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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Friday Diary"

Iain Dale: China’s cyber attacks on Britain. How do I know about them? Because I’ve seen the proof.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

Wednesday was a sad day for every right-thinking person in Hong Kong, and one that will be full of consequence, not just for the people of Hong Kong, but for the future of international relations and the world’s dealings with China.

China has been flexing its muscles for a long time, but the West has been slow to realise it. It is the new imperial power in Africa. It has in large parts taken over the continent, raping it for its natural resources and embedding itself in different countries. It has only one aim: the furtherance of Chinese power and influence on the continent.

Just look at how it’s behaving towards India over the disputed border region. It continues to threaten Taiwan. It treats its minority Uighur Muslim population in a manner reminiscent of how the Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

And now it has imposed a new security law on Hong Kong in defiance of the terms of the 1985 Joint Declaration. Laughably, China justifies it on the basis that it was a ‘declaration’ and not a ‘treaty’. They say it is we who have broken the agreement by offering British passports to 2.9 million Hong Kong Chinese people and offering them sanctuary in the UK.

You don’t have to be a lawyer to work out that they’re talking utter bollocks. They know it too – but it will always suit their interests to create a bogeyman for all those who fall for their preposterous propaganda.

I think it is now inconceivable that the deal with Huawei can go ahead. There are now enough Conservative MPs who would be able to defeat the Government in any vote. I doubt whether it will come to that. The Prime Minister was always reluctant to go ahead with it anyway. So surely he will now be pushed over the edge.

There will be consequences, though – and one of them will be that UK universities will be targeted by the Chinese. Many university courses are now totally reliant on Chinese students (and their fees) for their existence. China will probably stop its students from coming to the UK, and that gap in funding for UK universities will be impossible to fill. In 2014-15 there were 89,500 Chinese students at UK universities. Since then, the number has risen by a third to 120,000.

It would not surprise me if the UK experiences a state sponsored country-wide cyber attack in the next few weeks, along the lines of that which Australia underwent a few weeks ago. A huge proportion of the cyber attacks launched against Britain already come from China. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen the proof. I could reveal how, but I’d have to shoot you.

The Government is entirely right to offer sanctuary to Hong Kongers. Initially, it looked as if they would only do this for the 330,000 current British Overseas Passport holders, but they have extended it to 2.9 million people who would be entitled to apply for one.

No one seriously believes that all 2.9 million would come here. There are plenty of other countries in the world that would welcome some of them too, but it’s entirely possible that maybe a quarter to a third might consider coming.

However, it is also entirely possible that the Chinese could do one of two things. They could impose a deadline for people to leave, or they could stop people leaving altogether. That would provoke a full-blown international crisis, but they’re ruthless enough not to give a damn about that.

Britain has very few levers to pull in a situation like this. Using condemnatory language is one thing we can do. Offering sanctuary is another. Bringing to a halt Chinese involvement in our national infrastructure is a third. I don’t see a trade war having much effect unless some sort of trade sanctions are imposed by the international community through the WTO.

We as individuals could boycott Chinese goods, I suppose, but given Chinese imports are worth nearly £45 billion a year, I suspect a boycott wouldn’t make much of a dent. Our exports to China are worth only half that, but there’s little doubt that they would be hit, too.

In the end, we have to do what is right and hang the consequences. What the government has done is right. There may some anti-immigration siren voices on the right who have an issue with us meeting our obligations, but they should be ignored.

We should welcome Hong Kong Chinese people with open arms. They would bring massive positives to our country. The Government now needs to try to work out how many might want to come and on what timescale. We need to think very deeply about this because if we make the same mistake as Tony Blair made in the early 2000s with immigration from eastern Europe, and fail to provide the requisite infrastructure, the consequences could be dire

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The Jenrick row. What would the Daily Mail have against the former owner of the Daily Express?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

One of the grubbier aspects of Robert Jenrick’s woes at the moment is the position of the Daily Mail.

Yesterday, it printed four pages of bile against the Communities Secretary, with articles headlined as follows: “He sweated under the glare like a saveloy in a chip shop” – “Riddle of his £830k home makeover planners refused” – “This haughty and reckless Minister is now a drag on the Tories”.

And it’s been like that for days. It’s quite clear that it has little to do with the rights and wrongs of the case. It’s all bound up with the fact that their arch enemy and rival, Richard Desmond, is the one who stands to gain from the housing development on the Isle of Dogs.

He is, of course, the owner of the Daily Express until 2018. Now, given that the Express is hardly the paper it used to be, and the Mail’s circulation is now many times that of the Express, you might think the Mail would ignore it, in the way that Waitrose wouldn’t worry about the competition from the local independent Minimart. But newspaper owners have long memories and carry grudges longer than elephants do.

The original accusation of “cash for favours” has quietly been dropped. I wrote in this column last week that no politician is likely to be bought for £12,000, especially when the money wasn’t even a donation in the conventional sense – it bought tickets at a fundraising dinner.

The trouble is that there has been a drip of information ever since, culminating in Robert Jenrick publishing 129 pages worth of emails, texts and letters between him and Desmond, or his department and Desmond.

