of the infamous Candy brothers duo

Property developer Nick Candy is the more flamboyant half of the infamous Candy brothers duo.

Married to former Neighbours actress and pop star Holly Valance, Nick is best known for developing One Hyde Park, the landmark ultra-luxury development in Knightsbridge where he once had an apartment.

Valued at £160 million, it boasted heated marble floors, a pedicure room and a master bedroom with two walk-in wardrobes larger than the average flat.

Candy reportedly took out an £80 million mortgage on it — thought to be the largest ever advanced on a property in Britain at the time.

Nick, a friend of Prince Andrew, has been a regular fixture at Tory bashes and now I hear he’s going to be asked to step up his efforts by becoming a Tory treasurer.

Donations to the Party have stalled because of the pandemic, the Government’s poor handling of it and speculation that Boris Johnson will step down before the next election.

Candy, 46, will feel perfectly at home with the fellow property magnates, hedge-fund kings, oligarchs and offshore investors who now grace the key annual fundraiser, The Black and White Ball. But can he get them to cough up more?

Mrs Thatcher’s famously grumpy press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham offers advice to Boris on how to steady the Government ship buffeted by Covid, U-turns and Tory rebellions. 

He says Boris needs an experienced deputy like Willie Whitelaw, who stood by Mrs Thatcher’s side during her premiership, and Ingham opines: ‘Mrs Thatcher never spoke a truer word when — oblivious of its double meaning — she said: ‘Every Prime Minister needs a Willie’.’ 

Mogg sins with Sasha 

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has admitted to a guilty secret.

He’s read the scurrilous diaries of Sasha Swire, the wife of ex-MP Sir Hugo Swire, which poured scorn on many of her former friends and colleagues. 

‘I feel rather less of myself for reading them,’ said the devout Roman Catholic.

‘The Holy Father said only a week before how terrible gossip was, but I was absolutely gripped.’ A trip to the confession box may be in order for Mr Rees-Mogg. 

As Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott was one of the most powerful people in the Corbyn Labour Party. Now a backbencher, she’s rarely seen or heard on the airwaves.

Which prompted me to check on the sales of a certain new book, Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography. After three weeks, it has reached the dizzy heights of No 82,895 on the Kindle best- sellers’ list.

Spotted: a chalked sign on a board in Cardiff said: ‘Instead of giving all our MPs a pay rise, let’s clap them instead.’ Now there’s a thought!

A Yoko for Rishi’s aunt Mimi 

‘Rishi Sunak is becoming the ‘Aunt Mimi’ of the Government,’ claims Labour MP Kevin Brennan. ‘She told John Lennon he should get a ‘proper job’. Unbelievable that the Chancellor thinks that creative sector workers, who work in the fastest-growing sector of the economy, need to find other careers.’

If Rishi is Mimi, who is this administration’s Yoko Ono? Boris’s influential fiancée, the political activist and conservationist, Carrie Symonds, perhaps?

For years it has been the tortured diction of ITV’s political editor Robert Peston — a cross between Kenneth Williams and a Dalek — which drove viewers to the off switch. 

Now it seems his floppy coiffure has become just as irritating. 

Indeed, his unkempt barnet now has its own Twitter account with this accompanying description: ‘Keeping the brain of the Political Editor at ITV warm; changing styles like he changes his coat. Pedant. Parody.’

For years it has been the tortured diction of ITV¿s political editor Robert Peston ¿ a cross between Kenneth Williams and a Dalek ¿ which drove viewers to the off switch

For years it has been the tortured diction of ITV’s political editor Robert Peston — a cross between Kenneth Williams and a Dalek — which drove viewers to the off switch



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ANDREW PIERCE: Eyewitness to a bout of Boris Johnson baloney 


Among the most affecting passages in investigative journalist Tom Bower’s new biography of Boris Johnson was the story of how Boris’s one-time mistress, Petronella Wyatt, miscarried their baby in November 2004.

The future Prime Minister, we read, sat with Wyatt in the hospital and grieved with her.

Yet what will, perhaps, have raised a few eyebrows is the fact that the couple ever reached this very unfortunate position.

Earlier that year, Boris had been unceremoniously sacked from the Shadow Cabinet after lying to then leader Michael Howard about whether or not he was having an affair with Wyatt, then his deputy editor at the Spectator magazine.

Looking back, it feels strangely characteristic of ‘Teflon Bojo’ that he could lose his job after lying to his party leader (not to mention his wife), and then carry on seeing his mistress — and get her pregnant again — before resuming his political career and rising to the top regardless 

One memorable Saturday night that year, I was attending a swish black-tie dinner at the Tate Modern gallery on London’s South Bank when we learned that the Mail on Sunday was planning to publish a report the next day that Petronella had had an abortion as a result of her affair with Boris. (Her mother Verushka was the named source.)

I watched as Howard’s press secretary, Guy Black, sacked Boris over the phone for having falsely — but memorably — sworn blind that claims of the affair with Petronella were ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’.

Looking back, it feels strangely characteristic of ‘Teflon Bojo’ that he could lose his job after lying to his party leader (not to mention his wife), and then carry on seeing his mistress — and get her pregnant again — before resuming his political career and rising to the top regardless.

PS: Bower also reveals that in 2016, when he was Foreign Secretary, Boris tried to reheat the affair with Petronella. She sensibly rebuffed him.

Trapped by his Trump hair-do

Pity poor Donald and Trump — two unwanted five-year-old guinea pigs at a Hampshire pet rescue whose names have stopped them being rehomed. 

The Furlock Holmes Animal Centre says: ‘Forgetting the very bad choice in names (I’m sure they won’t mind you changing them), these two are a lovely, kind pair of brothers who really do deserve a family of their own. Trump does have long hair, but this is easily managed with regular grooming and, if you are local to us, this is something we can help with.’

Let’s hope the pets’ regime isn’t as complicated as the real Trump’s, who reportedly spent $70,000 on his trademark coiffure when he presented The Apprentice on TV. And let’s hope they don’t insist on a solid gold cage.

Overheard in a Commons bar. A despairing Tory MP remarked: ‘Boris says that lots of people will now need to train for new jobs. Any chance he can lead the way?’ Ouch. 

The Tory faithful may not be gathering for their annual conference, but Covid-19 can’t stop the party making as much cash as possible from the virtual shindig. 

Commercial exhibitors are being asked to stump up between £6,000 and £25,500 for an online ‘stall’, depending on whether a Cabinet minister Zooms in. To paraphrase the L’Oreal advert — are they worth it? 

Never one to miss a chance to poke fun at the political classes, comedian Rory Bremner took to Twitter to mock Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis:

Doctor: ‘Melania, you will have to self-isolate with the President for ten days.’

Melania: ‘Are you positive, Doctor?’

Doctor: ‘Are you?’

Melania: ‘Not any more.’

Keir’s locals revolting

The first stirrings of a hard-Left Islingtonian revolt against Labour leader Keir Starmer

The first stirrings of a hard-Left Islingtonian revolt against Labour leader Keir Starmer

The first stirrings of a hard-Left Islingtonian revolt against Labour leader Keir Starmer. 

The Camden New Journal has published a letter from ten members of his Holborn & St Pancras constituency party, criticising him for sacking three frontbenchers for voting against the Overseas Operations Bill, designed to protect military personnel and veterans from ‘vexatious claims and endless investigations’. 

The activists say the legislation will obstruct the investigation of war crimes. 

‘We expect the leader of our party — and our MP — to stand up for socialism, peace and justice,’ they bellow. 

Starmer still has a fight on his hands to unify the party. 



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