And on Wednesday, The Times published what it thought was a massive new angle whereby Conservative councillors in Westminster were alleged to have overturned a planning decision on Jenrick’s Westminster home in 2014. He only became an MP in June 2014, so it’s not clear what the accusation is here.

Downing Street are standing by their man, just as they did with Dominic Cummings. The letter from the Cabinet Secretary to Steve Reed seeks to close the matter down, but the fact that it was sent only hours after Jenrick released all the different communications with Desmond probably didn’t help, and it certainly hasn’t ‘drawn a line’ under it all.

Jenrick expended a lot of political capital with his parliamentary colleagues over this three home lockdown situation back in April. He’s expended a lot more over the last few weeks. He must hope that Number Ten remains staunch and that there is nothing else for the Mail to latch on to. But the warning to other ministers is clear. And, frankly, it should always have been clear to Jenrick. When it comes to Desmond, sup with a very long spoon.

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The fourth anniversary of the Brexit referendum passed this week with comparatively little comment.

On the actually Brexitversary on Monday night, I made the mistake of doing a phone-in on it. I started off by saying that I didn’t want to refight the referendum, but I might as well have saved my breath.

Remainer after Remainer phoned in, all seemingly having been to the same debating school, where they had been taught not to engage in a debate and instead just barge their way through without any recognition that there might just possibly be another viewpoint. It was like going back in a time machine.

By the end of the hour I had almost lost the will to live. In real life, my experience is that most moderate Remainers have long ago come to terms with the fact that we have left, and it’s up to the whole country to make the best of it.

I’m far more optimistic than that. It’s not a case of tolerating the new post-Brexit world, it should be a matter of embracing it. And after Coronavirus is over (assuming it ever is), I think there will be new spirit of entrepreneurialism in this country, which will able us to do great things, both domestically and internationally.

I can’t prove it, and there always will be those who attribute any bad bit of economic bad news to Brexit, but I am genuinely excited about the future.

– – – – – – – – – –

The end is in sight. The Government has advised those of us in vulnerable groups that we can emerge from isolation from the beginning of August.

This means I can leave the comfy confines of my bedroom and resume broadcasting from a proper studio at last. It will have been 137 days since I last did that.

I’ve rather enjoyed broadcasting from home and recording lots of podcasts on Zoom, taking part in video conferences on Teams or BlueJeans, but I am relishing some degree of normality returning.

The one thing I am certainly not looking forward to is wearing a facemask from the moment I step on to the train at Tonbridge each day. But I guess I’ll get used to it. Because it will be part of what we now have to refer to as the ‘new normal’.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: “Winston Churchill gave voice to the nation’s courage and Vera Lynn gave voice to its heart”

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

“We did it!” trilled the Labour Party Twitter account, insinuating that it was Labour who had forced the Government’s U-turn on free school meals during the school summer holidays.

They later claimed credit for discovering the atom, plus a cure for cancer, as well as a vaccine to prevent Coronavirus and the mix for Cadbury’s Crème Eggs.

Absolute muppets. Anyone with half a political brain could have spotted the inevitability of what the Government announced on Tuesday.

It was Marcus (or was it Daniel?) Rashford who tipped them over the top, with his eloquent exposition of his own experience of free school meals and the impact that they had on his family.

Rashford’s power of persuasion was a classic example of using logic, emotion and the sheer force of argument to make his case. It was patently genuine, and without exaggeration. He didn’t indulge in over the top language or try to portray the Tories as evil, heartless bastards.

There was no anti-Boris Johnson rhetoric. He was cool, calm and collected. I wonder how many former Remain campaign managers were thinking to themselves: “If only we had adopted those tactics”? Eh, Alastair Campbell? Andrew Adonis? Anna Soubry?

– – – – – – – – – –

Quite what Boris Johnson was thinking when he admitted at the Government’s Tuesday press conference that he only knew about Marcus Rashford’s campaign shortly before he gave way to it, God only knows.

Assuming it is true, you have to wonder why. I don’t blame him at all. I don’t expect the Prime Minister to be trawling social media all day. But I certainly expect his communications advisers to a) know what’s going on and b) to alert the Prime Minister to it. Is that too much to ask?

– – – – – – – – – –

The death of Dame Vera Lynn is yet another sign that our links to the World War II generation are loosening as every year passes.

She wasn’t just the Forces’ Sweetheart. She was the nation’s sweetheart. I described her yesterday as a “very Great Briton” and I think it’s a description she would have both loved and rejected.

Gyles Brandreth said yesterday that Winston Churchill gave voice to the nation’s courage and Vera Lynn gave voice to its heart. Even now, whenever I listen to “We’ll Meet Again”, my eyes become moist. I was born in 1962 but even then, 17 years after the war ended, the country was still dominated by it.

At primary school, we’d buzz round the playgrounds pretending to be Spitfires bombing the Germans. War films and programmes about the war dominated the three TV channels. As time passes, things change and current generations regard the 1930s and 1940s as a distant age, with precious little relevance to the 2020s.

It’s understandable, but so very wrong. In terms of public figures, the Queen is now the nation’s symbolic link to those times. When she departs this mortal coil, it will be as if a rope that symbolises the link between the 2020s and World War Two has been severed.

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Earlier this week, I came close to quitting Twitter. It has become an absolute sewer.

I used to think that the internet was a great democratising phenomenon and in many ways it is, since it allows people to air their views to others in a way that wasn’t possible previously.

Unfortunately, it also gives a platform to the bigots, racists and dregs of society. And when you have a large Twitter following, anything you do or say attracts the bile of the bitter and twisted.

The trouble is that I need Twitter to do what I do. I could just use it as a marketing medium and just post tweets about my radio show or writing, but how boring that would be.

My trouble is that I won’t let a lie stand. If someone insults me or lies about me, I feel I need to set the record straight. Sometimes it results in a meeting of minds, but too often it just results in an escalation.

But am I just supposed to lie back and take it? I address these issues in my forthcoming book Why can’t we all just get along?, but I feel that increasingly on Twitter that I am failing to live up to the very advice I give at the end of the book.

The Germans have a phrase ‘Immer mit der Ruhe’. It translates as: ‘Keep Calm’. A bit difficult when someone insists that you’ve turned into some sort of virtue signalling, woke socialist. Or worse.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Why not dismantle Gandhi’s statue? He was racist against black Africans.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

One thing we have learned during the Coronavirus pandemic is that science is not a science. It is an art.

I had always assumed that science was based on incontrovertible facts – and that unlike economics, you could assert something as beyond contradiction. It seems that just like economists, you can put 364 economists in a room and they will come out with 365 different opinions.

The big emerging question now is about the two metre rule. In other countries, they seem to be doing OK with a one metre or 1.5 metre rule without experiencing increased reinfections.

Yet our scientists seem reluctant to go down that road. I understand why, but could it not be relaxed in some areas and not others? I know that might be confusing for some, but it can’t surely be any more confusing than the concept of ‘social bubbles’.

For instance, we know that children very rarely contract Covid-19, and even if they do, they don’t seem to suffer. So surely the two metre rule could be relaxed in schools. If that doesn’t happen, it’s difficult to see how all schools can return to relative normality in September.

– – – – – – – – – –

There is a growing consensus that lockdown happened a week too late. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – but put yourself in the position of Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson at the time.

On March 13th, SAGE recommended that lockdown should not yet happen. They feared if it was imposed too early, people wouldn’t obey it, and there could therefore be a second spike later. No doubt the Treasury was also warning about the consequences of going too early.

On March 17th, Dominic Cummings attended another meeting of SAGE and is reported by several of those present to have asked why we weren’t in lockdown yet.

On March 23rd, six days later, lockdown was announced.

That ten day period between March 13th and 23rd has, according to Neil Ferguson, cost 25,000 lives. Given that he was the one responsible for much of the modelling which guided the Government, he’s clearly getting his defence in early.

Because, make no mistake, when the public inquiry is convened (as it surely must be, by the end of the year) everyone will have to defend the decisions they took, and explain on what evidence the decisions were based.

I do hope the relevant players kept diaries… Ferguson’s defence is that he had “assumed” care homes would be shielded. Assumption is a wonderful thing. It’s the sort of thing a scientist can get away with, but a politician can’t.

– – – – – – – – – –

I don’t pretend to know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of what Robert Jenrick is being accused of in relation to Richard Desmond.

It relates to planning permission given to Desmond to build some flats and that, during the weeks afterwards, Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservative Party.

I guess the insinuation is that somehow the two things are linked. Here’s a simple question: Does anyone seriously believe that a politician or a political party can be bought for £12,000? Seriously?

However, perception is more important than reality where political donations are concerned. One thing, though. It was Chris Pincher who was deputed to answer the Urgent Question from Labour in the Commons earlier this week.

There may well have been a good reason for Jenrick not to appear himself, but it didn’t look good.

– – – – – – – – – – –

I’ve just commissioned a set of political baseball caps for my online shop. I’ve done five – featuring Johnson, Keir Starmer, Layla Moran, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

I’m sad to report that Biden isn’t proving very popular. I haven’t sold a single one of his. Still, four months to go…. Gulp.

– – – – – – – – – –

I deprecate the tearing down of historical statues in the way that happened at last weekend in Bristol. If a statue is to be removed it should be done in the proper way. I hold no candle at all for Edward Colston, but clearly he is a figure of significance in Bristol’s past.

Perhaps an alternative to removing a statue would be for there to be large plaque alongside giving a balanced account of the subject’s life (though good luck to the person writing the text). Alternatively, maybe we should do what the Hungarians have done, and build a theme park where all the statues can be available for viewing.

But if we’re going to be consistent about it, and include everyone who has done terrible things or uttered bad thoughts, then I look forward to Karl Marx’s mausoleum being included, as Charlotte Gill wrote yesterday. Or Millicent Fawcett, who did wonderful things for women’s rights, but held some very dodgy views on race and empire.

The list could go on. It’s a very dangerous path we are embarking on if we seek to censor history using modern standards of what’s acceptable and what’s not to be the determining factor. There are seriously some people who think Churchill’s statue should be removed from Parliament Square on the basis that he held racist views.

Yes, he did. So did your grandfather. So did most people of his age. There’s also a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Strangely, I hear very few people calling for him to be removed, even though he was a total racist against black Africans. If we’re going to go down this road of removing statues, let’s at least be consistent in our justification for it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The EU’s insipid response to China’s Hong Kong aggression. Another reason to be glad we’re leaving.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

I’m pleased to see the Government’s response to what’s going on in Hong Kong ramping up a tad. It needed to.

The Chinese government must be held to account for its actions, and to rip up an internationally binding treaty, as it is doing – well, it doesn’t get much more serious than that in the field of international diplomacy.

The ‘one country, two systems’ agreement has 27 years to run. For China arbitrarily to declare that it can do as it likes, and impose whatever law it likes, is not the act of a friendly country.

In the real world, there is little we can do to stop China in its tracks, but we can hold it to account for its actions in a number of ways.

We now start the process of re-evaluating our entire relationship with China. That doesn’t mean the breaking of all diplomatic and economic relations, but it does mean that we call an end to the mistaken ‘golden age’ relationship advocated by David Cameron and George Osborne.

Their almost craven attitude to the Chinese partly has got us into this situation. So keen were they to attract Chinese investment in our economy – and, outrageously, in our national infrastructure – that the Chinese had (and to an extent have) us over a barrel.

Boris Johnson’s instinct was not to go ahead with the Huawei deal, but in the end he felt that he had no choice. I hope and expect that decision to be reversed by the end of the year.

China is flexing its muscles in a number of areas, when, given what has happened on Coronavirus, you might have thought that it might have reined itself in a little.

Not a bit of it. It’s increased its bellicose language regarding Taiwan, and there are worrying signs that it is ramping up its conflict with India over the disputed Himalayan border.

Dominic Raab is absolutely right to say that democracies need to be united in standing up to Chinese aggression, whether with regard to Hong Kong or elsewhere.

He was also right to call out the EU on its insipid response to what’s going on in Hong Kong. It refused to join the UK, US, Canada and Australia in sending a joint communique. Yet another reason to be glad we’re out of the wretched organisation.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Foreign Secretary has also had a tricky this week following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Both he and the Prime Minister have rightly condemned what happened, but of course there have been calls on them to denounce Donald Trump for his response.

Instead of trying to bring the nation together, the President has added fuel to the flames. Instead of seeking to build national unity, he’s seemingly deliberately chosen to encourage division and hatred.

However, to expect the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary to directly condemn him goes against all the natural rules of international diplomacy. America is our oldest ally, and will continue to be a key partner in the post Brexit world.

Our leaders can call for calm, but to call out Trump in an aggressive and condemnatory way is something that would make the heart feel good, but a long-term headache would ensue. In the real world of international diplomacy it is usually wise to let the head rule the heart.

As a columnist and diarist, I don’t have to do that, and have absolutely no hesitation in calling Donald Trump out for his racism, hatred, divisiveness, misogyny, incompetence, narcissism and general awfulness. I feel better for that.

– – – – – – – – – –

You can’t keep a good man down. How lovely it was to see the ‘People’s Gardiner’ back in the headlines this week.

Sacked by Keir Starmer from the Shadow Cabinet in April, ‘Whispering’ Barry Gardiner has been absent from our TV screens for far too long.

What a pity, though, that he broke his media duck by breaking all social distancing rules by ‘taking a knee’ at the crowded Black Lives Matter protest in Whitehall.

In the most #virtuesignallingtastic way possible, he thought he’d be seen as a hero by the massed protesters, but instead was forced into a humiliating apology the next day.

His Brent constituents have yet to deliver their verdict. Still, at least he didn’t attend the massive overnight street party that took place earlier this week in the constituency of his Brent neighbour, Dawn Butler. What is it that people don’t get about the continuing need for social distancing?

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The arrogance of Cummings, the failures of the Guardian and Mirror. And why we all need to keep a sense of proportion.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

Everyone has an opinion on Dominic Cummings. And each one of all those opinions is perfectly valid.

I happen to believe that he was wrong to travel to Durham, and even more wrong to test out his eyesight with his family in the car. No matter: I am very happy to accept there are other views.

What has been totally unacceptable since Saturday is for one side to the other to decry the motives of the other, and just hurl insults. I suppose we’ve all come to expect it on social media, but it’s unedifying at best.

So apparently, for expressing doubts about his story I have proved my “animus” towards Cummings and Boris Johnson. Furthermore, I have no right to an opinion since I don’t have a four year old child.

And, furthermore, I am a lefty who wants rid of Cummings to scupper Brexit. Yup, just like Julia Hartley-Brewer, Tim Montgomerie, Iain Martin and many others, I suppose. That really stacks up, doesn’t it?

Unlike the others, I have never actually called for Dominic Cummings to resign or be sacked, but that little detail seems to have escaped everyone, and it’s assumed that I have.

What I said on Saturday night was that there were a lot of unanswered questions, and I could perfectly see why people were calling into question what appeared to have happened. I never thought that Cummings would give a press conference to explain himself, but that’s what happened on Monday.

I thought a sit-down interview with someone might have been better because, as is usual with these things, his explanation provoked yet more questions.

To top it all, he said he had never considered offering his resignation. I think that’s a fairly mind-blowing thing to have said.

An advisor who is a distraction and gets himself into the headlines cannot possibly have his mind on the job. It also displayed a certain arrogance – as if he isn’t touchable.

All politicians need to have people they trust around them but, in Cummings’ case, it’s almost as if he’s more powerful than the man he is supposed to serve. Johnson wants to throw a protective cloak around him, and in many ways that’s a laudable character trait. But when you expend so much political capital on what might still turn out to be a hopeless case, it makes you weaker.

You can dismiss the 44 Conservative MPs who have come out against Cummings as being ‘the usual suspects’. But they’re not all the usual troublemakers, are they? When you have the Guardian and the Daily Mail on the same side, you’d be a fool not to realise that you’re in deep doo-doo.

As I write this on Thursday morning, there are certainly signs that the story is slipping from top of the headlines. But the damage is done. And for someone who is a political strategist, surely Cummings realises that.

– – – – – – – – – –

One thing in this story puzzles me.

Well, quite a lot of things do, but one question no one has ever asked is why it took the Guardian and the Daily Mirror six weeks to publish the story. They only published when they thought they had evidence he’d made a second trip to Durham, a front page headline which turned out to have no foundation whatsoever.

Indeed, quite a few of their other allegations have turned out to be completely false too. The police, contrary to The Guardian splash, did not warn Cummings or his family about breaching lockdown. The only conversation with the family was one with Cummings’ father about security.

But no hint of an apology from either newspaper about this. I fully admit that the fact they got both of these things wrong doesn’t detract from the central allegation – that he broke lockdown – but even so, it’s pretty shoddy journalism.

– – – – – – – – – –

And talking about shoddy journalism, this week we’ve seen the advent of the hasthtag #scummedia.

It’s an awful expression, and every time I see it I slightly recoil. I am the first to admit some parts of the media haven’t covered themselves in glory in recent years, especially over Brexit and the current crisis.

But does anyone think that if they tweet the hashtag #scummedia to a journalist they don’t approve of, it will actually persuade them to indulge in some self-reflection about how they have conducted themselves? I doubt it very much.

If anyone accuses me of being part of a #scummedia they’re likely to get blocked PDQ. That doesn’t mean I can’t brook criticism; I absolutely can, and if it’s constructive, I welcome and embrace it and hopefully learn from it.

But if you come from the point of view that you think I’m scum, don’t expect me to engage in any way apart from pressing a block button.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Hancock’s claim that care homes were wrapped in “a bubble of care” has a hollow ring to it

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

One of the main themes of any public inquiry into the Coronavirus crisis will be the dynamic between the politicians and their scientific and medical advisers. Another will be to what degree health ministers are involved in the guidance and direction given by NHS England and Public Health England.

Convention dictates that the buck stops with the Secretary of State for whatever happens within the different quangos and agencies under his or her department’s remit – however unfair that might look.

This week, we learned that in March and at the beginning of April hundreds of patients, or maybe even thousands, were transferred from hospitals into care homes without being tested to ascertain whether they were Coronavirus-free.

This, on the face of it, was pure madness. However, Robert Buckland said on Sky News on Wednesday that there was a choice to be paid – prioritise hospitals or social care. The hospitals needed the beds, so a directive was issued to clear as many elderly people as possible out of hospitals and put them into care homes.

The guidance on how to do this was issued to hospitals and care homes were told to comply – or else. This guidance was posted on the internal NHS England website, I believe, and was only withdrawn once a row blew up in mid-April.

Radio 4’s File on Four documentary this week made for some horrifying listening, but as well as answer some questions, it also posed many others. I had wrongly assumed that decisions to push out non-tested patients into care homes were made by middle ranking NHS managers, but that was not the case. It was deliberate policy.

On the programme, Jane Deith quoted an April 2 directive from government urging a national initiative to empty hospital beds and put people who may or may not have been infected with coronavirus back into care homes. It is also alleged that threats about funding were made to care homes who expressed doubt about accepting such patients.

Politico’s London Playbook quotes Susan Mckinney, who runs 14 care homes across the north-east. She maintains that she was given little choice but to comply.

“We had an incident on April 10 where twice we rang the hospital saying “we can’t accept this person back, we need them tested, we need a negative test so we know what we’re dealing with,’” she said.

“They turned up at the door in an ambulance and refused to go away. There was a sort of stand-off at the door of the home. The family members turned up, the paramedics had the poor resident on a stretcher at the door and would not go away until we allowed them in. And all we got was ‘you’re not following the guidelines’…We were threatened with the police if we did not let this person in.”

Quite astonishing. It’s one thing to have a policy of clearing out hospital beds, and you can understand why this was required. It’s quite another to then just dump these people in random care homes with no notice and no time to prepare.

Had it been said to care homes, with a bit of notice, that they needed to provide x number of rooms that could be isolated from the rest of the homes in question, they could have planned accordingly. But they didn’t.

So for the Health Secretary to say, as he did, that care homes were wrapped in a bubble of care right from the beginning of the crisis – well, it has a hollow ring to it, doesn’t it?

So were these patients moved from hospitals to care homes following a recommendation from the scientists and medical advisers? Was it a decision that ministers even knew about? Should they have? Did anyone actually think about the risks involved?

These are not questions which can or even should be answered now. But when they are answered, we’re going to learn an awful lot about how decisions are made not just at the heart of government, but in arms length quangos. And I suspect we’re not going to like what we discover.

– – – – – – – – – – –

The sheen came off Keir Starmer at this week’s PMQs, as he struggled to pin Boris Johnson to the wall.

Less forensic, more robot. He seemed to lack a certain fleetness of foot, something which also bedevilled his predecessor, whose name momentarily escapes me.

To be successful at PMQs. you have to be able to think on your feet and react to whatever answer your opposite number gives. If you just plough on with your pre-prepared six questions, you run the risk that you ask a question which has already been answered, and that is what happened to Starmer on Wednesday.

Having bested Johnson on their two previous encounters, and won rave reviews from commentators of all hues, it was down to earth with a bump for the Labour leader this week.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: When black women Labour MPs are wrong, white middle aged men should be free to call them out

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Apparently, middle aged white men are now not allowed to disagree with black female Labour MPs. Just by doing so, you automatically become a racist.

Well, I’m afraid I am not just going to sit by and allow someone to go unchallenged when they accuse the Prime Minister of this country of deliberately wanting people to die of Coronavirus. Dawn Butler, who on a personal level I like, and I were on the Jeremy Vine on Five on Wednesday.

We were talking about the lifting of lockdown, and she came out with this pearl of wisdom: “Boris Johnson is recklessly sending people out to work to catch the virus.” Effectively, she might as well have accused him of political manslaughter.

He has done no such thing of course. He has asked people to go to work if they safely can, and advised them not to use public transport. Dawn would have known this had she actually read the government’s 50 page guidance document, but she admitted she hadn’t read a word of it.

The Vine Show tweeted out a video of the exchange [see above]. And then the heavens opened. How dare I say what I did? I was a racist. I was trying to “tone police” Dawn, apparently.

I have to admit that was a new one on me. I said what I thought, and I stand by every word. It was a disgraceful thing to say on her behalf and she needed to be called out on it.

If Chris Williamson or any other white man had said it, I’d have reacted in exactly the same way.  I don’t see skin colour in a political debate. I don’t judge anyone by whether they have a Y chromosome or not. I judge them by what comes out their mouth. And in this case, it was a load of irresponsible bile.

I mean, think of it this way. If you had contracted the Coronavirus and been at death’s door, just from a logical point of view, would you think that one of the first things you’d do when you came out of hospital would be to deliberately think “I know, I’ll do my best to make sure everyone goes through what I’ve just been through”? You’d have to clinically insane.

– – – – – – – – – –

Having said all that, I can’t in all conscience say it’s been the best of weeks for the government’s communications strategy on virus.

While the PPE issue seems to have becalmed, and the strain on the NHS is reducing by the day, and the death rate is falling, the measures announced on Sunday evening were not explained in a manner which gives people confidence in them.

Some Opposition politicians have perhaps gone overboard in exaggerating the confusion, but confusion there was, and it stemmed mainly from the new “Stay Alert” slogan.

OK, we all know what “Stay Alert” means, but it is just a bit woolly, compared to “Stay at Home. It allowed Nicola Sturgeon to grandstand but, frankly, it was rather difficult to disagree with anything she said.

Scotland is experiencing a higher death rate among the general population and also in care homes than the rest of the UK. Sixty per cent of Covid-19 related deaths in Scotland occur in care homes, compared to 40 per cent in England.

The number of deaths in areas of high poverty are far higher than in England, yet neither she nor the Scottish public health system or its NHS are coming under anything like the criticism that Johnson is.

Part of the reason for this is that she is doing better at talking a good game at her press conferences, and having a clarity of message which seems to be lacking in the same events down south.

She talks like a human being, doesn’t just repeat tired old soundbites, and answers questions from journalists in a seemingly straightforward way, albeit without allowing the journalists a follow-up question. Downing Street could learn a lot from her in communications, if not policy.

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Reshuffles in the Westminster political lobby are almost as eagerly anticipated (usually by journalists themselves, it has to be said) as their cabinet equivalents. Yesterday, we learned that Tom Newton Dunn, who has been Political Editor of The Sun for what seems like an eon, is moving to be the new chief political commentator for the yet to be launched Times Radio.

He, in turn, is being replaced by Harry Cole, the Deputy Political Editor of the Mail on Sunday. He used to do the same role at The Sun. Harry started out in life running the Tory Bear blog, before making a real reputation for himself as a story-getter for the Guido Fawkes blog.

Another Guido Fawkes alumni, Alex Wickham, sadly lost his job as political editor of Buzzfeed, when they announced they were closing down their UK operation. For my money, he has become one of the top three scoop-getters in the lobby, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him hired by the Mail on Sunday to replace Harry Cole. He ought to be in great demand.

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Iain Dale: Boulton is wrong. I criticise as well as praise the Government – without fear or favour. And here’s evidence.

Westlake Legal Group iain-dale-boulton-is-wrong-i-criticise-as-well-as-praise-the-government-without-fear-or-favour-and-heres-evidence Iain Dale: Boulton is wrong. I criticise as well as praise the Government – without fear or favour. And here’s evidence. YouGov Spectator Sky News Politico Media Matt Hancock MP Julia Hartley-Brewer Iain Dale Highlights Grant Shapps MP Friday Diary coronavirus Columnists Boris Johnson MP Adam Boulton

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

The Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Sunday evening will be quite an event – but one that doubt he’ll get a lot of praise for.

Either he will be accused of lifting the lockdown too quickly, or more likely, not quickly enough. Whatever he announces won’t be good enough.

I am at the ‘safety first’ end of the argument. While I agree that tweaks can be made, there are huge dangers in lifting the lockdown in any meaningful way at this stage.

Unfortunately, I think media speculation about significant changes has been allowed to run away almost without challenge. So whatever tweaks Boris Johnson announces on Sunday will be seen as ‘not enough’ by some people. Inevitable, I suppose.

– – – – – – – – – –

It was a political triumph for Matt Hancock to reach his target of 100,000 tests on the last day of April. However, the fact that for five days running now the target has not been met has been embarrassing to say that least.

On Wednesday, only 69,000 tests were carried out. No one seems to know why. And then to cap it all, Boris Johnson announced an “ambition” to reach 200,000 tests per day by the end of May.

This was immediately written up as a “pledge” rather than an ambition. So why on earth did he say that – thus making another needless rod for his own back?

– – – – – – – – – –

One politician who has emerged with his reputation enhanced over the last few months is the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.

He’s hosted two (I think) of the daily government press briefings. He is one of the few cabinet ministers to have shone. He’s appeared cool, calm and collected. He speaks like a human being and has largely avoided the dreadful soundbites which most of the others trot out on a daily basis.

I hope he will be used more often.

– – – – – – – – – –

Twitter spats are rarely edifying and, over the years, I have tried to minimise the number I get into – but sometimes needs must, especially when my professionalism or integrity are impugned: either deliberately or by implication

A couple of weeks ago Sky’s Adam Boulton, for reasons best known to himself, decided to launch a few grenades my way after I tweeted the results of a YouGov survey (ironically commissioned by Sky News), which showed that trust in broadcast and print journalists over Coronavirus was the lowest of any other category of relevant people, including politicians. I merely observed that journalists might take a moment to think about why that was.

Anyway, it all blew over fairly quickly and I didn’t think anymore of it. On Wednesday, Adam decided to take it one stage further and tweeted this:

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-05-07-at-18.43.48 Iain Dale: Boulton is wrong. I criticise as well as praise the Government – without fear or favour. And here’s evidence. YouGov Spectator Sky News Politico Media Matt Hancock MP Julia Hartley-Brewer Iain Dale Highlights Grant Shapps MP Friday Diary coronavirus Columnists Boris Johnson MP Adam Boulton  The use of the arrows around the word ‘journalists’ is interesting and is presumably meant to question our bona fides without actually having the balls to do so outright.

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a former political editor. She is a trained journalist. Most Spectator journalists are journalists at the top of their game.

I, on the other hand, have never self-identified as a journalist. Yes, there are journalistic things to what I do, but I’ve never been a traditional political reporter. and have never pretended to be one. I spent six months as a financial reporter for Lloyds List in 1990, but that is the extent of my reporting experience. I responded thus:

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-05-07-at-18.45.36 Iain Dale: Boulton is wrong. I criticise as well as praise the Government – without fear or favour. And here’s evidence. YouGov Spectator Sky News Politico Media Matt Hancock MP Julia Hartley-Brewer Iain Dale Highlights Grant Shapps MP Friday Diary coronavirus Columnists Boris Johnson MP Adam Boulton  Adam spent 20 years as a political reporter and editor and was brilliant at it. He’s someone I look up to, so to be attacked in this way, I don’t mind admitting it, was quite wounding. To effectively be called a government stooge, or shill as the modern vernacular goes, was just totally unfair.

Anyone who has followed my utterances knows that I have never been an unalloyed fan of Boris Johnson, although I readily admit that he has turned out to be a far better Prime Minister than I was expecting, and I say so.

Because, you see, that’s what I do. I comment on politics and call things as I see them. If I think the Government is doing a good job I’ll say so. If I don’t, I won’t.

The trouble is, some people are so blinkered or deaf to reality that they only ever notice the occasions when I offer praise. Unfortunately for Adam, his timing could have been better since Politico’s London Playbook had this little gem of a quote from me in its morning email yesterday:

“Influential Tory Iain Dale castigates Johnson’s mantra that “we made the right decisions at the right time” as “complete bullshit … a meaningless and trite phrase.” Indeed, I think it was from last week’s Friday Diary on this site.

I don’t mind valid criticism. Indeed, I often learn from it, but there was nothing valid about this.

Some of you may say ‘Diddums, deal with it”, and maybe you’re right. Perhaps I should just turn the other cheek and ignore stuff like this, but sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Hancock’s testing day – and why the difference between a target and a pledge matters

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Sometimes things happen for a reason, sometimes they are just pure coincidence – on other occasions, just plain spooky.

On Monday, the Jeremy Vine Show asked if I would set their series of seven multiple choice quiz questions which they put to their audience before each break, and then give the answer when they come back after the break.

I decided to base them around Prime Ministerial trivia. Just before the break at 9.55, I posed the question: “Which prime minister had 17 children?”

The multiple choice answers were a) Earl Grey, b) William Pitt the Younger and c) Boris Johnson. Just my little joke…

Anyway, we came back at 9.58am, and I gave the answer as Earl Grey, and suggested it must have been something in his tea… I’m just too funny. A minute later it flashed up on my phone that Carrie Symonds had just given birth. Now what are the odds of that happening…

Here are the other quiz questions. See how you do. No Googling. Answers at the bottom of the page

Which of these political interviewers stood for Parliament in a general election?

  1. Sir Robin Day
  2. Susanna Reid
  3. Jeremy Paxman

Who is Britain’s shortest serving Prime Minister?

  1. Sir Alex Douglas-Home
  2. George Canning
  3. Viscount Goderich

Boris Johnson was born in New York City. Only one other Prime Minister was born abroad. Was it –

  1. Benjamin Disraeli
  2. Andrew Bonar Law
  3. James Callaghan

Margaret Thatcher told a female TV interviewer in 1973 that “No woman in my time will ever be Prime Minister. Who was it?

  1. Valerie Singleton
  2. Lesley Judd
  3. Maggie Philbin

Who wrote the theme music for John Major’s election campaign in 1992?

  1. Cliff Richard
  2. Andrew Lloyd Webber
  3. Gary Barlow

– – – – – – – – – –

Today, we learn whether Health Secretary Matt Hancock has achieved his target of testing 100,000 people per day.

I suspect when the figures are released at 5pm, we will discover that he hasn’t. The reaction to this apparent failure will be interesting to observe, especially from the Labour Party as well as the media.

Some will no doubt and fulminate. Others will observe that the ramping-up of testing has been impressive to see, albeit: why didn’t it happen earlier?

But most will miss the point. It wasn’t a pledge, it was a target, and there is a difference. Oftentimes, you set a deliberately tough one to meet in the expectation that, even though many will see it as unrealistic, they will move heaven and earth to meet it…

…Whereas if you set an easy to meet target, psychologically it doesn’t really inspire ‘action this day’. If you set a difficult target some people react in a way that, rather than inducing a shoulder-shrug, drives them to say, “I’ll show you”.

And they do. I think that’s what has happened here. It will also be interesting to see how Hancock handles it. It’s a big day for him.

– – – – – – – – – –

One thing is for sure, when this crisis is over, the commercial property market is going to take a big hit. Barclays has said that, given its experience of staff working at home, it is reviewing the need for massive offices in the City of London and elsewhere.

Three of my friends who run small companies, each with 10-30 staff, have all told me that, when their current leases run out, they won’t be renewing them or looking for property elsewhere. If they need meeting rooms they’ll hire serviced office rooms as and when they need them.

I remember from my days at Biteback we seriously considered a homeworking arrangement when our lease ran out. That was several years ago, but then the landlord came up with an offer that allowed us to stay.

If I were still there now, I know exactly what I would be doing, and I’d be saving tens of thousands of pounds of overheads. It can be the difference between being profitable and not.

– – – – – – – – – –

Following on from what I wrote last week about being a tad fed up with ministers repeating the mantra: “We’ve made the right decisions at the right time” I think it is worth reiterating that, while the soundbite might sound good, it’s complete bullshit.

Think about it. In a pandemic timely decisions are vital – but nobody can make every decision at the right time. It is certainly more than arguable that the decision to go into lockdown on March 23rd came at least a week too late.

You only know if you’ve the right decision at the right time once you have some post-decision data to back it up. It’s a meaningless and trite phrase, and Ministers should stop using it.

The next big decision is the date for partially lifting the lockdown. The advantage of being a bit behind other countries in the development of the virus is that we can learn from them. It’s clear in retrospect that Germany partially lifted its lockdown too early (yes, folks, the Germans got something wrong), and that its reinfection rate is spiking again.

Our current lockdown will be re-evaluated at the end of next week. In my view, there is no case at all to merit a decision to do anything other than keep it, maybe with a few tweaks.

The decision to lift the lockdown in a meaningful way will, as I said last week, be potentially the defining one of Johnson’s premiership. He knows he cannot afford to get the timing wrong by more than a few days.

– – – – – – – – – –

Quiz answers A, B, B, A, B

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